I sometimes wonder, if Jesus would make a second visit to Earth to check up on us, what would He say to us? In re-reading today the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6), I imagine Jesus would want to do some course correction that would speak into our 7-day practical faith.
Usually I take one Bible verse as the core passage for these blogs, but today, I want to basically turn over my blog to Jesus to remind us of a few things very important to Him.
I'll quote from several passages from these two sermons. If there is a similar, corresponding text in the other sermon, I'll note it. Then I'll make brief comments on each passage.
Let's start our course correction with an overview from Jesus from Luke 6: 46-49 (Matthew 7: 24-27).
"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."
First, "Lord" means "master," so Jesus is saying, "You say that I'm in charge of you, that I'm your Master, but you don't put into practice what I teach you!" Second, Luke's version of building a house is different from Matthew's version, which focuses on site selection. Luke's focuses on the work (or the lack thereof) of digging into the ground to reach the rock that will steady the house. To follow Jesus, we've got to do some work!
Let's see what other work is ahead of us. Per Matthew 6: 19-21, we have to get our priorities straight.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
One of those priorities is our relationships. Jesus is so focused on relationships, and not just the relationships of the people we get along with, but with those "other people." We hear this in Luke 6: 27-35 (Matthew 5: 43-48 and 7: 12).
"But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other one also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be paid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."
Someone once told me, "Loving your enemies doesn't work in the real world." Well, tell that to Jesus! It's pretty clear that Jesus expects us to do a much better job of loving our enemies. One reason we don't get along with others is because we put ourselves in God's role and judge them rather than loving them, as in Matthew 7: 1-5 (Luke 6: 41-42).
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
One of the worst things that Jesus could call us is a hypocrite. We need to inspect our lives to remove the hypocrisy. We are comfortable with our sin, but we call out the sin of others. And we do this although we know that judgment and vengeance belong to God, not to us! Instead of judging others, we need to improve at forgiving them, as in Matthew 6: 14-15 (Luke 6: 37).
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
You think Halloween movies are frightening? This is frightening! We are not fully forgiven until we forgive others. Talk about work to do!
As I close this practical Christianity blog, I want to return once more to Jesus to remind us that we should not just follow Him with our words, but with our actions, as in Matthew 7: 21-23.
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will them them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' "
This might be the most frightening statement of this whole list. We may be accused of doing the wrong things in Christ's name! I fear this is one of the biggest problems of our era. WE select what WE think Jesus wants, or what someone has told us Jesus wants, and we make our stand based on that. Instead, I urge us all to study again Jesus' words in this blog and make sure THAT is what we are carrying out in the world!
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