Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saturday Sermon: The Ten Men

Luke 17:1-19

Today I want you to know Jesus more fully, to understand what He is all about a little more clearly. It isn’t about applying heavenly power to those things that we want just as much as the world does, and getting them because we are on God’s side. It is about looking at God and to God and for God to give us things that only He can give us, change things that only He can change, not change things that worldly wealth or wisdom could change if we had them. No, He is about giving us things others don’t want, don’t see, and have no desire to be changed by.

Jesus is the Way out of things others don’t even have a problem with because they don’t see them as a problem. Looking at Jesus’ agenda and adopting it and applying it to our lives are how we can have an increasing faith. The eyes of faith are not, “God is going to give me what I want”, but “thank God He is God, and He will change me to do what is right, and think of Him as enough”. He will fulfill our temporal needs, yes, but He keeps on fulfilling our greatest need, for more of Him, so that we can do things unbelievers cannot do, not works of power, but works of Presence.

Luke 17:1-5 – Why we need an increasing faith

Temptation and Frustration – we need faith to be longsuffering, to bear with one another. This is the difficult task. People will set traps, woe to those people, indeed, but it will happen, so be on the lookout. You leave it up to God; He will deal with them. You watch yourself, and you warn others, but let God deal out the judgment on them. All of that takes faith.

Real forgiveness can’t happen until there is repentance, but we are not permitted to judge another’s repentance if they repent to us. If someone had sinned against me seven times in a day, in other words, they kept on and on, and kept asking me to forgive them, I might think that they were not really sincere. Yet Jesus commands me to still forgive them. Great faith is needed to get along with people like this.

What is faith for? It is for enduring and engaging despite what happens. Look at Hebrews 11; it is not faith for stuff but faith in spite of stuff NOT happening, like these persons who keep frustrating us. Increasing temptation and frustration takes increasing faith to deal with.

Luke 17:6 – The power of an increasing faith

This is how powerful faith is when focused rightly. Jesus describes faith’s potential power, so powerful it is like this example, not that it is for this type of thing, it is for the seven, for the seventy times seven, for the spiritually impossible things. Increased faith is not really about the quantity, but the quality. Faith does impossible things, but primarily Jesus means the spiritual things, the forgiveness, repentance, restoration and such.

Yes our faith can see God do miraculous physical things, but too many, and I dare say most, even almost all, are looking only at or firstly and primarily at the temporal, the physical, the “I can see it with my eyes” things, and they are wanting the smaller of the two things. The spiritual is eternal; it is bigger it is more important; it is where our focus should be. The physical things are only temporal and they are only a shadow of the true power of faith, the substance is spiritual, the substance of faith (Hebrews 11:1).

What type of harvest are you hoping for? Be honest. It isn’t that God won’t give you temporal blessings or that it is wrong to want them, it isn’t, if you have your priorities straight (Matthew 6:33). If you are increasing in spirituality but not yet in temporal needs or wants, are you complaining, if so, then why, because it shows what you consider more important.

We usually think of faith as being exercised with dramatic, miraculous works. And people who only know Jesus on the surface see this passage as a way to do those “big things” financially or health wise in their lives or they try and minister to others through this understanding. It fails, and people’s faith fails. They fail and they realize they need increased faith, but they aren’t even looking at the right place. Now God can do and Jesus did do outwardly miraculous things, demonstrations of power, but that isn’t what this passage is all about. It is about it in a sense, that may be true, but don’t miss the application here. The greatest miracles of faith have to do with the restoration of relationships, specifically our relationship and /or fellowship with God. As we relate to God rightly we will relate to others rightly. We will see the object lesson of this as we move on, the outward miracle and the more of the increasing faith.

Mark 4:5-6, 16-17 – the seed is the Word of God not your faith seed of finance, or whatever. Giving to get back with interest is usury, something the Bible explicitly condemns. Faith is about giving all you have and demanding nothing in return. Faith expects that God will provide, but it doesn’t expect or demand that God provide more as we “do” more. Whatever God has given us grace to do faith does it, but doesn’t think it is owed something.

False teachers and those who don’t know any better entice, coerce, and manipulate “minimum wage people” with this demonic device get them to supposedly work God’s plan when the are just getting worked over. Yes we should give and give abundantly but not so as to get stuff for ourselves or get God off of our backs, but to give stuff as a blessing to others and to give to get the burden off others’ backs. When we do this God is free to bless us without spoiling us. I want to be rich, spiritually rich, deep, and full of mercy and grace, truth and peace, wisdom and the knowledge of God, loving Jesus and loving like Him. I want increased faith.

Luke 17:7-10 – What an increasing faith is not, but how it begins (being faithful)

Jesus says, “You want an increased faith? Well let me tell you what it isn’t, it isn’t just fulfilling some growing list of duties, doing that is just the measure of faith, or faithfulness.”

Jesus describes faith’s personality; faith realizes God doesn’t need it, it needs God, it is not our faith that makes things happen it is God. Our faith is in the ability of our Master not in our ability to muster, not in what we can do but in what He can do, not what or how much we do for Him, but in what He does for us, not in who we are but in who He is. If you can see this and say that you will have begun to understand increasing faith.

Most people don’t really want an increased faith, however. They want to work for God at minimum wage. Do you have to be baptized, do you have to take Communion, do you have to give money to the church, do you have to go to church every week, do you have to read your Bible every day, how often do you have to pray, and on and on and on. How many times have you heard these or similar questions? How many times have you wondered about them yourself?

Well, we need to think about these things, not because we need the answer, but because the questions themselves reveal a wrong mindset. It is a worldly one that is reflected in the way the world thinks, you know, do just enough to make the boss happy, etc., etc. They just want to be done with it and get on with their lives. The kingdom of God isn’t like that, however.

Considering these things and other questions like them, ask yourself why. Why do you want to do it? Cause you have to, or because you want to be recognized? If some were to tell the truth, if they didn’t feel like they had to do it they wouldn’t do it at all, and that is the real reason for the questions. For others, it is just a fear thing, they want to make sure God isn’t mad, but when they feel like they have made sure then they feel like they can live any way they want, they’ve done what they’ve “had” to do. It is sort of like the lawyer who asked Jesus who was his neighbor. He didn’t do that so he could find out whom he needed to love, but to find out whom he didn’t have to love. He wasn’t looking to include people, but to exclude them.

When we have this attitude we are looking, not to include God in our lives, but to exclude Him. We may add Him to our lives in increasing ways, but only in activity not in real devotion. That isn’t an increasing faith. The minimum requirement mentality can do these things divorced from the heart. If they feel things aren’t going the way they want, to get God off their back they just add another thing to the list. They could fill up every box on this imaginary list and still God not have their heart. He wants us to want Him not to simply dispatch our duty. You could do all your duty and still Jesus says that all it means is that you are an unprofitable servant. Your faith has to go further than that. God doesn’t want us working on a minimum requirement resume.

We ought to be finding new ways to walk the extra mile, not looking for any way to get out of going the first mile. If that is the way you feel about serving God, why would you want to be in heaven? Oh, I see, you just want to find a way out of hell. Sounds to me like you already know what that is like. You have a habit of turning blessings into burdens. Most people are under the impression that the more you sacrifice for the Lord, the godlier you are. That’s a lie, and that isn’t increasing faith. Faith doesn’t see it as sacrifice, in the sense that sacrifice is something we don’t want to do. Faith sees it as something we get to do, and we want to be able to do, and as our faith is increased we can do, as worship, as the sacrifice of praise.

One of the benefits of Christ paying the price of redemption for us is that we might be able to bless Him. When you in turn pay the price to bless Him, you are the one who gets blessed. We should see these things, things like obeying Him by being baptized, or taking Communion, living a moral, godly life, praying, reading our Bible, and yes, giving, as gifts we can enjoy giving to God, not as burdens we must bear lest we be lost. Besides, we are earning wages in heaven for such things, let alone the fact that they please God. Christ gave us many such blessings, different ways to be able to be like Him. Don’t look for a list of minimum requirements. Don’t settle for minimum wage. This is the beginning of understanding, that faith is more than duty.

Luke 17:11-19 – What an increasing faith looks like, what happens to it, and what it sees

So what is an increased faith, what does it look like, and how do we get it? Now I want you to look at the whole of Luke 17 up to this point and realize something. This all goes together. Look at it. First, He teaches them some difficult things, and they realize that they must have more faith in order to do these things, and they ask for an increased faith. Jesus gives them hope by speaking of faith’s power and then teaches that faith is not merely doing one’s duty, and then we have an object lesson of what persevering, increasing faith looks like. It does do what is asked of it but then it goes further and so its power goes further, not depending on doing its duty for the faith, but depending on God. Having faith in God not faith in faith, or faith in personal devotion, or faith in merit or service or sacrifice, but faith meaning praise and thanksgiving to God. Not faith to get stuff but faith that understands it has been given stuff already.

The nine received the outer blessing just as many are looking for and that was all they wanted, but the 10th man wanted Jesus Himself and was made whole. Sure he was looking for the outer first, but his faith had increased, he saw the greater miracle, he was made whole, and his relationship with God was made right. Health is great but wholeness is better. They wanted an increased relationship with Jesus’ power; the other man wanted an increased relationship with Jesus Himself. The nine saw their most pressing physical need; the 10th also saw his real need. You have received many blessings; do they cause you to look to God in thanksgiving and praise, or to look to Him for more stuff? He wants to give you more, more of Him, as your faith increases.

Faith is about the inner life and how it relates to outer struggles, not how to change the outer struggles but to change our inner perspective. Faith is trusting that no matter what your walk looks like, God is going to see you through to the other side of judgment. They asked for and received mercy but the one received more.

Here is an object lesson, more than just the body, living a life of praise and thankfulness is faith and it results in being made whole. That doesn’t mean going around singing songs all day, not that this is bad, but it means to be faithful to come to God for problems, do what He says, and be thankful. When Jesus has done something He still wants to do more; do you have the faith for it? Not for getting something out of it but faith in God no matter what He might do.

In Matthew 15:21-29 the Canaanite woman had faith even though Jesus seemed to insult her. Job had faith although God seemed to want to destroy him and everything surrounding him. Abraham had faith although God looked like he wanted to kill the very seed He promised. God has given us the seed of the Word of God to grow our faith spiritually, for spiritual things, to see with spiritual eyes, to bear the fruit of the Spirit, and He wants it to increase, to have that fruit be a blessing to God and to others. Do you want the faith for that?

The nine had been given a great gift, but the 10th man saw Jesus as He truly was, as greater than mere healing, not just great enough to give him what he wanted, but so great that Jesus became what he wanted. Luke 17:18 – don’t miss the fact that Jesus calls Himself God here. The other nine knew Jesus was able to heal them and they received it, but the 10th man saw himself as needing more than just physical healing, he realized that he might have been healed, and that he may have everything he thought or anyone else thought he needed, but he realized he was lost without Christ. The nine saw their physical problem, but the 10th man saw his spiritual problem. His faith went further, his faith had increased to accepting Jesus to fulfill deeper needs than just the physical. He realized the great difference between himself and Christ, it wasn’t simply that he was a leper, and he came back, he bowed down, and he worshipped the King of Kings for who He was. All 10 men were separated from society, were healed, and made able to draw near to other people again. But only one man knew how he really was separated from God, he was made whole and drawn near to God. His faith wanted more than a part of Jesus, it wanted the whole Jesus, and he was made whole.

The puritan John Flavel said this in a sermon from 1675: "When God opens the eyes of men to see their sin and danger by it, nothing but Christ can give them satisfaction: it is not the amenity, fertility, riches and pleasures, the inhabitants of any kingdom of the world do enjoy, that can satisfy the desires of their souls: when once God touches their hearts with the sense of sin and misery, then Christ, and no one but Christ, is desirable and necessary in the eyes of such persons."

"Many kingdoms of the world abound with riches and pleasures; the providence of God has carved liberal portions of the good things of this life to many of them, and scarcely left any thing lacking to their desires that the world can afford. Yet all this can give no satisfaction without Jesus Christ, the desire of all nations, the one thing necessary, when once they come to see the necessity and excellency of him. When this happens, give them whatever you wish of the world, nevertheless they must have Christ, the desire of their souls."

Is Jesus Christ truly the desire of your soul today? Do you know what you really need? How much of Jesus does your faith want? Are you looking to Jesus to make you whole? I think we all need an increased faith.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©


Even So... said...

Stick with it...

Christopher Cohen said...

What an amazing devotional to to lead us into Sunday morning worship.

Annette said...

good post. thank you.

Even So... said...

You are welcome, and thank you too you two...