THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson, we examined Luke 13:22 through Luke 14:24. We examined several parables within those verses. In this lesson, we will continue right where we left off. So, let’s begin in:
Luke 14:25 Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, 26 "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. 27 "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
If you just read this passage based on the way we use the word ‘hate’ without considering the context, I can easily see how some could read this and think is teaching that we must hate everyone including ourselves to be a disciple of Christ. Then it can become very confusing, when we read in other places that we are to love all people including our enemies. So, is the contradiction? No. I mentioned this before, but Matthew’s account gives us a better picture of what Jesus is talking about here.
Matthew 10:37 "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
Jesus is not saying we must hate these other people and ourselves to be His disciples, but that we are to love them and ourselves less than we love Him. So, he is talking about priorities. In other words, He is saying that we must not put others or ourselves above God. There are people in the world who quickly put their mates and children before God, but you cannot do that and be a true disciple of Christ. Again, there is nothing wrong with loving your family and doing everything you can for them, but when it comes to God and His way, He must be first in our lives even if that means dividing a household against itself. Is this easy, no, but is what it takes to follow after Jesus all the way. We all have a cross to bear. While it can hard at times, we must endure and always do our best to make God first in all things.
This is why some who become Christians without considering the high cost of discipleship will fall away because it is too much for them to bear because they did not consider the cost of discipleship. Jesus makes this perfectly clear from what He says next:
Luke 14:28 "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it -- 29 "lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 "saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' 31 "Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 "Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. 33 "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
The message from these two examples are clear. Before you give your life over to God, consider the changes you will have to make and the possibility of losing friends and even family. If more people would really think about what it means to become a disciple of Christ and be ready to face those challenges as they come, then I think number of Christians who fall away would be much less. The fact that Jesus gives these examples in the first place and stresses the need of making God your number 1 priority, once again, stresses the idea that living the Christian life as God wants you to live can be challenging, so you have to be committed to following the way of God if you ever hope to endure to the end.
Luke 14:34 " Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? 35 "It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
This concluding remark reflects what Jesus has just said. It is saying that a Christian must continue to be salty, which mean to continue to be committed to living for God because if a Christian loses his saltiness, which could be caused by apathy or even a complete rejection of God, then he will be of no use for the kingdom of God. Jesus even says he will not be fit for the dunghill or manure pile. That is pretty useless, when really think about it.
Our next chapter is one of my favorites. It contains three wonderful parables. So, let’s get to it.
Luke 15:1 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives sinners and eats with them." 3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying: 4 "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 "And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' 7 "I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
Please note that Jesus had tax collectors and other sinners coming to hear Him, but the Pharisees and scribes did not like this and they complained about it because they would go out if their way to avoid people like this. So, Jesus speaks a parable to these opposing Jews that they could relate to.
So Jesus points out how the opposing Jews would have no problem leaving 99 sheep behind to seek out this one lost sheep. In other words, they had more compassion for an animal than these sinners. Jesus is trying to get them to see how important is to find these sinners and bring them back to the fold because if they remain where they are, they will be lost forever. If they are able to find one of these sinners and bring him back home, he is worth rejoicing over because the sinner has turned from his ways.
This parable also speaks to us today because it also shows how much concern God has for every Christian who has ever strayed away from the flock. He wants that lost Christian to be found and brought back home. Jesus tells how much love and compassion the shepherd had for the lost sheep because when he finds him, he does not scold him or beat him. No, instead, he picks him up and puts him on his shoulder, and he rejoices that the sheep has been found, and God does the same thing for us.
He is not going to yell at us when we are found. Instead, He will put us on His shoulders and carry us home. Our text tells us that the whole host of heaven is filled with joy when the lost sinner finds their way back home to the fold of God. Certainly this kind of rejoicing also includes when nonChristians escape the grip of the world and become Christians as well.
I believe the sinner represented by the lost sheep is one who was part of the fold, but got distracted by the world or we could say found the grass being greener on the other side. Christians who find themselves in this category and sometimes so distracted that they do not realize they are lost until someone like the shepherd comes to them and shows them they are indeed lost. Of course, this could also represent a sinner who finally opens his eyes and realizes he is lost, but he has strayed so far from the church, that he does not know how to get back there on his own, which is why he needs the shepherd to find him and carry him back home.
Let’s look at our second parable starting in:
Luke 15:8" Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 "And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!' 10 "Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
In the first century, one coin could take a full day’s worth of work to earn, so each coin would be very precious to this woman. We also need to understand that the common house back then was dark because they did not usually have windows, but just an open door, and the floors were usually dirt. So, it would be necessary to light a lamp to be able to see well in the house even during the day time.
The message of this parable is the same as before, which shows how much concern God has for the lost and how much He wants them to be found and restored back to Him. Again, we see it stated that when that which is lost is found, not only did the woman rejoice with friends and neighbors, the whole host of heaven rejoices. Of course, this also teaching these opposing Jews that these tax collectors and sinners, they try to avoid are valuable and worth the effort of finding and saving. This should be our same mentality when it comes to those who have fallen away from the church and for those who have never obeyed the gospel.
I see this coin representing a Christian who has become lost by the mishandling of other Christians. In other words, a Christian or Christians neglected or treated poorly this child of God, which caused them to become lost. I wish this kind of thing did not happen, but it does sometimes. So, we need to be careful about how we treat each other and always do our best to build each other up instead of tear each other down. Now this does not mean that we cannot correct the behavior of a fellow saint, but we do need to pay close attention to how we deal with others.
I can also see this referring to those Christians who slip through the cracks and disappear without other Christians really noticing until it is too late. Just like the lost coin, when we finally pay attention enough to notice that Christian has slipped away, we need to do all we can to find him.
I believe Jesus saves the best parable for last. Let us begin in verse 11:
Luke 15:11 Then He said: "A certain man had two sons. 12 "And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.' So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 "And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 "But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 "Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 "And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
In this parable, we have a son who was living in the house of his father, and he had everything that he needed, but one day, he decides he wants to go out on his own. So, he asked his father for his inheritance.
Now his father does not argue with him or try to force him to stay. Instead, he gives his son what he wants, and his son leaves. Well, it does not take long for the son to blow all his money on prodigal living, and he finds himself broke in the middle of a famine. However, he did manage to find himself a job feeding pigs, but he was so hungry that he wished he could eat some of the pigs’ food. We need to remember that the Jews would normally have nothing to do with this unclean animal. So, this shows this prodigal son’s desperation.
This parable shows what can happen to a Christian. A Christians can be in the house of God in His fold and can have all the spiritual blessings that come from being a faithful Christian. However, God will not force you to stay with Him, and He will allow you to leave and do your own thing. Regarding this, I always think about about what Joshua said:
Joshua 24:15 "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Just like the prodigal son, when we try and do things on our own without God, we will end up spiritually bankrupt.
I also like what Cox says concerning the prodigal’s departure:
Growing weary of home restraint, he desired to depart for a place where his passions could have free reign.
1. His request. His mistakes were obvious: (a) He wanted the father’s goods, but not his presence. (b) He thought liberty was a license. He had the highest type of liberty- that of a son; yet he did not appreciate it. (c) He thought all the good things were in a “far country.” He was blind to the blessings at hand. “Acres of Diamonds.”
2. The father’s response. He gave the son his portion. God gives us our portion and tells us how to use it; but he will not hinder freedom of will.
3. The journey. Only one sentence is used to tell of the journey. The downgrades of life are steep. Once we set our heart on the “far country” of sin we at once arrive. (a) He left unhindered. The father with the servants could have held him by force; but that would have been treating him as a slave, not as a son. Compulsion would not have changed his heart. (b) He left unattended. Though the father loved him, he did not follow. All who depart for the “far country” must go alone – without God (Isa. 59:2). (Frank L. Cox, “The Prodical Son” p.493).
I hope that none of us develop this attitude toward God and take Him for granted because it will not bode well for us. Now let’s look at verse 17:
Luke 15:17 "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 'I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 "and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants." '
Here we see that the prodigal son had a wake up call. He had to hit rock bottom before this happened. He realized how great his father really was and how his father’s servants were eating better than he was right now. So, he made the decision to go back home to admit to his father that he had sinned. He was hoping that his father would take him back and make him one of his hired servants.
A hired servant was the lowest position because a hired servant could be let go for any reason, but the son did not care what position he received as long as he could get back in his father’s house.
This parable represents the Christian who has fallen away and realizes that he needs to go back to God and is willing confess to God that he has sinned. Many times a Christian who has fallen away feels just like this son in that he does not feel worthy to be a child of God again, but notice what happens as we continue on.
Luke 15:20 "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 22 "But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 'And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 'for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry.
This is truly amazing. Here we have this son coming back home hoping for the lowly position of a hired servant, not knowing if his father would even take him back, yet we find out from our parable that the father had been watching and waiting for his son to return. We can know this because his father saw him coming from a great distance, and he ran out to meet him and threw his arms around him and had compassion on him.
Even though the son did not feel worthy to be called his son anymore, the father shows how much love and grace he has for his son. He has his best robe brought out for him and puts a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet, but he does not stop there. He kills a calf and has a big celebration for his son’s return.
It does not get any better than this. When a lost Christian is willing to repent and come back home, God is watching and patiently waiting for you. He will see you coming back to Him in the distance, and He is ready to run to you, throw His arms around you, and forgive you for whatever you have done. He will not consider you as a hired servant. No, he will consider you as a son or daughter of God, and He will give you the best He has to offer, and the whole host of heaven will celebrate and rejoice because you have chosen to come back home.
The prodigal son represents a Christian who knew full well what it meant to be in the Father’s care, but by his own desire, he chose to leave God and His church because He thought it be better out in the world. Many Christians have done this very thing, especially those who grew up in the church and that is all they knew. Of course, the good news is that these Christians who left are allowed to come back, and we see that the church and the whole host of heaven are to rejoice when it happens because this Christian who was spiritually dead is now spiritually alive because he has come back home. Now you would think that all God fearing people would be happy when a sinner repents and comes back home, but some do not. Jesus is going to point His finger at these opposing Jews, and I also believe this points a finger at any Christian today who is is not happy when a sinner comes back home. Notice what Jesus says:
Luke 15:25 "Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 "So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.' 28 "But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 "So he answered and said to his father, 'Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 'But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.'
This older son, who represents the Pharisees and all those who are like him today was not a bad son because he did not leave home, and he was not lazy. He had no problems with keeping his Father’s commandments. However, his attitude was all wrong because he was self-righteous and considered himself better than his brother. He was very judgmental and did not think his brother should be forgiven, and he certainly did not think his family should be rejoicing over his return. He was full of envy, which caused him to be angry and to question his Father’s action.
This is exactly what the Pharisees problem was. They were not concerned about the lost, all they cared about was themselves. They thought they deserved all the praise and the blessings of God. After all, they knew that law and felt like they kept it well. Even if they kept the commandments God and worshipped as they were supposed to, they could still be lost because their attitude was all wrong. Remember Jesus said we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. It is not enough to be a law keeper, you must also have your heart into it and have love for your fellow man. Paul makes the point very clear.
1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
You will also notice that the older son would not even call his flesh and blood his brother. Instead, he said “this son of yours.” These opposing Jews were the same. They would not accept any of these sinners as their brother even if they were fellow Jews.
This mentality did not end with the opposing Jews because, sometimes you have Christians like this in the church. Some Christian will leave the church and go out and do all kinds of sinful things including sinful things against their brothers and sisters in Christ. Like the Prodigal Son, some of these Christians will hit rock bottom and realize the error of their ways and they will try and come back home, but since they did many cruel sinful things against that church, most in that church act like older son and refuse to call them brother. Their attitude is all wrong. While they should be rejoicing with the host of heaven, they are bitter and simply wish that child of God would go somewhere else because they do not feel that they deserve to come back after what they did. These would be the kind of Christians who would not have accepted the apostle Paul into the assembly because we all know the horrible things he did against the church, but we do not read of a single church rejecting him because of his past. We really need to think about that because I do not know of any man or woman who did more harm to the church than Paul and then became a Christian later. We all know what good he did for the church after He turned from his wicked ways.
Jesus concludes the parable with what the Father said and it should inspire and teach these Pharisees and all who are like them a great lesson about the lost and their return back home.
Luke 15:31 "And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 'It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.' "
While we may not like what a person has done to the church while they were off in the far country, if they come back home, which means they have repented, then we should be happy for them because the Father has forgiven them and so should we. The hosts of heaven rejoice for them and so should we. I know forgiveness is hard at times, but we certainly want our Father in heaven to forgive us when repent of our sins no matter how ugly those sins were. So, we should be willing to do the same when it comes to forgiving those who repent.
In conclusion, we have learned that it takes a serious commitment to be a disciple of Christ and that we should count of the cost of discipleship because it will not be an easy life. We also learned a great lesson from these three parables about the value of the lost sinner and how we should be diligent in seeking them out. We also learned that we must have the right attitude when it comes to living for God. You can obey the commands of God, and assembly with saints every time the doors are open, but if your heart is not in it and all you think about is yourself, then you are just as lost as the older son. Finally, we learned that when a sinner comes back by repenting, we should not only forgive them, but also rejoice with all the host heaven that they have come back home.