Sermon on the Mount Lesson Nineteen

Two Foundations – Matthew 7:24-29

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” 28 When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, 29 because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes. (HCSB)

First, this lesson will conclude our journey through the Sermon on the Mount. I pray that you have been blessed by it, but more importantly, that you have been challenged to change by it.

Verses 24-27

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”

There are several ideas to note in verse 24.

  • In verse 24, the word “therefore” points back to the entire Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is concluding His teaching here, and it is meant to be understood in its entirety, not just portions of the message.
  • The teachings are the words of Jesus. In verses 24 and 26, Jesus says, “these words of Mine.” Jesus is claiming equal authority with God the Father in authoring what’s contained in Scripture. He also did this by clarifying the original intent of the Law in Matthew 5:17-48.
  • Jesus uses the word “everyone.” We know from the context of the Sermon on the Mount that the message was directed at Jesus’ disciples. However, here Jesus is also extending an invitation to those who are not currently His disciples. This includes the members of the religious establishment, who were leading people away from God’s righteousness to their self-righteous hypocrisy.

Let’s now look at verses 24-27 as a coherent whole.

  • Jesus is giving a parable about two different builders meant to symbolize the two reactions to Jesus’ teaching.
    • One is wise by building on a firm foundation, rock.
    • The other is foolish by building on a foundation that is unstable and prone to change.
  • There are two separate but equally illustrative understandings to this parable that would’ve been readily understood by those hearing the Sermon on the Mount.
    • Those living in the desert areas building on any surface during the dry seasons would have been the easy choice requiring less effort. But those who understood what could happen when heavy rains occurred resulting in flash floods would know that only those dwellings built on rock could withstand the flood. Those built on sand would be swept away.
    • The ground, consisting of sandy soil, in the area around the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River where this message took place, would be quite hard on the surface during the hot summer period. When the winter rains occurred, the Jordan River would overflow its banks. Houses built on the previously “hard” soil would be swept away as the ground became saturated and shifted. Those dwellings built on bedrock would withstand these events.
    • Those hearing this message would understand the foolishness of building on anything but rock.
  • There is a third but less apparent message in these verses directed against the teaching of the Jewish religious leaders.
    • The sand was a reference to the leadership and teaching of the scribes and Pharisees.
      • They advocated a surface righteousness that masked the unstable foundation of religious hypocrisy.
      • The unstable nature of their teaching would be revealed as it wouldn’t be able to provide the answers to the deepest needs of the people.
    • The rock was a reference to the teaching of Jesus.
      • Obedience to Jesus’ teaching leads to true life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
      • It was unpopular, often even leading to trouble as the easy life and comfort were left behind.
  • A wise person will build their house, understood as their life, on the rock that is Jesus and His teachings.
    • Isaiah 28:16  Therefore the Lord God said: “Look, I have laid a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; the one who believes will be unshakable.
    • Acts 4:11  This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone.
    • 1 Peter 2:6-8  For it is contained in Scripture: Look! I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and honored cornerstone, and the one who believes in Him will never be put to shame! So honor will come to you who believe, but for the unbelieving, The stone that the builders rejected— this One has become the cornerstone, and A stone to stumble over, and a rock to trip over.
    •  
    • Ephesians 2:20  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,  with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.
    • 1 Corinthians 3:10-11  10 According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.
    • They understand that shifting sands lead to insecurity and, ultimately, disaster.

There are three points to consider regarding these verses.

  • Jesus is the foundation. It is possible to read or hear these words preached and ignore them or try and fulfill them in your own strength. That is a futile course to follow. We can only follow them if we are grounded on Jesus. When we build our character on Jesus, we build an unshakable character.
  • A life built on Jesus is a life that will withstand all the storms that the world can throw at us. It will stand against every tribulation that the enemy can bring against us. Ultimately, it will stand when we are before the Throne of Judgment with our eternal destiny being determined.
  • For the Christian, the question is, “What are you building?” Are you rooted in God’s will and producing lasting fruit, or are you foolish in your building?
    • 1 Corinthians 3:12-15  12 If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, 13 each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. 14 If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like an escape through fire.

Verses 28-29

28 When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, 29 because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes.

At this point, the Sermon on the Mount is finished. Now, it is time to take stock and evaluate the response of those hearing the message.

  • At the beginning of the message, Jesus was addressing His disciples. By the time He had finished, a crowd had gathered.
  • Depending on your translation, you might have “astonished” or “amazed” in verse 28. The Greek tense of the verb indicates an ongoing effect on the listeners.
  • The astonishment or amazement, unfortunately, had no connection with their response or commitment to the message. The Greek word, ekplesso, is not an indicator of faith but, rather, an emotional response.
  • Jesus’ message contained authority as indicated by His continual use of the phrase, “but I tell you.” Jesus’ teaching exhibits the authority of God. This is in contrast to Old Testament prophets who spoke on the authority of Yahweh.
    • Moses in Exodus 11:4.
    • Elijah in 1 Kings 21:23.
    • Isaiah in Isaiah 3:16.
    • Zechariah in Zechariah 8:3.

As I close our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, let’s consider this message as a whole.

  • This message is intensely life-challenging.
  • It is a profoundly disturbing indictment against the religious establishment; those who have hijacked God’s original message with a false message of their own. In Jesus’ day, it was the Pharisees. In our day, there are many suitable candidates who could be indicted with this charge.
  • It is an amazing challenge to the crowds, those who are attracted by Jesus’ message but not yet placing faith in Him.
  • It is the highest inspiration.
  • It is the most realistic guideline of life for those who are Jesus’ disciples as they live the wonderful reality of Kingdom life.
  • Jesus challenges His disciples to examine themselves to determine the authenticity of their commitment. They will make an eternal account for their lives.
  • Jesus challenges the crowds to take up the invitation to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Their choice will have eternal consequences, either heaven or hell.
  • Jesus challenges the religious leaders to examine if they are teaching false doctrine or if they have pious hypocrisy, either which could lead them or their followers to eternal destruction.
  • Jesus makes it clear that He will dispense the judgment each of us face.

Our application will look at the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety.

  • 7:13–14: Will you enter the gate to life in the Kingdom of Heaven and lead a life of following Jesus? Or will you reject Jesus for the popular road that leads to destruction?
  • 7:15–20: Will you find in Jesus the inner source of transformation that will produce the good fruit of life? Or will you follow the prophetic voices of this world that hype a promise of life but will only take you into the fires of hell?
  • 7:21–23: Will you obey the Father’s will and come to Jesus as your only Lord? Or will you chase after false manifestations of spirituality that result in eternal banishment?
  • 7:24–27: Will you build your life on Jesus as your solid rock? Or will the pleasant ease of your life cause you to be unprepared for the storms that will come in this life and that will ultimately wash you away into the desolation of the afterlife?

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Eighteen

Entering the Kingdom – Matthew 7:13-23

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,  but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’ (HCSB)

Now that the Sermon on the Mount is drawing to a conclusion, Jesus is encouraging His followers to make a decision. Remember, this message is addressed to believers and not unbelievers. However, how we live and the teaching we give and receive has a major impact on the path we follow. This passage contains one of the scariest passages in the entire Bible that every self-proclaimed follower of Christ should always remember. I’ll elaborate once we get to it.

Verses 13-14

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

These first two verses require us to make a decision on what the terms gate and road are talking about.

  • Is the gate the beginning of the journey? Is it talking about the point of salvation and the road taken after that?
  • Or is the gate the end of the journey, the destination? Our physical death and eternal residence?

There is a great debate among theologians and scholars on this point. By the end of this, admittedly, abbreviated discussion on these two viewpoints, I hope you will conclude, as I have, that the first view is the correct one.

Let’s take a look at the original Greek words behind the two main concepts in verses 13-14

  • Narrow gate/road – Two different Greek words are used for narrow, one each in verses 13 and 14. The first simply means “narrow,” while the second means “tribulation” or “persecution.” Jesus is saying that the way of true discipleship is restricting, in the sense of a worldly view, and leads to opposition and persecution. We know from other passages in Scripture that Jesus faced persecution, and He told us that those who follow Him would also face persecution.
    • Matthew 5:10-11 Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me.”
    • 2 Timothy 3:12  In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
    • 1 Peter 4:13-14  Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
    • Acts 14:22  strengthening the disciples by encouraging them to continue in the faith and by telling them, “It is necessary to pass through many troubles on our way into the kingdom of God.”
  • Wide gate/broad road – In Greek, this means spacious, easy, or prosperous. However, prosperous is not viewed in a positive light in this passage. It relates more to greed and selfishness. Ultimately, it leads to eternal death.
    • Philippians 3:19  Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is in their shame. They are focused on earthly things.
    • 1 Timothy 6:9  But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction.
    • 2 Peter 2:1, 3   But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves…They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.
    • 1 Peter 3:16  He speaks about these things in all his letters in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.

Jesus is exhorting His followers that true discipleship is a rigorous path, and not many will undertake and complete the journey. The narrow gate and narrow path is faith in Jesus. Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for missing this point and choosing the wide gate and broad road that is characterized by self-dependence and self-righteousness.  A true servant of God’s Kingdom will always be in the minority camp when compared against the lost and false Christians.

Verses 15-20

15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

Although these verses talk about false teachers or fake Christians, they tie in neatly with the preceding two verses. Some observations about this passage.

Jesus uses three metaphorical comparisons to illustrate false teachers or fake Christians.

  • The wolf in sheep’s clothing.
    • A wolf may deceive for a period of time, but sooner or later, their true nature will come out.
    • The illustration of the wolf indicates an active and malicious motive behind their actions.
    • A wolf is an enemy of sheep, and if not confronted and removed from the flock, they will destroy the sheep.
    • Acts 20:27-31 27 for I did not shrink back from declaring to you the whole plan of God. 28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock that the Holy Spirit has appointed you to as overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. 29 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 And men will rise up from your own number with deviant doctrines to lure the disciples into following them. 31 Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears.
    • Matthew 24:11 Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
    • Matthew 24:24  False messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
  • Grapes and figs.
    • The first thing to note here is that these false teachers or fake Christians are not as disruptive as the wolves. However, that does not change the fact that they do not produce lasting Kingdom work.
    • A grapevine or fig tree will eventually produce fruit, even if you have to wait for the proper season.
    • A thornbush or thistle will never produce grapes or figs, no matter how long you wait.
    • Matthew 3:8  Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.
    • James 3:9-12  We praise our Lord and Father with it, and we curse men who are made in God’s likeness with it. 10 Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way. 11 Does a spring pour out sweet and bitter water from the same opening? 12 Can a fig tree produce olives, my brothers, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a saltwater spring yield fresh water.
    • Philippians 1:11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
    • Colossians 1:10  so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.
  • Thrown into the fire.
    • This implies God’s judgment.
    • John 15:6  If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
    • This applies to those who were never genuine believers in the first place.
    • It is also a warning against believers who have false or hypocritical obedience in our lives. True believers are destined for eternal life but can still experience the unhealthy fruit of disobedience along the way
      • 1 Cor 3:1-4   Brothers, I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready, because you are still fleshly. For since there is envy and strife among you, are you not fleshly and living like unbelievers? For whenever someone says, “I’m with Paul,” and another, “I’m with Apollos,” are you not unspiritual people?
      • 1 Cor 11:30-32  30 This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen asleep. 31 If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged, 32 but when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, so that we may not be condemned with the world.

Verses 21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,  but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’

This is one of the scariest passages in the entire Bible and should cause every self-proclaimed believer to stop and make an honest and in-depth assessment of where they stand regarding obedience to Jesus, what He teaches, and the entirety of the truth contained in Scripture.

We can draw several conclusions from this passage.

  • More people say they are Christians than those who actually follow Jesus.
  • True followers of Jesus can’t lose their salvation, “I never knew you” is a clear indication that they were never genuine disciples.
  • Acknowledging Jesus as Lord with our lips, but not demonstrating obedience to His teaching, doing God’s will, is an indication of a false Christian. However, don’t confuse this with the false doctrine of works-based salvation.
    • 2 Timothy 2:19  Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and Everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness.
  • Jesus is talking about the final, eschatological judgment each of us will face.
    • Luke 13:25-28  once the homeowner gets up and shuts the door. Then you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up for us!’ He will answer you, ‘I don’t know you or where you’re from.’ 26 Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets!’ 27 But He will say, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you’re from. Get away from Me, all you workers of unrighteousness!’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown out.
  • Jesus is identifying three ways in which false Christians will try and deceive others.
    • Lip service, claiming loyalty to Jesus as Lord and God.
    • Spectacular signs.
    • Performing signs in Jesus’ name, thus claiming them to be the work of God when they aren’t.
      • Acts 19:13-16 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul—but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded.
      • Revelation 13:13-14  13 He also performs great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in front of people. 14 He deceives those who live on the earth because of the signs that he is permitted to perform on behalf of the beast, telling those who live on the earth to make an image of the beast who had the sword wound and yet lived.

Summarizing what Jesus is conveying in verses 21-23 highlights the following points.

  • A genuine Christian will have evidence of good works in their lives.
    • However, salvation is not by works.
    • Anyone who trusts in their works for salvation is not saved.
    • Salvation is trusting in the finished work of Jesus alone.
      • Ephesians 2:8-9  For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.
  • An absence of good works is an indicator of a false Christian.
    • A true Christian has the Spirit of God living in them, which will manifest itself by doing good works.
    • A false Christian doesn’t have the Spirit of God living in them, resulting in no fruit or fruit which doesn’t last.
  • These three verses are a warning to false (knowingly or unknowingly) Christians.
    • There are many paths to hell; many of them seemingly “religious.”
    • There is only one path to heaven,…repenting, and trusting in Jesus.

Applications

  • The first application is to ask yourself is if you really believe that Scripture is inerrant and infallible. Unless you answer “yes” to this question, it is impossible to follow Jesus’ commands and then be in God’s will. If you struggle in trusting the absolute truth of Scripture, pray that God would remove that doubt. Doubting the infallibility of Scripture is a lie from the devil designed to undermine our obedience and reduce or eliminate fruit from our lives.
  • Make an honest assessment of the path you are currently traveling. Are you on the narrow path or the broad path? Many are living, either deliberately or unknowingly, a false Christianity.
  • The “Sinner’s Prayer,” found nowhere in the Bible, has led many to believe that they are on the road to salvation when they may actually be on the road to hell. Jesus calls us to repentance, turning from our sinful habits, and trusting and turning to Him in a life of obedience.
  • Evaluate the church you attend and the sermons they preach. They should be Jesus centered and not “me” centered. Always search Scripture and don’t blindly follow what your pastor says. Pastors who are offended by this may be giving false teaching. If your church is not teaching Scripture, Jesus, repentance, and hell as a real place, you need to find a new church that does. If they teach the prosperity gospel or an easy Christianity, you need to find a new church. Jesus never taught that message.
  • Does your life demonstrate producing lasting fruit in Kingdom service? If not, go back to application point #2 and reevaluate.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Seventeen

Keep Asking, Searching, Knocking – Matthew 7:7-12

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! 12 Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets. (HCSB)

This passage is easy to misunderstand and is often abused by the heretical teaching of those pushing the prosperity or the “name it and claim it” gospel. I pray that by the end of this lesson, you will understand that Jesus is not teaching that.

Another critical point is that in the context of this passage, as well as the entire Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is talking to the disciples. This is the first requirement in this passage on answered prayer.

Verses 7-8

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Let’s make some observations about these first two verses.

  • When we come to God in prayer, we should have an expectant attitude. Our heavenly Father is perfect and wants to bless His children.
  • The terms ask, seek, and knock are all metaphors for prayer.
  • There is symmetry in the structure of these two verses and the verbs used.
    • There is a triplet of commands: ask, seek, knock.
    • There is a triplet of affirmations: receives, finds, opened.
    • Ask, seek, and knock are all present tense verbs.
    • Will be given, will find, and will be opened are all future tense verbs.
    • Receives and finds are present tense while will be opened are future tense.
  • Although there is some disagreement on whether the terms ask, seek, and knock mean exactly the same thing, it appears a better conclusion is that there is an increasing level of intensity when praying to God.
    • Ask – suggests an attitude of humility and need.
    • Seek – suggests responsible activity in following God’s will.
    • Knock – suggests perseverance in asking and seeking.
  • Jesus is telling the disciples that they need to be persistent in their prayers.
    • Ask the Father continually in a spirit of need, understanding that everything comes from God.
    • Seeking God’s will on a continual basis to guide our lives.
    • Knocking with a relentless determination to receive an answer.
  • Since this passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount, the contextual understanding and application must be made by applying everything that Jesus had said previously. This brings us back to the “Disciple’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:9-13.
    • Verse 10b Your will be done.
    • Our prayers are answered when they align with God’s will.
      • Asking for a Mercedes likely won’t get answered…unless God really wants you to have a Mercedes. Even then, I would ask that you consider if you really need it or you just want it. Consider how you could bless Kingdom work by settling for a less expensive vehicle.
      • This same principle can be applied to anything that could be considered a battle between wants and needs.
      • 1 John 5:14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
      • 1 John 3:22 And can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight.
      • John 15:7 If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.
    • God may answer our prayer in a way we didn’t expect.
      • We pray for healing for a family member or friend, and instead, they pass away. If that person is a believer, God has healed them in the most perfect way. They no longer experience pain or suffering.
      • We pray for a promotion or a particular type of job. We do get a job offer, but it was not what we were desiring.
    • God will answer our prayers, or maybe not answer them, in alignment with His will. When we pray in alignment with God’s will, we can be assured that it will be answered in His time.

Verses 9-11

What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

A quick summary of these three verses before digging into them more. If sinful parents know how to provide and take care of their children, how much more will a perfect and infinitely holy God provide for and take care of His children? This is especially true in today’s world, where there is so much abuse, neglect, and mistreatment from parents.

In these verses, Jesus uses imagery that would have resonated with the hearers of this message given along the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

  • The stones along the shore of the sea were round limestone and in appearance were quite similar to the round loaves of bread common in Jesus’ day.
  • Although the term “snake” is used here, it is more likely that Jesus was referring to an eel, a snake-like fish. However, according to Jewish dietary laws, eels could not be eaten. Leviticus 11:12 Everything in the water that does not have fins and scales will be detestable to you.
  • In each comparative case, a parent would be mocking their child if they gave them a rock or eel to satisfy their hunger. In the first example, the stone is inedible, and in the second, they were forbidden by Jewish law to eat it.

God desires to give His children good gifts, but our behavior and actions prevent or delay the bestowing of these gifts. But just as being in the right relationship and desiring His will affects our prayer life, this also carries over into how He gives His children gifts.

Verse 12

Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets.

This verse is known as the “Golden Rule” and advocates relationships built upon mutual respect and conduct.

As Jesus approaches the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, He describes Kingdom expectations in one principle. It also brings full circle the statement that Jesus made in Matthew 5:17 Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

Jesus’ teaching throughout the Sermon on the Mount fulfills the Law and the Prophets, while the Golden Rule sums up the Law and the Prophets.

  • Leviticus 19:18 Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.
  • Deuteronomy 6:5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
  • Matthew 22:37-40 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.

Paul also restates this principle.

  • Romans 13:8-10 Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and whatever other commandment – are all summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.
  • Galatians 5:14 For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus’ teaching in the Golden Rule highlights two significant points about stability in the lives of Christians.

  • Stability increases as disciples understand and practice depending on their heavenly Father, the only unshakeable in this troubled world. Whatever needs a person may have, they must cultivate a healthy dependence on God. Loving God means we trust Him to take care of us.
  • Stability also increases as we develop a healthy commitment to sacrifice and help those around us. To truly love others means we help them. When mutual love exists, they can completely trust each other to satisfy their needs. When that love and trust are linked with trust in God, disciples should never have to think about their needs being met; they will be met in a loving community of fellow believers who radiate the Father’s commitment to take care of us.

In effect, this statement concludes the Sermon on the Mount as in the concluding verses, Matthew 7:13-27, Jesus calls upon all who hear the message to make a decision. Either they will follow Him, or they are against Him.

Let’s look at how we can apply this passage to our lives.

  • How is your prayer life?
    • Do you seek to pray in accordance with God’s will, or are your prayers of a selfish nature?
    • Are you persistent in your prayers, or do you give up easily?
    • Always remember that God may answer your prayer in a way you didn’t anticipate or even don’t like. Those moments are a test of our faith. Will we trust God that He knows what’s best for us or others, or will we complain or even become bitter because we didn’t get our way?
    • If sinful parents provide for their children, a perfect and loving God will certainly provide for our needs.
  • Do you live out the Golden Rule?
    • Do you treat others will love and respect?
    • Do you help those around you when they have needs?
    • Do you sacrifice for others?
    • If you could watch a video of yourself interacting with others, would you feel good about what you see, or would you hang your head in shame that didn’t shine the light of Christ?

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Sixteen

Do Not Judge – Matthew 7:1-6

In this lesson we’ll tackle the issue of being judgmental towards others.

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use,  you will be judged, and with the measure you use,  it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs,  or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces. (HCSB)

The first thing to note about verses 1-5 is that they are one of the most misunderstood and misquoted passages in the entire Bible. Jesus is not making a blanket prohibition against any form of judgment or discernment against another believer. Jesus is saying that these should never be done in a spirit of self-centered pride and without first examining yourself for sinful behavior.

Verses 1-2

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged.  For with the judgment you use,  you will be judged, and with the measure you use,  it will be measured to you. 

Jesus doesn’t state precisely what is being judged. However, we should interpret this in light of a general application of judging someone else. The Greek verb for judge, krino, has several different understandings depending on the context within which it is used.

  • Ordinary discernment of evaluation. Luke 7:43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one he forgave more.”
  • Judicial litigation. Matthew 5:40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well.
  • Bestow a reward. Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “I assure you: In the Messianic Age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
  • Pronouncement of guilt. John 7:51 Our law doesn’t judge a man before it hears from him and knows what he’s doing, does it?
  • Absolute determination of one’s fate. Matthew 5:22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire.

Jesus is warning His followers of practicing the last two on the list. We are not to set ourselves over others and make a determination of their guilt before God.

This warning is also the opposite of the blessing Jesus mentioned in Matthew 5:7 The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy. It is also the fifth petition in the Disciple’s Prayer. Matthew 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

True followers of Christ will not exhibit a pattern of judging others, and displaying a pattern of judgment against others is an indicator that the person not a true member of the Kingdom of Heaven. When disciples develop a condemning and critical attitude as a pattern in their lives, it shows they have forced love out of their relationships with others.

Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about failures that make us apathetic in our Christian service. Those failures are the love of money and worrying. Both of these will make our witness ineffective as our focus is not on God or serving Him. However, a certain kind of zeal can also ruin our witness. That is a zeal for judging others, and it will turn the practitioner into a sharp and unjust critic of their Christian brothers and sisters.

Verses 3-5

Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Here Jesus is engaging in hyperbole to communicate His point. Let’s make a couple of observations before we discuss these verses further.

  • Jesus is addressing His followers when He uses the term “brother.” Although this shouldn’t stop us from addressing issues with unbelievers, we must remember that they have a completely different set of values as non-Christians.
  • Jesus is not forbidding us from addressing issues in the lives of others. However, Jesus is saying that there is a process to ensure we do it correctly.
  • This is a jab at the self-righteousness exhibited by the Pharisees.

As I wrote in the introduction, Jesus is not telling us we can’t correct our brothers and sisters when they stray from the path. But it has to be done in the proper spirit, the spirit of love and correction, so it doesn’t happen again, not in a spirit of condemnation. Jesus did this with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:11b “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” There are two important points to remember in this short statement.

  • Jesus is not condoning her behavior. Too often, believers focus on the first part, not being condemned. It’s wonderful that as a follower of Christ, we are forgiven when we fall and confess our sins.
  • The more important part of the verse is at the end in the form of a command, “do not sin anymore.”

When we confront a brother or sister who is sinning, the goal should always be restoration and not condemnation. Let’s consider some passages that illustrate the wrong and right ways to address sinful behavior.

  • Romans 14:10 But you, why do you criticize your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before the tribunal of God. The word “criticize” here is a condemning judgment.
  • Romans 2:1 Therefore, any one of you who judges is without excuse. For when you judge another, you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the same things. Here the word “judge” is a condemning judgment reserved for God and carried out by a hypocritical person.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:3 Therefore don’t judge anything prematurely, before the Lord comes, who will both bring to light what is hidden in darkness and reveal the intentions of the hearts. And then praise will come to each one from God. The word “judge” is used here in a judicial sense, as in a court of law. Another point is that we will likely never know the full details of the situation. To judge without full knowledge is foolish judgment. Only God can search our hearts and know the full truth.
  • Matthew 18:15 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. 17 If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. When a brother or sister is found in sin, there is a process to follow. Although rarely addressed in the modern church, there is a process for church discipline that Jesus laid out for us.
  • Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual should restore such a person with a gentle spirit, watching out for yourselves so you also won’t be tempted. Restoration is to be done in the spirit of love.

There are three principles we should remember as to why we should never judge another person.

  • We won’t know all of the facts or the entire person; we can’t search their hearts.
  • It is impossible for fallen and sinful people, even the most devoted follower of Christ, to be completely impartial in our judgment.
  • None of us is good enough to judge another person. There is only one judge. James 4:12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

A succinct summary of verses 1-5 is, “Do not judge others until you are prepared to be judged by the same standard. And then, when you exercise judgment towards, do it with humility.”

Verse 6

Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.

At first glance, this verse seems misplaced. However, there is a connection between this verse and the preceding verses. In the first five verses, Jesus is warning against hypocritical judgment of others. In verse 6, Jesus is warning against naïve acceptance. Matthew 10:16 Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.

As Christians, we need to strike a difficult balance between the characteristics of a serpent and a dove. We will continuously need to make evaluations in our lives, and a balance must be struck. The serpent was the picture of wisdom, shrewdness, mental keenness, and the dove represented simple innocence.

  • Genesis 3:1a Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made.
  • Psalms 58:5 That does not listen to the sound of the charmers who skillfully weave spells.
  • Hosea 7:11a So Ephraim has become like a silly, senseless dove;

Without innocence, the keenness of the snake is crafty, a devious menace; without keenness, the innocence of the dove is naive, helpless gullibility.

We need to interpret this verse in two ways.

  • The early church was attacked from the outside (persecution) as well as the inside (heresy). Persecution is easy to understand. However, the potential for heresy came about because Christianity was in its infancy, and there were those who tried to fuse pagan beliefs into Christianity. The modern church is facing these same issues today.
    • Persecution against the church and individual Christians is on the rise.
    • There are false theological positions being promoted openly.
      • Those who believe Genesis chapters 1-11 are fictional. This opens up pandora’s box. If you don’t believe in the first 11 chapters, how can you honestly believe in the rest?
      • The overemphasis on grace and the underemphasis on obedience, judgment, and hell.
      • Biblical fact that God created two sexes, man and woman, to be joined as one in marriage. The Bible speaks explicitly against homosexual behavior. The only conclusion is that same sex-marriage is a false teaching and a perversion of Scripture.
  • It was used by the Jews to undermine the simplicity of the Gospel. They believed that God’s gifts and grace were solely for the Jews. They argued that anyone converting to Christianity needed to be circumcised and submit to Old Testament Law.

The thing that is holy and the pearls in this verse are the Gospel message. The dogs and pigs are likely unbelievers and active enemies of the Gospel. Jesus is not telling His followers not to share the Gospel, but He is saying that after prolonged rejection, reproach, and harassment, it is best to move on and share with others. This is precisely the methodology that Paul applied on his mission trips.

  • Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas boldly said: “It was necessary that God’s message be spoken to you first. But since you reject it and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles!
  • Acts 18:6 But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook his robe and told them, “Your blood is on your own heads!  I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
  • Acts 19:9 But when some became hardened and would not believe, slandering the Way in front of the crowd, he withdrew from them and met separately with the disciples, conducting discussions every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

How do we apply this passage?

  • When you judge others, because it will happen, examine the spirit in which you do it. Do you take a loving, humble, and restorative approach, or are you condescending, vindictive, and condemning?
  • Do you make sure your life is in order, and you are not hypocritical? If you’re not willing to walk the walk, you shouldn’t talk the talk.
  • Don’t shy away from the opportunities to correct and restore a fallen brother or sister. Just because we need to be careful in how we do doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.
  • Don’t be naïve in dealing with a lost world. It’s a delicate balancing act, and there is wiggle room in how each of us would interpret and react to any given situation. At the same time, there is biblical support for withdrawing from those who are either unresponsive to the Gospel or are openly hostile to it.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Fifteen

Do Not Worry – Matthew 6: 25-34

In this lesson we’ll address the issue of worry.

25 “This is why I tell you:  Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?  26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith?  31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,  and all these things will be provided for you.  34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (HCSB)

The central theme here is “worry,” occurring six times in this passage. The entire passage focuses on God’s provision of food and clothing and our worrying over these basic needs. These two areas were key concerns for the first century. However, we shouldn’t focus on just these two items as they are two examples to teach us a broader principle regarding God’s provision. We could place any basic need that makes us worry here, such as shelter, community, job, etc.

There’s an old saying that is applicable here. If you’re worrying, you’re not trusting; and if you’re trusting, you’re not worrying.

Verse 25

Some translation start verse 25 with “Therefore,” defining the relationship between a kingdom servant and the king. In the previous passage, Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus called for total devotion from His followers. Now Jesus is saying that when we enter into this type of relationship with Him, He will take care of our needs (not wants). It is a mutual commitment established by the covenant relationship between Jesus and His followers. Those who are totally committed to the King do not need to worry.

If God gave us life, surely we can trust Him to provide for our basic needs; food and clothing.

Verse 26

Birds don’t worry. They don’t store up food for the future, and yet their lives go on. They aren’t concerned with hoarding material wealth. They are content with their daily provision. At the same time, this is not a promotion of being lazy.

  • Colossians 3:23-24  Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:10  In fact, when we were with you, this is what we commanded you: “If anyone isn’t willing to work, he should not eat.”

We need to be careful here to differentiate between those unwilling to work and those not capable because of a handicap or injury. Under those circumstances, the Christian community should help the brother or sister who is unable to provide for themselves.

Verse 27

The original Greek phrase reads, “add one forearm length (pechys) to his age/stature (helikia).” The word helikia usually denotes a measure of age or maturity as in Hebrews 11:11, but occasionally it is used for physical stature as in Luke 2:52. In the context of this passage, it must refer to a measure of time. Jesus’ followers are not to worry as that won’t age any time to their lives. Most likely, the opposite would happen. Worry and anxiety would shorten their life.

Verses 28-32

In verses 28-30, Jesus talks about the flowers and how beautiful they are. If God gives beauty to something as short-lived as a flower, won’t He care for us in a much greater manner? If God bestows beauty and love on a flower, won’t He give even greater care and love to people who are created in His image?

Jesus’ use of “you of little faith” in verse 30 is not meant in a derogatory manner. It only occurs in the New Testament here and in Matthew 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, 17:20, and Luke 12:28. The term can be confrontational but can also be used in an endearing context. Jesus’ tone is not scolding but coaxing with an arm around our shoulder. Jesus is not belittling the disciples; He was encouraging them.

Another reason Jesus’ followers are not to worry is that worry marked the habits of the pagans (idolators) in verse 32. Worry marks those who don’t truly know and understand God. Worry is, in its most basic understanding, distrust of God and sinful behavior.

Verse 33

This verse is the climax of the passage. The word “seek” does not mean to search for something that is not present. Jesus has already announced the arrival of His Kingdom. In the context of this passage, it means that Jesus’ followers are to make the heavenly kingdom a continual and central priority in their daily lives. Jesus’ followers have already entered the heavenly kingdom and are to live with that understanding as they follow God’s design for their lives. By doing this, they “seek…His righteousness.”

To build on this understanding, we need to go back to the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in verse three, where Jesus points out our spiritual bankruptcy and complete lack of righteousness apart from God. Righteousness comes as a free and merciful gift, grace through faith.

Ephesians 2:4-10  But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.

The first reference to righteousness appears in Genesis 15:6 Abraham believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

Paul confirmed this in Romans 4:2-25.

The New Testament is clear that the righteousness of God comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ. Romans 3:22-24  22 —that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Jesus speaks to this in John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

However, it is logical to ask the question of why so many Christians throughout history, even to our present day, suffered deprivation and even starvation. There are several possible solutions.

  • The promise is for the period after Christ’s return. However, the hole in this argument is why Jesus would tell His followers not to worry in the present age.
  • The proper understanding is that Jesus’ followers have not correctly applied Scripture throughout the ages.
    • Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
    • Mark 10:30a who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time
    • Acts 2:44-45 Now all believers were together and held all things in common. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had need.
    • Jesus’ teaching implies the sharing of goods within the Christian community. When Jesus’ followers corporately seek first His priorities, they will take care of the needy within their local fellowship communities.

Verse 34

Jesus concludes this passage by encouraging daily dependence on God but also stating that it will never be completed in this age because of daily worry (evil) that exists. This is also a trust issue. If we truly trust God, we won’t worry about tomorrow. We are to live in the present and trust God for the future.

Applications

  • Does worry control you or even affect your daily living? That’s an indicator of a lack of trust in God and the truth of His Word. Repent of that sin and trust in the promises of God. Remember that pagans are controlled by worry and try to appease their “gods.” As Christians, we have a loving and merciful God who we don’t need to appease.
  • Are there people around you who are controlled by worry? Pray for them and talk to them about the promises of God. If they aren’t believers, it is a perfect opportunity to share your testimony about how God has changed your life and how you now live worry-free.
  • Remember that righteousness comes from an understanding of being spiritually bankrupt apart from faith in Jesus.
  • Be generous with what God has blessed you with and help those less fortunate in the body of Christ.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Fourteen

God and Possessions – Matthew 6:19-24

Part fourteen in my series on the Sermon on the Mount looks at Jesus instructing the disciples on where to place their trust and priority regarding the use of their resources, whether financial or other resources.

Matthew 6:19-24  19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and consuming insect destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor consuming insect destroy and where thieves do not break in or steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore if your eye is sincere, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be dark. Therefore if the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one is able to serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You are not able to serve God and money. (HCSB)

This passage is connected with Matthew 6:1-18. In the earlier passage, there is a contrast between the temporal rewards and attention of men and the permanence of heavenly rewards. Here, Jesus is drawing the same distinction but using earthly wealth and heavenly wealth, one temporal and one permanent.

History, including Scripture, contains numerous examples of people who allowed the love of money to ruin their spirituality and negate their witness.

  • Solomon allowed the love of money and women to ruin his spiritual life.
  • Ananias and Sapphira lied about the sale price and were struck dead.

The Bible does not teach that money is evil. Money and possessions don’t create evil; it’s the people who misuse them that creates the evil.

Jesus is not speaking against possessions; He was teaching against an unhealthy preoccupation with them.

Verses 19-21  19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and consuming insect destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor consuming insect destroy and where thieves do not break in or steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

In the ancient world, wealth didn’t appear in the same form as we understand it today. Often it consisted of precious metals or cloth. Moths would eat away at the fabric, and rust could destroy precious metals. Theft is a timeless danger in a fallen world. All three indicate a form of wealth destruction regarding temporal treasure.

This passage does not imply that Christians can’t be wealthy. It does mean that riches bring serious dangers ranging from theft to destruction over time. Christians must be characterized by being generous givers and careful stewardship in using their resources for Kingdom work.

One of the greatest, if not the greatest, danger in the modern Western church is the lure of materialism with our affluent culture. This is especially true for those that have been seduced by the prosperity gospel lie. Often those who “minister” push this false teaching are driving six-figure cars, wearing designer clothes, and living in lavish houses. The amount of money that was misused for those luxuries could be used to impact communities either in-country or for those living in 2nd and 3rd world countries. 

Here Jesus is warning against three kinds of pleasures/possessions.

  • Those that will wear out like old clothes.
  • Those that can be eroded.
  • Those that can be stolen.

Jesus is painting a contrast between earthly treasures and heavenly treasures. This is an important distinction as it is an indicator of the heart and values of a person. The heart represents the core of a person’s being, the true inner self. What a person values and demonstrates with their life is shaped and driven by their heart.

Verse 22-23  22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore if your eye is sincere, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be dark. Therefore if the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

The reference to the eyes is a metaphor here. In Jewish literature, there is a close connection between the heart and the eye. Eyes enable the whole person to see. Good and bad eyes are a reference to a good and bad heart and where our treasure is stored. It is also a metaphor regarding our perspective on wealth. A person who has a healthy and generous attitude towards their wealth is full of light. A person who has a selfish or covetous attitude is filled with darkness.

Verse 24  No one is able to serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You are not able to serve God and money.

A proper understanding of the terms “master” and “serve” is required to properly understand this verse. Master is referring to someone or something that requires total allegiance. The Greek word for serve, douleuo, indicates work done by a slave and not an employee. The master requires exclusive service from their slaves. It is a choice between two competing loyalties that are not compatible. We can’t serve two masters in the same way that we can work multiple jobs or even support multiple sports teams.

“Love” and “hate” in Semitic thinking are equivalent to “choose” and “not choose.” When we choose not to hate money, we are, by the cultural standards of Jesus’ time, choosing to love money. When we neglect God, we are, in Jesus’ understanding, choosing to hate God.

Jesus is saying that it is not possible to serve God and money at the same time. The term “money” is from the Aramaic word mamon, which means wealth or property. It is anything that a person places their confidence in and controls the person’s actions. If a person puts their trust in money, that will control their actions making it impossible to serve God in a selfless manner. However, placing their trust in God will allow them to serve generously regardless of how much money or resources they have. They will use the money and resources for the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

Applications

  1. Examine how you treat money and possessions in your life. Do they control you, or are you in control of them? Are you generous, or are you selfish? Pray for the Holy Spirit to convict and guide you in this area of your life.
  2. Are you always looking for your next “toy” to purchase? Often, we are blinded by our wants when we should be concentrating on our needs. It is not wrong to treat ourselves occasionally. However, big purchases or continuously treating yourself is a sign that mamon is in control of you.
  3. Are your eyes a portal to light or darkness? This requires an honest, and often uncomfortable, self-examination. Pray for conviction and revelation in this area, knowing that confessing and repenting lead to forgiveness.
  4. Do you understand that not choosing to follow God in any area of biblical guidance is the same as choosing to hate God? These are not my words; they are the words of Jesus.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Thirteen

Biblical Fasting – Matthew 6:16-18

In this lesson we’ll look at Jesus’ instructions to His disciples on how to fast.

16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, 18 so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (HCSB)

Before diving into this short passage, the one key term, fasting, must be defined to properly understand what Jesus is telling His disciples.

Fasting differed in purpose and practice between the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, there were three general types of fast:

  • Normal – no food was eaten for a predetermined period of time, but liquids may be permitted.
  • Partial – eating food was limited but not completely forbidden.
  • Absolute – no food or liquids of any form were consumed during the fast.

And Old Testament fasts were done calm God’s wrath and move Him away from executing judgment. Fasting was always associated with a mournful attitude.

  • During times of emergencies, the people fasted to prevent disaster:
    • Judges 20:26 – The whole Israelite army went to Bethel where they wept and sat before the Lord.  They fasted that day until evening and offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord.
    • 1 Samuel 7:6 – When they gathered at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out in the Lord’s presence.  They fasted that day,  and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.”  And Samuel judged the Israelites at Mizpah.
    • 1 Kings 21:9 – In the letters, she wrote: Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people.
    • 2 Chronicles 20:3 – Jehoshaphat was afraid, and he resolved  to seek the Lord. Then he proclaimed a fast  for all Judah.
    • Jeremiah 36:6 – so you must go and read from the scroll—which you wrote at my dictation —the words of the Lord in the hearing of the people at the temple of the Lord on a day of fasting. You must also read them in the hearing of all the Judeans who are coming from their cities.
  • Liberation from trouble. 
    • 2 Samuel 12:16-20 – 16 David pleaded with God for the boy. He fasted, went home, and spent the night lying on the ground.  17 The elders of his house stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat anything with them. 18 On the seventh day the baby died. But David’s servants were afraid to tell him the baby was dead. They said, “Look, while the baby was alive, we spoke to him, and he wouldn’t listen to us. So how can we tell him the baby is dead? He may do something desperate.” 19 When David saw that his servants were whispering to each other, he guessed that the baby was dead. So he asked his servants, “Is the baby dead?” “He is dead,” they replied. 20 Then David got up from the ground. He washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes, went to the Lord’s house, and worshiped. Then he went home and requested something to eat. So they served him food, and he ate.
    • 1 Kings 21:27 – When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put sackcloth over his body, and fasted. He lay down in sackcloth  and walked around subdued.
    • Psalm 35:13 – Yet when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting, and my prayer was genuine.
    • Psalm 69:10 – I mourned and fasted, but it brought me insults.
  • Commitment to prayer.
    • Ezra 8:21 – I proclaimed a fast  by the Ahava River,  so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us, our children, and all our possessions.
    • Nehemiah 1:4 – When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying  before the God of heaven.
  • On the Day of Atonement to mourn their sins and reconcile with God.

However, fasting became abused and turned into a public spectacle instead of a humble submission, and Yahweh rejected such fasts:

  • Jeremiah 14:12 – “If they fast, I will not hear their cry of despair. If they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. Rather, I will finish them off by sword, famine, and plague.”
  • Isaiah 58:1-10

By the time of Jesus, fasting had developed into a rabbinic tradition to demonstration piety that was largely ritualistic. However, Jesus’ understanding of fasting is significant in that it represents a shift in the role of fasting. His initial attitude undoubtedly reflected the fact that he grew up participating in the regular fasts and therefore shared the prevailing teachings of his day. Yet, his mature teaching about fasting breaks with the rabbinic tradition.

  • Jesus’ first concept of fasting is from the viewpoint of dependence on God during the temptation in the wilderness.
    • Matthew 4:2 – After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights,  He was hungry.
    • Luke 4:2 – for 40 days  to be tempted by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over,  He was hungry.
  • Jesus ushers in the beginning of eschatological times, breaking the power of the evil age. Old Testament fasting is no longer consistent with the spirit of thanksgiving and joy that Jesus brings. However, the Kingdom is not fully here, and fasting still has its place.
    • Fasting must be done in the context of joyful thanksgiving of our new life in Christ.
    • New Covenant fasting should be done in the context of our prayer life: quietness before God, from a sense of gratitude, expressing thanksgiving, grounded in faith, leading to spiritual growth.

Now that fasting has been defined, let’s look at what Jesus is telling His disciples about fasting.

Verse 16  “Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!

Notice the first word of the passage, “whenever.” This implies that Jesus’ followers are to fast. This isn’t descriptive; it’s prescriptive. At the same time, it is essential to fast with the proper attitude.

  • Privately before God.
  • Not in public.
  • Jesus is telling His disciples how not to fast in verse 16.
  • Those who make fasting a public display have already received their reward from others; no further reward will come from God.

Verse 17-18   17 But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, 18 so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Verse 17 This is basically a call to appear “normal” and not as one who is fasting. For someone to wash their face and put oil on their head was to act in a manner that would not indicate to others that they were fasting.

Verse 18  Only God should know that a follower of Christ is fasting. Of course, there are exceptions to this:

  • A church-wide fast.
  • A fast by members of a small group.
  • A family fasting together.
  • This list is not exhaustive but should give you an understanding of principles.

Fasting done with the proper attitude and in private is honored and rewarded by God.

Let’s a quick look at five reasons fasting is a positive thing to do.

  • Good for your health. Let’s be honest; the modern western world is overfed and under-exercised. Enjoying food is not a sin, within reason, but do you live to eat or eat to live?
  • Good for self-discipline. This is the counter to the self-indulgent world in which we live where self-denial is frowned upon.
  • Prevents us from becoming slaves to a habit. We can fast from more than food. The modern habit that is enslaving the world is our connection to cellphones and social media.
  • Preserved the ability to do without things. What things or items in your life are really essential? The smaller the number, the more independence you will have.
  • Makes us appreciate what we do have all the more. Are we so used to being “satisfied” that we’ve become dull to what we consider normal while people in other parts of the world live day-by-day?

How do we apply this short passage to our lives?

  • Do you fast? Jesus makes it clear that fasting is not optional. Fasting doesn’t have to be from food. It can be from anything you have placed a dependence on: cellphone, television, computer, social media, or anything else that fits the criteria.
  • When we fast, do we do it with the proper attitude? Do we do it to draw closer to God, help with our prayer life, or to bring a petition of an area of our life before God?
  • This section on the Sermon on the Mount is addressing an inside-out change. Examine yourself. Are you more concerned with external appearance or inner transformation? One leads to spiritual growth and relationship with God, and the other leads to spiritual decay and death.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Twelve

The Disciples’ Prayer – Matthew 6:5-15

Today we’ll look at a passage that is well known and often called, incorrectly, the Lord’s Prayer. One only has to look at verse 12 asking for forgiveness of debts (sins) to understand this is a prayer Jesus would not need to pray. It is important not to get into a semantics discussion, but the prayer is focused on how Jesus’ disciples should pray.

“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!  But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters,  since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.  Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him. “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.  For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing,  your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.  15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

Verses 5-8 set up the general guidelines for prayer.

  • Public prayer is not condemned, but public prayer to draw attention to yourself is.
    • Those who pray to draw attention to themselves are hypocritical in their pious behavior; there is a direct correlation between hypocritical prayer and hypocritical giving in the previous section. Both represent a heart problem.
    • They will receive their “reward” from other people but forfeit any reward from God.
  • Repetitious or babbling prayer is condemned.
    • Rote repetition without thinking is useless.
    • This is how the pagans prayed to their gods.
    • Using this method to manipulate God is foolish.
  • Long prayers are not condemned – Luke 6:12 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God.

Verses 9-13 represent the format on how to pray, not a formula or rote memorization without thinking about what Jesus’ followers are to pray.

  • Jesus is not commanding His followers to pray, but He is inviting them to pray.
  • Jesus is giving a model for how to pray, not verbatim repetition.
  • The order in the prayer falls in line with Old and New Testament practices of placing God first and then personal need in the context of community.
  • It ranges from honoring God’s name, kingdom, and will to the daily themes of food, sins, and temptations.

It begins with the term “Father,” which in the Greek is “Abba,” a term used by children for their earthly fathers and indicates a sense of warmth and intimacy in the security of their father’s presence. There is another connection here. The expression “our Father” indicates a relationship with have not only with God but with other believers. We are part of the spiritual family of God.

Following the initial address to God in verse nine, there are six appeals. The first three pertain to God, the vertical relationship. The last three concern human needs, the horizontal relationships. We are always to place God first and then our needs and the needs of our neighbors. This is the same order that the Ten Commandments take.

  • That God’s name is honored as holy.
  • The final Kingdom of Jesus would come.
  • God’s will would be done.
    • John 4:34  “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work,” Jesus told them.
    • Matthew 26:39  Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
    • Romans 8:18-25
  • Asking for daily sustenance Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
  • Confession of our sins (debts) – this area should decrease as we mature.
  • Preparation for spiritual battle – this area should increase as we mature.

Note that the word “and” appears between the last three. This emphasizes that these are the constant needs of God’s people. Also, note that there is no “and” between deliverance from temptation and deliverance from evil. They belong together as one request as the evil one is the one who tempts. God may test us but never tempt us.

Another fascinating thing to note about the last part is the unity and the three periods of time that all humans experience in bringing things before God.

  • Asking for bread brings the needs of the present.
  • Asking for forgiveness brings the past.
  • Asking for help in temptation commits the future into God’s hands.

We are to lay the past, present, and future before God and trust in His grace, mercy, and provision.

Verses 14-15  Jesus reemphasizes the fifth appeal of forgiving others. Our salvation does not depend on our merits or what we do. It is solely on the mercy and grace of God. Once we have received God’s forgiveness and salvation, we are to extend that same forgiveness to others,

Matthew 18:21-35. Receiving God’s forgiveness should motivate us to forgive others.

Applications

  • Examine your prayer life in multiple areas.
    • Do you have a prayer life? Is it vibrant? Is it more than 5 or 10 minutes a day? Do you do it for show? Is it mechanical?
    • Some people view prayer as either a mystical activity or a formula activity. Yes, there is an element of mystery, but I would encourage you to approach prayer as if you’re talking to your father because you are!
    • Spill out your heart but don’t worry about sounding eloquent. God is not worried about form over substance in our prayer lives.
  •  Look at the format of the Disciples’ Prayer as a skeleton that you fill in the rest with your words.
    • Honoring God.
    • Praying for Jesus’ return.
    • Praying for God’s will to be accomplished.
    • Praying for our needs and the needs of others.
    • Confessing our sins.
    • Preparation for spiritual warfare.
  • Two acronyms to structure your prayer life
    • ACTS
      • Adoration
      • Confession
      • Thanksgiving
      • Supplication
    • TACS
      • Thanksgiving
      • Adoration
      • Confession
      • Supplication
  • Forgiving others
    • Do you forgive, or do you become resentful and try to “get even?”
    • Just as we are forgiven, we are to forgive others.
    • This is challenging as our “human” tendency is to retaliate in some way. Followers of Jesus are expected to refrain from that. Instead, extending mercy and grace to those who harm us in some way.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Eleven

How to Give – Matthew 6:1-4

Part eleven in my series on the Sermon on the Mount. This lesson will address giving the Jesus way.

6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness  in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!  But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Verse 1 serves as an introduction to the section 6:1-18 warning against acts of righteousness before men and losing your reward from God the Father in heaven.

It should also be noted that verse 1 does not contradict what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 as 6:1 is done for a selfish motive, and 5:16 is done to glorify God.

It’s also easy to forget that in Jesus’ time, there were no social welfare programs to help the poor, the widows, the orphans, or those who were sick. The programs that we take for granted were a void in the ancient world, often resulting in death to those who found themselves in one of the situations listed above. The Law addresses this back in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 15:11  For there will never cease to be poor people in the land;  that is why I am commanding you, ‘You must willingly open your hand to your afflicted and poor brother in your land.’

But the main thrust of the passage is Jesus warning against doing acts of kindness or charity for the wrong reason. Once again, it is the condition of the heart when taking action that is important. If a person’s motives for participating in charitable activities are to draw attention to themselves, then the only acknowledgment they will get is from other people, not God. The very act of public religious practices is dangerous, even if the original or intended motive is pure, as it is very easy to slide down the slippery slope and bask in the adulation and praise that may follow public acts of kindness. Churches or organizations that publicize the names of those who give should stop that practice. If their giving is from a pure heart, they won’t want their names revealed anyway. And if they do, maybe the church or organization should have a talk with them and refer to this passage. Although churches and organizations may wrestle with the idea of losing donors, possible large donors, by adopting this policy, it is the course prescribed by Scripture.

Let’s consider three reasons people give.

  • People may give from a sense of duty. They may give not because they wish to give, but because they feel that giving is a duty which they cannot easily escape.
  • People may give from motives of prestige. They may give to take for themselves the glory of giving.
  • People may give simply because they have to. They may give simply because the overflowing love and kindliness in their hearts will not allow them to do anything else.

Only the last reason is from a pure heart. Don’t get confused by the phrase “because they have to.” This compulsion comes from their heartfelt concern for others and not any selfish reason.

Another point that is not stated explicitly here but is implicit as it flows from the character of Jesus is the concept of sacrificial giving.

2 Cor 8:9-11  For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though He was rich,  for your sake He became poor,  so that by His poverty you might become rich. 10 Now I am giving an opinion on this because it is profitable for you, who a year ago began not only to do something but also to desire it. 11 But now finish the task  as well, that just as there was eagerness to desire it, so there may also be a completion from what you have.

In Judaism, there were three great works of religious life:

  • Almsgiving
  • Prayer
  • Fasting

Jesus will address all three of these topics in Matthew 6:1-18.

Let’s look at verses 2-4 as one bundle.

The word “when” implies that giving is expected; it’s not an optional act but a lifestyle. At the same time, Jesus was saying they shouldn’t act like the many in the temple and on the streets acted. The outward appearance looked like they were concerned for the needy, but they were actually looking for praise for they were doing. Jesus is condemning them for being motivated by the wrong reasons, seeking personal glory for their actions instead of giving glory to God.

In verse 3, Jesus says, “but when,” indicating a contrast between how His followers were to act and the false piousness of the hypocrites. Since God sees all that we do, even our publicly hidden acts of kindness will be noticed, who will reward us.

The reward that Jesus promises here follows the central theme of the Sermon on the Mount – the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. The rewards will lead to spiritual growth in this life and final perfection when we are resurrected.

While Jesus is encouraging generous giving, He is not advocating being irresponsible with an individual’s money. Stewardship of our financial situation is still expected.

Applications

  • First, if you don’t give, why is that? Giving falls into several areas.
    • Our offering to our church. If you belong to a local body of Christ, you should give an offering. Tithing is an Old Testament concept, but offerings are still
      • 2 Corinthians 8:12    For if the eagerness is there, it is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.
      • 2 Corinthians 9:11  You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us. Note: This is not speaking of a prosperity Gospel.
      • Hebrews 13:16  Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.
    • Offering to charitable organizations. There are many that support orphans, widows, and medical needs, to name a few. Find one or more that tug on your heart to support.
    • Helping those in need we might meet in our daily lives. Examine each of these areas. This can be challenging as we never know when someone may be playing a game and aren’t really in need. Let the Holy Spirit lead you in those cases.
  • If you already give check, your motive for giving. I’ll re-list what I wrote above.
    • People may give from a sense of duty. They may give not because they wish to give, but because they feel that giving is a duty which they cannot easily escape.
    • People may give from motives of prestige. They may give to take for themselves the glory of giving.
    • People may give simply because they have to. They may give simply because the overflowing love and kindliness in their hearts will not allow them to do anything else.
    • If you are doing it for any reason other than the third one, ask for forgiveness and give from a pure heart and with pure motives.
  • If you see a brother or sister not giving or giving for the wrong reason, challenge them. This is never easy and may result in a strained or broken relationship. However, we are called to walk alongside our spiritual brothers and sisters and help them grow. Knowingly ignoring a situation where they are acting contrary to Scripture is also sin on our part.

Sermon on the Mount Lesson Ten

Love Your Enemies – Matthew 5:43-48

Part ten in my discussion on the Sermon on the Mount is one of the more challenging messages…from the perspective of our human nature. How do we love someone when that person is anything but loveable, or they are outright antagonistic towards us?

43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those whopersecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (HCSB)

Jesus begins with His now familiar phrase, “You have heard that it was said.” Once again, Jesus is going to correct faulty thinking regarding Scripture and teach His followers the true meaning.

The first thing to note is that the phrase, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” is not entirely from Scripture. The first part comes from Leviticus 19:18b, “but love your neighbor as yourself.” However, the second part does not appear in the Old Testament. Some scholars point to various passages of Scripture as an implicit allowance for hating an enemy (Blomberg):

  • Deut 23:3-6  No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the Lord’s assembly; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, may ever enter the Lord’s assembly. This is because they did not meet you with food and water on the journey after you came out of Egypt, and because Balaam son of Beor from Pethor in Aram-naharaim was hired to curse you. Yet the Lord your God would not listen to Balaam, but He turned the curse into a blessing for you because the Lord your God loves you. Never seek their peace or prosperity as long as you live.
  • Deut 25:17-19  17 “Remember what the Amalekites did to you on the journey after you left Egypt. 18 They met you along the way and attacked all your stragglers from behind when you were tired and weary. They did not fear God. 19 When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, blot out the memory of Amalek under heaven. Do not forget.
  • Psalm 139:21  Lord, don’t I hate those who hate You, and detest those who rebel against You?

When we succumb to our sinful, human nature, it is easy to believe and follow the second part of the quote.

What can be understood from Jesus’ stating, “You have heard that it was said,” is that the practice was accepted in Israel at that time.

However, a correct understanding of the term “neighbor” undermines the belief that “hate your enemy” is a proper attitude. Let’s look at three points to support this.

  • God loves all people. At the same time, it is true that God will judge and punish the wicked, but that is not His first choice. God would prefer that all surrender to the Lordship of Jesus and be obedient followers.
  • A proper understanding of Luke 10:25-37 will lead us to conclude that every person we come in contact with is our neighbor. There are no enemies.
  • Matthew 22:34-40  We are to love others the same as we love ourselves.

The proper conclusion is that we are to extend love to everyone.

But what kind of love is Jesus talking about? There are four different Greek words for love found in the New Testament.

  • Eros – sensual or romantic love
  • Storge – love for family members
  • Philia – love that unites fellow believers
  • Agape – God’s love for humanity

Jesus is talking about agape love here. This is an unexplainable love that exists entirely apart from the possibility of being loved back. Where do we see this love? Where is it demonstrated? The answer is that we see it only in Jesus Christ and in His sacrifice on the cross. A review of New Testament passages will reveal that in almost all instances that talk about God’s love, there is also an explicit or implicit reference to the cross.

  • John 3:16 God’s love and the sacrifice on the cross.
  • Galatians 2:20 Paul being crucified with Christ and Jesus’ love.
  • 1 John 4:10  God loving us sending Jesus to atone for our sins.
  • Romans 5:8  God demonstrating love for us and Jesus’ death on the cross.

What is so amazing about Jesus’ sacrifice is that He did it for sinners like me and you, true agape love.

Looking at verse 45, we see that God provides common grace to all people. All of His creation is worthy of care. God desires the evil and unrighteous, the tax collector, and the Gentiles (understood as pagans) to become children in the spiritual family of God. This doesn’t take away from the fact that each of us will stand before the throne of judgment and be held accountable for their life.

Verses 46-47 present a bridge from the beginning of the passage to the final verse. In essence, if we love those who love us and treat us well, we are no different than any lost person in the world. If we act like that, nobody will discern that we are followers of Jesus.

Verse 48 presents a challenge. How are we to be perfect just as God the Father?

Jesus used teleios, a Greek word that means “having reached its end, mature, complete, perfect.” The goal for the kingdom servant is to behave like his Father, and to reach the mature level of supernatural transformation (Weber). To put it in another way, the Greek idea of perfection is functional. A thing is perfect if it fully realizes the purpose for which it was planned, designed, and made. A thing is teleios if it achieves the purpose for which it is intended; human beings are perfect if they achieve the purpose for which they were created and sent into the world (Barclay).

As we reflect on our journey to perfection, we should examine Philippians 1:6, I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

When we think about what this passage says, we must remember that God’s Word is true, and He never changes. God will complete what He has begun. All true believers of Jesus will undergo a process of perfection, although it won’t be complete until we are resurrected in our new bodies.

Jesus is saying that the Law has never pointed to legal restraints, shortcomings from our hardened hearts, or even the law of love. It has always pointed to God’s perfection, as demonstrated by this first part of the Sermon on the Mount. This is the perfection that followers of Jesus must obey if they are true disciples.

We enter into Christ’s perfection when we learn to forgive as God forgives, unconditionally, and learn to love as God loves, unconditionally.

How do we apply this passage to our lives?

  • As hard as it is, and it is, we are called to love all people. When I look around me, and at the news from around the world, it is clear that mankind, including many Christians, fall far short of this standard. At times I am as guilty as anyone. Do we really love others regardless of how different they are from us? It doesn’t matter our skin color, country of origin, ethnicity, gender, social status, wealth, I could go on and on. Jesus is weeping over the hatred on prominent display around the world. We can either get sucked up in this spiral of hatred, or we can be a vehicle for change. Which will you be?
  • Are we really different from the lost in the world? If someone who didn’t know you could observe you secretly for one or two weeks, would they come to the conclusion that you are a Christian? Do an honest assessment of yourself. You may not like what you discover. But, discovering it means you can work on fixing it. Not in your strength, but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Look back on the early church, especially the Book of Acts. Walking in the strength of the Holy Spirit was the difference. Let’s do the same.
  • Don’t be discouraged by setbacks. At the same time, don’t give up in despair. If you are a faithful follower of Jesus, God will complete the work He started in you.