Monday, April 15, 2013

Luke 12:1-12

Under these circumstances, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

So what were the circumstances? Jesus has just pronounced six "woes" against the Pharisees and lawyers at a luncheon, and they are seeking to kill him. Thousands of people are trampling on each other to get close. It's the UFC of the day, and with no loudspeakers or video screens everyone wants to get close enough to experience the action.

First Jesus speaks to his disciples, probably more than just the 12. Some were true followers. some were not. As leaven works its way through a loaf of bread, transforming the properties of the dough, so the brand of religious hypocrisy practiced by the Pharisees would work its way through a person's spiritual life. Our own hypocrisy may begin as a small thing, driven by an attempt to keep up what we perceive are other's perceptions of us or even in an attempt to truly "do good". We begin to worry about our external actions so that others will judge us well. Before we know it the hypocrisy has worked its way so thoroughly into our lives that there is no way we can work it out on our own.

Sins done in secret will eventually come to life - shouted on the rooftops. We see evidence of this in modern times. When people are caught in extremely sinful behavior such as child abuse, it may take decades to come out. There are many sins that will not be "shouted from the rooftops", but all sins will be laid bare at the judgment. No one escapes exposure for eternity. Only the blood of Christ completely blots out sins.

Jesus warns his listeners not to fear the judgment of mortal men. The worst they can do is kill you. That seems very extreme! Most of us would rather not be killed. But we should far more fear the judgment of God, for nothing escapes His knowledge. He knows how many hairs are on your head, not even having to recount as the strays detach themselves into your brush each morning.

Sparrows were so inexpensive that you could buy two for a copper coin (a sixteenth of an average day's wage), or five for two coins. Sometimes we feel like that 5th sparrow, thrown in for free and worth little or nothing. But the flip side of God knowing you well enough to be able to rightly judge your behavior is that he cares enough to offer a plan of forgiveness through Christ and a way to truly change your behavior through the Holy Spirit. You are of great value to him! Those who have engaged the Triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - will be acknowledged by Christ and forgiven for any transgressions. (It is not enough to believe in "god".)

Why would Jesus say that some people could not be forgiven? Is not God merciful and willing to forgive all sin? Yes, but if a person consistently closes his heart to God and his ears to his voice, he comes to a point where he can no longer recognize God even when God is making himself known.

As believers, we are not to be anxious about our conversations with others. If we use our own words, they might be eloquent, but they will ultimately be ineffective in communicating spiritual truths. The Spirit's words spoken through us will pierce and transform hearts. This does not mean that even if we are close to God we will win every argument. In fact, many times in the tense world in which we must communicate that the best thing is to walk away and lose an argument. When we are in close communion with the spirit we will know when and where to hold our tongue and what words to speak at other times. But in either case we will be able to say as Paul said to the Sanhedrin in Acts 23:1, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day."

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
- 1 Corinthians 4:1-5

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