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Weekly Word

Entries in Healing (12)

Sunday
Jan082017

A People Who Pray

Hebrews 4:14-16; James 5:14-16.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 01, 2017.

As we approach 2017, we have much to be thankful for, and yet we have much to be in prayer about.  The people of America are more and more turning away from Jesus and towards the answers of the world.  Some who say they are following Jesus are trying to walk the fence of following the world and Jesus at the same time.  When we look to the global scene, we see that the nations of the world seem primed for a great delusion.

It is important for Christians not to let these things wear down our desire to live for Christ.  In fact, it is for such a time as this that we are here.  One aspect of our duty to God is to be a people of prayer.  Now when I say this I do not mean that we should treat prayer like a cosmic, Amazon, wish list.  Though we can ask God for things, prayer is not about me getting everything that I want.  Another danger is to treat prayer as some kind of impersonal power or force that we can learn to wield.  We need to pray, but we also need to do so with proper understanding.

Prayer at its most elemental level is a child conversing with its father.  We must recognize who we are to God and who He is to us.  Though the world may look at Christians as weak, it really is a result of the commands we have from our Lord.  We are not to fight as the world fights and neither do we fight against the same things that the world fights against.  When Christians understand prayer as an amazing aspect of putting on the Armor of God, learning to wield the Sword of the Spirit, and walking in the Spirit, then we will find it to be one of our most powerful weapons against the devil and his plans.  Let’s choose to be a people of prayer today!

Come before the Throne of Grace

In the book of Hebrews the apostle is demonstrating the greatness of Jesus and what that means for us as His followers.  In Hebrews 4:14-16 we are given instruction on how the greatness of Christ opens the door for us to approach God’s throne.  It is interesting that he refers to God’s throne as a place of grace.  Earlier rabbis had recognized that God sometimes dispenses punishing judgments against people and nations, and at other times dispenses gifts of grace.  In their minds they theorized that there were two different thrones.  Your outcome depended upon which throne God was sitting on.  Early Christianity received revelation that made it clear this was not true.  In Jesus the Justice and Grace of God are satisfied in one place, one throne.  Ultimately it is a throne of grace because that is God’s intent; He wants to give grace to those who come before Him.  However, one must not be worthy of judgment to approach.  In Jesus, Christians have their judgment covered by the work of Jesus Christ.  We can walk into the fearful place of Justice and it is a safe place for us.  Christians must resist the temptation to split the justice and grace of God.  In fact it is common to focus on one to the detriment of the other.  Some highlight the grace of God to the effect that He would never judge anybody.  Others highlight the justice and righteousness of God to the effect that grace becomes non-existent.  Ours is an even more amazing message.  We can walk into the place that no man can walk, and the fearful judge will lovingly embrace us as His children.

This is why the apostle says that we should come “boldly,” or “with confidence.”  The Greek word that is translated here has the idea of “freedom of speech.”  When we enter into God’s presence through prayer, we do not have to measure our words, so as to avoid incurring the wrath of the Sovereign.  Instead, we are free to speak our hearts and minds before a loving Father.  Of course kids sometimes say dumb and even wrong things.  However, we are in a loving, safe relationship with a Father who is committed to helping us grow and mature spiritually.  Over time our prayer life will go from an infantile wish list to a far deeper intimate communication.  The devil does not want Christians praying.  Think of it as a kind of spiritual, First Amendment (AKA freedom of speech).  The devil cannot overturn this right that we have as followers of Christ.  So, how does he combat this?  He needs only to convince us to shut up, to self-censure ourselves.  He uses doubts and fears about God’s intent towards us, or even His existence, to get us to quit praying.  He sometimes uses brute force to intimidate people from believing God (I quit because it only gets me hurt).  He sometimes uses a seductive attack to get us so hungry for the things of this world that we never come to know God at all, and perhaps could walk away from Him.  Christians every day say things like this as they continue in prayerlessness:  “It does no good,” “I don’t have time,” “Something bad might happen,” or “That stuff isn’t real.”  Satan has a vested interest in discouraging prayer in your life.  But, Jesus gives us the confidence to talk with God.

Jesus is our high priest who properly mediates between us and God.  More than this, Jesus has been a man and was tempted in every way.  He knows how we feel and the difficulties we face.  The Father is not looking for ways to disqualify you and push you away.  He has gone to the cross in order to qualify you.  So, don’t let the enemy put the idea in your mind that God can’t understand how difficult it is to trust God in this world.  It was not easier for Jesus because he was God, it was actually harder.  Why would I say that?  I say that because all the things that discourage us in this world against faith would be harder for a “perfect” person.  When someone does me wrong, I get angry and may blame God.  But I am not a perfect person.  Perhaps God has allowed it because it is a discipline for me that I deserve.    It would be even harder for a perfect person to accept.  Jesus accepted the plan of the cross, and it was not easy for Him.  He knows how you feel.  For your own sake, go to Him in prayer.  No one cares for you like the Father in Heaven. 

The apostle mentions two reasons to come to the Throne of Grace:  to obtain mercy and to find grace to help in time of need.  Let’s look at mercy first.  Mercy is the remission and removal of what we deserve.  Some of the things that we suffer in life are at least partly our own fault.  It could seem spiritual to simply accept it and honor God by suffering.  However, this is not our instruction from God.  We are told to ask for mercy.  It doesn’t matter what you have done or how bad you have messed things up.  You can ask God for mercy.  In fact, salvation is a matter of asking God for mercy.  I do not deserve heaven.  My sins deserve separation from God and His goodness forever.  Yet, the prayer of repentance says, “God, I am sorry for following my sins.  I renounce them and ask for your mercy.”  Notice that it would be mercy for God to simply let us be his slaves.  But He goes above and beyond this and makes us His children.  Thus we can ask for mercy in our lives.  If God still asks us to suffer a situation, then we can yield to his decision and honor Him by what we suffer.

Grace on the other hand is the receiving of that which we don’t deserve.  We don’t merit it in any way, but God gives it anyways.  Yes, it may seem spiritual to be content with what you have and not ask for anything.  But that is not our instructions from God.  We can ask for those things that we think we need and would be beneficial.  Of course that will be a very different list as we mature from an infant spiritually to a mature believer.  If God tells me, “No,” regarding something I ask for then I can yield to His decision and trust that I don’t need it as badly as I think.  God in His sovereignty gives us things for which we did not ask.  However, He also leaves room for things that we must ask for if we are to have them.  Why?  He does so because He wants us to mature and become like our Lord, Jesus.

A righteous person prays

So now let’s go to James 5:14-16.  The main point I want to draw out of this is that a righteous person prays.  If I am lacking in prayer then I might look at this area of righteousness.  Being “righteous” in this passage cannot be talking about having our sins covered by Jesus.  All Christians, spiritually infants or mature, stand before God covered with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  We are all technically, absolutely righteous.  However, in this passage is the hypothetical case of a Christian who is sick because of sin in their life and need the prayer of a righteous man to deliver them.  It is my belief that the word “righteous” here refers to the fact that this believer has no issues of sin that are between them and God.  The righteous believer is not perfect and without sin.  However, they are properly dealing with any areas of sin by first resisting temptation, and second quickly confessing sin if they fail.  1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sin, that the Lord is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  This verse has been called the Christian’s bar of soap.  Many believers who are living a life of prayerlessness do so because they have areas of sin in their life that they are trying to hide.  God in His mercy is working to bring us to maturity.  When we are like Adam and Eve, hiding in the Garden full of shame, He comes out after us.  So all Christian communities need mature, righteous individuals who are in a position to pray for and help other believers.  In fact, even they need other mature believers around them.  None of us can stand on our own.   We need others who will pray with us, and at times for us.

James brings up the issue of sickness.  He actually starts with a person who is simply sick.  Most likely they have prayed for healing and nothing has happened.  At some point they should ask the elders to pray for them.  Let me just say that one thing is clear in this passage.  A righteous person prays for healing when people are sick.  There are some who believe that God does not heal any more.  There are various reasons for believing this.  But all of them are woefully lacking in the face of Scripture.  It is patently not true.  In their minds it is a mark of spiritual maturity to not ask for healing and suffer for Jesus.  I do not want to deride this idea because sometimes God does ask us to suffer something for His glory.  Yet, their default position is that there is no healing.  We are instructed in this passage that if we are sick, we should call for the elders (presumably righteous believers) to pray for us.  Of course God is not required to heal anybody.  But it is not our job to determine whether God will heal someone.  It is our “job” to simply be a child and come before the Father with a request.  Then we trust His answer.  Take note that if there is no immediate healing, it may not be a, “No.”  It could just be a, “Not yet.”  Still we operate in faith.  We ask because we believe He can heal, and may do so.  We wait in faith because we know that, as Sovereign, He gets to pick the time and way it is done.  We accept His final answer because we know that our reward and inheritance are far much more than this world.

James adds another dimension to the hypothetical situation.  He says that it is possible the sick person has sin in their life that is the reason for their sickness.  Sin is not just an issue for the lost.  It continues to be a daily issue for the believer.  Unconfessed sin will always be a barrier between us and God.  I am not saying that a Christian can lose their salvation.  What I am saying is that sin affects our communication and relationship with the Father.  It can even affect how He responds to our prayers.  In 1 Peter 3:7, husbands are told to dwell with their wives in understanding and honor them.  Peter then adds, “so that your prayers will not be hindered.”  So even the sins of how we treat one another can become barriers to our prayers.  Yes, God hears our prayers, but in a sense He is saying, “I want you to deal with this sin first, before I consider these other requests.”  The requests are unable to be dealt with.  Now confession is ultimately between man and God.  But when our sin is against other people then God tells us to make it right with them first (if that is still possible).  Even then, there are times when private sins become such a stronghold in our life and such a barrier between us and God that we need to confess to spiritually mature people.  Confession has a way of breaking those chains and giving us an accountability partner.  Notice that confession is not to a particular office in the church.  Confession can be to any Christian, but it is most effect when to a spiritually mature believer, regardless of whether they have an official title or not.  Thus a righteous person prays for forgiveness when people have sinned.  In fact, they are more able to do so because they have been praying for their own forgiveness and keeping short accounts with God.

We will close with the last part of verse 16.  “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”  This phrase is a bit tricky to translate.  There is one word that often is translated as “effectual, fervent.”  This one word has the sense of that which is working, thus the word “effectual.”  When we think of prayer working, we typically think of getting what we ask.  However, the meaning is not so simple here.  The emphasis is on the fact that prayer is something that is real and is accomplishing a real work when a righteous person prays.  This interaction with God has more to do with God accepting the prayer than it does with Him giving us exactly what we ask for.  The prayer of a righteous person is not hindered, but is getting through to God.  God is not refusing to hear the prayer, until they deal with sin.  He is hearing the prayer and giving it consideration.  Such prayer is powerful because the One receiving it is able to do above and beyond anything we ask.  A righteous person sometimes gets an answer from God that is essentially, “Not yet.”  They may even get the answer, “No.  My grace is enough for you.” This verse is reminding us how powerful the prayer of a righteous person can be.  It is as powerful as the God to whom we pray, which is omnipotent.  Much of a righteous person’s spiritual walk is in this relationship of prayer, and discovery of the heart of God.  An immature child stomps their feet demanding exactly what they ask for.  A mature person draws closer to the Father to discover what it is He is concerned about.  May we be a people of prayer.  But even more, may we pray those prayers as a righteous person who is maturing in their relationship with the Lord.

A People Who Pray audio

Wednesday
Jul152015

Blind

July 12, 2015--Luke 18:35-43

This sermon was preached by Pastor Nick Hauenstein.  Please click the audio link in order to listen to it.

Blind audio

Tuesday
Jun022015

Gratitude

May 31, 2015- Luke 17:11-19

At this point Jesus turns south to head towards Jerusalem by going between Galilee and Samaria.  It is here that he enters an unnamed village and encounters 10 lepers.  Today’s passage gives us a lesson in gratitude or thankfulness.  Neglecting to give thanks where thanks is due is a poor habit that causes our character to deteriorate.  In fact, ingratitude tends to spoil the good things that we have.  It is very common for a person to care for a new vehicle with great detail.  However, as the car gets older our care for it can deteriorate.  It is easier to drive it around without washing it etc…  This ability to diminish in vigor towards the things we ought to do can affect even those who start out very thankful.  Now there are ten people in our story who receive an amazing gift of healing from a horrible disease, and yet only one of them glorifies God and gives thanks to Jesus.  Let’s look at that.

The Hopeless Condition

In verses 11-14 we see the encounter Jesus has with ten lepers.  To be a leper was to be in a very hopeless situation.  Though the Law of Moses has very clear instructions on how a leper could be declared clean by the priest, nothing is said on what to do to get clean.  The truth is that it was extremely rare for a person who had leprosy to get better.  It was practically a death sentence to see its beginning stages on one’s skin.  Nothing could be done medically for these people and their body would slowly deteriorate and waste away.

However, that is only the physical side.  There was also a social stigma.  It was required for lepers to be separated from the rest of the village or city.  Thus a leper is one who has had to break off close contact with family and friends and becomes an outcast.  This type of social quarantine is a very heavy burden for a person to carry because God has made us with an innate drive to socialize on some level.

Thus lepers would often end up in small groups far enough from cities to be separate, but close enough to be able to receive any gracious help from the righteous.  These small “outcast communities” were better than nothing.  Yet, the hopeless condition of each person and the approaching doom of death was a constant shadow over it.

In some ways leprosy is a picture of the sin nature that riddles our human nature.  In this sense we are all spiritually lepers.  It cannot be fixed or healed by anything this world holds.  Only God can help us.  Yet, it is also a picture of the Church of Christ in its sense of being an outcast society.  Yes, from God’s perspective we are the called out ones and that is special.  But from the world’s perspective we are the outcast ones to which it says, “Good riddance!”  We can look at leprosy as a metaphor for being ostracized for one reason or another and learn a lot here.  In Hebrews 13:12-13 it says, “Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.  Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”  Jesus presents himself as the rejected one and offers us a place within his community of outcast ones.

So we have a physical problem, a social problem and lastly we have a theological problem.  Notice that the lepers stand afar off and lift up their voices to Jesus.  That is because they were under requirement by the Law of Moses and the traditions to not come close to a clean person.  Now this pictures the condition of all mankind.  We are spiritual lepers who dare not come close to a pure God.  Legally we are doomed (“the soul who sins will die”).  Yet, in Jesus, God not only comes close to the lepers (see Luke 5 where Jesus touches one), but He actually makes himself worse than the lepers and requires them to join Him by faith in an even deeper level of being outcast.  Though the Law walls us off from God and we are relegated to crying for mercy from afar off, the grace of God has brought Jesus to our side of the Law as he joins us in our hopeless condition.  The marvelous truth is that Jesus is the Lord of life and no condition can remain hopeless when he is there.  Yet, the spiritual healing of a believer in Jesus is seen by the world as a social disease more and more in this world.  At its core, the gospel calls the world to embrace a difficult situation in order to be healed.

The Strange Command

Jesus gives the lepers a strange command and, before we get in to its specifics, I want to show how what he does is so much like how God operates.  In the desert there was a time where the children of Israel were harassed by snakes that were biting a lot of the people.  God told Moses to make a bronze snake and lift it up on a pole.  He was then to instruct those who were bitten to make their way to this thing and simply look upon it in order to be healed.  We are not told that anyone refused to do so.  However, we must admit it was a strange command.  Similarly the Bible tells of a Syrian general named Naaman who happened to be a leper.  His skill as a general had spared him a life of poverty, but it could not completely remove the stigma of the disease he had and its destruction on his flesh.  A young Israelite tells Naaman that there is a prophet in Israel who could heal him.  Thus Naaman travels to Israel and is told to dip 7 times in the Jordan River.  Naaman is offended at being told to dip in the muddy Jordan 7 times and heads home.  It is then that a servant challenges him to at least do it.  Though it didn’t make sense it was actually quite easy to do.  Why not?  God often gives strange commands to test whether or not we trust Him.  What is interesting is that they are often easy to do, but on the other hand they are intellectually and emotionally hard.  Now when I call these strange commands, I will point out that God does not give commands that are contrary to His nature.  Yet, they are often contrary to our logic and require us to trust Him, i.e. exercise faith.

So here, Jesus tells them to show themselves to the priests even though they are still lepers.  Now the only reason for a leper to do this would be because they saw some signs that they were getting better.  Yet, these men are being told to do so without any signs they are better.  They simply must take the word of Jesus for it.  Now His word is pretty heavy because he has proven he can heal.  This call for faith or trust balances two outcomes.  If I trust Him and He fails then I will be humiliated and crushed.  But, if I trust Him and He heals me then I will be free of this cursed condition.  Even today the call of Christ is one that calls us to follow Him by faith, believing that he will do the spiritual work of cleansing us from our sins and healing our hearts (that he will make us to be like him).  You may feel that it isn’t working and are tempted to quit following him.  I would challenge you to listen to this story today and here what the Spirit is saying to you, “Trust me.”  If you will continue to walk in the path that Jesus is on and do the things that he has told you to do, you will find that he will give powerful healing to you in every way.

Thus all ten of the lepers decide to go and show themselves to the priest.  They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.  We are told that they are healed as they go.  Although we are not told how far they went, it was close enough for one to come back and still find Jesus at the village.  I like to think that it was close enough to return and far enough away to be an inconvenience.  Can you imagine their journey?  First is the question, “Are we going to be healed?”  Then the doubts would come, “What if we get there and are still lepers?  Why did he tell us to do this?”  However, when they realize they are healed, I bet it was a Hallelujah moment.   Suddenly they know they can go back to their families and perhaps embrace a child they haven’t been able to touch or see for years.  Every fiber of their being wants to get back to a normal life and yet, what about Jesus.  Can I put my anticipated joys on hold long enough to go back and thank the one who made this possible?  Ours is not a geographical journey.  However, we are on our way to the celestial city to present ourselves to God.  We do this because we have believed what Jesus has told us to do.  Along the road of this life the mysterious power of Christ is working to bring healing to us in every way.  In fact Christ promises to make us every bit whole and complete.  Yet, it doesn’t happen the second we believe.  It happens as we go in faith following the command of Christ.  The joyful truth is that when we stand before the Father in heaven we will be completely clean!  Praise God.

Only One Was Grateful

Gratitude, thankfulness, probably all were thankful at some level.  Yet, only one took the trouble to come to Jesus and show it.  It is not enough to say that we have gratitude in our hearts.  True gratitude seeks opportunity to show itself to the One to whom we are grateful.

Now there is a difference between being happy for grace and being thankful to Jesus for giving it.  The difference is where our primary focus is.  Sometimes we find ourselves being happier for what we have received than we are thankful to God for giving it.  In that way we can be guilty of taking God’s gifts without regard for Him as the giver.  Which is greater, the giver or the gift?  We know the answer, but our life often shows a different answer.

Only one leper took the extra time to glorify God.  Maybe some others thought about going back to give thanks, but this man was the only one who actually did it.  It is sad how despicable our lust for good things can become when we see just how much we can become like an animal feasting on the carcass of Gods gifts.  Instead of taking the time to restrain our flesh and give thanks to God and glorify him for his gifts and then cooking a meal to enjoy, we can leap upon those gifts and suck them dry of any life they have in them.  In the passage the man first glorifies God and then thanks Jesus.  These two things are coupled together.  Thankfulness is between me and God and should be expressed often.  But glorification is between me and you.  It is our testimony of what God has done for us and how great He is.  Take time to Glorify God by declaring what He has done in your life and take time to express thanks to those through whom God has done them.  Though it may seem like wasted time, it is not.  It is time spent keeping our eyes upon the higher and more important things (relationship with God and his people).  It is time delivering our soul from the tyranny of the lust of our flesh for the lower gifts that God can and does give.  In fact it is a means of delivering ourselves from the sin of idolatry.  The good thing that God gives today can become an idol in my life that comes between me and Him.  In the day that we let God’s gifts become idols to us, they also become worthless to us.

A side note to this story is that the thankful leper was a Samaritan, which implies most of the others, if not all, were Judeans.  This Samaritan was even further away from God than the Judeans.  Of all the lepers this Samaritan would deserve it least and yet he is the one who returns.  In Luke 7 Jesus explained this dynamic before Simon the Pharisee, when a woman who was a sinner washed and anointed his feet.  He told Simon a story to illustrate this principle: The one who is forgiven much loves much, but the one who is forgiven little loves little.  Perhaps the Judeans felt they deserved a healing.  Perhaps a part of them was saying, “It’s about time!”  Yet the truth is that all of us are equally undeserving of the grace of God.  If we truly understood our sin we would know that God has given us far more than we ever deserved and could have hoped for.  We would run to him, tossing aside the gifts, in order to wash his feet with our tears and wipe it dry with our head.  The things of this world like different races, stations in life, etc. that make us think we are more deserving are a lie.  We are all the least deserving.  Until we see that we will be ungrateful or at best give it sparingly.  It will ruin our gifts like a cancer that goes untreated if we do not turn around and give God the glory with all our heart.

Jesus then tells the thankful ex-leper this, “Your faith has made you well.”  Now in the context all of the lepers had faith enough to obey Jesus.  Now it is important to remember that the word that is often translated as “heal” can also mean “save,” depending on the context.  It literally means to be safe or saved, whether from injury, disease, or sin, character deficiency, and emotional sickness.  Clearly Jesus means more than that the man’s faith had physically healed him.  Something more would happen in this man’s life than those who were ungrateful.  He would find a spiritual healing as well.  It is a tragedy to be physically healed and yet not be spiritually healed.  Have you settled for lesser things?  Let us all be quick to be more thankful that Jesus is in our lives than all the gifts he could ever give.

Gratitude audio

Tuesday
Mar102015

Invitation to a Supper

Today we will be looking at Luke 14:1-14.

The setting of our passage today is a Sabbath meal to which Jesus has been invited by a high-ranking Pharisee in Israel.  This is going to give rise to several teachings by Jesus that we will look at over the next several weeks.  This supper will give rise to the wonderful truth that God is inviting us to participate in a marriage supper that He is preparing for His Son.  However, in this case, God allows us to participate in our own invitation.  He in a sense invites everyone who will believe upon His Son, what he taught, what he foretold, and what he accomplished.  Thus only those who properly respond to the open invitation are allowed in to the meal.  In fact, we could say that the presence of Jesus within Israel was technically a wedding feast that went horribly awry.

Legalism Binds Us

As we look at the passage we are at the meal where Jesus sits with a ruling Pharisee and all the others he has invited.  Now the problem with the Pharisees was that they were very legalistic.  They focused upon the letter of the law to the exclusion of the spirit of the Law.  When we are focused upon the letter of the law we really want to know what we can get away with and what we can’t.  It is not about wanting to please God, but rather about wanting to please self without getting in trouble.  However, when we ask ourselves why God gave a certain law, we are drawn into His heart and purposes.  Legalism tends to bind us to things that actually run counter to the purposes and the heart of God.  In fact several are on display at this meal.

First, legalism bound them to looking at each other wrongly.  It says in verse one that they watched him closely.  Now it is not wrong to watch our brother if we are doing it in a humble way that serves him.  We would normally call this “watching out” for our brother.  But legalism binds us to watching our brother for the sole purpose of finding fault.  God wants us to watch each other’s back rather than become nit-pickers.  Most legalists have forgotten that they not only were sinners but are still sinners in need of God’s grace.  Yet, there is one caution here.  It is common today to believe that anyone who points out a problem in our life is being mean-spirited and a legalist.  This is not true.  A true brother will not only watch his brother’s back, but also warn him about pitfalls in front of him.  The legalist does this because they take joy in putting you down a peg or too (i.e. raising themselves).  But the true brother does this because they don’t want to see you killed.  Even then, a true brother realizes that they are not their brother’s Lord.  They will remain humble and stand beside you not over you.

Legalism also binds us to misunderstandings about God’s purposes.  It just happens that a man who has dropsy (a condition where the body is swollen with fluid) is sat across from Jesus on the Sabbath.  Now we know why they were watching him like a hawk.  This meal was a set-up in order to find fault with Jesus.   You see, the Pharisees had developed an interpretation of the Sabbath laws that saw healing as a form of work.  I’ve talked about this in greater depth before.  They saw the Sabbath primarily as a restriction upon us.  Thus it was a bleak and difficult day in which we couldn’t enjoy a lot of good things.  However, God did not give the Sabbath to restrict man.  The word Sabbath means rest.  God wanted his people to quit being driven seven days a week as if they had no hope in God.  The Sabbath was supposed to be a day of rest and “smelling the roses.”  It was a day to gather with friends and family, and give glory to God for His great benefits.  It was about declaring God as our ultimate source rather than our own hand.  Thus God’s purpose was not to prevent us or restrict us from helping each other when one was sick or in need.  But, the Pharisees couldn’t see this.

Legalism also binds us to treating one another as less than human (in fact, less than animal).  After Jesus boldly heals the man of his condition and sends him away, he then challenges them.  If they had a donkey or ox fall into a pit on the Sabbath, every one of them would “work” to pull it out.  But they wouldn’t do a similar thing for this man.  Whenever you see people being treated as animals or especially less than animals, you know that the enemy of mankind has been at work twisting the minds of those involved.  Today we have become a people who will obsess over the death of certain animals and yet not blink an eye at the murder of countless unborn babies.  This dehumanizing of groups is the mode of operation of the devil and those who listen to him.

Humble Yourself Before God And Man

They had been watching him like a hawk.  However, Jesus had been watching them and gives a parable to point out a fault with those who were seated with him at the table: pride and self-exaltation.  He warns those who are invited to a meal not to try and sit in the highest place.  No doubt there had been much jockeying going on before the meal.  Self-promotion and ambition are powerful traits that enable us to succeed in many things.  However, they lead us to promote ourselves beyond what God has given to us.  It knows no bounds and will often come in conflict with God.  Clearly our attempts to curry favor with the rulers and those with power in this life can reap benefits.  But in the end this mentality leads us into gross sin.  One more honorable than us may have been invited and we will be asked to move down to a lesser seat.  Now that would be a humiliating moment that most of them would seek to avoid at all cost.  Jesus is “the one more honorable.”  Even though the host of that meal may have not recognized Jesus, God the Father does.  Ultimately he is the one having a great supper.  Jesus is the groom who has come to the wedding feast of his bride.  Yet, the Pharisees and their followers wanted to sit in the seat that belonged to Him.  Now that was fine and all before he came.  Someone had to lead.  Yet, now that he arrived, they should have been stumbling over themselves to give the seat to him.  Even worse they seek to put him to death so that their seat will never be threatened again.  When you walk in pride you ultimately offend those with greater honor than you.  In the end you will receive the fruit of pride, destruction.

There is a day coming when the host, God, is going to manifest to the world that Jesus is the one more honorable- the One to Whom the seat of power belongs.  God will render a decision.  Sometimes He settles things in this life.  But do not be deceived, He will settle it in the Age to come.  Our proper place will be established and woe to the person who has kicked against his proper place.  Instead, be humble in this life and let God promote you, so that at the judgment you will have nothing to fear.

Bless Those Who Cannot Bless You Back

Jesus then turns to rebuke the ruling Pharisee who was hosting the meal.  The previous fault focused on what we shouldn’t do, but this fault is couched in terms that encourage us to what we should do.  When you have a meal don’t invite those who can pay you back in some way (social prestige, invite you over to their place, business contacts, etc.).  It is spiritually smarter to invite people who cannot help you back in any way.  Bless people with a mean who cannot bless you back.  Instead of worrying about our position and using our good to increase that position, we should use those good to bless others, period.  Which raises a question, who do we tend to bless?  Eating with others is a social act which strengthens our bonds together and so we tend to invite friends and family.  Jesus warns us to beware this tendency.  Now we shouldn’t be legalistic with this statement.  Yes, we should obey Jesus.  But it is not his purpose to rebuke a family from eating together.  Rather, this is a special meal the Pharisee is throwing.  Jesus is not making a law that we can never invite friends over.  Rather, he is giving us wisdom about how we should live in light of the judgment that is coming.  Whom are you seeking to be blessed by?  If you seek to be blessed by people then all you do will be corrupted by it.  However, if you seek to be blessed by God, then you will learn to be a blessing to others especially when you get nothing out of it in this world.

Jesus mentions that he should invite the poor, maimed, lame and blind.  There are two levels to this instruction.  Believers are called to help those who are less fortunate in one way or another.  In Galatians 2:9-10 Paul recognizes that the “Pillars” of the church instructed him to remember the poor, “the very thing which [Paul] also was eager to do.”  In doing so, God becomes our reward.  Yet, this also has a spiritual parallel.  Jesus has come to heal those who are spiritually poor, maimed, lame, and blind.  Too often we are trying to reach the rich and famous of the world to join our church at the expense of those who do not appeal to us.  This comes from the spirit of pride and self-ambition.  But when we are humble before God and our fellow man, we serve regardless of the station of another.

Ask yourself the question, “Am I seeking to be blessed by men or God?”  Men can reward you, but they can also make you pay.  But God has a reward for those who live this life in service to Him.  To serve Him is to serve one another in His name.  The humble person knows that the only sure reward and the only sure position is that which God gives.  All else is simply grasping after the wind, here today and gone tomorrow.  Are you able to say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord!”? 

 

Invitation to supper audio