Online Text Sermon - Luke ch.10 v.20
|Preacher||Rev. Iain Smith, Tasmania|
|Sermon Title||  (Communion Monday)|
|Text||Luke ch.10 v.20 |
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"Notwithstanding in this rejoice not," (referring to the power they had over the powers of darkness) "that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10, 20).
This, in part, is the response that Jesus gave when the disciples brought Him a report on their evangelistic mission: "Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (text).
When the Lord Jesus began His ministry, He had observed life in general and human behaviour in particular for the best part of thirty years. It was one thing for the Lord Jesus as a man in the world to observe these matters; it was another what He knew regarding this as God. During His years on earth He became acutely aware, and this at a very early stage of His ministry, of a number of things. He became aware of the sheer scale of sin's tragedy on humanity. He likens it to a field ripe for harvest: "The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few" (verse 2). We find Him saying, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest" (John 4, 35).
He saw men and women, boys and girls, alienated from God by sin - vulnerable to every perverse religious and moral instinct in themselves and in other people. He was also very acutely aware of the danger for those who are prepared to challenge those circumstances: danger from the enemies of God and from those who oppose righteousness. Jesus said to them, "Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves" (verse 3); "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10, 16).
He was also acutely aware of over-ambitious men - even Christian men and, may I add, women also. For three years, the Lord Jesus observed this trait in His own disciples. One of the common questions on their lips for the duration of his three-year ministry was: "Which one of us will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" They were not content with the portion God had given to them in providence; they wanted that bit more.
My friends, time has done nothing to diminish these problems for the Christian church in the world. The tragedy of sin is as great as ever; opposition to the Gospel as vigorous as ever, and the proud ambitions of the human heart is as obvious now as it was with the disciples - perhaps, even more obvious in the modern Christian church.
Here these over-ambitious disciples were returning from their spiritual harvesting in fields white with the leprosy of human sin. We read that Jesus had sent them out in twos (verse 1) and He gave them strict instructions on how to conduct themselves, verses 4 to 11. This included that unusual Gospel welcome: Shalom or eirene - "Peace", as it is put in verse 5. It also included this ominous prospect for those who would reject God, those who would refuse the overtures of the Gospel: "Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you" (verse 11).
The Christian Church, my friends, is under divine instruction to "wipe the dust" off their feet when the occasion demands. This is very similar teaching to the warning that the Spirit of God will not always strive with man (Genesis 6, 3). That is the hard reality that should be faced by those who, year on year, insist on rejecting the overtures of God in the Gospel. It's a solemn thought that they are not only rejecting the Gospel and its messengers but Christ and His God. "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me" (verse 16).
Oh that a wicked world would listen to those words as they mock myself and those like me who preach the Gospel of redeeming grace; for they are not merely mocking me and my colleagues throughout the Christian Church in the world, they are mocking Christ and His God.
The disciples initially experienced much success, despite vigorous opposition. They were able to report with joy, "Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name" (verse 17). He responded to this in His own inimitable way: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (verse 18). By His supernatural powers He was able to see and to discern Satan's power crumbling under the onslaught of divine grace: that power by which Satan keeps men and women, boys and girls, in bondage, in prison, to sin and corruption. When the power of God's grace enters a person's life, it enters that person's heart. The power of sin must crumbles because "greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4, 4). Perhaps we don't really appreciate the powerful weapon God has given to us: the sword of God's Spirit working through the preaching of the Gospel. Paul describes it to the Corinthians in this way: "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10, 4). It is a power that has changed countless lives down through the centuries. It is a power that has turned the world upside down as described in Acts 17. It is a power that has transformed whole nations of people - high and low.
However, my friends, it is no source of joy in and of itself that we possess that kind of power as part of God's Church on earth. No sir! Yes, it can defeat the powers of darkness; yes, it can defeat the most formidable foe on the face of the earth. But Jesus says to His disciples and thereby to His church: "Don't rejoice in that". "Rejoice" rather in this, He says, "because your names are written in heaven" (text). In other words, if this is not your source of joy, you have no joy at all. "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (text).
Jesus is telling His church not to become 'power mad'. Don't become over-ambitious; don't become like the world because that is what the world does. Worldly people seek power, not only for their own purpose but that they might glory in that power and what that power can achieve for them. Indeed, the world revels in the achievements of power: its politicians, its businessmen and its entrepreneurs. The more power the better. The children of God are not so. Those who are born again of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus are not so.
Our true lasting source of joy is this: cherishing a hope that our names, miserable worms that we are, are written in heaven, written in God's "Book of Remembrance", as the prophet Malachi puts it; written in the "Lamb's Book of Life", as John puts it in the Revelation. I wonder, my friend, is this your joy? In all that you have in your life, and you have much I believe: in your private life, your personal life, in your professional life - what is your source of joy? What is your greatest source of joy? "Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (text).
I want you to notice something in the passing here: it's how important this joy is to Jesus. Amongst everything else that could have brought this joy into His life, Christian joy was so important to Him. It leads to the only recorded incident, and I stand to be corrected in this, of joy breaking into His sorrow. Isn't that something worth thinking about, my friends? Your joy is a source of joy for Christ, the only recorded joy in His earthly ministry. We read of Him frequently in the New Testament distressed at living as the sin-bearer of God's people in a sin-sick world. We find Him groaning in His Spirit because of our sin; we find Him in distress, sighing deeply in agony, because of the sin of God's people laid upon Him. Here, at the prospect of the Gospel's power enabling men and women, boys and girls, to know and to believe and to trust that their names are written in heaven - Jesus rejoices in Spirit: "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father" (verse 21).
He is doing two things: He is rejoicing because of you and me, Christian friend, and He immediately communicates this to the Father in heaven. Is that what you do Christian friend? When your spirit rejoices in the Gospel, do you communicate this to God in heaven above? "I thank thee, O Father" (verse 21). Here He is surrounded by the tragedy of sin on every side; everywhere He looked, there was evidence of a monumental tragedy. But for a short moment of respite, Jesus is seeing the joy of sinners being saved. "Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father" (verse 21).
If we are numbered amongst those cherishing a hope of our names being written in heaven, what then is expected of us? I could say much my friends, I could say much but I am going to limit myself to three things gleaned from the context of Luke 10. They are three very important things which must be in your experience; three things which you must discern in your own life and which others must discern in you.
1. YOU MUST KNOW AND LOVE THE LAW OF GOD
I say love as opposed to having knowledge of. When Jesus finished praying to God the Father, a lawyer stood up, an expert in Jewish law. He stood up to challenge the Lord Jesus, to question Him, to test Him, to tempt Him - put it which every way you please: "And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (verse 25) Perhaps it is another way of saying, "What shall I do to make sure my name is written in heaven?" There is nothing wrong with the question. Indeed, it is a very important question, and as I stand before you, my friends, I can't think of a more important question. "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (verse 25) Nothing wrong with the question but much wrong with where the question is coming from.
This lawyer knew his Bible. He knew every jot and tittle of the Old Testament Scriptures; he studied it all day long. That is more than you or I do! However, there was something wrong with how he asked the question. There was something wrong with why he asked the question. Jesus said to others, "Search the scriptures" (John 5, 39); pour over your Bible. "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life and they are they which testify of me" (John 5, 39). That is a good reason to read your Bible and search the Scriptures and to pour over it day after day.
This man's study was evidently in vain. Here he is, a man of reputation amongst his peers. He could stand up in the Council of the most learned and recite the Holy Scriptures of God and yet he still hadn't found eternal life. Why not? Because, my friends, his approach was all-wrong; he was going about it the wrong way. That is something to worry about for you and I: that we can read the Bible for all the wrong reasons; that we can come to a knowledge of the truth for all the wrong reasons; that we can ask questions about the Bible and the things of the Bible, for all the wrong reasons. This man's question was not genuine, it was not coming from a true desire for heaven, it was not coming from a desire to know and love God. He studied the Bible to enhance his own reputation. He studied the Bible to impress his peers and to promote his own knowledge. Isn't that, my friends, a tragedy, that men and women are found in the church of God studying the Bile for all the wrong reasons? Isn't that a tragedy?
Jesus challenged him: "What is written in the law? how readest thou?" (verse 26). He responded by giving a biblical summary of the Ten Commandments that would pass any examination: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself" (verse 27). You couldn't better that answer, my friend. However, this man didn't expect the response with which our Lord replied. Jesus said to him, "Thou hast answered right" (then comes the challenge): "this do, and thou shalt live" (verse 28).
Jesus knew that was impossible; furthermore, the lawyer knew it was impossible and I hope, my friend, you also know it is impossible. With the exception of the Lord Jesus Himself, no mere man since the fall is able to keep the Commandments of God in a way that would satisfy what God requires - it is impossible. Indeed, that is precisely what Jesus wanted to bring home to this man. He is in effect saying to him: My friend, you have the key to the kingdom of heaven when you realise that you cannot keep that law, when you realise that by nature and practice you are a law-breaker in thought, word and action. Moreover, when you realise you are a law-breaker, the Bible makes it perfectly clear where to go from there: you are to repent of your sin and you are to exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. You are to look to Him as your Substitute, as your Advocate with the Father, as the One whose merits you will plead from this point on in your life. You are to say to God, Yes, I am a law-breaker. No, I cannot keep the commandments but I know Someone that will. I know One of whom it is written "He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross". That is my Saviour! There is my Ticket! There is my Key into the kingdom of heaven! That is what lies behind Jesus answer to this lawyer: he never learned his need of repentance. He never saw himself as a law-breaker despite his knowledge of the law. Is it not a frightening thing my friends?
Another said, "I was alive without the law once". I knew it perfectly. I knew it so well that it didn't even bother me. There it was, a banner over my life. There it was and I could quote it to anybody alive. "I was alive without the law once", but that had to change in the apostle Paul's life. When that power came, showing him that he was nothing but a law-breaker, he died as a son of Adam. This is coming to love the law, my friends. Paul speaks to the Thessalonians of those who 'love not the truth'. Mark those words. They had the truth. You can have the Bible, you can know the law but do you love the truth, do you love the law of God? Do you deal with that sin in your life that transgresses that law constantly with every thought? That is the first thing that is required of you if you cherish the hope that your name is written in heaven: you must know and love the law of God.
2.YOU ARE TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR
This may seem a simple thing in your eyes. But it wasn't very simple for this lawyer as he was about to find out - his nose was out-of-joint at this challenge! He wasn't used to being challenged on his own territory. To justify himself he asked Jesus: "And who is my neighbour?" (verse 29). This question arises out of the new dimension Jesus had introduced to the Old Testament religion. Until Jesus came, it was a very exclusive religion, a very introspective religion, a very insular religion. There was no accommodation whatsoever made for anyone except the children of Abraham - everybody else was reprobate, everybody else was going to go to hell except they convert to Judaism. When Jesus came, He insisted on broadening the horizon of the Jewish mind. Much of His ministry was aimed and directed at that. His teaching, for example, on Naaman the Syrian, was aimed at this. Some of His teaching with the woman of Samaria was aimed at this. His words to Nicodemus was aimed at this: There's Nicodemus coming in the darkness of the night - Jew that he was, Pharisee that he was, with his limited and exclusive mind. Jesus saw him coming and he said to him: "God so loved the world" (John 3, 16). The world, Nicodemus, not merely Judaism, nor merely the borders of Palestine. "God so loved the world" (John 3, 16) - the elect are there, north, south, east and west, amongst the Gentiles as they are amongst the Jews.
"Who is my neighbour?" (verse 29) - this man asks. The response was this glorious parable of the Good Samaritan in verses 30-36. Without contradiction, my friends, this is the best definition ever given on the second table of the law: the best definition ever given of how to love your neighbour. For Christian people, loving God and loving their neighbour is no mere subjective experience; it is not something that is abstract or sentimental. Perhaps it is all of that but it is much more than that; indeed, it is infinitely more than that. It is something objective; it is something concrete; it is something practical, and if you are here this evening cherishing a hope that your name is written in heaven, you must endeavour to keep God's law - both tables of it - as Jesus has instructed you. That is what he is doing here with the lawyer. 'Loving your neighbour', is observing those Commandments. I rather think that the commandment in particular view here is the sixth Commandment. There came a priest, and when he saw that poor man in the gutter, he was in breach of the sixth Commandment by leaving him there. The Levite did the same. What does the sixth Commandment say? "Thou shalt not kill." What does that Commandment mean by implication: Thou shalt do everything in thy power to preserve life. Oh yes, you help your neighbour by cutting her grass if you like; yes, you help your neighbour by doing her shopping if you like, but my friend, there is infinitely more than that to 'loving your neighbour' - infinitely more.
3. DEVOTION TO JESUS CHRIST
Soon after this incident, He visited Bethany with His disciples (verses 38-40). This was His favourite home. This is where He found peace, friendship and fellowship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. We know that Mary was a quiet thoughtful woman, whilst Martha her sister was outgoing and gregarious in her character. Here we are given a picture of Mary's contentment at sitting at the feet of her Saviour, taking advantage of every opportunity to learn of the Lord her God. Martha, on the other hand, was up and doing, busy, busy, busy. She is taken up, as the verse tells us, with being 'cumbered about much serving' (verse 40). What was she guilty of? What was she doing wrong? She was taking too much pride in her hospitality, that is what she was doing wrong.
However, I want you to notice something important about this, something of the deceitfulness of sin in our lives, something of the subtlety of our own wicked hearts. She is taking pride in her hospitality, yes, but she lays a complaint at the door of God: "Lord, dost thou not care...?" Others laid the same complaint at the door of heaven: "Carest thou not that we perish?" What an attitude; how small the faith! "Lord, carest thou not that my sister hath left me to serve alone?" (verse 40) Oh friends, how little it takes for the best of us to lay a complaint at heaven's door. How little it takes, even for those of us that cherish this hope that our names are written in heaven.
A gentle rebuke came her way: "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful" (verse 41-42). Her discernment and her priorities, was out of sync with the divine will and this led to an error of judgement. That is the problem my friends with being out of sync with the divine will: it doesn't stop there. It always, invariably, inevitably, leads to something else. It is a common problem in the Christian life. Jacob discovered this with the birthright. Jonah discovered this with Nineveh. Even the great man Paul discovered this with the thorn in his flesh. He asked for something that God was not willing to give him. He was in effect laying a complaint at the door of heaven. For Martha, her concern about hospitality blotted out of her mind the most tender care man could ever know. Who cares like Him?
In one place, to illustrate His tender loving care for us, He uses what is the most intimate picture imaginable: "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee" (Isaiah 49, 15). Who cares like Him, my friend? Whatever our responsibility, duty and obligation may be in this world, nothing, absolutely nothing, should be allowed to blind us to the pre-eminence of Jesus Christ in our lives, to His care and loving kindness in providence and in grace. If we believe our names are written in heaven, we must also believe that God's care and love never falters, never fails, never alters and never diminishes.
We may wrongly, as Martha does here, assume that certain obligations and duties have a priority in our lives. But our hearts, my friends, must be given over wholly, totally, without reservation, to the Lord our God, even to the Christ Who loved us and died for us. This is the Gospel. Son, daughter, give me your heart and if I cherish this hope as I lay my head on my pillow this evening, may I go to sleep with a full confidence, not only that my name is written in heaven but that I have not kept anything from Christ. May I know that I have surrendered totally to Him, to His claims in the Gospel and that I have devoted myself to Him this day and every day. May He bless His own Word to us. Amen.
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