‘The Gospel of Luke: Encountering Jesus’
Message: ‘Surviving in the valley’ pt.1 Text: Luke 9:46-62
Introduction: An ancient Indonesian parable tells of a turtle who flew through the air by biting hard on a stick that was carried by two geese. The turtle was enjoying his flight, but when he heard what the onlookers from the ground were saying, he became troubled.
The onlookers were saying, “Aren’t those geese clever for holding that turtle in the air. Their brilliant!” The turtle felt he was the one that deserved the attention and praise so he opened his mouth and shouted, “This was my Idea!” (Mike Fogerson)
- Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
Truth is, we’re all, ashamedly familiar with pride. Ruth Harms Calkin wrote a poem that reveals that pride doesn’t escape even those in the church.
- You know, Lord, How I serve You with great emotional fervor in the limelight.
- You know how eagerly I speak for You at a Women’s Club.
- You know my genuine enthusiasm at a Bible study.
But how would I react, I wonder,
- if You pointed to a basin of water
- and asked me to wash the callused feet of a bent and wrinkled old woman,
- day after day, month after month,
- in a room where nobody saw and nobody knew? (Jeff Strite)
In every church, every Christian, fights, to varying degrees of success, the strong, inward drive, to exalt self.
- And to the extent that we fail, so does this ministry.
BUT, I thank God that He’s long suffering, patient and forgiving with us, even though, because of our pride, we’re not as long suffering, patient and forgiving… with others.
Background: In our text for the next couple of Sundays,
- we’ll see Jesus disciples failing Him, in big ways.
- We’ll also see that Jesus doesn’t ever give up on them.
Something that should be an encouragement to all who struggle with the monster called pride.
Transition: Open your Bibles to Luke 9:46.
- Luke 9:46-48 With humility
Read: Luke 9:46-48
Jesus, at this time, was still very popular with the people and that meant the 12 disciples, by association, were popular too.
- Jesus called them to Himself. He taught them. He commissioned and enabled them to heal the sick and cast out demons… and they did! Many times.
However, if you remember from last Sunday, Jesus left 9 of His disciples in the valley while He, Peter, John and James went up to the mountain top. While they were in the valley w/o Jesus, they failed to cast out a demon in a young child. Yet, immediately after that, we find them…well, prideful. It’s glaringly obvious from our text that:
- Pride, has a very short memory of our own failures
- and a very long memory of the failures of others.
This got me thinking. What would have initiated this discussion of which of them was Jesus’ greatest disciple? Especially right after the 9 had failed so miserably.
I actually think it was because of the failure of the 9, that they were the ones who started the conversation.
- Perhaps they were jealous of Peter, John and James whom Jesus took with Him to the mountain top.
But I don’t think the 9 bear all the responsibility, I’m sure the 3 contributed as well. And it was all rooted, in pride. You see:
- Pride not only says ‘I want to be first.’ Thought the 3, perhaps.
- It also says, ‘I don’t want to be last.’
Thought the 9, again, perhaps.
Listen, pride is a matter of hierarchy, of status, of position… above others. That’s what the disciples were discussing then they asked ‘Who is the greatest?’
Jesus, seeing the pride in their hearts, slams on the breaks, by turning their idea of greatness, upside down, and using a young child as an object lesson.
What was the ‘object’ of this object lesson?
- Followers of Jesus, instead of seeking status for themselves,
- seek to care for the needs of and elevate those who have no status.
Since children under 12 could not be taught the Torah, the thought was why bother with them. And that left them with no social status, at all.
Sidebar: I’m so pleased, that here at CBC, we value our children. We consider them important to the life of this community.
- They learn, they serve, they worship, they fellowship… together with us.
- That’s a great thing.
Even with that, life for all of us in the valley is a constant struggle with pride, selfish ambition and conceit. But to survive in the valley, we must learn to be humble.
The Apostle Paul writing to the Christians at the church in Philippi said:
- Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3–4)
Paul said in humility count others more significant than yourselves… Those are hard words to swallow. It goes against our basic wiring that pushes us towards self-importance.
But, Jesus here meant children were to be included as part of the ‘others, we are to count more significant.’ Even though they had no significance, no status in that culture.
And Jesus takes the importance of Children in the kingdom a step further, when He says
- Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great. (Luke 9:48)
When we serve those who lack status and significance, we’re serving Jesus. When we serve Jesus we’re doing the work the Father has called us to do. In other words:
- Serving one another, regardless of status or significance, is the good work of the Kingdom.
But, let’s not look at this from the wrong perspective.
- Jesus isn’t telling them how to be great. That’s not the point here.
- He’s teaching the 12, and all of us, that God views greatness very differently than we do.
He’s showing what life in the kingdom looks like for those who choose to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus.
- The focus is NOT on being great, it’s on being humble.
- The focus is not on our achievements it’s on being humble.
- The focus is not on raising or promoting our status, it’s elevating others who have no status… by serving them.
Think about this. Jesus used a child to teach His disciples about humility, because to have a face to face with a child, you have to stoop. And when it comes to how showing love to one another in this community of faith:
- Love, when it comes from a humble heart, always, stoops!
- Luke 9:49-50 With a kingdom mindset
Read: Luke 9:49-50
Competition. A little competition is a good thing. In school and at work it helps us to excel.
Competition, when it comes to sports, can also help us excel physically, mentally and even socially, if good sportsmanship is also being taught.
We can also have a good sense of competition when we don’t play sports, but instead root for our favorite team.
Eagles, Giants, Jets, Dallas fans…
- Many of us like supporting our teams and joke with each other about who will win.
- But that never gets in the way of the unity we share as members of the CBC community.
Competition, at times can bring us together. But, it also has the power to divide and narrow our opinion of others. For example,
- VBS can be an exciting outreach OR a competition between churches.
We start to wonder
- Who has the most children or the best looking backdrops.
And when that happens, competition becomes sin.
- What Dr. Luke shows in in verses 49-50 is that although pride is an individual sin, it can also be a corporate one.
What’s the sin in verses 49-50?
- It’s pride in our ‘group.’
- A pride that separates us from other groups.
- It’s thinking all other groups are less than, not as important as, or not as ‘Biblical,’ as ours.
In the big picture, it’s not having a kingdom mindset.
Life in the valley for churches, is often not any different than for individuals. Churches develop jealousy and manifest pride in how they relate to other churches, particularly those in their surrounding communities.
- Very few, if any, are totally immune from that.
The disciple John here in our text, much younger and less wise and godly, than the man who wrote the Gospel of John and 1,2,3 John, well, didn’t like the direction Jesus was going when He rebukes them for their lack of faith and now lack of humility.
- John, kind of, changes the topic by pointing out that there was someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name and they tried to stop him.
Why would the disciples try to stop this man, who was evidently more successful in casting out demons than the 9 had just been?
- Because he wasn’t a part of their group.
- He wasn’t one of the 12 Jesus set aside to be His apostles.
- And because they were jealous.
What was Jesus’ response? Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you. Before I break that down, let me give my general impression of this.
- We should praise God that Colts Neck Community Church and New Monmouth Baptist Church have large, thriving children’s programs.
- We should praise God that Park Church and Grace Christian Church have large, professional sounding Worship Teams.
- We should praise God that Triumphant Life Church and Grace Bible Church have buildings that provide the space to do all that God has called them to do.
Yes, they do things differently than we do.
- But we share the same purpose, we share the same love, we are helping to build the same kingdom, we proclaim and lift up the same Jesus.
So, when what they do is done in the name of Christ, Jesus says, not to stop them. And the Apostle Paul tells us… to rejoice with them:
- Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15–18)
Please, please do not misunderstand. I’m not implying that we’re doing things with right motives and the other churches I mentioned are not.
- My point is that even though they do things differently as a church than we do,
- when Christ is lifted up, we should rejoice with them.Look, life in the valley, will challenge us to separate and divide, to look to and protect our own interests, our own territory as a church. But Jesus calls us to…Kingdom mindedness.
Jesus in Mark 3:24-25 said:
- If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
The church today has enough enemies, other Christ exalting churches shouldn’t be one of them.
OK, on to the specifics of the text. How was it this man, who was not one of the 12, was able to cast out demons? The text says he was doing it in the name of Jesus.
- Scholars say this implies he was a believer in Jesus, perhaps a follower of Jesus, but not one who traveled with Him exclusively.
Look, I don’t believe the main point of the text was the man’s ability to cast out demons. The main point of the text was for the 12, and us,
- to have a kingdom mindset, when life in the valley pushes us away from each other.
Now, with that said, I believe there are times when we should separate from other Christians and churches.
- Some doctrinal differences are significant enough that we should not compromise them just to maintain unity.
But, our text shouts out to us that we need to be careful that it’s not pride or jealousy that’s the reason for not associating with them.
Conclusion: C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity wrote: For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.
- And that’s true whether speaking of the individual Christian in the local church
- or the local church in an area of many churches.
Each of us needs to constantly examine ourselves and perhaps ask questions like:
- When I serve in the church, is it from a heart of love and gratitude for what Jesus has done for me?
- Or is it to have a place of prominence and be recognized by others?
- What happens when I don’t receive the recognition I think I deserve?
- Do I get hurt feelings and quit serving or even leave the church?
- Am I jealous of other churches who attract a lot of people… even some of our own?
- Or do I rejoice that God is being glorified in that local church?
Look, I’m not…there, yet. I struggle from time to time with personal and corporate pride.
- But, the more I pray to have a kingdom mindset,
- the less control and influence pride and jealousy have in both my life and ministry.
Life in the valley is hard, it’s treacherous, it can be overwhelming, but through Christ, by keeping in step with the Spirit, we can not only survive, we can thrive!