Living Up to Our Privilege

Obedience, Faithfulness

It seems that regularly we hear disturbing reports about the lifestyles of politicians, executives, celebrities, athletes and even Pastors. These are people who have been given great blessings and privileges but have chosen to use their power to pander to sin.

This morning we turn to a brief passage in Luke 8 where Jesus calls us to live up to the privilege (and responsibility) that has been given those who follow Him. He does this by telling us to let our light shine and to show that we are truly His family by the way we live our lives.

The Nature of Light

Jesus begins,

16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.(v. 16-17)

This is a simple statement. It makes no sense to light a lamp if you are going to cover it up. Light enables us to see in the darkness. It reveals obstacles and helps us to navigate our way around or through those obstacles. The light cannot do these things if in a nighttime power outage you turn it on and then put it in a drawer.

The New Testament uses this image of light in a few different ways.

  • In reference to Jesus. In John 8:12 Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.” In John 1 Jesus is called the Light several times. Jesus helps us see the world, God, and our condition clearly.
  • In reference to the Word of God, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet” (Psalm 119:5) If you will, the Bible functions as our headlights for the journey of life.
  • In reference to believers “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14, 1 Thess. 5:5). Believers reflect the light of Christ much like the moon reflects the light of the Sun.
  • In reference to the gospel message. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2) When we are going through a trial and hope begins to renew we may talk about seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. For sinful people the gospel is that light.

I don’t know if Jesus had one or all of these uses of light in mind but His point is clear, if we are a follower of Christ, we should stand up and let the light of God’s love shine brightly through us. There is no reason to be ashamed or bashful about the gospel. It is good news and it is light for those who walk in darkness!

So, this begs the question, Why are we so prone to hide our light? I can think of several reasons.

  • Because we don’t want the light to expose what is hidden in our own lives. We sometimes act like if we don’t see something then it isn’t really there.
  • We may hide the light because we don’t want to be bothered. Sadly, sometimes we just don’t care enough about other people to get involved.
  • Sometimes are afraid of possible negative consequences. We don’t want to face ridicule from friends as they call us a “religious freak”. We don’t want to face a censure from an employer who tells us that matters of belief should be kept out of the workplace. We may not want to risk the ridicule of a teacher who does not believe. Jesus said pretty clearly, “If we are not willing to acknowledge Him before men, He will not acknowledge us in Heaven!!!” (Luke 12:8)

Jesus follows this with, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” (17) Jesus is saying, “The truth will be known. It can be known now while we can do something about it or it will be made known on the Day of Judgment when it will be too late to do anything.

Because of this we should,

Consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” [18]

Jesus says if we listen carefully (there is a difference between hearing and listening) we will continue to grow. If we pay attention to Him we will increase in understanding and become more faithful in our discipleship. However, if we do not pay attention and get lazy we will lose what we already have.

This is not a threat; it is a fact of life. Those who persist in exercising their muscles will see their muscles grow in size and strength. However if you slack off exercise for any length of time you will lose your tone, strength and endurance.

I wonder how many of you took music lessons when you were younger. Maybe you took piano lessons for years when you were a child. You may even have gotten to the point where you were competent. However, the sad truth is that a good percentage of us can barely plunk out the melody line of a song now. Why? Because we stopped practicing! It is a principle of life that we are never standing still. We are always either progressing or regressing.

This is also true in our spiritual lives. We are never standing still. People don’t usually suddenly fall into sin. Most of the time, their faith has eroded slowly. Before long they are deep into sinful practices and they often will say, “I don’t know how I got into such a mess”?

Anyone who has a wood fireplace knows that the fire must be attended. Wood must be added and the embers need to be stirred. If you start the fire and then forget about it the fire will give increasingly less heat and will eventually go out. Jesus reminds us that our faith is like a fire that must be tended.

So here is the question: Is your light shining or is it becoming faded? Are you remaining diligent in your faith? Are you listening carefully? Are you continuing to grow in your knowledge of God? Are you making progress in overcoming sin in your life? Are you growing stronger as a believer or weaker?

The Blessing of Obedience

In the midst of the passage there is an interruption.

19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

We don’t know why the mother and brothers of Jesus came to see Him. The Gospel of John (John 7:5) tells us that the siblings of Jesus did not believe in him. In Mark 3:21 we are told of a time when the brothers of Jesus considered him to be crazy and tried to take Him away from the crowds (I suppose to protect Him).

Jesus used this interruption as a “teachable moment”. He uses this moment to drive home the point about what it means to be His follower. He states that his true brothers and sisters are those who obeyed His instruction . . . those who put their trust in Him.

This may sound like a mean thing to say at first. It seems like Jesus is slamming His own family. Jesus really isn’t making a statement about His family. He is teaching us about what it means to be part of His family. Perhaps after making this statement Jesus went out and talked to his mom and brothers.

A Word About Priorities Jesus does want to make a point. It is hard for us to hear. He wants us to understand that our relationship to Him should be more significant than any other relationship in our lives. This theme is repeated several times in Luke.

In Luke 14:26 Jesus said,

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.

In Luke 9 we are told,

59 He [Jesus] said to another man, “Follow me.”

But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” [59-62]

Don’t misunderstand what Jesus is saying! He is not saying we should not care for our families so we can spend all of our time at the church. He is warning that our family can hinder our relationship with the Lord. This is important to hear because we are living at a time when Christian people feel quite spiritual when they declare that they cannot serve the Lord because they must “put their family first”.

This sounds noble, but it is actually idolatry! When we put our family before obedience to the Lord we place our family in the place of God! We are giving them our ultimate allegiance. But let’s be fair. Jesus uses the illustration of families but we can just as easily make our jobs, our hobbies, our status, our appearance, and even our earthly goals into idols. When our chief passion in life is for something other than to honor the Lord . . . that something becomes the controlling factor in our life; it becomes an idol! Tim Keller in his convicting book COUNTERFEIT GODS writes,

A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought. It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving “face” and social standing. It can be a romantic relationship, peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brains, a great political or social cause, your morality and virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry. . . We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes…God was saying that the human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things.1

If we thought about it we could all easily identify the idols of our lives. Who is it that when they speak and make a request you immediately respond? What activity will always get first priority in your plans (causing you to cancel other things)? What is it that will get you to spend money without giving it a serious thought? The answer to these questions will most likely point you toward the thing that is the idol of your life. Look at these things and ask yourself, “Why does this have such a strong influence on me?”

What Jesus wants us to see is that God deserves and desires that place of influence in our lives. He wants us to be so passionate about Him that we will follow Him whenever and wherever He leads. I’m guessing that most of us still have a number of idols to get rid of in our lives. But the challenge is to be working in that direction.

Jesus points the way: The people who are truly God’s family are those who hear and obey. Last week we emphasized that a person is not a child of God simply because they say a prayer, walk an aisle, have an experience, or get baptized. These things are all significant, but they are only the first step. We become a child of God by truly trusting Christ. If we are really putting our trust in Him we will do what He says.

Some of you have had the experience of having to call a computer technical support line. Usually the support person will want you to be seated at your computer. He/she will ask you to check, change and sometimes even delete things on your computer which quite frankly you don’t understand. In fact, if you are like me you would be reluctant to change some of those things on your own. Yet because this person we do not know tells us to do this we, we obey. Why? It is because we trust and submit to the perceived wisdom and authority of the person on the other end of a tech support line when it comes to our computer.

How much more should we trust the One who created the world; the One who alone is Holy; the One who knows us better than we know ourselves; the One who promised to guide us into all truth, when it comes to life? Certainly, if we grasp the nature of God and the authority of His Word even a little, we will be willing to do what He says— even when we don’t understand why He is telling us to do such things.

Is our Lord asking too much? I don’t think so. A person who enlists as a full time soldier is expected to follow orders. A student is expected to be in school. An athlete is expected to be at practice. The employee is expected to show up at work and do their job. The business owner is expected to produce a quality product. Anything we do comes with expectations. Jesus says if we are going to call Him Lord, we should be willing to trust His leadership. Those who trust Him in their living are those who are truly His family.

APPLICATIONS

This passage leaves us with some implications. First, we are confronted with a choice: Will we become members of His Family? Being a part of His family is about more than simply being a member of a church. It is about being fully dependent on Jesus for forgiveness, for direction, and for life. It is a bigger commitment than enlisting in the military and should be entered into thoughtfully.

I encourage you to enter into that commitment today. Jesus promises that everyone who comes to Him He will receive. Those He receives will be forgiven. Those who are forgiven will be given the Holy Spirit. Those who have the Holy Spirit will be led to new and abundant life. Jesus invites you to be part of His family. In the quiet of your heart you can enter into that relationship right now.

Becoming a part of his family involves giving up all hope of saving yourself. It involves trusting His judgment over your own. It involves resting in His wisdom rather than your strength. It involves trusting Him enough to do what He says. It sounds hard but it is a wonderful, incredible and life-changing opportunity. I encourage you to respond to His invitation today.

There is also a second question Where does God want your light to shine?

  • Is there a family member who needs to see your example?
  • Is there a co-worker who needs to know about Jesus?
  • Is there a friend who needs to know “what has happened to you?”
  • Do you need the light to shine in your private times and your thought life?

Ask yourself: What is the consequence of hiding our light in these situations? Is the Lord being dishonored? Is someone who is lost being deprived of the information they need to find new life in Christ? Is someone drawing the wrong conclusion about what it means to be a follower of Christ? Will they conclude that it is just a matter of going to church now and then?

Look for ways to let your light shine this week. Look for opportunities to show His love. Take advantage of opportunities to share our faith. Dare to reveal Him by your practical obedience.

  • God commands us to forgive those who hurt us, if you are harboring a grudge demonstrate your trust by letting it go.
  • Is God’s Spirit nudging you to begin or enter into some kind of ministry? Instead of making excuses take a step of faith and begin.
  • Does the Bible tell you to turn from some behavior? Instead of telling yourself “you can’t” trust the fact that in God’s strength you can do what is right.
  • Is God calling you to speak up in a hostile environment? Pray for strength and open your mouth in the confidence that He will give you the right words.
  • Is God calling you to make a bold financial investment in His work? Dare to honor Him by writing that check.
  • Is He challenging you to deepen your commitment to your spouse – even though he or she doesn’t deserve it? Show your trust in God’s plan for marriage by digging deeper.
  • Is He calling you to trust Him even in the midst of very trying times? Show that you are confident of His sovereign wisdom and power by continuing to rejoice and move forward confident that God’s plan is the one that is best for you.
  • Is He calling you to re-align your priorities? Then make the tough decisions with your calendar and your time. Follow boldly.

One more Question: Are you getting stronger or weaker in your faith? If we are not growing stronger, we are growing weaker. There is no such thing as static Christianity. Following Christ is kind of like marriage. At the beginning of our marriage we are filled with enthusiasm and hope. We love spending time together. If you are at that stage in your relationship with Christ then bless you! We need your enthusiasm. Beware of those who seek to put out your fire.

As marriage moves along the novelty wears off. At this point people often become distracted by job and family demands. You still love each other but if you are not careful you can begin to drift apart. You start giving your best to others and neglect your mate. Bad things can happen. The only way to combat this is to keep working at your relationship by making time for each other, be committed to growing in your understanding of each other, by looking for ways to build each other up, and by passionately pursing a love that is deeper and richer than the superficial love trumpeted by the world.

It is the same way in our relationship with Christ. That early zeal can wear off and we can easily become distracted by good things. But our passion for Christ will grow cold. We must continue to work at our faith! We must continue to pursue a deep relationship with our Father in Heaven. We must guard ourselves from that seductive sin of idolatry.

There is much at stake. If ever we needed Christians to shine brightly it is now. People need to see the love and power of Jesus Christ in the lives of those who are willing to follow Him boldly. They need the message of hope that we have in Christ.

We need to live up the privilege that is ours as children of the King. We dare not squander our opportunity. We stand as lighthouses in a dark and treacherous world. We aren’t meant to serve simply as decorations that stand on the shore. We serve a practical purpose. We continue to shine brightly because we never know when our light might be the one that keeps someone else from disaster.

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Scripture:

Luke 8:16-21