By Simon ManchesterSunday 9 Nov 2014Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes
St Thomas’ Anglican Church
12 Week Series Based on the Book of Luke
“God’s Wide Plan” – What God Thinks Of You
We thank you our gracious God,though you are holy and we are not,that you speak to us and we pray that these next minutes,in thinking on your word you would speak to us,strengthen us,challenge and comfort us. We ask it in Jesus’ name,Amen.
On these Sunday mornings many of you know we’ve been walking down the road of Luke’s Gospel and we’ve been looking at the person of Jesus Christ,which is a very great privilege for us because when we look at the person Jesus Christ in the scriptures we see that he can see where the world has come off its hinges and he knows how to hang it back on its hinges. So he’s not just like the taxi driver or the barber or the talk back radio host who says insightful things every now and again but can’t do much about it,we actually see in the person of Jesus,someone who can see and do what needs to be done. And today the title is,”What God Thinks Of You” because Jesus completely rehangs the whole question of how you are to be assessed and he takes,for example,the ways in which people see you or the way you see yourself and totally changes it and sets forth his own estimate as being the key to how you ought to see yourself and the only way that really matters.
Now this is a very liberating thing if you run with it,because it sets you free from a huge amount of opinion and mistake. But it’s a very devastating thing if you run away from it,because you’ll always be on the search for some estimate of yourself will perhaps arrive for a minute but will never really last. So imagine there are some of you here today and you’re pretty weary and you’re pretty worn and you’re pretty sad,as the old hymn says and let’s imagine you are weary because you have been seeking to take Jesus Christ seriously and you live in a world that doesn’t take him seriously and the world celebrates the sort of things that you don’t think are that important and it fails to celebrate the one person who you think is most important. And so you are pressing on as a believer and yet it’s not easy to do so because you are in a context which is so foreign to your faith,to your grasp of the truth. And into that context,where you are dragging along,let’s say,Jesus as it were,looks at you and says,’Blessed are you who are poor,yours is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger,now you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep,now you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you,exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man,rejoice and leap for joy because great is your reward,that is how their fathers treated the faithful prophets. The reassessment,the reorientation by Jesus also has its flipside which is quite devastating if you walk away from Jesus’ estimate because think now of the person who doesn’t listen to Jesus Christ,doesn’t really care much about what Jesus Christ thinks or says and so they have had to reinvent what’s important and that’s almost always going to be illusive and deceptive,if not totally wrong. And imagine the sort of person who thinks that they have become a somebody,or at least they’re on the right track and they suddenly find the Lord Jesus looking at them and saying to them – Whoa to you who are rich,you have already received your comfort. That’s it. Whoa to you who are well fed,now you will go hungry. Whoa to you who laugh now,you’ll mourn and weep. Whoa to you when all men speak well of you,that’s how their fathers treated the false prophets. And as we read this,you see,we see that there is the plan of man,which if you follow it will lead you like a sailboat into shallower and shallower waters until it ends in tragedy or there is the plan of God,which revolves around the Lord Jesus and if you follow him,he’ll lead you into greater and greater blessings and ultimately into Heaven itself.
So that’s really the perspective as we come to our section today. It’s Chapter 6 of Luke,Verses 12-26 and I want to break it into two parts,Verses 12-19 we’re going to call “God’s chosen people” and then Verses 20-26 we’re going to call “God’s true values”,so just two points this morning,a brief morning.
First,”God’s chosen people”, Chapter 6,Verses 12-19. Jesus,verse 12,spends a night in prayer and verse 13,when the morning came he called his disciples and we don’t know whether there were hundreds or thousands and he chose 12,whom he designated apostles. Now I don’t know if you can appreciate what a gob-smacking this thing is to do in a Jewish context. Jesus is basically choosing a new Israel. He spends a night in prayer and then he chooses a brand new twelve. It is as if he steps in and says – we’re going to start again,I’m going to choose a brand new twelve,no longer will it be the twelve patriarchs,it’s going to be my twelve apostles. It is an astonishing thing.
Now last week we saw an astonishing thing and that was that Jesus stepped up and said – I’m the Lord of the Sabbath. Here are the Pharisees,the religious ‘one upmanship’ people moving around and making up their rules of what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath. Jesus totally disinterested,sweeps it all aside and he says – I’m the lord of the Sabbath,I made it,I created it,I own it. I’ll tell you what the Sabbath is for,says Jesus,it’s to help people get life,it’s not about silly little rules where people can feel superior or inferior,it’s about getting life. I’m the Lord of the Sabbath,says Jesus. It’s as if he says,I go right back to Genesis Chapter 1 and 2,- I’m the maker,I’m the King of the whole Sabbath. It’s an astonishing thing for Him to say. And now in the next section,6:12,he says – I’m turning my back on the whole religious establishment that has gone before me and after a night of prayer,I’m choosing another 12. Now can you think of anybody who would dare to do that? Can you think of anybody who would do that in the Old Testament? Imagine King David,great power,great might,great army; suddenly turning round and saying – I think I’ll have a new twelve? Impossible. If you think of the prophets Isaiah,Jeremiah,the great prophets saying – people of God are hopeless,let’s have a new twelve? Impossible,they never do it. Jesus steps in and does it. and you can’t miss the symbolism,can you,in Chapter 6,Verse 12,there’s a mountain,just as God gathered his people at a mountain,Mount Sinai,here was Jesus at another mountain,there’s twelve new apostles,just as God had gathered twelve tribes of Israel at Mount Sinai,Jesus now is choosing twelve men at this other mountain. And we’re going to see in a moment that instead of issuing ten commandments as Jesus did at Mount Sinai,Jesus is about to preach a sermon. He’s about to preach a sermon that’s got some blessings and some woes.
Now friends if you stepped onto the SCG and announced that cricket teams from now on were going to have five players in each; if you stepped up at a special celebration of Christmas and said – we’re disbanding the British commonwealth; if you stepped up at Australia day,January 26 and said – I want you all to know that before the aboriginals were in this country,I was here – you couldn’t speak anything that is more bold,radical,challenging,sounding absurd than what Jesus says here in Luke Chapter 12. he basically starts again.
And this twelve turned today into what is estimated,those who at least call themselves Christians,around the world at 2 billion. So Jesus has not just ‘talked the talk’,he’s ‘walked the walk’. He said – I’m going to start again,he chooses twelve,it’s not a vapour,the twelve expand and expand and spread round the globe.
Now what are we to make of the twelve he chooses? He spent a whole night in prayer. It’s the only time the new Testament tells us that Jesus spent a whole night in prayer and therefore it’s a very significant moment. He’s chosen these twelve men and yet we ready the list and mostly they are unknown to us and there is Judas right in the list. And so,we have to ask ourself whether Jesus chose well.
Well we know from the Old Testament that the twelve patriarchs were a very mixed and wayward bunch. Very ordinary. Capable of great foolishness as well as some faithfulness. The mark of the twelve apostles,if you ever do any work on these twelve names,(apostles meaning envoy or sent one),is not that they were very great,they were not super-faithful,they were not,as far as we can work out,super-gifted, they didn’t all of course become famous,some of them are completely unknown to us; but the mark of the twelve apostles is that they travelled with Jesus,they heard him,they saw him and they passed on the message of Jesus. That is,they were the twelve that Jesus chose for the relay,to run from him to the next people. And a significant percentage of course of the New Testament was recorded by these twelve apostles.
So what is the mark of these twelve names as you read them? The mark of them is that they are ordinary,very ordinary. Although they were faithful,but they basically were simple people with a great message about a great King. That’s the mark of the apostles.
John Frame says in one of his books – Jesus wrote no books,but he did appoint the apostles to speak for him and when the spirit cam e on them they were quite conscious that they were speaking God’s words,not their own.
And so,what Jesus does is he lights the fuse of the church. Twelve apostles who will be just as ordinary as you and me,but they will see him and they will hear him and they will speak to the next generation and they do so tat the next generation has ey witnesses who have spoken to them. And we have eye witnesses who have recorded for us. And that’s why our new Testament documents are so valuable,because they’re recorded for us by those who were really there. It’s not necessary to be an eye witness to be a believer,you can hear the gospel and believe,but it is necessary to have some people who were eye witnesses and Jesus chose twelve.
If we ask what Judas is doing,well Judas I think ought to make us tremble because he had huge privileges,which remind us that you can have huge privileges and not be saved,you can grow up in a Christian home,you can get baptised,confirmed,you can go to a Christian school,have books bought for you,go to conferences,join parish council,become a warden,become a clergyman,become and archbishop,all the privileges and never be converted. And nobody had privileges like Judas and yet his privileges did not bring the right response. So he ought to make us tremble. He also causes us,I think,to glorify God because Jesus chose him for a role and that role was to take a crucial part in the execution which would come,of Jesus. And somehow,without abusing Judas’ responsibility or opportunity to choose ‘left’ or ‘right’,Jesus chose Judas and Judas fulfilled the role. That,I think,reminds us that God is absolutely magnificent in his sovereignty. Without steamrolling a person he can plan their future and even in the case of Judas,set for us a warning that we ought to quickly respond to Jesus.
So the apostolic list in the new Testament,they all begin with peter and they all end with Judas,some of them may have had two names which is why there appeared to be some variations in the list,but don’t assume they’re contradiction,they may well be alternative names. The big lesson of these verses,12-19,is what? The big lesson is,Jesus is the authenticity of the church,because he chooses people from the very beginning right up until the present and on into the future the people he chooses,they respond. And the second thing this tells us is that Jesus is marked by massive grace because he chooses very ordinary people from the beginning right up until the present. And you and I,we’re ordinary followers of a very great king.
So that’s ‘God’s chosen people’,looking at the first twelve. Let’s look secondly at ‘God’s true values’. Now with the twelve apostles and many disciples around him,Jesus moves to a level place and he begins to describe the people that God esteems.
Some years ago a man called Tozer wrote a wonderful picture of Christians and,I’ve forgotten what the chapter is called,it’s something like ‘The Remarkable Christian’ and this is what Tozer wrote – The Christian believes that in Christ he has died,yet he’s more alive than before and he fully expects to live forever. He walks on earth,while seated in heaven and though born on earth,finds he’s not at home here. The Christian soon learns that if you would be safe,he puts himself in jeopardy,he loses his life to save it and he is in danger of losing it if he attempts to preserve it. he is strongest when he is weakest and weakest when he is strong. Though poor,he has the power to make others rich,but if he becomes rich his ability to enrich others vanishes. He has most after he has given most away and he has least when he possesses most. He may be and often is,highest when he feels lowest and most sinless when he feels most conscious of sin. He is wisest when he knows that he knows not and he knows least when he has acquired the greatest amount of knowledge. He fears God,but he is not afraid of him. In God’s presence he feels most overwhelmed and undone and yet there is nowhere he would rather be. He loves supremely,one who he has never see and though poor and lowly,he talks familiarly with one who is King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords and feels no incongruity in so doing. He cheerfully expects before long to enter the bright world above,but he is no hurry to leave this world and he is quite willing to await the summons of his Heavenly Father and he is unable to understand why the critical unbeliever should condemn him for all this,it seems so natural and right that he sees nothing inconsistent about it at all.
Now it’s clever,isn’t it? The chapter is actually much longer than that but I just pulled out some of the good lines. Now clever as that is,it is not as shocking as what Jesus says in 6:20-26,because Jesus gives four descriptions of the blessed person,which reverse everything this world thinks is blessed. And Jesus gives four warnings to the successful person,which makes no sense to the secular mind. This is probably Luke’s version of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’,it’s commonly called the ‘Sermon on the Plain’,it’s only thirty verses,not 111 like in Matthew 5-7 and therefore there is a lot that is not present in these 30 verses and there’s a few things that are not in Matthew’s version. It’s almost certainly another sermon which Jesus preached on another occasion in another place,concentrating,as you see in 6:20,mostly on his disciples.
What I would love to happen is somehow,I don’t think I’m capable of doing this,but I would just love it today if we would hear fresh what Jesus says in these verses. I’ve tried my best to think – what does this mean,so that every follower of Jesus would be comforted by this and every non-follower would be helpfully frightened,I’d love it if that took place. I’d love it if believers were comforted and non-followers were frightened.
What does Jesus say,verse 20 – blessed. What does blessed mean? It means,favoured by God. it’s a categorical statement,it’s like a minister at the front of the church here saying to a man and a woman – you’re now husband and wife. Yes,you are. it doesn’t matter whether you feel it or not,you’re husband and wife. You’ve made your promises,you’ve joined hands,you’ve exchanged rings,you’ve done it in a public way,you’re husband and wife – categorically so. And to be blessed by God means that God declares you ‘chosen’ and ‘favoured’. Chosen forever,favoured forever. There is nothing like having God says this to you through the scriptures.
I don’t know if you remember what it was like at school when you stood around waiting for two captains to choose their teams and hoping that you would get chosen? And that very happy moment where one of the captains looks at you and points to you and says – “you”. I can’t personally remember it myself,but you know,it’s the sort of dream that we all have isn’t it,that someone would point and say – ‘you’. Or the teacher stepping in and saying – I’m going to read the list of the people who passed the exam. And you just think,I hope like crazy I’m on this list. Now multiply that by a billion and imagine the God of the universe looking at you and through the pages of the new testament saying to you – “You,you’re in my team. You’re blessed,you’re chosen,you’re favoured. By the grace which I give to you,by the work of Jesus,you’ve passed,forever” what a thing to be said. And this is the way God describes his team,people who are poor,hungry,sad and excluded. That is the team of God,poor,hungry,sad and excluded. What is Jesus talking about? Well let me tell you what he’s NOT talking about. He’s not speaking literally. He’s NOT literally walking through the world looking for people who’ve got a very small bank balance,who are hungry,who are crying,who are excluded and nobody wants them. If you turn these words into physical categories you miss the point and you make no sense whatsoever. Let me prove that you. If financial poverty is the way to enter the Kingdom,would you not give your money away today? I would. If I knew that I could have a place in God’s Kingdom today and forever I would give away my money,it would be cheap at the price,wouldn’t it? but that’s not what Jesus is talking about. Nor does he want people deeply to be hungry and sad and hated,that would be a heartless way to want the world to run. NO,you’ve got to get the point. What is Jesus saying? He’s saying,if you’re blessed,listen carefully to this,you have no answer but God. you have no answer to your problems but God. you have nowhere to go,but God. you’re like the dove that Noah let out of the ark,remember? And it flew around and because the flood waters were still high,there was nowhere for the dove to land. And so it had to go back to the ark. And that’s a wonderful position to be in. you’ve worked out that there is nowhere where you can settle,nowhere that will be your foundation,that will establish you,that will look after you,that will be your refuge and so you have run to God. That,says Jesus,is the blessed person.
Friends,I want to ask you,whether God has worked in your world so that you have come to the conclusion you must run to God and belong to him and find your refuge in him and your strength in him. Have you worked out that your savings cannot save you and they cannot satisfy you? I hope you have. Have you worked out that your cupboards and all your resources cannot save you or satisfy you? Have you worked out that your own spirit inside you cannot save you,cannot satisfy you? Have you worked out that your social networks cannot save you and cannot satisfy you? I hope you have. I hope God has so worked that he has undermined all of those things and so you have said to yourself – I must personally run to Jesus,he’s the only foundation in the universe,he’s the only security,he’s the only saviour.
Well if you’ve been compelled to go to God,Jesus says,you’re the blessed one,you’re the blessed one. You’ve worked out what this universe is all about. You will not find your solution,your security,your future in the creation. You must go to God. and if this morning there are people here and you’ve decided that you’ll abandon all your escapes and you’ll come back like the prodigal son,through Jesus and the door which is open,through the cross and you’ll come back to God,you are a blessed,blessed person. Jesus,you see,is using familiar categories of emptiness,poor,hungry,sad,excluded,to teach a great spiritual emptiness. And friends if God brings you to the point of knowing that you are spiritually empty,that’s a plus. He’s done a really great thing for you and if the next step is that you go to Jesus Christ,you’ll find yourself immeasurably blessed and filled.
Now the flipside of this of course is in 6:24 with the woes,because this is a person who has up their sleeve an alternative to God. They’re so clever,they’re so good at business,they’re so famous,they’re so popular,they’re so pretty. They may believe in God,but they’re not driven to God. They’ve got options,they’ve got riches,they’ve got resources,they’ve got food,they’ve got laughter,they’ve got social networks,in fact they’ve got so many options it looks as though they have got the best of both worlds because they’ve got this world and they’ve got God waiting for them as well. And Jesus says,you haven’t. if you have transferred your trust and your confidence and your security and your priority to this world,that’s what you’ve got,says Jesus,you’ve just got the world. So enjoy it,because it’s going to run out.
I remember one of the chaplains at Shore School some years ago said to the boys,when he was challenging them to repent and turn to Jesus and he said to them – you boys are not turning to Jesus because you want to have sex with your girlfriends,he says, I hope the sex is fantastic,it better be great,because that’s it,you’ve lost your soul,so it better be good!
You see,what Jesus is saying here,he is afraid for the person who’s got options aside from God.
One writer has put it like this – the tragedy that Jesus described is not that you’re doomed to immediate disappointment,but that you’re not doomed to immediate disappointment. He goes on to say that the disaster is not that you miss great achievements,but that you reach great achievements,that ‘s the disaster. Because if you do and you find them to be sufficient,secure,your refuge,your God,your goal,your treasure,whoa to you,whoa to you.
The hundred most influential people in the Sydney Magazine this week,no doubt all of them doing very well. I am slightly bitter because I wasn’t there and you may also feel that you missed out as well! My question is,firstly does the Sydney Morning Herald ever get anything right? (laughter) And would it be able to work out for one second who are the most influential people in Australia? Probably not. But my second question is,do any of the people in the list of the hundred in the Sydney Magazine this week,do they,any of them,take seriously the most influential person the world has ever seen? Because the most influential person the world has ever seen – Jesus Christ,says if you think you’ve made it with your achievement,whoa to you! Whoa to you! And I wonder whether the person who doesn’t listen to Jesus Christ is in any position to work out if their achievement is quick sand and vanity and mist and vapour and is going to utterly fail them? And I wonder if anybody who fails to listen to Jesus Christ has any hope of flying to God unless God teaches them the truth.
Now there are very great dangers with physical things and we of course in North Sydney we are surrounded by physical things and the greatest danger of physical things is that they can completely inoculate us to spiritual internal things and so you can be the sort of person who is familiar with God,you understand the truths of God,you just don’t know him. Or you can be the sort of person,you’re timetable has been affected since you’ve started coming to church on Sundays at 10am,yes your timetable has now been affected,but your heart has not been affected and the question you have to ask yourself in the face of the blessings and whoa’s’ of Luke chapter 6,is – has God kindly brought you to the place of abandoning your confidence in anything but Jesus? If he’s done that for you,blessed are you,blessed are you. Whoa to you if you’ve got an alternative to Jesus,blessed are you if you know there is no alternative for your salvation and your security and your future,but Jesus.