THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Righteousness of personality and behavior on the part of people is the goal of God’s working. Righteousness has to do with the way we relate to God and to people. The rebellion of Satan, who set his will against God, resulted in the issuing of the Ten Commandments, which define righteous relationships. Then God gave us the righteous Jesus so that through Him we might become righteous in personality and behavior.
Table of Contents
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
Holiness is what God Himself is. Righteousness is what God does. Righteousness is God’s response to each and every situation. Righteousness proceeds from holiness. Holiness will always act in a righteous manner. Sin is disobedience to God
We are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all else that we need shall be added to us.
There is coming a new world of righteousness.
But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. (II Peter 3:13)
The home of righteousness. Think of it!
Righteousness is behavior that is pleasing to God. We may think of righteousness in three ways:
- There is an ascribed righteousness that is given to us when we turn away from the Law of Moses, or any other moral code, and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. We have faith that God will therefore count us as righteous, that is, as pleasing to Himself, because we trust in Christ and not in our own works. The Christian churches have seized on this form of righteousness and are not certain there is any other kind.
- There is a righteousness of behavior that we accomplish by keeping the commandments given by Christ and His Apostles. I know that this concept is rejected by many of today’s Bible teachers, but they are mistaken. The membership of the Christian churches often behave in an ungodly manner because of this error in understanding. We show our love for Jesus by keeping His commandments.
- If a Christian continually tells the truth, he or she is behaving righteously. If a Christian continually lies, he or she is a candidate for the Lake of Fire. The Father has given the Lake of Fire authority over all liars.
The Lord Jesus came to set us free from sin so that we may serve righteousness.
You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:18)
Deliverance from sin leads to holiness, and the result of holiness is righteousness and the consequent eternal life.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22)
Righteousness of personality and behavior is gained when we are flowing with the Life of God in our mind, our speech, and our actions. This is how the Lord Jesus lives. This is the rest of God of which the Book of Hebrews speaks.
The commandment to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness is referring to righteousness of personality and behavior.
Righteousness is obtained as our sinful nature is destroyed, as we cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and Christ is formed in us and is dwelling in us.
The new covenant is the formation of righteousness in us.
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Hebrews 8:10)
The Kingdom of God is first, righteousness of behavior.
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, (Romans 14:17)
The Lord Jesus Christ has been favored of God because He loves righteousness.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (Hebrews 1:9)
God has established the Lord Jesus as God. The scepter of King Jesus is iron righteousness, and by this righteous strength He shall rule for eternity.
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Psalms 45:6,7)
The Lord Jesus reminded us that if we are to remain in Him we must bear the fruit of righteous behavior, which is His image. The fruit of righteous behavior borne on the branches growing from Christ, the true Vine, will be seen by all mankind.
In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit. (Isaiah 27:6)
The term “Israel” refers to God’s Church, the Servant of the Lord, God’s elect whether Jewish or Gentile by physical birth.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. (Isaiah 61:11)
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. (Isaiah 62:1,2)
The Kingdom of God, which is the Christian Church, will enforce righteousness throughout the earth. The saved nations will come to the Church to learn how to behave righteously.
Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life. Those who turn people to righteous behavior will shine as the stars forever.
Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:3)
The Sermon on the Mount comprises the laws of righteousness that will be enforced on the earth with the rod of iron. The law shall go forth from Zion and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
Our goal as Christians is to live in conformity with the Sermon on the Mount. As we pray and seek the Lord continually we are strengthened so we can obey what is written. As we are faithful to do this, the body and blood of Christ are given to us resulting in the forming of Christ in our inward nature. This is the new covenant, the ultimate righteousness, the new creation. Then we observe the Sermon on the Mount inherently for the Giver of that sermon is living in us.
We are the flesh being made the Word.
Matthew, Chapter Five
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, And he began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:1-3)
To be poor in spirit is to live by faith. The expression “the just shall live by faith” means they do not trust in their own abilities. They depend on God for what they think, what they do, and what they say. They are not arrogant. They walk humbly with God.
The Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus did not come to earth to tell us about Heaven but about the Kingdom of Heaven. Heaven is a place in the spirit world. The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of God through Christ through the saints.
But what about the Kingdom of God? It is another way of referring to the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of God, of Heaven, originates in Heaven. It is, as I said, the rulership of God, the doing of God’s will. It is not a place we can go to, it is what has been born in us when we are born again.
The Kingdom of Heaven, of God, is the Church, the new Jerusalem. One day the nations of saved people will be able to go up to the Church, the new Jerusalem, and receive the many blessings of God.
The parables of the Lord Jesus are never about going to Heaven but about the Kingdom of God. In Matthew the parables are about the Kingdom of Heaven. In the other Gospels the same parables are about the Kingdom of God. There is only one Kingdom. It is being perfected in Heaven.
After the thousand-year Kingdom Age the Kingdom of God will come down from Heaven through the new sky and be installed forever on the new earth. This is the holy city, the new Jerusalem, the glorified Christian Church.
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, (Hebrews 12:22,23)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
It is true that the Lord Jesus gives us peace and joy in this world. But I am afraid that modern Christian preaching, at least in America, is leaving the impression that to become a Christian means every problem in our life will be solved.
This is not the case. A true Christian denies himself, takes up his cross, and follows the Lord Jesus at all times, day and night. Our cross is the pain, the pressure, the frustration, the denial of our desires, that we must bear faithfully. Our cross is given to us to help remove our sin and our natural will and enthusiasm that we might learn to live by the Spirit of God.
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God from its beginning has been a hope for the future. Numerous believers have been tortured and killed for the name of Jesus. But God will make it up to them in abundance in the next life. Their treasures are in Heaven.
Those who are willing to bear the their cross shall be comforted in the future if not in the present. They can proceed for another hour with that hope.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
In this world it appears that those who are bold, arrogant, pushing themselves forward, will win the prize. The truth is, those who are quiet and teachable will finally come out on top. God loves meekness and quietness of spirit. The Lord Jesus is like God—meek an lowly in heart. These are the heirs of the earth.
We do not have to push and shout. The Lord will give us what belongs to us, and no power in the heavens or on earth can prevent Him from doing so.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
A hunger and thirst for righteousness is a blessing. It guarantees that we shall be filled.
Because of the overemphasis on ascribed righteousness, God’s people of today do not have a healthy desire for righteous conduct. Their teachers have scorned the attempts of the believers to behave in a righteous manner. This is because they have understood the third, fourth, and fifth chapters of the Book of Romans but not the sixth, seventh, and eighth chapters.
I think most believers of our day do not understand the place of ascribed, imputed righteousness. Because of what they have been taught they suppose it is a new way in which God relates to people. This indeed is a horrendous error!
Ascribed righteousness is a device God uses to enable an individual to turn away from the Law of Moses, or any other moral code, and look up in faith to the Lord Jesus. Then we are to follow Jesus at all times. As we do, He sets about to transform our behavior. It is the transformation itself that is the salvation Christ came to bring to us
The purpose of the transformation is not that we may go to Heaven but that we may have fellowship with God. We cannot have fellowship with God, which is the goal of salvation, while we are continuing in sin. We have to walk in the light of God’s will; otherwise we are not being kept righteous by the blood of the cross.
If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1:6,7)
A hunger and thirst for a righteous personality is a blessing. We are wise when we pray for this gift, for righteous behavior will produce a holy nature in us, and the result of a holy nature is eternal life.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
This is the Kingdom law of sowing and reaping, isn’t it? We receive what we do. If we are kind and loving toward people, they will be kind and loving toward us. However, sometimes we are kind and receive cruelty in return. If we do not seek revenge, God will make certain that eventually we will receive the kindness and mercy we have shown.
But if we are harsh and unforgiving, then God will not be merciful or forgiving toward us.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)
If we will keep pressing into Christ He will help us purify our heart. All aspects of redemption come about through the joint effort of Christ and us.
Small children have pure hearts and this is why their angel can see the face of God. As we grow to maturity much evil accumulates in our heart. Then we have to walk with God until we become a child and our heart once again is pure.
The Book of Revelation promises us that the saints will see God’s face. This means that every part of their personality has been brought down to death and then raised again in Christ. Such purity is awesome to consider!
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)
There are many occasions when we have an opportunity to make peace. This is true between husband and wife. Oftentimes we know that if we answer in the wrong way it is only going to cause strife. But our sinful nature propels us forward, and the conflict escalates.
A soft answer turns away wrath. How often we are accused unjustly (or justly) Then we can produce an argument or we often can bring about peace by the way in which we respond.
Those who easily become angry especially need to pray that God will remove this rage from them so they can be peacemakers. Once they are peacemakers they will be referred to as sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)
If we are persecuted for behaving in an upright manner, for telling the truth, for seeking peace, for being honest, for walking humbly with God, then the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to us. The Lord Jesus Christ went about doing good and healing people, and He was persecuted for this.
Sometimes Christian people behave foolishly, attempting to force their religious beliefs on other people. Naturally the response is negative. This is not what it means to be persecuted because of righteousness. But if we are living a godly life, and are persecuted for that reason, it is an occasion for rejoicing.
In ancient Rome, there were believers who refused to worship the emperor. They were punished because of their refusal. This would be an example of being persecuted because of righteousness. Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11,12)
There always is a reproach on the name of Jesus Christ, isn’t there? Sometimes we feel that reproach when we are among ungodly people. They are repulsed by the name of Jesus, the name that means everything to us.
If we are harmed in some manner, not because we have behaved foolishly in our religious zeal but merely because we bear the name of Christ, we then are to rejoice and be glad. A wonderful reward has been set aside for us in Heaven.
When we bear the name of Christ we are prophets, and prophets usually are persecuted. I am afraid the local assembly of Christians is now, at least in America, being regarded as a business and as a social group in the neighborhood. Thus the congregation is a mixed group of people, some being called by the Lord and some by the church.
The local assembly is a lampstand. It is God’s prophet in the neighborhood. It is neither a business nor a social group.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. (Matthew 5:13)
When salt loses its flavor it no longer is effective as a seasoning. So it is when Christians do not walk with Christ in their attempt to get what they can from the present world, they are of no benefit to God or man. They are not offering obedience and praise to God, and they are not a light leading people to Christ. They will be discarded by people are being worthless.
One human being who is walking with the Lord Jesus is worth more than all the religious instruction in the world, as far as benefiting God and man is concerned.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
Here is a very important commandment: “Let your light shine before men.” I guess most of us Christians believe in bearing witness about Jesus Christ. However, that witness, that light, is not so much what we say but our good deeds.
Now, given the current teaching that we are saved by grace and our deeds do not matter, we can see how the testimony we ought to be giving has been greatly diminished. In fact, the Lord Jesus told us if we did not do what He said He would remove our lampstand, our testimony. This is what has taken place in America.
We have been saved by God’s grace that we might perform good deeds.
For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
America at the present time is sliding down into a moral cesspool. I shudder to think what the next five years will bring. From my point of view, this moral decline is due to the present teaching of “grace” in the Christian churches.
The American people, although they do not realize it, depend on the Christian people for their moral guidelines. The churches are not preaching righteous behavior, as they should, but grace-rapture-Heaven. This preaching will not produce moral transformation. It will put out the light of the testimony the churches are responsible to give to the world. It is our good deeds, our moral transformation, that are the light of the world.
Another factor contributing to the putting out of the moral light is the emphasis on church growth. “Church growth” does not mean growth in the image of Christ but growth in numbers. If we are going to get a crowd of people to come to church in America we have to minimize the demands of Christ.
There is a new term being used. It is “seeker friendly.” This means when a newcomer arrives in church he or she should be exposed to preaching that is culturally relevant, pleasant and comforting. However, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is not always culturally relevant, pleasant, or comforting. Therefore the minister, if he wishes to be successful in the eyes of people, should shy away from the preaching of the Gospel.
I do not see where the Apostles of the Lamb were “seeker friendly.” They preached forgiveness through the blood of the cross, repentance, which meant a radical change of lifestyle, and the resurrection and consequent judgment. This Gospel made Felix tremble.
The Lord Jesus said that no one could be His disciple, that is, a Christian, until he denied himself, took up his cross, and followed Him. This is the message we are to give to those who would be Christians. We are to give it lovingly, but we are not to lessen its demands in order to “win people.”
I imagine the early churches met on the first day of the week to commemorate the resurrection of the Lord. It was a meeting of disciples. The disciples had fellowship and praised the Lord. Probably an apostle or teacher held forth the Word, encouraging them to press forward into Christ. I do not believe there was an emphasis on bringing in people to the meeting. But I do believe the Holy Spirit brought in people that the Father was guiding to Christ.
I think we are way off base today in our concept of the Sunday morning service. Its purpose is to build up the saints so that when they go out into the world they do good deeds. When the people of the world see the good deeds they will glorify God. At least that is what Christ taught us.
I believe we are making a business of building the local church in numbers. These are not the churches of Christ, it is a man-glorifying babylonish system. Its members cannot serve as the light of the world because they have been brought into the Christian religion by fleshly means and the Holy Spirit is not making them witnesses.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
It appears that there are greatest and least in the Kingdom of Heaven, doesn’t there? It seems also that the greatest are those who teach righteousness of behavior.
The current explanation or the relationship between the Law of Moses and the new covenant is that the Law has been abolished and we now are saved by “grace,” meaning that how we behave is not critically important as long as we believe in Christ.
But this doesn’t fit the above teaching of the Lord, does it?
People without the Law of Moses will be judged apart from the Law, Paul told us. But the people under the Law will be judged by the Law, as the Lord implied.
However, there is relief for the Jew, and the Gentile also. The relief is that if we are willing to count ourselves dead with Christ, we no longer are under the authority of the Law. However, this is true only as long as we are following the Holy Spirit carefully.
God will not have anyone who is not under law. Either we are under the Law of Moses, or under the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ. The Gentile who has never heard of the Law of or Christ is judged by His conscience.
The ceremonial aspects of the Law of Moses do not apply to us who are Gentiles. However, the moral precepts of the Law are carried over into the New Testament. These moral precepts are unchanging in that they reflect the eternal moral law of God. The eternal moral law of God is written in the conscience of all people and will guide them unless they are taught to the contrary.
So in this sense the Law has not been done away. The Law is a slave that leads us to the school of Christ. But if we do not learn moral behavior in the school of Christ we come back under the slave.
The difference between the Law of Moses and the new covenant is not that the Law has been done away, it is that the eternal moral law of God passes from stone tables to the tables of the human heart. Thus the Law has not been done away, it has been written on the mind and heart in an infinitely expanded form.
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)
This does not mean that our righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees because we are under “grace,” it means that our righteous behavior surpasses that of the Pharisees. They were covetous, robbers of widows, and envious of Christ whom they succeeded in murdering. Thus the Law is not done away, it is fulfilled and more than fulfilled in those who are filled with the Spirit of Christ, because they behave more righteously than the Pharisees.
Unless we behave more righteously than did the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca,” is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21,22)
Can you see that Christ is not removing the Law, He is expanding the Law?
Under the Law of Moses we were forbidden to murder. But under the new covenant we are not permitted to be angry or to despise our brother. Thus our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, Leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23,24)
This is a principle of righteousness that will be enforced by the Lord when He comes. We are not permitted to worship God when we have offended someone. We must make every effort to live in peace with everyone
Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:25,26)
We Christians are not to be in a state of conflict with anyone. We are to be revealing God by our conduct. Thus in a confrontation we are liable to get the worst of it, because our role is to be that of a peacemaker. We are members of the royal priesthood. We are not to be fighting with people.
You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27,28)
Again, our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. The Law of Moses has not been done away. It has been expanded. We are to come to the Throne of Grace and obtain strength to obey what Christ has taught us until the ultimate righteousness is formed in us and we inherently are free from adultery and lust.
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:29,30)
Christ’s teaching was not exactly user-friendly, was it?
The Lord is showing us how important righteous behavior is. Being saved by grace does not mean we now are free to disobey the Sermon on the Mount. Rather grace is God’s Presence in Jesus Christ given to us so our right eye and our right hand no longer cause us to sin.
Those who are arrogant and disobedient, persisting in unrighteous behavior, will be thrown into Hell even though they regard themselves as being Christians.
It has been said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.” But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31,32)
This judgment of the Lord, like all other judgments and commandments of the New Testament, must be interpreted by the Holy Spirit. If we attempt to practice them without the guidance of the Spirit, we will not doing God’s will.
The above is a good example. A wicked man might divorce his wife because he wants to marry another woman. In this case whoever marries the divorced woman, who has done no wrong, is an adulterer. We have to go to the Lord to find out when to apply this commandment, or we may cause an injustice to occur.
As a pastor who has had to deal with this issue, I have come to the conclusion that careful prayer is needed in each instance. Often the welfare of children must be considered.
The marriage and divorce laws given by the Lord and are to be viewed with utmost gravity. Yet man was not made for the marriage and divorce laws. These laws were made for the benefit of man, to avoid promiscuity.
As far as the laws of righteousness given in the Sermon on the Mount, each one of them must be interpreted and enabled by the Spirit of God. For the new covenant is not one of the letter but of the Spirit.
Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.” But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; Or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37)
Pastor James wrote to us about the evil caused by the tongue. The Lord Jesus told us that the Words He spoke were not His but the Father’s I believe this is the way we are to be. We are to speak only what Christ leads us to say. As James says, we are to speak as the oracle of God.
Obviously we have to grow quite a bit in the Lord before we speak as an oracle of God. However, we can make it a practice of praying before we say something. It is a simple matter to look quickly to the Lord before we speak. Soon this will become a habit, and a profitable one. We will avoid trouble if we learn to pray before we speak.
We are not to take the Lord’s name in a useless manner, such as: “For Christ’s sake I hope he comes home before too long.” God will hold us responsible for this kind of talk. “God, its hot today!” We are not talking to God, we are using His name in a useless manner.
The Lord said such talk comes from the evil one!
You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)
Again, in obeying the above words we must hear from the Lord. We must pray for wisdom in each instance; for there is a time to resist evil; there is a time to refuse to give to someone who asks us.
But the spirit of the above is crucial to the Christian moral development. We are not to resist evil. We are to overcome evil with good.
Often when we become irritated with someone it is because they are threatening us concerning something we have not submitted to the Lord. Neither they nor we, in many instances, understand our angry reaction. It is because we are holding on to an idol.
When we feel ourselves being overcome by evil we are to cease blaming people. We are to go to the Lord and ask Him what the problem is. He will show us why we are upset. When we give to the Lord the reason for our fear and agitation, we then can emerge in peace from our place of prayer and respond to the situation pleasantly. Evil cannot be overcome with evil, only with good. But that good must come from the Lord, for our good will fail in many instances.
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, That you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:43-45)
When the nations go up to Jerusalem to learn from Christ and His saints, during the Kingdom Age, the above is what they will be taught. This is why they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
We are being made into the image of God that we may be His sons in truth. Being able to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us is a mark of maturity in our moral growth. There is no way we can respond to this challenge in our adamic nature. It is only as Christ is formed in us that we can actually fulfill this commandment. However, until we have arrived at the stature of the fullness of Christ, we must pray without ceasing that we will please God in this area.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46-48)
What is perfection? It is loving those whom we would not ordinarily love.
Love may or may not include an emotion. Love is something we practice. It includes kindness, mercy, compassion, seeking to assist as we are able. We are to show a helpful attitude toward everyone and not be overcome by evil and hatred.
There are people whom we just naturally like and others whom we do not care to be around, or even despise. These are adamic traits and we have to overcome them through Christ. Obviously our sinful nature rebels at the thought of being kind and helpful toward people we detest, but this is the way our heavenly Father is and we are His son, being formed in His image.
One can see readily that the reason for the troubles in the world today are due to the fact that the Sermon on the Mount is not being obeyed—even in the Christian churches. We have made “getting saved and going to Heaven” our goal. It is not. Our goal is to be changed until we are obeying the Sermon on the Mount.
When there are enough of the Lord’s people obeying the Sermon on the Mount, He will return from Heaven. He and these people, the victorious saints, will rule from Jerusalem, compelling the nations of saved people to obey these laws of the Kingdom of God.
We can hasten the return of Jesus Christ to the earth by setting ourselves to behave in this necessary manner.
Matthew, Chapter Six
Be careful not to do your “acts of righteousness” before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
Religion tends to be outward as people seek the approval of one another. The true inward forming of the Kingdom of God is between the individual believer and God. While he tries to keep a good report of people, the only opinion that really matters to him is God’s.
So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, So that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:2-4)
In order to be secretive about our good works, not caring whether or not people know about them, we have to be walking with the Lord, in continual communication with Him. I have come to the conclusion that the difference between religion and true salvation is that religion is a relationship with an organization of people and true salvation is a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are multitudes in organized religion. How many of these are walking hand in hand with the Lord Jesus?
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:5,6)
We love to pray out loud in church, don’t we? But if we really love the Lord we look forward to our secret time when we can converse with Him in private. America is on such a downhill slide into corruption, the worship of sexual lust and money, that if we are to survive we are going to have a very personal relationship with God. We are going to have to know Him apart from all religious activities, even though these are helpful in their place.
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7,8)
If God knows what we need before we ask Him, then what is the purpose of praying?
God knows what we need, but He wants us to ask. As we pray we are brought into harmony with God’s will.
Prayer should be a two-way communication. When we first learn to pray it is largely a matter of bringing our list of needs to the Lord. And He answers each one.
But as we become more mature in prayer we learn to feel what the Spirit is indicating. We can tell when we have “prayed through,” that is, when God has heard and the prayer has been answered. When we know He has heard us we know we will receive what we have requested.
Also, we learn to listen. This is why it is so utterly important to pray every day. The Lord wants to direct our paths. But if we are so busy there is no time to wait on the Lord, then we are not sensitive to those soft checks of the Spirit. We are not hearing from the Lord. Our salvation becomes a matter of head knowledge rather than fellowship with Jesus.
“Pray without ceasing,” Paul commanded us. We are to keep on praying. The Lord Jesus will keep on answering if we are walking in His will. We can be assured of His will by presenting our body to God as a living sacrifice, carrying our cross faithfully behind the Lord.
This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” (Matthew 6:9)
We pray to God in Heaven, not to God within us, even though He is in us.
We hold up His name as holy, as do the elders, cherubim, and angels around the Throne of God.
Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)
How many people over how many centuries have prayed this prayer. But they do not believe it will come to pass. We do not preach the coming of the Kingdom today. We preach that we are to go to Heaven to live forever. Why do we do this?
We are to pray, and believe, that God’s Kingdom shall come to the earth. We are to pray, and believe, that God’s will shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
The Kingdom shall come. God’s will shall be done. The members of the Church shall learn to live in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount. Then the members of the Church shall enforce these laws throughout the creation.
God wants righteousness on the part of all of His creatures. The rebellion of Satan, setting His will against the Father, is the source of all transgressions of the Sermon on the Mount. This wickedness began around the Throne of God.
God will never permit these destructive relationship to enter His Presence again. Those who refuse to change shall be incarcerated in the Lake of Fire. Paradise shall be restored to the earth, and God shall dwell among the nations of saved people in Christ in the persons of the saints. This is the coming of the Kingdom of God, the will of God, to the earth. This is what people have prayed for over the years without listening to their own prayers, apparently.
Give us today our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)
This is all we need, isn’t it? Provision for the day. We can eat only one meal at a time. Think of the millions of dollars saved up by people who have wrecked their lives in the gaining of wealth. They are providing for the future. Yet, like everyone else, they can only eat one meal at a time.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)
If we pray this prayer it means we already have forgiven those who have sinned against us. If we are not willing to forgive those who sinned against us, we might as well save our breath. God will not hear us until we forgive.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:13)
A Christian may believe that if he attends church, reads his Bible, and prays every day, he cannot be tempted or deceived. This is not so. It is not as simple as this. Satan is a master deceiver. He examines our personality until he knows where we are weak. Then he strikes at an opportune time.
In addition to living a fervent Christian life of prayer, Bible reading, and fellowship with the saints, there are two actions a believer can take that will help guard against deception and temptation.
First, he is wise if he prays every day for God to lead him away from the temptations of Satan. This doesn’t seem like it would be necessary, but Jesus told us to pray this prayer and so we must.
Second, he must be faithful in bearing his personal cross. Our cross is our best guarantee against deception. It is when we try to evade our cross, or break out of the prison of denial we have been placed in, that we make ourselves vulnerable to deception. This world is under a curse. It is not Heaven, and when we try to make it Heaven we are open to deception.
We have our God-given joy. But this world is the valley of the shadow of death, and we do well to keep this in mind and not seek pleasure except in the Lord.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14,15)
These are pretty plain words, aren’t they? If we forgive people who have offended us, God will forgive us our offenses. But if we do not forgive people how have offended us, God will not forgive our offenses.
If you find there is someone you simply can’t forgive, I will tell you a secret. Go to your knees in prayer. Ask the Lord to give you the Virtue in the body and blood of Christ to help you forgive. That same Virtue that said, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” will be given to you. Then you will be able to forgive completely. Try it and see.
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, So that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)
Have you noticed to this point how much emphasis the Lord places on living in the secret place with God? As I said previously, religion enjoys a public demonstration of devotion. Such shall be rewarded in full, as the Lord said. They shall receive their reward in the admiration of people.
We are to practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. All we care about is His approval. God’s approval is enough reward for us, isn’t it?
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
The above is a key concept. Every disciple is given a cross to bear, a prison to endure. These crosses and prisons are no joke. They take the adamic joy out of our life. We really have to mean business with God if we are not to attempt to evade the miserable circumstances we are placed in. Our most intense desires are deferred.
One of the main problems we encounter as we seek to carry our cross is we do not know how long this misery is going to last. If we knew when our sentence has been completed and could mark off the days on the granite wall of our prison it would be so much easier.
I heard a brother once say that if something didn’t change within a certain time he was going to take matters into his own hands. I shuddered, and warned him that it does not work that way. He did not heed my warning and is suffering the consequences.
If we are to successfully carry our cross we have to take all of our treasures, our hopes, our dreams, our fervent desires, and lay them up in Heaven. If God gives any of them to us during our lifetime on the earth, fine. But if not, it does not matter. We are resolved to be faithful until death.
Let me say at this point, that if you are not willing to do this it will prove impossible for you to become a victorious saints. You will lose your crown.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:22,23)
We cannot be double-minded. We cannot serve two masters. We must make up our mind that we have been crucified to the world and the world to us. From now on all we care about is that Christ is magnified in us whether by our life or by our death.
Anything less than such total dedication and consecration will not survive the forces that will come against us. If there is any darkness at all in us it finally will fill our entire personality, unless we immediately get rid of it. When we are totally consecrated to Christ, then our whole body is full of light. There is no darkness, no cause of stumbling, in us.
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)
What a word this is for us Americans who worship money! At the time of Christ there were many gods and goddesses, of the Greeks, the Romans, and other nations of the world. Jesus mentioned only one of these gods—Money [Mammon, which some say was the Syrian god of riches].
Think of it? The one god, the one master, that challenges the true God, the true Master, is Money.
There must come a time for each of us who wish to follow the Christ when we make up our mind whether we are going to serve God or Money. As Jesus said, we cannot serve both. All through the Bible, Balaam, Gehazi, Judas, Ananias and Sapphire, the teaching of the Apostle Paul, we are warned about the danger of serving Money. Yet today we have preachers telling us that if we have faith we can gain material wealth.
The Lord Jesus showed us we are not to use our faith to increase our material prosperity when He refused to command the stone to turn into bread.
Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all shall be added to us. Consider the lilies. I suppose one of the major decision an American Christian must make is whether he or she is going to serve God or money.
Do we dare to do God’s will and trust Him to provide our needs? This is a major question, isn’t it?
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:25,26)
This verse gets to the hearts of the American way of life. We really are a materialistic culture. There are nations who see this and are not impressed.
It is rumored that Sundar Singh came to America on one occasion and hastened back to India. It was his opinion that spiritual values are more important than material wealth. I am not certain many Americans would agree with him.
Perhaps this is the reason some of the Muslim leaders are afraid of the ability of the commercial institutions of the United States to reach into their countries and change the values of the people from the worship of Allah to the worship of material wealth and fast-food restaurants. They do not want their values changed. I suppose we would feel the same way if the Muslims were able to spread their strict laws in the United States.
Our entire American culture is focused on our physical welfare. Most of us cannot conceive of any other way of life.
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:27)
Are you a worrier? I am. It doesn’t do much good, does it. Most of the events we worry about never come to pass, so we burned all those calories for nothing. I am praying to be released from all worry and dread. I know the almighty Christ will answer this prayer.
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:28-30)
Why did God make flowers? They don’t do anything but grow. Yet what would the world be like without flowers!
I am sensitive to this issue because I do not have a good eye for color. Most women and some men do, I notice. My wife, Audrey, has to pick out my clothes to wear to church because I have a difficult time matching colors, suit, shirt, tie.
But when I see a pleasing arrangement I notice it. And I appreciate the sight of all kinds of flowers. I think God knows what He is doing, don’t you?
In some places in the world there are beautiful sunsets. God creates these with a little bit of dust, they say. But the sunsets do not work. They are just there to look at.
The point is, if God cares about flowers and sunsets, He most likely will make sure that we are clothed, whether or not we worry about our appearance.
So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “‘What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:31,32)
The use of the term “pagans” reveals that the Sermon on the Mount was being addressed to Jewish people. However, it applies to all of God’s elect, and finally will be enforced in the world on the saved people of the nations. This will be true during the thousand-year Kingdom Age, and after that on the citizens of the new earth.
What shall we eat, drink, or wear? God knows our needs. The Lord Jesus is placing considerable emphasis on the fact that our life should not consist primarily on the pursuit of these things but on God’s will for our life.
He has commanded us to not worry. Lord, help me to obey this command!
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)
Notice that the Lord never preached going to Heaven, although we are to place our treasures there. The Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom, and it is the Kingdom we are to seek. Heaven is a place in the spirit world. The Kingdom is God in Christ in the saints. The role of the saints is to bring the Presence, rule, and blessing of God wherever the Lord sends them. The Kingdom is not a place. We are not to be seeking a place but a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
“His righteousness.” As I said at the beginning of this essay, there are three kinds of righteousness. There is the righteousness ascribed to us when we turn away from the Law of Moses, or any other moral code, and place our faith in Jesus Christ.
Then there is the righteous conduct we pursue as we read the commandments given by Christ and His Apostles and pray for God’s help in obeying them.
Finally there is the ultimate righteousness. This is the behavior that results from Christ being formed and dwelling in us.
The expression “God’s righteousness” embraces all three forms of righteousness, in that they all depend on God’s actions. However, it is the ultimate righteousness that is the purest form of God’s righteousness. We are to become the expression of God’s thinking, speaking, and acting throughout the creation.
God’s righteousness must be sought at all times. Our life is filled with decisions great and small. God wants us to look to Him at every instant so our thoughts, words, and actions will be of Him. This is what it means to pray without ceasing.
Anything less than this is not the Kingdom of God.
God’s promise is that if we will place the seeking of His righteousness in first place in our daily life, God will add to us our physical needs as well as His righteousness.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)
Have you ever noticed that there always is grace for the day? We humans usually live in the past or the future. But God and Satan are concerned about today, for they are practical. We do not have grace for the past or the future, only for the present moment.
Each day has its own trouble. Each day has its own grace, if we will look to the Lord for it. There is strength and wisdom for the coming day when we wake up in the morning. Yesterday we may have worried about today. But now today is here and there is strength and wisdom we did not have yesterday. Isn’t it so?
God is eternally faithful. The manna is there when we awaken. God help us to rest in this fact!
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
God created man to be the judges of the works of His hands. But we cannot judge righteous judgment until we are hearing from God in each instance.
It is easy for the believers to be critical of one another. This is because Satan is accusing us continually, and so when we decide to criticize someone Satan is there to help us.
When we are harsh and judgmental toward others, then God and people are harsh and judgmental toward us.
The Lord Jesus judges us only as He hears from the Father. We are to judge other people only as we hear from the Lord. This is difficult because our adamic nature is ready and eager to criticize, gossip, and slander those around us. We are so positive our judgment is correct we do not want to waste time asking the Lord His opinion. Usually our judgment is incorrect.
Gossip and slander abound in the Christian churches, and we bring Divine judgment on ourselves for practicing these sins. The first chapter of the Book of Romans tells us that those who gossip and slander are worthy of death.
The Lord tells us we have no business judging our brother because we are far more guilty than he.
In other words, do not criticize, slander, or gossip about a brother or sister in the Lord—or about anyone else, for that matter.
Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6)
As a rule, we Christians talk too much. The Lord cannot entrust His secrets to us because we will broadcast them to whoever will listen.
Because of the pressure on them to “testify to everyone you meet,” Christians try to convert people with whom the Holy Spirit is not dealing. This is confusion.
The mature saint learns to spend time with the Lord in the prayer closet. He hears holy things, precious things. These are not to be told to other people except under the specific leading of the Lord. “A new name written that no one knows except him who receives it.”
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7,8)
When we start off as a Christian we may believe anything and everything. But after ten or twenty years of steady, faithful service we lose our optimism. Our salvation becomes a duty. The romance leaves and we now are waiting to die and go to our mansion in Heaven.
We no longer believe God will perform the marvels He has promised. We labor under a spirit of inevitability: “Things will always remain the same with me.”
There is no place in the Kingdom of God for a spirit of inevitability. The reason we we not receive, find, or come upon an open door, is that we do not persist in prayer. We may pray once, twice, three, four, five times. And then we lose interest. Nothing happened.
The Lord promised us that whoever believes in him would work the same miracles He performed, and greater. I set my mind to believe that fifty-six years ago. I still believe it. I may die believing it. But the Lord said it, and that clinches it for me.
What is it that you would like to be? What would you like to do? Forget about what is possible, let your imagination soar.
Now start asking, seeking, and knocking. Keep on doing so for the remainder of your life. The responsibility now is on God’s shoulders. If He doesn’t answer your prayer, that is His decision. But if you do not ask, seek, and knock, that is your decision. You will never know what could have been because you did not obey the Lord’s command to ask, seek, and knock.
Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:10,11)
Sometimes people are afraid to really persevere in prayer. They are afraid of going insane, or becoming a religious fanatic, or exposing themselves to Satan’s wrath, or being deceived, or asking something out of God’s will, or having something worse take place. If you have a good heart and are not on some kind of spiritual adventure, but are sincerely asking God for something that will benefit the Kingdom of God, none of these evils will befall you.
Do not be afraid to ask, and keep on asking; keep on seeking; keep on knocking. As you do, God will work with your prayer until it conforms to His desire, and then He will answer. The answer may come tomorrow or fifty years from now. Time is not a consideration in the spirit realm.
The point is, the Lord Jesus told us that whatever we asked in His name He would do. God cannot lie!
But if we do not ask, it is certain our prayer will not be answered.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
How simple and straightforward! This sums up both covenants—the Law of Moses and the new covenant, the Christian covenant.
The reason we have such a difficult time obeying this simple commandment is that we have a sinful nature. The Law of Moses did not address the sinful nature, only our behavior. This is why the Law of Moses brings death instead of life. We want to obey the Law of Moses, we want to treat others in the same manner we ourselves would like to be treated, but our sinful nature dictates otherwise.
So God gave us a new covenant. God said, “Place your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and I will regard you as righteous. You now are without condemnation.”
Then through the Lord Jesus and His Apostles, God gave us some commandments to obey, and, when we pray and ask for help, grace to obey these commandments. The commandments are found in the Sermon on the Mount.
But there still is our sinful nature to deal with.
So as we follow the Spirit of God we are made aware of the acts of our sinful nature. As they become known to us, we confess them as sin and put them to death through the Spirit. We turn away from them resolutely. As we are faithful in confessing our sins and turning away from them, the Spirit gives us the body and blood of Christ to eat and drink. Thus our sinful nature is being destroyed and Christ is being formed in us.
So unlike the Law of Moses, the new covenant brings life to us: first by pardoning us, and then by destroying our sinful nature and forming Christ, the Word of God, in us.
When the Lord has finished working with us we will do to others as we would have them do to us. As simple and straightforward as this!
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13,14)
Today we have the “ticket” doctrine. Confess Christ as your Savior and Lord and you will receive a ticket that will admit you to Heaven.
Easy, isn’t it. But what about the above passage? Where does this fit?
The truth is, the “ticket” doctrine is misleading. Making a profession of faith in Jesus Christ is not a ticket, it is the entrance to the program of redemption. The program of redemption is narrow and pressured. It leads to eternal life. Only a few people find it.
When the Gospel net is let down it brings up many kinds of fish. In the last days the angels will save the good fish and throw out the rest.
Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. (Matthew 13:47,48)
So we ought not to present the Gospel as a ticket to Heaven. It is the road that leads us to eternal life. If we live a righteous life we will be saved. But if we persist in wicked behavior we will be removed from the Kingdom of God.
This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous And throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:49,50)
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:15,16)
The Apostle Paul spoke about wicked men who tried to lead away the believers after them. God’s people are sheep. They are easily lead astray. They need to learn to examine carefully the behavior of those who claim to be preachers of the Gospel.
We have been taught to not lay our hands on God’s anointed. This is a helpful instruction. But it is up to Christian people, particularly the elders in the churches, to watch the behavior of those who would come in and instruct the believers. When they notice ungodly conduct they should not be afraid to remove that person from their midst.
I do not know why it is, but many people who could make a good living if they found a job somewhere choose to become involved in the ministry. They may be charming, persuasive, able to attract people to themselves. But many of these charmers do not know the Lord Jesus. Yet they are able to convince the believers to support them in their wickedness.
There is a great deal of deceit, self-seeking, and wickedness in the Christian ministry in America. Such leaders become wealthy because they know how to persuade people to give them money.
The Lord Jesus wants us to examine closely those who claim to be preachers and teachers of the Gospel.
Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:17-20)
This is a simple test of the ministry, isn’t it? If it is obvious the preacher is immoral, self-seeking, willful, dishonest, he or she is not of God. It does not matter how “anointed” the individual appears to be. It does not matter what miracles they are able to perform. It does not matter how many people profess conversion or receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit under their ministry. If the minister is immoral or dishonest he or she is not to be listened to.
Gifts and ministries are not an evidence of spirituality. The Holy Spirit assigns gifts and ministries, not because the individual is spiritual but to build him up and those to whom he ministers. So if you see a dishonest, immoral, deceitful person exhibiting great gifts and a spectacular ministry, have nothing to do with that person. He will be dismissed from Christ’s Presence when he stands before the Lord. The Lord never knew him although he worked miracles in Jesus’ name.
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
There is no question but that grace (defined as unconditional forgiveness; unmerited favor) is overemphasized in today’s teaching and preaching. In order to please God and enter His Kingdom we have to do God’s will. Our first act of obedience is to repent and be baptized in water for the remission of our sins. After this we are to obey Christ every day.
A profession of faith in Jesus Christ is not intended to be a substitute for a lifetime of patient cross-carrying obedience. We have made it a substitute, but it is not. We have destroyed the moral strength of the Christian churches by presenting faith in Christ as an alternative to daily obedience to God.
Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:22,23)
Prophesy in your name. Drive out demons in your name. Perform many miracles in your name.
If we saw a person prophesying, driving out demons, and performing many miracles, all in the name of the Lord Jesus, we would be certain that person is of God. Wouldn’t we? A preacher with that kind of power would have a huge church. Almost all Christian believers would regard that minister as being an anointed man of God.
I rather suspect we are going to see this kind of power demonstrated in the days to come, in the name of Jesus.
Are we mature enough to look to see what kind of person this is? The Lord tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that miracles are not an evidence of the Lord’s approval. Can we accept this?
What then is the sign of the Lord’s approval?
Practicing righteousness, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.
There are ministers today who are successful as performers. They attract crowds of Christian believers. But they are not always cross-carrying disciples. They have learned how to manipulate crowds of people and take large offerings.
All of their success will profit them nothing if they are not living a godly life. “I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers.”
Is it possible that someone can work miracles in the name of Jesus and Jesus not know that individual? Apparently!
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matthew 7:24-27)
The above passage reveals that much of the Christian preaching and teaching of today is not thoroughly scriptural. How many sermons have you heard on the truths taught in the Sermon on the Mount? Yet the Lord said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
These are the laws of the Kingdom of God. They are to be obeyed: first as we read them and pray for guidance and strength to obey them; then as Christ is formed and is dwelling in us and we put them into practice because of our transformed nature.
This is the way God wants man to live. God sent Jesus Christ into the world so we could find forgiveness and then turn from our evil ways and obey God. I feel that somehow we have gotten off the track. We have made the name of Jesus a ticket to Heaven. This is not the Gospel. It is a religious adaptation to conclusions we have drawn from the Apostle Paul’s exhortations to Jewish people to turn from Moses and follow Christ.
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, (Matthew 7:28)
Perhaps we should have known better than to develop a mythological salvation having to do with fine houses in Heaven; that depicts a covering over us so God cannot see our behavior; that stresses any moment we will be caught up to Heaven so we will not suffer pain during the age of physical and moral horrors that is on the horizon.
There is much error in today’s teaching. But the Sermon on the Mount is available for the disciple to read and obey. These are the commandments of the Lord Jesus, and if we love Him we will obey His Word to us.
(“The Sermon On the Mount”, 3702-1)