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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Good and Bad Women in the Bible




Good and Bad Women in the Bible

 

Recently we have gone to two movies: ,Nebraska and August/Osage County and both movies have something in common: In both movies the grand matriarch or the older mother in the show never quits criticizing her husband, her grown children, and her friends and relatives too.  She never stops making fun of her husband and never stops talking about sex.  Relatives who reach out to her in love are rejected.  And everywhere she goes a dark cloud of negative feelings, broken relationships and ill will follows. 

 

The older woman in the Nebraska movie keeps reminding her aging husband of the burden he is on her.  She is going to put him away since he is useless and crazy.  This angry woman’s grown son wants his Dad to have some relief from her insults, so he drives his father to Nebraska to check out a lottery ticket.

 

 But alas the nagging mother follows after her husband and son meeting up with them in Nebraska and continuing the dirty talk and the hurtful remarks.  Her grown son slumps over and hangs his head as his mother jokes about how dumb he is.  And one wonders if the son can somehow escape his mother’s negative influences or if his life will be forever scarred by this on-going foul talk?

 

The other movie, August/Osage County, starts out with the matriarch or the older mother criticizing and making fun of her aging husband while he pours one alcoholic beverage after another.  One wonders if this man drinks too much because his wife is so verbally abusive to him.  He leaves home probably to get away from his angry wife and soon after he dies in a boating accident.  

 

The mother keeps herself permanently doped up on narcotics and pain pills and when her husband doesn’t come home she frantically calls her three grown daughters insisting they come take care of her. The husband’s body is found and the relatives come to town for the funeral.  But the mother never stops criticizing her daughters and the relatives too while making sexual innuendos.  Are there really women like this in real life?  It was painful watching the family around the dinner table insulting one another and putting one another down. After an hour of this depressing movie we walked out.

 

Scripture mentions the woman who continually criticizes her family.  “A wise woman builds her house up but the foolish woman tears down her house with her own hands.”  (Proverbs 14:1) . And: “The continual dripping on a dreary rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.”  (Proverbs 27:15) “It is better to live in the corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman in a large house.”  (Proverbs 21:9b)  And: “It is better to live in the wilderness than with a contentious, angry woman.”  (Proverbs: 21:19)   

 

Scripture describes another type of dangerous woman – the woman who enjoys seducing married men and breaking up families!  The adulterous woman is described this way in the Bible:  “I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets and her hands as bands.  The man who pleases God will escape from her: but the sinner shall be taken in by her.”  (Ecclesiastes 7:26)  And also Scripture warns to stay away from:: “…silly women laden with sins, who are led away with many lusts…  (2 Tim. 3:6a) 

 

 Scripture never ever gives the “other” woman – the adulterous woman (or the man she seduces) an understanding nod.  Of course a man can be the seducer too.  The seventh commandment of the Ten Commandments forbids God’s people to commit adultery.  God puts us together in families and His desire is that we be faithful to those in our family and provide for their welfare.  Scripture warns that “Anyone who does not provide for his family has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.”  (1 Timothy 5:8)  That person who is not there for the family can be a woman as well as a man. 

 

In the Bible there is a long list of “bad” women.  One that comes to mind is the sexy temptress, Delilah.  This babe comes along seducing Samson, with her sexual favors and pretending to love him.  Samson was a man of God, but he falls for her lies.  She tricks him into letting down his guard and giving her information that she will use against him.  While they are in bed together she betrays him and calls in his enemies, the Philistines, who capture him, put his eyes out and enslave him.

 

 Another “bad” woman from the pages of Scripture is the evil Queen Jezebel.  She influences her husband King Ahab to lead Israel away from God and into idol worship.  And she urges him to murder the prophets and others too. (1 Kings 18)  Jezebel and Ahab even sacrifice (burn) one of their children on the altar to their idol, Baal.  Women have a lot of power and we can use it for good or for evil.

 

And of course the Bible also has a long list of “good” women.  Deborah was a judge and a warrior and God saved Israel from their enemies through her.  (Judges 5)  Phillip’s daughters and Miriam were prophets speaking God’s Word to the people. (Acts 21:9)(Ex.15:21) Mary was the mother of Jesus, the Son of God and Esther saved her people from death in Persia.  And of course there are many more.

 

And then there is a famous description of the “good” or noble woman in the Bible.  It reads in part: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.  She brings him good and not harm all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.  She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.  She gets up while it is still dark: and provides food for her family and portions for her employees.  She considers a field and buys it: Out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.  She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.  ……She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.  When it snows, she has no fear for her household:….She is clothed with strength and dignity and she can laugh at the days to come.  She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.  …Her children rise up and call her blessed: her husband also, and he praises her.  …Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised…”  (Proverbs 31:10-30)   

 

The “good” woman here is not a helpless clinging vine letting her husband take care of everything.  Instead “she is like the merchant ships bringing her food from afar.”  “She considers a field and she buys it.”  “She provides food for her family and portions for her employees”   

 

This is a strong woman – a wise woman and a good woman.  Scripture says: “When it snows she has no fear for her household:”.  In other words I think that means that she watches out for the safety of her family and she anticipates problems that may arise and prepares for them ahead of time.  She spins, weaves and sews warm protective clothing for cold weather-for the snow so they will be prepared..  And she reaches out and gives to the poor and the needy.  Her family and her town can rely on her – she is maternal – caring – protective –a safe house to run to.  If you tell your troubles to her she will protect and understand and care.  She makes her world a better place.

 

The description in Scripture of a “good” woman ends with: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised…”  So now we know!  That is her secret!  This good woman fears or respects the Lord!  That is where she gets her strength, her wisdom and her charity!  God gives her all of these things! She can do all things through Christ who strengthens her.(Philippians4:13)   And she knows that because she “fears the Lord”.

 

Scripture says: “She can laugh at the days to come.”  She doesn’t have to be anxious about her life or her future.  She can laugh and travel light because her life is in God’s Hands.  Because she “fears the Lord” she can be strong and wise and not be afraid of those scary things in life!  God has got her covered.  She can live the good life.  And we can all live this good life too!  God is holding out His Hand to us offering it!  We just need to “fear(trust) the Lord!”      

 

 

 

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

More Lessons from Jesus



More Lessons from Jesus

from Matthew 7

 

 

 

Jesus had so many things to tell his followers – not just his followers back then, but all those yet to be born who be would follow Him.  Jesus looked far into the future and spoke about his beloved followers down through the ages in every generation who would hear his lessons and try to follow them. He told the disciples: “I have sheep that are not of this sheep fold.  I must bring them in also.  They will listen to My voice.” (John 10:16)

 

All of Jesus’ lessons are recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke and/or John of the New Testament.  So for the last few weeks we have started going through the book of Matthew and discussing some of Jesus’ lessons that we find there.  Today we will read the 7th chapter of Matthew and review more of Jesus’ lessons that are recorded there.  Sometimes Jesus jumps from one topic to another.  So we will do the same as we follow His teachings.

 

Jesus continues his lessons by telling his followers not to judge others.  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  (Matthew 7:1-2)  Jesus teaches that the critical judge may be judging a person who has a speck in his eye when the one doing the judging has a plank in his eye.  I think that Jesus is intentionally exaggerating to show that since we are all sinners we must stop short of final condemnation. We humans cannot judge other people’s motives or see into their hearts like God can.  (James 4:11-12)  We all know how bad it feels when a critical unloving person judges us harshly.  Jesus is commanding us not to do that to other humans.

 

Scripture says that believers are not to avoid all judging since Christians need to judge themselves and sometimes offending church members.  (1 Cor. 5:3-5, 12, 13)  Scripture says that Christians are to “test everything.”  (2 Thess. 5:21)  Scripture repeatedly tells believers to evaluate carefully and choose between good and evil people and things.  (1 Cor.5:9)  We are to test and be careful of those who pretend to be like angels of light.  (2 Cor.11:14) and we are to be on the alert for false prophets.  (John 4:11)  

 

We are commanded to love one another.  (John 13:34-35)   When we love others we may see their faults but we are more generous with our understanding of their problems.  Love drives out the critical unloving judgmental spirit.  I personally made a New Year’s resolution this year to react to the people I don’t like with an open loving spirit instead of my usual judgmental spirit.  To stop being negative of the people I love to hate.  It has made a big difference already for me.  Try being extra nice to each person you dislike.  Greet them with a smile.  Pray for them.  Think of them in a positive way and see if it doesn’t help you be a less judgmental.

 

Jesus continues his lessons with this:  “Do not give dogs what is sacred and do not throw your pearls to the pigs.  If you do they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”  (Matthew 7:6)  What is Jesus trying to teach us here?  Bible scholars believe that the pearls here represent the gospel.  The “Pearl of great price” in another Bible passage referring to our precious faith in Jesus.  (Matthew 13:45-46)  And the “dogs” and “pigs” Jesus is speaking of are the heathens - the people who are vicious and laugh at the Christian faith.  We must not continue preaching the gospel to people who continually ridicule it.  We must not allow others to treat the blood of Christ as cheap.  (Matt. 13:11, 15) 

 

Jesus continues teaching by inviting us to ask Him for the things we need in this life.  “Ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives, and he who seeks finds: and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  (Matthew 7:7-8) 

 

Jesus reminds us that when children ask their parents for bread or fish they can usually count on their parents to give them bread or fish and not a snake or a stone.  That if our earthly parents gave us gifts, how much more will our heavenly Father give us good gifts?  Jesus is teaching us to ask God trusting Him to answer our prayers and take care of our needs.  (Matthew 9-12)

 

 Do we sometimes forget to ask our heavenly Father to give us what we need?  Are we missing out – struggling with less because we are trying to take care of our problems on our own?  Next time you are nervous about a job you have to get done or fearful that you cannot meet a challenge that is put in front of you: ask God to give you the ability – to be there with you – and see what a difference it makes!

 

Next Jesus tells us to enter through the narrow gate.  “Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,…”  (Matthew 7:13b-14)  At another time Jesus told his followers, “I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.”  (John 14:6)  

 

Here is Jesus’ next lesson.  “Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them.  Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?  Like that every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree cannot bear good fruit…by their fruit you will know them.  Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father…  (Matthew 7: 15-21)

 

Have you heard of proud mean-spirited so called Christian leaders who claim to have special spiritual secrets, while controlling their congregation with rules and fear and taking large sums of money from their “flock”?  In every generation we must contend all over again for the faith.  Satan is constantly attacking the Church by sending these false prophets - wolves in sheep’s clothing and we must check out what our churches are teaching as well as how our leaders are behaving.  A false prophet will most likely not have a humble spirit and he/she will not confess that Jesus is Son of God and Savior – that He died and raised from the dead and He came in the flesh.  Jesus warned his followers over and over again to watch out for false prophets.  So we better be alert! 

 

And Jesus’ last lesson is the one about the wise and the foolish builders. (Matthew 7:24-27)  The wise builder builds her house on a rock and the foolish builder builds her house on the sand.  And all seems well for both builders for awhile until the rains come down and the floods rise up and the winds beat against the houses!  And the house on the sand blows away in many pieces.  But the house on the rock stands firm because its foundation is built on the rock.

 

And Jesus is the Rock. (1 Corinthians 3:11)  Jesus is teaching us the supreme importance of building upon the right foundation.  We are to build our lives on Him and when the storms of life come down and the rivers rise and the winds beat against our little life, it will stand because it is built on the Rock.     

 

Jesus was persecuted and eventually murdered on the cross because of the lessons He taught. He especially infuriated people when He held himself up as the “Narrow Way” and as the Son of God and Savior.  Huge crowds followed Jesus but many in the crowds eventually turned away from Him because of what He taught. They fussed that his lessons were too hard.  One day when a group got up and left while He was teaching, Jesus turned to his disciples and asked if they would leave Him too. (John 6:66)  He was hoping that they would stay with Him.  I have a feeling He still asks his followers that same question today.  Will we stick with Him even when the lessons are hard?  How will we answer that?  How will you answer that?          

 

 


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Following Jesus on the Glory Road



 

Following Jesus on the Glory Road

 

Jesus did not go back to heaven and leave His followers behind to do their own thing or run their own lives!  He carefully left us many instructions and commandments concerning how we should live our lives as Christians.  And He promised to leave us the Holy Spirit to be our personal trainer and teacher and help us work out how to follow His commands in our own lives.  His Spirit is to be a fiery presence living in each believer, influencing and guiding and comforting us as we go about our work and live out our days. .

 

When we read through Matthew, Mark and Luke we find many of Jesus’ lessons and parables written there for us to study and follow.  Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the “synoptic” or “same” gospels because they repeat many of the same lessons for living that Jesus left for his followers. When Jesus wasn’t healing people, He was constantly teaching His important lessons on how we are to live.  And today we will look at three of his many lessons recorded for us, his followers in the sixth chapter of Matthew. 

 

In our first lesson we find Jesus commanding his followers not to do good deeds in order to impress others.  It can be stressful –working on impression management and trying to be what everyone wants!  And of course we can never please all the people all the time.  It can be pressure filled and burdensome having to dress for success and never letting your guard down.  And then we have hurt and angry feelings when some folks criticize and reject us.  Jesus is calling us to leave all of that behind and live simply.  He is calling us to freedom!  To a new way of living!  Instead we are to do what we do simply to please and glorify God.  

 

Jesus tells us in one of his lessons that when we give to a good cause or to the poor we are to do it secretly!  Jesus says:” When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  And then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  (Matthew 6:3-4)  It’s fun to see our name up in lights and to receive recognition and applause– to build up our self-esteem!  But Jesus tells us not to play that game.  He asks us to follow Him in a life of humility. 

 

And Jesus did not want His followers to show off when they prayed or fasted either. (Matt.6:5-8, 14-18)  There were religious leaders back then who loved to stand on the street corners and pray loudly so everyone could see how pious they were.  And these same religious leaders hung their heads and moaned and groaned when they were fasting so that everyone could see how much they were suffering and be impressed.

 

We may not do those things today. But today there are other “Christian” activities we can get involved in to help others and to please God but also to make ourselves look important to others.  We may donate to a cause partially to please God and partially to have our name listed in a book of recognition along with all the other names of folk who donated.  Or to have our name chiseled in stone on the front of the church for all to see!  Makes us feel proud and important.. 

 

But Jesus knew that this prideful competition between brothers and sisters in Christ can tear apart the unity and love that our churches and Christian communities are meant to have. Sometimes proud ambitious people are driven to walk over one another to get to the top and gain control.  And they leave a trail of hurting and broken people behind on their way to up to prominence.  That is not what Jesus wants!  The rest of the world plays these prideful games, but we who have been born again are to be different.  Jesus is calling us to follow Him in a life of humility.     

 

We sometimes play these games because we fear rejection too much.  But we can survive rejection and we need to tell ourselves that we can.  Our worth and value is not determined by how other people think of us or treat us.  True acceptance is not found in our accomplishments but in what Jesus has accomplished for us.  Scripture says: “We are made acceptable to God through the Beloved (Jesus).” (Ephesians 1:6)  We should try to value the unconditional love of God more than the conditional approval of people.       

 

Jesus’ next lesson is a command for us not to put all of our efforts into saving money for earthly things. Here is what He says to us: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  No one can serve two masters.  Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and Money.”  (Matthew 5:19-21and 24)

 

I do not think that Jesus is teaching that we should not save money for our children or for health care or for food, clothing, shelter and modest entertainment.  There are other passages in the Bible that tell us to work and save for these things.  I believe Jesus is probably teaching that his followers should not put their efforts or money into expensive over-the-top items that are meant to project power and impress others- the very expensive automobile, the huge elegant mansion with manicured grounds, the wedding that costs $90,000.or the dress that costs $4,000.  Should we Christians spend money to project power and lord it over others while a third of the world goes to bed hungry?  And should we use Jesus Name while we are doing it??  Jesus’ followers are not to impress others with opulent displays of wealth designed to bolster their arrogance!  Again we are called to follow Jesus in a life of humility.

 

Jesus continued his lessons commanding his followers not to worry.  He told them:  “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?  And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the lilies of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin…But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”   (Matthew 6:25-28 and 33)

 

Instead of worrying Jesus calls us to trust God and have a childlike faith in our heavenly Father.  We pride ourselves for being intellectual and for not believing in God when we can not fully understand what He is doing.  But if we had a god that we could fully understand it would not be the God of the Bible.  Jesus calls us to a lean on God with a simple childlike faith. (Matthew 18:2-4)  

 

Scripture says to:  “Cast all of your cares upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7)  Jesus points out how God cares for the birds and for the flowers.  And He reminds us that if God takes care of the birds and the flowers, how much more will He take care of us, His children.  Scripture says: “Fear not for I am with you, be not afraid for I am your God, I will strengthen you, yes I will help you, yes I will uphold you with the right Hand of My Righteousness.”  (Isaiah 41:10)   

 

Jesus is calling us to believe that God is just (Deut.32:4) merciful and all loving. (1 John 4:8)  And we are to have confidence in the sovereignty of God.  He is in control of the whole world and of every microscopic detail.  Even though He has given us free will and we can mess things up badly, He promises in His Word (the Bible) to overcome all evil and make everything right in the end.  Let’s believe that.  “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”  (Psalm 30:5)      

 

In all of Jesus’ lessons He is teaching his followers a new way of living.  The old way   was a painful and burdensome way and it didn’t work.  So Jesus is calling believers to a “new and living way.” With the Holy Spirit working out our faith and guiding us in this new way we are learning to act on God’s Word rather than reacting to what other people think of us.  Christianity was once called “the Way” (Acts 9:2)  

 

In following Jesus on this Way – this road less traveled - we will be going in a direction opposite from all those who are following the world’s wisdom.  And we may be misunderstood and persecuted because of that.  But Jesus is calling us to take up His yoke and follow Him on this glory road and we mustn’t keep Him waiting.  We will find joy and peace along the way and Jesus promises us rest for our souls.  (Matthew 11:29)  Are you coming along?  


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lessons from Jesus




 

Lessons from Jesus

 

Jesus had so many things to share with his followers.  So many lessons for them to learn and so little time!  He told his followers that some of his lessons were too hard for them to comprehend yet but that He would leave his Holy Spirit with them to teach and lead them into his life-giving truths.  

 

Jesus became famous very soon after He began his ministry.  He and his twelve disciples started out walking from town to town around Lake Galilee preaching and healing the sick and soon people from all over Israel, Syria and beyond were traveling long distances   just to hear His words and be touched by His healing hands.  “Then His fame went throughout all of Syria: and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics and paralytics: and He healed them all.  And great multitudes followed Him from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.”  (Matthew 4:24-25)

 

One day when hundreds of people were following Him, Jesus went up on a hill next to the beautiful Galilee Lake and preached to the people from a comfortable spot.  His “Sermon on the Mount” was not just for his followers back then but it has been recorded in the Bible for us too.

 

Jesus told his followers that they were the “salt of the earth.  “But if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?  It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”  (Matthew 5:13)  And He told his followers that they were the “light of the world” but they should not hide their light.  “Let your light so shine before people that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5: 16)

 

  Is Jesus telling His own- is He telling us that we should not hide our light, or our Christian faith, but share it by our love and our actions and our words?  And that our new life in Him is also like salt – it keeps life from being “bland” and gives our days a life giving punch and a joy and a purpose!  Our bodies require salt in order to live and function.  And our spirits also require this “salt” in order to be alive.  We have a living treasure – this salt – this Christian faith -that spices up our lives!  But if we followers of Christ do not love our Savior or value our Christian faith  (this salt) and nurture it, even this gift of spiritual salt we were given will lose its flavor! 

 

Jesus continues preaching and He tells the crowds that He did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets from the Old Testament but to fulfill them. He tells them: “Whoever breaks one of the least of these laws and teaches people to do that, that person shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  But whoever does and teaches all of the commandments, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 5:19) 

 

 The Old Testament in the Bible records God’s laws and prophecies and some of the Jews wondered if Jesus had come to get rid of God’s laws that were given in the Old Testament and teach a new way of living.  But Jesus insisted that He had come to fulfill the Law!  To make it possible for us sinful humans to follow the Law through Him!   

 

We can never obey all of God’s laws by ourselves.  Our faith in Christ – not our good works- is what makes it possible for us to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus takes away our sins and covers us with His righteousness.  We can only obey the Law through Him.  Entrance into the kingdom is by a righteousness of the heart (through faith in Him) , not by a hypocritical or external legalism. 

 

The Old Testament or Covenant between God and the Jewish people focused on outward practices of worshipping God.  Now Jesus gives a deeper meaning to the Law by presenting an inward devotion to God as a matter of the heart.  One person can appear to be good and pious by legalistically obeying strict rules.  But all the time while he is attending church and giving sacrifices to make an impression he is having wrong attitudes and not loving God and others in his heart.  And another person can with faith in Christ love God and love others and yet not appear to be as correctly pious outwardly. People look on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart. 

 

Some of the Jewish religious leaders kept the laws externally to gain merit before God, while breaking these laws in their hearts.  They followed the letter of the Law while ignoring its spirit.  Jesus fulfills the Law because He preaches a righteousness that comes only through faith in Him.  Jesus is the Son of God and He is sinless and holy.  He then gives six examples of obeying God’s Laws inwardly in the heart instead of just going through the motions. 

 

The first example Jesus gives is a warning that murder begins in the heart.  God is interested in what is in our hearts and Jesus is stressing this.  Jesus says: “You were told in the past that you shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…”  (Matthew 5:21-22)   Jesus is equating anger with murder. 

 

 Jesus goes on to tell us that if we come to God’s altar and then remember that we are holding something against our sister (or brother) or she is holding something against us, we are to leave God’s altar and go and try to be reconciled with our sister (or brother) and then come back to worship and sacrifice before God.  We are to practice instant reconciliation.  Love by choice, not by circumstance.  We are to follow Him and forgive and love one another as He loves and forgives us. And He will give us the strength to do that if we ask, thus fulfilling the law.

 

The second teaching Jesus uses is concerning adultery.  Jesus teaches: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’  But I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart…”  (Matthew 5:27-28)   Jesus again illustrates that sin begins in the heart.  To be a disciple of Jesus is to guard the heart.  There is no wiggle room.  Married Christians are to stay away from the sin of sexually lusting after any other than the one to whom they are married.  And pornography is fake and wrong for a Christian!  Sex without love and commitment is ugly!  Jesus has set up high romantic ideals for married sexual lovers and pornography and lusting after other sexual partners can harm and wreck true love.

 

Jesus’ third lesson concerns divorce.  He teaches: “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress,…”  (Matthew 5:31-32a)  Of course in a sinful world sometimes divorce is the only way out of an impossible situation.  But it should be the last resort I believe.  Scripture says that God hates divorce.  Our relationships with others (husband, wife, children, parent, and neighbor) are all important to God.

 

Jesus brings up making oaths in his fourth lesson.  He says that we should not swear to do things in God’s Name or by heaven or by the earth.  That when we promise to do something to let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and our ‘no’ be ‘no’.  Isn’t Jesus saying here that his followers should be honorable and reliable?  That they should keep their word?  People should be able to count on them.   

 

Jesus’ fifth lesson concerns retaliation against people who do us wrong.  Jesus says: “You have heard that is was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you…”  (Matthew 5:38-40)  Those who belong to Jesus are to renounce any form of retaliation.  We must not return insult for insult or “get back” at a person who has wronged us.  That is not our place.  We can trust God to take care of us no matter what.  And He promises that He will.  

 

And Jesus’ sixth lesson for us is that He asks us to love our enemies.  He says: “…Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:44)  We will have to give up our pride and learn humility if we are to love our enemies!  We are to love by choice if this love doesn’t come naturally..  We can obey these commands that Jesus gave in His sermon on the mount only when we are Spirit filled.  And only when we ask Him to give us the strength and love and humility to obey them.

 

Jesus’ lessons from the Sermon on the Mount introduce us to a whole new way of obeying God!  Jesus is asking us to live differently from rest of the world!  And He is inviting us to follow Him to places that we have never gone before!  Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to help us follow Him to these places.  But the demands of following Jesus and of being His disciple were never meant to be easy.  To be Jesus’ disciple means forsaking our selfish personal ambitions and dying to “self”.  Every true disciple must take up his/her cross to follow Jesus.  And not everyone is willing to pay the price.  Are you?