Jesus is with his followers. In Luke 11 the emphasis is on overcoming evil ~ as we minister in the name of Jesus, we are confronted by opposition. There are many ways to respond when things do not turn out as we imagine: give up, overreact, depression, doubt, inaction….One person described humankind accurately: “We are – each and every one of us – a tangled mass of motives: hope and fear, faith and doubt, simplicity and duplicity, honesty and falsity, openness and guile” (Richard Foster, Streams, pg. 87). Jesus is teaching us to overcome evil by becoming more like Christ within, a transformation of our hearts.
Holiness is to be become a new creation. 2 Cor. 5:17 says it this way (NLT): “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” i.e. HOLINESS. 1 Peter picks up the ancient cry of Leviticus, "You shall be Holy, for I am Holy."
Holiness is the teaching in today’s scripture. Jesus wants us to be genuinely transformed in our hearts, to become a people of purity, consistency.
READ Luke 11:33. If we stopped with these words, you might be able to get the idea of an external show would be enough…but Jesus continues, emphasizing the internal change of heart ~
Luke 11:34 is the foundational principle. READ. the things that you are exposed to make a difference to your heart: what you look at, your patterns and habits impact your inner character. That is what God most cares about.
Luke 11:35 is the imperative… READ. Be Careful. The rest of this message is focusing on what that means in today’s world.
Holiness is my response to how to go forward. On Thursday afternoon I spent a few hours working in my yard. I checked the texts on my phone. Kim Smith had written an hour earlier, “What’s this world coming too??” My heart sank. I knew she meant another terrorist attack…it was the Nice, France attack. No matter how often the terrorists attack around the globe, I refuse to ever be desensitized. I am committed to forever being shocked and saddened. Holiness, personal transformation, is the way to overcome the evil in this world and the way forward to bring the message of salvation and the new creation offered by Christ.
Luke 11:36 is the result of what the person is like that is Holy before God READ. The light of Christ illuminates through you…The contrast, as we’ll see in the next few weeks, is with the religious leaders in that were superficially Holy. The world today is good at spotting fake spirituality, superficial inconsistent Christians. Luke 11:36 is saying that when a genuinely spirit filled Christian that has a heart seeking after God shows up, the world will see Christ. A genuine Christian shines brightly…
Jesus instructs his disciples to be careful what they expose themselves too… I have a silly little joke and a wonderful children’s song that both seem to me to get at the heart of the teaching of this scripture. Maybe not the joke so much, but it does kind of… and I like it. I partly like it because the preacher is not the butt of the joke:
A preacher had a teenage son, and it was getting time the boy should give some thought to choosing a profession. Like many young men his age, the boy didn't really know what he wanted to do, and he didn't seem too concerned. One day, while the boy was away at school, his father decided to try an experiment. He went into the boy's room and placed on his study table four objects...
1. A Bible...2. A silver dollar....3. A bottle of whiskey...4. And a Playboy magazine...
'I'll just hide behind the door,' the old preacher said to himself. When he comes home from school today, I'll see which object he picks up. If it's the Bible, he's going to be a preacher like me, and what a blessing that would be! If he picks up the dollar, he's going to be a business man, and that would be okay, too. But if he picks up the bottle, he's going to be a no-good drunken bum, and Lord, what a shame that would be.And worst of all if he picks up that magazine, he's going to be a skirt-chasing womaniser.'
[Pause the joke: this is about being careful with what you expose yourself to…Be careful in your daily decisions… back to the joke]
The old man waited anxiously, and soon heard his son's foot-steps as he entered the house and headed for his room. The boy tossed his books on the bed; as he turned to leave the room he spotted the objects on the table. With curiosity in his eye, he walked over to inspect them. Finally, he picked up the Bible and placed it under his arm. He picked up the silver dollar and dropped into his pocket. He uncorked the bottle and took a big drink, while he admired the magazine’s centerfold.
'Lord have mercy,' the old preacher disgustedly whispered, He's going to run for congress!
It’s a joke of course. But the truth is that what we expose ourselves to does impact our heart…. Pornography is a problem in our world, even among people in the church. Gambling is not healthy for the soul. Addictions of all kinds are problems. TV is not always edifying, our choice of books, the way we spend time….Warning: Christianity is not about do’s and don’ts, it’s about a heart change. I cannot give you a definite list of how to respond to every situation, that is legalism. I cannot say this book is of God and that one is of Satan… that’s what the world is doing right now in confronting such things as racism: if certain words are spoken that is racist, or sexist, or homophobic… it’s legalism when the world so easily pronounces somebody is a bigot. Political correctness, in which people are afraid to express unpopular ideas lest they be condemned, is the mark of a legalistic society. Holiness is about the heart.
Jesus said on several occasions to look to children as examples of faith. One of the wonderful children’s songs is another application of the truth of today’s scripture.
O Be Careful Little eyes what you see
O Be Careful little ears what you hear
O Be Careful little tongue what you say
O Be Careful little hands what you do
That is the imperative of today’s scripture: BE CAREFUL. Be careful in your daily decisions. Becoming more Christ like is the way forward. To be transformed is the way to combat evil…have you ever known a person so strong in faith they literally seem to glow with the radiance of Christ? READ Luke 11:36. I like the way Richard Foster says it: “The goal of the Christian Life is not simply to get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us!...We are terribly prone to settle for less than what God desires for us.”
Don’t settle for less. Keep high standards. Holiness is a process. It is not being perfect, it is not to be sinless for we are all sinners by nature. Holiness is a striving towards God. It is seeking to live for him so that all of life is a sacred adventure.
Holiness is not to separate from the world but to live in the everyday world with a heart tuned towards God, looking for God in the details. It’s not about a list of what to say, do and think. Holiness is moment by moment being turned toward God. It may not be the video game itself that is the problem, but the length of time you spend playing videogames or what you are giving up. I can be a holy person and watch football, but it may be a problem if in my zeal to watch football I neglect a friend that knocks on the door. The world needs genuine Christians seeking to be Holy before God. Not a show. Not legalist. Not perfect. But genuine. The world knows when Christians are genuine!
Let’s bring this home. Sally reminded me of a book we used to own with a wonderful title, “I have met the enemy and they are partly right.” Radical Extreme Islam is evil. Their teaching of who God is and how to attain salvation is wrong. The practice of killing those who disagree and committing acts of terrorism around the globe is of Satan. BUT, they are not wrong in some of their criticisms of the west. The declaration of war on our way of life is essentially about HOLINESS. Radical Islam is seeking to purify the world by eliminating those that disagree with there brand of Holiness.
What does radical Islam have against the west and the values of the west? ~ The movies we watch. The musicians we glorify. Public pornography. Revealing clothing. The language we use. Abortion rights. The divorce rate. Giving women high standing. I could study for hours and keep finding reasons Radical Islam hates the west. They hate the way we think. Capitalism. The break up of families. They hate pluralism.
How we respond to each of the issues is about Holiness. I am not going to debate the merits of each item on this list, but here is my point: while killing people who don’t live by the same a standard is evil and completely contrary to the way of Jesus Christ, some of the criticisms of radical Islam are partly right. If I am going to be rejected by the world, I want it to be about my genuine faith in Jesus Christ. The criticisms of the west are an opportunity to examine my own practices and habits. I must be careful in my daily decisions ~ live as Christ would have me live, my attitudes towards others. I may not be able to change the world, but I can commit myself to live as Christ would have me live. The way forward is for the Christian community to live as Holy people, committed to walking daily with Jesus Christ, striving to hold ourselves to standards that are in keeping with the values of the Lord Jesus Christ for the purpose of allowing him to change our hearts: “Be Holy because I am Holy.”
You are not going to attain perfect holiness overnight. In fact, on this side of eternity, you never will. For holiness is a way of life. Jesus could have given a list of what to do or not do in order to live for him, but he did not do that. He said, “Be careful that the light you let within is not darkness.” To be Holy is to carefully make God honoring decisions that let healthy light into your body. Oh be careful little eyes what you see. Amen.