“What Are You Like?” (John MacDiarmid)

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Notes on Sermon preached at PCF on 31 October 2010

“What are you like?” – Luke 6 v.20-26

Doctor Luke’s narrative has taken us through a period of calling of disciples, of healings and miracles and a series of confrontations with the religious establishment. We now have a section where Luke concentrates on teaching that was brought by Jesus to his disciples. “The Sermon on the Plain” has much in common with the better known “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7), but Luke seems to want us to see that it is different occasion.

Luke’s’ version of the beatitudes is shorter than Matthews, but have a mirror image with each “Blessed are….” being mirrored with a “Woe to… “

This is a beautiful poetic section that deserves our close investigation and attention and sets the scene for the whole of the teaching of Jesus.

The phrase “What are you like?” has become an affectionate kind of rebuke – questioning someone’s behaviour and drawing attention to something in a very genial and non-threatening way. But the question asked in a more serious way, in relation to the passage before us now, is one of the most fundamental questions that can be asked of someone.

Jesus is describing two kinds of people and the answer to the question “What are you like?” determines your eternal destiny.

Who are these two kinds of people?

  1. Happy and Hopeful
  2. Horrified and Hopeless

Even at this early stage of His ministry, Jesus is splitting his hearers into two catagories:

Firstly those who are “Blessed” . The closest translation of the word is “happy” – not the superficial meaning of the word today, but a deep sense of security, contentment and confidence. These people can also look forward to a present and future hope – again not the superficial hope we talk about today, but the confident certainty of a reality not yet experienced.

Secondly, those to whom Jesus speaks words of “woe”. This word is so much stronger than the rather patronising use of the word today. It describes people as being in a state of abject and pitiful horror, with no hope to look forward to.

So the contrast is stark. What are these two types like?

The Happy and Hopeful person is

  1. Poor – not an absence of material possessions, but a state of realisation of our own neediness in every area of our lives. Jesus describes this more fully in Matthew when he talks about the “poor is spirit”. We are talking about someone who realises that they have nothing whatsoever to offer God. Such a person is blessed because this is evidence that God is at work in their lives. No   one comes to this conclusion other than by the Spirit of God.
  2. Hungry – again not a description of someone who hasn’t eaten, but a term used to describe someone who realises that what they have today simply isn’t good enough, someone who desperately knows that if God doesn’t work righteousness into him, he has no hope and no future. If you are like this – then again, be glad for it is evidence that he Holy Spirit is in you and that you belong to Jesus. Again the same idea is more fully expressed in Matthew –“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”
  3. Sad – why would someone who has the joy of God in their lives be someone would be described as being “happy” when they are weeping?  Surely this is a progression from the other beatitudes, when Jesus is saying that knowledge of your own spiritual poverty, and a hunger for God to produce righteousness in you produces a deep sense of grief, as we realise our own unworthiness in the sight of a Holy God. Where this is true, Jesus says, rejoice – you belong to Him!
  4. Persecuted – the fourth characteristic of those who belong to Jesus is that others will hate them! RT Kendal refers to this as the highest level of anointing! (“Next stop heaven”). Though this is not something to be sought out, when we are persecuted because of him it is a sure sign that we belong to Him.

Is anyone uncertain as to whether they belong to Jesus? Look at these four characteristics of those who belong to Jesus. If they are present in your life – even in embryo – you can be sure that you belong to Him.

But what about those who do not belong to Jesus, those for Jesus pronounces “Woe”. What is true of them?

  1. Prosperous – there is no sense of spiritual poverty: they are probably saying “I’ve lived a good life, I’ll be Ok with God”
  2. Full – no sense of hunger to change or to see God’s righteousness revealed in their lives: they are perfectly self-satisfied with their own spiritual state.
  3. Frivolous – no sense of grief on their own lives, and no hunger to see God work
  4. Popular – never pay the price of following Jesus and so never have to experience any unpopularity for doing so.

Two very different types of people – who experience two very different types of consequence:

“Happy and Hopeful”

  1. The Kingdom of Heaven – in other words – God is in your life, and you may expect His government and rule, and all the blessings that go with it to characterise your life, starting now and reaching fullness in eternity
  2. Satisfied – all hunger is satisfied as we find our fulfilment in God alone. In eternity all our hearts desire will be satisfied for eternity.
  3. Filled with joy – paradoxically, the sadness that we feel at our own sinfulness is replaced with joy that God works in our lives, again starting now and concluding in eternity
  4. Rewards – God promises a special reward for those who suffer because of his Son. Those rewards are for the here and now, and find their climax in heaven.

What a wonderful future awaits those who have God in their lives!

Horrified and Hopeless”

By contrast, those who are not receiving the benefit of God’s provision in this life have no hope to look forward to. They have received their comfort, they have no reward to look forward to and they will mourn and weep.

Is this not a description of the eternal fate of those who know Jesus, and of those who do not?

These verses give us an assurance of eternal security if we have God in our lives, and a terrible warning of eternity without God for those who do not.

So the question is:

What are you like?

And

Where are you going?

 

 

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