Summary: In this lesson we learn that every Christian can examine his or her citizenship in the kingdom of God by applying two tests.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain is one of the most important sermons in his early ministry. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). That is, he came to reconcile people who were estranged from God with God.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain is about the kingdom of God. A few weeks ago I mentioned that Jesus spoke constantly about the kingdom of God. There are 53 references to the kingdom of God in the four Gospels. Jesus did not ask people to invite him into their hearts. He did not tell people to pray the “sinner’s prayer.” Instead, he urged people to enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus opened his Sermon on the Plain with a description of the blessings that belong to those who have entered the kingdom of God, and a warning to those who have not yet entered the kingdom of God.
Then Jesus described how his disciples are to live as citizens of the kingdom of God. He said that they must love their enemies and not judge others.
Then Jesus told his disciples how they could examine whether or not they were in fact citizens of the kingdom of God. This is profoundly simply yet extremely important.
Let’s read about it in Luke 6:43-45:
43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:43-45)
This past week there was a TV news report about a study that revealed that twins who smoke show more signs of premature facial aging compared with their identical twins who are non-smokers or smoked at least 5 years less.
To reach their findings, published in the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal, the researchers recruited 79 pairs of identical twins who attended the Twins Day Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. Of these pairs, 57 were women, 22 were men, and the average age for all pairs was 48.
One twin within each pair smoked, while the other had smoked for at least 5 years less, or did not smoke at all.
Several photos of pairs of twins were shown on TV. Frankly, it was relatively easy to spot which twin smoked and which one did not, as the twin who smoked looked clearly older.
That news report got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take a photo of every person who professed to be a Christian and, therefore, a citizen of the kingdom of God? Then, just by looking at each photo we could tell which person was really a citizen of the kingdom of God and which person was not a citizen. Unfortunately, taking a photo of each professing Christian will not reveal that person’s citizenship in the kingdom of God.
However, Jesus said that there is a way for every Christian to examine his or her citizenship in the kingdom of God. Now, what Jesus said is profoundly simple. And yet, perhaps because it is so simple, we miss the value of applying it to ourselves.
In today’s lesson, we learn that every Christian can examine his or her citizenship in the kingdom of God. How? By applying the tests in Luke 6:43-45, every Christian can examine his or her citizenship in the kingdom of God.
There are two tests:
1. The Test of Conduct (6:43-45b)
2. The Test of Conversation (6:43c)
I. The Test of Conduct (6:43-45b)
First, every Christian can examine his or her citizenship in the kingdom of God by the test of conduct.
Jesus was preaching to a great multitude of people, and especially to his disciples. They listened to him as he talked about the blessings of citizenship in the kingdom of God, about loving enemies, and about not being judgmental. But listening to Jesus was not enough to be a citizen of the kingdom of God. If a person claimed to be a citizen of the kingdom of God, then there was a way to test it, and the first test was the test of conduct.
It is also important to keep in mind that Jesus wants his disciples to focus on self-examination. Having just spoken against being judgmental in the previous section, Jesus does not want his disciples to assume an unwarranted examination of others. The whole point of these verses is for each disciple to examine his or her own citizenship in the kingdom of God and not to examine others. (Now there is a place for examining and making judgments of others, but only in the right situation, such as officers with church members, in accountability relationships, and so on.)