What Must I do to be Saved? [Luke 10:25-42]

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Whilst we often concern ourselves with questions regarding our employment, happiness and appearance, the most fundamental question that can be asked is regarding our standing with God and our eternal destination.  Within this passage, Luke shows us in a masterly way that these can only be obtained by the Law or the Gospel.

 

Love Others [Luke 10:25-37]

25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbour as yourself.’”

28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed,[j] he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbour to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

 

Jesus, whilst having a private conversation with His disciples [Luke 10:23-24], is interrupted by a theologian who seeks to test Him publicly by asking Him the deed or deeds that need to be accomplished “to inherit eternal life.”[1]  Jesus replies by asking him his opinions upon the matter, at which point the lawyer responds by a popular summation of the Law – love God and love others.  Interestingly, Jesus concurs, something that He does on another similar occasion [Luke 18:18-21], thereby showing that a perfect fulfilment of Law obtains for man God’s favour and eternal life.  This lawyer, however, is not happy to leave it there, “wanting to justify himself” he goes on to ask Jesus “who is my neighbour?”  It is here that Jesus shares with him a parable, which shows that our neighbour is any person who finds themselves in need, regardless of their race, religion or enmity towards us.

APPLICATION: Despite the fact that many people see Christianity as a regressive force, no one can help but acknowledge that the intrinsic worth of the individual is exclusive to Christian ethics even if the Church has not always practised it.  However, in places and in times in which it has, even “undesirables” like convicts, the handicapped and the mentally insane were treated with a dignity that was almost totally lacking in the so-called bastions of civilisation like Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome.  This week why not look for ways in which we might be a better neighbour for those who are truly in need.  This could be through volunteering within the local school or a charity group for the disadvantaged, visiting people in prison or even offering help the sick or elderly people within our community.[2]

 

Love God [Luke 10:38-42]

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

 

Here, Luke to realise that the parable may be misunderstood and lead some towards a works-based-righteousness and therefore places another account into the text to compliment it.  Within this passage, Jesus goes to visit His dear friends Mary and Martha [John 11:5].  In this account, we find that while Mary sits at Jesus’ feet listening to His teaching, Martha is “distracted with much serving,” so much so, that she begins to show contempt for Jesus.  Jesus responds firmly but lovingly, reminding her of the significance of His teaching over good works.  This does not mean that we are to create a false dichotomy between doctrine and deeds [James 2:17-22] like the lawyer did, but it does mean that deeds done without an understanding and love of doctrine can often lead to resentment towards Jesus and sometimes an abandonment of the faith.

APPLICATION: Historically, the Church placed its core doctrine in creeds.  Why not try and memorise either the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creed.  My wife and I merely read the Apostle’s Creed for a 30 day period after our evening meal and unintentionally memorised it, so it might be a lot easy than you think.

http://www.ccel.org/creeds/apostles.creed.html

http://www.ccel.org/creeds/nicene.creed.html

 

Love the Gospel

Whilst a fulfilment of the Law grants eternal life, man in his natural state, is unable to fulfil it and therefore needs somebody to fulfil the Law for him and through him.  This is the Gospel, that Christ did not need to fulfil the Law on His own behalf but fulfilled it on ours, took our sin and transmitted to us His righteousness [2 Corinthians 5:21].  Having done this He fills us with His Spirit which allows us to fulfil it for ourselves [Ezekiel 36:25-28, 2 Peter 1:3].  I am not saying that the regenerate believer will not still struggle with sin though [Romans 7:14-21] but by the power of the Spirit a practical and progressive righteousness will ensue in almost all genuine cases of conversion [1 Corinthians 3:10-15].

APPLICATION: Whilst there are many who regard the filling of the Spirit as some kind of ‘second blessing,’ the Scripture teaches that it is synonymous with genuine conversion [Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:25-28, John 7:38-39, 1 Corinthians 12:13 and  Romans 8:9] which comes by God’s grace [Galatians 3:1-2] and is followed by subsequent in-fillings [Ephesians 5:18-21].  Therefore, I would exhort you to seek God’s empowerment for holiness daily and receive it by faith whether it is accompanied by an intense emotional experience or supernatural phenomena or not.  True authenticity of the presence of the Spirit will be evident in the way you begin to think and live and not necessarily in sensational manifestations.

 

 


[1] These “lawyers,” “scribes,” or “experts in religious law” belonged to either the Sadducees or Pharisees and were full-time students of the bible, not too dissimilar to our bible college lecturer or theologians.

[2] So as not to disempower people or bring unnecessary risk, please exercise some wisdom because not in need of help is actually looking for help.  I would advise you to take care that your deeds are not misinterpreted as manipulation or interference.  Moreover, I would ask you to exercise caution in lending or giving money particularly if you do not know if it will be misspent or cause offence.  Remember, it is better to give a hand-up rather than a hand-out.

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WWJD? [Luke 8:22-9:26]

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When I was younger, I used to watch a TV programme called “Quantum Leap.”  In it, a physicist called Sam Beckett would travel through time jumping into the lives of other people in which he would solve some sort of dilemma before he would jump into the life of another. [1]  The Christian life is loosely analogous to this concept too, in that the new life of Christ has come alive within us and helps lead us, guide us and conform us into His image.  And while this is done through God providentially assigning us with a specific genetic make-up, leading us into and out of certain life experiences and through the power of His Spirit, it is also, to a greater or lesser extent, linked to our volitional choice.  Therefore, we as believers must genuinely ask the question, in regards to how we live our lives and the decisions we make, what would Jesus do?

Luke, in this passage, having described the demands of discipleship, gives us a twenty-four hour period within the life of Jesus – a period from which we are able to draw three integral truths for the life of the Christian and the life of the Christian Church.  These truths, however, must not be seen as exhaustive but illustrative of individual and collective Christlikeness.

 

1. The Primacy of Care

22 Now it happened, on a certain day, that He got into a boat with His disciples. And He said to them,“Let us cross over to the other side of the lake.” And they launched out. 23 But as they sailed He fell asleep.” Luke 8:22-23

 

Most Christians, like their non-Christian friends and family, have very little time for other people.  Sure, we can be polite and civil (some of us at least), but our relationships with our fellow worshippers, family members, work colleagues and neighbours is often superficial at best and our care of the stranger in our midst, be it the new girl at work, the immigrant neighbours who have just moved in or the new family at Church can, at times, be appalling.  Jesus here is completely exhausted but still takes the time to still the storm [Luke 8:24], deliver a demon-oppressed man [Luke 8:27-39], heal a sick woman [Luke 8:43-48], raise a young girl from the dead [Luke 8:51-55] and feed five thousand people [Luke 9:12-17].  He did this because He believed in the primacy of care and the importance of people.

APPLICATION: As disciples we must follow His example.  This does not mean we should overstep boundaries or not practise wisdom, but it does mean that we should learn people’s names, learn a little bit about what their interests are and about their families, stop dominating conversations, share the truth in love, refuse to put them down even in jest, practise and receive hospitality and invite them into our lives or get involved in theirs, particularly if they look as though they really need our help.  It is this counter-cultural stance that makes evident the genuineness of our faith for He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” [1 John 2:6].

 

 

2. The Priority of Prayer

All bible-believing Christians agree on the importance of prayer and no-one modelled its need and the priority it should take in our lives as much as Jesus.  Even within this short period we see Jesus praying a prayer of protection against the storm [Luke 8:24], a prayer of deliverance for the demon-possessed man [Luke 8:29-33], a prayer of intercession for a dead girl [Luke 8:52-55], a prayer of commission for the twelve [Luke 9:1-2],a prayer of thanks for  the provision of the five thousand [Luke 9:16] and a prayer for revelation for the disciples [Luke 9:18-20, Matthew 16:17].   However, our lives and churches often suffer from a lack of supernatural power that results from the low priority we place on sincere, heart-felt, faith-based prayer.

APPLICATION: This week ask that God would give you the ability to pray.  Spend some time finding what places and what times work best for you.  A fruitful prayer life will have set-times (like before meals, when waking up and going to bed) and impromptu times, will pay attention to the bible and the newspaper and will be for the affairs of others as well as for yourself.  Some people may find that worship music or the sound of creation helpful when praying.[2]

 

3. A Willingness to Share

Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases…So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. Luke 9:1,6

A husband who can repair an engine but is unable to cook a meal, a child who can use complex electronic equipment but is unable to use a washing machine, an office that is over-reliant on one member of staff or a Church that collapses after the loss of their pastor or worship leader are all tragedies.  These tragedies often have two things in common, an unwillingness of people to share their skills and the unwillingness of others to learn those skills.  Jesus chose to complete His mission by transferring His skills to His team, and their role, as willing disciples, was to learn and practise those skills.

APPLICATION: We, too, must be facilitating others and be willing to learn new skills whether they be in the Church, the home or the workplace.  Why not start by taking an inventory of some of the things that you are responsible for or some of the things you do well and teach others.  This does not necessarily mean that you need to abdicate responsibility, though you may, but it does mean that you can empower others.  Alternatively, you might want to get involved in areas in which you have little or no knowledge or for which you have not been responsible before.  Please remember that even the most complex task can be broken down, making it more simple and manageable.  Remember the way in which the “Karate Kid” is trained through menial tasks?

 


[2] While it is a poor substitute for creation itself the sounds of nature are freely available on the internet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdIJ2x3nxzQ

The Soil is Just as Important as the Seed [Luke 8:4-21]

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Donald McGavran, the father of the Church Growth Movement and a major contributor to the development of seek-sensitive services, said of missionaries:

“They do good work.  They pour out [their] life.  They bear witness to Christ.  They teach and heal men, distribute powdered milk, and demonstrate improved agricultural methods.  But they do all these things, and much more, while their churches grow, if at all, by baptizing their own children.”[1]

Whilst I agree with his belief that the missionary must immerse himself in the culture of the host nation, speak their language; eat their food, live amongst them, use their songs and music styles and communicate the Gospel in words and ideas that can be easily understood by the host, we see that Jesus takes the opposite tack here.  Having totally immersed Himself in first century Palestinian culture and having gathered a significant following, Jesus, by way of judgement, begins to teach only in parables so that his message may be concealed to those who are uninterested and revealed to those who are truly seeking [Matthew 13:34-35, Luke 8:9-10].

In this particular parable, one which seems to be central to our understanding of all parables [Mark 4:13], Jesus begins to tell “the parable of the soils” [the parallels can be found in Matthew 13:1-23 & Mark 4:1-20], a parable which describes four reactions to the Gospel message.[2]

 

1. By The Wayside – The Ignorant Ones

And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it… The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.  Luke 8:4-5, 11b-12

Farming, in Israel in the first century, was different from farming in the West today.  All of the various fields were separated by boulders or boundary markers and people would traverse through the fields which would harden the soil and create natural walkways.  When it came to sowing, the farmer would remove the rocks and the weeds and then  scatter the seed before ploughing the ground.  This meant that he might be able to reclaim the soil that had been used as a public thoroughfare.   Sometimes when seed was sown the ground, which had been previously walked upon, was so hard that the seed was unable to penetrate it and therefore was trampled and eaten by the birds of the air.  Jesus uses this as an example of those who are the ignorant ones, those who did not understand the message and were not interested in trying to find out the meaning of the Gospel message [Matthew 13:19].

APPLICATION: Take some time to familiarise yourself with the Gospel.  What does it mean, what does it do, who is it for and how is it made effectual?  You may find it helpful to consult the Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 82-93, courses like Alpha and Christianity Explored or even speak to some mature believers within your Church.

 

2. On the Rocks – The Superficial Ones

Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture …13 The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Luke 8:6,13

Since it was normal practice for the farmer to remove the stones and the weeds and because the parable does not focus on the sower, Jesus, we can wisely suppose that this was the seed that fell on bedrock.  Israel itself, even to this day I believe, is renowned for large limestone deposits beneath the surface soil.  This seed, then, happened to fall here, and because it couldn’t grow down it went up and looked like it was going to produce a bumper crop but because it had no root it died away.  Jesus compares this with the one who starts his journey exceedingly well but is overcome by temptation.  Having said this, I do not want the reader to think that the Christian life does not involve temptation [Romans 7:14-25] and, God-forbid, failure [1 John 1:5-8] but this is the one who is not, by the grace of God, removing himself from temptation and seeking to overcome it.

APPLICATION: While the bible encourages us to confess our sins to one another [James 5:16], as Protestants, we are often reluctant to do so.  Why not find a mature and trustworthy friend to whom you can confess your major and re-occurring struggles and who can give you good honest advice on how to overcome?  They do not need to know all the details so keep it short and to the point.

 

3. Among the Thorns – The Worldly Ones

And some fell, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it…14 Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. Luke 8:7,14

 The third seed probably fell in an area that had already been weeded but because the roots of the weeds had not been fully removed and because the weeds were well established they grew up quicker than the seed and choked it out before the fruit could ripen.  Jesus likens this third group to those who have believed but are preoccupied with worldly things.  Maybe these things are not bad in themselves but the “cares, riches, and pleasures of life” would not let the fruit become productive.

APPLICATION: Chasing and/or living for fashion, family, money, marriage, fame, work, business, hobbies, education and food can all be things that choke out the Gospel seed.  Why not get a copy of Watchman Nee’s classic “Love not the World,” which is available free on e-book and have a read?[3]  Are you someone who lives for this world or one who longs for the one to come?  If you are unsure look at what directs your life, how you spend your free time and how you use your disposal income.  It is often a great indicator.

 

4. On Good Ground – The Genuine Ones

But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold. “When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”… 15 The ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:8,15

 In Jesus’ day, a good harvest was considered around ten percent; here then we have a supernatural bumper harvest, which Jesus compares to the seed that fell on the good soil.  These are the ones who have “a noble and good heart” [Kingdom character], “keep it” [they persevere] “and bear fruit with patience” [maybe not instantly but eventually they become productive].   It is these who can only truly be considered Christian, something that Jesus brings out in the immediate context [Luke 8:16-21].  This, however, does not mean that we are saved by a transformed lifestyle but it does mean that a changed lifestyle is normative if salvation is genuine [Ephesians 2:8-10] and while there may be exceptions to the rule [1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Jude 1:20-23] unless the seed falls on good ground there can be no lasting productivity and no assurance of salvation.

APPLICATION: When Billy Graham was a young man, a great evangelist called Charles Templeton mentored him and became a close friend.  Charles Templeton was a man who was not only miraculously “converted” but was considered a greater evangelist than Billy Graham at the time.  He went on, though, to renounce the faith and died as an apostate.  While only God knows what happened with the man’s soul, I would challenge you to watch the film, “Billy Graham: The Early Years.”  After watching it, I would ask that you consider recommitting your life to Jesus and asking that he might give you the grace for a full assurance of salvation, victory over sin and temptation and that you might be productive in all the areas of your earthly life.

 

 

[1] McGavran, 1970, Understanding Church Growth: Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids p.54 [brackets my own]

Faith Alone [Luke 7:1-35]

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Throughout the history of the Christian Church, many have struggled to understand the concept of salvation by faith alone.  One author writing of the ascetics of the fourth century records:  “To suffer the discomfort of filth, stench, worms and maggots was considered to be spiritually beneficial and a sign of victory over the body.”  He then goes on to cite an example of this, “Macarius the Younger (he writes) sat naked in a swamp for six months until mosquito bites made him look like a victim of leprosy.”[1]  The punishing of oneself be it through rigorous asceticism, condemnatory thoughts or a legalistic piety does not draw us towards God but drags us away from God and invokes His displeasure [Isaiah 64:6].  No! Man is made right by faith alone [Galatians 3:1-9] and therefore holiness comes not from grudging servitude but self-giving gratitude that is brought about by spiritual transformation [2 Peter 1:3-4].  Luke here, in chapter 7, gives us three examples of faith.

 

1. The Soldier with Great Faith [v1-10]

The first of these is a centurion who sends a delegation of Jewish elders to Jesus to ask if he would come and heal his servant who is “sick and ready to die.”  Jesus marvels at this man, not because his life makes evident the effectual nature of his faith – though it does, but because this man places great faith in the power of Jesus’ word to heal.  In fact, Jesus says of him, “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”

 APPLICATION: So the question we are left with is how did this man attain such great faith?  Well, although faith is a gift that has been given to us [Romans 12:3], it is activated and grows through the word of God [Romans 10:17].  This centurion is almost definitely a God-fearer and therefore sat under the preaching of the word and allowed his hearing to be supplemented by doing, hence his exemplary lifestyle [James 1:22].  Therefore, I would like to challenge you this week, to not only increase the amount of time you spend studying the Scriptures and sitting under the preaching of the word but to draw from them practical applications for your life.  Some may find it helpful to mark their bibles or record these application points in a notebook or journal.

 

2. The Widow with No Faith [v11-17]

Having said this, there will be times and situations like loss, illness or loved ones not yet saved, in which we feel that we have, or they do not have any faith at all.  What are we to do in these situations?  Providentially Luke provides us with the answer in our second character.  She is a widow whose “only son” has just died.  Devastated by the loss of her son and almost definitely facing a life of destitution (he would have been her only means of support) she does not go to Jesus, for why would she?  Her son is dead and up unto this point there is no evidence that Jesus is able to do anything about death.  Therefore, Jesus comes to her.

APPLICATION: While Jesus delights in our faith, He is not bound by our faith.  This means that in situations of no faith we can cry out that He might have pity and act in our lives and/or the lives of our loved ones.  Whilst it does not mean that He is inevitably going to save, heal and deliver every time for that would be akin to superstition or witchcraft (using prayer like some kind of incantation), it does mean that He can and He does and therefore we should beseech Him with all our hearts.[2] 

 

3. The Prophet with Wavering Faith [v18-35]

The final example that is given to us is John the Baptist.  He was the descendant of a godly family [Luke 1:5-7], had a miraculous birth [Luke 1:13], was a relative of Jesus [Luke 1:36], had predicted the coming of the Messiah [Luke 3:4-6] but was now languishing in prison and wavering in his faith.  You see, John thought that God’s judgment would come at the first coming [Luke 3:7-9] not his second and this confused him.  John therefore sends a delegation of his disciples to Jesus to ask if He was “the Coming One.”  Jesus goes on to tell them what He has done and what He is doing.

 APPLICATION: Due to the fact that many Christians hide their doubts and fears they live unproductive lives, backslide or even get caught up in cult or occult activities.  Like John (and Jesus), we must take our fears directly to God [Luke 22:39-44].  This might mean studying from the word of God, praying to God or taking counsel from mature and godly persons amongst the people of God.  Secondly, if our faith is to stand firm, we must remember all the things that God has done and all the things that He is doing, for sometimes our wavering comes from a spiritual amnesia.  If this persists, please feel free to contact me and/or take consolation in the fact that my inquisitive soul has questioned and doubted probably all of the major doctrines over the years.  Nonetheless, by the grace of God, I stand rock solid today in a firm belief in the Scripture and all the doctrines that are contained within.  It is my prayer that you might too.

 

Conclusion – A Prayer for Faith

‘Dear God, please forgive my doubting and wayward heart and enable me to stand firm.  Awake in me a passion to hear, believe and do your word.  Not because of any goodness in me, my LORD, but purely by your grace.  In your name I pray.’ Amen.

 

Sermon Jam from Geoff Thomas on “Dead Faith.”


[1] Encyclopaedia of 15,000 illustrations” by Paul Lee Tan p.114

[2]Paul’s not healed from “the thorn in the flesh” [2 Cor 12:7-10]. Timothy is encouraged to “drink wine for his stomach’s sake” because he is not healed [1 Tim 5:23].  Trophimus is left at Miletum because he was sick and Paul couldn’t heal him [2 Tim 4:20].  Epaphroditus was sent back to Phillipi by Paul “for indeed he was sick nigh unto death” [Phil 2:27]

How to Judge without being Judgmental [Luke 6:37-49]

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Sermon Link [Why not have a listen to the sermon?]

 

Introduction

37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. [v37]

 

It would be ridiculous and completly un-biblical if the Christian was not to exercise any discerning judgment as to people and situations.  If you are going to employ someone who you do not know to baby-sit your kids, manage your business or if you are going to work for a company which is renowned for illegal activity or immoral behaviour and use this passage as a proof text then it gives more evidence of your own stupidity than any real or perceived piety.  The passage, when taken in its wider context,  does not require you to abandon your critical faculties when becoming a Christian but  teaches how one might judge without being judgmental.  In particular it allows us to see how one might be able to identify a true disciple.

 

1. Judging the Teacher

39 And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. [v39-40]

 

Blind disciples follow and will become like their blind teachers.[1] This will lead to calamity, both temporal and eternal, for both of them.  So how might we identify a false teacher?

 

1. Doctrine: False teachers hold false doctrine and whilst they may use the bible they cannot be considered biblical as they are often more interested in placing their own opinions upon the text of Scripture than drawing out its actual meaning (2 Peter 1:20).  What is more distressing however, is that whilst they may be sincere and even move powerfully in the miraculous (Matthew 7:21-23), they have little understanding or regard for the Gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), for Apostolic doctrine  (Acts 2:42) or the person and the work of Jesus.

2. Lifestyle: Both legalistic asceticism (Colossians 2:20-23) and flagrant inquity (1 John 2:4) are condemned within scripture.  Nonetheless, these in themselves are useful ways of identifying a false teacher.  Please remember, like Jesus, that the Christian must hold together in tension self-denying separation from sin and the world (Matthew 16:24) and full participation in life (Luke 7:34).

3. Motive: If the sole motivation for a person is money, popularity, pride, peace or position then it is merely a matter of time before they are blinded by these things and will take them selves and their followers unto ruin.  Therefore, be on your guard.

 

Application: Write down a list of those who exercise significant influence within your life; this might include preachers, musicians, friends, family members and colleagues.  In light of the above you must prayerfully discern which ones you should allow to exercise such significant influence, which ones you should limit and which ones you should remove from your life entirely (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).  Allowing people with a bad theology and a bad lifestyle who have ulterior motives to influence your life substantially is foolish and exactly what Jesus rails against.

 

2. Judging the Fruit

45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. [v45]

 

So that we may place no confidence in the flesh and remain wholly dependent upon God we are required to  wrestle with our old nature continually (Romans 7:14-25) and therefore if we are positionally righteous in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) we will become more and more practically righteous in Christ also.  Not that we have arrived or, in this life, ever will.  The false disciple, however, knows nothing of positional righteousness nor practical righteousness.  This is often made manifest in the way they live and particularly in the way they speak.

 

Application: Are you someone who is always demeaning others by your angry tone, using terms like “kid” and “flower” when speaking to adults and/or are you someone who is always criticising, correcting, interrupting others and speaking before others have finished (Proverbs 10:19)?  And what do you speak about?  Do you speak life, wisdom and encouragement or foolishness, worldliness, triviality or gossip?

 

This week make a conscious effort, by God’s Spirit, to tame your tongue (James 3:6-8).  Watch how you speak and what you speak about for it reveals what lies in the subterranean regions of your heart.

 

Judging the Foundation

47 Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. 49 But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” [v47-49]

 

The final way in which someone’s profession of faith can be judged is to see if it is able to weather the storm, for that which is unable to weather it may have been built close to Christ but has not been built on Christ or by Christ.  Therefore, those who are truly saved may falter and fail at times but they will endure until the end  (Psalms 37:23-24, John 17:11-12, Philippians 1:6 and Hebrews 12:2).

 

Application: Either do a little bit of research on the lives of Corrie Ten Boom, Eric Liddel or Dietrich Bonhoeffer or look at examples within your own family or Church for those whose faith has remained strong in spite of the storms.  What practical principles can you apply from their life to yours?

 

Conclusion

Whilst only God is able to distinguish those who are truly His, this text provides for us three tests as to the sincerity of one’s profession.  Please remember that while salvation is purely a work of grace, transformation is the usual evidence of saving grace.[2]  If you have failed on each of these points then you must humbly ask God for the gifts of on-going repentance, faith and service.

 

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

From “My Hope is Built” by Edward Mote

 

lyrics and story behind “My Hope is Built”

 

*Our infinite God has chosen to limit Himself by using finite men therefore the sermon and the study notes should be received in a spirit of humility for that was the spirit in which they have been given. It is therefore our prayer that by the power of the Spirit’s illumination they might be used for the glorification of God and the transformation of your life*


[1] Whilst this particularly deals with religious teachers, it can also apply to all who exercise influence within one’s life (i.e. parents, peers, authors etc.).

[2] Due to God’s grace there will be rare exceptions but we must not try to build our belief and practice upon these exceptions (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

Forgiving the Unforgivable [Luke 6:27-36]

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Sermon Link [Why not have a listen to the sermon?]

 

“There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.”  William Cowper

 

Of all Jesus’ teachings the imperative to “love our enemies” is probably the most famous and the most difficult.  Nonetheless in light of the forgiveness we have received we must also forgive.  To do that, however, we must try to understand from the text the distinction between Kingdom love and worldly love.

 

1. Kingdom Love is Spiritual Love

Whilst there is so much more that can be said of the text, “I say to you who hear,” which begins this passage shows us that Kingdom love is spiritual love.  Please hear me; I am not saying that it is devoid of any practical application but I am saying that in order to “hear” or understand it, let alone practise it, we must be born-again and must be walking in accordance to God’s Spirit.

Application: Whether you are to forgive whole groups of people, certain individuals or even yourself you must understand that the power to do this rests wholly with God.  Read this passage a number of times and ask God for the power to both “hear” and to act.  This whole concept that true forgiveness comes from emotion or from an act of the will is destructive, impossible and unbiblical.

 

2. Worldly Love is Self-Interested Love

Worldly love, however, is a love that is empowered not by God but by man and is merely shared amongst those people whom we like or those people from whom we seek to receive something in return.  “For even sinners love those who love them.” 

 Application: This week why not do something good  to those who hold animosity towards you.  Please be wise and do not do it in a way to gain the moral high ground but purely because “when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).  Practically, this might mean taking in your neighbour’s rubbish bin, giving due credit to a certain colleague at work, trying to understand things from another persons perspective or being sensitive to someone else’s beliefs (i.e. not eating bacon in front of a seventh day Adventist or not participating in orange marches particularly if they pass through Catholic areas).

 

3. Kingdom Love is God’s Love

In the ancient world many trades were passed on generationally from father to son.  Therefore the love spoken of within this passage is none other than God’s love “for He is kind to the unthankful and (the) evil.”  We are seen, therefore, as apprentices  and co-labourers in His great work.

Application: Now you might be thinking that the person/s or group that you have in mind are completely undeserving of any good.  I would agree but I would also assume that you are not deserving of any good either,  and therefore even if the good that you seek to do is not received in a loving spirit, then I would exhort you to share it universally (not just to those who have offended you but to all) and untiringly, so that all might see that you are a son of the most high God.

 

Conclusion

“Christ’s injunctions are not to be applied mechanically, formally, or in foolish blindness which loses sight of the true purposes of love.  Love is to foster no crime in others or to expose our loved ones to disaster or perhaps death…Christ never told me not to restrain the murderer’s hand, not to check the thief and robber, not to oppose the tyrant, or to foster shiftlessness, dishonesty, and greed by my gifts.”  Lenski

Therefore let us not be fools; nonetheless let us not also be those that use over-caution as an excuse not to forgive the unforgivable in ourselves and in others.

 

*Our infinite God has chosen to limit Himself by using finite men therefore the sermon and the study notes should be received in a spirit of humility for that was the spirit in which they have been given. It is therefore our prayer that by the power of the Spirit’s illumination they might be used for the glorification of God and the transformation of your life*

[the audio from the 1st clip and the video from the 2nd where put together and shown before the sermon]

 

Following Jesus [Luke 6:17-26]

following

Sermon Link [Why not have a listen to the sermon?]

Introduction

Having picked His twelve apostles Jesus shows them the ministry that they are to participate in, the healing of the sick and the preaching of Truth.  From it we are able to extrapolate what it means to follow Jesus.

 

1. The Demonstration of Power

While there are many ways in which the Christian might be defined, biblically speaking it is a person who has received the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit and allows that power to move through them.  Therefore, no man can decide for Christ or be born a Christian; he must be born again.  And likewise, no man is able to live the Christian life without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Application: Have you truly been born again?  That is, do you know that Christ died for your sin, is on your side by grace and now dwells in you giving you new power and strength to live?  If not then I would urge you, my friend, to get on your knees before God and beg Him to show Himself to you.  If you have, I would encourage you to be a conduit of His power by the way in which you live, by praying for others, witnessing and by emulating Him, the word of God says: “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” 1 John 2:6.  Please understand, however, that the power to do this comes from His word, His Spirit and through the encouragement of His body the Church and not from guilt or self-effort.

 

2. The Declaration of Truth

Having healed the sick and cast out demons he goes on to a teaching section which is known as “The Sermon on the Plain” and whilst this is not identical it should be seen as parallel with “The Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew ch 5-7).  Within this section Jesus is portrayed as the new Moses who comes down the mountain to a mixed multitude and pronounces the Kingdom’s blessing and curses (Deuteronomy ch 27-28).  It must be remembered these are not given as a qualification for entry but as evidence for entry (Luke 6:46-49) and describe the way in which God’s view of man.

Jesus is not advocating abject poverty for this would contradict the rest of Scripture; instead this is to be read as Jesus bestowing a blessing on the righteous poor who have suffered righteously.  In like manner He is pronouncing a blessing upon the hungry, the weeping and the persecuted.  Within the following section He pronounces a “woe” upon the rich, the comfortable, the pleasure-seeking and the popular.  Again, these are not evil in themselves but only if they become the sum total of our life.

Application:  Are you seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness?  The best way to check is to see how you spend your time and your money and see how you use resources and talents.  Whatever is the sum total of your life is your god.

 

Conclusion

Following Jesus should never be seen as attainable.  Sinless perfection was purchased for us by the cross of Calvary but is unachievable when living with a fallen nature, wrestling with a fallen enemy and living in a fallen world.  Nonetheless, we should be sinning less, for we: “with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” 2 Corinthians 3:18.  Therefore let us, by the mercy of God, declare this truth with our lives that all may come to see and know Him.

*Our infinite God has chosen to limit Himself by using finite men therefore the sermon and the study notes should be received in a spirit of humility for that was the spirit in which they have been given. It is therefore our prayer that by the power of the Spirit’s illumination they might be used for the glorification of God and the transformation of your life*