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Jesus concluded the Sermon on the Mount with an emphasis that we don’t deceive ourselves about our relationship with him.
He challenges us to examine our relationship with him, when he says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7.21-23).
Sensitive souls may read these words and grieve over whether their relationship with God is acceptable. The great Congregationalist preacher of the 1700s, Jonathan Edwards’ wife had this problem. She questioned her salvation for a lengthy period of time, even though she lived a life of great devotion to God.
I don’t think Jesus ever intended for people like Sarah Edwards to be anxious over their salvation, when he uttered these words. I do think he wants us to examine our lives.
Jeremiah’s words, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17.9) calls us to take a serious look at our relationship with Jesus. Let’s make sure that we are not deceiving ourselves.
Do we really know him? Do we have a personal relationship with him? Is our lifestyle defined by doing his will?
John gives us a test. He wrote, “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God” (1 John 3.19-21).
We don’t have to be like Sarah Edwards and worry about our salvation. We can know our inside condition and have confidence before God.
John writes about three tests we can apply. He says, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us” (1 John 3.23-24).
The three tests are: (1) Have we put our faith in Jesus? (2) Has it made us loving toward others? (3) Has the Spirit confirmed this fact in our lives?
One of my friends had been a pastor of a large church for ten years. He went to a Catholic retreat and met Jesus in a real and personal way. This was a man who prayed, read the Bible, preached sermons, officiated weddings and led a church. Yet, he believed that he did not have a personal relationship with Jesus until that retreat.
He told me on one occasion that he viewed many in his congregation as those among the “pre-converted.” To him, they were religious, but were missing the personal aspect of a relationship with Jesus.
My pastor friend had a level of faith in Jesus that was of the mind. When he met Jesus in a personal way, his faith became that of the heart.
I think he was always loving and I doubt if many people noticed a great difference in that area. However, the confirmation of the Spirit was quite striking. He began living in a dynamic relationship with the Spirit.
Many things impressed me about this pastor. One was how he prayed for others. He had a three-ring binder in his office on a stand. In that binder were pages after pages of pictures of people for whom he prayed. His practice was to go to that stand every day, look at the pictures and pray. No wonder he was one of the leading pastors in Kansas City until the time of his retirement.
As we attempt to align our lives with Jesus’ message, let’s ask ourselves some questions that may reveal some self-deception that needs to be overcome.
— Can I point to a time in my life when I began living with him in a personal way?
— Do I regularly meet with Jesus and have a sense of knowing him?
— Do I regard God’s directions as important and seek to align my life to conform to them?
— Do I love Jesus and other people in a genuine way?
— Has the Holy Spirit confirmed to me that I am a child of God?
I think the best way to end up on the right side of Jesus’ teaching is to make it a practice to prayerfully study of life and teaching of Jesus. He will inform you and guide you in so that he can say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25.21) on the day of judgment.
Build Your House on the Rock
Jesus ended his Sermon on the Mount message with an emphasis on doing what he taught.
Here’s what he had to say: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
“And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7.24-27).
When I lived in New Orleans, they were building the Super Dome. For several months large machines drove pilings into the earth where the Super Dome was constructed. I checked Google and discovered that the building rests on 2100 concrete pilings that were driven 165 feet below the ground. No one wanted a $134 million project (at 1975 costs) to sink into the below sea level earth of New Orleans.
Whether we value our lives or not, Jesus does. We are far more valuable to Jesus than a sports stadium. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for physical buildings. He died and rose again to give people like you and me the best life possible.
There is a very simple way to have the best life possible. We are to know and do God’s will. This will place us on solid footing during one of the most turbulent times in history.
The Next Blog Theme
I believe the next blog theme should help us discover how Jesus lived his life. I frequently use Dallas Willard’s expression, “the Jesus-kind-of-life.” If we are going to live a life like Jesus, we need to immerse ourselves in how he lived. My prayer is that you will join me in exploring in depth Jesus’ life and ministry.
Of course, it will be up to us to align our lives with his teaching and example. We will be on solid ground with a great future, as we do what he teaches and shows us.
Dear Jesus, thank you for the magnificent Sermon on the Mount. Please help us to return to it again and again, so you may show us what living with you is all about. Most of all, please help us do what you have been teaching us.