Jesus: The Forgiver of Sins

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Luke 5:17-26
A hard thing and a harder thing: healing and forgiveness 5:23

Sin and disease cause death (Rms 5:12)

image Faith expressed in action catches God’s eye (5:17-20; Jam 2:15-17)

Only God can forgive sin (5:21, 24; Dan 7:13-14)

Healing and forgiveness are signs of the Kingdom (5:25-26; 7:21-23)

Luke 5:27-32
Forgiveness and healing: living on the edge 5:27

image Where do holiness and mission meet?  (5:27; Eph 5:7-14)

Can anyone who believes in Jesus be blessed? (5:28-29; 1 Cor 1:26-31)

Is complaining a sign of faithfulness? (5:30; Ps 106:25; 1 Cor 10:10)

Who are the sick today? Who is it that Jesus is seeking out? (5:31)

Cell outline

1. What quality did Jesus see in the paralytic man who was lowered from the roof? What were his first words to him? (v 20) How is forgiveness a kind of healing?

2. Why did the Pharisees think that Jesus’ words to the paralytic man were blasphemous?

3. What question did Jesus ask the Pharisees? (v 21) What is the answer? Why is one easier to say than the other?

4. From whom do we need forgiveness? To whom should we give forgiveness?

5. What kind of jobs do you think present the greatest temptation to do wrong? Why? Was Levi in such a job?

6. What was Levi’s first action as a new follower of Jesus? (v 29) Who did he invite to his “new career” party? In what ways do you think he was proud to be associated with Jesus?

7. What was the point of the Pharisees’ question to Jesus’ disciples in v 30? In what ways does Jesus’ reply help us to balance our lives between Christians and those who do not have faith.

(b)Going Deeper

1 . To follow Jesus or to walk more closely with Him, what are (or were) the most difficult things (or ways of life) for you to leave behind?

Jesus and Baptism (an afterthought!)

image My somewhat on the hoof all age talk this morning meant that I edited out of my sermon some important Christology.  Back last year I blogged of the apparent modalism in "The Shack" [click here]. 

Modalism states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes. He first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times. At the incarnation, the mode was the Son. After Jesus’ ascension, the mode is the Holy Spirit.  These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous. In other words, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another.

Actually modalism is a form of monarchianism (the belief that God is one person not three). 

The other form of monarchianism is called adoptionism  and is directly linked to Jesus’ baptism.  It denies the pre-existence of Christ. Jesus was born merely human and that he became divine.  Jesus then earned the title Christ through his sinless devotion to the will of God, thereby becoming the perfect sacrifice to redeem humanity. Adoptionists typically portray two key points in Jesus’ life as stages in Jesus’ becoming divine: his baptism and his resurrection. God gave Jesus his miraculous power and divine authority after Jesus proved his holiness. There is a similar error which argues that Jesus as a man was the adopted Son of God

Adoptionism was common before it was first declared heresy at the end of the 2nd century. The belief contradicts the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, defined at the First Council of Nicaea, which identifies Jesus as eternally God.  Whatever the significance of Jesus baptism, it was not the point at which he became divine.

Adoptionism was one error in a long series of Christian disagreements about the precise nature of Christ in the developing understanding of the Trinity.  Christians had and have still to explain the relationship between Jesus of Nazareth, both as man and God, and God the Father while maintaining Christianity’s monotheism.

The Spirit filled Son

Luke for cell outlineJesus: Endorsed by John (Mat 3:13-17)

Jesus: Endorsed by Father

1. In the context of prayer (6:12, 9:18 …. 1 Thess 5:17 )!

2. Filled with the Spirit (Gen 1:2; 8:8-12; Luke 4:16-18)!
(I’ve blogged some extra notes on this point here)

Jesus: Endorsed by Father as his Son

   1. The Messiah: “my Son” (Ps 2:7; 2 Sam 7:7-16)

   2. The loved One: “whom I love” (Gen 22:12, 16; Is 41:8)

   3. The servant: “with whom I am pleased (Is 61:1-2)

image Garden and Exodus

Three temptations:

1. God’s provision?
Satan’s argument is that Jesus’ Sonship must mean that God does not want him to die in the desert. Therefore, Jesus should simply turn stone into bread.  He can provide for himself.  This is not a challenge to be strong, but to be independent. Such independence in the upside down kingdom of God is actually weakness and leads to failure. Jesus’ reply is that life is more than food. The priority in life is doing the will of God. In Deuteronomy 8:3, living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God is to truly live.

2. Loyalty and worship?
The second temptation is an invitation to worship Satan and abandon loyalty in the Father. It is a direct challenge to the first commandment (Ex. 20:3).  Jesus is presented with all the kingdoms in the world and promised authority over them in return for worship. The temptation is not only to join Satan now, but to avoid all that lies ahead in Jesus’ ministry and death. He can reject the suffering with a shortcut to to power.

There is no doubt that Satan possesses great authority (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2), but he cannot grant this wish. The proposal is a delusion, as are all of Satan’s attempts to get us off track! Going Satan’s way is not the way to gain power but to lose it. There is no quick and easy road to glory or even to survive in a hostile world. Jesus chooses to receive from the Father that which only Father can give. Drawing from a passage of scripture which the Jews repeated daily, (Deut. 6:4-9), Jesus shows us that with worship comes service. And true service means remaining loyalty to God.

3. God’s care?

    a. All in the mind?
In the third temptation, Jesus is taken, most likely in a vision, to the temple in Jerusalem—probably on the Royal Porch on southeast corner, which looms over a cliff and the Kidron Valley, 450 feet below. Josephus tells us that just looking over the edge made people feel giddy! To jump from such a height and survive would take divine intervention.

    b. Twisted Scripture?
Satan adds to his twist by quoting Scripture himself, Psalm 91:11-12, a text that promises God’s protection for his own. "If" God protects his own and you are his Son, then you can jump and not if; you can run over the edge and not be crushed." He suggests such protection will enhance Jesus’ unique dependence on God!

    c. Avoid testing God!
But God has not asked for this test. It would create an artificial need for God to act.  We are not to test God like this.  And God does not produce a road show of miracles to satisfy our curiosity.

Constant battle (4.31-44)

Jesus: Tempted but not trumped

How Satan tempts ….

   “surely” words

    shortcuts to spirituality

… and how we can resist

Tests can be from God but don’t test God

Tests are all about who we trust

Don’t rationalise | Use the word

Prophecy: Listening to God

We learnt from our study of Habakkuk that listening is a key feature of a prophetic ministry.  Without the speaker listening carefully, there is no word to share.  Without the hearer listening carefully, there is no action on the word.

1. WHAT PROPHECY IS NOT

1. Not preaching (1 Tim 3; Tit 1; 1 Cor 11:5)
The Reformers and Puritans thought of "prophesying" as being Bible exposition.  And there is some truth in this.  The gift of prophecy often accompanies Spirit-filled preaching.  But preaching and teaching are the explanation and and application of Scripture. 

In prophecy, there is the always the element of "immediate, existential, revelation". God has shown the speaker something for "now"!, Preaching conveys the eternal truth, distilling from from careful study, research and reflection on the biblical text.  Prophecy brings something that is true, relevant and of immediate concern to the life of the hearers but it may not be directly connected to Scripture.  Good preaching will always have an element of relevant application.  Good prophecy will be in tune with the Scriptures as we will see later.  So it is not surprising that preaching and prophecy may and frequently do overlap. 

But they are distinct gifts (Eph 4:11). So, for example, teaching is one of the listed and required qualification for church leaders (1 Tim 3). The ability to prophecy is not required for church leadership. It’s a different kind of gifting. Prophecy is to be receive and practises by all.  Teaching is a different.  Church leader can be expected to teach (although that may range from whole church preaching and one-to-one conversations depending on the leader).

2. Not mischievous public rebuke
"Prophecy" is not prophecy when we already know about situations and people by natural observation.  Remember Habakkuk who went up higher to get God’s perspective.  Prophecy deals with supernatural revelation disclosed by the Spirit of God and directly to us for an outcome of positive change.

3. Not the same as Scripture (2 Tim 3:16; Rev 22:18-19)
OT prophets spoke and wrote words of absolute divine authority: "Thus says the Lord". Their words were completely infallible and beyond question. Their words were recorded, preserved, and included in the Scriptures. They were relevant for all the people of God.  In their own time and for all time. The same applies to the NT letters which were written to specific situations but become acknowledged as having lasting significance. We are to remember that the Scriptures are "God-breathed" (2 Tim 3:16). It is as if they are God’s own spoken Word. What Scripture says, God says.

Scripture is now a completed canon. We must not add to it (Rev 22:18-19). Today’s prophetic ministry simply cannot carry the same degree of inspiration as the prophetic and apostolic words of the Scriptures despite being, at its best, an authentic, relevant and helpful communication from God. Prophecy today is "inspired" only in a looser and less authoritative sense than within the Bible. The Holy Spirit still gives knowledge, information, ideas and truth, but these are to be tested by the higher authority of the content of Scripture.

As we will find many times there is a parallel with preaching. We would never dare regard a sermon as infallible wisdom that shares the same level of inspiration as Scripture. But we should say that within preaching the Holy Spirit takes the human words and uses them to breath life and fresh insight into the written Word.

2. WHAT PROPHECY IS

1. The agent for healing (1 Cor 12:4; Ps 107:20)

… That is radical and lasting (Is 55:11; Eph 4.11ff; Heb 12:25-29)

2. The truth which demolishes deception (1 Cor 14:24-25)

3. The power to penetrate (Heb 4:12)

… And break through the hardest places (Jer 23:29)

4. Makes Jesus known (Rev 19:10)

… and builds his church (Eph 4:12)

3. PROPHETS and PROPHECY

As we grow in the prophetic, we learn to speak and hear God’s word more clearly and filter out our own.  Therefore, we will give and weigh the words accordingly.

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Prophecy, like other gifts, can become more established in a individual as the person grows in their experience and others confirm the accuracy of their words. So we can say that someone exercising prophet gifts regularly and accurately may have a prophetic ministry or office.  This also suggests an increasingly wider recognition than the local church.  We do exactly this with pastors and evangelists.

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4. LISTENING TO GOD: DISCERNING TRUTH

1. Prophecy is normal but not infallible (Acts 11:27-28; 13:1-2; 21:8-9; 1 Tim 1:18; 1 Thess 5:19-20)

2. Prophecy is to be tested (Matt 16:13-23)

Character of speaker (Matt 7:15-20)

World | Flesh | Devil

Content of word

  • Scriptural in content and drift (Is 8:19-20)
  • Glorify Christ (John 16:13-14)
  • Come by revelation (1 Cor 14:30)
  • Endorsed by church leaders (1 Cor 14:29)
  • Has it weight!

Conclusion of hearers (1 Cor 14:3)

A spirit of discernment is not the same as a spirit of suspicion or a critical spirit. We are not to treat prophecies with contempt (1 Thess 5:19-20). But we are to test prophecy with sincerity, love and grace.  Testing with sincerity mean that we truly want to know if this is genuinely a word from God or not. It means that we already accept that God speaks today through prophecy! Haslam gives a very helpful list of "tests":

a) Did it "strengthen, encourage and comfort"? (1 Cor 14:3)

Some so-called prophecy has the effect of figuratively demolishing people. It only leaves us feeling condemned and hopeless. The Holy Spirit always seeks to build, even when the prophetic word exposes error or sin. He always holds out hope, pointing the way forward and out. "If my people  …."

b) Do people feel condemned, controlled or manipulated — or convicted and challenged to change?

This is the flipside (a). It indicates the work of an unholy spirit in the speaker. An unholy spirit will leave us feeling oppressed and guilty, with little or no clue as to what the problem specifically is or what can best be done about it. What has been unmasked by the prophecy may be accurate and true, but an unholy spirit will offer no hope along with that exposure, so that we just feel abandoned by God.

Prophecies that are all "must" and "ought", and spoken in a legalistic or accusatory tone, may be the result of anger or deep malice on the part of the speaker, and even prove to be demonic in origin. Satan is called the "accuser of our brothers" (Revelation 12:10) and he is often the true source of much that is manipulative, critical, condemnatory and controlling in our lives.

c) Was it "in the flow" of the way the Lord had led the meeting so far?

Or did it have the "gear-crunching" effect.  Did it jar.  Did it leaving everybody asking, "Where did that come from?"

d) Do you feel loved by God as you listen to it? (1 Cor 13)

Even when God tells us things we don’t want to hear, uncovering secret sins, challenging character, signalling the need radical change in our lives, or revealing ways in which he is displeased, we will still aware that he is speaking lovingly to us. He is telling you the truth in love. That’s the love of God to guide us from danger and set up aright. So, when I hear a prophetic word I ask,  "Do I feel loved?" is our guide here.

e) Does it provoke cynicism and criticism in otherwise positive people?

When cynicism is the first response from normally positive people there is something wrong. This may be a clue: its content, tone and spirit are off key.

f) If it was a predictive prophecy, did it come to pass?

If it does, then the speaker got it right!  If a specific date was given and the event doesn’t happen, then the prophet needs to admit honestly, "I got it wrong", asking for everybody’s forgiveness – which should be readily granted!

g) Do you feel closer to God as a result of this?

Where the Spirit of prophecy is genuinely operating, the congregation (as individuals and as a corporate whole) senses the Lord’s presence drawing near and will move closer to the Lord in its walk with him, over time: "The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it" (Prov 10:22).

h) Does the prophecy "put a dampener" on the meeting?

A fog descends and a real "dampener" falls on the people. Heads hang low, nobody wants to sing any more, some sit down despondently and the leader cannot pick up the lost momentum. The reason may be that both the content of the prophecy and the person who said it were simply not right. The effects on the people bear witness to that. This should be publicly and clearly addressed by a leader and not ignored as if nothing happened. Learn to be real about such things. It brings release and security to the people.

i) Is there a witness in all of our spirits that we have heard the "burden of the word of the Lord"?

The same Holy Spirit is at work in both the speaker and hearers alike. They will know that God was in this. We all have an anointing of God’s Spirit to enable us to discern truth accurately (1 John 2:20).

Songs of the Season: Zechariah’s Song (Luke 1:57-80)

Zechariah: Another role model

1. A righteous man who learn from his mistakes! (1:5-22)

2. A faithful man who breaks with tradition! (1:62-3)
Jewish tradition dictated that a child should receive a family name, honouring a parent, a grandparent or some other relative. Given Zechariah’s recent debilitating condition, the crowd would have expected the baby to be named Zechariah Junior.  But Elizabeth gives her son the name John sending a shock wave of surprise through the crowd. Convinced an error had been made, since the name has no family precedence, the crowd asks the father through sign language as Zachariah can neither hear nor speak (v62). On a wood tablet probably covered wax, Zechariah writes the name the angel had given him for the child He breaks with tradition to be obedient to God.  And receives his own healing as confirmation!

Two songs | One tune

1. Jesus: The one to whom John will point (1:76)
John will be a prophet for the Most High preparing the people for the coming visit of the Lord.  His task will be to show how "salvation comes through the forgiveness of sins" (v76-77). This message of salvation and the forgiveness is not dissimilar from the great commission in Luke 24:43-47, except that her there is just a shadow of what will be clear following the resurrection. John is the bridge between the old and the new (7:26-35).

2. Jesus: God’s redeemer (1:68)

3. Jesus: God’s champion (1:68; 1 Sam 2:10; 2 Sam 22:3)

4. Jesus: God’s rescuer (1:71; Deut 7:9; 1 Kings 8:23)

5. Jesus: God’s servant (1:74; Phil 2:7)

6. Jesus: God’s light (1:79)
Jesus will be the "the rising sun" (v 79), actually the "morning star" (Num 24:17; Isaiah 11:1). He comes not only as a political figure, but also as a spiritual one. The Son is a bright morning light, comes from heaven and shines on a world of darkness and death, guiding it into the path of peace. Zachariah puts himself among those in darkness. As a spiritual man, he knows full well that the only way to walk righteously is to follow the path God.

A lesson to learn

Life long learning

Life long journey of faith
Why does this king, sent by God, rules by being like the morning star? It is because the way of life and the path to peace is not about force or power. It is about character. That is why John the Baptist addresses the issue of the forgiveness of sin. This king will lead people out of darkness and death. Though entry to the Kingdom takes but a moment, salvation is not a momentary matter.

Salvation is a life long journey.  A journey guided by the Morning Star who not only goes before us but shows us that the way. The only road to righteousness and peace, even for a good man like Zechariah, is to be prepared to see the light and follow it!

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