20/20 Vision for 2020 Matthew 7:24-28
How cool is it to have the year were living in to be 2020? My hope is the years 2020 is a reminder about the need to have clearer spiritual vision about our relationship to God, God’s relationship to us in every aspect of our lives. Especially given the age of our congregation, most of us know what it is like when our vision starts to change, and we don’t see as well as we once did. Last year was the first time the eye doctor showed me how I had the beginning of cataracts! Welcome to the club, right? I read a definition for what it means to say we have 20/20 vision. Here is what I found. "Normal" vision is 20/20. This means that the test subject sees the same line of letters at 20 feet that a person with normal vision sees at 20 feet.” As I read that definition it reminded me of a perspective that I heard mentioned about Jesus. The normal perspective is that Jesus is seen as a man, spiritual teacher and prophet who was radical. • The love he showed others was radical. • The teachings he taught were radical. • The boldness against the religious culture of his day was radical. However, the point was made that Jesus wasn’t radical he was normal. The way we live life so often concerned and consumed about ourselves is radically wrong compared to God’s will for our lives. The way we can shake our heads in disapproval about how things are in life; but don’t do anything about it is radically wrong. So, to begin to see life and God as Jesus did is not becoming a radical; it is to become normal. I find that to be uncomfortably true for me. WATCH/SEE Maybe that is why there are so many times in the Bible were told to “watch or see.” I went through my Bible concordance and counted roughly 1300 times words like “watch” and “see” appear in the Bible. The words watch and see are often used in a spiritual meaning about the crucial way those who believe in God seek to have our lives be in tune with God. The beginning of the new year is a great time to reflect and evaluate our lives about what feeds our spiritual vision. • We watch carefully how we live; not because we’re so great. • We watch because we know how quickly we can stumble. • We know how quickly we can rationalize the ways about us that are not good or do something even though any other time we can see the wrong in what were about to do. • We watch because we can be blind to our mistakes that others easily and clearly see. Illustration Did you hear the story about Pope Francis? Recently he was greeting people in a receiving-line and a woman reached out and grabbed his hand and when he tried to pull away, she refused to let go of his hand. Pope Francis slapped at her hand to make her let go. Then later he apologized for how he handled the moment. Now I don’t bring this story up to make light of Pope Francis. I bring the story up to say that is a type of 2020 moment where Pope Francis sees the need to look how he handled a situation and consider how he could have handled it differently and better. Everyone needs to watch and adjust our spiritual perspectives because that feeds our decision in how we live. Our perceptions drive our actions and if our perceptions are off then our actions are off-target. The ministry of Jesus spent a great deal of time teaching especially his disciples to correct their vision, their perceptions of how to follow Jesus. Illustration Luke 9:51-55 Following the success of the disciples doing ministry without Jesus, Jesus sent James and John to a Samaritan village. He sent them there to make plans for him to spend time there as he was heading toward Jerusalem. However, this village didn’t want to welcome Jesus. James and John tell Jesus about the rejection and then asked Jesus if James and John should pray down fire? Luke describes Jesus’ response, “But he turned and rebuked them = adjust their vision/perspective. The important question is what helps and empowers us to see life situations, detect God in those moments and or respond in a way that is consistent and in tune with God? That is a big ask, isn’t? So, I thought it appropriate today to draw from the conclusion of the teaching of Jesus we know as the Sermon on the Mount. You can find this collection of his teachings in chapter 6 of Luke’s gospel but the version of it we are more familiar with is found the gospel of Matthew between chapters 5-7. I am drawing from Matthew’s account. Context – The Sermon on the Mount. In the SOTM Jesus took the Jewish religious teachings of his day that had been handed down over the centuries and he did two things. He challenged people to internalize these teachings and externalize them; not just do one or the other. Internalize: Lust, greed, hate were not things to avoid just in outward behavior; but Jesus said having these in your heart were in the eyes of Jesus that same as committing the act itself. Externalize: put what you know is right into action – like turn the other cheek. So, the words were getting into is Jesus wrapping up his teachings and now he concludes his message with clarity of what people need to do so people know whether they are following him, or just a fan of him. Matthew 7:24-28 is a reminder how to see all of life through the eyes, or with the heart of Jesus. “Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on the house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded upon the rock.” v.24-25 To Jesus, listening is hearing him when we put his words in action. We Acts on his words. • What we do is because of what Jesus said. • How we live is because of what Jesus taught. • The way we respond is based on how Jesus responded and taught as he responded. Jesus taught that life will come with more than its shares of testing. He used metaphors like rain, floods and wind. Rain, floods and wind are all forces we have no control over. We don’t always have control over what others may think about us. We don’t always have control what others may say about us. We can’t always control situations that affect our lives. Notice what he said, the hostile forces “blew and beat” against the house, but it did not fall because it was built on rock. TWO POINTS ONE - Living by his teachings/truth will make us able to withstand whatever life dishes out. TWO - Jesus didn’t falsely promise protection. Notice what he is claiming, life will dish out some tough stuff. He didn’t say “act on my words and the rains, floods and wind will go around you.” FALL He said you will not “fall.” The word fall means to be overthrown. Jesus and his teachings are the “rock”, the stable, timeless and sure authority for our lives. A more modern image that might help us appreciate his words would be the word foundation. We understand the importance to build a house on a solid foundation. A solid foundation ensures stability so that where your house is sitting when you leave your house it will be in the same place and condition when you return. The truth and wisdom of Jesus helps us see and face life circumstances, the good, bad and ugly with stability and strength from God. But Jesus acknowledged there is another way to live and face life. Jesus said, “And everyone one who hears these words of mine and does not act upon them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rains fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against its house, and it fell – and great was its fall.” vs.26-27 No one would build a house on sand, right? We all immediately get what Jesus means. So maybe building a house on sand is like when we try and build a life, gain happiness, especially in relationships without God’s help and we discover the disappointment and pain that brings. Consider these comments by pastor, Andy Stanley that remind us the price we pay when we ignore God’s leadership; but only listen to ourselves. Video Conclusion The SOTM ends with these words, “Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teachings, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” v.28-29 The people that watched and listened to Jesus perceived his teachings had power. His teachings could be the difference maker because he was making a difference. But a word of caution, Matthew says the people were astounded or amazed at the teachings of Jesus. According Dr. Michael Wilkins, the word “amazed” is given in the passive form of that word, meaning it still remained to be seen what people would actually do with the teachings of Jesus. (NIV Commentary on Matthew, Dr. Michael Wilkins, p.328) It remains to be seen how we will follow Christ in the new year. My hope is we begin the new year seeking to put the teachings of Jesus into action because He is the difference maker or authority for our lives.