Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 10
Thesis: Are you still listening?
Introduction: Throughout the biblical record we are faced with a reality that G. K. Chesterton surfaced when he said, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." Even the most stellar examples of men who are, generally, held up to be "heroes of the faith" generally have "qualifications" applied to their heroics. The apostle Paul himself said "Be ye followers of me as I also am of Christ", but he not only had to say "as I also am of Christ", he also had to be as clear as he could be that the issue was not his lifestyle, but his practice of one primary principle: pressing (Philippians 3:13-15). In other words, it is a basic fact of life that there are no "heroes" which we can follow outside of the basic issue of attempting to make more progress than we have already made.
Why is this? Why, when one surveys "Christendom", do we find only flawed human beings? And, even more to the point is this question: Why, when we look for "heroes" do we often select people who are not even "believers"? [Opposing the dump site by following Ghandi's example; evangelicals using people who function within theological systems which flatly deny justification by faith as "examples"; etc.]
Part of the reason is to be found in the opening words of Luke 6:27: Jesus' statement that He was really only talking to a select group of people within the great crowds who were flocking around Him to get out of Him what they wanted (6:17-19). This morning we are going to investigate the significance of these words as a way to better understand ourselves and each other.
December 2, 2007
- I. Jesus' Words.
- A. The adversative conjunction is the strongest to be found in the language.
- B. The verb is the word that is invariably chosen when the content of information is of the greatest import [Jesus' "Verily, verily, I say unto you..."].
- C. The defining participle is of a word group that is typically used when the speaker wishes to make a clear distinction between the motivations of those within the sound of his voice [Jesus used this word over and over in Revelation 2-3 to address a difference between those who would read His letters and ignore their impact and those who would read them and engage with their meaning].
- II. Jesus' Words in Their Context.
- A. The most significant word is the one that is left out, but is supplied by the context.
- 1. There is little reason for these introductory words by Jesus to yet another extremely radical notion except to convey His knowledge of the reasons for His audience being in attendance upon Him.
- 2. The strong implication of the context is that the word "still" is in the unspoken word in the introductory comment.
- a. On the one hand we have the clearest examples throughout the biblical record that people have a profound tendency to "only listen up to a point" [John 6:60; Mark 4:17; 2 Timothy -- the entire focus of the letter and the example of Demas --; etc.].
- b. On the other hand we have the immediate context in which Jesus engaged in the declaration of some of the most shocking, and unbelievable concepts ever to enter into the hearing of men [Matthew 19:23-25 as a record that came after Jesus came down off of the mountain in the context of His central core of disciples].
- c. Jesus knew this fact: every man has a potentially fatal, pre-set limit to where he is willing for the Love and Truth of Jesus to take him; and He also knew this fact: few people escape that limit.
- B. The words of Jesus in their context are extremely problematical.
- 1. Since the "surface level" is not really determinative (being "poor" in an economic sense does not actually recommend one to God; nor does being "rich" in the same sense actually undercut one's participation with God), it becomes a difficult thing to ever "see" the root-level reality.
- 2. Since most of the matters to which Jesus addressed Himself are "out of bounds" for believers in terms of "explanation" (Jesus, on another occasion, taught His followers to refrain from "making a show" of their "giving", their "praying" and their "fasting") so that one can never know the reality -- unless they work for the government or the bank. The only "overt" behavior that Jesus addressed was "weeping" and even that has so many causes that no one can really tell what drives it.
- III. Jesus' Words in Our Context.
- A. One question has to come up: If the words are so problematical in terms of specific meaning and implication, why did Jesus use them?
- 1. On one hand, it was not His purpose to give anyone the ability to "see" into their neighbor's heart and mind.
- 2. On the other hand, it was His purpose to set the standards "out there" so that, even though they are highly unlikely to be met, they can be used by those who have a real desire to walk in the light as guides for greater growth in godliness.
- B. A second question also needs our consideration: Do we, as individuals, know where our present, pre-set limit to discipleship is, and what are we going to do when we are pushed up to it?