Author: Charles Hegwood
If you were to put all of Jesus’ teachings into one sentence what would it be? The writers of the gospels’ answer to that question may surprise you. If you listen today to many modern sermons you may think that Jesus was a teacher of ethics. Or you may be tempted to think that Jesus was a teacher of love. Perhaps you may think of Jesus as a fiery preacher condemning sinners and preaching repentance. While Jesus taught on all of these topics and more, individually they do not define His teaching ministry. The gospel writers boiled all of Jesus’ teaching down to a summary statement that goes something like this, “The Kingdom of God is coming therefore we must repent.” We see this summary statement primarily in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. So let us consider these two questions: Are we teaching as Jesus taught, and are we living in a way that reflects Jesus’ teaching? Jesus certainly taught on all the above mentioned topics. The coming Kingdom acts as a lens or filter for us to understand Jesus’ teaching on morality, love, and repentance toward God.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke each contain a summary statement of what Jesus taught. Jesus taught good news about the Kingdom and that as sinners, we need to repent, or turn away from our sins and run to God. Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and other teachings like it are about how we are to repent and live as citizens of God’s Kingdom. This summation statement also gives us an urgency to respond and herald Jesus’ message. “The Kingdom is at hand,” means that the time is short. Even as Jesus taught on earth, He was preparing His followers for the day He would return and bring the Kingdom with great finality.
The gospel writers were saying that Jesus was teaching the “good news” of the Kingdom. God’s coming Kingdom is good news because He was making a way for His people to dwell with God forever. Repentance is our response to this good news. Jesus taught to prepare people for life in the Kingdom. Next, let us look at some of the more specific parts of Jesus’ message.
Jesus taught a lot of lessons with a theme of morality. However His teaching on morality was not for morality’s sake. That may strike us as odd, but remember Jesus’ teachings had a purpose. He was preparing people for Kingdom life . Consider the Sermon on the Mount, there is a lot of what you could call moral teaching. But the purpose of Jesus’ words was to call His followers to live lives that reflect life in the Kingdom. Matthew was telling the young church how they should live. Jesus taught people how to live a life that brings glory and worship to God. Implicit within Jesus’ moral teaching was the call to repent because we do not live up to His perfect standard. The good news is that where we fail, Jesus has succeeded. We can live according to Jesus’ Words knowing that when we fail we are forgiven and that the Holy Spirit is working in us to help us grow in maturity and godliness in Christ. So what does the way you live say about your love of God?
Teaching on Love
Jesus taught a lot about love. He taught people to love God above all else. If we love God above all else, we will also love people as well. However, Jesus did not teach about love for love’s sake alone. He had a purpose for His teaching. He was teaching people how to love God and each other in light of the Kingdom. If you take all of the messages Jesus taught on love and put them together you could say Jesus was saying, “You love God by how you love people.” A repentant follower of Jesus cannot love God and be hateful toward others. We are to love our neighbor and our enemy as well. This is a counter-cultural teaching on love. Jesus wants us to love with a godly love. This is a love that overcomes sin and our failures. Jesus wanted us to love others because this is what love looks like in the Kingdom. What does the way you love people say about your love for God?
Teaching on Repentance
One of the central themes of Jesus’ message was repentance. You cannot get around this word. All parts of Jesus’ teaching must be taken together as a whole. Numerous times in the gospels, we see Jesus preaching a message of repentance. “Repent because the Kingdom of God is near.” We repent because there is a purpose to repentance. The Kingdom of God is coming. We cannot live our lives of sin any longer. We live repentant lives and teach repentance in our churches. This message has fallen out of favor with modern audiences. I hope that as we consider Jesus’ teaching for our lives, let us not shy away from the call to repent.
So you could say that Jesus was a fiery preacher with a message of repentance. But unlike many of the examples filling your head right now, Jesus backed up His message with a moral and loving life. While we must teach repentance and call on sinners to repent, we must model this life to the world. Our life and message should be a reflection of Jesus. How is the way you repent and teach repentance reflecting a love for God?
This is only the tip of the iceberg on the topic of Jesus’ teaching ministry. There have been books written about the subject. My purpose here was to illuminate three parts of Jesus’ teaching that we should take into consideration with how we live and teach. Let us live moral and loving lives full of repentance. Let what we teach be a reflection on how we live out our lives. Let your teaching ministry be a reflection of the teaching of Jesus. Do not just teach the comfortable parts. Teach other believers how to live life in light of God’s coming Kingdom. So what does your life and teaching say about your love for God and His Kingdom?