Mark 3:7-19; Luke 6:12-16; Matthew 5:1-12; Luke 6:17-26; Matthew 5:13-48; Luke 6:27-36; Matthew 6:1-4
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Matthew: Okay, today is a big day my friends! We are starting the Sermon on the Mount! Whoo-hoo! (are you cheering here with me?? :) And as we do, let me encourage you in a few ways on what we'll be reading here. First of all, personally, these 3 chapters of Matthew (5, 6, 7) have been transformative for me over the years. Before I had faith in Jesus, I would continually read these chapters and I kept thinking to myself - "This guy has got some wisdom! I like what he's saying!" And I do believe that the Spirit was no doubt working on me as I read these chapters. So, I do ask that you would be sensitive to the Spirit as you read The Sermon on the Mount. What is the Spirit speaking to you as you read? Which verses are really jumping out at you - maybe making you think about some areas of your life that might need some tidying up... I know that this happens to me every time I read the Sermon on the Mount. It's probably because of reading chapter 5 today, and the Beatitudes, that I went into my pride / Tower of Babel thing above... :)
Here's my other big request for you as you read through the Sermon on the Mount - and really all of the gospels. Try to experience what you are reading as something more than just "historical" teachings or "historical" readings. Try to envision yourself maybe down at your local park and maybe imagine that Jesus was actually at that park surrounded by a bunch of your neighbors and imagine that you heard Jesus actually saying these words to you and your neighbors - today. Would this change your perception of what you are reading? Or, maybe imagine that indeed Jesus is not just at your local park - but in your very home saying these words to you. And truly - He is - as you are reading the Bible you are hearing directly from Jesus. I just want to encourage you that the words you read here in the Sermon on the Mount are incredible spiritual food. And I don't think we can come back to these 3 chapters of Matthew often enough. I pray that you will let the Spirit of Jesus speak directly into your mind and your heart as you read and meditate on the meanings of these 3 chapters of the gospel of Matthew...
We read the Beatitudes today! I would love to share with you the Beatitudes from Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible called The Message. I really like the way he looks at the Beatitudes -
""You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are--no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being "carefull,' you find yourselves cared for.
"You're blessed when you get your inside world--your mind and heart--put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom." - Matthew 5:3-10 The Message
I know verses 17 & 18 probably are interpreted in different ways - but a friend of mine has encouraged me when in doubt, just stick to the text, which is wise. So, let's look at the Jesus' words here in this text - "Don't misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them. I assure you, until heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of God's law will remain until its purpose is achieved." What does the reading of this text say to you?
And now that we've looked at the text... I need to dive into a commentary on these verses... :) I'm quoting this from Tyndale's One Year Bible Companion book - which I have found to be a very helpful commentary to our daily readings: "In the Old Testament, there were 3 categories of law: ceremonial, civil, and moral. 1. The ceremonial law was related specifically to Israel's worship. Its primary purpose was to point forward to Jesus Christ; these laws are therefore no longer necessary after Jesus' death and resurrection. However, the principles behind these laws - to worship and love a holy God - still apply. 2. The civil law applied to daily living in Israel and these laws cannot be followed specifically today in our modern society and culture. But the principles behind theses laws are timeless and should guide our conduct. 3. The moral law (such as the Ten Commandments) is the direct command of God, and requires obedience. The moral law reveals the nature and will of God, and it still applies today." So, there you have it from one evangelical commentary. I know probably different people reading this blog are going to interpret these verses a bit differently. This framework of these 3 categories of laws above and their fulfillment in Jesus I personally have found helpful and agree with. One other commentary I found related to these verses says this: "Christ does not terminate the law. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; we establish the law. (Romans 3:31) The law will always be there to point out what sin is, but the law is not the focus, Christ is the focus. Only He can cleanse, and sanctify and change the heart and mind." Again, I know this can be a hot topic to say the least. I recommend everyone please spend a few minutes reading this wonderful article on this topic from Bible.org titled, "The Mosaic Law: Its Function and Purpose in the New Testament," at this link.
Matthew 5:27-30 are Jesus' teachings about adultery. And really I think these teachings, along with many others in the Sermon on the Mount, are even more so about what is going on inside our hearts. Jesus discusses how the law says clearly how we are "not to do" something - it's very apparent and very "exterior" if we commit a sin like adultery. Jesus says that the exterior/apparent/obvious sin is wrong for sure - but Jesus is equally as concerned with what's going on in the "interior" - inside our hearts. Jesus proposes that if we have looked at someone lustfully with our "interior", we have committed the same sin as if we had actually committed adultery on the "exterior." Do you see how Jesus' teachings in today's readings are really focusing on the condition of our hearts? How is the condition of your heart today when it comes to these teachings?
I know these can be seen as "hard teachings." Please note that I do not believe that Jesus is advocating self-mutilation in these readings - he is being figurative, not literal, in his speech about gouging out an eye or cutting off a hand. (someone can be blind and still lust) But he wants the point to be made very strongly. These teachings are obviously important for us to meditate on and learn from and obey. I am sure we all know it is true that what we "think" can often become what we "do". So, it seems to me that Jesus is trying to stop us from even committing sin at the "thinking" level, because it may later manifest itself into action. Or - even if it does not manifest itself into action the thinking of the sin can actually affect us just adversely as much as the actual doing of the sin. Let us not let our minds wander into cloudy territory, but let us keep our minds clean and focused on Jesus, His Kingdom, and His Righteousness. Jesus' teachings today in Matthew 5 can certainly keep us from cloudy thinking and the confusion of internal sin:
I do actually want to say a few more things about the whole adultery / lust issue brought up in today's readings. And it is this - probably many of us have struggled with lust, or are struggling with lust right now. I have. And I know many of my friends who have. I am very saddened by many things I have seen and heard and experienced over the years. However sad I am or have been though, I am sure God grieves for us so much more. I guess I just want to encourage anyone now who is reading this that might be struggling with lust or pornography or adultery or pre-marital sex etc. - there truly is freedom from what you are struggling with. And that freedom ultimately only is found in the healing love of Jesus. I just pray that you will do everything you can to allow Jesus to free you from what's enslaved you - seek professional counseling, find an accountability partner, confess your sins, read empowering books about freedom from what you are struggling with, avoid R-rated movies or Hollywood entertainment magazines if you need to, avoid situations or locations that will tempt you, and above all pray to Jesus and ask for healing continually. He will heal you. It may take time. But Jesus will heal you. God bless you as you work your way out of this and into amazing freedom! God will get you there! Let the healing begin!
Pastor Joshua Harris has three really good books related to the topic of lust, purity, dating and marriage that I highly recommend. One book is titled "Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World," another is titled "Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship," and another titled "I Kissed Dating Goodbye." All three of these books have been very helpful to me in different phases of life. I know some folks think Josh's books are a bit too "legalistic." Maybe they seem that way in our current culture, but I have found them to be very Biblically sound. If you are single, then I strongly urge you to read these books!
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Matthew titled "Flames of Desire" is at this link, "Avoiding the Sin of Adultery" is at this link, and "Jesus and the Law of Retaliation (Lex Talionis)" is at this link.
Worship God: Our Matthew Chapter 5 readings on lust seems an appropriate point to share with you this phenomenal song by Rebecca St. James that she wrote for her future husband called "Wait for Me:"
Do you know that God is waiting for you? Click here and wait no more!
Please join me in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today: "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." Matthew 5:27-28 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you will not commit adultery in your life. Pray that you will not look at another person lustfully. Pray that if you are committing adultery in your heart right now that you will repent and turn to Jesus for healing.
Comments from You: What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!