Luke 16 has a couple very important lessons for us. The first has to do with being accountable. Jesus tells the story of the manager who learns that he is going to be let go, and then goes to the debtors of his boss and writes down their debt. He had justified it to himself. He was building some good will with people hoping it would provide some favors in return at some point. Of course, the boss finds out and while intrigued with the resourcefulness, is not amused. Jesus teaches us a very important truth from that story: “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much”. Do little while lies matter? Does taking something small from work really make a difference? After all, the office supply area is full of pens and paper clips and boxes of staples – no one will miss anything. How about taking an extra 5 minutes of break time, or coming in 5 minutes late or leaving 15 minutes early? Everyone does it don’t they? The reality is that it isn’t the specific action that matters – it is the condition of the heart that counts. The failure to be honest in even the little things is an indicator that you will likely fail in larger areas at some point in the future. It isn’t just stuff either. Guys justify picking up a magazine or logging on to the Internet for a quick look at something inappropriate. That doesn’t hurt anyone, and it is just a glance. Wrong guys, and gals too for that matter if you do the same. Jesus is teaching us that when we make a choice – and it is exactly that – a choice – to do wrong it means we are not going to make the right choices with big things either. We can’t be trusted. I have heard it many times – “I would never do anything like this that mattered” when someone is explaining why they drove the company car for personal use, bought something personally on the company credit card, took that long lunch without getting approval from their manager. The list of ways we are unfaithful in the little things goes on and on. Almost always we justify them as not counting or making any difference. But they do with God. They reveal the heart. And the root cause of it all: we “justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts”. There it is. God doesn’t keep score of the little things we do but the condition of our heart. And Jesus boils down the issue like this: “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money”. So who are you serving? God or self? That is really what this comes down to. Who is on the throne of your life?
Jesus goes on to tell the story of Lazarus. He was poor and laid by the gate begging to survive. One day “The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side”. So we have a clear picture of heaven and hell here. Lazarus is in heaven with God, the rich man who had stuff but no relationship with God was in Hades and didn’t like it. It was very unpleasant and he wanted out. But his money couldn’t buy him anything. Funny how that will all work out for us. We spend our entire lives accumulating something that has no value or impact once we die. It doesn’t get us into heaven, nor does it matter in any way. But we spend tens of thousands of hours trying to collect it and build a pile of money. For what reason? What is the point? Jesus points out the reality to the rich man: “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish”. How we live matters. It is a big deal. There is a “great chasm” between those who have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and are in heaven, and those who live focused completely on self and their own little world and spend eternity separated from God. This is not a small deal. It is everything. The rich man pleads with Abraham to send someone to his house to “warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment” but is it too late. We need to stop and take stock of where we are. Are we focused on building a fortune and missing the real goal – which is preparing for eternity with the Father? Are we accumulating wealth on earth but missing it completely by not accumulating the relationship in heaven that will lead us to eternal life? Where are you with Jesus? Is He your Savior and Lord? Have you considered the consequences of that choice? There is no other that is even close in importance. Don’t miss heaven because you are so focused on yourself and what you are doing that you fail to see what really matters!
Luke 15 finds Jesus again being challenged on what He is up to. This time it was “tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear Him”. He was hanging out with the wrong people according to the religious leaders. They couldn’t understand and said “this man receives sinners and eats with them”. Who do you hang out with? Is it the frozen chosen or people from church? Or do you get involved with those outside, who the church doesn’t feel comfortable with because they are not church folk? It seems we have a struggle loving people that are outside the norm don’t we? We want them to be just like us, sit in the pew like we do, and sing the same songs. But that is not the example Jesus gave us. He went were the sinners were – where the people were – and He ministered to their needs. He gives a parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin. Here is the result of finding something that was lost: “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance… there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents”. Does God care about those who are lost? You bet He does. He is equally concerned about those who are not in the pew as those who are. God wants us all to be in relationship with Him. He wants us all to be saved.
Luke gives us one of the most known stories of scripture in this chapter as well – the Prodigal Son. You will recall that one of the sons asked for his inheritance so he could go see the world. He “squandered his property in reckless living… he had spent everything”. So his life was now feeding pigs, not a very glamorous way to earn a living. “When he came to himself” things began to get clearer to him. He knew he had screwed up and that it was time to eat some humble pie and go back home. This independence thing was not really working out so well. So he said “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants”. Isn’t it amazing how a little real world can change your perspective? It looked so fun and easy until he got out there all alone and failed. So the real meat of the story is how his dad and brother responded. “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him’. He was watching for his son to come back. Did he know he would struggle and fail? He probably had a pretty good idea – parents often do. But he didn’t say I told you so and tell him too bad, so sad. He ran out to greet him. But more than that, dad quickly got the entire household involved. “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate”. Overkill? Not if we listened to Jesus lessons earlier in this chapter. When one who is lost is found, it is time for celebration. And they did – at least most of them. The brother “was angry and refused to go in”. Why? In simple terms – it wasn’t fair. After all he had stayed home and worked hard and been responsible. This lousy brother of his spent all his money playing around and now comes back and gets equal or better treatment. How does that work? We have to remember what Jesus taught us earlier. “For this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found”. God cares about those who are lost. Do you? Or are you caught up in what is fair. They are bad people so they can’t sit in my church. Grace covers all things. God is in the business of giving grace to any who will receive Him. We must be too!
Luke 14 records yet another run in with the religious leaders on another Sabbath. Seems that these things are happening on the Sabbath a lot. A man with dropsy needs to be healed, and Jesus asks the leaders what to do. Of course they “could not reply to these things”, or probably more likely, they would not reply since they were once again cornered by the truth. Jesus is masterful at using the power of questioning to get His point across. So often He turns the tables and helps people figure out the right answer by asking a question or two. We can learn much from that example. He then goes on to give a couple parables about being invited to a meal. Here is Jesus’ hospitality guidance: “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Bottom line is we are to live with humility and not put ourselves higher than we deserve. If there is any exultation to happen, it should be done by the host. Of course He is teaching the religious rulers how they should act in regard to God, the church and their lives in general. They had a habit of believing the world revolved around them and that they were the center of the known universe. They weren’t, nor are we. We need to listen carefully to His teaching on that.
He goes on to give another story where a great banquet has been prepared and the guests invited. But no one is showing up – they all have excuses. Ever experienced that before – the excuse users – who have an excuse for every occasion. In this case:
– “I have bought a field
– I have bought five yoke of oxen
– I have married a wife”
OK – maybe that third one is close to a valid excuse. No, not really. What do all these have in common? They start with “I”. The focus is on self and not on the banquet host. The excuses, while they may be valid, are self-centered and frankly are convenience. Isn’t that true with most of the excuses we come up with. They are convenient ways for us to get out of doing something or other. I can’t because……you know the drill. You probably have used it today. Jesus hits it head on with these words: “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…. any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple”. Any questions? He is pretty clear that we had better learn to take our focus off self if we intend to follow Him. Those two things can’t exist together. It is either Jesus or me. Me better lose out every time. The world tells us all the time that life is all about us. Scripture is very clear that life is not about you, or me. It is about Jesus and we need to live that way!
Luke 13 begins with the people talking about the fate of sinners. Jesus shares a couple examples of people that had died or been killed and the common thinking was that it was because of how bad they were. Their sin was much worse so a tower fell on them. Right? Not exactly. God sees sin as what it is – sin. There are no shades of sin. Some sins are not less than others. In God’s eyes it is all the same. Jesus makes that plain when He twice tells the people “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”. Sin has one common result – death – which is separation from God for eternity. If we don’t deal with our sin – that is the sentence we receive. We will spend eternity away from God. Period. The good news is that God has a plan to help us with our sin problem – He sent Jesus to the Cross to take our sin away. But too many don’t really think they have a problem. After all, there are far worse people than they are. Here is the reality. God does not grade on a curve folks. It is pass/fail. We either are a sinner or not. And if you don’t know – you are a sinner. Scripture clearly tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. It is a given that we sin. So we are all headed for the same end result if we don’t take a different course which is a personal relationship with Jesus. He goes on to explain that repentance needs to happen if we are going to bear fruit for the Kingdom. He uses the example of a fig tree that was barren. “For three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground”? We are not here on earth to take up space and breathe the air. God has a plan for us and we need to get on with fulfilling it. Do you know what that plan is? Are you focused on living it?
Luke also records Jesus healing of a woman who had been crippled for many years. He did it in the synagogue on the Sabbath. That didn’t go well in the eyes of the religious leaders. They accused Him of violating the law – their law – and confront Him. Jesus lets them have it. “You hypocrites”! Not exactly a kind and gentle approach. But He confronts their sin head on – and He asks them to explain their thinking. Of course they can’t and “all his adversaries were put to shame”. You might think that the people would have been sitting back quietly in their seats and wondering if He was going to confront them next. But “all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him”. The reality is that people respond to truth and those who defend it. People want someone to stand up and protect the truth. They want leaders who will defend them and lead them. Jesus does that. He is not afraid of the establishment and its wrong laws. He is not afraid of anyone or anything. In fact, as the religious leaders come again to challenge Him, this time they threaten Him with a death threat from Herod. Jesus response? “Go and tell that fox….”. There is no fear of man. Jesus knows His mission, knows His resources, and knows the truth. Jesus is delivering God’s truth and living it out. He is not going to be intimidated by any man. Are you living with that kind of confidence? Are you speaking truth without concern for the consequences? That is what God calls us to do – to be truth tellers that share His truth and lead people to the Cross.
Luke 12 gives us a picture of Jesus ministry. It has moved way past quiet and unnoticed. Scripture says “thousands of people had gathered”. Remember that there was no TV or radio when Jesus was on earth – just good old word of mouth. Yet He drew a crowd that wanted to hear the truth. Some things never change. Today so many of us are still seeking His truth. He warns of the Pharisees and the way they tried to hide things with these words: “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known”. God knows what we do. There are no secrets my friends. He sees all, hears all, knows all. We cannot do anything that is not going to be known. In fact, Jesus reminds us that God knows us intimately – down to the reality that “even the hairs of your head are all numbered”. And we think we know ourselves well – nowhere close to what the Master knows about us. We need to remember that God is the One who determines our future and “has the authority to cast into hell”. Sometimes we lose sight of that side of the equation focusing on a loving God who just wants us to be with Him in heaven. That is true – it is His desire that none of us should perish but have eternal life – but the reality is that not all will receive His gift of grace of salvation through Jesus. In fact Jesus makes it clear when He says “everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God”. It is about that relationship – what we do with the Son of God and His death on the Cross. Will we accept Him as Savior and Lord, or go it alone. The outcome is not so good if we try and make it on our own.
Jesus utters some words that could certainly fit our generation today. So many think that he who has the most toys wins. But Jesus says it this way: “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”. Did you catch that? It is not how much stuff we can accumulate that matters. In fact, the opposite is the case. “The one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God”. Stuff gets in the way of our relationship with the Father. It doesn’t make it easier or better – it messes with us. Why? Because “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. Stuff takes our eye off the ball. It causes us to lose focus and forget what we are about. God wants us committed and focused on walking with Him. He will take care of our needs. In fact, Jesus says this about worry: “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life”? What is the answer? None of us has control over anything, and certainly not our life. So worry is a waste of time. We need to accept the fact that God alone is in control and He can and will take care of us. Right? Jesus says it this way: “do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried…. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you”. It all comes down to where we put our trust and our focus. If God is in control – then we should be placing our bets on Him. We should entrust Him with our life and the details of it. Do you live that way? Like God is truly the One who meets your every need? Or are you still trying to pretend you are in control and can handle things on your own. You can’t. God does have expectations for us. Jesus says “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more”. Life is not a game. It matters a whole lot in very many ways. Are you living as a Christ Follower? Is He the center of your life? God expects it!
John 10:22-42 is the showdown in the temple. Jesus is there and “the Jews gathered around Him”. They are confronting Him to try and figure out who this Man is. “How long will you keep us in suspense”? They refuse to believe anything Jesus says or does, yet they are bothered by the way He teaches and the miracles He performs. It just does not add up in their minds. How can this man from Nazareth be anything? Jesus puts it out clearly: “I told you, and you do not believe”. Look you religious leaders – I have been teaching in the synagogue and been clear about who I am – but it doesn’t matter. You refuse to accept it. You push it away. “The works I do in My Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock”. Everything I have been doing the past few years screams that I am the Son of God – yet you won’t accept the obvious. You can’t believe because you refuse to. The leaders are unable to process the reality that Jesus is the One sent by God to save them. Jesus goes on and gives us a promise we need to cling tightly to: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand”. Do you see some keys promises here? Salvation is a gift. Salvation is eternal. Salvation prevents us from perishing. Salvation lasts forever. Salvation is not dependent on what I do after I receive it. We have been offered an unbelievable gift – no strings attached other than giving our heart to Jesus – and so many respond like the Jews did 2000 years ago. “The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him”. Is that how you are responding to the gift of salvation offer that still stands today? Jesus is offering us the exact same gift He did to those who were walking around when He was on this earth. The stakes are the same – eternity. The length is the same – forever. The cost is the same – receiving His grace. So why do so many struggle to accept it?
Jesus goes on to remind the religious leaders about what Scripture says. That is one of the differences today. The religious leaders knew scripture. They were in the synagogue and studied it. Kids learned it as part of their education. Jesus was able to use God’s Word to slow down the attack – whether from the leaders, or from Satan himself as you recall He quoted scripture when tempted three times by the enemy. Knowing the Bible is important. It is the one Book of truth that we can depend on. As the mob is building Jesus puts it simply for them: “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them….believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father”. He is saying look folks – you cannot have it both ways. If I am doing God’s work – they accept the fact that God sent me. If not – then continue with the attacks on a fraud – a magician if you will – that is pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. Of course His works were of God. Everyone knew that but Jesus didn’t fit into the plan and certainly they didn’t want to give up any of their power or control. So “they sought to arrest Him”. Surprise, surprise. He doesn’t want to fit into our plans, so let’s just get rid of this Jesus guy. But it wasn’t yet His time so He escaped and went across the Jordan to the place John the Baptist had taught. The people there got it as they said “everything that John said about this man was true”. Jesus is the real deal. He came to earth to save a lost people – you and me – and offered Himself up as a sacrifice on the Cross to pay the price of our sin. The testimony of millions before us verifies Him as Savior. God makes Himself known to us daily if we only look. Jesus is the way to eternal life. The only question that remains is “what will you do with Jesus”? Will you receive Him as your Savior and Lord and live a life pleasing to God through Him? Or will you join the Jews of that day and refuse to accept Him as God’s Son and the provision for our eternity? There are only two choices. Don’t miss making the right one!
Luke 11 shows us Jesus with His twelve and also teaching the crowds. The disciples’ first ask Him “Lord, teach us to pray”. How is your prayer life? Have you learned how to pray? Jesus gives a simple yet profound prayer in scripture – the Lord’s prayer – that we can use as a model. There are in fact many prayers contained in His Word which can help us pray. But prayer really is just two way communication with God. It doesn’t have to be any particular words – just what is on our heart – but it does need to include some listening because it needs to be two ways. Not just a dump session of our needs on God. But a dialogue about life and what we are dealing with, but also what He wants us to know and understand. Jesus tells us “blessed rather are those who heard the Word of God and keep it”. Prayer needs to include some quiet listening, not just one way lists of needs. Jesus also reminds the troops that “whoever is not with me is against me”. Have you considered that? There can be no fence straddling when it comes to Jesus. We are either in our out – we either have a relationship with the Son or we don’t. There is no sort of involved. Which side are you on? Is Jesus your Savior and Lord, or not? It really is that simple. You must put a stake in the ground and declare a side. Whose are you? Do you belong to Him?
Jesus goes on to remind us that “no one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light”. Does that describe your relationship with Jesus? Are you living life in a way that everyone can see that you are a Christ Follower – without question – no interpretation needed? That should be the outcome of the most important decision we will ever make. People should not have to guess whether Jesus is our Savior and Lord. It should be obvious, almost tattooed on our forehead. Yet often we don’t live that way. Jesus goes on to warn us that what we allow to come into us makes a difference in how we shine. “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness”. The old saying garbage in, garbage out is so true of our lives. We must protect our hearts from the input that enters. We have to stay away from things that are not pleasing to God – resisting evil and the temptation to just watch or read anything. Our walk with God is very much a reflection of what we allow to come into our eyes and ears. We need to be vigilant in protecting those things. Is your light shining? If not, maybe it is because you have allowed the wrong inputs to come into your life. Time to shut off the bad and replace it with God’s truth.