by Mark Barnes
Have we been focusing on the wrong thing?
Have you ever had a wake-up call? For me, I had one when I was planning on becoming a missionary pilot but found out that I get very sick in small planes! I realized that I needed to make some major changes in my career plans. I would also say that I’ve had a wake-up call as we have been studying the book of Matthew on Sunday mornings. For many years, I thought the message of the gospel was simply to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior so that I could go to heaven one day. And while eternal life is certainly a part of the gospel message, as we have begun our study of Matthew’s gospel it strikes me that Jesus seems to be focused on something different, God’s Kingdom. He acts as if what’s important is happening right here, right now, and not just someday in the distant future after we die.
A few times when I was in school, I had to read a novel that I thought would take far too long to read. So, I would skim bits and pieces of the book and then focus on the last chapter, trying to make sense of the whole book (come on, don’t act like you haven’t done this). Amazingly, I never found any of these books to be very good. I wonder why? Of course, looking back, I realize how foolish it was to think that I could hope to soak in all of the richness of a story by focusing primarily on the ending?
So, let me ask you this, is this what our Christianity has become? Have we focused on the end of the story, missing all the truth, richness, and life that Jesus offers? Have we made the gospel storyline this; Pray to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior. Then do your best to get through this life’s difficulties, pain, and sorrows. And hope that there really is a great retirement plan in heaven someday?
In John 10:10, Jesus seems to offer much more. He says that he is the good Shepherd, and that there is a thief who comes only to steal and kill and destroy but that he came so that we may have life and have it abundantly. Or how about what he says in Matthew 11:28-30 when he says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” These things don’t seem to be things offered to us after we have died. Jesus seems to be talking about this life.
One of the scary parts of writing a blog is the feeling that I should conclude with some wise words that bring all of my thoughts to a brilliant conclusion. Um, sorry to disappoint you. I feel like I’m just here to ask the question, “What does following Jesus really look like?” I want to encourage all of us to read Matthew’s gospel as if we have never heard the words of Jesus before. Listen when he talks about the Kingdom of God being near. Or when he tells us to pray that God’s Kingdom would come & that God’s will would be done on earth just as it is in heaven. And take note when he says that we shouldn’t worry about things like what we will wear, eat, or drink, but instead, we should seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, letting God take care of those things. Are you willing to join me in thinking and praying about what this might look like in our lives if we were fully surrendered to Jesus? Let’s ask God to give us fresh ears to hear the words of Jesus and great boldness to follow our King!