Day 19 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:28-29

And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

What made Jesus’ teaching astonishing and different from the Scribes?

The Scribes were men learned in the Mosaic Law and in the sacred writings, interpreters and teachers. They were also the ones who painstakingly copied the Law.  Their style of teaching was to expound the Law based on the authority of Rabbi so and so who said such and such. They traced their message back to the exact letter of the Law.

Jesus’ teaching surely stood in contrast because He spoke from His own authority and claiming His own authority.  He did not just “interpret the Scripture”, He claimed to the “fulfillment of the Scripture.”

  • Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Mt. 5:17
  • but I say to you
  • Therefore I tell you
  • “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Mt. 7:12
  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Mt. 7:21
  • Everyone then who hears these words of mine Mt.7:24

You might think their reaction would be to run him out of town for these wild and unusual claims but the crowds were not angry.  They were astonished.

Rather than rejecting his claims of authority, they affirmed it by their amazement.

I have to say, I know what it is to be amazed at the power and authority and comfort of the Scriptures.  Even the hard words.  Even the impossible words.

There are words and then there are words spoken by the Living Word – no contest!

Day 18 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:21-27

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

The Sermon ends with this last concept – to be known by Jesus you must not only hear these words, but hearing must be followed by doing.  And doing, we have seen all through the sermon, is not an easy task.  In fact, I would say it appears an impossible task.

Though out, the point has been to achieve a form of righteousness greater than the Pharisees.  They if anyone were indeed “doers” of the rules.  But clearly their kind of doing was lacking.

Jesus is one for the great illustration.  It’s the foundation on which one builds or in this case – does – that matters.  Picture this:

  • Man builds his house on a rock. Rain, flood, wind. House gets a beating but does not fall.
  • Man builds his house on sand. Rain, flood, wind. House falls. Very loud ka-boom.

My summary:

I am to follow Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Life will happen.  Some days I will follow better than others, to be sure.  But I will endure and always be “known and accepted” because I am in Jesus and covered by His righteousness.

To build on the sand of one’s own self-sufficiency (righteousness) is doomed in the end. That person will likely be surprised to find, after all that doing – ‘‘I never knew you”.

Day 17 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:15-20

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. … Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Having grown up on a regular diet of Saturday morning cartoons I can even describe the background music upon the arrival of the wolf dressed as a sheep or a granny, for that matter.  While the image of such danger is not lost a cartoon makes it visually clear that sheep do not have long noses or big teeth.  Even a six year old can spot the Big Bad Wolf.

Not so easy regarding false prophets – we won’t be able to tell by their outward appearances.  They probably look really good, sound of Godly and holy speech with a touch of appropriate incense.  It is likely to be tricky to spot them except for this clear warning from Jesus – check out their fruit.  What is the quality of their life?

I love how Ray Stedman speaks of Biblical leadership:

“The true authority of elders and other leaders in the church, then, is that of respect, aroused by their own loving and godly example.”*

Sounds a lot like “fruit”, doesn’t it?

Since white hats are out of fashion, fruit is how you tell who the good guys are.

 

The rest of Stedman’s quote is very much worth the read.

*”This is the force of two verses which are often cited by those who claim a unique authority of pastors over church members. The first is found in First Thessalonians 5:12-13a (RSV), “But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” The key phrase is “and are over you in the Lord.” The Greek word in question is prohistamenous. Though this is translated “over you” in both the Revised Standard and King James versions, the word itself contains no implication of being “over” another. The New English Bible more properly renders it, “… and in the Lord’s fellowship are your leaders and counselors.” The thought in the word is that of “standing before” others, not of “ruling over” them. It is the common word for leadership. Leaders can lead only if they are able to persuade some to follow.

Another verse used to support command authority is Hebrews 13:17a (RSV), which the Revised Standard Version renders, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.” The imperative translated “obey” is from the word peitho, “to persuade.” In the middle voice, used here, Thayer’s lexicon gives its meaning as “to suffer one’s self to be persuaded.” Again there is no thought of a right to command someone against his will, but the clear thrust is that leaders are persuaders whose ability to persuade arises not from a smooth tongue or a dominant personality, but from a personal walk which evokes respect.”

http://www.raystedman.org/thematic-studies/leadership/a-pastors-authority

Day 16 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:12-14

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

We call this first verse “the Golden Rule”.  It is the summation of how to treat people.  There is no list of circumstances and their appropriate responses to memorize.  Weird, huh?  Considering “this is the Law and the Prophets” – you’d expect at least a booklet.

You don’t have to have some big position, be educated or, for that matter, even be a grown-up.  In a moment’s notice, anyone can know exactly how to act. They only must ask themselves.  “How would I want to be treated right now, in this situation?”

Easy enough.  Brilliant in its simplicity.  Light weight.  Nimble. You can get the right answers 100% of the time.

Now for part two: Do it.

Sure I’d like to have my turn with the toy but do I have to let my friend have their turn first?

Of course I would be desperate to be forgiven but I’m not so sure they really deserve forgiveness…not quite yet.

Yes, I definitely want to be able to share my thoughts and be heard but it’s so hard to listen to that guy ramble.

Uh, this is hard and a little painful.  I can’t seem to squeeze through this entrance without leaving a few things behind.

narrow gate

Day 15 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:7-11

Ask…Seek…Knock…

I’m pretty much the world’s worst about asking.  I think it’s my propensity for pride and DYI and being in control.  I can, in fact, handle and manage pretty well – by the world’s standards.  Unfortunately it’s not the world’s standards I’d like to achieve.

Here’s what I’m learning about asking from my Father in heaven.

I have only a vague idea where I want to end up when I decide to pray.  Sometimes that uncertainty keeps me from jumping right in.

So ASK is a tool that gets me off Go.

  1. Ask – just spit it out. What’s on your mind?
  2. Seek – as I try to tell God what I’m thinking, the Holy Spirit guides me.
  3. Knock – We arrive together at the right door.

All this seems kind of simplistic but the truth is, I am changed by just engaging in this mystery – I have somehow walked side by side with God!

Day 14 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:1-6

Judging – always a fun subject.

Judge – krinō (Strong’s 2919) meant originally to “separate”.  Like separating the grain from the chaff it means “to distinguish, to pick out, to be of opinion, to judge.”

Here’s the thing.  Do not judge other people for the purpose of criticizing their life choices or their actions and certainly not their relationship with God.  Seriously, you want to put your “impeccable discernment” out there?  You get the same measuring stick you have used right back at ya!  Not advisable.

Can I help my brother see his issues? Maybe.

But only if you have dealt with your own issues first.  So you can judge yourself.  Since I have a 2×4 in my eye it’s likely to take a lot longer to dislodge than that splinter I have noticed about my friend.  In fact, if the friend hasn’t noticed the splinter themselves, there’s a chance it will soon hurt (I mean, if it was really there in the first place) and they will take care of it with the help of the Holy Spirit alone.  Best choice is to wait to be asked to administer First Aid.  Meanwhile physician heal thyself is a good rule of thumb.

Judging in terms of criticizing is off limits but judging in determining where and when to talk about holy things is wise.  We are not talking about people here, as in these dog/swine people are not worthy to hear about holy things.  We are talking about more like there is a time and place for everything.

When the forum and the attitude is not open – don’t.  When an individual person is unreceptive – wait.  When the arena is inappropriate – it may never, ever, be the right place.  (I am coming to believe that trying to make laws that expect non-believers to live up to something that believers can only do by the grace of God and the empowering of the Holy Spirit…well, just might be the wrong venue.)  When we toss holy things around without discernment we ourselves are not honoring what is sacred.  Kinda comes back to judging one’s self, doesn’t it?

To judge or not to judge, that is indeed the question.  Humility in all things might be the beginning of the answer.

Day 13 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:25-34

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

This morning is filled with a list of phone calls and appointments and inquiries that are urgent.  Time is short for finding these solutions so if I can’t wrangle each of these down I need to regroup and find other targets.  I have come to dread this part of the job.

So, with all this on my mind it’s hard not to feel guilty about spending time in the mornings on this study until I remember, there is nothing more important than time in the Word and with the Word.

In fact, the anxiety building over the work before me can only be calmed in this very place.

O you of little faith, your heavenly Father knows that you need these things.

This morning Lord, I am here to hear Your words and place my trust in you. Here are my lists and fears. Let me walk away from this time and face the challenges of the work you have given me. But let me leave the concerns in Your hands.

Today I will “set my foot” upon the land you have promised to give. Today I relinquish anxiety and chose to be strong and courageous for you have said: “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”. In the name of the Mighty One, Amen.

Day 12 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:19-24

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

You don’t have to have been around Christianity very long before you become aware that to put one’s faith in God is a call to relinquish faith in anything else.  It all sounds good – until you try it on for size.

Frankly money is the answer to almost every immediate problem in the world.  I don’t care too much about holding on to it.  I’m ready to spend in a heartbeat if it will get me or anyone I know out of whatever need or situation is bearing down upon us.  Truly it is my first line of defense if that is all it takes.

The thing about money is I do not have enough for the big things.  $1000/month for Bruce’s medications if a pain doctor cannot be found to help; to pay all of someone’s bills every month because they can’t get a job; to care for a young widow and 3 children while they recovery from a father’s untimely death – just don’t have it.  No way to get it. I’m too old to rob banks.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…”

Literally, this says, “Do not treasure your treasures”.  It makes a twist in my former understanding.  Don’t treasure your money.  Spend your money if it will help.  Use your money for whatever it will cover but don’t look at it as your salvation.

Then there are the things money won’t fix.  No amount staves off aging, dementia, a stroke, a broken heart, loss, unexpected death, grief.  It’s dark.

I’ve never quite understood this verse in between the two segments about treasure until now.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

It occurs to me that I have had this experience.  You can be full of light or full of darkness.  This can be directly related to where you look (with your eye).   In those times when I knew that I knew money would not help.  When I found I had inadvertently placed my security on income. When without the promises of God I would have been without hope – my eyes were forced to look to Him.  In those darkest of times, my body was flooded with Light.  It was not reasonable to expect such comfort or peace or hope but it was, in fact, a flood that brought all of these.

I’ve never since been able to think about money/treasure quite the same.

Earthly treasures are His gifts.  I use them.  But more and more He reminds me He wants my eye on Him.  He is the treasure on which to gaze.

Day 11 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:16-18

…that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret

I did a quick review of all the verses in the KJV that mentioned fast or fasting.  After weeding out the ones talking about fast as in “hold fast” or fasten as in “attached to your belt or the wall”, this is a summary of what I discovered about fasting as in “not eating”.

Fasting was done when a people or person was in mourning.  Sometimes the mourning was over their sin; sometimes the mourning was over a loss of a person they loved.

Fasting was done when a people or person was deliberately seeking God.  Sometimes the seeking was for protection; sometimes for direction; sometimes for strength and preparation.

Fasting was often accompanied by prayer – which makes perfect sense when you consider mourning and asking. “Prayer and fasting” were a means to direct ones attention to God with no distractions so as to gain insight into the mind of God on a matter.

Fasting was also abused and ritualized.  Jezebel fakes a national fast to get an innocent man killed; the Pharisees made fasting twice a week an outward sign of holiness and used it to bring attention to themselves; Israel fasted outwardly but their hearts were far from God’s heart.

In this passage, Jesus condemns fake fasting for show. Fasting is okay but not for the wrong reasons.

We can certainly consider “fasting” from things that replace God in our lives.  We can “give up” and “take a break” in order to clear a spot in our schedule for more time devoted to God.

But what I think is, we don’t really initiate fasting.  It’s more like fasting comes to us out of recognition of our great need.

Maybe the choice before us is so weighty we dare not just decide with our own wisdom.

More often our sorrow is overwhelming; our sin has become too very heavy.  We are lost and needy and desperate.   Either food is the last thing on our minds or we know nothing to do but formally hide away until God answers.

I was particularly struck by Isaiah’s writing about fasting as he records the Lord’s words.  Maybe this is the practical daily action and fasting in the ways mentioned before will come when they come.

6“Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke? “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”  Isaiah 58:6-7

Day 10 Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 6:7-15

…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him

Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Dee Wilcox posted:

He is the Bread of Life, and I cannot go one day without Him.

It also reminds me to live with an open hand, to accept and be thankful for what He gives each day, even in the hard. Especially in the hard. I trust that what He gives isn’t just enough — it’s exactly what I need.”

I responded:

Your words about having open hands caused me to see an image of someone at the altar rail with their hands cupped and open to receive communion – the Bread of Life. This action is in no way related to my personal Christian experience and probably nothing I have ever done. That makes it all the more powerful for me think about today. It brings up all kinds of emotions: Child-like expectation – all the way to neediness. Today, as I pray I will do it with hands cupped and open and expectant

And then – with my hands cupped and open – I prayed through the Lord’s Prayer – telling the Lord everything He already knows are needs and receiving my daily bread with tears.