Manuscript Sermon: Life on the Winning Side

Page from the Luke manuscript

Page from the Luke manuscript

Here is yet another transcription manuscript of last Sunday’s sermon. I don’t know that I’ll continue this practice often, but it seems to be a good discipline to use occasionally.

At a conference at a Presbyterian church in Omaha, people were given helium filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt like expressing the joy in their hearts. Since they were Presbyterians, they didn’t feel free to say “Hallelujah, Praise the Lord.” All through the service balloons ascended, but when it was over 1/3 of the balloons were unreleased. God plants joy in us, but we need to be willing to let it go. It seems to be an odd thing, but when we release our joy, it comes back to us. Joy reinforces its presence in our lives. We’re going to look at that concept today in Luke chapter 10, verses 17-24.

This portion of Scripture isn’t just about joy; this is about Jesus having given His disciples authority, and reactions to it. During the time of Lent, we have looked at attributes we share with Christ. We’ve looked at sharing in Christ’s suffering, sharing in His forgiveness, His mission, and His sacrifice. Today, we’re looking at sharing in Christ’s authority. When we consider Life on the Winning Side, we ask What Kind of Joy Do You Have? As we read these verses, look for the mention of joy.

To give us some background context, this portion of Luke is where the disciples who had been send out by Jesus to engage in ministry returned from their mission. Luke 10:17-20: “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’”

So what kind of joy do you have? The disciple’s joy we see here is Focused on Conduct. The disciples joy is focused on conduct; in verse 17, they say that they return with joy and then describe the process. They were focused on the process: they said, Lord, the demons are subject to us in your name! and how does Jesus respond in the very next verse? “I saw Satan fall from Heaven.” Understand that in the Greek, Jesus is saying this as a past-tense event. Jesus has focused on the finished work; indeed, later in the Gospels when we see Jesus on the cross, and He says a number of statements, His last one, of course, is “it is finished.”

God has a wonderful plan for your life, and that plan, first of all, is to bring you to Him; and to do that, He needed to make a way. Jesus defeated Satan at the cross. The interesting thing is that Satan didn’t know he had lost until the cross happened. The devil got the Savior up on the cross and thought he had won. We can almost hear him chortling with infernal glee; but the devil didn’t realize God’s ultimate plan to rescue us; to ransom us with Jesus’ blood.

Jesus focused on the finished work; He knew from the beginning of creation what the finished work would be. The main point for us is to overcome the power of the enemy through Christ. Jesus said, “I give you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and overcome all the power of the enemy nothing will harm you.” We are protected from the Adversary.

This is not a guarantee that we will never bang her elbow or scrape our knee. This is not talking about bodily harm; this is saying that if you have trusted in Christ, you can go into a dangerous situation, and not worry about if you come out of it or not… because you are protected. Our flesh-suits are subject to failure; I recognize that this outward shell that I wear is just a temporary thing. There are going to be times when I suffer in my physical body, but that’s not me. I’m inside this thing; I’m using this thing temporarily. Someday I will slough it off; someday I will put it all aside, and be my real self in the presence of Jesus. Jesus knows this, and He lets us know that we are protected from the attacks of the enemy. The adversary cannot snatch us out of God’s hand; we are protected.

In verse 20, we’re given this encouragement by Jesus: “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” We don’t need to obsess over spiritual warfare, but instead, hold on to our personal victory. We’ve been rescued; that is our ultimate cause for joy!

However, this does not mean we are to walk through life unprepared. Ephesians chapter 6 talks about the armor of God, and how we are to put it on. We are to carefully fasten about our waist the belt of Truth, and everything hangs on truth. I don’t know if you know this, but with the Roman armor described in Ephesians, the first thing you put on is the tunic of clothes and then over the top of that you put the belt. The belt supports the weight of the weapons and secures the armor; it brings everything together, freeing the soldier to concentrate on the attack.

Truth is our foundational piece to fight against the enemy. We are to take up the shield of Faith with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the enemy. The enemy does not want us to live in joy; he wants us to be as miserable as he is, and is constantly shooting at us, trying to bring us down. Remember, we don’t carry a metaphorical small, round, Gladiator Shield. The shield of Ephesians 6 is the shield from Roman armor: it’s 4 feet high and about two and a half feet wide and it’s curved; it provides protection. This means we put ourselves into our faith as much as we can; notice we’re not hiding from the world; we’re advancing, but we are not without protection – Jesus knows what He’s doing in our lives.

What kind of joy you have? The disciple’s joy was focused on conduct; Jesus’ joy, on the other hand, was Found in Connection. “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.’” (Luke 10:21-24)

Jesus’ joy is found in connection because He is full of joy in the Spirit. Verse 21 shows us that Jesus takes joy in the Father’s work and the Father’s work is found in US. My family watches a television show called “Face Off”; it’s a show about special effects makeup. When making an effects appliance, one of the first stages after design is to get a cast of the model’s head. They take pieces of clay and they smear them all over the cast, so they can start shaping the clay onto the model’s face. They spend quite a long time working that clay to get just the shape they want; they give it form and substance.

I want you to realize that God Our Father is doing that in you. The Old Testament prophets describe us as clay on the potter’s wheel, and that God is shaping us and molding to be exactly what He wants us to be. The book of Romans reminds us that the clay doesn’t get to say to the Potter, “I don’t like this shape you have me into; fix this! I want to be like something else!” No, it is the Father’s work, the Potter’s hand, that gets to shape us to be like He wants us to be. That’s why I pray almost every week, “Lord, shape us to be like Jesus.” We want to cooperate with that process. Lord, I want to be soft and pliable, not hard and stiff and difficult to work with. I’d rather be moldable. Jesus takes joy in this work that the Father is doing.

Understand this piece of theology in verse 22: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” We know the Son through the Father, because of the choice of the Son. You see, the Son looked at us from before time began – we find this in Ephesians 2:10 – when the Son said, “this one is mine. Do Your work on this one, Father” and the Father gave that one to be like the Son, and in order to bring that one to life – to cooperate with that shaping – the Father and the Son sent the Spirit. The Spirit breathes into us, enlivens us, and allows us to actually take part in the process of our lives being shaped to be like Christ.

The Trinity is doing the work: the Father selects; the Son reveals; the Spirit brings to life. That’s a lot to comprehend. It’s very simple to write down, but the more you think on it, the more complex it gets, because you’ll start to see the scope of everything that God is doing. Verse 23 talks about being blessed; Luke chapter 6 has a condensed version of The Sermon on the Mount. In it, we realized when Jesus says “blessed are you,” it means that God is noticing you and that should make you happy. With that same thought in mind, read how Jesus said, “blessed are the eyes that see what you see.”

When we find joy in the work that God is doing in us, we’re reminded that God notices what we do. Being in a play with a large cast, I’ve seen the work that the actors in the back row put in. They might not be highlighted, but they’re giving everything they’ve got to contribute to the show. I see their work from the wings, and it makes me smile. It’s similar to when a grandparent shows pictures of their new grandbaby; you’re aware that Grandma or Grandpa is very proud of this little one. God sees us like that; He’s proud of us, not because of what we DO, but because of who we ARE: we’re HIS.

Finally, there is a warning found in verse 24, and I want you to make sure we catch it. Jesus says “For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” The warning here is that sometimes leaders can get lost in the Task and miss the Point. The disciples did this at in verse 17 when they took their joy in the subjection of demons. They missed the point: relationship with God is what makes that authority possible.

All the way back in first Samuel chapter 15, God through the prophet Samuel gives Israel a warning. God had given the soldiers of Israel a command, and they ignored it, preferring to say that they were going to give an extra sacrifice to God instead. The prophet told the people this crucial fact: God wants obedience, not sacrifice. It’s more important for you to actually connect with the heart of God than it is to do all of the right stuff. What God wants is obedience more than sacrifice; He wants relationship more than a well-structured life.

Our joy is found in connection; it’s been said that joy is a byproduct of obedience. Jesus obeyed the Father and He found His joy in that obedience. If we are to exercise Christ’s authority, we need to do the same thing that Jesus did: find our joy in obeying the Father in our lives.


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