In the Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6, Jesus gives us two ways to live.
One way is to live for self. We can chase after riches, fullness, laughter, and popularity. We can live to gain for ourselves, as though the world revolved around self. This is our tendency even from our youngest years – consider the toddler throwing a tantrum because he doesn’t get what he wants. To those who live this way, Jesus says: “Woe to you.”
But Jesus calls us to another way of life. He calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. Instead of living for self, we should live for Christ. We should be willing to give up all the world chases after and become poor, hungry, weeping, hated, rejected, and ridiculed for the sake of Christ. When we live for Christ instead of ourselves, Jesus says: “Blessed are you.” But that is not all. Jesus then goes on to tell us to live for others – even those who hate us, ridicule us, and reject us. He tells us to love our enemies. We are to do good, bless, pray for, and be merciful to others. Rather than judge and condemn others, we should forgive and give generously. Live for Christ and others. Love God and people. Live with a passion for God and compassion for people.
Two ways to live. We can live for self or we can live for Christ and others. Jesus closes his sermon with four applications:
First, choose your teachers carefully. Those blind to the truth follow those blind to the truth, and they both fall into a pit. But if you are in Christ, you are no longer blind, so don’t follow those who are. When we are fully trained we will be like our teacher. If we make the lies of our culture our teacher, we will be like our culture – we will live for self. If we make Christ our teacher, we will be like Christ, willing to give of ourselves for others. So who are we listening to? What does our favorite music, movies, books, magazines, and websites teach us? What do our closest friends teach us? To live for self or for Christ? Have we chosen our teachers carefully? Do we need to make some changes?
Of course, our culture is everywhere, and we cannot help but hear the lies, but we can minimize our exposure. And when we do hear the lies, we can reject them rather than let them shape us. We must continually ask ourselves the question as we traverse this world: “Is this true?” And we must saturate ourselves with the truth of God’s Word so we can know the truth and see the lies.
Second, Jesus calls us to apply the truth to ourselves first. We may agree with Jesus that we should live for him instead of ourselves, but we have this tendency too often to apply the truth to someone else. We think: “He really needs to hear this message. I hope so-and-so is listening. I should send this post to her….” Though we may have a plank in our own eyes, we want to take the speck out of another’s eyes. Jesus calls us to look to ourselves first, to apply the message to our own lives.
Third, we need to focus on the heart. The tree determines the fruit. Our heart determines our words and actions. It would be easy to hear Jesus’ message to love others, and attempt to tinker with our words and actions. But Jesus says we need to go deeper, we need to address our hearts.
We are all born with hearts bent toward sin, bent toward self. So our first need is to get a new heart bent toward God. We need to be born again. We need Christ to come into our lives and change us if we have any hope of living for Christ and others.
Assuming we have received Jesus as our Savior and have received a new heart, we must guard our hearts. Our new heart believes the best thing is to live for Jesus. It desires to live for Jesus. With that believe and desire, we will live for Jesus. But we have been living for self for a long time. And our culture calls us constantly to live for ourselves. And so we must guard our hearts from the lies of the culture we once believed. We must guard our hearts from the sinful desires of our culture we once desired. When we don’t, lies mix with truth, sinful desires mix with desires for Christ, and we sin. That is why we still sin. Sometimes we believe the lies, desire what the lies promise, and live out the lie. What we believe is what we will desire, and what we desire is what we will do. Our heart leads to our words and actions.
And so we must also examine our hearts. We need God’s Word to discern the thoughts and intents of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12) to reveal the lies and sinful desires. We need to pray with the Psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart (Psalm 139). We can’t just tinker with our words and actions. We must examine our hearts.
Finally, we must live the truth. We shouldn’t claim Jesus is our Lord if we don’t obey him. We can’t simply listen to the truth, we must live it out. If we do, we are like the man who builds on a firm foundation, whose house stands. If we don’t, we are like a man who builds without a foundation, and great is the ruin.
Jesus calls us to stop living for ourselves, and to start living for Christ and others. If we are to do that, we must choose our teachers carefully. We must apply this truth to ourselves first. We must focus on the heart – we need a new heart, we must guard our heart, and we must examine our heart. We must live out the truth.
So how do you need to respond to Jesus’ message? As you respond and live for Christ and others, you will hear our Lord say to you: “Blessed are you!”