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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Prayer for Proposal (More)

Headed back to the study to work on the "Gossip" project proposal again today. 

Pray for clarity, organization, wisdom, vision, and perseverance!  Thanks.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Explaining HT: JT

HT: JT

Ever see those letters at the end of a blog post?

Kingdom People blog explains what & who they mean with a full interview with Justin Taylor.

I've been reading JT's blog for a long time (in blog-years it's an oldie).  It's always good.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "The Cost of Following Jesus"

“The Cost of Following Jesus”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
Back to School Sunday
August 29, 2010
Luke 14:25-35


We’ve now been in the Gospel of Luke for a whole year.  It was Labor Day weekend 2009 when we began in Luke chapter 1.  And next week is Labor Day weekend again.  And we have reached the end of Luke chapter 14.

For one year now, we’ve been focusing with Luke on the person of Jesus Christ.  We call our series, “Certain of Jesus” because Luke wrote his gospel “that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” about Jesus.   Luke wrote his gospel to help us to know Jesus for certain.

Do you feel like you’ve been getting to know Jesus better?

That’s my prayer.

My prayer is that every single one of us would be growing as faith-followers of Jesus Christ.  Growing more certain of who He is, what He wants from us, and what He gives to us.  Certain of Jesus.

At the end of chapter 14, this Jesus whom we’ve been learning about calls for a decision. 

Well...it might be better to say that Jesus calls people to consider what it would cost to make this decision.

Jesus is being followed around by great crowds. 

He was a “rock star” of the ancient near eastern world. 

And many people were beginning to consider themselves as followers (or disciples, same thing) of Jesus.

They were seeing the things that Jesus was doing, the miracles.

They were hearing Him teach.

They were very interested in Jesus.

Now, if I were Jesus, I’d love that, and I’d eat it up.  And I’d try to figure out how to keep those crowds coming–making sure that they were happy, so that I stayed popular.

But Jesus isn’t interested in popularity.

And He’s not impressed by big crowds.

Jesus is looking for something much more important - true allegiance.

So, at this point, Jesus begins to warn the crowd about what it’s like to follow Him by faith.

He calls it, “the cost” of following Him.  “The cost.”

He tells them that there will be a cost involved in following Jesus by faith, and if they were serious about becoming His disciples, they would need to count that cost first, in advance.

“The Cost of Following Jesus”

Ok.  So, what does it cost to follow Jesus by faith?

#1.  ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.

Did you hear that there in verse 33?  “Any of you who does not give up EVERYTHING he has cannot be my disciple.”

Absolutely Everything.

That’s the cost of following Jesus.

Jesus starts with something near and dear to all of us.  Family.  V.25

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.’”

Those are very strong words.

Now, they aren’t as strong as they might sound to us.

Jesus doesn’t want us to hate our family absolutely.

Jesus wants us to love our families.  He tells husbands to love their wives and wives to love their husbands. And parents to love their children. And children to honor their parents.

He loved His own mother.  He loved His half-brothers.

This is not talking about absolute hate.  It’s talking about relative hate.

[And I don’t mean hating your relatives!]

I mean that in relative comparison to how you love Jesus, it will seem like hate how you love your family.

If you love Jesus with first priority then it will seem like hate how you love your own flesh and blood.

Now, loving Jesus like that will only help you to love your family the way you should!

But the opposite is a real danger.

There is real danger in loving your family so much that Jesus takes a distant second place.  And He will not be second.

So, in comparison to Jesus, we are called to hate our families.

That’s a big cost.

Heather Joy.  I love you.  And in comparison to loving Jesus, I hate you.

Robin, Andrew, Peter, and Isaac.  I love you.  But in comparison to loving Jesus, I hate you.

And I want you to hate me, too.

Because I want you to love Jesus more than anything.  And I want you to be His disciples.

In this context, if you became Jesus’ follower, your family might disown you.  They may not be happy that you’ve chosen this path.  And the family at that point in time was very powerful.  Like it is in other parts of the world right now.

In some places in our world right now, if you become a faith follower of Jesus, then your family will hold a funeral for you.  And in some places, they will try to get you dead for that funeral.

And Jesus wants us to love everyone.  Even our enemies.  But in comparison to how we love Him, it should look like hate for our families.

That’s a real cost.

If you are considering following Jesus, you need to know that up front.

Jesus doesn’t put this stuff in the fine print at the end of the contract.  This is front and center.  Jesus wants your surrender and your full allegiance.

Of course, it’s deeper than family.  Jesus wants us to hate ourselves.  Our very pown lives!  Did you see that in verse 26?

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate...[his family]...–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

Crosses are for dying.

They don’t serve any other purpose.

Jesus is talking about a death to self.
A death to our own comforts.
A death to our own agenda.
A willingness to suffer for Jesus.
A willingness to follow Jesus into suffering, persecution, even death.

It’s not just family that it will cost.  It will cost us life.

Now, again, this is not a maudlin self-loathing.

“Oh, I just hate myself!”

But compared with how I love Jesus, it would look like hate for myself.

In reality, this is the way to gain your life.

But it’s choosing Jesus above yourself.

And Jesus calls us all to make that choice with our eyes wide open.

You don’t back into follower-ship.  You don’t back into discipleship.

You don’t one day find yourself saying, “Hey!  I guess I’m a follower of Jesus now!”

You have to understand what it will cost.

It will cost absolutely everything.

That’s why Jesus calls for an analyzing of the cost.  Verse 28.

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?  For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'”

We’ve all seen construction projects like that, haven’t we?

The ground is cleared.
The hole is dug.
The foundation is laid.

And then it just sits there and sits there and sits there.

Because the total cost wasn’t considered.

Jesus wants His followers to know the costs of front.

It will cost you absolutely everything.

Are you willing to give that up?

We call that “giving it all up” – “repentance.”

And it begins at the start of the Christian life, and it’s something that Jesus is constantly calling us to do.

Martin Luther said that the Christian life is a “race of repentance.”

It begins with repentance and it continues with repentance until we reach glory.

Jesus tells a second story to illustrate this counting of the cost of following Him.  V.31

“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

That’s quite a picture, isn’t it?

A king with 10,000 men.  Of course, he’ll go to war, right?!

10,000 men!

But what if the other king has 20,000 men?

Well, I’ll have to think about that.

Counting the cost.

And the cost is absolutely everything.

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

Have you counted that cost?

If you are considering becoming a faith follower of Jesus, you have to understand that Jesus demands everything.

Jesus changes everything.

When He enters your life, your life will never be the same again.

And you have to know that.

If you come to follow Christ, you can’t assume that it’s going to be “business as usual” from here on out.

Instead, you can assume that everything is going change.

Has everything changed for you?

If it hasn’t then maybe you are Jesus’ disciple.

Everyone falters at discipleship.  No one follows Jesus perfectly.

But all of Jesus’ genuine disciples have decided to leave everything behind to follow Him. 

Count the cost.

It’s absolutely everything.

But.

And this is all important.

Jesus isn’t warning them because following Jesus isn’t worth it.

He’s warning them so that they know what they are getting into.

But He knows that it’s all worth it.

He knows that He’s worth it all.

What is the cost of following Jesus?

#2.  ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Absolutely nothing at all.

And I mean that in two ways.

First, Jesus paid it all.  We will pay nothing.

It’s important when studying Jesus’ call here to consider the radical cost of followership, to not get the idea that this “cost” is something that we will “pay” to earn God’s favor.

There is nothing that we can pay to earn God’s favor!

Jesus paid it all.

The cost of our salvation was paid in FULL by the Lord Jesus Christ at the Cross.

Salvation is a free gift.

We will do nothing to earn it.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Free to us.

At great cost to Him.

Jesus paid it all.

There is absolutely nothing that we will pay to earn eternal life, God’s favor, God’s blessing, and heaven.  Absolutely nothing.

But to receive that gift, you have to open heart for it.  You have to open your hand for it.

Can you receive something if you’re hands are already full?

If you have your hands full with the garbage bag, can you receive a tray full of delicious food?

No.  You have to let that garbage go, drop it, to open your hand to receive the gift.

Does dropping that garbage earn you the gift?  No.  But you have to do it to be able to receive.

That’s what repentance is.  It’s opening your hand and dropping whatever you have been clinging to: your family, your comforts, your possessions, your agenda, your sin, your very life.

To receive the free gift that is being offered you.

Jesus gave up absolutely everything so that you and I would have to pay absolutely nothing.

The second way in which the cost of following Jesus is absolutely nothing is that you have everything to lose if you don’t–because He is worth everything.

Jesus is worth everything.

That’s the implicit argument that Jesus is making.

He doesn’t want his followers to doubt that it’s worth it.

He’s telling them by asking them to count the cost to SEE that He is worth it.

To choose Him over everything else.

Because Jesus is worth it all.

Jesus is worth losing family.

In Matthew 19, Jesus says, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”

It’s all worth it.

We got a prayer letter this week from Kim Cone, our missionary to Africa.

And one of the things he said in it was that a highlight of their recent time here in the States was a reunion, “in Wisconsin with 125 people who had spent a part of their lives in the Ubangi province of the Dem. Rep. of Congo.  What a “family”!” he says,   “Time and time again, shared memories of both light and heavy experiences, endless hymns ... and heartwarming bear hug after bear hug brought tears of joy to our eyes.  Indeed, to those who may lose family in following Him, God has promised to multiply family!”

It’s all worth it.

He is worth it.

Not just family, but life.

Jesus said in Luke, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

You don’t actually give up anything when you follow Jesus.  You gain everything!

But if you choose against Christ, then you lose everything.  Look at verse 34.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’”

I think that here Jesus is still talking about the choice of following Him or not.

If you choose to follow Him, then you are like salty salt.  Potent stuff.  Able to season and preserve.

But if you choose another path, it’s like salt that has lost it’s flavor.

It’s useless and worthless and tossed out.

You lose everything.

Jesus is worth everything.

If you lose Him, you’ve lost everything that’s worth having.

We need a church of salty Christians.

Not just people who say that they love Jesus.

But people who, by faith and faith alone, love Jesus and Jesus alone.

They love Jesus so much that everything else takes a very distant second place.

Willing to give up everything to lose nothing.

Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

As everyone heads back to school this week, let us be firmly convinced in our own minds that Jesus is worth it all and decide to follow Him.


Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Jesus and the Judgment to Come
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

He Is No Fool


“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

From the journals of Jim Elliot.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Unpacking Forgiveness


Unpacking Forgiveness: Chris Brauns from Peacemaker Ministries on Vimeo.

Great book. Good video by e-friend (someday we'll meet in person). Wish I could make it to the conference.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus at the Party"

“Jesus At the Party”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
August 22, 2010
Luke 14:1-24

A couple of weeks ago, we saw that the Lord Jesus loved to talk about the Kingdom of God.  The reign and rule of God in His people.  A kingdom that is already here but not yet here in its fullness.  A kingdom that starts out small but grows hugemongous!  A kingdom with a narrow and closing door.  A kingdom that is broad and joyful.

The kingdom of God was one of Jesus’ favorite things to talk about.

We learned then that this kingdom is so full of joy that one of Jesus’ favorite analogies for the kingdom is a what?  A feast.  A banquet.  A party!

And we said then that chapters 14 and 15 are going to largely be about the joy of that kingdom, about those feasts.  The Kingdom as a joyful feast – a party.

Well, that starts today.  And it starts, appropriately enough, with Jesus Himself at a dinner party.

Think about the last party that you attended.

What it was like?

What are parties like?

What are the regular features of a party?

Well, people for one.

And normally, food, right?

And the whole idea is fun and enjoyment in being together.

Now, imagine Jesus at this party. 

Would that party have changed at all if Jesus (before His Cross and Resurrection) had been at that party with you?

Everything changes when Jesus comes to your party.

In today’s passage, Jesus came to a party hosted by a prominent Pharisee.

Oh boy, how fun, eh?

We’ve learned that things are tense whenever the Pharisees are involved.

In fact, it looks like Jesus has been invited to this party to keep an eye on Him.  And maybe even catch Him in a trap.

This party was being held on the Sabbath.

And we’ve run into the Sabbath before in the Gospel of Luke.  That was a day of rest. I think that a party was appropriate on the Sabbath.

But the Pharisees had lots of rules of what you could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath, and they were watching Jesus like a flock of hawks to see if He would break the rules.  V.1

“One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.”

What will Jesus do and say at this party? 

Well, there is someone at the party who is suffering.  Maybe he was planted there by the Pharisees.  We don’t know.  But he was suffering.  V.2

“There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy.”

Dropsy, also called edema is a medical condition of swelling. Swilling of the limbs and an excess of bodily fluid. It’s no fun.

And Jesus’ compassion starts right up.  What will He do?

What do you think?

He’s going to heal the man.  Even if it means getting into trouble with the Pharisees.  As we’ve seen, they didn’t think that healing should be done on the Sabbath.

But Jesus is not ashamed or afraid of them.  In fact, He gets right into their faces.  V.3

“Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?’  But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away.  Then he asked them, ‘If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?’  And they had nothing to say.”

Jesus is saying, “C’mon!  Where is your compassion?  Do you care more about an animal than you do a suffering man?”

And they don’t have any way to answer Him.

Things can be awkward at a party when Jesus is there.

Jesus sees this lack of compassion, and He also sees some ugly pride.

He’s watching people at the party, and they are picking out for themselves the best seats.  The seats of honor, the ones closest to the host.

And He can tell from their choices that they are full of pride.  V.7

“When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable:  ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.  If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.  But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”

This is our first point of application from Jesus at the Party.

#1.  TAKE THE LOWEST PLACE.

This is a call to humility.

Jesus isn’t just teaching about social etiquette.  He’s teaching about the Kingdom.

But He starts with social etiquette.  Very practical.

When you are a guest at a party, don’t pick the best seat out for yourself.

Take the lowest place.

That way, your host can elevate you.

And you won’t be embarrassed if he has to de-elevate you!

This isn’t new.  Proverbs chapter 25 says the same thing:

“Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, ‘Come up here,’ than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman”  (Prov 25:5-6).

Take the lowest place.

But Jesus isn’t just talking avoiding embarrassment or about social etiquette.

He’s talking about humility.

Humble yourself.

God requires it.  Humility is the way of the Kingdom!  V.11
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Does that sound familiar?  Peter and James picked it up for their books.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

The only way up in the Kingdom of God is by going down.

Take the lowest place.  Be humble.

Now, almost everyone agrees with that!

But that’s not what most people really believe.

It’s not what the world tells you, and it’s not what the world practices.

The world says that it is a dog-eat-dog world.

It’s a self-promotion world.

It’s get ahead of the rest of the rat pack world.

This doesn’t mean to be a door mat or to be down on yourself all of the time.

But it does mean to intentionally take the lowest place.

To put others ahead of yourself.

To get a sober view of yourself and to serve other people.

Have you ever been to a party where people are doing that?

When everyone is looking out for each other?  When everyone is serving one another.

Did you see the dessert?  Can I get you a piece?

Where do these chairs go?

Here you sit here.  I’m going to sit over there at the floor.

It’s awesome when you have humble people at a party.

And the same is true in all of life.

God gives grace to the humble!

But He opposes the proud.

I feel sorry for these Pharisees whose lives were just focused on themselves.  “I’m the center of attention here!  Pay attention to me!  I’ll sit here, thank you very much.”

God apposes the proud.  He who exalts Himself will be humbled.

What can you be doing right now in your life to take the lowest place?

Dads need to do this with their families.
Kids do, too.

It’s putting other people.  It’s thinking about someone other than yourself.

And it’s so hard for most of us to do.


Take the lowest place.

#2.  INVITE THE OUTCASTS.  V.12

“Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’”


If verses 7 through 11 were about what to do and not do as a guest at a party, then verses 12 through 14 are about what to do and not do as a host.

Jesus says that hosts should not invite “friends, brothers, relatives, or rich neighbors.”

Now, that doesn’t mean to never have a party with those people there.

Jesus had parties with all of those sorts of people.

But Jesus is saying that those kinds of parties don’t get you anywhere with the Lord.

Those kinds of party-guests can pay you back in kind.  Quid pro quo.  I scratch your back, you scratch mine.

A self-ish motive can prompt you to throw that kind of a party.

But Jesus says to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” [Now, remember that phrase: “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”]

In a word: the outcasts.

The folks who can’t pay you back.

Jesus is calling us to be generous and compassionate.

Find the people who can’t pay you back, and that’s who you need to show love to!

Anyone can throw a party for their friends.

You be different.  Throw a party for the needy.

This week, I was introduced to a program called Second Harvest Mobile Food Bank.  It’s a truck of groceries that shows up once a month in a community and folks who are having trouble making ends meet can show up and take home a grocery cart full of food. 

Neat idea!  Maybe we can get involved in it in some way.

Jesus is calling us to be generous and compassionate for the needy, the outcasts.

The folks who can’t pay you back.

Last Monday, I saw our church do that.

We had a group from Young Life, which is a youth ministry, drive in late on a Monday night (actually by the time they got here it was early on a Tuesday morning—5am!) and spend the rest of the night here at church.

And our fabulous Hospitality Team fed them all breakfast on Tuesday morning.

And they took showers in the Ladies’ Room here. [For the guys who don’t know it, there is a shower in the Ladies’ Room at Lanse Free Church.  I don’t know why we don’t get a shower in the Men’s Room.  I would have thought we’d be stinkier!  But who knows?]

I was so proud of our church for sponsoring this group of kids from Chicago.

There were two van-loads of young people.  And I know for a fact that a number of them had never been out of the city before.

I think it was a little spooky for them to be here in the country with us.

And our folks just showed them LOVE.  And fed them and sent them on their way with prayer.

And we didn’t expect them to pay for it.  Or to re-pay us some day in kind.

But we do expect to be blessed.  Just not right now.  V.14

“....invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’”

You will be blessed if you are compassionate now.

God rewards those who are generous with what they have NOW.

And He rewards them THEN.

This is the exact opposite of the Pharisees, isn’t it?

They weren’t compassionate to this man with dropsy in their own home!

There will be no reward for stinginess.

Back in February when you were raising some money to send to Haiti to bring relief after the earthquake, I was playing basketball with some guys.

And they were talking about the whole thing.  And one of them said, “It doesn’t do any good to send money there.  They will just waste it.  I say that we don’t bother.”

Now, he’s right that just sending money without discretion doesn’t really help.

But he had no compassion for the plight of those men, women, and especially children who were suffering.

“The poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.”

Invite the outcasts!

And that, I think, is literal, too.  We should be doing that as Christ-followers.

We should be inviting those sorts of needy people to our tables.

I’m sure that the details will change from person to person and situation, but the call on our lives does not change.

Invite the outcasts.

Heather and I have a child, a young lady now, that we sponsor through Compassion International in Haiti.   We’ve been doing it ever since we lost our firstborn through stillbirth in 1999.  Her name is Christine.

I’m so glad to send that check every month.  It’s like she’s sitting at our table, and we’re eating with her.

Do I expect Christine to repay me?  No.  Never.

But I look forward to the reward that comes at the resurrection.

In the Kingdom of God.

Now, one of the people at this party that Jesus is at has figured out that Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God.

So, He thinks that Jesus will like this.  V.15

“When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’”

How do you think Jesus will respond to that?

I might expect Him to say, “Amen!”

Because it is certainly true.

But I think that Jesus knew that this man had a faulty assumption operating.

This man was probably assuming that he was going to eat at that feast without humility and compassion and without coming to Christ.

They probably all thought that.  They probably all assumed that they were going to the Party in Heaven–the Kingdom of God!

So, Jesus responds with this parable.  V.16

“Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.   At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' 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.'  ‘Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.'  ‘Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'   The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.'  'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.'  Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.  I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'”

#3.  MAKE NO EXCUSES.

Come to Christ.

Jesus realizes that He has a teachable moment on His hands.  So, He ratches up this conversation to another notch.

He tells a story of a man who wanted to have a great banquet.

A hugemongous party!

And He sends out invitations.  That’s normal, right?

And He gets back RSVP’s.  People have said they are coming.

But on the day of the party, he sends his servants to tell them, “It’s party-time!”

And the guests make lame excuses.

I have bought a field, and I must go see it.  Huh?  If you bought it already, why do you need to go now?

I have just bought 10 oxen.  I just bought a new truck.  I need to try it out.

Can’t that wait?

I just got married.

Well, bring her along!  Didn’t you know about the party?  Didn’t you already say that you’d come.  Was this marriage a surprise?

These are lame excuses.

And all excuses that keep us from coming to Christ are lame excuses!

These guys didn’t want to come.

Sin is irrational.  It doesn’t make sense.

Have you ever fell into a sin, and say, “Why did I do that?  It doesn’t make sense.”

Well, that’s because sin doesn’t make sense.  Sin is fundamentally irrational!

Why would we go against God?  Why would we do what doesn’t make sense?

Why would we NOT want to join His kingdom?

Every excuse is lame.

Clearly, these folks had something that they wanted more than they wanted the party with this man.

And that’s the case today where people are making excuses and not coming to Christ.

Something has caught their attention and has become a false kingdom for them.

Are you making excuses?

What’s your excuse for not coming to Christ?

For not feasting with Him every day?

In this story, those men stand for the Pharisees.  They thought they were IN, but they were actually OUT.  They assumed a place at the table at the Party of God.

But they were rejecting Jesus, and He is the way in.

So, this man goes after some more guests.  It’s very surprising in the story.

Who ever heard of getting guests for your party this way?

Drive downtown and see who you can bring in.

And did you notice who He sends them to get?  V.21

“The poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.”

Sound familiar?

The outcasts.  The Gentiles.  The ones that weren’t invited at first, in the same way.

Go get them!

And after you’ve some (v.22), there is still room.  Go get some more!  V.23

“Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in [persuade them!], so that my house will be full.  I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'”

They will miss out.  But my house will be full!

Make no excuses.

And go tell people about Jesus. And bring them in.

Bring in them outcasts.

Where are you in this story?

We’ve been learning in our Sunday School class to ask that question when we present the gospel.

Where do you see yourself in this story?

I want to see myself as a humble person like in verses 7-11, giving up my chair for someone else.

I also want to see myself as a compassionate person, like in verses 12-14, inviting in the outcasts and being generous.

But before I can be those things, I have to see myself as in verses 21, the outcast myself.

“The poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.”

That’s me.

I wasn’t invited to the great banquet the first time. I’m not Jewish.  I’m not part of the original Israel!

But here I am, in the kingdom, and anticipating the joy of the feast of the kingdom of God!

I was brought in late.

And I’m so glad to be here.

Where do you see yourself in this story?

Are you humble?  Do you take the lowest place?
Are you compassionate?  Do you invite the outcast?

Are you making excuses?

Or are you one who has been brought in so that His house will be full?

Jesus Christ died on the Cross to bring many to His banqueting table.

You are invited to come and feast with Him.

It requires repentance and trust.  Turning from sin and trusting in the Savior.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been.  God’s people come in from the strangest places!  “The roads and country lanes!”

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been.  What matters is where you are going.

Don’t miss out.  Stop making excuses and come on in to Christ!

Be with Jesus at the Party.

Friends, we’ve got to stop making excuses and start inviting more people to this party.

He is still telling us today at Lanse Free Church, “There is still room.  Go out and make them come in so that my house will be full.”

Yesterday, our family got a pool table for our basement.

And I had hired a couple of guys from Altoona to help me get it down there.  A couple of guys who are experts at that sort of thing.

And the night before, I had prayed for a chance to share the gospel with them.

And one of them seemed very interested in spiritual things.

Can I ask you to pray for him?

He doesn’t live very far from where Mark Petras and our Altoona Church plant is meeting in Hollidaysburg.  In fact, he said that he might go there this morning to church!

I admit to being almost chicken to talking with him about the gospel.  I kept looking for a chance but not taking it.  But I knew that I was just making excuses and I need to take the plunge and really share something with him.

And I got the opportunity to tell him right before He left that it doesn’t matter where you go to church, what matters is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

And He seemed interested in knowing more.

I would LOVE to get to the Jesus’ table at the Kingdom of God, the party of parties forever and sit down next to this man and eat with him.

“My house will be full.”

We need to stop making excuses and invite people to come to the party with Jesus.

Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom

Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising KingdomJesus and Jerusalem

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Prayer for Proposal

Writing my "Gossip" project proposal today.  Pray for clarity, organization, wisdom, vision, and perseverance!  Thanks.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mark Petras in the News

Our friend Mark Petras, church planting pastor of Crossroads Community Church in the Altoona area, was spotlighted on Friday in the Altoona Mirror.

My son Isaac saw the article and said, "I think Pastor Mark is in the newspaper because he's the best pastor in the world."  I know that Mark's people are blessed.

Pay no attention to the title.  I sounds as exciting as "Grass grows."  But the article is good.  Enjoy.


[Matt's Messages] "Jesus and Jerusalem"

“Jesus and Jerusalem” 
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
August 15, 2010
Luke 13:31-35

Last week, Jesus was teaching about the Surprising Kingdom of God.  How the kingdom of God is not what we would expect.  The kingdom takes us by surprise.

For example, it starts out small and then grows huge.

And, it has a very narrow door but that door opens into a broad and joyful kingdom.

The Kingdom is surprising.

The door to the kingdom is not only narrow, but it’s closing.

When Jesus was teaching, the door was closing, especially for the nation of Israel.

The nation of Israel had been given such amazing promises to be fulfilled in their Messiah, but they were on the verge of rejecting their Messiah.

And the door on the kingdom was about to slam shut.

Leaving many outside where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Remember that from last week?

Well, these next 5 verses take place at that same time.

When you first read this paragraph by itself, it seems little mystifying.  What exactly is Jesus talking about?

But when you realize the context is the closing door of the kingdom, some things become clearer and you can begin to see the heart of our Lord Jesus.

I’m going to call this message, “Jesus and Jerusalem.”

And while this doesn’t tell us everything about the relationship Jesus has with Jerusalem, it says an awful lot.

And I think it says an awful lot to us today, as well.

Today, I want you to see the heart of Jesus.
                       
I want you to see, perhaps in a new way, or in an old and forgotten way the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This text, these five verses, reveal the heart of Jesus.

And if you’re looking, you can’t miss it.

Every week, when I am preparing a message for you, I think of it as a nourishing meal.  I’m like a chef, getting together a nourishing, sustaining, tasty, attractive meal for you on Sunday mornings.

And one of the things I’m always looking for as a main ingredient is that I can give you something that will help you to get through the next week.

Because you don’t just information about the Bible.  You could get information somewhere else.

I do give you information, but I’m more interested in transformation and in nourishment. 

Fuel. Something to get you through the week ahead of you.  Grace.  Power.  Enablement.  Something strong and solid to give you confidence and hope and joy and power for living for the next seven days.

And this week, I think that that is a glimpse of the heart of Jesus as revealed to us in Luke 13:31-35.

Today, I want you to see the heart of Jesus.

Only two main headings this morning.  One about Jesus and one about Jerusalem.

Here’s number one.  The first thing I want you to see.  And if you don’t get anything else, I want you to get this one.

#1.  UNDAUNTED JESUS.

Jesus undaunted.  Unafraid. Unshaken.  Unworried.  Unstoppable. 

Undaunted Jesus.  Let’s look at that.  V.31 again.

“At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.’” Stop there for a second.

Now, does anything about this set-up seem funny to you?

Are the Pharisees Jesus’ friends?

Well, I’m sure that a few of them were.  Definitely some were eventually converted.

But since when do the Pharisees care about what happens to Jesus?

Since never, right?

In the Gospel of Luke, Pharisees are opposed to Jesus.  And they will soon begin to plot His demise.

So, I doubt that this apparent concern for Jesus’ health is sincere.

Maybe they wanted to get rid of Him from their territory, and so they used this information about Herod wanting to kill Jesus.

Or maybe, they wanted to move Him out of Galilee (where Herod Antipas ruled) down towards Jerusalem where they had more power to do something about the threat that Jesus posed to them.

I don’t know, but I don’t think there is any love lost here, and I don’t think they had a great motive for this warning.

But think about that warning for a second. V.31

“Herod [the tetrarch, son of Herod the Great] wants to kill you.”

In one sense, Jesus could say, “What’s new?  I’ve had a Herod out to kill me since I was born!”

But in another sense, this could be a little scary.

“Jesus, Herod has taken out a contract on you.”

He wants you dead.

Imagine if someone told you that the President of the United States of America wants you dead.

Personally. He knows your name.  Doesn’t like it. And wants you dead.

How would you feel?

You’d be wanting to move to Canada real quick, wouldn’t you?

And you wouldn’t feel safe there, either, would you?

“Jesus, Herod wants to kill you.”

Now, I think it’s really revealing how Jesus responds.

Jesus is undaunted.  V.32

“He replied, ‘Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'”

Jesus is unfazed.  “Oh, you come from Herod.  Okay.  I’ve got a message for Herod.  Tell him, I’m going to move at my own pace, on my own schedule, on my own mission, for my own purpose to achieve my own goals.  He doesn’t bother me.”

Jesus calls Herod a fox.

This is not a term of endearment.

It’s a term of disrespect.

Our family has recently come to understand this term, “fox.”

Back in May, we owned 15 chickens.  We now own 5 chickens. 

At night, we can sometimes hear a little fox family having a happy little picnic at our expense.  “Yum. Finger-licking good!”

Foxes are cunning.  Herod was cunning.
Foxes are destructive.  Herod killed everyone that got in his way.
Foxes scare their prey and leave them shaken.  Herod wanted Jesus to be shaken to the core.

But Jesus was undaunted.

“‘Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'”

You can’t stop me.

I will continue to fulfill my messianic ministry.  Today and tomorrow (I think that means, right on schedule.)

And on the third day (when I’m done with that), I will reach my goal.

The King James says, “I shall be perfected.”  Meaning, my mission will be complete.

Jesus is undaunted.

And He’s undauntedly headed towards Jerusalem.  V.33

“In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day–for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”

Here’s that 1, 2, 3 pattern again. Today, tomorrow and day 3.  I think that later readers like us can see the 3 day pattern of His death and resurrection lurking in these words.

But His basic message is that He will not stop until He’s fulfilled His mission.

And He can’t even die until He reached Jerusalem.

Herod won’t kill Him up in Galilee.

No, He’s going to die in the place where God’s prophets die–Jerusalem.

Now, that’s a slam on Jerusalem.  How would you like that as the slogan for your town?  “Jerusalem–where the prophets go to die!”

Jesus will say a lot more about Jerusalem in just a second, but think about this for just a little bit longer.

Jesus is using irony.  He knew that He could die in the North.  That He had to go to Jerusalem to do His dying.

So, that helps him to not be afraid of Herod Antipas.  He is safe.

But see where does choose to go...

Where is Jesus headed?

He is headed to Jerusalem.

He is so brave.  He is so loving.

Jesus chose to go to Jerusalem knowing full well what awaited Him there.

He chose it.

He was following the dangerous plan of His Heavenly Father.

V.33 “In any case, I must keep going...” Must.

It is the will of my Father.  And I choose it.

I must keep going and ultimately reaching Jerusalem to die there.

Undaunted Jesus.

Do you remember the story of Abraham and Isaac? When Abraham took Isaac up the mountain-side because God had told him that He wanted Abraham to sacrifice his son?

What did Isaac know at that point about this?

He carried the wood and the fire.  But he didn’t know what was going to be sacrificed?

“Father, where is the lamb?”

Jesus knew Who the lamb was going to be.   [Idea taken from Kent Hughes (pg. 105) who got it from Alexander McClaren.]

And He was undaunted.

Now, here’s where it gets nourishing.

I want you to see the heart of Jesus.

Can you see Jesus choosing this hard road...for you?

This is love.

This is Jesus’ love for you.

He didn’t stop.  He didn’t pause.  He went to Jerusalem for you.

He didn’t stay safe.  He didn’t play it cautious.  He didn’t hedge His bets.

He was undaunted in His pursuit of your salvation.

The Old Testament has a word for God’s love.  It’s HESED.

It means covenant love or covenant commitment.

It’s often translated “unfailing love.”

Jesus love for you is undaunted.

Can you see and feel the undaunted love of the Lord for you?

That will feed you for a week.  (And for a life time.)
That will get you through whatever you’re going to face in the next 7 days.

The undaunted love of Jesus for you.

What are you facing this week?

Trouble at work?
Trouble at home?
Trouble in the neighborhood?
Trouble at the hospital?

Jesus kept on going today, and tomorrow and then He reached His goal.

For you.

And that is enough to get you through whatever you are facing.

The undaunted love of Jesus.

Our part is to receive that love.  To turn to Jesus and trust Him for it.

Jerusalem, at this point, was not willing to do that.

Second and last main heading:

#2.  UNWILLING JERUSALEM.  V.34

“O 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, but you were not willing!”

Now, here, Jerusalem the city stands for more than the city, I think.

I think it stands for the nation.  Like Washington often stands for the U.S.

Jesus loved Jerusalem and (see His heart here?) often longed to make her safe and secure, and protected, and warm, and nurtured, and loved like a mother bird with her young.

But Jerusalem was rejecting Jesus.

He wasn’t the Messiah that they wanted.

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

His own did not receive Him.

Look at how Jesus felt about these people.

Want to know how Jesus feels about the lost?

His emotions are complex with some deeper and more ultimate than others.

But look at what He says about these people.  How He laments!  How He suffers in love for them.

“O 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, but you were not willing!”

That’s how Jesus feels about the lost who are rejecting Him.

Look at what you give up if you are unwilling to receive Jesus.

Being gathered to Him like a mother hen gathering her chicks under her wings.

That’s a beautiful picture of safety and warmth and welcome and protection.

Don’t you want that?

Jerusalem did not.  “You were not willing!”

And they suffered for it.  Justice.  V.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.'’”

In the year 70 AD, the Romans came and reduced Jerusalem to a pile of rubble.

Their “house was left desolate.”

The Pharisees have come to Jesus and told Him that He’s in danger.

But the opposite is actually true.

Jesus says that it is they who are in danger.

If they are unwilling to receive Him as their Savior and their Lord.

And that’s still true today.

If you are unwilling to receive Jesus as your Savior and your Lord then you are in grave and perilous danger.

Your house will be left desolate.

The door to the kingdom will shut in your face and you will miss the feast.

You will be outside with the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

But you don’t have to be.

You can be willing.

You can be gathered in and safe under the wings of Jesus.

“[Jesus] came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

But that’s not the end of the story!

“Yet to all who [did receive] him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.”

To those who receive Him.

Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
                   
It sounds like a bumper sticker, but it is the real and honest truth.

No Jesus.  No peace.
Know Jesus.  Know peace.

Jesus went undaunted to the Cross to pay the horrible price for our sins.

We must be willing to receive Him and get the peace that He alone can give.

I want to be under Jesus’ wing.

Don’t you?

Can you see the heart of Jesus?

I think that the last sentence is a little glimmer of more hope.

Jesus has told them that they are desolate. The door to the kingdom is closing and soon will be shut.

And He says, “I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

When is that?

Well, at least it happened in part on Palm Sunday, right?

They were shouting that with their palm branches.

The people there were recognizing that Jesus was, in fact, the true messenger of God.  The true Messiah of God.

The One who comes in the name of the Lord.

It’s a quote from Psalm 118 which may have a further prophetic message.

There will be a day when ethnic Israel will turn, as a whole, to her Messiah.

Our prayer group saw that this week in Romans 11.  “All Israel will be saved.”

There is coming a day when many, not few, will be able to sing with Psalm 118.

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD.
From the house of the LORD we bless you.
The LORD is God, and he has made his light shine upon us.
With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures [undaunted!] forever.”

Amen!

Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom
Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies
Set Free By Jesus
Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pointing to CCEF Articles

Some of you faithful readers have asked when I am going to post my own thoughts and not just link to CCEF Articles.

Answer:  I don't know.  I have thoughts, but they're half-baked.  And I'm trying focus on different things right now.

And the stuff coming out of CCEF right now is (as we've come to expect):  wise, loving, engaging, and helpful.

So enjoy it. 

I sure am.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom"

“Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
August 8, 2010
Luke 13:18-30


Last week, we resumed our study of the Gospel of Luke–which we are calling “Certain of Jesus”–by reading the story of the bent-over woman that Jesus healed.  She was set free by Jesus.

And when this happened chapter 13, verse 17 says that Jesus opponents were humiliated but that the people were delighted with all of the wonderful things that Jesus was doing.

They were getting foretaste of the kingdom of God.

Ever since Jesus arrived on the scene, He’s been talking about the Kingdom of God.

And He’s been bringing it.  He’s been bringing the Kingdom of God with Him.

And we know why that is.  It’s because He’s the king!

In today’s passage (verses 18 through 30), Jesus teaches some more about this Kingdom of God.

This active reign of God where God’s will is present here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

This kingdom of God that is here now in part with the coming of Jesus but is not yet fully here like it some day will be.

It’s already but not yet.

Already here but not yet here in its fullness.

Jesus teaches more about the kingdom of God.

And today, He teaches more about how SURPRISING the kingdom is.

The Kingdom of God is surprising.

It is not always what we would expect.

The kingdom of God takes us by surprise.

“Jesus and the Surprising Kingdom.”

Three things this morning.
                   
Three surprises about the kingdom.

#1.  THE SURPRISING KINGDOM STARTS SMALL BUT GROWS HUGE.

V. 18

“Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?  It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.’”

Jesus casts around for a good analogy to describe the surprising kingdom of God.

And He lands on the mustard seed.

The background picture for this slide is a mustard field (I think) that Heather took on our vacation in Alberta, Canada.

Heather grew up with miles and miles and miles of prairie on every side.

With yellow fields.  Some canola from which we get our oil. And some yellow fields full of mustard plants.  Not necessarily the same mustard plants as Jesus is talking about but from the same family tree.

Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.

What do you know about mustard seeds.

Here is one right here.

Tiny, huh?

The mustard seed is proverbially tiny.  Small.  Seemingly insignificant.

My kids would say, “Eensy.”

But what happens to this seed?

It grows.  And it becomes a plant.  And then a tree.  V.19

“It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”

This is probably describing the plant Sinapis Nigra, a member of the mustard family that can group to ten feet tall (Bock, 1225).

From eensy weensy to big enough to become a safe home for birds.

That’s a surprise!

The surprising kingdom starts small but grows hugemongously!

Our Lord uses a different simile in verse 20 and 21 to make the same point.  V.20

“Again he asked, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.’”

You thought that a mustard seed was small!

Yeast is really tiny. But it has a big effect.

It gets worked into the dough and expands and grows and grows and the bread rises.

Small but ultimately powerful.

Jesus says that’s what the kingdom is like.

It starts out small but inevitably becomes huge.

Now, what should knowing that do for us today?

Well, I think it should encourage us, especially when things don’t seem very big or very flashy or very successful.  When things don’t seem to be going well.

When it doesn’t seem like God’s will is being done on Earth as it is heaven.

We have to remember that the kingdom starts small but grows huge.

Jesus’ followers did not expect a small kingdom.

They expected the King of Israel come blasting in and tossing the Romans out on their ears.

They expected the King of Glory but they didn’t expect Him to come riding in on a donkey.

They should have.  The Old Testament is full of prediction of a kingdom that starts small but inevitably grows unbelievably huge.

Remember Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?

The big statue with different kinds of building materials and then what comes and knocks it down?

A little tiny rock, right?

And then what happened to that rock?

It grew and became a mountain and then filled the earth!

The kingdom probably didn’t seem like that much, in some ways, when Jesus’ followers first started preaching about it.

12 men who believed that Jesus had risen from the dead.

And then 3,000 and then more and the message spread throughout the Roman world.

Small but then growing.

And now what?  Millions of people call Jesus Lord throughout the Earth.

And someday?  Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is King.

The surprising kingdom starts small but grows huge.

The same is true in our personal lives.

Does it seem to you right now that the Kingdom of God has come to your life?

“Well, I guess, yes, I know it has.  Jesus has changed my life.  He’s in my life.  Yeah.”

But this is not all that it shall be!

Right now, it might be a mustard seed or a piece of yeast.

But the Kingdom grows.

Be encouraged!  Things are not always as they seem.

God is at work.  And the Kingdom GROWS!

People are being added to the kingdom every day.

Sometimes it seems like Christianity is on the decline.  And in places in the world, it is, including Europe and maybe here in America.

But in other places in the world, Christianity is booming!  God is at work. 

People are being added to the kingdom every day.

The mustard seed will grow inevitably!  Until the birds of the air perch in its branches.

However, it’s not easy to get into this kingdom.

That’s surprise number 2.

2. THE SURPRISING KINGDOM HAS A NARROW AND CLOSING DOOR.

Look at verse 22.

“Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem.  Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’”

Someone has heard all of the warnings that Jesus has been giving.

Jesus has more warnings to come. Luke is full of Jesus warning people.  We’re going to see that more and more in the coming weeks.  Notice that Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem.  Jerusalem and what is going to happen there will be the topic of next week’s sermon.  And it is full of warning.

And someone picks up that Jesus doesn’t expect everyone to get into the kingdom.

Now, all good Jews expected that they would get into the kingdom.  After all, the kingdom had been promised to them.

But are only a few people going to make it through the judgment and be saved into the kingdom of God?

Jesus doesn’t answer the question directly, but he uses the question to challenge his hearers to repent.  V.23 again.

“Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’  He said to them ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”

The surprising kingdom has a narrow entrance into it.

In some way, it’s not easy to enter.  Not everyone gets in.

Not everyone gets in.

“Many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”

And more than that, the door is not only narrow but closing.  V.25

“Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' ‘But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.'”

The door is narrow and it is closing.

This was true for Israel then and it’s true for people now.

The way into the kingdom is narrow.

Now, what does that mean?

I think it means that you have to repent to get into the kingdom and that’s hard for us to do as proud people.

It’s not that you have to go through a bunch of hoops to enter the kingdom.

It’s simple - repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

A child can do it!

But you have to turn from your sin and humble yourself before God and receive the free gift that Jesus provided you upon the Cross.

You don’t get into the kingdom of God by any other way.

There is no backdoor.  No side door.  No alternative entrance.

You have to come in this narrow way.

It’s not automatic.  It is not tied to your race or parentage or background or tradition.

It required you to repent and receive Jesus.  To enter by the narrow door.

Many people are trying to get into the kingdom by any other way.

But God has only one way into His surprising kingdom.  And it’s hard only because it’s hard for us to open our hands and receive.

We want to justify ourselves.  We want to do it our way.

But Jesus says, “Squeeze in here. Come in my way.”

Or else.

And the day will come when the door will close.

Make every effort to enter.

That doesn’t mean “work for your salvation.”  That would fly in the face of everything else he’s said.

It does mean to force yourself to repent and turn to the Savior.

Before it’s too late.

Notice the excuses that people offer to the house-owner (God) in verse 26.

“Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.'”

We know all about you.  You lived here.  We are familiar with you.

You have to let us in.

There will be people when the door closes to the kingdom that say, “I went to church!  On Christmas and Easter!  Every year!  Every Sunday!

I know about Jesus.  I never denied Him.  I believed in God in my own way.

I took communion.”  V.27

“‘But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!'”

It’s not enough to be familiar with Jesus.

You have to know Him personally.

It’s not enough to go to church.

Going to church is wonderful.  I think everyone should do it.  In fact, I think everyone should be an active member of the church.  I think God commands it.

But going to church doesn’t make you a believer.

Just like living in a garage doesn’t make you a car!

You go to church because you a believer.  And that comes from having a personal love relationship with Jesus Himself.

He is the narrow door.

John 10:9 “I am the [door]; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”

Make every effort.

Have you entered the kingdom yourself?

Do you know Jesus?

Have you come in by the narrow door?

We want everyone here to know Jesus personally and to have put your faith personally in Jesus as your Savior and Lord.

At some point, the door is going to slam shut.

And I want everyone here to be safely INSIDE.

Because (v.28) outside, “‘There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.”

Unimaginable sorrow and unimaginable agony to be excluded from the kingdom of God.

Now, that might surprise you.

You might have a picture of God that He is always forgiving and never brining judgment and wrath.

But the kingdom is surprising.

God is holy and oh so patient.  But there will be one day and end to His patience and a terrifying wrath for those who have not come into the kingdom by the narrow door.

This should also fuel our evangelism.

We need to tell people.

People have got to hear this news.  That the door is narrow and closing.


Who have you recently told about the surprising kingdom of God?

A few of times on our recent vacation, I sensed a possible opening to share about Jesus.

A couple of those times I stumbled in and said a little something.

A few of those times, I chickened out.

How will people know about this narrow and closing door unless we tell them?

Tell people.

If you don’t know how, you might want to consider joining our Sunday School class.  We’ve been studying “How To Share Your Faith,” and it’s been great to practice a simple outline explain the gospel to someone and help them cross the finish line of faith.  To enter into the surprising kingdom.

Because here’s the great thing.

Even though the door is narrow, the surprising kingdom is astonishingly broad and joyful!

#3.  THE SURPRISING KINGDOM IS ASTONISHINGLY BROAD AND JOYFUL!

God is taking all kind of people into His surprising kingdom!  V.29

“People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.  Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.’”

Talk about a surprising kingdom!

The door may be narrow, but the kingdom is broad!

People will come from every point on the compass: east and west and north and south.

Which are we?

Where is Pennyslvania in relationship to Israel?

We’re West, right?

I know, if you go around the other way, we’re East.

So we’re covered either way.

But it’s surprising that we are included.

Pennyslvania was not one of the original twelve tribes of Israel!

Did you know that?

We are the last.  But we are first.

Many in Israel were given the promises at first, but they are last, even thrown out because they did not come in by narrow door of Jesus Messiah.

But, astonishingly, we have!

We are included in the kingdom!

And so are believers in China (that’s East!) and Africa (that’s South) and in Europe (that’s North).

“People will come from east and west and north and south (how incredibly broad), and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

I love that word “feast!”

The kingdom of God will be one major party!

It will be so full of joy that Jesus’ favorite metaphor for it is a feast.

We’re going to see a lot more about that in the next few chapters.  Luke 14 and 15 are full of joy in the kingdom and feasting.  So, buckle up your seatbelt for more thinking about that.

But right now just be content to thank God for your inclusion in the broad and joyful kingdom to come.

Praise God!

Praise God that you and I are included through Jesus.

And start anticipating what is to come.

It might seem small right now.  Smaller even than a mustard seed.

But (Surprise!) someday it will be huge and exceedingly joyful.

Praise God.

Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom

Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and TragediesSet Free By Jesus

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Sunday, August 01, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Set Free By Jesus"

“Set Free by Jesus” 
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
August 1, 2010
Luke 13:10-17

It is so good to be back with you again today!  It’s always fun to go somewhere, but there is no place like home!

And I’ve enjoyed listening to the Word of God at different churches the last few weeks, but I’m so excited to get back to preaching the Word of God here at Lanse Free Church!

I’m rested up and ready to go!

Back to the Gospel of Luke.  Almost a year ago, we started on a journey through the Gospel of Luke which we are calling “Certain of Jesus.”

Back in chapter 1, Luke said that the goal of his gospel was to “write an orderly account...so that you might know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

And we’ve been learning a lot about Jesus.

Today, we’re going to look at one story about Jesus in Luke 13, picking up in verse 10, right where we left off back in June.

This story takes place on a Sabbath, the weekly Jewish day of rest.

And in this story, Jesus does a miracle.  He sets a woman free.  He sets a woman free from a debilitating and crippling handicap.

And she is “Set Free By Jesus.”

Jesus is teaching in one of the synagogues.  This is actually the last time that Jesus is recorded as teaching in one of the Jewish synagogues.

And it’s a Sabbath. The end of the week. The day of rest that God gave to His people.

And there is a woman there who has suffered an incredible amount.  Look at verse 11 again.

“On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.”

Can you imagine?

Some of us here struggle with back pain.  And others have other physical ailments and limitations.

This woman didn’t just have a pain in her back. She was bent over double.

The King James Version translates this, “bowed together.”  She was permanently disabled and bent, I don’t know how far down, but enough that her life was constant suffering.

Have you ever tried to take a drink of water from a bent over position?

Every drink of water she took was like that.

Luke says she “could not straighten up at all.”

And this had been her situation for 18 years.

18 years!  Can you imagine?  That is suffering!

And Jesus miraculously relieves her of this suffering.  V.12

“When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’  Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.”

“Immediately she straightened up and praised God!”

18 years of suffering are over in a moment.

18 years of being bent double are finished with a word and a touch from Jesus.

“Immediately she straightened up and praised God!”

Wow!

If you and I would have been there, our eyeballs would have just jumped out of their sockets!  And she praised God and the people were delighted that she was set free!

But not all of the people.

There were some people who were mad about this.

Can you imagine that?

It’s hard enough to imagine someone being healed like this.  It’s even harder to imagine someone not liking it.

But that was the case with the synagogue ruler and, apparently, others, most probably the Pharisees.  V.14

“Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’”

What was this man’s issue?

What day it was.

There are 6 days to do work.  That’s what the Bible says.

So, come to be healed on those days.  Notice that this man doesn’t talk to Jesus.  He skips Jesus and talks to the crowd.

Maybe he didn’t think he could win that one.  And he couldn’t.

Go away and suffer on the Sabbath!  There is time enough for healing on other days.

Follow the Rules!

Well, there is actually no problem with the rules. The problem is that this man didn’t understand what the rules were for!

What the Sabbath was all about!

It was about REST.  Not just the cessation of work.  But REST.

It was for people’s good.  Not a day to prolong suffering!

This man was mad.

I think Jesus gets mad.  Jesus gets mad at his lack of compression and his lack of compassion.  And not just his, but anyone who was thinking the same way.  V.15

“The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? [They are all tied up. They need a drink. You lead them to water.  And it’s not work.  You untie, you unbind your animal and give them cool refreshment on the Sabbath.  That fits with the Sabbath! V.16]  Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham [not just a beast but a daughter of Abraham, the father of faith, the father of the Jews] whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’”

This is what the Sabbath is for!

What is more fitting on the day of rest than to provide rest for this woman?

It’s a perfect thing to do on the Sabbath.

To be set free by Jesus.

Now, what does this story have to do with you and me?

Let me suggest three simple points of application for our lives.

#1.  CARE.

The thing that stands out for me the most in this passage is the compassion of Jesus for this woman.

Jesus truly cares about her suffering.

What she was going through mattered to Jesus.

That’s important because Jesus cares about your suffering, too.

Jesus has compassion for you.

Jesus cares about you.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

Jesus cares about you and what’s going on with you.

He has compassion for your suffering.

I just got back from a month of vacation, so I don’t know what’s going on in most of your lives.  I look forward to re-connecting with every single of one you over the next few weeks to check in on you and know what your life is like right now.

But I’m sure that a number of you (all of you?) are going through something difficult right now.  We are fallen people living in a fallen world under a curse.

The Bible says that we will experience suffering as sure as sparks fly upward.

We’ve mentioned a number of difficult situations just this morning during prayer time.

Jesus cares about your suffering.

He knows that it hurts, and He cares.

Sometimes just knowing that can make a huge difference.

My favorite mother-in-law is going through suffering right now.  The Lord has been very gracious to her and extended her life.  Most people who have her rare type of cancer don’t make it through a complete round of chemotherapy. They are normally dead by this point.  But she’s not just alive, she’s thriving.  She got to travel with us and do everything that we did during our vacation and finished her 5th and last chemo treatment. And in a few weeks is planning to go to Hawaii on her 40th wedding anniversary.

At the same time, she’s suffering.  She’s in a good deal of pain and discomfort and the doctors have told her that there is no cure. They can hope for it slow down but that it will catch up with her.

But Linda knows that Jesus cares.

And He cares with all of the authority of the Lord of the Universe.

Do you see all of that authority in Luke 13?  He just says the word and touches this poor woman, and she is immediately, instantly healed.

That’s authority!

Jesus needs that authority because of the enemy that He is battling.

Did you catch why this woman was bound?  Why she was crippled?

Verse 11 says that a spirit had done it for 18 years.  And Jesus lays the cause at Satan’s feet in verse 16.  “Satan has kept [her] bound for eighteen long years.”

There is a hint here of the ongoing battle behind the scenes.

Was this woman’s condition a medical condition or a spiritual one?

That’s a false dichotomy, a false choice.  It’s not either/or.  It’s probably both/and.

In her case especially, her medical condition was the result of a demonic spiritual force at work in her life.

Part of the unseen battle that goes on behind the scenes in all of our lives.

Paul says that our battle is not ultimately with flesh and blood but with the rulers and authorities, the powers of the dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

And Jesus sets His authority against Satan’s authority and wins every time.

Jesus cares.
Jesus cares about your suffering.
Jesus cares whether or not you are bound by Satan.

Jesus cares.

And so should we.

I think the major application of this passage comes not from the healing of the woman, but from the anger of our Savior at the apathy of the synagogue ruler.

He didn’t care.

He didn’t care about this woman, about her suffering, about her predicament.

All he cared about was his rigid application of the rules.

And Jesus said, that’s not the point!

That’s not he point of the Sabbath.

And it’s not the point of the Savior.

Remember back in chapter 4 when Jesus announced His mission?

That happened in a synagogue, too.

He read Isaiah chapter 63

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’”

That’s what I’ve come to do.

To set people free.

And if that’s what Jesus cares about.

Then that’s what we should care about, too.

We need to care about people and their suffering.

Who, in your life right now, is suffering, and you need to up the care-quotient?

Who do you need to show the love and compassion of Jesus to right now?

Jesus wants us to care.

People matter so much to Him.

I don’t know how you are supposed to apply this to your life, but I have a few ideas for mine.

We all have people that we’d rather ignore or avoid.

I get the feeling this lady was one of those people for the ruler of this synagogue. 


Maybe he didn’t like looking at her deformity.  Maybe he’d stopped thinking about her as a person. He thought of her as a problem.

That’s how many people think about Muslims right now in our country.

And Mexicans.

In one of the trains that I was in last month, there was graffiti on the wall of the bathroom.  It said, “Stop all immigration now in America.  Muslims and Mexicans get out.”

That was not written in the Spirit of Jesus.

I wanted to say, “You get out!”

Now, both Muslims and Mexicans (and everyone else!) need to obey the laws of our land, including the laws of immigration.

But they are people, not problems.

And Jesus wants us to care about them.  Not just our rules.

People.

People matter to Jesus.

Jesus cares and so should we.

Again.  Who, in your life right now, is suffering, and you need to up the care-quotient?

Who do you need to show the love and compassion of Jesus to right now?

It might be someone you didn’t expect.

It’s so good to know that Jesus cares about us in our suffering! 

And we must pass it on to other people.

#2.  PRAISE.

I’ll bet you expected that one.

Did you see what this woman did the moment she was set free?  V.13

“Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.”

Praise God!

Praise Jesus!

“If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed!”

Praise God!

You know that this being bent over double is just a picture of a greater binding, isn’t it?

It’s a picture of the binding of sin.

Sin is not a small thing that is smaller than suffering.

Sin is bigger than suffering.

Suffering is ultimately caused by sin (not always by individual sins but by the presence of sin in the world from Adam and Eve on).

Sin is big and terrifying and binding.

That’s what Satan wants us to be bound by more than anything else!

But Jesus sets us free from sin.

Jesus died to set us free from sin.

On the Cross, He paid the penalty for our sin.  He took it on Himself.

And for all who turn from their sins and trust in Him, the Savior, He sets free.

And He says in John chapter 8, “If [Jesus] sets you free, you will be free indeed!”

And that gives us every reason to praise Him!

And to live in the freedom that comes from Jesus.

Praise!

That’s what we did this morning as we sang.

And it’s what we’re going to do in a moment at the Lord’s Table.  Praising God that Jesus has set us free, indeed.

And let me give you #3 and last.

#3.  CHOOSE.

Look again at what happens in v.17 after Jesus blasts the synagogue ruler for his apathy.  V.17

“When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.”

Do you see how there are only two sides?

There is no neutral.

You can’t be on the fence with Jesus. There is no fence.

You are either in or out.

With Him or against Him.

And you have to choose.

And the book of Luke heats up, there is going to be more and more of a separation between those who believe and follow and those who reject and, ultimately, conspire to kill Him.

Choose.

This woman didn’t have to choose to be set free from her infirmity.

But we have to choose to be set free from our sin.

We have to place our trust in Jesus as Savior and as Lord.

And we have to choose to follow Him.

And make His name known in the world.

Choose.

There is not neutral.

It’s either delight or humiliation.

We have to choose.

And I say, “Let’s choose Jesus.”

Messages So Far In this Series:

Certain of Jesus
The Back-Story of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Jesus - A Very Special Child
Preparing the Way for Jesus
Jesus Is the Son of God
Jesus in Galilee
Jesus and the Sinners
Jesus Brings Real Joy and Rest
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part One
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Two
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Three
Jesus' Followers Are Different: Part Four
Amazing Jesus
Disappointed with Jesus
Loving Jesus Much
Jesus' Real Family
Jesus Is Lord
Who Is Jesus?
Following Jesus
Sent By Jesus
Q&A With Jesus
Sitting at Jesus' Feet
Jesus Teaches Us to Pray 
Jesus Is Stronger Than Satan
More Blessed Than Jesus' Mom

Being Real with Jesus
Jesus and Our Stuff
Be Ready for Jesus' Return
Jesus and Tragedies