Date: 18 Sep 2022
Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
Sermon Text: Luke 17:20–18:8
Over the last 2 weeks, the world has had to come to terms with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. She reigned so long – over 70 years that it seems she will be there forever.
Many have shared that though they understand that everyone dies, it just seems impossible to contemplate the UK without Queen Elizabeth.
She represented all that was good in the nobility. She served her people with unerring duty and devotion.
She made good her pledge that she made at 21 in 1947, when she said, “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
Now, surely as death comes to all humans, there is another coming which we need to prepare for.
And that is the coming of the Son of Man, our Lord Jesus Christ.
When Jesus comes again, will we be found to have been as steadfast as the late Queen Elizabeth? In that whether our lives be it long or short, it would have been devoted to the service of King Jesus and the spiritual family to which we all belong?
Joshua who led the people into the Promised Land, challenged them at the end of his life –
Jos 24:14 “Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 …. choose this day whom you will serve …. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
This challenge is given to us afresh today. Jesus is coming again and as His subjects, we are to be prepared for His return.
And today’s Scripture text tells us, we will be prepared when we are steadfast in holiness and when we are persistent in prayer.
Steadfast in holiness
Since the beginning of Luke’s Gospel, Luke has been preparing us to understand that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
John the forerunner of the Messiah:
Lk 1:16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God …. to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Jesus as he began his ministry, went into the synagogue and read from Isaiah 61 which talks proclaiming good news to the poor and liberty to the captives. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and Jesus said:
Lk 4:21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
May I submit for our consideration, in the light of God’s Kingdom, 5 facets of what it means to be steadfast in holiness :
Be part of God’s Kingdom now for there is no time to prepare when He comes
In today’s text, the Pharisees asked the question, when is the kingdom of God coming and so Jesus says, it is here already, it is in the midst of you.
The kingdom of God is present in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And as we have seen thus far, the Pharisees who should have known better (since they were the religious leaders), yet they have been rejecting who Jesus is.
Scripture says, God’s kingdom has entered into human history by the incarnation of our Lord Jesus.
The question is do we recognize it?
Are you like the Pharisees today? Not being able to recognize and accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour even though He is right before you in Scripture?
Today is the opportune time to recognize Jesus and be part of his kingdom. Because there is a warning, that when Jesus comes again, it will be too late. The indirect warning is in v31.
Lk 17:31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back.
To the disciples, Jesus warns, don’t turn back to look for your earthy possessions and property. Don’t turn back like Lot’s wife.
How much more then, this warning applies to the Pharisees. When Jesus comes again, if you are not already in His kingdom, if you only desire things of this earth, it will be too late.
And we will see subsequently, the dire consequences of not being in His kingdom.
So today, if you are still not a believer yet, please reconsider and seek God with all your heart.
Don’t look for it
Even though Jesus’ Kingdom is already at hand, yet Jesus says to His disciples, it is not fully completed.
So, we have this understanding of the now and not yet. We are now between Christ first and second coming.
His kingdom has been inaugurated but only fully consummated at His return.
Jesus says, in the meantime, don’t look for the kingdom signs, it will not be observable. Don’t get swayed when people say, look, here it is or there it is.
There will be many who claim to be the Messiah, do not go out or follow them.
Let me share 3 examples of those who have claimed to be the Christian Messiah:
Ann Lee (1736–1784), a central figure to the Shakers, who thought she embodied all the perfections of God in female form and considered herself to be Christ's female counterpart.
Sun Myung Moon (1920–2012), founder and leader of the Unification Church in South Korea. Considered himself the Second Coming of Christ, but not Jesus himself. His followers believed he was the Messiah and anointed to fulfil Jesus' unfinished mission.
Alan John Miller (born 1962), founder of Divine Truth, a religious movement based in Australia. He claims to be Jesus of Nazareth through reincarnation. Miller was formerly an elder in the Jehovah's Witnesses.
There will be many more like them, Jesus warns in Luke 17, don’t go looking for the Messiah.
Because when Jesus comes it will be unmistakable. Jesus says, as lighting lights up the whole sky so that you can see clearly, so will the Son of Man be in his day.
At Jesus’ 2nd coming, it will be so clear that no one will say, is this the Messiah? … I think it might be? … No, when we see it, we will all know.
In 2014 and 2015, some teachers of prophecy predicted that the appearance of blood moons are the fulfilment of end-times prophecies in Joel and Revelation. So, some believers were all excited about it.
Jesus says, using the example of the times of Noah and Lot, no one will know when it will happen. The coming judgement during the time of Noah and Lot wasn’t anticipated. So too when Jesus comes it will not be visible and predictable, it will actually be sudden.
So, church, it is a total waste of our time and energy to be looking out for some Messiah and to seek for signs of the end times.
Instead let’s put to better use our resources, be faithfully obedient.
Cross before Crown
Unlike what the nation of Israel thought the conquering king would be – one who will liberate them from Roman rule and establish them as the superpower of the day.
Jesus explains that the Son of Man will have to face the cross before He can assume the crown.
Jesus taught earlier in Luke 9:
Lk 9:21 “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
And again here in Luke 17, He says, He will suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
Since disciples follow their master, Jesus tells us, believers:
Lk 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.
So, to Jesus disciples, to you and I today, the signs of the times is basically to embrace a cross-shaped lifestyle. It is the denial of our selfish inclinations and the turning towards embracing the delights of God.
And may I add, the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, proven historically, is the solid guarantee that He will indeed come again.
Jesus’ first coming gives us confidence and the assurance that His promises to return will happen.
In the meantime, while we wait expectantly for His second coming, Jesus says, deny yourself daily and follow me.
Terrible judgement and separation to come
And what has the death and the resurrection of Jesus accomplished?
We know that the penalty for sin has been paid. We know that the chains of sin on us have been broken. When we believe in Christ, we are now set free. We are now made right with God. We now have eternal life and not eternal condemnation.
And the example of Noah and Lot gives us a glimpse into the terrible eternal punishment that is in store for those who do not place their trust in Jesus.
Genesis 6 and 18 tells us of the condition of the world during the time of Noah and Lot respectively:
Gen 6:5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Gen 18:20 Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave.
The world today is in as bad a shape as then.
Because of the sinfulness of man, it is also recorded for us the punishment God sent. It shows the extent of God’s hatred for sin:
Lk 17:27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all.
For those of us who have yet to put your faith in Jesus, the plead is to take heed to the warnings of judgement.
God is both loving and holy. Because He is holy He will punish severely, and because He is love, He has provide salvation in His son Jesus.
Like that of the rich man and Lazarus, know that when the Son of Man comes, there are only 2 places you can be at. Either you will experience God’s comfort or face God’s wrath.
And there will be a total separation between those who believe in Jesus and those who do not.
Lk 17:34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.”
In a household, just because you are married to a believer, it does not mean you can be where your believing spouse is.
Just because you have laboured together, it does not mean you can be where your believing colleague will be.
If we do not make a decision for Jesus today, when the Son of Man comes, judgement will be severe and painful.
For those of us who have made that decision for Jesus, remember Holy Communion, you did nothing to deserve it. Only by grace have we entered into God’s kingdom.
Have thus a heart of gratitude. We have been bought with a price, honour God with our lives.
Good examples of Noah and Lot
Jesus said the people of Noah and Lot’s days were eating and drinking and marrying. They were buying and selling, planting and building.
Basically, doing what society does normally. Everything that keeps the economic and social activity humming.
Scripture says, if that is all you do, that is short-sighted living. That is not living with the 2nd coming of Jesus in view.
Apostle Peter explains how Noah and Lot lived:
2 Peter 2:5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard)
Noah took over 100 years to finish building the ark. During that time, God said he was a Herald of righteousness. He proclaimed God’s righteousness. I’m sure he spoke out against the sins of society and urged them to repent and turn back to God.
And we all know, he must have built the ark to the bewilderment of his friends and neighbours. But he persisted because God had commanded it.
For Lot, he lived in midst of sinful humanity as well. Sodom and Gomorrah were known amongst other things for sexual immorality.
And we see that Lot exhibited great distressed at the conduct of his fellow town folks. If he was tormented by their lawless deeds, I’m sure he would also have spoken out against them. He would have pleaded them to repent and to get right with God.
Let’s also take heed to the negative example of Lot’s wife. She was led out of Sodom and Gomorrah but she turned back to look and was turned into a pillar of salt.
Her example teaches, don’t look back and crave for the things of society. Our affections have been changed. We should now long for things of the Lord and not things of this world.
Church, let’s encourage one another thus to live like Noah and Lot as described for us by Apostle Peter.
Persistent in prayer
I pray that we have been persuaded on the fact that King Jesus is coming back again.
For it means then, there will be an accountability as His subjects. Will King Jesus find faith on earth?
I pray that we can help each other say, yes, I’ll endeavour to strive with the Holy Spirit’s help to be faithful.
I like what Ps Luwin shared last Sunday. That we already have been given sufficient faith to move a mulberry tree into the sea. And so, we are to live with a pinch of faith and a whole lot of obedience.
To be found faithful to Jesus, we have just seen it means to be steadfast in holiness. Now in these 8 verses of Luke 8, we consider what it means to be persistent in prayer.
May I share 4 components for our consideration:
Accept that prayerfulness does not come naturally
Jesus begins this parable with the objective so clearly stated – we ought always to pray and not lose heart.
This means then that realistically we will not always pray, we will struggle to pray, we will always lose heart.
Therefore, we need to acknowledge that prayer does not come naturally. Most of us are not prayer warriors. Instead, we are those who need to cultivate the discipline of prayer.
In 1535, Martin Luther wrote some practical advice about how intentional prayer needs to be:
“be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, “Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that.” Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day.”
Thus, we do acknowledge that the hardest ministry is the ministry of prayer.
But though it is hard, it does not mean we shy away from it. Instead, we need to acknowledge our weakness towards it while at the same time, recognizing Jesus’ instruction about it.
I’m sure we can identify with that since we typically struggle with discipline in areas such as oral hygiene, physical exercise and healthy eating.
Do you think that God wanted to teach us in Hermon, the persistence of prayer through our 8 month-long wait for the regulatory approval?
Even as we decided that the approval issue was to be a constant agenda in our fortnightly prayer meeting, yet we struggled to get all our leaders and members to attend.
God is so much more than this unrighteous judge
Maybe we lose heart to pray because we think God does not listen. That God does not care.
Jesus says, look at this unrighteous judge. He is totally wicked in that he does not fear God nor respect man. Yet this unrighteous judge will accede to the widow’s request because of her persistence.
The unrighteous judge does it to get her out of his hair. He doesn’t want to be beaten down by her continued coming.
Using the argument from the lesser to the greater, Jesus implies, God is so much more than this unrighteous judge.
God is righteous, God is ever wanting to give justice speedily. He hears and knows even before a word is said.
The question I submit for us to consider is whether when we fail to be persistent in prayer and lose heart, is it because we forget who God is?
We forget that he is Omniscient – that he is all knowing and everywhere. We claim that nothing can separate us from the love of God right? So, since He is always with us, we should persist in prayer.
We forget that he is Omnipotent – that he is all powerful. We sing that He is creator and sustainer. We believe He is sovereign. If so, then there can be no other that we should constantly turn to.
I believe we forget who God is because we have made Him to be our genie. We have made God into our idol, to do our wants and our wishes.
We have forgotten that Jesus taught us to pray – Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Today we commemorate Holy Communion. Paul says:
Rom 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
The sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ should be the sufficient encouragement for us to be persistent in prayer. And so may each Communion be a timely encouragement for persistent prayer.
We are unlike the widow
Yes, the persistent example of the widow is what we are to emulate in our prayers. But Jesus says, we are so different from the widow.
The widows of Jesus time were powerless and had no means of influence to rectify their grievances. They will always be bullied by their adversaries.
Jesus says, however, we are his elect.
What does that mean? It means before the foundation of the world, we were chosen. God has chosen to love you and I not because of what we have done, but just because He has elected us.
It means He wanted us to be part of His kingdom. Jesus didn’t die for everyone, Jesus died for the elect – you and I.
God has redeemed us, He has justified us, He has adopted us and He will continue to sanctify us till He takes us home.
Isn’t that wonderful truths?
We can be persistent in prayer when we realize who we are in Christ. We are God’s elect, beloved by Him.
Will he not hear our cries? Of course, He will!
God will vindicate His elect
Ps Luwin shared last Sunday that when we have faith, we can forgive. Why? Because we know that we have been forgiven much.
Luke 18:7-8 tells us, we also know that God will vindicate His elect.
Lk 18:7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? zWill he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.
Because God is righteous, He knows what is truly right and wrong. If there were any injustice that we have experienced, He will do what is necessary.
We can rest in the assurance that all that is necessary for us to be, is to be right in His eyes.
I supposed the challenge for us is what is ‘speedily’. Must it be in our lifetime or based on God’s timing? And I think we need to take ‘speedily’ from God’s perspective.
2 Peter 3:8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Luke 18 instructs, we can be persistent in prayer when we know who God is, know who we are in His sight and trust in His timing.
During these 8 months of waiting upon the Lord for the regulatory approval of Henderson, there were times when we felt like giving up.
Maybe we should just rent a hotel ballroom. Maybe we need to think of alternatives.
But thanks be to God that we kept on prayerfully engaging the authorities.
What was an encouragement to me was the comment from one of our Elders.
He said, the Lord has brought us thus far, let’s keep at it till God says no. Even if that happens, we can still trust God because He knows what is best for us. In the meantime, let’s just continue to build disciples of Christ Jesus.
As a church, we have been exposed to just a tiny bit of experience with regards to persistent prayer. May it be a faith strengthening exercise for all of us.
Are you prepared for the return of Jesus? Will Jesus find faith on earth? I pray that all of us in Hermon will be counted as faithful.
And we will be, if we take heed to what is taught here in Luke’s gospel - to be steadfast in holiness and persistent in prayer.