June 26th 2022: Ian Middlemist

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The Reasoning of our Hearts.

An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

Luke 9: 46-50:

We’re not engaging in a dialogue here. I’m speaking to you. Yet you have many thoughts, many tensions in you, pulling you this way and that, all the time. There are times when we dialogue, when we discuss. It is a great way of working through our problems. This is such an important discipline. God has created human beings with dialogue as a means of growth. The Holy Spirit ministers to us through His Word, the scriptures. He does not minister to us through our feelings, but through the powerful application of the truth of His Word in our lives. Does your thinking align with the scriptures?

There is this dialogue that is going on between Jesus and His disciples – two dialogues are taking place: between the disciples, as an argument arose (v.46) and a dialogue within themselves, within each of them. Jesus may not have actually heard what the disciples say to each other. In Matthew’s account they come to Him and ask, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  (Matthew 18:1)

In Mark’s account, Jesus asks them the question, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.” (Mark 9: 33b-34). He is drawing out what is in their mind. What is implicit in Matthew and Mark is made explicit in Luke’s account. Jesus knew the reason of their hearts. He knew what was going on inside their minds and inside their hearts. Jesus knows what’s going on inside your thoughts and minds today, also. What is going on in your heart today?

Whilst the disciples had their open dialogue, there’s an internal dialogue and it led them to think firstly, that they were great. Secondly, to ignore children. Thirdly, to reject the outsider doing good.

Who is the greatest?

Luke clearly highlights the disciples’ worldly attitude in contrast to Jesus’ just previous prediction of His own death. The disciples were ignorant of what Jesus meant. Jesus knew their jealous thoughts. The question in verse 46 has to do with rank. How on earth did they get themselves into this position? Perhaps we’re not that far from it? The disciples arguing becomes an ugly position. How were they great in Jesus’ eyes? In chapter 6:12-16, Jesus chose them. They were in His presence whilst the Lord Jesus did amazing things. In chapter 9 the disciples are now being used by God’s hand to do amazing things. In chapter 6, only after an entire night of prayer, Jesus names these twelve.

We are not like other people; we are the people of God. Amazing! In chapters 6-8, the twelve have been eye-witnesses to His majesty in the most powerful teaching that came directly from heaven. At the start of chapter 9 the disciples are commissioned by Jesus to go out and do acts of power. All of this might have gone to their heads. As we know, when someone gets a status in society, it so often goes to their heads.

Are you a dog person or a cat person? Or neither? The master pets the dog, makes a fuss of the dog, gives him treats. The dog wags his tail and says, ‘My master must be god’ and worships the owner and is loyal to him. The master pets and cuddles the cat. The cat purrs and enjoys receiving gifts. The cat says, ‘I must be god.’  That seems to be the way cats respond to being made a fuss of, of being chosen. The cat responds by thinking he must be god, the dog responds by thinking the owner must be god.

How perverse our human nature is. God gives us the attention and love. He showers blessings on us all the time and we start to think, ‘I must be god because He loves me so much’ We must be good because He loves me so much.’ How wrong we are. The Christian must never say, ‘God loves me because I’m deserving of it.’ We must never allow our thoughts to go there. God loves our sinful selves. Our satisfaction is not found in the fact that we are chosen, or special in any such way. Our satisfaction is found in the love of God, in Him, not in our status or position.

Children – the company you keep.

Who do I not want to keep company with? The culture of the time was different to ours. In our day, children are very important. Scripture Union have a campaign – 95% of under 18s don’t go to church. We should be concerned, praying, and reaching out. On the other hand, our society has great care for children. We see great carelessness about parenting. It is very different to the way children were treated in the disciples’ day. Children were seen as a waste of time back then. We see in Luke 18, the disciples sending the children away from Jesus because they thought Jesus was too important to talk to children.

The disciples thought greatness was something to do with the company you kept. The child was loved, I’m sure, but powerless and unimportant in that society. So, why spend any time with a child? Jesus says, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” (Matthew 18:5)

Peter, James and John thought that being on the mountain top meant that they were now greater. They were completely wrong. Jesus wasn’t saying you find greatness in being kind to children, but how they relate to God the Father. You can’t think highly of yourself and highly of Jesus. Greatness is a gift. Those who’ve received this gift will think lowly of themselves and will think highly of the lowly. They’ll lift them in their thoughts. This isn’t to say that the lowly and children are to be thought of as sinless, or to be mimicked. God has gifted you and all the people here today with experience. That’s important. We adults have responsibilities, God-given responsibilities. You cannot think highly of yourself and highly of Jesus. These disciples thought highly of themselves because of who they spent time with: Moses, Jesus and Elijah. We are to be humble before the Lord.

Verses 49-50: Here we see another man casting out demons. How the disciples react to him has a bearing on how they see themselves and how they see the Saviour as great. Their reaction to this outsider has a bearing on how their hearts were doing. It exposes the reasoning of their hearts.

John and co have known encouragement and the power of God through their own fingertips. John and co have gone on the mountain top and they have witnessed the Saviour’s transfiguration. John and co were chosen. Now someone else is doing similar work, doing work John and co. have been doing. How dare he! He wasn’t one of the elite, the twelve squad. The man is claiming to have the same power. He clearly wasn’t from within their camp. We might have the same thoughts.

These disciples thought exorcism was their exclusive ministry, only for the 12 squad. How do you feel when others succeed? This comes up in the church quite a lot. How do we feel when others are promoted, and we don’t get the acknowledgement we deserve? How do we feel when someone has been around less than we have, and they’ve been promoted? This can happen in the workplace and the church. Not only within ourselves but as we consider the outsider church. What statements do we make about the outsider when they are demoted, when they’re humbled? Do we rejoice a little bit?

I really don’t think John was expecting Jesus to respond like this. When John approaches Jesus saying, ‘This guy is casting out demons,’ perhaps he thought Jesus would tell him off. Jesus responds completely opposite, ‘This guy isn’t in the 12 squad but he’s doing a good thing. Don’t stop him.’ His rule is simple – whoever is not against you is for you. Have an open heart. Let them be blessed. Be thankful for that blessing if it is from God. The fact that they don’t come from our camp doesn’t make a difference. If they are doing God’s work, do not stop him. How many experienced Christians have tried to stop others from making progress, simply because they are not from our camp? See the danger of this. Take it seriously. If the gospel is being preached, we must say, ‘Hallelujah,’ especially in these days It may not be from our tradition but thank God the gospel is being preached. (Numbers 11).

Paul says, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:18). Paul is not being careless. He’s seeking a desire for the gospel to be preached. Let’s pray for the gospel to be promoted from wherever.

In these three instances, the reasoning of the disciples’ hearts was exposed. He who is least among you, he is the greatest. The disciple who is prepared to identify with the lowly, to receive them, to minister the kindness of the gospel to them, that’s what the Christ-like mind says. Because Christ directs his heart to the lowest place of all. He directs His gaze, his vision to the cross. That’s how willing He was to be humbled.  

In Luke chapter 2, in the infant account we read, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”(Luke 2:34-35).

This is the ministry of the Lord Jesus. He is revealing our hearts. Are you someone who keeps company with children? You understand, when I speak about children now, that I’m not just talking about children, I’m talking about anyone who society thinks, ‘that person’s a waste of time.’ Are you someone who’s told the outsider to stop? Let’s seek to turn away from such reasoning in our own hearts. Let’s be humble before the Lord. Let’s exalt the name of Jesus Christ in our midst.

January 28th 2018: Ian Jones

Ian Jones-March 2016

Luke 4: 18-19

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Jesus returns to Nazareth not long after healing the nobleman’s son. We cannot be absolutely sure of the timing of this event; if Jesus returned to Nazareth it did not happen at the beginning of His Galilean ministry. So why did Luke place it here, not in chronological order? It may be to help people to understand the purpose of Jesus’ ministry, what kind of people He is intending to reach. It also pictures how He would be received – initially people would be glad but then many would reject Him. It is the same today.

Jesus returns to Nazareth, the place where He grew up and attended the synagogue regularly. Did He look forward to going home? We’re not told. But we’re told He returned in the power of the Holy Spirit and the news of this went out throughout the region (verse 14). Many ordinary people were greatly affected by His ministry – the news spread of His miracles and teachings. Luke is setting the scene. When Jesus left Nazareth He was unknown, now He had become widely known. He was very popular, everyone was speaking about Him.

On the Sabbath everyone went to the synagogue and read. Jews living outside of Jerusalem only went to the temple on special feast days. However, the synagogue was like our local church, the place where people attended on a regular basis. There would have been two scripture readings – one of law and one from the prophets, and a time of prayer and praise to God. Jesus was given the opportunity to give a reading. The attendant gave Him the book of Isaiah so He could read from that. He read from Isaiah 61. He would have read and then sat down, the congregation would stand. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on Jesus, waiting for Him to start teaching once He had sat down (verse 21). Probably everyone was wondering what He was going to say. All were waiting for Him to speak. They were hoping He was going to be their Messiah. He had performed so many miracles, given great teachings. Was He the one they were waiting for? The Isaiah reading related to the Messiah. They waited expectantly.

Yet Jesus does not begin by reminding them of their golden days, of their past. Nor does He make promises about a better future to come. He spoke about that day, ‘today.’ Scripture would be fulfilled in their hearing. The focus is upon them – how they will receive this word. You can imagine them whispering how good it was. Their initial response was they spoke well of Him and marvelled at His words. They recognised Him as Joseph’s son. But Jesus knew deep down what they were thinking (verse 23). Their expectation of Him being their Messiah was that He should do more miracles in Nazareth than anywhere else – they would have special privileges because He was from their hometown. But Jesus also revealed a prophet is not received in their hometown (verse 24), giving the examples of Elisha and Elijah.

God is sovereign. He can choose who He will save. He will show mercy to whom He likes. That may include Jews, it may include Gentiles. The people then became angry. They tried to kill Him by taking Him out of the village to throw Him off a precipice. He walked away. Whether He returned to Nazareth we’re not told.

The initial amazement and enthusiasm was followed by rejection. How often is this repeated throughout scripture? We see it in the rich young ruler who ran to Jesus asking what he could do to inherit eternal life, but he later walked away sad because he didn’t hear what he wanted to hear.

This is not always the case, some do go on to receive salvation. How is it some follow Him? Verse 18 answers this, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Jesus’ purpose, His mission – He’s been anointed to preach to them. Jesus came for the poor, the broken-hearted, the captive, the oppressed. He spoke to everyone but only certain kinds of people would follow Him. Who are the broken-hearted, who are the blind, the captives? It’s easy to think they are the people who were physically healed by the presence of Him. This is not the case. The Bible not only refers to people who have no money but also those who are looked down on in society, those who are seen to be humble.

The broken-hearted are those who have been through some crisis. The heart is the seat of emotion. The term relates to spiritual, not physical. The blind see and understand things of God. These people recognise sin has come into this world and affected this world. It has affected their own lives too. Others in the world may not see that. They recognise that they have been brought low, maybe through a series of events. They see themselves having no worth. They recognise God has brought them to a point when they see themselves as sinners. Their lives are filled with sadness, broken lives filled with sin. They are glad to hear the gospel and come to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus didn’t come to walk around Galilee to see, talk and heal people for temporary help. His ministry is far greater. He has come to restore people to God, to give people eternal life. This is the good news! The Lord came not only to those who need to be saved but also to those who have back-slidden. Friends, here is a wonderful message. May this be an encouragement to turn to Him and keep following Him.