Saturday, May 31, 2008

Luke #52 – The Position Jesus Left Us In

Luke #52 – The Position Jesus Left Us In

“And there was delivered unto Him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, and He gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. And He began to say unto them, ‘This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears’” (Luke 4:17-21 – King James Version).

About three years ago during a Wednesday night youth group meeting the kids were wild; when I say wild, I mean WILD! I let them have fun for a few minutes, but soon it was time to get down to business. I said “Okay, open your Bibles…” and that was a far as I got. I tried to be polite, figuring that asking them to open their Bibles would be a sure signal that we were about to begin the study. For the most part, it was like I was not even alive. “Listen up everybody! It’s time to begin,” were the words of my second attempt at polite rebuke. After a few more tries I became pretty frustrated and screamed, “That’s it! Pick your stuff up! Get out!” The group stood around in stunned silence for a moment trying to decide if I was serious. I was. I kicked the whole youth group out of church at one time.

When we read the passage above in a casual light we miss the fact that Jesus did not finish the verses He was reading from Isaiah. To be specific, Jesus was reading Isaiah 61:1-2. He stopped short of finishing the latter part of verse two. As Christ read it in His hometown synagogue Jesus stopped in this way: “to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”. The rest of Isaiah 61:2 says this: “and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (KJV).

The reason Jesus stopped in that place was because of the comma. NO…I am being silly! There is a comma where He stopped in the Bibles you and I read today, but in the Hebrew Bible that Jesus read there was no comma. He stopped in that spot because the verses He read told what He came to do; namely “to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”. It was not yet time for the full vengeance of God to come or the time for final comfort. He read those Scripture and said “Now…I am going to make this things happen!” (my paraphrase).

This is still the age we are living in; one might accurately call it “God’s Age of Grace.” God’s vengeance is coming; make no mistake about that. One of the most famous sermons of all time was preached by a man named Jonathan Edwards; it was called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (ref. below). In that sermon Edwards pointed out that God was holding back His wrath, but only because God is merciful and is extending grace towards mankind. Edwards stated that at some point God’s wrath would be unleashed; that’s a fact too. Another famous sermon, perhaps the most famous of the twentieth century, was preached by a man named R.G. Lee. It was called “Payday Someday” and in it, one of Lee’s most famous quotes, he said, “Even though the mill of God grinds slowly, it grinds to powder” (second ref. below). Lee’s sermon tells us that payday is coming; that payday where the wage of sin will be given to the unrepentant. God’s vengeance and wrath are coming…make no mistake about that.

You may ask, “Why point this out?” I believe I am pointing it out for the same reasons Christ did. NOW is the age of grace; work while it is light; turn to the Lord while it is yet called today.

God’s love is perfect and for we who have experienced it there are volumes of testimony and truckloads of experience that testify to the goodness of our Father. God’s mercy is real and for any who have fell prostrate at the cross and felt the covering of the blood we know of God’s gracious, merciful hands as they encased us in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus.

Now is a time of healing; a time of grace. Now is a time of forgiveness; a time of salvation. Soon, the time for the righteous judgment of God will come and a lost and dying world needs the love and salvation of Jesus TODAY! Without it there is certain doom and eternal hell; many are looming, even teetering, over the abyss today. We live in an age of grace and we’d better not forget it. We’d better pray as if all depends on God and work like it depends on us.

Like that night with my youth group, quiet rebuke is available, but it has bounds. Now, I don’t profess to be God; the illustration is simply to point out that people seem not to believe there is penalty for their wrongs until it is too late. Those young people did not imagine that I would ever kick them out of church, but I did. Soon that eastern sky will split wide open and it will be payday for God’s vengeance.

This is a message for Christians too. Are you living in this age of grace as if God’s wrath will never come? Stop it. The position Christ left us in is that of grace, but it will not always be so. Get right or get left.

Share the message of salvation like today is the last day you may have to do it, because it very well may be. I do not profess to know the day of God’s vengeance, but I am sure it is coming. On that day the heathen will be given to Christ and they will be ground into bits (Psalm 2:8-9). As for me, I want to live like I know that’s a reality. I want to witness, no matter what others think of me, so that I may be used of God to help others escape that day of vengeance. How about you? Enjoy the present peace that Christ left us with, but know that it won’t last forever. Payday is coming.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED READING!

Reference #1 (If you want to read Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, check it out on the web: http://www.jonathanedwards.com/sermons/Warnings/sinners.htm).

Reference #2 (If you want to read R.G. Lee’s sermon, check it out on the web:

http://www.baptistfire.com/articles/gospel/payday.shtml).

Saturday, May 17, 2008


May 16, 2008

He had the crowd leaning in on every word. His insights had captivated their hearts, minds and souls. His message was uncluttered with political baggage, and His lifestyle defied anything they had witnessed before. This guy was amazing.

So about the time that He landed on “The Golden Rule” in His most famous of all sermons, the crowd was agreeing, smiling and ready to join the bandwagon of this new religious teacher. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them…” (Matthew 7:12) Yes, words to live by.

But you’ll notice that Jesus didn’t close in prayer at that point. He didn’t dust off His best, most-inclusive, camera-ready smile and wave a politician’s wave… no, Jesus hit the crowd with one of His most difficult realities before the oxygen of The Golden Rule had fully expanded their chest.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~ Matthew 7:13, 14

While heads were still nodding in agreement, Jesus reeled off a string of non-tolerant, non-inclusive, non-marketing friendly words that had to feel like an ice cold bucket of water right after a warm and comforting bath.

Narrow, destruction, hard, few.

Jesus resisted the urge of growing political momentum to sway Him off course from the reason for His existence. There was no tidal wave of popular opinion that was strong enough to pull Him off His anchor. Jesus’ words were a hot dagger through an ice cold religion.

In the end, Jesus knew that a more “marketing friendly” gospel was not good news at all. That the power of sacrificial action (The Golden Rule) came when it was birthed out of the womb of heartfelt repentance. It’s the narrow gate that leads to life. A turnstile with a ticket taker.

Jesus’ offer of hope included authentic and demanding realities. But isn’t that what makes it good news? Isn’t that what compelled Him to come? Isn’t He the only one that understands what’s required at the turnstile?

Perhaps these were some of His most compassionate words, for they underscore the cost of authentic hope. Yes indeed, this is the Golden Rule.