Sunday, November 8, 2020

What Does the Bible Say We Can Do? #JesusFollowers

The Bible tells us that human beings were fearfully and wonderfully made, and created in the very image of God, the creator of all the universe. (Psalms 139:14, Genesis 1:27)

It includes no call for us to have a low opinion of God's creation, and the fact that God created us all in His image means that the teaching of Jesus that we are to love our neighbors exactly as we love ourselves is a pure reflection of this truth. (Mark 12:31)

Further, Jesus teaches us to have incredibly high ideals for ourselves and to seek them in our daily lives every day.

We are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. We are to be merciful just as God is merciful. We are to love God with every fiber of our being. And yes, we are called to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. (Matt. 5:48, Luke 6:36, Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:31)

There is nowhere in the teachings of Jesus to support the idea the God believes we cannot do all that He asks of us, or that these ideals are placed before us in order to tease us with our imperfection and inability to achieve them.

Indeed, there is nothing in Jesus' teachings and nothing in the writings of the Hebrew Prophets for which we can justify or excuse mediocre behavior towards God, who nonetheless is merciful towards us when we fall short of those ideals and ask humbly for His forgiveness.

The Hebrew Prophet Micah says, "Who is a God like You, Who pardons iniquity and passes over the transgressions of his remnant of His inheritance?" (Micah 34:7)

So, everything Jesus said points to the fact that we are wonderfully made creatures in the image of God, innocent children who are capable of acting in a Godly manner.

And of course this is utterly consistent with the Hebrew Bible's teachings - teachings with which Jesus was completely familiar and believed were Scripture inspired by God.

Once we recognize this, new vistas open up on the pages of Scripture and in the teachings of Jesus because they become the art of the possible, and a reasonable and joyous challenge for us.

The teachings of Jesus thus become for us a template for living, an actual guide for Life as God wishes us to live it.

The Hebrew Bible, especially the Wisdom books in the moral teachings of the Prophets, is filled with verses calling human beings to achieve great things and live active lives of holiness and service to others.

"Be holy, for I am holy," declares God in Leviticus (11:44). "To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to Yahweh than sacrifice." (Proverbs 21:3). "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked." (Psalms 1:1). "Depart from evil and do good." (Psalms 34:14). 

In these Scriptures, we are viewed as noble and able beings, capable of achieving what God has called us to do.

"A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things," says Jesus. (Matt. 12:35) 

But yes, this same Bible is filled with people, and entire nations, who failed to live up to those standards.

Let us not be fooled by these Scriptures' ample examples of those who fell short of the ideals set by God. The very fact that those were made examples for us means that they are there on the pages to inspire us to avoid such mistakes and to do better than they did.

For example, King David was guilty of great sins and misdeeds. He repented of these (Psalms 7) and went on to serve God in holiness, saying, "Yahweh has rewarded me according to my righteousness. According to the cleanness of my hands he has recompensed me." (Psalms 18:20)

We, too, are called to Holiness and to piety by King David's example and by that of Jesus, who pleased God and did all the things that He asked him to do (John 8:29) and was chosen as his spokesman and Son at his baptism (Luke 3:22). He calls us to follow him, and to do all the he did. (Matt. 4:19, John 13:15, 14:12) And unless those are empty words, our Master meant for us to do just that.

We know that with the help of our Father in heaven, we may humbly seek to walk in the steps of His Son, Jesus, taking up our cross daily to follow him. By this, we become the beings that God created us to be, and we build God's kingdom on Earth with our acts of kindness and service.

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