May 31st, 2009 – 2 Timothy 4:1-5

May 24th, 2009

Growth through Resisting the Easy Road

Lesson 5

Introduction

The great American inventor Thomas Edison persisted with over 8,000 experiments in his effort to find the elements for the filament of a incandescent light bulb. Someone asked Edison if he was discouraged after failure number 7,000. Edison replied, “Oh, my no! I haven’t had any failures. In now know 7,000 things that won’t work.” (Total Life Prosperity, Lanson Ross)

In our drive-through line, instant everything culture we can be tempted to take the “easy road” in many ways. This certainly holds true for our spiritual lives as well. Whereas some attempt to wrap what it means to follow Christ in variations of easy steps, God’s Word calls for persistence when it comes to spiritual growth. Our faith in Christ will grow in part when we reject the temptation that the easy road presents and embrace persistence and endurance. Paul in this passage says, “… keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5). These are all images of staying with the effort to grow in your faith.

Your faith will grow when you consistently recognize and respond to two things (2 Timothy 4:1-5):

  • Recognize God’s Desire to Reveal Himself (vv.1-2)
  • Recognize the Effort Needed to Understand God (vv.3-5)

Recognize God’s Desire to Reveal Himself

Read: 2 Timothy 4:1-2

In v.1 Paul depicts God’s inherent right to be heard. According to this verse “Christ Jesus” will return as “judge”. He will inspect the lives of the living and the dead. In other words, no one, believer and non-believer alike, will escape the insightful eyes of Christ. As the Creator of all life God has the inherent right to be heard. You will either be in tune and in alignment with what He reveals through His Word now or later. In essence, God cares how you live your life. He cares that your faith in Christ grows. He cares that Christ’s death on the cross equates to more than “fire insurance” (salvation from hell or eternal separation from God). God has the inherent right to be heard, but you must still make the day-to-day choice to listen and respond in order for faith to grow.

In v.2, Paul outlines two means God uses to reveal Himself in His effort to transform lives. First, God uses His written Word. He implores young Timothy to “preach” or communicate God’s Word “in season and out of season” — in other words consistently and constantly. Notice in v.2a, God’s written Word carries the potential to “correct, rebuke and encourage”. When God reveals Himself and you recognize and respond, it changes life. In this case by correcting when you are on a destructive course (“correct”); when you need to confront a weakness (“rebuke”); and when you need encouragement to stay on the right course (“encourage”). God’s Word reveals His direction and purpose for life. The question is, “How will you respond?”

The other means in which God uses to reveal Himself and thus change lives is through relationships with His loving people. Note that in v.2 Paul not only speaks of what to do in regard to God’s written Word (“correct, rebuke and encourage”), but in v.2b he speaks of how we are to approach people with the truth revealed in scripture. He states, “… correct, rebuke, and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.” This means having relationships with other believers which exhibit “great patience” with one another and “careful instruction” meaning all thoughts, advice, interaction ought to have a solid Biblical basis. As a church family or church body we are not called to pool our ignorance, but share Biblical insight that we have learned through pursuing the truth.

In the context of vv.1-2, the God of all creation, the God of the universe bends down to reveal Himself through His written Word and through relationships with other believers who are grounded in the truth. A faith that grows first recognizes a loving God Who has gone to a lot of effort to reveal Himself to you.

Recognize the Effort Needed to Understand God

Read: 2 Timothy 4:3-5

Key Question: In vv.3-5, what is both the implied and stated effort you will need to make in order to grow spiritually?

From 1960 to 1966 a great baseball player named Maury Willis set the record for most stolen bases. In 1962 he set the club record for the Dodgers with 104 stolen bases during a regular season. However, Maury Willis set another record in those years, a record obscured by his accomplishments on the baseball field. In 1965 he held the record for most stolen bases, but he also held the dubious distinction for most times called out in a single season while attempting the steals — 31 times in 1965. Maury Willis didn’t let those failures or setbacks discourage him from trying as he kept his eye on the opportunities and took them one at a time. A faith that grows will require taking one opportunity at a time, getting back up when failure occurs and trying again and again. It is not easy but worth it.

Paul in vv.3-4 speaks of a day when people will take the easy road and they will not “put up with sound doctrine” or any inconvenient truth from God’s Word (v.3a). “… Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them …” those who will tell them only what they want to hear (e.g. “what their itching ears want to hear” v.3b). In v.4, Paul further concludes such people will “turn away from the truth” and turn instead to “myths”. Our natural inclination is to create God and life to our own personal liking.

In v.5 Paul challenges young Timothy and the church in Ephesus, “Don’t take the easy road and surround yourself with those who simply tell you what you want to hear.” Instead he depicts a transformed life as one with the ability to think straight when others do not (“keep your head in all situations”); the ability to endure challenges in life (“endure hardship”); the ability to be an effective witness (“do the work of an evangelist”); and the ability to make a difference in other’s lives (“discharge all the duties of your ministry”).

Conclusion

“Millions of people in our culture make decisions for Christ, but there is a dreadful attrition rate … In our culture anything, even good news about God, can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes to the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship.” (Eugene Peterson)

Faith does not grow simply because there is a desire for it to. You have to be willing to “sign up for a long apprenticeship”. Growing faith occurs when we refuse to give up and commit instead to a journey that will take a life time. The easy road will always be available and tempting, but to grow you must learn to resist taking it.

May 24th, 2009 – 2 Timothy 3:12-17

May 17th, 2009

Growth through Doing Good Works

Lesson 4

Introduction

We have been studying several things (to be five total) that can put us in a position for our faith or trust in Christ to grow. The first four including our subject here are:

  • Growth through the Practice of Courageous Faith – 2 Timothy 1:6-9
  • Growth through Knowing and Living by the Truth – 2 Timothy 2:14-18
  • Growth through the Pursuit of Personal Holiness – 2 Timothy 2:19, 22-26
  • Growth through Doing Good Works – 2 Timothy 3:12-17

There is no claim here of some mystical bag of tricks out of the Bible that cause a growth in faith when we do them. That would be a faith/works approach to your relationship with God. 2 Timothy is written to Timothy as a pastor and by extension the church he led, so Paul is speaking to those who have already experienced salvation through God’s grace and have taken that initial step of faith in Christ. Our subject here is, “What next?” How does a believer’s faith grow after he/she initially embraces a relationship with Christ? The disciplines or steps we are and have been considering simply put us in a position to grow. It is God Who actually causes the growth, but as we learn to respond to Him out of love (Matt. 22:34-40) our faith or trust in Christ will grow. It is a transformation process that is life-changing.
A man named Elton Trueblood has been credited with the following: “Our faith becomes practical when it is expressed in two books: the date book and the check book.” We will not venture into your checkbook (sigh of relief!), but this passage in 2 Timothy 3:12-17 does eventually involve your date book —- how you invest your time and life. Paul calls us to be “equipped for every good work.” (v.17) How can we be prepared for the good works God will bring us to do? Let’s consider two things — the awareness needed (vv.12-13) and the inward process needed (vv.14-17).

The Awareness Needed to Prepare for Good Works

Read: 2 Timothy 3:12-13

Key Question: What does Paul warn us about when we desire to become more Christ-like?

Prior to this passage, Paul in vv.10-11 listed the difficult experiences he had when he pursued a growing faith in Christ. His conclusion even after all that Paul had suffered? “… Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” v.11b. Like us, Paul would not have known that God would bless him through the difficult times unless he received such understanding through life experience. In other words, trust or faith in God develops when we live by or take action on the belief that God can be trusted in all times. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Another way to look at this verse in Hebrews is when you refuse the faith journey because it entails trials along the way then that is like living as if God does not “exist”.

After revealing his own experiences of growing in his faith through trials (vv.10-11) Paul warns in v.12: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, …”. In vv.12-13 the message in essence is that if you make the commitment to grow in your faith there will be sacrifices (v.12) and there will be evil to confront (v.13). The underlining reality is the Satanic realm does not want your faith to grow. Satan can’t stop God from causing the growth so he will seek to discourage you instead.

To allow God to prepare you for “good works” (v.17) starts with the basic awareness that it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it (2 Timothy 3:10-11)! Note the challenges upfront and develop strong relationships with other believers who desire to grow in their faith and you are less likely to be discouraged.

The Inward Process to Prepare for Good Works

Read: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

Notice that right off the bat in v.14 Paul exhorts, “… continue in what you have learned and become convinced of, …”. To be in a position for your faith to grow it is not always about learning something new. Rather, it is about “continuing in what you have learned”. Paul mentions in vv.14-15 that it will take time for your faith to grow. Specifically, you are called to embrace on a personal basis the truth from God’s Word from trustworthy people (v.14). Also, Paul points out that if we “continue” to learn and apply the truth in God’s Word we will in time experience the invaluable wisdom inherent in scripture (“… you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” v.15). Paul is not limiting “wisdom” only to a profession of faith in Christ. This wisdom carries implications for our whole lives which include that moment when scripture revealed to you how to be forgiven and have a relationship with Christ. Like an oak tree it will take time for faith to grow. Paul speaks with this in mind when he states, “continue in what you have learned”.

The second part of the process for faith to grow besides taking time (vv14-15) is the fact that a growing faith requires day-to-day commitment (vv.16-17). Verses 16-17, call upon each believer to see God’s Word as God-inspired (v.16a) and experience scripture as life-changing (vv.16b-17). In vv.16b-17 are revealed five ways God’s Word is life-changing:

  • God’s Word teaches us what we need to know (“useful for teaching”)
  • God’s Word confronts us when we need a wake-up call (“rebuking”)
  • God’s Word corrects when we need a change in course (“correcting”)
  • God’s Word encourages when we are on the right path (“training in righteousness”)
  • God’s Word equips us for good works (“… thoroughly equipped for every good work.”)

Conclusion

So we have come full circle! We started with a journey that involves a spiritual growth process “so that” (v.17) each of us can be prepared for “good works”. How does faith grow? In part by being prepared for and taking the opportunity to do good works. Are you prepared and are you willing?

May 17th, 2009 – 2 Timothy 2:19, 22-26

May 10th, 2009

Growth through the Pursuit of Personal Holiness

Lesson 3

Introduction

When a tree or plant grows it means there are things in place such as soil with nutrients, roots deep enough to deliver those nutrients, rain, sun shine, … Without these factors in place growth simply will not occur. Even though spiritual growth is not as tangible as things like soil, rain and sunshine we nonetheless need to have certain factors in place in order to experience growth. In this journey through 2 Timothy we are learning about ‘How Faith Grows’. There are disciplines we must commit to in order to see our faith or trust in Christ grow. So far, we have noted the need for two things for faith to grow:

  • Growth through the practice of courageous faith (2 Timothy 1:6-9): Courageous faith may not be anything dramatic but simply having an attitude that allows God to teach you something through a difficult circumstance for example. Courageous faith could be overcoming pride and offering an apology. The key word is “practice”. We learn to trust Christ by responding during those small but key moments in life.
  • Growth through knowing and living by the truth (2 Timothy 2:14-18): Too many believers today are spiritually empty and easily deceived by subtle false teaching because they do not make the effort to deeply understand and live by the truth revealed in God’s Word. Faith grows when we discover day-to-day the truth from scriptures and engage in the process of living by what is revealed.

In this session, we will consider how our faith grows through the pursuit of personal holiness (2 Timothy 2:19, 22-26). As Paul reveals in vv.19, 22-26, personal holiness or transformation requires an active protective effort (vv.19, 22a) and an active growth effort (vv.22b-26).

An Active Protective Effort

Read: 2 Timothy 2:19, 22a

Key Question: What actions are called for in order to protect ourselves spiritually?

The first term used in v.19 as translated in the NIV is “Nevertheless”. This a transition word is referring back to vv.17-18 where Paul spoke of the danger false teaching poses to a church body. Then Paul proceeds with, “… God’s solid foundation stands firm, …”. The “solid foundation” that is “sealed with this inscription” is the church community or body.

When it comes to the pursuit of spiritual growth or personal holiness, the body of believers known as the church is a key component. For one thing having genuine relationships with other believers who are pursuing personal holiness is important for faith to grow. We don’t grow best in isolation. The best growth and protection against destructive forces such as false teaching is healthy relationships with one another as the body of Christ — the church.

By being and staying closely connected to a church we have “God’s solid foundation” for taking two personal protective actions when they are needed (vv. 19b and 22a). First, Paul states in v.19b, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” The word “wickedness” refers to anything (environments, temptations, attitudes, …) which run counter to the character of God. Paul says, “turn away” from such environments or circumstances which will influence you to live in contradiction to God’s character as revealed in scripture. Secondly, Paul says in v.22a, “Flee the evil desires of your youth, …”. You not only need to protect yourself on a literal front from things that will lead you away from God (v.19b) but “flee” the very desires within you which will lead to the same result — spiritual drift from God. Both “turn away” and “flee” mean to take these actions aggressively and consistently.

The pursuit of personal holiness entails first a defensive, protective posture. You are more likely to be aware of things that cause spiritual drift when you are intimately connected to a body of believers seeking to grow in their faith as you are. We are called in part to protect one another as the body of Christ.

An Active Growth Effort

Read: 2 Timothy 2:22b-26

One of the great things about the second part of this passage (2 Timothy 22-26) is Paul does not stop with “flee”. He doesn’t stop with what to avoid. Some churches only vocalize what they are against as opposed to what they are for. Paul says “turn away” (v.19b) and “flee” (v.22a) so he calls you to be against anything that disrupts your relationship with Christ and hinders your faith in Him from growing. Note though that he doesn’t stop there. He says next to “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace”. Like the appeal to “flee evil desires” the term “pursue” carries the idea of pursuing these spiritual traits as an absolute necessity and the need to persistently pursue “righteousness, faith, love and peace”. It is an intensive, purposeful effort involved.

At the end of v.22b it is noted that we are to pursue these things “… along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” You are to pursue spiritual growth “along with” other believers. Paul is depicting a vibrant, growing relationship with God which benefits your relationships “with” other believers.

In the final verses (vv.23-26) as a believer in relation to one another you are exhorted along three lines: refuse to get involved in foolish arguments (v.23); pursue a servant’s heart in relation to others (v.24); and handle opposition and the resulting conflict well or in a Christ-like way (vv.25-26). A faith that grows will experience growth in both contexts — in relation to God and in relation to people.

Conclusion

In a prison located in Kishinev, Moldova, the prison’s vice warden told the American Bible Society that he noticed recognizable changes in prisoners who had become believers and publicly identified their faith in Christ through baptism. “They have changed their attitudes, their visions for the future, their whole outlook toward life,” he said. As a result, the prison authorities in this former Soviet republic plan to allow Christian ministries more access to the prisoners, “… because these visits produce good results …” (National and International Religion Report, Vol. 7, #15).

Pursuing personal holiness is not a religious ritual. Like in the lives of those prisoners, a faith that grows will produce “good things”.

May 10th, 2009 – 2 Timothy 2:14-18

May 3rd, 2009

Growth through Knowing and Living by the Truth

Lesson 2

Introduction

As believers if we are not hungry for and purposeful about spiritual growth then our faith in Christ becomes over time a lifeless intellectual formula or a religious ritual. Through this journey to discover ‘How Faith Grows’ last time we considered from 2 Timothy 1:6-9 the fact that our faith or trust in Christ grows as we make the choice moment to moment in life to practice courageous faith in God. In 2 Timothy 2:14-18 we will see that faith also grows through making the effort to know and practice the truth found in God’s Word.
While fishing off-shore in a small boat, a man fell overboard and immediately began to panic. Since he was alone, he decided to call out to God for help. He cried out, “Lord, please save me! If you’ll just let me live I’ll start keeping the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not, uh, thou shalt not, uh … Oh, God, if you’ll just get me out of this I promise to learn the Ten Commandments.” (Beaumont Examiner, July 8, 1999)
The truth revealed in scripture is life-changing. It is life-directing. However, how many actually dedicate the time to understand and live by the truth revealed within the pages of God’s Word. Are we in truth more like the fisherman caught in the midst of an emergency only to turn to God and His Word when we feel like we’re about to drown?
Paul exhorts young Timothy to be two things related to the truth revealed in scripture:

  • Be Firmly Grounded in God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:14-15)
  • Be Aware of False Teaching (2 Timothy 2:16-18)

Being Firmly Grounded in God’s Word

Read: 2 Timothy 2:14-15

Key Question: What is so important about having a growing understanding and application of the truth found in scripture?

The context of this passage can be noted by two things: First, Paul in the verses preceding this passage called upon Timothy and other believers to embrace and pass on the truth from scripture to the next generation (1:3-5; 2:1-13). Secondly, there were false teachers who kept causing confusion and havoc among believers who were not well grounded in God’s Word. When Paul calls upon Timothy to “warn” believers “against quarreling about words; …” he is challenging believers not to waste a lot of time engaging false teachers in worthless “quarrels” or arguments. Paul says, “… it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.”

One sure sign that we are being firmly grounded in the truth from scripture is an ability to discern and avoid majoring on the minor things in life. Engaging in senseless arguments is a distraction from what in life really matters. Constantly worrying over the small things leads to “ruin”. It will tend to subvert our spiritual growth.

Instead of senseless “quarrels about words” Paul in v.15 calls believers to a life pursuit of having a deeper understanding of truth revealed in God’s Word. As Paul depicts this truth it is a truth tested by time (v.15a) and a truth needing to be correctly handled (v.15b). First, Paul states, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, …” The phrase, “present yourself” lit. means stand alongside of and “one approved” refers to passing careful scrutiny before God. This “approval” is connected to how we work to understand, apply and even communicate God’s Word to others. As we “do out best” to understand, apply and pass on truth to others God transforms our minds (thinking), hearts (desires) and lives (priorities we live by). Being grounded in the truth is not simply engaging in more and more intellectual facts from scripture, but rather engaging a living, loving God in the scripture Who will change our lives over time.

Being Aware of False Teaching

Read: 2 Timothy 2:16-18

In the final part of this passage, Paul denotes two types of danger that false teaching posses when we don’t recognize it for what it is: First, false teaching posses a personal danger to your spiritual life (v.16) and secondly, false teaching posses a corporate danger to the body of Christ (vv.17-18).

We are cautioned first to, “Avoid godless chatter, …”. “Godless chatter” does not refer here to idle gossip which is destructive enough, but rather refers to false teaching. Note the downward spiritual spiral Paul warns us about when we are not grounded enough in God’s Word (v.15) to discern and even “avoid” false teaching (“godless chatter”), “… those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” Lacking the Biblical basis or foundation to discern what is really true from what only sounds true carries the consequence of becoming less and less like Christ (e.g. “more and more ungodly.”) A shallow understanding of truth and superficial spiritual lives of one generation will be passed on to the next ultimately with devastating affect.

Note also when false teaching goes unchallenged and unrecognized it will spread like a deadly disease through a church body (v.17) and carry the potential to “destroy the faith of some.” (v.18) How we “handle” (v.15) the truth from God’s Word can make the difference between spiritual life and spiritual death even from one generation to the next.

Conclusion

Someone once observed that people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older. Then it dawned on this individual … they are cramming for their finals. Genuine growth does not come from “cramming”. It comes over time as we consistently take some time in the day to read, understand and apply the truth to our lives. Then in turn we will have something worth passing on to the next generation.

May 3rd, 2009 – 2 Timothy 1:6-9

April 26th, 2009

Growth through the Practice of Courageous Faith

Lesson 1

Introduction

At a circus a huge elephant was tied to an eighteen inch stake. Someone asked the elephant trainer, “Can that elephant not easily pull that stake out of the ground and get free?” The trainer said, “Sure! But he had tried that when he was a baby elephant and was unsuccessful. The elephant concluded that he could never pull it out of the ground and go free.” So there the massive, powerful elephant stood with the ability to lift whole trees, yet captive to a puny 18 inch stake. (Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, #459)
In a similar way when our faith in Christ does not grow it will show in life. All the power and resources of God reside within us through the Holy Spirit, yet we allow our lives and faith to be defined by limitations like an 18 inch stake in the ground. Over the next five sessions we will consider from the book of 2 Timothy ‘How Faith Grows’. We will study five actions when incorporated into our day-to-day lives will set us free to live by faith.
The first point of spiritual growth as we will see in 2 Timothy 1:6-9 is: ‘Growth through the Practice of Courageous Faith’. We will consider two things about courageous faith in this passage:

  • The Inward Traits of Courageous Faith (vv.6-7)
  • The Outward Expressions of Courageous Faith (vv.8-9)

The Inward Traits of Courageous Faith

Read: 2 Timothy 1:6-7

Key Question: What do you think are the traits depicted in vv.6-7 of a faith that is growing?

In v.5 Paul acknowledges the “sincere faith” of his young friend Timothy. But, as is apparent from the verses to follow, Timothy like all of us needed to take concrete active steps to grow spiritually. Paul starts in v.6 by calling upon Timothy to “… fan into the flame the gift of God, which is in you …”. What flame? What gift? First, the term “gift” is often translated “grace”. In v.6 it refers to the spiritual gift or gifts that God had placed “in” Timothy when he committed his life to Christ. The phrase, “fan the flame lit. means ‘to keep the fire alive’. How do we then “fan the flame” of our spiritual gifts? As with Timothy we have to make the conscious effort to find and use our gifts for the benefit of others. It is in the midst of investing our lives that our experience of Christ will be deepened and our faith in Him will grow. We will be gratified to see and know that God desires to take and use us as ordinary people in extraordinary ways. So the first inward trait of courageous faith is perseverance. We have to persevere in using our gifts in order to see God’s purpose fulfilled. If it were easy and instantly gratifying to find and use our gifts for the benefit of others then likely more believers would be doing it.

The second general trait (v.7) that Paul depicts of a courageous faith is of a believer trusting day-to-day the character God is developing within. Notice that Paul states one thing God does not inspire us to and three things that He does inspire us to live by. First, God does not “give us a spirit of timidity” which lit. means ‘cowardice’. Paul is essentially calling upon Timothy (and all believers) to refuse to be controlled by fear. To feel fear at times is human. To be controlled by fear is cowardice or “a spirit of timidity”. Instead of fear we are challenged each day to live out of a “spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”

What depicts your day-to-day faith or trust in Christ more: “a spirit of timidity” or “a spirit of power, love and self-discipline”? When we choose and stay the course of power, love and self-discipline God will develop overtime a greater ability within to practice courageous faith.

The Outward Traits of Courageous Faith

Read: 2 Timothy 1:8-9

When we reject being controlled by fear and instead choose to live out of a “spirit of power, love and self-discipline” (v.7), Paul reveals in essence we will then exhibit courageous faith through a bold personal witness (v.8) and through developing Christ-like character (v.9). He states, “… do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord …” (v.8) and God “… has called us to a holy life … because of His purpose and grace.” (v.9)

As we pursue holiness we will desire and see the value of fulfilling God’s “purpose and grace”.

Conclusion

The faith journey called for in vv.6-9 is a simple one to understand, but it will take courage on your part to persevere in walking the trail God has laid before us. Paul implores us to find and use our “gifts” while we still can (v.6); to reject being controlled by fear and live out of a “spirit of power, love and self-discipline” (v.7); to give a bold witness for Christ as He gives opportunities (v.8); to grow in Christ-like character through the pursuit of holiness and God’s purpose (v.9).
It is a given that a runner can’t advance to second base in a baseball game without taking his foot off the relative comfort and safety of first base. To see faith grow we too must leave the comfort and perceived safety of where we are spiritually and practice courageous faith.

April 26th, 2009 – Luke 24:36‐49

April 20th, 2009

The Story’s Not Over – Continuing to Tell the Story

Luke 24:36‐49

Introduction

The close of Luke’s Gospel brings reassurance of the things that had been taught (see 1:4) by confirming the reality of Jesus’ resurrection and by commissioning the disciples for their universal mission.

The major theological note in the section is that crucifixion and resurrection are part of the fulfillment of God’s plan. What happened to Jesus was neither perplexing nor unexpected. The table fellowship that the disciples now have with the resurrected Jesus reveals His presence in their midst. The Scripture taught that He would suffer and be raised and that a message of forgiveness of sins would go out to all nations as a result. It is time for that mission to begin!1

Our Study of the Text

  1. JESUS APPEARS TO HIS DISCIPLES AT A MEAL (24:36‐43)

    Jesus proved to His followers that He had really been resurrected. Not only did He stand in their presence so they could see Him and His wounds (vv. 39‐40), but He also ate food (a piece of broiled fish) before them to show that He was not a spirit (vv.42‐43).

  2. JESUS’ COMMISSION, PLAN, AND PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT (24:44‐49)
    Jesus points His disciples to the facts which He previously had communicated to them and which were written in the Old Testament about the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah (see Deut. 18:15; Psalm 2:7; 16:10; 22:14‐18; Isa. 53; 61:1). Because of His death and resurrection, the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins could be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem, for they were witnesses of His death and His rising from the dead.

    Luke wrote that when Jesus had explained this earlier to the disciples (see 18:31‐33), they “understood none of these things” (18:34a). The reason why they didn’t understand was that “this saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what Jesus meant” (18:34b). The term hidden (Gr. kruptō) when used figuratively means to prevent something from being known – to keep secret, conceal, hide. But in this encounter the situation is reversed: “Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:45). The term opened (Gr. dianoigō) figuratively means to enable someone to perceive or understand what had previously been hidden. In the first instance, it was God’s purpose that they not understand; in the second, it was His purpose that they now understand. God is in control and all things work according to His purposes!

    Jesus commanded His disciples to remain in the city of Jerusalem until they had received power from on high, a clear reference to the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:8), who was promised by the Father. Not until then would they be fully quipped to carry out their mission.

  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • The death of Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. To receive the forgiveness of sin and eternal life a person must put their confident trust in Him.
    • The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s authentication of the acceptability of His Son’s death as payment for man’s sin.
    • Believers are to take this good news – in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the ends of the earth!

1Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament, Luke 9:51‐24:53, Darrell L. Bock, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, p.1925.

March 29th, 2009 – Luke 19:28‐44

March 22nd, 2009

The Triumphal Entry

Luke 19:28‐44

Introduction

In an earlier study we saw that when the Lord Jesus began to present Himself to the nation of Israel, He referred to Himself as the “son of man.”1 Only privately, to individuals, did He confess that He was the Messiah, the Christ of God (e.g., John 4:25‐26). His preaching was clearly focused on the moral and ethical requirements of the promised kingdom. The miracles that He performed authenticated both His message and His person (cf. Matt. 11:2‐6). Those who heard Him and who witnessed His miracles were left to wonder and contemplate who He might be. Some believed in Him – that He was the promised Messiah (cf. John 1:12), but most did not.

The day of His formal presentation to the nation has now arrived. The prophet Zechariah described it long ago: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zech. 9:9). But would the people see its fulfillment in the events of this day?

Our Study of the Text

  1. JESUS’ CONTROVERSIAL ENTRY INTO JERUSALEM (19:28‐40).

    The events of this day introduce the second of Luke’s two themes. The first was to picture Jesus as the confronting prophet; like Moses, but one who is greater than Moses (see Deut. 18:15). As such, He called upon the people to repent in order to escape God’s judgment – an appeal they failed to heed. This second theme pictures Jesus as the deliverer. As the greater Moses He leads a new exodus into God’s presence and promises a seat at God’s banquet table (see 14:15‐24). Repentance which results in forgiveness comes to the humble who draw near to God and experience His grace on His terms.

    As the Lord approached Jerusalem, the people spontaneously cried out: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (19:38). No doubt the Holy Spirit prompted the outcry – it was, in fact, a recognition of the presence of their King! The multitude recognized that this incident was a fulfillment of messianic prophecy and responded accordingly.

    Of course, not all saw Him as such. The response of the Pharisees exemplifies the position of the unbelieving nation: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” (19:39); to which the Lord replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

  2. JESUS’ LAMENT AND PRONOUNCEMENT OF JUDGMENT (19:41‐44).

    Luke alone records Christ’s response as He approached the city. Rather than seeing momentary recognition of His person, He saw the rejection of His person by the nation. He was moved to tears (19:41). The term for tears (Gr. klaiō) is a very strong term. It refers to full sobbing or wailing. It is the term used to describe those who were weeping because of the death of Lazarus (see John 11:31‐33).

    Long ago, through the prophet Daniel, God had revealed the specific time in which Messiah would be presented to the nation Israel. While the nation obviously did not have God’s timetable in mind, Jesus certainly did. This was the specific day foretold by Daniel for Messiah to be presented to Israel.

    Daniel’s prophecy was specific: “Seventy ’sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ’sevens,’ and sixty‐two ’sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty‐two ’sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary” (Dan 9:24‐26a).

    The phrase “seventy sevens” refers to 70 periods of seven years or 490 years. The decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem was issued by Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2:5‐6 on March 5, 444 B.C.2 Multiplying the sixty‐nine weeks by seven years for each week by 360 days gives a total of 173,880 days. Adding the 173,880 day to March 5, 444 B.C. brings us to Monday, March 30, A.D. 33 – the precise day of the Triumphal Entry! Messiah as the Prince of Peace came on the appointed day to bring peace to the nation. It was the day of the official presentation of Himself as Messiah to Israel. The precise nature of the date adds significance to our Lord’s statement, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes” (19:42).

    Because of their rejection of Him, He not only had announced withdrawal of the offer of the promised kingdom – which would be given to a future generation (see Matthew 21:43), but He also pronounced temporal judgment upon that generation – the generation that had rejected Him: “The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (19:43‐44). This happened in A.D. 70 when the armies of Rome came against and destroyed Jerusalem.

  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Though the kingdom promised to Israel has been postponed, it will be established at the second coming of Christ.
    • Gentiles share in the kingdom blessings because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Are you trusting in Him for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life?

1 Luke records twenty‐six occasions when the Lord referred to Himself as the Son of Man: 5:24; 6:5, 22; 7:34; 9:22, 26, 44, 56, 58; 11:30; 12:8, 10, 40; 17:22, 24, 26, 30; 18:8, 31; 19:10; 21: 27, 36; 22: 22, 48, 69; 24:7.
1 The dates used in this summary are taken from Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, Harold W. Hoehner, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1977, pp. 137‐138

March 22nd, 2009 – Luke 15:1-10

March 15th, 2009

The Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin

Luke 15:1‐10

Introduction

These two parables represent Jesus’ explanation of why He relates to tax collectors and sinners. As pointed out in a previous study, we need to be careful not to read too much into a parable – they are intended only to emphasize a key point. In this case, the point is that God will go to great effort and rejoice with great joy to find and restore a sinner to Himself. Though there are three parables in this section, we will only consider two of them in this study.

In a culture where tax collectors were hated and sinners were mocked, Jesus gives a word that encourages the rejected to come to Him. The way to God is through repentance. God’s arms are open to the person who will seek Him on His terms. God’s arms are close around the child ready to run to Him and receive what He offers. It is not mere humanitarianism that Jesus offers, but a chance to acknowledge who one is before God and to respond to the opportunity for the transformation that God offers.1

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE PARABLE OF THE LOST SHEEP (15:1‐7).
    1. The setting (15:1‐3).Given Jesus’ call to “hear” in 14:35: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”, it is ironic that those who come to Him in such large numbers are the “reprobates” of society, the tax collectors and sinners! And as usual, those who criticize Jesus are the religious leaders, “the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.”
    2. The parable (15:4‐6).The parallel to this parable is found in Matthew 18:12‐14: “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety‐nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety‐nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

      Much discussion has taken place as to whether the parable is speaking to the issue of salvation or restoration to fellowship with God (here, those who belong to the covenant community of Israel)? Our Lord’s words in John 10:27‐29 are helpful: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” In the same context, He told the Pharisees: “you do not believe because you are not my sheep” (John 10:26).

      To make a distinction, therefore, between salvation and fellowship is unnecessary. The sheep in question is a sheep. If it is in need of salvation, the appeal is to come – and according to Jesus he will! If the need is restoration to fellowship, the appeal is the same: come. God relentlessly pursues those who are His. And those who have strayed take priority!

    3. The application (15:7).
      Those who recognize where they stand before God and respond accordingly are the cause of great joy in heaven – and among the shepherd’s “neighbors”!
  2. THE PARABLE OF THE LOST COIN (15:8‐10).
    1. The parable (15:8‐9)This parable has the same intent as the first: to show that God will go to great effort and rejoice with great joy to find and restore a sinner to Himself. The intensity of the search is illustrated by the woman’s search for the coin. And in the end, not only does the woman rejoice in the found coin, but her neighbors join the celebration as well.
    2. The application (15:10).The point of this parable is the same as in 15:7: there is much joy in heaven over a single repentant sinner.

      Jesus is the model for us and His activity reflects the very heart of God. We are not to withdraw into a cocoon, inoculated from people of the world. Rather, our mission is to love people and draw them to God. God searches for sinners who need to find their way to Him. Among the tools He uses is the caring concern of a disciple. Disciples are to look for lost sheep and missing coins and to celebrate finding what was lost. Evangelism is grounded in the joy of discovery.2

  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to share His passion for the condition of His sheep.
    • Evangelism is the natural overflow of a holy life. Our spiritual growth can be seen in our involvement in ministry: sharing the gospel with the lost and ministering to other believers.
    • If we are to be effective in seeing sinners come to God – for salvation or restoration to fellowship, we must be willing to spend time with them.

1 Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament, Luke 9:51‐24:53, Darrell L. Bock, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, p.1295.
2 Ibid, p.1305.

March 15th, 2009 – Luke 13:22-30

March 11th, 2009

The Narrow and Soon‐Shut Door

Luke 13:22‐30

Introduction

The kingdom’s coming has implications for the Jewish nation. The time to join God’s eschatological program has come, so one had better respond quickly before the door closes. Jesus stresses the nation’s situation in the picture of the narrow and soon‐shut door. After this passage, Jesus will issue a lament, because the nation does not respond (13:31‐35). What Luke has been showing since 11:37 is that the Pharisees and many others in the nation have not responded. Though they see themselves joined to the patriarchs and prophets, they are rapidly placing themselves in a position where they will be isolated from them. Jesus warns that the time is short and, once the door closes, it will be too late. In addition, He notes that many others from around the world will be at the table with these great OT saints, while those racially related to them will be missing. The passage has a strong note of warning and pity. It is no accident that it begins by noting that Jesus is heading to Jerusalem. The nation’s very resistance to accept Jesus will drive Him to His fate in the nation’s religious center.1

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE SETTING (13:22).
    The text marks a travel note: Jesus is on the move through the nation – heading steadily and unalterably toward Jerusalem. His mission involves teaching in all the nation’s regions.
  2. PICTURE OF THE NARROW BUT SOON‐SHUT DOOR (13:23‐30).
    1. Question about the number to be saved (13:23).In Judaism, views varied about the fate of the saved in terms of experiencing blessing, though all agreed that the nation of Israel would share in the blessing after the resurrection. Rabbis would site Isaiah 60:21 to argue for Israel’s salvation – a view that allowed for a few exceptions: those who denied the resurrection; those who denied that the law came from heaven; Epicureans (who were devoted to sensual pleasures and luxury, especially good food); and those who read heretical books, uttered charms, or pronounced the holy name (YHWH). Jesus’ teaching makes it clear that there will be distinctions within Israel and that heritage and genetic origin are not enough for election.2
    2. The picture proper (13:24‐27).Jesus doesn’t answer the question of number directly; but He does show that that the people who will be blessed will come from many places (13:29). There will be many who thought they were inside who will find themselves outside. Many such people, He suggests, reside in Israel (13:28).

      His exhortation for them to “strive or make every effort to enter through the narrow door” does not refer to a person working his way to God. Rather, it refers to listening carefully and responding to His message. It would be very much like the exhortation in Proverbs 2:1‐5 – ” My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,. . . then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” (NIV).

      The reason for the Lord’s exhortation is because many will try to enter and will not be able. They did not respond to His call in time – and when they are excluded and protest, He will say that He does not recognize them. Access after a certain point becomes impossible. The owner will close the door once and for all. They must listen and respond now to sit at the table.

    3. Three sayings on the significance of the image (13:28‐30)
      1. Some will be cast out (13:28).Those who have evidenced nothing more than a curiosity toward Jesus and His ministry will be excluded from the kingdom. Their rejection of Him and His word evidence the fact that they lack the righteousness necessary to enter His kingdom. The phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” depicts the emotional and physical reaction to traumatic news, in this case exclusion from God’s promise.3
      2. Many will sit at the table (13:29).In contrast to the many Israelites who will be excluded from the kingdom will be those who come from everywhere: ” People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

        People from east and west is a reference to the Gentiles – in contrast to the crowd before Him, who will sit down at the blessed banquet table with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets.

      3. Reversal of the first and the last (13:30).The reversal (first last and last first) indicates that those who are first or close may in fact end up far off or last (e.g. those in the crowd); while Gentiles who are far off or last may end up near or first. The remark applies to the end‐time when the fullness of the kingdom comes.
  3. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Faith in Jesus Christ brings results in the righteousness necessary to enter His kingdom.
    • Hearing the truth is not sufficient; one must act upon the truth to find approval from God.

1 Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testament, Luke 9:51‐24:53, Darrell L. Bock, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, p.1230.
2 Ibid, p.1234.
3 Ibid, p.1238.

March 8th, 2009 – Luke 11:37‐54

March 4th, 2009

Pharisaic Opposition

Luke 11:37‐54

Introduction

The Pharisees are mentioned twenty‐seven times in Luke. Luke also records three occasions in which the Pharisees ate a meal with the Lord Jesus (7:36‐39; 11:37‐54; 14:1‐24). Because of their prominence in all of the Gospels, some expanded background information will be helpful.

One distinctive feature of the Pharisees was their strong commitment to observing the law of God as it was interpreted and applied by the scribes. Although the priests had been responsible for teaching and interpreting the Law (Lev. 10:8–11; Deut. 33:8–10) in Old Testament times, many people had lost all respect for the priests because of the corruption in the Jerusalem priesthood. They looked to the scribes instead to interpret the Law for them. Some scribes were priests; many were not. Still, they lived pious, disciplined lives; and they had been trained to become experts in the Law. It was natural, then, for people to follow their leading rather than that of the priests.

The way in which the Pharisees spelled out the meaning of the Mosaic Law, the ways in which they adapted that Law to suit the needs of their day, the time‐honored customs they endorsed—all these became a part of the “tradition of the elders” (Mark 7:3). Although these traditions were not put into writing, they were passed on from one scribe to another and from the scribes to the people. From this tradition, they claimed, the Jewish people could know the way God’s law should be observed. The Pharisees agreed, and they were known for supporting and keeping the “tradition of the elders.”

The Pharisees also believed it was important to observe all the laws of God, which they taught were 613 in all. But they were especially known for their commitment to keep the laws of tithing and ritual purity.

Since Pharisees found that other Jews were not careful enough about keeping those laws, they felt it was necessary to place limits on their contacts with other Jews as well as with Gentiles. For example, they could not eat in the home of a non‐Pharisee, since they could not be sure that the food had been properly tithed and kept ritually pure.

Unlike the Sadducees, the Pharisees did believe in the resurrection of the dead. On this point, they were on common ground with the early Christians (Acts 23:6–9). The scribe in Mark 12:28 who thought that Jesus had answered the Sadducees well concerning the Resurrection was probably a Pharisee.

The Pharisees and their scribes enjoyed a good deal of popular support. In one way this is surprising, since the Pharisees kept apart from other Jews. They always seemed to be ready to criticize others for not keeping the laws, and they often looked down on “sinners” who showed no interest in God’s law (Mark 2:16; Luke 7:39; 15:2; 18:11).

Still, unlike the Sadducees, who were mostly rich landowners and powerful priests, many Pharisees were ordinary people. And even though other Jews could not be bothered with observing all the details of the Law, they respected the Pharisees for making the effort. Even Paul credited unbelieving Jews with having a “zeal for God” (Rom. 10:2)—even though it was misguided. He probably was thinking primarily of the Pharisees when he wrote these words.

In the New Testament, the Pharisees appear frequently in the accounts of Jesus’ ministry and the history of the early church. In these passages a number of the typical failings of the Pharisees are evident. Of course, not all Pharisees failed in all these points—and the same failings can be found among religious people of any age.

Pharisees observed the Law carefully as far as appearances went, but their hearts were far from God. Their motives were wrong because they wanted human praise (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16; 23:5–7). They also had evil desires that were hidden by their pious show (Matt. 23:25–28). That is why Pharisees are often called hypocrites: their hearts did not match their outward appearance.

The Pharisees thought they could match God’s standards by keeping all the outward rules. Luke 18:9 says they “trusted in themselves that they were righteous.” This can easily happen when people think God’s will is the same thing as their list of what they can and cannot do. Their desire to keep all of God’s laws was commendable, but sometimes they put the emphasis on the wrong places. Minor details became a major preoccupation, and they forgot the more important things (Matt. 23:23).

Finally, because Pharisees thought they were doing their best to keep God’s laws while others were not, they often looked down on such “sinners”—especially people like tax collectors and prostitutes. Religious people need to remember that they, too, are sinners in God’s eyes, and that Christ died for everyone.1

Because the Pharisees were characterized by self‐righteousness – placing primary concern on outward conformity to the law while neglecting the motives of the heart, they often found themselves at cross purposes with our Lord – whose primary concern was the human heart. Our study today centers around one of those times of conflict.

The term “woe” that appears in the text means deep sorrow, grief, or affliction. The word is often used by the Old Testament prophets, as an exclamation expressing dismay or misfortune (Is. 3:9, 11; 5:8‐23; Jer. 10:19; Amos 5:18). In the New Testament Jesus pronounced woes on the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matt. 11:21), on the scribes, Pharisees, and lawyers (Luke 11:42–44), and on the one who betrayed Him (Mark 14:21).2

Our Study of the Text

  1. THE PHARISEES (11:37‐44).When Jesus joined the Pharisee for lunch, the Pharisee’s concern was whether or not Jesus would conform to the external ritual of washing His hands before eating. Jesus, on the other hand, was more interested in the internal greed of the Pharisee. Our Lord seizes the opportunity to address the issue of pharisaical externalism. “Woe to you,” He would announce!
    1. First Woe.
      “But woe to you Pharisees! You give a tenth of your mint, rue, and every herb, yet you neglect justice and love for God! But you should have done these things without neglecting the others.” (11:42 NET)
    2. Second Woe.
      Woe to you Pharisees! You love the best seats in the synagogues and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces!” (11:43 NET)
    3. Third Woe.
      Woe to you! You are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it!” (11:44 NET)
  2. THE SCRIBES (11:45‐52)
    In later times, after the Captivity, when the nation lost its independence, the scribes turned their attention to the law, gaining for themselves distinction by their intimate acquaintance with its contents. On them fell the duty of multiplying copies of the law and of teaching it to others (Ezra 7:6, 10–12; Neh. 8:1, 4, 9, and 13). It is evident that in New Testament times the scribes belonged to the sect of the Pharisees, who supplemented the ancient written law by their traditions (Matt. 23), thereby obscuring it and rendering it of none effect. The titles “scribes” and “lawyers” are used in the Gospels interchangeably (Matt. 22:35; Mark 12:28; Luke 20:39, etc.). They were in the time of our Lord the public teachers of the people, and frequently came into collision with him. Many of them afterwards showed themselves greatly hostile to the apostles (Acts 4:5; 6:12). Some of the scribes, however, were men of a different spirit, and showed themselves friendly to the gospel and its preachers. Thus Gamaliel advised the Sanhedrin, when the apostles were before them charged with “teaching in this name,” to “refrain from these men and let them alone” (Acts 5:34–39; comp. 23:9).3

    Because the scribes were a sub‐set of the sect of the Pharisees – and the ones charged primarily with the task of teaching the Law, Jesus pronounced woes upon them as well.

    1. First Woe.
      “Woe to you experts in religious law as well! You load people down with burdens difficult to bear, yet you yourselves refuse to touch the burdens with even one of your fingers! (11:46 NET)
    2. Second Woe.
      Woe to you! You build the tombs of the prophets whom your ancestors killed. (11:47 NET)
    3. Third Woe.
      Woe to you experts in religious law! You have taken away the key to knowledge! You did not go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were going in.” (11:52 NET)
  3. THE AFTERMATH – THEY NEVER GIVE UP! (11:53‐54).
    It is obvious from the text that the scribes and Pharisees maintained a fierce opposition to our Lord, trying desperately to catch Him in something He might say, so they could bring charges against Him – even more, to do away with Him!
  4. POINTS TO PONDER.
    • Take a close look at your own heart: do you trust in your own external conformity to “rules of conduct” in order to gain a sense of right standing before God?
    • Remember, people and circumstances do not create your spirit, they only reveal it!

1Youngblood, R. F. (1997, c1995). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary: An authoritative one‐volume reference work on the Bible with full color illustrations (F. Bruce, Ed.) (electronic ed. of the revised ed. of Nelson’s illustrated Bible dictionary). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
2Ibid.
3Easton, M. (1996, c1897). Easton’s Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.