January 24, 2015.
Daily Reading: Matthew 5-7.
Background: Matthew 3-4.
Concepts and Connections.
1. The Beatitudes: The beatitudes are some of the most well known words of Jesus amongst Christians. They are the first words recorded at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and have had a lasting effect throughout the generations. One way to look at these words is to see most them as different characteristics for which a Christian should strive: meekness, humility, a hunger for righteousness, ect. Each attitude or situation is given a solution, such as those who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be filled. These are promises made by Christ for His disciples, and they should give us peace and comfort, though we are not necessarily promised them in full extent while we are on this earth. Luke records the beatitudes a little differently, perhaps via another time that Jesus gave this sermon, in Luke 6, which seem to focus on a more physical basis where as the words of Christ here seem to focus on more of a spiritual basis. As we read this section, it would be beneficial to look at each of the beatitudes individually and honestly consider if we are displaying the quality that is in question. For example, if we read “blessed are the peacemakers,” consider “would my friends and family think of me as a peacemaker?” If the answer is no, then we will have a better focus on what we need to work on to mature in Christ. Do not let this section pass by without letting the words of Christ penetrate the soul.
2. Salt and Light: Sometimes stories and verses are so well known that the meaning ironically falls by the wayside. The stories about salt and light often fit into this category, as many Christians can relay the story without hesitation, yet fewer actually apply the lesson to their daily lives. Many of us have become flavorless salt. Our label might say “salt”, but we do not function as salt. We claim to be a light, but we hide it as soon as it becomes politically incorrect to talk about Jesus (which seems to be most of the time). Notice what Jesus is truly saying here: Tasteless salt is worthless. A hidden light accomplishes nothing. And Jesus isn’t talking about literal salt nor light. He was talking about His disciples.
3. Jesus upheld righteousness: Often Jesus is portrayed as this loving being who came to earth to make everything easy, taking away all law and making it to where all we have to do is accept Jesus into our heart and we are good. There is no need for change, repentance or following any of His commandments. It would seem that some even in Jesus’ time thought this way, for He was sure to make it clear here that He did not come to abolish righteousness, but rather to uphold it and fulfill it. Then he says something that is so often over looked about the Pharisees. He says that his disciples’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. This was the only way to become a true disciple of Christ. Christ was not here to give us a free path, but rather to have the bath back to God with his blood. He was here to by the path, not destroy it.
4. Radical teachings of Jesus: If the opening of His sermon wasn’t hard enough, from verses 21-48, Jesus sets forth some of the hardest teachings for us to follow, and He doesn’t apologize for them. These teachings are sometimes forgotten in the overall realm of Christianity and replaced with man’s opinions and feelings about the subject. This ought not to be so, for if it was important enough for Jesus to put into one of His first known sermons, we must assume that He meant what He said. Jesus takes what was commonly taught and takes it a step further. It was taught that a man could divorce his wife for many reasons by getting a certificate of divorces as guided by the Law. But Jesus took this back to the beginning where God created man and woman for each other, not for divorce. It was said that mankind should not murder, but Jesus said that he that hates his brother is in danger of hell fire. It was said that man should not commit adultery, but Jesus said that any who looks on a woman and lusts after her is already guilty of adultery in his heart. These are not the milky teachings and sermons that can be easily found in many pulpits today. These were radical teachings at the time, and can still be considered quite radical in some circles today. But they are the words of Christ, and we should heed them.
1. Hypocritical spirituality: A good portion of this chapter is dedicated to how the disciples were to practice their spirituality. Jesus makes many comparisons to the hypocrites who serve God only to be seen by men. These are those who make religion into a show. They act spiritual to convince others that they have a great relationship with God, when in reality it is all for show. This did not set well with Jesus and He makes that point quite clear in this section. It is not that our good deeds absolutely cannot be seen by men, for in 5:16 Jesus said that their good deeds were to be seen by men so that they could give glory to God. This was a heart problem. If they were only doing it to be seen by men, then they were doing it for the wrong reason. This was not good, as it meant nothing. They had their reward. But when we do good deeds as a result of living for the Father, then the people around us can glorify God in the highest. We need to be careful that we do not fall into the trap of doing things for show as opposed to doing things out of our genuine love for God.
2. Heaping up empty phrases: It is interesting how Jesus describes the Gentile prayers as being filled with empty heaps of vain words, with the idea that the more words in a prayer, the better the prayer is. Then Jesus gives an example of what a prayer should look like. Notice how short and concise the prayer is. The focus was not on asking God about our own struggles, but rather looking towards the Father to let His will be done on the earth. Sometimes we can fall into the same false ideology that the Gentiles had in using many words in our public prayers. This can turn into nothing but vanity. The Lord knows what we need and want, and doesn’t necessarily need to be reminded at all times. This is not to say that it is wrong to pray about these needs and wants, but rather that it probably shouldn’t be the main focus of our prayer lives.
3. Do not be anxious: What a simple phrase that is so difficult to put into practice. If we would truly trust God to the point that this passage requires, then all fear would quickly fade away as our trust would be in the Almighty, the one who made it all. Notice that Jesus makes a comment anxiousness: “You of little faith.” Our faith is small because we do not submit all of our worries and fears into the hand of the Almighty. We do not always completely surrender to His will, knowing that He will take care of us. We can see how God routinely takes care of nature, but for some reason we cannot see how He would take care of us. This is why we need to often be reminded of this passage and the peace of God that passes all understanding. Through obedient trust, we will be able to overcome anxiety.
1. To judge or not to judge? Another one of the most quoted bible verses appears here in the sermon on the mount. “Judge not that you be no judged.” Yet in John 7:24, we see that Jesus teaches His disciples to judge righteously. So, are we to judge or not to judge? The problem we find ourselves in today is we have misconstrued the term “judge” and we have so often taken this verse completely out of context. In context, Jesus is saying that whatever we measure other people by, we will be measured by the same standard on the day of judgement. This can be a frightening thing when we realize how harsh we can be in our judgments of other people, especially when we try to bind where the bible has not bound. Thus, it would be better to not judge anyone at all, for then we are not setting up a stricter measurement for ourselves on the day of judgement. This does not negate obedience to Jesus, however. Just because we don’t put our own standard on other people does not mean we can relax the standard of Christ in anyway. In this regard, we are to judge righteous judgment, discerning what is right and wrong and then proceeding to do the right thing. The judgements we make here are for ourselves or even to help an erring brother or sister in Christ who is willing to listen. There is a difference in helping someone out and condemning someone to hell.
2. Promises of God: “Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.” Promise. Signed God. Isn’t it wonderful that we have a God that we can bring our cares, needs, worries and wants to and know that He cares for us. Jesus goes on to compare God with us as humans, noting that we know how to give good gifts to our children, though we are evil. If we know how to take care of our children and give them good gifts, how much more will God give good gifts to us. This is not to say that we are guaranteed everything we ask of the Father, for He knows what is best for us at all times, just as you wouldn’t give your child something he or she really wanted if you knew it was going to be harmful to them. Our Father wants to give us good gifts from above, but they will be according to His will.
3. The hard teachings of Jesus: Just as in the first chapter of the sermon of the mount, Jesus here goes on to say some things are are simply very challenging and difficult to accept in practice today. He would say that not everyone who thinks they are doing works for the Lord will be saved in the end, but only those who truly build their house upon a rock. It is not politically correct even in churches to says that there is a good portion of Christians who aren’t true disciples of Christ. It was probably just as politically incorrect to say it in Jesus’ day as well, however. This did not stop Him from teaching the truth, nor should it keep us from doing the same. We are to preach the truth in love, even if the truth will offend someone. Who knows, perhaps this is what will spark something in their heart to be more receptive to the gospel.
4. Authoritative teaching: As Jesus was teaching the crowd, there was something that was noticeably different about Him when compared to other Rabbi’s. Jesus’ words had authority. Note every time Jesus says something along the lines of “You have heard it said… but I say unto you…” Jesus was comparing the teachings of other Rabbi’s to His own authoritative words. The Jews were not used to a teacher coming and speaking on his own behalf and not repeating what had been handed down throughout the ages. This actually made many of the Jewish leaders mad. However, Jesus’ words were authoritative, for He did not need to call upon the traditional teaching of the scribes and Pharisees in order to teach truth. Jesus was the word. He was the truth. His words must have carried through with much influence, for even when the leaders sent men to arrest Jesus, the authority in His words was so powerful that they could not even arrest Him. “No one ever spoke like this man!” (see John 7:45-52). All authority has been given to Him (see Matthew 28:18), and we should heed what He says.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Romans 7-8.
Become His disciple.