I was just telling someone about how so far, 2019 has been the “year of the absentee”--between illnesses, physical rehabilitation, bad weather, last-minute trips, etc., we’ve been really missing seeing our full complement of FCCers here on a regular basis! We’re going to joyfully worship God no matter how many are in the building, but we still miss seeing everyone’s bright and shining faces when people are hither and thithering...
Nonetheless, we were still able to host a few visitors this week, including providing a “Minute for Missions” during the Worship Service for Jessica Kober, who oversees Central Illinois’ “Safe Families for Children” ministry through the Empower Life Center (formerly the Women’s Pregnancy Center) here in Peoria. Too many children get lost in the shuffle of the system during times of crisis, and it’s a blessing when the Body of Christ can step up to help children transition into healthy new families--or even smoothly transition back into their own families once the crisis is over. Please be in prayer for this important ministry.
Oh, and I should tell you that I had to start off by apologizing for cheating in the sermon this week. We’ve been working our way through Luke 15-16, looking at five parables that Jesus shares about loving the lost around us, and we had to take a sharp left turn 80% of the way through the list to examine a clump of verses that kinda just seem (at first blush) to be plopped in there by Dr. Luke for no good reason. So this sermon in the “Parables” series had no parables in it whatsoever. Hey, there are pros and cons to expository preaching...
Anyway, we could’ve just skipped over the strange verses and jumped to that fifth and final parable... but if you know me at all, then you know that I can’t just skip over strange verses--there’s too much chance that we might learn something by chewing on them a bit more carefully.
See, in Luke 16:13-18 gives us Jesus talking about money, then about the Pharisees being detestable, then about the Law, then about divorce and remarriage... and it all could seem a little hodge-podge. But when you remember that Jesus has given this little talk about divorce and remarriage a few times now, and that the Pharisees themselves have been bringing it up to test Him, and that Jesus has repeatedly preached against them for trying to “tweak” and abuse God’s unchanging Law for their own ends, then all of the verses here in Luke 16 fit together rather nicely.
The Pharisees berate Jesus for doing righteousness “wrong” by their personal estimations, but He shares a trilogy of parables about how God so ridiculously loves the lost, followed by another about investing our temporal resources in reaching the lost to achieve eternal gains... which He argues is the exact opposite of what the Pharisees have been doing, since they’ve been trying to use God’s eternal righteousness to feather their own temporal nests. They’ve chosen their master, and it isn’t really God or His righteousness, no matter how loudly they might proclaim otherwise.
The truth is that, just like with that “divorce and remarriage” issue that they themselves keep bringing up, some truths (like God’s will for us and our morality) just aren’t “tweak-able,” no matter how much you or I might want them to be, and no amount of games-playing or hoop-jumping will ever change that. And, just like in the matter of “divorce and remarriage,” which they themselves keep bringing up, they’ve allowed themselves to lose their best and truest love because they’d rather focus on loving something else--something quicker and easier, but far more fleeting and unsatisfying.
I hate to say it, but it’s awfully easy for any of us--even the most “religious” of us--to lose sight of God’s heart, and yet still presume that we’re the ones being righteous: we can’t reach out to the lost surrounding us because we’re too busy being holy somewhere else (as if they were mutually exclusive); we’re justified in being hateful to the other person in a conflict because they were initially so hateful to us (as if being the second person to walk down the wrong path somehow converts it to being the right path); praying or teaching or ministering because we seek the admiration of others is basically the same thing as doing it for the Lord (even though Christ Himself decried that kind of thinking in verses like Matthew 6:5); etc.
So let’s all take a lesson from Dr. Luke’s deviation from the parables in Luke 16:13-18, take a deep breath, and ask God where we might need to make a course correction in our lives. God’s will, God’s plan, and God’s heart never change, and aren’t “tweak-able”--so let’s make sure that we’re in line with Him instead of just assuming that He’s in line with us.