Luke 6.46-49, Matthew 7.24-27
Luke takes us on the road with Jesus where we encounter Jesus offering a sermon to the crowds (Luke 6.17-49). This text in Luke reflects on Jesus’ ministry between the choosing and sending of the 12 Disciples. Jesus has been making disciples for sometime now. At this time he chooses a few – 12 in number – to be set apart for more intentional relational preparation. Jesus lived his life in such a way that just participation in his life prepared the disciples to become more like him.
Luke brings forth the instructions of the heart. This section is comprised of a collection of 5 teachings – blessings and woes (20-26), love for enemies (27-36), judging and condemnation (37-42), integrity (43-45), and practicing what is heard (46-49). In these teachings Jesus is making a statement about the inside reality of the Kingdom of God. There’s a line drawn in the sand between right and wrong. These texts draw us out into the deeper waters of discipleship.
The “sermon on the plain” guides us to deeper reflection on our heart condition. You’ve heard the saying, “What’s in your wallet?” But today we have to ask ourselves, “What’s in your heart?” Verse 6.45 states, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of…” Jesus draws the map for right living revealing the hearts deepest secrets that perhaps we are even unaware of in ourselves. With the Holy Spirit as our guide and our help we can lay open our hearts before God inviting God himself to show us the places in ourselves that we cannot even admit to ourselves.
Those who are storm ready…
These folks are in alignment with the Son of Man. They love their enemies unconditionally. They come near to Jesus, hear what he has to say, and put those words into practice. Their foundation is secure and they can withstand the expected and unexpected storms of life. They are the poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, insulted, rejected, and victims. They do good to those who hate, curse, or mistreat them. When they are slapped, they do not reciprocate, retaliate, or act like our enemies. When someone takes from them, they offer even more. They show kindness to a fault to the ungrateful and the wicked. They do not judge or condemn but forgive freely and abundantly. And, when God lets people off the hook with his loving kindness – they do too! These folks are good trees with good fruit. Good comes from a good heart filled with integrity, authenticity, and truth-telling. Their mouth speaks what the heart is full of… goodness because their words and deeds are inseparable.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” …“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Matthew 7.24, 26
The verbs in Luke’s parable help us to understand that Jesus is talking about a continual putting into practice. We need to hear, to listen to, to hear and obey continually (46, 47). We need to show up and to build a foundation by digging deep and shoring up (48). Otherwise, we will fall together in disrepair. We find ourselves breaking up, ruined, and collapsing (49). When we are not storm ready we find our foundation ruptured, a breech.
“Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” Luke 6.46
When we hear Jesus words, we are called to remember our first love – Jesus Christ. The invitation comes to us from God to be in a loving relationship with him – not for saving ourselves from condemnation but saving ourselves to love God and neighbor. Have you lost your first love?
“Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen. Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2.4
The imagery of a circumcised heart is surely unusual for us to grasp. Biblically speaking, circumcision is a mark in the flesh that sets God’s people apart from others. It seems that the love of God was John Wesley’s one hit wonder. The mark of a Methodist is the unconditional love of God and neighbor shed abroad in the heart. This love is freely flowing without regard to the others feelings. This kind of love rests in the lover not the beloved. Our first response to God is to receive his love. Just as a little baby can do nothing but receive love, so that is our plight.
John Wesley spoke this way about the condition of the heart:
This is the way wherein those children of God once walked who being dead still speak to us: Desire not to live, but to praise His name. Let all your thoughts, words and works tend to His glory. Let your soul be filled with so entire a love to Him that you may love nothing but for His sake. Have a pure intention of heart, a steadfast regard to His glory in all our actions. For then, and not till then, is that mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus when in every motion of our heart, in every word of our tongue, in every work of our hands, we pursue nothing but in relation to Him, and in subordination to His pleasure when we too neither think, nor speak, nor act to fulfill our own will but the will of Him that sent us – when whether we eat or drink or whatever we do we do it all to the glory of God.
A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, 13
Our foundational strength is a matter of our hearts’ condition. Hubris is our foe, but humility becomes our friend. An undivided heart means a cleansed mind, soul, body, and spirit from sin. Whole-hearted affection toward God requires humility, faith, hope, and love for neighbor. What makes a good person is that they can self-reflect and own their weakness. Humility is correct judgment of one’s self. It frees us from opinions about our own abilities and attainments. Humility cuts away the self-centered thoughts of self-preservation and survival. Humility convinces us of our inadequacies within this fleshly body prone to wandering from God. Within our self we understand that we are not capable of any goodness apart from God’s help.
Faith rises as our self-assurance recedes. Holiness of heart and life comes when we embrace faith that affirms the revelation of love in our hearts for Christ Jesus. It is this divine love with its blessed assurance that comes to us free and unmerited. It is through this divine love exchange that we have complete assurance and confidence of God’s pardoning grace. We receive this divine love and our faith grows and blossoms into joyful obedience. The eyes of our hearts open when the Holy Spirit enlightens us about the hope of our salvation unto everlasting life. Humility leads us to understand that apart from the Holy Spirit, we add insult to injury with sin upon sin. It is God’s work within us that can free us from sin and death. It is impossible for you and I to successfully walk away from sin in our lives without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Having our eyes wide open to our condition helps us to become cleansed of our vanity and pride. Through faith we may see our human selves as we truly are –filled with prejudices, obstacles, customs, habits, rules, fantasies, and arguments. By faith we can relinquish the false self and rise to a cause beyond ourselves – the cause of Christ Jesus the Savior of the World. Through faith we are delivered from the yoke of sin.
We hope in the unseen reality beyond our senses. Christians are to be governed by the desire, plan, thought, action, and behavior of the One who has entered into the most holy place. No foundation can be laid apart from Christ who sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. We endure hardships fortified in our faith, purified in our intentions, and conformed to the likeness of Christ through self-denial. We can no longer expect to receive God’s approval lest we renounce senses, appetites, and passions. We make God our life’s goal. A repentant soul is one who understands that the mind is set at odds with God which can only be recanted by the holiness of the indwelling Spirit. Apart from the Spirit no one can be saved or deemed. Let us enter into the narrow way to salvation.
In many ways leading with humility rather than hubris is leading from one’s weakness rather than strength. And, in many ways communion reminds us that we cannot do the work of Jesus within ourselves. We must humbly come before the cross, accepting the way to God’s heart is through obedience.
…So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 1 Corinthians 11.23-34
Through communion we have the opportunity to experience God’s love, rather than simply learning about God’s love. At an early age we experience God through participating in the life of the church. We make meaning of our experiences through our senses. Since we cannot experience God through our senses, the Lord’s Supper may become a safe place for us to experience God’s unconditional love and belonging in the faith community.