When I was young, I decided to convert from my self-centered life to the religious life. Since then, I have been converting from the religious life to Christ’s way of life.
There is a difference. A huge one.
As I study the teachings of Jesus, for the life of me I can not find where he commands, recommends, or even suggests any religious ritual as the point of what he offers. Instead, he seems to go straight for the heart.
He offers a way of life.
He offers a character.
He offers a set of priorities.
He offers a mission.
And the common denominator between everything he offers is not “religious practices done a certain way” – but LOVE.
Last week, I took another look at his teachings in his famous “Sermon of the Mount” (found in Matthew 5-7) and asked God to summarize them as simply and concisely as possible through me. Here is what came.
Be humble. - Mt 5:3
Be compassionate. – Mt 5:4
Be self-controlled. - Mt 5:5
Desire rightness with God above all else. – Mt 5:6
Show mercy. – Mt 5:7
Exhibit purity. – Mt 5:8
Make peace. - Mt 5:9
Willingly suffer for the good and true. - Mt 5:10
Find the blessing in every circumstance. - Mt 5:11-12
Influence the world appropriately by being the right kind of person. – Mt 5:13-16
Use external religion and rules as aids in creating a life with God. – Mt 5:17-19
Do not let external religion and rules replace your life with God. – Mt 5:20
Be rid of any anger you carry. - Mt 5:21-22
Be as responsible as you can for any anger carried against you. - Mt 5:23-24
Handle difficulties with others relationally, not institutionally. – Mt 5:25-26
Do not indulge sex as recreation. – Mt 5:27-30
Do the work necessary to stay married. - Mt 5:31-32
Have composure enough to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and character enough to stick by it. – Mt 5:33-37
Exert your right to lay down your rights. - Mt 5:38-42
Forgive and love everyone your enemy, like God does His. - Mt 5:43-48
Rebel against being seen as noteworthy by people. – Mt 6:1
Be indifferent about who knows that you give to the needy. - Mt 6:2-4
Pray inwardly always, and let any outward words flow from there. - Mt 6:5-13
Show your favored position in God’s eyes by giving all others favored position in yours. - Mt 6:14-15
Get what your heart needs by valuing God’s view of you only. – Mt 6:16-18
Your felt need for the world’s treasure will steal your possession of the real treasure. - Mt 6:19-24
Be rid of any worry you carry. - Mt 6:25-34
Don’t judge. It destroys your life more than the object of your judgment. - Mt 7:1-5
Do not offer your wisdom to anyone who has not asked for it. – Mt 7:6
Take the posture of seeker and learner to be among the few who find God and God’s way. – Mt 7:7-14
Who you really are shows in the actions you perform, especially when no one but God sees you. - Mt 7:15-23
And then, he finishes with a pretty astounding promise – one that I’m using my life and energy to test.
Live life this way and you will be invulnerable to the troubles of life in every way that matters. - Mt 7:24-27
While all of “God’s people” before (the Jews) and after (the church) him try to contain the Jesus way of life in a certain set of outward worship practices, sometimes self-righteously arguing, dividing, and even warring about them, Jesus goes underneath all of that to the point of it all.
How about this: as Christians, let’s all master the above way of life, which comes straight from the mouth of Jesus, and once that is done, THEN we can discuss what we think about the less important worship practices that would best help folks create, sustain, and share this life found in Christ.