Friday, February 26, 2016

160228 Seeking Jesus

Luke 19:1-10 He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus was on his way to the end of his life on earth. He had waited in the north of Galilee for the right time. Jesus seemed to increase his teaching as he traveled toward Jerusalem. Much of the Gospels are a record of the last days of Jesus’ life. Three times Jesus had told his disciples that he would be handed over to the Gentiles, mocked and shamefully treated, beaten and crucified. And he added that he would rise again on the third day. They didn’t understand! The scene that Luke, the Beloved Physician, lays before us is illustrative of the heart of Jesus on his way to the cross.
Time will not allow us to look at all the possible healings and teachings on that journey. Jesus gave them several parables including the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. He also told the story of the dishonest manager and the rich man and Lazarus. Along with the teaching…
Jesus healed along the way. We will look at two examples. First Luke 17:11-19.  On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.
This is an extraordinary event. Jesus healed 10 men of leprosy. Leprosy is an extremely wicked illness. The skin literally rots on the person’s body. Feeling goes out of the extremities so that the people who have this disease will not notice the rats eating their fingers and toes while they sleep.
The disease is contagious and therefore those who have it were separated from society and not allowed to live near healthy people. As time went by whole colonies of people would band together. The one common factor was the disease. So that among these 10 men one could be a Samaritan.
The Israelites went to the priest as they were instructed by Jesus but the Samaritan turned and came back to Jesus thanking him. That was one example of Jesus healing along the way.
Also Luke 18:35-43. As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
Along with the Israelite lepers Jesus had healed a despised Samaritan. And then, as he came near to Jericho, a blind man heard him passing by and cried out to him, “Son of David have mercy on me!” Jesus politely asked him “What do you want me to do for you?” That question was not hard to answer! This man knew where to go for help. He believed that Jesus could give him sight. Jesus commended him by saying, “your faith has made you well.” Immediately, the man could see and he followed Jesus as he went on into the city of Jericho. Matthew adds to this account that on the way out of Jericho Jesus healed two more blind men. It was an exciting trip. Everywhere he went…
The crowds were clamoring to see him. There are many examples of the crowds that gathered around him. In fact, a large company of tax collectors and sinners followed him. Let’s look at Luke 5:27-32. After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. 29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Crowds were sometimes a problem to Jesus. A problem that he turned into an opportunity. One time the crowds gathered round him on the sea shore and he had to get into a boat, push away from shore a little ways, in order to teach them. At one point he was going to heal a young girl as the crowds pressed in around him. One of the people who was in that crowd took hold of the hem of his garment and was healed without saying a word. Crowds were an interesting problem for Jesus.
A wealthy tax collector was in this crowd. Jesus often dealt with the wealthy. Lets look in Luke 18:18-23. And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.
Just before Jesus came to Jericho and healed the blind man he had met this “ruler”. The man called Jesus “good”. Jesus asked why he called him “good”. Did he mean to say that Jesus was God? Because, “No one is good except God alone.” Jesus challenged the man’s commitment. Did he keep the Commandments? At least all those Commandments that reflect the relationships between people. He firmly asserted that he had kept these all his life. Then Jesus added to his responsibility by instructing him to sell all that he had, give the money to the poor and follow him. The man went away sad because extreme riches had a higher claim on his life than God did.
As Jesus came into Jericho that day he saw another rich man who was ready to “put it down” to follow Jesus. We used to sing a little chorus about, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, a wee little man was he. He climbed up in a sycamore tree. For the Lord he wanted to see”. As we sang this little chorus we would hold her hands out indicating that the “wee little man” was extremely small. I suspect that Zacchaeus was perhaps shorter than 5 feet since that was about the average height of the average man at that time in history. He certainly wasn’t as small as our hands indicated as we sang the chorus. I can just picture Zacchaeus bouncing around in the crowd asking to be let in to see Jesus. The crowd, who thoroughly hated him, refused to give him room. Then, he saw the sycamore tree and rushed ahead of Jesus to climb up onto a limb so he could see this man from Galilee.
Back in 1985, Cherlyn and I, along with Aree, came into Jericho and our guide pointed out the sycamore tree. The one thing for sure is that this was not “the” sycamore tree as they do not live that long. However, for the sake of us pilgrims, it was a sycamore tree that may have grown from seed that came from a tree, that came from a tree, that came from a tree, etc. that was the tree that Zacchaeus went up. Jesus was not taken by surprise nor was he shocked at the actions of this little man. Instead…
Jesus invited himself into that man’s life. Jesus was prepared to pause along the way to Jerusalem. Let’s read Luke 13:31-33. At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’
Notice that it was the Pharisees who had warned about Herod wanting to kill him. This is not the same Herod who wanted him dead at the time of his birth. It would have been his son.
Jesus had a plan, and a time, to get to Jerusalem. Upon arriving in Jericho he was only about 15 miles from his destination. He had time, just as he had planned, to visit with the “wee little man” and his friends, as well as his enemies. I really would like to have a narrative of Jesus’ conversation with Zacchaeus and his dinner guests. Whatever he said…
The crowds did not approve. This had been a perpetual problem for Jesus’ public relations. Let’s look at Luke 15:1-2. Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Jesus associated himself with the people who needed him most. And he still does. Zacchaeus’…
Repentance led to restoration. Jesus had made a statement earlier that certainly applied in this case Matthew 11:28-30. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The entire scope of conversion is found in these three verses. Those who will come to him recognizing their great need will receive from him spiritual rest. When they come with the proper heart attitude they will not only come to Jesus but they will take his yoke upon them and learn from him. Real repentance always leads to a changed life. Make no mistake — it is never the other way around!
Zacchaeus was a rich man but his statement of faith seems to imply that he was not dishonest in his work for the Romans. He was able to give away half of his resources to the poor and still be able to restore, four times, anything he might have defrauded anyone of. If there were very many that he had cheated he could not have done that. I suspect that he had cheated no one. His great crime was that he collaborated with the Romans. No doubt, he was a physical descendent of Abraham. Having come to Jesus, he became…
A son of Abraham. Paul explains something about it in Galatians 3:7-9. Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Jesus had been confronted by a group of the Jews who claimed to be “offspring of Abraham” (John 8:31-41). Jesus then said. “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.” 
Now we see Paul explaining who are sons of Abraham. It is those who come by faith who are the real sons of Abraham.
Jesus concluded his time with Zacchaeus by speaking about…
Seeking and saving the lost. Let’s go back to his discussion with Nicodemus in John 3:16-17. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
God showed his love for the world in the greatest “show and tell” the world has ever seen. God’s love is demonstrated in the fact that he gave his only Son so that the sins of the world could be atoned and those who would put their faith in him could have eternal life.
God does not have to condemn mankind we are born condemned! Then, in our human nature, we sin and fall short of God’s glory! The tragedy of it all is that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. We must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead and we are saved. I hope you, each and every one, have made a confession. Or, if you have not done so before, you will confess him now as Lord.
This little story is illustrative of the compassion that Jesus had for all classes. Both the poor and the rich were equally treated by him. Jesus recognized that all had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. He knew that the wages of sin is death. He also knew that in a few days he would pay the price of that sin. I can imagine the disciples looking on in amazement as Jesus called a despised, wealthy, Roman collaborator to his side. There are people all around us today who need to hear the call of Jesus. They will only hear if someone tells them. Will you be one to proclaim the good news? Or are you to be one who will receive the good news and therefore become a child of Abraham by faith?
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

160221 The Purpose of Man in God’s Creation

Ephesians 1:3-14 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
God did not need to create us. He does not need us or the rest of the creation for anything. At the same time we, and the rest of creation, do glorify him and bring him joy. He did not create us because he was lonely — God did not need us for any reason. Nevertheless, God created us for his own glory. Therefore, we are to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Our lives are significant because we were created to glorify God.
The Bible gives many reasons for our existence. I want to look at a few of them today and learn, from the word, what life is really all about. I suppose it is a common thing to question how we got here and why we’re here. Well let’s look at what the Bible says. First of all we are…
To live an abundant life. Jesus himself put this forward and it is found in John 10:10. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,
Of course, “the thief” is Satan. And Jesus is very clear that Satan comes into our lives only to steal and kill and destroy. However, Jesus came to earth that all of God’s people should have “life”. Jesus certainly does not mean that we should only exist but instead that we should have a good, full and rich life. Abundant life is more than just breathing and responding. Abundant life includes being content with where we are and who we are.
I find myself from time to time experiencing depression. Then I might think to myself, “Is this the abundant life?” And the answer to that question is, “No”! We should never measure our life by our downtimes. Instead we should look at what the Bible has to say and live by that. We are to live an abundant life and we are…
To experience fullness of joy. Psalm 16 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It concludes with Psalm 16:11. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
This Psalm is a prayer of David’s. In it he talks about how God has given him “pleasant places” and “a beautiful inheritance”. God had given to David, and to us, plenty of reason to be glad and rejoice. As David prayed he asked God to protect him and direct him. Then he could see the sorrows of those who had missed God and he could rejoice in God being his inheritance. He realized that God even instructed him while he slept.
God answered his prayer by showing him that the path of life included the fullness of joy. That joy is not some kind of silly happiness it is a deep-seated rest caused by the awareness of the fellowship he had with God. Pleasures forevermore come only because we are in the presence of the living God. We are to live an abundant life and we are to experience fullness of joy because we are able…
To enjoy fellowship with God. Psalm 84:1-2, How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. And verse 10. For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Fullness of joy is found in knowing God and delighting in the excellence of his character. The greatest blessing we can imagine is to enjoy fellowship with God. The normal attitude of a Christian is rejoicing in the Lord and the lessons of life he gives to us. In order to have the fullness of joy that the Bible promises we have to choose to enjoy fellowship with God.
In Psalm 84 fellowship with God is definitely connected to worship. In fact, not just worship that can be enjoyed alone but instead fellowship with God is connected to corporate worship. The Old Testament choirmaster could see that there is a need for our participation in the fellowship that can only be provided within the dwelling place for God.
That dwelling place in the wilderness and the early days in the Promised Land was a tent. Later the dwelling place would be the temple of Solomon. Our fellowship with God’s people allows us to participate in public prayer and public worship. God’s intention for us is that we glorify him and, in the process of doing so, live an abundant life as promised by our Lord Jesus. We are to experience fullness of joy that is achieved in fellowship with God and God’s people. As we experience the joy of fellowship we are also…
To rejoice in hope. Paul wrote to the Romans about the joy that we have even when we suffer. Romans 5:2-5 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance. and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
As I have told you before — and will tell you many times more — hope for a Christian is not just a case of wishing it were so. Hope in the Christian sense is a confidence that we have the promises of God even though we do not always see them. In fact, much of the suffering we go through in life has as its purpose our discipline, direction and spiritual growth.
The Christian life is not all happiness and light. It is often accompanied by suffering which is designed in our life to produce endurance. As we develop endurance we gain godly character and that will give us HOPE! As we grow in hope God’s love is poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom God has given us.
Not only are we to enjoy an abundant life with fullness of joy and enjoy fellowship with God we are enabled to rejoice even when suffering. That life of struggle brings us to a place where we are able…
To bring joy to God. Isaiah saw how God enjoyed us! Isaiah 62:5 For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
The church universal is the bride of Christ. When Christ returns in glory we will be ushered into the marriage supper of the Lamb. We will see that God has always rejoiced in his chosen people like a young man rejoices over his bride.
One of the things I have enjoyed over the years is observing the face of the groom as the wife to be walks down the aisle. Usually there is a look of awe and a growing joy. In the same way God rejoices over his bride that he is preparing for eternity. As we grow in grace and knowledge of the Lord our joy increases. We were created by God to glorify him. God himself rejoices in our fellowship with him more than we do. Not only does God rejoice over us he is exuberant in being in our midst. Let’s look at Zephaniah 3:17. The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
As we grow in our ability to rejoice in God he is in our midst. He is the mighty one who alone is able to save. He rejoices over his people with gladness. He gives us peace by his love. He exults over us with a loud singing!
When I first became aware of this truth some years ago I was surprised to find that God happily sings over his people. That discovery led me to learn some things that were quite unexpected. Let me read an article taken from the website of one of my favorite preachers, John Piper. The author is Matt Perman, “So often we think of God as non-enthusiastic or even gloomy. The exact opposite is true: He loves to be God, He takes great pleasure in all that He does, and He is enthusiastic about serving His people and working for their welfare. For example, God says in Jeremiah 32:41: "I will rejoice in doing them good." Jesus said in John 15:11, "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you." And Paul writes in 1 Timothy 1:11 of "the glorious gospel of the blessed God." Blessed means happy. So Paul is saying: "the glorious gospel of the happy God."

God is infinitely happy because he is infinitely glorious. And, the good news is that he invites us to enter into his happiness. Here is what Piper writes in The Pleasures of God (p. 26): "It is good news that God is gloriously happy. No one would want to spend eternity with an unhappy God. If God is unhappy then the goal of the gospel is not a happy goal, and that means it would be no gospel at all. But, in fact, Jesus invites us to spend eternity with a happy God when he says, ‘Enter into the joy of your master' (Matthew 25:23). Jesus lived and died that his joy-God's joy-might be in us and our joy might be full (John 15:11; 17:13). Therefore the gospel is ‘the gospel of the glory of the happy God.'"
And as we grow to understand that our God is a happy God we are able…
To grow in our love for God. Let’s go to 1 Peter 1:8-9. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
I must remind you that love is not only a feeling it’s an act of the will! As we recognize that God created us to have a love relationship with him our ability to love him grows. As we “act out” our love relationship with God feelings will follow. One of the problems that people have about loving God is a lack of “feeling”.
There is no question that love involves feelings. However, those feelings are the result of rather than the proof of our love. It is possible to act in a loving manner and have no love. According to 1 Corinthians chapter 13 it is possible to be a powerful believer, understanding the mysteries of God and not have love. It is possible to have faith that could move mountains and yet not have love. It is possible to be a sacrificial giver and not have love. We were created for the purpose of glorifying God. As we enjoy our relationship with him it will grow as a love relationship.
When Jesus was asked to teach his disciples to pray the first phrase in his Model Prayer was “hallowed be your name.” Peter tells us that in our hearts we are to honor Christ the Lord as holy. We are to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks the reason for our hope. (1 Peter 3:15) God is the creator, he made all things, and he deserves all the glory. It is right in every way that God be glorified by his creation. The testimony of the 24 elders in the Book of Revelation was, “Worthy are you our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) Throughout the Bible we are told that all the glory is to go to him. He deserves all praise in all ways. The highest praise we can give is to confess Jesus as Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead. Today can be your day of salvation.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.