Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 3 Study # 4
Thesis: The benefit of unqualified loyalty is so much greater than that of disloyalty as to be completely outside of the standards of comparison.
Introduction: We have said, for weeks now, that Luke 7 is a deliberate attempt to focus upon Jesus' search for centurion-like faith among those who hear His words. There is a reason for this. There is only one thing that matters more in life than the kind of "faith" that a person exercises: the reason(s) for the exercise of that kind of "faith". Luke's mentor, the apostle Paul, once wrote, "...though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2). In another place, he said, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6). In both of these quotes, the effective, operational, word is "faith", but the underlying driver -- the motivation -- is "love". For this reason, Luke included an extended treatment of the "love" issue at the end of chapter seven.
But, since it will be months before we get to that section, this morning we are going to at least look at the issue because Jesus raised it at the end of what He had to say to John in his confusion about what to "believe". He instructed John's disciples to tell him, "Blessed is he who is not tripped up by Me."
By inserting the "blessing" issue into John's situation, Jesus did two things simultaneously: He provided John with a reason to believe; and He challenged our grasp of how "blessing" fits into "love". So, this morning we are going to look into Jesus' final words to John.
September 7, 2008
- I. The Finest of Lines.
- A. Most folks recognize the difference between doing something for personal gain and doing something for someone else's gain.
- B. Most folks also recognize that sometimes the "gain" is mutual, not exclusive.
- C. The difficulty some of us have concerns the question of how Jesus can set forth a clearly self-focused result as a "legitimate" motivation in the context of His own doctrine that "love" is other-focused.
- D. When Jesus instructed John's disciples to tell him that the person is "blessed" who is not "tripped up" by what He does and does not do, He clearly inserted a "personal" benefit into the picture: how does this fit His thesis of "love"?
- E. The answer rests in the multi-tiered nature of "love".
- 1. In the first place, it is a well known fact that "love" is a composite of many "loves".
- a. Some "loves" are intermediate means to an end.
- b. One "love" is the final end toward which all other "loves" move.
- 2. In the second place, it is also a well known fact that it is not always clear which "intermediate" means are "loving" and which are "deceptions".
- 3. Thirdly, the Bible settles the issue in terms of "final demonstration".
- a. The issue of whether what is driving a person is "love", or not, is never settled when there is a mutuality of benefit.
- b. The issue is settled when there is an exclusiveness of benefit and the person under observation denies his/her own benefit for the sake of the "other" who is in the picture.
- c. The argument runs like this: if a person will choose to endure Hell for you, you can trust him/her in those times when the "love" issue is not clear.
- 1) This is the reason for Romans 5:8 and 1 John 4:10.
- 2) This is the reason for Jesus' words to John about whether he was going to decide who Jesus was on the basis of his imprisonment.
- d. The problems arise when the issue is not whether you can trust someone else, but whether someone else can trust you.
- II. The Confusion.
- A. Clearly Jesus is making a play for John's loyalty to Him while enduring his imprisonment.
- 1. Jesus knew that there was no solution for John in his confusion unless he returned to his self-sacrificing loyalty to Him.
- 2. Jesus was acting out of His self-sacrificing loyalty to John in attempting to get him to return.
- B. Just as clearly, Jesus holds out a "good for John" type of inducement.
- 1. This raises this question: how can "love" be the result of a focus upon personal gain?
- 2. The answer is difficult.
- a. It is the human condition in both creatureliness and fallenness to simply refuse to yield to another's agenda when that yielding is going to require the ultimate loss.
- b. It is an aspect of God's "sanctifying" process that He appeals to a person's sense of personal gain in order to get him to get in/stay in the process long enough to grow up.
- 1) No totally self-absorbed person is going to respond positively to a summons to "die to himself".
- 2) It is possible that a self-absorbed person can begin to understand the evil of his/her self-absorption if he/she is immersed in the good that comes from being under God's care (Romans 2:4).
- 3) Though the development into genuine love is "iffy" by God's methods, it is absolutely certain to not develop apart from them.
- III. The Actual Situation With John.
- A. Jesus pronounced "blessing" upon a certain type of person.
- 1. John was on the verge of not being that certain type.
- 2. Jesus wanted for John to return.
- B. The "problem" of "tripping over Jesus".
- 1. First, there has to be a blindness to His actual "love": the final demonstration by Jesus was not yet given.
- 2. Second, there has to be a blindness to one's own lack of actual "love": no one who turns from loyalty to Jesus does so for "good" reasons.
- 3. The issue of "tripping" is the issue of being deceived into a trap by appearances.
- a. Jesus has demonstrated His "might" in regard to many, many "others".
- b. But Jesus has also refused to do anything about John's imprisonment.
- c. The "tripping" occurs when one yields to the temptation to insist that Jesus use His "might" to address one's own difficulties as a condition of continuing loyalty.
- IV. The Conclusion.
- A. It is inherent in the nature of God to make one's experience the best possible experience when that one is willing to love and trust Him.
- 1. "To make" means "eventually", not "immediately".
- 2. The "best possible" means "given the controlling issues" of love and faith and judgment.
- B. It is inherent in the nature of man to question God's nature when the man's present is not what he wants.
- C. The final fact: blessing is greatest for those who are deliberately willing to put it aside in favor of loyalty to God.