Archive for the ‘Gospel of Luke’ Category

Preaching the Gospel from Luke, Part 2

October 29, 2008

Title: Preaching the Gospel from Luke, Part 2

Text: Luke 18:9-14

Date: August 5th, 2007

I’m preaching the gospel through each of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Today, I’d like to go back to the Gospel of Luke and talk about another verse found there that perfectly explains the essence of the good news or Gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course, to find the clearest and most detailed account of the gospel we must go to the Apostle Paul, because he was the first to explain the importance of faith apart from works. The four Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John describe the gospel as lived and taught by Jesus Christ; the Apostle Paul explains the gospel in words nobody can misunderstand. What’s great is that we have two angles to come at understanding the gospel: first, we have Jesus teaching and living it in his ministry; second, we have the Apostle Paul explaining the gospel, so that if we miss one, we pick it up with the other, or if we fail to grasp the gospel in Paul, we can gather it from the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So between these two sources there is no possible way to miss the gospel. Today, in the Gospel of Luke 18:9-14 (read), we see Jesus again stressing the importance of humble faith in receiving God’s salvation. He contrasts humble faith with prideful works. Eternal life is obtained through humble faith, not proud works. Nobody with a prideful attitude about their righteous life will enter the kingdom of God, but those who are humble — who come with faith alone in God’s mercy and grace — will find life eternal. This is exactly what the Apostle Paul explains in the Book of Romans using more words and less story telling. Some skeptical scholars today make the false claim that the gospel Paul preached is different from the gospel Jesus proclaimed. But this claim is ridiculous because as we’ll see from this passage today, salvation by grace through faith is at the heart of the gospel that both Jesus and Paul preached. Jesus constantly warned people from taking confidence in their own self-righteousness, constantly warned against personal self-pride, and constantly encouraged people to depend, trust, rely solely on the mercy and grace of God for salvation from sin. These are the very same themes the Apostle Paul picks up and explains in detail in the Book of Romans. Paul, the theologian, approached the subject through reasoned explanation, while Jesus the activist approached the subject through stories and illustrations. But the same message of salvation was taught by both Jesus and Paul. The issue is: upon what can we rely for our salvation? Can we rely on our own goodness and righteous works, or must we rely solely and fully on the mercy and grace of God? Jesus tells a story to answer this question. (more…)

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Preaching the Gospel from Luke

October 29, 2008

Title: Preaching the Gospel from Luke

Text: Luke 15:11-32

Date: July 22, 2007

I’m preaching the gospel through each of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and today I’m on the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32 (read), the story of the Prodigal Son. Why is this an example of the gospel? Because it contains all the basic and essential elements of conversion. First, it shows how sin and selfishness leads the son astray. It also illustrates how the son experienced a crisis in his life when his sin and selfishness led him to utter ruin. Second, it demonstrates how the son confessed his sins and repented of them. Third, it describes how he returned back to his father. And finally, fourth, is shows the father welcoming the son back and celebrating his return. That is the order or process that everyone, to some extent, must follow to receive salvation from God. Like the story, we have all sinned, acted selfishly, and rebelled against God the Father by breaking his laws and going our own independent way. Everyone does this to some extent, some less, some more. But everyone is guilty of spiritual rebellion against God. Not only do we inherit this spiritual independence from God through the original sin of Adam and Eve, we also choose to rebel against God of our own free will. Next, we all must come to a point in our lives where we regret our sin and rebellion against God. Sometimes it’s a crisis situation we experience in life because of sin, other times it’s just a spiritual emptiness we experience even when all seems to be going outwardly well. We are convicted of sin. Then, as a result, we confess our sins and repent of our rebellion against God. Repentance literally means to change, and that’s what happens in spiritual conversion, we change direction. We change from rebelling against God; we turn away from our sins and rebellion. Repentance leads to turning from sin and then turning to God; and so we return to God and His will. Finally, in conversion, God welcomes, receives, and celebrates our return. In every Christian conversion there is an element of returning back to God, even if the individual hasn’t ever known God before or is personally returning to the God he’s known before. Our original parents, Adam and Eve, knew God at the beginning and experienced close fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden before the Fall into original sin. As we inherit their sinful nature, we also retain a kind of remembrance of original righteousness with God before the Fall. When we turn away from a life of selfishness and sin, when we turn to God in faith, we are returning to the God we know in some form through the memory of our original parents. We are spiritually “coming home.” So the story of the Prodigal Son is an outline for everyone who sins, repents, and returns to God in Christian conversion. But let’s learn about this more in detail. (more…)

What is Demon Possession?

October 15, 2008

Title: What is Demon Possession?

Text: Luke 8:26-39

Date: August 19th, 2007

One of the strangest things about the Christian faith is that it teaches the possibility of demon possession. What is demon possession? It’s the condition where a person’s soul or spirit is joined with or co-mingled with an evil spirit. It’s where the native human spirit or the spirit nature of a person is invaded and controlled by an alien or foreign evil spirit. Christianity teaches that when a person converts to faith in Christ that person’s soul or spirit is joined together with God’s Spirit — the Holy Spirit — and starts to think, speak and act under the control of this Good Spirit. But in demon possession, a person’s soul or spirit is joined together with a fallen evil spirit or demon and that outside spirit then has control to some degree of the person’s life or personality. Today, lots and lots of people don’t even believe that demon possession is possible. Most doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists and scientists don’t believe this is possible. Sadly, even many or even most pastors and church leaders don’t seriously believe in the possibility of possession, or if they do, they don’t take such a belief seriously. But any Christian who believes in original, biblical Christianity must believe in the reality of demon possession because Jesus and the Apostles taught it. For the Christian, demon possession is a valid explanation why some people act as they do. It also offers a possible solution as to what to do with such people who suffer with problems that modern medicine and psychiatry can’t cure. What do we do with people who don’t seem to respond to any modern medicine or medical treatment? What do we do with someone who isn’t helped by psychiatry or psychology or counseling? What if no accurate diagnosis can be given that explains a person’s problem? Do we just continue treating a person with methods that don’t work or help? That’s what we are left with if we don’t allow for the possibility of demon possession. But as Christians, when the best that medicine and the health professions have to offer doesn’t help, we can turn to something that our faith describes as exorcism or casting out demons. In the course of my pastoral ministry which is now approaching 20 years, I’ve run into probably a handful of cases I thought might be real cases of demonic possession. Out of those, there were probably 2 or 3 that I’m pretty sure were really cases of possession. The frustrating thing is that the person who is suffering from possession must totally want to be freed of it or it won’t happen, because possessions, I’m told, occur usually somehow at the request, knowingly or unknowingly, of the person. Or in other words, the victim in some way has consented in one way or another in inviting the demon into their life. So in order to expulse the demon, the victim must consent to the exorcism; unfortunately many don’t. Most people are so skeptical about possession today that they wouldn’t even know if they had a demon themselves! This is another reason we have to be informed about these things – so we can help friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. who might be either bothered by or possessed by demons; so that we might help free them. Luke 8:26-39 (read) gives us instruction in how to deal realistically with someone possessed in some form by a demon. (more…)