Ep 145 – Sermon on the Mount: False Fasting

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Today, in Matthew six, verses 16-18, Jesus is going to address the topic of fasting. While not a common practice among most Christians today, fasting was a spiritual discipline that was very familiar to the average Hebrew. As we will see, there was at least one day a year when every Israelite was expected to fast or afflict themselves. It was tied to the annual event called the Day of Atonement. But whether or not we fast is not the main point of what Jesus has to say in these verses. He is more concerned about the motive behind fasting, or better yet, the heart of the individual who chooses to fast. As it was with prayer, fasting had become just another way for Israelites to advertise their spirituality and impress their friends with their superior piety. Fasting had been hijacked from its original God-decreed purpose and been forced to serve as a means of self-promotion. People fasted to get noticed, not by God, but by men. They fasted, believing it would score them brownie points with God, and make them look super-spiritual to their peers. But Jesus wanted them to know that God was not impressed.

 

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Ep 144 – Sermon on the Mount: Pray Like This

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Matthew six, verses 9-15 contain what has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer. For some, this simple prayer has become the primary prayer they pray. They have it memorized and can recite it easily. But was this Jesus’ intent when He shared this prayer as part of His sermon on the mount? Was He providing us with a prayer to pray or a model to follow? If you look closely, He prefaces the prayer with the following words, “Pray then like this.” It would seem that He is giving us a model or simple outline for proper prayer. And it is important that we understand the context. Jesus has been talking about prayer, fasting and giving. He has been exposing false prophets and those with false professions. Prayer had become a means by which the Jewish people attempted to impress one another. They preferred public prayers and long-winded, wordy and repetitious prayers. But Jesus wanted them to understand the kind of prayers God preferred. And this short, but remarkably rich prayer provides them with a simple outline of the elements that should be a part of each and every prayer we pray.

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Ep 143 – Sermon on the Mount: Prayer for Praise

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Today, in Matthew six, verses 5-8, Jesus is going to take on the topic of prayer. I’ve entitled this episode, “Prayer for Praise” because Jesus is going to deal with another outward act that had been intended to reflect righteousness, but had become a twisted form of self-promotion. Prayer, intended to be a private conversation between God and His child, had taken on a distorted purpose, where the audience was no longer God, but other men. In other words, prayer had become an outward display of your righteousness designed to gain the recognition of men. And it seems that it had become common practice to pray long, wordy and sometimes repetitious prayers in order to impress others with the level of your godliness. But like everything else Jesus has said so far in His message, He is going to take his audience to task on their warped view on prayer. Prayer was not meant to gain the praise of men, but to offer praise and petitions to God.

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Ep 142 – Sermon on the Mount: Godly Giving

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Today, we move into chapter six of Matthew, and we’ll be looking at the first four verses. I’ve entitled this episode, “Godly Giving” because it deals with the kind of giving God desires. He is looking for giving that is motivated by righteousness, not done in order to somehow achieve a reputation of righteousness. Doing good deeds in order to make a good impression is not what God is looking for in His people. Righteous-looking acts that are motivated by a self-promoting agenda may get you recognized by men, but they won’t result in a reward from God. Once again, Jesus is presenting an alternative view of what it means to live a righteous life. It had less to do with external behavior than it did with a changed heart. Godly giving was to be selfless and sacrificial. It wasn’t to be done for show or in an effort to leave a favorable impression. That kind of giving was self-centered and far from righteous as far as God is concerned. So, Jesus warns His listeners, and us, that righteous-looking deeds done to impress others and promote self will never result in the only approval you really need: God’s.   

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Ep 141 – Sermon on the Mount: Be Perfect

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In today’s episode, we’re going to look at a single verse, the final verse of Matthew, chapter five. While short in length, this verse packs a powerful punch, that is just as impactful today as it was when Jesus spoke it on the Galilean hillside. On top of all that Jesus has said to His audience, He now challenges them with a call to perfection. But not some kind of earthly form of perfection. He calls for godly perfection. Rather than emulating the righteousness of men, we are to use God as our standard of perfection. But that sounds impossible, doesn’t it? How can fallen, sinful men hope to match the sinless perfection of God? What chance do we stand in achieving this seemingly unattainable standard? None whatsoever. That is, if we are left to our own devices and remain dependent upon our sinful flesh to try and pull it off. But Jesus is pointing to something far more reliable than human achievement. He is trying to set the stage and prepare the hearts of the people for His offer of salvation. Redemption is right around the corner. Perfect righteousness that will provide a right standing with God is about to be available to all who place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior.

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Ep 140 – Sermon on the Mount: Godly Love

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In Matthew 5, verses 43-47, Jesus will tell his audience to love their enemies. As Christians, we’ve grown accustomed to that phrase as Christians. We may not obey it, but we’re certainly more than familiar with it. But when Jesus dropped it on His audience that day on the hillside by the Sea of Galilee, it was a like He was speaking a foreign language. Once again, He was addressing a common misperception regarding the law and their obedience to it. This time, it had to do with something the law didn’t say, but that had become almost as binding as the law itself. For some reason, the Jews had gotten it into their heads that God’s command to love their neighbor also meant that they were free to hate their enemies. And since God didn’t seem to indicate who their enemies were, they took it upon themselves to decide. In essence, anybody who wasn’t a Jew was their enemy. But Jesus had other ideas. He wasn’t going to let them misinterpret and misapply God’s law. Because for those who would be approved by God, and end up a part of His kingdom, the law of love extended to any and all, including enemies. Because it had nothing to do with loveabilty or loveliness.

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Ep 139 – Sermon on the Mount: The Life of Self-Sacrifice

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We live in a world where getting even is seen as some kind of inalienable right. We somehow think that retaliation for a wrong done is guaranteed by the constitution. And the Jews of Jesus’ day had the same mentality. So, in today’s episode, based on Matthew 5, verses 38-42, we’ll see Jesus address the mistaken notion that retaliation was a God-given right, provided for in the law of Moses. Instead, He is going to present the life of self-sacrifice and love. He will encourage His listeners to give rather than choosing to get even. Like touching a live electrical wire, His message will jolt His audience, sending shockwaves of confusion and doubt into their brains. What He is asking them to do will sound illogical and impossible to their ears. What He recommends will come across as unprofitable as it is unappealing. But once again, Jesus was describing the life of those who are blessed or approved by God. He was revealing the radical new lifestyle that would mark those who place their faith in Him as their Savior and Lord. Their righteousness would surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, allowing them to keep the law love as modeled in the life of Jesus Himself.

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Ep 138 – Sermon on the Mount: Trustworthy Truthfulness

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In today’s episode we’ll be looking at verses 33-37 of Matthew 5. I’ve entitled this episode, “Trustworthy Truthfulness”, because in these verses, Jesus is going to bring up the issue of oaths, but His real emphasis is going to be on speaking truth. For the Jewish people, oaths had become another misunderstood and misused tradition that provided them with an excuse to lie and get away with it. Originally, swearing an oath had been a serious thing. It was a way of guaranteeing your word. But, over time, the religious leaders had developed workarounds or loopholes that allowed someone to make an oath and then break it. It was like crossing your fingers. You made a promise, but with no intention of keeping it. And the worst part was, many were using God’s name or things associated with God, to back up their oaths. So, when the failed to live up to their word, they were dragging God’s name through the mud. Which is what led Jesus to take this on in the first place. In essence, Jesus is telling them to say what they mean and mean what they say.

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Ep 137 – Sermon on the Mount: Unfailing Faithfulness

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Today’s episode covers Matthew 5, verses 31-32. In these two short verses, Jesus takes on what was an extremely hot topic at that time: Divorce. Then, as today, divorce was a problem among the people of God. And while the Mosaic law had restrictions regarding its use and strict regulations governing its accessibility for the Jewish people, they had begun to act as if divorce was not only a viable option, but in some cases, a preferable one to marriage. And as before, Jesus will deal with the perception regarding divorce and the reality that God intended when He gave the laws concerning it to begin with. For God, marriage was intended to reflect the covenant relationship between He and His people. So, it was all about faithfulness. And Jesus will make that point painfully clear to His audience as He stresses God’s unwavering view regarding the marriage covenant. For all practical purposes, Israel had bought into the idea of no-fault divorce. Men were putting away their wives for little or no reason, and thinking nothing of having done so. But Jesus was going to put that mindset to an abrupt halt.

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Ep 136 – Sermon on the Mount: Purity of Life

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In today’s episode, we’ll be looking at Matthew 5, verses 27-30. I’ve entitled this lesson, “Purity of Life” because in it, Jesus is going to deal with the issue of adultery. But, like each of the topics He has covered in His message up to this point, Jesus is going to give His audience a slightly different perspective than that to which they were accustomed. They knew that, according to the Mosaic Law, adultery was wrong. But was NOT committing adultery the goal God had in mind when He gave this law to Moses? Jesus will go out of His way to point out that there is far more behind this law than a prohibition against marital unfaithfulness. In fact, He’ll get to the literal heart of the matter ? the heart of man. God was looking for purity of life, not some kind of performance-based, do-just-enough-to-keep-God-happy kind of lifestyle that focused on avoiding the major infractions, while failing to measure up to the inward transformation God was really interested in. Adultery was a symptom of something far more offensive to God: Unfaithfulness to Him.     

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