April 30 – Not Everyone

Read: Matthew 7:21-23

“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. (Matthew 7:21 ESV)

As Jesus neared the end of his popular Sermon on the Mount he began to caution his listeners regarding some of the things that might keep them from experiencing the fullness of the kingdom of God. He declared that simply stating you were his follower was not enough. He taught that your life must show evidence. He also taught that you must do God’s will.

I lost count of the number of times I have taught on the subject of God’s will a long time ago. It is a frequently discussed topic in my field of ministry. But college students are not alone in their desire to find and pursue God’s will for their lives.

Usually when we consider the phrase “God’s will” we infer the ideas of location and occupation. I don’t think Jesus was speaking to these two things during the Sermon on the Mount. I actually think he was talking about God’s will for us in terms of the way we think and act.

Does our way of thinking—and by that I mean our attitude, our discipline, contentment, and secret thought life; do these things match up with what God desires for us? That’s a tall order. We really can’t do it, but I think the point Jesus was making is that he is asking us to try, and desiring for us to lean on him for help to do it. God’s will in this sense is his desire for us to want him. His desire for us to worship him, and him alone.

April 29 – Fruit Trees

Read: Matthew 7:15-20

Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:20 ESV)

All of my favorite fruits are quite frankly very easy to recognize. Strawberries are small, a deep shade of red, and distinctly shaped. Pineapples are characterized by their outer husk and pointy greenery. Watermelons are quickly noted for their green and often striped rind and round oblong shape. But the kind of vegetation a fruit comes from is not always so easy to identify unless you’re an expert. The fruit itself is the key component.

The people who follow Jesus should be easily recognizable. We should readily, easily, and naturally demonstrate the kind of fruit that makes this a reality. Jesus said it himself. People are recognized for who they truly are by the kind of fruit their lives produce.

What kind of fruit are you demonstrating to an onlooking world? It’s an important question. For way too long the American Christian community has been far too content simply answering the questions of life with grande theological responses. We spend too much time in our heads, or none at all. What our unchurched friends, family, and neighbors truly need to see is the evidence of Christian fruit.

April 28 – To Life

Read: Matthew 7:12-14

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:14 ESV)

All of us have chosen death at some point in our lives. Often we probably didn’t even mean to. Sometimes we actually probably thought we were choosing life.

Jesus taught a few things about life. He taught that he was the way, the truth, and the life. He taught that he came so that those who believed in him and followed him would have abundant life. He also taught that the entry point, the gate, and the path to life were narrow.

What all of that boils down to is this—Jesus is life. When we choose selfishness we choose death. When we choose our own path we choose death. Even with the best of intentions, without choosing Jesus we choose death.

That sounds horrible. It certainly could be. Except that Jesus actually made choosing him a pretty simple thing. It is simply a matter of faith. That means combining belief in Jesus as savior, with trust in Jesus for your future. That is the direction toward the path of life.

April 27 – Ask Dad

Read: Matthew 7:7-11

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? (Matthew 7:9 ESV)

My father has always been the hardest working man I have ever known. Growing up he always provided for me whatever I needed, and a lot of what I asked for. You know what? Never once in my childhood do I remember my dad giving me a rock when I asked him for something to eat. It didn’t happen.

The thought of sitting down at the dinner table to find a plate full of pebbles, or a granite slab as the main course, is utterly ridiculous. Stones are not food. God may not answer our prayers exactly the way we would like for Him to, but I have yet to see Him answer a prayer by giving me something that has no chance of meeting my need.

Jesus was specific in his teaching on this subject. God is a better dad than I am. He is a better dad than yours. And He knows how to give good gifts. He doesn’t do a bait and switch. He doesn’t substitute the inedible for the edible. No, God answers exactly in the way that He needs to. Every time.

And the thing to take away from all of this is that we really can ask God. Whatever the situation is, Jesus compels us, that we should take it to the Father. The older I get the more I am completely convinced of this. Ask our Divine Dad. Be persistent. Get on your knees. Pray humbly, passionately, and regularly. Just ask Him.

April 26 – Judges

Read: Matthew 7:1-6

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (Matthew 7:3 ESV)

It’s so easy to see other people’s problems. And yet, it can be really hard to have an honest sense of our own shortcomings. Often our own personal hang ups are a blind spot.

This is not a new problem. Jesus’ disciples had the same problem. He thought it was a big enough issue that he addressed it in his famous Sermon on the Mount. Jesus point was that dealing with our own sin should take priority over confronting other people about theirs.

“Don’t judge me” is an all-too-common phrase today. And while it is certainly grounded in a biblical truth it is usually pulled woefully out of context by someone trying to grant themselves free license to sanction whatever sinful deed they desire to commit. This was not the point Jesus was trying to make.

Jesus’ point was that each of us should carefully measure our actions. We should take stock of our sin. We should pray that our transgressions would be revealed to us so that there would be no blind spots in our lives. We aren’t to seek a life free from judgement, after all God is going to judge us all. Instead, we should realistically submit ourselves to the graceful judgement of Christ now so that we might be spared the justice of Christ later.

April 25 – Hide & Seek

Read: Matthew 6:31-34

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

I loved playing Hide and Seek as a kid. My brother, cousins, and myself used to run around all over the mountains where my grandparents lived playing games of this sort. Of course, the best part was always finding someone.

Unfortunately, I think many of us have this idea that God has hidden away a lot of really important things. So, instead of spending our time trying to draw nearer to the Father, we ironically, and tragically, reject Him in an attempt to uncover all of the things we unconsciously think He must have hid from us.

Jesus told his disciples that this is a completely backward way of living. He taught that if you really want to find any kind of meaningful fulfillment in life you must seek God and his righteousness first. Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness may sound like a dual pursuit, but its actually not. Jesus wasn’t talking about to two separate things, he was reemphasizing the same thing.

Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness has nothing to do with pursuing our own righteousness. It has nothing to do with attempting to fill our wish lists. Seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness is about seeking Jesus. To come into all the added things first requires actually wanting Jesus more. As you pursue Jesus, as you become more like the person he wants you to be, your life will take shape in a way that God will then be able to trust you with all of the things that might have distracted you had He given them to you first.

April 24 – Don’t Worry

Read: Matthew 6:25-30

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (Matthew 6:27 ESV)

I was born a worrier. In the fourth grade my teacher told my mom she was afraid I was going to develop ulcers because of how badly I worried about my grades. Later on in high school God spoke to me through this passage in Matthew and changed my life forever.

I believe the experience I had with this passage is exactly what Jesus wanted his followers to have when he first taught this principle during the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wants us to understand that excessive worry is bad for us. It is bad for us in every facet of life, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Worry leads to anxiety which can cause stress and sickness. It can creep into your mind creating paranoia, obsessiveness, and a skewed thought life. When worry seeps into your soul it can give root to unhealthy doubts about God and undermine your faith.

All of these things can be disastrous, but they are rarely isolated. Usually someone struggling with worry develops a combination of the above problems. Thankfully Jesus can walk us through it.

When God showed me the truth of a worry free life it didn’t lead me into a reckless carelessness full of irresponsibility. Instead God helped me to step up to my responsibilities and shoulder them with His full blessing. Knowing He would provide for me, empower me, and help me gave me the faith to take on more. It allowed me to set aside fear and uncertainty. And it gave me the assurance to take every step of faith wherever the Father was leading.