WHEN GOD SPEAKS ARE YOU WILLING TO LISTEN?
SERIES: JESUS, SAVIOR OF THE LOST
By Ron Ritchie
The Gallup organization recently asked a randomly selected group of 1,236
adults the question, "Would you say you have made a commitment to Jesus
Christ or not?" A record 74 percent said yes. That percentage is up
from 66 percent in l988 and 60 percent in 1978. In releasing the results
of the latest poll, the organization noted that "the finding are based
on what people say about themselves and do not necessarily indicate a deep
and lived out commitment." In other words, 74 percent said they had
a relationship with Jesus Christ, but not all had one in which they were
going to listen to what he said about living out their lives to his honor
Now when we come into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as our Lord,
we come empty and spiritually bankrupt, for we were designed to house him.
Then as Lord of our lives he saves us, and we are told, "You are not
your own," but our life now belongs to the Lord. We find out from the
Scriptures that our new Lord wants to offer his plan of redemption to mankind
in and through us in a variety of ways in our generation. In order to accomplish
all that he wants to do through us during our stay on earth, we need to
listen to him as individuals and as a church when he speaks to us by his
Spirit and the written word. As a result of our deep and lived-out commitment
to him, which includes our willingness to listen to him, we live in a way
that glorifies him. We experience within the wholeness, peace and joy he
promised us, and through us he brings redemption to the world around us.
This morning I want us to turn to Luke 9:37-50. We will address the question,
"When God speaks, are you willing to listen?" For on the Mount
of Transfiguration we heard the words of Our Heavenly Father to Peter, John,
and James: "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" (9:35.)
Notice that this is not a suggestion, but a command. We need to listen to
our Lord because he has "the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).
We will be encouraged from our study to practice three spiritual lessons
he has for us on the subjects of living by faith, serving in humility, and
encouraging our brothers.
I. Listen carefully! A lesson on living by faith
Luke 9: 37-45
Our Lord has just experienced his wonderful transfiguration on the higher
slopes of Mount Hermon. While praying in his humanity he was ushered into
eternity and given again the glory he had before the incarnation, "...before
the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). Once he entered into eternity
he was seen by Peter, John, and James speaking with Moses and Elijah about
his forthcoming exodus by way of the cross, burial and resurrection, and
his return to the Father. For me the most wonderful part of the transfiguration
was our loving Lord's willingness to step out of eternity, where he fully
knew his own glory, power, and authority, back into time and space and walk
toward the cross as the passover lamb who came to take away the sin of the
world. As you will recall, Peter, John, and James saw Moses and Elijah with
Jesus, and suddenly being enveloped in a cloud, they heard the commanding
voice of the Father say, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to
Him!" (Luke 9:35.)
One might ask why the Father would have to insistently command the three
disciples to listen to his Son. Well, on two out of several occasions we
have found up to this point, the disciples were not in tune with the plans
of the Father or the Son. For example, after serving with the Lord for two
and one-half years, they were still struggling with the issue of whether
he was really the long-awaited Messiah. They couldn't quite figure out who
Jesus was. That truth had come to them only within the week preceding his
transfiguration by special revelation of the Father (Matthew 16:17). Then,
shortly after that revelation, we find Peter and the other disciples out
of tune with God's plans for his Son when Jesus told them that he must go
to Jerusalem "...and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests
and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day."
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God
forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You."
But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling
block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's."
Now in Luke 9:37-45 we have events going on at two different levels: On
a human level, we have just read about the problem our Lord was confronted
with as he physically descended the slopes of Mount Hermon to meet his other
nine disciples. On a spiritual level, we have a picture of our loving heavenly
Father having just arranged with his glorified Son for him to descend to
earth with his glory veiled, in restricted humanity, to offer the hope of
salvation to a fallen, Satan-controlled world littered with demonic and
twisted humanity suffering the spiritual, emotional and physical consequences
of sin. In the midst of their dark and hopelessness condition, people were
turning to the religious community, only to find it just as spiritually
impotent as they were and equally dead in sin. Let's look at Luke 9:37-40:
And it came about on the next day, that when they had come down
from the mountain, a great multitude met Him. And behold, a man from the
multitude shouted out, saying, "Teacher, I beg You to look at my son,
for he is my only boy, and behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly
screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth,
and as it mauls him, it scarcely leaves him. And I begged Your disciples
to cast it out, and they could not."
Now according to the Mark 9:14-29, the Lord and his three disciples came
down from the higher slopes of Mount Hermon to find a large crowd of Jews
surrounding the other nine disciples who were in an argument with the religious
scribes. But as soon as the crowd saw the Lord, they all turned and ran
toward him and greeted him. Then a man who had a son said to the Lord, according
to Matthew 17:15, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic
[epileptic, literally moon-smitten], and is very ill; for he often falls
into the fire, and often into the water." Mark 9:17-18 records, "Teacher,
I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and
whenever it seizes him, it dashes him to the ground and he foams at the
mouth, and grinds his teeth, and stiffens out." Mark goes on to record
that the boy had been like this since childhood, and because of it the spirit
had caused him to be dumb and deaf, and sought to kill him by throwing him
into the fire and water. In summary, then, we have a young man who was an
epileptic and possessed with an unclean spirit. As a result he was deaf
and unable to speak except when the unclean spirit took full control and
caused the boy to scream, go into convulsions, and foam at the mouth, and
he was often in danger of losing his life as he fell into the fire and water,
for unclean spirits, or demons, are always trying to destroy life. How the
demon got into him we don't know, but this is a tragic situation. We see
a father who loves his son, whose heart is absolutely worn out because he
has tried everything and nothing has worked. He is desperate, and as he
sees Jesus right in front of him, he goes for broke!
At this point let's address three questions:
(1) Are all those afflicted with epilepsy possessed with an
unclean spirit? The Scriptures very clearly say no, because, according to
Matthew 4:24, the people of Syria "... brought to Him all who were
ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics (moon-smitten),
paralytics; and He healed them." Matthew shows that people were able
to distinguish between demoniacs and epileptics. But in some cases a demoniac
may find an epileptic and possess him.
(2) Are all deaf and dumb persons possessed with an unclean spirit? No!
First, in Luke 1:8-20, Zacharias, a priest of Israel, was performing his
duties in the temple of Jerusalem when the angel Gabriel appeared to him
and told him that his aged and barren wife Elizabeth would have a child
who would become the forerunner of the Messiah. This good news was so overwhelming
to Zacharias that he questioned Gabriel, and as a result of his unbelief,
Gabriel said, "...you shall be silent and unable to speak until the
day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words."
In this case an angel caused Zacharias' dumbness. Second, take the story
of Moses and his meeting with God at the burning bush. When God appeared
to Moses in the burning bush and asked him to go to Egypt and deliver the
people of Israel from their 400-year enslavement, he responded by protesting
to the Lord, "Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently
nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow
of speech and slow of tongue." And the Lord said to him, "Who
has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind?
Is it not I, the Lord?" (Exodus 4:10-11.)
(3) Are some dumb, deaf and blind men and women around us in that physical
condition because they allowed themselves to be possessed by an unclean
spirit? According to the gospels, the answer is yes (see also Matthew 12:22).
Satan seeks to counterfeit all of God's works, whether it be the incarnation,
miracles, spiritual gifts, sending prophets, or causing someone to be deaf
and dumb or blind.
May I speak a word of caution at this point? According to the Scriptures,
this boy we have been discussing was possessed by a demon that made him
dumb and deaf (Mark 9:25), but it is important that we do not attribute
all sickness to demon possession. We need to keep in mind that sickness
can be attributed to any of the following: (1) The consequences of the wrath
of God against fallen humanity, resulting in some of us being born dumb,
deaf, blind (John 9:1), or crippled (Acts 3:2). (2) The consequences of
our own sin (1 Cor.11:28-30). (3) The work of God, as we just saw. (4) The
work of Satan and his demons (Job 1-2). The reason I bring this up is that
there are many now telling young Christians that these kinds of things are
of the devil and they ought to be delivered, and it's not always the case.
Our experiences need to be measured against all of these four possibilities.
Now let's look at Luke 9, verses 41-43a:
And Jesus answered and said, "O unbelieving and perverted
generation, how long shall I be with you, and put up with you? Bring your
son here." And while he was still approaching, the demon dashed him
to the ground, and threw him into a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the unclean
spirit, and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And they were
all amazed at the greatness of God.
Six things occurred as the Lord faced the father of the boy, the disciples,
the Jewish scribes, the boy himself, and the crowd.
(1) As the Lord returned with his inner circle of three disciples from the
Mount of Transfiguration, the scribes were arguing with the other nine disciples
(Mark 9:14), apparently about the fact that, as the father said, "I
begged Your disciples [who had been known to cast out demons] to cast it
out, and they could not." (Luke 9:40.) The scribes may have been challenging
the disciples to prove Jesus was the Messiah by casting out the demon, and
using their inability to do so to discredit Jesus.
(2) The Lord looked at the scribes and the crowd and said in an almost impatient
rebuke, "O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be
with you, and put up with you?" These were the same words Moses used
in speaking to the nation of Israel in the wilderness because they had forsaken
God and turned to idols: "They have acted corruptly toward Him, they
are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked
generation." (Deuteronomy 32:5.) They were attracted to idols because
behind idolatry are demons. David Gooding, in his book According to Luke,
The boy's twisted limbs, convulsed features and disturbed personality, and
the distress of the father at seeing his only son in that condition, were
an all too eloquent picture of the distress of the Father at seeing his
sons and daughters in Israel gone from him, attracted by false religion
and demonic powers, and become perverse, crooked and twisted at the deeper
lever of their spiritual relationships. And all this as a result of loss
of faith in and love of and obedience to the Father. For the Son of the
Father, it was an almost intolerable distress to have to remain among such
faithless and perverted sons. "How long shall I be with you, and bear
with you?" he said.
(3) The only hope for this faithless and perverse generation was another
touch of the power of the "Majestic Glory." They needed to see
God again loving, caring, reaching out, touching. So turning to the father,
Jesus said, "Bring your son here," at which time the demon sought
to kill the boy one more time.
Then, according to Mark 9:22-24, the father said to Jesus, "...if You
can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" You can hear the discouragement
in his voice, can't you?
And Jesus said to him, "'If You can!' All things are possible
to him who believes."
Immediately the boy's father cried out and began saying, "I do believe;
help my unbelief." I hope this is the prayer of all of our hearts,
because he will help us!
(4) Jesus then rebuked the unclean spirit and said in Mark 9:25, "You
deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him
again." Before the demon came out he caused the boy to go into convulsions,
and the crowd thought he was dead. So the Lord took him by the hand, healed
him, and raised him up. What the Lord was able to do for this boy physically,
he was willing and able to do for the nation of Israel spiritually, for
he was ready to deliver them from the terrible and destructive hold of Satan
if they would just put their faith in him as their Messiah. Someday it's
true that the whole nation of Israel will be saved and healed as their eyes
are opened and they see that Jesus is their Messiah.
(5) As a result of this miracle, the crowd were "all amazed at the
greatness of God," but still were blinded to the fact that God was
using this miracle to show his people his Messiah. God wants not our amazement
but our heart's belief that his Son is our only hope for salvation.
(6) Later, the disciples would ask the Lord why they couldn't heal this
boy, and he would answer, "Because of the littleness of your faith;
for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say
to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it shall move; and nothing
shall be impossible to you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer
and fasting." (Matthew 17:20-21.)
Several years ago I became involved with a man who was demon-possessed.
Several Christians had sought to cast out the demon to no avail. One day
as I was running on the beach, the Lord reminded me that some demons can
be cast out only by prayer and fasting. I decided to do that for three days.
As I fasted for this man, I remember thinking how foolish it seemed, and
yet the Lord, who knew all about demons, had spoken, so by faith I continued.
I felt this was a small price to pay if the man could be set free from his
torment, and I was willing to try to obey the Lord in this area. At the
end of the three days, I went this man's house with two other brothers and
found him in his right mind. I don't know what part I played, but I do remember
that I was willing to listen to the Lord that day. What joy it brought to
Jesus also asked his disciples to listen to him in verses 43b-45:
But while everyone was marveling at all that He was doing, He
said to His disciples, "Let these words sink into your ears; for the
Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men." But they
did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that
they might not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement.
According to the other gospels, our Lord left the crowd at the foot of Mount
Hermon and began moving south into Capernaum in Galilee, then through Perea
to Judea and Jerusalem. This period would be a time of teaching about the
events that lay just over the southern horizon. He said to his disciples,
"Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to
be delivered into the hands of men." In Mark 9:31 he then adds, "...and
they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days
later." Remember that God the Father had just appeared in a cloud on
Mount Hermon at our Lord's transfiguration and said to Peter, John, and
James, "This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!" (Luke 9:35)
The Lord now turned to his twelve disciples and said to them, "Listen!
My ministry and my life on this earth are about to come to an end, and the
purpose of my life and ministry is about to be fulfilled, for I was sent
to this world as the passover lamb "to save that which was lost"
[Luke 19:10]. The plan begins in Jerusalem where I will be delivered into
the hands of men. But don't be depressed, for after I am killed I will rise
again." He wanted them to get the full picture here. Now this was the
third time the Lord had mentioned his death as well as his resurrection:
once at Caesarea Philippi before they went up to the Mount of Transfiguration,
again as they came down the mountain, and now as they moved toward Jerusalem.
But at no time did the disciples understand this statement.
On a human level it must have been very hard for the disciples to think
about the experience of the transfiguration and see the miracle with the
demoniac, and at the same time try to think through how the powerful Son
of God was going to be placed into the hands of wicked men. It simply was
too hard to understand. After all, hadn't Jesus been declared by Peter as
"the Christ of God," and wasn't he always talking about bringing
in the kingdom of God? And now he was talking about a death on a Roman cross.
The idea of the Messiah being crucified by the Romans seemed to be a contradiction
in terms. They also may have been afraid to ask the Lord to explain a little
more because of the rebuke, "Let these words sink into your ears!"
On a spiritual level it appears that our Lord had been breaking the reality
of his coming death and resurrection to them slowly. We see this principle
at work later when Jesus would tell his disciples in the upper room the
night before he was to be arrested, "I have many more things to say
to you, but you cannot bear them now." (John 16:12.) But in any case
God the Father seems to be concealing the truth for the moment. You might
wonder why. I think the reason is that God in his graciousness continues
to teach us step by step, day by day, year in and year out. We don't get
all truth all at once. As Paul reminds us, "For now we see in a mirror
dimly..." (1 Corinthians 13:12).
When God speaks, are you willing to listen ?
II. Listen carefully! A lesson on serving in humility
And an argument arose among them as to which of them might be
the greatest. But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart,
took a child and stood 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, this is the one who is great."
Our Lord and his disciples returned to the city of Capernaum, and on the
way the disciples were privately arguing about the question of which of
them might be the greatest. The disciples may have been reviewing the fact
that Jesus had selected Peter, James, and John to go up the mountain with
him and left the other nine at the bottom of the mountain. Among the three
it looked like the Lord was zeroing in on Peter to become the leader among
the twelve. It appears that all of them may have been thinking of the coming
kingdom without facing the issue of the coming cross.
Our Lord saw their hearts and knew that it would be necessary to deal with
this spiritual problem now before he went to the cross, so that after the
resurrection they would start off their ministry in humility rather then
pride and competition. It is not wrong to want to be ambitious for the work
of the Lord and to use your spiritual gifts to please him. But it is wrong
to be ambitious within the body of Christ to the praise of men. So our Lord
showed them how to determine who is the greatest. He looked around until
he found a small child, and taking advantage of this teachable moment, he
said to them, "Whoever receives this child in My name [as unto the
Lord] receives Me." A child has no position of power or influence;
the most a child can do for us is to love us, and in return we are in a
position to do many good things for the child. So he wants us as his disciples
to receive all men and women with the same attitude in which we would receive
this child, without partiality. That means we will receive men and women
from all ranks of life, from the very poorest to the ordinary to the richest,
in his name, and seek to help them physically, emotionally and spiritually.
If we do that we receive him. Then, whoever receives Jesus receives him
who sent him. For the least among us is the one who is great. And our model,
of course, is Jesus himself, as Mark 10:45 records: "For even the Son
of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom
During the early part of my senior year of high school I was in real trouble.
It was November, and, because of an argument with the administration, I
had just been thrown out of the Children's Home where I had lived for some
eight years. All I had was the shirt on my back, and I had nowhere to go.
I remember how cold and helpless I felt as I walked some seven miles toward
the home of the only man I knew would take me in, a humble English teacher
named Don Vaughan. There were six or seven of us they just called "Don's
boys." He would come around to the orphanage, take us to the shore,
and so forth. He invested his life in us. I was about a mile from Don's
home when I collapsed on the ground from the emotional strain, and the next
thing I remember, as I was being put on a stretcher to be taken to a local
hospital, was Don looking down at me and saying, "You're going to be
all right, Ron. You're going to live with me until we can get you a place
and a job." I then remember waking up in his guest room, warm and safe.
I thought, he loved me so much, and I had no way to repay him. Some 15 years
later he came out here to visit our family, and it was at that time I found
out that he was a Christian all during my high school years, and I never
knew it. I asked him why he never told me, and he said he knew they were
"preaching at us" all the time at the home, and he didn't think
I needed another sermon, but a cup of cold water in the name of Christ.
My eyes were so full of tears, I couldn't see. "He who is least among
you, this is the one who is great;" "the greatest among you shall
be your servant."
When God speaks are you willing to listen ?
III. Listen carefully! A lesson in encouraging our brothers
And John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting
out demons in Your name; and we tried to hinder him because he does not
follow along with us." But Jesus said to him, "Do not hinder him;
for he who is not against you is for you."
In light of the rebuke the Lord had just given to his disciples over the
subject of who would be the greatest in the kingdom, John may have been
hoping for some praise from the Lord for the way in which he humbly reacted
to a man casting out demons by saying, "Lord, you gave us power over
demons, and we had a wonderful time doing that, but something strange happened
to us recently when we all were walking here in Capernaum and saw a guy
casting out demons in your name. But he wasn't in our gang, so we tried
to hinder him." John may have been thinking that this man was not a
true follower of Christ, and so he confronted him and sought to hinder him
for casting out demons in the name of Christ. Now, there were many Jews
within the religious community who could cast out demons (Acts 19:13,16),
so casting out demons wasn't anything new. But this unknown Jewish fellow
was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. John and the others moved in
quickly to try to stop him because they had never heard of him, and they
thought only they had the "patent" on casting out demons in the
name of Jesus. However, there is no indication that they stopped him, although
In Mark 9:39 the Lord gives us more insight into what he said: "for
there is no one who shall perform a miracle in My name and be able soon
afterward to speak evil of Me." Earlier in Matthew 12:30 our Lord had
told his disciples, "He who is not with Me is against Me." There
our Lord was speaking of a man's inner response to Christ. But here in the
Gospels of Luke and Mark Jesus was talking about a man's outward conduct.
So they were to regard someone who did miracles in his name as one of them
unless he spoke evil of Jesus.
I think at times this is a problem among us at PBC. Sometimes I'm afraid
we think that when another Christian church or group outside of our ministry
expresses the truth we are teaching about Jesus in a different fashion,
with a different style of music, or form of worship, or style of preaching
or teaching, or a different emphasis in the community, we seek in either
word or deed to try to hinder them with an attitude that we are the only
ones who are truly following the Lord. But each Christian and each local
church and para-church ministry has been placed in this community by our
risen Lord to proclaim the gospel in a variety of ways. "For he who
is not against you is for you." Menlo Park Presbyterian Church is not
against us. Campus Crusade for Christ is not against us. Jews for Jesus
is not against us. Young Life is not against us. PBC South is not against
The spiritual responsibility of this body of believers is to listen to the
voice of our risen Lord as to what emphasis on ministry he desires for this
local church within this particular community, then rejoice that he has
even included us, and further rejoice in all the other ministering groups
in the Bay Area who are seeking to listen to the voice of the risen Lord
for their emphasis and direction.
In summary, if you were asked the question today, "Would you say you
have made a commitment to Jesus or not," could you say yes, and, if
so, does that commitment to Jesus means you are willing to declare him Lord
of your life? To declare him Lord of your life means that you realize that
"you are not your own." You need to ask yourself the question,
"When God does speak through his Son, the word, and the Holy Spirit,
are you willing to listen?" If you are open to listen to the teaching
of our risen Lord, then within this passage of Scripture are three spiritual
lessons for all of us to practice: Develop a Christian lifestyle by the
power of the Spirit in which you are living by faith, serving in humility,
and encouraging your brothers in other ministries.
Catalog No. 4144
Ron R. Ritchie
December 2, 1990
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