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After choosing His twelve disciples, Jesus took them up to a plane on a high mountain and sat them down before an assembled multitude. He proceeded to teach them a simple and yet profound message that we call The Sermon on the Mount.
Here the eternal Lawgiver expounded the deeper meaning of the law. He gave us a code of conduct that is impossible to live up to without His indwelling Spirit, which He said would lead us into all truth and bring to remembrance all that He had commanded (John 14:26, 16:13).
Here the dead letter of the law is imbued with the Spirit of the Lawgiver who had not come to abolish, but to fulfill it(Matthew 5:17). It becomes alive to the hearer and doer of the word(James 1:23-25). Jesus had been anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, and oppressed(Luke 4:18). It is to the poor, the mourners, the meek and the hungry that he address this sermon, beginning with the beatitudes.
People may be poor, but they can have treasure in heaven. They may mourn and be meek because of political and economic oppression, but they are going to inherit the earth. They may lack food, but if they seek the kingdom of God and hunger after righteousness first, they will be filled and their earthly needs taken care of. We can count ourselves blessed and rejoice if we suffer persecution for his name. The church is the salt, or saving agent of the earth, with a light that we must not hide, but let it shine brightly for the glory of God.
For those who say that the Sermon on the Mount is an unobtainable ideal, Jesus said that those who break the least of His commandments would be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven. To fulfill this law and enter the kingdom of heaven will require a righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. This righteousness is freely given to us through the blood of Jesus. It is not our righteousness, but the righteousness of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:22).
Jesus compared the true law with the teaching of the rabbis by using the phrase, "You have heard it said, but I say." You have heard that you shouldn't kill, but I say that to be angry without a cause is the same thing. To lust is the same as to commit adultery and rather than resist evil we are to turn the other cheek. We must go the second mile, love and pray for our enemies and do good for those who despitefully use us. There is no reward for returning good for good, or for loving those who love us. By keeping His commandments through the power of His Spirit, we can be His perfect children.
The hypocrites loved to pray long prayers on the street corners and give alms to be seen of men. We are to pray simple direct prayers and to give our alms in secret. Our heavenly Father has promised to reward us openly. We are not to pray with vain repetitions like the prophets of baal who prayed all day to no avail. We can be like Elijah who got the job done with a short simple prayer, prayed in faith.
Our Lord gave a very simple outline for prayer. We approach God by recognizing Him as our Father who reigns in heaven and we reverence His name which is revealed in Christ Jesus. We submit all of our goals and aspirations to His will. The establishment of His kingdom is our ultimate desire. We are to show total dependence on Him by asking for this day's bread only. We know that we must forgive others if we expect to be forgiven of our sins. We pray to be kept from evil, keeping in mind that His is an eternal kingdom and all power and glory belongs to Him and Him alone.
Just as our prayer is to be in secret, we do not fast for a show of piety. Rather than putting on sackcloth and ashes, we wash our face and go about our normal business. We can have the reward of our Father, rather than the praise of men.
The teaching of Jesus concerning wealth is rarely taught in the balance of the whole scripture. Christ did not condemn wealth, but He did say that it would be difficult for the rich man to be saved. Jesus had no place to lay His head, but some of the rich women who followed Him used their wealth to finance His ministry.
The apostle Paul said that he knew how to abound and to also suffer want(Philippians 4:12). We are to use this world without abusing it ( I Corinthians 7:31). John did not condemn those who had this world's goods, but he questioned the salvation of anyone who shut up his bowels of compassion when he saw his brother in need(I John 3:17). The apostle Peter said that we would have false prophets among us who through covetousness with feigned words would make merchandise of us(II Peter 2:1-3). Jude 11 tells of those who ran greedily after the error of Balaam, who had prophesied for reward. Paul told Timothy that the time would come that people would forsake sound doctrine and run after teachers who would tickle their itching ears (II Timothy 4:3). These are the people whom Isaiah heard asking their preachers to speak smooth things and to prophesy deceits (Isaiah 30:10).
In our day it is fashionable to preach a gospel of health and wealth, with salvation being measured by the size of the checkbook. My parents traveled in wagons to preach at brush arbors and saw the demonstration of the power of God. I've heard preachers state that the church parking lot should be full of Mercedes, with gold bumpers no less. With today's prosperity and credit financing, most of us can have most anything we desire, but I'd rather see a true demonstration of the power of God.
We have seen much shame brought upon the church by those who preach a gospel of greed. It is a shame and embarrassment when the government investigates those who use starving children to appeal for funds which they convert to there own lavish lifestyle. As we look at the teachings of Jesus concerning wealth we would do well to examine ourselves and reject any teaching which appeals to the lust of our flesh.
Jesus told us to not lay up our treasures on earth, but rather in heaven. Our hearts will be where our treasure is. Moths and rust may corrupt our earthly treasures. Thieves are always looking for an opportunity to steal our goods. Not so in heaven, there we have an incorruptible crown that will never fade away! We cannot serve God and Mammon, which is riches personified. Those who will be rich, fall into a snare.
After giving the parable of the rich fool who had said, "Soul take thine ease," Jesus said, "Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat and the body more than raiment". We are to consider the Ravens who have neither storehouse or barn and the lilies who do not toil or spin; yet they have a glory that exceeds that of Solomon. The nations of the world seek after those things that our Father knows we have need of. It is the Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, fine cars, bank accounts, etc. It is righteous, joy and peace in the Holy Ghost. If we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first, all of the benefits that He bestows on the Ravens and Lilies will be ours automatically.
Just to show that our prayer of "Give us this day our daily bread" is a prayer of total dependence, Jesus commanded us to sell what we have and give to the poor.
It may well be argued that none of us live up to the teachings of Jesus concerning wealth. We see the starving children of Ethiopia on television and sooth our conscience by sending a small donation to a relief organization. Our missionary concern doesn't go much beyond a couple extra dollars in the monthly mission collection. While some would lay the price of their luxury on the back of the Savior, there are five hundred million starving children in the world. While people in Haiti, walk for miles to hear the gospel in a shack, there is two hundred billion dollars invested in church real estate in the United States alone. The message is to give and it shall be given unto you. We may feast with kings if the opportunity presents, but if we give to feed the starving, we'll never go hungry.
Matthew 7:5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
Jesus told us to consider our own short comings before we judge another. If we have a log in our eye, we can't see very well to take a speck out of our brother's eye. We must show mercy to obtain mercy. James said that we would have judgement without mercy, if we have shown no mercy(James 2:13). This is a good point to remember if we are tempted to consign those who differ with us doctrinally to hell. If we do so, our doctrine and practices had better be letter perfect.
If we ask, seek and knock, we can have the good things of the Holy Ghost which our Father is eager to give to us. Because our heavenly Father deals so bountifully with us, we are to do to our fellow man as we would have Him do to us.
We are to enter in at the strait gate, and ignore the false prophets who promise a life of indulgence. Jesus said that by simply looking at their fruits we could identify the wolves in sheep's clothing. Not everybody who shouts the glory will enter heaven Many will cry, Lord, Lord, open to us. We did mighty works in your name! His reply will be "I never knew you."
Using the doom of these false prophets as a warning, we follow the teachings of Jesus as He expounded the perfect law. We'll dig deep, and built our house upon the Rock. The winds will blow. False teachers will come and go. Preachers will rise and fall. Deceivers will wax worse, while being deceived themselves. It won't affect us. We have built our house on the Rock, which is the Word and teachings of our eternal God, the Lord Jesus Christ.
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Last modified: 08-06-2007
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