Focus On the Fruit

Sermon Text – 09.13.2020

[Luke 6]

          On January 5, in the year 1172 – builders set out to build a new bell tower which would eventually come to be known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. As you might be familiar, they built the tower in unstable, marshy soil, (did you know that the word “pisa” actually means marshy land?) and even though the final result was over 8 stories tall, 179 feet, the foundation was only ten feet deep. In fact, it was such a bad design, that it actually began leaning when they started building the second story. By the time they finished and added the bell to the bell tower, it was practically already a tourist attraction – it looked so tilted. Scientists calculated that it was going to fall over in 2007, it was getting worse every year but major reconstruction work happened back in the 1990’s, which saved the tower. Basically they put counter weights on it, and then dug out 70 metric tons of soil from underneath the raised end. They finished in 2008 and declared that it would be stable for at least 200 years. Shallow foundation, built in swampy land led to an off kilter structure. And while it’s fun for pictures and tourism, in our real lives a shallow foundation built in the wrong place can lead to an off kilter life.

          Today is the second sermon in our series Journey With Jesus Part II: the Calling. We have been travelling through the book of Luke, to read the story of Jesus and walk with him in his ministry. We jumped back in last week with chapter five, and we saw with the call of the disciples that Jesus was getting us ready for something big. And here it is in chapter six – so let’s dive right in.

          Now this sermon series is a really great project to help us get to know the story of Jesus better, to help us grow closer to God – BUT there is one big problem. We are moving through the book of Luke one chapter a week – and that’s a really fast pace. Some chapters you don’t really notice it too much, but on other chapters – you really feel it. Chapter 6 is one of those chapters. There is so much good stuff in this chapter, so before we get into it I just want to remind everybody – to get the most out of this study, you gotta take it home this week and read it. Go deep in the parts we skim over.

And so we begin [read v.1-2]. Picture this with me: It’s a Sunday afternoon, you’re walking with some friends through a field. Maybe an apple orchard, or you see some berries or something, and you pick the fruit, like an apple or whatever, you rub it on your shirt, and you start snacking while you are walking with your friends. That’s what the disciples are doing. They’re walking through a wheat field, grabbing some grain, rubbing it together separating the good stuff and eating it while walking. Then these Pharisees come over and get all in their face, because they’re not supposed to work on the sabbath. Not supposed to “harvest” on the sabbath. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a walk, like over at For-Mar, and found some berries to snack on – but that is very different than working or harvesting. And it’s pretty clear the Pharisees have lost track of why we do sabbath, they’ve forgotten what this is all about. Jesus tells ‘em, [read v.5]. No, it’s cool – I’m the boss of everything. Verse 6 starts another story about the sabbath [read v.6]. Jesus shows up in the temple, it’s the sabbath again. Can’t do work, but there’s a man with a shriveled hand. So Jesus asks the leaders, [read v.9-11]. I love the way that goes down, because he takes a second to look at all of them. Like, this isn’t even about healing the man’s hand. Right? This is all about proving a point to them. He looks right at them, and heals the man. There’s nothing wrong with Sabbath, the practice of taking a break to focus on God every week is a beautiful thing – but Jesus is trying to show religious people, you’ve forgotten what this is all about. You have forgotten your foundation.

Basically the first 19 verses, the first half of the chapter has one message: Jesus is here to shake things up. Jesus is here to help us rediscover the foundation of religion, the real reason beneath all this fancy stuff we do. He chooses his disciples, including the 12 who get to be called Apostles. And they start doing incredible things, healing basically everyone who comes into contact with them. Jesus is here to shake things up.[read v.19]. Then verse 20 shifts gears. Jesus launches into three epic, incredibly difficult to understand almost impossible to comprehend teachings. Teachings designed to shake the foundation of religious people. What we’re about to examine are teachings that are so difficult that most people throw them away, or straight up ignore them. A lot of Luke 6 shows up in the book of Matthew in chapter 5. Matthew 5 is a sermon known as the beatitudes, but even Matthew softens some of the language, because his audience was a little different. But Luke doesn’t soften anything.

The first thing Jesus teaches us – in the kingdom of God, we don’t see the world the same way they do. He flips everything on its head. [Read v.20-23]. Jesus what are you talking about? Blessed are you who are poor – because that’s like the opposite of what I heard out there in the world. When we see videos of poor people, companies and organizations use those videos to make us feel pity, to make us feel sorry for the poor so we will donate money or volunteer or buy their product, whatever it is. But Jesus says they are blessed, because heaven does not look at the world the same way we do. They do not measure success in the same way. Blessed are they when people hate you and exclude you and revile you and defame you on account of the son of Man – because when I was a kid those were bad things. They make fun of you because you’re a Christian, I was told that’s a bad thing. When you get left out, when nobody invites you to the party because they’re gonna do stuff you know is against Jesus’ teachings. Didn’t make me want to rejoice and leap for joy. It made me want to cry. Some of us, like Pastor’s kids, we learned how to hide the fact that we were Christians. So people wouldn’t find out. I remember, I went camping one time – I was in middle school. And I met a bunch of new friends, couple church friends, but mostly people I didn’t know. And there was this girl there, and when she found out that I was a pastor’s kid, she said and I quote, “You’re like, the most normal Pastor’s kid I’ve ever met.” I used to be so proud of that. All my life I have been praised for my ability to hide how much I love Jesus. Because I figured out early on how to make people think I was normal. I wanted their praise. I cared about their opinion more than anything else. But Jesus says, if you want to follow me, we’re gonna look at the world different. “BLESSED are you who are hated and excluded on account of me.” That’s a priority shift many of us are not ready for.

And J-money’s just getting started, [read v.24-26]. Can I have a little moment of honesty with you right now? Those three sentences scare the poop out of me. Because relatively speaking I am a rich man with a full belly and I love to laugh and lots of people speak well of me. I fit every single category where our lord and savior said, “sucks to be you.” I mean – what? So many of us, this is too much, and so we just push it to the back burner, we just ignore these tricky passages – but Jesus is over hear trying to shake your foundations. He wants to give you a brand new foundation. The world wants you to build a foundation on wealth, with being rich as the goal. Jesus wants you to build a foundation on him, with generosity as the goal. The riches of this world are most likely going to distract you from God’s kingdom. Money is a tool that can provide for your family and do good in the world – but it is not worthy of being your foundation. The world wants you to build a foundation on a nice reputation. Be likeable more than anything else. Get more followers and likes and clicks and friends by always living with enabling love that never stands up for anything. Jesus wants us to build a foundation on love, which sometimes includes hard accountability. The foundation of the world – money, food, laughter, reputation – these things can make you successful in this life. Make no mistake – that’s the good stuff of life, and Jesus is over here throwing it all away. Because his goal is to give you a foundation that will make you successful in the kingdom of God. The first teaching Jesus gives is, “we don’t see the world the same way they do.”

The second teaching from Jesus this week is, “we don’t act in the world the same way they do.” First, it’s about how we see the world. Then, it’s about how we act in the world. [read v.27-31]. Every sermon I have ever heard in my entire life preached on these words boils down to basically a list of excuses on why we don’t have to take this too seriously. And maybe that’s what you’re hoping I’m about to do. Give you some clever reason – like, in the original Hebrew it says, “just kidding, you don’t actually have to do this.” But I’m not going to do that. Because when I checked the original Hebrew I’m pretty sure it said, “no seriously, Jesus meant it.” (I didn’t actually check the original Hebrew, :P) Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Give to everyone who begs from you. Christians, we – children of God, don’t act in the world the same way others do. We are set apart, different from everyone else, because of our abundant over-flowing love, even for people who hate us, even for people who don’t deserve our love. Then he drives it home, [read v.32-36]. Growing up in the church, I used hear things like “even if you’re not sure about this Jesus stuff, being a Christian just makes you such a nice person. Christians are always so nice.” And then when I grew up, I started getting outside my bubble a little bit – and I realized one very important thing. There are really nice atheists in our world. There are some amazingly kind jewish people and muslims. Christians don’t have the monopoly on being nice. We are not the only system that spits out good people. But we are the only group I’ve ever seen dare suggest blessing those who curse us. Doing good to those who hate you. Love your enemies is about as radical as a teaching can be. First – we don’t SEE the world the same way they do. Second – we don’t ACT in the world the same way they do. We are set apart. He says at the end there, “your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High.

The foundation Jesus is laying out for us today – we don’t see the world the same, we don’t act in the world the same, and the third and final teaching – we don’t use the same METHODS as the world. He goes into this thing where he’s talking about accountability. How to help someone stay on track. Because we all have people in our lives, people who are doing something they shouldn’t be doing – they’re hurting others, they’re hurting themselves, they’re living in sin, they are doing something that goes against God, living in a way that hurts the heart of God – and Jesus outlines for us a uniquely Christian method for accountability. It starts out [read v.37]. It’s a practical application of verse 31 – do to others as you would want them to do for you.  If you want to help someone you must start with a posture of no judgment – imagine what you would want someone to do if you were the one struggling. Then in verse 41 he says, [read 41-42]. Helping someone else starts with self reflection. Take the log out of your own eye FIRST, and then you will be able to help someone else. Accountability, helping other people with what they struggle with begins with a non-judgmental posture and self-reflection. Which is NOT how the world does it. To be honest, it’s not how the church has done it in the past. It is so much easier to lob judgment grenades at someone from a distance. Like sharing a judgmental facebook post. Just throw it out there – takes zero effort on your part, and usually has basically zero positive effect. It’s much more work to come alongside someone, imagine how you would feel in their shoes, remove your judgment, and start with self reflection first. But this is the method Jesus gives us. We don’t see the world the same, we don’t act in the world the same, and we don’t use the same methods as the world. The three pillars of the foundation Jesus gives us.

The last piece of the chapter gives us two well known stories. First, the fruit. [read v.43-45]. Super simple idea – figs come from fig trees, grapes come from grape vines, good fruit comes from good people, bad fruit comes from bad people. Well, I shouldn’t say that – it’s not bad people or good people. It’s people with a bad foundation or a good foundation. You can always replace the foundation, but the fruit of your life tells you what kind of foundation you have. Jesus wants us to build a foundation rooted in him, have a foundation built for the kingdom of heaven, rather than the kingdom of this world. Verse 46 says, [read it]. Don’t call me Lord, if you’re not going to listen to me. Don’t call me Lord, if you’re not going to live by what I teach you. How many of us call Jesus Lord, but then ignore the foundation he’s trying to give us? Then he tells a second story to drive the point home, [read v.47-49]. Not only will a good foundation lead to good fruit in your life, but when the rains come and the struggles and bad days of life show up – a good foundation will help you stand strong.

          The good news this morning is that Jesus replaces our foundation. Jesus is here to shake things up. He turns things on their head. Gives us new soil to grow in. Jesus replaces our foundation. The world tries to teach us “live this way – with these priorities, these actions, these methods” – but Jesus replaces all that with HIS way. With the kingdom of God’s way. Now I want to pause for a second and just recognize – replacing the foundation of life is hard. Especially if you have built your life on a different foundation. The tower of Pisa started leaning when they got to the second story. They probably had a conversation at that time, “oh shoot, we messed up” but it would have been really hard to tear down two stories of work, to redo a proper foundation and so instead they just kept building. I think it’s the same for our lives. We’ve spent so much time building on the broken foundation of the world’s priorities, that the teachings of Jesus seem crazy. I think that’s why this chapter seems so radical. We will lose so much in the world’s eyes if we start doing things Jesus’ way. To replace a foundation in life means we throw out everything we built on the wrong foundation. For some of us, we gotta rip down the towers we’ve built in life and we have to start over – and even though it’s the right thing to do, and it’ll be better for us in the long run – I just wanted to take a second and acknowledge, it’s really hard.

Jesus replaces our foundation, and so our response to that is to build on the new foundation. Jesus gives us a foundation to build on, so build your life on what Jesus gives us. Use HIS priorities, Use HIS actions, Use HIS methods. Shake things up in your life. Grow deep into the fertile soil that God gives you. If you’ve been living a lopsided life, with a crummy foundation, you kind of get used to it. You get used to the slant, to the problems you have. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to settle for a lopsided life. We can build on a foundation of Jesus that will last for eternity.

          The practical application today is pretty basic – focus on the fruit. The fruit of your life, the results of the way you live will tell you what kind of foundation you’re living with. Jesus gives us a new foundation, so focus on the fruit – set your life up to bear good fruit in the world. Instead of the rotten fruit the world gives us, bear the good fruit of Jesus. There’s three parts to this – it’s the three teachings from before. First, use HIS priorities. Look at your life the way God looks at your life. Don’t use the priorities of the world, use what God says is important. Think about the blessings and woes – blessed are the poor, woe to the wealthy. Are you letting money be too much a priority? Blessed are those who are excluded, woe to you when all speak well of you – are you letting your reputation, other people’s opinion, be too much of a priority in your life? First, use God’s priorities, not the worlds. Look at the world HIS way, use HIS priorities.

          Second, use HIS actions. Act in the world the way God has taught us. Simply put Love your enemies. This one is super easy to be practical because it’s an election year. Most of the time in our lives we don’t really have “enemies” – right? But right now? In our society, we have conveniently divided up into two sides. Now it’s not that simple and it shouldn’t be that simple. But it’s a starting point. If you consider yourself a republican, or a political conservative – what practical, concrete real world ways have you loved a democrat recently? If you consider yourself a democrat, or a political conservative – what practical ways have you loved a republican recently? Particularly in the way we behave on facebook. The digital world for many people is the ONLY place they interact with other people right now – and if we fill our timeline hateful posts against one side or the other, we are not bearing good fruit from God’s foundation. Use God’s priorities, Use God’s actions. And then the final piece of the foundation, the final fruit to bear – Use God’s methods. What were the pieces of it? No judgment, start with self-reflection, and yet still hold them accountable in love, don’t be enabling in your love.

          Almost a thousand years ago they started building this tower in the little bell tower in Italy. Shallow foundation built in a swamp. Took ‘em 200 years to finish it, and now it’s one of the best known hilarious architectural goofs in the world. And we laugh at it and take pictures, but the hard truth from today is that some of live a life even more lopsided than that tower. Jesus comes in with some tough teachings, designed to give us a brand new way to live, a brand new foundation to build your life on. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you abandon the world’s foundation. Forget the world’s priorities, the world’s actions, the world’s methods. May you use Jesus as your foundation. Use HIS priorities, HIS actions, HIS methods. And may your life bear good fruit from a good foundation. Amen.          

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