Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
A New Perspective
The final verses of the “Sermon on the Plain” in Luke 6:37-49 could be summed up in four words: “don’t be a hypocrite!” A hypocrite is one who appears one way on the outside but is really another on the inside. Now, in saying this, I recognize that we are all a little bit hypocritical in that we try to always put our best self forward – that’s not what I think Jesus is talking about here.
In essence I think Jesus is saying: “Have an accurate picture of yourself and others around you in relationship to My character and goodness. Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t and don’t condemn others—give them mercy like you’d want Me to show you—mercy you’ll want when you have that accurate self-assessment and discover just how far away you are from My purity.”
It’s all about the attitude of someone who has truly given their heart to Jesus. That type of person is kind, not condemning, giving and merciful, not stingy with their love. The goal here is to become like Jesus by seeing our shortcomings and turning to Him. If we rely on our brains lying to us we set ourselves up for a huge surprise when we get to the end of this life—and not a good surprise.
We begin with not condemning others.
37 – 38
It’s very important here that we understand what Jesus is NOT saying here. This has nothing to do with discernment.
John 7:24 “Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.”
Jesus is not telling us that there is no such thing as sin and that we should stop recognizing what is and is not in God’s character. What He’s coming against here is hypocritical judgment, short-sighted condemnation, and an unforgiving spirit. We are not judge, jury, and executioner of people’s hearts. You have no idea what is happening in a person’s soul.
Our job is to share the love of Christ in a self-sacrificing, other-centered manner, recognizing sin but also recognizing that it is God who deals with the problem of sin—not us.
In fact, the opposite is what we should be about. As Jesus began to teach in verses 28 through 36—we should be givers, merciful and loving despite being hated. Instead of condemning people we need to forgive them as Jesus did on the cross—especially the wrongs they do against us. This has nothing to do with how we must all be accountable before God for our words, deeds, and thoughts—this is about laying a foundation of love and mercy that will be attractive to those who don’t yet know Him. It doesn’t mean we call something good that God calls sin—but we need to recognize the big picture, that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and that our job is to introduce people to the One who can effectively deal with their sin.
If we can be that way, if we can give instead of judge, show mercy and forgiveness to those that hate us—Jesus promises an abundance will be poured back to us. What do you suppose that abundance will be? Some have argued that this will be material in nature but I think that’s just greed. What gets poured back, I believe, is primarily the joy of seeing in people fall in love with Christ. We witness them realize how much forgiveness and love and mercy there is in Jesus and then we see them bow their lives before Him—and that is a wonderful gift back to us.
Next, Jesus encourages us to see the real purpose of our lives:
39 – 40
Don’t be mistaken—there is such a thing as ultimate truth and ultimate falsehood. The Pharisees were leading the people astray into believing that by looking good on the outside they could be any way they wanted on the inside. Jesus is saying that it’s just like the blind leading the blind—they have no idea where they are headed in terms of ultimate truth because they’ve not submitted to the Messiah who IS truth. By the way—all of the world’s religions outside of the gospel of Jesus are blind when it comes to leading people into everlasting life and if you follow any other idea or leader other than Jesus you will literally fall into a Pit.
Once you’ve submitted to the gospel (more in verses 46-49) the goal is to become like the Master you’ve submitted yourself to. As I said two weeks ago in verse 13—Jesus appointed disciples as apostles. A disciple is one who is “trained” and an apostle is one who is “sent”. We get trained up in how to think, speak, and act like Jesus (after forgiveness through His blood and filling with His Holy Spirit) then we get to go out and practice what we’ve learned by employing an accurate self reflection and ongoing submission to the Master.
41 – 42
This is a famous couple of verses which says, in essence, don’t pretend you can judge someone else’s minor imperfections when you have major faults of your own to deal with. Be fully trained in how to lovingly and gently lead someone into a relationship with the Lord and then disciple them in the ways of the Master. Just criticizing people for their sins is not going to accomplish anything.
I think this is building here to a conclusion—that we are conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5) and are sinners unless we submit fully to the Messiah for His forgiveness.
43 – 45
So just as an apple tree can’t produce walnuts, a person who is a sinner cannot produce righteousness. What we do is the product of our soul and Jeremiah (17:9) tells us that the “heart (soul) is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
So Jesus tells us here that it isn’t the outward appearance that leads us to know whether someone is righteous or not—anyone can play the part of a good person. It is what takes place inside, in the heart and soul and mind—a place that only God can know.
So in a final blow to the hypocritical attitude, Jesus nails it in the verses 46 through 49:
46 – 49
I was in Albuquerque New Mexico recently and there was a sudden huge hailstorm and torrential rainfall. It happened so fast and the water rose so quickly that someone got swept away in an arroyo and was killed. Those dry gulches are used just to handle big rain events. Someone was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jesus here says that if you think your outward appearance will help you when the judgment comes you are fooling yourself. But if you listen to and act on the words of the Messiah you count on Him and His goodness, not your own. Then when the judgment comes you are fine because you’ve put down deep foundations in Him.
There is a bypass going in here in our town. The contractors are building a bunch of bridges. You see what are called “bents” rising above the ground to hold the roadway but want you don’t see are the many concrete and steel piles that go all the way down into the bedrock—these will provide stability in case of earthquake or flood. So too, we need to make sure the foundation of our lives goes all the way to something that can’t be shaken. All the other philosophies about God will liquefy and flow away in the coming judgment, except the truth about God in the gospel.
So what does it mean to be someone who “hears My words and acts on them?” Ultimately it means to
1) realize our lack of goodness (Romans 3:23),
2) acknowledge Jesus as the only good person ever born (Matthew 19:17), then
3) confess your lack to God and ask Him for His goodness through the sacrifice of Christ who died to pay for your lack of goodness (Romans 10:9).
In reality this section isn’t at all about judgment, it’s about hypocrisy. I think for the Christian this is a constant ongoing thing. We can get smug in our feeling of superiority over others. We begin to judge them, not realizing that we are still like them in many ways—the only difference is that we have pledged our lives to the Messiah and His kingship in our lives.
As the Apostle Paul said: (1Cor. 6:11) And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
He is slowly transforming and “training” us to be like Him, and the goodness we do now counts because it is redeemed goodness—but we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking we have somehow made it. We only have security because we’ve put down deep foundations in Him!
The goal is to be integral—be the same on the inside as the outside. It takes a long time to get to this point and really we never fully arrive until we are present with the Lord. But we should also not fool ourselves into thinking we are anything but redeemed sinners!
But you know what—being a redeemed sinner saved by grace is just all right with me.