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Monday, January 20, 2014

All of Me

Luke 11
Upon reading Luke 11, what first caught my eye and mind was verse 42. I was curious as to what Jesus meant when He said the Pharisees pay tithe of mint and ruse and every herb. I wondered did this mean they who knew the Law gave the very smallest bit required by God and felt their obligation fulfilled. As I went further into the text looking at the Greek words and the Old Testament laws for tithing, I found something different from what I first thought. This made me look at all of Luke 11 to see if there was a theme here which Luke wanted people to understand. What I found was amazing. There is a theme in this chapter. This theme is taught by others, but maybe not in this way. We spend so much time studying the Lord’s Prayer, the good Father versus the earthly father, cleanliness, demon removal, and the lamp under the bushel basket that we do not often see the whole picture of Luke 11. This is what amazed me. The lesson Luke told is one of the main points of Jesus’ ministry. Before I give it away in advance, let us look at this chapter as a whole.
After Jesus prayed, one of the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. The Lord’s Prayer so many of us know. It contains six points. Our prayers must start with the supreme, hallowing God, revering God because of who He is. Since God is spiritual, this is a spiritual request. Next, we are to pray for God’s kingdom to come. This seems like a physical thing, asking for Jesus to return to the earth to judge the people, cast Satan into eternal fire, renew the created world, and have His kingdom reign forever in the new heaven and new earth. We must remember though that Jesus said with His appearance God’s kingdom came. With the birth of Jesus, God began His new Covenant with the people of earth and this new covenant began the kingdom of God on earth. In addition, whenever a person receives Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, God’s kingdom has come for them. Therefore, God’s kingdom is spiritual and physical. The kingdom will fully come upon Jesus’ second coming to earth. The next thing we are to pray for is to ask God for our daily needed food, the bread for our physical body. Through the fourth item in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to ask for forgiveness. This is an internal and spiritual thing and requires acknowledging we have sinned and humbling ourselves to confess those sins against God and His moral laws. This is an internal and spiritual act requiring our mind, heart, and spirit. The fifth aspect of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught is that we to ask for a forgiving heart. We are to forgive because He forgave us. Forgiving people means we understand we are also sinners who have received God’s grace and mercy and, understanding this, we, through God’s love, forgive those who have hurt us. This aspect of the Lord’s Prayer is also an inner, spiritual thing. The final part of the Lord’s Prayer is important and is an internal spiritual thing. We are to ask God for strength to avoid temptation. Jesus recognized that the temptation was not the sin, but could lead to sin if a person did not have the strength to overcome the temptation. Humankind often cannot do this with their own inner fortitude. They can always avoid temptation with the power and fortitude of Jesus, who, being tempted like all men, did not succumb to the temptations, even when the devil tempted Him in the desert. What I want to make sure we see is that most of the Lord’s Prayer, which He taught His disciples, has to do with inner spiritual things. Each of them related to God and four of them related to humankind. One specifically dealt with physical things for humanity. One physical thing for which Jesus instructed us to pray was for our daily needed food. Every other thing He instructed us to pray was spiritual and internal. Let us consider that and move to the next passages.
We can break the rest of Luke 11 into these categories: the Giver and the asker (vs. 5-13), the kingdom of God is here now (vs. 14-20), cleaning house (vs. 21-26), the thematic statement of Luke (vs. 28), comparisons of humans and God’s working (vs. 29-54). Verses 5 to 13 show us a comparison of an earthly giver and our heavenly Father who gives. There are three stories used to show us how much more loving and gracious our heavenly Father is toward us. Because of the one man’s persistence, a neighbor friend wakes and gives him food. Because of a father’s love, he gives a child a fish and an egg instead of a snake or scorpion. If an earthly father or neighbor gives this, how much more will the heavenly Father give. Therefore, Jesus tells them to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, and knock and keep on knocking. The Father will always provide your needs whenever you ask. Do not give up faith because He wants you to find Him. He waits for you to ask, seek, and knock.
As we continue our reading, we find Jesus cast a demon out of a mute man and the Pharisees reacted (vs. 14-26). We must remember who the Pharisees were. They were one of the three sects of Judaism. “Pharisee” means "separatist" an of the separated one. People of the time knew them as the chasidim, which means loyal to God. The Pharisees were the strictest in their observance and obedience to God. They became extremists in limited parts of the Law. This may be what blinded them to the Messiah in their midst. After Jesus cast out the demon from this man, the man spoke and the crowds expressed amazement. To counter the crowds, the Pharisees said Jesus cast out the demon by the power of Satan. Jesus used rhetoric to refute this by saying that since the demon came from the devil, why would the devil cast the demon out. That would be one house fighting itself. He said a house divided against itself could not stand. Jesus then spoke a barb. He asked, implying since He is the Messiah and they do not accept Him, by whom do their sons cast out demons. He implied that their sons cast out demons by the power of Satan (vs.19). Consider this, though. Jesus said, “Since I do not cast out demons by the power of Satan because Satan would not ‘divide his house,’ then I must cast our demons by the finger of God (the power of God). Since Jesus cays out demons with the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (vs. 20). Jesus just proclaimed God’s kingdom had come. He said, “If you are not with me, you are against me” (vs. 23). Jesus continued talking about demons. He said in essence, when you clean house spiritually, unless you take in a stronger man than yourself, then the one who mastered you before will return to master you again and it will be worse (vs. 21-22, 23-26). Jesus meant, when you hear about Him and change your life avoiding sinful activities and other things because of what He said that is good. However, if you just do external things, changing your actions, but do not cleanse internally, the demons will return to find a suitable place to live. Hearing Jesus, believing Him, and following Him requires not just a physical change, like actions, but an internal spiritual change where a person gives his heart, mind, and soul to Jesus. When a person gives their whole self to Jesus, Jesus cleans him or her inside and out. Jesus guards the person so that demons, who are stronger than people, cannot overcome him or her when returning to look for a new home. God is a stronger guard than the person against the demons. A person cannot protect him or herself against the strength of Satan using just  his or her own strength. Only with God’s strength can a person resist the devil. When God cleanses a person inside and out, He gives His strength to him or her. These things are what Jesus spoke of in the rest of the chapter.
We must understand one more thing before we go to the last section of the chapter. The theme of this chapter is verse 28. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Blessed are those who hear, consider, and understand the Word of God. This is an active hearing. It involves the physical ear and the mental capacity of a person. "Observe" means to guard for one's self or to take care not to violate. Jesus, said, then, happy is the person who hears, considers, and understands the Word of God and takes care not to violate His Word. This is an act of volition, an act of the will. This is internal, not just external, as the Pharisees lived the Law of the Old Covenant. The Ten Commandments gave four laws in relation to God and six in relation to humankind. These were moral and religious laws. The Pharisees were following some of the laws strictly. Those who pray for God's kingdom to come, His will to be done, and for strength to overcome temptation are those who Jesus speaks of here. God's kingdom is more than prayer, following rules, and forgiveness.  It is observing the Word of God, believing, taking it into one's heart, and living it, nit just following a few rules only. It requires an internal change as well as an external. The Pharisees were external followers. The Pharisees were self-righteous, not righteous. Only God can give righteousness. As a follower of Jesus, Jesus changes the person inside and out, physically and spiritually, which includes the heart, mind, and soul.
We arrive now at the section of the chapter that shows human activity as compared to godly activity. This section of Luke 11 shows that belief changes a life because true belief affects the heart and creates a love of God that lives out God’s love to others. First, Jesus began by reminding them that in the past God sent messengers. Some people believed them. Consider Jonah. When he told them God was bringing judgment on them because of their sins, they tore their clothes, put on sackcloth, and repented. Because of their true repentance, God spared them. When the Queen of Sheba ventured to speak to Solomon about His God of whom she heard, she believed because of his testimony. Jesus said one does not hide a light, but uses it to lead people. He compared a person’s eye to light. The Pharisees were the eyes for the Jews, but their sight was not good and they led the Jews into darkness. With the Son of God as their light, all the Jews would be full of light and would not have darkness for the trickery and deceit of Satan.
Jesus continued speaking to the Pharisees and the Law interpreters and teachers about their actions and beliefs when a Pharisee invited Him to eat lunch with him. This is where Jesus became explicit with the Pharisees regarding what keeps them from believing. As they each sit at the table to eat, the Pharisee noted that Jesus did not follow the Law concerning washing before a meal. Jesus used this opportunity to make His main point. The Pharisees are more concerned with obedience to the Law that is visible to other people, the external Laws. They cleaned their hands and the outside of the cup and platter. He said, though they did this, they were still unclean. He told them there were “full of robbery and wickedness.” They did not allow their belief in Yahweh to change who they were internally, but instead chose to do those things that were visible to others so they would appear holy and devout. God sees inside a person. Jesus gave them an example in verses 41 and 42. He said to give from what is inside their selves to charity, knowing that they were not. He said when the love of God, which governs their actions, affected them internally in true charity, then they would be clean They would be clean because God had control of their hearts. Verse 42 shows what Jesus meant. The Pharisees were so concerned to give the exact amount and right thing for tithe that they went out of their way to make sure they even gave the herbs recorded at the bottom of the tithe list. They went out of their way to make sure they observed even the jot and tittle of the Law, but they disregarded moral law and the love of God. Jesus told them they should have tithed as well as followed the morals of God’s Law, which His love, had it resided in them, would have enacted. Jesus pointed out their error. They were following the actions the Law required to the final degree, but they were not following the moral law that God’s love put into the heart of a true follower. Ouch! Does this ring true for us, too? This was the first “woe” Jesus proclaimed that day. The people of God are to give from the inside and the outside, justice to everyone and love of God. These Pharisees were hypocrites and corrupters of public morals.
The second of the six “woe” proclamations had to do with the Pharisees pride. They wanted people to see them as righteous through their external performance. This acknowledgement came when people gave them the choice seats out of respect as an honor. Jesus called the Pharisees concealed tombs. They hide their lack of faith behind their actions. They are not true followers of God. Jesus pronounced this as the third “woe." “Woe” that they did not have seats around God’s table.
After Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, the lawyers told Him that what He was saying was insulting them, too (vs. 45). These lawyers were experts in the Mosaic Law. If the Pharisees followed them, then the people would consider the lawyers reputable and would follow them. Jesus confronted the lawyers with their extreme requirements. He told the lawyers they were requiring more from the Jews than they were willing to do themselves. Jesus told them they were not willing to touch the burdens they required with even one of their fingers. These lawyers required more of the Jews allegiance to the Law than they required of themselves. This is hypocrisy, too. The fifth “woe” Jesus also spoke to the lawyers. He told them that they, by their action and inaction, built the tombs of the prophets earlier generations killed. They were as guilty as the past persecutors of God’s prophets. Added to this, they bore more guilt (built the tombs) because they did not correct the past persecutors’ teachings to the Jews. They led the current Jews to believe the persecutors were right in what they did. They approved of the persecutors deeds in their teachings and proclamations to the Jews (vs. 48). Jesus recalled for them that they, being in the loins of the persecutors when they persecuted the prophets, are guilty, too. (The writer of Hebrews used this line of thought, too, when he spoke of the children of Abraham as being heirs to the promise of God and the New Covenant.) In addition to this, Jesus told them God would send prophets and apostles for persecution and killing so that the blood of the prophets since the foundation of the world will be upon that generation. (See Matthew 23:34-36.) Jesus told the lawyers they were hypocrites and just as guilty as the Pharisees and those who persecuted and killed prophets from the beginning of time. Lest the lawyers say the Law or the Pharisees told us to do these things, Jesus ensured they knew the guilt rested within their own hands. The lawyers taught the strict observance by actions, but avoided moral requirements as the Law taught and as Jesus taught in the Lord’s Prayer.
Jesus proclaimed a final “woe” against the lawyers that was similar to the charge against the Pharisees. It regarded being the light for the Jews. The lawyers, the ones who knew and taught the Law, took away knowledge of God from the Jews. They would not enter the kingdom of God and they hindered those who were entering, the Jews. Should the lawyers consider that God condemn them less, Jesus stated their guilt plainly. They are hypocrites, killers and persecutors, and hiders of the true knowledge of God.
The Pharisees and lawyers had power and authority over the people, yet they did not teach justice and love of God from the heart and soul. They became very hostile toward Jesus, questioned Him closely, and were plotting how to catch Him in saying something against the Law that they enforced. The Pharisees were more interested in outward observance than in inward knowledge of and obedience to God. Outward signs of devotion to God were more important than public and religious morals to them. The way to become more than the Pharisees and lawyers is to hear the Word of God and observe it (See Luke 11:28 and Matthew 23:13.)
When we read or say the Lord’s Prayer, we must understand that the prayer is about God, who He is, our response to Him, our correct understanding of Him, and what is required to be a follower of Jesus. The Pharisees and lawyers chose one part of that, the actions. If actions could give us salvation, then there would have been no need for God’s promise of a new covenant. If actions could give salvation, then there would be no need for God. Yet, we are not as powerful as God, or even of Satan. We need a guard of our house, our person. We need a savior to redeem us from the penalty of our sins; that penalty  is death. We need a new way to be with God in His kingdom and to live in this world until Jesus’ return. God provided this way through Jesus’ death and resurrection. The decision we must make is whether we will give our whole selves to the Lord, our physical bodies, as well as, our heart, mind, and soul. We choose to let God’s love affect our innermost being so that our actions and thoughts come from His Spirit within us and the love God put in our hearts. These give rise to godly actions. By giving only our physical bodies, we will become like the Pharisees and lawyers. In giving all of them, we become followers of Jesus and children of God.
We get to choose. Will you choose to allow God to forgive you and be your Savior and Lord? Will you just follow the Law and not let it affect your moral life? Will you choose to let Him have your whole being, body, heart, mind, and soul? It is up to you. You get to make the decision. He will not make it for you, but He has provided the way and given you the choice. What will you choose?