Sunday, June 27, 2010


Friend, go up higher

Luke 14:10

What a keen observer of human nature was our Lord Jesus Christ. He who made man, and had now become Man, was and is the greatest interpreter of man. Here He was a guest in the home of a Pharisee. Here, if ever, He might be excused for a few moments from serving souls. Here He might be allowed some remission from His relentless ministry to man. And yet as they came to be seated for supper our text observes that He “noted how they chose the best places (Luke 11:7).” Even when our Savior was not speaking, still He was always watching. The Psalmist says “His eyes behold His eyelids try the children of men (Psalm 11:4).” So it ever was with our Lord. Many foolishly flatter themselves. Some folks think that because they cannot hear God, therefore God cannot see them. Do not be deceived. “He who formed the eye, shall He not see (Psalm 94:9)?” Even when Christ was not speaking, yet He was watching.

And Jesus proceeded to teach them something. Yet it is, upon first reading, one of the strangest lessons of our Lord in all of Scripture. In the midst of such unconcealed pride we would anticipate a lecture like “the loveliness of lowliness.” Or perhaps He might develop a prolonged polemic on the “devilish disease of pride”. These hypocrites had cornered themselves with their own conceit. Christ could clearly score an easy point on His opponents. The puffed up Pharisees and lawyers were like sitting ducks in a pool of their own pride: “They chose the BEST places.” Yet strangely our Savior does not take the easy shot. They were like fish in a bucket, and Jesus seems to let them off the hook. Rather than aiming His arrow of rebuke at their arrogant hearts, He seems to present them with an even better way to secure their lust for honor. “When you are invited” He tells them “go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’” Jesus says to them, it seems, “if you want honor, recognition and praise…let Me show you a better way.” And having taught them this trick, He tops it off with “Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.”

What is the real meaning of this mysterious message? Why does He who said elsewhere “blessed are the poor in spirit” here tell this company the quick road to “glory in the presence of all?” Why does Christ seem to cater to their crust on this occasion? How are we to understand this strange sermon?

First, it seems there is a hint of sarcasm here. Christ appears to be telling these false-faced honor-loving lawyers and Pharisees that if what they really want is worldly respect….here…let Me show you a better way. It is a sobering truth that the Lord sometimes gives you exactly what you want. Be careful what captivates your heart, you may just get it. Israel wanted a king, and the Lord granted their foolish and rebellious request. They begged for meat in the desert, and the Lord gave it, according to Moses, “until it comes out your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the Lord who is among you (Numbers 11:20).” If we love money, we might very well get it, and all the evil that comes with such a love as well. If we want fame, we may very well get it, and all the pressures and impurities that such prominence often produces. Christian…if what you really want from this life is more friends, more money, more influence, and more experiences…the Lord may let you have them, and it may cost you your soul. Want to be the most important person in your church? You may have it. Want to be the envy of your circle of friends? It may be within your reach. If the reward you want is glory now, Christ may grant it to you as to the hypocrite of whom He says “I say to you, they have their reward (Matt. 6:16).”

But I think the heart of this lesson lies somewhere else. Jesus is not really teaching us how to get what we want in this life. This story is not about worldly advancement or the secrets to social success. Christ is contrasting two radically different choices. The attitudes displayed around this table were typical of two entirely opposite ways of living in this world. Choosing “the best places” or choosing the “lowest place” is a metaphor for those who live for this life and those who live for the next. To seek the “best places” is the way of this world. To seek the “lowest place” is the way of Christ’s kingdom.  "The best places" are sought by those who "mind earthly things (Phil. 3:19)" but we are to have the "mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16)."  Jesus is saying “take the low seat now.” Here, in the banquet of this world and this life, take the lowest seat. Don’t look for honor right now. Resist that natural pursuit of popularity. Be content with the humblest place, be satisfied with the station of a servant, and let others have the honors, glory and respect. Be willing to go unnoticed now. Moreover, be content to be mistreated, misunderstood and maligned. “Blessed are you,” said Jesus “when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven (Matthew 5:11).” The great danger we all face is that we want our heaven right now. But as Jeremiah said to his servant “Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not (Jeremiah 45:5).”

Christ’s very life modeled the true meaning of this message. He took for Himself the most humble seat in the house of humanity. Though being God Himself, He “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5).” His whole life was one of humble obedience, “even the death of the cross (2:8).” Had He chosen a throne on earth, no king could have risen and asked Him to step down. But He chose a cave in Bethlehem for a cradle and the epitome of poverty for parents. In birth, life and death Jesus came and sat down in “the lowest place.” But when Christ’s life was done, God the Father said to Him (as it were) “Friend, go up higher.” And then He was “highly exalted” and given “the name which is above every name (2:10).” And oh Christian soul, you who suffer and sorrow now, one day Christ shall say to you “Friend, go up higher!” Then all the sorrows of this world will be left behind, fears will be forgotten, groans will be gone. “For I consider” says Paul “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).”

Dear reader: which end of the table are you aiming for right now? Do you want the best places in this life? Do you want the world’s esteem, praises and honor? Are you ashamed to consider Christianity for fear of what your friends might think? Are you trying to fit in with the crowd? Those who choose honor now must face the shame of their choice later. Christ, in this story, mentions that some who aim high will be brought low. Oh the dreadful day approaches when Christ commands you to step down and “then you begin with shame to take the lowest place (Luke 14:9).” The lowest place on earth cannot compare to the lowest place in Hell forever. Oh humble your heart now and repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Then shall the true meaning of this message not be lost upon your soul. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11).” 

Monday, June 21, 2010


I just started learning the guitar.  Those who have done so can feel my pain.  Chords hurt.  My fingers ache.  The very thought of forming an "A" or "G" or "D" on those steel instruments of torture creates a sort of dread in my sore hand.  There is a constant tingling that now goes on in the tips of my fingers.  Pressing the strings is agony.  They say it will get more comfortable when calluses are developed.  Until then: OUCH!  It strikes me that our consciences are like this with sin.  At first it hurts.  It bothers us.  It feels uncomfortable and wrong.  But persistent sinning builds calluses on our heart and conscience.  What bothered us at first now hardly impresses us at all.  Soon we sin easily, comfortably, skillfully.  Have you grown comfortable with some sin?  Have I?  Surely we have.  Pray for tender consciences.  Pray for more pain when we sin.  I want calluses to develop on my fingers, but I dread the calluses of my soul that allow me to sin without pain.  O Lord...make me hurt again!

I saw a dead chipmunk yesterday.  There it lay: lifeless and hopeless.  The maggots, however, were FULL of activity.  They were swarming, chewing, wiggling, moving all over the poor dead creature.  Oh my soul...don't ever be alarmed that dead religion seems to be surrounded with furious activity by its followers.  The truth sometimes seems to be moving slowly.  But the truth is alive.  False religion is dead religion, no matter how much activity seems to be going on around it.

Some seem to mistake reading MUCH with reading WELL.  I think I have fallen into this from time to time.  Don't confuse these.  Reading well is not the same as reading much any more than speaking well is the same as speaking much.  Just because one eats much, we do not say he has eaten well.  Seek to read well, not to simply read much. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


When the Power Goes Out!

Somebody touched Me, for I perceived POWER going out from Me.
Luke 8:46

O my soul. Our passage may not be immediately striking.  Here toward the end of Luke 8 we find a sick woman and a healing Savior.  She touched His garment and was completely restored.  But others have been healed by Christ, and so we may be tempted to simply glance upon her case and move on.   But there is something special here.  There is something Christ discloses in this miracle that He typically conceals.  Here He reveals, in no uncertain terms, that the source of this work is HIS OWN POWER. 

Other servants of the Lord worked miracles through a "borrowed" power.  The Scriptures say that "The God of Israel is He who gives strength and power to His people (Psalm 68:35)." To His own disciples Christ promised that He would "give" them power.  The enemies of Christ have, for a time, a "granted" power (Rev. 13:15).  To Pilate Christ said "you could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above (John 19:11)."  But here, in our text, we find Jesus Christ works by virtue of His own power. 

I perceived power going out from Me.” Let us take a moment then and consider carefully the power of Jesus Christ. 

What kind of power was this that flowed from Christ to this weary woman, and what kind of power is this that Christ offers to you and I?

1. It is a DIVINE POWER. This power, says Christ, was “from ME.” It is the power of the Omnipotent God Himself. It is the power of Eternal and Everlasting Divinity! Power before which angels fall and devils tremble. It is the power that brought all the worlds into existence in a moment. “For by Him [Christ] all things were created (Colossians 1:16).” No fair minded person can read the gospel accounts of Christ’s life and be unconvinced that He possessed in His own person the very power of God. Even nature knew His voice. “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him? (Matt. 8:27)” He healed the sick without medicine, fed five thousand with nothing but a few fish, predicted the future perfectly, knew men’s thoughts, forgave men’s sins, raised the dead. Even His own life He could end and begin again by His power. “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again (John 10:18).” The power of Christ is the power of God, for He is Divine, and His power is Divine Power. As it is written: “Christ, the power of God (I Cor. 1:24).”

2. It is an IRRESISTIBLE POWER. You can’t stop this power. Sooner could you snuff out the sun between your fingers than you could arrest even one ray of this irresistible power. Sooner could swallow all the water in the sea than you could stop even one drop of the power of Christ. You and I often try and fail. This power has NEVER failed. When this power proceeds from Christ every enemy must surrender and every opponent concede. “No one can restrain His hand (Daniel 4:35).” This woman had a seemingly incurable flow of blood, but it was no match for Christ’s flow of power. “I perceived power going out of Me.”

3. It is an INEXHAUSTIBLE POWER. Christ was already on the way to heal the dying daughter of Jairus when this woman reached out and touched Him. In fact, by the time she touched Christ, the daughter of Jairus was already dead, for the Scriptures say “while He was still speaking, someone came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, ‘Your daughter is dead. Do not trouble the Teacher (Luke 8:49).” Christ was on His way to raise the dead when this woman sought strength from Him. Never could her timing have been more ill managed. What strength, what energy, what unspeakable resources would be needed to raise this young girl back to life from death! Could Christ spare any power for another? Yet what does the text say? When she touched Him “she was healed immediately (Luke 8:47).” Christ is a wellspring of power without any bottom. One day by His power every dead body that ever lived will be raised, yet this shall not make the slightest dent into the resources of our Lord.

4. It is a SIN CONQUERING POWER. The power of Christ to remove this woman’s illness was but an illustration of His power to remove sin. Sin is the great sickness of mankind. We cannot remove it. We can’t even relieve it. And we do not recover from it. Jeremiah says that the heart of man is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9).” The word “desperately” in the Hebrew means, literally, “incurable.” So it was with this woman. She spent all her money on physicians, but to no avail. Men may expend all their energies and efforts for all their lives and never have the power to remove a single sin. But Christ’s power is sin-conquering power. “The Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6).” This woman was losing her battle with illness, and all men lose their battle with sin unless they come to Christ. But once touch Christ and you discover “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).”

5. It is a FREELY OFFERED POWER. This poor woman who had nothing to give received the healing power of Christ. She had previously “spent all” and was utterly bankrupt as she pursued our Savior through the crowd. She had no obvious invitation. Christ was not looking at her. Yet so free and plentiful is the power of Christ that the mere touch of faith was sufficient for her to receive all she needed from him. Thus said the prophet to Israel “You who have no money, come buy and eat (Isaiah 55:1).” Thomas Watson, the puritan pastor, once said “Christ is the most inexpensive physician; He takes no fee. He desires us to bring nothing to Him but broken hearts.”

6. It is an IMMEDIATELY AVAILABLE POWER. Our text says, upon just the touch of the border of Christ’s garment, that “immediately her flow of blood stopped (Luke 8:44).” There was no delay in her recovery once she had connected with Christ. What? Will you wait for this power when it is immediately available to all who come? The power of Christ is never on backorder. Christ is more willing to save men than they are willing to come.

7. It is a SOUL CHEERING & PEACE PRODUCING POWER. Christ said to this woman “Daughter, be of good cheer, your faith as made you well. Go in peace.” There is nothing in the world so well-suited to cheer the soul as the power of Christ. All of the trials in the world cannot discourage the soul who leans on the power of Christ. “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” No one knew such troubles as Paul. Yet what did he say? "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).” Paul knew the power of Christ. "And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9).” No soul can remain sad long, once convinced of the power of Christ.

8. It is an EMBOLDENING POWER. Those who meet this power must tell others about it. “She declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately (Luke 8:47).” Have you been in contact with the power of Christ? Tell someone! Whom have I told this very week of the power of Christ? Tell the world about the strength of the God who delivered you from sin. “Telling to the generations to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength…(Psalm 78:4).” Paul wrote to Timothy about this power. He said to him that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of POWER, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).”

9. It is a FEARFUL POWER. This power is as fearful as it is wonderful. As much as this power is FOR those who believe, this same power is AGAINST all who refuse. “His power and His wrath are against all who forsake Him (Ezra 8:22).” By Christ’s power He now opens to you the door of salvation. And by Christ’s power He shall one day close that door forever. Jesus is “He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens (Rev. 3:7).” Dear reader, the power of God is nothing to play with. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31).”

Personally I find the most fearful thing is that this power can be SO CLOSE and yet not be seen, we being blinded by our own willful unbelief. Crowds pressed around Christ, but for all we know only 1 reached out to touch Him. “The multitudes throng and press You” His disciples observed. “Somebody” touched Me, said Christ. Many were there. One reached out. Even after the miracle of the healing men were unmoved. While Christ was still speaking a servant came to announce the death of Jairus’ daughter. “Do not trouble the Teacher” (Luke 8: 49) he said. What…all this power and they still doubted? How about you? Will you not reach out and lay hold of Jesus Christ now? All His power is available to save you, if you will but come. But if you will not, then one day that very power will be set against you forever.

10. Finally, this POWER IS RECEIVED BY FAITH ALONE. Jesus said to the woman of our text “your faith has made you well (Luke 8:48).” Not her works…she did none. Not her strength…she had none. Not her riches…she owned none. Not her courage…she trembled! Not her reputation…she is given no name other than “a woman.” FAITH in Christ saved her. Faith alone was her hope. Oh sinner…come as you are…but by all means come by FAITH! Well said the hymnist “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” Nothing more than faith you need…but nothing less will do. Faith lays hold of Christ and all His power. It is a power before which nothing stands. It is a power by which all may be moved.

Dear reader…have you this faith? Has the saving power of Christ gone out to you? If so, then like the woman in the story, “be of good cheer, your faith has made you well, go in peace.”