Date: 1 May 2022
Sermon Text: Luke 6:17-49
Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan
In the recent week, we learnt that 11 trainee lawyers were found to have cheated in their qualifying examination in 2020 and their application to be called to the Bar were questioned by the Law Society.
The spokesperson of the Law Society was quoted as:
"The Law Society's role is to assess the fitness and suitability of every person who applies for admission as an advocate and solicitor. This is a duty that the Law Society takes very seriously. As officers of the court, lawyers are held to a high standard in their professional and personal conduct. Good character and integrity are fundamental traits that every lawyer must have.”
This seem to be the first time the Attorney-General has objected to applications for admission to the Bar for cheating in the Bar exam.
Earlier in this month, the Singapore Medical Council suspended a GP for administering fake Covid-19 jabs to some 15 patients, allegedly charged at least three people between $1,000 and $1,500 per dose.
He also allowed at least 430 patients to take Covid-19 tests remotely, despite this being against the rules at the time.
This GP received the maximum suspension of 18 months, and the Council added that his actions put the general public at risk, and could have undermined confidence in the medical profession as well as Singapore's Covid-19 testing capabilities.
What we see here is that in both the law and medical profession, there is a code of ethical conduct that is expected of its practitioners. There is an expectation of their character and integrity.
Whatever profession that you work in, I’m sure there are similar professional code of conduct. It is to ensure that the profession continues to be respected, that it continues to live up to why it is deemed a profession in the first place.
Why do I bring this up? I would like us to see that having expectations on character and integrity are not foreign. It’s something that society has come to accept.
Now if you say, well I’m not a professional, I’m just a homemaker, I’m just a parent. Well, society does have some expectation of you as a parent.
From the police website, here is an announcement:
The Police have arrested a 26-year-old female Singaporean for her suspected involvement in abandoning her newborn baby.
The woman will be charged in court with exposure and abandonment of a child under 12 years old, under Section 317 of the Penal Code, on 15 February 2020.
Anyone convicted of this offence is liable for an imprisonment term of up to seven years, or a fine, or both.
If you become a parent, there is an expectation that you do not abandon your child, instead you are to protect and to provide for the child.
Last Sunday, when we went through Luke 5, we saw that Jesus was re-constituting God’s covenant community. By choosing 12 disciples, Jesus was re-defining the identity of God’s people who were made up of the 12 tribes of Israel.
And Ps Luwin shared that this new community, this new people, this new kingdom, will be a kingdom of sinners.
Sinners who confess aloud that they are sinful people. Sinners who realize that Jesus can forgive their sins. Sinners who live under a positive kind of Christianity.
Finally, Sinners who not just confess but also repent.
I like what Ps Luwin said at the end – since God seeks out repentant sinners, it means Jesus’ call is come as you are. But His call is to not stay as you are.
Jesus’ call is to come and be transformed into His like-ness. It is to be Christ followers, it is to be a Christian.
May I submit that this is the trajectory of thought that is leading us to our text this morning in the rest of Luke 6.
Yes, Jesus’ kingdom consists of redeemed sinners like you and me. And now once we are part of His kingdom, there are expectations of how Kingdom sinners should live.
Thus, the title, Radical Discipleship. It is radical because it is totally opposite of what the society values. It is radical because it is totally opposite of our default sinful nature.
Radical Values (v20 – 26)
Turn with me to v20 to 26. I’ve titled this radical values.
Jesus gives 4 blessings and 4 woes. And the blessings and the woes are exact opposites – poor/rich, hungry/full, weep/laugh, persecuted/applauded by men.
What is our default mode? If we were to ask anyone in society, if a person is rich, has a full stomach, is happy and is highly esteemed in the eyes of man. Would not everyone agree that this is a blessed person?
The stars must have aligned for him. The gods must be very pleased with her.
To be healthy and wealthy, that blessedness, right? Does that not sound like the Prosperity Gospel?
Look at the text again, where is the adjective ‘makarios’ or blessed, attached to?
It’s not the rich but the poor. It is not the full but the hungry, it is not those who laugh but those who weep, it is not those who are spoken well off but those who are persecuted.
The values of Jesus’ kingdom are fully at odds with society.
Now Jesus is not saying blessed is poverty, hunger, weeping and persecution.
No, Jesus is saying you and I are blessed if we experience all this on account of Jesus the Son of Man.
Now if you didn’t cheat but still struggle to pass the bar exam, you are blessed.
Though you may have to give up your career progression, have no free time and are exhausted because you are bringing up your child, you are blessed because you are a good steward of God’s gift of a child.
I like what bible commentators say at this point. What Jesus is saying to us disciples is, look I am the treasure. I am your joy and your satisfaction.
If we have Jesus, we have everything. Jesus is our greatest treasure now and into eternity.
Scripture says, if a person is rich, full, happy and fulfilled but does not have Jesus, then woe is that person.
v26 says, if you find fulfilment in the applause of men, remember that is what the Israelites of old gave to the false prophets.
In contrast, Fanny Crosby, who lost her father at infancy, was also totally blind before the age of 3. She wrote the lyrics of the song Give Me Jesus. Stanza one says:
Take the world, but give me Jesus, all its joys are but a name; but his love abides forever, through eternal years the same.
The world values riches and indulgences. But the joy of a disciple is the love of Jesus.
She goes on in stanza 2 to proclaim:
Take the world, but give me Jesus, sweetest comfort of my soul; with the Saviour watching o'er me, I can sing, though thunders roll.
Her spiritual eyes beheld Jesus whom she treasured and trusted about all else. And God has used her to leave us reminders of what a radical disciple should value.
When we face trials and temptations for Jesus, in v23, Jesus gives us 2 reasons why we can rejoice in such circumstances, why we can even leap for joy.
Lk 6:23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
The first reason Jesus gives us is that our reward is great in heaven. Now we know that if we get our reward on earth, it will be temporal and insecure.
But since Jesus gives us, our reward in heaven, we know from Mt 6:20 that neither moth nor rust will destroy and thieves do not steal and it is for eternity.
Mt 6:20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal
This is surely a reward that is worth it all!
The second reason Jesus gives is that we have the honor of belonging to a suffering tradition of the people of God.
God’s true prophets suffered greatly for Him and we can now be identified with them through our own suffering.
Look at the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 and God says, if you persevere in the faith for me. I count you amongst those in Hebrews 11.
What are our values today church? Are they aligned with the blessed person in Luke 6? What is our deepest treasure today church? Is it Jesus the Son of God?
May I summarize Radical values with this quote –
“Blessed are you when everything else is taken away, but you still have Me. Cursed are you when you have everything, but you don’t have me”.
Radical Responses (v27 – 36)
Let’s now look at the next section from v27 – 36. Here Jesus says, love is to characterise His disciples.
I don’t think we would have any issue with love being expected of us. I love my spouse, my family, my friends, and especially those who are very agreeable with me.
That sort of love however is our default nature. That is our standard setting.
Jesus however says, no, His disciples are to be radicals. His disciples are to have a radical response.
Remember, the context continues to be about those who oppose you because you are a believer. Remember, we are blessed when people hate you, exclude you and revile you on account of the Son of Man.
So in that context, Jesus says, love not your friends and family, but your enemies. That is the radical response expected of Jesus’ followers.
This section is booked ended by the phase ‘love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.’ It is in v27 and then repeated in v35.
Many years ago, a relative of mine had their terrace house taken back by the government. It was due to road widening needs. At that time, what we were angry about, was that the government used not the prevailing land price to compensate but the value which was more dated.
That meant for us, that my relative did not get quite a fair deal.
Recently, Hermon sent some money to one of our mission partners for them to rebuild homes of members. These members homes were attap huts.
They had been re-possessed by the authorities. No reasons were given, no compensation was offered.
The Singapore government is no enemy of the church, but if we were in the position of our mission partner, how would we respond? I’m sure it would be difficult to read Luke 6.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
It would be natural for us to wish that fire and brimstone come down upon our enemies.
But that is our default response. Christ calls those in His kingdom to have a different and radical response under persecution.
Now at this point, I’m sure we are going to be like the Pharisees. We will say, let’s now look into Scripture and see where are the loopholes, where are the exceptions.
Where are the times when we can say, this expectation of loving our enemies does not apply.
But Jesus uses inclusive language. v30 says ‘give to everyone who begs from you’. Jesus says’ the context is our everyday lives - v32 ‘if you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.’
I’m sure we would be like the lawyer in Luke 10, who tries to justify himself. Who exactly is my neighbour whom I should love as myself?
To that Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. And we know that the Jews and the Samaritans were enemies socially.
And the point of the parable is that a good neighbour is one who showed him mercy.
Maybe we might also justify by saying we will sort of love our enemies in an abstract and philosophical way. I’ll just fight them with my hands, but not hate them in my heart.
I’ll just justify that offence is the best defence, I’ll just show that the possibility of hurting me will indeed hurt them and so it is a deterrence.
Instead, Jesus gives very concrete examples to show how radical he wants us to respond to our persecutors.
Offer the other cheek if you are struck. If they take your outer cloak, do not withhold your inner tunic as well. Lend to your enemies and do not expect anything in return.
These are not abstract ideals of radical action. They are concrete ones, and nothing gives the idea that offense is the best defence.
Such radical responses, is it new, is it only in the New Testament? No, it is not.
Ex 23:4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
Jer 29:7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
In Exodus, as God prepares Israel for the promise land, God instructs how they should treat the property of their enemy.
They should look out for the welfare of their enemies. They should actually take active steps towards such welfare, not just wishing them well.
Imagine, you are going into exile. Taken away from your land and treated not just like a 2nd class citizen, but worst, maybe just above that of a slave.
And you hear Jeremiah reminding, seek the welfare of the city where God has sent you into exile. Intercede to God for it.
That’s radical responses and these 2 examples are from the Old Testament.
Now, all this is in the context of persecution. How we should respond to our enemies who persecute us because of our stand for Christ.
So if this is God’s expectation of a radical response, what do you think is God’s expectation of our response to a stubborn child, a disagreeable spouse or an unreasonable colleague?
If at this point you are protesting loudly that it is not possible, it’s just too high a bar, then Jesus says, yes, it is if you are not a Christian, but if you are a Christian, it is possible.
Why, because v35 says, you are Sons of the Most High. Sons of our heavenly Father, are like chip off the old block.
God enables us to be more like Him as we grow to know and love Him.
Further, we can be kind, merciful because God is merciful. Meaning, we understand how to show mercy because we have been shown mercy by God the Father.
We have experienced His forbearance, His loving kindness, His extravagant grace.
And we continue to experience it each day.
Forgiven sinners forgive and thus can love our enemies.
Radical Discernment (v37 – 45)
Now if we are to love our enemies, then it means when we deal with brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to also have radical discernment.
It’s only natural, our default setting, that when we see something or we hear about it, we put on our judgement cap. The issue is that often times, we are very critical of others. We actually hold others to a higher standard that ourselves.
For example, many parents will say of children in general - by such and such an age, a toddler, a child or an adolescent should be able to do this or that.
But when it comes to our own child, we cut them much slack. We say, he or she is different. And we justify that its because we know them intimately. We seem to have one standard for others and another for our own.
Now in this segment, Jesus is not teaching that we should suspend all judgement of others.
For subsequently, with the illustration of the speck and log, Jesus does not say do not judge at all, but that self-examination is to precede any judgement of others.
With the analogy of good tree and good fruit, Jesus also brings out the fact that we should discern the quality of the fruit, for it is evident of the health of the tree.
So, Jesus is teaching that radical discernment means not being hyper-critical of others and that as God is merciful and forgiving, we too must have these guiding principles as we discern.
God promises that He will bless the attitude of radical discernment.
He will bless not in small ways but v38 says, it will be in good measure. What God will give you, will be of full substance, it will be pressed down and shaken, so no empty pockets of air.
Finally, it will be overly generous, it will be running over.
If Good Fruit equals to Good Tree, then godly wisdom is that we don’t just look at what they say, we look seriously at what they do also.
Be discerning, the good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good.
A good person will examine himself first before judging others. A good person is not like the blind man who is leading another blind man.
Instead, the good person is a good disciple who is being trained to eventually be like his teacher Jesus Christ.
I’m sure many have found that it is a challenge to appropriately apply these verses and so, may I share 2 illustrations which might be helpful.
The first one is taken from Luke 18.
Here is a negative example of how not to judge others. This is the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.
The Pharisees trusted themselves in righteousness and treated others with contempt.
So, the Pharisee stood where everyone could see and prayed – Lord I’m not like other man, extortioners, unjust, adulterers or even like this tax collector, I fast twice a week and tithe.
In contrast the tax collector stood far off and in humility said, God be merciful to me a sinner.
God’s verdict is that the tax collector and not the Pharisee went away justified. May we never judge others like this Pharisee.
The 2nd illustration comes from the internet. (the case is from the internet and not related to our Presbytery. Just showing it to illustrate a Presbytery)
It’s a presbytery meeting and it’s a sad presbytery meeting. It’s a called presbytery meeting and the minister and elders from an entire geographical area have gotten together.
The occasion is that one of the ministers in the churches in that presbytery has been accused of immorality. So the question is will we proceed to a trial of this brother?
One of the first men who stands up is a kindly and respected man in the presbytery and he says – The Bible tells us judge not, lest ye be judged. We cannot pronounce judgement on this our brother.
So we wonder, is this an appropriate application of Jesus’ words here?
Then, another man stands up in the presbytery. He happened to be the best friend of the accused minister and he says this – there is no one in this room that loves my friend more than I do. He is to me as a brother.
But for the honour of Christ, the well-being of the church, the interest of the victim and even for the soul of my friend, we must proceed to trial.
This best friend’s proposal I submit is a more faithful application of Jesus’ words from Luke 6.
As radical disciples of Christ Jesus, may the Holy Spirit enable us to exercise radical discernment in all matters - at home, in society and in the church.
Radical Investment (v46 – 49)
Our final few verses I submit, bookends this whole segment of Jesus choosing his disciples in Luke 5 and his teaching on what it means to be Jesus’ disciples.
I would like to sum it up as investing in obedience towards God’s Word.
Luke 5 begins with Jesus and Peter. Peter had fished all night but caught nothing. Jesus then said, put out into the deep and let down your nets.
Peter the seasoned fisherman tells Jesus the carpenter – at your word I will let down the nets.
Now at the end of chapter 6, Jesus says, everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like.
In Luke 5:11, Peter, John and James, left everything and followed Jesus. They decided it was worth it to radically invest in Jesus and His word.
At the end of chapter 6, Jesus again offers up the challenge to all who are listening.
To Jesus audience from all Judea, Jerusalem, from Tyre and Sidon, Jesus is asking, what are you investing your life upon?
Jesus is teaching that He is looking for radical disciples. People who will radically choose to invest their whole life on His Word.
On Feb 9 2016, Taiwan experience a large earthquake. One building collapse killing at least 39 people. The developer of a building has been arrested because there were questions raised about the building’s construction quality, especially materials used to build it.
Witnesses at the scene of the collapse have seen large rectangular, commercial cans of cooking-oil packed inside wall cavities exposed by the damage, apparently having been used as building material.
Are we building our lives on a foundation that is similar to this building in Taiwan?
Jesus is asking us today, what are you investing your life upon?
So we have to ask, what are the foundations of our lives? Is it our careers, is it our physical health, is it our educational qualifications, is it our network of business contacts, is it our financial portfolio?
The wisdom of the world will be like the cooking oil cans in the sides of the Taiwanese buildings.
Jesus is teaching instead, His expectation is that His disciples learn radical investment. That they invest in obedience to His Word.
What happens when we invest in Jesus and His word?
When we are hit with a terminal disease, Scripture comforts us that we have a future hope that we will one day have a resurrected body like Jesus for all eternity.
When we are hit with disasters, Scripture assures us that Jesus is still in control and that God continues to feed the sparrow and in His eyes, we are more precious than sparrows.
When we experience demons of the spiritual world, Scripture encourages us that the Holy Spirit who is in us is stronger than anything in the world. Nothing can snatch us out of Jesus’ hand.
Church, when we make a radical investment in Jesus, it will pay off. We will be like a house that has a solid foundation. The storms of life will not shake it.
May I echo again what Ps Luwin said. The call of Christ Jesus is a call to come as you are. The kingdom of Jesus is a kingdom of sinners.
But His call is to not stay as you are. His call is to radical discipleship. His call is to be radically different from the world.
May we be encouraged that radical discipleship is possible because Scripture says the resurrection power of Jesus Christ is available to each one of His children.
Thus we receive gladly God’s assurance in the benediction from Eph 3:
Eph 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.