Robert Jeffress - Luke: Reigniting Your Passion For Christ
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. You've chosen an exciting day to join us, because today we're beginning a new study in the Gospel of Luke titled "Reigniting your passion for Christ". At some point, just about every Christian starts to feel a bit stagnant in their walk with God, and I believe the best way to jumpstart your Christian life is to study the words, actions, and attitudes of Jesus himself. Are you ready to dive in? My message is titled "Reigniting Your Passion for Christ" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
One writer describes the impact of the life of Jesus Christ on the world this way. "Along with two thieves, Jesus was executed by the authorities about 2.000 years ago, yet today from countless paintings, statues, and buildings, from literature and history, from personality and institution, from profanity, popular songs, and entertainment media, from confession and controversy, from legend and ritual, Jesus stands quietly at the center of the contemporary world as he himself predicted. He so graced the ugly instrument on which he died, that the cross has become the most widely exhibited and recognized symbol on earth". You know, it's easy for our Christian faith to go stale. It's easy to say the right words, go through the right motions while still having a cold heart toward God.
One thing that causes our Christian faith to become stagnant is we forget that Christianity is not about a set of ideas. It's about a real person, the most important person in all of human history, the person of Jesus Christ, who came from heaven to earth, not only to provide a way for us to escape hell after we died. He came to show us a better way of living before we die. Yet, we often forget that. You know, I have found that there is that rejuvenates our Christian life any more than getting back in touch with the person of Jesus Christ by carefully observing his examples of how to live, by studying his words, by mimicking his actions, attitudes, and affections, and that is our goal in this new series we're beginning today.
Today, we are launching a verse-by-verse study of the most detailed account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. It's found in the Gospel of Luke, and we're entitling this series "Reigniting Your spiritual Passion for Christ". And we're going to begin looking today at verses one through four of Luke chapter one. Now, this Gospel is not only about a person. It is also written by a real life person. We call him Luke. Now, interestingly, he's never identified as the author of this book or the sequel to Luke, which is the Book of Acts. Nevertheless, church history tells us it was Luke who wrote this book. Luke was a gentile physician. He was a faithful friend and fellow worker along with the apostle Paul, and the Bible only mentions Luke three times. First of all, you see on your outline there, and follow along with us.
In Colossians 4:14, Paul refers to Luke as the beloved physician. Then in Philemon 24, there's only one chapter, so we say Philemon, verse 24, Paul refers to Luke as, "My fellow worker". We don't know exactly how they got together, but after they both were saved, they became fellow workers and missionaries together. That's the second mention of Luke, is found in Philemon verse 24, where he is called the fellow worker with Paul. The final mention of Luke in the Bible is in 2 Timothy 4, verses nine through 11. Paul was in prison, awaiting his execution. That is Luke, the author of this Gospel.
Now, let's look at the audience for a moment. Unlike the three other Gospels, Luke is written to a specific individual, and we find him named in Luke 1, verses three and four. Look at this, back at Luke one verses three and four. "It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus, so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught". This Gospel was written to a man named Theophilus. Now, Theophilus, Theos means God, Philus, love. Literally means a lover of God. Now, some people have supposed well, this was just the literary device Luke used. He's writing it to anybody who loves God. It's just a literary device. No, I think this is a real person, and the reason is, notice the way he refers to Theophilus as most excellent. This says this is a person of great stature.
In fact, you'll see that Luke also uses this phrase to describe Felix, the Roman governor of Judea in Acts 24, and his successor Festus in Acts 26. He's talking about a real person. Again, it's speculation who Theophilus was. Perhaps he had been Luke's master, and Luke, after he was converted, led his former master to faith in Christ as well. Whoever he was, he was a wealthy gentile. He was a convert to Christianity already, and Luke wrote his Gospel not to show him how to be saved, but how to live after he was saved. Persecution was beginning to descend upon believers. Perhaps Theophilus was starting to waiver in his commitment to Jesus Christ, and so Luke is reminding him of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
As we're going to see in a minute, this is a pervasive theme of Luke. It's not about how to be saved. It's how to live as a disciple after we are saved. That is the audience to whom this was written, Theophilus. Now, that leads to a third consideration, and that is what makes this Gospel unique. I want to talk about two characteristics of this Gospel of Luke. First of all, Luke is carefully researched. Now, unlike Matthew and John, Luke was not an eyewitness to the events of Jesus' life, but that doesn't mean Luke's account is not reliable. It is very, very reliable. It is carefully researched. Look again at Luke 1, verses one to four. "Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us". In other words, there are other Gospels out there.
There are already Gospels out there, but he goes on to say, "Just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, o most excellent Theophilus". I want you to notice the three sources of Luke's information that we're going to study in this Gospel. First of all, he consulted eyewitnesses. Notice that in verse two. He talked to eyewitnesses. This Greek word translated eyewitnesses is the same word from which we get our English word autopsy. You know what an autopsy means. It means to see with one's own eyes, and so Luke interviewed eyewitnesses who saw these miraculous things about the life of Jesus Christ. Not only that, he consulted servants of the word who have handed them down to us. That is, those who had already written down accounts of the Lord. Jesus Christ's life. Not only is Luke carefully researched, but secondly, it is extremely detailed. It's extremely detailed.
Now, you would expect that from a doctor, wouldn't you, to go for the minute details? Let me give you an illustration of how detailed Luke's Gospel is. Take the appearance of John the Baptist, when John the Baptist appeared on the scene. Now, Mark's Gospel says it this way. Quote, "John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness". Period. That's a pretty quick and to the point account, isn't it? "John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness". Now look how Luke describes it in Luke 3, verses one to two. "Now in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was Tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was Tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was Tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the Word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness".
Now, that's detail, isn't it? You know, that kind of detail ought to give every one of us great confidence in the trustworthiness of the Bible. As one writer said, "Christianity is a religion that is built upon facts". That's why the apostle Peter in his final years wrote these words in 2 Peter 1:16. "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty". And that leads to a fourth consideration, the purpose in the writing of Luke's Gospel. You know, if you've ever had the experience of publishing a book or trying to publish a book, you know, one of the first things the publisher wants to know is what makes your book different than all the other books out there? Why should we invest money in publishing your book? What makes it unique?
Just imagine for a moment, Dr. Luke was going to submit his account of Jesus' life for publication. The publisher would probably want to know, when we've got Matthew, we've got Mark, we've got John. Why do we need another account of the life of Jesus Christ? In fact, in Luke 1:1, Luke himself confesses there are many other accounts out there. Well, here's what makes Luke's Gospel unique. You know, Matthew was one of the disciples, and he wrote from a Jewish perspective. In fact, that's why you find more Old Testament quotations in Matthew than any other Gospel. He was writing to the Jews to say Jesus really is the fulfillment of all of the Messianic promises. You look at Mark's Gospel. It's completely different in the sense that it's written very quickly. It reads more like a newspaper than it does a book. Then you look at John's Gospel. It's not synoptic. It doesn't take a chronological view of the life of Jesus Christ. John's Gospel is theological. It's built around seven miracles of Jesus to show that Jesus was in fact the Son of God.
But Luke is different, because Luke is the most detailed account of all of the Gospels. It contains information about Jesus' life, his teachings, his ministry that none of the other Gospels include, and you find three unique themes in the Gospel of Luke. Write them down. The first emphasis in Luke is on the humanity of Jesus Christ. The humanity of Jesus. Now, again, Matthew has as his theme the Messiahship of Jesus. Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. Mark's emphasis is on the servanthood of Jesus Christ, John's emphasis is on the deity of Jesus Christ, but Luke talks about the humanity of Jesus Christ. Let me show you how Luke emphasizes the humanity of Christ. We see it in the opening account of Jesus' birth. Luke gives us the most detailed account of the birth of Jesus Christ. Wouldn't you expect that from a doctor? They want to know how this baby got here. That's why he has such a detailed account of the birth of Jesus. He also gives us an account of Jesus, not just spiritual, but his moral and emotional, his personal and physical and emotional development.
In Luke 2:52, we find this word. "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men". It's also only in this Gospel that we find the story of his dedication in the temple and his experience as a 12-year-old, when he amazed the teachers of the temple in Luke chapter two. And it's Luke the doctor who gives us the most detailed description of the physical suffering Jesus experienced on the cross. You don't find a more detailed explanation of the crucifixion than you find in Luke 23. As you read that, you can almost hear the clanging of the hammer as it drove those spikes into Jesus' arms and his feet. That's what you find in Luke, the humanity of Christ.
A second theme in the Gospel of Luke is the program of God. As you read through Jesus' life, you realize he was a man on a mission. Nothing happened by circumstance in his life. It was all a part of the plan. In Luke 19:10, Jesus said about himself, "For the son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost". Jesus' death wasn't some horrible, accidental, terrible thing that happened. Jesus' death wasn't the result of a bunch of bad men ending Jesus' life prematurely. No, this was all part of God's plan. Now, remember I said this was written to gentiles. That's one reason I like Luke, because it's written to people like you and me, non-Jews. Somebody said, "Luke is the Gospel of the underdog". That's what you find in Luke's Gospel, the program of God. The third thing that you find in this Gospel is the perseverance of Christians. The perseverance of Christians.
Again, Luke is not about how to be saved. It's about how to live after we are saved. Over and over again in Luke, Jesus said, "A true disciple is not somebody who intellectually believes the right things about me. It is someone who follows me, who imitates my life". And that brings me to the last consideration today. Why are we studying the Gospel of Luke? Why Luke, why now in our church? You know, just as, hopefully you go to the doctor for a physical checkup to know how your body is doing, every now and then we need to take time to do a spiritual checkup, to see how our spiritual life is.
If Dr. Luke were to place his stethoscope against your heart, your spiritual life, the real you, what would he discover about the condition of your relationship with God? In fact, what standard would he use to know whether you're close to God or far away from God? Well, the standard to measure your spiritual health is actually found in the passage we just read a few moments ago in Ephesians chapter four, verses 13 and 15. "Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. But speaking the truth in love we are to grow up in all aspects into him, who is the head, even Christ".
You know the standard by which God uses to measure the condition of your spiritual life? The standard is Jesus Christ himself. How closely do you resemble Jesus? Someone said it this way. "Here's what it means to be a disciple. To be a disciple means for me to live my life as Jesus would live my life if he were i". This idea of being a disciple is not optional. I want to tell you, ladies and gentlemen, the greatest heresy that has entered the church of Jesus Christ today, it's the heresy that you can become a Christian, know that you're going to go to heaven when you die, and yet not have one single change in your life as a result of that. That is heresy. That is absolutely wrong. That is what James calls a dead, non-existent faith.
No wonder the church is so weak and anemic today. It's not in spite of what we're teaching. It's because of what we're teaching. No wonder the rate of adultery and divorce is exactly the same among Christians as it is among non-Christians. Why is it? We are teaching this heresy that salvation is essential. Discipleship is optional. No, no, no, no. Again, James says, where there is no fruit, there is no faith. Faith without works is a dead, non-existent faith. Or as Jesus said, "Why do you call me Lord if you do not do what I do"? 1 John chapter two, verse six, John describes what it means to be a Christian. He says, "Whoever claims to live in God must walk as Jesus did".
Discipleship is not optional. It is essential. Well, how do you pull that off? How do you walk as Jesus did? How do you live every day in submission to God's will? How do you adopt God's priorities as your priorities? How do you keep yourself from being entangled in material wealth and possessions? How do you live with a peace of mind, regardless of what is happening around you? The best way to pull that off is to look and examine carefully the only person who has pulled that off. His name is Jesus Christ. And over the weeks and months ahead, we're going to do that. We're going to carefully examine Jesus' attitudes, his affections, his actions, so that we can walk as Jesus walked, and in doing so, I believe God is going to reignite your passion for Christ.