You must lose yourself to find your true self.
This is the holy path of the downward ascent.
Following Jesus is a wretched journey as He pries the lesser loves from our grasp one finger at a time.
That was so important to me.
That was the glue that held me together.
That’s what I’d been taught since childhood.
That’s what seems to be working for everyone else.
In today’s reading for the #LentChallenge, we embark on the Sermon on the Mount—a teaching which dismantles us atom by atom that we may be a people who orbit around God.
Jesus’ teaching is both breath taking and life giving.
Jesus went up to sit down. He ascended only to lower Himself among the people. Then He preaches the way of happiness, teaching us how to fight back with joy.
Jesus declares, “How blessed.” The Greek makarios often translated “blessed” in the New Testament corresponds to the Hebrew word asher in the Hebrew Scripture, meaning happy or fortunate.
“How blessed/happy/fortunate are the people whose God is Adonai.” –Psalm 144:15
Even in spiritual poverty and persecution, we are a people to rejoice, take joy, and plumb the depths gladness. Fighting back with joy is one of the distinguishing marks of the children of God.
We are the sodium. The radiance. The living reminders that Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law but to accomplish it. We do this by living in right relationship with others and God.
The way of Jesus is higher and harder than any other. We are to drip with love, forgiveness, grace, holiness, generosity, trust. Much of what we do and is done in us will happen in the shadows, in the secret place, as we hear and see, act and respond.
This is where the hardy fruit finds its nourishment.
And this is what the #LentChallenge is all about. Carving out time to connect to the Creator, to press into the words of our Savior, to press our cheeks against the chest of Jesus.
As I read, I struggled with the core question of the #LentChallenge:
What do I most need to read but least want to hear?
Jesus instruction from the mountainside whispered:
Tend to your inner soul.
Allow me to expose your sin, your broken bones, your cracked spirit that I may cleanse, heal, restore, redeem, and scoop you up closer to the Father’s heart.
This famed sermon of Jesus is the stuff souls are made of. This teaching asks us to tend to our inner life with God. Jesus isn’t preaching behavior modification or give so you can get, but a way of living that yields transformation, freedom, and delectable fruit.
Jesus teaches: Tend to your inner life and goodness will bleed out.
Religious leaders teach: Tend to your outer life, then you’ll become holy.
This is revealed throughout the prose. Jesus begins by speaking to “those” who are gentle, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers.
Then He transitions, “you” are the salt of the earth, the light of the world. Remember who you are.
He transitions again to exposes our false beliefs. As long as we don’t bludgeon someone or sleep around, and as long as we find a legal loophole and express kindness to our immediate neighbors, we’re fine, right?
Again, the way of Jesus is higher and harder than any other.
Then Jesus transitions again, to expose the Father’s heart. If you’re a fellow doodler, circle all the places where Jesus speaks of our heavenly Father. Here are a few:
Our Father who is in heaven.
Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (2X)
For your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
Your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Your heavenly Father feeds them.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need all things.
So what to do when you wake up a ghost of your former self? What do you do when you’ve lost yourself, your illusions have been shattered, and you find yourself irrevocably on the downward ascent?
Reground yourself in Matthew 5-7. Invite Jesus to speak to you. Ask Jesus to reveal the heart of the Father to you. Invite him to tend your inner soul.
What do you most need to read but least want to hear from today’s reading? Share in the comments below.