The Gospel of Luke - Part 72
The Values of Christ's Kingdom — Luke 17:1-4

January 14, 2007
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

This morning we start into Luke Chapter 17. This chapter is where Jesus is teaching about the Kingdom of God. We first studied Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God in Luke 13. There are more than a hundred references to the kingdom in the New Testament, with over forty of these references found in the Gospel of Luke. So let’s look at what Jesus means when He teaches about the kingdom of God.

James Long, a Christian writer in Discipleship Journal says:

To express it simply, the Kingdom is where the King is. So, early in the Gospels, the news is announced: “The kingdom of God is near you” (Luke 10:9). The Kingdom was near because the King was near. And yet, though near, the Kingdom was not a locality, not a province to be entered. (James Long)
There is only one reference to the kingdom of God in today’s chapter, Luke 17.
Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” —Luke 17:20-21
Though this is the only specific reference, the whole chapter really has to do with kingdom living.

Have you ever spent time in a country whose culture is very different from ours? What were some differences between this country and the one you visited or lived in? It's not just that language is different, but there are different values, different ways of doing things. For example, time (promptness) is a significant value in our culture. If we are late to a meeting, even a few minutes, we feel the need to apologize. Most South American cultures don't share this view of time. They place a greater emphasis on relationships. So if you are late because you're spending time with someone, everyone understands.

Throughout the history of the church, Christians have tended to impose their cultural values on new believers. For the Jewish Christians, this meant expecting Gentile believers to be circumcised and to observe Old Testament dietary laws. For us today, it may mean expecting things like don't drink, don't dance, don't smoke.

In this chapter, Jesus helps His disciples understand the values that are important in His kingdom. He wanted them to understand that the values of His kingdom were very different from the values of their culture. And they are also very different from the values of our culture. Jesus also helps us understand the nature of His kingdom — where His kingdom is and where the King is!

Luke 17 can be organized as:

A.     The Values Of His Kingdom
B.     The Nature Of His Kingdom

This morning we will look at:

The Values Of His Kingdom:

As we mentioned, values vary from culture to culture. Not only do values vary from culture to culture, but values change from time to time within a particular culture.

Can you think of some changes in values between the values of the 1940's to the 1990's?   In contrast to the world, the values of God's kingdom never change. They are rooted in the character of God which is the same as it was before the creation of the world.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. —Hebrews 13:8
That's why it's so important that we focus on kingdom values. Our goal is to be Christ-like Christians, not just cultural Christians.

Notice the values that Jesus emphasizes to His disciples:

Influence:

And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” —Luke 17:1-3
What strikes you about what Jesus says here?

We aren’t told who Jesus was referring to here. He may have been thinking about the religious leaders of His day. Remember, he has been chastising them in the previous chapter.

Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” —Luke 11:52
However, this warning in Luke 17:1-2 applies to everyone.

In fact, Paul uses the same Greek word translated here as hindered as is translated “stumbling blocks” in Romans:

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. —Romans 14:13
In our society, we see many individuals and groups who “cause people to sin”.

R. Kent Hughes, in his commentary on Luke says: 

“Intellectuals often directly assault Christian belief. Criminal offenders regularly lead others headlong into sin. The icons of pop culture lure multitudes away from truth and life. Even some [Christians], pastors and teachers who engage in compromise, lay huge stumbling blocks before ‘little ones’, people who are weak and vulnerable as they are being drawn to Christ.”
What are some ways where one person might cause another person to sin?

Barbara Brokhoff, a Christian writer, writes:

 I saw a Peanuts cartoon with Lucy saying to Charlie Brown, "I hate everything. I hate everybody. I hate the whole wide world!" Charlie says, "But I thought you had inner peace." Lucy replies, "I do have inner peace. But I still have outer obnoxiousness".

When the lives of Christians are characterized by “outer obnoxiousness”, it certainly causes non-Christians to stumble. It causes them to questions the truth, the credibility of Jesus’ claims.

Paul was very sensitive to the influence we have on others. He often warned believers to consider what kind of influence they were having on the people around them. In Romans he says:

It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. —Romans 14:21
The Living Bible paraphrases this as:
The right thing to do is to quit eating meat or drinking wine or doing anything else that offends your brother or makes him sin. —Romans 14:21 [TLB]
In First Corinthians he says:
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. — Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. —1 Corinthians 8:9, 13
And then in Chapter 10 he says:
Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God. —1 Corinthians 10:32
So we see that we need to watch ourselves.
In verse 3, Are you a stumbling block or a stepping stone?  Some people draw people away from God; others draw people closer to Him. Which are you? When we sin, we of course think of how it affects us. That’s certainly understandable. But Jesus encourages us here to think of how our sin affects others.

Another way to think about this is to recognize that most of us are quick to criticize or condemn those who cause others to stumble. But here Jesus doesn’t say, “Watch others”; he says, “Watch yourselves!”. I like the TEV translation which reads, “So watch what you do!” We need to always be aware of how our attitudes and words and actions influence those around us.

Confrontation:

After talking about our Influence, Jesus then changes to a focus on confrontation.

“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” —Luke 17:3-4
What stands out to you in these verses?  Jesus says Rebuke him.

Jesus specifically says here that these instructions refer to when a “brother” sins. This is our responsibility with a fellow-believer. It does not refer to non-Christians. The Jesus’ instructions here are clear and straightforward — but not easy! Most of us are reluctant to confront others about their behavior.

What are some reasons that we are reluctant to do this? Regardless of the reasons, we need to understand that the Bible is clear about our responsibility if we are aware of sinful behavior in a fellow-Christian. In fact, there are other passages that we’ll consider later that also emphasize this responsibility. Why is it important that we be committed to doing this? Do you think that his reproof can be mishandles? How?

Can you think of some “do’s” and “don’ts” of giving reproof to a fellow Christian? We are given some advice about how to execute this responsibility. In Matthew, Jesus tells us:

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. 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. —Matthew 18:15-16
In Galatians Paul tells us:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. —Galatians 6:1-2
The NLT paraphrases these verses as:
Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. —Galatians 6:1-2 [NLT]
Paul tells us in Second Thessalonians:
Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. —2 Thessalonians 3:15
Gordon MacDonald writes in the Leadership Journal:

“Generally defined, to rebuke means to confront someone with the wrongness of an action or attitude and to help them see the consequences. This is different from what often happens in church. I know what unsigned letters look like. I have had my motives, my integrity, my theology, and my politics unkindly questioned. I have had people talk warmly to my face and coldly behind my back. These are not rebukes. A rebuke is different. A genuine rebuke is a noble communication; its intention is to free a person for growth and effectiveness by speaking, as Paul puts it, "truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15).

What other “do’s” and “don’ts” of giving reproof do we need to remember?

The Ten Commandments of Confrontation

1. Do it privately, not publicly.
2. Do it as soon as possible. That is more natural than waiting a long time.
3. Speak to one issue at a time. Don't overload the person with a long list of issues.
4. Once you've made a point don't keep repeating it.
5. Deal only with actions the person can change. If you ask the person to do something he or she is unable to do, frustration builds in your relationship.
6. Avoid sarcasm. Sarcasm signals that you are angry at people, not at their actions, and may cause them to resent you.
7. Avoid words like always and never. They usually detract from accuracy and make people defensive.
8. Present criticisms as suggestions or questions if possible.
9. Don't apologize for the confrontational meeting. Doing so detracts from it and may indicate you are not sure you had the right to say what you did.
10. Don't forget the compliments. Use what I call the "sandwich" in these types of meetings: Compliment—Confront—Compliment.
                  —from John Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You

So we see the need for giving reproof and some tips about how to do that, what if we are the receiver instead of the giver?

Receiving Reproof:

Though this subject is not directly mentioned here, it is implied. If giving reproof is part of Christian fellowship, then learning how to receive reproof is also essential.

The Book of Proverbs has a number of references that speak of the importance of receiving reproof in a godly way.

Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. —Proverbs 9:8
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. —Proverbs 12:1
Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored. —Proverbs 13:18
Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. —Proverbs 25:12
Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. —Proverbs 27:5-6
Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue. —Proverbs 28:23
What attitudes will make it difficult for your to receive correction or reproof from others?  What might be some “do’s” and “don’ts” of receiving reproof? We have looked at reproof. Next week we will continue in Chapter 17 where we will look at