Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Luke Part 44: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees!

Text: Luke 11:37-54

In this section we read of some events that occurred after Jesus accepted an invitation to dine with a Pharisee. The Pharisees were the main men of the conservative religious scene among the Jews. Jesus accepted this invitation in order to have an occasion to reveal and rebuke their sinfulness. These sins of the Pharisees are also things that we should be on watch for in our lives, and may be things that we need to repent of.

The first incident involved Jesus's refusal to perform the ceremonial handwashing. Jesus didn't do this in order to provoke a confrontation and to engage the Pharisees. He wanted to discuss their underlying sin: hypocracy, putting on an outward show in order to hide what was true inwardly.

They loved to be seen by men, to be well thought of; they treated others as the rabble. They were the academia, the elite. They would tithe minute amounts, but they left the weighter parts of the law undone. They should have been humble, loving, merciful -- all about equality, realizing we are all equal under the love of God.

Next (v45), the lawyers -- the experts on Jewish law -- get alarmed, saying, "Hey! When you say that about the Pharisees, you're insulting us, too!" And Jesus replies, "Woe to you lawyers as well!" The lawyers claimed to honor the prophets who had come before Jesus, but the reality was that they were continuing the tradition of their fathers -- to persecute and kill the true prophets.

These lawyers had the key (the Scriptures) to bring men to God. They were the experts on the Law and the prophets. But they didn't make anything clearer; rather, they hindered those who would enter in, those who were actually seeking God. They put themselves in the place of Christ, telling men, "If you do these things, you will be right with God." This is much like what the Roman Catholic Church does today!

Jesus is making it clear that this religion and nation were going to be destroyed! Yet God, in His mercy, gave them another 40 years after the time of Christ to repent.

In seeing these woes leveled at the hypocritical Pharisees, we should look at ourselves, seeking to purify ourselves and root out all that needs to be changed.

Does our living match up to our teaching? Do we forgive those who have hurt us? Are we helping others to come to Christ through our life or teaching, or are we hindering them? Are we really different from the world? Have we confronted sin in others, and did we do it in love, with the right motive?

Finally, we see the response of the Pharisees -- unbridled anger. If you have accurately proclaimed the gospel, you will receive one of two responses: repentance and faith, or wrath and rejection. There is no middle ground!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Luke Part 43: The Light of the World Has Come!

Text: Luke 11:29-36

In this passage, we see that men were, even at this point in Jesus' ministry, asking for further signs, although Jesus had given ample proof and evidence of who He was.

Jesus says that the sign that will be given them is the Sign of Jonah. Jonah was a Jewish prophet who was sent to Gentiles -- and the Gentiles received the word given. Jesus likewise would be received by Gentiles, though largely rejected by the Jews.

Jesus proclaims that those who received Jonah's message, the Ninevites, will stand up in judgment against that generation. This indicates to us that those Ninevites were truly "saved" -- they were Old Testament saints who will stand in the Day of Judgment.

Likewise, the Queen of the South (The Queen of Sheba) is given as another person who will stand in judgment for that generation. She received the truth, and was humbled by the greatness God had bestowed upon Solomon.

Notice that Jesus is teaching about a Day of Judgment. A time is coming when the Lord will put all things right. Remember that now is the day of salvation!

Then, we have in verses 33-36, the illustration of the light. This is not about us being the light of the world, rather it is a teaching that all men are in need of illumination. Christ is The Light (John 1:1) and he has not hidden the truth -- He proclaimed it! Everything about Him is light, life, love, and vitality.

The problem (see verse 34) is not with the Light itself, it is with the receptors of that Light. Their spiritual eyes refused to see, so they were filled with darkness. The illustration here further describes how if you have to grope in the darkness, you will have problems and make mistakes.

Then, Jesus makes it personal, warning: "Take heed that the light in you is not darkness." Every individual must examine himself and be sure of himself.

the Pharisees had the light of God's Word, but it was darkness to them; they even tried to mis-apply the Scriptures and use them as a weapon to trap Jesus.

Is Christ your all-in-all? Do you have the peace and joy of the Spirit? If Christ is in you, your whole being shall be full of light and truth. It is not a life of absolute perfection, but one of constant drawing to Christ, of quick repentance for sin. It is a life marked by the stirring of holiness, not by hiding in sin and darkness.

The Queen of Sheba is an application: She had heard Solomon had words of wisdom, so she sought him out and came to hear him, a local king. Will we likewise seek out the words of wisdom from Christ, our much greater heavenly King?

She had only heard reports of Solomon; she must have wondered if the reports were true. But we have God's Word, personal testimonies, and our own first-hand knowledge. Our privilege exceeds hers greatly.

She was far away from Solomon, and had to travel a long way to meet him, but Jesus is right here with us. She wasn't invited to come, but we have been invited, by Christ Himself.

What was the effect on the queen? She was awed, humbled before Solomon, and left a great gift. Not because Solomon's riches were deficient, but to show her reverence. Likewise, let us give all of ourselves to our great heavenly King in worshipful adoration!

Luke Part 42: Man Healed, Freed from Demons

Text: Luke 11:14-28

In this passage we see a man who cannot speak (and we are told in a parallel passage in Matthew is also blind) healed and freed from demons.

The immediate reaction to this from the Pharisees is that Jesus must have been casting out the demons by the power of Satan. This just shows the darkness of men's hearts -- they see a wonderful miracle performed, and the first inclination is to say Christ is evil.

Jesus's response is that this is impossible; that a kingdom divided cannot stand. Note that this is as true of Christ's kingdom as it is of the kingdom of Satan. We do not want to be those who are dividing the house of God; we want to live in love, charity, and unity with all our brothers and sisters.

Jesus then gives a discussion in verses 21 through 26, of the kingdom of Satan. He displays the devil as a powerful ruler, an armed man guarding a palace. The house represents people; those who are in the devil's kingdom are bound -- bound by sin and by Satan himself.

Evil everywhere around us; we cannot escape from dealing with the evil one. In 2 Cor 11:3, we see that Satan is deceitful and crafty. He does not appear to be the monster that he is.

The devil is fierce and cruel, and wishes to see men slay one another; he wishes to see men thrown into hell.

The devil has no power before Christ, the "one stronger than the strong man". Christ is a wonderful and merciful master. He displayed His kindness when He saved us through His grace while we were yet sinners. Christ takes the devils' spoils (people under his domain, sinners as you and I were), and "distributes them" -- setting people free and then setting them to work in their positions in the Kingdom of God.

We see a comparison of two kingdoms -- you are either with or against Christ; there can be to neutral position. You are a servant of the devil if you do not know Christ! You can be in one of two positions: safe and secure in Christ, or under the bondage of sin and the devil.

Verses 24-26 describe a person who had a moral cleansing, but did not close with Christ. Ultimately, this person fails to like an upright life and falls back into the bondage of sin.

So in this passage, we see the reality of Satan, that he will attempt to reclaim a loss. To be free of his power, see verses 28 and 29. In these verses, Jesus responds to a woman who gave a blessing upon Him and His mother. Jesus replied that the utmost blessing occurs when we hear the Word of God and keep it.

We must press on, studying the Word and seeking to keep it. In is we will see that the devil cannot harm us; we have been set free from his power. Knowing this, we can live in joy and hope!