week 7

Luke 15:1-31

By now, you are quite familiar with Jesus’ wonderful way of making his points clear through descriptive narratives.  Luke chapter 15 is a collection of three related stories that Jesus shared aloud to the crowds that followed him, including the religious leaders of the day.

 

Each story, though tied together by the celebration of the lost being found, has its own noteworthy truths.  Notice Jesus’ last statement for the story of the Lost Sheep?  Considering the emphasis that Luke’s gospel has already placed on the reality that every human is a sinner in need of repentance (Luke 3:3, Luke 11:13, etc.), it is ironic that he would speak here, of “…ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”  Do you, like the Pharisees, ever think like this—that you do not need to repent?

 

Look at the story of the Lost Coin.  This time a lamp is lit to find the lost.  Jesus said that He is the light of the World (John 8:12).  How can we allow Jesus to lead us to have urgency for our lost friends to come to know Him?

 

The story of the Lost Son is a tender, more personal story of God the Father’s love for those who are far from him.  It also conveys love extended to those who have believed in God and tried to do all that he asks, but have not yet surrendered to complete trust in him for all their needs.

 

Each story corresponds to lost sinners being found by Jesus and thru him, entering the kingdom of God.  Today, we, who are all sinners (Romans 3:23), still have the opportunity to believe, repent, and commit our lives to Jesus. 

 

Has heaven already rejoiced over your being found? If so, who are you helping discover the difference that Jesus is making in your life each day?  If you are still wandering aimlessly through this life without direction, what is preventing you from accepting Jesus’ forgiveness of your sins and placing your complete trust in Him?

 

 

Luke 16:1-18

Managing resources is not always easy.  If we understand the principle that everything we own is a gift from God, we place more value on things and we take more care in honoring the role He gives us to manage His assets.  Realizing that God, the owner of everything, has provided us an opportunity to participate in His plan, we stop looking out for ourselves and start seeking His wisdom in guiding our steps, for the investment He makes in us.

 

As good stewards, we are to use the Master’s resources to further the Master’s goals. If we do things the way the world works, we may make a return which benefits us, but if we seek the higher standard--God’s-- we can make an eternal impact for ourselves and hopefully, for others.  Faithfulness to the Master is the required approach.

 

Like the faithfulness required to manage God’s resources, the good news of the kingdom demands faithfulness. Faithfulness to God is shown in our commitment to others, just like the commitment a spouse makes in marriage.  In both the parable of the manager and the verses which follow on the Kingdom of God and the marriage relationship, He is speaking against humanity’s selfishness to manage resources by our own ways above God’s blueprint for life. 

 

No one can force themselves into the kingdom of God.  It is a gift that requires humbleness to see our need for a savior and obedience to follow His lead. How are you doing at following Jesus’ plans for your life?  Are you still trying to manage your life by your design?  What would it take today for you to surrender your will to His?

 

Luke 16:19-31

Having excessive, material wealth sure seems nice, but Jesus’ message in today’s reading definitely shows us that riches are not the source of true peace.  Jesus paints the vivid picture of extreme difference in life situation between the rich man and Lazarus (Isn’t it ironic that Jesus shares only the poor man’s name). It is hard to image such contrast existing in two lives lived in such close proximity.

 

The focus of the story is on the reversal of fortunes that takes place after both men die.  The agony of Lazarus’ life on earth is replaced with comfort after death.  For the rich man, who once showcased his fortune everyday by the way he dressed and the feasts at his table, torment and want now describe his new way of life.

 

The rich man obviously knew Lazarus--the poor man, because when he asked Abraham to send him to offer a bit of water, he called Lazarus by name.  The rich man could have extended mercy and welcomed Lazarus, a beggar, into his warm home and cared for his physical needs, but he did not.  Now, himself in need, the rich man certainly begs for help.  However, Abraham makes it clear that the time for change has past. 

 

Everyone has a choice to make.  Some people look to have their good pleasure this side of heaven by following their own path and placing confidence in financial security, possessions, whatever they can find happiness in for the moment.  In contrast, Jesus says that true good pleasure is only found in following Him.  His way includes caring for the needs of others above our own and he reminds us of this over and over again in the Bible.

 

How are you meeting the needs of others who are poor—poor financially, but also those who are poor in hope?  What do you think God is showing you through this passage about your next steps?

 

Luke 17:1-19

Jesus has such a wonderful way of conveying the reality of the kingdom in examples that anyone can understand.   He uses everyday terminology in order to communicate simple truth. 

 

Consider the stumbling block.  Those who can see would find it easy to maneuver around any literal objects which impede their forward progress on the path, but someone who is blind would likely not find progress on the journey as easy.   Have you ever felt as though you could not find your way in the journey of faith?  How did having other Christians around you to discuss issues and confusing ideas, help? 

 

Forgiveness and a growing faith come with living in community with other believers.  The growing trust and encouragement may start small—like a tiny seed—but, the continual pattern of testing, trying, and focus on Jesus prove worth the effort and big things are within your grasp.

 

The role of a servant seems simple too.  It is all about respect for those in charge and knowing one’s place.  The Christ follower must never forget that in the kingdom of God, the last shall be first (Luke 13:30).  When we serve others above asserting our wants, we serve God. 

 

The story of the ten lepers sums up well the teaching of Jesus from this portion of Luke chapter 17:  Follow Jesus’ every step and then praise Him for the results.  When we seek our ways above God’s, we cause others to fall by our example.  When we fail to forgive, again we set up a barrier between ourselves and those we hope to influence positively for the kingdom.  If only we can have a tiny, yet tenacious faith, like the mustard plant, of which a modern day Rabbi, Frank Stern, has said, “Once this hardy seed is sown, it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it.” 

 

Who are you telling about your journey with Jesus?  How are the seeds of faith that you sow taking root in your campus community?  Who do you need to forgive in order to not allow bitterness and hate to squeeze out the roots of dynamic faith in your life?  Are you serving others well?

 

Luke 17:20-37

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, asked great questions.  “When will the kingdom of God, come?”  The Kingdom of God, Jesus answers in Luke 17, is not only a future reality. The Kingdom was present in the person and ministry of Jesus, Himself. 

Today, Christ followers, the kingdom of God is in your midst; it is literally within you, because the Holy Spirit is alive in you. Others can see Jesus by your response to life circumstances.  They can hear how Jesus is at work by your telling of what he is doing in your own life now and how you have already experienced him at work to bring you to this point in your relationship with Him.  Even how you’ve handled your mistakes, can point others to Jesus and thus, bring the kingdom into focus.

In verse 24, Jesus says, “For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other.”  Lightning can be seen at great distance and lights up a huge area.  Scientists note that since it often starts thousands of feet above the earth, the normal horizon caused by the earth's curvature, doesn't limit its view, as it would if it began at ground level.

So don’t be confused by false messiah sightings.  When Jesus comes again, he will be in full view and not limit himself to just a few crowds.  Jesus has already told his disciples to be ready because they don't know the day and hour (Luke 12:39-40) of his return.  As modern disciples of Jesus, we are likewise to live in expectation of his coming.  We are also commanded to make certain that others have the opportunity to experience his kingdom so that no one will be caught off guard. 

What are you doing to advance the gospel in your area of influence?  Are you living in expectation of Jesus’ return, while also excitedly telling His story?