Before Jesus arrived on the scene, those who worshiped God did so by following a list of laws outlined in the Old Testament of the Bible. The religious leaders of the time had expanded these laws into 365 prohibitions and 248 commandments. No one could keep this law; as a result, everyone who wanted to please God had to continuously ask for His forgiveness through a series of elaborate rituals. Their goal was righteousness – to be right before God – however, these Old Testament laws would never be enough. Jesus came to change all of this.
All laws are to be understood on two different levels – the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. As an example, most cities have speed laws for motor vehicles. The letter of the law is to drive at a specific speed – maybe 35 miles per hour. But the spirit of the law is to drive at a safe speed. It’s possible to obey the letter of the law and break the spirit of the law if you continue to drive 35 miles per hour even though there are hazards in the road like construction, or school children crossing the street. In order to obey the spirit of the law – drive at a safe speed – you will sometimes need to go slower than 35 miles per hour. The Old Testament religious leaders were fixated on the letter of God’s law and Jesus came to redirect everyone to the spirit of God’s law.
Jesus taught that the spirit of the law that prohibits murder goes much deeper than the letter of that law. Jesus said that if you become angry with your brother or sister, you have broken the spirit of the law against murder. The action is not the crime – the crime is the intent of the heart. Similarly, Jesus taught that you only have to look at someone with lust in your heart to break the spirit of the law of adultery. As you can see, righteousness before God requires a much higher standard and the letter of the law is only a starting point. The spirit of the law holds the deeper intent that we all need to achieve to please God. Of course, this level of perfection is well beyond the abilities of mortal men – this is why Jesus came into the world – to save us from our inability to achieve righteousness in our own power.
Jesus didn’t come to add another list of prohibitions and commandments that are more difficult to achieve than those already on the books. Jesus came to point us away from the letter of the law and inspire us to embrace the spirit of the law. Only Jesus can provide the kind of transformation that will make an individual acceptable to God. When we place our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are instantly made righteous before God, and we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to see God’s law in a new light – we become one with the spirit of God. The Old Testament law demonstrated our need for a Savior, and Jesus came to fulfill that need. When we trust Jesus, we have fulfilled the law and we become permanent members of the family of God.
Before Jesus arrived on the scene, the Jewish religious leaders known as the Pharisees taught that the only way to get into the Kingdom of Heaven was through righteousness. Righteousness is the quality of being right in the eyes of God. Essentially, righteousness is the term that identifies God’s perfection in attitude, behavior, thought, and understanding. Obviously, this is an impossible bar for ordinary humans to reach; however, the Pharisees believed they were God’s chosen people and therefore able to attain righteousness by observing a collection of religious rituals and traditions. They were wrong.
When Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount, he started off by saying that entrance into the kingdom of heaven would require righteousness that goes well beyond anything the Pharisees were able to acquire through their own effort. In fact, Jesus said that understanding you are unable to attain righteousness on your own, is the starting point. Jesus taught that to achieve righteousness, we first need to realize our need and have an appetite for a deeper relationship with God. Next, Jesus said that having mercy for the less fortunate was a hallmark of those worthy of receiving righteousness. This was a problem for the Pharisees, because they believed the less fortunate were being punished by God and therefore should not be given any consideration.
God’s unchangeable, unalterable, absolute holiness can only be attained as a gift from God. Jesus came to offer this gift to the world. When we place our trust in the teachings of Jesus and focus our lives on loving God and loving others, we are on the road to righteousness. Jesus taught that following this path would not be easy. Followers of Jesus are often disrespected by unbelievers; however, walking in the footsteps of Jesus is what is required to find our way into the kingdom of heaven.
The Pharisees believed they could earn their way into the kingdom of heaven, and they were so impressed with themselves that they were completely unable to identify the Son of God standing right in front of them. Jesus came to let everyone know that entrance into the kingdom of heaven would require a total lack of self-aggrandizement and a total dependency on God. The punishment for our inability to achieve God’s righteous standard is death; however, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross on our behalf, so that we might live. When we place our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are blessed with the gift of righteousness and granted eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. Praise God for sending his Son! Praise God for His grace and mercy!
When the Jewish leaders told Jesus he should not be healing people on the Sabbath, Jesus responded by telling them God is always working and thereby claimed to be equal to God. Of course, Jesus backed up his claims by healing thousands of people and even raising some from the dead. Jesus made it clear that he was not God the Father, but the Son of God; however, he also made it clear that He and the Father are connected in a miraculous way. The Father and Son are one and when joined by the Holy Spirit, they form the Trinity of God.
Jesus explained to the Jewish leaders that Moses wrote about the coming of the Messiah. In fact, much of the Old Testament foretells the story of Jesus with prophesies that include his birth, death, and resurrection. Jesus went on to remind the Jewish leaders that John the Baptist came announcing the arrival of the Messiah and when Jesus was baptized by John, God the Father called out from heaven proclaiming Jesus to be the Son of God. Jesus did not shy away from proclaiming his deity, but the Jewish leaders were afraid to give up their religious power and therefore ignored the obvious.
Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. When we place our faith in Jesus by rejecting our selfish desire and following the teachings of Jesus, we are granted the gift of eternal life in the kingdom of God. Jesus is the Lord of lords and King of kings ruling over all of creation. Only Jesus has the authority to supply us with forgiveness from our misdeeds and the path to becoming righteous children of God. The New Testament makes this all abundantly clear and is a detailed testimony to the lordship of Jesus.
Jesus rules over us all. It doesn’t matter if you believe in Him or not; he still remains Lord of all. Those who deny His existence are lost and will only find true freedom when they seek a relationship with Him. There is no greater love than the love of Jesus, who gave his life so that we might live. Trusting the Lordship of Jesus is not burdensome in any way, but is a release from the heavy weight this world places on us all. There is great comfort in knowing Jesus as the Lord of your life.
Our human nature is something that has to be constantly checked and corrected. We all have a tendency to do things the easy way, or the selfish way, or the way that is inconsiderate of others. Of course, God wants us to consider others first, and to go the extra mile rather than barely giving enough. When we have these thoughts that go against God’s desire for our life, we have to push them aside and focus on finding the light of truth that Jesus provides.
Humans were created by God to live eternally; however, when Adam and Eve made the choice to follow their own desire rather than God – our ability to live forever was removed and we were assigned a time to die. God of course, knew Adam and Eve would be overcome by their human nature because he created us in this way to set in motion thousands of years of practical lessons in what it means to trust God above all else. But God’s ultimate plan was always to return our ability to live eternally with him at an appointed time.
Jesus came into the world to save us from our human nature. The teachings of Jesus are the light that exposes our flawed human nature and they are the truth that points us in the right direction. The death and resurrection of Jesus was a demonstration by God that he has complete control over death, and can therefore easily supply us with the ability to live forever. When we place our faith in Jesus, and make a sincere effort to follow his teaching, we are once again granted eternal life in heaven. When we walk in the light and truth that Jesus provides, we are demonstrating our complete trust in God. As followers of Jesus, we are putting our selfish desires aside and seeking that which is the will of God in our lives.
The world we live in is full of darkness; we see it every day in the lies and deception that is ever present all around us. People in this world are seduced by money, lust, and power. For some of us, these dark avenues are hard to avoid; however, when we make the decision to follow Jesus, we are at that moment blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be our guide and protector. When we follow the internal voice of the Holy Spirit, we can be certain God is on our side pointing us in the right direction.
Those living in darkness have a profound fear of the light; they know the light of truth will expose their selfish deeds. As believers, we have a duty to guide these lost souls toward the light. God wants all of his creation to come to the light and he uses followers of Jesus to be his ambassadors of truth. Our mission is not one of force or coercion; it is a diplomatic mission of thoughtful understanding and careful instruction that leads to salvation through Jesus. We have to take advantage of every opportunity to expose any sliver of light on those living in the dark. Truth and light are powerful tools that are undeniably connected to God, and when used properly will always lead away from the darkness of this world into eternal life in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus tells us we cannot enter the kingdom of God unless we are born again. Our natural birth is how we entered this world and our spiritual birth is that which propels us into the kingdom of God. Entrance into the kingdom of God is only granted to those who have achieved perfect righteousness; only salvation through Jesus Christ can supply that main ingredient. When we place our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus as payment for our misdeeds, and turn our back on our human nature in order to follow the teachings of Jesus, we are at that moment “born again” into our spiritual rebirth in the kingdom of God.
God loves us so much, he sent his Son to die on our behalf so that we now have the opportunity to be “born again” into the kingdom of God. Jesus tells us that whoever believes in him will be granted the gift of eternal life in the kingdom of God. I think this is hard for some to accept or understand because it seems too simple. If you’re “born again” I’m sure you’ve tried to share your faith with others that may have listened politely to your testimony but in the end rejected this gift from Jesus. So why do some trust Jesus and others turn their back and walk away?
Those that ignore the offer of eternal life from Jesus are so caught up in this world they are unwilling to make a spiritual connection that might jeopardize their fleshly desires. Those who have yet to be “born again” are trapped in the endless cycle of their pursuit of things that make them feel good, material wealth, and personal status in this world. Those who have been “born again” know all too well there’s nothing in this world that compares to knowing Jesus. Knowing Jesus is peace which surpasses all comprehension, treasure in heaven, and the honor of becoming a true child of God.
As “born again” Christians, our mission is to share this information with unbelievers; but in the end, it’s God that will bring about the needed change that will guide the lost to Jesus. Some will come early in life and others will spend many years floundering around in this world trying to find something that simply doesn’t exist. Jesus is the way to eternal peace, Jesus is the only source of truth, and Jesus is the path to eternal life in the kingdom of God. As followers of Jesus, we can’t give up on those who are wandering around in the wilderness. It is our duty to Jesus to continue pointing the way and to always be a guiding light toward salvation.
The world we live in is filled with camouflage that hides the truth. When Jesus walked the earth, he was rejected by many who witnessed his miracles. We should not be surprised to find many still distracted by money, lust, and power; nevertheless, salvation is available to anyone who looks beyond this world into the spiritual truth Jesus provides. God wants everyone to be “born again” but he only supplies this gift to those who sincerely participate in the process. If you look for Jesus with all your heart, you will find him. If you’ve been “born again,” share this message at every opportunity. If you are still caught up in this world, take a long walk out in nature – God’s creation – and give some careful consideration to what it might be like to be “born again.”
Temptation is all around us. We long for things that make us feel good. We long for things that we can own. We long for positive recognition and affirmation from others. These are the three avenues the enemy of God pursues in his effort to distract you from sharing God’s love with others. You will be tempted with pleasure, wealth, and prestige on a daily basis. It’s up to you to identify the source of these distractions and keep yourself pointed in the right direction.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with seeking pleasure, as long as it doesn’t interfere with your ability to love your neighbor. All things are to be consumed in moderation – too much of anything can become a problem. There is far more personal value in serving God by serving others than there is in any amount of personal consumption. The enemy uses food to distract some, various forms of intoxication to distract many, and an over indulgence in physical intimacy to distract others. Don’t be fooled! This is the enemy’s misdirection designed to keep you focused on yourself and distracted from the needs of others.
Like pleasure, there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking wealth. Wealth can be an enormous benefit in doing the work of God. Wealth becomes a problem when we start trusting our bank account more than we trust God. And the pursuit of wealth can become a distraction when we are more focused on a new house, new car, or big vacation rather than helping others. Obviously, your immediate family will all benefit from your extravagant spending; however, in the long run, some careful consideration needs to be given to the needs of those less fortunate. Keep in mind, every dollar you earn is a gift from God – don’t let the enemy tell you otherwise.
It feels nice to be recognized by others as being valuable in some way. God wants you to achieve this blessing by serving others. The enemy wants you to achieve prestige by demonstrating dominance over others. If your desire is to be better than everyone else, you are pointed in the wrong direction. If your desire is to be the best at providing for others, you are on the right path. Always remain humble before God. Every talent you possess is a gift from God. Everything you accomplish in this world is a blessing from God.
If we carefully consider what God wants from us, it’s unlikely the enemy will be able to move us off in the wrong direction. Simply put, when we put others first, we are following God’s plan for our lives. The temptation to seek our own pleasure, wealth, or prestige over the needs of others, is easily identified as misdirection when we put God first in our lives. Don’t let temptation control you! Let God work in and through you to accomplish His will.
Christians and unbelievers alike are both seeking contentment. We are all trying to find a peaceful existence that is fulfilling, meaningful, and void of discouragement, loneliness, and fear. Jesus came to earth to help us achieve this goal. Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is where we want to be in order to find the ultimate contentment that we all seek. So how do we get there? In a recent Bible study, I came across seven truths that will help us all focus on our journey. When we pay attention to these guiding principles, we can be certain we are moving in the right direction, and we can share this advice with others who are also seeking the kingdom of God.
Anyone who has cared for a newly-born baby knows all too well that they are totally dependent on their caregiver. Babies trust their caregiver for food, clothing, and a safe place to live. This dependency carries on for many years for most children. Jesus wants us to know that the first step toward finding the kingdom of God is to let go of our self-control and willingly accept a total dependence on our Father in heaven. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” (Luke 18:17) When we truly trust God for all of our needs and desires, we are moving in the right direction.
We demonstrate our trust for God by placing our faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as payment for our misdeeds and a guaranteed reward of eternal life. Our salvation through Jesus establishes our status as children of God. “The glory which You have given Me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and You loved them, just as You loved Me.” (John 17:22-23) Our salvation is a grand demonstration of God’s love and His desire for us to be one with Him.
As a follower of Jesus, we need to separate ourselves from the darkness of this world. When we study the teachings of Jesus, we are transformed into a new understanding of what it means to love God and love our neighbor. “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) Seeking God’s perfection in our interactions with others is our ultimate goal; and if we stay focused on our relationship with Jesus, we will reach this goal when he returns to destroy evil forever.
Until Jesus returns, we have to continue to exist in a world that is often hostile toward followers of Jesus. This is by design. We are to be a light pointing the way for others to find Jesus and pursue their journey toward the kingdom of God. Our mission is to present our spiritual self to the world in a way that is compelling and not judgmental. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) When we continue to seek the righteousness of God, we will be supported in that effort by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and thereby able to help others along the way.
Following in the footsteps of Jesus is our daily calling. We need to see the world as Jesus sees it. We need to reach out to others as Jesus did during His ministry here on earth. And we need to take action to help anyone that we have the ability to help. When we follow this prescription, we are on the right road. “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says that he remains in Him ought, himself also, walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:5-6) Our desire to be more like Jesus every day is the energy that will carry us into the kingdom of God.
Knowing God brings peace. Letting go of worldly expectations that only bring anxiety, fear, and discouragement, in order to pursue a relationship with Jesus, is the key to our total transformation into the kingdom of God. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) God sent His Son to earth as a guide for us to follow. This is a very simple process. The Word of God paints a clear picture and a detailed road map into the kingdom of God.
As a follower of Jesus, you are a member of the kingdom of God waiting for king Jesus to return and establish his kingdom here on earth. Until that glorious day, don’t allow the enemy to disrupt your progress. Keep your eyes on Jesus, trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and stay in contact with your Father in heaven through constant prayer. “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21) Jesus is pointing the way. Keep moving in that direction and you will be there sooner than you think.
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