Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursdays with Luke #21

A Sound Heart and a Solid Foundation

Luke 6:43-49

In v. 42 Jesus used the ugly and sad word “hypocrite.” Literally a hypocrite is an “actor,” someone who acts one way but in reality is another way. Jesus said that if someone was a professed disciple of his but persisted in judging others then he was a hypocrite. Such a so-called disciple claims to be a follower of Jesus but has clearly not made Jesus’ teachings a part of his or her life. It is akin to being an athlete who professes respect for and devotion to a coach but doesn’t follow the coach’s instructions. The lack of discipline reflects the truth: there is really a lack of devotion. Eventually the situation will catch up with the athlete and performance will suffer.

I said that the word hypocrite is ugly and sad. It is ugly because of what hypocrisy causes us to do to other people. Hypocrisy causes us to treat others with a lack of integrity. It causes us to treat them as less than human. It causes us to follow the dreadful practice of needing to think badly of others so we can think better of ourselves. Harsh judgmentalism does not want to help; it just wants to judge.

The word hypocrite is sad because of what hypocrisy causes us to do to ourselves. It causes us not to see ourselves as we really are. It causes us not to conduct the honest appraisals of ourselves that we need to do. And if we don’t see ourselves as we are and if we don’t do honest evaluations of ourselves we cannot make progress in the Christian life. What a shame it is to fail to make progress, to fail to become more and more Christ-like in our lives.

Jesus continues to treat this subject in vv. 43-49. In vv. 43-45 he makes the point that what you are will show. He makes the specific point that what you really are will show in what you say. Jesus may have in mind the harsh kind of judgmental words that he has just been teaching against. But his words have a more general application as well. What is in your heart will finally come out in your actions. We can perform actions that mask what is really in our hearts, of course; that brings us back to hypocrisy. Finally, though, the truth will tell. The true nature of one’s actions is conditioned by the motives that lie behind them and the motives lie in the heart. Having right motives and a good heart the possession of which lead to right actions will not come from trying harder. As the New Testament consistently demonstrates, right motives and a good heart come only from being in a personal relationship with God in his Son Jesus Christ.

Vv. 46-49 continue the discussion but also serve as a conclusion to the entire Sermon on the Plain. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you?” (v. 46). That may be the most pointed question in the entire Bible. “Jesus is Lord” is the basic Christian confession. “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). To have Christ as Savior is to have him as Lord. It is illogical to say he is your Lord and then not do what he tells you to do. That is why it behooves us to make his teachings an integral part of our lives. It’s a matter of having a strong foundation. If we come to him, hear his words, and live his words, then we will be like the person who built a house on a solid foundation and the rising river could not move it. If we come to him, hear his words, but do not live them, then when the river rises it will wash us away because we have no foundation. With the image of the rising river Jesus may have in mind the final judgment or he may have in mind the difficulties that come our way that test our lives. Either way (or both ways) the image is a very powerful one.

Remember this, though, because it is very important: everything is based on a personal relationship with God in Christ. Jesus is not offering a new and improved legalism. He is rather offering a new way of life. Everything emerges from our love for God. Because we love him and because we know that he loves us we know that his ways are best for us even if they are sometimes painful and costly. Christ is Lord because he loves us. We are inspired to follow his teachings by love: his for us and ours for him.

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