Sermon on the Mount: Week 9 and Blogging hiatus to prepare for baby!

This was the final week of our study of Kay Arthur’s book on the Sermon on the Mount, Lord, I’m Torn Between Two Masters. In many ways, Arthur definitely came “full circle” from Week 1 when she focused on the kingdom of heaven, what it is, and its coming glory. This final week focused on possessing the kingdom of heaven and coming to a true understanding of how Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount shines a light on His kingdom.

The life of righteousness set before us in the Sermon on the Mount is one that is impossible to attain without Christ. Many non-believers will try to emulate the principles of the Sermon but will ultimately fail in achieving a righteousness that “surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees.” (Matthew 5:20) This life of righteousness is one characterized by complete dependence on Christ. A persistent striving to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7) and a belief that God delights in our dependence on Him. This is His character.

We note the parallels between the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments in that the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) begin with our relationship with God (vv 2-6; poorness in spirit, mourning, meekness, a hunger/thirst for righteousness) and then turn to our relationship with others (vv 7-12; mercy, making peace, persecution). In the same way, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) first instruct us on relating to YHWH (vv 2-8; idols, taking the LORD’s name in vain, keeping the Sabbath) before instructing us on relating to our fellow man (vv 9-17; honoring parents, murder, adultery, stealing, lying, coveting).

As we have learned throughout this study, Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). His Sermon on the Mount gives us a fuller understanding of the Law and how this Law is fulfilled through our Savior and ultimately fulfilled in our lives when we strive to live by the higher Law of Love.

There was an interesting “news” feature on ABC World News describing how “nearly 6 in 10 Americans blend their faith with new age beliefs.” According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Americans from all religions are blending their traditional beliefs with new age and eastern beliefs, such as astrology, reincarnation, and yoga. What is most disturbing about this trend is how it stands in striking opposition to the teaching of Jesus. Humans will always want to enter the kingdom of God on their own terms. That is the story of the Fall in Genesis 3. But what does Jesus say?

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few… Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:13-14; 21-23)

In the words of Kay Arthur, “How small is that gate? It’s so small that it causes you to bow in total poverty of spirit in order to enter it. How narrow is the way that leads to life? It is the narrow way of righteousness, a righteousness that actually exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees.” (p 242)

Strive to enter by the narrow gate, friends. Jesus is the only way through that gate and his teaching is pure and true. Do not be fooled by false teachers and do not be swayed by the desire to find a spirituality that “fits” your lifestyle or makes sense on the afternoon talk shows. Our God is a holy God who calls us to a life of righteousness modeled after Christ. Make the choice. Shalom!

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Thank you to all of the lovely women of Grace Chapel who joined us for this study of the Sermon on the Mount. As many of you know, I will be taking a break from leading study and blogging to prepare to have my first child in a few short weeks. I wish God’s blessing on you and your family and look forward to joining you again very soon!

Sermon on the Mount: Week 8

Judging others…this is one of the most difficult topics to discuss for Christians. It is extraordinarily difficult to feel judged, to react when someone comes to you with a criticism of your behavior, and to accept when you may not be living up to the example set by Christ. But the question remains: is it ever appropriate to judge others?

The answer according to Scripture is yes. But are there certain conditions that must be met for judgment to take place appropriately? Again, a resounding yes. What does Jesus say about judgment in the Sermon on the Mount?

“Do not judge lest you be judged.
For in the way you judge, you will be judged;
and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye,
but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck
out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
Your hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
(Matthew 7:1-5)

Jesus is saying that at times judgment of your brother is appropriate. But a very important thing must happen first: directly addressing your own sin (taking the log out of your own eye). By doing this first, you will then be able to see clearly to approach your brother about his sin. Part of addressing your own sin first is prayer and knowing the Word of God — these actions will further allow you to be right in the eyes of God before you correct your brother.

God has many purposes for judgment. James 5:20 tells us, “…let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.” Galatians 6:1 says, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Salvation. Covering sin. Restoration. Building up one another and the body of Christ.

Kay Arthur provides an excellent summary of the issue of judgment in her book Lord, I’m Torn Between Two Masters:

“A careful study of [the] scriptures — including Matthew 7:1-5 — shows that judging is not forbidden. Irresponsible behavior, wrong doctrine, and sin must all be discerned, clearly identified, and dealt with…Righteousness is to be upheld, the gospel is to be earnestly contended for. Judging, therefore, is not wrong if it is done properly. It is fine to correct a brother as long as you do it in a spirit of gentleness, as long as you are spiritual, realizing that you are not above temptation yourself. It is all right to judge as long as the motivation of that judgment is love of God and love of your neighbor. The goal of judgment, remember, is not to condemn but to restore.

It is all right to judge as long as we judge with a righteous judgment, a judgment that is in accordance with God’s Word. We may judge dogs and swine, false prophets, sin, wrong behavior, and wrong doctrine. But we cannot judge the motives of a man’s or woman’s heart. But above all…we must continuously judge ourselves!” (pp 226-227)