Sunday, June 19, 2016
The Message of Jesus: Change, Love, Act, and Serve. #JesusFollowers
To follow Jesus is to follow the one whom we believe God chose and commissioned from among us human beings to be our template and example to follow in all things.
This Jesus calls us to be fully transformed and changed by his teachings, and these teachings of his are the only basis for an authentic faith in his God and our God.
These teachings of Jesus call us to action, to change our lives, to change our attitudes, to change our behaviors, and to shed our false but stubborn beliefs, so that we may become the authentic human beings God wants us to become.
What does he call us to do?
First, Jesus says we must change. Jesus, along with the Hebrew prophets who came before him, called people to “repent” which means to feel sorry for falling short of God’s will for our lives in our actions. To repent means that we are ready to change our actions and to seek to be better people, whether we’ve never sought this before or whether we’ve simply become lazy in our religious lives. We all come before God “as we are,” but we must not expect to remain unchanged by the message Jesus preaches – we are transformed by it into something better, more whole, more complete. (Psalm 51:17; Mark 6:12: Matt. 4:17; Luke 13:5)
Then Jesus calls us to Love. We are not called by Jesus to just strongly “like” people and things, but to Love them – a pure, strong, holy Love that transcends our trivial reasons for liking or hating people or objects. Jesus calls us to direct this Love both toward God and our neighbors. God, meaning the One, authentic, indivisible, and invisible God of Israel, Yahweh; and our neighbors, being those who are around us. And yet, we are not to just Love those who Love us back, but those who don’t even know us, and even those who hate us. THAT is the pure Love that Jesus calls us to show. (Matt. 5:44; 6:7; Mark 12:30; Luke 6:27)
Jesus calls us to Act. The faith Jesus preached is never supposed to be a lazy faith. Jesus does not call us to simply meditate on God, or on him, nor can we simply send vain words to Heaven and think that we’ve done God’s will. Only those who act on his teachings are his servants. And it is our Righteous actions alone that God wishes us to identify as “our faith.” (Psalm 11:7; Matt. 7:21; Matt. 7:22-24; 1 James 1:2; 2:17; John 3:7)
Jesus calls us to Serve. Jesus says we are to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to house the homeless, to comfort and show compassion to those who in anguish. These aren’t throw-away lines in a play no one is watching.
These words and teachings of Jesus’ weren’t meant for another age, or simply to show us how HE acted, but didn’t expect us to do them, too (as if we could, by simply reading his actions, claim them as our own, vicariously.) Jesus assures us that we can do all that he did. Only those who are seeking to act on his words are his friends. We love him by seeking to do as he did, and nothing less. (Matt. 7:24, 13;31; John 8:31; John 14:12)
And what happens when we fall short of Jesus’ teachings, and the high standards God sets for our lives? Jesus calls us to ask for God’s forgiveness, and assures us that God is endlessly merciful and forgiving. God is pleased when we seek to step back on the path of Righteousness, like a child returning to his Father. (Matt. 5:7; Luke 15)
Jesus teaches us to endlessly and without hesitation extend forgiveness to others, in the same way God forgives those who return to him in repentance. When asked how many times we must forgive others, Jesus said, "70 times 7 times." (Matt. 18:21-22; Luke 17:3-4; Ex. 33:19)
This Jesus-centered religion of service – active service built on pure Love – is what Jesus calls us all to practice. And this man, Jesus, not only teaches us what God expects of us, he gives us an example that we, too, can follow. If we follow this example, we please God, who is both our Creator and Judge, and we will not only live a more whole, complete and joyful life here, but will, God-willing, rest with Him eternally.
So, let us Work Righteousness in this world, doing all we can to be an example of the light of God that was born within us, kindled into Good Works by the saving example of Jesus, and inflamed by God's ongoing help and graceful encouragement.