Jesus, Why Don’t You Get Lost?

Lent is a very emotional time of year. Luke 13 is a very emotional part of God’s word. Here is an illustration.

The Pharisees came to Jesus and told him to get lost. Don’t you know that you’re not being heard? People are irritated by your teachings. They tried to kill you in your own home town of Nazareth. Now Herod wants to kill you. So, for the good of all concerned, Jesus, get lost.

Hearing these unkind words, many people would have left the area. Not so with Jesus. He replied to the Pharisees, “Go tell that fox, ÔI will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day Ð for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” The Father had set his agenda, and it would be accomplished.

Jesus’ days among them were now limited, so speaking to them in love, he said, “Unless you repent, you too will perish.” In the first part of this chapter, Christ talks about their sin. Let’s take a look at three of these thoughts.

First, Jesus asks a question: “Do you think these Galileans who had suffered were worse sinners than the other Galileans whose lives were comparatively free of suffering?” To put it in words that might be easier for us to understand, we could say, Do you think those people who suffered so severely in the Haiti earthquake are more sinful that those of us who live in America? He wanted to remind them that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All people need a Savior (13:1-3).

Second, Jesus told them the story of the fig tree that bore no fruit. When the owner of the vineyard told the gardener to cut the tree down, he willingly gave the tree another year to produce fruit. This is an example of God’s grace. He is always ready to produce fruit (13:6-9).

Third, when Jesus healed a woman who had been crippled for eighteen years, the synagogue ruler was angry, for He healed her on the Sabbath. Jesus asked, “You water your animals on the Sabbath, should not this woman be healed on the Sabbath?” (13:10-16).

Jesus’ ministry was personal and to the point. He reminded them that their self-righteous attitude prevented a personal relationship with God, and they needed to confess their own sins and turn to him. This message was not appreciated then, nor is it today by many.

We might ask why Jesus taught this way. He knew it would anger them.

Jesus loved them and wanted them to be saved. The first step to salvation is repentance, and so confessing their sins was necessary. He teaches an eternal biblical principle: If we confess our sins, he will forgive us, but without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sins.

But now we experience the love for people when Jesus speaks these words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ÔBlessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

God in his love sent his prophets, and the people stoned them. Now Jesus had come, and they would crucify him. What will it take to bring men and women to faith? Jesus can enrich their lives and give them eternal life.

I once heard a pastor say, “I believe Christ suffered more looking over Jerusalem and seeing their rejection of God’s grace than he did bearing the physical pain of Calvary’s cross.”

Dare we apply Jesus’ words to ourselves or to our nation?

In love our Savior pleads with us to repent. But we go on our merry way with our immorality, dishonesty, profanity, and neglect of his Word. We join the church mistakenly feeling that doing so will put us into a personal relationship with the Lord. Millions of people who have their names on a church book do not know the Savior. Jesus Christ pleads with them to receive him into their life this day.

Our reply to his pleading comes in our lifestyle as well as our words. I cannot be fanatical about religion. After all, I have a life to live.

While we may not tell him to get lost in the sense that we never want him around, we do at times want him gone for a little while. It’s like a girl telling her brother to get lost so she can spend a few minutes alone with her boyfriend.

Relationships between people can reach a point when their child must ask the parent to let them control their own life. “I’m thirty years old now and have a husband and children. It is necessary for my husband and me to make our own decisions as to how we will conduct our life.”

This is a nice way for the daughter to ask her mother to back off; and it might be legitimate if it is said with love and never with the thought that she would not need her mother’s good advice in the future. However, we should never think that telling Christ to get out of our life is legitimate. We have no privacy from Jesus when he is our Lord. Jesus walks with his children every step of the way, wherever they go.

Handling Temptation

There is no question that the devil is alive and well. No one, not even Jesus Christ himself, is exempt from his vicious attacks. Today’s text gives us an opportunity to spend a few minutes together seeing how this sly, old enemy worked unsuccessfully in the life of our Lord, and how he uses the same approach in our lives and often is successful with us.

This should be a topic of interest, especially for those of us who call ourselves Christians and desire to live a life pleasing to God.

Let’s take a look at our text. It is the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil in the wilderness. The story teaches us that Satan tempts us where we are vulnerable. He appeals to our reason and makes it sound like he is very concerned about our welfare.

In the first temptation with Jesus, the devil appealed to his appetite. Our Lord had fasted for 40 days. Satan came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Realizing that Jesus is true man, some food would be most appealing to Him. “Why not? After all, God loves me and is concerned about my physical well-being,” one could reason.

While most of us listening to this sermon are not lacking food, we all have our appetites of various kinds. A look at our society reveals how successful Satan is when he appeals to the human being’s sexual appetites. What is his approach to cause us to fall into extramarital, premarital, or cohabitative relationships? This is not just for the youth who supposedly have stronger sexual drives, but also for older people. To marry will affect our pension plans, so we say, “Yes, Satan, you have a good plan. If God had been opposed to this lifestyle, he would not have given us these same appetites throughout life.” So the devil can be a winner.

The second temptation deals with wealth. He showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and said, I am the owner. Follow me and they will all be yours. A life of ease might have appealed to Jesus’ humanity since he was a true man. You remember, Jesus once said that the Son of Man did not have a place to lay his head.

Wealth has an appeal for most of us. We see how Satan plans his thoughts in the most brilliant minds. Money means power, ease, and prestige. Wealth means you will be served. You remember that Jesus taught he had come not to be served, but to serve? Which way should he now go?

That same temptation of earning great wealth has tempted those on Wall Street and in the chambers of the congress has also tempted those of us on Main Street U.S.A. with smaller dollars. We see a great deal (even it if might be a bit dishonest) and go for it so that we can walk the town as one of the more wealthy and enjoy what that money can buy. We go for the fast buck.

The third temptation was putting God to the test. “The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ÔIf you are the Son of God,’ he said, Ôthrow yourself down from here. For it is written (that he will protect you).'”

Isn’t that a vulnerable time for Satan to tempt us? Someone has died prematurely and Satan asks, Now where is your God? During the days I was preparing this sermon, an earthquake hit Haiti. The thought came to me, “Why did God let that happen to this poor little country that has been plagued with so many hardships? Where is God?” Satan was at work in my head that day.

Now we come to the climax of the text. How did Jesus handle the temptations? The answer is important for us. Did he argue with Satan? No! He turned to the Word of God.

To the first temptation of changing stones into bread, Jesus gave one Scripture passage. “Man does not live by bread alone.” The goal in life is not that all of our appetites are to be satisfied. If that is our goal, we are already captives of the tempter. Living in God’s Word can give us a new set of values.

To the second temptation of acquiring huge amounts of wealth, Jesus counsels us with these words: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?”

And to the third temptation of putting God to the test (including my question Ð Why did the earthquake come to Haiti, or another’s question regarding why an accident and death happened within their family), the Bible says that in the midst of difficult times, God will provide. His grace is sufficient. He is our refuge and strength. He will comfort us and sustain us with his glorious right hand. And we have a word for the tempter: Satan, we live in a broken world. You brought sin into this world, and the entire world experiences suffering and pain because of it. However, God has won the victory over it, and one day those who die in Christ will have no more suffering or death.

How do we face our temptations? We cannot escape them. But the Holy Spirit, working through the Word, will guide and strengthen us that we might resist Satan. Yet if we in our weakness fall, he will forgive us through Jesus Christ and give us the strength to overcome our sins.

The Psalmist had experienced Satan’s sly way of tempting him, but more than that. he had seen God’s power to win the victory over the tempter. In closing let me share a few of these verses with you from Psalm 73:

“I envied the arrogant when I saw their prosperity. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are not plagued with human ills. They are carefree, they increase in wealth. I have kept my heart pure; all day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning. When I tried to understand all of this, it was oppressive to me until I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. When my heart was grieved and my soul was embittered, I was senseless and ignorant. I am always with you, you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel. God is the strength of my heart.”

No matter which biblical character you turn to who was faithful to the Lord, they had their hours of temptation. Peter, James, and John, and all the rest of them, but they could conquer those temptations with the conqueror. At least they could be strengthened to resist them in part, if they would but turn to the Word of God. That means we need to study that word of God and lay it up in our hearts. We need to be able to immerse ourselves so that when all the difficulties come, we can say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.”

The Need for Affirmation

Some doctrines in the Christian religion can only be received in faith. The answers to the questions raised are given in the Bible and go far beyond human understanding. One of these questions is, “Who is Jesus?”

The Christian’s answer to this question is simple, “Jesus is my Savior and Lord.” This is a child’s answer, and it is adequate for all of us.

As the Christian organization grew following Jesus’ death, it eventually caught the eye of Emperor Constantine. His kingdom was falling apart and the Christian church was growing. In 311 A.D., Christians were granted a limited toleration; and in 313 A.D., Emperor Constantine declared, “We grant to the Christians and to all others full liberty of following the religion which each may choose.”

During those years, the Church saw the necessity of having a doctrinal statement declaring its basic teachings. Constantine called a meeting in Nicea for the purpose of writing such a creed. From that Council came the Nicene Creed.

After reading this creed, one can see how the early church fathers struggled with this question, “Who is Jesus?” They write in the creedal statement, “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”

The creed confesses that Jesus is both God and man Ð human and divine. This is a cardinal teaching of biblical Christianity.

Out text today reveals Jesus as man. He is in need of affirmation from the Father as he faced suffering on the cross to make atonement for the sins of the world. Here we see Jesus as human, yet without sin.

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and went to the top of a mountain. As Jesus was praying, two men Ð Moses and Elijah Ð appeared and were talking with him about his departure. It could very well be that at this point in their conversation that Jesus was being affirmed by these two men about the suffering and death that faced him. His departure was returning to the Father, but the road led to the cross at Calvary, and that was no easy assignment.

Peter and his two companions were amazed at what was happening. And so Peter made one of his clumsy statements, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters Ð one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was speaking, they were enveloped in a cloud and a voice said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” With this message, both Jesus and the disciples were affirmed, and they kept this to themselves and told no one at that time what they had seen.

Jesus was better prepared to face the near future. Life would be difficult. He would be betrayed by his disciple, Judas, and denied by Peter. He would be arrested and brought before Pilate for an unjust trial. He would be crucified at Calvary. How much could even Jesus take? But there was more to the message. Beyond the cross was the empty tomb and a return home to his Father. This was the affirmation. Victory was before him.

While life was difficult for the followers of Jesus, the veil of eternity had been lifted for Peter, James, and John. This affirmation spurred them on to be bold voices for Christ as they proclaimed not only Jesus’ death, but also his resurrection.

Now, if Jesus needs affirmation, don’t we as well? We are not removed from the hardships of life, nor are we spared the difficult hours. However, being affirmed by God and fellow believers moves us on to see the greater picture of life beyond the grave. Trials and temptations can be overcome.

To illustrate this human need for affirmation, let me give you the picture many of us saw a few weeks ago on television. It was a football game. The quarterback, who had played a great game, threw an interception in the last minute and as a consequence his team lost the game. The quarterback ran to the sidelines. He didn’t need to be booed by the crowd but affirmed by his coach and teammates. Only this affirmation could bring him back the next week.

Apply this to our Christian life. How often we fail miserably. We walk away from our Heavenly Father. Doubts can overwhelm us. Temptations can reveal how spiritually weak we are. Even questions such as, “Am I a Christian?” can torment our souls. These are the times we need the voices of friends who are committed to the Lord Jesus Christ and can comfort us with His Word. They are able to bring us that word from the Lord, which speaks to our situation, and His saving grace. Let me share with you an illustration.

A very close friend is facing a terminal illness. We have lived together for 50 years as members of the same congregation and have shared God’s Word on a weekly basis. Now she is going to die. Her husband, who is also a committed Christian, needs affirmation for this difficult time. He is also concerned that his family be aware of what is happening in their family.

He invited my wife and me to have brunch at their home one Sunday after church. He told me that several of their children and grandchildren would be there, and he asked if I would share with them how death could soon take their loved one to heaven.

Before we sat down to eat brunch, my friend asked the family to be seated and told them that he had asked me to share a few thoughts with them. Grandma was also with us, but because of a dementia was not fully aware of what was being said.

I shared with them the many times we had been together through many years. We had a lot of fun, but today was different. Soon grandma would leave them and the separation would cause sorrow and tears, but I reminded them that for grandma it would be a great victory. Because she trusted Jesus as her Savior, she was going to heaven. This was not just a wild dream on our part but it was the center of her Christian faith, which many of us shared. I referred to them of the place Christ has prepared for her and that Jesus was the only way to heaven. Grandma was not going to heaven because of her good works. She was going there because of what Christ had done for her through His suffering, death and resurrection. It was God’s greatest gift to her.

With that biblical truth before us, there was still sadness and we were not making light of her leaving us, but she would go victoriously in Christ.

I then spent just a brief time with her grandchildren pointing out that this was real Christianity. I asked them if they had received Christ as their Savior and where they stood with the Lord. I assured them that it would be a wonderful experience if one of them who might not have this personal relationship with Christ would make that commitment today.

What a wonderful experience it was to be together here on this earth but how much more glorious it will be to spend all eternity with Christ and fellow believers.

We closed with prayer and went to enjoy a great brunch.

This is affirmation. I was speaking to people who had all been schooled in the Christian faith. This was an opportune time for them to take out this glorious message of the Gospel and God’s grace and apply it to their time of sorrow.

Let me ask you, “Are you an affirmer?” I pray you are. There are many who need us. It is not so much our words that they need but it is a word from God that comes through us.

How true it is that we need a lot of friends as we walk through life. But among this army of friends, we need a few very close friends who can be our affirmers in difficult times and we need to be their affirmers. This is why we need the church. This is why we need to be regular in worship. This is why we need to live in God’s Word and know His promises.

Words of affirmation from God can turn tough times into glorious hours.

Jesus, the human Jesus, needed to go to the mountaintop to be with His Father, Moses and Elijah and He also wanted to take three of His disciples along to teach them the need for affirmation. And that is what He is doing with us today through this part of His Word.

Stand!

The question comes up every once in awhile.

“What’s wrong with the church these days?”

With scandals rocking it at its foundations, shrinking memberships and worship attendance, the questioning of basic doctrines, and the little impact it seems to have on the culture these days, people are puzzled and wonder, “What’s wrong?”

I believe that the Apostle Paul would respond to that question in this way:

“Perhaps the church has forgotten it’s in a war. ..that this world is a war zone between the power of the evil one and the Kingdom of God.”

He would probably then go on and say, “Church of Christ, wake up and stand!”

Where do I get this notion?

From a portion of a letter that Paul wrote to a young church in Ephesus. It referred to as the book of Ephesians in our Bibles. That congregation existed in a cosmopolitan area with a real mix of peoples, nations, and belief and value systems. The great Temple of Artemis was in that community and the church was surrounded by paganism. Perhaps it was in danger of losing its way Ð being swallowed up by the majority. So Paul wrote them a letter. First, he reviewed the basic doctrines with them. Then he launched into a secton on how to live as Christ’s community in response to the gospel. But then there is this interesting little section at the end of the letter where Paul attempts to awaken them to what they are really facing. I believe these Spirit soaked words are for us as well today in the contemporary church. Read Ephesians 6:10-20É..

According to Paul there is a war going on Ð a spiritual war Ð against the church of Jesus Christ. There is one who longs to destroy the church and your faith. I am sometimes asked, “do you really believe that Satan exists?” I do. People much smarter and wiser than me believe that as well. I like what writer CS Lewis wrote on this:

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel and excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”

Obviously from our text, Paul believed this. So did PeterÉ.and John. And of course, we know our Lord Jesus did as he talked of the gates of Hades not prevailing against his church, or told of the temptation in the wilderness to get him off track from his mission. He was under attack!

So, how does Satan work? He has a variety of ways.

Through heresy and compromise. Sometimes he uses adversity to discourage us and quiet us. Sometimes he uses apathy to the commission of the church. Gets the church preoccupied with trivialities that don’t matter and we lose sight of the great commission to change the world with the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to be reminded that we are not called to be a church that moves WITH the world, but a church that MOVES the world.

Paul saw a the church in the midst of a spiritual battle and danger of being swallowed up and rendered useless by the surrounding culture.

Things have not changed. We still are in the midst of battle. Yes, we know that Jesus defeated the power of sin, death, and the devil through the cross and resurrection, but according to the Word of God we are still in the midst of a mop up operation. There is still opposition.

And so Paul issues a battle cry. “Stand” he says. Not once but four times. It’s military language which means “hold the line.” “Soldiers, hold the line.”

He also writes, “stand against.” Against what? The wiles of the evil one who seeks to knock us off balance and keep us from carrying out the kingdom mission.

And here is the good news. ÉPaul writes, “You’re not on your own in this. God has provided all you need to be victorious.”

Paul then goes on to describe God’s battle wear: the belt of truth Ð the Gospel of Jesus the way the truth and the life. The breastplate of righteousness to protect your heart and remind you that you are righteous through Christ and you can do the right thing through him. The shoes of the gospel of peace allow one to stand strong and steady as you are prepared to share the good news of Christ. The shield of faith protects your attitude as you trust in the God’s power. The helmet of salvation protects your thinking and gives you confidence that the battle is the Lord’s and I am his forever.” Finally there is the Sword of the Spirit Ð the Word of God. Read it, study it, apply it. It is the church’s authority in matters of faith and life. Soldier of Christ, operate under it.

Finally, Paul reminds them to pray at all times. It takes a supernatural power to stand strong. We cannot do it on our own. If we are going to be salt of the earth, a light to the world, a city on a hill we must be continually connected to the supernatural power of God offered us in prayer. Like the hymn says, “Put on your gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer. Where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there.”

So what’s the big idea Paul is communicating? THERE IS A BATTLE GOING ON! STAND! HOLD THE LINE!

When I was younger we sang about that a lot in our church. “Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war.” ” Lead on O King Eternal, the day of march has come.”

These hymns were reminders. There’s a battle going on. They served as reveilles for the church. That’s what Paul does for us in this text today. He’s blown reveille with these words.

Stand!