Sunday, October 27, 2019
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 20, 2019
Jesus' ministry was a call to humanity to come back to God, our Creator. That’s not a minor thing, nor is it a call that can leave us unchanged.
In fact, while we may come to God “as we are,” we cannot remain unchanged after approaching our Heavenly Father, Who is our God and the Creator of the universe.
God chose Jesus, anointed him, and sent him out to preach His Truth.
Jesus’ ministry calls us to make changes to our life, as well as to humbly approach God in repentance. Without action on our part, starting with our repentance, we aren’t truly returning to God, but simply SAYING we are.
Jesus calls us to be better people; to become the human beings God knows we can become. Mere belief is not enough, that is only the start of our Faith. If we say we love Jesus, we will actively seek to keep his commands (John 14:15.)
Those who claim to know him, but don’t believe his commands are worth following, or are “irrelevant” or are superseded by another person’s teachings, are liars, and don’t really know Jesus at all (1 John 2:4.)
Here, then, are a few (not all) of the commands Jesus gives those who say they follow him:
1. 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 emotionalism.
2. Jesus calls us to love each other, our neighbors, with the same zeal with which we love God – complete and total love (Mark 12:31.) And all people are our neighbors.
3. 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.
4. 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.)
5. Jesus calls on us to forgive others, and makes this duty a condition of being forgiven by God (Matt. 6:15-16.)
6. Jesus tells us we must repent of our sins. “Repent,” he says, “for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 4:17.) Repent means to feel sorry about our sins, and work to stop sinning.
7. 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.
8. Jesus says we must lay up heavenly treasures, not earthly ones that don’t last (Matthew 5:44–46.) The race for wealth doesn’t last, but our rewards in Heaven do.
9. Jesus tells us to be a “light to the world” and that we must let our Good Works “shine” so that others may see God’s righteousness manifest in us (Matt. 5:14-16.)
10. Jesus calls on us to choose the “narrow gate” that leads to God and salvation, rather than the “wide gate” that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14.) The popular way, the easy way of “faith alone” and the way that requires the least work isn’t the way Jesus calls us to approach God.
11. Jesus calls us to “do to others that which you would have done unto you” (Matt 7:12.) This “Golden Rule” has been ignored, demeaned and ridiculed by modern Christendom, but it’s at the core of Jesus’ preaching.
12. Jesus calls on us to follow him (Matt. 4:19.) Jesus sets for us a perfect example of how to live our lives (John 13:15.) We have the ability to serve God through Jesus’ moral commands (Matt. 5:48) strengthened always through God’s spirit and Jesus’ holy example.
Let us take up the challenge Jesus puts before us!
Sunday, October 13, 2019
Only those who gain knowledge of the teachings of Jesus and follow him in humility can truly become whole, perfect and complete in Godliness.
Jesus was the perfect example through which we can know and see how God wishes us to act, live, to relate to others and to die.
It is in this context that we can begin to understand the otherwise "difficult" saying of Jesus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6.) The rarely-quoted next verse reads: "If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him."
Seeing and learning without acting upon what we've seen and learned is pointless, and useless, leading to dead faith (James 2:20; 26.) We cannot hide our Light, or keep our Good Works to our selves, but instead, Jesus calls us to spread goodness and light to others (Matt. 5:16.) It is only by action that we spread God's Kingdom upon the face of the earth.
Jesus challenges us to be better than we are, not remain exactly as we were before we met him. The act of following him is meant to transform us; we are to be BORN AGAIN in service and obedience to God, with the example of God's chosen exemplar always before our eyes (John 3:3.)
Jesus didn't ever claim to be God. But he did claim to be Godly, and he was in fact perfectly in tune with God's will. He says of his Father, “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:29.)
From his example, we need not look through a "dark glass" seeking vainly for what God wills for our lives. Jesus lays it out clearly, and says we CAN achieve it, and must attempt to do so. And we need not do it alone. God's servant Jesus teaches that we can rely on God's forgiveness when we falter on this journey, and must as a consequence forgive others who may offend us - in Godly imitation of both God and God's servant, Jesus (Matt. 6:14-15.)
The Good and Beneficial Message proclaimed by Jesus wasn't to simply have mere belief in his existence, but was a call to ACTIVELY serve God, to follow Jesus, and to love others just as we love ourselves (Mark 12:29-31.) His Gospel calls us to serve and act, not sit and contemplate, nor to simply admire Jesus nor even to worship him.
To be Good and Beneficial, the message of Jesus must spread goodness to others, and be beneficial to others. To turn a deaf ear to God's instruction through Jesus is detestable to God (John 9:31; Prov. 28:9.)
When we realize the wonderful gifts God has given all people from birth - but we have not used to benefit others until we knew Jesus - we should feel a great sorrow of realization, followed immediately by great joy that we now know the goal for which we were born, and the Good Works for which God has equipped us!
Jesus is a "Door" and a "Gate" by which we may walk through and glimpse the potential life for which God has equipped us - and has promised to continue to equip us. Let us have the courage to walk through this narrow passageway and enter into spiritually complete and morally useful lives together!
Sunday, October 6, 2019
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 religious goal in life is a Self-centered goal 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, and they tell us that we have no other obligations.
And many church leaders rarely speak of OUR duties, but speak of, and sing about, holding GOD to HIS promises.
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.