Text: Luke 11:1-13
Preacher: Pastor Ray
Text: Eph 4:17-32
Put away anger in all its forms and put on kindness, tenderheartedness and a forgiving spirit.
Preacher: Pastor Ray
Our Heavenly Father wants His children to seek Him so that He can deliver us from deeply rooted sins such as lust and bitterness.
The Lord wants you to seek Him so that He can deliver you from sin. Here are 3 observations from the Psalms:
1) Boastful words overflow from a heart that is proud.
2) Critical words overflow from a heart that is judgmental.
3) Harsh words overflow from a heart that is angry.
Read Psalm 19.
– Are your words and the meditations of your heart acceptable to the Lord?
Read Hebrews 12.
– What is the author of Hebrews accusing his audience of not doing regarding the deep roots of their sins?
– What is the motivation for us to struggle against sin?
– Why do we grow fainthearted in our struggle against sin?
– What makes this struggle against sin bearable?
– What are we actually enduring when we struggle against sin?
– What are 3 goals of the Father’s discipline? [Read Heb 12:10-12]
– Why might we not yield to the Father’s discipline? Consider the warning of Esau.
– What are the consequences for those who refuse the Father’s discipline?
Read 2 Cor 10:3-5.
– How do we fight against deeply rooted sins such as bitterness and lust?
Does this mean that we are to ignore sin in our fellow brother or sister’s life? No, of course not. Matthew 18 is the famous and unpopular chapter about church discipline. Jesus describes starting in v15 in very practical terms how we are to deal with a brother who sins against you.
Go to the person who sinned against you. Go in private and work it out just the two of you. Don’t humiliate the person in public. Don’t talk behind the person’s back and gossip and slander. You deal with him privately and personally. If he doesn’t repent, then you go and involve someone else. If the person still doesn’t repent, then bring it before the church.
I want to ask, in your relationships, do you follow this? Isn’t it far easier when someone sins against you to avoid the person and then talk to a dozen other people to gain their sympathy. That’s unloving. It’s unbiblical. Jesus outlines these steps because helping people with their sin is so unnatural for us. Instead of following Matthew 18 in its entire context, we would either speak directly to the person who wrongs us and gouge out their eyes. Or we talk behind their back and garner sympathy for our cause.
We cannot ignore sin. We have to confront sin, but here are some practical steps to do it in the least damaging and most edifying way for the other person who is in sin. Not only that, if we read these verses about confronting sin in someone else in the context of the entire chapter, then wouldn’t our attitude be different? These practical steps of going and confronting your brother who is in sin privately, then bringing another person as a witness, then the entire church–it is possible to follow these steps in a manner, with an attitude that destroys the person in sin.
We have to practice these verses about confronting sin in another person with fear and trembling before God so that we don’t stumble one of God’s little ones. We need to confront sin with much prayer, with brotherly affection, with grace and tenderness because ultimately we want to restore the little child to their heavenly Father.
Isn’t this how God treats us? The Parable of the Lost Sheep starts in v10 with the phrase–
10 See that you do not LOOK DOWN on one of these little ones…
“Look down” is an interesting choice of words. We are all little ones. We are all on the same level. The same way that adults shouldn’t look down on children because we think we know better, as Christians, we shouldn’t look down at others from a position of superiority.
How does God treat one of these little ones? Verses 12-14.
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.
Look at how tenderly God treats his little ones. He doesn’t look down on these little ones. He leaves the 99 to go after the one. He drops everything, he ignores the “stronger” sheep who are under his care and his heart zeroes in on the one “weaker” sheep who is about to be devoured. Each and every sheep are little ones to God and one precious little one is on the verge of being lost forever. This is how God treats one of these little ones. We are not to look down on little ones who are struggling. We are not supposed to elevate ourselves or the 99 who are not stumbling at present.
This is how God treats one of His little ones. Shouldn’t we treat others with the same care and concern and love that God cares for one of his little ones who has lost his way?
Our motivation for treating others this way is more than simply observing God, observing Jesus and trying to emulate their behavior. Not only does God give us an example in Christ for us to imitate, God also gives us the ABILITY, the power, to treat others this way.
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant explains where that ability comes from. Read Matt 18:21-35.
Again, we have to read this in context. How can we remain humble like a child? How can we treat others, pointing out sin but in a way that doesn’t stumble nor tempt one of God’s little ones to fall into greater sin, but instead, edifies and restores? The answer to both questions is that we have to recognize how God treats us. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He doesn’t say, you owe me a million dollars and now you have to work for me and pay back every last cent. No, he cancels the debt. He washes our sin away. We are fully cleansed and fully restored, the debt is paid in full the moment we repent and place our faith in Christ.
This grace and mercy transforms hearts to the point that we can extend the same grace and mercy to others. There is a deep, radical internal change of heart. Even when we are wronged and we are deeply hurt, we remember the great debt that God canceled on our behalf and we have the roominess of heart to forgive others.
Therefore, stay humble. Know that you are a beloved child of God. Know that Jesus left the 99 to pursue you. Because you are that precious. You are one of his little ones. In addition, as recipients of this tremendous grace and mercy, go and treat others the same way God treats you in Christ. They, too, are His little ones.
4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
Verse 4 is about our identity and verse 5 is about our relationships. Now, let’s pull these two ideas together.
What is true greatness? True greatness is possessing a passionate love for Jesus that expresses itself in a love and concern for others. Parents, teach this to your kids. Everyone here, do you want to be great? Then, spend time being a child in your Father’s arms. If people see you doing this, they might say, you are wasting your time. You are not making anything of your life. You are throwing away your potential. But to God, if you invest your life being a child in His arms, he says, you are achieving true greatness.
The fifth litmus test–a Christian is someone who is concerned about God’s name and His kingdom.
Verse 9. We start with acknowledging who we are talking to. Our Father in heaven. He is the Creator, we are the creature. We start by acknowledging the immense gap between us and God. God is not our buddy. We are not peers, we are not equals. What a privilege that we get to pray to the God who spoke the universe into being.
Verses 9-10 are connected.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We are to hallow God’s name and then we are to ask for the kingdom of God to come and for God’s will to be done here on earth.
What does it mean to hallow his name? The word “hallow” means sanctified. Jesus tells us to pray, Let your name be sanctified. Sanctify can mean make holy or treat as holy. When God sanctifies us, it means that he makes us holy. But when we sanctify God, it means that we treat him as holy. So Jesus is teaching us to pray that God would cause his name to be treated as holy, distinct, special. What are we asking God to do when we pray that he cause his name to be treated as holy?
There is most definitely a personal element. In your life and mine, we are asking that the name of the Lord be hallowed, that it be set apart, that it be lifted up and in a category all by itself, separate from other things that may vie for our attention. But the name of God being hallowed doesn’t remain a personal matter only. How do we know this? The next verse, we are to pray for God’s kingdom to come and for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Is it enough that individually, we have Jesus as the reigning king in our hearts? No, the verse talks about the entire earth being a place where God’s kingdom comes and His will is done. The whole earth. All the nations of the world. The name of the Lord spreading to the world was an idea that was present from the Old Testament. Please turn with me to Isaiah 26:8-9.
8 Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. 9 My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.
God’s name and his renown. If you are a believer, this is the desire of your heart. You want God to be famous among all the nations. We want the whole world to know what true righteousness is. We want God’s kingdom to invade every nation, every unreached corner of the world, every heart, we want everyone to bow down before the name that is higher than any other name. You can’t pray this prayer and be content with the fact that you know God’s name. You can’t be content bringing your problems, your will, your desires and closing the prayer in Jesus name. But you start with a concern for God’s name and His will and His will is that all people would not perish but have a chance to hear the name of God and be saved.
This relates to v13–
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Evil is not an abstract concept. The translation is evil one. Evil is a person. Satan is not a fictional character in horror movies. He is a real person and we shouldn’t be surprised that those whose heart desires to advance God’s kingdom on earth will experience opposition, persecution, hardship. Expect spiritual battle, esp. the more our church prays in this way and engages in activities that advance God’s kingdom on earth.
The sixth litmus test–a Christian is someone who has the ability to forgive others.
12 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
There is an obvious link here with the sermon I preached 2 weeks ago. We are to love our enemies. These verses do not mean that our forgiveness of others earns us the right to be forgiven. Rather, the proof that one understands the forgiveness of God is a forgiving spirit toward others. People who are forgiven by God and are saved are the only ones who can genuinely forgive others. Once our eyes have been opened to see the enormity of our offense against God, the injuries which others have done to us appear by comparison extremely minimal. If, on the other hand, we have an exaggerated view of the offense of others, it proves that we have minimized our own offense before God.
Examine your life. Have you taken the Law and changed it to suit your preferences? Take for example, this command to love your neighbors as yourself, which includes your enemies.
There are some who have no enemies, which is hard to believe, but if you stay away from everyone and do your own thing, I guess it’s possible to not have any enemies. But if you are in this group, I bet you are not really loving anyone. Because you are living on an island. By yourself.
We all know how to love ourselves. If we are hungry, we feed ourselves. If we are tired, we rest. We are very sensitive to our needs. If you have no enemies, it’s likely that you are not engaged in the lives of others and so you are not loving anyone with the same level of dedication that you love yourself. If you are in this group and your world revolves around 1 person, yourself, I would challenge you to love just one other person. One person, love him, love her all the way. Not just when it’s easy, not just when it’s convenient. Love that person the same way you would love yourself. Which is a tremendous amount of love if you are honest with yourself.
There are others among us who think we are quite loving, but you’ve fallen into the trap that the Pharisees and scribes fell into. You’ve divided people into 2 groups: 1) the neighbors or those whom I love and 2) the enemies or those whom I hate.
And the funny thing is that people in this group can think they are quite loving, but here Jesus clarifies two types of love. One type of love that is human generated and another type altogether, a love that is generated from the Spirit, or from God.
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
Many of us fall into this category. We love those who love us in return. We love our friends. We love our family. We love those who are good to us. We love others who look like us, talk like us, dress like us, others who are just like us. And there is nothing wrong with this, but we might fool ourselves into thinking we are loving people and that the grace of God is the source of that love. However, if our love is limited to only those who are good to us and who love us, then we might be no different than a non-believer, who can love only out of his or her own human effort.
That’s why love for the enemy is the true litmus test. If you can love an enemy, that’s proof that the love of the Father is in you. Because love for an enemy is humanly impossible to do.
How many people do you know who can’t attend family gatherings because someone did something several decades ago and they can’t forgive? The victims are good to their own families. They are good to their friends, but they can’t love their enemies because they haven’t forgiven them.
They say, if only the person who wronged me confessed their sin, then I would gladly forgive. In an ideal world, there would be confession of sin every single time a sin is committed. But we don’t live in an ideal world. Our world is fallen. So the reality is, the person who wrongs us seldom confesses. And you and I are stuck with bitter hearts. You’re imprisoned by unforgiveness. And of course, if you are bitter toward your enemies, love for your enemies is impossible.
I want to challenge you this morning to forgive those who’ve wronged you. But that person hasn’t apologized. They haven’t said sorry. Where in the Bible does it call us to withhold our love and forgiveness from someone until the person confesses? Show me. If you can, I stand corrected. If that is your view on forgiveness, then you’ve added something to the Bible that is not there. You’re doing the same thing the Pharisees and the teachers of the law did. You’ve added things. You’ve deleted things. You’ve made up a religion with your own version of the Law. The Bible is clear. Love your neighbor as yourself, even if the person standing in front of you is an enemy who wronged you and mistreated you and made your life miserable. Love that person. Can you love like this on your own strength? No. It’s impossible. Only someone who understands God’s love and grace can love an enemy.
There’s a saying. If you respond to good with evil, then you’re a scoundrel. If you respond to good with good, then you’re human. You’re following the natural order. If you respond to evil with good, that’s divine.
There are 3 applications straight from the text about what love for the enemy looks like. In verse 47, loving your enemy means something as simple and as gracious as greeting them: “if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others?” Greeting your enemies is one form of the love Jesus has in mind here.
Whom do you greet when you leave this service? Only those who greet you? Only your close friends? Only those you know? Jesus says, Greet not only those you don’t know. Greet those who are at odds with you. As Christians, we never have a right to snub someone. Love your enemy means something as simple as greet them.
Second, verse 45 illustrates what love is:
45 …He [referring to God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
In this case, love refers to making practical efforts to meet a person’s physical needs. Sunshine and rain are the two things that are needed for growth and food and human life. This is the kind of practical concern Paul had in mind when he penned Romans 12:20-21–
20 …“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Loving your enemy means practical acts of helpfulness in the ordinary things of life. God gives his enemies, the unrighteous, sunshine and rain. In your power, you give your enemies food and water. Meet their practical needs.
Third, and this is the most difficult. Verse 44 gives one of the deepest meanings of love for your enemies. It says,
44 I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.
Prayer for your enemies is one of the deepest forms of love because it means that you have to really want something good to happen to them. You might do nice things for your enemy without any genuine desire that things go well with them. But prayer is different because you are praying for them in the presence of God. You are praying before a God who knows your heart and who knows the heart of the person you are praying for. Prayer is interceding with God on their behalf. It may be for their conversion. It may be for their repentance. It may be that they would be awakened to the hatred in their hearts. It may be that they will be stopped in their downward spiral of sin, even if it takes some type of calamity to do it. But the prayer Jesus has in mind here is always for the good of the other person.
This is what Jesus did as he hung on the cross–
34 Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.
And it’s what Stephen did as he was being stoned in Acts 7:60–
60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
These are examples of obedience to Jesus command: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Jesus is calling us not just to do good things for our enemy, like greeting them and helping supply their needs. He is also calling us to have their best interest in mind and to express those desires for their good in prayers when the enemy is nowhere around.
How will you know when you are truly loving your enemy and praying for their best interest? One way that you’ll know is this. You will no longer speak a negative word about your enemy. A mention of their names will no longer spark bitterness in your heart. You will be free because you have been released from the prison of unforgiveness. This is the kind of deep, inner righteousness of the heart that Jesus is inviting us to.