Taking Stock of Our Walk
If there is a theme running through the part of the Sermon on the Mount we happen to be in right now on the Lord’s Day morning it is seriousness of conviction. Whether we are talking about how earnestly believers are taking the commands to root out sin from their lives or in the way they are willing to be disciples and be discipled by Christ both are in the crosshairs of the preaching of Jesus. He has come to inaugurate a new kingdom and He needs to know who is on His team, and who is either a poser or just an open enemy. As much as our Redeemer is concerned with the false teaching of the Scribes and the Pharisees He is as much worried about those people who will claim Him as Savior, but show themselves to not be His by their falling away to be burned up by sin or choked by the concerns of this present evil world.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the brevity of life. Even when you are blessed to receive the God-honored promise of three score and ten when compared to the length of days in the history of the world our time on the planet is truly but a whisper. Whenever I am reading history books I am always fascinated by what particular people experienced in their span of existence. I remember having conversations with my paternal grandma about what it was like growing up in the 1920s, how she had lived in an era that went from the introduction of the radio (they didn’t get one until she was six) to her talking to her grandkids on an ipad in the 2010s. She even had a Facebook account! Yet, when taken into context it is less than .04% of the time that has elapsed since Christ died and rose again on the cross. I doubt me personally that I will even make .03% So given these happy thoughts of our own mortality what exactly does that have to do with what was discussed in the previous paragraph, concerning Jesus’s words of challenge when it comes to what we think about His call to be a sheep of His flock? Well, to be clear our temporary presence on the earth has to be part of the calculation. Think again about how much longer eternity is than the life you lead today. You don’t have to be a whizz at math to see that the length of our life is in no way comparable to the reality of the unending immortality all men will experience in the days to come.
So what are you going to do about that?
For Jesus the answer is clear. Luke 9:62 says, “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” That is why in the Sermon on the Mount He spends so much time telling the men He has chosen to follow Him around during His earthly ministry that they need to take stock, first of all of the requirements of the call, and then think about their own ability to complete the task. Not quite snuck in there, but part of the calculus of Jesus’s teaching is the fact that no one is capable of doing that work. That’s the whole point of reminding all about the nature of the heart, and the way sin in the soul is as much a damnable violation of God’s law and worthy of hell-fire as physically doing such. Anyone who thinks they can be a disciple without first being made alive by the power of the Holy Spirit’s application of the redemption purchased by Christ is fooling themselves and trusting in a false hope. The disciples need to be aware of this because their life is about to get a whole lot harder. Being a follower of Jesus means being at odds with the world, and the world doesn’t like that. It will do everything it can, whether on purpose or out of ignorance, to frustrate your attempts to meet with Christ on the Lord’s Day in worship and in your labor to be sanctified more and more in likeness to your Savior.
The question is are you going to help the unbelievers in your midst accomplish their goal, or are you going to stand firm in what you understand in your heart to be the will of your Heavenly Father? That gets us back to the mission of the Lord in His preaching on the Mount. He desires His followers to destroy the sin in their heart, and the idols which keep them from enjoying Him as He has established you to do. In the moment it can seem like it would be okay to skip the gatherings of believers in order to indulge in something which on the face seems innocuous, just like the old man within us can seem convincing that lusting after that one lady/man we see is not that big a deal. However, much of religious devotion is based upon the regular, ordinary means of love. We wouldn’t say to our spouse, “sorry, something has come up I can’t see you on our anniversary”, so why do we treat our bridegroom that way on the day of His resurrection? Our hearts should be so attuned to the beauty of Jesus that the temporary could never overrule the eternal glory we receive in His worship.
When Paul says we are not to sin that grace might abound it is a reminder that we are not to see the goodness of God to us in Christ as a free pass to engage in acts that are not in keeping with the way Jehovah has ordered His creation. In fact the mercy of God should rather be the key motivation we need to be found in the business of destroying sin. If there is something our Master hates, we should hate it to, especially if it is found in us. The life of a believer is hard enough, it is even harder when we do not take it with the gravitas it requires.
For some further thoughts:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church