January 25, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 7)

Submitted by Jeff L. From Gracepoint Berkeley Church

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

Luke 7:4,6

“This man deserves to have you do this…”; “I do not deserve to have you…” 

  • What does this contrast in perspective reveal about the elders’ criteria for “deserving” something from God vs. the criteria of this Centurion?  

The elder’s criteria for “deserving” something from God was righteous, good deeds (a Gentile who loved Israel & built their synagogue).  In the eyes of the elders, he was an outstanding person who went above and beyond what anyone would expect, and in their eyes, God owed him this healing.  The Centurions’ perspective is so different.  He did not consider himself worthy for Jesus to come under his room and did not even consider himself worthy to meet Jesus face-to-face.  The Centurion knew that he did these noble things for Israel, but he did NOT think that these deeds made him a good person or made him entitled to receive anything from God.  Though it is not explicitly stated, it can be assumed that the Centurion understood that there is no criteria by which we can indebt God, and no criteria by which we can say to God that we “deserve” something.  He understood himself as a creature that has been gifted his very life by God, he most likely understood his deep rottenness and sinfulness that makes him worthy of nothing aside from wrath and death.  It did not matter that he build the synagogue…he knew that he was not in a place where he deserved anything.

  • What is the criteria that I use to determine how much I “deserve” something from God?  

I often gauge how much I “deserve” something from God based on how I feel like I am “performing” in my Christian life.  If I feel like I am doing terribly (i.e., I am moody, I make mistakes, I fail to live as disciplined as I would like, I fail to love someone as I should, I see my pride, my ego, my selfishness, etc.), then, I feel like I am unworthy and I do not deserve anything from God.  More often than not, thankfully this is how I feel.  But there are times when I feel like I am doing a lot – times when I feel like I am stretched, times when I am doing a lot for the ministry, times when I feel like I am sacrificing…and it’s during those times when I feel the sense of entitlement towards God creeping in.  In short, the criteria I use is how “successful” I am in my Christian life and how much I’m doing.

  • Are there some ways in which I feel that God “owes me” and what are these things?  

I think the biggest way in which I feel like God “owes” me is when I give a lot in Christian service.  When I labor hard and invest my time & energy in ministry, I see that I often feel like I am entitled to some results – people responding, growth in the ministry, or people becoming Christian.  Since youth ministry has been very exciting with many people coming out and spiritual hunger, this is something that I see in my heart through hypotheticals.  What if I were to labor hard and keep giving myself for 5 years, and not much seems to happen?  The youth church doesn’t grow that much, the core continues to struggle and stay small and in fact, the group gets smaller.  How would I respond?  What if this happens after 10 years?  I see in my heart, that this would be really difficult for me to take and there is a voice in my heart that would cry out “I wasted all this time!  I gave so much and what do I have to show for it?”  This response reveals the entitlement within my heart – that if I give myself to ministry, I should receive results.  But when did God promise results?  Why would God owe me results?  I am a wretched sinner that deserves only death and judgment for my wickedness…ministry should simply be my humble response to all God has done for me!  It is my privilege to be able to invest my life in the most meaningful task of engaging in God’s incredible work of saving souls.

  • How close am I to the Centurion’s attitude revealed in his words: “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof … did not consider myself worthy to come to you …”  

The vast majority of times, I am acutely aware of my wretched sinfulness and that I have no claim over God in any way.  I see my sins on a daily basis through my failure to love, my shriveled heart due to my pride & self-seeking ways, my moodiness, my lack of discipline, and the list goes on.  I am grateful for God’s incredible goodness to me, despite my inconstancy and my failures.  That being said, there are still instances when that sense of entitlement creeps into my life and I forget that I am just a wretched sinner, esp. in the area of ministry. This is something I need to continue to identify & repent of when I see it.

Luke 7:9

  • Note Jesus’ praise of the Centurion’s faith.  How is his faith demonstrated?  

The Centurion’s faith is demonstrated in his complete trust in Jesus’ ability to heal his servant.  His confidence is expressed in the phrase “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”  He has no doubt about the power of God’s word. Whatever God says, He has the ability to do.  If God says He will do it, it can be considered done.  This was exactly what the people of Israel in the past had failed to do – exercise trust in what God had said and promised.  Recently a message I heard spoke about “faith failures” and how the Israelites failed to trust in God’s promise when they were first on the eve of entering the Promised Land.  Instead, they listened to their fears and to their own reasoning that they would be destroyed if they entered the land, even though God had promised it to them already.  This is the opposite of faith: failing to trust in God’s word.

  • What is the relationship between humility and faith?  

Faith requires humility.  In order to exercise faith, you must not trust in yourself, your own reasoning, or your own limited perspective, but rather, you need to simply trust in God’s word & that what He said will be done.  The only way the Israelites were going to experience the Promised Land was if they didn’t trust or listen to their fears and they didn’t trust what they saw with their eyes, but they trusted that somehow God would work it out because He said so.  This requires humility and a confessional heart that says “I simply don’t know…though it doesn’t make sense to me, I am just going to trust.”

Luke 7:13,14 

  • Reflect on what is revealed about Jesus from the words: “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her…”  

Jesus is above all a person of love and deep humanity…he is a person of compassion and empathy who feels and shares in the pains and struggles of our lives.  This picture is such a sad picture – a widow who lost her husband and now has lost her only son.  Luke notes that Jesus, before transforming the situation, felt deep empathy for this woman’s plight and pain.  There are many situations in which I am confronted with the plight and pain of someone.  I think often, I just respond with despair, discouragement or sadness about the sad situation and I pray a prayer for this terrible situation to somehow be reversed.  At my worse times, I find my heart receiving this kind of news with aloofness and coldness, and I parrot a prayer without much connection, or I fail to pray at all.  I see how hardened and shriveled my heart so often is! When I am confronted with the plight or pain of someone – which in Christian ministry is SO OFTEN, I need to really practice empathizing with that person.  I need to allow God to stretch the capacity of my heart to love by taking the time to put myself in the shoes of the other person, feeling their pain, imagining what it would be like…and from that place, I need to cry out prayers of intercession for that person and for the situation.

Luke 7:11-12 

Two “large crowds” meet at the town gate, one headed by Jesus, and the other by a coffin. 

  • Reflect on this scene as a picture of two kinds of processions.  

Indeed, these two processions capture the two processions in this lifetime: Everyone without Christ is in the procession of death…headed one way to the grave and to hell.  Without Christ, there is nothing that can stop the sad, inevitable procession to death. Without Christ, there is nobody who can say “don’t cry” in light of the reality that death will take away and tear apart everything in the end.  On the other hand, there is the procession of life that is headed by Jesus, and this procession does not end with death, but rather, resurrection and new life!  Everyone in the world is either in the procession of death or the procession of life.

  • Which procession am I in, and what does this imply about my life’s mission?  

By God’s grace, I have been saved and am in the procession of life.  Because of God’s mercy and grace, He opened my heart to the gospel and out of no merit of my own, I am in the procession of life.  My life will not end in tragic death that separates me from all my loved ones, but rather, my life will end with a resurrection into a new life in heaven with God.  The clear implication of this is that there is only one purpose for my life, which is to get as many people I can who are in the procession of death to the procession of life.  This is my one and only mission in which I need to give all of myself to.  This world & Satan is powerful, but God is working equally powerfully through our church and in our ministry…I need to give all of myself to serving God, building up the church, raising disciples and reaching more non-Christians.  As I see how powerfully God is working in our ministry, I need to give myself that much more to fighting my sins and laboring for souls so that more people may come to hear about Christ.

PERSONAL PRAYER                                                           

  • Please write out a prayer of commitment or confession either based on today’s text, or upon reflection over recent events in your life.

Father, thank You for Your word today.  Thank You for saving me so that I am no longer in the procession of death, enslaved & bound by the fear of death.  Rather, I am in the procession of life and can look forward to the reality of heaven.  Indeed, there is only one mission for my life now and I pray that You would continue to work in me and through me to draw more people to salvation.  I commit again to struggle with my sins, to reflect on my life and my mistakes, that You might be able to mold me and use me more and more to impact people for eternity.  I recommit also to the precious work that You’ve given me to build up the church and to serve our high school group.  Please be with me and give me strength!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Submitted by Jiseon C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

REFLECTION QUESTIONS

Luke 7:4,6

“This man deserves to have you do this…”; “I do not deserve to have you…” 

·       What does this contrast in perspective reveal about the elders’ criteria for “deserving” something from God vs. the criteria of this Centurion? 

When Jesus entered the city of Capernaum, news of a centurion’s servant dying came to him through elders who came to him with the plea that this man deserves to have Jesus heal him because he was associated with someone who loved this nation and built their synagogue. But when the centurion heard Jesus was near, he did not feel deserving enough to have Jesus come to his house, but that his command would be sufficient for healing. This contrast in sense of deserving healing reveals the varying worldview of the elders vs. the centurion. The elders had a sense of expectation that Jesus ought to do something good for them. That he was somehow even entitled to help him because this man was a good man who even built the synagogue – a religious monument. The man was good to fellow Jews, who were the chosen people of God – and so even more he was someone that was pleasing to God. And because this man earned credit, he now deserved almost a payback or some recognition from Jesus.

What a contrast to the centurion’s worldview. He did not have any such notions of deserving any goodwill from Jesus. He did not credit any of his good deeds in the past as some kind of investment he now could cash out when he felt the pinch. He merely asked Jesus for his compassion to heal someone, to take the trouble by merely calling out a command, on someone who did not deserve this kind of favor.  He didn’t even think he deserved his time, but he knew he had the power, and was asking for it.

 ·       What is the criteria that I use to determine how much I “deserve” something from God? 

Much like the elders, the criteria that I use to determine how much I “deserve” something from God is based on my religious duties. When I feel a need, I subconsciously, or even consciously, trace back the good things that I have done for God. Remember the time that I reached out to that person and sacrificed rest and idleness at home? Remember the time that gave to my friend in financial need? Remember, remember? These religious duties I have done become somehow a sickening basis for propagating a case that I “deserve’ some blessing, favor, or praise from God.

·       How close am I to the Centurion’s attitude revealed in his words: “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof …  did not consider myself worthy to come to you …”

I am very far from having the Centurion’s attitude as revealed in his words: “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof…did not consider myself worthy to come to you” I am so far because I often feel entitled to having things laid out for me. I even subconsciously think that modern inconveniences should not even apply to me, or get really flustered disproportionately by them. I get jealous that others seem to get time and attention from God. In those ways, I don’t have the attitude that I actually do NOT deserve any privilege or advantage from Him.

Luke 7:9

·       Note Jesus’ praise of the Centurion’s faith.  How is his faith demonstrated? 

Jesus praised the Centurion’s faith as demonstrated by his request to Jesus to merely give a word of command for his servants healing, much as the same as he can get his soldiers under him to act when given a word of command. He had faith that Jesus had all things, even ability to give health, under his authority and knew that with a word, he could make things come to being.

 ·       What is the relationship between humility and faith? 

The relationship between humility and faith is directly correlated. When one is humble then he does not expect anything. So, when he does ask, for blessings not entitled to him, he is doing it with great faith.

Luke 7:13,14 

·       Reflect on what is revealed about Jesus from the words: “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her…”   

What is revealed about Jesus from the words “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her” is that Jesus is someone who is indeed very compassionate and feels the pains that we feel in our own hearts and acts to restore broken people. I can just imagine that scene, that long funeral procession, where the mother was probably delirious with grief and pain. And in those days, a woman had no rights, could own no property under her own name. She was a widow and now she lost her only son. So not only is she outliving and burying her child, the worst thought possible for a parent, but she now faces a bleak future where she will have no livelihood for herself, no protection and security as a woman. It is so amazing that Jesus notices her, that his heart went out to her, and that he went to her, to say, “Don’t cry”. This reminds me of our studies in Exodus, when God commissions Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and their bondage in slavery. In his commissioning, God explains to Moses, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them…and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land…” Again and again, that heart of God, who notices, becomes concerned and acts on our behalf is repeated through this encounter of Jesus and the bereaving widow.

Luke 7:11-12 

Two “large crowds” meet at the town gate, one headed by Jesus, and the other by a coffin. 

·       Reflect on this scene as a picture of two kinds of processions. 

The crowd that trailed Jesus was one of life, the other, led by a coffin, was of death. The distinction was as stark as night and day.

·       Which procession am I in, and what does this imply about my life’s mission?  

The procession that I was led to is the one following Jesus, the one of life. What this implies about my life’s mission is that it is my duty to be like Jesus, to take note of those who are in that procession of death, grieving and hopeless, because they do not know one who could reverse the cycle of sin and death. It is my mission to also take note, and to be moved by their pains, and to go up to each person in that procession and to say, don’t cry, and speak to them the words of Jesus, so that through them will be breathed eternal life.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response