“There are five gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian. Many people will never read the first four.” ~ Gypsy Smith
In my previous post I briefly explored the ramifications of what life could be like if believers in Christ actually took His Sermon on the Mount seriously. The sermon is a drastic call to radical discipleship, one of self-denial and service to others. It is an invitation to fully express what it means to be the people of God as they bring the kingdom of God.
The Sermon on the Mount is the most broad teaching ever given for in it every aspect of life is addressed (maybe not directly but principally). It is also the deepest teaching ever given for it not only calls out the actions of Jesus’ disciples but brings motives into question as well.
It’s no longer good enough to avoid that heinous act of murder, now Jesus states that we can slay others without ever spilling any blood! And adultery is still committed although an interaction may never pass beyond a look of desire. This is so because sin is not just an act but an attitude. There is both a foreground and background. Offense is not just in the violation of the law but in the the disposition and intent of the heart.
And so in light of this ugly reality that plagues our world, what do we do? How could we ever measure up and get this right?! What could ever be done that would make a difference?
The church typically applies the following approaches to sin: ignorance and legalism. This is probably why E.M. Bounds declared, “The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.”
But if there’s something Jesus made clear, ignoring sin nor creating more fences around it will not clean people up. Same mess, more drama.
As the late J. Vernon McGee said regarding the church, “There’s a lot of sloppy agape going around.” C.S. Lewis reminds us that, “Of all bad men, religious bad men are the worst.” Ghandhi lamented, “I like your Christ but not your Christians. If it weren’t for Christians, I would be one.” Even the 19th century Nihilist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche stated, “I might believe in the Redeemer if His people looked a bit more redeemed.”
Now who doesn’t relate to these frustrating indictments upon the people of God?! We all are constantly reminded of this dilemma. There seems to always be news of another pastor who cheats on his wife, a priest who molests a child, an author who inflates his book sales and on and on it goes.
I personally believe this problem is rooted in identity. When an identity is assumed, purpose is provided. My life’s mission stems from who I am (identity) – I am a believer in Jesus Christ and therefore I should be like my Him in all areas, living my life as if He were me (discipleship).
But we live in a world where we have been sold lie, after lie, after lie, after lie. You never know if what’s coming is true anymore.
Ravi Zacharias, in his teaching entitled “In Search of Meaning,” tells of a time when Canada’s youth had a survey done some years ago and a question asked of them was, “What is the greatest desire of your heart?” Do you know what those youths told the surveyors? The number one answer for the greatest desire of their hearts was, “Somebody we can believe!”
This is why I felt it necessary in part one to ask if you believe that Jesus meant what He said in the Sermon on the Mount. Unfortunately, many believers seem to think that there is an escape clause when it comes to assuming their identity as born again believers who are called to discipleship.
I believe that Christians can no longer have this normal life where they are saved but not called, redeemed but not responsible, moved (even to tears) but not moving.
Imagine a completely horizontal line and an ascending forty-five degree angle. Got it? Good. Did you know that even though your heart may be beating your faith could be flatlined (see James 2:14-26)? But if you’re taking on the responsibilities of discipleship, your current lows will be higher than your previous because even if you fall you fall forward.
This is a call to start standing and even walking on the promises rather than sitting on the premises. It’s a challenge to quit assuming someone else will do it and to take ownership of your walk, church, and expression of God’s kingdom. It’s a reminder that all believers should transition from being served and fed to doing the serving and feeding.
In light of all of this, I want to encourage you to write your mission statement for your life. Really think and pray upon why you exist and all the details associated with that. Why do you believe God brought you into existence at this time, with these people, challenges, talents, struggles, etc. that you encounter? I want to invite you to the refusal of wasting your life. Do not stop at just moralizing but get engaged! Invite the Holy Spirit to awaken the kingdom seeds within as you find out why you’re made.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. ~ 2 Corinthians 8:9