Seeing the Power of God Among Us, Part 1
About the Guest
Is forgiveness merely an idea? On this special Thanksgiving Day episode, seminary president Bryan Chapell helps us see the face of real repentance in Luke’s Gospel account of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed.
Bryan ChapellDr. Bryan Chapell is highly regarded in the evangelical community as a preacher, teacher, and author. He began his ministry pastoring in churches that include Glen Ridge Presbyterian Church in St. Louis (1976), Woodburn Presbyterian Church in Woodburn, Ill. (1976-80), and Bethel Reformed Presbyterian Church in Sparta, Ill. (1980-1986). Bryan then joined the Covenant faculty fulltime in 1986 and has since served as a professor, Department Chair, Seminary Dean, and Executive Vice President. Fro...more
Is forgiveness merely an idea?
Seeing the Power of God Among Us, Part 1
Bob: Is it kind and compassionate to confront another person about his sin? Bryan Chapell says it is.
Bryan: Your awareness of the dangers of the wrath of God mean for the sake of another person, when you are aware of their sin, that you would confront them for their sake, with their own wrong. And if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent,” forgive him.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, November 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We are never more like Christ than when we are forgiving another person.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You had quite a crew join you for Thanksgiving. A lot of your kids were in town and grandkids as well for the Thanksgiving holidays, right?
Dennis: That’s right. Our table is getting longer at our house Bob, we are having to add leafs to it. I mean the high chairs …
Bob: You just wanted to talk about the new grandbaby didn’t you?
Dennis: That’s right. And, you know, our table is getting longer at our house, Bob. We’re having to add leaves to is. I mean the high chairs …
Bob: You just wanted to talk about the new grandbaby.
Dennis: I’ll tell you what. It’s fun to spoil them. It really is fun to spoil them. We are going to talk about spiritual life over the next couple of days with a friend of our ministry Dr. Bryan Chapell.
Bob: That’s right. Bryan was here to visit with our staff awhile back and shared a devotional with our team that was just a great devotional on our walk with Christ.
Dennis: Let me introduce our listeners to Dr. Bryan Chapell. He is the President of Covenant Seminary since 1994 and he also serves as the professor of practical theology. That seminary is located in St. Louis, Missouri.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: It’s kind of your home town up there Bob.
Bob: It’s just right around the loop from where we used to live.
Dennis: And I think our listeners are going to enjoy Bryan’s easy preaching style.
Dennis: He’s just easy to listen to, and enjoyable as well.
Bob: Well, and they’ll be familiar with the passage from which this message is taken. It’s that story about the ten lepers who were healed and the nine who went on their way. Let’s listen together. Here’s Dr. Bryan Chapell.
Bryan: Would you look at Luke 17 just to give you context a little bit. Maybe your church is like mine. Lots of time there is peace and joy and togetherness, but not always. At our national assembly a few years ago there was an issue that was dividing us. And we had debated all morning. The words that were spoken were really what you might not wish, either in nature or character of expression, and we went to lunch with the leaders of the two sides, very much divided. But when we came back from lunch, the two chief speakers—the two leaders of the opposing sides—were sitting on the front row together. Nobody said a word, but there was a message in that, and we all got it.
In Luke 17, there are two very different men. There is a man who refuses to give thanks. And there is a man who must give thanks. They are very different, but they come right together. And there’s a message in that, if we’ll see it.
Look at verse 7, we’ll pick up mid-parable. Jesus is speaking, “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. What do you say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat.’ Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper. Get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink. After that you may eat and drink.’ Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do should say, ‘We are unworthy servants. We have only done our duty.’
Now on his way to Jerusalem Jesus traveled on the border between Samaria and Galilee. As He was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met Him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, master, have pity on us.’ When He saw them He said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priest.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked Him. And he was a Samaritan.
“Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then He said to him, ‘Rise and go. Your faith has made you well.’”
A sign appeared in a lawn near us, these words, “Mom on strike.” “Mom on strike.” Michelle Tribot, 36 years old, Belleville, Illinois, had had it up to here with the back talk and the lack of cooperation in her household, and so she moved out of the house to the tree house in the back yard and put the sign out front. “Mom on strike.”
Well, some of the local media types in our area actually got hold of it and began to broadcast the story of the Tribot’s. And I was interested in the interviews that would follow … I mean not just the interview of Michelle. I was particularly interested in what her husband would say. And when he was interviewed, he said this. He said, “I’ve got the kids doing their chores again. I’ve told them to cool it with the sarcasm. We’re doing whatever we can to get her to come down.”
You know, it just makes perfect human sense that when you’ve done something to offend, when you haven’t measured up to someone else’s expectations that you’ll do what you can to make it right, that you’ll make amends. It makes perfect human sense, and no spiritual sense whatsoever. If what we think we do is going to make things all right with God, these passages are designed to tell us we are way off base.
After all, what is God telling us here? He’s speaking to us at our point of deepest desire. What do we really want from Him? We want God to come … if you’ll forgive the analogy … we want God to come from whatever tree house He occupies in heaven and come down. We want God here. We want Him present. We want His power real among us. Isn’t that what we really want?
But the trouble is, how do you get God to come down when His standards are so high? If you want to see how high the standards are, just look at the beginning of chapter 17. Jesus said to His disciples, “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his desk than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin, so watch yourselves.”
What’s the first standard? Cause no sin. That is a high standard, but Jesus is just getting started. If you’ll continue in verse 3, see what is said. “Not only watch yourselves, if your brother sins, rebuke him.” Not only should you cause no sin, you should confront others’ sin. Your knowing of the reality of hell, your awareness of the dangers of the wrath of God mean for the sake of another person when you are aware of their sin, that you would confront them for their sake with their own wrong.
And Jesus still isn’t done, for He continues in verse 3, “Not only if your brother sins, rebuke him,” but this, “And if he repents, forgive him.” If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and say, “I repent. Forgive him.”
Cause no sin. Confront others’ sin. Forgive any sin. These really are high standards. The disciples knew it and it intimidates them. And so they have a prayer of sorts expressed in verse 5. “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith,’” which is just kind of a sanctified way of saying, “You’re going to have to help us out here.” I mean if these are really the standards, then you’re going to have to increase something in us that we can fulfill what you are requiring. And Jesus commends the question even in a sort. I mean he does say it really is a matter of faith. I mean if you’re wanting to see the power of God enabling you to do what He desires, then it is a matter of faith.
After all, He says in verse 6, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea and it will obey you.’” You want to see the power of God come down, then you have faith. But faith in what? See, that’s the question. Faith in what? And it’s what the rest of the account is meant to answer, because what we are being told here in ways that sometime shock us is God, if you want to see Him move, you want to see God come down, you must understand God is not moved by the deeds that you do.
We don’t like even seeing it, but the conclusion is in verse 10, “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants. We’ve only done our duty.’” Do you remember the parable? There’s been a man who’s been out working the field at the behest of his master. And he’s been watching the sheep and plowing. He’s tired. He comes in at the end of the day. And does the master say, “Well, you’ve had a hard day. Come sit at my table.” He said, no, the master doesn’t say that. He says, “Fix my meal. After that, you can eat.” He doesn’t thank him for what he was supposed to do. And Jesus said, “So you also, when you’ve done everything you were supposed to do, should say, ‘We’re just unworthy servants.’” Man. I don’t like hearing those words come from Jesus. It doesn’t sound very shepherdly.
But maybe you can make sense of it by putting it in a modern context. I mean just imagine that you’d been working all day, whatever, you know, outside work you do, and some Saturday you’re checking off your honey-do list and kind of working through it there. And by the end of the day, you know, you’ve made the fifth trip to the hardware store to get that fitting that still doesn’t fit. You’re tired. You’re frustrated. And your spouse may be frustrated, too … with you maybe … but anyway frustrated with you, too. And so instead of fixing dinner, you all go out to eat. And you go wherever you … the local Denny’s or whatever, and you can imagine there’s somebody who’s going to serve you there.
Now that waitress, she’s been working all day, too. She’s tired, too. But just imagine after she comes and serves you and puts your plates down, that she puts down another plate and pulls up a chair. You say, “What are you doing?” She said, “Well, I served you so I’m going to eat at your table.” And you’d say, “Oh, no, you don’t. You were just doing your duty … your job. That doesn’t give you a right to my table.”
Actually if you were to understand the ancient Near East, what is being said is far stronger. For if you were to have a seat at the master’s table that really meant you had the rights of his household. I mean the better example in our culture would be if a realtor had helped you buy a home, worked with you for months, just imagine. You now move into that home, and just as your moving van is moving out of the driveway, another moving van comes into the driveway. And your realtor’s in the passenger seat. “What are you doing?” “Well, I helped you move into your home, so I’m moving in, too.”
“No, now wait a second. You were just doing your duty. That does not give you a right to my house.” And what Jesus is saying to us is, “When you have done your duty, it doesn’t give you a right to the household of heaven.”
This scares me. It’s not what I want to think. What I want to do is I want to be able to trophy my works before God. Say, “Look, Lord … Look what I did. Look how good I’ve been. Look at these great things that I’ve done in your behalf. Surely now you must bless me because of these things that I bring before you, my wonderful trophies of goodness.” And surely the Lord will say, “Why, child, that’s really wonderful. By the way, have you caused no sin? Have you confronted others’ sin? Have you forgiven any sin?”
You see, when we begin to recognize that great disproportion between our best works and God’s true holiness, we understand what the Scriptures mean, that our best works are only what to God? Filthy rags. When we want to trophy our goodness, we must recognize that before God, there’s a certain sulliedness to even our best. And the result of that is we can’t trophy our good works without recognizing the devastation that will have upon us if that’s really what we’re trying to buy God with, our goodness.
I went to the home of a pastor after I’d preached in his church some months ago now and invited to lunch with some other guests after the service. And as we went in the front door, it was really very impressive. There were various large game trophies around the living room. You know, there were chairs made out of antelope skins and there was this large zebra skin on the wall and there was this huge elephant’s foot that had been turned into a stool that you could sit on. It was very impressive. And, you know, the pastor began to explain these various trophies that were around. But even as he was presenting the trophies to us, he knew enough to discern the dialog that was going on in our brains.
“Aren’t these endangered species?” And so even as he was telling us, you know, the background of these animals, he was apologizing for the trophies. Even as he would show them to us, you know, he would say, “Now these were shot a long time ago before they were endangered species. And I didn’t shoot them. My father-in-law shot them. I didn’t do it.” Apologizing for the trophies.
I wonder if we recognize it as what God is requiring of us. Not that there’s not good in our righteousness. But there’s not sufficient good to warrant His favor. I want to bring my goodness before God like currency to buy His favor. But God is saying, “If what you’re really trying is to put me in debt according to your righteousness, I will tell you I will be no man’s debtor. Your righteousness has no currency with me. If it’s a bribe or a buy, it has no currency with me.”
I don’t believing that. I’m president of a seminary and I want to believe if I’m good, God has to bless the seminary. Don’t you think that way sometimes? If we will be consistent in our family devotionals, troubles won’t enter our home. If I’m honest in my business, God has to give me success. If we operate with integrity, surely God will bring the Gospel power into this place and we’ll have success and grow and, you know, He’s got to because we’re good. I’m not condemning your goodness, but if it’s leverage with God, you have to recognize what God says. “When you have done all that you were supposed to do, you should say we are unworthy servants.”
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to part one of a message from Dr. Bryan Chapell, dealing with …
Dennis: Actually we’ve been sitting here convicted.
Bob: You know, I was thinking … he was talking …
Dennis: You and I both looked at each other and like … uh-huh.
Bob: When he talked about consistent family devotions, is that what you’re talking about?
Dennis: That or getting up from your quiet time and feeling sufficiently pious, thinking that God ought to bless you because you had your quiet time.
Bob: I was thinking back to earlier this fall when we were trying to get some of these disciplines established, you know, and it’s just like Bryan was saying. You think in those moments, God is going to bless you. And instead, here’s what happened.
Dennis: Everything comes unglued.
Bob: The car had to go in for repairs because we were having transmission leakage on the floor.
Bob: Mary Ann’s purse got stolen.
Bob: I mean it was just one thing after another. And I finally looked at Mary Ann and I said, “I just realized where all this is coming from. It’s coming from the fact that as we do try to become more consistent and more disciplined, we raise the attention of the enemy who wants to keep us spiritually neutralized.”
Dennis: That’s right. And you know, you can’t discount spiritual battle as it swirls around our lives. And as Bryan was talking, Bob, I kept thinking about Galatians chapter 3, beginning in verse 1. It says, “You foolish Galatians. Who has bewitched you? Before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified, this is the only thing I want to find out from you. Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish, having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
Dennis: And the answer to the questions of Paul, how did we become a Christian? By hearing the Scripture and by believing.
Dennis: And we didn’t receive the Spirit, we didn’t receive new life from Christ by perfecting the flesh. No way to get there from here. The only way we receive the Spirit is by hearing the Scriptures and by embracing God’s message by faith, and as a result, God’s work was done in our lives. And I think all of us from time to time need to be reminded what’s going on in our lives. He is wanting to work out His life in and through you, to your spouse, to your family, to your neighbors, to your associates at work. And sometimes when the purse does get stolen or the transmission goes through the floor, those are moments when God’s saying, “Okay, will you trust me?”
Dennis: “Will you obey me, and will you allow my work to be done in your life?”
Bob: You know, that made me think of another kind of person I run into routinely … people who think they are Christians but according to the biblical definition, they’re really not. These are people who would follow the statement, “Well, I’m a Christian,” by saying “Well, I try hard to live a good life. I’m a basically good person.”
And when they make that statement, they’re actually saying the exact opposite of what they just said because a Christian is not a person who says, “I try hard.” A Christian is not a person who says, “I’m basically a good person.” In fact, he’s a person who realizes that no matter how good he tries to be, he can never be good enough to merit God’s favor.
Dennis: I always enjoy talking with a person who says what you just said, Bob, about “My good works are going to outweigh my bad.”
Dennis: I always enjoy getting a napkin and drawing a set of scales and saying, “How can you know for sure that your good deeds will outweigh all of the other stuff?” The only way you can be assured of the scale being tipped in the right direction is when you allow Jesus Christ to become your sufficiency, and He is the weight that tips the scales. He is our salvation.
In fact, I’m thinking of a passage over in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 that is … well, it’s a great one to read here at Thanksgiving because it’s going to remind some of you about your salvation. And maybe others who are listening right now just what you need to do, because you’ve never come to that point of allowing Jesus Christ to be your righteousness, to be your forgiveness. Second Corinthians 5 reads, “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God was entreating through us, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Dennis: And, you know, Bob, that’s a great picture of Christ offering this gift of righteousness. But we must trust. We must place our faith. And we must allow Him to come in as Savior and Lord of our lives, if we are to experience that righteousness.
Bob: Yes, and on our web site FamilyLife Today.com we have a link to what I think is a very helpful piece for folks to look at it’s called “Two Ways to Live.” It clearly explains the difference between somebody who is a follower of Christ and somebody who isn’t a follower of Christ. It is those two ways to live and I want to encourage listeners go to our web site and click on the link. I think folks are going to find it really helpful.
Dennis: You know, Bob, it occurs to me there may be a person listening who right now they’re convicted that they need to just stop … maybe stop what they’re doing in their kitchen, their garage, or maybe pull their car off the side of the road and just pause right now and say, “Lord Jesus, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Dennis: You know basically all you’ve got to do is recognize the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work on the cross, that he’s alive from the dead, and ask Him to be merciful to you and forgive you and become your Master and Lord. And you know what? You can experience the new life that we’ve been talking about on the broadcast all today. There’s no reason you ought not to do that. Don’t wait another moment. I would encourage you to do that right now, if you have never experienced Christ’s forgiveness. It is full and complete.
Bob: And if you do that, we would love to hear from you. If that is what you do today contact us at FamilyLife Today write us and let us know that as you were listening to the program God was at work in your heart. So go to our web site FamilyLife Today.com and leave us a note there or send us an e-mail and get in touch with us. Again we’d be thrilled to know that God has used this program in that way in your life.
As we wrap things up today we thought we’d leave you with a little thanksgiving music. Tomorrow we’re going to hear Part Two of Bryan Chapell’s message from Luke chapter 17. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, who is also the producer for the music as we conclude today’s program. This is the instrumental arrangement of the song “Let All Things Now Living.” A song of thanksgiving to God the Creator triumphantly raise.
On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great Thanksgiving Day. We’ll see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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