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Oct 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 4, 2015 – Acts 1:1-5

Jesus Christ:
Words of Eternal Life

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day  when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:1-5

Intro: For the last five months we’ve been going over Travel Tips for the Spiritual Journey

This week I’ll be out of town, so I’ve asked Steve Beck to talk here at Reflexion next Sunday
– Steve has written a book on Christian spirituality, which he has allowed me to preview
• in the last chapter he describes “How Christian Spirituality Has Changed My Life”
• it fits the point we’ve come to in our current series and I know you will find it encouraging

Most recently considering the Person and work of Jesus Christ in regard to our progress
– in the passage above, Luke summarizes “volume 1” of his two volume work, Luke-Acts
• previously he had given an account of “all that Jesus began to do and teach”
◦ it turns out that the joining of Jesus’ teaching to his doing is critical to our faith
• sometimes the meaning of a miracle Jesus performed was unclear
◦ did he heal for sake of the person’s health? out of his own compassion? to make a point?
◦ on one occasion he healed a cripple to prove his authority to forgive sins (Mk. 2:5-12)
◦ on another occasion, exorcising a demon was evidence of the presence of God’s kingdom (Lk. 11:20)
– Jesus’ teaching explained his doing (i.e., his miracles) and his doing reinforced his teaching (Jn. 3:2)
• these two aspects of his ministry interpret each other
• both point back to the Person and become a revelation of this Son of Man, Son of God

Travel Tip: Explore, know and internalize the teaching of Jesus

There’s so much more in Jesus’ teaching than what we usually hear explained by preachers
– people who heard him were deeply affected–even in his home town

. . . and all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips (Lk. 4:22)

When a large group of Jesus’ followers deserted him, he asked if the twelve were going to leave too

Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (Jn. 6:68)

– the objective of Jesus’ teaching: to reconcile us to God, enable us to know him and have life in him
• in his teaching, he invites people to a spiritual journey with him
◦ a journey that is defined and directed by the ongoing influence of his teaching
• so, with that in mind, let’s look into Jesus’ teaching

It makes sense to begin with the Sermon On the Mount

Here we have the essence of our spiritual journey with Jesus
The Beatitudes describe the people we become when we follow Jesus (Mt. 5:1-16)

  • we may already possess one or more of these traits
    ◦ otherwise, these are not qualifications or prerequisites
    ◦ they are traits that Jesus works into our character and behavior
  • what Jesus considered blessed was unconventional, even paradoxical
    ◦ in self-emptying, a person discover fullness; in giving mercy, a disciple receives mercy
  • allowing Jesus us to take us in the direction of the beatitudes, we become the world’s light and salt

Note the immediate reference to “the kingdom of heaven” in the first beatitude. This is the main theme of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew’s gospel. The kingdom of heaven is not only the future destiny of Jesus’ followers, but it is another dimension of reality–perhaps an invisible fifth dimension of our universe. It is the realm of spirit and the kingdom of God. It is not separate from physical reality, yet it is not accessible to our senses. The kingdom of heaven is where God’s will is done perfectly (Mt. 6:10). In Jesus, heaven’s dimension has entered our four-dimensional universe; not in its fullness, yet in a way that is real and powerful. Through Jesus, the kingdom of heaven touches our lives and introduces us to a new way of being in the world, in which wealth offers no advantage and poverty is not a disadvantage.

Jesus requires his disciples to escape the traps of old religion (Mt. 5:17-48)

  • this was an ongoing concern for Jesus (Mt. 15:1-20; 23:1-36)
    ◦ a natural tendency of all religions is to become rule-based rather than God-centered
    ▫ one result is that the Pharisees made keeping law a moral issue
    ▫ the heart of the law was relational (it had to have been if Mt. 22:37-40 & Ro. 13:8-10 are true)
    ◦ that’s what gets lost in rule-based religion
  • Jesus connected the spirit of the law with the human spirit
    ◦ or, the inner logic of the law speaks to the inner life of the disciple
    ◦ so it is not only a matter of what the law says on the surface
    ▫ it is also God’s underlying concerns
    ▫ not only murder, but its antecedents (emotion, attitude and behavior) are also prohibited
  • when religion is a matter of rules, we naturally look for loopholes
    ◦ when a teenager, I was discussing with friends the problem of “lust” (Mt. 5:28)
    ◦ Billy Graham said it wasn’t noticing an attractive woman that was sinful, but that “second look”
    ▫ when discussing what we were to do about this, one friend said, “Don’t blink.”
  • rules enable us to legitimize our prejudices (5:43)
  • rules lay groundwork for hypocrisy (Mt. 6:1-18)
    ◦ we do not give to charity, pray or fast “to be seen by others”
    ▫ our connection and interaction with God is invisible (Mt. 6:6)
    ◦ Jesus teaches us to be real in our relationship with God and others
    ◦ when love is heart of a faith, it avoids all these foibles of rule-based religion

Right relationships (love) that join the spirit of the Law with the human spirit is the righteousness that “surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees”

Jesus also requires his disciples to escape the traps of the world

  • the trap of having our lives totally invested “on earth”
    ◦ because where our treasure is, there our heart will be also
    ▫ anxiety is the price we pay for our attachments to this world (cf. Lk. 8:14)
    ◦ freedom comes from pursuing “first the kingdom”

Treat people as you want to be treated . . . but be discerning (Mt. 7:1-23)

  • the best protection from false prophets is to know Jesus and be known by him

Make Jesus’ teaching the foundation of your life (Mt. 7:24-27)

The bulk of Jesus’ public teaching was presented in parables

There is a collection of his parables in Matthew 13 (also Mk. 4)
– when the disciples asked why Jesus used parables, he gave two answers:

  1. The disciples had received the gift of knowing the “mysteries of kingdom”
  2. His second answer was somewhat cryptic, “seeing they do not see, and hearing . . .” (Mt. 13:13-15)

• so did the parables serve to assist his audience or keep them in dark?
• they did both: they revealed and concealed the truth he taught
◦ parables help those who have set out on the spiritual journey with Jesus
◦ for people who did not follow Jesus, parables kept them in the dark
▫ they were spared the burden of knowing something they would have only rejected

Jesus used parables especially where the human intellect was useless
– for truth that could be understood by no other means than analogy
• “The kingdom of heaven is like . . .”

Jesus used parables also to illustrate a point
– for example, the prodigal son (Lk. 15:11-32) and the vineyard and its stewards (Mk. 12:1-12)

Other ways Jesus packaged his message

Riddles – Mt. 22:41-46, “. . . whose son is He?”
– to make people think – lead them to discovery
– to frustrate their attempt to intellectualize
• to force them to go further than their rational ability
• we find this use of riddles especially John’s gospel
◦ Jesus said something he meant for someone to take literally
◦ but when that person tried to take him literally, they failed to comprehend his meaning
◦ then he revealed to the person the spiritual meaning behind the literal words (cf. Nicodemus)

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life (Jn. 6:63)

“The Hard Sayings of Jesus”

F. F. Bruce, “For to us there are two kinds of hard saying: there are some which are hard to understand and there are some which are only too easy to understand.”

– warnings: suffering in outer darkness or the lake of fire

Wisdom teaching
– one theologian argues that Jesus style of ministry was that of a “prophetic sage”
– Jesus sometimes used a “semi-Socratic” method
• when asked a question, he answered with a question
◦ in this way he probed the person’s understanding of the question he or she asked

What do you think?
What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?

The immediate and pressing emphasis in all of Jesus’ teaching

He presented himself as the place to begin one’s life in God

“Follow Me”
“Come to Me”

– Jesus presented himself as:
• something greater than the temple (Mt. 12:6)
• someone greater than the prophet Jonah or King Solomon (Mt. 12:41 & 42)
– it is especially in John’s gospel that Jesus claims to be where our quest for God takes us

I am the bread of life
I am the light of thew world
I am the good shepherd
I am the true vine

Jesus told his disciples, if any attachment would keep them from him, they were to let it go (Mt. 10:37)

Conc: Jesus compared his teaching to a seed

A seed is a potential – the potential of a life
– for this reason, Jesus’ teaching cannot be reduced to lessons, points, insights, principles or propositions
• Jesus’ teaching brings to us more than ideas or concepts
◦ it brings into our lives the very Spirit of God (Jn. 14:15-17)
• his teaching turns our hearts into a suitable home for himself and the Father (Jn. 14:23)

Our travel tip today?
Let Jesus’ teaching open you to a whole world of experience
The world of his Father and of his Spirit
The kingdom of heaven–on earth

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