“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46)
Jesus is pretty clear here. He's talking about the life we are building for ourselves, and the foundation we build on. And his whole point is that to build our lives on anything other than obedience and submission to the real Jesus leaves us on unstable, shaky, vulnerable ground at the very best.
I think about the generic way this passage gets referenced when we talk about building our life on Jesus as the only sure foundation that will steady us against the most violent storms which life will inevitably throw at us. But Jesus is more specific than we like to be. Jesus can't be a generic part of your life, or a close adviser to your life, nor a factor considered in your life among other factors. Jesus' loose attachment to your life or his role as an add on feature to your life sets your life firmly on the shaky and unstable ground which Jesus is warning us against.
The question he asks, is "why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I tell you?" Jesus is saying that he is no more sure a foundation for those who reject him outright than for those who name him Lord but don't actually submit to his Lordship. We can fool our friends and family at some level, but we can't fool Jesus, and we can't fool life. The only sure foundation for our life is total surrender to Jesus as the legitimate and ultimate authority in our life.
Are you playing with Jesus? Is he an accessory to your life? Or is he genuinely Lord of you life? Storms are going to powerfully buffet against us either way. The waters will rise and the waves will pummel us in both cases. The only foundation that will anchor us in the midst of such disasters is a life that has been deeply rooted in a heart surrendered to Jesus as Lord, God and King.
A Prayer for Obedience:
Father, forgive me for calling Jesus Lord while living without regard for him. I've called him Lord while living independently of him. I've tried in obvious and subtle ways to build my life on my skill, my knowledge, my design, my dreams, using my tools and my materials. And maybe it's beautiful on the surface. But I know there's no chance of it holding up this way. Give me the courage to tear down what need to be torn down... to start over where I need to start over.. and cause me to take up your wisdom, your design, your vision for my life, and build with your tools and your materials. Give me the desire to obey you and a weariness of relying on myself. And give me the courage to follow you into a life that holds up.
When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him...(Luke 7:9)
The centurion whose daughter is sick sends, Luke says, the elders of the Jews. That is, he sent those among Israel who were still the most skeptical and resistant to Jesus, the most hardened toward Jesus. And their response is interesting.
They eagerly pursue Christ, whom they've opposed. They plead with Jesus earnestly here, desperate for his intervention. Why? v. 4-5 give away the why... Because HE IS WORTHY. The Jews have questioned Jesus' invervention with the sick, the diseased, the demonized, and the immoral, but this man, they say, is worthy. And qhat qualifies the centurion as worthy in their eyes? He has been useful to them. He's made life better and easier for them.
And sure enough Jesus, luke says, "marveled at him." Jesus is not easily impressed. You would have to put a day in which Jesus is personally amazed and astonished by you in the category of a very good day. The Jews and Jesus have very similar appraisal of this man. They both find him worthy of Jesus' healing. But the categories and definitions they're working from couldn't be more different.
The Jews find him worthy because of his personal value to them and the benefit he brings to their way of life. Jesus finds him worthy because of his conscious unworthiness. In v. 7-8 we hear the man's heart laid bare before Jesus... and he is pleading with Jesus for the life of his servant, not on the grounds of anything he has done to do deserve it, but solely on thegrounds of what Jesus is able to do even though he doesn't deserve it. The centurion is appealing to Jesus on the grounds of his grace and mercy and power alone, not any grounds of his righteousness.
And this is what amazes Jesus. Someone outside of Israel, in fact a man aligned with the oppressive forces that are making Israel's life difficult... he knows his place and he understands his need, and he believes in the character, nature and authority of Jesus. And Jesus honors that. Jesus loves to intervene in the desperate situations of needy people whose faith and hope are in Him alone.
What about you? Do you appeal to Jesus on the basis of what you deserve? Do you see worthiness as derived from the quality of life? Or do you see worthiness as derived from the object of faith? Is Jesus the guardian of the best things in your life? Or is Jesus the the best thing in your life?
Yes, Jesus is able to heal, and rescue, and resurrect, and save, and preserve, all with but a word... but he's particularly drawn and responsive to those who need him, not toward those who feel entitled to what what he can for them.
A Prayer for Lowliness:
God of heaven, the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of everything, Judge and Defender, let me know my place. Cause my heart to plant itself firmly in the ground of unworthiness. Let me be wildly in touch with my true status, that is ill-deserving of your involvement and intervention in my life. Let me, like this faith-filled centurion, who amazed Jesus himself, be fully aware and fully honest with myself, those around me and with you, about my place alongside the weakest, poorest and lowliest in all the world. And let me bask daily, from the dust, in that Christ has regarded my helpless estate and has shed his own blood for my soul.
Okay, there is so much in this passage. I would love to preach this one cause I could go deep into it. But for my purposes here I will zero in on 1 thing...
This is a follow up to yesterday, where we talked about a proper sense of unworthiness and a lowliness of heart. Jesus reaffirms the enourmous value he places on this kind of humility and self-awareness and the Holy Spirit, as read through Luke just keeps pressing this deeper into my soul.
Jesus elevates John the Baptist above every person in the world. In v. 28 He says, "noamong those born of women none is greater than John." That is the highest praise a person can receive. The praise of his Creator and Savior. Yesterday we saw his amazement at the centurion. Today, we see John's status above even the soldier. John had a high calling to pave the way for and point the way toward Jesus. But that high calling required the same kind of lowliness of heart reflected by the centurion.
What's truly amazing here is what Jesus says is possible for us. He doesn't leave us with how unattainably great John the Baptist was. He leaves us with, "Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." In other words, Jesus is inviting us all to pursue greatness before him by assuming the low place before him and among men. John suffered for Jesus, but he was known by the masses, followed by many, and his role in redemptive history was clear and profound from the beginning of his life. That John played his part faithfully and humbly makes him great.
But Jesus says there is another kind of greatness in his kingdom. And it's the humility of those who are anonymous, unknown, unimpressive and unremarkable, who are willing to be overlooked, disregarded, unnoticed, ignored, even marginalized while faithfully living for Jesus in all things. Some people are known broadly and famously for following Jesus (think celebrity pastors, successful Christian artists, etc.) But there are people whose quietness of life match their quality of life and character as humble followers of Jesus, and who never get noticed or praised for such faithfulness, and Jesus says they have a special place in his heart and in his kingdom.
I crave notoriety and recognition. I have a chronic need for affirmation. My heart clamors for attention and I despise the low place. I wonder if you do too. But Jesus actually lays out an incredible possibility here for us... that the recognition we crave and receive here on earth, may actually diminish the possible recognition we would otherwise receive in heaven. In other words, the low place is the place of blessing. Jesus says that all our desires for fame will be satisfied if we'll take the low place now and wait for the eternal recognition of the Father in glory.
A Prayer for Going Unnoticed:
Lord, give me the grace and mercy of being overlooked. I want to be seen, known, and honored. I do. But it's quicksand for my soul. Pride lurks there. I want to be faithful to you, but that I want to gain applause for my faithfulness to you betrays the purity of that desire. Let my have the privilege of doing unseen, unnoticed things in faith, for you, for others, without the need for recognition. And should any act of faith, or any service to you be seen, cause the eyes that see it to see only you. Crush my pride by making me invisible. And let my invisibility give me eyes to see you more fully and gloriously so that I might be utterly satisfied in the low places. Amen.
He who is forgiven little, loves little. (Luke 7:47)
I love that Jesus is unembarrassed to be identified with people who most of us are embarrassed by. I love that he will take criticism from the elite in order to restore dignity and value to the dregs. It's hard not love Jesus when we see him putting the Pharisees in their place.
But I wonder if we're able to understand that he's putting us in our place too. "He who is forgiven little, loves little." Jesus' point is not how little others are forgiven in comparison to the woman. His point is that she's fully aware of the depth of her guilt and the cope of her sin being forgiven, while people like the Pharisee, and maybe like us, see ourselves as only guilty of small, insiginficant sin. And because we don't see ourselves as big sinners we have no need for big forgiveness and therefore no capacity for a big grace toward others.
The Pharisee's sins are different than the woman's sins. And yours and mine may be too. But Jesus is inviting us to see the worst within us, including our damnable good works done in our own strength and for our own glory, as needing his forgiveness. Jesus is inviting us to see ourselves as we really are, without anything to fear, hide, or prove, and receive the fullness of his grace and forgiveness for the fullness of our guilt and sin. He's offering us that.
Until we see ourselves as needing mercy, compassion and understanding, we will never see others with mercy, compassion and understanding. Until we see admit our own struggles and brokenness, we'll never empathize with the struggle and brokenness in others. Until we see ourselves as standing on grace alone will we ever extend grace toward others.
A Prayer for Eye to See:
Lord God, I confess that I minimize my own sin in my own heart and mind while elevating the seriousness of others' sin. I do this without even meaning too. It's instinctive for me, to protect myself from feeling my own guilt and need for forgiveness. But I ask you for eyes to see myself as I really am... for eyes to see my sin as it really is... show me those things in my life that I've ignored which are offensive to you. And in your kindness lead me to repentance. I want to see my need for forgiveness so that I can receive the fullness of your provision for that need, and so I can actually be a conduit of grace and forgiveness to others. Amen.
He who has ears to hear, let him here." (Luke 8:8)
What we know as the parable of the sower, is really a parable of the soils. He's warning us against our natural habits of listening and learning, and teaching us instead, how to listen and learn the way he intended. Jesus is teaching us something here about how we read our Bibles, listen to preaching, and hear the word of God taught or explained. v. 8 is like Jesus saying "pay careful attention to what you listen to and how you listen to it."
And while the emphasis is on how we hear the truth of God, I wonder if Jesus isn't telling us something about how we hear everything. The soil of our hearts is going to be fertile ground for something. We're going to internalize something. We will take in advertising, movies and tv shows, books, classroom lectures, AM Radio, podcasts, mountains of music, news from different sources which we will choose for ourselves, the views persepctives of friends and fmaily, and perhaps most unreliably, our own thoughts, ideas and self-talk. We have ears and are hearing all of these different inputs which are shaping our understanding of our lives, morality, truth, what matters, God, politics, and any number of other things.
God's word is one thing being sown along the path. It's not the only thing. And we who have ears will make decisions about what we lend our hearing to. We will give greater attention and credibility to certain ideas over and against others. We will give more air time to certain sources and influences. And Jesus is telling us to give careful attention to God's word.
The way Satan steals His word; the way His word takes no root in our hearts; the way the worries and cares of the world choke out His word; is not through silence, but through competing ideas and claims. Satan is not only a stealer of truth, he is himself an expert and relentless sower of lies.
Jesus is telling us to be careful what we allow to influence our thinking and our understanding of truth because it will shape our lives and determine our future. Are you giving more time, attention, credibiilty, consideration and influence to the word of God in general and the Gospel in particular, or to the cultural forces that are preaching alternative truths and claims and shaping an alternate reality for you.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear the reality disclosing, truth revealing, clarity bringing power of the word of God.
A Prayer for Attentiveness to Truth:
Father, my heart is easily distracted by and even all to eagerly interested in untruth. I am pleading with you, by your Holy Spirit, to give my heart, and my ears an alertnes and sensitivity to the gospel and the Word of God, that I would be open and submitted to the truth, rather than resistant and combattive toward the truth. Cause my heart to love the truth, to consider truth, to meditate on truth, and to discern rightly between truth and error. Give me a diligence in reading, studying, and thinking about your Word, while I diminish the outside influences of other "words" that try to shape my thinking. Protect me from lies and deposit your word deep into my heart where it will take root, never get stolen away, where the cares of the world only refine my understanding of truth, and where I can abide and delight in your truth all my days. Amen.