Archive for the ‘Conversion/Regeneration’ Category

Back from vacation, so it’s been a while. Here we go, from a sermon on Luke 10:21-22 …

You should choose the Lord. You should choose to follow Jesus. Jesus said that those who had rejected him should have repented. Jesus said those who had rejected him were proud. They would not choose him. You should. Don’t give me this religious garbly-gook about God’s choosing. Don’t try to be wiser and more understanding than Jesus. Don’t say, “What if God hasn’t chosen me?” Don’t say, “Well, it’s all up to God and his choice; there’s nothing I can do!” Don’t say that. That’s an excuse and God will put you in hell for that. Jesus said, “Come follow me.” Speaking through Joshua he said long ago, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Speaking through Moses long ago he said, “Choose life that you may live.” Speaking through me right now he says, “Choose Jesus.” I find it fascinating that right after this very same passage in Matthew’s gospel (same teaching) Jesus says to the crowd these familiar words (have you ever heard them?): “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” He doesn’t say, “Come to me all you whom God has chosen or whom Jesus has revealed the Father to.” No, he says, “Come to me you who are tired of your sin and tired of trying to please God with your efforts and tired of fearing death and hell and judgment, and tired of your idols disappointing you, and I will give you rest; I will give you life, I will give you forgiveness of sins, I will give you my Holy Spirit, I will give you a people to love and be loved by, I will give you an eternal inheritance …” Do not delay. Choose Christ. Come to Jesus. Have you come to Jesus? Have you seen the worth of Jesus? I mean really seen it so that it has made you follow him and give up everything for him? Have you?

Let me tell you one concern I have. I’m concerned about the comfortable, casual, use-God-for-forgiveness Christian, who does not have a real knowledge of Jesus. They are of a different class of “wise and understanding.” They tell themselves or let others tell them: “Don’t get too carried away with this Jesus thing … prayer … Bible … serving in the church … involvement … sharing the gospel … “ And my conclusion is that such a person is blinded to the worth of Jesus; he is hidden from them; that’s the only explanation; because if you see Jesus for who he is and your heart is in it, then you’ll give everything you have up for him and live for him; you’ll be like the guy who finds a treasure in a field and you’ll sell all you have to buy that field. Do you really know Jesus or have you proudly told him the terms on which you will follow him?


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An excerpt from my sermon on Luke 8:26-39, the account of Jesus casting out “Legion” and the Gerasenes subsequent rejection of Christ:

What’s amazing is the lack of thanks or love or curiosity by the Gerasenes given that Jesus just helped them out. The only thing we get here is “fear,” and not the kind like the disciples had in the previous story. Not the overwhelming sense of awe and wonder that makes you want to live for someone so amazing, but “afraid-fear” that makes you want to get as far away from something as possible. You could call it demonic. The demons feared Jesus. We saw that. And we read in James 2:19 that the demons believe in God and tremble. Those demons surely did that and so do these people.

My question is “why?” Wonder why they did that? The text never really says. I suspect it’s because Jesus seemed like a threat to their way of life or maybe their livelihood since he just sent a sizable portion of their income down the Galilean drain. Perhaps, beloved, they are an illustration of the third soil Jesus spoke of in v14 – the cares of this world choked out the cares of eternity. Those who love the swine of this world will lose the Savior of this world as well. Or wait, Jesus said it like this in another place: “For what would it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul.”

Here’s what we do know: they wanted nothing to do with Jesus. They did not want to know more about him. They did not want to listen to him, let alone obey him. They did not want a relationship with him. And friends, you might make the case that their condition was worse than this demon-possessed man. Their darkness was greater than his. Indeed, they were blinded to the glory of Christ. And if you don’t think that’s the work of the powers of darkness, hear the word of the Lord:

2 Cor 4:3-4 [3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

And friends, that’s a blindness that still exists. That’s the work of Satan that still goes on. What of you? Do you see that it is possible to know the facts about Jesus and still be blinded to his goodness and greatness such that you really don’t want him interfering with your life? And like these people even, despite all you know and all you have heard, Christ still does not affect your life very much? It may be tempting to say that if you were there and had seen this you would never do such a thing. But this was the argument posed by the rich man in hell. We’ll get to that story in Luke 16 but there the man asked for God to send a dead man back from the grave to warn his relatives of hell and their need to give their lives to God; but do you know what God said? “They have Moses and the Prophets.” In other words, they have the Bible. That’s enough. And if that will not do it, not even a dead man rising from the dead and telling them about Jesus would either. Friend, you not only have Moses and the Prophets, you have the Gospels and Galatians and Romans. And I tell you, if that’s not enough, you would not be convinced if you saw demons rise out of a man, float into a herd of cattle, and they stood up and started singing.

So, what of you? Do you see that it is possible to see great things done by God (maybe your neighbor or family member was changed by God or maybe you just hear about Jesus all the time from faithful people telling you all about him or maybe you read it in his word) and yet the cares of this world choke it out?

So it was with these people. It seems that they were more focused on what they had lost than what they had gained; and this is exactly why so many people reject Jesus … they look at all they have to give up, they see that following Jesus means repentance and centering your life on Christ, that it’s a commitment to him, and so they ask him to depart or they craft a cozy form of Christianity that requires nothing from them but a few half-hearted religious duties but nothing that really changes them … and Jesus grants their request. He leaves.

Friend, please hear me, the demons were conquered but they were not converted. These people considered the strange case of this man but they were not converted. You must be converted. You must … and if you will not, then at some point, you will be conquered and your final place of rest will be a place of unrest, of torment just as it will be for them. Turn to Christ today. Ask him to save you. Ask him to make you new. Ask him to be your Savior and Lord. Do so before you find yourself asking him to depart more and more.

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From a sermon based on Luke 8:26-39 where Jesus cast out the demon(s) Legion.

And friends, listen to me this morning, you don’t have to be a murderer or a molester or a maniac or a mobster or a monster, to be under the power of darkness. To paraphrase Ligon Duncan: “we may not be possessed by demons, but if we are possessed by what we want or by what we have and if what we want or what we have is not God in the Gospel of His dear Son, Jesus Christ, then we are no less in the grip of sin and darkness than this man.

Beloved, it’s not every day you meet a person possessed by demons, but I’ll guarantee you every day you meet a lost person who is enslaved by sin. And what means is their relationship with God is broken, with others is broken, with themselves is broken. What is this man but a picture of someone who, like Ephesians 2 says, is dead in their sins, following the prince of darkness? And he needs a Savior. In fact, that’s his only hope. And it’s a hope that is near us because it’s Jesus; and just as real as evil and darkness is, so is Jesus Christ. And what is so encouraging is that he is bigger and stronger than the darkness.


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This is my sermon text for Sunday:

(Luke 8:26-39 ESV)   [26] Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. [27] When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. [28] When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” [29] For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) [30] Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. [31] And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. [32] Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. [33] Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.
[34] When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. [35] Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. [36] And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. [37] Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. [38] The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, [39] “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.

And this is a good poem by William Dunkerley about the response of the Gadarenes (or whatever their name was).

Rabbi, begone! Thy powers
Bring loss to us and ours.
Our ways are not as Thine.
Thou lovest men, we–swine.
Oh, get you hence, Omnipotence,
And take this fool of Thine!
His soul? What care we for his soul?
What good to us that Thou hast made him whole,
Since we have lost our swine?

And Christ went sadly.
He had wrought for them a sign
Of Love, and Hope, and Tenderness divine;
They wanted–swine.
Christ stands without _your_ door and gently knocks;
But if your gold, or swine, the entrance blocks,
He forces no man’s hold–he will depart,
And leave you to the treasures of your heart.

No cumbered chamber will the Master share,
But one swept bare
By cleansing fires, then plenished fresh and fair
With meekness, and humility, and prayer.
There will He come, yet, coming, even there
He stands and waits, and will no entrance win
Until the latch be lifted from within.

Now, read Luke 8:14: “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”

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“Conversion is not an isolated event but is related to the entire life of faith that follows from it. It is the moment of birth into a new life. It is like a doorway into a room. A person is born to live, not to linger on the edge of the womb in a time limbo. A person opens a door not for the pleasure of standing forever on the threshold but to enter the room. The evangelical world has strangely perverted this truth. Evangelicals often make the text of spiritual life one’s willingness to testify about the moment of birth. Describing one’s sensations in passing through the doorway is considered proof that one is in the room! This shifts the focus form where it ought to be – the evidence of the Spirit’s renewing work in producing a God-centered life, a God-fearing heart, and God-honoring character and witness – and places it on a person’s autobiographical account of the conversion crisis. THe only real proof of our conversion is an obedient and fruitful life.” [David Wells, Turning To God, p43]

Well said, although the last sentence might need some caveats or nuancing a bit. Nevertheless, the point is well said and needed. A good follow-up to this would the book of 1st John. Read it and see what you think.

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“Conversion does not stand alone; it is the beginning of a lifelong journey of growing in Christ and being conformed to his image. Discipleship must follow on conversion as living and breathing follow on birth. There is no life without birth and there is no Christian faith without regeneration and conversion. In the Christian world today, however, what we have all too often is an aberration – spiritual birth that is not followed by an obvious spiritual life. And that is what has produced considerable inauthenticity at the very moment when, in Western cultures, people are searching for what is genuine. They are looking for what is real amidst the hype and marketing frauds of modernity. Outside the context of personal authenticity, testimonies about being converted do far more harm than good. … We are often selling an anemic gospel that asks for little beyond the sales clinch and are then grateful for any who might adhere to it. Little is expected of them by way of moving beyond the threshold of belief and into a full-orbed discipleship.”

Brothers and sisters this ought not be! Let us preach the gospel and preach true conversion!

David Wells, Turning to God, p23

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