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If Jesus Were to Come on Thanksgiving Day (a sermon) November 8, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Eschatology, Luke, Martin Luther, Materialism, Messiah, Millenial Kingdom, Religion, Sermons, Thanksgiving.
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If Jesus Comes on Thanksgiving Day…
Luke 18:1-30

In Luke 17:20, Jesus is asked when the kingdom of God would come. He makes the point that the coming of the kingdom of God is more than simply the date on which the Messiah will establish His throne in Jerusalem. He says, “…the kingdom of God is within you” (verse 21).

This does not mean that there is not a specific day when Jesus will return to this earth to rule this earth. The Scriptures teach that there is such a day. Look at Luke 17:24-25. Jesus clearly looked forward to a day when He would set up His kingdom on this earth although first He must be rejected and crucified.

As he continues to teach on what we call the Second Coming of Christ, He makes a statement in Luke 18:8, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” This is what we call a rhetorical question. Jesus is not trying to find out the answer but rather is telling His listeners, that when He returns to this earth to set up the kingdom, He will find a world without faith. It is true that there will be a few saved people on this earth scattered among the nations and that much of what is left of the nation of Israel will at that time accept Christ as Messiah but for the most part, the world will be without faith in Christ.

What is interesting is that Jesus describes for us some of the people on the earth who will be without faith. It is not at all what we might expect. In fact, some of those people will be religious people, people who thank God for the blessings of their life. As we approach the Thanksgiving season, we need to realize that if Jesus Christ comes on Thanksgiving Day, He will find many people around the table, thankful to God for His blessings but without true faith. Put another way…

…He will find the self-righteous saying grace.

a. They will have the trappings of righteousness but not the reality (verses 11-12). They will be like this Pharisee. They will thank God for being born in America and not in some poverty-stricken, heathen nation. They will thank God for who they are but will not recognize their own spiritual poverty because they have the trappings of righteousness. They will be evangelicals and Mormons and Catholics and Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses who are convinced that they are doing all the right things. In their heart they will exalt themselves. After all, they do right. They are not extortioners or unjust or adulterers. They sacrifice and give regularly to the church and to charitable organizations. They serve the poor on Thanksgiving Day. In their heart, they are convinced that they are pretty good but if Jesus comes on Thanksgiving Day, He will find no faith in them.

b. Why? Because real righteousness is found in a faith that produces a humble plea for mercy (verses 13-14).

For years, Martin Luther recognized his need of salvation but Martin Luther did not understand God’s provision to meet his need. Luther punished himself physically and spiritually in his attempt to earn eternal life. Years after he understood that salvation is by grace through faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ alone, Luther wrote these words:

In devil’s dungeon chained I lay the pangs of death swept o’er me.
My sin devoured me night and day in which my mother bore me.
My anguish ever grew more rife,
I took no pleasure in my life and sin had made me crazy.
Then was the Father troubled sore to see me ever languish.
The everlasting Pity swore to save me from my anguish.

Luther knew he had a great spiritual need. He realized eventually from God’s Word that climbing the spiritual steps of works and ritual do nothing for the soul. Luther quit climbing those steps and started trusting Christ.

Not only would Christ on Thanksgiving Day find the self-righteous saying grace but He will find the self-sufficient exalting themselves (verses 14-17).

a. The point of Jesus inviting the little children to come to Him is not that Jesus loves little children, although, He certainly does. The point of the incident is explained for us in verse 17. No man will be able to enter the kingdom on his own (verse 17). Those who feel themselves self-sufficient will not have faith in Christ when He comes.

b. Real righteousness is found in faith that is totally dependent on God (verses 15-16). Our text in verse 15 says infants. Someone suggested that toddlers might also be pictured her because Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me…” Now what is Jesus trying to say about faith? He is not saying that faith can exist without knowledge, that you need to be as ignorant as a baby, in order to be saved; but rather that you need to be as spiritually dependent as an infant in order to be saved. Those who depend on anything or anyone other than or in addition to Christ for salvation will not be saved.

Recently, we had Kim Hecht with us and she was asked about those in Croatia who were a part of a religious organization that is not evangelical but does believe that Jesus is God and the Savior of humankind. I appreciated her answer. Even though those people have great interest in the study of God’s Word and even accept many of the trappings of evangelicalism, they continue to depend on their church and their good works for salvation in addition to Jesus Christ. They do not depend on Christ as an infant but rather hang on to their church and their good works.

There is a third section here where Jesus describes those who are religious but do not have true faith. If Jesus were to come on Thanksgiving Day, He would not only find the self-righteous and the self-sufficient but also He would find those absorbed in this world without faith. They will be sorrowful, after all, they will be under the judgment of God but they will be without faith (verses 18-30).

This ruler understood the problem. He was an expert in the law. He practiced the Ten Commandments and had done so all of his life. It appears that his question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” is sincere. We see, though, that earthly attachments are a huge hurdle to eternal life, that is, entrance into the kingdom of God (verses 22b-26).

A. Jesus demanded a one time act – repentance, specifically, repentance revealed by the act of selling all his possessions and distributing the proceeds to the poor. This man’s earthly attachments were so great that he could find no way to bring himself to performing this one act.

B. Jesus also demanded discipleship. The action of selling and distributing was only an outward sign and revealed that this pure, honest, honorable man loved the abundance of this life more than the abundance of eternal life. It seems that the young man could never bring himself to admit that his money did not matter. He could never find a way to cut himself off from the things of this world.

Patrick Morley once said that there are two ways to find out what is important to a man. Where does a man spend any discretionary money he might have and how does he use any free time he might have. That is how you find out what a man loves.

a. The hold that this world has on people is why that without God’s work in their hearts, they will never be able to enter the kingdom (verse 18-27, especially verse 27). Only God can change our attachments (verses 27). You cannot do this on your own. You must turn to Christ. Only He can help you. Only he can reveal to you the value of the heavenly treasures, of the heavenly kingdom, of eternal life.

Now, not everyone is hindered by money and houses and land. Some are hindered by family (verse 29). If your treasure is in your family then you are no different than this young man. If the abundance of your riches is your parents or siblings or spouse or children, you cannot truly serve God. For some of you that is a tough decision. God, however, can change your heart.

I meet very few people who admit that it is hard to choose between Christ and the wealth of this world. I do, however, often meet people who have trouble between choosing family or Christ. I have been asked, “How do I do this?”

1. Meet your rightful biblical obligations to family members. The Bible is clear as to how a man is to relate to his wife and children. It is clear who is to have priority in his life.

2. Ask yourself this question. Is my relationship to this family member hindering my relationship to Christ? The answer is usually not to break the relationship but to begin to take those steps that show where your loyalty truly is. 1 Peter 3:1-17 is a great passage to study and to digest to help you to understand your relationship to that person.

3. Make your commitment of discipleship to Christ and follow it daily. Pray daily. Read your Bible daily. Have frequent contact with God’s people. The toughest commitments are always taken just one slow step at a time. Do not lose heart. Your reward in this life and in the life to come is eternal life.

b. Real righteousness is found in faith that results in true discipleship (verses 28-30). Moral accomplishments are insufficient.

This man was sexually pure. This man was not guilty of murder. This man had never stolen. He had never lied about anyone. He honored his father and mother.

Jesus listened. He did not interrupt the young man with arguments and try to convince him that he was a sinner and born in iniquity. He made a very simple statement. You lack one thing. You cannot inherit eternal life until you become my disciple.

In describing the self-righteous, the self-sufficient, the self-exalting types that we have been looking at in today’s Scripture, Frank Turk once wrote, “I was watching my son’s basketball game a couple of weeks ago, and it’s the “recreational” league where the kids really haven’t ever played on a court before with rules or a ref. And on the other team was this really aggressive kid who simply wanted to put the ball in the net. It was clear to me he had played football before because every time he got the ball, he tucked the ball under, ducked his head, and rolled into the crowd of boys in the key like a fullback.
And in this kid’s case, it was actually kinda funny – he obviously didn’t know any better. He was playing by the wrong rules, and he had no clue what the right rules where. But if that same thing happened in a High School game, or even in the next age bracket up, it wouldn’t hardly be that funny – because those kids know better, and they prove it in all kinds of ways.” (from Frank Turk’s Pyromaniac post, “The Talking Stain” February 13, 2008;
http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2008/02/talking-stain.html).

This is the case with this young ruler. He knows the rules and proves it by his life but that one point which he is unwilling to obey is what will keep him from inheriting eternal life, from entering the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean to follow Christ, to have faith in Him? Turn away from what you love and turn to Jesus Christ, who died for your sin. You can become his disciple but he demands total allegiance, total commitment. Ultimately it is not about you. It is about Christ. He died for you. He rose from the dead for you. Follow Him and Him alone.

Note: Some of the material of this sermon is reworked material from this one that I preached in February 2008, “The Impossibility of Reaching America with the Gospel.”

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