Bible Study Cross-Centered Life

Luke 14-15 Calling the prodigal son to cross-bearing discipleship

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-27)

“Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Luke 15:7)

Often when we read the parables of Luke 15, we understand them from the perspective of the one looking for the lost sheep, or for the lost coin, or desiring that more prodigal sons would return to the Father.  We put ourselves in the place of the man looking for the lost sheep, or the woman sweeping and looking for the coin.

Today I read these parables immediately after reading the very demanding words of Jesus in Luke 14 regarding the cost of discipleship (and these include not just Luke 14:25-35, but the whole chapter, since in Luke 14:7-11, he is challenging us to humble ourselves, and in Luke 14:12-24, he is challenging us to heed the invitiation to the banquet and come).

When we see the parables of Luke 15:3-32 in the light of Luke 14, we understand that they form the other side of the coin of Jesus’ “hard” call to discipleship.  Jesus is saying that when we heed his call to put him first and deny everyone and everything to follow him alone, then the angels in heaven rejoice over our repentance, and the Father rejoices in our return.

God calls us to Christ not just with the “hard” words of Jesus’ challenge to deny ourselves, but also with “soft” words that show us the joy of heaven when we deny ourselves and follow Christ.  If we only had the hard words, we might be tempted to think that when we forsake everything to follow Christ, the Father thinks, “Good, it’s about time you came to your senses and obeyed me.”  But the “soft” words (and I’m not sure I like that term, but it’s the best I can do to make the contrast) remind us that Jesus loves us and is only calling us to “hate father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes even our own life” because he wants us to know the joy of the Father’s welcoming embrace.

“Renouncing all that we have” (Luke 14:33) is actually giving up “pig food” (Luke 15:16) so that we can enjoy the “fattened calf” (Luke 15:23) that our Father prepares for those who come in repentance.  Don’t think that Jesus calls you to a cross because he enjoys seeing you suffer.  He calls you to a cross because that is the way back into the fold.  The cross of discipleship is none other than the cross of union with Christ which brings us back into the loving arms of the Father.

Bible Study Theology

Luke 24:30-45 “…their eyes were opened”

I’ve shared the gospel enough times with people who had no interest in it to need some sort of encouragement not to give up. Perhaps you can identify with that. I found some of that encouragement this morning in Luke 24 in the story of Jesus talking with two of his followers on the road to Emmaus.

Cleopas and his friend are walking to the village of Emmaus when they are unexpectedly joined by a stranger who begins to interpret to them “in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (the Messiah).” (v. 27) It’s amazing to me that as the stranger reveals to these two such deep spiritual truths, they still don’t realize who he is!

But after arriving at Emmaus and sitting down to dinner together, Jesus takes bread and breaks it and gives it to them, and in that moment, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” This is what I long to see in the lives of people with whom I share the good news of all that the Scriptures reveal about Jesus the Messiah. I long to see their eyes opened so that they recognize Jesus for who he is. This is what I ask those of you who pray for our ministry to ask the Lord for. Pray that God would grant spiritual sight to those who are blind to the glory of Jesus Christ.

It is interesting that the revelation of Jesus to these two occurs in the breaking of the bread. This is most likely a reference to the Lord’s Supper, which is itself a revelation of the sacrifice for sins that Jesus made when he offered his body and his blood on the cross. It is in the declaration of that event, the Calvary event, that blinded eyes are opened.

That is not to say that everyone who hears the news of Jesus’ death and resurrection will be able to see with spiritual sight the glory of Christ. But when God in his grace opens blinded eyes and brings people to faith, he does it through the proclamation of the gospel. It’s difficult to proclaim the gospel to spiritually blind people who may not care two cents about what you are saying, but how necessary it is to be willing to open our mouths and to share the message without which no one can be saved (Acts 4:12), and trust that God will use it to save those lost sheep he has committed himself to finding (John 10:16).

This also shows us how we can pray for unbelievers: “Lord, open their eyes to see the glory of Christ the way you opened the eyes of those two in Emmaus.” Notice also that after Cleopas and his friend go to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples about what happened, Jesus appears again to them all. And verse 45 says, “he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

“Lord Jesus, as we are faithful to declare the gospel message to those around us, please open their minds to understand the Scriptures. Give spiritual sight that blinded sinners may see the glory of Christ.”

In verse 47, Jesus says that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Commit yourself anew to proclaiming the good news of repentance for forgiveness of sins. Commit yourself anew to pray for those who are hearing that message. Pray that God would open their eyes and their minds to understand the Scriptures and to see the glories of Jesus, our wonderful Savior. Be encouraged as you speak to and pray for the hardest of hearts. God is able to open closed minds and eyes.

Bible Study

Exodus 15 Jesus’ victory over our enemy

I read yesterday about Moses leading the Israelites across the Red Sea and today I read in Exodus 15 the victory song that the Israelites sang after the crossing.  Some things stood out to me in the song.  First of all, it is important to realize that the Exodus from Egypt is a picture of God’s salvation of his people.  It was a real historical event, and it was a real salvation, but in God’s eternal plan, it was only a foreshadowing of the eternal salvation that he provides for those whom he has chosen.  So when we read about the Exodus, we should see in it a picture of what God has done for us.

One of the things that stood out to me is that this was a salvation from an enemy.  Pharaoh was against God and out to keep the Israelites in slavery.  In the same way, we have an enemy, Satan, who wants to keep us enslaved to himself, and one of the aspects of our salvation is that we are delivered from him and he is destroyed.  This is mentioned in the song when they sing in Ex. 15:4-10

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea, and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.    The floods covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone.  Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.  In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.  At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
10  You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

This encouraged me because I very definitely see Satan scheming against me daily, and to know that he is defeated is very encouraging.  When Jesus died on the cross, it was Satan’s ultimate defeat, and just as Pharaoh and his officers sunk in the Red Sea and were “shattered” (v. 6) our enemy is also shattered.  By the “greatness of his majesty” Jesus has overthrown our adversary.  Of course, the ultimate manifestation of this is still future when Satan is cast into the Lake of Fire, but it is a certain thing that has already been accomplished.  So I can have confidence that I, in Christ’s strength am able to overcome our enemy.

Also encouraging were verses 16-18 where the song describes the effect of the Red Sea deliverance on the pagan peoples around who would certainly hear about this great act of salvation…

16  Terror and dread fall upon them;

because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,

till your people, O Lord, pass by,

till the people pass by whom you have purchased.

17  You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,

the place, O Lord, which you have made for your abode,

the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.

18  The Lord will reign forever and ever.”

Notice that verse 16 says that God has “purchased” his people.  Jesus has purchased us by his blood–his death on the cross.  The idea of being purchased is a very special way of thinking of our salvation.  We belong to God and he will certainly care for us because we are his.  1 Cor. 6:20 says, “you were bought with a price…”  and 1 Peter 1:18-19 say, “…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

We can rejoice today in the fact that we belong to God and that he has defeated our enemy!  Hallelujah!