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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2010 Advent Week #1

LEFC Family Advent Readings
Advent Week #1: “I Will Surprise You”
O Little Town of Bethlehem  - Micah 5:2-5
November 28, 2010


“Advent” means “coming.”  Christmas is coming.  Jesus has come and is coming again.

This Advent season, we are reminded of God’s promises of a coming Savior which He gave in the book of Micah chapter 5, verses 2 through 5.

God had a message for Bethlehem.  [Read Micah 5:2-5]

These words were prophesied over 700 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  The wise men were told to look for the baby king in Bethlehem because of these promises.

But Bethlehem was an unusual place for a Savior to be born.

Bethlehem was small.

Nobody really expected a Messiah to come from little old Bethlehem.

But God loves to surprise us.  He loves to make big things out of small things.

Jesus was a surprise.  He didn’t come to the strong, the beautiful, the rich, the powerful.

He came to the small, the insignificant, the humble, the weak, the undeserving.

Jesus continues to surprise us today!

Our first candle is a candle of surprise. [LIGHT FIRST CANDLE]

Over the next four weeks, while we get ready for Christmas, let us think about the surprising way that Jesus came to Earth in the little town of Bethlehem.


******************************************************************

O Little Town of Bethlehem: “I Will Surprise You”
Advent Bible Study for Families

1.  As a family, read Micah 5:2-5.  What jumps out at you?  Have every family member share something.

 

2.  What is surprising about Bethlehem as a choice for the birthplace of the Messiah?  How else did God surprise people when He sent Jesus?



3.  Jesus is still surprising us.  List some ways that Jesus is surprising to your family right now.  Thank Him for those surprises in prayer.




4. Learn the song this month.  As a family, sing O Little Town of Bethlehem.

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Reviews of "Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church"

Check out the newest book reviews at EFCA Today.

This one is on Michael Lawrence's book, "Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church."
 


Your "Gossip Stories" Needed!

Dear readers (both of you),

I'm still in need of quite a few stories about gossip (not gossip, themselves!) for my applied research project and book.

I am shooting for 200, and I probably have about 20 so far. 

Here's the description of what I'm looking for again:

- the time you passed on that juicy tid-bit when you shouldn't have
- the time you were confused about whether or not to share
- the time you said, "Stop, I don't want to hear this."
- or "Have you talked with that person about this?"
- the time when gossip caused your church to almost split
- the time you chose a "apples of gold in settings of silver" word instead of a "choice morsel."

etc.

I'm especially interested in the heart that wants to gossip.  What was the motivation? 

Why do we do it?

Leave a comment on this or email me:  pastormatt AT lansefree DOT org.


Thanks!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "The Proud, the Humble, and Jesus"

“The Proud, the Humble, and Jesus”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
November 28, 2010
Luke 18:9-17

 
One of the things that I love about this week’s passage is the same thing I loved about last week’s passage:

Luke begins the story by telling us the point.

Luke begins his story about Jesus by telling us the point that Jesus is going to make.

At least, in this passage, Luke tell us whom Jesus was addressing.

Whom Jesus was hoping to hit with this teaching.  Look at verse 9.

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable...”

Luke tells us right up front that this one is aimed at the proud.

This parable is aimed at the proud.  Those who are “confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else...”

That’s whom Jesus is talking to.

And His goal is to make them humble.

One way or another.  To make them humble.

So, let’s make this the title of our message for today:


“The Proud, the Humble, and Jesus”

Don’t you just love how Jesus teaches?

Even though He puts His finger right where it hurts the most, you have to love how He teaches.

He tells stories, stories with a sharp, scalpel edge to them.  A sharp, scalpel edge that cuts us right where the festering cancer lies.  He cut us to heal us with His stories.

In verses 9 through 14, He tells a great story about two men who are “praying.”

So, in some ways, this is like last week’s story which was also about prayer, persistent consistent prayer.

But the focus here is different.  It’s not so much about prayer as it is about the hearts of the men who are praying.

One is proud and the other is humble. And, as we said, Jesus was aiming this parable at proud people.  V.9

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:”

Now, there are two mistakes that we can easily make when we read this story.

Two mistakes that I’ve made many times.

One is to forget how Jesus’ original readers would understand the characters in it and their actions.  To get the hats mixed up.

This story is a lot like the story of the prodigal son.
It’s told, especially, to those who are considered “white hats,” but the good guy doesn’t do what they expect him to do.

And the black hat guy, the bad guy, really does what is UN-expected in this story.

We can’t miss that, or we’ll miss the true impact of the parable.

The second mistake we can easily make is to apply this story to someone else.

To apply this story to someone else.

It’s easy to put someone else’s face on the guys in this story and to really enjoy it.

“Yeah, go get ‘em, Jesus!  That’s a great story for so-and-so!”

But miss that He’s talking to us.

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable...”

We each have to ask ourselves if He’s talking to me.

Now, let’s get into this parable.  How many characters are there?

There is just two.  V.10

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”

Now, let’s get this straight from the start.

Which of these two would almost everyone who heard this story immediately think was the good guy with the white hat?

The Pharisee, of course.

This was the elder in the local church. This was the pastor of the flock.

This was the guy who was on the straight and narrow.
This was the guy you would trust with a business deal.

You’d trust his wife to watch your kids.

You knew that he was moral and upstanding.

You’d vote for this guy.  You’d trust him.

Because he was a Pharisee, after all!

Okay?  That’s how nearly everyone would have felt when this character was introduced.

Now, how about the other guy?  Would you trust him?

You’d trust him to cheat you.  You’d trust him to steal from you.

You’d trust him to sell you out to the Romans and get rich off your own people.

A tax collector wasn’t just a guy doing his job.  He was part of the legalized mob.  It was legal for him to extort large sums of money for his own pockets as long as Rome got their fair share.

Black hat.  Bad guy.

And that’s why Jesus’ story is so shockingly powerful when you hear the rest of it!

V.11.  The first character begins to pray.

“The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’”

All of a sudden, it becomes obvious that the Pharisee is not going to come out good in this story.

He’s proud, and it shows.

It says that he prays.  And, formally, it’s a prayer to God, “God, I thank you...”

But God has very little to do with this prayer, does He?
   
What is this prayer about?  V.11 He stood up and prayed “about himself.”

If you have the King James Version it says he “prayed thus with himself.”

The NASB says “to himself.”  He prayed to himself.

I think that’s true. This guy was his own god.

Notice how in two sentences of prayer, he gets his name in like five times.  “I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and (I) give a tenth of all I get.”

He is proud.

He’s probably one of those guys who is “humble and proud of it!”

He is very religious, and he wants others to know it.

He fasts twice a week.  There was only 1 fast per year that was required.  This guy fasts twice every seven days.  And he gives a tenth of all he gets.  He doesn’t just tithe his money, but probably tithes his spice rack.  

One tenth of everything!  Beyond the call of duty!

And he stands up in the temple, probably up front, and speaks about himself very loudly.  Not very impressive, except to him.

In fact, it’s sadly comical. 

And the worst thing about his pride?  It’s comparison. Comparison with “sinners.”  V.11

“God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.”

I’m better.  I am righteous.  I am good. And I can and should look down on everybody below me.

Now...

Before we go on, let’s not make the second mistake.

The first mistake would be to miss the fact that everybody’s jaw has dropped right now because the supposed good guy has just been shown to be not so good after all.

The white hat guy is the proud one?

It’s bad to be proud of being good?

The second mistake (again) is to apply this story to someone else.

Someone you can think of that appears to be good, but when you scratch them, they bleed with pride.

Don’t think about them right now.

Think about yourself.  Pastor Matt, think about yourself.

Can we be like this proud Pharisee?

Let’s ask the question this way.

Are we proud of being good?

Am I proud that I’m not a robber?
Am I proud that I’m not an evildoer?
Am I proud that I’m not an adulterer?
Am I proud that I’m not a slimy tax collector?

One commentary that I read this week said that the equivalent today in social standing of a tax collector is a drug dealer on the street corner of some inner city.

Am I proud that I am not a drug dealer or a pimp?

I might not get up in front of everybody and spout off a prayer like this!

“O God, I thank you that I am pastor in a good church full of good people in a good country.”

“I am thankful (Thanksgiving thankful!) that I am not some Muslim or some illegal immigrant or greedy corporate president or two faced politician or some trashy pornographer or abortion doctor.”

“I am thankful that I am good.”

Fill in the blank for you.

“I am proud that I am good.  I’m not like them...”    ...

But here is the real kicker of this story.  It’s when the black hatted tax collector says his prayer.  V.13

“But the tax collector stood at a distance [not up front like the Pharisee]. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'”

This man speaks up, too, and about himself, but it’s much harder to talk about your sins in public than your goodness.

“He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'”

This man was truly humble.  And he knew what he was at the core.  A sinner.

And he knew what he needed at the core.  He needed mercy.

He needed forgiveness.  He needed propitiation.  God’s wrath averted from his sin.

He needed mercy and knew that He did not deserve it at all.

He needed grace.  V.14

“I tell you that this man [the tax collector], rather than the other [the Pharisee], went home justified before God [right with God]. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Three points this morning.

They are drawn right out of what Jesus says here.  They are not fancy.

But they are good for us to hear.

#1.  THE PROUD WILL BE HUMBLED.

That’s what Jesus says in verse 14.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

That’s one of Jesus’ favorite things to say.  He said it already in chapter 14, verse 11.

It’s an irrefutable law of the universe:

“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee’s problem wasn’t so much that he was good.

Is being good bad?  Is it bad to be good?

Of course not.  Of course, it does matter why you are good.

And it does matters whether or not your goodness truly comes from God.

This guy was full of himself.

That’s what Jesus says.  He exalted himself.

And everyone who does that will be humbled. ... Sooner or later.

We need to repent of our pride.

It’s good to be good, but it’s nothing to be proud of.

And it’s nothing to put our trust in.

Remember verse 9.

“To some who were confident (trusting) of their own righteousness...”

This Pharisee knew that he had done good things (and they were good things), but it was a HUGE mistake to put his trust in them!

How good is good enough?

Was this Pharisee, at heart, a good person whosae righteousness was enough to impress God and meet His standards?

No way!  No way!

Jesus says elsewhere that unless our righteousness surpasses the Pharisees, we won’t enter in to the Kingdom of Heaven!

He wasn’t good enough.

And He didn’t go home justified.  He didn’t go home being declared righteous enough and right with God.

That should give every religious person a reason to stop and analyze their heart.

What are you trusting in for your justification?

Is it your righteous deeds?  Your own goodness?  Even goodness that you thank God for?  But you are looking at your goodness and saying, “Yes, that’s enough.  I’m confident in my own righteousness.”

Beware.

The Proud Will Be Humbled. And it won’t be pretty.

But #2.  THE HUMBLE WILL BE EXALTED.

“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Humility is incredibly attractive to God.

It doesn’t make us worthy to God.

We are not worthy!

We should stand at a distance.  We should not look up to heaven. 

We should beat our breasts and cry, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

But that’s the just the kind of heart that God loves.

He loves a humble heart.

He loves it when we call it like it is and cry out to Him for help.

It was that second man who went home JUSTIFIED before God.

And we know how that is possible.

It’s because of Jesus.

This man’s righteousness wasn’t enough either, but He cried out in humble faith to the One who could give him mercy and grace and found it at the mercy seat.

In the terms of the rest of the New Testament, He was justified by grace alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring. Simply to thy Cross I cling!

He who humbles Himself will be exalted.

And...will enter the kingdom of God.

#3.  THE TRUSTING WILL ENTER THE KINGDOM.

In verses 15-17, Luke includes another story to bring home this point about humility.

Jesus uses children as an example of humility.  V.15

“People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.”

Whoa.  Those disciples!

Can you imagine?  They just didn’t get it.

They are trying to protect the Master.

“Sorry.  Sorry, back up please.  The Master’s time is very important.  He can’t be touching children all day!  Back up.  Back up. Stay behind the line please.”

V.16 “But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. [There’s that Kingdom of God again!  Who gets the kingdom?]  I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’”

Put positively, only those who receive the kingdom of God like a little child will ever enter it.

Children are small, often neglected, marginalized, necessarily humble.

And, therefore, they are trusting.  With humble trust.

They have to be.  They cannot survive on their own.

They know that they are needy, and they look to big people to help them.

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

If you aren’t like that, then you aren’t going to see the kingdom of God.

It’s not good people who enter the Kingdom.

It’s not people with conservative, family values.

It’s not good people who enter the Kingdom of God.

It’s the humble who trust in Jesus.

What’s the application of this passage?

It’s very simple.

Humble Yourself.

And that’s for those who are already in the kingdom and those who have not yet entered in.

Humble Yourself.

If you have not yet entered into the kingdom, the call on your life today is to humble yourself and become like a little child and trust in Jesus.

Jesus came to save sinners.  Those who will admit that they are sinners and need mercy, will find it in Jesus.

Beat your breast and pray, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Humble yourself.


Don’t count in your own goodness.

Don’t be confident in your own righteousness.

I don’t care if you’ve been going to church all of your life and you’re like Billy Graham or something in your reputation for godliness.

If you are trusting in that, you are doomed. You will be humbled forever.

Humble yourself and trust in Jesus and enter the kingdom.

And you will be exalted.

We all need to hear this.

Humble yourself is not just stooping at the entrance to the kingdom to fit in the door and then proudly going about your business inside the kingdom like a pharisaical peacock!

Humility is the continuing posture of the kingdom.

Humble yourself.

Don’t forget your sinfulness.

Don’t get to bragging.

Don’t get to boasting.

Don’t get to looking down on everybody else–especially those who are worse sinners than you.

Humble yourself.

And He will lift you up.

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
Jesus and Jerusalem
Jesus at the Party
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus and the Lost: Part One
Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money
Sneering at Jesus
Jesus and the Great Chasm
Jesus Said to His Disciples...
Thanking Jesus
Jesus and the Coming Kingdom
Jesus Says, "Keep Praying"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

[Matt's Messages] "Jesus Says, 'Keep Praying'"

“Jesus Says, ‘Keep Praying’”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
November 21, 2010
Luke 18:1-8                  

In today’s passage, Jesus tells a story. 

And it’s a story about prayer.  Persistent prayer.

It has sometimes been called the Parable of the Unjust Judge.

And other times, it’s been called the Parable of the Persistent Widow.

It’s probably a familiar story to most of us.

One of the things I love about this story is that Luke tells us up front what the point of the parable is.

He doesn’t always do that!

Sometimes, he just gives us Jesus’ parables with no explanation at all!

And more often, the point is given at the end.

Here, the point is restated in some interesting ways at the end–that help us to understand it better.

But Luke tell us at the beginning what the whole point of the parable is.

Luke 18 verse 1.

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”

There is the point of the whole parable.

Always pray and don’t give up.

Do you sometimes feel like giving up on prayer?
I know that I do.  At least, when I’m being honest.

There are times when I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed, and it just didn’t seem like my prayers were going anywhere.

Like they went up to the ceiling and then bounced back down.

Man!  Sometimes you just feel like giving up on prayer.

Maybe you’ve never felt that yet, but there will probably come a time when you do, so listen up.

Jesus says to keep praying.

V.1 again.  “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”

“Always pray and not give up.”

Now, if you have the King James here, it says, “always to pray and not to faint.”

But that doesn’t mean to not pass out while praying.

It means as the NASB and ESV translate it, “to pray and not lose heart.”

To keep praying and not wear out.

To continue to be men and women and boys and girls of persistent prayer.

To keep praying.

Especially to keep praying for justice.  We’re going to see here that the main thing that Jesus is talking about is praying for justice to be done.

Not praying primarily for health or wealth or even blessing.  Which are not necessarily bad things to pray about.

But to pray for justice to come.

Keep praying.

Jesus says, “Keep praying.”

But He doesn’t just say it, He shows it.  V.1 again.

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”

Jesus tells a story.

It’s a story with only 2 characters in it.  A judge and a widow.

The powerful and the powerless.

In verse 2, Jesus introduces the first character.  The judge.  V.2

“He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.”

Uh oh!  That sounds like a bad start to a good story. 

“In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.”

That’s not the kind of judge you want to have!

Can you imagine a judge like that?

I always had a hard time imagining a judge like that until recently.

When I was growing up, I had a strong sense of authority. There might be crooked judges on television, but there probably weren’t very many of those in real life.

And I still believe that, really.  I believe that the vast majority of judges in America are trying to do a good job.

But I’ve recently had occasion to visit a courtroom, and I saw a judge in action that kind of shook my faith some in the judicial system.

It’s not as hard for me now to imagine an evil person in position of authority.

And this one is really evil person. Jesus paints him in the darkest colors.

V.2 “There was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.”

That’s a recipe for disaster.

He doesn’t care about right and wrong.  He doesn’t care about God’s standards.

And he doesn’t care about people.  He doesn’t care about justice.

The unjust judge.  Very powerful and very dangerous.

However, he has just met his match.

In verse 3, Jesus introduces the other main character of this story.  V.3

“And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'”


Now if the judge is the epitome of powerfulness, the widow is the epitome of powerlessness.

Widows had very little social standing in Jesus’ day.

With no husband, it was very hard for them to get justice.

If they had no extended family to care for them, it was very difficult for them to thrive and even to survive.

That’s why James says that pure religion indeed is to take care of widows in distress.

This widow was in distress.

Someone had done her wrong.  In fact, it seems as though that other person was continuing to do her wrong.

Her “adversary.”  We aren’t told what that person was doing except that it was against her and unjust.

Perhaps he or she was stealing from her.  We don’t know.

But it was clearly against this powerless woman and unjust.

And there was nothing she could do about it.

Except...bother the judge.

V.3 says that she “kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’”

“Grant me justice against my adversary.”
“Grant me justice against my adversary.”
“Grant me justice against my adversary.”
“Grant me justice against my adversary.”
“Grant me justice against my adversary.”
“Grant me justice against my adversary.”

Have I worn you out yet?

“Grant me justice against my adversary.”
“Grant me justice against my adversary.”
“Grant me justice against my adversary.”

V.4

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'”

I love that speech that the unjust judge gives to himself.

He holds up for a while but “finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men [He’s proud of his evil reputation!], yet because this widow keeps bothering me [“Grant me justice against my adversary.”], I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'’

The Greek there is literally means, “so that she doesn’t give me a black eye.”  And I don’t think he cared about the shame of a black eye.  He doesn’t care about what men think.

He’s concerned that this little widow will give him a TKO, a total knock out.

“She’s going to wear me out.  I’m going down for the count.

Okay, already!  I’ll get you justice. Just leave me alone!”

V.6

“And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says.”

Now, what’s the point of this story?

If I’m listening to what the unjust judge says like Jesus says to, what will I do?

Luke already told us, didn’t he?  V.1?

What was the point of the parable?  “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”

Which of the two characters are we supposed to be like?

The widow, right?

Keep praying.

Keep coming with your requests for justice.

Keep praying.

Keep knocking.  Keeping asking.  Keep seeking.

Keep praying.

Why?

Three reasons.

#1.  BECAUSE GOD IS NOT LIKE THE UNJUST JUDGE.

Do you get that?

Who is the judge supposed to be like in this story?

We are supposed to be like the widow.

So who does the judge picture?

God?

Yes!  Surprise!

But the argument is from the lesser to the greater.  Look at verse 7.

“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?”

Do you see where Jesus is going?

If the unjust judge will bring justice, HOW MUCH MORE will God do it?!!!

God isn’t anything like the unjust judge!

He isn’t unjust!  He’s just.
He does do what is right!  All of the time!
He does care about men.
He loves justice.
He hates oppression.

We are not unrelated to Him.

This widow had no relationship with the judge.

But we are called in verse 7, “his chosen ones.”

We are God’s adopted children through Jesus!

He isn’t just an unjust judge.  He is our loving heavenly Father!

Father!

So, you get the argument?  Do you feel the comfort?  You can’t bother Him by praying too much!

If you can wear down an unjust judge, why wouldn’t you repeatedly pray to a just and merciful Father?

Keep praying!

God is not like the unjust judge.

We have to get this into our heads.

Because we can get this wrong.  We can begin to think that we have to keep on praying because God is hard of hearing or because it’s only repeated prayers that get his attention.

That’s a mistake.

In his book, Reaching God’s Ear, Pastor Sam Storms asks some questions to evaluate our prayer life.

He says:

“Do we repeat a request because we think that the quality of a prayer is dependent on the quantity of the words?

Do we repeat a request because we think that God is ignorant and needs to be informed, or if not ignorant at least he is unconcerned and therefore needs to be aroused?

Do we repeat our prayers because we believe that God is unwilling to answer and we must prevail upon him, somehow transforming a hard-hearted God into a compassionate and loving one?

Do we repeat a petition because we think that God will be swayed in his decision by our putting on a show of zeal and piety, as if God cannot see through the thin veil of hypocrisy?” [as quoted in Hughes, pg. 187]

I hope not!

That’s acting as if God WAS like the unjust judge!

We should keep on coming to God in prayer because of our relationship with Him.

Verse 7.

“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? [What’s the answer to that question?  Yes, He will!  Of course He will!]  Will he keep putting them off? [What’s the answer to that one?  No.  No He won’t.]”

Now, it’s not going to always feel like that.

Sometimes, it’s going to feel like He is putting us off.

His timing and our timing often do not match at all.  V.8

“I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”

When it does come, it will seem quickly.

And in the grand scheme of things, it couldn’t come faster.

So keep praying.

Here’s reason number 2.  It’s going to sound strange, but keep with me.

#2. BECAUSE GOD IS LIKE THE UNJUST JUDGE.

In one way.

And one way only.

He will, in His timing, bring justice.

God is powerful.  God is authoritative.

And God will bring justice, vindication, vengeance if necessary.

He will bring justice.  V.8 again.

“I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”

So keep praying and don’t give up.

Now, let’s talk some more about this justice thing.

I never really got how much this parable was about justice until I studied it this week.

I knew it was about prayer, persistent, consistent prayer. 

But this week I really noticed that this prayer is primarily  crying “out to him day and night” for justice.

What is justice?

It is things being right in the world.

Justice is things being the way they should be in the world.

And right now, things are not as they should be.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed that, but things in this world are not as they should be.

Last week, we saw that the kingdom of God has come in the person of Jesus.

But that the kingdom has not yet come as it will be.

The kingdom is already but not yet.  Already here but not yet here in perfect justice.

So, you and I have to live in “the time between times.”

We have to live in the time when things are not yet as they should be but we know that it will come.

And so our prayers, often, should have this flavor to them, “Lord, mend what is broken in this world.  Set things to right.  Fix things, Lord!  Change this situation so that justice prevails!  Your kingdom come, here on earth, as it is in heaven.  And one day, will be here, too.”

Do you pray like that?

Have you given up praying like that?

Don’t stop.  Don’t faint.  Don’t lose heart.

Keep praying.  Because in this one way alone God is like the unjust judge–He will answer the continued request and bring justice and quickly!

However (v.8), Jesus turns around and asks a searching question.

He’s not done yet.  V.8

“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Remember last week, the third point?

The first point was that the Kingdom of God Has come in Jesus (the Son of Man).
The second point was that the Kingdom of God Has NOT YET COME as it will be.

The third point was that the Kingdom of God WILL COME when Jesus returns.

And until that point, He want us to trust Him.

#3.  GOD WANTS US TO KEEP TRUSTING HIM UNTIL HIS KINGDOM COMES.

Keep praying and don’t give up because when you are doing that you are trusting Jesus–faith–and that’s what He wants to find when He returns.

And this important.

Do you see whose prayers are answered?

This justice comes to those who are trusting in Jesus.

If you are not yet a believer, a truster, in Jesus, then these promises don’t apply to you yet.

You can’t know that you will get justice eventually.

Actually, you will, you will get perfect justice.  That’s what Hell is.

Hell is perfect justice meted out on people who deserve it.

But you won’t get this kind of saving justice.

That’s only for those who trust in Jesus.

Because Jesus died for justice.

He took on the just wrath of God for the sins of His chosen people so that justice would be done and be seen to be done.

And so that God could justify the ungodly.  Declare the unjust justified!

That comes by trusting in Him.

And keeping on trusting Him until Jesus returns.
Keep praying.

Jesus says, “Keep praying and don’t give up.”

Are you tempted to give up on prayer?

Don’t give up.

Because God is not like the unjust judge.  He doesn’t need wearing down.  He loves you!  So keep coming to Him like the eager Daddy He is to hear your prayers.

Don’t give up on prayer.

Because God is like this judge in just one way – He will bring justice and quickly.  So keep coming to Him with your requests that He mend the world, that He make things right again in small ways now and big ways, too and then totally some day all around the world and forever!

Don’t give up on prayer.

Because God wants you to keep trusting Him until His Kingdom Comes.

How will you answer Jesus’ question, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Keep praying.

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
Jesus and Jerusalem
Jesus at the Party
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus and the Lost: Part One
Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money
Sneering at Jesus
Jesus and the Great Chasm
Jesus Said to His Disciples...
Thanking Jesus
Jesus and the Coming Kingdom

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Breaking the Marital Impasse

Just finished reading a brief and insightful article by Heath Lambert on how complementarian marriages should work when spouses disagree.

This is just the kind of careful thought that needs to be brought into these kinds of questions.
Highly recommended reading.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nitty Gritty not Namby Pamby

As part of my research for my gossip project, I'm reading books on the topic of shame and reputation.

Some of the illustrations have been...vivid, painful, sharp, striking, and helpful.

When I get to writing the book on gossip, I want the illustrations to have a realness to them, an authenticity.  I don't want to shock or titillate, but I do want to show how this is part of the nitty-gritty of real life.

Many books in the genre that I'm working in can have a very artificial feel, namby pamby, unreal.

I want nitty gritty, not namby pamby.

Which, by the way, is another reason for readers like you to turn in a gossip story.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Following "Hot Orthodoxy"

I finally cleaned up some of the stuff "behind the scenes" here at Hot Orthodoxy.

One things was the Facebook connection via Networked Blogs.  For some reason (probably my typo), the blog was listed as matt-midchell (you'd think I could spell my own name...), so it wasn't connecting well with Facebook.

If you have "followed" this blog via that old route, you may want to choose to follow the blog again.  I think it's all "fixed."  Let me know if you have any problems.

And thanks for reading!  Coming soon...more about the problem of gossip than you ever wanted to think about!

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

“Jesus and the Coming Kingdom”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
November 14, 2010
Luke 17:20-37

If there was a short list of our Lord Jesus’ favorite topics of conversation, the Kingdom of God would be near the top.

Our Lord Jesus loved to talk about the Kingdom of God.

He loved to teach about the Kingdom of God.

Luke has already used the words “The Kingdom of God” twenty times so far in the first 17 chapters of his gospel, and Jesus spoke most of them.

The Kingdom of God.

Well, the Pharisees have heard Jesus talk about the Kingdom of God and talk and talk and talk, so they begin to press Jesus for more details about this kingdom.

And in today’s passage, they want to know when it would come.

“When will the kingdom of God come, O Teacher?”

Well, that’s a question of eschatology.  That’s a question about the end-times.  The end of the world. The fulfilment of prophecy.

And, even though it comes from the Pharisees, it’s a pretty good question.  At least, it’s one that we all want to know about.

When will the kingdom of God come?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I find eschatology to be one of the trickiest parts of biblical doctrine to figure out.

For one thing, it hasn’t happened yet.  So, you can’t go back like history and just piece it together.  It’s still future, so that makes it kind of tricky.

And there are a lot of eschatological (end-times) details to harmonize.  The Bible talks a LOT about future events and however you put them together, they all have to fit together.  So that makes it a complex job.

And there can be several different ways of putting together the prophetic information that makes some sense of it.  So very good, very godly scholars and pastors can sometimes come to very different conclusions on some of the more debatable points.  And that makes it kind of tricky, as well.

I’ve had 12 years of formal theological education, and I’ve been a pastor for about 15 years, but I don’t have all of my questions answered yet about eschatology.

However, there are some things that I think are crystal clear.

And three of them are right here in our passage for today.

Jesus teaches on the coming of the kingdom of God.

#1.  THE KINGDOM HAS COME.
The kingdom of God has already come.  Let’s see how Jesus teaches this in verses 20 and 21.  V.20

“Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation [now, I think that means, “You guys are looking in the wrong place.”  V.21] nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is [footnote: among] you.’”

There is no need to hunt for the kingdom of God because the kingdom of God is among you.  The kingdom is here.

The kingdom has come.

Now, if you have the NIV or the KJV, verse 21 says, that the kingdom is “within you.”

Now, that’s one way to translate the Greek words, but I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant.  Why?

Who is he talking to?

The Pharisees!

The aggressive, unbelieving, hostile Pharisees.

Do you think that Jesus would tell them that the Kingdom of God is inside of them?

I don’t think so.

I think the footnote of the NIV is much better.  As is the English Standard Version and the New American Standard Version, and the New Living Translation...and I found out this week, the newest revision of the NIV which is available now online and will be soon in print translates v.21, “the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

What is Jesus’ point?

How is the kingdom of present?

What is in their midst? 
WHO is in their midst?  Who is among them?

Jesus is.

The king has come, so the kingdom has come!

And the Pharisees are, as usual, missing it!

Don’t ask, “when is the kingdom of God going to come?” Don’t go running around saying, “Here it is. Oh, I think there it is!”  No.

“The kingdom of God is right here because I’m right here.  I’m the king.”

BELIEVE.

See the kingdom in the king.

The presence of the king means the kingdom is present!

I almost titled this message, “Jesus IS the Kingdom.”

The Pharisees were willfully blind to this.   Everything pointed to it.  But they would see it.

And most today are missing it, too.

Jesus is the King, and He has come, so the Kingdom has come, at least in part.

Believe.

Now, the second thing we’re going to see here is going to seem contradictory.

But stay with me.

#2.  THE KINGDOM HAS NOT COME.

Not the way it will.

There is a sense in which the kingdom has arrived with the first arrival of the king, but there is a sense which the kingdom has not yet arrived.  Not in its consummation.

The Kingdom of God is ALREADY and NOT YET.

The kingdom has not come.  Listen to verse 22-25.

“Then he said to his disciples [Note the change of audience.  He isn’t talking to the Pharisees here now.], ‘The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.  Men will tell you, 'There he is!' or 'Here he is!' Do not go running off after them.  For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.  But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

The Kingdom of God has not (yet) come.

For one thing, Jesus still has to go to the Cross.

At this point, the New Covenant, the New Deal of the Kingdom of God hasn’t been enacted yet because Jesus hasn’t gone to the Cross. V.25

“But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.”

Jesus knows what’s coming.

There is no Crown without the Cross.

First the Cross, then the Crown.

The King will die to purchase His Kingdom!

But even after that, the Kingdom will not come right away. Look at v.22 again.

“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man [the kingdom of God], but you will not see it.”

You’re going to long, to yearn, to ache for the Kingdom of God.

And it won’t be here yet.

You (disciples, remember?  Not Pharisees.  You) will “long to see one ofthe days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.”

One of the things that Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God is that there would be some kind of a delay before it came in its fullness.

Now, we don’t know how long that delay will be.  It’s been about 2,000 year so far.  And that makes some people laugh at the idea of living an expectant and ready life waiting for His return.

But that’s what Jesus said was going to happen.  It’s not like it was a surprise!

Jesus taught that there would be some considerable delay.  He didn’t say how long, and He said to stay ready (we’re going to see that in just a second), but He also said to stay patient.

BE PATIENT.

Long for the return of Christ and long for the Kingdom of God but keep waiting.

It’s not here yet.

Now, that’s hard to do.  But Jesus didn’t say it was going to be easy.

Right now, we long for the days of the Son of Man.

Don’t you long for the days of the Son of Man?

Don’t you long for the fulfillment of all of God’s promises?

The longer I live, the more I want the Kingdom to Come.

The easier it is to say, “Thy Kingdom Come!”

But it’s not here yet.  And I need to be patient.

In the meantime, there will be lots of people trying to tell you that the end-times are here.  There will be lots of date-setters and time-setters and those who have their charts and their television programs who lay out why they think that the kingdom is going to come this year or soon or whatever.  V.23

“Men will tell you, 'There he is!' or 'Here he is!' Do not go running off after them.  For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.”

Don’t worry.  If you long for the coming of the kingdom of God, then don’t worry about missing it.

You won’t miss it.  It will be obvious.  It will be like the lightning, which no one can miss.

Don’t go running after those who have their little secret Jesus to sell you.  His second coming will not be hidden.

Be patient.  Don’t worry about missing it, if you long for the coming of the kingdom of God.

However, if you do not long for the coming of the kingdom of God, then you should worry about missing it!

#3.  THE KINGDOM WILL COME.

But the ungodly won’t be expecting it.  V.26

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.  It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.  But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.  It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”

The kingdom of God is coming. And it is coming in judgment.

Jesus likens it to the days of Noah and the days of Lot.

And there are two points of comparison.

One is that both of those days were proverbially ungodly.

They were ungodly days ripe for judgment.

But also they were ordinary days.  V.27 “People were [doing ordinary things] eating, drinking, marrying, being given in marriage...”  V.28, “eating, drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.”

Those are very ungodly people doing very ordinary things.

And they weren’t ready.

They weren’t prepared.

They were pre-occupied with their little lives and unconcerned about God and indifferent to His kingdom, and they were swept away in judgment.

BE READY!

Are you ready?

I think that this is one of the clearest things that Jesus taught about the end-times–the need to be ready for His return.

I don’t understand all of the details, but this comes through loud and clear.

Are you ready for Jesus’ return?

Part of being ready means resisting the pull of possessions.

It means turning your heart towards the Lord NOW so that that it’s not tempted to turn back THEN.  V.31

“On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with his goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything.  Remember Lot's wife!”

Do you remember Lot’s wife?

She loved Sodom, the city doomed to destruction, and she turned around and was reduced to a pillar of salt.

My kids were recently at a life-sized museum of Bible people and they said that Mrs. Lot was there and she was turning around and it was really gross.  Ewww.

But it really happened.

And Jesus wants us to remember it.

He wants us to love the King and the Kingdom so much that we would not be tempted to turn back.  “Remember Lot’s wife!”

Don’t go back.

There won’t be time.  V.33

“Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.”

Don’t love this life.  Prepare for the next one.

Be ready.

Because the judgment is coming. It will hit unexpectedly and it will bring a final division of the human race.

There will be a separation of those who love Jesus and those who do not.  V.34

“I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.  ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked. He replied, ‘Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.’”

Gruesome, eh?

The judgment that is coming will be gruesome...and just...and sudden...and permanent.

There are only two sides.

And we have to choose now.

There won’t be time then for choosing.

The time for choosing sides is now.

You can’t sit on the fence.  There is no fence.

There are those who belong to Jesus and those who do not.

Are you ready to face Him?

The Kingdom will come.  Are you ready for it?

Most of the Pharisees were not.

They couldn’t even see that the Kingdom had been inaugurated with the coming of the King.

They didn’t long for the kingdom to come.

They were rejecting Jesus and were going to send Him to the Cross.

Do you long for the Kingdom of 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
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
Jesus and Jerusalem
Jesus at the Party
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus and the Lost: Part One
Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money
Sneering at Jesus
Jesus and the Great Chasm
Jesus Said to His Disciples...
Thanking Jesus

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Contradictions in the Bible?


Great article by Matt Perman responding to the Fast Company article and nifty graphic about (apparent) contradictions in the Bible.  A great overview of the supposed problem.

Also fun to read (though more snarky and therefore less helpful, in my opinion) are these responses from Justin Holcumb and Douglas Wilson.

It's important to not worry about this but also to speak a clear and confident word back to those who don't yet get just how trustworthy the Bible really is.

First NNIV Improvement

My first week referencing the Newest International Version, and I've already found a real improvement!

This week's message is on Luke 17:20-37.  Verse 21 is very unfortunately translated in the original NIV.  "Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation,  nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you" (vv.20-21, emphasis added).

Yes, "within you" is a possible translation of the Greek.  Very likely translation in thousands of other places. But, I seriously doubt that Jesus was telling the unbelieving, hostile Pharisees that the kingdom of God was inside of them!

More likely was the NIV footnote, "or 'among' you."

That's what I'll be pointing out tomorrow morning and making the point that the Kingdom of God was present right there and right then because JESUS was present right there and right then.  The presence of the King means the Kingdom is present!

So, when I checked the NNIV in my study today, it said: "Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst” (vv.20-21, emphasis added, with a footnote for the original reading).

Much better.  Thank you!

Friday, November 12, 2010

New NIV (Does that make it the NNIV?)

The NIV, the main version of the Bible that I preach from each Sunday, has continued to be updated throughout its history (some updates have been better than others).

Recently, the newest version (Newest International Version?) has been digitally published (along with translator's notes).

Below is a video introduction to this NNIV by my former professor, Doug Moo.  I'm looking forward to having this as another tool in my toolbox for interpretation of God's Word.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Short Review: Marriage Matters

Winsome, hearty, clear, humorous, and thoroughly biblical, Marriage Matters: Extraordinary Change Through Ordinary Moments is a realistic look at marriage and what it takes to truly improve our relationships.

Winston Smith starts with a theological foundation--our marriages aren't just about us, they are about God and His extraordinary love. Then he takes that gospel foundation and builds a strong household upon it. The second and third sections are not just theoretical but intensely practical, and he demonstrates all of the principles he is teaching through real-to-life illustrations from the perspectives of both the wife and the husband.

This is Smith's first full-length book, and, at times, it feels kind of like a textbook. After all, he is a seminary professor! But unlike most books on marriage, this is the book that I would want my "class" to read. A bonus for me is that I've had Smith as a teacher and taken the class from which this book arose. This is really good stuff.

Consider this exhortation from pages 36-37: "If your marriage is going to change, you need to change. It's easy to waste time waiting, hoping, perhaps insisting that your spouse change. Sadly, you have no power to make another person change. When you begin your quest for change by looking at yourself and your own need for change, then you can have hope. You have a responsibility and also the ability to change. But you can only do that in a lasting, meaningful way as you turn from your own idols and learn to live a life of true worship." Challenging and hope-giving in the same paragraph!

As a pastor, I've searched high and low for a "go-to book" on marriage--one that I could agree with nearly 100% of its counsel and one that was good to read by both the husband and the wife. Now I've found it. Highly recommended.

[Matt's Messages] "Thanking Jesus"

“Thanking Jesus”
Certain of Jesus:  The Gospel of Luke
November 7, 2010
Luke 17:11-19


This is one of my favorite stories about Jesus.

And I’m especially glad that we’ve reached this story in November just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, because this story is all about “Thanking Jesus.”

I was kind of hoping that this story would fall on the Sunday right before Thanksgiving, but this is the day that God has given for us to study it, and I also think it goes really well with Communion.  So, I’m glad that it’s today.

Thanking Jesus.

We live in an age of ungratefulness.

Now, I don’t know that there ever was an age of thanksgiving, but I do know that people in our society are increasingly ungrateful.  We just expect to be given good things and the words “Thank you” are not nearly enough on our lips.

And Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, should be the most thankful people on planet Earth.

This is a story about one man who was very thankful to Jesus.

He was an unlikely candidate.  He was a leper, an outsider to all human society because of his skin disease and unclean status.  And more than that, he was not a Jew. He was not one of Jesus’ race.  He was a despised Samaritan.

But he was thankful. And he had every reason, as we will see, to be thanking Jesus.

I want us to look closely at the two main characters: Jesus and the Thankful Leper.
Before we get to the thankful leper, I want to us think about Jesus here in this story.  What is revealed to us about Jesus?

Remember, our series is called “Certain of Jesus.”

What do we learn here in this story about Jesus?

Well, first of all, Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem.  You see that in verse 11?

“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.”

This is the third time that Luke has mentioned that Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem.

And it’s not really that geographically Jesus is nearer to Jerusalem.  He’s been nearer in previous chapters.  But Luke is making a different point.

He’s saying that Jesus is set on going to Jerusalem.  Jesus knows where He is headed.

He is headed to the Cross.

He is headed to passion week.  He is headed to suffering. Being betrayed, being arrested, being tried, being mocked, being scourged, being killed.

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem.

And He knows it.  And it must be weighing on Him.
But still He goes.  And...still He stops to show mercy and compassion to these lepers.

V.12

“As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’”

It’s really sad that they had to stand a distance.  That was normal. That was the law. If anyone got close to them, they were supposed to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!”

But they did more than that.  They called, “Help!  Help us!  Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”

And Jesus does.  We can’t miss the compassion of Jesus here. Even though He is on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus is full of compassion.  He is moved by their plight and by their appeal.  And He does something.

He sends them on a cleansing mission.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t just heal them.  He requires faith and obedience.

He requires them to trust Him and obey Him.  Sound familiar?

He is going to cleanse them.  He is going to heal them.  But He is actually calling to more than that.  He is calling them to discipleship.

He asks them to trust Him and to obey Him.  V.14

“When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’”

He doesn’t say, “You are healed.”  He says, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

Why is that?

Well, back in Leviticus 14, the law said that if someone was healed of an infectious skin disease (and that would be pretty rare!), they were supposed go show themselves to the priests, who would certify that they were now clean.

And after an 8 day ritual that included sacrifices, the cleansed leper would be able to be restored to society–especially to his family!

And Jesus says, “Go do it.  Trust me. Go see the priests.”

Trust and obey.  There is no other way to be happy with Jesus than to trust and obey.

And they do.  We don’t know what was running through their minds, but they take Jesus up on His command, and they go.  V.14 again.

“When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.”

I love that.

Last month, the speaker at our Pastors and Wives Retreat, Jeff Youell, spoke on this story, and he asked the question, “Have you ever wondered how many steps it took before they were healed?”

“Was it 5 or 10 or 200?”

“...as they went, they were cleansed.”

The skin disease was reversed!

Unhealthy skin became healthy again.
Uncleanness was washed away and became clean.
Perhaps festering body parts that were wasting away were regenerated and grew back on their faces, on their extremeties.

We don’t know exactly what happened, but we know that it was amazing!

This is a miracle.

And Jesus did it.  What do we learn about Jesus here?

He is not only determinately on His way to Jerusalem and full of compassion for the suffering, and requiring faith and obedience.

He is full of power!  Wonder-working power!  Miracle-working power.

That’s Jesus.  Wow!

We’re supposed to say, “Wow!”  When we read verse 14.  “They were cleansed.”

Wow!

And we’re also supposed to say, “Thank you.”

And only one of them does.  V.15

“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him–and he was a Samaritan.”

Thanking Jesus.

We’re going to talk about this guy in a just a second.

But for now, I want us to keep looking at Jesus.

What do you see here about Jesus?

Do you see Jesus accepting thanksgiving and even worship?

This man throws himself at Jesus’ feet and thanks Him.

Can you imagine what that would have been like?

Have you ever thrown yourself at someone’s feet?

It looks a lot like worship!

Now, it may be that this man was just treating Jesus as a great king and not yet as his God.  He might not know yet Who Jesus really is.

But Jesus doesn’t say, “Get up.  I’m just a man.  I’m just a tool of God.”

No, He accepts this man’s reverence and thanksgiving.

And He actually expects more!  He asks three follow-up questions.  V.17

“Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’”

Here’s something to see about Jesus.

He is disappointed.

One out of ten?  10 percent?  That’s the only return?

10% thankful?

It’s disappointing to Jesus.

‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’”

Jesus isn’t whining.  But He’s not impressed either.

Only 10% of the cleansed lepers were thankful.

And Jesus cares.  He wants the cleansed lepers to be thankful–to give praise to God!

We can be certain Jesus cares about that.

Now, let’s turn to the other main character–the one we’ll call the Thankful Leper.

We don’t know his name.  We’re never told.

And of course, he’s not a leper any more.  But the “Thankful Former Leper” sounds dumb.

So, let’s think about him for a few seconds.

Of course, in this story, he’s the one more like us, right?

Or at least, the one we should be like.

Sometimes, we’re like the other 90%, aren’t we?

Three things about this guy:

#1.  HE IS LOVED.

This man has every reason to be thankful, doesn’t he?

He was a Samaritan (and remember, the Jews and the Samaritans basically hated each other).  He was despised.  He was rejected.  He was unclean.  He was “outside.”  He was outcast.  He was alone.

Probably the other 9 lepers were Jews.  That’s why Jesus is surprised in verse 18 that only the foreigner came back.

He’s not complaining about the foreigner.  He’s complaining, He’s disappointed in His kinsmen according to the flesh.

But this Samaritan leper has been brought near.

He has been cleansed.  He has been accepted.

He has been made whole.

He has been loved.

And that is the chief reason for us to be thankful people, ourselves.

We have been loved by Jesus.

We who were rebel sinners are now seated at His table.

“Jesus, Thank You!”

We have been loved.

Do you feel the love of Jesus today?

I want you to feel it.

I want you to know how much the Lord loves you.

Do you feel like an outsider?

Like a leper?

The social equivalent of this is probably someone with HIV.

Or someone who is of a different and despised race.

Do you feel like someone on the outside looking in?

Jesus loves you!

He has compassion for you.

He died for you!

He set His face towards Jerusalem for you!

And He didn’t stop until He achieved His goal.

Jesus loves you.

He is full of power.  And if you belong to Jesus, then you are no longer unclean but clean.

No longer unforgiven but forgiven.

No longer unacceptable but accepted.

No longer far away but near.

No longer an outsider but an insider–a family member, a son or daughter of God!

You have been loved.

You are loved.

And therefore you should be thankful.

Number two:  The former leper was thankful.

#2. HE IS THANKFUL.

Verses 15 and 16 are the best this story.  Let’s read those again.

“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him–and he was a Samaritan.”

I love that “loud voice” in verse 15.

The Greek words are basically “mega” and “phone” where we get our megaphone from.

This guy was shouting!  “Wahoo!  Praise God, I’m healed!”

And he’s so physical.  He throws himself at Jesus’ feet and thanks Him.

This guy “got it.”

He understood what had happened to him, and he was truly thankful.

This is why we sing at church and not just speak in a regular voice.

Because some things need song.

And some things need shouting.

If you shout at a football game, then you should shout in thankful worship.


We say, “Yes!  Yeah!”

We can’t help but praise. We can’t help but be moved by some feat at sports.

At least men do.

We should be so moved when being thankful.

That’s what it means to be a part of the 10% who are truly thankful.

Are we thankful?

Do our lives show it?

Not just, are we loud.  But do our lives show that we “get it.”

We have been loved with a great love, so great should be our thankfulness.

Christians should be the most thankful people in the world.

And here’s the biggest reason why.

Because we’re saved.

#3. HE IS SAVED.

The leper was saved, not by works, but by faith.

Look at the tag line at the very end of the story.  V.19.  Don’t miss this.

“Then [Jesus] said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’”

And you might have a footnote for that last phrase, “made you well.”

It could also be translated, “your faith has saved you.”

It’s the same word we often see for salvation, “sozo.”

It can also mean healed.  And that’s the basic idea here.

But, I think there is something more.

Because this man “got it” and had faith in Jesus and praise God and wanted to be thankful, Jesus is saying that he is healed in a bigger sense than just physically.

He is saved.

Not by works.  But by faith in Jesus.

And Jesus alone.

And the same is true for you and me.

If we have faith in Jesus then we are saved.

And there is no greater reason to be thanking 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
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
Jesus and Jerusalem
Jesus at the Party
The Cost of Following Jesus
Jesus and the Lost: Part One
Jesus and the Lost: Part Two
Jesus and the Lost: Part Three
Jesus on Money
Sneering at Jesus
Jesus and the Great Chasm
Jesus Said to His Disciples...