Sunday, August 12, 2018
We are born with the Natural ability to do Good. But it is only when we encounter and follow Jesus, the man who perfectly demonstrates for us what is Good in the eyes of God, that we can know and fully understand the Good we are called to do.
Jesus taught that when we follow him, we are free, indeed (John 8:38). This freedom is not a call to pursue lawlessness, and does not mean that we may be released from any future accountability to God, Who remains our Father and Creator, as well as our Judge (Ps. 96:10; Prov. 24:12; Matt. 7:2; 12:36; 16:27). Instead, the opposite is true. Learning at the feet of our Master, we quickly learn that we are called to an even greater obedience.
Jesus calls out to us to hear his teachings, to understand his life as one we should emulate, and seek out others to follow as their example, also. This, and no other message, is properly called The Gospel.
In this Gospel, Jesus plainly teaches that if we claim to love him, we will do all that he taught us (John 14:21; 15:10) and that we will teach others to do the same. (Matt. 28:20)
When we come to know and understand the Gospel of Jesus, we are "free, indeed" - not freed from the duty to do Good, because this is the core of his teaching - but freed from an ignorance and imperfect knowledge of God's holiness, and freed to do Good more completely, the way God intends.
And what is this perfect Way Jesus beckons us to follow? It is to love God, our Creator, in gratitude with all of the strength our souls can muster, and to love our fellow human beings with every fiber of our own Being. (Matt. 22:37)
The Gospel of Jesus is a call to love more fully; a love that completes and perfects us, because when we take up his Gospel's challenge, we deny all selfishness to totally seek God's path of Righteousness. (Matt. 16:24-25)
This is what Jesus meant when he called for us to be perfect, as in his call for us to, "be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48.) This perfection does not refer to some form of physical beauty, or even flawlessly performing our daily tasks. This is shown clearly when he calls for us to forgive as God forgives, and love as God loves (Matt. 6:14-15)
The Gospel presented by Jesus, therefore, recognizes the God-given abilities of all human beings to do great Good. And the life Jesus led in perfect obedience to God (Matt. 12:36; John 8:29) gives us a template of how we, also may perfect ourselves by pursuing this perfect Way.
We begin the process of becoming morally perfect servants of God and our fellow Human beings by first recognizing and repenting of our past imperfection, and then dedicating ourselves to seeking to follow his teachings.
These teachings of Jesus alone guide us directly to the holiness God knows we are capable of demonstrating in our own lives, just as Jesus perfectly demonstrated them in his.
It is in this sense that we can fully understand the otherwise difficult teaching that it is only through Jesus that we may reach our heavenly Father. (John 14:6)
In our ignorance of what is perfectly Good, we cannot have knowledge of the path God sets out for us. Jesus, by revealing to us through his life and teachings and even in his death, shows us clearly that perfect path of active obedience and self-denial we are called to follow.
Jesus and the message he left for us continues to guide us towards the Light of God's Righteousness. We are, he taught, to become lights to the world, just as he was the light of the world (Matt. 5:14; John 8:12)
Obtaining the knowledge of this message, and acting upon it, shows us God's Righteous Light, and allows us to share it with others by our deeds. God's spirit is an ever-present help to us on this journey towards holiness.
Let us become more like Jesus daily as we deny ourselves, serve others, and seek to follow his path of Righteousness, becoming the Light in the world that Jesus calls us to become.
Sunday, August 5, 2018
Why are we here on the earth? What is our purpose in this life? For millions, these questions haunt their existence and trouble their souls. But there is a Way we can follow that answers these questions. For those who call Jesus their Master, and seek to follow him and his path, the answers come easier.
WHAT should we do with our lives? Jesus tells us that we're here to love God and love others, and serve God and serve others.
Jesus said we should seek to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, house the homeless, visit those in prison, and comfort the widow and orphan. (Matt. 25)
HOW do we do this? We can begin by doing it by committing ourselves and then... by starting to do what God calls us to do through His chosen Son, Jesus. By Repenting - committing to that kind of change, and asking God for forgiveness for past misdeeds and lack of love we've shown - that starts this process.
This isn't a throw away line, and this LOVE - Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves - isn't the same weak "love" we use to tell others that we "love" chocolate, or salsa. It's a deep, complicated love, and it will take a lifetime to perfect.
A final question is CAN we do this? This level of service and love, for some, doesn't come easy. But we can be assured that we have the ability within us to do what is right and what is good because God says we can do it, and created us with the ability to do all that He asks of us.
We can find verification of God's expectations for humanity by looking to the Hebrew Scriptures.
God told Adam, the proverbial first man, that he could do what was right. He later told Adam's son, Cain, that he could do what was right, too, if he chose to do so.
Both Adam and Cain had the inborn freedom to choose. The fact that in these cases they both chose to do what was wrong with their choice means they, alone, were punished for it.
Perhaps that is why these stories were included in the Hebrew Bible, so we would know that we had a true choice.
In Deuteronomy, we learn that God assures human beings that His commandments are, "not too hard for you," and that God's moral law is "is in your mouth and in your heart, SO THAT YOU CAN DO IT." (Deut. 30:11, 14) Isaiah writes, "Wash yourselves, make yourself clean. Put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes. Cease to do evil. Learn to do well." (1:16)
Isaiah also has no doubt that human beings can, "cease to do evil, and learn to do good."
And many have read the verse in Joshua, in which he says, "choose this day whom you will serve," (Joshua 24:15) The choice remains with us to choose to serve God.
Jesus is completely consistent with the Hebrew Bible in his belief in our ability to do what God asks.
Our Teacher and Master said he did all things that pleased God (John 8:28). He also said we could do all that he did, telling us that we are to be "perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect." (John 14:12, Matt. 5:48)
If we need courage and encouragement to serve others, we should start by reflecting on the gifts we've been given by God, our Creator, including the inspiring, perfect moral life of Jesus, and seek to follow that path perfectly, seeking God's forgiveness when we stumble.
Jesus taught that if we call him our Master, we must seek to follow him, doing all that he had done. (John 13:15; 1 John 2:4-6) Based on his teachings, we definitely have the ability to do great good, if we choose to take up his path and seek to do Righteousness, as he did. It's the choosing that can be hard sometimes, and we will stumble in our efforts, but that does not diminish our ability to do the good, which is God-given.
Just as Jesus frequently did, we may call upon God in prayer for further strength, and be assured that we may obtain it. As James, his brother, wrote, we can always seek greater wisdom from God. (James 1:5)
So, Jesus said we were able to do what was right. He believed that God gave us the ability to stand tall before Him, with willing hands to serve others and bring forth God's Kingdom here on earth.
It only remains for us to pick up the challenge Jesus lays down for us, and begin doing good in his name.