Friday, January 17, 2014

"The Sermon on the Mount …"

Day #21:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - January 18th

Scripture Reading:  Matthew 5 - 7 …

Understanding everything Jesus preached in His Sermon on the Mount requires looking at the whole thing as one message.  He speaks about so many different things, so it is important to consider what Jesus wanted the people to remember … What did He want them to "take away" with them and apply to their lives?  Several things jump out:

First, to be a disciple of Jesus you need to have the big picture in mind!  You need to look beyond the immediate and understand that life is more than the here and now, more than what you can see in the present.  In His "Beatitudes" in Chapter 5:3-12, Jesus redefines what it means to be "blessed."  To be "blessed" means that you are part of God's eternal kingdom and no matter what you may have or not have in THIS life and in THIS world, your inheritance will be your reward.

In fact, Jesus uses the word, "reward," several times.  In Chapter 6 He promises that the Father, who sees what you do in secret, will reward you.  Disciples of Jesus do not live in this life in order to GET in this life.  We are here to serve the Lord, to obey His commands out of love, because we WANT to, not because we HAVE to.  We are the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world."  Our goal is to praise our Father in heaven, in order that "HIS kingdom may come and HIS will be done" (6:10).

Second, to be a disciple of Jesus you need to avoid hypocrisy.  Doing things to be seen by others to receive praise for yourself reveals an inner self that has taken the broad road that leads to destruction.  Hypocrisy is so deadly that many will claim to be followers of Jesus on judgment day, but He will say, "I never knew you.  Away from Me you evildoers" (7:23).  Fulfilling the law is more than externals.  God's standard is perfection:  "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (5:48). God's righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and no one can meet God's standard.  Only by receiving the perfect righteousness of Christ by faith can anyone stand before God and be received into His presence.

That's why we must enter the kingdom through the small gate and walk the narrow road.  While Jesus doesn't mention faith, His sermon coincides with what James writes later:  "Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead" (James 2:17).  So Jesus says that "a good tree will bear good fruit, and a bad tree will bear bad fruit" (7:17).  The one who is seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, trusting in the grace of God and the forgiveness that is ours by faith in the Savior, will hear God's Word and do it, thus building their lives on the ROCK that cannot be moved.  What is on the inside will reveal itself on the outside.

Life lived in this way is a life lived with our hearts and minds on things above, where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father (Colossians 3:1-2).  "Storing up treasures in heaven" brings joy to life even in this world, for we know what lies ahead and can live in thankful obedience for God's gift of grace, even when persecuted or facing trials.  May our risen Lord, Himself, speak to your heart as you hear His Word and DO it!!

"Father in heaven, I thank You for the truth of Your Word and for the privilege of being a disciple of Jesus.  Let me live to honor Your name and to seek first Your kingdom.  Help me to serve you with perseverance, to forgive as You have forgiven Me, and to lay up treasures in heaven as I walk the narrow road that leads to life, by Your grace and by Your power, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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