God's Wide Plan - Law and Liberty - Hope 103.2

God’s Wide Plan – Law and Liberty

By Simon ManchesterSunday 2 Nov 2014Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


St Thomas’ Anglican Church
North Sydney

12 Week Series
God’s Wide Plan – Law & Liberty

Based on the Book of Luke
Luke 5:33 – 6:11

We thank you our Father for giving us this opportunity to pause and to hear the scriptures and we pray that you would unblock our ears so that we would hear and that you would unblock our wills so that they would obey and that you would unblock our praise so that we would rejoice and glorify You.  We ask it in Jesus’ name,Amen.

We are coming back to the Gospel of Luke this morning and we are in Chapter 5 and the section this morning is long,it is 20 verses and it’s very much about being liberated,or enjoying God; finding the Christian life happier than you thought,finding the Christian life not to be boxed up with a straight jacket of rules,but finding the Christian life to be set free with a great deal of happiness.  There is plenty in life to make you sad and there’s plenty even in following the Lord Jesus which is difficult,so to imagine that he’s called us to be more miserable is absolutely tragic and a total mistake.  Many of you know that in the 1980’s I worked with a great Christian leader for 3 years in the UK,called Dick Lucas and he taught me many things.   But he also modelled many things.  He modelled for me that the Christian life was the most sensible and the most reasonable – Christian life was the most reasonable life. He also modelled a profound happiness in being a Christian and I will give you one illustration of this. When he turned 80 they told stories at his 80th birthday celebration and one man told how Dick Lucas had visited their family and he had,after a while,left the adults and gone and started playing with games in the back garden with the kids,cricket or something and when he had gone the daughter of this family said – I hope that man will come back again because we really liked him.  And the father said – you know that he is a vicar; you know that he is a clergyman,to which the daughter replied,in her English accent – a vicar?  We didn’t even think he was a Christian. (Laughter)  I think that is a fantastic impact to make on children,you see he had not been un-Christian,he had been better than Christian.  Whatever dull views of a Christian they had conceived along came somebody who changed their perception entirely.  If you multiply that story by one hundred times you may get a glimpse of what it must have been like to have the Lord Jesus come round to your house in the first century.  To have Him come so free,so happy,so kind,so normal – and what it will be like to be with the Lord Jesus one day.

Now I don’t want you therefore to look to me for the balanced Christian life,I feel as though I am just beginning to learn about the Christian life and we certainly should not be looking to the 21st Century Pharisees or legalists to help us understand the Christian life,they just make you want to run away.  But what I want to ask you to do is to look with me at Jesus in Luke’s Gospel,Chapter 5 from Verse 33 (and it’s on page 1020).  We’re going to look at it under two headings – “The Lord of Liberty” and then,”The Lord who Liberates”.  And you know there was an old preacher called Martin Lloyd Jones and he always used to say a funny thing,he’d say – what I’m going to talk to you about this morning is the most important thing I could ever talk to you about.  And he’d say it every sermon until you almost didn’t know whether to believe it or not.  But I want to say that there is a sense in what we’re looking at today is the most important thing that I could possibly say to you – “The Lord of liberty”,chapter 5,verse 33.  The context is that Jesus is in somebody’s house,he’s just called a guy called Levi,a tax collector,to be one of his disciples,he’s now at Levi’s house,he’s surrounded in the house by ungodly people,they’re everywhere and the Pharisees are there for some reason,these religious,self righteous people and they’re criticising Jesus for his company. They’re missing the point that Jesus came for the ungodly and actually it’s usually the ungodly who appreciate and have humility for Jesus,they know they need him.  So the Pharisees,unfortunately,were ungodly people who refused to admit they were ungodly,criticising Jesus for mixing with ungodly people who had the humility to admit they were ungodly.  And here they are criticising Jesus for something which he doesn’t do this occasion and that is,verse 33,he and his disciples don’t fast,they don’t go without food for special religious activity and they’re basically saying – why don’t you make your disciples fast,come on they ought to be serious,they ought to be ‘sober’.   And a major reason why the Pharisees thought like this is because their rules,their piety,their sense of superiority was the framework or the platform on which they tried to reach God,they didn’t have grace to stand,grace which is the firm foundation,no,they wanted to stand on their rules.  And because Jesus was ignoring their rules and was rejecting their rules it was,for them,deeply threatening.

It’s a little bit like if you can imagine somebody at work grovelling to their boss and assuming that by grovelling,grovelling,grovelling they’ve become the favourite employee and then they bump into somebody who treats the boss very casually,very relaxedly,no grovelling,and the boss loves the employee and the employee loves the boss and they get on great and you feel as though your whole system of grovelling has been a waste of time because it just hasn’t done the job that it was meant to do and it’s very frustrating for you and that’s how it is for the Pharisees.

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Now when it comes to the subject of fasting the Old Testament only commanded fasting one day a year,it was on the Day of Atonement,they day of the big sacrifice.  Others in the Old Testament might fast because they were grieving or they were extremely repentant,but basically you were only commanded to fast once.  The Pharisees unfortunately had started to fast twice a week.  This had made them extremely proud and brought them no spiritual benefit.  Jesus answers their criticism,their question with a staggering comment in verse 34 which is – how can you expect fasting when the bridegroom has arrived?  This is not just a piece of logic,if you’ve ever been to a wedding you will know that it’s almost impossible to get people at a wedding to be serious and to be sober and to stand there and resist all the food and all the drink,it’s just an impossibility really,but this is a claim of Jesus to deity.  Old Testament Isaiah Chapter 54 – your maker is your husband,says the Lord.  Isaiah 62 – as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,so will your God rejoice over you.  In other words,God says in the Old Testament,I am the bridegroom of my people.  Jesus says in Luke 5,I’m the bridegroom of my people.  It is the clearest claim of Jesus,to be God,come for his people,time to rejoice,how can you therefore,says Jesus,fast?  And I love the way Jesus gives absolutely no regulation on the subject of fasting in the New Testament.  He basically says,it’s a ridiculous thing to do if you are rejoicing,you might do it,he says,when I get taken away,but is it helpful,well do it;  is it not helpful,well don’t do it,it is completely up to you,you are as free as a bird on the subject.  Other people may come in and tell you there is a rule about this,Jesus says,there is no rule about this.  You do exactly what is helpful.

And that’s why he introduces,in verse 36,this double parable.  You can’t stick,says Jesus,a new patch on an old garment; you can’t put new wine into an old wineskin. Now these are fascinating illustrations.  Somebody thanked me after the early service for a vigorous piece of mental gymnastics (laughter),and so I warn you this morning you are going to have to think,if you’ve come for a sleep,you’ll miss everything; that may not be a bad think,but for those of you who work for the next few minutes,I think it’s beneficial.  Fascinating illustrations don’t stick a new patch on an old garment; don’t stick new wine into old wineskins.  What is Jesus talking about?  I have assumed all my life that Jesus is like the new patch and Jesus is like the new wine,he’s basically the new person,it’s as if Jesus is saying – look I want you to forget about the old rules,I want you to forget about all the old stuff,I’m here,I’m dynamic,I’m powerful,I won’t fit in with your system and there are lots of commentators which assume this.  Part of my thinking for thinking this way has also been that I guess when I read that something is new I assume it’s better and I assume that old is inferior,but now that I am becoming old I’m actually finding old to be quite wonderful really and quite superior,quite sexy really in a way (laughter).  So I’m not going to fall for that trap quite so quickly.  I’ve also assumed that these parables teach therefore that Jesus is the new patch and he can’t be stuck on old religion and Jesus is the new wine and he can’t be pushed into old structures.  And therefore you see,he’s come on the scene,he’s the new patch,he’s the new wine.  Now if you take that view,what is Jesus saying?  What Jesus is saying is,- you can’t box me into your traditions,you cannot box me into your traditions,I’m too dynamic for that.  And I think there is some moderate importance of that point,that is a moderately important point.  You can’t box Jesus into traditions.  But I am going to suggest a completely different view and I want to ask you to think about this.  What if the Pharisees are the new patch and the new wine and their rules and their regulations have turned up trying to improve,but are actually wrecking everything? What if the Pharisees are introducing rules and regulations which are wrecking and bursting and splitting and spoiling and not actually helping?  Those of you who’ve been in churches for long enough will know that in the history of the church it’s almost always been people who’ve brought additions into the church who’ve split the church.  When a Christian leader stands up and says,I want to subtract something from the creed,I no longer believe in the resurrection,perversely,paradoxically,it has a good effect on the church.  Suddenly the church rallies and says,this is ridiculous,we’re going to go back and check the foundations of the faith,we’re going to go and do our homework on the resurrection and they resurface stronger and clearer than ever.  It,in a way,unites the church.  But when a person introduces an addition,a rule,it splits the church,because some people say,I’ve got to keep it,some people say,you don’t have to keep it; you have the superiors and inferiors and the A’s and B’s.  And therefore it’s perfectly possibly,you see,that it is the Pharisees who are new and I want to give you some reasons why I think this is probably more likely and is a bigger issue for us to deal with. 

1.    I think it is clear that Jesus is not doing a new thing; he is not doing a new thing.  If you’ve read Luke 1,2,3,4 and 5 you know that Jesus goes back historically into the Old Testament,in fact the genealogy goes back to God.  All the scriptures of the Old Testament have been looking forward to him coming and Simeon and Anna people like that in the early chapters have been wafting a long time.  Jesus is not new,he’s long awaited.

2.    It’s the Pharisees who’ve introduced new things that don’t fit.  Like a new patch on an old coat,or new wine in old wine skins.  It’s their new rules which have become very destructive and divisive.

3.    The person who put a new patch on an old coat,or stick new wine into old wineskins Jesus is suggesting is a fool.  Who,says Jesus,puts a new patch on old coat,or new wine into old wineskins?  No one,says Jesus,does that.  So we must be very careful that we don’t make Jesus the one who does something ridiculous.  No,it’s the Pharisees who are doing something ridiculous.

4.    Notice the sentence in verse 39,people who’ve drunk the old wine say the old wine is better.  Now because I don’t know anything about wine at all,absolutely nothing about wine,I rang up the Australian Wine Emporium and spoke to Rob who was staggered to hear from me (laughter) and told him I had to speak on Luke 5:39,which totally bewildered him and that it said something about old wine being better and I said,is that true?  And I have it on the authority of the Australian Wine Emporium that it’s not totally true that new wine can be better than old wine,but it is generally true.  It is a well worn principle that old wine is more precious is more valuable and may even be considered to be better.  So when somebody says in 5:39,the old wine is better,they may not be perverse people who are just saying,oh,we only like old things,we only like old things,don’t talk to us about new things.  No,they may be discerning people.  They may be saying,we know the old,we’ve now heard the new,we’re not fooled by the new,the old is better

5.    and the fifth reason I suggest this new stuff may be more sinister is that the big battle that Jesus had and the battle that we have again and again is not fighting traditionalism,people who say I don’t want to hear anything new,I don’t want to sing anything new,I don’t want to do anything new,that’s a reasonable problem,but the more sinister problem is the legalism that creeps into the church and divides,bringing in rules that just do not apply.

Now with that principle behind,Jesus the Lord of Liberty,who sees through new rules that are rubbish,he will not himself be boxed in by them,he does not want anybody boxed in by them,you can see that as we come to chapter 6 we’re going to get two illustrations of something on the Sabbath where Jesus is going to see right through the new rubbish,clear it away and go back to what is really wonderful and liberating and the plan of God from the beginning.  That’s the first,the Lord of Liberty.

The second,the Lord who liberates.  Do you see where we’ve gone so far?  Pharisees have said,hey why don’t you keep our rules.  Jesus says,the new rules that you introduce are destructive.

I do want to quickly say to you that I think it is also true that Jesus brings a new life which old structures don’t provide.  But I don’t think that the Pharisees’ big issue is that they are just ‘fuddy duds’.  I think the problem with the Pharisees is that they are more sinister.  And in a nutshell I want to say this to you this morning,especially if you are a new person.  If you want to find out what Christianity is all about,your really going to have to pick up the original document and I say this to you if you’ve been a Christian for a long time,you’re going to have to regularly pick up the documents of the scriptures in order to be seeing what God’s plan is really all about and without the Word of God you’ll be an absolute sucker for danger.  Let me put this more strongly.  I keep bumping to people in the church and I say to them,are you reading your Bible?  Not because it’s a law,but because it’s the way to grow.  Again and again,what do people say to me?  No,I’m not reading my Bible,I’m sort of embarrassed that you’ve come and asked me,you know I was afraid that you would ever come up to me and now you’ve come up to me and you’ve asked me and I wish you hadn’t come up to me and I wish you hadn’t asked me.  And what these people are experiencing is that they’re not getting the truth of God as part of their diet. And they’re not getting,therefore,the promises of God and therefore they’re not getting the discernment of God and therefore they’re not getting the freedom of God and therefore they’re not getting the joy of God.  No,they are regularly suckers for lies,half truths,lack of assurance,meandering along.  And Jesus teaches here,by example and also perhaps by instruction that we’ve got to be people who get to the heart of what the bible says if we’re really to see through the rubbish which comes at us on a regular basis,all the time.

So there are two Sabbath stories and they flow directly out of chapter 5,in other words,get rid of the rubbish if you want to find the reality.  The number one story is in the fields,Chapter 6,1-5,disciples are picking grain as they walked,exactly as the Old Testament law said.  Old Testament law said,you can walk through fields and you can pick grain as long as you don’t carry a sack to put the grain in and you don’t carry an implement for collecting.  No,the disciples are now walking through the fields and they’re picking the grain and for some strange reason the Pharisees are watching them,very weird isn’t it,in the fields.  And they have introduced a new rule,the Pharisees,which is that if you pick grain it’s now to be called harvesting,totally wrecks the Sabbath.  And therefore they ask the question,why are your disciples breaking our rule and picking grain,which is harvesting? Jesus does a very interesting thing.  He asks them a question.  He asks them a question from their bibles. He asks them the question which goes like this – do you know the story of King David?  Surely you’ve heard of King David?  Do you know the story of King David,that there was a time,said Jesus,where he and his men were hungry and so he went to the tabernacle,he went to the special tent of meeting and he took the bread from the tabernacle,which is not lawful for anybody to take except the high priest and his helpers.  Now why does Jesus ask them if they know that story?  It’s not as though it was a Sabbath issue,it’s not as though David was doing that on the Sabbath.  No,Jesus wants them to know David was God’s chosen and David had the ability to see through a rule.  David knew the rule was,the bread’s only for the high priests and the family but David knew that what was more important and more important to God is that he and his men would live and so David used his authority to make sure they got the bread to live.  And Jesus says – and the Son of Man,me,says Jesus,is Lord of the Sabbath.  Now what does he mean?  Well he means,you Pharisees should be learning from your Old testament that David got to the heart of the will of God because he knows,or knew,that people must live and I and the Son of Man,you Pharisees should have worked that out by now and I know what is most important and that is that people should live.  Do I need to tell you this morning that Jesus is so serious about this that he would go eventually to the cross and die in order that people would live eternally?  It really is what he wants.

Second story,in the synagogue,Chapter 6:6-11,he’s teaching,there’s a man there with a withered hand,this could be a trap or a plant and again the Pharisees are watching,they’re always watching him.  Was there an Old Testament law that said you couldn’t heal on the Sabbath?  No,of course not,that would be ridiculous,imagine making a law – you can’t heal on the Sabbath,God is the God who heals,you can’t make laws about what god can and cannot do.  But the Pharisees had made a law which was a rule that you could act on the Sabbath only if it was life threatening. This is obviously not a life threatening situation and so they’re watching Jesus to see if he will break their rule.  Jesus is not subject to their rule,he’s not interested in their rule he wants to know whether this man can live and rejoice.  He is not a minimalist so he take the initiative and he again asks the question in Chapter 6,Verse 9 – can I do good,can I save,I’m not interested in whether I have to sit around and wait for something to be life threatening,I’m asking you can I do good,can I save somebody?  Obvious answer,yes I can do good,I can save,more wonderfully then you would ever believe.  So he speaks to the man in the synagogue and the man in the synagogue is healed.  And the Pharisees are crazy with anger,literally they are mad.  And Matthew and mark tell us that they went out and the plotted how they might kill Jesus.  Why?  Well because they’re only interested in their rules.  Jesus is interested in the person.  All of scripture is designed so that a man or a woman might be set free.  It’s not set there so that you might obey it and be tied up in a straight jacket,it’s there that you might be set free.

And I therefore say to you friends,as we come toward the end this morning,that if you want to work out what God wants for you,if you want to work out what his delight for you read the scriptures and trace the plan of God,trace the plan of God back through the scriptures and you will discover that there is someone at the background who loves you what wants your freedom,your welfare,your life eternal,who’s even sent his son the Lord Jesus to die on the cross to make that possible.  If your Christian life is not joyful,if your relationship is not treasured,I’m not asking whether you’re going through a difficult time,but do you find yourself not really enjoying God?  And that’s very possible.  It could be because you’ve never come to know him personally and therefore you must ask somebody to him you to know him,because when you know him and you know how wonderful he is you will rejoice.  It could be that sin has stolen your joy and therefore you’re a bit uncomfortable about approaching him,but you must go to him quickly because he forgives and restores.  Or it could be that some man made rule has entered into your brain and your life and is ruining everything for you.  You know this kind of thinking.  If I do this,he’ll love me,oh but I haven’t been doing it,so he doesn’t love me.  If I don’t do this,he’ll love me,oh but I have done it,so he doesn’t love me.  Well you need to go back and see what the scripture says,because the scripture says because Jesus lived,died and rose and you’ve put your trust in him,he steadfastly loves you.
So easy isn’t it to be tricked by a trap and to be wrecked by a rule?  Jesus famous words in John 10,- I’ve come that you might have life and have it to the full – that’s what I want for you,next verse – I’m the good shepherd,I laid down my life for the sheep.  What is Jesus come into the world to do?  To die for you.  What does he want for you?  He wants you to live for him.

Luke Chapter 5 tells us Jesus is wonderfully,wonderfully free.  If he was here in person this morning,in body and he was down at the morning tea he would be the most normal,delightful,happy,loving,wonderful company,person we have ever met.  And in Chapter 6,he delights to free people.  Two examples given to us in Luke 6 on the Sabbath.

Friends,is anything stopping you from enjoying fellowship with God?  If there is anything,it’s a trick.  Jesus came to get rid of those tricks

Let’s pray.  Our Heavenly Father we thank you this morning that way beyond what we deserve and way beyond what many of us can really grasp,that you are a God of steadfast love,of kindness as well as holiness,of good will as well as greatness.  And we thank you for the Lord Jesus who came into the world so lovingly,lived so freely,cared so deeply,died so wonderfully and we pray that walking with Him,you would help us to see through the tricks and the traps and that you would enable us,by your truth,by your spirit to rejoice and to be free and to live in a way that honours you,which blesses others,and deeply satisfies.  And we ask it in Jesus’ Name. Amen.