Christ-Centered Living in a Me-Centered World (Luke 9:46-56)

(You may access this sermon here.  Preached on Sunday, May 17, 2009 at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY.)  

46 An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great."

49 John answered, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us." 50But Jesus said to him, "Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you."

51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56And they went on to another village.

John Stott one time preached that “Pride is your worst enemy; but humility is your best friend.” That phrase has always stuck in my mind. While we may look at our culture and the pride and arrogance that seems to mark so many, I can’t help but remember a sermon by Alistair Begg in which he announced to his congregation that he would preach next Sunday on the person who gave him the most problems. Turns out that person was himself.

There is no shortage of things in this world to be proud of, but in this passage of Scripture, we see that even those closest to Jesus struggled with pride. Think of it: we know the one true God, know the one True Savior, we have accesses by His Spirit to His Word, and He has given us His salvation. We can grow contented and even proud of those facts—well founded and grounded as they may be. We may be close to the Savior positionally (being citizens of the Kingdom), but the more we trust in ourselves to guide and move us along, the farther away we are from him.

1. Elitism (Luke 9:46-48).

46 An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great."

Hudson Taylor was scheduled to speak at a Large Presbyterian church in Melbourne, Australia. The moderator of the service introduced the missionary in eloquent and glowing terms. He told the large congregation all that Taylor had accomplished in China, and then presented him as "our illustrious guest." Taylor stood quietly for a moment, and then opened his message by saying, "Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master."

We fail to recognize the depth of our pride, especially when it becomes so much a part of who we are and how we operate. It can grow so deep that even those in the presence of Christ and His work can struggle with it without even realizing it. Sadly, we see it all too clearly in others.

In verse 46, Luke wrote about an argument that arose among them. They were arguing over their status. This here gives evidence of how deeply our depraved heart runs. Consider what had happened just previously. Through the Spirit, Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ. Jesus then laid down the requirements of following Him: “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” Then Peter, James, and John entered the glorious Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration. Then they, frustrated at their inability to heal the boy with the unclean spirit due to their lack of belief. Even Mark said they couldn’t do it without “fasting and prayer.”

Christ called them to humility, and even ordained various things to help facilitate their humility (denying self, taking up a cross, surrendering to Christ, seeing His glory, seeing their frailty to conduct ministry and life in their own power). Yet, the disciples would need more and more lessons—just as we do!

Could Peter, James, and John have been arguing over their greatness at seeing the transfiguration? Could the others have used that occasion to knock them off their pedestal?

Jesus brings over a small child, considered the most powerless individual in the Hebrew culture. Even the Talmud (the Jews’ spiritual instruction manual) called spending time with children a waste of time. We see this when people began bringing their children to Jesus how the disciples tried to run them away.

Children were considered lowly and powerless, but Jesus is saying, “If you receive the lowly and powerless in his name, receives him.” Sadly, many Christians have bought into the idea of getting to know the powerful and elite—the politicians, the Christian celebrities, getting autographs at Christian concerts, knowing famous ministers. Kent Hughes says,

Are we reaching out to and serving the poor, those who speak little English, international students, the mentally handicapped, ex-offenders, those struggling to leave their immorality behind? If all or nearly all our friends are the “great”—the well-of, the educated, the accomplished, the comfortable—we are not the men and women our Master wants us to be.[1]

2. Exclusivism (Luke 9:49-50).

49 John answered, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us." 50But Jesus said to him, "Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you."

Whereas one of Jesus’ disciples’ argument was over which of the disciples was greater individually, this is dealing directly with the entire body. This is where you circle the wagons as say, “You’re faithful if you’re a part of us!”

We must understand that in the passage just before, the disciples could not cast the demon out of the young man. The reason? Unbelief! They began relying on their own power, taking for granted that the power they had came from Christ.

Yet the disciples saw someone who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name—and was succeeding in that venture!—they tried to stop him. Why? “Because he does not follow with us!” He follows—but not with us. I believe that is the crucial mark of wrongheaded exclusivism.

Yes, “wrongheaded exclusivism.” Does that mean there is a ‘rightheaded’ type? Absolutely! And we must make sure we have the Word of God’s line and not our own.

For instance, some go after the church for being exclusive at all in saying that Christ is the only way to heaven. They say, “All religions are the same, and it’s intolerant of you to make such an exclusive statement.” For one, that is an exclusive, absolute statement. Any conviction is. Secondly, every religion has its tenets which make it very distinct. Even those who study various religions see that Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam are markedly different.

Some move the line and say, “Yes” to Jesus, but don’t like being exclusive regarding doctrines. One radio preacher a few years back (don’t know who) who felt led to state, “The unity of the faith is more important than doctrinal distinctives.” In fact, he had his radio audience repeat this over and over. Isn’t it interesting that we tend to cling to what Jesus did, and yet discard what he and his disciples taught?

Some move the line even further. Yes to Jesus, yes to the Scriptures’ teachings, but they start sounding like the disciples. Remember, this man was ministering in Jesus name. But what was the issue? Not that he was disobedient; not that he was preaching against Christ—the issue was “because he does not follow with us.”

How sad it is when Christians who love the Triune God, have embraced Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross for their sins, believe in the resurrection, hold to the record of God’s Word found in the Scriptures, believe in being saved by grace alone through faith alone, and have surrendered their all to Christ—yet external preferences separate them.

  • We cannot have elders at this church: it’s too Presbyterian;
  • We cannot celebrate the Lord’s Supper each Sunday: that’s too much like the Christian church;
  • We cannot have electronic or stringed instruments: that’s too much like the big mega-church in town;
  • We cannot use any version but ____________ : our version is more readable/accurate than theirs.

Do you see what happens? If we have Christ in our hearts, and rightly divide His Word and take pride in those things which are supposed to humble us, we will find ourselves circling the wagons. Sadly, this mindset masks itself as protecting the church. But we are to, as Jude 3 says, “Contend earnestly for the faith, once and for all delivered to the saints.” “The Faith”—the truth of Christ and the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. Extremism (Luke 9:51-56).

51When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. 52And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. 53But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. 54And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" 55But he turned and rebuked them. 56And they went on to another village.

This is a significant turning point in Jesus’ ministry. The days of him being taken up (that is, ascending back to the Father) are coming close. Notice, too, that twice in this passage it says that “he set his face toward Jerusalem.” Again, you must realize that when a phrase like this is repeated, it’s to gain our attention. He is to be taken up back to the Father, yes—but he must go through Jerusalem. Everything about Jesus’ life and ministry is leading up to this point.

I cannot help but think back earlier in Luke when old Simeon, described as a man who was “righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25). He was told that he would not die until He saw the Messiah. After his prophecy, he turned to Marry and said, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).

Even from the beginning, there would be opposition to Jesus. Those who were proud would be brought low, those who were humble before the Lord would be raised up. Even Christ would be brought low, so that he may rise up those who humble themselves before the Lord!

When the disciples were sent ahead to make preparations for him to stay the night, the Samaritans rejected him as well! Why? Remember the story of the woman at the well in John 4? There is an exchange between Jesus and the woman where the woman says to Jesus:

“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:19-22).

The Samaritans only recognized Genesis-Deuteronomy as inspired, and knew that Abraham and Jacob worshiped and offered sacrifices on Mount Gerazim—the equivalent to the Jerusalem for the Jews. So you can understand, among other reasons, why there was general resentment that Christ had to go to Jerusalem since that was determined as the legitimate place of worship!

How do we take it if people reject us? Are our feelings hurt? Do we ignore them and go on our way? Do we take it personally when they reject us? Are we like the Apostle Paul, where his heart was provoked by the great idolatry in Athens, leading him to share about the true and living God? Or are we to the point where we are ready for God to completely wipe out the enemies of the faith?

We can excuse all of these mindsets by putting a spiritual spin on them. If we ignore them, then we can quote this Scripture that God wants us to “be separate from them,” (2 Cor. 6:17). If we take it personally when they reject us, we can quote John 15:18: “If they hate you, keep in mind they hated me first,” says Jesus. Are our hearts provoked because we hate them, or are our hearts provoked because we want the mercy of God extended to them?

Years after the death of President Calvin Coolidge, this story came to light. In the early days of his presidency, Coolidge awoke one morning in his hotel room to find a cat burglar going through his pockets. Coolidge spoke up, asking the burglar not to take his watch chain because it contained an engraved charm he wanted to keep. Coolidge then engaged the thief in quiet conversation and discovered he was a college student who had no money to pay his hotel bill or buy a ticket back to campus. Coolidge counted $32 out of his wallet — which he had also persuaded the dazed young man to give back! — declared it to be a loan, and advised the young man to leave the way he had come so as to avoid the Secret Service! (Yes, the loan was paid back.)

Many of us would want justice and want it now! Do we as Christians forget the mercy that God extended to us?

Conclusion

Sinclair Ferguson in his book In Christ Alone, shares this remarkable account of a revival he experienced:

Many years ago, I witnessed revival in its most microcosmic form in a sudden, unexpected, and remarkable work of God’s Spirit on a friend. The work was so dramatic, the effect so radical, that news of it spread quickly to different parts of the country. People were asking, “Just what exactly happened?”

Five things seemed to have happened, and they were still fresh in the memory two and a half decades later:

  1. A painful exposure of the particular sin of unbelief occurred. Listening to preaching was a staple of my friend’s spiritual diet, but what came with overpowering force was a sense that God’s Word had actually been despised inwardly. God’s own Word, preaching in the power of the Spirit, stripped away the mask of inner pride and outward reputation for spirituality. There was a fearful exposure of sin.
  2. A powerful desire arose to be free from all sin. A new affection came, as if unbidden, into the heart. Indeed, a desire seemed to be given actually to have sin increasingly revealed and exposed in order that it might be confessed, pardoned, and cleansed. Disturbing though it was, there was a sweetness of grace in the pain.
  3. The love of Christ now seemed marvelous beyond measure. A love for Him flowed from a heart that could not get enough of Christ, ransacking Scripture to discover more and more about Him.
  4. A new love for God’s Word was born—for reading it, for hearing it expounded and applied, and especially for knowing every expression of God’s will, so that it might be obeyed.
  5. A compassionate love for others now flowed. It came from this double sense of sin and need on the one hand and grace and forgiveness on the other. Christian witness ceased to be a burden and became the expression of Spirit-wrought and powerful new affections.

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Luke, Vol. 1, 366.

Advertisements
Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Post navigation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: