Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

When Jesus says to let the children come to him, he means let the beginners come to him, and “do not hinder them”. A disciple is simply a beginner, a new student in a new (to them) way of living. This “way”, of course, isn’t new to God. Jesus said all along that if we want to enter life, obey the commands.

What commands? Love God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul; and love your neighbor as yourself. In his own words, Jesus says that these two simple instructions sum up everything. It isn’t complicated, but we do need further guidance on how to obey and why it’s good for us to do so.

Jesus also explained to the beginners that he is the way, the truth, and the life. But where is this “way” laid out? Where do beginners start to follow this new way of living? How do they learn to love themselves as well as neighbors (assuming they already love God)?

In the Sermon on the Mount. These instructions span three full chapters in Matthew: five, six, and seven. It’s one continuous address; and it’s sequential. Step by step. It starts with eliminating anger and contempt. This step alone will revolutionize a life! Imagine not being ticked off or annoyed all the time. Imagine not being dragged all over the map by other people’s incompetence or stupidity? Imagine what that alone would do to lessen inner agitation?

That puts us in a brand new position of freedom. And from that new position, we can progress through Jesus’ next five areas of soul-killing attitudes:

  • Adultery and divorce (obsession with others)
  • Swearing oaths and over-committing
  • Score-keeping and revenge
  • Outer appearance and image
  • Judgment and hypocrisy

In that specific order. If we try to do it randomly, we fail–not because we’re just no good, but because we’re using the wrong “system”. See, Jesus knows what makes us tick. He also knows what fouls us up and what will set us right. Disciples of his new way of living become increasingly free of what poisons their nature and prevents loving self and neighbor.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. The way I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jhn. 13:34-35)

It’s a new, but very old, command. And it isn’t complicated once we know where to find his instructions on how to begin carrying out the command.

Sanada's Secret Passage

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I don’t watch much TV, but I do occasionally watch Man vs. Wild and Survivorman. I’m simultaneously fascinated by their ingenuity, but haunted by my own inner question: Could I survive in the wild? I know I’d rather eat tree bark than a bug. But I can’t decide, if I had to choose only one, whether I’d rather have a knife, a pack of matches, a rope, or a container of water to survive.

When it comes to religion or Supreme Truth, it’s a jungle out there. In Christianity alone, there are so many theological debates that we’re often lost trying to navigate through many sets of God’s truths. We’re adrift on a sea of doctrines that seemingly don’t relate much to the life we’re living now on this earth.

So if I had to gel all of God’s truths and come away with only one, it would be the certainty that the power to change and improve our lives is available to us in partnership with God. You and I can become the optimized versions of ourselves that God designed.

The key word is partnership. Call it friendship, fellowship, union, or yoking with Jesus, the life of blessed well-being that God offers is accessible. That’s what entering the kingdom of heaven at hand, or “new life from above”, is about. Whether we live on Wall St. or Main St., on Easy St. or Skid Row, it’s about living a kingdom life that counts for something good in the here and now, and to carry that with us into the hereafter. Christian faith is the difference between full-on thriving and merely surviving. (more…)