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Home For Middle Easterners God’s kingdom on show in Christ’s people [2] Text

God’s kingdom on show in Christ’s people [2] Text

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“God’s kingdom on show in Christ’s people” [2]

Luke 6:20-49

The old saying is that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. That’s certainly true for Jesus as he responds to a point of severe crisis in his ministry.

Luke frames this crisis in his biography of Jesus by highlighting two verses which act like brackets to this section. First, Luke 4:15, Jesus at the start of his public ministry, enjoying incredible popularity as a fresh, compelling teacher.

Then some months later, Luke contrasts the situation in Luke 6:11 , with the Jewish religious leaders considering what action they should take to silence Jesus’ blasphemous teaching.

Between these two brackets Luke records nine separate incidents, arranged I believe, to show how this crisis has developed; what is at the heart of the crisis; and also to highlight the response of Jesus to the crisis.

In summary, the crisis arises as the Jewish religious leaders realise that what they taught about the coming Kingdom of God, a notion that was at the heart of Jewish belief and religion, was radically different to what they heard Jesus teaching.

Every Jew longed for the arrival of the Kingdom of God - when God would act to make clear once again his rule in the world, and at the same time restoring his people, the nation of Israel, into a strong, secure, free, and prosperous community as his special people.

At the start of his public ministry Luke 4:14-43 , Jesus stated that the reason he came into this world was to “Preach the good news of the Kingdom of God”: to make real that which the prophets like Isaiah had predicted – that God’s Messiah; God’s King would come and make clear once again God’s rule in his world.

Naturally the people warmed to Jesus when they heard him teaching with authority and freshness that the Kingdom of God had arrived.

But it quickly became obvious in the various incidents recorded by Luke that Jesus was claiming to be Messiah. Even more amazing Jesus claimed to be God, demonstrating his power over every aspect of life in a series of miraculous healings and confrontations.

And Jesus taught that his kingdom is a spiritual kingdom concerned with spiritual realities such as sin, repentance, salvation and new relationship with God. And he taught that his kingdom is focussed primarily on people – ordinary, sinful, hopeless, outcast people.

And Jesus shows himself to be busy at work establishing his kingdom by confronting such people; turning them around in their thinking, attitudes and circumstances, and gathering them into his kingdom or bringing them under his rule in new love and obedience.

The problem is that all this was radically different from how the Pharisees taught God’s people to think about and expect God’s kingdom to be like.

Over the years the Jewish religious leaders, had perverted their understanding of God’s covenant with Israel, arrogantly assuming that God’s kingdom was national Israel.

They had lost any sense of their dependence on God’s covenant grace and mercy for salvation, instead presuming that they could impress God with their goodness expressed in observing special days and doing special religious activities and rituals. This made them exclusive, focussed on thousands of hair-splitting rules, and unloving.

The crisis is really about how to be saved or how to become part of God’s kingdom. Jesus is clear that God’s kingdom is about repentance, mercy and grace and having correct heart attitude to God rather than about race and segregation and external rituals.

The Jewish religious leaders decided Jesus was wrong and would have to go. But Luke shows us Jesus’ response to this crisis in Luke 6:12-49, and it is to give a more concentrated teaching on what his Kingdom would be like.

Luke 6: 12-19, his kingdom would be like a radically reformed Israel, God’s true covenant community finding their security in vibrant relationship with God, and in whole-hearted obedience to his word, rather than in being the nation of Israel..

And Luke 6:20-49 Christ’s kingdom would have radically restated standards, seen in concern for right attitudes of repentance; expressed need of grace; and confidence in God’s mercy, rather than a focus on thousands of hair-splitting rules.

King Jesus demands that his people see as God sees (Luke 6:20-26). The rule of God in a person’s life is shown clearly when a person sees themselves as God sees them. The person who is blessed or favoured by God will have four clear characteristics or attitudes.

First, they will not trust in themselves or their own resources - knowing that apart from God’s mercy and grace and forgiveness, they cannot be in relationship with God.

Second, they will be spiritually hungry for personal relationship with God, recognising that only in such relationship will true satisfaction in life be found.

Third, they will be deeply concerned about sin, recognising that their sinful inclination deserves only condemnation because it robs God of honour and respect. Only if God forgives can there be renewed gladness and hope.

Fourth, they will suffer gladly in service of Jesus. Though hated, persecuted and killed like King Jesus, kingdom people will see things as God sees them and recognise that loyalty to Jesus is better than acceptance with the world.

The demands of King Jesus are clear. Acceptance in his kingdom is in trusting Jesus to do for you what you cannot ever do for yourself: securing forgiveness, healing from the disease of sin; new relationship and new hearts too live new lives of obedience to our king.

2. King Jesus demands that his people act as God acts (Luke 6:27-38). The progression in Jesus’ logic is very simple. Right thinking and attitudes are expressed in right behaviours. If we see ourselves properly before God, then we will act graciously to others.

The rule of God is shown clearly in a person’s life when they exhibit an aggressive, unconditional, practical love to those out ‘to get you’ (Luke 6:27-36).

Once again Jesus drops a bombshell. The Jewish religious leaders knew from the God’s law that he required his people to love their neighbour. But the Pharisees had carefully defined ‘neighbour’ in a very narrow way, with the understanding it was okay to hate everybody else.

The result was self-interested or responsive love reduced to being nice to those who are nice to you. But Jesus demands far more, verses Luke 6:27-31 : not just doing what was right according to their rules, but doing what was good according to God’s law.

Jesus demands considered, active, generosity and grace to those who are out to get you or who say terrible things about you; who mistreat you; who exploit your gentleness; who rob you of reputation or possessions. The only retaliation Jesus allows is that of prayer and generosity, and preparedness to be wronged.

Why? Because that type of unconditional, patient love reflects God’s character which continually shows mercy and grace and kindness to people who treat him badly. Such love proves the reality of family relationship with God. It shows the family likeness.

The rule of God is shown clearly in a person’s life when they exhibit an outrageously generous and open-hearted response to others (Luke 6:37-42).

Now we need to be careful here because Christians and non-Christians love to say, “do not judge me”, meaning do not question my behaviour or suggest it may be wrong or that I should change.

But that interpretation flies in the face of the rest of the Bible which does call for discerning assessment of behaviour, and it’s not what Jesus is getting at. Rather, once again it is the teaching of the Jewish religious leaders that Jesus is exposing, especially their judgemental, or self-righteous, or hyper-critical attitude towards others.

They were so convinced of their own goodness before God that they then became the censor of the actions of everybody else. In practical terms they were the good Jews and everybody else were either bad Jews, loosely called sinners as in verse 33, or gentiles, commonly called dogs

Jesus’ point is that a critical, judgemental, censorious person, who constantly finds fault in the lives of others, shows they do not understand God’s standard.

Even worse, verses Luke 6:39-40 , it shows how blind they are in that they claim to be leading God’s people in the ways of God, yet the end product in people is nothing like the character of God. In fact, Jesus wants everyone listening to realise it had been the blind leading the blind.

And their blindness would be absolutely laughable if it wasn’t so serious, verses Luke 6:41-43. Their self-righteous, critical attitude is far more offensive to the Lord, than the sins of others around them who they condemn so harshly.

Jesus demands his people do not measure themselves against other people, but against God’s standard of good and bad, a standard against which every person fails.

This in turn means we realise we are no better than others and this frees us to be generous in spirit and generous in practice to those around us as we deal with them. It is this attitude and approach that shows the kingdom family likeness.

3. King Jesus demands his people find security and salvation in him (Luke 6:43-49). We need to remember this is a sermon, and in these verses Jesus draws his argument to a conclusion, using picture language of two trees, and then urges those listening, especially his disciples, to respond accordingly with reference to the picture language of two foundations upon which people might build.

Two trees - The heart of the matter (Luke 6:43-45). Jesus conclusion is very simple, yet very hard hitting, using a very simple illustration from nature.

A tree is clearly identified both in its species and in its quality by the fruit that it produces. The tree with oranges on it is clearly an orange tree, and if the oranges are sweet and juicy, then it is a good orange tree.

In exactly the same way a person’s actions show or reveal conclusively the thinking and attitudes in their heart or innermost being. A person’s behaviour never makes their character it simply shows what their character is.

So, once again Jesus is warning those listening to beware of the teaching of the Jewish religious leaders. Their character and attitudes show them to be bad trees.

But Jesus’ conclusion is also aimed personally at everyone listening. He wants everyone to see that when measured against God’s standard, they are all bad trees. They all have bad hearts and bad attitudes.

He wants everyone individually to understand that the standards demanded by King Jesus in God’s kingdom are impossible for them to attain. A person cannot produce the right kind of fruit if they are the wrong kind of tree.

Jesus wants everyone to recognise that the overflow of their hearts expressed in words and actions are proof they are not good enough to be accepted by King Jesus. The only hope of producing fruit acceptable to Jesus is if somehow their bad hearts are renewed, if somehow they are reformed into the right kind of tree.

And with that apparently hopeless and despair causing conclusion, Jesus now moves to speak of two foundations - The end of the matter (Luke 6:46-49). The only way ahead for people, given the conclusion just drawn by Jesus is, verse 47, “to come to Jesus, hear his words, and put them into practice.”

But what does that mean? Simply put it was a challenge for all listening to be wise which means not building their hopes for salvation and acceptance with God on the foundations laid down by the Jewish religious leaders, but to build on the foundation laid down by Jesus.

Christian pastors often destroy the beauty of this verse by making the focus the builders rather than the foundations.

Jesus is making clear there are only two foundations upon which to build hope of salvation and acceptance with God and having a place in his kingdom.

Either it is the foundations of the Jewish religious leaders of race and personal goodness before God based on observing special days and doing special religious activities, and not doing any really bad things like other sinners

Or it is the foundation of obedience to King Jesus and his word which offers salvation and security to those who are not good, who know they could never achieve God’s standard for entry into his kingdom by their own efforts, who know that they desperately need forgiveness and mercy and grace if their sin is not to mean their condemnation.

People need to choose. In the illustration, both builders have knowledge, both know they need to build security for the future, but only one acts wisely by building on solid foundations.

And Luke has preserved this record so that you and I might be forced to make the same choice. Jesus, the great King of God’s Kingdom has issued the invitation to come under his rule and find the security of salvation – forgiveness, new relationship, and new hope of heaven forever.

Jesus also knows your blindness and instinctive preference for security and salvation that you manufacture yourself from a sense of your own goodness and effort. This appeals to us as people:

- it feels comfortable because we are doing things which control our destiny by what we do, as we do at every other point in life.

- it feels right because it makes sense to us that God would take good people to heaven, not bad people.

- it feels safe because we can look around and se that we are better than others at lots of points. We have not done the terrible things that others have done.

But Jesus says it is totally foolish and will lead to your destruction. But, the choice is still yours.

David Calderwood

 

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