Intro – I’ll bet anyone who has a computer has done this. I was working away on a large work document a few years ago when I selected a portion to delete. I failed to notice the computer selected the whole doc. A second later, I was looking at the loss of several days’ work that was not backed up and could not be retrieved. Please tell me I’m not alone! It was devastating and I learned a valuable lesson about the power of the delete key and the need for backups.
Well, Beloved, God has equipped all of us with a powerful “delete” key. It can be used for good, but can also do great personal harm. We can destroy ourselves with this gift. The gift is free will. It has extreme power because its effects are eternal. And in the end it either leads to God or away from Him.
Notice Lu 7:30: “But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves.” That phrase strikes terror in my heart. “Rejected the purpose of God.” They took God’s gift of free will and shot themselves right between the eyes. They rejected the purpose of God for themselves. It’s a tragic phrase. The word “rejected” can also be translated to “nullify” or “erase.” They erased the purpose of God “for themselves.” That’s personal, and thus painfully tragic. It pictures God saying, “I’ve got a purpose for you – to forgive your sin and cleanse your heart based on Jesus’ death. Life will be hard, but you’ll have a happy, productive, glorious forever.”
Then He gives them a gift. They ask, “What’s this?” He says, “It’s Free Will. It includes a “delete” key. You don’t have to take My plan. You can make your own. You can chase your own dreams, make your own happiness, write your own script, wring all you can out of this life. But know this. In that case, you go into eternity on your own – fully accountable, but without help from Me. Just hit “delete” and you are your own boss.” Got the picture? God offers eternal life, but He also gives us the ability to destroy ourselves by choosing “delete the purpose of God for ourselves. That’s what the Pharisees did. Free will is great, but it is like having your finger on a grenade. It’s easy to blow yourself up.
Now – please realize that in the end, no person, no group of people, no event, no plan of man can ever upset the ultimate purposes of God. We’re not big enough for that. History is God’s story – aimed at showing His power and glory. Paul pulls back the curtain a bit in Eph 1:9-10 to say that God has a . . . “purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” When the time is right, God will bring all things together in conformity to His One perfect will. Sin alienates. God unites – reversing all the effects of the fall. That purpose will prevail! Isa 46:9-10 reminds us, “I am God, and there is none like me, 10) declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” Nothing can overtake God’s ultimate purposes. Nothing. He even turns evil on its head! Peter tells his Pentecost audience in Acts 2:23, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” The most horrendous act in history – the killing of Christ, was in God’s eternal plan and purpose – but the people who did it will pay. By their free will they forwarded God’s eternal plan to pay for sin through the death of Christ – but they condemned themselves up in the process. Free will and God’s sovereignty always work together in ways we will never fully understand in this life.
So, while we may delete God’s heartfelt desire for us personally, He will still get glory by whatever decision we make. Man can never ultimately frustrate God’s purposes. It’s a bit like young love. He spots her, falls in love, wants her more than anything. The desire of his heart is that she would accept him. She turns him down flat and deletes his love. But at his deepest level, in his heart of hearts, he only wants her if she returns his love in equal measure. That is us and God. We can break His heart for us, but we can never thwart his ultimate purposes – we can only nullify His purpose for our blessing to our own detriment. Let’s see how the Pharisees did exactly that.
I. God’s Purpose for Our Person is Our Blessing
Remember John developed gnawing doubts as he sat in prison. Jesus answered by demonstrating His messianic powers in fulfillment of Scripture. Then, He affirmed John’s ministry because it pointed to Him. Now Luke highlights 2 polar opposite reactions to John’s ministry. Lu 7:29-30, “(When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.).” By rejecting John’s message, they erased God’s purpose for them.
What purpose? Lu 3: 3) “And he [John] went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” God’s personal and saving purpose for all people all time is that they turn from sin to Him. Why did He want that for them? Just to humiliate them? NO! He wanted to forgive them – make them right with God. Many experienced that. Lu 7:29: “When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too [for crying out loud], they declared God just.” What blessing! In repenting of their own sin, people were declaring God righteous and themselves sinful. Rejecters did just the opposite – declaring themselves righteous and God unjust. I told you free will is a hand grenade waiting for the pin to be pulled. Can you imagine declaring God unjust? That’s what people do when they reject Christ. They are saying “I am right and God is wrong.” Repentant people say, “God is right and I am wrong.” And when that happens, blessing flows. John’s own father prophesied in Lu 1:76-77) “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77) to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.” Repentance brings forgiveness and release from guilt. There is no greater blessing the world than that. God’s purpose is our blessing.
God always has our best at heart. In C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters the senior devil tells his understudy, Wormwood: "Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through Pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures. All our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.” God always seeks our best. In seeking repentance, He does not diminish, humiliate or rob us. He blesses us. Screwtape later declares, “[God] has filled His world full of pleasures. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least -- sleeping, watching, eating, drinking, making love, playing, praying, working. Everything has to be twisted before it's any use to us." Jesus is urging, “Don’t use your free will to settle for the twisted, temporary, broken version of pleasure. Don’t delete God’s purpose for you. Don’t blow yourself up. Turn to me and get it all!” His purpose is our blessing. Our purpose will destroy us.
II. God’s Purpose for Our Person May be Deleted
Lu 7:30, “but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.” How would you like to have that on your resume? Deleted God’s purpose for me! That is a scary thought, isn’t it? How did they erase God’s purpose? They rejected the baptism of John. So Jesus just wanted these guys baptized? Not quite. Remember, according to Lu 3:3, John came “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Baptism was the result of a changed heart. These guys had rejected God’s purpose to forgive them. That was God’s purpose for them. That’s God’s purpose for everyone. Peter says in II Pet 3:9 that God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” These Pharisees had been there, heard the message, seen the appeal and then hit the delete key. Repent? In rejecting God’s message, they erase God’s purpose.
Why’d they reject the Word? Was it too hard to understand? Too hard to do? “No,” Jesus says, “even the tax collectors, for crying out loud, got it and could do it.” So what was the problem? The problem was they refused to be accountable to anyone but themselves. Jesus points out that these religious elite – the creme de la crème of their society -- were acting like a bunch of spoiled brats. They refused anyone who would not march to their drum. Vv. 31-34: “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation [speaking of rejecters] and what are they like? 32) They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ This is a little word pix. Children love to imitate adult activities. Flutes and dancing brought to mind a wedding -- ornate, elaborate week-long affairs accompanied by parades, feasting and dancing. A dirge suggested a funeral which involved equally elaborate displays of public weeping and mourning. Jesus is saying, “You are like a group of kids who decide to play wedding, but when the music starts, you refuse. But you won’t play funeral either!” You’re like kids who can’t agree what game to play. That’s the picture. So what does it mean?
Jesus interprets. V. 33) For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine [in other words, John was intense – he’s like the funeral dirge guy. He takes asceticism to a new level]. End of v. 33, “and you say, ‘He has a demon.’” They dismissed John as possessed. So, would they like Jesus? V. 34) The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” What Jesus is saying is this: “You brats. You rejected John as too austere and demanding for you – so you say. But you also reject Me because I’m too open and inclusive for you – so you say. Same message; opposite methods, and you reject both. Conclusion: you don’t want to play unless it is by your rules. But, guys, the message is non-negotiable. Your real problem is you don’t want to be accountable; you don’t want repentance; you don’t want forgiveness; and so you refuse to play. But, in doing that, you are rejecting God’s purpose for yourselves.” What an incredible indictment. Using the gift of free will to de-throne God and enthrone self.
Reminds me of the guy sitting atop his house, floating downstream in a flood.
A boat came by and offered help. He refused saying God would save him. Shortly another boat was similarly refused. Finally a helicopter swept in low and ordered him aboard, but he refused, steadfastly insisting that God would save him. Shortly thereafter, the waters overtook him. Arriving in the hereafter, he sought out the Lord and challenged him, “Lord, I trusted that you were going to save me. What happened?” To which the Lord replied, “Well, I sent 2 boats, and a helicopter. What more could I do?” That is the human race rejecting God’s plan and insisting they’ll get to heaven in their own way. Like the Pharisees, they believe their own goodness; their own truth will do the trick. But it will not do, dear friends. Unless we come by the way of the cross we delete the purpose of God for us. It cannot be our way; it must be His. He is not willing that any should perish, but we must come His way.
III. Deleting God’s Purpose Brings Self-inflicted Destruction
Why did the Pharisees think they were exempt? Obviously someone would not purposely set out to destroy God’s plan for their lives. So why? Turn to Mark 7:6. Jesus gives a really clear answer. “And he said to them, (talking to a bunch of Pharisees) “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7) in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8) You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. (that’s a critical phrase. They were pretending to accept God’s Word. But what they really did was follow their own interpretation of God’s Word) 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! (Now, He gives an example so that they can’t miss His point.) 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void [nullifying, erasing] the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” These guys were piously insisting that any financial help they might give their parents was going to God! Why? Because people applauded their gifts. They gave ostentatiously – before big crowds to gain favor. But no one applauded them caring for parents. They were blameless in their own interpretation of the law, but, in reality, they were rotten to the core with no repentance in them and Jesus called them on it.
We have people like that today. I keep the Ten commandments. What they mean is they keep their version. No one can keep Jesus’ version – not just murder is wrong, but even being angry with a brother. Not just adultery is wrong but even lustful dalliances. The law was always intended primarily to point out our need for repentance. Instead people then, like people now, remake the law in their own image, declare themselves righteous and erase God’s purpose that they repent. But all who do that will one day be judged not by their interpretation, but by Jesus’ interpretation of His Word. John 12:48) “The one who rejects me [same word as Lu 7:30 – in rejecting Christ, one rejects God’s purpose] and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” Payday is coming, and for those outside Christ the standard will be His version of His law, not our version. God is not going to be asking nor listening to our opinion of His Word. His opinion is the only one that counts. And He states is so clearly through Paul in Gal 3:10-11, “10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” In other words – if you insist on doing it your own way, you are already living under a curse. The sword of judgment hangs heavy over your head. But the good news is, it can be removed by faith. You can re-instate God’s purpose in your life through a heartfelt prayer of repentance.
Conc– Free will is a wonderful gift. We can use it to blow ourselves up by insisting on our own way – or we can use it to surrender our will to His, thus opening ourselves to His purpose in our life. There is a great story about Calvin Coolidge who was governor of Massachusetts prior to becoming our 30th president. Once, while governor, two state senators got into a heated argument that ended with one telling the other he could “go to hell.” The insulted politician went to Coolidge to ask him to do something about it. Coolidge said calmly, “I have looked up the law, senator, and you don’t have to go.” Neither do we, Beloved. God’s purpose for us is that we not. If we do, it will be our own self-inflicted erasing of God’s purpose that put us there. But through the death and resurrection of Christ, He has made eternal life possible to everyone who will believe. I urge you – choose life. Don’t hit the delete key – hit save. Let’s pray.