Memphis Belle

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Luke 10:25-42


“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?    He said unto him, What is written in the law?  how readest thou?  And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.  And he said unto him, Thou has answered right:  this do, and thou shalt live.  But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?  And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  And by chance there came down a certain priest that way:  and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was:  and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.  Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?  And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.  Then Jesus said unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.  Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village:  and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.  But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.  And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:  but one thing is needful:  and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”


“I encourage you to remember to pray for Mike Gorby, whose in the hospital right now, Mike’s around 39, they’re giving him a couple days, cancer in the liver.  But you pray.  One of our guys came back to us last week, got saved two months ago, Lord transformed his life, came in last week, and we prayed for him twice on a Sunday morning, he said “My liver cancer and pancreas cancer are gone.  All my levels are normal.”  [applause]  One of our gals, breast cancer.  Prayed for her, they went to cut in, got to where the tumor was and it had collapsed, it was empty, there was nothing there.  You know, we see these things, so I encourage you to remember to pray.  Kirk, started chemo this week, and radiation, and the tumor is already shrinking in one day [it normally takes four weeks or more to begin shrinking].  So that’s prayer, that’s nothing to do with what’s going on there.  [applause]  [Sigh] So, remember to pray.  And how many of you, if you’re here this evening, if you’re chronically or terminally ill, why don’t you stand up, right, wherever you are.  You here, who else?  You, stand, don’t sit down, stand up.  Let’s just pray for a minute, you folks, why don’t you just stand up and just lay hands on these people, and we’ll just pray and, we’re in the Gospels.  You know, Jesus, God gives us in his Word, I believe, encouragement in our hearts to pray for one another.  The Bible could have just told us that we were saved and forgiven and going to heaven [gaining entrance into the kingdom of heaven], that would have been enough.  Our minds would have been blown.  ‘But I think, Lord, you’re the one who told us that you open the eyes of the blind, and that you cleanse the lepers, and that you raise the dead, that you heal the sick.  That was your choice to tell us that.  And then you told us you’re the same yesterday, today and forever.’  So, in accordance with his Word, let’s just take a second and let’s pray for these folks that have stood.  ‘Father we settle our hearts, I know you’ve overheard.  We praise you for the wonderful things that we hear.  Father, Lord, we, we wonder so often, as we read the Book of Acts and as we read the Gospels Lord, why we don’t see the miraculous more often.  And Lord, we search our hearts and we wonder, Lord if it’s lack of fasting and prayer and holiness in our own lives, and Lord we, I, Lord wonder at this difficult issue from so many different directions.  And yet Lord, somehow we know it’s only because you died for us, it’s only because you shed your blood.  Lord, it’s in the covenant that you secured for us forever that we can come and ask for your mercy, and your grace, that you would touch these here, our family, Lord, that are struggling with illness.  Lord I pray you’d be gracious, I pray you touch them, Lord, as we’re here, gathered, singing your praises, lifting our hearts to you, Lord, looking to meet with you, Lord, as we gather, as you told us that wherever two or three of us would gather together in your name, that you would be in the midst.  You told us that you’re walking in the midst of the Lampstands, Lord, in the midst of your Church.  So Lord as we continue, we pray for these that are here now Lord, that are dealing with illness and difficulty, Lord, we pray that you touch them, in Jesus name, amen.’ 


The Difference Between Knowing God’s Word, Law, and Doing It


Luke chapter 10, verse 25 says, “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  He said unto him, What is written in the law?  how readest thou?  And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind:  and thy neighbour as thyself.  And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right:  this do, and thou shalt live.  But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?  Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  And by chance there came down a certain priest that way:  and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was:  and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.  And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.  Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was the neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?  And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.  then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (verses 25-37).  So, we will have a contrast in two pictures this evening.  One, this record, it doesn’t say it’s a parable (it’s called the Parable of the Good Samaritan, many of us are familiar with it) of Jesus challenging those who would just take a correct theological position, and have no expression to their faith in regards to obedience in service.  And on the other side of the coin, we’ll come to Mary and Martha, where there’s a challenge to those who would only serve, and never have the time to sit at his feet in devotion.  So it’s an interesting contrast, as we look at these last two snapshots that the Lord gives us, as we come to the end of this chapter. 


What a Jewish lawyer or ‘doctor of the Law’, scribe was


It says “a certain lawyer stood up,” in verse 25, “and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  Jesus says unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?”  This man, it says, is a lawyer. Now that is not a lawyer in the sense that we think of a lawyer today.  He was a scribe, or, in some places in the Gospel, those that are called “a doctor of the Law.”  They were the ones who, since the return of the Jews from captivity in Babylon, and from Ezra on it seems, they developed as a class that would in complete devotion copy and recopy the Scripture, word by word, syllable by syllable, counting up numerically the value, making sure it was accurate.  And they were the ones who as a doctor of the law, as a scribe, as a lawyer, interpreted the Law, they interpreted the Old Testament into life.  They were the ones, when someone had a question, ‘What does this verse mean, how do I deal with this problem?  This man stole this, what do I do?’  They would come to these ‘doctors of the Law,’ these lawyers of the Scripture, the scribe, and they then would give them an answer on how the Scripture measures out into life, how does it turn into life. 


Dead Orthodoxy, Being Doctrinally Correct Without Living the Word of God


This guy stands up, tempting Jesus, to outwit Jesus, to duel with him, as it were, theologically.  And there are people that are like that.  You and I know them, and I think sometimes we can get like that, to where we study the Scripture, we take out our swords in camp, and we’re always dueling with, you know, other Christians on our theological position, whether it’s the Rapture or it’s Five Point Calvinism, whether it’s Armenianism, post or pre-Millennialism, or we go through all of these systematic theologies, covenant theologies, where we can get into that mode where all we care about is being right.  [Comment:  Everyone should be able to have a systematic theology, and a solid base of beliefs on all of these things, and be able to defend them, as they mature spiritually and in the knowledge of the Word of God, in all of these areas Pastor Joe just mentioned.  I have reached that point in my personal beliefs, and it helps me on the job of maintaining this website.  But the point he is making, is that a Christian, as this parable of the Good Samaritan clearly shows, is more than what he or she believes, or how well he or she can defend those beliefs.  All of those various beliefs and differences of belief don’t make you a Christian, if you’re busy hacking up other believers in defense of your personal beliefs, regardless of the fact that you may be correct in your Scriptural beliefs and Scriptural interpretations.  The lesson is, a set of beliefs, right or wrong, doesn’t make you a good person or a good Christian, your behavior does.  The bottom line is how you treat other people.  Besides, all of our differences in belief will be ironed out very quickly at the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ.  The culmination of the very Ten Commandment Law of God points to love, the agape-love of God that we should be showing toward God and man.  That is the whole point of this passage, in verses 25 through 37.  For a super study on this topic, log onto]  And most of the time we end up being “dead-right [i.e. dead spiritually].”  Don McClure told me once, and he grew up around Wilbur Smith, and had great opportunity to sit with him and talk with him, and he says “As a young man I wanted to ask a heavy question.”  Billy Graham said Wilbur Smith is the greatest Bible scholar that he knows.  And he asked Wilbur Smith, “What do you think is the greatest danger to the evangelical church in America?”  Don said, “It was a heavy question, and I wanted to ask a heavy question.”  Wilbur Smith said, “Dead orthodoxy.”  And I’ve seen Christians that were filled with vitality, they were filled with love, and that love found expression to change somebody’s tire, cut somebody’s lawn, or visit somebody in the hospital, or lay their life down, or make somebody a meal---I’ve seen people like that go to the extreme where they get so far into Reform Theology or so far into Covenant Theology, or so far into the Dispensational Theology, they get so positioned that somehow their love turns to discernment.  And the warmth in their heart grows cold.  And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have our own systematic theology, we should be students of the Scripture, we should give ourselves to the study of the Word.  We should know what it says, we should be able to “to give every man an answer for the hope that lies within us.”  And when there comes a reason to explain why we believe what we believe, we should be willing to say that.  And I think on the other side of the coin, we should remember what Luther said too, he said, “Who are these audacious young Christians,” in his preface to Romans, “who dare to soar the heights of eternal depravity and predestination and the security of the saints before they understand sin and temptation and grace and lust?”  He said, “Surely they must fall, because there is a doctrine for every season in a man’s life.”  And what he was saying is we get so heady and so puffed up, and we forget that Christianity is love, that it should find its outworking in cleaning up for someone, vacuuming someone’s floor.  What does it matter that we have all this heady stuff, no one ever changed the world by being able to prove their systematic theology to an unbeliever.  You know how they touched their lives?  By visiting them in the hospital.  By cutting their lawn while they’re sick.  By reaching out to them and binding up their wounds.  By love.  [To see what Pastor Joe is talking about exemplified in the early Church between 155 A.D. and 255 A.D. log onto] 


“How Readest Thou?”


This theologian, this heady man, this person who was dead right, comes to Jesus to test him, and says, “Master, what shall I do”---he’s a legalist---“to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus says, “What is written in the law?”  Very interesting, he says, “how readest thou?”  Now that was a question the scribes would say to each other.  When the scribes would sit and debate a point in the Law, what it was really saying, they would say to each other “How readest thou?”  Now Jesus is kind of giving this guy a little dig.  He’s turning it on him, he’s saying, ‘You’re the theologian, and you’re asking me about what eternal life is about?  You know the Scripture.’  And then he says what the scribes said to each other, “How readest thou?”  Now the guy gives a good answer.  “He answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, with all thy mind.  And thy neighbour as thyself.”  These are the two Tables of the Law.  When you read the Ten Commandments, the first table dealt with our relationship with God [the first four Commandments], the second table deals with our relationship with our fellow man [the last six Commandments].  Jesus says, and this man correctly says, that if we love God with all of our hearts, mind and strength, and we love our neighbour as ourselves, that in those two commandments, Jesus says in Matthew 22, is the fulfilling of all the Law and the Prophets.  So this guy gives the correct answer.  Jesus says to him, “Thou hast answered right.”  This is a correct answer.  Then he says, “This do, and live.”  That’s the tough part of the answer.  ‘You’re right’ he says, ‘Now do it.’  And he’s insinuating that he doesn’t do it, by the way.  Because if he did do it, he wouldn’t have to tell him.  ‘Now do that,’ he says.  Now it’s good plaque material.  And it’s much easier to quote than to do, isn’t it?  ‘Love God will all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself,’ that’s good stuff to have on your wall, nice wooden plaque, burned in, looks great, you put that over your mantle.  And you have a house full of kids, a wife and responsibilities, and somehow you feel like flipping it over once in a while so you see the blank side of it, and put on the back side of it ‘We’re saved by grace through faith, not by works, lest any man should boast.’  [loud laughter]  “This do, and live.”  [Comment:  Jesus was telling this man his answer was correct, he properly quoted the basis for God’s Ten Commandment Law, but he then told him to go and do it (he didn’t tell him not to do it).  But although this scribe, this doctor of the Law, could quote chapter and verse out of God’s Word, he wasn’t living by it.  Jesus spent a good part of his ministry confronting the scribes and Pharisees about how they were observing God’s Sabbath all wrong too, in a legalistic way, without mercy, without love (see to see Jesus’ correction of them in this area of God’s Law.)  Jesus Christ’s whole ministry was a massive correction delivered at the scribes, Pharisees and Levitical priesthood, who should have known better.]


“Now he, willing, desiring to justify himself asks ‘Who is my neighbour?’


Verse 29 says, “But he,” now it says “willing” in the King James, the correct idea is “desiring to justify himself”, he’s a lawyer, he’s gotta justify himself.  “He, desiring to justify himself,” now let me tell you something, isn’t it hard to witness to somebody who wants to justify themselves?  You guys, you know what it’s like if you have family members that are part of a Christian denomination that go to church, but they’re not really believers.  And you know there’s people that come sit here, at Calvary.  And they never get saved, they come, they listen to the Word, and when they stand before Jesus on judgment day, and the Lord says ‘Why should I let you into my Kingdom?’ and they’re going to say ‘Because I went to Calvary Chapel, he’s going to say, nah, never heard of it.’  [laughter]  They better say ‘Because I know Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, he’s forgiven my sins and washed me in his blood.’  ‘Enter in, well done, thou good and faithful servant.’  But you know what it’s like trying to witness to someone whose desiring to justify themselves.  They’re already a Christian [in their own eyes], ‘Sure I’m a Christian, I’m American, what do you think I am?  I pay taxes, raise my kids, go to the basket at cheer night at church, what do you think I am?’  And you know, you almost have to get them unsaved to get them saved.  You know what it’s like trying to get to them.  [Just the same as the religious crowd Jesus ran into, like this ‘doctor of the Law’, this lawyer, this scribe.]  And how aggravated they get at you, ‘What are you doing, coming around here with that praise the Lord, praise music, holy thumpin Bible-smile, what do you think you’re doing around here?  And it says, Paul says, ‘You have the savour of those under life, you smell like life, you just show up and they can see it.  You know what it’s like sometimes, you’re out in a mall, or your at a hospital somewhere, and you notice somebody, ‘Hey, they’re not cursing, there’s a light in their eyes,’ you say, ‘Are you a Christian?’, and you know right away that look, ‘Yes!’  like a C.I.A. connection, you know.  And to the unsaved, ‘You smell like death.’  You come around with that smile, you’re singing praise songs, and you know, you don’t even say anything to them, and they say ‘I’m a Christian!’  ‘I didn’t say you weren’t a Christian.’  ‘Don’t say that, don’t come around here smiling,’ just, you know, because you smell like death to them.  Well this guy, right away, wants to justify himself.  That’s his desire, to justify himself.  I’m glad that I no longer have to justify myself, that Jesus Christ has justified me by washing me in his blood, by giving me forgiveness, and pronouncing me clean, taking everything from the debit column and putting it in the credit column.  But this guy wants to justify himself.  So Jesus says, ‘You’ve answered correctly, love God with all your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, do that, you’ll live.’  Now the guy wants to justify himself because he knows that he doesn’t do that.  So he says to Jesus, ‘Well, who is my neighbor?’  Verse 29, “But he, willing [desiring] to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?”  ‘You know, you don’t want to waste love on the wrong guy.’  [laughter]  ‘Don’t want to make a mistake like that, you know.’  Let me tell you something, when in doubt, love.  If you’re going to err, err on the side of mercy, not on the side of judgment, ‘because with the same measure you measure, that’s the measure that’ll be measured back to you again, pressed down, shaken together.’  Be gracious, be graceful.  “Who is my neighbour?”  The scribe’s trying to get out of this.  And by the way, the Jew believes that no Gentile was their neighbor, no Samaritan was their neighbor, that only a fellow Jew could be considered within the family of God, and therefore a neighbor.  “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus, answering now, tells him of this account.  Is it something they knew of?  Was it in the newspaper that week? 


Who Is My Neighbor?---Be A Neighbor and You’ll Find a Neighbor---Living Orthodoxy


Jerusalem to Jericho, called ‘The Bloody Way’


“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead” (verse 30).  Now, Josephus tells us that in the days of Jesus there were at least two thousand priests that lived in Jericho.  There were two Jericho’s, there was the ancient Jericho that was cursed in the day of Joshua, and there was a Herodian, a Roman Jericho that was built right next to it, and some of those priests felt justified living there, because it was lush, and they felt like, ‘Hey, we’re not living in the cursed Jericho, we’re living in the new Jericho’, and there’s always a loophole for a religionist.  And it was about a twenty to thirty mile trek from Jerusalem, Jerusalem is about 25 hundred feet above sea level, and Jericho is about 12 hundred feet below sea level, so it’s about 3,000 to 3,500 foot down, as it correctly said here “went down from Jerusalem to Jericho…”  Now that is the wilderness of Judea.  It’s not a forest the way we think of wilderness in America, it is a desert, it is rock, it is stone, there is nothing there.  But it was famous for bandits.  In fact, Jerome, three centuries after Christ, called it “The Bloody Way.”  That was it’s nickname.  Because going from Jerusalem down to Jericho, people would travel in large groups for protection, because it was filled with bandits, Bedouins, bandit people that lived in the desert [in Star Wars, Sand People].  So they understand this when Jesus is saying this, he falls among thieves.  They stripped him of his clothes, they wounded him, they departed, leaving him half dead, and I’m sure they thought he was dead. 


An Example of Dead Orthodoxy, Dead Religion


“And by chance there came down a certain priest that way:  and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side” (verses 31-32).  Now the priest and the Levite were the official representatives of the God of Israel, the One who said ‘You should love God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength and your neighbor as yourself.’  Here is religion doing this man no good at all.  And many of you remember those days in your own life.  Religion did us no good at all.  And by the way, whose more guilty, the robbers, or the Levite and the priest?---which are robbing this man also.  And they walk in more light.  It’s a different kind of robbery, but they’re withholding compassion, their withholding help, I mean, this is a no-brainer.  You walk by and there’s a guy laying on the ground, beat up and bleeding, it’s your responsibility to stop and help that person.  As I say this, I’m thinking of Jerry Paradise, not because he’s a Good Samaritan, though he is a Good Samaritan.  But before he was a Christian, Jerry would often be drunk by 8, 9 O’clock in the morning.  You now Jerry Paradise, nicest guy in the world?  Never did anything wrong.  He’s got all you fooled.  One morning his wife’s driving down the street, sees a body in the gutter, thinking it’s a dead person, pulls over, it’s Jerry, drunk, passed out in the gutter in the morning.  Drags him into the car, takes him home [I suspect it wasn’t his wife when she did this.  I suspect Jerry came to Christ through her act of mercy, then a relationship developed.]  You see somebody laying in the gutter, you pull over.  You help them.  Don’t know why I wove that into this story, maybe give you a new appreciation for Jerry’s wife.  I think they [the priest and Levite] were as guilty as the robbers, they were robbing in a different way.  James says that we shouldn’t be just hearers of the Word, and not doers.  We shouldn’t be hearers only [cf. James 1:22-25].  What sense was it in these guys being theologically perfect in their position, having their theology nailed down, able to argue and prove their point, and when you see another human being that’s bloody and beaten and in need, walking past and not doing anything? 


Jesus corners the scribe, lawyer


“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was:  and when he saw him, he had compassion on him.---now the Jews hated the Samaritans, and the Samaritans hated the Jews, can you remember that?  The Jews hated the Samaritans, and the Samaritans hated the Jews.  Now the Pharisees and Sadducees called Jesus, ‘You’re demon possessed, or you’re a Samaritan,’ they used that to insult him.  It was just, remember the chapter before this, when James and John said, ‘Hey Lord, we went into Samaria, they don’t want to rent us a room for the night, you want us to call down fire from heaven and burn those guys up?’  They held them in high esteem, don’t you think?  “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was:  and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,” (verse 33)  Now when I came to this verse, I have a note here from years ago when I taught it, it says Luke 28:34, and there’s only 24 chapters in Luke.  I haven’t been able to figure out what this note means.  You can go through all the books in the Bible looking at the verses trying to.  He saw him, he had compassion on him, “and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him” (verse 34).  Now, pouring in, so the wounds were fairly deep, pouring in oil and wine, which was medicinal in that day, and often used.  “And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee” (verse 35).  Now those are not two pennies, they are two denarii, two days wage is what it is.  “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” (verse 36)  Now, I want you to understand what Jesus has done here, he’s kind of turned the tables on the guy.  The guy [the scribe, doctor of the Law] said, you know, goes through the process ‘What do I do to inherit eternal life?’  Jesus says back to him,  ‘If you know the Law, how do you read it?’, ‘You’re a scribe.’  ‘Well, you should love God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself.’  Jesus says, ‘You’re right, you do that, and you’ll live.’  And the guy wanted to justify himself, and said, ‘Well, who is my neighbor?’, not wanting to love someone who may not be his neighbor.  Really what he was trying to do is put Jesus, again, back on the chopping block.  ‘Who is my neighbor?’


Be A Neighbor To Someone In Need, And You’ll Find Out Who Your Neighbor Is


Jesus doesn’t answer the question in the context of ‘who is your neighbor?’, he gives the answer in the context of you be a neighbor.  He says ‘Which one was neighbour to the man that fell among the thieves?’  He doesn’t say, ‘Which one of these guys was the man who fell among the thieves a neighbor to?’  He says, ‘No, no, no, no, you be a neighbor, and you’ll discover your neighbor.’  He’s saying, ‘Be a neighbor to someone in need, and you’ll find out who your neighbor is.’  The guy’s saying ‘Who is my neighbor?’ and Jesus is saying, ‘Anyone who needs help, and compassion, and an expression of the love of God is your neighbor.’  Don’t say ‘Who is my neighbor?’  Open your eyes.  It’s a no-brainer.  That’s a paraphrase, no-brainer.  Be a neighbor and you’ll find a neighbor’ is what Jesus is saying.  “Which one of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?”   The guy’s saying, ‘Who is my neighbor?’, Jesus is saying ‘This is how you are to be a neighbor unto him who fell among the thieves.’   “And he said, He that shewed mercy on him.  Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (verse 37). 


To Those Who Would Just Be Religiously Correct---Are You Being A Neighbor?


So the exhortation in this passage is, look, you can have everything right as far as head-knowledge, you can argue with other Christians, you can prove your point theologically, but in the mean time there’s a world out there that’s going hell, it’s lost, it’s broken, and it’s in pain.  I heard, and I have the tape somewhere, J. Vernon McGee, when he was addressing a graduating class from a Presbyterian seminary.  And he used a text from the Song of Solomon, “What is your beloved more than these?”.  And he said to them, he said, “You might as well take everything you’ve learned and throw it out the window”, only he said it with a Southern drawl, only the way he could say it.  “And all of that knowledge you have, pack it up in your suitcase,” he said, “because you’re headed out into a world where there are broken hearts, and broken families, and drug addiction, and abuse, and alcoholism, and pain, and cancer.  And the only thing that’s going to matter to those people is who you know, and not what you know, and the only thing that’s going to matter to those people is ‘what is your beloved, more than these.’”  And that’s what he’s saying here, to those who would just be religiously correct.  Jesus is saying, ‘No, the proper expression of true religion is to love.  It says in the Book of James, true religion is this, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).  It has legs and arms on it, that proves God has really done a work in your life.  Now, by the way, it doesn’t say here that the Good Samaritan is the pastor, it doesn’t say that the church is supposed to sit around and complain about the pastor, or complain about the pastors.  That’s an impossibility, we have 10,000 people who come here, including the kids in Sunday school.  It’s you, are you being a neighbor?  Are you taking the love of Christ, when you now someone here needs a meal, when you know someone here is not invited over to somebody’s house on the holidays, or they don’t have anywhere to go on Christmas or Thanksgiving, [or the Sabbath or God’s Holy Days] or you see somebody broken down that needs help changing their tire, or you’re making a big pot of soup, and you know about one of the widows that’s been in the hospital, and she needs some of that, and you pack it up in a jar---are you being a neighbor?  Are you letting the love of Christ that’s in your lives find an expression that demonstrates itself to the need around you?  Who is your neighbor?  Be a neighbor to somebody and you’ll find out who they are.  So there’s an exhortation on this side of the picture to serve, to obey, to put arms and legs on your theology, not just to sit around and be correct.  Don’t just be a pew-potata, but serve. 


Martha and Mary---sitting at the feet of Jesus---serving with joy


Now, verse 38, “Now it came to pass, as they went,”---Jesus and the disciples---“that he entered into a certain village:  and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.  But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.  And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:  but one thing is needful:  and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (verses 38-42).  This scene of Mary and Martha.  Now, as we enter into this, take note of this, people will say this, ‘Oh I’m such a Martha,’ or ‘You’re really a Martha.’  And we kind of use that often in a kind of negative context.  What that means, all they are is busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, busy, like being around a busy bee.  If you’re married to someone like that, or you have a kid like that, or you have a parent like that, you know that can drive you completely out of your mind.  The laughers understand.  [laughter]  But let’s not be too fast to judge, because as we look at Martha, she’s doing a great thing, she’s opened her home to Jesus.  She’s preparing a meal [for 13 hungry guys, no less.  And don’t forget, Jesus loves to eat], taking care of them.  I mean, if Jesus was coming to your house for dinner tomorrow night, what would you do?  I know you’d vacuum.  I know you’d give the kids some instructions.  ‘Don’t say this, don’t do this, don’t tell him this…’  When I go somewhere and I get around people’s little kids, as soon as the parents are out of the way, I say, ‘What did they tell you not to tell me?’  [laughter]  What would you do?  What would you serve?  Steak?  Jesus is coming, Lobster.?  No, he’s kosher, he won’t eat that [look up Leviticus 11:1-47].  [Didn’t Peter tell us to follow in Christ’s steps? 1st Peter 2:21]  Lamb, I’ll come too, let me know.  She’s doing a good thing, she’s serving.  There’s a relationship with Jesus.  We don’t know where it began, but she’s opened up her home.  Now, in John chapter 9, the religious leaders, and this is in Bethany, right across the hill in Jerusalem was where the Temple Mount was---they had said that if anybody has anything to do with the ‘Carpenter from Galilee’ will be excommunicated from Israel, from the Temple.  You have to understand that there’s a certain amount of courage here, that Martha’s opened up her home and allowed Jesus to come in, and his disciples and she’s feeding them and caring for them.  There is a cost involved.  So there’s a certain amount of spiritual depth there.  It tells us in John chapter 11 that when Jesus gets word that his friend, when they come and say your friend (it’s phileo), there was a fondness with this family, Lazarus is dying, Jesus it says, abode four more days where he was before he came, and then he said to his disciples ‘Let’s go now, Lazarus is asleep.’  The guys, thick as they are, say, ‘Well, Lord, Lazarus doesn’t feel good, if he’s sleeping, that’s good.’  It says, ‘Then Jesus had to tell them plainly, Lazarus is dead.’  Thomas says, ‘Well let’s go and die with him.  Might as well all go die together.’  What a perspective these guys have.  When they come there to Bethany, it says, ‘Martha hears that he’s coming and runs to meet him.  She says, ‘Master if you had been here, my brother would be alive.’  Now that’s a pretty remarkable thing to say.  He says to Martha, ‘Martha, only believe, and even now your brother will live.’  She said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and remarkably, she says ‘I believe you are the Christ that should come into the world.’  His disciples didn’t know that yet.  ‘You’re the Christ that should come into the world, and even now, if you speak the word I know your Father hears whatever you ask.’  This is before Lazarus is raised from the dead.  So whatever we might gripe about Martha, Martha has a deeper spiritual insight than the scribe that Jesus just had to deal with.  And she’s serving. 


Mary and Martha, Two Different People


Now, Mary, her sister, we find three times a picture of her in the Gospels, and all three times, she’s at Jesus’ feet.  We find her at this scene sitting at the feet of Jesus.  We find her, when Jesus comes and Lazarus is dead, she runs and falls at the feet of Jesus.  We find her in John chapter 12 in that scene at that supper, as Mary comes in and breaks an alabaster cruse of spikenard, and it says she’s at the feet of Jesus, anointing his feet, wiping them with her hair.  All three times we find her, she’s at the feet of Jesus, and much more insightful than the disciples about his death in Jerusalem.  It’s interesting that it tells us here that the house was Martha’s.  John 11, verse 1 says Jesus came, you know he was headed to the town of Mary.  So the town was Mary’s and the house was Martha’s, that kind of gives us the difference in their personalities.  You know, Mary was out, hobnobbing, talking, loving people, listening to people, liked conversation.  Martha was home cleaning, vacuuming, straightening up, putting the pictures on the wall, flip the plaque over, you know, going through that.  Different personalities, both of them remarkable.  “Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village:  and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.”  Mary also sat at Jesus’ feet, that meant that Martha did too.  Now Martha’s going to say, ‘Mary has left me alone to serve’, that means Mary also serves.  So, you have to understand this.  Martha also listened to Jesus’ word, but her inclination was to be busy, serving.  Mary also serves, she wasn’t a bum.  But when she thought the meal was good enough, she got outa there and sat in the living room and sat at Jesus’ feet.  Because Mary has the insight to understand, ‘Jesus is not here because he heard that my sister Martha makes the best blintzes in Israel, and he’s going to be disappointed if dinner’s not perfect, and the ends are rolled up.’  And Martha’s in the kitchen, she’s a list-maker, you know what it’s like to be around those kind of people.  [Hey!  I’m a list-maker, only way I’d get anything done, with my memory.]  She’s got lists, she’s got lists of ‘This is gotta happen, that’s gotta happen, this is gotta happen…’  Now those kind of people tend to be a bit inflexible. 

Martha’s Rebuking the Creator of the World



Now we can see that here, she’s rebuking the Creator of the world here.  [laughter]  Look, it’s always a dead give-away you’re off track when you do this, so look in verse 40, “But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him,” ---and you can imagine her standing over Jesus with her hands on her hips---“and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone?---‘You’re out here talking about spiritual stuff, salvation, eternal life, forgiveness, Messiah of Israel, don’t you know that I’m in the kitchen making lamb, don’t you have your priorities straight!?’  Now ‘She’s my sister’, she’s no longer Mary, now you know there’s an attitude.  When I come home from work, and my wife is saying “Your son”, you know, he’s no longer Mickey, or no longer Josh, now it’s Your son.  You know how that happens, ‘That wife God gave me.’  That husband of mine,’ the names are gone, now there’s, you know.  ‘Lord, don’t you care, that sister of mine has left me to serve alone.’  Get out the violins there.  “bid her therefore”---make her get back in here and help me.  Inflexible, critical.  I don’t think she was like that all the time, but if you’re that kind of person, that you get so fixated on doing, and you know people like that, ‘gonna do this, and do that, make lists, very organized, and they worry about things that, you know, my wife can worry about things.  Now that’s good, because, I could live my entire life immune to my surroundings.  So, between the two of us, we make a human being.  [loud laughter]  She has sensitivity and I have dense-ity.  But she can worry about things that I could go to a university and get my associates degree in worrying and get my bachelors degree in worrying, and get my Masters degree in worrying, and wearing a PhD in worrying, being worrier amitorious and I couldn’t worry about the things she worries about.  And sometimes she gets mad because she wants me to worry about what she’s worried about.  I don’t know how, it isn’t that I don’t want to, I don’t know how to. If I could I would, but I just don’t know how to worry about some of the things she worries about.  [Did Pastor Joe have to sleep in the garage that night? J]  And she can worry to a fault.  But me, on the other hand, I can be oblivious to a fault.  And I want her to be oblivious.  But she could go to a university and study oblivious and not be as oblivious as I am.  Maybe she wants to be, but she don’t know how.  It’s a gift.  Well, Martha’s at that point.  She’s busied herself to the point now where she’s critical, she’s lost her peace, she’s inflexible, everything needs to happen the way she wants it to happen.  And when you start to blame Jesus, you’ve gotten off the track somewhere.  It’s a dead give-away.  She starts to blame Jesus for what’s going on. 


Mary, Sitting At The Feet of Jesus---What That Means


Now, Mary knows that there’s something cooking in the living room too, that lasts forever.  What’s cooking in the kitchen might be good, it’ll be gone the next day.  And Mary has placed herself at the feet of Jesus.  Now the interesting thing about the story is, you see, I find that in my own heart, there is a Martha and there is a Mary.  And I find that it’s actually easier for me to operate in Marthadom, than Marydom.  I find that it’s easier for me to just be in my routine, and it’s a busy one, and to function in the rut that I’m familiar with.  And then I get uptight, I need to chill, I blame other people, and sometimes even blame the Lord.  And what I need to do is I need to sit at his feet.  I need to cool it.  You know, you figure the Church, for the first 1500 years didn’t have Bibles, didn’t have Christian bookstores.  There was a scroll somewhere, there was a Bible somewhere in a monastery or in a church, but they didn’t memorize Scriptures, they didn’t have Christian bumper stickers, they didn’t have the breadbaskets on their tables, they didn’t have the daily bread.  What really drove that Church was devotion.  Now, I’d rather be in the here and now, I love the Scripture.  And I appreciate having a copy of it in my glove-compartment, a copy in my bathroom, and five copies in my office, and I appreciate having different translations.  But I find that I need to sit in his presence.  Now you think about that, sitting at the feet of Jesus.  You can sit there, can’t you?  He’s the same yesterday, today and forever, you can sit there.  And, it’s the most precious real-estate on the face of the earth.  Mary’s sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Just imagine, sitting, listening to the words drop from his lips, looking at the facial expression, listening to the tone of his voice, that was the most precious real-estate.  Where would you rather be?  Club Med?  Disneyland?  Epcot Center?  Banff Canada?  Where would you rather be?  If you could choose this evening, to be anywhere in the world, to own the most precious real-estate, to own Ted Turner’s ranch, the Rockefeller’s ranch, what real-estate would you take?  What real-estate compares with sitting at the feet of Jesus.  And you see, the remarkable thing is, I can finish the study here, and I can go home, and I can get alone, and I can take that piece of real-estate.  It’s a reproof to me as I read this.  That piece of real-estate is mine.  It’s blood-bought, it’s yours.  And you can go sit there this evening, sit in his presence.  He’s paid for it in his own blood, to give it to you.  There’s a price of fellowship.  Mary, sitting there listening to his words, it says.  Now, Martha would come to appreciate his words, by the way.  Her life will be transformed.  Jesus isn’t done with her.  Jesus doesn’t say back to her, ‘You think, cook, pot-scrubber, you think you’re gonna walk in here, I’m the Lord of the Universe, Creator of the world, King of Israel, the Saviour [and he was and is all of those], you think you’re gonna walk in here and rebuke me in front of my disciples, BLAMM!!!’ , just smoke her, you know.  No, there’s so much grace, throughout the Scripture, with so many, with Peter, and Paul, with Zacharias saying to Gabriel, ‘How do I know this is true?’  God, he looks at us, and he takes us, and he leads us onward.  Martha will come to love his word, because she will hear that word fall from his lips, and say “Lazarus!  Come forth!”  And she will come to realize in a profound way, that the Word of God gives life, when her brother comes hopping out of that tomb.  And we will find Martha again in Simon’s house, the leper, he used to be a leper, serving there.  We don’t hear a complaint.  We don’t even know what Mary’s doing, just says Martha’s serving.  She’s walking around whistling while she works, there’s no complaining, she’s serving with joy, it’s worship at that point in time, serving with joy, because she knows the Word that Mary had listened to and sat before, now she knows the value of it.  Jesus doesn’t cast her off, he finishes working in her life, as he finishes working in ours. 


“Mary has chosen that good part”---what was that?


Mary is sitting there, listening.  Martha runs in with an attitude.  I’m sure, in the atmosphere in the room, Mary’s sitting there, the disciples are sitting, people are leaning in the windows, Jesus is talking about eternity, he’s talking about the Messiah of Israel, he’s talking about the forgiveness of sin.  What was he talking about in the crowd, they must have all been, what was he talking about in the crowd?  They must have all been, I mean if I was there, I’d have been hanging in the window, I would have had notes, I’d have been copying down, my mouth would have been hanging open, looking at Jesus---and all of a sudden this lady walks into the middle of the room, ‘Lord!  Don’t you care my sister’s not in the kitchen anymore!?  Make her get in there!’  And everyone must have gone, ‘Wow, man, what’s up with her?  She’s up tight, man.’  That must have just ruined the whole atmosphere.  [laughter] “And Jesus answered and said unto her,”---and you have to figure out the tone of his voice, I’m sure it was filled with tenderness---“Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:”---“careful” is marimnon, to be drawn in different directions, to be pulled in different directions.  How many times do we say that?  ‘I feel I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions!’  That’s marimnon, you’re Biblical.  People say that, don’t they?  It means to be, when Jesus uses it in the parable of the sower, he said ‘The word is sown in the hearts of some, and the cares of this life choke it.’  That’s marimnon, same word.  Just we’re so busy we feel like we’re getting pulled in a thousand different directions, and he says, “thou art careful and troubled…” means “agitated”, “crabby.”  Don McClure says “I used to wake up crabby, now I let her sleep.”  [laughter]  I never figured out what that meant, he said that when he was here.  ‘Martha, Martha, you are distracted, being pulled in many different directions, you’re agitated, you’re crabby about so many things.’  “But one thing is needful:  and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (verses 41-42)  It’s a choice, “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away.”  It’s a choice, we need to make it, we can go home tonight and sit in his presence, and get alone with him.  You can do it in your bed when you lay down, close your eyes and just forget about everything, and just open your heart before him, and be there and fellowship with him.  You can get on your knees somewhere and do it.  You can do it in the car, but pay attention to traffic.  That piece of real-estate is yours, and that is “the needful thing” because it says “guard your heart with all diligence, because from it flow the issues of life.”  If you have that one thing in place, your heart before the Lord, other things seem to adjust themselves.  Let me tell you something, you take two Christians, they’re arguing with each other, and accusing each other, and pointing the finger at each other, and they’re bad-mouthing each other, and you get them together, and you say to them, “Listen, we’ve got to deal with this problem, but let’s do this first, the first thing I want you to do is you’re going to go away and make sure your devotional life is what it should be.  I want you to go away for the next three days and I want you to pray, and then we’ll come back and talk about this.”  I guarantee that if they get their heart right before the Lord, they’re going to come back and say, ‘Oh, I know I shouldn’t act like this.  And forgiveness is a basic part of Christianity, and I’m really sorry to be such a creep.’  Because that’s one of the needful things that needs to be put back where it belongs.  And you notice, the interesting thing here is, Jesus defends Mary, that Martha is there accusing, ‘They’re so heavenly minded, all they want to do is pray, pray, pray, pray!’  No, Jesus won’t go for any of that.  Jesus won’t take it away.  He says, ‘No, that’s the needful part, they’ve chosen it, it’s a choice, and it won’t be taken away.’  He won’t allow that to happen.  And he defends that place. 


What is Devotion?---Love’s Deepest Expression is Devotion, Not Service


You know, the truth is, that if you aren’t heavenly minded you’re no earthly good, at all.  If you haven’t set you affections on things above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, you’re no good to anyone here.  If you are not heavenly minded, if you’re not thinking about things in light of eternity, you’re no earthly good.  What are you going to communicate to a lost world?  Mary, he says, has chosen the better part.  It will not be taken away from her.  Jesus protects her.  And what he’s saying is ‘Look, love’s deepest expression is devotion, not service.  We have to remember that.  God is always more interested in the servant than the service.  And some of us, you know, it’s so hard for us to receive the love of God, isn’t it?  And just to freely enjoy that.  And we blow it, we get mad in traffic, we curse at somebody, we do something stupid, we punch something, or somebody, or you know we do something we shouldn’t do, and then we think, oh, I’ll get up every morning and have devotions for an hour, and I’ll read my Bible for a half-hour every day.  And then we think at the end of the week we have all these brownie points, you know, that God’s starting to like us again, because we’re working our way back into his good graces.  No, no, no, no, no, no!  It doesn’t have anything to do with that.  He loves us freely, we don’t deserve it, we’ll never deserve it, can’t deserve it, can’t earn it.  And the greatest expression that we can have back to him is fellowship, not service.  Yes, he wants our service, I think we should serve God, all of us.  We should glorify him with our lives.  But what he wants from us is our hearts.  You know what it’s like when you’re married, and you can have the person you love, and we’ll see a marriage go on for many years, and what happens is a husband and wife can learn to function in a particular role.  And then that wife is cleaning, she is doing, if she is a housewife, raising kids, she’s busy about those things, and she’s functioning very efficiently, she understands her parameters, and you can still have that husband saying, ‘But there’s nothing there for me.  When we first got married, when we first met, we had nothing, but we were way richer, we enjoyed each other’s presence.  And the years have gone by, we have more money than we ever had, we have more stuff than we ever had, we have more bills than we ever had, but there’s nothing going on between us anymore.  Yeah, she’s a great servant, she functions in all the ways she should function in.’   Or the wife can be saying the same thing about the husband, ’Honey, do you love me?’ she asks, ‘Yes, of course I do, I married you, didn’t I?  That ought to hold you for the rest of your life, don’t ask me again.’ He brings home the bacon every week, and he does this, and he cuts the lawn, and he paints the house, ‘What do you mean, do I love you?’  Well, you know when you first met her, you brushed your teeth [laughter], you put on deoderant, you took money out of your wallet, and gave it to her.  There was devotion.  [Remember your first-love, when the Lord first called you?  Similar thing, similar emotions.]  Jesus is saying about Mary, ‘Look, she’s chosen the better thing.’  All of our service and all of our Christian living and everything we need to do, should be born out of our devotion.  The first Commandment was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”  That theologian questioned him about the second point, whose my neighbor.  Jesus said, ‘Well this is how you find out, you serve.’  But if you only serve, you can get in a frame of mind like Martha, in a situation where you could actually be drawing away from the presence of the Lord, instead of enjoying things that would strengthen us and keep us going.  And we get so much in a routine that we forget about the spontaneity of our relationship with Jesus.  How wonderful it is, is that we get up in the morning, and we feel like the Lord’s telling us something, and we flip our Bible open, and we find the same thing that we thought the Lord was telling us, and we get in our car, and we head to work, and we turn the radio on, and the first thing the guy on the radio says is the same Bible lesson, ‘Oh wow Lord!  You’re speaking to me!’ 


Christianity Is A Relationship with God, Not A Religion


And it’s relationship that is the excitement and the adventure of Christianity, that the God of the Universe loves us, and that he talks to us, and that he spends time with us, and that he leads us, that he’s saved us, that he has an inheritance for us, that he’s made us his own, and that we can walk with him, that we can hear from him---that’s relationship, not religion.  And that’s what makes everything what it should be.  Look at the first verse in chapter 11, it says, “And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”  Remarkable to take note of this, because, in all four Gospels there is no other place where the disciples say to Jesus, teach us anything.  Imagine being around Jesus for those years, watching him calm the wind and the sea, and walk upon the water, and raise the dead, and cleanse the lepers, and open the Word in a way that people were just astonished at what he said, and watch him love the unlovable, and all of the things they had seen and witnessed.  The one thing they say to Jesus is ‘Jesus, teach us to pray.’  They don’t say, ‘Teach us to heal.  Teach us to be Bible teachers.  Teach us that walking on the water thing.  How do we catch fish with coins in their mouth?  How do we turn water to wine?’  They say, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’  Now it says, he was praying.  Now evidently they’re observing him.  Because “when he ceased,” they were quiet, when he stopped, they said, “Lord, teach us to pray”, because they realized that all of what he was, as it were, flowed from that experience.  And you see, the Pharisees and Sadducees taught their disciples to pray.  They taught them a certain prayer for deaths, a certain prayer for births, a certain prayer for weddings, a certain prayer for Bar Mitzvah’s, they were all canned.  You remember going to church before you were a believer, and hearing someone pray ‘OH, MOST HEAVENLY FAATHER, THOU THAT MADEST HEAVEN AND EARTH’  Imagine your kids coming to you saying ‘OH GREAT DADDY, GIVEST ME A CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE, PLEASE.’  Oh, come on.  Your kids can run into your presence.  They can dive on you.  You know, here at the office, and we tell the secretaries and I encourage the other guys on the staff, “If my wife and my kids come in here, nobody says ‘Joe’s in counseling.’”  They have the right to walk through and burst into my office.  They’ve got enough sense, if I’m talking to somebody.  But there is never to be anything that’s between me and them.  Only because I know they’re putting together a picture of who their heavenly Father is.  They don’t say to Jesus, teach us how to pray, very important.  They say, “teach us” in the Greek, “to be praying.”  ‘Lord, make us pray-ers.’  ‘Teach us to be praying people.’  It’s not how to, it’s not a how-to thing.  The Christian bookstores are filled with books on prayer, how to pray.  You read E.M. Bounds, he  has five volumes on prayer.  They’re great volumes.  But E.M. Bounds at the end of his life said, that he wasn’t happy with his prayer-life.  So I figure, why should I read all five of his volumes that know more about prayer than I ever wanted to know, and when I’m done, not be happy!?  “Teach us to pray”, Jesus will say a very remarkable thing, we’re going to pick up here next week. 


Our Father, Abba, A Revolutionary Concept


When you pray, pray in this wise, “Our Father, which art in heaven,” you have to understand that we have taken that for granted our whole lives, because we’ve always heard it.  You can say it, if you’re like me, without thinking, and recite the entire Lord’s prayer quickly by rote.  You know, Jesus in Matthew said, ‘Don’t pray like the heathen, with senseless repetitions.’  Well we’ve taken this prayer and made it into a senseless repetition.  You have to understand, when Jesus said to these Jews, ‘Well, if you want to be people that pray, you have to start like this, “Our Father which art in heaven.”  That was revolutionary.  Moses never looked to heaven a day in his life and said “Father.”  Elijah never looked to heaven and said “Father.”  The greatest prophets and holy men of Israel never looked to heaven and said “Father.”  It was Jesus that taught them to say “Father.”  It was Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, in Mark chapter 14 that said “Abba, Father, if there’s any way that this cup can pass from me.”  So touched with the disciples, that Paul hears about that, and writes Romans chapter 8, verse 15, and he said “God hasn’t given us the spirit of fear, but the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”  Galatians chapter 4, verse 6, it says “God has given us the spirit of adoption, sonship, whereby we cry Abba, Father.”  Abba is Daddy in Hebrew.  It’s Dad.  [Comment:  In Israel today, you can hear little children calling out ‘Abba, Abba, to their fathers.]  And it sounds irreverent to us.  We’re going to look to heaven and say Daddy?  Well, it would be irreverent, except for the fact that Jesus taught us to pray that way.  Except for the fact that his Holy Spirit inspired the writers of the Gospels and Epistles to tell us that that’s the very Spirit that dwells within us.  They’re saying to Jesus, ‘Jesus, teach us to be people that pray.’  Jesus says to them, ‘Well if you want that to happen, if you want to be praying people, you have to understand it’s born out of relationship, it’s not born out of tradition, or liturgy or memorized prayers that are canned.  It’s born out of relationship.  I have kids at home.  One of the first things they learn to say is ‘Daddy!’  Nobody taught them.  Praying is talking.  Nobody taught them how to talk.  They learned.  Again I remember when Joanna 18 years ago, our first kid, we never had a kid before, we’re learning to be parents, and she’s going through this process where she screams at night, doesn’t want to be alone in her crib.  Aaaah!’  she’s stands there, you finally go, ‘Ok, we surrender!’  we go in, and we’re reading old Dr. Spock, Dobson, how in the world to be parents, you know, there’s great wisdom in there, ‘Let them scream for twenty minutes.’  Like I want to be up at night for twenty minutes, so finally I said to Kathy, ‘That’s it!  I’ve had it, I’m going to go in, and I’ll talk to her.’  You know, and she’s only this big.  And I ran into her room and I could just about make out her little face hanging on her crib in the dark, and I went in, and I was just about to say something Fatherly to her, and let her have it, she said, ‘Da-Da!’  I said, ‘Oh honey, come here’ and brought our daughter back into the bedroom.  [laughter]  ‘Da-Da, Mama, Mine, No,’ they learn.  And prayer has to be born out of relationship, ‘Our Father.’  ‘Lord, you pray, and you pray differently from the Pharisees and the Sadducees.  When we observe you, there’s some concourse between you and heaven.  We understand the power of your word, and the power of your life is drawn from eternity, it’s drawn from your relationship with the God of Israel, teach us to be men and women who pray.’  Jesus says, ‘Well, when you pray, the beginning of it all is this, Our Father.’  Revolutionary.  We have taken it for granted, we have to put it in this context, to look to heaven, and to say Father.  Can you do that this evening? 


How Do You Measure God’s Love?  You Can’t


You know, for some of us, even as Christians, we have such a hard time receiving God’s love.  Again, Micah chapter 7 says there, verse 18, “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage?  he retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy.”  He asks a question that is remarkable, “Who is a God like unto thee?”  Camel Morgan on his commentary on that verse says a remarkable thing, he says “that you and I, we see something everyday that God can’t see.”  We see something everyday that that God can’t see, isn’t that intriguing?  We see our equals, miserable, unforgiving, crabby, marimnid human beings, blowing the horn at you in traffic, flipping you off, cursing out the window, yelling at you, saying they’re going to do something and not do it.  Someone calls himself your father, and he’s a drunk and he abuses you and he beats you [either emotionally or literally], you grow up in a situation where every time you open up your heart to a human being, it gets crushed.  You look around and it’s so easy to be judgmental because your sins look so much worse on somebody else than they do on you.  You and I, every day see something that God can’t see.  [i.e. God has no equal to compare Himself to.]  We see our equals.  Micah says ‘Who is a God like unto thee.’  The answer is, there is only one, there’s only one, pardoning iniquity, having mercy, forgiving transgression.  And the problem is, because there’s only one, there’s no barometer.  You see, we can measure fatherly love, motherly love, brotherly love, sisterly love, auntly love, unclely love, we can measure human love.  You can measure the love of your dog, man’s best friend.  Why is he man’s best friend?  Because he can’t tell you what he really thinks.  Man’s best friend.  We can measure love on lots of levels, and all of those loves are filled with flaws, and people saying they’re going to do something and not coming through.  So all of a sudden here’s this love that comes from God, which is a divine love, and it’s unlike any human love.  Who is a God like unto thee, he’s telling us that he loves us with an unconditional love.  We’re saying, ‘We don’t know about this kind of love.’  Well it’s in here, he sent his Son to die on the cross for us.  He gave away the thing that was most precious to him to make us his own.  And we say, ‘God, we don’t understand that love.’  He says, ‘That’s right, you receive it by faith, you either get out of the boat and walk on the water, or you will never experience in its fullness, the love of God.  You pray for his assurance, you say, ‘Lord, let this kind of love fill my heart, a love that comes freely to me, that I don’t deserve.’  You see, because human love is elicited, you hang around with a buddy because he likes to fish and you like to fish.  He likes the Eagles, you like the Eagles.  He likes to work on his tomato garden, you like to work on your tomato garden.  He rebuilds old cars, you rebuild old cars.  ‘This is the smartest guy I ever met, he’s just like me.’  Or you fall in love with a girl, you like the way she looks, like the way she dresses, you like the way she, she elicits it, there’s something in her that draws your love.  The truth is, there isn’t anything in us that draws the love of God.  He doesn’t look down from heaven and say, ‘Oh those rascals are so cute, I’m going to go die for them.’  There isn’t anything in us that draws his love.  The Bible says he loves us because he loves us, because God is love.  And he loves us because of who he is, and not because of who we are.  And the Bible says ‘If by faith we will receive God’s love through Christ, and his forgiveness, that we can have eternal life.’  I’m going to challenge you this evening.  I want the musicians to come…[transcript of a connective expository sermon on Luke 10:25-42, and Luke 11:1, given by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116]


Related links:


A good study on the agape-love of God.  What is it?  See:


For the history of the Early Church’s example of God’s agape-love in action,  see:


Jesus spent a lot of his ministry correcting the way the Pharisees and religious leaders kept God’s Law, even including the Sabbath Law.  They were practicing religion not relationship.  See:

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