Conformers, Reformers, or Transformers

February 28, 2018 at 3:43 pm | Posted in Luke, parables | 5 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.

What Do You Have to Do with God?

February 8, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Posted in Joshua, Luke | 4 Comments
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And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice,

Luke 4:33

The description “unclean devil” sounds redundant, but Luke the physician was interested in the cause of illness.

Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.

Luke 4:34-35

Jesus sometimes warned others against making a proclamation about Who He truly was during His earthly ministry. Satan, whether or not he knew that Jesus’s great act of salvation would come “in the fullness of time” and that He was on a God-ordained schedule as He headed toward the Cross, did seem to have a desire to see Jesus arrested by the religious authorities sooner rather than later. Therefore, Jesus rebuked the demons to stop them from calling Him “the Holy One of God,” although that’s Who He truly was.

Their question, “What have we to do with thee?” was a plea to postpone their inevitable judgment, but the way it is worded in our English translation makes it sound to our modern ears like a challenge for us to consider how we are to interact with Him. In one sense, it sounds like what we say when we don’t want to be bothered by someone else: “I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” But in the other sense it sounds like we have a problem to deal with: “Now, young man, what am I going to do with you?” Let’s take a brief look at three times in Scripture when similar wording is used.

What do you “have to do do” with God?

1. You have to live in His presence and to give an account of your life to Him.

Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

Hebrews 4:13

 

God is omniscient, but His omniscience is not a cold distant omniscience. He is also omnipresent, and His omnipresence is an intense searching omnipresence. One day, everything we’ve done will be “manifested” before Him – brought out into the open. All our deeds will be naked and open.

And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?

Luke 5:17-21

The scribes and the Pharisees weren’t interested in the power to heal. They were worried about how this healing prophet could forgive sins – because that would mean He knew what those sins were.

But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?

Luke 5:22 (emphasis added)

That He could “perceive their thoughts” is exactly what they feared!

Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

Luke 5:23-25

Not all sickness is in a one-to-one ratio with sin in the life of the sick person, but a person – like this man who was sick with palsy, and his friends – would not be deterred by pride. God forgives the sins of those who humble themselves in repentance and confess their sins. Our sins cannot be hidden from God. He knows about them already. Yet they still need to be confessed to Him.

2. You have to give an account to your loved ones of why you love Him and fear Him.

And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?

Joshua 22:24

The was a dispute between the tribes of Israel over an altar, and the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh protested their innocence and appealed to their future posterity as proof that they recognized their part of the Covenant with God. The people you go to church with know you (hopefully), and the people you work with know you, and your neighbors and the parents of your kids’ friends know you, but nobody (except God) knows you like your family. If someone asked your kids, “What does your dad ‘have to do with God?’” (and you weren’t there to monitor the answer) what would they say? If someone asked your spouse, “What does your spouse ‘have to do with God?'” (and you weren’t there to monitor the answer) what would he or she say?

In Luke 5 Jesus was teaching and preaching on Peter’s fishing boat, And He commanded Peter to launch out into the deep where it was unlikely they would catch fish during the day. Peter obeyed and let down the net even though he had been fishing all night the night before and hadn’t caught anything. When he did this he caught so many that the net broke.

For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.  And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

Luke 5:9-11 (emphasis added)

And after these things he went forth, and saw a publican, named Levi, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he said unto him, Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed him. 

Luke 5:27-28 (emphasis added)

What do you think they told their families? What do you think their families thought that they “had to do” with Jesus? They forsook all for Him. He said “follow Me,” and there was no doubt in their minds about whether they should “follow,” because they had caught a revelation of the “Me.”

3. You have to tremble before His holiness.

Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

Mark 1:24

Peter and the Disciples were going to follow Jesus, but they weren’t going to be “partners.” As already noted, they were more motivated by the “Me” than by the “follow.”

When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Luke 5:8

The most glaring difference between Peter and Jesus is the same glaring difference between Jesus and me. Jesus never sinned; I sin all the time. Peter recognized that Jesus was God and immediately became horrified over his own sin. Maybe the better question than what do “I” have to do with God, and even better than what do I “HAVE” to do with God, is what do I have to do with GOD? Is He my kind and loving Heavenly Father? Yes! Is He merciful and gracious toward me? Yes! Is He longsuffering and patient with me time and time again? Yes! But He is also the sovereign Lord of Glory, the maker of Heaven and Earth, the Alpha and Omega – beginning and end – and I dare not forget that He holds me in a hand so holy, so righteous, so worthy, so powerful – that it would dangerous to lapse into a careless familiarity, or to casually presume upon His grace.

Lord, help us to love and to fear you. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

 

Beware the Fatigue of Failure

June 28, 2013 at 10:24 am | Posted in Luke, The Fives | 6 Comments
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And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.

Luke 5:5

Simon Peter had a fishing boat. Jesus was speaking to a large crowd which was pressing in upon Him as He preached on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, so He climbed into Peter’s boat, finished His sermon, and commanded Peter to launch out into the deep. Once this was done, Jesus further instructed Peter and his fellow fishermen to let their net down and catch some fish.

Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? But Peter had an objection. He had been using this method of fishing all night long, and hadn’t caught a thing. It is not possible for us to know Peter’s exact tone of voice when he said, “We have toiled all night.” Maybe it was just an explanation of what happened. Maybe it was said with a touch of humor at being told to do again what he had just finished doing repeatedly with no success. I suspect, though, that there was at least a touch of exasperation in Peter’s voice. I would imagine that when he followed up with, “nevertheless…” he did so with a sigh of resignation, not really believing that the exercise would be anything other than pointless.

There was a time (albeit a very brief time) in human history when manual physical labor was neither exhausting nor frustrating. When Adam was given a garden to tend and keep in Eden, sin had not yet entered into the world. It was only after Adam disobeyed God that God placed a curse upon the world and mankind, so that now our labor has become “toil:” something unpleasant, difficult, and often unproductive.

And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.

Genesis 3:17-19

Working hard in a fallen world can still be rewarding, in a sense. Even the fatigue brought on by long tough physical labor carries with it a certain peace, and sometimes a feeling of accomplishment. But, if you’ve ever worked really hard at something, only to experience failure over and over again, you know that your mental state can really play havoc with your physical state. How is it that, when I was younger, I could play baseball in the middle of July from sun-up to sundown and still be full enough of energy to fight off bed time until the wee hours? But the following week, a mere four hours of painting the eaves of the house left me spent, drained, and irritable for the rest of the day? Physical activity is tiring, but somehow successful or fun activity seems way less tiring than physical activity ending in failure.

I suspect that this is what Peter was expressing in Luke 5:5. If he had spent all night catching fish instead of fruitlessly lowering and raising empty nets, he would have been a little more eager to do as Jesus asked. However, the “nevertheless” which Peter speaks forth without any further urging is a good reminder to us to heed the words of Christ even when they may not be to our liking at the moment. “Toil” is not our preferred word for describing the work of our Lord, but neither is it an excuse for goldbricking. The Christian life ought to be a life of service, and service can make us weary, but, thankfully, we serve a kind and loving Master, and our spiritual labors, unlike our physical labors, will never be in vain.

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

Galatians 6:9

But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

I Corinthians 15:57-58

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the (Good) News

December 19, 2012 at 11:45 am | Posted in Biblical Doctoring, Luke | Leave a comment
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The Deep End just keeps getting deeper. Things have really picked up during the second half of this year, and another milestone for all-time views was surpassed a couple of days ago. If you are a subscriber or a regular reader: Thank you. I am always surprised (and absurdly pleased) when someone is helped by one of the posts on this site, and I am grateful to God that He has allowed me to continue blogging. Any fruit that is produced is His fruit, and abounds to His glory.

In honor of this momentous occasion, and with many of my friends battling colds, flu, and even pneumonia at this time of the year, I thought it would be a good time to re-set the category called Biblical Doctoring, which started off with a series of posts under the acrostic D.O.C.T.O.R.

And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Luke 5:31-32

1. Doctor’s Orders
2. The Doctor Who Never Fails
3. Satisfied Patients
4. The Great House Call
5. The Great Physician
6. Two “Right” Feet
7. The Remedy for Mood Swings
8. Diverting the Flow of the Word
9. Dr. Law and Dr. Grace (*)
10. The Crisis
11. The Relationship between Sin and Disease

* most-read post in category

A Major Milestone

May 25, 2011 at 9:13 am | Posted in Discipleship Lessons, Uncategorized | 13 Comments
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Yesterday “The Deep End” surpassed a major milestone for number of views all time. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to drop by and read a post here and there, and especially to everyone who has checked in regularly and faithfully. In honor of the occasion, I’m going to re-post a popular series of lessons.

These discipleship lessons are intended for Christian believers: those who have been saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ His Son. They contain the bare basics for understanding some of the major doctrines of the Christian faith. They are not intended as a substitute for going through God’s Word, precept by precept, in diligent and prayerful study. These lessons will help you grasp enough of Christianity to be able to converse intelligently on the topics outlined, but it should be every Christian’s goal to spend his or her lifetime learning more and more about the Lord of the Bible.

While these lessons are really designed for believers, my prayer is that you will still share them with your lost friends, family members, co-workers, and acquaintances. When the Lord Jesus recruited disciples, He did so with this command: “Follow me…” (Matthew 4:19; Luke 5:27) In this command we have both a path (follow), and a Person (Me). If you are to walk the path of eternal life, you must go the way of Jesus Christ. He is infinitely worthy to be studied, worshiped, adored, emulated, obeyed, and followed.

Lesson 1: Salvation
Lesson 2: Everlasting Security
Lesson 3: Baptism
Lesson 4: The Bible
Lesson 5: Prayer
Lesson 6: The Local Church
Lesson 7: Sin
Lesson 8: The World
Lesson 9: The Holy Spirit

Falling Out Before Men? Or Falling Down Before God?

November 10, 2009 at 11:11 am | Posted in Luke, Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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The sinful mixing of a little good with something bad to corrupt the truth of God is not something that is new. In the days in which the Holy Spirit was inspiring the Words which make up the New Testament, an “antichrist” spirit was at work spreading falsehoods (I John 4:3).

For example, “good works” are, Scripturally, good things (Ephesians 2:10), but they do not save souls (Ephesians 2:8-9). Angels are worthy of respect (Jude v. 8), but they are not to be worshiped (Colossians 2:18). Likewise, it is a good thing to be a “saint” (Philippians 4:21-22), but we should never pray to them (I Timothy 2:5).

The devil, throughout history, has found fertile ground in subtly substituting man-based theories of righteousness for the God-centered Truth of Scripture. Even today, there are those who stand on proclamations of faith while invoking praises to themselves among their followers. These are those who shake out their coats, causing audience-members to swoon and faint as if overcome with the power of God. Some call down “healing” on the same followers week after week for the amusement of the crowds. Among such, the ability to raise the dead is thought to be proof of the highest level of faith.

Certainly Christ Himself has this power. However, the true measurement of faith is not an ability to impress men with spiritual gifts. It is the realization of our sin, compared to God’s holiness, while somehow yet receiving by faith the fact that He loves His true children unconditionally. The following passage of Scripture shows the attitude of the apostle Peter when he encountered Jesus Christ:

And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Luke 5:5-8

And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

Luke 5:11


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