The More Important Things – 1


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Scripture Text – Luke 17

We start out this study with Jesus on His way to Jerusalem while He continues to teach His disciples and prepare them for what He would suffer there. But He was also preparing them for the time when He would no longer be with them and they would be ministering to others in His place. It was a critical period in their lives and there are important lessons for us to learn from the Lord’s teaching.

In this chapter, Luke recorded lessons that Jesus gave His disciples about some of the more important essentials of the Christian life: forgiveness, faithfulness, thankfulness, and preparedness.

Forgiveness

Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” – Luke 17:1-6.

Jesus had just warned the Pharisees about the sin of loving money (Luke 16:14–31), so then He turned to His disciples to warn them about possible sins in their lives, for occasions to stumble (offenses) are an unfortunate part of life. After all, we are all sinners living in a sinful world. But we must take heed not to cause others to stumble into sin, for it is a serious thing to sin against a fellow believer and tempt him or her to sin (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 10:32; 1 John 2:10).

By “these little ones,” Jesus was referring not only to children but also to young believers (no matter their age) who were learning how to follow the Lord (Matthew 18:1–6; Luke 10:21). Since verses 1–10 are part of a context that begins with Luke 15:1, “little ones” would include the publicans and sinners who had come to believe in Jesus Christ. The Pharisees had criticized Jesus, and this might well have caused these new believers to stumble. So serious is this sin that a person would be better off cast alive into the depths of the sea, never to be seen again, than to deliberately cause others to stumble and sin.

But suppose you are not the one who does the sinning. Suppose another believer sins against you. Jesus anticipated this question and instructed us what to do. First, we must have a personal concern for each other and obey His warning, “Take heed to yourselves.” This means that we should lovingly watch over each other and do all we can to keep one another from sinning.

et forgiveness

If a brother or sister does sin against us, we should give a private loving rebuke. Our tendency might be to feel hurt down inside, nurse a grudge, and then tell others what happened to us, but this is the wrong approach (see Matthew 18:15–20). “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) is the first step toward solving personal differences.

Our aim is not to embarrass or hurt the offender, but to encourage that person to repent (Galatians 6:1). If the offender does repent, then we must forgive (Ephesians 4:32; and see Matthew 5:43–48). In fact, we must be in the habit of forgiving, for others might sin against us seven times a day—or even seventy times seven! (see Matthew 18:21-35) No one is likely to commit that much sin in one day, but this emphasized the point Jesus was making: do not number the sins of others, for love “keeps no record of wrongs.” – 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (NIV). We should always be ready to forgive others, for one day we may want them to forgive us!

We might have expected the disciples to respond then with the request, “Increase our love!” Certainly love is an essential element in forgiveness, but faith is even more important. It takes living faith to obey these instructions and forgive others in love. Our obedience in forgiving others shows that we are trusting God to take care of the consequences, handle the possible misunderstandings, and work everything out for our good and His glory.

Mature Christians understand that forgiveness is not a cheap exchange of words, the way some often flippantly say “I’m sorry” to each other. True forgiveness usually involves pain; somebody has been hurt and there is a price to pay in healing the wound. Love motivates us to forgive, but faith activates that forgiveness so that God can use it to work blessings in the lives of His people.

Our Lord’s image of the mustard seed conveys the idea of life and growth. The mustard seed is very small, but it has life in it and, therefore, it can grow and produce fruit (Mark 4:30–32). If our faith is a living faith (James 2:14–26), it will grow and enable us to obey God’s commands. “Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.” – Psalm 37:5. Forgiveness is a test of both our faith and our love.

Human nature being what it is, there will always be offenses that can easily become opportunities for sin. God’s people must get into the habit of facing these offenses honestly and lovingly, and forgiving others when they repent. The Anglican pastor and poet George Herbert wrote, “He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.”

To Be Continued

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Adaptation of excerpts from Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Volume 1.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Where noted, Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV © 2011 by Biblica, Inc.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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