Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Last time we were together we looked at Lord’s Day 23 – We are right with God by Faith Alone.
Q/A 61 – Not even because we believe; It is all because of Christ.
You will have heard this in court – “Objection! Your honour.” (The three questions of LD 24.)
Read Q/A 62
Diagram to explain salvation – Bridge/chasm. The bridge only makes sense and becomes
attractive if you understand and recognize the reality of the chasm.
James 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
“Objection! Your honour.”
Read Q/A 63
We shall return to look more closely at one of the proof texts that this answer summarizes.
“Objection! Your honour.”
Read Q/A 64
• And that word “FRUITS” will remind many of us of the image the Bible uses to answer this question. And you boys and girls will know this. What sort of fruit does a bad/rotten tree produce? Bad fruit. And what sort of fruit does a good/healthy tree produce? Good fruit. A Christian has the Spirit of Christ living in him or her. A Christian has been united with Christ. A Christian has a new nature. So a Christian will produce fruit in keeping with who he or she is.
• And that word “GRATITUDE” is also important.
o Most of us here will enjoy a sport like rugby or netball or cricket or volleyball. Well, just imagine that out of the blue, you get picked to play for NZ against Australia this Saturday. You haven’t been playing for a representative team or anything like that. You just love the sport and you get picked out of the blue. What an honour! Well, what are you going to be busy doing every day before Saturday? You will be practising. Your response to this undeserved gift would not be laziness but hard work. Well, so it is with Christianity. A Christian knows that he has been saved from eternal condemnation by the gracious work of the suffering Saviour on the cross of Calvary. So his response to the undeserved gift of eternal life will be obedience.
And we want to think about this some more this afternoon as we turn to one of the proof-texts for Q/A 63, which is LUKE 17:10, and which we consider in its context. So let’s read vv1-10 together.
In our morning Mark studies, Jesus is in Jerusalem in the week leading up to His crucifixion. Well, this passage in Luke goes back a little before that to the time when Jesus was making His way to Jerusalem. And v11 is the third time since way back in ch. 9 (!) that Luke has told us that Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem. A lot of things have happened on the way and Jesus has had to change His direction of travel. But He is still steadfastly making His way to Jerusalem.
Now, there are some who believe that vv1-10 are a collection of random and unconnected statements of Jesus that Luke just gathers together in these verses. It does appear, however, that there is a progression in these statements and a theme that ties them together.
So what I trust we will see, then, is that in these verses CHRIST TEACHES ABOUT THE PROPER ATTITUDE OF CHRISTIAN DUTY.
Now, there is lots that could be said about what Jesus teaches in vv1-6. There is a whole series of sermons there! But we will briefly note the main points Jesus is making in those verses so we are ready to understand vv7-10.
And as we work through this conversation, we do so remembering that disciples are followers of Jesus. So we who follow Jesus today must also heed the words that He speaks to His disciples here.
1. And He begins in vv1-2 with A WARNING AGAINST ANYTHING THAT MIGHT LEAD OTHERS TO SIN. He is telling His disciples that what they do or say or their attitudes or even their neglect of a duty can lead others to sin, perhaps by copying their example.
A. And Jesus especially has new or weak Christians in view here, with His reference to “little ones.” There would have been, in the wider group of disciples that travelled with Jesus and the twelve, those who had only recently followed Him and who had much to learn about the Christian life. And they would be watching the disciples, carefully, to try to learn about the Christian life. And woe to you, such that it would have been better if you had died a horrible death first, if a new Christian sins because of your example.
2. But having warned His followers against causing offence, in vv3-4, He then warns them NOT TO TAKE OFFENSE. He urges them to forgive those who offend them or sin against them. And this is not the forgiveness of wimps that chickens out of confrontation. No, first rebuke your brother because of his sin, and then, if he repents, forgive him. And if necessary, forgive him in this way again and again and again, even if he sins against you seven times in one day. As followers of Jesus, our forgiveness is to be immediate and without limit to those who repent.
3. Well, what Jesus said made such an impression on the disciples that they felt like they needed an EXTRA DOSE OF FAITH. Surely, they think, to live in this way you need extra faith, like we might take vitamin pills alongside our normal diet or like Asterix swigging on the magic potion so he is ready to fight the Roman Soldiers! So they ask Jesus, “Increase our faith.”
4. But His answer of v6 is to tell them that they do not need extra faith but the RIGHT KIND OF FAITH – a vigorous, living faith. As one commentator puts it, they are “to be simple and earnest in their faith, and absolutely to trust its all-prevailing power.”
A. Brothers and sisters, you have met people facing life and death surgery or a terminal illness or some other severe situation, right? Some are troubled and angry and upset and lash out at loved ones; others are at peace and are content. Why? Is it because the later have an extra dose of faith? No. It is because they have a living faith that looks to the Lord for everything and is satisfied or rests in Him. And faith like this is not something that miraculously arrives when disaster strikes. It is like a muscle that needs to be exercised now with the ordinary things of life so that when the big things come along, the muscle is well-formed and it knows what to do.
5. Well, as with many things in the Christian life, there are DANGERS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE FENCE. Not exercising the muscle of a living faith can lead to doubt and anger and despair and bitterness. But what we see in vv7-10 is that other temptations can come when you do exercise the gift of a living faith.
A. Jesus says that “faith like the grain of a mustard seed” will enable to you move a tree into the sea with your words. And what He means with this expression is simply that living faith enables believers to perform great and glorious things in the service of Christ.
i. And you boys and girls will guess perhaps the most well-known Bible story of someone who did something incredible because of faith? David and Goliath!
ii. But we might think also of people from church history like Dietrich Bonheoffer who resisted the Nazis and hid Jewish refugees or someone like George Mueller or Amy Carmichael who were extraordinary missionaries.
iii. Today there are ministers who have large congregations and who plant many churches and Christian authors who write books that are really useful for Christians.
iv. But, with such great Christian service comes the temptation to feel self-satisfied and to think yourself entitled to some sort of special honour. Am I not a marvelous Christian! Wont Jesus be pleased with me! So when sickness comes to a person like that or they lose a loved one at a young age, it can enter their minds that things like that should not happen to them because, after all, they… Lord, haven’t you seen all I have done for you?
v. These are the sorts of temptations that can come when we do exercise a living faith.
6. But THIS ATTITUDE IS COMPLETELY OUT OF CHARACTER with what Christ teaches about Christian duty. It is wrong and it is sinful. And it is what Jesus has in the sights of the humility rifle that He fires in vv7-9.
A. In ordinary life, it would be unthinkable that a master would come in after a hard day’s work and invite his servant to dine with him and heap praises on him for the laundry and the cooking and the cleaning as they eat together, as though he deserved special praises just for doing his job.
B. Well, it is even more unthinkable that a saved sinner should think that he had a right to demand of God that he should be honoured and rewarded and praised. Instead, as Jesus continues in v10, “When you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”
C. And note how Jesus expresses this: “When you have done ALL that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” The one who has done ALL or EVERYTHING that Jesus commands, can only call himself an unworthy servant. But you and I do not come anywhere close to being able to say we have done all that we are commanded to do.
i. Later on in Q/A 113 of the Catechism, the question will be asked, Can those converted to God obey [the 10] commandments perfectly? And the answer given is: No. In this life even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience.”
ii. Boys and girls, when you obey Mum or Dad, instantly and cheerfully, doing exactly what they asked of you, you have not done something super special that deserves a reward from God; you have done just what you ought to do.
iii. And brothers and sisters, should you empty your bank account into the offering bag or volunteer to be part of a church plant in Greymouth or resolve to be steadfast in submitting to your unloving husband or loving your unsubmissive wife or offer to become the compound manager in PNG or spend every extra hour you have in street evangelism, you have not done something super special that deserves a reward from God; you have done just what you ought to do.
iv. All your love, all your strength, all your time, and all your faithful service belongs to the Lord.
v. And if He here commands that we should be humble if we have done everything that we ought to do, well, how much more necessary is it for you and me (who have done much that is wrong and who have not done much that is right) to live in true meekness – just thankful for the opportunity of being allowed to serve the Lord Jesus Christ?
7. But now we need to step outside this passage for a moment. You see, despite what we have said, THE EXTRAORDINARY PROMISE OF GOD IS THAT HE DOES REWARD OUR OBEDIENCE.
A. And He does so, as we see in the Catechism question, “in this life and the next.”
i. In JOSHUA 1:8, we read these words, “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” God rewards obedience in this life.
ii. And the Psalmist spoke of this promise also when he said this about the commandments of God in Psalm 19, “In keeping them there is great reward.”
a. Now, you might be thinking to yourself that that sounds like the prosperity gospel that you have been told is evil; the idea that if you obey God you will surely get wealthy and stay healthy. So let me be clear. And I like the way this commentator explains this: “[God’s] eye is on those who fear Him. True, He will not always give prosperity and wealth, more often it will be the gift of peace of mind, confirmation of the hope that is in us, and other spiritual gifts.” (let me repeat that). OK? But God rewards obedience in this life.
B. But He will also reward our obedience IN THE NEXT LIFE.
i. HEBREWS 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”
ii. And listen also to the words of Jesus in REVELATION 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.”
iii. And of course, foremost in view here is the reward of ETERNAL LIFE. Without our deserving it, we will live forever in glory with Jesus.
iv. But as if that was not enough, the Scripture says more about our eternal rewards. Listen to what the Apostle Paul said in 2 TIMOTHY 4:8, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.” Believer, you will receive the crown of righteousness from Jesus.
v. But there will also be DIFFERENT DEGREES OF REWARD.
a. You might remember the time when the disciples asked Jesus about being given the seats of honour at His right and at His left. And when He responded to their question, He did not say that there are no such positions in heaven because you are all equal there. He said, “To sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” There are seats beside Jesus that God has prepared for someone.
b. But you will also recall the parable of the talents: One servant was given five talents and he made five talents more. One was given two talents and he made two more. And to them, the Master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Jesus taught something there about rewards in proportion to Christian service.
vi. We will be rewarded for our obedience in the next life. And as hard as it is to imagine, there will be differences in or levels of reward.
C. In MATTHEW 6:6, Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” And He said this as an encouragement. He wanted us to LOOK FORWARD TO OUR REWARD. MOSES DID! Listen to Hebrews 11:26, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.”
8. But as we return now to our text, all of this just magnifies God’s GRACE to us in Jesus Christ. You see, if you are thinking now that you better work harder on obedience so you get a better position in heaven or a bigger crown, etc, then you have already forgotten v10 of our text: “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
A. And the Greek word that translates as “unworthy” could just as easily be translated as ‘unprofitable’ or ‘useless’ or ‘good for nothing.’
B. And as we have seen, if one who does everything that Jesus commands is a useless servant, then let us dare not think that we deserve anything from Him. Any reward that comes to you in this life and the next is a reward of? Grace. It is “not a result of works, so that no one may boast,” we are told in Ephesians 2.
C. When we read about Moses looking ahead to his reward in Hebrews 11:26, it is not because he has a long list of all the good he has done, it is because his eyes were filled with Christ and what He would do.
D. And as you look ahead to your reward, let it not be because of anything you have done or not done, but because of Christ and what He has done.
Would you please take out your hymnbooks and look with me at the words of 491 (Fight the Good Fight), which we will sing in a moment. In this hymn we are called to Christian service. But note where our attention is directed.
Fight the good fight with all thy might; Christ is thy strength and Christ thy right. And stanza 2 – Run the straight race through God’s good grace, lift up thine eyes, and seek His face; life with its way before us lies, Christ is the path and Christ the prize. Stanza 3 – Cast care aside; upon thy guide lean, and His mercy will provide; lean, and the trusting soul shall prove Christ is its life and Christ its love. And stanza 4 – Faint not, nor fear, His arms are near; he changeth not, and thou art dear; only believe, and thou shalt see that Christ is all in all to thee.
The attitude that Christ calls us to in these verses is the attitude of unworthy servants who only do what is our duty. And as we look to Christ it is to be an attitude of gratitude! And such is God’s grace to us in Christ, He promise to reward us in this life and the next! Hallelujah! What a Saviour! Amen.