|Passage: Luke 14-16|
On Friday, November 7, 2014, Yujin wrote,
There is a lot of debate around a couple of verses in Matthew that seem to give an exception to the prohibition against divorce. While I have shared extensively about those verses, the overattention to those verses has completely overshadowed the clear teaching regarding the matter of remarriage.
Even if someone could find an exception clause for the prohibition against divorce, there is no such exception with respect to remarriage. It is always considered an act of adultery. As long as one party to the remarriage has been divorced, there you have adultery in the sight of God. I believe the reason for this is that God still considers the original union sacred. The expectation for those that have divorced is that they would remain unmarried or else reunite with the one they divorced, provided their spouse has not themselves remarried to someone else.
I believe the Bible never permits believers to divorce, for the marriage union pictures the indissoluble union between Christ and the church (cf. Ephesians 5:21-33). Even when there is permission for allowing an unbeliever to divorce a believer, the believer is commanded never to initiate it (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). The oath of marriage, namely, "to death do us part," is sacred before the Lord.
Therefore, those that have already sinned by divorcing their spouse, I counsel them not to remarry, for they would be adding sin onto sin. For those that have already remarried, I would counsel neither to divorce nor to remarry but to seek God's mercy and remain faithful in their current marriage union. What's done cannot be undone, but the Bible does not limit God's grace.
Today, I could not help thinking about the homeless men and women that I see every day standing by the highway entrances and exits near my home. Would such men and women be like Lazarus at the gate of the rich man? Am I neglecting to help them to my spiritual discredit?
I told my wife and child that helping them would do more long-term harm to them, for then they would not get genuine help from the places that provide for such people, like the Salvation Army, the Union Gospel Mission, and Cornerstone Church. These places make it a point not only to give them food and shelter but also a way out of their plight, as well as spiritual instruction. I remember watching "Stossel" on the Fox News Channel, where he showed that food pantries and homeless shelters discourage people from giving money to the homeless, because it keeps them from getting help from these places. Getting money from the streets, they simply continue in their homeless, alcoholic, drug-addicted lifestyles.
While this rationale seems reasonable for me not to give money to panhandlers on the street corners, it does not excuse me from supporting the very shelters, whose advice I am following. It behooves me to find out about these places, as well as the places with whom my church partners, so that I can support them both with money and time and perhaps also my own blessed life experiences and learning.
Friends, I will be praying about how I and my family can provide for the many like Lazarus in our world. I encourage you to do the same. For even though our present text does not have a direct command with respect to helping the poor, God's concern for the poor in the world is unmistakeable. I am reminded of this proverb:
Let us, then, not simply be hearers of this instruction. Let us do something about it.
|Passage: Luke 14-16|
On Friday, November 8, 2013, Stephen wrote,
We seek fairness, but God is just and loving toward His children. This is the lesson that I learned from the parable of the lost son.
|Passage: Luke 14-16|
On Friday, November 8, 2013, Yujin wrote,
He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? (Luke 16:10-12).
One of the principles that this passage teaches is 'If one is faithful with a little, then one will be faithful with a lot. If one is unfaithful with a little, then one will be unfaithful with a lot.' The focus is put on the importance of being faithful regardless of the size of what is entrusted.
What is sometimes neglected in the exposition of this passage is the question of what is meant by being faithful or unfaithful. With respect to unrighteous mammon (i.e. worldly wealth), being faithful certainly does not mean hoarding it, for Jesus taught against this just a few chapters earlier.
Now, the unrighteous steward may be a good example of one who is unrighteous in a little (i.e. initially squandering his master's wealth) becoming unrighteous in a lot (i.e significantly cutting his master's wealth by forgiving large portions of those indebted to his master). But how does this apply to believers, who are here exhorted as "the sons of light" (cf. Luke 16:8).
The implied object of faithfulness here is the Lord. It is when we are faithful to the Lord with respect to the things He has given us in this life that we will be rewarded in heaven with true riches of our own in proportion to our faithfulness.
Remember, the priest Phineas was commended and his generations rewarded because he was zealous for the Lord in his day (Numbers 25:6-13). He was faithful with a little and so he was granted greater responsibility and honor. Moses was kept from entering the promised land because he did not honor the Lord at the waters of Meribah (Numbers 20:2-12). He became unfaithful in a little manner, so the greater responsibility of leading the people into the Promised Land was taken from him.
Remember also the Parable of the Talents, where the Master commends the two stewards to whom He gave five talents and two talents respectively because they were faithful to invest and bring a proportionate return to their Master. Listen to the statement of the reward, which was the same for both:
Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things (Matthew 25:21).
Then consider the outcome for the steward that buried his single talent and had nothing to show for the Master's investment in him:
So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them (Matthew 25:28-29).
Friends, as we read these passages, the principle may seem obvious to some of us, but not all.
I will give you an example in this Martial Arts Organization.
It was founded and built by Grandmaster Han and bears his name. When a person denigrates his vision and rejects his heir, is it reasonable for them to think that they will be granted great responsbilities in the organization? Is it reasonable for still some other leaders to complain when they are marginalized by the rest of the organization after they have persisted in riding the fence of loyalty, having one foot in support of Grandmaster Han and another foot in support of a leader that deserted the organization?
In this organization built by and around Grandmaster Han, being faithful in a little means embracing his vision and supporting the leaders that he has chosen. It does not mean demanding greater authority and seeking more money. It means trusting him and the leadership that he has chosen to effectively guide the organization with respect to its management and financial health. When someone demonstrates their faithfulness to honor and support this over time, such a person will not be neglected when the time comes again for awarding great responsibilities, financial benefits, as well as honor.
Friends, this is true of every organization and of heaven itself. If we would be rewarded with great riches in heaven, we must be faithful with what we have been granted here on earth, whether that be a little or much. Now, it is also true that to whom much is given much is required, and to whom little is given, little is required (cf. Luke 12:48). But how awesome would it be for some of us, who may have been given little, to do disproportionately much with it, so that, though little was expected, we honored and served our Lord much.
|Passage: Luke 14-16|
On Thursday, November 8, 2012 (Last Updated on 11/7/2014), Yujin wrote,
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16:31).
Jesus tells a story about two men. One was rich and the other poor. One lived in luxury while the other suffered much. But when they died, the beggar went to heaven while the rich man went to hell. According to Abraham, this was the justice of God, in blessing the needy and cursing the greedy.
It appears that the rich man did not fully realize how bad things would be in hell. He begs Abraham to send someone to warn his brothers, who were probably rich like he was, so that they would not suffer his same fate.
But Abraham insists that the testiomony of Scripture should be sufficient for them. The rich man appeals to the power of the miraculous to persuade them. But Abraham says something remarkable: "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." Abraham asserts that if they do not believe in the Scriptures, neither would they believe on the basis of the miraculous.
This has led one prominent theologian to argue, "Miracles confirm faith. They do not create faith." I think there is truth in this observation, for Paul writes, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Thus, the hearing that leads to faith comes by God's decree, not by human experience of miracles. Perhaps this is the reason why Jesus did not do many miracles in His hometown:
And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith (Matthew 13:58).
For Jesus' miracles did not create faith in people; otherwise, He would have done more in His hometown, where there was a great lack of faith. Jesus' miracles confirmed faith. If Jesus did miracles in His hometown, it would simply confirm their unbelief and would not serve to advance His ministry. But in the places where people had faith in Him the miracles confirmed that their faith was valid.
However, we are told in a number of passages, particularly in John's Gospel, that people, even the disciples believed in Him after seeing His miracles. While this is true, we are also told in the same place that Jesus did not trust their faith as genuine faith, for He knew what was truly in their hearts (John 2:24-25). Even after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus accused the people of following Him not because of what the miraculous sign revealed about Him but because their immediate needs were met (John 6:26-27).
Now, this is quite contrary to the way we normally think about things. There is a kind of faith that arises out of seeing and experiencing the miraculous; however, Jesus seems to argue that this is a shallow and unreliable faith. The faith that is powerful, effective and enduring arises from a heart touched by the Word of God.
I think most all of us would confess that we were converted by hearing God's Word and not because we witnessed a miracle.
Therefore, dear friends, don't seek out miracles. Live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Even the Lord Jesus gives Thomas a backhanded rebuke for his sight-based faith, when he confessed it after touching Jesus' hands and side:
Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29).
Those that seek a miraculous healing or a prophetic word or some other supernatural sign reveal their lack of faith rather than any strength of faith, for they are inadvertantly revealing that the miracle of their conversion and God's Word are not sufficient for them. Thus, we find the same was true in Jesus' ministry. Even after He did many signs and miracles, the Pharisees and the people kept asking for more signs to be done (cf. John 2:18; 6:30). And John, thus, concludes:
Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him (John 12:37).
I am amazed that we have had professing believers and leaders flying out to Canada, Florida, California, Kansas City, and other similar places. For what? To see more signs. To experience some miracle. To find a powerful working of the Holy Spirit, as if His power is only localized to these specific places. Jesus declared of those in His day that continued to seek after signs, that they were "a wicked and adulterous generation" (Matthew 12:39).
Friends, let us be like Mary and give attention to the Word of God as of chief importance. Let us be like John the Baptist, who did no miracle but boldly testified to the truth about Jesus (John 10:41). Let us be like Paul, who labored to supply his own subsistence and tirelessly proclaimed the Gospel everywhere he went (John 20:17-38). And let us serve one another, not on the basis of some supernatural power, but on the basis of love, which the Bible says is the most excellent way (1 Corinthians 13). And let us understand that the Bible is the only prophetic truth we need to do every good work that God requires:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
|Passage: Luke 14-16|
On Sunday, February 5, 2012 (Last Updated on 11/8/2012), Bill wrote,
In the well known story of the Parable of the lost son, there is another message Jesus makes through the story of the older brother. In the following passage the Father has just redeemed the prodigal son, welcoming him back, completely forgiving him and even throwing a celebration for him (despite his transgressions).
The Parable of the lost son
"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
The older brother reveals his heart as he is angry with his fathers decision to quickly forgive the lost son (his brother). The older brother reveals he is more concerned about his own reward as he complains that his faithful obedience did not result in even a goat. Jesus parable is conveying that if our heart in serving the Father (God) is that we can be rewarded then we do it with the wrong motive. I personally have experienced this myself, as I was working hard to be obedient but when things didn't go well I was very hurt and resentful of God (I was very much the older brother). We need to guard our motives that our obedience is not a method to make God beholden to us. As a parent how would we feel if our children's obedience was simply to get their inheritance (reward) and not out of love and respect for us?
The other message I take is that our sense of fairness is not always Gods view. The brother clearly is hurt that despite the younger brothers transgressions that his reward will be the same as his. The father reminds the older son that his love for the younger son in no way diminishes his love for the older son. Finally, the story should remind us of the great passion and relentless pursuit that God has for us to return to him (we were all prodigal sons at one time). Blessings.
|Passage: Luke 14-16|
On Tuesday, November 8, 2011 (Last Updated on 11/8/2013), Yujin wrote,
Friends, there is so much to share in today's reading. First, we have the remarkable statement by Jesus in Luke 14:33,
Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
This sounds very much like Jesus' challenge to the rich young ruler, who was told to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and then follow Jesus. In that context, Jesus showed that the rich young man trusted in his riches more than Christ, and that only God could accomplish salvation for people.
In this context, Jesus is speaking about counting the cost of things. A builder has to make sure that he has enough money to finish building. A king has to make sure that his army is of sufficient strength to win a battle. So also, those who would follow Jesus would need to count the cost of doing so. Following Jesus would mean family antogonism and even death. Jesus had previously said that He would bring family division and strife:
Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Luke 12:51-53).
In Mark 12:12-13, we read,
Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.
This is why he says, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26). Following Jesus would mean ostracism from family, friends and community. In fact, some would even be put to death because of their faith in Jesus. Would the followers of Jesus remain faithful to Jesus in the face of such persecution?
We read in Luke 14:25 that "great multitudes went with Him." Jesus wanted these people to understand that following Him was not going to be an easy road. There was a cost. They could lose their friendships, their families, and even their lives. Therefore, he says, "Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33).
This is also why He said to His disciples earlier in Luke 9:23-26,
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.
While there is a general principle here for all followers of Christ, Jesus was giving His disciples a very picturesque perspective of what they would really face in their lives. Tradition says that all but one of the Twelve disciples were martyred. When you look at the experience of Peter and John and later Paul in the Book of Acts, there is little doubt that there lives were always on the line for their testimony about Jesus. In these early years for Christians, as well as the experience of Christians throughout the centuries, persecution seems to have been the norm.
Today, we hardly know anything of persecution, except for stories we hear in some parts of the world. Christianity has in some sense become accepted as one religion among many. And the lives of most Christians are not so radical so that anyone would take notice. The interests and ambitions, the struggles and failures, the goals and priorities of Christians seem not far removed from those of anyone else. In His day, Jesus stirred things up so much that anyone who wished to follow Him would certainly have to give up everything. But who needs to give up anything to follow Him today?
In Luke 15, there are three parables that convey a similar message. They are aptly titled, "The Parable of the Lost Sheep," "The Parable of the Lost Coin," and "The Parable of the Lost Son." In each case something is lost and then found. In each case there is great joy over the lost being found. In the first two cases, Jesus explains the meaning of the lost being found and the cause for joy. The lost being found represents a sinner who repents. The joy is over the sinner repenting. In the latter case, the father rejoices when his son returns. Even though no explanation is given for this one, it follows so closely on the heels of two similar parables before it, one could extend Jesus' explanation of the first two parables to this third in the series. The father rejoices over the repentance of the younger son. The elder son, who does not understand the great joy, is not disparaged, for the father says that he will inherit everything. He may be like the "ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance" in Luke 15:7. In these three parables, the emphasis is on the great value that God places on repentance.
Some emphasize the father's love, that is the love of God the Father; however, that is not the focus here, nor of these parables. God's love is certainly taught in the Scriptures; however, from this passage it is better to speak of God's joy over a sinner's repentance. The problem with trying to simply teach the Father's love here is that it neglects the equal truth of God's holiness, by which He condemns the sinner that does not repent. However, if we keep the emphasis where the parable keeps the emphasis, namely, on the repentance, then we have a right understanding of the love of God that is completely consistent with His holiness.
We have a wonderful parable about money and values in Luke 16:1-13. It is the Parable of the Unjust Steward. Jesus tells a story of how a certain rich man was intent on firing his wasteful steward. The steward then concocted a strategy to secure himself when he is fired. He goes about and uses his authority to reduce the contractual debt of all of his master's debtors. In this way, all his master's debtors would be gratefully in-debted to the steward and receive him into their homes (Luke 16:4).
Now, strangely the master "commended the unjust steward" (Luke 16:8). Shouldn't the master be angry, because the steward cheated him? We would think so, but we are told that the master commended him "because he had dealt shrewdly." Then, Jesus explains, "For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light" (Luke 16:8). We are to understand that what the steward did was in keeping with the way "of this world." In this world people lie, cheat, steal, and do whatever they need to do to get ahead. Likely, the master probably did the same things to get to the position he had. Some people call this "street smarts." I recently read a history of the great tycoons of America: Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and J.P. Morgan. What was fascinating was that each of these men had a pivotal moment, where they either cheated, lied, or stole to propel them to financial greatness. As a product of "this world," the steward was shrewd.
However, Jesus contrasts "the sons of this world," like the master and his steward, with "the sons of light" (Luke 16:9). Worldly people are shrewd "in their generation" (i.e. among their own kind); however, Jesus says that God's people are not as shrewd in their own right.
Jesus commands "the sons of light" to "make make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail (or perhaps, "when it fails"), they may receive you into an everlasting home." Just as the unjust steward found a way to use money ("unrighteous mammon") to gain good favor and welcome into the homes of the master's debtors, Jesus says that believers should use this same thing (i.e. money, "unrighteous mammon") in such a way that those who benefit will welcome them in heaven. What could this mean other than that Christians should use their money to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And those who believe and go to heaven will, in a sense, be gratefully indebted to those that spread the Gospel to them. These, then, are the "friends" who will "receive you into an everlasting home." Here, then, is one purpose for money for Christians. It is to be used to advance the Gospel message and to reach people for Christ.
As an aside, it is interesting that the term "unrighteous mammon" is used for money. It is called this in Luke 16:9,11,13. It is called "an abomination in the sight of God" in Luke 16:15. In other words, God does not have a high view of money. I liken God's view of money to our view of dung. It is not something to be handled, played with, or enjoyed, because it is dirty, stinky and tends to contaminate things. However, there is one good use. It can be used to fertilize soil to make things grow. Perhaps this is also how we should view money, not as something to enjoy, but as something to use to fertilize the kingdom of God.
And we are told that if we are faithful in using money, presumably to advance the Gospel, God will commit to us "true riches." But if we are unfaithful in using money, neither will He commit to us "true riches" (Luke 16:10-11). Money, then, becomes a kind of test of faithfulness for each one of us in this life. I pray that each and every one of us will be found faithful.
|Passage: Luke 14-16|
On Monday, November 8, 2010 (Last Updated on 11/8/2013), Yujin wrote,
Friends, do you feel the same sharp rebuke that I feel in the words of Jesus here:
But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:13-14).
We have so many receptions for our family, our friends and co-workers, but which of these is called "blessed" of God? Yet, we are told that we will receive eternal blessings if we will invite and serve those that cannot return the favor, "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind." How revolutionary our testimony would be if we were to practice this with any sort of consistency, not only in our church but also in our homes. Am I alone in my thinking here? Do I misunderstand the teaching? Was this meant only for Jesus' day and not our own? I would like to know who among you will join me in putting this into practice?
It is now exactly two years since I shared this post, and still I have not put this instruction into practice. I can only confess the still persisting darkness of my own heart and thank God for His grace.
It is not exactly three years since I shared this post, and still I have not put this instruction into practice. I think this reminder is simply a reminder of my depravity and my ever constant need for God's grace.