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Matthew 1-7

THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT ISRAEL'S KING

by LARRY CORY

 

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE OF MATTHEW

Introduction to the King (1-4)
1. The family tree of the King (1:1-17)
2. The reception for the King (2:1-12)
3. The birth of the King (1:18-25)
4. The King's early journeys (2:13-23)
5. The herald of the King (3:1-12)
6. The anointing of the King (3:13-17)
7. The testing of the King (4:1-11)
8. The good news about the King (4:12-25)

GUIDELINES FOR KINGDOM LIVING (5-7)
1.   We must recognize our heart's need for God's kingdom (5:1-6)
2.   How God's kingdom will be expressed in our hearts (5:7-12)
3.   The influence of God's kingdom (5:13-16)
4.   The moral standards for God's kingdom (5:17-48)
5.   The standard for purity in God's kingdom (6:1-18)
6.   The priority in God's kingdom: Choosing God's riches over the world's
riches (6:19-24)
7.   Guidelines for faith in God's kingdom (6:25-34)
8.   Judgment in God's kingdom (7:1-6)
9.   The pursuit of success in God's kingdom (7:7-12)
10. The narrow road into God's kingdom (7:13,14)
11. The counterfeits of God's kingdom (7:15-23)
12. The battle for security in God's kingdom (7:24-27)

THE KING'S MINISTRY (8-20)
THE LAST DAYS OF THE KING (21-28)

 

Introductory Information About the Book of Matthew

1. The author: The early church leaders were in agreement that Matthew the Apostle was the author of this book.

2. The date: The date that Matthew wrote this Gospel is uncertain.  Because it appears to be written to Jews, it may have been written in the 50s while the church was still primarily Jewish.

3. The theme and purpose:  It is a transitional book between the Old Testament and the New Testament: "its subject matter serves as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments.  Matthew's purpose obviously was to demonstrate that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, that He fulfilled the requirements of being the promised King who would be a descendant of David, and that His life and ministry fully support the conclusion that He is the promised Messiah of Israel." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."  This book by Matthew the Apostle seeks to prove that Jesus was the promised King that was to sit on the throne of David. See Isaiah 9:6-7; Jeremiah 23:5 and Matthew 15:22

 

THE MESSAGE OF THE BOOK OF MATTHEW

INTRODUCTION TO THE KING (1-4)
1. The family tree of the King (1:1-17)
"A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ."

Thought Question: What is there in Jesus' genealogy that surprises you?

 

 

"The reason for this interest in pedigrees was that the Jews set the greatest possible store on purity of lineage.  If any man there was the slightest admixture of foreign blood, he lost his right to be called a Jew, and a member the people of God.  A priest for instance, was bound to produce an unbroken record of his pedigree stretching back to Aaron; and if he married, the woman he married must produce her pedigree for at least five generations back." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."  The genealogy in these verses "is arranged in three groups of fourteen people each.  It is in fact what is technically known as a mnemonic, that is to say a thing so arranged that it is easy to memorize.  It is always to be remembered that the Gospels were written hundreds of years before there was any such thing as a printed book.  Very few people would be able to own actual copies of them; and so, if they wished to possess them, they would be compelled to memorize them.  This pedigree, therefore, is arranged in such a way that it is easy to memorize.  It is meant to prove that Jesus was the Son of David, and is so arranged as to make it easy for people to carry it in their memories."  "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

a. This genealogy reveals God's sovereignty.
It shows that God had fulfilled His purpose and had raised up His King in fulfillment of His predictions.  Compare this genealogy to Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17, Jeremiah 23:5

b. This genealogy reveals God's mercy and grace.
In this genealogy is chronicled the rise of the Jewish kingdom up through David, its fall culminating with their exile into Babylon, and the birth of their King demonstrating God's undeserving mercy and grace toward them.

c. This genealogy reveals God's humility and gentleness.
"It is not normal to find the names of women in Jewish pedigrees at all.  The woman had no legal rights; she was regarded not as a person, but a thing.  She was merely the possession of her husband, and in his disposal to do with as he liked.  In the regular form of morning prayer the Jew thanked God that he had not made him a Gentile, a slave or a woman.  The very existence of these names in any pedigree at all is a most surprising and extraordinary phenomenon.  But when we look at who these women were, and at what they did, the matter becomes even more amazing.  Rachab, or as the Old Testament call here, Rahab, was a harlot of Jericho (Joshua 2:1-7).  Ruth was not even a Jewess; she was a Moabitess (Ruth 1:4) and does not the law itself lay down, "No ammonite or Moabite shall enter the Assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation none belonging to them shall enter Assembly of the Lord forever" (Deut. 23:3)?  Ruth belonged to an alien and hated people.  Tamar was a deliberate seducer and an adulteress (Gen. 38); Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon, was the woman whom David seduced from Uriah, her husband, with an unforgivable cruelty (2 Sam. 11 and 12).  If Matthew had ransacked the pages of the Old Testament for improbable candidates, he could not have discovered four more incredible ancestors for Jesus Christ.  But, surely there is something very lovely in this.  Here, at the very beginning, Matthew shows us in symbol the essence of the Gospel of God in Jesus Christ, for here he shows the barriers going down."  "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."  In this genealogy written by Matthew, he who had been a despised tax-collector, we see God removing the barriers between men and women, between different races, and between the religious person and the sinner.

2. The birth of the King (1:18-25)
a. From Joseph's perspective (1:18-22)

(1) The virgin's miraculous conception (1:18)
"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother    Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit."

Thought Question: This verse divided up people within mainline denominations of Christianity; what do you believe were the two sides of the division?

 

 

Here is described a first: a mother conceives a child while she is still a virgin.  There are those in liberal camp who begin with a bias against anything that is supernatural.  They conclude that mothers do not conceive and give birth to children unless there is an earthly father; therefore, a virgin birth could not have happened and the account in this verse must be a myth.  But, this is no ordinary birth; it is the birth of the King prophesied in God's Word hundreds of years before it actually occurred. See Isaiah 7:14, 9:6; Micah 5:2

(2) The father's reaction (1:19)
"Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly."

Thought Question: What does this verse tell us about the kind of man Joseph was?

 

 

All that Joseph knew at this time is that Mary was pregnant before their betrothal period was completed.  The betrothal stage of a marriage at that time was similar to our engagement period, but more binding on the couple.  It could only be broken by divorce, and our marriages can only be broken by divorce.  Joseph determined, graciously, that he would quietly divorce her to protect her from public disgrace.  His gracious response to the unexpected pregnancy tells us he was not a bitter or an arrogant man.

(3) The angelic explanation (1:20-21)
"But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.'"

Thought Question: What do these verses tell us about how God accomplishes His purposes?

 

 

The angel calls Joseph the "son of David," reminding him of the significance of his blood-line, and then tells him that Mary is still a virgin, for the child that is in her was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and this child is the one who will save Israel from their sins.  Whether or not Joseph realized what a privilege it was to be the father of the Messiah, we are not told.  I am certain, though, that he realizes it now.

b. The birth of the King from a prophetic perspective (1:22-23)
"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel'—which means, 'God with us.'"

Thought Question: What do these verses tell us about the ways that Jesus is unique from any other man?

 

 

Mary's child fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 that a virgin would give birth to a son.  His uniqueness as a man, different from all other men, is described in the name Immanuel or "God with us."  So, God became a member of Joseph and Mary's family and God became a member of the family of man.

There is an argument over whether the Hebrew word in Isaiah 7:14 that is translated "virgin" refers to a young woman or to a virgin.  But, there is no question that the proper translation of the Greek word that is translated "virgin" here is the Greek word for virgin (it is the Greek word, parthenos).  The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, also translates the Hebrew word with the Greek word for virgin.  "Every use of the word [alma] in the Hebrew Old Testament either requires or permits the meaning 'virgin' (Gen. 24:43; Exod. 2:8; Ps. 68:25; Prov. 30:19, Song of Solomon 1:3, 6:8)  That is why the Septuagint translators rendered alma 'virgin' in Isaiah 7:14.  Matthew's interpretation of this word harmonizes with the Septuagint translators' understanding." "Taken from Dr. Thomas Constable's notes on Matthew." 

c. The birth and Joseph's cooperation (1:24-25)
"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus."

Thought Question: What do these verses tell us about what kind of man Joseph was? (Do they give you insight as to why God chose Joseph?)

 

 

We see here that God chose the right man to be the father of the King.  He obeyed the angel and postponed the completion of their marriage until the child was born.

3. The reception for the King (2:1-12)
The events in these verses actually took place some time after the birth of Christ; notice that the baby is no long in a manger, but is at home. See 2:11

a. Heaven's reception for the King (2:1-2)
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe that some from outside of Israel became part of the reception for the predicted coming of the promised King of Israel?

 

 

The Magi were Persian experts in the placement of the stars in the sky.  They often had places of political importance and influence with kings who sought their advice. See Jeremiah 50:35; Daniel 2:2,27,48  Their magical practices included a mixture of astronomy and astrology through which they sought to discern the future.  While they were searching the skies, a star suddenly appears in the skies breaking into the order that they were very accustomed to seeing.  To them, it clearly announced that something special was happening.  Apparently the news about the coming King of the Jews had spread to them, and there was little doubt that this star told of His coming.  "Even the Roman historians knew about this.  Not so very much later than this Suetonius could write, 'There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judea to rule the world'" (Suetonius: Life of Vespasion 4:5).  Tacitus tells of the same belief that 'There was a firm persuasion…that at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers coming from Judea were to acquire universal empire' (Tacitus: Histories, 5:13)." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

b. Herod's hostile reception for the King (2:3-8)
"When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 'In Bethlehem in Judea,' they replied, 'for this is what the prophet has written: 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'  Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, 'Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.'"

Thought Question: What do these verses tell us about God's sovereignty?

 

 

The "chief priests and teachers of the law," when asked where Jesus was to be born referred to the prophecy in Micah 5:2:  "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."  The King promised to Israel would be born in Bethlehem; the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the virgin-born child!

But, there was no room in Herod's kingdom for another king, even if he was the King of the Universe, so Herod immediately looked for a way to eliminate the child intruder.  Do we ever see Jesus as an intruder in our personal kingdom and seek to eliminate Him as Herod did?  Herod was put on his throne by Rome.  They did not care who was on the throne as long as he was able to keep the peace.  Because he was one half Edomite, a nationality of people who were the historical enemies of Israel, and he was now a friend of their conquerors the Romans, the people hated him.  He was able, though, through deceptive strategy to rule over them.  But, he was continually fearful that someone might try to take his throne away from him.  He murdered one of his wives, her mother, and three of his sons to protect his throne.  The Roman Emperor Augustus said that it was safer to be Herod's pig than his son.  We can immediately see why Herod immediately sought a way to remove this new threat to his throne.

c. The Magi's reception for the King (2:9-12)
"After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route."

Thought Question: How do these verses differ from the traditions about the wise men and the Christmas stories that we are familiar with?

 

 

The star leads the Magi to the baby Jesus, and they worshiped Him by giving Him the richest gifts of their day – gold, incense, and myrrh.  Compare these gifts to what Israel had offered their God in Malachi's time in the very last days of the Old Testament: "You place defiled food on my altar. 'But you ask, “How have we defiled you?”'  'By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?' says the Lord Almighty. . . . And you say, “What a burden” and you sniff at it contemptuously,' says the Lord Almighty. 'When you bring injured, crippled or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?' says the Lord. 'Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and my name is to be feared among the nations.'" (Malachi 1:7-8, 13-14)

Legends and traditions say more than what is actually taught here in Matthew about these Magi.  Most of us have come to believe that there were three Magi or three Wise Men. The number three probably came from the fact that there were three gifts and supposes that each of the three brought a different gift.  But, these verses say nothing about how many Magi there were.  There may have been more, less or even three Magi.  What we know from Matthew's Gospel is that they came from afar to honor the young King that they had been led to by the star.  God used the heavens that He controls to lead these who had been advisors to kings to the one true King!

"The notion that they were kings arose from an interpretation of Isa. 60:3; Rev. 21:24. The idea that they were three in number is due to the mention of three kinds of gifts (gold, frankincense, myrrh), but that is no proof at all. Legend has added to the story that the names were Caspar, Balthasar, and Melchior as in Ben Hur and also that they represent Shem, Ham, and Japheth. A casket in the Cologne Cathedral actually is supposed to contain the skulls of these three Magi." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Roberston.  Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

The NIV Study Bible has the following note on these verses:  "Contrary to tradition, the Magi did not visit Jesus at the manger on the night of his birth as did the shepherds.  They came some months later and visited him as a 'child' in his house." 

God warns the Magi in a dream not to return to Herod.  And so, Herod, was not able to eliminate God's King.  There have been many attempts throughout time by Satan to prevent Jesus from dethroning him.  Herod's and Satan's attempt to kill Jesus Christ through the Magi was prevented from happening by a God-given dream.

4. The King's early journeys (2:13-23)

a. His journey to Egypt (2:13-15)
"When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. 'Get up,' he said, 'take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.' So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'Out of Egypt I called my son.'"

Thought Question: This is a difficult passage to interpret: How do you believe that Jesus going to Egypt fulfills the prophecy: "Out of Egypt I called my son"?

 

 

Jesus' trip to Egypt and out of Egypt symbolically traces His taking on of  our slavery to sin and rescuing us from it.  Jesus' going to Egypt fulfilled the prophecy in Hosea 11:1, where it says, "Out of Egypt I called my son."  These words are clearly referring to God's rescue of Israel from Egypt during Moses' time ("When Israel was a child, I loved him and out of Egypt I called my son."), but from Matthew's explanation in these verses, we see that the rescue of Israel from slavery to Egypt was predicting how God would rescue us from our slavery to sin.  We can see from Matthew's interpretation of the historical rescue of the physical nation of Israel that it was a symbolic picture of the rescue of us spiritually; the nation of Israel and what occurred to her are a picture of what occurs to us in the spiritual realm.  For example, Israel's God-empowered conquest of the Promised Land appears to be a picture of our God-empowered conquest of Satan's hold on our lives.

b. Herod's slaughter of the baby boys in Bethlehem (2:16-18)
"When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 'A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.'"

Thought Question: How do you believe that the prophetic words of Jeremiah were fulfilled by Herod's killing of the children in Bethlehem?

 

 

Herod could not find out which boy in Bethlehem was the predicted king, so he killed all the boys "two years old and under."  Though Bethlehem was not large, this does not diminish the wickedness of Herod's crime.  Jeremiah 31:15, quoted here, was a prediction of the mothers of Israel weeping over the slaughter of their children by the Babylonians; but it is also predictive of this slaughter.  It is not easy, however, to see how this slaughter of the children in Bethlehem fulfills Jeremiah 31:15; except that Rachel was Jacob's or Israel's favorite wife (Jacob's name was changed to Israel) (See Genesis 29:14-30) and Rachel's tomb is near Bethlehem.  Rachel, then, symbolically represents the mothers of God's people Israel mourning over the slaughter of their children by the Babylonians.  Rachel's mourning also represents the mothers of Bethlehem mourning over the death of their innocent children in this small town near Rachel's tomb.

2. His journey to Nazareth (2:19-23)
"After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, 'Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.' So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: 'He will be called a Nazarene.'"

Thought Question: Was this the first time that Joseph and Mary lived in Nazareth?  On what do you base your answer?

 

 

Joseph took his family to Nazareth rather than Bethlehem because Herod's son, Archelaus, ruled in Judea.  The prediction about Jesus being a Nazarene referred to here is not found in the Old Testament.  It probably comes from a combination of prophesies that all predict that Jesus would be despised, for Nazarenes and Galileans were a mixed race, half-breeds that the Jews despised. See John 1:46; Isaiah 53:2-3

Joseph and Mary had come to Bethlehem from Nazareth.  "In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David." (Luke 2:1-4)  This was the beginning, though, of Jesus' childhood in Nazareth.

THE HERALD OF THE KING (3:1-12) See Daniel 3:4-5 for a description of the herald of King Nebuchadnezzar

1. The herald's mission (3:1-4)
"In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.' This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: 'A voice of one calling in the desert, Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”' John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey."

Thought Question: Why do you believe John the Baptist did his preaching in the wilderness? 

 

 

John's ministry in the wilderness, his rustic clothes, and his unusual food all symbolized Israel's desolate spiritual state; John came to lead them out of this wilderness as Joshua had led their ancestors out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land many years before.  This mission of his was predicted in Isaiah 40:1-4:  "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.'"  His mission was to make a freeway through rugged terrain of Israel's sins, removing the obstacles that prevented the people of Israel from entering the Kingdom of heaven.  Barclay has the following to say about the imagery in Isaiah 40: "In ancient times in the East the roads were bad.  There was an eastern proverb which said, 'There are three states of misery – sickness, fasting and travel." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."  We today who drive on modern freeways with balloon tires cannot comprehend the full meaning of Isaiah's symbolism in Isaiah 40.

2. The herald's ministry (3:5-10)
"People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

Thought Question #1:  Have you ever had a time when you had a holy boldness like John's holy and fearless boldness described in these verses?  If your answer is yes, describe that time.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What do you believe enabled John to have this fearless boldness?

 

 

Crowds came to him to confess their sins and to be baptized.  Why did he attract such large numbers?  It is suggested they were attracted to John in the same way we are attracted to soap and water when we are dirty and grimy.  His message and the waters of baptism provided them with cleansing from their sin and their guilt!

The Pharisees that were coming to him, however, reminded him of snakes fleeing from a fire.  He warns them if they are really repentant, they should show it in their lives.  But, because they are like trees with no fruit, God was going to chop them down.  He also warns them not to trust in their Jewish heritage, for God can raise children of Abraham from the rocks.  Notice that he does not withhold his disgust.  We can feel that if we express our disgust over some sin or if we offend someone we are not being very Christian.  Jesus and the writers of the New Testament expressed their disgust at sin and certainly offended some people.   It is only as we get to know Jesus Christ better that we see sin as John saw it, and become disgusted at it as John was.  See III John 9-12; Jude 3-16; Matthew 23

3. The herald's King (3:11-12)
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Thought Question: What do you learn about John the Baptist from these verses?

 

 

John the Baptist not only points them away from their past sin, but he also points them toward their coming King.  In these verses we see that he is just the opposite of the Pharisees who sought to point men towards themselves and to how special they were.  Instead, John pointed men toward the coming King and how special He would be.  He saw himself as unworthy to even be His slave or carry His sandals.  For John merely placed men in water, the coming King would place men in the Holy Spirit and into the fires of purification.  Furthermore, He will one day judge all men.  Then, He will separate those who are His true followers from the false followers.  The false will be judged "with unquenchable fire"! See Matthew 13:30, 25:41  It was their choice, as it is men's choice today: the Holy Spirit or the fires of judgment!

THE ANOINTING OF THE KING (3:13-17)
When John baptized men, it symbolized what men must do – die to their old sin-controlled life and rise to a new life; when John baptized Jesus, it symbolized what Jesus must do – take our sin-controlled life on Himself, die in our place, and rise from the dead so we can also have a new life. See Romans 6:1-10

1. His humiliation (3:13-15)
"Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?' Jesus replied, 'Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.' Then John consented."

Thought Question #1:  What do you learn about John the Baptist from these verses?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What did Jesus mean when He said that He must be baptized "to fulfill all righteousness"?

 

 

John did not understand why Jesus needed to be baptized: "I need to be baptized by you."  Peter also did not understand why Jesus needed to be crucified, see Matthew 16:21-22  But, Jesus needed to be baptized "to fulfill all righteousness."  What does "fulfill all righteousness" mean?  Jesus needed to symbolically show how He would provide a way for God to accept us who are sinful and for Him to still remain righteous in doing it.  Jesus' baptism symbolized His death, burial, and resurrection which were to make it possible for unrighteous men to approach a righteous God.  Jesus' willingness to be baptized also symbolized his willingness to humble Himself by becoming a man and by dying as a man for us. See Philippians 2:5-8

2. His glorification (3:16-17)
"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"

Thought Question #1:  How do these verses support the evangelical Christian and historically orthodox view that God is three Persons and yet is One God?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How do these verses support the view that baptism is to be by immersion?

 

 

When Jesus came up out of the water, the Holy Spirit came down on Him like a dove; symbolizing that He would win His Kingdom with gentleness and would also give Himself as a sacrificial dove.  And the Father announces: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." See John 10:17

Notice that all three members of the Trinity were present together as Jesus comes up out of the water.  There was a heresy in the early church that taught that God expressed Himself in three different modes.  It is referred to as Modalism or Sabellianism.  They said that God is like water that sometimes is liquid, sometimes ice, and sometimes water vapor.  They taught that God was not three Persons, but merely appeared in three different forms.  But, here we see all three Persons of the Trinity at the same time.  What has become the orthodox position won out over Modalism.  The orthodox belief, that was true before that time of that controversy in church history, and was established at that time, is that God is one, but within that oneness are three Persons.  These verses are proof for this view of God that is now referred to as the Trinity; for here we see the three Persons of God all present and expressing themselves at the same time.

Notice also that Jesus "went up out of the water."  This makes it clear that Jesus had been down under the water or "immersed" in it.  In Romans 6:1-10, baptism symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Immersion symbolizes the burial of Jesus Christ.  These verses, then, support the view that Jesus' baptism and Christian baptism is to be by immersion.

THE TESTING OF THE KING (4:1-11)
From the waters of baptism Jesus goes out into the wilderness, a symbol of Satan's domain, to do battle with the present ruler of this world.

1. Introduction to the testing (4:1)
"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil."

In the desert we will see Satan unloading two of his underhanded weapons on Jesus: temptation and deceit.  But where he succeeded with Adam and Eve, he will fail with man's second representative, Jesus Christ. See Hebrews 4:15

2. Test #1: An enticement to physical slavery (4:2-4)
"After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, 'If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.' Jesus answered, 'It is written: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”'"

Thought Question: What life lessons do we learn from Jesus' response to Satan's temptation?

 

 

In obedience to the Father, Jesus goes without food for forty days and forty nights, putting Himself in a state of extreme need; and Satan was drawn to Him like a vulture is drawn to an animal that is weakened.  The temptation: "tell these stones to become bread."  Or, in other words, put feeding yourself over God's will.  It would have been as easy for Him to have turned those stones into bread as it is for us to take bread out of a cupboard and, in His extreme hunger, it must have been easy for Him to imagine those stones as bread.  Jesus' response: He attacks Satan's lies with the truth – true life does not come from bread, but from obeying God's Word. See Deuteronomy 8:3; John 4:31-34,6:1-15, 25-59  There is nothing wrong with eating unless we live for it, and it starts to control us.  Instead, we are to choose to find true life by obeying and serving God.  As someone has said, God gave us our desires so they are good desires until our desires have us; until they begin to control and dominate our lives until we become totally selfish.  Jesus' response shows that He chose to be controlled by His Father's will for Him; for as God's Word says, we do not find true life in obeying king stomach, but in obeying God.   Application to us:  Satan also seeks to enslave us to our physical desires; but our greatest fulfillment also must come from doing the will of the Father.

3. Test #2: An enticement to social slavery (4:5-7)
"Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 'If you are the Son of God,' he said, 'throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’' Jesus answered him, 'It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’'"

Thought Question: What life lessons do we learn from Jesus' response to Satan's temptation?

 

 

"So the tempter renewed his attack from another angle.  In a vision he took Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple.  That may mean one of two things.  The Temple was built on top of Mt. Sion.  The top of the mountain was leveled out into a plateau, and on that plateau the whole area of the Temple stood.  There was one corner at which Solomon's porch and the royal porch met, and at the corner there was a sheer drop of four hundred and fifty feet into the valley of Kedron below.  Why should not Jesus stand on the pinnacle, and leap down, and land unharmed in the valley beneath?  Men would be startled into following a man who could do such a thing like that.  On the top of the Temple itself there was a stance where every morning a priest stood with a trumpet in his hands, waiting for the first flush of the dawn across the hills of Hebron.  At the first dawn light he sounded the trumpet to tell men that the hour of the morning sacrifice had come.  Why should not Jesus stand there, and leap down right into the Temple court and amaze men into following him?" "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

The TemptationIn short, Jesus was tempted to impress Israel by having the Father miraculously rescue Him from sure death.  "This was the very method that the false Messiahs who were continually arising promised.  Theudas had led the people out, and had promised with a word to split the waters of Jordan in two.  The famous Egyptian pretender (Acts 21:38) had promised that with a word he would lay flat the walls of Jerusalem.  Simon Magnus, so it is said, had promised to fly through the air, and had perished in the attempt.  These pretenders had offered sensations which they could not perform.  Jesus could perform anything he promised.  Why should not he do it?" "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

Jesus' ResponseHe exposes Satan's lie.  Satan has quoted Psalm 91:11-12 properly, but he left out the part that says that angels will "guard you in all your ways."  In other words, the angels would watch over Him in the ordinary ways of His life, but it is not a promise that angels would rescue Him if He foolishly tested God by throwing Himself off a cliff.  Jesus quotes Deuteronomy where it says that He should not test God.  Application to usSatan wants to enslave us by tempting us to be controlled by the desire to impress men and to draw attention to ourselves.  But we also must not seek to use God to bring us fame.

4. Test #3: An enticement to material slavery (4:8-11)
"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 'All this I will give you,' he said, 'if you will bow down and worship me.' Jesus said to him, 'Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’' Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him."

Thought Question: What life lessons do we learn from Jesus' response to Satan's temptation?

 

 

The TemptationSatan offered to give Jesus the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him.  Satan took over the ruler of the world when he deceived Adam into believing in him rather than in God.  Satan has been described as a "squatter," for he is like a man who starts living on someone else's land and begins to use it for his own selfish benefit.  Jesus' ResponseJesus would worship only God.  He chose the Father's path to becoming the King of the world, even though it meant that he must earn it by hanging from a cruel cross.  Application to usSatan also offers us the material wealth and power in his realm if we will worship and serve him, but we also must choose the path of the cross over the wealth of the world.

THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT THE KING (4:12-25)
Matthew skips a full year in Jesus' ministry (that year is described in John 1:19-4:42) and goes directly to Jesus' Galilean ministry.  This ministry took two years and is described in Matthew 4:12-18:35.  Notice in Matthew 19:1, where it states that He left Galilee.

1. The good news about the King was proclaimed before His life
began. (4:12-17)

a. Jesus returns to Galilee where He learned that John the Baptist had been imprisoned. (4:12)
"When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee."

The ministries of Jesus and John had been going on side by side up to this point. See John 3:22-36

b. Jesus' ministry in Galilee was predicted, in Isaiah 9:1-2, seven centuries before He performed this ministry  (4:13-16)
"Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 'Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.'"

Thought Question: Why do you believe it is said here that "the people" in this region were "living in darkness"?

 

 

Isaiah predicted that this northern land that had been darkened by sin should see a great light.  Jesus was that Light!  The northern kingdom had split off from Israel and had set up their own system of worship, at the cities of their own choosing, shortly after the reign of King Solomon.  All of its kings were evil.  They were judged for their evil when the Assyrians conquered them (722 B.C.) many years before the southern portion of the former Israel was judged by the Babylonian conquest of them (586 B.C.).  They were a truly dark land. See I Kings 12, 17:1-23  This dark land became Jesus' primary training ground for how His followers would perform their task of world evangelism!

c. Jesus' message was the same as John's message: "repent for the kingdom of heaven is near!" (4:17)
"From that time on Jesus began to preach, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.'"

Thought Question: Do you believe that Jesus' kingdom is here today?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Today, the Kingdom of Heaven is not near, it is here!  For the way into the Kingdom of Heaven was opened up to us through Christ's death and resurrection.  The Kingdom of Heaven is both present now and in the future.  It is present. See Matthew 6:24, 6:33; Luke 17:20-21; Colossians 1:13; and Romans 14:17  It is also a future Kingdom that will begin when Jesus returns to rule over this earth. See Matthew 19:28; Luke 21:31; Revelation 19:15  His Kingdom is present today to the degree that He rules in the hearts of men.  He will also rule on earth for a 1000-year period. See Revelation 20:1-4, 19:15  Yet, even in this millennial Kingdom rule, though He will rule in Jerusalem as the feared King, He will still not rule fully in the hearts of men. See Revelation 20:7-10  Ultimately, He will rule on earth and rule in each person's heart on earth in His heavenly kingdom.  His kingdom is also present today, though, for all who yield to Him as their King and Lord. See Colossians 1:19; Romans 12:1-2; II Corinthians 5:15

2. The good news about the King was to be proclaimed after His life.
(4:18-22)
"As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will make you fishers of men.' At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him."

Thought Question: Describe how important these chosen followers became to Jesus' mission to the world?

 

 

We see in these verses that Jesus chooses those who were to proclaim the good news of His Kingdom after He is gone.  Because they were fisherman, He promises that they will become "fishers of men."  This is not Jesus' first time with these men. See John 1:35-4:42  Notice how willing these men were willing to leave everything that had been part of their lives and follow Him.  A. B. Bruce emphasizes the importance of this inner core, who will eventually become the twelve apostles, to Jesus' plans:  "We may say that, but for the twelve, the doctrine, the works, and the image of Jesus might have perished from human remembrance, nothing remaining but a vague mythical tradition, of no historical value, and of little practical influence…The careful painstaking education of the disciples secured that the Teacher's influence on the world should be permanent; that His Kingdom should be founded on the rock of deep and indestructible convictions in the minds of the Jew, not on the shifting sands of evanescent impressions on the minds of the many." "Taken from
The Training of the Twelve
by A. B. Bruce.  Copyright 1971 by Kregel Publications." 

Just as these men who were willing to leave all and follow Him to spread Jesus' message to their world, so through the ages it has been those who have chosen to put away their private ambitions and have chosen instead to make following Christ their primary pursuit in life and have faithfully spread Jesus' Kingdom throughout time.  Paul gave these parting words to Timothy shortly before His death: "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." (II Timothy 2:2)  Jesus found His "reliable" followers.  May we be His "reliable" followers today, and pass our pattern on to other "reliable" followers.

3. The good news about the King was proclaimed during His life.
(4:23-25)
"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him."

Thought Question: Jesus had an open door to speak and teach in the synagogues; where are there open doors for Christians to speak today?

 

 

Large crowds followed Him as He taught and preached in their synagogues and healed their diseases.  He gave them a glimpse of the kingdom where there would be no disease. See Isaiah 35:5,6  Barclay calls preaching the "uncompromising proclamation of certainties."  "In the synagogue service there were three parts.  The first part consisted of prayers.  The second part consisted of readings from the Law and from the Prophets, readings in which the members of the congregation took part.  The third part was the address.  The important fact is that there was no one person to give the address.  There was no such thing as a professional ministry.  The president of the synagogue presided over the arrangements for the service.  Any distinguished stranger could be asked to give the address and anyone with a message to give might volunteer to give it; and, if the ruler or president of the synagogue judged him to be a fit person to speak, he was allowed to speak.  Thus, at the beginning, the door of the synagogue and the pulpit of the synagogue was open to Him [Jesus].  He began in the synagogue because it was there He would find the most sincerely religious people of His day, and the way to speak to them was open to him.  After the address there came a time to talk, and questions, and discussion.  The synagogue was the ideal place in which to get a new teaching across to the people." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

Today, there are also opportunities for Christians to share the gospel with people.  Here are just a few places where Christians are welcomed to share the gospel: jail ministries, gospel missions, university Christian groups, retirement homes, neighborhood Bible studies, funerals, marriage ceremonies, letters to the editor, blogs, email messages, and Christmas letters.  I know that these are open doors of opportunity, for I have used them all myself.  Those more creative than I am can think of many other open doors to share the gospel of the kingdom today, just as Jesus shared it so many years ago in the synagogues.

GUIDELINES FOR KINGDOM LIVING (5-7)
Jesus describes the necessary attitudes that one must have to be part of God's kingdom.  As Jesus sat on the mountainside and looked down on the crowd before Him, He knew that not all those before Him were ready or even interested in becoming members of the type of kingdom that He was offering to them.  Jesus' most famous sermon begins with a description of the heart attitudes that one must have to be an on-going member of His kingdom; it describes the heart attitudes needed in Jesus' time and it describes the heart attitudes needed in our time.  Some believe that the kingdom of heaven described in these verses and throughout the Gospel of Matthew is not for our time, but the kingdom of heaven is present today to the degree that the King rules in our hearts. See Matthew 6:10; Luke 17:20,21; Romans 14:17,18; Colossians 1:13

Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that the description that is given in the Beatitudes is not meant to be the description of a few special Christians (Martin Luther, Billy Graham, etc.), but it is meant to be a description of what each Christian is to be like.  Also, all of the Beatitudes are to be characteristic of each Christian.  None of these heart attitudes can be present in us without the other attitudes being present also.  For example, if a person is truly "poor in spirit," he will also "hunger and thirst for righteousness."  Furthermore, he points out that these attitudes are not temperamental tendencies that someone is born with, but they are truly heart attitudes that are present in anyone who is part of Jesus' kingdom, irrespective of one's temperament.  Furthermore, what Jesus describes in the Beatitudes is the very opposite of what the natural man admires.  The natural man admires the self-confident person; he does not admire those who have come to the end of their self-confidence.  The natural man admires the rich, not those who see themselves as "poor."  The natural man admires those who are happy, not those who "mourn."  The natural man admires those who have found a way to fill themselves up, not those who "hunger and thirst."  Jesus says that true blessedness comes in a very different way than the world seeks after it.

Before we begin looking at the Beatitudes, some terms need to be explained.  First of all, what is meant by "Beatitudes"?  Tyndale's Bible Dictionary has the following explanation of  the meaning of "Beatitude":  "The Term derived from Latin beatitudo; it is not used in the English Bible. Technically it means “blessedness” as described in the OT and NT. “Blessed” is translated from both Hebrew and Greek words to refer to divine favor conveyed to people.  The formal utterance “happy is,” or “blessed is,” is a common declaration in the book of Psalms (used 26 times) and Proverbs (8 times). It is used 10 times in the other books of the OT and 13 times in the apocryphal books. These beatitudes are pronounced upon the person who is righteous, having faith and hope in God. They are signs of a life lived in proximity to Yahweh, in the experience of forgiveness, and in the love and favor of God….Such a one lives a fulfilled life, life as God intended it to be lived before him." "Taken from Tyndale Bible Dictionary"  So, in short, the Beatitudes is a list that describes the heart attitudes that will result in God's blessing on someone.  And, of course, when one is blessed by God, he or she will experience a God-blessed happiness.

Secondly, what is the "kingdom of heaven?"  Is it different from the kingdom of God?  The NIV Study Bible introduction to Matthew observes that Matthew appears, for a number of reasons, to be directed toward Jews (For example, there is no explanation of Jewish customs as there is in Mark.).  The use of "kingdom of heaven" instead of "kingdom of God" could be due "the Jewish reverential reluctance to use the name of God." "Taken from the NIV Study Bible"  In that case, there appears to be no difference between the "kingdom of heaven" and the "kingdom of God."  The "kingdom of God" and the "kingdom of heaven" is simply the rule of God.  The kingdom of God is defined by Jesus in the Lord's prayer: "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)  The "kingdom of God" or the rule of God will reach its completeness when God rules fully over man in the future heavenly state. See I Corinthians 15:24-28; Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 11:15  There also is a promised future kingdom that will last one thousand years. See Revelation 20:4, 19:15; Luke 21:31  The "kingdom of God," then, is the rule of God in people's hearts today, the rule of God in the future earthly kingdom promised to the Jews, and the full rule of God in the final heavenly state.

1. We must recognize our heart's need for God's kingdom. (5:1-6)
"Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.'"

Thought Question #1:  Why do you believe that true happiness is found in exactly the opposite way from the way that men usually seek to find it?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why do you believe that Jesus' way to happiness is better than the world's way of seeking happiness?

 

 

Many did recognize their need for a king to deliver them from the Romans, but most did not recognize their greater need to be delivered from their sins and their need for God to rule in their hearts!  As Jesus looked out on the crowd before Him, he knew that if they were to enter His kingdom, they would have to see their need for His type of kingdom.  The first four Beatitudes describe those who recognized their personal need for His type of kingdom.  You will notice that each of the first four Beatitudes is a paradox: the poor are wealthy, the mourners are not sad but happy, the un-aggressive conquer, and the hungry are full.

a. The "poor in spirit" are wealthy members of the "kingdom of heaven."
(5:1-3)

"Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, saying: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'"

Thought Question #1:  When is one "poor in spirit"?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why does being "poor in spirit" lead to happiness?

 

 

The Beatitudes each start with the word "Blessed."  "Blessed" is a translation for the Greek word makarios.  It describes what life is like in God's kingdom; it describes the deepest and most fulfilling state of happiness we can experience in this life; a happiness that is not superficial or dependent on circumstances.  "The meaning of 'makarios' can best be seen from one particular usage of it.  The Greeks always called Cyprus he makaria (the feminine form of the adjective), which means The Happy Isle, and they did so because they believed Cyprus was so lovely, so rich, and so fertile an island that man would never need to go beyond its coastline to find the perfectly happy life.  It had such a climate, such flowers and fruits and trees, such minerals, such natural resources that it contained within itself all the materials for perfect happiness." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."  The blessedness within God's kingdom is like this; it is all we need. See Philippians 4:11-12

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."  To enter God's kingdom, requires that we recognize how poverty-stricken we are without God; we do not become truly rich until we recognize how poor we are.  We must "strike it poor" to get rich! 

The Greek word translated "poor" does not refer to someone who was merely not rich, but it refers to someone who is totally destitute – hungry, thirsty, lonely, penniless, weak…  The one who is "poor in spirit" is he who acknowledges that apart from God and God's life in him, he is totally empty and his life has no meaning!  The Apostle Paul was one who recognized this neediness in himself: "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3:7-8)  Those in the church at Laodicea were lukewarm because they did not recognize that they were destitute without God: "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see." (Revelation 3:15-18)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones emphasizes why "Blessed are the poor in spirit" is the first of the Beatitudes:  "This, of necessity, is the one which must come at the beginning for the good reason that there is no entry into the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God, apart from it.  There is no-one in the kingdom of God who is not poor in spirit.  It is the fundamental characteristic of the Christian and of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and all the other characteristics are in a sense the result of this one.  As we go on to expound it; we shall see that it really means an emptying, while the others are a manifestation of fullness.  We cannot be filled until we are first empty.  You cannot fill with the new wine a vessel which is partly filled already with old wine, until the old wine has been poured out." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 by Intervarsity Press."

The Christian life starts with the recognition that I am a "complete failure"!  The Jews were looking for a king to rescue them from the Romans who had conquered them and had subjected them to their rule.  They were looking for the King in the line of David who would conquer the Romans and begin a Jewish kingdom under his rule.  The Old Testament, however, described Israel's and the Israelites' continual failures to live up to God's standards.  When God gave them the Ten Commandments, they immediately said that they would obey all that God commanded of them. See Deuteronomy 5:23-29  But, immediately they turned to idolatry and worshiped an idol, breaking the second Commandment. See Exodus 32  Then, their whole history is filled with their failures to obey God's commands.  They did not understand that the promised King was coming to rescue them from themselves and their sinfulness.  The prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah recognized Israel's (and mankind's need) to be rescued from themselves: "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6)  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)  When Jesus came as the promised King, they were not a repentant nation crying out for mercy, they were a proud nation lead by proud religious leaders who all felt that they were better than the other nations. See Romans 2:17-29  But, to enter Jesus' kingdom, they needed to see themselves as wretched failures crying out, "God have mercy on me a sinner." (Luke 18:13) See Luke 18:9-14

They did not get it; do we get it?  What has been true of Israel is true of every man and woman.  We are all complete failures.  God's law was given to us to show that we are unable to meet God's requirements.  "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:19-20) See also Romans 7:7-13; Galatians 2:16; James 2:10  Becoming a Christian and growing as a Christian requires that we see our neediness before God.  We need to be "poor in spirit." 

Being "poor in spirit" is simply accepting reality as it is.  We are sinful, helpless, and unable to get right or to be right with God apart from God's grace.  We are unable to please Him apart from God's grace.  It does not mean that we should put on some type of humble appearance that we do not really believe is true, to impress another or others that we are lowly.  What Isaiah and Jeremiah said is true.  Each of our attempts at righteousness is like "filthy rags" to God; each of our hearts is "deceitful."  We are destitute apart from God's grace to free us from the penalty and the power of sin.  We are "poor in spirit" when we acknowledge as true what is true and cry out: "…what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30) and "What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24)

b. Those who mourn recognize their need for God's comfort and will receive it. (5:4)
"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe causes the mourning that Jesus refers to in this verse?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why does this mourning lead to happiness?

 

 

To enter and to become an on-going member and citizen of God's kingdom requires that we recognize, as he does, the pain, suffering, and sorrow that life in rebellion against God causes, that sin causes.  Those who see the world as it really is do mourn over the sorrow that they see:  David mourned over his adultery with Bathsheba. "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." (Psalm 51:3) See also the rest of Psalm 51  Jesus mourned as He looked at Israel: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate." (Matthew 23:37-38)  Israel will mourn when they finally recognize that they crucified their King":  "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be great, like the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives," (Zechariah 12:10-13)

We also mourn over our sin to the degree to which we recognize the depth of it, the affect that it has on others, and how much it grieves God.  It is similar to the way someone who learns that he has cancer mourns as he learns more about the effect that it is having on him and the ultimate consequences of it.  Sin is a terminal cancer in the soul and spirit that completely separates us from God and wreaks horrible havoc in our world. 

When we acknowledge the depth of our sin and mourn over it, acknowledge our empathy with the suffering in the world, and understand how God grieves over all of it, God gives us His comfort:  " Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."
(II Corinthians 1:3-4) See also II Corinthians 7:5-7

The world outside of Christ also needs to be comforted.  For they also experience the sorrows of life.  Death, sickness, the consequences of their sin, and the effects of others' pride and selfishness affects their lives also.  They seek comfort, though, outside of God.  They pursue comfort through various types of escapes from reality: alcohol, drugs, pleasures, and an outward facade of happiness, self-deception, blame, gossip and slander, and a host of other pursuits that do not really give one any lasting or satisfying comfort.  The Christian seeks His comfort from God and by facing reality, not seeking to escape from it.  He or she, though, will be comforted by God and will experience a fullness of joy and satisfaction in the midst of an empty world: "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing..." (II Corinthians 6:10)

The man who faces reality about himself or herself sees the impact of sin and selfishness on the world.  Do we see it?  Do we think of those around us as those who are heading toward an eternity in hell?  Do we see those who are the enemies of Christianity one day facing judgment before Jesus Christ?  Do we mourn over the world?  We also can choose to escape reality rather than face it.  If we face reality and mourn and grieve, we will experience comfort from God.  We will be comforted like Paul did when he was encouraged by God that the church at Corinth had repented. See II Corinthinans 7:5-13  We will be comforted when a loved one becomes a Christian.  We will be comforted when we repent of a sin and we experience God's grace and the forgiveness of others.

c. The "meek" are those who acknowledge their need for God's wisdom and God's help as they encounter the imperfections of others and the difficulties of life. (5:5)
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth."

Thought Question #1:  What is meekness?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why will "the meek" "inherit the earth"?

 

 

In the first Beatitude, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," the focus was on      ourselves.  In the second Beatitude, "Blessed are those who mourn," the focus can be on both us and on others.  In this Beatitude, "Blessed are the meek," the focus is on how we respond to life outside of ourselves.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that it is one thing to acknowledge our own sin; it is quite another to have someone else point out our sin.  The "meek" person is able to respond humbly when someone else points out their sin, even if it is not accurate.  A meek person recognizes that he or she deserves only judgment from God, yet has received grace.  This attitude enables him or her to deal gently with others who are also sinful.  We can tolerate the tailgater more easily when we realize that we have done the same type of thing to others.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones sums up meekness in this way:  "The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 by Intervarsity Press."

The meek person is not weak, but on the contrary, the meek person is very strong, for he chooses not to retaliate or be harsh but to be gentle.  Jesus demonstrated this type of strong meekness: "When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly." (1 Peter 2:23) See also Romans 12:17-21
Those who are genuinely members of God's kingdom believe that God's ways are much better than our ways.  Meekness or gentleness is a divine quality that God gives to us as He enables us to realize the truth about Him, ourselves, and others; and it also a fruit of the Holy Spirit ("gentleness"; see Galatians 5:23). Meekness can be described in the following ways:  (1) Meekness or gentleness is not weakness, but strength under control.  It is a mighty horse gently carrying a small child or a fire warming a house and not raging out of control consuming the entire house.  (2) A meek person is one who accepts injustices and what is unpleasant in life without lashing out at God and others.  He or she accepts trials (See James 1:2-4), changes in circumstance (See Philippians 4:12-13), others' imperfections (Ephesians 4:2-3), and offenses (See Romans 12:17-21) gently.  (3) The meek person recognizes that God's rights and goals are much greater than his or hers (See Psalm 39)

What is meant by "the meekwill inherit the earth"?  The "meek," first of all, have gained control of themselves and their circumstances and, secondly, because they are able to control themselves, they are often given positions of authority over others; Joshua and Daniel, for example.  Ultimately, it is the "meek" who will rule on earth in the future kingdom of God.

d. Those in God's kingdom who recognize their own great unrighteousness and our need for God's righteousness will hunger and thirst after His righteousness. (5:6)
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."

Thought Question: Why do you believe "righteousness" leads to the deepest fulfillment in life?

 

 

In Jesus' time, they knew what real hunger and thirst were.  We are never very far from a refrigerator or a water faucet.  We can drive quickly to the local super market.  Food and water were not as accessible to people in Jesus' time.  They experienced hunger and thirst more often and to a greater degree than we experience it.  It was their type of hunger and thirst that Jesus is talking about here. 

Why would we hunger and thirst after righteousness?  First of all, we hunger and thirst after righteousness only if we recognize how unrighteous we really are.  Years ago, a father of children who attended a church program told me that if everyone was like him, we would no longer have any problems in the world.  The truth is that it is because everyone of us is like him that we do have the immense problems that we have in this world.  Each of us is born into this world completely unrighteous.  The "poor in spirit," those who "mourn," and the "meek" are those who recognize that we are all sinful to the core. God, however, graciously provides us with His righteousness.  Those who see themselves as morally and spiritually destitute crave after this righteousness from God.

What, then, is the "righteousness" that Jesus is talking about here?  First of all, it is an absence of sin.  So, seeking after "righteousness" is seeking to be free from sin.  Jesus said that "everyone who sins is a slave to sin." (John 8:34)  So, "righteousness" is a freedom from bondage and slavery to sin.  We can see why we would "hunger and thirst for righteousness"; for if we have it, we are also set free from sin's enslavement of us.  Also, if we are becoming righteous, we are growing in our fellowship and relationship with God.  Furthermore, "righteousness" is holiness.  When we are growing in "righteousness," we are also growing toward becoming more like God.

How can we find fulfillment and satisfaction in this life?  People strive after happiness through seeking money, pleasures, thrills, success, and things.  We become workaholics and addicts in many ways and yet are never satisfied.  When we seek after happiness, we will never find it.  Yet, Jesus says that those who seek after His righteousness will be "filled"!  The greatest happiness does not come from what we have or from what we do, but from who we are.  For example, the rich man who does not like himself is still looking for happiness, but the poor man who is content and pleased with who he is, has found happiness.  "growing in holiness simplifies, unifies and satisfies our lives."  "Taken from Live Like a King by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1976 by The Moody Bible Institute."

How, then, do we "hunger and thirst" after this "righteousness"?  First of all, we must recognize that it does not come to us through our human efforts.  We must seek after it in the way that God directs us to in the Bible.  We must first of all understand what God has made available to us through His grace.  We are forgiven and justified – we have been set free from the penalty of sin.  See Romans 3:21-26  Secondly, we must understand that we have been made new creatures in Christ who have Christ's nature and are indwelled by the Spirit of God – we have been set free from the power of sin. See Romans 6:1-11; II Corinthians 5:17; II Peter 1:3-4  Thirdly, we are to pursue diligently to live this new life. See Romans 6:12-14; Colossians 3:1-17; II Peter 1:5-8  Fourthly, we are to see the difficult times as part of God's loving discipline that He uses to help us to grow in godliness. See James 1:2-4; Hebrews 12: 1-13; II Corinthians 12:7-10; Philippians 2:12-13; II Timothy 2:22  Next, we are to seek out others who are also hungering and thirsting after "righteousness" so that they can help us in this pursuit of "righteousness." See II Timothy 2:2  We "hunger and thirst for righteousness" when we do all that the Bible directs us to do with wholeheartedness, because we completely believe that this is the one goal in life worth giving ourselves to fully.

2. How God's kingdom will be expressed in our hearts (5:7-12)
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “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." (Matthew 5:7-12)

When God is ruling in our hearts, we will be "merciful," "pure in heart," "peacemakers," and be able to "rejoice" when we are "persecuted."

a. We will be "merciful." (5:7)
"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

Thought Question #1:  What are some reasons why you are to show mercy to others?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Who has shown mercy to you and how did they show it?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  Who have you shown mercy to and how did you show it?

 

 

Jesus was merciful toward even those who hated Him.  As He hung on the cross, He said: "Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)  Why He hung on that cross and what He said from the cross demonstrate that Jesus Christ is supremely and completely merciful.  We have cried out to Him for mercy and have received mercy from Him.  We also are, now, by nature merciful since Christ is in us; and we are also, now, to choose to be merciful.  We are not to look at people who have offended us with a heart that desires vengeance, but with a heart that desires to show mercy.  Judgment is God's strange work. See Isaiah 28:22  Mercy is what He delights to give to us. 

Who are the "merciful"?  They are those who recognize human misery and take steps to relieve it.  They experience others' misery as if it was their own.  Our word "sympathy" expresses what mercy is.  "Sympathy is derived from two Greek words, syn which means together with, and paschein which means together with, or to sufferSympathy means to experience with the other person, literally going through what he is going through." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."  "Present usage identifies mercy with compassion, in the sense of a willingness to forgive an offender or adversary and, more generally, simply a by a disposition to spare or help another.  This disposition, although inwardly felt, manifests itself outwardly in some kind of action.  It is evident that mercy combines a strong emotional element, usually identified as pity, compassion, or love, with some practical demonstration of kindness in response to the condition of needs or the object of mercy." Taken from Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Copyright 1975, 176. on "mercy."  Mercy occurs when we suffer together with someone and desire that he or she be relieved of their suffering.  A perfect example of mercy in action is the kind response of the Good Samaritan who saw the man who had been beaten by robbers and had compassion on him and did all he could to help him. See Matthew 10:25-37

We are to be and can be merciful for three primary reasons: (1) God has been merciful to us. Because He has been merciful to us, it is appropriate for us to be merciful to others. "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matthew 6:12) See also Matthew 6:14-15; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13  (2) The Holy Spirit is now in us.  "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice." (Ephesians 4:30-31)  (3) It is to this type of life to which we have been called.  "Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." (1 Peter 3:8-9)  (4) We see those who sin against us and those who sin as slaves to selfishness and blinded by Satan. See Ephesians 2:1-3 and II Corinthians 4:4  God was merciful to us when we were enslaved and blind like them; so we also should be merciful to them. See Romans 5:8   In short, as children of God, mercy is to become our way of life.  We who have experienced mercy when we were in sinful rebellion to God and now have the Merciful One living inside of us are to be characterized by mercy!

Mercy does not mean, though, that justice is excluded; for His type of mercy includes justice.  His mercy toward us includes Jesus Christ paying the just penalty for our sins.  God is both just and merciful.  As justice is included in God's mercy, so justice is to be included in our expressions of mercy.  When someone does something that is wrong to us, we are to be merciful to that person; but we are also to recognize that God will still determine what will be the just consequence of his or her sin.  We are to leave vengeance to God. See Romans 12:17-19 Also, if we are part of the justice system of the government, we may serve in some function as the state brings its justice to someone.   For example, it may be a Christian judge who determines what someone's sentence will be for the crime that person committed. See Romans 13:1-4

b. We will be "pure in heart." (5:8)
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."

Thought Question: When do you believe "the pure in heart" "will see God"?

 

 

God's kingdom will be expressed in us only when our heart is "pure" like God's heart – a heart that loves truth, moral purity, and all that is beautiful.  The "heart" is the center of the emotions (See John 14:1), the thinking (See Proverbs 23:7,12), the decision-making (Ephesians 6:6), and the center of who we are (Proverbs 4:23).  The "heart," then, is who we are at the core.  We are "blessed" when we are "pure" at the center of who we are.

Our "heart" is "pure" when our "heart" and who we are at the center of our being is focused on that which is "pure" – it will be free from bitterness, immorality, selfishness, deceit, and pride.  We purify our hearts when we humbly agree with God about what is sinful in us, acknowledge this impurity of our motives, and turn away from that impurity.  "Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom." (James 4:8-9) See also Psalm 139:23-24 

"for they will see God."  There is eyesight, but there is also heart-sight.  It is only when the "heart" is "pure" that we are able to see God.  "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14)  As the artist is able to see beauty that many miss, so the "pure in heart" are able to see God when others do not.

Is Jesus saying that this promise of seeing God is only for some future time in heaven, or is He saying that the "pure in heart" will see God today?  I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones' answer to that question:  "In a sense there is a vision of God even while we are in this world.  The Christian can see God in nature, whereas the non-Christian cannot.  The Christian sees God in the events of history.  There is a vision possible in the eye of faith that no-one else has.  But there is a seeking also in the sense of knowing Him, a sense of feeling He is near, and enjoying His presence. . . Another way we see Him is in our experience, in His gracious dealing with us."  "Taken from Sermon on the Mount Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 by Intervarsity Press."  Although we still, according to I Corinthians 13:12, "see but a poor reflection as in a mirror," there is a time when we will see Him clearly.  Nevertheless, the "pure in heart" see the One who is perfectly "pure in heart," whereas the impure in heart does not see him. See Romans 1:18-21

c. We will be "peacemakers." (5:9)
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God."

Thought Question: What is necessary for men to be truly at peace with each other?

 

 

Each of the Beattitudes was shockingly the opposite of what the Israelites believed the kingdom of God was to be like.  They thought of it as being a time of richness and not a time of poverty, a time of joy and not a time of mourning, a time of war-making and not a time of peacemaking.  They believed that the coming king would lead them in a great war against their Roman oppressors.  Instead, Jesus says, ""Blessed are the peacemakers."

Today, as I write these words, we are in a state of war with the Jihadists of Islam.  When you are reading these words, undoubtedly, the world is still in a state of war.  One of the greatest needs in our world is for true peace.

How can we attain peace?  There are many solutions offered in our world.  Some would say that peace only comes through strength and winning the war.  Will we have peace if our country is so strong that all others are afraid to go to war with us?  We won the initial military wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, do we now have peace?  No, those who were defeated in the military war have found covert ways of continuing the war.  We beat them militarily, but their warring hearts have not changed.  Others say that peace will only come when we stop war.  Is peace only the absence of war?  There are those in our world today who believe that if we get rid of our armies and war, there will be peace in the world.  But, genuine peace comes only when we are at peace with each other in our hearts.  Peace only comes from the presence of genuine peaceful relationships.  The word for peace that is used here comes from the verb "to join"; true peace, therefore, comes when there is a genuine oneness between individuals. See Ephesians 1:9-10; John 17:22; Colossians 1:19-20

True peace cannot occur when a selfish war rages in each man's soul.  For true peace to occur, we need a new heart.  There will be no peace when there is no peace in men's hearts.  The comic strip character, Pogo, said, "I have met the enemy and it is us."  There will be no peace until the enemy, "I," is defeated; and that can only begin to occur when we become a new person.  In the New Testament books Ephesians and Colossians Paul first tells his Christian readers that we have put on the new self; then he urges them to live in the selflessness of the new person they have become in Christ.  He exhorts his readers to be loving and forgiving. See Ephesians 4:20-5:2; Colossians 3:5-15  This is how we truly become "peacemakers."

"for they will be called sons of God."  Jesus Christ is the ultimate "peacemaker";" for He gave His life that there might be peace between God and man: "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." (Colossians 1:19-20)  When we seek to be a "peacemaker," we "will be called sons of God" because we are seeking to do what the Son of God did.  We are seeking to do that which will bring ultimate peace between God and man, and between man and man.  And, like Jesus, we are willing to deny self to bring it about.  "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:14-18) See also I Peter 2:23-25; Romans 12:14-21

Being a "peacemaker" does not mean, though, that we will never cause conflicts.  Jesus and His followers did cause conflicts. See Luke 12:51-53, 23:5; Acts 24:5  We still live in a selfish and sinful world that is not receptive to Jesus Christ and His ways.  People will resist and hate us even as they hated Jesus. See John 15:18-25  But being a peacemaker does mean that we should seek after true peace, even if it does for a while cause conflicts.  True peace will be based on truth, righteousness, and genuine love.

d. We will seek righteousness no matter what the cost; even if it means that we will be persecuted for righteousness. (5:10-12)
"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “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."

Thought Question: How can you be "blessed" or happy if you are being "persecuted"?

 

 

Those who are merciful, pure, and peacemakers will surely be at peace with everyone, right?  On the contrary, they will surely be persecuted.  The godly make the ungodly uncomfortable.  Those who walk in darkness do not like their sinful darkness exposed by those who walk in the light.  Jesus and Paul promised that the righteous will be persecuted.  Here are Jesus' words: "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also." (John 15:18-20) Here are Paul's words: "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted," (2 Timothy 3:12)

Notice, that Jesus speaks of those who "are persecuted because of righteousness."  We can be persecuted because of unrighteousness also.  We can be persecuted because we are prideful and obstinate; but that is not what Jesus is speaking of here.  Jesus says that we are to be "innocent as doves." (Matthew 10:16)   Peter says that we are not to suffer "for doing wrong." (I Peter 2:20) See also I Peter 4:15  Paul gives this instruction to the Thessalonian Christians: "Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12)  John explained that the reason that Abel was murdered by Cain was because he was righteousness and Cain was not.  "Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." (1 John 3:12-15)  We are not to seek to be persecuted; we are to seek to do what is right.  But, if that leads to us being persecuted, then so be it.

"Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."    What Jesus describes here is the very opposite from the type of response we normally make when we are unfairly persecuted by someone.  We certainly are not glad.  Our natural and human response is to become a martyr and take on a "poor-me" victim attitude.  Self-pity is the very opposite from rejoicing and being "glad."  How can we genuinely "Rejoice and be glad"?  We cannot "rejoice and be glad" because of the persecution.  That would be some type of masochism.  No one is glad because they are being persecuted.  "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful." (Hebrews 12:11a)

Why, then, can we be "glad"?  When we are persecuted because of righteousness, we can be glad for the following reasons:  (1) It shows that we are a part of the continual conflict between kingdom of heaven and the world, and we are on the side of the kingdom of heaven.  (2) Our reward is great.  Suffering here for God's sake means reward when we stand before Him. See II Corinthian 4:17-18; Hebrews 12:2-3  (3) We are in good company, because this is what the godly prophets also experienced. See Luke 6:26

3. The influence those in God's kingdom will have in the world (5:13-16)

a. We are salt in the sinful world (5:13)
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men."

Thought Question:   How are Christians having a salt-like effect on the earth?

 

 

The fact that we "are the salt of the earth" tells us that the earth is rotten and that there is a need for "salt" to prevent it from becoming completely and irretrievably rotten.  It has become rotten due to the fall of man and the curse on it recorded in Genesis 3.  Without us who are Christians, the world would go completely corrupt and rotten, for there would be nothing left worth saving.  Salt preserves meat and prevents it from rotting.  So, we are preserving the earth and preventing it from becoming completely corrupt. 

The qualities in the Beatitudes will have a salt-like effect on society and prevent the complete corruption and breakdown of relationships within society.  "The fact that the world is decaying and rotting should not encourage the Christian to isolate and insulate himself.  We are not to stand on the sidelines and wait for the great collapse."  "Taken from Live Like a King by Warren Wiersbe.  Copyright 1976 by The Moody Bible Institute."  Many agree that it was a revival led by John Wesley, George Whitfield, and a few others that prevented England from entering into a bloody revolution as France did in the late 1700s.  It is also true that each of us can have a large effect on what happens in our world as well.  If we retain our saltiness, we are having a salt-like effect on our society.  We "are the salt of the earth."

b. We are lights in the world. (5:14-16)
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Thought Question: How can you light up your part of the world?

 

 

"You are the light of the world." Once again, the fact that we are "the light of the world" tells us that the world is in darkness and that it needs Christians to provide light to it so that men can see what is true, righteous, and loving.  Jesus is referred to as "the light of the world." (John 9:5)  "In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:4-5)  "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12) See also John 3:19-21  Because Christ is in us, we also have His light in us and are to lighten up the world as He did.

"A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Just as a city on a hill is built so that it can be seen, so we are not to be a secret club, but we are to be a showcase to reveal to our world what God is like.  They should see in us what God intended life to be like and what He is like, so that He will receive the glory that is due Him.  "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them." (Ephesians 5:8-11) See also Philippians 2:4,15

The people of this world need the light, for their eyes are blinded to their own evil; and they do not see that goodness and purity should be their desire.  Without the light, what is evil replaces the good.  Pure G-rated movies are replaced by R-rated and X-rated movies. Without the light, evil becomes acceptable.  Abortion and homosexuality have now become acceptable behaviors, where they once were seen as detestable.  What is good has become evil, and what is evil has become good.  "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter." (Isaiah 5:20)  Even the greatest philosophers are still in the dark and do not see the depth of man's sinfulness nor do they recognize the God who is light. See I John 1:5

"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

We who are Christians have a purpose in this world.  We are to be lights in the darkness.  We are to reveal to the world what God is like.  So, now that we know our purpose, what should we do about it?  The answer, of course, is that we are to "let [our] light shine before men, that they may see [our] good deeds and praise [our] Father in heaven."  We should live in such a way that we are lights who reveal to the world what God is like. 

How can we fulfill our purpose and be lights in our world?  First of all, we need to believe that we are "light."  "Light" is our new nature.  We need to know that we are capable of being "light" to our world.  God has made us a new creation that is able to be "light" that reveals to our world what He is like. See II Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:10  Then, because we are new, we are to live as the new people in Christ that we have become.  "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and `depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing." (Philippians 2:14-16)  As a friend who does the editing of my material has said, we are to be like the stars in the night—we are to be "diamonds in the dark." (Alice Abbott)

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Colossians 3:12-14)  We are to "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

4. The moral standards of those in the God's kingdom (5:17-48)
In this part of the Lord's sermon, He explains to His listeners that the moral standards in His kingdom are the same as those given in the Old Testament; but they are not like the Pharisee's perverted version of the Old Testament law.  The Pharisees changed the Old Testament law to suit their own purposes and to make it possible for them to give the impression that they and they alone were obeying God's laws fully.

a. The standards in the kingdom do not replace the standards that are given in the Old Testament, but instead fulfill them (5:17-19)
Jesus did not come to lower the Old Testament law's requirements, but to fulfill them. See Romans 3:25-26, 31

(1) They do not abolish the Old Testament law, but fulfill it (5:17-18)
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

Thought Question: How do you believe that Jesus fulfilled the "Law [and] the Prophets"?

 

 

Not only did Jesus not soften the "Law"; but He said that every part of it needed to be fulfilled, even down to the smallest letter (the "jot" in the King James Version) and the smallest stroke of a letter (the "tittle" in the King James Version).  Even though His teaching was in complete disagreement with the distorted teachings of the Pharisees on the "Law," it was in complete agreement with the teaching in the Old Testament.  The Jews called our Old Testament by the name, "The Law [and] the Prophets."  

Jesus, who had not been trained as a Pharisee, was teaching authoritatively about "the Law [and] the Prophets."  His teachings were contradicting the teachings of the Pharisees.  It is obvious that these religious leaders of Israel would make the charge that He was teaching a strange new teaching that was in error and that disagreed with the Bible.  Here, Jesus states that it was not He that was in disagreement with the Bible, but it was they who were the false teachers.  He agreed with what is written in the Bible, for it is God's words given to God's spokesmen; but He disagreed with what they called God's words, for they were really only the words of men that came from men's oral traditions.

What does Jesus mean by "fulfill them"?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that Jesus is not talking here about adding Jesus' greater insights to the law.  Jesus does add His insights on how we should interpret what the law teaches, but that is not what He means here when He says he came to "fulfill the Law and the Prophets."   He, instead, is talking about how He would "fulfillthe Law and the Prophets" by fully obeying God's "Law" and fulfilling the picture-prophecies contained in the "Law."  For example, He was the High Priest, the blood sacrifice, and the suffering Servant the "Law" and "the Prophets" predicted.  When He came, He "fulfilled" what the Old Testament predicted by sacrificing Himself on the cross, taking His blood into the true Holy of Holies, and now representing us as our High Priest before the Father in heaven. See Hebrews 9:11-15, 10:1-18  For the law to be fulfilled, the punishment for sin that the law prescribed had to be paid.  He paid that price when He died as a sacrifice for our sins.  He also was born "under the law" (Galatians 4:4) and fully obeyed all that the "Law" required.  He also fully obeyed the moral requirements—He never sinned (John 8:46; II Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 2:22, 3:18; I John 3:5).

(2) So, obedience to these commands determines how great or small one is in God's kingdom. (5:19)
"Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

Thought Question: Why is it so wrong to disobey the "least" of God's commandments?

 

 

Our place in God's kingdom is determined by the degree to which we obey the King!  If we ignore even the least of His commandments, it shows our attitude toward the King.  Willfully disobeying even the least of God's commandments is a willful defiance of the King.  Here, Jesus is condemning the practice of the Pharisees who rebelliously chose to ignore parts of the Law that did not suit their purposes. See Matthew 23:23-24

b. The standards in the kingdom far surpasses the superficial righteousness of your religious leaders. (5:20-48)
The Pharisees and their other religious leaders outwardly gave the people of Israel the impression that they were obeying the Law, but Jesus reveals that inwardly they were disobeying the spirit of the Law. See Matthew 23;1-4

(1) Unless your obedience to righteousness surpasses the righteousness of the Pharisees, you will not even enter into God's kingdom. (5:20)
"For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

Thought Question #1:  What do you believe was wrong with the "righteousness" of Israel's religious leaders?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How can we avoid being like the religious leaders of Jesus' day?

 

 

The "Pharisees and the teachers of the law" were known for their diligence in copying, teaching, and obeying the Holy Scriptures.  They were seen as the godliest people in the nation of Israel.  What Jesus said here must have been a shocking statement to the people of Israel; especially to the "Pharisees and the teachers of the law."  If these religious people were not good enough to "enter the kingdom of heaven," who was?  What was wrong with these religious leaders of Israel?  We see in Matthew 23 that they focused an external form of religion and did not put that kind of focus on the internal state of their own hearts.  "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:25-28)  As we will see in the following verses, obedience to God must be from the heart and for the right reasons before it is true obedience.  The Pharisees were concerned about impressing men and not about pleasing God.  In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector, the Pharisee sees himself as being godlier before men than the tax-collector, while the tax-collector recognizes his sinfulness before God. See Luke 18:9-14

How do these verses apply to each of us?  Well, we certainly do not want to be like the Pharisees.  Years ago, a long-time Christian had a stroke.  Because of the clouding of his thinking caused by the stroke, he became concerned about his salvation.  He asked me about it.  I shared with him the simple sinner's prayer found in Luke 18:13: "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'" I asked him if he had prayed that prayer.  He said that he had and he appeared to be comforted by that simple truth.  Listen to what Jesus said of the tax-collector and his prayer: "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'" (Luke 18:14)

(2) You not only must not murder (the letter of the law), but you also must not have murder in your heart (the spirit) (5:21-26)
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."

"You have heard": because the people of Israel were unable to read the Hebrew language, they got their interpretations of the Law from what the Pharisees told them was in the Law and from what the Pharisees taught them was the proper application of the Law.  The Pharisees gave them the letter of the law, but had missed the true spirit or intent of the Law.  What the people of Israel "heard" from the Pharisees were the oral traditions (what was "heard") that were human interpretations of the Old Testament that were passed down from previous generations of scribes.  Through the years, these traditions had drifted away from the real intent of the Old Testament and had become a thoroughly human teaching rather than the divine teaching found in the Scriptures.  Here Jesus presents the true spirit of the Old Testament Law.  The Pharisees taught that you were not a murderer if you had never actually taken the life of someone; but Jesus could tell that the Pharisees had murder in their hearts and that they would soon show it by murdering Him.

There is some debate here that Jesus may have been referring to the teachings of Moses when He says, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago," but then He would be correcting the Scriptures when He says, "But I tell you."  Rather, He is correcting the traditional teaching of the religious leaders of His time who had developed a set of outward rules that these religious men could obey.  Jesus is pointing out that the purpose of the Law is to expose our sinfulness.  Listen to what Paul has to say about the purpose of the Law: "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.' But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good." (Romans 7:7-12)  The purpose of the Law was to reveal to us that we are sinful and antagonistic to God's law from our hearts.  See Romans 3:19-20, 5:20-21, 8:7-8; Galatians 2:16

Jesus said that God's Law is fulfilled when we love "the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart and with all [our] soul and with all [our] mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22:37-40)  When we love God and others in this way, we will not have murder in our heart toward them.  That is the true spirit of the Law.  If we have love in our hearts for men, we will not disobey any of the requirements of the Law.

(a) For it is not only the murderer who will be punished, but those who have murder in their hearts (5:21-22)
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.'"

Thought Question: What do Jesus' words here warn us about?

 

 

Jesus emphasizes the seriousness of a murderous heart attitude in the following ways:  (1) Anyone who is angry with his brother "will be subject to judgment.""Judgment" refers to a court of judgment.  "The judgment court is the local village counsel which dispensed justice.  That court was composed of the local village elders, and varied in number from three in villages of fewer than one hundred and fifty inhabitants to seven in larger town and twenty-three in still bigger cities."  "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."  (2) "Anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin."  "Raca" is a word that means "empty" and was a term of contempt, implying that someone was empty-headed.  The "Sanhedrin" was Israel's Supreme Court.  (3) "But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell."  We get our word "moron" from the Greek word that Jesus uses here that is translated, "You fool!"  It is like someone getting mad at another person and saying, "You moron!"  "The fires of hell" is Gehenna. It refers to the Valley of Ben-Hinnom.  It was at one time a place where children were sacrificed in the fire to the god Molech. See II Chronicles 28:3, 33:6  Josiah turned it into a garbage dump: "He desecrated Topheth, which was in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, so no one could use it to sacrifice his son or daughter in the fire to Molech." (2 Kings 23:10)  "In consequence of this the Valley of Hinnom became the place where the refuse of Jerusalem was cast out and destroyed.  It was a kind of public incinerator.  Always the fire smouldered in it, and a pall of thick smoke lay over it, and it bred a loathsome kind of worm which was hard to kill (Mark 9:44-48), so Gehenna, the Valley of Hinnom, became identified in peoples' minds with all that was accursed and filthy, the place where useless and evil things were destroyed.  That is why it became a synonym for the place of God's destroying power, for hell." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."  Jesus is saying that when we desire the worst for others by maligning their name and reputation, we also desire the very worst for ourselves from God!

Jesus is obviously teaching here that it is not right for us to have contempt, hate, and murderous attitudes in our hearts toward others.  Someone might wonder about Jesus' attitude toward the Pharisees that is expressed in Matthew 23.  He certainly had contempt when He said: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!" or "Woe to you, blind guides!" (Matthew 23:15-16)  Despising their sinful attitudes is different from hating them and desiring that they were dead.  We see Jesus' heart attitude toward them in Matthew 23:37: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37)

(b) Instead, we should seek to be reconciled with our brothers (5:23-26)
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny."

Thought Question: How do Jesus' words here apply to us today?

 

 

Because the heart must be filled with something, murderous heart attitudes need to be replaced with the pure attitudes that are described in the Beatitudes.  We should not worship God until we have done all we can to make our heart right with God and to be reconciled to our brothers:  (1) We need to do all we can to reconcile with our brother. See Romans 12:18  (2) We must quickly be reconciled with our adversaries.  At that time it was very advisable for the poor to get right with their adversaries before they went to court where they did not have a chance of persuading the corrupt judges that presided in these courts.  It is equally wise for us to quickly make things right with our foes.

(3) You not only must not commit adultery (the letter), but you also must not have adultery in your heart (the spirit). (5:27-30)
"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

Thought Question #1:  What is Jesus warning us about here?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How can we properly apply Jesus' words:  "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away"?

 

 

The Pharisees said that they were not like other men. See Luke 18:9-12  Jesus says here, though, that they were like other men.  In fact, He said that just like other men they were adulterers in their hearts.

(a) For those who look on a woman lustfully, commit adultery in their hearts. (5:27-28)
"You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

The Tenth Commandment says:  ". . . You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. . ." (Exodus 20: 17)  Here the Ten Commandments show that God is not just talking about an external obedience to the Law, but He requires that our hearts be free from all impure desires.  "But how searching how condemning!  Irregular looks, unchaste desires, and strong passions are the very essence of adultery; and who can claim a life-long freedom from them?  Yet these are the things which defile a man."  "Taken from The Gospel of of the Kingdom by Charles Spurgeon."

Paul, a former Pharisee, points out in Romans 7 that it was through this Commandment that he realized his inability to obey God's Commandments:  "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.' But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful." (Romans 7:7-13)

D. L. Moody is reported to have said that we must get people lost before we can get them saved.  The Jews of Jesus' time, the Pharisees, and the people of our time need to realize that we are all sinners from the heart.  Jesus' words here expose the sinfulness of the self-righteous Pharisees and expose the sinfulness in the heart of all men.  The purpose of the law is to reveal to us the sinfulness and selfishness that is already present in each human's heart:  "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." (Romans 3:20)

(b) Instead, we must totally condemn that in us which causes us to lust. (5:29-30)
"If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

Jesus uses very strong language here:  "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away."  Jesus uses exaggerated figures of speech to communicate how seriously we must condemn that which is in us that causes us to lust after that which is impure and unholy.  What is it in us that must be gouged out and put off?  First of all, we need to be willing to acknowledge anything that is in our heart which is abhorrent and is contrary to God's pure ways needs to be removed.  Secondly, we need to, then, fully desire to remove from our hearts that which defiles us just as we desire to remove anything that is putrid from our physical bodies.  If some type of filth gets on our skin, we immediately seek to remove it or wash it off our body.  We need to see that there is moral filth that needs to immediately be removed and washed from our soul.  Part of the moral filth that needs to be removed and washed from our soul is the impure sexual lust that Jesus described in the previous 2 verses.

Also, notice again that it is the attitude of heart that needs to be removed and not just the actions that need to be removed.  Just like we need to remove the roots of a weed to get rid of that weed, we need to get rid of the cause of sin, to get rid of sin.  We need to clean the heart of sin and not just cleanse our actions from sin.

Notice one more aspect of Jesus' words, Jesus says: "If your right eye causes you to sin" and "If your right hand causes you to sin."  Why does Jesus say, "right eye" and "right hand"?  In Jesus' time, the right eye and right hand were seen as more valuable to a person than the left eye and left hand.  So, Jesus was saying that even if it is your most valuable right eye and right hand that lead you into sin, you must get rid of them.  It was a powerful way for Jesus to say that sin is so important to remove from us that even if it were the most valuable part of our body that caused us to sin, it must immediately be removed.  In short, there is nothing that should be more important to us than to remove sin from our lives.

The time when Jesus most obviously taught how absolutely important it is to remove sin from our lives is when He hung on the cross.  It is so important to God that sin be fully dealt with that God's Son died a horrible death to free us from sin's penalty and the stench of it on our lives.  Should we deal lightly with what God has dealt with so seriously?

Next, how can we "gouge it out" and put it off?  It is not certain whether or not there were those in church history who did take Jesus' words literally and did gouge out their eyes.  But, we can be certain that Jesus did not mean that we are to gouge out our eyes if we sin in this way, for, as Charles Spurgeon said in his words that were quoted earlier, everyone fails in this area.  We would all walk around with our eyes gouged out.  What does Jesus mean, then?  How can we "gouge it out"?  First of all, again, as Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out: "We must train ourselves to hate sin." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 The Inter-Varsity Fellowship."  We will seek to get rid of only that which we thoroughly hate and detest. See James 1:21

Next, we must flee from that which is impure:  "Flee the evil desires of youth."  (II Timothy 2:22a)  If we hate that which is impure, we will immediately flee or run away from it.  Further, we must fully desire that we be pure; "and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (II Timothy 2:22b)  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8)  We will not seek that which is impure when we hate that which is impure and are pursuing only that which is pure.

We "gouge it out" by fleeing the impure and by pursuing that which is pure.  But, an important part of gouging "it out" is to realize that when we become a new creature in Christ, we in the new person that God has now created us to be really do desire that which is pure: "In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness." (Romans 6:11-13)  We can think that when we try to resist sin that we are seeking to not do, what we really want to do.  As Christians with Christ in us that is not true. Instead, in our new nature provided to us by God's grace, we really do hate sin and love righteousness.  We, then, are gouging out that which we now detest. 

Also, a vital part of gouging "it out" requires that we choose to give up the pleasures of sin.  Sin has its appeal because it is pleasurable.  We will find sin irresistible if we still want to enjoy the pleasure of sin.  A few years back I learned that I had become a type 2 diabetic.  At first, I did not want to give up the delicious desserts that I have enjoyed all of my life.  I learned, though, that enjoying these desserts could result in blindness and the amputation of, for example, a foot.  I, then, chose to stop doing something that gave me pleasure.  As Christians, we must choose to stop doing that which brings pleasure; if it brings us a sinful pleasure.  "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5)  "It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7)  "Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry." (1 Peter 4:1-3)  "Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery . . .   Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature [flesh]." (Romans 13:13-14)  See also Ephesians 4:17-19; Galatians 5:16; Romans 8:5

Finally, the old flesh-controlled life must be gouged out and replaced with the new Spirit-controlled life:  "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature." (Galatians 5:16)  See Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:9-10  Walking in the Spirit is the opposite of the flesh-driven life.  Paul teaches us that we can live by the desires of the flesh or we can live by the desires of God's Spirit: "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." (Romans 8:5)

We can "gouge it out."  If we do not, it is because we choose not to, not because we cannot.  Jesus died and rose again so that we who believe in Him may have a new life of purity.  If we continue to have a life of impurity, it is because we have chosen to live a life of impurity.

(3) You cannot divorce your wife by giving her a "certificate of divorce" (the letter of the law), but if you divorce your wife, you are responsible for your wife committing adultery (the spirit of the law), unless you divorce her because of her unfaithfulness. (5:31-32)

"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery."

Thought Question: Does Jesus' words, here, allow for divorce in some cases?  Please explain your reason for your answer.

 

 

In Deuteronomy 24:1-4, we find these instructions about divorce that were given to Moses by God: "If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance."

The Pharisees used these words of Moses in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 as a license to divorce their wives for any reason; but the actual reason that God allowed them to divorce in Moses' time was because the Israelites at his time were so hardened and so promiscuous that requiring them to give their wives a "certificate of divorce" restrained them somewhat from wholesale adultery.  Moses' words restrained divorce in a number of ways: (1) It required that men find some reason to justify divorce.  Men could not divorce their wives without giving any reason.  (2) A man must give her a "certificate of divorce."  She was at least declared legally divorced.  She was not just a woman with no clear status at all.  (3) The man was not allowed to marry her again.  He could not try another marriage out, and if it did not work out, go back to his previous wife.  It was not at all what marriage was meant to be, but it served to somewhat restrain the promiscuity that was taking place in Moses' time.

Jesus brings the people of His time on earth back to God's original intent for marriage:  "Jesus replied, 'Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.'" (Matthew 19:8-9) See Matthew 19:1-12

The spirit of the Pharisees' teaching actually served to promote adultery rather than provide a restraint on it; for even in Moses' time when a man divorced his wife, he caused her and her new husband to break her commitment of marriage to him and he caused them to enter into a marriage relationship that was not according to God's original plan.  This man was actually causing his former wife and her new husband to become adulterers.  The Pharisees, then, by encouraging divorce, were also encouraging those under their leadership to commit adultery.

"In those days, you remember, the men generally held a very low and poor view of women, and they had come to believe that they had a right to divorce their wives for almost any and every kind of frivolous and unworthy reason." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 The Inter-Varsity Fellowship"

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is not correcting the Old Testament Law, but He is correcting the Pharisees' perversion of the Law and their misinterpretation of it.  What happened in Jesus' time still occurs today.  We need to be very careful that we do not seek to get the Bible to say something that we want it to say, rather than seeking to find the true spirit of the Bible and to apply it to our lives.

Not all of the Pharisees were as liberal in their interpretation of Deuteronomy 24 as those that Jesus confronted: the main controversy was over the phrase in Deuteronomy 24:1 where it said that a man could divorce his wife if he found "something indecent" about her.  "In all matters of Jewish law there were two schools.  There was the school of Shammai, which was the strict, severe, austere school; and there was the school of Hillel which was the liberal, broad-minded, generous school.  Shammai and his school defined some indecency as meaning unchastity and nothing but unchastity.  'Let the wife be as mischievous as the wife of Ahab,'  they said, 'she cannot be divorced except for adultery.'  To the school of Shammai there was no possible ground for divorce except only adultery and unchastity.  On the other hand the school of Hillel defined some indecency in the widest possible way.  They said that it meant that a man could divorce his wife if she spoiled his meal by putting too much salt on his food, if she went in public with her head uncovered, if she talked to men in the streets, if she was a brawling woman, if she spoke disrespectfully of her husband's parents in his presence, if she was troublesome or quarrelsome.  A certain Rabbi Akiba said that the phrase, if she have no favor in his sight meant that a man might divorce his wife if he found a woman whom he considered more attractive than she." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

There are those who say that no one can divorce their spouse for any reason at all.  It is true that we should seek above all to retain God's purpose for marriage; that we should seek a lifelong union of a man and a woman.  Breaking up a marriage has no good results.  It leaves a lifelong effect on the man, the woman, and their children.  It should be avoided unless there is a determined effort by one or more of the parties in the marriage to break up that union.  Jesus does give us one legitimate reason to break up a marriage union in these verses: "But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness. . . ."  Notice that Jesus does not say here that anyone is obligated to divorce a wife who is unfaithful, but he makes it clear that divorce in these cases is allowed. 

In I Corinthians 7:15-16,  Paul says: "But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?"  Here, the Christian spouse does not seek after the divorce; the non-Christian deserts the marriage.  The Christian spouse is not to resist what the non-Christian chooses to do for the sake of keeping peace.  It should not be the cause of a big conflict.  Allow the non-Christian to make their choice without an angry resistance to his or her choice.

Finally, we need to focus Jesus' words that if the marriage bond is not legitimately broken and a partner in the marriage breaks the marriage bond, that person and the person he or she remarries commit adultery in the eyes of God.  This commandment of God is not taken as seriously today as it was in the past.  No matter how seriously people take it, it remains the commandment of our Creator, and we will stand before Him and be accountable to Him for our choice to honor His commands or disobey His commands.  Those of us who fear Him choose to honor Him by seeking to obey His commands on the marriage relationship as given to us here by His Son Jesus Christ.

(4) You not only must not break an oath (the letter of the law), but you must limit your oaths to Yes and No (the spirit of the law). (5:33-37)
"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

Thought Question: What is the application of these verses to your life today?  

 

 

Oaths in Jesus' time were like our signature today.  The people of Israel at that time were making oaths and then finding some way to get out of their oaths.  What they were doing was like one of us saying that our signature is not binding because we did not include our middle name in the signature that we signed.  For example, someone might sign a 1-year lease to rent a house and then find a house that he likes better and say that the lease he had signed was not binding on him because he had not included his middle name in the signature he put on the lease.  We can see that if this type of thing happened regularly in our society, it would have us in court against each other even more than we are already in court against each other.  It would destabilize our whole society, just as the untrustworthiness of oaths in Jesus' time destabilized their society.

In Jesus' time, they felt that if an oath was not made in God's name, it was not binding.  For example, if they swore by heaven, the earth, or by Jerusalem, it was not binding.  But, Jesus says that heaven, the earth, and Jerusalem are all God's, and when they swear by them, they are also swearing in God's name.  Instead of these deceptive and evasive oaths, they should simply say yes and mean it or no and mean it.  What they were doing was using God's earth, heaven and city to help them deceive each other.  "Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:12) See also Exodus 20:7

The Pharisees had become something like the unscrupulous lawyers who are able to get guilty criminals off on some technical point of the law.  They were primarily interested in the letter of the law and not the spirit of God's laws.

Can we do the same type of thing in our day?  We can come up with some contrived way to justify doing something that is sinful.  We can, for example, say that we are under grace, so it is okay for us to do something that is sinful. See Romans 6:1  We can say that no one is perfect, so it is okay for us to lose our temper.  We can cheat on our income tax because the government is taxing us unfairly.  This is the same type of twisted thinking that the Pharisees were using in justifying that their oaths were not binding.

Do Jesus' words, "Do not swear at all," mean that we should never make an oath?  For example, should a Christian refuse to take an oath when he is called to testify in court?  The Quakers believe that is exactly what Jesus was commanding and they do refuse to make this type of oath.  Jesus, though, was not prohibiting the making of oaths, but the making of deceptive oaths.  Paul made oaths: "I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—" (Romans 9:1)  "I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth." (2 Corinthians 1:23)  The author of Hebrews refers to God making an oath in Hebrews 6:16-17: "Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.  Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath."

There is another place in our society, besides the courtroom, where a very important oath before God is made.  It is in the wedding service.  There a couple swears before God, in their vows, to a lifelong marriage to one person.  We all know how frequently in our society this vow or oath before God is broken. As Jesus commands here: "Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." 

Why is Jesus so strong on the making of oaths?  One reason is that our relationship with God is based on the covenants or oaths that God has made with us.  When we as Christians and as representatives of God break our oaths, we weaken in men's eyes the oaths that God has made with us.  Our whole relationship with God is based on the New Covenant in blood that Jesus made with us: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:20b)  When we make an oath before God, may we remember God's oath in blood that has been made to us, and not take our oath at all lightly.

(5) You cannot use God's teaching on justice as an excuse for you to take personal revenge on your enemies, but instead you must love your enemies (5:38-47)

(a) Instead of retaliating against insults and injustices, you must be willing to take even more of them without lashing out in retaliation (5:38-39)
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

Thought Question #1:  Is Jesus saying that an "Eye for an eye" no longer applies to us today?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is meant by "turning the other cheek"? (When and how do you do it?)

 

 

The religious leaders of Jesus' time were using the teachings of the Mosaic Law about justice to justify taking personal revenge against someone who had offended them.  An "eye for an eye" meant to them that they could steal from someone who stole from them.  See Exodus 21:23-35; Leviticus 24:17-22 and Deuteronomy 19:21 for Moses' teachings on justice.  The instructions about justice in the Old Testament Law were meant to serve as guidelines for justice within the courts of Israel and not as an authorization for personal revenge.  In fact, the "eye for eye" standard of justice was given to restrain excessive retaliation and extreme punishment.  Those who seek revenge, desire to inflict even more pain on the one who offended them than was inflicted on them.  Revenge usually seeks more retaliation on the offender than the boundaries of justice allow.

Does turning the other cheek mean that we are never to resist the evil person and always to allow the evil person to have his or her own way?  In other words, does it mean that if someone is robbing our house, raping a family member, kidnapping our children, or attacking our country that we are not to resist?  Jesus, Himself, did not seem to practice this type of total non-resistance to evil: He taught us to confront those who sin against us (See Matthew 18:15-17); He drove the money changers and merchants out of the Temple grounds; Mark 11:15-17); He defended Himself when He was attacked by the High Priest (See John 18:20-23); and He furiously and mercilessly attacked the Pharisees in Matthew 23 about their hypocrisy.  What, then, is the answer?  Jesus is not teaching a total non-resistance to evil, but He is teaching that we should never seek personal revenge by returning evil for evil.  Jesus' response to evil was directed toward the evil; it was not directed at people for the purpose of getting personal revenge.  It was not done out of hatred toward people, but out of a pure hatred of evil.  Listen to Jesus' words in Matthew 23 after He has strongly exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37) See Acts 16:37-39 and 22:25-29 where Paul protests mistreatment by appealing to his standing as a Roman citizen.

Listen also to Paul's words: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:17-21)  Paul's words carry the very same message as Jesus' words in this part of the Sermon on the Mount.

There are times when we are allowed to resist evil.  It is a policeman's, a judge's, and a soldier's job to resist evil. See Romans 13:1-4   They are not to take personal revenge, but to protect people and to do what is just.  For example, a policeman whose wife has just been raped should not be selected to arrest the person who did the crime.  Why?  The policeman whose wife has been raped will not go out to arrest that person and to bring him to justice, but he will most likely go after that person to get personal revenge.  Soldiers should not fight in a war out of hate for those whom they are warring against.  They, instead, should do their job with a sense that their work is regrettably necessary.

Therefore, the Bible does not teach a type of pacifism that requires that a Christian never take up arms or use force against anyone.  Although our country allows for religious pacifism, there is nothing in the Bible that prevents a Christian from becoming a soldier or a policeman.  In fact, those who are complete pacifists are dependent on those who are not pacifists to protect them from those in our society and in our world who are evil aggressors. 

Protecting a weak person from being physically and emotionally harmed is an honorable act.  For example, we need to protect our children from bullies in our schools.  The recent school shootings have shown us what takes place when young people take their own revenge on a bully or a group of bullies. 

So, then, what is meant by "turning the other cheek"?   What it means is that how others treat us and whether or not we have been treated fairly is not to become the focus of our life; though humanly it can very easily become our main focus.  Jesus did not make that His main focus.  His main focus was that He "came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10)  In the process of fulfilling this selfless, merciful and gracious mission, He was unfairly treated right up to being crucified on a completely false charge.  What did He say while He was hanging on the cross?  "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)  That is turning the other cheek!  We are to follow Him in seeking after His mission "to seek and to save" those who are lost.  We are also to be willing to suffer and "to turn the other cheek" as we do only that which will further His cause on this earth.  "Turning the other cheek" means that we must, as we follow after Christ's mission, be willing to deny any type of selfish responses to those who offend us.  " . . . Jesus said to his disciples, 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'" (Matthew 16:24) See Acts 5:41; II Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 1:29, 3:10; II Timothy 1:8; I Peter 4:13,16

(b) Instead of giving only the bare minimum of what someone asks of you, be willing to do even more! (5:40-42)
"And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."

 

Thought Question #1:  Does "let him have your cloak as well" mean that you give someone whatever he asks of you?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What is a modern-day example of "going the extra mile"?

 

 

"And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well."  Does what Jesus teaches here mean that we are to continually give to those who are quick to take advantage of someone who is a soft touch?  Paul seems to teach the very opposite of this in II Thessalonians 3:10 where he says:  "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."  What, then, does Jesus mean here?  Jesus was not saying that we are to allow people to take advantage of us to their own hurt, but He taught that the selfishness in us needs to be fully removed.  Selfishness needs to be removed so that it does not prevent us from giving to others; but, instead, we should be willing to give to people even more than they ask of us.  God's people should give beyond what is convenient and even to the point of being sacrificial.  Our willingness to give beyond even what is asked of us shows whether or not we have truly died to selfishness.  But, that does not mean that we should give to someone when it will actually hurt them.  For example, we should not give money to someone when we know that that person will use it to buy drugs or alcohol to feed a destructive addiction. 

"If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."  "This compelling to go a mile is a reference to a custom which was very common in the ancient world, by means of which a government had a right to commandeer a man in manner of portage or transport.  A certain amount of baggage had to be moved from one place to another, so the authorities had the right to commandeer a man at any place and they would make him carry the baggage from the stage to the next.  Then they took hold of someone else and made him take it to the next stage, and so on.  This, of course, was a power that was especially exercised by any country that had conquered another, and at this time Palestine had been conquered by the Romans.  The Roman army was in control of the life of the Jews, and they very frequently did this sort of thing.  A man might be doing his own work when suddenly a band of soldiers would come and say to him, 'You must carry this baggage from here to the next stage.  You must carry if for a mile.'" "Taken from Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 The Inter-Varsity Fellowship."  Jesus is here saying that the Jews of His time should not begrudgingly go the first mile, because they did not really have a choice; but, they should even volunteer to go a second mile. 

How do Jesus' words apply to us in our modern world?  It deals with our natural rebellion against authorities over us.  The government says we are to do something.  Our human tendency is to resent them telling us to do anything:  "Who are they to tell me what to do?"  Jesus is saying that this selfish rebellious spirit needs to go.  We should, instead, be willing to do what they require of us, and we should be willing to do even more than what they ask us to do.  In each of these teachings of Jesus in this portion of Matthew, Jesus is pointing out that we have inner selfish and egotistical attitudes that need to be removed: lust, selfishness, pride, and rebellion.  Until these heart attitudes are removed at the heart of us, we are disobeying God's commandments, even if we appear to be obeying them outwardly.

An example that will illustrate what Jesus is talking about here is what can happen at the work place.  Imagine that you own a business and you hire three men to work for you. You can tell that two of the men do not like to take orders from you.  They reluctantly obey what you require them to do, usually doing no more than the bare minimum of what is required of them.  The remaining worker, though, not only does what you require him to do, but he also goes beyond what you require of him.  To make it even more amazing, he does it all joyfully.  He even seems to enjoy working for you.  This man has gone the extra mile.  He is submissive from the heart to your leadership.  He shows his complete submission to you by even being willing to go the extra mile.

(c) Instead of hating your enemies, love them and then you will be like your Father in heaven, for if you only love those who love you, you are not doing better than the tax-collectors and pagans. (5:43-47)
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?"

Thought Question: Think of an example of someone it is very hard for you to love; how do these words of Jesus apply to your relationship with that person?

 

 

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'"  In this verse it becomes clear that what the people of Israel "heard" was not coming from the Old Testament, for there is nothing in the Old Testament that says it is okay to hate your enemies.  In fact, the Old Testament teaches the very opposite:  "Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord." (Leviticus 19:18)  "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:33-34)  "Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him." (Proverbs 24:17-18) See also Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 23:7; Proverbs 25:21-22  What they "heard" was from the teachings of the Pharisees.  They taught that it was okay to "hate your enemy."  In particular, they were to hate the Gentiles or the non-Jew.  "Indeed they went so far as to suggest that it was their business, almost their right and their duty to all such people." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 The Inter-Varsity Fellowship."

There was some justification for Pharisaical teachings against the Gentiles, for had not God ordered the killing of the Canaanites when Israel entered the Promised Land?  "However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.  Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you." (Deuteronomy 20:16-17) See also Psalm 139:19-22  But, the following verse explains why God orders the people of Canaan to be destroyed.  "Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 20:18)  God was not teaching them to hate these people, but he was teaching them to hate and remove the evil that had completely taken over these people.  They had become so sinful that it was necessary that they and their evil be completely eliminated from the Promised Land.  Israel was to hate the sin and not the sinner.  But, in the case of the people in Canaan the sin had so completely taken over in their lives that the people also needed to be destroyed.

"But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."  Some have been troubled that God allows evil to continue.  For example, why did God allow Hitler to wickedly murder so many Jews?  Why did God not stop it in the beginning?  Why also, then, does God not strike you and me dead the minute that we do something evil, like slander another?  Paul gives this answer to why God does not immediately judge evil:  "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Romans 2:4)  God chooses to be kind and gracious even to the evil.  Even those who are evil enjoy God's goodness as the sun warms them also and as they also benefit from the rain falling on their lands.  If we choose to love our enemies, we are doing toward them what God has chosen to do to them; we also love those who hate us.

The type of love that is described in I Corinthians 13, the love chapter, seeks another's best no matter what the cost or the circumstances, even if that person has made himself or herself your enemy.  This is God's type of love: "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)  God did the best for us, even when we were absorbed in our own sinfulness and could not care less about Him and His ways.  We also are to seek the best for even those who hate us.

". . . pray for those who persecute you . . ."  If we see where those who hate us and hate God are heading, it will help us to be concerned about them.  They are heading toward a godless hell where they will experience eternal torment.  Do we hate them so much that we desire that they experience this horror of all horrors?  There are those who are so hardened in their evil that it is hell that is their appropriate reward. See Psalm 58:6-10, 109:10-15, 137:8-9, 139:19-22  But, while there is still hope of repentance we should pray that they will repent, turn to God, and escape the fires of hell.  There was even hope for the Ninevah, the capital city of the vicious Assyrians, in Jonah's day. See Jonah 3  Though Jonah was not willing to forgive the Assyrians, God was.  We should pray for even those who hate God, for like Paul, they may repent and become God's children.

"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?"

The "tax collectors" were the most despised members of the Jewish race in Jesus' time.  They sided with the hated Romans for their own gain.  They collected taxes from their Jewish brethren and they also collected additional money to line their own pockets. They sided with the Romans and robbed their own people.  Even these lowly tax collectors loved those who loved them.  So, loving those who love us is no accomplishment at all; anyone can do that.  But, we are called to love those who hate us.  As in all the Sermon on the Mount, we are called to a type of from-the-heart behavior that is impossible for us and is possible only when God gives us His ability to do it.  We are called to love others like He loves us. See John 13:34,35; Acts 7:59,60

c. God's standards for morality is for us to be totally perfect and holy as He is. (5:48)
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

Thought Question: Since none of us can be perfect, why do you believe Jesus commands us to be perfect in this verse?

 

 

God's purpose for us is to be holy as He is holy and He has never and will never lower His standards for us.  We must be "perfect," but we find also that we cannot be "perfect."  That is the dilemma that the Sermon on the Mount creates.  It leads to us being "poor in spirit." (5:3)  We do not measure up to God's standards, and on our own we will never measure up to God's standards.  But, Jesus has provided for us His strength to live His holy type of life: "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

5. The standard for purity in God's kingdom (6:1-18)
In Matthew 6, Jesus confronts what it is in the heart of man that most pulls us away from His rule in our hearts.  Obviously, we cannot be in God's kingdom if Jesus is not the King of our hearts.  In these verses, Jesus describes 3 ways that the world invades our hearts and takes over control: (1) by alluring us into seeking the praise of men (6:1-18); (2) by alluring us into seeking after the world's riches (6:19-24); and (3) by frightening us into being weighed down by fears that we are going to lose the riches of the world that we already have (6:25-34). See Matthew 13:22  In 6:1-18, Jesus dramatizes for us what is necessary for us to do before we will be free from being controlled by the desire to impress men.  He provides us with His standards for purity from pride and self-exaltation in 3 primary expressions of our devotion to God: (1) giving (6:1-4), (2) prayer (6:5-15), and (3) fasting (6:16-18).  "To the Jew there were three great cardinal works of the religious life---almsgiving, prayer and fasting.  Jesus would not for a moment have disputed that; what troubled him was that so often in human life the finest things were done from the wrong motives. . . . A man may give alms, not really to help the person to whom he gives, but simply to demonstrate his own generosity, and to bask in the warmth of someone's gratitude and all men's praise.  A man may pray in such a way that his prayer is not really to address God, but to his fellow-men.  His praying may simply be an attempt to demonstrate his exceptional piety in such a way that no one can fail to see it.  A man may fast, not really for the good of his own soul, not really to humble himself in the sight of God, but simply to show the world what a splendidly self-disciplined character he is.  A man may practice good works simply to win praise from men, to increase his own prestige, and to show the world how good he is . . . What Jesus is saying is this:  'If you give alms to demonstrate your own generosity, you will get the admiration of men---but that is all you will ever get.  That is your payment in full.  If you pray in such a way as to flaunt your piety in the face of men, you will gain the reputation of being an extremely devout man---but that is all you will ever get.  That is your payment in full.  If you fast in such a way that all men know you are fasting, you will become known as an extremely abstemious and ascetic man---but that is all you will ever get.  That is your payment in full." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

a. Standards for purity in giving (6:1-4)

(1) Impure giving: giving that is really getting (6:1-2)
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."

Thought Question: These verses are two of the most heart-searching verses in the Bible; how does it affect you?

 

 

In Isaiah 64:6, we find this honest appraisal of our human attempts to do that which is truly good: "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away."  Jesus reveals why our "righteous acts are like filthy rags."  Our motives are impure.  We are doing what is right for the wrong motives.  G. Campbell Morgan had the following to say about what Jesus describes here: "This is a picture of the popular method of the hour in which Jesus lives. . . . Some come to a conspicuous place in the city, around him the maimed, [the crippled], the blind.  Then, with a great showing of generosity, he would scatter gifts upon them." "Taken from The Gospel According to Matthew by G. Campbell Morgan.  Copyright 1929 by Fleming H. Revell Company."  It is clear that they gave not to help the needy, but to gain some applause for themselves.  "Hypocrites" translates the Greek word for an actor.  Those who gave in this way gave primarily not to help people, but to help themselves to be admired by others.

What is described here is not the kingdom of heaven.  It is an attempt to impress men so that they will think that someone is being godly and submissive to God, but actually it is only a human counterfeit of what genuine life is like in the kingdom of heaven.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones speaks that which we all feel when we read Jesus' words in these two verses and throughout the sixth chapter of Matthew: "chapter vi is again a very searching one; indeed, we can go further and say that it is a very painful one.  I sometimes think that it is one of the most uncomfortable chapters to read in the entire Scriptures.  It probes and examines and holds a mirror up before us, and it will not allow us to escape.  There is no chapter which is more calculated to promote self-humbling and humiliation than this particular one." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 The Inter-Varsity Fellowship."

When do we give in an impure way and when are we giving in a pure way?  It is very important question, for when we give in an impure way, we are giving to gain the admiration of men and their admiration becomes our only reward; but when we are giving in a pure way we will stand before Jesus Christ and receive our reward from Him.  First of all, we can see from these two verses that it is very possible to do our Christian service in a way that does not please Jesus Christ.  That should put a godly fear into our souls.  We should be very concerned that our service of God is not like the Pharisees' impure service to God that completely displeased Jesus Christ! 

So, how can our service to God please Him?  Jesus answers that question in the following verses.

(2) Pure giving: giving that is really giving (6:3-4)
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Thought Question: How can you do what Jesus commands us to do in these verses?

 

 

What does Jesus mean by "do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret"?  Jesus means that we should not be self-conscious about what people think of us as we are serving.  We should not be keeping track in our own minds of how wonderfully we are doing.  For, if we are self-conscious in this sort of way, we will be doing what we are doing to gain the greatest appreciation or admiration from others rather than serving God no matter whether or not it receives any good response from men at all.  I think of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War in our country.  In the midst of that war, he had at least half of the country that was so opposed to his belief that slavery was wrong that they had gone to war with him.  Certainly, there were many others in the North who believed that he was causing friends and family to die for his own convictions.  If he had been primarily a people pleaser, he would not have taken our nation to war.  Slavery undoubtedly would have continued in our country.  He chose to do that which was unpopular, but right.  He even died from an assassin's bullet as a result of following his unpopular convictions. 

Paul tells us that "everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." "(II Timothy 3:12)  Jesus said: "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." (Matthew 5:11-12)  We are not to focus on what will please people and make us feel good as a result of their praise, but on what will please God even if it results in men being displeased with us.

". . . so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."  If we can be satisfied that we are seeking to please God alone, then we will be willing to do our service without anyone else but Him being aware of it.  We will also be willing to do that which we believe pleases Him whether or not people are pleased or displeased with what we do.  We will be willing to live according to our conscience, our faith before God, and our genuine concern for the needs of others.  Our service to God will be a secret matter lived between God and us, as we quietly seek to please Him in all that we do. See I Corinthians 4:1-5; I Timothy 1:5, 18-20

b. Standards for purity in prayer (6:5-15)

(1) Impure prayer (6:5)
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."

Thought Question: How can you do what Jesus commands us to do in these verses?

 

 

"The Jewish system of prayer made ostentation [showing off] very easy.  The Jew prayed standing with hands stretched out, palms upwards, and with head bowed.  Prayer had to be said at 9 a.m., 12 midday, and 3 p.m.  It had to be said wherever a man might be, and it was easy for a man to make sure that at these hours he was at a busy street corner, or in a crowded city square, so that all the world might see with what devotion he prayed.  It was easy for a man to halt on the top step of the entrance to the synagogue, and there pray lengthily and demonstratively, so that all men might admire his exceptional piety.  It was easy to put on an act of prayer which all the world might see." "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

As Martyn Lloyd-Jone observes, sin "follows us . . . even into the very presence of God." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 The Inter-Varsity Fellowship."  We would like to believe that sin flees when we approach God in prayer, but as Jesus reveals here, it affects the type of prayer life that we have.  We can be worshiping self while we appear to be worshiping God.  Jesus portrays this unholy attitude in prayer in Luke 18:9-12: "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”'"

In the book of Romans, Paul reveals the sinfulness of the Gentiles in the last half of chapter 1.  But, in the next chapter and a half he reveals the sinfulness of the self-righteous Jews.  He is quite hard on them, just as Jesus is hard on the Pharisees in Matthew 23.  Compare Matthew 23:24-26 and Romans 2:17-24:  "You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.  Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." (Matthew 23:24-26)  "Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: 'God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'" (Romans 2:17-24)

Now compare the prayer of the tax-collector with the prayer of the Pharisee: "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.  I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:13-14)  As I write these words, my wife Shirley and I are in the midst of a short stay with our daughter and her family.  I commented to our daughter Tammy about how sin can follow us into the presence of God.  I shared with her what I had just written about this and how I now hoped that God would direct me to His solution to this dilemma.  She recommended James 4.  Listen to James words: "But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." (James 4:6-10)  Certainly, when we enter the presence of God in prayer, we need to remember that we are completely unworthy of being there and that we are there only because of God's wonderful grace and not because of our own piety.

(2) Pure prayer: it is for God alone. (6:6-8)

(a) It is prayer that is directed to God alone. (6:6)
"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Thought Question #1:  Paul in his letters to people and churches told them that he was praying continually for them; was he disobeying Jesus' words here?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Does Jesus mean here that we are to never pray in a public setting and that we are never to pray in a group?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Does Jesus' instruction in this verse mean that we are only to pray in private?  There are many examples of group prayer meetings in the Bible. See Matthew 18:19-20; Luke 19:28; Acts 1:12-14, 2:42, 4:23-31, 12:5,12; I Timothy 2:8  Even what we call "the Lord's prayer," that we come to shortly in this chapter in Matthew, speaks of "Our Father" which suggests some type of group prayer.  Why were these prayers pure though they were made in public?  It is obvious that what is important is not where we pray, but why we pray.  As A. W. Pink points out.  All prayer should be made "in the same spirit of humility and sincerity as though we were alone, engaged in private prayer . . . entering the closet and closing the door was a figurative way of saying, shut from your mind all that is of the creation and have respect for God; be not occupied with those present but with Him who is in us."  Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the same type of point: "First of all there is the process of exclusion.  To make sure that I realize I am approaching God and I have to exclude certain things.  I have to enter into that closet. . . . There are some people who fondly persuade themselves that this is just a prohibition of all prayer meetings.  They say, 'I do not go to prayer meetings, I pray in secret.'  But it is not a prohibition of prayer meetings, for that is taught of God and commended in the Scriptures.  There are prayer meetings recorded in the Scriptures, and they are the very essence of the life of the church.  That is not what He is prohibiting.  The principle is that there are certain things which we have shut out whether we are praying in public or whether we are praying in secret. . . . The next step is realization.  After exclusion, realization.  Realize what?  Well, we must realize that we are in the presence of God." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 The Inter-Varsity Fellowship."

So, praying in "secret" is an attitude whereby we enter God's presence in humility excluding thoughts of how others are evaluating our prayers.  Most of us will admit that this is not as easy as it sounds, for self can easily draw us away from the type of pure praying that Jesus calls us to and toward the impure type of prayer that Jesus warns us against.

Some also will say that Jesus' words will tell us that we can never tell anyone that we are praying for them.  But, Paul often talked about his prayers for others. See Romans 1:9-10; Colossians 1:9; Ephesians 1:15-16  We can be confident that Paul was not sinning when he was telling people that he prayed for them.  Why was Paul not sinning when he told people that he was praying for them? Again, what is important is his motive for telling them.  He was not trying to impress them with what a great Christian he was, but he wanted them to know how concerned he was for them.  He also wanted to encourage them to pray for others in the same way that he prayed for others. See 6:18-20; Colossians 4:2-4

(b) It is not empty, repetitive prayer. (6:7)
"And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words."

Thought Question: Is Jesus here teaching us that we should not pray over and over again for a request; like, for example, praying over and over again for a family member's salvation?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Jesus' words seem to contradict other instructions that he gives in the Bible.  There are a couple of times where He appears to encourage us to continue to pray for the same thing over and over until our prayers are answered.  "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always prayer and not give up." See Luke 18:1-8; 11:5-10  There is a large difference between persevering in prayer because we are continually concerned that God's will be done and a mindless and mechanical repetition of some words.  Our prayers are not be like the mechanical mantras of Eastern religions. See Acts 19:34; I Kings 18:26-27  We are not trying get God to pay attention to us by using a repetition of words; we are praying that God's will be done, and we continue to pray for His will to be done until it is done.  We are not trying to get His attention; we always have it.  But we recognize that God is somehow including our prayers in accomplishing His plans and purposes on earth.

(c) Prayer is also not an attempt to inform God of our needs. (6:8)
"Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

Thought Question: Why do you believe you should pray if God already "knows what you need before you ask him"?

 

 

God is not like a disinterested parent, so that a child needs to cause a ruckus to get his parent's attention.  Nor is God like the pagan gods who are selfish and require that their attention must be won through making painful sacrifices to placate them.  God is always aware of us, and He is always aware of our needs.  So when we ask Him for something, He already knows what we are asking of Him.  He also knows whether we need it or not and, if we do need it, He knows the best way for Him to meet that need.  All that is required is our humble desire to seek Him and to trust Him with that need.  May we be freed from our distrust that God truly loves us and that He desires our best.

Why, then, should we need to pray if God already "knows what we need"?  Prayer deals with a couple of issues that are key in our relationship with God:  (1) Are we going to seek to live independent of God or are we going to acknowledge our dependence on God?  (2) Do we wholeheartedly desire that His will "be done on earth as it is in heaven"? (Matthew 6:10)  Our prayer life reveals the answer to those questions.  God knows what we need, but do we desire to be totally united with God in pursing after His kingdom?  God in His wisdom provides us with prayer as means to pursuing His kingdom.

(3) A "model prayer" (6:9-15)
As Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, the disciples had seen Jesus spend regular time with His Father in prayer, and as a result they desired to have Him teach them about prayer.  In this "model prayer" He teaches them and us how to pray.  The prayer given in these verses is often called "the Lord's Prayer," but, it could not have been a prayer that the Lord prayed, for He never needed to ask for forgiveness.  It is, instead, the Lord's model for how we should pray.  It contains all the elements of prayer.  Some have divided prayer into the acrostic: A.C.T.S. or Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.  All of these elements of prayer are found in Jesus' "model prayer."  The A.C.T.S. is, therefore, an accurate summary of what should be part of our prayer life.  Let us look at each of the elements in Jesus' "model prayer."

(a) The model prayer will include a genuine expression of devotion to God (6:9-10)
"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'"

Thought Question #1:  How should these verses affect our times of prayer?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do you believe that we can pray for God's kingdom to take form right now in our world or can we only pray for a future kingdom of God?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

First of all, we express devotion to God by our intimate relationship with Him.  Jesus begins His model prayer with: "Our Father in heaven."  As Christians we have entered into a unique and precious relationship with God.  He is no longer the abstract Creator of the universe; He is now "Our Father."  Listen to Paul's words in Romans 8:15-17:  "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory."  What a wonderful privilege has been given to us through the grace provided us in Christ Jesus, for we now have a Father/son relationship with God the Father, similar to the Father/Son relationship Jesus has with Him.  We start our times alone with God and our prayer times in public by expressing this precious intimacy that we now have with God.

As we come to Him, we remember that He cares for us like the perfect "Father" that He is.  He knows about all our needs, and He knows the wisest ways to address them.  May we remember His wonderful Father's heart for us as we come to our intimate time with Him.

He also is our "Father in heaven."  We are to come Him with the reverence that is appropriate to His heavenly majesty.  This leads us to the next expression of our devotion to God.

Secondly, we express devotion to God by expressing our adoration of Him: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name."  In Romans 1:21 we read these words:  "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."  God is the holy One and a world full of people have hardened their hearts and are blind to the honor He should receive from them.  Also, each of us has not given Him the honor that is due Him.  We are so self-absorbed that even in our prayers we can talk to Him without really acknowledging that we are speaking with the One who is glorious beyond our imagination to comprehend.  Our highest desire ought to be that this God should receive the worship that is appropriate for Him to receive and that He deserves. 

"Hallowed" expresses our desire that God's name will be revered and that He will receive the honor due Him for His complete holiness. See Ezek 36:23; 38:23; 39:7, 27; cf. Zech 14:9  When a revival occurs there is a wonderful awareness of God's holiness and our unholiness.  In the region where this revival takes place, there becomes an awareness of what each person already knew to be true, but they had hardened themselves to this reality.  Revival occurs as people's hearts are opened to see what they should have seen all along.  We come to see clearly in God's light both the holy wonder of who He is and the very sad truth about who we are. See Romans 1:28 

"Hallowed be your name"What does this term the 'Name' stand for?  We are familiar with the fact that it was the way in which the Jews at that time commonly referred to God Himself.   Whatever we may say about the Jews in the Old Testament times and however great their failures, there was respect, at any rate, in which they were most commendable.  I refer to their sense of the greatness and the majesty and the holiness of God.  You remember that they had such a sense of this that it had become their custom not to even use the name 'Jehovah'.  They felt that the very name, the very letters, as it were, were so holy and sacred, and they so small and unworthy, that they dare not mention it.  They referred to God as, 'The Name', in order to avoid the use of the actual term Jehovah." . . . [God] had used a term concerning Himself (El or Elohim) which means His 'strength' and His 'power'; and when He used that particular name, He was giving the people a sense of His might, His dominion, and His power.  Later He revealed Himself in that great and wonderful name Jehovah which really means 'the self-existent One', 'I am that I am', eternally self-existent.  But there were other names in which God described Himself: 'the Lord will provide' (Jehovah-jireh), 'the Lord that healeth' (Jehovah-rapha), 'the Lord our Banner' (Jehovah-nissi), 'the Lord our peace' (Jehovah-Shalom), 'the Lord our Shepherd' (Jehovah-ta-ra), 'the Lord our Righteousness present' (Jehovah-shammah). . . . In a sense 'thy name' stands for all that.  Our Lord is here teaching us to pray that the whole world may come to know God in this way, that the whole world may come to honour God like that." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 The Inter-Varsity Fellowship."

In Psalm 34:1-3 we find one who expressed from his heart this appropriate desire that God's name would be honored: "I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together."  In Jesus' "model prayer" we are also to desire that God's name will be hallowed and magnified.

Thirdly and finally, we are to express our devotion to God by desiring that men will choose that He rule in their hearts: "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."  In a way this is another way of saying, "hallowed be your name," for when men "hallow" God's name, they will also choose that God's "will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

The kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God is present on earth to the degree that He is ruling in men's hearts; and when our prayers are pure, they come from a heart that desires above all else that God would have His perfect way in our hearts and in the hearts of all mankind.

There are 3 ways that we can view the kingdom of God: 1) the future millennial rule of Jesus Christ (Mt 19:28, 26:29; Lk 21:31); 2) the future rule of God in heaven (Mt 25:46; I Cor 15:24-28; Phil 2:9-11); and 3) the present rule of God (Mt 6:24,33; Luke 17:20-21; Col. 1:13).  Can this prayer that God's kingdom will come refer to God's kingdom coming in the future or could it also refer to our desire that God would rule on earth right now?  Because in this same Sermon on the Mount Jesus says: "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness," we can be confident that this prayer also refers to our desire that God would rule right now in the hearts of men.  It is God's desire that God will rule in our hearts right now. See Colossians 1:13; II Corinthians 5:15; Romans 12:1, 14:17)

Our desire that God will rule on earth can take many forms.  We can pray for a new Christian that he or she will grow in their relationship with God—that they will obey Him. We can pray that God will rule on a college campus where it appears that the administration, professors, and students are moving away from God rather than toward Him.  We can pray for our President and Congress to move our country in a godly and wise direction.  Certainly, "your kingdom come" should be a regular part of our prayers.

(b) The model prayer will include a genuine trust in God. (6:11-15)
Each of the prayer requests in these verses will only genuinely be made by those who know their need for God; their need for God to (1) to provide for their physical needs, (2) to forgive them for there sins, and (3) to protect them from evil.  In each of these areas, they are those who recognize that apart from God, they are truly helpless.
"Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

(1) Father, provide for our physical needs. (6:11)
"Give us are daily bread."

Thought Question #1:  How should this verse affect our times of prayer?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Why does Jesus teach us to pray for "daily bread"?

 

 

There are many who seem to be doing fine even though they do not ask God to help them, so why do we need to ask God for our "daily bread"?  Those who genuinely pray this prayer recognize that it is only because of God's love and mercy that we have anything at all, and that God could cut off His provision to us at any time He chooses; they recognize that they and all people are totally dependent on God for their "daily bread." See Matthew 5:45 

Why does Jesus say "daily bread."?  At that time they often received a daily wage which provided for the needs a day at a time.  There are those who have spiritualized this "bread" and say that it only refers to Jesus being our daily spiritual bread, but the plain meaning here is that we are to ask God to provide for our daily physical needs.  We are to pray each day that God will supply our physical needs for that day.  By asking God to provide our daily needs, we are seeking to live one day at a time: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34) 

These simple words tell us that God is concerned with the smallest needs of our lives.  We could take the Deist view that God has left us to fend for ourselves; that "God helps those who help themselves."  But Jesus' instruction here is that we are to ask the Father for our daily physical needs.  What a comforting thought that is.  I am not to fend for myself and you are not to fend for yourself; God wants to help us every day for the rest of our lives!

This instruction for prayer is the very opposite of those who teach that God wants us to be rich.  Jesus instructs us here to pray for our needs and He does not instruct us to pray for riches beyond our needs: "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Why should we pray asking God for our daily needs?  Our daily prayers are a daily expression of the intimacy between us and our 'Father in heaven."  They also are a daily reminder of our dependence on Him for every aspect of our lives, down to our smallest needs. See Exodus 16 where the Israelites could only gather the miraculous manna from God 1 day at a time. See also Philippians 4:6,7

Notice, though, that this prayer is not just, "give me my daily bread," but it is "Give us today our daily bread."  It appears to include our prayers for each other as well as for individual prayers for our individual needs.

Another important consideration is the following: Can we pray for our needs without doing any work to provide for our needs?  It is obvious that this is not the case: "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you." (2 Thessalonians 3:6-8) 

Some conclude from these teachings that emphasize God providing for what we need to live the Christian life that God will also do it all in the spiritual realm.  But, in the spiritual walk with God there is also God's part and our part. See Philippians 2:12-13; II Peter 1:3-11

(2) Father, forgive us (6:12, 14-15)
"Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. . .  For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Thought Question #1:  How should this verse affect our times of prayer?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  If we are already forgiven for our sins through Jesus' death on the cross to pay the penalty for all of our sins, why do we need to request our Father to forgive our sins?

 

 

Thought Question #3:  What do you believe happens if we do not forgive others when they sin against us?

 

 

Why ask for forgiveness when Christ has already paid the penalty for all of our sins past, present, and future?  Each time we sin, though, we need to acknowledge our sin before Him and acknowledge that we need His forgiveness. See I John 1:8-10 and James 5:16  Though all of our sins are already forgiven, it is essential that we be aware of how our sins affect our relationship with Him and be aware of our need to be restored to a vital and unhindered fellowship with Him.  In Corinthians, Paul had this to say to the Christians: "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world."     (I Corinthians 11:27-32)  Though the penalty for all of our sins has already been paid when Jesus died on the cross, God still will discipline us for our sins.  If we confess and forsake them it will not be necessary for Him to discipline us.  So, it is appropriate for us to ask the Father to forgive our sins.

Next, why do we need to ask God to forgive us "as we also have forgiven our debtors"?  Some would say that what Jesus says here sounds like He is putting us in a works relationship with the Father.  He will only forgive us if and when we forgive others.  Is that what Jesus is teaching?  There is another way of interpreting Jesus' words.  We are asking God to forgive us as we also now have the pattern of doing the same with others: "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:12-13)  "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)  In short, we are to pray:  "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." In other words, we can pray these words because it has become our pattern to forgive others. 

Our response to how much God has forgiven us should break us and cause us also to forgive others the small amount, by comparison, that they have done against us. See Matthew 18:21-35  When we do not forgive others, it shows that we do not comprehend how much God has forgiven us and it may be a sign that we are not a Christian: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)  We cannot pray this "model prayer" unless there is forgiveness in our hearts toward everyone.  When we take the Lord's Supper, we are to examine our hearts to see if there is any sin in our hearts.  That means that we are also at that time to examine our hearts to see if there is any unforgiveness in our heart toward anyone.  According to what we learn about prayer in Jesus' "model prayer," we also must examine our hearts when we come to God in prayer.  If we hold a grudge against anyone, we cannot pray asking God for forgiveness for our sins as we forgive others their sins against us.  When we do not forgive, we are putting ourselves in a position of opposition to what fellowship with God entails.  Fellowship with God includes our forgiveness of others. 

What does it mean: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15)  There are at least 3 ways that we can interpret Jesus' words:  1) One possible interpretation is that it means that a Christian can lose his salvation when he or she does not forgive someone.  That would mean that we could lose and gain back our salvation on a regular basis as we hold a grudge against someone for how ever long we hold that grudge.  We could go through a day and be a Christian for part of the day and not a Christian for another part of the day.  2) Another interpretation is that our fellowship with God can be lost each time we choose not to forgive someone.  3) Finally, it could mean that unforgiveness is a sign that we are not a Christian.  The first possibility goes against what is clearly taught in the Bible that once we truly become a Christian we are eternally saved; though we may lose rewards due to making sinful choices: "his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames." (I Corinthians 3:13-15)  The second and last possibilities are both biblical possibilities.  If we hold on to unforgiveness, it may be because we have not yet chosen to humbly come to God and to seek out His forgiveness.  In this case, we are not forgiving others because we have not yet become a Christian.

It also may mean that our fellowship with God can be broken because we are unwilling to forgive others.  This is the interpretation that I believe is the most likely interpretation of Jesus' words.  As was mentioned above, when we choose not to forgive, we put ourselves in an oppositional relationship with God.  He forgives and we choose not to forgive.  He has forgiven us and we choose not to forgive someone.  I agree with John Walvoord's interpretation of these verses: "this must not be interpreted as relating to the issue of personal salvation but rather to proper fellowship between the child and his father." "Taken from Matthew, Thy Kingdom Come by John Walvoord.  Copyright 1974 by Moody Press."  We cannot be confident that God is on our side and answering our prayers unless we have totally forgiven those who have sinned against us: "If I had cherished sin in our heart, the Lord would not have listened." (Psalm 66:18)  "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear." (Isaiah 59:2)

Here, in these verses, we find the type of intimate relationship that God desires us to have with Him.  We are to daily acknowledge our need for a relationship with Him where we acknowledge our sins and sinfulness to Him.  We see this type of humble relationship with a God who is light in I John 1:5-10: " This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." 

(4) Father, protect us. (6:13)
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

Thought Question#1:  Does this mean that Jesus will lead us "into temptation" if we do not pray this prayer?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  Do you ever pray this prayer?  Why or why not?

 

 

God allows us to make our own choices, and included in that freedom is the freedom to wander away from God by giving into the temptations to which we are very susceptible and to which we are regularly faced.  When we say, "Father, protect us" or "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one," we are acknowledging our weakness and susceptibility to give in to temptations and we are acknowledging that we need God's help each day to keep us away from that which is evil and from the evil one.  Recently, I read "The Purity Principle" by Randy Alcorn.  It is a necessary book for all times, but an even more necessary book for our time, due to the fact that sin is becoming more acceptable in our society.  As a result, more people are doing what the Bible forbids and temptations are more easily accessible.  As never before, we need to daily seek God's help and we need to pray, "Father, protect us." See II Timothy 2:22; I Thessalonians 4:3-8; II Corinthians 7:1; I Corinthian 10:13; James 1:1:13-15

Robertson has the following to say about what might concern some people when Jesus says "lead us not":  "'Bring' or 'lead' bothers many people. It seems to present God as an active agent in subjecting us to temptation, a thing specifically denied in James 1:13 ["nor does he tempt anyone"] The word here translated 'temptation' (πειρασμον . . .) means originally 'trial' or 'test' as in James 1:2 and Vincent so takes it here . . . But God does test or sift us, though he does not tempt us to evil. No one understood temptation so well as Jesus for the devil tempted him by every avenue of approach to all kinds of sin, but without success. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus will say to Peter, James, and John: 'Pray that ye enter not into temptation' (Luke 22:40). That is the idea here. Here we have a 'Permissive imperative' as grammarians term it. The idea is then: 'Do not allow us to be led into temptation.' There is a way out (I Cor. 10:13), but it is a terrible risk." "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

In short, then, "lead us not into temptation" is our prayer that we not be led toward sin, but be led in the very opposite direction; "lead us not toward temptations to do evil, but toward holiness."  "Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22) 

We also look to Robertson for the proper translation of what is translated "the evil one."  "From the evil one (ἀπο του πονηρου . . .). The ablative case in the Greek obscures the gender. We have no way of knowing whether it is ὁ πονηρος . . . (the evil one) or το πονηρον . . . (the evil thing). And if it is masculine and so ὁ πονηρος [ho ponēros], it can either refer to the devil as the Evil One par excellence or the evil man whoever he may be who seeks to do us ill."  "Taken from Word Pictures in the New Testament by A. T. Robertson. Copyright 1930 by Broadman Press."

c. Standards for purity in fasting (6:16-18)
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Thought Question: From these verses, what would you conclude is the proper way to fast and the improper way to fast?

 

 

First of all, what type of fasting is Jesus talking about here?  There is more than one type of fasting.  For example, there is fasting that is done when one wants to lose weight or to gain self-discipline.  In a religious sense, fasting could be seen as a form of penance by which we punish ourselves for our sin or a way by which we earn God's blessing.  But that is not the type of fasting that Jesus is talking about here, True fasting is an acknowledgment that our needs can be met by God alone.  It is particularly appropriate during a time of great need. 

The only fast that was commanded by God for the nation of Israel was the annual fast on the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16: "This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living among you— because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance." (Leviticus 16:29-31)

In this case, fasting was to be an outward sign of the repentant heart of the nation of Israel.  We see the same pattern in Daniel 9 where Daniel, representing the nation of Israel, confessed the sins of Israel with fasting: "So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: 'O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. O Lord, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you.'" (Daniel 9:3-11)

Fasting also accompanied the seeking of God's guidance in the early church: "In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." (Acts 13:1-3)

What, then, is the purpose of fasting?  In a general sense, fasting is choosing to deprive ourselves from food so that we will be more able to focus on our spiritual relationship with God.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones' observation also appears to be correct from what we read of fasting in the Bible:  "Fasting is something unusual or exceptional, something which a man [or a woman] does now and again for a special purpose . . ." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 The Inter-Varsity Fellowship."

When is it appropriate for us to fast?  It is appropriate to fast at a time when we are particularly concerned that our mind and heart be as completely as possible focused on the spiritual.  For example, Daniel, as described in Daniel 9, became greatly concerned about Israel's sins and the just consequences of their sins, so he went to the Lord with prayer and fasting.  We can become greatly concerned over our sins or the sins of our nation and feel that we need to go to God in prayer and fasting.  There also may be a great personal need to discover God's direction.  This would be a very appropriate time to go to God in prayer and fasting, seeking God's direction.

(1) Impure fasting (6:16)
"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."  But, here, Jesus is talking about an impure type of fasting.  Fasting can be seen as a sign that one is a particularly dedicated religious person.  So, those who wanted the people of Israel to know that they were fasting publicly did that which would make it obvious to everyone that they were now participating in the religious practice that only the very religious participated in; they were now fasting!   They obviously, by the pained expression on their faces, looked as though they were suffering for God by depriving themselves of food.  We can do the same by telling people or making it obvious to people that we are now going through a period of suffering for Jesus by purposely depriving ourselves of food. 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes another observation about impure fasting that is important for us to focus on.  Fasting can be seen as an automatic way to receive God's blessing.  If you fast, God will bless you.  Prayer is not a means to get our will done, but it is a means of discovering and getting God's will done on earth.  Fasting can help us to more easily discover God's will and then to pray that His will be done, but it does not mean that when we fast what we want to happen will happen exactly at the time and the way we want it to happen.

(2) Pure fasting (6:17-18)
But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Jesus makes it clear that fasting is an activity that is between God and us.  It is something we do because we are concerned about what He is concerned about.  We want His will to be done or we are concerned about sin in our lives or others' lives.  In privacy we address to God the mutual concern that there is between Him and us.  Fasting is an activity that helps us focus more completely on this concern.  If God is pleased and sees our concern as pure, He will "reward" us. 

As far as the world of people is concerned, they should not even know that we have been fasting.  They should not be able to tell by looking at the expression on our face, the way we walk, or because we tell them that we have been fasting.  We should appear to be natural, whether we fast or do not fast.  Who is praying and fasting in our churches?  We should not have any idea who they are, unless a group chooses to pray and fast together as the group did in Acts 13.  We will not find out who these private prayers and fasters are until we are with the Father in heaven. See the following verses for additional examples of fasting in the Bible: Judges 20:26; Ezra 8:21-23; Nehemiah 9:1,2; Joel 1:13,14, 2:12-14

6. The priority in God's kingdom: Choosing God's riches over the
world's riches (6:19-24)
If we want to experience God's kingdom, nothing else can have a higher priority in our lives than our pursuit of it.  The rest of Matthew 6 is summed up in Matthew 6:33: "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness . . ."  In these verses, Jesus asks the question: "What is your greatest care or concern, God's kingdom or your riches?"  In 6:19-24, Jesus gives us 4 ways that we can examine ourselves to determine what our greatest treasure is.

a. The "Treasure Exam" (6:19-20)  First, we examine and determine what is in our treasure house?
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."

Thought Question: What are your greatest treasures? (Are they eternal treasures or temporal treasures?)

 

 

What we treasure reveals to us what we love in the deepest part of our heart—whether we truly love God or love the world.  It may not be obvious at first, but these verses have basically the same message as the previous verses.  The religious leaders Jesus criticizes earlier in this chapter were seeking to build a reputation that would impress men.  Great church buildings can impress men and can become worldly treasures.  Jesus' deeply penetrating heart test is as follows: "What treasure are you and I truly seeking after, a treasure that we can have between the womb and the tomb or are we seeking a treasure that will only be fully revealed when we are in heaven?  When our reputation and our possessions are lost, can we still rejoice that we still have a reward in heaven?  Are we living for what this world offers us or are we living for God's kingdom and His reward?

It can be really hard to tell the difference, for both treasures can look about the same to the outside observer.  So, then, how can we tell the difference between when we are treasuring what is in this world and when we are treasuring that which is eternal?  The title of John Bunyan's famous book, PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, captures the difference.  When our treasure is in heaven, we see ourselves as pilgrims in this world.  Because we see ourselves as just passing through this worldly life, we see no value in building up a treasure here.  It would be like traveling to a faraway country.  It would not make sense to build a house there if we are about to leave in a short time.  Do we see ourselves as in this world but for a short time? 

Jesus points out that our worldly treasures can easily be lost even during our short stay here: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal."  Jesus' message is clear and simple to understand.  Our earthly treasures can be easily lost.  The new car with all its sparkle will always get old and rust.  The first day you own it someone could open a car door in a parking lot and put a dent in it.  That dent could be a reminder that this new car with its dent is not our treasure.  Because it is not our treasure, it can get dented and we do not become dismayed.  Also, in our home are all our possessions.  At any time a thief could break in and remove everything in it.  As I write these words, we are at our son-in-law and daughter's home in Arkansas.  We have been away from our home in Washington for 3 weeks.  Our neighbors are watching our home, but thieves could easily break in and steal everything of value that we own that is in our home there.  This is true, though, for all of us, for as Jesus states here, our earthly treasures are easily lost.  Today, we are also all susceptible to another type of theft.  Our worldly accumulation of money in our bank accounts can be removed through identity theft.  Now, let us each ask ourselves, where is our true treasure?

"But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."  On the other hand, the treasure we store up in heaven is totally safe and secure.  God is watching over this treasure.  It will not get old and rust.  No one can steal it from God.  ". . . and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you . . " (1 Peter 1:4)

Here is a treasure that we can store up for the whole of our lives that will not be destroyed.  We can fully dedicate ourselves to developing this treasure and we will never have been wasting our lives.  Where, then, is our treasure?

Before we leave this subject, there are some questions that need to be answered.  First of all, should we not make it our priority to store up money in a savings account?  In the book of Proverbs we are told to be wise like the ant who stores up for the future. See Proverbs 6:6-8, 30:25  Is it wrong for us to enjoy the things of this world?  In I Timothy 4:4 Paul makes this exhortation: "For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving," (1 Timothy 4:4)  God wants us to enjoy what He has created.

So, we are to save for the future and we are to enjoy what God has provided for us, but we are not to make these earthly things our primary treasure.  We are to seek primarily after the treasures that we will be able to enjoy forever in heaven.

b. The "Heart Exam" (6:21)  What we treasure in our hearts is what will determine the direction of our lives.
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Thought Question: Why is what is in our hearts so important?

 

 

"The heart must and will go in the direction of that which we count precious.  The whole man will be transformed in the likeness of that for which he lives.  Where we place our treasures, our thoughts will naturally fly.  It will be wise to let all that we have act as magnets to draw us in the right direction.  If our very best things are in heaven, our best thoughts will fly in the same direction; but if our choicest possessions are of the earth, our heart will be earth-bound." "Taken from a message by Charles Spurgeon."  Whatever is most precious to us, also grips and controls our entire personality.  The heart is the center of who we are.  It is our central motivation for living.  In Proverbs 4:23 we are told:  "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."  What are we primarily seeking after is determined by what our heart desires most. Jesus exhorts us to make His kingdom our treasure and the seeking of His kingdom will be our greatest desire.

c. The "Eye exam" (6:22-23)  We must examine our outlook on life.
"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"

Thought Question #1:  What do these verses tell us about how our heart affects the way we look at life?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  What does Jesus mean by the words: "If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"?

 

 

Jesus is describing here how the state of our hearts affects the way we look at life: if our hearts are clear of evil intent, our eyes will be illumined by the light of truth and will see the world as God sees it; but if our hearts are impure, our eyes will be clouded by evil and our perspective on life will be twisted and distorted by greed, prejudice, jealousy and many other worldly aberrations.  What Jesus Christ the Son of God points out here is that our heart attitudes determine the way we look at life.  If our heart is impure, we look at our life differently.  The tragedy is that we do not realize that it affects us in this way.  It is a strange type of blindness.  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?"  (Jeremiah 17:9)  And, our deceitful heart deceives us into thinking that the distorted view of life that we have is the way the world actually is.  We think that what we think is important is what really is important.  It is not until our hearts become pure that we see what truly is important.  For example, we can be weighed down by the worries of the world, and think that these things are what are most important.  Jesus' disciples at different times were concerned about who was the greatest.  There were many times that they did not understand what He was talking about.  Their hearts and eyes needed to be cleared up.  We all have this type of blindness without realizing it.  We need to test our eyesight to see if we are seeing life with a single eye; we need to test our eyesight to see if we are actually seeing reality as it is rather than a perverted distortion of it that is caused by an impure heart.

"If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!"  If, while in this state of blindness, we think that we are seeing clearly, how much greater is our blindness!  For, we are blind but think that we are not blind.

d. The "Citizenship Exam" (6:24) We must examine where our loyalty lies.
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money."

Thought Question: Why can't we serve both God and money at the same time?

 

 

We have moved from our heart to our mind and now to the will.  What we choose to serve involves the will.  Ultimately, what we treasure will first determine our heart's desire, next it affects how we look at life, and finally from all of this will come whom and what we choose to serve.

Jesus' point here is that we cannot "serve two masters."  Years ago, when our son was in high school, he worked for Dairy Queen and he was on the wrestling team.  At one point in time he faced a dilemma.  His wrestling coach said he had to go to a wrestling match on the same day that his boss at the Dairy Queen said that he had to work.  He could not obey both bosses, for they were demanding that he be in two completely different locations doing two completely different activities at the very same time.  Jesus says here that we "cannot serve both God and Money." See Matthew 19:16-24

As a politician cannot please both an extreme liberal and an extreme conservative at the same time, so we cannot serve both God and money.  For God and money draw us in totally opposite directions.  Money draws us toward getting, and God draws us toward giving; money draws us toward seeking to be served, and God draws us toward seeking to serve.  If we love the world, godliness will seem drab; but if we love God, the world will seem empty.  "Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other."  We must choose which love will control us.

Last night, I was blessed by sitting next to one of the pastors at the huge church that our son-in-law and daughter attend.  He had been on Campus Crusade for Christ's staff and he told stories of Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade.  What hit me, from the stories I was told about Bill Bright is that he lived fully believing that this world is temporary and, as a result, he desired to use each contact he had with people here as an opportunity to share the eternal gospel with them.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones pointed out that though we each are certainly going to die, most people do not live like that is going to happen.  We are strangely blind to that fact.  We, then, are living primarily for this world.  Certainly, Bill Bright's impact for God on this world was due to his desire to fearlessly serve God in reaching people with the gospel message during his short time on this earth.  May each of us be inspired to serve God and not this world as he did.  May we seek to fearlessly serve as Jesus did.  Certainly, when this life is over and we look back on the decisions that we made, we will have many regrets that we did not live totally for God's kingdom.  But, now, it is not too late to use the rest of our lives for His kingdom.

7. Guidelines for faith in God's kingdom (6:25-33)

a. Do not worry: for God's creation tells us that He desires to take care of us. (6:25-30)
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was not dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" See Philippians 4:6-7; I Peter 5:7

This section of verses begins with a "Therefore."  We are to seek after the treasures that are eternal.  "Therefore," if we primarily seek after these eternal treasures, the treasures that are temporary will appropriately become of lesser importance to us.  Our main concern will be for that which is of God's eternal kingdom.  "But seek first kingdom and his righteousness . . ." (6:33)  "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?" See Matthew 13:22; II Timothy 4:10a

Next, Jesus calls us to ask the question: "Has God gone to all the effort to design and create us, just to abandon us?"  The obvious answer is, no.  We are often not aware of the obvious, so Jesus needs to call it to our attention.  We miss the obvious because our thinking is darkened by self-centeredness and we do not see how great and loving our God is.

(1) Look at your body. (6:25)
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"

Thought Question: What is Jesus' solution in this verse for someone who struggles with worrying?

 

 

"Do not worry about your life . . ."  Worrying was Martha's pattern; for when Jesus was at her home, instead of spending this quality time with Him, she was "distracted by all the preparations that had to be made." (Luke 10:40)  Jesus responded to her by saying: "you are worried and upset about many things." (Luke 10:41)  Just like Martha, we can be so concerned and distracted about our many concerns that we lose touch with what is most important.  What is Jesus' solution?  We do not need to put all our efforts into worrying about whether or not we will have enough money to provide for ourselves; we can put our faith in how much God is concerned for us.  Then we will be able to focus our primary concerns on the pursuit of His ways and His kingdom. 

Once again, we need to be sure that we understand that not worrying about the future does not mean that we do not need to labor for a wage or that we do not need to keep a savings account.  As was quoted earlier, if someone does not work, he or she should not eat.  Not worrying means that we do what we need to do to earn a wage and save up for the future; then we trust that God is concerned for us and will ensure that our needs are met.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that the birds that Jesus refers to in this section of verses, that God provides for, still have to leave their perches and search for food.

Jesus asks the question: "Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"  The typical human way to respond when finances are getting tight is to look at our lack of resources and our difficult circumstances, and if it is more than we can handle, we become fearful for our futures.  Jesus asks us to look at our bodies and ask ourselves, "If God has gone to the trouble to make these amazing bodies and has given us life (which we humans are still incapable of creating), won't He also provide us with food to sustain them and the clothing to protect them?"  It is not easy for us to think this way for in our self-centeredness, we often are blind and ungrateful to God for all He continually provides; as a result, we are also oblivious to how much He really does care for us and how much He will continue to care for us in the future.

What Jesus presents here is a way of looking at life that is the very opposite of how we tend to look at life.  We tend to start with ourselves and become immediately overwhelmed and concerned.  We look at the circumstances and what we want to happen.  Then, we recognize that what we want to happen is more than we can accomplish.  We, then, become overwhelmed with anxiety.  It happens again and again to each of us.  Jesus offers a completely different way to think.  We do not start with us, what we want to happen, and whether or not we can make it happen.  Instead, we start with God, His power, His purposes, and whether He can make it happen.  What we worry about is whether or not what we want to happen will take place.  We are not worried about whether or not what God wants to happen will take place.  Whether or not we are weighed down by anxiety depends on whether or not we start our thinking from ourselves or from God.  Here, God rebukes His listeners for not starting in their thinking with God.  We are rightly people of small faith when we start with us, but we become people of large faith when we truly start with God!

(2) Look at the birds (6:26-27)
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"

Thought Question: What is Jesus' solution to worry that He presents in this verse?

 

 

Jesus undoubtedly, at this time, pointed at some birds that were flying by or flitting around them and said, "See, these birds do not work in the fields, plant, harvest or store in barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them; won't He do more for you?"  If a farmer takes good care of his animals, won't he take even better care of his children?  

Jesus begins with some objective evidence that is outside of ourselves that is obvious to each of us.  Each of us sees birds all around us, year after year.  They have continued to survive in spite of severe winters and environmental catastrophes like floods, volcano eruptions, and weather extremes.  The evidence is overwhelming: God takes care of the birds.  It is obvious, but we can miss it.  Jesus should not have needed to tell us what He tells us here.  We should have concluded it on our own.

Jesus is not teaching that God will take care of us so we do not need to work for a living.  Even the birds need to work at foraging for their food.  The birds are doing what they are designed to do; they look all around for food.  God, then, does what He intended to do, He takes care of them.  For example, we are to "sow . . . reap . . . [and] . . . store away in barns."  But worrying should not be part of our work, for it is one type of work that accomplishes nothing.  Like the birds, we are to do the work that we are to do, then God does what He intended to do—He takes care of us also. 

Listen to how Martyn Lloyd-Jones sums this up:  "God is our Father, and if our Father takes care of the birds to whom He is related only in His general providence, how much greater, of necessity, must be His care for us.  An earthly father may be kind, for instance, to the birds or to animals; it is conceivable that a man should provide sustenance for mere creatures and neglect his own children.  If this is true of an earthly father, how much more is it true of our heavenly Father." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 The Inter-Varsity Fellowship."

"Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"  There are many aspects of life that are out of our control.  As I write, two in our church have recently learned that they have life-threatening diseases.  One disease is always terminal and the other disease is usually terminal.  None of us ever knows how close we are to discovering that we also have such a disease.  But, the truth is that all of our deaths are inevitable (apart from the Rapture coming in our lifetimes).  Worrying about the future will not "add a single hour" to our lives.  Jesus concludes this part of His sermon with these words: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:34)         God cares for us.  We need to trust in His care for us and live each day by itself, focusing on it, and leaving tomorrow to God.  Worrying about tomorrow will not add anything to this day; instead, it will take away from the energy that we need for living today.

(3) Look at the lilies (6:28-30)
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"

Thought Question: What is Jesus' solution to worry that He presents in this verse?

 

 

Jesus undoubtedly then pointed at the lilies beneath their feet which they cut down and burned in their ovens to provide them with heat.  Just as the birds do not plant or harvest, so the lilies do not weave their own clothes; yet God provides them with clothes that are richer than the clothing that King Solomon wore.  Nevertheless, the lives of these magnificent flowers are short-lived and have no higher purpose than to be burned up for heat.  Will not God take better care of us who are destined to be eternal members of His family? 

"The lilies of the field were the scarlet poppies and anemones.  They bloomed one day on the hillsides of Palestine; and yet in their brief life they were clothed with a beauty which surpassed the beauty of the robes of kings.  When they died they were used for nothing better than for burning.  The point is this.  The Palestinian oven was made of clay.  It was like a clay box set on bricks over fire.  When it was desired to raise the temperature of it especially quickly, some handfuls of dried grasses and wild flowers were flung inside the oven and set alight to help a woman to heat an oven when she was baking in a hurry; and yet God clothes them with a beauty which is beyond man's power to imitate.  If God gives such beauty to a short-lived flower, how much more will He care for man?" "Taken from The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 by William Barclay.  Copyright 1975 by Westminster Press."

"O you of little faith?"  What is "little faith"?  Years ago, I heard a speaker say that someone made the following introduction to what he was going to say: "under the circumstances."  This speaker said to him:  "What are you doing under there?"  We have "little faith" when our God and what He promises to us are smaller than our circumstances.  Our problems loom larger in our minds than God's solutions to our problems.  One of the promises in the Bible that we can put our faith in is found in Philippians 4:6,7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  God's word says that we are to worry about nothing and pray about everything; and as a result of our faith that God will lovingly respond to our prayers.  We no longer need to worry about what we have prayed for.  We will experience "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding."  When we trust God with our worries, we have great faith; when we continue to worry about them, we have "little faith." 

Why do we have "little faith"?  We will have "little faith" when we focus only on the problems and not on God who is greater than the problems.  Ten of the Israelite spies who went into the Promised Land focused on the problem: "But the men who had gone up with him said, 'We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.' And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, 'The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.'" (Numbers 13:31-33)  Two of the spies focused on God and who He is: "Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, 'The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.'" (Numbers 14:5-9) See Romans 8:31; Ephesians 3:20-21

A friend made the observation that if we really focus in on and believe in the attributes of God, it will solve all of our problems.  For example, many problems will be solved if we believe in God's love for us.  Many problems will be solved if we believe that God is all-powerful and completely in control of all that takes place. And these are just a few of God's attributes.  If we put them all together and believe in them, we will have great faith. 

 b. Because the pagan world does not see how much God cares for them, they do worry. (6:31-32)
"So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them."

Thought Question: What is Jesus' solution to worry that He presents in this verse?

 

 

All of the pagan world's energies are expended by running after their worldly needs and wants (6:31,32a)
"So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things . . ."

I have watched cows eating grass in a pasture.  I have often wondered how they could handle such a boring existence.  All they do all day is eat and then pursue the next place to eat.  The pursuit of the world is somewhat like this.  As someone has said, we work so that we can eat and we eat so that we can work.  When we are lost in this type of meaningless pursuit, life has no meaning.  Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes concludes that life without a pursuit of God and His ways is empty and meaningless: "What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say." (Ecclesiastes 1:3-8a)

Another aspect of Jesus' words here is that the pagans' highest priority is to pursue after food and clothes because they have no way of being certain that they will have them tomorrow.  As I write these words, Barak Obama has just become President.  Our country's economy is in a complete shambles.  The truth is that no one but God knows how it is all going to turn out.  The experts explain what they know, but when asked what the future holds, they can only shake their heads and say that they do not know.  The world has this uncertainty about what tomorrow will bring.  Recently, I heard of a book titled, The End of Prosperity.  As we will see in the remaining part of verse 32, Christians can be certain that God cares for us and that he will take care of us on a day by day basis.

(2) But we should be dominated by confidence that our God knows about our needs and will provide them for us. (6:32b)
"and your heavenly Father knows that you need them."

Do we look at life in the same way as the non-Christian?  Are we also in a constant state of panic that our future is completely based on us?  Do we believe if we get sick, lose our job, or face some unexpected calamity, we will be lost?  Do we fly into a rage at times like the pagans or do we draw close to God?

Years ago, I heard a message on trusting God.  The pastor said that we do not worry that things will not work out as God wants them to; we worry that they will not work out as we want them to.  If God is not anxiously biting His fingernails, we should not be anxiously biting our fingernails.  As I mentioned earlier, a fellow-elder said some time ago that anything that troubles us can be solved by simply believing in an attribute of God: for example, His omnipotence, His sovereignty, His mercy, His love, His omniscience and others.  If we remember in our times of trial who God is, we will find peace in any circumstance.  The problem is that we start looking only at what we can and cannot do and are quickly overwhelmed by our troubles.  I call it "narrowItis."  I know it by experience.  I also know that the solution is to widen my focus and focus on who God is!

3. Therefore! (6:33-34)

a. Continually seek to put God's kingdom and His righteousness first in our lives and let God take care of our physical needs. (6:33)
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

Thought Question: What is there in this verse that encourages you to daily dedicate your life to being obedient to God?

 

 

If we are genuinely and above all concerned about what matters most to God and what is eternally important, God promises to take care of the needs we have along the way to eternity.  We are not to expend our emotional energies by worrying about our personal needs; instead, we are to apply these emotional energies toward seeking His kingdom and righteousness.  We are to have one preeminent passion in life and that is that Christ will rule in our hearts and in this world as He does in heaven.  And, then, we can be confident that He will take care of all of our minor concerns.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones observes that the word "seek" "carries the meaning of seeking earnestly, seeking intensely, living for it.  And He even enforces it by adding another word, 'first'.  'Seek ye first.'  That means, generally, principally, above everything else; give that priority."  "Taken from Sermon on the Mount Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 by Intervarsity Press." See Colossians 3:1

Again, when we put God's concerns first, He promises to take care of us.  If He takes care of our world in so many ways, will He not take care of those who are wholeheartedly pursuing His interests every single day?

b. Put God first and let Him take care of our tomorrows. (6:34)
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Thought Question: What is there in this verse that is helpful to you as you seek to daily be obedient to God?

 

 

We are to put God in first place in our lives and believe that He will take care of our futures!  Discouragement comes when we take today's troubles and add them to the imagined troubles of the future.  We all can imagine what could go wrong in the future.  Someone has said, "Worry must work, for most of the things I worry about never happen."  What a waste of energy and a drain worry is on us.  Instead, we are to leave tomorrow to God and concentrate on the battle today.  We do not know what tomorrow holds, but we do know that if we are absorbed in God's interests, God will be with us in all of our tomorrows.

Instead of hanging on to the past and worrying about the future, Jesus wants us to put our total focus and our energies on today.  There is enough for us to deal with each day.  Each day requires and needs our full devotion.  We can only give it our total energies if we have cast all our cares on God. See I Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7

JUDGMENT IN GOD'S KINGDOM (7:1-6)
1. Worldly judgmentalism – its consequences (7:1-2) (The Boomerang
Principle)
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Thought Question #1:  Are we never to make any type of evaluations about other people?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How can you tell when you are being judgmental in the way that Jesus prohibits, so that you will not do it?

 

 

It is quite human to judge others as if we were sitting on God's throne ourselves; as if we know everything about the person that we are judging—their circumstances, background, pressures, and what is in their hearts; and as if we have no faults ourselves.  But there is the Boomerang Principle that will occur.  When we judge in this self-righteous way, others will listen to us and think, "Who are you to judge others so confidently?"  And they will look more critically at us who are making the criticism than at the person that we are criticizing!

Also, when we arrogantly judge others, there is Someone watching and listening to what we have to say about others.  The One watching us will be our final judge.  He hears our judgmental words and will judge us based on what comes out of our mouths.  The truth is that what we despise in others we do ourselves in our hearts, words, and even at times in our actions.  We can look at someone who has sinned and we can think; "I could never do that!"  The truth is, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

Someone might say at this point that we who are now under grace are no longer judged by God, but the Bible does speak about God judging us as Christians.  In I Corinthians 11 we are told the following by Paul: "Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world." (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)  Obviously, Christians are still being judged.  If we do not want God's judgment on us, we need to be very careful that we do not judge others with a self-righteous spirit!

Does this mean that we are to never have an opinion or express an opinion about anyone?  There are many verses in the Bible that teach that we are to seek to fairly and rightly evaluate another person, but we are not to do it in a self-righteous or condemning way. See the following verses for examples where the Bible teaches we are to make judgments of others: Titus 1:10-16; III John 9-10; James 4:8; and I Corinthians 5:1-5; I Timothy 1:19-20; II Timothy 2:17-18  Jesus Himself teaches just as few verses farther on in chapter 7 that we are to make judgments of others: "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces." (Matthew 7:6)  "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:15-20)  We are to make judgments about who is and who is not a false prophet, so we are to judge.  We are not to make our judgments, though, in a judgmental and self-righteous way.

We are to make judgments, assessments, and evaluations of people in many different situations.  For example, when you are buying a car from someone, it is very appropriate to ask yourself the question: "Can I trust this salesman?"  We are not to be naïve and thereby make foolish decisions.    As you notice a number of misrepresentations and inconsistencies in what he is saying to you, you may determine that this car salesman is not being honest with you.  But, we are not to go beyond making this practical evaluation.  For example, you are not to arrogantly conclude that you are in a morally superior category from this sinner.  Also, you are not to make a final decision on where he will spend eternity and condemn him to hell.    You may not buy a car from him, but you or I may still reach out to him with the gospel message.  God saved sinners like you and me; he can also save this sinner who is lying so he can sell you a bad car.

What, then, is the judgmental spirit that Jesus speaks of when He says: "Do not judge"?  Martyn Lloyd-Jones makes the following observations to help us recognize when we are judging in a self-righteous way:  "If we ever know the feeling of being rather pleased when we hear something unpleasant about another, that is the wrong spirit.  If we are jealous, or envious, and then suddenly hear that the one of whom we are jealous or envious has made a mistake and find that there is an immediate sense of pleasure within us, that is it.  That is the condition which leads to this spirit of judgment. . . . It shows itself in a readiness to give judgment when the matter is of no concern to us at all. . . . A further way in which we may know whether we are guilty of this, is to ask if we habitually express our opinion without a knowledge of all the facts. . . . Another indication of it is that it never takes the trouble to understand the circumstances, and is never ready to excuse; it is never ready to exercise mercy.  A man who has a charitable spirit possesses discrimination and is ready to exercise it.  He is prepared to listen and to see if there is an explanation . . . to discover if there may be mitigating circumstances.  But the man who judges says, 'No, I require nothing further'.  Therefore he rejects any explanation, and does not listen to argument or reason.  But perhaps we can end the description and bring it to its awful revolting climax by putting it like this:  This spirit really manifests itself in the tendency to pronounce final judgment upon people as such. . . . It is a final judgment upon an individual, and what makes it so terrible is that at that point it is arrogating to itself something that belongs to God." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 by Intervarsity Press." 

2. Worldly judgmentalism – as God sees it (7:3-4)
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?"

Thought Question: What can you do to remove the "plank" or "log" from your eye so that you will be able to carefully help someone else with the "speck" in their eye?

 

 

In God's eyes, the judgmental spirit is the size of a "beam" or a "plank," and the fault of the person being judged is like a mere "speck."  When we have a judgmental spirit we can only see the faults of others; God, though, also sees our faults very clearly.  Jesus uses this exaggerated and ridiculous picture to dramatize for us how absurd it is for us to criticize others so freely when we ourselves are guilty of a self-righteous spirit.  In short, we have a judgmental spirit when we are more concerned about judging others than judging ourselves.  If we first are careful to judge ourselves rightly, we will be very careful when we judge others!  Until we have done that, we have a "plank" in our own eye and are unable to see clearly the "speck" in someone else's eye.

4. Heavenly judgment – a delicate process (7:5)
"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

It is only when we remove the "plank" from our eye that we are able to judge another in a godly way and perform the delicate eye surgery that Jesus describes here.  When we focus on the faults of others, we need to be very careful that we first remove the "plank" of sin from our own eye.  Otherwise, we will be the one that is most harshly judged by God.  There is a place for judgment in God's kingdom, but it must be a humble and delicate process (like taking the "speck" out of someone's eye)!  We are not to leave specks in another's eye, but when we undertake this delicate operation, we must be certain that nothing is clouding our vision; especially such plank-size obstructions as pride and self-righteousness. See Galatians 6:1-2

4. Heavenly judgment – a discriminating process (7:6)
"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces."

Thought Question:   Why is Jesus calling some people "dogs" not the judgmental spirit that He just condemned?

 

 

"Do not throw your pearls to pigs" or as we are more familiar with: "Do not cast your pearls before swine."  Not all will be receptive to correction; even it is done with the gentle treatment that is described in the previous verse, where a "speck" in an eye is gently removed.  In fact, some will turn on us when we seek to give them any type of correction.  "Do not give dogs what is sacred."  "The dog was not regarded in Palestine as we are accustomed to do in this country; it was the scavenger of the village, its very name a term of opprobrium [shame or disgrace], not the domestic pet to which we are accustomed, but a fierce and dangerous half-wild animal." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 by Intervarsity Press."  Both dogs and pigs were vicious and filthy animals in Jesus' day, and it was not unusual for them to turn on the person who fed them.  We are not to be self-righteous and critical of others, but we need to make judgments about what type of person we are seeking to share God's precious truths with.  Some will treat it like a pig would treat a precious pearl; they will be totally insensitive to its value and tromp it into the mud. See Proverbs 9:7-8, 12, 15:12, 18:2, 23:9, 27:5

How, then, can we discern and determine those who are the "dogs" or the "pigs" that Jesus refers to here?  In the context, Jesus is referring to those who are self-righteous.  In Luke 18:9-14 you see the clear contrast between those who are self-righteous and those who acknowledge their sinfulness: "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 'Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” 'But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 'I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'"

Those who believe that they are not sinful see no need for the message of grace.  If we share with them how God's grace is available to them, they will take our pearls of richness that we have gained in learning of God's grace toward us and tromp them into the mud.  They see no need in themselves for what we have to share.  They are the opposite of those who are "poor in spirit."  Jesus had a message for the Samaritan woman in John 4 who had gone through 4 marriages, but he did not have a message for the proud Pharisees.  They saw no need of what he had to offer.  Jesus was not the One to meet their need of a Savior, but He was the "stumbling stone" to them. See Romans 9:30-33  There are also those today who are proud and perceive themselves as in no need of a Savior.  The message of grace is repugnant to them.  We are to discern that they are self-righteous; they are the fools of the book of Proverbs.  They will not benefit from what God has taught us, but they will despise our message and despise us.  We are to seek out the "poor in spirit."

THE PURSUIT OF SUCCESS IN GOD'S KINGDOM (7:7-11)
1. Perseverance in seeking God will pay off in God's kingdom. (7:7-8)
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

Thought Question: Do Jesus' words here mean that whatever we want from God we will receive if we seek it long enough?  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Those who persevere in asking, seeking, and knocking in their pursuit of God and His kingdom will find what they are seeking.  Those who hunger after God rather than hungering after what the world has to offer will receive what they are hungering for. See Psalm 37:4; Hebrews 11:6; Galatians 6:9; I Corinthians 15:58

These verses, though, pose a very obvious question: do these verses mean that God will give us what we desire if we persist in asking, seeking, and knocking until we have it?  I can look back on my life and remember praying for something to happen that at the time I thought was absolutely essential for my life and that it happen exactly as I prayed that it would happen.  Now, as I look back I realize that God had a much better plan for me than I had for myself at that time.  You may also look back and also realize that you are glad that your prayers were not answered exactly as you prayed for them.  So, Jesus is not talking about a selfish seeking after what we want from God.

What, then, should we be seeking after so persistently?  The answer is found at the end of the last chapter: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." (Matthew 6:33a)  What we are to "ask" for, "seek" after, and "knock" for is His kingdom and His righteousness.  God will delight that we grow in our relationship with Him, in our submission to His Lordship, and in a godly lifestyle.  Here is what Paul sought after in this way: "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:7-14)  What Paul sought after He received.  If we seek after what Paul sought after, we will also receive it.

2. God will give good gifts to those who seek them. (7:9-11)
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

Thought Question: Some use these verses to support their view that every Christian should seek the gift of tongues.  Is that what Jesus is talking about here.  Please explain your answer.

 

 

Prayer is not us trying to overcome God's reluctance.  It is a child making a request of a loving Father!  We can be confident, then, that we can seek after what He wants for us with all our hearts and be confident that God will give us only what is good.

Here, we learn that if an evil and human father gives good to his children, our perfect Father in heaven will most certainly give us only what is good.  The ultimate result of our prayers will always be good.

A parallel passage is found in Luke 11:11-13: "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"  As we seek His kingdom and His righteousness, God will give us more of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We can count on God giving us power for living the Christian life, love, joy, peace and life from His Spirit in increasing measure as we persist in "asking," "seeking," and "knocking" until we have it! See Colossians 1:9-12; Philippians 1:9-11

3. The "Golden Rule" in God's kingdom (7:12)
"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

Thought Question: How does this simple rule sum "up the Law and the Prophets"?

 

 

This golden rule is the kingdom's measuring stick: how well do we measure up to the standards by which we measure others?  Do we treat them like we want them to treat us?  We get upset when we are unfairly treated, but do we get as upset when others are treated unfairly?  We can be eloquent when it comes to describing how others should treat us, but are we as eloquent when it comes to describing how others should be treated?  This is the measuring stick by which Jesus measured the Pharisees' version of religion, and it will be the measuring stick by which He also judges us.

In an earlier verse, Jesus talked about removing a "plank" from our eye before we take a speck out of someone else's eye.  The golden rule is a good test of whether or not the "plank" has been removed.  Are we treating the person that we are judging and correcting in the way that we would like to be treated?  We are to love others as we already love ourselves. See Matthew 22:39  In Ephesians 5, husbands are told to love their wives as they love their own bodies. See Ephesians 5:28  We are to continually, in the strength of God's Spirit, make a compassionate effort to put ourselves in the others' shoes and then speak and act accordingly.  Some time ago, I heard an Indian proverb.  I cannot remember the exact quote, but it went something like this.  We are not to judge someone until we have walked in their moccasins.  As Christians we are to continually seek to walk in others' moccasins. 

Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it as follows:  "You do not like unkind things said about you?  Well, do not say them about others.  You do not like people who are difficult, and who make your life difficult, and bring problems into your life, and constantly put you on the edge?  Well, in exactly the same way, do not let your behavior be such that you become like that to them.  It is quite as simple as that, according to the Lord." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 by Intervarsity Press."

Jesus says that this simple rule "sums up the Law and the Prophets."  If we practice loving others as we want others to love us, we will adore and obey God and we will neither lie nor steal nor do the other prohibitions in the Ten Commandments.  We will fulfill all that is taught and proclaimed in the Old Testament.  For example, we want others to treat us lovingly, fairly, and without any prejudice or bias against us; so, we should treat others in this way also.

THE NARROW GATE INTO GOD'S KINGDOM (7:13-14)
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Thought Question: What are some reasons why the "gate" and the "road" that God offers is "narrow"?

 

 

If we were a part of the large crowd that was entering a stadium, we would seek to follow the crowd that was leading us to the largest entrance.  But we will not find the entrance to God's kingdom if we follow the crowds, for the entrance into God's kingdom is narrow and is only found by those who are willing to leave the crowds.

1. Few will leave the broad road that leads to destruction (7:13)
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it."

In this section of verses and the 2 sections of verses that follow, Jesus is doing what many preachers do.  We also find it in the letters in the New Testament.  First there is the teaching and then comes the application of that teaching.  Matthew 7:13-29 is the application part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.  He is showing them the choices they need to make in response to what He has taught them.  In these verses, He urges them to not follow the broad road that most every person is choosing, but to choose the narrow road that He has been teaching them about.

Some believe that happiness comes when you are free to do whatever you want to do without any restrictions.  This may seem to bring happiness for awhile, but when the consequences from living this type of life begin to come, this path gets narrower and narrower until those walking on this path begin to find it a path to pain and misery rather than a road to happiness.  You often see it in their tightly drawn faces.  Ultimately, this broad path leads to eternal judgment and separation from God.

The road that Jesus offers is a very narrow road.  It is narrow for there is much that you cannot take with you on this road.  You cannot take pride, lust, greed, and self-centeredness with you.  It is narrow because it is very easy to get off it.  There are many more ways to go wrong than there are ways to go right.  If you get off a narrow path in the woods, there are many ways that you can go astray once you get off that narrow path.  So, also there are many ways you can go astray if you get off God's path.

One of the problems in living the Christian life is that it is inevitable that you will become an oddball to the world.  They will do such things as urge you come along with them and have some fun; they will feel uncomfortable around you; and they will even despise your narrowness.  We all like to fit in and to be accepted in a group.  It becomes hard when you begin to realize that you are rejected by people or even groups of people because you are so very different from them in your views and in what you see as right and wrong. The path that Jesus invites us to follow is a narrow one in many ways, but it is also by far the best path to follow for it leads to life.

2. And few will enter the narrow road that leads to eternal life. (7:14)
"But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Jesus call us to leave the masses and enter His kingdom through a narrow gate that is too narrow and too restricted to allow us to bring in with us the impure or the unholy; we must leave behind self-sufficiency, hatred, deception, pride, greed, and harshness.  To enter His kingdom we must deny self and all that flows from it and follow through the narrow gate.  But, this narrow road, in the end, leads to life. The book of I John describes this life.  It is a fellowship with God who is light, and this life results in us becoming like Him.  This narrow road grows wider as a genuine relationship with God develops, as we grow in concern for others, and ultimately as we enter into eternity as members of God's family.

COUNTERFEITS OF GOD'S KINGDOM (7:15-23)
The counterfeits are those who say they are on the narrow road, but are actually on the broad road.  There is much in the Bible about these false prophets. See Deuteronomy 13:1-5; I Kings 22; Jeremiah 14:14,15 23:14-17, 28:15; Acts 20:28-31; Romans 16:17,18; II Corinthians 11:13-15; I Timothy 4:1-3; II Peter 2:1-3; I John 4:3-5
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

1. Outwardly these false prophets seem to be part of God's kingdom
(7:15)
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves."

Thought Question: What does this verse warn us about false teachers? (See II  Corinthians 11:13-15)

 

 

Outwardly, false prophets often appear to be harmless sheep, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  Satan and his followers are not always easy to recognize, for as Satan masquerades as an angel of light, so his followers masquerade as servants of God. see II Corinthians 11:13-15  When the Russians conquered Romania, according to Richard Wurmbrand an evangelical pastor in Romania who spent 13 years in prison because of his faith, members of a number of churches saw their pastors exchange their clerical garb for Russian uniforms.  Underneath their clerical garb had beaten the hearts of Russian soldiers; outside they were pastors but inside they were "ferocious wolves."  Also, it is possible that under the shepherd's garb of a pastor today may beat a wolf's heart; the heart of one who is only interested in his own gain.

2. But their fruit will expose them as not being part of God's kingdom
(7:16-20)
"By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them."

Thought Question #1:  According to Jesus' words in these verses, how are we able to recognize those who are false teachers?

 

 

Thought Question #2:  How will God ultimately treat those who are false prophets?

 

 

How can we recognize the false prophet?  As a thorn bush eventually will show its thorns, so the false prophet will eventually show his or her thorns.  Jesus Himself exposes the thorns of the false prophets of His day in Matthew 23.  The Pharisees taught the people what to do, but they did not do it themselves. See Matthew 23:1-4  They did what they did for men to see. See Matthew 23:5-7  They loved to be honored. See Matthew 23:8-9  They emphasized the minor and not the major. See Matthew 23:23-24  They emphasized the external and not the internal. See Matthew23:25-28 

Who are these false prophets?  The fact that they come "in sheep's clothing" tells us that they appear to be true prophets and not false prophets.  It is likely that they will say what people want to hear. See II Timothy 4:3-4  We learn some more about them from Peter: "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping." (2 Peter 2:1-3)  Paul also warned the Ephesian elders about them: "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." (Acts 20:29-31)

A false prophet often tells you what you want to hear rather than what God wants you to hear, and he or she does it for selfish reasons rather than for selfless reasons.  Today, we have the cults that teach another Jesus and another gospel.  They teach that you can be saved by your good works.  They appear to live good lives, and they often say that they are Christians just like evangelical Christians; but they say that they have additional revelation that they have received from God that is superior to what was given before (or at least they treat it as if it is superior).

What are these false prophets worth to God?  Jesus will not deal with them kindly: "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."  What do we do with a fruit tree that only produces bad fruit?  Eventually, we cut it down and burn it.  What will Jesus do with prophets that bear only bad fruit?  From His words here, we can conclude that He is clearly against them.  In the end, He will judge them in the same way that we deal with a bad fruit tree that is worthless.  They will be determined to be worthless and all that they have done will be thrown into the eternal fire and burned.

3. Ultimately, the Lord will reject them. (7:21-23)
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

Thought Question: What can we do so that we will not be like these that Jesus described here who were not really known by Jesus?

 

 

These false prophets may fool us, but they will not fool the One they will face at God's judgment seat!  Jesus, at that time will say, "I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!"

It appears that these false prophets will have not only deceived others, but they have also deceived themselves into thinking that they are doing all that they are doing for God's sake.  As Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out, this surely is "one of most astounding statements to be found anywhere in the Scriptures." "Taken from Sermon on the Mount Volume One by Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  Copyright 1959 by Intervarsity Press."

Notice that they "say" the right thing.  They call Jesus "Lord."  It is not important what we "say," if there is no doing of what we say.  They "say" "Lord, Lord," but they do not do what He says.  "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46)  True faith will result in you living according to what you believe.  As James said, "faith without deeds is useless." (James 2:20)

These verses provoke an obvious question: "How can I know if I am saved?"  Those here, who are not saved, do and say the right things: "did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?"  Judas drove out demons and gave such a good impression before the other disciples that they did not recognize that his heart was not with them.  One can say and even do many of the right things and still not be "poor in spirit."  "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God." (Matthew 5:3)  Those who are poor in spirit cannot believe that God would allow them into His kingdom.  They know that they do not deserve it, and they rely totally on His grace.

The entire book of I John provides each of us with a guide to examine ourselves to see if we are truly a Christian.  "And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 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." (1 John 5:11-13)  These verses sum up the book of I John.  The early chapters and verses provide the tests.  Do we say we walk in the light, but we do not confess our sins?  Do we say we know of God's love and yet hate a fellow Christian?  Do we say we walk in the light, but choose to do what is sinful?  Do we love the world more than God? See also II Peter 1:3-11

THE BASIS FOR SECURITY IN GOD'S KINGDOM (7:24-27)

1. Build your life on the "rock." (7:24-25)
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."

Thought Question: How have you been doing in handling the storms that have come into your life? (Has your life been built upon Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount?)

 

 

If we hear His words and obey them, our lives will be like a house that is built on a foundation of rock; and our lives will be able to stand up against any storm that may come.  Because the storms in Israel can be very fierce, it was very important for them to build their houses on a strong foundation.  We also need to build our lives on a firm foundation of obedience to God's Word, for the storms of life can also be very fierce-storms in our marriages, families, finances, work environment, and life in general.  We have an enemy who is continually on the prowl seeking to destroy us.  The wise man who has built his life on God's Word will be able to weather each of the storms and persevere in faith and love.

2. Do not build your house on the sand—by ignoring what is taughtin God's Word (7:26-27)
"But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”"

Thought Question: Who can you think of in the Bible or in history who built his or her life on the sand and that person's life came crashing down when the storms came?

 

 

From Jesus' words here, we see that it is possible to be a hearer of God's words and not a doer of them.  It is possible to regularly, for example, hear God's words taught and preached in a church service and not act on what is taught there.  We can believe that our duty to God is fulfilled when we listen to the Bible being taught.  Jesus tells us that if we do this, we are building our life on sand.

We have now seen Jesus describe those who built their houses on rock and those who built their houses on sand.  Martyn Lloyd-Jones observed that there are both similarities and differences between the men that are described.  The similarities are as follows: (1) they both built houses, (2) they built their house in the same locality, and (3) all of the houses were subject to storms.  The differences are as follows: (1) one group of men is wise and the other group is foolish, (2) they built their houses on two different types of foundations, and (3) the fools ultimately regret their foolish decisions.

There are also the same similarities and differences, then, between men.  The similarities are as follows: (1) both types of people build a life, (2) both types of people live in the same localities (like your home town), and (3) all lives are subjected to all kinds of difficulties caused by the storms of life.  The differences are as follows: (1) some people are wise and some people are foolish, (2) some people build their lives on the strong foundation of obeying Jesus' words and some people foolishly ignore God's wisdom, and (3) the fools who ignore God's wisdom will ultimately regret their foolish decisions.

What should be our conclusion drawn from Jesus' words?  We should not wait until our life comes crashing down before we come to see that it is foolish to reject God's words and God's wisdom.  Instead, we should seek to understand God's wisdom and obey Him now!  In studying the book of Proverbs, I have concluded that the difference between the wise man and the fool is that the wise man listens to God and to others before making decisions and the fool listens only to himself.  "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions." (Proverbs 18:2)  The foolish do not feel that they need any guidance from others; the wise diligently seek out all the wisdom they can receive from God and from those that are known for making wise decisions.  A wise decision is one that will never be looked upon with regret, neither in this life nor in heaven.  We need to pursue God and His ways so that our lives will be built on the good foundation of God's completely trustworthy words.

What is the difference between the man who builds his life on the sand and he who builds his life on God's words?  The difference has been emphasized throughout the Sermon on the Mount.  Are we seeking first God's kingdom and value what is valued by Him or are we seeking worldly treasures for ourselves?  If we are pursuing God, His goals and His purposes; we will also be building our lives on rock!  Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)  Men tend to think that fulfilling their selfish desires will bring happiness; Jesus says that seeking after righteous and godly character will satisfy.  Being free from sin and filled with purity is what satisfies, for we are satisfied with who we are not what we have.  "Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God." (Matthew 5:8)

What are some of the storms in our lives that we may face?  Some of the storms are the loss of a job, the death of a family member, a chronic sickness or even a terminal illness, relational tension, the effect of the economy on one's financial state, an accident, and persecution because of one's stand for Jesus Christ.  How can obeying Jesus help us to weather these types of storms?  The Bible is clear that God will use these types of difficult times to refine and perfect our Christian character. See James 1:2-8; Romans 5:3-5; Hebrews 12:1-13  The Bible also promises that God will take care of us through these types of trials. See Philippians 4:6-7; I Peter 5:7; Matthew 6:25-34  Furthermore, God promises that He will always lead us in triumph. See II Corinthians 2:14; Romans 8:37-38  And God promises us that absolutely nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God. See Romans 8:31-39  If we choose to put God and His goals and purposes first in our life, God will use these trials to drive us closer to Him.  When the storms come, our house will stand; in fact, our lives will be greatly strengthened as our relationship with God grows stronger!

3.  The crowd realized that Jesus words were true (Matthew 7:28)
"When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching. . ."

The crowds recognized that Jesus' words provided them with more of a foundation for security in their lives than the words of their religious leaders, for He spoke with authority and their religious leaders did not.  His words were recognized as being the truth.  Today, we also need to speak with authority about the truths revealed to us in the Bible, so that our generation will also recognize them as being the truth.

We now come to the end of Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and the first 7 chapters of Matthew.  We have been introduced to the King and His kingdom—the King who had been promised in the Old Testament, who was born of a virgin, resisted the temptation of Satan, selected a group of disciples, and preached a sermon revealing that His kingdom was the very opposite from the kingdom of this world.  Those who joined His kingdom were the "poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3) and those who sought to purify their hearts from selfishness.  Those who enter His kingdom are those who desire to be completely like their King.  All that is left is for us to be those who do all that we can to be fully obedient to our wonderful King.  May we be salt and light in our world as He and His followers were in their time!

 

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. ®   NIV ®   Copyright ©  1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission.  All Rights reserved.

Studies in Matthew