Notes on

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT --- PART THREE

For 21st Century Disciples

 

 

 

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'  For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well."                                                                Matthew 6:31-33

 

This is Jesus foundational teaching about the life of faith. 

 

The life of faith begins and is sustained by seeking God's

kingdom first.

 

This is essential for our individual and family lives.

 

This is essential for the life of our churches. 

 

 

Jesus final teaching on anxiety:

 

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Let the day's own trouble be sufficient for the day."                                                                                               Matthew 6:34

 

Anxiety:  The fear that tomorrow will not be safe.

 

Faith:  Trusting God to help me through the problems of this day,

            leaving tomorrow in his hands.

 

Does this mean we should never make plans? 

No.

Go ahead and make plans, budget your money, mark the calendar.

 

But always under God.

 

Always open to changes and interruptions sent by God.

 

Always with the focus on what God would have me do today. 

 

Practical help:

 

  1. Begin the day by presenting your body to God as a living

       sacrifice.

 

  1. Begin the day by taking a "shower" in the Word --- even if briefly.

 

  1. Decide upon or jot down the few major things you believe you should try to accomplish this day. 

 

  1. Decide upon or jot down the names of one or two people you believe God would have you connect with this day.

 

  1. Go forth into the day, rejoicing in God, taking this scripture as your theme:          Philippians 4:4-7

 

6.   Keep practicing God's presence throughout the day. 

      Remember that you are  walking under the yoke with the

      Master.

 

7.   Never stop giving thanks.

 

 

"Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye;

Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you."                                                                                        Matthew 7:1-6

 

Judge not, but don't be a gullible fool.

 

Judgment belongs to God alone. 

 

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we are brought back into the Garden of Eden.  There are two trees:  The Tree of Life and the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil.

 

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is the Tree of Judgment.

 

            It belongs to God alone.

 

We no longer eat from that tree.

 

We don't evaluate people --- that belongs to God.

 

We don't pronounce judgment --- that belongs to God.

 

We condemn no one --- in this age even God holds back on condemnation.

 

The Tree of Life is now our sustenance:  Jesus himself.

 

We feed on him and leave all judgment to God.

 

We feed on him by turning his words into living.

 

When we judge, it always backfires.

 

"For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get."

 

This is as firm a spiritual law as the physical law of gravity:

 

            The measure you give will be the measure you get.

 

Sooner or later all our harsh judgments of people will flood back on us.

 

When we judge, it is proof that we are blinded by a log in our own eye.

 

This log distorts our vision.

We don't know what we're doing.

 

Our job is to repent of the log --- of self-righteousness, of resentment, of self-pity,

self-deceit, etc.

 

Once the log is out, we will be less eager to remove other people's specks.

 

And when they ask our help removing their speck, we will be gentle.

 

But don't be a gullible fool.

 

"Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you."

Without judging or condemning, we are to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  We are to beware of false prophets, whose fruit gives them away. 

 

Don't excuse your lazy mind by saying you refuse to be judgmental.

 

When someone is playing games with your attempts to be helpful, you are responsible before God to withdraw.

 

When someone makes claims about their "spirituality" which are belied by their actions, you are responsible before God to face reality and deal with them accordingly.

 

Many professing Christians have lazy minds. 

Jesus made his disciples think. 

He expects us to think. 

 

"Do not give dogs what is holy"

 

i.e.  "Do not be naïve."  Figure it out.  Use the brains you were given.

 

Don't excuse yourself by saying, "I'm not very good at knowing who's who."

 

Open your eyes.  You'll know them by their fruits.

 

Otherwise you will reach a point where you've been so exploited, wasted so much time with spiritual leeches, you will burn out and turn bitter, with no strength or desire to help anybody. 

 

 

"Ask, and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man of you, if his son asks him for a loaf, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?  So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets."                                                       Matthew 7:7-12

 

No conditions:

 

Not "Ask, and if you're worthy, you will receive."

Not "Seek, and if you are deserving, you will find."

Not "Knock, and if you have a decent record, it will be opened."

Every one who asks receives.

Every one who seeks finds.

Every one who knocks will encounter an open door.

Because your claim on God is not your worthiness, but Christ's atonement…his blood…his living word.

 

Jesus presents God to us, not as a Supernatural Nitpicker, but as our Father, who, for all our evil, loves us and wants only good for us.

 

"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him?"

 

The issue is not: "Does this really work?  Is it that easy?  Will I always get what I ask for?"

 

The issue is:  "Do I really understand who God is? What God is like?  Do I understand that I have a heavenly Father who knows me, takes personal interest in me, hears me when I cry out?"

 

If you pray to a machine, you get a machine answer.

 

            "Press One…Press Two…"

 

If you pray to an idol of your own creation, you may find yourself talking to a demon.

 

If you take Jesus at his word and pray to your heavenly Father, he will answer you on his terms and when he chooses.

 

A machine can be programmed to obey your commands.

An idol can be manipulated to suit you.

 

But your heavenly Father cannot be manipulated, commanded, or bribed.

 

Only when you approach him as a true child of his can you "connect."

 

But, as the Lord Jesus stresses repeatedly, your prayer relationship with your heavenly Father is contingent on your daily relationship with your neighbor.

 

"So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets."

 

To be able to pray with childlike faith we need to be right with our fellow human beings.

 

It is impossible to draw near in faith to the heavenly Father, when we have a heart of stone toward our neighbor.

 

 

"Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."                                                                          Matthew 7:13-14

 

How does this teaching mesh with "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world"?

 

If Jesus' death on the cross opens the way for the salvation of the whole race, how can Jesus warn us that few enter life and many enter destruction?

 

"Enter by the narrow gate."

 

What is the narrow gate?   Jesus himself.  Jesus alone, who offers us fulfillment by knowing God and living to his glory.

 

"I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father, but by me."

 

Is this gate exclusive?

 

No.  It is open to all.  Available to all.

 

What about, "Those who find it are few?"  Are they luckier?  More righteous?  Smarter?

 

No, they "find it" because they choose not to walk by.

 

They "find it" because they hear the call of Jesus and

answer it.

 

"For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many."

 

The wide gate:  The world system, which offers fulfillment via money, power, sex, human recognition.

 

Jesus is speaking to disciples who have already heard the call of the narrow gate and answered it.

 

Had they rejected the call, they would have entered the wide gate.

 

The wide gate is the receptacle for all who choose to reject the narrow gate with their eyes wide open. 

 

Jesus makes clear that people are accountable for what they do with the light they have.  No one is judged for

ignorance.

 

God alone is the judge, and his desire is for all to enter the narrow gate.  However, he forces no one to do so.

 

 

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.  A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will know them by their fruits."                                      Matthew 7:15-20

 

There will be false prophets.

 

They will approach us as "genuine believers,"  "saints of God."

 

But beneath the sheepskin, they have a wolf's agenda.  They're out to exploit. 

 

We are responsible to figure out what they are (wolves) and what they're up to.

 

We will never be able to excuse ourselves for being taken in by a false prophet.

 

"You will know them by their fruits."

 

A sound tree bears good fruit.  A bad tree bears evil fruit.

 

Fruits

 --- as words.

Words of truth.

Words of pretense.

            Matthew 12:33-37

 --- as actions

      Not merely prophesying and casting out demons, etc.

 

Is this person doing the Father's will in ordinary life?

Watch out for the money pitch.

 

Are you looking at celebrity power or the power of the Holy Spirit? (which is always clothed in lowliness).

 

 --- as followers

Observe the people who cling to this "prophet."  Their speech, their actions.

 

False prophets come in all shapes and sizes.

 

They are not all on TV. 

They can be part of the "church system."

They can come into your congregation and offer to help.

 

But if you observe their fruit it soon becomes obvious that they have their own agenda.

 

When Jesus says, "Beware," he expects us to use our brains and eyes.

Judge not…..but do not be gullible.

 

 

"Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name , and do many mighty works in your name?'  And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'"                                                          Matthew 7:21-23

 

Once we receive God's grace through Jesus' atonement on the cross we live that grace.  Salvation is a free gift, paid for by God himself at the cross.


But it only becomes ours and remains ours if we receive it to the point of doing it.

 

The kingdom of heaven is for the one "who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." 

 

This is spoken to disciples, people who have committed their lives to Jesus.   Now that they are clothed in his salvation, the emphasis is on doing.

 

Not talking the talk…not feeling the feeling…but doing the will of the Father.

 

"On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?'"

 

"Surely such people must be doing the will of God!  They're prophesying, they're working miracles!"

 

But no.  Somehow these "mighty works" are not recognized by Jesus, in whose name they were done. 

 

Why?  Because these miracle-workers were not walking the walk in daily life.

 

They were not abiding in the Vine.

 

They were full of themselves.

 

It often happens that a person starts out on the road of discipleship, following Jesus with a child-like heart.  But gradually, in subtle ways, they make a "career" out of their "ministry."

 

This can happen, whether you are a clergy person or a "layman."  You have begun fitting God's gifts into your agenda, instead of fitting into his agenda. This happens in several ways:

 

The vanity of "success."

 

You have become so successful, you now begin using your gifts to build your own kingdom.

 

The vanity of "inertia."

 

You've figured out "how to do it."  So you keep doing it your way, without listening for fresh direction from God.

 

The vanity of "a lazy mind."

 

God worked a miracle or two through you in the past.  Now you're in the "kingdom civil service."  All you have to do is keep saying, "Lord, Lord," and wallow in idleness. 

 

Note the surprise on the part of the "Lord, Lord" people.

 

"Did we not prophesy in your name?  Look at all the good stuff we did in your name!"

 

            "I never knew you."

 

Because, beneath a "Christian" veneer they failed to do the will of the Father in daily life.  They were lacking in love, faithfulness, purity, integrity, generosity, meekness --- things which are learned under the Master's yoke.

 

 

"Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it."                                                                Matthew 7:24-27

 

"These words of mine"

 

Jesus' claim that his words will make us or break us, depending on whether or not we do them --- is either the claim of a madman or of the Incarnate Word.  There can be nothing in between these two possibilities.

 

Once we hear them and understand them, the words of the Sermon on the Mount become our Judge.

 

"Every one who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a man who built his house upon the rock…….Every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a man who built his house upon the sand."

 

As long as the sun shines, these two houses are identical.  You cannot tell them apart. 

 

Both houses are "Christian."  Both are "discipleship houses."  They both know the doctrines.  Both claim to be "saved by grace."  Both are "Biblical" ... they have heard the word and subscribe to it. 

 

Then comes the storm.

 

One house stands firm, the other is washed away.

 

The difference:

 

One person heard the Sermon on the Mount ---Jesus' basic teaching to his disciples of all time ---and acted on it, entered into everything these words called for, did what he commanded.

 

The other person heard the same teaching --- thought about it, talked about it, studied it,

mastered the concepts --- but never did it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider:

 

 --- What place does Jesus' Sermon on the Mount hold in our

       churches today?

 

 --- What place does Jesus' Sermon on the Mount hold in our

       personal lives today?

 

 --- Do we understand that these words are addressed to us?

 

 --- Do we understand that Jesus actually expects us to do what

       he's telling us to do in the Sermon on the Mount?

 

 --- Do we understand that Jesus' death at Calvary delivers us from

       our bondage to the past, our bondage to sin, our bondage to

       self, so that we can do these things?

 

 --- Do we understand that the gift of the Holy Spirit is offered to

       us to empower us to do these things?

 

 --- Do we understand that, if we are crucified with Christ, he lives

       in us and will do these things in us?

 

 

"And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes."                                                                     Matthew 7:28-29

 

The crowds were astonished! 

 

Not bored.  Not agitated.  Not hostile ... astonished!

 

Because they recognized one thing about Jesus' teaching that many of us miss:

 

Jesus gives us these teachings with the authority of heaven, not as a religious professional.

 

Scribes and Pharisees are still a dime a dozen. 

Jesus, the humblest of men, spoke with authority.

 

Jesus passed this authority to his disciples:

"As the Father sent me, so I send you…."

 

This still applies.  We are all called to speak, as his disciples, with the authority of heaven.

 

We can speak with the authority of heaven only if we are under that authority ourselves.

 

I can only speak with the authority of Christ if I'm under the yoke with Christ, learning obedience, meekness, diligence, faith, love.

 

"He who abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."

 

 

Suggestions on how to make the Sermon on the Mount a part of your daily life.

 

  1. Every so often, refresh your spirit by soaking in the Sermon on the Mount — by reading Matthew 5, 6, and 7 daily for a week.

 

  1. Memorize the Beatitudes, and put yourself to sleep at night, picturing the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, across the earth --- and the Father's love for them.

 

  1. Consider the parts of the Sermon on the Mount that need work in your daily life.  Such as….

 

Speaking the simple truth.

Plucking out the eye of lust.

Loving and praying for people who despise you.

Trusting that God will provide for you as you seek his kingdom first.

 

            And ask the Father for forgiveness and help.

 

4.  Understand that as you keep taking these words of Jesus into

     your heart and turning them into living, he lives in you and you

     in him.

 

"He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."         John 14:21  

 

 

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