Sunday, August 05, 2012

Luke 12:1-12 - The Right Kind of Fear

Does it bother you what others think about you? About how you dress? What you say? How you conduct yourself? Are you scared to do certain things (or not to do other things) because of what someone will think about it? That is called the fear of man. That is not a good kind of fear.

The right kind of fear is a fear of God, of what He thinks, of what He commands, of what He expects. This sermon from Luke 12:1-12 is about the right kind of faith.

Key Truth: Luke wrote Luke 12:1-12 to teach believers that the right kind of fear is the fear of God, not fear of other people.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the fear of God.
Pray and Read:  Luke 12:1-12
Sermon Points:
1.   The right kind of fear is for God, not men (Luke 12:1-7)
2.   The right kind of allegiance is to Jesus, not men (Luke 12:8-12)

Contextual Notes:
Since the beginning of his Gospel, Luke has focused on the importance of walking in faith and not in unbelief. Luke’s Gospel makes a major shift at Luke 9:51 where Jesus leaves his Galilean ministry and turns resolutely toward Jerusalem and His coming Suffering, Death, and Resurrection. Luke’s message of trusting Christ sharpens, and his warning against unbelief hones in on the very religious yet unbelieving Jewish leadership. 
Luke shows us that new resolute focus in chapters 10 and 11, calling us to realign our own priorities to those of our resolute Lord. Through Jesus’ sending out the Seventy, we see the priority of His Gospel (Luke 10:1-24). In the Parable of the Good Samaritan we see the high priority of our love for others (Luke 10:25-37). In the story of Mary and Martha, Luke teaches the priority of His Presence (Luke 10:38-42) walked out in Luke 11:1-13 in a calling to a higher priority of prayer in our lives. Through Jesus’ teaching on unclean spirits, Luke points us to the priority of Jesus’ authority in our lives (Luke 11:14-28). Thus, Luke calls us to a high priority on repentance (Luke 11:29-36).
Last week, Jesus pointed us to the wrong kind of religion – dead religion that is devoid of relationship with Him (Luke 11:37-54). Today, Luke points us to the right kind of fear (Luke 12:1-12). The following passages in chapter 12 point us to the wrong kind of focus (Luke 12:13-21), the wrong kind of fear (Luke 12:22-34), and the right kind of focus (Luke 12:35-59).Then the beginning of chapter 13 completes Luke’s outline calling us to the right kind of religion, one of repentance and grace (Luke 13:1-19). .[1]
Luke 10:1-24              The Priority of His Gospel
Luke 10:25-37            The Priority of Your Love
Luke 10:38-42            The Priority of His Presence
Luke 11:1-13              The Priority of Your Prayer
Luke 11:14-28            The Priority of His Authority
Luke 11:29-36            The Priority of Your Repentance

Luke 11:37-54            The Wrong Kind of Religion
Luke 12:1-12              The Right Kind of Fear
Luke 12:13-21            The Wrong Kind of Focus
Luke 12:22-34            The Wrong Kind of Fear
Luke 12:35-59            The Right Kind of Focus
Luke 13:1-9                The Right Kind of Religion
Sermon Points:
1.   The right kind of fear is for God, not men (Luke 12:1-7)
2.   The right kind of allegiance is to Jesus, not men (Luke 12:8-12)

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   In chapter 11, Jesus confronted the religious leaders, saying that dead religion is self-centered and defiling (Luke 11:37-44), and that it hates the Word and its proclamation (Luke 11:45-54). Despite arousing the entrapping ire of the religious leadership (Luke 11:53-54), Jesus continues with ever larger crowds (Luke 12:1). He knows that they will attack any who stand with him. So in the midst of the large gathering crowd, Jesus warns his disciples about them. He says that the only way to be free of dead religion and hypocrisy is to have the right kind of fear – fear of God and not man. They should acknowledge Jesus publicly and not fear the authorities.
b.   Luke 12:1 – The example of hypocrisy: The word mans play-acting. Here Jesus pinpoints the cause. The play actor is fearful of what other people think and desperate to look good to them. The yeast of the Pharisees: Yeast was a symbol in Judaism of the permeating power of sin (1 Cor. 5:6). The background is the Passover command to the Jews to remove all yeast from their homes and not eat unleavened bread for seven days (Exod 12:14-20).  APPLICATION: If you really care about what God thinks of you, you won’t be caught in the trap of pretending to live up to others’ expectations.
c.   Luke 12:2-3 – The exposure of hypocrisy: At the judgment, all hypocrisy will be revealed! Nothing concealed that will not be disclosed. Jesus is talking about eschatological judgment. Since God sees and knows all things, every human deed will be judged by Him righteously (Prov 15:3). APPLICATION: So if you are living a double life now, be sure it will be revealed one day.
d.   Luke 12:4-5 – True fear: Don’t fear people. They can only kill the body. Do fear God. God is to be respected and revered and constantly obeyed.  He can destroy both body and soul! Friends: This the only place in the first three gospels where Jesus calls his disciples friends (John 15:14f). Throw you into gehenna: Gehenna (meaning the valley of the sons of Hinnom) is a ravine running along the southwest walls of Jerusalem. The valley became notorious as a place where the children of Judah were offered as burn sacrifices to the god Baal Molech (Jer. 7:31-32). Later it was used as a place to burn rubbish (Jer 19:2, 10-13). The fire and stench of the ancient landfill became a vivid metaphor for the place of the wicked’s punishment. God’s judgment is associated with fire in the OT (Deut 32:22).
e.   Luke 12:6-7 – God’s Care. The Judge to be feared is also a Father to be trusted. You can trust God because He cares even for sparrows, the least of His creatures. The sparrow was one of the least expensive things sold in the market (Matt 10:29)[2] and may have been eaten by the extremely poor. If God remembers these “worthless birds,” how much more will He care for you the greatest of His creatures? The very hairs of your head are all numbered (1 Sam 14:45; 2 Sam 14:11; 1 Kings 1:52).
f.    APPLICATION: Brothers and sisters, there is a Judge, but the Judge is one of mercy and grace. He has a standard, and He will hold to his standard, but He measures with mercy and grace. If God knows such insignificant details, how much more does he care for the important things in your life. It is time to do away with hypocrisy and be obedient to your Lord in your work, in your classes, with your family.
a.   Luke 12:8-9 – Acknowledge him before the angels: The image Jesus gives is of the Throne Room of God on Judgment Day (Dan 7:7-14) with angelic attendants (Isaiah 6:1-4; Rev 4:6-11). Jesus is both intercessor (priest/advocate/defense attorney) and prosecutor before the heavenly courts. If we confess him now, He will confess us before His Father, and the converse is also true.  

APPLICATION: Loyalty to God can never remain for you an abstract idea. Acknowledge the Son and be acknowledged by Him before the Father. This is why we give an invitation and ask you to walk to the altar. Putting your body into motion to give concrete action to the commitment in your heart is so important. I will give you an invitation at the  end of this service, and if the Lord is dealing with your heart, you need to respond.
b.   Luke 12:10 – Blasphemy against the Spirit: Before we go any further we must deal with this issue. This verse has been the subject of much confusion as the “unpardonable sin.” Why is it that speaking against Jesus is forgivable but blaspheming the Holy Spirit is not? Nonbelievers may say something against the Son of Man without incurring God’s wrath because they are unaware of what they are doing (Acts 3:17; Luke 23:34), since the Holy Spirit has not revealed to them the significance of Jesus and their sin to them. Yes, God’s love and kindness have been revealed to every person (Titus 2:11; Rom 1:19-20), and the Bible gives witness to God’s way of making people right with him (Rom 3:21-22; Luke 24:27, 44-47). 
APPLICATION: Luke emphasizes the person and work of the Holy Spirit, and if a person through unbelief willfully rejects the Holy Spirit’s leading toward salvation in Jesus, then he blasphemes the Holy Spirit. Only when a person understands the Gospel in his heart yet still rejects it is he blaspheming the Holy Spirit and risking eternal punishment (Heb 6:4-6). 
c.   Jesus’ comment here appears to be the final rejection of the Spirit’s revelation through Jesus, resulting in the certainty of judgment. The Holy Spirit provides the authenticating evidence of the truth. It is turning to the darkness in the face of the greatest light. Matthew and Mark place Jesus’ comment in the Beelzebub controversy (Matt 12:31f; Mark 3:28f). The OT does not mention blasphemy of the Spirit, but it does mention Israel’s rebellion against and grieving the Spirit of God in the desert (Psalm 106:32-33; Isaiah 63:10). Luke is showing that disowning the Lord Jesus does not mean one is merely speaking against Him but actually fighting against the Holy Spirit while He is holding the truth about Jesus in front of you.
d.   APPLICATION: No one hearing or reading Luke’s Gospel can reasonably excuse himself by saying, “The Holy Spirit has not enlightened me,” for He may be doing that right now. It is your responsibility to be open to the working of God’s Spirit and to check the Scriptures to see if these things are true (Acts 17:11). So is there an unpardonable sin? Yes there is. What is it? It is rejecting the leadership of the Holy Spirit to submit oneself to Jesus Christ as Lord. It is rejection of the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The unpardonable sin is rejecting Jesus as Lord (John 3:16).
e.   Luke 12:10-12 – Jesus promises that in persecution they will be sustained and empowered by the Holy Spirit Himself (Matt 10:19-20; Mark 13:11; Luke 21:14-15). Luke will show in Acts many instances of this promise fulfilled. Synagogues, rulers, and authorities: Early Jewish Christians stood trial and were sentenced in the synagogue as a form of discipline (cf. Acts 4:1-22; 5:17-42; 6:12-15). The rulers and authorities probably refers to Roman and local authorities (Luke 21:12). APPLICATION: Depend on the Spirit and be defended by Him before people.

F.F. Bruce, gen. ed. The International Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 1208.
Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993), 623-4.
Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993), 222-3.
Dwight J. Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), 312-3.
Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion (Wheaton: Victor, 1991), 663.
David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996), .
Strauss, Mark. “Luke.” Vol. 1. Clinton E. Arnold, gen. ed. Zondervan Illustratied Bible Backgrounds Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 1:426-7.
Wilmington, Harold L. The Outline Bible (Nashville: Tyndale House, 199), 538-9.

[1] Luke 11:14-17:11 is called the Perean Discourses, during a time of ministry in Perea just east of the Jordan from about Sept A.D. 28 to April A.D. 29 when he returned to Jerusalem for his final week of ministry. Perhaps because it was winter, Luke records more teaching than activities of Jesus. Luke is the only record of these days and teachings with the exception of Matt 12:22-45 and John 10:22-42; 11:1-54. Like the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee (Luke 6:20-49), this period of ministry nearer Jerusalem was marked with much teaching and many parables. In the Perean Discourses, Jesus resumes, repeats, and reinforces with more fullness some of his Galilean teaching.
[2] The assarion was a Roman copper coin worth 1/16 of a denarius (Luke 7:41).