“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Revelation 19:7-8, ESV).
To prepare for a modern wedding, the bride-to-be starts weeks or maybe even months in advance to select a wedding dress, shoes, jewelry and other attire to wear at the wedding ceremony. Before the ceremony the bride-to-be will go to the beauty salon to have her hair done and have a facial and manicure so she can look especially beautiful for the groom at the wedding ceremony.
“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30, NLT).
These words are the response given by John the Baptist when questioned by his disciples why everybody was following Jesus instead of him.
John had a clear understanding of his mission: “I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him…Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success” (vs. 29-30).
“Train yourself in godliness for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8, HCSB).
In this verse the Apostle Paul is explaining to his protege, Timothy, that we live our present life in preparation for eternity. Paul says that we should live our lives in anticipation of eternal life!
“This is what the Lord says: Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16, NLT).
God, through the prophet Jeremiah, chided the people of Israel and Judah to repent and warned them of the terrible consequences that awaited them if they refused. He admonished them to follow the tried and true ways of God’s laws, which would lead to rest for their souls.
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, much of the focus for discussion is often on the first part of the Sermon containing the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 and the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6.
In fact, the last admonition of Jesus in Chapter 6: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (vs. 6:33, HCSB), somehow seems to conclude the Sermon.
But Jesus provided many instructions for His disciples in Matthew 7 as well! The Golden Rule that we all learned as children is vs. 12.
The behaviors Jesus identified in these additional instructions in Matthew 7 were taught in the context of eternal life.
In other words, these are instructions we should live by in our present life in preparation for eternal life.
When Jesus said to treat others the way you want to be treated (the Golden Rule), He meant the criteria you apply when making judgments about other people could be the criteria God applies in determining your place in eternity.
So here’s some additional instructions from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7 that will help us live a life focused on God’s Kingdom and eternity:
- Pardon and forgiveness (Matthew 7:1-5). While these verses seem to be saying do not be judgmental or critical toward others, the real message is to be abounding in pardon and forgiveness toward others as God is toward you. If God is exceedingly merciful toward you, then you should certainly be the same toward others.
- Discretion (Matthew 7:6). While admission to God’s Kingdom is available to all human beings, it cannot be and should not be forced either directly or indirectly on anyone. While this admonition is certainly not meant as a condemnation of any class, race, educational level, or socio-economic class of any human beings, Jesus’s disciples should direct their efforts at proclaiming the Kingdom of God to those people—individually or collectively—with whom their efforts can be productive and not argumentative.
- Mutual loving relationship with God (Matthew 7:7-11). The basis for establishing a personal and intimate relationship with God is based on the interaction of giving and receiving. Jesus is saying that the Heavenly Father wants to give you all aspects of abundant and eternal life if you are willing to receive it. We know this is not hyperbole because Jesus says that even people who do not know God love their children and love to give them gifts. In Luke’s version of these verses the “good gifts” are the gift of the Holy Spirit—the Heavenly Father gives His Own Spirit to dwell in the His children.
- Respect for humanity (Matthew 7:12). Known as the Golden Rule, this verse sets the universal standard for getting along with others. You have to start with a basic respect for human beings.
- Convictions/principles (Matthew 7:13-14). Know what you believe and stand up for your beliefs because it is always easier to follow the way of evil (through the wide gate) than it is to follow God’s way (through the narrow gate).
- Discernment (Matthew 7:15-20). Following the instructions of Jesus will sharpen your senses so that you can better recognize what proceeds from good and what proceeds from evil. A good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit (or no fruit). It is the same way with people, so determine what kind of fruit a person is bearing and you will know what kind of person he or she is.
- Obedience (Matthew 7:21-27). By obeying the instructions of Jesus you will fulfill God’s will for your life. When the challenges of life confront you, you won’t fall apart because your faith is built on the absolutes of God’s will and God’s truth and reality.
Psalm 37 is one of the wisdom psalms, so called because these psalms stress the importance of wisdom as a result of knowing God or provide instruction. Psalm 37 provides instruction in godliness and contrasts the life of the godly with the life of the wicked. The Psalm opens with five keys for achieving godliness in your life. In addition to helping you develop godliness in your life, embedded in each of these keys are additional promises for living a life focused on accomplishing God’s plans and purposes:
- Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper”(vs. 3). When you cultivate a life of devotion and confidence in God, then God will watch over you and provide for your spiritual and material needs.
- “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires” (vs. 4). When you find happiness and fulfillment in accomplishing God’s will, then God will help you do that very thing.
- “Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun” (vs. 5-6). When your complete focus is on God, then He will form you into an example of godliness to others and they will want what you have.
- “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes” (vs. 7). Rather than taking matters into your own hands, let God be in control of your life and you won’t have to plot and scheme like the ungodly in order to prosper.
- “Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm” (vs. 8). Anger and outbursts of temper can damage your character and prevent you from developing godliness in your life.
When you apply these five keys to godliness to every aspect of your life, then God can begin to take control of your life and help you accomplish His plans and purposes: “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand” (vs. 23-24). And when God guides and directs your life, then you are enabled to teach and advise others and show them that godliness is a matter of making God’s law the law by which you live your life: “The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong. They have made God’s law their own, so they will never slip from his path” (vs. 30-31).
“Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” The Apostle Paul tells Timothy that godlines requires training in the same way that one would train the body for a competitive sport. With godliness training a person receives eternal benefits–eternal life–while physical training only benefits a person in the present life. However, godliness training like physical training is rigorous and requires exercise and practice: “For to this end we toil and strive and suffer reproach” (vs. 10). So let us undertake the development of godliness in our lives with the same discipline that an athlete undertakes physical training.