The issue of the heart

I keep learning these little lessons in seeing what's there...

Huw Williams | 07:55, Thursday 14 March 2013 | Turin, Italy

Our sermon series in Luke has brought us to Jesus’ sermon on the "level place" (6:17-49) over the last two weeks. I have found this passage both a challenge and an enourmous joy to preach. It seems to me that the central point of Jesus' sermon is v36 – "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful" – the first section of teaching seems to flow into this statement, and the second section seems to flow out of it.

But it's what we do with that statement that is so crucial. What struck me as I spent time in these verses, is how easy it is to approach Jesus' teaching here as if it were a list of instructions about good behaviour. And to say that that is missing the point would be an understatement. Verse 36 is so crucial precisely because it doesn't allow us to do that - far from a call to moralism, this is a radical call to response to the character of God – the loving, merciful character of God.

Isn't it interesting how Jesus organises his material?

Take that second half of the sermon, from v37-49. Isn't it interesting how Jesus organises his material? He takes us from the need to have our blind eyes opened to the grace of God (v37-42), which leads in turn to radical heart transformation (v43-45) which itself leads to the unshakable life built on himself (v46-49).

This makes me wonder how often we can make the mistake of confusing behaviourism with heart change, both in ourselves and in others. When it comes to righteousness, Jesus has never settled for the merely outward – if he did he would have got on wonderfully with those Pharisees. Rather, he is always getting in behind our actions and words to the issue of the heart. And that is surely a lesson for all of us.

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