The Freedom to Serve

Luke 7:17-20 - “This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.  John's disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'”

 

John was asking Jesus, “Are you the Messiah, or should we expect someone else?”  Why would he do that?  John was the one who prepared the way for Jesus and announced His arrival. 

 

John 1:29-34 –“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'  I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel." Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.  I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.'  I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

 

So why is John asking if Jesus is the Messiah?  Let’s think about what was happening in John’s life.  Multitudes of people had received ministry from John.  In fact, John had the largest and most talked about ministry in Israel until Jesus came.

 

John 3:26 –“They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan — the one you testified about — well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

 

John lived a life of self-denial.  He wore prophet’s clothes.  His garment was made of camel’s hair and he wore a leather belt, marking himself as a man devoted to God.  He lived in the desert and he ate locusts and wild honey.  John drank no wine or any fermented drink.  He fasted often seeking the Lord’s direction.  He fought with religious leaders and politicians proclaiming God’s righteousness for their life.  Most of them did not want to hear it.  John gave all of himself to prepare the way for the Messiah because he knew that God had called him to do just that.

 

Now John had been put in prison, and he had been there quite some time.  Most of the people of Israel and even some of his own disciples had all their attention focused on Jesus.

When someone came to see John in prison they brought news of how Jesus and His disciples lived a very different life from John’s.  Jesus and His disciples ate and drank wine with sinners.  Jesus and His disciples broke the Sabbath often and Jesus and His disciples did not even fast.  John could have very well asked the question, “Is this the behavior of a Messiah?”

 

The temptation to judge and take offense at Jesus became stronger the longer he was in prison.  John might well have asked, “If He is the Messiah, why doesn’t Jesus get me out of this prison?”  Scripture says that the Messiah will set the captives free.  I am doing the Lord’s work and I have done no wrong.  Why doesn’t Jesus come and help me?”

 

So the day came when two of John’s faithful disciples came to visit him.  John asked them to find Jesus and ask Him, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”  When John’s disciples found Jesus, He was surrounded by a multitude.  Jesus was healing and teaching the crowds.  It took John’s disciples awhile to get close enough to Jesus to ask John’s question.  Let’s look at Jesus’ response:

 

Luke 7:21-23 (NKJ) – “And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me."

 

Jesus was quoting from Isaiah 35 and Isaiah 61.  John knew these scriptures well and he knew they spoke of the Messiah.  And John’s disciples had seen many of these things happen that very day as they waited to talk to Jesus. 

 

Jesus was saying to John, “I know that you do not understand all that is happening to you and some of my ways.  But do not be offended with me because I do not do what you expected.”

 

Jesus is saying the same thing to us today.  I know that you do not understand all that is happening in your life.  And I know that you do not understand why I allow some things to come about in this world.  But please do not be offened with Me and fall away because I don’t do the things you expect.  Jesus urges John and us today, not to judge by our own understanding and not to take offence, because we do not have the mind of God or know His whole plan for this world or eternity.

 

Prov 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

 

Satan uses ‘taking offence’ as one of his main tools to separate Christains from our Savior and from one another.  If he can get us to take offence and be more concerned with ourselves than our Lord, he can divide us.  That is why Jesus emphasizes forgiveness so much.

 

Matt 18:21-22 – “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

 

Do you think that Jesus was giving Peter a literal number of times we must forgive, a statute of limitations for forgiveness?  Do you think Jesus wants us to keep an account of how many times we forgive someone?  Or was Jesus saying that we should forgive others as often as we want God to forgive us?

 

How many times has God forgiven us already in our life?  Would we like God to continue forgiving us as long as it is needed?  Should we then continue to forgive others as long as they need our forgiveness?

 

Why is it so hard to forgive sometimes?  Is it our pride?  Do we say, “How could that person do that to me?”   Do you think God says that about us?  “How could he or she do that to Me?”  I don’t believe He does because God knows our struggle.  He became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ so that He could know our struggle and provide the only way out of that struggle. 

Or is it hard to forgive because we want to be the judge and make sure they get what they deserve?  Thank the Lord, He does not give us what we deserve. 

 

So how many times should we forgive, really forgive and release the hurt from our heart?  We should forgive as many times as God is willing to forgive us. 

 

Do you think that you have reached the place where God won’t forgive you anymore?  You have sinned and failed so many times and you are sinning and failing again, there is just no hope.  Then I have good news for you.  As long as you are alive and will truly forgive others, God will forgive you. 

 

Matt 6:14-15 – “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

 

Please notice there is not statute of limitations for forgiveness given here either.

 

Are you or I holding on to an offence or hurt that someone has caused us?  Don’t let satan use that to separate us from our Savior and keep us from the real love that Jesus has told us we should have for one another.  If we make the statement, “I love that person in Christ but I will never trust them again.”  Or, if we make the statement, “I have forgiven them for what they’ve done, but I will always remember it.”  Then we really haven’t found the freedom to forgive that Jesus wants us to have.   God’s Word says in 1 Corinthians 13, “…love keeps no record of wrongs and love always trusts and always hopes.”

 

So where do we need to go to know God’s real love in our hearts for others and for Him?  To the source of that love.  We can get there in sincere prayer and fasting, we can get there in reading God’s Word with an open heart, truly listening to what He would say to us even if we don’t like it.  And we can get there in serving others in the freedom that Christ wants us to serve.  It doesn’t matter whether the person we serve really appreciates what we’ve done.  It doesn’t even matter if they take advantage of us while we are serving them.  What really matters is that we are doing it for the Lord because that is what He’s given us to do.  That is the freedom to serve that Christ wants us to have.

 

Do you want to know that freedom in your heart?

 

Let’s go to the source now. Let us pray.