In explaining the dangers of not putting His teachings into practice, Jesus used an analogy of our lives being destroyed by swift raging waters.
But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
The rain came down, the streams arose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.[i]
Times of earthly devastation remind us about what really matters in life. It forces us to question what life is all about. What should our life goal and purpose be? We are all called to ‘bring glory to God.’ We are called to follow Jesus, to become a disciple and ultimately a disciple-maker. So, what does a disciple look like? We can say that a disciple is one who looks like Jesus. But what does Jesus look like?
On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the unusual inscription: ‘James Butler Bonham – no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom. No literal portrait of Jesus exists either. But the likeness of the Son who makes us free can be seen in the lives of his true followers.[ii]
We can get a glimpse of Him in the lives of those who are following Him closely. We are becoming like Him. In Luke’s retelling of the greatest sermon ever preached, known as the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, Luke’s rendition known as the Sermon on the Plain, slips in a simple statement that is not found in Matthew’s gospel but gives us something of the nature of the end product of a disciple of Jesus.
A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.[iii]
What is Luke telling us? He is giving us a picture of what discipleship is about. A disciple is someone who is becoming like Christ. In other words, to be a true follower of Jesus we must be in the process of becoming like Him. The idea is the student or learner, when fully trained or has completed his training, will be like their teacher. That is what this life is all about. We are being trained in the school of Christ. God, the Father, is utilizing all our life’s experiences to fashion us into Christlikeness. The apostle Paul describes the process this way in the book of Romans:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.[iv]
The obvious question then is, what is Jesus Christ like? What about Jesus is God fashioning us into? It is obvious that our Father in Heaven is fashioning the character of Christ within us. But what does Christ’s character look like in action? In Luke 6:37-48 we get three quick snapshots of the heart of Christ. If we imitate or pursue after these elements of Jesus’ heart, we will be well on our way toward growing into a fully trained disciple.
THE FIRST SNAPSHOT THAT LUKE GIVES US IS JESUS’ NON-JUDGMENTAL ATTITUDE
We are speaking here of a non-censoring attitude towards others. It can be summarized as showing respect towards all men because our Father in Heaven values and loves each person dearly. It is really an expression of a loving heart. To be like Jesus is to have this heart attitude toward other people, especially those whom others write off. These are people who have failed in life. When we look at the life of Christ, we are fascinated by the people He reached out to. Jesus reached out to sinners. He was criticized by the religious leaders of his day, for welcoming sinners and eating with them. That is the reason Jesus told the parable of the prodigal son. It was to show the compassion of God toward those who had lost their way and needed to be forgiven. Luke summarizes Jesus’ behavior towards the least.
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’[v]
Jesus was falsely accused of sinful behavior, but he did reach out to those who struggled with sin issues. That is what we need to see. The heart of Christ is one of compassion rather than judgment and censorship of people. People who exhibit the spirit of judgment and censorship bully people because of their own insecurities. Jesus did not need to build himself up at the expense of others. He was secure. His purpose was to seek and to save that which is lost. Fortunately for us, we are included in His search. We also are sinners. The gospel is for sinners. God came to rescue humanity. In this incident, Jesus warns us against a proud and critical heart. The end product of a disciple then is being like Christ toward others. Notice the things that Jesus focused on – not judging or condemning, but rather having a giving and forgiving heart.
‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’
He also told them this parable: ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?
A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
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?
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.’[vi]
Here Jesus was addressing the religious leaders of His day, who were trying to address the sin issues in other people’s lives in a condescending manner. Using hyperbole, which is an exaggerated form of speech to make a point, Jesus gives us a visual picture of a man with a log in his eye trying to remove a speck of sawdust from another person’s eye. He restates the point by telling us a parable about a blind man leading a blind man. Both are in danger of falling into a hole in the ground. Jesus is speaking about spiritual vision, which we must have, or else we will be leading people astray.
This message is not just a warning for leaders, but for all of us. We need to have spiritual clarity and a loving attitude before we can address issues in other people’s lives. Jesus is talking about a spiritual vision motivated out of a heart of love, which reflects the heart of God. Where there is no love, truth becomes a severe form of censorship; a critical, judgmental heart.
Lew Gervais shared the following story, which demonstrates the loving heart of Jesus in one of his followers.
A young college student by the name of Bill, recently became a believer while attending a campus Bible study. Across from the campus was a well-dressed, very conservative church. One Sunday Bill decided to attend a service, and so in came Bill: wild-haired, blue jeans, and an old T-shirt with holes. To top it off, he came in barefoot and late.
The sanctuary was packed, and so Bill headed down the aisle looking for a seat. Having nearly reached the pulpit, he realized that there were no empty seats, so he squatted down on the carpet, at the very front of the church.
Obviously, everybody was aware of what had happened. There was a quiet tension when from the very back of the church, a gray-haired elder in a three-piece suit started walking toward Bill with a cane. Nobody expected a man in his eighties to understand some college kid on the floor. With all eyes focused on the developing drama, the minister waited to start his message as this drama was unfolding before the congregation.
The elderly man dropped his cane on the floor and with great difficulty lowered himself to ground next to Bill.
When the minister began, all he could say was: ‘What I’m about to preach, you’ll probably never remember. What you’ve just seen, you’ll never forget.[vii]
What is so damaging about a judgmental attitude is the underlying anger and contempt from which it springs. U.S.C. professor of philosophy, Dallas Willard explains the impact that these two conditions of the heart have on relationships.
Some degree of malice is contained in every degree of anger. That is why it always hurts us when someone is angry at us. …We can and usually do choose or will to be angry. Anger first arises spontaneously. But we can actively receive it and decide to indulge it, and we usually do. We may even become an angry person, and any incident can evoke from us a torrent of rage that is kept in constant readiness.
…Anger indulged, instead of simply waved off, always has in it an element of self-righteousness and vanity. Find a person who has embraced anger, and you find a person with a wounded ego.
…But contempt is a greater evil than anger and so is deserving of greater condemnation. …Therefore Jesus tells us, ‘Whoever say ‘Raca’ to his brother shall stand condemned before the Sanhedrin, the highest court of the land.
The Aramaic term raca was current in Jesus’ day to express contempt for someone and to mark out him or her as contemptible. …In anger I want to hurt you. In contempt, I don’t care whether you are hurt or not. Or at least so I say. You are not worth consideration one way or the other. We can be angry at someone without denying their worth. But contempt makes it easier for us to hurt them or see them further degraded.
…Our verbal arsenal is loaded with contemptuous terms. …The intent and the effect of contempt is always to exclude someone, push them away, leave them out and isolated. …But those who are excluded are thereby made fair game for worse treatment. Conversely, respect automatically builds a wall against mistreatment. In family battles the progression is nearly always from anger to contempt (always expressed in vile language) to physical brutality. Once contempt is established, however, it justifies the initial anger and increases its force [we are talking in the minds of the perpetrator].[viii]
This is the reason why Jesus warns against these attitudes that lead to broken relationships. It always starts as a condition of the heart. A disciple of Jesus Christ cannot leave his heart unattended with issues of anger, censorship and contempt. These must be addressed through confession of sin and a pursuit after God’s love.
You see the issue of becoming like Jesus is an issue of the heart. But when our hearts are wrong, when our hearts are filled with woundedness, vanity, anger, contempt of others and a judgmental spirit, the question we are faced with is, how can I address these issues? How should I respond to my sinfulness?
A. It must always begin with an acknowledgment of the problem.
We must confess these attitudes of the heart that led to destructive relational behaviors as sin, and when we do, we can expect God’s forgiveness and cleansing in our lives.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.[ix]
Yet, too often as believers we have taken this first step and have not seen much change in our lives. We may then question whether God really forgives and cleanses. But it is not just the need to turn from these sin issues alone, but what is also needed is a turning to something greater than our sin that really defines what true biblical repentance is all about.
We must replace or displace these sinful attitudes which lead to sinful actions. Paul gives some examples of this process in Ephesians 4 when he writes:
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully…
In your anger do not sin…Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry. [Deal with that anger]
Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.[x]
B. Secondly, we must follow a different type of attitude and behavior.
The apostle Paul challenges us to purse love. “Follow the way of love… (1 Corinthians 14:1a) and ‘Do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:14).”
If you read the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians you will see what we are to pursue. Dallas Willard expands on this idea.
Is it then hard to do the things with which Jesus illustrates the kingdom heart of love? Or the things that Paul says love does? It is very hard indeed if you have not been substantially transformed in depths of your being, in the intricacies of your thoughts, feelings, assurances, and dispositions, in such a way that you are permeated with love. Once that happens, then it is not hard. What would be hard is to act the way you acted before. [In other words, once love has apprehended us because we have given ourselves to practice love, we change at the deepest levels of our being].
When Jesus hung on the cross and prayed, “Father, forgive them because they do not understand what they are doing,” that was not hard for him. What would have been hard for him would have been to curse his enemies and spew forth vileness and evil upon everyone, God and the world, as those crucified with him did, at least for a while. He calls us to him to impart himself to us. He does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.[xi]
THE SECOND SNAPSHOT THAT LUKE GIVES US IS A HEART THAT PRODUCES GENUINE SPIRITUALITY
The behavior of a person is determined by the condition of their heart. What I mean by the heart is the essence of a person. We would call it our personality. The real you. Jesus says that what is on the inside will eventually be revealed on the outside.
No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.
Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.
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.[xii]
The only way to change the fruit in our lives is to address the root of our lives, namely our heart. We have already addressed how to go about doing that earlier. We must begin with confession, but then discipline our lives to live a life of love, until that becomes the pattern or our thoughts and actions. Henri Nouwen wrote: “Discipline is the other side of discipleship.”[xiii] That is why it is so important that we develop the spiritual disciplines in our lives: bible reading, study and meditation, prayer, giving, serving. All of these things shape us. They help us discover who God is and what He is like. We are now seeing how God sees life. Some of us may dismiss that as a fanciful idea. How can I live like Jesus? Yet, John reminds us of this in his first letter.
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.
The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But if anyone obeys his word, God’s loves is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him:[xiv]
In other words that person has the right heart attitude that is producing the right behavior. “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).” Our lives must be like His life. We become more like Jesus when we practice the spiritual disciplines. They help us understand the nature of God. Yet, we may object that we are bound by our sin. When we struggle with sin, we don’t seem to be able to move forward. What is it going to take, you may ask, to become like Jesus Christ? You may argue, but I’ve tried but just can’t get free. Henri Nouwen once explained the secret to overcoming our sinfulness.
I cannot continuously say no to this or no to that, unless there is something ten times more attractive to choose. Saying no to my lust, my greed, my needs, and the world’s powers takes an enormous amount of energy. The only hope is to find something so obviously real and attractive that I can devote all my energies to saying yes…. One such thing I can say yes to is when I come in touch with the fact that I am loved. Once I have found that in my total brokenness I am still loved, I become free from the compulsion of doing successful things.[xv]
We are not practicing the spiritual disciples to be loved, rather we practice them because we know we are loved and see them as vehicles to bring us closer to our lover, the Lord Jesus Christ. The love that people truly long for is only found in Christ. We need to catch a vision of God’s love. That was what Paul was praying for the church at Ephesus.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know [experience] this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.[xvi]
It is the apprehending and compelling love of God that we need to experience in our lives. There is a love deficiency in our world. The greatest change will occur when we have a vision of the beauty of the Lord, when we experience the love of God in our hearts. Only then will love flow out to others with that kind of love.
THE THIRD SNAPSHOT THAT LUKE GIVES US IS JESUS’ EXAMPLE OF AN OBEDIENT LIFE
Jesus’ life was one in which He delighted in doing His Father’s will. In the book of Hebrews, the writer there quotes from Psalm 40, regarding Christ coming as a willing sacrifice for our sin.
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. [The King James Version says, I delight to do thy will].[xvii]
Even so, the true disciple of Jesus will delight to do the will of God.
‘Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?
I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice.
He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.
But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.[xviii]
What we discover from this summary by Jesus is that ‘storms’ come to all of us to test the quality of our character. Are we truly living our lives in submission and obedience to His words, thereby being transformed in our character? Or are we just hearing the words and not exercising them in our lives, so when the storms of life hit us, we are destroyed by them? The problem is not the outside storms but the condition of our hearts.
Sometimes we excuse relatively minor flaws in people, especially if they have done something extraordinary for God. But God doesn’t just want extraordinary good works from us, but obedience in small things as well. Agatho, a desert monk of fourth-century Egypt, put it this way: “If an angry man raises the dead, God is still displeased with his anger.[xix]
During the 1930’s-50’s, Elbert Hubbard, traveled throughout the United States lecturing on life when he wasn’t at home handcrafting fine furniture or publishing books. Among one of Hubbard’s memorable quotes is: ‘As we grow better, we meet better people.’[xx]
Former editor, Terry Muck, of Leadership Magazine once pointed out:
Isn’t it true that our judgment of others really reflects our own selves? Our own attitudes alter our impressions of others. Our shortcomings spur our recognition of the shortcomings of others. But our companionship with Christ can help us grow better than anything else. No higher standards can be found than His; yet His high aspirations are accompanied by equally strong understanding, love, and forgiveness.
Christianity is an ongoing experience, a life being lived, a process of growth. Constantly seeking His will and way changes us. An occasional gesture toward Him accomplishes little. Regular worship, continual exposure to the Bible, and working with others striving to be effective members of the Church promotes rapid growth. And it’s amazing how much better other folks become when we do that growing ourselves.[xxi]
Becoming like Jesus means my attitudes toward others changes for the better. I begin to live a more disciplined life, a life obedient to God’s word and will. The result is that I’m living a life beyond myself, extending out toward others motivated out of a heart filled with God’s love.
[i] Matthew 7:26-27, The New International Version of the Bible, 2011.
[ii] Bill Morgan. Memphis, Tennessee. Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 4.
[iii] Luke 6:40.
[iv] Romans 8:28-29.
[v] Luke 7:34.
[vi] Luke 6:37-42.
[vii] Lew Gervais, director of Pressing Onward support groups; quoted in Men of Integrity (3.2).
[viii] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God, (San Francisco, Ca: Harper Collins Publishers, 1998), 148-152.
[ix] 1 John 1:9.
[x] Ephesians 4:25-29.
[xi] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God, 183.
[xii] Luke 6:43-45.
[xiii] Henri Nouwen, Leadership, Vol. 2, no. 3.
[xiv] 1 John 2:3-5.
[xv] Henri Nouwen, Leadership, Vol. 2, no. 3.
[xvi] Ephesians 3:17-19.
[xvii] Palms 40:6-8.
[xviii] Luke 6:46-49.
[xix] Sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by Owen Chadwick, in “Western Asceticism” (Westminster, 1983).
[xx] Ray W. G. Bayley, Christian Reader, Vol. 24, no. 6.
[xxi] Terry Muck, “Hearing God’s Voice and Obeying His Word,” Leadership Journal (Winter 1982), p. 16.