Sunday, November 19, 2017

Jesus VS. Christian Theology. #JesusFollowers


One cannot help wondering what the Christian world would be like today if the Church had kept to the policy and program of Jesus. What if the Church in her ideals and efforts had remained predominantly religious and ethical, instead of becoming, as she did, predominantly doctrinal and speculative?

It is not easy, indeed, to envision it. We are so accustomed to associate the great doctrinal disputes of past ages with the history and activity of the Church, that they almost seem an essential part of her life. But are they really?

As we look back upon the extinct and, as it now often seems, pretty much meaningless controversies of the past, it is not easy to resist the feeling that the Christian Church might have done a greater work and might now present to the world a better representation of the Spirit of Christ if she had observed the terms of his commission and had not undertaken to annex to her province so many foreign territories.

The Sermon on the Mount is a new law of conduct; it assumes beliefs rather than formulates them; the theological conceptions which underlie it belong to the ethical rather than the speculative side of theology. Metaphysics is completely absent from it.

The Nicene Creed is a statement partly of historical facts and partly of dogmatic inferences; the metaphysical terms which it contains would probably have been unintelligible to the first disciples; ethics have no place in it. 

One belongs to a world of Syrian peasants, the other to a world of Greek philosophers.

The absence of ethics from one of the great ecumenical creeds of Christendom, and the metaphysical conditions of salvation prescribed in another, represent one estimate of the relative value of dogma and of character in the Christian world.

This estimate only shows how completely the gospel of Jesus became transformed into an esoteric doctrine as remote from the motives and purposes of Jesus' life-work as the unseemly strifes and alienations which it engendered were unproductive of the fruits of his Spirit in mankind. Jesus was wholly concerned with ethics, with begetting and fostering in men the Godlike life.

The word "character" summarizes the great interest and life-purpose of Jesus Christ.

The primacy of dogma in the Nicene Creed is obvious. More than forty paragraphs are devoted to the dogmas belief in which is declared to be essential to salvation; but two sections at the end are reserved for laying emphasis on a good life, so that this is not completely excluded from the definition of "the Catholic Faith."

Jesus and the apostles also spoke frequently of what men must do to be saved, but we can detect no resemblance between what they said and the propositions contained in these forty-one paragraphs.

The Sermon on the Mount is a typical description of the true righteousness which must characterize the members of the Kingdom — the righteousness which surpasses the legal formalism and ceremonial punctiliousness which the scribes and Pharisees called righteousness.

Meekness, being merciful, aspiration after goodness, purity, peacemaking, humility, patience, charity - these are the constituents of the Christian character as Jesus there portrays it. 

How obvious it is that we have here an elaboration of the prophetic conception of righteousness that’s practically synonymous with love.

Micah summarizes God's supreme requirement of us in words which sound the keynote of our Master’s teaching in this Sermon: "to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God." (Micah 6:8)

We are thus brought face to face with the contrast between the biblical conception of righteousness and that which has been most widely current in traditional theology.

The various qualities and activities of the Christian character on which Jesus lays most stress are all consistent with what we have found in his mountain Sermon.

The true righteousness which makes us children of God consists in a love like that of God Himself. 

The Christian character, then, as Jesus conceived it, is summed up in the one word "Godlikeness." 

Become the children of your Father; be like your Father in love, in purity, in readiness to serve and forgive, and you thereby become members of the Kingdom of heaven; to acquire such a character - to live such a life - IS salvation. 

But how are we to know what God's nature and requirements are so that we can understand, desire, and choose them as prescribing the law of their own life? The life and character of Jesus himself are the answer.

The more abstract demand to be like God is translated into the concrete and unmistakable requirement that the disciple should be like his Master. 

It is, indeed, the unparalleled marvel of the character of Jesus that we can transfer the qualities of that character, point by point, to God himself with a perfect sense of consistency and truth.

If Jesus seems to set before us a high and abstract law for life, he does not leave us without a clear and definite interpretation of it. If he points us to a distant and apparently unattainable goal, he proves himself to be the way to an ever-closer approximation to it.

The Way of Christ Jesus is the way to the Father.

(Adapted from the writings of Rev. George Barker Stevens)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Costly Faith #Jesus Calls Us To Follow! #JesusFollowers


"Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27-31)

What does Jesus mean when he says, "Counting the costs?"

Too many people are willing to believe in a God that requires nothing – no work, to time, no money, no effort, and no works of love; a religion that’s made easy, that requires less effort than is required to put a meal in a microwave.

They're more than ready to go to Heaven, as long as God carries them there without any requirement that they move their feet a single step.

But the inconvenient problem for those who believe this, and wish to continue to call themselves "Christian" or followers of Christ Jesus, is that this is not the religion Jesus preached. That’s not the path he calls us to walk. It's not the life he wishes us to lead in this life. And it doesn't even lead to eternal salvation with God, our Father.

If people really put a faith in our God at the center of their lives, and believed that Jesus himself lays out this religion in his words, then they would find no work for God too hard, no self-denial too severe, and no offering of service in the name of God’s chosen Son, Jesus to be enough.

Jesus spoke about costly, righteous obedience that would cause people to hate us, and a Godly kingdom here on earth that requires us to act righteously, loving even our enemies. God would then reward us with Heaven based only on our deeds.

That’s a salvation that is not easy, lazy or cheaply obtained with our vain words and lengthy prayers (Matt. 6:7; 7:21.)

That which we obtain cheaply, we esteem lightly. A gift freely given, a gift unwrapped and unused, is a worthless gift, regardless of the cost. Teachings unused, and unapplied, are exactly the same - useless.

Jesus never said that salvation would come without cost. He never said it would require no effort, or that it cannot or must not be earned. In fact, he said just the opposite.

His parables, including this one about the costs involved in building a tower, all point to a costly faith – a faith that requires us to give all we have to serving God by loving and serving both Him and our fellow human beings.

If faith costs nothing, and salvation can be achieved without effort, what "costs" must we count?

If effort and self-sacrifice is not required of us by God, then of what "costs" does Jesus speak regarding the tower in this parable?

If the wide and easy path is the path condemned by Jesus, why do so many seek it?

Those who don't plan, or don't count the costs, or don’t believe there ARE costs in achieving eternal salvation deserve to be mocked, just as those who would build a tower without considering the costs would deserve to be mocked, says Jesus.

And those who don’t consider ALL they have to be on the line when following Jesus should reconsider calling themselves by his name. We must be willing to share all, give all, and do all in order to follow the Paths of Righteousness and, ultimately, eternal Salvation Jesus calls us to follow.

"Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more." (Luke 12:48.) Does this sound like the words of someone advocating and approving an easy, lazy faith, to be rewarded by God with a cheaply obtained eternal life?

God said at Jesus' baptism, when He adopted Jesus as his anointed Son and appointed him as our Example and Savior, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him." (Matt. 17:15.) We should, then, listen to and believe Jesus’s words, both here and elsewhere, when he says we must obey God's commands and follow his own example, doing all things he has done in obedience to our Creator.

God chose this perfectly obedient human being to be our example in all things. We therefore must make every effort to humbly and honorably seek to follow Jesus in obedience to his life's pattern, which pleased God so much.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

What Do We Owe God, And Others? #JesusFollowers


What do we owe to God? What do we owe to others? Many today might answer that we owe God and others nothing. Instead, they might say, we owe it to ourselves to focus on building up our self alone.

This message is reinforced in almost every aspect of the society we live in. Advertising tells us that we owe it to ourselves to Grant our every desire, without hesitation.

We are told that we deserve every luxury and every Indulgence we can think of. It's very very easy to fall into this trap, to believe that by gratifying ourselves that we will somehow be happy.

Even some preachers teach that we owe it to ourselves to be rich - and that God endorses our quest for riches. They even say that our main goal in life is to "get saved," and save our souls for the next life. Once that's accomplished (and it's done quickly and easily, they claim - with just one prayer!) we may continue to focus on getting rich.

But as we have seen again and again, people who have lived in luxury beyond our wildest dreams have the same feelings of unhappiness, of being unfulfilled, of feeling alone and unloved.

It's almost a stereotype and a truism that money and fame does not really bring happiness. And yet some still believe it, and Chase the dream.

If we follow Jesus, however, then the question of what we owe God and what we owe others is a simple one to answer. We owe everything to God and we owe complete and total service to others in the name of Jesus, whom we serve.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he said that we are to love our God with all our hearts all our minds all our strength and all our understanding, and our neighbor as ourselves. (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:37)

Some say this is just a simplistic and easy summary of all the laws of God. And while it is a summary, for sure, it is not simplistic, but an incredible, powerful challenge that Jesus calls us to take up daily.

Because if we owe everything to God, our creator, we will live our lives full of gratitude to him for this creation and for our lives in it. If we owe everything to others, we will serve them and love them and cherish them. We will do everything to comfort them to ensure they have what they need to survive and thrive in this world.

When we understand that our lives here are meant to build up an Earthly kingdom of God, one that reflects the spiritual Perfection of our creator, we will do all we can to alleviate suffering, comfort those in pain, and fill the needs of those who lack basic necessities. (Matt. 6:10)

This leaves little room for simply piling up riches. In fact, Jesus repeatedly calls on us to reject riches for riches' sake, saying (perhaps most famously) that it's easier for a rich man to go through the eye of needle than to enter into the Kingdom. (Mark 10:25) 

Perhaps not as famous, but just as important, is his warning that we ought to, "be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." (Luke 12:15)

This is the selfless vision and the mission Jesus came to preach. Jesus calls us to individually reach out to those among us and serve them.

We as Jesus followers are called to deny ourselves, not focus on gratifying ourselves - to put others first, even ahead of our own enrichment. Jesus calls us to pick up the cross of service, the cross of love, the cross of self-sacrifice and love of our neighbor.

Jesus actually warns AGAINST seeking to save oneself. To do so means we will actually lose ourselves. (Matt. 10:38-39) Jesus seemed to know that we lose our souls when we focus inward, not outward.

And he specifically says that simple praise, crying out or reflexively using repetitive phrases will not impress God, and will not save us, either. Only by doing what he commands us to do leads directly to Godliness, and pleases God. (Matt. 6:7; 7:21-23; Luke 6:46)

We should seek to live in a way that lets God's spirit flow through us in the same way in which it flowed through Jesus, our Master. 

When we do this, we are obeying our Master, whom God sent to us as an example and our teacher. We are then telling  God that we are living lives of gratitude and service, just as his chosen son, Jesus, called us to do.

As his followers, we ought to do no less.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

#Jesus Challenged Religious Leaders To Reform; We Must, Too! #JesusFollowers


The religious figures of Jesus’ day had it all figured out. They knew the religious system and the religious buzzwords inside and out. They could spout bits of Scripture to prove everything he said was wrong. They called him a “heretic” and worse: one who speaks evil against God.

Jesus’ preaching challenged the doctrines of religious leaders, plainly telling them they were wrong, and that they needed to rethink their beliefs and practices.

It was no longer just enough to SEEM to be doing God’s will, one must actually DO it, he said.

It was not enough to SEEM to be pious, praying publicly with long prayers and fancy words. One must actually BE pious, and do much of it in private.

Intentions mattered as much as outward appearances, said Jesus. And the motives of the heart, which give birth to actions, are important to control (and CAN be controlled) and turned towards Righteousness, so that our actions will also be Righteous.

But it is never easy to challenge religious ideas - especially long-cherished ones. It can hurt feelings and brings great anger.

Yet, Jesus was often blunt, and he knew that he would be met with great anger and even death. And so he was. And in three days, God took Jesus back.

But soon after his death and return to God, others came – as Jesus had predicted – with a different Message, one that was easier, less Godly, and less powerful and challenging to authority.

They called on people to believe special things about his death, but to not worry too much about his teachings and life.

They told people that Jesus wasn’t REALLY calling for us to perform Righteous Works, because we are not capable of them.

God, they claimed, at his own good pleasure, doles out the strength we need in order to do the Good Works, then rewards us for doing what He did through us.

And they elevated Jesus to equality with God, so that he could be admired, and worshiped, but not imitated.

Thus, they put Jesus out of reach, out of touch, and out of our minds as a perfect example to follow, and the Dark Ages and “reformation” which followed did nothing to bring the original Jesus back.

Today, the story that was once powerful and universal is powerful in numbers and wealth, but is almost universally arrogant and prideful.

Shockingly, Christendom today promotes a “Wide Gate” of easily-obtainable eternal salvation at the drop of a check, after spouting an unbiblical, simple prayer.

Much of Christendom – particularly PROTESTANT Christendom – teaches that we may, without repentance or Good Works, and with only a few magic words, steal from God the salvation promised through His messenger, even though Jesus told us that this was available to us ONLY if we repented and worked Righteousness.

A movement - a "Reformation" - that started off with such promise, but gained earthly power and dominance at the cost of its soul, is in need of a fuller, more complete Reformation.

A message that originally was a clear, simple call to greatness through perfect Love and a call to serve God and other people through complete self-sacrifice stands in desperate need of renewal.

What is easy to purchase with a quick prayer and a promise of wealth must be rejected and confronted as false and contrary to Jesus’ express teachings.

What is incomprehensible and man-made must be stripped off like a layer of suffocating paint, so the original Truths of Jesus may shine through and breathe again.

What became large and lethargic must become again humble and holy, less demeaning and more dynamic in its evaluation of what we, as God’s creatures are both called to do and capable of doing for others and our Creator, God.

Today, as we embark once again on the Way Jesus preached, we must also dare to boldly question today's religious leaders' long-held, man-made beliefs, as well as some even less attractive alternatives which call us to look inward and serve only ourselves. 

We must do the hard work of discerning God’s will for our lives and re-learning Jesus’ true message. In other words: we must keep Reforming!

Like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, today’s religious leaders are not going to be very happy about being challenged, either. 

But we owe it to God and the one whom God sent to us – the man, Jesus, our Master – to become merely Jesus Followers and servants of God once again.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Gospel Is A Challenge To Serve Others #JesusFollowers


In his ministry, Jesus challenged all those around him.

He challenged the religious authorities who led a faith of empty ritual and mindless words to instead embrace an authentic faith of love and devotion.

He challenged the wealthy to give up the idol of money.

He challenged those who would exclude the weak, the poor, the “outcast” and the outsider to be fully inclusive, because God loves all people equally. (Luke 4:12-13)

And Jesus challenged average people to “come, follow me,” and change the world with their works of Righteousness. (Matt. 4:19)

Jesus’ teachings, when seen as the core of his ministry, challenge us today, as well.

In fact, the Good News that Jesus preached is nothing but a challenge to our comfortable lives. It challenges the lazy faith which is based on mere words and devoid of love of others or Good Works on their behalf.

It’s a challenge to us all, individually, to begin to reach our full potential, by living the way God wishes us to live – lives of selfless service and love.

The words, life, teachings and death of our Master, Jesus, challenge us to do, to act, to follow, to serve, to be better, to do more, to try harder, to be humble, yet Righteousness, to serve God not money, to lose ourselves, but gain eternity.

Jesus preached to challenge us, and calls us today to live as examples in his name. As God’s chosen Spokesman, Jesus authoritatively calls us to take up his challenge and to follow his example.  (John 13:15; 14:12)

We are called by Jesus to seek and do Good, in order to advance God’s Kingdom on this earth.

Jesus lived, taught and died as a pure moral example for us, so that we should follow him and be made perfect in Righteousness. We do this with God’s help and a reliance on God’s holy Spirit.

And we are required, on this journey of Faith, to always seek God's forgiveness for our faults and failures as we strive towards the perfect expression of Righteousness God's Anointed Son, Jesus, has modeled for us.

We must seek to follow Jesus in ALL his teachings – because Jesus followed God in ALL things, and said we could do all that he had done. (John 8:29; 12:50; 13:15; 1 John 2:6)

We are called to show by our ACTS that we are heeding his call, and are taking up his challenge – not in a prideful way, but in a way that is pleasing to God.

Jesus clearly calls us to an active Faith - a Faith that Works. His teachings, his Gospel, is a challenge worth accepting and worth LIVING, because it leads to directly to a spiritually complete life and, God willing, to eternal life with our Creator.

Jesus calls us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30.) That’s complete and total love, not just lip service or weak emotionalism.

Jesus calls us to love each other, our neighbors, with the same zeal with which we love God – a complete and total love. (Mark 12:31)

Jesus calls us to deny ourselves take up our cross and follow him. (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23.) We are to be “other-centered,” not focused on Self.

Jesus calls on us to do the will of the Father – His God and our God, the Creator of all that is. (Matt. 12:50; John 5:30) Mere words and vain professions are NOT enough to ensure eternity with God (Matt. 7:21.)

Jesus calls on us to forgive others, and makes this duty a condition of being forgiven by God (Matt. 6:15-16.)

Jesus calls on us to let our Good Deeds shine like lights in this world, so that others will see by that light the goodness and love of our Father and Creator, which He has placed within us all. (Matt. 5:15-16)

And Jesus calls on us to “go the second mile” (Matthew 5:38–42) which is not a challenge to be lukewarm or partially committed to serving others.

When we encounter what is being claimed to be “the Gospel,” if it fails to challenge us to pursue Good Works, we know that it's a false and easy Faith we've encountered – a wide gate, rather than the Gospel preached from the very mouth of Jesus.

That Jesus challenges us with incredibly high goals is undeniable. That he believed we could achieve them is proven by his words. And because Jesus, a human being like us, has done this, we are assured that we, too, may accomplish God’s will for our lives.

So let’s take up the Good News of Jesus’ challenge in our lives and let it shine within us for all to see!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Character of Jesus’ Teachings #JesusFollowers

There is a wonderful simplicity, plainness, directness and grandeur in Jesus’ instructions, and in the mode of communicating them. 

From the first recorded instance of his teaching to the last, he displays a knowledge of human character, and an adaptation of the lessons given, to the wants of men, in speaking of God, of His worship, of His purposes, there is no hesitancy, no embarrassment. Jesus speaks about these things as topics perfectly familiar to his mind.

The same is true of the great principles of duty laid down by him. Of that eternal future, which, to every other teacher has been a dark and mysterious theme, he speaks in Words easy to be understood, yet of mighty power to reach and awaken all the powers of the soul. 

It would seem as if he indeed had been in the bosom of the Father, and was commissioned to bring to men His counsels; as if he needed no other testimony than the very lessons which he taught, to the truth of his own declaration, "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me."

A God is revealed by Jesus whom the understanding may reverence, and feel itself exalted by its communion with Him - a God whom the heart may love, and, as its affections are fixed upon him, may find in its own emotions an earnest of that fullness of joy, which is the hope of the gospel.

Man is to worship God by making his heart the altar of incense. His mind, his soul, his all, is to be consecrated to God; and his worship is to be a rational and affectionate conversation with Him. 

We have also in the Gospel the great principles which are to guide men in all their personal habits, and their social relations. And the simplicity of his teachings, which make them so easy to be understood and applied, displays the consummate wisdom of the teacher.

His mode of teaching is no less peculiar and striking than the lessons taught. It is so simple, that all can understand them. 

In these teachings, God is everywhere, religious principle is combined with everything, man’s responsibility and destiny are kept perpetually in view. There are no formal dissertations, weighty truths or glowing pictures. It would seem as if it was the perpetual object of the Master to pour into the human mind the full light of heaven, to render visible the miseries to which guilt must doom the soul, and the glories which await, if we are pure and holy.

There is also a peculiar individuality in the instructions of Jesus. He addressed masses of people, but they stood before him, not as masses, but as individuals. They were made to feel this. They were made to clearly understand that their happiness was dependent not upon their descent, their privileges or their connections; but upon their personal characters. 

Under what circumstances did Jesus commence his glorious career? At a period marked by moral degradation, among a people attached to the mere ceremonials of religion, narrow-minded and bigoted, proud of their national distinction, and uniting with their boastful show of religious observances the utmost corruption of manners. 

This people had expected, indeed, a reformer; but what had they anticipated in him? Certainly not one who would rebuke their sins, cast away their moral and religious sentiments, and establish the empire of righteousness, but one who would flatter their pride, lead them into battle, give splendor to their monarchy, and enable them to tread their oppressors in the dust. 

This is the nation in which Jesus grew up. Yet their bigotry, formality, and prejudice did not affect him in the least degree. He came forward with the most comprehensive, enlightened, generous teachings, suited to all times and to all people. 

The teachings of Jesus, where they have been faithfully studied and applied, have led the human mind in its upward course, and brought into the heart a more thorough goodness. 

They have been found adapted to the condition and needs of the most cultivated minds; and, let humanity go on for a hundred centuries improving, his teachings will be still be leading us, still pioneering our onward progress. 

This is a wonderful fact, considering the circumstances under which our religion was promulgated, and attests with power the divine authority of its founder, and the manner in which he brought to us his great and God-anointed mission.

(Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Nathan Parker, 1831)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

God Has Always Forgiven Us (And Still Does!) #JesusFollowers


That God pardons us, and is merciful, isn't something new. In fact, it was known long before the time of Jesus.

God’s prophet Ezekiel spoke of God's attitude towards forgiveness, saying, "I say to the righteous, 'He shall surely live,' but if he trusts in his righteousness, and still does wicked things, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered. Because of the wicked things he has done, he shall die." (Ezekiel 33:14)

And another prophet, Isaiah, says: "Let the wicked man abandon his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to YAHWEH, so he may have mercy on him, to our God, for He will freely forgive." (55:7)

If the idea that God forgives the sins of those who repent was fully known to the Jewish people before the time of Jesus, how, then, can we say Jesus saves those who sin?

Jesus says: "I am the light of the world:" (8:12) “whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." And, "Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus, whom You have sent." (John 17:3)

When Jesus called people to the hope of eternal life, he said they must change their evil ways, putting behind them all evil things they were doing before. This was to make them qualified for the eternal happiness they would have with God, because God is the opposite of evil.

Jesus’ teaching was practical – telling us what we should DO to attain eternal life, not just what to BELIEVE about it.

The Apostle Peter spoke to his fellow Jews, telling them: “God, having raised up his servant, Jesus, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from evil ways.” (Acts 3:26)

This was how they were to be blessed or saved by Jesus: by listening to the preaching of his Apostles, who spoke in his name, and who urged them to stop sinning.

The Judeans expected great earthly riches from their Messiah. Instead, Jesus and his Apostles said they were to gain great moral blessings by knowing the Gospel, and by becoming holy and good through their actions. THIS was what would qualify them for eternal life with God.

It is THIS way that Jesus saves sinners: by calling them to turn back to God from their misguided ways, towards walking in the holy ways God wishes all of us to walk.

If we learn from Jesus, whose words and example are set before us by his life and teachings, we can begin to work towards virtue and holiness and doing God’s will above self-centered actions and immoral actions. Then, if strive to keep on the narrow road, eternal life may be ours, God willing.

But many aren’t satisfied with this plain and simple way of salvation, which is spelled out by Jesus and the Apostles, who obeyed his teachings. Instead, they want to be saved, but continue to sin. Many want eternal life after death, but wish to live opposed to God while they’re still alive.

So, by twisting a few verses, they fail to see the role of Jesus as a teacher of righteousness who calls us to obey and do good works. They imagine it was his goodness ALONE that allows God to forgive His creatures, and that if we only believe this, we can gain an “instant salvation" that gives us a loophole that lets us continue to sin, but still get a reward from God. They want to pretend that Jesus is the only one who needs to obey God, but not us!

They want to “trust” in another’s righteousness, but continue to do evil things! Didn’t Ezekiel warn us of this very mistake?

This is wrong because our heavenly Father has always been merciful towards his children, and is ready with open arms to receive them to his mercy simply when they repent, without the actions of any other person on their behalf.

The sufferings of our Master, Jesus, he did by obeying God, and this is a powerful example for us, convincing us to change our attitudes and reconcile us to God – but his suffering did not change God’s mind about us, since God was, and remains, always ready to show us kindness and mercy.

It’s foolish to passively expect God to grant us salvation; and even more foolish to believe we can demand it from a position of laziness – refusing to repent and change our lives, as God requires us to do.

We have to make ourselves ready and qualified for salvation by adopting a holy attitude and actively building virtuous habits.

And these changes can’t happen within us unless we actively want them to happen. It’s this constant striving for moral perfection, working in goodness, imitating our Master and Example, Jesus, that Jesus calls us to do.