“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
The Beatitudes open Jesus’ sermon on the mount. They represent God’s values contrasting with the world’s.
What worldly value does Jesus’ statement contradict?
Immediately after the introduction of the sermon on the mount—the joyful beatitudes—comes the great missions statement of Jesus, making his disciples salt and light in the world, Mt 5.13-15. Here is where the joy starts, in fulfilling the purpose of God for our lives in the world. This is how the sermon proper starts, with mission.
Why does Jesus need to tell his people to shine? Continue reading
According to this news story, one police officer practiced what I consider to be one of the toughest commands of following Jesus – hands down!
I don’t know if the officer was, is or ever will be a Christian, but I know that turning the other cheek is no easy task.
Turning the other cheek goes against every basic feeling that follows being wronged on whatever level you can imagine. Turning the other cheek calls for a level of self-denial that’s uncomfortable. Turning the other cheek puts us in a place that appears vulnerable. Turning the other cheek is counter-culture to practically every culture that has ever existed. To the world, turning the other cheek reeks of weakness.
But regardless of what the world initially thinks of the idea known as turning the other cheek, the world takes note of the discipline and patience that it takes to carry it out…whether the individual is in a place of authority or not.
Considering the last two paragraphs, it’s no wonder Jesus delivered his challenging command of turning the other cheek during his “kingdom of God outline” speech. I mean, what in the sermon on the mount is easy to follow when it comes to the way we naturally feel in many of life’s situations? And what part of Jesus’ sermon still doesn’t catch the world’s attention when it’s seen played out?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” (Matthew 5:38-39)
“Hyperbole” is a common figure of speech. We use it all the time. Oops — I just used one! Hyperbole is exaggeration used on purpose for the sake of emphasizing a point. Here are some examples of hyperbole: * “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times.” * “She is older than the hills.” * “He’s strong as an ox.” * “She’s quick as a cat.” * “That suitcase weighs a ton,” etc., etc. Hyperbole stresses a point by exaggerating. It is the verbal equivalent of a highlighted section of text in a bold and brilliant color.
Jesus used hyperbole in Matthew 5:27-30 to issue one of the most startling and challenging demands in all His teachings. In that passage He is illustrating that true conformity to God’s law goes further than outward obedience to a list of “Thou shalt not’s.” The passage reads this way: You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” Do what, Jesus?! Those are graphic images — take a scalpel or a knife and remove an eye if that eye is influencing you to sin; or take a saw and amputate your hand if that’s what it takes to keep from sinning. What goes here? Would Jesus have us be into self-mutilation of our physical bodies?
The answer is no, No, NO, NO, NO, NO! In no Bible passage does Christ call followers to physically maim their bodies. The passage is a powerful example of hyperbole. In this case, holy hyperbole, because what Jesus demands of His true disciples is to take temptation and sin seriously, especially the sexual kind. By means of holy hyperbole Jesus reminds us that adultery does not begin in a bed or the back seat of a car. It begins with a look that lingers. The look then turns to lust. The lust leads on to adultery with the one who is the object of our lust — if not in an actual motel room or physical hide-away, at least in the secret and unseen chambers of the heart and mind. Back to the passage quoted earlier, Christ warns that we should get serious about sexual sin. The greatest threat of adultery, actual or mental, is that those who practice it will ultimately be ‘cast into hell.” That’s an outcome our sexually liberated, sex-saturated culture has all but completely air-brushed out of its sexual mentality. Be that as it may, Jesus demands His disciples to pluck some things out and cut some things off. A voluntary amputation, not of physical eyes and hands, but habits and behaviors and places and maybe even some people who pressure us to sin sexually, whether in our minds or with our bodies. Maybe cutting off some TV shows or internet sites or some magazines or music or movies. How serious are you about avoiding the sin of adultery, even in your heart? Christ warns us to avoid it at all costs — and He uses holy hyperbole to stress the point. Is there anything or anybody in your life you need to pluck out and cut off to avoid adultery? Think about it.
Dan Gulley – Smithville Church of Christ, TN
I am looking at an eight ounce bottle of hand sanitizer. The kind you pump into your palm and then feel the cool sensation and smell the alcohol-like smell as it presumably kills millions of potentially life-threatening germs and bacteria living on your skin! The brand-name is “germ-X hand sanitizer.” In bold red letters at the bottom of the bottle are these words: “Kills 99.99% of germs.” The prevalence of such products reminds me we live in a dirty world. Several years ago a news report in Nashville revealed that bacteria was found on 50 of 51 public places and things examined, including telephones, computer keyboards, restaurant salad bars, etc. Believe it or not, one of the cleanest places found were commode seat lids! The news segment was entitled, “IT’S A DIRTY WORLD!” In our hyper-health-conscious age, Americans are more concerned about dirt than ever. We use cleaners, disinfectants, and antiseptics. Soap is big business. We scrub, clean, deodorize, sanitize, and sterilize because we know dirt can be dangerous and even deadly to physical life. So we wash and clean our clothes, cars, hands, heads, houses, bodies, and buildings. We filter our water and air and demand the food supply be kept pure. We wouldn’t want impurities in our lungs or livers. Or cholesterol in our veins, lead in the pipes and paint, asbestos in the walls, second-hand smoke in the room, or smog in the atmosphere. We even insist landfills be “sanitary,” and spend billions to insure waste is disposed of in a way that doesn’t pollute the water table or land!
I applaud our commitment to physical cleanness and purity. But our hands are not the only things that need sanitizing. On any given day in America, we are exposed to thousands of spiritual germs and bacteria. Spiritual toxins and impurities constantly seek to enter and pollute our spiritual hearts! Our culture is saturated with dirty words and images and sights and sounds. Dirt and germs seek entry into our hearts through our eyes and ears. These days TV could easily be taken to stand for “trashy values.” It’s getting harder and harder to find decent TV programming during prime-time viewing hours. Dirt also comes packaged in much of the music that fills the air and millions of iPods. Doug Stone released a song in 1992 that warned, “They ought to put warning labels on those sad country songs.” We might add on those sexually suggestive country songs, too. And not just country — also rock and pop and hip-hop! I could go on but don’t need to. You know I am telling you the truth. We live in sinful and morally dirty world that seeks to pollute our hearts. That’s why Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:8 are so critical — “Blessed are, the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” We don’t just need a hand sanitizer. Because of contact with sin, we need a heart sanitizer. Thank God we have one! “If we walk in the light as He is the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). We apply that sanitizer to our souls when we respond to Christ’s call to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). It is truly a dirty world, but the blood of Christ is powerful enough to sanitize our souls and make our hearts pure. Do you have a pure heart?
Dan Gulley – Smithville church of Christ
Dennis the Menace once said, “I said I’m hungry enough to eat a horse. I didn’t say nothin’ about carrots.” At times our hunger is more for what tastes good to us than what is good for us. Fran Lebowitz noted, “Mealtime is the only time of the day when children resolutely refuse to eat.” They often hold out for a “Happy Meal” or something sweeter to the taste than carrots or spinach, etc.! The burning question for millions in our culture is not, “Are you hungry?” but “What are you hungry for?” We have to get that worked out because practically every town and city in our nation offers a plethora of places to eat. Do you want Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, even Thai? Will it be fish tonight, or pork, or a steak, or chicken? Sushi anyone? Maybe spaghetti or pizza? In our “go out to eat” culture, the choices are seemingly endless, and so, to reiterate, we often hear the question, “What are you hungry for?” Investigative journalist Eric Schlosser revealed that we often opt to feed on “fast food.” In his 2001 best selling book Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Schlosser reported that Americans spend more money on fast food than on higher education, computers, computer software or new cars. In fact, according to Schlosser, we spend more on fast food than movies, books, magazines, newspaper and recorded music — combined. That’s a lot of Big Mac’s and Krystals and Chic-Filets and Frosties and tater tots.
So, what are you hungry for? Americans crave a fast fill-up for all kinds of hungers — fortune, fame, fun, power, possessions, sensual pleasure, etc. But Christ challenges us to think outside the Big Mac box when He says in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” These words compel us to think beyond the felt, physical needs of the body to the deeper spiritual needs of the soul. God wants us to experience a hunger and thirst for the holy. In a world with more appetite for what feels right than for what God says is right, Christians must maintain an acute appetite for righteousness and the things that feed it. I grew up on a farm where we had cows, ponies, chickens, and even a few pigs to tend and feed. One thing became clear through my experiences on that farm — if a cow or horse or pig is healthy, it has an intense appetite for the stuff cows and horses and pigs eat and drink — clover, crushed corn and grain sorghum, other grains, hay and, of course, water. And they stayed busy feeding their hunger and slaking their thirst. You never had to brow beat them or preach sermons reminding them to eat and to drink the things that livestock are supposed to eat and drink! Their appetites and how and what to feed them came built-in. Now, there are no “holy cows,” but Christians are called to be holy and love what is right. Do you hunger and thirst for the holy? Are you on a diet that feeds righteousness — Bible reading, prayer, worship assemblies, etc.? What are you feeding and drinking into your mind and heart and home? Just what are you hungry for? Think about it.
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and He who believes in Me shall never thirst” – Jesus Christ, John 6:35
Dan Gulley – Smithville Church of Christ
(#9) God’s Wisdom is Beneficial, Universal, Calming 3:13-26
Verses 13-18: Wisdom is described as a woman with benefits, who appears to have only good things to bring to a person’s life. The contrast with the “immoral woman” (Proverbs 2:16-22) could not be greater, and should correct those who might think Solomon was against all women! An immoral woman can destroy a man, but Wisdom appearing as a woman can preserve a man. Wisdom makes a man “happy” (verse 13) because she is:
Profitable (verse 14) beyond possessing silver and gold. A wise life will make money to enjoy (Ecclesiastes 5:19), but a foolish one doesn’t know how to enjoy wealth (Ecclesiastes 6:2).
Precious (verse 15) beyond rubies, and nothing else is as desirable.
Prolongs life (verse 16) with her “right hand,” and the main rewards in life (“riches and honor”) in her “left hand.” This shows Wisdom has nothing in her hands but good.
Pleasant (verse 17) ways and paths of peace, instead of crooked ways and devious paths of the immoral woman. Could Wisdom be more appealing? Who does not look forward to a pleasant life, lived in peace?
Paradise (verse 18) is where the “tree of life” was when access was lost for all of us by Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:9; 3:22-24; Revelation 2:7). Wisdom will help us find the way back to that tree to live with God.
Verses 19-20: God’s Creation was designed with such wisdom, that all scientific discoveries are simply the uncovering of the Wisdom of God! The expression, “scientific discoveries” does not include “what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20), such as Evolution, Global Warming, Global Cooling, ad nauseum. God imbedded “Wisdom” in Creating the earth, itself; God showed “understanding” in making “the heavens” so precisely; God used “knowledge” in Noah’s day when “all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened” (Genesis 7:11). The terms, “wisdom,” “understanding,” “knowledge,” are not mutually exclusive, but complement each other.
Verses 21-26: The Wisdom of God inside a heart means there is NO FEAR in life! If we keep focused on sound Wisdom and discretion (good judgment), our life will be with grace (verses 21-22). Instead of blindly falling into sin(s), we can be more sure footed in our way (verse 23). Knowing that God’s Wisdom brings order to Creation, so His Wisdom brings order to our life (verses 24-26). Following God’s Wisdom is better than Benedryl, Lunesta or Ambien! Since the most-prescribed class of drugs in the United States is anti-depressants, God’s Wisdom is sorely needed! Jesus echoed this wise teaching about high anxiety in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:19-34).
All Scriptures and comments are based upon the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
“If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene–if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage–if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount” [Psychiatrist, J.T. Fisher]
“More Evidence That Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell, page 162].
“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” (Matt. 5:20 NIV).
Jesus’ statement had to be one of the most shocking things he ever said. The Pharisees were considered the top cats of religion. But theirs was, as one writer (not of the brotherhood!) said, selective obedience. And external observance.
The verse is considered a key, if not the key, verse in the Sermon on the Mount, rightly so, it would seem. It prohibits us from seeing the sermon as the great but unattainable ideal. This is to be lived out and done right.
The better righteousness (right-doing) is one of kind not degree, God centered (see 5.48), motivated by God’s approval (so chap. 6), kingdom prioritized.
When Jesus spoke these words, they must have rocked the listeners to their core. Following the Lord was a whole new enterprise, one that forbade the normal assumptions, turned the definition of goodness upside down, and made holiness not only an inner quality but a worldwide mission of salt and light.
Loving our enemies is one of the most challenging things God has asked of us. What does it mean and not mean? Today, I have an examination of this important command.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). There is a big difference in being persecuted for being a Christian and living by the Word and having people angry at us for being bullies. If we violate Ephesians 4:15, we have no right to claim persecution.
The Apostles were persecuted because they stood up for the Word of God. Countless others have, as well. Yet, we know of those who speak the truth with venom and then lift themselves up as victims when the screaming starts. It is abominable to stand with Christ with such an attitude (Matthew 5:44).
If we do, it won’t be long before we begin preaching our own word alongside the truth. Satan will gladly help us along until our word become predominant, so he can pull more people away from God. Let us never allow our emotions to become his weapon!
I am beginning a series of articles on the Beatitudes and I hope you will read and share them. Today, we look at why Jesus used, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” first. It is so profound and practical. I hope you will read the article and give feedback. Share your thoughts because they are different from mine and I can learn from you.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Life has been quite hectic and so my priorities have not included blogging. Our oldest daughter will be flying back to the states tomorrow night, using her one-way ticket. 🙂 The remaining five of us will follow her in three weeks. Prayers for her safe travels will be greatly appreciated.
We worshiped with the Monduli congregation today. George has been instructing them in personal evangelism. The congregation has been enjoying these classes immensely, begging him to keep coming. One elderly lady, who cannot even read or write, said today that his lessons were sweeter than sugar. It is so encouraging to us to see their zeal. George also taught a wonderful lesson on the beautitudes, from Matthew 5, of course. 🙂
This evening the missionaries got together to have a meal, have a devotional in English, and everyone also took turns expressing kind remarks and well wishes to Julia. Kind of emotional for her family. All in all, it’s been a wonderful Lord’s Day.