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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Ep 135 – Sermon on the Mount: The Capacity to Love

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Today’s episode is entitled, “The Capacity to Love” and covers Matthew 5, verses 21-26. In this section of His message, Jesus will deal with the need for love among God’s people. Those who are blessed or approved by God, will be marked by love, not hatred. The Jews took great pride in their adherence to God’s law concerning murder. For most of the people in the crowd that day, murder may have crossed their mind at some point, but they had refused to give in. And they believed that fact counted as a plus on the righteousness side of their ledger. Yet, Jesus was about to blow that false mindset out of the water. He was going to reveal that the God wasn’t as concerned about murder as He was about the condition of the heart that could eventually result in murder. Hate was the problem. Or to put it another way, the lack of love. It wasn’t enough to not kill someone. God wanted you to love them. To refrain from murder is not a sign of righteousness and would certainly not qualify as love. Once again, Jesus is rocking the boat and disrupting the status quo.   

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Ep 134 – Sermon on the Mount: A Greater Righteousness

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Today, we’re going to be in Matthew 5, verses 17-20. Jesus is going to assure His listeners that what He is teaching is not contrary to the Old Testament Scriptures. It may have sounded radical and revolutionary to their ears, but it was not a departure from God’s law and all that the prophets had written. Jesus wasn’t introducing something that was going to replace the law, it was going to fulfill it. He wasn’t contradicting the writings of the prophets, He was actually the one they had promised would come. The law was God’s revelation of what He expected in terms of right behavior from mankind. It was His brand of righteousness described in great detail. The writings of the prophets were predominantly the call of God for the people of Israel to return to Him. The prophets spoke on behalf of God, calling the disobedient Israelites back to a right relationship with God, through obedience to His law. They could return or face the consequences. They could repent or suffer God’s punishment in the form of captivity and enslavement. But they failed to return and the inevitable happened. But Jesus had come to call the people of God back to God, offering them a better righteousness they could have never produced on their own.  

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Ep 133 – Sermon on the Mount: Agents of Change

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In this episode, we move into the next part of Jesus’ message, found in Matthew 5, verses 13-16. Here Jesus will begin to deal with the goal for those who have been blessed or approved by God. Their lives are to make a difference in the world around them. This episode is entitled, “Agents of Change,” because that is exactly what we are called to be. Jesus will use two simple metaphors to illustrate how those approved by God should live in the midst of the world around them. The nation of Israel had been set apart by God to be a living example of what it looks like for a people to have a relationship with God. But they had failed to remain faithful. God leveled this sobering accusation against them through the prophet, Ezekiel. “I placed her at the center of the nations, but she has rebelled against my regulations and decrees and has been even more wicked than the surrounding nations. She has refused to obey the regulations and decrees I gave her to follow.” (Ezekiel 5:5-6 NLT). Now, Jesus was offering a new opportunity for people to have a relationship with God and act as His agents of change in the world.

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Ep 132 – Sermon on the Mount: The Benefit of God’s Approval

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This episode, entitled, “The Benefit of God’s Approval”, will be our third and final look at The Beatitudes, found in Matthew 5, verses 1-12. Each of these nine statements contain powerful words of comfort for those of us who know Christ as our Savior. There are immediate benefits tied to each of them, but future-oriented, eternal benefits as well. Our goal in this episode is to concentrate our attention on the amazing list of benefits Jesus lines out for the those who have been or will be approved by God through faith in His Son. The main point in these first twelve verses is what it means to be blessed or approved by God. It is a state that every man and woman longs for in their hearts, whether they recognize it as such, or not. It was the 17th-Century scientist and mathematician, Blaise Pascal who said, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself.” Christ alone can fill the void. Only He can bring us God’s approval and blessing.

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Ep 131 – Sermon on the Mount: Not What They Expected

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This will be our second week looking at the first 12 verses of Matthew chapter 5, the portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that we call The Beatitudes. In this episode, called, “Not What They Expected”, we are going to start unpacking what these verses meant and what Jesus was trying to teach those in His audience. It wouldn’t take a stretch of the imagination to conclude that what Jesus had to say was not what they expected to hear. After all, they viewed Jesus as a rabbi or teacher. They assumed that all He would say would fall in line with everything else they had heard said or taught by other rabbis and religious leaders. But these opening lines of Jesus’ sermon were shocking and a bit disconcerting to His listeners. They were unexpected and, most likely, unpleasant to hear. But it is critical that we clearly understand what Jesus is saying in these opening verses, because they will set up much of what He has to say in the rest of this passage. As always, try to hear Jesus’ words from the perspective of His audience. Put your contemporary viewpoints aside and try not to hear what Jesus has to say through your Christian point of view. His words were shocking. His expectations would have come across as unrealistic. But Jesus is simply setting the table so that He can eventually serve them the bread of life and living water.

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Ep 130 – Sermon on the Mount: Approved by God

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Over the next three weeks, we will be spending all our time on the first 12 verses of Matthew chapter 5. This is the section best known as The Beatitudes. These verses, while well-known and quite familiar to most of us, provide an interesting opening to Jesus’ message. What was Jesus trying to say to His audience? In fact, just exactly who in His audience were these statements aimed at? This opening salvo from Jesus was anything but simplistic and easy to understand. From the outset, He had His listeners scratching their heads and wondering just exactly who He was and what He was talking about. Nine times, Jesus will use the word “blessed.” What did He mean? And how in the world did blessing go hand-in-hand with poverty, mourning, hunger and persecution? And twice Jesus will refer to the kingdom of heaven. Was that the same thing as the kingdom of God? Where would this kingdom reside? Who would be its king? All of these questions, along with many others, would have been swirling in the minds of those sitting on the hillside that day. And the key to understanding all that Jesus will have to say in the rest of His sermon hinges on how we interpret His opening remarks.

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Ep 128 – Sermon on the Mount – Introduction

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In this upcoming session of Devotionary, we’re going to take a slight departure and deal with a particular passage of Scripture, but not an entire book. That’s not normally how we operate, but I think you’ll see what I’ve chosen to give this passage special treatment. I am talking about Matthew, chapters five through seven. You’ll probably recognize it by its more familiar name: The Sermon on the Mount. Of course, what sets this passage apart is not its name, but its author. In it, we have the words of Jesus Himself, as recorded by Matthew. It was Augustine, the bishop of Hippo, who first coined the title, the Sermon on the Mount. That was all the way back in the middle of the first century, and it has stuck with us to this day.  

While less a traditional sermon, and more a collection of teachings shared in a classroom like format, the words found in these three chapters in the gospel of Matthew are nevertheless significant because of what they say and who said them. So, over the next weeks, we are going to dig into this powerful passage and see what we can learn from words that came directly from the lips of Jesus. Hope you enjoy it.

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Ep 129 – Sermon on the Mount: Radical and Revolutionary

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This first episode is entitled, “Radical and Revolutionary” and is intended to serve as an introduction that looks at the setting and circumstances surrounding Jesus’ message. One of the problems we face as 21st-Century Christians is that we have a habit of reading the Bible with a post-cross, this-side-of-the-resurrection perspective. It’s only natural, because that’s our historical point of view. But when reading the Scriptures, we need to always keep in mind who is speaking or writing and the exact nature of the original audience. Who were they? What were their circumstances? How would they have received what was being said or stated? This is particularly important when it comes to the Sermon on the Mount, because the original audience was predominantly Jews and, because Jesus had not yet died and rose again, none of the people in His hearing were yet believers. According to the text, there were only four disciples in the crowd that day. Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. And they had just begun to follow Jesus. At that time, early on in Jesus’ ministry, they had no idea who He was, other than a rabbi whom they had decided to follow. So when we read this account in Matthew, it is essential that we try to “get in the sandals” of those in Jesus’ audience that day. We need to listen to His words with their ears and from their perspective. And if we do, it will make this passage come alive. It truly contains Christ’s counter-culture call. It was radical and revolutionary. And still is.  

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Ep 127 – Galatians: The Law of Christ

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Well, this is the final episode in our study of Galatians. We’ll be looking at chapter six where Paul wraps up his discussion of the law and our life of faith in Christ. Throughout this letter, Paul has made it powerfully clear that there is no other gospel than the one that preaches the grace of God alone, made possible through faith alone in Christ alone. There is no other way for men to be made right with God. And there is no other way for men to be made right by God than through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. He not only saves us, He sanctifies us. And He makes it possible for us to live according to a new law: The law of Christ. Loving as He loved. Sacrificing for others as He did for us. Extending grace just as we have received it from God the Father. We are now free. Free to live and love as Christ did.

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