This week we looked at a parable Jesus told in Luke 12:15-21 about the man who has a huge crop and decided to build bigger barns to contain it. He then plans to indulge himself but God calls him a fool. Jesus starts by warning against greed. There is more to a person’s life than what you have or can get. Greed consumes a person and becomes an end in itself. In this parable the man continually refers to me, my or I. We see clearly what he thinks about. The Bible doesn’t teach that wealth and possessions are evil. That’s not the point of this parable. It’s our attitude toward them and how we use them that is the stumbling block.
The parable says the ground produced a good crop. Jesus is emphasising that everything is God’s. We are simply to be good stewards of what He gives us. What is missing from this man is any sense of thankfulness to God. The rich man doesn’t acknowledge God at all as he looks at his abundance. He doesn’t thank God for the blessing he has been given. The next thing is there is no seeking direction from God for what he should do with the excess. In this man’s mind what he had was his and his alone. He says whatshallIdo, not, what does God want me to do. He decides to build bigger barns to store it. He doesn’t consider anything other than just keeping it for himself.
Having savings, putting money aside for future projects or even for a rainy day are not in themselves wrong. It is wise stewardship of what God has given you as long as God isn’t telling you to do differently. If God has given you money and told you to keep it for the future and you spend it or even give it away, that’s just as bad as hoarding money that God has said to use or to give. The important part in this is to continually remind ourselves that it is God who gives to us, to be thankful to Him and to seek His will.
This man expresses no desire or obligation to help others with his excess. It’s not as if he has to give out of what he needs to live on. This is an abundance, an amount he can’t even store without building extra. When I was looking at this parable, I thought of the difference between this man and Boaz in the book of Ruth. Boaz was a man who had his heart right with God. He saw Ruth’s need and had a heart of mercy that showed itself in practical, compassionate help. He wasn’t trying to hoard up everything he had, he looked out for others and helped them.
The man in the parable wants to indulge himself. He wants to take life easy, enjoy himself. Again, don’t take this the wrong way. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying what you have, particularly things you have worked hard to get. It’s not wrong to take life easy at times and relax and rest. God created us so that we need to take time to rest, to refresh, to enjoy life but He didn’t create us to just indulge every earthly desire, which is what this man intended to do. Enjoyment, satisfaction comes from doing the will of God.
The man in the parable had short sighted vision. He had far more than he needed but putting his entire confidence in it was foolish. What he had could easily be destroyed by fire, by pests, by thieves. Security is not found in what we possess. See 1 Timothy 6:17–19.The Bible certainly doesn’t prohibit riches, but it has strong warnings against having the wrong attitude of heart, against trusting in riches instead of God.
We are to be rich toward God. We may have earthly riches or we may not, but what is important is our spiritual life. If we are rich toward God then other things will take their right priority. In the end what we have here will pass away. Work hard but don’t make what you get your goal. Seek God’s will above all else. Listen to Him, don’t be swayed by what the world or even those around you, see as important. Use what God entrusts to you as He wants you to use it. Save and give, rest and work, enjoy the good things God gives but be willing to sacrifice. If your heart is set on Him then everything else will be in the right perspective.
Parables – traditionally - “earthly stories with a heavenly meaning”
All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world."
A parable is a story or illustration with familiar or common elements designed to drive home a spiritual lesson.
Most Parables reveal truth to believers, for non-believers parables are a complete mystery.
Another important thing to know about parables is that they are all designed to call for a personal response. They are controversial statements about the spiritual nature of Jesus’ kingdom both earthly and heavenly, designed to motivate or to offend. The parables were designed to be self-evident, and they would serve to reveal what a person really thought about Jesus and His kingdom.
Jesus gives us four reasons why He speaks this way:
1. To highlight the mystery of the kingdom
2. To exalt the sovereignty of God
3. To expose hardness of heart
4. To marvel at the beauty of God’s grace
Another possible reason was to not give His enemies any ground. The enemies of Jesus were always waiting for Him to say something they could use against Him. By speaking in parables, Jesus was making it very hard for them. He could hardly be arrested for telling homely stories!
This morning we saw that as God forgives us through His glorious grace we must forgive others. It’s an imperative, not an option, one we seem to overlook although the importance and centrality of forgiving others is set out clearly in probably the best know scripture in the gospels – the Lords Prayer:
Matthew 6:12–15 (NIV84)
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
We then looked at Matthew 18:21-35 where we see that our forgiveness from God and us applying forgiveness to other is interlinked. A servant forgiven an unpayable debt (us) must then forgive others who owe us comparatively small debts. It is part of and evidence of us being a new creation in Christ.
As part of this we saw that our forgiving must reflect the forgiveness we receive and not limited by number or circumstance. Genesis 4:24.
If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
Lamech, as an unbeliever, was boasting that he would practice unlimited revenge. If the extreme of the world is unlimited revenge then the expectation of Christ is unlimited forgiveness!
As well as our relationship with God UN-forgiveness hurts Us
This message is the start of a new series called Back to Basics. We are actually returning to a series that we have done over the last few years. Over the last couple of years we have covered a number of main ideas or concepts of the Christian faith in this series. Normally each week covers a different topic, but this year we want to do it a bit differently and cover one main idea that is perhaps one of the most widely accepted but least understood aspects of Christian faith – Grace. Over the next few weeks we are going to do some teaching on grace – it is something that we could look at for a long time, but we are going to devote 3 or 4 weeks to looking at it.
I’ve called the message this morning Amazing Grace. When you hear those words if you are anything like me you think of the song Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. This is perhaps still the best-known Christian song, both amongst Christians and non-Christians. You hear this song in movies, at weddings, at funerals and at a variety of functions. It is almost become so popular that the wonderful truth of its message – the amazingness of God’s Grace to us, has been lost or watered down.
We live in an era where we are predisposed to not understanding grace. Instead, much of our world and our lives have been infiltrated with thinking that makes grace seem like a ridiculous idea. I’m sure you’ve heard comments like “if you dream it you can achieve it”, “if you work hard you can achieve anything” – these are not bad notions, but what they do is reinforce the idea that we are the ones who can do it! You may have even heard comments like “God helps those who help themselves”. Lots of people, even plenty of Christians, believe in Karma – you do good things good things will happen to you, you do bad things and bad things will happen to you.
This is what we have been telling ourselves since the beginning, since the Garden of Eden – we are the ones who determine our path, it is our choices and our actions that really matter.
We live in a time where the concept of grace is so foreign to us! So I’d encourage you to listen along as we explore the importance of living in the knowledge that we are saved and set by free by God’s grace alone!
This week we finished our series on Philippians. We saw last week in Philippians 4:4 Paul tells the church to rejoice in the Lord. Again Paul emphasises the theme of joy and rejoicing that we see throughout this book. Paul wants the church to realise that joy doesn’t depend on circumstances. Even in the midst of trials we are called to be joyful because we know Jesus.
In Philippians 4:6 we see that the solution to anxiety is seeking God. Being anxious is not just having a concern or a care about a person or a problem, it’s when we continually dwell on that. Paul calls the church to bring everything to God, to seek God.
The prayer Paul is talking of is a heart communion with a loving Father who desires what is best for us. That is the type of prayer that will keep us from anxiety and we will experience the peace of God which is beyond our understanding because it is not dependent on circumstances, it is peace in the midst of chaos and confusion. It’s peace that comes from knowing God is in control.
Paul continues by telling the church how to direct their thoughts. He tells them that in everything they are to look for the good. If you have a dispute with someone focus not on the dispute but look for the common ground, look for what is right. If you are suffering look for God’s perspective and what is changing in you that is of value. In each and everything you face, let what you think about be shaped by God. It can be easy to be consumed by negative thoughts, to see the bad, it takes effort to see what is good.
Paul points out that he is content whatever the circumstances. It’s an important principle for us to learn. Paul is content because of Christ in him. We look at what it means to be content, it’s not complacency, it’s not from having or achieving everything we think we want. It’s not something that comes naturally, we like Paul, have to learn it. Real contentment is working to glorify God, serve others, and further the kingdom of God in everything we do. Contentment comes from living in the light of eternity.
Paul thanks the Philippian church for their gifts to him. Paul knows that part of God’s sufficiency for him comes through other people. God has called us into relationship not just with Him but also with other people. We are part of a community. It is important to acknowledge and appreciate what others do to help us.He also points out an important principle which is that giving blesses the giver.
Paul closes with praying what we all need. Philippians 4:23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
I hope you have been enjoying this series as we have been working through the book of Philippians – this is Week 7 – and we have another week to go in the series.
Today I want to pick up from where we left off last week– so if you turn with me in your Bibles to Philippians 3:17. If you were away last week I’d encourage you to listen along to the message below.
17 Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. 18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.
Today as we are start the message, we are looking at Paul’s concluding remarks from Chapter 3. In his closing remarks, Paul’s letter takes a more serious tone. This is clearly of importance to Paul – he describes the tears that are in his eyes as he writes this warning – he feels this so deeply – This is not exaggeration or hyperbole on Paul’s part but rather he wants the Philippians who hear this to understand the gravity of his words.
He warns those listening about the enemies of the cross of Christ. You get the impression that Paul speaks from experience here – this is a veteran Christian who was journeyed the ups and downs of the Christian life – he has experienced the highs and certainly many of the lows – but in all of those he has remained faithful to the message of the cross of Christ.
Paul provides practical advice here – he doesn’t just pose the problem, but he gives practical advice on how we can avoid this danger!
Listen along as we explore some practical tips and the first few verses in Philippians 4.
We continued looking at Paul’s burning desire to know Jesus, focusing on Philippians 3:12-16. In Philippians 3:12 Paul states that he is not perfect. Not being perfect can be an excuse for our shortcomings or can be a motivating factor. In many ways we are defined and our life is limited by how we deal with our imperfections and flaws.For Paul and hopefully for us also, it should be a motivating force driving us to know Jesus better and to become ever more aware and reliant on His grace and mercy.
We saw that Paul has not yet obtained the level of relationship he wants with Jesus! We can always get to know someone better and if we love them this is a great joy. Paul knows that in knowing Jesus better there is great benefit. Paul wanted to gain the very thing for which Jesus had made him His own. He is straining and striving to gain the prize which is the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”This is to:
Paul is single minded and focussed on his goal and is pressing on to achieve it. A key part of leading this Christ cantered life focussed on achieving the prize is not looking back! Satan and our human nature continually tries to take our eyes off the prize and trip us up by getting us to look at the errors and hurts of the past. The past is covered by Christ and His sacrifice. As we look to the future and move on we are liberated to lead a life of freedom and possibilities.
This week we looked at Philippians 3:1-11. Paul begins by instructing the Philippians to rejoice, continuing the theme of joy. The mood then swiftly changes as we hear Paul warning the church in strong almost abusive language against some Jewish Christians who are trying to replace the joy and freedom of a Christ centred life with a rule based religion. Even the Old Testament stated that circumcision was to be of the heart (see Deuteronomy 30:6 & Jeremiah 4:4).
These men are true conservatives wanting to integrate Christ into their traditional values rather than be born again. Christ has called Paul and us to a new and radical life based on God’s will and faith! We are radicals who live by faith and love, making all our choices not by rules but based on God’s love and our desire to please him.
Paul does a profit and loss assessment of his life. All the things the Jewish people in their conservative tradition would have counted as profit he counted as loss with his gain being Christ! He counts his heritage and genealogy as garbage (literally dung) as they do not take him close to Jesus and eternity!
Paul truly understood Mark 8:36 – “What will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” My prayer is that God gives us a revelation of this truth so that we are set free from our past and societal materialistic view. With this comes a release of joy and a freedom to truly rejoice in the glory of God.