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Why The Sermon on the Mount?

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  • #61
    Why does grace matter?

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    How serious is the call to forgiveness? Letís plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

    In Jesusís new Kingdom, forgiveness is kind of a big deal. After all, the only way anyone else gets into the Kingdom is through forgiveness and grace. If you are a recipient of that forgiveness and grace, it follows that you should show it to others.

    Jesus later gives a parable illustrating this. We know it as the parable of the unmerciful servant, though perhaps we should also consider it the parable of the merciful master. The servant begs the master for just a little more time to pay off a debt that he must be deluded to think he could ever pay off. The master doesnít give it, but instead he just cancels the debt entirely. The servant leaves and finds a fellow servant who only owes him a small amount. He demands this servant pay him immediately and when he is begged for time, he throws the other servant in prison. The master finds out and has the servant brought to him and then the same is done to him.

    Jesus ends saying that if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. In other words, it must not just be the lip service that is done. It must be real and honest forgiveness. In our world, it might be easy to say something before the cameras that looks really good, but God knows the heart and wonít be fooled at all.

    This is something that should give us all pause. If we are not showing mercy to one another for their sins, it is because we do not trust that we have been shown mercy. The unforgiving servant still thought that somewhere he had to pay off the debt. Had he really believed he had been forgiven, he would be able to show forgiveness.

    This should give us pause because there is no indication Jesus doesnít mean what He says. Forgiveness is not optional. It is a requirement. If your brother comes to you and asks for your forgiveness, there is no question about it. You give it. You donít test. You donít ask for proof. You donít withhold. You just forgive.

    The Kingdom is to be a place of grace and thus its citizens must be gracious. To not be gracious is to say one would rather inflict suffering and judgment on another instead of showing the love that is required in the Kingdom of God. This is one reason also to believe in the forgiveness of God. To believe God has not forgiven us when we come to Him is to believe that He would rather punish us than to show grace to us.

    This is a big requirement, but a necessary one, and maybe if we took it more seriously we would find ourselves becoming a better people. We would be more gracious of the wrongs of others considering how much grace has been shown to us. Maybe that would be the kind of Kingdom most of us would like to live in.

    In Christ,
    Nick Peters
    (And I affirm the virgin birth)

    Comment


    • #62
      Should you be stingy?

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      Where should we store up treasure? Letís plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

      The next passage I want to touch on in looking at the Sermon on the Mount and its relation to Kingdom People is Matthew 6:19-24.

      19 ďDo not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 ďThe eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 ďNo one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

      Money is really a means to power for many people. If you have the money, you have the power. You can do what you want and buy what you want. It makes sense that you would want to hold on to all the money that you can. Jesus, however, condemns that attitude.

      Now not storing up though doesnít mean for us not using a bank account or something of that sort. That wasnít as much of an option in the ancient world, especially for most of Jesusís audience who would have been day-wage earners. Today, it can make sense for us to plan ahead, especially for financial emergencies that will come up.

      Today, we could say that itís not good to hoard. Itís not good to be the rich man while Lazarus sits outside of your gate begging for food. If you have money, you should strive to be generous with it. I donít think that means throw it away at anyone who says they need something, but it means to be a generous steward.

      This is one area where we can definitely improve on. Churches should be some of the most generous places of all and Christians should be people of generosity. A Christian can certainly be rich, but if they are not giving money to those truly in need, then they are not storing up treasures in heaven.

      Itís worth noting also that Jesus tells us that this will actually work for our benefit. Itís in our best interests to give away. If you give away your money then you will get true riches that will not last. Jesus is not opposed to our benefit. If anything, He is telling us how we can better benefit.

      As someone in the church who is poor, this kind of generosity is greatly appreciated as well. I remember a post I made years ago on the Tekton Ticker ran by my ministry partner, J.P. Holding, about a hard time where my wife and I didnít receive proper care from the church. To this day, we have not returned there.

      However, the church can only be generous if its people are generous. If they are not, then the church has nothing. That means those who have should strive to be generous and build up the Kingdom of God.

      You cannot serve two masters. If your master is money or anything else, you will not be a servant of the Kingdom. Your desire for Jesus must be greater than that of wealth.

      In Christ,
      Nick Peters
      (And I affirm the virgin birth)

      Comment


      • #63
        Don't worry. Be happy.

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        Why is worrying wrong? Letís plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

        Jesus tells us next not to worry. He points to how flowers and birds are provided for. Your Heavenly Father knows what you need and is willing to provide it and you are worth more than many sparrows.

        Of course, this is a general principle. God is not obligated to provide everything for everyone and it wouldnít happen forever as aside from Elijah and Enoch, the death rate has still been consistent.

        Jesusís words are also given to people who were more often day-wage earners. They had to work every day to make sure they had food every day. They couldnít just go to a supermarket and buy something. There werenít department stores around where they could buy clothes. Not even water was always easy to come by.

        So why does Jesus tell us not to worry? Worry is a way of saying you have to look out for yourself because no one else is, including God. It is doubting the goodness of God. It doesnít mean you be lazy, of course. Jesus is not telling people to avoid working for food or clothing and sit back and have God do everything for them. Jesus is telling people that they need to trust God as Father to provide for them.

        Worry is acting like there is no God to look out for you or else that God is evil and doesnít really care. If you say God is good, but you think you have to look out for yourself, then you are calling God into question. God cares about you more than the flowers and the birds.

        Jesus ends on a note telling us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. If God is #1 in our lives, truly everything else will somehow fall into place. It doesnít mean life will be perfect. God was #1 for Jesus and yet He still went to the cross.

        Yet even still, Jesus was provided for. He was raised from the dead and we are promised the same. We are promised that everything will work out for us in the end if we are seeking the Kingdom of God first and His righteousness. That needs to be our priority.

        There was someone who once said that when we experience the joys of being with God, the worst day here will seem at most like one night in a bad hotel. Everything will be made up for. There will be joy for all who have sought the Kingdom of God and strove to be righteous.

        Be one of those people.

        Donít worry.

        Be happy.

        In Christ,
        Nick Peters
        (And I affirm the virgin birth)

        Comment


        • #64
          How do we judge?

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          What does it mean to judge not? Letís plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

          It used to be the most quoted Bible verse of all time was John 3:16, so much so that we had the story of the guy in the rainbow wig who went to major sporting events and held up a sign that said John 3:16. That no longer is the case. The most quoted verse today is probably just part of one verse and thatís Matthew 7:1 and ďJudge not.Ē

          Many people think this is a blanket condemnation of all judging. Heís not. Jesus later tells us about not giving dogs what is sacred and throwing pearls to pigs. Apparently, we have to judge what is sacred and what are pearls and who are dogs and who are pigs. The latter two are quite personal judgments.

          Years ago my former roommate before I got married went to be a live-in assistant to a boy in a wheelchair who had had a stroke. This was in a fancy apartment complex. I went to visit him once and a nurse to the man was coming by and we talked a bit.

          Somehow, it got to the topic of judging and she said she was a Christian but she was sure she wasnít supposed to judge anyone. So I just asked a couple of simple questions. First, is her car in the parking garage? She said it was. I next asked if the doors were locked or not. Thatís when the light turned on for her. If you lock your doors at night or to your car when youíre away, you are making a judgment.

          We all do it and we all have to. Jesus tells us in John 7:24 to stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment. That tells us that Jesus is not condemning all judgment and the passage itself tells us about pigs and dogs, so what is Jesus condemning? He is condemning something.

          Jesus is condemning how we judge people. He uses a joke to get this across. In the Jewish world of Jesus, hyperbole was the way of making a joke. He pictures a guy walking around with a big plank sticking out of his eye and trying to help other people get a speck of dust out of their eye. Such would have been a very humorous picture to His audience and would have got the point across.

          This is also a danger to us as it is easy to spend so much time looking at the sins of our neighbor instead of examining ourselves. This is not to say you should not care about your neighborís sins and warn them when they are on the wrong path, but the only one you can do anything directly about is yourself. If you focus so much on how other people treat you instead of how you treat others, youíre going to be caught all in yourself.

          Thus, before you go after your neighbor, do everything you can to be aware of your own sins in a situation. When you judge, donít be a hypocrite with your judging. Be aware of your own sinfulness and actually, more aware. You too have to stand before God one day. You donít have to give a defense of your neighbor. You give one of yourself.

          In Christ,
          Nick Peters
          (And I affirm the virgin birth)

          Comment


          • #65
            Will many be saved?

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            How many are going to make it? Letís plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

            42.

            Hey. We all knew the answer to the question had to be 42. Right? Thatís the answer to every question.

            But now to be serious. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to make sure to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life instead of the wide gate that leads to destruction and few will find it. This relates to eschatology since some people think a more postmillennial idea of Revelation is untenable since who would say the world is going to get better and better. Have you seen the news?

            Yes. I have. I also know the news only emphasizes the bad news. In a hypothetical situation, 100 planes take off in America in one day. One crashes. Nothing is said about the 99 safe flights. Only something is said about the one that crashed.

            Of course, many of us would not watch the news if it was bland and boring. ďTonight, we report that there were no murders or rapes in our city.Ē Hardly breaking news. Bad news just sells.

            But here we have Jesus. Is Jesus saying that most people arenít going to make it? Not necessarily. I think itís quite likely Jesus is speaking to His immediate audience. That would fit since few embraced Him as Messiah in His time. Itís also in line with what we see in Revelation, that a great multitude from all over the world is in front of the throne and the Lamb enjoying the presence of God.

            That being said, many people are sharing a story about a problem in the church where 30% of evangelicals donít think Jesus is God. That would actually be false. If they donít think that, they donít qualify as evangelicals. Letís keep in mind though that this is in the Western Church. Go to the East where people actually have to be willing to die for their faith and they take it a bit more seriously.

            When we get to Matthew 13, weíll look a bit more at the idea that things will get better for the Kingdom based on the parables there, but for now, we need to comment on this. Jesus is speaking to a group of people at one time and thereís no indication that He means all people for all times. Of course, all people should seek and strive to enter into the Kingdom. Keep in mind also that when Jesus is asked in Luke how many will be saved, He refuses to answer. (Even though the answer would be 42)

            Jesus is not interested in a numeric account, although we can easily say the number of people who replied positively to His immediate message were few. Still, even in Acts we see the number growing. Luke before too long describes the number as multiplying. In the end when Paul reaches Rome, there are already Christians there waiting for Him.

            There are several cultish groups out there that want to have you think that only a few select people are going to make it. (Consider Darwin Fish as an example. Yes. Thatís not a joke. Thatís the actual name of the man.) There are plenty of discernment ministries out there convinced everyone is a heretic except the person running them.

            However, I believe Godís grace is greater than we think. I am not advocating anything like universalism or something like that. I am saying though that God would rather save than condemn and would rather show mercy than to judge. This should give us all hope. This could extend to some who never hear the gospel at all through no fault of their own.

            Yet as I have said many times, we have no guarantees and we are not given details. Matthew ends with the Great Commission. Those are the marching orders. God never gives a Plan B. He never tells us what happens if we fail at the Great Commission. He just assumes that we do it.

            So letís do it.

            In Christ,
            Nick Peters
            (And I affirm the virgin birth)

            Comment


            • #66
              By their fruits....

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              Who will we recognize? Letís plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

              My interpretation of this passage is really different from many others. This is the one that says you will know people by their fruits. Many of us apply that to regular Christians that we meet everyday, but I wonder if since the next section talks about those claiming to speak in Jesusís name if Jesus has more in mind prophets claiming to speak for Him and that those you will know by their fruits.

              In other words, look at the kind of lifestyles leaders will hold as those would also be seen as prophets in the sense of teachers who speak with authority. While Christian leaders should often lead the best lives, too often we seem to live the worst lives. Naturally, the media loves it whenever a scandal breaks out involving a Christian leader.

              If a person is a Christian leader truly, their lives will reflect their devotion to Christ. This doesnít mean perfection. None of us have that and itís ridiculous to demand it. It means overall that that person produces far more in character with Christ than the other way around.

              This would also I think include the reliability of their statements, especially along the lines of when someone claims to hear from God. My advice to you is when someone tells you God told them something or the Spirit is showing them something, be on guard. I wouldnít believe it unless they tell you something specific, not vague, that they couldnít have known any other way.

              I would also include the more subtle ideas of this. I see no basis for the idea that the Spirit leads us through our feelings, but many Christians will say that regularly. I remember in an old church I used to attend that the associate pastor at the time of offering used to say ďGive as you feel ledĒ and I was tempted to go up so many times and very publicly put in a penny and say ďThatís what I feel led to give.Ē Who could argue against me?

              Jesusís warning is a serious one. At the next entry, weíll see that not everyone who claims to speak for God really is speaking for God. Look at the character of the person you encounter and the way they claim to speak. Do they line up? Many people have been damaged by people claiming to speak for God.

              Above all, watch yourself. How is your life? Itís easy to complain about the rest of the church, but that just takes our eyes off of ourselves, the one person we can do something about directly.

              In Christ,
              Nick Peters
              (And I affirm the virgin birth)

              Comment


              • #67
                Should you fear not being saved?

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                How should we respond to this fearful announcement? Let's plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

                Towards the end of Matthew 7, Jesus tells the crowd that many on that day will point to many signs and wonders that were done in the name of Jesus and He will say to them, "I never knew you." The only ones who go in will be the ones who do the will of the Father.

                First off, before we get to the scary part, let's consider something about this. How is it that Jesus gets up and speaks to a crowd as if He is the final judge that will tell people what their destiny is in the end? How is it that He speaks of people coming to Him and calling Him Lord? How is it that He speaks of people casting out demons in His name and doing miracles in His name and prophesy in His name?

                Either Jesus is severely deluded in this passage, severely wicked, or He is rightfully in the place of God. It's easy to point to explicit passages on the deity of Christ. I think a lot of these more subtle passages can be far more powerful.

                So now let's get to the concern. A lot of Christians get absolutely terrified. What if I am one of those on that day? What if Jesus tells me I never knew you?

                So let's ask a question.

                Why does that scare you?

                If your fear is never getting to be in Heaven because you won't see your loved ones and you will be in Hell forever, then you have a wrong perspective. It doesn't mean you won't get in, but I have a fear that many of us want to see Heaven for so many reasons and throw in as an afterthought that God is there, or else we just want to avoid Hell.

                If you say though because you want to be with Jesus, then I really don't think you have to worry. In reality, most Christians I meet concerned about not being saved I have no doubt really are saved. The fact that they ask the question shows that they have a deep concern for Christian matters.

                That being said, we should always examine ourselves to see if our behavior is being what it ought to be. Are we truly living a Christian life? Do we need to repent of anything? Are we loving one another as Christ loved us?

                Note also that Jesus's requirements are not seen in what we consider grand achievements. It's seen in doing the will of the Father in Heaven. What is that will? Love your God and love your neighbor as yourself.

                When people ask me what God's will is for their lives, I always tell them the same thing, because it's the same for everyone. "Conform you to the likeness of Christ." "Yeah, but what about who I marry or where I work or what I study in school?" "Do what you will provided your goal is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ."

                Instead of worrying so much about if you are saved or not, which accomplishes nothing, live as Christ would have you live, which you should be doing anyway. When you fall down, repent and seek forgiveness and move on. There is a proper fear to have of God, but remember He prefers to show grace rather than judgment.

                And if you think you have grace, show it. Even if you don't think you have it and fear you don't, show it anyway.

                In Christ,
                Nick Peters
                (And I affirm the virgin birth)

                Comment


                • #68
                  What's your foundation?

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                  Upon what do you build a house? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

                  As Jesus finishes the Sermon on the Mount, He talks about how to build a house. He says if you hear His words and obey them, you build your foundation on the rock. If you hear and do not obey, you are building on sand.

                  Listeners would think of the temple.

                  The temple had that kind of strong foundation. Jesus is telling His listeners then about how to build a new temple. What will the new temple be founded on? The words of Jesus.

                  Take a moment to consider how Jesus is speaking. He doesn’t say “Thus sayeth the Lord” or anything similar. He speaks on His own behalf. We could understand if someone like Isaiah or Elijah gave this message and ended it with hearing the words from God. Jesus doesn’t do that. He says “My words.”

                  As discussed last time, either Jesus has a massive ego trip, or He’s severely deluded, or again, He is claiming to speak as God and He means it. God is the one responsible for the temple ultimately and Jesus is now claiming authority over a temple structure. This temple structure won’t be something physical. The language is metaphorical and the temple is built on His words instead.

                  This is why when the message ends, the people are amazed. Jesus speaks as one who has authority. The teachers of the law could teach, but they did not speak on their own behalf. They would reference numerous others to back their opinions and authority. Jesus didn’t do that, save for when He pointed to God Himself.

                  Just picture what you would think if a new nominee for pastor of your church got up and spoke the way Jesus did. It would be seen as super egotistical or severely deluded. Jesus did speak this way. Every thing He says and does leaves us with a reminder that we must question who He is at every point. What manner of man is this?

                  As we end the sermon and go on to see eschatology in the Gospels, that is the question we have to ask ourselves.

                  What manner of man is this?

                  In Christ,
                  Nick Peters
                  (And I affirm the virgin birth)

                  Comment

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