Sermon on the Mount

Exceeding Righteousness

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.~ Matthew 5:19-20

Beloved,

How can one exceed the righteousness of a Pharisee?  They lived incredibly moral lives. They fasted twice a week for the nation of Israel. They honored the Sabbath. As the epitome of Jewish faith, they fought to protect the Scripture’s commandments. If they meticulously and diligently strived to honor the Old Testament laws, then what did Jesus mean when he said that unless our righteousness exceeds theirs, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven?

Jesus answers the question by teaching that the weight of the law exceeds the external adherence to the law. True Christian discipleship is not merely following the law, but obeying it from the deeper places within our hearts. Jesus redefines the importance of the Ten Commandments by elevating and enriching them.  One should not murder, but also one must NOT permit personal rage to develop to the point of homicide.  Jesus Christ has fulfilled the Law. He pours out the Spirit of the New Covenant. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33) Christ came, not only to change our behavior, but to transform our hearts.

The righteousness of Christ exceeds the external decency of a Pharisee. God doesn’t want merely people who obey his law externally, but desires a zeal within His people’s hearts for good works! Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ places his law within our hearts. Christ came so we would no longer have a righteousness that “comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Phil.3:9) Our righteousness depends on God and what He’s done for us through Jesus Christ.

Beloved, we no longer are under the Law of Moses. We’re now under the law of Christ. We no longer trust in our works to save us, but we have faith in Christ’s righteousness. Our Lord’s righteousness now calls us to complete the law of Christ by living for righteousness from the heart. God cares not only about our actions, but why we do things! He came to transform us, not just our behavior. He came to give us a righteousness that exceeds that of Pharisees, so that we will enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Diploma

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 say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. ~ Matthew 5:17-18

Beloved,

Thousands of high school and college graduates walk across stages and receive their diplomas each spring. They’ve fulfilled all scholarly criteria vital for their success. And because they’ve done so, these students are no longer bound by the school’s rules. After graduation, that student is free, no longer bound by regulations or academic expectations.

But imagine if students could receive diplomas without completing their work. What if a man or woman could graduate due to someone else’s finished work?

Jesus didn’t come to change God’s standards. Jesus, our teacher, didn’t come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, He came to fulfill them. Jesus gives us salvation through his finished work on the cross, and every believer who is in Christ is no longer bound by the Law or the Prophets. We grow in Jesus who changed everything for us, by completing God’s Will written in His Word.  Jesus is the turning point for the people of God.

Jesus fulfills the sacrificial system by becoming--once and for all—a sacrifice that eternally redeems us (Heb. 9.22). Also, Jesus fulfills the priesthood. He’s our high priest, and this fact allows us an eternal pathway and connection to God (Heb. 7:23-24). Jesus fulfills the geographic temple worship by becoming our temple, so we now worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:23). Jesus fulfills the law of circumcision by sending the Holy Spirit to circumcise the heart. By doing so, God’s people are no longer defined ethnically, but they’re spiritually created into a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people of his own possession that proclaim His Glory to the world (1 Peter 2:9).

Jesus didn’t come to change the law, but he fulfills it through his death and resurrection. We no longer live under the Old Covenant for he’s given us the New Covenant. Jesus is the mediator of a New Covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant (Heb. 9:15).  Let us receive and rejoice in the New Covenant purchased by the blood of Christ.

 Jesus didn’t change the demands of the law, but fulfills them so that we can receive salvation through his finished work on the cross. We receive our “diploma of salvation” based on the work of Jesus.


Rejoice in the fulfillment of the Law! Rejoice in the completed work of the cross!

A City Set Upon a Hill

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Beloved,

In 1630, John Winthrop led a group of Puritan Englishmen to the shores of America. He stood upon the ship, The Arabella, challenging his countrymen to establish a nation that would be a “city set on a hill.” He pleaded with them on the basis of scripture to live as a model of Christian charity. He writes:

We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when He shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations, "the Lord make it like that of New England." For we must consider that we shall be as a "city upon a hill." The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.

Winthrop knew that the world’s eyes were watching the New England colonists. He knew that they had a tremendous opportunity to shine the light of the gospel across the world. Politicians, like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, have popularized Winthrop’s early exhortation as a sign of American exceptionalism. America was to establish as an exceptional nation because her inhabitants would live as the light of the world.

 Jesus has commands his church to be a light to the world. Light brings illumination. It  makes no sense for a light to be hidden. A hidden lamp cannot serve its purpose for it cannot illuminate darkness. Beloved, a hidden Christian cannot serve their purpose for they cannot bring illumination to darkness. We are called the light of the world so that others may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.  God saved us for a purpose. We were created in Christ Jesus for good works.

Do our lives radiate the light of the gospel? Do we live with such integrity and holiness that people are drawn to our God and Savior? We are not called to live in a holy huddle, but to shine the light of Christ to our world. We may not be establishing a new nation, but Winthrop’s words still stand. We are still called to be a “city set upon a hill.” We live out this great privilege in our jobs Monday through Friday. We are working for King Jesus. We work diligently at the office to radiate God’s grace to our colleagues so that we shine for His Glory. 

Sebastian Traeger writes in his book, The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs,

Our jobs are more than just a means to an end — whether that end is selfish enjoyment or service in the church. Our work is more than something we “slog through.” However menial, however boring, however unmatched to our interests, our jobs are one of the key ways in which God matures us as Christians and brings glory to himself. God has a purpose for our work.


We should wake up each morning understanding that God has a purpose for us. He wants to use us to bring Him glory!! Beloved, the world is watching so let us not be a byword among our neighbors, but a city set upon a hill. Let them see the light.  
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image credit (http://thethoughtsofasimpleman.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/city_on_a_hill.jpg)

The Real Salt Life

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.” (Matthew 5:13)

Beloved,

In 2003, a group of friends developed a line of clothing called, “Salt Life.” They were connected through their passion around their time spent in the ocean. These friends embarked on a journey, “to develop a brand that wasn’t just a logo; they wanted it to represent a style of life.” Salt Life encourages its customers to live for a passion for the outdoors and to experience all that the ocean has to offer. It is not uncommon to see bumper stickers on cars all over the Southeast spreading the “Salt Life” culture.

Christians were the original ones who were called to live and spread the “Salt Life.” Jesus said Christians are the salt of the earth. Although salt had many purposes in the first century, it was primarily used to enhance the flavor of and to slow the decay of food. The church is called to be the salt of the earth as we enhance the flavor of life and arrest the decay and corruption of the earth. How does the church live the “Salt Life”?

First, we live flavorful lives. Christians should live in such a way to attract people to Jesus. Their speech should, “always be gracious, seasoned with salt,” causing people to consider the claims of Christ (Col 4:6). Proverbs 14:13, “By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them.” We can preserve the earth with our “salty” speech.

Secondly, we live holy lives. In the first century, salt would lose its taste and effectiveness as it was mixed with impure substances. Craig Bloomberg writes with that the common problem with salt was of it, “being mixed with various impure substances and therefore becoming worthless as a preservative.” Salt could no longer function in its designed way because it became defiled. Likewise, the church will no longer function in its designed way if it becomes defiled. The church has to remain holy and pure from the world if it is going to slow the decay of corruption in the earth.

If a clothing brand could embark on a journey to create a “Salt Life” culture, should we not do so even more? We have been rescued from the dominion of darkness through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We no longer are destined for wrath but to obtain salvation in Christ. If a group of friends could use a logo to develop a Salt Life culture, then blood-bought believers can strive to create a true “Salt Life” culture.


Beloved, let us live flavorful and holy lives. Let us strive for a church culture where our speech is seasoned with salt as we live as blameless and pure children of God in the midst of this crooked and depraved generation (Phil. 2:15). We are the salt of the earth. Therefore, let us live like it as we give flavor and preservation to the culture around us.
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image credit (www.saltlife.com)

Greater Reward

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

Beloved,                 

Moses grew up as a prince of Egypt. He had access to all the riches in Egypt, all the opportunities of privilege, and all the respect of the kingdom. He had everything the world could offer him, but he chose Christ. Moses chose, “to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:25-26) Moses was looking for the reward of Christ.

We remember Moses leading his people out of Egypt, but we forget the 40 years he spent in the wilderness as he waited for God’s reward. Would Moses have considered himself blessed as he tended the flock on the mountain estranged of his own people as lived as an outcast? But would Moses consider himself blessed today?  He has received his reward.  He is enjoying the eternal pleasures at the Lord’s right hand. He is in heaven.

It is hard to rejoice when others revile and persecute us and utter all kinds of evil against us. It may be hard, but God has said that we should rejoice and be glad for our reward will be great in heaven. Our trials are not exclusive to us. The Prophets, like Moses, who came before us experienced the same struggles. We are not alone in our trials. We all have choices to make when we are treated poorly for Christ’s sake. We can raise our heads to heaven and ask why or we can raise our heads to heaven with joy as we wait our great reward.

Everyone lives for the promise of reward, but the Christian redefines the reward. The world lives for the fleeting pleasures of sin. They live for the reward of temporal pleasure and comfort while the Christian lives for the eternal, great reward promised for us in heaven. The Christian lives their lives banking on a greater reward than the fleeting pleasures of sin. A Christian’s reward is not fleeting, but everlasting.


Moses may have struggled with living in the wilderness for 40 years tending the flocks of his father-in-law, but he is not struggled now. If you were to ask him if he made the right choice considering the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, what do you think he would say now? Beloved, consider the reproach of Christ greater wealth than all the treasures of this world.

For Righteousness' Sake

“Blessed are those who persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

Beloved,

Matt had been unemployed for a year and recently landed an interview with a local company. Matt was selected for the position, but the employer told him that it was necessary for them to pay him under the table so that the company could save money on taxes and insurance. Although Matt desperately needed the money, he chose to turn down the position because his Christian faith was more important. Matt believed righteousness was better than money.  He was willing to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Christians face decisions every single day that could bring persecution into their life. Whether it is the college freshman who chooses not to drink, or the spouse who refuses to lie on her taxes, or the parents who choose to go to church rather than have their children play in sports on Sunday, they all face decisions that could bring persecution into their lives. Every Christian will one day be faced with a choice to either forsake righteousness or be persecuted. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) The persecution may vary depending on the society. It may be losing the opportunity of career advancement in America or losing your life in Iraq. Although the persecution may vary, the promise of Jesus Christ will never vary or change.
When we face persecution, we must remember Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” God’s people need to resolve to choose righteousness. We do not look for persecution, but when given the choice, we should gladly bear persecution for righteousness’ sake. We may lose things in this life, but we gain the kingdom of heaven. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12) When we remain firm in the face persecution, we are still blessed.
Do not focus on what you may lose, but what you will gain. We may lose everything, but we gain Christ!! Let us consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. Take the sure road of blessing by choosing to suffer for righteousness sake.

Goat Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Beloved,
   
How much do you desire peace? Martin Luther observed an excellent example of the lengths one is willing to go to pursue peace:

When two goats meet upon a narrow bridge over deep waters, how do they behave? Neither of them can turn back again, neither can they pass the other, because the bridge is too narrow. Should they thrust one another, they might both fall into the water and be drowned; nature, then, has taught them, that if the one lays himself down and permits the other to go over him, both remain without hurt. Even so people should rather endure to be trod upon, than to fall into debate and discord one with another.

Goats learned the valuable lesson of laying down one’s rights for the sake of peace. If goats can learn this lesson, how much more should we? The goat was motivated to simply to avoid injury, but we have the far better motivation.

     God promises that peacemakers will be called sons of God. Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself by making peace through the blood of cross. Jesus Christ is the ultimate peacemaker. God demonstrated his love for us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. We are no longer enemies, but have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” In the first century, a son received all the inheritance of the family. As Jesus Christ laid down his life to give us peace and the promise of an inheritance, while we were still enemies, how much more should we be willing to lay down our lives to make peace with others in our life?

      Blessed are the peacemakers, but woe to the peace-breakers. Titus 3:10-11, “As for a person who stirs up division (peace-breaker), after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” Which would you rather be called: son of God or warped, sinful and self-condemned? The choice is simple.

      God has offered you peace through Christ. I urge you in view of God’s peace, offer peace to one another. Be willing to be trod upon rather than to fall into discord with one another for blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.

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The Golden Rule of Mercy

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

Beloved,

Would you agree with the following statement “You have to give respect in order to get respect?” Would you give respect to someone who does not give you respect? I believe most of the world functions this way. People treat others how they have been treated.  Although this is not all bad, it is not biblical. Jesus gives us the “golden rule” in Matthew 7:12, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus summarizes the Old Testament in a succinct, powerful sentence. Jesus does not say, “Treat others as they have treated you,” but rather “Treat others the way you want others to treat you.” If you miss the difference, you will miss mercy.

Mercy is defined as compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm. When we are mistreated, we have the power to punish or harm them with treated them as they have treated us. But when we treat others as they have treated us, we forget the compassion and forgiveness God has shown towards us when we mistreated him. Merciful people understand that they have received mercy. We do not treat others in the way they have treated us, but we treat others the way God has treated us. When we faced an insurmountable debt, God showed us mercy by withholding punishment we rightly deserved and placing it on Jesus Christ. We will forever be debtors to mercy.

If we are not merciful towards others, then we cannot expect to receive mercy from God. Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” As the merciful will be blessed in receiving mercy, the cruel, unkind, mean, and unforgiving will receive wrath. We treat others the way we want God to treat us and the way God has already treated us in Christ.


When we demand respect before we give respect, we are forgetting the gospel of Jesus Christ. Beloved, God wants you to be merciful to the world as a witness to the mercy He has extended to you. Let us know known as a merciful people for, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” 1 Peter 2:10.