I have a friend who reads this blog. Strangely, really strangely, he is not a Christian or even close for that matter. BUT he is a very astute observer of the church and of Christians. After reading yesterday's blog, which admittedly was a little rushed, he said, "Prayer doesn't make a person a good person". What he meant by this was that he knows many Christians who pray and are also totally untrustworthy. So indeed, I must agree prayer doesn't make a person good in and of itself. No, prayer doesn't make a person good, but I do contend that praying rightly is the only path to being great.
The world and the church do not need more good men and women. The church and the world need great men and women. Jesus made the following statements about being great in the kingdom:
Matthew 5:19 Anyone who breaks 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Desiring to be "great" in the kingdom is not a bad thing, but actually doing it is completely impossible for us apart from an effective method of becoming transformed from the inside out. In Edwards resolutions #64 Edwards says the following: "On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: Resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan.14' and July '3' 1723. "
Edwards is saying, I desire to glorify God and be "great in the kingdom" (from God's perspective) like no other. This is a noble goal.
How to Become Great in the Kingdom
Taken in context, we can understand Jesus' saying in Matt. 5:19. The context of this statement is "The Sermon on the Mount". Jesus is saying if we put into practice these saying in the Sermon (the new standard of the new covenant) and having put them into practice, we teach others to do the same, then we will be great in the kingdom. The Sermon teaches us to have a morally beautiful heart: to forgive, to love, to bless our enemies, to be pure and faithful. The standard is one of moral perfection. This Paul teaches us is impossible for natural man. The requirement is total spiritual humility before God. We must also come to a place of utter helplessness in our quest for effectiveness in the kingdom. Yes, if we seek to be good men and women, this could be done naturally or in the flesh as Paul says, but to be great, this is another thing all together. To be great is a miracle. To be great is a Spiritual matter.
The second saying of Jesus makes this very clear. Jesus says, "Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. " Jesus is speaking of being dependent spiritually on our Father in Heaven. The Sermon on the Mount, the standard of greatness, opens with the saying, "Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven". To be poor in Spirit is to be a Spiritual beggar. To come to a place of realizing that in ourselves, we do not have the resources to become the Christlike person we see in our heart that God is calling us to be. The life we long to live eludes us. We are helpless. Of course, if we long to be merely good, then we could be proud and independent and maybe achieve this in our own strength, but if we long to be great, this changes everything. To be great is a miracle.
So we come to God in brokenness. We come to God with The Sermon on the Mount or some other picture of Christ's moral perfection and we are undone. We are beggars. We are drawn to the throne of God in fear and trembling and love and worship.
"O, God for You. Make me great like the Great King"