January 26, 2014:"The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached!" The first sermon we have by Jesus is universally acknowledged as the greatest ethical and moral message ever recorded. It is delivered in the early days of his ministry, and was designed to instruct his new disciples in exactly what the "Kingdom of Heaven" was to be like. Today we take note of the events surrounding his delivery of the sermon, and the three natural parts into which the message can be divided.
February 2, 2014: "Think Different!" Four major groups fought and struggled to shape the Jewish people’s view of the prophesied "Kingdom of Heaven." By means of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sounded forth a message that was in clear contrast to all four groups: the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots. The Kingdom of Heaven was a matter of God’s rule in each human heart, and through that reign the world would be changed.
February 9, 2014: "Blessed Are the Poor" In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will present the essential character and heart of each one who is going to be part of God’s reign on earth. In this teaching, Jesus spoke as one in authority, different than the scribes, teachers of the law and rabbis who often quoted others and relied on Jewish scholars and traditions for their teaching. He begins by answering an unspoken question: "Who will be blessed (honored, praised and rewarded) by God in His coming kingdom?"
February 16, 2014: "Blessed Are the Broken-Hearted" Jesus had been preaching the eminent arrival of the "Kingdom of Heaven." Now as he seats himself to teach, the crowds press around to hear more details. What he says first will be a shock to many. He declares that it is the "poor" and "broken-hearted" who will have citizenship in that kingdom. How can that be? And are we ready to hear that same message today?
February 23, 2014: "Blessed Are the Gentle" The third of Jesus’ beatitudes would be as surprising to his hearers as the first two. Yet, it perfectly described Jesus’ own character and nature — meekness. He will say of himself, " I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matthew 11:28-30). Then Paul referred to the "meekness and gentleness of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:1), and tells believers, "Your attitude should the same as that of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 2:3-5) Today we focus on the great Christ-like quality of meekness.
March 2, 2014: "Blessed Are the Starving" Hungry and thirsty… two fundamental desires of our physical bodies which are essential to maintaining life. Jesus says that citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven will have the same fundamental desire to be righteous (right with God). Only those craving such righteousness will have their need met by the King of heaven.
March 9, 2014: "Blessed Are the Merciful and Pure-Hearted" The Jewish people expected the Kingdom of Heaven to come by means of war! But Jesus declares that only those who are merciful will be blessed by God. His hearers had to be shocked. No one could imagine winning a war by being merciful! And war does not produce people of pure hearts, either!
March 16, 2014: "Blessed Are Those Who Work for Peace" God loves and blesses those who work tirelessly for peace between God and man, those who have their feet shod with the gospel that brings peace (Ephesians 6:15).
March 23, 2014: "Blessed Are Those Persecuted for Doing Right" The Kingdom of Heaven is intruding on the Kingdom of Darkness, and the Prince of Darkness has been doing all within his power to prevent this conquest. He has rallied his citizens to slander, hate, misrepresent, hurt and even kill the servants of the King of Heaven. nothing is different today. Any "lull in the fighting" is only temporary; are we ready to suffer for the message of the cross?
March 30, 2014: "The Salt of the Earth" Jesus now presents a paradox: the same people who will be hated and persecuted by the world around them will be the "salt of the earth." Salt was used to preserve, flavor and purify. But if the salt was allowed to be contaminated by other minerals, it would cease to be effective in its purpose. How clearly the Lord was telling us both of our calling and of the danger we face by contamination from the world around us.
April 6, 2014: "The Light of the World" Twice we have recorded Jesus’ claim to be "the light of the world." (John 8:12; 9:5) As his followers and citizens of his kingdom, we have received the very high calling of reflecting his light to our world. But light must not be hidden; only when it is seen can it accomplish its purpose.
April 13, 2014: "How Jesus Fulfilled the Law" Jesus was constantly accused of breaking the Law given by Moses, and encouraging others to do the same. His response was two-fold: first, He showed how it was the Pharisees who were breaking the law and teaching others to do so by their twisted traditions; second, He had come to fulfill (not just obey) the Law in all its many facets — prophecies, moral precepts, shadows, symbols, ceremonies and more.
April 20, 2104: "The Attitude Before the Act" The Pharisees of Jesus’ day emphasized meticulous observance of laws and traditions. Sadly, much less emphasis was put on the heart of these law keepers. A major part of Jesus’ teaching emphasized the attitude of the heart of the professed believer. Further, He declared that God considered sins "of the heart" just as worthy of judgment as the outward actions. In the Sermon on the Mount He begins with hatred and murder.
May 4, 2014: "A Covenant with My Eyes" Job, a great wise man of old said, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl." (Job 31:1, NIV) Today we are looking at Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount concerning sexual lust and adultery. Many Jews in His day emphasized outward and physical actions without giving real attention to heart matters. For that Jesus accused them of hypocrisy; for their hearts desired to do the wrong things they may not have carried out in practice. As a result, sexual lust may well have been their sin even if they had not actually taken another man’s wife. Jesus’ Kingdom standard is to deal with the heart!
May 18, 2014: "God Hates Divorce!" As we saw in our last lesson, the sin of adultery began with the sin of lust. And all too often, those two sins were accompanied by the sin of divorce! The Pharisees had rationalized their putting away of their wives to marry others as being "legal" under Moses. In truth, they had simply justified in their own eyes the breaking of the sacred covenant of marriage. Much of the same is still happening today! Though God had made provision for divorce, He hated such unfaithfulness (Malachi 2:16).
May 25, 2014: "Truth Decay" Just like immorality begins in the heart, Jesus says that truth (and falsehood) also begins there. The religious rulers of His day had made a complex of rules which allowed them to lie under the guise of obedience to God’s law. Because they did not love truth more than power, position, or money, it had become expendable to them. The real lover of truth will find that, "Yes" and "No," are sufficient to bind them to doing the right thing.
June 1, 2014: "Vengeance Is Not Mine" Apparently the Jewish ruling class could be a very vindictive group of folks. Surely there were some who were not, but taking vengeance or reciprocating in kind was apparently all to common among them. They had even justified their behavior by taking guidelines God had provided for judges and courts to use, and appropriated those rules for themselves. They were mistaken to do so, said Jesus. Instead, punishment should be left to the courts and to God Himself. Instead, we are not only to bear up under injustice but even to do good for bad.
June 8, 2014: "Loving Like Our Father" Last lesson we heard Jesus say that retaliation/vengeance is God’s job on the last great day, not ours. Today we hear the Lord tell us we instead must actually act lovingly toward those who think themselves our enemies. We are to pray for them, greet them, not discriminate in our kindness toward them… to love them. This is the nature and conduct of God our Father; it must also be ours.
June 15, 2014: "God’s Cheerful Giver" Jesus said that, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35) However, Jesus also told the folks of his day that giving done simply to impress others or to receive their praise is NOT giving that God blesses! (Matthew 6:1-4) The Pharisees of his day emphasized the external rather than the heart. Unless we are careful, we may fall into the same wrong priorities.
June 22, 2014: "Street Corner Prayers" Last week we saw that the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law in Jesus’ day wanted "to be seen of men" as they did their benevolent giving. Today we see that they loved to make a big scene as they prayed in public places like the Temple and street corners (Matthew 6:5-15). The problem was not being seen publicly praying, but rather when being seen was the primary motivation for such a practice. How could they expect God to heed their prayers when they were mostly concerned with MEN hearing (and seeing) their praying?
June 29, 2014: "Where Your Treasure Is, Part I" Jesus called the Pharisees "hypocrites" for they way they gave, prayed and fasted. "Hypocrite" meant to be an actor, pretending to be someone the person was not! So, when they fasted twice weekly, their outward show of unkempt dress and somber demeanor was an act! They were not true signs of contrition and humility before God. Whether fasting, praying, giving, or any other deed done in submission to God’s will, we must be sure our true motive is to please and honor God, not men!
July 6, 2014: "Where Your Treasure Is, Part II" The Sermon on the Mount was delivered by Jesus to counter and correct many of the false views and practices of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They "treasured" (valued and cherished) the honor and praise of their peers and the common people. But there was one more thing they treasured as well – money! In contrast, Jesus teaches that those who wish to please God will be concerned primarily about treasure in heaven, not any of these earthly things.
July 13, 2014: "Your Father Will Take Care of You"
The striving of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day for wealth was proof that they did not truly trust that God would take care of them if they focused on His kingdom and righteousness. Having convicted them of worshiping "Mammon" (the god of material things), Jesus now will set before His own disciples the reasons they can trust their Heavenly Father to take care of them. He makes four points: God knows our needs, God is able to meet our needs, God is willing to meet our needs, and He WILL meet our needs!
July 20, 2014: "Judging Others and Condemning Ourselves"
The Pharisees with their superior estimation of themselves, were critical and condemnatory of all those unlike them. The most minute infraction of their "laws" (traditional beliefs and practices – not God’s stated commands) would bring their wrath and scorn down on such a "sinner." Jesus warned them that the measure they used to judge others would be the way God in turn would judge them. And their claim to remove small "specks" from the lives of others was greatly overshadowed by the huge "ceiling beams" they carried about protruding from their own lives!
July 27, 2014: "Ask – Seek – Knock – Find!"
The Jewish religious system was so wrapped up in the rules and traditions of the Pharisees, that anyone seeking to truly know what pleased God would need to go on a quest. Each seeker would need to ask and inquire concerning the way, seek it diligently, and when they arrived at the "door," knock to gain entrance! This vivid image by Jesus emphasized the importance of every seeker to desire God’s way and to seek it out. The same is true of truth-seekers today. Following the crowd or the generally accepted way is almost always a wrong way street!
August 3, 2014: "The Road to Life"
Having emphasized the necessity of those hungry to know God to seek Him with all their being, Jesus now tells them they are at a crossroads. Two ways stand before them, and two gates are at the entrance of those two ways. One gate is wide and its highway is broad; many people are traveling down it, but at the end is only destruction. The other gate is much smaller, and the road narrower, but it leads to life with God! This seems to be a clear reference to the religious system of the Pharisees as contrasted to the way of Christ. Such a crossroads still stands before every person today.
August 10, 2014: "Ferocious Wolves"
The religious leaders among the Jews presented themselves as shepherds of God’s flock. Jesus had another term for them – ferocious wolves! The difference is dramatic. A shepherd cares for his sheep, feeds them, protects them, loves them, would give his life for them. Wolves see sheep as a meal, something to harass, and kill and destroy. This is the charge of Jesus about their religious leaders. The sheep (people of God) were there for the benefit and gain of the leaders, who preyed on them, abused them and despised them. The proof? Look at their fruit, Jesus said. Look at what they do. It seems there are still many wolves among God’s people.
August 17, 2014: "Entering the Kingdom, Part I"
Central to the Sermon on the Mount is an understanding of what the "kingdom of heaven" meant. Jesus refers to the kingdom in Matthew 5:3, 10, 19, 20; 6:10, 13, 33, and now here is 7:21-23. So today we will answer the question, "What is the kingdom?" Then, next week we will talk about what it means to enter the kingdom.
August 24, 2014: "Entering the Kingdom, Part II"
Jesus came to bring God’s heavenly reign (kingdom) to earth and to take His place as its king. Today, we continue our examination of Matthew 7:21-23. People who wished to enter the kingdom of heaven were beseeching Jesus to let them enter. They pointed to their wonderful deeds as evidence of their worthiness. His response was blunt: "Depart from me; I never knew you." This is not a picture of Judgment Day and people entering heaven; this is a description of who is part of the kingdom of God ON EARTH NOW. That kingdom began on Pentecost (see Acts 2) when Jesus sat down in heaven on His throne ruling at God’s right hand. And what put people into the kingdom then is the same that will give people an entrance into it now – doing the will of God by accepting His Son and His salvation through Him.
August 31, 2014: "Building on the Rock"
Having now set before His hearers pictures of two gates, two ways, two leaders, two fruit trees, and two kinds of people, Jesus concludes by urging His listeners to now act on what they have heard. Those who listen and obey will be building on a firm foundation. Those who only listen but not act will be building on a foundation that will not endure. The same is true today; too many are building on things which will not stand the test of life or eternity.
September 7, 2014: "Building on the Sermon on the Mount"
In this 31st and final lesson on Jesus’ amazing Sermon on the Mount, those who heard Him preach now faced a personal challenge. It says in Matthew 7:28-29, "…The crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." They were astonished at His teaching; and they acknowledged that He spoke as if He had the right and jurisdiction to be saying these things. But being impressed with His doctrine and His presence is not enough – then or now! The vast majority did "not put them into practice" (Matthew 7:26). A solid foundation for a right relationship with God does not merely consist of being amazed at the materials specified by the builder, nor acknowledgement that he knows whereof he speaks. A foundation comes from following the architect’s orders and using his materials to construct the foundation.