Faithlife
Faithlife

What's your problem?

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Come to Jesus with an empty hand and you will receive salvation

Notes & Transcripts

What’s your problem?

God hates
May I add my welcome to all of Tim and Hannah’s friends and family.
It’s great that you’ve been able to join us today as we celebrate the blessing that Phoebe will eventually be when she grows up.
But between now and then, Tim and Hannah have the nightmare of parenting her!
As babies, they rob you of your sleep, so little sleep. Our 4th nearly killed us both! He never slept. You could keep him up all day and he’s still be awake all night.
I have 4 thorns in my flesh, aged 5 to 16, so I speak with good authority, babies and young children are of no practical use!
They rob you of your sleep, so little sleep.
Our 4th nearly killed us both! He never slept.
You could keep him up all day and he’s still be awake all night.
Sure, those little smiles and those first steps are adorable, but
reality returns as you dodge projectile vomit, change those disgusting nappies!
Reality returns as you dodge projectile vomit that stains your walls, as you change those disgusting nappies and dodge whatever comes out while they’re being changed!
Memories of putting toddlers in a car seat,
how your adorable little kid turns into the incredible hulk who refuses to bend.
One hand on the seat belt, one on the kids face and your knee in his stomach!

Sure they get bigger, you think you might finally get some sort of payback.
Our 3rd child started violin lessons - but perhaps we’ll be graced by beautiful relaxing music.
How thankful I was last week for that ear problem that dulled my hearing.
But ask me when they’re not around and we can have a laugh.
I have many more stories, some that simply cannot be told in polite company!
The Pharisee was good - i suspect moist people here think they are good
We may love our children, but it’s not because they make our lives any easier!
We’ll come back to this later on..
But for now, we ought to get on with our sermon and look at today’s bible reading.
But,,,
We ought to get on with our sermon and look at today’s bible reading. I’m well aware that plenty of people here today may not believe in God, or don’t really know what to believe about God.
I’m well aware that plenty of people here today may not believe in God, or don’t really know what to believe about God.
Aside from children being a great deal of hard work to raise, the other certainty in life is death. You can’t avoid it. It will happen.
Well that’s fine.
But what is not fine is to never seriously look into the possibility of there being a God, or to try and understand who God is if he does exist.
So, I recon there is a reasonable argument to say that you ought to at least put some serious thought into the possibility that God exists.
Think of it this way, you’re very unlikely to
If he does, then the consequences of ignoring him are huge.
But the rewards for following Him are immense.
So, all I ask, is that you have a think about what the bible has to say about God this morning.
And then to find out a little more about God once you head home.
Talk to a Christian you know. If you live in this area join our ‘Life Explored’ Course stating in September. Come along on Sunday’s.
I’ve called today’s sermon.

What’s your problem?

Is it that you think you are ‘good’ or that you are ‘bad’.

1 - The problem of being ‘good’

The man Jesus lived 2000 years ago (historians don’t debate this fact).
And this is a story he told to make the point that thinking you’re ‘good’ is a problem.
Luke 18:9–12 NIV
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
luke 18 9-
Luke 18:10–12 NIV
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

1 - The problem of being ‘good’

He wanted to always do the right thing so that God would be pleased with him.
I’m a pretty nice person says the Pharisee.
In fact, a Pharisee was a Jewish religious leader. Like a vicar , or minister, or pastor today.
Isn’t he right to say, thank you God that I’m not a thief, or and adulterer, or even plain evil.
I pay my taxes, I help old ladies across the road.
I’m a good friend and I’m not the worst spouse out there.
God would be pleased with me, I’m not a bad person.
Everyone around me thinks I’m alright.
I have a good job in the city, or I’m a stay at home mum who takes my children’s upbringing seriously. I’m on the PTA at school, we support our local pub and mum’s we socialise at the church mum’s n tot’s group.
I have a good job in the city, or I’m a stay at home mum who takes my children’s upbringing seriously.
I’m pretty useful to society and so I’m pretty useful to Jesus. Far from a waste of time like the little babies, Jesus would not be wasting his time with us.
I’m on the PTA at school, we support our local pub and mum’s we socialise at the church mum’s n tot’s group.
God would be pleased to hear from me occasionally if I prayed, and he’d be honoured to see me at a church at Christmas, maybe Easter.
I think I’m a good person by my own standards.
But Jesus isn’t really even people who don’t call themsleves Christians. He’s talking to me and every member of Grace Chruch.
Or maybe you think you’re ‘good’ by God’s standards, because you are a Christian?
Because we actually often sound a lot more like the Pharisee than we care to reaslise.
I go to Grace church (or another church) every week, and a bible study.
I’ve been on a mission trip to Africa, I pray nearly everyday.
God should be pretty happy with my efforts.
Thank you God that I’m not like those people who cheat on their tax returns, have an affair, or gossip all day long,
or dare I say it, only come to church for special occasions like a thanksgiving!
Now I’m aware that, I’ve properly offended almost everyone in this hall today, but bare with me before you walk out - I include myself in not being ‘good’.
You see the problem of thinking we are ‘good’ is NOT that you’re not as good as me, or as good as Ghandi, or Mother Theresa.
The problem of thinking we’re ‘good’ is that nobody is or can be completely ‘good’ in God’s sight! It’s impossible.
We can never be perfect, so why do we draw an imaginary line of what is acceptable as bad, (it’s not too bad) and what is unacceptably bad?
If the God of the bible is who he says he is, then he brought about the creation of a ‘good’ and perfect world.
But unfortunately, you and I mess it up!
Luke 18:9 NIV
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:
To think otherwise is to be ‘self-righteous’ as Jesus puts it in v9.
You see, there is nothing you can do that makes you right with God.
We’ll never be ‘good’ enough for a perfectly ‘good’ God.
If you had a DVD of your life to show this morning
Here’s my DVDaaaa
that revealed all your thoughts, private actions, lies and motivations -
then you would be running away right now in shame.
The Problem of being ‘good’ is that we are never completely good - there is lots of bad in us.
Luke 18:9 NIV
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:
Which brings us to the next problem:

2 - The problem of being bad

Here’s my DVD of my life.
Every thought and attitude burnt onto this disk for all time.
Every action and every motivation.
Now, I might be able to get through most of life without anyone ever seeing much of this DVD,
If you have done terrible things for all to see, then
even those close to me might not see dark sections of it.
But God, the God who made all things good, well he sees it all.
There is nowhere to hide, nowhere to run.
Look at the tax collector in Jesus’ story.
Luke 18:13 NIV
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
luke 18

2 - The problem of being bad

He know’s he’s a bad man!
Tax collectors at this time were hated by their fellow Jews because they worked for the enemy occupation, the Romans.
Not only did they collect the enemies tax’s from the Jews,
but they also inflated their collection charges to make their own small fortune.
This man knows he is bad, and he know’s it’s a problem before a good God.
The problem of being bad, is that God knows!
The advantage this tax collector has over those of us who think we are ‘good’ is that at least he’s aware he’s bad.
We are happy to pretend that as long as no-one gets a glimpse of our DVD, then we can convince the world we’re good.
But, God knows!
The problem of being bad, is that God knows!
Now, remember that God made all things good, so what’s he to do with us being bad?
Well we know the answer don’t we?
Do we expect our Police Force to turn a blind eye to a thief?
Do we expect our judges to turn a blind eye to a fraudulent business man,
we don’t think a parent is much good if they ignore their child’s rudeness to a teacher.
terrorist, murderers, thieves, adulterers, fraudsters, liars. Imagine a God who created all things, knew what was best for all people, but when they ignore his rule and authority said, that’s ok carry on like that forever.
Imagine how much more terrible the world would be if there was no human order and justice at all.
Likewise, God, cannot ignore terrorist, murderers, thieves, adulterers, fraudsters, liars.
He cannot ignore people who ignore him and turn there backs on him. People who think they are good or know they are bad.
The line has to be drawn somewhere, and it’s drawn at perfection. Otherwise God isn’t good after all!
Imagine a God who created all things, knew what was best for all people, but when they ignore his rule and authority said, that’s ok carry on like that forever.
That’s not a loving and good God.
That’s a couldn’t careless, leave humanity to their own destruction God.
No, a good God has to say, if you can’t live in a way that really is ‘good’ then for the sake of justice, for the sake of being a Good God, I must deal with your sin.
The Pharisee thought he was good, and Jesus is pointing out that he’s not good enough
In v14 - Jesus say’s he will have to be forcibly humbled by God.
The tax man thought he was bad, and that’s also a problem -because he knows God ought to punish him ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’
The problem of being bad - is that God is Good!
The bible repeatedly claims that one day God will end all things, and all people of all times will face his justice.
Those who think they are good will be found bad, and those who are found bad will be judged.
SO, what’s...
So, is that the end of the story!?
Oh no, not in the slightest!

3 - The solution to being bad

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem when he tells the story we’ve been looking at, and on that same journey Jesus uses a real situation to make a similar point.
Those who think they are good will be found bad, and those who are found bad will be judged.
So, is that the end of the story!?
NAd the worter of the book of Luke follows Jesus’s story with a real life illustartaion from Jesus. One that shows us a sollution to the problem we all face.
Luke 18:15–17 NIV
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
luke 18 15-
Truly I tell you, anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it!

3 - The solution to being bad

Let me assure you Tim and Hannah, that as a parent of 4 children, chidlren are in many ways good for nothing!
As babies, they rob you of your sleep, so little sleep. Our 4th nearly killed us both! He never slept. You could keep him up all day and he’s still be awake all night.
Sure, those little smiles and those first steps are adorable, but you’re quickly reminded how little practical value they have as you dodge projectile vomit that stains your walls, as you forget for the 80th time how taking off those disgusting nappies immediately triggers toilet time, as you hope your mouth is closed or you duck quick enough!
I know you all thought I was just being mean about children at the beginning of this talk, saying they are practically good for nothing.
All those times you try and put the baby in a car seat and find yourslef battling with the incredible hulk who refuses to bend. One hand on the seat belt, one on the kids face and your knee in his stomach!
Sure they get bigger, you think you might finally get some sort of payback. OUr 3rd child started violin lessons - more money - but perhaps we’ll be graced by beautiful relaxing music. Well, last week my ears were bloked up, and I can tell you it was a slight imporvement to viloin practice time.
But Jesus picks up on this very issue and makes a wonderful point that we all need to hear.
I cannot even tell you what our eldest 2 did once at bath time when they were little. I can’t tell you because they’re now older and sitting in here listening - so even now I have no benefit from there childhood!
Why do we love our children,
even though they genuinely have no practical use!?
Well it’s a lot to do with that very fact.
The fact that they are unable to do anything to care for themselves.
But ask me when they’re not around and we can have a laugh.
They come empty handed through the neck of the womb.
They bring nothing else with them.
They don’t for one second pretend that they can look after themselves.
Total humility, fully accepting of all you give them.
Imagine Phoebe saying, no thanks mum, I’ve got this.
I found a cow to milk,
Redbull are sponsoring a bottle sterilisation machine as they’re impressed I can work it aged 1,
and I now sew my own nappies from plants in the garden!
I don;t need you anymore!
Phoebe would be far from lovable, and far from needing love!
But that is what we do to God.
I’m alright thanks God, I’ve got this.
I know what’s best, I dont need you thanks.
I’m actually a ‘good’ person without you.
We are far from lovable, and far from realising we are needing love!
But that is what we do to God.
But here is that solution - God love’s us anyway!
Despite our arrogance towards him!
All we need to do is realise the truth that we need God.
To come to God like a little child. With empty hands.
Luke 18:17 NIV
Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
We’ve already seen it from the tax collector.
The Pharisee came with full hands! Hey God, look how good I am.
Perhaps that’s your view towards God today. I’m pretty good.
But the tax collector nailed it.
God, be merciful to me a sinner
Luke 18:14 NIV
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
luke 18

3 - The solution to being bad

Approach God just like Phoebe approaches Hannah with a humble, reliant, empty handed smile.
And just like I love my kids (just in case you were concerned) so God will love you.
Now, if you’ve been really listening, then you’ll be asking well hang on,
you said God was good and that’s the problem we’re bad!
He can’t just ignore our ‘badness’ even if we come and say sorry!
How can Jesus say the ‘bad tax collector’ is justified.
A police man doesn’t let a thief who is sorry go.
So he can’t just ignore our ‘badness’ even if we come and say sorry! The police man doesn’t let a theif who is sorry go. A Judge still sentances someone who is sorry - albeit it might be a shorter sentance, but it can’t be ignored!
A Judge still sentances someone who is sorry - albeit it might be a shorter sentance,
but it can’t be ignored!
Well that’s true.
We know what our problem is.
We know we must come empty handed to God and ask for mercy.
SO what does God do about our ‘bad’ lives.
What is going to happen when God opens my DVD to watch on judgment day?
Well, a day or 2 after these children were coming to Jesus,
Jesus arrived in Jerusalm where he was heading.
And a few days later he was arrested.
The Jews hated him becasue he claimed to be God.
Luke 18:18–19 NIV
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.
The saviour of the world.
But the bible claims Jesus was the only perfect ‘good’ man to ever live.
In fact, here is Jesus’s DVD. And as the bible records it will show a perfect life that is obedient to God all through his life.
In fact, here is Jesus’s DVD.
Luke 18:18 NIV
A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
It will show a perfect life that is perfectly obedient to God.
Jesus, you’ll know was then crucified, and just before he dies he cries out
about a
Jesus, you’ll know was crucufied, and just before he dies he cries out

‘My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me’

3 - The solution to being bad

And it’s a good question he asks - God is just, but Jesus is Good,
so there is no need for God to punish him.
Well this is why God forsakes Jesus.
On the cross Jesus takes upon himself all the sin of those who ask him for mercy.
Who come with an empty hand.
Who recognise that they have done wrong to God.
That’s true for me, - not because I’m special, but because I know I’m not special.
SWAP DVD’s
So as God watches Jesus’ life he sees mine and punishes Jesus accordingly.
But when I stand before God and he opens my DVD, he’ll see the perfect life of Jesus and welcome me as his son.
Eternity with God - glorious. A Citizen of The Kingdom God as Jesus put it.
Like the tax collector.
I’m sorry God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Jesus didn’t remain dead.
The bible reveals that he rose again, appearing to more than 500 people before ascending to heaven from where he will one day return to judge.
Death is defeated, God’s justice is satisfied
God sacrifices his own Son out of love for me!
Justice is done, bad in punished and the one good man who ever lived saves all who come to him like a child.
Like the tax collector.
I’m sorry God, have mercy on me a sinner.
No earthly judge would choose to take a criminals punishment himself.
No police man would say it was himself that stole so a thief may go free,
But - a wonderfully loving Father in heaven has already taken our punishment in the person of Jesus. He takes the punishment we deserve!
And a wonderfully loving Father in heaven has already taken our punishment in the person of Jesus.
---
Luke 18:15 NIV
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.
luke 18
Good for nothing babies, don’t waste the prophets time. He’s here to talk to us adults about God, not waste his time with good for nothing kids.
Presumably someone like in the parable Jesus has just told in verse 10-14.
Luke 18:10–12 NIV
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
luke 18 10
I’m a pretty nice person says the Pharisee. In fact, a Pharisee was a Jewish religious leader. Like a vicar , or minister, or pastor today.
He wanted to always do the right thing so that God would be pleased with him.
He’s right to say, thank you God that I’m not a thief, or and adulterer, or even plain evil.
I pay my taxes, I help old ladies across the road. I’m a good friend and I’m not the worst spouse out there.
God would be pleased with me, I’m not a bad person. I’m not a murderer, a terrorist, a fraudster.
In fact, I’m pretty good for society as well. I’m on the PTA at school, dad’s: we support our local pub and mum’s we socialise at the mum’s n tot’s group.
I’m pretty useful to society and so I’m pretty useful to Jesus. Far from a waste of time like the little babies, Jesus would not be wasting his time with us.
God would be pleased to hear from me occasionally if I prayed, and he’d be honoured to see me at a church at Christmas.
Don’t be put of by arrogant or ignorant Christians!

Those who are themselves blessed in Christ should desire to have their children also blessed in him, and should hereby testify the true honour they have for Christ, by their making use of him, and the true love they have for their children, by their concern about their souls. They brought to him infants, very young, not able to go, sucking children, as some think. None are too little, too young, to bring to Christ, who knows how to show kindness to them that are not capable of doing service to him.

Jesus did not say that God’s kingdom belongs “to these” but “to such as these.” Jesus was not saying that all children, simply because they are children, have received God’s kingdom (Luke 18:17). Jesus was not attributing to children an innate goodness. Rather, he appealed to some quality possessed by little children that is essential for entering God’s kingdom.

Don’t you want to know, love and follow him? Or will you continue to try life your own way?
15 Jesus repeats this lesson with a dominical pronouncement: “ ‘I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ ” Children—particularly little children—are often praised for their innocence, spontaneity, and humility. It is often assumed that it is because of these qualities that Jesus commends them. It does not appear, however, that this is the reason—or at least the primary reason—why Jesus blesses the children. The emphasis in this brief story falls on the children themselves rather than on their virtues, real or imagined. The latter remain unidentified. The Greek word for “little children” is a diminutive (paidia), meaning “very young,” or “infants,” or as says, “babies.” The terminology suggests the children are below the “age of accountability,” and hence it is not their virtue but their helplessness that is stressed. If we assume that Jesus commends children because of their innocence, purity, or even spontaneity, then we must conclude that the disciples’ acceptability in God’s kingdom depends on similar virtues. But, as Mark’s depiction of the disciples makes repeatedly clear, that is exactly what they are not, nor are we. We are not innocent and eager, but slow, disbelieving, and cowardly. In this story children are not blessed for their virtues but for what they lack: they come only as they are—small, powerless, without sophistication, as the overlooked and dispossessed of society. To receive the kingdom of God as a child is to receive it as one who has no credits, no clout, no claims.23 A little child has absolutely nothing to bring, and whatever a child receives, he or she receives by grace on the basis of sheer neediness rather than by any merit inherent in him- or herself. Little children are paradigmatic disciples, for only empty hands can be filled.

What’s your problem, and do you accept God’s solution, empty handedly.

Matthew 18:4 NIV
Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 18

Such humility is of course accompanied by repentance and faith, but the emphasis here is on humility. Only the last, who humble themselves, shall enter the kingdom. The first in their self-exaltation see no need to humble themselves and accept God’s grace (13:30; 14:11; 18:14).

15 Jesus repeats this lesson with a dominical pronouncement: “ ‘I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ ” Children—particularly little children—are often praised for their innocence, spontaneity, and humility. It is often assumed that it is because of these qualities that Jesus commends them. It does not appear, however, that this is the reason—or at least the primary reason—why Jesus blesses the children. The emphasis in this brief story falls on the children themselves rather than on their virtues, real or imagined. The latter remain unidentified. The Greek word for “little children” is a diminutive (paidia), meaning “very young,” or “infants,” or as says, “babies.” The terminology suggests the children are below the “age of accountability,” and hence it is not their virtue but their helplessness that is stressed. If we assume that Jesus commends children because of their innocence, purity, or even spontaneity, then we must conclude that the disciples’ acceptability in God’s kingdom depends on similar virtues. But, as Mark’s depiction of the disciples makes repeatedly clear, that is exactly what they are not, nor are we. We are not innocent and eager, but slow, disbelieving, and cowardly. In this story children are not blessed for their virtues but for what they lack: they come only as they are—small, powerless, without sophistication, as the overlooked and dispossessed of society. To receive the kingdom of God as a child is to receive it as one who has no credits, no clout, no claims.23 A little child has absolutely nothing to bring, and whatever a child receives, he or she receives by grace on the basis of sheer neediness rather than by any merit inherent in him- or herself. Little children are paradigmatic disciples, for only empty hands can be filled.
Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 307). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
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