Now in 1972, Richard Nixon, who was then president, did one of what has to be the most stunning diplomatic moves in the 20th century. If you remember, he went to China and he reestablished or reopened relationships with China after over 25 years of those relationships being closed. And as Americans finally returned to China after almost 30 years of banishment, we were greeted by a number of amazing things.
One of them involved a man named Zhao Wenjin. Now Mr. Wenjin by this time was an old man, but during World War II as a young man he was serving as a custodian for the U.S. Consulate in Amog China and the consuls had to leave because of the advancing Japanese army. But the last consul who was there asked Mr. Wenjin to look after the consulate until he returned. Well during the next 30 years of war and social turmoil and hatred between the United States and China, Mr. Wenjin never missed one day at the consulate. He trimmed the hedges, he came in and dusted the desks, he cleaned the empty building day after day after day so that when U.S. diplomatic forces arrived back in China almost 30 years later, they found the compound looking just the way they had left it three decades before. Now today Mr. Wenjin is retired. He draws a modest pension from the U.S. government. He likes to sit around and reminisce with his friends about the old days. He's kind of considered an honorary American in China, an image he says he likes to reinforce by keeping his shelves full of Coca-Cola and Oreo cookies.
So well that's good. When the Washington Post which is where I got this story interviewed him, the reporter asked him why he had kept it up all those years and here's what he said and I quote. He said the consul told me to stay behind and watch the building after everyone left. I had a job to do so I did it. End of quote. When I read that I thought well you know most normal people I think would have cut out years before on that job. They would have said hey the Americans aren't coming back and I'm not coming in here trimming bushes for people who are never coming back. I'm not getting any money. I'm out of here.
I think most normal people I know would have done it. But here was a man who hung in there in a marvelous way and I tried to think of some adjectives to describe this man's behavior. Here's some I came up with. A faithful, dependable, obedient, trustworthy, reliable. Do you think those are some workable adjectives for this guy? Well the point of telling you about Mr. Wayne Jean is to tell you that in our passage for this morning Jesus Christ is going to call us to this very same lifestyle as Christians and I want to talk to you about that. My question this morning is what does God want from me? Well he's going to answer that question and I hope if you're a Christian you'll come on along and let's answer it together. We're here in chapter 17 of Luke's Gospel.
Let's look together. Verse 1. And Jesus said to his disciples, things that cause people to sin are bound to come. But woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him. And if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day and seven times comes back to you and says, I repent, I'm sorry, then Jesus says, forgive him. Now what's interesting here is that Jesus does not start off talking about faithfulness. He doesn't start off talking about obedience. He starts off talking about forgiveness and he says if somebody does something to hurt you and then asks your forgiveness as a Christian, you are to forgive that person. You say, okay, that's reasonable.
I can go along with that. Then he says, now if a person does the same thing to you seven times in one day and seven times in one day comes back and asks you to forgive him, you're still to do it. So let's say you're walking down the street and all of a sudden a guy comes up to you that maybe you've never met before or maybe you know casually and he looks at you and you stop for a minute to say hi and before you even know what happens, he goes back and he goes, pow, hits you right in the mouth. And then he says, oh, oh, oh, I'm so sorry.
I don't know why I did that. I feel so bad about hitting you in the mouth like that. Would you please forgive me? And you go, all right, okay, I forgive you.
All right. Then later on a day you see him and he walks up to you and pow, he hits you again. And he says, oh, oh, oh, I'm so sorry. I don't know what gets into this hand of mine.
It just sees that face of yours and it wants to hit you. I don't understand. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. Would you please forgive me? And you say, all right, I forgive you. There's no problem. Don't worry about it. I forgive you.
Seven times that happens in one day, this guy pops you in the mouth and seven times he says, oh, oh, oh, I'm so sorry. Please forgive me. You might begin to say, now forgiving this guy's becoming unreasonable.
True. But Jesus said, keep on forgiving. This is a good time for me to say, if you're here this morning and you've never trusted Christ in a real and personal way, you never embraced him as your Lord and savior, that one of the marvelous things that Jesus Christ offers us when we become his child by faith is this kind of forgiveness. Now, he offers us lots of other things like deliverance from hell and a ticket into heaven and his personal presence in our life and so many other things. But one of the things he offers us is a deal that he will forgive us the way he's describing right here. And, you know, folks, when I analyze my Christian walk and maybe when you analyze yours, I find myself doing this kind of thing to God all the time. You say hitting him in the mouth.
No, no, not exactly. But doing the same thing to hurt him and to disappoint him over and over and over. And every time I find God, when I go to him saying, no, it's not unreasonable, I will forgive you again. So if you're here and you've never trusted Christ in a real and personal way, what God is offering you here as he's describing it is unlimited forgiveness to his children.
And I hope that you'll really think about setting up a relationship by placing your faith in him where you can have this kind of a relationship with Almighty God. Well, let's go on. How did Peter and James and John and all the other apostles respond to this instruction? Well, they responded the same way you and I do. They said, this is not reasonable. We're not going to do this.
How do we get out of this? Look what they said. Verse five. And so the disciples responded and said, verse five, they said, Lord, increase our faith. Increase our faith, God, unless we have a whole lot more faith than we got right now.
We can't live like this. We need more faith. Give us more faith, God. Now, do you see that this was really just a spiritually sugarcoated excuse to get out of this thing? Do you see what they're saying? They're saying, if we don't have more faith, we can't live like this.
Oh, God, until you give us more faith, it's okay for us not to do this. And Jesus responded and said, Oh, no, you don't. Oh, no, you don't. You're not going to slither out of this one that easy.
Oh, no, you don't. Look what Jesus said. Verse six. Jesus said, verse six, if you have faith as a small as a mustard seed, you can say to that mulberry tree, be uprooted and planted in the sea and it will obey you. Now, Jesus's point here has nothing to do with levitating trees. This is not the point. The point is, Jesus says to them, Hey, fellas, you missed it.
You kind of went went right over your head, didn't it? You guys missed the whole point. The point is, you don't need more faith. You got all the faith you need. If you had faith as little as a mustard seed, you got plenty of faith. Faith is not the issue here, friends. The issue here is raw, straightforward obedience to what I'm telling you. The issue is not faith. Don't say you need more faith and until you get it, you can't do what I tell you.
I'm sorry. That doesn't count. That excuse won't work.
You got plenty of faith. What you need is obedience. And then he tells him a little story to drive the point home.
Here's the story. Verse seven. Suppose he said one of you had a servant plowing or looking after sheep. What do you say to that servant, to that slave when he comes in from the field? Come on now and sit down and eat. No. Instead, wouldn't he rather say to the slave, go prepare my supper, get yourself dressed, wait on me while I eat and drink.
And after that, you can eat and drink. Then would he even thank the servant because he did what he was told. Here's the point. He did what he was told, what he was commanded to do. Jesus said, a man has a slave, a servant out tending the field and feeding the sheep. And at the end of the day, the slave comes in and he's dirty and he's tired and he's hungry. Does the master say to him, hey, come on, sit down, have a cold glass of pomegranate juice. I know you've been out there working hard in the field. Come on in and take a break.
No. He says, hey, look, go take a shower, get yourself cleaned up, get on some cologne and then come on out here and serve me my meal. And then the slave has to stand there and wait on the master to finish eating until he gets a chance to sit down and eat. Then and only then does he get to eat.
Now you get the picture here. This guy's been out in the field all day working hard. He's starving. His stomach is growling with hunger and he stands there while the master's eating and he has to smell all that fried chicken and that roast beef. And he has to smell all those mashed potatoes with onion gravy. And he has to stand there and smell the green beans, you know, with bacon on the top. Of course, this is a Jewish home, so maybe they didn't have bacon on the top. But the green beans, you understand, and the hot biscuits and the honey and the apple pie in the oven. And this guy, I'm killing you, aren't I?
Yeah, well, that's all right. But anyway, if you feel bad, just think how the servant felt. He's standing there starving to death. And do you think the master doesn't even thank him for what he did? You say, well, why does he stand there and take this like this? Because he's a what? He's a slave. Because he's a slave. He doesn't obey because he feels like obeying in Jesus's story. What he feels like doing is sitting down right next to his master and scarfing down about three of those chicken breasts.
That's what he feels like doing. But instead, he has to stand there and let the master finish eating in spite of the fact his stomach is doing flips because, listen now, as a slave, he is committed to faithfully serving his master. That's what a slave does. Now, I want to stop here and say as part of Jesus's story, Jesus is not implying here that a manager or a boss should never commend or say thank you or reward a worker for doing a good job.
That's not the point of the story. In fact, a good boss should do that and will do that. As a matter of fact, Jesus Christ is always doing that for his servants. God is the most benevolent master that the world has ever known and he treats his slaves with tenderness and he treats them with kindness and he rewards us for every act of faithfulness that we give him. Jesus's point is this, that a worker's focus should not be on these commendations or on these rewards but on simply doing his duty.
You understand what I'm saying? That a slave does his duty. He may not feel like doing his duty. He may not want to do his duty. He may rather be doing something else but if he's a faithful slave, he does his duty and does what his master asks him to do, whether it's serving a meal or forgiving seven times seven.
This is what Jesus wants Peter and the rest of those guys to see and even if they're never rewarded, they still are committed with dedication to doing their duty. Do you get the point of the story? Okay, now that's the end of our passage but it leads us to ask a question and what is the question? So what? That's right. He said, Lon, I'm not a slave, thank God.
My boss thinks I am but I'm not and I don't work in the field and I can eat roast beef anytime I feel like it so what is the point? Well, the point is I ask a question at the beginning. What does God want from me and the answer is in verse 10. Say, Lon, we thought you left that out.
No, I didn't leave it out. Just here it comes, verse 10. So also you. Now what this means friends is Jesus is now giving us so what?
So also you. When you have done everything you were told to do, which includes forgiving people seven times and everything else in the word of God I'm asking you for as Christians, when you have done everything you were told to do, you say we are simply slaves. We are simply unworthy servants.
We have only done our duty. Now there are two things here that Jesus is asking from you and me as Christians. One of them is an action. One of them is an attitude and they're both in verse 10.
Here's the action. When we have done everything we were told to do. Told by whom? Well, by our master, Jesus Christ.
Told where? Well, in the word of God. See, here's the deal. These guys in Luke 17, Jesus says to him, Now, fellows, when you committed yourself to follow me, when you committed yourself to the lordship of Christ, when you committed yourself to making me the new CEO for your life, you committed yourself to a master slave relationship. And I may be the most benevolent master to ever live, Jesus said. But that doesn't change the fact that I am the master and that I expect faithful obedience from my slaves. So when I ask you to forgive seven times when somebody's hurt you, I really do care how you feel.
But I also expect you to do what I told you. Now as Christians, Jesus says the very same things to us. Do you realize I looked in the New Testament over 50 times in the New Testament, the New Testament uses the word for us, Christians, doulos. The word doulos in Greek simply means a slave. I mean, there's nothing fancy about it.
It means slave. Fifty times and more that word is used of you and me in the New Testament. In fact, I want to show you one case. If you'll turn over with me, keep a finger here or a bulletin or something.
We're coming back. But First Corinthians chapter four, if you turn there with me. First Corinthians chapter four, if you're using our copy of the Bible, it's page 808. First Corinthians chapter four.
Look what Paul says here in verse one. He says, so then men ought to regard us. How do you want men looking at you, Paul? How do you want men perceiving you? Do you want them thinking of you as the apostle Paul, the writer of the Bible, the builder of the church, the greatest missionary to ever live, the greatest Christian to ever live? How do you want people to look at you, Paul?
Well, look, Paul says, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ. And this is a real neat word here because this is not the word doulos, which I told you over 50 times is used of us. This is a different Greek word.
This is the only time it's used in the New Testament. And it's the word hooperatas, which means a rower. You say a rower, yeah, R-O-W-E-R, a rower.
You say, well, what in the world is that? What's he talking about? Well, on Roman galleons of war, you know those big ships of war, there were three classes of people. There were the sailors and there were the soldiers who were on the ship. And then there were the rowers. And the rowers were the guys who lived their whole life under the deck and they had one job. Guess what it was?
To row. That's right. If you want a good dramatization of this word, just think of the movie Ben Hur. Any of you seen the movie Ben Hur? All right, well, that's pretty good, not bad.
Okay. Ben Hur is a great movie. If you haven't seen it, you ought to see it. But if you remember, Ben Hur gets sold into slavery. And remember where he ends up? He ends up on that Roman galleon of war. And what's he doing?
He's under the deck what? He's rowing, chained to his oar, having to try to keep up with the cadence of a guy who had beaten that stupid drum out of control. And if the ship goes down, he goes down chained to the oar.
That's the way it's supposed to happen. But you remember the story. There was a big collision and his chain came loose. He was able to get his chain loose and he ran up and jumped off the deck. And of course, the captain of the whole naval expedition had fallen overboard and Ben Hur saved his life. And the guy wanted to commit harikari.
Remember that? Because he thought, oh, well, we've been beat. When I go back, I'm going to be disgraced and Ben Hur wouldn't let him. And then when they finally pick him up and they bring him up on the ship and he says, kill me, kill me, we lost.
I don't want to go back and face it. They say, you didn't lose. You won. He said, we won. He said, yeah, you won a huge victory.
And he goes, oh, oh, OK, OK, let's go back to Rome. And he adopted Ben Hur. You remember the story. It's a great story. But my point is, well, it is.
It's a great story. But the point is, remember what life was like for Ben Hur under that ship? Listen, friends, there is no glamour about this term whatsoever. This is a term that basically means a common galley slave. And Paul says that's exactly what you and I as Christians are. Now, as Christians, aren't we the children of God?
Doesn't the Bible say we're God's children? Yes. Doesn't the Bible say that we're God's sheep and he treats us like a tender shepherd?
Yes. Doesn't the Bible say that we're his bride? Doesn't the Bible say we're his friends?
Yes. Bible says all those things about us as Christians. But we must never forget the Bible also says we are his slaves. He's the master and we're the slave.
Now, the exciting part is God doesn't treat us like slaves. He's not cruel. He's not insensitive. He's not uncaring.
He's not brutal. But there is one aspect of slavery that is the same and that is God expects faithful obedience. Look at verse two here.
Now, it is required that those who've been given a trust, that's stewards, that's slaves must prove what? Faithful. What does God expect from me?
Number one, an action. He expects faithful, obedient behavior. Isn't it true if you're a boss that this is the toughest kind of employee to find? If you have to hire somebody, isn't it true that's the toughest kind of person to find? The kind of person who's faithful that you can turn your back on and you can go to a different building, you can leave town on vacation, you cannot watch over every move they make, you don't have to Dick and Jane them along with every little detail and they'll still be faithful, they'll still do their job, they'll do it with quality, they'll do it with integrity, they'll follow through when you are there just like the way they will when you're not there, it doesn't make any difference to them, you can depend on them, the job will always be done right whether you're looking over their shoulder or not. Isn't that the kind of employee you love to hire but you hardly ever find?
Huh? Well, friends, these are the kind of followers Jesus Christ loves to have and he wants to find you as one of those kind of people. That's what he wants from you. Second of all, not only does Jesus Christ want an action, faithful obedience, he's not interested in how clever you are, he's not interested in how flashy you are, not interested in how smart or how talented you are, all Jesus Christ is interested in is how obedient and faithful you are.
Number two, he's interested in an attitude and it's right here back in verse 10, let's go back to Luke 17 in verse 10. It says, so also when you have done everything you were told to do, there's the action, here comes the attitude, you should say, we are just slaves, unworthy servants, we have only done our duty. We don't deserve any special attention, we don't deserve any special recognition, we don't deserve any accolades, we're not looking for any credit, we don't need some kind of public display, we are just slaves and with humility and modesty and lack of pretension, we're just doing our job. We're just doing our job in light of all that God is and in light of all that God has done for you and me, our attitude needs to be, look, I'm not concerned about getting attention, I'm not concerned about getting accolades, all I want to do is serve God and please God and if there's any accolades to be given, let them be given to God.
I just want to be a faithful servant. A few weeks ago I was at home one night and I don't know what got into me but I suddenly decided I was going to engage and do a lot of stuff around the house and try to help out so I washed up dishes after dinner and cleaned up everything and then, you know, my daughter's on this real crazy diet for her seizures and it really is unbelievable and you have to weigh out whipping cream and freeze it and you have to cut up things and everything's got to be weighed out so I cut up a whole bunch of her stuff and for a couple of meals to make life a little easier for Brenda and I put some cream in the freezer and I did all of that and then I fixed lunches for the boys for the next day, I got out, you know, the little bags and wrote their names on them and did that whole mom thing and put the sandwiches together and put them all in the refrigerator and then the biggest miracle of all is I cleaned up after myself, I didn't leave bread crumbs all over everywhere, you know, whatever, so I cleaned up the kitchen, then I went downstairs and threw some laundry in and did a little vacuuming and when all of this was done I came back up, Brenda was in the back room playing with Jill and man was I proud of myself, I mean, I was just tickled pink with myself and I came upstairs and I went back there where Brenda was and I started outlining all these neat things I had done, you know, I said, well, you know, I did this and I made lunches for the boys and then I kind of paused and I said, okay, well, I'll go on and I cleaned up after myself and I paused and I went on and I said, I went downstairs and threw some laundry in and I vacuumed some and, you know, and I was, I was just going down this list of all my phenomenal actions one by one and I kept waiting for a hug or a kiss or some bubbly warm expression of appreciation, you know what I'm saying, it just wasn't happening, so finally I said, wait a minute, well, what do you think of all of what I did tonight, I mean, you're not saying anything here and there was this pause and Brenda said, Lon, she said, I do those things 365 days a year and you want a ticker tape parade because you do them once? How come only the ladies are clapping? That's what I want to know. Say, what did you say? Well, what do you say?
I didn't say anything, there's nothing to say, it's like, okay, well, I think I'll go watch some television, go back to normal. Honestly, that made me realize something, you know what it made me realize? It made me realize that the true servants of this world like my wife and like most wives and most mothers, the true servants of this world, these people aren't in it for the recognition.
If they were, they'd have gotten out a long time ago. They're in it because they're humble people who are serving from the heart for the joy of serving because they believe it's right. They're not looking for any medals, they're just serving because they believe it's right and they're doing it from their heart and this is the attitude that God wants you and me as Christians to have, do you understand the point? That he wants us not serving him for what we're going to get out of it but serving him from the heart with joy because it's right.
Faithful obedience from the heart because it's right, because he deserves it. You know, there have been some great evangelists who have lived in this world, one of them is George Whitfield. He came to America in 1736 and for the next 34 years traveled up and down the colonies, up and down the colonies, up and down the colonies. He was originally from England preaching the love of Jesus Christ. He became a good friend of Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin, he said, oh, Benjamin Franklin became a Christian. No, he never did although Whitfield wrote letters to him that we still have today over and over and over again challenging Franklin to trust Christ. We don't think Franklin ever did but they were still good friends. One time when George Whitfield was in Philadelphia preaching then Franklin went out to hear him and he decided that Whitfield had such an incredible voice.
It just carried like forever. It was all open air preaching. They wouldn't let him in the churches to preach because he said the preachers were all backslidden so they wouldn't let him in the church so he preached in the open air and Franklin decided to measure how far you could hear his voice. Sounds like Benjamin Franklin, doesn't he? So he walked to the east, walked to the west, walked to the north, walked to the south to the limit of where he could hear Whitfield and then he calculated how many square feet one person would take up standing in that square and figured out that over 50,000 people could hear Whitfield speak in the open air without any amplification whatsoever. That's pretty incredible, huh? That's the size RFK stadium except there's not an amphitheater to help.
It's just in the open air. He preached over 18,000 sermons, usually 20 a week, 2 to 3 hours a sermon and you think I'm bad. He pushed himself without mercy and he wrote to John Wesley in 1754 and he said, my frequent vomiting's have left me and though I ride whole nights and have been frequently exposed to great thunders, violent lightnings and heavy rains, yet I am rather better than usual and as far as I can judge, I am not yet quite ready to die. I am ashamed, now listen to what he says, I am ashamed of my sloth and lukewarmness.
Now can you believe this guy? All this was on horseback. I am ashamed of my sloth, my lukewarmness and I long to be on the stretch for God. Now this was a fellow who knew who the master was and knew who the slave was. He had it straight. In 1770 with his health gone, he stood in New Hampshire to preach for the very last time one September day and one of the members of the clergy came up to him and said, sir, you're more fit to go to bed than you are preach.
And he said, you're right. But turning his eyes to heaven he said, Lord, I am weary in your work, but not of your work. Please let me go and speak for you one more time in the fields and then I'll come home and die.
And God answered and gave him the strength to speak for two hours and the next day he was dead. But this man leaves behind a life that I think shouts, Lord, we are unworthy servants. We've only done what our duty is. Friends, what does God want for you and me? He wants us to be men and women like George Whitefield. He wants us to be men and women who are faithful to his word, faithful to his call and his plan for our life, whether you're a mom or a dad, whether you're a husband or a wife, whether you're an employee or a student, whether you're a Christian worker at whatever level, teaching Sunday school, leading a Bible study, whatever it may be, whatever God has asked us to do, God wants us to do it with the fervor of a slave who is 100% consecrated to their master. And he wants us to do it with an attitude that says, I'm not in it for the recognition. I'm not in it for the power. I'm not in it for the awards. As long as I get the smile of my master, that's all I need.
That's all I want. I did a funeral this past week of a lady whose whole life had been lived this way and I sat on the platform when I wasn't actually speaking and I thought to myself, God, this is the way I want to go out with people being able to say of me what they're able to say of this dear lady and that is the lady lived her life consistently serving Christ, putting him first as an obedient servant. She didn't ask for a lot.
She didn't want recognition. She just served Christ from the heart. And that's what God wants from you. I'll close with a quote from Vance Hafner. He said, it takes more grace for the regular grind than for emergencies. People usually rise to meet death or disaster better than they do the routine day by day. The middle mile is the hardest part of the journey. You don't have the exhilaration of the start.
You don't have the thrill of the finish. All you have is the burden and the heat of the day. The middle mile. And most of us here in the middle mile of our Christian life, my challenge to you this morning is make the middle mile count for Jesus Christ. It's the hardest part, but make it count for Jesus Christ.
What does he want from me? Faithful obedience and humble service and God beyond our imagination will use and bless our lives. Let's pray. Father, we're so grateful for the word of God reminding us who is the master and who is the slave. Because our world keeps telling us that we're the master. And if they recognize you at all, they present you as being our slave, our genie, to do everything that we want done and make us happy.
Give us all the creature comforts possible. But Lord Jesus remind us from your word today that that's backwards. We are not the master.
You are. We're the slaves. Grateful that you don't treat us like slaves.
Grateful that you love us and treat us tenderly. But nonetheless, Lord, we are the slaves who are expected to obey and to serve you from the heart. And I pray for each of the people here, including myself, that you would give us lifestyles that are characterized by faithful obedience in the middle mile where there's just the burden in the heat of the day.
Not the thrill of the start, not the thrill of the finish. But Lord Jesus, help us in these middle miles to be faithful, humble servants that we might end our lives the way we want to end with you saying, well done, good and faithful servants. Change our hearts, Lord, to make you number one and be the kind of servants you'd be happy with. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-29 08:14:35 / 2023-08-29 08:27:44 / 13