Pastor Barry Brown // Luke 4:1-2
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Pastor Barry Brown // Luke 4:1-2
“And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’
This is a picture from the delivery room, a scene of blood and birth, which our Father is using to describe His love. In this passage God’s people are described as a newborn abandoned in a field, despised by its mother. How can this express His love? There is nothing really attractive about birth. It is a fairly gruesome event. This birth is even worse. However, our Father is talking about the way He loves us without any conditions. We were not his children naturally, and He chooses to love us even as He sees where we begin in it all. The poet Herbert wrote, “I was born crying, and every day shows why.” This is us, born into the world’s misery and ugliness. We are not beautiful. But He sees all that, and He loves us. It is this love that began before the world was made, for in His love he chose us before time was time.
He loved, and he loves today. So often in our squalor and guilt, we feel helpless. This is what the doctrine of election, of God’s choice, is for – it is to give hope to us. If I was loved this way, and chosen this way, I have so much to hope for in His love. I can be bold; I can come to the Father, I can trust in His love. When the Father loves, nothing and no one shall defeat it. Let us come, full of repentance and faith today, remembering that the Father looked on us and saw the whole truth of who we were. And then He decided to set His love on us. How great is His grace!
Then David inquired of the LORD again. And the LORD answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.”
1 Samuel 23:4
This was David’s habit. What should I do here? Where should I go? What should I do next? He inquired of the Lord. He asked God. At a later point, he stops these questions. Stops asking what and where. No more inquiring of the Lord. His lust and pride blind him to his own awful destructive manipulations. But that’s not yet. Here it’s just wonderful. Now David had some advantages. He had a priest who could find God’s will for him. Before some of you say, that must have made it easier for him, need I remind you how little we listen to men of God today? But the priest had the advantage to help him. He could throw dice to discover God’s will. That sounds primitive and crude because it is. If it looks like an easy way to live, it isn’t. It takes a whole lot of faith to throw a seven and run into danger with confidence.
But the truth is we have an advantage over David! David was limited with a small Bible (one he was actually writing!) and priest shooting dice. I have the Son Himself, and I have the Holy Spirit, and I have scriptures – rich, full, and complete! He really was flying blind compared to us, so why is his faith so much stronger? He had a habit. Go and ask our God what to do.
But I think he also had something else. We could compare scars with David (we’d lose) and compare how much we know versus how much he knew (we’d win,) and it just wouldn’t matter. God isn’t fairer now than He was then. You’re responsible for what you know, so it’s all essentially equal in the end. But what David had was surrender. He never went to God and asked about what to do and then thought about it. Never. He went to God with a heart that was already committed to doing whatever he was asked. That’s the difference. Whether you have a ton of info or just a little isn’t the issue. We usually go to God and ask Him to tell us to what He wants, so we can figure out if we’re going to do it. I can tell you one thing. You’ll never discover any of His wisdom for your life with that attitude. And I see it everywhere, even in myself. The deeper habit of David was not that He asked God what to do, is it? The deeper habit of faith that David understood was a heart surrendered. So when God said “Get up and go down to Keilah,” David’s only response was “How long till we get there?” A habit of the soul that I believe sees every answer. Amen.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.
It is astonishing, isn’t it? One minute I was preaching or praising, and the next I deserted the truth. We so quickly abandon the beauty and truth of the gospel. It feels like all of the truth of God’s love written on our hearts is actually scratched on sand. One wave of worry, finances, or entertainment and whoosh. It’s gone. Erased from our minds like it was never there. So often we experience this, and we shake our heads like we’re confused by it, or surprised by it. Let’s wake up! We are exactly like the Bible describes us – hard-hearted, foolish, and distracted. Let’s wake up!
Read your Bible, pray, go to church, listen to the sermon, praise Him, get communion. Repeat. Read your bible, pray, go to church, listen to the sermon, praise Him, get communion. Repeat. Etcetera. You get the idea? Repetition and routine are the answers to our often idiotic spiritual life. At least it is for mine. I must hear over and over, and I must tell someone else, how great Jesus’ love is, or I actually seem to forget. Oh, I know about it in my skull, sure. But I don’t know it, know it. Not like I want to.
Dear child of God, live your life anticipating your flesh and your weaknesses. You will forget spiritual truth like you’re an amnesiac. Count on it. This is why we repeat all of those good things that your Father has given you, and repeat them often. There will come a time, staring right at His beauty, when this is no longer necessary. But that’s in heaven. So, for here and for now – I repeat: It is astonishing, isn’t it? One minute I was preaching or praising . . .
To know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Paul’s prayers are a precious thing for us. They describe the heart of a man in love with God, exuberant and joyful, passionate and full of praise. This is one of them. So what is this knowledge that can’t be known? There’s a rule for thinking about God that we should often be reminding ourselves. You have a conception of God. Whatever it is, whether an idea of His love, His person, and His greatness, you have it. Now, whatever that is, you can know this – it’s wrong. Dead wrong. Why? Because He’s still greater than that! He is greater than any conception you come up with!
This is what knowing God is like. He’s eternal in majesty, eternal in His love, eternal in His goodness. So whatever you think or imagine, it simply doesn’t go far enough. This is what Paul is experiencing and trying to describe. As you investigate it, as you try to discover what this love of our God is like, you get lost in it. It does not end. Enter all His fullness!
As you discover more about yourself, and you see ever more clearly your sin, it only increases the wonder of His love. It’s like swimming the depths of the sea or looking into the limitlessness of space. Modern telescopes tell us that He must be bigger than bigness itself. Try imagining His perfections. It’s like counting grains of sand or snowflakes. Get lost in His love. Pray to be lost in it, amazed by it, and overwhelmed with it. This is where knowing jumps past and over knowing itself! This is where worship, awe, and joy are born! It’s what we need so much today, and it’s my prayer for you and myself. And I still can’t even imagine what I’m praying for! Praise Him!
Again He appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Today. There’s an urgency here that’s impossible to evade. Procrastination is something we joke about, but it’s no laughing matter here. I don’t know where you are today, or where you might be reading this, or what you face in your job, your family, or your marriage. This is simply something I’m writing as I worship. In a certain biblical sense, it’s my “today” before my Father in heaven. But whoever you are, and wherever you are, this is also your “today.” There’s a joy and a warning in this, isn’t there? If it’s true, that this message is for you today – that means it’s not too late for you. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re reading this, then my Father has allowed you to know about His love for the very worst sorts of people! Me. This is your “today” to know that whatever has gone before can be over and covered by the blood of Jesus. That whatever has passed is past, and “today” He’s telling you His love is for you. What a glorious day it is for you!
This is all sounds so joyful, so why is this verse a warning? This is also your last day. That sounds frightening, doesn’t it? You may say to me, how could you possibly know that? Of course, I don’t, but I know this: you should be reading this as though it were. Don’t harden your heart about this. I don’t doubt for someone who reads this one day in the future, that this might be their last day. Their final chance. Procrastinators can start tomorrow, but it might be under judgment. This might be the last day you are offered His love, or this might be the last day you live. I don’t know. I do know this. This hour is the day that the Scriptures are telling you about, telling you to do something about it. Lay hold of Him now, while He is still near, while He can be found. Today.
And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
This seems like ugly teaching to us. We don’t buy things with our blood or make transactions in sacrifices, or profit from slaughter. This language of blood is primitive, and reeks of the messiness of an ancient religion. Priests were cutting the lambs all day like butchers, their hands slippery with animal blood to pay the price for sinners. But what spiritual value is there in lamb and cow blood? None. The value was in the meat if it was anywhere, and those sacrifices were used for the priest’s family dinner every day. However, this primitive idea of blood is the only way to understand Christ. He’s not a moral story of sacrifice, to inspire you or me to give up our lives against injustice. It has that element, but it’s incidental to the main idea.
The lesson of the priest’s daily butchering of animals, of all of that blood all over the altar, is Jesus paying for us with His blood. It’s elemental and visceral. Sinners must pay with their lives for what wrong they do. Our God has made it clear; only blood will pay. So the praise of heaven, here in this text, is this: praise Him for how He bought us with His blood. Is that your story? Purchased by blood? Is your hope this bloody business, this transaction of His blood for your life? I will become ugly about this. I will die on this hill. I will preach this ugly truth about Jesus saving sinners with blood because it’s the truth that makes me beautiful. Rejoice today; you have been made holy and gorgeous before God by the bloody business of the Lamb. Praise Him! Amen.
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