So, no matter how I slice it, it all brings me back to the OT story, Jesus’ fulfillment of the story and it’s relevance for us as He repaints the picture of what it means for God’s people, to live God’s way, in God’s world (aka Kingdom Living spelled out for all who would choose to hear and respond).
All throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, as God is revealing Himself and His purposes for all of creation we are simultaneously made privy to mankind’s desperate need for rescue from the mess we’ve made of things. I say that because interwoven into God’s story is a picture so vividly painted of man’s continuous propensity for losing their way, along the way, and these are God’s “chosen” people.
And yet, from everlasting to everlasting, God is faithful in bringing hope and healing to a rebelliously lost, helplessly hurting world. He created a perfect world and set mankind right in the middle of it all (created in the very image of God Himself and given the awesome responsibility & joy of caring for God’s creation, a topic all it’s own). His desire is to “walk” with His creation, that they would know Him as He knows them, knowing full well the direction mankind would choose and all it would entail to bring restoration and redemption SO THAT this world would indeed be a place where God “walks with” (knows) His creation and they know Him.
From a human standpoint, it’s been a long journey to get us to God’s originally intended place or plan and yet, God is well aware that, only by freely choosing do we ever get to the place of being able to freely love God back. In our “messed-up-ness” we have a tainted view of not only ourselves but the world in which we live as well (this could use some major unpacking too). God graciously knew that we would need help (on so many levels) if we were to ever get even a small glimpse into life as He originally intended and so He resolutely set out (since that had always been his plan) to reveal Himself and His ways so we could begin to see (even slightly) the world from His point of view.
It required God calling a people out of the mess in order to bring hope and blessing to all people through them. Even in this, He spells out what it would look like to live as His people…wholly different from the corrupted reality of the world (thanks to our own doing...regarding the corruption, that is). Once He saves them and draws them to Himself He describes in detail what life was intended to look like as His people. The whole of the OT is this journey of God’s people trying to live like God’s people but failing miserably time & again because of the reality of sin and evil that had permeated all of life.
It’s clear that because of the reality of sin and evil (which has left nothing untouched) that left to ourselves we are unable to be and live any longer as God had originally intended. In other words, it has become clear that something is massively wrong and that we can’t fix it on our own. But that just allowed us to see our real need for a real Savior who God has been promising since Genesis who will come as LORD of all and set things right!
The long-awaited arrival has come. Jesus enters the scene of humanity as fulfillment of all God had intended since before creation and with Jesus comes a renewed teaching of Kingdom Living, again the Kingdom Living that God had always intended.
He’s reclaiming life relationally (vertically then horizontally) which plays out of course spiritually, but also morally, socially, politically, economically (and its always a heart issue – we are reminded that while “man looks at outward appearances God looks at the heart”) because left to ourselves we’ve made a mess and Jesus has come to live out life as God intended and to teach us, spell out for us (once again), practically what that looks like.
Only this time, because sin & evil have been definitively defeated in Jesus, we have the assurance that we too can live victoriously as we walk in the ways of Jesus in the strength of the Holy Spirit. It’s a massive remaking of the way we have defined life up to this point, as we have sought to figure things out on our own, convinced we have no need for God.
To all who call on His name, He has given us the right to be called sons and daughter of Him (the living God) and because of Jesus’ decisive victory, God continues His process of making all things new so that life is restored to His original intent.
Practically speaking this victorious Kingdom Living is spelled out for us in the SOTM (Sermon on the Mount) It’s a detailed reminder of the Shema (which, according to Jesus, is the greatest commandment of all). It is in the SOTM that we find this renewed teaching on Kingdom Living that speaks to every facet of living (or life) on earth, as mentioned above.
After Matthew takes the time to clearly point (through well-reasoned genealogy and prophecy-fulfillment) to Jesus’ Messiahship, his book proceeds with Jesus’ life & teachings which not only reveal & confirm this same claim but simultaneously reveals & teaches those who would follow about life under the rulership or kingship of Jesus (Kingdom Living).
And so, Jesus begins to systematically apply this victorious Kingdom Living to every dimension of human life on earth in his SOTM teachings.
He’s calling all those who would follow to live as He does. Jesus came to serve not to be served. It’s the opposite of what we see all around us today. It is not a life of asserting ourselves to make sure that we are heard, seen, acknowledged, given credit and pats on the back. It is not about climbing the corporate ladder, accumulating more, pushing others aside or trampling on them if they’re in the way of our achieving our own goals we have set for ourselves, as we’ve defined it. Life wasn’t ever supposed to look like the “me first” or the “its all about me” mentality that we have created.
As Jesus sets up for us the definition of Kingdom Living (the SOTM) and lives it out for us, He also reminds us that it is not something He intends for us to achieve on our own, we’ve already seen over the centuries (OT) where that gets us. But as He lives a perfect and blameless life, and then gives His life as a ransom (freely given), He defeats death, Satan (evil) and sin in one blow and finally, sends us, not in our own strength, but in the power of the Spirit that He instructed His disciples to wait for (Zec. 4:6; “for true obedience [faithful living] would be the gift of the same Spirit who could turn dead bones into a living army in the mighty act of resurrection pictured in Ezekiel 37:1-14” – C.Wright) with His ultimate marching orders to continue his work by going to the ends of the earth and making disciples, who as a result of hearing not only live life victoriously themselves but teach others to do the same (aka "making disciples who make disciples who make disciples…").
It takes a constant renewing of our minds, constantly keeping our eyes on the prize set before us, constantly being filled with the Spirit, consciously seeking first God’s Kingdom and it affects us from the inside out, beginning with our heart which determines our thoughts & attitudes which determines our character, played out in our words and deeds (as described in the challenging words of the practicality spelled out for us in the SOTM).
Jesus never promises it will be easy, it certainly wasn’t for Him, but our peace, joy, and strength has never come from our outward circumstances and so, we find great comfort and strength in the words Jesus himself speaks to us: “take heart because [ultimately] I have overcome the world”…our job is to continue his mission, his way, and in his strength and He will care for the rest, a promise from the Faithful Promise Keeper…so, Amen (aka “let it be so”)!
May we be found faithful!! : )