Good Hearts Produce Good Deeds
March 03, 2019 | Randy Smith
Good Hearts Produce Good Deeds
Sunday, March 3, 2019
Pastor Randy Smith
So why did these religious leaders hate Jesus so much? Well, to stay within the context, last week we learned that Jesus was telling His followers, verse 20, that their “names are recorded in heaven.” They were average folks with no religious pedigree. Even worse, they were followers of Jesus Christ. No wonder the religious elite were so furious!
So what do they do? The same political trick we use today. You try to trap your opponent with their own words.
So today, as we prepare for the Lord’s Table, we’ll see how Jesus takes one man’s disingenuous question and turns his ruthless heart back on him and in doing so provides one of the greatest stories with the greatest lesson in the entire Bible on the subject of mercy.
An Insincere Interrogation (verses 25–28)
Let’s begin in the first point which I am calling, “An Insincere Interrogation.”
I came up with that heading because verse 25 reveals the motives behind the man asking the question. It says, “[He] stood up and put [Jesus] to the test.” This was a “lawyer,” one of the Jewish religious sects. His question was intended as a trap, a “got-ya” question and opportunity to disgrace Jesus whereby He might discredit Himself publicly.
Here is the question itself: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Smell a rat? How often do you “do” something to obtain an inheritance? Sense bad theology? Eternal life is not something you can achieve by your work. It’s not a reward given to those who are moral or religious. Again, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Bad motives, but a great question. And Jesus being a great teacher not only turns from the interrogated to the interrogator, but He also provides an invaluable lesson. But instead of answering the question, He asks another question. This is fair enough because this was a religious “lawyer” and he should have a good comprehension of God’s law.
Look at verse 26, “And [Jesus] said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?’”
The man answered in verse 27 quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and said, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
This comes as no surprise for us. Elsewhere Jesus said these are the two greatest commandments – love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:37-39). How can any student of the Bible have a problem with that? Clearly this is what God ultimately expects from us. That He would be number one in our affections and that our love for Him would also be seen in a special love for people here identified as our neighbor.
In verse 28 Jesus affirms the man’s answer. “And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly.’” And then adds, “do this and you will live” (Lev. 18:5; cf. Gal 3:12). In other words, If you want to earn eternal life just fulfill these two greatest commandments and “you will live.”
Now, that should have stunned the man. If you want to earn eternal life the expectation is perfection. James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” Do you want eternal life? Just every second of the day and every day of your entire life love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. No chance! Our only hope is a Savior that will bring forgiveness because what Jesus said IS the expectation and we can’t do it! We’ll come back to that.
But you see the right answer was not really what the man wanted. He wasn’t asking with a sincere, teachable heart. It was a hard heart that only wanted test Jesus, trap Him. And like any cynical hypocrite, they can often find just the ammunition they need, ignoring the big picture and looking to hang someone on one word. Specifically, here that word is “neighbor.”
Let’s move to the second point – “A Shocking Story.”
A Shocking Story (verses 29–35)
Verse 29, “But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
This is really interesting. This guy’s embarrassed. Jesus showed him up. But he’s a pretty shrewd character himself. And it appears he’s pretty quick thinking on the fly. How can he regain the offensive position, like a chess game, in his desire to trap Jesus so he may (verse 29) “justify himself” as being superior to Jesus and right with God in the eyes of the bystanders? Simply go after one word Jesus said and again, that word is “Neighbor.”
This was a big debate at that time. The word “neighbor” is the biblical word, but who exactly is my neighbor? The guy who lives next door? Friends and family? I am commanded to love my neighbor, but depending on where we draw the line who is my neighbor? Can I withhold my love from some people?
You see, I want to put God’s expectations in a manageable list of “do’s and don’ts.” Then I can “check off the boxes” and believe I, in my own goodness, have earned eternal life. Eternal life now becomes a reward that I can “inherit” based on my supposed goodness.
Have a seat, my friend.
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho [about 17 miles in hostile desert], and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest [Jewish religious leader] was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side [clearly not his “neighbor’]. Likewise a Levite [another Jewish religious leader] also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side [clearly not his “neighbor” either]. But a Samaritan [the despised people of the Jews – bitter enemies – cf. Lk. 9:52], who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you’” (Lk. 10:30-35)
An Amazing Application (verses 36–37)
Third point. After telling the story of the “Good Samaritan,” Jesus asked the lawyer, verse 36, “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?”
Deep question. Do we answer that question from the contemporary religious discussions, cultural expectations or personal feelings? Or do we answer that question from the perspective from that man that was beaten and left to die? Who do you think he’d say was his neighbor as verse 36 is written? Moreover, of the three players in the story, who is the one who really honored God? Who showed the greatest love for another? Was it the religious folks? Or was it the despised Samaritan?
The one who sought to trap Jesus was trapped himself. He knew the answer. Verse 37, “And he said [to Jesus], ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’” He can’t even say, “It was the Samaritan.” Everyone listening that day clearly knew your neighbor is anyone around you who has a need. And showing mercy to someone in need reveals a heart that God desires and gives evidence that one has eternal life.
The rest of verse 37, “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.”
Let me share four thoughts with you before we partake in the Lord’s Table.
First, we commonly call this guy, “The Good Samaritan.” But the point our Lord is making with this story is not that we earn eternal life by being good, but rather evidence we’ve received eternal life will be seen in a heart that is good. And a good heart will love people as God loves people.
Like the Samaritan, true believers do not ask about “earning” eternal life. They do not do good deeds with the attitude of self-advancement. They have a heart of compassion. And when the need arises they seek to respond.
Let me repeat this thought with different words. We need to be very clear that Jesus is not saying if we do acts of service we will earn eternal life. That was the attitude of the lawyer (an attitude condemned here) and contrary to the point of this passage. We are saved by grace alone by loving Jesus Christ and trusting His work of the cross to pay the full penalty for our sin. We do not have eternal life because of our goodness, but rather we have eternal life because of His goodness. Good deeds do not result in eternal life, but good deeds give evidence of eternal life.
And once we are saved by God’s grace He changes our heart to be like Him. Verse 33, the Samaritan “felt compassion.” One proof of God’s presence in us will be a heart of compassion for all humans regardless of their nationality, skin color, personality or moral standing.
If there is any doubt, consider the following section in Luke is about Mary and Martha. Martha was doing all the service. Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet. And you know Mary is the hero of the story because her heart was most focused on Christ. All of our service is because of Him, through Him and ultimately for Him.
Second thought. I love the evangelical church and I love theology, but I sometimes think the evangelical church is too focused on discussing theology rather that actually practicing the theology we already know to be true. Theology can become a cop-out to excuse ourselves from the weightier matters that our Lord desires (see Mt. 23:23). There is a place for theological discussion, but not at the expense of practicing it. Talk, talk, talk, but how many proverbial “bloody people have we lifted out of the ditch” like the Samaritan?
Then we have Bible trivia. We could have spent weeks going over this passage. Who were the Lawyers and Priests and Levites? What did the Jewish oral traditions teach about a “neighbor?” What was the origin of the Samaritans and what did they believe? Where was Jericho? Why did the Samaritan use “oil and wine?” And this keeps going! Does getting caught up in that change anything? I gave you enough to get the picture.
It’s a ruse. A lot of talking Bible and very little action. Somehow in the evangelical church we have equated head knowledge with godliness. All godliness flows from the mind with right thinking, but unless it penetrates the heart and results in action it means nothing in the sight of God. We became like this lawyer who only wants to debate and trap others with our supposed theological knowledge.
As I grow older in my faith I have great respect for people who know their Bible and adhere to good theology. But I have greater respect for people that know these things, but actually put them into practice through Christlike acts of self-sacrifice.
Though it equally applies to women too, give me the man that has a solid relationship with his wife and has raised respectable children and is committed to the local church and is serving people in his church and has a stellar reputation at work and in the community and has clear direction in his life and for his family and is wise with his money and can make prudent decisions and is gentle, kind and compassionate with others.
It’s easy to “talk the talk” like the lawyer. Even when the guy got the right answer, it wasn’t the right answer until he and we, verse 37, “Go and do likewise.”
Three, we as individuals and as a church need to be more compassionate in our desire to serve people. You’ve got to implement the individual part, but I’ve wondered what we can do to implement the church part. I ask myself, how would the community feel if Grace Bible Church were completely removed? Are we a blessing to this community with acts of mercy? I’d like to believe so – sport’s clinics, nursing home visits, harvest festival, food pantry and other things.
Acts 10 says Jesus was a man who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). “And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Heb. 13:16). Does the community think of us along these lines or are we just known by the things we oppose?
Just before the funeral for Eva Applegate, I had the opportunity to meet the Mayor of Wall. Over the last few weeks we have met personally with him on a couple occasions. I have expressed the desire we have as a church to serve the community. Two weeks ago I was invited to the town meeting that helps needy people in our area. I stood up and simply said, “We are here to serve you. We are looking to give and are not expecting anything in return. We can feed dozens of people with our food pantry. We have an amazing facility we would like to share. And we can mobilize within a short time hundreds of quality people with a heart of compassion to serve others.”
What will come out of that? Will it be an open door for the Gospel? I don’t have those answers, but it is going to be fun to find out! I’d ask you to pray that God would use us as He desires.
And number four, consider with me the cost to this Samaritan. Talking Bible is a lot easier than living Bible. It’s not easy to share our faith. And it’s not easy to be merciful to others. Consider the Samaritan: Were the robbers still in the area? Would he be accused of beating the man or worse, killing the man? A bloody man. Spiritual uncleanliness. Transporting him to the inn. Using his own money. Making himself vulnerable.
And when I think of this, I think of myself in that spiritual ditch. I was the man beaten by the wages of sin. I’m not the hero; it’s another who came to rescue me. Another that would love His enemy. A foreigner who would put so much on the line to safe my life, even to the extent of becoming unclean, paying for my sin, carrying my burden, shedding His blood and dying for me.
Religion passed by shook their self-righteous heads. Jesus Christ entered my ditch and showed me that I had no other alternative for rescue. He extended His grace, picked me up and paid the price for my eternal life through His unbelievable compassion, not as a reward, but as a gift of His mercy to give me eternal life. And if I have received this incredible display of mercy how can I not “go and do the same?”