Before we begin, I need to make it absolutely, 100% clear that we must come at all of this through the lens of the Gospel. Specifically, we must acknowledge that we are not the ones doing any of the work here because we are incapable of righteousness (read “right-ness”) apart from Jesus and Jesus has done all the work of making us right. All of us are sinners whether we have been following Christ most of our lives, for the past day and a half, or not at all. We all desperately need the saving grace of our Savior every day, the question is whether or not we admit that. The gospels repeatedly point out that it is the people (Pharisees and religious leaders) who think they’ve got it all together and are great at following the rules who are generally the worst off when it comes to their relationship with God. They were constantly trying to win God’s approval with their impressive acts of showy religiosity, but trying to please God with works on our own, apart from Him, is like the sippy cup I found under the car seat the other day. It looks great from far away, but get too close and you’ll start to notice the hot mess of smelly curdled milk on the inside.
Fortunately, God saw our desperate situation as sinners in need of a savior and sent His Son to take the punishment we deserved. It was gruesome and awful, but His love for us runs so deep that He left His throne in Heaven to come to earth, tell us in person how much He loves us, and then die in our place so that when we come before God, it is not our curdled-milk, sinful selves God sees, but the sinless righteousness of Christ. That is the Gospel. So as we go through the Gospel of Matthew and we begin to ask ourselves how we can become more like Christ, we must understand that we can’t become more Christ-like apart from the Spirit of God in us. We can’t even want to pick up our Bibles without the Spirit of God driving us toward God. So good news! God is working in you! If you have any interest in reading the Bible, it’s because God wants to talk to you. As we examine our lives and what Jesus has to say to us, I’m not interested in creating a list of laws to follow and ways to “be good.” I don’t ever want to imply that I can do anything to improve my situation before the throne of God Almighty. But I do think that this is a great opportunity to ask God what He wants to do in us and pray that He would help us to be receptive and submissive to His work in our lives. The questions I post will not all be applicable to all of us. They should never be considered a Checklist Of Things I Must Accomplish Before I Will Become Acceptable To God. But by asking ourselves these questions and thinking about them, I hope we can make ourselves available to hear how He may want to change us, help us grow, and draw us closer to Himself.