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Measure for Measure (Part 1 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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February 26, 2022 3:00 am

Measure for Measure (Part 1 of 3)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 26, 2022 3:00 am

It’s generally easier to find fault in others rather than to examine our own flaws. Jesus, though, calls us to practice abundant mercy. Find out what He meant and what that looks like in practical terms when you join us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram
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Erwin Lutzer
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Dr. Stephen Davey
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For most of us, it's easier to find fault in others than it is for us to exist. But Jesus calls on us to practice abundant mercy. We're going to learn what he means today and what that looks like in practical terms. This is Truth for Life weekend with Alistair Begg.

Alistair is teaching in Luke chapter 6 verses 36 through 38, but he opens with a story of the prophet Nathan confronting King David about Bathsheba. By the time the gentleman appeared at the front door, it was a done deal. The baby was asleep in the nursery, and the woman was already the rich man's wife. Of course, she should never have been his wife. He had allowed lust to give way to immorality, and as a result of his immorality and the resultant pregnancy of the woman, he decided to try and cover up as best he could, and the cleanest way he could think of covering his tracks was to get rid of the husband.

And so that's what happened. He had the husband killed. And he believed that time heals, that if he put enough time between the events and his present circumstances, that there would be for him no sense of bondage, no lingering evidence of guilt. The man at the door was welcomed in. They sat down to eat together, and in the course of eating, the gentleman decided that he would share with the homeowner, the rich man, a story that he had recently heard. He said, I want to tell you the story of two men in a certain town.

Go on, said the homeowner. Well, he said, one was rich, had plenty of sheep and cattle. The other man had nothing at all, save for one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He raised it from its infancy. It grew up with his children. It shared his food. It drank from his cup.

It slept in his arms, and it was regarded by him as actually a daughter. The rich man had a traveler come to stay at his house. And instead of doing what would be appropriate—namely, sending out into his fields to take one of his sheep and have it killed in order that he might be able to provide for the traveler who had arrived at his house—he instead sent for this little ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man who had only one such creature, and he had it killed, and that was how he provided for the traveler. So the homeowner jumped up and said, This is absolutely ridiculous.

It is totally wrong. The man who did this deserves to die for such a pitiless action. With the words hardly dying on his lips, it suddenly occurred to him, I'm the man.

Because what had been described in a far less significant manner was the circumstances of the rich man who had invaded the privacy of the one man and had snatched away his wife. Now, the reason I mention this this morning is because it is an indication of something that I find as a tendency in my own heart. I wonder if you share it—namely, the ability to very quickly detect a problem in somebody else while ignoring the problem that I face myself. Or, in the words of Jesus a little later on in the passage, to see specks of sawdust in other people's eyes while at the same time overlooking the fact that we have planks in our own eyes. Now, this brings us to the very core of what Jesus is teaching here this morning—confronting us with the fact that each of us, if we're honest, are inclined to discover and condemn the faults of others while passing lightly over our own sorry sins. And for those of us who were hoping that the turbulent times of the last couple of Sundays in the studies in the sermon by Jesus were giving way to very clear air, and it was going to be possible for us to relax a little bit, but the seatbelt sign was going off, and we were going to be able to get up and walk around the cabin and stretch our legs. I have news for you.

Make sure that your seatbelt is fastened low and tight across your lap, and prepare for the duration of the flight to be equally, if not more, turbulent than all that we have faced so far. I believe that God, in a unique way, is speaking to my life, my heart, my perversity, and I believe that since he is to me, there is an even chance that he may well be doing so to you, and that in actual fact, he is bringing to us, at this very crucial time in our church's life, instruction that is foundational and vital if there is to be any meaningful future for Parkside Church in seeing unbelieving people become committed followers of Jesus Christ. And I have not overstated my conviction in saying what I've just said one iota. We're going to notice three things. One, the principle, two, the practice, and three, the promise. The principle is contained in verse 36. Verse 36, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful, may be regarded as a fulcrum, on which is balanced the positive instruction which has preceded it, and the negative instruction which follows from it. At least in the early part of verse 37. Verse 36 might equally be regarded as a summary statement, principalizing all that Jesus has previously said concerning love for your enemies and doing good to them and lending to them without expecting to get anything back. If somebody had listened to all of that instruction and said to Jesus, Can you simply put it in a principle for us?

He might have said, Well, how about this? Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. And if someone had come in to begin listening to the sermon at that point and had heard Jesus say, Be merciful, as your Father is merciful, and they had been tempted to say, And how will that actually work out?

Then the instruction which follows would unpack this principle. God is kind, as we've noticed in verse 35, even to the ungrateful and to the wicked. And since he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked, we as his children, by faith through Christ, are to be kind to the ungrateful and the wicked too.

Now, there is a basic premise here that we need to understand, which we stated last time and which is important for us always to reiterate. Namely, that if you look at verse 35 and it says, Your reward will be great, and you will be the sons of the Most High. This is not Jesus saying that if we do certain things or act in a particular way, we will make ourselves the sons of God.

No. In fact, the reverse of that. It is by our conducting ourselves in a certain manner that we prove ourselves to be the sons of God. In other words, that people look at us and they say, My, you are so very like your Father, in the way that it is possible for us sometimes to detect in a child the traces of his dad, either because of his wit or because of his incorrigibleness or because of his artistic capacity or just a glint in his eyes or whatever it might be, we see this child and we say, You know, I think I know whose boy that is, or I think I know whose girl that is.

Because the family resemblance is so strong. Now, Jesus is saying that there is a demonstrable family resemblance, and it is this—mercy towards those who regard us as crazy for exercising mercy. So, to return evil for good is devilish. To return good for good is human. To return good for evil is divine.

And that is what Jesus is saying. I want you now to respond to evil by good. I want you to respond to being done down by exercising kindness.

I want you to respond to the fact that people have cheated you by giving without regard for the interest rate in return. In other words, I want you to imitate your father. And, you know, just in passing, boys do imitate their fathers. It is proven that the way in which a boy walks is a learned walk, largely from the influence of his dad. The way he sits in a chair, the way he crosses his legs, the way he does certain things will be just like his father, provided his father has been there to model it all the time. Not by saying, This is how you walk, or this is how you should cross your legs, but suddenly you find the child is doing the same thing. And imitation is a vital part of life. Imitation is a vital part of learning a golf swing.

And all of the stuff that is produced about muscle memory is based on the premise that there is a significance that is attached to imitation in the same way that it is attached to repetition. And both of those characteristics are part and parcel of becoming like our father. We are to imitate him. I am the Lord your God, Leviticus 11 says. You shall therefore be holy as I am holy. In other words, be like your dad. Jesus says, As I have loved you, so you must also love each other.

Imitate me. Now, what is he calling us to? He's calling us to a sympathy and to a compassion, which is extravagant.

You see this? Extravagant. Now, the extravagance we'll probably never get to this morning, but you'll see it in verse 38. It's a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. It's like you go to a store, and the person says, You can not only have this, but you can have this and this and this and this and this, and they fill the bag up for you to overflowing. And you go away, and you say, Man, I didn't deserve any of that.

And you didn't deserve any of it, but it was out of the kindness of the individual. And this picture of the generous merchant is the picture that Jesus uses. And he calls us, then, to work out this principle. Well, let's go to the practical implications of the principle, because we needn't say more than that.

What does it mean in practice to be merciful as your Father is merciful? Well, it's worked out in the next verse, 37. And for those of you who like orderly thought, I think you will agree this is orderly. The principle there is verse 36. The practice then follows in verse 37, and it is developed by two negative commands, followed by two positive commands. Negative command one, do not judge. Two, do not condemn. Positive command one, forgive. Positive command two, give. So, do not judge, don't condemn, give, forgive, give. Simple. You say, Well, then, let's go home, because you've made it very clear. No, don't let's leave just yet.

I think I can help a little beyond that. Because I don't think most of us know what do not judge means. That's the first one, do not judge. What does it mean, do not judge? If the royal law—namely, do unto others as you would have them do to yourself—is surrounded by confusion, it is more than matched by the confusion which surrounds this phrase, judge not. And you will find the phrase, Judge not that you be not judged, trotted out by some of the most unlikely people at the most unlikely times and used in the most unlikely and unbelievable ways. Therefore, it is imperative for us, since it is a clear command of the Bible, that we understand exactly what Jesus is saying when he says, Do not judge. So, let us try and understand what it does not mean. What it does not mean.

And then we'll say what it does mean. First of all, it does not mean that Jesus is prohibiting the exercise of justice in a court of law. If you read Tolstoy, he presses this phrase to the end that sets aside human courts.

He's wrong. Because the Bible, as you take it in its totality, upholds the rule of law, sets aside the place of the state in the exercise of law, and Christian people are to uphold the rule of law, which is appointed for the punishment of those who do wrong and for the well-being of those who do right. Jesus is not here prohibiting the administration of justice. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is a principle of justice belonging to the law courts. So, the instruction is not about the institution of law, but about the matter of individual relationships.

And this is where most of the confusion comes about. And that is why you see, even in the exercise of justice now in our culture, the thing is collapsing at its core. Because people have taken the notion of judge not, that you be not judged, and now they sit on a jury and they say, I can't say anything. I can't do anything. I can't exercise judgment. I'm not even supposed to judge anyone. I don't really know what we're here for.

Oh, he may have killed his wife with a knife, but you know what? We've all done bad things up here on the jury. We've done different things, you know.

So, what are we supposed to say? And it is crumbling at that point. So, the upholding of the institution of law, as we will see when we come to other sections of Luke's Gospel, is vital, and we need to realize that what Jesus is talking about here is that we are not to take the law into our own hands. Secondly, he is not calling for us to suspend our critical faculties in relationship to others. He is not calling for us to suspend our critical faculties. Now, it's possible to use the word critical positively, but we tend to think if someone is critical, then it's immediate, it's a pejorative statement, it's immediately negative.

Not so. We have to have critical faculties in order to discriminate between truth and error, between good and bad, between right and wrong. And Jesus is not calling here for his followers to be a strange group of people who have taken, if you like, their brains out and set them on the side, and are now living as hypocrites, saying, you know, I have no opinion about this, and I have no opinion about that. Like the man in the Paul Simon song, You Can Call Me Al. You remember, he walks down the street, and he has a short span of attention, and he says, and I've got no opinion about this, and I have no opinion about that. He's the perfect end-of-the-twentieth-century man. And he thinks that he is actually working out this principle.

No, he's just gone-less, that's all. Jesus is not teaching here that we are supposed to turn a blind eye to sin, that we are to refuse to point out error, or that we are to neglect to discern between good and evil. I mean, think about it, he couldn't possibly be, could he? Because the way in which he gives the rest of his instruction demands the critical faculty, demands the ability to adjudicate between a wise man and a foolish man, to be able to discern between a good tree and a bad tree, to be able to look and see if our righteousness is greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees, to see if our love is of a dimension that is vaster than that which is merely meager on the part of others. In other words, Jesus' teaching calls for us to use our critical faculties. So then, let me summarize what it's not. And this is not all that it is not, but I don't want to keep you here all day. Jesus is not, in this phrase, setting aside law courts, nor is he encouraging his followers to suspend their critical faculties.

Okay? Well then, what is he doing? What is it that Jesus says we mustn't do if we are not to judge? The answer is, he is condemning censoriousness. Now, that is an immediate challenge for some of us, because that's the English language, and we haven't a clue what the word means. So let me spell it for you, and then define it for you. C-E-N-S-O-R, as in censor, I-O-U-S-N-E-S-S. Sensoriousness. What is censoriousness? It is a spirit of self-righteous, self-exalting, hypocritical, harsh judgmentalism.

Self-righteous, self-exalting, hypocritical, harsh judgmentalism. That's why I told you, fasten your belt low and tight across your lap. Because this is uncomfortable. I said to somebody this morning, you know, I have this sin. This is very hard to preach about. And the person said, Well, I have it too, but I just don't have it as bad as you. Thus proving that they have it worse than me. Actually, not worse than me. I am now worse again, because I told the story.

So I am now in the lead in that it's now 30-15 in the tennis match on who is the most censorious between us. It's the kind of approach to people which seeks to avoid self-examination by highlighting and condemning the faults of others. The person who has this brings with them always the flavor of bitterness. It is negative, it is destructive, it actively seeks out the faults of others, and it is delighted when it finds other people's faults. It's not simply that it identifies faults when it trips over them, but it actually goes in search of them and seeks to produce them, and having produced them, to hold them up before the individual and say to them, You see what you're like, and you see how bad you are, and you see this, and you see that about yourself. And all the time it is in the spirit of harsh judgmentalism, because, like David in the story, which you can read for your homework in 2 Samuel 11 and 12, David, in seeing what was done to a lamb, manages, through a spirit of censoriousness, to disguise what he's done himself in relationship to the woman who is lying in the back bedroom.

John Stott defines it with clinical helpfulness. An individual who is on the wrong side of this exhortation from Jesus does this. One, puts the worst possible construction on other people's motives. Two, pours cold water on their schemes and dreams. Three, is ungenerous towards them when they make mistakes.

I'm going to say that to you again, because this nails it. One, I know that I am on the wrong side of this equation when I put the worst possible construction on other people's motives, when I delight to pour cold water on their schemes, and when I am ungenerous in responding to their mistakes. Do you sense any of this in you, Dad, towards your children?

Mom? Wife, towards your husband? Boss, towards your employees? Pastor, towards your people?

People, towards your elders? I thought last week was harder than the previous week. But this week is even harder than last week. Luke chapter 6 is proving to be a minefield for me. And if you doubt that, you should feel perfect liberty to ask my wife just how wonderfully loving and uncritical I have been in the last five days. I would be hard-pressed to have got myself so badly out of sync with a passage of scripture if I had set out to do it. You're listening to Truth for Life weekend. That's Alistair Begg with an uncomfortable and humbling message about Jesus' challenge to his followers to reveal our spiritual family resemblance through how we love one another. The only way for any of us to truly understand how to love others like Jesus is to study our Bibles. If you're a frequent listener to Truth for Life, you know that our pattern is to teach the Bible verse by verse, knowing that the Bible is without error.

It is the authoritative word of God. You'll often hear Alistair begin our program with the phrase, I invite you to open your Bible. And that's right in line with our mission, which is to teach the Bible clearly in a way that is relevant to our daily life. Most importantly, we do this knowing that God will work in the hearts of many who listen to bring them to know and trust in the Lord Jesus. In addition to these daily messages, we carefully select books that will supplement your study of the Bible and help you grow in faith. This is the last weekend we'll be offering the book Name Above All Names.

This is a book written by Alistair along with his good friend Sinclair Ferguson. As you reflect on the character of Jesus Christ, you'll be better prepared to respond to scripture, to focus your gaze upon Christ, and to meditate on his greatness. As you read Name Above All Names, you'll discover how the whole Bible is a book about Jesus, predicted, revealed, preached, explained, and expected. Learn more about the book Name Above All Names when you visit our website at I'm Bob Lapeen. Thanks for listening. Join us again next weekend for part two of today's message, as we'll learn how we can look more like our Heavenly Father. We'll hear three practical ways for us to demonstrate love that reveals our membership as a part of God's family. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-29 17:24:40 / 2023-05-29 17:33:30 / 9

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