The natural outflow of grace is a fundamental reorientation of the world around us. We have been united at the cross, and the reconciliation that we've received from Jesus should create reconciliation in every area of our lives. In a world that is increasingly polarized, the call of the believer is to expand our tables to include those who look, think and act differently than we do. This is the Kingdom.
The Kingdom of God only comes with violence. Adding Jesus into the flow of our lives, even as our top priority, is not an option that has been left open to us. When we engage the real Jesus, our lives will never be the same. He impacts the way that we see the church, the way that we engage the world, and the way we live our lives.
In the sending of the Twelve, Jesus shows us how we are to engage the world around us. He gives us authority and commands us to give generously and freely, to have no fear even in persecution, and to steadily pursue an eternal reward. Being sent by Jesus impacts every area of our lives.
Jesus demonstrates more than healing—He proclaims life instead of death, cleanness in the place of uncleanness, and sight into blindness. Each action of Jesus is a free gift of freedom to the captives. His calling to us is, like Him, to follow the Spirit into places of captivity and to proclaim and demonstrate freedom.
Jesus redefined what it meant to be “in” and “out” of the religious system of His day. Everyone is invited! That open invitation changes everything and brings joy instead of mourning… because the work is already completed.
Following the proclamation of Kingdom, Jesus demonstrates the reality of the Kingdom. When we enter into the Kingdom reign of God, we get a glimpse of the true order of Creation. However, more importantly, we get to experience the reality of Jesus Himself.
Jesus saw, moved toward, and touched those around Him. Who do you see?
We all like the idea of authority, especially when it benefits us, but how can we learn to trust in the authority of Jesus? As we continue in the Gospel of the Kingdom series we will see that Matthew encourages us to trust in Jesus authority over nature, over our lives, and ultimately over our eternities.
The gifts of solitude and silence come in many forms. When we are quiet enough to truly meet with God, we find His presence is essential to our pilgrimage. While we can often approach God with a hope to understand more about ourselves, He instead meets us with a declaration of who He is. As we experience the character of God, we find He is enough.
Solitude and silence can reveal some rather dark and difficult things in our hearts. However, this isn't a surprise to God. In the midst of the worst of what our minds and spirits can generate, God meets us, invites our honesty, and reveals our truest self to us. Through this revelation, we're invited to leave behind the solitude and engage the world once again.
Silence and solitude in the "wilderness" was a regular part of the rhythm of Jesus’ life. He began His ministry after emerging from forty days of solitude in the wilderness, and then retreated there again after His first full day. Why? It was in solitude and silence that Jesus found a deep connection with the Father and clarity to His life and ministry. The same is true for us.
Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount by giving us two choices. He warns us, however, that our stated choice isn't always our actual choice. Our lives themselves are often the evidence of the choice we are truly making, which can be a frightening prospect. Thankfully, the beauty of the resurrection is that we can find a solid foundation, a deep relationship, and the ability to bear much fruit through Jesus alone.
Nearing the conclusion of His great Sermon, Jesus points us toward the kind of community that we should experience as we begin to live in the way He has described. In this community, we discern and challenge one another without condemning, we love one another appropriately and generously without capitulating and, most of all, we trust God prayerfully and completely without doubting.
When Jesus speaks of our treasures, He's not simply making a judgment about what we do, or do not, value. Rather, He's pressing into the fundamental structure of our soul. To value things is to be human. Jesus' teaching is a reminder that what we value belies what we trust, and the solidity of what we trust is directly related to either the anxiety or the peace in our hearts.
Jesus leads us into the discipline of secrecy so that we might avoid the trap of seeking the approval of the people around us. However, He's not asking us to make our faith private, thereby violating His earlier call to let our light shine before men. Rather, He is teaching us to live before an audience of One.
This section of the Sermon contains Jesus’ most radical and difficult teaching. Jesus expects that our apprenticeship to Him would include the way that we interact with our personal rights and those who oppose us. He calls us to be the kind of people who will trust God in every situation and, in so doing, be a subversive gospel influence in the world of violence that surrounds us.
In His Kingdom Manifesto, Jesus is teaching us that He has the power and the wisdom to move us beyond the vicious cycles that often control our lives. In affirming the rightness of the Old Testament law, Jesus identifies the underlying patterns that lead us toward sin and then gives us a new way to live, pointing us toward Spirit-transformation. The heart of Jesus is that we are truly free to follow Him.
Jesus begins His manifesto by making a bold statement. Far from listing the status to which we should aspire, Jesus is giving us a list of the least preferable conditions of life in order to deliver this stunning message: Regardless of background or station in life, no one is excluded. Just as there's nothing we can do to earn our place in His Kingdom, Jesus assures us that we won't be disqualified either—all are welcomed.
The call of Jesus to follow Him is not simply a call to a set of teachings or moral principles. It was, and is, a call to turn from anything that stands in the way and to follow Him into a revolutionary movement. It is this understanding that separates His apprentices from the crowds and that propels us to understand what He is teaching us.
Baptism is a fitting response to repentance. It declares who we really are as apprentices of Jesus. So often our identity and worth come from what we've accomplished or how successful we are. However, Jesus shows us how to live out of the already overflowing pleasure of God.