Category Archives: Faith

Study 8 – Luke 14:25-15:32

The Decisive Disciple

Context

Entrance into the kingdom of God is described as narrow and those who enter it will not be those who presume on God but those who hear the words of Jesus and follow him. The Pharisees and teachers of the law have been fueling their disapproval of Jesus while the crowds listening to him have been growing. Jesus has spoken about the coming judgement that pivots around him – if you are not for him then you are against him. He has come to bring division in households rather than peace. As our series title suggests, “On Board With Jesus”, means being a disciple that has made a decision to be for Him.

Read

25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’

31 “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

34 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”

15 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Observation

Structure

  • 14:25-35 – Counting the cost of discipleship
    • 25-27 – The principle given: such a person cannot be my disciple
    • 28-30 – The principle illustrated 1: Building a tower
    • 31-33 – The principle illustrated 2: Fighting a battle
    • 34-35 – Salt that is not salty is no longer salt
  • 15:1-32 – God the Father rejoices when a sinner comes home
    • 1-2 – The issue raised: Jesus welcomes sinners!
    • 3-7 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost sheep
    • 8-10 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost coin
    • 11-32 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost son
      • 11-24 – The lost son
      • 25-32 – The bitter son

We will spend most of this article on Luke 14:25-35 with some small commentary on Luke 15:1-32. These two sections make a great double-sided lesson: Discipleship is Costly, but God the Father is cheering for you! For the sake of time, it is recommended to choose one of the sections for study rather than try to get through all of it.

14:25-35 – Counting the cost of discipleship

What we see in these verses from Jesus is his description of what we might call the cost of discipleship. He lays out the principle and uses two illustrations to show what he means. Then finally gives us the ultimatum: a disciple is like salt: when it has no qualities of salt, can you still use it like salt?

25-27 – The principle given: such a person cannot be my disciple

“Large crowds were travelling with Jesus…” We are really used to this background by now in Luke (4:42; 5:15; 6:17; 7:9; 8:4, 42; 9:37; 12:1). Luke not only mentions the crowd support or curiosity but also the reminder that Jesus is travelling (to Jerusalem Luke 9:51).

“…and turning to them he said…” Jesus addresses the whole crowd now. He has spoken to the disciples with the crowd listening in before but now he wants everyone to hear. He doesn’t want numbers, he wants commitment. We recall the excuses given in 14:15-24 for what else was more important than coming to Jesus. This teaching follows directly on from that. If people in the crowd are contemplating their allegiance to Jesus, Jesus wants them to know what a commitment means. He begins with a huge challenge!

“…If anyone come to me and does not hate….even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.” Bible reading principle: if a statement in the bible appears to directly contradict another clear teaching, then we must look at the two statements again and listen to what the Holy Spirit is teaching us. 1 John 4:20 condems hatred of others (brother and sister) as a sign that they do not love God. Luke 14:26 has the meaning of “loves more”. That is, whoever loves father, mother, wife and children, brother and sister and even your own life MORE than you love God, you are not worthy to be a disciple. Look at it this way: the bible uses two words to describe commitment: love and hate. We use hate almost always to mean that you wish something were dead! But the bible uses it also as a description of choice. “Jacob I loved but Esau I hated (Malachi 1:2,3; Romans 9:13). Our love for God must exceed our love for our family. Abraham left his home in obedience to God’s instruction to go to another place that he had never seen. He took his wife and servants with him BUT he denied them the comfort and security of staying in the home that they knew. He loved God more than he loved his family – but he did not stop loving his family.

“…take up their cross and follow me…” The hearers of Jesus don’t know yet that Jesus himself will carry his own cross to his own death. BUT they do know what the reference is regarding since crucifixion was a common death sentence. It was a hugely shameful way of dying. The whole process was humiliating and even after death, your family would be ashamed to speak of you. Following Jesus is akin to leaving the security of being respected and loved in this world and committing to being different and choosing to be at odds with the world. Little did Jesus’ hearers know that he was not speaking figuratively altogether. He would literally take up his cross. Many of the disciples died serving the mission of Jesus. All of us must be baptised/buried and reborn into a life of commitment to Jesus.

“…cannot be my disciple.” Stop and breath in this warning. See also Luke 9:23.

The principle Jesus has laid out is this: following Jesus means a 110% commitment to him above all other things. A disciple ought to be aware of this before they go any further in following Jesus. The cost of discipleship is that Jesus comes first.  Following Jesus comes with a warning label: beware the cost of following Christ.

28-30 – The principle illustrated: Building a tower

“…first sit down and estimate the cost…” It is important to acknowledge that following Christ comes at a cost. Many projects in life never begin because the cost is known and is too much. If anybody begins their walk with God before knowing what’s at stake, they may come to a time quickly when they choose to ignore God and put family first.

“…enough money to complete it.” When we match this illustration with the gospel, the expense on our behalf is simply perseverance – keep the faith. To run the race as though you will reach the end. Acts 20:24; 1 Cor 9:24; Gal 5:7; Heb 12:1; 2 Tim 4:7.

31-33 – The principle illustrated again: Fighting a battle

“…first sit down and consider whether he is able…” This second parable begins very similar to the first and so does have the same principle in mind: know what it will cost you to follow Jesus. Will the king act foolishly without calculating the risk or will he be wise and work out how this will play out for him.

“If he is not able, he will send a delegation…” Here is where the second parable differs from the first. The calculation results in failure. The sums do not add up: he is outnumbered 2:1! An army stronger than his is coming. Remember the parable of the strong man and the stronger? Two kingdoms are going to war and one of them is vastly outnumbered. But, what if there was a way to diffuse the war and so you did not have to go at all. The first king avoids defeat but it comes at the cost of a kind of surrender.

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” We need to reconcile the difference between the two parables while allowing Jesus to say: in the same way! What did the king give up? His pride. His self-sufficiency. His self-made triumph over the enemy. He surrendered to someone greater than he. Is Jesus not teaching us that the cost of discipleship includes surrendering to Christ?

34-35 – Salt that is not salty is no longer salt

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” This reminds me of the joke: What do you call a fly with no wings? A walk! What do you call salt that is not salty? Can it actually be called salt? It’s dead salt. It’s expired. It’s ex-salt. We are not to be ex-salted (could not resist that!) If comes to Jesus to be included in the kingdom of God and yet remains in their own kingdom here on earth, aren’t they forfeiting their inheritance? If a king goes to battle on their own and loses to the enemy and dethroned, they are no longer a king are they? A disciple, by definition, is someone who aligns their life with Christ. It is no longer they that live but Christ that lives in them (Galatians 2:20). Salt has qualities that make it salt. Without those qualities, it is no longer desired or used as salt.

A note to bible readers: keep the meaning of the text as your goal and read the text in its context. Jesus talks of salt in other passages and sometimes that will shed light on what we are reading here, but Luke has given us enough to go on. A disciple must be a disciple or else they stop being a disciple. You cannot serve two masters. You cannot be a part time disciple. Darrell Bock, in his commentary on Luke writes, “Failure to pursue discipleship can indicate that faith is not really present, even though it was thought to be.”

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Rather than just a random tack on to the end of his lesson, Jesus is indicating what is really required. Many ears will be present that day to hear Jesus speak but they will not really hear. They will continue to travel with him for a while before scattering and giving up on him. The moment of Jesus’ trial and execution will be too much for the best of the disciples. Jesus’ warning is concluded with this call to listen.

Meaning of 14:25-35

Jesus is not interested in great numbers but in great commitment. Better a few that will take up their crosses to follow than a great multitude who will not give their life to Him. Following Jesus comes with a warning label: followers will lose themselves in order to gain eternal life.

15:1-32 – God the Father rejoices when a sinner comes home

In contrast to Jesus’ warning about discipleship, He expresses how excited God is when a sinner repents.

1-2 – The issue raised: Jesus welcomes sinners!

“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.” Remember the previous verse (14:35). Who are the disciples who will have ears to hear? Answer: the tax collectors and sinners. This couplet is shorthand for “everyone that the Pharisees and teachers of the law would consider unworthy for the kingdom of God.”

“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Conversely, the Pharisees and teachers of the law do NOT have ears to hear. They say this as though it is an evil accusation but this is actually the gospel! And it is the theme of the rest of this chapter. Jesus will answer their mutterings with a celebratory YES!

3-7 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost sheep

“…more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” God is ecstatic over the right choice of a sinner to repent! We must never be slow to come to him and say sorry. He is not seeking self-righteousness, so why do we overlook grace and keep pursuing what we cannot obtain! 1 Timothy 1:15 – Christ Jesus came into the world to SAVE SINNERS! (and I am the worst!). Jesus will not respect those who feel that they have nothing to repent over. The parable of the prodigal son from verse 11 teaches this exact lesson.

8-10 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost coin

“…rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” The lost coin parable has the same message as the lost sheep story. Notice that the searcher looks high and low for their precious thing. We hear a reference to God not being alone in the kingdom of heaven. The angels will rejoice with God. The angels were thought very highly of in the first century (Hebrews 1 illustrates this by arguing that Jesus is better even than angels). Creatures as special as the angels will be amazed when a lost person is found.

11-32 – Repentance results in rejoicing: The lost son

Commonly referred to as the Prodigal Son story, it is actually a story about two sons and the love of the Father. He has equal love for both brothers but the one who was lost is then found, while the one who presumed on the Father and grumbled against him remained outside of the banquet celebration.

11-24 – The lost son

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filld with compassion…” The love of the Father and the quickness of forgiveness is important in this story.

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” This is the model of a repentant prayer. Jesus’ theme here is that he is not looking for righteous people but he is looking for those who are ready to repent.

“Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again…” Like the lost sheep and lost coin stories, this is a story of the lost son. The parable is brought closer to an emotional connection of relationships rather than lost possessions. But the conclusion remains: God is ready to celebrate when we come back home to him and REPENT! He welcomes sinners and eats with them (Verse 2).

25-32 – The bitter son

“Meanwhile, the older son…” The parable turns to look at the heart of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They believe that they have been faithful to the Father but actually they do not know Him and are unable to understand the celebration that is necessary.

“Your brother has come…” Notice how the relationship is emphasised in this story. There is no care from the Pharisees and teachers toward the lost sinners. But Jesus says that these are your brothers!

“…refused to go in.” The nature of those who do not enter the kingdom of God is an unwillingness to enter. Two wills are required, the will of the Father and the will of the sinner. Either of them missing will result in failure. The doctrine of election and predestination expresses that this is true and that even our own change of will is an act of grace on God’s behalf. But God does not force our wills against our own willingness. Notice in the story how the Father goes out to plead with the older brother.

“But when this son of yours…” The older son does not see his own relationship with the younger brother but labels him as a son of yours.

“My son…this brother of yours was dead and is alive again;he was lost and is found.” The Father will not allow his first son to disown his own brother. The story ends with the Father making the same statement as the stories of the lost sheep and lost coin. What was lost is now found. We don’t hear another word from the eldest son since the parable is a lesson for them. How will the Pharisee respond? Given their history and what lies ahead for Jesus at their hand, probably just what the parable gives: silence.

Meaning of 15:1-32

God the Father welcomes sinners and eats with them! He has not come for the self-righteous who do not hear the call to repent. He has come to seek and to save the lost.

Application

Topic A: “Hate” as “love less”. Explore what Jesus means when we are to hate our family and even ourselves. What does this look like for you? Can you share how you have seen this play out in your life? Perhaps you can describe a situation where you are unsure how to apply this which your group can help you with. What does it look like to put Jesus first in life?

Topic B: It’s time for some perseverance. The builder of the tower may have started to build but ran out of resources. Those around him laughed at him. Do you feel like someone who has started out as a disciple but is feeling the difficulty now? Let your group encourage you to keep listening to Jesus who is barracking for you. How can you encourage someone to keep on growing in the faith?

Topic C: Being the king who surrenders. The gospel says that we are all doomed to destruction if we try to go to battle on our own apart from Jesus. Repentance means admitting that you cannot do this on your own. Have you ever had a moment of true repentance? It is a very healthy practice to repent regularly. Using the Lord’s prayer and the Ten Commandments as a guide for your thoughts, you can come to Christ and confess that you fall short of his glory but give thanks and praise knowing that a repentant sinner means more to God than a thousand proud Pharisees.

Study 5 – Luke 12:1-34

The Fear of God

Context

Jesus was challenged in Chapter 11 as being in league with the devil. He responded over many verses to highlight how terribly wrong his accusers were and that, in fact, his actions proved his innocence. However, their actions reveal where their hearts are and that they have not entered the kingdom of God. His accusers were not only outside of the kingdom but they were also blocking the entry for others.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law hardened their hearts more as they increased their opposition to Jesus, trying to catch him out. How will Jesus respond to the opposition? When given an audience of thousands, what would Jesus say? That’s what we’ll find in this weeks reading!

Read

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” 15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Observation

Another large section to study. Choosing to focus on a smaller piece this week would work. Either the first half of verses 1 to 12 or the second half of 13-32, or even focus on 13 to 21!

Structure

  • 1-12 Be clear on who to fear
    • 1-3 – Don’t be deceived by the size of your support.
    • 4-5 – Don’t be deceived by the threat you can see.
    • 6-12 – The small and unseen things matter.
  • 13-34 – Be clear where your treasure is
    • 13-21 – Boofheads build bigger barns
    • 22-34 – Reset your heart to eternal treasure

1-12 Be clear on who to fear

1-3 – Don’t be deceived by the size of your support.

“…when a crowd of many thousands had gathered…” The description from Luke must not be overlooked. Imagine gaining a following of thousands! In this day of YouTube ‘likes’ a number of thousands is impressive. Jesus had his subscribers! But what he says next could only come from a kingdom-minded person. He doesn’t puff up and address his peeps like a saviour of the world! He reacts like the real saviour of the world and warns his close disciples not to be deceived by what they see now.

“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” This huge fan-filled crowd will be easily swayed by the lies and double standards of the Pharisees. Like yeast spreading through a whole batch of dough, this crowd will easily be turned. And they do turn against Jesus to cry out ‘crucify him!’ The size of a church or group is not necessarily the reality of its strength. Jesus will go on to teach his disciples where to put their trust and hold fast to the One who is not a hypocrite. But we must ask ourselves where we stand? Are we truly living for Christ or are we swaying with the influence of the crowd? As our nation and the western world moves rapidly away from Christ, will you move with it? Is popularity and safety more important than serving the living God and keeping your soul?

“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” Jesus is most likely referring to judgment day when the hypocrisy that the Pharisees possess will be exposed. Both the righteous and the hypocrite will have their deeds shouted from the rooftop. The “plotting” (11:54) of the Pharisees will be exposed one day. It is striking that Jesus comments on this while staring at a crowd of thousands. The disciples are about to enter the heated town of Jerusalem where the small but fierce hatred of the Pharisees will grow through the whole town against Jesus and his disciples.

4-5 – Don’t be deceived by the threat you can see.

“I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Jesus is quite emphatic in these two verses that there is a thing worse than death. Notice the word ‘fear’ used three times. There is no escaping the enormity of Jesus’ words here. Forget those with knives or harsh words or prison cells. God has the authority to throw people into hell. How lightly we treat the choices of our day and how often we err toward avoiding confrontations and offending others.

“Hell” Jesus used this word more than anybody else in the whole bible. Matthew especially picks up Jesus’ commentary on hell (Matt 5:22-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15; 33). The word is gehenna and refers to a historic valley (AKA Ben Hinnom) near Jerusalem where evil sacrifices took place during wicked times in Israel (Jeremiah 7:31; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 33:6; 2 Kings 23:10). An evil place which Jesus uses to refer to what can happen to a person after death. In Luke 16, Jesus depicts it as a place of torment. While some scholars attempt to show that God’s judgment comes in the form of annihilation, using images from the bible to make their point, the point is that there are a number of images that the bible uses to describe judgment. As Jesus has said three times in this verse, it is a place to be feared worse than death!

But the God who has the authority to cast into hell is also described as the God who cares…

6-12 – The small and unseen things matter.

“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” After warning us three times to fear God, Jesus assures us now not to be afraid. As quickly as the wicked will be cast into hell, the righteous who do not fall into the prey of the Pharisees are highly valued by God. Something as worthless as a sparrow is worth something to God and the disciples of Christ are worth so much more than them. When you are on the right side of God, there is nothing to fear. Jesus goes on to define what that means…

“…whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.” This is a beautiful contrast between declaring Jesus as Lord before other humans who really ought to fear God and the declaration that Jesus will make of that person before the entire throneroom of the Almighty. We are not to whisper in the ear in the inner rooms but we are to wear our love of Jesus with honour – even if the knife is toward us.

“…everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven…” There is forgiveness available for those who have spoken against Jesus (the Son of Man was Jesus’ self-title which brings together beautifully the image of a human child and the promised coming of God – see Daniel 7). The implication is that if somebody repents, then there is forgiveness but…

“…anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” See Matthew 12:31-32. It is the Holy Spirit who provokes a person to eternal life and seals them for eternity. Those who oppose the work of God in their life will fall under this description. There is no magic word that will place you in this predicament, rather, the ongoing rejection of God. You can be religious and yet deny the Spirit in you. Jesus spoke of demons being cast out only to return stronger because they found the ‘house’ empty (Luke 11:24-26). If people see the work of the Spirit and declare that it is evil, this could be what Jesus is talking about. This record has followed on from the accusation of Jesus casting out demons in the name of Beelzebul.

“”When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities…” Jesus is speaking to his disciples in the presence of a crowd of thousands. You can hear him preparing his disciples not to get used to this fan-based attention. It won’t last because many in this world reject the Lord and his call to repentance.

“…for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Continuing the theme of not fearing man and being confident in the One you have given your life to. The Holy Spirit himself will not leave the disciples behind. This is not a promise that we will always know the perfect thing to say at any occasion. It is the promise that when the time comes to defend the name of Jesus and publicly acknowledge him before others, the Spirit will lead them.

13-34 – Be clear where your treasure is

13-21 – Boofheads build bigger barns

“Someone in the crowd said…” The statement from the crowd shows how little the crowd were understanding of Jesus’ comments to the disciples. Perhaps the person overheard Jesus talk about being on trial before the authorities and blurted out what was dearest to his heart.

“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” The man’s immediate need is where the wealth of his father is going.

“Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” We know that Jesus is Lord of all but Jesus’ question is about why this is his concern right now. He goes on to express how little this should concern us also.

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed…” After being warned to watch out for the spreading hypocrisy of the Pharisees, which is birthed from popularity, Jesus now warns us against material greed. This is just as damaging to the soul. Jesus’ description that follows demonstrates replacing God with money and possessions. Greed is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” The parable that Jesus tells is quite straightforward. A man took measures to look after his investments and financial growth only to lose it in an instant and be left with nothing. He had the world as his heaven and neglected heaven itself. Being poor toward God is to have little to no interest in God. Jesus expands on this teaching in the next section which concludes with the words: “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We will pursue the things that we love the most. Earthly treasure will steal our hearts away from God.

22-34 – Reset your heart to eternal treasure

This section matches quite closely to the passage in Matthew 6:19-34.

“Therefore I tell you…” What Jesus says is a conclusion or application from the illustration that he just ended. Here is the point of the application and the outworking of what you must do in response.

“…do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.” Jesus clarifies exactly what he wants us not to worry about. Some have said that this passage and the Matthew passage command us never to worry, but this is a misunderstanding of what worry is. He’s not talking about anxiety disorders nor the natural habit of stress and worry. He is telling us to put the universe into perspective and stop placing food and clothing at the top as if this is what life is about. He is also not talking about being trendy or not. He’s talking about the essentials of food and something to wear. It is hard to imagine this kind of worry BUT even in a rich society, how we will maintain our standard of living can consume our minds.

Step back and look at how basic Jesus’ command is. He’s not promising wealth or high living. Yet this is what many of us do have. Our struggle will not be about worry over the basics but worry over not having more than we currently have. We could learn to say no to things. Would it be so bad if we went through life with no ensuite? Or if we had simpler holidays?

“…they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them.” Jesus pulls in the illustration of the barn builder and compares him with the simplicity of God’s creation. Everything is created to live. Yet we fight and stress and persevere to have abundant possessions. It’s worth meditating on how many barns we possess. How many bank accounts? Superannuation. Work and life insurances. Health insurances? Shares? I am not suggesting that these are wrong or unwise to have. Being able to take care of yourself and others is a burden the NT speaks of elsewhere (1 Tim 5:8; Titus 3:14; 1 Tim 6:17; Col 4:1). But note the emphasis is on where we believe things are coming from and giving thanks for God’s provision. Jesus goes further to the point to talk about why we should not worry about the size of the next paycheque.

“Who by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” The point here is that our days are numbered. We could build the biggest barn ever and we would still have to leave it for someone else to enjoy. We cannot stretch our life to eternity. We will face death and we need to face up to that fact.

“…you of little faith!” He does not say ‘no faith’ but ‘little faith’. Here is the point. How far are we willing to stretch our faith? This is a faith issue. Do we trust God or not? Do we trust him only for our salvation but the rest of this life is up to us? Or is he not the God who created the heavens and the earth? He is either God. Or he is not.

“…for the pagan world runs after all such things…” Jesus gets more pointed. When you stress and flurry over what you have, you are living like the unbelievers.

“… your Father knows that you need them.” Enough said? Remember the Lord’s prayer in chapter 11? Our Father, give us today our daily bread? This is the prayer of faith.

“But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” The gospel is not just “pie in the sky when you die.” It is also “steak on your plate while you wait”. For some it may be beef and reef with a pinot noir, and for others the bread that is just right for the day. Whatever the menu, the priority is to be God’s kingdom. Fear the one who can cast you to hell. Fear not because he give freely his Holy Spirit to all who ask.

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” For someone who is so familiar with Matthew chapter 6, this little phrase which is not included by Matthew is a brilliant shining star in the familiar story. I love hearing Jesus call us his little flock! He is the good Shepherd and we are his little flock. Cared for. Nurtured. Protected. Guided. Fed. Clothed. Loved. Saved. Given the keys to the kingdom! So don’t be afraid.

“…a treasure in heaven…” Jesus concludes with this coda: retrain your heart to pursue the future. The kingdom is ours so why get obsessed with today’s trinkets? Do you desire a swimming pool but can’t afford it? A bigger house but it will take all your time and devotion to get it? Give your heart to God and let him be your delight forever.

Meaning

Fear is a the topic of this passage. Know for sure what is worth fearing and what is just vanishing anxieties. The draw of popularity may pull you to hypocrisy but devotion to God will keep you straight. Fear for your life may threaten you but don’t let it dominate the real fear of hell. But take heart and know that God is not just on about salvation but is ready to give you the kingdom of heaven along with the Holy Spirit. The keys are yours if you will be proud to be a friend of Jesus. He will not hold back his adoration of you if you do not hold back your devotion to Him.

Application

Topic A: Fear of men. It is common to want to please people and crave the commendation of others. It can manifest itself by being an overachiever because you fear someone criticising you or you crave as many praises as you can get. It can manifest in needing to say ‘yes’ to everybody. It can manifest too in one’s inability to talk about Jesus even when it feels like this could lead to the end of a friendship. Jesus said not to fear those who can kill the body (or hurt our feelings) but fear the one who has our eternity in his hands. A real part of maturing as a Christian is to stop trying to please others but to please God.

Topic B: Greed as idolatry. How do you manage your bank accounts, your income, your investments and your expenses? If you could draw a pie chart showing how much of your money is directed toward you (and you family) and how much is given away, what would the pie chart reveal? What would happen if you gave more away? Is there anything in your expenses that you could stop spending on yourself? God is generous himself and gives us good things as well as essential things. But examine how you could use your bank account to express your faith in God.

Topic C: Stress and anxiety. This is a stressful world and our day is perhaps more stressful than others. Counseling to talk about ongoing anxiety is a great idea. Mental health and medical help are all real things but so is prayer and being real with God. For general stress and worry, consider where your heart is at and who it is you are trying to please? Find someone to talk to about your frustrations with life and listen to their advice on what you should do next. Our ‘little faith’ in God can be real for salvation but may need some help for us to mature as faithful sons of our loving Father. If you are overloaded with anxiety, it is always a good idea to ask for help with it.

The Spirit and Gifts

Next Level Blessings?

Context

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he desired to give them some spiritual gift when and if he visited them in order to make them strong (Romans 1:11). In 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14 he speaks about gifts of the Spirit. In our study, we will try and bring some clarity to what these gifts were and what we ought to desire from God. Are Christians promised to receive more through the Spirit if they seek it? What is the difference between being gifted (talented) and having a Spiritual gift? We will not exhaust this topic but our aim will be to find truth from God’s word so that we may share his desires and vision for Christians and the church.

Observation

Romans 1:11-12 is the only occurrence of the phrase “spiritual gift” in the bible! And clearly it means mutual encouragement in the faith. Many translate 1 Corinthians 1:7 with “spiritual gifts” and yet the word “spiritual” is not in the original Greek but placed there for context.

Paul wants to visit the church in Rome to share his faith with them and hear about their faith and he calls that a spiritual gift. The word gift is to be aligned with the word grace and spiritual is from out of this world. Not a bad way to describe mutual edification.

1 Corinthians 1:4-9 – ‘lack no spiritual gift’ is actually a mistranslation since it only refers to ‘gift’ – probably refers to the knowledge and speech of verse 5 but stems from the grace given in verse 4. Aside from the word ‘spiritual’ asserted into this paragraph, Paul is thanking God for gifting the church with speech (‘logos’ which means words) and knowledge which confirm the gospel of Christ. The gift is about words of faith.

So, the only places where ‘spiritual gifts’ are mentioned both refer to gospel words for building up and strengthening in the faith. The next place to look is where gifts are clearly associated with coming from the Spirit and it covers three chapters written to a church being rebuked for many things.

1 Corinthians 12-14 speak of gifts that are given by the Spirit. Paul makes a couple of points clear:

(1) if it is a gift of the Spirit of God then it will affirm that Jesus is Lord (1Cor12:3). And the gifts will not promote any other Spirit or other God or other Lord (1Cor12:4-6)

(2) That the gifts of the Spirit are for the benefit of the church and not for self (1Cor12:7).

(3) Though there are many gifts, there is one Spirit and one body – not many parts but one body. Unity is key. No matter what gift you have and exercise, the whole body is needed. (1Cor12:8-31 esp verses 11, 14, 20, 26)

(4) that the greatest gift is love! (2Cor12:31-13:13 esp verses 12:31, 13:13)

(5) That it is far better to speak recognisable sounds than unrecognisable ones (1Cor14:1-19 esp verse 19).

(6) gifts do not take over a person but the person is in control (14:12).

(7) What is required in the body is order and peace and understanding so that all may be built up and enquirers be able to repent because of the gospel (1Cor14:20-39 esp verses 28, 39)

Here are the four places in the New Testament which clearly list gifts (charismata). This is taken from a work by Ronald Y.K. Fung and republished in ‘Spirit of the Living God: Part One’ edited by B.G. Webb.

The numbers to the left of the gifts are aimed at numbering and categorising the gifts into 17 areas. The aim in presenting this is not to show the extent of the gifts since lists in the bible are not aimed at being exhaustive but rather to show where the emphasis lies. The order of each column is as appears in each text.

1 Corinthians 12:8-10 1 Corinthians 12:28-30 Romans 12:6-8 Ephesians 4:11
3b word of wisdom

3c word of knowledge

10 faith

5 gifts of healing

4 workings of miracles

2 prophecy

11 discerning of spirits

8 various kinds of tongues

9 interpretation of tongues

1 apostles

2 prophets

3a teachers

4 workers of miracles

5 gifts of healing

6 helpers

7 administrators

8 various kinds of tongues

9 interpreters

2 prophecy

12 service

3a he who teaches

13 he who exhorts

14 he who contributes

15 he who gives aid

16 he who shows mercy

1 apostles

2 prophets

17 evangelists

3a [7b] pastors and teachers

 

Four criteria to hold against claims to spiritual gifts as concluded in Chambers, Neil, ‘Spiritual Gifts’ from ‘Spirit of the Living God: Part One’ ed B.G. Webb, Lancer Books, 1991, p141.

  1. Is this person a Christian, as testified to by his or her testimony to Christ as Lord? (1 Corinthians 12:3)
  2. For what purpose is this activity practiced? Is it for congregational edification? (1 Corinthians 12:7)
  3. What, in our circumstances, is best for the edification of the congregation? One could imagine a situation where, although the person was a Christian whose intent was to edify, the expression of his or her gift may at that time not facilitate the edification of the congregation. (1 Corinthians 14:26-28)
  4. How is this gift practised? Is it exercised in love? (1 Corinthians 13:8-13)

Meaning

When it comes to gifts of the Spirit, we must not jump to fanciful conclusions about them but we must always look at the context of the New Testament writings about them. Firstly, they are called gifts because they are manifestations of God’s grace. Secondly, they are for building up the church. Thirdly, they proclaim Jesus as Lord and are to serve him. Fourthly, they work together as individual parts for the benefit of the whole. Fifthly, there is reason and self-control involved in the gifts – not nonsense, chaos nor out-of-control. Sixthly, any gift must be exercised in faith, humility and obedience. Lastly, love trumps.

Application

  • What talents do you have which could be exercised for the building up of others in the faith? Discuss what you think your gifts may be and encourage others with what you have observed as their gifts. How might you exercise those gifts for the building up of the body of Christ?
  • How would you respond to someone who claims to have a spiritual gift? What if the gift was healing, prophecy or tongues? Use what we’ve read in the New Testament to shape your response.

Prayer of the Week

Lord God, we thank you for your Spirit and your generosity toward us. Help your church to grow in love and obedience to your word. Awaken our desire to serve one another in order to bring glory to you and build one another up in love. Amen.