Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving: A lesson in faith

Luke 17:11 – 19

Thanksgiving: A lesson in faith.


The Pilgrims began their Thanksgiving with five kernels of corn on their plate. They were symbolic of the daily ration they had experience the year before.

 

I.         Observations:

 

            A.        Desperation will cause you to do things you might not have considered.


“As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance [13] and called out in a loud voice, Jesus, Master, have pity on us! [Luke 17:12 – 13]

 

                        1.         Our adage: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

 

                                    a.         These men went to Jesus because they had a need and they knew (on some level) that Jesus could do something about that need.

 

                                    b.         The first and most basic cry of the one in need is “Jesus, Master, have pity...”

 

                        2.         We are motivated by undercurrents of our mind.

 

                                    a.         Anger often drives us to do stupid things and is behind many addictive behavior. (The addictive behavior is an attempt to self-medicate)

 

                                    b.         Fear drives us passionately towards the cliff.

 

                                                1.)       We fear failing (ask any parent...). We try or work harder.

 

                                                2.)       We fear being alone (abandonment or hurt). We insulate ourselves with distrust and selfishness. We run blindly from relationship to relationship.

 

                                                3.)       We fear succeeding (attention and higher expectations). We do everything possible yet leave a trap door so we have an out if things become to uncomfortable.

 

            B.        The power of God will do things you might not have imagined.


“When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. [Luke 17:14]


 

                        1.         Jesus asked them to go to the priests while they were still “unclean.”

 

                                    a.         This was very difficult because of priests position.

 

                                                1.)       The priests had certified them “unclean” at the discovery of their leprosy. Now in the misery of the leprosy they were going to ask the priest to certify them clean.

 

                                                2.)       They were cleansed AFTER they left for the priests!

 

                                    b.         Noticed they were “cleansed” [v 14] but only one was “made well” [v 19]

 

                                                1.)       The word translated “cleansed” [v 14] means “to make clean” or “purify.”

 

                                                2.)       The word translated “made well” (KJV: “made whole”) [v 19] means “to save” as in “deliver” and “protect.”

 

            C.        Gratefulness will move you to action you might not think possible.


“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. [16] He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan.” [Luke 17:15 – 16]

 

                        1.         Impression: The man returned BEFORE he went to the priests.

 

                                    a.         Notice there is no vested interest in the priests certificate of cleansing. The man was a Samaritan (unbeliever by Jewish standards).

 

                                    b.         Image of the remnant of Israel that was preserved to return to the Promised Land. (I really hope “remnant” is NOT a spiritual principle, but it may be.)

 

                        2.         In throwing himself at Jesus feet, he did two things:

 

                                    a.         He humbled himself before The One who had cleansed him.

 

                                    b.         He thanked the one he earlier called “Master.”

 

            D.        Thanksgiving, expressed in knowing, doing, and feeling will make you whole.


“Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” [Luke 17: 19]


 

                        1.         God is pleased when we give thanks.

 

                                    a.         Jesus shows disappointment (possibly frustration) over the fact that only one of the ten returned to give thanks. [vv 17 – 18]

 

                                    b.         Jesus tells him to get up and gives him liberty to leave.

 

                        2.         Healing is made complete in faith that has taken action, trusted Jesus, and returned thanks.

 

II.       There is a serious issue at stake: It is caused by being out of balance.


William Barclay - “So often once a man has got what he wants, he never comes back.”

 

            A.        So what cause us to be out of balance?

 

                        1.         Faith comes in four forms:

 

                                    a.         Faith is a choice (response) based on God’s grace (initiative).


“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” [Ephesians 2:8]

 

                                    b.         Faith is expressed in obedience (doing).


“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.” [1 John 2:3]

 

                                    c.         Faith is dependent on what we know.


“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. [14] The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. [1 Corinthians 2:13 – 14]

 

                                    d.         Faith is confirmed and reinforced by what we feel.


“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” [Luke 2:20]


“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. [Hebrews 12:28]

 

                        2.         We get out of balance when we focus on doing, knowing, and feeling as proof or a means of generating RELATIONSHIP with God.

 

 

                                    a.         These things (doing, knowing, and feeling) become “proof” of faith not the substance of faith.


(Ill.) You buy a new car. It is exciting, so you call your friends and family. You take them the receipt of your purchase to prove you have the new car. You act like you have a new car. What’s missing from this story? (Hint: The new car.)

 

                                                1.)       The SUBSTANCE of faith is the RESPONSE you make to God on a daily basis.

 

                                                2.)       When we focus on the “proof” we miss the RESPONSIVE RELATIONSHIP we have with God.


                                    b.         These things (doing, knowing, and feeling) begin to define us.

 

                                                1.)       We tend to be more comfortable in one, doubting the others.

 

                                                2.)       Personally I dislike the emotional (feeling) side. Feelings can be based on to many variables, sometimes in contrast to facts.


(Ill.) Many people make outlandish claims based on some ecstatic spiritual experience. I still have a letter someplace from a “prophet” (written in December of 2001) stating that Islam would collapse and vanish in a couple of years. How can you argue against the claim of someone’s experience?

 

                                                3.)       Personally I distrust the doing side. I notice that we work so hard but have so little compared to our desire and our effort. Our work pulls us away from our core message.


(Ill.) Lots of churches have recreated the philosophy and style of the “Purpose Driven Church” (and other church growth ideas) but nobody has produced the same results as the original model. Until they do at a reasonable level, it seems to be all conjecture or wishful thinking at best and commercialism (trafficking in honest desire) at worst.

 

                                                4.)       So where does that leave me? Possibly with a cold, knowledge based, practice that distrusts the “latest and the greatest.” Rejecting an imposed, externally generated, worship rather than a continual, internal heart, worship.

 

            B.        So how do you/I find balance?

 

                        1.         First we need to revisit the concept of “faith.”

 

                                    a.         Faith is our response to God’s initiative (grace).

 

                                    b.         The result of our response is DOING, KNOWING, and FEELING. Not just one... Those three must be subject to our RELATIONSHIP with God, not trying to prove or generate it.

 

                        2.         We need to cultivate positive habits.

 

                                    a.         Thanksgiving is the number one way. Why? Because ingratitude it’s the first step in spiritual and moral degeneration.


“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” [Romans 1:21]


(Application: avoid complaining, become deliberate in looking for the praiseworthy, intentionally give thanks for what you have instead of focusing on what you do not have or want.)

 

                                    b.         We need to re-establish FAITH as the SUBSTANCE of what we do, think, and feel. That means returning to RESPONSIVE RELATIONSHIP with the one true God.


“For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith.” [Romans 1:17]

 

                        3.         So where do we start?

 

                                    a.         Focus on God, not programs to do, things to believe, feelings to have.


“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.” [Romans 1:25]

 

                                    b.         Habitually look for God’s grace (initiative) in your life through regular things. (See the spiritual meaning.)


We live by faith, not by sight.” [2 Corinthians 5:7]

 

                                    c.         Daily respond to God’s grand substitution that allows King Jesus full control of you.


“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” [Galatians 2:20]


“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 6:11]

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