The last half of Matthew chapter five has focused on what men believe in regards to the law. Chapter six focuses more on what men do in regards to the law. Jesus continually uses the phrase “you have heard it said of those of old…” in chapter five as he points out how the law has been perverted. Now, in chapter six, Jesus mentions things such as: charitable deeds, prayer, forgiveness, fasting, wealth, our worth to Him and worry. So we see in this chapter a progression of thought. This sermon is not a group of unrelated proverbs. Follow me, if you will for a minute:
He began by telling us what invokes true happiness. Happiness in the Old testament was fleeting because no one can live up to the standard of the law. If you remember one of our our earlier studies we discussed being blessed (happy) out of Psalm chapter one. The happiness came from three things that people should not do and three things that they should do. Now Jesus states that happiness comes from a changed heart due to brokenness and repentance. Those who followed the letter of the law out of a sense of duty found themselves exasperated and hopeless. Now Jesus shows the essence of the law. Jesus shows the practical living out of the changed life. Looking back to the beatitudes we see that those who are meek will not desire to be known for their charitable giving because they know that God owns it all and they are simple a conduit (6:1). Those who are poor in spirit are praying for repentance, not aloud on a street corner (6:5). Those who have been able to mourn over their sin will be more forgiving because they realize the great forgiveness that they have received (6:14). Those who have pure hearts (…they shall see God) will not fast to be seen by men and praised, but instead to draw closer to Him (6:16-18). Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will not lay up their treasures and hoard them because they would desire to use them for the furthering of the kingdom because that is where their heart is (6:19-21).
Once again we see the depth of this sermon that was preached by Jesus Himself. He seems to be able to tie up all of scripture in these three little chapters.
Jesus now moves on in His sermon to describe the difference in the actions due to a sense of duty and actions that exist due to a changed heart. In the rest of this chapter we see that all sin originates in the mind and heart of man. Each action that we take has been peculating in our minds and hearts long before the evidence of those thoughts comes to to light in our actions.
Jesus says that if a man looks after a woman to lust after her in his heart he has already committed adultery with her. We see a higher standard than the law gave in the ten commandments. Now we are to guard our hearts and minds. The only way to refrain from sinful actions is to have Jesus change our hearts. The term heart means “the seat of the will.” if we do not will something to happen, it has no seed of intention. But in our fallen nature, we tend to sow seeds that are contrary to God’s commands.
Jesus then continues on and speaks on divorce and shows that a simple certificate of divorce does not condone it. He then says that Moses gave them this (certificate of divorce) due to the hardness of their hearts. If a man left a woman and did not giver her a proper divorce, she would have been unable to care for herself. Women could not own property or earn a living. So Jesus was protecting the innocent, not condoning the sinner.
Jesus then goes on to talk about, among other things, murder. Murder begins with anger. The seed of anger creates a murder to happen. Imagine trying to grow a crop without any seed. It would be impossible to do so. In the same way, in order for us to keep ourselves away from being murderers and slanderers we need to abstain from holding grudges and we are to love one another as Christ first loved us.
Jesus, the fulfillment of the Law, now shows how He fulfills it. We no longer strive to “do different” we instead mourn over our sin, repent and Jesus creates in us the ability to “be different.” Only when we have had that change in our lives are we truly the children of God.
Happy Monday! Today we see that Jesus almost seems to change gears in the middle of His sermon. He now says “do not think that I have come to destroy the law or the prophets…” What I am about to write is my opinion, there is no proof, but there is a good reason for speculation. I imagine that Jesus, at this point is starting to get some pretty strange looks. The people surrounding Him that were listening to His words had never heard such things, in fact at the end of His sermon it states that the people were amazed because He “taught as one having authority” (Matt. 7:29). The people had heard the teachers of the day teaching by repeating what other rabbis had already taught. Jesus, in their mind, was teaching in a completely different context. The reason being is that the teachers of the day had perverted the Law and the Prophets and taught them in a way that added many things that weren’t there and leaving out things that were. There teachings were self serving in two different ways. Firstly, with the added traditions, they wrote laws that they could follow and therefore could seem to be righteous by following them. One example of this is the washing before eating. Jesus told them , if you remember: “you wash the outside of the cup while the inside is defiled.” Secondly they considered themselves above some of the laws due to their position (see Mark 7:11-12 in regards to Corban).
As I try to imagine myself there at that very time it seems like Jesus takes just a minute to explain that these are not new truths, nor are they replacement truths; they just simply had not been taught. Now the written word became flesh and the truth of the living Word of God was in their midst. This Living Word had been pointed to in every chapter of every book of the old testament. Jesus was the fulfillment of the law in each and every way. According to the book of Hebrews, the law was a shadow of the good things to come. The good thing to come was the living, breathing, saving Word of the living God. Jesus is Himself fulfilled the Law and the prophets.
If you are just joining this blog Bible study,we usually cover one chapter a day. Due to the richness of these three short chapters That record the sermon on the mount, I have decided to go into a bit more detail.Today we will look at the similitudes.
Jesus begins His sermon with the beatitudes. These short phrases sum up the heart of the true follower of Christ. If one were to sum all eight of them up in a word I believe that the correct word would be broken. The true follower of Christ is broken over their sin and has repented of it. Then Jesus begins talking about what these redeemed people are to be like. Jesus uses two different illustrations of what the redeemed are to be. When focusing on these we need to remember that when He says “you are…” in these phrases, He is using that phrase in an imperative sense. This means that these are not suggestions, but instead they are the effects of a changed life in Christ. He does not say that “we should be” or that we “could be” He says that the redeemed ARE these things. As the reader digests these similitudes, each must look and see if these things are present in their life, for they are the normal traits for the true believer in Christ.
Jesus begins by contrasting the believer with that of light. Light is something that cannot be hidden when in the darkness. A light doesn’t have a choice weather or not to shine, it just shines. Much like the Geico commercials would say “that’s what you do.” A person who has had a changed life in Christ automatically shines His light; that’s just what they do. It is not an effort to be worked toward, it is instead just “what you do.” This is why Jesus illustrates it with a city that is set on a hill. Not only does it shine, but it cannot be hidden. Much like the redeemed in Christ, one cannot even hide the changed life in Christ if they wanted to. Then Jesus also illustrates this again with the light on a stand. He simply states that it would make little sense to place a light under a basket, but instead it would go on a stand so that all in the house may have light. The very purpose of the light within us is to shine in a darkened world, much like the very purpose of a light in a house is to illuminate it. This is the entire purpose for our being; that we may glorify Christ as the world see Him in us.
Friends, if a light doesn’t shine it is not a light at all, it just claims the name. If Christ doesn’t shine through us, we are not His at all either; we likewise just claim the name. Do you shine with the light of Jesus Christ?
Today, as we look at the last two beatitudes, I would like us to again focus on how each beatitude builds on the other. I began to mention this in our last study and after reading it to myself, I found it to be confusing. So, I have made an illustration in order to make this amazing teaching of Christ a little more understandable. We need to first remember that the first four beatitudes are the condition of the heart while the second four are the effects of the changed heart. Please comment and let me know, in all honestly, if the diagram below makes the stair step view a bit more clear. Thanks!
For a larger, printable view, click here: beattitude-stair-step
Today we see the second effect of the changed life of the believer. Jesus says that the pure in heart will be happy. But one may ask “how does one attain a pure heart?” Only Jesus can give a pure heart and we see how it is attained by looking at the second beatitude (those who mourn). The fifth beatitude(the pure in heart) is the reaction of one who has experienced the second one. Those who mourn over their sin can attain a pure heart.
The pure heart is given by God for those who have repented of their sin. It is impossible to repent over something that we do not realize, or are not truly sorry for. Those who have mourned over their sin have only done so in the light of the perfection of Jesus Christ and His Word. When we come into His presence, realize our sin and become sorrowful for it, we repent of it. Repentance is the key to purity. We cannot cleanse ourselves from our own sin, it has to be done by Jesus the perfect sacrifice. When He forgives us, our sin is not covered, it is instead removed. We see in Hebrews chapter 10 that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. It was reminder each year as they were offered. It states that if those things could have removed sin they would not have stopped being offered. But they were only a shadow of the good things to come in Christ Jesus who removes our sin once and for all. There was no happiness in the law and in sacrifices because all they did was remind mankind that we had fallen short of God’s righteousness. Now in Christ we have put on His righteousness (Ephesians 4:24).
Our happiness comes by the knowledge that He has removed our sin and that we can be secure in His righteousness not our own. I John 5:13 states “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” We will stand pure before Him! And when we do sin after repentance, is says in I John 1:9 that “if we confess our sin God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The joy of a pure heart comes by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ who has forgiven us and has chosen to do so before the foundation of the world.
Today we see the first effect of our new being. by “being” I mean we are no longer just doing, but we are transformed into something else in Christ. This fifth beatitude is the effect of the first one. Due to being poor in spirit we are able to become merciful. This type of mercy is no longer a forced mercy because we are commanded to have mercy; it is instead a mercy that has been engrafted into us by Jesus Christ as He has renewed us in Him after repentance.
I remember fighting with my little brother when we were younger. I used to be able to whip him, I’m glad that I moved away because I believe that those days are over. At any rate, I recall our mother making us say that we were “sorry” after an altercation. It was a forced apology that was not meant, but forced on us. We would, reluctantly say the dreaded words, but they meant nothing because we were not sorry at all. Fast forward a few years to when I was in my twenties. There was a new pastor at my church who had walked into a divided, fighting congregation unbeknownst to him. Of course the search committee failed to mention that to him when he arrived. Being on one of these sides (kind of like the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s) I became angry at someone that he had allowed to become a deacon, because after all he was a “McCoy!” I caused that pastor a great deal of stress as I told him how utterly foolish that he was. Then, in selfish, sinful rage I told him that I was leaving the church. This pastor did exactly what he should have done and simply said OK. I couldn’t believe that he didn’t beg me to stay, but I now know that he was much better off with out me because I was in the way of promoting the Gospel. As God, in the following couple of years, showed my how evil and wrong that I was I went to him to tell him how terribly sorry that I was. I was so embarrassed of my actions and I felt so demoralized standing before him. I was not looking to gain anything (other than forgiveness), no one was forcing me to go to him. I was, instead completely broken over my sin and my actions. I still think of those actions in horror as I now realize how I must have caused him such stress and many sleepless nights. If he would have not forgiven me it may have been the end of me for it bothered me so badly. This amazing man of grace later became the one who gave me the encouragement that I needed to accept the call to vocational ministry in my thirties.
The above story is a picture of someone who was truly regretful (greatly regretful) for their actions. When a person comes to the realization of their sin, when forgiven, they have an attitude of mercy. Grace for grace. Due to the grace that has been shown the believer in Christ, grace will be reciprocated. Those who are not full of grace have most likely never really experienced it. Once again, if someone does not feel as though they have much to be forgiven, they do not treasure the grace of God. Grace for grace is the empathy of the believer because we were once where the unhappy, angry one caught in his own sin was, but we have been forgiven.
Jesus gave us the parable about the debtors (Luke 7:36-50). One debtor owed a great deal of money (500 denarii) and another owed a small amount (50 denarii). The creditor forgave both men of their debts, so Jesus posed the question “which of these will love the master more?” This parable sums up the concept of those who show mercy. All of those who come to Christ in repentance realize the great debt that has been forgiven. In turn they love the master and reciprocate grace.
Today we are looking at the fourth step to attain happiness. Today’s step is the hungering and thirsting for righteousness. This step can only come about by these who are meek. If you have not been following this blog daily the steps are listed below.
#1 The poor in spirit (realization of our sin and God’s righteousness)
#2 Those who mourn (severe mourning over our sin condition)
#3 The meek (those who know their place in view of God and men)
#4 Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (longing to be like Him)
As we look at what it means to hunger and thirst after righteousness I hope that each of us reading this will examine ourselves and see if we have fallen in line with the teaching of Christ. The first thing we need to understand is the desperation of those who are truly hungry and thirsty. In the United States there are few who will go with out food or water to the point of starvation or dying of thirst. The desire to meet those two needs when one is hungry or thirsty in the real sense is hard for us to imagine. To what lengths will people go who are this in this type of need? I have read of the atrocities that happened to the US soldiers during the death march of Bataan. The Japanese had taken US troops in the Philippines prisoner and forced them to march for more than one hundred miles with out giving them sustenance. Many did not survive the march and many others were beheaded at the amusement of the Japanese soldiers. One story of the march told by a survivor was that of extreme thirst. If you have never been to South East Asia it is hard to understand how hot it can get. This man tells of troops who dove into an oxen trough to eat the mud that was filled with urine due to their desperate need for water. They gorged themselves as quickly as possible on this mud-urine in order to try and satisfy their insatiable thirst. These men know the real meaning of being thirsty.
In the life of a true believer there is an indescribable desire to be more like Christ. This desire stems from the first three steps mentioned in the paragraphs above. The believer realizes how defiled they are, how much grace has been shown, their position in Christ (He is the master) and there is a strong desire to follow and obey Him in order to do what is right in His eyes. This is repentance. This is what Jesus was preaching about when he said “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In this mentality the individual no longer looks at the Word of God as a book of “what can I get away with?” They instead, look at the Word of God to see “how can I become even more like Him?” Instead of studying what liberty we have in Christ we begin to focus on what we can do to more glorify Him and draw others into His marvelous grace. We begin to think like David in Psalm 51 when He says “search me and see if there is any wicked way in me…”
A good illustration of this is with the consumption of alcohol. Alcohol is always shown in a bad light in scripture (the wine Paul asked Timothy to drink was not alcohol). No where in scripture does it formerly forbid one to abstain from alcohol although, the Bible calls it a moocher (Proverbs 20:1) and says not to be drunk with wine which leads to debauchery but be filled with the spirit (Ephesians 5:8). Scripture also says not to gaze on the wine when it is red…(Proverbs 23:31) along with many more warnings. We hear story after story of those who become addicted to alcohol, marriages that have been torn apart and children left without parents due to it. There are many who have died in traffic accidents due to the use of alcohol and it causes liver damages and poor decision making. Many girls and women will be molested due to the consumption of alcohol. So, the believer is left with a choice, that choice is weather to claim “liberty” which we indeed do have, or to hunger and thirst after righteousness. Do we neglect how the world views us as we decide to take part? Do we chance the circumstances of alcohol consumption due to this liberty? Or, do we look at it from a hunger and thirst for righteousness point of view? When we chose what we want to do in liberty over what will glorify God, we are not thirsty for His righteousness.
The happy, blessed, true believer will always search out ways to become more like Him. It will be a life long struggle with many failures, but it will be a constant fight as we have this over riding desire to put on the righteousness of Christ and become more like Him each day. I believe that any one who does not have this desire has not come to salvation. This attitude is a part of repentance and is necessary for s relationship with Christ.
Tomorrow we will begin to look at the next four beatitudes. These next four are the effects of the first four. Each change that God makes in us causes an effect. Jesus, the master teacher, gives these responses in the next verses.
Today we are looking at the third step toward happiness. We have seen in these verses that one first needs to be poor in spirit (realizing their own sin) and then be in a state of mourning over this sin. Now we see that the next step is meekness. This will be todays focus.
I think that the word meek is greatly misunderstood today. Most believe that in order to be meek one must become a door mat. The common thought is that those who follow Christ are never to defend themselves (either verbally or physically). It is as if we are to allow every one to walk all over us and to treat us with contempt. Although there are some situations that may merit these passive actions, not all do. Meekness has a very specific and understandable definition.
Meekness is the realization of ones standing with God and others. One who is meek is one who realizes their place. I like to look at it as a chain of command. When in the Army, I had people under my command. These soldiers were to take direction from me and it was my job and my position in which to lead them. Although I had men underneath me in rank, I had a great deal more men that out ranked me. So, to some, I led and after others I followed. I did not allow the men under my command to do what ever they felt they needed to do because I was in a position to guide them. I also did not decide to do what ever I deemed necessary because I had those over me who were in charge and I was obedient to them. I had respect for both groups mentioned above, but there was a difference in how I held myself in their presence. In a relationship with Christ we must have this type of meekness. We need to know our place in view of God who is our master and with men in whom He loves.
Once again, this third step is impossible without the first two steps. One will never know their position in Christ if they do not come to the realization of two things: The first is the knowledge of the righteousness of God, and secondly the depravity of ones sin. Only when these things play out can one truly become meek. It is impossible to “fall in line” if we have not yet realized where we are in this chain of command. We will also view others differently when we mourn over our sin. instead of being prideful and looking down our noses at those who are lost or have found themselves in the mess of sin, those who have mourned over their sin and have realized the awesome grace of Christ, will reciprocate that grace. So, in effect, our being poor in spirit allows us to better view those around us and have empathy for them. We are able to do this due to the knowledge that we also were once lost in our own ocean of sin. We had no way to get out from under that sin other than the mercy of Christ Jesus.
Tomorrow we will look at the fourth step toward happiness; a desire for righteousness. Guess what…this step requires the first three steps in order to take hold in our lives.