JESUS' LATER JUDEAN MINISTRYFN

JESUS LEAVES GALILEE AND HEADS TOWARDS JERUSALEM

Mark 10:1a, And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan. Mark 10:1a (NLT), Then Jesus left Capernaum and went down to the region of Judea and into the area east of the Jordan River.
Matthew 19:1 (CEV), When Jesus finished teaching, he left Galilee and went to the part of Judea that is east of the Jordan River. John 7:10 (NLT), But after His brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view.

 

Jesus ministry in Galilee has come to a close. With the Feast of Tabernacles approaching, Jesus leaves Capernaum and heads towards Jerusalem. His route will take Him through the province of Samaria. John makes special note of the fact that Jesus stayed out of the public eye on this trip, choosing instead to travel with no one else except the apostolic company.

 

 

THE SAMARITANS REFUSE TO WELCOME JESUS

OR GIVE HIM LODGING

AN UNNAMED VILLAGE OF SAMARIA

 

Luke 9:51-56, And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up,FN he stedfastly setFN his face to go to Jerusalem, {52} And sent messengersFN before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.FN {53} And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. {54} And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?FN {55} But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. {56} For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. Luke 9:51-56 (NLT), As the time drew near for Him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. (52) He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for His arrival. (53) But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because He was on His way to Jerusalem. (54) When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, "Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up [as Elijah did]?" (55) But Jesus turned and rebuked them. [And He said, "You don't realize what your hearts are like.] (56) [For the Son of Man has not come to destroy people's lives, but to save them."] So they went on to another village.

 

Unlike His first welcome reception in Samaria a couple of years ago (John 4), the Samaritans didn’t receive or welcome our Lord this time around. They were hoping He’d stay a while, teach, and do some miracles. After all, there were villagers who needed Jesus’ healing touch. When they found out that Jesus was just passing through, staying only long enough to get a good night’s rest, then be on His way, the Samaritans flatly refused to give Him lodging and have anything else to do with Him.FN

Indignant that their Master had been treated thusly, James and John wanted to call down fire from Heaven to destroy these rude and unkind Samaritans. Jesus, however, forbade and rebuked them. He didn’t come to kill, but rather, to save.

 

1. UNKINDNESS IS WRONG!

THE SAMARITANS WERE WRONG TO BE SO RUDE OR UNKIND TO JESUS. The fact that a Jew sought lodging among them was, in itself, an act of good will. You see, in those days, Jews just didn’t do that sort of thing. They stayed as far away from the Samaritans as possible. In fact, it was not uncommon for Jews and Samaritans to kill each other just because of race. But here was Jesus departing from Jewish tradition and seeking lodging among Samaritans. This was an act of friendship and good will that not many Jews would have shown. But the Samaritans were just too hung up on Jesus’ short stay. So, they refused to receive Him. And they were wrong for doing it.

You see, UNKINDNESS IN THE FACE OF NEED ENCUMBERS THE NEEDY WITH UNNECESSARY SUFFERING. It was now October and the autumn rain and cold night air made indoor lodging quite a bit more preferable than sleeping out in a field somewhere. Being denied lodging, especially with the weather being what it was, was highly inconvenient and crucifying: the apostolic company would have to walk several more miles to the next town, tired, hungry, and cold.

UNKINDNESS, I'M SAYING, MAKES LIFE MORE DIFFICULT FOR THOSE WHO NEED OUR SYMPATHY AND KINDNESS.FN

WE ARE WRONG TO BE UNKIND TO PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY NEEDY PEOPLE.

 

2. UNKINDNESS IS WRONG. BUT SO IS VINDICTIVENESS.

The Samaritans were wrong. But THEIR WRONGNESS AND MISCONDUCT DO NOT GIVE US THE RIGHT TO RETALIATE OR BE VINDICTIVE AGAINST THEM. The fact that someone is wrong doesn’t mean it’s alright for us to look for ways or opportunities to get back at them and punish them.FN

Retaliation and vindictiveness are not the Spirit of Christ.

 

A. Vindictiveness is wrong on two counts. First, it’s not the Spirit of Christ. It’s not what Christ would do and it’s not what Christ would have us do. Brethren, before you take action against someone who’s done you wrong, look at Christ’s example and understand in your heart that if Christ wouldn’t retaliate, then neither should you.

When you’re mistreated and dealt with unkindly, what would the Lord have you do? He said to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39-42), overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19-21), and rejoice (Matthew 5:10-12).

In the present text, we see Jesus giving us an example of dying out in the face of injustice and unkindness. If people don’t receive you, die out and keep on walking to the next village.

Is this what we do, brethren? I’m not sure we’d call down fire from Heaven, but some pray and hope that something bad would happen to these offending Samaritans. Some get mad, others get critical. Some alienate and enemitize those who’ve done them wrong. And others hold a grudge and become bitter or vindictive. Could it be there’s a little bit of James and John in us?

 

B. VINDICTIVENESS, IN THE SECOND PLACE, IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE MISSION OF CHRIST TO SAVE. IT CLOSES THE DOOR TO FUTURE MINISTRY. You see, if you retaliate against these Samaritans and alienate them, you have no more ministry among them. They’ll remember what you did to them and when you come preaching the next time around they won’t listen to you or receive you. Your vindictiveness closes the ears and hearts of those to whom Christ would send you.

Do you know what happened a few years after this incident? Philip went to Samaria and many souls there were won for the Lord (Acts 8). Soon afterwards, a couple more apostles came to Samaria and ministered among the Samaritans. Brethren, THE PEOPLE YOU SEEK TO HURT MIGHT WELL BE THE PEOPLE GOD WILL ONE DAY SEND YOU TO. KEEP THE DOOR OF MINISTRY OPEN. DON'T SEND FIRE FROM HEAVEN BECAUSE, IF YOU KILL THEM, THEY WON'T BE THERE WHEN YOU COME TO PREACH TO THEM.

 

3. CHRISTIANS ARE CAPABLE OF DOING SOME VERY UNCHRISTIAN THINGS.

The sons of Zebedee meant well. Their Master had been insulted by the rudeness of these Samaritans and they wanted to defend the honor of their Lord.FN It’s a natural, human tendency to come to the defense of a loved one who’s been mistreated. You can mean well and act in what you believe is the best interest of those you love and defend. But like James and John, YOU CAN MEAN WELL AND STILL BE WRONG! In Jesus’ own words, Ye know not what spirit ye are of.

The fact that you mean well can obscure you from seeing the wrongness of what you intend to do. It can blind you from seeing the adverse impact or effect your actions will have on others. CHRISTIANS, YOU SEE, ARE CAPABLE OF DOING SOME VERY UNCHRISTIAN THINGS. CHRISTIANS ARE CAPABLE OF ACTING IN AN UNCHRISTIAN MANNER. AND THE THING OF IT IS, LIKE JAMES AND JOHN, THEY CAN'T SEE IT!

It took two things for James and John to see what was so wrong about themselves: the Samaritans’ unkindness which elicited these apostles’ vindictiveness; and the Lord’s rebuke which condemned it.

COULD IT BE, BRETHREN, THAT THE LORD SOMETIMES ALLOWS US TO BE PERSECUTED AND MISTREATED SO THAT WE'LL SEE WHAT'S UNCHRISTIAN ABOUT US? COULD IT BE HE LETS PEOPLE BE BAD TO US SO THAT HE COULD SHOW US WHAT'S BAD IN US? Nobody likes being rebuked. But, brethren, be thankful for a rebuke because it’s the Lord opening your eyes to see what’s unchristian about you. His rebuke is Him telling you He doesn’t like something about you. It’s your cue to get things right.

 

4. FAITH, THE POWER, OR THE GIFT, REQUIRES CONTROL.

James and John believed they had the power to call down fire from Heaven to consume these Samaritans, otherwise they wouldn’t have said what they said. I believe they would have done it if Jesus wasn’t around or if they hadn’t consulted with Jesus first. These brothers, you will remember, worked miracles on a previous occasion and so, working a miracle now was not foreign to them (Mark 6:7-13).

Brethren, you may have the faith, the power, or the God-given gift to work miracles. You may even have the Biblical precedent to do them (even as Elias did). But faith, the power, and gift can be a dangerous thing in the hands of the flesh. When you’re angry, unloving, impulsive and vindictive you can, as it were, call down fire from Heaven. And in doing that, you would be accomplishing the exact opposite of what Christ came to do: you would be destroying people’s lives instead of saving them. You can do a lot of harm in the flesh!

Having faith, power, and the gift doesn’t give you the liberty to use them in the flesh. Being punitive—as in calling down fire and brimstone—is one thing. But being evangelistic—as in going forth to preach, heal, deliver, and save—is another. Brethren, the commission is to evangelize, not punish. Let God take care of the punishing.

FAITH, THE POWER, OR THE GIFT, IS NOT MEANT TO JUDGE PEOPLE OR TO DESTROY THEM. IT IS REQUIRED OF ALL THOSE WHO WOULD MINISTER TO BE SELF-RESTRAINED AND CONTROLLED. IF YOU CAN'T STAY CALM, COOL, OR COLLECTED IN THE FACE OF INJUSTICE, WORK HARD AND WORD FAST TO GET THERE. YOU CAN HELP PEOPLE WHEN YOU’RE ANGRY AND HATEFUL! KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT, SETTLE DOWN, AND SHOW YOUR SAMARITANS THE LOVE OF CHRIST. THE MISSION IS TO SAVE, NOT TO DESTROY!

 

5. ENDURE THE REBUKE, PERSEVERE WITH THE LORD, AND LET HIM CHANGE YOU.

Christianity is a walk. It’s a growth and a learning experience. As much as we don’t want to, we all nonetheless make mistakes—even when we mean well or have the best of intentions. When we make a mistake, or when we’re wrong, we’ve got to quit justifying and defending ourself. Instead we should brace ourself and listen intently to the Spirit’s convicting words.

James and John were rebuked by our Lord. My friends, how would you feel if Jesus Himself rebuked you? It would be a humbling, if not humiliating, experience. Some people can’t stand to be rebuked and when they are rebuked they get offended and critical. They end up leaving the church and counting their brethren as enemies.

But brethren, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong and you must be man, woman, or Christian enough to take it or admit it.

As ministers, we are commanded by our Lord to rebuke those who are wrong (2 Timothy 4:2). Don’t let a rebuke discourage you and cause you to falter and leave or fall away. Endure the rebuke. Learn the lesson. Follow Jesus to the next village. And let Him change whatever needs to be changed in your life.

 

6. A GOOD CHANGE CHANGES YOU, OTHERS, EVEN HISTORY ITSELF!

Let me tell you what eventually happened to John. A few years after this incident, an evangelist by the name of Philip came to Samaria and as a result of his ministry, many Samaritans believed on the Lord. When the apostles in Jerusalem heard what was happening in Samaria, they sent two apostles there to aid in the work. Do you know who these apostles were? They were Peter and John, Acts 8:14-25. This same John who wanted to destroy these Samaritans came back to Samaria several years later and ministered among the Samaritans. In fact, he went on to become known as the apostle of love. Those who he once sought to kill he later on sought to save. You see, the Lord did a wondrous work in John’s heart and changed him. He got rid of the vindictiveness and replaced it with love. And having changed him, God used him.

In much the same way, some can’t be used right now to minister because they’ve got some real attitude or personality problems that are a detriment to people. They would do more harm than good.

GROWING AND MATURING AS A CHRISTIAN ISN'T JUST ABOUT STUFFING A BUNCH OF FACTS INTO OUR HEADS: IT'S ABOUT SNUFFING OUT A BUNCH OF UNGODLY ATTITUDES IN OUR HEARTS. You may know your Bible. You may sing your heart out to the Lord. You may even spend a decent amount of time in prayer. But where’s your cross? What are you doing with it? Do you even know where it’s at? Brethren, WE’RE NOT GOING TO GROW AND MATURE AS A CHRISTIAN WITHOUT DYING OUT AND CRUCIFYING OURSELF.

WHEN THE LORD REBUKES YOU, THEN, LIKE JOHN, ENDURE IT AND STAY WITH THE LORD. THE LORD'S TRYING TO CHANGE YOU AND MATURE YOU SO THAT HE CAN USE YOU TO HELP OTHERS AND CHANGE YOUR WORLD.

So you’re not feeling very Christian about yourself? Got some attitude problems that are getting you down? Don’t despair, brethren, God’s not done with you! Be encouraged by the life-changing example of James and John. God can work the bugs out of you! Keep working on solving the problem, stay on the cross, and, in time, the ugliness in you will be replaced by the beauty of Christ’s Spirit and image. Guaranteed!

 

 

THREE FOLLOWERS WANT TO JOIN THE APOSTOLIC COMPANY

THE ROAD TO JERUSALEM

 

Matthew 8:19-20, And a certain scribeFN came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. {20} And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. Matthew 8:19-20 (NIV),  Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."  (20)  Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Luke 9:57-58 (CEV), Along the way someone said to Jesus, "I'll go anywhere with you!" (58) Jesus said, "Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man doesn't have a place to call his own."

 

Besides the twelve, there were others in the apostolic company who followed Christ whenever they could, that is, whenever their jobs and familial responsibilities permitted them to take a few days off to seek out the Christ and abide in His company.

Among these were three in particular who wanted to follow Christ on a full-time basis, much like the twelve. The first was a Scribe or a teacher of the Law. He wanted to follow Jesus wherever Jesus led. Now this was admirable and commendable in itself. For one thing, this man was a Scribe and this account in Matthew is the only known instance where a Scribe sought to follow the Lord: most of his fellow Scribes were vehemently opposed to Jesus. His desire and devotion to the Lord hints strongly of the fact that this teacher of the Law believed in Jesus, otherwise he wouldn’t have sought to follow Jesus on a full-time, permanent basis.

Another thing of note concerning this man is the fact that he would pretty much have to abandon his scribal career and fraternity in order to follow Christ. If ever his fellow Scribes found out that he was a believer and follower of Jesus he would either be given the opportunity to recant his faith or else be disowned, disfellowshipped, and disgraced by the scribal company. You see, this Scribe was putting everything on the line: he was willing to forsake all to follow Christ.

But judging from our Lord’s response—He who knows all things including the hearts of men—this Scribe had false notions of what discipleship to Jesus entailed. He saw the publicity and popularity that attended our Lord, the miracles, wisdom, and teachings. He saw all the good things that make discipleship and the ministry so appealing and desirable. But he didn’t see the trials involved in following the Lord. Jesus didn’t always have a place to rest His head by night. In fact, He had just been refused a night’s lodging in a Samaritan inn. There were nights of travel where the open sky served as the roof over Jesus’ head.

Following Christ, you see, involve some measure of inconvenience and insecurity, suffering and privation: you don’t always know where you’ll be spending the night, where the next meal is coming from, or how your travel and ministry expenses are going to be paid for. There are trials involved and sacrifices will have to be made. Not everything is as rosy as it seems.

Make no mistake here. Jesus isn’t forbidding or discouraging any one from following Him. He isn’t rejecting this Scribe. He’s simply clearing up any misconceptions or wrong ideas we may have about following and serving the Lord. He’s letting us know right from the very beginning what discipleship to Jesus entails or involves. HE WHO FOLLOWS THE LORD MUST DO SO WITHOUT HAVING ANY FALSE PRETENSES OR EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT DISCIPLESHIP TO CHRIST IS ALL ABOUT.

In a nutshell, WE MUST COUNT THE COST AND MEASURE OUR WILLINGNESS TO FOLLOW CHRIST WITH OUR WILLINGNESS TO SUFFER TRIALS. There are trials ahead and there is no such thing as being a Christian without having to suffer trials, persecutions, and privations at some point in time.FN

Following Christ, then, in the face of privation and trial, necessarily requires three things of us.

(1) First, it requires self-crucifixion. When you can’t sleep at an inn tonight, die out and head out to the next village or spread your blanket under the open sky.

(2) Second, it requires faith. Trust God for your provision and material or financial supply.

(3) And third, it requires contentment. Until the Lord supplies, learn to be grateful and content with what you have. Don’t resort to covetousness or murmuring! Paul speaks about this very thing in Philippians 4:11-12 (NIV), I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (12) I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

 

Matthew 8:21-22 ,And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. (22) But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. Matthew 8:21-22 (CEV), Another disciple said to Jesus, "Lord, let me wait till I bury my father." (22) Jesus answered, "Come with me, and let the dead bury their dead." Luke 9:59-60 (NASB), And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." (60) But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God."

 

The Lord called another man to follow Him. Like the Scribe before him, this man was a believer and the Lord was calling him to ministry or service. He wanted this man to go and preach the gospel.FN What a privilege this must have been! Imagine having the great Jesus Himself ask you to work for Him! Such an offer from a wildly popular evangelist or miracle worker today would pale in comparison to this offer from Christ Himself.

The man wanted to take Jesus up on His invitation. But he wanted to go home first and bury his father.FN You see, as a son, this man had a high obligation to pay his final respects to his dead father. In fact, among the Jews, providing a decent burial for a loved one took precedence over almost everything else—including attending religious services or studying the Law!FN

What this man desired of the Lord was not anything unreasonable. But what we see here is, WHEN CHRIST CALLS US TO FOLLOW HIM OR SERVE HIM WE MUST ANSWER THAT CALL HERE AND NOW--NOT LATER.FN Procrastination is a dangerous thing because it gives men and the Devil time to talk us out of doing anything “radical” or “religious.”

Moreover, when God issues the call to ministry, heeding that call takes precedence over any earthly, familial responsibility that we may have. Serving Christ is more important than burying a dead parent. There are others who can do the burying: the burying is not as important as you going forth to do what the Lord’s called you to do.FN

 

Luke 9:61-62, And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. {62} And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. Luke 9:61-62 (CEV), Then someone said to Jesus, "I want to go with you, Lord, but first let me go back and take care of things at home." (62) Jesus answered, "Anyone who starts plowing and keeps looking back isn't worth a thing to God's kingdom!" Luke 9:61-62 (NLT), Another said, "Yes, Lord, I will follow You, but first let me say good-bye to my family." (62) But Jesus told him, "Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God." Luke 9:61-62 (NIV),  Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family."  (62)  Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."

 

A third would-be follower of the Lord wanted to go home first and say his good-byes to those at home. At least, he’d tell them where he’d be and what he’d be doing so that they wouldn’t worry about him.

But nothing doing. JESUS DOESN'T EVEN WANT US TO LOOK BACK, MUCH LESS GO BACK. You see, when you look back you can’t see where you’re going, you’ll plow a crooked line, and you’ll stumble over the many rocks that Satan places in your path. AS LONG AS YOU LOOK BACK YOU'LL BE TEMPTED TO GO BACK--ESPECIALLY WHEN THE GOING GETS ROUGH AND THE TRIALS GET TOUGH--AS INEVITABLE AS THAT WILL BE.

What is it that people want to go back to?

(1) Some, like this would-be follower of Christ, want to go back to the family they left behind. You see, generally speaking, family ties are strong. So strong, in fact, that it keeps some from following the Lord. Brethren, when you follow Christ, family plays second fiddle to the Lord. YOU CAN'T FOLLOW THE LORD AND STILL MAKE YOUR FAMILY THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY AND LOVE IN YOUR LIFE. Jesus said in Matthew 10:37, He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

(2) Another thing people look back to and long for is the old life they once enjoyed. Some long for the sinful, fleshly life where they can do whatever they want to do without being burdened with Christ’s commands concerning holiness and self-crucifixion.

(3) Others long for the mammon of wealth or the lucrative careers they left behind. They’re tired of not having money and tired of trusting the Lord. And yet, our Lord says Ye cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).

(4) Others long for the church they came out of, a church where you could be a Heaven-bound Christian and not have to trust God for everything, not have to die out to everything fleshly, not have to give up so many things, and not have to be totally, or radically, committed. They want to be normal, regular Christians.

But what they don’t know is, so much of what they call ‘normal Christianity’ is Laodicean where Christians are neither cold nor hot. They’re lukewarm, mediocre, and self-content. What does the Lord do with them? He calls them to repentance (Revelation 3:14-22).

Brethren, YOU'RE UNACCEPTABLE TO GOD AS A LUKEWARM CHRISTIAN. When you follow the Lord you’ve got to burn all your bridges behind you: bridges to family and loved ones; and bridges to the old life. Why burn them? So that you can’t retreat and go back. As long as your bridges remain open, all those things in the past—the allurements, desires, and temptations—will attract you and distract you from following the Lord.

No one, brethren, follows the Lord with his heart divided between what’s ahead and what’s behind. ONCE YOU MAKE A DECISION TO FOLLOW CHRIST, THERE IS NO TURNING BACK, THERE IS NO LOOKING BACK. TO DO OTHERWISE IS TO RENDER YOU UNFIT FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. No one, brethren, goes into the kingdom with his eyes behind his head and his heart behind his spine.

 

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

1. BEING WILLING OR DESIROUS, BUT NOT TOTALLY COMMITTED TO JESUS.

In looking at these three would-be followers of Christ, the thing that most strikes me is these three men wanted to follow the Lord. They weren’t reluctant disciples. They weren’t being forced, compelled, or intimidated to do something they really didn’t want to do. They wanted to follow the Lord.

But they weren’t totally committed to the Lord. They had other desires and priorities in life that they wanted to fulfill before they followed the Lord. Their desire for Christ, you see, wasn’t total or absolute. It was divided with a desire to do this first or a desire to do that first.

Brethren, your desire for Christ is noble, but desire alone doesn’t make you fit for the kingdom of God. IF YOUR DESIRE FOR CHRIST IS DIVIDED OR SHARED WITH OTHER DESIRES THAT YOU DEEM MORE IMPORTANT, YOU'RE NOT FIT FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. When you follow Christ, there can be no greater desire or priority in life. All other desires must be surrendered to Christ, sacrificed, and died out to.

 

2. FOLLOWING JESUS ON OUR OWN TERMS.

Another thing that we see in these would-be disciples is their wanting to follow Christ on their own terms: they’d follow Him, but only after they do this or that first.

In them we see the human tendency to follow Christ on our own terms: we set the rules and the conditions—we dictate the terms--by which we’d follow the Lord. For example,

*we’ll follow the Lord if we can keep on doing this or that,
*if we don’t have to do this or that,
*if we don’t have to give this up or that, or
*if we don’t have to go through this trial or that.
*No trials.
*No persecutions.
*We get everybody to like us. We can’t be hated or rejected by anybody!
*And a pocketful of money.

But the thing that we see here is, CHRIST DICTATES THE TERMS BY WHICH WE FOLLOW HIM. If He wants us now, we must follow Him now—not later. If He wants us to be a preacher, then it’s a preacher that we become, not a politician. If He doesn’t want us going home first, then we don’t go home first.

You see, in Christianity Christ remains in charge and in control of all those who profess to believe in Him and follow Him. ANY BRAND OF CHRISTIANITY THAT LEAVES A PERSON IN CHARGE OF WHAT HE OR SHE WILL, OR WILL NOT, DO IS NOT TRUE CHRISTIANITY. IT IS, IN TRUTH, SELFIANITY THAT PRODUCES SELFISH CHRISTIANS WHO ARE UNFIT FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

 

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Ponder for a minute what it means to be unfit for the Kingdom. It means to be undeserving. Unworthy. Unqualified. Not eligible. Not a chance. To be unfit for the Kingdom means you’re not going to be in the Kingdom. You’re not spending eternity in Heaven. Wow!

IS ANYTHING, OR ANYONE, ON THIS EARTH WORTH NOT GOING TO HEAVEN AND SPENDING ETERNITY WITH GOD?

WHAT ON THIS EARTH IS WORTH SPENDING FOREVER TORTURED AND PAINED IN HELL’S FIRES?

You know, if it was any person—friend or foe, Christian or not—who told me I was unfit for God, Heaven, and the Kingdom; then I wouldn’t pay him or her any mind. I wouldn’t be concerned because I know better. I intend to go to Heaven and nothing, or no one, is going to stop me or keep me from going there.

But what do you do when it’s Jesus Himself who’s telling you you’re not fit for the Kingdom? That changes everything because it’s Jesus who’s doing the talking. He doesn’t lie. And whatever He says, goes. It’s what will happen.

When He says I’m not worthy of Heaven those are the most dreadful, frightful words that I don’t ever want to hear Him say to me. It’s pretty scary stuff. That’s why I take Christianity, Bible, and my personal walk with God, very seriously. Jesus, Heaven, Eternity, are worth everything to me and I’m not willing to let anyone or anything keep me from Him. Jesus gave His all to save me and make me His. I can give Him no less. I pray God give you the same love, holy fear, and loyalty to follow Him no matter the cost or sacrifice.

Enough said about me. What about you, dear friend? Do you want God to consider you worthy of spending eternity with Him? What is it about you that would cause God to say you’re not worthy of Heaven? What things in your life—what sins or imperfections—will keep God from saying to you, Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter in the joy of your Lord! Aren’t those the words you want to hear Him say to you when you finally meet up with Him before the Judgment Throne?

Friend, don’t ignore your sins or imperfections. Take care of the stuff that will keep you from going to Heaven. Fix the problems. They’re fixable! Do what you’ve got to do—do anything and everything—to make sure you spend eternity with Jesus. It will be so worth it to spend forever being happy, blest, and enjoying God’s love and goodness without any sorrow or pain! May God fill you with an undying love for Him. A holy fear. And an undaunted commitment to follow Him to your dying day.

 

 

JESUS ATTENDS THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES

JERUSALEM

TROUBLE IN THE TEMPLE

 

John 7:10-13, But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. {11} Then the JewsFN sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he?FN {12} And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. {13} Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews. John 7:10-13 (NLT), But after His brothers left for the festival, Jesus also went, though secretly, staying out of public view. (11) The Jewish leaders tried to find Him at the festival and kept asking if anyone had seen Him. (12) There was a lot of grumbling about Him among the crowds. Some argued, "He's a good man," but others said, "He's nothing but a fraud who deceives the people." (13) But no one had the courage to speak favorably about Him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.

 

Many people from different parts of the Roman Empire came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Their opinion of Jesus was mixed. Some thought He was good, others thought just the opposite. No matter what they thought, they kept their opinions to themselves because they were afraid of what the religious authorities might say or do to them. If you don’t want to get in trouble with some people, you just don’t bring up, or discuss, certain subjects!

 

John 7:14-15, Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.FN {15} And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? John 7:14-15 (NLT), Then, midway through the festival, Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. (15) The people were surprised when they heard Him. "How does He know so much when He hasn't been trained?" they asked.

 

About half-way through the eight-day feast, Jesus went up to the Temple and taught. As at the first when He was twelve years old, the religious leaders were amazed at His knowledge and understanding.FN How could One who was not trained or taught in rabbinical school be so learned? Where did He get His knowledge?

My friends, IT IS A FALLACY TO THINK THAT A PERSON CANNOT KNOW MUCH, OR CANNOT BE RIGHT IN WHAT HE BELIEVES OR TEACHES, WITHOUT HAVING FORMAL OR HIGHER RELIGIOUS EDUCATION.

The Scribes and Pharisees were the most learned men in Israel. Yet in their learning they failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah and they opposed the truth that He taught. How is this possible?

So much of formal or higher education is an education in the doctrines of men. You learn what different men down through the ages have believed and taught.

*A casual reading of the Jewish Mishnah readily testifies to this fact. The Mishnah, along with its commentary called the Gemara, is replete with what different rabbis taught—often in contradiction to each other.
*We fare not much better today for in our seminaries our ministers are taught the teachings of men from Alford to Wellhausen, Barth to Bultmann, Kant to Küng, Rawlinson to Ridderbos, and Schleiermacher to Schürer. Like the Jews, our ministers are well trained in the teachings of men, but many are blinded to the simple truths of God’s Word.

BIBLICALLY SPEAKING, THE SMARTEST AND RIGHTEST ARE NOT THOSE WHO SIT AT THE FEET OF MEN, BUT RATHER, SIT AT THE FEET OF JESUS.

 

John 7:16-18, Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine,FN but his that sent me. {17} If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. {18} He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. John 7:16-18 (CEV), Jesus replied: I am not teaching something that I thought up. What I teach comes from the one who sent me. (17) If you really want to obey God, you will know if what I teach comes from God or from me. (18) If I wanted to bring honor to myself, I would speak for myself. But I want to honor the one who sent me. That is why I tell the truth and not a lie.

 

Where did Jesus get His doctrine? From God Himself.

As in His previous visit to Jerusalem (John 5), Jesus speaks on His relationship with the Father and claims to be sent directly by the Father, ergo, Jesus came from Heaven. What a fantastic claim! In the eyes of the Jews, it’s blasphemous for a mere man to claim he came from Heaven, in effect, he’s claiming to be Divine. This kind of talk gets Jesus in trouble with the authorities. But do you know what? He nevertheless talks about it and doesn’t shy away from saying things that are controversial and disliked by the authorities.

Brethren, JUST BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. To be sure, it’s a lot more peaceable to be quiet and PEACEABLENESS AMONG BRETHREN IS NO SIN. But peaceableness at the expense of truth is no benefit to men! The people of God will not know the truth if they are not confronted and challenged with it. As we see here with Jesus, THERE ARE TIMES WHEN PEACE MUST BE SACRIFICED SO THAT PEOPLE WILL KNOW WHAT THE TRUTH IS.

Now as in Jesus’ day, there are a handful of teachings that are quite controversial among Christians today. Marriage and divorce is a good example, as are speaking in tongues, holiness, and the possibility of Christians having demons.

The arguments on both sides of the issues are heated and passionate. We can reason and argue for endless days concerning these things, as the people of God have done down through the centuries. But unanimity and agreement remain elusive to the Church. I just don’t believe that God spoke these things to the Church in order to divide the Church.

Brethren, THE ONLY WAY WE'RE GOING TO LEARN THE TRUTH BEHIND SOME MATTERS IS FOR US TO BE WILLING TO OBEY WHAT GOD HAS WRITTEN IN HIS WORD: If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know (John 7:17).

Knowledge is gained, not only through the intellectual comprehension of God’s Word, but also through a practical obedience to God’s Word. WE LEARN NOT ONLY BY STUDYING, BUT ALSO BY OBEYING. FRIENDS, SOME TRUTHS CAN ONLY BE LEARNED OR GRASPED BY OBEYING GOD'S WORD.

*We can argue for endless hours about whether or not speaking in tongues is for today. But those who know best the truth of the matter are those who speak in tongues.
*Does God heal supernaturally today? Those who know best are those who trust God for their healing.
*Can a Christian have demons? Those who know best are those who’ve been delivered from demonic oppression.

The debates on any given matter may rage on for years to come. But for those who take God at His Word and obey Him, the debate ceased a long time ago with God being the clear winner over men. Brethren, THOSE WHO BEST KNOW THE TRUTH ARE THOSE WHO BELIEVE IT AND OBEY IT.

 

John 7:19-20, Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law?FN Why go ye about to kill me? {20} The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? John 7:19-20 (NLT), Moses gave you the law, but none of you obeys it! In fact, you are trying to kill Me." (20) The crowd replied, "You're demon possessed! Who's trying to kill You?" John 7:19-20 (CEV), Didn't Moses give you the Law? Yet none of you obey it! So why do you want to kill me? (20) The crowd replied, "You're crazy! What makes you think someone wants to kill you?"

 

The sixth commandment reads, Thou shalt not kill. Sadly, these religious leaders who were so zealous for the Law of Moses were violating that Law in their desire to kill Jesus.

Apparently, the people, namely, those who were visitors to the Holy City, were not aware of the religious authorities’ desire to kill Jesus. They didn’t believe their leaders would do such a thing! They were so incensed by Jesus’ charge and thought that He was demon-possessed. As Jews of that era believed, only a demon-possessed guy would say such a crazy thing!

The people didn’t know the truth. That’s why they accused Jesus of being crazy.

Brethren, WE DON'T ALWAYS KNOW THE TRUTH either. People hide things from us. Like the conniving, deceitful, murderous leaders in our Biblical text, the people involved in the situation or dispute at hand aren’t going to tell on themselves or give themselves away. They’re fooling us. And we don’t know that. We don’t know we’re being lied to and fooled. So we malign and accuse the guy who knows what’s going on: You’re crazy. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re a liar!

Friends, WHEN YOU HEAR SOMEBODY SAYING STUFF THAT YOU DON’T LIKE OR BELIEVE—STUFF THAT’S JUST TOO FANTASTIC AND UNBELIEVABLE AS TO BE A CERTAIN LIE—YOU SHOULDN’T RUSH TO JUDGMENT AND DISMISS THE GUY AS BEING A MISERABLE, PATHETIC LIAR. YOU DON’T ALWAYS KNOW THE TRUTH. I know you don't like to admit it, it may not happen very often, and you hate it when it happens, but the truth of the matter is, YOU CAN BE FOOLED! You owe it to yourself and everyone else to dig deeper, discover the truth, and see who’s lying to you. You just might be surprised to know who’s lying. As we see in our Biblical text, THE PEOPLE WE DON’T THINK ARE LYING ARE SOMETIMES THE VERY ONES WHO ARE. RELIGIOUS PEOPLE—OUR MINISTERS AND LEADERS—ARE CAPABLE OF LYING. So sad.

 

 

HOW TO JUDGE RIGHTEOUSLY OR THE RIGHT WAY

JERUSALEM, MOST LIKELY IN THE TEMPLE

 

John 7:21-24, Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work,FN and ye all marvel. {22} Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. {23} If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? {24} Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.FN John 7:21-24 (NIV),  Jesus said to them, "I did one miracle, and you are all amazed.  (22)  Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath.  (23)  Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man's whole body on the Sabbath?  (24)  Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly."

 

The last time Jesus was in Jerusalem He healed the lame man by the Pool of Bethesda (John 5). That was a few months ago. The religious leaders were so incensed by Jesus’ blatant disregard for Moses’ prohibition against working on the Sabbath that they were still miffed about it! So Jesus brings up this very controversial subject of healing on the Sabbath. Is it wrong to heal on the Sabbath? Definitely!, according to the religious leaders. Jesus challenged this belief and destroyed it.

Now the Law of Moses mandated the circumcision of all Jewish males. Circumcision, however, did not begin with Moses. By direct command from God, the fathers—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—all circumcised their sons long before Moses ever came along, Genesis 17:9-14, 23-27, 21:4.

Now the Law mandated that a male infant be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, Leviticus 12:1-3. So what happens if the eighth day falls on a Sabbath? Would they postpone circumcision so that the Sabbath would not be broken? No! They would go on ahead and circumcise on the Sabbath. Circumcision on the Sabbath, you see, was not considered work. It was, in reality, the fulfillment of the Levitical law.

In this one instance, then, it could readily be seen by all that not everything done on a Sabbath was considered work. Some things took precedence over the Sabbath and some things could lawfully be done on the Sabbath.

In another portion of Scripture, in Luke 14:5, Jesus asked the religious leaders, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? Pulling an ass or an ox out of a pit was not forbidden on the Sabbath.

Once again, the point is made—some things could legally be done on the Sabbath without it being considered work or being a violation of the Sabbath prohibition against working. The religious leaders, you see, were wrong in their judgment of Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath. Contrary to their judgment, it wasn’t wrong to heal on the Sabbath.

Like these religious leaders, we err in our judgment if we do not judge righteous judgment. Jesus said in John 7:24, Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

Brethren, what is righteous judgment? If Jesus wants us to judge righteously, then we’ve got to know how to do it.

You see, it’s possible to make a wrong judgment in a matter. JUST BECAUSE A JUDGMENT HAS BEEN MADE DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN THAT THE JUDGMENT IS RIGHT.

The religious authorities made a judgment against Jesus and they were absolutely convinced beyond all shadow of a doubt that they were right in their judgment: Jesus is a Law-breaker! But do you know what? They were wrong!

Friends, IT’S POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO MAKE A JUDGMENT AND BE WRONG IN THAT JUDGMENT! That’s why it’s so important for you to know what righteous judgment is all about.

 

1. RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT ISN’T BASED ON APPEARANCES.

When we look closely at Jesus’ words here in John 7:24 we see that righteous judgment is a judgment that’s not based on appearances or sight. In Jesus’ words, Judge not according to appearance.

TO JUDGE RIGHTEOUSLY, MY FRIENDS, YOU’VE GOT TO LOOK BENEATH OR BEYOND THE SURFACE OF THINGS. Why is that? Because NOT EVERYTHING IS AS IT SEEMS. Not everything that looks bad is bad. And not everything that looks good is good.

A deceiver in sheep’s clothing looks good. On the surface of things, there’s nothing wrong with him. He looks just like the rest of the sheep. But just because he looks good doesn’t mean he’s good.

To judge righteously, you see, you’ve got to do more than just look: you’ve got to dig beneath the surface of things.

*DON'T ASSUME THAT JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING LOOKS GOOD IT'S AUTOMATICALLY GOOD. Sometimes, something that makes sense isn't true. That's just how deception works. LOGIC IS IMPORTANT. YOU'VE GOT TO THINK THINGS THROUGH. BUT LOGIC ISN'T AN INFALLIBLE GUIDE TO TRUTH.

*That's why you've got to ask questions. Talk to all the parties involved. Get both sides of the story. Get the facts straight from the horse’s mouth. Look closely and listen carefully.

*Above all, ask God for wisdom as to who’s telling the truth and who isn’t. You need God's wisdom. And the only way you're going to get it is if you go to Him, ask Him, and wait on Him to give it to you. God doesn't always speak up right away. But He eventually does. And you want to make sure you hear Him when He speaks because God isn't going to lie to you: He knows what He's talking about. Carnal intellect and reasoning have their place. But when lying and deception are involved, you've got to rely on the Spirit of Truth to guide you into all truth. DON'T NEGLECT, BYPASS, OR RUSH IN AND OUT OF YOUR PRAYER CLOSET. SOMETIMES YOU'LL WON'T KNOW THE TRUTH WITHOUT GOD TELLING IT TO YOU. So don't ever minimize, or neglect, praying.

*DON'T ASSUME THAT EVERYONE YOU TALK TO IS TELLING YOU THE TRUTH. People lie. That’s how deception works. People don’t always tell you everything they know or everything that’s relevant to the matter at hand. They’re selective in what they say because they’re selective in what they want you to know. They want you to know some things, but not everything. What they do say may well be true, but it’s not the whole or complete truth. It may be accurate, but not wholly accurate. That’s because they’ve left the pertinent details out. They’ve given you a part, but not the whole.

You see, righteous judgment is more than just looking. It requires a little digging, sometimes a lot. And digging, you know, takes effort and time—that’s why A RASH, HASTY, SPONTANEOUS, OR SUPERFICIAL JUDGMENT IS OFTEN A WRONG ONE. It’s often wrong because time and effort haven’t been spent digging beneath the surface of things.

Brethren, WHEN YOU DON'T TAKE THE TIME AND EFFORT TO SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH, YOU'LL SELDOM FIND IT BECAUSE THE TRUTH OF A MATTER SELDOM LIES ON THE SURFACE. In Jesus’ words, Judge not according to appearance. Truth, you see, isn’t always apparent or readily seen. Brethren, don’t rush into judgment just because you’ve “seen everything.” Not everything is as it appears.

 

2. RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT JUDGES BY GOD'S WORD, NOT MAN'S.

Righteous judgment, in the second place, is a judgment according to God’s Word, not mine or man’s.

You see, we all make judgments based on a standard or a set of rules and criteria. As we see here with the religious authorities, the standard that’s used is not always the Word of God: it’s the word of the rabbis, the word of the denomination, the word of my husband, wife, or best friend, and not least of all, my standard of right and wrong is what I say it is.

Brethren, WHEN THE STANDARD IS WRONG—AS IT CAN BE AT TIMES--THE JUDGMENT WILL LIKELY BE FLAWED AND WRONG TOO.

Take the Sabbath for an example. You have a thousand different rabbis telling you what’s work and what isn’t. But what does God say? All He says is, Don’t work on the Sabbath.FN He doesn’t define what work is or what constitutes work. God just assumes you know what He means by work. It’s all those things you do in the course of your everyday life as far as your vocation, occupation, or livelihood is concerned. You see, if you take God at His Word you won’t have any problems wondering if it’s alright to heal on the Sabbath.

The Jews made the mistake of defining in a very specific, exhaustive manner, what constitutes work and what doesn’t. When you do stuff like that, sooner or later you’ll run into contradiction with God. You’ll be saying things that He didn’t say.

*For example, the Jews determined that writing two letters of the alphabet is work, also biting your fingernails, carrying a loaf of bread in public, setting a broken bone and pouring cold water on a dislocated joint. You get so nit picky that you stray a long way off from the true spirit and intent of the Word.
*So what does the Lord’s prohibition against the arm of flesh mean? Does it mean you can’t ask advice from a brother or sister?
*What is the appearance of evil? Does it mean you can’t talk to a prostitute or sit down and talk with a religious figure or authority because it would look too much like prostitution, ecumenicalism, and compromise?

What I’m saying is, like the Scribes and Pharisees, you can get so detailed and comprehensive with the Word of God that your standard of judgment is no longer what God says, but rather, what you say.

People will be wrong in your eyes, but that doesn’t automatically mean they’re wrong in God’s eyes too. It all depends on how you define ‘wrong’. Healing on the Sabbath was wrong to the Pharisees because of how they defined the word ‘work’. Healing, to them, was work.

Like these Pharisees, HOW YOU DEFINE RIGHT AND WRONG DETERMINES WHETHER YOUR JUDGMENT IS RIGHT OR WRONG.

We decide for ourselves what’s right and wrong. We decide who’s right and wrong. We all make these decisions on a daily basis and it’s a necessary, integral part of being human. The problem is, as our own personal history shows, WE’RE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT. EVEN WHEN WE THINK AND KNOW WE’RE RIGHT. We strive to be right. And that’s a commendable thing. We should always strive to be right. But being imperfect as we are, OUR OWN PERSONAL SENSE OF RIGHT AND WRONG ISN’T ALWAYS RIGHT. THAT’S BECAUSE WE DON’T ALWAYS KNOW IT ALL. We don’t know a lot of things. And the things we don’t know, many times, proves us wrong.

That’s why we need to go to someone—a Higher, Divine, Infallible, All-Knowing Power or Being to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong; to tell us who’s right and who’s wrong. You can take your chances with the knowledgeable people in your life. If they’ve ever been wrong, then you’ll live and die with the chance they’re wrong.

BUT WHEN YOU JUDGE BY GOD'S WORD AND THE JUDGMENT WILL BE RIGHT. GOD IS NEVER WRONG. NEVER. EVER. WRONG.

 

3. RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT CONSIDERS THE HEART.

Righteous judgment, in the third place, is judging as God would judge. How is that? He looks on the heart. I Samuel 16:7 reads, But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

Isaiah echoes this same thought when he writes in Isaiah 11:3 concerning Messiah, he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.

THERE'S MORE TO THE TRUTH THAN MEETS THE EYE OR EAR. IT LIES BENEATHE THE SURFACE OF THINGS AND IT'S FOUND IN THE HEART.

*Appearances unexplained are deceiving, like talking to a prostitute makes it look like the brother’s making arrangement for a fun night out. Until you do a little talking to the brother and find out that he was sharing Christ with the prostitute.
*Or you listen to a message that sounds so watered-down and compromising. Until you look around at the people the minister was talking to and see that they were babies incapable of receiving anything more than baby food.
*Or you listen to a rebuke that sounds so harsh and unnecessary. Until you find out that the brother or sister has been warned many times before and the warnings have gone unheeded.

How do you get to know a person’s heart? You’ve got to know, or get acquainted with the person. You do a lot of talking, probing, asking questions. You spend a lot of time with the person in his or her natural environment where they can be themselves and where they show their true colors.

If talking to the person isn’t possible, you talk to the people who know that person the best. You talk to the people who spent the most time with the person. They have a fairly good idea of what the person was like. They know matters of the heart.

When you see, or know, a person’s heart it explains a lot of things to you. You see either sincerity and the truth, or else duplicity and the lie. YOU SEE CLEARLY WHEN YOU SEE THE HEART.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE HEART, YOU’RE IN NO POSITION TO JUDGE RIGHTEOUSLY.

 

4. RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT IS IMPARTIAL.

And lastly, righteous judgment isn’t prejudicial or biased in its conclusions. It doesn’t ignore the facts of the matter, whether in part or in whole.

At times, we want so much to find a person guilty or innocent. We’ve got our minds made up from the start. We’ve issued a verdict before the case has gone to trial. We see only what we want to see and we’re blinded to everything else. We hear only what we want to hear and we’re deaf to everyone else.

IF YOU’RE PREJUDICED, PARTIAL, OR BIASED, YOU CAN’T JUDGE RIGHTEOUSLY. Prejudice blinds you and you can't see correctly or clearly. IF YOU CAN’T BE IMPARTIAL, DON’T JUDGE!

In order for you to understand this point more fully, we need to read the rest of the chapter and see how the religious authorities dealt with Jesus.

 

 

THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS TRY TO ARREST JESUS

JERUSALEM, PROBABLY IN THE TEMPLE

 

John 7:25-27, Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? {26} But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him.FN Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? {27} Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.FN John 7:25-27 (NLT), Some of the people who lived in Jerusalem started to ask each other, "Isn't this the man they are trying to kill? (26) But here He is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to Him. Could our leaders possibly believe that He is the Messiah? (27) But how could He be? For we know where this man comes from. When the Messiah comes, He will simply appear; no one will know where He comes from."

 

Unlike the visiting pilgrim Jews, the inhabitants of Jerusalem knew of their religious leaders’ intent to kill Jesus. They were surprised to find Jesus teaching openly in the Temple without priestly intervention or opposition. Could it be their leaders have renounced their opposition to Jesus and have now come to believe that He is the Christ of Israel?

The Jerusalemites themselves, however, weren’t totally convinced about Jesus. Their prime concern was Jesus’ place of birth or residence. They knew Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee. He was a Galilean. But the Christ of prophecy would come from Bethlehem in Judea in accordance with the prophecy of Micah 5:2.

I marvel that for some, the Messiahship of Jesus rested primarily on the village where He came from. It was as if His miracles and message didn’t count for anything. Now if the birthplace of Jesus was so important to these people, if all they needed to believe in Jesus was for them to be told the truth of Jesus’ birthplace; then why didn’t Jesus tell them? Here was a prime opportunity for Jesus to win the hearts of the Jerusalemites. But He didn’t tell them! Why not? That certainly gives us all something to think about!

 

John 7:28-29, Then criedFN Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. {29} But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. John 7:28-29 (NLT), While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, He called out, "Yes, you know Me, and you know where I come from. But I'm not here on My own. The One who sent Me is true, and you don't know Him. (29) But I know Him because I come from Him, and He sent Me to you."

 

Jesus wasn’t as interested in telling people about where He was born as much as He was interested in telling them where He really came from—from Heaven. Once again, Jesus talks about His relationship with the Father. It’s a sensitive subject matter because, for the Jews, it borders on blasphemy for a man to talk this way. And as at the first, the Jews didn’t receive what Jesus said (John 5:15-18).

 

John 7:30-32, Then they sought to takeFN him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.FN {31} And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done? {32} The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priestsFN sent officers to take him.FN John 7:30-32 (NLT), Then the leaders tried to arrest Him; but no one laid a hand on Him, because His time had not yet come. (31) Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in Him. "After all," they said, "would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?" (32) When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were whispering such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus.

 

Upon hearing Jesus’ words, the Jerusalemites sought to take hold of Him. They were either going to hurt Him, or else take Him before the Sanhedrin for trial on the charge of blasphemy. Others, however, believed in Jesus. When the religious leaders heard some of the people speaking favorably of Jesus, they sent out the Temple police to arrest Him and bring Him before the Court.

 

ENCOURAGEMENT WHEN TIMES ARE TOUGH

There are three things in the text of Scripture that I’d like to bring to your attention.

1) The first is, there are people who refuse to accept and believe the truth. Why is this?

*Some don’t like the truth for one reason or another: it’s too simple, too illogical, too narrow, too hard, too demanding.
*Others don’t accept the truth because their allegiance is owed to someone else, like Buddha or Mohammed.

But what we see in the text is, the Jerusalemites didn’t accept the truth of Jesus’ claim to have come from the Father because they thought they knew better than the Lord: He came from Nazareth! He’s not fooling us! We know what the truth is!

Like these Jews, there are many in our day who refuse to believe the simple truths of God’s Word because they think they know better. In their minds, they know what the truth really is: “This world wasn’t created, it evolved. There is no Hell. Abortion isn’t murder. Homosexuality is perfectly natural. You shouldn’t spank a child. Shacking up isn’t fornication. There is no God.”

Friends, YOU’RE SETTING YOURSELVES UP FOR A REAL SHOCK ON JUDGMENT DAY WHEN YOU LIVE LIFE THINKING YOU KNOW MORE THAN THE LORD!

Look at these Jews because they are every bit like you and me. They were wrong in what they thought they knew. They “knew” that Jesus was born and raised in Nazareth. But the fact of the matter was, Jesus wasn’t born in Nazareth: He was born in Bethlehem. THE JERUSALEMITES WEREN’T RIGHT IN WHAT THEY THOUGHT THEY KNEW.

Like these Jews, perhaps it’s time for you to consider the possibility that you don’t know everything, the Lord knows more than you, and you just might be wrong in what you think you know.

 

2) A second thing worth noting here is, it’s possible for some people to believe even in the midst of overwhelming public opposition. People are ready to take hold of Jesus, they’re mad, they’re saying all sorts of bad things about Him. And yet, in the midst of this adverse sentiment, there were some people who believed what Jesus said.

Brethren, DON'T THINK THAT YOUR PERSECUTIONS AND THE ADVERSE PUBLICITY OF THE PRESS WILL PUT AN END TO YOUR MINISTRY AND NO ONE NOW WILL EVER HEAR YOU OR BELIEVE YOU AGAIN. NOT SO! God has His remnant and He enables them to believe even when it’s an unpopular, “unsafe” thing to do. In spite of the opposition, be bold and continue to talk! God has His sheep who need to hear. For the sake of the sheep, speak up. Don't let persecution silence you!

 

3) And last, we see here in the Scriptures the providential, restraining hand of God working in the lives of men. Jesus is surrounded in the Temple. There’s a lot of people murmuring against Him. They want to grab ahold of Him and shut Him up. But do you know what? They can’t do it! They want to, but they can’t! It’s as if they’re paralyzed. Friends, that’s the restraining hand of God at work, protecting Jesus from harm or death until the hour of His crucifixion comes.

Yes, Jesus is going to die. He’s going to be rejected by the mobs, be apprehended and arrested. But that’s for later. It’s not time for that now. And so, until the right time comes, no one can lay a hand on Jesus.

Instead of the Temple officers handcuffing Jesus, it’s as if God handcuffed them instead! Their hands are tied and God won’t let them lay a hand on Jesus.

 

GOD'S GOT YOU IN HIS HANDS. HE'S GOT EVERYTHING UNDER CONTROL!

As with Jesus, brethren, your life is in God’s hands. The Psalmist declared in Psalm 31:15, My times are in thy hand. God’s in control of everything that happens to you. Satan himself cannot touch you without God’s knowledge or approval (Job 1 and 2 with 1 Corinthians 10:13). No accident, injury, adversity, affliction, trial, or persecution, can come upon you without the Lord’s will or consent. And even with His will or consent, nothing bad can happen to you until the time for it to happen comes.

NOTHING, YOU SEE, HAPPENS TO YOU APART FROM GOD'S WILL--DIRECTIVE OR PERMISSIVE--AND APART FROM GOD'S TIME. There’s a right, or an appointed, time for everything that happens under the sun. It’s as if God has an appointment book concerning you. He knows what will happen to you because He either willed them or allowed them to happen to you; and He knows exactly when these things will happen to you, down to the very year, the very day, the very time of night or day.

WHATEVER’S NOT IN THE BOOK, WHATEVER ISN’T SCHEDULED FOR A SPECIFIC TIME, CANNOT AND DOES NOT HAPPEN TO YOU. NOTHING HAPPENS OUT OF TIME. NOTHING HAPPENS CONTRARY TO GOD’S WILL. NOTHING HAPPENS TO YOU THAT’S UNKNOWN TO GOD.

Brethren, you do not face life’s trials and afflictions on your own! The Lord is in control of your life. Nothing happens to you randomly, spontaneously, or by chance. Things don’t happen just because they want to. Men, the Devil, and the circumstances of life, cannot do whatever they want to do to you! You’re not at their mercy! God’s got them all on a leash, He’s got you in His hands, and like all the saints of history, nothing can happen to you unless God wants it, or allows it, to happen.

*Why didn’t Abimelech kill Abraham and take Sarah as his wife?
* Why didn’t Esau kill Jacob when he returned from Padanaram?
*Why did Joseph’s brothers throw him in a pit instead of kill him?
*Why did Potiphar imprison Joseph instead of kill him?
*Why didn’t Moses perish in the desert when he fled from Pharaoh?
*Why wasn’t Joshua among the casualties in the Israelites’ crushing defeat at Ai?
*How is it that Saul’s many spears couldn’t find their mark on David’s body?
*How is it that Goliath didn’t throw his spear before David had a chance to whirl his sling?
*Why didn’t Nebuchadnezzar annihilate the Jews when he had the chance to? Why did he leave a remnant of them alive?
* Why didn’t Haman succeed in his plot against the Jews?
*Why didn’t the disciples perish in the storm at sea?
*Why weren’t any of them arrested with our Lord in the Garden? Why weren’t they all put to death with our Lord?
*The Jews wanted to kill Paul, but the disciples effected his escape in a basket over the city walls.
*Later on he was mobbed in the Temple and beaten by that insane crowd, but the Romans came and saved him.
*Another time, standing before the Sanhedrin, he nearly got torn to shreds, but the Lord had a Roman captain save him from certain death.
*Forty men once conspired to eat no food until they killed him, but Paul’s nephew discovered the conspiracy and Paul was once again spared from death.
*A storm at sea and shipwreck could not kill him.
*He was beaten and left for dead.
*Five times he was whipped with thirty-nine lashes.
*Yet, his heart kept on beating and Paul lived because it was God’s will for him to live.

I look back over the course of my life and I see the many times I could have died. But God kept me alive. He brought me into the valley of death and brought me right out again. Do you know why? Because He had a plan for my life and He wasn’t about ready to let me die without me fulfilling His plan.

Perhaps you too can look back over the course of your life and see the many times God’s restraining hand kept you from what was certain destruction. Despite men’s and Satan’s efforts and desires, nothing happens except the things God wants to happen. My friends, when things look out of control, remember God’s restraining hand! HIS HANDS ARE ALWAYS AT WORK FOR YOU!

 

GOD NOT ONLY DETERMINES WHAT WILL HAPPEN: HE ALSO SETS THE LIMITS ON THOSE THINGS THAT HE ALLOWS TO HAPPEN. He never promised you that you won’t be tried, but He promised you He’d set the limits on your trials.

*One time, Jesus’ neighbors and friends in Nazareth actually laid hands on Him and led Him outside the city to kill Him, but Jesus escaped out of their hands.
*Peter was imprisoned, but an angel set him free.
*The apostles were tried with a storm at sea that raged on for hours, but their boat never sank.
*Paul was shipwrecked in a storm at sea, but he never drowned.
*Job was physically afflicted, but the Devil wasn’t allowed to take his life.

Do you see what I mean? God’s in control of the details. He decides what will happen and what won’t. And for the things that do happen, He determines the what, when, where, and how; He determines the kind, the method, the means, the duration or length, the limits, the severity, et cetera and so forth.

You see, GOD KNOWS WHAT YOU CAN TAKE OR WHAT YOU CAN HANDLE. HE KNOWS HOW LONG YOU CAN LAST. AND HE ISN'T UNJUST TO LET THINGS HAPPEN TO YOU THAT YOU CAN'T ENDURE OR OVERCOME. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) assures you, The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.

GOD'S FAITHFULNESS, MY FRIENDS, MEANS NOTHING WILL EVER HAPPEN TO YOU THAT YOU CAN'T POSSIBLY FACE, HANDLE, ENDURE, OR OVERCOME.

If you’re faced with a crisis or a trial right now, then you must understand in your heart that YOU CAN ENDURE THIS TRYING HOUR. IF YOU COULDN'T, IT WOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED TO YOU.

 

WITH AN ALL-KNOWING, ALL-POWERFUL GOD IN CONTROL, THERE'S NO NEED FOR YOU TO FEAR!

God knows what He's doing. And everything He's doing, He's doing for your good. Once you truly understand and accept these basic truths, you'll know His peace and rest in the storms and trials that come your way.

It's such an easy thing to grumble and fear when "bad things" happen to you. But fear is such a pointless, senseless, and futile thing. You needn’t fear because you can endure! You can make it!

I know you sometimes think you don’t have the wisdom or strength to make it. But have you ever considered that God may well have allowed this trial to come upon you in order to teach you to depend on Him instead of on yourself? With God fighting for you how can you possibly lose?

I know you sometimes don’t see any way out. But have you ever considered that God Himself knows the way out? 2 Peter 2:9 says, The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations. He promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that He would make a way of escape for you. Friends, there’s a way out of this dark night! You must believe that and not fear.

 

Another reason why it’s useless to fear is because WHATEVER GOD HAS DECREED OR ALLOWED TO HAPPEN TO YOU WILL HAPPEN AND THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO STOP IT FROM HAPPENING.

*Jesus couldn’t stop His crucifixion.
*The disciples couldn’t stop the storm at sea from coming upon them.
*Paul couldn’t stop the people of Lystra from stoning him.
*Joseph couldn’t stop His brothers from selling him into slavery.

Do you see what I mean? What God ordains to happen will happen. Isaiah 14:27 reads, The LORD of Heaven's Armies has spoken—who can change His plans? When His hand is raised, who can stop Him?" The Contemporary English Version of this same verse puts it rather succinctly, I, the LORD All-Powerful, have made these plans. No one can stop me now!

Who can stop the hand of God from accomplishing His will? The prophet goes on to say in Isaiah 55:11 (CEV), That's how it is with my words. They don't return to me without doing everything I send them to do.

God, my friends, will accomplish His will. This works for the good things, as well as the bad.

*Talking about good things, since God wants to heal you and you're trusting Him to do just that, then you can rest in faith that you’re going to get healed and there’s no symptom, circumstance, or demon that can keep you sick for the rest of your life; there’s no symptom, circumstance, or demon that can kill you! Do you know why? Because it’s God’s will to heal you and you will be healed.

Why worry and fret about the outcome of the trial? God told you how the trial’s going to end—you’d be healed—so there’s no use worrying while you’re laying on the sick bed or acting out your faith. Your fear can only hinder or prolong the hand of God in healing you. Friends, it makes absolutely no sense for you to fear!

*Now, talking about the so-called bad things, if it’s God’s will for you to be persecuted because of a certain stance you take or a certain deed you do, then you’ll be persecuted and you can’t stop men from persecuting you.

The fear of persecution and death will keep you quiet and cause you to compromise.

But, brethren, you must see that if you do the right thing men can’t harm you unless God allows them. And if He allows them, there’s only so much they can do.

YOUR LIFE RESTS IN GOD'S HANDS, NOT MEN'S.

If it’s God will and time for you to die, then quit trying to hold on to life and don’t be sad about it. Heaven is so beautiful and life there so glorious that I cannot conceive of the Lord having to drag a person out of this life to enter into the next.

I know the sadness of leaving family and friends behind, but, friends, when you get to eternity, a lifetime on Earth is but a second in eternity. 2 Peter 3:8 tells us that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. You’ll no sooner be in Heaven when your loved ones will join you!

Friends, don’t worry about your life! Just believe and be faithful. God will take care of you!

 

HERE'S SOME GOOD NEWS TO HELP YOU REJOICE IN DIFFICULT TIMES.

1. WHAT GOD WILLS AND ORDAINS TO HAPPEN WILL HAPPEN. What I’ve been saying is, it’s senseless for you to fear because what God has decreed or allowed to happen will happen and your fears or complaints won’t stop them from happening. Now the good news is three-fold. First, while some things can’t be stopped from happening, God nonetheless promises you His presence, His preservation, and His restraining hand.

*Jesus had to be crucified, but for three and a half years the Jews couldn’t lay a hand on Him.
*The disciples faced a storm at sea, but they didn’t sink or drown.
*Paul was stoned, but he wasn’t killed. In fact, the indication of Scripture is, he didn’t suffer any broken bones.
*Joseph was sold into slavery, but God had him sold to the right man and God blessed Joseph in slavery.

Do you see what I mean? What God wills or allows to happen will happen. But just because they happen doesn’t mean there’s no hope or way out for you. God ordains every trial, trouble, or tribulation that comes upon you, but He’s also ordained to be present with you and help you.

Psalm 91:15-16 comforts us with these words, He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. {16} With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.

Isaiah 41:10 similarly assures us, Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Brethren, you’re not helpless, hopeless, or on your own! WITHE THE TRIAL COMES THE PROMISE OF PRESERVATION, DELIVERANCE, GOD'S RESTRAINING HAND, AND HIS EVER-COMFORTING, EVER-ASSURING PRESENCE!

 

2. GOD ORDAINS THE MEANS BY WHICH THINGS WILL HAPPEN. God not only ordains what is to happen, but He also ordains the means or methods used to make things happen.

For example, it’s God’s will to heal. But He also ordains faith to be the means by which a sick believer gets healed. Just because you’re in a physical trial and it’s God’s will to heal you doesn’t mean you’ll get healed automatically without you having to believe. Yes, it’s God’s will to heal you, but it’s also His will for you to believe and ask Him for healing. As I’ve said so many times, your faith determines how the trial is going to end. It determines whether or not you’re going to get healed. According to your faith, be it unto thee (Matthew 9:29).

 

3. GOD ORDAINS THE MEANS BY WHICH SOME THINGS CAN BE AVERTED OR PREVENTED FROM HAPPENING. Stay with me here because things can get rather confusing real fast. Sometimes it’s God’s will for something to happen, but He also ordains the means by which that something can be averted or prevented from happening. In other words, while He wants something to happen, He nevertheless leaves it up to us to either accept it or avert it.

*For example, He wanted to destroy the wandering Israelites on several occasions, but Moses’ intercessions turned Him from destruction (Numbers 14:11-20).
*He decreed Hezekiah’s death, but the king’s pleas prolonged death for another fifteen years (Isaiah 38:1-5).

You see, the fact that something is going to happen anyway, whether you want it to happen or not, is not a license to faithlessness or resignation.

To the contrary, the Lord tells us what we’re supposed to do when different things happen to us: He tells us how we’re supposed to respond to the things He’s ordained or allowed. What are we supposed to do? Claim the promises in faith, pray, resist the Devil, confess the Word, endure, submit to Him, and the like.

The point I’m trying to make is, it’s senseless to fear because nothing will happen unless God allows it to happen. While it is certain that the prayer of faith and intercession will keep some things from happening, fear, nevertheless, has no such power of prevention. Brethren, do not fear!

NO MATTER WHAT GOD WILLS OR ALLOWS, ALWAYS REMEMBER HIS RESTRAINING HANDS BECAUSE THOSE SELF-SAME HANDS ARE AT WORK FOR YOU EVERY HOUR OF EVERY DAY AND EVERY NIGHT. Trust Him, my friends, and rest in His hands!

 

 

JESUS SPEAKS ABOUT HIS PENDING DEPARTURE

JERUSALEM, PROBABLY IN THE TEMPLE

 

John 7:33-36, Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me.FN {34} Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.FN {35} Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles,FN and teach the Gentiles? {36} What manner of saying is this that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come? John 7:33-36 (NLT), But Jesus told them, "I will be with you only a little longer. Then I will return to the One who sent Me. (34) You will search for Me but not find Me. And you cannot go where I am going." (35) The Jewish leaders were puzzled by this statement. "Where is He planning to go?" they asked. "Is He thinking of leaving the country and going to the Jews in other lands? Maybe He will even teach the Greeks! (36) What does He mean when He says, 'You will search for Me but not find Me,' and 'You cannot go where I am going'?"

 

There comes a point in time when, after God has made repeated offers, warnings, and calls—only to be repeatedly spurned by you—that the offer of salvation is withdrawn from you, the gift of repentance is no longer extended to you, and you, for all practical purposes, are doomed to live the rest of your natural and spiritual life without the hope of salvation. God will quit trying to save you and you will not be saved! In Jesus’ words, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me.

You see, IT'S POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO TAKE TOO LONG, OR TAKE TOO MUCH TIME, TO MAKE YOUR MIND UP ABOUT JESUS.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NLT), For God says, "At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you." FN Indeed, the "right time" is now. Today is the day of salvation.

In all of Scripture, today and now is the only time you have to get saved: it doesn’t say anything about tomorrow or several years later as being the day of salvation. Naturally, this doesn’t mean you can’t get saved tomorrow, nor does it mean that if you reject God’s offer today He won’t offer it again. But you’ve got no guarantee of tomorrow. All you have is today and today is your chance to get saved.

Now the thing that I’d like for you to see is, IF YOU SPURN THE LORD LONG ENOUGH, BUT EVENTUALLY GET AROUND TO SEEK HIM, HE ISN'T OBLIGATED TO ANSWER AND HE MAY WELL NOT ANSWER--EVEN THOUGH YOU WANT HIM AND SEEK HIM! Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me.FN

Solomon puts it this way, "I called you so often, but you wouldn't come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. (25) You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered. (26) So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you— (27) when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone, and anguish and distress overwhelm you. (28) "When they cry for help, I will not answer. Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me (Proverbs 1:24-28 NLT).

A really graphic, and tragic, illustration of this truth is the people of Noah's day when it started to rain (Genesis 7). After years of spurning Noah's preaching and calling them to repentance, the day finally came when the rains fell from heaven and the floodwaters covered the earth. How the people must have banged on the doors of the ark, longing and hoping for Noah to open the doors and save them. Finally, they believed! They wanted to be saved! But, alas, it was too late.

Friends, God is forbearing and longsuffering. He gives you a lot of chances to get saved. But chances come to an end. Your luck, so to speak, eventually runs out. And you leave God with no recourse but to leave you damned in your sins.

You do not know what tomorrow holds. Unless you’re really, really sick and know you probably won’t live past today, I dare say MOST PEOPLE DIE NOT KNOWING THAT THEY WERE GOING TO DIE THAT VERY DAY THEY DIED. Like you, they planned to being alive tomorrow. But, for them, tomorrow never came. Friend, you have no guarantee that you’ll live to see tomorrow. But one thing is for sure and that is, you have today. You’re alive at this very moment. So now's a good time to get saved!

 

 

JESUS INVITES EVERYONE TO GET SAVED

JERUSALEM, PROBABLY IN THE TEMPLE

 

John 7:37-39, In the last day,FN that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. {38} He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said,FN out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. {39} (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)FN John 7:37-39 (CEV), On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, "If you are thirsty, come to me and drink! (38) Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say." (39) Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone that had faith in him. The Spirit had not yet been given to anyone, since Jesus had not yet been given his full glory.

 

Jesus’ invitation for the thirsty to come to Him and drink fits rather nicely into a daily ritual performed during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Every morning of the Feast, excepting the eighth and the Sabbath, a priest, accompanied by a procession of singers, would take a golden pitcher and go down to the Pool of Siloam to fill it with water. As he carried it back to the Temple the people would recite Isaiah 12:3, With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. The water was then poured out on the altar as an offering unto the Lord, followed by the customary morning sacrifice, then the special festive sacrifices of bulls, rams, lambs, and goats.

While this was being done, the Hallel, which is Psalms 113-118, would be sung by a choir of Levites. When they sang the words of Psalm 118:1, O give thanks to the Lord; Psalm 118:25, O work now then thy salvation; and Psalm 118:29, O give thanks to the Lord; the people would shout and wave their palm branches toward the altar. This done, the priests would march around the altar once and proclaim, Hosanna, O Lord; give us help, O Lord, give prosperity. On the seventh day of the Feast, they would march seven times around the altar. When the march was completed, the benediction would then be pronounced and the worshippers would disperse.

The whole ceremony was a time of thanksgiving unto the Lord for the gift of life-sustaining water.FN

On the eighth, or last, day of the Feast the people would gather in the Temple to pray for rain. This day, you see, marked the beginning of Israel’s rainy season. On this last day in the Temple, then, with the ceremony of the pouring out of water fresh on the people’s minds, as well as the prayer for rain, Jesus offered Himself as life-sustaining, thirst-quenching water. Unbeknownst to them, God was answering their prayer in the person of Jesus Christ.

 

John 7:40-44, Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. {41} Others said, This is the Christ.FN But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?FN {42} Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? {43} So there was a division among the people because of him. {44} And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. John 7:40-44 (CEV), When the crowd heard Jesus say this, some of them said, "He must be the Prophet!" (41) Others said, "He is the Messiah!" Others even said, "Can the Messiah come from Galilee? (42) The Scriptures say that the Messiah will come from the family of King David. Doesn't this mean that he will be born in David's hometown of Bethlehem?" (43) The people started taking sides against each other because of Jesus. (44) Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him.

 

People’s opinion of Jesus was divided and mixed. Some thought He was the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15. Others thought He was indeed the Christ. And the rest rejected Him and wanted to grab ahold of Him. But once again, God’s restraining hand kept them from doing so. Brethren, men cannot do to you whatever they want to do!

 

 

JUDGES CAN BE WRONG

JERUSALEM, PROBABLY IN THE TEMPLE

 

John 7:45-49, Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? {46} The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.FN {47} Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? {48} Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?FN {49} But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.FN John 7:45-49 (NLT), When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, "Why didn't you bring Him in?" (46) "We have never heard anyone speak like this!" the guards responded. (47) "Have you been led astray, too?" the Pharisees mocked. (48) "Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in Him? (49) This foolish crowd follows Him, but they are ignorant of the law. God's curse is on them!"

 

The Temple guards who were sent to arrest Jesus were so moved and impressed with the things Jesus said and the way He said them that they just couldn’t arrest Him! I believe they didn’t want to arrest Him. They would rather disobey orders and incur the wrath of their superiors than arrest Jesus!

Why is that? I believe it’s because they experienced a change of mind after they heard Jesus speak. They heard so many bad things about Jesus, but when they heard Him for themselves the Word of the Lord arrested them.

Brethren, IT'S IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO SPEAK UP BECAUSE, WHILE EVERYONE WILL NOT BE WON, THERE ARE NEVERTHELESS THOSE WHO WILL BE POSITIVELY INFLUENCED BY THE THINGS YOU SAY. A CHANGE OF HEART AND MIND BEGINS WHEN PEOPLE SIT STILL LONG ENOUGH TO HEAR THE THINGS JESUS IS SAYING TO THEM THROUGH HIS FEARLESS, YIELDED VESSELS.

 

John 7:50-53, Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night,FN being one of them,)FN {51} Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? {52} They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee?FN Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. {53} And every man went unto his own house. John 7:50-53 (CEV), Nicodemus was there at the time. He was a member of the council, and was the same one who had earlier come to see Jesus. He said, (51) "Our Law doesn't let us condemn people before we hear what they have to say. We cannot judge them before we know what they have done." (52) Then they said, "Nicodemus, you must be from Galilee! Read the Scriptures, and you will find that no prophet is to come from Galilee." (53) Everyone else went home,

 

A. THE JUDGES’ INCONSISTENCY

Earlier in our commentary we wrote that righteous judgment isn’t biased or prejudiced in its conclusions. In this convening of the Sanhedrin we see the judges’ or justices’ inability or refusal to render just judgment with respect to Jesus.

We see two things in particular and the first is their inconsistency or hypocrisy. These rulers of the Jews cursed and despised the commoners for not knowing the law, yet they themselves were in violation of the law on two counts: the law forbade the convening of the High Court on festival days; and it forbade them from condemning a man without first bringing him before the Court and giving him an opportunity to defend himself.FN

Brethren, it’s so easy to see the wrong in others. We’re good at that. But do we see it in ourselves? Or are we, like the members of the High Court, blinded from seeing what’s wrong with us? You see, WHEN WE'RE ALL CAUGHT UP IN FINDING THINGS WRONG WITH PEOPLE, WE FAIL TO SEE THE WRONG IN US. IT'S AS IF THE WRONGNESS OF PEOPLE MAKES US RIGHT. But we’re not right, friends! Hypocrites and critics are seldom right, spiritually.

And do you know what? It takes a brave soul, a Nicodemus, to stand up among friends and brethren and bring the wrongness in us to light.

Now, brethren, what good is our righteousness if we know the law but don’t do it? If the people who don’t know the law are accursed, then what does that make the people who do know it but don’t obey it? Our punishment is worse. We’re worse off if we know the law and don’t obey it.

Luke 12:47-48 reads, And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. {48} But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

It’s a good thing to know the law. But if we don’t walk in accordance with it we’re no better off than those who don’t know it or who don’t do it.

Friends, don’t look down your nose on people who don’t know the Word like you if you yourself aren’t walking in obedience to that Word. YOU CAN'T RENDER JUST JUDGMENT IF YOU YOURSELF AREN'T OBEYING THE LORD.

 

B. THE JUDGES’ IGNORANCE

A second thing that we see about the justices of the High Court is their ignorance in the matter they presumed to judge.

Now in some ways, their ignorance was willful.FN And in other ways, possibly sincere.

1. BEING WILLFULLY IGNORANT. First, let’s talk about the justices’ willful ignorance. These men selectively forgot or omitted certain truths or details that were relevant to the matter at hand. They stood fast on the fact that no prophet comes from Galilee. But the fact of the matter is, Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Jonah, and possibly Nahum, all came from the region of Palestine then-known in Jesus’ time as Galilee.

Moreover, the prophet Isaiah prophesied about a light shining forth from Galilee: But those who have suffered will no longer be in pain. The territories of Zebulun and Naphtali in Galilee were once hated. But this land of the Gentiles across the Jordan River and along the Mediterranean Sea will be greatly respected. (2) Those who walked in the dark have seen a bright light. And it shines upon everyone who lives in the land of darkest shadows (Isaiah 9:1-2 CEV, quoted by the Gospel writer in Matthew 4:13-16).FN

Were these justices ignorant of these facts and Scripture? I highly doubt that. Some of these justices were Pharisees and Scribes who knew the Law quite well. They selectively ignored and discarded certain facts in order to advance and strengthen their claim that Jesus could not be a prophet or Christ because He came from Galilee.FN

Brethren, if you want to make a point, but not all of the facts support that point, you’ll omit and ignore certain facts just to make your point. If you want to win an argument, but can’t win it because not all of the truth supports your argument, you’ll hide and withhold certain truths in order to win the argument. You’ll do what you have to do in order to look good and win an argument.

To our shame, we’ve all done this in times past. But are we still doing it today? Is there a Sanhedrinist within us?

 

2. WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU'RE SINCERELY IGNORANT. In other ways, the Sanhedrinists were either willfully, or else truly and sincerely, ignorant in some of the facts related to Jesus. They stood fast on the claim that Jesus came from Galilee. In that sense, they were right because Jesus was raised in Galilee. But were they truly ignorant of the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ birth?

I would like to think that some of these justices were familiar with Simeon and Anna who daily graced the Temple with their presence for many years. It was they who first proclaimed in the Temple that the baby Jesus was Israel’s Messiah (Luke 2:25-38).

Such a proclamation would not have gone unheard or unheeded by the Sanhedrinists or the rest of the religious leaders. Whenever such a proclamation was heard, as it was heard many times in the past, the Jewish authorities would move quickly to ascertain the truth or validity of the proclamation.

What I’m saying is, I highly doubt that the entire body of Sanhedrinists were ignorant of Jesus’ Messianic birth in Bethlehem.

But, giving them the benefit of the doubt and supposing that they were indeed truly ignorant of Simeon’s and Anna’s proclamation, we must then wonder why these justices who claimed Jesus’ supposed Galilean birth didn’t take the time to search out the facts and ascertain their claim. Did they talk to Mary His mother? Did they talk to His brothers and sisters? Did they talk to His disciples? Had they done so, the truth would have emerged! Jesus was indeed born in Bethlehem! But the justices did not search out the truth. They just assumed that since Jesus was from Galilee, then He must have been born in Galilee.

Friends, IF YOU DON'T TAKE THE TIME TO DISCOVER THE TRUTH, YOU WILL NOT FIND IT. As the judges clearly show us here, WHAT YOU BELIEVE IS THE TRUTH MAY NOT NECESSARILY BE THE TRUTH. JUST BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE IT'S THE TRUTH DOESN'T AUTOMATICALLY MAKE IT THE TRUTH! IT'S POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO BE ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED OF THE "TRUTH" AND YET BE TOTALLY IGNORANT OF THE REAL TRUTH!

These Sanhedrinists assumed that since Jesus was from Galilee, then He must have been born in Galilee. They were right with the facts—Jesus was from Galilee! But they were wrong with their assumptions—Jesus wasn’t born in Galilee!

As with these judges of old, we run the risk of thinking that because we’re right in the facts, then we must also be right in the assumptions. But such, clearly, is not the case. IT'S POSSIBLE TO HAVE THE FACTS RIGHT, BUT PROCEED WITH THE WRONG ASSUMPTIONS AND END UP WITH THE WRONG JUDGMENTS OR CONCLUSIONS!

In the example that I cited earlier, you indeed saw the brother with a prostitute, you saw the brother holding hands with a homosexual. The facts are right. But without having Jesus or the accused before the Court, you’re likely wrong in your assumptions and conclusions: the brother was witnessing to the prostitute and the brother was thanking the homosexual with a handshake.

Brethren, IT'S POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO BE WRONG EVEN WHEN YOU'VE GOT THE FACTS OR THE TRUTH! THE TRUTH BY ITSELF DOES NOT NECESSARILY OR AUTOMATICALLY MAKE YOU RIGHT. You can be wrong in spirit, as in being critical and judgmental or condemnatory; and you can be wrong in the assumptions you make based on truths or facts.

You see, like these Sanhedrinists, IF YOU REALLY WANT TO FIND SOMEONE GUILTY OR WRONG, YOU’LL FIND A WAY TO DO IT. YOU WILL SUCCEED! You’ll either ignore certain facts and truths that are relevant to the case, or else you won’t bother to find out what the truth really is. In some instances, you might even deliberately lie and say things you know to be false.

Brethren, don’t be hasty or rash in your judgments of others or of situations. There are two sides of every issue or charge. If you don’t communicate with the person himself, if you haven’t got first hand information, if you already know what the verdict is before you’ve listened to the defense, or if you haven’t brought Jesus or the accused before the tribunal; then, like the Sanhedrinists, dismiss court and go home because you’re in no position to render just judgment.

In spite of the temptation, YOU DO NOT CONVICT IN ABSENTIA. DO NOT CONDEMN WITHOUT FIRST HEARING FROM THE DEFENSE.

Look in the mirror of God’s Word, my friend, and you might be surprised to see a Sanhedrinist in you. Brethren, it’s time to quit being Sanhedrinists and start being what God has made us: saints who judge righteous judgment.

 

 

SOME SCRIBES AND PHARISEES ASK JESUS TO JUDGE

A WOMAN CAUGHT IN ADULTERYFN

THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM

 

John 8:1-11, Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.FN {2} And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

{3} And the scribes and PhariseesFN brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, {4} They say unto him, Master,FN this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. {5} Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned:FN but what sayest thou? {6} This they said, temptingFN him, that they might have to accuseFN him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wroteFN on the ground,FN as though he heard them not.FN

{7} So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sinFN among you, let him first cast a stone at her.FN {8} And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. {9} And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last:FN and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.FN

{10} When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? {11} She said, No man, Lord.FN And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee:FN go, and sin no more.

John 8:1-11 (NLT), Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, (2) but early the next morning He was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and He sat down and taught them.

(3) As He was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. (4) "Teacher," they said to Jesus, "this woman was caught in the act of adultery. (5) The law of Moses says to stone her. What do You say?" (6) They were trying to trap Him into saying something they could use against Him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with His finger.

(7) They kept demanding an answer, so He stood up again and said, "All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!" (8) Then He stooped down again and wrote in the dust. (9) When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.

(10) Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, "Where are your accusers? Didn't even one of them condemn you?" (11) "No, Lord," she said. And Jesus said, "Neither do I. Go and sin no more."

 

THE PHARISEES AND SCRIBES

I would like to look at the principal players in this drama. First, let’s look at the Scribes and Pharisees. They found a woman caught in the very act of adultery and brought her before our Lord for judgment.

 

THE TRAP

Should the woman be stoned or not? The question, you see, was a trap. These men wanted to find something wrong with Jesus. They knew they couldn’t convict Him in a court of law unless they could find a substantial, provable charge against Him. Even though Nicodemus’ word prevailed on the previous day, these men weren’t done with Jesus. They were intent on bringing Him into court to try Him and get rid of Him.

Now when they found this woman in the very act of adultery she was the perfect pawn in their hands. They would use her to trap Jesus.FN

What was the trap all about?

*Well, if Jesus said the adulteress should be stoned, He would be contradicting the message of compassion and forgiveness that He preached.
*If He said she shouldn’t be stoned He would be contradicting the Law of Moses.FN

Either way, it looked to these religious leaders that they had Jesus in a real bind. He was, in their eyes, in a no-win situation. You’d have to admit these men were pretty clever!

My friends, NO MATTER HOW CUNNING AND SMART YOU ARE, THERE'S NO WAY YOU CAN TRAP OUR LORD. YOU CAN NEVER BE SMARTER THAN JESUS!

Besides that, JESUS DOESN'T ALWAYS GIVE YOU THE ANSWER YOU EXPECT HIM TO GIVE.FN You expect Him to say Go ahead and stone her. Or, Let the woman go. But wouldn’t you know it, Jesus says something completely unexpected: He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.

 

YOU CAN BE RIGHT AND WRONG AT THE SAME TIME.

The thing that I’d like for you to see about these Pharisees and Scribes is their apparent desire to uphold the Law of Moses. As the Law required, this adulteress should be stoned. These men were on the right side of the law. Judicially, they were right in seeking the death penalty.

But A PERSON CAN BE RIGHT AND WRONG AT THE SAME TIME. That is, they can be right on the one hand, but wrong on the other.FN And the wrong is often hard to see--we’re not apt to see it--especially when we’re right or when we have the Scriptures on our side.

 

NO MATTER HOW RIGHT YOU ARE, YOUR HYPOCRISY AND CRITICAL, JUDGMENTAL SPIRIT MAKES YOU WRONG.

The wrongness of these Pharisees and Scribes lies in their deceit and hypocrisy. We see it three times in this incident.

1. First, these Pharisees and Scribes were hypocrites in bringing this woman before our Lord. The fact of the matter is, these men didn’t need Jesus’ opinion, verdict, or judgment in order to stone her. Jesus wasn’t a member of the High Court, He wasn’t a judge, and His judgment didn’t hold sway in a court of law. They could have tried and executed this woman without Jesus’ involvement. What I’m saying is, this whole incident with Jesus in the Temple was completely unnecessary.

But herein lay their deceit. Their aim, you see, was not so much to condemn the woman as it was to condemn the Lord. It wasn’t the woman they were after: it was the Lord. Their purpose was to find something wrong with Jesus. Once again, we see how a person could be right Scripturally (justice, doing the right thing), but entirely wrong spiritually (doing the right thing for the wrong reason, being critical, judgmental, condemning).

 

2. The hypocrisy of these Pharisees and Scribes, in the second place, is seen in their prejudiced and preferential judgment in this case of adultery. Now the Law of Moses required that both the man and the woman caught in adultery be executed. But where was the man? Why was the woman alone singled out? You see, the Law that these men were seeking to uphold was not upheld in its entirety. The adulterous man evidently wasn’t included in the judgment, hence, the judgment of these men was prejudiced and partial. And because it was partial, the entire legal process was flawed. In a word, these men were wrong for not prosecuting the adulterer too.

 

3. And third, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Scribes is seen in the fact that they were not qualified to execute the sentence of death upon this woman. He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.

Now it’s important for us to note that the Law of Moses did not require the eyewitnesses to be sinless in order to cast the first stone! The condemned was stoned regardless of the sinfulness or imperfections of the witnesses.

But the words of our Lord, He that is without sin among you, hung as a pale over these men. They were convicted by their own sins. These who sought to condemn the woman likewise stood condemned for their sins. Some may well have committed adultery like this woman.

Every time these Pharisees and Scribes presented their Sin and Trespass Offerings in the Temple it was a vivid reminder to them that they deserved to die too! The sacrificed ram or goat died in their place.FN

Their sins, I’m saying, prevented them from executing the punishment of death upon this woman.

 

DON’T CONDEMN PEOPLE. THEY MAY BE GUILTY OR WRONG. BUT YOU’RE NOT QUALIFIED TO CONDEMN.

We see the wrongfulness of judgmentalism and the spirit of condemnation at this precise point. Like these Pharisees and Scribes, some are ever so ready to condemn others for sins committed. But the thing that we see here is, NONE OF US ARE QUALIFIED TO CONDEMN. Why? Because none of us are without sin.

Brethren, judge righteous judgment. Reprove. Rebuke. Discipline. But LEAVE THE CONDEMNATION TO GOD. REMEMBER THAT THE STONE YOU PICK UP TO CAST AT OTHERS WAS ONCE MEANT FOR YOU. PRAISE GOD FOR STONES LEFT LYING ON THE GROUND AND NOT ON YOU!

We not only see the wrongfulness of judgmentalism, but we also see the hypocrisy involved in that spirit and mentality. Do you remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount about judging others? He warned about the hypocrisy that’s often involved in judging or condemning others. He said, And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? {4} Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? {5} Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).

You see, IT'S SO EASY TO SEE THE FAULTS IN OTHERS, BUT WE DON'T READILY SEE OUR OWN. AND WHAT WE DON'T READILY SEE IN US RENDERS US INCAPABLE OF TRULY HELPING OTHERS; IT DISQUALIFIES US FROM CONDEMNING OTHERS.

*Brethren, don’t condemn those who didn’t hold fast for healing if you didn’t either.
*Don’t condemn those who didn’t believe and wait for marital reconciliation if you didn’t either.
*Don’t condemn the deceived if you too were once deceived.
*Don’t condemn those who’ve missed it if you’ve missed it too.

Do you see what I mean? It’s easy to condemn others for their sins and wrongs. And the fact that they missed it makes it so easy for us to condemn them and be critical of them. And because they’re wrong, it so often blinds us from seeing the wrongness or hypocrisy in us.

Like them, we’ve missed it too. This fact alone ought not contribute to our being harsh and condemning toward others, but to the contrary, it ought to make us sympathetic and understanding of their faults. And being thus sympathetic, it ought to fill us with a desire to help and restore those who erred down the same path as we.

 

JESUS

A. IN RELATION TO THE PHARISEES. In looking at Jesus in relation to the Pharisees and Scribes, we see Jesus’ ability to bring conviction even to the hearts of His staunchest opponents. These men were not bound to honor or observe Jesus’ words. They were bound to the Law of Moses and the Law of Moses bade them stone the adulteress. But they didn’t! Why? Because Jesus’ words brought conviction to their hearts and the conviction was strong enough to stop them from doing what they wanted to do.

Brethren, no matter how far gone a person may be in his or her opposition to the Gospel and truth of Jesus Christ, leave the door open for conviction. Jesus can bring conviction to the hardest of hearts! Don’t give up on stubborn loved ones because Jesus can change people’s minds and get them to quit whatever mischief they’re in!

 

B. IN RELATION TO THE LAW. In relation to the Law, we see that Jesus was not standing in defiance of the Law of Moses. He did not say the woman shouldn’t be stoned.FN The Law required the death of the adulteress and He didn’t stop these Pharisees and Scribes from carrying out that Law.

But what Jesus did was, He instituted or ushered in the dispensation of grace and forgiveness. Whereas the Law required death, that death would be paid for in the atoning death of Christ Himself and the forgiveness or pardon of that death would give the offender another chance at life.

 

C. IN RELATION TO THE WOMAN. And finally, with respect to the woman, we see Jesus’ grace and mercy manifested in His forgiveness and pardon of this adulterous woman. Brethren, look closely at Jesus’ grace and mercy because He wants us to be like Him, not like these Pharisees and Scribes.

 

1. SEEK PARDON, NOT PUNISHMENT.

Now when we look closely at our Lord, one of the first things we see is what He didn’t do. He didn’t condemn the woman, nor would He cast a stone at her. Being sinless as He was, Jesus was the only Man qualified to cast a stone against this adulteress. But He didn’t! And if He didn’t, then, brethren, who are we to cast a stone? The Pharisees and Scribes had enough sense and conviction to leave the stones lay. Do we lack their sense and conviction?

WE'RE SO READY TO CONDEMN AND KILL. BUT THIS ISN'T THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. Jesus pardoned. He let the guilty woman go free!

Do you know why Jesus did that? Because it was consistent with His mission to save. John 3:17 reads, For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. It was not Jesus’ mission to condemn, but rather, to save. To be sure, there will be condemnation for those who refuse to believe, repent, and accept God’s offer of salvation. But Jesus would not condemn without first trying to save.

Brethren, SEEK THE FORGIVENESS, PARDON, AND SALVATION OF THE SINNER BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT CHRIST SEEKS. WHEN YOU SEE A BROTHER OR SISTER WHO'S SINNED, SEEK PARDON--NOT DEATH.

 

2. SINNERS CAN BE SAVED AND CHANGED!

Another thing that we see in Jesus’ forgiveness and grace is the Divine hope that human life can be redeemed from the pit of sin and changed.

*We see an adulteress. But God sees a saint in the making.
*We see a woman who’s not going into the kingdom. But God sees a woman who can.
*We see a woman destitute of morality and virtue. But God sees a woman who can have both.
*We see a woman the way she is now. But God sees her as she can be in the future.

Brethren, SEE PEOPLE THE WAY GOD SEES THEM! People don’t have to remain adulterers and adulteresses for the rest of their lives. They don’t have to continue in sin. God’s pardon and forgiveness is the hope that they can change, turn away from their sins, and live a life of righteousness that they haven’t known before.

How are they going to do that? By God forgiving them and giving them a second chance, repeated many times over. You see, FOR GOD TO TRANSFORM BELIEVERS INTO THE LIKENESS OF CHRIST HE HAS TO FORGIVE THEM TIME AND AGAIN, HE'S GOT TO GIVE THEM LOTS OF SECOND CHANCES TO GET THINGS RIGHT.

HOW MANY SECOND CHANCES HAVE YOU HAD? Brethren, without God’s second chance extended to us many times over we would not be where we’re at today.

Brethren, DON'T BEGRUDGE OTHERS OF A SECOND CHANCE. NO MATTER HOW LOW A PERSON HAS SUNK IN SIN, NO MATTER THE BROTHER OR SISTER WHO SINNED, LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN FOR GOD'S GRACE AND PARDON to lift them up out of that dark pit of sin and set them free in the path of righteousness and life. But most of all, GIVE THEM WHAT GOD'S GIVEN YOU MANY TIMES OVER. GIVE THEM A SECOND CHANCE.

 

THE ADULTERESS

YOU CAN BE FORGIVEN! FORGIVENESS IS POSSIBLE!

In seeing how Jesus dealt with this woman we see that FORGIVENESS IS POSSIBLE! Whether the sin is deliberate or an act of momentary weakness, whether it’s been an on-going thing or a one-night stand; it’s possible to be forgiven.

GOD WANTS TO FORGIVE YOU! He's not like a lot of us. We're reluctant to forgive. Sometimes, with some people, we're not forgiving. But God isn't like us. He wants to forgive. HE'D RATHER FORGIVE AND SAVE YOU, THAN DAMN YOU!

He requires you to repent, ask Him for forgiveness, and sin no more. But the thing that I’d like to encourage your heart with is the fact that ADULTERY IS NOT AN UNFORGIVABLE SIN. IT'S NOT A SIN THAT THE LORD IS VERY RELUCTANT TO FORGIVE.

From all appearances in the text, Jesus and this woman had never met before, they didn’t know each other, they were perfect strangers, and until Jesus asked her what happened to her accusers they hadn’t spoken to each other. But Jesus forgave her—a stranger, with no questions asked. He saw the repentance of her heart. She would not need to beg or plead for forgiveness. It would be given to her freely and readily.

Brethren, YOU OUGHT TO FEEL SORRY AND BAD FOR SIN. IT'S ONLY NATURAL. BUT TORTURING YOURSELF WITH CONDEMNATION, REJECTION, AND DOUBT, IS NOT A REQUIREMENT FOR GOD TO FORGIVE YOU.

 

Now forgiveness is so often misunderstood. Neither do I condemn thee are perhaps the most joyous of words to hear from our Lord’s mouth. But they’re also the most misunderstood.

(1) Some think that our Lord’s refusal to condemn this adulteress is proof that adultery isn’t a sin. "As long as it's love, it's not sin!" Far from it! Implicit in Jesus’ words for this woman to Go and sin no more is the hint that adultery is sin and that Jesus doesn’t want us to commit, or continue in, that sin.

(2) Others think that Jesus was condoning adultery. I think a big reason why we tend to be harsh with sinners or offenders is because we don’t want others to think we’re minimizing or condoning sin. We want them to understand the seriousness of sin and the only way we feel they’ll understand it is by our harshness and condemnation. But, brethren, Go and sin no more is not a condonement of sin: it’s a prohibition against sin.

(3) Others think that forgiveness gives us another chance to go out and sin some more. After all, if we’re going to be forgiven anyway, why not sin some more?

Friends, we’re sadly mistaken to think that forgiveness is a license or encouragement to continue in sin.

Jesus’ pardon was followed with His prohibition: Neither do I condemn thee was followed by Go and sin no more.

WHEN YOU THINK OF FORGIVENESS, ALWAYS THINK OF THE ACCOMPANYING COMMAND TO GO AND SIN NO MORE. No, my friends, forgiveness isn’t a license to sin: it’s a chance to get things right. That means quit sinning right now, don’t keep on sinning, obey God from now on.

 

YOU CAN RISE ABOVE YOUR SIN AND LIVE WITHOUT DOING IT!

The one thing you need to understand about God is this: HE DOESN'T ASK YOU TO SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN'T DO. HE DOESN'T TELL YOU TO DO SOMETHING THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE FOR YOU TO DO. He's not unreasonable or unrealistic. He knows you inside and out. He knows everything about you. He knows what you're capable of doing and what you're not. WHEN HE TELLS YOU TO DO SOMETHING IT'S BECAUSE HE KNOWS YOU CAN DO IT.

*YOU MAY NOT THINK YOU CAN DO IT. Granted, it may be hard to do. But it isn't impossible. There's been times in our life when we did things we didn't think we could do. We were, more or less, put in a position where we set our reservations aside and tried whatever we thought was undoable. If not that, then we relished the challenge of doing what we hadn't done before. We may have failed at first. But we stuck with it, kept trying, and to our utter amazement, we did what we didn't think we could do. Friends, it works the same way now with God. You may not think you can do what God's asking you to do. But the fact of the matter is, you can! Like rising to the challenge of doing something you've never done before, get the Can-Do determination in you and obey God.

*You may not want to do what God's telling you to do. But, like everything else in life, there are times when you do stuff you don't want to do because you have to, it's the right thing to do, other people are counting on you to do what you don't want to do. Friends, GOD ISN'T ASKING YOU TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE. YOU CAN DO WHAT GOD'S TELLING YOU TO DO! IF YOU COULDN'T DO IT, HE WOULDN'T TELL YOU TO DO IT. THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS.

Now when God tells you to Go and sin no more, believe it or not, He's telling you to do something you can do. It's possible for you to quit doing whatever sin you're doing. It's possible for you to give it up, walk away from it, and live without doing it. You may feel like the sin's got too powerful a hold in your life, you can't get rid of the addiction, you can't get the love-affair with sin out of your heart, you can't do it! But it's all a lie! You can do it! God says you can! And He's never wrong! YOU CAN RISE ABOVE THE SIN, LIVE WITHOUT IT, AND LEARN NOT TO LIKE IT, ENJOY IT, OR MISS IT.

But before you even try to do it you've first got to get this Can-Do mentality and determination. I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength (Philippians 4:13). All things, brethren, means all things--including this thing, this sin, that God's wanting you to give up and get out of your life. YOU CAN DO IT! WITH GOD'S HELP YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!

*Ask God for His grace and strength. He'll give you all the strength and gumption you need to get the job done.

*Ask God to take away the love and addiction you have for whatever sin it is you're struggling with. Do you remember the things you used to like but no longer like today? You changed. Your taste buds change. Your fashion style changed. It's the same way with habits, addictions, and sins. You can change! But even better than that, God's a master surgeon and--if you give Him permission, He'll get that love affair with sin out of your heart. That's a definite Can-Do with God! Believe me, to be rid and free of a vexing sin is one exhilarating feeling and relief!

Get the Can-Do. Desire and relish the hope of a sin-free life. Then go out there and beat your Goliath. Believe it or not, he hasn't got a chance against you and God!

 

GODLY COUNSEL ON ILLICIT SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS

Adultery, as you know, is so prevalent in the world. To our dismay and surprise, it has even penetrated the walls of the Christian Church and entered the bedrooms of many, many Christian homes, destroying marriages and families once held together by Christian love. The incidents are not a few, but to the contrary, are on the rise.

For these reasons, I’d like to share with you some of the things the Lord has laid on my heart concerning adultery.

While our text in John 8 involves a specific incident of adultery, I’d like to go beyond adultery and speak about illicit sexual relationships in general. Illicit, as you know, simply means unlawful or forbidden and it is the essential meaning of the Greek word porneúo which is translated ‘to commit fornication’.

Fornication, in the broadest sense of the word, is an unlawful sexual relationship or activity. Because it’s unlawful, it therefore becomes synonymous with uncleanness or, in the vernacular, unclean sex.

When I talk about illicit sexual relationships, then, I am talking about a wide variety of sexual sins, namely, (a) fornication, including pre-marital sex; (b) adultery, or extra-marital sex; (c) sodomy;FN (d) incest; (e) prostitution;FN (f) cohabitation;FN and (g) unlawful marriages.FN

 

FACTORS INVOLVED IN SEXUAL SIN

Why do people get involved in unlawful and inappropriate relationships?

(1) Lust is certainly one factor that leads people into sexual sin, especially sodomy, incest, and prostitution. Lust, however, isn’t the only factor that leads people into illicit sexual relationships. In some instances, lust isn’t a factor at all.

(2) Many people get involved in adultery and cohabitation because they’ve got an emotional need that someone is willing to fulfill. It may be a need for acceptance, attention, or companionship; a need to be genuinely loved and cared for. The desire to get out of an abusive, non-intimate, or unsatisfying marriage is what causes many spouses to commit adultery.

(3) In many instances of cohabitation, people get involved in illicit relationships for financial or practical reasons. Some need a place to stay; they’re running away, they don’t want to live at home. Others seek live-in partners to help cope with the high cost of living; they can’t live on their own. Older couples choose to cohabit so that they can keep their finances and children’s inheritance separate from each other. And younger couples want to enjoy the benefits of marriage without being legally obligated to each other.FN

 

JUSTIFICATIONS FOR SEXUAL SIN

Many people don’t see anything wrong with illicit sexual relationships. Sadly, Christians rationalize themselves into thinking these relationships aren’t really wrong. Over a period of time, they lose their conscience or guilt in this matter.FN They remain church-going, Bible-talking, Christ-loving Christians with no conviction or remorse over their on-going illicit sexual activity or relationship.

I’d like to touch briefly on four of the many reasons people cite to justify their sexual sin.

 

(1) EVERYBODY’S DOING IT!

A common excuse or justification for sexual sin is, everybody’s doing it. Fornication is so prevalent that it’s become commonplace and ordinary. Prevalence has led to the lowering of moral standards so that fornication for so many people is no longer regarded as wrong.

But, brethren, NO MATTER HOW POPULAR OR PREVALENT A THING MAY BE, ITS POPULARITY DOESN'T ALTER THE ESSENTIAL SINFUL NATURE OF AN ILLICIT SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP OR ACTIVITY.

The Bible tells us that in the last days before Jesus comes again people will live pretty much the same way the people of Noah’s day lived before the flood.FN How was that? Genesis 6:5 (CEV) reads, The LORD saw how bad the people on earth were and that everything they thought and planned was evil. Evil and wickedness were so prevalent on the Earth. Everybody, with the exception of Noah and his family, was doing it.

But the prevalence of evil, you see, didn’t change the fact that it was evil. Everybody doing it didn’t make what was sin no longer sin. Brethren, IT’S POSSIBLE FOR EVERYBODY TO THINK SOMETHING IS RIGHT EVEN THOUGH GOD STILL INSISTS IT’S WRONG. SIN REMAINED SIN IN SPITE OF THE FACT THAT EVERYBODY FELT IT WASN’T SINFUL OR WRONG.

In the end, after years and years of trying to bring these sinners to repentance, God judged and destroyed these people who were hell-bent on living the way they pleased. Friends, when you live contrary to God’s laws YOU’LL BE JUDGED AND DAMNED EVEN THOUGH YOU THINK YOU’RE INNOCENT AND RIGHT!

The fact that everybody’s doing it doesn’t make illicit sexual activity right. WHAT'S RIGHT REMAINS RIGHT EVEN WHEN NO ONE'S DOING IT. AND WHAT'S WRONG REMAINS WRONG EVEN WHEN EVERYBODY'S DOING IT.

 

(2) I’M OLD ENOUGH TO MAKE MY OWN DECISIONS!

Young people justify their illicit sexual activities and relationships with the notion that they’re old enough to make their own decisions, do whatever they want to do, and live the way they want to live. After all, if adults can do it, why can’t teenagers and young adults do it too?

But the problem, Christian teens and young adults, is YOUR AGE, MATURITY, OR ADULTHOOD DO NOT LEGITIMIZE SIN. YOUR AGE DOESN'T MAKE SIN NO LONGER SINFUL. What was sin when you were twelve is still sin when you’re thirteen; what’s sin when you’re fifteen is still sin when you’re sixteen; what’s sin when you were living at home with mom and pop is still sin when you’re out living on your own.

Just because you’re older now doesn’t mean it’s alright for you to engage in sex before you’re married. SIN IS SIN NO MATTER HOW OLD YOU ARE. What’s sin for older adults is sin for teenagers and young adults. What’s sin at sixteen is still sin at sixty.

 

(3) THIS CAN’T BE WRONG BECAUSE WE REALLY DO LOVE EACH OTHER!

People engage in an illicit sexual relationship because they really do love one another. The relationship isn’t wrong, it’s claimed, because genuine love is involved. They really care for each other. They’re happy. They’re living and enjoying life once again.

Friends, we begrudge no one of their happiness. But HAPPINESS OUGHT NOT BE ATTAINED AT THE PRICE OF SIN. SIN IS TOO HIGH A PRICE TO PAY FOR HAPPINESS! Sexual intimacy is to be reserved for marriage and once married, it isn’t supposed to be shared with anyone else but one’s spouse.

Herod Antipas loved Herodias and the love between them was mutual. But what were John the Baptist’s words to Antipas? It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife (Mark 6:18).

David loved Bathsheba, but did his love for her legitimize the sin of adultery? What does God think of an adulterous love? 2 Samuel 11:27 reads, But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.

LOVE, YOU SEE, DOESN'T LEGITIMIZE SEXUAL SIN. LOVE, BRETHREN, DOESN'T MAKE WHAT'S WRONG, RIGHT.

Now the fact that you’re a Christian doesn’t make sexual sin sexually sinless. WHAT'S SIN FOR HEATHENS IS SIN FOR CHRISTIANS TOO. IF IT'S WRONG FOR HEATHENS TO COMMIT FORNICATION AND ADULTERY, THEN IT'S WRONG FOR CHRISTIANS TO COMMIT THE SAME. SIN IS SIN NO MATTER WHO'S DOING THE SINNING.

There was a Christian man in the church at Corinth who was involved in an incestuous relationship with his stepmother: It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1).This man had the nerve or presumption to continue going to church and act as if there was nothing wrong with him! Perhaps, like many today, he thought that he was alright and that there wasn’t anything sinful or wrong about what he was doing. He may not have thought he was wrong. But the fact of the matter is, he was wrong!

Did the fact that he was a Christian mean the incest wasn’t sin? What was the Lord’s judgment or opinion of this man? 1 Corinthians 5:13 reads, Put away from among yourselves that wicked person.FN When a Christian’s involved in a continuing illicit sexual relationship the Lord sees that man or woman as wicked.

No, brethren, the fact that you claim to be a Christian doesn’t legitimize your sin, it doesn’t mean you’re not wrong, and it doesn’t mean God isn’t angry or displeased with you.

Note Galatians 5:19-21 (NLT), When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,FN (20) idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, (21) envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

ADULTERY AMONG CHRISTIANS IS WRONG AND IT MEETS WITH THE SAME PUNISHMENT AS ADULTERY AMONG HEATHENS: HELL.

 

(4) IT’S BETWEEN ME AND GOD.

We hear this phrase bandied around so much today. It’s really code for What I’m doing is none of your business. Butt out. Mind your own business.

The problem is, SEXUAL SIN—ACTUALLY, ANY KIND OF SIN—IS THE CHURCH’S BUSINESS. As we see in 1 Corinthians 5, God commands the Church to get involved in the sin/s of its members and kick a sinning Christian out of the Church. We live in an age when people want us to ignore their sins and not judge them. God commands us to do the exact opposite! Friends, WE HAVE A GOD-GIVEN RIGHT AND DUTY TO GET INVOLVED IN YOUR SIN, call you to repentance, or else kick you out of Church. That may not mean a lot to you. But in kicking you out of Church God wants you to know that you can’t keep on going to Church, pretend you’re a Christian, and live like everything’s cool.

Sin isn’t cool. Everything isn’t alright. When you say it’s between you and God you’re implying that God approves of what you’re doing; He doesn’t think it’s sinful or wrong. But you're sadly mistaken and deceived. God will certainly judge you for disobeying Him and having the audacity or temerity to tell Him He’s wrong about adultery and fornication being sinful and wrong. GOD’S NEVER WRONG.

NO ONE, BUT NO ONE, INCLUDING YOU AND ME, WILL EVER GET AWAY WITH SIN. Sin can only end in one of two ways: either we repent of it and quit sinning; or we keep on sinning and end up being judged and damned for it. Sin ends in damnation (Romans 6:23). GOD WILL NOT SPARE YOU OR SAVE YOU FROM HELL JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE YOU. He loves you. But He’ll still damn you because He’s Just and His Justice demands that unrepentant sinners be punished in Hell. Believe me, nothing is worth going to Hell. Nothing.

I know you think we’re wrong for confronting you with your sin and tell you to stop engaging in sexual sin. In spite of what you think, the truth of the matter is we love you and we don’t want to see you go where you’re headed.

Brethren, DON’T ALIENATE THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU THE MOST. Don’t shut them out of your life. THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO IS CUT OFF THE PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU AND CARE FOR YOU. There aren’t enough of these people around. You need every last one of them! You may not agree with their morals or like the fact that they’re getting involved in something that “isn’t their business.”

THE PEOPLE WHO GET INVOLVED IN YOUR LIFE AND SIN ARE PART OF THE SAFETY NET THAT GOD USES TO STEER YOU CLEAR OF SIN AND HELL. You have your conscience. You have the Holy Spirit. You have the Bible. You have the preacher. You have your Church, your Christian family and friends. Sometimes God even sends strangers your way to tell you what your loved ones are telling you: Give sin up because it’ll kill you.

When you get rid of the safety net you literally have no one left to stop you from sin. Believe me, that’s a dangerous place to be—all alone with no one to save you. You may not think you need to be saved right now. But the time will come when you’ll know the danger you’re in and you’ll beg for someone to be there to save you. Keep your Christian friends handy and close. They’ll be there for you.

 

IF YOU'RE A CHRISTIAN, LIVE LIKE ONE--NOT LIKE A HEATHEN

Knowing that adultery and fornication are wrong, I’d like to give you some advice that the Lord has laid on my heart to share with you who are involved in, or who are contemplating getting involved in, an illicit sexual activity or relationship. I’d like to talk to everyone, both men and women, whether young or old, single or married, divorced or widowed. Whether the illicit activity is a one-time occurrence or an on-going illicit relationship, the counsel of the Lord applies to all.

A. Illicit sexual activities or relationships are wrong!

The first thing we must resolve is that adultery and fornication are wrong in the sight of the Lord. The people of this world may not think they’re wrong. You yourself may not think these things are wrong. But the important thing is what God thinks and what God says. GOD, YOU SEE, WILL JUDGE YOU ON THE BASIS OF WHAT HE THINKS AND SAYS, NOT ON THE BASIS OF WHAT YOU THINK AND SAY.

So what does God think and say? Brethren, illicit sexual activity is wrong! God forbids us from committing adultery or fornication. He commands us in Exodus 20:14, You shall not commit adultery.

He tells us why in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (NLT), Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, FN (10) or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God.

GOD'S PROHIBITION AGAINST FORNICATION AND ADULTERY, YOU SEE, IS MEANT FOR YOUR GOOD: IT'S MEANT TO KEEP CHRISTIANS IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND OUT OF THE PIT OF HELL.

While adultery or any other kind of sexual sin is not an unforgivable sin, if persisted in it becomes a damnable sin: it’ll consign an adulterous, promiscuous soul to an eternity in Hell.

Now the thing about an illicit affair is the emotionality of the thing. You’re so emotional and excited about being loved and being in a satisfying relationship that you really can’t think clearly and you really don’t want to admit the wrongfulness of what you’re doing. It’s so easy to justify things when you’re in an emotional frame of mind. God knows that. That’s why He put these words in 1 Corinthians 6:9, Be not deceived.

Brethren, DON'T DECEIVE YOURSELF INTO THINKING THAT ADULTERY OR FORNICATION ISN'T WRONG. IT IS WRONG AND NOTHING CAN CHANGE THAT--NOT EVEN THE NEEDS YOU BEAR OR THE EMOTIONS YOU FEEL. AS DEAR AND AS IMPORTANT AS LOVE IS TO YOU, YOU'VE NEVERTHELESS GOT TO PUT WHAT'S RIGHT ABOVE WHAT'S GOOD. The illicit relationship is good to you, it meets your needs. But the relationship isn’t right. Brethren, put what’s right above what’s good. Put God’s Word above any emotions you may feel.

 

B. Illicit sexual activities or relationships must come to an end!

Implicit in our Lord’s words to this adulteress in John 8 to Go and sin no more is Jesus’ acknowledgement that adultery is indeed wrong. Notice that He didn’t tell the woman to go back to her adulterous activity or relationship. He didn’t tell her to go and commit adultery some more. He told her, in essence, to stop committing adultery. Her illicit sexual activity and relationship had to come to an end. She had been pardoned from death, FORGIVENESS DIDN'T COST HER A THING, BUT IT OBLIGATED HER TO QUIT DOING WHAT SHE HAD BEEN FORGIVEN OF DOING.

In a word, illicit sexual activities must be stopped and illicit sexual relationships must be severed, terminated and discontinued. No more adultery! No more fornication! No more cohabitation! No more pre-marital sex! No more extra-marital sex! What’s sinful and wrong mustn’t be repeated or continued.

*If you’re married, believe and work towards fulfillment in your own marriage. I know that’s easily said but not easily done when a spouse remains unloving, uncaring, or recalcitrant in his or her own ways. Ask the Lord to restore the love you once had for your spouse. He can do this and He’s done it for some of the people I know. Reserve your love and your body for your own spouse. Don’t share them with others because in this instance of sharing, sharing is wrong.

*If you’re single, save sex for marriage. It was meant for marriage and any kind of sex outside it is wrong. Be disciplined and until you’re married, live your life with enforced abstinence and celibacy. Crucify your sexual desires and needs. I know that’s not fun or easily done. But CRUCIFIXION IS THE PREVENTATIVE FOR FORNICATION. Fornication isn’t God’s will, but crucifixion is.

 

C. Don’t put yourself in compromising situations and don’t get involved in illicit relationships.

The need for human companionship, friendship, and sexual intimacy, is a great one, I know. Women came into being because God saw the inappropriateness of man being alone. In His words, It is not good that the man should be alone (Genesis 2:18). The same thing can be said of women. More than sexual satisfaction, women, generally speaking, seek companionship, acceptance, and love. But, brethren, regardless of your marital status, you mustn’t put yourself in compromising situations that will only weaken your resistance against sin and lead you into it. To help you do this, here are some admonitions from the Lord.

*Brethren, watch what friendships you establish or enter into. Stay away from a Casanova or a flirt because these kinds of people are only out to use you. Read Proverbs 5:1-13 and 7:1-27. If need be, ask for a transfer, quit your job, or move out of the community altogether to put yourself out of the reach of a lover, stalker, or admirer.

*Determine at the outset who you can love, that is, romantically or sexually, and who you can’t. Determine what relationships you can enter into and what relationships you can’t. If you’re a Christian, you mustn’t fall in love with, or marry, an unbeliever.FN If you’re single, you can’t have an affair with a married person. If you’re married, you can’t have an affair at all.

*Set boundaries on your relationships and observe them.

(1) If you’re not in a position to marry, let’s say because you’re too young or you don’t have a job to support your wife, and any other such reason; the better course of wisdom is to refrain from physical contact. Touching and kissing, you see, strengthens sexual desires that make resistance or abstinence a difficult thing to do.

(2) If you’re not in a position to marry because you’re already married or you’re divorced and aren’t in a position to remarry, then don’t get romantically or emotionally involved with another person. The more emotionally attached you are to a person, the stronger the attraction, the weaker the resistance, and the greater the likelihood of entering into an illicit sexual relationship.

(3) If you don’t intend to marry a particular friend, let the friendship remain a friendship and don’t let it degenerate into an illicit sexual affair.

(4) No sex until marriage. No nights in bed. No fondling or caressing. What’s private remains private until marriage.

*Let your friends know what your boundaries are. Make them known to the person you hope to marry one day. Anyone not willing to observe these boundaries is a threat to your chastity and your obedience to Christ, hence, your relationship to him or her should be reevaluated, if not terminated. IF YOUR FRIEND ISN'T WILLING TO HONOR YOU BEFORE MARRIAGE, CHANCES ARE THEY WON'T BE WILLING TO HONOR YOU AFTER MARRIAGE. It makes for a tumultuous marriage and this, brethren, is not a relationship worth having.

*Resist sexual temptation. With every temptation God provides a door or a way of escape. But it’s up to you to walk through that door and get out of a tempting, compromising situation. No one can do the walking for you. In spite of the emotions or feelings you may have towards the particular person involved, get out of the situation quickly before you weaken more.

It’s instructive to note that in cases of rape or adultery, Mosaic Law implied the duty of the woman to cry out in resistance against her rapist or lover. Deuteronomy 22:22-27 (NLT) reads, "If a man is discovered committing adultery, both he and the woman must die. In this way, you will purge Israel of such evil. (23) "Suppose a man meets a young woman, a virgin who is engaged to be married, and he has sexual intercourse with her. If this happens within a town, (24) you must take both of them to the gates of that town and stone them to death. The woman is guilty because she did not scream for help. The man must die because he violated another man's wife. In this way, you will purge this evil from among you. (25) "But if the man meets the engaged woman out in the country, and he rapes her, then only the man must die. (26) Do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no crime worthy of death. She is as innocent as a murder victim. (27) Since the man raped her out in the country, it must be assumed that she screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.

A woman was to do what she could to resist. Failure to cry out made her a willing or compliant participant to the sin and she was thus held liable and accountable for it. In the words of our day, the sex was consensual. SISTERS, YOU'RE OBLIGATED TO RESIST THE SEXUAL ADVANCES OF A FRIEND, LOVER, OR SEX-CRAZED OFFENDER.FN

*Recognize any forbidden or illicit affections you may have for a person and sacrifice them on the altar of obedience unto the Lord. “I love this man or woman, Lord, but I love you even more. I’m placing my love on the altar of obedience and I’m asking you, Lord, to get this love out of my heart and take it away from me.” Refuse to hold on to forbidden affections. If you’re single, trust the Lord to give you a mate the proper, sinless, and honorable way.

And if you’re married, ask the Lord to restore the love between you and your spouse. Nothing is too difficult for the Lord to do. Your faith and your obedience put you in a position to be blessed by our Lord with the desires and needs of your heart. God bless you and keep you from sin!

 

 

JESUS DECLARES HIMSELF TO BE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLDFN

THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM

 

John 8:12-20, Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world:FN he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

{13} The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

{14} Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go. {15} Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. {16} And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. {17} It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. {18} I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

{19} Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father?FN

Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.

{20} These words spake Jesus in the treasury,FN as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.

John 8:12-20 (NLT), Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, "I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."

(13) The Pharisees replied, "You are making those claims about Yourself! Such testimony is not valid."

(14) Jesus told them, "These claims are valid even though I make them about Myself. For I know where I came from and where I am going, but you don't know this about Me. (15) You judge Me by human standards, but I do not judge anyone. (16) And if I did, My judgment would be correct in every respect because I am not alone. The Father who sent Me is with Me. (17) Your own law says that if two people agree about something, their witness is accepted as fact. (18) I am one witness, and My Father who sent Me is the other."

(19) "Where is Your father?" they asked.

Jesus answered, "Since you don't know who I am, you don't know who My Father is. If you knew Me, you would also know My Father."

(20) Jesus made these statements while He was teaching in the section of the Temple known as the Treasury. But He was not arrested, because His time had not yet come.

 

Jesus was teaching in the Temple early one morning when He was interrupted by some Scribes and Pharisees who brought an adulterous woman unto Him for judgment. With their departure, Jesus resumed His teaching and claimed to be the life-giving Light of the world.FN

However, the Pharisees who remained in Jesus’ audience didn’t receive His claim because no one else made that claim concerning Him. Their rejection was an extrapolation of the Deuteronomic law which stipulated that the testimony of one man could not be accepted in a court of law without the concurring testimony of one or two other witnesses, Deuteronomy 17:6.FN

But the fact of the matter was, the Father bore witness to Jesus’ testimony, therefore, what Jesus said concerning Himself was true.

You see, brethren, the Pharisees’ rejection of Jesus’ claim didn’t render the claim untrue. The claim was true whether or not they accepted it.

TRUTH, MY FRIENDS, REMAINS TRUTH EVEN WHEN NO ONE BELIEVES OR ACCEPTS IT. REJECTION DOESN'T CONSTITUTE FALSEHOOD!

 

 

THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS TRY TO STONE JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

JERUSALEM

 

John 8:21-24, Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. {22} Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself?FN because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. {23} And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. {24} I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I AM he,FN ye shall die in your sins. John 8:21-24 (NLT), Later Jesus said to them again, "I am going away. You will search for Me but will die in your sin. You cannot come where I am going." (22) The people asked, "Is He planning to commit suicide? What does He mean, 'You cannot come where I am going'?" (23) Jesus continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You belong to this world; I do not. (24) That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM who I claim to be, you will die in your sins."

 

Jesus iterates what He said earlier during the Feast, namely, that He would soon be leaving them and when He did, these unbelieving Jews could neither follow nor find Him (John 7:33-34). In their unbelief they would perish in their sins.

What were these Jews supposed to believe? That Jesus was the I AM.FN Now any discerning Jew would have taken notice of these words for they are none other than the Name of God, Exodus 3:14. Was Jesus claiming to be God? The Jews decided to ask the question.

 

John 8:25-30, Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning. {26} I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. {27} They understood not that he spake to them of the Father. {28} Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted upFN the Son of man, then shall ye know that I AM, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. {29} And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. {30} As he spake these words, many believed on him. John 8:25-30 (NLT), "Who are You?" they demanded. Jesus replied, "The One I have always claimed to be. (26) I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won't. For I say only what I have heard from the One who sent Me, and He is completely truthful." (27) But they still didn't understand that He was talking about His Father. (28) So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I AM He. I do nothing on My own but say only what the Father taught Me. (29) And the One who sent Me is with Me—He has not deserted Me. For I always do what pleases Him." (30) Then many who heard Him say these things believed in Him.

 

The Divinity of Jesus is clearly seen in His claim to be the Son of God (verse 28); He came from Heaven (verse 23) with a personal message from God to give to the people (verse 26).

At the same time, however, Jesus proclaimed His humanity as the Son of man. Like any other man, He was subject to death and would one day die just like everyone else (verse 28).

The paradox of His identity is not easily understood. It is a matter of faith. Many of the Jews who constituted Jesus’ mixed audience in the Temple believed on Him. We take note, not only of their faith, but also of their courage to publicly believe in One whom their religious leaders rejected and persecuted.

Brethren, just because you and your message are being rejected and persecuted doesn’t mean no one will believe you now. Take heart. PERSECUTION WILL NOT DETER THE SHEEP FROM BELIEVING!

 

John 8:31-41a, Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him,FN If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;FN {32} And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.FN

{33} They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man:FN how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

{34} Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.FN {35} And the servant abideth not in the house for ever:FN but the Son abideth ever. {36} If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.FN {37} I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. {38} I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.

{39} They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father.

Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.FN {40} But now ye seek to kill me, a manFN that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. {41a} Ye do the deeds of your father.

John 8:31-41a (NLT), Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, "You are truly My disciples if you remain faithful to My teachings. (32) And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

(33) "But we are descendants of Abraham," they said. "We have never been slaves to anyone. What do You mean, 'You will be set free'?"

(34) Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. (35) A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. (36) So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free. (37) Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill Me because there's no room in your hearts for My message. (38) I am telling you what I saw when I was with My Father. But you are following the advice of your father."

(39) "Our father is Abraham!" they declared.

"No," Jesus replied, "for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. (40) Instead, you are trying to kill Me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. (41a) No, you are imitating your real father."

 

The Jews took great pride in their lineage from Abraham. They felt they were safe and secure from damnation.FN As children of Abraham they could never be damned!

But these Pharisees and religious leaders acted very much unlike their father in the flesh. Abraham received God’s messengers who had come to warn him about the pending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18). These Jews, however, refused to receive Jesus. Abraham believed the things God told him. But the Jews refused to believe Jesus. Far from being the children of Abraham, they were, in all actuality, children of the Devil!

Brethren, YOU'LL KNOW WHO YOUR FATHER REALLY IS BY THE THINGS YOU SAY AND DO. CHILDREN COPY THEIR FATHER. In spite of who you say you are, or what you think you are, the things you do—your lifestyle—proves whether you’re God’s child or else the Devil’s.

 

John 8:41b-50, Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication;FN we have one Father, even God.

{42} Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. {43} Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. {44} Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning,FN and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. {45} And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. {46} Which of you convincethFN me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?FN {47} He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

{48} Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan,FN and hast a devil?

{49} Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. {50} And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.

John 8:41-50 (NLT), No, you are imitating your real father." They replied, "We aren't illegitimate children! God Himself is our true Father."

(42) Jesus told them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on My own, but He sent Me. (43) Why can't you understand what I am saying? It's because you can't even hear Me! (44) For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. (45) So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don't believe Me! (46) Which of you can truthfully accuse Me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don't you believe Me? (47) Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don't listen because you don't belong to God."

(48) The people retorted, "You Samaritan devil! Didn't we say all along that You were possessed by a demon?"

(49) "No," Jesus said, "I have no demon in Me. For I honor My Father—and you dishonor Me. (50) And though I have no wish to glorify Myself, God is going to glorify Me. He is the true judge.

 

The Devil is a liar and a murderer and his children follow in the same sins. These unbelieving Jews were murderers in that they sought to kill Jesus. And they were liars in that they refused to believe Jesus’ words, in essence, calling Him a liar.

Brethren, YOU'LL KNOW IF YOU'RE TRULY A CHILD OF GOD BY THIS TEST: YOU'LL LOVE JESUS, YOU'LL LISTEN TO HIS WORD, BELIEVE IT, AND OBEY IT. A PERSON'S SALVATION MUST BE QUESTIONED AND CHALLENGED IF THAT PERSON DOESN'T WANT TO LISTEN TO GOD'S WORD, BELIEVE IT, AND OBEY IT. God’s children hear and believe. Those who don’t, or won’t, are not of God.

 

John 8:51-58, Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.FN

{52} Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. {53} Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead?FN and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?

{54} Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: {55} Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you:FN but I know him, and keep his saying. {56} Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.FN

{57} Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old,FN and hast thou seen Abraham?FN

{58} Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.FN

John 8:51-58 (NLT), I tell you the truth, anyone who obeys My teaching will never die!"

(52) The people said, "Now we know You are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but You say, 'Anyone who obeys My teaching will never die!' (53) Are You greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do You think You are?"

(54) Jesus answered, "If I want glory for Myself, it doesn't count. But it is My Father who will glorify Me. You say, 'He is our God, ' (55) but you don't even know Him. I know Him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But I do know Him and obey Him. (56) Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to My coming. He saw it and was glad."

(57) The people said, "You aren't even fifty years old. How can You say You have seen Abraham? "

(58) Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!"

 

It’s obvious that Jesus and the Jews aren’t communicating. They can’t understand what Jesus is saying. UNBELIEF, YOU SEE, KEEPS A PERSON FROM UNDERSTANDING GOD'S WORD.

Now the whole issue of this discourse in the Temple revolves around the question of Jesus’ identity. The discourse begins with a revelation of Jesus: I am the Light of the world (verse 12). The Pharisees don’t receive His testimony. So what does Jesus do? He keeps on talking about Himself and His relation with the Father (verses 14-24). Finally, the Jews ask Him Who are you? in verse 25. Jesus responds by telling them more about His relation with the Father and He also tells them who their father really is (verses 39-45). The Jews are so incensed with Jesus that they resort to name-calling and demonizing Him. Does Jesus stop talking? Hardly not! He makes Himself greater than Abraham and proclaims Himself to be the great I AM. In other words, He’s God Himself!

Put yourself in the shoes of these men. Jesus is a man (verse 40). Yet He claims to be the Son of God (verse 19), He came from Heaven (verse 23), He’s talked with God and was sent to Earth by God (verses 28-29), He lives forever (verse 35), and is coexistent with God from the very beginning (verse 58). The claims are so fantastic that Jesus is either mad or else He really is who He says He is.

So here’s Jesus and the Pharisees, each believing and proclaiming a different, contradictory “truth.” Who's right and who's wrong? Who would you have believed? Friends, IT'S BY GOD'S GRACE THAT WE BELIEVE.FN Once we believe, we see that Jesus’ claims aren’t so incredulous after all, they make perfect sense, and only Jesus could have made them.

 

John 8:59, Then took they up stonesFN to cast at him:FN but Jesus hid himself,FN and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. John 8:59 (NLT), At that point they picked up stones to throw at Him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.

 

As the religious leaders took up stones to stone Him, Jesus fled from their midst and, in all likelihood, left Jerusalem at this time for a short ministry tour of Judea.FN

 

 

JESUS SENDS SEVENTY DISCIPLES ON A MISSION TRIPFN

JUDEA AND POSSIBLY PEREA

 

Luke 10:1-2, After these things the Lord appointed other seventyFN also, and sent them two and twoFN before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.FN {2} Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.FN Luke 10:1-2 (NLT), The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places He planned to visit. (2) These were His instructions to them: "The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send more workers into His fields.

 

With His time drawing ever nearer to its close, Jesus chose seventy other disciples to go into the villages and towns where He Himself was soon going to be visiting.

 

THE NEED

We see in this portion of Scripture the need and the vessels. Respecting the need, we see that the need has always been for a preacher, not an audience; for a witness, not a listener; for a miracle-worker, not those needing a miracle. THE PROBLEM IS NOT THAT THERE IS NO ONE TO MINISTER TO, BUT RATHER, THAT THERE IS NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE TO DO THE MINISTERING.

Brethren, we’re not fooling ourselves, the Lord, or anyone else, when we say there’s no one for us to minister to. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE PEOPLE WHO NEED MINISTRY. According to Jesus, the harvest is great. There are a lot of people who need what we’ve got.

So how do we reap this great harvest? By preaching the Gospel of salvation. Brethren, we’ve got to do more than just talk about faith and the disciple’s cross: we’ve also got to talk evangelism to the unsaved. Evangelism comes before faith and the crucified life. The church was meant to be filled with converts from the world, not Christian proselytes from other churches.

 

THE VESSELS

The Lord needs laborers to work in the fields. But the thing of it is, THE LABORERS NEED TO WORK TOGETHER, NOT STRIVE TOGETHER.

Putting ourselves in the shoes of the twelve, Jesus’ choice of seventy others to minister before Him instructs us that the ministry of the Gospel is not reserved for a privileged few. It’s not just for the apostles. There are others beside us who are called and qualified to minister like us, or with us.

Brethren, we’re not the only true ministers around! God has others whom He’s chosen to minister and we mustn’t deceive ourselves into thinking that no one else besides us is a true minister of Christ. JESUS’ CHOICE OF SEVENTY OTHERS IS HIS PROHIBITION AGAINST THE PRIDE OF EXCLUSIVISM AND THE SIN OF JEALOUSY.

 

Luke 10:3-4, Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. {4} Carry neither purse,FN nor scrip,FN nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.FN Luke 10:3-4 (CEV), Now go, but remember, I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves. (4) Don't take along a moneybag or a traveling bag or sandals. And don't waste time greeting people on the road.

 

Before sending the seventy out on their own evangelistic mission, Jesus gave them some instructions. These instructions are, for the most part, identical to the one He gave His twelve apostles prior to sending them out on their own evangelistic mission (Matthew 10).FN He warned them about the persecution or resistance that they would encounter. The ministry would have its joys, as well as its trials. They weren’t supposed to bring along any money, food, or sandals. They were to travel light and not greet anyone along the way.

 

Luke 10:5-9, And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house.FN {6} And if the son of peaceFN be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.FN {7} And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire.FN Go not from house to house. {8} And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:FN {9} And heal the sick that are therein,FN and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.FN Luke 10:5-9 (CEV), As soon as you enter a home, say, "God bless this home with peace." (6) If the people living there are peace-loving, your prayer for peace will bless them. But if they are not peace-loving, your prayer will return to you. (7) Stay with the same family, eating and drinking whatever they give you, because workers are worth what they earn. Don't move around from house to house. (8) If the people of a town welcome you, eat whatever they offer. (9) Heal their sick and say, "God's kingdom will soon be here!"

 

Jesus instructed the seventy on what they were supposed to preach, what they were supposed to do, and how they were supposed to conduct themselves as guests in the homes of their hosts.

When they first entered a home and the home was peaceable, the disciples were to pronounce a blessing of peace upon it. They were to stay in the same home for the duration of their ministry in that certain locale. They weren’t to go from house to house. Why? Probably because it conveyed the impression that they weren’t content with the room and board; they were out to sponge, not serve; to receive, not give.FN Ours is to be a witness of contentment and gratitude. We ought not be too proud to eat what’s cooked or to sleep in what’s provided. If our hosts want to treat us royally, that’s their prerogative. But if they can only provide macaroni and cheese or a sleeping bag on the floor, we ought not complain. We’re there to minister, not to be ministered to.

The disciples were to preach the same Gospel that John the Baptist and Jesus Himself preached. What is the Gospel of the kingdom? That God has come nigh to reign and rule in the hearts of men.

They probably preached out in the open, but it’s just as likely that they held house meetings in the homes of those who were receptive to these itinerant preachers.

 

Luke 10:10-16, But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, {11} Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you:FN notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.

{12} But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. {13} Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. {14} But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.

{15} And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell.

{16} He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despisethFN you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

Luke 10:10-16 (NIV),  But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say,  (11)  'Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.'  

(12)  I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.  (13)  "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  (14)  But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.  

(15)  And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.  

(16)  "Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me."

Matthew 11:20-24 (NLT), Then Jesus began to denounce the towns where He had done so many of His miracles, because they hadn't repented of their sins and turned to God. (21) "What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. (22) I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you. (23) "And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. (24) I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you."

 

The disciples and their message would not always be received. There would be those who would refuse or reject their message. When this happened, the disciples were to shake the dust of that city off their feet as a testimony against them. They had been given a chance to hear the Gospel, but they rejected it and hence, they were responsible and accountable for their judgment.

There are three themes in this portion of Scripture that I would like to elaborate on: the judgment, the miracles, and the seriousness of rejecting God’s messenger and the message.

 

THE JUDGMENT

There are three things about the judgment that I’d like to point out in this passage.

(1) First, we see that people are responsible both for their actions and their judgment. They will have no one to blame but themselves for the judgment they incur. They cannot blame their unbelief and impenitence on other people or God Himself. No excuse that they give will keep them from the judgment of damnation.

Brethren, WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHERE WE SPEND ETERNITY! WE DECIDE WHETHER WE'LL GO TO HEAVEN OR ELSE GO TO HELL. And that decision is made in the way we choose to live our lives on this Earth; it’s made in the way we choose to accept God’s Word and will, or else reject it.

JUDGMENT, THEN, IS NOT SO MUCH ABOUT GOD SENDING PEOPLE TO HEAVEN OR HELL. RATHER, IT'S ABOUT PEOPLE REAPING THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE CHOICES THEY'VE MADE.

 

(2) Second, we see that just as there are degrees of reward in Heaven, so there are degrees of punishment in Hell. All those who refuse to believe the Lord and His Gospel and who refuse to repent of their sins will be damned, but the damnation of some is greater or severer than the damnation of others.

Jesus said in Luke 12:47-48 (CEV), If servants are not ready or willing to do what their master wants them to do, they will be beaten hard. (48) But servants who don't know what their master wants them to do will not be beaten so hard for doing wrong. If God has been generous with you, he will expect you to serve him well. But if he has been more than generous, he will expect you to serve him even better.

In the words of our text, Jesus said it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you (Luke 10:14).

 

(3) The third thing about the judgment is perhaps the most sobering. Jesus talks about the people of Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon in verses 12 and 13.

*The Sodomites, you know, were steeped in sodomy, homosexuality, and all manner of sexual sins and depravities. They remind us a lot of people today whose lives center around sexual sins and uncleanness.

*The Tyrians and Sidonians were a sea-faring people. Located on the Mediterranean coast, their ships and their sailors were the best. They prospered so much in trading that, coupled with their worship of fertility gods, the Tyrians and Sidonians became a rich and profligate people. They were a perfect picture of typical unregenerates, hardened in sin, wealthy and self-sufficient, with no need for God.

So what do the Sodomites, Tyrians, and Sidonians have to do with us today? Well, when people hear the Gospel of Christ and refuse or reject it, Jesus said it shall be more tolerable for Sodom, Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. In essence, and this is the third point of the judgment, IT IS A GREATER SIN AND A GREATER DAMNATION TO HEAR AND REJECT THE GOSPEL THAN TO SPEND AN ENTIRE LIFE IN THE MOST DEBASING OF SINS AND NEVER HEAR THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST.

Do you think your judgment will not be as severe as that of hardened sinners who’ve never heard the Gospel? Do you think you won’t be judged as harshly as hardened criminals because you’ve never committed serious sins? Friends, you’re worse off!

Hearing and rejecting the Gospel merits you the greater condemnation. It’s a greater sin. Those who’ve never heard the Gospel (that is, the Sodomites, Tyrians, and Sidonians) and who’ve lived their life in shameless sin will fare better in the judgment than those who were given an opportunity to get saved and who turned it down.

Brethren, the offer of salvation is so great that to turn it down is to merit a severer judgment than the most lawless, debased, or depraved of sinners who’ve never heard the Gospel. If you've heard the Gospel and rejected it, you have absolutely nothing good to look forward to when you die! Your fate will truly be frightful! Believe me, you have no idea how frightful.

 

MIRACLES

Miracles were to be a part of the disciples’ ministry. Wherever they ministered or preached, they were to do miracles (Luke 10:9, see also Matthew 10:8 and Mark 16:17-18).

Now when the Lord rebuked the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, He rebuked the people of these cities because they saw Jesus’ many miracles there and they still refused to believe on Him (see Matthew 11:21-24).

With this in mind, we see two things about miracles in Jesus’ rebuke.

 

(1) First, miracles, when accompanied by the preaching of God’s Word, have the power or ability to get people to repent and get saved.

Note Jesus’ words in verse 13, for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented. The Tyrians and Sidonians would have repented had they seen the miracles which our Lord did in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.

WHEN COUPLED WITH THE PREACHING OF GOD'S WORD, MIRACLES HELP PEOPLE TO SEE GOD'S POWER AND, FEARING FOR THEIR SOULS, THEY BELIEVE THE GOSPEL, REPENT OF THEIR SINS, AND GET SAVED.

This is illustrated for us in the case of the Samaritans. Acts 8:5-8 tells us, Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. {6} And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. {7} For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. {8} And there was great joy in that city.FN

Miracles, I am saying, have the power to turn a sinner from his sins and turn him to the Lord.

But many of the citizens of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum didn’t believe in the Lord even after they saw Him do many mighty works there. While miracles have the power to turn a sinner from his sins, not every sinner will turn.

 

(2) And this brings me to the second thing we see about miracles, and that is, when you behold the mighty works and miracles of God, but refuse to repent and believe the Gospel, your judgment is severer. You saw God’s works, you heard God’s words, but you refused to repent, hence, your judgment is worse.

Jesus said in Luke 10:13-14, Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. {14} But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you.

Miracles will either help you turn to the Lord, or else they’ll worsen your judgment. In this way, MIRACLES WILL EITHER HELP YOU OR ELSE HURT YOU. It’s you who decides what the miracles will do for you.

 

 

THE SERIOUSNESS OF NOT BELIEVING OR RECEIVING THE MESSENGER OF CHRIST

 

In the last place, we see that it is indeed a serious thing for us or anyone else not to receive and believe the messengers of God and the message they bring. Jesus said in verse 16, He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.

God has vested His messengers (that’s everyone of us who believe) with the power to do miracles that confirm or demonstrate God’s power working through them. And He’s vested them with the message that will, if believed, save, deliver, and bless the people.

When people reject the messengers of God, when they refuse to believe what the messengers are preaching, God sees that as their rejection of Jesus and God Himself. He takes their rejection personally.

It’s all too easy for us to dismiss a messenger with the notion that “that’s his or her opinion.” We refuse to accept what they’re saying because we don’t believe it, we don’t like it.

But dismissing a messenger and the message is not that easy or simple. When we reject a disciple or a preacher from God and refuse to believe what they’re saying, this is a very serious thing because, in truth, we’re not only rejecting the disciple or preacher: we’re rejecting God! It’s God who’s speaking to us through His messengers. Friends, remember this the next time you’re tempted to reject what a Christian is telling you. Rejecting the preacher is rejecting the Lord. Take it seriously.

Now because the Lord expects the people to believe and hearken unto the voice of His messengers, this obligates the messengers to speak only the words of God. When Jesus sent these seventy disciples out He told them exactly what to say: Say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you (verse 9). Obviously, the entire message of the disciples did not consist of only nine words: The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. They were to say a lot of things pertaining to the kingdom of God. They were to preach what Christ preached.

The point is, Jesus gave these seventy disciples the message they were to preach. And because people are to believe these disciples, that is, believe what these disciples were saying, the Lord, in His care for the sheep, doesn’t want His disciples to lead the sheep astray.

There are many messengers working and speaking in the world today. But not every messenger is from God and not every messenger is speaking the words of God. There are hirelings, deceivers, and false teachers who are also speaking to the people.

The power of both deceivers and disciples to lead God’s people obligates the people to discern the message of the messenger and compare it with the words of our Lord; and it obligates the messenger to speak the words of our Lord. When we don’t, we’ll have to give an accounting before the Lord and be held liable for leading God’s people astray.

Speaking the message, I’m saying, is a serious thing—both for the hearer and the messenger. It’s serious for the hearer because rejecting the message of the messenger is rejecting the Lord who’s speaking that message through the messenger. And it’s serious for the messenger because not communicating God’s message makes him or her liable to the Lord for leading His people astray.

The seriousness of rejecting God’s messengers and their message is seen not only in the fact that God sees it as a rejection of Himself, but also in the fact that rejecting the messenger and the message is such a damnable thing. The seventy were sent in pairs to different cities and towns. We don’t know if there was more than one pair of disciples ministering in any given town. Depending on the size of the town, I suppose it’s perfectly conceivable that there were several pairs of disciples ministering in the same town. But again, this is something that I don’t know for sure. We don’t know how long the disciples stayed in any given locality. As we pointed out earlier, the mission of the seventy lasted anywhere from a month to three months at the most. The point I’m trying to make is, the disciples’ ministry in any given town didn’t last very long.

Now the thing that we see in the Gospel narrative is, hearing and rejecting the Gospel even once makes you accountable and answerable before God. When God’s people come to you and preach you the Word, and you choose to reject what they’re saying, then even though you’ve heard the Word only once, you assume responsibility for your judgment or damnation.

 

But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, {11} Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. {12} But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city (Luke 10:10-12).

Hearing and rejecting the Gospel is damnable. It’s a damnable thing to disbelieve the Gospel that God’s people are sharing with you. Jesus said in John 3:18, he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

So what does all this have to do with us? Well, IF HEARING AND REJECTING THE GOSPEL EVEN ONCE IS SUCH A DAMNABLE THING, THEN WE MUST SEE THAT IT IS A MUCH MORE DAMNABLE THING TO HEAR THE GOSPEL MANY TIMES OVER A PERIOD OF MANY YEARS AND STILL REJECT IT!

Friends, how many times have you heard God’s people preach the Word to you and you dismissed it as old fashioned, unenlightened myth? How many times have you heard the Word and you dismissed it as people’s opinions? Friends, your rejection of God’s Word is damnable! You’re not doing yourself any favors by rejecting the things God’s people are telling you.

But more than that, it is a much more damnable thing to receive and believe the Gospel and subsequently reject it and disbelieve it! Brethren, when you turn your back on the Gospel that you’ve believed you’re playing with fire. Turning your back on the Lord or the truth, my friends, is no light matter!

PEOPLE ARE AFRAID TO GO ON WITH THE LORD, BUT THE GREATER FEAR OUGHT TO BE THE FEAR OF TURNING BACK FROM THE LORD.

It’s so easy in our day to change our opinions of God’s people and later on regard their teachings or messages as being untrue or unscriptural. People today are looking for reasons not to believe what they once used to believe.

But, brethren, IF THE WORD BE THE WORD, AND IF THE WORD BE TRUE AND IMMUTABLE, THEN HOW CAN THE WORD THAT YOU BELIEVED TO BE TRUE ALL THESE YEARS NO LONGER BE TRUE TODAY? How can the Word that you believed all these years to be the Word of God now be the word of men?

Take your faithlessness seriously because if you turn your back on the truth, you’ve got nothing good to look forward to. The Sodomites, Tyrians, and Sidonians will fare better than you in the judgment!

You may think you’re a whole lot smarter now that you’re grown up and can think for yourself. But WHEN YOU DISBELIEVE GOD AND THE BIBLE, YOU’RE NOT SMART. IT’S THE DUMBEST THING YOU CAN DO!

Smarts is an excellent thing for world-related living. It’s a wonderful things to possess!

But when it comes to spiritual, Heavenly matters, SMARTS TAKE YOU AWAY FROM GOD AND, IN THIS WAY, SMARTS REALLY IS A DAMNABLE THING.

SMARTS, IN THE SIGHT OF GOD AND HEAVEN, IS BELIEVING IN GOD: Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation (1 Corinthians 1:21 MSG).

 

 

Matthew 11:25-30, At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (26) Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. (27) All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. (28) Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy,FN and my burden is light. Matthew 11:25-30 (NIV),  At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.  (26)  Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.  (27)  "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  (28)  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  (29)  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (30)  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

 

Remember that at this time Jesus is surrounded by a multitude of people. Out of this mass of followers Jesus chooses seventy disciples to go on an evangelistic mission for Him. After instructing the seventy, He sends them on their way.

Jesus is still left with a number of people waiting to hear Him teach or heal. Jesus prays, then He invites these people to come to Him and learn from Him.

Now the yoke in Jewish thought was the sum total of everything a person was supposed to do. It represented the knowledge of the law and one's obedience to that law. The yoke of rabbinical Judaism (with all its minute, nit-picky rules) had become such a great burden that it literally burdened and wearied all these well-meaning souls who were trying to obey God.

Jesus' yoke is vastly different. It's easy and light. It's welcome rest for a sin-weary soul. It's still a yoke of obedience, but Christ's commandments are not hard or unreasonable. They're doable.

Friend, you need to know that walking with Christ is not meant to be a wearisome, burdensome walk. If it's become that to you, then something's wrong! You're probably all wrapped up in Christ's commandments that you 've not cultivated a personal relationship with Christ.

Remember that Jesus' yoke was first preceded with His invitation for you to come to Him. CHRISTIANITY IS A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS. It's you hanging out with Jesus, staying in His company, and having a constant conversation with Him.

Do you have a good friend that you really enjoy being with? That's what your friendship and relationship with Jesus is supposed to be like--enjoyable!

If your Christianity is nothing but rules and laws, then you've wandered away from Christ's presence. You've preoccupied yourself with laws, but the Lord is nowhere around. No wonder you're burdened!

Christianity without Christ--that is, Christianity without a personal relationship with Jesus--is a lifeless, loathsome, wearisome burden. Get back to Christ. Concentrate on staying in His presence. And you'll find the welcome rest that you long for. YOU CAN'T DO CHRISTIANITY WITHOUT CHRIST!

Let's come back to the yoke. In olden days when farmers used their ox to plow a field or pull a wagon, the farmer would have to put the yoke on the ox. Unlike a farmer, however, Jesus doesn't put His yoke on you. You have to put it on yourself. In Jesus' words, Take my yoke upon you and learn of me.

When you come to Jesus He wants you to commit yourself to obey Him and learn from Him. He doesn't force you to do it. It's got to be something you want to do; you've got to have the want-to. When you decide to put on His yoke, Jesus gives you welcome relief and rest from your heavy burdens.

 

 

THE SEVENTY DISCIPLES RETURN FROM THEIR MISSIONS TRIP

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 10:17, And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subjectFN unto us through thy name. Luke 10:17 (CEV), When the seventy-two followers returned, they were excited and said, "Lord, even the demons obeyed when we spoke in your name!"

 

Having accomplished their mission, the seventy disciples returned to the Lord, rejoicing in the fact that they were successful in delivering the oppressed. Apparently, this was one thing they didn’t have any experience in, or hadn’t done before, and now that they were doing it, they expressed joy in the fact that it was working. The demons were coming out in response to the disciples’ command!FN

Brethren, when the Lord gives His people the power, authority, or right to do something in His Name, it really does work! We can do what Jesus told us to do!

We can do what Jesus Himself did! He said in John 14:12, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. Do you know what verily, verily means? It means it’s true, it’s for real, what Jesus is saying is no lie.

Friends, MIRACLES AREN'T ONLY FOR THE LORD AND THE APOSTLES TO DO! ALL OF US CAN WORK MIRACLES! We’ve got to get used to this idea and expect people to get healed or delivered when we minister to them.

Not only that, but all of us have power over Satan and his demons: they have to obey us in Jesus’ Name! SATAN, MY FRIENDS, IS NOT MORE POWERFUL THAN US: HE'S SUBJECT TO US! IN JESUS' NAME!

 

Luke 10:18, And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Luke 10:18 (CEV), Jesus told them: I saw Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.

 

Scholars are divided on the exact meaning of Jesus’ words here.

*Some believe that Jesus was referring to that time in eternity when Satan and the rebelling angels were cast out of Heaven.FN

*Others believe that as the seventy were casting out demons, Jesus saw Satan himself falling from Heaven, that is, he was losing his power or rule in the lives of those who the seventy had set free.

*And still others believe that Jesus was admonishing His disciples not to be proud about the power they had. “I saw Satan fall because of pride and I don’t want the same thing happening to you.”FN

There’s truth in all three views, but I believe the first is closer to the true meaning of our Lord. In other words, He was telling His disciples not to be surprised about demons being subject to them because Jesus, a long time ago, saw Satan being cast out, and falling from, Heaven. Being thus fallen, he’s lost his power over all who believe and are delivered.

 

Luke 10:19-20, Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions,FN and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. {20} Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:19-20 (NIV),  I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.  (20)  However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

 

These are some really potent, precious, and comforting promises that our Lord has given us here. I pray that as you meditate on these promises and the following commentary that the Spirit of God will illumine our mind to understand the great power and the privilege you have in Christ. Once you grasp these truths you will never be same! They will revolutionize your warfare against Satan and his demonic hosts and you will stand victorious in Christ in all things. Let's take note of the commission, the promise, and the exhortation.

 

THE COMMISSION

Christ has given you authority over Satan and all his demonic hosts.

Note that the word power is used twice in verse 19, but each is translated from a different Greek word. In other words, the power you have is not the same power that the Devil has.

The power that Christ’s given you is exousía and it means authority, right, or permission. Jesus, brethren, has given you authority. There are three things about this authority that you should know.

(1) The first is that CHRIST HAS ALREADY GIVEN YOU AUTHORITY. You see, the verb for give in the Greek is present perfect tense. Hence, the verse should be translated, I have given you. Authority isn’t something that you’re going to have one day coming. Rather, it’s something you already have. You have it now!

(2) Second, THE AUTHORITY YOU HAVE ISN'T THE AUTHORITY TO SUGGEST OR PLEAD WITH THE DEVIL. RATHER, IT'S THE AUTHORITY TO COMMAND HIM. Brethren, you have the God-given right to tell Satan what to do. Satan’s subject to you, he’s under your authority, and he’s under your authority NOW! Don’t let him boss you around! You’re his boss!

(3) And third, AUTHORITY ISN'T ANY GOOD UNLESS YOU EXERCISE IT.

*You know that parents have authority over their children. But when parents refuse to exercise that authority, what happens? The children become rebellious, disobedient, and they end up doing whatever they want to do.

*Policemen have authority to arrest anyone who breaks the law. But when they refuse to exercise that authority, what happens? Criminals keep on doing what they’re doing, ordinary citizens take the law into their own hands and become criminals in order to protect themselves from criminals, and anarchy results.

Do you see what I’m saying? As long as you stand around and let the Devil do what he jolly well pleases, he’ll jolly well do it. Brethren, you’ve got the authority. Use it against him and he’ll stop. He has to! Why? Because he’s under your authority. He has to listen to you and obey you. James puts it this way: Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

 

THE PROMISE

Jesus promised us that nothing shall by any means hurt you.

The word power, I said, is used twice in verse 19. The power that Christ gave you is exousía, which means authority.

But the power that Satan has is dúnamis, which means power, strength, or ability. Satan and his demons are powerful creatures. They’re not impotent or powerless by any means. They can do a lot of harm and damage.

But the promise that God’s given you is, none of them and none of what they can do, shall hurt you. The reading in the Greek is enlightening and profound. Jesus said, Behold, I have given you the authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and on all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you, not at all.FN

Brethren, no matter what Satan’s trying to do to you—no matter what he’s trying to put on your body or put in your mind—the promise is, none of that shall hurt you. Not at all! Do you know why? Because Satan doesn’t have the authority, right, or permission to hurt you!

The difference between authority and power is very enlightening. I believe it’ll strengthen your faith. Power is the ability to do something. But just because a person has the ability to do something doesn’t automatically mean he’s got the right or permission to do it.

*Policemen have the ability to storm into your house and drag you off to jail. But, in the absence of an arrest warrant or court order, they don’t do it, they can’t do it, because they don’t have the right or permission to do it.

*A grown up man has the ability to beat up a little child. But he doesn’t do it because he doesn’t have the right to do it; it would be morally wrong and unconscionable for him to do what he can do with respect to a little child.

*Our military can go into any part of the world and wreak havoc on our enemies. The military's arsenal of weaponry are truly frightening, effective, and destructive! But do you know what? The military can't do whatever it wants to do because it doesn't have the authority to do it. Unless the President issues the command, the military stays put.

Do you see what I mean? Having the power to do something doesn’t automatically mean you can do it. You may have the power, strength, or ability to do something, but you still can’t do it if you don’t have permission to do it.FN

In much the same way, the Devil has a lot of power to hurt you, but he can’t do it because he doesn’t have God’s permission to hurt you. Men do things even when they don’t have a right to do them. They break laws. But Satan doesn’t. You see, Satan can’t do anything to you without first getting God’s permission.FN

HE MAY HAVE GOD'S PERMISSION TO TEMPT AND TRY YOU, BUT HE'LL NEVER HAVE GOD'S PERMISSION TO HURT YOU, GOD WILL NEVER GIVE HIM PERMISSION TO HURT YOU. In His words, nothing shall hurt you.

What does hurt mean? Well, the promise that nothing shall by any means hurt us doesn’t mean Satan can’t ever inflict pain or suffering upon us. Obviously, he does it quite a bit as is evidenced in the physical trials we go through. God gives Satan permission to afflict and inflict (Job 1 and 2). The promise, then, doesn’t mean we won’t ever suffer sickness or pain.

What it does mean is, we can ask the Lord to deliver us from pain, or alleviate us of pain, in the midst of a trial. Jesus, you will remember, bore away all our sicknesses and pains at Calvary (Isaiah 53:4). No matter what Satan’s trying to do to you, brethren, you can resist his pain and afflictions in faith and stand fast on the promise that nothing shall by any means hurt you.

The promise not only means we can believe for the removal of those things that hurt us: it means the suffering or pain will not kill us, it will not last, it won’t be something that we’ll have to live with for the rest of our life; the suffering, pain, or affliction will pass, it’s only temporary, it’s only a testing of our faith.

Satan afflicted Job with boils, but what happened? Job was healed! He didn’t live with boils for the rest of his life!

The promise, my friends, means you don’t have to live with Satan’s pain for the rest of your life. Stand fast for complete healing and recovery! Confess the promise, my friends, and remind the Devil that he can’t hurt you, he doesn’t have the right to do it. That’s God’s Word, that’s the promise, and he has to obey it in Jesus’ Name.

 

THE EXHORTATION

Jesus exhorts us to rejoice in the fact that our names are written down in the Lamb’s book of life. Salvation, my friends, is a far greater joy and possession than authority over the hosts of Satan. Our joy is truly in what God has done for us—not what we can do for Him, neither in what we can do to Satan. Thank you God for writing our names in glory!

 

Luke 10:21-22, In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit,FN and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. {22} All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. Luke 10:21-22 (CEV), At that same time, Jesus felt the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit, and he said: My Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I am grateful that you hid all this from wise and educated people and showed it to ordinary people. Yes, Father, that is what pleased you. (22) My Father has given me everything, and he is the only one who knows the Son. The only one who really knows the Father is the Son. But the Son wants to tell others about the Father, so that they can know him too.

 

Jesus rejoiced in the success of the disciples’ ministry and thanked the Father for His wisdom in revealing truth to babes. Babes would receive it, but not the wise. In Paul’s words, For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).

Friends, IF YOU'RE TOO SMART TO BELIEVE OR RECEIVE THE THINGS THAT GOD IS SAYING, GOD WILL EVENTUALLY WITHHOLD THE TRUTH FROM YOU. Believe me, that's a pretty frightful position to be in--to be incapable of finding out, or knowing, the truth.

 

Luke 10:23-24, And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately,FN Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: {24} For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Luke 10:23-24 (NLT), Then when they were alone, He turned to the disciples and said, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen. (24) I tell you, many prophets and kings longed to see what you see, but they didn't see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn't hear it."

 

Jesus closes this incident with the seventy by telling them how blest they were to see and hear the things they were seeing and hearing from the Lord. Many saints of God down through the centuries would have loved to be alive and around during Jesus’ day to hear and see the Lord. Truly, that generation of believers in Jesus’ time was a privileged generation!

Our time is coming too! One day we’ll not only see Jesus, but we’ll be with Him forever and ever. Hallelujah! But until then, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for! Brethren, thank the Lord for eyes that see, thank the Lord for ears that hear! It’s a gift from God and without it we would not see, hear, understand, or even desire spiritual things. Brethren, don’t trade in your eyes or ears for anything!

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 10:25-28, And, behold, a certain lawyerFN stood up,FN and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?FN {26} He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? {27} And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind;FN and thy neighbour as thyself.FN {28} And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.FN Luke 10:25-28 (CEV), An expert in the Law of Moses stood up and asked Jesus a question to see what he would say. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to have eternal life?" (26) Jesus answered, "What is written in the Scriptures? How do you understand them?" (27) The man replied, "The Scriptures say, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.' They also say, 'Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.' " (28) Jesus said, "You have given the right answer. If you do this, you will have eternal life."

 

One day while Jesus was teaching, a man learned in the Law asked Him what he should do to obtain eternal life. The man really wasn’t sincere. He was testing Jesus to see if Jesus really knew what the right answer was.

To the man’s dismay, however, Jesus pointed him to the Word and put the question back on him. The Word, you see, has the answer. The answer to life’s perplexing and weighty questions isn’t found in other religions, the occult, philosophy, or even in man’s religious education or tradition. Jesus didn’t point the man to rabbinical theology. The Word of God alone has the answer. Friends, SEARCH OUT THE SCRIPTURE FOR IT’S THERE WHERE YOU’LL FIND THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTIONS YOU HAVE.

Now the man’s response was really quite enlightening and admirable. He correctly summed up the entire Law in the two great commandments to love God with all of one’s being and to love one’s neighbor as well. He could have said a lot of other things like, Don’t commit idolatry, Honor the Sabbath, Always keep yourself ceremonially clean, and offer your sacrifices to the Lord. There were a lot of things the man could have said. But he correctly summed up the essence of the Law which, it turned out, was what was required to obtain eternal life. The man, I am saying, knew something.

But, brethren, it’s one thing to know the truth and another thing to walk in its light. Jesus just doesn’t say, What does the Word say? He goes on and says, This do, and you will live. Brethren, we know so much. But are we walking in the light of everything we know?

Loving our neighbor is one such example. What we see here in the text of Scripture is, our love for God is not to be divorced from our love for our neighbor. That is, our love isn’t to be confined to God alone. God doesn’t want us to love just Him alone. To the contrary, He wants us to love our fellow men too.

Brethren, IT'S POSSIBLE FOR US TO LOVE GOD AND LOVE OUR FELLOW MEN AT THE SAME TIME. Stated differently, IT'S POSSIBLE FOR US TO LOVE OTHERS AND NOT BE WRONG ABOUT LOVING THEM. Brethren, God commands us to love others. Loving them, then, cannot be wrong.

Sadly, we've seen what an unbalanced, unscriptural message of love has done in the Church at large. People end up compromising the truth and watering down the demands of the Gospel. Love has so often been equated with ecumenism and the abandonment of both doctrine and morals. And because of what we’ve seen, many of us don’t want to have anything to do with the message of love. For all practical purposes, we cut the commandment to Love your neighbour as yourself out of our Bibles. We’ve become leery of loving others, especially those who’ve left the church and the message of faith and the crucified life.

BUT THE MISUSE OF THE MESSAGE DOESN'T DO AWAY WITH THE TRUTH OF THAT MESSAGE. The fact that people used the message of love to compromise or water down the truth doesn’t do away with the commandment to love our neighbors.

After we’re done citing all the reasons and excuses we have for not loving this person or that, for not loving this group of people or that; the Scripture still stands as it is written, boldly declaring to us, Thus says the Lord, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Brethren, IT'S NOT WRONG OR SINFUL TO LOVE OTHER PEOPLE! As we’ll soon see in the parable of the good Samaritan, it doesn’t matter who they are, what they believe, or how they live. God says, Love them.

But how can we do that? They’re deceivers and heretics, they’re sodomites, they worship a false god. We’ve got all kinds of laws against loving people like these. We’re not supposed to love some people!

But, brethren, is this what God says? Is it against God’s Law to love people, or to love some people, or to love all people? What is written in the law? how do you read it?

The Scripture responds, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, {23} Meekness, temperance: AGAINST SUCH THERE IS NO LAW(Galatians 5:22-23).

Brethren, it’s not against God’s Law to love people! I’ve searched the Scriptures and the exhaustive concordances to find any verse in the Bible where God commands us not to love a certain people or person and I frankly have not found so much as one verse.FN

I read where God tells us not to fellowship with some people, nor pray for some people, nor receive some people into our homes and bid them God speed. But I’ve not read where God tells us not to love even these people whom He has forbidden us from fellowshipping with and receiving.

THE PROHIBITION AGAINST FELLOWSHIP ISN'T A PROHIBITION AGAINST LOVE. God, brethren, wants us to love. Not hate. But love even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

Who are our enemies? The deceiver? The one who’s left our church? The one who hates us and persecutes us? The one who doesn’t agree with us? The one who’s rejected the truth? Name them all, brethren. Name all the ones you don’t like, the ones you can’t stand, and God still says, Love them!

Brethren, IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW MUCH WE LOVE OUR LORD: OUR LOVE IS VASTLY INCOMPLETE WITHOUT A CORRESPONDING LOVE FOR OUR FELLOW MEN. WE CANNOT TRULY LOVE GOD WITHOUT LOVING OUR NEIGHBOR TOO. GOD, BRETHREN, WANTS US TO LOVE HIM AND LOVE OTHER PEOPLE AS WELL.

 

Luke 10:29, But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? Luke 10:29 (BBE), But he, desiring to put himself in the right, said to Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

 

Jesus told this lawyer to love God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love his neighbor as well. As far as he was concerned, he was already obeying these two great commandments! The only question that remained was, Who is my neighbor? In other words, Who am I supposed to love?

Now the Jews defined their neighbor as being their fellow Jews. Non-Jews, or Gentiles, weren’t neighbors, hence, they weren’t to be loved. Many of the Jews had such a bad, unloving, unkind attitude towards Gentiles that they eventually came to be known as haters of mankind. The Pharisees, for example, considered only their fellow Pharisees to be their neighbors. Commoners or unlearned Jews were accursed to them, John 7:49. The Essenes of the Qumrum community considered anyone who wasn’t a part of their community or sect to be “sons of darkness.”FN

I’m wondering if maybe we’re making the same mistake today and narrowing our definition of neighbor to such an extent that we end up excluding many people from being our neighbor when, in fact, they really are our neighbor.

Many Christian scholars believe that the Jews’ unloving attitude towards Gentiles grew out of their recognition of the fact that they had been separated by God from all the Gentile nations. Separation gave rise to superiority or self-righteousness and it also gave rise to contempt, even hatred, of the Gentiles.

This was something that God never intended! Separation was never meant to give rise to hatred. God even told the Jews to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:19 (NIV).FN

I can’t help but wonder if perhaps we’ve done the same thing to deceivers, heretics, people who’ve left our church, sexual perverts, Islamics, and the such like. I know these people aren’t right. They’re wrong. But like the Jews, have we used God’s separation as a justification not to love them?

The lawyer thought he knew who his neighbor was and he wanted to know if Jesus felt the same way. To the lawyer’s surprise or dismay, however, Jesus broke the narrow-minded, exclusivism of the Jews and expanded the meaning of neighbor to include non-Jews alike. Read on.

 

Luke 10:30-37, And Jesus answering said,FN A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho,FN and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. {31} And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. {32} And likewise a Levite,FN when he was at the place, came and looked on him, 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 on him, {34} And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn,FN and took care of him. {35} And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence,FN and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. {36} Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

{37} And he said, He that showed mercy on him.

Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Luke 10:30-37 (NLT), Jesus replied with a story: "A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. (31) "By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. (32) A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

(33) "Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. (34) Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. (35) The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, 'Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I'll pay you the next time I'm here.' (36) "Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?" Jesus asked.

(37) The man replied, "The one who showed him mercy."

Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same."

 

Who is our neighbor? Jesus answers by telling this story of a good Samaritan. There was a Jew traveling on the road to Jericho when he was ambushed, robbed, and beaten by brigands who left him half dead. A priest came by, and then a Levite, but neither of them were willing to help the stricken traveler.

As it often goes, THOSE WHO ARE THE MOST RELIGIOUS OR PIOUS ARE APT TO BE THE LEAST CARING, COMPASSIONATE, OR UNDERSTANDING, OF OTHERS. THOSE WHO YOU WOULD EXPECT TO BE MOST LIKELY TO HELP ARE OFTEN THOSE WHO PASS BY WITHOUT STOPPING TO HELP.

Brethren, are we like this Levite and priest? HAVE WE BECOME TOO GOD-CENTERED AND SPIRITUAL THAT WE'VE LOST THE DESIRE TO HELP OTHERS, EVEN OUR BRETHREN, MUCH LESS A STRANGER? HAVE WE COME TO LOVE GOD SO MUCH THAT WE'VE FORGOTTEN TO LOVE PEOPLE TOO?

 

REASONS NOT TO HELP

Like many of us today, these religious professionals had their own reasons for not helping.

(1) Maybe they were scared for their own lives. Who knows, maybe these brigands were still in the hills and were ready to attack again. A common tactic was for a brigand to play dead on the road and when passers by would stop to investigate, the rest of the band would descend on them and rob them. The course of wisdom, you see, was to move on and move along as quickly as possible so that you’re not the next victim of highway robbery.

Could it be, brethren, that fear for our own safety is keeping us from helping others? WE’VE GOT TO DEAL WITH FEAR BEFORE WE CAN EFFECTIVELY MINISTER TO OTHERS.

 

(2) Maybe the priest and Levite didn’t want to contaminate themselves with what looked to them to be a dead body. Once they touched a dead body, they were ritually unclean for seven days and then after that, they would have had to return to Jerusalem to offer a sacrifice for ritual purification, Numbers 19:11-22. Ritual uncleanness was a big deal and perhaps these men just didn’t want to bother with it, especially if the injured man was unknown to them.

You know, helping others can be a real bother or pain. It takes more time than we’ve got, we’ll end up spending a small fortune to help them, that we really don’t want to make the sacrifice of time or money.

Brethren, it isn’t sinful to minister to sinners. It isn’t defiling to minister to the defiled. And it isn’t oppressing to minister to the oppressed.

 

(3) Perhaps the priest and Levite had a schedule they had to keep. Perhaps they had an appointment that could not be postponed or delayed. Maybe they just wanted to get home and be with family again. Perhaps we just don’t have time to bother with people we don’t know. We’ve got other more important things to do. We’re in a hurry. Brethren, schedule or no schedule, don’t be too busy or too in a hurry to help. Take time to help. Don’t be like the Levite and priest! The legacy that they left for posterity was not that they were on time for an appointment that day, but that they refused to help someone who needed help.

 

(4) Maybe we don’t help because we perceive the situation is beyond helping. The guy’s dead, or as good as dead, there’s nothing we can possibly do. Friends, you don’t know that until you stop and get a close look.

 

(5) Maybe we don’t help because we’re too critical of the unfortunate: “It’s his fault he got bushwhacked! He should have known better! He should have been more careful! He deserved what he got!”

Brethren, WE CAN’T MINISTER TO PEOPLE IF WE’RE CRITICAL OF THEM. Fault or no fault, the dying need our help—not our criticism; they need our oil and wine, not our lip. Friends, WE’VE GOT TO GET RID OF HARD-HEARTED, LACK OF UNDERSTANDING, INTOLERANT, COMPASSIONLESS CRITICISM BECAUSE IT’LL STOP US FROM MINISTERING TO OTHERS.

 

(6) Maybe we don’t help because we think the guy’s under God’s chastisement or judgment and we don’t want to interfere with what God’s doing to him. Maybe God’s teaching this guy a lesson, so we’d better stay out of his troubles.

 

(7) Maybe we don’t help because we don’t think we’re qualified to help. We don’t know what to say. We don’t know what to do. We don’t have the resources to help. We can’t afford it.

Brethren, maybe we can’t help in some ways, or in the ways that’s most needed. But we can still help in other ways, however small. A call, a note, a spoken word, a smile, an assuring touch, a prayer, staying until help comes, and many more, are some of the things we can do to show our neighbor we care and we love them. Yes, it’s the thought that counts. But the little things we do count as well.

Remember the lad with five loaves of bread and two small fishes? He didn’t have much. But in God’s hand it ended up making a big difference for so many people.

Brethren, DON’T UNDERESTIMATE WHAT LITTLE YOU HAVE OR WHAT LITTLE YOU CAN DO! THE LITTLEST THINGS CAN MAKE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE TO THOSE WHO NEED HELP.

 

LOVE HELPS

After the priest and Levite passed by, along came a Samaritan who many Jews despised and hated. He helped the injured Jew, bound up his wounds, put some clothes back on him, and took him to an inn where he could better take care of him.

Brethren, do you know what it was that set the Samaritan off from the priest and Levite? The Samaritan had something that these religious men didn’t have and that was compassion. Love. A heart and hands that care. Love, brethren, makes the difference. It’s the difference between passing by and stopping, between doing nothing and doing something.

Brethren, WE NEED LOVE IN ORDER TO HELP PEOPLE. WE NEED LOVE BEFORE WE CAN MINISTER TO PEOPLE. IN TRUTH, IT'S NOT FAITH WE LACK, OR AN ANOINTING, OR A COMMISSION FROM GOD TO HELP. WE LACK LOVE AND THAT'S WHY WE DON'T MINISTER OR HELP.

O brethren, we’ve got a lot to learn about love! The Samaritan loved. As we humans see it, his love made him a better man than the priest or Levite. Do you know what all these things say to me? Four things.

 

(1) LOVE DOES SOMETHING. First, love manifests itself in deeds or actions. All of us can say we love. But true love isn’t in words alone. TRUE LOVE DOES SOMETHING. It does what it can. LOVE, BRETHREN, ISN'T LOVE IF LOVE DOESN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT THE NEED.

John puts it this way: If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God's love be in that person? (18) Dear children, let's not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions (1 John 3:17-18 NLT). God, brethren, wants us to love. But He doesn’t want us to just say it, talk about it, or preach on it. He wants us to do it! In the end, LOVE WITHOUT ACTIONS IS REALLY NOT LOVE AT ALL.

 

(2) LOVE BREAKS BARRIERS. Love breaks and transcends human barriers. IT HELPS REGARDLESS OF THE NEED AND REGARDLESS OF THE IDENTITY OF THE NEEDY.

Here was a Samaritan and a Jew who didn’t have any dealings with each other (John 4:9). Custom and culture dictated that the one didn’t help the other.

We’ve got all kinds of laws that say we’re not supposed to love or help certain people. But love boldly defies custom and culture. LOVE DOES WHAT ISN’T CUSTOMARILY DONE. You see, brethren, LOVE DOESN’T SEE COLOR, NATIONALITY, OR SOCIAL STATUS. IT DOESN’T EVEN SEE RELIGION.

The Jew wasn’t a Samaritan. He didn’t believe what the Samaritan believed. The Samaritans’ Bible consisted only of the Pentateuch and even then, the text was corrupted so as to minimize the importance of Sinai and magnify the centrality of Gerizim as the God-ordained place of worship (see John 4:20). The Samaritans disregarded the rest of the Old Testament, as well as Oral Law or rabbinical tradition. In a way, a Samaritan was as good as a heretic to any Jew. But none of these things kept the Samaritan from helping. Love, you see, sees only one thing and that is, the need. And it fills the need in whatever way it can.

 

(3) LOVE INVOLVES SACRIFICE. The sacrifice was the Samaritan’s time and money. He gave his oil and wine for the care of an injured Jew. He put his own clothes on the injured Jew. He even offered to pay whatever more was required for the innkeeper to take care of him. The Samaritan took care of the entire bill. The injured Jew didn’t have to pay a cent!

Brethren, IF YOU'RE NOT WILLING TO MAKE PERSONAL SACRIFICES YOU'LL END UP NOT MINISTERING OR HELPING. MINISTERING INVOLVES SELF-SACRIFICE FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS.

What kind of sacrifices? Not just sacrifices of money or goods, but sacrifices of time. What kind of schedules or appointments did this Samaritan have? He was on a journey too and the fact that he intended to repay the innkeeper for whatever more costs were incurred gives indication that the Samaritan traveled this road somewhat frequently. Maybe he was a businessman going to Jericho for business.

We place a lot of priority on our time, our schedules, and appointments. But in this Samaritan we see that love’s helping hand is a greater priority. NEED TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER SCHEDULE. SOMEONE IN NEED TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER SOMEONE WHO ISN’T IN NEED. Brethren, if you’re going to minister to people you’ve got to take time to minister and not be so bound to a schedule that you’ve got no time to help.

You know, this priest and Levite went down in history—not because they kept an appointment, but because they didn’t love or help.

Brethren, WE DON’T WANT TO GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS BEING A PERSON WHO WAS ALWAYS TOO BUSY TO HELP.

 

(4) LOVE SOMETIMES INVOLVES RISK. Lastly, love sometimes involves risk. The Samaritan risked his safety and possessions when he stopped to help the injured Jew. The brigands might well have been in the mountains still, waiting to descend on him. But do you know what? The Samaritan stopped and took the time to help. It wasn’t just five minutes. Judging from everything he did, he spent a good amount of time out there on the road, getting the injured victim fit enough to move.

Brethren, GOD TAKES CARE OF THE RISKS YOU TAKE. He won’t allow some things to happen. If He told you to help, then He’ll make a way for you to help without you getting bushwhacked or hurt.

The Samaritan risked not only his safety, but he also risked the injured Jew’s ire. Now you would think that a dying man would appreciate any kind of help he could get. Not so with many a Jew! They would rather die than be helped by a Samaritan! Now if this Jew ever came to and saw that a Samaritan was helping him, he might have had some choice words to hurl at him. He might have refused the Samaritan’s help and told him to get lost. Some people, in essence, are too proud, some are even too spiritual, to receive any kind of help from anyone. The Samaritan, I’m trying to say, helped even in a situation where the help might not have been wanted.

Brethren, DON'T PRESUME TO HELP WHEN YOUR HELP ISN'T WANTED. OFFER IT. But don't force yourself on another: respect their wish or desire. At least the person in need will see your love and care. BUT AS LONG AS IT'S NOT REFUSED, AS LONG AS NOTHING'S SAID, LET LOVE DIRECT YOUR HANDS AND FEET TO HELP.

 

Luke 10:36-37, Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? {37} And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Luke 10:36-37 (NLT), "Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?" Jesus asked. (37) The man replied, "The one who showed him mercy." Then Jesus said, "Yes, now go and do the same."

 

Jesus closes by asking the lawyer who he thought was a neighbor to the injured man. The Samaritan, of course.

Brethren, a neighbor is your fellow men, regardless of race or religion, regardless of social status or wealth. A neighbor is anyone who’s in need.

What would God have us do? He commands us, Go and do thou likewise. May God help us to be good Samaritans. Fill our hearts, O God, with love!

 

 

MARY AND MARTHA INVITE JESUS FOR A MEAL

BETHANY

 

Luke 10:38-42, Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village:FN and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.FN {39} And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

{40} But Martha was cumberedFN about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?FN bid her therefore that she help me.

{41} And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art carefulFN and troubled about many things: {42} But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Luke 10:38-42 (NLT), As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. (39) Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what He taught.

(40) But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to You that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me."

(41) But the Lord said to her, "My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! (42) There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her."

 

Jesus’ travels took Him and the apostolic company to Martha’s home in the town of Bethany, just a couple of miles from Jerusalem.

While Jesus was teaching, Martha busied herself with cooking and setting the table. She wanted to put on a nice meal for the Lord. Besides that, cooking for at least fifteen people was a major task, assuming that none of the seventy other disciples were with Jesus at this time.FN

Eventually, Martha became exasperated that she was doing the work all by herself while her sister Mary sat and listened intently to the things Jesus was saying: she needed Mary to help her. So she asked Jesus to intervene and send Mary into the kitchen to help her.

But to her dismay, Jesus didn’t do as she requested.FN Mary chose to sit at His feet and listen and He wouldn’t stop her from doing that. As far as He was concerned, there was really only one thing needful and that was for people to hear what He had to say. In fact, it was so needful that He would rather have them sit and learn than cook for Him and serve Him; feeding them was more important than being fed by them.

Brethren, WHEN YOU'RE HUNGRY FOR GOD'S WORD, GOD WILL FEED YOU! HE WON'T WITHHOLD HIS WORD FROM YOU. And He won’t fault you for dropping what you were doing to come to Him and listen and learn.

 

IT'S NOT ALRIGHT TO NEGLECT WORK

What is Jesus teaching us here? For one thing, He isn’t teaching us that it’s alright for the Mary’s among us to neglect earthly or domestic responsibilities. We’ve all got a job to do and Jesus wants us to do it.

*To the women, the Lord commands the older women to teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, {5} To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed (Titus 2:3-5, see also 1 Timothy 5:11-14).

*To the men, our Lord ordains, For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. {11} For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. {12} Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

Jesus, brethren, doesn’t want us to forsake or neglect our earthly, familial responsibilities.

 

IT'S NOT ALRIGHT TO NEGLECT THE LORD

Jesus isn’t teaching us that it’s alright for the Martha’s among us to get so involved in our earthly responsibilities that we neglect our time with the Lord.

Martha was busy cooking and serving. Someone had to do it. Note that Jesus didn’t reprove her for doing what was rightfully her job to do. What Jesus objected to was the fact that Martha was too engrossed in the details of her responsibilities—mind you, in the details of doing a good thing for the Lord—that she lost sight of what was truly more needful and important.

Imagine this. Here was the famous Teacher and Miracle Worker in her own home teaching and instead of Martha taking advantage of this opportunity to listen to Him, she was out in the kitchen cooking! She wasn’t paying attention! It was as if her job was more important than listening to the Son of God teach!

Brethren, IT'S POSSIBLE TO BE SO ENGROSSED IN WHAT YOU'RE DOING THAT YOU LOSE SIGHT OF WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT AND NEEDFUL, YOU LOSE SIGHT OF SPIRITUAL VALUES AND PRIORITIES, and you miss out on what the Lord’s saying to the Church or doing in the Church. To your unawares, you’ve allowed the responsibilities and cares of this life to become more important than your time with the Lord.

 

ONE THING NEEDFUL

What Jesus is teaching here in the text of Scripture is, there is really only one thing needful. We’ve all got a lot of responsibilities to fulfill on this Earth. But of all these responsibilities, there’s only one thing needful and that is to spend time with our Lord.

Why is that so necessary and important? Because it’s in the presence of the Lord where you gain knowledge of His will and direction for your life. When your entire being is focused on the Lord you become attentive to His Spirit speaking to you.

Naturally, when you’re occupied with a task in the kitchen or the factory, you’re not as apt to hear God’s voice speaking to you because you’re not concentrating on listening to Him, rather, you’re concentrating on doing your duty at hand.

*Being in God’s presence is your chance to worship and extol the Lord. As you do that, you’ll find many times that God’s Spirit ministers to you, He revives, renews, and encourages you.

*When you read your Bible you find out more things about God that you didn’t know before. The knowledge of God’s Word gives you discernment between what’s right and what’s wrong; it builds up your faith, it nourishes your soul.

*Just as you eat two or three times a day in order to sustain your body, your time with the Lord is your spiritual mealtime where your soul is nourished and strengthened. In fact, one sure cause of a weak Christian is his or her neglect of a daily, private, time with the Lord. NEGLECTING TO COMMUNE WITH THE LORD MAKES YOU WEAK!

*Prayer, Bible study, and worship gets you focused on the important things in life. It’s so easy to get carried away with everyday duties that we lose sight of what’s really important.

WHEN YOU GO INTO GOD'S PRESENCE YOU'RE REMINDED ONCE AGAIN THAT THE THINGS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD ARE WHAT MATTER MOST IN LIFE; GOD'S PRESENCE KEEPS YOU FROM BEING CARRIED AWAY WITH THE THINGS OF THIS EARTH.

Because there is really only one thing needful in life, then it’s important for you not to neglect this one thing. There are a lot of things you do everyday because they have to be done. In fact, you can’t afford to go without doing them. Included in this list of responsibilities, at the head of this list, should be your time with the Lord. Adopt this mentality that you can’t afford to go through a day without spending time alone with the Lord.

WHAT'S NEEDFUL IS NEEDFUL AND WHAT'S NEEDFUL CAN'T BE NEGLECTED OR LEFT UNDONE. BRETHREN, YOU'VE GOT TO SPEND TIME WITH THE LORD EVERYDAY!

 

BALANCING DOMESTIC AND SPIRITUAL RESPONSIBILITIES

Another thing Jesus is teaching us here is balance. We’ve got to balance our earthly responsibilities with our spiritual responsibilities. He wants us to do our job and take time out for Him as well. In other words, there’s a time to work and a time to worship, a time to cook and a time to commune, a time to labor and a time to listen, a time for loved ones and a time for the Lord.

Mary, I believe, had this sense of balance. She helped Martha out in the kitchen, but when it came time for Jesus to teach, she dropped what she was doing and put first things first.

Like Mary, WE NEED TO LEARN HOW TO MANAGE OUR TIME, SCHEDULES, AND RESPONSIBILITIES IN SUCH A WAY THAT WE LEAVE TIME FOR THE LORD.

How do we do that? Well, here are some things we can do.

(1) MAKE TIME FOR THE LORD. There may be so many things you need to do in the course of a day that you literally have no time for the Lord. Brethren, you’ve got to make time! Set time apart and devote that time each day for the Lord. It may be in the morning, at noon, or night; it may be fifteen minutes, an hour, or longer. Choose a certain place of your house and sanctify that as your holy sanctuary with the Lord. See it as a sacred appointment, a sacred meeting, between you and God alone. Discipline yourself to keep this appointment; make your time with the Lord your utmost priority.

 

(2) DON'T MAKE PLANS THAT WOULD INTERFERE WITH YOUR TIME WITH THE LORD. Whether it’s a time of daily, private devotion or time gathered together with the church, don’t make plans that would take you away from the Lord. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to turn people down. Learn to say No.

 

(3) IDENTIFY YOUR TIME ROBBERS AND CUT BACK. Like Martha in the kitchen, there are probably some things that you spend too much time on. Identify the things that take up a lot of your time and aren’t really essential. Maybe it’s the garden or the flower bed. Maybe it’s reading, sports, or Facebook. Maybe you spend a lot of time keeping your house immaculate or your lawn manicured.

Now these things may not be bad, in and of themselves. In fact, they may be good things. Martha, after all, was cooking for the Lord! You need to proportion your time and discipline yourself not to spend too much time on these things.

Remember that the Devil uses innocent things, interests, or pursuits to rob you of your time alone with the Lord. Recognize that there are other more important things to do with your time, namely, that one thing needful, which is to spend time with the Lord.

 

(4) IF NECESSARY, FORSAKE THESE TIME ROBBERS AND GIVE THEM UP TO THE LORD. Be willing to make sacrifices in order to keep first things first. When Mary sat at Jesus’ feet she had to sacrifice her kitchen work to do it. Perhaps unbeknownst to her, she sacrificed her sister’s ire to sit and learn at Jesus’ feet.

ANY TIME SPENT WITH THE LORD INVOLVES SOME KIND OF SACRIFICE. If you can’t cut back on your time robbers because they’ve got such a hold on you, then cut them out entirely. For example, if the job is keeping you away from church, give it up. If the books you enjoy reading are keeping you away from the Bible, quit borrowing, buying, and reading them. Get them out of the house if they’re too much of a temptation to you. Do whatever you've got to do, do whatever it takes, to put the Lord first. Don't let your duties or interests take you away from the Lord!

 

(5) THE LACK OF INTEREST OR DESIRE IN SPENDING TIME WITH THE LORD INDICATES THE NEED FOR TRUE SALVATION, DELIVERANCE, OR REPENTANCE. If you’re truly saved you’ll want to spend time with the Lord.

*If you can’t get around to studying or praying, then there may well be a hindering spirit working against you. In fact, there may be a spirit of oppression. Your excessive devotion to a time robber may well be an oppressing demon that’s keeping you so engrossed and occupied that you have no time or interest for the Lord.

*When you have no heart for the Lord it’s a sure sign that you’ve left your first love and have become complacent or backslidden. Brethren, when you love somebody you want to spend time with that somebody; you love being with the one you love. WHEN YOU HAVE NO PLEASURE, DELIGHT, OR ENTHUSIASM IN SPIRITUAL MATTERS, SOMETHING BAD HAS HAPPENED TO YOU. You’re in need or repenting and returning to your first love, Revelation 2:1-7.

 

(6) LOOK FOR WAYS TO SAVE TIME AND WORK. One of the best ways I know to do that is be organized. So much time is wasted undoing the results of disorganization: you pick up clothes strewn all over the house when the kids should have been taught to put them in the hamper in the first place; you run to the store at the last minute to buy an ingredient for the supper meal when you could have planned ahead for this meal and bought the ingredient when you did your regular grocery shopping; you spend a lot of time looking for the wrench because you didn’t put it in the toolbox when you used it the last time. Do you see what I mean? Organization saves you a lot of valuable time. It gives you more time to do things and more time to spend with the Lord.

 

(7) WHEN IT'S TIME TO HEAD TO YOUR PRAYER CLOSET OR MEETING PLACE WITH THE LORD, DISCIPLINE YOURSELF TO STOP DOING WHATEVER IT IS YOU'RE DOING. Learn to drop what you’re doing. Recognize that these things can wait. If the task is something that can’t be stopped in process, but must be completed once it’s started, then don’t start a task when it’ll soon be time for you to be alone with the Lord.

 

(8) TRUST THE LORD TO WORK EVERYTHING ELSE OUT. There are a lot of things that need to get done. Like Martha, if you put these things first you’ll end up missing out on your time with the Lord.

Put the Lord first, drop what you’re doing, and learn to trust Him to work everything out. You and Mary could set the table after Jesus is done teaching, it doesn’t have to be done right now. Trust the Lord to make people understanding and considerate of your time with the Lord. Trust Him to bless the work of your hands. WHEN YOU PUT THE LORD FIRST, THE LORD WILL HONOR YOU AND WORK EVERYTHING OUT FOR YOU.

 

 

JESUS TEACHES HIS DISCIPLES HOW TO PRAY

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 11:1-4, And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him,FN Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. {2} And he said unto them, When ye pray, say,FN Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. {3} Give us day by day our daily bread. {4} And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. Luke 11:1-4 (NIV),  One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."  (2)  He said to them, "When you pray, say: "'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.  (3)  Give us each day our daily bread.  (4)  Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'"

 

The only thing the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to do was pray. They wanted to know how to pray and what words to say. They heard Him teach on a lot of subjects, they saw Him work a lot of miracles, but the thing they wanted to learn how to do was pray.

They saw Jesus go off by Himself to pray. Quite possibly, they never heard Jesus pray a private prayer. What was Jesus praying? What words was He using? The disciples wanted to know and so they asked Him.

Now that was really quite a commendable thing, but for us today it might not seem like such a big deal. When you pray, tell God what’s on your heart. But for a Jew, prayer was never this informal. You see, at this time in Jesus’ day and even down to the present day, Jewish prayers were quite liturgical. They were composed and written down for everyone else to recite. Prayer became a recitation of something you read and memorized out of a prayer book. It wasn’t something you came up with from the heart.

When these disciples of our Lord saw their Master praying they knew He wasn’t praying the Jewish prayers, otherwise they wouldn’t have asked Him to teach them to pray. They already knew their Jewish prayers.FN Rather, what intrigued the disciples was the fact that Jesus wasn’t praying the standard Jewish recitations. He was praying some other prayer and they wanted to know how to pray as their Lord prayed.

Now it’s important to note that Jesus isn’t teaching us a prayer that we can recite. He isn’t giving us a Christian version of Jewish prayer. The disciples, you will remember, didn’t ask Jesus to teach them a prayer: they asked Him to teach them to pray. And taught them He did.

 

PRAYER AS WORSHIP AND ADORATION. Prayer isn’t exclusively a matter of asking God for the things we need. First and foremost, prayer is worship. We bless God for who He is.

*Our Father. The relationship we have with God is first and foremost a Father-child relationship. God is our Father and we are His children. God, you see, is not an impersonal Being. Rather, as our Father, He is quite interested in our well-being. He cares. Therefore, we can go to Him in prayer with the assurance that, just as our earthly father cares about us, so does our heavenly Father.

*Hallowed be thy Name. Hallowed means to be separate from what is common or unclean and be dedicated, consecrated, or sanctified unto the Lord. The word is synonymous with holy, hence Holy is thy Name. By recognizing the holiness of God we take care not to misuse our relationship with the Father and ask Him for things that are unholy or sinful.

 

PRAYER AS INTERCESSION. We intercede for the things that concern other people or God Himself.

*Thy kingdom come. All God’s people long for the time when God will establish His literal, visible kingdom on this Earth. We have a future to look forward to!

*Thy will be done. Just as God does His will in Heaven, so we are to pray that His will be done on this Earth too. As Jesus prayed, Not my will, but thine be done; so we are to pray that in everything we desire and ask, God will do His will.

 

PRAYER AS SUPPLICATION. We ask God for the things that concern us.

*Give us this day our daily bread. We are to bring our needs or concerns to the Lord. Nothing is mundane or trivial to Him, nothing is too small or unimportant. WHAT MATTERS TO US MATTERS TO HIM TOO. While we have many needs, we are to take those needs one day at a time and concentrate on those things that we have need of today. Our prayer for daily bread is our recognition of our daily dependence on God for provision.

*Forgive us our sins. Sin is to be confessed and repented of, not swept under the carpet and minimized.

*Lead us not into temptation. God doesn’t tempt anyone, James 1:13. It’s Satan who does the tempting and he does it only as God allows Him to do it, Job 1 & 2. In Jesus’ case, the Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil, Matthew 4:1.

While there’ll be times in our lives when Satan will tempt us, we can nevertheless pray that God won’t lead or bring us into temptation. Brethren, if there’s an area in your life where you’re yet weak in and susceptible to sin or failure and you desire not to sin, you have every right on the basis of Scripture to ask God to spare you from temptation in this area and to deliver you from evil.FN

Prayer is one safeguard against temptation. Jesus said in Matthew 26:41, Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. When you pray this prayer you’re praying in accordance with God’s will, hence, you have the guarantee of God’s promise that He’ll answer your prayer and keep you from being tempted, 1 John 5:14-15.

*Deliver us from evil. The word deliver in the Greek means to drag out of danger, hence, to rescue or save. Brethren, IT MAY BE GOD’S WILL TO TRY YOU, BUT NEVER FORGET THAT IT’S ALSO HIS WILL TO SAVE YOU. Some people think that just because something bad has happened to them, that must mean it was God’s will for it to happen, hence, they mustn’t seek to be delivered out of it. But, brethren, this isn’t true! IT’S NOT SINFUL, WRONG, UNCHRISTIAN, OR IMMATURE, OF YOU TO ASK GOD TO DELIVER YOU. GOD HIMSELF TOLD YOU TO PRAY FOR DELIVERANCE! Endure your trials, resist your temptations, but pray for deliverance. It’s not God’s will for you to be overcome by evil!

 

 

THE PARABLE OF A FRIEND IN NEED

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 11:5-8, And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; {6} For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? {7} And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. {8} I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunityFN he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. Luke 11:5-8 (NLT), Then, teaching them more about prayer, He used this story: "Suppose you went to a friend's house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, (6) 'A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.' (7) And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, 'Don't bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can't help you.' (8) But I tell you this—though he won't do it for friendship's sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.

 

Hospitality was very important to the Jews. It was a legal obligation and sacred duty that the rabbis labored hard to instill in the hearts of the Jews. Whether a friend or a stranger was involved, people opened their homes to traveling visitors. To fail to do so was almost a criminal offence! Not being hospitable was something that a Jew just didn’t do!FN

Because Palestine was sunny and hot by day, many people preferred to travel by night. When this traveler came to the home of his friend by night his friend didn’t have any bread with which to feed him. This was an embarrassing situation to any host! So the friend went to his neighbor to see if he had any extra bread laying around.

Naturally, at midnight, you would expect your neighbor to be in bed. Many of the homes in Palestine were essentially one large room with one little window and an earthen floor. The room was divided into two parts or two levels: ground level and a raised platform where a charcoal stove burned all night. On cool evenings, the whole family would sleep around this stove to keep warm. They didn’t have beds like we do today. They slept on the floor on mats, often huddled together for additional warmth. Thus, for the householder to get up and answer the door was not only inconvenient, but it risked waking up the entire family. Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t do it—not even for a neighbor or friend! But because his neighbor was persistent and would not quit knocking, he would get up and give him as much bread as he needed—not because he wanted to help him, but rather, because he wanted to get rid of him!

So what is our Lord teaching us in this parable? Some people think that Jesus is teaching us to persist in prayer much like the neighbor persisted in knocking at the door. Indeed, the Lord teaches us to persist in prayer in other portions of the Gospel narratives and I believe a case could be made for persistence in the present text. Just as the persistent neighbor got the bread he wanted when he persisted in knocking, so PERSISTENCE GETS RESULTS: YOU GET WHAT YOU WANT WHEN YOU PERSIST IN PRAYER—providing, of course, you pray in accordance with God’s will.

While there’s something to be said about persistence in the present text, I believe the emphasis here is on the assurance of answered prayer. The parable, you see, is a contrast between the unwilling householder and God Himself. That is, if a hesitant, unwilling householder would get up at midnight in response to a neighbor’s incessant, shameless knocking; how much more will our willing, lovingly, heavenly Father gladly consent to answer our prayer! He’s not unwilling to help! He’s not bothered by our midnight cries. God, my friends, delights in helping His children in need.

 

Luke 11:9-13, And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. {10} For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. {11} If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? {12} Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? {13} If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? Luke 11:9-13 (NLT), "And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (10) For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (11) "You fathers—if your children ask [for bread, do you give them a stone? Or if they ask] for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? (12) Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! (13) So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him."

 

GOD WANTS YOU TO ASK.

Because God is unlike a hesitant, unwilling householder, He encourages us to ask for whatever it is we need. In fact, the verb in the Greek is imperative, which means God actually commands us to ask, seek, and knock! Now this says something to us. When God has to command us to ask, it’s revelatory of the fact that His people are unwilling or hesitant to ask, they don’t want to ask, and so God has to command them to ask. God’s people have all kinds of needs and yet, why is it many are hesitant or unwilling to ask?

 

(1) GOD'S INTERESTED! Some don’t ask because they don’t think people should bother the Lord with their earthly, petty concerns. God, to them, isn’t interested in the mundane things of life.

But, brethren, this isn’t a right perspective of God! Do you remember how Jesus taught us to pray? After this manner therefore pray ye...Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:9,11). God’s interested in the things we need from day to day, He’s interested in the things we need to get by today. Petty, earthly, mundane things.

Jesus went on to say in Matthew 7:7, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

He said in John 15:7, If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

And in John 16:24 He told us, Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

THE FACT THAT JESUS SPENT SO MUCH OF HIS TIME TELLING US TO ASK IS AN INDICATION TO US THAT GOD REALLY DOES WANT US TO ASK.

 

(2) IT ISN'T CARNAL TO ASK! Some people don’t ask because they think they’re being carnal to ask. When you ask God for a dryer, a new sofa, or a freezer that really works, some people think that this is being carnal and so, they don’t ask God for these things.

But brethren, IT'S NOT SINFUL OR WRONG FOR YOU TO ASK GOD FOR WHATEVER IT IS YOU DESIRE OR NEED! It’s not carnal to ask! God Himself commands you to ask! Certainly, people sometimes ask for carnal reasons. But do you know what? God doesn’t answer their prayer! James 4:3 (NLT) tells us, And even when you ask, you don't get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

Brethren, it’s possible to ask with the wrong motives. But just because you ask doesn’t automatically mean you’re wrong every time for asking! Just because you have a need or desire, just because you suffer lack, doesn’t automatically mean you’re carnal. If we didn’t need anything Jesus wouldn’t have taught and commanded us to ask. And if He knew it would be carnal to ask He wouldn’t have told us to ask. Do you see what I mean?

IT'S POSSIBLE TO PRAY FOR THE THINGS YOU DESIRE OR NEED WITHOUT BEING CARNAL! That includes the washer, dryer, car, house, carpet, money, clothes, food, or whatever it is you desire. Brethren, IT'S GOD'S WILL FOR YOUR NEEDS AND DESIRES TO BE MET!

 

(3) GOD WANTS YOU TO BE PROSPEROUS, NOT POOR! Finally, some people don’t ask God for the things they need because they think it’s God’s will for them to be poor. Prosperity, they believe, makes for poor Christians, the love of money is the root of all evil, therefore, God doesn’t want His people to be prosperous.FN So people learn not to ask. They learn to live without.

But what does God say? In 3 John 2 He says, Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. Brethren, it’s God’s will for you to be prosperous—not so that your wealth can turn you away from the Lord, but prosperous as your soul prospers.

IF YOU'RE A RIGHTEOUS, OBEDIENT, HOLY, GOD-FEARING CHRISTIAN, THEN IT'S GOD'S WILL THAT YOU PROSPER. PROSPERITY, NOT POVERTY, IS THE LOT OF THE PIOUS.

The Psalmist echoes this truth in Psalm 35:27, Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant. The Psalmist goes on to say in Psalm 37:4, Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Brethren, IT PLEASES GOD TO BLESS YOU WITH THE DESIRES OF YOUR HEART WHEN YOUR HEART DELIGHTS IN HIM. It isn’t wrong for you to have the desires of your heart! It isn’t wrong for you to ask!

 

THE ASSURANCE OF AN ANSWER.

God not only wants us to ask: He wants to answer our prayer! With His command to ask comes the assurance that He will answer.

Luke 11:13 asks, If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? If earthly parents give their children what they ask or need, how much more will our heavenly Father do the same for His children! God’s not unlike our earthly parents. He’ll do what they do, He’ll provide for the care and well-being of His children.

Brethren, GOD WOULDN'T BE A FATHER IF HE REFUSED TO PROVIDE FOR YOU! God commands you to ask and He encourages you with the fact that He will answer. PRAYER, YOU SEE, ISN'T PRAYED SO THAT IT CAN BE LEFT UNANSWERED: IT'S PRAYED SO THAT IT CAN BE FULFILLED.

Here’s what God said He would do if you asked in faith.

Matthew 7:7-8, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: {8} For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Matthew 18:19, Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 21:22, And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

Mark 11:24, Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

John 14:13-14, And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. {14} If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

John 16:23-24, And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. {24} Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

Brethren, YOU DO NOT PRAY IN VAIN WHEN YOU PRAY IN FAITH! It pleases God to answer your prayer: it pleases Him to bless, provide, and give. Why? To make you carnal? No, brethren! You mustn’t use God’s promises and answers to prayer to become carnal. God answers prayer because He wants you joyful, John 16:24. And importantly, He answers it because answered prayer glorifies Him, John 14:13. Friends, there is no glory in unanswered prayer. God isn’t glorified when He doesn’t keep His promises and answer your prayer. God answers prayer because it brings Him glory.

 

YOU GET WHAT YOU ASK.

Lastly in the text of Scripture, we see that WE GET WHAT WE ASKED GOD FOR. If we ask for bread, we’ll get bread. If we ask for fish, we’ll get fish. God, brethren, doesn’t give substitutes. He doesn’t give carpets when we asked for clothes. He doesn’t give us a computer when we asked for a car. We get what we asked for.

Now God is very much capable of giving us something better than we asked for. Ephesians 3:20 (CEV) alludes to this when the Lord said, I pray that Christ Jesus and the church will forever bring praise to God. His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. Amen.

In other words, God can give us more or better than what we asked for. If we ask God for a new outfit, He may bless with two or three more. If we ask for $30, He may bless with $60 or $100. If we ask for a used car, He may bless with a brand new one.

God may bless us with more or better, but He won’t give us differently than what we asked for. If we ask for bread He won’t give us a stone, if we ask for a washer He won’t give us a car. God, brethren, gives us what we ask for and sometimes He even gives us more or better.

 

 

JESUS HEALS A MUTE DEMONIACFN

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 11:14-16, And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake;FN and the people wondered.FN {15} But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.FN {16} And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. Luke 11:14-16 (NLT), One day Jesus cast out a demon from a man who couldn't speak, and when the demon was gone, the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed, (15) but some of them said, "No wonder He can cast out demons. He gets His power from Satan, the prince of demons." (16) Others, trying to test Jesus, demanded that He show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove His authority.

 

What Jesus did in Galilee He did also in Judea: He cast out demons and worked many mighty miracles among the people. One of these was the healing and deliverance of a dumb demoniac. When the people saw Jesus’ mighty power, they marveled and held Him in admiration. He was, in ways we would understand today, their Hero.

But not everyone was impressed with our Lord. There were those who didn’t believe Jesus was a true Man of God. In fact, they repeated a charge made a year earlier by the Pharisees and Scribes, (Matthew 12:24 and Mark 3:22). This charge, Jesus later went on to say, was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for which there could never be forgiveness.FN You see, there was no doubt that Jesus cast a demon out of this dumb demoniac. These antagonists of our Lord couldn’t deny that. But how were they supposed to explain His miraculous power? Where did His power come from? It could only come from one of two sources: either from God or from Satan. Naturally, because they were opposed to Jesus, they were forced to conclude that His power came from Satan.FN

 

Luke 11:17-20, But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. {18} If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. {19} And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out?FN therefore shall they be your judges. {20} But if I with the finger of GodFN cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. Luke 11:17-20 (NIV),  Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: "Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall.  (18)  If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul.  (19)  Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges.  (20)  But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

 

Jesus responded to the blasphemous accusation of the people by noting the fallacy of that accusation along two lines. First, Satan wouldn’t cast out demons because that would only be divisive and destructive to his kingdom; it would weaken his power or rule in the lives of men.

Jesus, in effect, declared that SATAN ISN'T INVOLVED IN DELIVERANCE, therefore, Jesus’ power in casting out demons could not have come from Satan.

And second, the Jews themselves were casting out demons and they would readily attribute their power to God, as well as refute the notion that demons could cast out demons.

Since the power to cast out demons could only come from God, the obvious conclusion was Jesus’ power came from God and it was this power that evidenced a greater truth or reality, namely, the kingdom of God had come.

Now the Jews understood the kingdom of God, not so much as a Heavenly kingdom, but rather, as an earthly, Messianic kingdom with the Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah, as Ruler and King. Thus, for Jesus to assert that the kingdom of God had indeed come upon them was, for any discerning Jew, a clear announcement of Himself as the prophesied Messiah of Israel. Instead of being an agent of Beelzebub, Jesus was the Christ of God! For Jesus to make this claim against the backdrop of the people’s blasphemous accusation was indeed most astounding and probably aroused the ire of the people even more.

Brethren, DON'T HOLD BACK ON THE TRUTH JUST BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL GET MAD. TRUTH SOMETIMES HURTS, BUT IT CANNOT HELP WHEN IT IS NOT MADE KNOWN TO THE PEOPLE.

 

Luke 11:21-22, When a strong man armed keepethFN his palace, his goods are in peace: {22} But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. Luke 11:21-22 (CEV), When a strong man arms himself and guards his home, everything he owns is safe. (22) But if a stronger man comes and defeats him, he will carry off the weapons in which the strong man trusted. Then he will divide with others what he has taken.

 

Jesus likens Satan’s stronghold in the lives of the oppressed as a strong man who’s armed and ever vigilant, ready to protect and defend what is his. Brethren, Satan fights to keep what’s his! He’s intent on keeping those whom he’s got! But Jesus is stronger yet! He triumphs over the strong man and sets the captives free. Hallelujah!

 

Luke 11:23, He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.FN Luke 11:23 "Anyone who isn't with Me opposes Me, and anyone who isn't working with Me is actually working against Me.

 

In the war against Satan, NEUTRALITY IS IMPOSSIBLE. EITHER YOU'RE FOR THE LORD OR YOU'RE AGAINST HIM. IF YOU'RE NOT ACTIVELY WORKING FOR, OR WITH, THE LORD, YOU'RE ACTIVELY WORKING AGAINST HIM.

How does this statement of our Lord relate to the people Jesus was speaking to? Well, it was Jesus’ contention all along that He was working against Beelzebub, not for, or in league with, him. Therefore, those people who were with the Lord, that is, believers and fellow-laborers with the Lord, were joined with Him in His conquest of Satan’s kingdom.

But, those who refused to believe and identify themselves with Him, such as these who now blasphemed the Holy Spirit, were against Him and were actively working against Him. Hence, they proved themselves to be children and captives of Beelzebub! Jesus turned the tables on them! It was they, not Him, who were of Beelzebub!

 

Luke 11:24-26,FN When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places,FN seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. {25} And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.FN {26} Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Luke 11:24-26 CEV), When an evil spirit leaves a person, it travels through the desert, looking for a place to rest. But when it doesn't find a place, it says, "I will go back to the home I left." (25) When it gets there and finds the place clean and fixed up, (26) it goes off and finds seven other evil spirits even worse than itself. They all come and make their home there, and that person ends up in worse shape than before.

 

This is one of the few places in the Bible where we are told what happens to a demon who isn’t oppressing or living inside an individual. It goes through deserts or dry regions looking for rest, but finds none. It then returns to the individual it formerly oppressed and, not finding it suitable for oppression again, it takes seven other demons with itself and oppresses the individual once again, making him or her seven times worse off than before.

Why does it do this? I suspect there are several reasons, but the one I prefer is, the demon is helping out its wandering, restless “buddies” by giving them rest, that is, a soul to oppress.

Here are some insights that we gain from this portion of Scripture.

*There are demons on the loose, wandering through desert places looking for rest, Luke 11:24-25.FN

*Wandering demons are not limited to barren, uninhabitable regions: they also walk in cities and villages, looking for people to oppress, Job 1:7, 2:2, I Peter 5:8.

*We humans define rest as a cessation from work or normal activity. Rest is a time of relaxation and sleep. Not so with respect to demons. For a demon, rest is working or doing what a demon takes pleasure in doing—inhabiting or oppressing the souls of men. Demons are not content to wander loose throughout the Earth. They dread being cast and confined in the abyss (Luke 8:31, translated the deep in KJV), and they dread it enough that they would even go so far as to oppress animals (Luke 8:32-33).

*A demon seeks to reoppress the person it was cast out of. If you’ve been delivered you will likely be engaged in a spiritual warfare with the demon who formerly oppressed you. That demon wants you back!

*Just because you’ve been delivered doesn’t mean you can’t ever be oppressed again by the same demon or by another. You can be. And that’s why it’s important for you to keep yourself free and keep the doors closed to future demonic oppression. How do you do this?

(1) What caused you to be oppressed in the first place? How did you open the door to oppression? Most likely, you committed a sin and gave yourself to it; you devoted yourself to the fulfilling of an inordinate lust or sinful activity. Brethren, don’t repeat your mistakes. THE SINS THAT GOT YOU INTO DEMONIC TROUBLE IN THE FIRST PLACE WILL GET YOU INTO TROUBLE AGAIN IF YOU RETURN TO THOSE SINS.

(2) Resist temptation. The Bible exhorts us in Ephesians 4:27 to give no place to the Devil. What does this mean? Among the many things it means is, DON’T PUT YOURSELF IN A COMPROMISING POSITION WHERE YOU KNOW YOU’LL LIKELY END UP SINNING. DON’T GIVE YOURSELF THE LEAST BIT OF CHANCE OR OPPORTUNITY TO SIN.

(3) Walk in obedience and righteousness before the Lord. Your resistance to Satan avails only in the context of your submission to God. James 4:7 reads, Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Friends, IF YOU WANT THE DEVIL TO LEAVE YOU, YOU'VE GOT TO FIRST BE IN SUBMISSION TO GOD. HE SUBMITS TO YOU WHEN YOU'RE SUBMITTED TO GOD. HE OBEYS YOU WHEN YOU'RE OBEYING THE LORD. YOUR AUTHORITY OVER SATAN, DEAR FRIENDS, IS OF NO VALUE TO YOU IF YOU'RE NOT SUBMITTING TO GOD'S AUTHORITY.

*A person can be oppressed by more than one demon. In fact, as we see from the Gadarene demoniac in Mark 5:9 and 13, there can be many demons living inside an individual. How is this possible? Well, demons are spiritual beings, not physical, material beings like us. Spiritual bodies are not bound by the limitations of space.

*The fact that one demon would take seven other demons with itself and possess an individual gives indication that demons can live, and work, together in cooperation with each other. They’re not fighting with each other, but are working together towards a common goal of making life miserable for the oppressed.

*While every demon is wicked, there are different degrees of demonic wickedness. Some demons are more wicked than others. This explains in part why one person will commit fornication only with a certain individual, while another person will commit fornication with anyone who comes along. THE DEGREES OF HUMAN WICKEDNESS REFLECT THE DEGREES OF DEMONIC OPPRESSION.

 

1. CAN A DEMON OPPRESS YOU AGAINST YOUR WILL?

There are a couple of questions or concerns that I would like to address and lay to rest. The first of these is, the reading of the Scripture text seems to indicate that a person can be overpowered or overwhelmed by several demons and be oppressed against his will.

Jesus said in Luke 11:26 (NLT), Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before."

Can a person be oppressed against his will? The text of Scripture seems to suggest so, but that is not really the case.

When a demon finds a delivered person garnished (KJV Luke 11:25), many people think this means the person is keeping himself clean and free of oppression. The Greek text, however, speaks of the individual as being decorated and adorned. Adorned for what? Adorned for oppression once again. In other words, the individual isn’t walking in the light of his freedom or deliverance and has instead behaved in a fashion that’s inviting for oppression.

As Ephesians 4:27 intimates, THE DEVIL CAN'T HAVE ANY PLACE IN YOU UNLESS YOU GIVE IT TO HIM. THE DEVIL DOESN'T TAKE WHAT YOU HAVEN'T GIVEN HIM. If you haven’t given yourself to fornication, the Devil can’t oppress you and make you fornicate; he can only make you fornicate when you give yourself to that sin and spirit of fornication. Do you see what I mean? THE DEVIL CAN'T MAKE YOU DO ANYTHING THAT YOU DON'T WANT TO DO. He can’t oppress you against your will.

As we see in Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4 and in the Lord’s promise in James 4:7, the Devil must flee when you’re resisting him. Your resistance to him makes him flee you, not oppress you! While submission to sin and temptation is an invitation to oppression, your resistance and righteousness keep the door to oppression closed.

To be sure, there may well be spiritual battles that you’ll have with the demon who formerly oppressed you. But you must not fear and become afraid of being overpowered by a demon who’s intent on oppressing you.

Remember what Christ has given you. He’s given you authority over all the power of the Devil, Luke 10:19. No matter how strong a demon may be, he’s still subject to your authority, he still has to obey you!

Remember also the words of our Lord in 1 John 4:4, greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Brethren, NO DEMON CAN OPPRESS YOU AGAINST YOUR WILL! NO DEMON CAN OPPRESS YOU AS LONG AS YOU'RE RESISTING HIM! Don't let the Devil fool you and tell you otherwise! Don't fear him: resist him!

 

2. IF YOU’RE SEVERELY OPPRESSED IS IT HARDER FOR YOU TO BE DELIVERED?

A second thing we need to clarify is, the seven-fold severity of the oppression doesn’t necessarily mean it’s seven times harder for the oppressed individual to be delivered. You see, the text of Scripture makes it clear that you’re worse off than before if you open the door to oppression once you’ve been delivered. But it doesn’t mean your chances of being delivered again are quite remote, if not impossible.

THE AUTHORITY VESTED IN GOD'S PEOPLE TO DELIVER THE OPPRESSED ISN'T LIMITED BY THE SEVERITY OF THE OPPRESSION.FN That is, it’s not any harder to get one demon to come out of a demoniac than it is to get seven or a legion of demons out. CHRIST'S AUTHORITY ISN'T DIMINISHED OR WEAKENED BY AN INCREASED NUMBER OF DEMONS IN A DEMONIAC.FN No matter how badly oppressed a person may be, we’ve got the authority to deal with those demons!

Brethren, just because a person’s oppressed in a severe way doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to deliver him or her. Don’t be intimidated into thinking that the oppression is too severe for you to do anything about. Christ has given you power over all demons and that power works in Jesus' Name! EVERY DEMON MUST OBEY YOU IN THE SAME WAY THEY OBEY JESUS. Command them to leave in Jesus’ Name and they will leave.

 

 

THE BLESSEDNESS OF MARY AND THE OBEDIENT

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 11:27-28, And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the companyFN lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. {28} But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.FN Luke 11:27-28 (CEV), While Jesus was still talking, a woman in the crowd spoke up, "The woman who gave birth to you and nursed you is blessed!" (28) Jesus replied, "That's true, but the people who are really blessed are the ones who hear and obey God's message!"

 

Mary is indeed blessed among women to have borne and mothered Jesus, Luke 1:28, 42. But contrary to Romanism’s veneration and exaltation of Mary, Jesus said the ones who are truly blessed are those who hear God’s Word and live in obedience to it. As blessed as Mary is, the obedient are even more blessed than her! If Romanism insists on venerating Mary, she must, as a matter of consistency and in acknowledgement of Christ’s words, venerate all those who are obedient to Christ.

Now it’s odd that, in our day, those who endeavor to apply the Word to every facet of their lives are said to be bound by religious spirits. But, brethren, what’s so wrong with being fervent or diligent in obeying the Word? Jesus says they’re blessed—not fanatical, extremist, legalistic, or wrong.

I fear we’ve come down too hard on legalism that we’ve minimized the need to be obedient. Friends, GOD WANTS US TO BE OBEDIENT, BUT NOT LEGALISTIC. THIS CAN ONLY GO TO SHOW THAT IT'S POSSIBLE TO BE OBEDIENT WITHOUT BEING LEGALISTIC. Praise God we may not be legalistic! But if we’re not obedient we won’t be blessed!

 

 

THE SIGN OF JONAH

SOMEREWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 11:29, And when the people were gathered thick together,FN he began to say, This is an evil generation:FN they seek a sign;FN and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. Luke 11:29 (NIV),  As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.

 

As we noted earlier, there were three responses of the people to Jesus’ deliverance of a dumb demoniac. Some admired Him, others accused Him of being an agent of Beelzebub, and still others tested Him, asking Him to do a sign from Heaven, Luke 11:14-16.FN

The only sign Jesus gave them was the sign of Jonah. What is the sign of Jonah? Jesus explains it in Matthew 12:39-40, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: {40} For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

The sign that the people wanted would not be a miraculous celestial phenomenon, but rather, Jesus’ death and resurrection. The sign would fulfill His own prophecy concerning His death and resurrection and thus prove His words to be true.

 

Luke 11:30-32, For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation. {31} The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. {32} The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here. Luke 11:30-32 (CEV), Just as Jonah was a sign to the people of Nineveh, the Son of Man will be a sign to the people of today. (31) When the judgment comes, the Queen of the South will stand there with you and condemn you. She traveled a long way to hear Solomon's wisdom, and yet here is something far greater than Solomon. (32) The people of Nineveh will also stand there with you and condemn you. They turned to God when Jonah preached, and yet here is something far greater than Jonah.

 

For the people of Nineveh, Jonah was a sign that God was speaking to them, He was calling them to repentance. The Ninevites took Jonah’s words seriously, they believed what he said, and they repented.

Now imagine this. Here was a man they had never seen before, he was a perfect stranger. More than that, he was an Israelite, an enemy of the Assyrian nation. If the Ninevites were like us today, they would have doubted his message and arrested him for propagandizing and inciting the people to treason; his was the ploy of the enemy to demoralize and destabilize the Assyrian nation. The Ninevites, however, thought none of these things! They believed him!

But here was Jesus, a Prophet greater than Jonah, who came among His very own people, gave them a Word far greater than Jonah’s and backed that Word up with miracles that Jonah never did, and how did the Jews respond? They didn’t believe Him! Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites that God was speaking to them and, in much the same way, Jesus was a sign to these Jews that God was speaking to them. The Ninevites believed the sign, but the Jews didn’t. They didn’t believe the sign God gave them. They either didn’t recognize that Jesus was a sign from God, or else they refused to accept the sign as being a sign.FN In any case, these unbelieving Jews proved themselves worse than the Ninevites who were so ready and apt to believe the Word of a foreign prophet.

In the same way, the Queen of the south put these unbelieving Jews to shame. Who was she? 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9 tell us she was the Queen of Sheba.

Now Sheba was a country in southwestern Arabia in what is now the country of Yemen. Her journey to Jerusalem to hear the wisdom of Solomon was no small feat, considering her caravan traveled over 1,240 miles, most of it through barren desert! She came all that distance to hear a man she only heard about but had never met or spoken to. But here in their midst was Jesus who was far greater than Solomon and these unbelieving Jews were not willing to hear His words or believe.

 

Luke 11:33-36, No man, when he hath lighted a candle,FN putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. {34} The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single,FN thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. {35} Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. {36} If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light. Luke 11:33-36 (NLT), "No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. (34) "Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is bad, your body is filled with darkness. (35) Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. (36) If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light."

 

When you light a lamp it’s so that you will have light with which to see. You don’t light a lamp and then put it under a basket because that wouldn’t do you any good: you’d still be left in the dark.

What a lamp is to you in the dark is what your eye is to you in a moral or spiritual sense. If your eye is single or sound, spiritually speaking, the light you see will guide your footsteps in the way of righteousness and truth. But if your eye is evil or looking for ways to sin, then it’s like you taking the light of God’s truth and putting it under a bushel: the light doesn’t help you, you’re still in the dark, and you’ll walk in the darkness of sin.

So what does this have to do with the unbelieving Jews in Jesus’ audience? Well, their eyes were evil and darkened in that they saw the Light Jesus, but refused to come to Him and believe;FN they put the Light under a bushel. These Jews wanted to see a sign from Heaven because that would prove to them that Jesus was really from God. But, from God’s perspective, for them to truly see they needed to get the Light out from under their bushels of unbelief and believe the Light. As long as the Light was under a bushel they wouldn’t be able to see whatever sign God would otherwise have given them. The problem, in essence, is not the lack of a sign, rather, the lack of faith.

Friends, WITHOUT FAITH IN CHRIST YOU REALLY CAN’T SEE MUCH OF ANYTHING, SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING. UNBELIEF, LIKE DARKNESS, BLINDS YOU AND PREVENTS YOU FROM SEEING THE TRUTH AND THE REALITY OF THINGS. IF YOU REALLY WANT TO SEE, COME TO CHRIST AND BELIEVE.

 

 

JESUS EATS WITH A PHARISEEFN

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 11:37-44, And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him:FN and he went in, and sat downFN to meat. {38} And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.FN

{39} And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of raveningFN and wickedness. {40} Ye fools,FN did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? {41} But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.FN {42} But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs,FN and pass overFN judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. {43} Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues,FN and greetings in the markets.FN {44} Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.FN

Luke 11:37-44 (CEV), When Jesus finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him home for a meal. Jesus went and sat down to eat. (38) The Pharisee was surprised that he did not wash his hands before eating.

(39) So the Lord said to him: You Pharisees clean the outside of cups and dishes, but on the inside you are greedy and evil. (40) You fools! Didn't God make both the outside and the inside? (41) If you would only give what you have to the poor, everything you do would please God. (42) You Pharisees are in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your gardens, such as mint and rue. But you cheat people, and you don't love God. You should be fair and kind to others and still give a tenth to God. (43) You Pharisees are in for trouble! You love the front seats in the meeting places, and you like to be greeted with honor in the market. (44) But you are in for trouble! You are like unmarked graves that people walk on without even knowing it.

 

Sometime after the deliverance of the dumb demoniac, Jesus was invited for a meal in the house of a Pharisee.

Now the law of the rabbis required that one’s hands be ceremonially washed prior to eating. A person might have perfectly clean hands, having washed and scrubbed them much the way we would prior to eating. But he still had to observe the ceremonial cleansing. Why? Because the washing cleansed a person of whatever defilement he might have unknowingly contracted in the course of working or interacting with people.FN To eat with unwashen hands was like us eating with muddy, manure-laden hands: it was something that no observant Jew would ever think of doing!

Jesus knew all this. He knew He was eating with a guy who was really scrupulous about obeying the law, washing, and being ceremonially clean. Jesus, however, refused to condescend to His host and wash His hands. In this way, He was insulting and offensive to His host.

Jesus didn’t stop there. Not only did He refuse to wash His hands, but, knowing the critical thoughts were racing through the Pharisee’s mind, Jesus let loose a barrage of denunciations that further insulted and offended His host and the other Pharisees and Scribes who were present at the meal. When one of the lawyers addressed our Lord, Jesus turned His attention to them and let loose another barrage of denunciations.

 

Luke 11:45-52, Then answered one of the lawyers,FN and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also.FN

{46} And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne,FN and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.FN {47} Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. {48} Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers:FN for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. {49} Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:FN {50} That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; {51} From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias,FN which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.FN

{52} Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge:FN ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.

Luke 11:45-52 (niv),  One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also."

 (46)  Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.  (47)  "Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them.  (48)  So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs.  (49)  Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.'  (50)  Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world,  (51)  from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

 (52)  "Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."

 

PHARISAIC PIETY AND THE UNWRITTEN APPLICATIONS OF SCRIPTURE

 

A. THE PHARISEES HAD THE SAME BURDEN AS THE LORD.

There are a couple of issues that I would like to address in this portion of Scripture and the first one has to do with the unwritten applications of Scripture. Before I get to that, however, let’s note how the furor between Jesus and the religious leaders began.

The fuss began when Jesus neglected, maybe even refused, to wash His hands. That might not seem like such a big deal to us today. But to the Pharisee, the whole of life centered on ritual purity and separation from defilement. In fact, their claim to fame rested on the fact that they kept themselves separate from everyone and everything that was defiling or defiled.FN They were concerned about cleanness. And in this way, they had the same burden and concern as the Lord!

You see, so much of the Mosaic or Levitical law centered around this matter of cleanness and uncleanness. Through the rituals, ordinances, and sacrifices of the Law God was teaching His people the need to be holy, clean, and separate from defilement.

Leviticus 20:25-26 is one example where God gave His people various ordinances and told them the purpose or intent behind these laws: "You must therefore make a distinction between ceremonially clean and unclean animals, and between clean and unclean birds. You must not defile yourselves by eating any unclean animal or bird or creature that scurries along the ground. I have identified them as being unclean for you. (26) You must be holy because I, the LORD, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be My very own.FN

God was concerned about His people being ceremonially clean. He wanted them pure, holy, and undefiled. Why? Because they were to be a reflection of Him. Just as He was holy, so they too were to be holy.

To their credit, in some ways, the Pharisees took upon themselves this selfsame burden and concern! They gave themselves completely to this burden of cleanness! This was a commendable thing, in and of itself. But do you know what? Jesus didn’t commend them! He denounced them! Why?

 

B. WHAT THE RABBIS AND THE SCRIBES DID WITH THE BURDEN.

If the Pharisees were trying to be obedient to the Lord’s demands for ritual purity and separation, why didn’t the Lord commend them for it? Why did He denounce them instead? Because the Pharisees and their rabbinical forbears went way beyond the letter of the Law. They took the letter and spirit, or principle, of the Law—that being ritual purity—and they developed an intricate and detailed network of laws regarding ceremonial defilement and purity.

Handwashing was just one example among many. You had to do it the right way, in the right order, with the right water, in the right vessel, and with the right amount of water. If you didn’t follow rabbinical instructions to the last jot and tittle you weren’t clean and you had to go through the whole ritual again until you got it right. In fact, you couldn’t eat until you got it right!

There were countless other intricacies that the rabbis devised in their consuming passion for ritual purity. Here are some examples from the Mishnah.

*If there was a jar full of clean liquids with a siphon inside it and the jar had a tightly stopped-up cover, and it was put in a Tent wherein was a corpse, the School of Shammai say: The jar and the liquids remain clean but the siphon is unclean. Kelim 9.2.

*If a man touched a corpse and then touched any vessels, or if he overshadowed a corpse and then touched any vessels, these become unclean. If he overshadowed a corpse and then overshadowed any vessels, or if he touched a corpse and then overshadowed any vessels, these remain clean. Oholoth 15.10.

*If a deaf-mute, an imbecile, or a minor was found in an alley-way wherein was uncleanness, he can be assumed to be clean, but one of sound senses must be assumed to be unclean. Tohoroth 3.6.

*If a man left an Am-haaretz (a non-observant Jew) within his house awake and found him awake, or (left him) asleep and found him asleep, or (left him) awake and found him asleep, the house remains clean; but if he left him asleep and found him awake, the house is unclean. Tohoroth 7.2.

*If taxgatherers entered a house (all that is within it) becomes unclean. If thieves entered a house, only that part is unclean that was trodden by the feet of the thieves. If a gentile or a woman was with them all becomes unclean. Tohoroth 7.6.

*If a man lost aught and found it the same day, it remains clean. If he lost it during the day and found it during the night, or lost it during the night and found it the next day, or lost it on one day and found it on the next, it becomes unclean. Tohoroth 8.3.

*If the wife of an Am-haaretz entered the house of an Associate (an observant Jew) to fetch out his son or his daughter or his cattle, the house remains clean, since she had entered without permission. Tohoroth 8.5.

*All eggs can be presumed clean excepting those that belong to sellers of liquids; but if they sold dry produce also they are clean. Makshirin 6.3.

*The blank spaces in a scroll (of the Scriptures) that are above (the writing), and that are below, and that are at the beginning and at the end, render the hands unclean. Yadaim 3.4.

 

C. THE IMPACT OF PHARISAIC PIETY ON THE PEOPLE.

In reviewing this small sampling of rabbinical laws I trust you will see the point I’m trying to make. The point is, the Pharisees were so concerned about ritual purity that they went way beyond the letter and spirit of the Law and came up with so many, very specific laws.

What was the result of all these detailed applications of the Word with regard to ceremonial purity? What impact or effect did Pharisaic and rabbinical piety have on the general populace?

*RABBINICAL RELIGIOSITY WAS DEFILING: But you are in for trouble! You are like unmarked graves that people walk on without even knowing it (Luke 11:44 CEV).

*RABBINICAL RELIGIOSITY WAS DEMANDING AND DISHEARTENING: Jesus replied: You teachers are also in for trouble! You load people down with heavy burdens, but you won't lift a finger to help them carry the loads (Luke 11:46 CEV).

*RABBINICAL RELIGIOSITY WAS DAMNING AND DETERRING: You teachers of the Law of Moses are really in for trouble! You carry the keys to the door of knowledge about God. But you never go in, and you keep others from going in (Luke 11:52 CEV).

The rabbis had a zeal for purity and this was, in and of itself, a noble and commendable thing because that was God’s desire for His people. But the rabbis took the Mosaic Law, they developed a multitudinous network of laws based on the Law, then they gave themselves completely to their own laws that instead of becoming pure, they became defiled.

Jesus said, You Pharisees clean the outside of cups and dishes, but on the inside you are greedy and evil (Luke 11:39). THEY ACCOMPLISHED THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT GOD INTENDED THEM TO BE! And do you know what? The marvel of it all is, THEY BECAME DEFILED WHILE THEY WERE BEARING THE BURDEN OF THE LORD AND TRYING TO OBEY HIS COMMAND FOR CEREMONIAL PURITY!

 

D. BEARING THE BURDEN, BUT BEING MISGUIDED AND MISLEADING.

So what’s the point in all this? The point is, like the Pharisees and Scribes, IT'S POSSIBLE FOR US TO HAVE THE SAME CONCERNS AND BURDENS AS THE LORD AND STILL MISS THE LORD ENTIRELY, AND PERHAPS EVEN THE KINGDOM.

Read the verse again: "What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don't enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering" (Luke 11:52 NLT).

Brethren, we bear so many burdens of the Lord. We’ve devoted our lives to faith, holiness, discipleship, the crucifixion of self, Christlikeness, deliverance from all demonic oppression, and the victorious, overcoming Christian life. To our credit, but solely by God’s grace and for His glory, our heart is to be faithful and obedient in all these areas of life that are the Lord’s will and burden for us.

But like the Pharisees and Scribes, it’s possible for us to be so zealous in obeying the Word and living by the Word that we go way beyond the letter and spirit, or principle, of the Word that we end up missing the Lord. How can that happen?

 

1) WE MISS THE LORD BY BECOMING SO DETAILED WITH THE LETTER OR SPIRIT OF THE WORD THAT WE LOSE SIGHT OF THE PRINCIPLE ALTOGETHER.

The Pharisees took the burden of ritual purity and devised so many, many laws regarding cleanness. They came up with many, many things that defiled that they ended up immersing themselves several times a day in a ritual bath for cleansing. They washed their hands several times during the course of a meal. And they washed their clothes and just about everything in their house that was touched by an unclean person or an unclean animal or insect.FN

It’s for this reason that Mark the Gospel writer said of them, (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, (4) and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches) (Mark 7:3-4 ESV).

They spent so much time washing their bodies that they neglected the unclean condition of their souls. "You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness (Luke 11:39).

In much the same way, we can take any burden of the Lord and take it to unwritten extremes.FN

Take total faith in God as an example. God wants us to go to Him and trust Him for our healing. God is our Healer (Exodus 15:26), He made provision for our healing in the atonement of Christ on the cross (Matthew 8:17), His means of healing is the prayer of faith, not medical science (James 5:14-15). God, brethren, wants us to trust Him for healing and when we don't, He's grieved. This is the letter and spirit of the Word.

Like Jewish elders and rabbis, we’ve taken this burden of the Lord and devised a whole lot of laws concerning healing. For example, don’t go to the doctor, don’t submit to surgery, don’t take any pills or medication, no more doctor’s appointments, no more blood tests, x-rays, physical exams or check-ups; no more aspirins, eye drops, body rubs or ointments, pain killers, or antibiotics; you can’t go to the dentist; the ophthalmologist or optometrist is off-limits; the use of a wheelchair or crutches is a negative confession of sickness, cancel your health insurance; stay out of hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies, and don’t read any medical books, because you’re likely to get oppressed by occult spirits and demons of infirmity; and more.

Do you see what I’m saying? We can come up with a lot of laws or prohibitions concerning medical healing—the same way the rabbis came up with a lot of laws concerning cleanness. The question is, are we too wrapped up in making sure we aren’t going the medical route that we’ve completely forgotten the spirit and principle of the Word? What is it? It’s faith in God for healing!

Brethren, we can get so wrapped up in making sure we don’t go the medical route that we completely forget to trust the Lord for healing. We can get to a point where faith for healing is no longer as important as making sure we don’t go to doctors and hospitals. At that point, our healing is no longer dependent on our believing God for healing, but rather, dependent on us not going to doctors. Not taking medicines becomes the principal condition for being healed.

Brethren, NOT TAKING MEDICINES DOESN’T HEAL YOU. NOT GOING TO DOCTORS ISN’T WHAT HEALS YOU. IT’S FAITH. IT’S FAITH. IT’S FAITH THAT HEALS. GOD HEALS YOU BECAUSE YOU’RE TRUSTING HIM FOR HEALING—NOT BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T GO TO THE DOCTOR!

Do you see what I’m saying? We can get so engrossed in the details of the burden that we completely lose sight of the spirit or principle of the burden. The question is, Are we trusting the Lord for healing? Or are we too busy washing pots and pans?

 

2. WE MISS THE LORD BY SPENDING ALL OF OUR TIME CLEANING THE OUTSIDE THAT WE NEGLECT TO CLEAN THE INSIDE.

Closely related to our first point, we can miss the Lord by concentrating all of our time and energies cleaning up our bodies that we forget to clean our hearts. We spend all of our time cleaning up our actions, but fail to work on our attitudes. Look again at what Jesus said to the Pharisees: "You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness (Luke 11:39 NLT).

Let’s take holiness for an example. Holiness, as you know, is God’s burden for His people. God wants us to be holy and undefiled. So how do we apply the burden to our everyday lives?

*In relation to the body, some people devote themselves to keeping their bodies pure and undefiled. This includes not eating sugar, pork or beef; minimizing their fat and cholesterol intake; eating mostly fish, becoming a vegetarian, and abstaining from any foods that have been scientifically proven as having an adverse effect on the body—the latest of which includes Chinese cuisine, Mexican menus, and popcorn; watching how many calories they eat each meal and how many pounds they weigh; not drinking any caffeinated products like soda, coffee and tea; not drinking any alcoholic beverages and certainly no cigarettes or drugs.

*In relation to worldliness, some keep themselves holy by refusing to watch television, videos, or movies; refusing to own a computer or music player; not listening to the radio, not listening to worldly music like rock-n-roll, country, and classical music; refusing to read any books written by non-Christian authors; not going to theme parks, concerts, or a theatrical performance; being poor, having the bare essentials and not accumulating a whole lot of possessions, making as little money as possible; having minimal contact with non-Christians; not going on vacation, not pursuing any higher education, not having any hobbies or sports; spending every free moment in prayer and in study of the Bible.

*In relation to modesty of dress, some women define holiness as not wearing pants or culottes, their dresses are midway between the ankles and the knees, they stick to basic colors, nothing bright, no prints, no exposed necklines, nothing sleeveless, in fact, long sleeves should always be worn to keep the arms covered, hair must be in a bun, and no sandals or open-toed shoes. Some men define holiness as not wearing form-fitting pants or shirts, everything has to be baggy or loose, no bright colors, shirts buttoned up to the neck with always a tee-shirt underneath, no notice-me shirts or tank-tops, no walking shorts or sandals, no athletic shoes, no shoes without socks, short, well-groomed hair, clean shaven, with no mustache or beard.

We can go on and on describing how the burden of holiness is applied to every facet of life. I’m not saying that these specific applications of the burden are wrong. I’m not advocating we go back to the worldly lifestyles that we forsook. What I am saying is, we’ve got all these ideas of what it means to be holy and we can come to a point, like the Pharisees, where we spend all of our time making sure we don’t do certain things that we overlook matters of the heart. We can get so busy cleaning up the outside and admiring how good the outside looks, that we ignore the filth or corruption that’s in the inside.

Read the text of Scripture once again: "You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness (Luke 11:39 NLT).

Brethren, what does our heart look like? Are we too busy watching what we put in our mouths that we forget to clean up what comes out of our mouths? Are we too busy governing our actions that we’ve failed to govern our attitudes? Our hands are clean, but what about our hearts? We’ve cleaned up the outside of the cup and platter, but is the greed and wickedness still within?

Brethren, holiness applies to the heart too! WHEN THE HEART ISN’T HOLY, IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW GOOD THE OUTSIDE LOOKS—WE’RE NOT HOLY. We can be as pious as Pharisees, but God sees us as wicked and evil! Friends, THE LORD DOESN'T ACCEPT A HOLINESS OF CONDUCT AND LIFESTYLE THAT DOESN'T ISSUE FROM A HOLINESS OF HEART.

Make no mistake. God is concerned about the outside. He wants the outside holy. But HE'S NOT CONTENT TO LEAVE THE INSIDE UNHOLY, UNGODLY, UNCHANGED, AND UNTOUCHED!

 

3. WE MISS THE LORD WHEN WE QUIT MINISTERING LIFE TO THE PEOPLE.

The rabbis came up with all these rabbinical laws and ordinances that were intended to be a practical application of the letter and burden of the Law.

We’ve done the same sort of thing with the many burdens of the Lord. We’ve all come up with our own laws or rules. We can get into an argument over semantics and argue whether the things we do or don’t do are rules or convictions, laws or beliefs, commandments or principles.

You can call them whatever you want to call them, but allow me to call them laws. The important thing is, we’re both talking about the same things, we’re talking about the standards we derive from Holy Writ by which we govern our lives.

The crucial question is, What do we do with all these laws? We’ve read the Scriptures, we know what God’s will is, and in seeking to apply God’s Word to our lives we’ve come up with all sorts of laws. The question is, What do we do with all these laws? Here’s where the rabbis missed it and it’s here where we risk missing the Lord too.

 

(A) THE RABBIS MADE THEIR RABBINICAL LAWS EQUALLY BINDING AND AUTHORITATIVE AS THE WRITTEN, MOSAIC LAW. You see, since their laws were meant to be a practical application of God’s Law, then obeying their laws was tantamount to obeying God’s Law. And disobeying their laws was tantamount to disobeying God’s Law.

Now because our rules and laws are based on God’s Word and because we bear God’s burden in wanting so much to be obedient to the Lord; then, like the rabbis, it’s easy for us to equate our rules and laws with God’s Word and make those rules and laws equally binding and authoritative.

*For example, since it’s God’s will for us to be modest, then it’s a sin for women to wear dresses above the knees, it’s sin for men to wear walking shorts.

*Since it’s God’s will for us to take care of the temple of the Holy Spirit, then it’s a sin for anyone to eat pork or drink caffeine.

*Since God doesn’t want us to be worldly, then it’s a sin for us to have a computer or radio.

Do you see what I mean? We’ve inserted our rules and laws into the text of Scripture and they’ve become Scripture just like the sixty-six books of the Bible.

 

(B) THE RABBIS NOT ONLY MADE THEIR LAWS EQUALLY BINDING AND AUTHORITATIVE, BUT THEY ALSO LEGISLATED THESE LAWS OVER THE PEOPLE AND OBLIGATED EVERYONE TO LIVE BY THEIR OWN LAWS.

Consequently, what started out as the burden of one law, that being the law of ceremonial cleanness, now became the burden of many, many laws. The Jews had to constantly wash their hands, clothes, and take ritual baths; they were always scrubbing pots and pans, washing their beds and couches, questioning everyone they bought anything from to find out if they were clean or unclean, always wondering if the streets they were walking on were defiled by reason of a Gentile or non-observant Jew, and many more of the like.

The rabbis, I am saying, weighed the people down with so many burdens that the walk with God became burdensome: no one could walk it! Read what our Lord said in Luke 11:46: And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

In denouncing these teachers of the law we see that JESUS IS QUITE CONCERNED ABOUT HOW WE TREAT OTHER PEOPLE. THAT IS, HE'S INTERESTED IN WHAT KINDS OF BURDENS WE LAY ON THE PEOPLE. GOD, BRETHREN, IS VITALLY INTERESTED IN HIS PEOPLE AND HE'S NOT WILLING THAT ANY ONE OF THEM LADEN ANY OTHERS WITH BURDENS THAT ARE HARD OR HEAVY TO BEAR.

Brethren, it’s one thing, and a commendable thing, to find ways to practically apply the Word to our own daily lives. But it’s quite another thing to legislate our laws or convictions over everyone else and expect them to live the exact same way we live.

CHRISTIANITY ISN'T MEANT TO BE WEIGHED DOWN AND BURDENED WITH COUNTLESS LAWS: GOD DIDN'T DESIGN THE WALK WITH HIM TO BE GRIEVOUS. He said in 1 John 5:3 (NLT), Loving God means keeping His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.

Christianity isn’t freedom from obeying the Lord. There are still commandments that God expects us to obey. But the thing of it is, these commandments aren’t burdensome. They aren’t heavy or hard to bear. They’re something that we’re very much capable of doing and obeying.

But when we step into other people’s lives and legislate our laws over them, we burden them down with laws that God never laid upon them.

Make no mistake. Our laws may be perfectly good and sound in that they have Scriptural basis. Other people may already have some of our own laws in the sense that they’ve applied the burden of the Word in some areas of their lives in the same way we’ve applied it.

But AS GOOD AS OUR LAWS MAY BE, AND AS HONORABLE AS OUR INTENTIONS MAY BE, GOD DIDN'T GIVE US THE LIBERTY OR RIGHT TO LEGISLATE OUR LAWS OR CONVICTIONS OVER ANYBODY ELSE.

He said in Philippians 2:12, Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Brethren, we’ve not been called to work out other people’s salvation. No matter how good our laws may be, no matter how well-intentioned we are, MAKING OUR LAWS EQUALLY BINDING AS SCRIPTURE AND LEGISLATING THEM OVER EVERYBODY ELSE DOESN'T MINISTER LIFE TO THEM. IT MINISTERS QUITE THE OPPOSITE. IT MINISTERS DEATH.

Do you know that Christ came to set us free from the religious laws of men? Colossians 2:13-14 (CEV) reads, You were dead, because you were sinful and were not God's people. But God let Christ make you alive, when he forgave all our sins. (14) God wiped out the charges that were against us for disobeying the Law of Moses. He took them away and nailed them to the cross.

Why did Jesus take the ordinances away? Because they were against us, they were contrary to us, they weren’t helping us, but hurting us.

What ordinances did Jesus take away? The commandments and doctrines of men. Colossians 2:20-23 (NLT) explains, You have died with Christ, and He has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, (21) "Don't handle! Don't taste! Don't touch!"? (22) Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. (23) These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person's evil desires.

Since Christ has set us free from the religious laws of men, He therefore exhorts us not to be brought under the bondage or legislation of men’s laws: So don't let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths (Colossians 2:16 NLT).

Brethren, WE’RE NOT TO BRING MEN INTO BONDAGE TO OUR OWN LAWS, NOR ARE WE TO SUBMIT OURSELVES TO THE BONDAGE OF OTHER PEOPLE’S LAWS.

 

E. BEARING THE BURDEN WITHOUT BEING BURDENSOME.

Since it’s possible for us to bear the same burdens as the Lord and still miss the Lord, does this mean we should therefore abandon the burden and quit being so zealous or enthusiastic about obeying the Lord? Of course not!

Read what the Lord said in Luke 11:42 (NLT), "What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

What is our Lord saying? He’s saying that the Pharisees were so devout about tithing even those things that weren’t specifically required or written in the Law that they forgot all about the truly important things in life like judgment and the love of God. So did God want them to quit tithing the mint and rue so that they could concentrate on the truly important things in life? No! God said not to leave the other undone. He wanted them to concentrate on the important things in life without giving up the tithing burden and their application of the tithe to the mint and rue.

Brethren, just because our rules and laws are a grievous burden when they are legislated over others doesn’t mean we’ve got to give up these rules and laws for ourselves. God doesn’t want us to burden His people with our own rules and laws, but neither does He want us to stop tithing our mint and rue.

So how do we bear the burden of the Lord and practically apply the Scriptures to our own lives without becoming a burden to others?

 

1. THE SCRIPTURES AREN'T MEANT JUST TO BE BELIEVED, BUT TO BE OBEYED ALSO.

God wants us to apply the Scriptures to our daily lives. When He said tithe, He meant tithe. When He said be clean, He meant be clean. When He said trust Him, He meant trust Him. God, you see, expects us to obey the Word. We’re not supposed to just believe the Word: we’re supposed to practice it and apply it to our daily lives.FN

 

2. THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF SCRIPTURE WILL INVOLVE DOING THINGS THAT AREN'T SPECIFICALLY WRITTEN IN SCRIPTURE.

Take the tithe for an example. God required His people to tithe the produce of their land: "You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. (23) Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the LORD your God chooses for His name to be honored—and eat it there in His presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds. Doing this will teach you always to fear the LORD your God (Deuteronomy 14:22-23 NLT).

The rabbis took the principle of the tithe which, incidentally, applied to the crops of the field (that being grain, grapes, and olives); and applied it to the herbs they grew in their gardens. The tithe, you see, didn’t apply specifically to herbs: God didn’t require them to tithe their mint and rue. But because the rabbis felt that the mint and rue should likewise be tithed unto the Lord, they went on ahead and tithed them and obligated everyone else to do the same.

God, you will note, didn’t disparage or discourage them from applying the tithe to their herbs. He didn’t require it of them, but if they felt it was a good thing to tithe their herbs too, He didn’t stop them from doing it.

God, I am saying, wants us to apply the letter and spirit of the Word to our daily lives. In so doing, HE RECOGNIZES THE FACT THAT, AS AN ACT OF OBEDIENCE TO HIM, WE'LL DO SOME THINGS THAT AREN'T SPECIFICALLY WRITTEN IN SCRIPTURE.FN AND THE THING OF IT IS, HE DOESN'T DISPARAGE OR DISCOURAGE US FROM DOING WHAT'S NOT SPECIFICALLY STATED IN SCRIPTURE!

Brethren, THE FACT THAT SOME OF THE THINGS WE DO AREN'T FOUND SPECIFICALLY WRITTEN IN SCRIPTURE DOESN'T MEAN THAT THE RULES, LAWS, OR CONVICTIONS THAT WE LIVE BY ARE UNSCRIPTURAL OR WRONG.

If you have convictions about doctors, dresses, pork, rock-n-roll, and more; don’t give up your convictions just because these convictions aren’t specifically stated in Scripture.

Look again at what Christ said concerning the mint and rue. He said, these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone (Luke 11:42).

The specifics of conduct aren’t always found in Scripture, but the principles upon which those specifics are based, are. God, brethren, expects us to take the principles of His Word and apply them specifically to our lives—even when those specifics aren’t mentioned or found in Scripture!

 

3. SOME THINGS YOU SHOULD AVOID DOING TO YOURSELF.

God, as I said, wants you to obey Him. And in the process of obeying Him, you will many times come up with ways you can obey Him. But the thing of it is, these acts of obedience aren’t specifically written in Scripture. When you go beyond the letter and spirit of the Word in an attempt to obey the Lord, there are some things you should be aware of and guard against. Here are a couple of things that I’d like to emphasize.

 

A) DON'T MAKE YOUR RULES A MATTER OF SALVATION. Don’t get caught up in working for your salvation. God wants you to do good works, He wants you to obey Him. But your salvation is a matter of His grace and your faith in Christ’s atonement and Person. Works follow as a matter of course, they follow salvation, but they’re not a substitute for salvation by grace. You do good works because you’re saved, not because you want to get saved.FN If you believe in Christ and have received Him as your personal Lord and Savior, then you’re already saved! You don’t have to work for salvation because you already have it!FN

For example, as a woman, if you believe your dresses should be mid-calf, then don’t wear anything above the calves. But don’t make the length of your dresses a matter of salvation.

 

B) CLEAN UP THE OUTSIDE, BUT DON'T NEGLECT THE IMPORTANT THINGS OF THE HEART. God wants your heart clean too.

*If you’re going to get rid of aspirins, get rid of anger too.

*If you thrash your rock-n-roll, don’t forget to thrash your resentment too.

*If culottes are off-limits to your closet, make sure criticism is off-limits to your heart too.

*If you’re not going to pollute your body with drugs, don’t pollute your soul with deceit.

Do you see what I mean? BE AS EARNEST AND DILIGENT ABOUT YOUR HEART AS YOU ARE ABOUT YOUR BODY, ACTIONS, OR LIFESTYLE. NO MATTER HOW CLEAN YOU MAY BE ON THE OUTSIDE, A DIRTY HEART MAKES YOU DIRTY ALL OVER.

Listen to what Jesus said: But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. {19} For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: {20} These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man (Matthew 15:18-20).

 

4. SOME THINGS YOU SHOULD AVOID DOING TO OTHERS.

God, as I’ve already said, is very interested in how you treat other people. He wants you to apply the Word to your own life. And yes, He also wants the rest of the brethren to do the same. But while God wants you to work out your own salvation, He nevertheless doesn’t want you working out other people’s salvation.

As you strive to live up to the letter and spirit, or burdens, of the Word, here are some important things you must guard against in relation to people.

 

A) DON'T BRING OTHER PEOPLE INTO BONDAGE TO YOUR OWN LAWS AND CONVICTIONS. As we’ve already seen, God is vitally interested in how we treat His people and what kinds of burdens we place on their backs. God, brethren, doesn’t want us making Christianity burdensome and grievous. No matter how good your laws may be or how well-intentioned you are, no matter what kind of zeal and concern you have for others; you must nevertheless GIVE GOD'S PEOPLE THE LIBERTY OF WORKING OUT THEIR OWN SALVATION.

Legislating laws over others doesn’t minister life to them: it ministers death, it burdens them with burdens too hard to carry, it burdens them with burdens that the Lord Himself never put on them.

These whom you’re so concerned about are God’s people too, He’s vitally interested in their lives, and the same God who works in your life also works in theirs. Brethren, you’ve got to believe the Lord to mature and purify these people, just as He’s doing to you. Leave them in God’s hands. DON'T THINK THAT GOD CAN'T WORK IN THESE PEOPLE'S LIVES WITHOUT YOUR LEGISLATING HANDS.

 

B) One thing you should remember and keep at the forefront is the fact that GOD'S PEOPLE ARE NOT CALLED TO BE LIKE YOU, BUT RATHER, LIKE CHRIST (Ephesians 4:13). Brethren, God hasn’t called you to try and make other people be just like you. He doesn’t want His people to be clones of you, but clones of Christ. When you understand this truth it’ll free you from that compelling desire to control and legislate over others.

 

C) DON'T CRITICIZE OTHER PEOPLE'S CONVICTIONS. DON'T CRITICIZE PEOPLE FOR DOING THINGS THAT AREN'T SPECIFICALLY WRITTEN IN SCRIPTURE. God, as I said, wants people to obey Him and apply the Scripture to their own lives—even if it means doing things that aren’t specifically found in Scripture. If what they’re doing is an act of their obedience to the letter and spirit, or principle, of the Word, then even though their rules or convictions aren’t specifically written in Scripture, leave them go. DON’T FAULT A PERSON FOR DOING SOMETHING THEY BELIEVE IS AN ACT OF OBEDIENCE TO GOD!

 

D) BE PATIENT AND PEACEABLE TOWARDS ALL. Earlier in our commentary I asked the question as to what do we do with all the laws we come up with in the process of applying the Word to our daily lives.

Here’s the sequel to the question that’s just as important as the first. What do we do with the people who don’t live by our laws or convictions? Do we cut off and disfellowship everyone who doesn’t live by our own rules? Do we criticize Christians who don’t have the same convictions we have? Do we demonify and anathematize those who don’t agree that a letter or principle of Scripture is to be interpreted and applied the way we’ve interpreted and applied it? Do we judge these Christians as being unchristian, unsaved, and going to Hell?FN

The Pharisees cut off everyone who wasn’t pious like them. They didn’t socialize or interact with commoners. They kept pretty much to themselves and the Scribes. They looked down on their non-observant brethren and regarded them as accursed.

Does the Lord want us to follow in their steps, copy their example, and treat people the same way the Pharisees did?

Brethren, there’s a place for not fellowshipping with people who are disagreeable and contrary to the doctrines which are according to godliness, 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 1 Timothy 6:3-5. Even in this area we must obey the Lord and distance ourselves from those who do not walk according to godliness.

But what do we do with those who aren’t as mature or as knowledgeable as we are? What do we do with those who want to follow the Lord, but just don’t see some things the way we see them?

If people really want to follow and obey the Lord, if they truly want to be like Christ, then the hands of fellowship should remain extended to them.FN

God, you see, recognizes that not everyone of His people are at the same level of spiritual growth or light. So instead of cutting the ignorant and immature off from the knowledgeable and mature, He sets both in the church, sets them both under ministry, and in the context of that ministry, both are brought into the unity of the faith and the likeness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:11-15 (NLT) puts it this way: Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. (12) Their responsibility is to equip God's people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ. (13) This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God's Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. (14) Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. (15) Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church.

Note a few things with me based on this portion of Scripture.

*It’s God’s will for everyone in the local church to come into the unity of the faith. As long as we’re all together, all of us have got to come into unity. And all of us means no one is to be left out. No one in the church is to be independent or self-determined in deciding which ones of the church he will not unite or fellowship with.

*Notice the essential role of five-fold ministry in bringing about the maturity and unity of the saints. It is their God-given responsibility and ministry to teach, instruct, and mature the saints in the local church and bring them into the unity of the faith.

While we are called upon by God to work out our own salvation and not legislate our laws or convictions over others; we are nonetheless called upon by this same God to sit under ministry and receive instruction and teaching as to how the Word of God can be practically applied to our own lives.FN

Brethren, we cannot come into unity and maturity without teaching or instruction. Importantly, we cannot come into unity and maturity if we’re not going to heed and apply the instruction that God’s giving to the church.

*The unity of the faith and the maturity of the saints take time. Till we all come means we’re not there yet, we’re heading in that direction. But frankly, at the moment, we’re not yet united in the faith. The Scriptures go on to say, May (we) grow up into him, which means we’re not all grown up yet, we’re still growing, we haven’t yet arrived at the final destination of Christlikeness. But the point is, we’re still in the same body, we’re still in the same church.

*Just because we’re not all united or agreed on a particular application of Scripture doesn’t mean we’ve got to dissociate ourselves from one another.

At the same time, just because we’re not all united or agreed right now doesn’t mean we don’t ever have to be united or agreed. It’s God’s will for us to be united and agreed.

Till we all come means we’ll eventually come into unity; we’ll reach the goal. And reaching the goal means that some people, including ourselves, have got to change their present beliefs or convictions, change their present ways of living and doing things, and walk in obedience to the light God gives to the church.FN

*The Lord recognizes that there will be Christians with differing convictions in the same local church. Brethren, He put them together! The constituency of the local church is His doing: But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him (1 Corinthians 12:18).

So why does the Lord put people with differing convictions in the same church when He knows there’s a great potential for conflict? Because He wants them to grow together and come together into the unity of the faith, Ephesians 4:11-15.

GOD EXPECTS CHRISTIANS WITH DIFFERING CONVICTIONS TO GET ALONG IN THE CHURCH AND NOT JUDGE, CONDEMN, OFFEND, OR TROUBLE THOSE WITH WHOM THEY DIFFER OR AGREE.

It’s the easiest thing to fight with one another and cut everyone off who don’t see things the way we see them. As we’ve seen in 1 Timothy 6, there’s a place for disfellowshipping people of contrary minds. But that isn’t the first recourse God has given us to do. The first recourse is for us to stay together and work together towards spiritual maturity and unity.

Romans 14 is, in my mind, the Scriptures’ classic text on the responsibility of brethren to dwell together in peace—even when they have differing convictions. With no commentary, I quote the entire text for your perusal. Only keep this in mind, that the eating of meats or herbs may easily be applied to the things on which we differ, be they matters of dress, music, medicine, and the such like.

Romans 14:1-23 (NLT), Welcome all the Lord's followers, even those whose faith is weak. Don't criticize them for having beliefs that are different from yours. (2) Some think it is all right to eat anything, while those whose faith is weak will eat only vegetables. (3) But you should not criticize others for eating or for not eating. After all, God welcomes everyone. (4) What right do you have to criticize someone else's servants? Only their Lord can decide if they are doing right, and the Lord will make sure that they do right. (5) Some of the Lord's followers think one day is more important than another. Others think all days are the same. But each of you should make up your own mind. (6) Any followers who count one day more important than another day do it to honor their Lord. And any followers who eat meat give thanks to God, just like the ones who don't eat meat. (7) Whether we live or die, it must be for God, rather than for ourselves. (8) Whether we live or die, it must be for the Lord. Alive or dead, we still belong to the Lord. (9) This is because Christ died and rose to life, so that he would be the Lord of the dead and of the living. (10) Why do you criticize other followers of the Lord? Why do you look down on them? The day is coming when God will judge all of us. (11) In the Scriptures God says, "I swear by my very life that everyone will kneel down and praise my name!" (12) And so, each of us must give an account to God for what we do. (13) We must stop judging others. We must also make up our minds not to upset anyone's faith. (14) The Lord Jesus has made it clear to me that God considers all foods fit to eat. But if you think some foods are unfit to eat, then for you they are not fit. (15) If you are hurting others by the foods you eat, you are not guided by love. Don't let your appetite destroy someone Christ died for. (16) Don't let your right to eat bring shame to Christ. (17) God's kingdom isn't about eating and drinking. It is about pleasing God, about living in peace, and about true happiness. All this comes from the Holy Spirit. (18) If you serve Christ in this way, you will please God and be respected by people. (19) We should try to live at peace and help each other have a strong faith. (20) Don't let your appetite destroy what God has done. All foods are fit to eat, but it is wrong to cause problems for others by what you eat. (21) It is best not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything else that causes problems for other followers of the Lord. (22) What you believe about these things should be kept between you and God. You are fortunate, if your actions don't make you have doubts. (23) But if you do have doubts about what you eat, you are going against your beliefs. And you know that is wrong, because anything you do against your beliefs is sin.


God, brethren, expects us all to abide together, learn together, and grow up together, without fighting, arguing, criticizing, and judging, each other. He counsels us in Ephesians 4:2-3, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; {3} Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Brethren, the command to forbear doesn’t mean anything if there’s no one in the church to forbear because we’ve disfellowshipped everyone who didn’t agree with our rules or convictions. FORBEARANCE MEANS THERE'LL BE PEOPLE WITH FAULTS AND SHORTCOMINGS IN THE CHURCH. THERE'LL BE PEOPLE WHO ARE UNENLIGHTENED, WHO DON'T AGREE WITH US IN THE MATTER OF OUR CONVICTIONS. THE LORD'S COMMAND IS NOT TO FIGHT WITH OUR BRETHREN, BUT TO FORBEAR THEM, WORK TOWARDS PEACE, AND COME INTO THE UNITY OF THE FAITH.

The fact that the unity of the faith takes time, as we already pointed out, means we need to be patient with one another. Whatever requires time also requires patience. The body of Christ, in sum, is big enough to have in it people who don’t yet agree with our convictions, but who are nonetheless willing to submit to five-fold instruction and willing to change and grow up to be like Christ.

 

Luke 11:53-54, And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently,FN and to provoke him to speak of many things:FN {54} Laying wait for him,FN and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him. Luke 11:53-54 (NLT), As Jesus was leaving, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees became hostile and tried to provoke Him with many questions. (54) They wanted to trap Him into saying something they could use against Him.

 

As you would expect, Jesus’ denunciations didn’t go over very well with the Pharisees and Scribes. They were terribly insulted and incensed by the things He said that they wanted to kill Him! The meal, apparently, didn’t end with these denunciations, but continued for some time more as the religious leaders pressed Him to speak on a wide variety of subjects, hoping He would say something that they could eventually use against Him. Brethren, measure your words carefully because the things you say may well be used against you.

 

SOCIALIZING WITH THOSE WHO ARE NOT OF LIKE MIND OR FAITH

Our text in Luke, along with several others, is frequently used by Christians as a justification for fellowshipping or socializing with unbelievers.FN The fact that Jesus dined or fellowshipped with these religious leaders, it is said, evinces the truth that it’s alright for Christians to fellowship with people who aren’t saved; or fellowship with Christians who go to another church and who are not of the same doctrinal persuasion as we are. In other words, just because people aren’t saved or just because people don’t believe the same things we believe, doesn’t mean we can’t fellowship with them. Jesus did it and so can we!

I would like to address this argument, not because I do not agree with it in part, but because there are inherent dangers that we must recognize and guard against when it comes to fellowshipping with people who are not of like mind or faith.

First, let me clarify some terms. The word 'fellowship', strictly used, implies commonality. That is, people who fellowship together have something in common. For example, Christians have Christ in common, they share a common faith in Jesus. Used in this sense, Christians have no fellowship with unbelievers because they don’t have anything in common as far as Christ is concerned.

Now when the word is used loosely, as it’s often used today and as I would like to use it in this commentary, fellowship is synonymous with getting together with people, spending time with them, interacting with them, socializing with them, chatting the breeze together, doing things with them: eating together, playing together, fishing together, knitting together, shopping together, and the like. When I speak of fellowshipping with people who are not of like mind or faith I have reference to people in general, irrespective of whether they’re Christian or not.

A. TEACHING BY PRECEDENT AND PRACTICE

There are two basic ways we teach: we teach by precedent and we teach by precept.

*When we teach by precedent we are setting the example for others to follow. We’re teaching them to do as we do or live as we live.


*When we teach by precept we’re talking to people and instructing them in the things they ought to know or learn.

Christ set an example for us to follow: For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps (1 Peter 2:21). And He also taught us the things He wants us to know and do. For example, He said, This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you (John 15:12).

Christian faith and practice are based on Christ’s precepts and precedent. The things we believe and do are based on the things Christ taught us in His Word and they’re based on the example that Jesus set for us in that same Word.

Basing our faith and practice on Christ’s words is rather simple because Christ’s words are, for the most part, pretty clear, they’re understandable, and there’s no mistaking what He said or what He meant.

For example, when Christ said, love one another, there’s nothing ambiguous about that. It’s not hard to understand what He meant. When Christ told the sick in the church to call the elders for the anointing of oil and prayer, there’s nothing cryptic about that. We know that Christ was talking about the healing of the body and not the healing of the soul.

Christ’s precepts, I am saying, are, for the most part, pretty clear and easy to understand so that there’s no mistaking what we ought to believe and what we ought to do.

But when it comes to Christ’s precedent, all is not clear. Christ wants us to follow His example. But the problem is determining which of Christ’s actions He meant for us to follow. For example,

*Christ drove the vendors and moneychangers out of the Temple. Does this mean we should follow that same example and go into a church where books and CD's are being sold and drive the vendors out?

*When Christ sent the seventy disciples out in pairs, does this mean we’re supposed to send missionaries out in pairs? Would it be a violation of Jesus’ precedent to send missionaries out singly?

*Jesus came to Zacchaeus and invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ house. Does this mean it’s alright for us to invite ourselves to people’s homes and, in the process, expect them to feed us and devote their time and attention to us?

*When Jesus spat on the ground, made mud, and put it on the blind man’s eyes, did He intend for us to do the same when we heal the blind?

*When Christ spent all night in prayer, does this mean we’re supposed to pray all through the night? Obviously, Jesus didn’t spend every night in prayer and I rather doubt He intends for us to do so. The problem comes in determining how often each one of us should spend the whole night in prayer. Once a week? Once a month? Once a year? If a person doesn’t spend one sleepless night a week praying all through the night is he violating the precedent of Christ? Is he in disobedience to the example Christ set?

We can go on and on, but I trust you see the point—that being, it’s not always easy or clear-cut determining which of Christ’s actions are meant to be followed and duplicated in our own lives. A determination has to be made. Did Christ intend for us to follow His example in a particular instance? Or is this something Christ did that He doesn’t expect us to imitate? Is Christ’s action in any given case meant to be a precedent or not? A determination, I am saying, has to be made.

When it comes to Jesus’ dining with unbelievers, a determination is made by some Christians that Jesus was setting a precedent for us to follow: He wants us to fellowship with unbelievers—at the very least, it’s permissible for us to fellowship with unbelievers.

This determination, like many others, is a matter of debate. Christians on both sides of the issue are divided. They are not agreed that it’s alright for Christians to fellowship with people who are not of like mind or faith.

WHILE THE PRECEDENT OF CHRIST ON THIS MATTER OF FELLOWSHIP IS AMBIGUOUS IN THAT IT'S A MATTER OF DEBATE, THE PRECEPTS OF CHRIST ARE NONETHELESS QUITE CLEAR, UNMISTAKABLE, AND UNAMBIGUOUS. Let’s look at what Christ taught us by precept about fellowshipping with people who aren’t of like mind or faith.

 

B. THOSE WITH WHOM FELLOWSHIP IS FORBIDDEN

Without trying to be exhaustive, I’ve jotted down some of the verses that readily come to mind in this matter of fellowship. As you will see, MOST OF THE LORD'S PROHIBITIONS AGAINST FELLOWSHIP ARE DIRECTED AGAINST FELLOWSHIPPING WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE PROFESSING CHRISTIANS!

*FELLOWSHIP FORBIDDEN WITH UNBELIEVERS AND UNREGENERATES.

Proverbs 24:1 (NLT), Don't envy evil people or desire their company. See also Proverbs 4:14, 22:24-25, Exodus 34:12.

1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV), Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (CEV), Stay away from people who are not followers of the Lord! Can someone who is good get along with someone who is evil? Are light and darkness the same? (15) Is Christ a friend of Satan? Can people who follow the Lord have anything in common with those who don't? (16) Do idols belong in the temple of God? We are the temple of the living God, as God himself says, "I will live with these people and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people." (17) The Lord also says, "Leave them and stay away! Don't touch anything that isn't clean. Then I will welcome you (18) and be your Father. You will be my sons and my daughters, as surely as I am God, the All-Powerful."

*FELOWSHIP FORBIDDEN WITH ANTICHRISTS AND MEMBERS OF FALSE CULTS.

2 John 1:9-11 (ESV), Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (10) If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, (11) for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

*FELLOWSHIP FORBIDDEN WITH THESE PROFESSING CHRISTIANS.

*Hirelings and deceivers in the ministry who don’t care for the welfare of the sheep.

John 10:5 (NLT), They won't follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don't know his voice."

*Those living in sin or who have transgressed in one matter and are unrepentant.

1 Corinthians 5:11 (NIV), But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
Matthew 18:15-17 (CEV), If one of my followers sins against you, go and point out what was wrong. But do it in private, just between the two of you. If that person listens, you have won back a follower. (16) But if that one refuses to listen, take along one or two others. The Scriptures teach that every complaint must be proven true by two or more witnesses. (17) If the follower refuses to listen to them, report the matter to the church. Anyone who refuses to listen to the church must be treated like an unbeliever or a tax collector.

*Those who are under the discipline of the church.


1 Corinthians 5:2,13 (NLT), You are so proud of yourselves, but you should be mourning in sorrow and shame. And you should remove this man from your fellowship...(13) God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, "You must remove the evil person from among you."

*Those who are divisive.

Titus 3:10 (NLT), If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. See also 2 Timothy 3:3-5 KJV trucebreakers, meaning irreconcilable.

Romans 16:17 (NLT), And now I make one more appeal, my dear brothers and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people's faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them.

*Those adverse to sound doctrine.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 (KJV), If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; {4} He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, {5} Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

*Those adverse to godliness and holy living.

1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV), Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."

1 Timothy 6:3-5 (KJV), If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; {4} He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, {5} Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (CEV), You can be certain that in the last days there will be some very hard times. (2) People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful, godless, (3) heartless, and hateful. Their words will be cruel, and they will have no self-control or pity. These people will hate everything that is good. (4) They will be sneaky, reckless, and puffed up with pride. Instead of loving God, they will love pleasure. (5) Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won't be real. Don't have anything to do with such people.

*Those adverse to instruction or admonition concerning human responsibility.

2 Thessalonians 3:6,14 (NLT), And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don't follow the tradition they received from us...(14) Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed.

In sum, Christ doesn’t want us to fellowship with unregenerates, people from different cults or false religions, professing Christians who are, in reality, deceivers, and Christians who aren’t willing to receive sound, scriptural teaching and who aren’t willing to walk in holiness as is befitting for all Christians. Brethren, the precept of Christ in this matter is clear and unmistakable. And Christ expects us to obey Him on this point.

There are blessings inherent with fellowship, but there are also dangers. We will not fully understand or appreciate the importance of choosing our friends wisely until we come to grips with this truth, namely, THE PEOPLE WE HANG AROUND WITH WILL AFFECT US FOR GOOD OR BAD.

Why does Christ forbid us from fellowshipping with certain people? In part, it’s so that we won’t learn their sins and become corrupted. A little leaven, Christ said, leavens the whole lump, 1 Corinthians 5:6.

EVIL, WHETHER IT BE BAD CONDUCT, BAD DOCTRINE, OR BAD PEOPLE, HAS A CONTAGIOUS, CORRUPTING EFFECT: IT ADVERSELY AFFECTS THE FAITH AND MORALS OF GOD'S PEOPLE. 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV) reads, Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character."

The prohibition against fellowshipping with unbelievers, deceivers, and critics, is meant for our good. To believe otherwise and assert that fellowshipping with forbidden people will not hurt or affect us is deception. WE’RE ALREADY DECEIVED IF WE THINK FELLOWSHIPPING WITH BAD PEOPLE WON’T MAKE US BAD.

Brethren, GOD’S WORD IS ALWAYS TRUE, GOD IS ALWAYS RIGHT, AND WE’LL NEVER PROVE HIM WRONG! When He said bad friendships or relationships corrupt you, they’ll surely and inevitably corrupt you—no matter how wrong you think God is and no matter how strong a Christian you think you are. God, my friends, is always right!

 

C. A PRECEDENT OF MINISTRY, NOT OF FELLOWSHIP

We can argue as to whether or not Christ intended to set a precedent for us to follow when He dined in the house of a Pharisee. If, indeed, Christ meant for us to follow His example in this case, it would violate the precepts He commanded us to keep, such as those that we’ve quoted above. We would put Him in the contradiction of telling us not to fellowship with unbelievers, but to nonetheless follow His example and fellowship with unbelievers. Brethren, GOD DOESN’T CONTRADICT HIMSELF, HE ISN’T CONFUSING TO UNDERSTAND.

Let me, however, hasten to say that, realistically speaking, MINISTERING TO PEOPLE INVOLVES SOME DEGREE OF SOCIALIZATION OR CONTACT. Obviously, you can’t minister to people if you cut yourself off from them. You can’t share the Gospel with the lost if you don’t go to the lost and talk to the lost.

God doesn’t want you fellowshipping with the lost, but at the same time, He wants you to reach out to them and minister to them. And ministering to them will involve some degree of interaction and dialogue.

For example, when your ministry takes you to a hospital, jail, nursing home, or half-way house, you’re interacting with people. You can call it fellowship, socialization, interacting, or a host of other things. The point is, ministering to people means you’re going to have to mix with people and spend some amount of time with them.

Ministering to Christians who are unenlightened or immature involves some degree of fellowship too. Whether you choose to meet informally in a restaurant or formally in a Bible study group, ministry involves you getting together with Christians who presently don’t believe the things you believe; it involves you spending some time with them, talking to them. It may even involve you taking them along on a trip or fun outing, like fishing, skiing, or shopping.

The point in all this is, YOU’RE FELLOWSHIPPING WITH AN OBJECTIVE OF MINISTRY IN MIND: YOU’RE NOT FELLOWSHIPPING JUST FOR THE SAKE OF HAVING A GOOD TIME WITH PEOPLE.

This is, I believe, what’s going on here in Luke 11. Jesus isn’t just fellowshipping with Pharisees for the sake of fellowshipping: He’s fellowshipping with them because He’s ministering to them.

Keep in mind who these people are. They are Pharisees and Scribes, many of whom were antagonistic towards our Lord. You could even say they were critics and enemies of our Lord; they were false teachers and deceivers. In all fairness to them, I must once again stress that we don’t know exactly what motivated this Pharisee to invite Jesus into his home and why he chose to have a bunch of his pharisaical and scribal friends present at the meal too. It might be he was sincerely wanting to know more about Jesus.

One thing, however is certain. By the time Jesus was done talking, these Pharisees and Scribes were out for blood! They were out to nail Him!

Jesus knew all this would happen. But He nonetheless accepted the Pharisee’s invitation and went to eat with him. In this, we see the possibility and permissibility of ministering to those who are not of like mind or faith—whether saved or unsaved. And ministering, once again, involves interacting or spending some time with these who aren’t of like mind or faith.FN

 

GUIDELINES FOR MINISTERING TO PEOPLEFN

1. MINISTER. TALK TO PEOPLE ABOUT CHRIST.

We take note of several things in the text of Scripture. First, note that Jesus is doing more than just eating: He’s talking to these Pharisees and Scribes about spiritual matters. He’s ministering to them.

Friends, if you’re going to use Luke 11 as a precedent or justification for fellowshipping with people who don’t believe the same things you believe, then FELLOWSHIP WITH THE INTENT TO MINISTER AND, ABOVE ALL, MINISTER!

IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO MINISTER, THEN DON'T FELLOWSHIP because fellowshipping with the wrong people will corrupt you. Not only that, but fellowshipping without ministering constitutes disobedience to the prohibition of our Lord as stated above.

I know there’s lots of fun in fellowshipping with certain people and I feel for you. But there are dangers too and the Lord’s interested in keeping you from these dangers. Having fun isn’t worth disobeying God and arousing His ire! Brethren, believe the Lord for Christian friends who you can fellowship with.

 

2. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TELL PEOPLE WHAT’S WRONG.

Second, notice the form that Jesus’ ministry took in this particular instance. He rebuked and denounced them. He castigated them for their faults and wrongs.

Brethren, IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE NERVE TO TELL PEOPLE THE WAY IT IS, IF YOU'RE AFRAID AND UNWILLING TO EXPOSE PEOPLE'S SINS AND TELL THEM THEY'RE WRONG; THEN YOU'RE NOT REALLY MINISTERING TO THEM.FN

I know that it’s a real tendency to regard rebuking people as being unloving or an act of unkindness; to minister means you shouldn’t offend people or get them mad. But, brethren, withholding the truth because it’s unpleasant to the people who need to hear it is not an act of love. It’s not an act of love to let people continue in the sins or doctrines that would damn them.

Be loving. Be Christian. But speak the truth nonetheless. The truth can’t help unless it’s made known.

IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO SPEAK THE TRUTH, THEN QUIT FELLOWSHIPPING WITH PEOPLE WHO AREN'T OF LIKE MIND OR FAITH. NO TRUTH, NO MINISTRY. NO MINISTRY, NO FELLOWSHIP. PERIOD.

 

3. DON’T JUDGE YOUR MINISTRY BY ITS RESULTS.

Third, THE VALIDITY OF ONE'S MINISTRY CANNOT BE JUDGED SOLELY BY THE RESULTS OR FRUITS THAT IT PRODUCES.

You see, the human tendency is to regard a person’s ministry as being of the Lord when converts are won and erring Christians are brought to repentance and light. Conversely, when converts aren’t won and erring Christians remain errant still, then this proves a person was out of God’s will in ministering to the people he ministered to.

But, brethren, look at the results of Jesus’ fellowship or ministry in the Pharisee’s home. It was an utter failure and a fiasco! It was disastrous! Jesus didn’t make converts here. He enemitized these Pharisees and Scribes even more—in fact, to such an extent that they wanted to kill Him! By our human standards, Jesus’ ministry was an utter failure. He would have done better by not accepting the Pharisee’s invitation to eat or by not opening His mouth once He got to the Pharisee’s home.

The success or failure of one’s ministry cannot always be judged solely by the fruits it produces. Jesus succeeded in exposing the hearts of these leaders. He delivered a message to them. And even though that message wasn’t received, even though they didn’t become His disciples, Jesus nonetheless succeeded in doing what He set out to do: He delivered His message.

Brethren, not everyone you minister to is going to be saved or be won to the light. You mustn’t get discouraged and doubt if you were in God’s will in the first place to minister to this person or that. SOMETIMES, LIKE JESUS IN THIS INSTANCE, GOD SENDS YOU TO PEOPLE FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF DELIVERING A MESSAGE. IN SPITE OF HOW THAT MESSAGE IS RECEIVED, YOU’VE SUCCEEDED IN MINISTERING WHEN YOU’VE DELIVERED THE MESSAGE.

In closing out our commentary on Luke 11, some people sincerely and zealously want to minister to people and, on that basis, they’ll go ahead and fellowship with those who aren’t of like mind or faith. I’ve already given you some guidelines for fellowship and ministry as we see them in the precedent of our Lord. In addition to these, here are some guidelines for your prayerful consideration.

 

4. DON'T FELLOWSHIP OR MINISTER IF YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE IS IN SHAMBLES.

By that, I mean you’re not living a good Christian life, there’s so much sin and ungodliness in your life that you’re a contradiction to the things Christ and Christianity stand for, people can’t tell you’re really a Christian by the way you live, by the things you do, or by the things you say.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT BEFORE YOU WITNESS, BUT YOU’VE AT LEAST GOT TO HAVE SOME SEMBLANCE OF BEING A TRUE CHILD OF GOD. THE WITNESS OF YOUR LIFE SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS AND PEOPLE ARE LOATHE TO HEAR SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T PRACTICE WHAT THEY PREACH. GET YOUR LIFE RIGHT BEFORE YOU HELP PEOPLE GET THEIRS RIGHT.

 

5. DON'T FELLOWSHIP OR MINISTER IF YOU'RE SUSCEPTIBLE OR OPEN TO COMPROMISE, WHETHER ETHICAL OR DOCTRINAL.

Some Christians just aren’t spiritually strong enough to minister at the present time. Instead of changing people, they end up being changed by people. Whether because of the fear of man or plain ignorance of the Word, some people are easily persuaded by the arguments and intimidations of men.

Brethren, if you don’t know the Word enough to be able to contradict the arguments of men, if you aren’t secure or persuaded in what you know; you make yourself susceptible to compromise and deception when you talk with people who are highly intimidating and smart. Give your testimony if you want, but stay away from doctrine until you’re grounded and settled in the doctrine.

 

6. DON'T FELLOWSHIP OR MINISTER IF YOU'RE NOT IN FAITH.

Some Christians minister out of a sense of duty: they do it because they have to. But they’re not in faith. They’re bound with fear, for example, the fear of one’s safety or welfare, the fear of man, the fear of being criticized, the fear of becoming deceived, the fear of getting oppressed by spirits of deception, ecumenicalism, denominational spirits, and the like.

Brethren, IF YOU'RE NOT IN FAITH, DEFER MINISTERING TO PEOPLE UNTIL YOU'VE GOTTEN RID OF YOUR FEARS AND STAND SECURELY IN FAITH. Fear, like a magnet, attracts the Devil towards you. But when you’re in faith, no demon can prevail against you.

 

7. ABOVE ALL, MINISTER IN LOVE.

Being right, loving the Lord, and loving people, don’t give you the right to be ugly or mean-spirited when you’re sharing Christ and the truth with people. Being reckless with the truth will wreck any chances you may have ministering to people. So speak the truth lovingly, Ephesians 4:15. It isn’t easy giving up cherished beliefs or lifestyles. People need time to mull over the things you’re saying to them. So don’t expect instantaneous acceptance, conversion, or changes. A lot of times, the seeds you sow take time to bring forth faith and repentance. Being judgmental, critical, and condemning do not help you win people over to the Lord and the truth. It turns people off to you and ruins your chances of ministering anymore to them. The fact is, many people reject Christ and refuse to become a Christian because of the way they see some Christians act and behave. IT’S SO SOBERING TO THINK THAT YOU COULD BE THE REASON WHY SOMEONE WILL NEVER COME TO CHRIST. So watch your witness and be a godly representation of Christ to the world. Be patient, courteous, and kind-hearted with people. Give the words you sow and the Spirit time to work effectually in people’s hearts and minds. Sin, judgment, and hell are real. People need to be told that. But people need hope too. The hope of change. The hope of a better life. The hope of being loved and forgiven by God in spite of all the things they’ve done. You need the Spirit to be effective in ministry. So spend a lot of time in prayer, asking the Lord to give you the right words to say and help you make the right ministry decisions. Not everyone is going to accept Christ. Pray for them and continue to love them. YOU MAY BE THE ONLY CHRIST PEOPLE WILL EVER SEE. SO LET THEM SEE THE REAL CHRIST IN YOU.

 

 

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE CONVERGE ON CHRIST

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 12:1a, In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitudeFN of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another.FN Luke 12:1 (ESV), In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

 

Not too long after Jesus’ meal with the Pharisees, several thousand people came from all over the area to see and hear Jesus. But instead of speaking directly to them, Jesus turned His attention to His disciples and gave them sundry warnings and admonitions.

 

 

A WARNING AGAINST HYPOCRISY

STILL SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 12:1b-3, And he began to say unto his disciplesFN first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. {2} For there is nothing covered,FN that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. {3} Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closetsFN shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.FN Luke 12:1-3 (CEV), As thousands of people crowded around Jesus and were stepping on each other, he told his disciples: Be sure to guard against the dishonest teaching of the Pharisees! It is their way of fooling people. (2) Everything that is hidden will be found out, and every secret will be known. (3) Whatever you say in the dark will be heard when it is day. Whatever you whisper in a closed room will be shouted from the housetops.

 

On this particular occasion, Jesus taught His disciples on a variety of themes. First, He warned them first about the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. On another occasion Jesus said the leaven of the Pharisees is their doctrines or rabbinical teachings and traditions (Matthew 16:6-12).

Because the Pharisees concentrated solely on the external and ignored the inner condition of the heart, their teachings naturally gave rise to hypocrisy, Matthew 23:25-28, Luke 11:39. In fact, Jesus denounced these religious leaders as being hypocrites.

What, then, is hypocrisy? Hypocrisy is play-acting. It’s pretending to be someone you’re really not.

Jesus said of these Pharisees, Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Matthew 23:28). The Pharisees weren’t who they appeared to be. Outwardly, they were righteous. But underneath that facade they were full of wickedness.

You see, with the myriads of people around them, Jesus understood the easy tendency of men to become hypocrites in the midst of popularity. Popularity has a way of making a person think he’s someone he’s really not. Even in our day we see that the people who are popular are often not who we think they are, it’s a false front, they’re maintaining a public persona. But in private they’re a very different person.

Sometimes we can get so busy ministering to others and helping them get their lives right that we forget and neglect to deal with the problems in our own lives. SIN THRIVES WHEREVER IT'S NEGLECTED AND IGNORED. HUMAN IMPERFECTIONS AND WEAKNESSES THRIVE WHEN WE'RE TOO BUSY TO GET THEM RIGHT.

Brethren, Jesus doesn’t want us to be hypocrites like the Pharisees. He doesn’t want us to be outwardly righteous and inwardly filled with iniquity. When we neglect to deal with the lusts and ungodly thoughts or emotions of our heart, we become just like the Pharisees—outwardly godly, but inwardly ungodly. And the thing of it is, like the Pharisees, we can do a pretty good job of concealing our wickedness and giving everybody the impression we’re really a model Christian.

But God isn’t fooled by, or impressed with, our facade. He’s concerned about what’s underneath, what’s behind, that facade. Brethren, God wants our heart clean! Don’t be a hypocrite because no matter how hard you try to hide the truth, you’ll eventually be exposed. It might hurt you or embarrass you to get rid of your facade or public persona, but YOU CAN'T GET HELP UNTIL YOU'RE WILLING TO FACE UP TO REALITY AND ADMIT YOU'RE NOT THE PERSON YOU'RE PRETENDING TO BE. The sooner you deal with your problems the happier you’ll be.

 

 

COMFORT AND ADVICE WHEN YOU’RE BEING PERSECUTED

STILL SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 12:4-12, And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. {5} But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell;FN yea, I say unto you, Fear him. {6} Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings,FN and not one of them is forgotten before God? {7} But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. {8} Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: {9} But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.FN {10} And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.FN {11} And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers,FN take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: {12} For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say. Luke 12:4-12 (CEV), My friends, don't be afraid of people. They can kill you, but after that, there is nothing else they can do. (5) God is the one you must fear. Not only can he take your life, but he can throw you into hell. God is certainly the one you should fear! (6) Five sparrows are sold for just two pennies, but God doesn't forget a one of them. (7) Even the hairs on your head are counted. So don't be afraid! You are worth much more than many sparrows. (8) If you tell others that you belong to me, the Son of Man will tell God's angels that you are my followers. (9) But if you reject me, you will be rejected in front of them. (10) If you speak against the Son of Man, you can be forgiven, but if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you cannot be forgiven. (11) When you are brought to trial in the Jewish meeting places or before rulers or officials, don't worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say. (12) At that time the Holy Spirit will tell you what to say.

 

In the midst of such overwhelming popularity, Jesus didn’t speak to His disciples about how they should manage or handle their popularity. Instead, He spoke to them about persecution!FN Instead of being emotionally drunk and reveling in popularity, He warned them about the persecution that popularity often brings. In essence, the popularity wouldn’t last. Today, popularity. Tomorrow, persecution.FN

Jesus tells us we’re going to be persecuted and He prepares us for it by telling us not to fear men: they can only kill our bodies and, even in that, they’re doing us the favor of bringing us into the presence of our Lord.

Instead of fearing men, we are to fear the Lord because He’s the One who can send us to perdition. Two things will surely send us there: denying our relationship to Him and saying that the miracles or messages we’ve seen or heard were, in reality, the works of a demonic spirit.

You see, when we stand before our persecutors who hold our lives in their hands, it’s a real temptation to lie and say things that aren’t true because we want to save our skins. But Jesus warns us not to do that. He encourages us with the notion that He will not forget or forsake us in time of persecution, He’ll give us the wisdom and words to say in answer to our accusers.

 

 

A MAN SEEKS JESUS’ HELP WITH HIS INHERITANCE

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 12:13, And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. Luke 12:13 (CEV), A man in a crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell my brother to give me my share of what our father left us when he died."

 

As Jesus was speaking, a man out of the crowd asked Jesus to mediate in a matter of inheritance. The request was not an unusual one, seeing that it was customary at the time to seek the help of a rabbi in such cases and sometimes, with the rabbi’s mediation, the matter was resolved without the grievance being taken to court.

Now the laws of inheritance were rather simple and straightforward. They’re found in Numbers 27:8-11, 36:1-13, and Deuteronomy 21:15-17. When a man died, his property and possessions were divided among his sons.FN A double portion was allotted to the firstborn son.FN For example, if a man had two sons, his land or property would be divided into thirds: the firstborn would inherit two-thirds of the land and the younger son, a third. When it came to the man’s personal possessions such as animals, clothes, jewelry, and money, the possessions would likewise be divided among the heirs, with the firstborn son receiving a double portion.

In the case under consideration, since the right or responsibility of the inheritance’s division rested with his brother, it is naturally presumed that the complainant here was the younger brother. Assuming there were no other brothers, the complainant was entitled to one-third of his father’s land and possessions.

 

Luke 12:14-15, And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? {15} And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness:FN for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. Luke 12:14-15 (ESV), But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?" (15) And he said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

 

The man wanted Jesus to arbitrate a grievance or dispute that he had with his older brother, but Jesus plainly refused to do so. He did this, perhaps, for two reasons.

(1) Jesus had no civil, legal, or magisterial authority with which to settle this grievance. This was a matter for the proper authorities to decide and Jesus clearly would not usurp a power that was not His to exercise;FN and

(2) there are some matters of dispute that Jesus would not interfere in, especially when the complainant was in the wrong. WHEN YOU'RE WRONG, BRETHREN, JESUS ISN'T GOING TO SETTLE A DISPUTE IN YOUR FAVOR!

In what way was this complainant wrong? He had an inheritance coming that was rightfully his and, as we understand the man’s request, his older brother was withholding his inheritance from him. Clearly, the older brother was wrong and the younger brother, right. Right?

WHEN WE REST SOLELY ON THE WORD OF ONE PARTY IN A TWO-PARTY SQUABBLE, OUR OPINIONS AND JUDGMENT BECOME FLAWED, ONE-SIDED, AND HEAVILY IN FAVOR OF THE PARTY WHO’S DOING ALL THE TALKING.

But when we talk to the other party, or when we trust the Lord for wisdom and discernment in the matter, a different judgment results. What was once so clearly right to us is now clearly inaccurate, misleading, or wrong. Upon closer examination we find that the complainant was misleading us and giving us a false impression so that we could decide in their favor. They were being deceitful. That’s why WE NEED TO TALK TO ALL PARTIES INVOLVED AND TRUST THE LORD FOR WISDOM IN MAKING THE RIGHT JUDGMENT OR DECISION IN A GIVEN MATTER OF DISPUTE.

Getting back to this matter of the complainant being wrong, Christ went on to warn His disciples about covetousness. In fact, for the next twenty verses Christ talks about nothing else but covetousness. Either Jesus is abruptly changing the subject, or else, covetousness applies in this matter of the man’s inheritance.

I don’t think Jesus is changing the subject. He’s warning us about covetousness because the complainant in this case was covetous and therefore wrong or in the wrong. Chances are, he got his share of the inheritance, but wanted more. This is, after all, what covetousness is all about: it’s about wanting more and, in some cases, wanting something that doesn’t belong to you. Perhaps he wanted his older brother to share his double portion with him, he wanted his father’s property and possessions to be equally divided between his brother and himself. In other words, he wanted more than what was due him by law, hence, Jesus’ warning against covetousness.FN

This younger brother thought that the problem was his older brother. He thought his brother was not being fair in the division of the inheritance.FN But the real problem rested with himself. He was being covetous.

In much the same way, while we may have various problems or bones of contentions against other people, the thing we see in this incident is, THE PROBLEM WE FACE WITH OTHER PEOPLE MAY NOT NECESSARILY BE THE REAL PROBLEM. THE PROBLEMS MAY NOT BE WHAT WE THINK THEY ARE. Like this younger brother, there may well be a greater underlying problem that we’re not dealing with and it’s this underlying problem that’s giving us the real problem.

For this complainant, the real problem was covetousness. For us, it could be any number of things: not dying out, not being understanding or forbearing, not being merciful, forgiving or loving; it could be the real problem is we’re being selfish, legalistic, critical, judgmental, self-righteous, proud, and a host of other such problematic attitudes and behaviors.

While Jesus wouldn’t intervene in this matter of grievance or dispute, He nevertheless revealed what the true problem was. It was covetousness. Furthermore, Jesus didn’t deal with the older brother as the complainant wanted Him to do. Instead, Jesus dealt with the complainant himself and told him what the problem really was.

In much the same way, brethren, WE NEED JESUS TO TELL US WHEN WE’RE WRONG. WE NEED HIM TO SHOW US WHAT THE REAL PROBLEM IS. Being human, we don’t like admitting we’re wrong. We don’t savor the thought of being wrong. The other guy is the problem, not us! UNLESS WE'RE TOLD, CHANCES ARE, WE'RE NOT GOING TO SEE THAT IT'S US WHO'VE GOT THE PROBLEM, IT'S US WHO ARE THE PROBLEM.

Brethren, WE CAN’T EVER BE RIGHT UNTIL WE FIX WHAT’S WRONG WITH US. WE’RE SO FOCUSED ON WHAT’S WRONG WITH PEOPLE. IT’S TIME WE GET OUR EYES OFF PEOPLE AND FOCUS ON THE ONE WHO’S GOT THE REAL PROBLEM: OURSELF.

WHEN WE DEAL WITH THE REAL PROBLEM THAT WE HAVE WE CAN AVOID HAVING BAD ATTITUDES TOWARD OTHERS AND AVOID THE MANY BROKEN FRIENDSHIPS AND STRAINED RELATIONSHIPS THAT ARE A RESULT OF US BLAMING OTHERS WHEN, IN TRUTH, WE'RE TO BLAME, AT LEAST PARTLY, BECAUSE WE'VE NOT DEALT WITH OUR OWN PROBLEM.FN

Getting back to covetousness, Jesus warns us not to be covetous because our life doesn’t consist in how many things we have. To center our life around the accumulation of possession is so unsatisfying because that’s not where life is. Possessions are nice, they’re convenient. But they cannot satisfy the longings of the human heart and soul. As Augustine once said, God has reserved a place for Himself within our hearts and we’re not at rest until we bring God into our lives and give ourselves to Him. TRUE MEANING AND FULFILLMENT IN LIFE ARE FOUND IN CHRIST ALONE, NOT IN WORLDLY WEALTH OR POSSESSION.

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE RICH FOOL

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 12:16-21, And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: {17} And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? {18} And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. {19} And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. {20} But God said unto him, Thou fool,FN this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? {21} So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Luke 12:16-21 (CEV), So Jesus told them this story: A rich man's farm produced a big crop, (17) and he said to himself, "What can I do? I don't have a place large enough to store everything." (18) Later, he said, "Now I know what I'll do. I'll tear down my barns and build bigger ones, where I can store all my grain and other goods. (19) Then I'll say to myself, 'You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.' " (20) But God said to him, "You fool! Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?" (21) "This is what happens to people who store up everything for themselves, but are poor in the sight of God."

 

To illustrate the danger and folly of covetousness, Christ gave this parable of the rich farmer-turned-fool. Now the farmer’s folly was not in the fact that he was rich or well-to-do, nor was it in the fact that he was abundantly blessed in the works of his hands and blessed in the harvest of his fields, neither yet was it in the fact that he made provision for the future, Proverbs 6:6-11.

His folly rested in the fact that he left God out of all his plans. He made no provision for his spiritual welfare or destiny. His future was all wrapped up in the enjoyment of his wealth.FN

As we humans are wont to see, the farmer had every reason to believe he had a secure future, financially speaking. He was still young enough as evidenced by the fact that he expected to live and spend the next several years in ease and enjoyment. He was apparently healthy enough that sickness didn’t figure into his enjoyment of life. And, of course, to top it all off, he was financially blest! The guy didn’t have any money problems or worries. Many of us would love to be in his shoes! It just goes to show how short-sighted we are!

Not having made provisions for his relationship with God, God saw fit to take his life from him. GOD, YOU SEE, HAS THIS RIGHT TO REQUIRE OUR LIVES OF US AT ANY TIME HE CHOOSES. So it’s at this point where we see the futility and folly of planning for our future or retirement without taking God and our spiritual destiny into account.

Friends, WHEN YOU MAKE YOUR PLANS WITHOUT GOD IN MIND, GOD HAS A WAY OF FRUSTRATING YOUR PLANS. In spite of how good things look for you right now, you nevertheless don’t know what the future will be. You’ve got no guarantees that life will be this good tomorrow.

James counsels us, Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." (14) Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (15) Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that" (James 4:13-15 NIV).

The lesson? Make your plans with God in mind. Make provisions for your spiritual welfare and destiny. DON’T LET RICHES OR PROSPERITY MAKE YOU SPIRITUALLY MINDLESS OR NEGLECTFUL. AS FAR AS JESUS IS CONCERNED, YOU ARE A FOOL TO LIVE LIFE WITHOUT GOD (verse 20).

 

Luke 12:22-34 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. {23} The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.FN {24} Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? {25} And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?FN {26} If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? {27} Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.FN {28} If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven;FN how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

{29} And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.FN {30} For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. {31} But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. {32} Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasureFN to give you the kingdom.

{33} Sell that ye have,FN and give alms; provide yourselves bagsFN which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. {34} For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Luke 12:22-34 (NLT), Then, turning to His disciples, Jesus said, "That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. (23) For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. (24) Look at the ravens. They don't plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to Him than any birds! (25) Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? (26) And if worry can't accomplish a little thing like that, what's the use of worrying over bigger things? (27) "Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. (28) And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

(29) "And don't be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don't worry about such things. (30) These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. (31) Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need. (32) "So don't be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

(33) "Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. (34) Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

 

The cure for covetousness is four-fold. First, don’t be anxious or worried about your life. God takes care of the creatures He made and it’s certain He’ll take care of you.

Second, don’t be doubtful. Trust God to provide for you just as He provides for the rest of the created order.

Third, instead of centering your life around the necessities and luxuries of life, center it around God’s kingdom. THE PROMISE OR CERTAINTY OF GOD'S PROVISION IS GIVEN TO THOSE WHOSE PRIORITIES AND EFFORTS IN LIFE ARE SPIRITUAL.FN

And fourth, instead of making the accumulation of possessions or wealth your goal in life, make it your goal to give what you’ve got to the poor.

TRUE WEALTH IS NOT IN WHAT WE HAVE, BUT RATHER, IN WHAT WE GIVE AWAY. WEALTH IS NOT MEASURED IN WHAT WE POSSESS ON THIS EARTH, OR HOW MUCH WE POSSESS, BUT RATHER, BY WHAT WE POSSESS IN HEAVEN.

What we have in Heaven is gained through what we give away to the poor and needy. In this way, CHARITY TOWARDS OTHERS—WHICH IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF COVETOUSNESS—IS THE CURE FOR COVETOUSNESS.

Brethren, THE WEALTH OR PROSPERITY THAT THE LORD BLESSES US WITH IS NOT MEANT FOR SELFISH ACCUMULATION: IT'S MEANT TO BE GIVEN AWAY AND SHARED WITH THOSE LESS FORTUNATE THAN OURSELVES.

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE WATCHFUL SERVANTSFN

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 12:35-38, Let your loins be girded about,FN and your lights burning;FN {36} And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. {37} Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. {38} And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch,FN and find them so, blessed are those servants. Luke 12:35-38 (NLT), "Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, (36) as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. (37) The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! (38) He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.

 

Covetousness has a way of making a person spiritually mindless or neglectful. It binds him to the affairs of this life and the riches of this world, making him oblivious to the perils and dangers that covetousness poses to his soul.

Instead of being covetous, Jesus said we need to be watchful, alert, and awake, waiting for His return. The parable of the watchful servants marks a transition from the theme of covetousness to the theme of watching for our Lord’s soon return. It speaks of the coming joys and benefits that shall accrue to us who have our eyes on the kingdom and the skies.

Weddings normally took place at night. The ceremony would be followed by a banquet that, in some cases, lasted well into the morning. In the Master’s absence, His servants are not to sleep. They are to keep awake and wait for Him to come back home.

Now the purpose of a parable is to convey a single point. The point here is not that our Lord will one day serve us in a heavenly banquet, although we can’t rule that out. The point is, Jesus is coming back soon and God wants us to be awake, watchful and waiting for His return. We don’t know when He’s coming again as far as the rapture is concerned. But we know that He’s coming for those who are watching. Hebrews 9:28 reads, So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

Does this mean we won’t be saved if we’re not watching? I don’t think that’s the right or proper question to ask. The question that needs answered is, If we don’t have our eyes on Jesus, then what are we looking at? What are we focused on and preoccupied with? Whatever it is, WHAT WE’RE LOOKING AT IS TAKING OUR EYES OFF OF JESUS. IT’S TAKING OUR HEART AWAY FROM JESUS. DISTRACTIONS, LIKE COVETOUSNESS OR THE PURSUIT OF WEALTH OR PLEASURE, ARE DAMNABLE. THE ONLY SURE CURE FOR NOT FALLING AWAY FROM JESUS IS TO KEEP OUR EYES, HEARTS, AND MIND FOCUSED ON JESUS. Brethren, Jesus has His eyes on you. Don’t get your eyes off of Him!

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE WATCHFUL HOMEOWNERFN

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 12:39-40, And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. {40} Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not. Luke 12:39-40 (NLT), "Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into. (40) You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected." Luke 12:39-40 (CEV), You would surely not let a thief break into your home, if you knew when the thief was coming. (40) So always be ready! You don't know when the Son of Man will come.

 

Jesus continues with His theme of watchfulness in this parable.

As most burglaries go, a thief strikes when the householder is away or else when he’s unsuspecting and asleep. Now the KJV goodman of the house is simply the master, or owner, of the house. If he knew what time a thief would strike he would naturally be on guard against him and prevent his house from being broken into and his family hurt.

Let’s be clear about one thing here. Jesus isn’t comparing Himself to a thief. He’s no thief! But He is comparing His coming to that of a thief. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 (NLT) reads, Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don't really need to write you. (2) For you know quite well that the day of the Lord's return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.

The New Testament speaks on various aspects of our Lord’s return and the one that the Lord stresses in His Lucan discourse here is the fact that we don’t know exactly when our Lord will return. His return is imminent, He could come at any time now.

The point of the parable and the admonition is watchfulness. The Lord want us to be watchful because, even though we don’t know the exact time of His coming, His return is nevertheless imminent.

There are four things here that we can be certain of.

*First, Jesus is leaving. Obviously, Jesus cannot come again if He doesn’t first leave. His return presupposes His departure; His second coming presupposes a time of absence or separation. I believe Jesus alludes to this time of absence in verses 42-46 that we’ll look at shortly.

*Second, Jesus is coming again! Earth hasn’t seen the last of our Lord! Unbelievably, there are some Christians today who sincerely do not believe that Jesus is coming again, at least not literally, bodily, or visibly. But in spite of what men want to believe or disbelieve, Jesus said the Son of man cometh. WHATEVER JESUS SAYS IS TRUE AND CERTAIN TO HAPPEN!

*Third, He’s coming at an hour when ye think not. What does this mean? It means NO ONE KNOWS EXACTLY WHEN THE LORD IS COMING AGAIN. Astoundingly, the Lord Himself doesn’t know! He said in Mark 13:32, But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Matthew 24:36 iterates this truth. The Father is the only One who knows when Jesus is returning to Earth again.

BRETHREN, LET NO MAN OR WOMAN FOOL YOU INTO THINKING HE OR SHE KNOWS EXACTLY WHEN THE LORD IS COMING. PAY NO HEED TO ALL THESE PEOPLE WHO PROPHESY THE LORD'S EXACT RETURN. NO ONE KNOWS. IF THE FATHER IS THE ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS WHEN JESUS IS COMING; AND IF THE FATHER HAS CHOSEN NOT TO REVEAL IT TO EVEN HIS SON; THEN YOU CAN BE ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN THAT GOD WON'T TELL ANY MAN OR WOMAN WHAT HE HIMSELF HASN'T TOLD HIS OWN SON!

Furthermore, Jesus’ coming at an hour when ye think not means that He’s coming when we least expect it. He’s coming at the unlikeliest time. Brethren, don’t think that Jesus cannot or will not come at this time or that. The time when you least expect His coming is when He’s coming again!

*And fourth, the reason why Jesus wants us to watch for Him is because He’s coming when we least expect Him to come. You see, implicit in these words of our Lord is the intimation that something bad is going to happen to those who aren’t watching for His return. In the analogy of the parable, a sleeping homeowner gets his home broken into and his goods are plundered. The burglary could have been prevented if the homeowner had stayed awake and foiled the burglary.

Jesus is coming to set up His millennial kingdom on the earth. To do that, He must first deal with all those who resist and oppose His rule (read Revelation 19 & 20). So Jesus’ coming will usher in a war that has never been seen till that time. Evil doers and followers of Satan will be casualties of this war.

WATCHFULNESS, DEAR BRETHREN, KEEPS YOU FOCUSED ON LIVING A GODLY LIFE AND DOING GOD’S WILL. IT KEEPS YOU FROM GIVING IN TO YOUR FLESHLY DESIRES AND GOING BACK TO A LIFE OF SIN. In the analogy of the parable and the end-time Revelation or prophecy, when you know what's going to happen (a burglary and a war) you're going to stay awake and alert to keep it from happening to you. In this very real way, WATCHFULNESS KEEPS YOU ALIVE AND KEEPS YOU FROM BEING A CASUALTY OF A WAR THAT THE LORD’S CERTAIN TO WIN. You won’t win, or survive, if you’re sleeping and sinning!

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE STEWARDFN

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 12:41-48, Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all? {42} And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward,FN whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? {43} Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. {44} Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.

{45} But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; {46} The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

{47} And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. {48} But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.

For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

Luke 12:41-48 (NLT), Peter asked, "Lord, is that illustration just for us or for everyone?" (42) And the Lord replied, "A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. (43) If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. (44) I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns.

(45) But what if the servant thinks, 'My master won't be back for a while,' and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? (46) The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.

(47) "And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn't prepared and doesn't carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. (48) But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly.

When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

 

When the Lord returns He not only wants us to be watching, but He also wants us to be working. He wants to find us busy doing what He’s commissioned us to do.

Brethren, all of us have a commission to fulfill. We read about that commission in Scripture (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-18, Acts 1:7-8). God expects us to fulfill our God-given commission to tell others about Jesus and the hope of spending eternity with Him in Heaven when we die.

In addition to our God-given commission which is given to all of God’s people, each one of us individually have a unique purpose in life. God doesn’t do anything haphazardly or by chance. He’s a purposeful God. He creates, makes, ordains, and allows things to thing with a specific purpose in mind. When He made us and brought us into existence, He had a specific purpose in mind. Brethren, God made us, in part, because He wants us to do something for Him. We all have a purpose in life.

Sometimes, God lets some people know right from the start what He wants them to do life. Most of us have to find our purpose in life by looking for it. By discovery. By life’s experiences. In one way or another, God lets us know. But He leaves it up to us to discover it for ourself. MOST OF US WILL NOT KNOW GOD’S WILL AND PURPOSE FOR OUR LIFE IF WE DON’T ASK HIM OR SEARCH FOR IT. Do you know what your purpose in life is? Do you know why you’re here on Earth? Do you know what God wants you to do and how He wants you to spend your life?

Friends, YOU CAN'T BE FAITHFUL AND OBEDIENT IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING! If you don’t know what your life’s purpose is, then make it your top priority right now to find out what God wants you to be doing with your life!

Going back to the parable, let’s note four things about our Lord’s words here.

1. First, we should note that the parable addresses itself primarily, but not exclusively, to God’s ministers, His stewards in the household of faith. The ministers of God have a God-given job to do. Unfortunately, not all of them faithfully carry out their duties. Some ministers abuse their calling and authority, they abuse the people under their care, and for this they will be recompensed by the Lord.

2. We see the danger of not regarding our Lord’s return as imminent. You see, the servant thought that his master wouldn’t be returning any time soon. So what did he do? He abused his fellow servants, became gluttonous and drunk. He neglected to do his duties and instead devoted himself to the satisfaction of his bodily appetites and lusts.

In much the same way, brethren, when you think Jesus cannot come back in your lifetime because it’s been two thousand years since He’s been gone and He hasn’t come back yet, you get spiritually lax and negligent in the Lord’s work, you forget all about being a good Christian, and you begin to live and act like a heathen.

Friends, God knew that Jesus would be gone for these two thousand years and yet He spoke of the imminence and nearness of our Lord’s coming! Why? In part, because two thousand years are a short time to Him. Peter reminded us of this when he wrote, But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day (2 Peter 3:8).

Furthermore, God spoke of the imminence of Christ’s return because He knew the ready tendency of His servants to misbehave when they believe Christ isn’t coming back any time soon. Jesus, brethren, is coming when people least expect it and when they’re not looking for Him, verses 40 and 46. If we’re wise and have our heart set on Jesus and eternity, THE UNEXPECTED IMMINENT RETURN OF CHRIST KEEPS US SPIRITUALLY ALERT, WATCHFUL, AND FAITHFUL. IT KEEPS US BUSY AND OBEDIENT TO THE LORD.

3. We note that not all of the Master’s servants enter into the blessedness of their Master’s rewards. Those who prove themselves unfaithful, who are not doing what the Lord’s given them to do, will be cast out of the kingdom and spend their eternity in the same Hell as unbelievers.

Brethren, not everyone who considers himself or herself a Christian will be spared from Hell’s fires. HELL IS NOT ONLY FOR THOSE WHO DON'T BELIEVE ON THE LORD: IT'S ALSO FOR THOSE WHO DO BELIEVE ON THE LORD BUT DON'T OBEY THE LORD.

Can a Christian go to Hell? Of course he can! That is, if he’s a disobedient, heathen-acting “Christian.” Jesus plainly warned us in Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT), "Not everyone who calls out to Me, 'Lord! Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of My Father in heaven will enter. (22) On judgment day many will say to Me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in Your name and cast out demons in Your name and performed many miracles in Your name.' (23) But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from Me, you who break God's laws.'

4. We see that there are degrees of punishment in Hell. THE MORE YOU KNOW, THE MORE'S REQUIRED OF YOU. When you who know so much prove faithless or disobedient to the Lord’s will, you’ll be judged more severely than those who committed the same sins that you committed but who nonetheless didn’t know God or know what His will was.

KNOWLEDGE, BRETHREN, MAKES YOU MORE PRIVILEGED. BUT, AT THE SAME TIME, IT MAKES YOU MORE ACCOUNTABLE AND RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT YOU KNOW.

Those who don’t know anything, who aren’t saved, will be judged. But those who know a lot of things, who profess themselves to be saved, will be judged even more severely and will suffer a damnation greater than that of unbelievers.

 

 

JESUS SPEAKS OF HIS BAPTISM AND HIS MISSION

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 12:49-50, I am come to send fire on the earth;FN and what will I, if it be already kindled? {50} But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Luke 12:49-50 (NLT), "I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! (50) I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of Me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished.

 

Judgment is coming upon the Earth. But before it can come Jesus must first be baptized with a baptism of suffering and death.

Jesus was not ignorant about His life’s purpose, nor was He ignorant about how His life would end. Jesus knew all along that He would endure the pain and humiliation of the cross. Until that actually happened, He was, in the language of KJV, straitened. The word in the Greek means to be constrained, compelled, or hard pressed.

Have you ever been in some sort of competition or contest? Remember all the time you spent practicing and preparing for it? Your life centered around it. In the days or moments preceding the actual competition you were so nervous or uptight that all you wanted was to get it over with. And when it was done you were relieved and a sense of peace or calm returned to your soul.

Changing the subject just a bit, I grew up with the dread of shots or vaccinations. For days or hours before the doctor’s appointment I will filled with dread, I was uptight and tense, because I knew the shots were coming.

I was also shy as a boy. In fact, it wasn’t until my senior year in college that I quit being shy. Every once in a while I would be asked to preach. I started preaching during my Junior High School years and always I’d be very nervous—so much so that I’d get stomach aches because of all the shaking and shivering I’d go through in the last few minutes before I got up to preach.

If you’ve experienced emotions such as these you will understand in some way how Jesus was straitened. He knew where He was going, His life centered around it, and He wanted to get it over with. It wasn’t because He was filled with dread or fear, nor was it because He really didn’t want to suffer and die for us. To the contrary, He just knew it would involve a lot of pain and humiliation, He would be temporarily forsaken by the Father, and He wanted to get it over with.

 

Luke 12:51-53, Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: {52} For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. {53} The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. Luke 12:51-53 (ESV), Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (52) For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. (53) They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

 

Christ can either bring peace or turmoil, unity or division, reward or punishment. And it all depends on how people respond to Him.

God gave us the promise of household salvation in Acts 16:31. He promised that, if we believe, the rest of our family or household will also believe and be saved. What a blessed promise that is!

Unfortunately, until our loved ones choose to believe and follow our Lord, they will act like the heathens that they are and they’ll probably ridicule, reject, and persecute us for being a Christian. This is what Christ said would happen. It’s another one of His many, many promises. He promised here in Luke 12:51-53 that our family will be divided: those who aren’t saved won’t really love or accept us who’ve given our heart and life to Jesus.

So what we have here is two different, seemingly contradictory, promises:FN one promises the salvation of our loved ones and the other, division and conflict among our loved ones. Jesus isn’t contradicting himself. He’s simply telling us what we can expect in the meantime until our loved ones are saved. If we know what to expect—rejection and division in the family—then we won’t be shaken or disillusioned when familial conflict comes to pass. Brethren, don’t let household persecution cause you to disbelieve and abandon the promise of household salvation. Salvation is as much promised as persecution. So believe and hold fast for the salvation of your loved ones. They will be saved…if you believe.

 

 

DISCERNING THE WEATHER AND THE TIME

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 12:54-56, And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. {55} And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.FN {56} Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time? Luke 12:54-56 (CEV), Jesus said to all the people: As soon as you see a cloud coming up in the west, you say, "It's going to rain," and it does. (55) When the south wind blows, you say, "It's going to get hot," and it does. (56) Are you trying to fool someone? You can predict the weather by looking at the earth and sky, but you don't really know what's going on right now.

 

The Jews were weather-wise. They could look up in the sky and know immediately what the weather would be like. But they could not, or failed to, do the same thing with respect to this time.

What is Jesus referring to? I believe He’s referring to this time as it relates to the time of Messiah’s appearing. Just as there are weather signs in the sky, so there are Messiah signs in the Scriptures and the times. Scriptures inform us about the coming of Messiah and the Scripture signs were coming to pass in the present time, this time.

*For example, He was born of a virgin,
*born in Bethlehem,
*weeping was heard in Ramah for the slaughter of the infants,
*Galilee was blest with great Light,
*God’s anointing was on Jesus,
*His miracles and power testified to the fact that God was with Him,
*His message was in line with the Scriptures, all these and more.

Yet a lot of the people of God failed to discern the truth that Jesus was Messiah and that Messiah had finally come. They weren’t paying any attention to the signs and the times.

Christians today risk making the same mistake as the Jews. When we look around us and see everything that’s going on in our world today and fail to see the nearness of our Lord’s coming, we prove ourselves faithless and asleep just like the Jews.

Jesus, brethren, expects us to discern. He expects us to look at the times in which we live and conclude the fact that His coming is very near. And because it’s very near, He expects us to be watchful.

We’ll be talking more about watchfulness when we get to our Lord’s Olivet Discourse. For now, I’d like to leave you with these two admonitions concerning watchfulness.

 

A. FIRST, WATCH WHAT INTERESTS AND PURSUITS YOU GIVE YOURSELF TO.

There are so many things in this world that attract our time and attention. For some, life centers around work or career; others devote themselves to financial wealth or security; and others still are obsessed with the accumulation of material goods; a sport or hobby consume alot of people’s time; others pursue an education or some kind of crusade for the public good; and the such like.

Now there may well be nothing wrong with these interests and pursuits, in and of themselves. But the danger comes in being too busy and engrossed in these pursuits that we have no time or concern for God. We lose our spiritual interests and matters of the soul or eternal destiny do not interest or alarm us.

Brethren, watchfulness means keeping our eyes on Jesus, not on anything else. Live your life, fulfill your responsibilities, and pursue your callings, as well as your dreams. But let all these center around Christ and His will. Be true to your life’s purpose. Let God keep you so busy serving Christ that you have no time or interest in doing anything else.

 

B. SECOND, KNOW WHAT JESUS IS LOOKING FOR WHEN HE RETURNS, THEN DO IT OR LIVE UP TO IT.

What is Jesus looking for? He wants us to be

*WATCHING. Luke 12:37a, Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching.

*DOING. Luke 12:43, Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

*BELIEVING. Luke 18:8b, Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

*BE HOLY AND PURE. Revelation 19:7-8, Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. {8} And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

Brethren, these are the things that Christ will be looking for when He returns. Let’s center our lives around these things! Let’s make them the goal of our life because these are the things that count. Don’t allow yourself to be so caught in life’s duties, treasures, and pleasures, that you lose sight of what’s truly important in the sight of God and eternity.

 

 

PAYING OFF YOUR DEBTS AND LOANS

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 12:57-59, Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right? {58} When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he haleFN thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer,FN and the officer cast thee into prison. {59} I tell thee, thou shalt not departFN thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.FN Luke 12:57-59 (NIV),  "Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?  (58)  As you are going with your adversary to the magistrate, try hard to be reconciled on the way, or your adversary may drag you off to the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison.  (59)  I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."

 

Jesus repeats an admonition that He gave earlier during His Sermon on the Mount in Galilee, Matthew 5:25-26.

The use of officer and mite in the Greek text of Scripture speaks of a debt that is owed. If you owe somebody money, be sure to pay it back in the agreed-upon time period. If you don’t pay your debts, the person you owe money to can take you to court and legally recover the money that is rightfully his. Do everything in your power not to let your debts get to this point. Work with your lender. Pay him what you can. Pay him in full. And don’t try to shirk or squirm out of your financial obligation to repay your debts. If you’re being taken to court, talk to your lender, come to terms with him, and try to settle the matter out of court.FN If you don’t, or fail here, then once the judge issues his verdict, you’re stuck in debtor’s prison unless every last cent you owe is paid. In this case, when you default on your loan it’ll be up to your family and friends to repay the debt for you, thus imposing a hardship on them that would have been completely unnecessary and avoidable had you done the right, sensible, and responsible thing and repaid the loan.

Jesus asks a question that I find rather intriguing. In verse 57 He asks, Why don’t you judge for yourself what is right? The implication of His question is, we’re not judging for ourselves what is right. Right doesn’t enter into the picture. We’re not thinking about what is the right thing to do. We’re not looking at the situation in terms of right and wrong. All we want to do is whatever we want to do. In this case, slack off and not pay back what we’ve borrowed.

So often, we’ve got our minds made up about what we’re going to do, or not do. We don’t think things through. We don’t think about what’s right. We don’t look at our responsibility or duty. We don’t think about being moral. So in being selfish, negligent, and fraudulent, we become immoral.

Brethren, IF YOU DON’T FORCE YOURSELF TO BE MORAL, YOU’LL BE IMMORAL. IF YOU DON’T OBLIGATE YOURSELF TO DO WHAT’S RIGHT, YOU’LL BE WRONG. Do what Jesus is telling us to do here in Scripture: Think about what’s right, then do it.

LIVE WITH GODLY, BIBLICAL MORALS. That’s how you become Godly and right.

 

 

REPENT OR PERISH

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 13:1-3, There were present at that seasonFN some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.FN {2} And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? {3} I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Luke 13:1-3 (CEV), About this same time Jesus was told that Pilate had given orders for some people from Galilee to be killed while they were offering sacrifices. (2) Jesus replied: Do you think that these people were worse sinners than everyone else in Galilee just because of what happened to them? (3) Not at all! But you can be sure that if you don't turn back to God, every one of you will also be killed.

 

Jesus was somewhere in the Judean province, outside Jerusalem, when some people told Him about Pilate’s slaughter of certain Galileans within the Temple precincts. We don’t know anything more about this incident since it’s not recorded in any of the extant, contemporaneous literature that is currently available to us today, both religious and secular.

Judging from Jesus’ response, it seems that the people’s intent in reporting this incident was not so much to indict Pilate for his cruelty, but to indict these Galileans for some wickedness that merited the fate they suffered. In other words, these Galileans must have really been wicked to have merited this kind of death.

You see, it was a common understanding and belief among the Jews that the more wicked a person is, the worse fate they’ll suffer. Eliphaz echoed this sentiment when he asked Job,"Remember now, who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright destroyed? (8) "According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity And those who sow trouble harvest it (Job 4:7-8).

Jesus’ disciples themselves asked Jesus, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind (John 9:2)?

The Jews believed there was a direct and an inseparable relationship between sin and suffering; between the way a man lived and the way he died.

In some ways, they were right. Sin begets chastisement, sometimes even an early and untimely death, John 5:14, 1 Corinthians 11:28-32, Hebrews 12:4-11.

But the Jews erred in believing that a person’s sufferings or death was a telltale sign that they lived a wicked life.FN

The wicked suffer, but also the righteous. Godly people aren’t exempt from sufferings and hardships. Christians go through all sorts of trials. Lots of trials. Psalm 34:17 reads, The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. In other words, wicked people aren’t the only ones who have troubles: good people too!

 

Luke 13:4-5, Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinnersFN above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? {5} I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Luke 13:4-5 (NLT), And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? (5) No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too."

 

Following along the same line, Jesus cites an incident about the toppling of a tower in Siloam. Like the incident that precedes it, nothing more is known about this tower toppling because it isn’t found in any of the ancient literature that have survived to this day.

Apparently, a tower was being built in the southeast side of Jerusalem, near the Pool of Siloam, when it collapsed and crushed eighteen people to death. The tragic and violent manner of death, as was assumed, implied that these eighteen were truly wicked and had it coming to them.

Jesus used both these incidents--the slaying of the Galileans and the toppling of the tower--to make a statement and, on the basis of that statement, call the people to repentance.

What was the statement? The Galileans who fell at the tip of Pilate’s sword and the eighteen who were crushed to death weren’t any worse sinners than these people who now stood before our Lord. Just because these people who were listening to our Lord didn’t suffer these tragic fates didn’t necessarily mean they were righteous or better than those who perished.

The absence of calamity, you see, doesn’t prove your innocence or guilt. The amount of troubles you have and go through, or the kind of troubles you’ve faced and gone through, don’t prove you're better, or worse, than others. Whether you live peacefully or die terribly, if you aren’t obeying God or living righteously you need to repent of your sins and get your life right with God, or else you’ll face the damnable consequences of your selfish, immoral, sinful way of life. In Jesus’ words, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.FN

Now this word perish is used many times throughout the New Testament to speak of eternal damnation and perdition. For example, Jesus said whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

The promise of not perishing clearly doesn’t mean we won’t die. Aside from a couple of men in the Old Testament,FN everyone dies—both good and bad, Hebrews 9:27.

The promise of not perishing is the promise of being saved or spared from spiritual death or damnation. It’s being spared from spending eternity in Hell.

 

Note these three things with me.

(1) Jesus speaks about the reality of perdition. He doesn’t argue, defend, or prove the notion of life after death, Hell, or eternal punishment and perdition. You may not like the idea of Hell. You may not believe it. But REJECTING THE IDEA OF HELL DOESN'T ABOLISH THE REALITY OF HELL, WORSE YET, IT DOESN'T SHELTER THE REJECTIONIST FROM HELL'S FIRE. Jesus is true, friends! There’s such a thing as losing your soul when you’ve lost your life!

(2) Repentance is how men can escape perdition. Faith alone cannot save you! The devils believe there’s only one God, they know there’s only one God, but look at what good their faith has done for them, James 2:19.

Good works cannot save you! Isaiah 64:6 says that we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.

Not even a lifetime of dutiful obedience to God and His Law can save you! The rich young ruler kept the Law from the time that he was a youth, but he knew he still wasn’t saved, Matthew 19:16-20.

No, my friends, to escape perdition in Hell you need to repent. That means you change your mind about sin and stop sinning. NO ONE GOES TO HEAVEN WHO DOESN'T TURN AWAY FROM SIN. IF YOU LIVE LIKE HELL THAT’S EXACTLY WHERE YOU’LL GO WHEN YOU DIE.

(3) These in our Lucan text who died in a tragic and violent manner were Jews. Some of them were even in the process or act of worshipping the Lord in the Temple with their animal sacrifices. But they went into perdition! Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. What does this mean? It means these Galileans and the eighteen perished in perdition! They weren’t saved!FN

Now get this. They believed in God. They worshipped God. But they perished! Why? Because IT'S POSSIBLE TO BELIEVE IN GOD AND WORSHIP HIM AND STILL BE A SINNER WHO INSISTS ON SINNING. Someone who professes to believe and worship God can live a godless life. Friends, you can call yourself a Christian and a believer. But without repentance and the forsaking of sin, you’re no more than a Galilean, spiritually speaking, destined to perish at Pilate’s sword. Sin, like Siloam’s tower, will crush you.

Friends, your only escape from Hell is to turn away from your sins and come to Jesus. Give Him your life and He’ll give you the best possible life you can have on this earth. And beyond!

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE BARREN FIG TREEFN

SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 13:6-9, He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. {7} Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard,FN Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree,FN and find none:FN cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?FN {8} And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:FN {9} And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.FN Luke 13:6-9 (NLT), Then Jesus told this story: "A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. (7) Finally, he said to his gardener, 'I've waited three years, and there hasn't been a single fig! Cut it down. It's just taking up space in the garden.' (8) "The gardener answered, 'Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I'll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. (9) If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.'"

 

THE THREAT OF PERDITION APPLIES NOT ONLY TO THOSE WHO ARE UNREPENTANT: IT ALSO APPLIES TO THOSE WHO ARE UNFRUITFUL.

Now the judgment of fruitlessness is graphically illustrated by our Lord in this parable of the barren fig tree. Just as a barren tree is cut down, removed from the vineyard, and burned; so are all those who fail to bring forth fruit unto the Lord. What fruit? The fruits meet for repentance, Matthew 3:8.

Fruits are the things you do that show you’ve truly repented of your sins. They’re good works or works of righteousness.

Brethren, IF YOU'VE TRULY REPENTED OF YOUR SINS, IT'LL SHOW IN THE THINGS YOU DO OR IN THE WAY YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE. You won’t be barren anymore. You won’t be producing the kind of fruit that sin produces—fruit like drunkenness, drug addiction, anger, physical abuse, filthy language and thoughts,sexual sin and promiscuity, and the such like. As a Christian you’re a changed person now and the change will show up in the good things you do—the good decisions you make. You love Christ dearly. And because you do, you’ll keep Him as a constant presence in your heart and your thoughts, you’ll talk a lot to Him, you’ll praise Him, follow Him, serve Him, obey Him, and trust Him.

Here are some of the things we see in this parable.

 

1. GOD EXPECTS FRUIT. Brethren, there’s more to Christianity than just an initial profession of faith. Just because you had a conversion experience doesn’t mean that nothing else, or nothing more, is required of you. Christians don’t work for their salvation. But once saved, Christians do good works, they live a holy life, and they bear fruit.FN

Titus 2:11-14 (NIV) instructs us, For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. (12) It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, (13) while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (14) who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

2. BARREN, FRUITLESS CHRISTIANS DON'T MAKE IT INTO THE KINGDOM. They’re cut down and destroyed. Jesus confirms His warning here in Luke 13:7 with a similar one in John 15:2a, Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away (see Matthew 3:10 and 7:19).

Brethren, it’s possible to be a tree in the Master’s vineyard and still end up cut down and destroyed. Being in the vineyard doesn’t automatically shelter you from the axe and the fire. You’ve got to bear fruit! Without it you won’t make it to Heaven.

 

3. IN HIS FORBEARANCE AND MERCIES, GOD GIVES YOU ANOTHER CHANCE TO BEAR FRUIT. Even though He expected you to bear fruit these three years, He’s nevertheless willing to give you another chance to bear fruit. He gives you lots of chances, three years’ worth, figuratively speaking. But there’s such a thing as one last chance, beyond which there are no more chances. And if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

Note these things about the last chance.

*GOD STILL EXPECTS FRUIT! YOUR CONTINUED FRUITLESSNESS DOESN'T CAUSE GOD TO CHANGE HIS MIND AND ACCEPT YOU AS A SPIRITUALLY BARREN CHRISTIAN. GOD DOESN'T RELAX HIS STANDARDS OR REQUIREMENTS JUST BECAUSE YOU REFUSE TO MEET THEM OR LIVE UP TO THEM.

Friends, you have no excuse. You can’t say you couldn’t live up to God’s requirements because God’s given you the fertile ground of His vineyard, He’s given you the water and fertile nutrients of the Word, He’s personally labored over you. You are without excuse!

*THE LORD WILL DO EVERYTHING HE CAN TO GET YOU TO BEAR FRUIT. He’ll give you the individualized, specialized treatment whereby He works even harder than before to get you to start bearing fruit.

You see, friends, WHEN GOD MAKES DEMANDS ON YOUR LIFE, LIKE BEAR FRUIT, HE HELPS YOU DO IT, He works with you. He puts His heart and soul into you. He works hard and long over you. He gives you grace. He gives you everything you need to grow and be fruitful or productive.

* THE ONE YEAR REPRIEVE MEANS YOUR TIME'S LIMITED. You don’t have a lifetime of years before you make your mind up about bearing fruit.

I don’t believe the year is set in stone as far as God giving every barren Christian exactly one year to start bearing fruit. I believe it varies from one Christian to the next.

But the point remains, GOD HAS A SET TIME AND IF YOU SQUANDER THAT TIME IN CONTINUED FRUITLESSNESS, GOD'S MERCY AND FORBEARANCE TOWARDS YOU WILL COME TO AN END AND HE WILL CUT YOU DOWN, REMOVE YOU FROM HIS VINEYARD, AND SET YOU ABLAZE.FN

4. THERE'S A REAL POSSIBILITY THAT NOT EVEN THE LORD'S SPECIALIZED ATTENTION WILL WORK. And if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. Brethren, the Lord does what He can to get you to bear fruit. But in the final analysis, you’re the one who has to bear the fruit: He can’t do it for you. He can help you bear fruit, but He can’t bear it for you.

If you insist on not bringing forth fruits of repentance or righteousness, then not even God Himself can help you! God won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do. And if God’s one last year of specialized treatment fails to materialize any fruit in you, then it’s a certain thing that no man—not even a good preacher, message, or church—can help you.

Friends, no one can help you, not even God, unless you want to be helped. And wanting to be helped means you’re repentant, you want to change, give up bad, life-long habits, and start being the Christian God wants you to be.

So what’s it going to take for you to start bearing fruit and keep on bearing fruit? Let me suggest three things.

1. FRUIT BEARING IS ROOTED IN NATURE. That is, it’s built into the nature of every fruit tree to bear fruit. A fruit tree bears fruit naturally because it’s made that way.

Speaking of false prophets, Jesus said in Matthew 7:16-18 (CEV), You can tell what they are by what they do. No one picks grapes or figs from thornbushes. (17) A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. (18) A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit.

In other words, good fruit comes from a good-natured tree. Brethren, if you’re saved, then you’re a good-natured tree and you shouldn’t have any major problems bearing good fruit. An apple tree doesn’t try to bear apples: it bears apples naturally. An orange tree doesn’t try to stop itself from bearing oranges: it bears oranges naturally. I know we’re not trees. We differ from trees in that we have a will, we can choose and decide what we’re going to do or not do. But the truth is, Christians choose to bear fruit. They want to be fruitful. They don’t want, or choose, to be fruitless.

IF YOU'RE NOT BEARING FRUIT, OR IF YOU CAN'T SEEM TO BEAR GOOD FRUIT, THEN YOU HAVE TO WONDER IF YOU'RE EVEN SAVED.

Philippians 2:13 reads, For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Friends, when God works in your heart He makes you willing, makes you choose, makes you want, to bear fruit: the will comes from Him. If you’re not willing to bear fruit, then it may be an indication that God’s not working in you. And if God’s not working in you, then it may be an indication you’re not really saved. Talk to God about it. He’ll let you know what the problem is.

 

2. FRUITFULNESS REQUIRES NOURISHMENT. Any fruit tree needs some things in order to bear fruit. An apple tree won’t bear apples if the ground doesn’t have the fertilizer or nutrients it needs to be healthy and fruitful. It needs adequate amounts of water and sunlight.

In much the same manner, brethren, you need spiritual nourishment to be fruitful.

*A church that teaches nothing but John 3:16 is good for getting saved, but you don’t mature in a John 3:16 church.

*A church that waters down the Word and doesn’t make demands on your life doesn’t help you: a church that requires and expects nothing, gets nothing.

*A church that entertains you and makes you feel good is fine for a while, but it leaves you with a vacuum and a void: you don’t grow being entertained.

Brethren, you’ve got to be fed to be fruitful.

(1) Find a church where God’s people are being fed and fattened with the Word and go there. If the Bible isn’t being taught, if you’re not even encouraged to bring, open, and read your Bible in church, then the spiritual cafeteria you’re going to doesn’t have any food to feed and nourish you. Don’t waste your time there. Go to a church where you’ll wear out your Bible! YOU WON'T LEARN AND GROW IN GOD'S WORD IF YOU KEEP YOUR BIBLE CLOSED AND UNREAD.

(2) As you learn what’s required of you as a Christian, start doing what’s required. Don’t just be an avid, enthusiastic listener. Praise God for those kinds of listeners. But be a doer of the Word.

(3) To help you put God’s Word into practice, take part in the church’s outreach program and other ministries. The people involved in these ministries can show you how to do what God expects us all to do.

(4) Above all, cultivate a personal relationship with God. YOU CAN’T LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE WITHOUT GOD IN YOUR LIFE, YOUR HEART, OR YOUR THOUGHTS. You don’t grow to be a strong, fruitful Christian by ignoring God or being distant from Him. Make it your number one priority to get close to God, to spend as much time as you can with Him in prayer, Bible study, and just thinking about Him. Make Him your best friend and live like He’s right by your side—because He is!

When you get close to God, God gets close to you (James 4:8). He'll feed you. He’ll talk to you, show you all kinds of things, He’ll bless you, and you’ll be a strong, joyful, victorious Christian.

Remember, a tree that takes all the nutrients out of the ground and doesn’t bear fruit will be cut down and removed so that the ground’s precious nutrients aren’t wasted for nothing.

Brethren, God’s feeding you a very good Word in this hour. Don’t waste it because if you prove yourself barren and nothing more than a hearer of the Word, God will take the Word from you and give it to someone who will put it to good use.

I know I already talked to you about cultivating a personal relationship with God. This is so important that, at the risk of being redundant, I’d like to talk to you some more about it. It’s really that important. YOU WONT BE THE KIND OF CHRISTIAN GOD WANTS YOU TO BE IF YOU’RE NOT TIGHT OR CLOSE TO HIM.

 

3. FRUITFULNESS COMES IN AN ABIDING COMMUNION WITH CHRIST. Jesus said in John 15:4, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

Brethren, what kind of relationship do you have with Jesus? How close are you to Jesus? What kind of time, or how much time, do you spend with Him from day to day?

Fruitfulness comes in abiding. YOU DON'T BECOME A FRUITFUL CHRISTIAN WHEN YOU AREN'T WALKING WITH CHRIST. AND, IN THE SAME MEASURE, YOU DON'T BEAR THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT WHEN YOU AREN'T WALKING IN THE SPIRIT.

Galatians 5:22-25 reads, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, {23} Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. {24} And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. {25} If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Brethren, when you live for Self and Self reigns on the throne of your life, you don’t bear fruit—not the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is borne by those who live and walk in the Spirit.

WHEN YOU’RE NOT CRUCIFIED AND DEAD TO SELF, YOU CAN’T BEAR FRUIT. Fruit doesn’t grow where there’s no repentance or forsaking of sin. FRUITFULNESS REQUIRES THE DEATH OF SELF.

Jesus said in John 12:24, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. BEING FLESHLY, OR LIVING SELFISHLY, MAKES YOU FRUITLESS!

Friends, what kind of fruits are you bearing in this hour? Have you changed? Have you gotten rid of bad habits, attitudes, and behaviors? Are you still doing the same bad things today that you did before you supposedly got saved? Are you still the same person today that you were when you supposedly came to Christ? Friends, the nametag you wear called ‘Christian’, the pew you seat on, the offerings you give, and the membership roll you’re on, don’t shelter you from Hell. Repentance does. And fruitfulness. May God find you repentant and fruitful.

 

 

JESUS HEALS A HUNCHBACKED WOMAN ON A SABBATHFN

IN A SYNAGOGUE SOMEWHERE IN JUDEA

 

Luke 13:10-17, And he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath.FN {11} And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together,FN and could in no wise lift up herself. {12} And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him,FN and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity. {13} And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

{14} And the ruler of the synagogueFN answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.

{15} The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?FN {16} And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years,FN be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?FN

{17} And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him.

Luke 13:10-17 (NLT), One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, (11) He saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. (12) When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said, "Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!" (13) Then He touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!

(14) But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. "There are six days of the week for working," he said to the crowd. "Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath."

(15) But the Lord replied, "You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don't you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? (16) This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn't it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?"
(17) This shamed His enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things He did.

 

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue one Sabbath day when He saw a hunchbacked woman in the congregation and summoned her to the front of the synagogue where He healed her. Naturally, this was an affront to pious Jews since it was a violation of the law to heal on the Sabbath. Indignant at this effrontery and flagrant disregard of the law, the synagogue’s chief ruler stood up and, instead of castigating our Lord, he hypocritically admonished the people to come and be healed on some other day besides the Sabbath. The Sabbath must not be profaned!

I'd like to camp out on this portion of Scripture because there are a lot of things that need to be seen and said. Chances are, you're not going to like what I'm going to say, but I'm going to say it anyway because it's the truth and someone's got to tell you these things. God wants them said. And I believe you'll be a lot better off listening to what God's saying in this hour. So let's begin by looking at the Devil and the infirmity.

 

THE DEVIL AND THE INFIRMITY

THE DEMONIC CAUSE OF SOME PHYSICAL AFFLICTIONS

In this woman, as in others throughout the New Testament, we see that some afflictions and diseases are the direct result of demonic activity or attack.FN That is, while some people bring sickness upon themselves through bodily neglect or abuse, in some instances the Devil himself, or anyone of his demons, can make people sick or infirmed.

In this case, a spirit of infirmity took the woman’s spinal column and fused the bones together, causing this woman to be bowed. The fusing of the bones, you see, was not the result of natural processes. The bones didn’t do that on their own. The Devil made her bowed. He used some kind of spiritual, demonic glue or bond to fuse those bones together. People laugh at the thought of a spiritual super glue or goop. But the truth is, whatever the Devil used to fuse those bones together was every bit real and it worked!

Despite our incredulity, JESUS DIDN'T DENY OR CONTRADICT SATAN'S ROLE IN THE WOMAN'S INFIRMITY. He openly and unequivocally asserted that this woman’s physical condition was a bondage and work of Satan. Jesus is either telling us the truth, or not. Of course, I choose to believe He’s telling us the truth. Since what He said is the truth, then we must acknowledge the fact that THE DEVIL DOES, AT TIMES, MAKE PEOPLE SICK OR INFIRMED.

Now here’s a question for you to consider. How did the Devil gain access to the woman’s spine? Obviously, he can’t fuse the bones together unless he can first of all get to those bones. So how did he do it? Are the Devil’s words creative like the Lord’s so that all he has to do is speak the word and his words obey his every command? Did he cut through her skin and perform surgery on her back? Since he has a spiritual, immaterial body and is therefore able to pass right through physical bodies or objects, did he reach into her spine with his hands and apply some kind of glue or bond without having to cut her up? Did he go inside her body and bind the bones of her spinal column, then decided to stay inside her? Remember, she had a spirit of infirmity (verse 11), which means the spirit was inside her.

What’s the point? The point is, THE DEVIL, OR ANYONE OF HIS COUNTLESS MINIONS, CAN GO IN AND OUT OF HUMAN BODIES, EVEN STAY IN THEM, AND MAKE THE BODY DO BAD OR UNNATURAL THINGS THAT RESULT IN SICKNESS OR INFIRMITY. Devils can manipulate the body and make people sick.

 

THE DEMONIC CAUSE OF SOME LINGERING AFFLICTIONS

The Devil not only fused the bones of this woman’s spinal column, but he also kept them fused. In fact, he kept them fused for eighteen years and, had our Lord not intervened, this woman would have been bowed for the rest of her life. The devil, I’m saying, made, and kept, this woman bowed. Thus, it's at this point where we see that THE DEVIL CAN NOT ONLY MAKE PEOPLE SICK AND INFIRMED: HE CAN ALSO KEEP THEM SICK AND INFIRMED.

Two profound implications emerge from this truth.

*First, FOR THE DEVIL TO KEEP PEOPLE SICK OR INFIRMED HE PREVENTS THE BODY'S NATURAL ATTEMPTS AT HEALING ITSELF. You see, when the body gets sick, injured, or infirmed, the body’s first response is to combat that and do everything it can to remedy what’s wrong. This is how the Lord made the human body and this is what the body’s auto immune system is all about. But when the Devil has a direct hand in an affliction he keeps the body from healing itself.

*And second, TO KEEP PEOPLE SICK OR INFIRMED THE DEVIL RENDERS VAIN AND INEFFECTUAL ALL MEDICAL OR PSYCHIATRIC ATTEMPTS AT HEALLING (see Mark 5:25-26 with Acts 10:38). Doctors can try to heal and may even, to a certain extent, provide some measure of healing or relief. But in the end, the infirmed remain infirmed because it’s the Devil’s purpose to keep them infirmed and no doctor, medicine, or treatment can succeed against him. NOTHING AND NO ONE, EXCEPT CHRIST, THE BELIEVER, AND THE PRAYER OF FAITH, CAN BRING HEALING AND DELIVERANCE WHEN THE DEVIL'S INVOLVED IN A LINGERING AFFLICTION.

 

THE DEVIL'S ACCESS TO A BELIEVER'S BODY

The Devil has free access to the bodies of unbelievers for they lie under his power or control. But in the case of this woman, we see that Satan can also, with God’s permission, have access to a Christian’s body.

Our Lord referred to this woman as a daughter of Abraham. Now this designation could simply refer to the fact that this woman was a Jew by descent from Abraham. The likelier understanding, however, is, she was a true believer. When Zacchaeus got saved our Lord referred to him as a son of Abraham (Luke 19:9). Paul tells us that Abraham is the father of all those who believe (Romans 4:16, Galatians 3:7).

Turning a corner just a bit, we see in the Book of Job that Satan can gain access to a believer’s body. He has to get God’s permission to inflict the believer with sickness or disease, but when God gives him permission to do it, the Devil goes forth and does it.

A CHRISTIAN, I'M SAYING, CAN BE AFFLICTED WITH AN INFIRMITY THAT IS DEMONICALLY CAUSED.

 

JESUS AND THE HEALING

As we’ve just seen, there are times when God allows the Devil to work and wreak havoc in the body of a believer. As in the case of this bowed woman, He even allows the Devil to keep the believer bound and infirmed for a long period of time. Years, in fact. Eighteen years in the case of this bowbacked woman.

Brethren, do you think God won’t allow a believer to be sick or infirmed for a long period of time? Do you think God won’t let a trial last for years?FN Granted, there’s no comfort in that and we don’t relish the thought of suffering for years in a physical trial. But God has His reasons.

Now we can go into a long discussion about the reasons why God allows a Christian to suffer for an inordinate or unreasonable length of time, as we humans see it. We’ve discussed this issue in other portions of our commentary. What I’d like for you to see here first of all is, God eventually came through for this bowed woman and healed her. So what does this say to us?

 

IT’S STILL GOD’S WILL TO HEAL!

It says to us, in the first place, that just because a person has spent years in a physical trial or affliction doesn’t automatically mean it’s God’s will for him or her to be sick: it doesn’t mean it’s not God’s will to heal them.

Tragically, people misunderstand or misinterpret a lingering condition. When they aren’t healed within a reasonable or expected amount of time they automatically assume that it’s not God’s will for them to be healed, God wants them sick so that they can glorify Him in their sickness. As a consequence, they abandon their faith for healing and resign themselves to a lifetime of suffering.FN

But, brethren, sickness is not God’s will! You won’t find one verse in Scripture that says God wants His people to be sick! To the contrary, His will is, Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth (3 John 2).

NO SICKNESN OR INFIRMITY, NO MATTER HOW LONGSTANDING, STANDS OUTSIDE GOD'S WILL OR PROMISE TO HEAL. The Psalmist declared in Psalm 103:3, {He} forgiveth all thine iniquities; {he} healeth all thy diseases.

It doesn’t matter who the believer is. Just because a Christian is faced with a lifelong infirmity doesn’t mean that God’s promise of healing doesn’t apply to him or her. Brethren, it still applies!

THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO WHO GOD WILL HEAL! He said in James 5:14, 15, Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: {15} And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Friends, THERE IS NO DEMON, NO PHYSICAL TRIAL, NO CHILD OF GOD WHO LIVED INFIRMED OR WHO DIED IN SICKNESS, WHO CAN CHANGE THIS UNCHANGEABLE TRUTH OF GOD'S WORD.

God allows His people to get sick. But that doesn’t mean He wants them to stay sick. As we see in Job’s case, it’s His will for His people to be tried, He allows them to be tried, even with physical afflictions or infirmities. But it’s not His will for them to remain, or die, in that condition.

*The woman with the issue of blood was twelve years in her infirmity (Mark 5);

*the bowbacked woman, eighteen (Luke 13);

*the impotent man by the Pool of Bethesda, thirty-eight years (John 5);

*the man born blind from birth was blind into his adult years (John 9);

*and countless others unnamed in Scripture.

Jesus healed them all. Which is to say, my friends, it’s God’s will to heal! IT'S NOT HIS WILL FOR HIS PEOPLE TO REMAIN INFIRMED FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.

God has His reasons for letting the trial drag on. But though it’s been years, brethren, don’t accept sickness or disease! Don’t get used to idea of living infirmed for the rest of your life! This isn’t God’s promise! Hold fast to the promise of healing, don’t give up your faith or confession. God is still faithful and the years of a physical trial do not diminish God’s willingness or power to heal you.

 

HEALING IS POSSIBLE FOR LONGSTANDING CONDITIONS!

Jesus’ healing of this woman, in the second place, encourages us with the truth that there’s healing possible for longstanding or lifelong afflictions and infirmities.

NO INFIRMITY OR CONDITION IS INCURABLE TO GOD! Brethren, it doesn’t matter what the name of the condition is or what its medical diagnosis or prognosis is. With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26) and with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37). Nothing, my friends, includes whatever affliction or condition we’re battling in this hour.

WE DON'T HAVE TO LIVE THE REST OF OUR LIVES INFIRMED! JUST BECAUSE WE AREN'T HEALED YET, MANIFESTLY SPEAKING, DOESN'T MEAN WE'LL NEVER GET HEALED. AND JUST BECAUSE WE AREN'T HEALED YET DOESN'T MEAN IT'S NOT GOD'S WILL TO EVER HEAL US.

 

THE TRIAL’S DURATION DOESN’T CHANGE GOD’S WILL TO HEAL.

The passage of time, the worsening circumstances, and the unabated continuation of a physical trial, do not mean God has changed His mind or will about healing! Brethren, God has His reasons for letting our physical trials go on as long as they have.FN But the promise is, it’s still His will to heal! Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth (3 John 2). His promise is that the prayer of faith shall heal the sick (James 5:15).

DESPITE WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES, DEVIL, AND DOUBTING MINDS MAY SAY, GOD, MY FRIENDS, WILL NOT CHANGE HIS MIND ABOUT HEALING OR ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE HE'S SPOKEN!

He said in Psalm 89:34, My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.

Numbers 23:19 gives us the same comfort and assurance: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

God, I am saying, keeps His Word and the trial’s name, symptoms, diagnosis, or duration, do not, and will not, stop Him from healing you...if you believe. Don’t give up believing, dear friends, because God is still faithful. He’s not forgotten His promise to heal, nor has He forgotten your faith. He will come through!

 

THE SOVEREIGNTY AND PURPOSE OF GOD WITH RESPECT TO YOUR TRIALS.

God is in charge of every trial you go through. He won’t let any circumstance come upon you, nor will He let the Devil do to you whatever that fiend wants to do, unless He first approves of it. If He doesn’t approve it, if He doesn’t want something to happen to you, then it doesn’t happen. GOD, MY FRIENDS, WON’T LET ANYTHING HAPPEN TO YOU THAT HE DOESN’T WANT TO HAPPEN.

But in reverse, WHAT HE WANTS OR ALLOWS TO HAPPEN TO YOU, HAPPENS and nothing or no one can stop it from happening. You may not like it. Chances are you won’t. But God has a purpose in the things He allows you to go through and that’s why He allows them to happen.

 

FOR AS LONG AS GOD ORDAINS, OR ALLOWS, THE TRIAL TO LAST, YOU CAN ENDURE IT.

Now the comfort of God’s sovereignty in your trials is the truth that GOD WON’T LET YOU GO THROUGH ANYTHING THAT YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY HANDLE, ENDURE, OR OVERCOME.

I Corinthians 10:13 reads, There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

GOD'S FAITHFULNESS FORBIDS HIM FROM PUTTING A TRIAL ON YOU, OR LETTING YOU GO THROUGH A TRIAL, THAT YOU CAN'T ENDURE. His very nature as God won’t allow Him to do such a thing!

God’s faithfulness requires that every trial He allows you to go through be bearable on your part: God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able...that ye may be able to bear it.

Many people will say they went through a trial that they just couldn’t endure, which is to say, God allowed them to go through a trial that was beyond their endurance. But, brethren, this simply is not so! To make such a claim or accusation is to assault the very nature of our God as being faithful! It is a pronouncement that God isn’t faithful because He allowed them to go through something that they couldn’t endure. Brethren, IF GOD ISN'T FAITHFUL, HE ISN'T GOD.

God has said in His Word that He wouldn’t allow anyone to go through a trial that they couldn’t endure. Hence, to say that God allowed a person to go through a trial that they couldn’t endure is to make a liar out of God.

Brethren, God is not a liar. He is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19). It is impossible for God for lie (Hebrews 6:18).

Despite God’s reasons or purposes in any given trial, the bottom line is, every trial you go through is bearable! You can face it and go through it without falling apart at the seams!FN

Brethren, THERE'S SIMPLY NO SUCH THING AS GOING THROUGH A TRIAL YOU CAN'T ENDURE.FN IF YOU COULDN'T ENDURE IT, GOD WOULDN'T HAVE ALLOWED IT TO COME UPON YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE. IF YOU'VE GOT THE TRIAL, THEN YOU CAN ENDURE IT--OTHERWISE YOU WOULDN'T HAVE IT.

Until your healing is manifested, for however long or short God ordains or allows the trial to last, you can endure it without giving up! Now you may not like the trial. You may not want the trial. You may not think you can endure the trial. You may not want to endure the trial. And in fact, you may even fear the trial. But, brethren, none of these things mean you can’t endure the trial. Just because you don’t want the trial or don’t want to endure the trial doesn’t mean you can’t endure it. On the authority of God’s Word and His nature of being faithful, if you’ve got the trial, then you can endure it…without giving up.

Elaborating just a little bit more, you may not think you can endure the trial. You may doubt your ability to endure the trial. But God thinks otherwise! He knows things you don’t. He knows what you can endure and He knows how long you can endure. Even though you don’t think you can endure, God still allows the trial because He knows you can. Indeed, sometimes it takes a particularly challenging trial for you to know your true limits of endurance.

In view of these truths, then,

(1) You’re going to have to change your mind about your ability to endure the trial. As long as you think you can’t endure the trial, you won’t endure it. So you’ve got to change your mind and confession and start believing in the bearability of the trial you’re presently faced with. Learn to say boldly and confidently, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).

(2) When the Devil tells you there’s no way you can endure the trial remember this one thing: SATAN’S A LIAR AND WHAT HE’S SAYING IS A DIRECT CONTRADICTION OF THE PROMISE OF SCRIPTURE in 1 Corinthians 10:13. DON’T BELIEVE A LIAR! Believing a liar will rob you of your faith, your hope, and your healing! Instead of believing the Devil, believe God! He said He won’t try you above the limits of your endurance, He won’t let the trial drag one second past your limit of endurance. That’s the truth and God will not break His promise!

(3) When you’re approaching what you believe is your limit of endurance, confess the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13. Confess you have the strength and grace to endure and overcome. Believe it. And with that confession, fight and resist the works of Satan against you. Don’t just lie there and take whatever the Devil’s throwing your way. Start fighting him back! As long as you’re resisting the Devil and doing it in faith, he can’t prevail against you. On the authority of God’s Word, he must flee (James 4:7).

 

THE WOMAN AND HER FAITHFULNESS

The thing that we see here about this hanchbacked woman is, she kept on worshipping God and coming to synagogue. She didn’t let her infirmity get her bitter against God. She didn’t quit walking with God.

Like I said earlier, we can question God’s goodness and purpose in letting a trial drag on for so long. Eighteen years. It’s hard to see the rationale in years of suffering and pain. It’s easy to become critical, bitter, and disillusioned with God.

I grant you, no one likes suffering. But, brethren, WE MUSTN'T ALLOW OUR TRIALS TO DETER US FROM BELIEVING AND WALKING WITH THE LORD.

We can give up on the Lord and forsake Him, but what good will that do? Bitterness and backsliding won’t get us healed! Our criticisms and anger won’t deliver us from the pain and the trial. But our abiding faith and faithfulness to God will.

Just think, if the bowed woman gave up on God and quit going to synagogue, she wouldn’t have been healed that day when Jesus was there.

Now I ask you, what harm is there in going to synagogue or church? What harm is there in being faithful and persevering in the walk with God? The answer? No harm at all. Brethren, be faithful and keep on believing the Lord for healing. He will come through and that’s His promise!

 

THE SYNAGOGUE RULER AND HIS CRITICISM

Upon seeing our Lord heal this bowbacked woman, the synagogue’s chief ruler became indignant with our Lord. Mind you, he wasn’t opposed to the healing of this woman. What he opposed, rather, was the healing of this woman on the Sabbath.

You see, he was a believer, follower, and defender of rabbinical law. According to that law, healing was forbidden on the Sabbath because healing was regarded as work. As far as he was concerned, Jesus should have waited till later to heal this woman. After all, her life was not in jeopardy, her physical condition didn’t require immediate attention, it could have waited till later. Clearly, Jesus didn’t have to heal her on the Sabbath! By doing so, He not only broke the Sabbath, but, in the politically-correct environment in which we find ourselves today, He displayed a woeful insensitivity toward Jewish piety. He knowingly and deliberately healed the woman, even though He knew it was against Jewish Sabbath law and knew that it would be offensive to all those who hallowed the Sabbath.

What’s worse, from the synagogue ruler’s viewpoint, Jesus set a bad example. By healing on the Sabbath, He gave people the impression that it was alright to work on the Sabbath. Hence, His example encouraged people to violate the law! Clearly, from the standpoint of a rabbinical Jew, Jesus was wrong to have done what He did.

You know, it’s so easy to criticize people for their misconduct or wrong. They may well be wrong! But THE THING ABOUT CRITICISM IS IT FOSTERS THIS MISTAKEN VIEW THAT THE WRONGS OF OTHERS AUTOMATICALLY MAKE US RIGHT. They’re wrong, therefore, we’re right! But this, brethren, is not necessarily the case. Here are some admonitions worth considering.

 

(A) BE WILLING TO ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY OR BLAME WHEN IT’S DUE.

From the synagogue ruler’s standpoint, Jesus wasn’t very considerate of rabbinical law, nor was He considerate of the pious people who were present and who had strong feelings and convictions about the law and the law’s prohibition against working on the Sabbath.

But the thing about it all is, it was the synagogue ruler himself who asked, or allowed, Jesus to speak! If Jesus had not been invited to preach, He wouldn’t have been up there in the first place, in front of the congregation, ministering. He wouldn’t have had the opportunity to heal the bowbacked woman in the way that He did. In some way, then, the synagogue ruler bore responsibility for putting Jesus in a position where He could minister in a very public way. Yet, this was a responsibility that the ruler did not accept or acknowledge for himself. As far as he was concerned, Jesus was totally to blame.FN

Brethren, DON'T PUT ALL THE BLAME ON SOMEONE FOR CAUSING ALL THE PROBLEMS WHEN YOU YOURSELF ARE PARTLY TO BLAME. ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY AND BLAME INSTEAD OF LAYING ALL THE BLAME ON THE PERSON WHO'S WRONG.

After weathering a couple of church splits, both occasioned by a message I preached, I’ve learned that whenever there’s a problem or conflict in the congregation or in some sort of personal relationship, the readiest tendency is for people to blame the person who’s wrong and, because the person is blatantly or perceivably wrong, then, like the synagogue ruler, we absolve ourselves of any culpability or blame in the conflict.

But this, brethren, is disingenuous and hypocritical. It takes two to tango. And, as we see in the case of this synagogue ruler, THE PERSON WHO’S MOST TO BLAME IN A CONFLICT IS NOT ENTIRELY TO BLAME. Chances are, THE PERSON WHO’S DOING ALL THE CRITICIZING AND BLAMING IS HIMSELF NOT WHOLLY INNOCENT OR GUILTLESS.

In many of the conflicts that I’ve seen, both in a church and between individuals, there’s a measure of deceit and hypocrisy at work. As we see in this synagogue ruler, THE CRITIC IN THE CONFLICT IS OFTENTIMES THE HYPOCRITE. Honesty demands an admission of culpability wherever culpability is found.

By failing to address our own culpability we not only become hypocritical and deceitful, but we also set ourselves up for more conflicts in the future. Brethren, WHEN THE PROBLEMS OR CULPABILITIES IN OUR OWN LIVES ARE LEFT UNRESOLVED, WE ONLY CONSIGN OURSELVES TO MORE CONFLICTS DOWN THE ROAD.

(B) IF YOU’RE GOING TO FIGHT, FIGHT FOR WHAT’S TRULY RIGHT.

This synagogue ruler had strong feelings and convictions about the law. He was upset because a rabbinical law had been violated and he was committed to defending and upholding that law.

Now the problem with Jesus, as the rabbinical religionists saw it, was He didn’t honor or live by the same law that they lived by. The religionists lived by the laws and teachings of the rabbis. Jesus didn’t. And so, naturally, when you have one person who lives by a set of laws and another person who doesn’t, you’re bound to have conflicts.

Now whether we want to admit it or not, we all have our own rules and laws that we live by. Some people call them convictions, principles, or morals. For the sake of simplicity, let me call them laws.

Some of our laws are Scripturally-specific or stated, like don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t get drunk, and the like. Some of our laws are rabbinical in the sense that they’re based to some extent on Scripture but are not actually stated in Scripture. Examples of modern-day rabbinical laws are: no hunting, no television, no notice-me shirts, no rock-n-roll, no miniskirts, no caffeine, no sugar, no meat, et cetera. Like Jesus and the rabbinical religionists of His day, when we encounter people who don’t live by our laws, the potential for conflict is quite real.

Now the laws that are clearly laid out in Scripture are, for the most part, not a matter of conflict between brethren. It’s the man-made laws that give rise to conflict. Like this synagogue ruler and the rabbinical religionists of Jesus’ day, there are all kinds of man-made laws that we can fight over. And like the synagogue ruler, these laws mean a lot to us, we feel strongly about them, and we’re willing to fight with other brethren, even fight with the whole church, to defend and uphold the laws that we believe and live by.

*We can take hunting and fishing for an example. Some Christians are absolutely dead set against a Christian hunting and fishing because that involves killing. Other Christians don’t see anything wrong with hunting and fishing, as long as you eat what you kill and not kill just for the sake of the sport.

*Home schooling is another battleground. Some Christians believe that the teaching and instruction of children belong with the parents, not the government. Therefore, Christians should home school their children. Other Christians don’t see it that way. They accept responsibility for teaching their children spiritual-Biblical values, but they don’t see anything wrong with sending their children to public school to get their scholastic education.

*Is it alright for women to wear pants? Should women wear a head covering in church? Shouldn't she wear it all the time and not in church only? Is it alright for Christians to divorce and remarry? We don't blink an eye about these things, but there are a lot of conservative, old-fashion Christians who feel quite strongly about pants, divorce, and the head covering. We automatically assume we're right in what we believe and practice. But are we? Who’s right and who’s wrong? Are people wrong simply because they’re conservative and old-fashion? Are we right simply because we’re free, progressive, and enlightened?

*Family size and birth control is another hot topic of debate. So is Christian rock-n-roll, dancing, borrowing money, television and videos, eyeglasses, dentists, vitamins, wine, notice-me shirts, and more.

You see, we can go on and on with the many laws that have the potential to divide us and engulf us in war.

Friends, you are wholly within your right to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). But IF YOU'RE WILLING TO FIGHT WITH THE BRETHREN OVER A MATTER OF LAW, EVEN TO THE POINT OF RISKING DISSENSION AND DIVISION IN THE CHURCH; THEN MAKE SURE YOU'RE RIGHT BEFORE YOU FIGHT. FIGHT FOR SOMETHING THAT'S RIGHT AND FIGHT IT IN THE RIGHT SPIRIT.

 

LET'S CLOOK CLOSELY AT OUR LAWS

I'd love to look closely at each one of our laws--especially the laws that we mentioned above--and see whether we truly stand on the right side of the law, or the wrong. Unfortunately, I'd be deviating way off course if I did that here. So let's look closely at the one law that was involved in this synagogue healing on the Sabbath.

Now the conflict in the synagogue centered around the meaning of work. The Mosaic Law forbade working on the Sabbath, but it didn’t define everything that constituted work. It clearly didn’t forbid healing on the Sabbath.

Rabbinical law, on the other hand, defined work in countless minute ways and one of the things that constituted work was healing. The rabbis taught that healing was work, therefore, because you couldn’t work on the Sabbath you couldn’t heal on the Sabbath.FN

No matter how well the rabbis meant, they erred on this definition of work. Healing is not work and it’s not wrong to heal on the Sabbath as Jesus clearly taught in this, and several other, healing incidents.

Now many of our convictions or laws are, in one way or another, based on Scripture. But JUST BECAUSE A CONVICTION IS SCRIPTURALLY-BASED DOESN'T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN IT'S SCRIPTURAL OR RIGHT.

Our convictions or laws are based on our understanding or interpretation of God’s law so that the conflicts that often arise between brethren concerning a matter of law revolves around a person’s understanding or interpretation of God’s law. Often times, it’s the interpretation, not the law itself, that requires close examination. Let’s look at that interpretation for a moment.

 

THE WRONG INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION OF GOD'S LAW.

How was the rabbinical prohibition against healing on the sabbath wrong? Like Jesus, think it through. If it was lawful to tend to the physical needs of animals on the Sabbath, then how can it be wrong to tend to the physical needs of people on the Sabbath? If it was alright to show kindness and mercy to an animal on the Sabbath, how can it be wrong to show kindness and mercy to an infirmed human being? It doesn’t make sense!

On another occasion, Jesus asked, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? {12} How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days (Matthew 12:11-12).

You see, both common sense and common practice proved that the prohibition against healing on the Sabbath was wrong.

The truth of God’s law is, while it’s forbidden to work on the Sabbath, it’s not forbidden to do good or show kindness and mercy on the Sabbath. Healing isn’t work!

Furthermore, Jesus went on to say that Sabbath was the right day for this woman to be healed!FN His reasoning was, if Sabbath is a day of rest, then it’s only fitting and right that this woman who was bound by Satan for eighteen long years be given healing and rest from her infirmity on the day of rest. There was no more fitting time than the Sabbath, the day of rest, for this woman to be healed and given rest from Satan’s bond!

The rabbinical interpretation and application of God’s Law, I am saying, was wrong.

Now I’ve said all this to illustrate a couple of very important points.

*IT'S POSSIBLE FOR A PERSON TO WANT TO OBEY GOD'S LAW AND, IN THE PROCESS OF OBEYING IT, MISUNDERSTAND OR MISINTERPRET GOD'S LAW. AS A CONSEQUENCE OF THAT MISUNDERSTANDING, HE APPLIES GOD'S LAW IN A WRONG WAY, HENCE, MAKING HIM WRONG--EVEN THOUGH HE'S SINCERE AND REALLY WANTS TO OBEY THE LORD.FN

The synagogue ruler was wrong in his fight with the Lord because the rabbinical law that he was fighting over, and defending, was wrong.

*Even though the synagogue ruler was wrong, he nevertheless didn’t think he was wrong! He was willing to take Jesus to task about a matter in which he was absolutely convinced he was right, but was nevertheless wrong!

Brethren, IT'S POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO BE ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED YOU'RE RIGHT, BUT, IN REALITY, YOU'RE WRONG. IT'S POSSIBLE FOR YOU TO BE WRONG AND NOT KNOW YOU'RE WRONG.

If you’re going to fight over a matter of law, first look at the law and make sure you’re right before you fight because the thing we see in this synagogue ruler is, IT'S POSSIBLE TO FIGHT FOR SOMETHING YOU THINK IS RIGHT, BUT REALLY, IS WRONG. IT'S POSSIBLE TO FIGHT FOR SOMETHING THAT'S WRONG, TO YOUR UNAWARES, HENCE, POSSIBLE TO BE WRONG IN THE FIGHT. BRETHREN, DON'T FIGHT FOR SOMETHING THAT'S WRONG! BE RIGHT BEFORE YOU FIGHT!

 

(C) TREAT PEOPLE BETTER THAN YOU TREAT (YOUR) ANIMALS!

The synagogue ruler was upset because a Sabbath law had been broken. He was more concerned about the law than he was about people! Even infirmed people!

Notice his response. He wasn’t happy that this bowed woman was healed! After eighteen years in this infirmity, the synagogue ruler wasn’t thrilled that she was finally healed! How many years did this woman come to his synagogue? How many years did he know her? Yet, none of these things mattered. All that mattered to him was a law had been broken. People didn’t matter to him—at least, not on the Sabbath. When Sabbath came the rabbinical law took precedence over people.

What’s worse, animals mattered more to him than people. When Sabbath came, it was alright to tend to the physical needs of one’s animals. But it wasn’t alright to tend to the physical needs of the infirmed! The rabbinical law in this regard, you see, treated animals better than humans! The religionists were more considerate of animals than they were of people!

Brethren, THERE'S SUCH A THING AS BAD LAWS. BAD LAWS ARE BAD WHEN THEY CONTRADICT OR VIOLATE THE LETTER AND SPIRIT OF GOD'S WORD. AND THEY'RE BAD WHEN PEOPLE PLAY SECOND FIDDLE TO BEASTS. When you treat your animals and pets better than you treat people something’s terribly wrong with you! Your values and priorities are mixed up!

Start treating people with a little more decency and kindness. Treat them better than you treat your animals. When you get to a point where you object to the fact that people are being genuinely helped, then you’ve got to reexamine your laws and ask yourself what’s so wrong with people being genuinely helped.FN IF GOD HAS NO SUCH OBJECTIONS, THEN OUR OBJECTIONS TO PEOPLE BEING GENUINELY HELPED ARE INAPPROPRIATE AND WRONG.

 

FINAL LESSONS WE CAN LEARN

In bringing my commentary on this Sabbath healing to a close, here are a handful of lessons and encouragements that we really need to take to heart.

 

(A) DON’T LET CRITICS STOP YOU FROM MINISTERING.

One thing that we see in this passage of Scripture is, there were critics and adversaries of our Lord in this particular synagogue. The synagogue ruler who invited, or allowed, Jesus to preach wasn’t a sympathizer or follower of our Lord.

Now if you were one of the twelve and you saw critics in the congregation, would you have tried to stop Jesus from going to that congregation? Would you have tried to stop Him from preaching in an atmosphere of criticism? Some of us stop one another from doing that sort of thing.

But do you know what? Despite our objections, Jesus accepted the invitation and preached. HE DIDN’T LET THE PRESENCE OF CRITICS OR ADVERSARIES STOP HIM FROM MINISTERING.

The presence of critics and adversaries within a particular setting, let’s say church for an example, should not automatically stop us from attending a meeting and ministering. Jesus had His critics and we’ll likely have ours.

So do we turn down an invitation to speak just because the invitation comes from someone who’s more adverse to us than receptive? Do we turn down an opportunity to minister just because there’ll be people there who are actively opposed to us? Will we let the presence of adversaries keep us from ministering?

What did Jesus do? Brethren, He went ahead and ministered because, while there were critics in the congregation, Jesus recognized there were people there too who needed His message and His ministry. Not everyone in synagogue was adverse to Him!

Brethren, YOU NEED TO CONSIDER MORE THE PEOPLE YOU CAN HELP, NOT THE PEOPLE YOU CAN'T. DON'T LET CRITICS STOP YOU FROM MINISTERING TO THE PEOPLE WHO REALLY NEED AND WANT YOUR HELP!

 

(B) OBEY GOD EVEN IF IT WILL GET YOU IN TROUBLE WITH PEOPLE.

In this particular instance, it wasn’t Jesus’ message that got Him in trouble with the synagogue ruler: it was His healing. Jesus broke the law by healing on the Sabbath.

Now the thing that I’d like for you to see here is, Jesus knew that healing the woman would get Him into trouble with the synagogue ruler and the other adversaries present in the congregation. He knew He couldn’t heal the woman and get away with it. But do you know what? Jesus went ahead and healed her. Not only that, He healed her in front of the congregation where everyone, including His critics, could see it!

Why did Jesus do it? Was He being offensive and insensitive? Why couldn’t He heal her in private, better yet, why not heal her after sundown or tomorrow—after Sabbath—when it wouldn’t be against the law to heal?FN Why did He have to do it on the Sabbath and in front of everybody?

He did it because healing blesses the saints, it brings glory to God, and it testifies to the power of God working in Jesus’ life: And all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him (Luke 13:17).

Brethren, if you would just take God’s will by faith and obey Him, even though you know you’ll probably be criticized for it, you’ll come to see that your obedience to God will bring Him glory and you’ll eventually be vindicated.

Last but not least, Jesus healed this woman on the Sabbath and in the synagogue because it was His Father’s will. He said in John 8:29, I do always those things that please him. Jesus did what was His Father’s will to do (John 6:38). What does this mean?


*It means, first of all, that it wasn’t against God’s law to heal on the Sabbath. It may be against man’s law, but certainly not against God’s. Brethren, if it wasn’t God’s will for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath He wouldn’t have healed on the Sabbath. But the very fact that Jesus did so can only mean that the Father didn’t see anything wrong with healing on the Sabbath. He who gave us the command not to work on the Sabbath didn’t prohibit us from healing on the Sabbath.

You see, the danger with man-made laws is, if we aren’t careful, we’ll equate our man-made religious laws with God’s Laws: “Our laws are God’s Laws!” And when people disobey our laws, we automatically conclude that they’ve broken God’s Laws.

But as we see in this instance of healing in the synagogue, A VIOLATION OF MAN'S RELIGIOUS LAW ISN'T NECESSARILY A VIOLATION OF GOD'S LAW. In fact, in this instance, man’s religious law stands in direct contradiction to God’s Law. While men forbid healing on the Sabbath, God doesn’t. He allows it and even wills it.

*And second, Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath means that OBEYING GOD'S LAW OR WILL WILL, AT TIMES, REQUIRE US TO DISOBEY MAN'S RELIGIOUS LAWS. It was against man’s law for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath, but Jesus violated that law because it was His Father’s will for Him to heal. Brethren, obey God even if it means breaking men’s man-made laws.

 

(C) DON’T LET CRITICISM DISHEARTEN YOU. LET IT EMBOLDEN YOU.

While criticism and opposition are something that we don’t necessarily savor or enjoy, instead of taking criticism personally and letting it discourage or dishearten us; we can use people’s criticism as an opportunity to make a statement.

You see, Jesus used the synagogue ruler’s criticism to make the statement that it’s alright to heal on the Sabbath. If it’s alright to minister to the needs of your animals and water them on the Sabbath, how much more alright is it to minister to the needs of infirmed people and heal them on the Sabbath! What’s right for cattle is all the more right for humans. If it isn’t a violation of the Sabbath to consider a beast and show it kindness on the Sabbath, then it should go without saying that it isn’t a violation of the Sabbath to do the same with respect to a fellow human being!

Brethren, instead of letting people’s criticisms get you down, use those criticisms as an opportunity to declare what’s true and right.

 

(D) THERE’S A TIME TO RESPOND TO CRITICISM.

In Jesus’ response to the synagogue ruler’s criticism, we see that THERE ARE INDEED TIMES WHEN A PERSON'S CRITICISMS OR OBJECTIONS MUST BE RESPONDED TO. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN THE RIGHT THING TO DO IS NOT TO SUFFER THE CRITICISMS IN SILENCE, BUT RATHER, SPEAK UP IN DEFENSE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE TRUTH.

Understandably, this is something that some of us are not wont to do. We don’t want to be divisive or unpeaceable, we don’t want to cast our pearls before swine, and we don’t want to make more trouble or get ourselves into any more hot water than what we’re already in.

An aspect of non-resistance is to suffer criticism in silence. But Jesus didn’t always keep silent. He was criticized for healing on the Sabbath and He responded to that criticism.

In Jesus’ response we see that there’s a time to a time to speak up and not be silent. In fact, there’s a time when it’s wrong for us to say nothing. THE TIME TO SPEAK IS WHEN THE TRUTH OF GOD'S WORD IS BEING CONTROVERTED BY THE ACCUSATIONS, CRITICISMS, AND LIES OF PEOPLE. DON'T LET UNTRUTHS AND FALSEHOODS GO UNANSWERED, MY FRIENDS, BECAUSE YOU RISK OTHER PEOPLE BELIEVING THOSE FALSEHOODS. Stand up and let God’s truth be known for the sake of the sheep who will believe it and see the falseness of the things your critics are saying.

 

(E) JESUS CORRECTED THE RULER’S WRONG CONVICTION.

Lastly by way of admonition, I’d like for you to see that Jesus corrected the synagogue ruler’s wrong conviction. In essence, He showed him that there was nothing wrong with healing on the Sabbath.

Brethren, IF YOU STAND ON THE WRONG SIDE OF AN ISSUE AND HOLD TO A WRONG CONVICTION, JESUS WILL CORRECT YOU, HE'LL LET YOU KNOW WHAT THE TRUTH IS. He does this--

*THROUGH HIS WORD. Psalm 119:105, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. See also 2 Timothy 3:16.

*THROUGH HIS SPIRIT. John 16:13, Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.

*THROUGH HIS FAITHFUL MINISTERS. 2 Timothy 4:1-2 (NIV),  In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:  (2)  Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

*THROUGH THE BRETHREN. Colossians 3:16, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Now whether you receive His correction or not is another matter entirely. Many of God’s people-so-called reject God’s truth because they’re intent on believing whatever they want to believe. We have no indication from Scripture that this synagogue ruler received Jesus’ instruction. But the point is, Jesus told him what the truth was. He told him what he should believe concerning healing and the Sabbath.

Brethren, be humble and teachable, receive the Lord’s correction, and change whatever wrong convictions need to be changed. God doesn’t want you believing the wrong things. He doesn’t want you to be on the wrong side of an issue.FN

If your convictions are right, then, brethren, HAVE FAITH ENOUGH TO BELIEVE THAT THE LORD WILL SHOW HIS PEOPLE THE WRONGNESS OF THEIR CONVICTIONS OR LAWS.

As far as we know, this ruler wasn’t a believer or disciple of our Lord; he wasn’t saved. Friends, if Jesus is willing to reveal His truth to an unbeliever, how much more is He willing to show it to a believer!

Pray that your brothers and sisters in the Lord will be humble and teachable enough to receive correction and change their minds about their wrong convictions or beliefs. Be patient with them and REST ASSURED THAT IF GOD COULD CHANGE YOUR MIND, HE CAN CERTAINLY CHANGE ANYONE ELSE'S MIND! Hallelujah!

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED

POSSIBLY IN PEREA

 

Luke 13:18-19, Then said he, Unto what is the kingdom of God like? and whereunto shall I resemble it? {19} It is like a grain of mustard seed,FN which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it. Luke 13:18-19 (NIV),  Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?  (19)  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches."

 

Jesus preached this parable once before in Galilee, Matthew 13:31-32. In Matthew’s account, Jesus stresses the diminutive size of the seed: out of such a small seed grows a big tree. But here in Luke, He stresses the size of the tree and the blessing that it is to the fowls of the air.

Now two great empires of the ancient world were likened unto great trees: (1) Babylon, in Daniel 4:10-12 with 19-22; and (2) Assyria, in Ezekiel 31:3-14.

Ezekiel went on to prophesy that the Messianic, Davidic kingdom of the last days would be as a great tree. Ezekiel 17:22-23 (NIV) reads, "'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. (23) On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches.

Jesus, I believe, is more or less reiterating the prophecy of Ezekiel. Just as the birds of the air nest in the branches of a great tree, so the nations of the world, like birds, would find peace and salvation in the Messianic kingdom.FN

True to form, within forty years of this parable the Gospel of Christ was brought to all the great cities and centers of the Roman Empire, many Gentiles were converted, and the ever increasing growth of the kingdom of God is still taking place in this hour.

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE YEAST

POSSIBLY IN PEREA

 

Luke 13:20-21, And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? {21} It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal,FN till the whole was leavened. Luke 13:20-21 (NLT), He also asked, "What else is the Kingdom of God like? (21) It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough."

 

Like the parable that preceded it, Jesus taught this same parable to another audience in Galilee (Matthew 13:33).

Now leaven in Jewish thought stood for those things that have a spreading and overpowering influence. The influence could be evil or corrupting, as it often was. Hence, the doctrines of the Pharisees were portrayed by our Lord as leaven (Matthew 16:6-12, Mark 8:14-15, Luke 12:1).

But leaven could also have a positive influence.FN For example, a good friend, a good witness or testimony, and a good sermon, are all leavenous in promoting or encouraging good conduct in others.

Jesus here likens the kingdom of God to leaven. It starts out hidden and mixed in the dough of one’s heart and it gradually changes the heart until one’s entire being is positively affected and changed by the kingdom message.

In this we see a three-fold nature of the kingdom’s leaven in men’s life.

(1) First, change is not self-induced. Man in his fallen humanity can try to change himself, but all attempts at lasting change or goodness falls short because the dough needs leaven in order to be leavened. Without leaven the dough remains as it is. For men to truly change they need the leaven of the kingdom, the Gospel of Christ, working in their hearts. And it can only get there as we put it there, or receive it in our hearts.

(2) Second, change begins in the inside. Men can try to change their conduct, behavior, and way of living. But without a transformed heart, men will revert to sin. Change begins with the heart, it begins in the heart.

(3) And third, just as leaven leavens the entire dough, so the leaven of the kingdom is meant to change one’s entire being. Brethren, God isn’t content to change just a part of you, or even most of you. He wants to change all of you. Do you wonder why the Lord speaks on so many different subjects and even gets so uncomfortably specific or detailed? It’s because He’s out to change you entirely!

If Christ, Christianity, and the Church are not changing you—if you’re still the same ole person that you’ve always been and perhaps want to be—then you really have to question whether Christ’s leaven is in you. If it is, you will never be the same! You will not remain the same person you’ve always been. You will become more and more like Christ.

YOU NEED CHRIST TO CHANGE. If you’re sick and tired of being who you are, or what you are, come to Christ, give Him your life, and He’ll change you. He’ll make you the person He wants you to be. You’ll be the happiest, most content, and blest, when Christ is in your life.

 

 

JESUS TRAVELS THROUGHOUT JUDEA

 

Luke 13:22,  And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Luke 13:22 (NIV),  Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.

 

With this one sentence Luke summarizes Jesus’ ministry in Judea. He went preaching throughout the Judean province as He made His way to Jerusalem. This could have taken place while His seventy disciples were out on their own evangelistic mission (Luke 10:1).

Notice that, unlike Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, Luke doesn’t mention anything about Jesus doing miracles on this evangelistic mission in Judea. Jesus’ focus, it would seem, was to teach the people.

Jesus hasn’t changed. If He were here today He would spend a lot of His time teaching. I know that would bore a lot of us. Christians today have little desire or interest in learning or being taught the Bible. Brethren, don’t despise Biblical teachings and teachers. We need to be taught God’s truth. God wants to teach us a lot of things. When we aren’t taught God’s Word we’ll suffer the miserable, tragic consequences of our ignorance (Hosea 4:6). Look at how shallow, worldly, and deceived a lot of Christians are today and you’ll see how Hosea’s words ring true after all these years. Brethren, WE’LL NEVER BE BETTER OFF WITHOUT GOD’S WORD AND BIBLICAL TEACHING!

If we don’t read and study our Bible—if we won’t go to church and pay attention to Bible teachers and ministers—how are we going to become Biblically informed or accurate? We all claim to have, and know, the truth. But how in the world can be have and know the truth when we aren’t reading and studying our Bible? Is the truth found in something other than the Bible? Do our anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-Bible professors and teachers have the truth? The truth is, we know a lot of things and believe a lot of things. But if we’re not getting our knowledge from the Bible, then we’re not Biblically informed or accurate. Chances are, we’re wrong and deceived. The sad thing is, we don’t even know it.

Jesus understood the importance of the truth and the importance of teaching His people. From the beginning of Biblical history we see God giving His people His Word in the form of the Ten Commandments and the Law. He gave them Moses to teach them. And Moses gave them instructors (Numbers 11:16-17). God followed this same pattern with the Church. He gave them ministers to teach His people (Ephesians 4:11-15). And He told the ministers to teach others how to teach His people (2 Timothy 2:2). The evangelistic mission that Jesus gave us is not just a ministry of miracles, baptism, healing, and deliverance, but also a ministry of teaching (Matthew 28:20). When Jesus could no longer be with His disciples, He gave them, and us as well, the Holy Spirit who would take over His job and teach us all (John 16:13).

In short, WE NEED BIBLICAL INSTRUCTION AND TEACHERS. WITHOUT IT WE’RE DEAD (Hosea 4:6).

Praise God, Jesus is still teaching today! Let’s go to Him and learn and live!

 

 

JESUS HEALS A MAN BORN BLINDFN

JERUSALEM

 

Finishing His brief tour of Judea, Jesus arrived in Jerusalem once again.FN Luke, as I said previously, doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what Jesus actually did in Jerusalem. He gives us detailed information about the last week of Jesus’ life prior to His crucifixion, but not a whole lot about what actually transpired prior to that time. For this information we have John to pick up the story.

 

John 9:1-2, And as Jesus passed by,FN he saw a man which was blind from his birth. {2} And his disciples asked him, saying, Master,FN who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? John 9:1-2 (NLT), As Jesus was walking along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. (2) "Rabbi," His disciples asked Him, "why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents' sins?"

 

The Jews rightly, in part, believed that sickness was the result of sin.FN Since this man was blind, the disciples automatically assumed that his blindness was caused by sin. Either he sinned or his parents sinned and, as a consequence of that sin, he was blind. But how could a man be born blind when, as an infant in the womb, he is too young to sin? If he can’t sin in the womb, then how can he be born blind? Technically speaking, he shouldn’t have been born blind because he didn’t sin in the womb. No sin, no blindness.

But that’s just it. The Jews believed that an infant in the womb could sin. They cite the struggle between Jacob and Esau as an example of how an infant in the womb can strive against his twin and presumably, according to the rabbis, seek to kill him while yet in the womb. You read about this in Genesis 25:22-23 (ESV), The children struggled together within her, and she said, "If it is thus, why is this happening to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD. (23) And the LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger."

They also cite the struggle between Pharez and Zarah, Tamar’s twin sons, in Genesis 38:27-30 (MSG),  When her time came to give birth, it turned out that there were twins in her womb.  (28)  As she was giving birth, one put his hand out; the midwife tied a red thread on his hand, saying, "This one came first."  (29)  But then he pulled it back and his brother came out. She said, "Oh! A breakout!" So she named him Perez (Breakout).  (30)  Then his brother came out with the red thread on his hand. They named him Zerah (Bright).

Unborn babies, the Jews believed, could sin. Thus, it was perfectly conceivable to them that this blind man was born blind because of a sin that he committed in the womb.FN

The Jews also believed that sickness was a punishment that one bore for the crimes of his, or her, own parents. Exodus 20:5 (NIV) reads,  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.

One of the curses of parental disobedience was, Your sons and daughters will be dragged off to a foreign country, while you stand there helpless. And even if you watch for them until you go blind, you will never see them again (Deuteronomy 28:32 CEV).

The man’s blindness, then, within the framework of Jewish theology, could well be a result of his parents’ sins.

 

John 9:3, Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. John 9:3 (NIV),  "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

 

In answer to the disciples’ question, Jesus said this man’s blindness was not the result of sin, either his own or his parents. He was blind so that the works of God could be made manifest, shown, or displayed, in his life.

You see, the Jews were partly right in believing that sickness was the result of sin. But not all sickness is the result of one’s sin.FN Sometimes, the Lord allows a person to be afflicted or infirmed so that He can display His power and work in his, or her, own life.

While God knows what He’s doing and knows perfectly well why things are happening the way they are, we don’t always know that. Certainly, neither this blind man nor his parents knew why he was born blind. They lived life with an unanswered question.

WHILE WE DON'T KNOW WHY GOD ALLOWS SOME THINGS TO HAPPEN OR TO CONTINUE AS THEY ARE,WE MUST NEVERTHELESS REST IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT GOD HAS A PLAN AND A PURPOSE AND HE'S IN DIRECT CONTROL OF ALL THINGS THAT HAPPEN.

 

HEALING, NOT SICKNESS, IS GOD'S WILL.

Now some people use this verse in John to substantiate and teach the notion that sickness is God’s will. It was God’s will for this man to be blind. Hence, it’s God’s will for some people to be sick. That being the case, we're told that it’s wrong to tell people it’s always God’s will to heal them. It’s wrong to encourage them to believe and ask God for healing. Some people, I am saying, are resigned to living with the sickness or infirmity they’ve got because they believe it’s God’s will for them to be sick, He doesn’t want them to be healed.

But if it’s God’s will for people to be sick, then why do they spend so much time and money trying to get healed? IF GOD WANTS THEM SICK, IT WOULD BE AN ACT OF UNBELIEF, DISOBEDIENCE, AND REBELLION FOR PEOPLE TO WANT, AND TRY, TO BE HEALED. IN ESSENCE, IT WOULD BE A SIN TO BE HEALED!

But what is that familiar verse in 3 John? Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit (3 John 2 NLT). Brethren, it’s God’s will for us to be healed and healthy.

 

John 9:4-5, I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. {5} As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. John 9:4-5 (NIV),  As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.  (5)  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

 

What is the work of God? The work of God is to heal, as evidenced by the fact that that’s exactly what Jesus proceeded to do.

You see, brethren, if God wanted this man blind for the rest of his life, He wouldn’t have healed him. If it was God’s will for this man to remain blind, God violated His own will by healing him! Jesus disobeyed God’s will by healing this man!

Do you see the preposterousness of this notion that God wants some people to be sick for the rest of their lives? Jesus wasn’t disobeying God! To the contrary, He was obeying God and doing God’s work.

HEALING, MY FRIENDS, IS GOD'S WILL--EVEN FOR THOSE AFFLICTED WITH CONGENITAL, LIFELONG SICKNESSES AND INFIRMITIES. A lifelong, incurable, or terminal affliction is not an indication that it’s God’s will for you to be sick! JUST BECAUSE IT'S CONGENITAL DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD GIVE UP ALL HOPE OF HEALING!

 

WHY SOME ARE NOT HEALED.

Now there are all kinds of arguments and theologies against this hope of healing. The fact that a condition is congenital or incurable has led the vast majority of infirmed people to give up on the hope of healing. The fact that Jesus didn’t heal everyone who was sick has led many people to believe that it’s not always God’s will to heal everyone. After all, if it was His will to heal everyone, Palestine would have been rid of every sickness and infirmity. There would have been nobody sick in Jesus’ day.

But, brethren, think about this for a moment because, while it sounds good, the belief is nevertheless flawed. Consider that not everyone in Jesus’ day was saved. There were many Pharisees and Scribes who never made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Most of the Jews didn’t become Christians. So does the fact that not everyone was saved mean that it wasn’t God’s will to save everyone? Brethren, it’s God’s will to save everyone. He’s not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). But the fact of the matter is, not everyone was saved because not everyone believed. God’s will, you see, is to save everyone who believes, repents, and calls upon His Name (Acts 3:19, 16:31, Romans 10:13).

In much the same way, it’s God’s will to heal everyone, that is, everyone who believes and asks for healing. But NOT EVERYONE IS HEALED BECAUSE NOT EVERYONE BELIEVES. Their salvation or healing, you see, is conditioned on their believing. No faith, no healing. THE ABSENCE OF HEALING, BRETHREN, DOESN'T MEAN IT'S NOT GOD'S WILL TO HEAL. To the contrary, it means people haven’t yet believed God for healing.

The people of Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, are a striking illustration of how unbelief limits or prevents Jesus from healing. Mark 6:5-6a (NLT) reads, And because of their unbelief, He couldn't do any miracles among them except to place His hands on a few sick people and heal them. (6a) And He was amazed at their unbelief. Brethren, UNBELIEF WILL KEEP YOU SICK AND INFIRMED. IT WILL KEEP GOD FROM HEALING YOU.

To be sure, God is omnipotent and He can heal you in spite of your belief. But the fact that He chooses not to heal you because of your unbelief just goes to show how powerful and detrimental unbelief really is. Don't take your unbelief lightly, my friends. IT KEEPS THE ALMIGHTY GOD FROM WORKING A MIRACLE ON YOUR BEHALF.

 

IT'S GOD'S WILL TO HEAL ALL WITHOUT EXCEPTION.

If it’s not God’s will to heal everyone, then how do we know who we should pray for and who we shouldn’t? The commission, you see, is for us to lay hands of the sick, and they shall recover (Mark 16:18). God didn’t tell us to pray first about which of the sick we should lay hands on and which of the sick we shouldn’t. He didn’t tell us to ask Him first if it is His will for this sick person to be healed or not. The commission is, if they’re sick, lay hands on them and pray for their healing so that they can be healed.

Now the truth that God isn’t partial in whom He heals is confirmed in James 5:14, Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. Who is eligible for the calling of the elders and the prayer for healing? Anyone in the Church who’s sick. Whom did Jesus heal? He healed all that were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38).

Brethren, don’t make yourself an exception to God’s healing promise and work! Forget what men tell you and get back to God’s Word. Jesus said, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him (verse 3). God, my friends, wants to manifest His works in you. What are His works? They’re works of healing.

What does manifest mean? It means you and everyone else is going to see with your eyes the healing power and work of God in your body. The healing isn’t going to be spiritual in the sense that it’s unseen and reserved for Heaven. The healing is going to be manifested so that you’ll feel, look, and be, healed. Brethren, DON'T RESERVE YOUR HEALING FOR HEAVEN. HEALING WAS MEANT TO BE MANIFESTED AND EXPERIENCED HERE ON EARTH WHILE YOU'RE ALIVE.

 

John 9:6-7, When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,FN {7} And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam,FN (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore,FN and washed, and came seeing.FN John 9:6-7 (NLT), Then He spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man's eyes. (7) He told him, "Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam" (Siloam means "sent"). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!

 

We take note of several things in this healing incident. FIRST, WE SEE THAT THE BLIND MAN DIDN'T ASK FOR HEALING. The miracle was unasked and unsolicited. It came not as an answer to prayer, but as an answer to the disciples’ curiosity concerning sin.

Is it possible for the Lord to heal someone who hasn’t asked Him for healing? Yes. Is healing reserved entirely or exclusively for those who pray for healing? No. In this passage of Scripture we see that our Lord sometimes works miracles because He pleases to do it, even without a prayer or petition.

SECOND, EVEN THOUGH THE MIRACLE WAS UNSOLICITED, IT NEVERTHELESS REQUIRED FAITH AND OBEDIENCE ON THE BLIND MAN'S PART. You see, when Jesus told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam, what did the blind man do? He went and washed. Why? Because he wanted to be healed. He wasn’t resigned to being blind for the rest of his life.

But more than that, he believed the Lord. He believed God would manifest His works in him. You see, if this man didn’t believe he would he be healed, he wouldn’t have gone and washed in Siloam. But as it was, this man probably heard enough about Jesus to take Him at His word and go wash. After all, what was there for him to lose? You see, even though the miracle was unsolicited, the man nevertheless had to believe and obey Jesus’ word. Had he not washed in Siloam, he wouldn’t have been healed that day.

Friends, just because Jesus at times heals on His own sovereign initiative doesn’t mean you don’t have to believe or obey His Word.

THIRD, THE MAN'S BLINDNESS WAS CONGENITAL. In the natural, it was a lifelong and medically incurable condition. But JESUS' MIRACLE GIVES US REASON TO BELIEVE THAT HEALING IS POSSIBLE EVEN FOR CONGENITAL, INCURABLE CONDITIONS. The fact that it’s congenital or incurable doesn’t mean it’s God’s will for us to live with what we’ve got.

If nothing else, like this blind man, the condition has been allowed by God for the purpose of demonstrating His power and work in our lives in a single act of healing. Brethren, we can believe God for healing! Why? Because it’s God’s work and will to heal.

HIS HEALING WORK IS NOT LIMITED TO THOSE CONDITIONS WHICH ARE CURABLE, BUT IT EXTENDS TO THOSE INFIRMITIES WHICH, IN THE NATURAL, KEEP US INFIRMED FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES. THE INCURABILITY OF A DISEASE DOESN'T DIMINISH GOD'S POWER OR WILLINGNESS TO HEAL! Hallelujah!

I know that there’s this prevalent notion today that God doesn’t heal every sickness. But, brethren, this isn’t what God said!

*Psalm 103:3 reads, He forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.

*Jesus went about all Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people (Matthew 4:23).

*When He commissioned His disciples to go forth and minister He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease (Matthew 10:1).

*Whatever diseases or infirmities you bear, you must understand that Jesus bore them away at Calvary so that you won’t have to bear them. He bore them so that you can be healed. Isaiah 53:4-5, literally or accurately translated, tells us, Surely he hath borne our diseases or sicknesses, and carried away our pains and afflictions: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. {5} But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Brethren, DON'T RESIGN YOURSELF TO LIVING WITH WHAT YOU'VE GOT. NEVER GIVE UP FAITH. Like Abraham, live each day with the faith that what God promised, He is able also to perform (Romans 4:21).

In the meantime, until your healing is manifested, live life the best you can. This man’s blindness didn’t keep him locked up at home. He didn’t withdraw from society and become an embittered man. Instead, he went out and about. He did what he could for himself. He learned where different places were. He sat and begged for alms. He coped with life as best he could.

Brethren, it’s not a lack of faith for you to learn Braille, sit in a wheelchair or use sign language. IT'S NOT A SIN FOR YOU TO COPE. But it is a lack of faith for you to think you’ll be reading Braille for the rest of your life, you’ll never speak, or you’ll be spending your entire life in a wheelchair. Brethren, cope. But never give up the hope of healing.

Assuming for a moment that this blind man was begging by the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, we must ask how many times Jesus passed this man before He stopped on this occasion and healed him. For all we know, this could well have been Jesus’ first encounter with this blind man. But the fact that the disciples knew this man was born blind, as opposed to having suffered an eye injury or lost eyesight through some subsequent disease, leads me to believe they knew something about this man; they were somewhat familiar with him.

Now if this really was the case, it’s worth wondering how many times Jesus passed this man without stopping to heal him. Why is the question worth pondering? Because it shows that GOD HAS A SPECIFIC TIME TO WORK HIS MIRACLES IN THE LIVES OF MEN. Whenever Jesus passed this man by, it wasn’t an indication that it wasn’t God’s will for him to be healed. To the contrary, it was simply an indication that Jesus had other more important things to do at the moment; it wasn’t the right time for this man to be healed.

You see, brethren, the promise of Mark 11:24 is that ye shall have them. You’ll get what you want! But the Lord never said exactly when that time would come. The promise of James 5:14-15 is that the prayer of faith shall heal the sick and the Lord shall raise him up. You’ll be healed! But the Lord never said exactly when that healing would manifest.

GOD HAS A PERFECT TIME TO DO, OR MANIFEST, THE THINGS HE'S PROMISED. AND UNTIL THAT TIME COMES, GOD EXPECTS US TO WAIT, BE PATIENT, AND CONTINUE BELIEVING.

Brethren, don’t be discouraged if healing hasn’t manifested yet! Your time will come—if you believe! How do I know that? Because God said so. He said, the prayer of faith shall heal the sick and the Lord will raise you up. Take heart, my friends, and keep on believing. God is faithful!

 

 

THE PHARISEES EXCOMMUNICATE THE MAN JESUS HEALED

JERUSALEM

 

John 9:8-12, The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? {9} Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. {10} Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? {11} He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. {12} Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not. John 9:8-12 (NLT), His neighbors and others who knew him as a blind beggar asked each other, "Isn't this the man who used to sit and beg?" (9) Some said he was, and others said, "No, he just looks like him!" But the beggar kept saying, "Yes, I am the same one!" (10) They asked, "Who healed you? What happened?" (11) He told them, "The man they call Jesus made mud and spread it over my eyes and told me, 'Go to the pool of Siloam and wash yourself.' So I went and washed, and now I can see!" (12) "Where is He now?" they asked. "I don't know," he replied.

 

The people acquainted with the blind man now healed were surprised to see him walking about with his sight fully restored. How did it happen? The man told them.

A MIRACLE, LIKE AN ANSWER TO PRAYER, GIVES YOU AN OPPORTUNITY TO TELL OTHERS WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR YOU! So don't keep quiet about it! Let people know and let God be glorified!

 

John 9:13-17, They brought to the PhariseesFN him that aforetime was blind.FN {14} And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.FN {15} Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. {16} Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day.FN Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.FN {17} They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.FN John 9:13-17 (NASB), They *brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. (14) Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. (15) Then the Pharisees also were asking him again how he received his sight. And he said to them, "He applied clay to my eyes, and I washed, and I see." (16) Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, "This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath." But others were saying, "How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?" And there was a division among them. (17) So they *said to the blind man again, "What do you say about Him, since He opened your eyes?" And he said, "He is a prophet."

 

Brought before the Pharisees, the man recounted the circumstances of his healing. The Pharisees, however, were not as concerned about the miracle as they were about the fact that Jesus healed on the Sabbath. Jesus could not be a Man of God because He broke the Sabbath! By discrediting the Lord the miracle would thus be discredited.

 

John 9:18-23, But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. {19} And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? {20} His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: {21} But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age;FN ask him: he shall speak for himself. {22} These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.FN {23} Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him. John 9:18-23 (NLT), The Jewish leaders still refused to believe the man had been blind and could now see, so they called in his parents. (19) They asked them, "Is this your son? Was he born blind? If so, how can he now see?" (20) His parents replied, "We know this is our son and that he was born blind, (21) but we don't know how he can see or who healed him. Ask him. He is old enough to speak for himself." (22) His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders, who had announced that anyone saying Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. (23) That's why they said, "He is old enough. Ask him."

 

Perhaps this whole thing was a hoax. So the Pharisees decided to question the man’s parents. After questioning, it became obvious to them that the miracle was not a hoax.

 

John 9:24-34, Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise:FN we know that this man is a sinner. {25} He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. {26} Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? {27} He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?FN {28} Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. {29} We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.FN {30} The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.FN {31} Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.FN {32} Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.FN {33} If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.FN {34} They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.FN John 9:24-34 (CEV), The leaders called the man back and said, "Swear by God to tell the truth! We know that Jesus is a sinner." (25) The man replied, "I don't know if he is a sinner or not. All I know is that I used to be blind, but now I can see!" (26) "What did he do to you?" the Jewish leaders asked. "How did he heal your eyes?" (27) The man answered, "I have already told you once, and you refused to listen. Why do you want me to tell you again? Do you also want to become his disciples?" (28) The leaders insulted the man and said, "You are his follower! We are followers of Moses. (29) We are sure that God spoke to Moses, but we don't even know where Jesus comes from." (30) "How strange!" the man replied. "He healed my eyes, and yet you don't know where he comes from. (31) We know that God listens only to people who love and obey him. God doesn't listen to sinners. (32) And this is the first time in history that anyone has ever given sight to someone born blind. (33) Jesus could not do anything unless he came from God." (34) The leaders told the man, "You have been a sinner since the day you were born! Do you think you can teach us anything?" Then they said, "You can never come back into any of our meeting places!"

 

The Pharisees tried to get this man to change his opinion of Jesus. They wanted him to see Jesus as a sinner. But the man stood fast. Jesus could not be a sinner because God doesn’t hear the prayer of sinners! God wouldn’t have granted Jesus the power to heal blind eyes. Now since Jesus obviously healed him, the man was left with no recourse but to conclude that Jesus was a Man of God. Simply put, He was not a sinner as the Pharisees alleged. Recalcitrant as he was, the Pharisees promptly threw him out.

 

 

JESUS LOOKS FOR THE MAN HE HEALED

SOMEWHERE IN JERUSALEM

 

John 9:35-38, Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?FN {36} He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? {37} And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. {38} And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.FN John 9:35-38 (NIV),  Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"  (36)  "Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him."  (37)  Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you."  (38)  Then the man said, "Lord, I believe," and he worshiped him.

 

When Jesus heard what befell the man, He searched him out and revealed Himself to him as the Son of God.

Brethren, GOD DOESN'T FORGET THOSE WHO SUFFER FOR HIS SAKE.

*Do you remember when Peter was imprisoned by Agrippa? What did Jesus do for him? He sent an angel to personally escort him out of jail (Acts 12:1-10).

*What about Paul and Silas? Even though they’d been flogged, they sang their hearts out in prison and the Lord must have danced for joy, clapped, shouted, or something like that because there was an earthquake and every prisoner’s bands were loosed (Acts 16:22-26).

*Years later Paul faced another dark hour in prison and do you know what the Lord did? He appeared to Paul and cheered him up (Acts 23:10-12).

*At one time, the ship he was on was trapped by a fierce storm at sea. When all hope of being saved was gone, do you know what our wonderful Lord did? He sent an angel who appeared to Paul and encouraged him with the hope that no life would be lost (Acts 27:13-26).

You know, THE LORD'S PRESENCE IS OFTEN TIME MOST FELT WHEN YOU'RE IN A HEAP OF TROUBLE BECAUSE OF HIM. You’re in all kinds of trouble because you’ve chosen to be faithful and obedient, you’re tempted to grow discouraged and faint, but Jesus visits you and refreshes your spirit.

Sometimes, as in this instance with the blind man now healed, in your hour of persecution God gives you a perspective of Jesus that you’ve never seen before. You get a fuller revelation of Jesus.

Note the progressiveness of this man’s view of Jesus: first, He’s simply a Man (verse 11), then He’s a prophet (verse 17), finally, He’s Son of God (verse 38).

FAR FROM BEING A DETERRENT OR DETRIMENT TO FAITH, PERSECUTION CAN ENHANCE AND STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH IN JESUS. Are you feeling down because of the flack you're taking for Jesus? Get alone with Him in prayer, praise Him, and you just might see Him. You'll sense His presence in a way that will fill you with peace, joy, and hope. Who knows, you might even see an angel like Paul did. Rule nothing out. GOD THINKS A WHOLE LOT ABOUT YOU, YOU MATTER TO HIM, AND HE'S NOT GOING TO FORSAKE OR ABANDON YOU IN YOUR HOUR OF SUFFERING.

Seeing his Healer for the first time, the man acknowledges Jesus’ Divinity and worships Him.

 

John 9:39-41, And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. {40} And some of the Pharisees which were with himFN heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? {41} Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. John 9:39-41 (NASB), And Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." (40) Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, "We are not blind too, are we?" (41) Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains.

 

The Pharisees who thought they could see were, in all actuality, spiritually blind. They could not see what this man saw, namely, that Jesus was not a sinner, but rather, a Man of God.

In them we see the sad truth that THE LEARNED AND THE RELIGIOUS AMONG MEN ARE, IN THEIR UNBELIEF, BLINDED TO THE TRUTHS OF GOD. UNBELIEF BLINDS. MEN'S UNBELIEF IS THE DEVIL'S INVITATION TO BLIND THEM FROM SEEING..

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) reads, If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. (4) Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don't understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

 

In bringing our commentary on this healing of the blind man to a close, I’d like to encourage your hearts with the notion that YOUR FAITH DOESN’T HAVE TO FALTER OR FAIL WHEN IT’S QUESTIONED, TRIED, OR PERSECUTED BY THOSE WHO DON’T AGREE WITH IT.

A PHYSICAL OR FINANCIAL TRIAL OF FAITH WASN'T MEANT BY GOD TO GET YOU TO ABANDON YOUR FAITH. TO THE CONTRARY, IT WAS MEANT TO STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH.

In much the same way, the persecutions that God allows you to go through aren’t meant for you to grow fearful and fainthearted; they’re not a time for you to abandon ship.

You see, when the people of God are persecuted for what they believe, many of them start to question and doubt their faith. They compromise and back down so that they won’t have to suffer or die. Besides that, the arguments of men against their faith sound so good and convincing. For too many of God’s people, I am saying, persecution is a time to back off or back down.

But what we see in this case with the blind man now healed is a man who refused to back down and give in to the demands of his religious persecutors. They couldn’t get him to denounce Jesus as a sinner! And the thing about it was, this man wasn’t even a believer in the truest sense of the term. He believed Jesus was a prophet and not a sinner. But as far as Jesus being Son of God, the man hadn’t yet come to this point of faith (compare John 9:25 with 9:35-38). With what little he knew and believed, this man stood fast!

Brethren, IF ONE SO YOUNG IN FAITH CAN STAND FIRM IN A COURT OF LAW, SURROUNDED BY ANTAGONISTS, AND THREATENED WITH THE VERY THING THAT EVERY JEW FEARED THE MOST, THAT IS, EXCOMMUNICATION; CAN WE WHO KNOW SO MUCH DO ANY LESS THAN HIM? LIKE THIS MAN, ARE WE WILLING TO SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES OF BEING TRUE TO WHAT WE BELIEVE?

What was it that caused this man to stand firm in his opinion of Jesus? Two things.

*The first was the fact of his experience. He had been healed and there was no denying it.

Now unlike this man, some of God’s people are willing to be talked out of their experience. Whether it’s conversion or the baptism in the Holy Spirit, healing or deliverance; some go back on what they’ve experienced and renounce it as demonic or deception. They say they were brain washed and misguided.

But friends, there’s no argument against experience. People can argue about an experience and call it demonic or unscriptural; they can have all kinds of contradictory things to say about what you’ve gone through. But the arguments can’t change what you’ve experienced! Once you were blind, but now you see. Once you were lost, but now you’re saved. Once you were filled with hate, but now you love. Once you wanted to die, but now you know the joy of living. On and on we can go about the change God has made in your life. Brethren, you know more than anyone else what God has done for you. You know the difference He’s made. Don’t let anyone talk you out of that!

*The second thing that made this man stand firm in his opinion of Jesus was his knowledge of Holy Scripture. Jesus couldn’t be a sinner because God heard His prayer. God doesn’t hear the prayer of sinners. No matter what controversies these religious leaders had with Jesus, the one thing this man was sure of was, Jesus wasn’t a sinner!

Brethren, IF YOU'D STAY WITH THE WORD OF GOD AND JUST STAND ON THAT, YOU'LL BE FAITHFUL EVERY TIME.

You see, there’s no argument against the truth. Notice that when this man cited the truth of Scripture, namely, that God doesn’t hear the prayer of sinners; the Pharisees didn’t respond to that! They couldn’t contradict that or argue with that! Do you know why? Because they knew the man was right! Truth had been spoken and that ended the argument.

Unlike these Pharisees, men today will argue for endless hours on a truth of God’s Word and do you know what? When everything’s said and done, the argument rages on! It outlives men’s lives and is passed down from one generation to another. It’s an unending argument! Will the argument ever end?

GOD'S WORD ALONE IS WHAT ENDS ALL ARGUMENTS. UNTIL MEN LET GOD'S WORD STAND JUST THE WAY IT'S WRITTEN AND ACCEPT IT AS IT IS, MEN WILL CONTINUE TO ARGUE TILL JUDGMENT COMES.

Persecution doesn’t have to spell the end of your walk with the Lord! Men’s logic and arguments don’t have to rob you of our precious Lord and His unalterable truth. Brethren, stand confidently on God’s Word and you will prevail!

 

 

JESUS' DISCOURSE ON THE GOOD SHEPHERDFN

JERUSALEM

 

John 10:1-6, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. {2} But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. {3} To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. {4} And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him:FN for they know his voice. {5} And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. {6} This parableFN spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. John 10:1-6 (NLT), "I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! (2) But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. (3) The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (4) After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. (5) They won't follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don't know his voice." (6) Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn't understand what He meant,

 

Agriculture flourished in Galilee. But Judea was more a pastoral country. Flocks of sheep grazing along hillsides with shepherds nearby were indeed a most familiar scene of everyday life.

There were two kinds of sheepfolds, or pens. The sheepfold in town was a large, enclosed area. It was secured by a large door or gate and a doorkeeper, or porter, stood watch over the locked door all through the night, making sure the sheep were safe from rustlers and wolves.

In many towns, the sheepfold was communal. That is, all the sheep of the town’s various families were kept in this fold by night. So how did each family know whose sheep belonged to whom? By the voice of the family’s shepherd.

You see, sheep in Palestine were raised mainly for their wool, not their meat. Consequently, the sheep lived longer: the shepherd and the sheep would spend many years together. The shepherd would talk to his sheep, he even had a name of each of his sheep, so that the sheep in a very real way knew the voice of their shepherd. In fact, they wouldn’t respond to the calls of another shepherd.

Now when morning came, the shepherd would come to the sheepfold, the porter would recognize him and he would open the door to the fold. The shepherd would call his sheep and his sheep would follow. None of the other sheep belonging to the town’s other families would follow! Why? Because they didn’t respond to any voice but the voice of their own shepherd.

So what does all of this mean? The Pharisees didn’t understand what Jesus was trying to say by way of spiritual truth, so Jesus explained it more.

 

John 10:7-9, Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. {8} All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers:FN but the sheep did not hear them. {9} I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. John 10:7-9 (NASB), So Jesus said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. (8) "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. (9) "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

 

There were two kinds of sheepfold in Palestine. I already told you about the first kind. The second kind was a sheepfold in the country or hillside. It was a fenced area as well, but there wasn’t any door to this pen. When the shepherd finished gathering his sheep into the fold at night, he would lie across the sheepfold’s opening and that’s where he would sleep. The sheep couldn’t get out without stepping on him, hence, the shepherd would always know if a sheep strayed out at night.

Jesus is the Door, the fold is the Kingdom, and sheep are those who are saved. Anyone who desires to be saved must enter the fold by going through the Door Christ Jesus. There is no other way into the fold, for as Jesus said in another portion of the Gospel, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).

 

John 10:10-13, The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. {11} I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. {12} But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. {13} The hirelingFN fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. John 10:10-13 (NLT), The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (11) "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep. (12) A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don't belong to him and he isn't their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. (13) The hired hand runs away because he's working only for the money and doesn't really care about the sheep.

 

Jesus contrasts Himself as the Good Shepherd with the thief and the hireling. Neither of them care for the sheep, but are interested solely in their personal gain or well-being. The Good Shepherd, on the other hand, fights to defend His sheep. Jesus cares so much for the sheep that He would even die for them!

 

John 10:14-18, I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. {15} As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. {16} And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:FN them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold,FN and one shepherd. {17} Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.FN {18} No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have powerFN to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.FN This commandment have I received of my Father. John 10:14-18 (CEV), I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and they know me. (15) Just as the Father knows me, I know the Father, and I give up my life for my sheep. (16) I have other sheep that are not in this sheep pen. I must bring them together too, when they hear my voice. Then there will be one flock of sheep and one shepherd. (17) The Father loves me, because I give up my life, so that I may receive it back again. (18) No one takes my life from me. I give it up willingly! I have the power to give it up and the power to receive it back again, just as my Father commanded me to do.

 

Jesus here alludes to His coming death and resurrection. He will die for His sheep, but His death is strictly voluntary. Without His volunteering, no man could kill Him! The Good News, however, is this: even though Jesus is going to die, He will rise up from the dead and live again! Death will not keep Him in the tomb! Hallelujah!

 

John 10:19-21, There was a divisionFN therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. {20} And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad;FN why hear ye him? {21} Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil.FN Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? John 10:19-21 (NIV),  The Jews who heard these words were again divided.  (20)  Many of them said, "He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?"  (21)  But others said, "These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

 

Some of the religious leaders thought Jesus was possessed and insane. But others among them disagreed. A demoniac doesn’t say the kind of things Jesus said and someone who’s possessed doesn’t do the kind of miracles Jesus did.

I’d like to summarize our commentary on Jesus’ discourse by looking individually at the Shepherd, the sheep, the thieves and robbers, and the hirelings. First, the shepherd.

 

THE SHEPHERD

In order to fully appreciate the shepherding ministry of our Lord it is helpful to understand a few things about a shepherd. Now a shepherd was a person who devoted his entire life to taking care of sheep. Shepherding wasn’t just a job. It wasn’t something you did eight hours a day, then leave the flock to go home. Shepherding was a life.

If you ask me to describe the relationship between a shepherd and his sheep, there would be many things I would say. But they would all be summed up in this one thought, namely, that the shepherd and his sheep spent a lot of time together. Why was this?

(a) Partly because, as I’ve already said, sheep in Palestine were raised for their wool, not their meat. Consequently, they lived longer.

(b) Now because Judea wasn’t a grassy haven, flocks would oftentimes have to be led over considerable distances in search of pasture. Unless you returned home every night, you stayed with the sheep as long as they were out to pasture. Many times, if the flocks were large, a shepherd would spend days and weeks with the sheep in pasture. This was one reason why a shepherd spent so much time with the sheep.

(c) But the greater reason why a shepherd spent a lot of time with the sheep was because of the constant peril and danger posed to the sheep. The Judean hillsides were home to thieves and robbers who feasted on lamb chops and mutton stew. During that time, wolves were plentiful and ferocious. A single wolf could kill several sheep in a single night if a shepherd was asleep or inattentive. When they hunted in packs these wolves could destroy an entire flock in short order.

Now if sheep had a natural inclination to fight and resist, the danger to them would perhaps not be as great. But because sheep by nature offered little resistance, they were a vulnerable prey and consequently, their lives and well-being depended in great measure upon their shepherd.

Thus, because of the constant danger to the sheep by day and night, the shepherd kept constant watch over his sheep. His entire life was devoted to taking care of the sheep. He was personally familiar and knowledgeable with each sheep. He led them to pasture and water. He talked to his sheep. He was alert and sensitive to danger. He fought against human and beastly predators to keep his sheep safe from harm. A true and a good shepherd loved his sheep and he devoted his entire life to taking good care of them.

Jesus, brethren, is the Good Shepherd. He knows each one of His sheep-believer by name. He feeds His flock with God’s life-sustaining Word, He leads them in paths of right, He talks to them, He fights on their behalf, and He willingly gave up His life to save and secure them from eternal perdition. Jesus, brethren, loves His own and He’s devoted His entire life in eternity to taking good care of His people: He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf, Hebrews 7:25.

 

THE SHEEP

(A) SHEEP KNOW AND HEAR GOD'S VOICE. Like I pointed out earlier, the shepherd and sheep spent a lot of time together—that’s how sheep knew and recognized the voice of their shepherd. They spent so much time with the shepherd that they were able to distinguish his voice from the voice of other shepherds.

Brethren, YOU DON'T DISCERN GOD'S VOICE BY NEGLECTING HIM AND NOT LISTENING TO HIM SPEAK TO YOU. You don’t recognize God’s voice by centering your life around the interests and pursuits of this world, nor do you recognize it by keeping your Bible closed.

People of God have a hard time knowing whether it’s really God talking to them, or else the Devil. Brethren, you know God’s voice the same way sheep know their shepherd’s voice. How is that? By spending a lot of time with the Shepherd and listening to His voice.

(B) SHEEP FOLLOW THE SHEPHERD. Sheep don’t do well on their own. When they stray from the flock mischief befalls them. A stray is dead meat for predatory wolves.

Brethren, our safety and security lies in following the Lord to pasture and staying within the fold. There are so many evils and dangers that attend us that our only hope of security is to stay close to the Lord.

Many of God’s people want to wander off on their own and search out their own pastures and have their own fun and games. So many people think the Lord isn’t being fair by giving them so many commandments and prohibitions. The fold is too restrictive and it cramps their lifestyle.

But just as sheep don’t fare well on their own, apart from the flock and the shepherd, so God’s people don’t fare well on their own, isolated and cut off from the church and the Lord. Security, you see, is in the pen. It’s with the shepherd and the flock. Brethren, stay with the Lord, stay close by His side because, in a very real way, YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT. Don’t wander from the flock or the church. CHRISTIANS WERE MEANT BY GOD TO BE A PART OF THE CHURCH BECAUSE IT’S FOR THEIR OWN GOOD. God, friends, knows what He’s doing: YOU WILL NOT BE BETTER OFF, OR FARE BETTER, BEING ON YOUR OWN, ISOLATED AND SEPARATED FROM THE REST OF CHRIST’S FOLLOWERS.

 

THIEVES AND ROBBERS

The dangers that attend us come from within and without. Without are thieves and robbers. The Devil and his demonic cohorts are the ultimate, consummate thieves and robbers, out to devour and destroy our souls.

But deceivers and false prophets and teachers are also thieves and robbers who climb over the wall, sneak into the fold, and wreak havoc among the saints of God.

A lot of times we think the havoc is limited to spiritual deception and error. But there’s more havoc than that. When the Devil comes into the fold through deceivers and false ministers, seeds of suspicion, distrust, bitterness, hatred, division, unkindness, and a host of other ills, are planted within the body of Christ. The unity of the fold is shattered, the love and peace of the fold are broken, and the spiritual well-being of the flock is threatened.

Brethren, YOU'LL KNOW WHO'S A THIEF AND ROBBER BY TWO THINGS: HOW HE GAINS ACCESS OR ENTRANCE TO THE SHEEP AND WHAT HE DOES TO THE SHEEP.

Anyone who doesn’t enter through the door of the fold, who bypasses the authority of the shepherd, and works without the shepherd’s consent, is a thief and robber. When the sheep of God are divided and confused, when they’re made to fear and doubt and disobey the Lord, a thief and robber is in the midst.

Brethren, YOU'LL KNOW WHO'S GOOD FOR THE SHEEP AND WHO ISN'T BY THE FRUIT THEY PRODUCE AND THE IMPACT THEY HAVE ON THE SHEEP.

 

HIRELINGS

The dangers that attend us not only come from without, but they also come from within. Many times, the flock would be so great that a shepherd would hire servants or workers to help him tend the flock. Because the hirelings didn’t own the sheep, many of them didn’t have much care or concern for them. Many were interested only in the money and not the sheep.

Consequently, when the robbers and wolves came, the hirelings fled because they didn’t want to be killed by the robbers and they didn’t want to tangle with the wolves. They were more interested in preserving their skins than in preserving the sheep. In a word, hirelings didn’t care for the sheep under their charge.

The church of God, my friends, is at times beset with hirelings who tend the sheep—not because they’re called of God into positions of leadership and ministry and service, but because it’s a vocation that pays. For these hirelings, the ministry is a job, not a life. Just as sheep are fleeced for their wool, so saints are fleeced for their money.

Brethren, YOU'LL KNOW WHO'S A TRUE MINISTER OF GOD BY THE CONCERN, OR LACK OF IT, THAT THEY MANIFEST TOWARDS THE FLOCK. AND YOU'LL KNOW WHO'S A TRUE SHEPHERD BY THE SHEPHERD'S RESPONSE TO DANGERS THAT THREATEN OR CONFRONT THE FLOCK.

When the shepherd doesn’t guard the flock against deception and error; when the shepherd doesn’t rid the flock of the wolves of unkindness, jealousy, division, and the like; then the shepherd isn’t sent or called of God.

Brethren, go where you’re cared for and helped. And stay there. Sure, the help doesn’t always feel good. I’m talking about being rebuked, admonished, or corrected. The help doesn’t always feel good. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the shepherd’s no good.

You know, when the shepherd comes in the morning and calls his sheep out, sometimes some of the sheep don’t come. They don’t follow, they’ve got a mind of their own to stay within the fold. Do you know what the shepherd does? He putteth them forth (verse 4). That is, he goes into the pen and prods them out. Sometimes the shepherd prods because that’s the only way he’s going to get the sheep to follow him.

Brethren, when we understand that the shepherd prods because he cares and because it’s for our good, then we see that it’s better to be prodded by a caring shepherd than to be abandoned by an apathetic hireling and end up being devoured by wolves and robbers. Bless God for a good shepherd, brethren. Pray for him. And follow him.

 

 

JESUS ATTENDS THE FEAST OF DEDICATION

JERUSALEM

 

John 10:22, And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. John 10:22 (NLT), It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication.

 

This is the only place in Scripture where the Feast of Dedication is mentioned. It commemorates the cleansing and rededication of the Temple by Judas Maccabeus in B.C. 164.

Prior to the Roman conquest and domination of the Jews, Palestine was ruled by four successive world powers: first the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, followed by the Medo-Persians, and finally, the Greeks.

After the death of Alexander the Great, his Greek empire was divided among his leading generals. One of these, Ptolemy, took control of Egypt and Palestine and thus founded the Ptolemaic Empire.

Another general by the name of Seleucus took control of Babylon and founded the Seleucid Empire. Some time later, Syria and Phoenicia came under Seleucus’ control.

The Ptolemies ruled Palestine from 323 B.C. to 198 B.C. when the Seleucid King Antiochus III, also known as Antiochus the Great, defeated the Egyptian armies in Palestine and secured the holy land firmly under Seleucid control.

One of his sons, Antiochus IV, also known as Antiochus Epiphanes, eventually came to the throne (B.C. 175 - 164). What Nero was to the Christians, Epiphanes was to the Jews. A zealous Hellenizer, he sought to abolish Jewish religion from off the face of the Earth. In B.C. 170, after a Jewish uprising in Jerusalem, Antiochus and his vast army attacked the city and destroyed most of it. About eighty thousand Jews lost their lives, many who survived were sold into slavery, and various peoples from amongst the Gentile nations were brought in to colonize the city.

But by far the most heinous of his crimes was when Antiochus desecrated the Temple some years later, in B.C. 167. He turned its chambers into brothels. At the great altar of burnt offering a pagan altar was built, and on the 25th day of Kislev (also spelled Chislev, which corresponds to our December, B.C. 167), he offered swine upon the altar to the Greek god Zeus (Roman god Jupiter). Later on, Jews were compelled to do the same. It marked the first time in the Temple’s history that the Temple was desecrated with offerings of swine upon the altar. A statue of Jupiter was set up in the Holy of Holies. The Temple’s wealth was looted and some of its furnishings (the golden altar of incense, the candlestick, and table of shewbread) Antiochus carried away to Antioch in Syria. On pain of death, he outlawed circumcision, the observance of Sabbath, and possession of the Scriptures. Copies of Scriptures were destroyed. In addition, pagan altars were built and the Jews were commanded to offer sacrifices to heathen deities in every city of Judea. They were not only required to offer swine upon the altar: they were also compelled to eat it, which was forbidden by Law to eat. Officials were appointed to go from village to village to publish and enforce the king’s edict. They would visit the villages once a month to investigate the Jews’ compliance.

Surprisingly, many of the Jews submitted to Antiochus’ decrees. But a priest by the name of Mattathias and his five sons, refused to obey the king’s edict. When the king’s officer came to Modein, not too far from Jerusalem, to check up on the Jews, the priest slew the king’s officer and thus began the Jews’ armed revolt and war of independence.

Mattathias died a year into the armed struggle and, in accordance with his wishes, his third son, Judas Maccabeus, assumed military command of the rapidly growing band of Jewish warriors. The Maccabean revolt takes it name from him.

Badly outnumbered, the Maccabeans miraculously prevailed in battle after battle until Jerusalem itself was won in B.C. 164. The first order of business for the victorious Maccabees was the cleansing and purification of the Temple. The desecrated altar of burnt offering was hauled away and a new altar built in its place. Priestly robes and utensils were likewise replaced and new ones made. Finally, on the 25th day of Kislev, exactly three years after the Temple’s desecration, the Temple was rededicated amidst great fanfare and rejoicing. The Feast of Dedication commemorates this event. It is celebrated to this day, although it is popularly known as Hanukkah.

According to Jewish tradition, when the great candlestick was lit at the Temple’s rededication, there was only one small cruse of oil found that had not been polluted during the three years of Antiochus’ desecrations. It was enough to last for only one day. But by some providence or miracle of God, the cruse of oil burned for eight days until more oil could be prepared and consecrated.

In recognition of this miracle, and in order to preserve its memory, Jews kept special lamps burning in their homes for eight days. Thus Hanukkah became, and still remains to this day, an eight-day feast. Today they burn special Hanukkah candles and place them by the windows of their houses so as to “publicize the miracle.” Because of these lights, the Feast of Dedication is also called the Festival of Lights.FN

 

 

JESUS IS NEARLY STONED IN THE TEMPLE AGAIN

JERUSALEM

 

John 10:23-24, And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch.FN {24} Then came the Jews round about him,FN and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt?FN If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.FN John 10:23-24 (MSG),  Jesus was strolling in the Temple across Solomon's Porch.  (24)  The Jews, circling him, said, "How long are you going to keep us guessing? If you're the Messiah, tell us straight out."

 

In Jerusalem once again, our Lord was walking through Solomon’s portico in the Temple when he was confronted by various religious leaders who demanded of Him a clear and public confession of His true identity: Was He the Messiah or not?

Since Jesus had greatly enemitized the religious leaders in Jerusalem, including its Great Sanhedrin, and enemitized them to the point that they wanted to kill Him; I doubt very much that these leaders were interested in abandoning their hostility and supporting Him as Israel’s Messiah.

Rather, they asked the question hoping that by Jesus’ direct answer, especially in the presence of many witnesses, the Sanhedrin could take Him before Pilate and charge Him with treason against Caesar. Clearly, Rome would not tolerate anyone who proclaimed Himself as King, and therefore, rival and threat to Caesar’s throne. Such a charge would fit nicely in these murderous leaders’ scheme to get rid of Jesus once and for all.

 

John 10:25, Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. John 10:25 (CEV), Jesus answered: I have told you, and you refused to believe me. The things I do by my Father's authority show who I am. John 10:25 (MSG),  Jesus answered, "I told you, but you don't believe. Everything I have done has been authorized by my Father, actions that speak louder than words.

 

Jesus previously told these leaders that He was the Messiah. Either that incident was not recorded by the Gospel writers, or else Jesus acknowledged His Messiahship in His numerous miracles and claims to be the Son of God.

No matter the case, one thing, however, is certain and that is, these people still wouldn’t have believed Jesus no matter what Jesus said. Later on during His trial, the Sanhedrinists asked Him the same question and this is what Jesus said: If I tell you, ye will not believe (Luke 22:67).

Now it’s true that Jesus was loath or hesitant to use the term Messiah in relation to Himself.

*His clearest revelation of Messiahship, as far as it’s recorded in Scripture, was spoken in private to a single person, the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar, John 4:26.FN

*On a handful of occasions He referred to Himself as Christ and, in that way, thus identified Himself as Messiah. But the confession was made in private to His disciples—not openly to a whole multitude of people (Matthew 16:20, 23:8-10, Mark 9:41, Luke 24:25-27).FN

*Many people and demons acknowledged Him to be the Messiah. This was a claim He never denied (Luke 4:41, John 6:69, 7:26).

Though He was proclaimed and acknowledged to be the Messiah, Jesus more or less avoided the widespread or public use of the term. Many scholars believe it was because the term was popularly understood in a political sense, not a spiritual one, and Jesus didn’t want to give people the impression that He was on a political mission of delivering the Jews from the yoke of Rome. He chose instead to use Son of man or Son of God when referring to Himself.

Aside from His testimony or the testimony of many others, Jesus’ miracles or works were clear revelations of His Messiahship. The prophets foretold the works of Messiah. For example, Isaiah spoke of a day coming when the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. {6} Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing (Isaiah 35:5-6a, also 42:6-7, 61:1-3).

More than anyone else in Jewish history, Jesus performed these works on many, many occasions to the benefit of many, many people. Among His contemporaries, the disciples of the Pharisees may have possibly come close to rivaling Jesus in the area of deliverance and exorcism. But when it came to healing miracles, Jesus was unrivalled: If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father (John 15:24, also 9:32).

*These miracles were the strongest argument for the power of God working in His life: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me (John 10:25).

*In Nicodemus’ words, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him (John 3:2).

*A crowd in the Temple once asked, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done (John 7:31)?

*Another crowd asked, Can a devil open the eyes of the blind (John 10:21)?

*The man who our Lord healed, who was formerly born blind, said it most fittingly, If this man were not of God, he could do nothing (John 9:33).

And yet, in spite of all these works, many of the religious leaders and rabbinical religionists refused to believe on Him. They were staring at the evidence in the face and they still refused to believe!

 

John 10:26-27, But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. {27} My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:26-27 (NIV),  but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.  (27)  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

 

The unwillingness or refusal of the religious leaders to believe in Jesus was willful and deliberate. They chose not to believe Him and for this they are held responsible and accountable on judgment day.

But from God’s standpoint, they didn’t believe because they weren’t sheep. If they were sheep, they would believe. Believe what? That Jesus was Messiah and Son of God.

Now the syntax in the Greek text of Scripture doesn’t establish the notion that these leaders couldn’t believe on Jesus because they weren’t sheep, as if they could blame their unbelief on the fact that they weren’t called or chosen of God to be His sheep.

Rather, the Greek syntax emphasizes the fact that it’s the nature of sheep to believe. Consequently, because these religious leaders didn’t believe on Jesus, their unbelief evidenced the fact that they weren’t sheep. In other words, their unbelief was not due to the fact that they weren’t sheep. Rather, their unbelief was the proof that they weren’t sheep.

How do you know if a person’s a sheep? The sheep will believe.

THE FACT THAT A PERSON ISN'T CALLED OR ELECT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THEIR ABILITY OR INABILITY TO BELIEVE: THEY CAN BELIEVE WHETHER THEY'RE SHEEP OR NOT.

*The devils believe there’s one God.

*Judas Iscariot believed Jesus was the Messiah of Israel.

These religious leaders could have believed on Jesus if they wanted to. But the truth of the matter was, they didn’t want to believe. Jesus said of them in John 5:40, ye will not, literally, you’re not willing, you’re not desirous, to come to me, that ye might have life.

Friends, GOD DAMNS THE UNBELIEVERS NOT BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT ELECT OF GOD: HE DAMNS THEM BECAUSE COULD HAVE BELIEVED IF THEY WANTED TO, BUT CHOSE NOT TO.FN

In Jesus’ words, Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (19) This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (20) Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed (John 3:18-20 NIV).

Unbelievers don’t believe—not because they’re unable to believe or because they don’t have any faith with which to believe. Rather, they don’t believe because they’re unwilling to believe. Why? Because they love darkness rather than light. Translated, they love their sins too much than to give them up.

In this way, then, we see that UNBELIEF AND UNREPENTANCE WORK TOGETHER in them that perish; wherever you find the one, you’ll find the other. Friends, take your unbelief and refusal to believe very, very seriously. Unbelief makes you unrepentant. It keeps you in sin and a sinful lifestyle. Unbelief will lead you to an endless, tormented life in Hell’s fire.

Is this really what you want? Is this the way you want to live forever? People talk about living a life of hell on earth. They talk about a dreadful, painful experience in hellish terms. It’s never pretty, fun, or enjoyable. It’s always something they’d never want to go through again. Friends, the real Hell in infinitely worse, way way worse, than the worst hell anyone can go through here on earth. It’s not something you want to go through, much less live in for the rest of an unending time and life. For the life of me, I just don’t get what’s so bad about believing and following Jesus! THE REAL BAD HERE IS UNBELIEF, SIN AND HELL—NOT JESUS.

 

John 10:28-30, And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluckFN them out of my hand. {29} My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no manFN is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. {30} I and my Father are one. John 10:28-30 (NIV),  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  (29)  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.  (30)  I and the Father are one."

 

While Jesus was quite hesitant to refer to Himself as Messiah, He was unafraid and unabashed to declare Himself as God’s Son.

Now throughout the Old Testament, the title son of God is used with respect to:

*THE ANGELS, Genesis 6:2,4, Job 1:6, 38:7.

*THE NATION OF ISRAEL, Exodus 4:22-23, Hosea 11:1.

*THE KING OF ISRAEL, Psalm 89:26-27, 2 Samuel 7:14.

*ADAM, Luke 3:38.

*When we come to the New Testament, believers are called sons of God (John 1:12), as are peace-makers (Matthew 5:9).

But Christ alone is God’s only begotten Son (John 3:16). That is, He is the only-one-of-His-kind, there’s no other Son of God like Him, He is the unique Son of God who stands separate and different from angels and men in the sense that though He is fully Man, yet He is fully God at the same time.

 

*He is co-eternal with God the Father: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM (John 8:58).

*He is self-existent with the Father: For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself (John 5:26).

*He is one with the Father: I and my Father are one (John 10:30).FN

*He is equal with God: {Jesus} said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18).

*He is God: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).

In other words, Jesus is God incarnate or God in human flesh.

Thus, we see here in the Temple Jesus the Man declaring Himself to be Jesus the Divine Son of God. We see Jesus in His humanity claiming and proclaiming His Divinity. {An in-depth commentary of John 10:27-29 and THE PROMISE OF THE BELIEVER’S SECURITY CAN BE FOUND BY CLICKING HERE.}

 

John 10:31-33, Then the Jews took up stones againFN to stone him. {32} Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? {33} The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. John 10:31-33 (NIV),  Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him,  (32)  but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"  (33)  "We are not stoning you for any good work," they replied, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."

 

Under ordinary circumstances, when a man claimed he was God this constituted blasphemy. Now blasphemy was a very serious sin to a Jew—so serious, in fact, that the blasphemer was stoned to death in accordance with Mosaic Law.FN

The problem with the Jewish religious leaders—as it still is for many people today--was, they never believed or accepted Jesus for who He said He was. Imagine, here was a Man who looked like any other man and yet He was claiming to be God! If you were in the Temple crowd that day and you saw this Man Jesus, would you have thought He was God? The religious leaders didn’t.

We all have to settle for ourselves if Jesus really was who He claimed to be. Christians believe that Jesus was fully Man, but He was also fully God. Since He was God, then we Christians believe that everything Jesus said was true, He’s no liar. That’s why we take His words very, very seriously. They’re true. And since they’re true, then everyone and everything who says otherwise or differently is untrue, false, and flat out wrong.

The only way unrepentant sinners and unbelievers can continue in their rejection of Jesus is for them to not believe that Jesus was God.

Sooner or later, WE ALL WILL FIND OUT WHO JESUS REALLY IS. For many, it will be too late. When we all stand before the Judgment Throne of God, when the truth finally dawns on sinners and unbelievers, alas, it will be a time of judgment, not salvation. Of course, if you reject the idea of life after death, God, Heaven, and Hell, then you’ll never meet up with God and the judgment. We’ll see. You’re in store for the shock of your life!

Getting back to our Scripture text, the religious leaders believed firmly that Jesus committed blasphemy by proclaiming Himself to be God. So, in keeping with the Law, they proceeded to take up stones to stone Him right there and then in the Temple.FN

It’s striking, if not hypocritical, that in their anger or their zealousness to uphold the law regarding the punishment of blasphemy,

*they denied our Lord due process of law and were ready to enact the punishment without benefit of trial or hearing in a court of law;

*they didn’t take Him to the outskirts of the city where stonings were supposed to take place, Leviticus 24:14, 23, Numbers 15:35-36, Deuteronomy 22:24, Joshua 7:24-25, 1 Kings 21:13, Acts 7:58, Acts 14:19.

*they violated Roman law which prohibited the Jews from carrying out the death penalty. All capital offenders were to be handed over to the Romans for a separate trial and, where appropriate, execution.

The point in all this is, the religious leaders themselves weren’t above breaking the law in their earnest attempt to kill Jesus.

 

John 10:34-36, Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law,FN I said, Ye are gods? {35} If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;FN {36} Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified,FN and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? John 10:34-36 (ESV), Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, you are gods'? (35) If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— (36) do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?

 

The Jews objected to Jesus referring to Himself as the Son of God. But Jesus cited Psalm 82:6 and the Scripture’s infallible, inerrant, and inspired use of the term god in referring to the nation’s judges.

Psalm 82:1-7 (NIV) reads, God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the "gods": (2) "How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? (3) Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. (4) Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (5) "The 'gods' know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. (6) "I said, 'You are "gods"; you are all sons of the Most High.' (7) But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler."

In other words, Scriptures call some men, namely judges, gods.

The Psalm is not an isolated instance. In Exodus 21:1-6 the Lord makes provision for the freeing of a Hebrew slave. However, if the slave chose to stay in the service of his master, the slave was to be brought before the judges for the piercing of his ear as a token or proof of his perpetual service to his master: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever (Exodus 21:6).

The word judges used in the first part of verse 6 is the same word elohim that’s used in Psalm 82:6 and it means gods.

The same construction is found in Exodus 22:9 where the judges of Israel are once again referred to as gods.FN

The point is, Scriptures call some men gods. Obviously, they’re not gods in the sense of deity, but they’re gods in the sense that they represent God in the judgments they make.FN This was an understanding common to the Jews and they didn’t dispute or argue with the Scriptures’ designation of some men being called gods.

Now if the Jews were willing to let the Scriptures call some men gods, then they shouldn’t have had any problems with Jesus calling Himself the Son of God—especially in view of the many mighty works He did that evidenced the power of God working in His life.

 

John 10:37-38, If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. {38} But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. John 10:37-38 (NASB), "If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; (38) but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father."

 

The Jews’ unbelief would have been understandable if Jesus hadn’t done all these many, mighty miracles and signs. The Greek literally reads, If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me.

What we see here is the indispensable role that miracles played in Jesus’ life. They were not only manifestations of God’s love bringing healing and deliverance to people, but just as importantly, they were meant to declare and tell the people something about Jesus, namely, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

Jesus’ miracles, you see, weren’t just a fulfillment of Messianic prophecy, nor were they just a revelation of Messiah. THE MIRACLES WERE A MANIFESTATION AND REVELATION OF GOD THE FATHER IN HIM.

But here again, the problem with the religious leaders was they not only didn’t believe Jesus’ words or claims about Himself: they also didn’t believe His works were genuine miracles of God. They believed Jesus was a son of the Devil working through the Devil’s power, Matthew 9:34, 12:24, Mark 3:30, Luke 11:14-15.

Friends, NO MATTER WHAT EVIDENCE IS STARING YOU IN THE FACE, TELLING YOU THE TRUTH, YOU WON'T BELIEVE IT IF YOU'VE GOT YOUR MIND MADE UP AND ARE CONVINCED THAT THE EVIDENCE ITSELF ISN'T TRUE. This is truly a woeful state to be in.

Let 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 put the fear of God in you to believe God’s truth or Word: And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: {12} That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

 

 

JESUS LEAVES JERUSALEM AND GOES TO TRANSJORDAN

PEREA, ON THE EASTERN SIDE OF JORDAN RIVER

 

John 10:39-42, Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, {40} And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized;FN and there he abode. {41} And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. {42} And many believed on him there. John 10:39-42 (CEV), Again they wanted to arrest Jesus. But he escaped (40) and crossed the Jordan to the place where John had earlier been baptizing. While Jesus was there, (41) many people came to him. They were saying, "John didn't work any miracles, but everything he said about Jesus is true." (42) A lot of those people also put their faith in Jesus.

 

Jesus’ arguments didn’t avail and the Jews sought to grab ahold of Jesus to either arrest Him or else stone Him. Once again, as in Nazareth and an earlier occasion in the Temple (Luke 4:30, John 8:59), Jesus escaped out of their hands and withdrew to the eastern side of Jordan River.FN

This departure from Jerusalem marked the end of Jesus’ Later Judean ministry and the beginning of His labors in Perea.FN

 

 

THE SALVATION AND PRESERVATION OF THE BELIEVER

JERUSALEM

 

John 10:27-29, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: {28} And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. {29} My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. John 10:27-29 (NIV),  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  (28)  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  (29)  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.

 

GOD'S PROMISE TO YOU

GOD WILL SAVE YOU! YOU WILL GO TO HEAVEN!

These three verses in John 10 provide one of the greatest comforts in Scripture. It assures us, as many of us as believe, hear and follow our Lord, that we won’t backslide or apostatize into perdition, nor will we ever lose our salvation; but that, for as long as we’re alive on this Earth, our Lord will keep us safe in His hand and He’ll usher us into glory in the kingdom of Heaven.FN

Note these simple truths from verse 28.

*GOD GIVES US ETERNAL LIFE. He cannot damn us and save us at the same time, He either does one or the other, and John 10:28 makes it very clear what the Father’s wishes and will are with respect to us: it’s His will to give us eternal life, not eternal death or damnation. He wants us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven!

*WE ARE IN GOD'S HAND. God has His hand on us. Even though we’re still on this Earth and can’t see His hand around us, nevertheless we’re in His hand. And that, my friends, spells security and safety. We’re not on our own!

*NO ONE CAN PLUCK US OUT OF GOD'S HAND. There are all kinds of men, demons, and adverse circumstances of life that would love to get their hands on us and bring us down into perdition. But the good news is, they can’t! Hallelujah! They can’t get their hands on us because they can’t get their hands on God! Like flies or bees on the attack, God just brushes them aside, He’s keeping us, He’s holding on to us, and He’s not going to deliver us into their hands! Thank you, Father!

*WE SHALL NEVER PERISH. Do you know what never means? It means it’s won’t ever happen. We face all kinds of trials and persecutions in this life and we can wonder or worry if we truly are going to make it all the way through life, enduring and being faithful as a Christian. But the promise of 1 Corinthians 10:13 is, WE NEED NOT WONDER OR WORRY AT ALL BECAUSE GOD WILL PERSONALLY SEE TO IT THAT THERE'LL NEVER COME A TIME, OR A TRIAL, OR A DEMON, OR A PERSECUTOR, THAT WILL CAUSE US TO TURN OUR BACKS ON GOD SO THAT WE END UP IN PERDITION. IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN!

God said, 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT), The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure. In other words, we shall never perish.

Brethren, God Himself will not take our salvation from us! He requires a lot of us. He takes all kinds of things away from us, things like resentment, pride, selfishness, unforgiveness, a critical and unloving attitude, worldliness, the love of money, things having to do with the occult, and many more. But THE ONE THING HE'LL NEVER TAKE AWAY FROM US IS OUR SALVATION.

Do you know why He won’t take it away from us? Because that’s not His will, that’s not what He wants to do! IT'S HIS WILL FOR US TO BE SAVED AND HE'S DEVOTED HIMSELF TO MAKING SURE WE DON'T EVER LOSE OUR SALVATION.

HAVING ETERNAL LIFE, BRETHREN, MEANS WE'LL NEVER PERISH, IT'LL NEVER HAPPEN! HELL, MY FRIENDS, IS ONE THING WE NEED NEVER WORRY OR FRET ABOUT! WE'LL NEVER GO THERE! THANK GOD!

The promise of John 10:27-29 is, God will personally see to it, and make sure, that we enter into Heaven. He’s guaranteed us that we will not ever lose our salvation, nor will we spend eternity tortured and pained in the fires of Hell. In other words, as sheep, we don’t have to be doubtful or uncertain about where we’ll spend eternity. We don’t have to wonder or worry that a trial or circumstance of life will come about whereby we lose our faith in God, turn our backs on Him, and end up losing our salvation.

Brethren, THIS WILL NEVER HAPPEN! GOD WILL NEVER ALLOW IT TO HAPPEN! GOD HAS DEVOTED HIMSELF TO OUR SALVATION. HE HAS DEDICATED HIMSELF TO OUR PRESERVATION. AND HE'LL PERSONALLY DO EVERYTHING THAT'S NECESSARY TO MAKE SURE WE END UP IN HEAVEN.

Brethren, we can know with absolute certainty where we’ll be going when death comes or when the trumpet of God sounds out the rapture’s call. If you don’t know where you’ll be spending eternity, it’s my prayer that you’ll know it by the time you’re finished reading this commentary. I’ve received these things that I’m about to write from God for this very purpose. It is your Father’s will to comfort and assure you of your eternal salvation that will not ever be taken away from you.

 

IF YOU’RE NOT GOD’S SHEEP THE PROMISE OF ETERNAL SALVATION, SECURITY, AND SAFETY DOESN’T APPLY TO YOU

The promise of God’s preservation is limited in scope or application. It applies only to the sheep. Note verses 27-28 once again, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: {28} And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

Who does our Lord preserve unto life eternal? His sheep.

 

HOW YOU CAN KNOW IF YOU'RE GOD'S SHEEP OR NOT

Now who, or what, is a sheep? How do you know if you’re one of God’s sheep? Well, the Lord tells us here in John 10 who His sheep are. Brethren, you’re God’s sheep if you meet our Lord’s criteria or description of sheep. Here’s what He said about His sheep.

*SHEEP HEAR GOD'S VOICE. John 10:3, the sheep hear his voice. What does it mean to hear God’s voice? It means you recognize God’s voice, you know when He’s talking to you, you can discern and tell the difference between God’s voice and the voice of devils or deceivers.

*SHEEP DON'T FOLLOW STRANGERS. John 10:5, And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers (see also verse 8).

Sheep are not taken in or beguiled by the smooth words and treacheries of false prophets and teachers. They know when a stranger or deceiver is talking to them.

Does this mean that a true Christian can’t ever be deceived or be misled? Experience answers affirmatively, but I believe it’s only temporary.

BECAUSE TRUE BELIEVERS ARE GOD'S SHEEP, THEN, IN ORDER THAT THEY NOT PERISH IN PERDITION, GOD WILL OPEN THEIR EYES TO BEHOLD THE TRUTH AND GRANT THEM REPENTANCE UNTO THE ACKNOWLEDGING OF THE TRUTH AND THE ABANDONMENT OF THE LIE.

Strictly in my own personal opinion, not a ‘thus saith the Lord’, A TRUE CHRISTIAN WILL NO DIE IN DECEPTION, NOR WILL BE DIE SITTING UNDER THE MINISTRY OF A DECEIVER. In Jesus’ words, sheep will not follow strangers, but will flee from them.

*SHEEP FOLLOW GOD. John 10:3-4 (NIV), The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (4) When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. They go where Jesus takes or leads them. They obey Him. They stay close to Him and stay in communion with Him. They have a close walk with God.

*SHEEP KNOW GOD. John 10:14, I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. Sheep have a personal relationship with Jesus. They commune with Him and know Him. They know His Word. Brethren, sheep are discerning. They can hear God’s voice because they know God’s voice. They know God.

*SHEEP BELIEVE GOD AND HIS WORD. John 10:26, But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. Sheep aren’t gullible, they’re not easily misled, nor do they believe everyone or everything they hear, because they’re discerning and they know God.

While sheep aren’t gullible, they nevertheless believe the Lord and whatever He says to them. Like the apostles, they may struggle with doubt from time to time, but they always end up believing because, in the end, they recognize the fact that God’s Word is always right and God never lies.

SHEEP, MY FRIENDS, DO NOT RESIST THE TRUTH OF GOD'S WORD. THEY'RE NOT PLAGUED WITH UNBELIEF, THEY'RE NOT CONSTANTLY WRESTLING WITH GOD AND THE SCRIPTURES. They may not understand some part of the Word or believe it at first. They may question and argue with it. But, in the end, they end up believing it because they’re sheep. Sheep will believe God!

*SHEEP ARE UNDER ONE SHEPHERD. John 10:16, And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. SHEEP ARE NOT REBELLIOUS, SELF-DETERMINED, OR INDEPENDENT OF OUR LORD. They don’t seek to stray from the Lord and become their own boss. They don’t live without Christ. They stay with the Lord and abide under His lordship, rule, and authority.

*SHEEP ARE IN ONE SHEEPFOLD. John 10:16, And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Sheep are not independent, separatists, isolationists, or divisive. Sheep don’t argue and fight with one another and set up a thousand different sheepfolds or denominations. They gather with other sheep and abide with other sheep because they recognize each other as being God’s sheep who are under the protective care of the Master Shepherd.

*SHEEP HAVE LIFE. John 10:10, The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

In addition to eternal life, Jesus gives us a life that is truly worth living on this Earth. The Christian life isn’t a life of torment and drudgery. Sure, there are trials and persecutions to go through, the crucifixion of Self isn’t pleasant, and obedience isn’t always a real joy to the flesh. But in all this, there’s an attitude of joy, peace, and victory that permeates the Christian life because God gives them this abundant life.

If you’d allow me to put it in my own words, sheep enjoy the Christian life. They have inward peace and satisfaction in being sheep. They don’t want to be goats. They’re happy and content, living under Christ’s authority. They like it and they wouldn’t give up Christ and Christianity or anything the world or the Devil can offer them.

*SHEEP ARE FED BY THE LORD. John 10:9, I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. When the Lord goes before His sheep He leads them and guides them to green pastures where their souls can be nourished and fattened. God, my friends, isn’t leading His people to churches where they can’t grow or where they’ll end up being deceived by false teachers and ministers. Sheep grow spiritually, they bear fruit.

*SHEEP ARE KNOWN BY THE LORD. John 10:27, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. Our God is an omniscient God, He knows everything and everyone. But when He says I know my sheep, that means He knows them personally, He’s involved in their lives, He’s working in their lives, He knows them savingly.

 

Now we who believe in Jesus are called any number of names in the Bible. We’re called sheep, believers, saints, sons of God, Christians, called, and elect, to name a few. But, for the most part, we’re all one and the same: A SHEEP IS ANYONE WHO BELIEVES AND FOLLOWS THE LORD.

Unfortunately, there are many people who profess to believe and follow the Lord who are not truly saved or sheep. They say they’re a Christian, but really they’re not. Outwardly, they look like sheep, but inwardly they’re not. Admittedly, it gets pretty difficult, at times, to know who’s really a sheep and who’s not. But, in the end, you’ll know who’s a sheep and who isn’t, based on these characteristics of a sheep that our Lord gave us here in John 10.

If we take the whole counsel of Scripture into account and consider everything the Lord says about His sheep, I believe we can summarize all these characteristics of sheep under four basic headings.

 

1. SHEEP WILL BELIEVE THE LORD. John 10:26, But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. Sheep don’t quarrel and argue with God about His Word. They don’t insist they’re right in what they believe and the Bible’s wrong. Sheep accept the Word of God as it reads, believe it, and give up any unscriptural beliefs they may have. Friends, IF YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS AND BELIEVE HIS WORD, THEN YOU'RE A SHEEP and you’ll never perish.

2. SHEEP WILL OBEY THE LORD. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. {22} Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? {23} And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Friends, there are all kinds of professing Christians in this world who talk the talk and work the work. People who aren’t going to be in Heaven can do great things for the Lord and even work miracles. But they aren’t going to spend eternity in Heaven because they haven’t obeyed the Lord, they weren’t repentant about their sins or lusts, they didn’t give them up, and instead, they continued to do things that the Lord hated, they lived a life of sin.

Brethren, IF YOU'RE NOT IN THIS NUMBER, IF YOU'RE STRIVING TO OBEY THE LORD AND HAVE GIVEN YOURSELF TO OBEDIENCE AND THE CROSS, THEN KNOW FOR A FACT THAT YOU'RE ONE OF GOD'S SHEEP. You’ll make it into the kingdom.

3. SHEEP WILL LIVE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND PRODUCE FRUITS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-20, Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. {16} Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? {17} Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. {18} A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. {19} Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. {20} Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Brethren, IF YOU'RE LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE FROM DAY TO DAY AND ARE BEARING FRUITS OF REPENTANCE AND RIGHTEOUSNESS, THEN KNOW FOR A CERTAINTY THAT YOU'RE ONE OF GOD'S SHEEP. You’ll make it into the kingdom.

4. SHEEP WILL ENDURE TO THE VERY END. Jesus promised in Matthew 10:22, he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

He said in James 1:12, Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

He said it again in Revelation 2:10, Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

Friends, IF YOU'RE ENDURING YOUR TRIALS AND STRIVING TO BE FAITHFUL AT ALL COSTS, THEN KNOW FOR A FACT THAT YOU'RE A SHEEP, GOD HAS HIS HAND ON YOU, AND HE'LL NEVER LET YOU GO!

 

Now the comfort of the sheep’s perseverance is this: God gives them the grace and willingness to persevere. He puts it this way in Isaiah 41:10, Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

In other words, those who are in God’s hand will persevere to the very end. God will watch over them, control their trials, and give them grace, so that they end up enduring without falling apart at the seams and apostatizing into perdition. Going back to John 10:28, I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand.

Brethren, you need not be fearful about what might happen to you. NOTHING WILL HAPPEN TO YOU THAT YOU CAN'T ENDURE. NOTHING WILL HAPPEN TO YOU THAT WILL RESULT IN YOU TURNING YOUR BACK ON GOD AND CHRISTIANITY. GOD SIMPLY WILL NOT ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN! HE LOVES YOU TOO MUCH! HE WON'T ALLOW YOU TO GIVE UP! HE'LL MAKE SURE YOU ENDURE TO THE VERY END!

 

MORE OF GOD’S PROMISES TO COMFORT YOU
AND ASSURE YOU OF YOUR SALVATION

Now the promise of God’s preservation doesn’t absolve or relieve you of your responsibility to live as sheep. Just because your salvation and place in Heaven cannot ever be taken away from you doesn’t mean you can relax and not live the Christian life or obey the Lord anymore.

To the contrary, if you’re God’s sheep you’ll live as sheep because sheep can’t do anything else but live the life of a sheep. A sheep will hear, believe, follow, bear fruit, obey, and persevere.

IF YOU'RE NOT LIVING THE LIFE OF A SHEEP, THEN YOU'RE NOT A SHEEP. It’s just that plain and simple.

But if you’re a sheep and if you’re living in fear and torment about whether or not you’re going to make it into Heaven, then here are some things God wants you to know. [Please keep in mind, before we go any further, that the Lord’s only talking to sheep. The promise of His preservation applies only to those who are following Him and doing everything they can to persevere in the Christian walk. If you don’t want to live the Christian life and have no intention of obeying the Lord, then the promises and comforts that we cite here are not for you.]

 

*GOD IS EVER VIGILANT AND HE UNCEASINGLY WATCHES OVER YOU. God has His eyes on you, He will not ever take His eyes off of you, He sees you at all times. Brethren, no demon or trial is going to come upon you without His seeing or knowing it.

2 Chronicles 16:9a (MSG), GOD is always on the alert, constantly on the lookout for people who are totally committed to him.

Psalms 121:1-8 (NASB), I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? (2) My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. (3) He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. (4) Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep. (5) The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. (6) The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night. (7) The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. (8) The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.

 

*GOD'S ABIDING PRESENCE IS ALWAYS WITH YOU. No matter what God allows to come upon you, He will never leave you or forsake you. He’ll never give up on you and say “I’m through with you.” As God’s sheep, God is with you to stay. He’s right by your side to protect, preserve, and give you grace.

Brethren, you’re never alone to face life’s trials and battles on your own. Satan who fights against you also fights against the God who stands beside you. Know for a fact, my friends, that the Devil will not prevail against God or you!

Psalms 37:28 (CEV), The LORD loves justice, and he won't ever desert his faithful people. He always protects them, but destroys the children of the wicked.

Isaiah 43:1-5a (CEV), Descendants of Jacob, I, the LORD, created you and formed your nation. Israel, don't be afraid. I have rescued you. I have called you by name; now you belong to me. (2) When you cross deep rivers, I will be with you, and you won't drown. When you walk through fire, you won't be burned or scorched by the flames. (3) I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, the God who saves you. I gave up Egypt, Ethiopia, and the region of Seba in exchange for you. (4) To me, you are very dear, and I love you. That's why I gave up nations and people to rescue you. (5a) Don't be afraid! I am with you.

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT), Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." (6) So we can say with confidence, "The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?"

 

*GOD'S LOVE FOR YOU WILL NEVER COME TO AN END. GOD WILL NEVER QUIT LOVING YOU! I know, and God knows, that you’re not perfect. None of us are. But He will keep on loving you, working with you, and preserving you. YOUR SINS OR IMPERFECTIONS DO NOT MAKE GOD QUIT LOVING YOU. Do you know why? Because His love doesn’t fail, it doesn’t come to an end.

Lamentations 3:21-23 (ESV), But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: (22) The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; (23) they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Isaiah 54:10 (ESV), For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed," says the LORD, who has compassion on you. See also Jeremiah 32:36-42.

Romans 8:31-39 (NIV), What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (32) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (33) Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. (34) Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (35) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (36) As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." (37) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (38) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, (39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

*GOD KNOWS HOW TO DELIVER YOU. God knows what to do to get you out of a jam. He knows how to deliver you out of all your trials. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished, 2 Peter 2:9.

 

*GOD IS FAITHFUL TO KEEP YOU IN THE PATH OF LIFE. God’s faithfulness means a lot of things, but I’d like to stress two things in relation to the salvation and preservation of the sheep.

The first is, GOD'S FAITHFULNESS MEANS HE WON'T EVER ALLOW A TRIAL OR CIRCUMSTANCE OF LIFE TO COME UPON YOU THAT WILL END UP CAUSING YOU TO TURN YOUR BACK ON GOD. The trials of life are many times hard. But you don’t ever have to give up on God because God has tailor-made each and every trial you go through to be bearable on your part! You can endure the trial! You don’t have to walk away from God because of the things He’s allowed to happen to you.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT) comforts us with these words, The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.

And second, God’s faithfulness means He’ll forgive your every sin if you repent and come to Him for forgiveness. John 1:9 assures you, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Brethren, AS LONG AS YOU'RE REPENTANT, THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS AN UNFORGIVABLE SIN AND THERE'S NO SIN THAT CAN KEEP YOU OUT OF HEAVEN!

Now lest we be mistaken, this doesn’t mean it’s alright for you to keep on sinning. Please don’t go out and sin! Sinning with a high hand, or sinning haughtily, willfully and deliberately against the light you have, is a damnable sin that can keep you out of the kingdom.

Read what God said in Hebrews 10:26-27 (NIV), If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, (27) but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

For you to continue in sin only proves you’re not a sheep. Sheep don’t keep on sinning. They obey the Lord and bring forth fruits of repentance and righteousness.

But having said all this, the promise of God still remains for those of you who want to walk with God and obey Him, for those of you who hate sin and are grieved by it. And the promise is this. IF YOU'VE REPENTED, YOUR SIN HAS BEEN FORGIVEN, IT WON'T KEEP YOU OUT OF THE KINGDOM!

 

*GOD'S OMNIPOTENT POWER IS WORKING ON YOUR BEHALF. He gives you all the grace you need to endure a particular trial so that you emerge victorious and intact as a Christian. Brethren, the power to endure is not in yourself: it comes from God. And God has plenty of it to give you whenever you need it. YOU WILL NEVER FAIL OR LACK FOR THE POWER, GRACE, OR ABILITY, TO ENDURE! Hallelujah!

Psalms 91:14-16, Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. {15} He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. {16} With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation.

2 Corinthians 2:14 (NASB), But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

2 Corinthians 9:8 (CEV), God can bless you with everything you need, and you will always have more than enough to do all kinds of good things for others.

Philippians 2:13 (NLT), For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.

Hebrews 13:21 (NLT), May He equip you with all you need for doing His will. May He produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him. All glory to Him forever and ever! Amen.

 

*GOD WILL KEEP YOU TO THE VERY END. GOD HAS CHOSEN AND CALLED YOU UNTO SALVATION AND HE WILL PERSONALLY SEE TO IT THAT YOU MAKE IT INTO THE KINGDOM. YOU WILL NOT FALL AWAY!

John 6:39-40 (NLT), And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given Me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. (40) For it is My Father's will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day."

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (ESV), Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (24) He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

2 Timothy 4:18, And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (NLT), All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, (4) and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. (5) And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

Jude 24-25, Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, {25} To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen.

Going back to John 10:27-29 once again, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: {28} And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. {29} My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

Brethren, it is the Father’s will to hold you securely and eternally in His hand. He will not let you go. It’s His will for you to be saved. He wants you to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. And He will personally guarantee, and make sure, that you never perish. Bless God for the priceless love and care that He has for you!

 

IF YOU'RE TORMENTED WITH DOUBTS ABOUT YOUR SALVATION

YOU'VE GOT TO READ THIS

In reading through these Scriptures that we’ve just read, the thing that I’d like most for you to see is the fact that GOD COMFORTS HIS PEOPLE WITH THE FACT THAT THEY'RE SAVED AND GOING TO HEAVEN. It’s God who tells them that their salvation will never be taken away from them, no one will ever be able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand, and they will never perish.

BRETHREN, IT'S NOT THE LORD WHO TORMENTS YOU WITH DOUBTS AND FEARS ABOUT YOUR SALVATION!

This torment comes from the Devil, it’s he who’s planting all these thoughts and doubts in your mind, telling you you’re not saved or going to Heaven.

Do you know why he’s doing it? Because he’s trying to render you useless as a Christian, trying to tell you you’re no good to God so that you’ll turn your back on Him and go to Hell.

Brethren, GOD'S NOT TRYING TO KEEP YOU OUT OF HEAVEN. His invitation is, always has been, and still remains, whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). Whosoever, my friends, means you! It includes you! God’s not trying to keep you out of Heaven: He’s trying to get you into Heaven and Calvary is the proof of that truth! Jesus died for you so that you wouldn’t have to spend eternity in Hell.

These thoughts and doubts about your salvation don’t come from God. They come from the Devil. And in order to be rid of these torments you’ve got to come face to face with the Devil, do battle against him, and silence his lying tongue. Brethren, you’ve got to fight the Devil if you want to be freed from the torments that plague your mind.

If you don’t feel like fighting the Devil, ask God for the grace, willingness, and courage to fight. God promised you in Philippians 2:13 that He would make you willing and able to do His good will or pleasure. God, my friends, will give you the willingness to fight and with that willingness, He’ll give you the victory in the fight, you’ll win over the Devil and the torments will cease. But you’ve got to fight the Devil for your freedom.

Now there are any number of demons that are directly responsible for tormenting you about your salvation. You need to wait on the Lord for wisdom as to which demons in particular you’re fighting against. Here are a few of the ones that are commonly involved, and work together, in any warfare relating to your salvation, preservation, and eternal destiny.

 

*THE SPIRIT OF TORMENT IS A LYING SPIRIT. One of the first things you should know is, if you’re a true child of God, then a lying demon will come to you at some point in your Christian life and try to convince you you’re not saved. He’ll tell you all kinds of things, they’ll sound good and right, but the truth of the matter is, they’re all lies. He’s lying to you because he doesn’t want you to go to Heaven, he doesn’t want you to believe you’re saved.

Brethren, there’s a lying demon talking to you and he’s trying to rob you of your faith and assurance regarding your salvation. Don’t listen to him or believe him. Come against that demon in faith and in the name of Jesus, send him to the dry places and command him to speak to you no more.

 

*THE SPIRIT OF TORMENT IS A SPIRIT OF REJECTION. One of the things this lying demon will tell you is the lie that God doesn’t love you or want you, He hates you, and He’s out to damn you. This is where another demon, the spirit of rejection, comes in. This spirit of rejection doesn’t want you to know, or believe, that God loves you and has made you accepted in Christ. If the Devil can talk you into believing God doesn’t want you, then you won’t want God, it’ll be useless for you to want God because He doesn’t want you anyway (so the Devil says), so you quit walking with God, you don’t talk to Him, you turn away from Him and give up on Him.

Brethren, if you’ve received Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, then you need to know that God accepts you, He wants you, and it’s His will for you to spend eternity in Heaven with Him. Ephesians 1:6 says God hath made us accepted in the beloved. GOD ACCEPTS YOU, NOT REJECTS YOU!

Read what Jesus promised in John 6:37, All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Friend, GOD DOESN'T REJECT ANYONE WHO COMES TO HIM FOR SALVATION. HE DOESN'T TURN ANYONE AWAY, AND THAT INCLUDES YOU! God’s will, you see, is to receive you, not reject you. He said if you draw nigh to Him, He’ll draw nigh to you (James 4:8). Brethren, God loves you, wants you, and accepts you.FN

If you find yourself constantly feeling rejected by God, then you need to know that THE FEELINGS OF REJECTION THAT YOU BATTLE DO NOT COME FROM GOD. The Scriptures that we’ve cited above make this abundantly clear.

The rejection that you battle is a work of Satan and chances are, somewhere along the way, you’ve opened the door to oppression by a spirit of rejection.

Here’s what you need to do. Repent to God for believing these lies of the Devil and for giving in to these feelings of rejection; believe the promise of God’s acceptance; then ask God to deliver you from this spirit of rejection. You can get another believer to pray with you and take you through deliverance. If there’s no one around, you can address the Devil yourself and command the spirit of rejection to loose you and come out of you in the name of Jesus.

As long as you resist him, the spirit of rejection cannot stay inside you, he cannot defy you and oppress you against your will, he must come out, and the torments must cease. Proclaim your deliverance and confess the promise of Ephesians 1:6, God has made me accepted in the beloved. Keep saying it everyday until you really believe it. When you start to battle feelings or thoughts of rejection, send that lying, rejecting demon packing!

 

*THE SPIRIT OF TORMENT IS A SPIRIT OF CONDEMNATION. When you sin or disobey the Lord, the Devil is real good at reminding you of these sins and keeping you condemned for them. True, you don’t have any excuses, you knew better, but you went ahead and sinned. As a result, here comes the Devil’s lies: “God’s rejected you, He’s set His face against you, and He’s determined to keep you out of Heaven.”

SIN, YOU SEE, OPENS THE DOOR TO CONDEMNATION. CONDEMNATION OPENS THE DOOR TO UNWORTHINESS. AND UNWORTHINESS OPENS THE DOOR TO REJECTION. The end result is, you’re tormented with thoughts and doubts about your salvation. Sin, I’m saying, plays a huge role in torment and in order for you to get rid of torment you’ve got to deal with your sin first. Then, after that, you’ve got to deal with the spirit of condemnation that’s keeping you condemned for your sin.

The first thing you’ve got to do is repent for your sin. If you’re not sorry for it and have every intention of doing it again, then you may as well forget about going through the motions of repentance because you’re not truly repentant, God isn’t fooled by outward shows of grief or remorse, and He isn’t obliged to forgive anyone who’s unrepentant.

If you’re truly sorry and are doing your best not to sin, then repent of that sin, ask God to forgive you, then, by faith, receive His forgiveness. God, you see, forgives you when you repent and ask Him for forgiveness: HE DOESN'T WITHHOLD FORGIVENESS FROM YOU, HE DOESN'T REFUSE TO FORGIVE! 1 John 1:9 assures you, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Do you know what this means?

1. It means, first of all, that it’s God’s will to forgive you of your sin. He doesn’t like the fact that you disobeyed Him, it grieves Him that you’ve sinned. But YOUR SIN DOESN'T CHANGE GOD'S MIND ABOUT FORGIVING YOU; IT DOESN'T CHANGE HIS WILL OR DESIRE TO FORGIVE YOU. Brethren, God wants to forgive you! He doesn’t want to condemn you or withhold His forgiveness from you!

2. The promise of God’s forgiveness, in the second place, isn’t qualified or conditioned on the type of sin that you committed. If we confess our sins. God, my friend, didn’t say He would forgive you only if you didn’t commit certain sins, let’s say abortion, adultery, murder, and sodomy, to name a few.

The only sin that’s unforgivable is the unpardonable sin and if you’ve committed that sin you wouldn’t be concerned, bothered, or convicted by it; you wouldn’t be seeking God’s forgiveness for that sin.

Aside from the unpardonable sin, THERE IS NO SIN THAT'S UNFORGIVABLE, THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS AN UNFORGIVABLE SIN--NOT AS LONG AS YOU'RE GENUINELY REPENTANT.

Brethren, no matter what sin it was that you committed, it’s a forgivable sin and it lies within God’s desire and will to forgive. THE SERIOUSNESS OF THE SIN, MY FRIEND, DOESN'T CHANGE GOD'S DESIRE OR WILL TO FORGIVE YOU!

3. Lastly, God’s faithfulness and justice require Him to forgive you of your sin when you repent of it and ask Him for forgiveness. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.

The reason why God forgives you is because His nature demands it. He forgives you because He has to. If He didn’t, He would be unfaithful and unjust. And if He were unfaithful and unjust, He would quit being God. He would no longer be God.

Friends, IT'S IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD NOT TO FORGIVE YOU WHEN YOU REPENT OF YOUR SIN AND ASK HIM FOR FORGIVENESS! GOD WOULDN'T BE GOD IF HE REFUSED TO FORGIVE YOU!

If you’ve repented for your sin, then there’s no such thing as an unforgiven sin in your past. Psalm 103:3 plainly tells you, He forgiveth all thine iniquities. Brethren, there’s no exception to that promise, THERE'S NO SIN IN YOUR PAST THAT REMAINS UNFORGIVEN IF YOU'VE REPENTED OF THAT SIN; AND THERE'S NO SIN IN YOUR PAST THAT CAN KEEP YOU OUT OF THE KINGDOM.

Listen once again to what Jesus said, I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish. Brethren, if God has forgiven you, you stand forgiven right now! You’re not condemned! Don’t let the Devil tell you otherwise!

If you’re not sure you’re saved because you sinned and you find yourself mired in remorse, unsure of God’s forgiveness, then chances are, somewhere along the line, you’ve opened the door to a demonic spirit of condemnation.

Brethren, THE LORD DOESN'T CONDEMN YOU FOR SINS THAT YOU'VE REPENTED OF. He forgives you.

It’s the Devil who’s condemning you. And in order for you to get delivered from the torment of condemnation and unforgiveness you’re going to have to renounce and rebuke this spirit of condemnation and get that demon out of you. Address that demon and command him to loose you and come out of you in Jesus’ Name. The demon has to obey you and come out of you. He will. He’s got no choice. When you use Jesus’ Name against him it’s the same as if Jesus Himself rebukes the devil. There’s no resisting Jesus’ rebuke: the demon must obey and come out. He will. He cannot stay in you against your will. When the devil comes around again, telling you your sins haven’t been forgiven, don’t listen to him or believe him! Rebuke that lying demon, command him to be silent, then send that spirit of condemnation away.

 

*THE SPIRIT OF TORMENT IS A SPIRIT OF UNBELIEF. Unbelief and torment go together and they work together. Those who are demonically tormented don’t really believe that God loves them and wants them to go to Heaven, they don’t believe they’re saved. They’re a pretty hard group of people to deal with and get through because they’ve so completely swallowed up Satan’s lies.

But nothing is too hard for the Lord to do, He can prevail and bring His unbelieving sheep to faith and repentance.

Friends, to get rid of all these doubts that plague your mind you’ve got to get rid of unbelief and resolve in your heart that you’re going to quit arguing with the Word and quit finding all sort of reasons why you can’t possibly make it into Heaven.

Repent of your unbelief and believe everything the Lord says about you and your salvation. Don’t argue with Him! Unbelief is like the gas that fuels and powers a car: when you deprive a car of gas, you deprive it of its ability to run. The car will not run without gas.

Brethren, YOU'LL BE FREE FROM TORMENT WHEN YOU DECIDE YOU'RE NOT GOING TO FEED AND FUEL THAT TORMENT WITH YOUR UNBELIEF ANYMORE.

Quit listening to the devil! The devil will keep on talking to you if you’re listening. And the more you listen to him, the more apt you’ll be to believe him. So quit listening to him! Just do it!

Believe and confess God’s promises, especially those that we’ve just look at. The devil can’t stand hearing God’s Word used again him, he can’t resist or defy God’s Word. So use the Word against him: confess the Word! Tell that demon to shut up in Jesus’ Name. Then send that demon packing. The Lord promised that if you resist the devil, he will flee from you (James 4:7). The devil will flee from you and leave you alone. So resist him and you’ll be free and rid of him!

 

DO THESE THINGS IF YOU WANT TO STAY FREE FROM DOUBTS AND
TORMENTS ABOUT YOUR SALVATION

 

Once you repent for your sins and get delivered from all the spirits of torment that have oppressed you, you need to keep the door of your soul closed to further oppression. You see, when demons come out of an oppressed individual they return with more demons and they try to oppress you once again (Matthew 12:43-45). As long as you resist these demons and keep the door closed to unbelief, condemnation, rejection, and stay clear of sin; then these demons of torment cannot oppress you again and cause you to doubt your salvation.

In addition to deliverance, here are some practical steps you can take to keep yourself free from the torment of doubt about your salvation.

 

1. SETTLE THE FACT NOW, ONCE AND FOR ALL, THAT YOU’RE SAVED AND ARE GOD’S SHEEP.

Brethren, if you’re not sure you’re saved because you don’t remember a time when you asked the Lord to come into your heart as your personal Lord and Savior, you just don’t remember if you ever had a conversion encounter or experience with Christ; then make sure right now by repenting of all your sins, ask Jesus to forgive you and be the Lord and Savior of your life. Give your life to Him right now.

When you do that, you’ll be saved! There’ll be no more doubts about whether or not you’re saved: you’re saved because you asked Jesus to save you and be your Lord and Savior. At the very moment you pray for salvation Jesus accepts you and saves you. He doesn’t reject you!

Friends, THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS COMING TO JESUS FOR SALVATION AND JESUS REFUSING TO SAVE YOU! IF YOU COME TO JESUS, HE'LL SAVE YOU. That, my friends, is His will and it’s His promise.

He said in John 6:37, All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Jesus went on to say in verse 40, And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

If you’re prone to forget, write today’s date in your Bible or make a note of it somewhere, frame it on a wall, and let it be known that on this particular day you received Jesus Christ into your heart and you became a child of God. You’re now, and forever will be, God’s sheep.

The next time the question or doubt about your salvation comes to mind, refuse to entertain the thought. Don’t meditate on it. Quit asking the question! Point to the inscribed date in your Bible and say, “I am saved.” Praise the Lord for saving you. And the devil will beat a hasty retreat—he can’t stand to hear you praise God!

 

DON'T MISS THIS! UNDERSTANDING A FEW THINGS ABOUT YOUR SALVATION.

 

A. SALVATION IS SOMETHING YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW, NOT SOMETHING YOU’RE GOING TO GET LATER OR WHEN YOU DIE. When you gave your life to Jesus and asked Him to save you, He saved you at that very moment and gave you eternal life.

John 3:36a He that believeth on the Son hath (present tense, has) everlasting life.

John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath (present tense, right now, this very moment, has) everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation (the future guarantee); but is passed from death unto life (the present reality).

John 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath( present tense, not future; not going to have, but already has) everlasting life.

1 John 5:11-13 And this is the record, that God hath given (in the Greek, past tense, God gave; not future) to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. {12} He that hath the Son hath (present tense, you have it right now; not future) life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. {13} These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have (present tense, you already have it right now) eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Brethren, you’re already saved. You’re saved right now! Do you know what this means? It means you don’t need to be saved anymore! Why? Because you’re already saved!

Salvation isn’t something you’re going to get someday in the future when you stand before God’s throne: it’s something you already have right now! And because you’re already saved, then you must see that your salvation isn’t going to be determined at the end of your life. God doesn’t wait until you’ve lived your whole life to decide if He’s going to save you and let you into Heaven.FN You’re saved right now, you have eternal life, you’re going to Heaven, and you’ll never perish.

You see, the torment about your salvation comes in not knowing that you’re saved right now, you’re already saved. Torment sees salvation as something in the future and, since it’s in the future, since it’s something you think you don’t have right now, then, naturally, you’d be worried and anxious about not having something that you desperately want to have.

Brethren, salvation isn’t something you’re going to have one day, maybe, hopefully, some time in the future. If you’ve given your life to the Lord, then salvation is something you have right now.

Quit worrying about something that you already have. Quit worrying about something that can never be taken away from you as God’s sheep. Quit worrying about where you’re going to spend eternity!

 

B. SALVATION AND WORKS. Torment not only sees salvation in terms of the future: it also sees it as something you’ve got to work for. With this wrong theology, you’re constantly working for your salvation. But, with every fall you suffer, with every sin you commit, with every lingering shortcoming or imperfection, you realize what a hard task it is for you to attain to salvation. So you fall into despair and lose hope of ever being saved.

Brethren, you don’t work for your salvation! Salvation is given to you by God, it’s a gift God gives, it’s not earned. You can only do one of two things with any gift: you can receive it, or else, you can reject it.

With the gift of salvation, you can’t ever work for it, earn it, merit or deserve it. Why is that?

(1) Because, in the first place, you don’t have enough power or good will in you to earn it. Paul says in Romans 7:18, For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Without Christ in your life to save you and change you, you can’t rise above sinful human nature. The Lords asks in Jeremiah 13:23, Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

In the power of human flesh, no matter how noble or well-meaning, we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6).

Brethren, without a changed heart and a changed nature, you can’t rise up to the level of perfection or righteousness that God demands of His people. Everything in the Christian life starts with salvation. Unless you’re saved first, you aren’t going anywhere but Hell. You certainly can’t work your way into Heaven.

(2) And, in the second place, you can’t work for your salvation because God made salvation something that no one can ever work for or earn. Ephesians 2:8 reads, For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.

Why did God make salvation something you can’t work for? So that you won’t be proud and take credit for saving yourself. Verse 9 reads, Not of works, lest any man should boast.FN

Brethren, quit trying to work for your salvation. You can’t work for it! You can’t save yourself!

ONLY GOD CAN SAVE YOU AND THE GOOD NEWS IS, IF YOU'VE GIVEN YOUR HEART AND LIFE TO JESUS, THEN HE'S ALREADY SAVED YOU. Quit trying to work for something that you already have. You’re already saved! You don’t need to be saved anymore!

Now when God saved you He changed you from being a goat to being a sheep, He made a new creation out of you. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Friends, YOU'LL KNOW IF YOU'RE SAVED AND ARE A SHEEP BY THE WAY YOU LIVE YOUR LIFE. If you’re the same person today that you were before you supposedly got saved, if you’re committing the same sins today that you committed before you supposedly gave your life to Christ; then you’re not saved, you’re still the same old creature that you’ve always been.

Anyways, back to my point about salvation and works. When God saved you He obliged you to henceforth live your life as sheep. He saved you, then commanded you to do good works. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) goes on to say, For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Titus 2:11-14 (NIV) similarly tells us, For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. (12) It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, (13) while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (14) who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.FN

Once you become a Christian God wants you to live a life of godliness and good works.

But while God obliges you to do good works, you must nevertheless understand that you’re not working for your salvation: you’re already saved. Rather, you’re working it out your salvation. Philippians 2:12 puts it this way, Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out (not, work for) your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Analogies are limited, you can’t prove everything with them, but they’re helpful in a small way in helping us understand spiritual truths. The difference between working for, and working out, your salvation is like this analogy. You apply for a job as a computer technician. You’re hired and now you go to work repairing computers. You see, you repair computers because that’s your job. You’re not repairing computers in an attempt to get a job: you already have the job. You’re repairing computers because that’s your job, you’re only doing what you were hired to do.

In much the same way, when God saved you He ‘hired’ you to do all kinds of good works, Ephesians 2:10. You do good works because that’s your job, that’s what you were ‘hired’ to do. You don’t do them because you want to be saved: you’re already saved. You do them because that’s what you were saved to do.

You see, once you become a Christian, God has all kinds of good works for you to do and you do these works because you want to obey God, you’re a Christian, and these are the works a Christian is supposed to be doing.

Brethren, YOU DON'T DO GOOD WORKS TO BE SAVED: YOU DO THEM BECAUSE YOU'RE SAVED. Good works are a matter of obedience, not a matter of salvation: you do them because you want to obey God, not because you want to be saved.

Brethren, you’re already saved, you don’t work to be saved, you don’t need to be saved anymore.

 

C. SALVATION AND PERFECTION. As we’ve already seen in Ephesians 2:8, you’re saved by grace. Salvation is a gift of grace. That is, it’s unmerited, undeserved, and unearned. You can’t do anything to earn God’s salvation or God’s grace. His grace, and the salvation that goes with it, is totally sovereign. God saved you because He wanted to, not because you deserved to be saved. Brethren, no one deserves to be saved! We all deserve Hell and damnation because of our sins. But God saved us because it was His sovereign pleasure and goodwill to save us.

Now because salvation is purely a matter of God’s grace and not something that you can work for, then you must come to see that YOUR SALVATION ISN'T CONDITIONED OR DEPENDENT UPON YOU BEING SINLESS OR PERFECT.

THE ONLY REQUIREMENT FOR SALVATION, THE ONLY THING YOU CAN DO TO BE SAVED, IS REPENT AND BELIEVE IN JESUS. John 3:16 promises, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

God, you see, didn’t say you had to be sinless before He saves you. He didn’t condition your salvation on you being perfect first. To be sure, God wants you to be perfect, it’s His will that you not sin. But that’s not the condition or requirement for salvation! If you believe in Jesus and have received Him as your personal Lord and Savior, then you’re already saved and JUST BECAUSE YOU AREN'T PERFECT DOESN'T MEAN YOU AREN'T SAVED!

The fact that you sinned doesn’t mean you’ve lost your salvation. The blood of Jesus and the promise of God’s forgiveness is God’s provision for your sin, they are what enables you to still be saved right now in spite of sin. As long as you’re repentant and haven’t committed the unpardonable sin, there’s no sin that you have committed that the blood of Jesus will not wash or forgive, no sin is unforgiven, and there’s no sin that you have committed that will keep you out of the kingdom.

When Jesus said, I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand, that means you’ll never perish in perdition, you won’t end up in Hell.

Jesus similarly said in John 6:39, And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

As God’s sheep, GOD WILL NOT ALLOW YOU TO SIN A SIN THAT'S UNTO DEATH OR PERDITION! The promise is, they shall never perish.

 

D. SIN AND THE SHEEP. Can sheep sin? Of course they can. Can sheep wander off and backslide? The parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15 tells us they can. Can sheep be less than sinless or perfect? Certainly.

Sheep, like everyone else, both saved and unsaved, have the flesh to contend with and put to death. Do you know what this means? It means the sheep have lusts that they’ve got to crucify and it means they’re subject to Satan’s temptations just like everyone else. Sheep, I am saying, have to wrestle with the problem of sin and the flesh.

Now, lest you misunderstand me, let me say that God wants you to be perfect, that’s His will for your life. Matthew 5:48 makes this quite clear: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Despite the problems of sin and the flesh, God wants you to rise above them and be perfect like Him.

But THE FACT THAT YOU'RE NOT PERFECT RIGHT NOW DOESN'T MAKE YOU CEASE BEING A SHEEP. SIN DOESN'T TURN A SHEEP INTO A GOAT. YOU DON'T QUIT BEING A SHEEP JUST BECAUSE YOU SINNED OR STRAYED.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is quite enlightening on this point, If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

What does the Lord call these people who were sinning? My people. They’re sinning, they haven’t yet repented, but the Lord still calls them My people because they’re still His people.

SHEEP DON'T QUIT BEING SHEEP WHEN THEY SIN; a straying sheep doesn’t become a goat.

Brethren, if a Christian sins or backslides for a time, if he or she is one of God’s sheep; then rest in God’s promise that they will never perish. GOD WON'T ALLOW A SHEEP TO DIE IN SIN OR DIE IN A BACKSLIDDEN CONDITION. As the parable of the lost sheep teaches us, God will rescue His wandering sheep and He’ll restore them to Himself before they draw the last breath.

 

E. LOSING YOUR FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD VERSUS LOSING YOUR SALVATION. It’s helpful for you to distinguish between a couple of things in the Christian life. First, you need to distinguish between losing your fellowship with God and losing your salvation.

Sin, as you know, affects your fellowship with God. Sin disrupts your fellowship and communion with God. Isaiah 59:2 reads, But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear (see also Psalm 66:18).

But WHILE SIN DISRUPTS YOUR FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD, IT NEVERTHELESS DOESN'T TERMINATE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM.

One of the things we see in the parable of the prodigal son is, even though he left home and sowed his wild oats, he nevertheless remained his father’s son all the time that he was in sin: he didn’t quit being his father’s son (Luke 15:20-24).

When your children disobey you, they don’t quit being your children: they’re still your children in spite of the fact that they disobeyed you.

Brethren, you’re still God’s child in spite of your sins. God doesn’t cast you off and forget all about you when you sin.

What does He do when His sheep go astray? He goes out and searches for them, He finds them, and brings them back to the fold (Luke 15:3-7).

Why does He do that? Isn’t He angered and grieved with their sins? Yes He is. But He goes out after them because HE LOVES THEM, THEY'RE STILL HIS SHEEP, HE'S RESPONSIBLE FOR THEM, AND IT'S HIS DUTY TO SEE TO IT THAT THEY NEVER PERISH.

In Jesus’ words, this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

Sin, I am saying, severs your communion and fellowship with God, but it doesn’t terminate your relationship with Him. Just because you’ve lost your fellowship with God doesn’t mean you’ve lost your salvation. Repent of your sin, ask God for forgiveness, and the fellowship between you and God will once again be restored.

 

F. LOSING YOUR SALVATION VERSUS LOSING YOUR REWARDS. In the second place, you need to distinguish between losing your salvation and losing your rewards. A SHEEP WILL NEVER LOSE HIS OR HER SALVATION. NEVER!

But, because of sin or disobedience, a sheep can end up losing some of his or her own rewards in glory. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 (NLT) speaks about this loss of reward, Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. (13) But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person's work has any value. (14) If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. (15) But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.

Similarly, 2 John 8 (NLT) goes on to say, Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward.

In other words, it’s possible for a true, Heaven-bound Christian to lose some of his or her own rewards. Brethren, you may lose some of your rewards because of sin or disobedience, but the loss of some of your rewards must not be equated with the loss of your salvation. JUST BECAUSE YOU'LL LOSE SOME OF YOUR REWARDS DOESN'T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN YOU'LL LOSE YOUR SALVATION.

Sheep will never lose their salvation! Nor will they continue sinning.

 

2. STAY CLEAR OF SIN! DON'T SIN! QUIT SINNING! NOW!

I'm trying to help you stay free from doubting, and being tormented about, your salvation. I said, in the first place, you need to make sure you're saved. In the second place, you need to stay clear of sin and don’t sin.

As we’ve already seen in the preceding commentary, THE DEVIL USES YOUR SIN TO TRY AND BRING YOU INTO DOUBT, TORMENT, AND CONDEMNATION. YOUR SIN IS WHAT MAKES THE DEVIL START TALKING TO YOU ABOUT YOUR SALVATION.

Now a true child of God will be remorseful over his or her sin and, in an unguarded moment, some will begin to doubt the truth that God still loves them and wants to forgive them. Some have a hard time forgiving themselves and consequently have a hard time receiving God’s forgiveness.

Brethren, if you don’t want to face the torment of doubt about your salvation, then don’t sin!


DON'T MISS THIS! UNDERSTANDING SIN AND FLESHLY, UNGODLY LUSTS IN THE CHRISTIAN'S LIFE.

 

A. SHEEP DON'T WANT TO SIN OR CONTINUE SINNING.

Now I’ve told you previously that sheep are like everyone else. They have lusts in their own lives that they’ve got to deal with and they’re subject to Satan’s temptations just like everyone else.

But while sheep are like the rest of humanity in these respects, there’s one important thing about them that sets them apart from the rest of humanity and that is, sheep seek to rise above sin, they try not to sin, because in their heart of hearts, they really don’t want to sin, they want to please God and obey Him. In the words of our Lord, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27).

Unlike the rest of humanity, sheep don’t live to satisfy and give in to the flesh: they live to deny, restrain, and crucify the flesh.FN

Paul puts it this way in Galatians 5:24 (NIV), Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

He went on to say in Colossians 3:1-10 (NIV), Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (2) Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (3) For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (5) Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (6) Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. (7) You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. (8) But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. (9) Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices (10) and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

Note three things from this passage of Scripture.

1. CHRISTIANS HAVE FLESHLY LUSTS TOO! First, note who Paul is talking to: he’s talking to Christians (Colossians 1:2). Why would Paul talk to Christians about sins and lusts that are so characteristic of unregenerates? Because Christians are faced with the flesh and they battle the same sins and lusts that unregenerates do.

Brethren, DON'T THINK YOU'RE NOT SAVED JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE BATTLING FLESHLY TEMPTATION. Every human being has fleshly lusts and temptations—and that includes Christians!

 

2. YOU MAY BE HUMAN, BUT YOU'RE A CHRISTIAN TOO AND GOD EXPECTS YOU TO LIVE AND ACT AS A CHRISTIAN. Second, note that the sins and lusts that Paul mentions here are all natural or innate to human nature. They come with being human. It’s natural for people to want to fulfill their fleshly, ungodly lusts. But what does God want you to do with those emotions, appetites, and desires that come naturally to human nature? He wants you to mortify, or crucify, them.

In other words, JUST BECAUSE SOME DESIRES COME NATURALLY DOESN'T MEAN IT'S ALRIGHT FOR YOU TO FULFILL THEM! God knows you’re human. But you’re a Christian too! And instead of expecting you to give in to human lusts, God expects you to do the Christian thing and crucify those lusts.

Why? Because those lusts will get you in trouble with Him, they’re a threat to your soul, and they’ll bring you down to Hell if you coddle them, instead of crucify them. Brethren, CRUCIFIXION IS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD: IT WILL KEEP YOU OUT OF HELL!

 

3. THE LUSTS THAT YOU HAVE ARE CAPABLE OF BEING CRUCIFIED. While fleshly lusts come naturally to human nature, while some of these lusts are strong and are a powerful, driving force in the lives of people (KJV, inordinate affection), nevertheless they’re still capable of being overcome, controlled, and crucified.

What did God say to do with these lusts? He said to crucify them, which means they can be crucified, they’re capable of being taken to the cross and put to death, they’re not beyond dying and being removed from your life.

Brethren, NO MATTER HOW STRONG OR POWERFUL YOUR LUSTS ARE, YOU CAN RISE ABOVE THEM AND BE VICTORIOUS OVER THEM! You don’t have to live with them and be enslaved to them.

 

B. YOU DON'T HAVE TO SIN.

Brethren, you don’t have to sin. Despite the temptations you face and the lusts you’re trying to rise above, you still don’t have to sin.

Sin is a powerful force and master in the lives of men. But not in the lives of God’s people! God has broken the power of sin over you, He has freed you from sin’s tyranny, sin is no longer your master!

Read what God said in Romans 6:12-18 (NIV), Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (13) Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. (14) For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.FN (15) What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! (16) Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (17) But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. (18) You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Note three things here.

1. YOU'VE ALREADY BEEN FREED FROM SIN! Being then made free from sin. WHEN YOU CAME TO CHRIST FOR SALVATION, GOD FREED YOU FROM SIN'S RULE IN YOUR LIFE, you no longer live or work for sin, sin is no longer your boss, it cannot force or compel you to sin.

Brethren, you don’t have to sin! Sin doesn’t have that kind of power over you! God delivered you from sin’s dominion.

It’s like changing jobs. When you get a new job, your old boss no longer has any authority over you, you don’t have to listen to him, you don’t have to do what he tells you to do. Why? Because he isn’t your boss anymore.

Brethren, you’ve got a new Boss now and your old boss, called sin, doesn’t have any authority over you anymore. Brethren, you don’t have to listen to your old boss. You don’t have to do what sin tells you to do!

 

2. YOUR FREEDOM FROM SIN ALSO REQUIRES YOUR OBEDIENCE. It involves your participation. You’ve got a part to play in being set free from sin: but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you (Romans 6:17).

Your freedom involves your obedience to God’s doctrine or teaching, which includes crucifixion. Brethren, YOU'VE GOT TO DO WHAT GOD COMMANDS YOU TO DO, THAT IS, DIE OUT TO SELF, IF YOU WANT TO BE FREE AND STAY FREE FROM THE SINS AND LUSTS THAT HAVE PLAGUED YOUR LIFE.

Disobedience, or the failure to crucify your fleshly lusts, will only bring you and keep you in bondage to your lusts.FN

Freedom comes in crucifixion: for he that is dead is freed from sin (Romans 6:7).

 

3. FREEDOM FROM SIN COMES BEFORE A RIGHTEOUS WALK. IF YOU WANT TO LIVE THE GODLY LIFE THAT GOD REQUIRES OF YOU, YOU'VE FIRST GOT TO BE MADE FREE FROM SIN. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:18).

How are you made free from sin? Through conversion and crucifixion. Brethren, you can’t live the holy Christian life without first being saved and without you dying out to Self and the flesh. So many people want to be righteous and pleasing to God, but they want to do it without the cross. They want to be holy without having to die out and deny fleshly lusts. Brethren, it doesn’t work this way. RIGHTEOUSNESS REQUIRES CRUCIFIXION.

If you’re truly God’s sheep and still desire to give in and sin, then call upon God and ask Him to make you willing and desirous to live without the particular sin or lust involved. Ask Him for the willingness and grace to die out to that lust, hate it, and triumph over it. Philippians 2:13 (NLT) promises, For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.

Hebrews 13:21 (ESV) reiterates the promise: {May God}equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Brethren, this is one promise that God will fulfill! He’ll give you the willingness and power to rise above sin, He’ll give you the willingness to crucify that lust and die out to it.

But, in the final analysis, you’ve got to be the one who goes to the cross and put that lust for sin to death. What do you do? You deny the lust and refuse to give in to it. You develop a hatred or abhorrence of that lust so that, over a period of time, you lose your desire for it and the lust quits being the powerful, driving force that it once was in your life.

 

C. A CONTINUING PROBLEM WITH SIN MAY BE AN INDICATION OF OPPRESSION.

Now you need to know that in certain instances, rising above the sin in your life may be more than just a matter of self-crucifixion. That is, crucifixion may not be enough; it may not even work!

Why is that? Because in some instances of repetitive or compulsive sinning, a demonic oppression is likely involved.FN In these instances of oppression, a demon takes you captive to your lust so that you generally end up satisfying your lust and sinning. It’s as if you can’t help it. No matter how much you want to resist it and rise above it, you end up sinning.FN That’s because you’re a captive of your lust, a demonic spirit is using your lust to bind you and enslave you to it.

Brethren, IF YOU'RE HAVING AN AWFUL TIME RISING ABOVE THE SIN IN YOUR LIFE AND CRUCIFIXION ISN'T HELPING YOU MUCH, THEN CHANCES ARE THERE'S A SPIRIT OF OPPRESSION INVOLVED.

Now if you don’t want to be free from this oppression because you’re having so much fun sinning; if you want to continue giving in to your lust; then nothing will help you—not crucifixion, not deliverance. And no one can help you.

But, brethren, if you want to be free from sin’s mastery or control in your life, then deliverance is possible! God will help you and He’ll set you free!

(1) First, repent to God for your continued sinning in the particular area of your lust. Ask God to forgive you and set you free from oppression.

(2) Go through deliverance. You can get someone to pray with you and take you through deliverance, or you can do it yourself by addressing the particular demon involved, renouncing it and commanding it to come out of you in Jesus’ name.

*For example, if you’re battling sodomy in your life, then a spirit of sodomy is involved.

*If alcohol is a stronghold in your life, then a spirit of alcohol and drunkenness is what you need to come against.

*If you have a real problem with lying, then rebuke a lying spirit.

Do you see what I mean? Whatever the persistent problem is, there’s a demonic spirit behind it and you need to address this spirit by name and renounce it.

 

3. KEEP THE DOOR TO OPPRESSION CLOSED BY CONTINUALLY RESISTING THE DEVIL AND BY CRUCIFYING YOUR FLESHLY LUSTS AND SELF-WILL.

I'm trying to help you stay free from the torments and doubts about your salvation. I said in the first place that you need to settle the fact that you're saved right now. In the second place, you need to stay clear of sin. If you need to go through deliverance because of a sin problem, then go through deliverance. You won't be entirely free from sin until the devil that's making you sin leaves you. Now, in the third place, once you've been set free from the demons of your besetting sin/s, you need to crucify your fleshly lusts and self-will on a daily, continual basis.

DON'T MISS THIS! AFTER DELIVERANCE COMES SELF-CRUCIFIXION.

A. THE DEVIL'S COMING BACK TO TRY AND GET YOU ONCE AGAIN!

Once you go through deliverance the demon that oppressed you will leave you. Thank the Lord for that!

But, as Scriptures show in Matthew 12:43-45, the demon that once oppressed you will likely come back and bring seven other demons who are more wicked than himself.

Look at the last portion of verse 45: more wicked than himself. Demons come in different degrees or strengths of wickedness. For example, one demon of fornication will cause a person to fornicate just once a month, while another demon will cause him to fornicate once a week, and yet another demon will cause him to fornicate everyday. Do you see what I mean? There are degrees of wickedness among demons.

Now when these eight demons come back to tempt you and try to oppress you again, this means the temptations will be stronger, the battles will be harder, because there are more demons and more wickedness involved. You’ll have a fight on your hands and you need to be prepared to fight back, resist, and send these demons away empty-handed.

Despite the coming temptations and battles, brethren, take heart in the knowledge that you can prevail against these demons because God has given you all authority over them: they must submit to you and obey you (Matthew 10:1, Mark 16:17, Luke 10:17-19).

*Resist the Devil and confess the promise of Romans 6:14 and 18, God has set me free from sin, sin shall not have dominion over me.

*Use 1 John 4:4 against the devil, greater is he that is in me, than he that is in the world.

*Remind him of James 4:7 and what God’s commanded him to do: he has to flee from you, he can’t hang around you and pester you. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

There are many more Scriptures that you can use against the Devil. Just as Scriptures put Satan to flight when Jesus used them against him, SCRIPTURES WILL SEND THE DEVIL PACKING: HE CANNOT FIGHT AND PREVAIL WHEN GOD'S WORD IS BEING USED AGAINST HIM.

DEMONS CAN'T OPPRESS YOU AGAINST YOUR WILL! AS LONG AS YOU RESIST THEM, THEY'LL EVENTUALLY LEAVE YOU ALONE, THEY'LL EVENTUALLY QUIT BOTHERING YOU.

So, after you’ve been set free from the demons of doubt and besetting sin, you need to be prepared for the devil’s return. You haven’t seen the end of him yet!

 

B. AFTER DELIVERANCE YOU STILL NEED TO DIE OUT.

Once you command the oppressing demon to come out of you, you need to keep the door of temptation and oppression closed by crucifying your fleshly lust. Since the Devil appeals to your lust when he tempts you to sin, you’ve therefore got to crucify that lust and put it to death so that the devil can’t use it against you anymore.

AFTER YOU GO THROUGH DELIVERANCE YOU STILL NEED TO CRUCIFY YOUR LUSTS.

You see, some people mistakenly believe that once they go through deliverance they won’t have any more problems with the sins and lusts that have plagued them all their lives. Consequently they’re not prepared for spiritual battles that lie ahead and they start to doubt if they’re really delivered: “Deliverance must not have worked! The demon’s too strong, it’s not coming out, I’ll be oppressed for the rest of my life."

GOING THROUGH DELIVERANCE, BRETHREN, FREES YOU FROM THE DEMONIC SPIRIT THAT TOOK CONTROL OF YOUR LUST, BUT IT DOESN'T NECESSARILY FREE YOU FROM THE LUST ITSELF, YOU STILL HAVE THE LUST TO DEAL WITH because you’re still a human being and every human being has fleshly lusts—some more than others and some less—that’s just a part of being human. The demon, I’m saying, is gone. But the lust remains. That’s why you need to go to the cross and die out to that lust.FN

 

1. YOU’VE GOT TO DIE OUT TO YOUR LUSTS AND SELF-WILL. If you don’t you start to sin again. And the more you sin the more the devil will make it easier for you to sin. Before you know it, he’s back inside you and you’re oppressed once again!

Brethren, SELF-CRUCIFIXION IS WHAT WILL KEEP YOU FREE FROM GETTING OPPRESSED AGAIN. IT’S WHAT WILL KEEP YOU FROM SINNING AGAIN.

There’s no substitute for crucifixion, neither is there a substitute for deliverance. YOU CAN'T CRUCIFY A DEMON AND YOU CAN'T CAST OUT THE FLESH OR THE LUST. A demon is meant to be cast out and the flesh is meant to be crucified.

What did Paul say to do with the flesh? Did he say you should take your flesh through deliverance and cast it out? No! He said to mortify or crucify it (Romans 8:13, Colossians 3:5). As long as you’re in the flesh, that is, as long as you’re alive, you’ve got the lusts of the flesh to deal with and you’re still going to need to die out to these lusts.

DON'T THINK THAT JUST BECAUSE YOU'VE GONE THROUGH DELIVERANCE YOU DON'T NEED TO DIE OUT ANYMORE. Wrong! You’re still going to be faced with the lust and with the temptation to give in to the lust.

The big difference this time is, you’re not oppressed, a demon’s not forcing or compelling you to sin, you’re free now, you have the liberty to not sin, you have God’s power to choose righteousness and die out to the lust. Brethren, you don’t have to sin!

 

2. DON'T THINK THAT YOU'LL NEVER BE ABLE TO DIE OUT TO YOUR LUST. You might be frustrated with all your past attempts to get rid of your lust or sin because it never worked, you tried to die out and resist it, but it didn’t work, you always gave in. So what’s the use trying? “You’ll always have this problem!,” so the Devil says.

But that’s not true, brethren! THE REASON WHY YOU WEREN'T SUCCESSFUL IN THE PAST IS BECAUSE A DEMON WAS INVOLVED. BRETHREN, YOU CAN'T CRUCIFY A DEMON! A demon doesn’t come out by crucifixion: it comes out by deliverance.

Now that you’re delivered, the cross of crucifixion will work, you’ll die out, the lust that you’ve battled for so long will eventually lose its hold on your life, it’ll go, and you’ll be free of that lust. But the only way that can happen is if you put it to death on the cross and quit giving in to it. Quit saying Yes to sin and the devil!

Brethren, the lusts and temptations that you battle will not always be around. You won’t have to contend with them for the rest of your life. You won’t have these struggles for as long as you live. The lust will eventually go, the temptations will cease, the Devil will quit hassling you about the lust. But you’ve got to make all that happen by dying out to the lust. Freedom from the lust and temptation requires obedience and obedience means crucifixion.

Brethren, the lust will go if you crucify it and put it to death. In the words of Paul, But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. {18} Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:17-18).

Take it from me, THE MORE YOU DIE OUT TO THE LUST, THE MORE THE LUST LOSES ITS APPEAL TO YOU. In time, you’ll lose the lust and desire to give in to it altogether, the lust will no longer be a matter of temptation to you because you won’t have that lust, you won’t have the desire to sin that particular sin.

 

4. QUIT WORRYING ABOUT TOMORROW AND HOW YOU'LL TURN OUT.

In the fourth and final place, if you want to be free from the doubts and torments about your salvation, you've got to quit worrying about what's going to happen to you in the future or when you die.

Instead of devoting all your energies towards worrying and fretting about your salvation and about what the future holds; direct your energies towards living the Christian life one day at a time.

Brethren, quit worrying about the future! God has already given you His personal guarantee that you will never perish and that nothing will ever happen to you that you can’t possibly bear or endure as a Christian. Your worries are so needless and they’re rendering you useless or fruitless as a Christian.

Realize that you’re constantly in God’s hands, God’s giving you all the grace you need to walk with Him, and with this realization in mind, devote your time, thoughts, and energies towards walking with God and doing His will. Walk in the light you know. Take it one step at a time. And rest in God’s love.

REMEMBER, IT'S HIS RESPONSIBILITY TO PRESERVE YOU AND BRING YOU SAFELY INTO HIS KINGDOM. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

GOD, MY FRIENDS, WILL NOT FAIL! AND NEITHER WILL YOU! PERSEVERE IN YOUR WALK WITH GOD, DO WHAT YOU KNOW GOD WANTS YOU TO DO, AND YOU'LL COME OUT ALRIGHT AT THE END OF THE ROAD. GOD WILL SEE TO IT THAT YOU DO.

 

John 10:27-29 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: {28} And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. {29} My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. PTL!

Thank you, Father, for saving us and keeping us saved!

 

 

JESUS' PEREAN MINISTRYFN

 

A QUESTION ABOUT HOW MANY WILL BE SAVED

SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 13:23-30, Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved?FN And he said unto them, {24} StriveFN to enter in at the straitFN gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

{25} When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: {26} Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. {27} But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. {28} There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,FN when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.FN

{29} And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.FN

{30} And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.FN

Luke 13:23-30 (CEV), Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" Jesus answered: (24) Do all you can to go in by the narrow door! A lot of people will try to get in, but will not be able to.

(25) Once the owner of the house gets up and locks the door, you will be left standing outside. You will knock on the door and say, "Sir, open the door for us!" But the owner will answer, "I don't know a thing about you!" (26) Then you will start saying, "We dined with you, and you taught in our streets." (27) But he will say, "I really don't know who you are! Get away from me, you evil people!" (28) Then when you have been thrown outside, you will weep and grit your teeth because you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in God's kingdom.

(29) People will come from all directions and sit down to feast in God's kingdom.

(30) There the ones who are now least important will be the most important, and those who are now most important will be least important

 

Someone once asked Jesus how many people will be saved. He was under the impression that only a few people will be saved: the vast majority of people won’t be.

While the human mind is interested in finding out how many will be saved, or who exactly will be saved, our Lord counters our natural curiosity by exhorting us to make sure we’re going to be saved: “Never mind how many people will be saved or who’s going to be saved. The important thing is for you to do everything you can to make sure you’re going to be saved. How do to you do that? Work hard to enter the path that leads to Heaven.”

There are two paths in life, both gated: one leads to Heaven and the other, Hell (Matthew 7:13-14). In this life, ALL THOSE WHO SEEK TO GO TO HEAVEN MUST WALK THE PATH THAT LEADS TO HEAVEN.

BRETHREN, WE CANNOT WALK THE PATH THAT LEADS TO HELL AND STILL END UP IN HEAVEN! WE'LL END UP EXACTLY WHERE THE PATH WE'RE ON LEADS. WE'LL GO WHERE OUR FEET TAKE US.

 

WE NEED TO WORK REAL HARD. BUT WE’RE NOT WORKING FOR OUR SALVATION.

Aren’t we saved already? We just spent a lot of time talking about the eternal security of the believer. As Jesus said, if we believe in Him we’re already saved. We have eternal life right now. We don’t have to wonder where we’re going when we die or when the trumpet sounds. We don’t need to be saved. We don’t have to work to be saved. Why? Because we’re already saved (John 3:36, 5:24, 10:27-29, 1 John 5:11-13).

So if we’re saved already, why do we have to work, or strive, to enter the path that leads to life? Wouldn’t striving be a form of works-salvation?

 

A. SALVATION IS A GIFT YOU GET INSTANTLY WHEN YOU RECEIVE JESUS AS YOUR LORD AND SAVIOR. THEREAFTER, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, SALVATION BECOMES A WALK OR A WAY OF LIFE.

The simplest way I know to say it is, SALVATION IS A SINGLE ACT THAT INVOLVES A WALK: IT'S A PRESENT STATE THAT LEADS TO A CONTINUOUS, LIFETIME WALK.

When we repent of our sins, believe, and receive Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, then at that very moment God saves us and gives us eternal life. Once we’re saved, God tells us how He wants us to live, He tells us the things He wants us to do (Ephesians 2:10, Titus 2:14, 1 Peter 1:15-16). God saves us, then obliges us to live the way saved people are supposed to live. He saves us, then points us to the narrow way that leads to Heaven and says, “Walk the walk, or live the life, that will take you to Heaven.”

You see, brethren, once we get saved, everything about us changes. God makes us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and commands us to live a new life (Ephesians 4:17-24, 5:1-8). We don’t go back to living the same old way we used to live, we don’t keep on doing the sinful things we always did when we were heathens. Now that we’re saved, we’re supposed to live like we’re saved. We’re supposed to live the kind of life that saved people live. This, brethren, is the walk of salvation. WE WALK THE WALK—NOT IN ORDER TO BE SAVED, SINCE WE’RE ALREADY SAVED. RATHER, WE WALK THE WALK BECAUSE WE’RE SAVED.

 

B. THE WALK OF SALVATION REQUIRES GREAT EFFORT AND WORK. WE’RE NOT WORKING FOR OUR SALVATION: WE’RE WORKING TO STAY ON THE ROAD THAT WILL LEAD US TO HEAVEN.

Now the thing about this walk of salvation is, it requires great agony, effort, work, or pain on our part. In Jesus’ words, Strive, or agonize, to enter in at the narrow gate. Why does the walk require great effort or work on our part? Because the narrowness of the way demands great effort to stay on it. Brethren, the way that leads to life is so narrow that you’ve got to keep your eyes focused on the road and concentrate on staying on it, lest you swerve off of it and end up dead in the ravine. Satan doesn't like us, or anyone else for that matter, walking this narrow road. So he puts all kinds of things in our way to try and get us off the narrow way—things such as temptations, sufferings, diseases, persecutions, deceptions, ungodly friends, compromising and deceiving friends, the Self-centered, uncrucified life, riches, fame, and more. Brethren, there are so many obstacles in the path that getting to the end of the path in Heaven is going to be no easy feat.

NO ONE GOES TO HEAVEN WHO DOES NOT AGONIZE OR WORK TO GET THERE. Again, it isn’t a matter of working to earn our salvation: it’s a matter of working out our salvation. The devil’s trying to rob us of our salvation, hence, it’s going to take a lot of hard work for us to hold on to our salvation.

Have you ever held something in a clenched fist while someone tried to wrest it away from you? It took work to hold on to it, didn’t it?

Brethren, the Devil’s working your hand over, trying to take away your salvation and rewards, and it’s going to take work for you to hold on to what you’ve got. You’ve already got your salvation. Now you’ve got to hold on to it. And holding on to it takes work…because the devil doesn’t give up easily. He fights hard, long, and dirty. He fights until he wears you down. And the only time he’ll quit is when you fight him back and send him packing.

The awesome news in all of this is, no matter how hard or how long the Devil fights you, you’ll win and you’ll hold on to your salvation, if you’re a sheep, because God has you in His hand and He will not let you go! Satan can’t wrest you out of God’s hand! In Jesus’ words, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: {28} And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. {29} My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand (John 10:27-29).

 

AT THE END OF THE DAY, WHEN LIFE’S OVER AND PEOPLE STAND BEFORE GOD ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE GOING TO WANT TO ENTER HEAVEN AND WILL NOT BE ABLE TO.

It’s possible for a person to seek to enter into Heaven and not be able to enter. For many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. {25} When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are (verses 24-25).

Brethren, it’s possible to seek the Lord and be denied, refused, or rejected by Him: But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.

Do you think the Lord is obliged to answer and save you when you call on Him? Brethren, the promise of Romans 10:13 is true, For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. But you’ve got to put the whole counsel of Scripture together: IT'S POSSIBLE TO SEEK THE LORD TOO LATE. When is too late too late?

(1) When you stand before the judgment throne (verses 25-28).

(2) When you spurn the Lord’s many invitations for you to get saved because you were so set in your sins (Proverbs 1:24-32).

Friends, you’ve got to answer the Lord’s call when He calls. 2 Corinthians 6:2 (CEV) tells us, For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Friends, now is the time you have to get saved. You don’t know if you’re going to be alive tomorrow and you don’t know if the Lord’s going to give you the same offer of salvation tomorrow.

 

DON’T BLAME GOD FOR KEEPING YOU OUT HEAVEN: IT’S YOU AND YOUR SIN THAT WILL KEEP YOU FROM GOING TO HEAVEN.

Disobedience and wickedness will keep you out of Heaven. I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity (verse 27).

Now get this. These workers of iniquity knew the Lord, they were seeking the Lord, trying to get into Heaven, but the Lord turned them away. Do you know what this says? It says that it’s possible to ask to Lord to save you, even though you’re not repentant about your sins and have no intention of giving up your sinful lifestyle. A lot of people want to get saved in the sense of an insurance policy against Hell’s fires, but they have no intention of living the way God wants them to live, they have no intention of obeying the Lord.

Friends, YOU DON'T ENTER HEAVEN WITHOUT GIVING UP YOUR SINS. You can seek the Lord all you want, but without repentance all your seeking will be in vain. HEAVEN'S GATES ARE CLOSED TO THOSE WHO PERSIST IN SIN.

 

 

HEROD ANTIPAS SEEKS TO KILL JESUS

SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 13:31-32, The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence:FN for Herod will kill thee. {32} And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox,FN Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.FN Luke 13:31-32 (NLT), At that time some Pharisees said to Him, "Get away from here if You want to live! Herod Antipas wants to kill You!" (32) Jesus replied, "Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish My purpose. Luke 13:31-32 (Mine), At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, "You'd beter get out of here! Herod wants to kill You!" (32) Jesus answered them and said, "Tell that fox I'll keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I'll be done."

 

Jerusalem and all Judea, Samaria, and Idumea, were under the jurisdiction and rule of the Roman Governor, Pilate.

Now when Jesus left Jerusalem and went to Perea beyond the Jordan (John 10:39-42), He entered the territory that was under Herod Antipas’ jurisdiction. Antipas’ tetrarchy, you may remember, consisted of the provinces of Galilee and Perea.

Why did Antipas seek to kill Jesus? Perhaps because he believed Jesus was a reincarnation of John the Baptist and he just didn’t want to be reminded anymore about the illegitimacy of his marriage to Herodias (Matthew 14:1-2). Just as Antipas got rid of the Baptist, it would not be unlikely for him to want to get rid of the Baptist again.

The threat of death, however, didn’t stop Jesus from doing what He came to do.

Brethren, YOU SIMPLY MUSTN'T QUIT DOING WHAT GOD'S GIVEN YOU TO DO JUST BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE THREATENED YOUR LIFE. NO ONE WILL TAKE YOUR LIFE UNLESS THE LORD WILLS OR ALLOWS IT and if that’s in His plan, He will not allow you to be killed before your time is up and before your work is done. Labor in the midst of the threat of death, my friends, for God will preserve you.

 

Luke 13:33-35, Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.FN {34} O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together,FN as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! {35} Behold, your houseFN is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.FN Luke 13:33-35 (NIV),  In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!  (34)  "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  (35)  Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

 

How often and how much Jesus would have loved to save those who are unsaved, but ye would not! Friends, GOD WON'T SAVE YOU AGAINST YOUR WILL. Despite His desire to save you, He won’t—not if you don’t want to be saved. The decision is yours to make and that’s why God holds you responsible for your judgment and fate. You can’t blame Him for sending you to Hell! You send yourself there because of your unbelief and rejection of Christ. Even though you may not want to have anything to do with God, you may not even believe there is a God, you will meet up with Him one day. Guaranteed. How I wish—how God wishes—you believe Him today!

 

 

JESUS EATS WITH A PHARISEE AND TROUBLE ENSUESFN

SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 14:1, And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief PhariseesFN to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.FN Luke 14:1 (NLT), One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching Him closely.

 

Having attended synagogue one Sabbath morning, Jesus was afterwards invited to the house of a leading Pharisee to partake of the Sabbath meal. All eyes were on Him. Why? Because of what’s going to happen next. Read on.

 

 

JESUS HEALS A MAN WITH DROPSY ON THE SABBATHFN

IN THE HOUSE OF A PHARISEE SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 14:2-6, And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy.FN {3} And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyersFN and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day? {4} And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go; {5} And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day? {6} And they could not answer him again to these things. Luke 14:2-6 (NLT), There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen. (3) Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, "Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?" (4) When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away. (5) Then He turned to them and said, "Which of you doesn't work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don't you rush to get him out?" (6) Again they could not answer.

 

After synagogue services one Sabbath, a Pharaisaic leader invited Jesus to his house for the Sabbath meal. Among those present in the house was a man who suffered from abnormal swelling in his body. Jesus asked them if it was alright to heal on the Sabbath. When no one answered, Jesus took the man, healed him, and sent him away.

This Sabbath healing was a graphic lesson to these religious leaders that if it was alright to be merciful to an animal on the Sabbath, it was certainly alright to be merciful as well to the sick and infirmed on the Sabbath. Common sense and common practice proved that the rabbinical violation against healing on the Sabbath was not only wrong, but also nonsensical.

Since we have already looked at length at the rabbinical prohibition against healing on the Sabbath, we won’t bother to do it here again. If you haven’t already done so, it would be well worth your while to read our commentary on this issue. {Click here to view that COMMENTARY.}

I would, however, like to look at three things here and the first has to do with the healing of the dropsied man.

 

JESUS' HEALING OF THE DROPSIED MAN

A. JUST BECAUSE IT'S TERMINAL DOESN'T MEAN YOU CAN'T, OR WON'T, BE HEALED.

While dropsy can be a fatal disease, we see in Jesus’ healing here that Divine healing is indeed possible for terminal or incurable diseases.

Brethren, just because the disease is medically incurable, just because it’s progressed beyond all natural hope of healing, doesn’t mean God can’t heal you! WHAT'S MEDICALLY INCURABLE ISN'T INCURABLE TO GOD! WITH GOD THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN INCURABLE DISEASE! NOTHING'S INCURABLE TO HIM!

With God, all things are possible, Matthew 19:26.

With God, nothing is impossible, Luke 1:37.

Brethren, no matter what the disease is and no matter how convincing the symptoms are, don’t ever give up hope or faith because you still have God who can heal you! DON'T RESIGN YOURSELF TO THE INEVITABLE, MY FRIENDS, BECAUSE DEATH ISN'T INEVITABLE AS LONG AS GOD AND FAITH ARE IN THE PICTURE!

While God’s power is omnipotent and while no disease is beyond His power or will to heal, God nevertheless requires us to believe and to keep on believing despite the natural course of events. Do you know what this says?

It says that IT'S POSSIBLE TO BELIEVE GOD FOR HEALING EVEN WHEN DEATH SEEMS INEVITABLE! THE SYMPTOMS DON'T HAVE TO MEAN THE END OF OUR FAITH! Like God, THERE IS NOTHING IMPOSSIBLE TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE!

Notice in the following pair of verses that what God says about Himself He also says about those who believe.

 

GOD

CHRISTIAN

Matthew 19:26, With God all things are possible.
Mark 9:23, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
Luke 1:37, For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Matthew 17:20, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

 

You see, brethren, what God says about Himself and His ability to get things done He also says with respect to all those who believe. What applies to God also applies to those who believe.FN

As long as we’re believing, we can still be healed, indeed, we shall be healed. That’s why we mustn’t ever lose hope or give up our faith for healing even in the bleakest and most negative of circumstances or symptoms.

God has given each and every one of us a measure or a certain amount of faith (Romans 12:3), which is to say, inside of us lies the very thing that can get us healed—our faith. Inside of us lies the very power that makes all things—even the impossible things—possible! In Jesus’ words, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Besides that, you’ve got the promise that the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you (Romans 8:11 NLT).

Brethren, you may have all kinds of bad things going on in your body, but inside of you too lies the very power and Spirit that can get you healed! Begin nurturing your faith, exercise it, and God, in response to your faith, will work the miracle you seek!

 

B. JUST BECAUSE IT'S INTERNAL DOESN'T MEAN IT'S NOT SUBJECT TO DIVINE HEALING.

The other thing that I’d like for you to see here is, dropsy is the result of an internal disorder with one of the body’s vital organs. And yet, Jesus—without performing any kind of surgery on the man—healed him and the malfunctioning organ. So what does this healing tell us?

It tells us that JUST BECAUSE THE SICKNESS OR DISEASE IS INTERNAL DOESN'T MEAN IT'S NOT CURABLE WITHOUT MEDICAL OR SURGICAL INTERVENTION. BRETHREN, GET RID OF THE NOTION THAT YOU CAN'T BE HEALED UNLESS YOU'RE CUT OPEN AND THE MALFUNCTIONING ORGAN OR BODILY MEMBER IS MEDICALLY TREATED!

Jesus healed the man’s body and organ without cutting him open! Dear friends, just because the trial’s internal doesn’t mean faith won’t work for your healing, it doesn’t mean you can’t be healed. God’s promise of Divine healing applies to internal disorders. It means you can be healed supernaturally without surgical intervention!

Of course, if you want to undergo surgery then that is certainly your prerogative and no one’s stopping you from doing so. All I’m saying is, God can heal something internal and He can do it without surgery. Don't limit God or your faith!

 

C. THE HEALING DOESN'T HAVE TO TAKE A LONG TIME TO MANIFEST.

Lastly, note the apparent ease with which Jesus healed this man. In the space of a few moments Jesus took this dropsied man, healed him, then sent him away. You see, there was no doubt or question that the man had been healed. The Pharisees and lawyers saw it for themselves. This was an instantaneous manifestation, the swelling immediately went down, and the fluids were removed from the man’s appendages or abdomen.

How did this happen? Where did all the water go? I don’t know. KNOWING HOW THE LORD DOES SOMETHING ISN’T A REQUIREMENT FOR BELIEVING. UNDERSTANDING ISN’T A PREREQUISITE FOR A MIRACLE. God’s creative word made something out of nothing. It’s ludicrous for us to think He can’t make something disappear instantly without a trace.

For this dropsied man, it was all over in a matter of moments: one moment he was swollen and the next moment he was healed. Brethren, healing doesn’t have to take a long time to manifest. DON'T LIMIT THE LORD AND THINK THAT IT'S GOING TO BE A LONG TIME BEFORE YOUR HEALING IS COMPLETELY MANIFESTED. It’s up to the Lord how soon or how fast He wants to heals you. Sometimes He does it instantly. Sometimes, through time. In either case, He promised to heal you and that’s exactly what will happen if you believe. Let God heal you the way He wants to heal you. But, at the very least, leave the door open for the Lord to instantly manifest your healing.FN

 

THE PROVOCATIVE NATURE OF OUR LORD'S DEALING WITH
THE PHARISEES AND LAWYERS

Note the provocative, confrontational nature of our Lord’s dealing with the Pharisees and lawyers: He initiated and brought up the question of healing on the Sabbath and He knowingly, willfully, healed the dropsied man in defiance or violation of rabbinical law.

Now if you and I were in His shoes, would we have done the same thing? Knowing that we are under the Lord’s command to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18), would we have offended our host and done something that we knew was disagreeable to our host?

You see, our idea of peaceableness is to not cause any trouble at all or to not be offensive to people. But despite our idea of peaceableness, Jesus did something that was very troubling and offensive to these Pharisees and lawyers. He blatantly broke their Sabbath laws in front of them! And got them mad!

Now the question is raised, Why did Jesus heal the dropsied man on the Sabbath? Why did He have to do it in front of these religious leaders? Why didn’t He wait a few hours more when the sun went down and the Sabbath was officially ended? Surely, the man’s condition could have waited a few more hours!

If Jesus had only taken great pains to be tactful, diplomatic and politically correct; if He had only taken great pains not to offend the religious leaders; He might have had a greater following among them, they might have listened to Him and believed Him. But as it was, His provocative dealings with the religious leaders alienated Him from many of them.

So why did Jesus do what He did? Evidently, PROCLAIMING THE TRUTH MATTERED MORE TO JESUS THAN WINNING THE AFFECTIONS AND FOLLOWING OF HIS CRITICS OR ADVERSARIES.

You see, the religious leaders believed and practiced the wrong thing when it came to Sabbath healing and Jesus evidently felt it was necessary and crucial for Him to correct their theology and practice on this point. To Him, it must have been a big deal—big enough to bring out into the open and not sweep under the carpet.

Jesus was provocative, confrontational, and offensive because the truth had to be declared and established, namely, that there was nothing wrong, illegal, ungodly, or unscriptural about healing on the Sabbath. People need to be healed, especially on the Sabbath (Luke 13:16); and we’ve got to be a lot more kind to people on the Sabbath than we are to our animals!

Rabbinical laws may sound pious, they may be loosely based on Scripture, but rabbinical laws aren’t always Scriptural, true, or right. And WHEN THE LAWS OR BELIEFS THAT WE LIVE BY AREN'T RIGHT, THEN JESUS--AT THE RISK OF BEING PROVOCATIVE AND OFFENSIVE--CORRECTS US AND TELLS US WHAT THE TRUTH REALLY IS.

Brethren, we’ve got to be considerate of people’s feelings. We mustn’t be reckless or heartless with the truth. But in the final analysis, TELLING THE PEOPLE THE TRUTH TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER HOW THEY MIGHT RESPOND TO IT OR HOW THEY MIGHT RESPOND TO US.FN JUST BECAUSE THE TRUTH IS OFFENSIVE DOESN'T AUTOMATICALLY MEAN WE SHOULDN'T PROCLAIM IT IN THE INTERESTS OF BEING PEACEABLE.

If it were otherwise, that is, if we were to keep silent whenever a truth might offend, I dare say we would be silent on a lot of things! We would have to keep silent about unbelief, abortion, homosexuality, shacking up, adultery, divorce and remarriage, sexual uncleanness in the marriage, modesty of dress, women not being in submission to their husbands, husbands not loving their wives, teenagers not obeying or respecting their parents, adults not obeying the law, the Protestant denominational system, Roman Catholicism, Islam, ecumenicalism, wrong, but popularly-held doctrines, the lousy attitudes some Christians have, and a thousand other things that offend!

The truth will, at times, offend and anger those who aren’t wont to hear it. But we must nevertheless recognize that THE TRUTH IS NOT SPOKEN SO AS TO OFFEND, BUT TO INSTRUCT AND CORRECT. THOUGH THE TRUTH MAY BE OFFENSIVE, IT'S NEVERTHELESS MEANT TO HELP US AND IT'S SPOKEN FOR OUR GOOD.

While we would not criticize our Lord for being provocative and offensive, would we find fault with one another or with the preacher when the people of God are provocative and offensive in proclaiming the truth? If the truth offends, must the people and ministers of God be silent and not preach the truth to people?

Brethren, don’t muzzle the saints and ministers of God just because what they have to say offends and upsets you! If what they’re saying is the truth, take it as a word from the Lord and don’t accuse them of being unchristlike or unchristian.

IF BEING PROVOCATIVE AND OFFENSIVE IS UNCHRISTLIKE, THEN, AS WE SEE FROM OUR TEXT AND OUR LORD'S EXAMPLE HERE, CHRIST HIMSELF WAS THE MOST "UNCHRISTLIKE" OF ALL!FN

 

THE LORD HEALED THE DROPSIED MAN IN ORDER TO DECLARE A SPIRITUAL TRUTH

Lastly, it appears from our Scripture text that the Lord’s primary reason for healing this man with dropsy was to illustrate the truth that it was permissible to heal on the Sabbath.

This is not to say that the Lord wasn’t as interested in healing this man for his own benefit or sake as much as He was interested in communicating or making a point about rabbinical Sabbath laws.FN

But the fact of the matter is, as far as the way the narrative of Scripture is written, before Jesus healed the dropsied man, He first turned to the Pharisees and lawyers and asked them a question about the lawfulness of Sabbath healing.

Personally speaking, and I may be wrong, so you can judge or discern me on this point; if Jesus’ sole intention was to heal this man, He could have done it discreetly without addressing the religious leaders and making it a public issue.

You see, it appears that the Lord used this man as an object lesson and healed him primarily in order to teach the religious leaders the truth that it’s permissible and legal to heal on the Sabbath.

So what does this say to us? Among other things, it says that THERE MAY WELL BE TIMES WHEN THE LORD ANSWERS A BELIEVER'S PRAYER--IN MATTERS OF SICKNESS, TIMES WHEN THE LORD HEALS A BELIEVER--PRIMARILY IN ORDER TO DEMONSTRATE AND TEACH A TRUTH THAT IS BEING CHALLENGED OR QUESTIONED. For example, He heals

*in order to show that healing is indeed God’s will.

*in order to show that God is still healing supernaturally today.

*in order to show that He really is faithful, He keeps and fulfills His promise.

*in order to show that there’s nothing too hard for Him to heal.

Brethren, when the truth of healing is being controverted by the rabbinical views of unbelievers and skeptics around you; when friends, neighbors, and relatives are telling you that God isn’t going to heal you supernaturally, He's going to heal you through the doctors because that’s how He’s healing today; then hold fast to your faith in God for healing because yours is the perfect opportunity for God to manifest His healing power and show everybody that He’s still in the healing business today! God, my friends, may well use you as an object lesson to the world to show the world that He is faithful, He’ll keep His Word, and He’ll still heal even when all natural hope of healing is gone.

Despite the bleakness of the hour, hold fast to your faith, dear brethren, and say with the apostle Paul, Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me (Acts 27:25). My friends, God, who made you the promise of healing, is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). He will come through and heal you just as He said He would! So chin up and keep on believing!

 

 

A PARABLE ON HUMILITY

IN A PHARISEE'S HOUSE SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 14:7-11, And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he markedFN how they chose out the chief rooms;FN saying unto them, {8} When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; {9} And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. {10} But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worshipFN in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. {11} For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Luke 14:7-11 (NLT), When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, He gave them this advice: (8) "When you are invited to a wedding feast, don't sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? (9) The host will come and say, 'Give this person your seat.' Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! (10) "Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, 'Friend, we have a better place for you!' Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. (11) For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

 

Jesus, you will remember from our last lesson, was invited to the house of a leading Pharisee to eat the Sabbath meal. Other people were invited to this meal.

Now the Jews at this particular time in history didn’t seat on chairs around a table. Rather, they reclined on cushions on the floor.

Reclining positions around a table in a Jewish house were not haphazard or random as in an ordinary American house today. Rather, definite positions were “reserved” for those whom the householder regarded as the most honored of his invited guests.

When it came time to eat, Jesus couldn’t help but notice how everybody was racing to get the best cushions around the table. FN We probably wouldn’t have taken any note of it, but Jesus did. Something was not right here! Pride and the desire for attention and glory were written all over these people. Do you think Jesus kept His mouth shut about it? Not on your life! Jesus used this opportune moment to teach these people an important life lesson about humility.

Don’t seek attention, glory, or honor for yourself. Humble yourself. IF YOU DON'T, SOMEONE WILL DO IT FOR YOU. If you try to exalt yourself you’ll likely get embarrassed, humbled, and humiliated instead. Let God and others exalt you. As for yourself, never mind self-exaltation or glory. Be humble.

Now humility isn’t a concept that’s wholly new to Jesus or the New Testament. To the contrary, the concept was ingrained in Old Testament Scripture. For example,

Psalms 138:6, Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.

Proverbs 15:33, The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.

Proverbs 22:4, By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life.

Proverbs 25:27, It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory.

Proverbs 29:23, A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.

Isaiah 66:2, For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

In seeking the most honored positions, Proverbs 25:6-7 (NIV) would aptly apply:  Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among his great men;  (7a)  it is better for him to say to you, "Come up here," than for him to humiliate you before his nobles. Eugene Peterson paraphrases it well:  Don't work yourself into the spotlight; don't push your way into the place of prominence.  (7)  It's better to be promoted to a place of honor than face humiliation by being demoted (MSG).

For those who knew the Law quite well, the lawyers in the house demonstrated the frequent chasm that exists between knowing the Word and practicing the Word. They knew the Scripture’s teaching about humility, but they didn’t put it into practice. They didn’t see anything wrong with their choosing out the best reclining places. They didn’t know how to apply the Scripture’s teaching on humility to their practical, daily lives.

Brethren, are you putting the Bible into practice? Is the Word affecting your conduct or behavior, even in the “little things” of life? Are you living what you know?

 

 

WHO YOU SHOULD INVITE OVER

IN A PHARISEE'S HOUSE SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 14:12-14, Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. {13} But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:,FN {14} And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.FN Luke 14:12-14 (NLT), Then He turned to His host. "When you put on a luncheon or a banquet," He said, "don't invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. (13) Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. (14) Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you." Luke 14:12-14 (MSG),  Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor.  (13)  Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks.  (14)  You'll be—and experience—a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God's people."

 

Turning to His host, Jesus taught him who he should invite when he hosted a banquet: he should invite those who couldn’t return the favor. By doing so, he would be blest and receive his reward in glory from God, and not men.

The instruction, though simple and easy to understand, is rather profound. You see, we deem ourselves blessed whenever we receive something good or become the recipient and object of someone’s kindness. Indeed, we are blessed in that respect.

But the blessedness of greater value or worth, Jesus taught, is in our giving (Acts 20:35). We are blessed when we render an act of kindness—not only when we don’t expect the kindness in return, but more so, when we know that the kindness cannot be returned. Such giving merits the Father’s praise and from Him we will receive a reward.

Can you think of people who were kind to you without expecting anything in return? Take a moment, thank the Lord for them, and pray God’s blessings on them.

Can you think of people who need the kind of help you can give, but who probably will not be able to pay you back anytime soon, if at all? BLESS THEM. [AND IN DOING SO YOU BLESS YOURSELF WITH GOD’S NOTICE AND HIS BLESSINGS.] Speaking for those of us who can’t pay you back, Thank you and God bless you!

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE GREAT SUPPERFN

IN A PHARISEE'S HOUSE SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 14:15, And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Luke 14:15 (CEV), After Jesus had finished speaking, one of the guests said, "The greatest blessing of all is to be at the banquet in God's kingdom!"

 

The Jews understood the kingdom of God in earthly, messianic terms and one thing that every Jew looked forward to was a time when he would feast with Messiah in the kingdom. On that day, it is believed, God Himself would feed His people with, among other things, Leviathan, the great sea monster. Fruits stored up from the Garden of Eden and wine kept since the creation of the Earth would also be served.FN

 

Luke 14:16-17, Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: {17} And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. Luke 14:16-17 (NIV),  Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.  (17)  At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.'

 

How blest we are (I think) to live in a time when communication is instant. We pick up a phone, or better yet, pull a cell phone out of our pocket, and, in an instant, we’re talking to someone who’s miles away. Back in the day, during Jesus’ time, people didn’t have this kind of luxury. Communication moved slowly, often by courier traveling on donkey or foot.

Anyways, when someone wanted to host a banquet, invitations would be sent out to the guests days in advance. It would announce the specific day of the banquet, but not the specific time. When the time came for the banquet, the householder would send out his servants or messengers to go to the invited guests and bring them to the banquet.

 

Luke 14:18-20, And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. {19} And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. {20} And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. Luke 14:18-20 (NIV),  "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.'  (19)  "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'  (20)  "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'

 

Those who were invited gave all kinds of reasons why they couldn’t attend the banquet: one was busy with property, another with his livestock, and yet another, with the requirements of a newly-married life. Apparently, it seemed that the guests thought their affairs were more important than attending a party that they initially decided to attend; they didn’t think the party was worth going to. For any guest to initially accept the invitation, and then decline it at the last moment when the banquet was prepared and about to commence was considered a grave insult and offense to a Jew.

 

Luke 14:21-24, So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt,FN and the blind. {22} And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. {23} And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in,FN that my house may be filled. {24} For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.FN Luke 14:21-24 (NLT), "The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, 'Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.' (22) After the servant had done this, he reported, 'There is still room for more.' (23) So his master said, 'Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. (24) For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.'"

 

Angered by the refusal of his guests to attend his banquet, the master of the house sent his servants out into the city’s streets to bring the rejects and disabled to the banquet. But even they could not fill up the master’s great dining room. So he sent his servants out once again, this time out of town into the highways and hedges. Clearly, the master had gone through a lot of work to furnish his banquet and he wasn’t about ready to eat all that food all by himself: he wanted his house full of people who were hungry and willing to come and eat all the wonderful foods that he had prepared.

So what exactly does our Lord teach in this parable? The invitation to the kingdom was extended to Israel’s religious leaders, Christ’s honored guests in the kingdom banquet. But with one consent they spurned and refused the Divine invitation. In their place, came the rejects of Jewish society—the sinners, publicans, and rabbinically impious. Then from the highways and hedges came the Gentiles.

Heaven, my friends, will not be empty or be sparsely populated! Chances are, you’d be surprised as to who you’ll find in glory. People you never thought would make it to Heaven made it because they accepted the Lord’s invitation to come by getting their lives right with the Lord.

Friends, if you spurn the Lord’s invitation to the kingdom, that is, His invitation for you to be saved and walk with Him; then that invitation will be given to someone else and you’ll lose out for all eternity on what you could have had and enjoyed in the kingdom of Heaven. How you’ll regret your rejection of Christ! Time is flying so fast nowadays that that day of regret will be here before you know it. Don’t miss out on Christ and Heaven! Wouldn’t you rather be happy for all time instead of being eternally tortured and pained?

 

FELLOWSHIPPING WITH, AND MINISTERING TO, CRITICS

Jesus was invited to eat a Sabbath meal in the house of a leading Pharisee. We’ve been looking at some of the things Jesus taught His Pharisaic host, lawyers, and guests. I’d like to close my commentary on the text of Scripture by looking at Jesus’ conduct here. He set an example for us to follow and I think it’s necessary to take a brief, but closer, look at some of the things Jesus wants to teach us when it comes to ministering to other people.

As you know, the Pharisees, like the rest of Judaism’s religious leaders, were not a sympathetic lot when it came to our Lord. Most of them were staunch critics and adversaries of our Lord. Yet, we see our Lord accepting an invitation to eat with a prominent Pharisaic leader.

Now if we were in the Lord’s sandals, many of us would not have done so, probably because we would have realized the futility of trying to win those who are adamant or set in their criticism and opposition to us. We would have deemed the invitation to be a setup and a harbinger of contentious argumentation and debate.

I’m wondering if the apostles and disciples of our Lord were like many of us. Did they criticize and oppose our Lord for going to eat in the house of a chief Pharisee? Or did they learn to die out to their objections and let the Master do what He felt was the best and right thing to do?

You see, despite our desire to obey the Lord and not cast our pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6), nor fellowship with those who oppose the doctrines of our Lord (1 Timothy 6:3-5); the Lord, through His precedent or example, shows us the permissibility of fellowshipping with our critics or antagonists for the purpose of ministering to them.FN In fact, there is no recorded instance of Jesus ever declining an invitation to dine in the home of a Pharisee. In each and every instance in the Gospel record, Jesus accepted the invitation and dined in a house full of them, knowing full well that there would be trouble or confrontation involved.

Brethren, if your critics or antagonists would like to get together with you and you know they’re itching for a fight or setting you up for an argument or debate; if you’re spiritually strong enough to stand on your own two feet and know the Word enough to confound and refute their arguments, then, like Christ, accept the invitation and see it as an opportunity to minister to your critics. Friends, THERE'S NOTHING SINFUL OR WRONG IN FELLOWSHIPPING WITH YOUR CRITICS OR ANTAGONISTS IF YOU'RE DOING IT IN ORDER TO MINISTER TO THEM.

Friends, IF YOU'RE GOING TO FELLOWSHIP WITH PEOPLE WHO AREN'T OF LIKE MIND OR FAITH, THEN DO SO, BUT DON'T FORGET TO MINISTER! Be bold, open your mouth, and tell them things that they may not want to hear, but nevertheless need to hear.

Note Jesus’ fearlessness in ministering to the Pharisees and lawyers. He was confrontational in that He confronted what was wrong with the Pharisees and lawyers. He wasn’t afraid or ashamed to reprove or instruct them. In this way, He was, from our human perspective, offensive. You see His confrontational, provocative, and offensive approach four times in the text.

1. The Pharisees and lawyers believed and practiced the wrong thing about Sabbath healing. So what did Jesus do? He brought up the issue, healed the dropsied man, and used the occasion to establish the permissibility of healing on the Sabbath, Luke 14:1-6.

2. The invited guests were picking out the best seats. Jesus could have kept quiet. But He was disturbed by it. The conduct was unbecoming in that it was a manifestation of pride or self-exaltation. So what did Jesus do? In a mild-mannered way, He gently reproved them for their pride and taught them the way of humility, Luke 14:7-11.

3. Jesus observed who was on the guest list and noted that everyone who was invited to the Sabbath meal was either a Pharisee or a lawyer. So what did He do? He turned to His Pharisaic host and told him who he needed to invite to his feasts: invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind, Luke 14:12-14. In a way, it was a mild reproof: this chief Pharisee invited the wrong people!

4. One of the Pharisees or lawyers who was present talked about the blessedness of those who would one day dine in the kingdom of God. So what did Jesus say? He told him a parable that, to a discerning individual, taught that the religious leaders who had been invited to the kingdom meal and had spurned the invitation would be barred from the kingdom, Luke 14:15-24. In essence, Jesus told him that many of those sitting in the room would not be in the kingdom!

Do you see what I’m trying to say? Jesus observed what was wrong—in belief, conduct, and attitude—He exposed it, brought it out into the open, and confronted it. Jesus, friends, was confrontational and offensive. I can’t help but think that if these men were very much like some of us today, they went home bruised and fuming.FN

But the truth is the truth and when you’re believing or living contrary to the truth, you’ll get hurt or offended when the Lord confronts you with the things that are wrong in your life. WHEN SOMETHING'S WRONG IN YOUR LIFE, THEN, LIKE JESUS WITH THE PHARISEES AND LAWYERS, HE'LL TALK TO YOU ABOUT IT.

Sometimes He speaks directly to you through His Holy Spirit or through the Word as you read or meditate on it.

But sometimes, He uses a minister of God to confront you and expose the wrong in your life. Brethren, just because a minister is confrontational and offensive, just because he ruffles people’s feathers, doesn’t mean that he’s out of the Lord’s will and isn’t moving in the Spirit.

Jesus was confrontational and offensive. But that’s a part of ministry. When people are wrong and when the truth is brought forth, it will ruffle feathers. So when it happens, brethren, don’t criticize or oppose the minister for making trouble or for making people mad. Be thankful that the minister cares enough about people to correct and help them. Be thankful that he’s bold enough to do it.

With the silence emanating from so many pulpits in the land today, it’s no wonder why so many Christians continue in sin and error. Many are lost and confused because the trumpet of truth has been silent. Many continue to live carnal, unchristlike lives because the voice of conviction, reproof, and instruction has been silent. The people have not been sent to the altar or the cross!

Brethren, don’t be afraid to speak up! You may ruffle some feathers, but so what? Jesus did. Friends, YOU AREN'T HELPING PEOPLE WHEN YOU KEEP QUIET AND WITHHOLD THE TRUTH FROM THEM. THE TRUTH MAY, AT TIMES, HURT. BUT, SOMETIMES, THAT'S THE ONLY WAY THE TRUTH CAN HELP.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRITICISM AND COMPASSION

In closing, let me contrast for you the difference between criticism and caring compassion.

Jesus observed what was wrong with these Pharisees and lawyers. Indeed, they were wrong on several counts and Jesus took note of it.

Brethren, it’s not necessarily critical or sinful of you to observe and note the wrongs of others. That is, JUST BECAUSE YOU SEE WHAT'S WRONG IN THE LIVES OF YOUR BRETHREN OR IN THE LIVES OF PEOPLE IN GENERAL DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN YOU'RE CRITICAL.

A person who’s critical sees the wrong. But the thing of it is, a loving, caring individual also sees the same wrong. Both see the same thing and both know that what they see is wrong. So are they both critical? Does seeing the wrong in people automatically make you critical? Not necessarily.

The condition and motive of your heart, followed by any subsequent actions, determine whether you’re being critical or not.

The difference between criticism and caring compassion is, criticism sees the wrong in people and harps about it without ever wanting to, or trying to, address the wrong and help the person who’s wrong get things right. Caring compassion, on the other hand, sees the wrong and, in love for the person’s well-being or soul, confronts him or her with the wrong and tries to bring about correction or truth.

Brethren, THE CONDITION AND MOTIVE OF YOUR HEART, COUPLED WITH WHAT YOU DO WITH THE WRONGS YOU SEE, DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT YOU'RE CRITICAL. Here are some ways you can tell if you’re being critical or not.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRITICISM AND COMPASSION

CRITICISM

COMPASSION

1. Tries to find the wrong in people. Looks for more wrongs in people. 1. Tries to find the good in people. Looks for more ways to help people.
2. Concentrates & harps on the wrong. 2. Concentrates & dwells on the positive.
3. Talks the wrong up, talks to people about it. 3. Prays about the person, talks to God about it.
4. Talks about the wrong behind the person's back. 4. Talks face-to-face with the person about the wrong.
5. Hurts the person by gossiping about him/her. 5. Helps the person work through his/her problem.
6. Is unforgiving or harsh. Condemns. 6. Is merciful and kind. Corrects.
7. Doesn’t forget the wrongs of others. 7. Covers a multitude of transgressions.
8. Ignores or minimizes Self’s wrongs or weaknesses. 8. Is aware, and admits, Self’s wrongs or weaknesses.
9. Uses the wrong of others to show how good or right Self is. 9. Uses the wrong of others to try and bring about change for the person’s own good.
10. Motivated by self-righteousness. 10. Motivated by godly, selfless concern.
11. Uses Self as the standard to judge others. Compares others to Self. 11. Uses God as the standard to judge others. Compares Self to God.
12. Seeks to control people & make them like Self. 12. Seeks to change people & make them like Christ.
13. Leads to spiritual and relational alienation from others; cuts them off. 13. Reaches out to others and works to restore and maintain the fellowship or relationship.

 

 

WHAT IT TAKES TO BE JESUS' DISCIPLEFN

SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 14:25-35, And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, {26} If any man come to me, and hateFN not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. {27} And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me,FN cannot be my disciple. {28} For which of you, intending to build a tower,FN sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? {29} Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, {30} Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. {31} Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? {32} Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage,FN and desireth conditions of peace. {33} So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsakethFN not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. {34} Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour,FN wherewith shall it be seasoned? {35} It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill;FN but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Luke 14:25-35 (CEV), Large crowds were walking along with Jesus, when he turned and said: (26) You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot come with me unless you love me more than you love your own life. (27) You cannot be my disciple unless you carry your own cross and come with me. (28) Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. What is the first thing you will do? Won't you sit down and figure out how much it will cost and if you have enough money to pay for it? (29) Otherwise, you will start building the tower, but not be able to finish. Then everyone who sees what is happening will laugh at you. (30) They will say, "You started building, but could not finish the job." (31) What will a king do if he has only ten thousand soldiers to defend himself against a king who is about to attack him with twenty thousand soldiers? Before he goes out to battle, won't he first sit down and decide if he can win? (32) If he thinks he won't be able to defend himself, he will send messengers and ask for peace while the other king is still a long way off. (33) So then, you cannot be my disciple unless you give away everything you own. (34) Salt is good, but if it no longer tastes like salt, how can it be made to taste salty again? (35) It is no longer good for the soil or even for the manure pile. People simply throw it out. If you have ears, pay attention!

 

THE CONDITIONS OR REQUIREMENTS TO BE JESUS' DSCIPLE

Jesus’ fame followed Him wherever He went. One day, as He was walking about in Perea, great multitudes of people followed Him.

Now if you and I were in Jesus’ sandals and a lot of people were following us, what would we have done? What would we have said to all these people?

Paradoxically to the human mind, Jesus turned to the people and, in essence, from our human perspective, made it very difficult for anyone to follow Him. He outlined the conditions or requirements that all would-be followers of His had to meet. These requirements are three-fold:

(1) to love Him more than anyone else on this Earth, including family;

(2 ) to take up one’s own cross and follow Him; and

(3) to renounce all earthly possessions.

Any would-be follower who didn’t meet any one of these requirements could not be Jesus’ disciple. Note that our Lord’s words, He cannot be my disciple, is said three times—once for each condition—to all those who could not, or who would not, meet the condition:

Verse 26, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, HE CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE.

Verse 27, And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE.

Verse 33, So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, HE CANNOT BE MY DISCIPLE.

So is Jesus discouraging people from following Him? At first glance, this is perhaps the implication of the text.FN But what Jesus is really doing is He’s advising people to count the cost before they follow Him, which is to say, there is a cost involved in following Jesus.

You see, the presence of a great multitude is what caused Jesus to say the things He said. Whenever there’s a large crowd involved it’s easy for people to follow with the wrong reasons.

*Some people follow Jesus because of peer pressure: they’re doing it because that’s what their friends are doing. They want to be accepted by the people they love or want to hang around with, so if their friends follow Jesus, they end up following Him too. But the thing of it is, they’re really not following Jesus: they’re following their friends.

*Some people follow Jesus because they get caught up in the emotionalism or hysteria that’s often found in a large crowd. In Jesus’ case, here’s a Man who’s regarded by many to be the Messiah, He’s making His way to Jerusalem, so, naturally, the implication is He’s going to Jerusalem to set up the messianic kingdom: the prophecies of Scripture are finally going to be fulfilled and these people aren’t going to miss this event for anything else in the world! Do you see what I’m saying? Some people follow Jesus with wrong expectations or beliefs.

One thing about Jesus is He never leads people astray. He doesn’t deceive or trick them into following Him. He lets them know at the very outset what following Him is going to cost them and what discipleship, or the Christian life, is all about.

Brethren, following Jesus is more than just an initial conversion experience. It’s more than just saying “I’m a Christian.” It’s more than just going to church every Sunday. There’s a lot more to Christianity than just a conversion or a profession of faith.

THE WALK WITH JESUS BEGINS WITH CONVERSION. BUT IT DOESN'T STOP THERE. After conversion comes a lifetime walk, a lifetime crucifixion, a lifetime following, which is to say, ONCE YOU GET SAVED YOU DEVOTE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE TO FOLLOWING JESUS: YOU DON'T GO BACK TO LIVING THE WAY YOU'VE ALWAYS LIVED.

The thing about this is, IF YOU DON’T FOLLOW JESUS ONCE YOU GET SAVED, THEN YOU’RE NOT JESUS’ DISCIPLE. Listen once again to what Jesus said: Whosoever doth not come after me cannot be my disciple (verse 27).

 

WHERE JESUS IS GOING

What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means Jesus is going somewhere, He’s taking you somewhere. And in order for you to get to where Jesus wants to take you, you’ve got to follow Him there: you’ve got to do the walking. Jesus isn’t going to carry you piggyback to the intended destination.

What’s the destination? Jesus doesn’t tell us what it is in our text of Scripture, but as we read through the New Testament we get a pretty good idea of where Jesus wants to take us.

*Ultimately, Jesus wants to take us to glory so that we can spend eternity with Him. Jesus said in John 14:1-3, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. {2} In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. {3} And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. JESUS WANTS US TO BE WITH HIM FOREVER!

Brethren, the reason why it’s so important for us to follow Jesus is because He’s leading us to glory. Without following Him, my friends, there’s absolutely no way we can make it to our final, eternal, heavenly destination! We aren’t going to glory without Jesus! When we take a detour in life and decide we’re going to go down a different road than the one Jesus is walking on, we are, in essence, getting off the road that leads to Heaven and any other road that we may take will lead us to Hell.

 

*Until we get to glory, as long as we’re on this Earth, Jesus wants us to come to a point in our Christian life where we are like Him. Luke 6:40 tells us, The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master (see also Romans 8:29, Ephesians 4:11-13).

Brethren, JESUS ACCEPTS US AS WE ARE, BUT HE DOESN'T WANT US TO REMAIN AS WE ARE. He doesn’t want us to continue being the person we are right now. He wants us to become just like Him. That means WE'VE GOT TO CHANGE. AND THE INSTRUMENT OF CHANGE, AMONG OTHER THINGS, IS THE CROSS. WE NEED THE CROSS TO CHANGE. It’s at the cross where we change.

 

*He wants to bring us to a point where we can serve Him on this Earth and reach out to people with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Mark 3:14-15 tells us, And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, {15} And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils.

Jesus’ will for us is not unlike that for His twelve original apostles: He gives us the same commission that He gave them. We read in Mark 16:15-18, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. {16} He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. {17} And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; {18} They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. Brethren, we’ve got a job to do on this Earth and Jesus is preparing us to do that job.

 

THE HINDRANCES THAT KEEP US FROM FOLLOWING JESUS

NOW IN ORDER FOR US TO GET TO WHERE JESUS WANTS TO TAKE US WE'VE GOT TO FOLLOW HIM. But the thing of it is, we can’t follow Jesus if we’ve got things in our life that are holding us back from following Him. It’s like being put on a leash that’s tied to a fence post: we can’t follow Jesus if we’re tied to the fence post. We can go only as far as the leash will let us. So what’s the leash that holds us back from following Jesus? It’s three things.

 

1. LOVE OF FAMILY, verse 26. The love for family is perhaps the strongest bond in the world. Yet, Jesus doesn’t ask us to sever this bond. He doesn’t ask us to hate and repudiate our ties to our family. What He asks us to do is to love Him more than we love our family so that whenever there’s a conflict between family and Jesus we’ll make the right decision and do whatever Jesus commands us to do—even if it means disobeying, displeasing, or even leaving, our family.

If our love for family remains supreme in our lives, if it’s the most important thing in our lives; then we’ll be on the leash and we can’t follow Jesus all the way to His destination because the wishes of family don’t always correspond to those of our Lord.

*In some instances, the family isn’t saved, so, naturally, the family won’t want us to follow the Lord.

*In other instances, the family is selfish, it doesn’t know what God’s will for our life really is, and so they’ll unknowingly try to steer us away from doing what God wants us to do.

*In my case, my father wanted me to be a doctor: he wanted what he felt was best for me, he had my best interests in mind. But the fact of the matter was, he didn’t know that God wanted me to be a preacher instead.

Do you see what I’m saying? If we love family more than God, then there’ll come a time, perhaps lots of times, when the wishes of family will conflict with those of God and we’ll end up disobeying the Lord.

Friends, WE CAN'T FOLLOW JESUS IF OUR FIRST LOVE AND PRIORITY IS OUR FAMILY. As much as we love our family, our love for God must be even stronger. Indeed, it must be the supreme love in our lives.

 

2. LOVE OF SELF, verse 27. SELF IS THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE TO FOLLOWING JESUS. Self lives for Self, not for God and not for anyone else. That’s why Jesus laid the condition of the cross upon us.

Now the cross was an instrument of death. WHEN A PERSON WAS CRUCIFIED ON THE CROSS HE DIDN'T SURVIVE THE EXPERIENCE. ALL WHO WENT TO THE CROSS DIED ON THE CROSS. And all who bore, or carried, a cross well knew that they were going to their execution.

The Romans made a condemned criminal carry his cross to the place of execution, as Jesus was made to do. So when Jesus tells us to follow Him with our own cross the implication is rather clear. He’s leading us to our own execution. We’re supposed to die out to Self and make sure that Self doesn’t survive the cross.

AS LONG AS SELF ISN'T ON THE CROSS, SELF WILL PREVENT US FROM FOLLOWING THE LORD. IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, EVERY SINGLE PROBLEM WE HAVE OBEYING AND FOLLOWING THE LORD CAN BE TRACED BACK TO THE UNCRUCIFIED LIFE.

Without dying out to Self, brethren, we can’t be Jesus’ disciples: SELF WILL KEEP US OUT OF THE KINGDOM (Galatians 5:19-21)! That’s why Self must die. Before life comes death. IN ORDER FOR THE SOUL TO LIVE, THE SELF MUST DIE.

 

3. LOVE OF THINGS OR POSSESSIONS, verse 33. Some people can’t follow the Lord wholeheartedly because the Lord isn’t the number one priority in their lives. They live to work and accumulate wealth and possessions. Naturally, this applies primarily to people who are rich or well off, but it applies to the poor as well! That is, the poor can’t follow the Lord if their whole lives are spent dreaming and coveting great wealth and possessions.

Now for some people who are too attached to what they’ve got, Jesus requires them to literally forsake and get rid of their wealth and goods, as in the case of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22).

But, for the most part, Jesus isn’t saying that we can’t have money or possessions. Indeed, the whole concept of the tithe or offering presupposes that we have something to give (1 Corinthians 16:2).

What Jesus is addressing is the love or attachment that we may have for money and all the things that money can buy. HE DOESN'T WANT US LOVING WHAT WE'VE GOT BECAUSE IT'LL WRECK US SPIRITUALLY (1 Timothy 6:10).

 

FIVE OBSERVATIONS ABOUT DISCIPLESHIP

(1) In looking at these three conditions for discipleship, I’d like to call your attention to five things. The first is the fact that it’s going to cost us something to follow Jesus. Salvation is free. It doesn’t cost us a thing to be saved. But after salvation comes discipleship. It’s a packaged deal that you can’t separate: you can’t have the one without the other, you can’t be saved and choose not to be a disciple.

Brethren, Christianity is a packaged deal. An initial conversion experience ushers us into a lifetime of following the Lord. And that following is going to cost us something: it’s going to cost us family, Self, and possessions. IT'S GOING TO COST US EVERYTHING WE HOLD DEAR IN THIS LIFE.

BRETHREN, IF OUR WALK WITH CHRIST DOESN'T COST US ANYTHING, IF IT DOESN'T KILL US, AS FAR AS SELF AND THE FLESH ARE CONCERNED; THEN WE AREN'T FOLLOWING CHRIST.

 

(2) The second thing about discipleship is, Christ Himself sets the terms or conditions by which He’ll allow us to follow Him. Jesus, my friends, sets the terms, not us.

If it were up to us to decide what the conditions for discipleship would be, they would be drastically different from those of the Lord.

JESUS ISN'T GOING TO LET US FOLLOW HIM ON OUR OWN TERMS. IF WE FOLLOW HIM WE MUST DO IT ON HIS OWN TERMS, NOT OURS. And the thing about our Lord is, He lets us know right from the start what the terms are: He doesn’t leave us clueless, or in the dark, about what we’re getting ourselves into.

 

(3) The third thing about discipleship is this. Since discipleship to Jesus involves great cost and sacrifice to ourselves, then becoming a disciple of Christ is not something that we do flippantly. The cost of discipleship requires us to count the cost and see if we’re willing to pay it.

Friends, NO ONE FOLLOWS THE LORD WHO DOESN'T PAY THE COST OF FOLLOWING. Christianity isn’t something that we enter into flippantly without thinking of the costs and consequences. It’s not something we do just because everyone else is doing it.

Christianity isn’t for the faint-hearted: it’s not for those who have no desire to die out to Self and become like Jesus, it’s not for those who insist on relegating Jesus to a place of secondary importance in their own lives.

 

(4) Fourth, if we insist on following Jesus on our own terms and ignore the conditions He’s laid out for us, we can follow Him only up to a certain point, then we’d be forced to quit following because we simply don’t have the resources to follow Him all the way.

This is made especially clear to us in the analogy of the man who built the tower without first counting the cost: he couldn’t finish what he started because he didn’t have the resources to complete the job.

If you look around today and observe all the people you knew who were once zealous for the Lord but have since turned back to the world, you’d see that their failure to endure in the walk could be traced back to either family, Self, or possessions.

You see, THE ONLY WAY WE CAN FOLLOW JESUS ALL THE WAY AND ENDURE TO THE VERY END AS A FAITHFUL FOLLOWER OF HIS IS IF WE MEET HIS CONDITIONS FOR DISCIPLESHIP. HIS CONDITIONS INSURE THAT WE'LL MAKE IT TO THE VERY END. THEY'RE WHAT MAKE FAITHFUL ENDURANCE POSSIBLE because in meeting them we would have severed all the leashes that keep us from following Jesus all the way.

 

(5) And the fifth thing about discipleship that I’d like for you to see is, THE REASON WHY JESUS WANTS US TO COUNT THE COSTS FIRST BEFORE WE FOLLOW HIM IS, IF WE START OUT AS DISCIPLES THEN DECIDE LATER ON TO QUIT BEING DISCIPLES, THEN WE'RE THE WORSE OFF FOR IT.

Jesus likens us to a king who decides if he can go to war against a more formidable foe and win. You see, for the king to go to war against a formidable foe without first counting the cost would be a most fatal mistake: thousands of lives would be needlessly lost in an unwinnable war.

In much the same way, following Jesus without first counting the cost will only result in us being a casualty of war. To start the walk and subsequently quit is like salt losing its flavor: it becomes totally useless and good for nothing. When we decide we’ve had enough of Christianity and decide to go back into the world we become saltless salt and THE PENALTY FOR QUITTING IS SEVERE: WE GET CAST OUT OF THE KINGDOM.

The sin of reneging on our commitment and quitting is the sin of apostasy. If we commit this sin, it’s all over for us, we’re doomed to Hell. Hebrews 6:4-8 (NLT) reads, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, (5) who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age (6) and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. (7) Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. (8) But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.

So is Jesus making it hard for us to follow Him? No. He’s warning us that it involves great cost and that we’d better not follow Him if we aren’t going to follow Him all the way. We’d better not start if we’re not going to finish. Why? Because our end would be tragic indeed.FN

Brethren, are you paying the cost of discipleship? Are you following Jesus? Are you tied on a leash to some fence post? What is the leash? What’s holding you back from following Jesus all the way? Is it the desire to keep Self on the throne of your life? Is it fear? Is it family? Is it the security that wealth and possessions provide?

Whatever the leashes and hindrances are, my friends, cut yourself lose because as long as you’re on the leash you aren’t Christ’s disciple and you aren’t going to make it into the kingdom. NON-DISCIPLES, EVEN IF THEY CALL THEMSELVES CHRISTIANS, DON'T MAKE IT INTO THE KINGDOM. IF YOU DON'T FOLLOW CHRIST, YOU DON'T END UP WITH CHRIST IN GLORY. WHEN YOU LIVE WITHOUT CHRIST, YOU DIE AND PERISH WITHOUT CHRIST. Take the hindrances in your life seriously, friends, because discipleship and following the Lord really are matters of salvation.

 

DON'T LET THE COST FIGHTEN OR DISCOURAGE YOU FROM FOLLOWING JESUS

Now before you despair of ever being able to make it to glory because the requirements of discipleship are so hard, let me assuage your mind with these two thoughts in closing.

First, following Christ is expensive, it’s costly, and it’ll cost you everything you’ve got. But do you know what? ENTERING HEAVEN AND LIFE IS WELL WORTH THE COST!

(1) Jesus requires you to die out to Self on the cross. But as painful and abhorrent as that may be, you’ll find in Self’s place an abundant life that’s filled with meaning, purpose, and satisfaction. Brethren, there’s an inner peace and satisfaction that comes from doing the right thing and living the right way. No matter how hard it may be to put Self to death and force yourself to do it God’s way, the peace and satisfaction that you get in return are priceless; they’re something that neither money nor Self can give you.

(2) Not only that, but Jesus takes everything from you and then He gives it back a hundredfold! He promised in Mark 10:29-30, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, {30} But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

Do you know what this says? It says that THE BEST, AND ONLY, WAY TO HOLD ON TO WHAT YOU LOVE AND HOLD DEAR ON THIS EARTH IS TO GIVE THEM UP TO JESUS, MAKE JESUS FIRST IN YOUR LIFE and concentrate on walking with Him.

In return, Jesus will restore them to you a hundredfold in this lifetime. It’s called household salvation: Jesus will save your loved ones, He’ll change their hearts, and He’ll bring them to a point where they won’t interfere with your walk with Him.

It’s also called Divine prosperity that makes loans and mortgages absolutely needless: you won’t need to depend on men to provide for you because God Himself will provide for you.

(3) And when this life is over, you’ll have an eternity with Jesus to look forward to. Brethren, there are no words to describe the joys that will be yours in glory.

Are you downcast because the walk with Jesus is so hard and unreasonable? Brethren, DON'T LOOK AT WHAT YOU'RE GIVING UP: LOOK AT WHAT YOU'RE GETTING and you’ll soon come to see that this walk with the Lord is not so much one of cost as it is one of privilege and blessing.

Brethren, it’s a privilege and a blessing to walk with Jesus, to have Jesus lead you and take care of you. You’re in good hands when you’re following the Lord! Take heart! Everything that you’ve forsaken for the Lord, except Self, will be given back to you.

And the second thing of comfort that’s well worth remembering is, while the Lord makes demands on our lives that are, to the natural mind, unreasonable and difficult; nevertheless, THE LORD DOESN'T ASK US TO DO SOMETHING THAT WE CAN'T POSSIBLY DO! HE DOESN'T MAKE DEMANDS THAT HE KNOWS WE CAN'T FULFILL. The very fact that He asks us to love our family less than we love Him, that we carry our cross and put Self to death on it, and that we not have affection for wealth or possessions; means that we can do all these things—they’re not beyond our ability to do!

The apostle Paul said it well when he said in Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.

How do I know we all can meet the requirements of following Jesus? Because the Jesus who makes the demands also gives us the grace or strength to meet them! You see, brethren, WHEN JESUS TELLS US TO DO SOMETHING HE ALSO GIVES US THE GRACE OR STRENGTH TO DO IT! Brethren, the very fact that Jesus lays these requirements on us means we can meet them! We can do what He’s asking us to do!

Jesus supplies the grace or strength, but we must supply the willingness of heart to obey and follow Him. You say you lack that? You say you don’t want to give up your love for family, Self, or possessions? Then, brethren, cry out to God to change your heart and make you willing to do that—this is a prayer that you can pray. Paul said in Philippians 2:13 (NLT), For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.

Brethren, even the willingness and desire to obey comes from God! If you want to follow Jesus into the kingdom but don’t know if you can follow Him all the way there, if you’re not sure you can pay the costs of discipleship, then ask God to work His will in you. Ask Him for the grace to pay the costs. And do you know what? Since you’re praying in accordance with God’s perfect will, then this is one prayer that God will answer!

He promised you in 1 John 5:14-15, And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: {15} And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

You see, my friends, God’s answer to your prayer for a change of heart and for the grace to follow and obey Him means that He will indeed change your heart and you will indeed come to a point where following Him isn’t the burden or the fear that it presently is.

Brethren, no matter how hard the Devil makes you think discipleship is, always remember this one thing, WITH CHRIST YOU CAN DO IT! WITH CHRIST YOU CAN MAKE IT!

Walk the walk one step at a time. Take it moment by moment. And just keep on walking. Keep on doing what God wants you to do. I love the way the New Living Translates Hebrews 6:9-12. We already read the immediately-proceeding verses that spoke about the sin of apostasy. It’s such a frightful thing that, if we ended the Bible right then and there, we’d be scared out of our wits about how in the world we can ever make it to glory.

The Lord doesn’t put a period on the sin of apostasy. He goes on to encourage us with these words: Dear friends, even though we are talking this way, we really don't believe it applies to you. We are confident that you are meant for better things, things that come with salvation. (10) For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for Him and how you have shown your love to Him by caring for other believers, as you still do. (11) Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. (12) Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God's promises because of their faith and endurance.

Brethren, don’t worry about how you’ll turn out or where you’ll end up. Just keep on following Jesus and you’ll turn out just fine! You’ll be in Heaven before you know it!

 

 

JESUS SPENDS TIME WITH TAX COLLECTORS AND SINNERS

SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 15:1-2, Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinnersFN for to hear him. {2} And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. Luke 15:1-2 (NIV),  Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.  (2)  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

 

Jesus, as I said, drew great multitudes of people wherever He was and wherever He went. On this particular day, gobs of publicans and sinners clamored around Jesus and hung on His every word. Do you know what Jesus did? He received them, hung out with them, and even ate with them.

Now to a Pharisee and a Scribe, this was abhorrent and offensive! Rabbinical law, you see, forbade a person from keeping company with publicans, immoral people, and people who weren’t observant of rabbinical law. These sinners were, in our day, people who weren’t religious or devout. If you wanted to be pious you couldn’t rub elbows with irreligious folks because they weren’t diligent in keeping all the laws.

*They didn’t always wash their hands, bodies, or clothes when they came in contact with unclean people. Consequently, everything they touched, like their bed, their cushions, their tables, pots, and cups, were likewise defiled and unclean.

*Religious folks like the Pharisees didn’t eat and hang out with irreligious folks because they stood in doubt as to whether or not the foods that were being served had been tithed unto the Lord. You see, it was forbidden for a person to eat whatever had not been tithed unto the Lord, Leviticus 23:14. Hence, if a farmer didn’t tithe his wheat, then, technically, no one, not even himself, could eat any of his wheat! This is one reason why Pharisees and Scribes asked a lot of questions whenever they went to market or whenever they bought food from a vendor: they had to make sure that what they bought had been tithed unto the Lord. As far as the Pharisees were concerned, if you weren’t religious you didn’t tithe your produce, hence, the food you were selling wasn’t fit for human consumption!

Those who sought to be pious and observant in the law did not have anything to do with people who just weren’t religious: they kept separate from them and kept their distance!FN That’s why these Pharisees and Scribes were critical of our Lord when they saw Him receiving publicans and sinners and even eating with them. As far as a Pharisee was concerned, no man who regarded himself as pious or as a rabbi would fellowship and eat with these people!

Here’s something for us to ponder. What was it about Jesus that made these sinners and irreligious people flock to Him to hear Him? I mean, if I had no real interest in God or religion, I wouldn’t waste my time going to hear a preacher, much less hang around with him. Yet, these immoral, irreligious people clamored around Jesus to hear Him speak on religion! To hear Him probably step on their toes and talk about their sins. Brethren, JESUS HAD DRAWING POWER—so much so that even sinners were attracted to Him.

Do we have that kind of drawing power? Do we make sinners feel loved and welcome? Friends, SINNERS AREN’T GOING TO LISTEN TO US IF WE DON’T SHOW THEM WE CARE ABOUT THEM, LOVE THEM, AND WANT TO HELP THEM. PEOPLE WON’T FLOCK TO US, OR BEFRIEND US, IF WE TURN THEM OFF OR TURN THEM AWAY.

Are we like Pharisees and Scribes of old? Do people stay away from us because we’re critical, judgmental, and condemning? Beloved, WE’VE GOT TO CHANGE OURSELVES BEFORE WE CHANGE THE WORLD. WE NEED TO HAVE A HEART AND ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT ABOUT SINNERS OR IRRELIGIOUS FOLKS IF WE WANT TO MINISTER TO THEM AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THEIR LIFE. LOVING THEM IS A GOOD PLACE TO START.

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEPFN

SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 15:3-7, And he spake this parable unto them, saying, {4} What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? {5} And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. {6} And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. {7} I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. Luke 15:3-7 (CEV), Then Jesus told them this story: (4) If any of you has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, what will you do? Won't you leave the ninety-nine in the field and go look for the lost sheep until you find it? (5) And when you find it, you will be so glad that you will put it on your shoulder (6) and carry it home. Then you will call in your friends and neighbors and say, "Let's celebrate! I've found my lost sheep." (7) Jesus said, "In the same way there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God than over ninety-nine good people who don't need to."

 

To help the Pharisees and Scribes see the reason why He received and ate with sinners, Jesus spoke three consecutive parables: first, the parable of the lost sheep, then the parable of the lost coin, and finally, the parable of the prodigal son. The message in all three parables is the same. It speaks of God’s love and search for the lost and the backslider.

In this first parable, the Pharisees and Scribes would well understand the dilemma of a lost sheep because shepherding was a prominent and prevalent part of life in Palestine. Now Palestine was not a shepherd’s haven. There were not many places where grass was abundant. Consequently, shepherds would have to take their flocks to great distances in search of grass, not to mention, water.

As it sometimes goes, a sheep would wander off on its own and get lost. Upon discovering the loss, the shepherd would leave the rest of the flock to the care of other shepherds and go off in search of the one lost sheep.FN This was part of a shepherd’s duty. He would search for the sheep until it was found. If the sheep was killed by some wild beast, the shepherd would bring back its fleece to show how it was killed. But if it was found alive, being tired and hungry, the relieved and joyful shepherd would carry it on his shoulders until he got back to the flock.

Much like a Palestinian shepherd, God rejoices whenever a sinner repents and gets saved. The complaint and criticism of the Pharisees and Scribes, then, stand in stark contrast to God’s rejoicing in the salvation of sinners.

Brethren, you may not like what a minister’s doing, who he’s reaching out to, or where he’s going. You may not like the kind of people he’s ministering to or hanging out with. Learn a lesson here from the Pharisees and Scribes. BEFORE YOU GRUMBLE AND CRITICIZE SOMEBODY'S MINISTRY EFFORTS, YOU'D BETTER FIND OUT WHAT GOD THINKS ABOUT IT BECAUSE YOU DON'T WANT TO CRITICIZE WHEN GOD COMPLIMENTS. YOU DON'T WANT TO GRUMBLE WHEN GOD'S GLAD. YOU DON'T WANT TO BE RESENTFUL WHEN GOD'S REJOICING.

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE LOST COINFN

SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 15:8-10, Either what woman having ten pieces of silver,FN if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle,FN and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? {9} And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. {10} Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. Luke 15:8-10 (NIV),  "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  (9)  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.'  (10)  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."

 

In the preceding parable Jesus spoke of the value of one sheep to a shepherd. But in this present parable He speaks of the value one coin to a woman. Like the shepherd before her, the woman looks diligently for her lost coin until she finds it. Obviously, the coin means a lot to her and she’s not willing to part company with it.

The coins may have been the woman’s savings. But the fact that Jesus mentioned ten coins here suggests that the coins may have been part of the woman’s dowry and headdress. Back then in those days, a young girl would work to save ten coins which she would then string together and, upon marriage, wear it as a headdress. Such a headdress would be an ancient Jewish equivalent of our modern wedding rings: it would signify that the woman so adorned was married. It was so valuable that Jewish law held that the headdress could not be confiscated from a woman as payment for debt! No one could take her headdress away from her!

Now if one of you lost a wedding ring would you look frantically for it? Of course you would. It means a lot to you because it’s a reminder of the love and commitment that exist between you and your spouse.

In much the same way, the woman in the parable lost something of great value to her and she was unwilling to part company with it. What do you do when you lose something that means a lot to you? You look for it until you find it.

Brethren, Jesus spends time with publicans and sinners because they mean a lot to Him. He’s out to save them. And when they get saved all Heaven rejoices, it’s a big deal to God, and God is very happy!

 

 

THE PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON

SOMEWHERE IN PEREA

 

Luke 15:11-32, And he said, A certain man had two sons: {12} And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me.FN And he divided unto them his living.

{13} And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.FN {14} And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. {15} And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country;FN and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.FN {16} And he would fain have filled his belly with the husksFN that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. {17} And when he came to himself,FN he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! {18} I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,FN {19} And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.FN

{20} And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. {21} And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. {22} But the father said to his servants,FN Bring forth the best robe,FN and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand,FN and shoes on his feet:FN {23} And bring hither the fatted calf,FN and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: {24} For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

{25} Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.FN {26} And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. {27} And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.FN {28} And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.FN {29} And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid,FN that I might make merry with my friends: {30} But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. {31} And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.FN {32} It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.FN

Luke 15:11-32 (NLT), To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: "A man had two sons. (12) The younger son told his father, 'I want my share of your estate now before you die.' So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

(13) "A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. (14) About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. (15) He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. (16) The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. (17) "When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, 'At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! (18) I will go home to my father and say, "Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, (19) and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant."'

(20) "So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. (21) His son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.' (22) "But his father said to the servants, 'Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. (23) And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, (24) for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.' So the party began.

(25) "Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, (26) and he asked one of the servants what was going on. (27) 'Your brother is back,' he was told, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.' (28) "The older brother was angry and wouldn't go in. His father came out and begged him, (29) but he replied, 'All these years I've slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. (30) Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!' (31) "His father said to him, 'Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. (32) We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!'"

 

THE DIVINE ASPECT OF THE SINNER'S SALVATION
AND THE BACKSLIDER'S RESTORATION

In the narrative at hand, we see the Divine, as well as the human, aspects of the sinner’s salvation and the backslider’s restoration.FN Let’s look first of all at the part the Lord plays in saving sinners and in restoring His wayward children unto Himself.

In these parables we see above all else the love that God has for the lost and the benevolence that He has toward the backslider. God, you see, is the focus of these parables. The Pharisees and Scribes decried our Lord for keeping company with publicans and sinners. As a result, Jesus gave them these parables in order to call our attention to the magnanimous, undeserving love that God has for those whom He created. And in these parables we see the heart and will of God with respect to the salvation of sinners and the restoration of repentant believers.

 

1. THE VALUE OF ONE SOUL TO GOD. The first thing we see in these parables is the infinite, endearing value of one soul to God. There was one sheep missing out of a hundred. Yet our Lord is not content to leave that one sheep lost to its own destruction. The safety and righteousness of the ninety-nine sheep do not deprive the Lord of His love or concern for the one that has gone astray! There was one coin missing out of ten. But the fact that the Lord still has nine left doesn’t mean that the one lost coin is expendable! There was one son gone. But the fact that the Father still has one other son with Him doesn’t relieve Him of the love and care that He has for the prodigal, backsliding son.

Do you see what I mean? ONE SOUL MATTERS A GREAT DEAL TO GOD. And the thing of it is, it doesn’t matter what kind of soul that one soul is—it may be the soul of a lost sinner or the soul of a wayward sheep—even one soul matters to God! He’s willing to leave the ninety-nine sheep in order to find the one who’s lost.

Friends, you may not be worth much in your sight or in the sight of others. But it’s a totally different story from God’s point of view. EACH ONE OF YOU MATTERS A WHOLE LOT TO GOD! YOU MEAN THAT MUCH TO HIM! God will not leave you alone, He will not leave you to your ways or to your destructions. He’ll come after you because you mean that much to Him.

 

2. GOD LOOKS FOR YOU TILL HE FINDS YOU. The second thing we see in these parables is, WHEN YOU TURN UP MISSING OR LOST GOD SEARCHES FOR YOU AND HE KEEPS ON SEARCHING UNTIL HE FINDS YOU.

FRIENDS, GOD DOESN'T COME HOME EMPTY-HANDED! HE DOESN'T ABANDON THE SEARCH! HE DOESN'T QUIT LOOKING FOR YOU! HE DOESN'T GIVE UP ON FINDING YOU!

No matter how far you run from God, if you’re God’s sheep, God will eventually catch up with you, He’ll save you, or else, He’ll restore you to Himself. As far as God’s concerned, YOU'RE NOT EXPENDABLE! HE'S NOT CONTENT TO LIVE WITHOUT YOU!

As we’ve seen in John 10:27-29, God will never allow any of His sheep to perish. He will not allow so much as one of His sheep to enter into perdition! God will not ever lose one of His own!FN God will not let you die in your sins or die in a state of sin. God will bring you back. He’ll save you from perdition.

God’s love, you see, sustains Him in the search, He keeps on loving you, and THE FACT THAT YOU WALKED AWAY FROM GOD DOESN'T DETER OR DISCOURAGE HIM FROM COMING AFTER YOU. IT DOESN'T MAKE HIM QUIT LOVING YOU. HE WILL NEVER QUIT LOVING YOU! In the words of the prophet, His compassions fail not, His love for you will never come to an end (Lamentations 3:22)!

If, on the other hand, you’re believing the Lord for the salvation or restoration of a loved one and it’s been years since you prayed, with no apparent change or results; my friends, don’t quit believing and don’t give up on your loved ones! It doesn’t matter how far they’ve wandered from the Lord and it doesn’t matter what kind of sin or mess they’re in. Like the prodigal, they may have wandered to a far country, they may have debased themselves in sin. But THE FACT THAT IT'S BEEN YEARS AND THE LOVED ONE HASN'T YET COME HOME DOESN'T MEAN THEY'LL NEVER COME HOME!

Brethren, take comfort in the fact that WHEN THE LORD CONDUCTS A SEARCH AND RESCUE MISSION HE IS ALWAYS, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT SUCCESSFUL! NO MISSION OF HIS HAS EVER RESULTED IN FAILURE! GOD HAS NEVER COME BACK EMPTY-HANDED! HE HAS NEVER LOST A SHEEP!

Dear saints, hold on to the promise of household salvation in Acts 16:31. Don’t give up believing, don’t give up on your loved ones, because if God doesn’t give up, neither should you! If God is one hundred percent successful in retrieving lost loved ones, then your lost loved ones will be retrieved! God only asks you to believe, to keep on believing, and though the days may roll into months or years, keep on waiting, keep on looking, keep on expecting, because one of these days, unbeknownst to you, you’ll see your loved one coming from afar and you’ll know once again that God is always faithful to keep His promise towards those who believe.

 

3. WHEN GOD FINDS YOU HE REJOICES OVER YOU! He doesn’t scold you for running away from Him. He doesn’t grumble for the work and time He spent looking for you. He doesn’t get mad at you. Brethren, when God finds you He’s happy to have found you!

 

4. GOD KNOWS HOW TO BRING YOU TO YOUR KNEES AND BRING YOU TO REPENTANCE. You may be proud and stubborn, set in sin and in your selfish ways. And, like the father with his prodigal son, the Lord will let you do what you want to do, He’ll let you live the kind of life you want to live, He’ll let you go where you want to go. He won’t stop you! God will honor the decisions you make.

But if you’re God’s sheep, then as we see in these three Lucan parables, God will let you go only so far, He’ll let you go only for so long, then, after you’ve tasted the miseries and pains of sin, He’ll come after you and rescue you.

You see, friends, YOUR RUNNING FROM GOD IS FUTILE, IT WILL NOT WORK, YOU WILL NOT SUCCEED! God, my friends, knows where you are, He knows where to find you, He will find you and bring you back. And in order for Him to bring you back, He’s got to humble you and bring you to repentance. And God, my friends, knows how to do that! HE KNOWS WHAT IT TAKES TO CHANGE YOUR MIND AND BRING YOU TO YOUR KNEES! IT WON'T BE PLEASANT FOR YOU. IT'LL HURT. BUT GOD WILL SPARE NO EFFORT OR MEANS TO BRING YOU BACK.

Friends, do you think you’ll never ever change your mind about sin or about what you want to do with your life? Do you think your wayward loved ones will never change? Think again. NO SHEEP WANDERS WHO IS NOT FOUND! NO SON LEAVES HOME WHO DOESN'T RETURN HOME!

God, brethren, knows how to change people’s minds, He knows what it’ll take for them to change their minds, He’ll get them to do it, and by the time they’re done eating the slops and husks of sin they’ll want to repent and come back to the Lord! They’ll be eager and glad to get saved, or get right, and be reunited with the Lord! Take comfort in that and keep on believing for lost or wayward loved ones.

 

THE HUMAN ASPECTS OF THE SINNER'S SALVATION
AND THE BACKSLIDER'S RESTORATION

1. THE NEED FOR SINNERS AND BACKSLIDERS TO REPENT. From a human perspective, there are three aspects of the sinner’s salvation and the backslider’s restoration. The first of these is repentance.

As we see in the parable of the prodigal son, the son’s reunion with his father required him to do two things: first, he had to repent, and after that, he had to make the long trip back to his father’s house. You see, the son would never have come back home if he had not used his feet and walked back home. And he would not have gone back home if he had not seen the light and repented of his sins.

Brethren, THE ONLY WAY THAT SINNERS AND BACKSLIDERS CAN BE RESTORED TO THE LORD IS FOR THEM TO FIRST OF ALL REPENT OF THEIR SINS AND THEN COME, OR RETURN, TO THE LORD. BEFORE RESTORATION COMES REPENTANCE.

 

A. REPENTANCE IS OUR RECOGNITION OF THE FACT WE ARE WRONG. What is repentance? Within the context of the parable, we see that repentance is two things. First, it’s our recognition of the fact that what we did, or what we’re doing, is wrong. You see, we won’t get things right, we won’t cease and desist in our sins, if we refuse to acknowledge the fact that what we did, or what we’re still doing, is sinful and wrong.FN As long as we believe we’re right and we’re doing the right thing we won’t quit doing whatever it is we’re doing. As long as we don’t see anything wrong with our attitude, conduct or behavior, we won’t change it. We need to see we’re wrong before we repent and as long as we don’t see it, we won’t repent.

Note that the prodigal’s repentance began when he came to himself (verse 17). Forced by the sheer miseries of his desperate circumstances, he took an honest look at himself and came to the realization that he was wrong to have done what he did: he should never have left his father and he should never have asked for his inheritance, moved away, and spent it all in riotous living.

If the prodigal remained proud and insistent that he was right, he would never have made the return trip home. WHAT BROUGHT HIM HOME, YOU SEE, WAS HIS RECOGNITION OF THE FACT THAT HE WAS WRONG.

BRETHREN, WE WON'T GET THINGS RIGHT IN OUR LIFE IF WE'RE PROUD AND UNWILLING TO ADMIT WE'RE WRONG.

MORE IMPORTANTLY, WE CAN'T BE FORGIVEN BY GOD UNLESS WE ACKNOWLEDGE AND CONFESS OUR SINS. 1 John 1:9 reads, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Confession comes before forgiveness.

So many in our day want to “repent” without having to admit they were wrong. They want to “repent” without having to humble themselves publicly and admit their guilt. But such “repentance,” my friends, is a charade and a mockery. Repentance isn’t repentance if we’re not willing to admit we’re wrong.

 

B. REPENTANCE IS OUR RESOLVE TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT. Repentance, in the second place, is our resolve or determination make things right. How do we do that? What do we do? Well, within the context of the parable of the prodigal son, we see four things.

 

1. WE QUIT DOING THE WRONG THINGS THAT WE'VE BEEN DOING. When the repentant son came to his senses he didn’t remain in the sty, he didn’t stay where he was at, he didn’t continue doing what he was doing. He quit what he was doing and this, brethren, is what repentance is all about: it’s all about us no longer doing what we’ve been doing as far as our sins are concerned.

If the sin is a single, isolated act, then we give up the act. If it’s a habit or on-going thing, then we give up the habit. If it’s a lifestyle, then we give up the lifestyle. Repentance is giving up a lifestyle, habit, or act of sin.

IF WE DON'T QUIT SINNING, IF WE DON'T QUIT DOING THE WRONG THINGS THAT WE'RE DOING; THEN WE AREN'T REPENTANT AND GOD ISN'T OBLIGED TO FORGIVE US.

FORGIVENESS, YOU SEE, ISN'T CONDITIONED ONLY ON CONFESSION: IT'S ALSO CONDITIONED ON US QUITTING THE SIN THAT WE'VE BEEN SINNING. 2 Chronicles 7:14 reads, If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

The Lord reiterates the same demand in Ezekiel 18:30-32, Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, saith the Lord God. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. {31} Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? {32} For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

TRUE REPENTANCE, AS GOD SEES IT, IS NOT ONLY AN ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF THE FACT THAT WE'RE WRONG: IT'S ALSO A DETERMINATION ON OUR PART THAT WE'RE GOING TO GIVE UP THE SIN, TURN AWAY FROM IT, AND NOT DO IT ANYMORE. IF WE'RE NOT INTENT ON GIVING UP THE SIN, OR IF WE'RE INTENT ON COMMITTING THE SAME SIN AGAIN, THEN WE HAVEN'T TRULY REPENTED.

 

2. WE MAKE THE NECESSARY APOLOGIES. Repentance is not only apologizing to God for the sin we committed against Him: it’s also apologizing to those who we wronged and sinned against. In the case of this parable, the son sinned against his father and so, he apologized to his father (verses 18-21). Naturally, if he was like anyone of us today, it was probably a very hard thing for him to go to his father, humble himself, and apologize. But he nevertheless did it because he recognized that it needed to be done.

Brethren, we can rationalize and talk ourselves into thinking that we don’t need to apologize for our wrongs—as long as we confess our sin to God that’s enough and that’s all we need to do. But that’s not how God sees it! In fact, He commands us to apologize to the person we sinned against.

He told us in James 5:16 to, Confess your faults one to another. By ‘faults’, the Lord isn’t speaking about our weaknesses, character flaws, or imperfections. The word in the Greek literally means sins, trespasses, offences, or wrongs.

In other words, WHEN WE SIN AGAINST SOMEONE GOD EXPECTS US TO GO TO THAT PERSON AND APOLOGIZE FOR OUR WRONGS. APOLOGIZING IS A CRUCIAL PART OF REPENTANCE AND FORGIVENESS.

From our perspective, the humbling serves as a powerful reminder or incentive not to make the same mistake again, since no one likes being humbled. And from the perspective of the person wronged, our apology lets him or her know that we recognize our wrongs and are taking steps to correct and remedy ourselves. It’s kind of like an assurance to the wronged person that we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure we don’t make that mistake again. Moreover, our apology brings closure to a distressful situation and prevents the aggrieved person from becoming, or remaining, bitter or antagonistic towards us.

 

3. WE RETURN TO THE LORD. When we repent, we come to the Lord, confess our sins, and ask Him to forgive us and restore us to fellowship with Him. We come back to the Lord. We don’t stay in a distant country and live separate, or apart, from the Lord (verses 18-20).

 

4. WE WALK, OR LIVE, WITH THE LORD. Repentance is not a pit stop whereby we get off the racetrack of sin, ask God for forgiveness, then go back on the racetrack of sin and sin some more.

REPENTANCE IS GOING BACK TO THE FATHER WITH THE DETERMINATION THAT WE'RE GOING TO STAY AT HOME WITH THE FATHER, WALK WITH HIM, AND DO AS HE SAYS. That includes the determination that we’re going to stay with the flock or the family, that being the church.

Brethren, the Lord didn’t make us to live separately from the flock. He wants us back in the flock and do you know what? That’s exactly where He takes us when He retrieves us from our backsliding ways! He returns us to the flock!

 

C. AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO RETURN. As we see in the parable and throughout Scripture, repentance precedes restoration. But the promise that we mustn’t lose sight of is, restoration will come after we’ve repented.

You see, repentant sinners or backsliders might be hesitant to come to the Lord and ask for His forgiveness because they don’t think the Lord will save them, forgive them, and restore them to His fellowship. Consequently, they remain in the sty of their sins, condemned, and stay away from the Lord, as well as the church.

 

*IT'S GOD'S WILL TO HAVE YOU BACK! Now we can go outside the parable and go to Ezekiel 18:30-32 that we read earlier to see that the Lord invites sinners and backsliders to come to Him. The invitation reads, Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. {31} Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel? {32} For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

You see, friends, the Lord’s invitation is indicative of His will to save you and receive you unto Himself. If we look within the parable itself, as well as in the parables of the lost sheep and coin, we see that God’s rejoicing over a lost son found and returned home is further indicative of God’s will to have you back.

Brethren, GOD WOULDN'T REJOICE IF HE DIDN'T WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN! HE WOULDN'T REJOICE IN YOUR REPENTANCE AND RETURN IF HE WAS INTENT ON CUTTING YOU OFF AND SENDING YOU TO HELL! God, my friends, has no pleasure in damning anyone!

Ezekiel 18:23, Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

Ezekiel 33:1, Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

2 Peter 3:9 (CEV), The Lord isn't slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.

 

*A LOT OF THINGS DON'T MATTER. Another thing that we see in the parable is, it doesn’t matter what kind of sinner you are, it doesn’t matter what kind of sin you committed, and it doesn’t matter how long you were in sin or in a backslidden condition. Irrespective of who you are and what kind of life you’ve lived, the only two things that matter to God are (1) you were lost, and (2) now you’re found.

God, friends, doesn’t have respect of persons: He’s not partial in who He looks for and He’s not preferential in welcoming anyone who comes back home to Him. When a sinner or backslider comes to the Lord He rejoices over them and receives them.

 

THE NEED FOR SAINTS TO GO OUT AND BRING
THE LOST BACK TO THE LORD

For sinners and backsliders to come back to the Lord they need to repent. But it also remains incumbent upon the church to go out like Christ, search for lost and wayward souls, and do what they can to bring them to repentance and salvation.

 

JESUS REACHED OUT TO THE LOST.

You see, the parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and prodigal son, all speak of lost sinners and wayward believers. But the difference between the parables of the sheep and coin on the one hand, and the parable of the prodigal on the other, is, the first two parables emphasize God’s search for the lost while the last parable emphasizes the responsibility of the lost to repent and return to the Lord. In the first two parables, God goes out and searches for the lost, while in the last parable He waits for the lost to repent and return.

In either case, whether the Lord’s out in the field looking for the lost, or else at home waiting for the lost to come to their senses, the Lord by His Spirit is actively engaged in the recovery of lost souls. In the latter parable, He’s working through circumstances to bring the prodigal to repentance. He works the same way today, but He also uses our conscience, the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, and the ministry of caring souls, to bring the lost and wayward to repentance.

Going back to the parable of the lost sheep, God goes after the lost sheep, He doesn’t sit still and wait for the sheep to find their way back to the flock. Do you know what this says? It says that ALONE AND UNAIDED BY THE LORD, THE SHEEP CAN'T, AND DON'T FIND THEIR WAY BACK HOME! IF THEY'RE GOING TO COME BACK TO THE FOLD THEY MUST BE BROUGHT BACK. And this, brethren, speaks of the Father’s sovereign initiative and work in recovering lost or wayward souls. Without His shepherding work, lost and wayward souls won’t be found, recovered, or restored. If the Lord were not personally involved in the search and rescue mission, none would be saved.

Romans 3:11-12 (NIV) tells us, there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. (12) All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

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