Articles by thoughtful opinion writers continue to focus on the critical times in which we live. In the United Kingdom articles pose questions about the future of the country in the aftermath of the ‘Brexit’ vote, the incoming Prime Minister and the leadership divisions in the Labour Party. In the United States questions persist concerning the character of the presidential candidates on both sides of the political aisle. In Australia the governing party has been returned to power by the slimmest of majorities. Everywhere we look we see evidence of deep divisions fanned by animosities in a changing climate of cultural, racial and nationalistic attitudes.
‘Do we have a future we can look forward to?’ is one of the questions that is being asked.
Last Wednesday I referred to a recent comment by the actor, Kevin Sorbo who said in relation to the new film, Joseph and Mary: ‘The problems in America would be avoided if people had “any moral principles — any biblical principles in their [lives].”’ He added that ‘fans ask him every day to continue making faith-based, family-friendly films’.
His words remind me of the task of every professing Christian – namely, to play our part in making disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. All of us, one way or another, are called upon to live under the ‘Great Commission’ to ‘make disciples,… teaching them to observe all that Jesus commanded…’ (Matthew 28:19, 20). Whenever and wherever God’s people take up this challenge, under God and in the context of prayer, we hear of lives being changed for good.
In Luke 6:39f we discover how we can learn to do this. Towards the end of Luke’s record of Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain we read: He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?”
Jesus’ first point is a call to his followers to be careful in their choice of a teacher. Sound doctrine is essential for the work of the gospel and for the unity of God’s church. Jesus himself said it: “Those who worship him (God) must worship in Spirit and in truth”’ (John 4:24).
How critical it is that we sit under faithful and effective teaching of God’s Word so that we then are able to make disciples for Christ. As Jesus put it: “A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher” (Luke 6:40).
And there is something else in Luke 6:43f: “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush…” Jesus said.
The metaphor is clear. A tree will always produce the kind of fruit that is consistent with its nature, either good or bad. The kind of person a teacher is, judgmental, condemning, or unforgiving, will become obvious to all. Jesus’ is asking how teachers can teach others if they themselves have not listened to him or been transformed by him.
The theme we find in these words of Jesus has its parallel in Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven…”
‘Everything you are, everything you do,’ Jesus says, ‘must reflect all I have taught. That is how others will come to see the mind and the will of God. That is how lives can be changed. It won’t happen otherwise.’
Whether we like it or not, people look at us once they know we profess to be Christian. They want to know whether we are genuine and whether what we profess is true. As opinion writers are saying, ‘we live in a time of crisis’. People are crying out for help.
We often forget a significant line in the Book of Ecclesiastes: God has put eternity into the mind of men and women, yet they cannot find out what he has done from the beginning to the end (Eccles. 3:11).
God has given all men and women a sense that life doesn’t end at the grave. And one of the ways he has chosen to reveal himself to the world is through his people.
Through the light of our lives others will be drawn to find out about Jesus. Through the words of our lips people will hear the good news, and come to glorify God on the final day.
© John G. Mason
Note 1: During June and July, my Word on Wednesday is adapted from my commentary, Reading Luke Today: An Unexpected God (Aquila: 2012), pp.80-96