Mon, Aug 26th - 9:14PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And it came to pass, that as they went in the way, a certain man said to Him, Lord, I will follow You any where You go. And Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man does not have anywhere to lay His head. And He said to another person, Follow Me. But that person said, Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their dead: but you go and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow You; but let me first go say farewell to those who are living in my home. And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (9:57-62)."
Many people wish to attach themselves to Christ, to follow Him. They join the crowd and believe that because they are saying the correct things that they have suddenly become faithful disciples of God. But their actions reveal where their heart truly lies. They come up short of the standard of Christian conduct, and thus miss eternal life. Why do they come up short? Because they never knew the price of discipleship, and accepted it. They either never know that they must pay a great price, or else they are unwilling to pay the price. True discipleship costs a person everything a person is and has.
It can be clearly seen in this passage that discipleship requires a person to count the cost. One man offered to become a follower of Jesus, and he made an unusual promise: he would follow Jesus wherever He led. Apparently this person's motivation was from enjoying the presence of God and His disciples. It also stemmed from Christ's wisdom and teaching. He also appreciated the good that Christ did for the poor. Jesus Christ's reply was to the point: Count the cost, for I have no where to lay down to sleep at night, nor anywhere to bathe, nor to change My clothes in private. The animals and birds have more of a home than I do. Christ offered no luxury and no material comforts, just self-denial. To follow Christ one must deny self and sacrifice all that one was and had. Several important points are found here: 1) Jesus was the prime example. He denied Himself completely. He sacrificed and gave all, both Himself and all that He had. He did not keep a place to sleep each night nor a place in which to store food. He gave all to meet the needs of a dying and desperate world. 2) Jesus told the man to count the cost. Profession of faith was not enough. Being willing to follow was not enough. The man must deny himself completely, sacrificing and giving all He was and had to meet the needs of a lost and dying world around him. 3) Jesus called Himself the Son of Man. It pictures exactly who He is. Acceptance of who Jesus was, acceptance of the Son of man. Acceptance of Jesus as the Ideal Servant of man, the Ideal Man who loved and cared and ministered and felt for all people, and did this perfectly without any sin. Some people are willing and determined to go to the ends of the earth. But Jesus said that He, the Son of man, His pattern of living, must be accepted. Many people are committed, but their commitments are self-commitments and not Christ-centered commitments. You and I must realize that self-commitments can arise from strong wills, strong determinations, and strong discipline. You and I could carry through in a great way, but it would remain outside of the will of God for our lives. Our commitment must be totally to the Son of man, abandoning all of self and all of the world.
We can see in this passage that Jesus was not only what an ordinary person is, a son of man; but Jesus was what every person ought to be, the Son of man Himself. Here is where the Ideal Person comes into play, the Perfect Person. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of everything that a person ought to be. To please God you and I need to copy Christ. Jesus is also the Perfect Servant of man for it stresses His sympathy for the poor, the broken-hearted, the captives, the blind, the deaf, the bruised, the abused, the outcasts, and the grieving. Jesus served just as every person on earth ought to serve others.
Christ called Himself "the Son of man" about eighty times. He is pictured as the heavenly Son of Man contrasted with Adam as the earthly Man (I Corinthians 15:45-47). And as the passage above points out, when one is called to follow Christ one is expected to follow immediately. It is seen that Christ was the one to invite the man to follow Him in verse 59. He was called by God to come. Even after this man made excuse to not immediately come Jesus continued to speak to him about going to preach the kingdom of God. People are special to God. He pursues us and pleads with us to come and follow Him. We learn here that each and every person is of extreme value to Jesus Christ. Thus the Holy Spirit persists after a person as long as the person allows Him, despite any selfishness. Every person who is called by Christ Jesus to "preach" must take notice and respond immediately. This call by God is to be the prime emphasis of a person's life.
But this particular person had divided attention. The call of God came to this person, yet he hesitated. This man's hesitation was legitimate for caring of parents is essential. We can't assume that his father was already dead and awaiting burial. It would seem that his father was terminal and would die soon. The problem was divided attention. Hearing the call of God, he looked at his situation and did not yield immediately. As frequently happens today, his circumstances and problems overwhelmed him, so he wanted to wait and handle them. He thought that by dealing with the problems he would then be able to follow Christ. The trouble with this rationale is that more problems always present themselves in our lives, thus we must deal with those problems first before following the call of Christ. In the end, we will never yield to the call and follow Christ. We will remain mired in the midst of life's problems, flung at us by Satan.
Christ demands that you and I act now and not wait. Jesus sees through our partial commitment. He sees through our lack of trust in God. He expects us to take care of our parents (I Timothy 5:3-8), but He demands first loyalty and immediate response to Him. Two things in particular are demanded by Christ. A sense of urgency is demanded of each of us. Jesus refused to give this man the time to go and bury his father. Why? Because the need of others is so great, those who are living still. People are dying every second without Jesus Christ in their hearts, heading out into eternity with no hope of redemption from their sins. Nothing can be done for the dead, they are gone from our world. But the living can be reached with news of the kingdom of heaven and be snatched out of the grasp of death and saved to eternal life. Hesitation, for whatever reason, will cause some to die and be doomed because we did nothing. This point is forceful: the hour of action is now! "And Jesus said to them, Come after Me, and I will make you become fishers of men. And immediately they left their nets, and followed Him (Mark 1:17-18)." "I must do the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night comes, when no person can work (John 9:4)." Christ tells His messengers what to preach, yet how little of the real message of God's kingdom is preached from the pulpits today. Urgency is even higher today than it was then, when Christ spoke to these people.
In accepting discipleship one must not look back. It is seen that the man in this passage offered himself to Christ. He was willing to follow Jesus. But this man had a double allegiance. He said "but" and "first." He was willing to follow Christ but something else needed to be handled first. Today it could be a family affair, a business affair, an employment affair, a financial affair, or some other concern put first. Many people decide they need family counsel and advice, to see how they feel about a decision to follow Christ. Perhaps there is a felt need for their approval. Or, it is merely putting the love of family before the love of Christ. It can be as simple as being more attached to family than to Christ. Family must be our first attachment, after our attachment to Christ. Christ is to be our first love. "But seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all of these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33)." "So likewise, whosoever of you that does not forsake all that he has, he can't be My disciple (Luke 14:33)." " And Samuel said, Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? and to hearken than the fat of rams (I Samuel 15:22)?"
God's judgment here was stated in such a manner that once heard or read, it would be difficult to forget. This blunt statement by Christ probably stuck with all those within earshot, pricking their consciences and hearts, disturbing them often in the coming days. The man had willed to follow Christ but he "had looked back." Therefore he was deemed unfit to be a disciple of Christ's in the kingdom of heaven. This same standard applies to each of us today. Why is this picture of plowing in a field so effective here? Simply due to the fact that the farmer who is plowing out in the field and turns around in his/her seat to look behind will begin to plow a crooked row. That person plows an inconsistent field. That person plows in a spirit lacking total commitment, to easily distracted, prevented from finishing a task properly. That person allows too many distraction and disruptions which then will affect the crops and the eventual harvest. No row (or person) is ever perfectly straight, at least not like it ought to be. It is one reason why weeds end up growing in the field of crops. Weeds are sins which take root in the rows and affect the final harvest. Crooked rows prevent effective removal of weeds, can even encourage the further growth of the weeds to the point where they are the predominant thing growing in the field. Sin can, and will, completely choke out our lives if we fail to remove it from existing in our lives. Nothing of any good will then come of what we attempt to accomplish in life.
Many examples are provided for us in the Bible of what happens if we do not remain focused upon the cost of following Christ. Proverbs warns us that people who are double-minded about God and the world are unstable in everything that they do. James exhorts the double-minded to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts. In Hebrews it can be read that the just shall live by faith in Christ but any who draw back will not have God's pleasure. Again, referring to not turning back to look once choosing to answer Christ's call to come and follow Him. You and I must always consider what following Christ's call will mean personally. Will it cost me my close friends? My position at work? My family? My spouse and/or children? Any and all of these things might be lost, or they might not. Am I willing to lose them, in order to answer the call of Christ immediately? What is more important to me? Ego-stroking friends, or a True Friend in Christ? Drug addiction or leaning upon God's love, mercy, and grace? Living in self-guilt and humiliation or peace and assurance of eternal life? Suffering from poor self-esteem or accepting the fact that I am priceless in the eyes of God? Am I going to accept a "less than" life, or am I going to pursue Christ and seek out the "abundant life"? Those are the questions to ask and to answer.
Tue, Aug 20th - 8:56PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And it came to pass, when the time had come that He should be received up, He steadfastly turned Himself to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before Him: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for Him. And they did not receive Him, because His demeanor was as though He would go to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord is it Your will that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did? But He turned and rebuked them, You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. (9:51-56)."
The disciples continued to struggle in their understanding of what exactly Jesus's mission here on earth actually was. They persisted in their belief that retribution was to be swift and determined. They appeared to feel that they were to become like Elijah, calling down the wrath of Jehovah from the heights of heaven itself upon those who did not believe. They were badly missing the entire point of Christ coming from heaven to earth.
The beginning of this passage of scripture has us seeing Christ Jesus turning Himself towards Jerusalem, and beginning to travel towards Jerusalem to meet His appointed time of crucifixion. Christ knew why He had come to earth. He knew what He had come to accomplish. He also knew the exact time at which His mission would become completed. He knew that the time for Him to die in mankind's place, to secure salvation for mankind, was now at hand. Verse 51 clues us in to this fact by saying "when the time was come." Christ was fully aware, fully cognizant, of the appointed time of His death rapidly approaching. Nothing surprised Him, nothing shocked Him, nothing was done without Him knowing that it was going to happen. Jerusalem represented the death, burial, and resurrection, not to mention the ascension, of Jesus. "But God commended His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)." "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree (Galatians 3:13).' "God who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14)."
"Received up" in verse 51 speaks to us of Christ's ascension to heaven. This comes to us from the Greek analempseos, meaning "taken up." Salvation was secured by the ascension of Christ. How? The Ascended Lord means at least four things to believers: 1) It means the Risen Lord. It means that Christ arose from the dead. If He remained in the grave He would still be there in the form of dust. He would have been found in the tomb by anyone going there to look in on Him. Logic dictates here that if He was to be "received up" He had to be raised up--quickened--made alive. No one can be taken up without first being raised up. Therefore the ascension means that Christ is alive and risen from the dead. Death has been conquered; man or woman can now be saved from death (Philippians 2:7-9; Romans 4:23-25; I Corinthians 15:12-24). 2) It means the Advocate or Representative Lord. While here on earth Christ lived a perfect life; He was without sin (II Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 1:10; 2:22; John 8:46). We read in the scriptures that He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He is the righteous One and therefore He is our advocate with the Father ((I John 2:1). He is able to represent us before God because he has already lived upon earth and secured a perfect righteousness. He is the Ideal Man, our Advocate, the One who is qualified to plead our case before God and see to it that we are saved (Hebrews 7:25). 3) It means the Priestly or Intercessory Lord. Every person suffers while here on earth: suffers pain, trials, needs, wants, temptations, loss, illness, and eventually death. We are incapable of even knowing how to pray as we ought to pray in order to secure the help we desperately need. But Jesus knows and understands. Through all of His suffering here on earth He now knows exactly what we suffer through as well. This enables Him to intercede for us and how to deliver us (Hebrews 4:14-16; 2:16-18; Romans 8:33-34). 4) It means the Exalted Lord. Christ has ascended up to heaven to be exalted at the right hand of heaven. This was done so that He would rule and reign over the universe. A great day of judgment is coming upon the entire world, a day when all people shall bow the knee and confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord, the Son of the Living God (Ephesians 1:19-23; Philippians 2:9-11; I Corinthians 15:24-26).
As previously stated, Christ's mission was misunderstood. In the rest of this passage please notice that Christ sent some disciples ahead of Him to prepare the Way for His coming. He wished the people of the towns He was approaching to know that He was about to enter their presence. The Samaritans of this one village rejected Him. Why? Quite simply, because He was headed to Jerusalem, a place which they despised. The Jews were unacceptable to them, and they were unacceptable to the Jews. Neither had anything to do with the other. Jerusalem was the place of worship for the Jew while the Samaritan had a different place of worship. We must note that James and John got quite upset at this rejection of their Lord. They became fierce and angry, asking if they should destroy this Samaritan village with fire from heaven. They sought retribution, revenge. James and John had strong faith in Christ. Without question they believed that Jesus had the authority to control the power of heaven, either through Himself or through them. But they also had a wrong understanding of Jesus' mission that was strongly held. They persisted in thinking in terms of a Messianic Ruler on earth, subjecting people and forcing them to worship and serve Him. It ought to be understood that these two disciples had just committed the same error that the Samaritans had just committed. They were still too full of bitterness, wrath, and vengeance, reacting against the Samaritans just as the Samaritans had reacted against the Jews and Jesus. Destruction was their solution to those who rejected worship of Christ as Lord and live as James and John wished. Sound at all similar to what various denominations do to each other today? It must stop. It is not a teaching of Christ (John 3:17; John 12:47). We finally learn in verses 55-56 of this passage what Christ's mission actually was. It wasn't to destroy life, but to save it. This point is repeated many times in the Bible. Christ did proclaim that today is the day of salvation, and He proclaimed it loudly and clearly (II Corinthians 6:2; Revelation 3:20; Luke 19:10). Scripture also pronounces that judgment is to come. There is a day "appointed" when each person is to die once and then be judged (Hebrews 9:27).
That is all for this passage beloved. Next time I look at what Christ said about the great cost of discipleship and what actions a person must undertake when declaring belief that Christ Jesus is God come in the flesh to redeem him/her. We will see that even as Christ set out for Jerusalem He continued to teach His disciples, to tutor them, to invest His wisdom and knowledge in them before He would be gone. Even so, each believer today must see themselves as His student, continually seeking Him out in His Word in order to learn more. Discipleship is a life-long vocation, it never ends while we are living in our corporeal bodies. While we live temporally, we are limited by our sinful nature. We are limited by our finite minds and our finite bodies. We struggle to comprehend the deeper things of God, things which dance just outside of our reach and yet we sense they are there. All shall become known once we join Christ in the air, new bodies, new natures, new names, new song to sing. Until the next time, grace and peace be unto you and your family. Seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened up to you, ask and it shall be given to you.
Thu, Aug 15th - 9:15PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be the greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by Him, and said to them, Whosoever shall receive this child in My name receives Me: and whosoever shall receive Me receives Him that sent Me: for he that is least among all of you, the same one shall be great. And John answered saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Your name; and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us. And Jesus said to him, Do not forbid him: for he that is not against us is for us (9:46-50)."
This is the fourth time that I am attempting to post this to my blog. I pray that it is successful this time. Lots of people are interested in greatness to varying degrees. For some people, it is enough to simply be accepted and approved by friends and neighbors, family and coworkers. Others want more: to be elevated to a particular position, to live in a particular house or neighborhood, to own a certain kind of vehicle, to own a certain club membership---they want something that gives them greater recognition and greater prestige. Still others crave the greatness of authority and rule, of power and fame, of position and wealth. They seek to have greatness far above the ordinary.
It must be recognized that the nature of a person determines whether he/she secures that greatness by whatever means necessary or by respect and honesty, by meanness and depravity or by right and goodness. A person's heart decides if people will be blessed or hurt by that securing of greatness. We see in this short passage that the disciples appear to desire greatness in the Kingdom of Christ. They desired places of honor, recognition, and power. We find them actually arguing over the highest positions in the Lord's kingdom. The term "reasoning" comes from the Greek dialogismos, meaning a dispute, debate, or argument. They were not merely discussing who would become the greatest in God's kingdom, they were maneuvering, jockeying, for positions of leadership. Later we can read about James and John's mother coming to ask Jesus to give her two boys His right and left hand positions in heaven. That is arrogance, and it is ignorance. The disciples were also thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom, a physical and material rule based out of Jerusalem. Their desire was for worldly position, name, recognition, honor, authority, duties, pleasure, and wealth. They were not thinking in terms of goodness or character. They were not meaning the greatest in love and care, in ministry and help, but in worldly terms. The disciples were just full of self, just as all of us today still are. They were not thinking of others, not how they could be great in helping others. Jesus was not apparently in their thinking either. He had just finished revealing that He was to give His life for the salvation of the entire world and yet their thoughts were not on Jesus and the meaning of what He had told them. They ought to have been encouraging Him and seeking to learn all that they possibly could from Him. And today we find it remains difficult to admit that each of us is full of self, that we are self-centered and selfish. This fact hurts; we revolt against it. But this truth must be faced before we can hope to become what we should be.
It is quite obvious that the disciples did not understand what the Kingdom of Heaven was to be. They were mired in finite, worldly, thinking that reflected temporal limitations. They did not think in spiritual terms, in an eternal kingdom. They were expecting to get all that they could for a few short years here on earth, believing that that was of greater value than the hope and reality of the spiritual world and eternal life in Christ.
Against this backdrop Christ paints a picture of greatness. Two actions took place. First, Jesus reached out and took a child; and second, He set this child right next to Himself. By these two simple actions Jesus Christ showed the disciples what greatness was. A person is great when they take a child and bring that child to Jesus. Greatness surrounds Christ and children, children who are willing to be brought to Christ. Greatness is bringing people to Christ who can give them freedom from the bondages of this world. Imagine how great that person is who shows people how to be liberated from sin, guilt, drunkenness, immorality, oppression, loneliness, death, suffering, pain, lying, stealing, emptiness, laziness, cursing/profanity, selfishness, and hatred. Greatness is bringing people to Christ who can give them the right to live, to live abundantly, and to live eternally.
We must have a right concept of greatness. As explained by Christ, greatness is receiving a child, a person, in the name of Jesus Christ. This means doing just what Jesus did: we reach out and welcome and accept a person into our arms. This may sound easy, but often it is not. Sometimes a person is unkempt, dirty, acting ugly, mean, misbehaving, or is disliked, rejected, unacceptable to others. The threat exists that in receiving such a person will cause our own friends to withdraw their friendship because the person is unacceptable to them. Greatness in receiving people means sharing the good news of Christ's kingdom. Jesus said that the child must be received in His name. Jesus must be shared with the person. That person must see that we act in the name and cause of Christ. It also means that we help the person in every way possible, no matter the cost. We do our best to meet their physical and mental needs, material and social needs, and their spiritual and godly needs.
Next Christ revealed what the reward will be for receiving people in His name. It is why it is vitally important to receive people. It is the very reason He came from heaven to earth in the first place. So it is also the thing that all of His followers are to do as well. So Jesus challenges His followers to get it. The reward is laid right out in front of us. If we receive people in the name of Christ Jesus we also receive Christ. It is the very act of receiving others that we receive Christ. The disciple receives a very special presence of Christ, an abiding presence, a presence that cares and looks after and guides and directs the disciple's life. Receiving our neighbor equals receiving Christ, loving our neighbor equals loving Christ. The disciple receives God. This is active in that in the very act of receiving Christ that we receive God as well. God enters our life at the very moment of receiving Christ.
In receiving people in Christ's name the disciple shall be great. He did not say the disciple would become the greatest; He said "great." This requires reaching out to others and receiving them in Christ's name. This action is the evidence that one has received Christ. A person's heart must be opened both to Christ and to others before Christ can ever enter that life. So opening one's heart to Christ is opening one's heart to others. If I have a closed heart toward certain people or groups of people, then my heart is closed to Christ. It also is seen here in this passage that the right to greatness is not an exclusive right. John knew that the apostles had done just what Christ had demonstrated they should not do. They had just failed to receive a man; in fact, they had rejected him even though he was ministering in Christ's name. Why did they reject him? Simply because he was "not one of us, not following us." Sound familiar today? John obviously was "fishing" to find out what the limits to what Jesus was saying were. Certainly not everyone was to be received and welcomed and brought to Christ because they simply did not "follow with us." Some people are different, unruly, too far right, too far left, immoral, uneducated, untrained, unauthorized, or simply doctrinally unsound. What was Christ's response to this? Do not stop them from being received in My name for whoever is not against us is for us. Jesus and all of His disciples are considered here as a single unit. That person who chooses to stand against the disciples also stands against Christ and vice versa. The way a person acts toward Christ and us determines whether we receive that person or not. We therefore have been given a filter to use in determining which people are to be received into our midst. Those who receive Christ and His followers is to be received by His followers. There can be no exclusion at that point.
Well, beloved, it would appear that this post will make it up onto my blog tonight! Praise God! I have had to upgrade to a new modem after the past week and a half of not having access even though DSL signal was present. Old modems do stop working at some point in time. Grace and peace be yours!
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