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Have you ever believed something so strongly that you would do anything to prove it? Sometimes, that might be a good thing, but when we are trying to prove a false thesis, that can be a problem. We leave ourselves open to a life dedicated to something that isn’t true!

 

I studied a passage this week in preparation for a sermon this coming Sunday. As I approached the passage, I had a thesis in mind and kept trying to prove the thesis, only to find that my thesis was off and God had something much better in mind!

The passage is Luke 5:27-39, a passage where the religious leaders of the day approached Jesus at a feast (trying to prove a thesis about him, by the way).

I approached this passage trying to prove the thesis that God wants to do new things and we all better get with it or else we will be left behind! I looked up Elon Musk (Tesla / Space X) and Alan Mullaly (Boeing, Ford) hoping to find inspiring stories of people moving forward with innovation. I read Henry Cloud and Karl Vaters looking for self help and church help. All these guys are studs by the way and we have a lot to learn from the; I just didn’t find what I was looking for.

What I expected to find in this passage: Get with the program people, Jesus is doing something new.

What I actually found in this passage: Something much more beautiful. Whether you are young or old, jew or gentile, Pharisee or tax collector, white or black, republican or democrat, Jesus wants you to feast with him.

  1. In this way, he isn’t what we expect.
  2. In this way, he is the life of the party.
  3. And in this way, life in him is entirely new.

When Jesus Isn’t What We Expect (vs. 27-33)

In the opening portion of this passage, we see that Tax Collector (Levi) gave his life to Jesus, left everything, and followed him. Understand that the tax collector in this day is considered a despised and scandalous individual by many. Think of such an individual today (and it may be different for each of you reading). Jesus approached, gave life to, and feasted with a despised and scandalous outcast. Those who follow Jesus must do so today.

Then Levi throws a party for Jesus. Isn’t this exactly what Levi should have done? If you are with Jesus, you are feasting. It’s what he does. He created the world and all that is in it. He prepares a place for us to lied down and a table in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23). He offers his very body as the bread and the cup. He will throw an elaborate wedding feast for all his friends one day.

But, the religious leaders show up and try to bust up the party. I picture the brief conversation going sort of like this:

Religious Leaders: Jesus, you’re not we expected. We expected a Messiah who would come and pat us on the back.

Jesus: No, I’m the Messiah who came to put you on my back. I’m one who has called for sinners to repent. I’m a doctor who has come for the sick.

Do you see the religious leaders trying to prove a false thesis here?

When Jesus is at the Party (vs. 34-35)

The religious leaders accused Jesus and his disciples of just going on an eating and drinking on the Sabbath. But, the disciples doing exactly what they should do! When you are with Jesus, you feast. This is why Jesus asks, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast when he is with them?”

  1. When one is celebrating, can you force them to stop?
  2. Jesus is calling himself the bridegroom. Who is he marrying? Who are his friends?
  3. How are we to behave as friends of the bridegroom? As his bride? While he is with us?
  4. A time for fasting. Have you ever done it? What does it say? What does it do?

Jesus and his disciples feasting is a statement of what life in Christ is. It’s an affront to those who do not live this way. And, it’s an invitation to those who want to.

When Jesus Does a New Thing (vs. 36-39)

Jesus then tells two parables: (New patch on an old coat / New wine in old wineskins). Here we learn a few things:

  1. If we are proving our thesis, we are tempted to conclude: See Jesus says the new is better than the old (new wineskins).
  2. If we are proving our thesis, we are tempted to conclude: See Jesus says the old is better than the new (nobody wants new wine).
  3. If we stop trying to prove our thesis, we can step back for a moment and see Jesus’s actual message: whether you prefer an old coat, a new patch, old wine, or new wineskins, we need Jesus to make us new.

Jesus Wants Everyone to Feast (young and old, male and female, jew and gentile, black and white, rich and poor, tax collector and religious leader)

  1. In this way, he is not what we expected
  2. In this way, he is the life of the party
  3. In this way, life in him is entirely new

This kind of life is available to you, a life beyond our expectations, a life with the one who is the life of the party, and a life that is entirely new with Jesus Christ.

Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about a spouse or friend. Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about a job. Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about ourselves. Some of us have been trying to prove a thesis about Jesus.

If we are not careful, our whole life will be spent trying to prove a thesis that isn’t true. May be flexible enough to let Jesus prove our expectations wrong, show up as the life of the party, and do a new thing in our lives, our church, our families, our jobs today. Will you take him up on this life today? Will you let him make you new? Will you join him at the feast?

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:1-5)

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From time to time, I will receive questions about the faith and this was one such question.
“Why doesn’t God speak to me the way that he did to others in Bible times?”
Thanks for your question! I hear you asking whether God still speaks today in the way that he spoke during the times of the Bible’s writing.
The short answer to your question is that God still speaks to anyone who would listen. God was the first voice that spoke in the universe, the first voice who said, “Let there be light.” And he has been speaking ever since. And he will continue to speak!
Note that our times are very different times than the time period in which the Bible was written and that much time passed even during the writing of the Bible. Hebrews 1 gives us a great rundown of the ways that God has spoken to us throughout history (prophets, writings, Jesus!). Here are some of those ways and others that we see in Scripture.
Throughout history, God has been speaking in several different ways:
(1) He speaks through creation – See Romans 1
(2) He speaks through His written word, the Bible – See 2 Timothy 3
(3) He speaks through His Spirit – See John 14
(4) He speaks through His Son, Jesus Christ – See Hebrews 1
(5) He speaks through others around us – See James 3
(6) He speaks through songs, music, teachings, books, etc. – See 2 Chronicles 20
(7) He speaks through angels – See Hebrews 13
(8) He speaks through visions, dreams, and prophecies – See Acts 2
Jesus, in John 10 says that His sheep hear his voice. In other words, if you are a follower of Christ, you hear his voice and learn how to hear his voice more clearly. This does not necessarily mean that you will hear him talking in the burning bush or that you will see an angel. I can tell you clearly that I do not believe that I have ever audibly heard the voice of God or that I have ever seen an angel. But, I have heard God talking throughout my life in various ways.
Have you ever seen a rainbow so beautiful that you knew there had to be a God who had created the world? Have you ever read a Scripture verse and had it speak directly and clearly to you? Have you ever had a song or piece of music move you in a way that drew you closer to the Lord? Have you ever had somebody give you encouragement and teach you something about the ways of life or the the ways of God? These are all ways in which God can and still does speak today.
And certainly, there are ways that are more “mysterious” than this. 
(1) 1 Corinthians 2:16 teaches that we “have the mind of Christ.” In other words, we can learn to think like he thinks.
(2) Luke 12:12 says that the Holy Spirit will “teach us what to say.”
(3) In John 10, Jesus says that his sheep will “hear my voice.”
(4) Romans 8:26-27 says that the Spirit will help us know what to pray.
(5) Acts 2:17 talks about the dreams, visions, and prophecies that can come from the Lord.
There are people all over the world that share stories about God’s voice, God’s leading, God’s showing up in this life still. Liz and I once had a complete stranger approach us in a sandwich shop in a different city than where we lived to ask us if we had been praying about exactly what we were praying about the night before. God is able to speak in both small and large profound manners.
So how do we hear God’s voice?
(1) The first thing is that we seek to know Him as Lord and Savior. We ask forgiveness for sins, ask for His forgiveness and salvation based on the work of Jesus on the Cross and his resurrection life, and we ask the Spirit to come into our lives. We want to be filled by the Spirit, which quickens us until life.
(2) We start putting ourselves in positions and places where we know He speaks. We know He speaks through His word and so we spend time reading the Bible. We pray and communicate with Him while doing so. We listen while we pray to see if the Spirit is guiding us in some way.
(3) We spend time with people that know His voice and hear from God. We are more likely to hear from God when we spend time with others that are doing the same thing. Ask close Christians around you about how they hear from God. Find out if there is anything that you should be listening for or hearing from their perspective/experience. Listening to testimonies from others about God’s voice is very helpful in learning to hear Him more.
(4) Ask the Spirit to talk. Tell Him that you want to see more of Him in your life and experience Him in ways that will be beneficial for your growth.
(5) We stay connected to the vine (see John 15). If we stay connected to God and his people, we have a better chance of hearing from the Lord and bearing fruit in our lives. Spend time with God, go to Church, read the Scripture, pray. Practice these kinds of spiritual disciplines and see where/how God speaks. This practice and journey is ongoing. So, don’t be discouraged if there is no “lightning moment” on the first try.
I Kings 19 tells an awesome story about how God spoke not in the ways that we may have expected, but in the still small voice. Sometimes, God speaks in the subtle small ways and we simply aren’t listening. Let’s take the opportunity to hear him in any way that He speaks and put ourselves in positions to hear Him wherever he does so. We may just be surprised with the ways that he clearly shows up and speaks even today!

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Growing up, I believed that I had to answer every question asked of me as directly, honestly, and completely I possible. I believed that anything less than this was a lie. For example, if someone asked me how my day was and what I did that day, I would almost immediately swell with nervousness that I was going to leave part of my day out or mess up the order of how things happened. If I didn’t include all the details, was I really answering honestly? If I said my day was great and it was really just good, did I tell a lie?

I quickly learned that I had a moderate case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and specifically one that is termed Religious Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Religion became a trigger for my OCD to the point that telling a lie was the bulk percentage of the pie chart and telling the truth was something that happened only in the rarest of cases when I made sure to give all of the details of all of the facts in the exact correct order. I soon felt like I was lying when I talked most of the time.

You can imagine my relief when I encountered the Jesus of the Bible. You see, most of us have a picture of Jesus in our heads that we learn from parents, friends, youth group events, or poorly made Hollywood movies. Often times, this image doesn’t match up to the Beautiful Person that we see in the pages of the Word of God.

In Jesus, I found a Person who was God and man. At the same time. We was fully divine, yet spent more time in the dirt than I ever have. He was fully man, yet without sin. And, when He was asked a question, sometimes He gave an answered. But, more often, Jesus answered a question with another question.

You see, Jesus was able to discern the motives of the questioner in an instant. I ordered a book today called, “Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered,” by Martin Copenhaver. Did you read that? 307 questions that Jesus asked and 3 that he answered. Most of the time, it turns out, Jesus was content to let questions go unanswered. This was especially the case when He knew that the answer to the asked question was not the Answer that the questioner needed.

More often than not, Jesus redirected the conversation immediately to one that would be more fruitful. One example of this was in Matthew 9:14-15. The text reads:

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

Do you see what Jesus did there? The questioners wanted to trap Jesus in a question about religious observances and Jesus redirected the question to one of His identity. “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?” Jesus asks. The questioners are left with the decision to engage or not in Jesus’ question and wrestle with what Jesus asked them. In an instant, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter at hand and forces the questioner to wrestle with his own question.

Questions, rather than answers, have the unique and profound impact of forcing the hearer to wrestle, seek out, and discover Truth. Jesus understood that He could spoon-feed Truth all day long if He wanted, but it wouldn’t have same effect as if He invited those around him to wrestle with the questions ask. He Himself was the Answer, and He asked questions to empower people to wrestle with that Truth.

I have become fascinated with this approach to education, as mentors like John Mark Reynolds and friends like Adam Johnson have worked tirelessly to question people into Truth. The goal of education, after all, is not to teach people what to think, but how to think.

We serve a God who is Himself the Answer and all of life’s questions rest on His identity. What question is on your heart today? What do you ask of Jesus? Don’t be surprised if He asks you something back. And don’t be surprised if, when you find yourself confronted with your question, it reveals that Jesus is the Answer. May we wrestle with the questions on our hearts today, knowing that the Truth, in fact, is out there!

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8, NIV)