Formations lesson for February 15: Living on Level Ground : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004
January 23 2004 by Jimmy Allen

Formations lesson for February 15: Living on Level Ground : Friday, Jan. 23, 2004
Friday, Jan. 23, 2004

Formations lesson for February 15: Living on Level Ground

By Jimmy Allen
Focal Passage: Luke 6:17-26

Bumper sticker theology has its limitations. Consider this one: "Seven days without Jesus makes one weak." This is, of course, a pun on the word "weak." But most, if not all, Christians would recognize the importance of being with Jesus all the time, not just once every seven days.

A saying I like is the following: "Jesus turned the world upside down but right side up." We could analyze this statement and find problems with it, but it does capture the dramatic essence of Jesus' meaning. He changed the world.

The beatitudes describe well how Jesus did change the world.

Level Ground

Luke 6:17-19

The passage begins with a description of the scene. The 12 apostles had just been chosen and they walked together down from a mountain.

It's noteworthy that Luke included the phrase "stood on a level place." This wasn't necessarily a plain but a flat place in the hills of Galilee where He could speak with the great multitude of people. Matthew describes the scene as being on a mountain.

The phrase "stood on a level place" was probably included simply as a way to describe the surroundings. It also could have been a foretaste of what was to come. In the beatitudes, Jesus took the peaks out of the worldly desires for wealth, plenty of food, laughter and popularity. And He lifted up those who were suffering.

Treasures in Heaven

Luke 6:20-23

Jesus' words must have shocked those who had gathered that day. Who wanted to be poor? Or hungry? Or weepy? Or hated? But those are the people who are blessed, he said.

Through a series of paradoxes, Jesus emphasized the eternal over the temporal, the spiritual over the material, the heavenly over the worldly. "Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled" (6:21a). Jesus looked at the downtrodden and gave them hope. They may not change the world. They may never get rich. But those who followed Jesus would gain a reward in heaven that would be great.

Imagine a poor fisherman or shepherd hearing those words and for the first time sensing true freedom - even in the midst of their poverty. That freedom is still available to us.

Woe to the Rich

Luke 6:24-26

In Matthew 25, Jesus gives a warm, comforting description of those who care for the sick, the imprisoned and those in need of clothing. Then the warmth turns cold with a description of those who don't care for the sick, the imprisoned and those needing clothing.

This passage from Luke does a similar turn. The beatitudes lift up the poor, the hungry, the mourners and those rejected by others for Christ's sake. Then those who are rich, who have plenty of food and who are laughing are described in a woeful way. Those who are rich have already received their consolation. Those who have plenty of food will be hungry, and those who are laughing will mourn.

A Matter of Priorities

People can devote themselves to a materialistic world, but if they do, their reward would have already occurred. Those who focus on the spiritual will see their reward later.

"Jesus promised His disciples three things - that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy and in constant trouble," F.R. Maltby wrote.

Do we succumb to the temptation to be both worldly and spiritual? The passage is clear toward which avenue we should be devoting ourselves. Our lives as disciples aren't easy, and we shouldn't be building the kingdom of earth. We should be building the kingdom of God. That is the eternal.

1/23/2004 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen | with 0 comments

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