16 March 2010

Jesus Teaches That to Follow Him is to be All-In

"In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
“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 in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Matthew 7:12-29

As Jesus concludes this teaching with a positive summary of the law and the prophets, he reminds us that following him is active.  We do not follow Jesus in contemplation.  We do not follow Jesus by formulating theories on what life in Jesus may look like.  We do not follow Jesus in what we do not do.  We are to DO for other as we would have them DO for us.  Following Jesus is meeting the practical, real needs of people.  After Jesus rejoins his Father in heaven, the church is described in part as not having any needs among them.  How is this possible?  Because they followed the "Golden Rule" as prescribed by Jesus.

Jesus then concludes his teaching with four stark contrasts that have no middle ground.  He drives home again and again that either we will follow him or we won't.  Following Jesus is not a part-time proposition.  Not only that but Jesus teaches his disciples that following him is their only hope.  This is an incredibly audacious claim.

Worse, he tells his disciples that the road that leads to life is a hard road.  Apparently, nobody taught Jesus about winning friends and influencing people.  I tend to be a very lazy person.  I hate resistance.  Resistance is hard.  It makes me scream as I fight against it and sore after I lifted it.  But without resistance, we cannot grow stronger.  Like any good father, God wants us to mature, to grow.  My default mode is to go with the flow.  But in going with the flow, I get lazy, fat, slow and apathetic.  This is the road to destruction.  Worse, this is not the only road to destruction.  Any god that we pursue other than our Living Father in Heaven leads us on the road to destruction.

How do we know who is on the road to destruction and who is on road to life?  Don't focus on what they say.  Speaking is easy.  Whether or not we should learn from a teacher needs to be determined by the results of a teacher's life.  Is there life, love, and hope in the teacher's wake.  Is there real needs being met?  Or, is there destruction, malice and despair evident when one investigates the teacher?  Jesus says this is how you can tell who is a good teacher and who is not.  Again, there seems to be no middle ground.  Either we good trees that bear good fruit or not.

What I love about Jesus is that he isn't selling me unrealistic expectations.  He is lovingly blunt with us.  He teaches that people who follow him with their lives will face the same trials as everyone else.  Following Jesus does not mean that our troubles go away.  The rains will come.  The wind will blow.  The floods will rise.  The advantage of following Jesus with our lives is the strength to withstand and thrive through trouble.

Father, thank you for the opportunity at life through Jesus.  May I come to trust you completely in order to have life that you have created for me. 

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