Monday, March 31, 2014

The Parable of the Lost and Found

Luke 15:1-32 - note:  in this culture at this time, tax collectors and sinners were often lumped together

This passage = recurring charge against Jesus by the Pharisees.

The setting:  - Luke 15:1-2

The issue:  Jesus' association with "sinners" (see note above) - those outside the congregation of righteous

The Parables --- address God's view - Jesus' teaching was revelation from God, not just man's view.

Parable #1 - The Lost Sheep - Luke 15:3-7 - Point = Vs. 7
Parable #2 - The Lost Coin - Luke 15:8-10 - Point = Vs. 10
Parable #3 - another Parable about the same issue, however, adds 2 new elements - 
1) Father/Child relationship  and 2) a disgruntled brother
Luke 15:11-24 - Point = Vs. 24
Luke 15:25-32 - Point = Vs. 32

Common elements of all 3 parables?????
Something lost --> found/returned/restored --> rejoicing and celebration

Question:  Does this apply to a lost person coming to salvation?  Or, to a backslidden Christian returning to the faith?

Answer:  either.  Both seem to fit.
IE:  #1:  something OUT of proper placed = restored to proper place
Therefore,  #2.  there is rejoicing and celebration (in heaven)

3 Principal players in this drama.
1)  the seeker/receiver/restorer - GOD
2)  the lost/prodigal - the sinner
3) the brother = on who resents reception/restoration

So.... some truths from these parables (in conjunction with other scripture)

A) SEEKS sinners - doesn't just accept/receive them but seeks
He calls, woos, draws - Luke 19:10
B)  Welcomes sinners  (rejoices at their return).  This doesn't mean that your behavior (lifestyle, sin), doesn't matter
But means you needn't get straight BEFORE you come to Him.  example:  "Just As I Am"
C)  Restores sinners to a proper relationship with Himself - "reconciliation" - 2 Cor. 5:17-21
Example:  the Cross, the Good News calls sinners exclusively through Jesus Christ.

II.  The Sinner
Note:  God's love is unconditional.   Your Restoration is not!!!
Sinner must:
#1.  Recognize  his plight/situation - example:  Step #1 in AA - "I am an alcoholic".  Why?  Because you're not going fix it if you don't think it's broke!!!

#3.  Return (repent = turn and walk other way) - Because people are not sheep, coins - they must discern/decide

Should be in between #1 and #3 -
#2.  Regret - "contrition" = feeling regret/remorse over sin.  Psalm 51:16-17   Isa. 57:15 
Isa. 66:2

Contrast those scriptures with 21st. Century Post-Christian view = love trumps all!!!
Therefore, are no rules, judgments, wrath -- "LOVE NEVER SAYS NO" - (quote by lesbian pastor)
Scripture says:   IF  1 John 1:9

III.  The disgruntled brother
He Resents grace extended to his brother (because in his eyes, he's undeserving)
He Rejects the notion of grace to himself - (because he is  deserving!! He = Self Righteous!!)

This = dangerous place to be!!!

So...... Which player do you identify with???
#1.  GOD  (He's GOD & you're not!!!)

#2.  The prodigal/sinner who= all of us at various times in our life  (not where ought to be)

#3.  The older brother???  who rejects the need for grace and resents "underserving" grace

#1.)  Read/contemplate,consider these parables
#2)   Let the Holy Spirit probe your heart & mind and reveal your condition/need
#3)  Respond accordingly.    Luke 15:17, 20 - "when he came to his senses....he got up and went to his father"

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Growth of the Kingdom

Most common theme of Jesus' parables = Kingdom of God!!

Definition:   Kingdom of God = the Sphere of His Rule
(which on one hand = ultimately ALL!!  However, on the other hand, in this day and time = He has chosen to be that which voluntarily submits to Him)

According to the Baptist Faith and Message:  His Kingdom includes:
   #1.  His general sovereignty over the Universe
   #2.  His particular Kingship over men who willfully acknowledge Him as King - we can by our choice stand outside His Kingdom.

So we have:
    #1.  The future Kingdom - absolute, universal, visible - 'every knee will bow, every tongue confess"
   #2.  the present Kingdom - partial, and partly visible

Now:  Two Parables about the Kingdom  - Matt. 13:31-33 - Mustard Seed and Yeast
1.  - Kingdom growth
2.  - Kingdom Permeation (influence)

Point:  "from insignificant beginnings the Kingdom will grow and permeate and influence and transform --- people, society, cultures, and the world."

QUESTION #1:  Has this proven to be true??
We cannot measure Kingdom growth, but we can measure church growth throughout the world.

Example:  Chart #1 - Christianity in the Roman Empire - which was absolutely, violently opposed to Christian faith and Christian growth.

YEAR              % of Christians in Roman Empire's population

100                   0.0126% = 1/100 of 1%
150                   0.07%  =  7/100 of 1%
200                   0.36%  = roughly 1/3 of 1%
250                   1.9%  = almost 2%
300                  10.5% =  10 1/2%
350                   56%

Example:  Chart #2 - Christianity in the World population

YEAR          Number of Non-Christians to each Christian

100               360 to 1 - when John wrote Revelation
1000             222 to 1
1500             59 to 1
1900             27 to 1
2000              2 to 1 - 1/3 of people on earth claim Christianity as their religion and in Kingdom.  Can't
                      determine that.  But must be greatly influence by Christianity to make that claim.

Are 70,000 additional Christians everyday worldwide

More Muslims have come to Christ since 1980 than in the previous 1000 years.

There has been phenomenal growth and influence by the Christian Church

Question #2 - Will this trend continue?? - can't be answered
two views:  1)  Optimistic view - "expect it to continue"
                  2)  Pessimistic view - "expect it to get worse"

Unfortunately, the most prevalent view usually is determined by current events!!
Example #1.  Early church and Revelation = pessimistic view - convinced by circumstances and book of Revelation that things were going to get worse and worse.
                     Later church and Constantine = optimistic view - Edict of Milan in 313 - Christianity legalized
and then Edict of Thessalonica - made Christianity official religion of all Rome

Example #2:  USA and post-Revolutionary War = optimistic view
                     USA and post WWII = pessimistic view - among evangelical Christians

What We Know:

#1.  Christianity has experienced solid, steady growth in spite of opposition
#2.  many places have seen the influence of Christianity wane and decline dramatically!!  Example:  Europe today, Turkey, Northern Africa, etc.
#3.  we can find multiple Scriptures to support either view (optimistic or pessimistic)
#4.   Nobody really knows which way it's going to go!!!  Don't care how big TV ministry or radio ministry is.  Very foolish to be dogmatic if not made perfectly clear from Scripture.
 #5.  Bottom Line - we are called to Kingdom promotion regardless of the outlook/outcome!!  Makes no difference in regards to your call, your commitment, etc.

On one hand, we cannot convert a soul, grow the Kingdom.   It is God's Kingdom and only He can do it.
HOWEVER, we are called and given authority to assist in Kingdom growth (building)
planters, waterers, gardeners, nurtureres, and harvesters - John 4:35-38   1 Cor. 3:5-9

How to do that???  How to "grow" Kingdom?

#1.  Own the King - can't build the Kingdom if He is not your King and recognize Him in that capacity.

#2.  Represent the King - 2 Cor. 5:18-20
This means:  A)  Kingdom living - how you vote, handle money, treat spouse, raise kids, run business, spend free time, etc.
                   B)  Kingdom Knowledge    which is Scripture!!!   2 Tim. 3:16-17
Cannot represent Him properly if you don't know His will as revealed in His book.  When yr. outside the guidelines found there, you misrepresent Christ, the church, the Kingdom.  If you claim to be Christian, people will look at you because you represent HIM.

#3.  Teach, disciple - Matt. 28:18-20
Examples:  Sunday School, AWANA, Bible Time, Day Camp, your own kids, grandkids - etc!!!  It is not the church's responsibility to teach and disciple your kids - it is YOURS!!

#4.  Preach - example - Matt. 3:1-2  - Objection:  "I can't preach!"  Answer:  When passionate about something, ie.  politics, ball team, you can 'wax eloquent' (preach) about it!

#5.  Support His Work

#6.  Support His Workers - w/money, encouragement, prayer

#7.  Support His Church - (almost synonymous with Kingdom - Matt. 16:18)

But, these thing seem so small/ ordinary!!  They are, but everyone can do these things.
Remember - parable of mustard seed, and yeast (leaven).
 Point:  out of seemingly insignificant beginnings GOD will establish His Kingdom!!!

To this you are called:  Decide - Commit - Focus - DO!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

What's the most common theme in parables?  = the Kingdom of God
Definition:  the Sphere of His Rule
On one hand that = ALL!!
However, currently it = is limited to (at His choice and His decree) all that Voluntarily submit to His Rule!! He has given man free will.

So, we have  1) the future Kingdom where His rule will be Absolute, Universal, Total, and Visible to all.
                     2)  The present Kingdom - where His rule is partial and only Partly Visible (evident)

Jesus' Parables often = "the Kingdom of Heaven is like....." - to instruct us in this partially visible Kingdom!!  (in it's present form)

The Parable of the Wheat and Tares
(a little background on the 'tares'.  Back during this time, was a weed that looked a lot like wheat in its early development called danelle.  The heads of this danelle when matured contained a poisonous fungus that was deadly to animals and humans alike.  So serious that Rome declared it illegal for someone to plant this in a neighbor's field.  So, parable = very serious situation)

The Parable - Matt. 13:24-30
the Meaning - Matt. 13:36-43

Some reasonable conclusions:  
#1.  Kingdom people and non-Kingdom people look much alike (in this present age)
Why??  Because are much alike- all homo sapiens in this world!!!  Impossible for us to determine 'born again' or not 'born again'.

#2.  It is not our place to separate them.
Contrast:  assess actions and weigh  heart.   Example:  David and Bathsheba - his actions certainly not those of one in the Kingdom, BUT was called "a man after God's own heart".

#3.  Nevertheless, separation will come and GOD will do the separating.
#4.  That Separation will end in one of two destinations - Heaven or Hell

Already noted:  the Primary Theme of the Parables = Kingdom of God
Note also:  the primary theme of the Kingdom Parables = Judgment!! - Matt. 13;47-50
Compare:  rich man and Lazarus, sheep and goats, 2 roads in Sermon on the Mount, etc.

Question:  Why this common theme of Judgment?
Answer:  1)  Because Judgment is coming!!! - This = WARNING!!
               2)  Because it's Not His desire that you be condemned!!
Matt. 25:34, 41 =>judgment needn't be Harsh!!
There ARE only two destinations - Heaven or Hell.  2nd. NOT created for people made in God's image

So, in conjunction with these parables, note 2 more:
        The Parable of the Hidden Treasure - Matt. 13:44
        The Parable of the Dragnet (Pearl of Great Price) - Matt. 13:45-46

Point:  1)  Recognize the value of the Kingdom
           2)  Do whatever it takes to gain entry.
What will a man give for his soul?  

What????  Is this salvation by WORKS???
NO!!!!  Salvation by earnestness, resolution, determination, dedication, commitment

Luke 13:22-30 - NOTE:  Vs. 24 - "strive, force self through, push way through"

One on hand, salvation is by grace
However, can't sleep your way into the Kingdom!!!   We have been hypnotized into believing that we can sleep our way into heaven.

Question:  Is fear of judgment sufficient to enter Kingdom?
Answer:  Not sure.  BUT am confident  IF a person truly turns to Christ, they will be A) saved and B) learn to love Him.

Final application: 
1)  Strive to enter
2) strive to persuade (others to enter)

This is Harsh stuff from Jesus because not His desire that any should perish.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Parable of the Sower

Matt. 13:1-9

IF, we do a study of Parables, we must consider Matthew 13 - because:
1)  it tells us why Jesus taught in Parables, and
2) contains 8 parables itself.

So, today - Parable of the Sower.  (Seed, Soil)
1)  Jesus gives the meaning --> Matt. 13:18-23
2)  Mark and Luke give additional information!!  - (Luke 8 and Mark 4)

Luke's Explanation:
Luke 8:11 - the seed = Word of God
                - the soil = heart of individual

4 Types of Soil - (heart)

#1.  Hard Ground - Luke 8:12 - unattended, careless, indifferent, defiant?   Satan snatches "seed" 'so that they may not believe and be saved'.
(Satan's attacks do not appear demonic!!)  - There is hearing (natural) and super hearing.  Super hearing translates obey! 

#2.  Rocky Ground - (shallow soil)  Luke 8:13
On one hand - "received Word with joy" - however, has no root.
Therefore, in testing ---> fall away.  Believe for a while.

#3.  Thorny Ground - Luke 8:14 - on one hand = "hear", but seduced by temporal concerns (need to attend to these concerns, but not at expense of God's Word) - do not mature, choked out, never grow up so never any fruit.  Compare:  Heb. 2:1

#4.  Fruitful Ground - Luke 8:15
Those who .... hear the Word
                 .... retain the Word - doesn't get snatched away
                 .... persevere - in times of testing, discomfort
                .... produce - crop (fruit)

Question:  Why did Jesus give us this parable???
Answer: to suggest - I.  Heart Examination - own
                                II.  Heart Improvement
Parable can be very condemning, but God's purpose = for correction, redemption, improvement

I.  Heart Examination - (inspection, appraisal, evaluation of own heart)
     Requires:  1)  deliberate, intentional introspection - on purpose.  Will not happen coincidentally.
                        2)  Brutal honesty - Jer. 17:9
                        3) Spiritual assistance ( Holy Spirit) - almost impossible to do without His help

Note:  #1.  This = Introspection - because there's only one heart you can truly assess = OWN!!  Can judge other people's actions but can only judge own heart.

Note:  #2.  This = the heart response in RELATION to the WORD!!!  - "seed"
Example:  "good old boy heart" - which still may be indifferent, defiant to God's Word.  This is not about helping with flat tire.  Helping with flat tire will not get you to Heaven.

II.  Heart Improvement       How to?  Luke 8:15 
This = the means as well as the ending, the process AND outcome!!
YOU choose what kind of heart you'll have -= your responsibility!!

A.  Hear = exposure to God's Word - "seed is the Word of God" - via:  reading, studying, attending church, Sunday School, etc.  Vital to HEAR in order to grow

B.  Retain truth, things God shows you - more than remembering = hold on to those things!!  Heb. 2:1

C.  Persevere - doesn't mean never fail, never fall.  Means get up and go on...

D.  Produce - Matt. 21:18-10  John 15:1-2,8  Eph. 2:8-10 (prepared to do good works) - fruitfulness is important

POINT:  On one hand #s A - D = result of good heart (good soil)
                  On other hand A - D = means/process that leads to a good heart!!

Often asked question:  How little must I do to insure going to Heaven?   Very dangerous attitude - question whether have the LORD or not!!!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager

Or - the Unjust Steward)
Luke 16:1-9 - (manager = steward)

This is 3rd. parable in series - ALL dealing with money, possessions, wealth
(Rich Fool, Talents, Unjust (shrewd) steward)

Note:  how often scripture addresses money, possessions, wealth
(more than 2,000 verses dealing with these three - 2nd. only to number of verses dealing with the "Kingdom")

Why??  Is money that important to God????      NO!!
Answer:  It's that important to us!!!!

Point of the Parable = Luke 16:9
          Short version = Use Worldly Wealth Wisely
          Longer version =     "           "          ". so you'll be welcomed into Heaven.

Question:  Why is this man praised for being dishonest?
Answer:  he's praised for being shrewd (astute, clever) - Luke 16:8 - not for being dishonest
(one reason may be the 'reduction=commission' theory)   Been said that back in Jewish times, they couldn't charge fellow Israelites interest, so, instead they overcharged, and the overage was the manager's "commission".   Not sure if this is the way it was or not, but possibly.
Either way, Praise = "Using Resources Wisely!!"

Question:  Who are the "friends" of vs. 9?
1)  The Father?  - "well done good and faithful servant"
2) the Angels?  - applauding good works
3)  the poor, needy, whoever was "helped" by your $$$.

On one hand, Parable is not intended to give all details, answer all questions.
However, gives all information we need to GET THE POINT!!  --> Use Worldly Wealth Wisely


1)  You have wealth (we here in the US are in the top 10% of the wealthiest people in the world)

2)  There's nothing wrong with that - example Job - Job 1:1, 8

3)  Good stewardship includes earning, saving, planning, investing, and leaving inheritance.

4)  Wealth can be legitimately used for enjoyment, comfort, security, and even for status!!  Example:  Solomon

BUT, wealth is to be used WISELY and that includes Kingdom work, Eternal purposes..  not just temporal here.

How are we doing?  Look at one area - TITHING.= definition - Tithing = 10th part - 1/10th - given back to God to honor Him, to support His work.

Tithing in the USA
5% of U.S. families tithe
However, 80% of Americans give less than 2% of their net income to God's work.
The average Christian gives 2/5% of net income to the church  (during the Great Depression it was 3.3%.  We're in a 40-year decline now)  because the more we get, the more we keep!!!

The 10 million Christians who do tithe, give more than $40 billion a year.

If all Americans did tithe, the increase in giving would be $165 billion a year.

Tithing (you, personally) - "Objection!!!  I'm under grace not law therefore not obligated to tithe!"
Which means, "I'm Saved by grace, kept by grace, graciously loved and graciously blessed....  Therefore, I can keep it all for myself!!"  What's wrong with this picture?   Tithe = Pharisee's minimum!!  Matt. 23:23-24

Objection:  That's just one small area (of Christian life).  Granted, but = very telling area!!!  Luke 16:10-15

Compare: Words of Jesus - Luke 16:10-12 - If don't manage temporal things, why should He entrust you with eternal things?  Luke 16:13 - Money is a Great servant, but a wicked master!!!

Vs.  reaction of Pharisees - Luke 16:14 - ....."sneer, scoff, ridicule..."
(a penniless, homeless Galilean lecturing us on wealth??) - Luke 16:15

Again:  Parables can be harsh, judgmental, condemning, BUT their purpose = instructive, corrective, redeeming

Closing:  Another story, not a parable, a real story..    Mark 10:13-15, 17-31
The way we deal with worldly wealth is a heart issue.  If we would judge ourselves, we would not need to be judged by Him. 

We will answer for how we used what we have been given. 

Who's your Lord?  Who's the Master/ Boss?  over your finances?  Material possessions?  Etc.