Saturday, August 4, 2018

Luke 6:43-49

Here Jesus makes explicit the new wine and the new wineskin of his kingdom: "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?" This kingdom revolves around its king and his loving rule. The power of this kingdom lies not in a set of principles but in a relationship with the king, Jesus, and through him with the Father, the God he reveals to us. This is the heart of Christianity; this is the heart of the abundant life Jesus comes to give.

This is the key to Jesus' word that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." He wants to be the treasure at the heart of our lives, and we will never experience the abundance of life unless he rules supreme, valued above all else. We may love to quote the psalm about God giving us the desires of our hearts, but we need to remember the previous line -- "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desire of your heart."

We have other treasures, of course -- activities, possessions, relationships that are tremendously valuable to us. But these treasures must be subordinate in our affections. Jesus demands the freedom to marshal and order these other treasures, bringing them to the fore and driving them out of the limelight in his own timing. In his wisdom, there are seasons for these other treasures. Both our debilitating anxieties and our driving to grasp for control reveal that we don't trust Jesus fully with the ordering of our treasures.

Part of learning kingdom wisdom is learning that timing is critical for these other treasures to be life-giving rather than life-taking. This is one dimension of Jesus' words about fig trees and thornbushes. A good gift grasped in the wrong timing can become a curse. Left in the hands of Jesus, it becomes a blessing. In the moment when he directs, when he opens doors and gives gracious freedom, we take hold with humility, trust, and thanksgiving, and then this powerful gift serves the abundance for which Jesus created it. Timing is important, and only by keeping our gaze fixed on Jesus, by keeping him our supreme treasure, can we receive all things else for our good.

This is a hard discipline to learn. The New Testament is full of this kind of hard wisdom -- from Paul's words in Romans 5 about suffering producing endurance producing character producing hope, to the hard words in Hebrews 12 about enduring discipline as beloved children, though it doesn't seem pleasant at the time. We may well pine for a longed-for gift -- a career opening, a healing, a relationship, an experience -- and the desire may drive us a long way down the road toward despair. It is in this painful longing that Jesus does much of his best work to shape and form us. The waiting tempers us, preparing a strong foundation of faith for the day when the floods come.

Along the way, there will be smaller tempests. We will experience tremendous trials and it will feel like the foundations of our lives are crumbling. Jesus is using these trials. He is preparing us, not punishing us. He uses them at times to drive us to our knees so that we come to a place of trusting him at a deeper level. Other times he is pointing out elements of our lives that need to be cut off, given up, rejected because they have become deadly. There is a time to endure, and a time to set a firm boundary and say "Enough!" Discerning the difference is only possible if Jesus is our ultimate treasure, the one we not only call "Lord" but also obey.

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