When we have a low view of our salvation, it creates in us a lopsided view of personal growth. We look to the past or upbringing (“I came from a Christian family, so I’m saved”), or boast in the name of our denomination, or insist that we are good people. These things give us a misplaced measure of confidence in our spiritual walk. Jesus’ message was the good news of the kingdom: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). What standard are we using to gauge our spiritual growth? If we are going to evaluate our spiritual standing, I suggest we judge according to kingdom principles.
Matthew collected these principles in chapters five through seven of his gospel. These traits dramatically differ from the values that characterize the surrounding worldly culture. In these three chapters we see what the people are like who are fruitful in the kingdom of God. These values are a result of the Spirit’s supernatural work; there is nothing natural about them. I believe all Christians are in the kingdom of God; but not all have embraced Jesus as their King equally. These chapters show us what it looks like when we have whole-heatedly accepted Jesus as Lord over us.
Instead of saying we are of such-and-such a denomination in order to gauge our spirituality, we will have a more exalted view of our spiritual walk when we use kingdom terms:
“I am now merciful to all those who hurt me, so I shall obtain mercy from God.”
“I am committed to keeping up a good spirit when I am persecuted for my faith.”
“I am pure of heart, single-minded in my desire for Christ, so I know I will see God.”
“I am very blessed, and will get whatever I need, because I seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
“I love to spend an hour in prayer and worship, alone with God. No one needs to know this.”
“I don’t condemn another, but identify with her as a fellow fallen sinner, and see how the Lord can use me to minister to her.”
These are all kingdom virtues, compliments of the Holy Spirit, drawn from the aforementioned chapters of Matthew’s gospel. If I have any of these honorable traits, I cannot boast in myself. They are utterly unlike the natural me. All glory and honor belongs to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Thus, these three chapters function as a barometer. Are we being changed more by the world or by the Spirit? Read these chapters and see if the majority of the principles are at the core of your value system. (It’s misleading if we just say that we agree with them. That’s just not good enough.) In these chapters we find the measure of a man or woman — and it’s not found in the accomplishments of a career, bank account, possessions, or good deeds. By what standard are we measuring ourselves, if not by kingdom standards?
These thoughts came to mind when I heard a woman talking about a person she hated, and in my hearing she uttered filthy words to describe that person. According to Matthew 5:21-22, if we hate someone and call him a fool, then we are in danger of hell fire. How much more if we call them filthy words? In my understanding, “in danger of” means that we are still alive and can repent of this dangerous way and escape that fate. If we won’t repent, then “in danger of” becomes “will experience.” Using filthy language to describe others is a epidemic in our land. It is common on TV, radio, books, movies, and the Internet. It is everywhere. Where it is throughout the local church, you may find a church that is conformed to the world more than transformed by faith in Jesus.
We make our salvation shallow when we rest in our accomplishments, good deeds, or denominational name. However, we ascribe dignity and worth to God’s plan of salvation by looking to the end results. By considering the outcome of the Spirit’s work, what He wants to develop in us, we then strive for God’s highest ideals. We live for nobler goals than The American Dream or whatever is highly prized in our surrounding worldly culture. Only then do we become lights in a dark place, a kingdom of life in a culture of death.
Too many of us, myself included, look at the worst of humanity and think ourselves as better than they. It’s time we took God’s values to heart, values that in the end require absolute surrender to an indwelling Christ. And this indwelling doesn’t happen when we first accept Him, but through the process of sanctification where more and more of our lives are ruled by Him. Reformation (changing our habits) does not necessarily mean surrender, for we can change our ways without changing our hearts.
In the book of Hebrews, the author was trying to show his readers how much more Jesus brings to the table than did their old religious practices. For in the end, God wanted to put His laws in our hearts and write them on our minds. So we’re not to be satisfied with just outward observances, but live our lives according to God’s own kingdom values. Again, this is the work of God in the heart of those who desire more of Him in their lives; no longer swept along with the tide of humanity, but responding to all things from God’s perspective.
God puts them in our hearts. It is a supernatural work. It is the fruit of the Spirit, not the outworking of self-effort. The values of Matthew’s three chapters are those spiritual laws God will write in hearts and minds of His humble, obedient people. Please take the time to read these chapters and see how like or unlike your values are in comparison. We want to make sure that we are heading in the right direction in our spiritual journey with God.
These three chapters are of excellent use in the confession-of-sin part of our daily prayer time (yes, that is a thing). For where we fall short in these values, we can be sure that the flesh is at work; the flesh is king and not Jesus in those areas. Seek first the kingdom of God: let’s seek above all else for God to rule over every aspect of our lives so that we love Him supremely.
Let’s grasp a fuller apprehension of “Jesus is Lord.” Let’s actively seek His will and values — out with old and in with the new. Let’s distinguish the Lord’s voice from man’s and be the true sheep. Let’s obey God from the heart and be true servants. And let’s reject sin and carnality in our lives — really stand against them — and be truly delivered.