Folks, It’s Moving Day! It’s time to get moving.
A study was done about 10 years ago and they found that the average person moves ~ 11 times over the course of their life. If you’ve ever had to move, you know all that goes into that experience. Now, we move for various reasons. Sometimes we move by choice. Sometimes we may be forced to move, maybe because of a job. When we think of moving, we often times think about the challenges of “cleaning out closets” and “packing things up”. What we soon discover is that we hold on to a lot of stuff. Some of it we need, some of it we don’t. Some of it is valuable, some of it is not. Some of it is sentimental, some of it we can’t remember what it was used for. We start out thinking “this will be a good time to get rid of stuff” and then ultimately, it’s too much work and we just throw it in a box and carry it with us.
I remember holding on to some of my old school books because I thought that one day I’d go back and refresh my memory on classes I took. Guess what? Never happened. Amanda and I have joked that once we are dead and gone, Clayton and Gracie are going to ask “why in the world did mom and dad hold on to all of this junk?”
Now, you may or may not be able to relate to any of that. But one scenario I’m sure that most of us can relate to is “holding on to hard feelings”. I’ve titled this message “It’s Moving Day” because I think it would be beneficial for each of us allow the power of the Holy Spirit help us determine whether or not “It’s Moving Day” for us.
I ask you to join me Luke 17. As you are finding your way there, let’s set the context. Beginning in Luke 9, Jesus begins His journey toward Jerusalem and the cross. When we get to Luke 16, Jesus is having a conversation with His disciples as well as the Pharisees. The crux of Luke 16 is Jesus talking to the Pharisees, through parables, ultimately about pride and humility. In Luke 16 and Luke 17, Jesus is addressing the disciples at one point and then addressing Pharisees in another point, kind of a back-and-forth teaching. When we come to Luke 17, we read this:
Luke 17:1-6 (NASB) – And He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come! “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.
When we transition from Chapter 16 to Chapter 17, Jesus goes from addressing the Pharisees to addressing the disciples. Verses 1-2 of chapter 17 talk about the dangers of causing a fellow believer, a brother or sister in Christ to sin or to reject God. It’s so dangerous that Jesus says in verse 2 that it would be better for a millstone to be hung around their neck if cause a young believer, a little one, to sin. Listen to me closely on this. We are to be walking in close fellowship with Christ so that we are leading people to Christ and not being a hindrance for their walk. There’s an entire message just in verses 1 & 2, but that’s for another day. But these verses are the framework for what comes next.
Jesus said in verse 3 that if your brother sins. Some translations have the phrase “against you”, or your translation may have a footnote referencing that. The implication is that there may be times in our life when a fellow brother or sister sins against us. John MacArthur says the following about these verses:
“We want to teach the truth and live holy lives. So we take a strong position against sin. But that needs to be balanced off because we’re dealing in a world of sinners. We all are still fallen creatures. We still sin. We have to hate sin, and at the same time have an attitude of grace toward the sinner. And so, humble believers do not give offense. But neither do they take offense. Humble believers do not sin against others, but neither do they hold a grudge when others sin against them. We don’t lead people into sin. But we do lead them out of sin.”
Pastor Trent recently finished a series on the Lord’s Prayer. In that prayer, Jesus taught how we should pray, that the Lord would “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.”. When someone does sin against us, verse 3 provides us with instructions. Depending on your translation, verse 3 says that we are to admonish, rebuke, warn, or reprove them, not with the purpose of embarrassing them, demeaning them, or with a vindictive spirit. Nor are we to do it with a self-righteous attitude or pompous spirit. We are to do this in a manner of love and grace. And according to verse 3, the goal of admonishing them is to lead them to repentance. Let that sink in for just a moment. Do we, as a body of believers, want people to have close, intimate fellowship with Christ? Do we, as a body of believers, want people to have close, intimate fellowship with each other. If the answer to those questions is yes, which should be a resounding yes, because that’s what Scripture teaches, then there are times when we have to confront people. And the goal of the that is not for conflict but with the goal of repentance, restoration, unity and forgiveness.
Now, I have to admit, the admonishing is not an easy thing to do. It’s much easier to ignore it, blow it off or pretend it didn’t happen. We have a sophisticated phrase for that. It’s called “sweeping it under the rug.” To continue with that analogy. If we continue to “sweep it under the rug”, eventually it will grow into a big pile that will trip us up and begin to stink and eventually spill out into the floor for everybody to see. The end of verse 3 instructs us that if we admonish our brother or sister in Christ AND they repent, what are we to do? We are to forgive them. We can’t stop with verse 3 though. We have to keep reading.
Verse 4 instructs us that if they sin against us, not just 7 times, but 7 times a day AND they repent, we must forgive them. It’s not a suggestion. Verses 3 & 4 have huge implications within the body of Christ. These verses point to our responsibilities that we have to and with each other. Jesus’ instructions here are similar to Matthew 18 when Peter asked Jesus how many times should we forgive someone. This can get messy though and that leads me to my first point.
1. Sin causes separation
I remember when I learned to split wood. There was this little 5 lb. metal wedge that you would begin to work into a big, thick piece of wood. The more you hammered it, the deeper it would go until the piece of wood eventually would totally split in to two pieces. The wedge was much smaller than the piece of wood. But its sole purpose was to cause the wood to split and splinter until the wood was split into two (or more) pieces.
I’ve heard Pastor Louie Giglio say on numerous occasions that “sin doesn’t make you a bad person. Sin makes you a dead person.” Paul describes this in Romans 6:23:
Romans 6:23 (NASB) – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And then in Romans 5:12:
Romans 5:12 (NLT) – When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.
Sin is when we miss the mark of God’s perfection and rebel against God. According to Romans 5:12, which we all have done it. Sin separates us from God and sin also separates us from each other, just like that wedge that divides the wood. Through Christ though, a way was made for us to be cleansed of our sins.
We love verses like 1 John 1:9 which reads:
1 John 1:9 (NASB) – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Anybody here grateful for a forgiving God?
Or how about Psalm 103:12 which reads:
Psalm 103:12 (NLT) – He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
Anybody here thankful He has removed those sins?
We read verses like that and it brings us joy, hope and encouragement because we recognize how gracious and loving God is for not only dealing with our sin but for forgiving us of our sin. But we also have to read verses like Ephesians 4:30-32 which reads:
Ephesians 4:30-32 (NASB) – And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
And Colossians 3:12-13 which reads:
Colossians 3:12-13 (NASB) – And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
Jesus’ instructions in Luke 17:4 are very clear and are echoed throughout Scripture. If repentance takes place, forgiveness must follow. That seems like an impossible task for us and humanly speaking it is. We like to hold on to stuff. Selfishly speaking, we sometimes like to be able to “bring it back up later” when it’s advantageous to us. So these instructions from Jesus to continually forgive, once repentance has taken place, is a very hard command. But look at what happens next in verse 5:
Luke 17:5 (NASB) – The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
There’s a transition here. If we’re not careful, we’ll miss it. Take special note what the apostles said. This is the 12. Remember that Jesus had many disciples (believers, students or followers), but only 12 apostles that He called to be His closest followers. Earlier, Jesus was addressing the disciples. Now these 12, the ones that knew Jesus the best, that had seen Him perform miracles, that had heard His teachings and were with Him constantly, after hearing what Jesus had just said, they responded with “Increase our faith.”
Earlier, when I read verse 5, I read it, purposefully, the way it is normally read. And that is with a solemn, sincere, or even timid tone. When we look at verse 5, in context and especially with what Jesus had just commanded them to do, I think the apostles more accurately said “INCREASE OUR FAITH!!!!!” Notice that it was not an ask. I can almost hear them saying “we can’t do this, increase our faith!!” They did not say “will you please give us more faith?” I find it very interesting that Jesus has said nothing about faith. All He had said was “forgive others, repetitively if necessary”. The apostles recognized that it was going to take something bigger than them to do what Christ had commanded. They did not say “Give us faith”. Why not? They already had faith. Faith in what? Faith in who Christ is. The apostles had faith. In their eyes though, they felt that they needed more faith to do what Christ had asked them to do and that was to live with a forgiving spirit. But notice how Jesus responds:
Luke 17:6 (NASB) – And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry (or Sycamine) tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.
Jesus shifts the focus away from their “quantitative” view of faith and shifts it toward a “qualitative” view of faith. Here’s what I mean. It’s not about “how much” faith, but instead it is in the “object of” that faith.
Probably one of the most familiar passages on faith is Ephesians 2:8-9.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) – For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
So where does this faith come from?
Romans 10:17 (Amplified) – So faith comes from hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the [preaching of the] message concerning Christ.
Faith comes from God and is a gift of grace. When Jesus responds to the apostles, He compares faith with a mustard seed. We may be familiar with the passage in Matthew 17 when Jesus talks about faith and moving mountains. Jesus uses a mustard seed there and again here. The most common characteristic of a mustard seed that we know about is that it’s small, right? That’s true, it is small. The mustard seed is ~ 1-2 mm in size. Was it the seed itself that Jesus wanted to draw attention to? Possibly. Was it the size that Jesus wanted to draw their attention to? Well, maybe b/c we often do. However, in this context, I think there’s something else to consider. Contained within this tiny seed were the ingredients such that the fruit of this seed was a plant that can grow to be over 15′ tall. That could only happen if there was life inside of the seed. Jesus was showing them it’s not about how much faith you have, but it’s about your faith being alive and being firmly planted in Him.
The lesson for us is that our faith needs to be alive. It’s been said that “It’s not so much of a great faith in God that is needed, but a faith in a great God that is needed.” Jesus has just told the apostles to be in close fellowship with Him and to live in a state where they are showing forgiveness.
When our focus is on Christ and His glory, our focus is not on us. We often-times hear a statement similar to “I wish I had faith like ‘<Glenn>’ has” or like those living in persecuted countries. We know what they mean. However, the danger in those types of statements is that the focus is not on Christ. If we’re not careful, we’ll try to do the things that they are doing in order to strengthen our faith instead of pursuing Christ which is the object of our faith. So, Jesus is telling the apostles that their faith needs to be alive and thriving in Him.
Let’s read v. 6 again and notice how Jesus uses the mustard seed:
Luke 17:6 (NASB) – And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.
2. Unforgiveness has consequences
Since Jesus instructed the apostles to forgive and forgive and forgive, He knew that their natural bent is not to forgive. Unforgiveness is a big deal. If allowed to continue, unforgiveness has very detrimental consequences. Unforgiveness impacts our fellowship with Christ. Unforgiveness produces fruits of bitterness. Unforgiveness produces fruits of revenge. Unforgiveness impacts our relationship with others.
Jesus said “if you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to ‘this’ mulberry tree, meaning that they were located next to one of these trees. Using the sycamine or mulberry tree is an interesting object lesson for Jesus, one that I don’t think is a coincidence. With the context of unforgiveness and bitterness, let’s take a look at the characteristics of the mulberry tree. See if you can pick up on some similarities between this tree and that of sin and unforgiveness:
The mulberry tree thrived in dry, barren and arid conditions.
In those dry conditions, it would grow into a large tree, over 30′ tall
These trees were fast-growing and virtually impossible to kill. If you tried to just “cut it down”, it would grow back.
But here’s where Jesus’ analogy begins to “take root”. These trees had a strong and sophisticated root structure. The roots were said to go down between 60-100′ and could survive for over 600 years.
These trees produced a very bitter fruit.
When Jesus used the mulberry tree as a comparison, He was letting the apostles know that their faith in Him was sufficient for overcoming what seemed impossible. This “uprooting” means to get down to the very core of the bitterness and unforgiveness and totally destroy it, like casting the immovable tree into the ocean. Through faith, there is forgiveness.
3. Forgiveness leads to restoration
Once forgiveness has taken place, restoration, fellowship and unity will be restored, not only within the body of Christ, but also with Christ.
John MacArthur said “Forgiveness demonstrates our relationship with God. Forgiveness is the most God-like act a person can do. Never are you more like God than when you forgive.”
So you’re probably asking at this point, what does this message have to do with the title “It’s Moving Day?” Well, maybe some of us here today need to move. Maybe some of us here today have been storing stuff up and we should instead be letting stuff go. Maybe some of us here today have sinned against someone else and we need to seek repentance and forgiveness from them. Maybe someone is here today has sinned against you and you need to confront them to begin that restoration process but you’ve been putting that off hoping it will just “go away”. Scripture is very clear on unforgiveness within the body of Christ. Do you need to “move” toward forgiveness and reconciliation?
But maybe there’s someone here today and the moving that needs to happen in your life is to move toward Christ.
Christ left His throne in Heaven and came to earth as a perfect baby. As we read earlier, we are all born into sin and nothing that we can do can solve that problem. Nothing that we can do can remove that sin from us. Just like that mulberry tree, sin comes right back. It cannot be killed or destroyed. Christ came, He paid the sacrifice and the penalty of sin which is death. He went to the cross and died a cruel, painful death as the atoning sacrifice. The once and for all payment for that sin. We don’t have to pay that penalty; Christ paid that penalty. He demonstrated His power over the grave through His resurrection. He lives today, interceding on our path with God the Father. But you see, there is something that we have to do. We have to place our faith and trust in Him as Lord and Savior. We have to admit that we are a sinner, separated by our sin and we are in need of a Savior and that is Jesus Christ. And placing our faith in Him and believing in who Jesus is, and that Jesus paid that penalty on the cross, we can be restored with Him and we are child of His at that point in time. That doesn’t mean that we are perfect. That doesn’t mean that we are going to get it right all the time, but it does mean that we are held securely in His hands.
Two final things about the mulberry tree that I want you to leave you with in regards to bitterness and unforgiveness:
These trees were only pollinated by the repetitive stinging of a wasp. They could only service by the sting.
The primary use of these trees was in making coffins. You couldn’t kill the trees, but the trees literally carried death.
When we move, the things that are most valuable to us are often wrapped up tightly to protect it so that it will not get broken. Once we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior and enter into that personal relationship, He is enough. He has wrapped us up tightly through His Son Jesus Christ, we are securely held in His hands and we are not moving alone.
We are on this earth but for just a very, very brief period of time and then we die. When I die there will be boxes to throw away and closets to clean and life will continue on. Life is too short and the responsibility of sharing the Gospel too great to live in a state of bitterness and unforgiveness. The British Missionary from the 1800’s, C.T. Studd said, “Only one life to live, will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” Let’s not waste our brief moments here on earth living in unforgiveness and bitterness. Let’s come together, demonstrate the love of Christ, and make much of His Name as we serve in unity and share the Gospel. Folks, It’s Moving Day! It’s time to get moving.
Most gracious God, I just thank You for Your Holy Spirit. I pray that it will convict us and make us uncomfortable if there are issues that we need to resolve. Dear God, I just thank You that through Your Son Jesus Christ, who paid the penalty of sin on the cross with His very life, I thank You that a way was made for redemption and restoration. Dear God, I thank You for bring those hear today that You have brought. You have brought each of them here for a very specific purpose. Dear God, I thank You for convicting me as I prepared this message of areas that I need to get moving in. I pray today that we don’t leave before moving in the proper directions. For it’s in Christ’s Name that we pray all of these things, Amen.