Tag: discipleship

The Gamble

Each and every one of us is given what feels like an impossible choice. Believe in and obey an all-knowing, omnipresent god. Or don’t. It feels impossible because it feels too big. The stakes are too high. Aren’t they? If God exists, choosing Him entails a lifetime of hardship and service, followed by an eternity in glory. All we need to get there is a) give our hearts and souls over to Jesus Christ, accepting that He is the only doorway to salvation, and b) die. Sounds simple, right? But many people don’t choose this option. They choose other religions or no religion. They say, “Well Jesus isn’t the way after all” and roll the dice.

So faith, quite honestly, comes down to choice. It comes down to our decision to gamble our souls on possible outcomes. What at first seems impossible becomes acceptable as we delve deeper into our faith. Now, I’m very much a person who believes in science. While I personally don’t believe we originated as monkeys, evolution exists. Organisms evolve- have been scientifically proven to do so- to not only survive, but thrive in their environments. Thems the facts. But faith comes down to believing in something not easily quantifiable. We cannot really prove or disprove God’s existence using the scientific method. However, we can take our personal experiences, the times we feel like He is working in our lives, and believe there is a living God.

So what do we do with that?

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We trust God and put our gamble to work. It’s something called the Great Commission. In Mark 16:15 (CSB), Jesus commands “… Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” We do this with the understanding that we are guaranteed hardship. We are guaranteed adversity. We are guaranteed people who don’t want to hear the message. However, we are guaranteed to have God on our side through it all. See, the world is a dark place.

In John 12:46 (CSB), Jesus said, “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me would not remain in darkness.” As a Christ-follower, one must absolutely believe that Jesus stepped down into our earthly plane to take on the mantle of sin without being sinful and allow us petty humans to crucify him on that ancient torture device we know as a cross. I am a Christ-follower. I believe in Jesus Christ, even when I’m angry at God. Even when I don’t want to be part of His plan and would really prefer Him to keep his mitts off my life. That’s the choice I make each and every day. 

I like this verse from Job 34:22 (CSB) that says “There is no darkness, no deep darkness, where evildoers can hide.” God sees all. He sees our wrongdoing. He sees our righteousness. He does not need a torch to light the way. He did not need Jesus to die for us. We needed it. Part of the gamble is this: when you choose to become a Christ-follower, you choose to face the darkness. You choose to immerse yourself in it. But, you do not choose to become part of it. It’s ugly and uncomfortable. But hey, Paul did some of his best work in a prison cell.

So here it is. I encourage you to roll the dice and see where being a Christ-follower takes you. I think it’s the best thing you can do for yourself. But. Do so knowing that this faith isn’t easy. You’re going to fail. You’re going to be the villain. You’re going to see ugliness and endure such hardship, you’ll want to return the purchase. If you choose to roll the dice, know you’re going to keep rolling them until the wheels fall off. He’s a living God. He’s a jealous and commanding God. And if you take the risk, when you bet it all, you’re going to know a loving God. I’d say that impossible-seeming choice isn’t so impossible after all.

Hurtful words, Forgiveness Spent

Words matter. When we’re little, with the big ol’ world out there waiting for us to conquer it, we think the bullies are on the playground, that the hurtful words only exist on the television (and come with some meaningful lesson around the 30-minute mark). We grow up hearing “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” and we actually believe it. But isn’t it more likely you’ll hear hurtful words than have someone beat you with sticks and stones? How much more likely are we to see emotional and psychological abuse as normalized parts of our existence? A sad truth is this: far too many people use love as an excuse to spew hateful words.

How about some examples?

  1. “I love you. Now, why don’t you come around anymore? You know how your father gets when he’s drinking. He really didn’t mean to squeeze your wrist. Aren’t you being too sensitive about it?”
  2. “Don’t you know what you’re doing to me? You know how your father is. You can’t change him and besides, you just have to get over it. Like the rest of us do.”
  3. “Why do you hate me? I am sorry that you were offended by that?”

The list could go on. We’re all guilty of saying the wrong thing from time to time. Nobody sees eye to eye at all times. Miscommunication happens. Misunderstandings happen. We’ve all heard the cliches- put your foot in your mouth, your mouth wrote a check your butt can’t cash, etc. The human being is prone to speak foolishly.

Let’s look at some verses.

Ephesians 4:29 (CSB) says, ” Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Proverbs 10:32 (CSB) says, “The lips of the righteous know what is appropriate, but the mouth of the wicked, only what is perverse.”
Ecclesiastes 10:14 (CSB) says, “yet the fool multiplies words. No one knows what will happen, and who can tell anyone what will happen after him?”

During my youth, I tended towards letting my mouth get away from me before I took the time to think about what I said. I hurt loved ones. I scathed folks I disliked. Over time, I’ve learned silence can be (and often is) the proper recourse for others’ hurtfulness. I’ve also realized that bullies find the word “no” very offensive and will often spin the narrative in such a way, you are the villain for saying no. But doesn’t our Father in Heaven tell us no when it’s better for us? Doesn’t He command us to use uplifting language and to seek what is holy and just? Now that I’m older, I recognize that “no” can be a hurtful word, but it is not a hateful one.

And therein lies the difference. Because we are imperfect in our sin, we take denial of what we want as hurtful. As any parent will tell you, a child shouldn’t always get what they want, when they want it, in the way they think they want it. Sometimes, it’s just not safe for them. Sometimes, there’s a reason to wait or they’ve got to earn it in some fashion. To the child, this is hurtful. It’s mean. It’s unfair. It is NOT hateful. Now, as adults, we sometimes need to say no for our own well-being. Rape culture is not okay; once someone says no, what they might have previously allowed is no longer allowable. This does not just refer to sex; rather, it refers to any moment when someone’s decision to say no (about anything) is attacked and they are demeaned, belittled, and vilified. Remember the three examples earlier? Those can occur after someone has drawn the line and said no.

In Ephesians 4:31 (CSB) we’re told to “Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice.”
Matthew 5:7 (CSB) tells us “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Forgiving hurtfulness is hard enough. Forgiving hatefulness is harder still. God calls us to forgive, as we are forgiven. Hate belongs to the devil. Love to God. Forgiveness spent… it’s like currency. The more hatefulness you endure, the more forgiveness you need. The more forgiveness you give, the more peace you enjoy. It isn’t easy and it isn’t always fun. But here’s a little nugget for you. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to go right back to subjecting yourself to hatefulness. No, God doesn’t call us to be foolish, so if doing so will guarantee you will sin, turn the other cheek and walk on out of there.

I’m going to end with this prayer. Join me if you will.

Lord, our God, I cry out against hateful words. I cry out against the foolishness of wasted speech. Grant me the wisdom to be silent. Grant me the strength to show grace when I really don’t want to. You sent your son to endure the hateful and hurtful. And Lord I am grateful that he chose the cross and forgiveness. I pray that when life gets too hard and people just seem so mean-spirited, you make me wise and not the fool. In your wonderful name, I pray. Amen.

I, Disciple

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 20: 18-20 NKJV)

We’ve gotten off track. We’ve blinded ourselves to God’s truth and to the commandments he’s placed on our lives. We’re too busy getting by to realize God is trying to settle the bill on our soul. We’re too self-involved, trying to build our kingdom, so we’ve forgotten we weren’t called to rich and fame. No, we were called into the discipleship.

I wrote this piece a few years back. Curiously, I felt God putting this back in my heart. Not as it’d been, but more, better, bigger. I’ve been struggling with faith lately. As many know, 2020 has been a hard year. We have a major pandemic afflicting the world. We Americans had an election. There have been mass killings. There has been so much evil. And many of us have just given up. But, if you believe in God, if you want to follow the teachings laid out in scripture, I’m here to tell you God knew this year was going to be like this. He knew and still called us to serve.

If you were ever told following Jesus was easy, someone lied to you. It isn’t easy and it isn’t supposed to be. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be the GREAT commission. Faith requires fire to temper it and hardship to test it. So, how do our lives really serve God? Sure, we go through our hardship, but the end goal is not a closeness with Him; it’s the paycheck at the end of two weeks and a few days breathing room. That’s not putting Christ before ourselves. Christ wants our discipleship, not adherence to our daily idols.

But, what is a disciple? A disciple is a follower of Christ. Jesus laid out the requirements to be a disciple in Luke 14:25-35. You have to love Him more than anyone else. I love my wife more than anyone on this earth. Except for God and his glorious son. Next, you have to deny yourself and take up the cross. Our comforts, ambitions, and perceived necessities pale in comparison to doing His work. You have to forsake all you have. That’s not a call to live in squalor. It’s more that our material possessions have become our idols and the gods we sacrifice to. Finally, you have to count the cost; do you truly have what is needed to follow Him? Are you in a place where you’re willing to let the frivolous go and set out on a truly great adventure?

Discipleship is not easy. To truly follow Jesus, we must understand that our priorities need realignment. We spend our free time playing video games, existing on social media, socializing with friends, and just going through the grind. It’s a daily struggle. It’s easy to get bogged down and forgetful. It doesn’t always seem like things are preventing our pursuit of God. We go to church, maybe even join a community group or Bible study. We talk about Jesus and His love from time to time. But our passion and devotion fixates on the lives we are living. It’s on accumulating things that will make our existence on this planet just a bit more bearable. So what do we do? How do we really follow Jesus and throw away the things that shouldn’t matter?

I think it comes down to realizing that nothing outside Jesus Christ can save our souls. Sure, having money, friends, and things to do improve the quality of life. Being able to pay our bills ensures comfort we’d not have on the streets. But, having faith in God’s Son ensures our souls enter into the holy doorway so we may join Him in the kingdom.

I am not saying we should not take care of our responsibilities.  Bills won’t stop coming- boy, we wish they would! But, we have to decide where the glory goes and who we’re really seeking. Are we seeking God’s glory or our own well-being? Now, I’m burdened by the sheer apathy we see in Christians. We want His blessings, but we’ve formed gods out of the day to day things. We have lost true discipleship and many have traded true discipleship for getting by. Are we any better than Judas, selling Him out for our 30 pieces? Christianity is not about our convenience! It is not. If we waited for our time, if we waited until we felt ready, then our new gods and idols will have won. And, if we keep waiting, we’re not talking to others about Jesus. Or, to use a phrase I’ve heard recently; we’re not sharing our Jesus story.

Faith isn’t just a battle. It’s a street fight. We are going to get bloody and wounded. The world is going to be at our throats. Its god will scrabble for your soul. Who will win? Jesus? Or, these things you sacrifice to every day? When we’re living a life based on our own needs, God tends to tumble- no, we shove Him- to the wayside. Don’t have time to talk about Jesus today, have to pay the power bill! I understand. I really do. I’m sure God does too.

However.

Name one time when He tolerates putting anything above Himself. Remember Luke 16:13? You cannot serve two masters. Now, I don’t want to sound preachy and patronizing. I’m not telling you that life is fair and you can do better. I’ve worked sixteen-hour days to put food on the table only to realize it just isn’t enough. I have woken up angry because I didn’t know what to do about bills due several days before a horribly insufficient paycheck. It isn’t fair. It’s easy to put these things first, to hope something better comes along. When you’re weary and miserable, do you really want to read your Bible and give thanks? Do you really want to tell others about how loving our God is? Not always.

To make disciples, we must first be a disciple. We must talk to our Father. We must talk to our spiritual leaders. We must pray. We must read our Bibles. We must strip away the excess. We must submit to His authority. And we must not let our sin get in the way of bringing others to Him. Friends, we live in a world that’s hellbent on crushing us, on distracting us with pleasure and pain, so there are no real warriors for God.

To be a disciple, we must first love God. To love God, we must first know Him. To know Him, we must read His word and pray. Also, we must risk looking foolish for His glory. I think it’s a perfect time to turn this around and give our lives back to Him. That way, it’s not just God’s Great Commission. It’s ours too.

The price of Evil: Wrath

” but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Now Cain]talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.” -Genesis 4:5-9 (NKJV).

If we look around, if we look to social media or listen to the news, if we step out into the world and just listen, do we commonly witness goodness? Does brother love brother? Or, does he hate him? Do we love our enemies? Or, do we look at those who do not fit into the neat little boxes we’ve constructed around our lives with contempt, fear, or anger? Do we take God’s place as judge? What is the cost?

Here are two questions we should ask ourselves:

  • What harm does our wrath inflict upon ourselves?
  • What harm does our wrath inflict on our enemies?

Let’s unpack these and see what scripture says about it.

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Let’s look at the following scenario. Imagine waking up, same as you’ve done every day, and after performing your daily routine, you head into work. Imagine that you’ve put in countless hours at the office, helping grow the business to what it is or, at the very least, doing your part to keep the bottom line in the black. Now, your coworker is a particularly unpleasant person, who is quick to underhanded actions and spinning events to suit their favor. Take this farther by imagining this particular person messes up a particularly important report. Instead of taking responsibility, this coworker passes blame to you and, for one reason or another, your supervisor does not believe you. Perhaps they are friends outside work. Perhaps you’ve made mistakes in the past. It does not matter. Your supervisor fires you. Then, as you’re vacating your workspace, the coworker gloats to your face. You lash out angrily in your hurt and are escorted from the premises.

Now, I know that’s a pretty unpleasant situation. Let’s return to our two questions. First, what harm does a situation like this cause to us when we’re in the midst of it? Proverbs 14:17 (NKJV) says, “A quick-tempered man acts foolishly, and a man of wicked intentions is hated.” Ecclesiastes 7:9 also states, “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.” We become foolish when we let our tempers get away from us. In our scenario, we might argue that the person was justified in his or her anger. Until lashing out, no blame rested on the employee’s shoulders. And sure, because of the coworkers actions, this person is now without a job, a way to put food on the table or pay the bills, and will now have their permanent employment record affected. Until lashing out, however, there was no sin on the person’s part. Whether it was physical or verbal, the “victim” acted in such a way to warrant being escorted from the premises. When God tells us throughout scripture to get rid of our anger, how does acting out of it, no matter how justified we feel we are, serve Him? The consequences, beyond the legal and moral, are that we are sinning against God and defying His commandment. How likely are you to repent for anger you feel is righteously gained? How likely are you to repent when you feel your unkind words are justified? Especially when our legal systems back you up? God is not a legal system. God is not a man-made law. He is above all earthly laws. And he says in Matthew 5:22 (NKJV) “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

When we heap rage upon our enemies’ heads, do we serve God? If they are of the world, is it our place to condemn them? As in our scenario, we can agree there are plenty of circumstances where we feel the anger is deserving or our words should spew forth as venom. But, we are to show mercy and forgiveness. Jesus told us to turn our heads and let our enemies strike our other cheeks. Hey, I know it’s hard. I struggle with this myself. Our enemies can look like our friends, our loved ones, our coworkers, our leaders… as we are all birthed in sin, as we are all creatures who are removed from God until we step through the doorway that is Jesus Christ, we all look like the enemy to someone else. When we pass judgment, when we react so poorly, we stop showing Christ to others. We push our enemies deeper into their darkness. We help weaken the thread of spiritual life because we, as Christians, are behaving poorly. Justified or not, we are to discard our hate, our anger, even our hurt. We are to love our enemies. We are to minister to them, even as we bleed, and help guide them to God. The harm- the true harm- comes when we put our own misery above God’s command; then, we are serving our own agendas.

I’ve read that God is love. And I have read that if you hate your brother than you are not of God. We are all Cain. We are all guilty and only made innocent through the blood of Jesus Christ. So I’m going to end with a prayer. You can join me and use it for yourself if you like.

Lord, I come to you in humbleness. I’ve lived a life where my anger destroyed relationships and denied opportunities I might have been given. Lord, help me get past feeling like I have a right to be angry. Help me remember that though someone might slap me, your Son said to offer our other cheek. Lord, I don’t want my anger, my hurt, my feelings to draw me away from your glory. Here, in this moment, I’m leaving it at the cross as you’ve commanded me. I want to be of love, Lord. I want to be among your children at the feet of glory. Amen.

Go with God my friends.

The Apathy of Indifference

Would you believe me if I told you there was something horribly wrong with this world? A cancer, so malignant, that it’s caused many Christ-followers to lose sight of Him and to think God has abandoned the world? We are a nation of apathy. We are a nation of sin. We are a nation where good men and women wonder where their next meals will come from. We are a nation where parents fearfully wait for a phone call telling them their child has been slain. We are a nation where people are still fighting the race war in a post-Civil Rights era. We are a nation where men and women who are paid to protect and serve, mete out their own cowboy justice. Note, this is not all or even most, but it exists. Finally, we are a nation where hatred prevails and people only want to get involved when individual choice has been removed.

I had a friend tell me recently that those within the New Age movement and those who do not adhere to Christianity are performing the wonders, Christ-followers should be. They prophesize and perform miracles. They pursue the self above all things. My friend saw Christianity as weaker, as not having the strength these other religions have anymore. I understand my friend’s fears. But, let me be clear. God is not playing for spectacles. He is not the next sensational thing. He’s been playing the long game since the dawn of creation.

Let’s look at some scripture for a moment.

1 Chronicles 29:11 (ESV) says, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.”

Galatians 3:28 (ESV) says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

1 Peter 2:15 (ESV) also tells us, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”

Basically, our Father has got this and we need to have faith in Him. God does not promise comfort. He does promise to shelter us when we have faith. And, we are commanded to love others. What I’ve seen lately is a lack of love. A lack of human compassion. I have seen men and women belittle others for using precautions. I have witnessed men and women spew filth because someone looked different than they do. Is this of God? Are we really of God when we let our fellow human beings perish beneath the boot of oppression? Ecclesiastes 9:3 (ESV) reveals “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”

We have a sin problem. We cannot just sit by and permit God’s enemies to take over. By following Jesus, we are called to a radical change. And if we are all equal in God’s eyes, if we all are flawed and must go through the Son to get to the Father, then there is no justification for the evil we see. So, I am urging you, my friends, let’s stand up for what’s right. Let’s not turn a blind eye until evil is poking us squarely in the chest. Let’s help turn things around so His kingdom overshadows the fear so prevalent in these troubled times.

I’m here for you. Let’s start a radical shift in mentality and imbibe our hearts with the holy spirit. Let’s devote our hearts and lives to God. Francis of Assisi once said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Let’s start with faith. Let’s start with love. If we put our trust in Him and embrace Jesus’s presence in our hearts, we will see change. We will see hungry men fed. We will see a powerful shift in our public perceptions. We will see ourselves as the tribe of God and soldiers in the war against evil. It’s time to act. It’s time to arm ourselves with the Holy Spirit and shed our apathy. It’s time to take up the sword of Christ and smite our animosity. Live in love. Dwell in the Father. Amen.

Our Stumbling Block

Life presents each of us with a series of events, ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary, that defines who we are. We move from one day to the next, drawing on hindsight for clarity. Humans are incapable of absolute purity, absolute sinlessness, while we traverse this earth. So we get distracted. So we turn aside from the call Jesus has on our lives. The devil’s in the details, right? We are- we should be- better than this.
We are stumbling. As Christians, we know it is likely we will stumble off and on for the rest of our mortal lives. That’s why there is a need for repentance. It is not to provide an excuse- a spiritual loophole if you will. No, it is so we can honestly beseech the Father, our Lord and God, for His mercy and grace. It is our acknowledgement of wrongdoing and the desire to change. Now this is important to keep in mind as we talk about some ugly things.
But first-
Lately, the world has been plagued with a health pandemic that has affected millions, whether through death, economic hardship, social isolation, etc. People have reacted to this in numerous ways, not all of which are good. Regardless of whether you see it as a hoax or as legitimate. Regardless of where your concern for the health and well-being of others lies. Regardless of these, and ugliness has reared its thorny head. Galatians 5:13 tells us “For you were called to freedom brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Likewise, Proverbs 24:16 says, “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he will rise again, but the wicked stumble into calamity.” A much bigger crisis rears its head. It is the absence of human decency and compassion in many forums.
Let’s talk about social media. How often do you read the comments to an article, only to see hateful, angry rhetoric? How often do we see people belittle others because they do not see things exactly how someone else does? I’ll be honest. I have been a member of Christian groups, writing groups, art groups, gaming groups… you expect to see people who only want to stir the pot, just to get any sort of response. We call them trolls in this digital age. But do you know where I saw the most appalling dialogues? Christian groups. From self-professing Christians. I will not discount the good, but there is too much hateful dialogue and rhetoric present for anyone claiming to serve God.
I will not share what I have seen, as it is something you can see for yourself, but there are three things I want to communicate.

  1. No one has the authority to judge the depth of one’s faith. We are commanded to help guide people to Jesus, to make disciples in His name, but we can never know the full depths of someone’s relationship with God.
  2. Hateful rhetoric is not Christlike. Even if you are right, no amount of demeaning talk will make it good. Harshness is one thing. Jesus was harsh. Hatefulness is another. Do all things in love.
  3. We do not know God’s mind. He’s God. We aren’t built to fathom all the threads He holds to bring a given moment to fruition. We can guess. We can take His words that were laid out in the Bible, but we do not and cannot know all.
    James 1:26 tells “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
    Psalm 34:13 says, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.”

Proverbs 10:19 also says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
1 Corinthians 2:15-16 says, “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
It is not wrong to hold people accountable. Through Christ, we are given more understanding into the mind of God. But we are held to a higher standard. We can disagree. We can discuss more Scripture-centered processes. We can question. We can even be angry. But we are not God and we cannot know every detail of someone. We cannot know just how much harm our ugly words do; whether they repel those who are not of the faith or they drive away those who are. Oh, I know these times are hard. We all deal with it in some way or another.
But if you think God’s body will not suffer because you belittled someone you disagreed with, if you got on your high horse and decided to mete out God’s judgement, well… maybe it’s time to open the Bible and get down on your knees. We are commanded to live lives focused on building God’s church. Not tearing it down. Throughout Scripture we are called to do things with love. Love can be harsh. Love can seem unkind. But love is not wicked. At least God’s love is not. So maybe, as we progress towards an uncertain future, we’ll draw on Him to better engage with others.

God’s Higher Standard

In Matthew 5. Jesus calls us to be better than the world. He says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever releases one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (17-20 ESV). Moses laid out the laws in the Old Testament. Jesus made it so much harder to keep to God’s law with what he said in the text following verse 20. As sinful creatures, we cannot possibly keep God’s law 100% of the time. That’s where Jesus swoops in and covers us. We are held to this higher standard, but He paid the price when He died on the cross and rose from the grave.

It is infinitely more important to know and accept that Jesus died for us than it is to keep to the old covenant. That is not to say that following the standards laid out for us throughout scripture is not important. On the contrary, it is very important. But Jesus is the WHOLE point. His sacrifice was the fulfillment of prophecy and He is the only doorway to the Father’s kingdom. So don’t you think Jesus Christ is absolutely more important than… well, anything? I’d say so!

Ah, but we live in the world. We have social media and magazines emphasizing toxic self-image. Have we considered the damage things like Photoshop and SnapChat filters have done to our self-esteem? We hear we are not good enough. We hear that we aren’t smart, pretty, whatever enough. These are distractions. Were we not worth the Son of God dying for us? (The answer is yes. Yes, we were and are.) We are better than the world because we stand on the side of righteousness. We stand on the side of the highest standard – God’s standard – and so our individual shortcomings really pale beside the awesome might of our Holy Father.

And yet, we human animals constantly disregard this in favor of the standards we find in the world If we are great at our jobs, we can earn that bonus or higher salary. If we are pretty enough, we can attract that new romantic partner. If we are quick enough, we can get to the store for that last roll of toilet paper. Because the world has its own standard, we lose sight of God’s standard. Ever is the power of rationalization as present as it is when we have another bill to pay. God’s commandments don’t carry the same weight when we have to scramble to make end’s meet just to keep the air conditioning running another month. How about when we have seen loved ones abused by those who should look out for their well-being? The world says we can achieve any dream, but really, most people are merely looking to get by.

We forget the Lord is still with us. He tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Brothers. Sisters. I tell you this. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 ESV). God has not abandoned us. This world is our testing ground. Until our last breath, we shall find things to distract us from the higher standard that comes by living a Christ-based life. Time will chip away at tour dedication. Not always with that devil on our shoulder either. No, more often than not, it will come in perceived necessity and when all cards appear stacked against us.

Have faith. Recenter daily. Pray for direction. And above all, remember that Jesus Christ died for us, so we do not have to live the proverbial checklist. Just accept Him and allow the Holy Spirit to transform your life. Because God’s standards are worth banking eternity on.