How to be saved and how to react if you are

Text: Luke 17:11-19 Time: 17/07/13 Place: Childs Hill Baptist
This evening I want us to look at the brief story of Jesus and the 10 lepers, that’s lepers not leopards. I remember reading a story about a little boy who thought it was 10 leopards! No, 10 lepers it is.
The Bible uses the word leprosy for various serious skin diseases. It is not entirely sure whether the word was used in exactly the same way as we use it. Leprosy, as you know is a horrible and debilitating illness, which in its different forms leads to various levels of disfigurement. Today it is more often known as Hansen’s disease and can be healed relatively easily through a course of medication – provided the patient is willing to keep up the tablets. Sometimes when the disease is quite advanced a person will have serious problems in being rehabilitated.
In Jesus’s day there was no cure for leprosy and lepers were obliged to live apart from society, on their own. It was a wretched thing for a person to get leprosy, therefore. It meant the end of regular contact with family and friends and society in general and a bleak future with practically no hope of recovery. Whenever we read about it, it reminds us of our own wretched state by nature. This story of Jesus miraculously healing a group of lepers reminds us first of all then that despite these facts there is hope for all who will come to him in faith.
1. Remember your wretched state by nature and how to be saved
1. By nature we are all in a wretched state. That's the first thing to take in. These lepers give us a striking picture of sin.
1 Diseased. Riddled with disease. By nature we are systemically diseased. We are riddled with sin. It is something that we are born with. Sin manifests itself in different ways in different people – some are more disfigured than others - but the truth is that we all suffer from it. It begins subtly but there is no permanent way of stopping its daily advance. In the end it leads to death. At the very heart of our souls something has gone seriously wrong and there is no known cure for it. Oh, there are things designed to produce relief. Some claim they can cure you through various rules and regimes but the truth is that the heart is desperately wicked and beyond cure. Our situation is hopeless by nature. Do you realise that?
2 Cast out. Cut off from God. As I have said lepers were outcasts. They were not allowed to live in society once they contracted this terrible disease for fear of contaminating others. Now because in this world we all have leprosy that sense of being an outcast is not always there. We need to remember, however, that as large as the world is it is nothing so much as a great leper colony where we are living out a wretched existence but for the grace of God. This is a fallen world, a world cut off by nature from the presence of God. We have no right to heaven, no right to come into the presence of God. This is one of the reasons for the sense of alienation that people often feel. Are remembering that fact?
3 Far off. Far from Christ. At the beginning of the story we read how these lepers stood at a distance from Jesus. They knew they had no right to approach anyone, least of all Jesus. Again that is our position, in one sense. What right have we to draw near to God? What right have we to come to Jesus? None at all in ourselves. However, and this is the amazing thing. We can draw near to Jesus today and we can ask him, as these people did, to have pity on us and to rescue us and to save us from sin.
These things are true not just of some of us but of all of us. We know that nine of these men were Jews and one was a Samaritan. However, they all had leprosy. There was no difference. And so whatever differences there may be among us, we are all united by this – we are all wretched sinners.
2. The only one who can save us is Jesus Christ. This is the second thing we need to underline. As I have said, leprosy was incurable at this time and these men knew that their situation was hopeless. However, somehow they had heard about Jesus’s power to heal and so when they encountered him they saw their only opportunity and cried out for mercy. We are told that at this point (11) Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, but at that point was travelling along the border between Samaria and Galilee. Jesus was headed for the cross. It is by his death that he has won an atonement for sin. It is because of that death that your sin and mine can be taken away. He was at this moment on the border between Samaria and Galilee. Jesus is often found on the borders – at the margins of life. He is seldom centre stage. He can be found at the edges of life.
We too need to see that Jesus is our only hope. Because of his death on the cross there can be forgiveness for all who come to him. Are you aware of the burden of sin? Do you have a sense of its misery, its power over you, the way it is spoiling everything in your life? There is no way to be rid of sin in the ordinary way. Jesus Christ is the only one who can deliver you. He alone can save you. There is no point looking in any other direction. Jesus alone can save. Come to him then, come to the margins and find him.
3. Cry out loudly to the Lord and seek his pity. We read (13) that these men called out in a loud voice, Jesus, Master, have pity on us! These men knew how wretched they were and so when Jesus came by they cried earnestly and loudly. They were determined not to miss this opportunity. They acknowledged Jesus as their Master and they pleaded for him to show pity. That is how to go to Jesus. If you know how bad things really are then you will cry earnestly for forgiveness. Look to him for mercy!
4. How to be saved. And so what did Jesus do? There are really three things. They show us how he deals with all who come to him in faith.
1 He sees us, so take comfort. Jesus could have ignored these men, I suppose. He could have looked the other way or passed by on the other side. He doesn’t, however, he sees them. He sees us too. He sees you and he sees me. He knows our need. He understands.
2 He commands us so obey. It is (14) When he saw them, then that he said, Go, show yourselves to the priests. What is this about? Well, some of you will remember those OT laws that explain how anyone with signs of leprosy is to go and show himself to the priest. It is the OT priest who is able to pronounce a man clean or unclean. Jesus planned to cleanse these men and so they need to go to the priest and be pronounced clean. No doubt it would have crossed their minds that this was going to happen but they still had to obey. We too are under an obligation to obey. Whatever Jesus says we must do. He calls upon us to repent and to trust in him. This we must do. Are we doing it?
3 He cleanses from sin so be glad. It then says And as they went, they were cleansed. It is in the path of obedience that Christ meets us and saves us. Jesus did not say to these men ‘If you obey me I will cleanse you’ nor does he say today 'if you do this I will save you'. No, in both cases he says ‘Do this’ and as it is done so he cleanses and saves. Here is reason to be glad then – Jesus can cleanse and he does cleanse as we obey. Obey him, therefore, and be sure of salvation.
That is the first part of the story then. But there is more. There is the story of how one of the lepers, and he a Samaritan, comes back and says thank you. Now just on the face of it there is a lesson there about thankfulness. But I think there is more. Surely there is a lesson for believers here on how to live, now that we have been saved by grace.
2. Remember to be grateful now if you have been saved
1. Here is an example to follow.
1 Come to the Lord. We are told that of these 10 men (15) One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back. It seems that as these men went on their way they were healed. The nine simply carried on to find the priest. One of them, however, was so thankful to the Lord for what he had done that he went straight back to him to thank him. If you are a Christian, if you are repenting from sin and trusting in Christ then surely you have an obligation daily to come to Christ. There is never any excuse for neglecting him.
2 Give him praise. This man came we are told praising God in a loud voice. No surprise there. What a deliverance he had experienced. What a change! And it was all due to this one man, to Jesus. Shouldn’t we have the same attitude too? What reason we have to give praise to God.
3 Humble yourself before him. 16a He threw himself at Jesus’ feet. When did you last do the same? He knew that he owed everything to Jesus. He was therefore willing to humble himself before the Lord. Isn’t that the attitude that we ought to show to the one who has shown us such loving kindness?
4 Give him thanks. This is the most obvious thing and thanked him. Christ had given him life. He had delivered him from disease and misery and separation. Imagine how thankful he was. The same sort of thankfulness ought to be typical of the true believer. What good things God has given us. How kind and how compassionate he has been. What mercies we have known. We ought to be thankful every day and yet how often we are not. How often we fail to give thanks.
2. Hear this rebuke to the many. Listen to these words of rebuke then (17, 18) Jesus asked, Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no-one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? (Remember he was a Samaritan). Nine tenths of those lepers did not come back to give thanks and the one who did was the one who was perhaps least instructed in the way of righteousness. Perhaps it is the same today. How many believers are as prompt and as thorough as they ought to be in giving thanks. It may be that those who are most thankful are those who we would least expect. Perhaps it is not the ministers and the missionaries, not those who have grown up in Christian homes but those from the outside. They seem to be very ordinary Christians in many ways but they are thankful people. Oh how thankful they are to God. How they praise him! We do not know who the most thankful are but God knows. He sees. What about us who believe? How thankful are we? Thanksgiving ought to seep into every part of our lives.
3. Hear this encouragement for the few. The final thing to notice is what Jesus says to this unnamed individual, this good Samaritan. 19 Then he said to him
1 Rise. Rise. There is a word to lift him up. It is right that we humble ourselves before God when we think of all that he has done for us. It is also right that we rise with confidence too when we know our thanks and praise have been received.
2 Go. And go. We must also go. We cannot spend every moment in prayer. There are things to be done, lives to be lived. There ought to be regular coming to Jesus to give him thanks but also regular going out in his name and strength.
3 See that salvation is by faith. Your faith has made you well. Jesus wanted this man to see the importance of faith. Whether it was true in the same way of the others or not it was certainly true of this man that it was his faith in Jesus that had led to his healing. If you are a true Christian then it must be by faith. It is because you trust in Jesus that your sins have been forgiven. It is very important then that you go in faith. It is by faith that you have been saved – in faith you must go on, looking only to Jesus in all things.

The believer's relationship with hs brothers and his Lord

Text: Luke 17:1-10 Time: 31/07/13 Place: Childs Hill Baptist
When a person becomes a Christian everything changes, including his relationships.
Firstly, his relationship with God is changed. Secondly, his relationship changes with all his fellow believers.
We could put it this way – there is a radical change on both the vertical and horizontal planes. If we really are Christians then there will be both an observable change in our relations with our fellow Christians here below and what is in some ways less observable – a change in our relationship with God above.
I want us to explore these two aspects of the life of the believer as they are developed in Luke 17:1-10.
One difficulty with the material in this part of Luke is knowing quite why one part follows another. Various suggestions are made as to why the material in Chapter 17 follows the material in Chapter 16. None of these seem particularly convincing. Perhaps we simply have to accept that we do not know quite why Luke has placed this material where he has. Verses 1-10 hang together pretty well, however, and I think we can see easily enough how it connects. Let’s look at these verses together then. I want to say three things to you.
1. Consider your relationship with your brother below and the attitude this demands
In verses 1-4 we are in the horizontal realm, the realm below. Here we are dealing with two aspects of the relationship between a believer and his brother, his fellow believer. We are speaking to believers then, those who profess to trust in the Lord Jesus for salvation and so here we want to issue two warnings in this area.
1. Beware of being the cause of your brother’s sin.
1 Recognise the inevitability of sin. 1 Jesus said to his disciples: Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, …. That’s the place to begin in all of this – sin is inevitable. It is bound to come. This immediately rules out all ideas of sinful perfection on earth, of some sort of paradise where no-one sins. Life in this fallen world is not like this. People sin on the streets and in their homes. If you lock them in prison they will sin there too. It is no good either setting up monasteries or nunneries because they sin there too. The Pope sins. People of every religion sin. Muslims sin, Hindus sin, Buddhists sin. All of them. Unbelievers sin but so do believers. Ministers sin, elders and deacons sin, theological students sin, missionaries sin. People of all ages – babies, children, adults, the elderly. All sin. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor people are they still sin. It doesn’t matter how educated or ill-educated they are, they sin. It doesn’t matter what they invent, people will find ways of using it to sin. It is not a nice thought but it is true. I sin, you(s) sin, he sins, she sins. We sin, you(p) sin, they sin. Do not be surprised at the fact that believers sin therefore.
2 Understand the evil of causing sin and the need to watch yourself carefully
Jesus’s point, however, is that although we cannot prevent sin as such we can make sure that we are not the cause of sin. But woe to that person through whom they (the things that cause people to sin) come. In various ways, as people interact with one another, they have an effect on one another. It is vital that we not only do everything we can to make sure that we do not sin ourselves but that we take great care over the effect that we have on others and do nothing to cause them to sin. When a person sins he bears the responsibility for his sin, of course, but there are such things as contributing factors and we must not be the source of such.
Think about it. By what you say or do or in the attitudes you show how easily you can have a bad effect on fellow believers. It is not only what you do but what you fail to do too. If you are always bad tempered isn’t that likely to make others bad-tempered? If you are greedy won’t others see your example and copy? If you go to certain places you ought not to or let your eyes see things you shouldn't, isn’t there the danger that others will be influenced? Won’t the way you live on a Sunday have an impact on how others live? If you don’t come to the midweek meeting won’t others be tempted to think that they don’t need to come either? Surely that is obvious. Our effect will especially be on the weaker sort – those younger in age than us, those less well thought out, those who are younger in the faith.
We always need to be thinking not only – is this okay for me? - but also - what effect will this have on any others who know me? It may be okay for you to have a TV or a computer but what effect might that have on others? It may be okay for you to drink alcohol but what affect will it have on others? Perhaps you can stay up late on a Saturday night and be okay the next day; can others? Remember Paul’s word on this (1 Corinthians 8:13) Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
Look at the strong words Jesus uses here in verse 2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied round his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. That’s how serious it is – better to die than to be the cause of sin. Do we take this matter that seriously? We have to confess that we do not. We are altogether too self-centred and careless so often in these matters.
Now we may not like this line of reasoning. I for one find it very uncomfortable. It is tempting to try and tone it down a bit and make it a little easier. I’m thinking – well, here I am preaching against causing others to sin and may be I’m one of the worst offenders in this. A minister has a lot of influence and it may well be that I am the cause of many sins in this congregation. We need to think long and hard about these things – all of us I’m sure. So watch yourselves. These are Jesus’s solemn and searching words. Self-examination is necessary. Are we causing others to sin? We need clear consciences in this area.
2. Beware of failing to forgive your brother’s sin. Then in verse 3 Jesus moves on to another matter. Again we say two things.
1 Recognise the inevitability of sin. If your brother sins, says Jesus. We could put it ‘When your brother sins’. As we have established very clearly there is no-one who does not sin. Scripture is clear about that. Even believers sin. Now given that my brother is going to sin – sometimes against me – then it is surely wise for me to think through what I am going to do when I see a fellow-believer sin. This is what Jesus considers here. Do you know what to do when you see a fellow Christian sinning? You won’t find everything here but the basics are there.
2 Understand the ongoing duty to rebuke and to forgive sin
  • What should I do if I see a brother sin? Jesus says rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. So there are two duties here
    • Rebuke him. He needs to be admonished. His wrongs need to be pointed out. Proverbs 27:5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. It is not an option to turn a blind eye, to pretend it didn’t happen. We have a duty to confront them about the matter. Now obviously there is a measure of discernment here as to what you approach them about. If we spoke to one another about every single sin where would we be? Clearly Jesus has in mind persistent, serious sin not petty every day things. We must take sin seriously and be willing to speak against it to our brothers in Christ. We may get a good response, we may not, but we have to speak up.
    • If he repents, forgive him. If the man repents, if he turns from his sin at your rebuke then it is your duty to forgive him. You may say, what if he doesn’t repent? The Bible does answer that question (see Matthew 18 a chapter with some parallels to this) but for the moment Christ simply concentrates on what happens if he does repent. Jesus is not dealing here either with how we deal with unbelievers. If a believer sins and then repents then he is to be forgiven. That is why we don’t have to chase up every little sin. We assume that the believer repents from these. It is only when a sin persists that there is to be a rebuke and then forgiveness on repentance.
  • How often should I allow him to repent and still forgive? This is another question that is bound to arise in our minds. Jesus is very radical. He says (4) If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, I repent, forgive him. I once heard a preacher picture it like this. Say a fellow Christian hits you for some reason – sock! You must rebuke him and if he repents (sorry he says, etc) then you must forgive him. Now say an hour later he comes back and hits you again – sock! You must rebuke him and if he repents you must forgive him again. Even if it goes on happening time after time, every time he repents you must forgive him. Sock! Sock! Sock! Seven here is not an exact number but a complete number. No matter how many times …. Yes, you may wish to question the sincerity of the man’s repentance but if he says he is repenting then you must forgive him – no matter how many times it may happen.
So if you thought the last section was a tall order, what about this? It really does give pause for serious thought. We need somehow to be able, on the one hand, to avoid causing our brother to fall into sin and, on the other, to be able to forgive them when they do sin. Both watchfulness and love are vital.
That leads us then to our second main point.
2. Consider the connection between your brother below and your Lord above, how these connect and the attitude this demands
Now there are various ways to react to this difficult teaching.
  • You could ignore it, try and push it out of your mind. Please don’t do that.
  • You could say ‘well this looks a tough task but I can do it.’ That is not a good approach You will either end up very discouraged or puffed up with false pride because you think you are doing what Jesus says. No our response needs to be more like that of the disciples. On hearing this (5) The apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith! And so I ask you
    • Do you sense a need for more faith? Like the apostles here, have you seen that these demands cannot be ignored and that there is no way humanly speaking that they can be achieved. This is a spiritual matter, a matter of faith. It is as we grow nearer to God that we are going to be more watchful and more caring with regard to our brothers. The vertical and the horizontal are intimately linked. When you read hard verses like these, as the thumbscrew gets tighter so you should be seeing more your need for God’s help. The tighter the squeeze at the sides the higher your thoughts should rise.
    • Do you see the need to have the right faith? What Jesus says in response is very encouraging. The disciples are aware of how poor their faith is, how small, how meagre. But Jesus says – don’t worry how small your faith is, how little of it there is. As long as it is the right sort of faith then you will be okay. 6 He replied, If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, Be uprooted and planted in the sea, and it will obey you. 
Now here is something that can really help us in all sorts of ways. When confronted by something clearly beyond us we must not panic and be fearful at the poverty of our faith. Rather, we must seek the Lord and ask him to give us the sort of faith we need – Holy Spirit-given faith – even the smallest amount of faith like that is powerful indeed. Think of washing up. If you’ve got one of the cheap brands there you know that they can be rather thin and you keep putting more and more in to try and make it sudsy. If you’ve got Fairy Liquid or something like that, however, it’s much more concentrated and it goes much further. Perhaps we would solve some of our problems if we could only see that what we need is not so much more faith as better faith, faith that more truly looks to the Lord and to the Lord alone. Certainly, if we are going to make any progress at all in this matter of not causing sin and of rebuking and forgiving then we need to look above to the Lord. Are we? That leads us to our final point
3. Consider your relationship with the Lord above and the attitude this demands
To help his disciples and us with this point Jesus gives a brief parable of sorts to help us understand our relationship to the Lord. This is not everything that can be said about this matter. The New Testament much more often pictures our relationship as a Father/son one. However, it is also a master/servant one.
1. Understand the nature of a master and servant relationship. Let’s concentrate just on the picture first.
1 The duty they have. 7 Suppose one of you had a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. The apostles were not rich men really but some of them might have had servants just as sometimes many of us employ people to do things for us sometimes perhaps – cleaning windows, doing decorating or building work, bringing your shopping or your newspaper, etc. Here the job would be ploughing a field or looking after sheep. A certain duty is specified.
2 The honour and thanks they deserve. Jesus goes on Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, Come along now and sit down to eat? Well no. He is much more likely to say the opposite. 8 Would he not rather say, Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink? Or what about this? 9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? Now I know that because of the impact the gospel has made our culture is a little different but still when the window cleaner or the paper boy has finished his round you would be unlikely to invite him in and give him a meal as a reward. When someone serves you in a shop I’m sure you’re polite but you don’t think to yourself ‘I must buy a thank you card and post it to them’!
You see the picture then.
2. Appreciate the insight this gives into our relationship with the Lord
1 The duty we have. Jesus begins (10) So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, …. Imagine you do manage by faith to live as we have been describing – always avoiding offence, never leading anyone into sin; always rebuking and then forgiving an doing all the other things that make up the Christian life. Now, of course, the truth is that we never do keep up all our duties. We are always failing at some point or other. However, we must aim for perfection. Anyway, suppose we did do all our duty – how should we feel?
2 The honour and thanks we deserve. So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do should say, We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty. That is the attitude of faith. The moment we begin to think ‘Hey I’ve achieved something, I’ve earned something’ then we know we have gone astray. Paul quoting Job 41 asks (Romans 11:35) Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? Now, of course, this is only part of the story. We know that at the end there will be a well done good and faithful servant for every faithful believer. However, this is clearly on the basis of grace not simply of what we have done. So we say remember God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Salvation is not a matter of what we do. It cannot be earned. Nevertheless if we truly do belong to the Lord above it will profoundly affect the relationship we have with our brothers below and how we serve the Lord above.