Wednesday, May 12, 2010



We come now to Luke chapter 15 where Jesus is criticized again for hanging out with the wrong people.

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

There were two types of people at the party where Jesus was attending-tax collectors and sinners. These tax collectors were Jews who were considered traitors for working for the Roman government. They had a reputation for being unfair. He collected the Roman tax and added an additional fee for himself.

The sinners were basically the non-religious. They weren't synagogue-goers for the most part and therefore considered unclean ceremonially. They were viewed as the "outsiders" or the "others". Jesus not only welcomed them; He eats with them. He went out of His way to make them feel welcome. Even more of an offense was that Jesus was content to eat with them. Fellowship around the table in Jesus' time was more than just a meal. To eat with someone was a full acceptance of them and Jesus did exactly that.

His response to this criticism was in the form of three parables-all about those who were lost. The first parable is about sheep.

NOTE Jesus' high value for the lost sheep. Remember, Jesus is the physician who is looking for those who are sick. The 99 sheep have apparently already repented or changed their direction in life toward God. Therefore, they are not in any need of being found. They are safe and secure. The sheep that is lost must be sought out by the shepherd and this sheep becomes the most valuable of all.

Here's the bottom-line on this parable. Jesus is the shepherd whose mission is to find the lost sheep of our world and bring them back into relationship with himself and with the other sheep. That's salvation. This is an illustration of the fact that Jesus' search is relentless for those who are lost. He will do anything He has to do to find those who are lost.

Then there is a curious statement at the end of the parable. Jesus says that "there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine." So, "Come and rejoice with me." It's time for a party!

The lost sheep is a sinner and/or a tax collector, and the ninety-nine represent the righteous. This is the answer to the Pharisees who were grumbling about Jesus' welcoming tax collectors and sinners. You are happy for all your sheep. It is when one is threatened and may be injured or killed that causes you to worry and be concerned. So, you search and search until you find it. Then you are so thrilled that you naturally want to throw a little celebration.

What was Jesus doing hanging out and eating with the tax collectors and sinners? He was searching for lost sheep. This is what the kingdom of God is all about-looking for those who are lost and bringing them home. It was Jesus' primary mission and it's still His mission today. And, since seeking those who are lost is at the heart of Jesus, it ought to be on your heart, too.

So, who are you hanging out with? Now, it's vital that you hang out with a few in the name of Jesus. However, living in the kingdom also requires that you hang out with the lost. So, who ARE you hanging out with? To be like Jesus, think about hanging out with the tax collectors and sinners in your world-those who are the lost, the non-religious. I've found this to be some of the most rewarding encounters of my life. Try it. I think you'll like it.



Here we come to a most foundational segment of the teachings of Jesus in Luke 14:25-35. His popularity was growing immensely and yet Jesus knew that many are only spectators. So, Jesus turns to the large crowds and sets forth three requirements for being a disciple. Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, even life itself-such a person cannot be my disciple.

The first is the requirement of PRIORITY. Jesus uses hyperbole a lot and it communicated with great impact. Here Jesus, known for His great love, isn't saying that you are to literally hate anyone. He is using an idiom of comparison. By comparison your devotion to Jesus ought to be so stark that it makes all other relationships look like hate. Jesus must be your number one priority over all relationships, including your own life.

The second is a difficult one. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

The second is the requirement of PERSEVERANCE. This is spoken a few other times in the teachings of Jesus. Another time Luke records Jesus saying that this action must be daily. This requirement is a bottom-line self-denial. "Discipleship means deliberately choosing to follow another person's way rather than making our own way." And, following Jesus may take some interesting twists and turns along the path. I think what this is saying is "Follow Me NO MATTER WHAT" may come-disappointment, discouragement, disease, disaster-NO MATTER WHAT I will follow Jesus. That's a tough one!

Jesus offers two parables to illustrate what this second requirement means. "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, 'This person began to build and wasn't able to finish.'

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won't he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. You must count the cost of following Jesus before jumping into this journey.

The third requirement is all-inclusive-POSSESSIONS. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Jesus is not saying to "give over" to someone or something else, but this is renouncing ownership of your possessions. It's giving up everything. I recently read a teacher on this: "The distinctive property of disciples is the abandonment with which they put aside all competing securities in order that they might refashion their lives and identity to the norms of the kingdom of God."

The word "possessions" is so appropriate here. It's our possessions that too easily become a security blanket for us. However your possessions cannot provide the security you need to live most fully and can compete with your decision to follow Jesus and be His disciple. Possessions means all that you have and all that you are-your very existence. Jesus wants it all-no competing forces within your heart. He wants you fully to be a channel or a vessel of blessing and healing to the world. This cannot be accomplished by writing a check from time to time. It can only be accomplished as you are totally and completely given over to Him. This doesn't mean that you are to take a vow of poverty. This is about ownership and consultation. Jesus already owns all that you are and possess. And, Jesus is the only consultant you will ever need to run your life and your business.

Jesus now turns to a discussion of salt: "Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear."

Salt was considered an essential of life. It was used both for flavoring and preservation. It is impossible for salt to lose its saltness, but it is possible for what appears to be salt to have all its true salt washed out of it. Then, even though the appearance remains, the essence is lost.

So, what's to be made of these words of Jesus? It seems that a disciple of Jesus can have miraculous impact upon his world, if he makes Jesus his number one priority, no matter what and renounces ownership of all he is and all he has. If you are able to follow these three requirements, then you will enjoy the dynamic of being salt in the world-a salt that is for preservation and flavoring. If you don't follow these requirements, then you will lose your saltiness and lose the possibility of being effective in your world. There is one more vital thing here. Jesus allows for no wiggle room. He doesn't say, "If you don't follow these requirements, YOU CANNOT BE MY GOOD DISCIPLE." "But you cannot be my disciple at all. It's pretty simple. You either are or you aren't a disciple of Jesus. The deciding factor remains with you. What are you going to do?