December 6, 2019 – Advent 6, Luke 6- The Lord of the Sabbath, Names of the Apostles, The Beatitudes, Good Fruit, and the Only Foundation

Read Luke 6

Jesus had the audacity to offend the Pharisees by breaking the Sabbath rules that they had added to the Third Commandment. As if picking grain for hungry bodies to eat was “strenuous work.”

And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it? Luke 6:9 (ESV)

The Pharisees were more offended when Jesus healed on the Sabbath. The fact that Jesus healed a man should have been a point of celebration rather than a time for legalistic angst.

Jesus names the 12 Apostles:

Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Luke 6:14-16 (ESV)

Jesus teaches and heals the multitudes. In the Beatitudes Jesus tells us of the kingdom of God- how His people who are hungry will be satisfied, the poor in spirit will be made rich, and that those who are persecuted for His sake will be rewarded in Heaven.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36 (ESV)

Jesus further offends the Pharisees by pointing out their hypocrisy.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?

You hypocrite, first take

the log out of your own

eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s
eye.

Luke 6:41-42 (ESV)

Jesus was more concerned with genuine faith- faith that leads to good fruit in the life and witness of a believer.

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:43-45 (ESV)

Jesus is the Rock, the solid foundation on which everything stands. Only in Him can our lives bear good fruit. Only in Him do we have life.

November 21, 2017 – The Tree of Life – Genesis 2:9, Isaiah 11:1, Proverbs 11:30, Matthew 7:16-17, Revelation 22:1-5

tree of life

 

Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9 (NRSV)

The Tree of Life is a metaphor which appears throughout Scripture. In creation God puts the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden as well as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  It is interesting that in the narrative of the Fall, God banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden, to where they no longer have access to the presence of either tree as a result of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

It has been said that pride is the mother of all sins, and in the story of the Fall, we learn that in our wanting to be God, we distance ourselves from Him.

The Tree of Life is a central image not only in the Creation and the Fall, but in the redemption of creation.

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. Isaiah 11:1 (NRSV)

The prophet Isaiah foretold the birth and life of Jesus 700 or so years before He was born here on earth. A descendent of King David (Jesse was King David’s father) would appear- as a new Tree of Life- but not in the way that his contemporaries expected.  The new Tree of Life is Jesus, and He came to give Himself to save us. He defeated death by pouring out His life out from the arms of a dead tree that was fashioned to bring about death.

jesus-on-the-cross

The redemption of creation is, as we are well aware, an ongoing work in progress. We as Jesus followers are invited- and were created to- bring about God’s kingdom here on earth.  We get to participate in God’s great work of redemption, restoration and renewal.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, but violence takes lives away. Proverbs 11:30 (NRSV)

(Jesus said): You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. Matthew 7:16-17 (NRSV)

This world and this life is not the end, but a beginning, an introduction for us into Life as God intended for us and created us to live.

new jerusalem

 

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  Nothing accursed will be found there anymore. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:1-5 (NRSV)

Are we getting in on God’s plan for us to be trees of life that bring forth good fruit, and to be light-givers?

March 13, 2017 – Discernment and the Fruits of the Spirit – Matthew 7:15-20

 

godslove

(Jesus said): “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?   In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will know them by their fruits.”  Matthew 7:15-20 (NRSV)

 

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines discernment as:

1.:  the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure :  skill in discerning.

2    : an act of perceiving or discerning something

Jesus speaks so much to us here about discernment.  We are not only supposed to be discerning regarding our own hearts and motives, but we should be discerning of the people we associate with and align ourselves with also.

We should strive to be good “fruit inspectors,” beginning with our own fruits.  Do our lives bear the fruits of the Spirit that the Apostle Paul speaks of in Galatians 5:22-25-?

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25 (NRSV)

This “good fruits” test applies first to ourselves and our own conduct, but it also applies to those who we choose to look to as our spiritual leaders and those who comprise our faith community. While no church or faith community is perfect, and any church is just a rag tag collection of sinners, Jesus is telling us to also discern the fruits coming forth from our leaders and our communities.  That discernment is not for the purpose of judging others, or for making excuses against being involved in the church, but to be sure that we are listening to and participating in a community that is following Jesus and is not being deceived by false teaching.

Many people are lured into the false cults of prosperity theology (“believe and you will receive”) or of exclusionary theology (only certain special people can be saved,) or of brownie points theology (you can earn your way to heaven by doing good deeds.)

All of these false teachings are contradictory to Jesus’ teachings. Being a Jesus follower means that we will have to pick up and carry our own crosses, not that we are entitled to Porsches and champagne and the good life. While God is our Provision, and He always makes a way to fulfill our needs, earthly wealth and security are not guaranteed to us.

Anyone who God calls to Him can be a Jesus follower- there are no special prerequisites. No one is excluded on the basis of their race, gender or the habitual sin they tend to prefer.  When Jesus was here on earth He sought out the very people that the world despised- prostitutes, tax collectors, dirty fishermen and so forth.  No one is too bad- or too good- to be a Jesus follower.

No one can earn or deserve God’s grace, as it is intended to be a gift to be received, priceless, yet given to us without cost. The gifts that we return to God are not given to earn brownie points or make ourselves look good, but are in response to the immeasurable gifts He gives to us every day.

Martin Luther taught that the Bible is “like the manger holding Jesus.” The Bible, discerned and taught correctly – and Christian communities- should have Jesus inside. Those good fruits- the Jesus inside- coming forth from a healthy Christian community should be evident everywhere the people of that community leave a footprint.

Good fruits are all those things that show Jesus being lived out in our lives- grace, forgiveness, compassion, serving others, and most of all, love.

Are we exclaiming to the world, “We are Jesus followers!” by bearing these good fruits, not just as individuals, but also as a community?