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362. Walking in the Word, Jesus’ Stern Warning

By julie

Jesus boldly warns us – but will we listen? We pray that this introspective look at Luke 11:37-54 will help you grow as God has ordained.

 

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Welcome to Walking in the Word, the biblical teaching arm of the Women World Leaders’ podcast. My name is Julie Jenkins, and we are honored that you have joined us today.

We are excited that this ministry continues to grow! Besides our podcasts, which come to you each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we have many other offerings that you can learn all about on our website, womenworldleaders.com. For example, in the coming weeks, our tenth edition of Voice of Truth will be mailed to our regular monthly donors, and the digital version will be made available to anyone via our website. We have also recently released two new books that are perfect for gifting this holiday season. And we continue to gather several times a month on Zoom and several times a year in person. In fact, tickets for our next in-person event to be held in South Florida on March 11, will be available as of January 1st.

But here at Women World Leaders, WHAT we do is not as important as WHY we do it. Our goal as a ministry is first and foremost to follow God in obedience. This is HIS ministry, and we are simply walking out His plan. And the plan He has shared with us is to offer a place of community and support as we empower each other to walk in our individual God-given purposes.

As a student of the Bible, I am passionate about learning from God by going to His Word. That is why we invite you to enter into a study of His Word as we unpack scripture each Wednesday on this podcast. We are currently walking through the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The verses we are studying today come from Luke 11:37-54. But please, if God is calling you to wider study, don’t feel like you have to stop with this episode. God led us to begin this podcast over 2 years ago. We are currently on episode 362, so there are 361 previous episodes that God just might be calling you to listen to today.  

Before we jump into today’s study, let’s go to the Lord in prayer.

Dear Most Holy God – we give you this time as we seek to quiet our minds and hear directly from you. We know that you have provided us with your Word, and you offer us your individualized teaching every day. Father, we ask for your wisdom – that you would unstop our ears, move aside our pride and the noise of this world, and allow us to hear you clearly. Anoint the words of my mouth, that what I teach in the coming minutes would be pleasing to you. As we open the Bible, God, praise and glorify you. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Although we are attempting to walk through the gospels chronologically, combining the four books by four different human authors is not an exact science. Most recently, we have been learning primarily from the book of Luke, and we are going to continue that today as we step into chapter 11, verses 37-54, but if you are following closely from one Wednesday to the next, you might notice that we are skipping a couple of chapters. The reason is that those chapters contain teachings we have studied in previous podcasts. So to catch you up on Luke’s timeline, Jesus has recently been teaching the disciples through word and action, and, in doing so, He has healed a mute, drawn larger crowds, and taught what it is to be the light. Many people were learning and growing. And others were at least hearing – but it seems they weren’t responding to Jesus – a fact that Jesus was keenly aware of. A fact that, as we will see, He doesn’t let slide by. Jesus loves us too much to allow us to operate in wrong thinking. He will bluntly and honestly tell us where our thinking is wrong – but it is up to us whether or not we choose to listen.

Let’s begin with chapter 11, verse 37 in the New Living Translation…

37 As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table.[a] 38 His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom.

The handwashing in this case had little to do with hygiene, but more to do with ceremonial cleansing. In the Old Testament Law, the priests were given explicit instructions on how to wash in a ceremonial fashion before receiving a sacrifice. Over the years, this teaching had been expanded to include washing ceremonially before EVERY meal to guard against being spiritually unclean, AND it had also been expanded to the belief that this cleansing had to be followed by EVERY Jew.

This was just one small example of the man-made laws that the Pharisees had instituted in every area of life. Though the Pharisees were a relatively small group, they were strict and they were revered.

But, as we will recognize, Jesus was spotlighting that there can be an extreme difference between what GOD asks of us and what religious authorities claim is necessary for us to be worthy followers of God.

So we see Jesus break tradition and sit down at the table without cleansing His hands in a ceremonial fashion.

I like to think of this as a visual parable. As His onlookers reacted with amazement, Jesus took the opportunity to teach. Verse 39…

 39 Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! 40 Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? 41 So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.

Jesus was calling out the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. They were more concerned with the ceremony than with the heart. But before we sit back and become spectators to Jesus’ words to the sin-ridden Pharisees, we must remember that the Bible was written for US. Today. So as we read, we each need to ask ourselves the question, what is God saying to ME through this?

Neither society nor humanity has changed much since Luke wrote these words. We are still prideful people who like to think that WE have it all together and are here to teach OTHERS. But the reality is, we are ALL sinful and have a LONG way to go before we are the people that God wants us to be – a perfect reflection of Him and His character.

This passage is FULL of warnings for you and me. Jesus warned the Pharisees of their shortcomings, and He warns us as well.

The Pharisees invited Jesus to dinner – we don’t know their motive – but I’m willing to bet they didn’t expect a lashing. We, through our prayer earlier, invited Jesus into THIS teaching. Maybe YOU didn’t expect a lashing, but God will always tell us like it is. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Yesterday…I got a ticket while driving. I turned through a stoplight onto an onramp of a highway and immediately noticed that the whole highway was at a complete standstill. So I stopped my car. No one else turned behind me, and nobody was moving in front of me. I thought…I can just back up 100 yards and continue on my way, or I can sit in traffic for an hour. I thought about it, and I slowly started to back up. Then, from in front of me, I saw blue and red lights and paused as a police car emerged from the standstill in front of me and whipped around behind me. And I got a ticket for driving backward on a highway.

As the police officer handed me the ticket…all I could think was, he’s right. I was in the wrong. The situation was frustrating, and there were a million, yeah buts, running through my mind. But he was right. I was wrong. And he was protecting me and those around me by making me aware of what could have been a deadly situation.  I had to swallow my pride.

Sometimes, opening the Bible requires us to swallow our pride. God is ALWAYS right. And He will always guide us the right way. But it is up to us to listen – and learn. And NOT make excuses.

If the Pharisees had examined themselves AND the scripture they knew by heart, they would have recognized that the external righteousness they claimed was not pure rightness with God.

So as I read, I ask myself…Am I externally righteous, putting on a good “Christian-face” while neglecting to consider and cleanse the thoughts in my head and the wrong leanings of my heart?

Jesus continues to unapologetically give warnings …verse 42

42 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,[b] but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

God calls for tithing. And the Pharisees were SO CAREFUL to tithe even their herbs. That is, ANYTHING that anyone else could see or measure, they were faithful to. But they were NOT faithful to justice and love. AND, Jesus warns, justice and love outweigh ritual.

So I ask myself…Do I carefully follow the teachings and rituals of the church but fail to seek individual guidance from God and respond to others in His love?

Verse 43…

43 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you love to sit in the seats of honor in the synagogues and receive respectful greetings as you walk in the marketplaces. 44 Yes, what sorrow awaits you! For you are like hidden graves in a field. People walk over them without knowing the corruption they are stepping on.”

An encounter with a grave was considered to make a person spiritually unclean. Jesus is warning that by hiding our own spiritual sin, we can inadvertently corrupt others.

Do I crave a high place in society and sell my soul to get there? Years ago, I LONGED to serve God in a leadership role, but nothing I put my own hands to succeeded. I remember finally giving up one day, and saying “God…I will serve you WHEREVER you want. I will clean toilets for you if that’s what you have for me.” I was craving a high place in service to Him, but God just wanted me to serve with my heart.

Finally, a scribe spoke up, taking offense at Jesus’ words…verse 45…

45 “Teacher,” said an expert in religious law, “you have insulted us, too, in what you just said.”

46 “Yes,” said Jesus, “what sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden.

Do I, as a Christian, judge other Christians, rather than helping them grow in Christ?

Jesus continues…Verse 47…

 47 What sorrow awaits you! For you build monuments for the prophets your own ancestors killed long ago. 48 But in fact, you stand as witnesses who agree with what your ancestors did. They killed the prophets, and you join in their crime by building the monuments! 49 This is what God in his wisdom said about you:[c] ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them, but they will kill some and persecute the others.’

50 “As a result, this generation will be held responsible for the murder of all God’s prophets from the creation of the world— 51 from the murder of Abel to the murder of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, it will certainly be charged against this generation.

When we turn our backs on the salvation offered by Jesus Christ through His forgiveness of our sins, we are held responsible for the collective sins of the world. This is a warning. There are no…yeah, buts… We either accept Jesus’ gift of forgiveness or we will be separated from God for eternity.

Have I accepted Jesus’ forgiveness? Do I ask Him every day to lead me and do I strive to follow His instructions obediently?

Verse 52…

52 “What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.”

Am I leading others to salvation by teaching that a relationship with Jesus is His call for each of us? Am I modeling being a child of Christ so that others will be drawn to Him?

Verse 53…

53 As Jesus was leaving, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees became hostile and tried to provoke him with many questions. 54 They wanted to trap him into saying something they could use against him.

The teachers and the Pharisees heard, but they didn’t listen. They didn’t recognize Jesus’ warnings He offered in love… instead they said … yeah, but …

This is a clear sign of pride and immaturity.

We’ve all had encounters with teenagers who think they can do no wrong and have all the answers. If we are honest, we can all say that we’ve BEEN that teenager.

Are you still in that frame of mind?

Have you grown?

Are you willing to heed Jesus’ warning, and take His teaching to heart?

We serve a gentle and perfect God, who reaches out to guide us and lead us each and every day.

Are my eyes open so that I can follow Him? Is my spirit teachable, willing to put myself aside? Am I willing to examine scripture MYSELF and go to God in prayer one-on-one so that I can hear exactly where He wants me to stand on issues? Am I willing to put LOVE for others over the judgment of their shortcomings?

Jesus’ warnings are written clearly for us to see. And He is always wiling to help us decipher anything we don’t understand. But we have to be willing to set ourselves and our objections aside and say – You’re right, God. I trust you.

Let’s pray.

Dear Most Heavenly Father – you are so gracious to us. You guide us and warn us in order to keep us safe and keep us in your presence. Father, I pray that we would each take this teaching with us through today, that our ears would be open to the sound of your voice, and that we will always be willing to put ourselves aside and proclaim that you alone are righteous. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.