A Jesus Who Is Worth Believing In
Pastor Duane Smets
November 19th, 2017
I. The Worth of the Sparrow
II. The Worth of the Spirit
III. The Worth of the Soul
Today we are in The Gospel of Luke once again, steadily moving through it. We’re in a section of the book where we are hearing and learning from some of Jesus’ sermons and teachings. Some parts of the book focus on His acts of compassion and miracles and some focus on the words He said.
So this is a words week and Jesus’ words in the section we’re looking at today are all about worth. They are words of worth, so I titled my sermon, “A Jesus Who Is Worth Believing In.” Why don’t you stand with me, let’s read the text and thank God for it.
I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
• Pastoral Declaration: This is the Word of the Lord.
• Congregational Response: Thanks Be To God.
“A Jesus Worth Believing In.” Worth. Worth. How do we measure the worth of something?
If you go to any store to buy anything on it, there’s a price tag telling you how much the company or store thinks it’s worth. If you go to any restaurant, the food on their menu tells you how much they think their food is worth.
Some things, can appreciate or go up in worth, like collectibles, stocks and houses. But most things depreciate in worth the moment you purchase them, like a car, clothes, a computer…and other things that start with “c.”
I remember going into a pawn shop for the very first time in 2001. I brought in all my baseball cards, a weight set, an amp and electric guitar. I set it all on the table and asked how much is this stuff worth? How much will you give me for it because you see there is this wonderful beautiful girl I’m in love with and I need to buy her a ring.
Worth. How do we measure worth? Do you know what your net worth is?
In our culture and society and for most cultures and societies throughout the world and throughout history, worth has been measured by money and goods…How much stuff or money representing the purchasing power of stuff.
What Jesus is inviting us into today in the passage we are looking at is to look at worth from a different perspective, to look at worth from the perspective of God. How much is a sparrow worth? How much is God’s Spirit worth? How much is a human soul worth?
God uses a very different measuring system when it comes to worth because He doesn’t need any money or need to purchase any power. He already has it all.
So let’s walk through each of these three things Jesus brings up, “The Worth of the Sparrow”, “The Worth of the Spirit” and “The Worth of the Soul.” And if there’s one thing I hope you walk away thinking and believing today it’s that “Jesus is worth it.” Jesus is worth it. He’s worth it all.
I. The Worth of the Sparrow (v.4-7)
In this first section Jesus brings up some pretty heavy things: fear, body issues, hell, and God’s attention and care for His creatures.
Fear is one of the primal and driving human emotions. Fear is often a key motivating factor in life, which frequently either puts us in fight or flight situations and sets us on certain trajectories for what we pursue and why we pursue it.
What Jesus invites us to consider here however is that our fears are often misplaced. We frequently fear the wrong things. Our fears tend to focus on the temporal, what’s immediately in front of us instead of looking at the bigger, longer, eternal perspective of life.
In these these four short verses Jesus brings up fear four times. He says: (1) Don’t fear the body (2) Fear God (3) Fear God (4) Fear not.
First the body. It’s interesting how much of our lives are driven by concern for our body. We care about what our body looks like, which effects what we eat, how much we eat, exercise, clothes, makeup, jewelry. Have you ever thought about it? The whole reason shopping malls exist is because people care about their bodies.
Now, I’m not saying caring for your body is a bad thing. It’s a good thing. It’s just a problem when it becomes a God thing. What Jesus brings up is a fear of death, a fear of our bodies being killed. Which is a real thing.
Often it’s not on our radar. But our death can happen in any instant. None of us knows the day when we will die.
I was in the airport this week because I flew out to Vegas for a training for pastors of mid-size churches and while I was in the airport there was this boom, it sounded like a big box of something that fell and made an echo. But the moment this boom happened everyone cover their heads and hit the floor.
The ridiculous shootings we’ve been experiencing in our country is awakening in our consciousness the fear of death that is latent in all of us. None of us know when it is coming. Other than disease, accidents are the second largest cause of death in our country. It could happen in an instant and none of us knows when.
But God does. Hebrews 9:27 says this, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
God knows and has appointed the day everyone of us here in the room will die. But as you can see from this verse and from Jesus’ words, the death of the body is not the end of life. We all have a soul that after the death of the earthly body we will stand before God, receive an imperishable immortal body and then based on His judgment we will either spend eternity in heaven or a place called hell.
The best summary of Jesus and the Bible’s teaching on hell I’ve ever come across is from the Puritan Pastor and theologian, Jonathan Edwards. He writes,
“Hell is a spiritual and material furnace of fire where its victims are eternally tortured in their minds and in their bodies by God, the devils, and damned humans, including themselves. Their memories and consciences as well as their raging, unsatisfied lusts torture them. In hell, the place of death, God's saving grace, mercy, and pity are gone forever, never for a moment to return. God will be the hell of one and the heaven of the other as a consuming fire. Scripture justifies the doctrine that hell remembers this world. Especially they will remember how they were warned, will remember their sins, thinking hell was a dream, will see the glory of God and the redeemed and that sight of the blessedness of heaven will increase the hellishness of hell. Hell is not the absence of God but his presence-his inescapable, wrathful presence. Impenitent sinners will see God face to face forever. That is their hell.”
So often and so easily we live with a fear of man instead of a fear of God. Should we fear God? Jesus says. “Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Lk 12:5)” But He wasn’t just trying to scare people into believing in God. Which is why He immediately starts talking about the sparrow.
The sparrow in Jesus day was one of the cheapest foods you could buy. Basically worthless, only worth a couple pennies. But Jesus says God cares for them. He doesn’t forget them.
Then Jesus moves on to talk about human beings. In contrast to the deistic idea of God as one who is detached and uninterested in human beings and the affairs of the world, Jesus says God is very aware. So aware and so invested he knows the very number of hairs on each person's head, which is often changing daily! God counts what humans can’t.
And God is not just aware, but Jesus says God values us. God loves and cares for all of His creation, the birds of the air and the flocks of the fields, but Jesus says God has a special love for human beings, they are even “more value” He says. God cares for us far more than the sparrow.
Have you ever felt like God has forgotten you? Like He doesn’t even know or care what’s going on with you and what you’re going through? Jesus here says you are never forgotten and that God loves and cares for you more than you could ever imagine. You are valuable to God. Precious to Him.
So get what Jesus is saying and doing here. He says, take a real look at life, a long look and fear what really matters. Hell is real and that’s a factor but the greater concern isn’t just escaping hell, but experiencing the love of God.
In another piece of writing Jonathan Edwards said it this way, “Those that have a sinful fear of God fear God as evil but a right fear fears him as great and excellent. A sinful fear makes men afraid to come to God. A right fear makes men afraid to go away from him.” Those that walk with God and know Him and experience His love and care know they have nothing to be afraid of.
I’ll conclude this point with a quote from a great book by Jerry Bridges titled, “The Joy of Fearing God.” He writes,
“Great thoughts about God will lead naturally to realistic thoughts about ourselves. We begin to realize how little we now, how uncertain and unpredictable life is, and consequently how little we’re actually in control of anything…that every second of our lives is lived at the good pleasure of God. God delights in us when we fear Him and hope in His love and faithfulness. He wants us to stand in awe of Him and to trust Him.”
Friends, Jesus is worth it. What He says about God is worth believing in. We’re more valuable to God than the sparrow. God’s not wanting to send anyone to hell. Instead He wants us to trust in Him and His Son, so that we might experience His presence and His love and care. Which is what Jesus starts talking about next.
So let’s move on to our second point for today, “The Worth of the Spirit."
II. The Worth of the Spirit (v.8-12)
In this next section what Jesus gets into is basically how one escapes hell and gets into heaven.
To review, at the end of our life, on that appointed day, we will all stand before God to be judged. Jesus will be there and all of the angels will there. Here’s a couple other passages saying the same thing.
Jesus in Matthew 12:36-37 “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
King Solomon at the conclusion of his philosophical book on wisdom says this, Ecclesiastes 12:14-15 “13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
God is judge and He’s right to be judge and to judge. If He doesn’t and just let’s things go in the name of love, there’s not only any ultimate standard or justice but then God would be corrupt.
And when we’re held to that standard, every careless word and keeping all His commandments, we all fail. Nobody has ever not said something unloving they shouldn’t or kept all of God’s commandments all of the time. Which means everyone deserves the judgment of hell.
But God is a God of love and values His creatures, especially the human beings He made in His image. So He sent His only Son Jesus to earth to make a way that they might be saved. Just calls Himself “the son of Man” in our passage or you could say, “the Son of humanity.” He’s the Son who came to save humans. And they way they are saved is by acknowledging Jesus as the Son and receiving His forgiveness.
Verse 10 says all the careless words will be forgiven. Jesus in this passage is looking forward in time to when He would die on the cross and take the judgment we deserve for all our careless words and actions. As the eternal Son of God He took the judgment of hell upon Himself on the cross, absorbing it for us so that we could be forgiven.
You see the way forgiveness works is there’s always a price to be paid. When someone has been wronged there is cost that someone must absorb. And Jesus absorbs the ultimate pain, physical, spiritual and eternal, so that God’s valued children might be forgiven and given the gift of eternity in heaven.
The way that works itself out for those who believe in Jesus, acknowledging Him as the Son who saves is that it effects them here and now, in this life, not just later at the judgment. Because those who acknowledge Jesus are given the gift of His Holy Spirit.
In John 14:16 Jesus says for those who believe His “Spirit of truth…dwells with you and will be in you.” The Spirit is an incredible gift of God.
The Spirit of Jesus indwelling our hearts and lives has all kinds of benefits. The Spirit reminds us regularly of God’s love and care for us, that we are valuable to Him. The Spirit reminds us regularly of God’s Word, bringing passages and truths of the Bible to our minds. And the Spirit gives us courage, to speak up and out when it matters.
You see personal denial will most likely lead to public denial but on the flip side personal confession of Christ will lead to public confession. Now most of us will probably never have to be brought before governmental or religious authorities and put on trial for our faith, but all of us, if we are living our lives on mission, trying to make friends with those who are not yet Christians will have opportunity.
Situations and conversations will come up when you will either speak up about who you are, what you believe and will bring up the name of Jesus, or you will hide it, generalize it as “God” or not even say anything at all. Jesus says in verse 12, to be courageous when we have those opportunities because His Spirit is with us and will help us.
There are so many blessings to having the Spirit. So many things the Spirit of Jesus does for us. There is forgiveness upon forgiveness for us from Him. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
But Jesus says there is one thing He will not do. He will not forgive blasphemy. Blasphemy is a hardened state of the heart where over and over again you reject the offer of forgiveness and refuse and refuse the Spirit’s promptings to confess your need for God and to depend on Him for your life.
Thankfully we have examples of each case in the Bible. On one hand, we have Peter, Jesus’ disciple who denied Jesus three times, but later confessed His sin and received Jesus’ forgiveness. On the other hand we have Judas, Jesus’ disciple who for three years heard Jesus words and the promptings of His Spirit but he hardened his heart, refused to believe and acknowledge Jesus as the Son and the Savior and be forgiven and instead sold Jesus to the rulers and authorities for a bag of money.
The forgiveness of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Spirit’s presence in our heart and in our lives is worth more than anything money could ever buy. It’s an immeasurable gift!
In our lives all of us will either turn out like Peter or like Judas. Don’t harden your heart toward God like Judas, simply confess your need for Jesus’ forgiveness like Peter and receive the wonderful gift of God’s Spirit. Jesus’ Spirit is worth it. Jesus is worth it.
Well, that brings us to our final point for today, “The Worth of the Soul."
III. The Worth of the Soul (v.13-21)
In 2003 a movie came out called “21 Grams” starring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro. The movie is based a upon a scientific study showing that at the moment a human being dies, the body loses 21 grams of weight. So some have theorized that 21 grams, the weight of a stack of nickels, the weight of a chocolate bar, the weight of a hummingbird…is the weight of the soul. The movie follows the story of four different characters, who each pursued things, money, careers, relationships at the cost of their soul.
Jesus, in this last section of text we are looking at today responds to a question from the crowd from a guy who was apparently having a dispute with his brother over a family inheritance. In response, Jesus addresses the very concept of worth, what really matters and why it’s so hard for us.
Not entirely unsurprising, just after talking about judgment this guy turns to Jesus asking Him to make a judgment, solving this dispute but instead of giving Him a clean cut answer Jesus addresses the man’s heart. Look at what He says,
Luke 12:15 “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
To covet is to want, desire or wish for and it happens to be the 10th of the 10 Commandments, “Thou shall not covet.” We’re about to enter the season of want. Christmas, which is meant to be about the gift of Christ and giving to others as a celebration and reminder of His gift is now a multi-million dollar industry.
What Jesus takes head on here is the philosophy of life known materialism and hedonism. And He does so by telling a story.
He starts off saying there is a rich man. Which right away whether it was back in Bible times or here and now today, gets everyone’s attention, because deep down, if we’re honest, we all want or wish we could be rich. We think then that life would be better if we had lots of money right? I often do.
The story Jesus tells is of a guy who is already rich who just keeps getting richer, seems like that’s the way it works a lot of the time right?, and instead of trying to use his riches to be a blessing the guy hoards his wealth and spends it on his own pleasures.
Jesus says he’s a fool, could die that night, referencing what he said earlier about having an eternal perspective, and says he is very poor when it comes to God. Jesus here examines the difference between economic security and eternal security. One is much safer and worth much more.
Overall the view money in the Bible is that one, it comes from God in order to take care of our needs and that two, it’s meant to be used as a tool to bless others and spread the goodness of God’s kingdom. We have three gifts in life, our time, our talent and our treasure and where and how we invest them shows what really matters to us.
The guy in Jesus’ story was blessed by God financially but instead of using His wealth to bless others He hoarded it and spent it on himself, relaxing, eating, drinking and being merry.
So let’s talk real talk here for a second because I think this is a much bigger issue than we realize. At least for me. I was pretty cut to the heart by this text. I’ll tell you why.
I have 3 growing children and our family lives in a 990 square foot house here in San Diego. I don’t make a lot of money working for the church, actually way below what anyone with my level of experience and education what make in any industry. And I have a tendency to get bitter at that and wish we had more and that I made more. The lure of riches pulls hard on my heart at times.
But Jesus says there’s a cost to coveting more things, more money and thinking that life is just all about being able to have stuff and spend money on things eating, drinking and being merry. Jesus says the cost is too high because the danger is that we sell away our soul in the process and become completely bankrupt toward God.
Those who have Christ living in their hearts by His Spirit, who are daily walking with Him, experiencing the presence of God and being a blessing to others are the richest people on the planet. Because life, LIFE does not exist in the abundance of possessions but in the abundance of Christ for us.
One Bible commentator said, “Greed is a fat demon with a small mouth, and whatever you feed it is never enough.”
Listen, investment in the things of God is a permanent investment, investment in the things of this world are investments which will all wither away. We need God’s help to enable our hearts to be transformed, so we’re not like this guy who was basically asking Jesus to give him money. Instead we need God to help us know how we can be a blessing with what He has given us. God’s people are meant to be a generous people with their time, their talents and their treasure. So…
Are you giving your time? How much time are you giving per week toward investing in the things of God? There’s 16 different ministries here at our church you can serve in and each of them would love to have you be a part of their team!
Are you giving your talent? What skills and abilities has God given you that could be used for His church and for spreading His kingdom in our city? You are valuable to God and there are unique things about you and the way He’s made you so that you can contribute.
Are you giving your treasure? Do you give generously and regularly to church like the Bible instructs? Most of us are blessed by God with jobs where we get paid once a month and God means for us to generously and joyfully give a portion back to Him so that the work of His kingdom might continues and be spread through His church.
The good life is not in making a lot of money and spending it on our own pleasures. Life is not in that abundance. Our souls are worth so much more. Life is about being rich in God and the things of God. So let’s set our sight on that church family.
Will you pray for me and with me that we would not be a church that covets but a church that blesses? Jesus our Savior was a poor carpenter who literally gave up not only all of His possessions but His very life so that we might know the true riches of God. Having God, is truly worth it. Jesus is worth it all.
Well we started out talking about how you measure the worth of something. This year’s Forbes magazine lists Bill Gates as having the most net worth at $79.2 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money.
You are worth far more than that to God and if you have Christ and His Spirit living in your heart you are far richer than that. Worth is found in Jesus and He is truly worth believing in.
Well, let’s get ready to respond. We believe God means for His Word to do work in our heart when we study the Bible together, so we respond each week by coming to these tables throughout the room, where we receive a gift from God…He’s constantly blessing us.
We receive the tangible gift of Jesus’ body and blood in the bread and the wine tells us we are valuable to Him, receive heaven and His Spirit through Him and are rich and truly happy in Him.
So let’s stand, read these words of Confession followed by some words of pardon and Assurance.
Lord, we confess we have not feared you as we should, we have denied you with our words and our actions and coveted riches and a life of ease. Forgive us and change our hearts we pray.
Through Jesus Christ, the Savior and the Son we are forgiven, given the gift of His Spirit and all the treasures of our Father in heaven. We honored and valued in His sight.