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Jesus, Friend of Sinners: Welcome to Luke's Gospel

Dear Church Family,

After our ambitious fifteen-month excursion through the whole Bible, I am eager to dive into one book and soak in it until it permeates every pore of our life together. And I can especially identify with Phil Ryken’s introduction to his commentary on Luke. He said he was expounding Luke in order “to satisfy a growing hunger” that had been in his heart to preach all the way through one of the four Gospels. Those hunger pains have been churning inside me since the early months of our life together at New Covenant--so I am thrilled the time has finally arrived to satisfy that hunger!

In Luke’s Gospel, God is setting before us a vigorous spiritual workout and a sumptuous feast. Jesus is calling us into fellowship with himself, to walk as he walked, and to surrender our lives in total abandonment to his call. But we are assured that nothing we lose can compare to the treasure we gain in Him: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).

Here in this thorough and orderly account of Jesus’s life, teachings, death, and resurrection, Luke shines the spotlight on themes like these (taken from the ESV Study Bible):

• God’s sovereign rule over history, as promises God made through the prophets are already being fulfilled.
• The arrival and actual presence of the kingdom of God.
• The coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus and his followers.
• The great reversal that is taking place in the world, “in which the first are becoming last and the last are becoming first, the proud are being brought low and the humble are being exalted. Luke places great emphasis on God’s love for the poor, tax collectors, outcasts, sinners, women, Samaritans, and Gentiles. In keeping with this concern, many of the episodes that appear only in Luke’s Gospel feature the welcome of an outcast."
• How believers are to live a life of prayer and practice good stewardship with their possessions.
• The danger of riches, for the love of riches chokes out the seed of the gospel and keeps it from becoming fruitful.

We are going to take our time in this journey through Luke. The disciples walked with Jesus for three years, and even then they were slow of heart to understand and believe all that Jesus was telling them. So let’s not rush our way through this book, for there are treasures here that will repay our most diligent efforts to uncover.

Now that we have come to the end of our Bible reading program, you might wonder what to do next. Let me give a couple of suggestions of how you might read through Luke in the days and months ahead:

1. The full immersion method: For those who want to tackle a big challenge, why not read through Luke once a week over the next twenty-four weeks? That’s four chapters a day, six days a week. As you read Luke over and over again, you will find your mind and heart being shaped by this Gospel. You will grow familiar with Luke's lively melody line and settle into the steady rhythm of discipleship as you learn daily to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus.

2. The percolating method: For those who want to linger more meditatively on Luke, try reading a chapter a day, every day, over the next year. Chew on every word. Ponder each verse. Hear the tone of Jesus’s voice, and let your speech and conduct and mindset be transformed by the aroma and the flavor of Jesus’s life as you walk with him, every day, along the Calvary Road.

Maybe for you there is a third way. But however we do it, let’s dig in! May Luke capture our imaginations, purify our motivations, ignite our affections, and redirect our ambitions toward our Savior, the Friend of Sinners, who came to seek and to save us when we were lost (Luke 19:10).

To encourage you in this journey, listen to this quote that inspires me to read the Gospels more!

[We can] correct woolliness* of view as to what Christian commitment involves, by stressing the need for constant meditation on the four gospels, over and above the rest of our Bible reading: for gospel study enables us both to keep our Lord in clear view and to hold before our minds the relational frame of discipleship to him.

The doctrines on which our discipleship rests are clearest in the epistles, but the nature of discipleship itself is most vividly portrayed in the gospels.

Some Christians seem to prefer the epistles as if this were a mark of growing up spiritually; but really this attitude is a very bad sign, suggesting that we are more interested in theological notions than in fellowship with the Lord Jesus in person.

We should think, rather, of the theology of the epistles as preparing us to understand better the disciple relationship with Christ that is set forth in the gospels, and we should never let ourselves forget that the four gospels are, as has often and rightly been said, the most wonderful books on earth. —J. I. Packer, "Keep in Step with the Spirit: Finding Fullness in Our Walk with God" (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005), p. 70, 71.

Hungry to know Him better,
Pastor David Sunday

*For all our American readers, woolliness is a British expression meaning "fuzzy; unclear; disorganized."