A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on January 31, 2010 by Pastor Dale Raether Don’t Treat God’s Word Lightly Luke 4:20-32What’s your most impossible situation?  We all have a few now and then.  We’re going along pretty well, and wham – we get hit with a medical or financial problem, for which there seems no way out.  In time God does work it out, and after we’ve gone through a few episodes, we gradually learn not to fear, but to trust.   If we can learn this lesson when it comes to earthly challenges, what about spiritual challenges?  In our text this morning, Jesus’ friends, cousins and neighbors had rejected His Word.  Can you imagine what that felt like for Jesus?  It hurts when people we care about refuse what God is offering.  In fact it can hurt so much that we too may start to question if God’s Word is powerful to save, and then be tempted to back off from it both in hearing it and sharing it.   I don’t know if a loved one straying from the Word is the greatest test of faith there is, but it’s right up there.  This morning Jesus leads us through it and pleads with us: Don’t Treat God’s Word Lightly.  1.  It’s the only way by which God works faith.  2.  It’s the Word of the Almighty.  Our text begins with the last verse of last week’s message, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  Jesus had just identified Himself as the Messiah, and the bringer of forgiveness, freedom from death and Satan, and restoration of all of God’s blessings.  With such great news, you’d expect the people to react with joy.  They didn’t.  We read, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips."Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked – Luke 4:22.”  The people weren’t complimenting Jesus for His message.  They were only complimenting Him for his delivery, and then basically asked, “Who does this guy think he is?”    I want you to see the unbelief Jesus was seeing.  I mean how can you be listening to the one thing that can save your soul from hell, and then only care about the style of the speaker?  This type of thing still goes on today.  For example, let’s say a mom is putting her teenage son’s clothes away and stumbles onto some drug paraphernalia.  She confronts him with it.  But he comes back at her with a laundry list of her failings and that she had no right to go through his stuff.  That teen is missing the point.  The point is drugs will mess up his life, but he doesn’t want to hear that, and that’s why he attacks his mom’s authority.Now, this mom being attacked doesn’t change who she is.  She’s still the mom, and that’s what God has called her to be for her teen.  So also in our text, Jesus’ friends and neighbors rejecting Him didn’t change who He is.  He is still the Lord’s Messiah.  So let’s read on in our text to see how Jesus handles their rejection.  “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum’ – Luke 4:23.”   Here Jesus is going right to the heart of why they were rejecting His Word.  They thought as the Messiah Jesus should immediately fix all their financial and health problems for them.  In other words materialism was their god; it was their drug, so to speak, to get them through life.  Jesus would refuse to give them what they wanted otherwise He would be feeding their habit, which is something a true friend can’t do.  Anyway, because Jesus refused to make them happy on their terms, they concluded that His word, no matter how well spoken, must be false.  People today still do that.  They see Christians talking about being blessed and yet are sometimes very poor, like the believers we hear about in Haiti.  Christians also get sick and die like everyone else.  And so some conclude, “Why should we believe God’s Word?”  In our text Jesus gave His friends and relatives two examples of why they should.  We read, "I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27And there were many in Israel with leprosy[a] in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian."  In both these examples, the Old Testament people of Israel had rejected the Lord and chosen the idolatry of living for this life.  God then took His Word away from them and gave it to Gentiles – in this case a Phoenician widow and a Syrian army general named Naaman.  However, God not only gave these two faith through the Word, He also gave them the financial help and healing that the people of Israel were craving.  God’s purpose, according to the Book of Romans, was to make the Children of Israel jealous, so that as they would want to have faith too.  At the same time, God was also showing them that there was no way they could make themselves have faith, because they were too angry at God for not blessing them as He did these Gentiles.  So, then, how could they get past their anger and start believing?  They couldn’t.  No one believes the Word by human intellect or choosing.  Rather faith is purely God’s working in us by His grace, by His undeserved love, through His Word, which is why we should never take God’s Word lightly.  So, maybe there are things we don’t get like why God let’s some people suffer.  Or, maybe we’re reading along and come across something that just seems too harsh for us.  Well, keep praying about it, keep meditating on it, because God’s Word is His way for giving us and keeping us in faith.  But what happens if a person refuses to as did Jesus’ friends and relatives.  We read on, “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.  They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.  But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way – Luke 4:28-30.”  The more Jesus make it clear to them that faith does not come by getting the things they wanted to have, the angrier Jesus’ friends became.  In fact they had every intention of murdering Him.  Three years later Jesus would let them – not by throwing Him off a cliff, but by nailing His whipped, beaten body to a cross.  Nevertheless by rejecting Jesus, they would prove to themselves that God’s Word is true.  In Zechariah it says, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son – Zechariah 12:10.”  God would use their unbelief to crucify Jesus, just as He had foretold.  However, when they would see how they were the fulfillment of prophecy, and yet it was for their sins that Jesus was pierced, not only would they know that God’s Word is true, but they would see God’s mind-blowing, amazing grace – with the result that they would mourn because of their sins.  When was the last time we mourned for our sins?  We mourn for our losses in life, but when have we mourned over our loss of our holiness and purity before God?  This is repentance, but true repentance doesn’t end in grief.  The one whom we pierced with our sins too is the Risen One who comforts us with His forgiveness and assures us that we ARE His sons and daughters and heirs of eternal life.  And now here is the power for faith.  It isn’t in the speaking style, it isn’t in the reasonableness of the message.  Rather it’s mourning over our sin and then seeing God’s forgiveness at the cross.  However, even our mourning and our seeing isn’t by our own strength.  But God works in us our mourning and our seeing through His Word, which is why we should not take His Word lightly.  But now what do we say to our friends and relatives who say things like, “All religions are the same.  Or, the Bible is full of mistakes and contradictions.  Or, a loving God wouldn’t allow people to suffer.”  In these situations we may feel like Jeremiah, who said He was too young in his faith and too inexperienced to know what to say.”  Nevertheless God made us His children, and so we do know what to say.  Say what’s in your heart.  Say that the Bible tells me that I’m a sinner, and I can feel it here, but the Bible also tells me what God did to rescue sinners.  He died for me and rose again.  And then we can invite, “Won’t you check to this out with me?”  By saying things like this in your own way, you are speaking the very power of God for salvation, and don’t sell God’s power short.  In our epistle lesson Paul said, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever!” But what if that person we care about isn’t ready for the power of God and gets mad at us like Jesus’ friends did?  Don’t worry about that!  As Jesus used His almighty power to walk through those who wanted to kill Him, He will use His mighty power to take care of us.  He may also use the hurt and frustration we’re feeling to drive it home even deeper for us that we are saved by grace.  And then as we better understand that, and see the fullness of God’s love, we’ll want even more to glorify God by everything we say and do, so that we will reach all whom God has appointed us to reach.  May God help us to look at our life in this way!  And then as impossible situations come and go, we will not take His Word lightly.  But we will remember who we are, and we know that His power and grace are at work in us and in every situation to His praise and glory.  What more could we ask for than that!  Amen.      

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