We are in the middle of our Fighting Temptation mini-series. So far, we’ve watched Jesus defeat the devil in a one-on-one temptation battle, learned some lessons from the champ, and contrasted the cost of fighting temptation with the cost of NOT fighting.
But maybe so far you have said, “Pastor, this has been nice. It sounds important. I should fight temptation. So…I’ll put it on the schedule for some time this summer.”
It’s like one of emails that goes to your junk mail. You peruse down the list and about 6 emails down is an email, written in all CAPITAL LETTERS, that says, “URGENT” with a few exclamation points behind it!!!
And you blink quickly, move the mouse, and click away.
Is someone in trouble?
Is a friend trying to reconnect?
Am I late on a bill?
“Hello sir. Just a note that there is currently a deal for 10% off pictures frames down at Michaels. We wanted to let you know – because you shopped here…one time…for your wife. This deal is only available for a limited time. So, act now! It’s urgent.”
Until…I get very similar email the very next week.
Maybe, it’s not so urgent.
Do you feel that way about fighting temptation? As if it isn’t urgent?
Today Jesus himself is going to explain to us the urgency of fighting temptation. Before we do that, a prayer: Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; our ears to hear what you want us to hear and our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. An Urgent Warning
We are studying Luke 13 today. Look at what verse 1 says, “Now there were some…who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.”
This is a bit strange, so a bit of background. Galilee was a country that was in the northern area of the Holy Land. Galileans were people who lived in Galilee. Apparently, some Galileans had been in the temple offering sacrifice (aka worshipping God) when the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate (he’s going to become very important as we get closer to Good Friday) ordered that they be killed. It’d be similar to a church shooting. Which unfortunately, is not unheard of.
It wasn’t unheard of back then either! According to Josephus, a Jewish historian, Pilate did this about five different times during his reign. Each time it was violent. Each time it was awful. Each time it was a very disheartening event.
That’s why the people were talking to Jesus about it.
It was troubling.
Like some kind of awful current event (take your pick: shooting, bombing, kidnapping, rape, etc.), they were trying to make sense of what had happened.
The answer that was most popular?
These guys must have been terrible sinners.
They must have done something really, really, really bad.
I heard that they were running an illegal drug ring through the temple.
This was a punishment for them!
Jesus overhears it and, being true God, He offers a unique assessment that a sinful human being would never be able to offer:
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (v2-3)
First thing to understand about Jesus’ statement:
Sin is sin is sin. The Bible teaches that, “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) It teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23) It teaches that “If you stumble at just one point, it’s as good as breaking all of God’s law.” (James 2:10) Sin is sin is sin. It’s all awful to God. Therefore, these Galileans killed in the temple were not worse sinners than any one else.
The slaughter in the temple wasn’t some kind of special judgment by God against a special breed of sinners.
But in case you’re reading this and you’re saying, “Well, okay. This wasn’t. It was done by Pilate. A sinful human being acting in a sinful, fallen world. But what about natural disasters? That’s the kind of stuff that only God can control. What about tornadoes down in Mississippi and flooding in the Midwest? Is that God’s judgment against them?”
Look at Jesus’ next words: “Those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them (a natural disaster. Not a murder. Still horrific.) —do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (v.4-5)
The Galilean slaughter was not a special punishment.
The Implosion of the Siloam tower was not a special punishment either.
Stop looking at these horrific events for the sake of others.
Look at them for the sake of yourself.
As a warning.
A reminder that life is short.
As a wakeup call to repent! To get right with God. To stop sinning before God acts against you!
Here's the first truth God wants you to get through your head this morning: “Don’t view disaster as an indictment of others, but as a warning to yourself.”
Stop pointing at others.
Stop ignoring your own sins.
Stop thinking, “I love this sermon. Go get ‘em pastor! In particular, look at this guy right next to me. He needs to hear this.”
You need to hear this.
Even if you’ve been a Christian for 40 plus years.
You need to hear this.
Because if you don’t…
Jesus continues. From horrific current events to gardening:
“A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.“ (v.6)
Ever had a fig before? They’re pretty tasty. This man must have really liked them. In fact, I picture him having a gigantic, fig tree farm with thousands and thousands of fig trees growing. It makes him a lot of money for fig jam, fig jelly, and fig Pop Tarts.
Every once in a while, he takes a break from the paperwork of owning a fig tree farm to go and walk through his product line. He marvels at the beautiful of the trees. He samples some of the figs as he goes. He whistles to himself as he is so happy for how well everything is growing.
There’s that one tree again.
(He remembers it from last year)
Not a lot of green.
Seems kinda sickly looking.
“The owner said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to Look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any.’” (v.7a)
It isn’t producing. It isn’t doing what we planted it to do. A fig tree without figs on it is…worthless.
“Cut. It. Down!” (v.7b)
Friends. This is more than garden tip.
This story has a spiritual meaning.
God has brought you into his family.
To fight sin.
To bear fruit.
To bear the fruit of the spirit: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
And if God is walking through his rows of Spirit fruit trees…
And he walks past the section where you are planted…
And you aren’t bearing fruit?
Instead of love – hatred.
Instead of joy – complaint.
Instead of peace – grumbling.
Instead of fighting temptation – enjoying the sin that you’re doing.
What do you think the Father will say?
It’s the worst three words that God could ever say about you.
Cut. It. Down.
II. A Patient Promise
Thankfully for the fate of the fig tree this isn’t the end of the story. Because while the owner is the one who paid for him to be planted, he has another friend who cares for him.
The gardener is the one who has been watering this tree for three years.
He’s seen it struggle.
He’s weeded it.
He’s fertilized it.
He’s even gotten up at 5am to come out and sing Eric Clapton to it.
For three years, he’s put his heart and soul into getting that fig tree to bear figs.
And he isn’t ready to give up…not yet.
“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (v.8)
Friends, you have a gardener, too.
You have someone who cared so deeply for your soul that when he saw your fruitless, sin-filled life, he came to earth and died on a tree to save you.
Jesus is an advocate on our behalf! The Bible says, “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous one.” (1 Jn. 2:1) It says, “Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for us.” Romans 8:34) It says, “Jesus is our Great High Priest…that we approach God’s throne with confidence.” (Hebrews 4:14, 16)
Do you get it?
Jesus is pleading to the Father on your behalf, while pleading to you on behalf of Him!
And here’s the good news: It’s working.
How do I know?
Well, you’re here today.
You’re listening to this message.
You get to hear Jesus’ voice calling to you right now.
No matter how barren your branches are.
No matter how dead your spiritual life looks.
No matter how shriveled your attempts at fighting temptation have been.
God has been patient with you.
You have not been cut down.
And it isn’t as if the gardener said, “If it bears three times as much fruit next year in order to make up for the past three years of not bearing any at all, fine.”
He didn’t say, “I think that this tree will be worth the wait because it’s fruit will make some top-notch jam—better than the rest.”
He didn’t say, “As long as it produces 27 figs by this time next year, then we won’t cut it down.”
The fig tree doesn’t need to earn the right to be called a fig tree.
It simply needs to do what it was made to do.
And you don’t need to earn the right to bear fruit.
You simply do what God called you to do.
You won’t be cut down!
You’ll one day be transplanted from your life on this earth – to eternal life in heaven.
III. What Now?
With the urgency of death lingering and the promise of God’s grace patiently keeping us alive, WHAT NOW for this week? A few things:
It’s a phrase that appears twice, word for word in this section from Jesus. If Jesus thinks it is important enough to repeat, I think we should repeat it:
Unless you repent, then you too will perish. (v.3, 5)
Repent means to turn.
To do a 180.
To turn from sin to Savior.
To turn from falling to temptation to fighting temptation.
To turn from unbelief to faith in Jesus.
It’s like watching Pee Wee Football. And there’s that little running back, the one that looks like his pads are gonna swallow him up. It’s the end of the game and the team is up by 4 touchdowns, so the coach calls a play to give him the ball. After the quarterback hands it off, he turns, he runs…and goes in the exact opposite direction of his endzone.
And the coach is screaming, “TURN AROUND! TURN AROUND!”
And the crowd is shouting, “TURN AROUND! TURN AROUND!”
And his teammates are chasing after him to tackle him and stop him and turn him around!
That’s what God is doing with us here today.
When we sin, we go the wrong way.
Today, God calls out to you – repeatedly, persistently, patiently, lovingly – TURN AROUND!
Turn to Me.
Turn to salvation.
(2) Be Urgent about It
Because absolutely nothing in Jesus’ words today imply that you’ve got all the time in the world.
Nope. In fact, the point is that you don’t know how much time you have at all.
Before Pilate has you murdered.
Or a tower falls on top of you.
Or you get sick.
Or in a car accident.
Or have a stroke.
Our time is short.
Do not wait on repenting when you’re older.
Get urgent about fighting sin.
Fighting addiction? Seek help today.
Fighting greed? Give more money in the offering plate.
Fighting hatred? Ask God to soften your heart.
Fighting sexual temptation? Stop putting yourself in situations to sin.
If you’re fighting the temptation to continue to NOT follow Jesus – keep fighting against it!
Put your trust in your Savior.
Be urgent about fighting temptation because Jesus was urgent about fighting for you.
He came swiftly off his heavenly throne.
He suffered death.
He quickly and efficiently defeated it by rising from the dead.
(3) Be Patient about Others
Because it is so easy for us to be patient with ourselves, “C’mon guys. Greed is a hard thing. Give me time to get past this sin.”
But not so patient with others, “That dude was a jerk to me AND it’s the second time! God!?! Get him.”
But we can’t react like that. Not when God has every reason to cut us all down simultaneously right now, but he hasn’t.
Because God is patient with us, we are patient with others.
We forgive them.
We love them.
We kindly rebuke them…again and again and again and again.
We share the Gospel with them…even if it’s 8 years running.
There’s this one guy that I invite to Easter every year. I’ve invited him for seven years in a row – this year will be my eighth. Sometimes I invite with a text message. Sometimes with an email. Sometimes with a voice message. Sometimes it includes a graphic design. Sometimes it includes a Bible passage. Sometimes it includes a brief synopsis of the Gospel.
Every year? He doesn’t come.
I was thinking about not doing it this year.
About wiping my hands.
And shaking the dust off my feet.
I’ll guess I’ll invite him again.
Friends – be patient in your interactions with others.
Take advantage of the Easter season.
Share the Gospel.
Share the Gospel.
And after you’ve done that.
Share the Gospel some more.
Patiently planting while urgently fighting temptation! Amen.
Ever heard of the Truth campaign?
It’s a group that’s become well known in the early 2000s for exposing the “Truth” about cigaretts. They ran ads on radio, TV and publications about the dangers of tobacco. They exposed the “Truth” that it contained poison and showed the “Truth about what it can do to you.
It’s safe to say that the campaign worked. I’m not sure too many Americans would tell you that smoking is healthy. (At least we don’t hold it to the same level as an apple.)
It kind of makes you wonder what people used to think about smoking. What kind of misconceptions did they have in order to make this campaign necessary?
Try this. Google: CIGARETTE ADS. I found a couple from the 30s and 40s that are pretty interesting.
There’s one showcasing a young model that says, “Smoking…makes you sleek and slender.” (That’s an interesting way to burn calories.)
Another shows a smiling dentists that simple says, “Dentists approve!”
My favorite has a doctor…smoking & a caption above his head that reads “20,679 physicians say smoking Luckies is less irritating!” -- Why such a specific number? I’m not sure.
It’s one thing to have a misconception about smoking. It’s another thing to have a misconception about spiritual Truth.
Today, we’re taking a look at the next step in our walk with Jesus to the cross. We’ll meet a man named Pilate who has a few misconceptions about Truth. Our goal is to learn about 3 common misconceptions, examine ourselves to prevent them from overtaking us, and turn to Jesus for the truth about the Truth.
I. Pilate’s All Too Common Misconceptions on Truth
Take a look at John 18:28. It says, “28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning.”
I can just picture the scene. Pilate has just woken up from a long stressful day of being the Roman governor. He tossed and turned all night after dealing with very political issues. He’s doing morning stretches. He’s drinking his morning coffee, “Roman Empire Blend.” He’s still got his cozy slippers on when --
-- a violently loud mob starts screaming outside of his window.
Can you imagine what that’s like? I have never had to wake up to violent protestors outside my apartment window. You? It’s one of the reasons I would never, ever, ever want to be President of the U.S.
So I picture Pilate being very grumpy. Sighing as he puts on his governor clothes. Gritting his teeth as he walks the cold, long hallways to the reception area. Thinking, “What in the world do these people want!?!”
1) Misconception: Eternal Truth Isn’t My Responsibility
Pilate makes his wait out to the steps of the praetorium. He sees a man chained up, bruises on his face, and swelling on his right eye. He motions for the crowd to quiet down. He raises his voice (because he didn’t have a microphone) and shouts – “What charges do you have against this man!?!”
“If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you,” the crowd replied. In other words, “Dude, there’s a reason we came to you. We wouldn’t have bugged you, if we didn’t have a need to. This guy says that he’s a king. We don’t think he is. We need your help getting to the TRUTH!”
Pilate’s response is very interesting. “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own laws,” What does this have to do with me? Why do you think it’s my responsibility? You want to know; you figure out the truth on your own.
It’s here that Pilate exhibits the first very common misconception about the truth: “The truth isn’t my responsibility.” That’s still a misconception that’s around today.
Sounds a lot like Pilate.
But that response didn’t get Pilate very far. Look at what the people reminded him of, 32“We have no right to execute anyone.” You do Pilate. We don’t have the authority. It’d be similar to a room monitor trying to expel one of his classmates – he doesn’t have the authority. He has to go to the teacher – even the principal to make it happen.
Figuring out the truth about Jesus was Pilate’s literal job. Caesar was paying him to do this. He couldn’t shirk his responsibility.
Here’s the thing – Determining eternal truth is your responsibility too.
Ever been to the book of Ecclesiastes? It’s not just an awesome word for a biblical spelling bee. It’s an interesting 12, chapter book written by King Solomon. Solomon was very wise. He’s one of the wisest men to ever live. In Ecclesiastes, he retrospectively looks at his life and he writes about what the meaning of life is all about. Check out his conclusion in 12:13 “Fear God and keep His commands; this is the responsibility of all mankind.”
In other words – Discover the truth. Learn about the truth. Live by the Truth.
It’s your responsibility, because God said so.
And if you don't?
Well, what happens when your car is making a funny noise. Your spouse tells you to take it in to get looked at--twice. Your coworker says you should get it looked at. Your friends says, "Bud, what's wrong with your car." The guy at the McDonald's drive thru says, "That sounds funny. You should get it looked at!"
Whose fault is it when you find yourself on the side of I-540 with a smoking engine?
And whose fault is it when you appear before God and he asks if you've fulfilled your responsibility in finding out the truth about Him?
(Hint: They both have the same answer.)
2) Misconception: Eternal Truth Doesn't Affect Me.
After Pilate realized it was his job, no matter how much he didn’t want it to be, he told his guards to bring Jesus to a quieter room. They entered into the palace and they both sat down. Pilate in all of his gubernatorial grandeur. Jesus in sweat & blood.\
Pilate got to the point. “Are you a King?” Because of all the charges against Jesus, this is the one that was most concerning. If he was a king, he might lead a revolt. If he led a revolt, pilate might not see it coming. If Pilate didn’t see it coming, he might lose control of his province. If he lost control of his province, he would upset Caesar. If he upset Caesar, Caesar would fire him –
Or kill him.
Jesus answered Pilate’s question with a question. “Is that your own idea? Or did others talk to you about me?”
Pilate’s response is a bit defensive. 35 “Am I a Jew? Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me.” I’m a Roman. This truth isn’t important to me. It doesn’t pertain to me. Why would I care?
Maybe you feel that way. “Pastor – I know this seems important to you, but that’s because you’re a pastor. Eternal truth just isn’t really my thing. I’m not theological. I’m not religious. This stuff is for people like that. Jesus is important, but his truth doesn’t pertain to me.”
But that’d be like saying “I’m not a weather man, so this week’s weather doesn’t pertain to me,” or “I’m not a dentist so the cavity in my mouth doesn’t pertain to me.”
The weather does.
The cavity does.
Eternal truth does too.
In fact, look at Jesus’ response in verse 36 “My kingdom is not of this world…. ” In other words, you’re right. This isn’t a truth for the Roman people. But it also isn’t a truth for the Jewish people.
It’s not geographical. It’s not racial. It’s not cultural. “…my kingdom is not from this world.”
It’s spiritual. It’s eternal. It’s divine.
Truth does not bypass you because you don’t think it pertains to you. That’d be like telling the cop who caught you going into the restaurant without a shirt AND without shoes that you didn’t realize the sign on the front of the door that says ,”No shirt, no shoes, no service” actually pertained to you.
It does. Even if you don’t think it does, it does.
It’s the same with eternal truth. What you believe about eternal truth matters…
3) Misconception: Truth Can be Whatever you Want it to Be
After Jesus’ response, Pilate seems to let the phrases about his kingdom being out this world completely fly over his head. Remember: He wants to get this investigation over with. He fixates on one word: ‘You are a king then!” That’s his Eureka moment! His “Elementary my dear Watson!” You are king and we can get this trial over with. Pilate gets up and he starts shuffling his papers. He pulls Jesus up by the underarm, because he can’t wait to go tell the crowd his findings and send him away.
But Jesus slowed him down: “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
That must have struck Pilate. It was a divisive statement. Jesus was claiming to be a king of truth. He was claiming that all who were on the side of truth were on his side and everyone who wasn’t on his side wasn’t on the side of truth.
Pilate scoffed. “What is truth?”
This is the third and most dangerous misconception about truth. “Truth can’t be discovered.” It's really common here in American too.
Have you ever heard of the phrase: "You do You?" It's a Hashtag that's used to demonstrate the differences in people.
You like Coke; I drink Pepsi. You do You and I'll do me.
You like Monopology? You do you. I'll play Chutes & Ladders.
It works pretty well when describing likes, dislikes, and inanimate objects.
But here's the problem: We use the same kind of thinking when it comes to religion.
You're Buddhist? You do you.
You worship Allah? Cool. You do you.
You don't believe in God at all. You do you. We'll all end up in the same place anyway.
But is that really how it works? Is eternal truth whatever you want it to be?
Do ya’ll see this. (holding up a red hymnal) This a rhinoceros. Right?
You’re all thinking, “What’s wrong with Pastor? Someone needs to check the coffee. Because that’s not a rhinoceros. It’s not big. It’s not grey. It doesn’t have a giant horns coming out of its face. In fact, it doesn’t have a face. It’s a Confessional Lutheran hymnal.”
My response is: “Nope. I think it’s a rhino. That’s my truth. Your truth can be that’s it’s a hymnal, but my truth is equally as true as yours because I believe it to be so. You don’t have the right to tell me I’m wrong.”
Does that make any sense at all?
Does it make any sense when it comes to religious things?
NO! God only meant one thing. No matter how strongly you feel something is the truth, that doesn't make it the truth.
What the Truth is makes the Truth the Truth!
Believing that truth can be whatever you want -- as long as you believe it hard enough is a misconception! Such a misconception of truth maintains that the only TRUTH is that there is no TRUTH…except that TRUTH by it’s very definition is not TRUE.
Brothers and sistesr, this is wrong. It’s mind numbing & wrong.
II. The Truth about the Truth
Since Pilate is so filled with misconceptions about truth, maybe we shouldn’t listen to him. Besides, He didn’t make deaf people hear. He didn’t make blind people see. He didn’t make lame people walk. He didn’t stop storms, cast out demons, and heal the sick. He didn’t die and then three days later come back to life.
Pilate’s truth would have been that all those things were impossible. But Jesus did those things. Jesus knew truth lots better than he did.
In fact, if Pilate would have calmed down. If he would have relaxed for a moment. If he would have put in some effort, he could have heard Jesus answer Pilate’s question – the same way he had much earlier in his ministry.
Matthew 14:16 “I am the Truth.”
The truth that exposes your sins.
The truth that exposes your guilt.
The truth that exposes your condemnation.
The truth that loves you dearly.
The truth that died for your.
The truth that rose for you.
The truth that makes “you are forgiven” true.
The truth that makes “you are at peace” true.
The truth that makes “you will live forever” true.
The truth is Jesus. The truth is that only Jesus will make these things true.
So…listen to him!“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” I doubt anyone is going to raise their hands and say, “I want to be on the side of falsehood!” We want to be on the side of truth. Therefore, listen to Jesus.
Don’t listen to false teachers.
Don’t listen to false preachers.
Don’t listen to a world with ideas and teachings that are contradictory to what Jesus said.
There can be only one truth! Jesus is that truth.
Pilate did. “ish”. He came out and said there was no reason to put Jesus to death. He didn’t say he believed in Jesus. He didn’t say he didn’t. He simply said, I believe he doesn’t deserve to die. When the people protested, Pilate had enough and he sent them to another governor named Herod. Pilate wiped off his hands. Breahted a sigh of relief and got his royal bubble bath ready.
But…remember Pilate…He isn’t done in this story yet. We’ll talk about him more next week when the crowd comes raucously back to the palace.
Don’t wait for God to give you another opportunity. Follow the truth now. Learn from the truth now.
Get on the side of truth. Now! Amen.