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Crossing Out the Letter "I"

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
September 16, 2022 12:00 am

Crossing Out the Letter "I"

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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September 16, 2022 12:00 am

The twelve disciples were given intimacy and closeness to Jesus that no other Christians in history have experienced. We might expect that being in the physical presence of Jesus and hearing His teaching from His own mouth would have transformed these men into "super-Christians." But they suffered from the same struggle with selfishness that is common today. Jesus will confront their self-centerness with the example of a child.

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Greatness, by the time you get to the first century, is defined by the company you keep. Great people associate with great people.

Significant people hang around significant people. So this is why Peter, James, and John are probably at the top of their list that they deserve that title of the greatest is, look at who they've associated with. They're one of the inner three. They've just come back down from the mountain where they associated with Moses and Elijah.

I mean, what more could you possibly need to be considered the greatest? The 12 disciples were given intimacy and closeness to Jesus that no other Christians in history have experienced. We might expect that being in the physical presence of Jesus and hearing his teaching from his own mouth would have transformed these men into super-Christians. But you know what? They suffered from the same struggle with selfishness that's common today. As Stephen Davey continues teaching through Luke 9, we come to a passage where Jesus confronts the self-centeredness of the disciples with the example of a child.

Today's message is called Crossing Out the Letter I. National Basketball Association's Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley made the comment that most championship pro teams, whether it's football, baseball, basketball, or hockey, rarely repeat their championship. And the main factor is that the team is defeated, he said, within, not from without. He said, that's because the players want more. At first, more was simply winning the championship, but once they won, it was no longer enough. More became other things, more money, more TV commercials, more endorsements, more accolades, more playing time, more media attention. As a result, he wrote, what was once a cohesive group of hardworking individuals begins to fray as egos get involved.

As players feel entitled, team chemistry becomes a toxic mess and the most talented teams end up failing. Well, if you had the chance to join up with the 12 disciples in Luke 9, they have only recently completed what we could call a championship year. By the time you arrive at this point, three disciples have seen the Lord transfigured on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Brilliant splendor. Miracle after miracle has been demonstrated through their leader. The crowds are growing enormous. Everyone is wanting to meet them and get close to them. The Lord even enabled them with delegated power to perform miracles and move many to repentance through preaching. The Lord's promise to them that they would be honored in the coming kingdom has become well known. These guys have become superstars, frankly. They're the chosen ones. They're the close ones. They're the VIPs.

They're the original 12. And it's gone straight to their heads. As far as they're concerned, they deserve to be on the Lord's championship team year after year. Pride is beginning to surface like those weeds in my yard that have stayed hidden all winter.

If you want to serve the Lord, come over and pull them for me. It's an act of humility. We have for every reason to be grateful the Lord reveals to us their blatant pride, failure, sin.

The Spirit of God makes no attempt here to hide this in the inspired record of scripture. There are no halos here. And I'm grateful especially because this means there's hope for you and me. What they're about to say sounds like you and me.

Their failure can look a lot like you and me. As we get into the mirror of the word and see our reflection, Luke is going to begin to show us what it looks like when life revolves around the letter I. When I become the center of my life, should be no surprise to us that the middle letter in pride is the letter I. Now we're in Luke chapter 9. If you're new to our study, there are two events that are sandwiched together I think for a reason by Dr. Luke. These two events are going to reveal the sin of pride. Let's take a look at the first event here in verse 46 where we left off. The Bible says an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.

Let's stop for a moment. The word argument can be rendered debate or reasoning. They had been openly debating as they're walking along with each other on why they believe they deserved the most attention. They're giving their reasons, their arguments on why they believe they deserve that superstar status. It's getting pretty heated. The word argument has this nuance here of a rather animated conversation.

You're going back and forth. They certainly had reasons. I just propped my feet up and thought about it for a while. Andrew could have argued that he'd brought more people to Jesus than the other disciples, at least that's the record here in scripture. James and John could have argued that they were cousins of Jesus.

Their mothers were sisters. They knew him longer than anybody else. Judas could have argued, you know, he was in charge of the finances.

Obviously, he's been groomed for a top management position. Peter could have argued that he was the only one who walked on water before getting wet. I know, it wasn't long, but he was still the only disciple willing to get out of the boat and try. And on and on they went. The debate takes them along the road.

It lasted for some time. Matthew's gospel tells us that they eventually brought the debate to Jesus and asked Jesus to settle it for them. I mean, they're getting ready for the coming kingdom. They're ready to be fitted for robes and crowns. They're pretty sure it's time for Jesus to let them know who's on the starting line-up, who the point guard is. It's actually more than that. The Bible says, notice again, an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.

Would you notice? They're not wanting to know who among them will be great because they all assume they are great. They've arrived at the point where they believe they're great. But who among us is the greatest of the great? We're all going to be great, they think, in the coming kingdom. The question is, who among us will be the greatest? Who's number one? Can you believe the disciples asked Jesus this? Who among us is number one? The disciples, they come to Jesus because they want him to allow one of them the ability to say it out loud in the kingdom. In your expert estimation, Lord, rank us.

Rank us from last to first. I was reading recently the account someone used to illustrate this point of a psychologist in Michigan who worked with people institutionalized, suffering from delusions of grandeur. He eventually published a book on his experiences over the years. He had three particular patients who believed that they were the Messiah.

They were totally convinced. He couldn't seem to break through to any of the three men to help them accept the truth of their identity. But then he came up with this idea that he ought to bring these three men together to have a conversation and he thought maybe that would put a dent in their delusion.

It didn't exactly happen like he expected. He got them seated and then asked one of them, why don't you tell us who you are? The man answered with total confidence, I am the Messiah, the Son of God, and I was sent here to save the earth. The other two men just looked at him. The doctor asked him, well, how do you know that? And he responded, God told me.

One of the other men spoke up and said, I never told you any such thing. I'm going to tell you the disciples here don't think they're Jesus, but I think they're wondering who's next in line. Either way, this happens to be a reflection of how deeply polluted they are with pride. To openly debate this question and then ask Jesus to settle it doesn't mean that they're out of their minds, but it does mean they are out of bounds. This is encouraging because it tells us the Lord is willing to work with flawed, sinful, proud individuals and continue to teach them and mold them.

He's going to continue working with people here who make the same mistakes we make. People who get caught up in their own reflection. People who are equally sinful and flawed and foolish as these 12 superstars. Look at them. They become argumentative. They're competing. They're self-seeking.

They're ambitious. And the Lord will continue rebuking and chastening and shaping and molding them. He does not abandon them. He's about to teach them that if you want to be somebody, you need to be a nobody.

If you recognize you are nothing, he will make of you something for his glory. Now, with that in mind, notice here that Jesus doesn't even respond to their question. It's like he didn't even hear them ask it.

He just reaches for the nearest visual aid and sets him in the middle of them. Notice verse 47. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, in other words, he knew all their arguments.

He'd heard them all. He took a child and put him by his side and said to him, whoever receives this child and my name receives me. And whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he was least among you all is the one who is great. He doesn't take time to get onto them for being great.

He just redefines greatness. Let me tell you what it's like to be a great disciple. Here's a little child.

The Greek word is pideon. So think kindergartner, okay? Whoever receives this child in my name receives me. Now, Jesus is not saying that if you're nice to kids, you get into heaven. That's not what he's saying. Nor is he saying act like this child if you want to be great in the coming kingdom.

He's not saying that either. He isn't asking his disciples here to imitate children. He's saying if you act toward this child in welcoming him, you will reveal you understand the meaning of true greatness. You have to travel back to the first century to understand that children were virtually ignored by their culture.

In fact, the Talmud, the central text of rabbinic literature collected years before the birth of Christ, considered their guideline for living. It recorded that keeping company with children added nothing to a person's life. That spending time with children was a waste of time.

You're probably ahead of me because you know we're eventually going to get to Luke 18 where the disciples try to shoo the children away and Jesus turns that upside down. And that's because greatness, by the time you get to the first century, is defined by the company you keep. Great people associate with great people.

Significant people associate, hang around significant people. So this is why Peter, James, and John are probably at the top of their list that they deserve that title of the greatest. Look at who they've associated with. They're one of the inner three. They've just come back down from the mountain where they associated with Moses and Elijah.

I mean, what more could you possibly need to be considered the greatest? What Jesus is saying here is now if you receive a child, someone weak, small, dependent, no status, no power, no portfolio, no contribution to your significance, you receive a child and you're on your way to demonstrating the kind of attitude you see in me and my father, which of course is humility. Now the word receive needs to be understood here. According to Near Eastern hospitality during these days, it meant to care for them.

It meant to meet their needs, to be kind to them, to look out for them, to welcome them into your life. By the way, that's what you naturally do with important people, powerful people. You want to talk to them. You want to have lunch with them.

You want them on your speed dial. They're going to add something to your sense of self-importance. Not a child. The rabbis of Jesus' day were teaching, and I quote, those who spend time tarrying in places where common people assemble or spend time talking to children will only ruin their lives. You're not going to advance in life.

Why? Because a kindergartner occupies no place of honor or prestige, and they can't in turn honor you. They can't advance you. So Jesus says you receive, you care for, you take time with a child, you're demonstrating something.

And when you do it in my name's sake, that is for my glory, when they can give you none of earth's glory, that happens to be the definition of true greatness. The way up is down. All the way down to one knee, as it were, to talk to and to play with a child. Let me encourage you, if you're parents today, it starts early, this issue. It starts at their six-month checkup when you find out that they are either behind or they're exceeding the national standard of height and weight. Oh my, my child's below average. The pressure only grows from there to make sure your children either measure up or better yet, excel. Do you get internally worried if your fourth-grade child isn't reading at the seventh-grade level like your neighbor's child? Do you call the coach when your child doesn't get as much playing time as you think he deserves? Do you push your child to make the traveling team and then get upset if they don't? Do you complain when your child doesn't get the leading role in the school play or make the cheerleading squad? Do you call the principal because your child didn't get the teacher you wanted, the best teacher? Do you call the teacher when your child gets a B minus instead of an A plus on the project? Do you have conversations with them that subtly inform them that they need to be better than other children? It's not so crazy after all.

That's pushing them. That's shaping them after the world's definition of greatness, how smart they are, how athletic they are, how popular they are, how talented they are, how far ahead they can get of all those other children so that you can get the parenting trophy and say, perhaps in your heart you might never say it out loud, my child is the greatest. Jesus is redefining greatness. It's reserved for those who are the least.

You could translate that last in line, not first. Let's show our children what true greatness looks like. It looks like common, ordinary people who live their lives according to his name, his glory, his fame, his honor, above everything else. Now with that, the Gospel of Luke moves us to the second event where the pride of disciples is revealed again. Verse 49, John answered, Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to stop them because he does not follow with us. But Jesus said to him, do not stop him for the one who is not against you is for you.

Now you need to recall from an earlier study, nine of them had been unable to cast out one demon. Jesus had to handle that encounter all by himself. But now here's a man successfully casting out demons and the disciples try to stop him.

Well, on the surface, the answer is, well, he's not one of them. Mark's Gospel gives us the implication that he is a true believer. He was doing the Lord's work. He was doing it in the Lord's name that is for the Lord's glory. He was succeeding and delivering the oppressed. He was evidently doing it with the Lord's delegated power.

But if you can imagine it, he had been sanctioned by the right club. He hadn't gotten an official permit from the office of the 12. He was outside their little circle. This one commentator wrote, he wasn't wearing their uniform, so why should we let him in the battle? He's not one of us. But evidently, he was more successful than them.

And that's the point. The disciples are jealous, pure and simple. They want to shut him down because he's showing them up. The disciples view him here as a competitor and he's making them look bad. Now, they can use all the spiritual language.

They use John as the spokesman. He's not been around the Lord like we have. He's not been vetted like we have. He doesn't talk exactly like us. He didn't go to the same school we went to. He wasn't chosen to be in the inner circle with us. Surely, he can't be used by God.

But he was. Warren Wiersbe writes on this passage that believers who think that their group is the only group that God blesses and uses is in for a shock when they get to heaven. Here's the context.

Don't miss the context. The disciples are in a race to be the greatest. And a man that doesn't even follow them is evidently better than they are at doing what they want to do. He's making them look less than great.

We've got to stop him because he's out in front in the race. How do you respond when you come in second or third or last? What happens when you're not the best at what you do?

When the other person is promoted or recognized or awarded? Those are little tests, aren't they? As to whether or not we're following the Lord's definition of greatness.

I got to tell you, I got the little test this week. Evidently, the Lord knew I'd be studying this passage and decided to lay it on. I got an email a couple of days ago from one of our pastors who gave me this report. He said that a visitor came to our service last Sunday for the first time. And after the service, he was asked what he thought. And he said, the music was really good. He was then asked about the message. And he said, oh, I've heard better preaching.

It didn't bother me at all. By the way, if you're here, I don't know who you are, but I worked extra hard on this message today. Someone has said that the cross is nothing but the letter I crossed out.

The cross we are to carry is the letter I crossed out. That goes against the world's definition of greatness. Let me show you my resume. Let me tell you about me.

Let me give you the reasons. So true greatness is graciousness. How do we treat people who don't add anything to our resume? How do we treat people who are ahead of us? How do we treat people who don't belong to our inner circle? How do we feel when God seems to favor someone else?

Those are those moments. And maybe today we need that moment of rededication to the cross, that moment where in our hearts this morning the letter I once again is crossed out. This lesson is called crossing out the letter I. If it would help you to listen again, or if you want to share this message with a friend, it's posted on Stephen's website along with all of his Bible teaching resources. Go to and you'll find it there. In addition to equipping you with these daily Bible lessons, Stephen also publishes a magazine. Each month he deals with a different topic to help you think biblically about real world issues. For example, some past topics have included such things as how to forge friendships. What can we know about angels, demons and the spirit world? How can we have a biblically based marriage?

And much more. The magazine also has a daily devotional guide that you can use to grow in God's word each day. When you get to our website, there's a link on the home page that will give you information on how you can receive three free issues. And for listeners outside the United States, send an email to info at to learn how you can receive our magazine. Join us again next time as we bring you more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-25 06:46:03 / 2023-02-25 06:54:33 / 9

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