Luke 6:35-49 [Audio Link at Bottom]
Today we will continue on with Jesus’ great sermon in Luke Chapter 6. Last week I described this passage as being a sort of orientation for his disciples. Jesus has been gathering quite a following as he goes about ministering to the poor and oppressed and teaching all about the grace of God. As Jesus has had to narrow his focus to keep his mission always in front of himself, so now he orients his disciples around the same mission.
To sum up what we learned last week, Jesus re-oriented us around two major premises. These are basic to our Christian identity. You can’t miss these. If you can’t get the first, you won’t do the second.
- Jesus Re-Orients Us Toward the Source of True Happiness: True happiness is found only in and through our identification with Christ in His sufferings.
- Jesus Re-Orients Us Toward Radical Love for Others: this is nothing less than radical love, a radical reorientation of values. for we are not instructed to love only those who love us, but are to love our enemies, blessing them, praying for them. This love is extended not only in words and in secret (for I can bless someone and pray for someone in private) but it is to be openly and publicly extended to our enemies through actual acts of goodness and kindness. This is not theoretical, but actually requires us to seek out those who hate us, and do what we can to bless them and do to them what we wish that they would do to us. This takes action on our part. Finally, we are to give to others, yes, even our enemies, without asking for anything back in return.
As Jesus re-orients us to find our happiness in Him alone so that we can love our enemies, he goes on to remark that we will join him in His mission by doing two things. Part of our orientation is learning what we are to do.
- Gracefully Emulate the Father
- Humbly Participate in Jesus’ Mission
The first we actually spoke of a the end of last week:
Gracefully Emulate the Father (6:35-38)
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
We looked at this quite a bit last week, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time here this morning, but I want you to notice one thing quickly: what quality of the Father are we to emulate as we represent as disciples of Jesus, representing him to the world around us? Be merciful even as your Father is merciful. I am fascinated by what Jesus does here. This construction was well-known to the Jewish people from the book of Leviticus, but there it was stated “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” The people of God were to be known as a people set apart. It would have been shocking to hear Jesus change the most important word in such a well-known construction. Interestingly, this is not the only time Jesus changed the construction to serve his message. In his famous sermon on the mount in Matthew, Jesus is talking to people who would attempt to stand before God on the basis of their own righteousness. You want to stand before God in your own righteousness? “Be therefor must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Good luck with that. Here however, Jesus is talking to those he has healed, those he has saved, those he has forgiven, those who have come to him to find grace, much like many in this room have come to Jesus to find grace, how are we to emulate the Father? Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. We ought to be the least judgmental and condemning people in the room, because we have known that depths of the Father’s mercy and love that He has showered upon us in Christ. This is how we emulate the Father. This is attractive grace.
Humbly Participate in Jesus’ Mission (6:39-42)
He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
Here we have one of the most misapplied passages of Scripture, springing from the instruction to “judge not” from a few verses before and continuing into the removing of the log out of our own eyes. This passage is misapplied when it assumes that any Christian instruction is by its very definition judgement and hypocrisy. So a Christian brother or sister confronts us in sin - we don’t like that so we strike back - judge not! What is missed in this passage is that it assumes that Jesus’s disciples will lead others, teach and take specks out of other’ eyes. Read carefully. If you’re dealing out your opinions indiscriminately, you are like a blind man leading the blind. However, as we are trained by Jesus, our master teacher, we become like him so that we are no longer blind, but like him. Again, notice that yes though we are to remove the logs out of our own eyes, when we do, we will then be able to see clearly to take the specks out of our brother’s eye. Jesus is not telling us not to teach, lead, and disciple others, but that we are to do so carefully, humbly, with great introspection.
So we emulate the Father and we participate with Jesus in His mission, but again, grace comes before guidance. Radical love comes before humble instruction, but is never completely severed from it. Joshua Harris’ Humble Orthodoxy: Harris lays out two alternatives to humble orthodoxy. The first is arrogant orthodoxy, where our doctrine is correct but we are unkind and unloving, where we are self-righteous and spiteful in our words, attitudes and behaviors. The other alternative is humble heterodoxy where a person abandons orthodox Christianity but does it very nicely. Christian orthodoxy should be humbling because of the content of the gospel. We are sinners saved by grace.
So so far in Jesus’ orientation He’s re-oriented us our values toward happiness and radical love, he’s defined for us our function: we are to emulate Father and participate in Christ’s mission of grace and guidance. Finally, He gives us a little bit of guidance as to how we are do do these things. How do we emulate the Father and participate with Jesus in mission.
First, let me ask you a question: How do you approach the Christian life?
Again, just like last week, there are two premises and you can’t get the second without getting the first, though you need them both. To use orientation language -spatial language - we need to be re-oriented so we understand that Jesus is both in us and above us.
- Jesus is In Me: Transformation by the Internal Work of Christ
- Jesus is Above Me: Conformation to the External Words of Christ
Jesus is In Me: Transformation by the Internal Work of Christ (6:43-45)
For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Here Jesus speaks of the natural outflow of a rightly oriented heart. It’s connected to what he’s said before, when we emulate the Father, we produce fruit - do the works of the Father. He this is seen as an inside-out process. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good. When set in the context of scripture we understand that when Luke says “good person with good heart”, this is not something we come to have in and of ourselves, but that this is something God works in us through Christ.
John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Col. 1:27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Gal. 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Eph. 3:14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Jesus changes our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit so that we have a new nature which produces fruit.
Jesus is Above Me: Conformation to the External Words of Christ (Luke 6:46-49)
Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.
Yet almost in the same breath, Jesus paints our maturity as something external. Here is someone who calls Jesus, “Lord” but is not bearing fruit of obedience. Here the process is not as organic but of response, hearing Jesus’ words and doing them. Again, set in the broader context of scripture, we see that it is the word of God that requires a response in us.
1Th. 2:13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
Heb. 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
2Tim. 3:15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
So to Jesus, our spiritual maturity and effectiveness to bear fruit comes from internal and external processes. There is an inside-out process going on even as there is an outside-in response. Our orientation: Jesus is in me, Jesus is above me.
How can this be: the internal life and the external obedience seem like two separate ways to us, at times it seems like there are almost two separate Christianities. One focuses on the inside out, one on the outside in. How do we reconcile the two ways:
- Notice that the bible holds both in perfect harmony: Phil. 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
- Second, I think that it is helpful to contrast the process Jesus is talking to with the another inside-outside process - temptation. We are tempted when our inner desires are awakened and lured away by external stimuli. So I had an inward orientation in my heart, a proclivity toward sin, so when the opportunity to sin comes calling, I am enticed and dragged away. So temptation is both inward and outward. How do I fight temptation? I both have to shore up my inner resources, set my heart on things above, renew my mind, pray that God would captivate and dwell richly in my heart, yet I also must be wise unto righteousness and avoid sin, cut off opportunities to sin, as Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead me not into temptation.” That’s temptation. No let’s compare that to faith and righteousness. I think what Jesus is saying here is that, through faith in him, he are reoriented, our heart’s have a new orientation, so that we in fact are able to produce good fruit. Yet again their is an external process but in this case the external stimuli is the word of Christ, the gospel. So in order to bear fruit and grow secure in your faith, feed on the word of God and respond in obedience, for this will stimulate your inner man unto righteousness.
Set another way, there are four types of people:
- Those whose inner inclination is toward evil, and reject the words of Christ. These are unbelievers and need to hear the gospel and for Christ to change their hearts.
- Those whose inner inclination has been reoriented in Christ, and whose lives are filed with the Word of Christ and marked by obedience. These are generally fruitful Christians who have a good grasp of the inner and outer life.
- Those whose hearts are either still yet unregenerate, or who have withered hearts, who yet still try to obey Christian teaching. The often have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. Religious people displaying outward morality yet decaying within. The answer to these people, often they try to add more obedience, more formality, more rules, but what they need is more inward attention to Christ. They need to experience the joy of their salvation. They need God to grant them a willing spirit to sustain them. (David prayed for both these things in Psalm 51). Christian, if this is you, you need to fall in love with your saviour again. Worship, cry out for the Holy Spirit to change you from within. Set aside the business of life and pray. Pray in the Spirit, sing in the Spirit. Repent and go back to your first love. Turn your eyes upn Jesus and look full in His wonderful face. Personal worship.
- The fourth type is Christians who believe that their inner life is in order, yet simply do not obey the words of Christ. They wrongly equate obedience with legalism, and in their false freedom they have turned the grace of God into a license to sin. They lie to themselves, God is ok with what I’m doing. Me and God, we’ve got an understanding. I’m a spiritual person, so I don’t worry about living my life according to outside rules. Yet there is no foundation in their life and thus they are in a very precarious position. These people need to see Jesus not only as within them, but above them. How can we call him Lord, yet not do what He says?