Sports analogies teach us valuable lessons in the spiritual realm. One trait that coaches value in a player is that they are truly coachable. Players need to concentrate on playing and let the coach concentrate on coaching . . . just as we need to let the ref concentrate on making the calls. But every player fights the temptation to cross the line and get involved in the coaching side of the equation.
Usually the motivation is twofold:
– players questioning the wisdom of the decisions being made by the coach — the strategy being employed, the value of the practice drills, the formation being used, the substitutions and their timing, etc.
– players thinking too highly of themselves in terms of their overall perspective and what insight they bring to the situation
When it comes to sports teams, there may be some cause to criticize the coaching . . . but still the players need to stay focused on their role and execute the fundamentals of the game. When it comes to following Jesus Christ, we are blessed with an infallible coach who only commands what is best for us. Still we struggle with being receptive to God’s revelation and committed to obeying His instructions.
SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT (the type of understanding that leads to Obedience) DEPENDS NOT ON GREATER REVELATION BUT ON THE RIGHT HEART CONDITION
INTRODUCTION: — the heart of the passage — Luke 11:28
“Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it”
A rebuke here:
– Serious warning for those who are hearers only
– Tremendous promise for those who both receive and implement God’s Word
Context: 11:14-16 Christ had once again revealed His divine power by casting out a demon from a possessed person;
Revelation always demands a response — you can’t be neutral or unaffected.
People responded in different ways:
General reaction = amazement — How could Jesus do this?
1) Some attributed His power and authority to Satan –Christ answers this blasphemous charge in v.17-26.
Conclusion: the final condition of such people is worse than the first (v.26b)
2) Others were more guarded in their skepticism and demanded that He perform another indisputable, divine miracle to
authenticate His person and His message
Christ responds to this smokescreen for wickedness and unbelief in v.29-36.
No evidence of any real spiritual discernment = the type of understanding that leads to obedience
In between in v. 27-28 He teaches that rubbing shoulders with God is nothing compared to the benefit of obeying God’s revelation.
– there is no magical grace communicated simply by spending time in the presence of Christ or under the teaching of God’s Word
– actually if we are not applying that Word and living it out, our last state is worse than the first
Application: The message of the Bible is really very simple:
“Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it”
The Bible repeats this simple theme many times in many different pictures because we need to hear it:
1) Construction: the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount — the wise man who builds his house on the rock instead of the sand is “the man who hears the Words of Christ and puts them into practice”
2) Agriculture: the good soil in the parable of the Sower is that which allows the Word of God to take root, to grow, to produce fruit
3) Personal Hygiene: James uses the image of a mirror to represent the Word of God — The faults exposed by the mirror need to be corrected
We want the blessing that comes from obedience — How do we get it?
I. GREATER REVELATION BRINGS GREATER CONDEMNATION (NOT GENUINE SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT) IF YOUR HEART CONDITION IS WRONG (:29-32)
The wicked generation to which Jesus preached made the mistake of assuming that they would naturally embrace the truth if only the amount and quality of the revelation were sufficient — Please, give me another miraculous sign to make the truth plain
Christ points out that the problem is not with God’s Revelation
A. Despite the Attacks of the Ungodly, God’s Revelation Cannot be Faulted (:29-30)
1. The problem is one of spiritual wickedness and ungodliness
This is exactly the point at which humanistic solutions to the problems of this world prove to be so futile.
If the problem is not with God’s Revelation, why do people keep criticizing it? You hear the complaints all the time:
– the Bible is impossible to understand
– everyone has his own interpretation, so there is no valid interpret.
– it’s full of myths and fairy tales — like the story of Jonah and the big fish
– it’s full of historical and scientific errors
What we need to understand is that:
2. The Attacks of the Ungodly in Finding Fault with God’s Revelation are Mere Smokescreens
Despite the clear and glorious revelations of Christ in His Messianic power, the people keep demanding more signs
“sign” = something that accompanies the Word of God or the spokesman of God to prove its validity and reliability
God granted many gracious signs throughout history:
in the OT most signs are grouped around 3 main time periods:
a) Exodus — deliverance from Egypt and journey to promised land;
b) Elijah and Elisha and their conflict with pagan religion
c) time of Daniel during the exile when the supremacy of Yahweh and the faithfulness of Daniel and His companions were vindicated
(God cries out against the hardness of heart of the Jews who refused to believe in the face of such dramatic testimony: Num.14:11,22; Ps. 78; 95)
time of Christ and the apostles next great period of signs
Jesus unmasks the hypocritical demands of his day as mere smokescreens for refusing to repent — v.17 “He knew their thoughts”
Knowing they lacked spiritual discernment because of their hard hearts, He basically tosses their request back in their face:
You want a sign? I’ll give you a sign all right, but not one that you will like.
B. God’s Supreme Revelation in the Resurrected Christ is the Watershed for Blessing or Condemnation — a sign like that of Jonah
Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites because he appeared there as one sent by God after having been miraculously saved after spending 3 days and 3 nights in the belly of the great fish; So Jesus by His resurrection and His coming again in Judgment will prove conclusively that He has been sent by God as His representative–the Christ, the promised Redeemer.
Those who judge the Word of God will end up being judged by it — John 12:47-50
C. 2 Examples that illustrate the point Jesus is trying to make:
Lesser revelation can bring genuine spiritual discernment where the heart condition is right while greater revelation brings greater condemnation where the heart condition is wrong
Study the contrasts in each example:
a) the contrast in the revelation
b) the contrast in the heart condition and response
1. The Example of the Faith of the Queen of Sheba (:31)
a) Solomon — a wise and prosperous king — combining all of the functions of our 3 branches of
govt.: executive, legislative, judicial; his fame had spread abroad — what a privilege to learn at
one greater than Solomon is here — a far greater and wiser king
b) What faith on the part of the Queen of Sheba — making a long and difficult journey from the
southern tip of Arabia = the ends of the earth at that time; spared no effort or expense to check
out truth for herself
1 Kings 10:1 “When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to
the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.”
but with a spirit of wanting to embrace the truth rather than seeking to discredit it;
she was able to see the connection between the prosperity of Solomon’s kingdom (including his
moral standards for justice and righteousness) and the blessing of the Lord
the Jews saw far more in the miracles and teaching of Christ but remained skeptical — Show me
2. The Example of the Repentance of the Ninevites (:32)
a) Jonah — a famous prophet and powerful preacher – but certainly not a perfect spokesman or
model of God’s truth; tainted with nationalistic pride and lacking compassion; unpopular
message: judgment coming in 40 days; looked like a mess when the fish spit him out — not very impressive
now one greater than Jonah is here — the greatest Prophet of all; one with a message of God’s
judgment sure to fall after 40 years; one with compassion and love to reach out to all the world;
one who perfectly models the truth
b) Dramatic, unconditional, total repentance
most unlikely people to respond to God’s message (Jonah thought so too)
from the king on down “blessed are the poor in spirit” —
fasting, clothing themselves in sackcloth, calling urgently on God to show mercy (“God be
merciful to me a sinner” — not the prayer of the proud Pharisee “Thank God I am not like that
wretched sinner over there“); gave up their sinful ways
Application: When was the last time you repented? of what specific sin?
How effective was that repentance?
Why do we struggle with giving up our sinful habits?
We cannot expect to benefit from more revelation when we are unwilling to apply what we already know
Our lack of faith and our failure to turn away from sin will keep us from understanding and obeying God’s truth
The fault is not with God: we need to constantly be exercising repentance and faith
II. THE VERY NATURE OF REVELATION PROVES THAT GOD’S INTENTION IS NOT TO CONCEAL BUT TO ILLUMINE ALL WHO TRULY SEEK ILLUMINATION (:33)
the purpose of a lamp is to give light to those who are seeking to use it
conscious effort and resources required to light this oil lamp; obviously if you did not want people to benefit from the illumination you would conserve the effort and the resources
lampstand = place of prominence in order to diffuse the light and maximize its usefulness
the light will only benefit those who choose to come to it; others choose to remain out in the darkness; you might say: “But none can come apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit” and you would be right; Jesus promised back in v.13 “God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him”
Jesus’ intention has not been to conceal the light of his self-revelation. On the contrary, He causes the light to be spread thru His words and works. The problem is not with the lamp, but with the wickedness of the hearts of those who are exposed to the light.
1) Rebuke to the unbelievers who refuse to come to the light even though it is so readily available
2) Reminder to believers that our purpose is not to conceal God’s revelation, but to openly display
it for others to benefit; we are to shine as lights in the world
III. EXAMINE YOURSELF TO MAKE SURE YOUR HEART CONDITION CAN RECEIVE GOD’S REVELATION WITH SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT (:34-36)
A. Check the Condition of Your Heart Because That Determines How Much of God’s Light Can Be Received to Provide Light Within (:34)
cause and effect relationship
1. Statement of the Heart’s Function
“the lamp of your body is your eye”
the eye is the organ by means of which the light is taken in and distributed for the service of the entire body;
therefore, the function of the eye to the body parallels the function of the lamp to those in the room
Here the eye must be a reference to one’s heart — the core of one’s being where you interact with God’s revelation.
We cannot afford to ignore our heart condition or take it for granted; we should be willing to go to any length to guard the condition of our heart
2. Two Possible Conditions of the Heart — Examine the cause to see what effect to expect
a. single — without fold, without duplicity, without ulterior motives or divided loyalties –
characterized by faith and repentance — focused on the reality of Christ
pure devotion to Christ — David gave God his silver and gold for the building of the temple in singleness of heart (1 Chr.29:17)
one thing I desire; one thing I do; one thing I live for (Ps. 27:4; Lk. 10:42; Philip. 3:13)
Result is complete uninhibited illumination and spiritual discernment
b. evil, bad — not characterized by faith and repentance
full of hypocrisy and ulterior motives
Result is complete darkness; no illumination or spiritual discernment
Note: the amount and quality of the revelation has not changed; but your capacity to receive and understand that revelation so that it benefits you is zero
B. Check How Much Light You Have Within Because That is An Indication of the Condition of Your Heart Which Determines How Much Light You Can Receive from the Outside (:35-36)
Keep Checking Your Heart’s Condition by Checking Your Level of Spiritual Discernment
you can also examine the effect to determine which heart condition caused it
1. Darkness (:35)
(the danger is that if your inner attitude is wrong, your heart will become increasingly hardened against the light of God’s revelation)
Or more likely, the danger is that you are self-deceived and while you have been thinking all along (like the Pharisees) that you have the light within you, upon closer examination based on the teachings of Christ and based on inward spirituality rather than external legalism, you discover that you are really spiritually dead
2. Full Discernment (:36)
difficult verse — “If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, then your
heart condition must be right and you will be able to receive more light from the lamp of God’s
revelation so that you will continue to be full of light”
CONCLUSION: Relationship between Faith and Repentance
really flip sides of the same coin; wherever you have one, you must have the other;
I like the picture here — speaks of only 1 eye — combining faith and repentance — not 2 separate eyes
Col.2:6 “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him“
You received Christ by repentance and faith … that is how we must continue to live in Him.
Application: “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and obey it”