Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Ready willing and able
In today’s culture there is this value that everyone is the same. “We’re all God’s children” is a common refrain. We hand out trophies just for showing up. All roads lead to God. All religions are equally good and to say otherwise is to invite attack. But as we’ll see in the next few chapters, there is a coming division among people that is very real and must be dealt with. Humanity is like the passengers and crew aboard the Titanic. We’ve hit an iceberg called sin and the ship we’re on is going down and we’re going to drown unless we are rescued.
There is a real peril—we cannot exist in God’s future kingdom in our present sinful state. God sent us a lifeboat to rescue us from the sinking ship. But if we refuse to get in we will certainly still drown. The good news is that the lifeboat is open all and is not dependent on our earning our place on it like in the case of the Titanic where only the 1st and 2nd class passengers got places. But we do have to recognize the lifeboat and climb aboard. The awful truth is that not everyone who hears about the rescue will avail themselves of it. They will not repent of their sins and cling to Jesus’ payment for their sin and gift of eternal life by becoming the captain of their lives. That Great Divide is here now and will become more evident when Jesus returns physically to this age to bring in His kingdom.
Beginning in verse 35 of Chapter 12 Jesus begins to focus on what it means to be a member of God’s kingdom. And what He reveals is that the current Jewish idea of inheriting a relationship with God and earning His favor through works of the Law is almost 180 degrees out of phase from reality. In order to correct the misconceptions, Jesus will have to shake up the status quo.
35 – 40 STEP ONE: Become a disciple and participate as God transforms you
In the previous section Jesus has introduced the idea of who’s in charge of your life, and the idea that you get your real purpose in life not from amassing stuff here, but from amassing treasure in God’s kingdom. How does that work? It happens through a character transformation.
A person who acknowledges the Son of Man publically will experience redemption of their soul and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:8:8). That redemption brings with it a change of heart and a slow change of character. A redeemed person doesn’t get their security from the things of this age but in their relationship with God through Jesus. That person has light fingers and is a giver, rather than a getter. This is just one example of the fruit of that relationship. Now when you do good, it counts—it builds up a heavenly bank account – because the works are redeemed.
He follows with three examples that help us define what that character change looks like and how that relates to His coming kingdom.
- “Be ready for service” – Be ready
The word “ready” in the Greek means “to participate”. I think about Downton Abbey. It seemed like no matter the time of day or night, the servants were all gathered in the kitchen ready to spring to action when a bell on the wall from one of the rooms rang out. In fact, they called their profession being in “Service”. I think the connotation here is that a servant is ready for and listening for his or her master’s return. So too, we must listen for His voice as well, to spring up and come with Him. Jesus said in John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.” Do you hear His voice calling you to repentance and eternal life? “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. Anyone If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me” (Rev 3:20).
- “Keep your lamps lit” – Be alert
I personally think this has several applications. In Matthew 25 Jesus shares the story of 10 virgins, only five of which kept enough oil to keep their lamps burning until the bridegroom came. The sense there is that the eternal life God gives through Jesus is the Holy Spirit, which is like an everlasting source of oil in our lamps. So in one sense, this idea of keeping your lamps lit is like the first step in preparation for the arrival of the coming King – you’ve got to have a relationship with God and that redemptive oil of the Spirit flowing in your life.
Secondly I think it speaks to light shining out in the darkness of this age. In Luke 11:33 Jesus said that no one lights a lamp only to put it under a basket to hide it. Who you are as a Christian should be visible in some part to those you come in contact with. It happens both with a change in character (“you walk differently”) and a change in conversation (“you talk differently”).
Thirdly, it speaks of keeping watch. In a way, we are holding out a torch, awaiting the King’s return—ready to welcome Him and walk in triumph with Him. Being “alert” means to “pay careful attention to” something. How much careful attention are you paying to your own need for salvation? Had the helmsman of the Titanic paid better attention to reports of icebergs, the Titanic might not have sunk. The return of Jesus is like a huge iceberg that will take down this age because of sin and all who belong to it. You escape by bowing your life to Jesus and getting in His lifeboat!
- “Be like people waiting” – Be aware.
The analogy used here is like a babysitter who doesn’t know when the parents are returning home, so they stay awake, stay alert, and are ready for whenever they get back. In these stories there are a lot of parallels to the return of Jesus. We’re told that there will be a wedding banquet—and the allusion here is that the person who is ready—that is, they have an active relationship with the Master, will not only be invited to this banquet, but will be served by the Lord Himself.
Are you expecting Him back? Are you ready? I’m not asking if you’re perfect, but there should be an expectancy in all of us that yearns for and is ready for His return at any time.
Please don’t be one of those who says “I’ll consider the things of Christianity and salvation and Jesus Christ after I accomplish what I want in this age, or when I’ve had all the fun this age offers. You may find yourself like the rich farmer who died suddenly—and had nothing waiting for him in heaven. Jesus could return at any moment—so be ready!
So next Peter queries the Lord about what He means by this parable.
41 – 48 STEP TWO: Become a manager and actively engage in God using you
Jesus doesn’t answer Peter’s question directly but I think clarifies that one of His servants needs not only to be watching and ready but active in the Master’s business. As I mentioned when we went through Luke 12:13-34, we are “stewards” of things God gives us. A steward is given responsibility for something, to fulfill the purpose of the Master. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) they are given different levels of responsibility and the Master expected different levels of return. For us, not everyone is Billy Graham or Paul the Apostle, but each of us is given tasks for perform and when the Lord returns, He’ll sit with us for an evaluation (Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:9) about how we did.
Now here I think Jesus may also be pointing to the responsibility of the Christian leader. And, by the way, you are all leaders in some capacity, whether at home, school, work, or church. The two words He uses are “faithful” and “sensible”. “Faithful” means they can be trusted to do what he was told. “Sensible” means they are “wise” – or capable.
(43-44) So I think to understand this parable we need to consider two things: what someone knows and what someone does. For the servant who knows what God wants and does it: helping to encourage growth of God’s kingdom in the lives of individuals (“food”) there is the promise of reward.
(45-46) For the servant who knows what God wants and purposefully doesn’t do it, but in fact takes advantage of others and themselves indulge in excesses—I think this is a sign of what some call a “make-believer” that is, someone who might go to church and carry on as if they are a Christian but have not bowed their heart and life to Jesus and experience no change in their hearts attitudes or behaviors. This kind of person is out and out rejected.
(47) For the person who knew what to do but failed, there will be disciplinary action (not literal beating because Jesus was beaten so we wouldn’t have to. This is a parable, remember—don’t take it completely literally). This reminds me of what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15: “For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.
(48) He ends by restating that what you will be held accountable for what you know and what has been entrusted for you to do. So … how are we doing with that? What tasks has the Lord placed in front of you; what responsibilities has He given you? Are you providing “food” at the proper time? Are you attending to your walk, not just your talk? God isn’t holding out a stick to goad us into serving, but we need to be aware that He’s watching and wants us to grow and serve.
If you do that, it will exacerbate the Great Divide, as we see in the final portion of this section:
49 – 53 STEP THREE: Break from the old
This pressure to make no distinctions between what anyone believes acts strongly on this culture. But to those who have made Jesus Lord and publically declared their allegiance to Him as “the way, the truth, and the life” will find themselves at odds with that cultural norm.
The fire Jesus alludes to here is the judgment and division that will come upon the earth at His second coming.Ffirst He must suffer on the cross until He can say “it is finished”. But though this results in peace with God, it does not result in peace between people. It can get so bad that family members are pitted against one another. But in Christ, our relationship to God through the blood of Jesus is more important than our blood relationship to members of our family.
The quote in verse 53 comes from Micah 7:6. I like how that passage ends in verse 7: “But I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” We must all make a choice, but if we choose to follow the Lord, He will be our rock and our rescuer, even if our family abandons us.
So I know this is a lot to swallow, but let’s conclude by asking ourselves some questions:
- Are you ready for Jesus return?
Not in terms of perfection, but in terms of relationship. Will He know you upon His return?
- Are you waiting eagerly or pretending it’s never going to happen?
That could be a sign you don’t know Him yet.
- Are you a willing participant in character transformation? If so:
- Are you able then to accomplish those tasks God has set for you?
- Are you a willing participant in character transformation? If so: Are you able then to accomplish those tasks God has set for you?Eph 2:10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
God does not forgive our sins and give us eternal life only for ourselves, but to spread that good news to others. That happens when you participate both in the transformation of your values to mirror God’s and in the outworking of that transformation in actions to benefit the lives of others. Jesus modeled for us a life of service to others (Philippians 2:3-4). It is central to the character of God, which is agape love—that self-sacrificing, other-centered affection.
Paul said (Phil 2:12) “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” “Work out” there means to put energy into it. Participate. Don’t be a passive observer but an active participant. One reason for this is that when Jesus returns we will have an evaluation of what we’ve done. The good things will be rewarded—those things that further the transformation of character and furthering of His kingdom. Those things that were done in the old nature will go away (1 Cor 3:12).