Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

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How to Become Powerful

Luke 22:24-38

If you type in “self-help” in a search of Amazon.com you get 834,079 results. Over 834,000 books available on Amazon to help improve your life. The self-help industry is worth $11 billion dollars annually. People like James Arthur Ray, Les Brown, Ekhart Tolle, and Jack Canfield – now worth more than $25 million. Topping the list of the 10 richest self-help gurus Deepak Chopra at $80 million and the king of them all: Tony Robbins at $480 million. Why do we spend billions on books, seminars, and speakers like these? It’s because we aren’t satisfied with our lives as they are now.

For some it is the circumstances they are in. For others it is the result of choices they’ve made, or choices others have made for them. Sometimes it is things totally out of our control. At the core, we want satisfaction. Philosophers bring up the three main needs of the human: security, intimacy, and purpose. Lacks in any of these makes us feel less satisfied with life. We seek answers wherever we can get them. These self-help gurus seem so secure, purposeful, and relatable that we think they must have answers.

I hate to tell you but for the most part they are wrong and even when they are right it is because they truth is already out there in the gospel, but it has been repackaged and rebranded so that it is all but unrecognizable.

Five of the basic principles espoused by many of these self-help “experts” are as follows:

  • Take charge of your life – focusing on myself is the path to satisfaction
  • Love yourself first - you deserve the best so grab for all the gusto you can
  • What you feel is true, is true
  • Good is within you, if you can just coax it out
  • Helping others is a way to help myself

In short, life should be able health, wealth and happiness leading to what Maslow called “self-actualization.” I bring this up because the meta-narrative of Luke Chapter 22 verses 24 through 38 actually contains the secret sauce to security, intimacy and purpose in life. You don’t have to pay for it because the price has already been paid. But you do have to take it in totality. You can’t just cherry-pick what you like from it. In other words: the gospel comes as a package.

We’re looking at the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. In the last study we saw the final meal Jesus shared with His disciples, imparting to them the reality behind a feast they had celebrated their whole lives: Passover. Part of that new reality was that the Passover Lamb: Jesus Himself, was about to be betrayed and handed over to be sacrificed at the hands of the religious leaders and the Romans. That betrayal would come from Judas Iscariot, one of His chosen disciples, but really a devil in disguise.  

When Jesus announced that one among them would betray Him, they all argued about who it would be, which leads to where we pick up the main narrative, an argument not about who was the worst, but who was the best. This serves as a perfect segue for Jesus to reveal this hidden truth about finding real meaning in life.

24

I can just hear the disciples saying “I wouldn’t betray Jesus, I’m more loyal than you. I’m a better disciple than you!” The word “consider” in verse 24 means self-perception and how one desires to be perceived by others. It’s all about feeling good about ourselves and having respect and honor from others. Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t feel good about ourselves—the problem is we have a distorted view until we give ourselves over to Jesus. Not only does He gives us healing and a new life, He gives us a more accurate way to see ourselves and we can put ourselves in the proper order: not first, not on the throne, but subservient to the Master.

The idea of “greatest” comes from the Greek root mega for big, loud, important, and chief. The disciples were falling into the same trap as the religious leaders. But I really like what Jesus does here. Facing imminent arrest, torture, and crucifixion—Jesus teaches and demonstrates the wrong-way behavior and attitudes of the disciples and then teaches and will demonstrate the way God thinks and the way things work in His kingdom.

It revolves around power and authority. As we’ll see—and contrary to what you might have thought about this passage—power and authority are not bad. What matters is how you use them and what attitude you have about them.

25 – 30

Jesus uses the illustration of leaders in the world. He highlights two characteristics: domination and authority. They could be thought of as position and power. Position means I’m more important than you. Power means I can force you to do what I want. In this age, that’s what makes someone “great”.

Not so in God’s kingdom. Jesus says the “great” ones (from “mega”, the same word as used in verse 24) should be like the youngest. In Greek this word can mean “fresh” or “regenerated”. The one who is in a position of “leader” (those thought of as a leader or governor—someone in a position of authority) should be one who serves. That word “serve” is the same word where we get the word “deacon”. It means a household servant who “waited on” the master.

 So both in attitude and action—those in God’s kingdom act differently than those in this age. Leading isn’t commanding and the outcomes are not all focused on you getting what you want. Leading actually means taking the lower spot and seeing how you can benefit the lives others.

Philippians 2:3-7 (HCSB) Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. 4  Everyone should look out not ?only? for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5  Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, 6  who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. 7  Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.

This doesn’t mean you are less than. In fact, Jesus says that although He should be at the first place at the table—the Master—He in fact is serving His disciples and even the whole world by going to the cross.

These guys are indeed going to be “great” Jesus says in terms of both power and authority. They stuck with Him (as opposed to Judas who betrayed Him). In return for their loyalty they are not only invited to the table in God’s kingdom but given authority to judge the 12 tribes of Israel. This is hinted at in Revelation 4:4 where John sees a vision of 24 thrones and 24 elders—presumably the 12 apostles and 12 elders of Israel. “Judge” in this sense can mean the broader idea of ruling.

Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 6:2 says that we saints will judge the world. We too will have a place of authority and power in God’s kingdom. But we need to get our heads on straight about how that authority is to be used. Instead of self-serving, it is self-sacrificing. Instead of self-centered it is other-centered. This is the very definition of the core character of God: agape love.

So next, Jesus talks about how the current attitude from this age will be sifted out of the disciples.

31 – 34

This is actually an amazing set of verses for several reasons. The first thing that sticks out to me is that Satan, it seems, is always scanning for weaknesses and opportunities to hurt us. That’s kind of scary if you think about it. Secondly, notice that he had to ask permission to do his thing to Peter. If he had free reign, humanity would have destroyed itself long ago. But God puts a governor on Satan; allowing him only to do what the Father allows. This should give us great comfort. Because thirdly we see that though Satan has a purpose: to “sift” Peter like wheat—ouch!, God has a greater purpose—to bring about a realization in Peter (his weakness) and an action in Peter (trust in God) and a purpose for Peter (help others with the comfort he has been comforted with – 2 Corinthians 1).

This is true for us as well. Bad things will happen and God will allow Satan to do them to you, but He has an ultimate purpose which is self-revelation, strengthening, and sending out. Another way to put it is: God allows us to be broken, so He can build us in His image and bind us together with His purposes and His people to be stronger than we were.

Peter doesn’t know that yet. Peter is still in the human strength stage. The sifting is going to come precisely because Peter thinks he’s so strong, so powerful, and so good. He’s not any of those things and Jesus predicts that his bravado will come to nothing before the sun rises.

There’s no doubt that the trial they are all about to face will be tough, and Jesus tells them so next.

35 – 38

This harkens back to Luke 9:3 where Jesus sent His men on a short-term mission trip and told them not to prepare for a long journey—that everything they needed would be provided where they went.

Now it’s going to be different. They will have to fend for themselves and help and support each other because even as Satan wants to sift Peter, he has a similar hatred for all that belong to God and will stop at nothing to sift you too (Revelation 12:17). And Satan will inspire great hatred of those who belong to Jesus. Nearly all of the men present here will lose their lives because of it.

Now, this doesn’t mean that God has forsaken us. But perhaps Jesus’ point here is that you don’t need human accolades or human power and prestige to have real purpose in this world. With the Holy Spirit and your fellow brothers and sisters you can have everything you need.

The disciples took His word literally and produced a sword. “Stop it!” Jesus says. But in the next section Jesus will use that very sword, wielded by Peter, to show the futile nature of human strength when it comes to fulfilling God’s real purpose—which is to bring as many to salvation by belief and trust in Jesus as possible.

The part about being “counted among the outlaws” may refer to the fact that because Peter had a weapon, the police had probable cause to arrest them.

Conclusions

I want to come back to the principals of the new-age self-help gurus and provide what I think are real truths as revealed by Jesus.

Self-help truths Jesus truths
Take charge of your life – focusing on myself as the path to satisfaction Let Jesus have control, focusing on becoming like Him and entering into His family business as the true path to satisfaction
Love yourself first - you deserve the best so grab for all the gusto you can Love God first, but also love yourself enough to get on that path of finding your best self in His character
What I feel is true, is true What God says is true, what I feel is just what I feel
Good is within you, if you can just coax it out Good is found in God and is given to you by Him. Often it is revealed by sifting
Helping others is a way to help myself This is known as enlightened self-interest, but it is still self-interest. True agape love is other-centered, self-sacrificing affection

So in short—realize the human tendency to want power and authority to satisfy the needs of the flesh, die to self and cede authority over your values to God and let Him use whatever means He chooses to bring us to a place of dependency so that when true power and authority are given to us, we will know how to use it wisely. And though as Christians you have much authority and the power of God on your side, choose as Jesus did to serve rather than be served; to give your life to others even if it means you get hurt.

Creating that kind of a person is a process—a process that Peter had to go through and so do you. It’s a process of breaking, blessing, and giving out. We get “sifted”; we realize our lack because we fail; we turn to Him for our character, purpose, and strength; He in turn blesses us and gives us out in helping share the gospel to a world in desperate need. 

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