Our Federal Government has been officially shutdown for 12 days. Regardless of what side of the political
Noah Webster, who has been called the “Father of American Scholarship and Education,” was an avid political writer and became one of the prominent spokesman for American Democracy in our early years as a nation. Listen to how important he believed the Christian faith was to the success of American Democracy, “The Christian religion, in its purity, is the basis, or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government…and I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exists and be durable in which the principles of that (Christian) religion have not a controlling influence.” He says in essence that an American Republic government will not last without the principles of the Christian faith. I would concur with Webster on the importance of the principles of the Christian faith for the longevity of the American Republic.
America has turned its back on God. The nation has changed a lot over the last few decades. A nation that was once founded on Christian principles has turned to a nation that ridicules Christian principles. Our nation has turned away from God. And when our nation started to turn, the church became silent. They removed themselves from the public square to preserve their heritage. In recent years, there has been a resurgence in Christians entering the public square (even in the face of persecution). Christians should enter the public square and should serve in public offices. The church is often derided and characterized as only speaking against things. People say the church should speak what they are for rather than what they are against. But in speaking for something, in many cases it is speaking against something else.
Christian should speak to the issues of the day, because we believe that the Christian faith is not only right, but will maximize human flourishing. This is what Noah Webster was saying. A civil government will flourish with Christian principles at its root, but if you remove Christian values, you damage society. So how can Christians help change this dysfunctional society? How can we change this nation? I pray this morning that I will give you 3 simple yet profound truths that if we get a hold of will make a dramatic impact on our city and eventually our nation. These first truths are connected so let’s give them both together:
I. Love God and Love Others.
Verse 25, “And Behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it? And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
A lawyer stood up to put Jesus to the test. His motivation was not to truly listen to Jesus, but to challenge him. He asks a great question, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” It is a great question to ask.
The Mayan Calendar has caused many to believe in the end of the world. So on December 21, 2012, the Mayan Calendar was reaching a 5, 126 year-long cycle, many believe that it was a sign of the end of the world. Now most people dismiss the thought that the world is going to end, but the conversation does press the question, “What is next? Is there anything after? What will happen when I die? Or…What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Have you ever asked that question?
Jesus responds with a question, which he often does in the Scriptures. “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” Jesus knows the heart of this lawyer that his intent was to test him, but to you see that Jesus is the one that puts him to the test. The same is true today. Many people test the claims of Jesus, when Jesus is the one who tests the hearts of men and women. So the lawyer, answers the question from the law in quoting one of the most well-known passages in all of Scriptures for the Jewish people. It is found in Deuteronomy 6. Please turn there with me.
Deut 6:4-6, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”
This was known as the Shema. One of the most important teachings for the Israelites, but look at the context in which this is said. The Jews are about to enter into the promise land. They are about to establish a nation.
Deut 6:1-3, “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son's son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
Notice this God’s way to establish a nation is to tell the people to fear Him and love Him. And whose responsibility is it to make this commandment known. Fathers. The strength of a country is never in the government, but always in the family and more particularly, fathers. A nation with strong and godly fathers is a nation that will be a nation after the Lord’s own heart. A church with godly fathers is a church full of love. Strong fathers makes a strong church and a strong nation. This is why it says down in verse 7, “You shall teach them diligently to your children.” Fathers must pass this to the next generation.
Now jump back to Luke 10. Jesus said that the lawyer answers well. He probably had been taught the Shema by this father and knew the principles of the law. But we know the purpose of the law is to expose sin. Romans 3:20, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” And Romans 7:7, “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” The Law came to expose sin. Stay with me. You will see how this lawyer is the one being put to the test.
The lawyer said, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life? And the lawyer answered his own question, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your heart and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says do this and you shall live. So one can inherit eternal life if one loves the Lord with all that they have and loves their neighbors as themselves. Have you done that? Have you loved the Lord with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength and with all your soul? NO. Therefore you are disqualified from eternal life. Your sin, in not loving God with everything, disqualifies you from inheriting eternal life. And if we do not have eternal life, we have eternal death. So has any human being ever done this? Has any human being perfectly loved God? Yes.
God knew that we were disqualified from our inheritance because of our sin. There was nothing we could do to inherit eternal life so God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to inherit eternal life for us. Jesus is the only one who has ever lived that has perfectly loved God with all his heart and all his soul and all his strength and all his mind. Therefore, Jesus is the only one who has inherited eternal life. But Jesus came to share that inheritance with us.
Listen to 1 Peter 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. Paul pray for the church in Ephesus that, “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians 1:17-18).
How different would our lives be if we realized that we cannot do anything to inherit eternal life, but eternal life has already been inherited for us?
Fred Craddock, while lecturing at Yale University told of going back one summer to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to take a short vacation with his wife. One night they found a quiet little restaurant where they looked forward to a private meal - just the two of them. While they were waiting for their meal they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting guests. Craddock whispered to his wife, "I hope he doesn’t come over here." He didn’t want the man to intrude on their privacy. But the man did come by his table.
"Where you folks from?" he asked amicably. "Oklahoma." "Splendid state, I hear, although I’ve never been there. What do you do for a living?” "I teach homiletics at the graduate seminary of Phillips University." "Oh, so you teach preachers, do you. Well, I’ve got a story I want to tell you." And with that he pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with Craddock and his wife.
Dr. Craddock said he groaned inwardly: Oh no, here comes another preacher story. It seems everyone has one. The man stuck out his hand. “I’m Ben Hooper. I was born not far from here across the mountains. My mother wasn’t married when I was born so I had a hard time. When I started to school my classmates had a name for me, and it wasn’t a very nice name. I used to go off by myself at recess and during lunchtime because the taunts of my playmates cut so deeply.
"What was worse was going downtown on Saturday afternoon and feeling every eye burning a hole through you. They were all wondering just who my real father was. "When I was about 12 years old a new preacher came to our church. I would always go in late and slip out early. But one day the preacher said the benediction so fast I got caught and had to walk out with the crowd. I could feel every eye in church on me. Just about the time I got to the door I felt a big hand on my shoulder. I looked up and the preacher was looking right at me.
"Who are you, son? Whose boy are you?’ I felt the old weight come on me. It was like a big black cloud. Even the preacher was putting me down. But as he looked down at me, studying my face, he began to smile a big smile of recognition. "Wait a minute," he said, "I know who you are. I see the family resemblance. You are a son of God."
With that he slapped me across the rump and said, "Boy you’ve got a great inheritance. Go and claim it." The old man looked across the table at Fred Craddock and said, "That was the most important single sentence ever said to me." With that he smiled, shook the hands of Craddock and his wife, and moved on to another table to greet old friends.
Suddenly, Fred Craddock remembered. On two occasions the people of Tennessee had elected an illegitimate son to be their governor. One of them was Ben Hooper...a man with a great inheritance. And so it is with you!
We have received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. Ephesians 1:13-14, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
II. Love Others and Love Mercy
The lawyer had the right answer, but he still doesn’t get it. He is staying right at the one who will inherit eternal life for all who believe in him, but he just doesn’t see it. Verse 29, “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” It is curious why he would ask this question. One thing jump out at me. He wants to justify himself or prove himself right. First, he must assume that he has met the first commandment to love the Lord. In seeking to justify himself he immediately jumps to the second commandment. He also could have felt guilty of the second commandment in not loving his neighbors and was trying to change the meaning of the commandment.
I think we can see both of this in our own lives. First, we are blind to our lack of love against God and secondly, we often try to change the meaning of the Scriptures to ease our consciences.
Jesus has a wonderful way of speaking directly to the person’s heart. He tells this lawyer what he lacks. Verse 30, Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down the road and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
It is a very straight forward story. A man was on a trip and fell among robbers. He was attacked and beaten and left almost dead. This man was in need. Then Jesus shows how three different men encounter this man. The first a priest saw him and passed by to the other side of the road. Next, a Levite saw him and passed by to the other side of the road. They saw a man in need, but did not bother help.
Why? Why didn’t they help?
1. They didn’t want to help. Sometimes it is just that simple. We see someone in need, but our hearts are unaffected.
2. They had more important things to do. Maybe there were on their way to an event or a meeting and they just could not change their schedule.
3. They felt he deserved what he got. They could have saw him there and assumed that he deserved that punishment.
4. They thought someone else was going to help. They just assumed that it was a busy road and that someone else was going to come by and help.
5. They were afraid it would have cost them.- They had money, but it was earmarked for something else and did not want to spend it on some man in the street.
When you see people in need, do you ever say similar things to yourself? If you say a man there, what would you do?
Verse 33, But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
It is important that Jesus references a Samaritan here. Samaritans were half-Jewish and half Gentiles. They were outside of the people of God. Yet, it was a Samaritan that showed compassion and mercy. The point would have been very clear. Jews rejoiced in their heritage, but God rejoices in mercy.
Verse 36, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Beloved, this story should have a dramatic influence on our society. Christians should always be about mercy and compassion. We can look back at this whole section and see it really is all about mercy. God has shown mercy to us in sending his son to fulfill the law that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but inherit eternal life. We don’t deserve, but God in his mercy and compassion, saved us. THEREFORE, as we have received mercy, we must go and do likewise. Listen to me, a life of mercy and compassion to those in need should be the norm for the Christian.
So how can we show mercy?
1. Be willing to help – the Samaritan saw a man in need and his heart was stirred with compassion. Before mercy shows itself externally, it has to be in the heart.
2. Realize the importance of mercy – The Samaritan was on a journey and probably had somewhere he needed to go and things he needed to do, but he realized that mercy should trump our schedules.
3. Treat others better than they deserve- We are all sinners and deserve wrath, but God did not give us what we deserve, he gave us life. Do not treat people the way their sins deserve, treat them as God has treated you in your sins, with mercy.
4. Assume the need is your responsibility- When God gives you eyes to see a need, assume it is God telling you meet it. Christians have the Holy Spirit who will guide us into all truth. It is a privilege to meet the needs of others. Open your eyes to the needs around you.
5. Be willing to lose to gain – Showing mercy will cost you. It costs the Samaritan time and money. The two most precious things in our society, yet they are not more precious than mercy.
A society that lives on Christian principles is a society that is governed by mercy. If we want to change this nation, then we must be a people of mercy. And the only way mercy will reign in America? Is if people turn to the one who has showed mercy, Jesus Christ. How do you fix our dysfunctional society? Love God, Love Others. Love Mercy.