I recently finished reading the book of Matthew. Throughout the book, I encountered several themes that caused me to pause and think through my level of commitment to Christ. The book of Matthew is heavily focused on the Kingdom of God. The writer opens by telling us two things about Jesus.
The Son of King David
The first is that he is a descendant of King David. This is significant because throughout the Old Testament, there is a prophecy that a savior king would come through the line of David to usher in and establish the Kingdom of God. Also, in chapter 3, John the Baptist is proclaiming that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand preparing people for Jesus.
The Son of Abraham
The second, that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham, is significant because God promised Abraham that through his descendant, all the nations of the world would be blessed. Matthew shows us that Jesus is the fulfillment of that blessing. Something else John the Baptist says is that being a descendant of Abraham will not save you. The Kingdom of Heaven and salvation now belongs to all people who put their faith in Jesus. We also see multiple stories in Matthew where the faith of people outside of Israel is contrasted with the faithlessness of the Jewish people.
Throughout Matthew, Jesus is clear about what is required of people who choose to follow him and want to be in his kingdom. He describes following him as a very difficult path, dying to self, denying yourself, being homeless, leaving your family, and more.
Drawing from this general theme, I came up with 3 diagnostic questions we can ask ourselves to gauge the temperature of our commitment to Christ.
1) How often am I forced to ask myself if Jesus is really worth it?
I believe that we should come to this point multiple times. This may sound wrong, but think about the story of the rich young man. He asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus responds by telling him that he must sell all he has and give it to the poor and then come follow him. Earlier in Matt 8, a scribe told Jesus he would follow him wherever he goes. Jesus responds by warning him that he will have no home. Another person said that he would need to bury his father. Jesus told him to let the dead bury their own dead. Following Jesus requires us to give up rights to money, possessions, permanent homes, and family ties.
If we really want to follow Jesus, it will bring us to the point of wondering if we have made the right decision. Truly following Jesus requires frightening risks and painful sacrifices. When we stop having to ask ourselves, or we’ve never asked ourselves, if Jesus is really worth it, then we need to take a look at the level of our commitment. While I do believe that as we act in faith, it becomes easier to take risks and make sacrifices, we will always run into new, difficult life circumstances that test us and force us to grow in our faith.
2) Is deep engagement in Christian community a chore or a blessing for me?
When we truly take risks and make painful sacrifices in our pursuit of Christ, we will long to be in the company of others who have done the same. When we don’t need the fellowship of other Christians this should cause us to ask why.
In countries where persecution is very real, Christians will risk imprisonment and even death to meet with other believers. They are willing to sacrifice everything for their commitment to Jesus. They understand the blessing and beauty of being in the company of other believers who have also risked and sacrificed so much.
When we start to view the practice of Christian community as a tiresome chore, we need to pause and figure out what’s going on in our hearts. Why is my Christian walk so easy that I don’t need the fellowship of other Christians?
3) Does my life look significantly different than it would if I were not following Jesus?
Does your life look the same but you’re simply more moral? Is the only difference between what your life is like now and how it would be if you weren’t a christian is that you curse and drink less? Maybe you are simply more sexually pure.
Following Jesus requires much more. He wants our hearts to be willing to risk everything for him and to make big sacrifices for him. If the way we live our lives is relatively the same except we are a bit more moral, then we’ve missed the point, and we start to look a bit more like a goat than a sheep.