Matthew 9: Miracles & Challenges

Take a few moments to read Matthew chapter 9 this evening. In this chapter we see the rising tide of Jesus’s popularity as a healer and a spiritual leader. We also see Him begin to encounter some resistance from the scribes and Pharisees. 

Verses 1-8 show us Christ healing a paralyzed man despite scribes charging Him with blasphemy. In verses 9-13, Jesus recruits Matthew and is again charged with sin, this time by the Pharisees who said that He was spending too much time with sinners. Jesus’s perfect response was that the healthy do not need a doctor; the spiritually sick would benefit more from His presence. 

Jesus’s remarks in verses 14-17 can be confusing. What it boils down to is that there will be a time and place for His disciples to fast, but not at that moment because Jesus was still with them. Regarding the talk of the wineskins, the meaning Jesus was imparting was that they should not let traditions (fasting) be more important than the coming new law of grace and repentance that would commence after Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection. His disciples and the disciples of John did not yet fully comprehend the meaning of Jesus’s arrival on earth. They believed in His divinity and had faith in His power, but the details were still to come. Step by step, Jesus is helping them understand using metaphors and parables.

Verses 18-38 show Jesus healing many more people. One woman is healed through her faith, a girl is raised from the dead, two blind men are given their sight and another man has a demon cast out of him. Jesus’s compassion blooms for the people in the closing words of the chapter as He considers their needs.

The scribes and Pharisees were the spiritual elite, the Jewish leaders that had a status quo to protect. Through His preaching, miracles and claims, Jesus was seriously disrupting their religious status quo. They had traditions and their own power to protect, which was threatened by Jesus whenever He forgave sins and healed the sick and afflicted. They did not want to believe that He was who He said He was. So they charged Him with blasphemy and with using the power of demons. It is the beginning of the conflict that will end his earthly life. But the real cause for Jesus’ death is not the persecution of the Jewish elite. Jesus died willingly for mankind so that we can be reconciled to God for our sins.

Matthew 8: Faith & Fear

After the sermon on the mount, this chapter gives us more insight into Jesus’s ministry. We see Him teaching and healing people, confronting and defeating demons. His interactions reveal His divinity.

Verses 1-17

Jesus heals the afflictions of many people in this passage. A man is cured of leprosy, a servant is cured of paralysis, Peter’s mother-in-law is cured of a fever and many more with sicknesses were healed that night. We also learn that Jesus is healing those possessed of demons. Notice the methods Jesus uses in this passage: with many he touches them to heal, and with the demons and the centurion’s servant he heals by only speaking it. 

Jesus praises the centurion for his simple yet effective faith. We can imagine Jesus, surrounded by many people yet sought by the centurion. The centurion sees the difficulty in having Jesus travel to his home, so suggests that Jesus just heal his servant from where he is. The centurion’s faith is impressive to Jesus because this deep faith was not found in the Jews. Jesus uses the centurion’s faith as a springboard to teach His followers that all people will be able to worship God. Unfaithful Jews, however, God’s chosen people, ironically will be cast into Hell for their lack of faith.

Verses 18-22

Two parallel ideas are present in these verses. The first is that those that would follow Jesus at that time would not have had a place to sleep each night. The comforts and responsibilities of home and family they would have to leave behind if they were to follow Jesus. Jesus knew that some would be unwilling to give these things up to follow Him.

The second idea is that the same sacrifices are required of us as followers of Jesus today. Forsaking what we own materially, and other matters that seem important to us often are unimportant when compared to the sacrifice and privilege involved in following Jesus.

Verses 23-27

In these verses Jesus calms the sea, something that no regular person could do. Notice that Jesus was sleeping at the time. He was not worried and had no concern for His life or the lives of the disciples in the boat. Once awoken by the disciples out of fear for the weather, Jesus recognizes their lack of faith as he quiets the sea. He had that ability. How amazing!

Also notice the contrast in conditions. The storm is described as a great tempest at first, then as a great calm. Jesus was able to not only scale back the awful storm, but to bring the ocean to a state of calm serenity where no one feared for anything. This idea, just like in verses 18-22, is an application for us. The torment, guilt and chaos that sin brings into our life can be healed by Jesus. He replaces it with peace, strength and gratitude.

Verses 28-34

Two men possessed by demons cross paths with Jesus. The demons inside the men recognize Jesus for who He is immediately and are afraid. They are so afraid that they propose their own punishment. Jesus permits it and the demons go into the herd of pigs that then drown in the sea. Jesus’s power is evident to them.

This chapter shows us the impression that the Son of God makes on the world. He heals, saves and judges. Jesus is undeniable. You will either accept or reject Him in your life. Whatever your choice may be, He sees what is in your heart. 

Matthew 7 Pt. 2: Understand What the Will of the Lord Is

Tonight we conclude our survey of Jesus’s Sermon on the mount with verses 15-29 of Matthew 7. There are three ideas to explore tonight and they are each important to us in a different way.

The first has to do with recognizing false prophets and liars. How can you spot a liar? Look at the outcome of their previous efforts, at their track record. What have they previously accomplished? Do their current claims match the pattern of their life? If things do not add up, it is right to be suspicious and judge using righteous judgment. Although we can apply verses 15-20 to spotting liars, Jesus primary intention is to educate us on spotting false prophets. This means people that come teaching God and spiritual matters that do not have a foundation in truth. In Jesus’s time and in the years after His death, there were many men that professed to speak the word and will of God. But unless they spoke exactly the facts as Jesus and the apostles, they were false prophets:

““Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”‭‭ Matthew‬ ‭24:23-27‬

Even today it is very important that we listen with honest ears. Men and women continue to change and pervert the word of God today. Some bend it so that it suits their own ideas. Some want something from the listener other than their belief in Jesus. Some want money or an alignment of spiritual matters with their politics. God’s word is holy and true and if something that someone is teaching cannot be found in or supported by the Bible, then it has no place in our spiritual lives and should in fact be rejected.

We can trust Jesus’s words because He is the Son of God sent to earth to do God’s will. We can trust the apostles because they spoke as the Holy Spirit gave them the words to do so.

“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” ‭‭John‬ ‭16:13‬ 

We can wholly trust God’s Word as absolute truth. We can have full confidence that the words and ideas we read in the Bible are meant for us, God’s direct communication to us. What a comfort!

Tonight’s second idea is in verses 21-23 and is a progression of the idea of false prophets. Jesus tells us that many people will say that they know God, that they are working for God and that they are doing His will. But unless they are truly doing God’s will, God will deny them. How would they know whether they are doing God’s will? By making sure it matches what is in the Bible. 

It is a good thing for a person to say they love God. It is a great thing when someone reads the Bible and is baptized and saved. But it is a very sad thing when someone thinks they are on the right path but have not given the proper consideration to what God expects from them as His child. In this case, ignorance brings a penalty: “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” Matthew‬ ‭7:22-23

These two verses have in them such a sad loneliness and desolation of spirit that they should spur us to take every word of God’s book with absolute seriousness. It’s true that we do not see many people prophesying or casting out demons, but the intent of the teaching stands: whatever is done in the name of God should be done with full knowledge of the truth.

The third and final idea in tonight’s study and the last in Jesus’s mountain sermon in Matthew is found in verses 24-29 and has to do with thoughtfulness and wise action. If we build our life and behaviors on God’s holy word, there is no storm of life that we cannot handle. God’s word provides us with strength, hope and fortitude.

But if we build our lives on empty ideas and false beliefs, we are easily defeated. Without God’s truth and surety, we have no backbone to withstand the trials of life and temptations of Satan.

Looking at these three ideas tonight, you can see how one flows into the next and how they build upon each other:

1. Beware false teaching because it will corrupt your understanding of God’s will and will lead you away from God

2. Those who teach and do things apart from God’s will have an eternal penalty

3. Make sure that when you believe and act on God’s instruction, you are doing so with the right understanding of what His will is

May you always seek the true will of God. May God bless you. Seek Him and everything else will fall into place.

Matthew 7 Pt. 1: Judgment, Treatment and the Path

We will study Matthew chapter 7 in two parts: half this week and half next week. Tonight’s study is comprised of verses 1-14. 

Forming an opinion is natural. That is why the first passage in verses 1-5 is challenging. Comparing ourselves to others can happen without intention and while not necessarily bad, as it can teach us things about ourselves, it can be unhealthy. When comparison turns into judgment teetering on condemnation, then we are elbowing in on God’s perfect judgment. Whether someone else is right or wrong has no bearing on the destination of our souls. In fact, we are highly unqualified to judge another person. It is better that we leave it up to God to judge with His righteous and effective judgment.

Jesus’s words are very clear about how we will be judged ourselves in direct proportion to how we judge. As in the illustration of the speck/plank, we need to be aware that we might have worse character defects than the person we judge.

We have to acknowledge that we will never be perfect in this. It would be silly and impossible to assume that we will never again judge a human being. As mentioned earlier, it happens naturally. The tone of our judgment has to be managed so that it is helpful, not hurtful for ourselves and for others. If the results of our judging someone is that we help the person, then we judge rightly. Righteous judgment like this can be particularly helpful with those closest to us, family and close friends. 

What it boils down to is that we cannot control others; we can only control ourselves. Why do we dwell on other’s faults when we have some of our own that need work? Once we improve ourselves, we are more qualified to help others (speck/plank again). We should also be smart in the use of righteous judgment. If it does no good, if it is resisted and denied, then we can find a better use of our time.

The next passage in verses 7-12 reveal God’s love and grace in a way that is enlightening. After having considered the weighty matter of judgment, Jesus instructs that God wants to provide. His love for us is great and willing to give: we need only seek Him and make requests through prayer. God behaves to us as a father to his children, with love, provision and care. If we obey Him, seek Him, and ask Him, we will receive His blessings. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

Verse 12 is the source for what is known as the golden rule. However we should like others to treat us, that is how we should treat others. Do we want people to be friendly, welcoming and kind towards us? Do we want them to ignore us? Judge us? Talk about us behind our back?

Lastly for tonight we review verses 13 and 14. All scripture is important and has weight, but these two verses seem particularly heavy with meaning. They describe and compare the way that most of the people in the world live with the way we should live if we want to go to heaven:

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

As most of us probably know, living in sin is easy. And it’s fun. It would be foolish to deny that sin does not bring pleasure and happiness (even if the happiness is fleeting). It does not take a lot of effort to do what we want to do as individuals with our lives. That is simple. What takes effort is finding that path of righteousness in life and staying on it. Sacrificing our own desires for God’s desires. Praying every morning and night and studying the Bible daily are the two best ways I know of to stay on this path to heaven. 

Matthew 6 Pt. 2: Serve One Master 

Tonight we will read Matthew 6:19-34. The themes found in this passage are timeless and familiar to Bible students. To those that have not been exposed to these ideas, they can be a revelation. 

These verses constitute a discussion on how to live. We can either live chasing money, pleasure and things, or we can live serving God and trying to get to heaven. 

Verses 19-21 tell us not to trust or value too much the material things in life. From our car, mobile phone, bank account to sentimental items, these things are temporal and will one day fade away and crumble to nothing. But God’s word, His will and the heavens are infinite. They will never pass away. Living spiritually requires more patience and maturity, but is also more realistic as it pertains to our eternal soul. It requires regular prayer, purposeful living and actively resisting temptations. We seek God through study and prayer and we are rewarded with peace and blessings.

Verses 22 and 23 concern what we see in the world. Do we look upon the world with eyes that only seek our own selfish benefits? If so, then our life and actions follow. The pattern of life then will indicate empty pursuits. However, if we seek the good in situations and in people, we will be a more positive influence to others and will live a life that indicates godliness and holiness. The theme of seeking goodness and peace over our own selfish interests is found time and time again in the word of God. 

Verses 24 confirms that we cannot have it both ways. If I try to both treasure God and consider my earthly possessions as sacred, I will fail. Any combination of God and the world ends with God not residing in first place in our life. This is the only true and right place for Him.

The final passage for tonight is a prescription against worrying. It boils down to the idea that there is no reason for us to worry so long as God has the rightful place in our life: first place. The descriptions in this passage are simple and beautiful. Of course God cares for wildflowers and animals in the world He has made. We, as His greatest creation are subject to even more blessings than flowers and birds. The problem of worrying needs an answer of faith. Why do I need to worry when the great and holy and almighty God is my God?

Matthew 6 Pt. 1: Look out, Not in

Tonight we will be testing just verses 1-18 of Matthew 6. In this passage, Jesus urges His disciples and us not to pursue selfish interests when praising God, praying or fasting. The model prayer is also part of tonight’s study in verses 5-15. We will start with the model prayer.

This prayer is not a model to be copied and endlessly repeated (although I think one can repeat it and pray meaningfully, provided concentration on the meaning of the words), but to serve as a model of what sorts of things our prayers should contain. Verse 7 specifically says that repeating a prayer for its many words does not mean it will be heard. Jesus wants us to pray “in this manner.” So let us look at the things for which Jesus is praying. Read verses 9-13 and consider:

Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

     – address God with deference

Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

     – acknowledge His will and heavenly kingdom with the confidence that all is and will be as He desires. We want that His will be done and not our own. His kingdom means the church, the fulfillment of Christ’s sacrifice and ultimate return

Give us this day our daily bread. 

     – seek the necessities of life from Him, which He is so able to provide

And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.

     – acknowledge our sins/God’s forgiveness and that we in turn will forgive others

And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. 

     – seek protection from God for corruption from Satan

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

     – once more recognize His awesome power and creator of all we know, all our blessings

The Lord’s Prayer is a sacred thing, a guidepost for how we should address God. Although brief, it speaks to our spiritual needs, our physical needs and our relationships. It is simple, beautiful and carries deep meaning.

Looking at the structure of verses 1-18, Jesus has specified three activities as examples for our service to God. These three examples help us to create an effective model for successful spiritual living: a model that does not revolve around us as individuals, but revolves around God and others. We are most important when serving God as a tool to deliver blessings to those that need it. Here is Jesus’s advice in a nutshell:

1. Charitable Deeds

     – do them in secret

2. Praying

     – alone in private

3. Fasting

     – appear as if your are not fasting

The theme in these three items is apparent: Our faith is a private affair between us and the Lord. Of course we are intended to share our faith in God, but not with the purpose of building ourselves up in the minds of others. A relationship with God is between the person and God, after all. Our relationship with God does not exist to impress others, and the good things we do for others are for the people receiving the gift, not so that everyone standing on the sidelines of our life can be impressed. It can be easy to be caught up in wanting attention for the good things we do, but Jesus is reminding us why we are doing them: for God’s glory and not our own.

Looking deeper into this, the blame rests on me if I begin to feel as if no one appreciates my good deeds. If I seek attention, but also see and hear of so much of what others are doing, I wonder why no one is talking about what I am doing. Others get praised, publicly or privately and we can feel slighted when no one notices the thoughtful gifts we give others. When this happens, it reveals that our hearts are not in the right place.

Because good deeds are not for us, they are ultimately for God. He is the receiver and He is the reason. Yes, the poor, hungry and sick receive our food, prayers and assistance, but the ultimate reason we have acted is because of God’s admonition for us to do so. It is God living in us. Our good deeds abound to His glory and we are serving Him as earthly tools to bless the sick, afflicted and poor. The right perspective readies us to properly be blessings to others in prayer, deed and fasting without muddying the waters with ourselves. We will get our reward. God keeps all His promises and is a promise keeper and we will receive the rewards we are due: 

“that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”‭‭ Matthew‬ ‭6:4‬

A quick word on fasting: Yes, we can go without food in service to God. Denying food to the body will remind us of how much we rely on Him. This keeps God at the front of our minds and helps us remember how much He provides. Some have fasted from things other than food with the same result.

Sometimes it can seem that humanity as a whole is unapologetically concerned with themselves, their time, their money, their accolades, their world. But the world forgets that all is created by Him, shaped by Him, and every good thing we have comes from Him.

“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1:16‬

Jesus’s words are so valuable because they show us the best way to live. The guidance can be contrary to our nature, but once employed, a deep spiritual peace and fulfillment comes into our hearts. Reading God’s word and putting it into practice is the only way to get such calming peace in our lives. It is not easy, but it is worth it.

Matthew 5 Pt. 4: Giving and Forgiving

Tonight we finish Matthew chapter 5 with verses 38-48. These verses impart to us simple lessons that are easy to comprehend but can be difficult to practice. In these sayings, Jesus is telling us to put others first. It is simple. He gives us examples of how to do this in verses 38-42. If someone antagonizes us, we should not fight back, but remain meek. Christ is telling us to not be offenders, to not be affected by the antagonizers of this world, but to return evil with good. In this instance we can offer or bodies as peace offerings in a figurative or literal sense, should it come to that.

The second example encourages us to be free with our material possessions. If someone asks for a jacket in the cold, we should freely give it and more. If we see that our help is not enough, Jesus encourages us to give beyond what was asked until the need is fully met. This is a sacrifice of our material things.

The third example Jesus provides is that if someone asks us to go with them one mile, we should go with them two miles. It is a show of solidarity with someone who had asked a favor that might otherwise be alone. This is a sacrifice of our time. 

All three of these examples require us to give of ourselves. Being honest, it can be painful to turn the other cheek, give away a trusted possession or sacrifice our time. This is especially true if we have other plans or find ourselves giving something away that we love and saved for but we know we might not ever see again. But consider the end result of these sacrifices: they each make a lasting impression on the receiver of them. People generally expect one to fight back. Some folks may be wary of lending their things but few will voluntarily lend more than asked. And giving your time? Rarely is it that we find those that will go above and beyond to help someone other than family or close friends. But Jesus’s words here are not limited to any one faction of our life. These sacrifices are encouraged for anyone to give to anyone else. This includes the panhandler on the of off ramp that looks like they could get a job if they really wanted to. Jesus doesn’t ask us to judge; Jesus asks us to give.

Verses 43-48 say a very similar thing but this time it is focused on enemies. We all have enemies and some we deal with more civilly than others. This passage mentions those that treat us unfairly, poorly, or that persecute and use us. Jesus tells us not to take vengeance, not to attack, but to pray for them and to do good things for them. Because God is good to us, the righteous, but is He not also good to the unrighteous of the world? Yes. He loves us all. 

We find that when we actually do this, it feels different, but it also feels right. It feels good. Acting contrary to our baser nature helps us realize that when we trust in the Lord’s Word, even though it initially feels wrong, in the end it was so obviously the right thing to do. Why spend our lives in conflict when we can be peacemakers and peacekeepers? Why pursue our own agendas when we can serve others and find that peace inside ourselves that can only be had when we follow Him?

Matthew 5 Pt. 3: Cursing and Swearing

Tonight we continue our reading of Matthew 5 with verses 33-37. These verses have to do with swearing. Firstly, we need to establish that the term “swearing” has two meanings:

1. Taking an oath

2. Cursing

It is my belief that Jesus’s words in these verses apply to both instances. The theme of these verses is that it is forbidden to swear by something (heaven, earth, Jerusalem, yourself) because either these things are holy or you have no control over them. For example, if I were to say “I swear on my mother’s grave” or “I swear on the lives of my children,” the implication is that if I somehow do not make good on my oath, then something bad might happen to my mother or my children. Therefore the understanding is that I would make sure to keep my oath to prevent anything from happening to them. 

But Jesus is speaking against beliefs and superstitions like this one because we really do not have power over the ultimate well-being of the lives of others, even our loved ones. To suppose that the actions regarding an oath made could come to bear on children in a way that is unconnected to the way we normally interact with them would be to assume that we have some godly powers. It is foolish to think that we are convincing ourselves or others of the depth of our conviction regarding a promise when we swear by it. Jesus gives us the answer that we are to simply let our “yes” and “no” stand for themselves. 

If we “swear to God,” we are making light of His power and His name. This is different than taking God’s name in vain because we think we are promising something to God, making our oath more meaningful because we are making it to God or including God. But what we are really doing is revealing a duplicity within ourselves. Why should my word be any different if I make it to my friend or to God? If I make the same oath to my friend but I don’t swear it to God, does that make it less likely that I will keep my oath? No. Jesus is saying that your word is your word. What we say, what we agree to and what we commit to are very important because they determine our integrity and they sum up the degree of our trustworthiness.

Regarding cursing, let’s look and see how Jesus’s teachings in these verses apply. Jesus says that whatever is beyond our “yes” and “no” is from the devil. This means that we are to speak purposefully and clearly, realizing that our word is our bond and that we will be accountable for all of our words one day. But what is it that makes us curse? And what makes cursing sinful? Why is it an attractive temptation? 

We curse because we are disappointed in outcomes. We find a dent in our car. We rip our pants. We smack our head against the cupboard accidentally. These curses come about due to our anger at unexpected negativity or pain. In hindsight, they can be humorous. But at the time, we are angry. So we curse. It feels good as well, like we are taking back some power, voicing our resistance to what just happened.

But what does this cursing really amount to? When you boil it down, it is a protest of reality. If I mutter a word because my team lost or I spilled something, I am expressing frustration at the reality of my life. When I have subjected my life to the Lord, I am more willing to accept the ups and downs of life as part of His plan. Whether God’s plan for my life includes the deaths of loved ones or if I just smash my finger with a hammer, it does not grant me license to utter perverse things by way of relieving the pressure. Rather, I should just accept His will and take the hammer blow for what it is: a sign that I am not paying enough attention to what I am doing!

Also, cursing is sinful due to the meanings of the words used. Whether it is meant to be funny or to express displeasure or happiness, cursing in everyday speech is sinful. Even if it seems harmless, consider that the meanings of these words are perverted, obscene, and irreverent. The things they refer to are unholy and better left unsaid in common everyday speech. 

Tonight I encourage you to keep your speech clean, the speech that comes out of your mouth as well as the neverending dialog you have with yourself in your head. Swearing and cursing are dirty sinful habits, difficult to break, but once broken, a clean and pure state of mind remains, a mind that is better arranged to serve God.

Colossians 4:6:

“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

James‬ ‭3:8-12:

‭‭“But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.”

Matthew 5 Pt. 2: Purity of Heart

Tonight we continue our study in Matthew 5, picking up in verse 17 and continuing to verse 32. In verses 17 through 20, Jesus is addressing a topic that had most likely come up through His teachings. This has to do with how Jesus’s teachings related to the old Mosaic law. He said that He has come to fulfill prophecies, to fulfill the Law, indeed to be a progression of God’s official relationship to mankind. He underlines the importance of adhering to the commandments and of teaching them. Jesus concludes this section by making a judgment on the scribes and Pharisees, who made it a point of following the law to the letter, but for all their effort in keeping the law, their righteousness lacked. The scribes and Pharisees concentrated on outwardly keeping the law, but their hearts were not in it. If we focus on perfecting our righteousness as compared to the efforts of the scribes and Pharisees, we may enter the kingdom of heaven. Empty actions not supported by selfish intentions are worthless.

In verses 20 through 26 Jesus makes progress on clarifying the state of mind that God may have intended for man to have when the Ten Commandments were first handed down. It is not enough for us to not murder, slander or wish ill. Rather, within our hearts there should abide a sense of love, compassion and good honest intentions for all fellow men. In this passage, Jesus tells us that it is sin to be angry with a brother for no reason, and worse sin to speak evil to him. Jesus is telling us that our hearts should be pure and honest, not self-seeking or judgmental when it comes to relationships.

Also in 20 through 26, Jesus instructs that if we come before God and have evil in our heart to our fellow brother, it is wrong. The worship and honor that God desires from us should be clean, untainted by grudges or anger. It prompts is to look inside ourselves and ask: Who do I hold in disdain? Who do I actively dislike? What is keeping me from loving my brother or sister? Sometimes we have to do some work on ourselves before we are ready to meet God. And God can help us with this. It is usually a “me” problem because we cannot control others, but we can control our reaction to what irks us about them. Staying upbeat and always assuming positive intent can help tremendously with troublesome relationships. The penalty for not keeping your side of the street clean will be high.

Moving on to verses 27 through 32, Jesus addresses marriage and adultery. And in this section Jesus continues on with the theme seen earlier around wishing ill of someone/murdering them. Earlier, Jesus acknowledged that murder was a sin, but He also said that thinking ill of a brother without cause was a sin too. In this case, Jesus acknowledges adultery as a sin but also says that the things that lead to adultery are sins too. 

Moreover, if something valuable to us cannot be kept valuable because there is too much temptation involved, better for us to drop the whole business altogether. Plucking out one’s eyes is gruesome indeed, but Jesus makes this point to say that heaven is so great, it is worth any price at all.

The two verses on marriage that conclude tonight’s study are clear and plain. It was once permissible under the law of Moses to divorce without pretext, but now it is only allowable under God if sexual immorality has occurred. This means one spouse engaging in extramarital infidelity. The accordant logic is at work here as well in the latter part of verse 32. There is a chain of logic at work here employed by Jesus which stresses the holy institution of marriage. Marriage is to be taken seriously and soberly. 

Tonight’s lesson centers on intent. If I really intend to get to heaven, how am I treating my brothers, sisters and fellow man? Is my intent with my friends, neighbors and relatives honest and good? Do I want the best for them and help them when I am able? My intentions should be to have a positive impact, whether big or small. And in matters of the heart, regarding the true intentions of my heart concerning my marriage also, am I pure? 

Matthew 5 Pt.1: The Beatitudes

Tonight we begin a three-part study of Matthew 5 and will be studying verses 1-16 which contain the Beatitudes and an explanation about believers. This chapter contains too much material to cover in just one study and we will give it the proper attention it deserves by spreading it out over three weeks.

Starting in verses 1-2, Jesus finds himself surrounded by people and prepares to teach them. His popularity has increased since word of his miracles spread and He needs to go to a high place in order to properly reach the people. He goes up on a mountain and sits and waits until his followers are assembled around Him. Then Jesus gives us the Beatitudes. 

If one was going to draw a similarity of the old and new covenants here, one might be tempted to call the Beatitudes the New Testament’s version of the Ten Commandments. Think of the old law and the Ten Commandments: the old law was restrictive, and the Ten Commandments were mostly prohibitive. On the other hand, God’s new covenant through Christ grants us freedom through servitude, baptism and forgiveness of sins. Also, depending on how you number the statements in the Beatitudes, you might be able to number them at ten. Give it a try. 

While it is interesting to think of the Beatitudes as a new and improved version of the Ten Commandments, they are really so much more than that. The Beatitudes are a philosophy on godly living. They show us ultimately that we have spiritual gain and spiritual success when we rely on God rather than ourselves. 

The satisfaction that we get from a relationship with God does not come from our own ability to pray, worship or study; we get spiritual fulfillment and are most pleasing to God when we realize and act in a way reflective of how small we truly are: It is not I that is great; it is God that is great. I did not create the positive circumstances of my life; God did. My own skills, powers and abilities are mine because God allows it. The moment I revel in my own accomplishments or when I trust in myself or an institution of man to solve my problems, I am going the wrong way. Have you ever wondered why Alcoholics Anonymous is so quietly successful? It all centers around a belief that God can remove the desire to drink; the alcoholic cannot do it themselves. 

So when it comes to how we think of ourselves, the secret Jesus is letting us in on is to think small. I’m not important, I’m not a special snowflake, I am just a sinner. A sinner blessed and graced with God’s consideration. When I suffer, I am blessed because it brings me closer to God. When I stop thinking of how I might compare to other people or that I might be a little better than other people, I will receive mercy. If I seek peace rather than create conflict because I think I am a victim of something, I will be called a son of God. The Beatitudes teach us to take the high road. If we seek righteousness, we will obtain righteousness. If we do good and are persecuted or shamed, it only makes our reward in heaven greater.

The message sent in the Beatitudes reveals a theme of irony in the New Testament: When I am small, I am actually big. When I am weak, I am actually strong. Relying on my own strength will not get me half as far as relying on God’s strength.

What does it look like to rely on the strength of God? It means praying regularly and asking Him to help guide your life. It means asking God to help you make tough decisions and to help you act in the right way in difficult situations and relationships. It means to stop excessive and debilitating worrying that never helps anyway. 

When we live in this manner, we transform into the type of believer described in verses 13-16 of chapter 5. If we live lives that are truly dependent on God, it will show and others will notice. It is easy to be ashamed of living this way in the world because the world does not know God, the world thinks that God is foolishness. However, God’s blessings on a life are visible. And the peace that comes from leaning on Him for strength can be seen by anyone that is looking.

It’s a win-win.