Saturday, January 30, 2021

Sermon On The Mount - Part 2

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

We began The Sermon on the Mount last week with the Beatitudes. Jesus’ teaching on the mount continues through Chapter 7 of Matthew, and pitted the practices of daily Jewish life against the Levitical Law itself. The Law was strict to say the least, but the priests and the Sanhedrin had taught the Law for so long, that it was more like to “Do-attitudes,” rather than the Beatitudes. The works of the law became more important than fixing the less desirable attitudes of the human heart. And that friends, is something to which we are all susceptible. So often we choose to fix things by doing a work, rather than repenting of our poor attitudes for God's sake, to the glory of Jesus.

The Levitical Law was a guiding light for Jewish culture, and it also brought much conviction to the heart because there was no way to keep all of its Ordinances. When John the Baptist came, he prepared the way of the Lord by promoting a Baptism of repentance. How does one repent without the searching of our own heart to identify sin? Finding peace with God is not about DOING the Law, but about HATING the things that God hates. Hence, the problem: we do not hate sin enough; our fleshly hearts and bodies have an appetite for it, and then the cravings start.

Those cravings are in every heart despite the believer’s knowledge that they are displeasing to God. Paul later declares in his Epistle to the Romans, “Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24). Fleshly lusts that run amuck and unchecked by our conscience are the very things that will convict us. Paul reconciles the weakness of the flesh by covering it with the power and strength of the sacrifice of Jesus. Though trapped in fleshly bodies on Earth, our Spirits can soar with the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, our faith and hope placed in God’s only begotten Son.

If Jesus is at the helm of our hearts, the rudder of our lives ultimately causes a course change, and we learn new priorities based on Jesus’ example and teachings. The Sermon on the Mount is a harsh light delivered gently to expose sinful hearts. It’s that gentle delivery that creates a new craving within us; a craving for righteousness instead of sin.
“And all bear witness, and wondered at the gracious words which
proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, is not this Joseph’s son?”
Luke 4:22

Today's Audio Message: Matthew 5:13-30

The Sermon On The Mount - Part 2

As we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is teaching His disciples, and us, the characteristics of a true Christian, while contrasting them with the hypocrisy of religious people and dead works. Our righteousness before God hasn’t been established through our own actions; it is based upon our faith in Jesus Christ and His fulfillment of the Law. When we are born again, we are a New Creation in Christ. Old things are passed away, all things become new.  We no longer live for ourselves, we live for God. As we bow to His authority, we become citizens of His kingdom. Our sin is nailed to the cross with Jesus, and it was buried with Him. He paid the penalty for our sins, and God received His payment in full.  Just as our Lord was risen up from the grave, we too are risen up by God to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).  His Holy Spirit takes permanent residence within us and enables us, and gives us the power to do His will.

Starting in verse 13, we begin to understand the influence that every believer has in the lives of others. Every Christian is called by God to be an influence in the world around them. As salt, we are like a preserving force in this world to slow down the growth of moral and spiritual decay.

Salt is also used as a flavor enhancer.  We are to preserve truth and goodness in a fallen world, and our lives should make God’s work stand out.  Our lives reflect His nature, and clearly emphasize the difference that Jesus makes in one’s life. The good works of Christ’s followers are to shine for all to see. 
Our lives ought to be a reflection of Him. We must be like a light in the darkness. His light shines bright in this dark world, and so the presence of Christians in the world must be like a light in darkness.

As Jesus continues to teach his disciples he expounds on the difference between the Spirit of the Law, and the Letter of the Law.  
Christ showed that obeying the “Letter of the Law” is a matter of physical action, whereas obeying the “Spirit of the Law” requires more than just outward actions—it also involves an attitude of the mind—referred to by the Apostle Paul as “circumcision of the heart” (Rom. 2:28-29).  The Law was not intended to be a mindless action, heartless mechanics.  The intent of the Law is to bring us into a right relationship with the Lord. The Spirit of the Law is the miracle of a heart changed by the power and grace of God. Our obedience to follow His law, comes from a heart of love and devotion to Him.

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