Day 275 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Luke.
Luke 17 – Jesus’ disciples ask Him for a good thing—more faith. But Jesus’ response shows that it is not the quantity or greatness of our faith that matters, but the object of our faith. That is, if we believe in God’s grace and power then even seemingly impossible things can become realities, despite the smallness of our faith (“like a . . . mustard seed”; verse 6). This is good news for our daily Christian lives. God does not base His blessings on whether we can muster up great and powerful or even persistent faith. Rather, we are to look to God’s greatness, power, and consistency, believing in Him, not ourselves. Such faith in God, rather than in the faith we can generate, is the foundation of spiritual victory and calm in the soul.
The story in verses 11-19 emphasizes that faith in Jesus results in powerful change and produces a humble, worshipful response to God. This is the difference between the one leper and the other nine. They all asked for God’s mercy but only one was shown to have true understanding faith, as shown by his casting himself with thankfulness at Jesus’ feet. So too for us. Our worshipful response—or lack thereof—reflects the depth of our understanding of God’s mercy and goodness. The first and greatest response to the gospel of grace is thankful worship. This brings the greatest glory to God and brings wholeness to us as well.
We are also told, strikingly, that the one who returned to give thanks to Jesus was a Samaritan—a despised outsider. Here, as all through Luke, we see the upside-down reversal that the gospel brings. The kingdom of God inverts the world’s values and welcomes anyone, if they will simply repent and believe the good news, relying on Jesus alone for a new and eternal life.
How are you relying on Jesus alone in your life?
Luke 18 – Jesus’ parable uses a comparison to reveal God’s heart toward us. If even an unrighteous judge will eventually hear the needs of a persistent petitioner, how much more should we seek our Father God to come to our aid? He will not delay to bring justice to His own people.
We need to be told this because our frailty and brokenness make us lose heart and cease to believe this about our God. Our perspective is limited and our vision is clouded (1 Corinthians 13:12). Holy Scripture continually reminds us that God is truly for us in Jesus (Romans 8:31–33). We need this constant reminder of God’s kind heart and great power toward us as we fight against our inherent unbelief. We now belong to Him. He is our advocate. He delights to care for us and to defend us.
The parable in verses 9-14 is one of the most important teachings in Luke, showing both what God values and the call of the gospel. Jesus presents a vivid contrast between self-righteous religion and the opposite, proper response to the gospel. The two men of the parable represent these two contrary responses to God. On the one hand we have a self-confident person whose outward life is apparently without fault. On the other we have a man who would be considered a sinner, even a traitor to his own people because of his being a tax collector for Rome. But Jesus shows clearly the difference between these two men: God loves and accepts the person who humbly looks for mercy, while He rejects those who exalt themselves (verse 14; recall 7:36–50; 14:7–11).
This is good news (gospel) indeed. Jesus is not calling us to a plan of moral improvement or a list of wrong behaviors to avoid (verse 11), but rather to the one thing that we can all pursue, no matter our brokenness or failures: to humble ourselves before God and call upon His mercy. This alone will result in “justification” (verse 14)—which is another way to describe the gospel of freely entering the kingdom (verses 24–25) and inheriting eternal life (10:25–28; 18:18).
In verses 18–27 we have the opportunity to overhear yet another interaction between Jesus and a potential disciple. Similar to the story in 10:25–37, we see Jesus explain the gospel as both inheriting eternal life and entering God’s kingdom. Most importantly, we see again that the gospel is a matter of the values and affections of our hearts, not merely outward religious activity or obedience.
In His sovereign wisdom, Jesus always diagnoses the real soul ailment of each individual. He rightly perceives that this wealthy ruler is entrapped by the power of money. He thinks that he has obeyed God according to rules, while not really hearing or understanding what Jesus has just said: “No one is good except God alone.” It would seem that he is depending on his righteousness to leverage God to give what he values most: more wealth. His words betray an idolatry of wealth and an absence of what is most important for life and eternity: love for God in the inner man. His wealth is an ever-ready rival for the kind of wholeheartedness the gospel calls us to. This is why Jesus calls him to sell everything he has. Jesus did not tell each and every person He encountered to sell all their possessions, but in this case He knew that that was the way to address the man’s heart condition.
How do we apply this passage to our own heart condition? First, we must be prepared to be laid bare before God. To be a disciple of Jesus means to follow Him, leaving behind us whatever might hinder us. The specific call of the gospel in our lives will vary according to each individual, but it is consistently a call to repentance and absolute humility and honesty before God. This is costly and painful, but anything less is mere externalized religion. Second, we must beware of the power of wealth in particular. Few disciples are called to sell all they have, but fewer still are immune from the destructive power of the love of money, which is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). To be a follower of Jesus means to live aware of this danger and to fight against it by faith in God’s provision for us (Luke 11:1–13).
What does your heart value the most?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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