Posted by: lepages | August 11, 2010

On a Mission! (Part 2)

Only read on if you’re prepared to be challenged. I certainly am. These are my notes from my second preach in our teaching series ‘On a Mission’ at Rutland Road Church, Bedford. The audio of the preach isn’t yet available online as I post this, but I’m sure it will be online here before too long.

“On a mission – a right attitude for mission”

Luke 6:27-42

Today’s Bible reading begins with these words:-

“But I tell you who hear me….”

The New American Standard Bible puts it like this:-

“But I tell you who hear….”

and the Message puts it:-

“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this…”

So, are you ready for some truth?

I like the New American Standard Bible ‘But I tell you who hear’ – it brings the sense of not just hearing Jesus voice, hopefully you can all hear my voice, but of Jesus saying, ‘I tell you who hear what I am saying, who take it on board….’

Are you ready to hear what Jesus is saying, because its tough stuff.

Last week we saw how the apostles were called, and how they and all Jesus’ disciples (that includes us if we are his disciples) were told that the mission wasn’t always going to be easy.

Jesus then goes on to give the instructions we’ve had read in our reading – instructions for how to live our lives if we are going to demonstrate God’s upside down kingdom which has values which are so often the opposite of the generally excepted norms in our society.

Romans 12:2 says:-

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

God wants to renew our minds, to renew our way of thinking. As a Christian its not okay to go with what we think best or what we feel, we need to have our minds renewed, our thinking renewed, so that we think and act like Jesus – the result is that our lives, our values, our hopes and dreams, may well come to be different to those of others around us – if in truth you look at your life and think your values, hopes, dreams are not really any different to those of your non-Christian friends then you probably need to take a decision to see your mind, your way of thinking renewed….

William Hendrickson, in his commentary on Luke’s Gospel says this:-

‘Jesus wants his followers to be distinctive’

Jesus wants your life to be distinctive, to be different as a result of your faith in him, as a result of his presence in your life by his Holy Spirit, as a result of your giving your life to him as Lord of your life.

There’s loads of commands in this short passage of scripture.
Our heading for today is:-

– a right attitude for mission

These verses talk about what this means, in a way which for most of us is incredibly challenging. To help us work through these commands from Jesus, I’ve divided the passage into:-

4 Challenging steps to a Christ honouring life

I’m expecting that most of us will not sit comfortably with what we have to think about – if we truly ‘hear’ what Jesus is saying through these words we will feel challenged, and maybe we will have to have our lives, our hearts, our minds transformed as the Holy Spirit renews our minds and helps us not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world.

Okay, so the first of four challenging steps to a Christ honouring life, so that we have a right attitude for mission:-

1.Love your enemies v27-29

William Hendrickson makes a helpful comment again here. He said:-

“Love your enemies.” Jesus did not say ‘Like them,’ but ‘Love them’.

Love is an action that we can choose to take. Whether we ‘like’ someone or not is not something that we are able to choose to do. Jesus is not saying ‘fall in love with your enemy’ – he is talking about love in action – and he illustrates it with practical examples.

Jesus repeats the command to ‘love your enemies’ twice, because he knows that in truth, this can be hard to do.

We had a great time with the Resident’s Association Big Lunch street party in Western Street a couple of weeks ago. It brought together folk from a wide spectrum of the community, white Brits, Asians of various backgrounds – Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, members of the Black community – Africans and West Indians. Great stuff. The ‘interesting’ time was when some of the local residents who have alcohol and drug dependency issues wandered along and asked what was going on… they were invited to share in the food and proceeded to load their plates very well! A couple of folk had some difficulty with this! Meanwhile a couple of others chatted with them and asked if they’d tried this or that.

To many resident’s, those folk would have been the enemy, the sort of folk who cause difficulty for some resident’s, but some modelled what Jesus said about ‘loving your enemies’.

Jesus’ commands are hard aren’t they?!

V27,28
‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you.’

This is not something that we would naturally do! But it is something we can choose to do.

By nature as human beings we live in rebellion to God, and God would be justified in destroying us all completely. But he chooses not to do so. He chooses to love us, to love us who have lived in open rebellion to him, who have not obeyed his commands, who have rejected him so often in our lives. And he chooses to show his love by being willing to sacrifice his Son to deal with the problem of our rebellion against God. And he chooses to bless our lives.

God doesn’t call us to do anything he’s not prepared to do himself. He loved us when we lived as enemies to him, and he calls us to follow in his footsteps

v29
“If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.”

Jesus lived this out, he modelled it for us. When he was arrested, falsely accused, mocked, beaten and then crucified, he didn’t seek revenge, he didn’t seek to fight his way out of the situation, even though he could have called on the angels of heaven to come and set him free.

And after the beating and mocking, its recorded that the soldiers took his clothes and cast lots to see who would get what, especially one costly item which was of a better weave than the average.

As Jesus hung on the cross, he would have been justified in crying out ‘Father bring these people to justice for the evil they are doing to me’, but he didn’t he cried out, Luke 23:34 ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’

I guess for each one of us, loving our enemies is going to be worked out in different ways – it goes against the culture in our society of our rights, me first – and Jesus’ desire is that in his radically different Kingdom, we should choose to show love to all, not just those who love us back, not just those who its easy for us to choose to love, but to love and show love to those whom we would naturally see as our enemies. Jesus did it in the power of the Spirit, we need to do so too.

6-8 weeks ago, Paul showed a video clip of The Cross and the Switchblade, in which David Wilkerson chose to go and love Nicky Cruz and other violent gang members and so ultimately they had their lives transformed by the grace and love of God, encountered through this man sent to represent God.

Jesus says that we are called to do the same – to love our enemies.

He also says that we are to:-

2.Be incredibly generous v30-36

READ v30-35b
‘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 repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”

Interesting words aren’t they? How much do they ring true?

Spend some time with the street drinkers and you’ll soon see how they look out for one another – not that they won’t ever have an argument, particularly when they’ve had a big drinking session – but they do, they look out for one another – I remember years ago doing the soup run with Julie and one chap telling other young guys to hold back and let some old boy come and get some food first. They let each other know where support and food can be found – and sadly, they probably let each other know where cheap booze can be found….

And when it comes to sinners lending to sinners expecting to be repaid in full, I guess we need look no further than the banking industry….. for years banks have been lending money out expecting to get it back at interest so that the rich continue to get richer at the expense of the poor.

Reading commentaries on this passage is interesting. Some try to scale back Jesus’ words, explain them, make them more acceptable. Yes we have to have wisdom in giving money – giving money to an alcoholic may not be wise as it may just help maintain the thing which hinders their lives, but on the other hand blessing them with food, as at the Big Lunch may be a really generous thing to do.

I recently heard of someone who went and spent time with someone who said they wanted to go to another part of the country, and they took them and got them on the coach and paid their way – they won’t be repaid for that, they won’t get anything back from that – they were being incredibly generous – maybe, as we see the situation in Pakistan at the present time, we need to do the same.

Why should we be incredibly generous in this sort of way?
Well, because Jesus says we should be!
But Jesus adds a plus to this command

READ v35b,36
‘Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’

Jesus modelled this again. He healed all who came to him. Some never came back and said ‘thank you’, but he still healed them. When we pray for folk, we often see God answering prayers in people’s lives, but not all go on to become followers of Jesus Christ – many just go on with no thought to what motivated that act of generosity, but just as our Father is generous to all, so we need to be also.

It’s often said of people that some are ‘black and white’ and others are ‘grey’ – for some people life occurrences are easily defined as black and white, right and wrong. For others things are grey… its much more difficult to be clear about what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Jesus says:-

3.Don’t judge v37,38

I don’t think he’s saying though ‘Be grey!’

READ v37,38
‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’

So often in the media, Christians are seen as being negative, condemning people – this may in part because by and large the media only likes to report on negative things and very rarely likes to report on positives.

We are called to stand for righteousness, truth and justice, but we need to be cautious in our judging, cautious in our condemning, because as Jesus goes on to say, we will be judged to the same level that we judge others.

The gospel is so counter-cultural. Our culture says we should get what we deserve (unless we can get away with it…) But the gospel is the opposite of this! Through Jesus sacrifice on the cross, which we will remember as we come to communion later in the service, God blesses us with what we don’t deserve – we are blessed with forgiveness, joy, a hope a future, a life which we could not previously have known anything about – though we may have seen something in others and have thought, I could do with a bit of that!!

As God has chosen to forgive us, so we should forgive others. As God has chosen not to condemn us, so we should not condemn others. As God has chosen for Jesus to take our judgement in our place so we in turn need to extend the grace of the gospel to others, to offer to others not condemnation, not judgement, but the grace of God to forgive, to restore, to bring a hope and a future.

Jesus makes it clear that its very easy to see the faults in others and fail to see the faults in our own lives and so he tells a couple of stories to encourage us to examine our own lives:-

4.Examine yourself v39-42

Illustrate the stories – act out a blind man leading a blind man – act out trying to take a speck out of someone else’s eye whilst struggling to see with a massive squint in my own eye.

So what is Jesus saying?
That we should never seek to help or correct someone else?
No, I don’t think so.
I think he is saying, examine yourself, check yourself out before you’re too quick to judge, condemn, direct anyone else in any way, because actually, you may have a problem yourself which may affect the advice you give.
But its not a black end.

Jesus says, v40
‘A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.’

We will never be above Jesus, but he is our teacher and he is training us, he is renewing our minds, he is changing us so that we are more and more like him. He calls us to mission, and he calls us to a right attitude to mission, to be like him.

Will you ‘hear’ what he says to you today?

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