“This is the greatest BBQ I ever had.” “This is one of the greatest books I have ever read.” “That was one of the greatest QB performances this year.” “That was the greatest compliment I have ever received.” Imagine if you could record all your conversations over the last month, and then do a search for how often the word “greatest” was used in a sentence, I think we would be surprised on how often the word appears. Our society loves to talk about the greatest. Whether it is restaurants, sports, books or vacations, we love to talk about the things that we think are the greatest. It is very interesting how passionate discussions can get when there is a debate about the “greatest.” Now many of us would not admit to this, but I believe that we enjoy these debates because deep down all these debates are about proving why we are the greatest. We want to prove that our interests, opinions and sports teams are the greatest because if they are the greatest well then I must be great for liking or having them. We know from the Bible that there is only one thing that is the greatest and that is God himself. God is the greatest. 1 Chronicles 16:25, “For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and he is to be feared above all gods.” God is above all and is indeed the greatest.
The Scriptures testify to His greatness, but it also testifies to our lack of understanding of his greatness. In Genesis 3, Eve was tempted to doubt God’s greatness and to replace His greatness with her own. So we read in Genesis 3:1,
“Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat for the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (Gen 3:1-5)”
Eve was tempted to doubt God being the greatest with the promise that you can be like God. The serpent was telling Eve that she was the greatest. It was her opinions and her interests that mattered more than the Lord. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate (Gen 3:6).” Adam and Eve believed the lie about their own greatness and rejected the greatness of God. Their hearts were filled with pride and their pride brought sin and death into the world. Beloved, the prideful sin of Adam and Eve still lives in our hearts and we must be vigilant to address pride in its many forms. This morning, we are going to look at 4 exhortations to the pride in our hearts. The first three exhortations I will attempt to apply to all of us and the last I will hope to apply specifically to Robert Deaton who will be ordained as a deacon at the end of our service. First exhortation is to the Prideful Self: Receive the Least of the Kingdom.
I. To The Prideful Self: Receive the Least of the Kingdom
Verse 46, “An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” We read verses like this about the apostles and we are shocked at their pride. Who goes around debating on which of themselves is the greatest? You may give them a hard time, but if you were to analyze your own heart, I am sure you have an inner dialogue about your own greatness all the time. You see someone doing something you disapprove of and the “Greatest Debate” starts in your own head. “Well how could she wear white shoes after Labor Day, doesn’t she know better? I would never do that.” Translation I am a better dresser than she is or I am the greatest dresser between the two of us.” So let’s not be too hard on the disciples.
Luke goes on in verse 47, “But Jesus knowing the reasoning of their hearts.” Beloved, always know that you cannot hide your heart from God. Jesus does not judge you based on your external obedience, but on the inner working of the heart. And Jesus hates a prideful heart. James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 say, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” God is against the prideful and he is also against the prideful thoughts in your own heart. So in love Jesus Christ, knowing the reasoning of our hearts gives us an illustration on how to fight against our prideful thoughts. Verse 47, “But Jesus knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me, For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
When I graduated college I served at a church in Washington, D. C. in the men’s ministry. We were in the nation’s capital and when I started a bible study my goal was to serve the well-educated, thoughtful, future power brokers of our nation in the Word, but the Lord, knowing the reasoning of my heart, wanted to teach me to receive the lowly. The Men’s Bible study was eventually filled with the homeless and downtrodden. These men had no power and no external greatness, but they knew Jesus Christ. And they taught me that true greatness is not found in the company of the powerful, but in the company of weak. So, who is in your company? How do you receive the weak and lowly? Jesus says to the Prideful Heart: Receive the Least of the Kingdom. Second, exhortation is to the Prideful Church: Receive the Laborers of the Kingdom.
II. To The Prideful Church: Receive the Laborers of the Kingdom
Verse 49, “John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.” So the disciples are slow learners. Jesus is trying to correct their prideful hearts, but John responds with pride. John wanted to show Jesus on how great of followers the disciples were being. He says that we caught someone casting out demons in the name of Jesus, but because he does not follow with us, they tried to stop him.
Beloved, people who are not against us and the gospel of Jesus Christ are FOR us. We are on the same team. There should be no competition among churches. One of the reasons I regularly pray for other churches and meet to encourage other pastors is to remind us that we are all part of the same kingdom. We are all members of the kingdom of God. If a revival broke out in Rock Hill and people were coming to Christ left and right and churches across this city were being filled up and our attendance remained the same, would you be glad and rejoice? I would. Paul writes in Philippians 1:18, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” When the faithful bible preaching churches of Jesus Christ are growing, God is pleased. So praise His Name. We want the greatness of Jesus Christ to be magnified in this city. If Christ is proclaimed, in that rejoice. If He wants to use Park Baptist Church to that end, to God be the glory. If He wants to use the church down the street, to God be the glory.
So let me say this, I love this church. I love what God is doing in this church. I am excited in how God is growing us and who God is bringing in our midst. It is exciting. God is moving at Park. But if you have friends and family who attend other faithful bible preaching churches, do not invite them to our church. Tell them to be faithful and loyal to that church. Now, there are times when people need to leave their church. It could be due to reasons of ministry philosophy or theology, but it should always be done in a gracious and loving way. We want our church to grow. But we don’t want to our church to grow only numerically. We want our church to grow in holiness, in love for God’s Word, in grace, and in humility. We want it to grow God’s way. So before you invite people to our church make sure you know why you are inviting them. Be excited what God is doing at Park, but be even more excited for what God is doing in the Kingdom. So if they are not attending church, Invite them. Are they non-believers? Invite them. Are they searching for a church home? Invite them. Are they faithful members of other Gospel preaching churches? (Key word: Gospel preaching) Ask how you can pray for them and their church. Got it. The third exhortation is given to the prideful world: Receive the Lord of the Kingdom.
III. To The Prideful World: Receive the Lord of the Kingdom
Verse 51, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up (probably a reference to his ascension following his resurrection), he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.” After verse 51 Jesus starts to narrow his focus on the cross and resurrection. Jesus words and ministry start to intensify. The focus of his ministry starts to turn to Jerusalem where he will be crucified and resurrected. This is important because as the attention turns to the cross so does the rejection of Jesus Christ. The people of the Samaritan village did not receive Jesus. Why? Because his face was set toward Jerusalem and the people did not want to receive the message of the cross.
The message of the cross strikes right at the heart of the pride of the world. As I mentioned in the introduction, we all have an innate sense that we are the greatest because of our sinful nature. Our sinful nature replaces God as King with placing the kingly crown on our own heads. We believe that our desires are the most important desires in the world. The message of the cross is against sinners. Pastor Mark Dever says, "A gospel that in no way offends the sinner has not been understood." The cross should offend the sinner. The cross says that your sin is so heinous in the eyes of God that you deserve to die. Friend, if you are here with us today and are not a believer in Christ, the Bible says that all human beings have fallen short of the glory of God. We have rebelled against God’s greatness and deserve to be punishment. The punishment for our rebellion is unquenchable fire and the weeping and gnashing of teeth in a literal, eternal place called Hell. The message of the cross is that you, a sinner, deserve to die. The message of the cross says you are dead in your sins and need a Savior. And that is offensive. (Pause) But it is also glorious.
The text says in verse 51 and 53 that Jesus set His face towards Jerusalem. The good news of Jesus Christ is that while we replaced God’s greatness with our own, Jesus set his face to Jerusalem where he would lay his life down as a ransom to purify filthy sinners with his precious blood. The message of the cross is the most offensive and encouraging message in the world. In one breathe it says you are a sinner and deserve to die and in the next it says that one has come to die in your place. Jesus died and was raised for everyone who would turn and trust in Him. The people of Samaria did not receive the message, for in their pride, they did not want to admit the first part. They could not acknowledge their sinfulness; therefore they missed the second part of one who came to die for them. Friend, admit you are a sinner deserving of punishment and receive the Lord of the kingdom. Believer, this message also gives you freedom to confess your sin because you do not stand in your righteousness but in the righteousness of another. Every time we confess our sin, we are placing our trust in the work of God in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Luke goes on in verse 54, which has an important lesson to the pride remaining in our hearts, “And when the disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” But he turned and rebuked them. And they went on to another village.” The people rejected Jesus and James and John wanted to call fire down from heaven on them. We see their pride well up again. They took great pride in being in the inner circle of Jesus. They accepted Jesus so why don’t others? It is right to call fire down on heaven for those who don’t. I see so much of the Southern church culture. We take so much pride in our position as Christians, that we lose sight in how we became Christians in the first place. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the
“O you self-righteous people, how can you talk about being saved? What saving do you want? You are as full of good works as you can be and your pride shines—how can you be saved? Those who are saved by Jesus are those who are in themselves lost, ruined and undone. Until you know your ruin, and confess your sin, it is not likely you will ever accept a Savior. While you feel you can save yourselves, you will attempt it; but when you can do no more, then you will fall into the arms of your Savior; and what a blessed fall that will be!”
Beloved, fight against self-righteousness, and fall into the arms of your Savior. And go into our prideful world and pray that they would receive the Lord of the Kingdom. The last exhortation goes as a warning to the Prideful Servant: Receive the Labor of the Kingdom.
IV. To The Prideful Servant: Receive the Labor of the Kingdom
We take the ordaining of our deacons and pastors very serious. Ordination is our way to set aside someone for unique service the kingdom of God. In Acts 13:2, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. Today, we are going to set apart Robert Deaton for the work to which the Lord has called him: to serve as a deacon. I would like to give a charge to Robert from the end our Sermon Text this morning. Luke 9:57,
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.
In this section, Jesus lays out the cost of following Him. Robert, there is a great cost in following Jesus. Notice how often the word “follow” is used in this section.
V. 57, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
V. 59. “Follow me.”
V. 61, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first...
The command of Jesus is very simple. Follow me. Follow means to come behind or to be a disciple. Jesus is calling you follow him. But remember what Jesus means when he says follow him. He is calling you to follow him as he set his face to Jerusalem. He is calling you to follow him in the way of the cross. I want you to notice how many people in this passage claimed that they would follow Jesus…eventually.
Verse 59, Lord let me first…
Verse 61, I will follow you, Lord, but let me first…
Robert, you are being set apart to serve as a deacon. The word deacon itself means to serve. But you are not called to serve like the people that Jesus met along the road that day. They all said that they would follow Jesus, but they would not follow him first. The calling of all Christians, especially leaders, is to serve Jesus Christ as the greatest joy of your life. You must humble yourself under His Lordship. The labor of the kingdom is a glorious task.
Jesus gives a great image of those who follow him. He says, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. “ Robert, you are being called to put your hand to the plow and sow into the kingdom of God. Farmers would plow up the hard ground to prepare the seeds for the harvest. You are called to plow up the hard ground of the heart with sacrificial love to prepare to seed of the Word for people’s hearts. Farmers would plow the field in hot seasons of drought and in season of perpetual rain. God is calling you to labor for his glory in times of pain and in times of blessing. The work of plowing was hard work and it often costs the farmer his strength. Robert, God is calling you to work hard even at the cost of your strength. Jesus says no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God. We are setting you apart as deacon for good. This is not a temporary job, but a commission to lifelong service to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It is a great honor to serve the Lord. I exhort you to receive the labor of the Kingdom.
 Bock, D. L. (1994). Luke Volume 1: 1:1–9:50. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (p. 895). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
 http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/the-four-lucky-lepers-robert-leroe-sermon-on-evangelism-urgency-48291.asp?Page=3 accessed on 8.31.13 3:44 pm