Unexpected - “Gospel”
We have been looking at Luke 5 - one chapter - over the past few weeks and today we finish up. We have talked about the idea of spending one day with Jesus and most of us have a notion of what that would be like. But it is almost as if he tries to say and do that exact opposite of what we would expect. In just a casual review of the New Testament we might think that Jesus had an ax to grind and that he went out of his way to tick off the religious establishment. That's Luke 5 and in our passage today, Jesus pointedly teaches the religious leaders how his message opposes theirs (the new way Jesus was teaching was a new way of grace, good news, the Gospel). If you have looked ahead you know there are two illustrations Jesus gives that will help us see what it is that is underneath his teaching and this is what we will focus on today.
Luke 5:33 says, "One day some people said to Jesus, 'John the Baptist’s disciples fast and pray regularly, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why are your disciples always eating and drinking?'”
The religious leaders are asking Jesus why it is they are fasting but he and his merry men are feasting? Here's a little background on fasting. It was an outward religious practice that could be displayed to show everyone they were on board with religious things. In Israel's early days fasting was a once a year thing. After the "exile" it involved four days a year. By the time of Christ the system the Pharisees followed required fasting twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. Jesus is not fasting and they want to know why the tradition is not being observed by him and his disciples.
Luke 5:34 says, "Jesus responded, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not."
This was not the answer the religious leaders wanted to hear from Jesus.
Luke 5:35 says, "But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
Jesus points out the obvious to them. He does not deny feasting but rather he defends it. Jesus is now ready to point out an all important truth (See italicized below). It is one of the most difficult truths to get - both then and today. This truth is often incompatible with how people are trying to come to Christ.
1 - Incompatible Beliefs
Luke 5:36 says, "Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn't even match the old garment."
Here is what Jesus is saying: feasting and not fasting is not an accident on my part but rather on purpose. I am doing something new and it is incompatible with the old acceptable ways. You cannot take what I am doing and what I am teaching and blend it together with what you do and teach.
Romans 11:6 says, "And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case, God’s grace would not be what it really is—free and undeserved."
This is the message Jesus gave over and over. Put the old garment away and embrace the new garment. Salvation is given and not gotten. Salvation is not through devotion and commitment. Fasting and prayer will not bring you grace. Not all beliefs are equal. You cannot combine the old with the new. It is in the fiber of our being to earn, to measure up, to be worthy. If you try to blend the old with the new, you will miss out on the beauty of what God is doing that is new.
Recently our family went for dinner at the home of a Lebanese family. We talked to the kids ahead of time about being on their best behavior. When we arrived there was a spread of great food, authentic Lebanese food. Our gracious hostess immediately spoke to the kids and offered them chicken nuggets. Everything in me wanted them to just go with the spread but I couldn't do anything about it. And so they had both. The test came on the drive home when we talked about our favorite food of the evening. Nobody said it was the frozen chicken nuggets.
You may want to earn what can be only given but when you do this your are picking chicken nuggets. Sometimes this is all we know. But it's time to get it: salvation is not earned, it is a gift of grace that we receive. It is absolutely not about following rules and observing religious practices.
2 - A New Way to Live
Luke 5:37-38 says, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. 38New wine must be stored in new wineskins."
We are talking about goat skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins because the fermenting process stretches the new wineskin. An old wineskin has already been stretched and could not withstand being stretched a second time. That's why new wine would burst the old wineskin. So, new wine is not compatible with old wineskins. And that's the simple point of the illustration: the old and the new are not compatible.
Luke 5:39 says, "But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.”
Here's the problem: those who are stuck in the old way, fasting and earning their way spiritually, say the old is just fine. Your system of beliefs trap you and you don't know it. You are stuck in the mentality that if you don't measure up, you are out. You think that if you don't live right, God is leaving. It does seem like a good motivational tool. But understanding that salvation is by grace and is a gift is the key to living fully for God.
Perhaps you are one who came inititially just to check things out. And now you are here today having decided you want more but you think what you have been getting can just be added into what you've had. You think you can keep using the old while adding in the new. You really need to understand grace.
Romans 8:35A says, "Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?"
What does it take for God to leave?
Romans 8:35B-36 says, "Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?"
Just because things go south does not mean God is giving up on us.
Romans 8:37 says, "No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us."
This is the New Testament's answer to the fear that if I don't measure up, God's leaving.
~ The answer for insecurity - it is clearly stated in our Romans passage.
Have you ever had a kid who is a runner and needs to be handcuffed to you. We recently visited Washington, DC and went to the Smithsonian Institute. I'm thinking we got to see the "Hope Diamond." The room is packed body to body and I'm holding on to a certain child of mine who's trying to go the other way. All the effort expended at making sure I didn't lose him resulted in missing the beauty of the diamond.
Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. This reality is where our security comes from. We are absolutely and totally secure in Christ. We are afraid that if we are absolutely secure we will go live however we want.
1 John 4:19 says, "We love Him because He first loved us (NKJV)."
~ The motivation for Living Fully - it is clearly stated in our 1 John passage.
God's love motivates us to live for him, not the fear that we will lose him if we do not measure up. If you spend your life afraid, you will throw up your hands in exasperation. Jesus was feasting and not fasting on purpose. The spiritual life you aspire to will not come through fasting and praying so that you measure up and earn it. As long as we try to blend the old and the new we will be frustrated.
Maybe you are here today and saying, "I can't do it." You are right, you can't do it. But then again you don't have to. It is the gift of grace.
Maybe you here today and you are ready. I want to give you the opportunity to respond to God's grace.
With heads bowed and eyes closed, settle back and consider what God is saying. This is the moment for responding to God's invitation.
Romans 10:9 says, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, it shall be to you as salvation."
When one is ready for grace, God begins with the heart. Prayer is telling God you need forgiveness and that you trust Christ for it.
Dear God, You know everything about me: my sin, my faults, my secrets. I confess my sin. I trust Christ alone for forgiveness. Thank you Lord for your grace. Help me to live fully for you. In Jesus' name, Amen!
Posted on Sun, March 22, 2015
by Ken Hart