Parables

July 1, 2019 at 3:05 pm | Posted in parables | 2 Comments
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Most of the parables in the Bible were taught by Jesus during His earthly ministry, and can be found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but there are parables throughout the Bible. They are very instructive vehicles for conveying spiritual truth, and, while they are sometimes the subject of too much creative scrutiny, “over-spiritualizing,” and biased interpretation on the part of Bible teachers who have a pet doctrine or eschatological view they want to read into all sorts of passages of Scripture, parables will repay a faithful and obedient Christian’s close attention with memorable warnings, admonitions, encouragement, insight, and spiritual nourishment. Here are links to lessons on some of the Biblical parables:

1. Trusted with the Treasure (Luke 19:11-27)
2. Why Parables? (Matthew 13:10)
3. The King Who Will Return (Luke 19:11-17)
4. Wake Up to the Word (Matthew 13:11-16)
5. Objections To the Doctrine of Everlasting Security Answered (Objection 4) (Luke 8:13)*
6. Salt or Scum? (Ezekiel 23-24)
7. The Manager Who Thought He Was an Owner (Luke 20:9-16)
8. Our Own Worst Enemy (Luke 18:9-14)
9. What Exactly Did Jesus Say about Being Judgmental? (Matthew 7:24-27)
10. Hearing What the King Says  (Matthew 13:13-16)
11. The Intercession of the King
(Matthew 13:45)
12. Hearts of Stone (Matthew 13:5-21)
13. The Unwanted Peace, the Unfruitful Tree, and the Underdressed Guest (Matthew 22:1-14)
14. Serving without Fear (Mark 4:2-8)
15. Winsome Weeding  (Matthew 13:7, 24-30)
16. Wary Watching 
(Luke 12:35-40)
17. A Second Pair of Paradoxes
 (Mark 10:17-31)
18. The Servant Prophet 
(Mark 12:1-9)
19. Conformers, Reformers, or Transformers (Luke 5:36-39)
20. Obstacles, Others, and Ourselves (Luke 6:39-40)
21. What Kind of Dirt Are You? (Luke 8:5-15)
22. The Dirty Girdle (Jeremiah 13:1-11)
23. The Certains: a Lawyer, a Man, a Priest, a Samaritan, and a Savior
 (Luke 10:25-37)
24. A Recipe for Importunate Prayer (Luke 11:2-10)
25. The Vowels of Hell (Luke 11:21-22)
26. When Kingdoms Collide (Luke 13)
27. The Door and the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-11)
28. The Sabbath, Sickness, and Self-Serving Status (Luke 14:7-11)
29. The Joy of Rescuing Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7)
30. A (Perhaps) Parabolic Prodigal’s Preferential Proximate Predicament Produces Patient Prosperous Passionate Persistent Protective Paternal Pardon (Luke 15:8-24)
31. Prayerless Practical Pouting Prefers Possessive Purpose (Luke 15:25-32)
32. A Good Story about a Bad Man (Luke 16:1-10)

*most-viewed post in category

The Vowels of Hell

May 20, 2019 at 1:33 pm | Posted in Luke, parables | 3 Comments
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When we pray, we can be specific. We can ask God for the Holy Spirit, and be confident that He will help us.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Luke 11:13

There are times in the Bible when Jesus cast out demons, and it’s safe to say that casting out demons seems like it would always be a good thing… Well, apparently not to everyone, because when He did it in Luke Chapter 11 some people starting accusing Him of being on the same team as the demons.

But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.

Luke 11:15

Jesus used some pretty simple logic to show that this was a ridiculous and blasphemous accusation. First, why would the devil cast out devils? He’s in the oppression and possession business, not the exorcism business.

But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.

Luke 11:17-18

Jesus, while He was refuting the accusations of the skeptics with logic, also cleverly revealed some things for us about the devil’s “kingdom,” which we may categorize according the vowels of the English alphabet (although a little bit out of their usual order): A,O,E,I,U.

It is A.ctual. The devil is real and he has real power and has been allowed some limited scope of authority in this earth since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden.

It is O.rganized. Satan has an actual kingdom and he is trying to accomplish actual goals and he’s acting in furtherance of those goals. He’s not just running around randomly trying to get people hooked on meth, or trying to get them to sacrifice a goat. He wants to kill, steal, and destroy. He wants to try to rob God of glory. He wants to deceive people into believing lies and rejecting Christ, thereby playing a role in seeing them cast into hell.

Jesus’s next logical point was to turn the tables on the ones accusing Him of being in league with the devil.

And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges.

Luke 11:19

This was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. There were plenty of Jewish exorcists around at that time. If the power of Beelzebub was required to cast out devils, then they, by their own reasoning, were promoting and working with Satan themselves.

Jesus’s third argument was to highlight their implicit admission that He did in fact have power over devils.

But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

Luke 11:20

It did not make sense for them to claim He was a fraudulent messiah and more powerful than Satan at the same time. So Jesus laid it out for them with an illustration sometimes called “the parable of the strong man.” (Keep in mind the context as you study it, because there is a ton of bad theology and craziness about what the parable means and who exactly the “strong man” in the story is meant to represent.)

When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:

Luke 11:21

Satan has many people under his thumb, and he’s not just giving them away without a fight.

But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

Luke 11:22

Jesus is stronger than Satan and He can, and many times does, overcome him.

He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

Luke 11:23

There is a cosmic battle between good and evil. God is getting glory and Satan is trying to stop that – and you and I CAN NOT be neutral. We’re either on Jesus’s side or not, and if we’re not, we’re automatically on the devil’s side. There is a playing field, but there is no sideline and there are no bleachers for spectators.

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.

Luke 11:24-25

Here are two more of the vowels I mentioned earlier:

E.nergetic. Unclean spirits, despite not readily finding places to rest, continue walking about, looking, until they find a suitable place to stir up fresh mischief.

I.ntelligent. Despite his foolhardy and unwinnable attempt at winning a battle against an unbeatable foe, and despite our reluctance to say anything complimentary about him, we must admit that Satan is no dummy. When unclean spirits are driven out of a home, and can not find a new one, they come back to see if they can re-establish their headquarters in familiar territory. Those who are set free from Satan’s dominion must receive God’s Spirit if they are to remain free.

Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

Luke 11:26

U.nited. An evil spirit is able to do what (sadly) Christians are often unable to do. He is able to team up with seven other, and even more diabolical, spirits and work together to completely destroy someone’s life. Thankfully, Jesus (but only Jesus) provides the victory over Satan and his entire legion of demonic minions – if only we will trust Him completely.

 

A Recipe for Importunate Prayer

March 22, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Luke, parables | 3 Comments
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Prayer is an expression of faith. A lack of prayer – by which I mean private prayer time, praying when there is no one else around – shows a lack of faith. I once heard a preacher say that we need to pray in two different ways: with our with our boots on and with our boots off. “Boots-on” prayer is when we pray through our prayer lists. This is the hard work of prayer. “Boots-off” prayer is our worship of God in prayer, and it should not feel like hard work. It should be joyous. In the event that you find all of your time spent praying to be difficult or awkward, this is not, however, an excuse to stop doing it. Prayer is like most spiritual disciplines. Often our “have to” comes first, but if we are PERSISTENT, our “want to” will catch up to our “have to.”

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Luke 11:2-4

Our preparation for prayer should include seeing needs, noting them down, reading the Bible, sticking our noses into the spiritual walk and lives of our friends, listening to people when they talk so we can pray about their desires, fears, and needs. Even the first part of our prayer ought to be preparation for the rest of our prayer, getting God-centered and God-focused, seeking to make our will conformed to God’s will, so that we can ask God for what He wants us to have with confidence and passion.

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

Luke 11:5-8

Vance Havner used to jokingly remark how accurate this parable was in portraying unexpected company always seeming to show up at your house at the most miserable times. Notice the studied ambiguity whereby it’s unclear precisely whose “importunity” is being highlighted. It works either way. If it’s the borrower’s importunity, then it’s his “need” that is the cause of the friend rising at midnight. If it’s the lender’s importunity, then it’s his fear of shame in refusing the plea of his friend. We might define “importunity” as embarrassing insistence. Think of it like this: take need + urgency + persistence + shame and stir them all up in a pot and you’ll get “importunity.”

Let’s say the person who needs the bread at midnight is us. There is something we want, and we believe it is very, very important and that it is in God’s will, or maybe we want to know whether it IS in God’s will. The idea that we would pound on our neighbor’s door at midnight shows how crucial it is.

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Luke 11:9

The words translated as “ask” and “knock” have a connotation of persistent asking and knocking, so if even a grumpy sleepy person will respond to your “importunity” – your obvious need – when you stay after him long enough, how much MORE will your Heavenly Father respond to you, His child, when you are persistent?

This is NOT teaching that God is reluctant to help us, but if we bug Him enough, He will finally cave. It’s showing that persistence helps us to be more DEVOTED to Him.

Now let’s say that “importunity” Luke 11:8 refers to the feeling of the lender – the person whose door is taking a pounding at midnight – and he starts to feel embarrassed, perhaps a type of second-hand embarrassment for the person who considers him to be his friend, but also because of his own reluctance to help out, and what what a refusal to help would say about him.

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Luke 11:10

This is NOT teaching that we need to chide God, and say, “Lord, I can’t believe you won’t even make it so that I can pay my house note this month. I mean, COME ON, Lord, I really serve You, You know? After all I’ve done for You…” hoping that “God’s face will get kind of red and He will say, “I know, you’re right, what was I thinking..? Here you go – hey, psst, don’t tell anyone that I’m slow to answer prayers, all right? I have enough trouble getting people to come to Sunday School as it is!” That’s NOT the meaning of this passage.

However, we know from Scripture that God is zealous about His Name, and He is in the business of getting glory for Himself, and that one of the ways He does that is by answering prayer, so it is right and good – not as a manipulation tactic, but as a way of calling upon the promises of God – to speak to Him about His Own glory. Moses and other Old Testament patriarchs did this. “Lord, You’ve delivered us from Egypt when we had no hope, and You promised to bring us into the promised land, and it’s totally our fault – we’ve broken the Covenant, not You – but, Lord, You know what the heathen are gonna say. They’re gonna say You weren’t powerful enough to fully deliver, or You weren’t big enough to keep Your Word. Lord, don’t let us be the cause of Your glory seeming to be diminished.”

When we honestly pray for God to glorify Himself in answering our sincere petitions, God has authorized and encouraged us to be persistent about that.

The Certains: a Lawyer, a Man, a Priest, a Samaritan, and a Savior

January 11, 2019 at 11:08 am | Posted in Luke, parables | 2 Comments
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And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

Luke 10:25

The “lawyer” in this verse is not the same type of lawyer that we think of when we talk about lawyers today, but, even back then, they had a tendency to try to trip people up with tricky questions.

He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, 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.

Luke 10:26-27

The lawyer’s answer to Jesus was both correct and incorrect. It was correct in the sense that this was what the Law required: moral perfection from the moment of birth to the moment of death, and complete devotion to God. But it was incorrect in the sense that it failed to acknowledge that nobody can accomplish this feat, or even come close.

And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

Luke 10:28-29

The statement that the lawyer was “willing to justify himself” is a figure of speech, but it is important to remember that in reality such a thing as a person objectively making himself “just” is not possible. He tried the old “define your terms” tactic on Jesus.

And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

Luke 10:30

The phrase “a certain man” may indicate that Jesus was starting a parable, but we can not be certain. It is possible that this was something that had actually happened. The locations were real, and the behaviors described are certainly within the realm of known human experience.

And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

Luke 10:31-33

Luke, writing with a gentile audience foremost in mind, highlights the significance of Jesus’s identification of the compassionate man as a Samaritan, rather than a Jewish man.

And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Luke 10:34-37

Jesus corrected the lawyer’s question, which should not have been, “Who is my neighbor?” but rather, “To whom can I be a neighbor?” This man had fallen among thieves. We have “fallen” in sin. He was left “half dead,” and we come into this world alive physically, but dead spiritually. The identification of one of the callous passersby as a “priest” may have been intended to highlight the inadequacy of the Old Testament sacrificial system, and the statement that the other was a Levite may have been a way of addressing the lack of saving power in the Old Testament Law. These systems could only pass judgment, not save. If this is accurate, then the Samaritan would be an allegorical representation of Jesus. He pours in oil and wine, symbols of the Holy Spirit, and brings the rescued man to an “inn,” representing a local church, which was the agency whereby the injured man received care (one of the responsibilities of the local church). This man’s physical salvation was free to him, but paid for by another, just as our spiritual salvation is free to us, but paid for by Christ. Part of our mission as believers today is to care for others – to be good neighbors and “good Samaritans.”

The Dirty Girdle

December 12, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Jeremiah, parables | 2 Comments
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Jeremiah 13 contains two illustrated sermons – or parables – which God had Jeremiah act out. This was unusual behavior compared to the simple preaching and prophesying done by prophets most of the time in the Old Testament, but it was not unusual in the sense of being novel for both minor and major prophets. Ezekiel was especially known for his “action” sermons, doing things like shaving his beard and dividing the whiskers into thirds, building a little fort and tearing it down, and once lying on the ground, and moaning and groaning in pretend agony. Other examples include Isaiah preaching without his clothes and Hosea marrying a prostitute. So, what Jeremiah does here is strange, but not at all without precedent for an Old Testament prophet

Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.

Jeremiah 13:1

This was a private revelation given to Jeremiah. He was not told by God to share this message with the people. The “girdle” was probably not what comes to mind when we think of a girdle today. It’s not as if Jeremiah put on a pair of “man-Spanx” or anything like that. This would have been more like what we think of as a waist apron. Jeremiah, once on a career path to being a priest before his prophetic call, knew the significance of the “girdle” being linen. Many Jewish men wore aprons for wiping their hands on, etc., and probably to aid in girding up their loins for work or fast travel, but the linen was an unmistakable reference to the Levitical priesthood.

So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins.

Jeremiah 13:2

Notice what’s missing between Verses 1 and 2: any mention of Jeremiah asking the Lord why he needed to do this, or of the Lord giving any explanation. If only we could all learn to obey the Word of the Lord that way – even when we have no idea “why.”

The most unusual thing about the girdle was that it could not touch water; it could not be washed. The nation of Judah was God’s priestly apron, in a sense. He “wore” it for His own glory, the way a priest would wear a linen girdle to be recognized as a priest, consecrated to God. The priests were also supposed to “serve” Him – to be used by Him to do His “work” in the world. God’s people, although they had been delivered “through” the Red Sea, had not gotten wet. Tragically, though, they had not been “spiritually washed,” either. They came out of Egypt dirty, and when God offered them clean garments of righteousness, their defiled hearts quickly made these dirty, too.

And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.

Jeremiah 13:3-4

This was a 250-350 mile trip each way, so possibly 700 miles round trip, to the Euphrates, not coincidentally the river associated with Babylon – the place where the enemy of Judah would come from and claim a victory over them because they had forsaken their God, their Cleanser and Protector.

So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me. And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.

Jeremiah 13:5-6

Jeremiah was required to repeat the long trip to retrieve this girdle that had been lying buried in the muck and moldly earth near the river, now completely useless for its originally-intended purpose.

Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.

Jeremiah 13:7

Rather than allowing God to carry their sins away and exchange them for His gift of cleansing righteousness, they had buried their identification with God far from Him, among filthy pagans who worshiped filthy false gods which had no power to cleanse, protect, or restore. Why had they done this?

Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 13:8-9

They had done this because of pride. I know of nothing in the Bible which God opposes more than pride.

This evil people, which refuse to hear my words, which walk in the imagination of their heart, and walk after other gods, to serve them, and to worship them, shall even be as this girdle, which is good for nothing. For as the girdle cleaveth to the loins of a man, so have I caused to cleave unto me the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah, saith the LORD; that they might be unto me for a people, and for a name, and for a praise, and for a glory: but they would not hear.

Jeremiah 13:10-11

God calls you to cleave to Him – to STAY close – as close as underwear to the body, but, unlike underwear, to receive honor that will redound to HIS (not our) glory.

What Kind of Dirt Are You?

August 14, 2018 at 4:11 pm | Posted in Biblical farming, Luke, parables | 2 Comments
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Luke 8 contains what is usually called the Parable of the Sower or sometimes the Parable of the Soils, because Jesus described four different kinds of dirt.

A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.

Luke 8:5

A farmer went out to plant his crop. As he was dropping his seeds to the ground, some of the seeds fell upon the place between the rows of the garden, or perhaps between distinct fields. These seeds did not fall on the soft, tilled part of the earth where they were intended to land, so they attracted birds that like to eat seeds.

And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.

Luke 8:6

It’s doubtful that a farmer would intentionally drop seeds on rocks, but it would not have been uncommon for a farmer’s field in the ancient Near East to be located partially on a limestone substratum covered by a thin layer of soil. These seeds would sprout “plants-to-be” that couldn’t get their roots down to where the moisture was.

And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.

Luke 8:7

Other seeds fell in places where, before their roots could get down, neighboring weeds robbed their sunlight or water, and they, too, never really became plants.

And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Luke 8:8

A novice Bible-reader, upon reading the Gospels for the first time, might wonder why there were so many people in the days of Jesus’s earthly ministry without ears. Obviously, we know it’s a figure of speech, but it does let us know that not everyone who heard Jesus’s parables were going to understand them. The parables had the power to hide truth and reveal truth at the same time, depending on the spiritual condition of the listener. Even beyond the principle of spiritual tone-deafness, though, you can test this out in a meeting of diverse individuals today. If you hold up a photograph and say, “Here’s a picture of Jason Witten stiff-arming a defensive back,” some people are going to perk up.

If you say, “Here’s a picture of a puppy dog sharing an ice cream cone with a little girl,” other people are going to perk up.

puppy sharing ice cream

They proabaly won’t all be the same people. Not everybody has “ears to hear” every kind of subject.

And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.

Luke 8:9-10

The parable of the dirt is not terribly difficult for modern readers to understand because the disciples were very helpful. They basically asked Jesus, “Okay, what are You trying to say?” This is what He meant by “those who have ears to hear.” It had been prophesied in the Old Testament that some people – primarily the hypocritical religious leaders – wouldn’t want to hear the truth, anyway, so God was going to increase their condemnation by teaching lessons that they wouldn’t comprehend unless they really wanted to know God.

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

Luke 8:11

This was a very straightforward way of announcing that this parable would be clearly explained to the disciples.

Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.

Luke 8:12

Jesus explained why He told them about some of the seeds falling by the wayside, but He also let them know explicitly that, in this parable, the “dirt” is the human heart. That’s important to remember: As human beings we bear the image of God. However, in our humanity, we are “but dust” (Genesis 18:27; Psalm 103:14). We are framed from earth – we’re animated dirt! We are not anything special apart from God’s work and God’s image stamped upon us. Additionally, some people are so worldly and their hearts have been so trampled into hardness by the ways of the world, that the Word of God doesn’t penetrate. When someone tries to give it to them the devil (the birds of the parable) comes and snatches it away, and they have a double condemnation: they were too proud to care, and too hard to receive.

They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.

Luke 8:13

The “light” here is exceptional in that it represents, in this instance, persecution instead of truth. Persecution, like intense sunlight, shrivels plants with no roots. This describes people who briefly appear to be converted to true saving faith, but then somebody makes fun of them for being a Christian or suggests that they might not grow in spiritual maturity like they should unless they come to Sunday School instead of sleeping in on Sunday mornings. They find things are getting too “hot” and they reveal that their hearts were just dirt-dusted rocks that only appeared to be real dirt.

And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.

Luke 8:14

This third type of “dirt” can’t bring forth fruit because the thorns of worldly cares are choking out the place where the roots would go. These are people who love something in this world, and though they may think that they would like to add Jesus to it, they do not really believe that He is anything more than a life-improvement accoutrement.

But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

Luke 8:15

Hopefully, Verse 15 is you. You’re just “dirt,” but at least you are real dirt – soft dirt – formerly hard ground that has been “broken” and has received the seed of the Word of God, so that you are not just “conformed” or “reformed” but “TRANSFORMED.” Has the seed in your heart come to fruition and actually changed your heart itself?

Obstacles, Others, and Ourselves

April 12, 2018 at 11:16 am | Posted in Luke, parables | 2 Comments
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Jesus gave a revelation of the “new” Sabbath, then He went on to reveal the institution of a “new nation.” He fulfilled the real meaning of the Sabbath and the real meaning of what the nation of Israel and the 12 tribes of Israel were supposed to represent.

And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

Luke 6:12

Jesus prayed all night because He had some tough decisions to make. Are you this committed to prayer and its importance?

And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;

Luke 6:13

Jesus had many students (“disciples”) during His earthly ministry, but He chose only 12 “Apostles,” corresponding to the number of the tribes of Israel. These Apostles would be His official messengers and missionaries after His Resurrection and Ascension.

Today, as Christians, we need to be both: disciples who are learning and “apostles” who are going, witnessing, and ministering.

The section of Scripture starting in Luke 6:20 may be a truncated version of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Chapters 5-7), or a different, but similar, sermon, since Jesus sometimes repeated His teaching for different audiences at different times and locations.

This sermon focuses on having a right attitude toward obstacles, including poverty, physical pain, emotional pain, and three forms of persecution (scornful, secret, and slanderous).

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you,, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

Luke 6:20-22

Our attitude toward these circumstances must be not that the circumstances themselves are blessings, but that we are blessed to be counted worthy by God to undergo these circumstances.

Jesus also focused on our attitude and actions toward our enemies, including how to speak TO them and FOR them.

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

Luke 6:27

Finally, Jesus focused on our attitude toward ourselves, warning of the dangers of pride and perception, and the importance of our production.

And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.

Luke 6:39-40

If I am “leading,” then I had better be a follower of the true leader, Jesus Christ.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

Luke 6:41-42

These verses do not say that I should not be helping my brother or sister to see clearly, but they do say that I am to make sure that I am seeing clearly first.

For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

Luke 6:43

These negative implications of regeneration tend to be more popular sermon topics, but are only half of the truth – which is dangerous. We don’t mind hearing that bad trees bring forth corrupt fruit, because we like to think of ourselves as good trees, but it is just as important to acknowledge that the proof that we ARE in fact good trees would be the production of good fruit.

For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

Luke 6:44-46

We tend to use “Lord” as a verbal pause button when we pray, but, by definition, your “Lord” is the one you serve. Are you serving yourself? Are you serving the world? Are you unwittingly serving Satan? Or are you truly serving the Lord Jesus Christ?

Conformers, Reformers, or Transformers

February 28, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Posted in Luke, parables | 4 Comments
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And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.

Luke 5:29

Levi, who was a tax collector, would become Matthew the Gospel writer. The “publicans” were his fellow tax collectors.

But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?

Luke 5:30

The scribes and Pharisees were grumbling and complaining to Jesus’s disciples ABOUT Jesus, but not directly TO Jesus.

And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.

Luke 5:31

If you are tempted to talk negatively about someone behind his back, you need to remember that God can hear you, even if the person can’t. What do you think the Pharisees took from Jesus’s statement about only sick people needing a doctor? They probably thought, “At least He’s admitting that these publicans are sin-sick.” What SHOULD they have taken from it, though? They should have understood that He was saying that they themselves were sin-sick too!

I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?

Luke 5:32-33

The followers of John the Baptist probably fasted frequently in imitation of John’s nazarite vow, but this response showed the attitude of the Pharisees concerning the “outwardness” of the Law. Do you see the two sides to the same dangerous coin here? Some people think that Jesus is only for those who aren’t too bad – hard-working honest folks who seem basically good, so it would be a shame for them to go to hell because they haven’t trusted Jesus. You can even throw in drug addicts and poor people because they’re down on their luck, and He’s their only hope. On the other side, they think Jesus can’t really be the answer for child molesters and especially bad criminals and terrorists, because those types of people really deserve to go to hell.

Neither of those views, nor any variations on them, are the Gospel. Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Who falls into the category of “sinners?” In the Pharisees’ view “sinners” were gentiles and Jewish people who didn’t even try to keep the Law. But in Jesus’s view everyone fits into that category. This background sets the stage for two short parables that conclude Luke Chapter 5.

And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.

Luke 5:36

People didn’t put patches on torn clothes in those days because clothes weren’t “pre-shrunk” the way they are now. A new patch on an old garment would tear the garment and shrink the patch. Both would be ruined.

And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.

Luke 5:37

I don’t know much about the fermenting process, but it produces some kind of gas, and old “bottles” made from the skin of an animal would be brittle, causing it to burst with the expanding gas, thereby causing the loss of a nice bottle, as well as the wine.

But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved. No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.

Luke 5:38-39

It’s in our nature to hang on to what we’re familiar with, but Jesus brings radical new life. It was scary for some people back then, and it’s scary for some today, but it’s less scary for “publicans and sinners.” When they are saved by Christ, they leave behind, in most cases, misery and unfulfillment. They find joy and acceptance in Christ, and their rejection by the world seems to them a small price to pay. It’s not always “easy” for them, but it’s not nearly as scary for them as it can be for someone who thought that he “had it all” before he met Jesus.

The Pharisees and the followers of John the Baptist faced two different predicaments when confronted with the “newness” of Jesus. The Pharisees were “conformers.” They were comfortable with the old. If something “new” showed up it had better look a lot like the old – or at least be able to be “conformable” to the old (like old wineskins). The disciples of John the Baptist, on the other hand, were not “conformers,” but they saw themselves as “reformers.” They knew the old wasn’t working, but thought it could be “patched up” (like old garments). Jesus, however, wasn’t a “conformer” or a “reformer.” He was a “transformer.”

No, not like the cars that turn into robots! Jesus brought in the “new,” not by “destroying” the old, but by “fulfilling” the old. The “old” was always meant to point to the “new,” and it had a “metamorphosis date.” Are we, as Christians, making the mistake of trying to conform? To fit our “newness” in Christ into our old life? Or are we trying to “reform?” To merely patch up our ways so that we don’t lose our identity? Both are in error. We need to be willing to be “transformed” – to live like new creatures in Christ, putting away the old man and the lusts thereof, and putting on the righteousness of Christ so we look like Him and not like our old selves any more.

The Servant Prophet

August 4, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Posted in Mark, parables | 2 Comments
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Jesus the Servant was a Servant King, a Servant Judge, and a Servant Prophet. A true prophet teaches, but He stresses obedience. Prophetic teaching is about more than just imparting information. Many of us Christians are educated beyond our level of obedience. Jesus wants us to understand what He says, and to DO what He says.

What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

Mark 12:9

Why would the Lord of the vineyard do this? Because of what had been done to His servants, messengers, and his son:

And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some. Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

Mark 12:1-8

If you’re rejecting one truth from God, you have no right to ask Him for a second truth to examine. The Jewish leaders rejected John the Baptist, so why were they examining the teaching of Jesus? Have you ever heard a professing Christian complain that, “I’m just not getting anything out of reading the Bible?” If we are not “getting anything” out of the Bible, it is because we are not “doing” what we do get.

A true prophet stresses obedience, and obedience brings responsibility. Prophets prophesy, but they don’t force people to act on their prophecies by putting a gun to their head or a sword to their neck. The responsibility to obey falls on the hearers.

And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.

Mark 12:13-17

Caesar’s image is on Caesar’s money, so it belongs to Caesar. God’s image is on me, so I belong to God.

A Second Pair of Paradoxes

June 5, 2017 at 2:19 pm | Posted in Mark, parables | 7 Comments
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Last time I looked at two paradoxes found in Mark Chapter 10:
1. Two shall be one.
2. Adults shall be as little children.

The third paradox is found in the story that is sometimes called “The Great Refusal” (after an episode in Dante’s Inferno) or the story of “The Rich Young Ruler,” and the parable that goes with it, found in Mark 10:17-31.

Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

Mark 10:28-31

“The first shall be last” is certainly not a worldly concept. The world’s system is that the first get the right to stay first, but in God’s system (where the first shall be last and vice-versa) the unknown sufferers will receive glory. Of course, this concept of “first” is understood in a relative sense; obviously, in the eternal realm of Heaven, the Lamb of God will actually be the “First.” Peter, still very much in an “earthly” frame of mind, was focused on his position in the “here and now,” and his temporal point of view has sadly become a staple of the “prosperity preaching” that is so prevalent today. Too much emphasis is placed on the idea that Christians should work for personal rewards, and not for God’s glory.

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

Mark 10:35-40

We don’t presume to “know” what is in our “heavenly treasure chest,” and, while we don’t ignore the motivation of rewards for serving Christ, as we grow in Christ and in sanctification, we ought to be maturing past the idea of “giving to get.” In fact, that must not be our only, or our highest, motivation.

The fourth paradox in Mark Chapter 10 is that, if you want to be a servant, you are really a ruler – and if you want to be a ruler, you will wind up a servant.

And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Mark 10:41-45

I believe that this passage of Scripture, dealing with the perfect and divine and amazingly gracious servanthood of Jesus Christ, is a key to understanding of one the main themes in Mark’s entire Gospel.

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