Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Sermon: Keep Calm and Stay Spiritually Strong - Luke 6:39-45

You can listen to an audio version of this sermon here.





I watch that video and I wonder sometimes if having kids really the best course of action. I mean it is an incredible amount of work. Your life is completely changed.  You end up thinking videos like this are funny. It’s no wonder that God made the act of procreation so good because the act of raising that creation is difficult to say the least. Last Sunday, Pastor Benita shared some of the struggles that she and I are having as parents and of course this week in preparation for this sermon series that we’ve been on called generational grace, I was more reflective on parenting. One morning that I was in charge, Sophia, our four year old was in timeout and screaming at the top of her lungs while at the same time our four month old Ezra joined in the cacophony with his own screams because he was reaching that witching hour crankiness just before nap time. During this dueling screamathon I checked on Sophia to find that she had stripped and thrown both her diaper and her dress out of the timeout zone while continuing to scream. Ezra, not to be outdone, wasn’t letting up. In the midst of this morning scream fest I thought about today’s sermon: “How to Stay Strong.” How do you stay strong in the midst of parenting? In this series we are focusing on parenting but as we listen to Jesus today his words in Luke 6 were meant for his disciples with or without children. The context of parenting can certainly provide a stressful illustration in which to apply our master’s words, but remember whatever the context to breath, keep calm and stay spiritually strong.

Please turn your bibles to Luke 6, as we examine verses 39-45.

He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. 43 "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Jesus gives us four pairs here to consider. First two blind men, second a teacher and a student, third two brothers, and fourth a bad tree and a good tree, and we’ll look at them but here’s the main point of this text and of today’s sermon, if you don’t hear anything else, hear this from God’s word: The best way to serve, disciple, grow, lead anyone, especially your children, is to first focus on yourself. We've all heard the familiar mantra of the airline flight attendants during their pre-flight instructions, "...make sure to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before attempting to help someone else put on theirs." The same is true spiritually, we must breathe deeply of God’s spirit ourselves before attempting to help our children or anyone as spiritual leaders. Be filled yourself so much that out of the overflow of your heart you speak and teach, out of the overflow of your heart you act in the lives of others, out of the overflow of your heart you lead others spiritually.

Ok, so the first pair are two blind men. Jesus says “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” The unspoken answer, of course, is no! A blind man cannot, or should not lead another blind man! They will fall into a pit. The word for pit here isn’t just like a pothole, it’s a kill yourself deep hole in the ground. There’s an incredible amount of danger involved if someone who is blind, unable to see, is being guided by someone who is just as blind. The point in effect is this: if you try on your own to lead yourself and others spiritually, you and they are in danger. No matter how many books you’ve read, no matter how amazing your technique, no matter how many children you’ve raised, if you try on your own to lead yourself and others spiritually, you and they are in an incredible amount of danger. The best way to serve, disciple, grow, lead anyone, especially your children, is to first focus on yourself. The best way to lead others is to be led by Jesus.

The second pair is a teacher and a student. Jesus says “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.” In the ancient world the teacher-pupil relationship was a personal one. A student would virtually live alongside the teacher and by the very nature of this close teacher-pupil relationship, a student, when fully trained would be very much like his teacher, not only in knowledge but in being. Of course the same is true for our children. Jesus says like teacher, like student and so also we can say like parent, like child. Those we seek to spiritually lead, especially our children, will become like us. They won’t become the things we say, they will become who we are. Everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. The best way to serve, disciple, grow, lead anyone, especially your children is to first focus on yourself. The best way to disciple others is to be discipled yourself by Jesus.

The third pair are two brothers and you’ve probably heard this one before or maybe even used it. Jesus says “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” In this case people who are judging the specks in others are too busy examining others to see their own faults correctly. In this parable, the speck is a small flake of wood, or straw and the plank is the main beam of a building. Once again Jesus is driving us to be self-critical before thinking about being critical of others. That word hypocrite literally means “play-actor”. In other words, when we attempt to teach or lead others, and we haven’t focused on ourselves we are like actors in a play. We’re putting on a front, a mask, a costume, a show and pretending. I can tell you what we all know, we can be actors, and we all are at different times, but you can’t keep that act up all the time. Our spouses, our children, anyone you spend considerable time with or invest in, will see whether we are the real deal or if we are just acting, just hypocrites. You can do every trick in the book, be the best teacher, and still find that those you invest in will reject everything because of your relationship with them, because they see the real you. Kids don’t usually reject Christianity because of bad teaching, but because of bad relationship. The best way to serve, disciple, grow, lead anyone, especially your children is to first focus on yourself. The best way to grow others is to first ask Jesus to remove the plank out of your eye.

The last pair is a bad and a good tree. Jesus says "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit…The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” The fruit that we produce, honestly whether that fruit is our actions, our teaching, or our children, reflects what is at the core of our being. You will produce what you are and not something different. What we say and do, is an outgrowth of who we are. This is the gospel, the good news. The good news is that we don’t save ourselves. We don’t follow a list of rules or behave in a particular way and therefore change our hearts. Instead, the good news is that we are given new hearts through our trust in Jesus Christ, and he reshapes us in our deepest thought and being and out of the overflow of this new heart comes our speech and actions. The best way to serve, disciple, grow, lead anyone, especially your children, is to first focus on yourself. The best way to lead others to God through Christ, is to experience God yourself and overflow that experience to them.

The next three points on your notes page, are some practical ways to be filled up to an overflow out of your heart. The first is to be filled intellectually. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are people of the book. We believe that the primary way in which we listen to God, are instructed and taught by Him, is through His Word. This is good timing for this sermon as it is fall and as our children go back to school, so also should we. You can take advantage of the different offerings here at Trinity. We have classes Sunday morning, and also Wed. night. I hear that Wed. night class is being taught by a couple of incredible pastors. We didn’t plan this, but God did, as we finish this series focused on generational grace the Norwoods who offered their testimony last Sunday are teaching a group intentionally for parents. We also live in an incredible age of information. There are also amazing resources online for our own discipleship. We have a free subscription to RightNow Media for our life groups which has over a thousand videos. Just to give you an idea, as I prepared for this sermon there were 37 different studies on parenting each with 8-10 sessions. The video we watched earlier was from one of those. Be filled intellectually by God’s word, take advantage of the resources available, and overflow this knowledge into the lives of others. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but it seems to me that often times people who have the gift to cut hair, often have the gift of gab. I was getting my hair cut by one of our covenant partners here at Trinity and was delighted as she shared what her life group had been studying. She does this not only with me but with others who come her way as well. She is so excited, so filled by God’s teaching in her life and out of the overflow of her heart, she speaks. Can a blind man lead a blind man? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. Be fully trained, be filled intellectually by our teacher, Jesus Christ, the Word of God.

Next, be filled relationally. We primarily, and normatively, encounter God through His Word, but we also encounter Him through each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Romans 12:4-5 says “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all others. I love this passage, because it is of huge relief to me to realize that I am not responsible on my own to be everything that the Church is to be. On my own I cannot be a preacher, a teacher, an administrator, missional, attractional, a prophet, an apostle, a missionary, a father, a servant, and so on. But we, together as the body of Christ, as the family of God, form one body empowered by God to be the body of Christ in the world. Take advantage of being part of a large family. Go and serve in the nursery or in children’s ministry or in youth ministry alongside others. Practice on other people’s kids before you have your own. Learn from those who have spent their entire lives invested in children. There’s someone who works in the nursery that Benita and I like to call the “baby whisperer” because she is incredible with children. I encourage you to read this week’s excellent blog written by the head of the nursery, Jill Means, to get an idea of all that goes on over there. Not only can you go and have parenting, and many different other ministries here, modeled, but most importantly take advantage of the emotional and relational support that comes from being connected here with our church family. Men’s Fraternity begins Saturday, September 14th at 6:00 AM. There’s good material, intellectually, scripturally based, but from what I can tell it’s the relationships as these men gather together to learn about being being better fathers and husbands. It’s one of the reasons that I’m excited this year, to take part myself in Men’s Fraternity. Also, ask people to pray for you and to help you. I can honestly say that this last week it has been overwhelmingly apparent that our church family has been praying for us. Benita shared a lot of our struggles with you last week and while we’re still working on things, I can’t describe the amount of peace that has been in my heart through it all. In the midst of both of our kids screaming in the story I described at the beginning of this sermon, I have been completely calm, uncharacteristically calm. I’m confident it’s because of the prayers of this church family. Be filled relationally with the body of Christ and it will overflow into the lives of those you invest in.

Finally, be filled spiritually. God speaks to us through His Word, and through each other, and also when we spend time with him as our heavenly father. Think of it as parallel parenting. God parents us as we parent our children or disciple others. Our Father in heaven pours into us as we spend time with Him, and that overflows, cascades down into our other relationships as we pour into others. The closer we get to Christ, the closer our children will get to Christ. Exodus 34:29 describes when Moses spent time directly with God the Father. It says When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. Moses came down from speaking to God with the Ten Commandments in his hand, and his face was glowing. The time he spent with God literally caused his face to be radiant and then as he approached his children, the Israelites they were keenly aware that Moses had been with God. When we truly spend time with God spiritually through prayer, just speaking to him and being in a relationship with him, we are changed and filled spiritually to the point of overflow into all our other relationships.

Be filled intellectually, be filled relationally, be filled spiritually by the triune God who pours out his love and grace so abundantly that it will overflow in all areas of your life.

Today we are filled spiritually as we celebrate the sacrament of communion. We remember the past, the night before Jesus died as he spoke to his disciples he called them his children and did what we are about to do with bread and cup. In this present moment, we approach God and ask Him to fill us with His Spirit, to be one with each other and with Christ. We look forward to the future, when we will all gather together in the heavenly messianic banquet as one family. As we are filled spiritually in this moment, let us remember that we are filled so that we can overflow. We eat the body of Christ so that we can go out and be the body of Christ. We ask God to cleanse our hearts so that out of the overflow of our hearts we might speak to others.






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