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Sermons

Secure in God

November 15, 2020 Speaker: Jeff Breeding Series: The Gospel according to Luke

Passage: Luke 12:22–12:34

Secure in God

Twenty-first century culture values few things more than security. If you look around at our hyper-connected world, you’ll see the quest for security playing out in numerous and surprising ways. We have more tools than ever to create financial security – more investment tools, more banking access, more markets to create wealth. We have a greater focus on relational security – more counseling, more personal wellness, more ways to understand your personality so you can better relate to others. We even have a large and growing market for information security – LifeLock, Identity Guard, Identity Force. Life happens in the cloud, as they say, so we’ve got to keep our information secure. Those are just a few examples, but I think that’s enough to make my point. Of all the values we prize in our world, security, in various forms, is near the top.

But here’s the surprising thing. Our efforts at securing our lives don’t seem to be paying off. People today report much higher levels of anxiety than in previous decades. Chronic stress is now classified as a leading cause of death, as well as a leading cause of other things that lead to death. Our constant state of connection is not making us more informed; it’s making us more worried about things we can’t control. Do you see the confusion that grips our culture in this area? On the one hand, we’ve got more tools designed to secure our lives, but on the other hand, we’ve never felt less secure. Ours is an anxious age. We can back up our digital data, but we can’t seem to secure our anxious hearts. That’s the experience of many people – including many of us – in this world.

So, where do we turn as people living in an anxious age? Where can we find the security we need, but without the resulting worry that grips so much of life today? Thankfully, we can turn to our passage of Scripture in Luke 12, where we find Jesus speaking to precisely these issues with his disciples. Written nearly 2000 years ago, this passage is tailor-made for our anxious age. And here’s why. With great wisdom, Jesus reminds us that security flows not from our circumstances, but from our view of God. This is really the key takeaway of the text. Our innate desire for security is not wrong. It’s a reflection of our status as creatures – we’re made to be dependent on something. And that means our quest for security is telling us we were made for God. But that is exactly where we often lose our way. We tend to think security is a result of circumstances, but in reality, security has little to do with what you have or what you can prevent. Security, properly defined, flows from your view of God.

And so, that is what Jesus gives his disciples in this passage. He gives them the framework, so to speak, for building a secure life. But it’s a different kind of security – not rooted in things or accident prevention, but security that is rooted in God. And in that sense, brothers and sisters, there is hardly a more fitting passage for our anxious age.

Now, before we look at how Jesus builds this framework, we should briefly note where this passage comes in the course of Luke’s Gospel. Today’s text is the outworking of where we ended last week. Look back at v21, where Jesus warned against the folly of laying up treasure on earth and not being rich toward God. Today’s text picks up at that point. Here, Jesus shows us how to be rich toward God, which is the same as saying Jesus shows us how security is found not in circumstances or stuff, but in God.

In terms of an outline, then, we’re going to focus on three exhortations from Jesus, which taken together, serve as an anchor for our hearts in the midst of an anxious age.

 

Rest in the Father’s Character

The first exhortation is foundational, and it comes in vv22-28. Jesus tells us to Rest in the Father’s Character. Jesus begins with a straightforward command, v22 – “And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.’” Right away, Jesus gives this clear command – don’t worry about what you will eat and what you will wear. The idea here is to not allow such things dominate your life. Don’t spend all your time fretting about basic provisions. In fact, Jesus solidifies the command with an equally clear reason, v23 – “for life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” So, Jesus says, if you spend all your time worrying about food and clothing, you miss out on life. You miss the bigger purpose of existence. Life is more than food and clothing.

Now, if we’re honest, we’re probably anticipating the objection that many of Jesus’ disciples had at this point. It’s the same objection that some of us have right now. Yes, life is more than food and clothing, but life is not less than those things, right? You need food to live. Without clothing, you’ll die from exposure. So, you can imagine Jesus’ disciples thinking to themselves, “Sure, life is more than food and clothing, Jesus, but it’s not less than those things.” So, how in the world are we supposed to follow Jesus’ command? V22 is very clear – don’t worry about this stuff. But realistically, how can Jesus expect us to follow that command? How do you live without worrying about the stuff that makes living possible?

Notice where Jesus goes in vv24-28. He goes to the character of God. This is the power of Jesus’ teaching. Considering the scope of his command in v22, Jesus knows that the only thing big enough to free us from anxiety is God. It’s the character of God that provides the security we need for life. So, Jesus gives a series of illustrations, vv24-28, and each one is designed to focus the disciples’ attention on some aspect of who God is and who they are in relationship to him. Let’s notice how Jesus does it. Notice the different aspects of God that Jesus highlights, and how these truths relate to the disciples.

First of all, Jesus points the disciples to God’s care. Look at v24 – “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouses nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!”  Birds are a small part of God’s creation, and yet, they don’t worry themselves about daily provisions. In fact, birds have no ability to build up the kind of secure lifestyle that so many people chase. You won’t find birds building big barns or amassing portfolios of financial security. But that is Jesus’ point. Despite their small position, God cares for the birds. He provides what they need.

Jesus point, then, is expressed in that powerful rhetorical question – “Of how much more value are you than the birds?” The answer is much more. And the proof is right there before our eyes. That’s the brilliance of Jesus’ point. Every time you look out your living room window and see a cardinal or a robin feeding in the yard, you’re witnessing a reminder of God’s care for his people. If God feeds the ravens, then he will feed you.

Next, Jesus points the disciples to God’s sovereignty. Look at vv25-26, and notice how Jesus draws this out – “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If you then are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Jesus uses an absurdity to help us think clearly. No one in their right mind believes that worry actually extends their lives. That’s why we worry – because we know we’re not in control, and we want to be! So, you can worry all you want, but you won’t live a minute longer. Why not? Because the number of our days is not our responsibility. Our lives are in God’s hands, and according to his sovereign will, the number of our days is established. Because God is sovereign, you won’t live one day too short or one day too long.

So, if we can’t extend our lives even by one hour, then why worry about today’s provisions? If we can’t upend God’s sovereign will, why do we fret that some unforeseen circumstance will keep God from giving us what we need? Do you see the reasoning? It’s the application of God’s sovereignty, which is a massive theological truth, to the everyday stuff of life.

Finally, Jesus points the disciples to God’s sufficient provision. Again, it’s an illustration from nature, this time focusing on flowers, vv27-28 – “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed life one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive the field today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” Flowers, according to Jesus, are arrayed in glory, more glory than the most resplendent king in history, more than Solomon himself. And yet, flowers are still nothing but grass. They’re here today in splendor, but tomorrow they’re fuel for the fire.

So, if God is committed to clothing even flowers in such temporary splendor, how much more will clothe his children in what they need for life? Again, notice how Jesus puts the truth right there before our eyes in everyday life. The flower that grows up in your garden, it’s not just a flower. It’s a daily reminder that God will provide what his people need.

God’s care, God’s sovereignty, God’s provision. How can Jesus’ disciples live without worry? Only by anchoring their hearts in the character of God. This is incredibly important, brothers and sisters, for living the Christian life, so I want to linger on this for a moment. Note the simple but powerful strategy Jesus employs. What is doing here? He is taking truths about God and then using those truths as the lenses through which we see the world. He’s looking at the everyday stuff of life – birds and flowers and the passage of time – and then he’s saying, “Think of what this means about God and your relationship to him.” In fact, notice how Jesus says “Consider” in vv24 and 27. The idea is to look at something in a reflective way, to think about it, to turn it over in your mind and consider how it relates to life. That is the doing of theology. That’s the application of truth to life. In other words, Jesus is reminding us that trusting God doesn’t happen by accident. Turning away from an anxious heart is not something you stumble into. No, this kind of confidence in the Lord is cultivated. It’s built up as we see the world through the lens of what God says about himself.

Think about how different this is from the way we typically approach the Christian life. We tend to read verses like v22, where Jesus says “don’t be anxious,” and we reduce the command to little more than a bare prohibition – Just stop worrying. Quit being anxious. Just stop it. But that’s not at all how Jesus approaches it. Jesus doesn’t simply say, “Stop doing that.” He gives the command, but he also then gives the truth that enables us to obey. What’s more, he does so in a way that fits with world in which we live. The illustrations Jesus uses are so simple a child can understand them. It’s not abstract or obtuse. It’s simply the character of God laid over everyday life. That’s the doing of theology. Or to say it another way, that’s walking by faith. This is why Jesus includes the rebuke in v28 – O, you of little faith. He’s calling the disciples to what they’re lacking – trust in the character of God.

All of that to say, brothers and sisters, this is how faith takes root and is worked out in the Christian life. This is how we escape the grip of our anxious age and live each day with confidence as believers. It’s only by considering God’s character, embracing who he is and then laying that truth over our lives so that faith takes root.

So, I’ve said it before, and I want to encourage you again. Time spent knowing God is never wasted. The character of God is the seedbed of faith in the Christian’s life. Aim to know God – his character and his purposes, his promises and his ways. Aim to know him through his Word. That time spent knowing God is never wasted, but on the contrary, it leads to faith.

 

Pursue Kingdom’s Priorities

So, that is Jesus’ first exhortation – Rest in the Father’s character. The second continues with a similar theme, and it comes in vv29-32. Jesus commands his disciples Pursue the Kingdom’s Priorities. Jesus repeats the prohibition against worry in v29 – “And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.” As with v22, Jesus is not saying things like food and shelter are unimportant. Rather, Jesus calls his disciples to not be overly focused on such things. Don’t be frantic in chasing after all the stuff the world chases. So, it’s very similar to v22.

And v30 is also similar to the illustrations that Jesus gave a moment ago. Look at v30 – “For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.” A worldly heart is anxious solely for earthly things, but the disciple’s heart is confident in the character of God. Again, the truth of who God is makes all the difference in how you live.

But starting in v31, Jesus gives the alternative to being anxious. If we’re not to worry about daily provision, then what should we spend our energy doing? Jesus tells us, v31 – “Instead, seek the kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” So, that is the disciple’s calling – to seek after, to purposefully pursue the priorities of the kingdom. Now, what exactly does that look like? How do we, as followers of Christ, carry out that pursuit? Here are a few points of emphasis that can equip us to follow this command.

First of all, we should remember that the kingdom of God is the redemptive rule of Christ over all the earth. This rule begins in the hearts of those who come to faith in Christ, and it extends through the spread of the gospel. One day, this kingdom will be realized finally and fully in the new creation, as God’s King, Jesus Christ, reigns over a renewed world. But for now, this kingdom is a spiritual reality that comes about through the gospel of Christ in the lives of his people.

And that helps us understand the most important application of pursuing the kingdom. To pursue the kingdom is to live out the rule of Christ in everyday life, cherishing what Christ calls good, upholding what Christ calls true, and displaying joyful submission to the lordship of Christ. That’s what it means for you, as a disciple of Christ, to pursue the kingdom.

This is why growing in godliness, serving the church, and loving your brothers and sisters in the faith are such important endeavors. It is in those pursuits that the kingdom of God is seen on the earth. In other words, brothers and sisters, your daily life as a Christian is about so much more than you. It’s about God’s kingdom in Christ being made visible on this earth. In fact, one of the reasons so many professing believers find the Christian life anemic, irrelevant, and boring is because their perspective is too small. They’re thinking only in terms of themselves, rather than thinking in terms of what God is doing in the church and in the world.

Perhaps that is a correction you need to hear this morning. Perhaps you’ve lost sight of the bigger vision for living each day as a Christian. To put it plainly, the Christian life is not primarily about you. It’s the divine calling to display Christ’s lordship to the world, through a life of obedience to God, commitment to the church, and service to others. So, if you want to invigorate your Christian life, perhaps begin by lifting your gaze to see God’s perspective on living as a follower of Christ.

Along with Christ’s lordship in our lives, the other aspect of pursuing the kingdom involves seeing Christ’s rule spread to those who do not yet know him. To pursue the kingdom is to proclaim the gospel, to evangelize the lost, to engage the world with the reality that all things are from Christ, through Christ, and for Christ. It is to call sinners to repentance and faith through the gospel of the kingdom.

Brothers and Sisters, is that kind of outward-looking perspective true of our church? Is it true of your life? Is it true of mine? Beginning in our own homes and then working outward through the different spheres of life, we should be people who are quick to speak of Christ and his redemptive work. Do you pray for open doors to speak of Christ? Do you pray for boldness to take those opportunities? Are you equipped with the truth of the gospel to such a depth that you could engage in that ministry – to pursue the kingdom in this way? If not, reach out to fellow believer. Reach out to a pastor, and let’s pray for God to make us an outward-looking, kingdom-pursuing church. This is part of how we anchor our souls in Christ – by living, each day, not in the grip of anxiety over circumstances, but in the confidence that our days are in God’s hand.

Now, these are big pursuits – to think of daily life as the expression of Christ’s lordship, and to see life as the arena where we strive to make Christ known. Those are big pursuits, so to encourage us in these things, notice what Jesus says in v32. This is a sweet promise for disciples, v32 – “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” This is the kindness of our heavenly Father. What Jesus tells us to pursue, the Father is eager to give. When we pursue the kingdom, by faith, the Father’s delight is to give us the kingdom with joy.. That phrase good pleasure is so rich. We don’t have to twist the Father’s arm to help us as we pursue the kingdom. No, it’s just the opposite. The Father is eager to help his children display the lordship of Christ. The Father delights to pour into his children the very thing he calls them to seek.

What a kind heavenly Father we serve. And what a blessing it is to pursue his kingdom. And it all happens, brothers and sister, under the watchful care of Jesus Christ. We are his little flock, and he is the Good Shepherd. So, take heart, church. When the pursuit of Christ and his kingdom seems like nothing but uphill, remember that the Father delights to answer those who seek him.

 

Rest in the Father’s Care

And so, we come to the final exhortation of the passage, the final instruction for how to find our security in God. We’ve considered the call to Rest in the Father’s Care. We just looked at the call to Pursue the Kingdom’s Priorities. And finally, vv33-34, Christ calls us to Invest in Heavenly Treasure. V33 makes it clear that the disciple’s security is not found in things of this world, but in the unshakeable realities of heaven. Notice Jesus’ command, v33 – “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide for yourselves moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.”

Now, the logic of this command flows entirely from what Jesus just said in v32. Since the Father promises to give his children the kingdom, we can, in response, give generously to others in this world. This is key. This kind of generosity is the overflow of a heart that is rich toward God. That’s what Jesus means when he talks about moneybags that do not grow old. He’s talking about treasure in heaven, which is secure beyond any threat. Since nothing can threaten my greatest possession, I don’t have to fear the loss of my earthly status. I can actually give generously without worry. I can experience freedom from the grip of materialism – all because I know that, as a Christian, I have a greater and more enduring treasure in Christ.

You may have heard the saying before that someone can be so heavenly-minded, he’s of no earthly good. You may have heard that cliché. But Jesus shows us here how wrong that cliché truly is. A Christian does the greatest earthly good when he is the most heavenly minded. When I invest all my hope in things above, then I am free from holding on to the things below. To say it another way, an investment in heavenly treasure produces an earthly return – generosity, love for neighbor, and a commitment to glorifying Christ with all that I have.

And so, Jesus sums this principle up in v34 – “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” You live for what you treasure. What’s more, you are shaped by what you treasure. So, when our lives are marked by anxious worry over the things of this world, it often reveals that we have our treasure in the wrong place. But when we seek the things above, where Christ is, we find freedom in this life to live for Christ and for the good of others. This is why Jesus spends so much time on anxiety and worry. He’s not merely advocating better mental habits that produce a higher quality of life. No, it’s much more important than that. Jesus is aiming to free us from the love of this world, so that we are able to love God and others more than ourselves. Secure in God, we are free to live for Christ and for his kingdom.

But brothers and sisters, it begins with what we treasure. In fact, this is why our church’s mission statement begins where it does – with treasuring God’s glory in Christ. You live for what you treasure, and what you treasure shapes how you live. The great problem with an anxious, fretful heart is that it causes us to live for the things of this world. Gripped with fear that we will not have enough, we spend most of our days living for things that cannot provide the security we seek. But in his grace, God provides freedom. By resting in his character, we can live free from the anxious fear of not having what we need. By pursuing his kingdom, we can escape the insatiable quest for more. And by investing all that we have in heavenly treasure, we are free to live generous lives of love toward God and neighbor. All of that begins with what we treasure.

If your life is riddled with fretful, anxious fear, ask God, by his grace, to lift your gaze up from this world, and fix it on him, the Great Treasure of your soul. Ask the Lord, by his Spirit and through his Word, to open your eyes to see how rich a treasure we possess in Jesus Christ our Lord. Like so many other aspects of life, the presence of fear, worry, and anxiety is telling us something about our view of God. The security we seek cannot be found in earthly things. It can only be found in God the Father, who has given us his Son and sealed us with his Spirit, so that we might live for him.

So, may God enrich our hearts in him, brothers and sisters. And may the result be that our lives overflow with glad-hearted confidence that he is our Treasure. Amen.

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