As always, you can find all our previous posts in this series, going through the Gospels chronologically to find the real Jesus, here.
And as always you'll find the scriptures for today are here. (Note that you can change the translation version on this scripture page as suits you. I default to the NASB to get the more literal translation, but do use the one that works for you).
So – what's Jesus been talking about the last several posts? He's been telling us (and the people 2,000 years ago) about how Good Religious People (including the church-goers, the bible-memorizers, the seminary graduates, and "clergy") are not going to make it to heaven – and neither are we if we don't do BETTER than they do.
Does Jesus have even more to say on how we can actually do better than people who are already so expert at being Good Religious People? You bet He does!
Do good always to impress God – never to impress other people (including yourself)
First Jesus talks about the problem of doing good things so other people can see you did them. Good Religious People (from the "Right" and the "Left" and everything in between) simply overflow in doing good things everyone else gets to see them doing, don't they? Whether it's preaching the Gospel to other lands (or to a television/radio/internet audience), or feeding hungry people, or caring for the sick, or being "nice" to people, or even menacing "sinners" at Gay Pride events or running voter campaigns of misrepresentation and lies (in other words, bearing false witness against their Gay neighbors) to block legal protection of Gay families – no matter what it is, we all get to witness the "good deeds" of what most loudly calls itself "Christianity", and in all its finery and glory, don't we?
And if we aren't sufficiently impressed (and fewer and fewer of us "sinners" are, quite naturally), Good Religious People are always impressing each other, and even giving and getting rewards of praise, good feeling, promotion, titles, clergydom, money/salary, etc. from and for each other. "All for the glory of God!" – or so they say.
Thing is, though, Jesus says right here in the Bible that all "Christians" claim to believe in and follow that if anyone but God knows you're doing these good things, then it's really YOU getting credit / reward for them, and not just God.
I know, I know – Good Religious People believe they’re doing good for God (even when they do all those evil, ugly, anti-Christ things), and they teach others to believe the same. They say things like, "God's just using us as His instrument!", and "I'm just being the Hand / Heart (or other body part) in the Body of Christ!" (funny how no one ever lays claim to being what the Bible calls the "weaker" or "less honorable" body parts), and more.
- Then why is it the only way to get those good things done is for Good Religious People to be sharing His limelight?
- How does it happen that when other people SHOULD be praising only God for food, shelter, kind words, care for their sick bodies, and so on, they're actually praising God for Good Religious People or their "Church"?
- How is it even possible that doing good works turns people in gratitude or praise to the Roman church, or the Lutheran church, or the Presbyterians or Methodists or Non-Denominationals or Baptists or Emerging people or (name any other "denomination" or "kind" of "Christian"), but not directly and only to Jesus Christ, with no more thought to the Christian who's simply doing what Jesus said to do?
In another part of the Bible we'll cover later, Jesus warns us to make sure we aren't deceived by people who claim to come on Jesus' behalf, but then also claim to be Christ.
When we do anything that gives us any part of the reward or praise or honor or title or other good or elevated thing that only Jesus Christ deserves, then
- We are claiming to be as deserving as He is.
- We are claiming to be His equal.
- We are claiming to be Christ.
So, how do we do this right, since doing it the Good Religious People way is such a complete, ridiculous, and hell-bound fail? Jesus gives us several examples:
- Give to those in need – yes! But only in ways so only God can see your hand or heart at work. Then you're actually working for God, and not your own glory!
- Pray – yes! But don't do it where others can take note of how great a pray-er you are. Instead, go where it's truly only you and God, and just share your heart, asking for your basic needs and for God's way to be done always here on Planet Earth too.
- Forgive – yes! But don't just forgive those who deserve forgiveness. Each time you forgive someone who doesn't even begin to deserve it, you remind yourself how God forgives you even when you don't deserve it either.
- Fast – yes! But don't let others see or hear how crappy you feel so they know how "dutiful" you are in your religious devotions to God. Instead, keep your smile bright and share what you're feeling just between you and God. It's the only way to make your suffering mean anything real at all.
In other words, do all your good stuff in ways that don't reward you here, now. Otherwise, it's like selling your winning lottery ticket to some guy on the corner who gives you three dollars, because you can't stand waiting for the real million-dollar payout next year.
Instead, make everything you do count for God, and let it all be something that boosts your relationship with Him. That's why God called you to be a Christian in the first place!
- What are some of the ways you've seen "Christians" do good things in ways that others could praise "The Church" or some other manifestation of themselves, instead of only God? Are there ways you've done similar things?
- What ways do you take rewards today, instead of waiting for the reward from God in the future? Do others know you give money to the needy, for example? Do you write off your "charitable contributions" to the IRS to get a break on your taxes?
- The Bible often tells us that God's real people are humble – and it means really humble (not in that fake, irritating, arrogant-humble way we see from most "Christians"). What does it mean to your life to be humble? How does that change how you present yourself – and God – to the people around you?
- We're not often taught by Good Religious People that the Bible warns there are already lots of anti-Christs running around (usually they either want us to focus on the one Big Kahuna AntiChrist still coming, or they want to pretend there are no such things). The Bible warns us that anti-Christs do all sorts of things – including coming in Jesus' Name but then taking all or part of His glory to themselves, thereby deceiving people into worshiping or believing things that are about devil or human being, instead of about God. Who in your life has been an anti-Christ? Have you removed their influence from your heart and mind? Have you ever been an anti-Christ yourself? How? How can you live differently, so you're not thumbing your nose at God any longer?
You just know you're going to camp where you put your gear
Next Jesus talks about where we put our hearts and focus. He tells us not to bother worrying after or storing up things on earth, because there's nothing here we won't lose for some reason or another (death, theft, rot, etc). If we keep our focus on these kinds of "earthly" things, it's like wearing scratched up eyeglasses that have a completely-wrong prescription: we're going to be stumbling down stairs and crashing into the coffee table, our inner vision as scrambled as our outer one.
He also warns us that we simply can't serve God and money-stuff at the same time. Isn't humanly possible. And while all so many "Christians" say (with their lives, if not their mouths) that it's not so, Jesus tells us that truthfully if we love God we'll hate money, and if we devote ourselves to money we'll trash God – so why not just leave all our needs to God and rely on whatever He provides? Doing anything else makes us believe that what we're going to put on or in our bodies deserves more of our attention than what we're going to do for God, and how much we're going to trust Him. In other words, doing more than simply trusting God in whatever He provides makes a "Christian" no different than a God-rejecter.
- Worrying over the things of this world is epidemic – especially these days! As we get closer to the End Times, and things get more and more dicey in our global and local world, it's going to get even worse, as the devil pushes more and more of his agenda onto the rest of us (and too many people go happily along with him). What prevents you from simply being happy with whatever you have, and spending your heart and mind energy on Jesus and the people around you, instead of on paying bills for things you don't really need, or worrying after things you do need?
- What does it mean to your own life, when Jesus says to let today's worries (and not tomorrow's) be on your mind each day, letting each day be trouble enough on its own?
Final thoughts for the week
- Jesus is painting quite a picture of just how different from the rest of the world – including the Good Religious Christian (and Jewish) World – we have to be, to get into heaven. In every case so far, He's said our hearts have to be in order – and not our religious duties. What are the ways you still cling to religious duty (because you fear not doing so, or even because you like it)? What ways are you still claiming to come in Jesus' Name, while actually not doing or living the ways He said you should?
- For all their talk of being so very "literal" in following the Bible, conservative, evangelical, and related "kinds" of "Christians" obviously do not really believe the Bible at all. If they did, they wouldn't only quote or live the parts their human neurosis likes best (like the parts they think condemn Gays and keep women a lower part of Creation), while ignoring or reimagining those parts they don't want to be there (like not serving money, and not being outwardly religious so others can see, and not supporting war, and not hurting back, and – and – and – and!). How has your understanding of God and what He wants from your life been twisted by "literalists" who prove by their hearts and lives that they themselves don’t actually believe in the Bible? What things can you do to shed their neurosis from your own spirituality?
Next week we'll finish the "Sermon on the Mount", going over what Jesus says about judging others, wasting your time on people who'll only hurt you, expecting good things from God, and putting His words to real practice in your every-day life.
See you then!
This article written by Lynne at http://NoJunkJustJesus.blogspot.com/. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.