In today’s scripture, we are in the middle of Luke 9, a chapter defining what it means to proclaim Jesus is the Christ. Jesus pulls back the curtains and reveals in greater and greater depth what it means to follow Jesus, the Christ of God, the chosen one of God to bring salvation to the world. To follow Christ means a life of suffering and sacrifice even to the point of death. It means to pick up your cross and whole heartedly commit what God wants of you, even when it is not your first choice. Then last week, a stark reminder through the transfiguration that Jesus is divine in nature, and to confess Jesus is the Christ is to be changed ourselves as we commit ourselves to the Lord.
God wants us as his followers to be in the messy world, the confusing world, the competing world. Today we are back in the valley… Here is the lesson: Do Not Take the Divine Nature of Jesus for Granted. Do not assume that there is a formula we follow to gain access to the divine. God cannot be controlled. One of my professors used to talk about how some people treat the Bible like Aladdin’s lamp: if you rub it hard enough, say the right verses, have the right emotions, a genie will pop out and you’ll get your wish. If you think Jesus is yours at your bidding with a minimal effort, you are wrong. We are called to SUBMIT to his spirit, his Lordship….
There is a great need for faith in Jesus Christ. The disciples are not suddenly experts in casting out demons because they saw the revelation of the divine nature of Jesus on the mountaintop, they need Jesus Himself. The reasons for the need:
- Our needs are desperate.
- The enemy is powerful.
- Only God’s power can deliver us!
As Jesus descends the mountain he is confronted by crowds; one man is desperate for his son to have a demon cast out. The father explains to Jesus in Luke 9:40: “I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.” Apparently the disciples thought they had this whole healing thing down. They are missing the point. They are like the refrigerator that thinks it no longer needs electricity to run and keep food cold, “just unplug me so I don’t have to be confined to the kitchen.” ~ we must depend on Jesus Christ, abiding in him, connected like an electric cord. Sometimes I am tempted to get full of myself when a few extra people will pat me on the back because of a sermon, and I think, “aha, I know the formula for a good sermon, an appropriately placed joke, certain types of illustrations, well thought out points... ALWAYS, if I have any measure of arrogance, the next sermon is flat. It’s always the Holy Spirit that speaks most profoundly, always the living Christ, and if God chooses the words that come out of my mouth to make a difference then I am honored and humbled. It’s like the disciples thought since they saw Jesus in action, they could do what he did… but they were wrong. It’s Jesus Christ we need for anything to be accomplished in the name of Christ. We must stay plugged in. As soon as we take God for granted, we are missing the Lord himself.
Our society is desperate for peace, physically, relationally, emotionally… in the case of the scripture it is a boy with a demon, but there are so many hard situations….
We are deficient in our own strength, like the disciples: “They could not” cast out the demon (Luke 9:40) and, “they did not understand” (Luke 9:45) Jesus’ statement. The disciples were lacking in spiritual power and spiritual understanding. All of us face situations where if we could, we would speak the word and deliver from the overwhelming problem. I had a friend in high school with all sorts of problems that announced one day he was a Christian. Two days later he changed his mind explaining, “I tried it and it didn’t work.” Jesus is not about what he can do for you, it’s who he IS that is important. What he does is the bonus!
Jesus is tough on the entire generation: “O unbelieving and perverted generation!” (Luke 9:41) Jesus might be talking to the disciples specifically, but this is a broad rebuke that also takes in the religious leaders and the multitude. He is recognizing the larger problem.
We are living in a difficult tension filled time with people searching for answers, searching for peace, looking in the wrong places. There is a desperate need for God.
But here’s one of the problems: until we are desperate, until we admit our inadequacies, we will never turn completely to the Lord and depend on him. The father has hit the bottom. The failure of the disciples to cast out the demon in their own strength is a learning moment ~ when we have faith in God he will turn our lives around and give us peace!
We need to depend completely on God because The Power of the enemy is destructive. We need the power of God because the enemy is real. The Bible teaches that evil is not just an impersonal force, but rather it exists and is furthered through Satan and demons. While Satan is a deceiver who often draws people into his web by promising them what they desire, his goal is to harm and destroy. While many of our problems are due to our sins, we also need to be on guard against the destructive power of Satan.
Only the mighty power of God in Christ can deliver us: Luke almost understates the healing itself. He describes the boy’s terrible convulsions, but then simply states, “Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father” (9:42). Then he clarifies what happened by showing the reaction of the crowd: “They were all amazed at the greatness of God” (9:43)… People instinctively know when God is at work among us. There is an amazement in God. When Jesus overcomes the destructive power of Satan, overcomes the desperate need of people, brings peace, God is glorified.
We have a vital need for faith ~ dependent faith on Jesus Christ. Not our strength, not taking God for granted, but FAITH IN HIM! HIS POWER. HIS PRESENCE. The need for faith is shown in Jesus’ rebuke, “O unbelieving generation!” True faith is to recognize our complete dependence on God, his ways, his decisions, his power. True faith results in living out that faith. Jesus describes us as a “Perverse Generation” in Luke 9:41. I don’t like that word, but here it is. To be perverted is to go astray from the path of God’s righteous ways as revealed in His Word ~ contrary from God’s word is another way of saying it. To follow Christ with our whole heart means we cannot pick and choose right and wrong, schedule our life of faith, call on God like a genie in a bottle, but we must follow the whole counsel of God’s word. Christianity is not just good theory, good ideas, but putting together our beliefs and practices. Faith results in a changed life and complete trust and dependence on Jesus Christ.
My favorite detail of this story: Jesus listens to the desperate plea of the father, he sees the inadequacy of the disciples who try to cast the demon out, he confronts the efforts of Satan, he scolds the disciples and all the people gathered as he calls them an unbelieving people, and what does he do anyway? he casts out the demon and heals the boy.
The Lord is gracious to work on our behalf even when our faith is weak and our understanding is flawed. Faith and obedience are related, yet it is all by faith that we find peace and reconciliation. Jesus didn’t wait until this father had great faith to deliver his son. He didn’t wait until the disciples arrived at strong faith and clear understanding before He used them in His purpose. If we bring our troubles and problems to Him, even though our faith may be weak and our understanding may be cloudy, He is gracious to deliver us by His mighty power.
Whatever our needs and however strong the enemy, our Heavenly Father is even more powerful. God himself is the one of whom we must trust. Following Christ is not about trying to figure out how to make faith work, it is about a relationship, about staying plugged in. Our mighty Savior went to the cross and was victorious over sin and death. READ Luke 9:44. We will always have desperate needs in this old world. If you let your problems drive you to Christ himself, you will be delivered. We are needy people, but Christ is a mighty Savior! So be it.
Pilot : Why.?
John : Because I’m a Newspaper Photographer. I need to get some close up shots.
Pilot was strangely silent for a moment, then he stammered ‘So, what You’re telling me is . . . You’re Not My Flying Instructor’?
Making assumptions gets us in trouble ~ we read motivations into other people’s actions and concoct elaborate explanations to explain behavior. As a young pastor if somebody walked out of a worship service during the sermon I’d take it personally and wonder what I said. Now I know there are a thousand possible reasons. We wonder why people stop coming to church, why patterns change… often we assume the worst. More often than not we assume wrongly…. My tendency is to take things personally….