Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 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 relaxes 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. (ESV) Matthew 5:17-20
In a 2018 test, the Government Accountability Office found that two out of every five supposedly brand name products purchased online were actually counterfeits. Oftentimes these fake products look exactly like the real thing on the outside, hiding their lack of quality on the inside. Counterfeits are estimated to cost the global economy and consumers $323 billion dollars a year. While the cost of imitation consumer products is enormous, Jesus lovingly warns his faithful disciples that the cost of counterfeit Christianity is much higher.
Jesus mentions the kingdom of God three times in the context of quality measures. There will be people in the kingdom of God who are called least and those who are called great. Then, there are those who will not enter the kingdom of God at all.
We find that the authenticity of our relationship to Jesus and his kingdom is validated by the quality of our obedience to God’s word. When we are lax in our obedience we’ve drifted into poor habits that result in the least of heavenly rewards. Conversely, when we obey God’s word from the heart and “teach others to do the same” we find that Jesus bestows on us greatness in his kingdom for all of eternity.
This doing of God’s word as a normal practice is more than following a checklist. It’s a matter of the heart. We obey Jesus from hearts filled with love for God and others. We don’t just obey the letter of the law, we move beyond to the point of fulfilling the spirit of the law.
For example, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, do not commit adultery, but I tell you that if anyone looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28. Jesus is saying that fully obeying this commandment goes beyond physically avoiding the act of adultery to having a heart and mind that avoids committing the act in our thoughts. This kind of Christ following requires a new heart and a changed mind which leads to internal transformation. This kind of true transformation was missing among the scribes and Pharisees.
Because they had not been changed on this inside, their method of obedience to God’s word was all external. They did and said the right things while pointing out the faults of others with great clarity, but on the inside they were operating as fakers. In other words, they appeared genuine on the outside, but lacked the heart changed qualities of a true disciple of Jesus on the inside.
Jesus says that the cost of practicing external religion is the loss of life in God’s kingdom – a cost that far exceeds any amount of earthly reward. These are harsh, but helpful words in a culture that teaches, values, and celebrates external appearance over Christlike character.
Listen to how the apostle John encourages us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he writes “Dear children, let us not love with words or in tongue, but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
We know that we have shifted from fake to authentic Christ following when we replace external practices with habits of love and truth toward the diverse set of people who are in close proximity to us. This kingdom way of life is only possible with a heart and mind supplied and changed by the transforming power of Jesus.
Have you experienced the transforming power of Jesus by repenting of your sin and trusting Jesus to save you and give you a new heart? If not, this is where you begin to live the authentic and abundant life in God’s kingdom.
Christ follower, have you been more external than internal in your Christ following? If so, call on God in repentance and ask him for grace to live the authentic life of a disciple of Jesus and join the ranks of those who will be called great in the kingdom of Heaven!
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Dear Lord, I am grateful for this loving reminder that my love for you and others must be more than external practices and words. Please forgive all of the ways that I have made following you counterfeit to your gospel of love for everyone. I’m calling on you today for the grace and power needed to abide in you so that I can bear authentic fruit for your kingdom. Thank you Jesus. In your name I pray, Amen.
MEMORY VERSES OF THE WEEK:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”