Radical Discipleship

Date: 1 May 2022

Sermon Text: Luke 6:17-49

Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan

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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.’