Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Luke Part 36: Principles of the Way of the Kingdom

Text: Luke 9:51-62

This passage continues on with Jesus' teachings about the Kingdom. These teachings have been grouped together for our edification; they are not in chronological order. Also, the people described in these incidents remain unnamed and are not important. Each person's path is unique. We are all going the same direction, yet we have different experiences, experiences, and flaws. These principles must be applied to our own lives as they fit.

This passage contains four incidents from which principles may be seen.

First (v. 51-56), we see Jesus and the Samaritans. Jesus was passing through Samaria and sent the apostles ahead to prepare for Him a place to stay. But the people in Samaria would not receive Him, because of their religious bigotry. The Samaritans were a mixed group of people who had cultural and religious differences from the Jews. The had their own center of worship, so they rejected Jesus because He was going on to Jerusalem, the center of Jewish worship. The disciples wanted to respond by calling down fire, but Jesus said no -- that was not why He came.

The principle to be gained from this passage is that rejection is to be expected. Jesus was rejected. You will be rejected upon sharing the gospel. It is not due to our failure, a lack of providing the correct information to the hearer. Rather, it is due to a moral failure on the hearer's part. What is our response? Not to be angry and wish them harmed, but to love them and continue on.

Next (v57, 58), we have the example of the willing follower. A man tells Jesus he is ready to follow Him, so Jesus explains that he will have to live an unsettled existence.

The principle? We are traveling through this life. We shouldn't be trying to find a settled, permanent comfortable home here. This life here is a short stop. It will not always be a comfortable existence -- we must be stepping out of our comfort zone.

In verses 59 and 60 we have the example of a man who was called to follow Jesus, but first asked to bury his father. Now, in the culture of the Jews, burying a father was the highest responsibility of the oldest son. This was a very important thing. But Jesus taught the principle that nothing -- even this thing -- was to take precedence over the commands of Christ. This was no minor issue, but still it held no comparison to obeying Christ's commands.

The final example (v61, 62) is of a man who wanted to follow Jesus, but first he needed to say goodbye to his family. This was a man with a mixed love. He was saying, "I love the Lord, but I love my family equally." The point here is that our love for Christ must be supreme. Our eyes must be fixed on Christ. We must serve Christ with singleness of heart and singleness of mind.

Note that Christ does not condemn normal life experiences. These things are used as teaching tools, for us to apply these principles and keep proper perspective in our relationship with our families and our Lord.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Luke Part 35: Final teachings of Christ before Jerusalem

Text: Luke 9:37-51

In this passage we see that there is still some work for Jesus to do: teaching his disciples, revealing more of Himself. Some of that work is recorded in this passage. The great need of this teaching is evident. The disciples needed that teaching at the time, and we need that teaching ourselves today.

First, we have the situation in verses 37-42. The disciples were stumped by a demon they were unable to cast out. We know that Christ had previously given them power to cast out demons, and they were previously rejoicing in their success. What was the problem?

The problem was presumption. They had previously had success. They got their eyes off of Christ, yet presumed that Christ would be with them. They assumed that they could cast the demon out in their own power. We must be on guard for the same thing... presuming that since a meeting or conference was good last time, that God will bless us in the same way this time.

Do not assume based on past successes. Instead, we need faith. Each time, we must come to God seeing our dependence on Him. Jesus said in another passage that, "This kind does not come out without prayer and fasting." The "prayer and fasting" is a demonstration of faith. The mere act of praying or fasting proves nothing; it must be accompanied by faith.

Next, we have this saying of Christ's: "Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men." Jesus was telling the disciples plainly about His upcoming death. But they were afraid to ask Him about it, so they didn't "get" it! What was the matter? Were they afraid they might look stupid? Clearly, Jesus was wanting them to understand this; He began by saying, "Let these words sink into your ears."

The lesson for us is: when we don't understand something, we have to seek it out. We are so often full of complacency, full of satisfaction. Never be satisfied; never quit learning, never quit inquiring of the Lord. Christ could teach us all things at the moment of salvation, but instead He has set it up so that we would have a lifetime pursuit of seeking Him. It is not His program for us to sit around and do nothing!

Then, we come to the disciples -- in the presence of Christ! -- discussing who among the them would be the greatest. Christ rebukes them by showing them a little child, and saying that the least among them will be the greatest. He is teaching humility. Jesus came to serve, and the one who comes to be the servant of all is the one whom Christ will receive.

Christianity is all about being committed to a lifetime of humility and service to others, expecting nothing in return. We must have the right attitude of service, especially in "lost causes". We should not be trying to build up our church or build up ourselves, but only to bring the Gospel to the world around us.

Next, we see a situation where John sees a man casting out demons in Jesus' name, but not following along with the disciples. John told him to stop doing this, because he was not of John's group. This is exclusionism, or denominationalism. We must be on guard against this! While we should certainly recognize false ministries as such, me should see good Christian labors in other groups, and pray for them and recommend them. Let us never fall into a spirit of narrow exclusion, thinking our group is the only group holding to the truth of God!

Luke Part 34: The Mount of Transfiguration

Text: Luke 9:28-36

This passage begins with a description of Jesus praying. Our King, Jesus, the perfect Son of the Father, needed to pray and prayed fervently and frequently. He should be our example in this regard; surely in our weakness we have more need of prayer than He did.

While He is praying, a transformation occurs. His garments became bright. In the parallel account in Matthew (Matt 17:1-8), we are told that His face shone like the sun. Next, two men "appeared in glory" -- Moses, who had been dead for 1400 years, and Elijah, who had been dead for 900 years.

Jesus had been praying, probably about His future work to be performed on the cross, and this was the answer to His prayer. God was sending His Son an encouragement about His work, as Moses and Elijah were talking with Him about the the death He was to die in Jerusalem.

Peter saw all this and was amazed. He thought it was great and he wanted to make three tents -- for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He was putting Christ on the same level as Moses and Elijah. God immediately quashed that idea. The purpose of Moses was Elijah was to reveal Christ. They had served that purpose, and they were taken back, leaving only Jesus and the disciples. God spoke from a cloud and reveals Jesus as "The Christ". The disciples are terrified and fall down at the voice.

Two interesting points: First, the cloud that fell upon them was referred to in Matthew as a "bright cloud" -- not a dark, ominous cloud to keep men away. Not like the Old Covenant, where a cloud over Sinai terrified the people. The New Covenant is bright, inviting, ready to give revelation.

Secondly, we see in the beginning of this passage that Jesus took the disciples up the mountain to pray with them, but they fell asleep. Had they stayed asleep, they would have completely missed the amazing blessing that God had prepared for them! Pray through with God. Fight against the flesh, engage in the battle -- there may be a blessing awaiting at the end!

However, even though the disciples had fallen asleep and full of fear, Jesus is gentle with them in their weakness. His response is full of grace; we are told in Matthew that He touched them and told them not to be afraid. What kindness and grace!