Today on the Lord's Day edition of Renewing Your Mind... If there's any idea that is taught repeatedly here in the teaching of Jesus that we want to ignore or forget or put away from us, it's this idea that we will be held accountable for everything that we've done, everything that we said, everything that we've left undone.
The truth is Jesus upheld the idea of hell and judgment and accountability. It's not something the human heart wants to hear, is it? But it is a clear message of Scripture.
Here's Dr. R.C. Sproul preaching from the pulpit he occupied for many years at St. Andrew's Chapel. His text is from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 10. Let us pray. Again, our Father, as on this, your Lord's Day, we pause to reflect on His words. We ask your help. Help us to have ears to hear and hearts that are open and willing to be instructed by Him. Melt the hardness of our hearts. Overcome the native hostility that we have to you that we may be your willing disciples, for we ask it in Jesus' name.
Amen. Before I undertake the exposition of the text that you've just heard, I'd like to ask you three questions. First, do you believe in God? Second, do you believe in Christ as the Son of God? And third, do you believe in hell? Because obviously if you believe the first, you must also believe the second, and if you believe the second, you must also believe the third.
As we realize that our Lord taught more about hell than He did about heaven, but any contemplation of the reality of hell necessarily makes us uncomfortable, not only because it's a place we hope never to visit or to abide, but it's also a place that we desire that none of those whom we love or even know would ever go there. But let's keep that in mind as we examine this text this morning where we have Luke's record of the sending out, now not of the twelve, but of the seventy or seventy-two, depending on which translation you have in front of you. A question of the number of those sent on this missionary journey as a matter of a textual variant that some copyists copied the original as seventy, others as seventy-two, and none of us know for sure which it was. But in any case, we know that there are great similarities between this commission that Jesus gave to the larger number with that which He gave to the twelve when we began chapter nine with Jesus sending the twelve out on a mission.
Now He sends a larger group, a group six times larger than the original twelve, and He appointed them to go two by two into all of the cities where He was about to go. And then He said to them at the beginning of this commission, the harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few. Elsewhere He said the fields are ripe unto harvest. They are ready for the harvest.
The time of planting, the time of pruning, the time of tending is finished. Now the crops have come in, and they are to be harvested. And this is a plenteous harvest that is before us.
But the problem is the laborers are few. Therefore pray that the Lord of the harvest will send out laborers into His harvest. Now we can apply that to the world in which we live today, which is ripe as it has ever been in history for the harvesting of the people of God.
And we are called in the church to be the laborers to go and gather that harvest. We're not the Lord of the harvest. Nor do we even have the power to bring the fruit of the harvest.
We can plant and we can water, but only God can give the increase. He doesn't need us to harvest His elect. He could do it without us. He doesn't need us to proclaim His Word to the rest of the world.
He could speak from the heavens to the whole globe if He chose to do so. But He has given us not only the duty and the responsibility as laborers in His harvest, but He's given us the unspeakable privilege to participate with Him as those who carry the message of the kingdom to the lost of this world. And as He sent them as lambs among the wolves, so He sends us in similar circumstances. And then the rest of this portion of instructions follows, generally speaking, the same list of instructions that He had given to the twelve at the beginning of chapter nine when He talked about stay at the house where you enter and give them peace, who give you peace, and take not all this extra equipment with you, and if they reject you, shake the dust off your feet, and so on.
So I'm not going to comment further on that other than what we did with respect to the commission of the twelve. But at the end of this portion, after He tells them to announce the kingdom of God, and He says, Whatever city you enter and they don't receive you, go into its streets and say, The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless, know this, the kingdom of God has come near to you. And the reality is, folks, most of them missed it, and it was right there at hand. And in this very hour, at this very moment, in this very place where you are present, the kingdom of God, the kingdom of God is near to you. So near you could touch it, so near it could swallow you up, and yet there will be people who will leave this building this morning who will miss it. But He said, But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that day for Sodom than for that city.
Wow! If you leave and turn away from the nearness of the kingdom of God to you, dear one, on the day of judgment it will be more tolerant for Sodom and Gomorrah than it will be for you. On that judgment day, you would wish you lived in Sodom.
You would wish that you were a citizen of Gomorrah than in central Florida or wherever you're from if you miss the kingdom that is near. I want you to notice here a couple of things about this warning that Jesus gave. First of all, not only here but again and again and again, Jesus the great teacher proclaimed that there would be a day of judgment and that every human being would be summoned before the tribunal of God for that last judgment. If there's any concept in the New Testament we find difficult to tolerate, if there's any idea that is taught repeatedly here in the teaching of Jesus that we want to ignore or forget or put away from us, it's this idea that we will be held accountable for everything that we've done, everything that we said, everything that we've left undone that God has called us to do. Dearly beloved, this is a moment in the future that is inescapable. It's impossible to avoid.
We will be there, each and every one of us. Secondly, Jesus here indicates that there will be different levels of judgment. People have this erroneous idea that all sin is equal and if you sinned in one way, there's no greater guilt than that. What you've received, I heard a man say to me once, well, I've lusted after that woman, I might as well commit adultery with her.
No, no, no. Jesus never said that all sins are equal. Some sins are far more egregious than others. All sin is serious, of course, and as James said, if we sin against one point in the law, we sin against the whole law. But there are degrees of sin. The Apostle Paul warned his readers not to heap up or pile up or treasure up sin against the day of judgment. And so here again we see Jesus talking about different levels of accountability, and obviously the principle that he's using here is that our culpability is directly related to the light that we have received. So that every time you hear the gospel preached, it's a double-edged coin. If you embrace it, it is to your blessedness.
If you reject it, every time you reject it, you're heaping up guilt against that day of judgment. But Jesus goes on, and it gets worse. Now he utters oracles of doom, a prophetic type of technique to express God's judgment.
Listen to what he says. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! Again, this is the pronouncement of doom, and he pronounces it upon two cities. For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago.
They would have been in sackcloth and ashes over theirs. If those pagans in Tyre, those pagans in Sidon, had beheld what you have beheld, there would have been mass repentance, but not for you. Your hearts have been hardened.
And Capernaum, Capernaum who's been exalted to heaven, Capernaum who was the headquarters of Jesus during his earthly ministry, Capernaum will be brought down to hell. He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me. And he who rejects me, rejects the one who sent me.
We've seen this sequence before. He can't say, I believe in God and reject his Son. He can't say, I believe in the Son and reject his apostles. If you receive the apostles, you receive Christ.
If you receive Christ, you receive the Father who sent him, and vice versa. Then the report shifts to the response of the seventy upon their return. The seventy returned with joy.
Oh, we've got some good news here. The seventy returned with joy saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us. You remember when the twelve went out, there wasn't that much joy because they failed in so many respects to deal with the demonic world.
But now the seventy come back, or the seventy-two, however, and they're delighted. Lord, you can't believe it. We went out there in all these villages, all these cities, and the forces of hell came out against us, and the last time we looked they were running away with their tails between their legs. Even the demons were subject to us in Your name.
Jesus said, I know. While you were gone, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven, like a lightning flash in the sky. I could see it wasn't just lightning. It was Satan and a great fall from his power because of the ministry that you have undertaken in my name. And beloved, every time the people of God undertake the missionary outreach of Jesus Christ to the darkest places on this planet, there are lightning flashes of the satanic world falling from the sky. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions.
Some take this to be a metaphor for all kinds of evil resistance. And over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. But, nevertheless, it's good that you have this power. It's good that you had a harvest. It's great that you're delighted in the victories that you've had. But, nevertheless, let me pause for a second and ask you this question. There are many blessings that you've received in your life, many good things. Family, children, jobs, education, possessions, things that have made you happy, things that have brought you joy. I want us to think this morning about the greatest thing that has ever happened to us or that ever could happen to us, if indeed it has happened to us, that for which we should be most exceedingly grateful.
You know what it is. Jesus had to remind His own disciples at this point, in the midst of their delirious joy, over their newfound power and victory. Okay, you're happy about that.
It's a good thing. But, nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. Jesus said, you want to have joy and elation and excitement, then let me tell you what to rejoice about. Your greatest joy is that your names are written in heaven.
Well, what does that mean? Well, to say that they're written in heaven means that your names are written on the registry book of heaven, that it is recorded there that you are a citizen of that place, and that you have an inheritance that has been stored up, a legacy to receive as a citizen of heaven. But I have some questions I'd like to explore with you briefly in the time that we have left this morning.
First question is this. Who wrote your name in heaven? If it's there, who wrote it? Did you write it?
Absolutely not. I remember almost jumping out of my skin once, hearing an evangelist in all of his enthusiasm, during his altar call, summoning people to come and commit their lives to Christ, and he said, come now and write your name in the Lamb's book of life. What? Let me tell you something, folks.
The Lamb doesn't hand out any pens. Your name is either in the book of life or it isn't. You cannot add it. Nothing you can do can possibly add your name to that register because the names in that register are written by God and by God alone. Now here's the next question.
When were they written? If you're a believer in Christ, your name is in the book of life, your name has been written in heaven by God the day you trusted Christ. No. Thanks for laughing because it's laughable.
No. God only wrote in that book once, and He did it in eternity before you were born, before you did anything good or evil. And the greatest gift that you could ever receive would be to have the Lord God omnipotent from all eternity, of all the names, of all the people that ever lived. He wrote your name in that register.
That leaves us another question. Why did He write your name or My name in that book? The only reason I can find that your name is in that book is that from all eternity the Father determined to redeem a people as a gift for His Son, that His Son would see the affliction and the travail of His soul and be satisfied. So that all whom the Father gave to Him would come to Him. Yes, we're talking here about the elect, which the Bible doesn't shrink from, which the Bible clearly tells us that the purpose by which God redeems us is for His own good pleasure and for the honor and glory of His Son. That's why on our bulletin we celebrate the five solas of the Reformation, not just solo scriptura by the Scripture alone or solo fide by faith alone, but sola gratia by grace and grace alone.
And what that means is to be a recipient of grace is to receive something that you don't merit, to receive something that you haven't earned, to receive something that you haven't achieved, but rather to receive something that is a gift and purely a gift by a gracious God who bestows it upon us. And again, why did He write my name in that book? Not because He looked down the corridor of time and saw that I would do this or that or the other. I don't know why my name's in there. I can't give the slightest clue as to why my name is in there and not my neighbor's.
I know this, that if my name is in there, it has nothing to do with anything I've done or will do. And such a gift, eternal life by the grace of God alone. Jesus said, you may be excited. You may be happy because you've got power over demons.
That's nothing. If you're going to rejoice, rejoice in this, that your names are written in heaven. When we understand the doctrines of grace and we understand the biblical doctrine of election, it's time to be finished with complaining and time to start with rejoicing because this is our greatest joy. Amen.
It is our greatest joy. You know, Jesus' teaching about judgment and hell makes it clear that we all have a problem, a sin problem. The message of the gospel brings us hope.
Forgiveness, salvation, and redemption are available through the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross. We have studied from Luke chapter 10 today here on Renewing Your Mind as we continue Dr. R.C. Sproul's verse-by-verse series through Luke's Gospel. We return to this series each Sunday, and let me come in to a helpful study companion for this series. It's Dr. Sproul's commentary on Luke.
In 600 pages, R.C. traces the record of Jesus' life as told by Luke, the man considered by some to be one of the greatest historians of the ancient world. Dr. Sproul demonstrates that this gospel is for believers and skeptics alike, written so that you may have certainty about the Son of Man who came to seek and save the lost. You can request a digital download of Dr. Sproul's commentary today with your donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. Our offices are closed today, but you can give your gift online at renewingyourmind.org. Another way to support us is by designating Ligonier when you shop with Amazon Smile. When you shop using your Amazon Smile account and select Ligonier Ministries as your beneficiary, a portion of your eligible purchases directly supports our teaching and discipleship ministry. Let me thank you for that, because your generosity makes ministry happen. Renewing Your Mind is the listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. I'm Lee Webb, inviting you to join us again next Lord's Day for Renewing Your Mind. Copyright © 2020, New Thinking Allowed Foundation
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