Our pastor has embarked on preaching through the entire book of Matthew. Usually, he handles a chapter at a time, hinting at over half a year just on this one admittedly fine book. But today he examined only six verses of chapter six, covering just one topic in the Sermon on the Mount. At that rate, the century may end before we complete Matthew! But that’s OK, it’s God’s word.
That projection intrigued me, so while he preached I counted, in a bit of quantitative analysis. Jesus covered 28 topics in the three chapters, 5-7, such as humility vs. pride, a yearning for spiritual meaning, interpersonal strife vs. harmony, sexual temptation, marriage, honesty, paybacks, charity, worry, materialism, judgmentalism, and the tension of faith vs. obedience, for just some.
That count impressed me, for how thoroughly Jesus both knew the human condition, and how he wants his followers to experience a total transformation in each aspect of that condition. Look again at that list, from just three chapters. Sound like what we as a culture struggle with? Or, more pertinently, with what nearly all of us struggle with?
So what did Jesus want to tell us? That the goal, the target, of following him encompasses just about every aspect of our lives. Obviously, that isn’t total and instant and permanent. Salvation starts when we commit our lives to him; sanctification is the life-long process of becoming more like Jesus. Or, transformation. Like the classic example of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. I sometimes wonder if God designed it that way just as a lesson for us!
I encourage you to read Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5-7, and let the extent of what he cares about sink into your soul. Take some time and don’t rush the process. If we are to follow him, we need to know what that entails.
Kick Starting the Process
How do you respond to the idea that Jesus wants the end goal of total transformation? What in you resists that? Why? What in you rejoices in that? Why?
Take a moment to look back on the areas you’ve already in the process of changing. What impact has that change had on your overall life?
Also, think about, maybe in the context of those issues in Matthew 5-7, which ones do you seem to resist changing the most? Why? How do the changes that have occurred impact these?