What a blessing it is to walk with our Lord, living our lives in His Word each day during this time of Lent. I hope to share thoughts about the daily readings from Hebrews and Matthew. Please share your thoughts with me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org! (Past posts may be accessed by clicking the Home page footer “Lent: Walking with Christ.”)
Matthew 5 and 6 takes us into Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. No doubt it is the most famous and often quoted sermon ever preached. It is perhaps also the most often misunderstood as well. It is not a summary of the whole Christian faith. As a matter of fact, it’s safe to say that a person who claims to find all their religion in the these chapters is misguided. If we read this sermon without an understanding of the rest of the Bible will lead us in dangerous directions.
An unbeliever is likely to interpret Jesus’ words as a prescription for making oneself righteous and earning a place in the kingdom of God. When he takes a close look at the requirements, he may decide it isn’t worth the effort. Or he may take only a superficial look and convince himself that he is capable of saving himself by his own efforts. There is no way that we can produce the righteousness God demands of us.
Take the Beatitudes (statements of blessing) that introduce this sermon. They don’t tell us how by our own effort to become blessed. Instead they describe the blessedness that already belongs to all who believe in Christ. They don’t describe eight kinds of believers. They present eight ways in which all Christians are blessed because of Jesus. All Christians are poor in spirit. They all mourn and are meek. They all hunger and thirst for righteousness and are merciful and pure in heart.
As we examine ourselves, we have to confess that we possess these characteristics only to a limited extent. We are made to realize that we forfeit many blessings because of our sin, failing to live up to the ideals Jesus expresses here. Jesus is perfectly each of these. With faith in Him, we are better able to possess these blessings and to grow in our walk with Him.
Chapters 5 and 6 are full of so many truths for us. I love Jesus’ use of salt and light to describe His disciples. Jesus has salted our lives with His forgiveness and grace. As we possess His love and forgiveness through faith and practice those blessings in our lives, we season our families, our relationships, our church and so on. As Jesus is the perfect Light of the World and especially the Light of our lives, He enables us to let our light shine before others as they see the good works the Father causes to happen through us that they then praise Him (5:13-16).
How about Jesus’ admonition for us to love especially our enemies (5:43-47)? No small task, right? Just look how Jesus loved his enemies. As he was lifted on the cross the first words of His mouth were “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” Wow, compassion despite the pain! We can never love our enemies to Jesus’ level. That’s why His words really hit home, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus makes us His friends with His forgiveness and empowers us to pray for our enemies.
So many other gems from our Lord. Jesus teaches His disciples to pray (6:5-14). He blesses us with the perfect prayer we know as The Lord’s Prayer. Jesus reminds us of the treasure of heaven and the challenge of our hearts being open to the Lord instead of the world. Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also.
He then ends the teaching shared in His Sermon on the Mount with the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders. May we not only read these words of Jesus. We need to put them into practice. We are saved by faith in Christ alone, but saving faith always finds ways to give witness through good works. It’s like a person who builds his house on the rock. The foundation is firm and solid, not like sinking sand! 1 Corinthians 3:11 says, “No one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” May we receive Christ’s forgiveness and grace and put His words to work with His compassionate heart within us!
May the words of “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less” be the prayerful conviction of our hearts:
My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
No merit of my own I claim But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand. Amen.