Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:19

Musicians practice scales so that when they play complicated notes the competence of the basics brings beauty to the music. In sports, the arts, and other disciplines there is no substitute for practicing the basics. Neither is there instant spirituality. A follower of Jesus practices spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, worship, and solitude, so that when their life becomes fast paced or persecuted, the beauty of their heart stayed on Jesus shines forth for all to see.

The Pharisees turned God’s laws into hundreds of rules. Keeping God’s laws and commands produced guilt when they fell short. So, the Pharisees made rules to protect themselves and make it easier to follow God’s rules. For instance, the command to love your neighbor as yourself, was relaxed saying the people could love select others, instead of all people. The Beatitudes tell us when we come to the end of ourselves (poor, meek, etc.) we are able to, as members of God’s Kingdom, see who He made us to be through his grace. 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 states, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” The Pharisees had the same goal of obedience and closeness to God but their method failed them.

Jesus ushers in a new covenant and the kingdom of heaven to be lived now. Relationship with him is the new way to be motivated because we are full of his love. Heart-changed people who are filled with his spirit display evidence of new life. How we follow Jesus and why we obey matter. The inward focus on the basic disciplines of following Jesus results in outward flourishing not only for yourself but for others around you.

What kind of music is coming from your heart today? To be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus says our methodology matters. To live with righteousness that exceeds that of the Pharisees, we need heart practice in tune with the Spirit. Spend some time in a spiritual discipline like confession, repentance, prayer and study, to grow in your heart basics today.

By Donna Burns  

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