Archive for August, 2011

Matthew 5:17b (17-26) “I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

Murder is that final act of desperation by an angry person. To understand the command, “You shall not commit murder” one must go to what would cause its violation in the first place. Eliminating the cause takes away that motivation to sin (break the command).

For sure anger doesn’t always lead to murder (and there are things we should get angry about) but it always warrants self-examination. Any emotion as a motivation for action should be tempered by reason, even in self-defense.

What Jesus is doing for His disciples (us) is getting them to open their minds to understand the deeper purpose of the command. All the commands have deeper implications that we need to examine as we attempt to obey, so we can fulfill the spirit as well as letter of the guide. In that way we can eventually reach a stage in our lives where there is no need for commands.

This stage is called by various names in scriptures: godliness, Christ-likeness, spiritual and maturity are some. When Peter said, “add to your faith…” it was and is to this end that he spoke, 2 Peter 1:5. See, the Law always had one purpose for those who follow it, Psalm 19:11, but another for those who disobey it, 2 Corinthians 3:6.

Cautiousness involves recognizing the consequences of the decisions I make today.

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Matthew 5:23 (23-26) “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the alter, and there remember that your brother has something against you,”

Yesterday’s passage is connected to this passage in that although they speak about two different people, it’s the same situation. Yesterday we saw an angry person and today we see the person who made him angry. This person has been ignoring the one he offended until the offended sued. Neither of these believers is acting like salt or light in the world.

In both instances God is waiting for both the offender and the offended to make corrections to their relationship with each other before their relationship with Him can be re-established. Without that relationship we can’t expect any direction, provision or protection in our lives from our God.

This forces us to look at our brother (those in the faith, first) from a different perspective, God’s. Just as God so loved me that He was willing to sacrifice His rights, His preferences, His comfort to bring me back to Him so I need to develop that kind of love for others (especially those who believe like me). Remember, God was not the offender.

Sensitivity involves caring for others with the same passion you care for yourself.

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Matthew 5:22 (21-22) “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court;

Jesus shows us in the rest of the verse that anger is just a step or two away from murder. In your heart you have already killed the person you’re angry with. But, since you haven’t done any physical harm to the person (yet) you can continue to play with that feeling, Colossians 3:8.

Other people know you’re angry because they can see the change in your attitudes when that person comes up in the conversation or they walk in the room. In a real sense you have become one with that person. It gets worse when you start getting angry with anyone who acts or even looks like the person you’re angry with.

What has actually happened is that you have already entered into a kind of hell of your own. The “fiery hell” Jesus spoke of was a trash dump outside the city that was burning continually. It burned continually because it was constantly being fed trash to burn. That is a lot of energy being wasted because it’s not helping anyone. This is why Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians to stop feeding the fire.

Hell will be a real place where people will realize their error, but not be able to do anything to reverse the foolish decision they made. The Law that God has established in His Word, the Bible, is valid still today; don’t find yourself on the wrong side for anyone else’s sake but your own. Love is a command, Matthew 22:36-39.

Love involves seeing the basic need of another and meeting it, as I would want another to meet mine.

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Matthew 5:20 (17-20) “For I say to you unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The scribes and Pharisees were the conservative ultra religious people of their time in Israel. In this verse Jesus wasn’t saying they were already in heaven, he was saying that they’re not going. My right to heaven doesn’t depend on any particular religious stand. It depends totally on what decision I have made.

This is why Paul writes in most of his letters that faith (in what Jesus did on the cross) is enough to get me into heaven. The religious of their time believed that the right kind of works (Jewish law) is what would save a person. So, there seems to be a contradiction.

James helps us understand the relationship between what are called works and faith. In the second chapter of his book he makes it clear that faith is first a matter between you and God, which makes you saved from the coming judgment. But, in front of everyone else how will they know your relationship to God has changed, unless they see the change in your attitudes and behavior (works).

So, when Jesus was asked what is the great commandment and He said to love God and men (Matthew 22:34-40), we should understand that love is not so much a feeling as an action. Because we don’t know about your love until we see it in action. Then we feel it, not you!

Faith has to be seen before it can be heard.

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Matthew 5:14 (12-16) “You are the light of the world.”

Once we have accepted Jesus as our Savior from the judgment that is to come to all mankind, if there is nothing else for us to do, we should be taken to our new home in heaven to be with God. But, for most of us it hasn’t happened. The reason is obvious, we’re still here because of our job to draw others to the same Savior we have come to.

As we work hard to become the person God always intended us to be (Matthew 5:3-12) we will attract the attention of our family members, those we work with and our neighbors. As we work to become that person God really wanted us to be, others will notice the change.

Some will accept us and some will reject us, in either case we need to be ready to share with whomever what God has and is doing for us. This is being a light and salt. We’re only here for a short time when compared to eternity, so we need to focus our attention on not letting our family, friends and neighbors be lost. We need to make sure they have an opportunity to make the same decision we made to follow the Creator and Savior of all mankind.

Wisdom involves recognizing how God is using my story to influence the lives of others.

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Matthew 5:12 (1-12) “for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Jesus message in Matthew 4:17 was for men to repent. Remember repent means to recognize you’re going in the wrong direction, turning around and start moving in the right direction. One way we can better understand the beatitudes is by looking at the first four as (5:3-6) involving the recognizing and turning parts of repenting. The rest of the beatitudes are the moving in the right direction portion of repenting.

When we look at the nine beatitudes and understand we’re to be like that it can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you through in the part about being persecuted. But, Jesus here gives us a little perspective.

We (those of us who have accepted Jesus offer of salvation and have been in that repenting process) are like the prophets of old (the Old Testament). Jesus compares us to Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Moses, Daniel and all the others. Although most of the time we see those prophets delivering warnings they spent the rest of their time learning and teaching.

The fact is that they were the means by which God communicated to man His concern, His desire and His hope and love for them. These qualities were present in all of the prophets in varying degrees. The question for us is where are we in that process?

Wisdom involves recognizing how God is using my story to influence the lives of others.

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Matthew 5:11-12 (1-12) “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecuted you, … for your reward in heaven is great;

In the other eight blessings Jesus said “those” but now He says “you”. This is because we aren’t the blessed, you, I are the blessed. I have now reached that place of maturity where I understand both the purpose and the value of persecution. I understand that the persecution being directed at me is really being directed at the Jesus they see in me.

As individual representatives of the kingdom of heaven we will, individually, suffer for our stand in Him. Sometimes those insults, false accusations and persecutions will get violent. Most of us have never and will probably never experience any physical violence because of our stand in Christ. But outside this country too many of our brothers and sisters in the Lord are.

Jesus tells us that our reward will be great… in heaven. Today these words remind me of Peters advise that since everything man holds dear will one day be completely and utterly destroyed our focus should be on the heavenly and not on the earthly, 2 Peter 3:10-13. What we experience in this life is minor in comparison with what we will experience in heaven.

So, the more focused we are (I am) on becoming a man of character the sooner He will come.

Courage involves taking a stand for what is right when it costs you.

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Matthew 5:10 (1-12) “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Remember that in 5:3 we noticed that to make the decision to be a believer it takes a certain amount of humility? To make the decision to follow Jesus means to recognize that you are in need of direction, which you can’t provide. That same decisiveness is necessary when it comes time to defend what you now believe.

James tells us that when we encounter difficulties in our live as a result of the stand we take for Jesus and what He believed we need to look at these trials from the right perspective. They are not personal attacks, they are opportunities to grow and become mature representatives of the kingdom of heaven, James 1:2-12.

It is not I who am being humiliated, criticized or attacked. It is my citizenship, my identification with Jesus that is being objected to. As we become more and more like our Lord and Savior we must be prepared to suffer persecution. The decision the humble make to become citizens of the kingdom of heaven is the decision to take a stand for that kingdom.

Decisiveness involves learning how to make decisions based on an understanding of God’s ways and God’s will.

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Matthew 5:9 (1-12) “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

For some reason this verse reminded me that the beatitudes are not a description of nine different people, they describe the attitudes the citizens of heaven must develop, they are what I must be.

Peace used to mean not being at war, being at ease with others, but today it means being left alone and not being judged by others. Peace today has become very one-directional. The idea being that if you leave me alone (don’t bother me) then we’re at peace. Yet, real peace occurs when opposing side compromise to be able to work together, they each recognize the others rights and the fact that their demands may be wrong.

It takes a humble, grateful heart, diligently seeking to know how God wants things to worker and willing to give (mercy) to get it. Can you imagine the amount of self-control you have to exercise and the amount of responsibility you take when peacemaking?

But, it is not a peace at all costs that the citizen of heaven seeks, I seek a peace between God and me, a peace between me and others and a peace between myself and my flesh, James 4:1-10.

Responsibility involves learning to establish personal disciplines to help you become the person God wants you to be.

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Matthew 5:8 (1-12) “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

This is not a position in which we stand before God. In Christ we do stand as purified of our every sin, but pure in heart speaks of our reason for showing compassion, for hungering and thirsting for being and doing right.

Yet, on the other hand, it is a position we arrive at. Another way to describe “pure in heart” as a position is by using Peter’s word, godliness, 2 Peter 1:6. What Peter describes for us is a growth process where believers move from infancy to adulthood, 2 Peter 1:5-7. In that process the “pure in heart” don’t see themselves as having arrived, others see it. They know they are growing but they want more, because they “hunger and thirst”.

The quality of character being revealed here is that of sincerity. The “pure in heart” or godly actually mean what they say, that is their compassion for others is sincere, without personal interest other than pleasing their Lord. Their motives are transparent.

Sincerity involves being more concerned for the reputation of God than my own.

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