This chapter examines the bible’s teachings on both the hardships and rewards of following in the gospel.
The “Law and the Prophets” refers to the Old Testament law. “John” is referring to John the Baptist who taught people about the opportunity for remission of sins and a greater opening of the gates of heaven to humanity – which by all accounts should likely be a hard place to enter. As we can see here, Christ was referring to the common attitude that we may easily be redeemed. However Christ, as quoted in Luke, made the point that people will get in to heaven purely according to the law, and there is no exception to what’s required.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
Where it is natural for us to think we are special, it is spiritual for us to accept that we are not. We don’t get to arbitrarily determine our fate, because the Law is greater than each of us. Realizing this is essential to understand the law established by Christ. Otherwise we will count ourselves saved and remove the cross from our backs. Truly we should be very mindful of those who will deceive us in this manner, for they will satisfy their lusts through living on our own relief and guilt.
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
On the contrary we see that faith in Christ is a constant call to action and the crucifixion of the self. Where we abide in Christ we must then love, show mercy, give grace, and edify one another. We must work towards truly bettering ourselves, and we must work towards truly bettering others. Where we see injustice we must fight against it as His ministry was predicated upon standing up to injustice. However, as we see a call to righteousness in the finest of our choices, by our humanity we see impossibility, and we are therefore once again called to greater obedience towards love and compassion.
Where the law is ultimately to love, the proud and selfish perish and only the humble receive the veritable higher blessings of God. Though love can be hard at times, it redeems us with sacrifice, and it makes the world a better place for all. Though love often comes at a price, that price is little next to the reward we naturally and spiritually receive. Inasmuch as, where we obey the law in its premise we increase our heart to flourish in the short life, and we increase our blessings to flourish in our eternal life as well. In God’s loving wisdom, we see the law not only corresponds and facilitates the spiritual maturation of the self, but it simultaneously does so for the world when adequately obeyed.
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Through the very teachings of Christ we see that salvation and labels are entirely irrelevant. So then, according to Matthew 7:21-23, the true challenge of salvation only comes with being genuinely obedient to God’s will. Albeit this is a concept in stark contrast to the belief of many in the church, the words of scripture remain the words of scripture. Those who wish to remain purely subjective in their views on the gospel and don’t reach out for the full truth are likely to be more distant from the Lord then they might boast.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
-1 Corinthians 9:24-27
As Paul demonstrates here, entering into heaven also takes a commitment each and every single day to do one’s best in concentrating their focus on this outcome. In this we might be committed in renewing ourselves and be most effective in cooperating with one another to help create a world which is fit for Christ. In maintaining this scriptural focus, we not only improve the condition of ourselves, but we also directly improve the condition of the world around us. As we become spiritually refined in this manner, we also help improve the state of the world which simultaneously creates the view of a much more fair God to others.
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
-2 Corinthians 9:6
However doing the minimum will net the minimum – though we should all be so blessed to still have done at least the minimum! By the metaphor above, which references eternal riches, we see eternal life is not the only objective of a Christian. The reality is the bible clearly teaches the aspirations of a Christian are greater than simply receiving eternal life. Such that, as Christians we should be anticipating that the magnitude of our faith, which is ultimately expressed by our actions, will be proportionately rewarded in the new life.
For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
-2 Corinthians 5:10
Though the gift of eternal life is certainly sufficient, the just will of God is He not only gives eternal life to the righteous, but, He also rewards us in accordance to the righteous faith of our work. In this justice, we might have ample motivation and incentive to fully pursue the works of the Father. Where there is much to be done in this world, there is also much to be given for those whose faith brings them to do more for God.
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.
Once more we see where the bible is calling humanity to do greater acts service through greater acts of faith. However we must be setting our sights on heavenly rewards and not earthly rewards (unrighteous wealth), for the bible clearly states, as we have seen in the previous chapter, that God does not reward us with vain indulgences. Nonetheless seeking glory in heaven is not against scripture, for not even once did Christ condemn his apostles for having that attitude. Merely it is the self-deceit of worldly ambitions that hinder our spiritual relationship with God.
For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
Obedience to God is trust in God and trust in God is how the Spirit expresses itself through us. As we take on a servant’s mentality like Christ we do so proclaiming we believe upon Christ, and that we believe in the righteousness of the Father. So then performing acts which support the teachings of the bible are at the core of receiving reward from the Father in one’s eternal life. Inasmuch as, what earns us greater glory in heaven also facilitates greater peace, justice, equality, and opportunity in our communities.
For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)
As we examine the Christian narrative it is clearly the calling of each child of the light to bring light into the world with strong and righteous faith. In this those of the light, those who possess the fruit of the Spirit, are called to work together for a common purpose. Nonetheless, there is a contrasting spiritual distinction known as darkness.
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.
Here, we clearly see within scripture, the world is not like the light because it desires to maintain spiritual darkness. Accordingly, the world hates the light, and it will ultimately resist those who are of the light. This is not a guess or an uneducated rambling, it’s at least a 2,000 year old adage which has been proven true throughout the history of mankind. Naturally part of representing the truth comes with the burden of resisting those who are ignorant, and part of representing love comes with the burden of resisting those who hate.
We can appropriately identify, from a spiritual sense, this supernatural mechanism as the origin of all injustice in our world. Consequently, where there are those who do right, there are those who hate others for doing right as it exposes the masked personal faults they desire to stubbornly deny. So forth, where there are those without light, there are those who are convinced of themselves, and those in this condition unwittingly will not change. Rather than change, when one thinks like this, they will seek to harm those that do not adequately exalt themselves as they do in their own imagination.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Remember the word that I said to you: “A servant is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
Where Jesus Christ is referred to as the light in the gospel, as we see from His ultimate persecution, those who follow in Him will ultimately similarly experience unjust persecution for following in His ways. Unfortunate to the well-being of all, these ways to persecution are of love, grace, truth, wisdom, self-sacrifice, and compassion. As this world and the worldly have often hated these qualities, there can be no question why this world is so far short of what it can be, and why bringing positive change to the world can be so close to impossible. However, any opposition to this result will ultimately end in defeat, and any injustice incurred upon those who make this change happen will come with a greater blessing from God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Ultimately the weight of the cross is then obedience to God and His commandments of love. It is being a servant of His and acting with a graceful and humble heart set on tending to the Lord’s world. It is also remaining in faith and building oneself up to be more refined in the ways of Christ. It is also building the world up, so that the light of God may more so reach throughout. Furthermore it comes with the threat of persecution as well. Where Christ was unjustly persecuted, so then might we also experience unjust persecution when we follow Him. However hefty the weight, scripture consistently affirms God is a Righteous God who justly rewards our faith and commitment to Him and His will. While His promise does not necessarily fully apply to this short life of ours, it certainly does in our eternal life.
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“The Weight of the Cross” © 2017 Matthew L Ainsworth
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