Introduction to Christianity with Luke
- Avoiding controversy by explaining before acting
- Humble people are promoted
- Give to those who can’t pay you back
- Many Jews missed out on Jesus’ blessings
- The cost of being a disciple
- What does it mean to be a Christian?
Luke 14:1-6: Is it right to heal on the Sabbath?
It seems like Jesus has learned to confront the Pharisees before healing people on the Sabbath to reduce the fuss they make over this. As God, I don’t think Jesus made the same sort of mistakes like we need to learn from, but he did model humanity. I believe that Jesus was purposeful in everything that he did. However, it’s certainly easier to talk with people before they work themselves up into a religious frenzy.
Luke 14:7-11: Assume humility instead of honor
Luke 14:12-14: Bless those who can’t pay you back
This is what makes churches amazing – when a stranger comes in and they’re invited to come home for lunch. As with assuming a position of humility, when we serve others and bless others without expecting them to return the favor, God adds this to our account of heavenly rewards. Even if it weren’t for this, it makes the world a better place, without expect others to make it better for us.
Luke 14:15-24: Jesus’ story of a banquet
Jesus shifts from practical everyday behavior to talking about the future. He’s talking with Jews – the people God chose to bless and be a blessing. However, they got caught up in the affairs of this life and forgot the importance of a godly life. Instead of working for the next life, they were consumed with seeking power and reinterpreting God’s word and laws to their advantage. Through the Old Testament prophets, God had been inviting the Jews to his heavenly banquet for 2,000 years. But they were constantly running after other Gods despite all that God had done for them. Now Jesus had come in fulfillment of these prophets. Despite the amazing miracles, including his resurrection, Jesus was not what they were looking for, so they made excuses to reject him. Through Christianity, many people from throughout the world have accepted God’s invitation to the banquet. But few Jews have joined the party and have missed out over the last 2,000 years, preferring to bind themselves to endless rules their sages have invented. But some are now entering God’s kingdom.
Luke 14:25-35: The cost of being a disciple
When Jesus talks of carrying one’s cross, this evokes imagery of wandering through life carrying the device of one’s torturous execution. This has been the case through the ages, the Christians have been mistreated and even executed for carrying God’s word to the people around them.
Before committing to the Christian life, one should consider the full cost. Superficially, it may seem unattractive, but it is truly the only source of inner peace – that is peace despite of life’s trouble, and assurance that things get even better after we die.
I’ve heard that the original Greek word for Christian was a derogatory term like “oh, they’re one of those weirdo Christ-ies.” Essentially it means to be devoted to becoming like Christ – to be the body of Jesus while he is in Heaven. Just as Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit, we are too, albeit somewhat imperfectly.
The Apostles’ Creed
Around 313AD when the Roman Empire officially became Christian, the Caesar saw a very broad spectrum of belief among Christians and wanted a concise statement of what they believed – to get everyone on the same page. The heads of the churches got together and produced what is known as the Apostle’s Creed, or the Nicaean Creed according to where they met. The word creed means belief, using the same Latin root as the word incredible, which means not credible or believable.
While Christianity continues to be a very broad collection of beliefs, this creed remains the essence of our faith. Many churches recite this creed, or put it into songs such as Graham Kendrick’s We Believe [in God the Father] from 1986, which has made it into 6 traditional hymn books; or Hillsong’s This I Believe from 2014, which is still popular around the world today.
I recognize all those who agree to this creed as Christian, which requires their recognition of all such others. Sects like the Mormons and Jehovah’s witness might say they’re Christian, but they don’t really agree to these words, and certainly don’t recognize all others who essentially do.
The text of the Apostles’ Creed
- I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
- and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
- who was conceived from the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,
- who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried,
- descended into hell, rose again from the dead on the third day,
- ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty,
- who will come again to judge the living and the dead.
- I believe in the Holy Spirit,
- the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
- the forgiveness of sins,
- the resurrection of the body,
- and the life everlasting. Amen.
Let’s break this down, and I’ll explain ’what this means to me:
1. I believe in God the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
The first three phrases encompass the Trinity – three individuals who are equal yet complementary, each contributing their own individuality to produce one godhead – in the same way as my mother and father are individuals but are also one – the foundation of my family.
God is almighty – that means all-powerful. There is nothing beyond his infinite power.
God created the Heavens and the Earth from nothing – not the big bang followed by an endless cascade of impossibilities which is the core of atheist belief.
I avoid saying the Father is the almighty creator, because John 1 states that all things came into existence through the Word, which is Jesus. Basically, it was a team effort. Before time was created there was God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, existing beyond the space-time of the physical universe, but holding it all together and orchestrating the movement of every atom.
2. and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
We believe that Jesus is equal to the Father, worthy of all honor and praise. There i’s no other human or angel like him. Some others, such as the Mormons, teach that we will become like Jesus with our own planet to rule over. There are’s no parallel universes – sorry Marvel. Just this one, which will be replaced with a perfect one after Jesus rules for 1,000 years.
3. who was conceived from the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,
Jesus is God’s son in the sense that the Holy Spirit fathered Mary’s baby, but Jesus existed before all creation. This is the astonishing claim of Christianity: that the eternal, infinite God became a little baby who lived and died like any other person.
Jesus appears through the Old Testament as “The angel of the Lord” who interacts with patriarchs, prophets, priests, and kings, and is worshipped by them as God. Around John 8:57, Jesus talked about the occasion in Genesis 18 when 3 men appeared to Abraham. Later in verse 22, the “men” left for Sodom, but the Lord stayed to talk with Abraham.
4. who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried,
Many teach that Jesus didn’t actually die. This is historic revisionism. The prophecies since Adam required the death of a perfect man to cover the sins of all people.
5. descended into hell, rose again from the dead on the third day,
Many teach that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. Scientifically, this is impossible. Even the Bible observes this:
Hebrews 9:27 People die once, and after that they are judged.
I’m more familiar with the translation “It’s appointed unto men (people) to die once, …”
However, Jesus’ resurrection proves that there is life after death, that we too will be resurrected to live with him forever.
Jesus descended into Hades (Hebrew Sheol), which is the world of the dead, to release the saints to be with him in paradise, until their physical resurrection and the judgement for their eternal reward.
6. ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty,
After Jesus’ resurrection, he said to Mary Magdalene,
John 20:17 “… Don’t hold on to me. I have not yet gone to the Father. But go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”
When the first Christian was being killed for his faith,
Acts 7:56 Stephen said, “Look, I see heaven opened and the Son of Man in the honored position—the one next to God the Father on the throne!”
With the previous verse stating he was filled with the Holy Spirit, we see the Trinity as three individuals – certainly, the Father wasn’t sitting beside himself.
7. who will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Yup – we’re gunna be in trouble. Actually, there’s two judgements – that of the living, and that of the dead. The righteous will be resurrected around Jesus’ return to receive their eternal reward, and rule with him. The unrighteous will be resurrected to the judgement at the end of the world when they’ll be cast into their eternal punishment of Hell. Hell was made for those angels who rebelled against God but will also accommodate those who followed their own selfish ways instead of receiving Jesus’ payment for our sins.
8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
We’ve sort of been over this.
9. the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
Now this is interesting. Note the small “c” for catholic, which means universal. This means I believe in the universal church – we who believe according to this document are all part of one great body. If we exclude others who hold these beliefs, we exclude ourselves. If we include others who reject these beliefs, we’re also disqualified.
John 14:6 Jesus answered him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me.
Those who think there’s another way to Heaven are deceived. Those who add requirements, essentially saying, “you have to do it our way” are equally deceived.
10. the forgiveness of sins,
Well, this first requires recognizing our sinful nature:
:21 Now, the way to receive God’s approval has been made plain in a way other than the laws in the Scriptures. Moses’ Teachings and the Prophets tell us this. 22Everyone who believes has God’s approval through faith in Jesus Christ.
There is no difference between people. 23Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory. 24They receive God’s approval freely by an act of his kindness? through the price Christ Jesus paid to set us free [from sin].
Then, it’s often said that there is no sin too great for God to forgive. I couldn’t find a clear scriptural proof. This is the closest.
1 John 1 :7 But if we live in the light in the same way that God is in the light, we have a relationship with each other. And the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from every sin. 8If we say, “We aren’t sinful” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong. 10If we say, “We have never sinned,” we turn God into a liar and his Word is not in us.
Logically, if “my” sin were to great for God to forgive, then I’m not believing in an infinite God – I’ve made up my own powerless idol.
Then there’s the classic
John 3:16 God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.
There’s no sub-clause providing exceptions for any particular sin.
However, just saying you believe is not enough.
:19 You believe that there is one God. That’s fine! The demons also believe that, and they tremble with fear.
It must become an action, which produces an ever-increasing righteousness in the believer.
11. the resurrection of the body,
As I said before, Jesus’ resurrection proves that there’ll be a resurrection for us too.
12. and the life everlasting. Amen.
Eternal life in Heaven is the hope of all Christians, which sustains us through whatever troubles this life may bring.
The Apostles’ Creed is an ancient, unified statement of what Christians believe and therefore what it means to say you’re a Christian. This is combined with the simple set of laws, discussed in the previous chapter.
Acts 15 :28 … Do only what is necessary 29by keeping away from food sacrificed to false gods, from eating bloody meat, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual sins. If you avoid these things, you will be doing what’s right.
Ultimately, Love God with everything you’ve got, and love others.
So let’s pray.
Hey, thank you God for being with us through this session. And I pray that you’ll bless each person who’s engaged in this as they seek to know you better. Lord, I thank you for teaching us to avoid controversy just by explaining what we do before we act. Thank you Lord, that you’ve shown us that humble people will be promoted. Thank you for showing us to give to people who can’t pay us back and the immense blessings that that has brought to so many people, and so many people are being brought into the kingdom because they’ve been blessed without any thought of being paid back. Thank you Lord, that although many Jews have missed out on your blessings and many others as they’ve followed their own way, that you’ve provided the way through your Son to follow your blessings. Thank you Lord also for not hiding from us the cost of being a disciple, but being real about it, and through that we have peace as we endure the troubles of this life. And Lord, I thank you for the Apostles’ Creed and the central document that declares what it means to be a Christian. And Lord, I pray that you’ll bless each one of us as we go throughout this week. Help us to grow closer to you. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.
So, thank for joining me again. We’ll catch you next time. See ya later.