Lesson 38: The Sermon on the Mount (#6, Right Attitudes)
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 38. Welcome to our study of the sermon on the mount. In our last lesson we got cut off right in the middle of Matt. ch. 6. We had discussed in ch. 5, the Beatitudes, Jesus' purpose was to fulfil the law and prophets and then finally, Jesus gave six rules for His kingdom. He contrasted those rules with the Mosaic code, "It has been said" thus-and-so, "But, I say unto you..." Then, in what we call chapter six, Jesus reviewed a number of attitudes about almsgiving,'prayer, etc. We were working on fasting as our last lesson ended. So, let's pick up in Matt. 6:19, if you'll get your eyes on that. We're NOT going to re-read this; so, that'll throw a little more work on you. V.19-21, deals with the attitude of hoarding. Or, we might say, Invest in a heavenly home. There your investment is safe and pays the highest dividends imaginable. Jesus said, "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (v.21). So, as I have repeated over and over that heart principle applies to this attitude also. The inner man controls our overt conduct. Thus, a man's overt conduct is a clue to his thinking. And, what gratifies a man is a great commentary upon his internal attitudes. Proverbs 23:7 said, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." So, Jesus here in v.19 said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth."
Alright, v.22-23-24, I would simply call this principle defining your goal. It's very close to the attitude on hoarding and you may even consider it a restatement of that principle. The inner man must train the eyes to look for treasures that last. It's easy to be deluded here. Don't be preoccupied with the glitter that soon perishes with the using. We are forced everyday to make hard choices about life. Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters..." (v.24). If you want heavenly treasures, GO AFTER THEM! But, you CAN'T travel north and south at the same time. As you travel toward the one, you travel away from the other. Is your emphasis and your daily progress heavenly or earthly? Remember, it's not the gale, it's the set of the sail that gets us to where we want to go. So, in which direction are you looking? Or in Jesus' words "if thine eye be single," i.e. is your conduct based upon one heavenly purpose; or are you drifting into fields of evil? That's the thought in v.22-23. Read it close.
Now, v.25-34, the rest of the chapter. This is a very practical attitude or principle in daily life. Let's call it Jesus' attitude about Worry, Care and Anxiety. You see, if we get our priorities straight and our goal in mind and begin to serve King Jesus as our master, i.e. get our eyes focused on that single purpose of investing in heavenly treasures; then, the next factor that begins to haunt us is our daily needs along the way. You see, as we walk from day to day the path is sometimes narrow and lonely. There are always dangers lurking. What about food, clothing, shelter, transportation and education for the children? The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. These things sometimes appear to be easier to come by on a wide, well travel highway that looks even smoother further down the road. But, the problem is that highway sometimes goes in the wrong direction. Many are tempted to take a little stroll down that highway in the wrong direction. When the glitter hits them in the eye, they get disoriented and travel on past the point of no return; to be swept into a devil's hell and lost for ever. The decisions and the internal nature of a man's heart at this crossroads is the fundamental difference between the children of God and the people of the world. But, in these verses (v.25-34), Jesus tells us how we can cope on that narrow path that leads to a heavenly home. Jesus, what shall we do? (#1) "Take no thought for your life..." (v.25). That's like saying, if you'll follow Jesus without distraction, your spiritual life insurance policy is paid up. If you should fall along the way, Jesus is going to give you full credit for a full journey. Your heavenly home is guaranteed. (#2) "Take no thought...what ye shall eat...drink...[or wear,]" (v.31). That's like saying, don't spend your time worrying about material things. Did you know that more than 9096 of the things we worry about never really happen? So, trust God! He'll see that you get what you need! It may or may not be what you WANT! But, most of us never really get our wants and our need thoroughly separated anyway. All that ego won't be much consolation, if we should wake up in hell. (#3) "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." This very well may be one of the greatest promises in the Bible (v.33). Look at it close! It's like Jesus is saying, I'll make you a deal. You get your eyes on the goal, get your needs and wants straightened out, put all you've got into, work on it, lay aside all your worries, cares and anxieties, do what's right and put the kingdom first; and, I'll see that you don't starve, freeze, or die of thirst. We might call it the guaranteed survival clause in Jesus' spiritual life insurance contract. But, to be covered by that contract; we must (#1), put the kingdom first, (#2) seek his righteousness, that's in v.33. There seems to be a tendency in that verse sometime to see the first point about putting the kingdom or church first and then miss the second point, i.e. seek His righteousness. But, there are two points in v.33 joined by the conjunction "and." Now, get one more point here! In those big denominational circles that spin around us; there is a common slogan: JESUS YES, THE CHURCH NO! i.e. they are teaching that we must follow Jesus and obey him; but the church is not necessary to salvation. It's optional, the way they look at it. But, my friend, that doctrine won't wash here in v.33. We are to seek Jesus' righteousness, yes! That's the second point in this verse. But, Jesus said in that same verse, "seek ye first the kingdom..." So, I submit to you, the kingdom is NOT optional. You've got that insurance policy in front of you; so, read the fine print!
Alright, chapter 7!. Jesus examines some more attitudes. The headlines might read something like this: Sweep around your own backdoor. King Jesus is going to be Judge and Jury in his kingdom. You see, the next logical thought that comes to mind here is: how are these things going to be enforced? We have already said, this is not a national law. This is written to individuals. So, who's going to decide when a fellow citizen steps over the line and gets off course? Who condemns? Who censors? The first six verses here (v.1-6), say in essence, as a citizen of that kingdom, that's not in your department. Our job is to keep molding and conditioning that inner man, called self. The word "Judge" in v.1-2 means to condemn or to censor. "With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again." That simply means that to the extent that we do these things, Jesus will apply our own yardstick back to us, personally. Now, this obviously does not mean that we cannot form an opinion about the conduct of some one else. Certainly, we MUST as it effects us. And, we must use those judgments to guide your own steps. But, we must also be tolerant to the extent that we allow our fellow man that same prerogative. Certainly this does not mean we cannot counsel with another, seek, or give, advice. But, we must guard against developing a fault-finding spirit. This is the thought that lead Jesus to ask the question in v.3, "Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" A mote is a little speck. A beam refers to a heavy^ piece of timber, like a 2 X 4. Thus, by exaggerating his illustration; Jesus helps us to see that extreme fault-finding spirit we are prone to develop and apply to others. Now, v.6, has a very logical association with the above thought; but, sometimes a little hard to see. You see, we are required NOT to make harsh judgments; but, we still have the obligation to teach and seek the highest welfare of others. The word is "agape"! We covered that back at the end of Matt. ch. 5, you'll remember. But, just as we are NOT to judge harshly; we must NOT force these precepts upon others. To do so would be like expecting a pig to appreciate something precious like a pearl. Thus, we must be wise enough to recognize people with such unappreciative characteristics and avoid them.
O.K. v.7-12, Ask, seek and knock! That's like saying, DO SOMETHING! I suppose someone might get the idea from the first six verse in this chapter that in fulfilling that obligation; they may crawl into their shell, neither form an opinion, nor have any dealings with their fellow man whatsoever. But, that's not the idea. V.8 says "everyone", but the idea is every one in the kingdom. Ask, seek and knock. Jesus is saying in essence, if you need something, ask for it! That has reference to prayer. To seek means to actively try to find solutions. To knock means to put some effort into it. God will help us if we ask, seek, and knock. Then v.9-11 restates this principle in the form of a parable. Earthly fathers are resourceful enough to take care of their children; so, realize God is much, much superior. Notice that v.12 starts off "therefore", i.e. here is the conclusion that logically follows. Man is not a robot! As a citizen of God's kingdom we are expected to stay within these rules. Each of us must individually and independently decide and act on our own. I trust you recognize v.12 is commonly called the golden rule.
Now, v. 13-14! In these verses, Jesus began his closing appeal. Make the right decisions and act accordingly.There are two choices and you must choose. The illustration is very explicit. But, the question just naturally pops into your mind; why will so many people be lost? In v.15-23, Jesus answers that question. The first reason centers around false teachers (v.15). WARNING! Beware! The responsibility to spot false teachers is delegated to the individual. Be warned! Jesus gave that warning! There is a philosophy that has permeated America today which says, anyone who claims to be religious is entitled to a tax number; you must respect and trust them. That's the way our democratic system works and I'm not trying to knock the system. But, Jesus here has given us some shocking statistics and said plainly that some are out to mislead you. Take a look at Jesus illustration. Wolves in sheep's clothing. Can you imagine a Hollywood make-up-artist using his talents to camouflage a wolf and change it into a sheep? Could you be taken in by such a wolf lying in the grass and chewing his artificial cud? But, the good news is that you can spot the wolf under close inspection; if you know what to look for. So, the conclusion is that false teachers have their unique characteristics also. Just like a plant (v.16) you can identify them by their fruit. Now, the trick is in the fruit. A little plant can come up in your lawn. You and I can examine and speculate all day. I might say, I believe it's a plum tree. You might argue it's a cocoa nut tree. We might strongly disagree. But, when that things sets fruit and produces bananas that settles the argument. We were both wrong. So, the trick's in the fruit, you see. False teachers CAN be identified.
Then in v.21-23 Jesus gave a second reason why so many people are going to be lost. The second reason involves the shallowness of the individual. To be a citizen of Jesus' kingdom requires more than saying, Lord, Lord. It takes more than lip-service. Who's going to be saved? "He that doeth the will of my Father..." That's the answer given by Jesus; the King, the Law giver and the Judge. And those are strong credentials. So, you can forego the fruit test on that one. But, Jesus implies that in this respect, many shall fail. Then v.22 is a little parabolic scene of the judgement. It's like a play with three acts. The books are open. One by one the human race comes before the judge of the earth, Jesus the Christ. Jesus in this parable categorizes the lost into three groups (v.22). Notice, that in each of these three groups there shall be MANY. Now, here's the dialogue: (Group # 1), "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?" You see, their claim is that they have taught by Jesus' authority. Lord, don't you remember me? Why, I was a Sunday school teacher back there at such and such a place. (Group #2), "Lord, Lord, have we not...in thy name cast out devils?" Lord, you must be mixed-up! We have even done miracles in your name! Don't you remember? Now, (Group # 3), "Lord, Lord...in your name [we have] done many worderful works." Lord, we fed the hungry! Lord, we built the biggest church building in town! We did MANY wonderful works. Then look at v.23. These must be the saddest two verses in all scripture. "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Notice close, Jesus did not say, "Yes, you were my disciple once, but then you backslid and departed." Jesus said, "I NEVER KNEW YOU!" Now, what's the message? Like I said, the saddest in scripture. The point is that MANY will come to the judgment thinking they have obeyed, ready to plead their case, and shall discover they were NEVER in the kingdom. It seems to me that THAT puts a double underscore under Matt. 6:33 "Seek ye first the kingdom...and his righteousness." Have you heard that philosophy, let your conscience be your guide? I wouldn't trust it! What about? Christ YES! But, the church or the kingdom NO! I think I'd do some fruit testing.
And finally, v.24-27, the two foundations and the two builders. In these last four verses of the sermon on the mount; Jesus brought the lesson to a close with a most picturesque parable. So simple that even little children understand and appreciate it. It's a beautiful illustration. It's purpose obviously is to encourage decision. The message is (#1), WHERE you build is just as important as HOW you build. (#2) WHERE you build, and HOW you build will both be tested by a strict and rigorous trial. Those who expect to pass the text must be wise. Jesus said, "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man..." So, being wise is equated to obeying Jesus and doing His will. Consider for a moment the likeness of these two builders. First, both the wise man and the foolish man saw the necessity of building. Second, both actually built houses. Third, one may have spent as much time and money in building as the other. And in the fourth place, the foolish man probably felt as safe in his house when it was finished as the wise man did. It was not until the storm came that the differences in foundation became apparent. The house on the rock stood and the house on the sand fell. And great was the fall of it. When this is translated into spiritual meaning, the loss is much greater. That brings Matthew's account of the sermon on the mount to a close. Have a good day!