The less obvious way (Matthew 7:13-14)

The narrow way is counter-intuitive for those who want power.

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Open Matthew 7:13-14.

Matthew 7:13-14 (my translation)
13 Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction; many go that way. 14 How narrow is the constricted gate, the way leading into life; few are those who find it.

Many today assume these verses are about the doors to heaven and hell. According to this interpretation, only a few people find the way to heaven and the majority are doomed to hell. But that isn’t Jesus’ message. He’s talking about the kingdom of God — heaven reigning over earth, in contrast with the usual way that kingdoms operate here on earth. The wide way that everyone travels is the way kingdoms normally operate, and Jesus is calling us to recognize another less obvious way: the way of the kingdom of God.

Continue reading “The less obvious way (Matthew 7:13-14)”

Knocking on heaven’s door (Matthew 7:7-11)

Jesus said ordinary people like us can invite God’s kingship to earth. Shall we?

Open Matthew 7:7-11.

The first lie ever told about God was that he was holding out on us (Genesis 3:5). The sovereign had honoured his creatures by inviting them into his palace garden, giving them access to everything he provided. He reserved for himself the right to decide good and evil for his creatures. Instead of respecting our sovereign, humans grasped at the power in his hands, acting as if we were gods. All the murder, all the social devastation, all the violence in the world flows from people grasping power that should be in God’s hands.

What difference would it make if people asked God to rule over us again? What would happen if together we sought his kingship? What if we knocked on heaven’s door and invited our sovereign to reign over earth again? Ask. Seek. Knock. According to Jesus, our true ruler would respond to such an invitation (7:7). Continue reading “Knocking on heaven’s door (Matthew 7:7-11)”

Careful how you judge (Matthew 7:1-6)

How you judge Jesus determines how you judge others.

Open Matthew 7:1-6.

Before being judgemental of others, judge yourself. Jesus’ teaching is as relevant as the day he first gave it.

But there’s more going on here. Why did Jesus need to say this? Who did he have in mind? Why did his followers need to be aware of this? And who are the “dogs” and “swine” Jesus warned about?

As always, we need to ask what it meant for them before we ask what it means for us. Otherwise we’re likely to apply this text in inappropriate ways (e.g. to undermine investigative journalists). Continue reading “Careful how you judge (Matthew 7:1-6)”

What is seeking the kingdom?

We’ve finally reached the verse that launched this blog. So what did Jesus mean by “Seek the kingdom”? What is God’s kingdom? How do we seek it?

Open Matthew 6:33.

Because we don’t understand the ancient world of kingdoms, Matthew 6:33 is one of the most misapplied verses in the Bible. It’s very popular in journals, study guides, and spiritual formation books. These writers want to make the application as personal as they can for their individual reader. As they understand it, I enter the kingdom through personal faith, and I seek the kingdom through my devotional life and spiritual disciplines. The goal is to encourage me to personally seek God, so his kingdom comes into my heart and his righteousness comes into my life. Great personal goals, but it’s not the kingdom.

Here’s just one example of “kingdom” applied personally. This is what the Word Bible Commentary series says about the command to seek the kingdom (Matthew 6:33): Continue reading “What is seeking the kingdom?”

Stressed about your social standing? (Matthew 6:25-34)

Feel like your worth comes from how people see you? This will help you break free.

Open Matthew 6:25-34.

Our heavenly Father values us more than the birds and flowers, and he will provide for us. These are some of our favourite verses, especially when we face hard times. Without taking anything away from those sentiments, what Jesus said meant so much more. Continue reading “Stressed about your social standing? (Matthew 6:25-34)”

The focus of your life (Matthew 6:19-24)

Open Matthew 6:19-24.

Imagine a king who owns an enormous realm. He appoints servants to manage the realm on his behalf, to make sure all his creatures are cared for. But the servants are seduced by the power placed in their hands. Instead of caring for the realm, they squirrel resources away into their own private hordes, stashing the king’s resources for their own benefit.

Continue reading “The focus of your life (Matthew 6:19-24)”

Unconditional forgiveness? (Matthew 6:14-15)

Why did Jesus say God wouldn’t forgive us if we didn’t forgive each other?

Open Matthew 6:14-15.

If you forgive, you will be forgiven? Jesus words do not sit well with the way we’ve understood the gospel in the last five centuries. We understand God’s forgiveness as unconditional. It is all of grace. It has nothing to do with our works. There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation. So how can Jesus add an “If …” to the message? How can he make God’s forgiveness dependent on what we do? Continue reading “Unconditional forgiveness? (Matthew 6:14-15)”

The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15)

Jesus’ entire kingdom vision is encapsulated in this prayer.

Open Matthew 6:9-15.

“Our Father…” We’ve recited it, heard it taught, and used it as a pattern for prayer. But for Jesus it was more. In 57 words, he pulled together everything he was working for. It’s a kingdom manifesto. We pray to God as king, for the community he governs (his kingdom). Continue reading “The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15)”