Rules of the Game

Today’s reading:  Matthew 7, Psalm 80

Last September, I told you about my workgroup engaging in the Gallup organization’s Strengthsfinder 2.0 exercise. Remember how I told you I didn’t like team building exercises because I’m always afraid the leader is going to make me hug my co-workers, hold hands or do something else I don’t want to do?  A whole year later, I want to be sure you know I have not changed.  I still hate these exercises.  I do, however, recognize their value.  That’s why I keep coming back to them.  Understanding why I am the way I am, and why I tend to do the things I do, helps me appropriately adapt to a variety of situations.

In Strengthsfinder 2.0 one of my top 5 themes was competition. I am energized by it.  Not really for the joy of competing, but because competitions produce a winner and a loser.  Understanding the rules of the game drives me to plot, plan and strategize on how I can win.

Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5-7 are referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount”.   This sermon, which he delivered early in his ministry, is arguable the most complete teaching Jesus gave on what it takes to follow him.  These are the rules of the game, they tell us how we can win.  This sermon covers various subjects – our attitudes, our responsibility to influence, murder, adultery, divorce, giving, prayer, worry and judging others – just to name a few. These are all ingredients in the overall recipe of what it takes to be a true Christfollower.  As we wrap up Chapter 7 today, I want to focus on verses 21-23.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

This sounds pretty harsh. Jesus had just devoted an entire sermon to describe how he expected Christfollowers to act in a variety of situations.  But he wanted to make sure they didn’t miss the main point.  People who called themselves Christfollowers and who were following all his rules, but didn’t have a relationship with him, were still lost.  The same is true for us – it isn’t enough for us to just talk about Jesus.  It isn’t enough for us to go to church.  It even isn’t enough for us to serve others in his name.  Jesus wants to be in relationship with us.  This is the most important rule.  In order to win this game, there is no other substitute.