Mon, Jun 23rd - 9:01PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And He spoke this parable to certain people that trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed this way, God, I thank You, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift his eyes to heaven, but struck his chest, saying, God be merciful to me for i am a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every person that exalts themselves shall be abased; and they that humble themselves shall be exalted (18:9-14)."
We can readily see two things in this passage: the spirit needed for prayer and the spirit needed for one to be saved. The parable is about two men who have gone to the temple to pray to God. It is also a parable of warning. We see the religionist praying as well as a sinner praying. The religionist illustrates self-sufficiency. This breaks down into roughly three types of self-centered individuals. There are those who trust in themselves; they feel they are completely self-sufficient and have no need for anyone else. They feel all they need dwells within their own bodies and minds. There is the feeling that neither God nor anyone else is really needed as one plows through life. We need to notice the pride and conceit in the self-sufficient:
"And if any person thinks that they know any thing, they know nothing yet as they ought to know (I Corinthians 8:2)." "For if a person thinks themselves something, when they are nothing, they deceive themselves (Galatians 6:3)." "Woe to them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight (Isaiah 5:21)!"
There are those who are self-righteous. These people differ from the self-sufficient in that they are interested in righteousness and in God. The self-righteous can be split into two classes. a) Those who feel they are good enough for God just the way they are. They have done and are doing enough good for God to accept them. They believe that when they stand face to face with God, He will never reject them. They do not deny that they do wrong things, but not that much wrong, not enough for God to reject and condemn them, not for all of eternity. They go about doing what they wish, worshiping God only enough to satisfy their consciences. We can find the vast majority of people falling into this classification. Few people believe they will be condemned by God and refused entrance into heaven. b) Those who have a sensitive conscience and feel the need to give themselves to good works as much as humanly possible. They work and do good in order to secure the favor of God. They believe their good works are what make them good and righteous and build them up in the eyes of God. So they work all of their lives trying to build up virtue and merit before God. They try their best to make themselves acceptable to God.
There are those who despise others. "Despise" comes from the Greek exouthenountas, meaning to set at naught; to count as nothing, as unimportant and insignificant. Such persons feel and act as though they are above and better, more important and significant than others. They shy away from, ignore and neglect, pass by and downgrade, criticize and talk about the poor, the unfortunate, the poorly dressed, the homeless, the downcast, the derelict, the undernourished, and the sinner. "Behold, you despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which you shall in no wise believe, though a person declare it to you (Acts 13:41)." "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, do you suppose, shall he be though worthy, who has trodden under foot the Son of God, and has counted the blood of the covenant, whereby he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and has done despite to the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:28-29)." It all three of these groups of people to whom Jesus directed this parable. He appealed to and warned the self-sufficient, self-righteous, and the people who despise others.
In verse ten are two men praying in the temple. A Pharisee and a publican (tax collector). Both of them went to the most prominent place to pray, the temple in Jerusalem, the house of prayer itself. At that time there was no better place to pray, to seek the face of God. So both of them were exactly where they ought to be. Both of them went to pray in order to please God. Both were seeking God, wanting God to accept them and to be present with them in their lives. So what is the problem here then? The Pharisee, a religionist, stood and prayed only with himself. Standing was the posture used for public prayer back in that day. He called God by name and addressed his words to God, but his words were not going up to God. They were not a true prayer. He was speaking only with himself and perhaps to others who were close enough to hear him. His words held only personal value, to build up his self-confidence and social acceptance. As far as God was concerned, no prayer was being offered to Him. It was a formal prayer, no true worship or personal communion was in it. The Pharisee thanked God for making him unlike others. He was thankful that he had been kept from what were considered to be public sins or scandalous sins. He was in the realm of "but for the grace of God, there go I." He felt that God had His hand upon his life and was keeping him from falling into such sins. He obviously felt that God did not have His hand upon sinners. God must be looking upon him as the favored one and upon the sinner as the unfavored one. He even went so far as to list specific sins that he was not involved in: extortion, unjustness, adultery, or non-religious. He even went so far as to list two very positive and worshipful acts which he did regularly: he fasted and tithed. Not just ten percent of his income, but of all that he possessed! He put me to shame.
We need to also consider the prayer of the sinner. This publican stood way off to the side. He apparently felt ashamed and embarrassed by his sin/s. He felt distanced from God and his fellow Israelites. He was estranged from his very own culture and society. He was considered to be unclean. He knew that others were embarrassed and shamed by his sins, and he did not wan tthem to be, so he kept his distance. Nevertheless, he is genuinely worshiping God. He felt he was unworthy to face God. This we see in his attitude of not lifting his eyes toward heaven. He lifted his heart, but not his eyes. He knew that he had fallen into gross sins. He was a terrible sinner and he knew it. He knew that he was unworthy of the least of God's favors. He knew that he had hurt God ever so much through his bad conduct. He now beat upon his chest, out of disappointment in himself and anger at his behavior. His heart burst with tears of pleading, begging God to forgive him. He did not attempt to hide his brokenness from God. He cried out for mercy, for God to not judge and condemn him justly for his sins. He personalized his sin. He called himself "the sinner" (to hamartolo). He did not feel he was just "a sinner" like everyone else. He felt he was the sinner, the one who had hurt and shamed God more than anyone else, the one who was more undeserving than anyone else. He did not identify himself as being as good as anyone else. The word "mercy" (hilastheti) is actually the word for "propitiated." He prayed for God to remove His anger and judgment from him. He deserved God's anger and judgment, but he begged God to turn His anger and judgment away. He sought God to forgive him and give him peace and assurance of forgiveness. He sought to be reconciled to God; he did not want to remain at war with God. Notice here that he knew the only way he could ever be accepted by God was for God to have mercy upon him and to forgive his sins. He had no good thing about him, no righteousness to offer to God. God had to accept him simply because he came to God in all the desperation and sincerity of his heart and begged God for mercy. God alone was his hope, and mercy alone was all he could plead. Such is what each of us ought to pray each day! God have mercy on me, a sinner!
All of this brings us to the major lesson of these verses: justification. Jesus' words are shocking. They are like an atomic bomb detonating in the crowd of listeners. They are contrary to what the world teaches, contrary to the opinions of people, and even contrary to the way many believers act today. The publican is the one justified in the sight of God. Why? Because of what justification means. It means that a person acknowledges their sinfulness and unworthiness and cries for God to have mercy upon them. The justified person is not righteous, but they are counted righteous by God. They have genuinely cried for mercy and turned from their sin to God. Because of their cry and repentance, God has taken their cry and counted it as righteousness. God has accepted this person because their heart was really set upon God and not themselves. The second reason the publican was justified in the sight of God is that a proud approach is not heard by God. The Pharisee did not think of himself as being any sort of sinner, therefore he did not believe he had any need to seek out God's mercy and forgiveness.
Oh, beloved! If you feel shame from what you have done to others, what has been done to you; if you feel ashamed of your lack of position in society, your failure in your responsibility to your family, then hear the new reality that Christ Jesus is declaring to you this day! This can be your Independence Day from enslavement to sin! For Jesus has declared that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Beg Him for mercy! Ask Him to forgive you of your sins this day! Embark upon the new life that His Spirit is calling you to, whether it be a new life in Him or a deeper walk of faith with Him.
Sat, Jun 21st - 9:56PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And He spoke a parable to them meaning this, that people ought to always pray, and to not faint; Saying, There was in a city a judge, which did not fear God, neither regarded any person: And there was a widow in that same city; and she came to him, saying, Avenge me of my adversary. And the judge would not for awhile: but afterward he said to himself, Though I do not fear God, nor regard any person; Yet because this widow troubles me, I will avenge her otherwise by her continual coming she will weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night to Him, though He bear long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily, Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall He find faith on earth?(18:1-8)"
Jesus taught that people must trust God, obey God, and always pray without ceasing. People are not to become weary of praying and give up. The believer's great duty is to persevere in prayer. Now, this discussion along with the parable follows the passage dealing with the return of Christ Jesus. Not receiving from God usually arises from not bothering to ask God in the first place. Believers tend to become discouraged over time when their prayers are apparently not being answered by God. But Jesus says in the above passage that we are to persevere in our prayers, to not give up and stop. If we must pray until He returns then so be it.
We get the distinct feeling that persistent prayer is a necessity. Always praying does not mean that we are not doing other things throughout the day. I am to develop a constant spirit of prayer, to keep an unbroken consciousness of God's presence, to walk in a constant state of prayer to God. "Not to faint" means not to lose heart, not to turn coward, or give up, or give in to evil. Some other verses to read and consider in regards to this passage are I Chronicles 16:11, Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 7:7-8, Matthew 26:41, Ephesians 6:18, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 4:2, and I Thessalonians 5:17.
This parable, along with its reading in other gospel accounts,shows clearly the power of persistence even in the business and judicial business of this world. The unjust judge had no fear of God and cared even less for what people thought or said. He most likely accepted bribes and gave favors to people who held high position and authority. He had no conscience or care for the law, for morality or justice. He simply was out to hand down his own brand of judgment. But here came a poor widow who needed the judge's sense of justice. She had no money with which to bribe the judge. Being a widow she was a woman all alone in a world run by men, with no man and no money to secure legal assistance in order to properly plead her case before the bench. She held no position or authority, no rights to commend her to the unjust judge. She was being persecuted, being taken advantage of and abused by some adversary. The deck was stacked against her getting any type of justice from this particular court. Yet, she did not allow any of this to stop her pursuit of justice. She came and requested that the judge avenge her, to stop her adversary from attacking her. The judge seemingly did not say anything to her beyond denying her request. He had no interest in helping her. However, we end up seeing that this unjust judge finally gives in and grants the widow her request for justice. Why? Because the widow continually went before the judge and made her request over and over and over. She wore him out, used up all of his patience. "Otherwise she will weary me" literally means "lest she give me a black eye." The word can mean to annoy or to damage a reputation. The widow refused to let the judge go. This is the attitude Jesus says believers must bring in their praying to God. We must be persistent, refusing to give in or give up. We must bring our request repeatedly before God, demonstrating its importance to us.
We can find in this parable above some learning points. God avenges His elect who persevere in prayer. These elect are God's own elect, the followers of His dear Son Jesus Christ. This avenging indicates that they are in trouble; they need to be avenged and delivered from being ridiculed, ignored, slandered, cursed, criticized, abused, passed over, persecuted, and injured. God will avenge them because they have chosen to pray both day and night. They recognize that they have great need and that God alone can meet their great need. Thus, they go before God as the Just Judge of the universe. They cry day and night to be avenged of their adversaries (both human and spiritual). They do not accept the silence of God nor allow Him to refuse His delivering power. More verses to study out that move in support of this concept: Matthew 26:41, Luke 21:36, John 15:7, Psalm 91:15, Isaiah 65:24, Jeremiah 33:3, Zechariah 13:9.
Another learning point is that God waits and bears for a long time; He is long-suffering toward all unbelievers. It is part of His purpose: to have mercy upon all who can be reached, not willing that any person should perish (II Peter 3:9). What we must see here is that the believer, bearing up under trial and persecution, is a dynamic witness of the strength of Jesus Christ. Some unbelievers are reached, and eventually they turn to Christ because of the strong witness of suffering believers. God does not always immediately answer the call/cry of a believer. God may allow the believer to suffer trial/s. Why? They are allowed to suffer in order to be a dynamic example to others. The presence and power of Christ Jesus is sufficient to help the believer stand faithfully through whatever may afflict them. A believer is allowed to suffer in order to become stronger and stronger in trusting and hoping in God (see Romans 5:3-5).
The final learning point is that God will avenge His elect in His own time. At the appointed time God will act speedily, suddenly, and without any hesitation. His wrath will come upon those who align themselves against His elect. Who are these "elect"? Eklektos are the chosen, the person picked out. These are believers in Christ Jesus, the disciples of Christ, those individuals who genuinely belong to God (Matthew 24:22,24,31; Mark 13:20,22,27; Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12; II Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; I Peter 1:1; 2:9. The whole focus is upon God's choice. God does the choosing and the picking out. But this choosing is for service and not for salvation or position (John 15:16). The believer is chosen to bear "fruit."
So why is this teaching so important in this day and age? It is vitally important in that during the last days of this age few people will persevere in prayer and faith. Most will fall away in apostasy. Faith is the one thing Christ Jesus is after. He wants trust and belief in Him, in His Word, and in His promises and warnings. The greatest evidence of faith is persevering prayer. These two things are tied together. The person who genuinely believes will be talking and sharing, communing and fellowshiping, living and moving with God day and night. Christ knows that there will few people of faith and prayer when He returns to this earth. It is why He asks if He will find faith on earth when He returns. God understands that the religionists will continually exert their influence within the body of His believers, steadily corrupting the Church over the passage of time. The question becomes one of how many believers will refuse to surrender to the religionists, how many will choose to persevere in prayer and faith to God?
That is all for today, beloved. Another quick week has passed by once again. Travel has quickened the passage of the days. Next time I shall cover the parable of the Pharisee and Publican. May the grace and peace of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior be with each of you!
Sat, Jun 14th - 5:03PM
STUDY IN LUKE
"And when He was demanded of the Pharisees, when the Kingdom of God should come, He answered them and said, The Kingdom of God does not come with observation: Neither shall they say, Look here! or, look there! for, behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. And He said to the disciples, The days will come, when you shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you shall not see it. And they shall say to you, See here; or, see there: do not go after them, nor follow them. For as the lightening, that comes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky; so also shall the Son of man be in His day. But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it also be in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, drink, marry, and were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed all of them. In the same fashion as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, drink, bought, sold, planted and built; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even so shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. In that day, those people which shall be upon the housetop, and their stuff be in the house, let them not come down to take it away with them: and they that are in the field, let them also not return back home to get their stuff. Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever seeks to save their life shall lose it; and whosoever loses their life shall preserve it. I tell you, in that night there shall be two people in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding grain together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they responded and said to Him, Where, Lord? And He said to them, Wheresoever the body is, there will the eagles be gathered together (17:20-37).'
As Jesus continued to walk towards Jerusalem He encountered more Pharisees who demanded answers to their questions. Here in this passage Jesus answered their question about when the Kingdom of God would come. These religious men expected to be able to physically observe God's Kingdom come into being, they were entirely wrapped up in their senses just like we are today. So here is Jesus and His disciples walking on towards Jerusalem with a group of religionists demanding to be told when God's Kingdom would be coming. They were not wrong to be asking Him this question for He had been preaching and talking about it a great deal of the time. Everyone everywhere He went talked about the fact that the Messiah had come and the Kingdom of God was to be ushered in. Jesus preached for all people to repent for the Kingdom of God was at hand. The religionists were keenly interested because they knew it meant great blessings for Israel and for them personally as religious leaders. Their curiosity was aroused.
Jesus' answer to the Pharisees was rather short and to the point, only two verses. But then He turned to His disciples and gave them a dynamic message on the coming day of God's Kingdom and on His own return. Jesus laid out the fact that there are two stages of God's Kingdom: the spiritual kingdom that exists within a person, and then the coming Kingdom to be set up on earth when Jesus Christ physically returns. He also pointed out that the Kingdom of God and of the Lord (Son of man) refer to the exact same kingdom.
When will the Kingdom of God come? That was the burning issue. First, Jesus said that it could not be observed. The Greek word paratereseos means to watch closely, to give close observation to. The Kingdom can not be seen with the naked eye. This fact indicates two things at least: 1. The Kingdom does not come with an outward, dramatic, thunderous show. No one will be able to exclaim, "Look, there it comes!" This Kingdom comes silently with a pervasive influence. It is coming and nothing and no one can stop it. Its coming will permeate the entire world. 2. The Kingdom can't be seen for it is not of this world in which we live out our lives. It is not derived from the physical and material dimension of being. It is unlike any kingdom a person could observe here on earth.
Jesus informs us that the Kingdom is "within us." Some people have said that this ought to be translated as "among you." Okay, but it then tells us that Christ is the embodiment of the Kingdom of God. He is setting up the Kingdom among us, here and now. God then is already beginning to rule and reign in the lives that He touches each and every day. Other people say that the words mean "within us." If so, then the kingdom is to be looked for within the hearts and lives of people. The kingdom is spiritual, it is the changing of hearts, the rule and reign of God within peoples' lives. It is the power of God to take a sinful, immoral, and unjust person and change that person into a servant of God. It is transformation from within to without.
It is also revealed to us, the reader, that the day when the Kingdom of God is finally revealed shall be longed for (verse 22). Jesus was now speaking to the disciples, providing them with more of an explanation. He tells them that the Kingdom is both internal and external. The term "days of the Son of man" referred to the Messianic kingdom. The Son of man is the title used by Daniel when describing the kingdom of the Messiah in Daniel 7:13-14. Jesus tells the disciples that people can't control the Kingdom of God. We can't usher it in sooner than God intends for it to be here. Our hands can't craft the fabric of the Kingdom for it is something well beyond our capacity to imagine. We all must clearly understand that we have absolutely nothing to do with its control. No matter how much I desire to see one of the days of the Son of man I do not control even one single day of it. I can't create one day of the Kingdom in order to see it.
Of course, there are plenty of things that make me want to see the Son of man and to be with Him in His Kingdom now. Tough and horrible problems, persecutions, personal abuse, mistreatment, divisions, torn families and communities, death, separation from family and loved ones, worship and a deep experience with the Person of God. Now, in every one of the above situations, God takes His dear child and meets his/her need. God gives each of us a sense of His presence and care and love. Even if the moment for the child's death and entrance into Paradise has arrived, God still draws near and carries His child in His arms through the shadow of the valley of death (Psalm 23:4).
The day of Christ's return is unknown and it is coming suddenly. Many people will always say that the Kingdom has already completely come and is now present here upon the earth. But Jesus said that the Kingdom is an internal kingdom, a kingdom within us which is the rule and reign of God within our human hearts. Yet, there is also an external kingdom, a heaven for which people shall yearn for and not be able to see. This external kingdom is coming "in His day." When that specific day arrives, it shall come suddenly and visibly, just as suddenly and visibly as a flash of lightening during a thunderstorm.
This day of the Son of man can't come until some things happen first. One thing was the death of the Son of man. Before this Kingdom could ever come to earth the Messiah must suffer and die on the cross in payment for all of mankind's sins. His death is what would make it possible for His Kingdom to come to earth. Jesus then proceeded to explain that His day would be just like the days of Noah and Lot. People will be preoccupied with normal, routine affairs of life. People will be going about their business without giving any attention what so ever to God or to the warnings of coming judgment. Noah and Lot were not men who had reached spiritual maturity and/or perfection. They were not prime examples of spiritual men for other people to follow. But they did one thing which others failed to do: they believed God's Word when God said to prepare for the flood and the coming judgment of fire and brimstone. Despite all of their shortcomings and failures, all of their sensual and loose living, when the Word came to prepare, they believed and prepared themselves. The people of Noah's and Lot's day did not believe and they did not prepare themselves. They simply chose to continue doing what they had always done and were caught unawares. So when Jesus Christ returns the world will be the same as it was in the days of Noah and Lot, they will be caught unaware for they have refused to listen and prepare themselves for the coming judgment of mankind.
Verses 31-33 refer, and can be applied, to both the destruction of Jerusalem and to the return of Christ Jesus. In that day when God gives the indication that His return is imminent, a person must act quickly and decisively, not waiting nor wasting a moment's time. Since He is coming soon, there is no stuff in our homes worth our attention and loyalty. We are to remember Lot's wife for she illustrates the error in thinking that we can turn and go back. She came ever so close to being saved, she had prepared. She had remained faithful to her husband, listening to his spiritual warnings, walking with him through the sinful city and even walking toward God's designated safety. But she walked behind her husband, not by his side; thus, she was able to look back upon her sensual experiences in the world of Sodom. When she did so she perished with the worldly. She came so close but had not released the desire to continue to experience the delights of this world.
What we must not forget is that the essential point is total abandonment to Christ and the warnings of judgment that is to come. We must not attempt to save our lives for this world and its worldly ways. We must not do as Lot's wife and the people in Noah's time. We must willingly lose our lives for Christ and His coming Kingdom. Christ's day of return will be a day of separation. People will be out doing what they do every day of their lives, going about their affairs, working or resting as usual. Those who have truly prepared themselves will be taken home to be with Christ. All who reject and/or oppose God will be left behind. This day of return will be universal. The disciples asked when and where it would happen. The "eagles" can mean either eagle or vulture. Eagles are carrion eaters from time to time whereas vultures eat carcasses exclusively. Vultures gather where the dead are, or soon will be. The coming of Christ and God's Kingdom shall be the same. Christ shall come to the whole earth, to the place where people die. The moral corruption of our world requires the return of God in divine judgment.
That is all for today, beloved! Grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with each of you this day!
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