Monthly Archives: December 2019

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – JESUS MISUNDERSTOOD

JESUS MISUNDERSTOOD

“Someone out of the crowd said, ‘Order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.’

He replied, ‘What makes you think it’s any of my business to be a judge or mediator for you?’ Luke 12:13, 14.

This is a typical misunderstanding about the way God works in human lives. Because we know He is all-powerful, we assume that His ‘power’ extends to pushing us around like puppets. But this is not true and Satan loves to use this lie to discredit God so that we have reason not to trust Him.

The greatest gift and the greatest snare God gave to man is his right to choose. God respects that gift far more than we humans do and He never violates it, even when we persistently choose against Him. This gift is a snare because it gives us the power to decide our own future and our own destiny. We are what we choose.

He placed us on the earth to rule over His creation as He vice-regent, under His authority and within the boundaries of His law. That rule does not include our ruling over another person’s right to choose. Of course that applies in our personal lives. God set governmental authority over us to maintain order in society. We also have the choice to obey civil law or not and to take the consequences of civil disobedience.

When man chose against God in the Garden of Eden, he transferred his allegiance from God to himself and unwittingly put himself under Satan’s influence. This opened a Pandora’s Box of unexpected and unpleasant consequences, including death, which God warned would happen. The outcome is the world we live in today. The mess we have made of the world is the outcome of our choices and God doesn’t just make them go away. We have to live with them because that’s what we keep choosing. Without consequences we never learn.

This man incorrectly assumed that Jesus had the right to decide for his brother. But Jesus quickly put him right. He said that, even if He were God, He still had no right to interfere with human choices. If the brother chose to be selfish and greedy, that was his choice and He would not step in and force him to act differently.

This is the point of our misunderstanding and accusation that God doesn’t care because He ‘let it happen’, a divorce, a fatal car accident, an unwanted pregnancy, a son or daughter gone astray or whatever tragedy has hit our lives. But who made those choices – God or us? So why blame God for what we did? Did He make us or anyone else who affected us do it? Of course not!

How, then, can we say that God is all-powerful? What’s the point of trusting Him if He can’t stop us from harming ourselves or others? This is exactly the point. The Apostle Paul said, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.’ (Romans 8:28 NIV). God has the power to turn every bad thing that happens to us to our good if we love and trust Him.

Peter is a case in point. Jesus warned him that Satan had designs on him. Peter failed to heed His warning and fell headlong into Satan’s trap. He miserably denied Jesus when Jesus needed his support. But Jesus had assured him, ‘I have prayed for you that your faith will not fail.’ Was Peter destroyed? Not at all. Peter became a far more ‘real’ person because he had come face to face with his real self. All his blustering self-confidence was flattened in that moment.

When we finally ‘get’ this lesson, it will free us from trying to get other people to do what we want and it will release us from being suspicious about God because He doesn’t stop bad things from happening; He uses them to shape us for His glory. And that’s a much better deal!

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – GOD’S UNDERGROUND

GOD’S UNDERGROUND

“‘When they drag you into their meeting places, or into police courts or before judges, don’t worry about defending yourselves – what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there. The Holy Spirit will give you the right words when the time comes.”’ Luke 12:11-12.

No matter how good an earthly father we might have (or have had), he cannot always be with us when we need him. Daddy is supposed to be his children’s protector but he is limited by his humanity. He has his own issues to contend with and fails us constantly because he is just like us and we are just like him, human, fallible and weak.

But the reality of our heavenly Father’s presence cannot be overstressed. When Jesus promised His disciples (and that includes us if we are serious followers of Jesus), ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,’ (John 14:18), He was promising us that we have a Father who is unlike the very best of all earthly fathers.

The tragedy for many us who believe and follow Jesus, is that we have not fully grasped the significance of Jesus’ promise. God is our Father and we are His sons and daughters. And the best of all is that Daddy will never leave us. It does not matter where, when or how we need Him, He is always with us, in fact even better; He is in us.

There is a word that does not exist in God’s vocabulary – the word ‘stress’. He has deleted it and replaced it with the word ‘rest’, and He promised that, when we live in His rest, He will fight our battles for us. He is available if we are ever put on trial for our faith in a court of law. However, for most of us that will not happen, but we are often on ‘trial’ in other situations where we need divine wisdom.

Jesus assures us, ‘You don’t need to think ahead. You have a divine ‘Underground’ who is with you and has gone before you, clearing the way and working on your behalf.’ Isn’t that an invitation to rest in God? This is non-negotiable. The Holy Spirit is in us; He is our advocate, answering through us, for us.

In this section of Luke’s Gospel (Luke 12:1-12), having exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, Jesus tenderly instructs His disciples with the truth. What is He trying to get His disciples to understand? Unlike the Pharisees who believed that they had to work hard to keep God’s attention and approval, Jesus was assuring His followers, ‘God is your Father. He is a perfect Father. You don’t have to perform to earn His love. He knows what it means to be a father.’

God places a far higher value in us than any of His other creation because He has invested His own life in us. He paid the ultimate price to redeem us from our self-inflicted slavery. He is determined to shape us into a perfect family of sons and daughters just like His Son and He’s always with us, on the job, patiently completing what He started.

So He says, ‘Will you trust me to do what I said I would do?’ Trying to negotiate life’s obstacles and issues on our own only delays the process. We might as well learn quickly that God can do a much better job guiding us through than we can. So, just trust Him. He is Jehovah Shammah – the God who is there!

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – DON’T BAD-MOUTH GOD

DON’T BAD-MOUTH GOD

“‘If you bad-mouth the Son of Man out of misunderstanding or ignorance, that can be overlooked. But if you’re knowingly attacking God Himself, taking aim at the Holy Spirit, that won’t be overlooked.'” Luke 12:10.

So-called ‘blasphemy’ against the Holy Spirit is called the unpardonable sin. There are believers who are concerned about whether or not they have unwittingly committed ‘the unpardonable sin’, but this is not possible. When they can’t ‘feel’ God’s presence, they assume that God has left them but, again, this is not possible. God does not come and go according to the way we feel.

What did Jesus mean by blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? In the context of His conflict with the Pharisees, because He offended their religious scruples and refused to comply with their religious demands, they accused Him of casting out demons by the power of the devil. Jesus pointed out the fallacy of their thinking. How can Satan throw out Satan and his kingdom still remain intact? The idea is ridiculous.

But their accusations had a far more sinister implication. Character assassination does not make the truth go away. Jesus wasn’t bothered about their attack on Him but He was concerned about its implications for them.

The Holy Spirit’s ministry is crucial to human beings. Jesus came to reveal the Father. His death on the cross was the final and fullest revelation of God’s attitude to us. His love took Him to the ultimate self-sacrifice on the cross to rescue us from our chosen foolish destiny on the trash heap of wasted potential.

However, what Jesus did for us is of no value to us without the Holy Spirit’s ministry in us. It is not that the Holy Spirit is more important than Jesus. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one. It is the Spirit’s work to apply what Jesus did for us, to our hearts. Without Him we remain spiritually ignorant and dead. He is the one who lives in us to make the presence and work of Jesus real to us.

The Holy Spirit’s work in the unbeliever is to convict of sin. He moves the sinner towards Jesus. He awakens the conscience and enlivens our dead spirits through the faith that He provides. He opens our understanding and reveals Jesus to us through the Word of God. He is the Spirit of sonship. Without His work in us we can never understand or experience who we are and the place we have in God’s family as His sons and daughters.

If we deny or reject the work of the Holy Spirit, what have we that will lead us to salvation through Jesus? We are completely cut off from God because God the Father has given the Spirit to us as the link between us and Himself.

Is it any wonder, then, that Jesus issued such a serious warning? If we repudiate the Holy Spirit and attribute to the devil what He is doing, we place ourselves outside any possibility of receiving God’s grace and being prepared for a life in the presence of God in the eternal realm.   

 

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – SAVE YOUR SKIN – LOSE YOUR LIFE

SAVE YOUR SKIN – LOSE YOUR LIFE

“‘Stand up for me among the people you meet and the Son of Man will stand up for you before all God’s angels. But if you pretend you don’t know me, do you think I’ll defend you before God’s angels?'”  Luke 12:8, 9.

What was Jesus getting at? Does He need people to defend Him? Is He like other religious groups that go hysterical and murder people who so-called ‘insult’ their religious leaders? Does He really want us to behave like that? Will it make any difference to His reputation if we don’t vehemently defend Him every time someone bad-mouths Him?

This is not so much about Jesus as it is about us. When we recognised and acknowledged that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead, several things happened supernaturally.

Our dead spirits were made alive by God’s Spirit and He reconciled and reconnected us to God, our Father. We were rescued from the dominion of darkness and made citizens of God’s kingdom of light.  We became the slaves of a new Master, Jesus and set free from the law of sin and death. We were given a new nature and have a new destiny – life in the eternal realm of God’s presence.

All of these blessings are guaranteed and have already become ours because Jesus paid the debt of our sin on the cross to restore us to God and to His eternal purpose for us. God raised Him from the dead, gave Him a name above every other name and seated Him in the place of supreme authority above all the powers that have made a bid for His place and lost.

So why then, did Jesus insist that we must acknowledge Him before men? It will definitely not make a difference to Him or His position but it will make a difference to us. To acknowledge Jesus, even if it costs us to do so, is to acknowledge everything He has done for us and to take our stand on His promises and in our position in His eternal kingdom.

Once again, it is to take the long look at life. If our sights are only upon our safety and comfort in this life, to choose not to acknowledge Jesus will be the easiest way out to save our skin. But if we are secure in our awareness of who we really are, sons and daughters of the living God, we will be more troubled about dissociating ourselves from Jesus than about what people might say about Him or us.

Jesus is not giving a warning that He will treat us like we treat Him. It is much more than that. The choice to acknowledge who He is lies with us. If we choose to confess Him before men in our hostile earthly environment, He will affirm our sonship in the environment of heaven.  To deny Him is to cut ourselves off from everything He has done for us. He has no other alternative but to confirm our choice for or against Him.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – WHAT ARE YOU WORTH TO GOD?

WHAT ARE YOU WORTH TO GOD?

“‘What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.'” Luke 12:6,7.

We ordinary folks often struggle with a feeling of unworthiness. What am I really worth to God? I know my own heart and I feel unworthy of His love. This feeling takes us a step further into thinking, ‘God is so big and so ‘busy’ that I am too insignificant to bother Him with my petty issues.’

How does God feel about that? Let’s examine that kind of thinking from God’s perspective. Firstly, we argue, God is so big; I am so small. Why should He bother with me? Wrong! It’s not our size that gives us value but what God has invested in us. He put His breath inside of us – created in His image with the potential to reflect Him to the creation around us.

What does that mean?

Because He made us and put His life and nature in us, we are able to put Him on display by treating people like He treats us – ‘gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and full of love and faithfulness’ (Exodus 34:6). The fact that sin has distorted that image does not take away from God’s original purpose.

Secondly, it’s not what I do but what God has done that gives us value. He paid the price of His own blood to redeem us from the slave-market of sin and death. He is busy restoring his image in us. That puts a value on us higher than He put on His own life. Jesus traded His life for ours to get us back from our own self-destructive ways.

Thirdly, our value lies in the reason for our existence. God created mankind to be His family because of His love. We messed up, sure, but God is well able and is working to put His plan back on track. His Holy Spirit is active on earth to woo people back to God and to restore His image in us for His glory.

Fourthly, because we feel unworthy does not mean that God thinks we are unworthy. We are making a big mistake by projecting our own feelings on to God. It is the devil’s ploy to distort our opinion about God, to discredit Him so that we don’t trust Him. What better way than to play on our feelings so that we shrink from Him rather than running to Him as our heavenly Father!

And that’s really the crux of the matter – whether or not we know God as our Father. As a true Father, God is intimately interested and involved in our lives, down to the smallest detail. He loves nothing better than to be ‘Abba’, Daddy who delights in His children and wants to be wanted in the nitty-gritty of our everyday lives.

Does He really care when we are bullied by religious people who want to push us around to suit their own ends? Sure He does. He watches, He knows and He will repay at the right time. We can leave it to Him because He is not only Abba but also a righteous judge.