Sermon title:  INCREASE OUR FAITH!”

 

Luke 17:1-10  

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, May 5, 2019

 

 

Have you ever asked God to give you more faith?

 

I have.   Pretty much every day.

 

There are many things

that move us to ask God for more faith.

 

As part of the sinful human race descended from Adam

we are born with a lack of faith.

 

The Apostles and early disciples were just like us.

 

Jesus addressed them on a number of occasions

as “Ye of little faith.”

 

It was almost like a nickname

that he used for his followers:  Ye of little faith.”

 

When he told his disciples

to stop worrying about what clothes

they will have to wear, he said at Luke 12:27,

27 Consider how the lilies grow:

They do not labor or spin.

 

Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory

was adorned like one of these.

 

28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field,

which is here today

and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace,

how much more will He clothe you,

O you of little faith!

 

They needed more faith

that God would provide the clothing they need.

 

At Matthew 28:25, when the wind and waves

threatened to capsize the boat they were all in, we read,

 

25 The disciples went and woke Him,

saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”

 

26 “You of little faith,” Jesus replied,

“why are you so afraid?”

Then He got up

and rebuked the winds and the sea,

and it was perfectly calm.

He wasn’t belittling them, making fun of them,

or picking on them.

He was inspiring them

to want to grow in faith.

 

And, how do we grow in faith?

 

By keeping our eyes on Jesus.

 

We see that at Matthew 14:30,

where the Apostle Peter had enough faith briefly

to walk on water.

 

But when Peter took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink,

Jesus addressed him with that same nickname:

“You of little faith.”

 

At Matthew 14:30, we read,

 

30 But when he saw the strength of the wind,

he was afraid,

and beginning to sink,

cried out, “Lord, save me!”

 

31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand

and took hold of Peter.

“You of little faith,” He said,

“why did you doubt?”

 

It was when Peter took his eyes off Jesus,

and started looking instead

at the wind and the waves that were threatening him,

that’s when he began to sink.

 

And the same thing can happen to us

if we take our eyes off Jesus

and start to focus instead

on our problems,

or on the world’s temptations,

or on anything aside from Christ.

 

When we take our eyes off Jesus,

our faith level drops,

and we begin to sink

under the pressures and temptations

that surround us.

 

Now, in this morning’s Responsive Reading in Luke Chapter 17,

Jesus didn’t have to call the disciples

by that nickname, “Ye of little faith.”

 

This was late in his 3 ˝ - year ministry,

and the disciples already realized

that they suffered from having “little faith.”

 

So, it’s the disciples who bring it up this time.

 

In Luke 17:5,

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"

 

Some translations say the Apostles asked Jesus to

“give us more faith.”

 

And what was the big challenge

they were facing

that prompted them to beg for more faith?

 

It was what Jesus had just said to them in Luke 17, Verses 3 & 4.

 

He said,

3 So watch yourselves.

 

"If your brother sins, rebuke him,

and if he repents, forgive him.

 

4 If he sins against you

seven times in a day,

and seven times comes back to you

and says, 'I repent,'

forgive him."

 

5 The apostles said to the Lord,

"Increase our faith!"

 

Yes, forgiving someone can be hard—

a real challenge.

 

In some situations

it can be almost as tough a challenge

as walking on water.

 

And Jesus wasn’t saying

to forgive just once or twice—

three strikes and you’re out—no more forgiveness!

 

He said,

If he sins against you

seven times in a day,

and seven times comes back to you

and says, 'I repent,'

forgive him."

 

Wow!  Seven times in one day!

 

No wonder the Apostles begged for more faith!

 

They needed more faith,

in order for them to be that forgiving.

In Verse 6,

 

He replied,

"If you have faith as small as a mustard seed,

you can say to this mulberry tree,

'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,'

and it will obey you.

 

At Matthew 17:20,

Jesus gave another seemingly impossible example:

 

Truly I tell you,

if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,

you can say to this mountain,

'Move from here to there,'

and it will move.

 

Nothing will be impossible for you."

 

Have you ever met anyone

with enough faith to uproot trees or move mountains?

 

I never have,

and I certainly don’t have that much faith myself.

 

Again, or Lord isn’t making fun of us or trying to belittle us.

 

He’s telling us how much room for growth we all have.

 

We all have plenty of room for growth in our faith.

 

But, what the Lord teaches us about forgiveness

isn’t really as hard for us

as uprooting trees or moving mountains.

 

Notice, he says, if your brother

comes back to you

and says, 'I repent,'

forgive him."

 

So, you forgive your brother

who is sorry he hurt you,

and is trying to stop doing it.

 

If he can’t stop himself,

and it looks like he’ll hurt you seven times again tomorrow,

you might want to distance yourself.

 

He won’t accidentally elbow you 7 times,

if you sit across the room,

instead of sitting next to him.

 

He won’t accidentally step on your toes 7 times,

if you stand a few feet farther away.

 

And some things that people do to you

are simply inexcusable.

 

Even if they apologize,

that doesn’t make what they did okay. 

 

It isn’t okay.   It’s inexcusable.

 

But you can still forgive them.

 

You can release that feeling of resentment.

 

You can give up the desire for revenge.

 

You can release your own feeling of bitterness.

 

At Matthew 5:44, Jesus told us to pray for our enemies,

and even for those who persecute us.

 

 

God forgives us, even though we don’t deserve it.

 

And we can be like him by extending forgiveness

to those who hurt us,

even when they don’t deserve it.

 

But, we shouldn’t take Jesus’ advice to forgive 7 times

out of context.

 

In Matthew Chapter 18, the Lord elaborates

on steps we should take

if a fellow Christian

is doing things that can’t simply be forgiven.

 

 

For example, if another church member

publicly attacks your character with false statements.

 

Or, if a church member

steals property from you.

 

Jesus outlines those steps in Matthew 18, beginning with Verse 15.

 

And he is very specific

on what steps we should take,

and in what order or sequence.

 

15 “If your brother sins against you,

go and tell him his fault,

between you and him alone.

 

If he listens to you,

you have gained your brother.

 

16 But if he does not listen,

take one or two others along with you,

that every charge may be established

by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

 

17 If he refuses to listen to them,

tell it to the church.

 

And if he refuses to listen even to the church,

let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

 

So, we notice Jesus is talking about serious matters here—

not petty offenses, but serious sins—

matters so serious

that they could result in church discipline,

and in someone being put out of the fellowship.

 

But that is the last resort.

 

Jesus wants us to follow the steps he outlined

in the order that he gave them.

 

If it’s an offense that we can’t simply forgive or overlook,

 the first step is to go alone

to the person who offended you.

Matthew 18:15 says,

 

15 “If your brother sins against you,

go and tell him his fault,

between you and him alone.

 

If he listens to you,

you have gained your brother.

 

It may be that your brother or sister

didn’t even realize

that they had hurt you.

 

When you go to him alone,

he may say,

“Oh, I’m so sorry.  Please forgive me.

I didn’t mean to do that.

I’ll correct it right away.”

 

Those steps Jesus outlined

in Matthew 18:15-18

also need to be followed

when a Christian in the church

sins against God or against the church.

 

And Jesus gives serious warnings

against those sorts of sins—

especially those that lead others into sin.

 

Our Responsive Reading began with Luke 17:1,

where we read,

 

1 Jesus said to his disciples:

 

"Things that cause people to sin

are bound to come,

but woe to that person through whom they come.

 

2 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.

 

Matthew, Mark and Luke all report that Jesus said this:

 

Beginning at Matthew 18:6, he said,

if anyone causes one of these little ones

who believe in me to sin,

it would be better for him

to have a large millstone hung around his neck

and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

 

7 "Woe to the world

because of the things that cause people to sin!

 

Such things must come,

but woe to the man through whom they come!

 

This matter of causing other believers to sin

can take the form of false teachings in the church—

false teachings that lead people to sin.

 

For example, there are some people in churches today

who are teaching

that it’s now okay to do

the things the Bible labels as sins,

like living together outside of marriage,

or engaging in homosexual conduct.

 

By teaching believers

that it is now OK to do those things

they are causing some of their listeners to sin.

 

Revelation 2:20 shows that this isn’t anything new.

 

Today’s gay activists

and advocates of free sex

act as if scientific-minded modern man

has discovered new things

that cancel out the Bible’s moral code.

But Revelation 2:20 shows

that there were false teachers like that

even in the early churches in the First Century.

 

There the risen Christ gives this warning

to the Christian church in the city of Thyatira.

He says,

 

I have this against you:

You tolerate that woman Jezebel,

who calls herself a prophetess.

 

By her teaching she misleads my servants

into sexual immorality

and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

 

21 I have given her time

to repent of her immorality,

but she is unwilling.

 

22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering,

and I will make those

who commit adultery with her

suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.

 

23 I will strike her children dead.

 

Then all the churches will know

that I am he who searches hearts and minds,

and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

 

There are men and women like Jezebel

in today’s churches, too,

and the risen Christ views them

in the same way he viewed Jezebel

in that First Century church.

 

An April 7 USA Today article says,

 

It’s unusual

for Democratic presidential candidates

to talk about faith as often as Buttigieg does.

 

It’s groundbreaking

that he uses his marriage to another man

to illustrate

his personal relationship with God.

 

Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana,

is a presidential candidate

who advertises himself as a strong Christian.

 

His public statements make headlines,

and promote the false teaching

that Christianity approves of homosexual conduct.

He is a member of the Episcopal Church,

a congregant at the Cathedral of St. James

in downtown South Bend.

 

He is married to another man,

who he calls his “husband.

 

The two men were married on June 16, 2018,

in a private ceremony at the Cathedral of St. James.

 

The current May 13th cover of TIME magazine

introduces them as the future “First Family” in the White House.

 

And Buttigieg openly and publicly attacks the faith

of Christians who do teach what the Bible says

about homosexual conduct being a sin.

 

His headline statements push the “Born that way” doctrine—

by claiming that God made him gay

and that God wants him to be gay.

 

For example a month ago he made headlines,

when he said,

if you have a problem with who I am,

your problem is not with me.

 

Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

 

Are people really created by God to be homosexual?

 

Are they really ‘born that way’?

 

The former chief of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins,

who is one of the leading psychiatrists in the world,

wrote an extensive report on research into that question.

 

And his report sums it up by saying,

 

“the idea that people are ‘born that way’

—is not supported by scientific evidence.”

 

So, they are not “born that way.”

 

This scientific medical study

confirms what the Bible says at Ecclesiastes 7:29

 

This only have I found:

God created mankind upright,

but they have gone in search of many schemes."

 

The Jubilee Bible 2000 renders Ecclesiastes 7:29 this way:

Behold, this only have I found:

that God has made man upright,

but they have sought out many perversions.

The International Standard Version says,

I have discovered only this:

God made human beings for righteousness,

but they seek many alternatives."

 

I’ve also watched a video of a Huffington Post interview

with former President Jimmy Carter.

 

The former president said that faith,

“has always been important in my life....

I’m a born-again Christian, so-called,

I’m a Baptist.

I taught Sunday school the day before yesterday,

I’ll be teaching again next Sunday.”

 

Then the interviewer asked President Carter

"Would Jesus approve of gay marriage?"

 

To my amazement, I heard Jimmy Carter answer,

"I believe he would.”

 

And then the former president emphasized it again

by saying,

"I believe that Jesus

would approve of gay marriage.”

 

In a Facebook post, Franklin Graham,

the son of Billy Graham

who now heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association,

responded to Jimmy Carter,

and said,

 

“He is absolutely wrong when he said Jesus would approve of gay marriage.” 

 

“Jesus didn’t come to promote sin,

He came to save us from sin.

 

The Bible is very clear.

God destroyed

the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah

because of homosexuality.”

[END OF QUOTE]

So, Jimmy Carter and Pete Buttigieg

through their public statements and example

are leading others into sin.

 

Jesus said,

"Things that cause people to sin

are bound to come,

but woe to that person through whom they come.”

 

Woe to those in the churches who are doing these things today.

=======================================

 

The remainder of this morning’s Responsive Reading

continuing at Luke 17:7

shows that we shouldn’t get puffed up

and boast about ourselves

because we’re holding to the Scriptures ourselves,

and not being led into sin

by this world’s false teachings.

 

Jesus went on to illustrate our faithful obedience

through a parable, beginning there at Luke 17:7.

He said,

 

7 "Suppose one of you had a servant

plowing or looking after the sheep.

 

Would he say to the servant

when he comes in from the field,

 

'Come along now and sit down to eat'?

 

8 Would he not rather say,

'Prepare my supper,

get yourself ready and wait on me

while I eat and drink;

after that you may eat and drink'?

 

9 Would he thank the servant

because he did what he was told to do?

 

10 So you also,

when you have done everything you were told to do,

should say,

'We are unworthy servants;

we have only done our duty.'"

 

But it is our duty

to follow Jesus and the written Word he has given us.

 

And it takes faith to do that

in a world that is in rebellion against God.

 

Like the disciples, we need to ask Jesus to “increase our faith”

and to “give us more faith.”

 

And our Lord can do that,

because Hebrews 12:2 calls Jesus

“the author and finisher of our faith.”

 

He gave us faith to begin with,

and he is the one who helps us grow in faith.

Jesus is

“the author and finisher of our faith.”

 

But, besides praying,

and asking Jesus for more faith,

 we also need to do the things that increase our faith.

Romans 10:17 says that

faith comes from what is heard,

and what is heard

comes through the message about Christ.

 

So, we need to be immersed in the message about Christ,

to keep from being overwhelmed

by the message this sinful world keeps throwing at us

through all the media.

 

faith comes from what is heard,

and what is heard

comes through the message about Christ.

 

We hear that “message about Christ”

that builds up our faith

here at church,

and in our Wednesday evening Bible study,

and in our personal Bible reading at home.

 

All these things help us keep our eyes on Jesus

and strengthen our faith.