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Our first impression of others begins the minute another person comes in our line of vision. We size them up, giving them a character we think they play in a story of our imaginations. The closer they get to us, we justify the story. As soon as they begin to talk, even in a quick surface level encounter, we assume and clarify in our minds who they are without asking for or hearing any details by them. We humans, both believers and non believers of God, excel in this trait. Satan love using this skill for his destruction. These first thoughts are precursors to judging in full force without judging ourselves first.
When people respond once, close to the way we imagined they would, it solidifies our judging. “See I told you they were like that!” In all out, pro level judging of others, there is no mercy, no consideration of growth or change in a person, they just are who we think they are and it never or rarely changes. How sad…for us who judge.
Woah, is that how we really think? Be honest.
How can we “judge not” as Jesus teaches?
What will help us to “assume not” in our daily thinking and first impressions?
The world teaches us that we are number one. When we think like the world we judge everything as bad. We give no one a break, hate in all kinds of ways, and walk in fear of the unknown. We show no mercy and extend no grace.
But Jesus says…
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
We are not fit to assume in others what we wouldn’t want others to assume about us. Judging, says Jesus, boomerangs on us! So,
STOP, CEASE AND DESIST!
Don’t judge until you have first judged your own thoughts and actions. Why? We will be judged in the same way we judge. Judging others first sabotages our growing to be like Christ!
GO DEEPER…WHAT JESUS REALLY MEANS
The first principle of judgment is that we begin with ourselves. Jesus did not forbid us to judge others, for careful discrimination is essential in the Christian life. Christian love is not blind (Phil. 1:9–10). The person who believes all that he hears and accepts everyone who claims to be spiritual will experience confusion and great spiritual loss.
But before we judge others, we must judge ourselves. There are several reasons for this. We shall be judged (v. 1). The tense of the verb judged signifies a once-for-all final judgment. If we first judge ourselves, then we are preparing for that final judgment when we face God.
The Pharisees “played God” as they condemned other people, but they never considered that God would one day judge them. Not only will God judge us at the end, but people are also judging us right now, and we receive from people exactly what we give. The kind of judgment, and the measure of judgment, comes right back to us. We reap what we have sown.
We must see clearly to help others (vv. 3–5). The purpose of self-judgment is to prepare us to serve others. Christians are obligated to help each other grow in grace. When we do not judge ourselves, we not only hurt ourselves, but we also hurt those to whom we could minister.
The Pharisees judged and criticized others to make themselves look good (Luke 18:9–14). But Christians should judge themselves so that they can help others look good. There is a difference!
After we have judged ourselves honestly before God, and have removed those things that blind us, then we can help others and properly judge their works. But if we know there are sins in our lives, and we try to help others, we are hypocrites. In fact, it is possible for ministry to be a device to cover up sin! The Pharisees were guilty of this, and Jesus denounced them for it.
KNOW GOD, KNOW HIS MESSAGE, KNOW YOURSELF, KNOW OTHERS
The reason for judgment, then, is not that we might condemn others, but that we might be able to minister to them. Notice that Jesus always dealt with individuals according to their needs and their spiritual condition. He did not have a memorized speech that He used with everybody.He discussed the new birth with Nicodemus, but He spoke of living water to the Samaritan woman. When the religious leaders tried to trap Him, He refused to answer their question (Matt. 21:23–27). It is a wise Christian who first assesses the condition of a person’s heart before sharing the precious pearls.
This is a go to Jesus moment where we repent, saying we’re sorry for judging others without cleaning up our own behavior first. We ask for help to think like He thinks with unconditional love, extreme mercy with great, incredible grace so we can join Him in the work of helping others find and follow Him, too.
Holy Father, dear Jesus,
Help our first thoughts be love for you and others. Help us to see each others through your eyes. Help us to see ourselves first through your eyes. You are God and we are not. So, may your Holy Spirit in us guide us in power to see Your truth so we can see truth in others. Set us free from all inclinations to judge each other or assume we know who others are and what they are thinking. Judging is too heavy a burden to bear and reserved ultimately for you. Thank you for showing us how to love mercy, think the best not the worst, to encourage, to walk humbly with you and to do what is right by thinking right thoughts.
In Jesus Name, Amen
“O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8, NLT
Raise your hand if you spend moments in a day worrying? Now raise your hand if you just lied about worrying? ALL of us worry about something or someone. We are so wrapped up in self. Worry is part of self package. We even worry about worrying. Sometimes our troubles begin with worry more than circumstance. It’s almost as if worrying brings on circumstances that we wished and dreaded would happen just so we can say, “See, I told you this would happen!”
We become self-fulling prophecies when we worry about the life we think we should be living. For example, if we dread going to the doctor and focus on all the bad he could tell us, that’s probably all we will hear. If we dread the outcome of an important meeting because of our unpreparedness, it will probably be unpleasant, just as we planned in our minds it would be.
We are great at worrying about details of life that will probably never happen. Consider how much time we spend in worrying over the “what if’s” of life that never occur? How many hours of our lives are taken from us because of worry? How many hours were thrown away in worry instead of loving our neighbor like Jesus loves us? Do we help others worry?
Worry is like a virus. Worry can make you sick, especially if you worry about getting sick! Worry IS contagious! We can turn the opinion of an entire room of people by bringing up issues, details and circumstances that will never occur. Great planning for great outcomes is good concern and adds to a good experience; worrying over things out of our control and probably will never happen is quite another issue.
Don’t worship worry, worship God! People who don’t trust God have greater propensity to worry. Are we helping them or adding to their stress of worry by joining “team worry” with them? OR, do we point them to Jesus, while demonstrating of our lack of worry because of our trust in God?
Believing Friends, know our enemy, Satan! Our thought life is attacked by the evil one often, daily, almost hourly. He wants us to worship him so encouraging us to worry is his greatest tool. He knows that if we can plant a thought of worry in our minds it will distract us quickly from our Lord and His work in us. And we fall for it. Every. Time.
So, Jesus says,
Do Not Worry
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
What do I seek most in a day? My Lord or my worry?
Do I worry more about tomorrow or more about the love Jesus has for me today AND tomorrow?
Does my worry sabotage my faith?
Do I really believe what I believe about God is really real?
Do I believe what Jesus is saying today?
If yes to the last question, then, why worry? Just stop it.
First step…ask for His help. Deliver us from evil, Lord.
In Jesus Name, By His power in us, Amen!
Have you seen the documentaries of real people who are driven to obsess to find lost treasure at the bottom of the sea? They spend their entire lives raising money through donors, who also want to make money, so they can continue the search for buried riches among barnacle covered ships. They search the waters depths to find what was once lost to others who set out to see to find THEIR treasure while taking all they had with them.
These ventures are fun to watch but seems futile to most of us who merely work hard to pay the bills that are inevitable in living this life on earth. The amount of bills we owe depends on our own wisdom for managing what we have and earn. Sometimes we are good at investing so we use that talent for stacking up more and more treasure. Some of us fall for those with schemes to get rich quick because salespersons make you feel stupid for not following their path to get others to buy into the scheme. Yes, there is a lot of “treasure” to be sought after if you look hard enough.
The world tells us we need and deserve to have it all. We should be on the search for the pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. What is “all”, exactly?
Well, Jesus says…
Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
WHAT WE LEARN IS PRETTY OBVIOUS
What we think about most guides our behavior in this world and prepares us for the next. Jesus says what is in our hearts reflects our thinking and behaving. It all begins in our hearts.
Some of us seek to be comfortable. No risks. We want to be comfortable later so we store up in savings and other investments what we think we will need. That is wise to some extent so you will not be a burden to your family, but it shouldn’t be the end-all of our thinking and behaving. Are we obsessed by this treasure?
Jesus says that if ALL you think there is to life is your worldly treasures of stocks, bonds, cash, jewelry and other material things of this life it stands between you and God. Our thinking follows our hearts content. What is in our hearts? Who ultimately are we serving? It will show in our behaviors.
Do we have a heart that runs after what God wants from what He has given to us to manage and share? Do we give all that we are and all that we have back to God to use as HE sees best? Are we willing to “lay down our Isaac”, our most important to us, in exchange for God’s best will and plan for us?
Nothing should stand between God and ourselves. Seek His will, His heart, His plan which is His eternal, bounty, beautiful, beyond our imagination, real treasure! THIS treasure lasts for eternity!
When we don’t seek God will all our heart, mind and soul, we are divided in our thinking. His Light, no longer reflects in us. When the Light is removed, the darkness overcomes us. This is not the treasure we seek.
Where is my heart?
What am I obsessed with right now?
Who or what do I seek most and often?
There is my treasure.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Let me sing to you,
You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all
Seeking You as a precious jewel
Lord, to give up I’d be a fool
You are my all in all
Taking my sin, my cross, my shame
Rising again I bless Your name
You are my all in all
When I fall down You pick me up
When I am dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all…
In Jesus Name, Amen
I grew up in church, no really, my family was there every time the doors were open. May dad usually opened the doors and locked up after everyone left. My mom played piano when my aunt didn’t and was the volunteer secretary for the church when she wasn’t at her full time job as secretary for an oil company in Oklahoma City. Praying was not hard for us. We prayed about everything. We were taught by my parents’ parents that praying was talking to God in Jesus Name.
I grew up in a church that had many kinds of pray-ers. Some would be so repetitive in their phrases that as child I would mouth what they were going to say as they prayed. Yes, I was that ornery child who would do anything for a laugh. That’s why my best friend was not allowed to sit with me very often.
Some would pray-preach. They would begin their prayers with, “O Lord we need to do what you said in the book of …”. And then another sermon would be spoken. As kids, (along with some grownups) we hoped that the prayer-preachers would never be asked to pray the dismissal pray for Sunday morning service. If they were asked to pray, that meant the roast in the oven might burn!
Some would pray to get attention of others’ inability to do church like they did church. They would cry out in loud voices and pray for their sons, daughters or other family members, who were sitting in their pew, to let these poor souls know how they should “live right” in their eyes. Yeah, that was awkward.
Then there were those who could settle the room in spiritual peace with humbled hearts, asking for God’s help and wisdom for our journey with God. It was as if you were listening in on a private conversation between God and man or woman. All you could do was nod in agreement in this holy moment.
My grandpa was one of those holy moment pray-ers. I always believed he had a direct line to God. Many others must have thought that as well because they would always ask my grandpa to pray for them. However as a kid, after weeks of hearing him close with the same phrase in his prayer over meals, I had to ask him about it. Even when there was not juice on the table he prayed for it. As a child I heard, “And bless our bodies with your intended juice…” With a smile and chuckle, he corrected what I heard. “And bless our bodies for YOUR intended use”. Okay, that is different.
Grandpa, a man after God’s heart, prayed for God to use him as He saw fit. That’s a Romans 12 prayer that God hears! (And God blesses the juice, too!)
We have heard it said…but Jesus teaches us,
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
WHAT DO WE LEARN?
Prayer is personally talking to God as one who has a relationship with God. We have this intimate relationship with God because of Jesus’ work on the cross to forgive all our sin. Jesus, our Savior, torn down the temple curtain between God and mankind. We can approach God, through Jesus, with anything that is on our hearts. We pray in Jesus Name letting God know that we know what He did for us.
Jesus gave four instructions to guide us in our praying.
We must pray in secret before we pray in public.
It is not wrong to pray in public in the assembly, or even when blessing food (John 6:11) or seeking God’s help (John 11:41–42; Acts 27:35). But it is wrong to pray in public if we are not in the
habit of praying in private. Observers may think that we are practicing prayer when we are not, and this is hypocrisy. The word translated closet means “a private chamber.” It could refer to the store-chamber in a house. Our Lord prayed privately (Mark 1:35).
We must pray sincerely.
The fact that a request is repeated does not make it a “vain repetition,” for both Jesus and Paul repeated their petitions (Matt. 26:36–46; 2 Cor. 12:7–8). A request becomes a “vain repetition” if it is only a babbling of words without a sincere heart desire to seek and do God’s will.
We must pray in God’s will.
This prayer is known familiarly as “The Lord’s Prayer,” but “The Disciples’ Prayer” would be a more accurate title. Jesus did not give this prayer to us to be memorized and recited a given number of times. He gave this prayer to keep us from using vain repetitions. Jesus did not say, “Pray these words.” He said, “Pray after this manner”; that is, “Use this prayer as a pattern, not as a substitute.”
The purpose of prayer is to glorify God’s name and to ask for help to accomplish His will on earth. This prayer begins with God’s interests, not ours: God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will.
God is concerned about our needs and knows them even before we mention them (Matt. 6:8). Then why pray? Because prayer is the God-appointed way to have these needs met (see James 4:1–3). Prayer prepares us for the proper use of the answer. If we know our need, and if we voice it to God, trusting Him for His provision, then we will make better use of the answer than if God forced it on us without our asking.
We must pray, having a forgiving spirit toward others.
In this “appendix” to the prayer, Jesus expanded the last phrase of Matthew 6:12, “as we forgive our debtors.” He later repeated this lesson to His disciples (Mark 11:19–26). He was not teaching that believers earned God’s forgiveness by forgiving others, for this would be contrary to God’s free grace and mercy. However, if we have truly experienced God’s forgiveness, then we will have a readiness to forgive others (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Jesus illustrated this principle in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21–35).
We have seen that true praying is a “family affair” (“Our Father”). If the members of the family are not getting along with one another, how can they claim to have a right relationship with the Father?
The emphasis in 1 John 4 is that we show our love for God by loving our brothers and sisters. When we forgive each other, we are not earning the right to prayer, for the privilege of prayer is a part of our sonship (Rom. 8:15–16).
Forgiveness belongs to the matter of fellowship:
If I am not in fellowship with God, I cannot pray effectively. But fellowship with my brothers and sisters helps to determine my fellowship with God; hence, forgiveness is important to prayer.
WHAT ABOUT FASTING?
It is not wrong to fast, if we do it in the right way and with the right motive. Jesus fasted (Matt. 4:3); so did the members of the early church (Acts 13:2). Fasting helps to discipline the appetites of the body (Luke 21:34) and keep our spiritual priorities straight. But fasting must never become an opportunity for temptation (1 Cor. 7:7). Simply to deprive ourselves of a natural benefit (such as food or sleep) is not of itself fasting.
We must devote ourselves to God and worship Him. Unless there is the devotion of the heart (see Zech. 7), there is no lasting spiritual benefit.
As with giving and praying, true fasting must be done in secret; it is between the believer and God.
The first step toward overcoming hypocrisy is to be honest with God in our secret life. We must never pray anything that we do not mean from the heart; otherwise, our prayers are simply empty words.
Our motive must be to please God alone, no matter what men may say or do. We must cultivate the heart in the secret place. It has well been said, “The most important part of a Christian’s life is the part that only God sees.” When reputation becomes more important than character, we have become hypocrites.
Hallowed be Your Name. May YOUR Kingdom come and reign in us and all around us. May YOUR will be done in every detail of our lives on earth as it is in heaven. We ask for what you want from us today. So give us this day all we need to please you in every thing we think, say or do. Forgive us our sins, help us to complete forgive those who have hurt us. Help us to quickly recognize and run from evil’s temptations to bring us down. In fact, DELIVER us from evil. To you be all glory, honor and praise forevermore.
In Jesus Name, Amen
What motivates us to be who we are? What motivates us to do what we do? It is good to evaluate what drives us in all areas of our lives, especially when it comes to giving and serving others.
I grew up in church. My parents were servant leaders in the church. We were the family who’s lives centered around the church schedule. We were there “every time the doors were open” because dad had the keys to the building. My mom played piano, my grandfather led music, my grandmothers on both sides of the family taught me in Sunday School. My dad was a deacon, then an elder, as well as the high school teacher. So when I got to be a teen, he was my teacher. My uncle and aunt were also leaders of our church. I write all this to let you know how important the work of the church was to the family.
I relied heavily, as anyone would growing up in this manner, on the faith, the example, the love and motivations of parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents. I watched them help people, give what they had, and nurture people in the ways of God. But even in what seemed right, they were not perfect in all ways. Sometimes their motivations for doing good was to meet their own needs for making themselves feel needed and valuable.
When we do good for others from a heart with wrong motivations, selfishness seeps into our being and makes the right action tainted. We begin to do good for our own desires to FEEL good about ourselves. This seeping selfishness gives birth to unbecoming expectations. We expect immediate gratification and praise from the receiver of our gift. We then crave and expect recognition from the Body of Christ and from God Himself for our good deeds. Sometimes we even cry out to God in bad times with, “see what I’ve done for you” using our good deeds as bargaining chips. Yikes!
Soon family members would remember that it should be from a heart wanting to please God alone. Often they did good deeds for others that I never saw, only heard about later…at their funerals! My grandpa was probably the best at doing good for others and keeping it quiet because of his tenacious love of God with all his heart, mind and soul. He helped others in his work as a carpenter and in his community as well as for the church body. He was the family’s example. His legacy of giving and helping others lives on in our family. I see it in my children and their children.
This self motivation thing happens to ALL of us who are so used to doing church because that is the right thing to do that we forget to be the church in our every day life. Being trained to serve well does not mean that our intentions are good in serving. We need to daily evaluate why we do what we do.
People have needs in this world. When God guides us to be His hands and feet to meet those needs we simply obey. If only God knows the deed was done, and we are content and at peace that it was done “unto God, not men”, (Colossians 3:23) then the motivation was right and good. Pure hearts lead to pure motivations to give expecting nothing in return and doing it without thinking about the deed itself, only God.
It’s not about us. It’s all about God.
The world says do good and you will feel good. But Jesus says…
Matthew 6, NIV
Giving to the Needy
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Why do we do what we do for others? A self examination wards off danger of self.
Dear Heavenly Father,
With your teaching, you pull us back into line with your holiness. You see our hearts. You know our minds. You save our souls. Thank you for continuing to transform us to be more and more like you and less like our nature of self. Thank you for guiding us and inviting us into your work. May it all be for your glory, praise and honor. We can do nothing of good unless you are in it and we are connected to You.
In Jesus Name, Amen
What do we expect when we go to places that require others to serve us? What makes us surprised and happy? What causes us to look up and really see the person serving us? What do servers do that pauses us to stop thinking about what we are eating or buying and appreciate what was just done for us? Was it getting more than what was required of the server to do? Was it the server going beyond what is expected with a huge, genuine smile? Was it that smile that we noticed that made us smile? In our exchange of serving and being served, did it make us think they actually enjoyed serving! Did it make us wonder why? Worse still, did we wonder what they expected in return? We are a jaded world.
Why is serving, beyond what is expected, an anomaly?
Mm, so I wonder what others might say or think about my service to God and others?
It will always be surprising, well noticed and noted when we “go the extra mile”, go out of our way, give or do more than expected in this world of take what you can get. The world says get it now while you can and get it all. The world says you deserve to have it so take it. The world says life owes you because you work hard. The world says do only what is required because you don’t owe people any more than that. The world teaches us to get even for that is what is fair and right. The world says it is all about me and the reward I should get for being nice. The world says be nice expecting reward in return. When there is no reward, the world says to get even.
But Jesus says…
The Sermon – Part 7
Eye for Eye
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I must ask myself again, what do I expect?
How is my serve?
What is the quality of my love for others? Do I love expecting love in return, or do I just love, unconditionally, because of the love God has for me?
Where does my joy come from? Am I joyful even when people insult me?
“God so loved the world…”, do I?
Jesus teaches us to love and serve beyond the world’s expectations. When we love like HE loves us, we will discover that it is God’s love in us that actually drives our desire to serve from a place of extreme love of others. This love causes us to rise up quickly to serve without thinking about what we will get in return. We serve from a place of humbled joy remembering what God did for us to redeem us from our own sins. But mostly, we serve, going the extra mile, from the heart, all because of the pure, perfect love of God.
John reminds us of this love that the world is hungry and dying to know,
“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”
“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
“We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
1 John 4, NIV
No hate. Only Love…God’s relentless, reckless, unconditional, merciful love for ALL who believe in the world He created.
How deep is God’s love for us?
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 8:5
God went the extra mile for the world. Jesus, His Son, did more than expected, more than we deserve, with a love that is more than we can imagine.
Love like that.
Help us love like you love. Help us to serve like you served.
In Jesus Name and for His glory, honor and praise. Amen
“In this world you will have trouble”, Jesus warns. Many of our troubles are created by flawed humans who choose to walk away from promises made. Many make a vow to another person that no matter what they will love you and then they don’t. I had a family member who struggled emotionally all her life because her husband walked away from his vow to never leave or forsake her after one year of marriage. Years later, she remarried and life was much better with a Godly man who truly would love her and keep his vow, but her mind would not allow her to fully trust again or be confident in herself because of that first devastating betrayal. God does not want that for any one of His children. He loves us that much!
Keeping the vow of marriage is what God wants for those who make the promise in front of Him and His people. It’s not just a rule God made in His Law for us to keep but a way to live with God’s best for us. The promise to love is God’s love expressed well in the marriage vow. It is a love that never gives up because He never gave up on us. Paul speaks of the characteristics of God’s love perfected by keeping the vow:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8, NIV
God’s love for us is HIS promise to us. We model God’s unconditional love when we vow to love our spouse like He loves us. God’s best for us is to love well so that we may live well, be well from the inside out and walk with Him in peace.
Moses provided the first divorce paperwork because men were frivolously breaking the vow of marriage leaving their wives in poverty. Jesus, God’s Son, explains what it really meant to break the vow of marriage and the resulting consequences of destroying a Holy relationship.
Before Jesus came, when God’s people were ignoring Him, His prophet Malachi tells us how God really feels about breaking this holy vow,
“The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful.” Malachi 2:16, NIV
Matthew 5, Part 6
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
SAY WHAT YOU MEAN AND DO WHAT YOU SAY!
The Pharisees used all kinds of tricks to sidestep the truth, and oaths were among them. They would avoid using the holy name of God, but they would come close by using the city of Jerusalem, heaven, earth, or some part of the body.
Jesus taught that our conversation should be so honest, and our character so true, that we would not need “crutches” to get people to believe us. Words depend on character, and oaths cannot compensate for a poor character.
Proverbs 10:19 says, “Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.”
The more words a man or woman uses to convince us, the more suspicious we should be. Truth only requires a stated fact with little to no explanation. We don’t need to embellish real truth. Truth is embodied in the Person of Jesus.
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are clear about what is best for us, what pleases you and gives you glory. Build your character into our lives. Help us by the power of your Holy Spirit to keep our vows to you. Transform us to be all you intended and created us to be.
In Jesus Name, Amen
Jesus is going through each principle of God’s Law to clarify the intent of what God wanted as opposed to how man has interpreted The Law leaving the love of God out of the equation. By now in His ministry, Jesus has gathered a large crowd of the curious and the amazed. His close followers listen closely at the words of The Master Teacher who is explaining God’s Law specifically, carefully with great wisdom…like none they had ever heard before.
The religious leaders at that time USED God’s Law for their own purpose and gain. At first, Jesus was dismissed by the leaders as just another “voice in the wilderness” crying out hell, fire and brimstone like John. But this Jesus was gaining a large following. He spoke beyond their thinking, beyond the black and white of The Law and explained with wisdom of how to live to please God. Jesus is not like them so they do now like Him. They become fearful which will fuel anger of who they do not know.
This is what is in the background while Jesus continues to speak. Keep reading the sermon with these thoughts in mind. Maybe that is why Jesus is going into such detail when He speaks. “You have heard it said, (by the religious leaders), but I tell you…”, Truth.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5:27-30, NIV
WHAT DO WE LEARN NOW?
Jesus took six important Old Testament laws and interpreted them for His people in the light of the new life He came to give. He made a fundamental change without altering God’s standards: He dealt with the attitudes and intents of the heart and not simply with the external action.
The Pharisees said that righteousness consisted of performing certain actions, but Jesus said it centered in the attitudes of the heart. Likewise, with sin: The Pharisees had a list of external actions that were sinful, but Jesus explained that sin came from the attitudes of the heart.
Anger is murder (yesterday’s blog) in the heart; lust is adultery in the heart. The person who says that he “lives by the Sermon on the Mount” may not realize that the Sermon on the Mount is more difficult to keep than the original Ten Commandments!
Jesus affirmed God’s law of purity, and then explained that the intent of this law was to reveal the sanctity of sex and the sinfulness of the human heart. God created sex, and God protects sex. He has the authority to regulate it and to punish those who rebel against His laws. He does not regulate sex because He wants to rob us, but rather, because He wants to bless us. Whenever God says, no it is that He might say yes.
Sexual impurity begins in the desires of the heart. Again, Jesus is not saying that lustful desires are identical to lustful deeds, and therefore a person might just as well go ahead and commit adultery. The desire and the deed are not identical, but, spiritually speaking, they are equivalent.
The “look” that Jesus mentioned was not a casual glance, but a constant stare with the purpose of lusting. It is possible for a man to glance at a beautiful woman and know that she is beautiful, but not lust after her. The man Jesus described looked at the woman for the purpose of feeding his inner sensual appetites as a substitute for the act. It was not accidental; it was planned.
How do we get victory? By purifying the desires of the heart (appetite leads to action) and disciplining the actions of the body. Obviously, our Lord is not talking about literal surgery, for this would not solve the problem in the heart. The eye and the hand are usually the two “culprits” when it comes to sexual sins, so they must be disciplined.
Jesus said, “Deal immediately and decisively with sin! Don’t taper off—cut off!” Spiritual surgery is more important than physical surgery, for the sins of the body can lead to eternal judgment. (See also Colossians 3:5 and Romans 6:13; 12:1–2; 13:14.)
God wants all of me, every part of me; heart, mind, body and soul. God wants His best for our good in ways that brings glory and honor back to Him. When we realize the depth of His love for us with how great God is, our desires change. We willingly lay every part of our created selves under his authority because of our love for God. We know He knows what is best and right for us!
Father in Heaven, Lord and Savior,
Thank you for saving my soul. Thank you for wanting the best life for me and creating me with purpose. Thank you for doing the same for everyone who believes. Continue to transform us, day by day, into all you want us to be…then do.
In Jesus Name, Amen
Today’s passage begins with “you have heard it said”. Jesus will begin his topical teachings with this phrase in the coming passages as he teaches the intent of God’s Law to his people. Teachers of The Law read it out loud but would then interpret the intent of The Law to fit their lifestyle of cheating the people with high temple taxes, jailing people for disobeying details of the law they created, all for the purpose of using God’s Law for their own satisfaction, lining their pockets, and lording it over the people.
Jesus will openly make it clear to the Pharisees and other leaders just how much they abuse The Law in Matthew 23:1-25, (Another great sermon!)
“Then Jesus spoke to the people and to his followers. He said, ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees have the authority to tell you what the Law of Moses says. So you should obey them. Do everything they tell you to do. But their lives are not good examples for you to follow.’
‘They tell you to do things, but they don’t do those things themselves. They make strict rules that are hard for people to obey. They try to force others to obey all their rules. But they themselves will not try to follow any of those rules.’
‘The only reason they do what they do is for other people to see them. They make the little Scripture boxes they wear bigger and bigger. And they make the tassels on their prayer clothes long enough for people to notice them. These men love to have the places of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues. They love for people to show respect to them in the marketplaces and to call them ‘Teacher.’
But you must not be called ‘Teacher.’ You are all equal as brothers and sisters. You have only one Teacher. And don’t call anyone on earth ‘Father.’ You have one Father. He is in heaven. And you should not be called ‘Master.’ You have only one Master, the Messiah.’
Whoever serves you like a servant is the greatest among you. People who think they are better than others will be made humble. But people who humble themselves will be made great.’
‘It will be bad for you teachers of the law and you Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You close the way for people to enter God’s kingdom. You yourselves don’t enter, and you stop those who are trying to enter. “It will be bad for you teachers of the law and you Pharisees! You are hypocrites.’
‘You travel across the seas and across different countries to find one person who will follow your ways. When you find that person, you make him worse than you are. And you are so bad that you belong in hell!’
It will be bad for you teachers of the law and you Pharisees! You guide the people, but you are blind. You say, ‘If anyone uses the name of the Temple to make a promise, that means nothing. But anyone who uses the gold that is in the Temple to make a promise must keep that promise.’ You are blind fools! Can’t you see that the Temple is greater than the gold on it? It’s the Temple that makes the gold holy!
‘And you say, ‘If anyone uses the altar to make a promise, that means nothing. But anyone who uses the gift on the altar to make a promise must keep that promise.’ You are blind! Can’t you see that the altar is greater than any gift on it? It’s the altar that makes the gift holy! Whoever uses the altar to make a promise is really using the altar and everything on the altar.
‘And anyone who uses the Temple to make a promise is really using the Temple and God, who lives in it. Whoever uses heaven to make a promise is using God’s throne and the one who is seated on it.’
‘It will be bad for you teachers of the law and you Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You give God a tenth of the food you get, even your mint, dill, and cumin. But you don’t obey the really important teachings of the law—being fair, showing mercy, and being faithful. These are the things you should do. And you should also continue to do those other things.’
‘You guide the people, but you are blind! Think about a man picking a little fly out of his drink and then swallowing a camel! You are like that. It will be bad for you teachers of the law and you Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You wash clean the outside of your cups and dishes. But inside they are full of what you got by cheating others and pleasing yourselves.’
I know this was long, but we needed to understand WHY Jesus opened each teaching with “You have heard it said…” Jesus walked into a ministry to set the world right about what God wanted from his people for their own good and for His glory. Jesus was following John the Baptizer, who was the “warm up act of Truth”, who spoke the same words in preparation for Jesus Who WILL set things right so people can be set right with God!
NOW, let’s read each passage knowing why. Jesus will take each statement of The Law farther than anyone has ever taken it with love as the foundation and peace as the goal.
Matthew 5, NIV
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
WHAT ELSE DO WE LEARN?
I have read that one out of every thirty-five deaths in Chicago is a murder, and that most of these murders are “crimes of passion” caused by anger among friends or relatives. Jesus did not say that anger leads to murder; He said that anger is murder.
There is a holy anger against sin (Eph. 4:26), but Jesus talked about an unholy anger against people. The word He used in Matthew 5:22 means “a settled anger, malice that is nursed inwardly.” Jesus described a sinful experience that involved several stages. First there was causeless anger. This anger then exploded into words: “Raca—empty-headed person!” These words added fuel to the fire so that the person said, “You fool—rebel!”
Anger is such a foolish thing. It makes us destroyers instead of builders. It robs us of freedom and makes us prisoners. To hate someone is to commit murder in our hearts (1 John 3:15).
This does not mean that we should go ahead and murder someone we hate, since we have already sinned inwardly. Obviously, sinful feelings are not excuses for sinful deeds. Sinful anger robs us of fellowship with God as well as with our brothers, but it does not put us into jail as murderers. However, more than one person has become a murderer because he failed to control sinful anger.
Sinful anger must be faced honestly and must be confessed to God as sin. We must go to our brother and get the matter settled, and we must do it quickly. The longer we wait, the worse the bondage becomes! We put ourselves into a terrible prison when we refuse to be reconciled. (See Matt. 18:15–20 for additional counsel.) It has well been said that the person who refuses to forgive his brother destroys the very bridge over which he himself must walk.
SO, don’t murder and don’t even think about murder. Think loving reconciliation and peace above all else.
Ah, “all we like sheep”…What have you heard said that contradicts what God wants?
Jesus indeed teaches the opposite of what the world then and now thinks, says and does. That’s why it is hard for some to enter and consistently walk in the Kingdom of God. We need the Holy Spirit to help us. Call on Him and He will provide all the help we need.
Dear Father, Lord and Savior,
Thank you for making it clear what you expect of us. Thank you for pointing out The Way to You with humbled hearts. You are God and we are not. Continue to transform us to be all you intended for us to be.
In Jesus Name, Amen
Jesus came to earth, as God prophets foretold centuries before His coming, in the form of a tiny, helpless baby to parents who loved God and each other. God chose well. Jesus grew up in the church, learning The Law as did other Jewish boys. But Jesus was God in the flesh, the Word, the One and Only who could explain The Law. From a heart of love, He obeyed his earthly parents, knowing that He would someday be their Savior. On the path to being the Savior to the world, Jesus made The Law complete by explaining the original intent of God.
Yes, Jesus, sent by God, had a higher calling and a very specific mission. He knew His purpose for coming. He knew God’s Plan for He was there at the creation of this plan. Being all human and all God, He listened to God for direction in fulfilling this purpose.
Jesus taught that God’s love was the foundation of God’s Law. That was somehow missed or put aside over centuries. God’s people had lost their ability to love God and relegated themselves to simple obligatory obedience (or not) of His law. Religious, not relational, men decided to create addendums to God’s Law that eliminated God and His intent, replacing Him with man’s idea of selfishly rising above people in power and might. It was an “I win, you lose” situation. This was getting it all wrong. God’s Law was meant to protect people because of God’s love for His created.
A great example of Jesus telling “an expert” of God’s Law what was most important is found in Luke 10:25-28;
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
What if Jesus asked us, “how do you read it?”
What do we understand about God’s Word to us?
Is it just a list of do’s and don’t’s that we try to obey so we can be good enough to get to heaven?
Jesus helps this expert and others around him try to get it right: Love God. Love Others. Jesus lived The Law as He fulfilled God’s Law. The sermon on the mount proclaimed the foundation of God’s Law as love with a gospel of peace.
God gave Jesus the right words at the right time about the original intent of God’s Law to His children. God did not send Jesus to change The Law, but to change hearts and minds so people understood enough to get it right…and be righteous in obeying The Law because of their love for God and Others.
“His Law is love and His gospel is peace.” Let’s get it right.
Matthew 5, NIV
(Part 3-The Sermon)
The Fulfillment of the Law
17 “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. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Do we obey because we feel we must?
Or do we surpass mere obedience with wanting to please God, give honor and glory to God because our loving, intimate relationship with our Father in Heaven?
God’s Law is not a list. God’s law is love. We need to get it right…to be right with God.
Do I really believe that what I believe is really real?
Is what I think, say and do from a heart of love?
Dear Heavenly Father,
I’m sorry, Lord for those times I get all caught up in obedience and forget why I do what I do. I love you with all my heart, mind and soul. I’m driven by your love for me and others. Help us all to love like you love, for that is getting it right.
In Jesus Name, Amen