Sermon February 09, 2020 The Truth About Hell

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Who’s your One – part 4

Luke 16:19-31

The doctrine of hell seems to be outmoded in these days, we don’t like to talk about it, and contrary to a few decades ago where it was preached regularly and taught clearly, today it seems to be viewed as old fashioned and irrelevant. Part of the problem I believe, is that in the past few decades the evangelical world has focused so much on the love of God, which is a primary characteristic of His nature, that we find tension when we wish to discuss the judgment of God and eternal consequence for sin.

But the doctrine of eternal punishment is clearly taught in scripture. In fact, Jesus spoke three times more about Hell than he did about Heaven.

The descriptions that Jesus uses for Hell involve fire and a place of torment. In Mark 9:48, Jesus calls it a fire that is not quenched. Revelation 20:15 calls Hell a lake of fire. Some argue that the term “fire” may be symbolic, and even if we say that then it must represent something that is worse than we can possibly imagine.

If we try to take the lake of fire and the fiery furnace as symbolic, we must be confronted with the terrible thought that these symbols are not overstatements, but rather understatements of a reality that we would otherwise not be able to grasp.

Jesus also taught that Hell is a place of conscious torment in Luke 16, and in Matthew 22:13 he said it is a place of outer darkness. Not only is hell eternal it is also conscious, all the images that we read of hell in the Bible point to the fact that it is going to be an experiential eternity. Experiencing of the wrath of God, it is the reality of our sins before an infinitely holy God.

But the wonderful news that we have today is that Hell is escapable. No-one has to spend eternity in torment, anyone can be saved. Jesus took our punishment on the cross and as a result, those who place their trust in him as their personal Lord and savior will escape the fire of hell.

When Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane and asked that the cup be taken from him in Matthew 26:39, he was not simply asking for the occasion to be taken away, he was looking to the prophetic revelation John received in Revelation 14 describing the punishment of those who worshipped the beast in the last days. Jesus experienced the cup of God’s wrath. The Beloved Son became sin for us and experienced the full amount of the wrath of God, as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Jesus took the full punishment of the wrath of God, Jesus the eternal son of God, always in the presence of God, was separated from God as God had to turn away from him when he took on the sins of the world. That is the suffering of Jesus on the cross, the physical pain was real but the cup of the wrath of God was infinitely more painful and excruciating.

The future judgment of unbelievers will not only be final and irreversible, it will also be eternal. Based on Scripture, we must reject the doctrine of universalism, which is so prevalent today, which says that all people will eventually be saved.

It is important to note that God does not send anyone to hell (1 Peter 3:9). It is not God’s choice to have man spend eternity in hell, but the sin choices of the individual sends them there. As C.S. Lewis wrote; “The doors of hell are locked from the inside.” Ever since Adam and Eve sinned and rebelled against God mankind has been saying to God; “go away and leave me alone” Hell is God’s way of granting that wish.

Hell is not an easy subject to talk about, but we must, it is imperative that we are provoked to share the wonderful message of the Gospel with others because we are driven with compassion for them. The reason we are driven by compassion is that we know that we too are sinners saved only by the grace of God.

John Piper wrote; “When the heart no longer feels the truth of hell, the Gospel passes from good news to simply news.”

The more we realize and remember how close we came to destruction; the more keenly will we feel compassion and urgency to rescue those around us from a similar plight.

We need to feel the underserved grace that has been given to us, not because we did anything, but because it was a free gift that plucked us from the fires of hell.

We simply don’t love the lost because we don’t truly believe in the reality of hell

There is almost a sick pride within us, whereby we feel that for some reason we deserve to be saved and others simply are not making good decisions, therefore we are more deserving than them. My friends we are no better and no more deserving of grace than anyone else. We must remember that Jesus himself said that we didn’t choose him, he chose us.

The Gospel is really Good News, who are you sharing it with?

Philippians – Paul’s letter of Joy – Philippians 3:15-21 – Sermon February 24, 2019

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Philippians 3:15-21

 The Apostle Paul often refers to the Christian life as a race and the Bible is full of stories of men and women of God, who began the race well, but failed in the end because they disregarded God’s rules for the race (see 2 Timothy 2:5). As a Christian if you don’t follow the rules, you don’t lose your salvation, but you miss out on the rewards (see 1 Corinthians 3:14-15).

In 2 Corinthians 5:10, we read that every believer must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and we will be called to give an account for how we made use of our spiritual gifts and the calling of God on our lives.

Paul writes in verse 15, “Let those of us who are mature think this way…”

Spiritual maturity is not perfection, but it is daily making progress towards holiness and purity in our lives. The plan for our lives this side of heaven is progress not perfection.

Paul continues in verse 15, “Only let us hold true to what we have attained.”

The Christian life must be one of consistency, holding on to the ground that has already been taken as we grow in the Lord.

There are two primary reasons why people do not grow and mature in their walk with the Lord.

  1. They assume they are already mature A person who makes a decision for Christ is not mature, they are spiritual infants. In this life spiritual maturity is a journey and not a destination.
  2. They are not willing to pay the price for maturity. Maturity comes at a cost. We must give up things that hold us back. There is pain involved in growth and we naturally shy away from pain. James 1:1-4 explains the common process of spiritual growth.

To mature as a Christian, we need role models, mature Christians who have walked the road ahead of us, that we can look to for inspiration and encouragement.  Paul writes in verse 17 that the Philippian Christians should imitate him as an example. As Christians our life is what other people scrutinize. What kind of role-model are you for a younger Christian?

If that sounds intimidating, we need to be reminded that this is the design that God has for the church.

But then in verse 18 and 19 Paul describes a group of people that we should not follow as role-models. These people were in the church, members of the church in Philippi. This is why he says that he is writing with tears, it grieves him.

Paul says that these professing Christians are actually enemies of the cross, and he lists 4 rebukes against these people:

  1. Their end is destruction” – These people are playing at being Christians, but they are wasting their lives.
  2. their god is their belly” – They are driven by sensual appetites, this doesn’t mean that they are all gluttons, rather they run after every desire they have without self-control. Living for the moment and they have no concern for their eternal destination.
  3. They glory in their shame” – People give themselves over to their passions and their appetites and then try to find a way to justify their actions, even declaring that what they are doing is right and good. God’s standard never changes, but the world and sadly many churches today have so embraced sin, even celebrating sin, “They glory in their shame”.
  4. with minds set on earthly things “– Much like the modern Western church, we are programmed by materialism and the present world full of entertainment. One of my goals is to have an eternal perspective on everything and one of the goals of my ministry is to convey that passion to others.

Can you imagine the impact a church could have on the world if we saw everything we did and every dollar we spent through the lens of eternity?

Paul picks up that theme in verses 20 and 21: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

As Christians, we are under the rule and the authority of the kingdom of heaven. The people of Philippi grasped this easily, because even though they lived in Greece, they were under Roman rule. They submitted themselves to the higher authority of Rome. While we are here on the earth, living in the United States of America, we are subject to the laws of the land where we live. But these laws are temporary, this land is temporary, but our citizenship in the kingdom of God is eternal. So, while we adhere to the laws of the land, where those laws conflict with the laws of the eternal kingdom we must submit to the higher authority.

Paul has an eager expectation of Jesus coming again, this is what it means to have an eternal perspective. Our residence here is temporary, the things we spend most of our time stressing about are temporary (see 2 Corinthians 4:18).

Everything we have is temporary, but what will endure is the lasting effects of a life lived for Jesus, how you spend your time, how you spend your money will determine the eternal rewards that Jesus has in store for you. Are you living with an eternal perspective?

Are you living as a true follower of Jesus?

Are you a citizen of heaven or are you an enemy of the cross?

Sermon Sunday April 22, 2018 – The Reality of Hell

Luke 16:19-31

There was a day when all one seemed to hear was “fire and brimstone” sermons, we’ve now gone to the opposite extreme. There is so much preaching on love, grace, and forgiveness, but little or nothing is said about hell. The undeniable truth is that no one in the Bible places more stress on hell as the final consequence of God’s judgment of condemnation than Jesus. Jesus compared hell to the burning trash dump outside of Jerusalem called the valley of Hinnom or Gehenna, he also compared hell to a prison and outer darkness. Jesus likened hell to “a fire” at least twenty separate times.

In Luke 16 we read that Jesus told the Pharisees a story of a poor man called Lazarus and an unnamed rich man. Jesus doesn’t say that this was a parable. It may have been a true account of which only Jesus knew the truth. Or it was a parable that Jesus used to teach the Pharisees the truth of their own lostness.

The rich man was extravagant in his lifestyle, dressing in fine linen, Jesus even said that he feasted every day. And then as if a divinely arranged contrast, we have Lazarus, a poor beggar sitting at his gate, who was possibly a cripple. The name Lazarus means “God is my help”, in contrast, the rich man trusts in his wealth.

Both these men died, and Lazarus taken by the angels to Abraham’s side. He was given special treatment for a man who was never treated well in this life. In contrast, the rich man, “died and was buried”, no angels, no special treatment. His friends probably began fighting over his estate and soon forgot that he even existed.

The rich man may have had a prestigious funeral with many dignitaries, in contrast the poor Lazarus, probably didn’t have a funeral at all, in fact the body of Lazarus might have been thrown on the burning rubbish dump, Gehenna, the place where unclaimed bodies would have been disposed. But even though his body was burned and discarded, he was taken by angels to Abraham’s side.

The rich man is sent to Hades, a place of torment and utter loneliness, where he begins to cry out for mercy. First, he asks that Abraham sends Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water to cool his tongue. The rich man was experiencing torment and real flames, it was a very genuine experience, so much so, that a little cool water on his tongue would bring some relief. Abraham responds and explains to the rich man that he has already received his good things in his life, but by rejecting God, he is never going to experience anything good ever again.

But aside from that, Abraham says it is impossible for Lazarus to come to him, there is a great divide between heaven and hell.

Jesus taught that Hell is a real place of eternal suffering, but the worst part of hell is not the physical pain, it is the absence of the presence of God. We have all heard someone say, “Well, I don’t mind if I go to hell. I’ll have a lot of company!” But there is no friendship or “company” in hell! Hell is a place of total loneliness and abandonment.

So how can a loving God permit such a place to exist, let alone send people there?” In asking that question, we reveal that we don’t understand the love of God or the wickedness of sin. God’s love is a perfect holy love, not a shallow sentiment, and sin is rebellion against an all holy and loving God (1 John 1:5).

God does not send people to hell, they send themselves there by refusing to believe on His Son. Hell, ultimately is the absence of God and sin is what separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). Hell is the natural response of the all-holy God to the wickedness of sin, and unbelief in Jesus as the son of God is the primary source of that wickedness.

God hates sin and evil so much, that he sent his only son Jesus to suffer and die on the cross as the perfect sacrifice, atoning for our sins. Jesus went to the cross as our substitute because he does not want anyone to go to Hell (2 Peter 3:8-10).

The rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers about their eternal destination. But Abraham tells him that they have the words of Moses and the prophets, the Old Testament Scriptures, the word of God. But the rich man argues that this is not enough, they need miracle. We are no different, we struggle to believe in the power of the word of God to transform lives. We must never underestimate the power of the word of God, under the direction and conviction of the Holy Spirit to transform lives (Romans 1:16).

Jesus loved us so much that he spoke about hell a lot. He did not hold back in describing the consequences of sin.

Do we believe in Hell enough to care for our friends and neighbors? If we really believed in Hell, we would not hesitate to share the Gospel, we would give our lives to praying for the lost. We would re-organize our lives in such a way that we would maximize our time on this earth to be able to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Sadly, the way our churches operate, the way we struggle to pray for our neighbors, the way our evangelism and mission efforts are so weak and small, we give evidence to the fact that we do not believe in hell.

In the 21st century in the western culture has become a source of unending distractions and entertainment. We focus on our careers, movies, food, sport or hobbies, while all the time our perspective of eternity is being whittled away and we seldom think of the fact that our lives are so very brief.

Live your life in the light of eternity. Every pleasure you could have here on earth ultimately passes away, it is fleeting, but if we live for eternity, storing up for ourselves treasures in heaven, we will experience pleasure that is lasting.

“The safest road to hell, is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” C.S Lewis.

Sermon April 15, 2018 – Heaven

Revelation 21:1-8

Do you know where you are going when you die? We are all eternal beings, designed by God to live forever. We as frail humanity, for fear of the unknown, struggle to live in these broken bodies for as long as we possibly can.

We struggle to hold on to something that is temporal, because we don’t see ourselves as eternal. We are afraid of the unknown, but the unknown is going to be infinitely better than anything we have ever experienced in this life.

There are two primary reasons why one fears death,

Firstly, if you don’t have the security of knowing that you are saved by the blood of Jesus, death is to be feared.

And secondly, we don’t trust the God who created us for eternity, we don’t trust that the one who created us knows what would be best for us.

We fear the unknown primarily because we don’t trust the goodness of the Designer.

Heaven is a real place, in Revelation 21:3 we read that God himself speaking from the throne, says that the dwelling place of God is with man. The new earth is a real place as Jesus promised in John 14:1-2.

This earth will one day be renewed made perfect, delivered from sin and the curse, will one day be our home and the place where God dwells. Heaven is a real place, and the new heaven and the new earth will be real as well.

While it is probable that heaven is in another dimension, we still can be assured that heaven is both a place and a state. I do not agree that it is primarily a state, since we are living on earth in a physical / spiritual dimension, why would this be so different in heaven. We would live in our resurrected bodies, but our soul would still exist and commune with God. I agree with the theologian Erickson that wrote, “life in heaven will be more real than our present existence.”

When we die, we are not going to have one single complaint, not one single thing about heaven will be imperfect. We have no idea of the glory and the beauty and the peace of the presence of our Heavenly Father.

In the new heaven, we will have real, perfect resurrected bodies, as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15. These will be our eternal bodies, ones that will never fail or break down. And we will live with God in His presence.

We were made to have communion with God, God created man in His own image to have fellowship with him. But when sin entered the world, that relationship was broken, there was a separation that took place. Inside every human being is a longing and an unfulfilled desire that can only be met by the perfect presence of God himself, we read in Ecclesiastes 3:11; “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Being in the presence of God for eternity is heaven and being separated from God for eternity is hell. Our selfish and humanistic mindset cannot even begin to grasp what it will be like to be in the presence of God and to worship him. It will not be boring, that is a lie from Satan, Heaven will be the most exciting and thrilling experience that we cannot imagine. I know that sentence doesn’t make sense, because we cannot begin to grasp heaven. In our self-serving culture, we have no idea of what it will be like to be in the presence of the creator of the universe. Heaven will be a place of unending worship and praising God for all that He has done and all that He is.

Heaven will be a place of rest, peace and worship of God, but heaven will also be a place of service and work. We will not be idly sitting on clouds playing harps. God is a creative God and he designed us to be creative beings along with him. We see in Genesis 1, that God created man to have dominion and care for the creation. Remember the parable that Jesus told about the parable of the Talents given to the servants in Matthew 25. The servants who served faithfully were given more to rule over and more responsibility, this is a glimpse into our eternal destiny.

So, we know heaven is real, it is eternal, we have some idea of what we will be doing, but how can we be certain we are going to heaven? Randy Alcorn, in his book on Heaven said that a recent Barna poll shows that for every American who believes he or she is going to Hell, there are 120 who believe they’re going to Heaven. Yet Christ said otherwise in Matthew 7:13-14.

Heaven is not our default condition. Increasingly in our politically correct culture we don’t often hear people preaching on the fact that heaven is only for people who have submitted themselves to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Only people who have acknowledge that Jesus is the way the truth and the life are going to heaven.

If heaven was the default position of everyone who dies, then Jesus gave up his position in heaven, he humbled himself and even humbled himself to die on the cross, for nothing. The greatest act of love in all of human history was a waste of time, if heaven is the default position.

Heaven is where God dwells and before we are even allowed into the presence of God we need to deal with our sin problem, the sin that separates us from God. You deal with that sin by accepting Jesus as Lord and repenting of your sins. You can know, with absolute certainty, that you are going to heaven (see 1 John 5:13).

on the cross, he took upon himself the Hell we deserve, in order to purchase the Heaven we don’t deserve”

Randy Alcorn.

Eternally Thankful – Sermon November 27, 2016

church-thanksgiving

I am reading a challenging book right now in which the author states that true happiness in one’s life comes from a grateful heart. A grateful spirit keeps you from feeling sorry for yourself and this is key;

“the seeds of depression cannot take root in a grateful heart”.

The book of Psalms is wonderful to read in order to find language to thank God for his many blessings.

Psalm 105 starts with the line; “Give thanks to the Lord...” and then verse 2 begins with; “sing praise to him”. The Psalmist is not simply thankful for the blessings, but he is thankful for the attributes of the giver himself. The Psalmist is praising God for all his attributes; his mercy, his kindness, his justice and his goodness. A natural outflow of a thankful heart is worship. Spending time thanking God should always lead to worship as we realize that without his perfect and enduring attributes, we would have nothing.

But verse one and two show us something else that flows out of thankfulness;

1  Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 2  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

As we are thankful to God, we praise him and then we make known to others what he has done. We tell of all his wonderful acts as the Psalmist wrote. You see if we are thankful to God for what he has done for us, we will be compelled to share the Good news of salvation with those around us. A heart for missions is driven by a heart of gratitude.

Reading the following two verses, we see that the psalmist changes the focus from what God has done, to worshipping God himself.

3  Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 4  Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

We as children of God, can become so wrapped up in what we need from God that we become so focused on the mighty hand of God that we seldom seek the face of God. As we seek the face of God we see his attributes; his love, his mercy, his omnipotence, his glory, his grace, his justice, his wrath – we could go on and on forever listing the glorious attributes of God.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to remember what the hand of God has provided for us and in so doing we begin to praise him as we praise him we declare his attributes. Thanksgiving needs to be public, it needs to be a witness to the goodness of God.

The Psalm continues;  5 Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,

The word the Psalmist uses here for “remember” is not a simple recollection of the facts, but it is to call to mind the wonders God has done and then to dwell on them. It is as if the Psalmist is saying to the reader, slow down, stop what you are doing and hit the pause button, then dwell on what God has done. Much like a day of thanksgiving where we slow down, stop our normal routine and remember the miracles that God has done.

Looking at verse 6 the Psalmist seems to be stating the obvious, by telling the people who they were;  6  O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.

In essence he is saying; “do you remember who you are?” We as followers of Jesus Christ, we are his chosen ones. We sometimes forget who we are. We have so much to be thankful for because our God, the creator of the universe, calls us his own. The Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:9, we are God’s special possession!

This God who calls us his special possession, is also the same God who is over all the earth. There is nothing outside of His control. His ways are perfect and He is our God.

7  He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

So we see a progression here, the Psalmist begins by thanking God for his blessings, and he progresses to worshiping God for who he is. Then the Psalmist acknowledges that God is working out his eternal plan and judgments over all the earth. The Lord God sent his only son, in order to pay the price for the judgement that was on our heads. Ultimately as we stop and begin to thank God for the blessings in our lives, we are naturally drawn to the greatest gift and blessing of all, the message of the Gospel.

Jesus Christ came to this earth to suffer and die, only to be raised from the dead by the power of God, in order to provide the only way for us to be saved from eternal suffering and to be restored to a right relationship with God the Father.

As we look at our lives in light of eternity, we are drawn to the fact that all we have on this earth, all the many blessings, will one day pass away. Everything we treasure on this earth will one day pass away, only one blessing from God is infinitely more valuable than any other, the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Over the next few weeks we will be focusing our attention of Christmas. It is easy to be drawn away from the greatest gift of all as we focus on buying and giving gifts to each other.

Jesus came for a purpose and that purpose was to suffer and die on the cross, in order that whoever believes in the risen Lord Jesus Christ will have eternal life. That is something we are grateful for today, but we will also be eternally grateful for what God has provided for us.

Compassion – Caring for Someones eternal destiny – July 31, 2016

Compassion pt 1 Title.2

Isaiah 58:6-12

Compassion is what we are called to as a church. It is a mark of the Body of Christ, to be outward focused looking to help those in need. But why do we act in compassion? You may say that it’s the right thing to do, but the reality is that by doing kind things and acting compassionately, does not earn salvation. We know that the Bible says in Isaiah 64 that our righteous acts are like filthy rags. You cannot secure eternal life by doing good things for people, so why do we care? Why do we show compassion to the poor and the hurting?

The Bible has a lot to say to us about compassion. The Children of Israel were instructed in the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 15 to be openhanded in caring for the poor and the needy. Jesus in his time here on earth was moved with compassion and healed many people.

One of the most outstanding portions of Scripture relating to compassion, is found in Isaiah 58.

The bible is full of conditional statements, if-then statements. If we are obedient to God, then there is a promise from Him. If you include the first line of verse 6, we have 3 “IF” statements and 3 “THEN” statements.

God’s people are chosen to “loose the chains of injustice,” and to, “Untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free” The children of Israel knew slavery, they would have remembered that they were once slaves at the hands of the Egyptians. Now they were living in the promised land and they had taken the people of the land and turned them into their slaves. Today slavery is all around us, moral injustice, oppression, sex-trafficking, and the ultimate injustice, the killing of the unborn.

Not only are we to speak up and act against injustice, but as verse 7 continues, we are to be generous in our compassion. “Share your food”, Provide shelter, Clothe the naked.”

Compassion involves giving; giving of our time and money and energy.

In verse 8 we see the first “Then” statement, a beautiful word picture of the ending of the night, a new day, new blessings. The second line of verse 8 says; “your healing will quickly appear.” Some people ask why we don’t we see healing today. The truth is that healing takes place all over the world, as God’s people pray. Sometimes we don’t see healing because we are too inward focused. God looks to see the motives of our heart, as we give of ourselves to others we will see healing taking place.

The next line reads; “your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard”. Again this is a beautiful word picture that the children of Israel would have understood as being a reference to the pillar of cloud and fire that moved to the back of Israel to protect them against the attacking Egyptians in the Exodus. What a promise! If you are doing what God has called you to, he will protect you and be your rear guard.

Moving to verse 9, we see the second “Then” promise; “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”

God looks at the heart, if we pray with the right motives God moves on our behalf. (see James 4:3)

Looking further we have two “if” statements – the first is inward focused; “do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
” Gossip and pointing fingers are malicious and are rooted in pride. (See Matthew 7).

The second IF statement reads; “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” Instead of focusing on my little world, what about spending myself for the hungry and the oppressed.

Then what follows are the wonderful blessings in verses 10-12.

As a church that is going through a revitalization, we are seeing God answer our prayers and I believe if we keep our focus on the world around us and not on our own desires, these promises are for us.

In fact, these 6 verses are the prescription for church revitalization.

If we do what God calls us to do, he will ensure that we will stay strong. One of the promises I always cling to is at the end of verse 11; “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” If we as a church continue to seek the Lord and do what he has called us to do, he will always provide for our needs.

 As we look at compassion it is easy to care for someone when we can see they are oppressed and maybe in bondage because they were victims of abuse. But what about the unlovely? What about the drug addict who keeps making the same mistake? Do we pick and choose who to help? We need to learn how to act in obedience to God, daily ask God to give us wisdom and discernment to be doing His will on the earth.

The ultimate purpose of compassion is leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Point them to Jesus using words, otherwise we are simply alleviating a temporary need. True compassion is caring for someone’s eternal destination. Do you see the poor and the needy as someone Jesus died for?

The Gospel message is the ultimate display of compassion, John 3:16, For God so loved…..that He gave” Jesus gave up his position of glory in heaven so that you and I might have eternal life. Jesus set aside his glory in heaven, but sometimes we find it difficult to set aside the remote control to help someone he died for.

How will we respond today? Let us be a people of compassion, in order to see the lost saved, the church revived and our lives blessed.

Journey to Jerusalem Part 2. March 13 2016

Journey to Jerusalem part 2 newsletter

Read: Luke 9:51-56

Here we have an account that only Luke records. At first glance, this seems like a strange passage of scripture, why would Luke record this detail of the travel plans that didn’t work out.

Jesus

In 722 BC, the Assyrians invaded the northern Kingdom of which Samaria was the capital. The Assyrians left some of the Jews in the region but allowed other foreigners to inhabit the land. The end result was a mixed race, and many of them worshipped the foreign gods of the Assyrians. The Jews who lived in the region did not believe that you had to go to Jerusalem to worship God and set up their own temples. The rest of the Jewish nation regarded the Samaritans as ethnically and religiously impure, and there was a lot of prejudice and animosity between them.

James and John

So with that history in mind, we have the passionate James and John, the sons of Thunder as Jesus called them, being so offended by this Samaritan rejection that they want to call down fire and destroy the city.

In order to better understand their reaction, we need to look a few verses back in Luke 9, where the transfiguration of Jesus is recorded for us. Jesus takes Peter, James and John, up onto a mountain to pray, and suddenly Moses and Elijah appear and begin talking to Jesus.

James and John must have remembered their encounter with Elijah and the fact that Elijah had called down fire from heaven to destroy the two captains and their 50 as recorded in 2 Kings 1.

But the disciples were misguided. In their minds, they were marching into Jerusalem with the King of the Jews, who would establish a mighty kingdom, and yet these mindless Samaritans had the audacity to reject Jesus! Their attitude and request reflects their racism and their prejudice. What they had to learn, and what we also have to learn is that the journey Jesus was taking to Jerusalem was not to judge the world, but it was to save the lost.

They certainly displayed passion, but their passion was misguided. They were influenced by their culture and their prejudice. Jesus was using the situation to challenge their prejudice, to remind them that the Son of God, didn’t come for the Jews only, but for all peoples and that the real enemy is Satan, not the lost people who don’t think or act in a way that they were comfortable with.

As we encounter people who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, how do we respond to the drug addict, the adulterer, the alcoholic, the homosexual, the murderer, and the thief? (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Do we call down judgement on them? Do we confront them with the law and a superior attitude?

As Jesus rebuked his disciples, he rebukes us today. Jesus came to save the lost, not to call down fire on them. Ultimately Jesus will judge all mankind, but we are called to reach the lost as Jesus did, to preach the Gospel to the poor, to release the captives, to restore sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18).

Samaritan Rejection

From the perspective of the Samaritan village there is a legitimate reason why they rejected Jesus.

The Key phrase is found in verse 53; “…he was heading for Jerusalem.” It upset them that he still wanted to go to the temple in Jerusalem rather than to worship at their place of worship. But apart from that, along with Jesus came a large crowd of people. Most of them were probably social outcasts, the poor, and the unclean according to their laws. It was going to be noisy, messy and probably inconvenient. And therein lay the problem, for Jesus to come to town was inconvenient.

The truth is that when Jesus enters a person’s life it is never convenient. When Jesus comes into your life, he asks you to care for the widows and the orphans, to love the downtrodden and the poor. He calls you to give your time, your money and your energy in order to tell others the Good News.

Jesus coming to town is seldom convenient, but if you do not receive him, you miss out. This Samaritan town missed the opportunity of hosting the King of Kings, the creator of the universe.

Jesus’ Response.

What took place here was a serious cultural and social offence.

No wonder the disciples wanted to immediately call down fire and destroy the city. How dare they!!

Yet, we read how Jesus responded (Luke 9:55-56). Jesus is rejected, he doesn’t try to plead his case or convince them that they are going to miss out, he simply moves on.

Jesus wasn’t surprised by this rejection, he knew exactly what would happen. He sent his disciples ahead on purpose, knowing that they would be rejected. He was using this as a teaching moment for his disciples, preparing them for what was about to happen to them and setting an example for all believers to follow. When you are rejected for being a follower of Jesus, don’t fight for your rights, simply move on (see Luke 10:10-11).

In our post-modern culture of self-importance and pride, this is a tough lesson to learn. Fortunately we get many opportunities to learn this lesson!

But Jesus had his eyes fixed on a bigger goal (see Luke 9:51). Jesus is focused on the ascension. He is looking forward to going home. He knows where he is going and nothing is going to detract from that. Not the cross, not the grave, not even his rising from the dead, he is looking forward to the day when he ascends into heaven to sit next to His Father.

We also must have a heavenly focus, viewing every day in the light of eternity. Sadly we are so focused on trying to make this life as comfortable as possible, that we forget where we are going.

  • If we would focus on eternity, we would stop trying to call down judgment from God on those who reject him.
  • If we would focus on eternity, we would not miss an opportunity to be used by God to help those around us and set the captives free.
  • If we would focus on eternity, we would be able to look past all the trials and sufferings of this world and look forward to the day when Jesus comes again or calls us home.