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Jul 11 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 10, 2011

Beware the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops. Luke 12:1-2 (read verses 12:1-34)

INTRO: Here it is, summer so I thought we might briefly revisit The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

There were two weeks when Tom was bedridden with the measles
– when he was well enough to get out and about, he noticed a change in town
– people seemed melancholy
Mark Twain explains, “There had been a ‘revival,’ and everybody had ‘got religion’”

“Got religion” is a classic example of American slang

What’s going on in our story is that Jesus indicates that there’s a difference between when a person who gets religion and when religion gets the person
– the scribes and Pharisees got religion and misused it
– Jesus instructs disciples how to let God get a hold of them

In bad religion people use religion:

  • to feed their ego
  • to justify their actions (rules don’t apply to them)
  • to manipulate people
  • to keep God at a distance

But why would someone do this? What drives them?
Fear that without some kind of personal power no one:

  • would respect them
  • would want them
  • would do what they want them to do
  • would pay attention to them

So Jesus addresses fear and worry – “Do not” (vv. 4, 7, 11, 22, 29, 32)

But is it that easy? Can we let go of fear because he has given us a command?
– if we throw fear out one door, doesn’t it creep back in through another?
– doesn’t it catch us some nights as we’re falling asleep and vulnerable? Doesn’t dread come over us and rattle our bones? Or aren’t we caught suddenly with panic when we slam on the brakes and tires squeal and adrenaline courses through our body?
– fear is one of those primitive emotions our brain manufactures
And our brains are very good at it
– it originates in a deep structure in our brain, not under our direct, conscious control
– too little fear and we take foolish risks; too much and we’re imprisoned by it
We need a way, a way to face our fears and work through them

Verses 1-3, There is a “discovery” stage

In a court of law, this comes before trial begins – each party gets relevant info

Leaven (yeast): becomes invisible in dough and permeates the whole loaf
– the goal of these people is to control others – to spread their feelings or ideas
– take away their freedom to choose for themselves

Hypocrisy is about hiding something – hiding the truth it’s about pretending

Karen Armstrong, in Twelve Steps to A Compassionate Life observes that “As long as we close our minds to the pain that presses in upon us on all sides, we remain imprisoned in delusion, because this artificial existence bears no relation to reality.”

– Jesus says, “This way, the way of hypocrisy, isn’t going to work for you”
– so first of all, he brings our fears out of hiding and shows us what is in us

Verses 4-7, Facing our fear of people

We learn early in life that other people are capable of hurting us
– some people have more power (intellect, skill, brute force)

If we have a heart, we are also concerned about others being hurt
– we learn to compromise with those who have power or give up and let them win

Jesus is saying that we don’t need to fear people (their opinion or power)
– what they can do to you is limited, not ultimate
And the One whose power is ultimate, is lovingly attentive to you
– you hold “much value” to God, who is kind, not hurtful

Verses 8-12, Facing our fear of authority

There are two settings here, and both are courtrooms
– the first is God’s – the One whose decision is ultimate
– if we’re intimidated into silence on earth, it will come up before angels
– a person can be mistaken regarding Jesus
– this means there was still hope for scribes and Pharisees
– but if you resist or reject work of the Spirit, you’re lost
Why? Because the Spirit’s work is to bring us to God

The second courtroom is that of human authorities
– no need to be worried in this court – you don’t even have to prepare a speech
– relying on the Spirit, you will discover his assistance
This is the last mention of the Spirit in Luke, but there’s a great example of what Luke is talking about in Acts 4:8
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of the people . . .’”

Verses 13-21, Facing our fear of losing a shot at wealth

Your things do not define you
– the value of a life is not measured by possessions

Soren Kierkegaard in Works of Love, suggests an exercise:
Imagine heaven and include all the things of this life you enjoy–that you hope “to see again the trees and flowers and stars, to hear again the song of birds and the rippling of brooks. But could it ever occur to you that there should be money in eternity? No, for then the kingdom of heaven itself would become a land of wretchedness . . .”

In the parable the rich man’s intention is to maximize his surplus for his own benefit
– in a culture of scarcity, storing for ones self meant taking food out of the mouths of others
– what he left out of his calculations: God and others

K. Armstrong, “Do we treat colleagues and workers as cogs in the wheel, forcing them to maximize output at the expense of their physical, mental, and spiritual health? Does the need to create a competitive edge endorse and aggravate te me-first drive that makes us heartless in other areas of life?”

But that is how many managers think
– people are like machines to them
– their goal is to get as much out of them while compensating them as little as possible

Last week we saw that the word “fool” in scripture is similar to what we mean by “jerk”
– the fool in Psalm 10:4 and 14:1 is not necessarily an atheist, but someone who says “no” to God in his heart
– God doesn’t enter his thoughts or heart–there’s room in his heart and mind only for his soul
– v. 21, “and is not rich toward God”
The big idea Jesus keeps putting before us: everything is about God and for God

Verses 22-32, How can disciples counteract primal fears?

They can reconstruct their lives around truth and practice

  • 21-23, the soul is more than food
    – you are more than your body, which is all some people want
    – more than your mind, which is all other people want
    – more than skills, accomplishments, grade-point average
    – you are a soul, which most people never see, sometimes revealed in creativity, in poetry and painting
    – sometimes we don’t see it ourselves and so we substitute “self-esteem” for our soul or focus on our body, mind, car, etc. – and then fuss over these things
  • 24-28, through the contemplation of birds and wild flowers – we experience of moment
  • worry adds nothing to life, but diminishes it – both the the experience of life and the length of it
  • 29-31, do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, but seek the Father’s kingdom
    – “seek” means more than “look for,” it is a more aggressive pursuit – it is life’s ambition
    – “You are going to have to work at this”
  • 32, we need to know God’s desire for us

Verses 33-34, A more radical way to get our heart right

If possessions are a constant source of anxiety, get rid of them
– “wear out,” “thieves,” and “moths” perfectly capture the nature of our fears and worries; namely, that our stuff could be stolen or ruined

If we will simply pause for a moment and take this seriously–imagine doing it, think about where we would begin, and walk through it in our imagination–it will work a change in us
(Transformative Learning – education that transforms rather than merely informs
– it breaks through our dogmatism and prejudice
– it is a liberating education

CONC: Looking back through the chapter, here’s what we learn

The spiritual remedy for fear is not courage, but love
– 4, “My friends,” 7 & 24, “you are more valuable,” 32, “your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom”

What do we do for a frightened child?
– hold and comfort it, give it reassurance through love

“You men of little faith” – fortunately, a little faith is all we need, otherwise, he wouldn’t be teaching this to us

So allow your soul to be loved, and to let God’s love flow through us, and may the world be a better place for having had us in it

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