A Voice in the

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-- selected studies from --
the Gospel of Matthew

Teachings of Jesus: -Topics
__Intro_ - Jesus: -Son of David
_4: 1-11 - It is Written: -temptation
_4:17-24 - Repent: -follow Me
_5: 1- 2 - Sermon on the Mount: -opening comments
_5: 3-12 - Sermon on the Mount: -beatitudes
_5:13-16 - Sermon on the Mount: -salt & light
_5:17-20 - Sermon on the Mount: -the Law & Prophets
_5:21-48 - Sermon on the Mount: -but I say to you
_6: 1&16 - Sermon on the Mount: -to be seen by men?
_6: 5- 8 - Sermon on the Mount: -praying hypocrites?
_6: 9-15 - Sermon on the Mount: -how to pray
_6:19-34 - Sermon on the Mount: -worrying about survival
_7: 1- 5 - Sermon on the Mount: -don't judge
_7: 6- 6 - Sermon on the Mount: -pearls before swine?
_7: 7-11 - Sermon on the Mount: -good gifts
_7:12-12 - Sermon on the Mount: -as you would be treated
_7:13-14 - Sermon on the Mount: -narrow way
_7:15-20 - Sermon on the Mount: -wolves in sheep's clothing
_7:21-23 - Sermon on the Mount: -I never knew you
_7:24-29 - Sermon on the Mount: -doing His teachings
_8: 1-17 - I am willing: -be healed
_8:19-34 - Following Jesus: -perilous
_9: 1-13 - Sins forgiven: -sinners to repentance
_9:14-17 - Old/New wine/cloth: -appropriateness
_9:35-38 - Shepherd's heart: -laboring in the harvest
10: 5-40 - Prophets in Service: -cost of faithfulness
11: 1- 6 - John the Baptist: -doubts and conflicts
11: 7-15 - John the Baptist: -praised
11:16-30 - John & Jesus compared: -both rejected
12: 1-21 - Legalism: -Lord of the Sabbath
12:22-32 - Unpardonable sin: -blaspheming the Holy Spirit
12:33-37 - Known by its fruit: -out of the mouth
12:38-42 - Seeking for signs: -condemnation
12:43-45 - Empty heart: -invitation to Satan
12:46-50 - He's gone mad: -a new family
13:1-23a - Parables: -lest they be converted
13:1-23b - Parable of the Sower: -seed and soils
13:24-30 - Look-alikes: -at the harvest
13:31-33 - Pervasive evil: -all-inclusive
13:44-46 - Great treasure: -seeking earnestly
13:47-50 - End of the World: -good vs bad
13:51-52 - Godly teachers: -unto understanding
13:54-58 - Unbelief: -withholding
14: 1-13 - Cost of Faithfulness: -John beheaded
14:14-36 - Solitude of the Storm: -meeting God
15: 1-20 - Phariseeism: -of the heart
15:22-28 - Faith & Grace: -to Jew -AND- Gentile
16: 5-12 - Beware the leaven: -doctrine
16:13-20 - Jesus, Deity: -Church's Foundation
16:21-28 - Heading to the cross: -cost of the soul
17: 1-13 - Transfiguration: -hear Christ
17:24-27 - Strangers: -pay taxes
18: 1- 5 - Children: -example of greatness
18: 6-10 - Children: -offenses
18:11-14 - Children: -saving the lost
18:15-20 - Forgiveness: -on NOT forgiving
18:21-35 - Forgiveness: -on Forgiving
19: 3-12 - Divorce: -not God's design
19:16-26 - Riches and Eternal Life: -some good thing?
19:27-30 - We Left All: -what do we get?
20: 1-16 - First -or- Last: -chosen
20:17-19 - Heading to the Cross: -final week
20:20-28 - Positions of honor: -servanthood
20:30-34 - Blind eyes opened: -by the "Son of David"
21: 1-22 - Royal Entry: -Hosanna to the "Son of David"
21:23-27 - Credentials please: -refused
21:28-46 - Rulers scrutinized: -true nature exposed
22: 1-14 - Kingdom of Heaven: -marriage supper
22:15-22 - Pharisees taunt: -Caesar or God?
22:23-33 - Sadducees taunt: -resurrection
22:34-40 - Lawyers taunt: -the greatest commandment?
22:41-46 - Now I've got one: -whose "son"? God or David?
23: 1-12 - Rabbi/teacher: -be a servant
23:13-39 - Woes: -condemnation of hell
24: 1- 8 - Olivet Discourse: -when will these things be?
24: 9-22 - Olivet Discourse: -tribulation
24:23-31 - Olivet Discourse: -His coming
24:32-35 - Olivet Discourse: -when will it happen?
24:36-44 - Olivet Discourse: -watching for His return
24:45-51 - Olivet Discourse: -faithful servants
25: 1-13 - Olivet Discourse: -getting into Heaven
25:14-30 - Olivet Discourse: -individual rewards
25:31-46 - Olivet Discourse: -judgment of nations
26: 6-13 - Anointing for Burial: -sacrifice & atonement
26:17-25 - It is time: -Traitor, do your duty
26:26-30 - Lord's Supper: -New Covenant, One Salvation
26:31-35 - Offense of the Cross: -denial & scattered
26:36-46 - Jesus' Passion: -discipline & obedience
26:47-57 - Betrayed: -"captured"?
27:11-14 - King of the Jews?: -you said it
27:46-51 - It is Finished: -our High Priest
28:16-20 - Great Commission: -Jesus' authority
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Jesus: Son of David

"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham."(1:1)

In this one tiny verse is wrapped up the essence of Jesus Christ. First of all we see the "genealogy." In this, we see His "humanity." Jesus was born as "water and blood."(1Jn5:6) That which makes up humanity. Mankind is referred to as "flesh and blood."(1Cor15:50) And He "partook" of the same.(Heb2:14)

As we look at parts of the genealogy, we see incest (1:3), marriage to two pagans (1:5), adultery and murder (1:6); thus, fulfilling Paul's description, "made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant.."(Phil2:7) Even, as society saw him, they saw the product of what they perceived to be an illegitimate birth.(1:18), which notion they did not neglect to point out, "we were not born of fornication." (Jn8:41) Even today scoffers reject the "virgin birth." (Is7:14,Mt1:23) Things haven't changed a bit in 2000 years. And so we can understand how He "took our infirmities" upon Himself.(Mt8:17) And how He is able to give support to us (Heb2:18), since He has gone through everything we, as people, go through. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Heb4:15)

The "Throne of David" was promised in the Old Testament as an everlasting covenant.(1Kg2:45) When His birth was prophesied, He was to bring peace, order and justice.(Isa9:7) Something which is yet future. Because His first coming was to be as a "Savior."(Isa53:1-6, 61:2a, Lk4:19) Thus, the name "Jesus." But, at His first coming the records needed to be confirmed, that this was the "right Man." That He was the "Messiah" the "Christ" the "Anointed One." The One qualified by prophetic lineage to sit on David's throne.

He was constantly called, "Son of David."(Mt9:27,15:22,20:30) And as the multitudes saw His works and heard His teaching, they wondered, "Could this be the Son of David?"(Mt12:23) The One they waited for.

Confirmation of His qualifications to be the Savior "Jesus" is also contained in the statement "Son of Abraham." The covenant to Abraham was, "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."(Gen12:2-3) All "families" would be "blessed" with "salvation" when He would die on the cross.(Gal3:7-9)

Since David came through the line of Jacob (Israel), Jesus was then, also, the Son of the "God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."(Ex2:24,3:6) Our translations capitalize the word "Son" making it a proper noun, as of Deity.

Jesus claimed to be the "Son of God." "Before Abraham was, I am." (Jn8:58) Claiming ownership of the title "God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob" (Ex3:6) ...the "I AM" (Ex3:14) And when Peter proclaimed, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God"(Mt16:16) Jesus told him that the Father had made this revelation.(vs17) The Father, Himself, made the proclamation at His baptism, as the "Spirit of God..[alighted] upon Him" and with His voice said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."(Mt3:17)

In presenting the royal genealogy the book of Matthew presents Jesus as "King." The wise men came looking for the "King of the Jews."(2:2) When standing before Pilate, Jesus spoke of His "kingdom" (Jn18:36-37) And at His crucifixion, the gentile governor placed the title over His cross, "This is Jesus the King of the Jews."(Mt27:36) Ultimately, Jesus will wrench away the "kingdoms of this world" from satan, who presently has that authority (Mt4:8-9,Lk4:6), and will take charge and reign "forever and ever."(Rev11:15)

Just before Jesus returned to the Father after His resurrection, He told His disciples, "all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."(Mt28:18) That authority was given to Him by the Father. Ultimately, He will give back to the Father "the kingdom" and will put an end to all "rule and all authority and power"(1Cor15:24) And once He has done that, He, Himself, will subject Himself back to the Father, Who is "all in all."(vs28)

This is the One Whose teachings we will study. John writes much about "keeping His commandments." (1John) How can we keep that which we don't know? Thus, this series. Rather than study commentaries of some men about what they "say" Jesus said, let's go directly to the Source. Where else can we go? In Peter's own words...

"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.(Jn6:68)

Q/A on this topic

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It is Written: temptation - (Mat 4:1-11)

"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."(vs1)

As Jesus is about to begin His ministry he is first of all baptised. (3:14-17) As John objects by saying, "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?" Jesus says something interesting, "..it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."(vs15) I'm not going to pretend to understand that statement fully, except that it was part of God's plan to fully prepare the "Sacrificial Lamb" which needed to be perfect. Without any blemish. At His birth everything was fulfilled "according to the law" to make Him a "Jew."(Lk2:39) And now He, the "human," is being prepared to authenticate His righteousness. He has just been authenticated by the Father's voice, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."(3:17)

Now, we need to find out whether He can sin. Can He be tempted? The phrase "to be tempted" is quite fascinating. Is it possible for Him to be tempted? If He is tempted, will He succumb? Let's specifically put Him to the test, to see if it is possible. In Mark 1:12 we get a picture of Him being "driven" out into the wilderness. "As if with violence." This was not some little "happenstance" as He was passing along. This is examination time! Graduation depends on its outcome!

We must understand what's at stake. The first Adam (1Cor15:45) had been tempted, had yielded, and brought sin upon the whole human race. If the "last Adam" was to be a "life-giving spirit" He had to be tempted in the same manner, to be absolutely certain He was qualified to atone for sin. And we are told that He was, "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15)

So we see this as an "appointment." "To be tempted by the devil." If we consider the conversation between God and satan in Job ch1, we can just about imagine God's challenge to satan here; "There He is. My Son is JUST a 'man' now. Take your best shot." In Mark we are also told that He was with the "wild beasts"(1:13) no doubt thinking He might be their next meal. That, along with 40 days of hunger has Him in dire physical straights. Possibly on the verge of death?

Perhaps some "ground rules" had been laid out? While He would later make bread to feed multitudes, perhaps He was not "allowed to" do so for Himself? After all, He had taken on a "human" body. "being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself.."(Phil2:8) If He was going to willy nilly perform "creative" feats, He was no longer "just" a man, was He? As He was being arrested for crucifixion He said, "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? (Mt26:53) But, He had come to be a "man" and had to live under human limitations.

So, satan takes his first shot. "C'mon Jesus. I know how hungry you are. Make the stones into bread. You can do it. After all, You're the Creator. You've just been baptized and heard 'His' voice. You're God's Son. Think of all this POWER at Your disposal!"

Here is Jesus' first teaching. And who, the more appropriate pupil, than satan! His answer, "IT IS WRITTEN..."(vs4) He did not say, "well, I don't THINK that would be a good idea." Or, "do you think I should?" "Well, I don't know...let me think on it a while." As He then rationalizes how "good it would taste."(Gen3:6) "After all, I'm just about to die out here...and then, how would I SAVE the world?"

"How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You! (Psa 119:9,11) While Jesus quoted a Scripture related to "bread" the point we need to understand here, is that He relied upon the "already-given" Word of God.(Jude3) Not some "New Truth" or "situational ethics." Since Scripture is sufficient for the "thorough equipping" for "every good work."(2Tm3:17)

So now the crafty serpent (Gen3:1) tempts Him again, and this time uses Jesus' defense "against Himself" by saying "...for it is written."(vs6) Same thing he did with Eve, "for God knows..."(Gen3:5)

Hunger hadn't killed Him yet, nor the wild animals; so the appeal is to pride and fame. "Just jump off this high place"(vs6) ...after all, doesn't the Bible say...? Satan, of course, is hoping, yet, to kill Him before He can get to the cross. And as an "angel of light"(2Cor11:14) presents Scripture in a manner most appealing to the present situation.

But we are told to "rightly [divide] the Word of truth." (2Tm2:15) And so, this time Jesus moves from the temptation at hand, and gets to the core of what satan is doing. "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." Don't twist the Scriptures (2Pt3:16) to suit your own fancy, and then call upon God to obey your interpretation of it. After all, doesn't it say, "If we asking anything...He will hear"? Well, "according to His will" ...yes.(1Jn5:14)

As an example: Jesus said, "..they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them.."(Mk16:18) And so there are some cults who "handle snakes" in their worship, expecting God to "protect them" ...putting God to the test, when that passage has nothing to do with courting danger purposefully. But when Scriptures are distorted, an entire cult results. And some people get bit and die.

Now, the stakes are raised. At this point Satan seems willing to forfeit everything, just to fulfill his dream of being "like the Most High."(Is14:14) How could he fulfill that? By having Jesus, the "second in command" bow and worship him. After all, Jesus was "second" to the Father. The only One Jesus would be in subjection to was the Father; "I always do those things that please Him"(Jn8:29) And if he could get Jesus to bow to him, in that moment, he would be "like" the Father, the Most High.

What is satan willing to give up for this one moment? "All the kingdoms of the world and their glory."(vs8) Wait a minute! What is this? He is going to give "to Jesus" (the Creator of all things) the kingdoms of the world? Hopefully this is a bit of an eye-opener for us. While we Believers know that God is "in control" we must never loose sight of the fact of "who" is CURRENTLY RULING the world. Satan said, "for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish."(Lk4:6) And you will notice that Jesus does not deny that claim. As Paul reminds us that our "warfare" is "against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."(Eph6:12)

The appeal for Jesus in this is to get His "kingship" NOW. After all, He was introduced as "..Son of David, Son of Abraham."(1:1) But He knew He was coming two times: first as Savior and then as King. (Is61:2,Lk4:19) If He took the kingship "now" He could bypass altogether the torturous, gruelling suffering and separation from the Father on the cross. Hebrews says that "though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. (Heb5:8) If He did not exercise endurance the world would not be saved, humanity would "all" die without any hope of redemption, and ultimately Satan would have "won" in the struggle against God.

So what does Jesus respond? "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve'." (vs10) In His submission to God, refusing to bow to satan, He "[resisted] the devil" and the devil [fled] from Him.(Jas4:7)

You will notice there is one thing in this account that Jesus did NOT do. He did not "bind" satan! Of all people in creation, one would think Jesus would have had the qualifications to do so. But He (the "man") did not. So, all the "little christs" that run around today, pretending to "bind" satan, are way in over the heads (Jude10) as they seek an authority that even Jesus, Himself, did not appropriate. He stood firm (Eph6:13b), stood His ground and said, "Be Gone!" Go on, get out of here! "Away with you!"

As James continues, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.." (vs8) And so, in Jesus' case, what happened when He had made satan flee? "Angels came and ministered to Him."(vs11)

So, as Jesus provided the example in resisting temptation, we, too, can do the same. Nothing will be allowed to come that we cannot resist. "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1Cor10:13)

And yes, He will even send angels to minister to us. That is what they are there for. "Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? (Heb1:14)

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Repent: follow Me - (Mat 4:17-24)

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."(vs17)

This message, so succinctly stated in this short sentence, is power-packed. First of all we see a continuance of the recurring O.T. theme. The prophets didn't use the word "repent" as such, but another that means the same thing. "Turn." Solomon prayed about God's people "turn[ing] from their wicked ways."(2Chr7:14) The watchman warning the "wicked" person in order that they might "turn from his wickedness." (Ez3:19) John the Baptist retorted to the self-righteous, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance."(Mt3:7)

This is the part of the "gospel" that is mostly lacking in today's sermons, but was most preached by Bible prophets. People today are told that they are "already good" and God sees all sorts of "worth" in them. That God accepts them "just as they are." No change is necessary. For if anybody were to suggest the need for change, that would mean the person was being "judgmental." After all, doesn't Jesus say a bit later, "judge not, that you be not judged"?(7:1)

While we know from other studies we've had that salvation is a "free gift" which is "not of works"(Eph2:8-9) we also realize that a CLAIM to righteousness without its proving "works" is meaningless.(Jas2:26) What a person sees in himself when he truly comes to God is his own worthlessness. His utter depravity in sin. He sees that because of his WORKS which proceed out of the heart.(Mt15:19) So, until the knowledge of Christ enters his heart, the "need" he sees is to cleanse his heart. To get rid of the evil. To change. Yes...by definition..."Repent."

Now, this next part of the message is unique. He says, "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." The O.T. prophets did not preach this. John the Baptist was the first. Why? Because Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the very essence of God's glory (Jn14:9-11,1Jn1:2) was now in their midst.

This word "kingdom" confused the disciples, just as it does many today. They expected that their Messiah had come to establish the earthly-rule kingdom (Acts1:6). But what He was actually proclaiming was that "the Person of right and authority" was in their midst. The expression "kingdom of heaven" and "kingdom of God" are synonymous. The kingdom of God, the "King of kings and Lord of lords"(Rev19:16) was "at hand." He is "here." You can "approach" Him. As John would later write, "..we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life."(1Jn1:1)

Put most simplistically, Jesus was proclaiming, "Repent! I'm here."

But, as most of His teaching was done with parables, "because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear...lest they should understand with their hearts and turn so that I should heal them." (13:13,15) He knew they would reject Him. He needed to die on the cross. God foreknew their hardness of heart. So, He "couched" His own introduction "indirectly."

But, those special ones whom He chose, whose hearts he knew, He called specifically. "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."(4:19) As He would later say, "No one can come to me unless the Father..draws him."(Jn6:44) And even this was "granted" by the Father.(Jn6:65) As He would also say later, "of all that He has given Me I should loose nothing."(Jn6:39) And again, "Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition.."(Jn17:12)

And so He begins to choose His disciples, and calls them to follow Him. The mission; to "catch men." Jesus' whole purpose in coming was to "seek and to save that which was lost."(Lk19:10)

He did not come to be politically involved and become king. Those were the "righteous" leaders of the day. And He says, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."(9:13) But the ones needing "saving" were the sick.(9:12) And of Rome He said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."(22:21) He did not come, at that time, to rule politically.

Now, while the disciples followed Him for three years, and never fully understood His mission until after His resurrection and ascention, they were willing subjects. "They immediately left their nets and followed Him."(4:20)

No doubt they did so naively, not fully aware of what they were "in for." But ultimately these "simple" fishermen would become the backbone of the Church. They would be known for "having been with Jesus" (Acts4:13) as they "turned the world upside down"(17:6)

Do you want to do great things for God? First you must learn to "follow." That means giving up all rights to your own desires and goals. Humility. "Whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant."(20:26)

Someone not long ago forwarded to me some information about a "Golden Medal Journey." A program designed to make "you and Jesus come together" in some sort of, I suppose, "spiritual self-esteem." The program had this "flavor" of being "chummy" with Jesus. Thinking hard, and "deciding" what a person wanted to do, establishing some personal goals, and "then" asking Jesus if He'd like to do it with you. Asking Jesus to come alongside, and be supportive...and in that way, getting to know Jesus. Starting with the person, and "including Jesus" in one's own private plans.

But you notice, these men already had a direction in their lives. They were fishermen...and Jesus called them to "leave it all" (their sole livelihoods and personal goals) and "follow Him." If you want to be with Jesus, you must leave all behind, forsake it all. "So...whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. (Lk14:33)

What have you left behind, to follow Him?

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Sermon on the Mount: opening comments - (Mat 5:1-2)

And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them..."(vs1-2)

Possibly one of the most "famous" passages in all of Scripture. A passage the "main line" churches love. For many who don't know Christ, if you ask them if they are going to heaven, will respond, "Well, I try to live the best I can, and follow the 'Sermon on the Mount'." And if you were to ask them what it's about, they might respond..."Isn't that the place were it says 'God helps those who help themselves'?"

While the unregenerate have grossly distorted, "to their own destruction"(2Pt3:16b) most of the teachings of these next three chapters, in a very real sense, this group of teachings contains a synopsis of all necessary Truth. If a person had no other section of Scripture, these three chapters contain enough "information" for one who is truly seeking for God, to get him to heaven safely. For as Paul writes that the Law was a gauge for how sinful we are (Rom5:20), and that it is our "tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith."(Gal3:24) Jesus in this section teaches us what the intent of the Law was.(5:17,22) What God's intention was for the Law, before rebellious man distorted God's will, as Jesus would say, "You have heard it said" ...by the human traditions... "but I say to you." This is the Law. Man has distorted it this way. But here is what it really meant all along

So, as "His disciples came [TO] Him" to learn, let us do the same.

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Sermon on the Mount: beatitudes - (Mat 5:3-12)

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."(vs3)

In this one "simple" sentence is the key to salvation. One who is "poor in spirit" is one who is "destitute, afflicted, lowly, helpless, powerless." He is the one who came "beating his breast and said, "God be merciful to me the sinner."(Lk18:13) He could see that there was nothing good about himself, because he realized "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells."(Rom7:18)

This is the opposite of what the world and current churches teach; self-worth, self-esteem, self-importance, self-empowerment, self-righteousness and holiness. And these people will not be saved in such a state, because Jesus said, "I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."(Mt9:13) As he would say to Peter, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me."(Jn13:8) Of the self-righteous pharisee who praised himself to God and the humble tax collector who asked for God's mercy Jesus said the "sinner" went home justified rather than the "church leader" pharisee.(Lk18:14)

The one who is helpless to save himself is precisely the one for whom Christ came. "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly."(Rom5:6) And Jesus says, "theirs is the kingdom of heaven."(vs3)

"Blessed are those who mourn..."(vs4) James says, "Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom." (Jas4:9) The salvation that brings eternal life is not a "feel good" experience. If you go about to indulge your feelings, you will never be saved. Being saved starts with "sorrow leading to repentance." As Paul writes, "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted...(2Cor7:10) But, once a person has come in sorrow, and Christ has washed away the sins (Rev1:5b) as the burden of sin has been taken away, then there is the "relief" that a clear conscience brings. (1Jn3:21) As Jesus says, "...they shall be comforted."

"Blessed are the meek..."(vs5) James continues, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up."(Jas4:10) When we are in Christ, we are "joint heirs" with Him.(Rom8:17) Just as all things have been given to Christ, so too, we will "reign with Him" (2Tm2:12) And as the earth is "His footstool"(5:35) the one who comes to Him in meekness can sit at His feet, as the disciples did on the mountain, and learn from Him. "...inheriting the earth."

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness...(vs6) Job said, "I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food.(Job23:12) Jesus invited His hearers, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (Jn6:35) "The water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."(Jn4:14) "...for they shall be filled."

"Blessed are the merciful..."(vs7) Here we get into "faith in action." Later He will teach "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." (6:12) and says, "if you forgive men..your heavenly Father will forgive you."(6:14) And of the one who was unmerciful, "I forgave you that debt...'Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' (Mt18:32-33) If we have truly come in humility and received God's grace upon us, we cannot BUT be the same to others. If we do He says, "..they shall obtain mercy."

"Blessed are the pure in heart..."(vs8) "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God"(1Cor15:50) because it is the "body of death." (Rom7:24) While God gave the Law as a "tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith"(Gal3:24) Israel was promising, "all that the LORD our God says to you [Moses] ..we will hear and do it."(Deu5:27) But you see, Israel was an obstinate people..."they always go astray in their heart."(Heb3:10) But what did God want from them? To keep the Law? Yes...but more than that. "Oh, that they had such a HEART in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!"(Deu5:29) "But with most of them God was not well pleased, for they were scattered in the wilderness."(1Cor10:5) They did not partake of God's "rest."(Heb3:11) But Jesus says that God's desire is for people to have "pure hearts" ...to "see God." "And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."(1Jn3:3) This is another step in the maturing process, as a person has his "senses exercised to discern both good and evil."(Heb5:14)

"Blessed are the peacemakers..."(vs9) Even more maturing and growth is required here. Not the brashness of youth that would wage battle at every opportunity. Paul wrote, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (Rom12:18) Even regarding something like an unbeliever seeking divorce from a Believer, Paul gives the Believer the recommendation to go along with it, even though God "hates divorce"(Mal2:16) because, "God has called us to peace."(1Cor7:15) In pursuing the path of peace (Rom14:19, Heb12:14, 1Pt3:11) we become more like Christ the "Prince of Peace" (Is9:6) and Jesus says, "...they shall be called sons of God."

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake..."(vs10) Ultimate maturity here, as often, persecution results in martyrdom. When a person has given his life, there is nothing greater (or more) that he can give.(Jn15:13) If we submit to persecution for Christ, and even, possibly, martyrdom, that is "ultimate love" demonstrated for Christ, Who called us His "friends."(Jn15:14) And you will notice the great honor bestowed upon His first martyr, Stephen, as he was about to depart. Jesus rose from His seat and was "standing" at the Father's right hand (Acts7:55-56) to welcome him into heaven for his faithfulness. His was the "...kingdom of heaven."

Before I realized that many of those around me, whom I had thought were Christians, were not; who were railing upon me for this or that as I was trying to be faithful to God's Word, and they were not; I used to get down in the glum-dumps of dejection because of their abuses. First of all, I didn't realize they were not True Believers. And, I was "hurt" that they would attack me for being faithful to God and His Word. And for a few years I started to "cave in" and "softened" my approach...and even became watered down a bit in doctrine...in order to be more "loving" and "tolerant" and not so "judgmental." After all, we are supposed to "love our brothers." Right? But...they were not "Brothers in Christ." And I realize that now.

Also, a gauge as to one's faithfulness is the "kind of" objections God's enemies bring one's way. If we receive the "praise of men" then we are like the "false prophets." Jesus said it thus, Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.(Lk6:26) Do we want the "passing pleasures" of the praise of this world? Moses rejected them in order to serve God (Heb11:25) as he "esteem[ed] the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.(vs26)

As we are in the arena in battle, many in the stands (Heb12:1) are "booing" us. And at times it seems like the "boos" are louder than the cheers, as they also "throw stuff" at us. But we are called to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us...run[ning] with endurance the race that is set before us...LOOKING UNTO JESUS. (Heb12:2) This is our ultimate goal. To look to Jesus. To follow Jesus. Receive abuse for Jesus.(Col1:24) And, if called upon...to die for Jesus.

It is not "demeaning" to suffer for Christ. On the contrary! The early disciples rejoiced "that they were counted WORTHY to suffer shame for His name."(Acts5:41) It is an honor. Jesus said...

"Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."(vs12)

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Sermon on the Mount: salt & light - (Mat 5:13-16)

"You are 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 underfoot by men. (vs.13)

In Jesus' teachings He often uses word "pictures." Examples from everyday life. Things that people understand well, that are familiar. To illustrate spiritual/heavenly principles.

As I understand things, they did not have the "Morton salt-boy" walking in the rain with his fine-grained iodized salt pouring out of his oversized container. They had salt "rocks" which would be put into the cooking pot until enough salt had come out of the rock into the food to flavor it as intended, and then the rock was taken out. Eventually with repeated use the salt would all become disolved out of the rock. And then, obviously, the rock was not useable for flavoring any more. And it was thrown out to join the other rocks on the roadway. Unfit.

Believers are to be "flavorful" in the world. Paul speaks of a "sweat aroma"(Eph5:2,Phil4:18) We are, if possible, to live "peaceably with all men."(Rom12:18) The world is to be able to know we are Christians by our "love."(Jn13:35) We are to be a positive influence on the world.

Salt is also a cleansing agent. If a person has a wound, and nothing else medicinally is available, salt would be a suitable agent..although QUITE painful. And the same properties which make it a healing agent also make it a preservative; killing the spoiling bacterium.

Yes, sometimes a Christian's testimony seems to "sting" a bit when a sinner hears the Gospel message or Biblical doctrine faithfully proclaimed and lived. The person sees the sin in his own life, and God's word seeks to kill the bacteria of sin, and it hurts.

Putting this verse together with 2Ths2:7 the Holy Spirit "restrains .. lawlessness." If the Believer is acting as "salt" in the same way, it is apparent that the "salt" here is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit "convicts the world of sin and righteousness"(Jn16:8) And it is supported by Jesus' words, "have salt in yourselves."(Mk9:50) The Believer is the human agent by which He has chosen to accomplish His work. So the Believer is to provide "flavor." But he is also to be vigilant for sound doctrine, standing against sin; not adapting to the world's ways to win the world, but being distinct. "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal."(2Cor10:4)

But the salt (rock) does not have flavor of its own will. It is merely a "rock." The container. It must have the "salt" installed by Christ. "Christ in you."(Col1:27) "Be filled with the [Holy] Spirit."(Eph5:18)

But you also notice He mentions the possibility of "los[ing] its flavor."(vs13) Having salt/flavor is a choice. In the context of speaking of eternal hell fire He says, "have salt in yourselves." (Mk9:50) And what happens if the rock becomes "unflavorful?" It is cast out and "trampled." Throughout His teachings, Jesus speaks often of the circumstances which will cause a person to be "cast out." (We have spoken of this .."once saved, always saved".. in the past in other studies. It will also be covered again in more depth later in this series.)

He goes on in the same teaching to say, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house."(vs14-15)

Again, a "contrast" to the world. The world is darkness. A Christian is not to try to appropriate darkness in order to win the world. The light is set up prominently so it can shine in the darkness, and make it light. But we presently see a "church" full of people purposely dousing their flames in order to grope around like the world does. After all, we don't want to "offend" the world. If we shine too brightly, it will expose the sin that the world commits, as they "love darkness rather than light."(Jn3:19) And that would be "judgmental." But you notice Paul writes, "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather EXPOSE them."(Eph5:11)

You notice, Jesus doesn't tell us to go around pointing our fingers and wagging them in people's faces, nor bombing their murder clinics. He says, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."(vs16) Live pure and holy lives. But don't be hoity-toity "to be seen by men."(6:1) And certainly don't grovel around in their filth.

Just as a Christian spouse provides, by a good life, a testimony to the unsaved (1Cor7:16,1Pt3:2), so, too, the light of the Holy Spirit living through the person brings about praise unto our heavenly Father.(vs16)

Have salt... Let your light shine...!

Related topic: Light of the World

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Sermon on the Mount: the Law & Prophets - (Mat 5:17-20)

"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill."(vs17)

There are many professing christians who believe that the Old Testament isn't for the Church. During my college days in the 70's, the hippy "Jesus people" movement, and other similar offshoots essentially threw out the O.T. and would only discuss the N.T. This that became what today might be called the "Love & Grace" generation would quote, "for you are not under law, but under grace." (Rom6:14) After all, didn't Paul chide the Christians of Galatia for trying to adhere to the Law? "Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?"(Gal3:3)..as they merrily seek their "spirit-filled" experiences.

But Jesus is talking about the "Law [AND] Prophets." Since there was not yet a "New Testament" the Scriptures given up to that point consisted of what we, today, call the "Old Testament." They called it the "Law and the Prophets" (Mt7:12,Acts13:15) You will also note that the "Psalms" were included.(Lk24:44)

That Jesus is not isolating specifically the "Ten Commandments" or Levitical ceremonies and rituals can be illustrated by Paul, "But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (Rom3:21) The "Law and the Prophets" giving witness to the "law."

Jesus is not only teaching God's Truth, He is also setting things up to refute and show the fallacies of the teachings of the Scribes and Pharisees. "Now the Pharisees...derided Him. And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts... "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached...it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.(Lk16:14-17)

The religious leaders "legalistically" would pick-n-choose specific laws as proof-texts of a person's obedience to God. They continually harrassed Jesus for not keeping the Sabbath the way they thought it should be kept. And He would focus in on their hearts instead, declaring "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. (Mt23:23)

So, as He is about to tear into their perversions, He assures them (and us) that He is not about to overturn what God had previously given. He is not getting ready to reveal "new truths." Some new "revelations." But He came to FULFILL the Law. Remember Paul's words about some "other gospel" (Gal1:9) Jesus is not about to declare a "new" way to get to heaven. Salvation has ALWAYS BEEN by "grace through faith." (Eph2:8, Lam3:22, Gal3:5-6) It has always been based on the "seed of the women." (Gen3:15, Acts4:12) (And He was the fulfillment, the "Seed.")

"For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled."(vs18) God's Word is "settled in heaven."(Ps119:89) It is firmly established, not because it has been scribed and printed on parchment and paper, but because it is the very essence of Jesus Christ, Himself. "..the Word was God...and the word became flesh." (Jn1:1,14) And so, Jesus was well qualified to assure His hearers that God's Word would not pass away, that it would be fulfilled down to the minutest details, because He was speaking of Himself. And it will be "fulfilled." As the "Prophets" had said, "so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper for which I sent it." (Is55:11)

He speaks of "jot or tittle." This would be like all the "t"s are crossed, all the "i"s are dotted, every article is correct, every gender, case and tense is specific and true. Thus we know that the "Word was God", not "a" God.(Jn1:1) We know that "Jesus is THE Christ" (1Jn1:22), not "a" christ "principle." We know that Jesus came from the Father (Jn8:42) and is the human representation of God. (Jn14:9-11, Heb1:3) He did not go off to Tibet someplace during his adolescence and learn from the "masters" until He had accumulated enough goodness. If you read through the Gospels regarding His humanity, you will notice innumerable references to fulfilled prophecy, even down to the soldiers' gambling over His garments at His crucifixion. And then, what of prophecies concering Israel..That's another whole subject in itself.

And, as past prophecies have been fulfilled down to the letter, we have similar assurance of fulfilment of future prophecies. People think of the earth as being fairly stable and predictable, engendering it's nick name "terra firma." However, the earth is going to pass away. It will be burned up.(2Pt3:10) But God's Word remains, "You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; (Heb1:10-11) Whatever unfulfilled prophecies that remain, WILL BE fulfilled. "God is not slack concerning His promises."(2Pt3:9a)

"Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."(vs19)

Oh the sorrow and lamentation to those who deliberately have perverted and distorted Scripture! As Peter says, "to their own destruction." (2Pt3:16) Never before in history have there been so many "translations" of Scripture as today. Each, catering to their own clientelle. They want a "pleasant voice..for they hear Your words but they do not do them"(Ez33:32) They "heap up for themselve teachers" (2Tm4:3) because they don't want "sound doctrine" ...they want to do their own thing. And so we see a generation of "versions" which cater to their desires.

While humanity today exalts teachers that make them "feel" good, casting aside the Doctrine of God's Word, and those who militantly hold to God's Word are castigated; you notice Jesus ranks them differently. Those who uphold God's Word faithfully, are considered "great" in the kingdom of heaven.

And finally, who gets to heaven? Jesus was rather bold in proclaiming that the scribes and Pharisees would "by no means" enter heaven. Wait just a second! Aren't You being rather judgmental there?! They are our "pastors" and "teachers!" They are up in the pulpits every Sunday. They have hundreds and thousands of people coming forward to their "altars" for "commitment." They are published authors, see this book (by one of them) I've been reading lately. It's sooo good. See the wonderful ministries they have for God! Jesus said, "unless your righteousness exceeds" theirs, you'll never get there. "...by no means..."

Why is this? What is righteousness? Having skirt hemlines a certain length? Having a certain kind of haircut? Faithfully adhering to "Sabbath restrictions?" (This is what the Pharisees did...) They pretended to follow the law, but their hearts were not right. God had originally desired, "Oh that they had such a heart.."(Deu5:29) However, "They always [went] astray IN THEIR HEART, And they have not known [His] ways." (Heb3:10)

So, now we have a little background for the next section where Jesus analyzes the "law" that they were keeping.

Related Topic: "Relaxing a Commandment"
Q/A -Break vs Relax

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Sermon on the Mount: but I say to you - (Mat 5:21-48)

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder..' but I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment."(vs21-22)

Is Jesus "creating" a new law here when He says "But I say to you"? Let's take a look at this. Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to the Lord.(Gen4:3~) Abel followed God's commandment, and his sacrifice was accepted. Cain did something of his own choosing, trying a different "path" to God, and his sacrifice was not accepted...by God. Rather than "mend his ways" with God, he became angry with Abel. (Sound familiar to what happens today?)

God speaks to Cain, "Why are you angry?"(vs6) Basically tells him that if he was doing well, he would be accepted. Since he was not accepted, it meant he had sin in his heart. That sin was wanting to take over. That he should resist.(vs7)(Jas4:7,1Pt5:9) However, Cain gives in to sin and kills Abel.(vs8)

Jesus is getting to the root core of "what" murder is, and where it originates. "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders..." (Mt15:19)

By the same token, a person coming before God in worship cannot expect to be "accepted" if he harbors hatred in his heart, can he. Go take care of the sin first, and then come back to God's "presence."(vs24) For the Corinthians, partaking of the Lord's Supper with improper heart preparation and cleansing resulted in physical death.(1Cor11:30)

"You have heard that it was said, '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."(vs27-28)

So, this means that women should maintain "drab" get-up. That beauty is sinful. That attractiveness is worldly. Right? After all, doesn't Peter say to not fix up the hair, wear jewelry, or nice clothes?(1Pt3:3)

No. Not quite. God made women to be "beautiful" to men. Are we going to condemn what God called "very good"?(Gen1:31) The Egyptians noticed that Abraham's wife was "beautiful."(Gen12:14) Rachel was "beautiful of form and appearance."(Gen29:17) What Peter is saying is, don't let the outward things be what characterizes you. But rather let the beauty "be the hidden person of the heart..gentle and quiet spirit."(1Pt3:4) Abraham's servant brought out much jewelry for Rebecca.(Gen24:22) And nothing was given in the law that said they should not wear jewelry.

Oh, and by the way, from my experience with my "ex..unequal-yoke" who was beautiful; it didn't matter how she was dressed (scuzzy or nice), she still got the "looks" from people. So, men, don't blame the woman. (And then, for balance, let's not forget the matter of "stumbling blocks." But that's another study for another time.)

So, if "it's OK" for a woman to be beautiful, what is Jesus saying? As God said to Cain, "control yourselves, men." "..that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor," (1Th4:4) Once you notice the beautiful woman, what do you do with what you just saw? Do you merely admire, or do you "take her home with you" in your thoughts? If you did, you might as well have done the physical deed...as far as your own heart is concerned. "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (Jas1:14-15)

To what lengths should we go to keep from sinning? Whatever it takes! Are you just NOT ABLE to control yourself? It would be better to be without sight, than for your lusts to take what you see, and bring it forth to sin.(vs29) It would be better to be minus a limb, than to go fully-functional into destruction.(vs30) While we tend to "catagorize" sins as being more or less "bad" and thus, feel we could just "sneak a peak" without getting caught...it's "not so bad." Jesus says, sin is sin. It is ALL "bad."

"Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."(vs31-32)

"The two shall become one flesh."(Gen2:24) What makes a marriage? The wedding ceremony? The license from the courthouse? No. It is when the two come together. Thus, we have a society full of adultery. In God's eyes, the first person you were with, is the one you "married." (Gen49:31b) If you are with anyone else, it is adultery. The only exceptions are death, and an unequal yoke. (Rom7:2-3,1Cor7:15)

Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' But I say to you, do not swear at all...but let your 'Yes' be 'Yes' and your 'No', 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from evil."(vs33-37)

With all sorts of testimony and evidence against her, Harry Smith (2/17/98) asks Tanya Harding words to the effect, "Can you look me in the eye and tell me you had nothing to do with the attack on Nancy Kerrigan?" Tanya looks him in the eye with words to the effect, "On everything holy and sacred...I did not do it." (She had some expressions I had not heard before, so don't remember it verbatim.) As she was, obviously, "lying through her teeth"..!! Her words, "from evil."(vs37)

How can a person make a "solemn promise" based on some holy object? Does a person have control over that object? Only God does. Can a person swear by their own existence? God has control over that, too, and can say, "Fool! This night your soul will be required of you.."(Lk12:20) ...and what are you going to do about it then?

Just be straightforward and honest. "Yes..Yes" "No..No." Anything else is sin.

"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.(vs38-39)

In the law, if a person injured another such that they lost a body part, the one who perpetrated the crime was to receive to his own person in like manner as he had done.(Ex21:24) This was a "judicial" ruling. Is Jesus saying that criminals are no longer to be held accountable for their crimes, as is presently the case in the US? No. He is speaking of "vengeance." God says, "Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.' "For the LORD will judge His people And have compassion on His servants, When He sees that their power is gone, And there is no one remaining, bond or free. (Deu32:35-36)

In other words, be willing to suffer wrong.(1Cor6:7) While we are given the right to use the legal system to receive restitution (1Cor7:21, Acts22:25,25:10-11), we are not to take matters into our own hands. To "make them pay." If things don't turn out the way you know they "should" just remember that "their foot shall slip in due time." They will get what's coming to them.

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you...that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."(~vs43-45)

How would we be "sons of [our] Father?" Peter expresses it with Jesus' own example, "who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.."(1Pt2:23) If we are nice only to those who are nice to us, we are no different than the world. But to be "perfect"(vs48) is to love them anyway; remembering God's love for us "when we were still without strength"(Rom5:6)(or goodness or merit) "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son."(Jn3:16)

No. No "new" commandments. Just, the "real intent" of the Law as was already given. "Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. (1Jn2:7)

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Sermon on the Mount: to be seen by men? - (Mat 6:1 & 16)

"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven."(vs1)

Charitable deeds ("alms"). Not a specific commandment given through Moses. But, something, nonetheless which Jesus is commenting on. In the O.T. God made many passing comments about treating widows, orphans and the poor with compassion. To "not afflict" widows and orphans.(Ex22:22) That God sees their cause.(Deu10:18) To treat foreigners well. (Deu10:19) And furthermore, that "gleanings" should be left for the poor and the foreigners. (Lev19:9-10)

In more urban societies it would seem that people simply gave money to the poor. e.g. When Jesus instructed Judas that it was "time" (to go betray Him) the other disciples thought he was perhaps supposed to go give to the poor.(Jn13:29) Zacchaeus promised to give "half" his goods to the poor.(Lk19:8) And in the early church they made efforts to "remember the poor."(Gal2:10) But you will notice, it is not a specific command. Nor is a method of giving, nor an amount or percentage dictated. This was something people would do out of the goodness of their hearts.

But, as today, so it was then. Those who gave, received notoriety and recognition for their beneficence. Today we have the "???? Foundation/s" where "????" is somebody's "name." Just recently the "overnight millionaires" from MicroSoft were featured on CBS News for their philanthropy. So, now we know "who" they are, and "the fact that" they are learning how to give.

In Jesus day, apparently, they were even more brazen...sounding trumpets before themselves. Thus the expression about "tooting one's own horn." Jesus said, "they have their reward."(vs2)

But, what is the "purpose" in doing "charity?" To gain a name because of one's own philanthropy? Or is it to benefit the objects of that charity? Jesus said, "you have the poor with you always."(Mt26:11) As long as the world is in sin, there are always going to be the "have-nots." While welfare needs to be reformed to encourage the dead-beats to get back to work and stop being free-loaders, there is truly a need for welfare. There will always be people in need. Whether they receive aid from the government ('not going to get into political discussion here) or from private charities, it is necessary to care for the truly destitute. That is a Godly principle.

Is it wrong to have wealth? (Some give to charities out of guilt for their own wealth) No. Peter said to Ananias, "While it remained, was it not your own? After it [the property] was sold, was it not in your own control?"(Acts5:4) Furthermore, is it wrong to spend for "quality" for special occasions? No. Before His crucifixion a woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume/oil. And the disciples became indignant over this "waste" when it could have been sold and given to the poor. (Mt26:7-13) And Jesus said that she had done a "good work" for Jesus, in preparation for His "burial." After all, remember that Jesus is Deity. The very Son of God. Is He not "worth" the very best we can give!

If giving to charity is for the benefit of the needy, there is no need for recognition of the donor. The purpose is to help those in need. "Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."(vs3) Do it in "secret."(vs4) Rather than appearing on TV, how about leaving several bags of groceries on their doorstep from time to time "anonymously." If you know they can't afford new tires for their old car, pre-pay for a set, and swear the dealer to "secrecy" as to "where" it came from. Your Father in heaven knows your heart, and will reward you appropriately.

"Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting."(vs16)

As we considered in a recent commentary, "fasting" is not something God specifically commanded. He said that during certain times Israel should "afflict" their souls.(Lv16:29) It would seem apparent that Israel adopted "fasting" as there are subsequently many O.T. references to "fasting" in connection with humility and repentance before God.

So, you notice, Jesus does not say, "I command you to fast." But rather, "WHEN you fast." In other words, when you are in a mode of humility and contrition before God, don't announce it to the world. If you are truly humbling yourself before God, what does anybody else matter? As Jesus was gently, pointedly, bringing Peter back from his denial of Christ, Peter pipes up with, "what about this man?"(Jn21:21) And Jesus replies, "If I will that he remains till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me."(vs22) Don't worry about your "fellow servant." (Rom14:4) He is individually answerable to God, just as you are. You follow [Me] and don't worry about "him."

When you fast, do so "in secret" (vs18) before your Father. To the world, go about your life "as normal." If you were scheduled for a lunch appointment; keep the appointment and "eat" at it. Your spiritual relationship is "personal" with your Father. And He will be sure that the necessary people know what they need to know.

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Sermon on the Mount: praying hypocrites? - (Mat 6:5-8)

"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men."(vs5)

Oh, the "spirituality" ...to be able, at a "moment's notice" to be called upon by the leader on the platform to stand from within the congregation to "pray." Oh, the flowery words and better yet, if the person can pray in "King James-ese." Such a person surely "must" be a terrificly wonderful "Christian." Or when a group is eating in a restaurant, the "spiritual one" will raise his voice ten times the normal conversation level...as a "testimony" to the unregenerate, you understand...and "pray" for 10 minutes to "bless" the food.

Or, during "prayer meeting" the person didn't get a chance to "show-n-tell" so, "Lord, thank you for letting [me] have the opportunity to do these wonderful things for You." Like the pharisee, "God I thank you [that I'm so wonderful]..."(Lk18:11) Or, if there has been a heated discussion with great animosity, the parties decide to "pray about it" and their "prayer" becomes a "santification" of each's position before the other, making it "right" ...because they are "praying" about it "before God." ...or so they assume.

Jesus calls such rubbish "hypocrisy!" Such people who boost themselves up "have their reward."(vs5b) But not from God!

Prayer is a "secret" thing with our Father. As we "abide" in Christ (Jn15) and are "one" with the Father and Jesus (Jn17) we are a "family." Families typically don't go broadcasting their personal matters to the world. When a married couple are intimate, they do not advertise and describe their relationship with everyone else. The relationship of the Christian with Jesus Christ is like the marriage relationship(Eph5:32) where "two..become one"(vs31) as we are "one" with God.(Jn17:21) The Believer goes "into the room and [shuts] the door" and communes with God "in secret."(vs6)

Yes, there are times when a leader will forumlate a "corporate prayer." Solomon did so in dedicating the temple.(2Chr6:13) Jesus did so in breaking the bread.(Mt15:36) In raising Lazarus.(Jn11:41) Paul before the unregenerate in the storm.(Acts27:35) Many of these "public" prayers were as much for "testimony" to the observers as they were true "communion" between the ones praying and God; and were more an outward manifestation of the communion that already existed...as Jesus prayed, "And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me." (Jn11:42)

Furthermore, "when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.(vs7)

"Now I lay me down to sleep..." or "God is gracious, God is good, now we thank Him for this food." These are the ones people teach their children. There are some cults called "christian" that use the heathen practices of "prayer beads." Each bead another "prayer." As though, somehow we must multiply words before God for Him to hear us. The reason people are not heard by God is "sin." "..your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He WILL NOT HEAR."(Is59:2) Understand this clearly. There are many "prayers" that God "refuses to" hear. And no amount of multiplying of words, repeating mantras, raising the voice...will avail anything.

Many "prayers" are with wrong motives(Jas4:3) and are not answered. The other day I was riding along with a friend and this music tape was playing...the "ol' favorite"; "Sweet hour of prayer...make all [my] WANTS and WISHES known." To most people this is what prayer is. "God, get me out of this mess I got myself into. I'll promise to do ANYTHING You ask, if you'll just get me out of this bind!" Do you think God "makes deals?!" This prayer is not originating from a desire for fellowship with God, and is not from a pure heart! Or, "I really need that new car, Lord."

What prayers does God answer? Those that are "according to His will." (1Jn5:14) But how do we know what His will is? We need to be in fellowship; abiding. Our heart attitudes must be of submission to Him, as Jesus prayed, "not My will, but yours be done."(Lk22:42) Rather than my "wants and wishes" it is "what will you have me to do?"(Acts9:6)

And as for our "needs" ...it isn't really necessary to ask, because "your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him."(vs8)

So, don't be like the hypocrites.(vs8a)

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Sermon on the Mount: how to pray - Mat 6:9-15)

"In this manner, therefore, pray:"(vs9)

Jesus was in the habit of praying a lot. 'Would sometimes spend all night in prayer.(Lk6:12) And on one occasion the disciples asked Him "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.."(Lk11:1) His reply there was essentially the same as here, on the Sermon on the Mount.

"Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name..."

When Isaiah saw the Lord "high and lifted up"(Is6:1) the seraphim continually cried to one another "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!"(vs3) When we are "in secret" with God, we do not approach Him as if He was our "buddy." The "man upstairs." We come before Him in awe and fear (Ps89:7) as Isaiah wailed "Woe is me..I am undone!"(Is6:5)

Also, let us be sure we pray to our Father "in heaven." Some modern perversions of Scripture, in some parallel passages will delete "in heaven." For the unregenerate there is [another] "father." As Jesus said, "you are of your father the devil.."(Jn8:44) And as he imitates God as an "angel of light"(2Cor11:14) his "spirit-filled" children pray to [their] father. But he is not of "heaven!" He is of the "pit" (Rev20:3) and the "lake of fire."(vs10) The Most High is "in heaven."

"Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven..."(vs10)

Once we have recognized and praised God's holiness, we also acknowledge His authority and rulership. The word "kingdom" does not only refer to a "place" but also the "royal power and dominion" of our Father in heaven; the "Most High."(Is14:14,Dan4:17) His "right" to rulership. If we do this, coming from the foundation of knowing His holiness, we will not be running around pretending to be "little christs" and mouthing off to the "dignitaries."(Jude8,2Pt2:10) We will realize that such belongs to God.

And naturally, then, we will not try to conform God to our wills; misapplying Jesus promise, "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. (Jn14:14) As though to "force God" into doing things at our beck and call. Our desire is that God's "will be done." We are, but, "ambassadors"(2Cor5:20) and represent [God's] kingdom.

"Give us this day our daily bread..."(vs11)

This part almost seems redundant and "unnecessary" somehow, doesn't it; since Jesus had said, "your Father knows the things you need before you ask."(vs8) And yet in this simple sentence we find the "only item" we request on behalf of ourselves. "Daily bread." The simple "necessities" of life. That which is necessary to sustain us. In this sentence is not included all our "wants and wishes." It is not our purpose to acquire in abundance, "For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. (Rom14:7-8)

And the necessities are for "each day." He says, "give us THIS DAY.." As God led Israel through the wilderness, the manna fell "each" non-sabbath day. And it says there was nothing over; nothing lacking. "Every man had gathered according to each one's need."(Ex16:18) It was always "just right."

"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors..."(vs12)

What is a "debt?" Something owed. A payment due, a recompense unmet. What is the debt we owe God? Death. We are sinners and the "wages of sin is death."(Rom6:23) Now, if we are Believers and we sin, we "confess" our sins and receive forgiveness. (1Jn1:9)

If someone has wronged us, we are to forgive them. If we refuse to do so, God will not forgive us, either.(vs14-15) Why not? Let's think about this a minute. If we come to God in TRUE "repentance" it indicates abject humility. "God be merciful to me the sinner."(Lk18:13) We understand our total inability to "cover" the debt.(Mt18:25) We understand God's "grace."(Rom5:20) We understand that forgiveness has nothing to do with us acquiring it on our own behalf.(Rom5:6,8)

So, if we have been "forgiven much" we also "love much."(Lk7:47) If we have been forgiven, and understand God's grace, we can do nothing BUT to forgive one another. To not do so is to not truly understand God's forgiveness of us. And thus, it is not given to us. We know our own frailties. We must also realize the frailties of one another.

Do we begin to understand Jesus' ability to cover our sin? It says, "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Heb4:15) For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Heb2:18) The "full depth" of Jesus' atonment for us was not only that He was righteous, and died for us substitutionally. But He also was fully "man" (Heb2:14) and as such, He could UNDERSTAND "as a man" the frailties which lead us to sin. He was not "just" God "up there" Who didn't know "how we have it down here." He "truly knows" experientially why we sin and fail; even though He did not succumb, Himself. And so, His "forgiveness" of us becomes even more "personal" and precious! Since He "humbled Himself" to do so.(Phil2:8)

If we refuse to forgive another, knowing our own frailties and the mercy we desire from God, He does not forgive us. We have not truly humbled ourself. We are holding ourself "above" the other, judging them.(Rom14:4)

"And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil..."(vs13)

Let us remember that God does not bring evil upon us. He only gives "good" things.(Jas1:17) But He allows Satan to buffet us as an "adversary." He "opposes" Christ.(Zec3:1) Seeks to "devour" whomever he can.(1Pt5:8) Jesus promised that "tribulation" would come (Jn16:33) and also that He has "overcome." We have "victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."(1Cor15:57)

Many people will say that the evil that befell us was something that God brought upon us. But the "person" of the "evil one" is also very real. He is the "deceiver."(2Jn1:7) The "father" of lies.(Jn8:44)

Again...when we know God and His character, this part of the prayer is almost redundant, as well. But when we understand that "prayer" is a situation of "abiding" in Christ, then we realize that these things we "pray about" are part of the fellowship and assurance of knowing what is already there. While satan comes against us, we have the assurance and security in Christ. "You've got this taken care of, too, Father, don't You. I rest in You."(Ps37:7) To "rest" is to be "silent." "Position yourselves, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, Who is with you..."(2Chr20:17)

You will notice there is nothing here about "me", "power of prayer" or "prayer warfare." Nor is this a "prayer" to be repeated as a fetish or mantra to generate an atmosphere during "worship." Knowing that all power, authority and glory belong to God...forever.(vs13b)


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Sermon on the Mount: about survival - (Mat 6:19-34)

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth...but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven..."(vs19-20)

"The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness." and "...how great is that darkness!" (vs22-23)

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."(vs24)

These three thoughts, while possibly seeming to be separate, are really one and the same. Talking about the HEART, "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."(vs21)

People bustle about; working, scavenging, stealing...to acquire wealth. Whether they acquire little or much, whatever they have is never "quite enough." God originally put man on this earth to care for it.(Gen1:28) As the "preacher" goes about to evaluate life he concludes that "nothing is better for [men] than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor--it is the gift of God."(Ecc3:12-13) And yet for all Solomon's wisdom, Jesus says about the flowers which God cares for, "even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."(vs29)

As this lesson is being prepared, spring is attempting to arrive, and outside my door the sparrows are making a fuss over some little nooks and crannies of this building, in anticipation of building nests. Who gives them their "wisdom" in what they do? God does. So "will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"(vs30)

The crux of the matter gets down to our focus. Our hearts. Whom do we trust? Whom do we follow? Of what does our life consist? Are we merely "earthly-minded?" Or do we live to follow God? If we are seeking earthly advancement, our focus diverts away from God. The things of this earth will be "burned up."(2Pt3:10) And then what will we bring before God to show for ourselves?(1Cor3:10-15)

The KJV renders vs22 better. If your eye is "single" the whole body will be full of light. James says the "double-minded man [is] unstable in all his ways."(Jas1:8) If a gun were being aimed at a target, having two siting mechanisms, each calibrated differently, and the person was trying to site down both, he's going to miss the target. Paul was "single-minded" as he was "forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil3:13-14)

As Jesus said, "no one can serve two masters."(vs24) It simply cannot be done. A person can ride the fence for a time, but ultimately a decision must be made. Not like the perverts that appear on the "Jerry Springer" show "...I love you, but I want to go on seeing this other person, too."

This is one of the greatest delusions of the devil. Sure, go ahead and say you love God. But also, why not include all these other beliefs, too. After all, in the end, how do you know "which" one is right? This way, if you have them all..."one of them" is bound to be right and will get you there, right? Like; another person who has been corresponding to VW recently...believing in "post-trib" but hoping and wishing for "pre-trib" rapture. But "hedging the bets" just in case the one was wrong. This is NOT true Faith!

If a person claims to love God, but also "trusts" in the world, his "love" of God is a lie. Many claim to believe the Lord is coming for the Church...but they also are stock-piling food and stores, "just in case" it is REALLY a "post-trib" scenario, and they go through the Tribulation.

"After all these things the [unregenerate] seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."(vs32-33)

The ministry of VW is a testimony to this. As many of you know, I am self-employed, running a sign business. It is a life of faith, being dependant upon customers coming with orders, to survive. The ministry of VW is carried on "in addition to" this career. However, VW has grown to an extent that the time spent with it is beginning to approach "full-time" with regards to writing, correspondence, and website maintenance. So, I now use a Zip-Disk to carry VW stuff back and forth between home and work. And most of these studies are prepared at "work." As VW has been busier, the store has become "slower." As the need is there to write or correspond, the phones are slower. But as bills need to be paid, the Lord brings in the work orders to meet those needs. To an outsider it would probably appear that the business was "failing." But the Lord has given me a "Job" to do...not necessarily making money. But He knows the "needs" to sustain me. He knows my single-mindedness to serve Him as my first (and only) desire is the "kingdom of God." So, He sees to the rest.

And so, to those who worry about things; the times of "Jacob's Trouble" that are about to come upon the unregenerate, Jesus says, "do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things."(vs34) If you are "left behind" when the Rapture occurs, and you then "call upon the name of the Lord" (Joel2:32) do not worry how to survive. You will most likely glorify the Lord by being martyred, anyway.(Rev12:17,13:15) Do not worry about what to say when that time comes, "whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit."(Mk13:11)

Don't try to pre-plan for "tomorrow" .."for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."(vs34)

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Sermon on the Mount: don't judge - (Mat 7:1-5)

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.(vs1-2)

This word "judge" means to "pass judgment, condemn." There was a person who used to condemn just about everyone in sight. A sibling who had divorced a wife with children in order to be with another was condemned as not being "fit", even, to read Scripture or pray publicly in a family gathering. Many were the sermons against immorality. If young people even looked at each other, it was automatically assumed that friendliness represented impure thoughts. Dating by anybody less that college age was forbidden.(ed. possibly not a bad idea, actually) This condemnation carried with it the "airs" that this person was "above" all that. That his own life was pure, and such thoughts or deeds would never ever enter his mind. That these "other" people thus defiled were required to "bow" at his feet in confession and repentance. They were answerable "to him."

Many years later, as this person's life was proven to be futile, the truth became known. He had had an affair earlier in his life. When confronted with the facts, refusal to acknowledge, and an angry frustration that such should even be mentioned publicly.

"Indeed you...rest in the law, and make your boast in God...are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish...you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? ...you who say, 'Do not commit adultery,' do you commit adultery?"(~Rom2:17-23) The "judge" pretending to be righteous, was actually hiding the big "railroad tie" in his own eye, as he was busy poking around in other peoples' lives, making public display of their "tooth picks."(vs4) As Paul continued, "For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles [unbelievers] because of you"(2:24) this person's life of "ministry" was ineffectual.

Peter had been at grievous fault. He had bragged how he would "never" deny the Lord, and then had done so, just as Jesus predicted he would. Jesus is "now" confronting Peter, "Peter, do you love Me?"(Jn21) And through a whole conversation, Jesus pokes around inside Peter's heart, and brings him along the path to restoration. But pride is still in the way, as he is doubtless feeling very humbled before the rest of the disciples, since he had so openly bragged how strong he would be, and Jesus is now "openly" confronting him as to how it had all "gone down." And so he points to the disciple who actually had not denied Jesus in the same circumstances he had been in (Jn18:16), and asks, "what about him?"(21:21) And Jesus rather retorts back with, you never mind him; "you follow Me."(vs22)

People who set themselves up as judges, do so with the attitude that they, themselves, are "untouchable." That nobody DARES to even suggest that they might not be pristine. But Jesus says, "Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. (Lk12:3)

And while we are to exhort one another daily (Heb3:13), be a well-functioning body (Eph4:16) and restoring one "overtaken in a tresspass" with "gentleness"(Gal6:1); that word "gentleness" is obviously at odds with "condemnation" as the person is admonished with "considering yourself.." Paul asks, "who are you to judge another's servant?" (Rom14:4) Anyone who is a Believer is a servant of Christ. We are ultimately answerable to Him. It is "the Boss" who hires and fires, gives promotions or reprimands.

Do we think we see "something" about somebody? But it is not obvious to ferret out; nor are there "two or three witnesses?" (Mt18:16, 2Cor13:1, 1Tm5:19) Or is there an "attitude against" somebody? Against such Paul responded, "..it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you..in fact, I do not even judge myself..He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts."(1Cor4:3-5) It is Christ Who "is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" before Whom "we must give account"(Heb4:12-13) Therefore, "why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." (Rom14:10)

Recently I was "judged" by someone as though I was a "biker" (hoodlum) because of his assumption that "motorcycles are associated with drugs and gangs." Jesus said, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." (Jn7:24) This person did not even judge by "appearance" but by mere word-association.

But this leads us to a common "abuse" and misinterpretation of this passage. What about the Christian "look-alikes." The "pretend-christians?" The false prophets who gad about as "wolves in sheeps clothing?" Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.(Mt7:15)

When a Christian is "[testing] the spirits, whether they are of God" (1Jn4:1) the wolves immediately retort back with "judge not that you be not judged." Or, the wishy washy Christians who are trying to straddle the fence will wring their hands in dismay and whine, "Well, we're not s'pposs' to ju-u-udge..." Representatives of the wolves will complain against exposes (Eph5:11) about their false doctrines and wickedness with, "you are not following 'protocol' of Mt18:15-17 as you are judging your brother." Trouble is, that passage is talking about Believers in the "Church" ...of which they are not a part. They are not "brothers."

Jesus is saying to not condemn what you don't know about; and be sure of yourself first. Whereas, testing/discerning wolves from sheep is an investigative process to determine the truth or falsehood of the matter or doctrine in question. We cannot know if something is good or bad, unless we investigate, and make a "determination." Or... "judge" it.

If we find a thing to be of the evil one, there is no cause to compromise by convening a "council" to discuss "what shall we do?" We must say, "Away with you, satan!"(Mt3:10) He and his emissaries will keep coming back, hoping your answer will "soften" a bit, so they can gain entrance, but we must "put away" the evil.(1Cor5:13, Ec11:10, Deu13:5) "Put away" means to "get rid of it, alienate, burn it up." Totally eliminate it.

But to judge (condemn) a fellow-Believer is like self-righteous Susie, who notices Jimmy's eyes are open during prayer. After the "Amen" piously proclaims, "Jimmy's eyes were open during prayer!" Well, Susie, if "you" were obediently closing your eyes, how would you even know that Jimmy's eyes were open? With the "judgment" you hoped Jimmy would get "it will be measured back to you."(vs2)

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord... Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy..." (~Jas4:10-12)

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Sermon on the Mount: pearls before swine? - (Mat 7:6)

Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.(vs6)

There is an Old Testament principle that holy things of the temple were to be handled and eaten only by priests and those who were purified. (Lev6:18,26-27) An "unclean" person could not come into the temple without purification.(Nu19:13) Even the Passover, no "foreigner" was allowed to partake(Ex12:43) unless he was circumcised.(12:48)

Furthermore, to the Jew a Gentile was considered a "dog" and "unclean." (Mt15:26-27) Nehemiah was quite forceful about Sabbath observance as it related to Gentile merchants at the gates.(Neh13:19-22) There was to be a "distinction" between Israel and non-believers, because they were a "holy nation."(Ex19:6) While Israel was set in the center of the nations as a "light to the Gentiles"(Is60:3) through God's law, and the coming of Messiah; and will be when Jesus comes to reign from Jerusalem; they were to be different from the nations. They were not to mingle and learn the ways of the heathen around them; but were, rather, to be "teachers" of the surrounding nations.(Jer12:16) They were warned that interest in foreign gods would be a "snare" to them.(Ex23:33)

So, what do we have today? A "church" with decades of the unregenerate "ministering" within its ranks. As a former church choir director I can attest to the whining arguments; "the choir is so small, we need more singers, and here, John and his wife, Jackie are good singers. Let's get them into the choir." If it was mentioned that they were not "Believers" "...well, what better way to BRING THEM TO THE LORD?" Get them "involved." Get them under the hearing of the Gospel. Youth ministries are run the same way; get the unregenerate "involved" to hold their interest...keep them coming. Or music albums recorded with unregenerate studio musicians. And the list could go on...

The unregenerate will no more be drawn to the Lord through "ministry" than any food would become "holy" because the "holy meat" touched it.(Hag2:12) And furthermore, if a "holy" Church is intermingled by the defilement of the world--the unsaved "ministering" in church, it will make the church "unclean."(Hag2:13) That which was "holy" was the sacrifices, which the purified would eat. It was done in worship before God. Such cannot be participated in by the unregenerate. Keep ministry and worship only amongst Believers. This means preaching, teaching, choir, special music, ushering, serving communion, janitorial work, etc. ...everything.

So then, "pearls before swine." The "gems" of God's Word. The precious "nuggets" of Truth. Given to the "unclean."

What happens when a Believer gets into a debate with the unregenerate? Can the Believer impart "deep truths" or "intricate doctrines" to the unsaved? What happens, for instance, when you try to share Scriptural principles with the scoffers of the world on your favorite "religion forum?" At CompuServe (where I had experience in the past) you will be censored off the board; as the perverted have free reign, and blaspheme the holy name of Christ. You cannot discuss the subtleties of "free will vs. sovereignty" because they don't know the Lord. These things are "foolishness to them; neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned."(1Cor2:14) They would like nothing better than to drag you down into their "wallowing in the mire."(2Pt2:22) And typically, if you try to force-feed them, they will often be more scholarly educated, and will "rip you to shreds" totally ignoring or discrediting any Scripture you might have given them. Paul exhorted Timothy, "..avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge."(1Tm6:20)

In other words, there are some with whom we should not waste our time. When the girl called out, "these men are servants of the Most High who proclaim to us the way of salvation"(Acts16:17) Paul did not thank her for "helping further the Gospel" but rather got rather annoyed and cast the demon out of her.(vs18)

So, as you are having that "exchange" with someone, and it finally comes to a certain point where you know you are "banging your head" against the wall, the Holy Spirit will direct you to severe communication with that person. Yes, they will become hostile, and lash out at you. And will, no matter what you do, get the "last word" in. In such a case, just let them go. You have faithfully given them God's Word. They have rejected. "Shake the dust off your feet"(Mt10:14) and trust God's Word to do its job, remembering, "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Isa 55:11) ...whether they eventually repent, or stand before God without excuse... (Rom1:20)

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Sermon on the Mount: good gifts - (Mat 7:7-11)

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.(vs7)

Unlike the person in responding to Jesus' knocking (Rev3:20), who makes a choice as to whether to let Jesus in or not; Jesus promises the supplicant with a response. Even when one has gone astray God promises, "Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. and I will be found by you..."(Jer29:12-14) You notice the qualification; "with all your heart."

The psalmist responds to God, "When You said, "Seek My face," My heart said to You, "Your face, LORD, I will seek." (Ps27:8) This is how we "ask according to His will."(1Jn5:14) ..because we are "seeking [His] face."

We cannot go about asking God to satisfy all our cravings for selfish purposes. He won't reply favorably.(Jas4:3) If we harbor sin in our lives which we jealously hang on to, He refuses to hear.(Is59:2) But even if we have sinned, and confess (1Jn1:9) and seek Him, He will [let us find Him.](Jer29:14) Because our desire is to seek Him, and His holiness and His will.

What does He promise as a response? His response is just like a "daddy" doting over his children. "As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." (Ps103:23-14)

Once we have been cleansed, His gifts upon us are only "good" things. (vs11) If He had to chasten us, He does so with greater wisdom than earthly fathers know.(Heb12:10) As He sees to our daily sustenance, He knows our "frame" and our needs (Mt6:32) as "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights.."(Jas1:17)

There are some who suppose that God brings calamity upon us. Well, no. We bring calamity upon ourselves. Please pardon a "personal" example. When my unequal yoke left, those who were counseling/comforting me suggested that God "caused" the divorce and all the hurt I was experiencing, because of Rom8:28 in order to bring about good. Well, no. "I caused" the divorce by having been disobedient to God in marrying her in the first place. I was merely "reaping what I had sown."(Gal6:7) As God says, "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings. (Jer17:10)

But...now...since I was/am a child of His, when I had "hit bottom" as she left, THEN Rom8:28 came into play. As I was "now" humbled, and cleansed due to confession (1Jn1:9) I was "seeking His face." He answered with His love like I had never known. The "Comforter"(Jn16) picked me up, got me back on track where my desires had always been...to serve Him...but now, without the impediment, I was useable. And it was only after that, that VW could start. I had failed Him and brought upon myself the consequences; but everything that came about, He worked for His glory. And what God works out, when we get out of the way and allow Him free reign in our lives, is nothing but "good."

"Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from [wood and clay -- dishonor], he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work." (2Tm2:21)

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Sermon on the Mount: as you would be treated - (Mat 7:12)

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (vs12)

The "great law" was recited by Jesus when asked, "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' (Mt22:37) This, quoted from Deu6:5, was the basis for all the Law given to Israel. If they "had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments."(5:29)

As we have learned in our studies from 1Jn4:20, If someone says, "I love God" and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" So Jesus continues, "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"(Mt22:39)

If we look at the passage that comes from, we find ourselves coming full circle to the beginning of "this" chapter in Matthew 7 about "not judging" (condemning). "You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD." (Lv19:17-18)

You notice here the difference between "love", "hate" and "justice." We have a society plagued by "love without justice." Because people suppose themselves to be "loving" they refuse to bring just retribution to perpetrators of crime. Scriptures are quite clear that there should not be "partiality" in favor of the wicked, nor to falsely accuse the righteous (Pr18:5) That those who do so "are an abomination to the LORD."(Pr17:15) And "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. (Ec8:11) It is the blight of our society which allows criminals on death row to gobble up millions of tax dollars for their sustenance for MANY YEARS, and then, sometimes, due to politics and appeals, they never are executed. And that others (who should be executed) are released, unrepentant, to re-commit their crimes.

The expression "eye for an eye, tooth for tooth" had nothing to do with vengeance. It had to do with "justice." As a person had perpetrated, so it was to be done to him.(Ex21) And the judgment was to be carried out "immediately." If the condemnation required a "beating" it says, "the judge will cause him to lie down and be beaten in his presence, according to his guilt, with a certain number of blows."(De25:2)

Quite a deterrent to crime, wouldn't you say... If a person knows, as he contemplates commiting a crime, "if I get caught, what I'm about to do will be done to me" ..he's likely to think twice before doing whatever he's planning.

And then, on the more "positive" side of this matter... If a person wants to be treated fairly, he should treat others fairly, as well. Considering that it will be "measured back" in "same measure."(vs2)

Does a person want "good things" ...then give out good things. To be treated with respect? ...treat others likewise. If a person wants friends, "A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Pr18:24) And in this we have our Ultimate Example, as Jesus says, "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you...if you know these things, happy are you if you do them."(Jn13:15,17)

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Sermon on the Mount: narrow way - (Mat 7:13-14)

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.(vs13)

We see "two choices" here. Jesus says there is a "narrow" way and a "broad" one. The world would have us believe that there is a multiplicity of paths to "enlightenment." It doesn't matter what you believe. Just, that we are all united in our differences. They call it "unity in diversity."

Jesus gives different labels. The one He calls "life" and the other "destruction." Whether a person chooses to believe other passages in Scripture or not that talk about "lake of fire"(Rev20:15) or "hell"(Lk12:5) or "outer darkness" and "weeping and gnashing of teeth"(Mt25:30) or the unquenchable fire where the "worm does not die"(Is66:24); this word "destruction" is an "utter destruction, perishing, ruin with misery." And the word "perish" ominously includes the idea of "being destroyed in a violent untimely manner." Much as Sodom and Gomorrah were "suddenly" destroyed with fire and brimstone. (Gen19:24) Or as He brought upon Egypt the plagues which devastated it, in order to redeem Israel out of bondage.

Notice that the way to destruction is "broad." Wide and spacious. It is the "easy" way. No apparent obstacles. And it garners the "approval" of the masses, because "many" go that way.

"Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."(vs14)

This narrow gate only allows "one-at-a-time" to enter. While the throngs followed Jesus, it was the same throngs that cried out "Hosanna to the Son of David"(Mt21:9); scarcely four days later were blood-curdling with "crucify Him! crucify Him!"(Lk23:21) One would have thought they were all "Christians" the way they were "praising Jesus" on "Palm Sunday." But that was not their true heart. Anybody Jesus "converted" He called on, on an "individual" basis. Nicodemus (Jn3), woman of Samaria (Jn4), Zacchaeus (Lk19:5), Peter (Jn21), Saul/Paul (Acts9).

More and more, this reality makes me seriously question the masses of people who "go forward" at large crusades. And the so-called "great revivals" of past decades and centuries. If those people were truly coming to Christ in the numbers claimed, why is the world not "turned upside down" as it was in Acts?(Acts17:6) Why does sin remain on the rampage? Why is there no better understanding of God's Truth than there is? It is because the reality of things is that there is a "remnant" only.(Rom9:27) While that was said of Israel, to Elijah God said that there were, "..seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him." (1Ki19:18) We see the same regarding the "Church." While there is a large collection of people who label themselves as "Christian", just as there were how-many "million" in Israel's population; just as Israel's history is recorded as an "example" to us(1Cor10:6); sadly the same is true of the Church. There are "millions" who belong to "church clubs" and even gather for great rallys. But the "True Believer" who has not "bowed to Baal" are a mere "remnant."

This is because the way is "difficult." "Difficult" meaning, "constricted, hard pressed upon, compressed, full of affliction and distress, confined."

When "great multitudes" were following Jesus it says that He turned to them and said, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it; (Lk14:26-28) Such talk does not "go over" very well with a society that believes in "fa-a-amily" and traditional "family values."

And furthermore, Jesus said there is only "one way" to eternal life. He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."(Jn14:6) And the disciples, when on trial, echoed this, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts4:12)

"...and there are few who find it."(vs14b)

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Sermon on the Mt: wolves in sheep's clothing - (Mat 7:15-20)

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (vs15)

This is a warning. "Beware" means to "pay attention to, take heed, be on guard against, take great caution" along with the idea of being "very diligent" in the matter.

"You will know them by their fruits."(vs16) If your garden had potatoes; and thistles came up, too... In the fall of the year, the thistles will be all brittle, and when you dig under them, there are "no" potatoes, and they can be rather "stickery." If you are unfamiliar with trees and vines, when the fruit starts appearing, you are sure of "what" the plant is. If a wolf went about with a sheep pelt covering its body, and it gave birth to offspring, the little one is not going to "bleat" ...it's going to whine, growl, howl... like a wolf.

Christian...this is why "they" attack you for your beliefs and firm stance upon God's Word. They "growl" at you, because they are "wolves." (1Jn3:13,4:5-6)

The "broad way"(vs13) is filled with wolves and pups. They are on their way to "destruction." It is not possible for them to yield "sheep." We have a generation that is tending its "garden" ("churches"). These beautiful lush-looking plants are growing. They carefully water them, and weed around them...thinking they are going to get a fine crop of potatoes. "My, how BOUNTIFUL the crop will be this year!" But at the end of the harvest, the Lord (Rev14:16) gathers the good produce into His "barns"(Mt3:12) and the thistles are "cut down and thrown into the fire."(7:19)

Notice something else He says, which we have spoken of OFTEN in the past. "..nor can a bad tree bear good fruit."(vs18) If a "thistle" is preaching from the podium, his "converts" are NOT "Christian." Take good heed to this statement!! Neither the unregenerate, nor the ways of the world, will yield "Christian converts."(2Cor10:4) Mark this well!!

And, notice something He does NOT say to do. He does not give the Believers the responsibility to go about "weeding" in His "garden." He says, "No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. (Mat13:29) We are not to engage in "prayer warfare" in order to "tear down strongholds."

We are to "beware." If one finds himself confronted by a mad dog, he cannot attack it, lest he be torn into shreds.(Acts19:16) We are not to turn tail and run, either. "..having done all, to stand"(Eph6:13) But be "beware." We see "who/what" they are, and "let the sleeping dog lie" ...slip on by, and warn others, that "that sheep is actually a wolf." We don't "have fellowship" but rather "expose" them."(Eph5:11)

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world."(1Pt5:8-9)

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Sermon on the Mount: I never knew you - (Mat 7:21-23)

Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.(vs21)

Not all preachers and evangelists will be in heaven. Not all "christians" will get to heaven. Being of a certain denomination or church affiliation will not guarantee a "spot" beyond the pearly gates. Doing wonderful deeds will not get you there. Performing miracles and engaging in deliverance ministries is no assurance. Being "spirit-filled" will certainly not be effective. Nor will being a "prayer warrior."

There are many who claim that doing or saying something "in Jesus' name" will guarantee the desired results. After all, didn't Jesus, Himself, say, "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.(Jn14:14)? So they vehemently cry out "In Jeeeezzzzus' Name...I COMMAND...!!!"

Oh, the UTTER HORROR!! Those who thought they "had it made -- in Jesus' name" ...to hear from His lips "in that Day"(vs22) -- "I NEVER KNEW YOU; DEPART FROM ME!"(vs23)

What is the judgment? "..you who practice lawlessness!"(vs23) Lawlessness is "iniquity." A condition of being without God's Law. God's Word. Jesus IS the "Word."(Jn1:1) They are without Christ. What is God's Law? His command? To "believe in Him Whom He has sent."(Jn6:29) While they bandy about the "name" Jesus, they do not know Him. They have something which LOOKS wonderful on the outside, but "inside [they] are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness." (Mt23:27)

This condition of lawlessness includes being in that state both, out of ignorance and also knowingly. Either way, all their "good works" Jesus labels as "lawlessness." But again, "many" will be in this camp(vs22) going down the "broad way...to destruction."(vs13)

But the "few who find" the way to the kingdom of heaven are those who "[do] the will of My Father in heaven."(vs21) To "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved."(Acts16:31) Ones who have been made "the righteousness of God in [Christ]."(2Cor5:21) To those so possessed Jesus promises, "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life...

"...but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. (Rev3:5)

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Sermon on the Mount: doing His teachings - (Mat 7:24-29)

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: (vs24)

Jesus is the "Word."(Jn1:1) So, as He spoke and taught, He was teaching of Himself. James exhorts, "be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."(Jas1:22) As, the "doing" of what one claimed he possessed was "proof" of that faith he claims to have.(Jas2:14~)

If we are built upon the foundation of Jesus Christ (1Cor3:11), this "Rock" upon which Christ's "Church" is built (Mt16:18); then when the storms assail us from the enemy the "house" will stand firm. The Rock will not budge.

However, if a person is building on some other "surface" he may build something quite beautiful and spectacular. People may be quite impressed and flock to be under its shadow. He may build something which even "looks like" a "church" called "christian." But without Jesus as the core, when the storm hits, that building will fall flat. As the world will lament, "Babylon is fallen" and mourn "alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple...and adorned with gold and precious stones.."(Rev18:2,16)

But you notice "who" rejoices when the pretend-church has fallen. "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!"(Rev18:20) The false prophets castigate you, True Believer, and ridicule you for not being like their "splendor" and presumed "holiness" and "spirituality." But they will fall. Where they claimed to have the "real thing" ...they will be made to "come and worship before your feet, and to know that [Christ] loves you"(Rev3:9) as He "confesses" you before the whole universe.

As we might expect today, were Jesus personally teaching this set of lessons, so it was then; "the people were astonished at His teaching."(vs28) As it was then, so it is today. This is not what the preachers are preaching.(vs29) But it is God's Word. It is not popular amongst those with other man-made agendas. But it is Truth. Because Jesus said, "I AM the way...the TRUTH.."(Jn14:6)

Jesus spoke these things by the "authority" given Him. He came speaking those things which "pleased" the Father. "For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. (Jn12:49)

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