29 March 2007

Part 15-Luke 8:22-9:17 "power & authority"

In our last section of Luke (8:1-21), Jesus issued a call to understand what He was saying by responding to it with action. It is action—not mental understanding, intellectual assent, verbal profession, or even heartfelt desire—that is the only true response to what Jesus is saying. He is looking for this message to “produce a crop” (v.15) over time. Without that, can it really be said to have been anything? Without that fruit evident, perhaps the message never really took root.

In Luke 8:22-9:17, Jesus implicitly claims authority over every part of creation and explicitly demonstrates His power to control it. This is important because He is ready to send His twelve closest followers out with His power and authority. They need to understand that if you are following Jesus, there is nothing to fear. The Jews’ past illustrated this thoroughly.

Here are the handout responses:

What does it mean to fear God with an appropriate fear?

Dt 10:12-22 What motivates fear of God? Fear (or reverent respect) is motivated by God’s awesome power and justice. In an age of competing local deities, Moses distinguishes his God as above all other Gods—“God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God” (v.17). A step beyond that, Moses identifies Him as “mighty and awesome,” taking pains to express the ways in which He shows His power mercifully for His people. “He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes” (v.21). Appropriate fear of God comes as a result of coming to an accurate understanding of who God is and how He deals with us.

Ps 25:1-22 What does fear of God do? Fearing God means that you recognize who God is. You have a sense of the way in which He is beyond anything that we can possibly know or comprehend. The more you know of God, the more that reverent respect increases; the more you learn about Him the more it leaves you in stunned awe. “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust” (v.1). In turn, the more you understand who God is and are filled with awe, the more you want to know Him more—you are drawn to Him by what you know of Him. “Show me your wars, Lord, teach me your paths” (v.4). This self-feeding cycle is what stokes and deepens the relationship that you have with God.

Ex 20:1-26 What does fearing God not mean? Fear does not mean terror, dread, or anticipation of harm. Though “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10), God usually comes to mankind with this phrase: “Do not be afraid” (cf. Ge 26:24). God wants us to understand who He is and what immense power He has. But, God does not want this to scare us of make us flee from Him. He approaches us mercifully out of His love for us. “Perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:18).

How can we handle our fears by avoiding giving into our fear?

Neh 2:1-20 What ultimately keeps us from fear? It is precisely who God is and the manner of His approach toward us, that should keep us from fear! He is not out to get us. He is the God who told Israel “I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jer 29:11). Why fear the God who wants the best for you—even more of what it truly best for you than you want for yourself!? “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Ro 8:31).

Ge 15:1-21 Can we count on this? Yes. God promises to protect and bless those who follow Him in faith. As He told Abram, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great” (v.1). God will get us through any fear-prompting circumstance and bless us in the process.

Jos 1:1-18 What can we do to keep from fearing? The great challenge that we face in avoiding fear is remembering all of this—essentially, not leaving God out of our response. As Joshua prepared to lead God’s people into the occupied land that He had pledged to give them, God reminded him of the key imperative: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Jos 1:9). The critical issue was whether or not the people would remember God’s caring presence with them and thus be strong and courageous, or whether they would forget and be discouraged. Their mindset was nearly as important as the unchanging reality.

Pr 29:18-27 How do we keep this in perspective? We have to be convinced, and live according to that conviction, that our reverent respect for God is far more important than any other fear that we could have—greater than any fear that stems from other men. “Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety” (v.25, NLT). It’s easy to get lost in our concerns about what others think, how they will treat us, what could happen at their hands. But it is only God who can ultimately threaten or preserve our well-being. If we’re going to place our focus anywhere, that’s the place that has a real payoff.

God calls His followers to have courage.

Ex 1:15-22 What marks the exercise of courage? If you fear God only, you will have courage to do what is right—to live by God’s direction regardless of consequence. The Hebrew midwives in this passage knew that Pharoah’s directive was wrong, yet defying a king of Egypt was a fearful thing. “The midwives, however, feared God and did not to do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live” (v. 17). Simply put, they feared God more than men. They were convinced that God was capable of protecting them. They courageously did what was right.

Lk 23:50-56 To do this, what is a courageous person willing to risk? One of the things most precious to us is our reputation—what others think about us. People have even been willing to die for their honor—giving away their life in exchange for preserving their reputation. Like Joseph of Arimathea, courage in the life of the follower of God compels us to willingly yield even our good-standing with people for the sake of following God (vv.50-51).

Ac 4:23-31 This courage seeks to do what? The point of courage as a follower of God is that it is for His (God’s) sake, not ours. We’re not talking about going for the gusto for what we want, for what’s best for us. We are talking about going full-bore, flat-out for what is best for God—for what He wants. One of the most powerful examples of this is when men who had been hiding in seclusion and fear after Jesus’ death at the hands of the authorities become powerful public proclaimers who “spoke the word of God boldly” (v.31) despite the fact that this could still cost them their lives. The simple fact was that they were now courageous enough to do what God wanted regardless of the personal implication.

Dt 33:26-29 This courage is reaffirmed as growing how? The amazing thing is that your courage grows each time you take a chance on trusting God and find that He has come through for you. Each moment of risk is a moment that we take by faith. But when God proves Himself faithful, it becomes that much easier the next time to take that risk. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (v.27). Take advantage of that refuge, fall into those arms, and you discover that they are worthy of your trust. Courage grows by our active faith in God’s active faithfulness.

Jn 16:17-33 This courage is real because of whom? That’s really kind of obvious, for it is God’s faithfulness exhibited in Jesus that set us upon this road as followers. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (v. 33). “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” God has said (Heb 13:5). We choose courage over fear because God has chosen to be near us.

If you’re going to follow Jesus, making what He says what you do, you need to know that there is nothing to fear. You can courageously follow Him regardless of what threatens you.

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