Reading Luke 17:1 – 19
Several weeks ago I shared how sad it is for those who have never heard of Jesus and continue to live a life of bondage and pain and separation from God – when there are so many who profess Christianity, and yet have no desire to tell anyone about Jesus – or to give up of themselves for others as Jesus did.
And then there are those who think they have salvation through their own righteousness, their own discipline and determination, or through participation in church, or through any other means – than bowing at the feet of Jesus, at the foot of the Cross.
There are many who have had an experience of church, they have had experience of True believers, and think they are saved. But when talking with them, they have no assurance of salvation, they doubt and fear, they only hope they might be saved, they hope they have done enough to somehow please God.
There are even those who religiously read their Bible and attend to all the ceremony of the church. They may even have been baptized, confirmed – and yet they have only experienced the written Word, they have never personally experienced the Living Word Jesus Christ.
And there are those who don’t read the Bible at all – they rely only on others to tell them what God says in His Word.
But, then there are those who know they are saved, because they have had an encounter with the risen Jesus. They know they have had an encounter with Jesus – and it is this encounter that changes them, that saves them. They are never the same again – and it is so evident in their lives. They are forever changed! You can see it in their faces, you can see it in their eyes. You can see it in their joy in God. You can see it in how they treat others.
They love walking with and growing in their faith with other believers, but they are fully dependent and reliant on God alone and their own personal relationship with God. They know they are in relationship with God and His Son Jesus, through the Holy Spirit. They are fully alive – and they just have to live it out – and they have to share Jesus with others.
But there are also those who have gone to church maybe their whole lives – but have never given their lives to Jesus. They are dependent on the church, not Jesus. They have never truly turned to God in repentance. They have not encountered the risen Lord Jesus for themselves. They do not have the Holy Spirit in them.
There may also be those who have had no experience of any faith or religion and yet are desperately trying to find Truth and meaning.
But for everyone – we are in the right place today. To draw close to God. To be saved.
To be found – to each encounter Jesus for ourselves. Do you want to encounter Jesus?
Do you want Him to actually touch you?
I am so fascinated by the language we so often use in church. I often hear people talking about “Jesus touching your life”. It sounds right – and yet is just so impersonal. Do you want Jesus to touch you, personally, not just the life you live, to change you forever?
We are starting a new series titled – Encounter. Over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at what happened to people when they encountered Jesus personally and intimately.
First there were the disciples, and I’m sure we’ll take a closer look at them at some time. But from our reading today; Jesus starts this passage by saying to His disciples;
Luke 17:1 – 3 Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, I repent, forgive him. The apostles said to the Lord – increase our faith.
Why did the disciples ask – increase our faith? I think a modern translation of that would be – heish! Perhaps it is because at this point they really did start to realize just how radical Jesus was. What they were in effect saying is – who can do such things, Lord? You have to have a lot of faith in God, to be obedient to Him to the level Jesus taught. They had their own way of thinking, their own way of doing things. Now Jesus was telling them something completely different – that went against all their previous teaching, tradition, culture.
The disciples wanted more faith to live like Jesus wanted them to live – this radical life. Jesus told them that if they had the smallest amount of faith – they could do it all, and even destroy mulberry trees! What Jesus had against mulberry trees I have absolutely no idea. But they loved Jesus, because they knew Him, and they wanted to do things the way He taught, but knew they could not do it in themselves – something was missing, they thought they just needed more faith.
Jesus didn’t directly answer them by giving them more faith – because the amount of faith is not really the issue.
What is faith? It is total dependence on God and a willingness to do His will – obedience. The amount of faith is not as important as the genuineness and focus of our faith – and the focus of our faith is the One in whom we have our faith.
It is not how much faith we have that is important – because then we would end up having faith in our faith. What is important is our total dependence on God, and obedience to Him, because we love Him, because we know Him, because we have encountered Him.
Jesus goes straight on to then talk about someone who has a servant who has been plowing or looking after the sheep all day. And how that person does not then say to the servant – agh shame, come in, you must be exhausted, I’ve prepared food for you. No, they say, you’ve worked all day, now prepare food for me and after I’ve eaten then you can – in other words, continue to serve as is your duty.
Luke 17:9 – 10 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do. So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say – we are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.
That’s as bad as me saying to anyone who sacrifices everything to serve us here at HPC – what do you want, a pat on the back? Just get on with it.
If we obey God, we have only just done our duty! And we should regard doing our duty as a privilege.
Sometimes we feel that we deserve extra credit for serving God? Obedience is not something extra in the Christian faith, it is the Christian life. Obedience is the very heart of our salvation and relationship with God. You can not have one without the other.
Jesus is not saying our service is meaningless – He is simple putting things into perspective between the Creator and the created. We are to do everything we have been told to do – and that’s that – at the very least it is our duty – but how much the better if it comes from a heart of love. Dependence and obedience and relationship, because we love this awesome radical God. But how can you love a character in Bible stories that much to live such a radical life for Him? You can’t! You can only be that sold out for Jesus, once you have encountered Him personally and intimately, and fallen in love with Him, knowing you are fully loved.
Jesus heals 10 lepers and only one returns to thank Him. People who had leprosy were required to stay away from others. Sometimes leprosy went into remission. If a leper thought his leprosy had gone away, he was supposed to present himself to a priest who could declare him clean. Jesus sent these 10 lepers to the priest before they were healed – and they went. They responded in obedience, and then Jesus healed them. Is your trust in God so strong that you act on what He says even before you see evidence that it will work?
It’s also quite possible to receive God’s great gifts with an ungrateful heart – 9 lepers did it seems. Miracles in your life does not necessarily mean spiritual maturity or salvation.
One leper however was thankful and Jesus said to him – your faith (your dependence and obedience) has made you well. Only one learned that his faith had played a role in his healing, only he grew in understanding of God and His Grace. What he learned is that he had nothing to do with his healing – other than obedience. It was not having more faith that was the issue – it was in whom he had put his faith. The others probably thought they were healed because they were devout – because they had got something right. Because God owed them something. But is was the Samaritan, the total unbeliever who threw himself at Jesus’ feet and praised Him.
We all want God’s gifts, but it seems not many truly seek and want the giver – it seems this leper was more impressed with Jesus than his healing. They all had met Jesus, only one truly encountered Him. All of them were healed – but it seems, only one’s life was changed forever.
Jesus is a very real and personal and intimate God. Ironically it is this intimacy that seems puts so many off.
Have you encountered Jesus? Do you want to encounter Jesus? Do you want Jesus to touch you? Do you want Him personally and intimately – it’s the only way.
If that is what you seek, then all you need do is ask Him.