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Weekly Word

Entries in Hypocrisy (4)

Tuesday
Feb102015

You are Loosed

Today we will look at Luke 13:10-17.

In this passage we have a remarkable healing performed by Jesus and yet, we also have a remarkable objection that is made at the same time.  Over the last 2,000 years precious little has changed.  The Gospel of Christ is still making an impact upon this old world and yet, many make illogical and hypocritical attacks against the work of Christ.  As a Christian, we need to be confident in our connection to that man who walked this planet 2 millennia ago.  We need to recognize that our faith exists today because of the work and message of Jesus.  We are part of the work of God.  That said, we also need to remain humble in the realization that we can allow a wayward heart to disconnect us from the work of God and the True Jesus Christ.  This very dynamic will be on display in today’s passage.

A Woman Is Set Free

We see that Jesus was teaching in a synagogue.  We are told the location.  As Jesus taught he saw a woman who had an obvious physical condition.  We will talk about that more in a minute.  However, I must state that Jesus knows both the obvious conditions and the conditions that are not obvious; those ones that remain oblivious to others.  You need to see that Jesus knows your true condition, he has compassion for you, and he has the answer.

Now the condition of the woman is one in which she was bent over in half and could not straighten her back.  It sounds somewhat different than scoliosis, but some debilitating disease had racked her body into a painful shape for the past 18 years.  Just pause for a moment and imagine this happening to you and lasting for 18 years. 

We are also told that the underlying cause to this condition is a “spirit of infirmity.”  Now this is an interesting statement.  First, it clearly points out spiritual activity as the source or cause of the problem.  It is easy in our modern age to scoff and declare that we know it wasn’t a spirit, but rather a virus of some sort.  However, the Bible does not treat sickness as some evil magic by the spirits.  It is only in some cases that we are told either demonic possession or spiritual activity was at work.  Many other cases do not mention or imply any spiritual activity.  If the God of heaven, who is Spirit, could cause matter to come into being at his command, is it not possible that spirits can affect the physical in one way or another?  This is the revelation of the Bible; some physical things have an underlying spiritual cause.  It is also interesting that it does not say the woman is possessed.  There is no interaction with the “spirit” and neither is there an exorcism.  She is not told after the healing, “Go and sin no more…or something worse may come upon you.”  Is she suffering the same way that Job had suffered?  Yes, demonic possession can manifest itself through physical disease.  But, Job was not possessed.  In his case we are told that Satan caused all the problems, even the physical boils.  So some spiritual activity is not so much about possession as it is about oppression.  I think that is the case with this woman.  For whatever reason, God has allowed a spirit to oppress her for the last 18 years.  Now not all sickness is caused by spirits.  However, regardless of the cause, believers are instructed to do the same thing.  We are to gather together and pray in faith for healing; even to the point of calling together the elders of the church and praying over one another.

Here we see that Jesus calls this woman out of the crowd in order to set her free from this affliction.  I have to think that the woman hoped Jesus could heal her that day and yet we see no evidence that she asked.  Rather, Jesus initiates this moment.  It is a joyous thing to know that we serve a God who is an initiator.  In fact, many fail to recognize that He is waiting for a response from them to what He has done in the person of Jesus Christ and the wave of disciples that have come from him.  No matter your need Jesus sees your situation and he has taken the initiative to provide for your healing.  He can set you free physically, emotionally, relationally, and most important spiritually.  Like this woman, we can become bound up by things that we need to be free from; both seen and unseen.  God desires freedom for you.  He did not create you to be bound up by such things.  2 Corinthians 3:17 states, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.”

Jesus touches the woman and says, “You are loosed.”  Her immediate ability to straighten up requires a bit of meditation.  This is huge.  Eighteen years of pain and suffering came to an end in an instant at the Word and Touch of Jesus.  This leads the woman to glorify God.  He is the proper object of our rejoicing.  Too much glorifying of man is going on among the body of Christ.  If God uses someone to help you in one way or another, give Him the glory.  Yes, we can give thanks to a person.  However, we can fall into idolatry when we give to a person what we really should give to God alone.  No man can heal in and of themselves.  They can only trust God and become a channel of His power and grace.  Our tendency to glorify the person is not good and leads to all manner of evil.

An Objection Is Made

In verse 14 we see that the ruler of the synagogue does not like what he is seeing.  It is ironic here that the straightening of a woman who was literally bent, leads to the ruler becoming bent out of shape metaphorically.  He becomes indignant over this situation.  You can tell a lot about a person by what they get angry over.  However, it would behoove us to pay attention to what makes us get mad.  Often we get mad about things we shouldn’t and sit complacently by near things we should be mad at.  When you get mad over little things, or over things that are actually good, it is a red flag that you need to recognize.  Otherwise, our anger will go unchecked and lead us into sin.

The objection he makes is that she is being healed on a Sabbath day in which there was not supposed to be any work done.  His argument is that healing is work.  Now this is a rather flimsy argument.  People could still breathe, speak, and touch one another on the Sabbath.  However, because a woman is able to stand straight at the word and touch of Jesus, it suddenly becomes “work.”  This is clearly a very strained interpretation of what the Old Testament required for the Sabbath observance.  In fact, if we were to call healing work, we might ask ourselves, “Who is really doing the work?”  Healing is the work of God by His Spirit.  Since He created the Sabbath, He is the one who defines “work” and what it is not.  Even then, God is not a slave to the Sabbath.  He is able to do what He wants on a day of rest that he made for humans.  Notice his argument.  There are 6 other days on which you can come and be healed.  So don’t come on the Sabbath.  It seems incredulous that this is his argument in light of the shocking healing that occurred—as if healing were actually happening on those other 6 days.  It is sad that instead of being amazed at the wonder of God’s miracle, he is stretching himself out to make an objection.  When our heart is not right we often “stretch” to make ludicrous objections to God and whomever He is working through.

We might also notice the passive-aggressive style the man employs.  Instead of rebuking Jesus, he stands up and rebukes the crowd.  This underhanded way of slamming Jesus without facing Him is not of God.  The passive-aggressive person has developed a bad habit of trying to make others feel like they are the problem.  They will throw a fit over things that are innocent or irrelevant simply because it isn’t how they wanted it to be.  But Jesus knew exactly how to deal with such a man; he takes him head on and unmasks his sin.

The Answer of Jesus To The Objection

How many years had such leaders ruled over the people of God without a rebuke from Him?  Throughout the Old Testament we are told that God had been faithful to send prophets to rebuke leaders and false prophets.  This would relieve the oppression that godly people would feel underneath of ungodly leaders.  Yet, until John the Baptist, Israel had gone 400 years without a prophet from God to publically check such leaders.  As difficult as it may be in such times, we need to learn to trust God and His seasons.  He works with groups and even individuals in seasons.  Today was a day of freedom for this synagogue.  Whether for spiritual things or for the material things of this world, God can be trust to deal with all things in His time.  Though I may suffer, I can suffer in a way that brings glory and honor to him.  Then I will be ready to participate in the day when he turns my sorrow into joy.  Another thing to remember is that it is important for us to be praying for His intervention.  This is part of growing to understand our need for God’s pure and yet merciful judgment. 

Jesus gives the decision of God against the leadership of this man.  He had probably made similar bully statements over the years.  And yet, this day, God rebukes him.  Jesus tells the man that he is a hypocrite.  He and those leaders throughout Israel who thought like him were steeped in hypocrisy.  Please remember that objections to what Jesus has done are generally masking hypocrisy in the heart of the objector.  Their rejection of Jesus, both his Words and his Deeds, come from a life of pretense.  We will either repent of our tendency towards pretense, or we will press on and reject Christ.  This man was a part of the people who had said they would follow the God of Moses and do everything that He commanded.  This man would say so, and yet here he rejects the very God who he pledged to follow.  How does this happen?  Is it possible today to reject what Jesus is doing all in the name of standing for Jesus?  How many leaders today are teaching people to ignore God’s Word and elevating a modern system of theology over the top of the Truth of God?  How many “Christians” will be led to make objections to True Christianity because they have been following a pretend Christ (or pretending to follow the true Christ)?  God will not let us remain so forever.  He will eventually bring the polarizing truth of His judgment.  In that day we will make our last choice of whose side we will be on; his or our own.

Jesus goes on to flesh out the man’s hypocrisy.  He points to the reality that animals needed to be and were watered on the Sabbath.  If it is permissible to break the Sabbath in order to minister to the physical needs of an animal, how much more is it permissible to minister to the needs of this woman who has been in need for 18 years?  More than that Jesus refers to her as a “daughter of Abraham.”  She is a believer and has a place in the promise of Abraham, but her brother objects to her being set free?  Now it is interesting today that many people have the same heart.  They have more compassion for an animal being killed than for a human baby being ripped out of the womb.  How insensitive have we become to the gross degree to which our ethical decisions display our hypocrisy?  May we wake up before it is too late and repent of such ways of thinking and return to the ways of God.

Now Jesus makes another point.  The way that he words the phrase in the original language emphasizes that the Sabbath is exactly the day on which she should be set free, and not on the others.  It is the most proper time.  This woman, who has had no rest from her suffering, while others around her were able to enjoy the Rest of God, needs rest.  Who will give it to her?  This life has a certain weariness to it.  It is a place of work and toil in the midst of difficulty and suffering.  Yet, in the midst of it, God wants to give us rest.  In some ways our life is a metaphor for these things.  Each day our bodies rest at night in order to be refreshed for the next day.  And yet, eventually we all come to the day of death in which our bodies rest forever.  Yet, this speaks to an eternal refreshing that God has for us.  Similarly, God refreshes us throughout this life in our spiritual walk.  Though we be weary we can find rest and refreshment in Him.  However, it is in the Resurrection and the Age to come that we will find our ultimate rest and refreshment. 

Let us hold fast to these things in faith.  Let us not grow weary in doing the good work that God has given us to do.  Let us not be bullied by the objections and commands of those who are hypocritical.  Rather, let us follow Jesus.  It is He who is making all things new.  The crowd that day was divided into those who were indignant at Jesus and those who rejoiced.  God is doing a good work today.  Many in this world are indignant at it.  But we can rejoice with Him in all that He is doing.  Those who are indignant will be put to shame, but those who rejoice will enter into His rest and be completely restored and healed.  The Truth of God will be made evident in That Day and the logic of those who stand against God will be clearly exposed and judged.  How respond to Christ and His work reveals much about our heart.

 

Loosed audio

Tuesday
Jan272015

Discerning The Times

Today we will be looking at Luke 12:54-59.

In the 1960's Bob Dylan came out with his single "The Times They Are A Changin'."  In it he warns people, politicians, and parents that things are changing and if you stand in the road you will get ran over.  It is interesting that at the end of the song he warns that those who are leading the change today will be the ones standing in the way in the future.  In fact he refers to this constant changing as a curse.  Whether he is tying back to the biblical account of the Fall of Man or he simply describes it as it is, the curse is that things do not stay the same and you either get on board or get left behind. 

Up to this point in Luke 12, Jesus has been mainly addressing his disciples.  But, here He addresses the multitudes.  The disciples needed to be ready for the work he gives them, the persecution they would endure and the return of Jesus.  However, the multitudes needed to make a choice whether to become disciples or not.  In a word Jesus challenges them to get off the fence because the times they were a changin'.

Good At Recognizing The Weather

In verses 54-56 Jesus points out their ability to recognize what the weather will be based upon the signs they see in the sky.  Of course, he doesn't care about their forecasting ability.  Rather he is pointing out how studious and quick to recognize things that had to do with weather.  This will be in contrast to their laziness at recognizing the times.

Israel's weather was impacted by a large body of water, the Mediterranean Sea, to the West and a desert to the South.  Thus when they saw clouds over the water it was a sign that rain was on the way.  Similarly when the prevailing winds came from the South, there would be hot weather.  These were a "rule of thumb" in regard to weather.  Now it would be good for us to stop and ask ourselves this question.  What things do I pay particular attention to and recognize, and what do I not?  What subtle changes in the world around me do I pay steadfast attention to and quickly move in activity because of them?  Is it the weather, financial matters, politics, economics, popular culture, the latest movies?  We need to recognize that the amount of time we spend paying attention to these things will be "exhibit A" when we stand before God and give account regarding this issue of understanding what God is doing.  If you have the attitude that it is too hard to discern what God is doing, or you could care less, then know that you will be left without excuse when you stand before Him.

Bad At Recognizing The Times

Jesus is talking about something greater than what Bob Dylan sang about.  You see Dylan's song has a spiritual side to it, but the wave of change he is talking about are those that are man generated and purposed.  Although we would recognize the Devil has a part to play in them, they are the hopes and dreams of the people at the time and manipulated by the inter-dimensional spirit being we call Satan.  But Jesus is referring to the times of God's dealing with the nation of Israel, in this case.  Over the top of all the turbulent sea of man's projects and changes is the more powerful and unstoppable purposes and seasons of God's purpose.  It is this that the multitudes were missing.

The term "times" comes from a word that has the sense of "seasons."  Thus it is not about sequence as much as it is about the designed time for an activity, whether it be the season of planting and harvesting, or the season of war and peace.  Again, man pursues his seasons, but God's dealings with men have "seasons" as well.  He appoints a certain amount of time to accomplish certain things.  Thus the "seasons" of men and the "Seasons" of God are often at odds with one another.  In these situations it does not matter if all the world are united to do what they want, God's purpose will overrule theirs.  Of course men are free to operate as they will.  However, it is always within the parameters of what God is doing.  The prophets of the Old Testament had warned the people of Israel that a Season of Change was coming.  The Anointed One of God would come and judge the nations and restore righteousness to Israel and the Earth.  Even John the Baptist warned people, "repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."  People needed to prepare their lives and ready themselves for the One who would put down the wicked and exalt the righteous.

Yet, the multitudes of Israel had become hypocrites in general.  The word means to be a stage player or actor (i.e. a pretender).  What were they pretending and why?  First they were pretending to want God's Messiah to come.  They were pretending to want the righteousness of God to be established on the Earth.  How can I say that? I'm not saying it.  Rather, this is the judgment of Jesus over them.  They drew near God with their lips and gave "lip service" to His prophecies and teachings.  However, in their hearts they did not repent of their own wickedness.  They never thought through the reality of what a righteous king would mean in a wicked land.  Their hearts were far from God.

This failure was not for lack of instruction.  They had plenty of instruction and plenty of warning.  Yet, they had spent more energy on understanding the things of temporary impact than on the things of eternal impact.  Even today, here in America, we are swimming in a sea of instruction concerning the times and seasons of God.  We have been warned over and over again that the Righteous Jesus is coming back.  Am I giving lip service to such things without giving proper attention to such a serious matter?  Am I spending all my time on understanding the technology, politics, and culture of my day so that I can succeed, but ignoring God's seasons?  What will it profit a man to succeed in this temporary Age and yet fail in keeping his soul for eternity?

Do you recognize the times that we live in?  This is the Age or Season of God's grace.  Instead of judging the nations, God called a remnant out of Israel (the Church) and commissioned them to make known His terms of peace with the nations of the world.  This season of opportunity has been going for the last two millennia.  Our judgment is sealed but the offer of peace is still on the table.  This season has been compared to a crop.  There is a time of planting, a time of letting it grow, and eventually there is a harvest.  The Church Age is coming to a close.  I do not offer dates only warnings.  The Harvest of the earth is nearly complete and then the judgment will come.  Are you ready?  If you do not take time to understand these thing then you will not be ready and will perish in the judgment that is coming.

Bad At Recognizing Our Personal "Times"

In verses 57-59, Jesus focuses not so much on the greater "seasons" of God's dealing with Israel, but on God's dealing with each individual.  His dealing with you as an individual has seasons as well.  "Why even of yourselves do you not judge what is right?"  God is faithful to make sure that his Truth is being revealed to us.  He works to bring us to a knowledge of the truth, to bring us to faith, and then to transform us.  Those who continue to resist this work until it is too late will be judged.  Thus the multitudes were interested in hearing Jesus, but they needed to pay better attention to the spiritual implications of their life.

The people of Israel were about to face judgment as a nation.  This means that all the individuals of that nation were facing judgment as well.  The handwriting was on the wall and the Romans had only increased their stranglehold upon the nation of Israel.  The political and religious leaders had only grown more and more ungodly.  Many rebel groups kept forming, being stomped out, and forming again.  Such dangerous times teach a person to make sure that they have right standing with God.  When the world around you is going to hell in a hand basket, you had better know that you belong to God.

This instruction, about being taken before the magistrate and seeking terms before the judgment, seems to be a metaphor for the coming judgment by God.  They were about to be judged nationally and personally. Yet, notice that Jesus is advising them to do everything they can to settle out of court.  The practicality of settling out of court is seen in different ways.  Some settle out of court because it will be cheaper in the long run.  Others settle out of court because the offended party has the choice to have mercy on us.  But the magistrates must carry out the law and give us the penalty due.  

It is here that we see the offer of salvation in Jesus being compared to "settling out of court."  Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden.  In this sense we are not just burdened with the sins of others.  We are also burdened with the overhanging judgment of our own sins.  But the words, "Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!"  A simple changing of your minds and putting of your trust upon Jesus can change everything.

When Israel was in the desert, they lived as nomads in tents.  They had no permanent home.  When the cloud of the presence of God lifted off of the Tabernacle, it was time to pack up camp and leave.  When it stopped it was time to unpack and set up residence.  This is a picture of what the Christian life is supposed to be like.  This is not our home.  Our home is when we dwell with Jesus.  Until then, we follow Him throughout this wilderness.  When he packs up to move we do to.  In some ways the "church" has become too enamored with building permanent institutions in a time in which we are to be quick to move with God.  Those very things we build become an entanglement to our heart when God asks us to leave them be and come follow Him.  We have to be careful that we are not hanging on to things that God is leaving behind, nor chasing things that have nothing to do with where He is headed.  Such things cloud our judgment and steal our time away from the more pressing eternal matters of God's purposes.

 

Discerning the Times audio

Tuesday
Dec162014

The Sin of Hypocrisy

Today we will be in Luke 12:1-12.  We apologize that the audio is not available for this sermon.

In the previous chapter, Jesus had been speaking in particular to the Pharisees and Lawyers.  Here he turns directly to his disciples in the midst of a chaotic scene that had developed around them.  His directives to them can help us to see how these religious leaders could be so blind to the Truth of what God had actually called them to do.  Well the answer to that has to do with Hypocrisy.   This is a Greek word that originally referred to the dialogue that would occur between actors.  But over time it became associated with acting itself.  This quickly was used with the negative connotation of someone who wasn’t being real, they were acting out something other than what they actually were; thus, a hypocrite.  These religious leaders had become great actors (hypocrites).  But their inner life was anything but godly and they constantly talked about being like God, but never actually doing it.  So, today, we use this word to speak of those who say one thing but do another.  Of course it has become an easy pejorative to throw around.  What I mean is this.  Just because someone sins doesn’t mean they are automatically a hypocrite.  Some refuse to try and live as the Bible tells us because they don’t want to be hypocrites.  However, this is actually hypocrisy.  With their mouth they are testifying that they want to be a “good person.”  Yet, with their actions they reject God’s direction in this area.  The truth is that they only want to follow their own ideas.  Let’s look at the passage.

Beware of Hypocrisy

Now in verse 1 it tells us that the crowd had increased greatly and that people were beginning to “trample” one another.  It is possible that people were actually getting stepped on and hurt.  However, this word was also used metaphorically to refer to rudeness, insults, and overall selfish activity at the expense of others.  There is an irony pointed out that they were trampling one another in order to get near and hear Jesus, who would be teaching them to love one another.  Did they really want the Word of God?  How can one justify trampling their brother in order to get something from God?  Of course this is the way of the world and to be expected of humans.  But it is not the way of God and should not be acceptable in the life of one who claims to love Him.  When you look at the angry, verbal attacks coming from the Lawyers and the people trampling each other to get closer, it becomes clear that there is some evil spirits at work here.  This is not as an excuse for the people, but as an extra dimension to what is stirring them up.  Jesus has spoken truth to them and they don’t like it.  Their flesh and a spiritual enemy is stirring them up so that they do not receive what Christ has to offer.  Things are getting ugly quick.  It is here that Jesus teaches his disciples to beware Hypocrisy.

He does so by using the imagery of yeast or leaven.  When you add a little bit of yeast to a lot of dough it will cause the whole loaf to become fluffy.  Now this is good if you like fluffy bread.  But it is a picture of how sin and hypocrisy work.  Whether we are talking about a group or an individual, to allow hypocrisy to continue without rooting it out will eventually affect the entire person or group.  Now the word “beware” is to watch out for something, and to keep it in front of you so as not to forget about it.  Thus we must be vigilant within ourselves and not put up with “small” amounts of sin.  This is how hypocrisy starts.  We make excuses for small amounts of sin and yet pretend as if they don’t exist or matter.

Next Jesus warns that all hidden things will be brought to light.  Now many things are brought to light in this life, however, not all things.  Still, imagine if everything you said in private or thought in secret would end up on your FaceBook page.  We can be thankful that life doesn’t work that way.  Yet, Christ warns us that we should not “bank” on secrecy and privacy.  God has an interest in making all things public because everyone of us plays the hypocrite throughout our life.  If it wasn’t for the reality of God we would all be completely consumed by it.  Yet, eventually we will all stand before God one day.  God knows all things.  Our hidden thoughts and secret counsels are completely open to Him.  He will bring forth judgment upon our life.  If we don’t want to be convicted and exposed as a hypocrite before Him then we will have to judge our own hidden things now.  What I mean by that is this.  God calls all who want to follow Him to live lives of recognizing their own sin, confessing it to Him, and asking for forgiveness.  This “pre-judging” of our own sin, if done with faith in the mercy of Jesus, will allow us to avoid the judgment of God.  Also, if I will not judge myself now, then God will judge me later.  Either way, the truth is going to come out.  This should affect the life of anyone who believes that Jesus means what he says.

Thus we should be careful what we say in secret, whether to another or to ourselves mentally.  The disciples of Jesus are called to be those who guard their tongue.  A part of ourselves that James says is “a world of iniquity….and it is set on fire by hell.”  Most people fear private speech only because of the threat of a tyrannical government.  But God challenges us to think higher.  We guard our words because God Himself has vowed to bring them all to light.  What is going on in the secret place of your heart and mind, your inner sanctum?  Jesus warns us to not play the hypocrite, but rather bring those areas under control.  This naturally leads to the problem of those who fail to heed this advice and choose the path of Hypocrisy.

Don’t Be Afraid of Hypocrites

Hypocrites are able to worm their way into many positions of authority and power.  The temptation is to let our fear of them be the only thing that affects what we say or do.  This might keep us from speaking, but it will not put out the seething inferno that is ignited in the heart of those under tyranny.  I don’t say this to promote tyranny.  Just to point out that fighting against tyrants may bring relief in the life of many, but it will never make us more like God.  In fact, many rebels who have thrown down tyrants have in turn become tyrants themselves.  Jesus moves to the issue of the fears of our heart that lead to compromise and hypocrisy.  He says point blank that they will seek to kill his disciples.  Here we already see their anger against Jesus.  Elsewhere Jesus told his disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before you.”  When we follow Christ we are called to be the opposite of a hypocrite.  Instead of acting out a pretend role we are actually living the life of one who is a warrior against their own sin.

Like Cain with Abel, the hypocrite’s beef is not with you.  Rather, it is with God.  However, since they can’t take it out on God they take it out on you.  Many hypocrites started out wanting to be like God and stay true to the principles of their heart.  But fear of the hypocrites they ran into along the way caused them to compromise and eventually they became a hypocrite themselves.  At this self-loathing point one either drops the charade or angrily defends their portrayal of righteousness.

Yet, Jesus reminds us that these hypocrites are limited.  They can only kill your body.  Now this is not to put down the horrendous things that men have done to each other.  Torture and hideous deaths are not just things of history.  They are our everyday news.  Yet, Satan uses our fear of being limited and weak as a means to bully us into playing the hypocrite.  Jesus tells us that this can only go so far.  Ultimately, they cannot control what you think and believe in your heart.  Even though they kill you, they can do nothing more.  Yet, God is greater than these hypocrites or any man for that matter.  He can not only kill you but destroy your body and soul in hell.  If it is fear that motivates you then fear the right thing.  Don’t give up in the short-term at the expense of the long run.

Now God wants us to be motivated by something better than fear.  If we are rejecting Him then we need a healthy dose of the reality that His power over our lives is greater than all the other things we fear in life.  But if we want to be His disciples then he wants us to know his love and care for us.  Thus God’s love is the prime motivation for not being a hypocrite.  If you love God then you will flee hypocrisy like Ebola.  Jesus softens the previous words about hell, by pointing to God’s desired intentions toward them.  God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.  When you are surrounded by hypocrites it always feels like God has forgotten you.  You are tempted to give in.  Yet Jesus reminds his disciples that God has not forgotten them.  Just like the Father did not forget His Son who was hanging on the cross feeling abandoned, which was proved by the resurrection and ascension.  So God hasn’t forgotten you, no matter what you are going through.  He also points out that we are valuable to God.  If he notices when even one sparrow falls, does he not notice you?  Of course He does.  You are more valuable to Him than many sparrows.  He counts the very hairs on your head; that’s how much He cares for you.  We can always know that God has not forgotten us because of the Truth that we are valuable to Him.  How do we know this?  God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  Jesus hanging on the cross is God’s ultimate picture to you of how much He loves and cares about you.  So don’t be unfaithful to Him and play the harlot with other hypocrites.  Rather endure their insults and persecutions and keep your eyes upon the character and will of God.  When the righteous are put to death, God is not forgetting them nor are they merely expendable.  Rather, they are doing exactly what Jesus himself did: testifying with their dying breath on behalf of the love of the Father.  Hypocrites live as if God cannot see them.  But believers live knowing they are always in His sight.

Speak as Christ before All Men

In verses 8-12 we have several words that deal with speaking.  Hypocrisy is generally revealed through the things we say in private versus those in public.  The word “confess” means to acknowledge, to agree with, or to speak the same as another.  The word “deny” means not to speak for or on behalf of another.  The term “blaspheme” means to speak evil against another.  Lastly the word “answer” means to speak in defense of one’s self or another.  This is why I summarize the section with the phrase “speak as Christ before all men.”  We are not only to acknowledge the Truth of Christ, but we must also agree with it and speak it exactly as he did.  We are to be Christ living through our lives.

Thus in verse 8 Jesus tells his disciples, who in their fight against hypocrisy would be struggling with these temptations, that if they will confess him before men (speak the same thing as he and be identified with what he said) that Jesus will acknowledge them before the angels in heaven.  Now in Matthew 10 Jesus says the same thing only saying that he will acknowledge them before his Father in heaven.  Thus the idea is that our confession here on earth before men will be vindicated by Jesus in heaven.  There is a timing issue here that is not specified.  In the now, it seems that heaven is silent as we suffer and are persecuted.  Yet, we are told that Jesus is interceding on our behalf before the Father.  He is speaking up for us and acknowledging us.  This ought to give us great hope to know that whatever we face, God is in control; even if it be a cross.  Yet, when we die we will stand before the Father.  He could bring out a long list of our sins and failures.  Yet, Jesus promises that He will acknowledge us and speak up on our behalf.  “He belongs to me.”  Thus judgment will be avoided by those whom Jesus acknowledges.  Yet the alternative is true.  If we refuse to speak on his behalf (whether out of being neutral or from rejecting him) he will refuse to speak on our behalf.  Thus we will face judgment without the forgiveness of Christ.

Next Jesus gives an interesting view into our sins against God Himself.  Jesus says that those who sin against him will be forgiven.  The implication is that those who ask forgiveness will receive it.  He is not saying it is okay to sin against him.  Only that it will be forgiven to those who ask it.  We can think of the Pharisee Saul/Paul here.  He fought against the Christians and the testimony of Christ and yet, when confronted by Jesus himself, Paul repented and received forgiveness.  Jesus then warns against blaspheming the Holy Spirit, i.e. speaking evil against the Holy Spirit.  This leads us to what has been called the “unpardonable sin.”  Ultimately the unpardonable sin is completely rejecting the witness of the Holy Spirit, which is pointing us to Jesus.  If you are afraid that you may have committed the unpardonable sin then it is pretty clear that you haven’t.  I say this because sensitivity to sin is a sign that the Holy Spirit is still working in your heart and you are open to Him.  I do not believe Jesus is saying that one cannot ever reject the witness of the Holy Spirit.  Otherwise, a story like Paul’s would not make sense.  When Jesus confronted Paul with his sin of rejecting the witness of the Holy Spirit, Paul repented, changed his thinking and life.  Yet, many of his generation refused to accept the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives.  They persisted to the point that they could not receive the very thing that was sent to save them.  If we die making our stand against His witness then we cannot be forgiven.  That is what many of the Pharisees did.  Yet, there was still hope for them if they would repent and believe.  The Holy Spirit would especially be working once Christ was resurrected and ascended into heaven.

Lastly, Jesus reminds them that when they are persecuted they are not supposed to worry about what they will say.  Jesus knew that those who speak with him in their life would eventually face persecution.  He comforts us with the reality that we need not worry how we will defend ourselves or even Christ.  We needn’t worry because the Holy Spirit will teach us what to say in the moment.  Though we won’t be able to see Him, God Himself will be present with the followers of Jesus and in the moment of their greatest loneliness He will fill their mouths with the words to say.  We see this evidenced in Scripture when Steven is martyred.  Can we trust God and live open unhidden lives before Him and each other?  Only by dying to self and following Jesus is it possible.  Let us fervently love one another in truth.

Tuesday
Dec092014

Faults of the Evil Generation III

Today we are in Luke 11:45-54.  We have been looking at a section where Jesus reveals several things that were problems in his day.  Yet, he classified his generation as an evil one.  Previously we looked at two things that Jesus rebuked them for: their spiritual eyesight had been damaged, and their sin had caused them to focus on their outward life to the expense of their inner life.

These two rebukes set up a situation in which a lawyer, who is offended at what Jesus said, receives 4 more rapid fire rebukes from our Lord.  In each of these rebukes we need to be faithful to compare ourselves to the actions described and ask God to reveal to us if we have similar things we are neglecting, or how we can deal with those things better.

Offended by Correction

Although Jesus does not say this, it is important to see that the lawyer begins at a place of being insulted by the rebukes of Jesus.  Now we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t bristle at correction.  No one likes to be told they are wrong and need to change.  This tendency rears its head early on in our lives and, if not dealt with, will continue to control our reactions on into our adult life.  Those who are given over to wickedness especially do not like correction.  Even God himself is unable to correct them without them getting their feelings hurt.  This is an important point.  No one loves you more than God.  If He corrects you, He does so with the best intentions and purest motivations.  He is trying to save you from the bad results of your choices.  If we should accept hard things from anyone then God should be at the top of the list.  In Christ, God Himself had come down to correct His people because they were destroying themselves individually and as a nation.

Yet, the leaders and the people as a whole were offended or insulted by Jesus.  The word “reproach” in verse 45 (NKJV) literally means an injury or public insult.  Our attachment to our sin will take what is intended to help us and is offered in sincere love as an insult.  In other words it is received as an action of hate.  Was Jesus a hater?  Of course not, but he is received so by those who hate what he has to say.  Yet, if you desire to put to death the wicked deeds of your heart (as true godly people desire) you will make good use of rebukes that even come from those of ill-will.  Think of David when he was fleeing Jerusalem because one of his sons was leading a coup against him.  David was the true king and it is truly evil for his son to usurp the throne from him.  However, David knew that he had his own sins too.  He had committed adultery with Bathsheba and created tensions between the families of his wives.  As he leaves Jerusalem there is a man named Shimei who was a relative of the previous King, Saul.  Shimei was running along the road cursing David and saying that God was paying David back for usurping the throne from Saul.  This, of course, was a pack of lies.  The man is speaking out of the bitterness and jealousy of his own heart.  Yet, David receives what he says and “spits out the bones.”  David knew that even though the man was not right in what he said, God really was rebuking David for his true sins.  Thus the wicked will receive rebukes from no one.  But a righteous man is able to hear the voice of the Lord even through the voice of the wicked.  Lord help us to be careful how we respond to rebuke.

Ultimately this man is trying to justify himself.  Thus, he deflects his own wickedness and accuses Jesus of wrong.  This technique is abundantly practiced in our society.  Whether in politics or religion, we use the failings and sins of the other person to justify ourselves.  We will even use the appearance of sin and accuse others of ulterior motives so that we can discount their message and promote our own.  The godly do not do such things.  The godly person trusts in God as their justifier.  They do not need to hide their faults, nor do they argue with others through character assassination.  Without arrogance and in repentance, we must stand before God and trust in his justification whether society accepts it or not.

They Enforce Duties Hypocritically

In verse 46 Jesus points out that the Lawyers were not as innocent as this man wanted to believe.  Now, there needs to be leaders and people who are able to instruct us in what our duties to society are.  But how this is done is critical.  These guys not only loaded up the people with a huge amount of regulations, but also enforced them hypocritically.  Now a heavy amount of duties is bad enough.  The picture here is like that of loading up a donkey or some such animal.  Each animal has a maximum that they can carry without detriment to the animal.  These lawyers tended to load up people with a heavy amount of laws and regulations.  Take note that God gave Israel laws.  But the rabbis and lawyers had added a great amount of added regulations.  Now it is bad enough to have a heavy load to carry.  But, it would be easier to take if the person who is doing the loading is also carrying the same size load.  Yet, these lawyers, when they made the case against others were very strict.  But when it comes to them, they don’t even lift up one finger to do the regulations.  This hypocrisy makes the heavy weight even heavier. 

God did not do this.  In fact, in Christ, God comes down and carries the burden for us and even takes upon himself most of the burden.  To the point that he could say, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest…My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  We see this same dynamic among our own leaders.  They pass all manner of laws to lay upon the citizens, but don’t have to lift a finger to carry the same burden.  They use all manner of loopholes, justifications, and flat out exemptions only for themselves.  This hypocritical enforcement causes the nation as a whole to groan under the weight of such heavy regulations.  If they break the law there is generally much mercy and grace.  But if an average person breaks the law, they are legalistically and harshly penalized.

Of course this is used as a means of control and manipulation by those in power.  When people are harassed and fearful of punishment, they are more easily subdued to tasks they did not ask for and directions in which they do not want to go.  God’s purpose in giving mankind commands and knowledge about life is not to imprison and control.  Rather, He only gives commands that will set us free from the prison of our own sinful flesh, and the tyranny of our own sinful desires.

They Reject the Prophets God Sends

In verses 47-51 Jesus points out their rejection of the prophets.  This is not just a problem that Israel had.  It has been a problem throughout every generation that we tend to hate those whom God uses to call us to account.  The majority rejects the narrow path of God’s Way and embraces the wide path of destruction.  Sure in some nations at some points in time a majority may choose God.  But these times are few and far between when compared to all the other nations and points in time.

Jesus points out that their tendency to make great shrines to the prophets was itself evidence that they rejected them.  How?  The problem is not so much the graves.  But think of it this way.  The only prophets they honored were dead ones.  Do you see the hypocrisy in that?  A dead prophet is not around to point out your sin and neither can he point out your twisting of his words.  Thus it is always safe to honor a prophet after he is dead.  But their fathers put those prophets to death, they hated them so bad.  Why turn the grave into a shrine?  They would honor a prophet by dressing up his tomb and yet not give honor to the message he stood for by living out its corrections.  Even now they were rejecting Jesus who was the Prophet of prophets, and the exact image of God.  His message was without error and the perfect brilliance of God’s Truth.  There could be no excuse to reject Him and still claim it was for God’s sake.  In fact all the prophets who were killed before were pointing to Jesus.  Thus the tombs themselves become a hypocritical cover and self-justification.

Yet, Jesus states that God will call their bluff.  They claim to love the prophets, yet God will send them prophets and apostles.  They will not only reject Jesus, but also the apostles and prophets that are sent to them by Jesus.  It is a mercy of God that He always calls our bluff.  He loves us too much to let us deceive ourselves and not call us out.  Just as God called their bluff, so he will call ours.  If we refuse to receive the Truth when it comes then the very thing that was sent to help us will become irrefutable evidence against us.  Thus we demonstrate what side we are on (the godly or the wicked) by our actions.

There is an ancient tradition of those who stand for God’s ways and those who rebel against them.  Even in the first family we find Cain being filled with hatred for his brother simply because God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and not his.  Cain kills Abel.  Jesus uses this first jealous murder and the death of the prophet Zechariah as book-ends to a long history of godly men being put to death by wicked ones.  This Zechariah seems to be the prophet referred to in 2 Chronicles 24.  Joash had become king at a young age.  So the High Priest Jehoida had taken him under his wing and taught him all the ways of God.  The Bible says that Joash was a good king all the days of Jehoida.  But then one day Jehoida died.  Then Joash’s heart was turned away from the ways of God and idol worship became prevalent in the land once again.  Zechariah was the son of Jehoida.  He stood up and confronted the king and the people with their sin.  Joash commanded the son of his mentor to be put to death.  How tragic for a man to be so good for so long and then in the end choose the side of wickedness.  We might ask ourselves which side we are on?  God has been faithful to send his prophets and ministers throughout the land.  Where you attend church says a lot about which side you are on.  The prophets were always killed by self-righteous religious people and that will be true in the future as well.  Be careful how quick you are to reject those who come in the name of the Lord.  Take time to compare it to what the Bible says.  Pray for God to cleanse your heart and reveal those things you need to deal with.

They Obstruct the Way of God

In verses 52-54, Jesus points out their tendency to block people from the truth.  It is bad enough to refuse the truth of God.  However, such people often attempt to obstruct those who are trying to follow God.  Thus Jesus uses the picture of a key.  A key is necessary to open a locked door.  Now there are two ways to take this word picture.  First, Jesus could be talking about the key that opens our ability to receive knowledge or enter into it.  According to Solomon, the fear of the Lord is the beginning (key) of wisdom.  Without it we will never enter into God’s wisdom and knowledge.  Humility, repentance, and a desire to change will open for us the door to wisdom and knowledge from God.  When I know that, on my own, I am the fool and God is the wise sage, I am then enabled to hear Him.

Another way to take this picture is to see knowledge itself as the key.  In Matthew 25 Jesus accuses the Lawyers of shutting up the way to heaven.  Thus the knowledge which God gives opens the door to heaven (dwelling with God).  Yet, the rabbis and lawyers had corrupted the knowledge of God by misrepresenting it and misinterpreting it to the people.  They had twisted the key of knowledge so badly that it people were hampered in getting close to God.  In fact, most people will abandon a key that does not fit or turn a lock anymore.  Our own sins lock us out of relationship with God.  But in His Word He has given us the knowledge to unlock that barrier.  Ultimately Jesus and what he has done is the key that removes that barrier.  Yet, we must believe on him and can only do that through understanding all God said to point us to Jesus.

The religious leaders had become like a mad dog that stands on the porch and won’t let anyone go through the door.  They wouldn’t go in and stood in the way of others getting in.  Yet in his mercy God sent prophets and lastly Jesus so that those who were being blocked could get around such dogs.  Well the last verses point out that the lawyers could not receive these rebukes either.  They are angered and began to verbally attack Jesus and when the opportune time had come they physically attacked him and killed him; offended by correction.  God help us to not follow such outwardly religious and inwardly wicked people.  Take care how you listen and to whom you give most of your time.  You will be accountable before God for the choices you make.  For even though wicked men may have stood in your way, God in His mercy has been faithful to offer you the Truth in many irrefutable ways.  So get into God’s Word for yourself and honestly seek what He is saying.