We call ourselves Jesus’ disciples, but what does that really mean? Solid character that can withstand life’s storms develops daily by hearing Jesus and doing what he says (Matt. 7:24-37). Using the Sermon on the Mount as a summary of Jesus’ ethical teaching (Matt. 5-7), such obedience involves particulars like the following: Be happy when judged falsely for doing right (5:11-12). Let the Jesus-light shine through your good deeds so others will praise God (5:16). Treasure what lasts and have lasting treasure (6:19-24).Trust God and don’t worry (6:25-34). Instead, ask, seek and knock, for God responds (7:7-11).
Use prayer to align with God’s heart, not to impress people (6:5-15). Let piety receive God’s approval and forget about human praise (6:16-18). Consider right relationships with people as more important than religious exercises (5:22-23). Practice private charity, knowing that God sees (6:1-4). Scrutinize yourself but not other people (7:1-5). Observe people’s lives, not just their words (7:15-20). Desire the best for anyone who mistreats you and ask God to do them good (5:43-48). Tell the truth so consistently that an oath would serve no purpose (5:32-37). Be wronged rather than do wrong; do good even when undeserved (5:38-42). Don’t push Jesus on people who aren’t interested (7:6). Don’t even fantasize about forbidden sexual connections (5:27-30). Treat others like you want to be treated (7:12).
This partially describes a life that God approves, but we will never live so well that we earn his approval. God gives that to people who crave his friendship although they do not measure up. To be sure, they acknowledge their shortcomings and grieve for them, but they don’t approach God making foolish claims. Instead, they are like beggars who ask the monarch for a handout — and leave with a kingdom instead (5:1-11).