Thursday, October 31, 2013

sermon on the mount-- but I say unto you

You have heard it said...but I say unto you

What really annoyed people about Jesus was that He spoke like He knew everything; like everybody else was wrong and like He was the Final Authority.

Which was true. That is how how He spoke.

But, of course, He did know everything and He was the Final Authority.

One time I told an older man that I was very humble person. The poor gentlemen so disagreed with my assessment of my myself, he almost swallowed dentures.

I think I'm right though.

I see every day how many stupid mistakes I make. So, I'm delighted to be with someone who gives me direction.

My best boss ever was the one who was always telling me what to do.

That's why I love the Lord Jesus. He's the One in Charge, no question about it.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

sermon on the mount--new covenant righteousness

But I say unto you

In Matthew 5:20, Jesus indicates that in order to be in the kingdom, one must have a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees. Jesus then goes on to present six different scenarios from the Torah, demonstrating how the traditional Rabbinic application of the law is inadequate (vs. 21-22, vs. 27-28, vs. 31-32, 33-34, vs. 38-39, vs. 43-44). In each reference to the Torah, Jesus go beyond the physical commandment to unveil the spiritual law, indicating what it looks like when one transcends Pharisaic righteousness.

Which is harder to maintain, Pharisee righteousness or New Covenant righteousness? 

Can you have New Covenant righteousness without also having the righteousness of the Pharisees?


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

sermon on the mount-- rationalizing

Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does them and teaches others to do so, will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

We people are such great rationalizers. Regardless of what the Lord tells us to do, we can figure out ways around it.

We come in two basic groups. Those of us who use the exact letter of the law; and those of us who believe we are spirit led.

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus brings both groups up short.

To the first group Jesus says anger, contempt and immoral thoughts are the same as murder and adultery and will thus be judged accordingly.

To the second group Jesus says marriage, promises and charity must all be precisely acted upon—that it is not just the thought that counts.

Obedience, which is an essential aspect of worship, must be done in spirit and in truth.


Monday, October 28, 2013

sermon on the mount-- do unto others

Whoever does them (the Instructions, i.e., the Torah) and teaches others to do them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

One of the common areas of discussion and disagreement among Christians is the question of where our obligation is regarding the Old Testament Law.

Most of us scratch our heads when we read the Sermon on the Mount. What can the Lord Jesus possibly mean when He demands that we obey the Law precisely, without any compromise?

Many believe the Old Testament Law is made up of 3 pieces: moral, civil and ceremonial and only the moral law is applicable to New Testament Believers.

I believe a better understanding can be found in realizing the authority of the Lord Jesus as the Law Giver. (Moses was merely the one who transcribed the law and delivered it to the people).

So when the Lord Jesus said,  Whatever you wish that others would do to you, this do to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. That is precisely and completely what it means for a Believer to obey and teach the Torah.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

sermon on the mount-- the torah

Do not think I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets

In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus assures His audience that His teachings are consistent with the Torah. Although much of Christianity has “set aside” the commandments of the Torah, some even going so far as to argue that Galatians shows the Torah to be contrary to the gospel, it would make sense that Jesus would wish to see the Torah be appreciated by those in the Kingdom: Jesus is the author of the Torah, the Torah tells His story.

So why does the New Testament seem to have such an ambivalent relationship with the Torah? Perhaps it is not due to errors in the laws of God, but rather errors in how God's laws are being followed. Maybe the answer is not to “abolish” the law, but rather learn how Christ would have us follow the law.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

sermon on the mount --self righteousness

Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of God.

As it was the scribes and the Pharisees who crucified the Holy One of God, to exceed their righteousness, I wouldn’t think, would be much of a problem.

But we do need to be mindful that these were the people who were intensely serious about living righteously. They saw themselves as "standing in the gap" so that God would again return to His Chosen People, and return His Chosen People to their special place among the nations.

Where did their “righteousness” go so wrong?

Unlike the Psalmist, they did not understand the vacuity of righteousness outside of relationship with God.

Whenever we notice in ourselves a sense of self-satisfaction, guaranteed, our righteousness is not exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
There is nothing in all the earth that I desire beside you.
My flesh and heart may fail.
But God is the strength of my heart. Psalm 73:25


Friday, October 25, 2013

Sermon on the Mount-- really righteous

Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of God.

Not too long after I met the girl who became my wife, I suddenly became aware that my wants had changed. My girlfriend's wants had become my wants.

Of course I was in love. Being in love makes everything easy. It was so easy to be generous and kind. Anything that might have annoyed me in the past, now was endearing.

So how does a person achieve the righteousness that the Law demands?

Only by loving, by being in love, with God!--which is the first commandment. Deut 6:5, Matt 22:38


Thursday, October 24, 2013

sermon on the mount --mission accomplished

Not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

My son played soccer with a kid whose dad is a judge. I would frequently talk to this man about his work.

“I really feel,” he told me, “that all people really are basically good.”

I sure wish he was right. I know he sure wishes he was right. But almost every day that he goes to work he has to sentence people to jail because they are not good. They have failed themselves, their families. They have failed society so they need to be punished.
I think all of us long for the good man. Not just the okay man, but the really really good man.

That’s why I like to read about the Lord Jesus.

He achieved all good, and through the direst of circumstances.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

sermon on the mount-- it's all about the Lord Jesus

I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.

Recently I read the story of Joseph and I thought, “Joseph reminds me of Someone.”

I’ve been reading the Psalms and something struck me as unusual. “Who does the Psalmist think he is? So rejected, so humbled, and yet so confident.”

I actually enjoyed reading the book of Leviticus. All these sacrifices and all so precisely made.

This morning I was in Micah, But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Israel. From you shall come forth for me one who is to be the ruler of Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from everlasting.

I wonder, is everything in the Old Testament about the Lord Jesus?


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

sermon on the mount --good works

That they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

We who are Evangelicals have are have very tenuous relationship with good works. We learn that nothing is so deceiving than believing in our own good works, for all our righteousness comes from the Lord Jesus. Very early in my childhood I learned that all my good works were as filthy rags, for I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.

At age 59, I know I'm not much. But I also know that every day I can and I do make choices that are God honoring. I don't just let go and let God. But by God's help, by the amazing understanding that God loves me and desires for me to be good, I can do good—real good; genuinely kind acts that others are effected by, for good.

Every day I observe other Believers pressing on in good deeds. I know that this causes me to glorify our Father in heaven.


Monday, October 21, 2013

sermon on the mount --shine for God's glory

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Why does Jesus tell His disciples to “let your light shine?” Most good deed doers that I know are more than happy to display their good deeds. And when people see these “good deeds” the response is more often jealousy, contempt or praise for the good deed doer, rather than glorifying God.

“Light” speaks of knowledge or revelation. To “let your light shine” is to illuminate God's glory. When people look at your good deeds, what truth is revealed? Do they learn that you are a good guy? Do they see that you are a show-off? Or do they gain insight into the glory of your Father in Heaven?


Sunday, October 20, 2013

sermon on the mount--rays of sunshine

You are the light of the world.

We all have met certain children who are “little rays of sunshine.” In a moment, they can turn your melancholia into joy.

We have a three year old grandson who is a sober little boy. But the moment he sees grandma and papa, his face shines with delight. He is so happy to see us. He’s our little ray of sunshine.

One aspect of being the light of the world is to bring joy to the world, for light brings joy, just as darkness brings sadness.

All of us who are Believers have much to be joyful about. Our joy, like light, need not be hidden, but beneficial to all.  


Saturday, October 19, 2013

sermon on the mount --peace is made through finding the common ground

How is peace “made?” It seems natural to make conflict: just listen to anyone talk long enough and you will hear something with which to disagree. When someone's opinions, preferences or logic fails to gel with your own it is natural to find yourself at odds. So how is peace made? Does peace require the sacrifice of your own opinions, preferences or logic?

Peace is a work of connectivity. To “make” peace one must find common ground between contrary positions. This is what Jesus, THE Son of God, did. He connected God and man by being both God and man. The Peace-maker was literally the Son of God.

In II Cor. 5, the children of God are commended to the “ministry of reconciliation.” As people who are both sinful and righteous, Christians are in a unique position to try to make peace between sinful man and Righteous God.


Friday, October 18, 2013

sermon on the mount-- salt and light

Jesus compares His disciples to salt and light. The two concepts of salt and light seem to illustrate Christ's role in serving as a liaison between God and man, and His disciples' responsibility to follow Him in this work:

Salt is a preservation agent. As the “salt of the earth,” the disciples were to continue Christ's work of representing the earth before the Father in a way that is pleasing. When God sees the earth filled with His righteous saints, His hand of judgment is stayed.

Light allows us to see what is there. The disciples of Christ were to behave in such a way that those who see their good works might respond, as all men were intended to respond, by giving glory to God.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

sermon on the mount-salt of the earth

You are the salt of the earth.

In the English language, that phrase speaks of the common people who are honest and hard working.

I think that could be one interpretation of what the Lord Jesus is saying.

Jesus then warns, if the salt has lost its savor, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

May we be mindful every day that we need to be simple, honest and hard working people. Otherwise, we will be legitimately despised and talked about by the world around us.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

sermon on the mount--peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.

It seems to me peacemakers are people you can't really trust because you don't quite know where they stand. It seems like they try to take everybody's side. I'd just as soon have someone whom I knew I could count on to have my back.

Joshua suddenly saw a man with his sword drawn. “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” Joshua asked him.

“No,” said the man. “I am the commander of the army of the Lord.”

Do we, like the Israelites, just take it for granted that God's got our back against everybody else?

When I find myself with an enemy, I need to think, am I really sure that this person, this group of people is God's enemy? And if so, shouldn't I be thinking about what I could do to facilitate peace between them and God? For blessed are the peacemakers. Peacemaking is one of God's family characteristics. Like Father, like son.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

sermon on the mount--suffering because of Christ

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

In Matthew 5:11-12 Jesus compares the persecution and reward of His follows with that of the prophets. Hidden in this assurance is a claim by Jesus that the prophets suffered because of Him.

Hebrews 11 gives several illustrations of Biblical faith. Although the patriarchs had a limited knowledge of the Messiah, Jesus seems to suggest that those who suffered on His account before His coming are linked into the same purpose and blessing as those who might follow after Him.


Monday, October 14, 2013

sermon on the mount--rejoice

“Rejoice,” I pronounced to our church congregation. “It's a command. In fact it's a double command. Paul tells us, 'Rejoice always in the Lord; again I tell you, rejoice!'”

Probably I should not have been the one saying this. It was a bit like a politician urging his constituency to always be truthful.

But even in the Beatitudes where the Lord Jesus speaks of the blessedness of being poor, of mourning, of meekness and being persecuted, He concludes by telling us to rejoice.

In God's economy, the very things that we think will make us unhappy and cause us to feel that we are unblessed are exactly what He uses to put us in a situation where rejoicing is the only sensible thing to do.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

sermon on the mount--suffering does not need to be sought after

In the beatitudes, Jesus seems to challenge a traditional understanding of what it means to be “blessed.” Yet even in hearing the Lord promise that blessing will go to the mourners, the meek and the spiritually impoverished, I still am still inclined to want to be happy and successful. I would prefer not to mourn the death of those I love. It is nice to be found and comforted, but I would prefer not to be lost in the first place.

Some people like to put themselves in situations where they are guaranteed to suffer, as though being unhappy is a characteristic of spirituality.

For the disciple of Christ, suffering does not have to be sought after. It comes with the job. Yet, unlike the suffering of the world, the suffering of the believer can be a source of “rejoicing and gladness (Matt. 5:12).”


Saturday, October 12, 2013

sermon on the mount--comforted

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

I remembered getting lost as a small child, crying uncontrollably (into oblivion); and then being found by my mother who enveloped me in the softness of her arms and her voice.

The best of all experiences was being found by the one who loved me so very much.

The worst thing about bad things happening to me as an adult is having to endure the efforts of others to comfort me--unless that person is my wife, or my sister, or one of my grown children.

If comfort comes from one who deeply loves me, comfort is the best of all experiences.

And He shall wipe away every tear


Friday, October 11, 2013

sermon on the mount--no pain, no gain

In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus repeatedly insists that there is a reward to persecution -that suffering can result in great blessing. Athletes, like myself, have a saying, “no pain, no gain.” We know that the more the training hurts, the better the outcome will be in our conditioning and performance. This, of course, is not always true. I injured my neck the other day. It hurt a lot. But it will never result in me being a greater athlete. Not all “pain is gain,” Some pain, is just pain.

When Jesus says “blessed are those that are persecuted,” He also requires that they be persecuted “falsely” and “for righteousness.”

Sometimes our “pains” are because of righteousness, leading to reward. Sometimes our suffering teaches us humility and grace, to God's glory. But sometimes we just hurt from bad choices, refuse to learn anything from it, and, to our shame, spend the rest of our lives with a stiff neck.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

sermon on the mount--the kingdom of heaven

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven

The beautitudes are bracketed by “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It’s the first reward, and the last reward.

The kingdom of heaven is in opposition to the kingdom of earth.

 When Jesus came to earth, He was the Great Invader. The demons who saw Him cried out in horror, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”

So why is it that we are so concerned about making a name for ourselves in this kingdom of earth? This is the place where all of us who are Believers will be released from when the last Trumpet sounds.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

sermon on the mount--less is more

The sermon on the mount reflects a different way of thinking. One of Jesus' first “thought revolutions” is His suggestion in the Beatitudes that somehow it is the people who have less that really have more. This sentiment may be comforting to us “have-nots,” but, as Verizon commercials have proven: less is not really more. Although there are often correlations between physical and spiritual blessing (Luke 16:19-31), poverty is not the secret to happiness. We all know a lot of poor people who are not blessed in this life and are working hard to avoid blessing in the next.

So if less is not more and more is not more (Matt. 19:23-24), what, then, is more? Jesus seems to suggest that there is an economy that transcends the physical world. In this economy, suffering can be joyous, loss can be gain, humility can be glorious, and so, in that sense, I suppose, less can be so much more.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

sermon on the mount--blessedly poor

Blessed are the poor in spirit.

I am so happy the Lord said this.
I suppose my life circumstances have been pretty good, actually. But I’m within a few years of retirement and I’m still living pay check to pay check.
My big goal this summer was to watch my bicycle odometer turn over 10,000 miles. 
My goals nowadays are necessarily small.

I do have good friends. I’ve always had good friends.
But as for myself, I’m pretty poor and I'm pretty sure I'll always be poor. And my obituary will be pretty nondescript.

But the Lord Jesus tells me not only is this okay, He tells me I’m blessed to be poor. 


Monday, October 7, 2013

sermon on the mount --so famous

Why is the “Sermon on the Mount” so famous? The words of Christ in Matthew 5-7 speak not only to the heart of Christianity with a message of grace, humility and sacrifice, but the SOTM also has found a place in popular culture. As a Christian, I have a good reason to appreciate teachings on the spiritual world (5:3), instruction on how to pray (6:9-13) or a Rabbi's commentary on the Torah (5:21-48). But what is it that a non-Christian is hearing in this message? It was the crowds, not the disciples, who were “amazed at His teaching (7:28).”

There is something profoundly “anti-religious” about this sermon. Although the SOTM may be a good “reason to be a Christian,” the SOTM also seems to challenge what religion, or even Christianity, might mean.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sermon on the Mount--no one ever spoke like this Man

Over the next 100 days, Daniel Triestman and I will be writing a very short devotional (about 100 words) each day on our Lord Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We will post it on our blog We invite comments.

Sermon on the Mount—Day 1

Matthew’s narrative of the sermon concludes, “And when Jesus had finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching.” I have written in the margin of my Bible, “me too!”  The soldiers who were sent to arrest Jesus couldn’t do their job because, as they said, “No one ever spoke like this man.”

I wrote a series of blogs on entitled, “Why I am not an atheist.” Each blog is a telling of a struggle I had worked through regarding my Christian Faith. But in truth, the pivotal reason I am not an atheist is because of the words of the Lord Jesus, for who but the Diety could say what He said?