The Brilliance of Jesus (Part 2)

“You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” – Matthew 5:13a, 14a (CSB)

Nowhere is the brilliance of Jesus more on display than in the Sermon on the Mount. After pronouncing the way of kingdom life through the Beatitudes, Jesus goes one step further. He makes an explicit statement to his disciples about their role in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom that is now available. Rather than telling his disciples what to do, Jesus tells them who they are. They are salt and light. They flavor and illuminate.

We tend to place value on our lives to the extent that we do things we consider important. That way of thinking does not reflect the reality of life in God’s kingdom for followers of Jesus. Our lives matters not because of where we live or what we do. They matter because we are salt, we are light. As followers of Jesus, our fundamental identity has changed because we are now in Christ. These are not realities we strive to achieve. They are statements of who we are. They are how we are to interact with the world around us. We flavor our culture by showing a different way to live. We drive back darkness as our lives display light through the work of the Holy Spirit. When we see our lives from this viewpoint, it turns even the mundane into the extraordinary.

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The Brilliance of Jesus (Part 1)

In his excellent book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard makes an important observation about the way people – including Christians – tend to view Jesus. Willard writes, “Can we seriously imagine that Jesus could be Lord if he were not smart? If he were divine, would he be dumb? Or uninformed? Once you stop to think about it, how could he be what we take him to be in all other respects and not be the best-informed and most intelligent person of all, the smartest person who ever lived?” [1] Perhaps it was his upbringing as a carpenter. Maybe it’s our arrogance in thinking people today are somehow smarter than ancient people. Whatever the reason, Willard is right. Many of us tend to view Jesus in simple terms.

The Christian faith has always maintained that from the incarnation, Jesus was fully God and fully man. These two natures are distinct and without confusion. At the same time, neither his deity nor his humanity is in any way diminished by the other. In taking on human nature, Jesus in no way lost his divine attributes. He was still the the divine Word who brought our world into existence. Which means that the teachings of Jesus are not just nice ideas. They are the the thoughts and insights of the smartest man who ever lived. Why wouldn’t we want to listen to them, know them, and put them into practice?

[1] Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), 94, Kindle.

Death to Life (Part 5)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” – ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:10 (CSB‬‬)

While good works do not merit us anything in our relationship with God, they are vital and indispensable. They are evidence of the radical transformation that has taken place within us. God may not need our acts of kindness, but our neighbors do. And as we do these works, they are not just random acts of kindness. They are precisely those works which God planned for us to do when he created us. In a culture where people are increasingly self-absorbed, doing good for others sends a powerful message. It points them to the one who has saved us, changed us, and deserves all the glory.

Death to Life (Part 4)

“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast.” – ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9 ‭(CSB‬‬)

Lest we think our radical transition from death to a stunning new life was our doing, Paul reminds us that we are saved by grace. Period. End of story. Christianity excludes all forms of boasting because it is God who saves. It’s not in any way dependent on something we have done. Our works are powerless to save us. After all, what could we really do for an infinite, perfect, and holy God? What could we offer to make him change his mind about us? It’s only by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus on our behalf that we are made right with God. What separates biblical Christianity from every other religion is that it’s not about what we do. It’s about what God did for us. We were dead but God made us alive through Christ. That’s amazing grace. That’s good news.

Get in the Game

“Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve others, as good stewards of the varied grace of God.” – ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭(CSB‬‬)

Christianity is not simply about “me and God.” It’s about “we and God.” Only in the context of the larger community of believers does our individual faith grow to be all that God desires it to be. That’s why the local church is an indispensable part of what it means to live out our faith. It’s within this community that we use our God-given gifts to serve others. The local church is messy. You will be offended and you will have to forgive. But if we’re not willing to use our gifts in that context, then we aren’t stewarding the unique display of God’s grace that he has poured out on each one of us. That’s a tragedy because every part of the body is necessary and important. So don’t sit on the sidelines. Get in the game.