Sunday, August 27, 2017

GOD'S WAY V. MAN'S WAY - LUKE 16:14-31

God’s Way vs. Man’s Way

The Pharisees thought this teaching was stupid. They ridiculed Jesus for it. (14) Luke wrote that they reason they ridiculed Jesus’ teaching as that they were lovers of money. They proved Jesus’ point. You cannot both serve money and serve God.

They saw wealth as God’s recognition of their righteousness. Yet, they often pursued wealth at the expense of others. On another occasion, Jesus said they devoured widow’s houses. (Mark 12:40)

Jesus said they justified themselves before men. At the heart of this struggle is a rejection of God’s plan of salvation.They sought to justify themselves by their works rather than accept grace through faith. And, if men justified them, they were reassured that God did also.

We do the same thing, also. We justify ourselves before other people. We justify luxuries, self indulgence and wealth by saying we earned it or deserve it or even God wants us to have it because we are special. If we, at the same time, refuse to give meaningfully to the work of the kingdom and to help the poor, we are just like the Pharisees.

Jesus said that what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of the Lord. Abomination is a strong word. It means something God hates or loathes. The world exalts wealth and luxury. But, just because the world values wealth above almost anything does not mean we can adopt that standard in violation of God’s will.

The Bible says “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

We cannot expect unregenerate people to understand God’s thinking in these matters. Remember, Paul wrote “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned”. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

God himself said “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are you ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Paul also cautioned us against adopting the standards of the world. He wrote Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by sting you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”. (Romans 12:2) If you refuse to conform to the world’s thinking, and allow the Holy Spirit to renew your mind, you will be able to know and understand God’s thinking on these matters.

The thinking of sinful men and women does not align with the will of God. Therefore, we must be careful to find God’s thoughts on this matter and not the thoughts of men who live in rebellion against God.

Getting Right With God (or, being justified)

Sadly, for the Pharisees, no one is justified by their works. “For by works of the law, no human being will be justified in his sight”. (Romans 3:20) Jesus did not confront the Pharisees just to make enemies of them. He really wanted them to see the truth.

Jesus said the law and the prophets were until John. (16) The Old Covenant was in force and operative until John came, followed by Jesus, proclaiming the arrival of Christ’s kingdom that we enter through grace by faith. That is the good news of the kingdom that was, and is preached.

Paul said it succinctly: for by grace you have been saved through faith. (Ephesians 2:8) If the Pharisees had stopped attempting justification by works and believed in Jesus, who stood right in front of them, they could have been saved, justified by God, and come into the kingdom. Then they would have begun to understand the mind of God and live to please him.

But the law still existed. It did not become void, as Jesus said. That is because it remains as the expression of God’s will for his people. His moral and ethical standards are captured there. One who lives to glorify God will be holy as God defined it. God does not change.

Jesus gave an example of the moral standards of God embodied in the law, one the Pharisees did not observe. He called divorce a sin that leads to adultery. (18) God’s desire is that married people remain married to each other.

In contrast, the Pharisees created many grounds for divorce for husbands. One rabbi wrote that a man could divorce his wife is she ruined his dinner. Jesus was showing the Pharisees that their claims to justification were invalid, because they did not obey God’s law where it was inconvenient. They could not be saved by works because their works fell short of God’s standards.

A problem with legalism is that we make up rules that make us look righteous. Then you obey the rules to impress others, to justify yourselves before men. But your heart is not given to Jesus. The rules become a burden that steal your joy and drive you away from Jesus, not to him.

But those who come to Jesus in faith realize their inability to keep the law. They rejoice in the grace of God that brought them into the kingdom. Jesus said the good news is preached and everyone forces his way into the kingdom. (16) Those who understand the good news of salvation by faith will do whatever they can to come to Jesus and stay there. They will deny themselves, they will follow Jesus to any end and they will rejoice all the way.

One example is Zacchaeus. This short tax collector would climb a tree to see Jesus. He would bring Jesus to his house and invite all his tax collector friends to meet him. He would give away his money to make things right according to God’s standards.

The Great Divide

To drive home his point, Jesus told a story, as he often did. The main characters are a rich man and a poor man.

The rich man had it all: beautiful clothes, expensive food and an expensive home protected by gates.  He was self indulgent. The rich man did not use his money to help the poor man, he kept it all for himself.

In contrast, the poor man had nothing. He laid at the gate of the rich man to beg, he likely was crippled, and he was sick, having sores all over his body. He was hungry. He wished the rich man would let him eat the scraps that fell from his table, but he did not.

The rich man represents the rich Pharisee that Jesus criticized, shrewd in the ways of the world, but not using his money to make friends in eternal places (9), building the kingdom and helping those in need. The poor man represents those in need and one who would be a friend in eternity.

Then came the event that changed everything: they both died. The poor man, named Lazarus,  was carried to heaven. Jesus emphasized his blessing by calling it the side of Abraham, the father of the Jewish people. Now the poor man has everything. Abraham said he was comforted. His suffering is over.

The rich man, in contrast, went to Hades, the place of torment. Now he has nothing. He suffered anguish in the flames.

The rich man was still arrogant. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus to cool his tongue with water. Abraham said that could not be done. So, he asked that Lazarus be sent to his brothers to warn them so they would repent. Again, Abraham refused, because they already had the law and the prophets to warn them. In fact, he said, they would not repent even if someone came back from the dead to warn them.

Again, Jesus was calling out the Pharisees. They had the Law and Prophets, what we call the Old Testament, and they studied it. But they failed to see Jesus as the fulfillment of its promises. And when Jesus returned from the dead in resurrection, they still refused to believe.

Death is the great divider. The poor man was a believer. His name was written in the book of life. Notice that his name is given to us in the story. He is Lazarus. But the rich man is not named.

Lazarus, who had nothing on earth, was carried by angels into heaven. Isn’t that a great picture. Death makes us all nervous, doesn’t it? But this is a wonderful picture of one whom God loves carried by glorious angels into the glory of heaven. All pain is gone, there is no sorrow or crying, just joy in the fellowship of the Lord and all who believe. As Paul said, being away from the body is to be at home in the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8)

The rich man, undoubtably one who justified himself before men, died and went immediately into torment. He suffered the torments of hell.

The tables had turned. The fortunes of the two men were reversed. It illustrated what Jesus said earlier, that what is exalted among men is an abomination to the Lord.

Jesus also showed that death is the end of opportunity to repent and believe. The rich man wanted mercy in Hades, but could not get it. And there was a chasm fixed between Heaven and Hades; no one could cross from one to the other. People on earth cannot be baptized for you to get you out of suffering and into heaven. People on earth cannot pray you out of hell. Death makes your choices final.

The point of this story is not that rich people go to hell and poor people go to heaven. The point is that we get to heaven through God’s grace, accessed by our faith. We do not get there by works. If we are rich, it is not because God said we were worth it. It is because of his grace. He graced us with money and we should act accordingly. We should use our money as God wants. When we do, it is the sign that we are saved and are citizens of his kingdom bound for eternal life with Jesus. At our death, angels will carry us to Jesus and the fellowship of all who have believed over the centuries, including those whom we helped with our money on earth.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

“You were made to display the all-satisfying beauty and greatness of God by savoring him as the supreme treasure of your life.”

John Piper

Monday, August 21, 2017

What Mormons Believe

This is a good article by Justing Taylor on what Mormon's believe and how it differs from Christianity.

Sunday, August 20, 2017


Luke 16

In this chapter, Luke recorded Jesus’ continued teaching. After telling the parable of the prodigal son, he continued to tell the parable of the dishonest manager. He told this to his disciples, but the Pharisees could clearly hear him.

The Dishonest Manager

This story is about a man who was the manager of the estate of a rich man. It came to light that the man was wasting the rich man’s estate. The Greek word for “waste” in verse 1 is the same word translated “squandered” in the story of the prodigal son. (15:13) Jesus referred to him as a dishonest manager. (8)

The rich man fired the manager and demanded an accounting. The manager called in his accounts and wrote them down, showing that the debtors owed less money than they really did. The rich man commended the manager for his shrewdness. (8)

Shrewdness is being astute or clever in practical matters. The manager was clever to see that he could make friends out of his master’s debtors and those friends would receive him into their houses after he was fired from his job as manager.

Jesus pointed out that those who do not follow Jesus, called sons of this world, are more shrewd that the sons of light, or Jesus’ followers, in dealing with people concerning money.

What did Jesus mean by that?

Jesus meant that worldly people are more focused and skillful in handling money according to worldly standards than believers in handling money according to God’s standards and with eternity in mind.

Jesus wants to to arouse believers to think more about what belongs to the future life and not to close their ears to his teaching about the place of money in our lives.

Jesus’ instruction was to make friends with money so that when it fails, they will receive you into eternal dwellings. (9) When Jesus says “unrighteous wealth”, he does not mean ill gotten gain, he means worldly wealth. So, he was saying, use your worldly wealth to make eternal friends.

The picture here is that those we help will welcome us in heaven. These are people we helped when they needed it. It includes the person who asked you for bus money or lunch money, the people who received relief from agencies we supported, including our churches. It could be the family whose kid had expensive surgery. They will receive you in heaven.

There was a song popular in the 1980s with a line that went “thank you for giving to the Lord; I am a life that was changed”. It talked about a guy going to heaven and being greeted by those to whom he gave his time and money on earth, even people he did not know. This is what Jesus was taking about.

Of course, these acts of generosity also please the Lord, who will reward us in heaven.


Jesus went on to talk about faithfulness, something the dishonest manager did not demonstrate. He said one who is faithful with a little is faithful with much, and the same is true for one who is dishonest. If he is dishonest with a little, he will be dishonest with a lot.

More money does not create better character. In fact, it usually magnifies what you are. Therefore, your dishonesty in small amounts becomes greater dishonesty on larger amounts.

Jesus pushed it even further. He said, if you have been unfaithful with unrighteous wealth, who will entrust you with true riches? In other words, if you were unfaithful with the money you made on earth, I will not entrust you with riches in eternity.

How are you dishonest with your money on earth? First of all, if you hoard it or spend it only on yourself. God does not say you cannot have money from hard work or enjoy nice things. But, he expects you to deal with your money recognizing that you are a steward of it. It is really God’s money. He lets you hold it and use it. We see this from verse 12, where he said if you are not faithful in that which is another’s, he will not give you your own.  Just like the manager in the parable, the money you have does not belong to you and should be used as your master desires. He wants you to use it to further the kingdom and to help those who do not have enough money.

Second, you could make your money at the expense of others. You might misrepresent what you sell or make, or take advantage of the buyer’s need.

What will you get that is “true riches” or is “your own”. This refers to what happens in eternity after this world is remade. The Bible says we will reign with him. What we reign over will be based somewhat on what we did with what he gave us in this life.

The thing is, money can actually own you. You think you own it because you have it in accounts, investment and properties in your name. But it can easily own you, dominating your thoughts, taking your time and making you protective of it. When someone tells you their wealth is a burden, this is what they mean, whether they know if or not.

If money is your master and you serve it, you cannot serve God. Jesus said that plainly in verse 13. You can only love and serve one master.

If God is your master, you love and serve him. You keep money in its place. You use it as God desires. We see this, for example, when a wealthy church member steps up and donates a large some of money to pay off a church debt, or repair a building, or support a ministry. Often they will say the believed God told them to do it. The Holy Spirit led them to use their money for the kingdom.

I cannot tell you where to draw the lines between spending and giving. But, I can advise you to be honest with yourself and with God. Seek his will and do it.

Friday, August 18, 2017

"There is no pit so deep, but Christ is deeper still."

Corrie Ten Boom

Sunday, August 06, 2017


This chapter contains three parables Jesus told about lost things. There is a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. The stories have the same theme and make the same point.

The occasion for these parables is shown to us in verses 1-2. Jesus attracted tax collectors and sinners to himself.

Tax collectors were considered traitors because they collected taxes for the Roman government and often over charged.

Sinners were anyone known for bad behavior, such as thieves, drunks, prostitutes, or just people who refused to conform to the standards of the Pharisees.

Jesus did not send them away. He saw them as the lost sheep of Israel.
In contrast, the Pharisees would not interact with either group and they criticized Jesus for it. They said he receives them and eats with them. Eating with someone was a sign of fellowship and acceptance.

We know this is a symbol of the gospel of grace. All who turn from their sin (repent) and put their faith in Jesus are received by him and enjoy the messianic feast forever.

In response to the criticism of the Pharisees, Jesus told the three parables.

The Lost Sheep

The parable of the lost sheep is a parable from the world of men. It is about a shepherd who, although he had 99 of 100 sheep accounted for, searched into the open country for one lost one. When he found the lost sheep, he put it on his shoulders and carried it him.

This is a picture of a tired and worn out sheep who cannot make it home on its own. The shepherd did not punish the sheep. Rather, he tenderly lays it on this shoulder and carries it home. And he did this rejoicing. (5)

It reminds me of Hebrews 12:2, that says Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross.

This image has been painted many times. It often appears in stain glassed windows. It was the most common image used in the early church. Pictures of the shepherd have been found in the Roman catacombs.

The oldest known Christian statue in Rome is a statue of the shepherd carrying a sheep on his shoulders.

After the shepherd brought the lost sheep home, he called together his friends and neighbors to rejoice with him. (6) His joy represents the joy God feels when a sinner repents. This is what Luke means when he says there  will be joy in heaven over a sinner who repents. It may also mean that even the angels rejoice along with the Lord.

The Pharisees did not rejoice that sinners came to fellowship with Jesus, so Jesus showed them, indirectly through a parable, how their attitude failed to reflect God’s attitude. Jesus put an extra sting in the story by saying there would be greater rejoicing over the one sinner who repents than over the 99 who thought they needed no repentance. (7)

Believers should rejoice every day that the Good Shepherd sought and found us and brought us into his flock. Likewise, we should rejoice every time a sinner repents and is saved, no matter his or her race, gender, economic status or degree of vileness.

We must reject the idea that a sinner must change his ways before he comes to Christ. Most of all, we should not lose the joy Jesus experiences in the salvation of a sinner, no matter how different he may seem to be compared to us.

The Lost Coin

The parable of the lost coin is a parable from the world of women. Jesus cares as much about women as he does about men. He wants to teach women as much as men. That is why he used examples from the life of women as well as men.

The woman lost a coin in her house. She probably had 10 coins wrapped in a rag and one had fallen out. She searched diligently for the lost coin. When she found it, she called her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her. The woman in this story represents God. Again, Jesus taught the character of God and the joy of God over a sinner repenting.

The Lost Son

The last and longest parable is about two sons. As with the story of Mary and Martha it is important that you do not project your family experiences onto the story. For example, I am the oldest son in my family and expected to do things for my parents. For years I identified with the older brother in this story and missed the point of the parable entirely. Don’t do that! Identify the symbols for what they are and understand the message of the parable correctly.

The younger son demanded his share of his father’s estate. As the younger son, he would inherit one third of the estate. He, in effect said, I cannot wait for you to die; give me my inheritance now. He wanted what the father could give him, but he did not want the father. It was an act of contempt for his father. Yet, the father granted his wish and divided the estate between the sons. (12)

The younger son went into a far country, getting as far away from his father as possible, and spent all of his money.

When famine struck, the the prodigal was out of money and in need. (14). He was homeless, unemployed and broke. He was so desperate he took a job feeding pigs. This would have been the “bottom of the barrel” for a Jew.

Finally, though, the prodigal came to his senses and realized he must return to his father. He knew he must admit his sins to his father and he did.

The father received the son gladly and without rebuking him. The father actually ran to him, something no older man of means would ever do in Jewish culture. He restored the son to sonship, symbolized by the giving of  a robe, ring and shoes. He even threw a party for him, continuing the idea of a feast.

The father also said his son was dead, but is now alive, was lost, but now found. (23) These are the same words we use for salvation. Many of our hymns contain this language and imagery.

So, what does this parable mean?

The younger son, the prodigal son, represents all sinners. as the son had no regard for his father, so a sinner has no regard for God. Romans 8:7 says the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God. This son went as far away from his father as possible, into a far country, symbolizing the lifestyle of sinners who wander far from God.

The father represents God, our heavenly father. As with the other two parables, the father is shown rejoicing over a lost son, representing the Father’s rejoicing over a son or daughter who has turned from sin and come to him for salvation.

There is an another character in the story, though. It is the older son. The older son, was not glad his brother returned. He would not even call him his brother. He called him “this son of yours”. (30)

The older son refused an invitation to join the party. He was resentful and bitter. He believed he had been faithful and obedient, but had gotten nothing for it. (29)

The older son represents the Pharisees in their criticism of Jesus for receiving tax collectors and other sinners. They did not believe in grace and did not appreciate Jesus extending grace to sinners. They believed they were righteous through their works and God should award them for it. They displayed their attitude at the beginning of the chapter by their criticism of Jesus.

The truth is, the older son was out of fellowship with the father just as the younger one was. If he had been in fellowship with his father, he would have shared the father’s joy at the return of the prodigal. We show we are in fellowship with the Lord when we love what he loves, hate what he hates and rejoice when he rejoices.

In fact, the older son was in worse shape than the younger. He was further away from the heart of his father. For the younger accepted his father’s invitation to fellowship, but the older son refused it. He would not repent of his self righteousness and bitterness.

This parable was a defense of Jesus’ fellowship with sinners. It was also a condemnation of the attitude of the Pharisees, their self righteousness and works oriented view of their relationship with God. Last, and most importantly, it was an invitation to the Pharisees to join him in fellowship, to repent, believe and come into Christ’s kingdom.

Sadly, we will see in the progression of this book, the Pharisees rejected Jesus’ invitation as the older son rejected the invitation to the party.

You may be religious. You may follow the rules. You may even be a regular church member. But the party does not begin until you repent of your sins and put your faith in Jesus for eternal life. He invites you to come today.

You may already be a believer, but find yourself bitter and judgmental. As heaven rejoices when any sinner is saved, you should too. You should also remember that God rejoiced when you came to Christ. He rejoiced over you! Repent of your bitterness and embrace the joy of God.

Join the party.  

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The Tender Shepherd

"He will tend his flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in his arms, he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those who are with young."

Isaiah 40:11 is a prophecy of the Messiah, Jesus, who looks over his flock of followers like a shepherd looks after his sheep. He is tender, he is gentle. He cares for their needs.