Luke 17:1-4 “Temptation, Repentance and Forgiveness”
Open your Bibles please to Luke 17. We are looking at four very packed verses today.
If you were here last week I did a reminder of why we are studying Luke and what lens we are supposed to read it though. This book has been written to give us certainty about the things that we have been taught. It is meant to impart faith, as faith comes through hearing, and it is meant to fuel our obedience as we seek to glorify God in all that we do.
Now, as I like to do most weeks, let me ask you a question. How does God get glory through sin? think about it for a minute. This text that we are looking at today is all about sin. there are five “characters that I want you to notice as we read. there are those who are tempted, those who bring temptation, there are children, Christians who fall to temptation and thus sin against others, and Christians who are being sinned against. We are going to interact with these people a little today, and I think we will all find ourselves in all those categories at some point in our lives.
Ok, so what we have here, just to set the scene is a section of teaching that is directed to the disciples. It follows a number of parables and short teachings on various subjects and had in this account just finished a teaching on repentance and hardness of heart. So it is important to note that he is not teaching in a parable, but straight forward statements and commands.
So, to answer my question from earlier, what I believe this text teaches us about God’s glory and sin is an important thing for us to understand. You see, a lot of people have the understanding that God has no control over sin and he cannot be glorified through sin, but this passage points us to some truth that helps us to understand how it is possible. Let me say it as succinctly as I can.
“God receives glory through sin by bringing judgement to those responsible, and forgiving those who repent.” Now there are a few ways that I see this in this text, and a few truths that we should understand as we read it and try to apply it to our lives. There are two points that are minor in this text but are major elsewhere in scripture, and one main point of this passage that Jesus is wanting to teach. I will address all three, but the first two not as significantly as the third.
- God is Sovereign over sin and we are responsible for our sin. Did you know that throughout the Bible, God exerts his control over sin? Turn to Genesis 50:15-21… Exodus 7:1-5; 9:16… Ok, That is not the main idea of the text, but it is an important thing to keep in mind as you think about sin, as it relates to God’s glory. When you sin, You are completely responsible for the action and are worthy of God’s just judgement. Furthermore, when someone sins against you, God is sovereign over that too…
- God has a particular care for the weak and the children among us. Now, this account does not mention children specifically, He says, these little ones, but in Matthew’s account of this teaching, there are children noted as present and Jesus teaches the crowd with a child as His object lesson. However he says that we must be like little children to enter the kingdom, so this might mean specifically little children, or it could mean all of “Christ’s children” Either way, the message is clear in His teaching, causing another to stumble and sin is a grave offense to God. It would be better for you if you had a millstone tied around your neck and thrown in the ocean before you harmed a child, than for you to harm a child and live. Think about that for a moment. He didn’t say it would be better for the child, certainly it would, but he says it would be better for the perpetrator. I don’t have time to go too deep into that and try to explain exactly how that is, but if we can take it at face value and say that the judgment for that act is severe and carries eternal consequences.
- Ok, so We understand that God is Sovereign over sin, and we are completely responsible for our sin and that Jesus . Now I love how Jesus gives us a caution right after making a huge statement about judgement. Watch YOURSELVES!! He knows our hearts so well doesn’t he? He may have even seen some of the disciples looking around for a millstone thinking, “ I have someone in mind who needs to be thrown in the ocean.”
Whenever people focus on the justice and wrath of God against sin, the temptation is to think primarily of others we know who have sinned and seek to bring God’s justice to them. Jesus knows this and speaks directly to those who would fall into that trap. he gives instructions to His disciples of how Christians are to handle someone whose we believe has wronged us. Now, because we believe God is sovereign over sin and that people are responsible for it, we have this course of action when we are sinned against. It is the antithesis of what our nature would want, because we want retribution. We are called to do three very hard things when people sin against us. Now, keep in mind, these are commands of Jesus. not suggestions, but commands.
1. Rebuke them: Now, this is something that is not really explained well in this passage, but throughout scripture we have other instances where this is explained, and fleshed out a bit more. In the parallel passage in Matthew, he gives some more insight. Jesus says, if a brother sins against you go and tell him his fault, Just the two of you, and if he repents, you have gained your brother, but if he does not repent, take one or two others, so that every charge may be established by two or three witnesses. Then if he still does not listen, take it to the church. That is what the biblical pattern of rebuke is, and it is the first hard thing that we are commanded to do as Christians when we have been sinned against.
2. forgive: Jesus makes it clear that is someone repents to you, you must forgive them. Harboring resentment and anger towards someone who has wronged you is wrong. It is a difficult thing to do .
3. keep forgiving them: Now this is even harder than forgiving them the first time.
Now here is the Key, the only way any of this is possible is because of the cross.
In the cross, God’s judgment on our sin is displayed, avenging His righteousness, and through the cross, we become a trophy of grace for the world to see.
So, here is a question, how do you view the sin that has been done to you? Do you trust that God will bring glory to Himself through it, either by His judgement on them, or by His forgiveness.