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Jesus ministered with an attitude of humility. He is quoted as saying, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”(Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45). Jesus warned his disciples against using their status to dominate others. Rather, they were to be servants to all (Matthew 20:25-28).
The story of the rich man and Lazarus displays the severity of punishment for selfishness (Luke 16:19-31). When we allow our own needs to blind us from meeting the needs of others, we harden our hearts to one of the core missions of Christ.
Jesus often warned those struggling with pride of its impending consequences. In Luke 20:45-47, Jesus warned his listeners to beware of the teachers of the law who prided themselves in their religiosity, yet failed to show hospitality to those in need.
The parable of the Pharisee and tax collector illustrates how God sees spiritual pride (Luke 18:9-14). When the Pharisee prayed, in his pride he thanked God that he was not like other people, who he thought were less spiritual. At the same time, the tax collector bowed in humility from a distance and mourned his condition as a sinner. Jesus declared that it was the tax collector who would be justified before God because of his humility.
". . .For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
Jesus often marveled at and convicts his disciples, as well as bystanders, for their lack of faith. In His hometown, He was unable to perform miracles because of the peoples’ unbelief. The Pharisees and Sadducees tested Jesus by asking His for a sign from heaven that He was the Christ (Matthew 16:1-4). In response to their unbelief, Jesus called them a wicked and adulterous generation and told them that no sign would be given except for the sign of Jonah.
When we think about how the Son of God was unable to perform miracles due to people’s lack of faith in His hometown, we must ask ourselves how much we miss out on the Holy Spirit working through our own lives simply because we doubt His ability.
Many unbelievers or ex-evangelicals today say the reason why they oppose organized religion is because there is too much hypocrisy. The good news is that Jesus opposed hypocrisy too. The gospels are filled with Jesus challenging the Pharisees in their hypocrisy.
Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry, he pronounced the “7 Woes” on the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. In each of his pronouncements, he called them hypocrites. In the Greek, the term means an actor or pretender. Jesus condemned these religious officials because they claimed to be leaders, yet their hearts and actions did not reflect their outward appearance.
The result of their efforts was fruitlessness, spiritual destruction, and shedding of blood. Other words Jesus uses to describe hypocrites are blind guides, blind fools, and abrood of vipers (Matthew 22:13-39).
Jesus taught on money and possessions more than any other topic, which reveals to us His kingdom mentality. Jesus stated that no one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will love the one and hate the other. Therefore, it is impossible to serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24).
If we are bound by our affections of the things of this world, our hearts will never belong to the things of God. That is why Jesus commands his followers to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). He strongly stated that it's impossible for a rich man to inherit the kingdom of God, not because Jesus condemned wealth, but because He knows how difficult it is for someone to lay aside greed.
When we lay aside our greed, we are able to give what we have with joy. Jesus honors this virtue through the poor widow who gave all she had as an offering (Mark 12:41-44). She gave out of her poverty rather than her wealth.
Jesus stressed the consequences of the lasting effects of unforgiveness. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus told his disciples that whoever forgives his brother will be forgiven, but whoever does not forgive will not be forgiven.
Jesus also told a parable of the Unforgiving Servant to his disciples in order to emphasize the importance of showing forgiveness to others as a reflection of the forgiveness shown to us by God (Matthew 18:21-35). Jesus is the ultimate example of the One who forgives. Though not deserving death, he forgave his enemies even while on the cross (Luke 23:34).
One of the greatest commandments Jesus gave his disciples was to love one another. It is by our love that the world will know that we are truly disciples of Christ (John 13:34-35).
Likewise, Jesus condemned our hatred of and anger with one another. He equated it to the physical murder of the individual (Matthew 5:21-26). Jesus’ ministry was one of reconciliation. When we hate someone, we create a barrier to the very purpose of His ministry.
While disobedience may seem like a catch-all for all sin, Jesus stressed the importance of obeying His teaching (Luke 11:28; John 14:15). The parable of two sons illustrates the importance Jesus placed on obeying His word (Matthew 21:28-32).
In this parable, a father had two sons. One son told his father he would work the vineyard and did not follow through. The second son declared that he would not work yet changed his mind and went. Jesus’ point of the parable was that the one who receives the kingdom of God is the one repents and believes. When we disobey the Word of the Lord, we need to check our hearts for disloyalty and a lack of love.
Throughout the gospels, Jesus ministered to many “sinners,” and received criticism from his disciples as well as from the Jewish leaders. For instance, Jesus calls Levi, a tax collector, to be a disciple. The new follower held a great banquet where notorious law breakers gathered. When the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus’ disciples about his behavior, Jesus told them that it is not the healthy who needed a doctor, but rather the sick (Luke 5:27-31).
Jesus is clear in his prohibition against judging others (Matthew 7:1-6; Luke 37-38). Oftentimes people are tempted to determine for themselves another’s guilt and announce a fate upon them. However, that role is for God alone (James 4:12). Believers are called to show mercy towards one another rather than judgement.
In first century Judaism, ritual and ceremonial purity was extremely important. However, Jesus taught on the importance of moral purity. When confronted about the disciples’ lack of ceremonial washing, Jesus declared that it is not what someone puts inside of their mouth that defiles them, but rather what comes out of their mouths (Matt. 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23).
He the warned against the sins of the heart, which include: sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. Therefore, as followers of Jesus, it is important for us to allow God to examine our hearts daily to ensure that we remain pure (Psalm 139:23-24).
While Jesus taught on many “sins," this list gives an overview of the heart of His ministry and teaching of the kingdom of God. He calls us as believers to a life of faith, obedience, love, and service to God and others. When we trust in Him rather than ourselves, regularly meditate on His Word, and fellowship with Him in prayer we can follow His teachings and live a life of true discipleship.