Recently, my brother in law, who had been a missionary for 37 years passed away from an illness. And of course, he left my sister as a widow who is going to have to figure out a way to support herself now without a husband. His death made my wife and I think about the fact that I should get some life insurance in case something should happen to me. And so last week I contacted a man in this church who sells insurance and he helped show me some of my options.
From what I gathered I could lock in a rate over 10 or 20 years by paying a certain amount of money each month. But the more I thought about it, I couldn’t help but think how ironic it is that the insurance company is betting that I would not die before the end of my term, and I am betting that I will die. If I had the faith of my insurance company in my long term health, then I wouldn’t buy insurance.
But the insurance company isn’t stupid. They are going to go over my health with a fine tooth comb. They are going to narrow the odds down as much as possible. And for my part, I am seriously considering all the options as well. This is a big financial commitment for me. There are a lot of things that are going to factor into my decision, and of course, it has potentially significant long term effects and benefits.
All of that prompted me to think, as I was preparing for this message, that a lot of people are more likely to spend more time, more money and more consideration on something like buying life insurance than on their eternal security. Blood tests, Doctor visits, urine samples, you name it, it all comes under scrutiny before I get the insurance, and then I commit to paying month by month for 10 to 20 years. And the really funny thing is, if I die, I win the bet, but I don’t get the money. My wife does. It makes you wonder who she is betting on.
But I’m afraid the average Joe is not nearly as concerned about his eternal security. From my experience, I think the average guy treats religion a little bit like buying life insurance, but with a whole lot less diligence. Someone suggested to me that I should look at some of those life insurance companies you see advertised on late night television and see if I could find something cheaper. And my response was, “No way. The last thing I want to do is spend all that money for 10 or 20 years and then find out that the insurance company was some flim flam outfit and have it not pay off.” And yet that is exactly the way a lot of people treat religion. They don’t really examine their doctrine. They blindly think that sincerity or good intentions is some measure of security. They are really just hoping that in the end it will all pay off somehow, but they really don’t know for sure.
Well, today’s passage addresses that very issue. The issue of mindlessly following a religion and hoping that somehow your sincerity will be of some merit in the hereafter. Hoping that God doesn’t care all that much about the details. Thinking He won’t look that closely. The average person doesn’t really know what he believes, and he certainly can’t say why he believes what he claims. He is just hoping for the best. He has no authority to back up what he is hoping for.
Well Jesus taught about the kingdom of God as one having authority. He spoke with authority because He was the Word of God made flesh, speaking the word of God to flesh. His message was the gospel of the kingdom of God. He was the way to the kingdom; no one can come to the Father except through Him, only by His sacrifice can we be saved. Jesus was teaching the gospel in the temple every day in the last hours before His crucifixion.
And as you will recall, a delegation made up of the religious leaders had been asking Him a series of trick questions, hoping to entrap Him in something they could use to arrest Him. So when the religious leaders had exhausted their trick questions and weren’t able to trap Him, Jesus turns the tables upon them and asks them a question. “How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David?” It isn’t a trick question, it is a theological question. It is a doctrinal question. Listen, doctrine is not a dirty word, ladies and gentlemen. On the contrary, you need to know doctrine. You need to rightly divide the word of truth so that you will not be ashamed at His coming. There are many false doctrines out there. There are many deviant theologies out there. There are many false prophets and false teachers in the world. They cannot all be true. The Bible says, “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” You better know sound Biblical doctrine. You need to know what you believe and why.
I saw a bumper sticker on a car the other day in Rehoboth, and it said, “God is too big for just one religion.” Wow. What theology. What utter nonsense. First of all, you admit that there is a God. Then by that very reason, is it not reasonable to assume that if there is a God then He should have a say in how we are to approach Him? If God is really as big as you say, then does it not behoove us to find out how He desires to be worshipped? Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” You better know the truth, because only the truth will set you free.
So Jesus asks a question focused on that very point. You see, these religious leaders had a religion. They had a belief system. And what is really significant is that their religion believed in the one, true Jehovah God, and furthermore, they accepted the teaching that there would come one who was the Messiah who would be the deliverer of Israel. And yet, it’s obvious from our study of Luke, that these religious leaders were not saved, they were lost. In fact, they were so blinded by their religion that they were plotting to kill the Messiah who was Jesus Christ because they did not think that He fit into their religious doctrine of the Messiah. So they were very religious and yet very lost.
I would imagine that in a crowd this size that there must be someone here today that are lost. If you died today you would end up in Hell. You are lost even though you believe in the existence of God. You believe that we should worship God. That is presumably why you are here today. And yet you are lost and on your way to Hell. You may even believe in Jesus. You believe that He lived on this earth 2000 years ago. You might even believe that somehow or another He was divine. And yet you can still be lost.
These scribes and Pharisees that Jesus is addressing are proof that it is possible to have a sort of mindless, thoughtless religion that has a modicum of truth in it and yet be lost. You can go through the motions without knowing why you are doing it. Many people are worshipping somewhere today, today being Sunday, and they don’t know why they are worshipping on Sunday rather than Saturday. And they really don’t care. They are just going through the motions. Some of them are mumbling catechisms and Latin phrases and opening their mouths to receive a tiny wafer and they don’t know why they are doing it. And yet they hope that it will somehow suffice on judgment day. Someone told them that they can achieve righteousness by going through certain rituals.
And on the other end of the spectrum it’s just as bad if not worse. People in some evangelical churches are being told that if they hold their palms up a certain way they are receiving something spiritual. And if they clap their hands together they are worshipping. And if they speak in some unintelligible gibberish they are praying to God. These poor folks are being taught that they don’t need to focus on doctrine, they need to focus on feeling. They just need to feel the love. That is all that matters. They have forgotten the exhortation of Jesus that if you love Me, you will keep My commandments. No, they want to experience something, even if it is mindless.
These poor people are being exploited in the name of religion. They are being told that feeling spiritual is equal to being spiritual. So anything that makes you feel a certain way, or act a certain way must be of the Holy Spirit. And so in some churches today people are falling down on the ground and going into convulsions and they are told that is being slain in the Spirit. Others are falling down drunk, laughing and reeling around unable to act or speak coherently and they are being told that they are drunk in the Spirit. Others are laughing, howling at the moon, shrieking in laughter to the point that it drowns out everything else, and they are told that is holy laughter. Listen, don’t be deceived; Christianity is not a mindless religion. God is not the author of confusion but of order and discipline and truth. The Holy Spirit is not a feeling, He’s not a force, He is the Spirit of Jesus Christ living among us. If Jesus didn’t do it, then the Holy Spirit will not do it. They are not different entities, they are One God. As God is, so was Jesus in the flesh, (if you have seen Me you have seen the Father) and as Jesus is, so is the Holy Spirit. (John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me…”) God is One. You need to know your theology and doctrine. Because many deceivers have gone out into the world and are leading many people astray. And these false prophets that are blaspheming the name of the Holy Spirit by teaching people to go after strange spirits have forgotten what Jesus said in Matt. 12:31 “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”
It is not possible to have a sort of mindless, thoughtless form of Christianity that is void of sound doctrine and Biblical theology. But it isn’t possible to have an experiential type of Christianity that is divorced from sound doctrine. You are either worshipping God in Spirit and in truth or you will be found outside of the door of the kingdom of God, saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not do great things in your name? Lord, Lord, did we not even do miracles in your name?” And they will hear Jesus say as He promised in Matthew 7:23, “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.”
Listen, you want to guard against a superficial, mindless religion? Then you need to go to the Word of God and get serious about studying it. Not reading books loosely based on the word of God, not watching movies with a mildly religious, positive theme. “But studying to show yourselves approved unto God a workman that doesn’t need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15) You need to understand the primacy, the authority, and the sufficiency of scripture. You need to understand that Jesus is described in John 1 as the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And then you need to understand that the Holy Spirit breathed upon certain appointed men, inspiring them to write down His words, bringing to their minds remembrance of the things which He had told them so that we may have confidence in the scriptures. 2Tim. 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect(complete), thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” You want to be a complete Christian? It’s not found in some mystical spiritual experience. Immerse yourself in the Word of God and obey it.
So the religious leaders confronting Jesus that day are mindless. They are thoughtlessly, blindly following a phony religion, in spite of having everything that they needed for salvation right in front of them. They have seen the truth and yet rejected it. They have stopped short of becoming a disciple. Folks, I am afraid that is exactly our problem here today. There are some people that come out here on the beach to hear what that crazy surfer preacher might say this week. There are some that might come because it’s a beautiful day, and maybe they might see a dolphin while I’m preaching and they can work on their tan at the same time. They have heard all they need to know in order to be saved and yet they are not saved. One of the saddest verses of scripture that comes to mind about this time of year is Jeremiah 8:20 “Harvest is past, summer is ended, And we are not saved.” And so we wonder why we don’t grow. We wonder why every year when we go back indoors we no longer see some people anymore. The fact is that we don’t grow by getting more and more people to come out on the beach for a service on a sunny day. The church grows by making disciples. We grow by making disciples, not by adding spectators to the church. Making disciples is being obedient to the word.
So true to form, when Jesus teaches He relies upon the scriptures. He confronts their mindless religion by asking them to consider the scriptures and make a rational decision on the basis of what it says. He asks the question, ““How is it that they say the Christ is David’s son? For David himself says in the book of Psalms, THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, ‘SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.’ Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord,’ and how is He his son?”
Now the answer to His question is one that they either cannot or will not allow themselves to see. And there is an element to this question that may be hard for us to see, because we aren’t reading it in the Hebrew. Luke is writing in Greek obviously. But Jesus is quoting from Psalm 110 which was written in Hebrew. And in the Hebrew there is a distinction in the word Lord. The Jews considered the proper name of God as sacred to the point that they did not say it aloud. And so they had a tradition of writing the name of God, the name Jehovah, with just the consonants. And then when reading the name of Jehovah, they would insert the word Lord in it’s place. This was an ultra conservative approach to avoiding using the name of the Lord in vain. Now in your Old Testament, you will sometimes notice that the word Lord is in all capital letters. That is done to show you that the word LORD is substituted for the name Jehovah. So when the Psalmist David says, “The LORD said to my Lord,” he is saying, Jehovah said to my Lord.
The word Lord with a capital L and small letters is from the Hebrew word, Adonai. Adonai means Lord, either used of God or sometimes used in reference to men. It means the supreme ruler. He to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master. The possessor and disposer of a thing or person. The owner; one who has control of the person, the master. In matters of state: the sovereign, prince, chief, the emperor. It is a title of honor expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants greet their master. This title is given to: God, the Messiah.
So the question is how can the Messiah be David’s son, when David writes in Ps. 110 that Jehovah says to my Lord? The scribes and Pharisees can’t answer that. They haven’t thought about it. They have a template for the Messiah that He will be a descendent of David and sit on his throne, and so therefore they are looking for a human descendent of David who will literally sit on the throne of Israel, and defeat their enemies. And so they refuse to consider any scriptures that don’t align with that doctrine.
What Jesus is trying to teach them, is that the Messiah is God in human flesh. Revelation 22:16 says that He is the root and the offspring of David. In other words, by his human nature he was the offspring of David, a branch of his family; by his divine nature he was the root of David, from whom David had his being and life, salvation by grace. What Jesus is teaching is that Christ, as God, was David’s Lord, but Christ, as man, was David’s Son.
Listen, the reason that the scribes and Pharisees were not saved, was that they would not recognize Jesus as Lord, as God. I think that we have almost the opposite problem today in the church. We recognize Jesus as God, but not as Lord. The doctrine of the lordship of Jesus Christ is not a popular doctrine today. At the very best modern theologians and preachers want to regulate it to some sort of advanced stage of sanctification that really isn’t necessary for salvation. But for the most part it is not taught at all. The whole emphasis today is upon justification by grace. But Hebrews 12:14 says that without sanctification, no one will see the Lord.
Rom 10:9 says, “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” To understand what it means to confess Jesus as Lord you just need to turn back a few verses to Luke 19 where Jesus gives a parable about the land owner who planted a vineyard and sent his servants to receive his yearly allowance. And the vinegrowers kept beating up his servants and sending them back empty handed. And it says in vs. 14, “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” See, lordship is recognizing that Jesus Christ is the Master of the vineyard. He is the supreme ruler of the earth. Everything that we have is given to us by God. Our very lives are upheld by His power. Our heart keeps beating by the power of God. Our next breath is taken because God gives it to us. And so lordship is recognizing, confessing, that Jesus is Lord of your life. Confessing that we belong to Him. He is our Master, He decides our purpose. We live according to His will, not manipulate Him to serve our will.
These Pharisees were indicative of the citizens that said, “We do not want this man to rule over us.” They rejected Jesus as Lord. And Jesus said in the parable that when the Master returns to take His vineyard, He said “But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”
Jesus then gives a scathing indictment of these scribes and Pharisees, while at the same time warning His disciples. See, even disciples can fall prey to this kind of self righteous posturing, this religious fervor, that is actually a damning phony religion. He is highlighting hypocritical religion. He says in vs. 46, ““Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
What Jesus is warning about is religion for show. About seeking publicity, seeking honor, seeking earthly prominence in the religious realm. Matthews gospel records some more of what Jesus said in this regard. He says in Matt. 23:13, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” See, that is the danger of phony religion. They not only are not saved themselves, they make sure that no one else is saved either. And then in vs. 15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” That is another scathing indictment. Their false doctrine spreads like gangrene and corrupts everyone who hears it. And that is why Jesus says that these false teachers will receive a greater condemnation.
Jesus is not only describing the scribes and Pharisees, but He is painting a picture that should serve as a warning for us today as well. Beware of religious leaders who put on a show, who parade around in long, flowing robes, Christian costumes, hoping that they will look pious by the clothes and funny hats they are wearing. They love to be called “the right Reverend Dr. so and so, and they have all these degrees that are attached to their titles that are designed to convince you they know what they are talking about. They love the places of honor, and they love to make long public prayers so that people can be sure to see how holy they are. And yet the fact is it is all a hypocritical mask. Jesus says they do it to devour widow’s houses. What He means is they take from vulnerable widows, defrauding old ladies who are maybe easily deceived by their fake piety and they take their money by promising them some eternal benefit due to their holiness. One of the very people that the temple was to be concerned about and seek to help were widows. It is still a priority for the church though we do not have the same social structure that they had which left these women without much recourse. But the fact is that they take advantage of the most vulnerable among us for monetary gain.
I must tell you that a lot of the modern Christian television preachers capitalize on the sympathies of vulnerable, elderly women. They are flying around the country in multimillion dollar jets living in $10,000 a night hotel suites while making money off of old ladies who are hoping that their gift will be multiplied by God according to the false teaching of these shysters. Beware of these false prophets.
Finally, Luke presents an illustration to ram this principle home. I will not belabor it, since you are all familiar with it, I’m sure. But as Jesus was teaching He was sitting in the Court of the Women in the Temple where the people would come and present their offerings. The temple priests had made these trumpet type of horns that were mounted on the walls so that people could drop in their offerings. And Luke says that as Jesus is teaching He looks up and sees the rich putting their offerings in the treasury. And He sees an opportunity for an illustration. The illustration has a two fold application as we will see in a moment. But let’s look at it first.
Luke 21:2-4 “And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.’”
So here is the picture; Jesus has just finished condemning the religious leaders for their rejection of His Lordship, and He has characterized them as showboating self righteous hypocrites who take advantage of old ladies. Now He looks up and all these rich people come in to the treasury and make their offerings. They had engineered it in such a way that it was a very public thing. People could watch the worshippers come in and present their offerings. They could hear the sound of the coins clinking in the horns and tell how much or how little a person was giving. The Pharisees were known for actually blowing a horn before they gave in order to make sure that everyone knew that they were giving. But then Jesus juxtaposes this grandiose religious expression with a little old widow who comes in and probably would have escaped all notice in the activity of the temple. She wasn’t dressed in finery, she didn’t blow a trumpet, and the sound of her two cents I’m sure didn’t make a dint in the din of the temple court. No one noticed her. No one nodded approvingly or applauded. But God saw her. God knew that she gave all that she had to live on. She gave everything she had to the Lord.
Listen, I go out of my way to not talk about giving here at the Beach Fellowship. I may occasionally talk about money, as the word talks about it, then I talk about it. But I don’t talk about giving if I don’t have to. I believe that God loves a cheerful giver. So I am not going to try to compel people to give. All that I will say about this illustration is that it shows that God sees the gift, but more importantly God sees the sacrifice involved in the gift. David said in 2 Samuel 24:24 that he would not give God that which cost him nothing. God sees not the monetary size of the gift, but the sacrificial proportion of the gift. Jesus noted this widow because while others gave out of their surplus, she gave out of her poverty.
But the greater illustration that I think is here is that of the lordship principle. This widow had a proper view of the lordship of God. She rightly recognized that everything she had was the Lord’s. She didn’t have a ten percent view, but a 100% view. You know, that’s why I don’t preach about tithing. Tithing is an OT law that required Israelites to give a tenth of all they had to the Lord. And in the new covenant, we are no longer under the law. We are under grace. But listen, grace does not do away with the law, grace fulfills the law and then more. If the law was 10%, then grace is 100%. It’s recognizing that Jesus deserves everything I have because of the gratitude I have for His immeasurable gift to me. Salvation is about giving all that I have to the Lord to be used for His glory. I give Him all of me, everything I renounce, everything I turn over to Him. And so the lordship of Christ requires that I surrender all.
And there is, as I said another application of this incident. And that is that this sincere, God loving woman gave her offering to the treasury of the very men that were devouring widow’s houses. Though this woman was a great illustration of surrendering everything to God, there is no indication that she was saved. If she did not recognize Jesus as God then she could not be saved. Luke just records that she went in, gave her offering, and presumably left. God saw her gift. But unfortunately she was still victimized by a false system of religion that promised her some sort of righteousness as a result of her offering. And so she probably didn’t leave feeling all that great about her offering. The rabbis taught that the giving alms was a means of pardoning sin. It was a false doctrine. It was designed to fill their coffers, but it could not atone for sin. It serves as a classic example of how these false religious leaders were devouring widow’s houses.
And as we look at the next section in this chapter next week, we will see Jesus pronouncement of judgment upon this temple, and this system which victimized the very ones that they were supposed to be helping by teaching them a false religion and ignoring the truth of God’s word. Within 35 years from that day, the temple would be destroyed and all the priests killed or scattered. God’s judgment would be poured out on them for their false religion.
Folks, I wonder how many of you here this morning would rather continue in your comfortable, established false religion than find freedom in the truth of God’ word? I wonder how many prefer a form of religion, without the power of it, the power of the truth which brings about conversion and produces sanctification? I wonder how many will reject the lordship of Jesus Christ, and say “we will not let Christ rule over us, He will not decide for us, He will not tell us what to do.” I wonder how many will continue to think that they can be saved and not sanctified. I hope no one. Jesus said in Luke 6:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
I hope no one leaves here today without submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Giving of themselves first and foremost, 100% to the Lord, realizing that He is Lord, and all their life and being belong to Him.