“Moderation in all things.” A lot of us live by this motto. Extremism gets a lot of play on the nightly news, and rarely is it good news. The problem with politics: extreme partisanship. The problem in the Middle East: Extremists. The reason we don’t talk about religion or politics at the dinner table: opinions in the extreme. Moderation makes sense. It allows for tolerance. Moderations reduces judgmental accusations. Moderation simply makes sense. The problem with moderation is that Jesus never preached it.
As we continue our sermon series on Stumbling Blocks, we tackle what are often considered the extremes. Billy Graham is quoted as saying, “The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and deny him by their lifestyle. This is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” No one admires hypocrites, fakes or failures. Yet this is an accusation often levied at good Church-going folks.
Looking at Luke 13:10-27, Jesus tackles the extremes. Yet it might surprise you how he addresses the problem. One extreme is legalism, i.e., the hypocrites. What’s the problem with legalism? Well actually, Jesus believes it doesn’t go far enough. Legalists draw a line of obedience in the sand and condemn anyone who doesn’t live life on their side of the line. However, Jesus pushes the line to the extreme. A legalist finds satisfaction in following the letter of the law. Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Honor the Sabbath. Jesus reminds us that the law isn’t just the outward action but the condition of the heart. Its not just “Do not murder,” but don’t even call someone an idiot and harbor anger in the heart. Its not just “Do not commit adultery,” but do not lust for someone else. No room for moderation. Don’t just follow the letter of the law but surrender your head, heart, and actions to obedient holiness.
The other extreme Jesus tackles are those who claim a relationship with him. Left outside on Judgement Day, these people say, “Hey! Didn’t we hang out with you Jesus? We listened when you taught!” Jesus absolutely desires a relationship with us…but not just any relationship. Jesus desires deep intimacy. He desires that we be fully and completely open and vulnerable to him, that we hide nothing from his influence in our lives. Jesus desires an extreme relationship. Just as he gave himself fully and completely to us (the cross is pretty extreme), he desires the same level of commitment from us. Jesus wants to matter significantly in your life. Jesus desires intimate surrender.
To drive this point home, Jesus uses two illustrations. Check them out in Luke 13:18-21. The Mustard Plant was an incredibly invasive plant, with laws against it being planted near anyone’s garden. A modern equivalent might be Kudzu. Once planted, it overwhelms everything. Same with the yeast. Three measures is approximately 60lbs of flour! Thats a lot of flour for a little bit of yeast, yet it makes its way through all 60lbs. What’s the point? Faith isn’t measured by its size but its influence in our lives. A little bit of true faith in Christ works its way into every aspect of our life: money, time, family, job, etc. Real faith gains extreme access. There is no such thing as moderation in real faith.
So what does this mean for our lives? It means that Jesus desires us so much that he won’t receive anything less than all of us. The incredible grace of God forgives our past and welcomes us into intimate surrender. God’s grace permeates and cleanses us completely. It empowers us fully. We can’t accept only part of this grace. We can’t accept forgiveness for the past without also welcoming a complete overhaul that carries us into holiness. I know its extreme. But isn’t it amazing that God’s grace and love for us is extreme! May you intimately surrender all of who you are to the God who extremely loves you!