Religion is all about behavior. The Kingdom of God is all about relationships. In His most famous sermon (The Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5-7), Jesus teaches that righteousness is not right behavior; it is getting relationships right. In Matthew 5, He said our righteousness must exceed that of the religious elite. This was a game changer for those who heard Him. How can someone out do the religious elite? Jesus spend the next two and a half chapters laying out the path to do just that.
The religious elite taught a “Try Harder” religion.
Trying isn’t a bad thing. We encourage people to try new things. But when it comes to our spiritual life, the Western Church has bought into a works based religion instead of a grace based relationship with God. It is all based on the idea of “Trying Harder.” But here is the problem. Trying harder is a destructive path that leads to a downward spiral into shame and isolation instead of a path to overcoming joy.
The Try Harder journey goes like this:
I try hard and then I fail. This leads to shame which gives way to isolation.
I try even harder. I fail hard. This leads to more shame and more isolation.
I work up the courage to try again even harder and I not only fail, I crash. This leads to devastating shame and an isolation that causes me to give up on my faith.
Jesus offers a better way. In Matthew 7:24-29, Jesus concludes His famous Sermon on the Mount with the path to overcoming joy. He says, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock.”
Jesus teaches a Train in My Ways relational journey.
Jesus doesn’t teach a Try Harder religion. That was the way of the Religious Elite. Jesus teaches a Train in My Ways relational journey. Jesus is the author and perfector of the human experience. He created it and lived it perfectly. He knows how to navigate this life and is willing to teach you and me how. Jesus’ followers were known as “The People of the Way” before they were ever called Christians.
The apostles learned from Jesus and taught the same. Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:7c-8, “Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” And James writes in James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
In the Great Commandment, Jesus said, “Go make disciples…” and He concludes the statement by saying, “And train them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Let me paraphrase that for you, “Train them in My Ways.”
Training in Jesus’ Ways is what we call Discipleship. It is not just learning Bible facts or even Bible truth. It is about learning to apply Jesus’ way of living to our lives. In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is the ability to apply God’s truth to your life.
Reading the studying the Bible are important. But they are a means to an end not the end itself. The end is learning from Jesus how to navigate this life. Trying Harder is a destructive path. Training in Jesus’ Kingdom Ways is a path to overcoming joy!
When my daughter was a little girl, she was determined to teach herself everything. She sat down one day and taught herself how to tie her shoes. When I tried to help, she said, “I do it myself daddy!” The Trying Harder path is “I do it myself Daddy” religion. Jesus’ Train in My Ways is a relational journey with God.
The secret is we don’t have to go it alone. Not only can we rely on other Jesus followers, but God Himself is there to help us. One of the major roles of the Holy Spirit is to indwell Jesus’ followers teaching and empowering them in His Ways!
PERSONAL REFLECTION – Below is an activity I think you will find helpful:
- Where do you need to see God’s power in your life? Where is trying harder not working? Where do you need to know Jesus’ Kingdom way?
- Instead of trying harder, how will you train in Jesus’ Kingdom ways?
- Discover what Jesus said or did. How will you find these in the Bible? If you don’t know where or how do find it, get help!
- Train in Jesus’ Kingdom way. Who will train you in the Kingdom way? If you don’t know someone, please contact me and I will help you.
- Trust in the Holy Spirit to work through you. You do not have to believe in Jesus to apply His ways to your life and see fruit, but the Holy Spirit is the power to take it to the next level for the believer!
- How will you put Jesus’ teaching into practice? This isn’t self help, this is the plan on how you will apply the training you are getting to your life situation and begin to see God’s Power transform you!