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Home arrow Daniel arrow Luke 17:1-19: On Following Christ
Luke 17:1-19: On Following Christ Print E-mail
Sunday, 25 August 2013
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When I was in college, I was invited to join Alpha Chi.  It seemed like an honor and some friends of mine were invited as well, so we decided to join (I am still not exactly sure what it is).  Yet, when we went to the first meeting and found out more of what we would have to do, we feared that we had made a mistake.  In fact, for initiation we had to memorize and recite a pledge in front of the rest of the group.  We almost walked out at that point.  We just weren’t sure of what we getting into when we decided to join.  Sometimes people make the same mistake in following Christ.  When they first come to Church and hear the gospel, everything sounds good.  Yet, when they begin to actually see the cost of following Christ, whether that be giving up sin or facing suffering or persecution, they no longer want to follow.  Jesus refers to these in His parable of the soils.  Some may start off well, but they do not persevere in following Christ.

Obviously, if we are going to faithfully follow Jesus, then we need to know what that actually means.  Since Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem in Luke 9:51, He has been teaching the disciples (and us) what it means to follow Him.  He has told us that we must be on mission (chapter 10) and have no fear of men (chapter 12).  We must count the cost (chapter 14) and love Him more than we love anything else (chapter 16).  These are all characteristics of faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.  In our passage this morning (see v. 1a), Jesus gives us four more characteristics of those who follow Him.  What does He teach us?

Disciples make war on sin (v. 1-4)

What will be our attitude toward sin?  Jesus teaches us to hate it and make war on it.  He gives us two particular instructions here.  First, He warns us against tempting others to sin.  Look at verses 1-2.  This is a strong warning from Jesus.  He knows that temptations to sin will come in this life.  We live in Enemy occupied territory and we will be tempted.  Yet, we do not want to be involved in tempting others.  We have to understand that our choices and actions influence others.  Yes, we are individually responsible for not sinning, but Jesus makes it clear that we are also responsible for not leading others into temptation.  Jesus is possibly speaking of those who lead people away from Christ, such as false teachers and the like, but it still should be sobering to us all.  We do not need to take the influence we have on others lightly.  The image of tying a millstone around our neck and dropping us in the Mississippi is compelling. 

Second, Jesus teaches us to rebuke and forgive.  Is it enough to just make sure that we are not leading others into temptation?  No, Jesus commands us to confront any brother that we see in sin.  Look at verse 3.  We are to fight for one another’s sanctification.  We are to lovingly and humbly go to one another when we see sin.  This does not mean that we are to be the sin police, sitting around looking for opportunities to rebuke.  But it does mean that we cannot ignore sin in others.  If we love them, we will confront them.  It also means that if someone comes to you to confront sin in your life, do not respond in anger (‘Stop judging me!’)  Rather, be thankful you have a brother who is willing to obey Jesus and do the hard thing and be quick to repent.
Yet, how often should we forgive a brother who sins against us?  Jesus tells us in verse 4.  Look at that with me. 

Jesus tells us to forgive them seven times in a single day.  The number seven is symbolic of completeness and means we should continually forgive, which is not easy.  Think if a person came to you this morning and punched you in the gut.  Immediately they repented and you forgave them.  Yet, after Sunday School, they came up again and punched you in the face, only to repent again.  Forgiveness would be a bit more difficult at that point.  Now, let’s say that throughout the day they gave you five more punches.  Would you still be forgiving at number seven?  Now imagine that they slandered you seven times or made fun of you or neglected you.  Jesus does not mean that such repeated sin will not have consequences, but he does tell us to truly forgive.  Unfortunately, I fear that often we only fake forgive: we tell them and ourselves that we have forgiven them, but it changes our relationships and keeps us apart.  The followers of Jesus will avoid this.  They will confront and truly forgive one another’s sin.

Disciples understand the power of faith (v. 5-6)

In verse 5, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith.  Look at that with me.  Perhaps they do this in response to Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness, after all, it is not always easy to repeatedly forgive.  Or perhaps they want more faith for another reason.  Either way, Jesus points them in a different direction.  Look at verse 6.  Sometimes we can get the wrong idea about faith.  We want quantity (‘more faith’) and forget that small faith can accomplish great things.  We focus more on how much faith we have instead of the Object of our faith.  One of my commentator’s puts it this way: “It is not so much great faith that is required as faith in a great God.” 1 

It is not so much the size of our faith that matters as the size of our God.  Jesus tells us that faith as small as a mustard seed can uproot a tree and cast it into the sea.  Not that He is telling us to do that, but He is pointing out that even small faith can do impossible things because our God is great.  Small faith can repeatedly forgive.  It can give us victory over addiction and strength to obey.  It can change our desires and give us love even for our enemies.  All we need is faith, even small faith.  The followers of Jesus will understand the power of faith in their great God.

Disciples serve with humility (v. 7-10)

Humility is an absolute necessity for following Christ.  Jesus illustrates why this is so in verses 7-9.  Look at those with me.  Those to whom Jesus was speaking would have understood the absurdity of what He was talking about.  A master would not give a servant the night off just because they completed the work of the day.  He would not thank the servant for doing his duty.  The servant was simply doing what he was supposed to do.  If we are honest, such an illustration does not sit well with us.  We struggle with duty and obligation.  If we do a good job then we expect a ‘thank you’ or even a promotion.  But this is not the relationship between disciples and Jesus. 

Look at verse 10.  We do not always remember that we are unworthy servants of God.  In fact, sometimes the opposite is true.  We do something for God, serve in some way, whether it be at Church or at work or at home, and we get upset that no one seems to notice or that the situation still turns out bad.  We say to God: ‘Hey, I did a good job and you owe me a good result.’  Although we may never actually say that, sometimes we are tempted to think it.  It is in those moments that we need to realize that we are just unworthy servants doing our duty to God.  The amazing thing is that God does delight in doing good for His people.  Through faith in Christ, He will grant us Heaven in spite of our poor service.  Such truth should give us humility as we seek to serve Him in this life.

Disciples praise Jesus with thankful hearts (v. 11-19)

Because we recognize our unworthiness to even be called Christ followers, we cannot help but want to offer Him praise.  Yet, not everyone responds to Christ in this way.  Luke records a story for us that tells us how some respond to Him.  Look at verses 11-13.  This group of lepers come to Jesus desperate for mercy, desperate for healing.  How does Jesus respond?  Look at verse 14.  Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests.  In order for a leper to be admitted back into regular society, a priest had to confirm that he had been healed.  What is interesting in this story is the order.  Jesus did not heal them immediately, but only after they obeyed Him and began to go and see the priests.  Thus, they had at least some faith in Jesus.  Of course, it could be that they were willing to try anything at this point.  Either way, they listened to Jesus and He healed them.  He took away their leprosy.  Amazing!  Surely these men would be faithful followers of Jesus Christ.  Surely they would leave all to follow Him.

Not exactly.  Look at verse 15-16.  Only one of them turned back to give thanks to Jesus.  And notice how Luke describes it: he turned back and praised God with a loud voice.  This is no quiet prayer of thanks in the corner.  This is loud praise, thankful praise.  Luke tells us that he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.  What a picture of praise.  This is what Jesus deserves from us.  He put on flesh, lived a perfect life, and died on a cross for our sin.  He didn’t just save us from leprosy, He saved us from sin and rebellion.  He didn’t just give us a new life on the earth, He has given us eternal life.  We should fall at His feet every day in thanksgiving for all that He has done for us.  We should praise Him with a loud singing and loud living.  Our thankfulness to Him should know no end.

Yet, what about the others?  Look at what Jesus says in verses 17-19.  They did not come back.  They did not praise Jesus or thank Jesus.  They simply went on their way.  They got what they wanted from Jesus and they walked away.  Now we may be tempted to ask: ‘Who could do this?  Who could be so ungrateful?  Who could just walk away?’  Well, the truth is, people are constantly treating Jesus like this.  There are many people in our lives, in our community, who if you asked them about Jesus, they would tell you about Him coming and dying for their sins.  They would acknowledge that He is the Son of God and that He sacrificed Himself for them.  Yet, if you asked them if they were living lives of praise and thankfulness to Him, they might try and change the subject.  Oh, they pray in the hard times and when He provides, they go on their way.  But they are not ready to fall at His feet and give Him their allegiance. 

Maybe that is you this morning.  Maybe you know enough about Jesus to know what He has done for you.  So let me ask you: how can you just walk away?  He loved you enough to give Himself at the cross.  He has provided a remedy for your sin problem: His death and resurrection.  So then, don’t walk away like the lepers.  Rather, repent of your sin, put your faith in Jesus, and follow hard after Him.  Be like the one leper who responded with thankful praise, who was seemingly healed more than just physically.  The true followers of Christ will praise Him with thankful hearts.

Disciples of Jesus make war on sin and understand the power of faith.  They serve with humility and praise with thankful hearts.  These are characteristics of those who follow Christ.  All of these show us our need for the Savior.  We can do none of them by ourselves.  Yet, Jesus not only commands our allegiance, He empowers it.  He won the victory over sin and gives us the faith we need.  He humbled Himself on a cross and floods our souls with thankfulness.  So may we all, by His glorious grace and power, be faithful followers of Jesus.  Amen.

1 Leon Morris, Luke TNTC (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988), p. 280.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 September 2013 )

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