Monthly Archives: January 2020

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – KILLER OF PROPHETS

KILLER OF PROPHETS

‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killer of prophets, abuser of the messengers of God!                             How often I’ve longed to gather your children, gather your children like a hen,                    her brood safe under her wings — but you refused and turned away!                                        But now it’s too late; you won’t see me again until the day you say,                                        “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'”  Luke 13:34, 35.

Oh the heartache of Jesus! Such is the power of deception and the terrifying possibilities in the most precious gift God gave humanity – the power to choose! But that is the nature of love – risking everything for the sake of a free and willing choice to believe and trust the God who calls us into a love relationship with Him.

Not to be able to love Him freely would be grossly unfair, to say the least. He has given us the right to choose, based on the evidence that we must evaluate for ourselves. God hides nothing from us. What He says is true with no small print to mislead or mask a hidden agenda.

Jesus could rightly claim, ‘I am the Light of the world,’ because light dispels darkness and reveals everything. He could claim, ‘I am the truth,’ because what He has spoken and what He has promised has stood the test of time. Only truth can never be destroyed and the words of Jesus have never been proved false.

Deception’s power lies, as much in what had not been said as in what has been said. Satan is a master of deception, sometimes by just plain lying, contradicting the truth of God, and sometimes by concealing the truth; for example, he makes sin look appealing and attractive but he neglects to talk about the consequences. ‘It’s okay,’ he says to young people, ‘to sleep around. It’s nice and everybody’s doing it. Nothing will happen and no-one will know.’

And then comes the unexpected pregnancy. ‘It’s okay to get rid of it,’ he says, ‘It’s only the ‘product of conception’,’ as if that changes the truth that it is a baby-in-the-making. Then, when it’s all over and there is no going back, comes the lifetime of emotional pain – guilt, shame, remorse – that he didn’t warn you about, and oh, does he rub it in, ‘You fool, you wicked person, look what you’ve done. God will never forgive you. There is no hope for you!’

Jesus wept for a city that had been deceived by its spiritual leaders. ‘He’s a devil and a deceiver,’ they insisted. ‘He works through the power of the devil. Don’t listen to Him. We are right and He is wrong.’ and so the people made their choice, swept along by the gloating deceiver himself. They murdered Him in spite of the evidence. And forty years later the city and its people paid the terrible price, the city destroyed, the temple taken apart stone by stone – just as He said – and its people slaughtered until their blood ran like a river in the streets.

Had they believed Him, they would have been as safe as chickens sheltering under a mother hen’s wings. But they did not. They refused to weigh up the evidence and so, they were willfully deceived. And that’s the biggest tragedy of all – deception is, in the end, our choice. There is enough evidence to disclose the truth, if we want it.

“It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that He exists and that He cares enough to respond to those who believe Him.” Hebrews 11:6.

Here is His non-negotiable promise, “Now this is what my Father wants; that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who He is and what He does and then aligns with Him, will enter real life, eternal life.” John 6:40; no small print, no hidden agenda, only the truth.

But it’s your choice….

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – WRAPPING THINGS UP

WRAPPING THINGS UP

“Just then some Pharisees came up and said, ‘Run for your life! Herod’s on the hunt. He’s out to kill you!’  Jesus said, ‘Tell that fox that I’ve no time for him right now. Today and tomorrow I’m busy clearing out the demons and healing the sick; the third day I’m wrapping things up. Besides, it’s not proper for a prophet to come to a bad end outside of Jerusalem.'” Luke 13:31-33.

How typically Jesus! Still headed for Jerusalem, He was unperturbed by these Pharisees’ scare tactics. ‘That fox!’ was His response. ‘I’m not afraid of him. My mission and my destination are fixed and Herod can’t do anything about it,’ In any case, Herod did not feature in Jesus’ life as he did in John the Baptist’s. John owed his demise to his attack on Herod’s morals. Jesus had declared war on the warped religious system of the Pharisees that robbed God of any real heart. If anyone was out to get Him, it was the Pharisees, not Herod. Jesus did not buy their story.

What was His mission, then? He put it in a nutshell in His reply. “To clear out the demons, heal the sick and wrap things up on the third day.” Clearing out the demons and healing the sick was His mission to His suffering people – to demonstrate and announce the kingdom of God; and wrapping things up on the third day was the purpose of His coming – to reveal the heart of the Father and to reconcile His alienated family to Himself by giving His life for them.

Jesus knew that His end would come in Jerusalem, the seat of religious power and the symbol of God’s presence among His people, the temple. Jerusalem represented the core of the power struggle between two kingdoms, the dominion of darkness and the kingdom of God. The cry of victory from the usurpers of God’s authority would be short-lived because of ‘the third day’. The religious hierarchy thought that they had silenced Him for good when He hung lifeless on a Roman stake. They did not take seriously either His promise or His power. The ‘third day’ proved them oh, so wrong!

It is ‘the third day’ that vindicates everything Jesus said and did. Other religions may challenge His authority and His supreme Lordship but, for all their theories and their following, all they prove is that they have been horribly deceived. No self-proclaimed prophet, philosopher or seducer of people can silence the voice of the resurrection or disprove its truth. The greatest legal minds have tried and failed. There is too much evidence to prove that Jesus ‘wrapped things up’ when He rose from the dead on the third day and is seated at the right had of the Father in power and glory.

Since He rose from the tomb and is alive today, every believer can be sure that everything else He said is equally true. That means that, for example, He is the only way to the Father. He is the Light of the world; only in Him can we have peace in a troubled world and hope in every hopeless situation. He is the only true revelation of the Father because to see Him is to ‘see’ the Father. He is the source of truth and life.

Jesus calls us to follow Him and those who follow will never walk in darkness. He has given us His Spirit, resident and at work in us, to transform our hearts from greedy and self-centred people to sons of God who resemble the Father in loving generosity and unselfish service to all around us.

Millions of people in every nation who have believed and followed this risen Jesus, are living proof of His resurrection, and so are the millions who have laid down their lives and who are still being martyred today, on the strength that Jesus lives and that His word is true. They have been murdered through the same religious fanaticism that murdered Jesus but, because Jesus lives, so do they. And so can you!

But it’s your choice…

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – STRANGERS TO GRACE

STRANGERS TO GRACE

“That’s when you’ll find yourselves out in the cold, strangers to grace. You’ll watch Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets march into God’s kingdom. You’ll watch outsiders stream in from east, west, north and south and sit down at the table of God’s kingdom. And all the time you’ll be outside looking in – and wondering what happened. This is the Great Reversal: the last in line put at the head of the line, and the so-called first ending up last.” Luke 13:28-30.

This rejection of unbelievers makes terribly sad reading for those who have experienced grace, the unimaginable favour of God that takes worthless sinners and makes them over into beloved sons, all because the rejected ones have not taken seriously what Jesus was saying.

Imagine getting to the end of the road, so sure you are right, only to find that Jesus was right and you were wrong and now there’s no going back. The Pharisees and religious leaders were so cock-sure of themselves that they exterminated Him on the strength of their conviction, only to find that what He predicted happened – He rose from the dead and proved them dead wrong!

“Consider, therefore, the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in His kindness.” Romans 11:23 (NIV).

God’s offer of kindness in forgiving sin, wiping the slate clean and starting all over again is extended to everyone without exception, but He never forces His kindness on anyone. He has provided the sacrifice – His own Son, Jesus – and made the offer, but it is up to us to take what He offers seriously or pooh-pooh His grace and face the consequences.

God’s sternness is reserved for those who are foolish enough to brush aside His provision as though He were either a liar or irrelevant. If His warnings fall on persistently deaf ears, we have no-one but ourselves to blame when we hear His sorrowful words, ‘Go away. I never knew you.” For those who have a conscience (and who hasn’t, except that many pay no attention to it), there is no excuse because conscience is God’s inner voice built into us at conception.

“When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong…” Romans 2:14, 15.

God has no pleasure in tossing people onto the eternal rubbish dump (called hell), but He has no option but to uphold His word and confirm our choices. Like seeds, God has put endless potential into every life. Look at an apple. What do you see? A tasty fruit, or a forest-in-the-making? It depends on your perspective. God looked at Abraham and saw a nation. It’s all about potential. His greatest sorrow is to have to discard people eternally because of wasted potential.

He has woven into human beings (that’s us too), the potential to become sons of God with all the rights and privileges Jesus has as God’s Son. He has actually named His sons heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, reigning with Him in eternal glory! Why pass that up for a stubborn refusal to take Him seriously?

Hence Jesus’ warning, “Before your day-to-day choices are confirmed forever,” He said, “take the trouble to verify My credentials, My trustworthiness and My promises, and act on what you discover.”

Once again, it’s your choice…

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – YOUR KIND OF KNOWING

YOUR KIND OF KNOWING

“You’ll protest; ‘But we’ve known you all our lives!’ only to be interrupted with this abrupt, ‘Your kind of knowing can hardly be called knowing. You don’t know the first thing about me.'” Luke 13:26, 27.

Jesus defined eternal life in this way: “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3(NIV).

There are at least three ideas in the word ‘know’. We can know about someone by having a nodding acquaintance with him; we can know a person by spending time with him and getting to know his nature and personality; we can know someone by living in an intimate union with him and reproducing through that union.

The ‘knowing’ of the people to which Jesus was referring belonged to the first group. They lived in Jesus’ ‘neighbourhood’ implying that they knew He was around and perhaps even took an interest in what He was doing but never became personally involved with Him or committed to Him in any kind of personal relationship.

These are the people who say they ‘believe’ in God, but that belief is the same as saying, ‘I believe in the sea, or the sky, or the stars.’ Sure, these things are there, but they make no difference to their lives (unless of course they are foolish enough to believe that these ‘things’ can affect their lives in some mysterious way!). They might even tip their hats to God by going to church at Christmas and Easter.

The second group of people’s ‘believing’ moves them a step further. They go to church every Sunday, sometimes read the Bible, seldom pray except in emergencies, and give money to the church when their conscience pricks (this is not an accusation but an observation). They know quite a lot about God. They have a working knowledge of His nature and ways but it is purely academic. They call themselves Christians, but when the chips are down, their behaviour resembles the rest of mankind rather than the Master they profess to ‘know’.

Jesus’ response to these two groups who protested at being shut out of the wedding banquet was shocking to them, ‘You don’t know the first thing about me.’  Why did He talk like this? Not to shock but to awaken them from a false assumption before it was too late. When the verdict was given and the door was shut in their faces, it would be too late to do anything about it.

So what is the ‘knowing’ that gives us access into the eternal presence of God? There are two aspects to this knowing. The first is a personal, permanent and passionate commitment to Jesus Christ as Teacher and Master. This involves relinquishing all rights to ourselves and moving out of the control centre. Because He created us and bought us back from slavery to Satan, He has the right to be in the command centre of our lives.

This is not a coup de etat; it is both a relief and a delight because He takes over responsibility for guiding us unerringly to our destiny. He is always good. His love is non-negotiable and we are eternally safe in His care.

The second step to knowing Him is developing the intimacy with Him and becoming one with Him through His Word, fellowship (prayer), submission and obedience which transforms us into His likeness and issues in generosity of attitude and action towards all people. The more time we spend with Him, the more sensitive we become to the needs of those around us. God can then use us to show His love to them when we love, forgive, and give of our resources to bless them.

This is a lifetime commitment to knowing and growing like the God we worship. And once again…

The choice is yours…

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – DON’T ASSUME

DON’T ASSUME

“A lot of you are going to assume that you’ll sit down to God’s salvation banquet just because you’ve been hanging around the neighbourhood all your lives. Well, one day you’re going to be banging on the door, wanting to get in, but you’ll find the door locked and the Master saying, ‘Sorry, you’re not on my guest list.'” Luke 13:25.

What a solemn warning! Jesus left us in no doubt about what happens to curiosity-seekers and freeloaders. His invitation is into an intimate marriage relationship with Him in order to impregnate our spirits with His word. His passion is to re-establish the oneness that Adam’s rebellion disrupted at the Fall.

God’s word is the energy that created the universe – “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth” Psalm 33:6 NIV) – and keeps it in perfect running order – “…sustaining all things by His powerful word…” Hebrews 1:3b (NIV) – and the seed which is sown into human hearts, germinates and grows to produce the full harvest of God’s character in us – “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.”   1 Peter 1:23 (NIV).

Sometimes the gospel is presented as though Jesus were either offering a cop-out for those who are finding life tough, recruiting others for a cause or calling us into a quick-buck business association with Him in order to line our pockets with His ‘blessings’! (What happened to His ‘deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me’)? This is our modern-day humanistic corruption of His intention.

Like a many-faceted diamond, God calls us into a many-faceted relationship with Himself. Jesus consistently presented and portrayed God as our ‘Abba’, the tender Father who passionately loves us, carried out a daring plan to rescue us and lavishly pours out His grace and favour on His children.

Jesus Himself is our Rabbi, calling us to follow, learn, imitate and obey Him; our Bridegroom who has gone to prepare the bridal chamber for the day He returns to pick us up (rapture us) and carry us over the threshold into the realm where we shall be perfected in oneness with Him forever; and our King, to be honoured as our Lord and Master in a union which reproduces His likeness in us.

The Holy Spirit, the third person in this Trinity of unique ‘God-ness’, is the gentle ‘mother’ who nurtures and fashions these embryonic Father/child and Bridegroom/bride relationships into full bloom through a lifetime of teaching, guiding, correcting and encouraging.

It’s no wonder, then, that Jesus warned about assuming that, because we have lived in the ‘neighbourhood’ of His activities all our lives, we are automatically included on His ‘guest list’. Knowing about Him and knowing Him are poles apart. This ‘knowing’ of which He speaks is the ‘knowing’ of intimacy between a husband and wife which reproduces a child out of that union. A lifetime of ‘knowing’ Him begins with a personal surrender of heart to Him as a bride pledging her life to her bridegroom, and continues with a lifetime of growing intimacy that transforms her from an independent individual into a blended oneness with Him.

It takes more than going to church, reading the Bible or doing ‘good works’ to forge a relationship with the living God. It’s about fellowship with Him, starting with cleaning the slate by receiving the full benefits of His forgiveness, cleaning our cupboards of the all our skeletons and starting a new life in a new realm with a new heart and a new energy to do life His way.

And it’s our choice…