Thursday, October 18, 2018

Healing on the Sabbath

"Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath” (Luke 13:14).

Luke tells us that on a certain Sabbath Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. He encountered a woman who had been crippled for eighteen years. So severe was her malady that she could not straighten up at all. Jesus took pity on her, and, without her asking, healed her (Luke 13:10–13).

Suddenly, Jesus was interrupted by a self-righteous official who criticized Him for healing people on the Sabbath. This man used his distorted moralism as a pretext for attacking Jesus’ work.

Jesus immediately rebuked him and his associates. “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (vv. 15–16). Jesus’ point was this: You put forth effort on the Sabbath in order to give rest to your animals. Thus, what is wrong with putting forth effort on the Sabbath to grant restoration to a human being?

We read that “when he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing” (v. 17). When Jesus taught and acted, there was a split reaction. Remember when Jesus explained that His ministry would divide the people. Just so, we need to realize that any Christian ministry is divisive. We cannot please everyone. Community evangelization, for instance, disturbs some people, sometimes even the “pious” in the church. All the same, Jesus calls us do the right things, and if opposition arises, we look to Him. He knows what it is like to face opposition.

Christians traditionally have visited the sick and infirm on Sundays in order to bring the healing ministry of Christ and His love to those who are unable to attend worship. Is there any such ministry in your church? Make a list of ways you can make the Christian Sabbath a more redemptive occasion in your community, church, and home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Bearing Fruit for God

If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down” (Luke 13:9).

Jesus told a parable about a landowner who had been looking for figs on a certain tree for three years. Finally, he told his vineyard keeper to cut down the tree. “Why should it use up the soil?” exclaimed the owner. The vineyard overseer, however, said, “Sir, leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down” (Luke 13:6–9).

The application of this parable to Israel at that time is fairly clear. God was ready to judge Israel, but Jesus was asking the Father to give Israel one more chance. We need to consider the meaning of this parable for us today.

This story shows that God requires fruit from us. Because of the aggressive character of modern enterprise and the numbers orientation of some churches, we find many Christians who hold that God does not care about fruit. All He cares about, some choose to believe, is that we try. It would take some pressure off of us if it were true. Bearing fruit, however, is one of the main emphases in Jesus’ ministry. To be sure, we are not to become caught up in our society’s fascination with shallow and quick results, but we dare not become so peaceful that we lose interest in bearing fruit.

God calls us to make our labors fruitful. The parable shows us that God is patient and gives second chances. We need to understand that there is a limit to God’s patience and mercy. It is urgent that we get our lives in order.

In our day, a common philosophy is that human generosity demands that we give people a second chance. But as unpleasant as it may be, we must realize that it is ultimately God’s prerogative to cut down unfruitful trees. Any second chances are evidence of God’s mercy and we dare not presume upon it. We don’t know when we will die. But when we do, there are no second chances.

Dawson Trotman of the Navigators said, “Emotion is no substitute for action and action is no substitute for production.” God wants each one of us to bear fruit. Today, reexamine the parable of the sower. Evaluate your productivity in light of Jesus’ admonition to bear fruit 30, 60, or 100 times what was sown.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Surprised by God's Mercy

Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:5b).

Jesus had been speaking of the coming judgment of God when the righteous would be blessed and the wicked punished. In this context, a man asked Him about some Galileans “whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices” (Luke 13:1). These men had been offering sacrifices to God, in obedience, yet they had been brutally slain. Where was God when all of this happened?

The Bible provides a number of answers to questions about suffering. For instance, as the book of Job teaches, we do not always know God’s reasons, but we know He has a holy purpose for everything He allows to happen. Also, suffering in this world lasts only an instant compared to eternity. However, Jesus answers the question about suffering another way: He says we deserve to suffer.

“Do you think,” asked Jesus, “that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish” (vv. 2–3). The crowd might have thought, “Well, these Galileans must have been worse than the rest of us for this to happen to them.” Jesus rejects that thought. He says that all men stand under God’s judgment, and, apart from His mercy, all would be destroyed.

Our problem is we tend to become so accustomed to God’s mercy that we have begun to think we deserve it. Then we are astonished when we suffer. Jesus says we should not be surprised at suffering; rather, we should be amazed that we do not suffer more. What is truly astonishing is that so many live without excruciating suffering.

Most of us wonder, “Why do I suffer so much?” Yet, do any of us ever ask, “Why is it that I suffer so little when I deserve to suffer so much?” I am afraid most of us believe God owes us a life free of suffering and heartache. Yet, if we really understand the depth of our sinfulness, we will not be surprised by suffering, but by mercy.

The problem of pleasure is perhaps more difficult than the problem of pain. Why is God good at all to fallen sinners is the really profound question. Enjoy God’s goodness and benefits to you today both through grateful prayer and testimony to others.

Daily Podcast:

Strengthened by Grace Episode 17 - "The Trinity - Part 3" - Our host, Matthew Dowling, discusses the cultish rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity and the personal aspects of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Great Crisis of History

In Luke 12:49–57, Jesus tells His disciples that He had not come to bring peace but division. He told them that He was bringing a baptism of fire to the earth, warning the crowd to flee the wrath to come.

This was the great moment of crisis in history. It was a time of urgency that swept the earth with the appearance of Jesus. Jesus’ coming to this planet in the fullness of time was a time of division, of judgment, of separation. In fact, the Greek word for judgment is krisis, which of course we have in English as crisis.

It was a time of personal choosing, when eternal destinies were at stake. Everyone who encountered Jesus was called upon to make a choice, to stand either with Him or against Him. Thus, since the time of Jesus’ first appearance, the world has been gripped in a kind of crisis that will continue until the last great crisis, the Last Judgment.

Jesus warned the crowd that judgment was coming upon them: their generation would, in forty years, see the destruction of all the outward symbols of the old covenant. Jesus warned them to enter the new covenant before it was too late.

In a larger sense, that warning is still valid for us. The new covenant has arrived in history, but men still cling to old ways, ways that have even less validity than during the old covenant period. What Jesus told them is true of us as well: “Make peace with your Adversary (God) before you come to the Judge (God).”

How do men encounter Jesus today, thus facing their own crisis of history? Jesus is in heaven, but men and women encounter Him through His people, the church. The church is His body and His herald. The fiery baptism Jesus came to bring, fell in one sense at Pentecost to ignite the tongues of His people, so that they might bring the crisis of decision to all men.

Forty years later, the fire fell in another sense at the Holocaust of A.D. 70. Knowing these things should make us urgent in our proclamation of His name and make us insistent that the generation of our day be exposed as much as possible to Jesus Christ, Lord of lords.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Division, Not Peace

Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division” (Luke 12:51).

Jesus Christ brought with Him a kind of unity and community the world had never known. We are to be as committed to the union and communion of the church as is Jesus Himself (John 17:21). Yet, Jesus exercised the most divisive ministry in the history of the world.

He said, “From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three” (Luke 12:52). Jesus was not advocating deliberate divisiveness, but He was predicting what would happen. If we are passionately committed to Jesus Christ, those who are less committed will be offended, and those who are indifferent will be uncomfortable with our commitment to Him. Jesus does not invite neutrality. Our loyalty to Him will cause a certain amount of strife and division, even when we try to prevent it.

In seminary, the faculty would daily drill into us the importance of unity and peace in the church. A pastor should never be divisive, we were told. Sadly, there was not an equal amount of emphasis put on the purity of the church. It is easy to keep the peace of the church if we compromise her purity.

We must be careful because God speaks harshly against a contentious spirit, an argumentative style that needlessly provokes strife among the people of God. Jesus was murdered because His teaching and His claims brought division. Jesus Himself was anything but a contentious and harsh person; and yet division followed Him because He was quietly committed to the holiness of God. We are called to a ministry of peace and reconciliation, but there is a certain inevitability to the strife that comes in the wake of true Christian commitment.

As you look at the church in America today, what kinds of divisions do you see taking place? Critical issues like inerrancy, abortion, and the ordination of homosexuals have polarized the body. Recognize your need to take a stand and what it will cost you if you do. Pray today for guidance and strength to take effective action for Christ regarding at least one of these issues.