#27 – What the Gospels Teach – Light of the World – Matthew 5:14-16

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  (Matthew 5:14-16 NASB)

Here we find the very first command of the Sermon on the Mount, and it is this; “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  Notice that this comes immediately after the declaration in the same verse that “YOU ARE the light of the world.”  Remember as with the last passage about salt, as well as the entire list of beatitudes this is a declaration not a command.  The command is to let that light shine, the light itself is implied.

Notice that this command has a condition on it, and it is a very important condition... let your light shine in such a way... There is a way you must shine your light, and this is critical to understand, because good works, good theology, truthful evangelism, biblical preaching, acts of service... and any other way your light may shine can still be done in the flesh and actually be 

considered sin.  If the shining of your light is not done in such a way that others ‘may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven’ then it is not being shown in the way this commandment mandates.  I know this is elementary, but be very careful.  Jesus commands us later to do things in secret, in order that the left hand doesn’t what the right hand is doing!  We are reminded often that the hidden things bring God much pleasure, so this condition on letting your light shine is very important to be met.  What is the purpose of ‘letting your light shine’ the answer is simple, to glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Now what can we do with this?  The implications of the verse certainly are to be seen, I mean, people do not light a lamp and then put it under a basket do they?  Moreover if God has lit a fire in you and indeed you are the light of the world it would be asinine to consider letting that fire burn privately.  I would say go to the market place and shine, go to your work place and shine, go to your home and shine, go to your church and shine, go to the internet and shine, go to the slums and shine, go and shine so that they may see your good works... and glorify your father.

There is no place in Christianity for ornate lampshades, made of stained glass, or embroidered cloth.  There is no place for colored filters, prisms, and suncatchers in Christianity.  Of course I speak metaphorically, but realize that these things, lamp shades, and suncatchers and such, rob 

some of the light in order to show themselves beautiful, but it is the bare ugly light bulb with no cover at all that gives the greatest illumination upon its subjects.  So too must you be a bare light bulb that shines forth good works that illuminate the glory of God while robbing Him of none of the glory He must receive.

Now as a word encouragement, often times when you display your light for His glory people will try to glorify you... run from those people, or at the very least explain to them that it causes you discomfort to receive honor for what Christ is doing in you.  At the same time when someone glorifies God because of His light that has shown from you, and they desire only to thank you for shining, simply be appreciative of their compliments and do not write them off with some trite cliché about it all being for the glory of God.  Odds are the person knows that, but simply wants to thank you for illuminating Christ, and it is appropriate for us to thank those who glorify God, not in order to give them glory, but in order to edify and encourage them to continue.

I will leave it there for now.


#26 – What the Gospels Teach – Salt of the Earth – Matthew 5:13

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. (Matthew 5:13 NASB)

This passage of scripture is one of the most painfully misused passages that I personally can think of.  It seems so typical of dead fundamentalism (not true fundamentalism) to somehow interpret this verse to mean that we are to be like salt in an open wound.  Or, much talk is made about how salt is a preservative and we 

are supposed to preserve the world and keep it from decomposing, or morally degenerating.  A quick honest glance at the passage will show you the attribute of salt that Jesus is concerned with here... ‘if the salt has become tasteless...’ or in the KJV ‘if the salt loses its savor...’ the implication is that of flavor, more than preservation or cleansing, or stinging or whatever else people spin it to be.

Now put this verse in its proper context and you will see it serves as a transition out of the beatitudes and into teachings on being the light of the world.  Unfortunately the majority of teaching on this passage divorces it from the beatitudes that come before it, that should not be.  I contend that the very savor or taste, or saltiness is described in the previous beatitudes.  Where is your saltiness?  In your poverty of spirit, in your mourning, in your meekness... etc.  These things are the very savor of true Christianity the very taste that brings God pleasure and draws people to Christ.

Notice the statement “You are the salt of the earth...” do you realize that is not a command.  Moreover look at every single one of the beatitudes, and you will not find a command anywhere.  In fact the first command you will find in the Sermon on the Mount is ‘let your light so shine before men...” but even that command is the follow up to ‘you are the light of the world’ which is a plain declaration.  Realize that Christ is teaching firmly what a Christian is, not how to become one, and not even how a Christian should be.  I have heard someone say that “the beatitudes should be the attitude of every Christian.”  I think that is a great statement, except for the word ‘should’.  Replace ‘should’ with ‘is’ and you will be all set.  I certainly do not hold to this notion of sinless perfection (though I tread lightly here knowing that God is capable of perfecting a man), but a sovereign God can and does truly regenerate every true believer, and the evidence of that regeneration is that savor of saltiness, which is nothing less than the manifestation of the beatitudes themselves.

Now we cannot pass the verse without addressing the issue of lost salvation.  “if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”  How can salt lose its savor?  Some reformed / Calvinistic teachers would tell you that the salt cannot lose its savor and become good for nothing but to be cast out... to which I would simply ask the question “Why did Jesus give this warning then?”  To maintain a position of ‘the perseverance of the saints’, this passage much be taken out of the context of salvation, I am not sure I would be comfortable in doing that either.  We know the scriptures are not contradictory, but our human minds are certainly conflicted, so as we see in scriptures that all who are saved will remain saved, and yet warnings of salvation lost, I can only sit back and yes to both.  I have blogged extensively on this in the past.  See these posts Peter's Lost Salvation or Losing Salvation or OSAS.

The line of division in biblical evangelical Christianity has been drawn in the wrong place.  It has historically been drawn between Calvinism and Arminianism, where as the line should be drawn at sovereign regeneration vs. works.  You will find Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Ravenhill, Reidhead, and even CS Lewis all on the same page with regard to regeneration.  It is the one doctrine that all true Christianity converges upon.

I realize that this post totally lost its cohesiveness near the end, but it is a blog, not a book, or even an essay so that is OK.




#25 – What the Gospels Teach – Persecution #2 – Matthew 5:11-12

"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  (Matthew 5:11-12 NASB)

In the last post I spoke briefly on persecution, what it is, and what it is not, and I think that is worth reiterating.  You must realize that persecution is an active attempt to do harm to ones person or character.  Our spineless Christianity views almost everything as persecution.  For instance, if the government threatens to take away a tax exemption that is not persecution.  If you think it is, go and read Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs, or talk to some inmates at high security prisons who profess Christ.  The government is not required to give you an exemption in the first place so get over it.  Or this notion of taking ‘God’ off of our money, or out of our pledge... have you ever questioned whether He wanted to be there in the first place?  Regardless, the threat of removing ‘God’ from public places and so on is not persecution.  Possibly it may be persecution against God, but not against us.  Now, I will say that as believers we are personally persecuted at times, and people try to defame us for our belief, or conspire against us, make up lies about us, etc... these things happen and are legitimate persecution, but even these forms of persecution are far from severe in most cases.  So do not through the word persecution around lightly without considering what it is.  Enough on what persecution is.

When reading this verse in the context of the beatitudes there is one thing that jumps out at me immediately, and honestly I am not sure why it is important, but I know that it must be important.  If you notice in the rest of the beatitudes you hear the words “Blessed are the...” or “Blessed are they...” they are all third person.  However when you come to Matthew 5:11 you are hit with “Blessed are you...” in other words this is personal.  It is almost as though all the preceding beatitudes are not only intended for the disciple personally, but also that the disciple may discern who are ‘the blessed’.  Recall once again that Jesus was out teaching and preaching repentance (See Matthew 4) as well as healing and serving, and large crowds had gathered.  But Jesus retreated for this teaching, and is only teaching the disciples.  So if the first so many beatitudes were spoken in the third person they may have seemed somewhat general to the disciples... but now in these verses Jesus is making it very personal to them.  He essentially is preparing them for what is coming to them.  Now imagine what the disciples must have thought at this teaching, “Blessed are you when people [persecute] you because of Me” realize up to this point Jesus has crowds following Him around and it seems that He is pretty well liked.  The disciples at this time could hardly have imagined the persecution that would come.

There is another great mystery in verse 12 that must have fascinated the disciples.  Jesus compares them to the Prophets of old.  A group of fisherman, tax collector, and other non-priestly folk being paralleled with the prophets, must have been shocking.  Nonetheless, Jesus was dead on, considering all converted souls salvation history traces back to the gospel being spread by the men sitting around Jesus for this teaching.  They far surpassed the Prophets in their effectiveness.

Finally the one qualifier in this verse is that persecution, if it is not for the sake of Christ, is not pronounced blessed in this verse.  So often thin skinned Christians will view any insult or prejudice against them as persecution, but the truth is if someone calls you lazy, maybe it is because you are.  Or if someone says you bitter, maybe you are.  Or if someone says anything mean about you, it might very well be true, so just because you are a Christian does not mean insults against you are blessed persecution.  However, if you are insulted because of Christ who dwells in you, and His character that is being formed in you, then the persecution is blessed.

I am anxious to get into the next post, as I believe it is one of the more misunderstood passages in all of scripture, and it will function also as a conclusion for the beatitudes. 

#24 – What the Gospels Teach – Persecution #1 - Matthew 5:10

"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:10 NASB)

This verse is a great comfort to anyone who has been shunned, mistreated, or otherwise persecuted for their righteousness, however this post will be more a post of caution, than of comfort.  First off, I have found that many people, especially those of us in the fundamental camp will view any disagreement, argument or debate as persecution.  Persecution is not disagreement.  If you are strongly Arminian and a Calvinist blasts your theology and claims it to be bogus, that is not persecution.  When someone at your work place says ‘I do not know how you can believe those religious fairy tales’ that is not persecution, in fact that is a great opportunity to share your faith.  When your family avoids you because you got converted and no longer engage in the sinful activities you used to, that is avoidance, not persecution.  This is important to understand, because if you have a very light view of persecution you will falsely use this verse to justify everything you do, or to simply ‘dust of your sandals’ before you have ever really had the chance to be rejected.

Persecution in the context of this verse, is when someone actively tries to do harm to you because of your righteousness.  So when coworkers talk behind your back because of your faith and defame your character it is persecution.  When someone tells you off, or lies about you, that could be considered persecution.  When your family seeks to make it appear as though you are no longer a part of them, that could be considered persecution.

However, even in the case of these items of actual persecution, they still are not necessarily blessed.  In fact I think the majority of ‘persecution’ towards American Christians is in no way blessed.  Why?  In this verse and the next Jesus outlines the type of persecution that is blessed.   “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake...” (Matt 5:10) and “Blessed are you when men revile you and say all manner of evil against you for my sake...” (Matt 5:11)  Matthew 5:11 will be addressed in the next post.  Look specifically at Matthew 5:10, what is the condition that makes persecution blessed?  It is simple... when it is for the sake of righteousness.  Jesus clearly qualifies that persecution is only blessed on the terms of righteousness.  Unfortunately many people who profess Christianity are persecuted based on their own arrogance, or because of their pride, or because of an attitude that suggests that they somehow are deserving of grace and others are not.  (The reality is that neither they nor others deserve it.)  If you are persecuted based on your own harshness and attitude and attempts to spread the gospel forgoing all meekness, then your persecution is not blessed at all, it is deserved, and may very well be the hand of God chastening you, not affirming your blessedness.  Be very careful.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake... remember the first post in the gospel series, it was on Matthew 1:19, and we saw that because Joseph was a righteous man he decided to put Mary away secretly when he perceived that she was with child outside of marriage.  It was the righteousness of Joseph that led to compassion, as opposed to bringing down the full force of the law.  Righteousness produces compassion... now have you ever been persecuted for being too compassionate?  Surely we must call sin sinful, and we are not to just roll over and accept sinfulness, at the same time the genuine believer understands that they have been forgiven much, and compassionately looks to the person in sin recognizing that grace must be extended to them as well.  Now if you, in gentleness present someone with Christ, telling them that their sins indeed may be forgiven, and they get angry at you because you suggest they have sinned, and they revolt against you, or persecute you in any way, that is genuine persecution.  At the same time, if you merely run around letting everyone know they are going to hell because the bible says so, you may be right and telling the truth, but it is not righteousness, and your persecution is deserved and not blessed.

All the beatitudes are paradoxical, and this one is no different.  Why would someone ever persecute you for righteousness?  It doesn’t make sense, but if you exhibit true righteousness you will be blessed, and you will be persecuted, and in a sense it will be very confusing.  True righteousness seems like something that no one would persecute... but exhibit it, and the persecution you receive will be proof of the true righteousness you display.

Unfortunately I could not put in words adequately what I was trying to say here, so I hope it makes sense, or was helpful to someone.


Proposed Amendment #1 to the UMC Constitution

I want to apologize at the outset for deviating from the gospel series for one post.  I do not enter into this post lightly, and I believe it is appropriate that this post follows the ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ post, as it forces me to temper this post in light of that beatitude.

Just a brief background – those of you who have read this blog at Sermonaudio, or have stumbled on it here may not have known that I am a youth pastor in the United Methodist Church.  That is actually a fact that I keep somewhat guarded in the blogging world simply because as a Methodist I quickly get written off by those who are fundamental (I myself am a fundamentalist, just read the rest of this blog and you will see).  Now there are reasons I am a Methodist, and there are also reasons why in the past I have sought to leave Methodism... but those can be discussed some other time in some other place.  If you are not United Methodist this may not concern you, but you may want to read on anyway. If you are a United Methodist find out who your congregation’s delegates to conference are, and approach them peacefully but firmly on this issue.

This summer as Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church gather they will be voting on 32 amendments to the constitution of the UMC.  The first amendment (the only one I will address) has the aim of making the church more inclusive.  If this amendment passes, a section of the Constitution of the UMC will read as follows.

Inclusiveness of the Church — The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ. The United Methodist Church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth and that we are in ministry to all. All persons shall be eligible to attend its worship services, participate in its programs, receive the sacraments, and upon baptism be admitted as baptized members. All persons, upon taking vows declaring the Christian faith and relationship in Jesus Christ, shall be eligible to become professing members in any local church in the connection. In the United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body.

The original intent of this section in the constitution was to keep churches from restricting membership based on these factors: race, color, national origin, status or economic condition”

Below is how this section of the Constitution currently reads:

Inclusiveness of the Church – The United Methodist Church is a part of the church universal, which is one Body in Christ.  Therefore all persons, without regard to race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition, shall be eligible to attend its worship services, to participate in its programs, and, when they take the appropriate vows, to be admitted into its membership in any local church in the connection.  In The United Methodist Church no conference or other organizational unit of the Church shall be structured so as to exclude any member or any constituent body of the Church because of race, color, national origin, status, or economic condition.

I have colored red the specific wording that will be struck from the constitution if this amendment passes.   The words which I have colored red are an important part of the constitution simply because they create specific criteria on which discrimination cannot be based, and these criteria are biblical and acceptable.  The proposed amendment seeks to remove these criteria and create an overarching mandate that discrimination from membership cannot occur based on, not only these items, but discrimination from membership cannot occur on any basis.  Given the long standing rift in the UMC concerning homosexuality this amendment will be viewed by conservatives primarily as a sexuality issue, and liberals will also see it this way.  Of course the voting will be split right down the conservative / liberal line... which means there is a good chance this amendment will pass.  The issue of homosexual membership in the church is a very real concern, and this amendment would be a gigantic victory for that camp, and a crushing blow to the rest of us.  However, concerning this amendment, homosexuality is only the tip of the iceberg, this amendment removes all authority from a pastor to determine if a person seeking membership has made a true confession of faith, and it reduces membership in the UMC to a simple repeat after me, whether you mean it or not.  If you can repeat the words, nothing can stop you from being a member.

This section of the constitution will have its meaning completely reversed if the amendment passes.  The current reading leads you to believe that the church has the authority to withhold membership from persons so long as the reason for withholding membership is not race, color, national origin, status or economic condition.  In other words the current section affirms the church has the authority to discern and withhold membership, so long as it is not on unjust discrimination.  The new section would mean nearly the opposite, saying the authority of the church has zero authority to withhold membership from anyone... and it makes the assumption that everyone who takes the vows of membership is taking them truthfully, no matter how much evidence shows otherwise.  This amendment strips a local flock from their last line of defense, a discerning shepherd (pastor).

Why is this detrimental?  As a youth pastor I teach our confirmation class, it lasts around 30 weeks.  Over the course of 30 weeks it becomes pretty clear who is serious about their faith, and who is going to say the words simply because their parents want them to.  Nonetheless if this amendment passes our church leaders could not withhold membership from any of the youth even if they have made it plain that they do not care about Christ, the church, or things of God.  Do not think that this does not happen, it does.  (Our confirmation class this year did not have any of those kids, but this year was a definite exception to the rule.)  Now that is just speaking of confirmation, what about the other church membership courses, if this amendment passes, we can require nothing of a member except that they say the vows... truthfully or not.

Here is the real problem... Our beloved UMC functions as a democracy, whether it is the administrative councils of individual congregations, Annual Conferences, District Committees, even subcommittees at smaller churches, every group functions democratically.  At what point can you become eligible to vote at committee meetings and charge conferences and such?  Answer... when you become a member.  Are you beginning to see the issue?  Anybody can come in, and immediately have authority to change the way things are whether they are converted or not?

This legislation removes the ability of a pastor to function as a shepherd protecting his flock against outside forces of wickedness.  This legislation allows for anyone, regardless of their view of Christ, salvation, church discipline, the scriptures, etc... to come in and have equal authority with the long time faithful.  This amendment removes any standard of holiness.  This amendment allows for anyone who can merely say they renounce sin to come into full membership, even if their lifestyle is one of obvious sin.

I will leave it there, and I apologize to those who are reading the Gospel Series, I do hope to post the next of that series later today.  If you are in the UMC and want to weigh in on this, please comment, I would appreciate feedback, or even debate.

Finally, it should be said that this blog is no way affiliated with the UMC, or more specifically the congregation of Maumee United Methodist Church where I serve.


#23 - What the Gospels Teach – Making Peace – Matthew 5:9

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  (Matthew 5:9 NASB)

Let’s make this clear, I am a fundamentalist, I believe the scriptures to be authoritative, inerrant, and most importantly sufficient for all matters of life from changing diapers, to sharpening pencils and every other mundane task to the very salvation of one’s soul.  I believe that God’s will is only truly accomplished when it is performed God’s way, and I believe the scriptures are the only sufficient source for understanding God’s way.  Now with all that said, I see something very troubling among people who make this same profession, there are many, myself at times, that have taken fundamental truths asserted them to be true but inside they are bitter, unbiblically judgmental, divisive,  and doubly dead.  Moreover they use these very fundamental truths to incite argument and strife, and then act as though this strife as progress.  This is what I refer to as dead fundamentalism, because it is not truly fundamental.  Now let’s be clear, I am not saying to roll over and die, and I certainly am not saying that we should shy back from confrontation, but confrontation and a chance to stand up will come if you display Christian character, you do not have to bring it on yourself.

Blessed are the peacemakers.  Now the reason I speak of dead fundamentalism is that first of all the beatitudes as a whole should smash dead fundamentalism, and secondly this beatitude specifically destroys dead fundamentalism.  Blessed are the peacemakers.  Now the liberal will go into some peacenik pacifist over arching utopian idea here, and that misses the point also.  Jesus is speaking here to individuals, who live individual lives, and encounter individual situations, and in those situations... well... blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.  Just so nobody gets the wrong idea here, Jesus is not saying blessed are those who do not disturb the peace, He is saying blessed are those who have an active role in making peace!  So when your wife or husband does something that bothers you and in order to keep peace you remain quiet, that is fine and well, but that is not being a peace maker.  Being a peace maker is actively seeking forgiveness, and seeking to grant forgiveness, being a peacemaker is actively looking for ways to lay down your own desires and passions to bring peace and fulfillment to someone else.  If your bible study revolves around gathering ammo, your bible study is fleshly and God hates it.  Now in bible study you will pick up ammo along the way, of course you will, but honest bible study will also teach you the proper way to gently use that ammo, as well as being a peacemaker.  Some of you reading this blog are so bent out of shape by current events, and the state of the church, and so on, as am I, that you just want to step back and rail against it all and destroy it.  It is like we seek almost a violent revolution or overthrow of the status quo, but the blessed, well they will seek to bring revival peacefully, and let God be the one to bring the hard conviction, division, and pot stirring.  This beatitude really ties in with being meek, or gentle, we are to bring the harshest reality on earth as messengers of peace.

Let’s once again reiterate the context of this teaching.  Jesus had been out preaching everywhere that men should repent as well as healing the sick and curing diseases.  While doing this He began to be followed by a very large group of people.  He retreats from that large group and sits down, then His disciples (a small group) come to Him and He begins by teaching the beatitudes.  Now I am not sure that had any bearing on what was said here, but context is always important when considering the scriptures.



#22 What the Gospels Teach – Pure – Matthew 5:8

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  (Matthew 5:8 NASB)

For this post there are two commonly misunderstood words that we need to get set straight, and then this verse may very well come to life.  The words pure, and heart, are two words that have been used over and over in a certain way that they have lost their full meaning.  Let me explain starting with pure, the word purity has come (in Christendom) to always have to do with sexuality.  Youth are encouraged to remain sexually pure, people wear purity rings, we talk about purity in marriage, etc... and we have come to the point where we instantly associate pure or purity with sexuality, and abstaining from sexual sin.  This is far too narrow of a view on purity.  The other word is heart, people speak a lot about knowing things in their heart, or feeling things down in their heart... when talking about the heart instantly people think of the emotional center of the human... the word heart is primarily used when speaking of emotions and feelings.  This far too narrow of a view on the heart.

Let’s start with pure.  Pure means simply ‘to be of one substance.’  If you have a glass of water that is 98% pure and 2% feces then that water is not of one substance, and you will not drink it.  When reading Exodus you see God’s emphasis on purity when Moses is given the plan for the tabernacle and all the instruments thereof.  You read about using pure gold, pure incense, pure fabric, pure silver, pure wood, pure gemstones, pure pure pure.  Then when you begin to read the rules concerning making burnt offerings you read about the purification of the priests, so that they can make offerings for the purification of the people, and so on.  Purity is essential, and required.

Now onto the heart, the heart certainly is the emotional center of the body, and when speaking of the heart we are speaking of emotion, but there is much more.  The heart is the seat of desire, all desires spring forth from the heart.  The heart is the birthplace of words, the words we speak show the condition of our heart.  The heart is the seat of the will, it is from the heart that your will comes.  (Now lets be clear, we are not talking about a blood pumping muscle here, we are talking about something deeper than that.)  So if you speak of a ‘change of heart’ it must be a change of the will, desire, emotion, etc... the heart controls all of that.

Now back to the beatitudes, ‘Blessed are the PURE in HEART, for they shall see God.’  Or, ‘Blessed are those whose, will, emotions, and desires are of one substance, for they shall see God.’

Now under those conditions this verse makes a little more sense.  The redeemed have had a supernatural change of heart.  The unredeemed have hearts that chase down desires that conflict with the will, and produce emotion inconsistent with the desire.  Not to say the redeemed do not get emotionally conflicted they do, nonetheless, the redeemed have a will that is growing more and more in line with the will of God, a desire that is growing stronger and stronger to be in His presence, and emotion that is becoming more and more driven by His Holy Spirit.  The heart of the ‘blessed’ is pure in its purpose, and pure in its direction.  Yes we fall, yes sin seems to abound, but blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.


#21 What the Gospels Teach – Mercy – Matthew 5:7

Before I begin to write about Matthew 5:7, I would like to clarify a little misunderstanding I had, or at least a piece of information I did not know about Jesus sitting down and the disciples coming to Him.  My premise was that this could not be a sermon, because Jesus sat, and it was only the disciples that came to Him.  That is correct (that Jesus sat), but I have been informed by a retired pastor (who is correct in this), that Rabbis would sit down to teach as a sign of authority.  Jesus may have sat down as a sign of authority while the disciples may have stood to hear the teaching, or He could have just sat down as you or I would to have a discussion, the text does not indicate if he sat to show authority, or if they had gathered informally for His teaching.  In other words, the Sermon on the Mount may very well be a seated sermon, to a small group, and my assertion in prior posts that it was no sermon at all could be faulty.  Nonetheless, I do not see a need to revise previous posts, because the case that I have built is primarily on the fact that it is a small group of disciples only that are being taught, it is not built so much on the way they are being taught.  Have mercy on me!

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

The word translated merciful is eleēmōn which simply means to have compassion on or to have pity towards.  Now if you go back to the first post in this series you will see in Matthew 1:19 that Joseph sought compassion on Mary when he had found out that she was with Child outside of the marriage covenant, and that it was his righteousness that drove him towards compassion.

The fact that Jesus even had to utter this teaching is very sad.  If there is anything in scripture that should go without saying it is ‘blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.’  Why should there ever need to be a reminder, or motivation given towards being merciful?  Have we not been showered consistently with mercy and compassion from God, and shouldn’t gratitude and mercy flow from us without thought?  Unfortunately, this is not the case, for whatever reason this is a reminder we constantly need to receive.  Think of the parable which Jesus taught concerning the man who had his very large debt forgiven, and then turned around and tried to extract a smaller debt from someone who owed him.  It seems asinine, yet somehow forgiveness and compassion comes so difficult to us, even though the depths of forgiveness and compassion shown to us are unfathomable.  There is a reason you have difficulty with being merciful... and the reason is that you have avoided your sin.  Presumption upon forgiveness without ever considering the vileness of sin produces a lack of mercifulness.  The simple fact that sin is rarely preached upon, and forgiveness is always preached upon, produces a mentality that forgiveness is cheap, and sin is meaningless.  So when pondering one’s own sinfulness, rarely does someone come to the point of recognition that they should be merciful and compassionate to others, because there is a failure to recognize how compassionate and merciful God has been to them.

Now with all of that said, realize that this teaching, along with the rest of the beatitudes, is not a commandment.  It is a statement of fact.  The merciful will receive mercy... period.  The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit... period.  The mournful will be comforted... period, and so on.  The question you must ask yourself is this “Am I withholding mercy to anyone?” and if the answer is yes, you must ask yourself “What does that say about the state of my soul and the reality of my relationship with Christ?”  The beatitudes are all about discernment, and about self examination.  Later in the Sermon on the Mount we will see the principle of self judgment arise, and the beatitudes are a great place to go to examine yourself.  Recall also that you are commanded to do this self-examination in 2 Corinthians 13:5.

That is all.  I have the privilege today to go ride mountain bikes up in Michigan with one of the youth from our congregation, what an amazing job I have, really, it is a great blessing to me to get the occasional chance to do things like this.


#20 What the Gospels Teach – Hunger for Righteousness – Matthew 5:6

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  (Matthew 5:6 NASB)

In the genuine believer there is an actual and humanly insatiable appetite for righteousness.  It could be argued that one of the primary marks of true conversion is genuine hunger for righteousness, and that hunger for righteousness is indeed a supernatural hunger.  The unbelieving religious man is always trying to stomach righteousness against his own will, like being forced to eat a meal they cannot tolerate, or forced to take a medicine that has an awful aftertaste.  Righteousness is not the natural desire of the unbeliever.

To the believer this verse ought to give you great comfort and assurance, to the unbeliever it ought to give great fear and trepidation.  I recall one day down at Sidecut Metropark (a place I go to be alone) I was walking down near a bridge and contemplating my actions, and I was broken and distraught.  There was this awful feeling of ‘when am I going to get this life right?’ ‘am I ever going to overcome sin?’  ‘if I could only love the Lord more’ ‘when will I ever get it right’ ‘why do I struggle?’ ‘I just desire righteousness, but never seem to achieve it’ and as I was walking along the path in total despondency Matthew 5:6 came to my memory and flooded my soul with light unspeakable.  The very despondency I felt were the hunger pangs of righteousness... and I heard the words of Jesus “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness!...”  and then the promise “for they SHALL be satisfied!”  My very longing for righteousness which through me into a ‘slough of despondency’ but the words of Christ screamed out to me that the very hunger I had for righteousness was proof of blessedness, and salvation that was given to me.  In hindsight it looked like the agony of Romans 7 was playing itself out in my soul, and yet the glory or Romans 8:1 shown upon me in the words “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness!”

Again, I say the context is important.  Recall that Jesus is speaking to the small group of disciples, and is giving them great teachings with which to discern the activities of God among men.  How were the disciples to know when someone had genuine conversion... how were they to know that the message of the Gospel took root in someone, and that they merely were not enamored by the miracles and wonders... blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness.  When dealing with the gospel whether sharing it with youth, or with adults, when you sense a genuine hunger and thirst for righteousness among them you have great reason for hope.  At the same time when you sense that someone is trying to live rightly but they are doing it against their will and have no real desire or hunger for righteousness, you should continue to labor with basic gospel teachings because there is good reason to believe that person is not yet converted.

Jesus gives this warning to people who came to see Him, and it exposes them pretty harshly, at the same time I think He would have these words for a number of people in our churches today.

Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal."  (John 6:26-27 NASB)

Be of good cheer believer... your desire for righteousness is evidence of your blessed state before God.  Be afraid imposter... your attempts at righteousness that go against your real desire are proof that you are still at enmity with God.


#19 What the Gospels Teach – Gentleness – Matthew 5:5

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.”  (Matthew 5:4 NASB)

The common utterance of this verse is from the KJV ‘Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.’  Do not lower yourself to using the stupid little quip that ‘meek is not weak’ or something like that.  Dead fundamentalism has a lot more to say about what this verse does not mean, as opposed to what it does mean.  This verse is a solid rebuke against dead fundamentalism, and a call to genuine compassionate Christianity.  As someone who struggles with my own dead fundamentalism I will assure you that this verse hits me square between the eyes!  You and I know full well that we are to preach a message of repentance, and that we must preach against sin, and the we are not to avoid the realities of heaven and hell, and we are at times to bring to remembrance the lake of fire... etc.  Nonetheless, all of those truths must be spoken, not just in love, but with gentleness.

Again recall the context of the teaching on the mount, Jesus is speaking in a small group setting with His disciples and Jesus knows full well that later He is going to send those very disciples out to preach repentance... (See Mark 6:12) and the hardest thing about preaching repentance is not preaching the truth, or having the courage to tell it like it is... the hardest thing is to faithfully preach repentance while only seeking good and not attempting to harm anyone with it... In other words, the hardest part of teaching repentance is gentleness.  Now avoiding the message of repentance for the sake of gentleness is not right either!  Nonetheless the preaching of repentance must be gentle.  There is a real paradox here that goes missed by most of us... We are called to swing the sword of truth gently.  We are to wield the sharp word that divides soul and spirit gently... it is an utterly impossible task apart from the supernatural.  It is like gently dropping a bomb... the Gospel of the Kingdom is so powerful, and so offensive, and so intrusive to the soul and well being of a person that even the most gentle delivery will be seen as a great attack!  However that is the very point!  Let the message do the harm, let the deliverer of the message be as gentle as a dove!

Now I have been writing about the ‘teaching on the mount’ as though it were a lens to discern what is really  occurring in people when the message of repentance is given to them, as well as the healings and service of Christ (see previous few posts).  This verse applies in that way as well.   Receiving the message of repentance and the gospel of forgiveness must produce gentleness in the new believer.  It will produce a broken spirit, mourning, and now... gentleness.  Often time people will be exposed to the power of the Gospel, and instead of applying that Gospel to themselves they instead want to partake of its power.  So they go out and preach it, teach it, and they become enamored with the ‘authority’ it gives them, unfortunately the utter lack of gentleness that these folks usually exhibit proves that either they are not at all converted, or that they are mere babes in Christ who have not moved on much since conversion.  Most of these believe themselves to be preachers when in reality they are users of God to meet their own power needs.  These last few sentences I speak from personal experience, I was there both before and shortly after conversion, believing it was my place to proclaim all gospel truths, command repentance, etc... but I had not an ounce of gentleness, and the reality was that I was a proclaimer of truth, but one who proclaimed in the flesh.

So where the rubber meets the road is this... Do you teach the whole Gospel, including repentance, with utter gentleness?  Or for the sake of gentleness have you forsaken the whole Gospel?  Or have you been given the supernatural ability to preach the most offensive of messages in the most gentle of manners?

I know this was a ramble, I hope it helps someone.


#18 What the Gospels Teach – Mourning – Matthew 5:4

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  (Matthew 5:4 NASB)

Jesus continues to look at His disciples and pronounces blessing on the very things which we find cursed.  Blessed are they that mourn.  Now let’s remember the context here, because it is critical to understanding the beatitudes.  Realize that Jesus’ disciples had been following Him as He preached repentance, and also healed this sick and lame.  You have this giant crowd constantly around Jesus and all sorts of different things are happening.  How could the disciples know what was going on?  How could they have discernment?  Were all the people following Christ merely looking to be healed, or were some of them actually getting the message?  How could a disciple tell?  How can we tell if someone believes the message and is not just enamored by the healing, fellowship , or whatever?   Enter Matthew 5-7, the teaching on the mount.  Jesus withdraws from the crowd, takes a seat, His disciples come and sit around Him, and He begins to teach them, and explain to them what is going on.  It is as if He says... “You see all those people today?  Well the ones who are mourning are the blessed ones!”

Look, Jesus was on a preaching mission, and a service mission, but He does not sit down His disciples and say blessed are those who were healed today, or blessed are those who are rejoicing, quite the opposite.  Jesus saw straight past the emotion of the crowd, and the joy they expressed, and in the teaching on the mount, He is instructing His disciples to see past it as well.  He says blessed are they who mourn... what reason was there for mourning while Christ was coming around healing and fixing people?  Certainly healings are a thing of joy... the only reason to mourn was the message.  Remember if you read starting in Matthew 4:17 you will see that Jesus was preaching everywhere that men are to repent!  The message of repentance, the one that exposes our sin will cause us to mourn, but the mourning is the very evidence of our blessing.  Christ explains to His disciples how to get an idea of who the real believers in the crowd are.  Again, blessed are they who mourn.

Now clearly this passage has application to those believers who are in pain in general, or who are grieving, and our tendency is certainly to bring this passage out at a funeral, or other sad occasion, but I would certainly say to be careful merely throwing around the beatitudes or even the rest of the ‘teaching on the mount’ to the unbelieving world.  Again context is everything.

The old quip rings true ‘A text without its context is a pretext.’


#17 What the Gospels Teach – The Poor in Spirit – Matthew 5:3

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:3 NASB)

 When I had first started to make a real effort at memorizing scriptures I determined that I would memorize Matthew 5 in the KJV, so day in and day out I would work on it, eventually I gave up, but I do have about the first 30 verses memorized (I have not given up on scripture memory, just that passage which I hope to come back to).  Now what I found was that through all my memorization I still did not understand the passage, in fact I had this great idea that someday I would be able to stand in front of a group at our church and proudly speak the entire ‘Sermon on the Mount’ to them.  I totally did not get it, in fact the very purpose of my memorization was to gain spiritual wealth and authority, but the very first words of Christ in this teaching are a rebuke to my premise for memorization.  So long as I attempted to achieve this spiritual wealth I was never given understanding of the beatitudes at all.  In fact I was very backwards with it all, using stupid quips like ‘meek does not mean weak’ or focusing on the persecution verses as if I was being persecuted for Christ.  (I was merely disliked by some for my self-righteousness) it was no legitimate persecution.  Anyway, the beatitudes came to life for me when I was down at Sidecut Metropark in Maumee Ohio just broken over sin, lack of fire, doubt, despondency, and weakness.  I remember walking along the towpath there just feeling... poor.  In those moments my mind went back to the beatitudes (which thankfully were committed to memory) and every single one of them came to life, and not just a little insight here and there, but the beatitudes lit up my soul and in a moment I was in sweet communion with God, and enjoying contentment.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, the moment which we realize we are in spiritual poverty is the moment we should cling to very fact that our poverty in spirit validates our blessedness in Christ.  Why did God send John the Baptist preaching repentance? And why did Christ preach repentance to the crowds gathered?  Because nothing produces brokenness and poverty in spirit more than the message of repentance!  The message of repentance paves the way and makes straight the path in the wilderness.  The message of repentance brings people to the place of broken blessedness.

Blessed are the poor in spirit.  Jesus is looking His chosen few in the eyes (recall the crowd was not there for the ‘Teaching on the Mount’) and giving them blessed assurance.  They had to have wondered why they were chosen and the scribes and Pharisees, or the wealthy were not.  Following Christ meant hearing the ridicule of those who opposed Him, and yet Christ brings a great word of comfort to these disciples and utters “Blessed are the poor in spirit...” clearly those gathered with Him were indeed the poor in spirit, and then “...for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

One really important point that must be made about this and all the beatitudes is that you cannot do ‘poor in spirit’.  It is not a command that can be kept, and it is not an attribute you can create in yourself.  You are poor in spirit, or you are not, it takes divine action, and divine enlightenment to your own shortcomings to make you poor in spirit, and nothing you can do will muster up spiritual poverty.

I want to write so much more on this, but will save that for a summary post on all the beatitudes.  For now I ought to move on to ‘Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.’

#16 What the Gospels Teach – Divine Revelation – Matthew 5:2

“He opened His mouth and began to teach them saying,” (Matthew 5:2)

This will be a very short post, but I think this is another verse that we may just skim over in getting to the beatitudes, and maybe we should just stop and drink this verse in this verse for a minute or two.  The ‘Sermon on the Mount’ is such a major teaching, and it comes before Jesus begins speaking in parables, it is the unveiled will of God for His disciples, the unveiled truth of God for His people.  This is not a message to the masses, but to His chosen disciples gathered around Him, and ‘He opened His mouth and taught them...”

Think of this, Christ who was with God in the beginning, Christ who is Alpha and Omega, Christ in whom all things were created, Christ who is infinite in wisdom and in glory, yet in these moments is confined to human flesh so as to be the exact representative of God among men, visibly and tangibly, and He opens His mouth and teaches.  This is not God speaking through a prophet, this is God Himself speaking.  This is not God giving a message to a crowd with great thunderings, smoke, and fire, this is God the Son face to face with men, and He opens His mouth and teaches them.

I am going to leave this post at that.  It really is a phenomenal thing, amazing.

(sorry if you do not find this amazing, get a handle on who Christ actually is, and you will see why this simple verse is truly astounding.)


#15 What the Gospels Teach - The 'Teaching' on the Mount - Matthew 5:1

When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.  (Matthew 5:1 NASB)

 Matthew 5:1 sets the stage for the Christ’s teachings in Matthew 5-7 which arguably are the greatest teachings ever uttered in all of history.  We see in the preceding chapter that Jesus going around teaching that people should repent because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  We also see that though He is going around preaching repentance, He is also serving and healing those who are sick and have need.  It is clear from the end of the 4th chapter that Jesus is gathering quite a following, and the reason is because of the healing, not because of the message.   Enter Chapter 5, Jesus leaves the big crowds, heads up into a mountain and sits down, then His disciples come unto Him.


Now I have heard plenty of parallels made between Jesus going up unto the mount and Moses going up into the mount, and the beatitudes being the ‘Law’ as it displays itself in the new covenant and so on.  That stuff seems all good, but I want to focus on one little portion of this scripture: “...after He sat down...”  Matthew 5-7 has become known as the Sermon on the Mount, but if you look at the setting it was no sermon at all.  This was small group discipleship, this was the Lord seated, with His disciples around Him, teaching the greatest teachings of all time.  Jesus retreated, He sat down, after that His disciples came and joined Him, not the crowds, but the disciples, and Jesus did not stand out their boom a sermon to the masses, He sat and looked the disciples individually in the face and taught them these things personally.  “He opened His mouth and taught them saying...”  Again I tell you this is a small group setting, and this is discipleship, the Sermon on the Mount is a message to the disciple and not to the crowd!  We must read the entire content of Matthew 5-7 in that context, and in the next many posts I will come back to the setting, because the setting is critical to our understanding.  For instance, the warnings in Matthew 7 are not warnings to the crowd, but warnings to the disciples... the few.  Again, what did Jesus preach to the crowds?  Go back to Matthew 4:17-25 and you will see that His message was to repent!  What is His message to the individual disciples?  The ‘Teaching’ on the Mount.  Somehow we have painted the mental picture that Jesus is standing on the mountainside preaching to the masses, we have assumed He went into the mountain to have a better pulpit, we have viewed this as a moment of prominence of Christ, but it really is a moment of retreat.   

 Now, a simple suggestion, I will probably spend a long time in Matthew 5-7 and I am such a novice, your time would be far better spent reading something like Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship” which deals extensively with the Sermon on the Mount, and deals with it far better than I will.


#14 What the Gospels Teach – Balance – Matthew 4:23-25

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 4:23-25 NASB) 

We covered a couple of posts ago that Jesus’ first message was a message of repentance, and if you look back to 4:17 we read that 'From that time Jesus BEGAN to preach and say “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”'  From the word ‘began’ we can imply that this was the beginning of a continual message of repentance, a message that would continue throughout His ministry, and continue on with the ministry of Holy Spirit filled believers.  (See Acts 2)  This message of repentance is incredibly important, and paramount to the Gospel message.  J. Edwin Orr said that “Repent is the very first word of the Gospel.”  I agree.  Now, with that established notice the verses above.  Jesus was going through Galilee, and He was teaching in the synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.  It is safe to assume that He was continuing on in preaching repentance, but do not miss what else He was doing! 

Notice that Christ is both preaching, and healing.  This is very important... Christ not only preaches but He serves... and Christ not only serves, but He preaches. 

 I met a few months ago with a man who has an outreach to the unhoused in downtown Toledo.  Now He seemed to me to be of the liberal theological persuasion and it seemed that his entire focus was social justice and not resting till everyone was served.  He even told me that these people have heard the gospel a million times, what the need is not the gospel, but food. 

 I have also listened to men speak, the Gideons are notorious for this, about how they are not so much concerned with providing for temporal needs, but more interested in providing the bread of life.  They will say “what good is it to feed people with what is temporary when they need to be filled with what is eternal?”


The problem is that both sides lack biblical balance.  For the liberal who fights primarily for social justice we know ‘that man does not live by bread alone...’ and more over that ‘your life is a vapor...’ and there are a ton of scriptures that affirm the need of the gospel, and I would even argue that the Gospel is primary.


At the same time, Jesus obviously is concerned about Social Justice, and Jesus was much more than just a preacher and sacrifice.  He was a healer, a servant, a friend, and much more.  Recall what James says: 

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. (James 2:14-17 NASB)


The Gospel will not take root apart from service.  This is why street preaching at a distance has little effect in comparison with sharing the Gospel at a mission, soup kitchen, or in the context of service.  This is why you find many churches that have the straightest of doctrine but seem entirely void of the presence of God.  Moreover service apart from the Gospel is vain as well, good deeds for good deeds sake is humanism and only provides temporary relief, and moreover brings little or no glory to God.


Jesus is the example,  and the end of Matthew 4 is an appropriate example of dealing both with ‘felt needs’ and the Gospel of the Kingdom.


I recognize that the last 4 or 5 posts have not been up to par (at least in my estimation) but I imagine they are going to help someone, or at the very least they have helped me.


#13 - What the Gospels Teach – The First Call – Matthew 4:18-20

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He *said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-20 NASB)

 The argument could be made that the above passage is Jesus’ first miracle, traditionally we do not think of Jesus calling His disciples as a miracle, but a deeper look may prove otherwise.  First recall from the previous post what Jesus was doing before He called these disciples.  He was preaching everywhere that men should repent.  Now the idea of following a man with a message of repentance is disheartening to anyone, why, because you would be following a man with a message that nobody wants to hear.  If he had called His disciples after His big miracles you could see why they would want to follow, but that is not the case here.  So why would they follow?  Clearly there is something miraculous about the call of Christ.  Though I do not believe grace to be irresistible, I would contend that this scripture does bolster that position.  There is something about the authoritative ‘follow me’ that caused the disciples to immediately drop their nets and follow.

 In the Hebrew culture those who would become rabbis would follow a rabbi and learn from them for a number of years, and it was a great honor to your family and such if you followed a rabbi, especially a rabbi of high status.  Moreover, as a rabbi your own status was in some way tied to the success and competence of your protégés.  Now these men were fishermen, but they indeed were Hebrews, but the reality is that they likely never had any intent of following a rabbi as their careers were already set.  Yet when approached by Christ with the offer to follow, the offer was irresistible.  Here is what is so fascinating about it, Jesus picked fishermen.  Of course we have all learned that Jesus picks the little guy, and lifts up the humble, and uses the foolish to confound the wise... and so on, but this is different.  First, the call to ask them to follow was a very ‘rabbinical’ call and Jesus essentially is inviting them into the rabbi student relationship.  Notice what we said earlier about how the status and honor of a rabbi is tied in some way to the success and aptitude of their protégés.  Christ is picking these common men, why not the rich young ruler?  Or why not one of the scribes or Pharisees?  The name of Christ was on the line, and He is going to call a couple fishermen, moreover He calls you (if indeed you are a believer), it is absolutely astounding that He would invest His own glory in us as followers, or in these fishermen.

Immediately they followed, and throughout the three years of His public ministry you see these men under His wing, learning His ways, and eventually after His death, resurrection, and ascension you see these very fishermen from Galilee turning the entire world upside down.

I think the calling of the first disciples may very well be the first miracle of Christ.

 (That post may have been a touch boring, but hopefully worth your time.)


#12 What the Gospels Teach - Repentance - Matthew 4:17

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17 NASB)

I have often heard it said that Jesus’ first sermon was ‘The Sermon on the Mount’ in fact I believe I have probably said that in the past as well, maybe even on this blog. If I did say that then I was wrong, as is everyone else who says that. If you read Matthew 4:17 above you will see that “Jesus began to preach...” and what was the first sermon about? “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”

As we progress through the gospels you will find that the first thing Christ preached was repent, the first thing He had His disciples preach was repent, the first thing preached in the New Testament was John the Baptist Preaching ‘Repent’, moreover the conclusion of the 1st sermon after Pentecost was repent, even in revelation Jesus’ last words to the 7 churches, 5 of those churches heard the message to repent. You cannot underestimate the importance of preaching repentance. It was the first message of Christ to the world, and the last message of Christ to the churches. Even reading in reading Acts you will find when Paul is testifying to King Agrippa that Paul preached everywhere that men must repent. If message of Paul, John the Baptist, Peter, and Jesus Himself was repent... well you cannot simply avoid it.

Unfortunately there are a lot of people in the country who posture as if they are part of the church, however their lack of repentance is evidence that they are not a part of the bride of Christ at all. Again, notice in the verse above, Jesus began His preaching ministry by preaching what? Repentance! Why does Jesus command people to repent? Because “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Notice the positive declaration of Christ that the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand. It is an unconditional declaration, the Kingdom is here, today, from the incarnation of Christ on through all of eternity the Kingdom of Heaven will be at hand... therefore repent, turn away from sin and dwell today in the kingdom.

Too many genuine believers are missing the great blessing of kingdom life today because they have not sought hard after repentance, they have not sought the Lord to expose as many of their faults as they can bear having exposed. We have not sought repentance with our whole being, and we wonder why sometimes the kingdom seems so far away. Christ commands... Repent! The Kingdom is here!

Now I am not going to labor on here about how repentance is a gift of God, given to the believer and repentance though it is enacted through a man, is only produced by the action of God, but we should recall that repentance is not a ‘work’ in the sense that it is something we must muster up the strength to do in order to get saved. Repentance is a requirement for salvation, but anytime there is a requirement for salvation we must realize that Christ indeed fulfills that requirement. Nonetheless, Christ actually fulfills this in us and produces actual repentance, not just a spiritual transaction but one that evidences itself in practice. I did write an extensive 9 part series on repentance back in July of 2006 and still believe it is the best writing I have done to date, you can read it here http://www.sermonaudio.com/new_details3.asp?ID=7874 if you want.


#11 What the Gospels Teach - What is yours - Matthew 4:8-11

Again, the devil *took Him to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." Then Jesus *said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'" Then the devil *left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him. (Matthew 4:8-11 NASB)

First off, it is important to recognize that the previous two temptations that are put before Jesus by Satan were accompanied by scripture with Satan being the one quoting it. It is also important to see that Jesus refutes scripture with scripture. Among evangelicals who are fundamental (I fall in this category) there is a tendency to place huge emphasis on the infallibility of scripture, and it is an important emphasis, at the same time we must be so careful not to end there. Scripture alone is enough to point us to the risen Lord and lead us to salvation and holy living, that is true, but individual verses alone are not! Scripture must be taken in its entirety with the Holy Spirit giving the insight into its true meaning. What I am saying is this; anyone can create a montage of scriptures in order to make a case for some doctrine which they support, so can Satan! Scripture not taken in its entirety is not infallible. This is why it is so critical that people be reading their bibles, or listening to the scriptures regularly, not necessarily as a study, but just going through the entire text. It is important to be studying topics and such as well, but keeping yourself constantly in touch with scripture in its entirety is paramount. I will go out on a limb, and maybe this wrong, but I think the temptation of Christ in the wilderness supports my case here, I will say that there is no individual verse in the bible that is infallible, but that the bible is only infallible in its entirety. This is important, and realizing this will protect you against many cults that come up quoting scripture, and many people who tell you things you know from scripture are wrong even though they quote scripture doing it.

Now on to a few comments on the scripture above, first, we know that all things were created by Jesus and for Jesus, you can read that in Colossians, Hebrews, and other places. Moreover we know that Jesus is the heir of all things, and also that He makes us co-heirs with Him. With that in mind, the passage above is fascinating, Satan is offering to Jesus, what is already rightfully His! So is this simply an insane proposition and not a real temptation? No! This is still a very legitimate temptation to Christ and also a very legitimate temptation to us. Satan certainly does have a degree of control in the kingdoms of this earth for the time being, and he even has been given a degree of authority to what he wants with those kingdoms. Note that Christ came in submission and humility, He will come back with power and authority. In other words, Christ did not come exercising the authority that was rightfully His, claiming all the kingdoms to be His own, for the time being Satan has been given some authority. Now, look to this temptation in that light. The temptation was for Jesus to bypass the cross and everything else, and to take control of the world right then and there, and the only stipulation was that He had to give Satan some worship. That is quite the temptation.

How does this affect us? Well look closely in the scriptures and you will find the theme, especially in the epistles that we are co-heirs with Christ. In other words Satan has nothing to offer us that is not already rightfully ours! He is tempting us in the same way he tempted Christ, offering to give us everything we want now, if we only give him the honor and worship. It is a great temptation, we can serve him and bypass the struggles of this life and pursue all our pleasure now. However, in doing that we will forgo eternal joy! Satan’s great desire is that you as a believer fail to realize that you are a co-heir with Christ and that Satan has nothing to offer you of any worth, that is not already rightfully yours. If my dad planned on giving me his house and he was out of town for a week, and another man told me I could go move in and paint the house and do my own thing with it, it would be foolish for me to listen to that man. The house is already going to be mine, why would I move in before the appointed time, and do something to the house that would displease my dad? It would be ludicrous, but that is the same type of thing Satan tempts us with all the time.

Much can be learned for the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness and I would recommend a hearty study of it for anyone who is struggling with victory over temptation.


#10 What the Gospels Teach - Putting to the Test - Matthew 4:5-7

Then the devil *took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and *said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, 'HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU'; and 'ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.'" Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.'" (Matthew 4:5-7 NASB)

It seems that every time I sit to write about this passage I get interrupted by something, so this morning I read the passage and its context yet again and I noticed something that I had never noticed before. I never really took into account the importance of where Satan wanted this jump to take place. First let’s notice that Satan brought Jesus back out of the wilderness and into the holy city, and even to the top of the temple nonetheless. Note that this is a public place that swarmed with people, and Satan is telling Him to throw Himself off of the top of the temple. Of all the three temptations this one always seemed to me to be the easiest to resist, but when you take into account the location this little temptation of Satan becomes far more enticing. Jesus could throw Himself off of the temple and have angels show up in all their glory and save Him from being killed, and it all would have been public! Do you see the temptation? He could have received honor from the masses in the center of the holy city in the primary local of the worship of God.

Of course Jesus does resist the temptation, and speaks clearly that you are not to put the Lord your God to the test. This is another passage that is difficult, because in a sense every time you act in faith you are ‘putting the Lord to the test’ at least in some sense. If God calls you into the mission field, in some sense you have to test Him at His word and trust Him for provision. If God calls you to anything, even to marriage, or to just walk down the street to give someone a drink, in all instances you have to trust Him and put Him to the test believing His word to be valid. Now Satan properly quotes scripture concerning Christ, so why should Christ not put the Father to the test? We are to be ‘testing’ Him by believing the scriptures and acting in accordance to them believing God will supply and work according to His word. There is one reason Christ should not put the Father to the test here, and it is the same scenario in which you should not put the Father to the test either. If Christ were to throw Himself off of the temple it would only give Him great honor, and not the Father. Do not put God to the test, presuming you will receive some great benefit, to your own glory.

You see so many preachers, teachers, and leaders calling on congregations and people to pray Jabez prayers, get your best life now, name it and claim it, health wealth and prosperity, and so on... but they should not be putting God to the test! Why? Because it is self focused! The purpose of life is the glory of God, and we can faithfully put God to the test to glorify Himself in us. However for us to walk into the temple and presume upon the grace of God in order to get ourselves glory, well that is the great temptation of the master tempter, and it is the very temptation that is spoken of in the above scriptures.

If you are putting God to the test, in order to get some benefit, then your sin is presumption and you have fallen for the tempters scheme, the very scheme Christ resisted here in Matthew 4:5-7. If you are tithing so that God will bless you for your own sake, you are falling into temptation, and you may very well be blessed because His word says you will, but you are still in sin and will receive no eternal benefit for your tithe. Just like Christ surely would have been swooped up by angels according to God’s word, nonetheless it would have been sin. It is time to stop being pragmatic, because God blesses a man and enlarges his territory because of a Jabez prayer still does not mean that the man is in the will of God, or even pleasing Him. Name it and claim it may indeed produce blessing according to the word of God, but it is temporal blessing because it is only focused on temporal needs. Do not put your God to the test, and when reading this passage always remember where this is happening, and what the real temptation was.

Not sure if that made sense, but I am going to post it and move on.