The genius of the moral teachings of Jesus and his first students was his insistence that you cannot keep the law by trying not to break the law. That will only make a Pharisee of you and sink you into layers of hypocrisy. Instead, you have to be transformed in the functions of the soul so that the deeds of the law are a natural outflow of who you have become. This is “spiritual formation” in the Christian way, and it must always be kept in mind when we consider Jesus’ teachings about various behaviors–in The Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere.
The first phrase is pivotal: The genius of the moral teachings of Jesus.
As Willard stresses in other writings and talks, if you don’t think Jesus is the smartest person who ever lived (and who’s currently living), then you’ll think someone else is. And then you’ll become that person’s disciple.
Thinking Jesus is a genius and the master of living the good life is essential preparation for becoming one of his disciples, or students.
From that beginning it is possible to adopt the kind of thoughts he has and the practices he engaged in during his earthly ministry.
thoughts and practices shaped Jesus’s life. The same goes for us.
We all have thoughts and practices that shape us and keep us in the shape we’re in. Reflect on that shape. If you would prefer the shape of Jesus’s life and living over your own, that shape is available.
Last week’s Collect (or prayer) for the week, referred to that shape, God’s shape through Jesus, and how we acquire it.
Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name,
increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
In my sermon last Sunday I attempted to make the case that “true religion” is the course of training, or set of practices, that allows the love of God to be grafted into our hearts and the goodness of God to flow out from there.
This week we’ll hear Jesus say, “whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).
This is an invitation to allow Jesus to applying his singular genius to our lives.
Both last week’s and this week’s prayer and scripture invite and urge us to see the genius of Jesus and learn to build our lives on him (see Mt. 7:24-27).