Sermon on the Mount Series

Sermon on the Mount Series 15

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall 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 stumble, 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 stumble, 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.

Earlier we had looked at the first of Jesus’ Ten Commandment upgrades regarding murder.  We learned that in the Old Testament if I did not take a life from another human being, I was not considered to have broken the commandment.  However, Jesus tells us that if we so much as call someone a fool or in other words use life sucking words about someone than we have committed murder. 

Now we have Jesus’s second upgrade.  In the Old Testament as long as I never have sex with another woman I am generally seen as having not broken the adultery commandment.  Now Jesus goes to meddling with that simplistic interpretation.  He says if you lust you are committing adultery.  Consider what that means. 

If you look at pornography you have committed adultery.  If you fantasize about a woman that is not your spouse, you have committed adultery.  Any time that you dehumanize a woman and degrade her even in your mind you have committed adultery. 

Again, we come to the concept, you must guard your thoughts.  It is easy for our mind to wander to cleavage or short skirts.  I hate to even mention it in fear that it will cause some of you to stumble but silence also has it s power.  When you find yourself struggling, when temptation is calling out to you.  Call out to Jesus. 

If the image is on a screen, shut it down, but I know that it is already seared into your brain, so call out to Jesus.  Consider this, Jesus loves that woman, purely.  Consider this, that is someone’s daughter.  If she is a Christian woman, she is God’s daughter.  Do you really want to fantasize about the daughter of God?  Ask Jesus to help you think purely.  Acknowledge that He has made beauty and cherish that beauty.  Protect it, do not allow others to degrade her with coarse jokes or comments. Rise up.

Jesus takes this command very seriously as He directs us to pluck eyes, rip off hands in other words to take extreme measures.  Do whatever it takes to make your thoughts pure.  Seek counsel, find friends who also struggle and confide in them.  This is a battle.  Be free or be dead in hell.

Sermon on the Mount Series

Sermon on the Mount Series 14

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Matthew 5:22-26

   Peace.  I offer you peace.  But peace does not happen accidentally.  It requires effort.  Our natural bent is to put it off because it is simply too painful, to uncomfortable to engage in the conversations needed.  “Settle matters quickly.” We make excuses as to why we should wait.

We avoid healthy conflict, but no face mask can prevent the damage that can be done through this practice.  Research shows us that avoiding the conflict leads to a whole host of physical health issues.  Families are destroyed because we don’t address the issues that are in our faces.  Our minds become warped by our thoughts of revenge.  But the most damaging is to our spirit.

Remember we were designed for a perfect life in the garden.  Peace should be surrounding us.  Contentment is in our wiring.  However, sin came in and broke that peace.  Our sin was a declaration of war against God.  When we live in conflict with our brothers and sisters we are in conflict with God.

How often have I been in church, nursing a grudge?  I feel angry and embittered over some slight real or imagined.  In the darkness of my mind I have contemplated evil against my enemy, maybe even while I am there in church.  While you are at the altar.  While I am worshipping and recognize this anger welling up within me, I must go make things right. 

Make peace.  Sometimes you will be wronged, forgive anyway.  Go make things right and then return to church and worship in Spirit and in Truth.

GRM offers a webinar on Restoring Peace where you can learn to become a peacemaker.  Peacemaker is a role that our world needs today more than ever.

Sermon on the Mount Series

Sermon on the Mount Series Episode 13

   “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Matthew 5:21-22

 In the last blog we talked about allowing the law and the prophets to be a mirror to our hearts.  Most of us feel that we are “good enough” or “better than”.  However, when we see ourselves clearly under the firm teaching of the law and the prophets, we begin to see the intention of the heart.  Yes, we did something nice.  But we did it so that we could get the applause.  Maybe we want bragging rights for our patience.  Regardless the law and the prophets will expose us at least to ourselves.

On the surface as I examine myself, I rarely break the ten commandments.  Some claim that because we live under the new covenant the law no longer applies.  But Jesus does not dismiss the old, he is adding to it.  This passage is the first in the sermon to point this out to us.  Do not murder.  Simple straight forward.  In my lifetime I have never killed, taken life from another human being.  The biggest thing I ever killed was a very sick turkey that was suffering.  It really was an act of compassion that was asked of me by my family.  I found even that sort of killing to be difficult.  As a soldier I have committed myself to defend others and if needed I am willing to take life.  That would be a last resort to save someone else.  But the actual killing of a human, not on my list of past sins.

If we were under the old covenant that many say no longer applies, I would be good to go.  This sin would hold no sway on me.  However, Jesus adds to the law.  My personal history is full of times where I have lost my temper, where anger got the best of me.  Jesus tells me here that I am subject to the judgement.  The Father loves me, that does not change.  But if I lose my temper, He is not proud of me.  He cannot brag on me because I have broken the commandment not to murder.  If, even in my anger, I use my words to cut someone down and insult them; I have murdered their soul.  I have broken the commandment.

What Jesus is teaching me is that I must guard my words carefully.  I must use them to speak the truth in love.  While correction may be required, I must remember that the ultimate end that I am speaking life into them.  I look around at our world today and it is dying slowly from all of the negativity around us.  If someone does not agree with us or votes different than us, we throw our words around and stab at them with little barbs of hate. 

My friends the lesson here is that we must speak life.  Jesus is commanding us to think about how our words will either build someone up or tear them down.  Choose life.  Build up those around you.  Even if they disagree with you, build them up.  Even if they don’t seem willing or unable to understand you, build them up.  Inspire others toward life. 

Sermon on the Mount Series

Sermon on the Mount Series

“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. For truly I tell you, 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.  Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly 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.  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.

Matthew 5:17-20

 Many take a large growing church as a sign of God’s favor and His blessing.  It might be.  The preacher might sell many books, have active speaking schedules and even be able to claim worldwide attention.  Their ministry might be done in power with the signs and wonders of miracles, healing and more.  But that is just a maybe.  Those things were true of the apostle’s ministry, sometimes. 

But too many today twist Scripture, cherry pick verses here and there in an attempt to justify their false teaching and explain away difficult passages such as, “Take up your cross…”  These same teachers dismiss most of the Old Testament.  Yet, Jesus warns us not to do that.  He is a fulfillment of all the Law and the Prophets (most of the old testament by the way.)  This means that if we are to understand Jesus, we must take the time to study to understand God as he is portrayed in the law and the prophets. 

The law is a teacher.  I really did not understand what coveting really was until I read the Torah.  Honestly, apart from the law I think I am a pretty good person.  My soul is dying but I have no symptoms that I am willing to acknowledge.  But when I meditate on His law, I sense my own sinfulness.  I see my own selfishness.  Where when I only look at the New Covenant, I see that I am forgiven.  I find peace with God and others through the saving Grace of Jesus.  That is my only hope.  But as long as I deny the symptoms, I will refuse the cure.  The law and the prophets come together as a standard, as a covid-19 test to inform me of my illness. 

But again, too many preachers today lie about numbers forgetting that lying is a sin.  I have heard it justified saying that the end justifies the means.  They manipulate people with soft music, shame and adjusted lighting so that they can claim “more souls for the Kingdom.”  If they use the tools of the devil to gain an audience and they have twisted Scripture they are not of God.  But since they have not examined their own hearts, they do not know that.  Since they have not set their life alongside the law and the prophets, they don’t know that they are simply spreading their own sinful virus.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one 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 in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Matthew 7-21-23

The day of the false teacher is here.  Do not be deceived.  Instead, examine yourself and then receive the cleaning of the King. 

Sermon on the Mount Series

Sermon on the Mount

Episode 11

  “You are the light of the world. A town built 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 others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16

For too many in the church today there is a focus on the darkness.  Our denomination decides on what sin is and then we spout hate and division.  Don’t get me wrong here, sin leads to death.  There is no question on that.  Our focus first must be on our own sin.

  “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? 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.

Matthew 7: 3-5

Socrates is given credit for saying that, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”  Examine your life and cleanse yourself you doubleminded! 

The light of the modern church is dimmed.  We have forsaken the poor and put our focus on large church facilities.  We claim this is the light of the world showing the power of God.  However, remember who it was that promised the riches of the world to Jesus.  Many of these large churches do have large numbers of people come to faith. But how many develop the heart of God to go into the inner cities?  The light must show up to light the way for those who spend their lives viewing pornography, oppressing others, those that are feeling hopeless and more. 

I am not saying ignore sin.  We must call it out.  What I have discovered as I have now routinely examined my choices and my own heart is that ALL of my sin stems from me trying to meet a legitimate need in a way that dishonors God.  More and more I am better able to recognize the need and my temptation to meet it with some sort of idol worship.  The recognition is powerful, and I can turn to God. 

“Jesus I am lonely.  Jesus I am afraid.  Jesus, I don’t know what to do.”  Sometimes I discover that I put too much stock into what people think of me or my identity is wrapped up in some false image.  When I am successful at repenting and turning toward God I can become the light.  I shine brighter.  The light is not on me but is actually on the King.  My God protects me, He defends me and He can do the same for you.  Just trust in Him.  I know you hurt.  I understand because I often hurt too.  Turn to God and ask Him to cleanse you so that you can be a city shining on the hill that beckons people to come to you because you represent hope, healing and salvation.

Sermon on the Mount Series

Sermon on the Mount Series

Episode 10

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 underfoot.

Matthew 5:13

People are no longer thirsty for the things of God.  Sure, many go to church and even more claim a style of Christianity, but few are desperate for the things of God.  Once I had a toothache and determined I would do absolutely anything to make the pain go away.  I handed my wife a hammer and asked her to beat the tooth out.  I tied a string around the tooth with the other end on a weight and dropped the weight down the stairs.  I slammed my head against the wall and so much more.  Nothing worked.  I was desperate but I was refusing to do the simple.  I was refusing to call the dentist.  Once I was desperate enough, I made that call.  Less than two hours later I had seen the dentist, my pain was gone.  He had absorbed the infection and given medication to care for me.  I struggled in my own way for hours before calling on the only solution that had any hope.

In the same way there are many who will feel the pain and discomfort of their lives sometimes for decades but refuse to make the one call that makes a difference.

We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for He can even raise the dead.  – 2 Corinthians 1:9

When you are salty you are looking for God in ALL situations.  You are DESPERATE!  You desire to please Him above all things.  When you are salty you throw caution to the wind and simply go after Him.

It was safer for the Apostles to simply go back to fishing.  No Pharisees nor Sadducees going to threaten to kill you while you bring in a catch of fish.  Tradition says that all the apostles except John died a martyr’s death.  That was not needed.  Peter could have lived a quiet life with his family.  Andrew would have sent his kids to visit Uncle Simon on the weekends.  But he took a chance.  He was salty.  No, he was not perfect.  He often held onto fear.  Too often he tried to do things his own way and hold onto the old traditions.  But when you are salty you are desperate enough to listen to the whole of God’s word.  You are thirsty enough to consider that just maybe you are misunderstanding His Word.  Your thirst will make you just a touch insane in your efforts to learn more, experience more and live more.

How do we get thirsty?

  • Pray deliberately and with emotion.
  • Pray God would open His Word to you in some different way.
  • Visit other denominations and faith groups.
  • Read books, articles and more from outside you faith group.
  • Talk with those in a different faith group and honestly seek to understand their interpretation of Scripture.  (You don’t have to agree.  You must just listen and seek to understand.)
Sermon on the Mount Series

Sermon on the Mount

Episode 9

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 5:10-12

We complain about our “rights” if they don’t include the name of Jesus at the community government opening prayer.  But is that really persecution?  How about businesses that are targeted and attacked through legal channels for not serving LGBTQ?  Is that persecution?  Some claim persecution when churches were directed not to meet in person during the early days of the pandemic.  Is that persecution?

Let’s be honest.  Here in America we really do not know persecution.  I remember many years ago now being in a mission’s service and heard a missionary speak of the church in Iran who had as its motto, “To the last man, to the last breath.”  I have read “Voice of the Martyrs”, “Foxes Book of Martyrs” and even the more modern version “Jesus Freaks” These men and women put their lives on the line every single day all in the name of Jesus.  Their faith was and is costly.  Our brothers and sisters around the world are facing persecution every day and they consider it pure joy.  They would consider the American statements of persecution to be a joke.

But let us assume that what we face by the anti-Christian forces does qualify as persecution.  What are we to do?  First, we need to pay attention to the words of Jesus here as He speaks to us from the Mount.  We must see that it is much more than just our faith that leads to our persecution.  It is persecution because of righteousness that is commended and comes with a reward.  This is bringing justice and truth to our world.  This is done at great personal risk.  This is not done for our glory.  Righteousness means that it is not done to sooth our own conscience or make us feel better.  Righteousness is not done out of guilt of shame.  Many who stand for the right are made fun of and taunted.  Some have their livelihoods taken away.  When things are done in righteousness, they also exude love to the lost. 

Paul calls us to speak the truth in love.  Too many of us are really good at trying to protect ourselves so we speak truth but forget the love.  Others are so focused on love that they become appeasers making a peace treaty with Satan.  Righteousness is difficult to stand for because you will be assaulted not only from the world but also from the church. 

It seems like our modern church does not really want to ruffle feathers.  Jesus ruffled feathers.  They did not whip him, spit on him, insult him and put him on a cross because he appeased them.  He loved them so deeply he was willing to die for them.  I wonder if His mind wandered to his future as He spoke these words from the Mount.

My guess is that they might have, but if they did, He encouraged His mind to go beyond the persecution to the reward.  If you want the Kingdom of Heaven you must be willing to be persecuted.  Live a life of righteousness!  Let the world see you doing the right things with love in your eyes.  They will first be confused because currently the church is seen as filled with hate.  Many historians talk about the early heroes of the faith.  They spoke truth in love, they broke no laws except they would not worship Caesar.  They were seen by the public serving each other and the lost.  Then they witnessed these men and women being put into the Coliseum to be brutally mauled by man or beast.  They did not cry out; they did not speak against the injustice.  They simply accepted and allowed their faith or be fully seen.  Many came to Christ because of them.

What will be the result when you show love to the homosexual, the murderer, the bigot, the Muslim, the false teacher?  Let them attack you.  Smile and know that the Kingdom of Heaven is waiting for you.  Thank your persecutors for their help toward refining your faith.

Sermon on the Mount Series

Sermon on the Mount

Episode 8

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

To be a peacemaker you must be able to carry the rod and the staff.  To bring peace to your family you must learn to speak truth in love.  To be a child of God means that we choose to be uncomfortable because these situations are difficult.

In the ancient of days and in some societies even today the shepherd carries a rod and a staff. (remember that according to Psalm 23 that these two together comfort us)  The staff is used to rescue and guide and lovingly lead the sheep.  This is a part of peacemaking.   Guiding and showing the way is required today.  People simply do not see when they are being bullheaded and stubborn.  They deem anybody that disagrees with them to be haters and  the enemy of all things good.  As children of God we must begin to lead our culture to learn to listen.  In the end we will likely not agree.  In some things we can simply walk away and be content.  But in other situations the rod will be needed. 

Typically the rod is used by the shepherd to protect the sheep from outside intruders.  This is using the justice system or actual physical force.  We must protect the most vulnerable around us from the oppressors.  NOTE: The oppressor will typically not see themselves as an oppressor so keep that in mind.  In today’s world we also may have to use the rod to protect our sheep from wolves that are internally mingling with the sheep.  These include villains who are unstable and are looking for weak minded people to control.  These also include false teachers who prey upon our own natural selfishness for health and wealth.  They are right in their own eyes just like any other oppressor so as a peacemaker you must defend the powerless. 

The man or woman of God must become good at using either tool. 

To be a peacemaker will require courage.  Engaging in peace making efforts will use a great deal of energy.  It is easier to look away and ignore the situations around you.  It is easier to not talk about hard things.  But we must decide to engage.  Peacemaking is all about the ultimate result, being children of God.  

As a peacemaker you will not always win.  Sometimes you will step back in horror as all of your efforts collapse around you and blood (physical or emotional) is pouring out onto the street.  Sometimes others simply are unreasonable.  Love them enough to try.  Other people are often working off of their own hurt and are unable to see the possibilities in other opinions.  Many are like children who will throw a tantrum if you don’t do what they say.  Try anyway.

Sermon on the Mount Series

Sermon on the Mount Series

Episode 7

Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.

Matthew 5:8

Most of us like to think that we operate out of the purist of motives.  We tell our selves that so much that we start to believe it. That is unbelievable to me.  How can I so deceive myself? 

Don’t get me wrong.  Before Christ I was much worse.  Like an infant my every thought was all about me.  I would ask myself what would make me happy in the moment and then I would demand it.  If I got my way I was pleased and was pleasant to be around.  However, if I did not get my way I was a tyrant.  I could lash out or in my more “mature” moments I would simply sulk. 

Jesus stated that there is no greater love than to lay one’s life down for his friends.  When I became a soldier, this became true of me.  I became willing to die for others.  This multiplied out when I got married and had children.  Yes I would die for my family.  I would die for those that like me. 

The thing is that I get something from them.  At the minimum I get acceptance but typically I receive love and support in all my moods.  Is my heart really pure when I become willing to lay down my life for them?

What if I lay down my life for my enemies?  People that I strongly disagree with and that I despise?  What if I don’t need to actually lay my life down for them?  What if I simply need to love them?

Purity of heart will require me to say to someone. “I strongly disagree with you, but I love you.”  Now that might be easy to say but it is difficult to really mean it.  I find myself pushing myself to love all of humanity.  I strive to understand them, their positions, their beliefs and their cultures.  That all helps me to love them with a pure heart. 

But what about those in rebellion, those who talk hatefully toward me?  Can I love them the same way? Those that have nothing to offer me but pain and discomfort.  Can I love them with a pure heart?  They have nothing to repay me.  They will not even choose to give me respect.

 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  Luke 14:13-14

My greatest desire is to see God.  As Jesus spoke to this crowd, I am certain that they’re were those that had no idea who they were.  Some would have been put out of the synagogues.  Others were simply villains who were in the crowd to see whom they could fleece. 

I am confident that Jesus knew all about them as He spoke.  Jesus saw God every time that He saw His reflection. 

How do we get a pure heart? 

The church would say that we have to go to church often and read the Bible and listen only to Godly teachers.  All of that is good. 

But I love to listen to Nirvana, Faith No More (how is that for a man of faith?), Mozart, ACDC, Garth Brooks and big band music and others.  Can I still be pure?  Some in the church would say that if I love the homosexual with no other motive than to love them than I am not holy enough.  I love the Muslim, the Hindu and others of multiple faiths only because I see God in them.  (Remember that all humanity is made in the image of God.)  Does that make me impure?

I struggle to love the false teachers of the prosperity Gospel.  Where they look for a reward in this world I desire only a reward is Jesus.  That is where I must get.  No fame, no fortune.  I might die looking like a failure to this world.  Now I preach to myself.  My heart desires success and fame.  I want to know that I made a difference in this world.  My heart is not pure.  But for moments, I can cast all of that aside and simply love Jesus.  In the woods behind my house I walk in the cool of the day and there is Jesus.  Nobody sees me.  Nobody else is there.  Jesus is there though.  That is enough, that is all that I need.  Oh to stay there!

But I must go back out into the world with all of it’s temptations and desires and I get distracted. 

My only hope for a pure heart is to seek more of Jesus so that there is no more room in there for the junk.

Sermon on the Mount Series

Sermon on the Mount Series

Episode 6

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Matthew 5:7

   When I mess up, I desire and typically expect to receive mercy.  I am mostly good I tell myself.  I don’t think I am alone here.  Most people think that they are good enough or at least better than most.  Somehow we feel as though we have earned a bit of slack.

While I don’t like to brag I do believe that I am among the best at making excuses to why it is ok for me to be rude or to be complacent or simply do wrong.  Justification is already on my mind every time that I run into a sticky situation.

Jesus does not give us that kind of leeway if we want to be like him.  We can talk about that another time though.

Today we are considering being merciful.  Oh! Oh!

While I want mercy, I have very little tolerance for excuses.  I tend to judge people by what I see happening and judge myself by what I am intending. 

Let me clarify, mercy does not mean that I tolerate bad behavior.  What mercy means is that that I first take time to listen to the intent.  When I do this more often than not; I learn that they (the offender) had a good reason in their own head for why they were misbehaving.

Romans 7:15-17 Living Bible (TLB)

 I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t. I do what I don’t want to—what I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking. But I can’t help myself because I’m no longer doing it. It is sin inside me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things.

Like me, it is possible and even likely that this person really wanted to do the right thing.  There are very few really evil people in the world.  Unless their conscious is seared they likely feel guilt.  Showing mercy means we confront the behavior and offer them a way to learn and grow.  This should be the desire of the merciful.  For those that want to use mercy as an excuse to ignore bad behavior you are not loving nor really merciful.

Look for teaching opportunities.  Share the possible consequences and if they learn, hold back the justice. 

Think of this scenario.  A child steals a piece of gum.  You could ignore it and even giggle at how cute this kid is for being sneaky.  You could call that mercy.  But real mercy would be talking to the child.  Explain how and why it is wrong to steal.  Then take them back and have them tell the store manager what they did and have them pay back the price of the gum.  It must be their money but if need be you can pay the cash and have them work it off.

This mercy may very well prevent the gum thief from becoming the bank robber.  This sort of mercy might keep the person that tells ethnic jokes from becoming someone that kills people of color.  Capture the little foxes is true mercy.

When we do that, we will have mercy shown to us as needed.  We will also have to do it less as more people mature and grow.