Friday, May 13, 2016

Blessed are the Self-Examining

We’ve been observing Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain,” that he would have called, “How to be Blessed.” Jesus deconstructs what the world says "blessed" means and says true blessing (happiness, contentment) comes if you’re poor, hungry, weeping, and hated for his sake. Then he gave us the key to the whole thing: Radical Love. That’s the meat of his sermon and what sets his movement apart from all others. We are to love radically. Even our enemies. If we live love this way blessedness is a natural outflow of our lives, meaning, we experience great joy HERE (not to mention eternity)! Jesus makes us consider something quite un-American: quantity does not equal quality. You see, we think more money, more stuff, more power, more fame, friends, fans, FOR SELF equals better life. But according to Jesus, that is a lie. Instead what you usually get is stress, broken relationships, a bad attitude, and maybe even health problems. If you're a Kool-Aid drinker, you will eventually figure this out, perhaps on your deathbed or (certainly) when you die. At that time you may even wonder: “Why didn’t somebody warn me about what I was doing?” Someone has. His name is Jesus. Heed his words. If you do not, infinite misery will be your ultimate reward (according to Jesus, anyway).

The next part of his short sermon continues like this: Jesus says if we love radically like this, we will not focus on others’ wrongs, but our focus will be on bettering ourselves. Jesus wants his disciples to do self-examination. Read it yourself (Luke 6): 
37“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; 
Why is he saying this? Because the religious types of his day were all about pointing fingers at everyone else, and they missed the glaring problems they themselves had. Jesus wants his disciples to be different. 

Are we different? 

He continues:  
forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” 

This is so cool. If you love radically, you will experience MORE radical love than you gave. It's better than some Christian form of Karma. It's more like investing a little and getting A LOT. 

But that's not all: by examining yourself, you will more effectively lead others. Read his next words:
39He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 
Jesus’ point: I want you to have an me. And I want those you teach to have influence!
41Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42How 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. 
It's a hilarious analogy Jesus makes! His point: work on yourself first! Then you will naturally have a positive influence on others. But if you don’t work on yourself, no one will take you seriously and you’ll only do damage. You’ll drive people away from good...and away from God.

This would be a good principle for parents to consider.

Jesus is saying when we sincerely follow him and share his values (not the world's), love radically, and focus on improving ourselves; that THAT’s powerfully infectious—and it changes the world for the good
43“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 
Did you catch that? Radical love that considers our own need for improvement first, bears all kinds of good fruit!

What's "fruit"? 

The Bible speaks of three kinds of spiritual fruit: 

1. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) is a list of the attributes of the Holy Spirit-filled life of a Christian. That's what shows to others. 

2. Fruit can mean the results of our work or lifestyle as we seek to make a difference for good. For example, our kids are, in a sense, the fruit of our parenting. One's house and possessions are the fruit of one's livelihood. Spiritually speaking, the fruit of a godly life might be a good reputation. There are many examples.

But there’s another thing “fruit” means, that really captures the metaphor: 

3. Fruit is the reproductive part of a plant. This, applied, means we will reproduce more disciples. So if we want to see the world changed, followers of Christ must bear fruit...and we will. Living like Christ said, is infectious.
45The 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.
Here's the bottom line: As Christ's disciple your first responsibility is to love radically. Be self-LESS. YOU think and pray about how YOU can be more like Christ…how you can LOVE more like Christ. And you know what? Your words will follow. People will hear the gospel...and see it in your love. Like a peach tree full of beautiful, ripe peaches blesses those who comes to it for food, Christians who love and live the blessed life, bless others.

Imagine a world where all Christians examine their own hearts and actions first, and then love everyone else radically! Sound like a fairy tale? No. That’s Christ's plan. Heaven will be like that—and many more people will be there to enjoy it!

Imagine a church like that! What if we love and serve each other as brothers and sisters…what if we love the world and decrease self in order that God might increase, what if we give so that more churches can be planted that make more disciples! 

Imagine a family like that! A marriage like that! In my 29 years of ministry, I have seen that the top reason for struggling or failed marriages is this: selfishness. Tara Havely and other professional counselors have confirmed this anecdotal evidence. 

Do you know how this all starts? You being honest and searching yourself. Ask God, "What is my log?" Stop loving yourself first, admit your log, and ask God to change you. 

Try it.

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