Biblical Foundations 21: God’s Character 9: Responses to Jesus 2
Without realizing it, many subconsciously think that the pastor who loves you is the pastor who tells you what you want to hear, what will make you smile. No…the pastor who loves you is the pastor who tells you what God has said—all of it—whether it makes you smile or not. Oh the beautiful burden of preaching. May the Holy Spirit help all pastors not to do surgery when all that is needed is a hug; and may the Holy Spirit help all pastors not to just give a pat on the back when amputation is needed to save the person’s life.
As we continue to look at the cornerstone of this church—knowing God’s character deeply as He has revealed Himself though the Bible (not by how we think God is or should be)–I must answer the following question as we live difficult lives, lives that seem to often or always be uphill, into the wind, and against the current:
Why wade into the deep waters of really knowing God—ALL of God as revealed in the Bible—even though some parts of God’s character might not be immediately encouraging/uplifting? Why not simply preach on what will almost certainly bring immediate comfort to those who suffer?
We talked last week about the difference between scuba-diving and beach-combing, that there is a knowing God that only comes in the deep, in diving into ALL of the Bible. Now I want to give another reason for going deep—the Parable of the soils: Matthew 13: 13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root… 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
This should humble us! Some people receive the Good News with joy–they are excited to attend church and uplifted by positive messages there, they apply some Bible principles to their lives to give them some success or improvement but they haven’t received Christ as their Savior, they don’t know the depths of their sin, they haven’t cried out to Him in repentance, they are introduced to the “little j” jesus of the culture not the Jesus Christ–Lord of lords–of Scripture. Their soil is shallow and they wither and die in the scorching heat of life, persecution, trials, etc. Oh may that not happen to any of us! I want you to survive and thrive with the Lord Jesus! But you cannot and will not do that if you only know portions of Him, if you only think of Jesus as a cute cuddly stuffed animal that you hug for nice feelings, if you only want Jesus to constantly make you feel good, if Jesus only keeps you just the way you are by only affirming you over and over again (i.e. if Jesus just fills you with self-esteem). I want your roots in Christ to grow deep and strong, and for that you must know Him as He has revealed Himself through His Word…ALL of His Word…This modern world specializes in putting a veneer of thin, fake cherry wood over particleboard—worthless wood shavings—and charging lots of money for it! It looks ok from a distance but is not real and gets warped and won’t last. But the Lord wants us to be OAKS of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of His splendor (Isaiah 61:3)—REAL WOOD, SOLID WOOD, THICK OAKS that can withstand the heat & hurricanes of this life because of thick trunks and deep roots. And for that we must know ALL of God, not just parts of Him.
- We MUST know that God loves us, but we must also understand the Bible’s definition of love is different than the culture’s.
- We MUST know that God loves us, but we must also understand that He HATES sin, not just that He is mildly irritated by our sin.
- We MUST know that God loves us, but we must also understand that He MUST humble us, that He will lead us into difficult seasons of suffering in order to refine us, in order to bring us closer to Him, in order to honor Himself.
- Loved ones, many people are in thin soil today when they think that God exists basically to bless them and make them happy and comfortable and fulfill their dreams—victorious living! This is thin soil that does not last, that cannot produce Christians that survive life’s storms, Christians who instead of getting more & more blessings from God are focused on carrying their cross and following Jesus—blessing GOD more & more! Thin soil produces growth, but only weeds, plants that choke the real crops of the garden; thin soil produces growth, but not growth that lasts, and Jesus often talks about the importance of “persevering to the end,” which shallow-soil church-attenders will not be able to do.
Thus, in the last post we began looking at the responses of those who physically saw Jesus, those who met the God of perfect love, perfect grace, perfect Truth—surprisingly, when face to face with Jesus, they:
- Said, “Get away from us (don’t torture us); send us away from You, Jesus!”;
- Said, “Leave us now (your Presence has already cost us much)”;
- Laughed at Him because they “knew better”/they relied on their knowledge over Jesus’ Word.
This post we will look at three more reactions to Jesus:
- They Did Not Welcome Him: Luke 9:51-53
- They Walked Away From Him Sadly: Mark 10:17-31
- They Sneered At Him (for pointing our their sins): Luke 16:13-15
Luke 9:51-53 (NIV)
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.
These Samaritans didn’t try to kill Jesus as others would try later in the Gospels; they merely didn’t welcome Him. Both have the same result—rejection of Jesus! You don’t have to explicitly hate Jesus to reject Him & forfeit His forgiveness; you can simply choose to politely and calmly not welcome Him…you can chase Him off your lawn with a shotgun or simply not answer the door when He knocks…both decisions lead to the same place.
But why didn’t they welcome Him, why did they send Him away when the God of love & grace was in their physical presence? “Because He was heading towards Jerusalem.” Let’s look at John 4 to understand this more clearly:
John 4:19-24 (NIV)
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.
[Jesus declared that He was right and that she—and all those who were like her—was wrong! Today many church-attenders would counsel Jesus to evangelize with a different method, to be more encouraging and loving! But Jesus declared in love that salvation comes in one way! He didn’t say worship however you want as long as you are genuine, as long as you really mean it, as long as you use the name of the LORD. He called her wrong! Something as personal as worship can still be wrong!]
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
[Not should worship…MUST worship in Spirit and in Truth. Not with genuineness and sincerity—Spirit and Truth! Jesus is saying that Truth is essential in worshipping God! Doctrine! Dogma! Not feeling, not experience, not goosebumps…both the Holy Spirit (which one can only receive through repentance and surrendering to Jesus as Savior and King!) and Truth are essential to worship God. Jesus doesn’t say, “It’s all right, we all worship the same God just with a different name”; He doesn’t say, “It’s no big deal just keep doing what you are doing, we’ve had a nice conversation and you are a pleasant and polite person.” Oh Father may we not worship only with a cold/clinical/surgical Truth but may we also not worship only with an emotion-focused/feelings-driven/signs&wonders-idolzing caricature of the Holy Spirit–may we worship You with both: Holy Spirit and Truth!]
Why didn’t the Samaritans welcome Jesus? He declared them wrong. By Jesus going to Jerusalem to His Father’s house Jesus was claiming that the Samaritans were foundationally wrong to worship the LORD at Shiloh. They didn’t like that Jesus called them wrong and so they didn’t welcome Him.
Well Jesus says all humans are wrong foundationally, dead in sin, rebellious and wicked and evil (Ephesians 2, Romans 3)…and so the vast majority of humans don’t welcome Jesus as well…that Jesus—the True Jesus! He declares all humans wrong & needing Him to save us. So we dont welcome Him…we don’t like THAT Jesus that claims to be the only true King over our lives!
Oh have you welcomed Him, loved ones? Have you surrendered to Him your life, your sins, even your “good” deeds, your dreams, your past, present and future? Have you cried out to Him not just for blessing but for rebirth, to make you new, not just to adapt you but to adopt you?
Let’s look now at another response to Jesus…
Mark 10:17-31 (NIV)
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him.
“Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.
[Jesus wasn’t saying here, as some claim, that He ISN’T God. But He was challenging the man’s assumption that Jesus was good simply because Jesus was popular, simply because Jesus was famous, simply because Jesus was “getting results” and had a large following. This rich young man may have done this to other popular teachers in his day. He was doing what even Christians do today: we’re quick to listen to someone—almost anyone!—and learn from them simply because they are successful, wealthy, attractive, famous, intelligent in a particular way, sell a lot of books, lead a large church, etc. We know Facebook memes and quotes more than we do our Bibles…if someone has a nice singing voice or is good at acting then we think they also have something valuable to say about the character of God, what it means to live well, etc…yikes!]
19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’[a]”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
[I’ve been keeping track, Teacher—I’m a good boy, aren’t I?! Look at my good deeds!!!]
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
[He went away…FROM JESUS, the perfect God of love & grace & Truth! WHY!? How could anyone walk away from Jesus…and walk away SAD, especially when Mark makes it clear that Jesus looked at him and LOVED him!!!???
For this young man, money was more important than following Jesus; Jesus knew this, of course, and directed His words at the young man to expose this idol. He will expose our idols as well. Oh that he would’ve stayed on his knees and repented of this idol, oh that he would’ve freely admitted that money WAS his god, oh that he would’ve asked Jesus to forgive and heal him of this idol…But he didn’t. He didn’t try to argue with Jesus/rationalize the young man’s sin—he knew that Jesus was right in His diagnosis! But he also didn’t try to keep his idol AND follow Jesus and pretend the idol didn’t matter—the young man rightly realized that that wouldn’t work as well. The young man didn’t confess and ask for forgiveness, didn’t ask Jesus to take away his sin, his idol. He simply took his idol and went away sad. He wanted Jesus to affirm him, wanted Jesus to say, “Well, young man, you’re not perfect but you have done a lot of good so far, you just need a few minor improvements. You’re not perfect, but you’re heart is in the right place. You rock, man! You’re fantastic just the way you are! Atta boy! Just keep doing what you’re doing and it will all work out in the end for you.” That isn’t what Jesus said, but that’s what the young man wanted Jesus to say, and that’s what many of us want Jesus to say to us today. But He won’t—He loves us too much to say that! He often confronts us with His character before He comforts us with His character…
I think this young man wanted to add Jesus to his collection of good deeds, earthly wealth, inner beliefs, etc. and remain the same, stay who he was, maintain his lifestyle, beliefs, reputation, etc. with Jesus as the cherry on top! And we want to do that as well, don’t we? We want God to love us but not to humble us and discipline us and change us…we want Christ to love us AND the culture to love us! We don’t like the idea that both eternal blessing & earthly suffering come w/following Jesus!
- “The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Spirit, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell” (William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, 1899).
This young man was shocked at the idea of NOT being comfortable in following Jesus, this young man wanted to follow Jesus on the young man’s terms; the young man was discouraged by the idea that receiving Jesus as Savior would cost the young man his idols. Not that we suffer first in order to earn salvation, but once we receive Jesus’ forgiveness suffering eventually comes in different ways. You just don’t see Christians in the New Testament staying the same in character after surrendering to Jesus, you don’t see their lives getting more comfortable! Look below at verse 30—persecutions are one of the rewards of following Jesus!!!!
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
It’s not that we need to get rid of all our idols before we can cry out to Jesus—like trying to shake wet hair off your hands we can’t get rid of our idols on our own! But we do need to repent of our sins, our idols, when we receive Jesus as our Savior…both pain in the night and joy in the morning! We are then forgiven and reborn and He will then transform us over time to worship ONLY Him, in Spirit and in Truth, as we follow Him. When we become Christians—and AFTER as well!—we are both comforted AND confronted by God.
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Let’s look at a third response to Jesus…
Luke 16:13-15 (NIV)
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
Why did they sneer at Jesus, look at Him like a bug? Jesus told parables that pointed out their sin, Jesus confronted them with His character even before He comforted them with His character. Don’t we do the same today, loved ones? When is the last time that Jesus confronted you with your general sin and your specific sins? Not to rub your noses in your sins but to forgive & cleanse your noses (and your souls!) from your sins! Remember that He disciplines those who are His children (Hebrews 12)…
As we close, let me ask you this:
Are you comforted & encouraged by John 3:16-17? I hope so!!! THE LOVE OF GOD! The character of God!
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Are you also confronted & convicted by the verses that come after? I hope so! THE LOVE OF GOD!!! The character of God! I don’t see many Facebook memes about verses 18-20 but they are also the love of God!!!
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.
All of these verses are the love of God, all of these verses reveal the character of God…This is the DEEP SOIL, loved ones, the deep soil of the Kingdom of God! May we cry out to Jesus to plant us deeply, and to keep us deeply planted in ALL of Him and ALL His Word—in His Cross and empty tomb!—so that we can display His splendor, so that we can become oaks of righteousness, so that we can survive and thrive in the heat and storms and persecutions of life with JOY, so that we can NOT respond to Him the way so many did by not welcoming Him, walking away from Him sadly, or sneering at Him…