ETHOS: Practice   Luke 6:39-49  

We’re continuing our series called “Ethos.”  Ethos is a word that means the aspirations, the dreams, the hopes, the values of a community of people.  Over the last few weeks, we’ve been exploring who we are as a church, as a community of faith.  When you walked in today, you got the ‘subtle’ message that the reason we exist is to help people live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus.  {I believe it’s ten feet tall on our wall.}  We want to be all about Jesus and inviting people to Jesus and calling people to walk in his way.

If you have your Bible, open to Luke 6.  We’re going to continue that journey that we’re on, this morning, and try to tease out, as a community, what are the things that we hold valuable, what are the things that motivate us, what are the things that drive us, and how do we plan on living this Jesus life out together?

A number of years ago, when I had the time and the desire, I took golf lessons, because I stink.  I had this coach who, I think, was a little bit unorthodox.  He gave me a few tips and pointers and then told me to try and practice it.  I got in my golf stance and started to go back .  When I got to a certain point where he identified I was going to go wrong, he’d BEEP at me. . . . .EVERY time.  He was trying to show me when I got out of position, trying to show me when things started to go awry.  If you’re like me, you do something a certain amount of times, over and over and over, and even if it’s wrong. . . .it feels RIGHT, doesn’t it?  I can’t figure out why I’m hooking the ball every single time, but he knew.  It’s the BEEP I wasn’t getting right!

If you’ve ever tried to change something in your life or tried to change something about yourself, you know it’s not just that easy, isn’t it?  Here’s what happens:  Our brains our energy conserving organisms, so the less your brain can think, the better.  {Don’t elbow your spouse!}  Your brain automates things.  There are things you do without even thinking about it.  How many of you have gotten into the car to go someplace and you’ve automatically driven to work, instead?  Why?  Because that’s what you normally do when you get into your car.  Your brain goes, here’s what we do when we get into the car, we drive to work. I’ve been halfway to work sometimes going, “I need to go the exact opposite direction!”  Like, Paulson, wake up!  Pull the U-turn and go to where you were actually going.

Your brain works the same way when it comes to things like greed, or anger, or frustration, or disappointment, or lust, or jealousy.  Your brain automates . . . .this is the way I respond in this situation.  I get defensive.  I lash out. I do things that I don’t want to do.  I get to the end of that thing and I step back and go, I did it AGAIN!  Anybody been there?  This week?  I did it again!  The question becomes how do we become people who don’t do it again?  Jesus wants to invite his followers, his disciples, his apprentices, to live in freedom.  This morning, I want to help chart a course—spirit-empowered, grace-driven course—to say, “For us as South Fellowship Church, here’s how we change.”  Here’s how we grow.  Here’s how we become people who sit in this seat in 2019 on the same day, different than we sit in it today.  Anybody want that?  I want that.  The truth of the matter is, I’m not going to follow after you and BEEP at you whenever you do something wrong, but maybe the Spirit will.  He’s way more powerful than I could ever be. 

Luke 6.  Jesus is going to give us a framework for change.  Listen to what he says.  This is found in a section of Scripture called “Sermon on the Plain,” which is Luke’s version of Jesus’s most popular teaching.  Most likely it’s a pulling together of a number of different teachings of Jesus that has grown to be. . . . .in Matthew, it’s called “The Sermon on the Mount,” in Luke, it’s called “The Sermon on the Plain.”  It’s the most popular teachings of Jesus condensed and found in one spot.  Here’s what he says, starting in verse 39.  After inviting people to a way of life where they love their enemies and they don’t live in judgment of others, which is really easy, Jesus says this —  He also told them this parable:  “Can the blind lead the blind?  Will they not both fall into a pit?  {This was an ancient Hebrew moniker that said, Could the person who was unwise lead a person to life and to wisdom?  Jesus responds by saying that they’ll both fall into a pit?  They’re both going to end up in the same place, and it’s not a place either of them want to be.  Verse 40.}  The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. 

Everybody who’s fully trained will be like their teacher.  Jesus is saying that all of us have people who are teachers in our lives.  Not always people that stand on a stage.  Maybe they’re politicians.  Maybe it’s a counselor.  Maybe it’s a coach.  Maybe it’s a news station. . . .Fox News, CNN, NPR.  They’re informing who we’re becoming.  It’s shaping our lives from the inside out.  They’re calling us to live in a certain way.  So Jesus says, in verse 40, I don’t just want to be your Lord, I want to be your teacher.  I want to teach, which begs the question:  If Jesus is a professor, what class is he teaching?  A lot of times we’d answer the question with Jesus is teaching the class on how to get to heaven when you die.  I’m not going to say that that’s not included in his curriculum.  It certainly is.  It’s not just the title of his class.  It’s not the thing that he talked about most.  If Jesus is the professor, he specializes in the class of LIFE.  How to live.  How to live the good life.  That’s his class.  He’s not teaching us how to be more loved by God; that’s not his intention by all.  YOU. ARE. LOVED.  You cannot be more loved by God, that’s impossible.  The goal of Jesus’s teaching is to teach you how to build a life.  How to build a life that will last.  How to build a life that’s permeated with love.  How to build a life that’s free from regret, and free from anger, and free from greed, because those things confine us, don’t they?  As I read through the seven deadly sins , I saw some of my life in the list.  My thought was, “Jesus, I don’t want that to be any part of my life.”  I believe that you have so much better for me, and empowered by your Spirit and by your grace, I want to walk free from those things.

He’s the professor of the school of life.  Listen to the way he says it in Matthew 11:28-30 — Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, {Like, the way that you’re living just isn’t working.  You’re existing but you’re not living.  So Jesus’s instruction is come on, like, come to me….}  and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, {Let him be Lord and rabbi.  Learn from me, he says, I want to teach you.  Why can you trust him?}  ….for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke {That was an ancient Hebrew idea of a way of life.  A way of interpreting the Scriptures.  A way of walking with God.  Jesus says the way that I teach and you learn from me, there’s a lightness in your burdens.  So come.  Let me teach you.}  ….is easy and my burden is light.

Jesus intends—-did you catch this?—-for us to be like him.  ….everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.  Jesus does not just intend that you would come on a Sunday morning and worship Him.  That’s great!  He designed you for that, but that’s not the entire story.  He’s designed you to become like Him.  Which begs the question:  What was Jesus like?  Read through the gospels and look at the way Jesus responds when he’s wronged, when he’s backed into a corner, when people maliciously act out towards him.  What does Jesus do?  He responds with love.  What does Jesus do when he sees a women caught in the act of adultery?  Bends down and writes something in the dirt.  Whatever he writes drives the people away who wanted to stone her, and says, listen, who’s here to cast a stone at you?  Who’s here to condemn you?  No one, she says.  Jesus responds, well, neither then do I.  Go and sin no more.  (John 8:1-11)

Everyone who’s fully trained will be like their teacher.  Maybe the best picture of what this life looks like can be found in Galatians 5:22-23.  It’s the fruit of the Spirit.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  This is the Jesus life.  From the inside out, these things start to epitomize the characteristic of our life.  The question becomes well, I see some things on that list that I don’t have in my life.  You?  Or maybe I don’t have all the time.  I have flashes of brilliance and moments of despair.   Well, if you read up just a little bit, here’s what it says in Galatians 5:16. Paul, writing to the church at Galatia.  So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  He comes back to that same idea. . . .the way that we get the fruit of the Spirit in our life is by walking with and by the Spirit.   Wouldn’t that be awesome if you could just put that on your task list. . . . .check!  Done!  It’s not that easy, is it?  Here’s what you need to know in order to start this journey.  Our struggle with transformation is not, is not, IS NOT about access to power.  It’s not that we don’t have enough of the Spirit, it’s the Spirit doesn’t have enough of us.  It’s not that we don’t have enough capability, it’s that we don’t have enough alignment.  Our struggle with transformation is not about access to power, but proper alignment with it.

Here’s a picture I want to give you this morning.  A few years ago, I had the chance to go out on my uncle’s sailboat.  We were out on the Pacific Ocean.  Has anybody ever been sailing?  It’s an art form, not a science, of getting that sail up in the wind.  I can remember thinking for a few minutes, there’s no wind out here.  It’s a pretty calm day on the Pacific.  All of a sudden, my uncle got the sail faced in the right direction and it {claps} caught the wind and we were just off and running.  It was amazing!

The Christian life is not about creating the wind, it’s about catching it.  And the wind is blowing.  The Spirit is moving.  The question is are the sails of our lives aligned with the wind of his Spirit?  That’s the way transformation happens.  Not by creating anything, but by posturing ourselves and our souls to receive his grace.  But there’s some challenges along the way, aren’t there?  I love the way Dallas Willard said it:  “People who do not intend to be inwardly transformed, so that obedience to Christ “comes naturally,” will not be transformed.  {If you do not intend to be transformed, you won’t be.}  God will not pick us up and throw us into transformed kingdom living, into “holiness,” against our will.”  It’s not going to happen.

There’s a few things. . . .and Jesus talks about these right after this teaching. . . .there’s a few things that stand in the way of you and I being transformed by his Spirit.  Look at what those are with me.  (Luke 6:41-42a)  Keep tracking with Jesus, because oftentimes we sort of pull these teachings out from one another, but there’s a whole context of what Jesus is doing.  He’s going to address what are some of the challenges to being fully trained so we will be like our teacher.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? 

Notice this follows right after. . . .as Jesus becomes your rabbi and you become trained by him, you will walk in the fullness of life with him.  And he goes, but listen, you can’t walk around looking at other people and going, you’ve got some major issues, without having some sort of self-awareness to understand that maybe you’re just a little bit of a mess too.  Can we just all admit it’s a lot easier to see the faults in others than it is to see the faults in ourselves?  Can we just get that out on the table and say, I have a lot easier time seeing the ways that you fall short than seeing the ways that I fall short?  Which is why we need people in our lives that will gently, humbly and lovingly hold the mirror up to us and go, you’re not exactly sticking the dismount in this area.

So alignment with the Spirit—remember, it’s not access, it’s alignment that’s the issue—demands that we embrace a posture of self-awareness.  So we’re people who go to the Scriptures and don’t just read the Scriptures, but we ask the Scriptures to read us.  It’s not just I’m going to get it done, I’m not just going to do the task, but I’m going to actually let it read me.  We invite others who we care about, who we love and who we trust to speak into our lives too.  Because our conviction is there are places that we can grow.  If we don’t have the self-awareness to go there, we will never enroll in the school of life that Jesus is inviting us to enroll in.

He continues with this (Luke 6:42) — You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.    A hypocrite was a word Jesus used differently than it had been used before.  It used to simply mean somebody who was a play actor.  Somebody who gets on the stage and performs a part, and when they get off the stage, they go and live a completely different way than the part that they were playing.  What Jesus wants us to realize is that we have a tendency, at times—I think hypocrisy is one of the greatest sins of religious people.  We have this lofty ideal, don’t we?  Sometimes instead of saying listen, we’re fallen short of it, it’s a lot easier to play the part, isn’t it?  What Jesus says is if you’re willing to pacify your faults, you will never truly grow to become the type of people he’s inviting us to become.

Here’s the second thing he says that stands in the way — We’ve got to resist the pull toward pretense and hypocrisy.  We’ve got to.  Some of the strongest words Jesus spoke were to the Pharisees who were playing religious games, instead of actually walking with Jesus.  Maybe it would be a benefit today. . . .in the quietness of our moments here, before you leave, maybe you ask Jesus a dangerous question.  Is there anywhere that my words and my life don’t line up?  Are there any places in my life that my words. . . . .I say I’m generous, I say I care about the poor, I say I want to live in the way of love, I say, I say, I say….   I say and my life doesn’t line up.  If we’re content with that, Jesus says transformation will be a distant, distant thing.  We’ll never walk in it. 

Finally, he says this in verse 43 —  No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.  People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.  A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.   {Groan}  So we say things in our day, our culture, like, I just screwed up.  Or we say things like, man, that wasn’t like me.  Or we say things like, oh, that was just a one-time thing.  Jesus is like no, no, no, no, no, that IS like you.  You know how he knows?  You did it.  And he says that’s how you know what’s on the inside, by what’s coming out of you.  If we can sort of brush those things away and go, man, that just wasn’t like me, that was a minor character flaw, that was a total outlier, we will prevent ourselves from looking deep enough inside to go, Jesus, that is like me, and I don’t want it to be like me.  In the last few weeks, I’ve said some things I wish I could take back.  By God’s grace, I don’t do that a ton, but I’d be a liar if I told you that those were just outliers.  There somewhere deep down inside my soul.  Which is both a good thing—now we know where it is—and it’s a hard thing too.  Because we’ve got to ask God by his grace to work and to move.  Jesus is saying that we’ve got to recognize that our conduct reveals our character.

Please hear me!  The transformation that Jesus is after is NOT behavior modification.  It goes way deeper than that, because we can’t just change our behavior and hope that our heart changes.  Actually, Jesus is inviting us to walk with him in the school of life in such a way that we become different trees, that bear different fruit, and that live different kinds of lives.  Dallas Willard once said in an interview: “We evangelicals, we’re so worried about who’s getting into heaven, that we haven’t stopped to think about whether or not we’re going to like it when we get there.”  The only thing you’re carrying with you is who you’re becoming.  If we’re the “evil tree” or “bad tree,” we might get to heaven and be like, God, I’m completely uncomfortable here because you are good and I’ve got some transformation left.

So here’s the big question — How do we fight this battle on a soul level?  How do we attack the problem in front of us in a way that actually brings about life.  Listen to what Jesus says in Luke 6:46 — Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?  He’s like, you guys, you’re saying that I’m Lord, you’re saying that I’m king, you’re saying that I rule, you’re saying that I’m responsible for your salvation, but you won’t even listen to me when I tell you how to live.  If Jesus is going to be our savior, he must also be our rabbi.  We can’t trust Jesus for forgiveness of sins then not trust him with what to do with our anger, and what to do with our greed, and what to do with the things that get into our soul and sort of get their claws in us and rob us of the life he’s inviting us to live.

So here’s what he says (Luke 6:47) — As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like.  They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock.  When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. {How many want a well-built life?  I do.}  But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation.  The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.  Five times in this section of Scripture, Jesus uses the term ‘practice,’ or ‘to do.’  Jesus’s point is being around the teaching of Jesus does you NOTHING, if you just admire it, and even agree with it and go, Jesus, yeah. {Clapping}  But he goes no, no, no, no, no, I’m only your rabbi if you follow in my way and if you do what I’m inviting you to do.

These practices, that Jesus talks about putting it into practice, these spiritual practices are nothing to earn God’s grace, that’s already present.  They just help us set the sail and catch the wind.  Spiritual practices help us posture ourselves to be transformed by grace.  Bodily practices help us align ourselves with God’s Spirit, that is present, to say, God, I want to walk with you.  I want you to do a work in me that changes me and brings about some freedom in my life.  I love the way John Ortberg puts it:  “Transformation begins to happen anytime people become intensely serious about learning from Jesus how to arrange their lives.”  Jesus, how do we do this thing called life?  Spiritual practices are designed to help you keep God in the forefront of your mind.  Not to earn anything from Him.  Are we clear on that?  Just raise your hand if you go yeah, Ryan, I’m clear that this is not about legalism, this is not about you HAVE to do this.  This is about aligning ourselves to receive what’s already there.  The early followers of Jesus took this so seriously that they were referred to as “The Way.”  The way of living.  This is how we live, this is what we do.

We live in an information age, don’t we?  Did you know that we create as much information in two days now, as we did from the dawn of creation until 2003?  Every two days!  Today on YouTube, people will upload 400 hours of new video every minute.  You get access to as much information as you want.  Not all of it’s good, not all of it’s created equal, but it’s there.  It’s more than information, we know this, right?  How much is this information actually changing us?

Here’s three quick things about spiritual practices.  These come from. . . .who I believe is one of the greatest teachers about how to live in the way of Jesus. . . .Dallas Willard.  Practices are about training, they’re not about trying.  Let me explain what I mean about that.  You can TRY to be more patient.  You just go, I’m just going to do it.  I’m going to try to be more patient.  I haven’t met anybody who that’s worked for yet.  But here’s what you could do if you want to work on patience.  You could train instead of try, and here’s what that might look like.  Maybe you decide you’re just going to drive the speed limit.  {I got a visceral reaction from some people!}  Maybe instead of choosing the shortest line at the grocery store, you choose the longest line.  It’s training.  After a while of doing that, you might find yourself responding with patience in situations where you normally responded in jest.  It’s about training not about trying.  A discipline is something we can do that empowers us to do something we cannot do by willpower alone.

Let me ask you a question:  Could you play one of Beethoven’s piano sonatas?  It’s an interesting question because I didn’t ask could you play it, CAN you play it today?  Depending on who you are, probably not.  Could you play it?  Probably.  How would you do that?  You would get a vision for yourself, sitting down at a grand piano and just going at it.  Then you’d recognize where you are and you’d sign up for lessons.  Then you would start to practice.  Whatever they told you, you would do, and you would do, and you would do, over and over and over, and you’d add to it.  Eventually, you would get to the point where you would be able to sit down at the piano and play Beethoven.  {Maybe.}  But here’s what you cannot do — You cannot go and sit down at a piano with out ever having done this before and TRY.  {Why does it always sound like my kids whenever they get around a piano??}  Trying to live without anger is sort of the same way.  Trying to live with a generous heart is sort of the same way.  You’ve got to train, not try.

Here’s the second thing:  Practices are about effort not about earning.  This is going to be hard for some of us and that’s okay.  Effort is an action, earning is an attitude.  So we’re not trying to get anything from God.  Remember, the wind is blowing, we’re trying to align our sails.  God, you’re at work, I want to catch that wind.  We live in the shadow of the Reformation.  I’m a protestant follower of Jesus for a reason.  That’s good.  I believe in what happened at the Reformation.  But in the shadow of the Reformation, we’ve gotten very tied up in it’s only and all about grace.  To that I say yes and amen.  But it’s grace not that just saves us, but grace that carries us, grace that works in us, grace that shapes us, and grace that forms us.  For centuries, followers of Jesus have been tuning their hearts to see his grace.  So it’s not ‘sit back and do nothing,’ it’s ‘grace is here’ and you get the chance to partner with God in becoming the types of people he’s inviting us to become.  We’re not earning anything from God, we’re receiving something God wants to give.

Finally, practices are experimental and experiential.  One of my hopes for today is that you would walk away from our time together excited.  That you’d go, man, I am a greedy jerk!  But there’s hope for me.  Not just by trying harder, but here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to go the bank after the service, and I’m going to take out $50 in all tens and I’m going to look for five different ways to be generous to people around me this week.  It’s experimental, it’s experiential.  Jesus’s laboratory is your life.  We don’t have to think of spiritual formation as something that we do for ten minutes in the morning and then we get on with the rest of our day.  That’s boring!  Your entire life could be living in the school of Jesus, being a follower of him, where you go, alright, so my life is chaotic, my life is out of control, I’m over busy, here’s what I’m going to do:  I’m going to practice the ancient, spiritual discipline of Sabbath.  I’m going to take a day, 24 hours, and I’m not going to do anything productive.  You know what you’re going to find?  It’s the most productive 24 hours of your week.

There’s not any set list of all the spiritual disciplines.  {Ryan holds up handout congregation received.}  Here’s twelve that have been helpful to the church over the ages.  Silence and solitude.  Simplicity.  Fasting.  Sabbath.  Secrecy.  Submission.  Bible reading and memorization.  Worship.  Prayer.  Soul friendships.  Personal reflection.  Service.  These are all ways the followers of Jesus have postured their souls to hear God, and to walk with him.  Some of these you’ll do and go, that didn’t work for me.  {Will you look up at me for a second?}  That’s okay.  Legalism says you’ve got to do them all.  Grace says which ones work?  Which ones help you hear God?  Which ones help you walk with God?  Do those.

I just want to give you a moment.  I’ll invite Aaron and our team out, and we’re going to practice one of the most ancient practices of the church in communion in just a moment.  You’ve got a little line there .  I’m going to push on you a little bit.  Not like you have to do this in order to be loved by God, I hope I’ve made that abundantly clear, but because you are loved by God and because there is the wind of the Spirit in your life, which of these do you want to do this week?  Take a second.  It’s just between you and God.  Maybe you’re frazzled and overworked and you’re saying, I’m going to practice Sabbath.  Maybe you’re caught in the grip of an addiction to pornography.  If you are, can I suggest you practice the discipline of fasting?  Remind yourself that your body does not have control over you.  See what God does in it.  Maybe you’re caught in some other addictions and you say, I’m going to practice trying to hear God and I’m going to go to Celebrate Recovery this week.  I’ve got hurts, habits, and hang-ups, and I’m going to really chase after that and see what God may do in Celebrate Recovery.  It’s a practice.  What’s it for you?

This practice of communion, this sacrament, is a reminder of who Jesus is as both Lord, giving of his blood, and rabbi, teaching us how to use our lives for the glory of his name.  So as you come this morning, would you come knowing he’s both Lord and teacher?  As you take the bread and the cup, would you be reminded of his invitation to you to walk in his way and to be transformed by him?  Let’s pray.

Father, we long to hear your voice, louder, and to see your Spirit’s work in us, even stronger.  Lord, would you teach us what this looks like?  Would you give us the freedom to both experience and experiment to see how you speak to our soul?  Lord, I pray that because of the way that you work in and through these things, that we might become different kinds of people. . . .fruit of the Spirit kinds of people, please.  We ask this in the powerful name of Jesus.  Amen.