Christ The Divider
February 17, 2019 | Randy Smith
Christ The Divider
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
This week I was trying to think through polarizing topics. I’m talking about the real controversial stuff that tends to divide Americans. Many subjects come to mind, but the more I thought about it I couldn’t recall anything that divides people into two “accept all” or “reject all” camps.
You say, what about the snow? You either love it or you hate it. Well, not really! Sure there are a few completely in the “love everything about snow” camp and a few in the “hate everything about snow” camp, but most probably find themselves somewhere in the middle. They may despise shoveling and driving in it, but they like the way it looks and the opportunities for winter recreation. Even the most adamant hater of snow can probably find something in his heart that appreciates a “White Christmas.”
How about our President? He’s clearly a polarizing figure. Sure, some love everything about the man (he can do no wrong) and some hate everything about the man (he can do no right), but I believe most people who voted for him can find some things they disagree with. Perhaps it’s his rhetoric or a policy decision. And even the “Never Trumpers,” if they are honest, still have to appreciate some of things he is doing for our country.
One more example. Maybe the most polarizing topic. Let’s consider abortion. On that one you are clearly pro-life or pro-choice, two clear camps of delineation. Yes, but, what about self-proclaimed pro-lifers that feel abortion is acceptable if a woman is raped. Or on the other hand, this week I read a poll that 40% (quoting from memory) of pro-choicers feel that late-term abortion is wrong.
What else is out there? Sports rivalries? I despise the Green Bay Packers, but I still respect their storied franchise and play of their recent quarterbacks even as they have beat-up the Bears for the last 20 years.
It seems nothing divides all people into two polar-opposite, exclusive camps. And that my friend is what makes the message of Jesus Christ, commonly known as the Gospel or “Good News,” so unique.
This morning I would like to cover verses 1-16 of Luke 10. As you can see in the sermon notes, we will first examine the need to proclaim the Gospel (verses 1-4). Then we will look at the only two responses to the Gospel. The positive response to the Gospel (verses 5-9) and the negative response to the Gospel (verses 10-16). We will see from the Bible that there is one Savior with one message of salvation. Either you are all in or all out. Either you are saved or you are lost. Either you are a child of God or a child of Satan. Either you are going to heaven or you are going to hell. One polarizing Man with one polarizing message that based on one’s response to that message will be divided into one of two distinct camps.
Proclamation (verses 1–4)
Let’s begin with the first point, “Acceptance.” In verse 1 we see the Lord gather 70 (or 72) of His disciples for another short-term missions trip. This is similar to what Jesus did with the 12 Apostles in chapter 9. He sent them out in pairs. The goal, according to verse 1, was to send them to places He would be visiting Himself in the near future.
It’s important to pause here because a theme that runs through this section is that Jesus is King and believing the message of the King (acknowledging His Kingship) is the only way to enter His kingdom.
We’ll come back to that, but for now understand that our Lord’s plan with the 70 was a common practice for kings in the ancient Middle East. Often before they arrived to a town they would send a delegation ahead of them to herald and prepare their way. The same applies here. The 70 were to announce that the King has come to earth and that these people will soon meet Him in person.
Likewise, all Christians are heralds for the King. All of us are to tell people King Jesus has arrived and the way into His kingdom is available. The message He gave us to proclaim is clear. And whether they accept Him or reject Him as their Lord and King, all people in the future will meet King Jesus and receive either His blessing or His judgment.
Before the 70 departed our Lord gave these instructions. First, verse 2 was a call for them to pray. “And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’”
In the verse “harvest” is mentioned three times. “Workers” are mentioned two times. We see this picture of the end-time harvest throughout the Bible. It’s probably easiest to think of it like this. All people are compared to plants. Let’s stay with the biblical metaphors. We are either wheat or tares (Matthew 13). If we love Jesus we are wheat (good crop). If we reject Jesus we are tares (weeds – bad crops). Like in a farmer’s field they both grow up together. It is not our job to harvest the wheat or remove the tares through some crusade or inquisition. We are not the “Lord of the Harvest.” Believers and unbelievers live together. However, the day will come when God through His holy angels will swing His sickly and harvest the crops so to speak. This is the final end-time judgment. The wheat will be placed in His barn (heaven) and the tares will be burned (hell). That was all Matthew 13.
We already saw the same from Luke 3. “His winnowing fork is in His hand to thoroughly clear His threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into His barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Lk. 3:17).
I love verse 2. You know why? Because it contains great motivation for us to share the Gospel message. Clearly we are commanded to do so, but there are three things here that people often miss. And let me tell you, if you really get these three things you will have all the motivation you need to be a successful evangelist.
First of all it tells us of the awful fate of those without Christ.
All people sin. The wages of sin is death – spiritual death, eternal separation from God. Only Jesus Christ came to remove our sin, pay the penalty for it through His work on the cross. The Bible message is clear. We all stand condemned. Receive Jesus and be forgiven (Rom. 8:1). Reject Jesus remain under judgment.
And the reality of the latter is the motivation for our outreach. When God works in a Christian’s heart, our primary attitude toward unbelievers is not rejection, frustration or exultation over their destiny. It’s compassion. It’s being able to see them as an image bearer of God (regardless of how they look or what they may do) lost in this world and on the road to an eternal hell. And that is our motivation for evangelism. It’s because God has given us a heart for all humans and in that love we are compelled to get them the message of Jesus so they may be saved from hell. After all, that was God’s love toward you before you accepted Christ, right?
Second, we are motivated by God’s sovereignty.
I love the wording of verse 2. It shows God’s sovereignty. Look there. God is the “Lord of the harvest.” God must “send out [the] workers.” The harvest is “His harvest” Yet we also see man’s responsibility. We are commanded to pray that God raise up the workers. We are commanded to go into the mission field either next door or around the world.
Recently I heard a person tell me they heard another say Grace Bible Church is “Reformed” and therefore doesn’t believe in sharing the Gospel. Where in the world does this ignorance and these fabrications originate? Listen, we believe that only God can save someone by first changing their heart. But we also believe that God commands us to get the message to the lost. Could God save people without us? Of course! But He ordained it in such a way that He uses us (as we see here) to proclaim the message. And because we know the “harvest is plentiful” and that not I, but God is the sovereign “Lord of the Harvest” we are motivated as a worker to go into the field.
And the third motivation is the command to pray to God to send out workers to share Jesus Christ with others. In other words, all people without Christ are on the road to an eternal separation from God. Their destiny couldn’t be worse. For some it’s years away. For others it’s seconds. But they will all die and they will all face judgment (Heb. 9:27). Therefore we are to pray that God send out the needed workers to get them the Gospel message about salvation in Jesus Christ before time runs out. There is a heartfelt urgency here.
Now, why is that reality motivation to our own personal evangelism? One is because every time you pray it will change your heart. The more you pray for the lost and for missionaries, that more you will have a passion to be a missionary to reach the lost. And second, you know your prayer is really not coming from your heart if you ask God to send out workers to reach the lost, but you care not to reach the lost yourself. Either you will not bring it to the Lord or you will pray with hypocrisy.
Revelation 14, “Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head and a sharp sickle in His hand. And another angel came out of the temple, crying out with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, ‘Put in your sickle and reap, for the hour to reap has come, because the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ Then He who sat on the cloud swung His sickle over the earth, and the earth was reaped. And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, and he also had a sharp sickle. Then another angel, the one who has power over fire, came out from the altar; and he called with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, ‘Put in your sharp sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, because her grapes are ripe.’ So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God” (Rev. 14:14-19).
Verse 3, “Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Warning of the hostility they will face. Verse 4, “Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way.” Total trust in God to provide for all their needs and urgency. We need to move on.
Acceptance (verses 5–9)
So that was the message they (or I can say “we”) need to proclaim. Either you will be all in or all out. People tend to see degrees, but in God’s eyes, if you are not a full Christian you are not Christian at all. There are no partial children in His family. There are no semi-loyal hearts in His kingdom. Accept the message and the King is your friend. Reject the message and the King is your foe.
In this second point let’s briefly look at those who accept the message.
Beginning in verse 5, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house. Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you’; and heal those in it who are sick’” (Lk. 10:5-9a).
So you get the picture. Out they go in pairs to the villages designated by Jesus. They virtually have nothing but the clothes on their back. They knock on a door. They say, “Peace be to this house.” That is not an offer for temporary peace in this world. Politicians, rock stars and hippies offer that. This is an opportunity for eternal peace with the living God. Do you want peace or punishment from God?
Implication, due to your sin you are enemies with a perfectly holy God. Through the message they brought, God and man can now be reconciled through the work of Jesus Christ. In a sense, the homeowner is asked if he wants this peace. If he does he will be (as the verse says) a “man of peace.” He has an open heart to the message from King Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
If he is a “man of peace,” the missionaries are to stay in that house. This was to show that they were not like the countless false teachers of the time that would run from house to house only to make a profit. They were to stay and eat whatever was placed before them. They were worthy of this support and this is how the Lord would provide for their needs (validation by character).
Another way they gave evidence that they were unlike the false teachers was that they were to “heal the sick.” Jesus had yet to go to the cross. There was no New Testament yet written. This was a unique gift for these people to validate their message. It was more proof that they spoke as a messenger of the true King (validation through miracles).
And if people receive the message they are to tell the people (the second half of verse 9), “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (Lk. 10:9b). With the Gospel message it is very simple. There is no wondering. There is no waiting. If you truly believe with all your heart you can know for certain the King has forgiven you and you are now a subject in His kingdom. The 70 said this to the people to accepted King Jesus. We may say it today to those who truly accept King Jesus.
Rejection (verses 10–16)
But not everyone will accept the missionaries because of this message that they bring. Verse 3, they are “lambs in the midst of wolves.” Verse 6, not all homes will have a “man of peace.” In other words, there will also be rejection. Let’s go to the last point and see what Jesus has to say about that.
Verse 10, “But whatever city you enter and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your city which clings to our feet we wipe off in protest against you.”
The 70 were to proclaim peace to the people who receive Jesus; they were also to proclaim judgment to the people who reject Jesus.
A public cultural picture was given. Wiping dust off your feet was symbolic back then of judgment. It was symbolic of “wiping your hands clean” of the guilt another will incur upon himself.
We all stand guilty before God. As messengers of the Gospel, we bear a burden to tell people how they may be forgiven. However, once we share the truth, we are free from our responsibility. We cannot save people; God must do that. We did our job. Now they have no excuse. The solution has been given and they will remain in their guilt. And what Jesus is saying here is that people need realize that!
We see here that the Gospel is not a “take-it or leave-it” offer (“better life now” or “God loves you…”). Rejection is not an equal alternative. It’s like seeing a drowning person and throwing him a ring buoy. He is free to reject it, but he needs to understand that nothing better is coming along and rejecting it will certainly mean his demise.
The warning from the 70 is to be clear to all those who reject the Gospel. Verse 11, “Yet be sure of this, that the kingdom of God has come near” (parallels verse 9) and you turned your back on it. And baring a change of heart, you by your own decision have sealed your fate on Judgment Day.
Verses 12-15 are unmistakable! Jesus said, “I say to you, it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had been performed in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades!”
The levels of judgment will be proportionate to the amount of light we received. We call this comparative punishment. These people in these towns received clear revelation demonstrated by miracles. They witnessed Jesus Christ in the flesh.
Our Lord picked some of the most vile and perverted and notorious pagan cities of the Old Testament – Sodom, Tyre and Sidon – and said if they had this much light they would have repented. Therefore, greater judgment will be on the present Jewish towns of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. Incredible! And my friends listen; people in our country and in this church have incredible exposure to Jesus Christ. What a warning!
This section makes it clear that the greatest sin is not an act of immorality, but the rejection of Jesus Christ. There are no other options. Verse 16, “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
One polarizing Man with One polarizing message. We are commanded to get the message out. Some will reject it. Some will receive it. We leave the results to God, the “Lord of the Harvest.”
The King has arrived. Have you given your life to King Jesus? Are you at peace with Him? Are you a citizen of His kingdom? The kingdom of God has come near. All of you should leave today with certainty that you are either in or you are out, that you are forgiven or you remain under His judgment.