Luke 17

Read Luke 17 today.

Leprosy was a horrible disease to contract in the days Jesus lived on this earth. In order to keep from infecting other people, lepers had to live alone, away from society. If they came near anyone else, they had to warn them by calling out, “Unclean!” If you contracted leprosy, your family would never touch you again and the only human companionship you’d ever know again was from other lepers.

It was social-distancing long before it became cool here in 2020.

Lepers would watch parts of their bodies rot away and fall off until, eventually, they died. So you can understand why lepers were so eager to meet Jesus and when they saw him, according to verse 13, they “called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’”

Instead of making new skin out of mud or laying his hands on them or even waving his hands toward them, Jesus just told them to find a priest and have him check their skin. This was required by the Old Testament law for someone who wanted to be re-admitted to society after having a skin problem that cleared up. Between verses 14-15, they were healed. In verse 14b they expressed faith in his word by obediently turning to find a priest. But, according to verse 15, it took a few moments before they actually realized they had been healed.

Of the ten men who were healed of leprosy, only one of them returned to thank Jesus (v. 16a). And he was less than subtle about it; according to verses 15b-16a, “when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him….”

This is what you’d expect from someone who not only just saved and extended your life, but made it possible to return to your family and friends. But, of all the men Jesus healed, he alone gave glory to God and thanks to Jesus and, to top it all off, “…he was a Samaritan.” That continued a pattern in Jesus’ life of being received best by outsiders.

Jesus made a point of highlighting that only 10% of the cleansed lepers gave thanks to him and glory to God for their cleansing. His point is one that we should consider as well. People frequently ask others to pray for them but, in my experience at least, rarely give glory to God when the prayer is answered.

Furthermore, genuine thankfulness is in scarce supply in our world. We should serve God by serving others in love without expecting to be thanked but thankfulness is a trait of godliness (see Colossians 2:7, 3:15 and 17 for just a few examples).

Do you live a thankful life? Do we notice when God answers our prayers and give him praise and glory for it? Do we thank his servants, his children, when they are good to us? These are habits of a godly life.

While we’re stuck in this weird, COVID-19 world, we have the opportunity and the time to reach out to others. Is there someone you should thank? Make a phone call to that person today and let them know how much you appreciate what they’ve done in your life.

And don’t forget to thank God in prayer for his goodness to you. Life is weird right now for us all, but we don’t have leprosy, we do have what we need, and this crisis will pass. Let’s be thankful for how God is providing for us and for his promise to keep providing for us in post-coronavirus world.

Luke 11

Read Luke 11.

Does God really answer prayer? Going by what Jesus said here in Luke 11:1-13, not only does God answer prayer, he is waiting to bless us by answering our prayers.

So, why don’t we get more answers to prayer?

One reason is that we pray very differently than Jesus told us to pray.

Verses 1-4 record what is called “The Lord’s Prayer” but should be called “The Lord’s Guide to Prayer.” Jesus was not telling us to pray this prayer in these words but rather to let the themes he touched on be the things that we talk to God about. Namely:

  • That more and more people would come to worship him and stand in awe of his holiness and greatness (“hallowed by thy name”).
  • That his kingdom would finally arrive finishing the redemption of his elect and giving us a place to finally be the society he created us to be (“your kingdom come”).
  • That he would provide for our daily needs, not make all our dreams come true (“give us each day our daily bread”).
  • That he would make us holy just as he has declared us to be (“forgive us our sins… and lead us not into temptation”).
  • That he would give us the grace to resolve the relationships we have broken by our sins (“for we also forgive everyone who sins against us”).

Jesus’ healing ministry shows us that God does care about our physical problems, but how often is our praying dominated by praying for ourselves and others to have physical healing? Do we ever pray for each other to avoid sin? Do we take time to worship God for who he is and ask him to save more people so that they can worship him?

These are the things Jesus told us to pray for, so let’s let his instructions mold our own talks with God each day.

Luke 10

Read Luke 10.

Joy is a major theme of the Bible. It isn’t emphasized a lot by preachers like me because it isn’t hard doctrine. Yet it is a theme that is interwoven throughout the Old and New Testaments and is described throughout scripture as an outgrowth of walking with God (for instance, “The fruit of the Spirit is… joy” (Gal 5:22).

In this chapter of Luke, Jesus prayed “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” (v. 21a) for God’s plan to bless the simple with salvation instead of those who believe themselves to be sophisticated (v. 21b). But in the same context, he cautioned the 72 disciples about the source of their joy. After a successful short-term missions trip, they “returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” Their joy, it seems, stemmed from their success using the spiritual power Christ had delegated to them. Power can cause pride so our Lord warned them about Satan’s fall (v. 18) and encouraged them not to find their joy in power but instead to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (v. 20b).

Our Lord Jesus Christ rescued us from an eternity of misery apart from God. He rescued us from the darkness of living apart from God and his truth. He adopted us into his family and conferred on us all the rights and privileges of sonship, even treating us as if we were as righteous as Jesus is even though we are not. He gave us spiritual power to accomplish anything and everything he calls us to do for his kingdom work. It is his grace and mercy to us and the promises he has made to us about the future that really matter. These are the things God wants us to rejoice about, not what we have done or can do or will do. Whenever the source of joy is about us, we are in danger of pride; whenever it is about God, we have joy as a blessing.

This is a great truth to start the week. God wants you to have joy and the source of that joy is him and all that he has done for us and will do for us. I hope you live today in that joy, rejoicing in God’s grace and goodness to us.

Luke 7

Read Luke 7.

Jesus has gone public now and has been attracting more and more attention in his area. That attention continued as he performed miracles such as healing the dying (vv. 1-10) and raising the dead (vv. 11-17). His message was right but his actions were not what John the Baptist expected so when John–in prison–heard about Jesus actions, he sent some disciples of his to ask Jesus to identify himself (vv. 18-27).

After reassuring John through his disciples (vv. 21-23), Jesus began to probe what the people who followed Jesus thought of John the Baptist (vv. 24-27). After asking some probing questions to get people to think about the meaning of John’s life and ministry in verses 24-26, Jesus affirmed that John was a prophet, but he was a prophet plus more (prophet+) in verse 26b. According to Jesus in verse 27, John was, in fact, the forerunner prophesied in the Old Testament to Messiah.

But then Jesus raised the importance of John even further but with a twist. According to Jesus, John was the greatest mortal man who ever lived (v. 28a). That’s quite an assessment to make about anyone, but especially coming from Jesus. But then Jesus said something even more intriguing: “…yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he [John].” The most insignificant person who arrives in God’s kingdom is greater than the greatest man whoever lived in human history, according to Jesus. Why is that true?

The answer is that John–great as he was–was a sinner but the “least in the kingdom of heaven” is not a sinner. Sinners are not allowed into the kingdom of heaven, so there are no sinners there. Consequently everyone who is there is a better person than John.

The Kingdom of God must be an empty place, then, because I and everyone I know is a sinner.

That’s where Jesus comes in and why he came into the world. Jesus the man lived the sinless life that would qualify a person to enter the kingdom of God. He was able to do that as a man because he was also God. As God, he didn’t need to earn his way into the kingdom of God; it already belongs to him. So, in the great act theologians call imputation, God gave sinners access to his kingdom based on the perfect life of Christ. He imputed–credited–Christ’s righteousness to those who believe him for it.

On the opposite side of that coin, he also credited to Jesus the guilt for human sin which Jesus paid for through his death on the cross. For those who believe this message, God imputes your guilt to Christ who paid it in full and imputes Christ’s righteousness to you. That’s how you get into the kingdom of God. When you get there, God will transform you completely so that you never want to or will sin again. Thus, you will be a better human being than John the Baptist, the greatest man who ever lived.

This is an important truth for our salvation. It is one that everyone must humble himself to believe. Even the most morally upright person must admit his sin and need of salvation. But many people are too proud for that so Luke told us in verse 29 that those who knew they were sinners were getting into the kingdom while those who were really religious, according to verse 30, were missing out on what God has done.

Don’t let that be you! Don’t let your pride keep you from an eternity in God’s presence and in his kingdom.

Also, know that if you have trusted Christ, God treats you as perfect now, even though you aren’t yet. God treats you as better than John the Baptist already because he gives you credit for Christ’s perfection.

So don’t let your sins and failures discourage you. Keep growing in your faith and trusting God to change you and know that God is not counting those sins against you any more. You’re on his side now because of Jesus, so you can feel secure and forgiven while you grow to become like him.

Luke 6

Read Luke 6.

On the seventh day of the creation week the Bible tells us that God rested. This means that he ceased from the act of creating. It was unnecessary for him to “rest” in the sense of recovering and renewing his energy and strength because he is all-powerful. But he set aside a day to cease from labor and even set that day apart to teach us to rest.

Rest is about renewing yourself and spiritual renewal through worship is a key part of resting. By the time Jesus lived, however, the Sabbath had become more about what was forbidden than about the blessing of taking time off to rest your body and renew your spirit. That’s what Jesus faced here in Luke 6. The Pharisees were so legalistic about the Sabbath that they didn’t want anyone to do much of anything; even picking up a snack off the grain fields was sin in their minds (vv. 1-2). Likewise, they were miffed when Jesus healed a man.

The Pharisees, and everyone else who knew this man, should have been happy for him. He recovered the use of one of the most useful parts of his body. What better day to be renewed from an injury or a disability than the Sabbath–a day God set aside for renewal?

As Jesus answered the objections of the legalists about the Sabbath, he both asserted his authority over the Sabbath day (v. 5) and reminded the people that the Sabbath is supposed to be about what is good not about putting people in bondage (v. 9).

But the Pharisees measured a person’s spirituality based on how well he kept a long list of manmade rules, so Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath threatened their approach to spirituality.

This is an important thing to keep in mind whenever you encounter someone who thinks that pleasing God is about some manmade rule to measure spirituality. Who is more spiritual–a person who reads one verse a day or someone who reads one book of the Bible per day?

If we measure by the sheer volume of material, the one who reads a whole book of the Bible each day is the truly spiritual person. But remember from James 1:22 that the person who merely reads the Bible without applying it is self-deceived.

One verse of Scripture that is truly considered and applied by a believer is far better than one book of the Bible read only to impress yourself, God, or someone else with how spiritual you are.

God wants us to keep his commands but not so that we can impress others or oppress them by pointing out their failures or sub-standard performance compared to us. God does not give us his commands to judge our performance; he gives his commands to transform us.

Whenever we judge others for their lack of performance, we are indicting ourselves as legalists. Don’t measure your walk with God by performance metrics; seek to walk with God, putting his words into practice out of love for him and a desire to grow (see verses 46-49 here in Luke 6).

Luke 5

Read Luke 5.

Anyone who watches us closely enough and critically enough will be able to detect at least some of our sins. We don’t spend all our time sinning but the desire to sin never goes away fully and, with the right circumstances and stimulus, our corrupted human nature is ready to pounce like a cat on the red dot of a laser pointer.

Yet, despite how thoroughly sin inhabits us, we live our lives mostly oblivious to our own sins, failures, and weaknesses. If you’ve ever had someone confront you for sinning against them and you didn’t realize or think about what you had done as sinful until they brought it up, you understand what I mean. We are well aware, usually, of the sins of others but often quite blind to our own.

It is interesting, isn’t it, the when Isaiah saw his vision of the Lord and his holiness in Isaiah 6, he became acutely aware of his own sinfulness. The same type of thing happened to Peter here in Luke 5:8. But neither Isaiah nor Peter was confronted directly by God about his sin. Isaiah saw the Lord on a throne highly exalted with angels calling “holy, holy, holy.” Peter saw Jesus miraculously fill his nets with fish. They did not hear a list of God’s moral attributes or a lecture about their own sins; they saw God’s power in action. That was enough to make them aware of their own sinfulness. Peter even begged Jesus to leave him alone (v. 8) because he recognized that the power of God was at work in Jesus (v. 9).

Fortunately for Peter, Jesus already knew how sinful Peter was and loved him anyway. Jesus even called Peter to follow him (v. 10b) and learn how to “fish for people.” Jesus did this not because Peter’s sins weren’t as bad as he said or that he was confident the Peter would grow out of them. Jesus did it because the same divine power that brought the fish to the net would redeem Peter from his sins and change him to become someone who could serve God well.

The same goes for you and me. Jesus came looking for sinners to redeem so that he could transform us into holy men and women of God. So, let’s follow him and let him transform our lives.

Luke 4

Read Luke 4.

Before Jesus began his public ministry in verse 14, it was appropriate for him to win a private victory. Specifically, in order to preach righteousness to others, Jesus, as a man, had to practice righteousness first himself. That is one reason for his temptation in the wilderness in verses 1-13.

Although Jesus was fully human, his virgin conception kept him from receiving a fallen nature like the rest of us humans have. He did not have any inward pull toward sin like you and I have.

Therefore, Satan had to get creative in tempting him. First, Satan tempted him with food when he had been fasting (vv. 2-3). There is nothing sinful about eating food, so the temptation focused on Jesus using his divine power to create food. Again, there is nothing wrong with that; he used his divine power to create food when he fed the 5000. So this first temptation is hard to figure out; what exactly was the sin that Satan was trying to get Jesus to commit?

The answer is revealed in Jesus’ response to Satan in verse 4, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 and the context for that passage was how God provided manna for his people in the desert. In Deuteronomy 8:1 Moses instructed the people to “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.” In other words, receiving God’s promises was tied to obeying his commands. In Deuteronomy 8:2-3 Moses said, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” This was all a reminder to Israel that the most important thing they needed to do was obey God. If people obey God’s word, they do so because they are trusting God–trusting him to keep his promises and to provide what they need. Moses was reminding the people in Deuteronomy 8:1-3 that God provided for them in the desert so they should obey his word and trust him to care for and provide for them in the future.

Back to Jesus, then, and Luke 4.

Luke 4:1 told us that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” and that he “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” It was God’s will, then, for him to be there. He was sent there by divine appointment without any preparation. The desert is not a place where food grows naturally so if Jesus were to survive his time out there, God would have to provide for him.

The devil’s temptation, then, subtly suggests that God the Father and the Holy Spirit had abandoned him. So, Satan suggested, Jesus should use his powers as the Son of God to provide for himself. Jesus’ reply was that obedience was more necessary for human flourishing than food and that if he obeyed and waited, God would provide for him.

The temptation to sin, then, was a temptation to operate outside of submission to God the father and act independently of his own will.

This is what we do, really, every time we sin. When we sin, we believe the lie spoken by our sin natures, the devil, and the world around us. That lie is that obedience to God’s way is stupid because we can’t trust God to keep his promises, so we need to seek our own gain, our own pleasure, our own solutions to the problems in our lives, or whatever else.

So, where are you facing this kind of temptation today? Has God left you waiting somewhere, longing for something that you think he should have provided by now?

Don’t turn away from obedience for the false promise of sin. Just as Jesus resisted abusing his divine power by exercising it out of God’s will, live within God’s moral will yourself through obedience and wait for him to deliver and provide for you.