Monthly Archives: March 2015

Luke 9: Not Everyone Listens

I find it interesting that Jesus recognized ahead of time in Luke 9 that not every conversation the disciples had would be profitable.

Luk 9:3  And he said unto them, Take nothing for your journey, neither staves, nor scrip, neither bread, neither money; neither have two coats apiece.

Luk 9:4  And whatsoever house ye enter into, there abide, and thence depart.

Luk 9:5  And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.

Jesus did not tell them that everyone would open the disciples with open arms. Rather, there would be some who would not listen, but it was not necessarily a cause for concern. The disciples were to preach the gospel to the best of their abilities, but if they people do not listen, it is not as if the disciples were supposed to burn down the city on their way out. It was not a convert or die type of situation.

The disciples were simply supposed to shake the dust off their sandals. In other words, they were supposed to brush it off, and continue preaching to people who would listen.

I think this has a lot of relevance for all of us today. We certainly try our best to show the beauty of Jesus Christ to the world around us. I write this every day in hopes that either it will reinforce the faith of those who already believe or help bring someone nearer to the family of God. However, the reality is that not everyone will listen. As much as I wish it were the other way around, it is not my job to start ripping people who didn’t listen. My job, and the job of all Christians, is to present the gospel, be faithful in that and let God do the rest.

Luke 8: Faith in the Plan

Jesus calming the storm is very popular story, but upon reading it this time in Luke 8, it stood out to me in a little different way than it had previously.

Luk 8:22  Now it came to pass on a certain day, that he went into a ship with his disciples: and he said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.

Luk 8:23  But as they sailed he fell asleep: and there came down a storm of wind on the lake; and they were filled with water, and were in jeopardy.

Luk 8:24  And they came to him, and awoke him, saying, Master, master, we perish. Then he arose, and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water: and they ceased, and there was a calm.

Luk 8:25  And he said unto them, Where is your faith? And they being afraid wondered, saying one to another, What manner of man is this! for he commandeth even the winds and water, and they obey him.

I wonder why Jesus said that they had little faith. After all, they were nervous which I think would be a rather normal reaction, but Jesus chastised them for having little faith. I wonder what they did not have very much faith in. For example, when Jesus said He was going to heal someone and there were people who doubted, it seems to make sense to say that they had little faith. This situation seems to be a little bit different.

However, I’m not sure that it is very much different. Notice that Jesus was the one who made the plans. Maybe that was what Jesus was talking about. Because Jesus put them in a particular situation by suggesting the boat ride, there was no reason to be afraid. They were following the will of Jesus, and we know that that is what we’re supposed to do as Christians anyway.

It seems to me that Jesus was referring to little faith that He knew what He was talking about. Maybe they thought that the storm caught Him by surprise. Storms catch us by surprise. However, when God has a plan for us and explicitly points that out, the bumps in the road are not going to be a surprise to Him.

Luke 7: Mere Christianity

Some people are never satisfied, and it is interesting to read about what people said about Jesus and John the Baptist in Luke 7.

Luk 7:31  And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?

Luk 7:32  They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.

Luk 7:33  For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.

Luk 7:34  The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!

Luk 7:35  But wisdom is justified of all her children.

John the Baptist was criticized for living off the grid, and Jesus was criticized for engaging culture. They were both on different extremes, and clearly Jesus was not condemning John. Perhaps that tells us something about our Christian lives.

Certainly, there are beliefs that make someone a Christian. The obvious example is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You cannot be a Christian and not believe in historical legitimacy of the great miracle. That is a core part of mere Christianity as termed by CS Lewis. There are things that need to be acknowledged for one to be a Christian. Some other tenets that fit under this umbrella are the reality of sin, the existence of God and the necessity of forgiveness.

However, think about what happened in verse 32. Jesus makes the comparison to children who are upset that the other children are not dancing while they play music. Some are upset because the others perhaps don’t feel like participating. Maybe they had a difficult day, or maybe it is simply that they do not like the music. Whatever the reason, it does not change the fact that they are all children.

Similarly, one way this plays out in the modern church is similarly through our taste in music. Music is not one of the mere Christian beliefs that we all need to agree on. Some churches like modern worship, some only do hymns accompanied by a piano or organ (which were ironically modern at one point) and there are even some churches that don’t believe in instruments whatsoever.

Is there a difference? Sure, it is obvious that there is a difference between these groups of Christians. It is not a difference that makes one Christian and one not a Christian.

I think that is kind of what Jesus was trying to get at here. Following Christ might look a little bit different for different people. Certain core beliefs will necessarily be the same, and the fruit of the spirit should be developing in all situations as the believer walks with Christ. However, our lifestyles might be slightly different, and our faith might come out in different ways.

Luke 6: A Solid Foundation

Although we have all heard the story of building a solid foundation in Luke 6 many times, I think it is important to look at because it emphasizes the importance of a biblical worldview.

Luk 6:47  Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like:

Luk 6:48  He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock.

Luk 6:49  But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great.

The foundation makes a difference. If you start with the right foundation, the house is going to stand. On the contrary, another house may be beautiful and it may be right on the beach, but if it doesn’t have that solid foundation, that beauty is going to fall apart.

That is a biblical worldview is all about. It is about beginning from our bedrock truths taught by Jesus Christ as pointed out in verse 47. If we begin to base our lives on what Jesus Christ taught, we are going to be grounded and strong.

Once we have that foundation of understanding who Jesus Christ is and what that means for our lives and how we ought to live, then we begin building the house. We began adding on cosmological arguments, teleological arguments, arguments from morality and so many other things to begin making the house even bigger. The foundation is still the most important part, but there are other parts of the house, and in this illustration, that can be apologetic arguments, theological truths or other more advanced concepts.

Without the foundation, all of these great arguments and teachings fall apart, but it does not mean they cannot be useful.

Beginning with the foundation will never lead us in the wrong direction. When we are challenged, we will not waver. I think that is what we want.

Luke 5: Reaction to God

In Luke 5, I want to focus on the calling of Peter.

Luk 5:5  And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.

Luk 5:6  And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.

Luk 5:7  And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.

Luk 5:8  When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Peter was clearly a practical man. If I had been fishing all night, and my shift was over, I would be ready to go home. They had worked through the night without catching anything, and Jesus told him to try one more time. If it were me, I might have said, “Whatever…” and gone home, but Peter was willing to try for whatever reason. Maybe he had some idea of who Jesus was at this point, or maybe there was some divine work being done on his conscience. Whatever the reason, he did it, and after catching a gigantic haul of fish, his immediate response was to call Jesus Lord and ask Him to depart.

I think this is significant. I kind of wonder if this will be kind of like our reaction when we get to heaven. We will see God, and we will realize that we are entirely unworthy on our own. We know that we don’t deserve heaven because of anything we have done, but we can also be confident that because of what Jesus Christ did, we will live forever with Him.

Maybe the unbelievers will finally recognize the errors of their ways and will say something like this as well. After all, I do believe that people make a choice. If they reject God, God is going to give them what they want and they will have eternal separation from Him. As a result, maybe at this point where they are finally seeing the God they rejected, they want to get away from Him because they realize they cannot be with Him on their own merits.

I find this really interesting, but I think that it is certainly possible that believers and nonbelievers have similar reactions to seeing God. We will all be blown away by His awesomeness and our inadequacy. However, the question is not whether we deserve heaven. The question is whether or not we trusted Jesus Christ to be the one and only way. We get in on His merit; our own works would be a problem.

Luke 4: Living in Difficult Circumstances

In Luke 4, we see the temptation of Jesus, and I find it so interesting that the entire episode is book ended by the fact that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit.

Luk 4:1  And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

Luk 4:14  And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.

I think this is significant. Obviously, it shows us two parts of the Trinity simultaneously active, but it emphasizes that Jesus was not operating alone. It makes it even more significant than when he is later on the cross and speaks about being forsaken by God. Even in the difficult times, Jesus was following the will of God.

The temptation of Christ could have taken place anywhere. Satan could have met Him in His normal hometown, and Jesus could have undergone the temptation in comfort. However, it was clearly the will of God that He be led into a much harsher environment. Why?

I’m not entirely sure obviously, but it seems significant that this is reflective of the circumstances that some people live in. There are plenty of people who live in difficult environments with very limited resources. For those of us in America, we mostly don’t have a lot of concept of material suffering. However, because of this experience, Jesus did, and He was able to withstand temptation even in this circumstance. If Jesus had not done this, I wonder if some people might say that even Jesus would have sinned if He had to live through what I am living through. He lived in the desert with no food while being directly tempted by arguably the cleverest of all the angels. I think He understood something about adversity and living in a difficult situation.

Ultimately, God knows why God led Jesus by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness, but it is clear that this was a very intentional act.

Luke 3: What He Could Do

John the Baptist was an impressive man. He was an excellent preacher, and in Luke 3, we have a wide range of people coming to talk to him, and some of them are beginning to wonder if he is the Christ.

Luk 3:16  John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire:

Luk 3:17  Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.

John was a humble man. He was able to keep his perspective. Even though he had people coming to him to be baptized, he reminded them that there was someone even greater who was going to do something even greater.

After all, water baptism is a great thing to do. That type of public identification with Christ is valuable, but when compared to the baptism from the Holy Spirit, it is a much different process.

John realized what he could do, and that is a vital part. He did the job that he was called to do. He was essentially had to be the first missionary for the cause of Christ. He was preaching about the Messiah who was coming soon after him. He was not called to baptize people with the Holy Spirit. That is what Jesus was able to do. John was not upset that he did not have the job of Jesus Christ, but he did his job with power and humility. It is an interesting combination.

I then think about us. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ; we are not called to be Jesus Christ. We are the messengers, and we do the work that we have been called to. We need to remember what our job is and do it well.

Luke 2: Living for a Purpose

In Luke 2, we of course get the ever popular birth narrative of Jesus Christ, and as important as that is, so much has been said about it that I want to turn our attention to Jesus at the temple and the character of Simeon.

Luk 2:25  And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

Luk 2:26  And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Simeon was a man who clearly was given a supernatural promise. We don’t know much more about it than that, but we know that he was told that he was not going to die until he saw the Christ.

I have to wonder what this moment was finally like for him. After all, his life was now complete. For most of us, we are grateful we have life, and we don’t know how long that life will continue for. Simeon had a definitive benchmark. He knew that he was on earth for a purpose. He was going to see the Savior of the world. He certainly might have had other purposes as well along the way, but he definitively knew that this promise was going to come true.

It makes me think about purpose and all of the variety of things that we can live for. We can try to become famous. We can try to make a lot of money. We can try to have a lot of friends. However, shouldn’t our ultimate purpose also be living our lives in such a way that the conclusion is simply a gateway to an eternity with our Lord and Savior?

Luke 1: Told by Eyewitnesses

We have come to the third gospel, and I think it is appropriate to show the way that Luke begins his account.

Luk 1:1  Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

Luk 1:2  Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;

Luk 1:3  It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

Luk 1:4  That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

What do we learn from this introduction from Luke to Theophilus? We first of all learn that other people had a tradition. This was not something that Luke all of a sudden made up to explain who Jesus Christ was. Rather, many people had established a tradition that began with the eyewitnesses. The people who had seen Jesus passed along what they knew about Him, and our author here was writing within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. As a result, Luke apparently thought it was a good idea because he had studied these things and had an understanding of what had taken place to write down the tradition for his friend Theophilus.

Why is this significant? It is a very popular tactic to that to write off the Jesus of miracles as a late embellishment. Sure, most people will agree that Jesus was a real person, and they will affirm that He did teach many wise sayings, but kind of like Thomas Jefferson, they decide that those miracles have to go. Luke challenges that right up front. As we will read through his gospel, there are miracles. The eyewitnesses that Luke was able to interview as he explained in verse two gave him his material, and that material included miracles and of course the great miracle of the resurrection.

The generally accepted dating of Luke is somewhere around 80 A.D. (although I would say it is earlier based on the fact that it is clearly a prelude to Acts which does not mention the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. and probably would have merited inclusion in the Acts narrative as a confirmation of Jesus’ prophecy about the temple being destroyed). For the sake of argument though, in 80 A.D., there would have been people that could have either affirmed or denied his claims. Luke said that these traditions have been in circulation from the beginning, and these eyewitnesses could have easily shot down his conclusions or said that he had misunderstood what had been passed so to him.

These types of checks and balances are very important.

Mark 16: Used by God

We have come to the end of another book. Mark 16 chronicles the resurrection. The women had come to the tomb, and they found the stone rolled away and an angel who told them that Jesus had risen.

The interesting part is that they came with the intent of anointing the body. However, they had a common sense consideration on the way.

Mar 16:1  And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.

Mar 16:2  And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

Mar 16:3  And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

I point that out because we know that the women made it to the tomb. Even though they were clearly aware that three women would probably not be able to roll away the giant stone by themselves, they still continued walking to the tomb. It kind of makes you wonder what they were expecting when they got there. Jesus prophesied His resurrection reportedly as testified by the Pharisees in Mark 14:58, but it doesn’t seem like they were expecting that. The general assumption is that dead people remain dead.

All of that being said, the women followed through. Maybe they thought someone would be around and able to help them remove the stone. Maybe they thought it really wasn’t that heavy. We don’t know, so this is speculation, but the fact of the matter is that they knew they probably could not do it, and they still continued to go.

Because they went, they saw the empty tomb. That was clearly very important. Hypothetically, what if no one had been checking on the tomb? Jesus still would have risen from the dead, but someone had to spread the news. These women were there to fulfill that purpose. In a sense, they were the first missionaries.

I think that is then what we have to keep in mind. God knows each of us as individuals. He knew that these women would be the only ones who would come to the tomb, so He used them. Perhaps there was even divine intervention. Despite the doubts that they might not be able to do what they intended, maybe there was some voice inside of them telling them that they had to follow through. That is not recorded, but there was something that motivated them to continue, and because of the purpose that God had for them, it would seem to make sense that perhaps He was the motivation behind it.