A Unique Teaching
Virtually all religions claim to believe in God; most religions have founders who claim to be speaking on behalf of God; and a few even claim divinity for their founders.
But Jesus alone gives us the ultimatum: either choose to work for God or choose to work for money. (Matthew 6:24)
Jesus alone made the incredible claim that God, his Father, would feed and clothe anyone who would work for him in building this new government he talked of, called the kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33)
This teaching means that his talk about an invisible kingdom is much more than a vague philosophy. A visible and revolutionary lifestyle change will result if anyone actually believes what he is saying. And that lifestyle change will serve as a powerful sample to the rest of the world of what God had in mind when he first put Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
The following are some of the teachings of Jesus on this subject.
In the centre of his famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, chapters 5-7) Jesus commands us not to accumulate wealth (Matthew 6:19-21).
He says we cannot work for God and money at the same time, any more than an employee can work for two employers at the same time (Matthew 6:24).
Then he tells us not to worry about our material needs because our Father in heaven will take care of them if we will seek to build his kingdom first. (Matthew 6:33)
He says that no other religion trusts God to meet everyone’s material needs; and he says faith in this teaching makes his followers unique from the rest of the world. (Matthew 6:31-32)
He says that birds don’t have jobs, and yet God feeds them; and flowers don’t have jobs, and yet God clothes them. (Matthew 6:25-30)
And he says that this issue is to the rest of his teachings like the eye is to the rest of the body – if we get it right, then the whole body (of beliefs) will benefit, but if we corrupt it, then the whole body (of beliefs) will suffer. (Matthew 6:22-23)
That same sermon concludes with the story of a wise person and a foolish person. The wise person hears what Jesus has said and then obeys him; but the foolish person hears it and then does not obey him. (Matthew 7:24-27)
Jesus says, “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but only those who do what my Father in heaven wants them to do.” (Matthew 7:21)
This is sobering stuff. It is backed up by the rest of what Jesus did and said; and yet it has been left out of the teachings of every so-called Christian denomination in the world.
Jesus said to those who rejected him after hearing him teach, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? ‘The stone that the builders rejected as worthless turned out to be the most important of all’.” (Matthew 21:42)
Certainly the history of the Christian church has been one of foolish builders creating denominations on the sands of religious traditions while setting aside the solid rock of Christ’s teachings.
Jesus was crucified after roughly three years of teaching these sorts of things. Obviously he was hitting on a sore spot, and it angered people.
His teachings about money are not political statements about economic systems so much as they are spiritual statements about the hearts of people everywhere and in every age.
St. Paul said, “The love of money is the root of all evil. While some have chased after it, they have turned away from faith and have brought much grief on themselves.” (I Timothy 6:10)
You cannot point out the fundamental error in another person’s life without getting one of two reactions: acceptance of the criticism and a dramatic change for the better; or rejection of the criticism and extreme anger against you for pointing out their sin. The second reaction is by far the most common. Jesus was called a devil for telling such uncomfortable truths, and he said that his followers would be called devils too. (Matthew 10:24-25; and Matthew 12:24) He said that we would be attacked in religious meetings and taken to court for following him. (Matthew 10:17-18) He said our own parents and children would turn against us. (Matthew 10:36-37)
Jesus was virtually an outlaw… a wanted man, hiding from the authorities of his day. (John 11:57) He would sneak into the Temple early in the morning and gather a crowd of supporters before the church leaders turned up (Luke 19:47-48), then slip away to one of his hideouts in the evening when they were not looking.
This is why they had to pay Judas to show them where they could arrest Jesus, away from the crowds. And all of this is predicted for anyone who chooses to follow him as well.
What Does the Future Hold?
Shortly before he was executed, Jesus predicted a time when it would be so popular to be called a Christian that false teachers of every persuasion would claim to be speaking on his behalf. (Matthew 24:5) At the time, when it was against the law to even believe Jesus was the Messiah, this sounded like the ravings of a madman. (John 9:22)
But exactly what Jesus predicted is happening today.
In America it would be political suicide for a presidential candidate to claim to be anything but a Christian. And it is becoming more and more important that they claim to be “born again” Christians as well.
Jesus said that sin would eventually destroy the love that once existed in the church, and he said that in the last days there would be many false teachers deceiving people. (Matthew 24:11-12) He said that they would especially major on doing miracles. (Matthew 24:24)
The word ‘Christ’ means ‘God’s anointed one’, and Jesus said that many of these leaders would claim to have God’s anointing, but he warned that they would be false ‘anointed ones’. That too is happening in the churches today.
He said that religious people would be saying, “Go there or come here and you will find Christ,” but that we should not go after them. (Matthew 24:23)
And he said that people would talk about Jesus coming back secretly, when in fact his coming will be seen from one end of heaven to the other, like the lightning across the sky. (Matthew 24:26-27) All of this is happening today.
But before Jesus can return, his teachings (“this good news about God’s kingdom”) must be preached in all the world. (Matthew 24:14)
Missionaries have been in every country of the world for many years now. But they are not teaching people to obey the gospel. (Romans 10:16; II Thessalonians 1:8; I Peter 4:17) It is our job to take this gospel to all the world before Jesus can return.
But there will be great “Tribulation” ahead (probably brought on as a result of preaching this very gospel). People will not be able to buy or sell without a “mark” on their hand or on their forehead (Revelation 13:16-18), as the ruler of a new world empire attempts to gain allegiance from everyone on earth. Of course, if we can learn to trust God and live by faith now, it will not be so traumatic for us then.
Most so-called Christians will give little resistance to receiving the mark even though the Bible seriously warns that anyone who does take it will be cursed. After all, Jesus gave similar warnings about anyone who does not obey his teachings, yet the false teachers continue to teach otherwise, and no one complains. As it was in Noah’s day, they have lost their faith in anything but the here and now. (Matthew 24:38-39; II Peter 3:3-4)
The Cross of Christ
Now we come to the end of Jesus’ life on earth. As he predicted, he was captured by the religious leaders and executed. His body was locked in a tomb, but three days later he returned to life and escaped. He visited his followers on several occasions after his resurrection, then ascended to heaven. The death of Jesus was proof of his commitment. He died as a martyr for what he believed in. His love for the people he came to reach was sufficient that he was willing to lay down his life for them. (John 15:13-14)
All that is inspiring; but his death was more than that. He didn’t just die. He also rose from the dead. And his resurrection is God’s final stamp of approval on him as the Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world.
Of course we can’t tell just from reading this that the resurrection ever happened. All we have to judge him by are his teachings. God himself is speaking to us through them. Like the other disciples, we need only respond to his teachings. If he really is all that we say he is, God will show us the rest himself. In the meantime, we just need to act on the truth of what he taught.
We can undergo a spiritual baptism when we hear Christ’s teachings, if we receive the message and act on it. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to know whether my teaching comes from God, just do it. (John 7:17; John 13:17)
When we start practicing his teachings, we find that we can’t follow them perfectly. But that’s the other beautiful thing about the cross of Christ. God has accepted it as a perfect sacrifice for all the sins of people who sincerely want to serve him. We don’t ‘say a little prayer’ to get it, but we get it by believing in God. We’re not talking about discussion group faith. We’re talking about get out and do what he says faith.
Anyone who has faith in God is going to hear God speaking through the teachings of his Son. And if we try to obey those teachings, God will make up for those places where we fall short. He can see into our hearts. And those who are doing the best they know how, to walk in truth, are covered for all their sins by the blood of Jesus.
Of course those who just want to excuse themselves from obedience on the basis of some perverted teaching about forgiveness are going to be in for some terrible revelations when they stand before God too. We can choose whether we end up being a part of that group or not.