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Obstacles on the Road to Christ-Part 8

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Pugnacity

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SKU: 15-31 Category: Date: 11/2/2015 Scripture: Luke 11:47-54 Tags: , , , , , ,
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We must understand the reason people respond in a hostile way toward the truth, prayerfully and lovingly warning of the multiplied consequences of rejecting it.

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15-31 Obstacles on the Road to Christ- Part 8

Obstacles on the Road to Christ: Pugnacity
Luke 11:47-54

Well you know in the Bible we’re told that the church is called to be in society the pillar and foundation of the truth. 1 Timothy 3. It also says that her members, her participants, should be engaging their generation with, as 2 Corinthians 4 says, an open statement of the truth. And of course Ephesians 4 says we ought to be careful to always speak the truth in- in love. (1:01)

Now the whole of that assignment is particularly difficult and challenging because of that recurring word, “truth.” There’s the problem, at least the challenge. And that is that the truth that we’re called to present to our generation as the church of Jesus Christ here in our day is a truth that’s got some hard edges to it. It’s tough. If you’re new to all this, you might think, well, if this is God’s truth, I mean, this would be like passing out candy at the Fall Fest. Eh, just, I mean, people just eat it up. This is, after all, what your Bible calls the “good news”, isn’t it? (1:40)

Well, that’s true. But if you’ve been Christian for more than an hour, you come to realize in your experience, you know, that’s not how it seems to go down in our conversations. That’s not the reality of it. It’s not like you’re passing out candy at the Fall Fest. It’s much more like being a teacher’s aide. Follow me on this. You’re there. You work for the teacher. You really have a good heart in that you want your class that you’re working in to succeed. You want them to pass the test. But to do that, at least in the context that we’re talking about, you’re gonna have to first deal with the truth that all the students in the class have failed the test. Right? I mean, that’s where it starts. Romans 3:23, right? All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We’ve got this problem called sin and everyone needs to understand that. And then you need to let them know that there are really big consequences to failing this test. Right? A-and then we go on to learn Romans 6:23, that the wages of sin is, is death. Not just physical death, relational death. There’s this kind of spiritual death that has eternal consequences. And then you’re supposed to tell them, well, we’ve got the solution. Here’s the good news part, that you have to take all your test taking efforts and you have to exchange those for the efforts of Christ and what he’s already accomplished. And, and you need to take your test and trade it with him, and then you need to have that all in line before you turn it in. And, and that’s how you get saved. And that’s what the book of Romans is all about. The message of Christ living and dying for us. (3:14)

Now that really doesn’t satisfy the, as it’s called, the natural man. That, that doesn’t go down very smoothly. As a matter of fact, that’s something that’s going to be filled with, uh, certain obstacles or barriers as you try to share an unmitigated and an uncompromised message of-of the truth of the gospel. People are gonna struggle with that as we try to get our coworkers, and our neighbors, and our friends to process this truth. And we’ve looked at many of them in Luke 11. The obstacles. And we started with cynicism, and we got to incredulity and with the issues of kind of bait and switching in their minds what Christianity is. And we looked at hypocrisy and pride, all variations of people saying well I’m not sure I want that unvarnished truth. I’ll take some form of it, or I’ll reject it, and here’s how I’ll reject it or try to get my way around it. (4:03)

But as we come to the very last obstacle in the bottom of Luke 11, we see Jesus addressing what is, I mean, without question for us as messengers of the truth the most– the most unpleasant and the most difficult that we can face. And that’s when we have people that we really have a good heart to want to help, they’re gonna respond with what we’ve called in this sermon, “pugnacity.” It’s that pugnacious, kind of defensive, rejection of the truth that comes with a certain hostility, and a kind of even belligerence when they say, “Well, I-I don’t like that, and I don’t like you,” and they start to get real hostile toward us. And in other parts of the world it, it manifests itself in actual persecution and attacks, and even martyrdom for many. And we understand how this goes on, and we encounter some of it but not the full strength of it, at least not right now in this little corner of the world. (4:58)

Now Jesus in this last section of Luke 11 which I’d like you to look at because there’s nothing more helpful for us than not only to anticipate this but to understand something of why it’s happening, and then realize well how– how do we– how do we deal with this? What do we do about it? (5:12)

Now, we’ve talked enough in this series, or if you know our church well enough, you know we can’t change the message. And we can’t so say, well, you know the problem with people’s response is just the way you’re presenting it, so let’s speak the truth in love. Love, love, love, love, more love. I don’t care how loving you are. If you don’t change the facts that you as someone representing the teacher, the great teacher, says we got a problem called sin. You failed the test. There are consequences for that. And you need to exchange your life for Christ’s life. I mean, those are gonna be things that are gonna be hard to handle. And there’s going to be a fairly common response of- of hostility and defensiveness, and so we need to learn what Jesus has to say about it. (5:50)

So if you haven’t opened your Bible yet, I want you to look at the bottom verses of Luke chapter 11, verses 47 through 54. And I want to look at this section and see how Christ has taken what is up to this point a simple rejection of his message. The barriers have been discussed. You can see the defensiveness. And he’s gonna compare their rejection and their defensiveness to what is, seems almost overly dramatic, and almost hyperbolous. He’s gonna compare that to the way people were martyred for being messengers of the truth in the Old Testament. So let’s take a look at this and see if we can’t see why Jesus is gonna combine these two, and say this is a serious problem, and what we can learn from it. (6:27)

Verse 47. Now a Pollyanna text, not a happy text. It starts with the words that we’ve already encountered in the context, “woe to you,” which means “really bad for you”, “how terrible for you”, “how disastrous for you.” What’s that? Well he’s speaking to these folks at this particular moment, the lawyers or the teachers of the law. Not the lawyers in a secular sense, but the lawyers in a religious sense. They were teachers of the law of Moses. But he’s gonna open this up to the entire generation as you’re about to see. But he starts with verse 47, “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets.” (7:02)

Now in Israel you had all these important people with their monuments that they’d, you know, built to them, these crypts or tombs that they would have. And they would decorate them, and they would improve them and refurbish them, and all of that. And he says, “Hey, you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed.” This is more than genealogy. This is more than, hey, you’re a Jewish person, they were Jewish people. This is showing the spectrum between their killing of the prophets and your rejection of- of me. They’re your fathers in that sense. You’re a chip off the old block. You are witnesses, and you consent to the deeds of your fathers. And they’re saying, oh no, we don’t. I mean, we’re setting up monuments for prophets that were killed, and they’re our quote-unquote heroes. He says, but no, you’re in league with them. You consent with them because of how you’re responding to me, for they killed them and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God says— (7:55)

Now you- you find Christ, like a lot of the people in the New Testament quoting the Old Testament. You’re not gonna find this quote in the Old Testament. This has sent a lot of curious people into all kinds of extra-biblical writings to see if they could find where this is. You’re not gonna find it because this is not a biblical quotation or an extra-biblical quotation. This is a strange little statement here as God kind of peels back the curtain of heaven and what’s going on there, and he speaks in personifying the Triune God and his wisdom by saying, “the Wisdom of God said.” And notice, it’s in the future tense. I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute. (8:31)

Now, looking forward here, we’ve already got some hostile responses to the apostles. But we’re gonna have some kind of hostile response that’s gonna result in their martyrdom. And so, he’s saying, you know, God has already clearly forecasted this and said this is what’s happen. The Wisdom of God has said I will send them—this generation—prophets and apostles—that’s New Testament terms there—some of whom they will kill and persecute. Unquote. (8:56)

Verse 50. So that—God says it’s gonna happen in this generation, the first century—”so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation”—wow, that’s heavy—”from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished”—Zechariah did—”between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. Woe”—final woe now in Jesus’ sermon here—”woe to you lawyers!”—you teachers of the law, that is—”for you have taken away the key of knowledge”—there’s an interesting phrase—”You did not enter yourselves”—you didn’t get into it, you really don’t have the knowledge you think you’re seeking—”and you hindered those who are entering.” So you had a bad effect on others. (9:36)

Now, Luke picks up the narrative. “As he went away from there, the scribes—that’s parallel term to the teachers of the law—and the Pharisees began to press him hard, and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.” Which exactly proves what Jesus is saying. You oppose the truth, you’re trying to condemn the messenger of the truth, and we know how this ends. This ends with Jesus on a cross, and they were successful in seeing him crucified. Which, of course, all played into God’s redemptive plan for our salvation, but their intention was, we don’t like this guy, we don’t like what he’s saying, and we’re gonna oppose him and see if we can find something to pin on him so that we can get him out of the way. (10:20)

Lot of negative response to the truth. Nothing new when we share the gospel with a friend, a coworker, a neighbor, a family member, and we get a negative response. Jesus talking all about that right here. What we need to do in just kind of looking through the whole of this text is ask this question: Why do people do that? Let’s put it this that, number one. We need to understand why people get defensive. (10:40)

1. Understand why people get defensive.

They get defensive. Thankfully right now there might not be violence, brutality, and physical attacks on you, although I think that’s coming. Not that I’m a doom and gloomer, but when there’s doom coming… I guess it’s coming. We’ll let you know. Not that I have any inside track, but you read the news it’s not looking good. For now, though, maybe just the hostility, the belittlement, the reviling of your name, all those kinds of things that happen. Why? Why does that happen? (11:07)

I want to start by thinking through the examples he’s enlisted. Let’s start with the end. Zechariah, seems like an interesting character because in this text it says he was, verse 51, he was one who was killed, or he perished, between the altar and the sanctuary. That sounds like something very dramatic, and it is. Let me give you three reasons here. I’ll talk about Zechariah and Abel, and I’ll add a third character. But let’s start with Zechariah, and let’s make this simple observation. When it comes to us—go back to the teacher’s aide example—and we are there to let people know that they’ve got a problem which culminates in that great statement, just to use the book of Romans, in that all have sinned. Well it’s preceded by this. Hey, you Jews think you’re better than the Gentiles, and perhaps you are if you’re gonna be into lateral comparisons, but when it comes down to it I’ve already taught—here’s Paul’s words summarized here for you, in Romans 3—you’re all bound under the Law. (11:59)

Then he starts quoting Old Testament passages. There’s none righteous, no, not one. All of you have gone astray, turned after your own way. There is none that does good. There is none that seeks after God. That’s pretty universal and complete, quote-unquote, failure of mankind to be good. And so, as a teacher’s aide, it’s one thing to go to a student and say, “You know what? I know you think you’re an A student, but you’re not an A student. You’re a B student. You just need to come to grips with that. You’re a B student.” We’re not doing that. Which, by the way, is an increasingly small group of people who can handle that in our generation. But let’s just say that’s a lot easier than saying to the wannabe A student, or the comfortable C student, “Here’s the problem. You’ve failed. It’s an F. Complete failure. You cannot in any way be acceptable before God and pass this test. We’ve got a problem.” (12:47)

Now Zechariah was all about pointing that out. But let me paint the picture for you, and if you want to turn there, 2 Chronicles 24. And just to speak to the Sunday School graduates. If you think of the most evil pair of regal leaders in Israel in the Old Testament, I would think that what would come to your mind would be Ahab and Jezebel. Do you remember them? Smile at me if you remember the evil of that terrible duo of people. Terrible! They have a daughter. Her name is Athaliah. Dust off some of those words in your mind. Oh yeah, I remember some of that. Great. Athaliah has a plan, and her plan is to consolidate some power. She marries, she’s living in the north, the ten tribes in the north, and she has a plan, as the daughter of this terrible pair of leaders in Israel, to marry the king in Judea in the south. She’s got plans of reassembling the thing like, like Solomon had under the united kingdom. So she marries a king of the southern kingdom, and she thinks, oh, that’s fantastic. (13:53)

They have a son. That son, now in the Davidic line, is gonna take the throne. And he does. He takes the throne and he starts to reign, and she’s all happy. But it lasts less than twelve months, because in the first year of her son’s reign in Judah he gets– he gets killed. So he’s dead. He had a lot of sons. Many sons. Her grandchildren. She’s so angry at the fact that her child does not reign on the throne, she decides to execute all the grandchildren. Now you know she’s a chip off the old block, just like her mother Jezebel. She has all of the descendents of David in the royal line killed. Now think about this. At least she thought she did. But there was a sister, there was an aunt, and there was a priest, a chief priest, who said, well, there is one that’s just been born, and we’re gonna hide him. And they hide this little kid, his name is Joash, and he’s taken into the temple where the normal people can’t go and he’s hidden in the temple for, get this, six years. So this little kid who has the legal right to the throne is hidden, named Joash, in the temple, and she reigns uncontested for six years as the terrible, evil Queen Athaliah. She, she consolidates her power. All her grandkids, she thinks, are dead. And there’s one that went in as a one year old, and now he’s seven years old, and the chief priest says it’s time to roll out the legal heir of the kingdom. So. Out he comes. And they say to everyone there is a son a David, there’s one left. Now think about this, the entire line of David from which Christ would come was almost snuffed out, but here’s Joash. He’s seven years old—now of course he’s not going to lead all on his own, but he’s put on the throne And they capture Queen Athaliah, and they want to kill her right there in the temple. And she’s get– she has to be dragged out kicked at–kicking and screaming, but they don’t want to defile the temple with this death, so they take her out, and sure enough she’s executed and assassinated. Joash now the boy king. (15:52)

If you read about the kings of the Old Testament, we got twenty in the south, twenty in the north. The southern kings ruled much longer. And you’re gonna say which ones were the good ones and the bad ones, and commentators and Bible survey people try to put ’em into columns. Well, if you look at the kings of the north? There are no good ones. And most people agree, there’s nobody with even a ray of redeeming value. But in the south you got some that are good kings. I mean you might remember some of the names of the good kings of the south. Asa, Jehoshaphat—these people that you would say, whoa, they did some great things, the reforms of some of these people. Well, you usually find Joash in that list as well. Joash now reigns for forty years. From seven years old to forty-seven years old, and he’s done a lot of good. Now you can imagine. He was saved by the chief priest, and he recognizes his indebtedness. So he turns his attention to the religious leaders and he gives them all kinds of things, including the money of the nation, to refurbish the temple, and to well, you know, endow all the leaders of the religious groups. And so, he’s very popular, he’s concerned with the Word, at least for the most part, and he does good, and he’s listed among the good kings of Judah of the south. (16:59)

Until the end of his reign. 2 Chronicles 24 talks about that. There starts to be a lot of compromise in the kingdom. There were things going on under the watch of Joash that the people were compromising in, and he didn’t seem to care and he looked the other way. Here’s someone everyone looked at and said, “Well, maybe I can see now he’s not an A student, but he certainly, you know, he’s pulling a solid B here.” And yet of course when it comes to God and his word, this is not about being mostly righteous. This is not about, you know, looking at my life and saying I follow God with seventy-five percent of my heart. This is wait a minute. You need to recognize you’re in abandon to God’s grace. You throw yourself on the mercy of God, and you recognize your need to follow him with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. That’s the idea. (17:41)

And of course he wasn’t doing that. So God raises up a prophet named Zechariah. Now there’s twenty-eight people in the Bible, if you go looking for Zechariahs, there’s twenty-eight people in the Bible named Zechariah, so don’t get them confused. Because the one you’re gonna think of is the one that wrote one of the last books of the Old Testament. It’s not the same guy. This is a different guy many years before that. And he is here called up by God, drop down to verse 20. This is 2 Chronicles 24:20, and God endows him. He happens to be of the Levitical tribe, but to be a prophet it didn’t matter which tribe you were from. But he comes from a priestly family. The Spirit of God clothed Zechariah—2 Chronicles 24:20 says—the son of Jehoiada, the priest, who stood above the people. And he stood above the people and he said, “Thus says the Lord”—speaking now to the crowds—”why do you break the commandment of the Lord?” (18:32)

Now here’s someone saying, “Hey. You guys aren’t doing the right thing.” Which, by the way, if you want to take notes this’ll be the first thing we can delineate here. Why is it that people are defensive for the truth? Because they don’t like being told they’re wrong, which is exactly what the prophet does. If there’s sin in your life, we’re telling you that’s wrong. And every time we share the gospel we have to tell people there’s– there’s wrong in your life. It’s not just a problem you inherited from Adam, you compound the problem with your sinful decisions. And no one likes to think of that, particularly when they’re pulling in their own minds a solid B in this thing called morality. (19:04)

So here’s the prophet saying, listen. You are in sin, you are in compromise. Hey everybody, you’re breaking the commandments of the Lord, and you’re not gonna be able to prosper. You can’t live that way. Because you’ve forsaken the Lord. Now they’re gonna say, Wait a minute, I’m not forsaking the Lord, I’m mostly following the Lord. I know there’s this area of this life– area of life I don’t want to turn over to God, the idolatry over here on the hills that we’re, you know, we’re sacrificing to the asherim. We want to do a little bit of that, too. Isn’t that all right? No, it’s not all right. That– that’s a forsaking of the Lord, just like it would be a forsaking of your marriage if you only cheated on your wife, you know, two nights a week. You see what I’m saying? This doesn’t work. Uncomfortable laugh, right? I understand that. But I mean, think about this. You’re either gonna be faithful, or you’re not gonna be faithful. And they were not being faithful to the Lord, they’d forsaken the Lord in this. (19:47)

Verse 21. So they heard the word and said, “Thanks so much for pointing out our problems. I’m so glad that you’re here to set us straight.” No. Here’s the problem. Very unique—or, I’m not—an, an un-unique, very common problem. And that is people are pugnacious. They conspired against him. And by the command of the king—now if you look up at verse 20, Jehoiada the priest, that was the guy responsible for saving Joash’s life. And here he is now, he’s willing to say I don’t like it either, ’cause not only it makes the people look bad, it makes me look bad, and I know I’ve allowed a lot of things I shouldn’t. And so they conspired and the king signed off on it, and they stoned him with stones. Now think about this. They were pulling Athaliah out. They wouldn’t– they wouldn’t kill her in the Temple Mount. That wouldn’t be right. They didn’t care. This is their level of- of spiritual sensitivity to the important things of God and the holiness of God. They stoned him in the court of the house of the Lord. (20:48)

By the end of this paragraph we got Joash now assassinated. He doesn’t live for another year. Syrians invade, exactly what God had said through the prophet Zechariah. You’ve forsaken the Lord, God is gonna forsake you. He’s gonna pull back the blessing and the protection on your life. It’s not going to go well. And they said we don’t like that message, we don’t like being told we’re wrong, an-and so we don’t like you. We’re going to conspire to kill you. We’ll kill you. And they did kill him. Why? Because they didn’t want to hear that they were wrong. See, don’t try to think in your in own life that you can share the biblical gospel with someone, which is good news. There’s a way to pass this test. You don’t have to fail, and you don’t have to suffer the big consequences of your sin. But, you can’t share that message without the bad news of you failed the test. None of us righteous, no not one. We all fall short of the glory of God. (21:39)

Abel. Think about Abel here. It’s interesting that we talk about prophets, and clearly Zechariah was a prophet who spoke with his words about the problems of people’s lives. But Abel, come on. He– he’s not a prophet. Well, he may not have spoken, at least we don’t know about it in Genesis chapter 4, with his words, but the problem of Abel was a problem for Cain because his life was favored by God and accepted by God, and Cain’s was not. Isn’t that exactly what Genesis 4 says? Let me read it for ya. “In the course of time Cain brought the Lord an offering from the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought an offering from the firstborn of his flock. The Lord had regard for Abel’s offering, but for Cain’s offering he had no regard.” Now, some people think, well, maybe that’s because he brought the harvest and we had here the shedding of blood with Abel, and so maybe that’s it. That’s not it at all. There are sacrifices for both. This is long before the Levitical system of sacrifices was established. Here’s two guys sacrificing something to God. There’s something wrong in the heart of Cain, and he’s jealous of his brother. (22:49)

Now listen to the gracious words of God. God says to him, verse 6, “Why are you angry? Why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted?” Repent! God is gracious. I mean, he would send a prophet to Athaliah’s family, to Joash, to someone here who just needs correction and responding with repentance. God is willing to forgive. That’s the God we have. He’s faithful and righteous to forgive your sins. The problem is here, after that gracious offer Cain would have nothing of it. He goes out into the field, he rises up, and he kills his brother Abel. Why? Let’s summarize it this way. Letter B, if you’re taking notes here. Why are people defensive? One, they don’t like being told they’re wrong. Number two, they don’t like thinking you’re right. (23:37)

I put it this way: I don’t like you being right without me. I don’t like the fact that there’s a disparity between God favoring you, and you’re telling me God doesn’t favor me. And I don’t see how you can avoid that in popular culture, how people will attack Christians as holier than thou, and you guys think you’re all that, and you got all of life’s answers figured out. And you know what? Well, we are claiming we’ve got an answer. The answer is Jesus Christ crucified for sinners. It takes our sin, nails its to the cross, and we’re forgiven people. And we want you to be forgiven, but they can’t get past the fact that we’re speaking from this position of we’re favored and you’re not. And that’s a problem for people, and it evokes and elicits hostility, belligerence, personal attacks. I don’t like you being right without me. (24:18)

By the way, does that sound like a familiar theme in the Bible? Absolutely. When God set his favor on Joseph back there in the book of Genesis, his brothers thought, “How great it is to be related to a guy that God favors so much.” Is that what they thought? You’ve seen the play, at least, right? This didn’t go well. Why? Simply because they were jealous. Paul becomes a Christian, preaches the gospel. Things are going well, God is blessing, things are happening, people’s lives are being changed. And it says this in Acts 13. When the Jews saw the crowds they were filled with jealousy, and they began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, and they began to revile him. Personal attacks, attack your message, why? Because we’re jealous. We don’t like you claiming you got a, a, some kind of in with God that we don’t have, even when we’re offering the same exact opportunity. They get angry with that. (25:13)

1 John 3:12-13 comment on this Cain and Abel problem. It says, you know, “We should not be like Cain who was of– who was of the evil one and he murdered his brother.”And why did he murder his brother? “Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s deeds were righteous. Don’t be surprised then, brothers, that the world hates you.” So, we are often surprised that we can’t somehow tailor the message of the gospel and speak it with so much love that people will receive it without hostility. No, many people will respond with a pugnacious attitude toward our message of grace and the gospel. Often because, much like Cain and Abel, there’s a jealousy and an envy that underlies it all, and it motivates people to resist us. (25:57)

As a matter of fact, at the end of our passage, verses 53 and 54 in Luke 11, they go away and they begin to press him to provoke him to say things, and corner him in his teaching, so that they can something to accuse him of. And that’s exactly what happens. And they go to the Roman officials and they say, “We want him crucified.” And even when he stood before Pilate, the Roman official, what does Pilate say? “I see that they’ve delivered him over because of envy.” That’s the problem. At least it’s one of the reasons people get defensive toward Christians. I don’t like you being right without me. (26:31)

I know we could go on to an exc– an extensive and comprehensive study of scripture to see all the reasons in the Bible that people get defensive and pugnacious, and hostile and belligerent when the truth is shared. But Jesus gave us two examples, Zechariah and Abel. But let me add a third, just for the sake of our daily Bible reading. Jeremiah. Have you been reading Jeremiah with us? On Tuesday we read of Jeremiah, in chapter 20, being beaten, physically beaten with- with fists. Why? Why? Because he was not just saying you’ve got a problem, like Zechariah was saying, you’re compromising. But he started to articulate very clearly what was gonna happen to them because of their compromise and sin. The Babylonians are coming. They’re gonna capture the city. I know a lot of people are saying it’s fine, it’s no problem, they’re no threat. I’m telling you. If you don’t repent this is what’s gonna happen. In chapter 19 he makes that very clear, and the religious leaders rise up in chapter 20 and beat him physically with fists. (27:29)

On Thursday we read a passage in Jeremiah 26, where even the editors of the ESV in the title about the translation, say, death threats to Jeremiah. He preaches specifically about the coming invasion of the Babylonians and they say, “We’re gonna kill you.” I mean, it’s a short little verse. Verse number eight, at the end of that. Short little sentence at the end of verse 8, it says, “And all the people laid hands on him saying, ‘You shall die!’ ” (27:56)

And this week on Wednesday you’re gonna read of him being thrown in a dungeon and locked there. In-in-in- on-on Thursday we’ll read about him being thrown into the well. Do you remember that story? Do you remember nothing from- from Jeremiah. He gets thrown down into the muddy, empty well, but it’s still wet and gross. And he gets put down in this thing and they leave him for dead, ’til people start to pull him out with some ropes. He’s called, at least in a lot of our Sunday school lessons, he’s called the Weeping Prophet. What’s wrong with Jeremiah? Well, he has a fragile, emotional state. No. He’s getting pummeled physically with fists. He’s being persecuted. He’s being threatened for his very life. Now how are you gonna feel? Are you gonna shed a few tears? Absolutely. He’s shedding tears though not only because he’s being opposed so viciously and really running for his life in many cases, but because of a heart for the people of God, and he has a heart for Jerusalem. He doesn’t want to see it overthrown by the Babylonians. (28:54)

And that heart, that weeping prophet heart, I really think should lead us. Speaking of Paul, who was once Saul there in the book of Acts, where the people lay down their coats before his feet. We just read that, the idea of Saul being in full agreement with the stoning of Stephen. And when God shows up he says this. It sure is hard for you Saul to kick against the goads. Here’s a guy maybe, who knows, he didn’t like being told he was wrong. He didn’t like hearing the consequences of these new Christians saying if you don’t embrace Christ there’s a problem for you with eternal consequences. Maybe he was jealous. Maybe he had the, a lot of the jealousy in his own heart. Look at these guys advancing, and they’re saying they’re favored and we’re not. Either way, here’s a guy who was tracked down by God and said stop being so hostile, stop fighting us. And when God then enlisted some disciples to be the agents of helping him see the light of the gospel, no pun intended if you know the story of his temporary blindness, the idea of that to them was like, “Oh no, this is the guy who’s breathing threats out against us.” (29:54)

You know, we needed a weeping prophet there in the middle of the book of Acts, to say in chapter 9, “You know what? My heart breaks for a guy like that, and I’m not ready to give up on him yet.” ‘Cause the church had. But God said you know what? We can take hostile people who are belligerent and pugnacious, and we can see them changed. And God can do that. And he had to enlist a guy like Barnabus at the end to put his arm around him and say, Here’s a guy won to Christ. You gotta accept him. He’s no longer the guy he once was. (30:23)

Hard to hear about the consequences. Hard to be told you’re wrong, we’re right. I get all that. And by the way, and I’ve just gotta sidebar this. Some people think if you just say it nice enough. I was flipping channels and I saw that show. I don’t even think it’s on anymore, I don’t know. I’m not a TV hound, but I watched this show about people’s cars that were being impounded. Have you seen that? Smile at me if you’ve seen that show. And they go to the counter there, and they’re all so angry. And they’ve all had one of those boots put on their car and they were towed there to the lot, ’cause it was a parking ticket show, or I don’t know what it was called. But here are people there, and they’ve broken the law. They’ve clearly parked not once, not twice. I mean these people have, I dunno, dozens and dozens of parking violations, and then they get their car towed. And then they go to the impound and they’re trying to get their car out. That conversation never goes well. Have you noticed that? And sometimes you really admire these people behind the bars and glass having to tell them nicely, well, here’s what you need to do. And you need this, you need that, you need proof of insurance, you need this kind of money to get yourself out of there. They go ballistic. I don’t care how nice you say it. There’s just no way for that to go down smoothly. (31:35)

And so for those of you who think if we were just nice enough. These people, they struggle with the gospel ’cause we just don’t say it nicely enough. To be able to say to someone who thinks they’re doing all right in this world before God, “Listen, all your righteousness is as filthy rags before a holy God. You’re failing the test. As a matter of fact, you’ve already failed the test.” And I do think we should say it nicely, with gentleness and respect, and a great deal of love. But we gotta recognize we’re always going to, from this point until we see Christ, we’re gonna have these kind of difficult responses when they’re very unpleasant to the gospel. (32:10)

Now let’s jump into a couple quick sections here in our passage, Luke 11:50 and 51, for our second point this morning. It seems quite odd that Jesus would say such a thing. He says, “The blood of the prophets, all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world may be charged against this generation”—speaking of the first century crowd listening to him preach—”from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah”—that’s kinda poetic isn’t it? A to Z? Well, in Hebrew it doesn’t work that way, although A, that translates alef for Abel is the first letter, but zeta is not the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet so it doesn’t work in that regard. But it does work in the same way, ironically enough, in their minds because in their bibles, though they have all thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, the arrangement of the canonical order of the Bible, the order in which they are in the table of contents, if you will. It starts with Genesis, where you find the story of Abel, and it ends with Chronicles. And that book of Chronicles ends with the martyrdom of Zechariah, the priest who was killed before the, between the altar and the sanctuary. So basically he’s saying what kind of rolls off our tongue in English, A to Z, Abel to Zechariah. In other words, as he clearly says, every single martyred prophet is gonna be held against that generation. “I tell you, yes,”—bottom of verse 51—”it will be required of this generation.” And that should just lead us to a very simple observation. Number two on your outline, that you gotta know this. The more truth, it equals more accountability. (33:40)

2. Know that more truth = More accountability.

The more you have in terms of clarity and truth, the more you’re held responsible for that. Because here’s the thing. When it comes to Joash, when it comes to Queen Athaliah, when it comes to Cain, when it comes to the people in the remaining part of the southern kingdom in Jeremiah’s day. These people had a lot of information about right and wrong, and what they should and shouldn’t do. But it was nothing compared to what that first generation saw when Jesus walked on the scene and did miracles in their– in their towns, and people came forward and did miracles in his name as apostles. And he says, here, believe my message, and they said we don’t want anything to do with it. And they were cynical, and they were incredulous, and they were pugnacious. All those things. They put up their barriers. And he says you’re more accountable. Why? ‘Cause you have more truth. (34:24)

We learn that back in chapter 10, that when it comes to the reality of- of responsibility and liability before God, the more knowledge, the more information, the more biblical exposure, to put it in our terms, the more the responsibility. There a New Testament principle there? Absolutely. Here’s one. James 3:1. “Let not many of you become teachers because you know that we who teach will incur a stricter judgment.” We’re going to be held to a higher standard, those who really know the Bible. And I’ve told you this story before. I remember going back after becoming a Christian to my high school best friend. And I sat there with him as a freshman in college on my Christmas break, and I said, “Hey, man, I’ve become a Christian. You need to be a Christian. You need to understand how important this is.” And I sat there in a car in front of his house sharing for, I dunno, an hour and a half about what he needed to do to get right with the living God. And I’m pulling out all the stops as a young, zealous evangelist here, trying to see my friend won to Christ. And at the very end I said, You know what? Bible’s really clear. Now that you know with clarity the message of the gospel of the risen Christ, you’re going to be more responsible today than you were yesterday because I’ve made it so clear to you. That’s a biblical principle. And I remember him looking at me going, he said, “Thanks a lot,” he said. (35:37)

Now I understand that. But why would I share with such clarity, and zeal and persuasion? Because I cared about him. I wanted to see him saved. But what does that do to me to know that the more my neighbors, coworkers, and friends know about Christ, which I think you could argue even from our perspective it is comparable to the first century ’cause Christ hadn’t even finished his ministry, gone to the cross, fulfilled all those messianic promises of the Old Testament, risen from the dead. I mean, these were things we can point to now. Predictive prophecy, a resurrected Christ historically, and say, you know your neighbor, if he was really honest, could look at the evidence and, I mean, it’s all there before him. And you’re going to bring that to him as a good evangelist and apologist and say, here’s the message. (36:18)

And for me to know that he’s going to be more responsible. I guess it just leaves me hanging in there, to not give up so quickly. To recognize there’s so much at stake. As it says in 2 Corinthians 5, “knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.” We really, really want to do our best to present that information, knowing even though that the more information the more s– the more accountability. (36:40)

I was thinking of people coming by my office and leaving something while they go somewhere else. It’s happened before. Someone’s running down to a meeting or something, and they say, “Oh, can I just leave my book, my commentary, here in your office for a minute?” Oh, sure, there’s no problem. Pick it up later. They leave their book. They come back at the end of the day to get it and I say, “Oh, I don’t know what happened to your book. It’s lost. I dunno. It’s incorporated into my library now. I don’t know where it is. Can’t get your book.” That wouldn’t be good. Be even worse, though, I suppose, if they had like a, a wallet and keys, and they have to run to some other building on campus. And they going by my office and say, “Hey, Pastor Mike, would you mind just putting that in your desk drawer there, my wallet and keys? And I’ll be back to get ’em this afternoon after that meeting’s over.” Oh, no problem. Leave them here. They come back at five o’clock, I go, “I don’t know what happened to that stuff.” (37:22)

But if one of my employees said, “You know what, here. My six month old, I just need you to watch my six month old for the afternoon, ’cause I got a real crisis going on down the street.” And I go, “Oh, no problem.” They come back at five. “I don’t know what happened to your six month old.” It’s one thing to be presented with something like somebody’s commentary. Worse if it’s their keys and their wallet. But to be presented with the Son of God in such clarity, to bring this illustration together, and to have them go, well, I’m not gonna, not gonna deal with that. We just gotta have a sense of to whom much is given—we’ll get this in chapter 12, by the way; chapter 12, verse 48—to whom much is given, much is required. We’re evangelizing people in a day when they have access to the biblical documents in their language. We’re dealing with people, most of them, that are literate an-and educated enough to do the research if they wanted to, to find out that what we’re dealing with is not a book of fables. This is not some kind of mystery book of Nostradamus. This is a book of predictive prophecies rooted in history, provable by anyone who wants to look at it with any fair and objective voice, an-and we have people that are gonna be held responsible for that knowledge. As we learned in chapter 10 of Luke, it’ll be better in the day of judgment for Sodom and Tyre and Sidon, these notoriously evil neighbors in the Old Testament of Israel, than it would be for Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, the towns in which Jesus did his first century ministry. (38:58)

Hastening on, verse 52. His last woe and final statement here is, “Woe to you lawyers!”—you teachers of the law—”You’ve taken away the key of knowledge”—interesting phrase—”You did not enter yourself.” Well you can’t enter if you don’t have they key. They didn’t have the key. They’d just thrown it out. They don’t care about it. And all the people that are there looking to you, and influenced by—Hey, you’ve hindered those who were entering. There were people that wanted to enter but somehow you got in the way of that. Well that’s important. Talk about sharing with a passion and a love for my best friend in high school, and really pulling out all the stops to see him come to Christ. It was ’cause I loved him. And the reason I’m saying things like “you’re more accountable”—I love him. I want to see him come to Christ. One of the things I need to warn people of if I really care, ’cause I want them to recognize this is a huge decision you’re making to reject the truth of the gospel, and if you want to be belligerent and hostile about it I just need to tell you. This is a big deal. I need to warn them of this. Number three. I need to warn them of the infectious nature of rejection. (40:01)

3. Warn of the infectious nature of rejection.

No one rejects the truth in a vacuum. No one says, “I don’t want Christ, I don’t want to see my sin for what it is,” without effecting other people. You can’t help but from time to time watch on the news these riots, where people go rioting in these towns, and these people start looting. And you look at that, and you just—I hope you feel that sense of, just, what is going on here, man. And they’re pulling out TVs and, you know, coffee pots, and oh, whatever. They’re stealing everything they get their hands on. And you think now, all those people walking down that street the day before. I mean, they all coulda been shoplifters, but they’re not until the riot breaks out. Then what happens? Here’s what happens. There’s courage in a crowd. Think about that. There’s courage in a crowd. For me now to look at someone here, and say I’m going to break the law and put myself at risk. Well, that’s one thing if you’re by yourself, or even with three people. But if you got hundreds of people doing the exact same thing—there’s courage in a crowd. (40:57)

And when you reject the gospel and another person to say no to the truth, do you know how that effects other people? It really emboldens people to do the same. You don’t think there’s going to be a kind of cascading responsibility that God calls people to when people reject the truth and it effects other people in their lives? Surely when people know that they live in networks of relationships where one person looks up to another. If I were going out of town, which I’m not, but let’s just say I was going up to Big Bear. And we’re going to pack this afternoon, take a couple days off. And I tell my family, “Let’s pack,” and they start talking about, you know, what they should bring. And I say, you know what? I’m not bringing a jacket. I’m not bringing a sweater. I’m sure my- my wife wouldn’t be dumb enough to believe that. I– she shouldn’t. But my kids might go, “Oh, Dad’s not doing that.” (41:41)

See, if I reject something that is good for me, people are going to reject what’s good for them. There is a, a relationship network that all of us live in, and someone looks up to everyone. And there’s gonna be influence. There’s gonna be an effect, not to mention the rationale that comes with breaking the rules. If I told my daughter after church as we drive to go get some lunch, “Hey give me some of the Fall Fest candy. I want to have some of that.” And she goes, “Oh, I don’t think we should be eating candy before lunch. You know what Mom thinks.” And I said, “You know what? I’m gonna have some candy before lunch. A whole fistful of it.” And I’m gonna do that, and she’d look at me aghast. And you know what I just naturally want to do? Justify. Rationalize. Here’s why I’m doing it. Here’s the reasons. I immediately start to do something that even begs an interest of other people to do the same, and when they do it I applaud them. This is Romans chapter 1. Not only do people—this is Romans 1:32—not only do people do things against the righteous decrees of God. They know they’re breaking the righteous decrees. And they know that those things really, in their conscience, they know it deserves punishing, but they not only do them but they give hearty approval to those who do the same. (43:04)

My buddy who rejected the gospel in high school, who sat there with his newly converted best friend from high school trying to share the gos—you don’t think there was conversation with our other circle of old friends to try and say why he didn’t response to the gospel, that helps to embolden those people with reasons, and giving them hearty approval for not doing the same thing that he didn’t do? Of course. That’s how it happens. There’s an infectious nature to rejection when you reject the truth, and we need to tell people that. We need to warn them of that, lovingly, graciously, speaking the truth in love, but knowing you don’t make these decisions in a vacuum. ( 43:43)

Now one last observation, middle of verse 52. If says you’ve taken away the key of knowledge. That’s an interesting way to put it. The key of knowledge. And I don’t want to be reductionistic, or be over-simplistic in this. But I don’t think you can be first century Jew, and again, the context. He’s talking to a whole generation. He’s made that clear in verse 51. But he’s speaking specifically, and most recently in the context, to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and the scribes. And he says here, “the key of knowledge.” And in their mind would they not think of what is clearly said in the scripture, to be the key to knowledge in the Old Testament? (44:21)

If you know the book of Proverbs you know exactly what that is. Blank is the beginning of wisdom. They hated knowledge and they did not choose blank. Understand blank and find the knowledge of God. There’s just three verses. Proverbs 1:7, let me read them in totality. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Proverbs 1:29: “They hated knowledge and therefore they did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Proverbs 2:5: “Understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Biblical knowledge, really the key to that is a great summation of all the reasons that they do not willingly respond to the message of Christ. They do not fear God. They don’t fear God. (45:01)

And all those issues of repentance and contrition, and looking at my sin and realizing I don’t pass the test. They just cannot see God the way he’s presented in the Bible. And therefore, the God that they’re not willing to make peace with is a God that they don’t actually even really fear. They’ve tossed that out. They’ve got some other flavor of- of Judaism at this point in the first century, so your whole message of repentance and sin, and the problems of- in- in my life, and needing, you know, righteousness that’s alien to me— mah. They’re not in that spot. (45:33)

I only bring that up because it is a great literary transition that Luke gives us into the twelfth chapter of Luke. You saw the advertising in the bulletin this week about our next series? I don’t know even know how many parts we broke it down into. I say “we,” me and the mouse in my pocket, I guess, I don’t know. It was me. In Luke chapter 12, what is it? Ten, or twelve or eleven, something like that? Eleven, thank you. It’s all about the fear of God. The fear of God and all the other fears. There’s one fear that we should have of the living God that should lead us to peace with God that will vanquish all the other fears. And this is a great transition to it, because you could summarize a lot of the problem with these people who put up barriers to the message of the truth because in their heart they got the wrong view of God. And because of their wrong view of God, they don’t carry that in a vacuum. It effects other people like a contagion that’s run amok in some country. And the blind start leading the blind. (46:34)

Hey, Christians, when you get to New Jerusalem—I’m assuming that it will take you a while, and I include myself in that. I don’t know how many years it will take me to finally get to talk face to face with Jeremiah, or the prophet Zechariah. Or of, man, how long will it take to talk to Abel. And as you see these people that are highly esteemed in the kingdom of God. I mean there will be variations of greatness. You know that. Jesus, when they wanted to be great in the kingdom, he didn’t say, “Oh we don’t do that. We’re communists in heaven.” He didn’t say that. He said you want to be great? There’s a way to get there. You better see yourself as a servant. You better really recognize the greatness that you see in me is found in the fact that I’m willing to give my life as a ransom for many. And when you get around to talking to, I don’t know how long it’ll take you or I to get there, but when you talk to Jeremiah, or you talk to Zechariah, or you talk to Abel, just recognize that their greatness, and their high demand to have lunch with in the kingdom, was based on the fact that they were willing to speak the truth without compromise. Did they speak it with love? So much love that- that, Jeremiah was weeping over the truth. But they became great in part because of what they suffered to speak that truth without compromise. And when you look at your life, and you’re always looking at your life the way I look at mine, and that is let’s minimize the pain and let’s maximize the good times. And, you say I don’t want pain, and you know, when I talk to people about Christ it gets really painful when I talk about sin and hell and all that, so maybe we can leave that all out. There’s entire church movements based on that strategy. But you’ve gotta recognize that Jesus addressed that many chapters ago when we were looking at it in Luke 6. He says, you know when people hate you. When the exclude you. When they revile you. When they spurn your name as evil. When they say all kinds of terrible things about you. In that day rejoice and leap for joy. You want to see how impossible this is? Leap for joy! Why? Because in that day you’ll know your reward is great in heaven. Your stock in heaven’s going way up. Why? Because you know the people that are doing that to you, their fathers did the same to the prophets. I’d like to be a messenger of the truth in my generation. I’d like to be part of a church that’s the pillar and foundation not of some modified, anemic form of the gospel but the truth. I’d like to have in my generation that calling lived out where I, I give an open presentation of the truth. I’d certainly like to be careful to always speak the truth in love. But I want to make sure it’s all about the truth. (49:16)

I look at passages like this and I say, wow, this is a stern rebuke from Christ to people that just couldn’t handle embracing the truth for what it is. Another hard passage to preach this morning, and the woes from Christ. But what a safeguard it will be, and really, it’s the ingredients to kingdom greatness, to say recognize what we’re up against, anticipate it, know it’s coming. Be gracious, be gentle, be kind, shed some tears but never compromise the truth of the gospel. Let’s pray. (49:46)

God, help us in our day to see the challenge that lies before us in a generation that’s been in the past relatively mild in their opposition to us. But it’s ramping up everyday. You cannot read the news feeds without seeing that we are going to be facing a kind of belligerence from our culture, our neighbors, the elite, the movie stars, the professors on college campuses, the folks that pass themselves off as the smart, and brilliant, and scholarly among us. We are going to be systematically marginalized in our day. And while that makes most of us who value pleasure and despise pain mourn, and makes us really sullen and frustrated, you told us when that happens we should rejoice and even leap for joy. Because we know that we’re standing with a long line of faithful messengers of the gospel, the truth. I can say that even about Old Testament prophets. They spoke the gospel truth, the good news is, just like it was spoken, God, from your own mouth to Cain that day. If you just do well, would you not be received? See your sin for what it is. Repent of it, and God will make it right. Thank you so much, God, that we hold out the words of life, that if people would confess their sins that you are faithful and righteous to forgive and cleanse them from all unrighteousness. God, I know that may be tough, but may we keep speaking the truth in love, recognizing even with tears that we were once there, hostile in our own thinking, perhaps even breathing out threats against those who spoke the truth to us. Let us have the hope that the Sauls in our lives that do that kind of thing will one day, many of them, become Pauls. And that may be an overstatement. It may not be many. But God, let it be enough to give us that great sense of motivation to keep up speaking the truth. That if you have those that are picked out and named by your own Spirit to be your people, and you are going to turn hostile people into people that sit with us singing songs to the Redeemer. So God, give us that great, biblical optimism to keep going, and a willingness to bear the scorn of Christ himself, not being ever surprised that there are those that respond negatively to the truth of the gospel. God, we commit ourselves to you as your servants. We pray you’d protect us, that you’d give us a hardened sense of just a steely resolve to be the people you want us to be in this world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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