You might think the narrow way is belief in who Jesus is, that He died for our sins, and that He is coming back to take us to heaven, but Jesus said many will call Him Lord, but will not enter into the wedding feast. In other words, many think they are on this narrow road but they are actually not. That’s because the “narrow way” is referring to the way of those who chose absolute surrender and literal obedience to the way of Jesus, whose hearts are “known by Jesus” in a way that means they desire to be disciplined, corrected, and made utterly righteous by His Spirit. It is an actual way of life. It is a road to travel…and you’re invited.
To have Jesus know you is a terrible thing. It means there is no room for anything not pleasing to Him. It has to go. True repentance is the choosing of Jesus over anything keeping us from obedience to the law of God. For a long time I lived very confused, feeling like there were two gospels (which there are not):
- The gospel or good news of grace (John 3:16 and the Romans` Road) which teaches that salvation came through Jesus’ death on the cross, which is true and right.
- The gospel or good news of the Kingdom which Jesus and His disciples taught throughout His earthly ministry (found succinctly in the Sermon on the Mount), which is also true and right, the kind where Jesus saw Zaccheus give his money away and declared “Today salvation has come to this house!” (Luke 19:8-9)
But if I am honest, I rarely saw this gospel modeled in its entirety. In fact, most Christians I knew did not follow these practical commands of Jesus and made complicated arguments to get them out of them as if they were some difficult, unpleasant thing to avoid. I rarely saw Christians whose lives seemed to line up with not worrying, not sitting in judgment of others, not serving and indulging in money and what it could buy, committed to nonviolence, loving and serving the poor. I rarely heard any encouragement to pursue meekness, to be poor in spirit, to be blessed in mourning, and to be trained for accepting persecution. The way I understood the gospel was that no one was expected to actually be good at loving God. It was normal for Christians to be bad at it in fact. Most Christians I knew were enslaved to some fear or sin. In fact, some sin or guilt seemed sort of necessary to maintain an ongoing gratefulness for the cross! I knew Jesus said I had to be perfect as God was perfect; that my righteousness would have to surpass that of the Pharisees. But I was taught somewhere along the way that Jesus preached that sermon to just show us how IMPOSSIBLE righteousness was. That interpretation of what Jesus said about righteousness and perfection leads to deep frustration, bondage, apathy, and guilt.
Actually, righteousness is possible. It is possible to literally be and do what Jesus said and I would go further and say, if you do not believe this, you probably are not a Christian, or you are missing something pretty huge. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. In His book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes that, “My immediate reaction to these beatitudes proclaims exactly what I am. If I feel they are harsh and hard, if I feel that they are against the grain and depict a character of life which I dislike, I am afraid it just means that I am not a Christian.” But if we eagerly desire them, we are indeed sons of God! He also reminds us that a Christian and non-Christian belong to two different realms and there is a distinct difference in what they admire, what they seek, what they do, and what they can do.
It is in fact the same gospel, but only if you accept it ALL and move into a life of radical obedience, which will, in time, lead to persecution if you are doing it right. Then you will understand the sermon on the mount at a very core level, for nothing makes religious and worldly people alike more angry than the conviction of seeing someone living righteously, not out of pride, but boldness. And there’s nothing like persecution and being falsely accused for creating true poverty of spirit and meekness and mourning.
Thank God, He used a massive war with anxiety and panic attacks to bring me to utter reliance and dependence on Him. To be honest, there was a time not too long ago that poverty of spirit, meekness, and mourning was revolting to me. My culture values independence, strength, and optimism. To my people, dependence, reliance, and poverty is considered weak-minded, lazy, and undisciplined. But I was corrected as I read, Andrew Murray’s Absolute Surrender,
“Why is a Lamb always gentle? Because that is it’s nature. Does it cost the lamb any trouble to be gentle? Why Not? A lamb is so beautiful and gentle? [Does it] study to be gentle? No. Why does it come that easy? It is it’s nature. And a wolf-why does it cause the wolf no trouble to be cruel, and to put its fangs into the poor sheep? It is it’s nature. [It does not have to] summon up the courage. The wolf-nature is there.”
I had to face the harsh reality that after 30 years of following Jesus, my nature was not like Christ’s but more resembled what I admired, what I thought was good, what I desired to be, what others desired for me to be. My testimony was selfish in nature because I had tried to sharpen my natural gifts and interests so I could be so useful to God, but I had not been focusing on being on the front lines of the kingdom. I had been building a house of sand, building my life on the foundation of my “talents” and my desires for how I thought I could serve God instead of just simply following Jesus and going and making disciples. Thank God He had better plans for me, which included my death to self.
God came to redeem us from the self-life and give us His nature by His Spirit, and all this without education, without striving, without working for it, just resting and receiving the love of God poured into our hearts and emptying out to overflow only His Living Water (John 7:38-39). We become willing to exchange our nature for His, yielding to Him, learning from Him and His light load. Some call this sanctification but in reality it is just the permanent way of salvation/healing of our hearts, constantly renouncing sin, which was born out of distrust, fear, and rebellion, and receiving the Holy Spirit, restfully and joyfully pursuing the qualities God admires by obeying Jesus literally and seeking the kingdom first.
We know that according to what C.S. Lewis called the “ancient magic,” sin demands death, blood must atone for sin, and so the blood of Jesus, poured out from God’s provided sacrificial Lamb, washes us and cleanses us from all sin and makes us legally righteous before God, able to receive the Holy Spirit (Rom. 3:21-28; 1 John 1:7-2:2). We also know that Paul was writing by the Holy Spirit when He wrote, “you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14),” so now we can live by the law of the Spirit and pursue the kingdom and temple of God taking over the hearts of people, not by might or power, but by the Holy Spirit! Amen!
…But what about this righteousness that was required of me when Jesus said he was not removing the requirement of God’s law, but fulfilling it, and “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees you cannot enter the Kingdom.” (Matthew 5:19-20) You might say, “Well thank goodness I have Jesus, because now the weight of the law is not held against me!” Not legally, yes. You are declared righteous upon your faith in Christ. But what do we do then? Keep sinning and repenting so grace can increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2) So what if Jesus meant it, that your righteousness as a follower of Jesus should be actually greater than the Pharisees in order to really enter the kingdom of God both on earth and in heaven (meaning Christ’s commands were even MORE demanding than the law of Moses which the Pharisees worked so hard to keep)? How does that make you feel?
Are you suddenly very aware of the sin you have allowed to remain in your life as a follower of Jesus? Guess why…because it’s not supposed to stay there as a follower of Jesus!
I can actually expect to live free from the bondage of sin and the law of sin and death! That is the gospel of Jesus! I can cut off temptation by the Sword of the Spirit. I can let the law of love take root and take over my heart. As Paul writes, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery!” Paul is rightly saying here that God has always wanted a circumcision of the hearts, not simply the body. And herein lies the point. The law of God and the gospel of the Kingdom can only be fulfilled by someone whose heart has been radically circumcised by the power of the Holy Spirit, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, which pierces the heart, the old cleanly cut away. It is the New Covenant in His blood by His Spirit, which is an absolute fulfillment of the Old Covenant–hearts of stone for hearts of flesh. And this is the starting point for all that follows. We must have the Holy Spirit. We must live by the Spirit.
Jesus did not come to remove one tiny bit of the law but to fulfill it in us by giving us His righteousness so we could become the children of GOD, receive the love of God, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And Jesus was not giving some kind of new ethical code Christians should strive for in the beatitudes or when He says not to worry about tomorrow or to turn the other cheek. It is not about being righteous by your own good works. Jesus is describing the life of someone who lives in the kingdom of God now, by the overflowing power of the Spirit of God. He is describing the personality of the Lamb of God, Himself, who is meek, poor in spirit, persecuted, and hungers and thirsts for righteousness. He is describing His nature and making it available for us to crave and be filled. That means walking the straight path and making the right choices in life even when it’s not easy. Righteousness is from Christ, only by His blood, but it seeps into and pervades every inch of our lives as God removes our hearts of stones and gives us a heart of flesh. He almost literally takes the law from the stone tablets given to Moses and writes it on our hearts by changing our stubborn and selfish desires when we are filled with the Spirit of God and yield in obedient surrender to the will of God as He teaches us from His word and by the power of the Spirit! So obedience softens us to yield to God’s Fatherhood and receive His love, and His love drives us to radical obedience.
“…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5b
“If/when you love me, you will keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you…21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.23 …Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” John 14:15-24
When the love of God is poured into our hearts, I stop trying to change myself and I just am changed by receiving love. The Holy Spirit is what allows God to fulfill the law in us by aligning our will with the will of the Father in absolute and complete mutual love so that we willingly obey Him out of love, not because we have to, but because we love the things He loves. We hunger and thirst for righteousness! HE satisfies us as we obey Him and align our will with His! When we love Him, choosing His way even when it goes against all human logic, emotion, and instinct, He comes and makes His home with us. God is at home with us! That is the reward. It’s His presence! That is the kingdom. That is the treasure worth selling everything for! Understanding that the Holy Spirit moves us to obedience by changing our hearts to desire God changes everything. Look at the ten commandments with fresh eyes now.
THE COMMANDMENTS REVISITED
Love the Lord your God and have no other Gods before Him? Of course I want to do that! I do not need another image to worship because I have the power of the one true God inside me! Neither would I ever dream of misusing His name because He is so holy and beautiful and now I have seen it for myself! It brings me joy to honor God and worship Him and be in His presence! I do not hide from Him!
Of course I want to honor the Sabbath! I understand the heart of God was that the Sabbath was made for people’s good, not for legalism! For me to rest and enjoy life and take a much needed break is a blessing! It is a joy to obey Him because it benefits me and honors His plan for my life’s rhythm and priority of rested living (Isaiah 30:15)!
Of course I want to honor and take care of my mother and father, because I love them with the love of Jesus! My heart is thankful because God has entrusted them to me as family. And the same with my spouse! I would never want to divorce them because God gave them to me as a gift. He keeps my heart soft toward them out of love HE has poured into my heart. I want to love and cherish my spouse because it gives me great joy! We are miraculously promised a deep unity mirroring Jesus’ love for the church and our love for Him! And my neighbors? It makes me happy to see how God blesses them! Why would I kill, steal, or give false testimony against them? It gives me joy to bless their family in my prayers, to speak highly of them as God shows me His heart for their family to be blessed!
Now, I’m not saying I’m always 100% there yet, but this is how my heart is changing as I live by the Spirit. The law ceases to be burdensome and starts seeming very, very good and sweet. With our hearts motivated by the very Spirit of Jesus Christ, we begin to take on His personality, His desires, His will. And it’s a joyful surrender of our autonomy because God loves us, takes care of us, and made us uniquely capable to give what He wants us to offer the world, Himself! So we have nothing to lose except pride, vanity, and a lot of extra baggage that keeps us thinking it’s better to be rich in spirit than poor, rejoicing rather than mourning, strong-willed rather than meek, apathetic rather than hungering and thirsting for righteousness, judging others by a high standard of behavior and performance rather than being merciful, wanting to be relatable rather than pure, fighters rather than peacemakers, and safe rather than persecuted!
No, friends. We are not of this kind. We are the ones who are choosing to be remade into the image of Jesus. And we hold nothing of our own dearer than this one thing–absolute and complete fellowship with Jesus and taking up our own cross and His sufferings so that we may experience the resurrection from the dead. We become like Him, not as some unattainable ethical model for behavior, but by His Spirit, we are miraculously and naturally recreated by remaining in Him and Him in us, trying at all cost to keep that bond tight through prayer and rejecting the things that try to pull us away from Christ (namely sin, fear, worry, the enemy, etc).!
I want you to try to read Matthew 5-7 with new eyes. Imagine this is describing your life. Which parts of you push back against it? Which parts do you find yourself caveating? These are the places God is calling you to surrender your ideas of good and evil and yield to the narrow way of radical and literal obedience to God. And your righteousness will surpass those of the Pharisee because you will not be doing these things out of obligation. Instead, because your heart is not hard anymore, you will obey from love, and as you start to obey and literally practice these commands of Jesus, you will find it will come to be the most natural choice in the world for you, even the ones that seem the most impossible. For nothing is impossible with God. I’ll insert some questions in red for you to consider:
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
(Is this my personality? Is this what I long for with all my heart? Or is there anything above that makes me want to fight back or resist? Where is that coming from? Can I lay that down now and receive the will of God for my life, that I take on the personality of the Lamb of God? Am I being bold enough and walking in the Spirit’s power enough to be persecuted?)
Salt and Light
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
(Am I being bold in letting the light of the Holy Spirit shine in power from my life or do I stifle it in certain places? Why do I do that? Have I lost my excitement for Jesus? Where did that start? How could I walk unashamed of the gospel and in constant proclamation of the freedom, life, and joy Jesus gives? What fears would have to die? What would that “uncovering” feel like?)
The Fulfillment of the Law
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
(How have I heard this preached before? Am I guilty of downplaying the law of God in my life or in the lives of others in my efforts to make the gospel seem more atractive or easy? Is my righteousness surpassing those of the Pharisees, who only looked like they were Godly if you looked at their behavior, not their hearts? Is the law of God written on my heart or does it still feel like something “outside” of me that I am being forced to try to live up to? What does God really desire for me in terms of righteousness? How does He want me to think about righteousness as REALITY for me through the gift of Jesus on the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit?)
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
(If God is not looking at the outside but the heart, then the action of murder is actually prevented by a complete heart change so that anger and bitterness is not compliant with who I am anymore. It gets quickly eradicated as the poison it is. Who in my life have I thought of as foolish or murdered in my heart by anger and unforgiveness? Can I release them today from my judgment through radical forgiveness, leavinig them in God’s hands? Who have I not reconciled with who may be angry at me? Who has legitimate issues to accuse me of? Can I settle those accounts and promote peace?)
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
(If, like murder, adultery is simply a physical response that follows a heart posture, then I must discipline my heart to a finer point. Is my heart absolutely faithful to my spouse and to those around me, even in my thoughts and fantasies? Am I jealous or covetous? Do I need to add distance between myself and those things that make me feel a deep lack or insatiable desire? Can I trust God to fill my cup and provide good gifts for me too? Do I trust Him enough to wait for what He wants to give me? What needs to be cut off or put to death in order for me to remain pure? How can I train myself to see each human as an undefiled and holy child of God, worthy of protection, respect, and love?)
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
(God allowed Moses to allow divorces because hearts were hard. Now our hearts can be softened because we have a heart of flesh by your Spirit. How can I keep my heart absolutely soft regarding my spouse no matter what? How can I live openly and honestly without fear even when I want to walk away? How have we allowed hardness and contempt to enter into our home? What does it look like for me to live out of the sacrificial love of Jesus for my spouse even if it’s not reciprocated? How can I honestly communicate my needs to my spouse so I feel loved and known? Can I trust God to lead us into true unity of spirit and flesh again and again, even if I cannot even imagine what that would be like when things are hard?)
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
(How do I misuse the Lord’s name or use my own reputation or manipulative words to secure peoples trust? Can I live from a place of simplicity and truth, so that when I say “yes or no” it can always be trusted?)
Eye for Eye
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
(Do I train myself to respond in love even if attacked? Do I defend myself or do I leave vengeance to God? Do I teach these values to my children even though they will be hurt by following Jesus in this radical way of love? Is there any possession or person so dear to me that God could not require it/them of me in a moment of crisis? Am I prepared in season or out of season to give whenever someone asks of me so that they do not experience rejection from my hand?)
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Following the model of Jesus who died for me while I was still an enemy, can I genuinely bring my heart to submission to this law of Christ and genuinely love those who hate me because of my boldness in Christ? Can I greet them and even strangers with genuine love and sincerity and bless them and their families in prayer, even if they slander me and say false things about me?)
Giving to the Needy
6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
(Is there any pridefulness in how I serve God and others? How can I be careful to not try to earn approval or advancement by doing good in public. How can I discipline my heart to only focus on loving the person right in front of me with the love of Jesus instead of worrying about what others think or enjoying how others may see me in a positive light? Can I go out of the way to give secretly so only God gets the honor?)
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
(Do I follow the model of the prayer Jesus taught us, building it out to be specific with what I want to say to my Father? Do I make the effort to go regularly to a quiet, private space and enter into God’s presence declaring His praise, asking His kingdom to come, asking for daily manna, for forgiveness, and for protection from the enemy? What is keeping me from this? Am I being blocked in prayer by any lies or distrust or unforgiveness or sin? )
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
(Do I fast as part of my normal relationship with God? Do I understand and use this spiritual discipline God has given us? Am I only fasting to seem spiritual or take part in something socially or ritually?)
Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(Do I store up money and assets for my own security or do I release it to the kingdom purposes for which they are needed today? Am I fearful of the future? Do I doubt God will provide for me and so take it on as my own responsibility? How can my work and income be stored in heaven instead of earth? What will buy what God wants in this world-people coming to know Him from all nations? How can I invest in the kingdom of God? What dreams of God’s heart could I help finance?)
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
(What do I focus my attention on? Is it Jesus? Is it good and pure things? Or do I take in evil with my eyes? Do I seek out material things, experiences, and comforts that take my attention from seeking the kingdom first? How can I refocus my attention on healthy things?)
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
(How have I served money and how has fear played a role in this? How does the following statement of Jesus give me courage to choose God as my master, not money?)
Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
(What would it feel like to not worry about tomorrow or my future? How would I be free to build the kingdom? How would I be free to enjoy God and receive gifts from Him and build up the body of Christ? How have I strived for financing my own success or dreams instead of God’s dreams? How am I actively fighting the temptation to be anxious by focusing undividedly only on Jesus?)
7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
(How have I sat in judgment over my brother’s sin instead of being brave enough to prayerfully bring it before Him in love? Have I checked my motivations and my own heart for sin before trying to surgically help someone with their own sin? How have I wasted time trying to help someone who doesn’t care or want help? How can I follow the Holy Spirit into the strategic work of God instead of spending my energy on people who are not receptive and who are very content to stay in their sin?)
Ask, Seek, Knock
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
(Do I ask God for what I need or do I just complain to and about Him? Do I knock on the door of heaven with the confidence of a child asking something from their Father? Am I approaching God with expectancy that He will give me good gifts? Have I let disappointment or passing of time keep me from continuing to ask boldly and hopefully? Am I living with the generosity, lavishness, and compassion that I hope God pours out on me?)
The Narrow and Wide Gates
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
(Am I walking the narrow path and am I entering only by Jesus? Have I allowed any lies or false doctrine to enter my life? Do I have accountability to help me stay on the right path?)
True and False Prophets
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
(Am I dwelling in the vine and abiding daily with Jesus? Can I recognize the fruit of a person’s heart? Am I keeping watch over my heart, my family, and church body for false teachings or false motives or fruit or teaching among us? Am I confronting those who seem detached from the vine of Jesus, warning them of the dangers of not being connected to Him through listening prayer and scripture?)
True and False Disciples
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
(Am I truly known by God or am I hiding? Am I doing the will of my Father which is only known to me by the Word of God and by discernment that comes from laying myself down as a sacrifice and discerning His will?)
The Wise and Foolish Builders
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
(Am I recognizing the authority of the person and message of Jesus? Or are there parts of Him and His message I would rather not obey or that I buck against? Where are those places? How can I literally obey Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit and therefore not only be considered righteous by the blood of Jesus, but be moved to righteous living that pleases my Father, and therefore pleases me?)