Sunday – April 7, 2019 Gospel of Luke – Luke 16:19-31 “Lazarus and the Rich Man”

Sunday – April 7, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 7, 2019

Luke 16:30-31
But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”

How can people be so careless about their eternal destiny? The great deceiver, Satan, gets them focused on the here and now. Every once in a while—when a friend dies or when a major catastrophe claims many lives—they think briefly about death. But they figure, “I’m a basically a good person. God is loving; He wouldn’t condemn a decent person like me.” And, they put it out of their minds and get on with pursuing the good life.

Jesus directed the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to the Pharisees, who thought that they would get into heaven because they were good men. They were the religious leaders, at the synagogue every time the doors opened. They studied the Law and the Prophets and participated in all of the annual feasts and holy days of the Jewish faith. They even called Abraham their father. But their religion was outward, designed to impress others. But God was not impressed because their hearts were full of pride and hypocrisy (16:15). They would have protested that they kept the Law, but they were not concerned about inner, heart righteousness before God. Like the rich man in the parable, they were living the good life, assuming that they would go to heaven. Their love of money had blinded them to God’s perspective.

As far as we know, the rich man in the parable was not guilty of any gross sin. His fault was in living for himself and for this life only, with no view to eternity. His sin was not in having money; Abraham was a wealthy man. His sin was that he did not use the mammon of unrighteousness to make friends for himself so that when it failed, they would receive him into eternal dwellings (16:9). He failed to lay up treasures in heaven, even though the opportunity to do so literally lay at his doorstep every day. Even having Abraham as his father (16:24, 27, 30) wouldn’t help him on judgment day, because he had neglected the true message of Moses and the Prophets.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus concludes in such a way as to indicate what really justifies a man. The rich man was not condemned because he was rich, any more than the poor man was justified for being poor. These outward conditions (riches and poverty) were fundamentally irrelevant to the eternal destiny of these men. A godly rich man would have used his wealth differently, but it was not his works that would have saved him. The real basis for justification or condemnation is to be found in the context of the rich man’s concern for his lost brothers. The issue was whether or not these men were rich or poor, but whether or not these men believed the Scriptures. It is not riches nor poverty which determines one’s destiny, but belief or unbelief.

Sunday – December 9, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 12:12-23 “Affliction of the Affluent”

Sunday – December 9, 2018

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 9, 2018

Luke 12:15
Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”

When I read the parable of the rich fool, I cannot help but think of Howard Hughes. From some of the reports at the time of his death, he had accumulated a great deal of wealth but did not enjoy any of it in his last years. In this sense, Howard Hughes is a present-day example of what Jesus is giving us warning. The danger of thinking of a man like Howard Hughes implies that the text applies primarily to the rich and enables us not to think of ourselves as a “rich fool.”

We may come to this parable with a sense of smug security. Perhaps Jesus will be speaking to us when he gets to the next section, where Jesus is addressing His disciples. But here, Jesus is telling a parable about a very wealthy, unlike ourselves. Jesus can hardly be addressing us. I’m not so sure about that. I think that most of us would be hard pressed not to admit that we are, as individuals, financially comfortable. Our nation is, in comparison with most others, exceedingly blessed.

The world says our life consists of things, but God says life consists of being rightly related to Him and to others. The world would view this rich man as a success. He would be held up as a model to follow. He had not gained his wealth by dishonest or corrupt means. He had worked for it, poured his money back into the business, and had done well. He was financially secure. He could now enjoy the good life: good food, fine wine, servants, and whatever pleasures money could afford. Isn’t that what we all aim for in life? Isn’t that why we go to college, so that we can get a good career, make plenty of money, provide the finer things in life for our children, and retire some day with plenty in our investments? What’s wrong with that?

This man’s whole attitude was the very reverse of Christianity. Instead of denying himself he aggressively affirmed himself; instead of finding his happiness in giving he tried to conserve it by keeping. His goal was to enjoy life, but in seeking his life, he lost it. What was wrong was the man’s focus. He had the world’s perspective, not God’s perspective. God’s perspective is not that riches are inherently wrong. Money can be a great good if used with a perspective of the life to come. There are several wealthy men in the Bible, such as Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph who enjoyed God’s blessing and were godly men. But, to a man, they were generous men who lived in light of eternity. As Paul tells Timothy, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). If we want to be rich toward God, we need to be careful to distinguish between the world’s perspective and God’s perspective. God’s perspective always takes into account the life to come.

Sunday – November 11, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 11:14-36 “Evidence That Leads to Many Verdicts”

Sunday – November 11, 2018

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Luke 11:34-36
“The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.

I would have to agree with those who say that “you can prove anything you want from the Bible.” This is not to say that the Bible proves all points of view. It is to say that many who view the biblical evidence miss the point. The beauty of this text is it not only shows us how far men can stray from the truth, but it reveals to us why they do so. Here is a text of great importance to all who would seek to know the truth, to come to the verdict which the biblical evidence leads us. Let us listen well to the words of this text, for doing so can keep us from going astray, and it can help us to understand and to help those who have missed the point of God’s Word.

As I look at all the Scriptures it would seem that a man’s ability to understand what God is saying and doing is entirely dependent upon his ability to “see” the truth. Truth is not the problem, but man’s receptivity to the truth is the problem. The Bible is replete with evidence, but the eyes of man are simply not able to see it.

Man’s inability to see is attributed to at least three sources. First, man himself is responsible for his unreceptive heart toward God and toward spiritual truth. That seems to be the thrust of our Lord’s words to the crowd “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness” (Luke 11:35). Man’s blindness is also attributed to the work of Satan, who blinds men’s minds from the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4). But blindness is also a work of judgment on God’s part, for He has blinded the eyes of Israel as a temporary judgment, due to their persistent unbelief (John 12:39-41).

How, then, does one who is blind come from blindness to sight, from darkness to light, from death to life? I believe that the answer to this question is clear in the Bible. Man cannot, in and of himself, heal himself of his blindness, for it is a blindness of heart. Instead, God, through a gracious and miraculous act on His part, opens our eyes to see the truth. I believe that Paul’s physical blindness and the reception of his sight, was symbolic of his spiritual blindness. Once a person has come to faith in Christ, it is the Scriptures which expose the light in our lives, and which reveals our sin. The Scripture “sharpens our focus” as it were. On the one hand we must ask for God to “open our eyes” as we come to the Word, so that we may see in it the things God has for us (Psalm 119:18). On the other hand, the Scriptures serve to open our eyes, to show us life as it is, ourselves as we are, and God as He is (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Sunday May 27, 2018 Gospel of Luke – Luke 6:46-49 “Obedience, Not an Option”

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Luke 6:46-49
“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.”

The words of our Lord in His Sermon on the Mount are indeed difficult and perplexing, but their essence is clear. We are to do what no one else will do—love our enemy. We are to do so because God has loved us while we were His enemies. We are to do so because God is the One who will bless us for obeying His commands. As Jesus comes to the end of this sermon, He asks pointedly, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

Obedience to the “tough” commands of our Lord proves a person to be a true follower of Christ, and handling the tough tasks now assures us of enduring tough times ahead. Jesus taught that it is not only to call Jesus Lord, they must prove He is Lord by obeying His commands (v. 46). It is in doing the tough things which shows our discipleship. It is not test of a child’s obedience to hand him money and instruct him to go and buy candy. It is a test of obedience to have the child submit to an inoculation at the doctor’s office.

In the parable of the two builders, Jesus sought to illustrate the fact that doing the hard thing now gives confidence in the hard times ahead. When building a house, the wise man “goes the extra mile” of laying a strong foundation. Digging deep to establish a solid foundation is not the easy way, but when the storms come, the building will stand. Obedience to our Lord’s commands regarding the loving of our enemies is not easy, but it does give us confidence that in the future we will have been well founded, well established in our faith and obedience, and able, by His grace, to withstand any coming storms.

In each and every one of these illustrations in the Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-49), the need for “betterness” has been established, even though the cost is high to live according to Christ’s higher standard. The commands of Christ regarding loving our enemies is a very high standard, higher than that which others hold or practice, but this only shows that with God all things are possible for those who trust in Him, who obey His commands, and who are sustained by His power and grace.

Sunday March 25, 2018 Gospel of Luke – “Everyone is a Sermon Critic” Luke 5:12-26

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Luke 5:20-21
Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

This is the colorful story of the paralytic man whose friends lowered him through the roof as Jesus spoke in a crowded house (Luke 5:17-26). Mark’s gospel is the most elaborate in describing the men digging through the roof. If this were Peter’s house you can imagine how he, not to mention his wife, felt to have his house jammed with people and then to see these four guys dig a hole through his roof to let their friend down in front of Jesus! As a preacher, I can relate to the problem of dealing with distractions while you’re preaching. As Jesus was speaking, some of the people in the front row began feeling dirt raining down on their heads. As they looked up, they saw a patch of daylight through the ceiling. As they kept looking, it grew until they saw four sweaty-faced men who proceeded to lower this guy on a stretcher right in front of Jesus. How do you stick to your message when that happens?

Jesus had a minute to think about His response. He surprised everyone by saying to the paralytic, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” It must have startled the guys on the roof. One of them had his head down through the opening so he could hear. The other guys were asking, “What did Jesus say?” He relayed, “He said that his sins are forgiven.” “His sins are forgiven? Didn’t He heal him? You mean we went to all the trouble of making this hole through the roof and letting him down just so he could get his sins forgiven? We want him healed.

Some may look at this poor man and say, “His main need is for emotional healing. Imagine what he must feel like, being totally dependent on others for everything he needed. But Jesus did not say, “Friend, I want you to feel good about yourself.” He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Others may have said, “What this man needs is economic and educational help. Let’s give him food stamps, government health care benefits and some job training.” But Jesus said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Forgiveness of sins is not just a little option, thrown in with the total benefit package of the abundant life. If the Bible’s message about death and eternal judgment is correct, then forgiveness is the main need of every person. People don’t primarily need their marriages fixed, emotional problems resolved or economic help. People need to know with assurance from God that their sins are forgiven. All other needs are secondary. As Jesus taught on another occasion, “What profit is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?” (Matt. 16:25). There’s something much more important than having a healthy body and plenty of money; it’s having God forgive your sins.

Sunday – December 17, 2017 Gospel of Luke – “Why Not Call Him Zach Jr?” Luke 1:57-80

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Luke 1:67-69
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant…”

Suppose that you had just visited Niagara Falls, marveling at the massive power of all that water gushing over the falls. So you decided to see what the river looked like about a mile upstream. As you’re there, you see a guy in a rowboat, floating downstream toward the falls, oblivious to any danger. You yell at him, waving your arms to no avail – he is oblivious to the danger that waits ahead. If there was a speedboat moored nearby, you could jump in and race out to where he was and throw him a lifeline. But he may not even take it, because obviously, he is not aware that he is in any danger. He’s just cruising down the river, and to take your lifeline would interrupt his leisurely cruise.

The guy in the rowboat represents many in our culture today. Many of them are in church on a given Sunday. They’re cruising down the river of life, fairly contented with how things are going. But they’re oblivious to the fact that God’s terrible judgment lies just ahead. They think it only applies to people who aren’t in a good boat like they’re in. They’re in the rowboat of their own good deeds, and they figure that it will carry them through what they think may be a few ripples of the judgment. So any warnings you shout to them, or any efforts to throw them the lifeline of salvation, are ignored. They don’t see their desperate need of salvation, and so they don’t respond with gratitude and relief to the tender mercy of God in sending the Savior.

Zacharias could easily have been the man in the rowboat. He was a faithful Jewish man who performed his duty as a priest. He and his wife kept the Lord’s commandments and ordinances (Luke 1:6). He wasn’t a godless man, like the pagan Romans and he wasn’t a religious hypocrite, like the profane Herod who reigned over the land. Zacharias easily could have thought of himself as a man who was secure in the rowboat of his own good works, with nothing to fear from God’s judgment. But, thankfully, Zacharias did not see himself that way. He knew that the falls were rapidly approaching, and he saw himself helplessly drifting toward them with increasing speed. And so, when God revealed to him that he would have a son who would be the forerunner of the Savior, Zacharias broke forth in this beautiful psalm of praise to God for His great mercy in sending the Savior who had been promised centuries before.

Have you personally experienced the tender mercy of God by receiving the forgiveness of sins He offers through the Lord Jesus Christ? Has the Holy Spirit opened your eyes to your desperate situation outside of Christ? You sit in darkness and the shadow of death, awaiting God’s awful judgment. You can do nothing to save yourself. But God has done it all. In His tender mercy, He offers you a full pardon if you will receive Jesus Christ.

Sunday – August 20, 2017 Genesis 48:1-22 “The View from the Graveyard”

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Genesis 48:21-22
Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. And I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow

God’s covenant of faithfulness is the theme that permeates Jacob’s testimony in this chapter. Seventeen years before he had complained to Pharaoh, “Few and unpleasant have been the years of my life” (47:9). But now, Jacob has mellowed. As he takes a final look backward at his life, he remembers how God appeared to him at Bethel as he fled from his brother. Jacob had deceived his father and wronged his brother. God would have been just in finding someone else to use in accom­plishing His purpose. But He appeared to Jacob and affirmed the covenant promised to him as he fled from his brother to his uncle’s home in Paddan Aram.

Twenty years later, Jacob wasn’t much farther along. He had out-swindled his uncle Laban and headed back to Canaan. He had settled outside of the land without seeking God’s direction. Then his sons deceived and murdered a whole town because one young man there had raped their sister. But God appeared a second time to Jacob at Bethel and assured him that the promises were still good.

Even in Jacob’s great time of sorrow, when Rachel died, God’s comfort had been real. The pain of that loss was still with the old man as he reminisced here (48:7). But God had been with him. Then the hammer blow of Joseph’s loss had hit the grieving man. He had thought that he would never see his son again. He went through years of confusion, wondering how the loss of his one son who seemed to follow the Lord could fit in with the promises of God. But now, at the end of his journey, God had proved Himself faithful, as Jacob held in his arms not only Joseph, but Joseph’s two sons. And so as he blesses his grandsons, Jacob tells them how God has been his shepherd all his life to that day and how God will be with them (48:15, 21).

When others look at your life, are they inclined to say, “Your God is sure faithful, isn’t He”? Or, would they say, “Your God must not be very good, because you are always complaining about the treatment you receive”? Complainers tell others something untrue about God, namely that He isn’t faithful. People are skilled in reading between the lines of our lives. If we profess to know the Lord, but our lives are a constant complaint, they put it together and make a mental note that they don’t want anything to do with our God. We’ve got to tell them, by our words and our attitudes, that God is faithful, even through the hard times.

Sunday – June 11, 2017 Genesis 41:1-57 “From the Pit to the Palace”

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Genesis 41:39-40
So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are.”

Many Christians today have made an arbitrary and unbiblical distinction between the “secular” and the “spiritual,” or between “full-time” Christians and the “laity.” Do you notice that God has brought about the deliverance of His people not through Judah, from whom Messiah would come, and not through Levi, through whom the priestly class would originate, but through Joseph, a paper shuffler, a desk jockey, an administrator? One’s job is a matter of both gift and calling, not of spirituality.

As spiritual as he was, I can well imagine that many in our own day would have approached Joseph with words similar to these: “Joseph, as spiritual as you are, you should consider attending seminary and going into full-time ministry.” How could a secular ministry ever be fulfilling to a man as spiritual as Joseph? God did not raise up a preacher nor a priest, but an administrator to deliver His people from extinction. Let us beware of categorizing occupations in such a way as to make some more spiritual than others. Everyone is a full-time minister in the Scriptures, but some are called to labor in one sphere while others are called to another. Spirituality is totally independent of one’s occupation.

Joseph was not promoted by Pharaoh (in human terms) because he was spiritual, but because he was skillful and knowledgeable. Pharaoh recognized Joseph to be a man who had divine enablement, but he could have cared less who his “god” was. He was only concerned with finding a man who could do the job which needed to be done. Many Christians think that God is obligated to bless or that His people are bound to patronize people simply because they are Christians. During our recent elections it was sometimes implied that we should vote for a person solely on the basis of a profession of faith. When I go to a surgeon, I will go to the one who is the best, regardless of whether he (or she) is a pagan, an atheist, or a devout Christian. God is not restricted to working only through saints.

Many of us who are Christians are not very good at what we do, either because we are lazy, or we think that God is obliged to bless us only because we give testimony to our faith. Joseph’s testimony would have had little impact if he had proven to be wrong or had failed miserably to administrate the collection of grain. Let us enhance our testimony by doing well what we do. As the writer of the Proverbs 22:29 puts it: “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.” While I believe that God elevated Joseph because he trusted in God and obeyed, I am just as confident that Pharaoh elevated him because he was diligent and skillful in what he did. Piety without proficiency is folly. We praise God in our work as well as in our words. One without the other is useless.

Sunday – March 12, 2017 Genesis 31:17-55 “Between a Rock & Hard Place”

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Genesis 31:42
“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.”

Ethics is the difference between legality and morality. We live in a day when Christians and non-Christians alike think that whatever is legal is legitimate Christian activity. We, like Jacob, have our own pole-peeling and wheeling and dealing, which we think God is obliged to bless. No wonder the world is legalizing homosexual marriage and the right to government paid abortion. To them, legality is morality so if it isn’t illegal, it is moral.

Laban had lived in close association with Jacob for twenty years, and he was convinced of Jacob’s lack of integrity. Laban believed that Jacob stole his goods and that Jacob had underhandedly gotten possession of his flocks. Does this sound like a man who was convinced that Jacob was a godly man? And yet Jacob seems to be convinced of his own integrity. He is certain that God is on his side because of his uprightness. How could Jacob have been so mistaken? I have come to believe that the answer is that Jacob was a legalist. Jacob prided himself on being a man who kept the letter of the law. Never, to his knowledge at least, had he ever broken his word. He had made a deal with Laban, and he had always lived up to it. Oh, he had peeled those poles all right, but that was not a breach of their agreement.

But here is the heart of the error of legalism, for legalism equates morality with legality. It believes that righteousness and the keeping of the law are one and the same thing. A man may have no system of ethics whatever, but so long as he does not break the law, he feels morally pure. He feels confident of the approval and blessing of God. Legalism is sinful because men love to set human standards which, if they are kept, produce a man’s righteousness. Christian liberty views the standard for our thoughts and actions to be our Lord Himself, for it is to His image that we are being conformed (Romans 8:29).

The Bible does draw lines, clear lines at times. There are absolutes, and there are rules. But in addition to these, perhaps I should say above all these, is another standard of conduct which we shall call ethics or convictions. Many Christians seem to have too few of these, and yet this is what sets a true Christian apart in the eyes of the world. How many of us are viewed by the world as Jacob was by Laban? How many of us have convictions that cause us to avoid certain practices, even if they are legal? Christian ethics should be so high that legalistic rules are never necessary, at least for those who are righteous.