God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. If you are going to grow in your walk, you must be willing to allow God to help you to change, to be more and more like Jesus.
I want you to muster up all the imagination you have after a long winter and picture with me a beautiful, sunny summer day with temperatures in the 80’s. After church you’re across the street at the park with your little child swinging on the swings and playing in the sand box. Suddenly you here the clanging of a bell! You look up, and lo and behold there is a an old fashion ice cream truck selling ice cream cones, fudge and cream sickles. You look over at your little one and tell them you’ll be right back as you make your way over the 30’ or so to the truck, while keeping that ever watchful eye on your child. You hand the man the money for the two treats and make your way back to the sandbox where your little one is happily playing.
But as you bend down to give the delicious treat to you child you see that their mouth is full of sand. Where you intended to put a delicacy, they have put sand.
The question however is, do you love your child with sand in their mouth? It’s a silly question, isn’t it? Of course you love them! Are they any less your child with sand in their mouth? Of course not! But your next step is an obvious one; there is no way you’re going to allow them to keep sand in their mouth. You love your child right with sand in their mouth, but you refuse to leave them that way. So you carry them over to the water fountain and wash out their mouth. Why? Because you love them!
God does the same for us. He holds us over the fountain and says, “Spit out the dirt, I’ve got something better for you” And so he cleanses us of the filth, the immorality, the dishonesty, the prejudice, the bitterness, and the greed. We don’t enjoy the cleansing; sometimes we even opt for the dirt over the ice cream, “I can eat dirt if I want to!” we pout and proclaim.
Which is true, we can. But if we do, the loss is ours. God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. God has a better offer and if you are going to grow in your walk, you must be willing to allow God to help you to get the dirt out of your mouth so He can give you something so much better.
After being baptized by John the Baptist (Luke 3:22), Jesus is led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil and then returns to his hometown of Nazareth in Galilee in the power of the Spirit. His family, friends, and neighbors were anxious to see Him, because news about him doing miracles had spread through the whole countryside, and He was now somewhat of a celebrity. And so on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom and He stood up to read.
Now there was probably an air of expectation and a sense of anticipation.
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him”. Luke 4:18-19.
And then He said something that literally blew their socks off, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." V.21
They went ballistic! Both Matthew and Mark record their response;
"Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?" 55"Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" 57And they took offense at him.
But why? If we look at what Jesus said to them, we can begin to see that they likewise had dirt in their mouths and God wanted to help them get it out.
By using this text out of Isaiah, Jesus hits on 4 main types of people that need God’s help.
The 1st are the “poor”. Jesus said He came to preach good news to the poor. The word poor can cover poverty of every kind, but in this context, it’s referring to something much deeper than financial poverty. Jesus was referring to their moral and spiritual poverty. In fact the word for “poor” is the same word Jesus used in the first beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matt. 5:3 (In other words, those who see their need) We might say that these people went to church, but that they were morally and spiritually bankrupt; praising God on the outside, but doing totally ungodly things on the inside.
The 2nd type of person is the prisoner. Now there were no prisoners in Nazareth, but the word for prisoner in this context means “prisoner of war”, and Jesus saw how these people he new well were under spiritual bondage and prisoners of things like money (Matt. 19:1-10); guilt (Matt. 7:41-50) and a whole host of other things. Satan had a stronghold in their lives and they didn’t even know it (Matt. 8:26-39).
It was this very thing that the Spirit of God lead Charles Wesley to write that wonderful Hymn, “O For 1,000 Tongues to Sing”, v. 4 says, He breaks the power of canceled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me.
The 3rd type of person Jesus talks about is the blind. There were not only those who were physically blind, but as 2 Cor. 4:4 says, The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
In fact, Jesus used it again to explain Paul’s ministry to Him: I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Acts 26:17-18. Jesus was showing them the blindness they had to their own need. They had dirt in their mouth, but were blind to it.
The 4th type of person is the oppressed, which means “broken in pieces, shattered and crushed”. Jesus came to those whose lives were squashed by life’s crushing load and couldn’t see a way out.
And so Jesus in one full swoop announces His ministry and proclaims His mission. “I have come for your spiritual poverty, your spiritual bondage, your spiritual blindness and your spiritual brokenness”.
I have come to heal your hearts!
I have come to make you whole!
I have come to give you life!
And so what did they do with this offer, this good news; they took offense at him. Matt. 13:57. But why?
V. 54 states, they admitted He had wisdom and miraculous powers?" But even this they ignored.
Was it because He was a hometown boy?
Was it because He was a carpenter’s son?
Was it because of His brothers and sisters?
Of course these are all factors, but they do not lie at the core.
• Why you would turn from someone who wanted to help?
• Why would you reject someone who cared so much?
• Why would you push away someone who could heal and make you whole?
I don’t know, but I see it all the time!
Perhaps they were afraid!
Perhaps they had to face some things about themselves that they didn’t want to face!
Perhaps they had to come to the end of themselves in order to come to the beginning of God.
One of the most successful programs to help people with their chronic struggles has been the 12 step program. All 12 step recovery programs start essentially the same way: Step 1 goes something like this:
Step 1 is about taking a step ---- I admit to myself that something is seriously wrong in my life.
• I have created messes in my life. Perhaps my whole life is a mess, or maybe just important parts are a mess.
• I admit this and quit trying to play games with myself.
• I realize that my life has become unmanageable in many ways. It is not under my control anymore.
• I do things that I later regret doing and tell myself that I will not do them again. But I do. I keep on doing them, in spite of my regrets, my denials, my vows, my cover-ups and my facades.
• I admit the truth of where I am, that I am really powerless and need help.
Step 1 is all about brokenness!
Can any of you relate to this?
Step 2 is a step of hope, faith and realization. It is a big step towards God. In essence it says: In spite of all of the failures in my own life - all of the broken promises, hard feelings, disappointments, failures, destructive behavior, hatred, anxiety, depression or guilt - there is still hope. There is hope because there is a power greater than myself. I am incapable of doing it myself, I need God’s help.
Step 2 is all about honesty
Step 3 is a step of letting go and relinquishment. I have made a conscious and willful decision to turn my will and all my life’s circumstances over to the care of God.
Step 3 is all about letting go.
Now folks, you don’t have to be an alcoholic or an addict for these things to help. In fact, theses are the essential first steps any of us must take if we are to grow in our walk with the Lord.
The people in Nazareth knew that Jesus had performed miracles and could help, but they let their self-sufficiency and pride get in the way.
So Jesus used two illustrations in this passage to help them understand.
1. He reminds them of the widow in Zarephath during the time of Elijah.
1 Kings 17:7-16 tells how the prophet Elijah encountered a Gentile woman, a non-Jew, gathering sticks to kindle a fire so that she could bake a meal for her son and herself so, as she put it, “we may eat it—and die” v.12. Now this was during the reign of Ahab and his infamous Jezebel who together according to 1 Kings 16:30 did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. So God sent Elijah to punish Israel from turning from Him and Elijah said to Ahab, "As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."1 Kings 17:1. Ahab wouldn’t listen, so God sends Elijah to confront the 850 prophets of Baal on top of Mt. Carmel. I’ll leave you to read that incredible encounter a top Mt. Carmel in 1 Kings 18.
Back to the story just before this, Elijah says to this Gentile widow woman and her son who are about to die from the famine, 13 "Don’t be afraid . . . first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and then make something for yourself and your son. The LORD, God of Israel, says: ’The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’ " She and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.
Now the people in Nazareth that day new exactly where Jesus was going with this; if they wanted to see Jesus help the poor, the blind, the prisoner and the oppressed, all they needed to do was trust Him like the widow trusted God to provide for her needs. But since they didn’t get it,
2. Jesus reminds them of the story of Naaman, the mighty Syrian commander who suffered from leprosy in 2 Kings 5:11-12. Naaman had come to the prophet Elisha for healing, but Elijah sent his servant to tell Naaman, the noble Syrian commander to dip 7 times in the muddy Jordan River. Naaman was infuriated, but he humbled himself and did it any way.
After hearing these two stories, the fine citizens of Nazareth had heard enough. It was bad enough to be told that they were poor in spirit, blind to the things of God, a prisoner to Satan and their lives were in pieces, but now they were being told that they were less spiritual and less wise than the Gentiles, was just too much!
V. 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.
Pretty drastic, wouldn’t you say! We’re talking about murder!
So here is the context of our passage, but how in the world does it apply in helping us to grow in our walk?
1. It is all too easy to have the attitude of the people in Nazareth that says, “I’m fine, just the way I am”. “I don’t need to look to the Lord or to relinquish my will into His hands”. Remember Step 1 of the 12 Step Recover Program: I admit to myself that something is seriously wrong in my life. If I are going to grow in my walk with the Lord, I must admit I can’t do it without Him.
2. Like the widow, we need to learn to put our trust in the Lord. Remember Step 2: In spite of all of the failures in my own life - all of the broken promises, hard feelings, disappointments, failures, destructive behavior, hatred, anxiety, depression or guilt in my life - there is still hope. There is hope in the fact that the Lord is greater than my problems.
3. Like Naaman, we can’t let our foolish pride stand in the way of allowing God to help us. Remember Step 3: I have made a conscious and willful decision to turn my will and all my life’s circumstances over to the care of God.
Now folks, whether you have been walking with the Lord for 6 months or 60 years, the principle is the same; You will never grow in your walk if you don’t think you need to. Everyday, every week, every month God is working in my life and showing me dirt within me that He wants to replace with His delicacies. But the biggest hindrances to receiving those wonderful blessing is me. I stand in the way! My pride, my arrogance, my self-suffiency and my unwillingness to ask God for help and then do what he asks keeps me from growing in my walk.
Everyday I have to remind myself that God loves me just the way I am, but He refuses to leave me that way.
In a large prestigious church in England, a former burglar knelt beside a Supreme Court judge. After the service, the judge walked out with the pastor and said, “Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the communion service this morning, what a miracle of grace”. The pastor replied, “It is truly a miracle what God has done in that man’s life”. The judge, in a humble voice, then said, “I was talking about me”. When that fellow met Christ in jail, he left his life of crime and received all the hope and healing that Jesus could offer. He new how much he needed help. But look at me, I was taught from childhood that I didn’t need anyone’s help. I went to church, took Communion, graduated from Oxford, and became a lawyer and eventually a prestigious judge. I was sure that I was all I ever needed. But kneeling beside that fellow today, reminded me that like him, I am no better than him. For I too, am a sinner in need of God’s grace.
Sometimes, we get in the way of coming to or relinquishing our lives into the hands of God. Yes, God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. If you are going to grow in your walk, you must be willing to allow God to help you to change, to get the dirt out of your mouth, to be more and more like Jesus.