Sunday, January 13, 2008

Believers or Followers?

FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE BELIEVERS WHO WON'T MAKE IT INTO HEAVEN Possibly some of the most difficult words Jesus ever spoke has to do with who is going to make it into heaven and who will not. What makes it so difficult is that once you hear these words and really think about them, you must make some decisions about yourself.

I am referring to the words He spoke toward the end of His first seminar-the sermon on the mount. It's found in Matthew 7. "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."

Then Jesus makes the comments I find most interesting and convicting. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

Now these people who spoke in the name of Jesus, cast out demons in the name of Jesus and performed many miracles in the name of Jesus all had one thing in common with one another. They, no doubt, called themselves believers. So, here is a group of believers who will not enter the kingdom of heaven. WHO ARE THESE GUYS?

Recently I've been thinking that there are three groups of believers-these false teachers and prophets, the devils also believe and then there are those of our fellowship who claim to be believers. So, who is right? Well, in a sense, every group is right. They are all believers. So, what's the difference? Very little as far as their belief.

The real question is which believer will get into heaven. Jesus answers this very issue, because this is the most important issue of all. He says, "only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven" will enter the kingdom of heaven. Doing the will of His Father is to trust Jesus enough to follow Him-to walk, think, love and talk like Jesus.

So just being a believer doesn't get you into heaven, but following the principles and teachings of Jesus. Now, let me put it to you plainly: ARE YOU A FOLLOWER OF JESUS? Is it your conscious effort to walk, think, love and talk like Jesus? ARE YOU A FOLLOWER OF JESUS OR ONLY A BELIEVER?

Matthew 5:38-42


38 ``You have heard that it was said, `AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' 39 ``But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 ``If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 ``Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 ``Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

WOW! Now this is a tough one! Jesus now turns to His way of dealing with RETALIATION. This is one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in Judaism. Ask most people and they will say that this has something to do with “retaliation in the Old Testament” versus “love and forgiveness in the New Testament.” This isn’t true. Judaism never interpreted it in this way. An “eye for an eye” had to do with providing for limited liability in matters of legal compensation. Jesus is teaching to go beyond the minimum required of you when you are wronged!

They were laws for civil courts to apply, but the scribes and Pharisees interpreted these statements to justify personal retribution and retaliation against their enemies. They used them to take matters into their own hands—REVENGE. However, the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ both teach that vengeance was to be left up to God.

Jesus taught two things here: 1. Do not resist an evil person. Not only should you not take vengeance into your own hands, but don’t even oppose the evil person when the evil is being done.

2. Respond to evil by doing good. · Turn the other cheek… · Give more to the person suing you than what was asked… · Respond to government oppression by offering to do more than what is demanded… · Respond to those who ask for help by giving them what they ask…

NOTE in each case the principle is the same. We are not to resist the person who would mistreat us or who would try to deprive us of our possessions. Instead, respond in a positive manner to demonstrate the love of Jesus toward them by freely giving them more than they were hoping to gain by force, oppression or manipulation.

Joseph did this in forgiving his brothers and helping them later in life.

David spared the life of Saul, who was out to kill him.

Jesus, Himself is the primary example.

Stephen while he was being stoned.

Early believers who gladly received martyrdom and the plundering of their goods.

Paul teaches that we are to scoot over and leave room for the wrath of God on those who are doing us evil, to overcome evil with good.

I see this principle that is so contrary to “human nature” as one of the ultimate ways to fully trust Jesus to come through on our behalf. Maybe if we had the courage to actually have this kind of response, then Jesus might demonstrate Himself among us in a mighty and supernatural way. The next time you are mistreated in some way, take the challenge and look for ways to overcome evil with good. Then your “righteousness” will exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees.

It’s like Jesus is saying, when a person attacks you externally, go deeper and respond to them from the heart with love (internally). If a person slaps you on the cheek, you know that this person must really be in a world of hurt to do that to you. The inner aching in his heart is much worse than a bruise on the cheek. So, hit me again if you must. But I’m going to show you the love of Jesus that you so greatly lack by my response to you!