Sunday, August 2, 2020

Let's Join the Joyful Mission Of Jesus! #JesusFollowers

Jesus started his ministry with extremely clear words outlining his mission:

"The Spirit of Yahweh ("The LORD") is upon me, because He has chosen me to preach good news to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are being bruised." (Luke 4:8)

He said why he was chosen, anointed at baptism, and sent by God to preach - it was what he called the Kingdom:

"I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I WAS SENT FOR THIS PURPOSE” (Luke 4:43.)

Jesus' ministry and life's message was entirely focused on this Kingdom of God - the ideal realm of Heaven that Jesus said should be made a reality here, "on earth, as it is in Heaven" (Matt. 6:10.) That this is a spiritual and not a literal, temporal one is also clear from his own words (John 18:36.)

It's a Kingdom in which he called people to be righteous, merciful, and complete ("perfect") just as God is (Matt. 5:20, 5:48, Luke 6:36) and just as Jesus - whom God chose as his spokesman - modeled for us with the example of his selfless life and death (John 13:15; 1 John 2:6.)

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)

And he made it clear that we should spread this Kingdom far and wide:

"Go therefore, and teach all nations...Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Mt 28:19,20)

"If you love me," he said, "you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

It's abundantly obvious why we don't hear much of this Gospel of Jesus from pulpits. It's because it is hard, it calls us to perform Good Works, and it calls us to deny ourselves and serve others. In short, it challenges us to get up out of the pews and ACT in the world. Few want to hear that message on a lazy Sunday morning.

But if we read his words, and take them seriously (and if we wish to claim him as our Master, whom we say we love) we must admit that Jesus makes demands on those who say they follow him. And we're called to act on his commandments.

He calls us to ACTIVELY deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and to follow his teachings, daily in the service of others. (Luke 9:23) 

This Gospel of Jesus - this "Good News" - is shocking to our ears because we are used to things being FREE, and EASY.

But our God knows the human heart, and commissioned Jesus at his baptism to be our Examplar and Guide in all things. (Luke 3:22)

God knows that we are capable of doing what he wants us to do, and He knows that the effort will bring us joy.

Jesus models for us the perfect man, the man in whom God said was "well pleased." And Jesus tells us we are capable of all that God asks of us, through Jesus' teachings and life lessons.

He tells us that we must be "perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect," (Matt. 5:48) meaning that we can attain a degree of the moral perfection of God. Likewise, he tells us we must be "merciful, as your Father in Heaven is merciful." (Luke 6:36)

In short, he tells us that the Gospel is a challenge - a challenge to become the human beings that God created us to be, and knows that we can become.

God knows that we respond well to challenge and adversity, and that we can overcome it. He says sin may be crouching at the door, but we MUST overcome it. (Gen. 4:7) God says the Moral Law of Moses is "not too hard for you," and that it is "is in your mouth and in your heart, SO THAT YOU CAN DO IT." (Deut. 30:11, 14)

Isaiah says God has no doubt that human beings can, "cease to do evil, and learn to do good." (1:16)

James, the brother of Jesus, notes that adversity perfects us. "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces endurance." (James 1:17)

Jesus promises that, "The one who perseveres to the end will be saved.' (Matt. 10:22) and "by your patient endurance, you will gain your souls." (Luke 21:19)

"If you know these things (his teachings)" says Jesus, "Blessed are you if you do them." (John 13:17)

This God-given human ability is often never revealed by preachers because there is a lot riding on the idea that we are incapable of doing what God asks. But if we aren't, then God asks the impossible.

But again, God knows our heart, and knows that we become like Jesus when we act on his commands. And we spread the joy of Jesus and the Kingdom when we serve others. 

Jesus said he "came not to be served, but to serve." (Matt. 20:28.) And he calls us, like the Good Samaritan who served the stranger, to "Go, and do likewise." (Luke 10:37)

Jesus' words ring true today because they speak to longings of the human heart. He understood that when we treat others as we wish to be treated, our spirits become fuller and more complete and the needs of others are fulfilled as well. We lay up treasure in Heaven when we do Good for others. (Matt. 6:19-21)

It's also doing the work of spreading God's Kingdom, and that's the mission to which he calls us to joyfully join. Are we ready to take his words and mission seriously?

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