Jesus understood reality better than anyone else does. Core life questions are, “What is real?” “Who is well off?” “Who is a truly good person?” and lastly, “How does one become a truly good person?” Philosopher, Dr. Dallas Willard identified the questions. Jesus answers them.
Below are really quick versions of Jesus’ picturesque answers to these
fundamental questions. If these grab you, you can listen to my February 2nd sermon at http://HMC.dx.am or find any number of Dr. Willard’s lectures on YouTube or books he’s written for further support and explanation.
No one wants to live out of touch with reality. No one wants to be not well off. No one wants to be a truly bad person. So, everyone cares about the above questions.
What is real?
“Reality” does not merely mean what’s real to your five senses, or only things that are measurable by scientific experiments. Your feelings are real too. So are hope, and love. Jesus tells us that reality begins and is sustained solely by the Kingdom of God, the source of all that exists. If your reality hangs on anything lower than this, then it can go into freefall. Fortunes come and go. Reputations come and go. Neither guarantees happiness now, or security in the future. People who have not learned to trust God as the center and source of reality feel like they have to chronically work for their significance and security, or they will lose.
People who were drawn enough to Jesus to listen to him, were often the poor, the hungry and the hurting; the weak, the oppressed and the
outcast; the hopeless. Jesus’ good news applies to all of us, even to them. They needed food and shelter, security and significance, as do we all. To them and to us Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be included. God knows what you need.” All who put that promise to the test
discover that it is true. It has been true in every generation and will ever be. God is faithful to God’s word, to His promise, to His creation and to preserve His own reputation. Build on reality. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Many don’t. And we see the results all around us; injustice, insecurity and death.
Most of us, who have some lesser definition of reality, erect around ourselves a high enough wall, or keep juggling our fragile existence as best we can and hope we die feeling like a winner rather than a loser. God’s kingdom offers a daily kind of rest and peace in the midst of a fractured world that
surpasses human understanding. God’s kingdom reality is a firm foundation, not sinking sand.
Who is well off?
These days we hear that wealth makes you well off…until you meet a discontent, unhappy, unhealthy wealthy person. They are not well off. Or we assume that power and influence makes you well off. But we all know formerly powerful and influential people, or presently powerful, influential people who don’t sleep well, who nurse ulcers, doubt, lies, and
insecurities. Those who say, “It’s better to be feared than to be loved,” are clinging to something they know they can lose and fear they might. Are they well off? There’s a better way.
On the other hand, even the poor, the hungry, the persecuted, the weak, the least among us can have access to God’s kingdom here and now. That’s the point of Matthew 5, The Beatitudes; not that we should aspire to all that lowliness, but that even in those states or at those stations in life, interaction with God’s realm and a precious relationship with God is readily available. Jesus said it was easier for the poor to access the kingdom than for the wealthy. That’s only because the wealthy are tempted to trust in our riches rather than in our Creator. The poor are less distracted by sparkly baubles or the illusions of power. But everyone, rich or poor, has to choose rightly. No one is born into God’s kingdom. We are adopted into it.
Who is a good person?
Matt. 5:20 “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Contrary to popular belief, entering the kingdom does not mean “going to heaven when you die.” God’s kingdom has already come to us. It’s so near we can touch it, we can interact with it. Jesus proved that. In this place, at this time – here and now – you can engage with God who is here now, God who is with us in our atmosphere, our realm, our street, our neighborhood, our house. You can engage with God here and now. Be blessed. Choose to abide with God in your present reality. The good person is the one who uses God’s Spirit, God’s strength, God’s wisdom, God’s values, God’s heart to navigate through this world.
Goodness is not based on merely good behavior or obeying the right set of rules, though I appreciate your staying in your lane. Many of us behave well only because we are afraid of the consequences of misbehaving or of getting caught. The thief is not merely the person who steals. A thief is a person who would steal if the circumstances were right.
What is in you is what comes out of you when the going gets rough.
A good person has a good heart.
A good person will not steal no matter the circumstances. “There is none good. No not one,” said Jesus. We all fall short of the glory of God.
How does one become a truly good person?
Fortunately God extends Himself to us. How one becomes a good
person is by accepting God’s gift of Himself to us. Jesus not only talked about the kingdom, he not only lived in the kingdom; he made God’s kingdom available to us and invited us to enter into it now, long before we die. It is a step taken not by obeying rules, but by living faith. Faith is more than mental belief. Faith is belief in action. You won’t sit on a stool until you believe it will support your weight. To believe in God is to put all your weight on Him.
The most famous promoter of Christianity in that first century was Paul of Tarsus. He wrote in Romans 10, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
God, through Christ’s sacrificial and sufficient work, is the One who makes us truly good. God initiates. We only respond. Would you like to become truly good? Trust in God’s saving work and firm grip with your whole life. That will be evidenced by your loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself. There’s still hope.