Showing posts from July, 2023

The Quest for Authenticity

The Quest for  Authenticity Matthew 6:16-18 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.”               It is easy to fall into the trap of externalizing our faith.  The longer we are a Christians and go to church, the more we can become complacent in our faith.  We know the lingo and rituals, and we can speak “Christianize.”  As a result, we can start just going through the motions of obedience.  Such was the problem with the Jews of Jesus’ day. In the quest to fulfill the law's requirements, they focused on the rituals.  They went to the temple on the prescribed days and offered their sacrifices.  They followed the dietary regulations.  They went to the synagogues to listen to the instruction of the local rabbi.  They became very adept at obeying the rules.  But their faith was exterior rather than interior.             In this passage, Christ is addressing fasting, which the Jews practiced.  Fasts were not a significant part of the religious rituals of the Jews

The Foundation of Prayer

The Foundation of Prayer Matthew 6:7-15 “Our Father who is in heaven, hollowed be Your name.”               The Lord’s Prayer is, without question, the most popular prayer in the Bible.  It is often used to close service and adorns the walls of many churches and homes.  Yet when we look closer, we discover that what we call “the Lord’s prayer” is not a prayer but a lesson on prayer.  In this prayer, Christ is not asking us to pray repetitively in the church. Instead, he is giving us a pattern for the content and focus of our prayer.  Examine the bulk of our prayers today, and the focus is on our daily needs and God’s provision and protection. Indeed, Jesus encourages us to pray for our daily needs, as seen in verse 11.  However, examining the prayer closely, we discover that almost half of the prayer does not focus on our needs but on our awareness of God and submission to him.  In the first two verses, Christ reorients our prayer by drawing attention to the celebration and understandi

A Facade or Authentic Faith

A Façade or Authentic Faith Matthew 6:1-6   “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” (vs. 1)               It is easy to reduce the Christian faith to a façade.  We can follow the rules, talk the talk, be involved in the church and be active, but we still lack authenticity in our faith. Our faith becomes merely an external show rather than a continual inward transformation of our life.  Throughout the sermon, Christ continually confronts us with the necessity of continual and inward change.  But in this verse, he identifies the danger we face in our spiritual lives.             Godly living involves the acceptance and obedience of rules of conduct.  It is estimated that there are 613 commands in the Old Testament and another 1000 commands in the New Testament.  Many commands focus on external acts and deal with either behavior we are to avoid or acts of righteousness we are to perform.  

Resetting the Bar

Resetting the Bar Matthew 5:43-48 “Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”               Growing up on the farm, we often focused on getting the job done.  Because there is always so much to do, especially during the harvest, the focus is on getting things going.  It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to get the job done.  We accepted that things were not perfect because we had many other priorities.             Often in our Christian life, we take the same approach.  Because we are never perfect and still struggle with the daily battle with sin, we can become complacent and begin to accept our shortcomings.  We compare ourselves to others, and if we are as good (or better—at least in our estimation) as other people, then we are content. As long as we are as good as other people in the church, then we are good enough.  The standard we use to set the bar is based on our comparison with others.  This is especially true regarding our relationships with

Responding to an Adversary

Responding to an Adversary Matthew 5:38-42 “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”               How do we respond when someone personally attacks us?  When they make false accusations or verbally assault our character?  The mantra today is to “stand up for your rights.”  If someone has personally attacked or wronged us in any way, we are to go on the offensive and ensure that our rights are not violated and that they respect us. If we feel we are wronged by them, we must make sure they pay.              The first thing we should note in this passage is that the person is genuinely mistreated. The adversary is not just someone who has mistakenly done something against us; we are to overlook it.  In this case, the person is not only clearly in the wrong, but they are motivated by evil.  They have mistreated us with malicious intent and purpose.  Their attacks are unwarranted and inspired by their evil desir

The Importance of Truth

Integrity in Our Speech Matthew 5:33-37 “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or No, no;’ anything beyond these is of evil.”               All of us say and promise things that we fail to fulfill.  We make promises or statements but later retract them because they proved false.  Christ is condemning in this verse not just the misstatements we make but the times when we deliberately deceive others with our words for our agenda and gain. Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Christ does not dismiss the commands and laws given in the Old Testament. Instead, he elevates them by raising the standard to not only included our conduct but also to include our attitudes. Attitudes of indifference towards righteousness precede actions. Thus, Christ moves beyond what we do to how we think.  We are not only to address those actions in our lives that violate God’s standard of holiness, but we are also to examine our attitudes.             In the Old Testament Laws, oaths were used to provide greater

The Seriousness of Sin

The Seriousness of Sin. Mathew 5:27-32 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it away, for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”                Matthew 5:27-32 is more than a passage warning of the dangers of lust and the issue of divorce; it is a passage that points to the nature of marriage and the seriousness of sin and the importance of radical response to the sins that we find ourselves struggling with.             The passage focuses on the sanctity of marriage and the threats that stand against it.  Jesus, in these verses, addresses the two greatest threats to the sanctity and institution of marriage.  The first is sexual perversion. In a sexualized world where sexual freedom is condoned and celebrated, the verse brings a stark warning.  Any sexual activity outside the confines of a biblical marriage is prohibited.  Throughout scripture, sex is not seen as an identity issue but a moral and

The Freedom of Reconciliation

The Freedom of Reconciliation Matthew 5:21-26 “First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”               Author Lewis Smedes wrote, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you.”  In Matthew 5, Christ points to the importance of reconciliation. He begins by referring to the Mosaic law and the 6 th  command, prohibiting murder. Christ then takes it a step further by pointing out that murder is not just an act but an attitude.  Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, he moves from the action to the attitude that leads to the action.  We often view sin solely from the outward deeds we do.  Yet Christ continually looks at the internal feelings and thoughts we have.  When we are angry with others, when we hold resentment toward them, when we look down upon our neighbors, we are nursing the same attitudes that lead to the act of murder. In verse 22, Christ points out our inward attitudes.  Murder is to disregard and devalue the life

Living a Life of Influence

Living a Life of Influence.  Matthew 5:13-20 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”               What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?  This is a question we should always ask ourselves and strive to become.  When we think of being a disciple, we often equate it with going to church, reading our Bible regularly, and praying for guidance and direction.  However, publicly proclaiming our faith, we leave that to the Pastor.  In response to the challenge  to be a witness, we often quote the statement attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.”  However, there are two things wrong with this quote.  However, there is no record that St Francis of Assisi made this statement.  Where the idea came from is a mystery of history.  Furthermore, his life and ministry description reveals that he was passionate about preaching the gospel and would frequen

The Blessed Life

Obtaining the Blessed Life Matthew 5:1-13 “Blessed are….”               The Beatitudes have long been the favorite of many.  In Matthew 5-7, Christ sets forth the conduct and character of those who desire to be his followers.  Like the Ten Commandments, this sermon provides the foundation of how a disciple of Christ is to live.  The Sermon begins by describing what it means to have a blessed life.               In today’s career-driven, accomplishment-oriented culture, we believe that the one who is blessed is the one who has the nicest home, attains financial success, and is recognized for their accomplishments.  Success is measured by how high on the career ladder one obtains and how much fame and recognitiion one achieves.             But Christ points us in a different direction. The one blessed is not the one who is successful in their career, obtains financial prosperity, and gains the recognition of others.  Success is not measured by accomplishments and achievements but by char