Dealing With Criticism

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 10:1-18, NLT

Now I, Paul, appeal to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ—though I realize you think I am timid in person and bold only when I write from far away.
2 Well, I am begging you now so that when I come I won’t have to be bold with those who think we act from human motives.
3 We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do.
4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.
5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
6 And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.

INTRODUCTION

Warren Wiersbe says that Paul was dealing with a [1] divided church, [2] one resisting his authority and [3] one being seduced by false teachers. Paul does not hesitate to label the Judaizers as ministers of Satan who want to destroy the church….

[2 Corinthians 11:12-15]

12 But I will continue doing what I have always done. This will undercut those who are looking for an opportunity to boast that their work is just like ours.
13 These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.
14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.


Eventually, in Chapters 10-12, we are going to get into the criticism that Paul’s enemies were leveling against him. We are not talking about minor offenses, the Corinthians are brutal in their critism and though Paul does not admit it, you can tell by his tone and words that he was hurt deeply. It is a part of ministry that cannot be avoided.


In ministry, the question is not: will I be criticized? You will be; the question is–How do I respond to criticism? 


Paul gives us some good advice here in chapter 10 on dealing with criticism


I. FIRST OF ALL, OUR RESPONSE IS TO BE CHRIST LIKE


1 I Paul, appeal to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ. I really like the way the NIrV reads…Christ is humble and free of pride, because of this, I make my appeal to you.


In a way, Paul is saying, our response should be like that of Christ who was kind and gentle. Two Greek words are used here…

[1] Praÿtēs….mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness. The picture is that of strenth under control such as a work horse or ox.

[2] Epieikeia…mildness, gentleness, fairness or clemency [fair but merciful judge] Used only twice, here and in Acts 24:4 where Paul is begging Felix to show kindness by listening to his defense.


My first question is: how do I respond to criticism? Not very well, not at first. I generally have to mull over the criticism and spend some time in private with the LORD. Actually, there are a lot of ways to respond to criticism…

  • We can pretend that it is not happening. We call this denial. Some people actually believe they are above criticism but no one is above criticism. The higher your profile, the more likely you are to be criticized. I wouldn’t want to be the Auburn football coach, would you? He is critized on talk radio, news papers, ESPN: I had much rather be a preacher. What about President of the United States?
  • We can react emotionally in the heat of the moment which is usually something we regret later. Warren Wiersbe made in a rule not to respond to criticism immediately but to think about it several days before responding.
  • We can respond prayerfully and carefully. People are watching our response. If we defend ourselves or go into the attack mode, it is unChristlike and there is no question, we damage our testimony. I am reactionary by nature and everyone knows it which is why a lot of people pull my chain intentionally. There was a man who enjoyed doing this: he worked for his son in law as a store clerk. He said things intentionally to get me to react. Someone told me to try ignoring him and sure enough, he quit doing it.

II. WE MUST UNDERSTAND THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF CRITICISM


2 Well, I am begging you now so that when I come I won’t have to be bold with those who think we act from human motives.
3 We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do.
4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments.


Satan is a terrorist and he attacks the mind. I am not advocating that he cannot assault the body but generally, he attacks the mind. Our mind is his battle field, any false belief that is established in our mind becomes a STRONGHOLD. Zig Ziggler calls it “Stinking Thinking.” If Satan can mess up your thinking and your beliefs–he has won the victory. This is exactly why he promotes religion. Nothing fouls man’s mind up more than religion. These religious cults brain wash people and get them believing things that are not true. This makes it hard to reach them with the gospel of Christ.


Criticism is both good and bad: it can be constructive but it can also be destructive. Christ has no intention of destroying us: His goal is to build us up, to transform us into His likeness but the devil motive to destroy. Satan is ruthless. His goal is to terrorize, paralyze and imobilize. He wants you out of the game. Criticism can have a stinging effect upon a believer. It is a cross wind that can set you in a tail spin. I was watching a baseball game on TV a few nights ago when an outfielder ran into the center field wall at full speed. He was stunned, dazed, addled and had to be helped off the field. Ruthless criticism is like hitting a wall at full speed, it can sting, hurt, stun and discourage. I have had the spiritual wind knocked out of me more than once. So how do you respond?


We have to respond the way Paul did: we have to realized that this is spiritual warfare and we have to employ spiritual weapons. You cannot win a spiritual war using flesh and blood methods. It will not work!

[1] Obviouly the number one tool in our spiritual warfare kit is prayer.

Ephesians 6:18–Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

[2] We also have to renew our minds–Romans 12:2… Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Job had a landslide of adverse things happen: he suffered sickness, grief, terror, doubt, discouragement and was on the verge of dispair until God changed the way Job thought, God changed his perspective and Job began to praise God although he had no idea what God was doing in his life. We want God to change the circumstances but generally, He wants to change our perspective, the way we view the circumstances. Job’s circumstances eventually changed but his perspective.

III. WE MUST SUBJECT OUR STUBBORN WILL TO THE WILL OF CHRIST

5 We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.
6 And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.

As long as we have assurance that we are being obedient to Christ, we can stand with confidence amidst the conflict. Our courage depends completely on our obedience to Christ and the good conscience that comes with obedience.

Once I lunch out on my own and get out from under Christ’s authority, I have no hope of victory. Everything depends on my willingness to obey and submit to Him.

We don’t always see immediate or visible results. It is a war that is spiritual in nature, therefore there may not be tangible or visible results. Go to chapter 11 and verse 15…So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.

Our first responsibility is to obey Christ not measure results. We may not see results for years but they will come if we obey. As the hymn says, “We trust and obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”

  1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
    What a glory He sheds on our way!
    While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
    And with all who will trust and obey.
  2. Not a shadow can rise, not a cloud in the skies,
    But His smile quickly drives it away;
    Not a doubt or a fear, not a sigh or a tear,
    Can abide while we trust and obey.
  3. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
    But our toil He doth richly repay;
    Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
    But is blessed if we trust and obey.
  4. But we never can prove the delights of His love
    Until all on the altar we lay;
    For the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows,
    Are for them who will trust and obey.
  5. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet,
    Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
    What He says we will do, where He sends we will go;
    Never fear, only trust and obey.
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Gospel Truth

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath: Luke 13:10-17

10 One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, 11 He saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!” 13 Then He touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!

14 But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. “There are six days of the week for working,” he said to the crowd. “Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath.”

15 But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? 16 This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”

17 This shamed His enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things He did.

INTRODUCTION

Again, we have a story in Luke’s gospel that is not in the other three and it is a wonderful story about a woman who could not look up. This story is filled with refreshing, wonderful truths that inspire and motivate.

I. THE FIRST THING I WANT YOU TO NOTICE IS: JESUS HAS COMPASSION ON THE HURTING.”

  1. Jesus saw her…


    10 One Sabbath day as Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, 11 He saw a woman who had been crippled by an evil spirit. She had been bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight.


     Sometimes we feel conspicuous and at other times we feel invisible and alone. Regardless to how we feel, Jesus sees us. He not only sees us, He sees our pain, our disappointment, even our shame and failure. This woman was sitting in a congregation much like you tonight and yet amidst this crowd of people, Jesus saw her. When Israel was in bondage in Egypt…God saw their affliction. When Hagar ran away from Sarah, the Angel of the Lord found her in the wilderness and she said, I will call God El Roi, the God who sees. He is a God who sees and He sees your pain today. Whatever you are feeling, He sees it!

  2. Jesus called her…


    12 When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said, “Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!”


    Jesus not only saw her, saw her pain, distress and suffering but HE CALLED HER. It is very important for Jesus to call. There is a group that teaches limited atonement. They say that Jesus died only for the elect, the chosen few. He does not call everyone and He may not call you. Well the scripture makes it clear that He called all the Israelites but some did not hear because they were not listening. Francis Crosby wrote on poem based on Hebrews 4:7…


    1. Jesus is calling the weary to rest—
      and He is calling today,
      Bring Him your burden and you shall be blest;
      He will not turn you away.
    2. Jesus is waiting, oh, come to Him now—
      Waiting today, waiting today,
      Come with your sins, at His feet lowly bow;
      Come, and no longer delay.
    3. Jesus is pleading, oh, listen to His voice:
      Hear Him today, hear Him today,
      They who believe on His name shall rejoice;
      Quickly arise and away. {I guarantee you the reforms don’t sing this hymn, actually, there are that many that they can sing}


  3. Jesus touched her….


    13 Then Jesus touched her and instantly she could stand straight.


It is one thing to see a person is need but to touch them is something else. Our willingness to touch those who are hurting is an indication that we are not afraid to get involved, touching is a show of affection. You don’t touch people who you despise, do you? You don’t, you avoid them as if they had the plague. As a matter of fact, some folks in our society are known as untouchables. They had them is Jesus day. The lepors were untouchable, yet Jesus touched them. He is not afraid of your infirmity. That is great news! Wonderful news!


II. JESUS HAS THE POWER TO STRAIGHTEN US OUT

13 Then He touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God!


This message is filled with Gospel Truth. Sin had messed this woman up, big time. Luke said she was “crippled by an evil spirit.” It is just a way of saying, SIN HAD MESSED HER UP. Sin twisted her, broke her down and that is what sin has done to me. This woman and I have a lot in common. Sin has messed me up. It has mangled and twisted me. I battle the sin that is rooted in my flesh every day and it is a battle that I am weary of fighting. Inside me there is a greedy little fellow and a lustful one at that: my twisted fleshly nature is constantly trying to pull me down but Jesus is fixing me. When He comes, He is going to touch me and straighten me out. I know there are those who pretend to be straight now: the pretend to be fixed but I’m not fixed. Jesus is in the process but He has not completed the project but this story gives me hope. There are many things about myself that I don’t like and there are things that you don’t like. The truth is: I can’t fix myself and you can’t fix me either. Ask my wife how much progress she is making in straightening me out.

I ran into one of these wise guys the other day who ask me, “Have you got those folks at Danville straightened out.” I remember his question because it has been asked before but I don’t remember my answer. What I normally say is “No, I don’t have them straightened out but I can’t straighten myself out.” There are a lot of things I can’t do.

  • I can’t forgive sins, can you?
  • I can’t heal the sick or raise the dead, can you?
  • I can’t make it rain, can you?

Neither can I straighten myself out but Jesus can and that is GOOD NEWS!

III. JESUS LOVES US MORE THAN RELIGIOUS DAYS, ANIMALS OR PROFIT

15 But the Lord replied, “You hypocrites! Each of you works on the Sabbath day! Don’t you untie your ox or your donkey from its stall on the Sabbath and lead it out for water? 16 This dear woman, a daughter of Abraham, has been held in bondage by Satan for eighteen years. Isn’t it right that she be released, even on the Sabbath?”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with loving animals and generally speaking, people who mistreat animals have a problem. The Jews who Jesus was addressing were not animal lover in the sense that you are; they were money lovers and they took care of their animals because it would be a huge lost financially for one of them to die. Jesus was simply pointing out that they showed more compassion on animals than they did people.

This is what is so sad about the story, the synagogue leader and the Jewish Religious Leaders as a whole had no compassion on people. They were cold and insensitive when it came to hurting people. They cared much more about Sabbath Observance than they did people. They were not happy for this dear woman. They were angry that Jesus did this miracle on the Sabbath and they directed their anger at the crowd who was rejoicing.

Basically the leader of the Synagogue said, “Go on home. Get out of here, this is not a hospital. You have six other days in which to get healed. Go to Dr. Jesus on one of those other days but don’t come here on the Sabbath and turn this into a healing service.

Can you believe that any human could be so insensitive? I can, I have seen it up close and personal. Some people care more about their assets {livestock in this story} than they do lost or hurting people. They care more about their reputation and pride than they do lost or hurting people. I’ve seen grown men d0 hurtful and harmful things to the fellowship of a church simply because their pride was offended or reputation was damaged.

CONCLUSION

Jesus not only called them hypocrites, He shamed them by making it obvious to the people that they loved things more than people. Jesus illustration of the animals was vivid and clear and everyone understood what He was saying…

17 This shamed His enemies, but all the people rejoiced at the wonderful things He did.

There were two responses to Jesus miracle and words:

  1. His enemies got angry [later convicted and ashamed]
  2. The people rejoiced at the wonderful things He did.

This is prophetic: these are the same two responses we will see in judgment. Those that have not believed are going to be convicted and ashamed. Those who have put their trust in Christ are going to be rejoicing, not because of what they have done but what Jesus has done for them.

The Law Of The Harvest

SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

1 I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem.
2 For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving.
3 But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you.
4 We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them!
5 So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.
6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.
7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.
12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.
13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.
14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.
15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

INTRODUCTION

I am doing something tonight that I don’t normally do, trying to cover an entire chapter in one message. I feel like I am preaching to the choir on Wednesday night: if this was the Sunday morning crowd, I would feel differently. We have been on this subject of “Stewardship” for two months and I think it is time to move on but I cannot do that in good conscious without sharing with you what little I know about the LAW OF THE HARVEST.


We will use verse 1-5 as our introduction:

1 I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem.
2 For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving.
3 But I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you.
4 We would be embarrassed—not to mention your own embarrassment—if some Macedonian believers came with me and found that you weren’t ready after all I had told them!
5 So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.


Paul is holding the Corinthians accountable for promises made. I don’t know how you interpret what Paul said, but to me, it is a subtle form of pressure.

  1. He is putting words in their mouth… I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving. Eager and enthusiastic givers don’t need prodding.
  2. Paul is sending a team to collect the offering…I am sending these brothers to be sure you really are ready, as I have been telling them, and that your money is all collected. I don’t want to be wrong in my boasting about you. Now, if I got a letter in the mail next week from an evangelist who said he was sending a team here to collect an offering, I would take that as a form of pressure. Paul also added, “Don’t embarrass me.”
  3. Paul is holding them accountable for a previous promise…So I thought I should send these brothers ahead of me to make sure the gift you promised is ready. But he adds, “I want it to be a willing gift, not one given grudgingly.” I see a tad of humor in Pauls appeal. How do you pressure someone to give cheerfully?

    There is a way to pressure someone into giving cheerfully. Well, it is actually not a form of pressure so much as understanding. I think a lot of people would get eager and enthusiastic about giving if they understood the LAW OF THE HARVEST. Getting folks to understand this truth is not easy. The moment you begin asking for my stuff, I get defensive. When I get defensive, I don’t listen, don’t hear, don’t absorb, don’t take in, etc. I prefer to give to those who don’t ask.

Tonight we are going to talk about the LAW OF THE HARVEST which is a simple law.

  1. The LAW OF THE HARVEST is the law of proportionate giving. [ Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.] Its the same rule as that of a farmer, you  harvest in proportion to what you sow. If you sow many seeds, you will reap an abundant harvest: if you sow only a few seed, you will reap a small harvest. If a farmer is to expand his operation, he sows more seed, not less. The more generous he is in sowing the greater his harvest.
  2. The LAW OF THE HARVEST is the law of reciprocal giving. This is where a lot of folks misunderstand the law of the harvest. You do not GIVE TO GET…YOU GIVE TO GET TO GIVE AGAIN. Same as in farming: for the farmer to expand his operation, he plants more acreage which means a greater investment in seeds. Before all these hybrids, farmers saved their seed for the following year. Thus the bigger the harvest, the more seed you have to sow the next cycle, or year. In Luke 6:38, Jesus tells us that we cannot out give God…Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. ” There is a problem, a human problem and it is called greed. At no point in this process can we become greedy and save all our seed. The moment we begin hording, the law of the harvest breaks down. We must continually remind ourselves that we are not giving to get but giving to get so we can give again in a greater purportion.
  3. THE LAW OF THE HARVEST is faith-based giving. The farmer [in the old days, before crop insurance] had to sow in faith. There was never a guarantee of rain or of an abundant harvest. Some years the yield was very good, some years good, some years fair and some years bad. The farmer never knew what the yield would be so he planted in seeds in faith. I can guarantee you a return, based on the word of God the return depends upon [1] your motives and [2] God’s methods. We do normally reap in kind: if we give money our return is in money. If we sow kindness, our return is in kindness but there is no guarantee that we will reap in kind. God has many, many ways of blessing us. If our basic motive is the return, in getting or reaping the harvest, we will probably miss the truth and miss a blessing. Paul explains in the latter part of the chapter, the results of our giving: 

    [1] Our gifts meet the NEEDS OF OTHERS {So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.} I have been studying and trying to impliment the principles of good stewardship for over 45 years and one of the things I have wrestled with time and again is “Motive.” I know that motive is important to God, so what do we do when we suspect impure motives. I always look at the need. Will my gift met a need? This is the first question. I give on the basis of need whether my motives are pure or not. True, there will be no reward for me but the persons needs are met and that is a reward within itself.


    [2] Our gifts produce THANKSGIVING in the heart of the recipent. {And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.} …..To be perfectly honest with you: June and I recieve a lot. I don’t say a lot about it because I know that there is a thin line between being thankful and praising and being proud and boasting. Last week on vacation, our meals were paid for by one of our church members or maybe it was two, our hotel was paid for by a family in this church. June writes the thank you notes to them and I write the thank you notes to the LORD. When you give to a Christian brother, this is going to happen: he or she is going to praise God and give HIM thanks. I recieved one love offering while we were in Seminary and then went some 20 years are more before I got the second. Most churches in the old days paid a set fee, called an honorarium and sometimes, it barely met expenses. Then, after my kids were grown, not gone, but grown, a little church in a neighboring county invited me to preach a revival. I don’t like missing Sunday morning but I gave them a full Sunday and preached at night through Wednesday. I expected the usual honorarium which would be around $200 in most churches. I don’t recall ever getting more than $300, so is was generally in the 2-3 hundred range. That last night of the revival, the pastor got up and said, “We are going to do something I had not planned to do, we are going to take up a love offering for Bro. Jack. I was both shocked and impressed but with my experience in the ministry, I did not expect much. After the service, the pastor gave me an envelop and I just stuck it in my pocket. When we got in our vehicle to leave, my wife said, “hand me the envelop, I want to see what’s in it.” She started counting and her face lit up like a Christmas tree. She said, “You are not going to believe this.” I said, “What, you have to tell me now.” She gave me the amount and I thought I was going to have pull off the road. I was elated, filled with praise and thanksgiving and in a celebrative mood. We went on to Cracker Barrel in Cullman and celebrated. Folks, this has happened to me in some shape, form or fashion more times than I can recount. FIRST OUR GIFT MEETS A NEED, THEN IT CREATES AN ERUPTION OF PRAISE AND THANKSGIVING TO GOD. But that is not all…


    [3] Our gifts will produce GLORY TO GOD. {v.13,  As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God.} This truth consoles me in my giving. I think to myself, “Someone is going to be helped and You will get glory so what difference does it make if I get a reward for giving, my motive is unimportant.” In other words, I have made up my mind to give whether I get a reward or not. Believe it or not, there is a 4th reason…


    [4] Our gifts will produce intercession in our behalf {v.13-14…For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.}…. My father in the ministry was Calvin C. Inman and he was a prayer warrior. He had a prayer room, a prayer calendar and a prayer note book. After he retired in the late 80’s, I bumped into him at a meeting. He said, “Jack, I pray for you every Wednesday.” I pulled him aside and said, “I appreciate your prayers. I just weathered a crisis and it just dawned on me that your prayers could very well have made the difference.” Bro. Inman was not perfect but I covets his prayers. I have some wealthy friends. They can buy anything they want and they are super generous to me. They have given me thousands of dollars. I would be embarrassed to tell you how much they have given. I cannot give them anything because they have money to get whatever they want. BUT I CAN PRAY FOR THEM. They have needs just like everyone else. Just last year, a church member family [one that has been very generous with us] came to visit June and I concerning our little crisis and they never mentioned what was going on in their life. I found out just hours later that their crisis was more severe than ours and immediately, my prayer focus changed. Folks, you cannot put a price tag on an INTERCESSOR, they are priceless.

CONCLUSION

Once again, Paul points us to Jesus in verse 15, “Thank God for this gift to wonderful for words.”

  • AV–Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!
  • NKJV/NIV–Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
  • ESV–Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
  • CEV–Thank God for His gift which is too wonderful for words!
  • NIrV–Let us give thanks to God for HIS gift which is so great that no one can tell you how wonderful it really is!

The bottom line: God is a giver, He is a generous benevolent God and no one can outgive HIM. He has infinite pockets and HIS gift is Christ speaks for itself–how are we going to top this wonderful gift that we cannot even describe.

 My advice to you is: Don’t worry so much about your motives, just respond obediently to God’s command and give, someday you will thank me for challenging you.

A Storm Is Coming

54 Then Jesus turned to the crowd and said, “When you see clouds beginning to form in the west, you say, ‘Here comes a shower.’ And you are right.
55 When the south wind blows, you say, ‘Today will be a scorcher.’ And it is.
56 You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present times.
57 “Why can’t you decide for yourselves what is right?
58 When you are on the way to court with your accuser, try to settle the matter before you get there. Otherwise, your accuser may drag you before the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, who will throw you into prison.
59 And if that happens, you won’t be free again until you have paid the very last penny. ”

INTRODUCTION

Before we get into this message: it is similar to last week. It is not a full sermon. With the brief time I have today, I want to stir your mind and imagination and ask you some probing questions and then make a challenge. 


There is a similar passage in Matthew:
1 One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
2 He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow;
3 red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!
4 Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah. ” Then Jesus left them and went away.

NOTE: In Matthew, Jesus is addressing the Jewish Religious leaders while in Luke, He addresses the crowd. The religious leaders have influenced the people, the nation as a whole is on the verge of rejecting Jesus.

Jesus said to the crowd, you can predict the weather by simply looking at the sky, reading the signs. All rain storms came from the Mediterrian which was to their west. When they saw clouds in the west, they knew it was going to rain. When they put their finger in the air and felt the wind blowing from the South, they knew a heat wave was on the way. They were very accurate in reading these natural signs but when it came to the “Signs of the Times,” they had no idea what was taking place. I like the way the NIrV puts it, “Why can’t you understand what is happening right now?”

This is a great question. In effect, Jesus was saying, “Do you people know what God is doing right here today, before your very eyes?” Peter knew, ten other disciples knew but the Jewish Religious leaders didn’t have a clue nor did the masses. Many believe that there were only 500 true followers until the day of Pentecost when thousands were converted. So we are talking about a tiny remnant of Jews who actually understood [in part] what God was doing in Christ. The rest didn’t have a clue.

The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah for hundreds of years, He comes and they don’t recognize Him which Jesus makes reference to in Chapter 13–And now, look, your house is abandoned [desolate, empty]. And you will never see Me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD. Do you understand what Jesus is implying? “I was here folks, standing right in front of you and you did not recognize who I am.” As John so aptly stated in his gospel:


 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him. I love the next verse [12]–But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.


Jesus was amazed: these Jews could read the signs in the sky and predict the weather but they could not read the signs in scripture and recognize what God was doing in their very presence and time [generation].


This leads me to the personal question: Do you know what God is doing right now? Do you see God at work today? What is He doing in DBC today?


The Jews could look at the sky and see a storm coming but they could not look at Jesus and see God at work or His judgment coming. What an opportunity this generation of Jews had and they blew it. The Messiah that Adam and Eve longed for was among them and they did not see God in HIM, did not see God working through HIM. They heard Jesus teach, saw Him work miracle after miracle but yet did not see what God was doing in HIM. What a blessed priviledge they squandered.

The Jews as a whole did not see God working in Christ before the crucifixion, so let us fast forward to after the resurrection and see what has changed: [Acts 5:29-39]

29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.
30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross.
31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven.
32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them.
34 But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while.
35 Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men!
36 Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing.
37 After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.
38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown.
39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!


Jesus saw their coming judgment, it was less than 40 years away. Rome would come with all its might and destroy everything. The Jews would be left with an empty house, nothing: Jesus saw it so clearly that He could describe it but they didn’t see it coming. Jesus begs them to repent in chapter 13 but they refuse to repent. They did not see the glorious gospel in Christ because they didn’t want to see. Jesus was light so light was not the problem. In their stubborn pride they refused to listen to what He said or understand what He was doing. He convicted them of their sins and they hated Him for it.


Jesus gives them one last warning in verses 57-59:

57 “Why can’t you decide for yourselves what is right?
58 When you are on the way to court with your accuser, try to settle the matter before you get there. Otherwise, your accuser may drag you before the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, who will throw you into prison.
59 And if that happens, you won’t be free again until you have paid the very last penny. ”

Jesus is not literally talking about a court of law although it is good advice to settle out of court: He is talking about the final judgment. Folks, the last thing you want to do is to approach the bar of God without Jesus. It was virtually impossible for a Jew to pay his debt once he was thrown into prison. An intelligent Jew would do what ever it took to stay out of prison. It was always better to go to the creditor personally and beg for more time or terms of payment than to go to the courts of law.


Friend, what you be willing to do to avoid going to hell? I am telling you now: you need to settle out of court. Come to Jesus today: He makes the message clear in Luke 13:3, “Unless you repent [turn from your sins], you will perish.”

Do You Think?

Scripture: Luke 12:49-53, NLT

49 “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning!

50 I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished. 

51 Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against one another!

52 From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of Me and two against–or two in favor and three against.

53 Father will be divided against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

INTRODUCTION

Many times is life, we have a preconcieved notion of how something is only to find out it is nothing like what we envisioned. All my life I had heard about Denver, Colorado being the mile high city. So, I imagined Denver to be located on a tall mountain and surrounded by panaramic mountain peaks, snow capped mountain peaks but Denver is located on a plateau. There are no mountain peaks in sight. The acent and decent is so gradual that it is hard to concieve that it is on a mountain at all. Denver was nothing like what I had imagined. It is a spraling metropolice with no mountains in view.

The Jews were looking and longing for the Messiah but Jesus was not what they had imagined. They were looking for a conquering king, not a suffering servant. They were looking for the Prince of Peace; actually, a golden era of peace and prosperity. They loved His miracles, especailly the multiplying of the loaves and fish–they could see where Jesus could make them prosperous and that liked the fact that Jesus was unafraid but Jesus disappointed them. The words He spoke here hurt their ears. It was a TMI moment…Enough Jesus, God forbid, this cannot happen, just hush now, don’t go there, etc.

One of the things that Jesus could not do was lie; He was always bound to tell the truth even when it was painful. He was convicted by the Sanhedrin on the basis of His own confession that He was the Son of God. No way, was Jesus going to deny His Father.

Jesus said, “Do you think that I came to bring peace?” [well I did not] I came to bring fire and a sword [Matt. 10:34] or division.

I. THE FIRST METAPHOR JESUS USES IS “FIRE”

Fire is a symbol of judgment and of the cleansing effect produced by judgment. Fire is a symbol of holiness. The writer of Hebrews said,Our God is a consuming fire.” [quote from Deuteronomy 4, 9 and Exodus 17]

Let me give you an example: in the OT sacrifical system, they had a bronze altar WHICH was used for sacrifice. They sacrificed animals and the flesh of the animal was placed on the altar, on the wood. They would light the fire and it would consume the flesh until it became a holocaust.

When we get saved, born again, the Holy Spirit [God’s fire] comes into our life and it is a fire that will not go out. It is a consuming fire and it burns up the flesh, all the ways that are not Christ like.

Example: I was saved at the age of 9 and got really serious about serving the LORD at age 19 but I must tell you, at age 19 I loved sports and I loved this world. But God put His holy fire in my bones and it has been burning since–this fire is consuming my love for sports and it is consuming my love for this world. I’m not saying that I have no love for this world but I am saying I have less than I had yesterday. God is chipping away at my lust for things.

Phipps Festus Bourne was a wood carver from Mabry Hill, Virginia. He was famous for carving ducks out of a chunk of wood. His ducks were so good, they seems life-life. Some one asked him how he got a duck from a block of wood. He said, “I just look at the piece of wood and get in my mind everything there that doesn’t look like a duck and I go to chipping away at what doesn’t resemble the duck.”

Instead of chipping with a chisel and hammer, God uses fire and He burns everything that does not resemble Jesus. I know, if you are like me, you are not impressed at this point but God is not through, in the end, you will marvel at His grace and handiwork. What would we be had not Adam and Eve sinned? Well, that is what we are going to be and more. God’s holy fire is going to consume every sinful thing in our lives.

A children’s pastor put the kids on stage in front of the adults and she sat on the front row with cue cards. She would flash a card to the kids and they would imitate or act out the person or thing. Only the children could see the cue cards, the adults had to guess what was on the card by the actions of the children.

The first card read “Chicken” and all the children reacted about the same time, flapping their arms like wings, crowing, etc. The audience got it right away. Next was a Elephant.”  The kids made a trunk with their arms and blew their trumpets. In a few seconds, the audience figured it out. Then came a “ballerina” and some of the kids began twirling on toe tip or trying to and the audience got it right. The last card read JESUS. This was totally unrehersed and the kids were at a lost; they just stood there in deep thought. After a few seconds one little girls threw her arms out wide like Jesus on the cross. It was a jesture of openess and love, eventually the audience figured out it was Jesus.

Are we confused when it comes to acting out so that others see Jesus is us. Better still, are the people we meet and interact with seeing Jesus in our behavior. After reading this story out of OUR DAILY BREAD, I was driving home from work and a flood of conviction filled my soul. It was all I could do to keep driving. I tried to pray out loud but couldn’t: all I could do was weep and I don’t weep often.

What did the Holy Spirit convict me of? My unChristlike attitude. I love those who love me and I love those who acknowledge a need for my help or God’s through me but I do not love everybody, not like Jesus did. I don’t think I hate anyone but I don’t love Muslims. I don’t love people who kill babies. I have a hard time with those who persecute Christians. I do pray that God will burn away all the prejudice and pride that keeps me from loving others but I must confess, my reflection of Jesus has been pitiful.

Jesus came to bring fire and He did: I am living proof that He did and it is burning today, I mean right now and it will not stop until the flesh is consumed.

II. THE SECOND METAPHOR IS THE SWORD

We think of Jesus as the Prince of Peace and the Peace Speaker or giverof peace and He is all this and more but on His initial trip to this earth, His mission was not peace but a sword which is a symbol for division. Jesus Christ is the GREAT DIVIDER. He divides family, friends, churches and nations.

When you actually sit down and give what Jesus said some thought, you can understand why He said what He did. True conversion produces radical change. This change is so great that it cannot be covered or hidden. When Christ enters a life, He takes control and He begins the long tedious process we call sanctification. Long story short, the Christian has nothing in common with the world other than his flesh or humanity. A Christian has a different world view. We do not think like the world. We do not value what they value. Our goals are totally different. They are amassing wealth while we are laying up treasures in heaven. They think we are crazy and I know they are crazy. If you were to drive through a camp ground and see someone building a house on a camping spot, what would you think? I would say, “They are nuts.” The people of this world are into health and wealth. They seek pleasure like we seek quiet time or time alone with Jesus. They are into hedonism not praise and worship.

Let me illustrate: growing up I had some friends but as a middle teenager, I began seeking God’s will for my life. I stopped drinking [which I never enjoyed in the first place] and began being careful who I ran with. There were certain things that I would not do and I lost friends because of it. People that were once close became distant. My commitment to follow Christ gave me a set of values they did not have or want to adopt. A few of them made jokes about it but most just kept their distance. I grew up with folks that I thought were like brothers but when I surrendered to the ministry at age 19, I had very few friends because we were going in a different direction.

When you think about it: there is no shock to what Jesus said, “I came to divide, I brought a sword not peace.” Jesus has divided all of humanity into one of two groups: the repentant and the unrepentant, the saved and the lost. Every human being is in one of these two camps.

Jesus divided the Jewish Religious leaders; He divided the Jewish people. John 9:16 is a great example–Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. We see it again in John 10–The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Like it our not, Jesus divides. Our nation is divided to the joy of some. We are divided economically, morally, politically, socially, racially and spiritually.

The polls are indicating at present that the presidential race is about 50/50: that is divided almost down the middle. According to a recent Gallup pole, about 50% of Americans favor abortion with 44% opposed. This has changed since Obama has been in office. Before he took office it was 51% pro-life and 42% pro-abortion. About the only place where I don’t see a great divide is on immigration. Gallup says that 77% of Americans are very concerned about immigrations and the open borders. Lets face the facts, America is deeply divided. How is Jesus the source of such division? 

As Christians, we are not to compromise with evil which means a true believer will never condon the mass killing of unwanted babies. Our conviction will not change because the One who put those convictions there, does not change.

The problem for Christians is that the left has a strangle holt on this country. They have control of the courts, classrooms and congress. I think it is apparent now that the Republicans as a whole have sold out to special interest. They are under the spell of big corporations just like the democrats. Both parties are corrupt and both are on the take. A Republican House and Senate has done nothing to slow down Obama’s Socialism Express, I mean nothing. Richard Shelby and his commercials were a joke. His campaign ads were as pathethic as he is: He and every senator there is rich because they have taken money from special interest. They do not represent us: they represent the likes of Walmart, the NFL, Apple and G.E. They have betrayed our interest for their own personal interest and they keep getting reelected because they have enough money to flood the airways with propaganda and smear tactics and American’s are dumb enough to believe their lies.

Let me tell you what is going to happen in the next few years; Christians are going to be persecuted. It has already started: case in point–Obama vs. Hobby Lobby but it is going to get worse, much worse. It will get so bad that Christians, real Christians will have to declare their allegience to Christ. Those who are faking are going to drop out of church and churches are going to become stronger. So let Mr. Obama and the left bring on their persecution; it will not heal the divide. Jesus has divided us and we will stay divided until He returns. Our values are totally opposite of the worlds and neither is going to change. I do wish the world would change but I have no hope that it will, my hope is for the next world which will magnify and praise the name of Jesus.

Stewardship

Scripture: Luke 12:41-48

41 Peter asked, “Lord, is that illustration just for us or for everyone?”

42 And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. 43 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. 44 I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. 45 But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? 46 The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.

47 And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

INTRODUCTION

Stewardship is an old word that we don’t use much but it is a good word. A steward was an exalted slave who was entrusted with the responsibility of managing his master’s estate. Abraham, for example, had a Steward who’s name was Eliezer. Abraham trusted Eliezer with everything he had. Before Abraham had children, Eliezer was named to inheret Abraham’s wealth. A second, and even better example is Joseph. Joseph was a slave but he was Potiphar’s Steward {Butler}. Joseph ran Potiphar’s estate. He kept the check book, paid all the bills, instructed all the slaves. 

Before we get into the heart of the message, I want you to note that his particular teaching comes in response to Peter’s question in verse 41, “Lord, is that illustration just for us or for everyone?” Jesus had been teaching on “Readiness and watchfulness” in regards to His return. Now Jesus in answer to Peter’s question, takes it a step further and teaches us not only to be watching and ready for His return but to be faithful during the interim. We are not to sit and watch but work and watch. Paul gave the Thessalonians a good chewing out for sitting on their roof top patio’s, having bible studies and watching for the Second Coming. Jesus said in John 9:4, I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. Now is the time to work, not sit and watch but work and watch.

TRANSITION

What do we look for in a steward? What would a wealthy Jewish man like Abraham look for in a steward?

I. HE WOULD LOOK FOR ABILITY

Ability is the talent, the skill, the aptitude to do something. When you are drafting leaders, you look first at ability. One of the requirements of Stewards, Managers or Leaders is to be sensible, wise and prudent. We are to make good sound judgments. You don’t give great responsibility to someone who has no ability to perform the task you are delegating them to do.

If we, as leaders, delegate authority to some individual who does not have the abilty to carry out the assigned task and they fail to do so, God will not hold them responsible, he will hold us responsible because we ask them to do something that they were not capable of doing.

II. HE WOULD LOOK FOR FAITHFULNESS

Jesus said, [v.42] “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.”

Abraham didn’t put Eliezer in charge of his household until he knew that he could trust him. The same was true of Potiphar. After ability, the first thing you look for is faithfulness or loyalty. You want a person you can depend on. Therefore the steward must be reliable, dependable, trustworthy and loyal to a fault. We sang a song when I was growing up that came to my mind when I got to this verse…it goes like this:

In the warfare that is raging
For the truth and for the right,
When the conflict, fierce, is raging
With the powers of the night,
God needs people brave and true:
May He then depend on you?

See, they come on sable pinions,
Come in strong, Satanic might,—
Powers come, and dark dominions,
From the regions of the night;
God requires the brave and true:
May He then depend on you? 

From His throne the Father sees us;
Angels help us to prevail;
And our leader true is Jesus,
And we shall not, cannot fail:
Triumph crowns the brave and true,—
May the Lord depend on you? 

Refrain:
May the Lord depend on you?
Loyalty is but His due;
Say, O spirit, brave and true,
That He may depend on you.

It is a sobering question: Can the LORD depend on you? If your church can’t, I doubt seriously that the LORD can. I know a lot of good people. They are very likable and fun to be around but you cannot depend on them. They are not reliable. When I was a boy, we had a horse named Betty. Betty enjoyed her freedom. She like to frolic but she didn’t like to work. To catch old Betty, you had to hem her up. If she was in the lot, you could slip around and shut the gate, then get her in the barn or a corner. If you didn’t decieve her and she saw you walk toward her with a bridle, that head came up and she immediately headed to the very back side of our 40 arce farm. Believe it or not, we have church members who are just like Betty. They have ability but no sense of responsibility. You can’t hem them up. When they see you coming with a task in mind, they are gone. There is only one thing worse than a Betty, its a person who promises to do something and then fails to keep their promise.

A steward must be reliable!

III. A THIRD THING TO LOOK FOR IS GOOD JUDGMENT

The AV translates verse 42 thusly, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?

Lets look quickly at the bad judgment of the hypothetical steward that Jesus describes:

  1. He thought of his MASTER as being absent.
  2. He thought he had more time “My master won’t be back for a while.”
  3. He abused his power “Beating the other servants”
  4. He acted irresponsibly “Getting Drunk”
  5. He failed to put his MASTER interest above his own. He pursued his own agenda.
  6. He was not prepared when his MASTER returned.

 

CONCLUSION

The wise, the sensible steward who is faithful will be rewarded with more responsibility and priviledge but the unwise, the foolish steward will be cut in sunder [NLT, to pieces].  One commentary said, “Cut in half,” which was an ancient form of execution. Isaiah the prophet was cut in half by a saw by the wicked Manassah.

Jesus said, And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

Junior Hill told a story, a parable about two brothers. One was a very healtly and gifted child and the other was born with Downs Syndrome. They attended the same school but the child with the disability was in a special education sector. They were only a year or so apart in age. One day they came in from school and both were elated, the gifted child ran to him mom showing his report card which had all A’s, the child with Downs Syndrome, pecked his mom on the arm and said look, he bent over and ties his shoe. Which one was the mom most proud of? Both, she was proud of both. Both used the ability they had but both didn’t have the same ability.

God is good and He is fair. He is not going to require the same from those who have less ability as he does from those who have much more.