1. Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!
2. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
3. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.
4. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
5. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
6. And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.
7. But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
8. And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
9. Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
10. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
There are four things I want you to look for. One is some teachings of Jesus about what true disciples are really like. In times past, we’ve talked a good bit about discipleship from the gospel of Luke. We’ve had several messages about discipleship and then there were some interruptions in what Jesus was teaching by Pharisees and others and now in chapter 17 he is back on that great subject showing the tremendous characteristics of a true disciple.
He is going to teach a word about offending others or offenses.
He is going to speak a word about forgiveness when people trespass against us.
He is going to say a word about living faith, to be able to do this.
And then, humble service.
Those are the four things that I want to talk about tonight. These are the characteristics of a real disciple of Jesus Christ.
First of all, the characteristic of a true disciple is that he endeavors with all of his heart to have a good positive influence on other people, especially young converts. Jesus says it is impossible to keep from having offenses to come. We live in a world of human beings and as a result of that regardless of whether we are mature Christians or not, regardless of our spiritual journey and experience, sometimes we may make a mistake and offend somebody very seriously. He says woe be to that person from whom the offense really comes. Especially if this offense if one against one of the Lords’s little ones, meaning a new convert – someone who is just beginning in his walk with Jesus Christ and suddenly somebody has an offense toward that person that really causes hurt. Now I’m sure that everyone of us at some time or another in our life have had real hurt come from someone who is very close to us in the church; a brother or a sister, and it hurts so terribly bad. If somebody from the outside would do the same thing, we would probably shrug it off and just say well that doesn’t matter. But when it’s an offense that comes from a brother or a sister it hurts worse because it is a sin against love, the love of God. It brings into account not only our hurt feelings, but it brings to bear the grieving of the Holy Spirit when an offense has been made. When that grief of the Holy Spirit is united with our own hurt within, then that is a grievous kind of experience for sure. He is saying to us as true disciples to be very careful about this, about offending. We know that offenses will come. You can’t expect to live a totally perfect life and never make a mistake and never hurt anybody’s feelings. I have done that, even in the pulpit hurt people’s feelings. Sometimes, I realized it immediately because of the witness of the Spirit and the grieving of the Holy Spirit.
He said it would be better for a person if he had a millstone hanged about his neck and cast into the sea, meaning you can’t swim. It would be better than for you to offend somebody. This word ‘offense’ has to do with that same word we’ve seen in Scripture time and time again called ‘stumblingblock,’ to cause that person to stumble and fall and go into sin. Now if something happens a young convert to stumble and fall and go into sin and then maybe even be lost, what a tragedy that really is. That’s the reason Jesus gives such a solemn warning to us and says the kind of judgment a person deserves that does that is to just be eliminated and put out of the way completely so that he would not do that anymore. Jesus is talking with such language and such strong terms so we will take it seriously, not to offend anyone of our brothers and sisters, and especially a young convert – one of His little ones.
Instead, He wants us to be a positive and loving influence on others, setting an example that gives encouragement. Setting an example that gives stability. If it’s anything that new converts need to see, they need to see the real genuine Christian life, Spirit-filled life modeled after Jesus Christ. They need to see that so they can look with confidence and say there is a genuine reality to a Christian and his faith in Christ and his following the Lord, that is a serious thing in this world to follow after Jesus and model the life of a Christian.
I remember in my childhood and when I surrendered to the Lord, people I know and I can recall them and their stability and their faith and their faithfulness and their kindness. I remember pastors, some who have already died and gone on to their reward in Mississippi who had such a positive influence on my life when I was trying to get started to preach. I remember the ones who gave me opportunity to preach when nobody else dared risk a 17 year old boy in the pulpit. You never forget people like that. You never forget people who reach out to you in love and show confidence in you. They say I’m praying for you and you’re going to be alright, and God is going to help you. You never forget people who have a positive influence on your life to help establish you in the faith and in following Jesus Christ.
So here is the first mark of a true disciple of Christ. He endeavors with all his heart to have a strong positive influence on others and especially the little ones of the Lord.
Then, Jesus just turns the thing over and He says I’m talking to you about not offending a little one, but what about if you are the one who gets offended? If your brother offends you, now that takes on more talk. I’ve heard people talk and apologize and say if I hurt you well so and so and you knew they weren’t serious about making things right. But when you are the one who is offended, he says there are a couple of things you need to do. In the first place, you need to go to that person and rebuke him. That takes nerve. You don’t know when you are going to start a fight. That takes courage and strength. But this is the teaching of Jesus. Go to the person and let him know that he has offended you, that he has hurt you. That’s the first responsibility of a real disciple. Go to him and rebuke him. It doesn’t mean “bless him out” and I’m using the word bless advisedly instead of some other word. It doesn’t mean that you lower the boom on him, but you tell him Look, here is something you may not be aware of, but it hurt me and it offended me and I'd just like you to be aware of it.
Then He said if he repents, forgive him. Now I don’t know if I’ve seen these conditions laid out anywhere else in the Scripture. Usually we’re just taught to forgive everybody for whatever they do and just mark it off and whether the come and repent and ask for forgiveness or not. But Jesus makes this real clear. He said if he repents, if he says I’m sorry and I want you to forgive me, then forgive him. I don’t think any of us would have a problem forgiving somebody who comes and says I was wrong, I did you wrong, I hurt you and I want you to forgive me. Jesus says here you go talk to the person and if he repents, if he is real sincere and honest about his apology and repentance, then forgive him.
He said you need to be prepared to go further than that. Here’s where the line gets pretty thin about what a real Christian really is. He said even if your brother does this seven times in one day, but each time he comes back, seven times and says ‘I repent. Will you forgive me?’ You are to forgive him. What He is saying here is that a true disciple lives in an attitude that he wants to be forgiven and he wants to forgive and he does not want anything, any grudge or hurt feelings in his own heart between him or anybody. He lives with a determination in his mind that he is not going to allow hurts to be bottled up within me and close up the avenue of the Holy Spirit and the love of God coming into my own heart.
A grudge, a hurt can absolutely block the flow of the love of God and the Holy Spirit into your own heart. In fact, when Jesus taught us to pray forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, then He comes back at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, that’s the only one that he elaborates on and discusses further. He says for if you forgive not men their trespasses, then you don’t get forgiveness from your Father which is in heaven. That is stronger language. It is still in Luke and it is in the other gospels as well. Here he is teaching the disciples to live in an atmosphere that you hold nothing in your heart that would hurt you and block you from receiving God’s best. Because after all, that’s where the damage really comes.
I think the way most of us probably feel if somebody did you wrong seven times in one day, about the seventh time you would begin to question whether or not his repentance was really sincere. Jesus puts that in the condition. If he really repents, then forgive him. You see, offending somebody else is one thing, but being offended by somebody else, that is another thing. Jesus brings up two sides of the same thing to teach us what a real Christian is supposed to do and how he is supposed to live. He is supposed to forgive a repentant brother.
Now if the brother doesn’t repent, if he never says I’m sorry, if he never says I’ve done you wrong, then according to this passage you are not under obligation to worry all that much about forgiveness. You just leave it up to that person.
I mentioned last week that when you come right down to the fact that you are faced with your own mortality and you think you might die, you tend to do some soul searching and praying perhaps a little deeper than you have done in a while. Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to wait til we are weak and in the bed sick and maybe facing serious affliction or even death to have to smooth things out? Jesus is showing us the way here.
As I mentioned earlier, it might have seemed to the apostles that this was a little much that Jesus was asking so they said Lord, we’re going to need more faith if we’re going to live this way, so Lord, increase our faith. Jesus answered them in a round about way and said it is not more faith you need. It is the right kind of faith, even a little bit, you don’t need a whole lot of faith, you just need the kind of faith that is alive that has life in it like a grain of mustard seed. He said it can start out so very, very small and it can grow and grow and grow. He talked about it in another place. The tiny mustard seed can produce a large plant with big leaves so that even the birds can come an find a place to roost on this plant. That is the way faith grows if it is a living faith, if it’s got life in it. Somehow each seed has life in it. When it is connected in the soil and with moisture, it sprouts and comes forth. It comes alive and produces a plant that also reproduced. It grows and grows. He said that’s what you need. You don’t need Me to increase and give you great mountains of faith. You just need a little faith as a grain of mustard seed that has life in it.
I read a story the other day that took place in Italy about a man who was an atheist. He said they talk about resurrection coming, the resurrection of the dead. But I’m going to get ahead of them so he ordered a huge boulder, several tons of marble block. He said I want that put on my grave after I’m buried and I won’t be coming out of there for any resurrection. But before they got the stone in place, a bird flew by and dropped an acorn. They just happen to put that stone right over where there was a little crack with the acorn in it. It reproduced. It came to life and started growing an oak tree. In a few years, that who huge marble stone was split open with a tree growing up the middle of it. I think this illustration is of what faith can do, how it can grow and burst open a whole huge weight of some sort that stands in our way. He said you could even say to a sycamore tree or mulberry tree if you had this kind of faith that has life in it so that it grows, you could say to a tree to be uprooted and cast into the sea and it would be gone. It would obey you.
I wish we knew how to cultivate living faith and allow it to live and grow. I know that one way faith grows is by hearing the word of God. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. I know faith grows when we hear testimonies of answered prayer. I know faith grows when we hear people give testimony of the provision and power and presence of God and His protection and all the wonderful things He does. Faith grows. So living faith builds on the word and it grows and it solves problems. He said that is the kind of faith you need. Not for Me to pile more faith on you, that is not the way it comes. It comes by having a mustard seed-like living faith and allowing it to grow in the soil of God’s Word and His holy presence. After a while it solves problems because it grows.
Lord, give us living faith!
Finally, the last thing He talks about here is humble service. He said you know when a person has a servant, he has contracted with that person to work for him for a set price. That servant goes and he labors in the field with the cattle or whatever, When he comes in, the master of that servant doesn’t run out and make on all over him real big and say come on in and sit down and eat and be fed. No, he just recognizes that the person serves according to his contract and you don’t heap upon him a great amount of praise just for doing what he has agreed to do and what he is supposed to do. He said Now you take this to heart for yourselves. Here is where you really look deep inside and understand about humble service. There are things that we are just supposed to do because we are disciples of Christ, because we are children of God. There are things that we are just supposed to live. It becomes part of our life and our contract and our contract with the Lord, following Him. We don’t need to try to make on any big deal or any praise or honor or glory just for living the Christian life. I know it’s nice to be recognized and be honored and all that for things that we do, sure. I think it is nice once in a while to be honored for whatever ministry you have and whatever function you have in the church. I think that is alright, but He is saying your service to God and service to other people, living in an attitude of positive influence on others, you don’t need big credit and honor for that like the Pharisees are always wanting to get. If you live with an attitude of forgiveness toward others, you don’t need to have great publicity about this and say Look what a great child of God this is because they have forgiven. No, this is just common, ordinary things that come out of the Christian life. Don’t make a big deal about it. I would say to you indeed, the Lord Himself is the one who keeps the record on all that we say and all that we do. He is the one who decides the rewards and what they will be when we come down to the end of our journey.
Let me encourage you tonight, if you have served God faithfully and you have not received recognition that you thought you should have, remember, that is just part of your lifestyle as a Christian to do what you know to do and serve the Lord and serve the church and other people in a spirit of humility and love and let God continue to work through you , knowing full well that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the one who keeps the record. One day He will say well done, thou good and faithful servant.
I remember once after I had left southern Illinois as pastor at West Frankfurt, they called me and told me about Brother Ernest Hammers who had died. He was the janitor, custodian. He did his work so well. You never had to worry if the church was open, lights on, church heated in winter or cooled in the summer. He did it. He took care of everything. You never had to worry if the kids sat on the back seat and wrote paper notes and then tore them all to pieces and scattered gum wrappers and papers all over the floor. He didn’t come fussing and whining at the pastor saying I wish somebody would straighten these kids out. He just cleaned it up with a smile and went on. They called me at his death to come preach his funeral. I immediately prayed and ask the Lord to guide me in what I should say at his funeral. Immediately, the Holy Spirit brought to my attention that part of the verse I just quoted to you where Jesus would say ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’ I talked about those four things. What he did for God and the church was well done. He was a good man. He was a faithful man. He was a servant and the Lord would say to him, ‘Welcome. Enter in to the joys of the Lord.’
When we have a positive influence on others and serve in humility, the Lord will remember the reward. When we are forgiving of a repentant brother or sister, the Lord will remember that kind of life. When we have a faith that is alive that grows, the Lord will remember that and understand it. When we serve in humility, one day we too will hear Him say ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’ He said you should take the attitude that you are an unprofitable servant and you are not due any special reward. But you know our Lord Jesus is not like that because He bestows rewards upon people who have been obedient to Him.
Please stand together for prayer.
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