A warning from the one who is greater. Luke 11:29-36

Luke  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:43
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I want to begin this morning sharing with you the story of a man named Antony Flew.
Flew was a prominent man in the world of Philosophy in the 20th century, he passed away in 2010.
During the bulk of his life, for more than 50 years, Flew was a staunch atheist.
He was one of the most famous atheists in the world of his day.
Some of his works that he wrote include  “Theology and Falsification” scrutinized religious claims. 
Flew argued that since any contradiction to God’s existence and love is explained away then nothing can falsify those claims.  Therefore nothing can verify the claims either.  The claim to God’s existence or goodness becomes semantically empty, thus God suffers “death by a thousand qualifications” (44).
God and Philosophy, published in 1966, was “a systematic argument for atheism” (49). 
The crux of Flew’s argument was against the very concept of God.  He showed that the concept of God is far from coherent or consistent.  Therefore one cannot meaningfully assert God’s existence.
In his book the Presumption of Atheism Flew claims that in debate, “the onus of proof must lie with the theists” (53).  He again points to the difficulty of defining and identifying a concept of God.  Given this difficulty the theists cannot assume God’s existence as a premise.
As an atheist Flew believed that it was up to those who believed in God to provide proof of God since atheism, in his mind, was the more reasonable position.
In 2004 though, something changed, Flew changed his mind.
Luke, Volumes 1 & 2 Chapter 48: A Sign for All Times (Luke 11:27–36)

he announced just before Christmas that, come to think of it, there was enough evidence for the existence of God.

Luke, Volumes 1 & 2 Chapter 48: A Sign for All Times (Luke 11:27–36)

Flew said, “It seems to me that the case for a God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence is now much stronger than it ever was before.”

Luke, Volumes 1 & 2 Chapter 48: A Sign for All Times (Luke 11:27–36)

He only became a theist, however, not a Christian. Although Flew said that he was open to the possibility of divine revelation, he also said that he did not believe in the God of the Bible, or the gospel of Jesus Christ. Presumably he was still looking for a little more evidence.

There were people like this in Jesus day as well.
People who believed in God but were still making up their minds about Jesus.
Some people had chosen to follow him, becoming his disciples. Others had decided to reject him, claiming that he was of the devil. But still others were looking for more evidence.
Even when they saw Jesus perform miracles, they “kept seeking from him a sign from heaven” (Luke 11:16).
Their faith was postponed by their doubts.
Before they believed in Jesus, they wanted indisputable evidence that he was the Son of God.
What sign would he show them?
It is really no different today.
How often have you heard someone say, oh I believer there is some sort of higher power out there.
This is just a step past agnosticism.
Agnosticism is the stance that it is impossible to know for certain if God, divine beings, or the supernatural exists.
The belief is therefore that it is preferable to be neutral rather than choose either theism or atheism.
There are many people today who believe in a God, but want more evidence to believe in the God of the Bible.
Jesus offers a staunch warning though to those people.
Jesus through his message here in Luke 11 provides a warning to people about how to respond to God’s word.
Luke 11:29–36 ESV
29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”
First it is important I believe that we point out something about the setting and Jesus method.
The crowds were increasing.
In our minds, this is a good thing.
More people are hearing about Jesus.
But remember how Luke is showing us, the inside out, upside down nature of God’s kingdom.
Jesus philosophy of ministry goes against everything that we would think or do.
Clearly, He had not heard of the methods of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
The crowds are growing, and how does Jesus start off this teaching.
This generation is an evil generation!
Jesus is calling them morally or socially worthless.
Is this really how you talk to a crowd of people that you are trying to draw?
I don’t deny that we need to hear about the joy that Christ gives, but there is no joy if we try to come to God without confronting our sin.
Jesus shows us that there is a wrong way to respond to God and His Word:
Jesus isn’t seeking to simply draw a crowd, Jesus is seeking to change hearts, to change lives.
That is my hope for us here this morning as well.
That lives will be changed, hearts will be changed, through the word of God that is presented here this morning.
Jesus in this passage is addressing a culture of unbelief.
After beginning with a significant negative statement about the state of this generation, he goes on to say that it seeks for a sign.
Remember in the context, the previous section just ended with
Luke 11:28 ESV
28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
Hearing and seeing are two very different things.
They wanted a distinguishing mark to know for certain of what was happening.
The Jews were demanding a sign from Jesus to test Him (11:16)
Numerous miracles have already taken place, demons cast out, sick and lame people healed, dead people raised, and yet through these, there was still a spirit of unbelief.
What was their sin in seeking for a sign?
Their sin was their rebellious, unrepentant hearts.
They were curious to see Jesus perform miracles, but they had no remorse over their sins.
They wanted to watch a good show, but they would have been quick to explain away any signs that Jesus performed because they were not willing to follow Him.
It is like Pharaoh in the book of Exodus when Moses goes to him with the plagues.
Pharaoh’s magicians replicate some of the amazing things but not all of them.
Each time Pharaoh hardened his heart.
Until the death of the first born.
Even then though, Pharaoh’s heart remained hard because what did he do?
He pursued the Israelites.
Looking to both examples.
Their problem was not a lack of evidence.
Their problem was a lack of repentance.
This is still the same tactic that unbelief employs today.
The Bible is the most reliable document from the ancient world, it has four eye witness accounts which bear testimony to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
We are told of 500 people that witnesses the resurrection of Christ.
We can see how hundreds of OT prophecies were fulfilled by the life and death of Christ to the minutest details.
The Bible teaches that there is Creator, but many willingly believe that something can come from nothing;
the Bible teaches that human beings are made in the image of God, as male and female and have intrinsic value;
yet many are willing to believe that we are nothing more than animals, that we can create our own gender, and that an unborn baby is not a person with intrinsic value.
On and on we could go demonstrating the irrational nature of unbelief.
Jesus tells us that this is evil and you and I are responsible for it.
Thus Jesus tells them that no sign will be given to them except the sign of Jonah.
We know the story of Jonah well. He is called to preach to Israel’s racial enemies who have committed war crimes against them in the past.
Jonah doesn’t want God to spare them but to punish them so he runs away by getting on a ship and going off the farthest point he can.
God causes a storm, it results in Jonah being discovered as a runaway prophet, and he volunteers to be thrown overboard.
At this point he is swallowed by a big fish, and vomited up on shore where Jonah then goes and preaches and Nineveh repents.
The centerpiece of the story of the Bible is Jesus Christ.
From the beginning of the Bible, it is all about Christ, whether it is Adam as a type of Christ,
the promise of the one who would be born of a woman to save humanity and overcome satan,
or the promise of one from the tribe of Judah holding the scepter.
Promises, prophecies, types, they all point and prepare us for Christ.
Jesus is telling us that Jonah foreshadowed Christ, and that the actions of his life point us to what Jesus would do for us.
Matthew makes this connection a bit more clearly for us
Matthew 12:40 ESV
40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Remember here in the passage, Jesus said not sign will be given,
future tense.
except the sign of Jonah.
Jonah’s time in the belly of the fish was a type of death, burial and resurrection.
Jonah himself did not die, but his being in the belly for three days is what Christ is pointing to.
The Jews in Jesus day were looking for a sign that He was who He said He was.
They wanted a miracle to ratify the miracles.
Jesus told them that the only sign that would be given them is His death, burial and resurrection.
Is this a great sign?
The best!
What does the resurrection convey?
The resurrection proves that Jesus is who He says He is;
the resurrection proves that sin has been paid for because death has no right to keep Him;
the resurrection proves that death has been defeated, and our own resurrection and glorification is guaranteed;
but His resurrection also proves that we too will be resurrected and have to stand before God on judgement day.
Jesus uses this sign to bring the Jews attention to the importance of listening to His preaching.
For the Ninevites listened to Jonah’s preaching, but the Jews were not listening to His.
In contrast to the peoples negative response, Jesus gives example of two proper responses to God and His word.
First Jesus speaks of the queen of Sheba who is found in 1 King 10:1-13.
Scholars believe that this queen came from what is today modern day Yemen,
which is over a thousand miles from where Solomon was.
One monarch visiting another was very rare unless it was in military conquest.
She came though in power and strength -
1 Kg 10:1
1 Kings 10:1 ESV
1 Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.
It is this very thing that Jesus commends her for, and by which she will judge others.
It is this aspect of her honest seeking and willingness to find the truth that shows up the unwillingness and unbelief in the first century Jews.
Imagine two columns and compare this queen with the Jews of Jesus day.
She was a stranger and a Gentile,
the Jews were the people of God.
She had heard rumours second hand and on the basis of those took her whole court to see Solomon in person;
the Jews had first hand encounters with Christ and heard and saw firsthand.
She was willing to travel over a thousand miles to have the truth,
the Jews rejected it in their midst.
She came with hard questions but was willing to learn and receive the answers;
the Jews asked hard questions in order to try and trap Christ and get Him into trouble.
She saw the lesser glory of Solomon and praised God, v9;
the Jews saw the greater glory of God in Christ and blasphemed the Holy Spirit.
She received man’s best wisdom;
the Jews rejected the Christ in whom all the knowledge and wisdom of God are hidden.
Based on Jesus words it is clear that she became a believer and worshipper of God
but many of the Jews remained in unbelief, not responding to God’s word.
This queen of Sheba then is a teacher who shows us the way of salvation.
She is the model skeptic who comes to faith.
She is a challenge to the unbelievers of this age.
Many today have never read the bible but claim it is not true.
They claim that Christ cannot be the Saviour of the world but have never stopped to test His claims.
the lengths she went to in order to discover the truth put to shame the efforts of this generation.
If someone has read a few Wikipedia articles and watched a few things on Youtube, they think they are now experts who know more than people who have studied these things their whole lives.
Her willingness to go that extra mile exposes our easy willingness to believe a lie.
she was willing to ask the hard questions.
How many are willing to ask these questions today?
We are all brainwashed by our cultures and are unable and unwilling to test our own worldviews to see whether they are good or false.
How many just go along with what is in the air,
for example, without having a complete worldview of creation, our identity as being male and female in the image of God,
our identity as spiritual beings,
the bible as an authority on spiritual things we cannot access through science,
throw out traditional values in the recent gender equality movement.
This queen asked hard questions to get to the bottom of things, not content to go along with what others were saying.
Will our generation wake up to the fact that they too are in need of asking and getting answers to the hard questions.
Does God exist?
How can I know that?
Who am I? Why am I here?
Where did the universe come from?
What is good and evil?
Will this generation ask these questions and test the materialistic and evolutionary basis that has become the status quo?
She became a seeker on the basis of reports of a man, what will our generation do with the reports of Christ?
Four eye witness accounts of His perfect life, miracles, teachings, death and resurrection.
The Saviour of the world who has had a greater effect than any other in human history.
Will they allow themselves to be satisfied with what someone else says on Youtube or will they investigate His claims for themselves.
The stories are many of those who have sought the truth and found it.
This leads to Jesus claiming that one greater than Solomon is here, consider this from the story of the queen of Sheba,
remember that she came to Solomon with gifts.
What gifts are you offering your savior?
Are you giving your effort, your time to get to know him, to grow in the body of Christ, to blossom within and to see His church flourish?
It is important!
Included in the story though as well is what Solomon does in return.
the King gave greater gifts to her than she gave to him.
1 Kings 10:13 ESV
13 And King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all that she desired, whatever she asked besides what was given her by the bounty of King Solomon. So she turned and went back to her own land with her servants.
We cannot help but see here an echo of our own relationship with our own King.
He gives to us out of His royal treasury, more than that He marries us to Himself
Jesus tells us that she will rise up to condemn those who do not believe what will the queen of Sheba’s opinion be of you on that day?
Will you imitate her in searching for truth, for giving your all to your King reminding you of the King’s bounty to those He loves?
Or will you be condemned for having not having searched for the truth and rejected the King when you had so much more knowledge than she had?
Jesus is not only greater than Solomon but greater than Jonah, compare them together.
Jesus was a greater prophet than Jonah; a perfectly obedient servant where Jonah had been backslidden and sluggish;
Jesus had a better deliverance on offer and call to repentance that Jonah;
and Jesus had performed more miracles than Jonah had done;
Jesus had been a more compassionate preacher than Jonah—yet the Ninevites repented, and the Jews rejected Jesus.
The seriousness of this rejection continues to have relevance to any who reject Jesus today.
For Jesus has resurrected from the dead, the sign of Jonah has been given, but will people believe?
The sign of Jonah ends up being a serious sign of judgement for any who reject the call to repent and follow Christ.
The sign says, as surely as Jesus rose from the dead, so surely shall you be raised on the last day to stand before God to give an account of your lives,
repent now that you may have your crimes against God washed away, or you will have to pay for them yourself and none of us will escape.
There is hope in Jesus Christ for the worst of sinners.
No matter how terrible your past, if you will repent of your sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the one who bore your penalty on the cross,
God will transform your life from the inside out.
The men of Nineveh are a testimony of what God’s grace can do with any sinner who will repent and believe the gospel.
Jesus expounds on this idea with the parable he shares of the light that is in people. 33-36
Jesus’ teaching is the lamp set on the lampstand.
He was displaying God’s truth openly for all to see (11:33).
If a person’s spiritual eye is clear, he can see the truth that Jesus proclaims.
But, if a person’s heart is darkened by sin, the light does no good.
No amount of light helps a blind man (11:34).
Thus, the warning, “Watch out that the light in you may not be darkness.”
Respond obediently to the light that you’ve been given through Jesus and you will receive more light.
Ignore or reject the light that you’ve been given, and it will be taken away and you’ll be left in total darkness.
But if you respond obediently to the light Jesus gives, your entire life will be lit up and you will be a light unto others (11:36).
A great privilege is also great responsibility.
It is a great privilege to hear God’s Word preached and to read the Word.
But that privilege also means that we are responsible to obey what we hear and read in the Word.
If we respond obediently, our lives will be illumined by God so that we will know how to live in a manner pleasing to Him.
Also, He will use our lives to shine on others who are lost in the darkness of sin.
But, if we disregard the Word, even the light we have received will become darkness.
Do you believe, are you full of light, or like the Jews do you think you have light and reject the light He offers, then He tells you, your light is not light but darkness.
The issue isn’t that you need more evidence.
The issue is that you need repentance.
You need to acknowledge that you have sinned against the holy God and that your good works could never pay for your sins.
You need a Savior.
I need a Savior!
You need to recognize that Jesus Christ is that Savior.
He offered Himself on the cross to pay the price you deserve.
If you will turn from your sin and trust in Christ as your sin-bearer, you will be flooded with light from God.
You will be able to say, “I once was blind, but now I see!”
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