How to Walk with God
by KEN ALEXANDER
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How to Walk with God
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29) is a teaching by Jesus where He compares His New Covenant with the false teaching of the Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees and other Jewish religious leaders of the day. The religious leaders walked by a legalistic version of the Law of Moses enforcing the Law against the people while not obeying its precepts themselves. Jesus also presents a vision of what His new Covenant would be like and reintroduces the Abrahamic concept of faith. Finally Jesus, who was sent to preach the Kingdom of God, presents the details of what a Kingdom would look like.
Many read this portion of scriptures and walk away disappointed lamenting the fact that they could never measure up to these principles. Yet it was never Jesus intention for them to fulfill these principles in themselves. The plan was for the Holy Spirit to come later, change their hearts and lead them into all the truth. The Sermon on the Mount represents the perfection that His fully formed Sons would become as they followed Christ. A subsequent exposition will make clear, however, Jesus is not proclaiming a new law but announcing what he believes is the legitimate interpretation of God’s will as contained in the already-existing Torah. However the version of the Law Jesus presented was the living Law as opposed to the dead letter of the legalistic Law taught by the religious leaders. The old law bound the people; the New Law liberated them. Jesus would later say: “Know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
On the Mount: The Greek reads literally the mountain, but Matthew uses this expression (to oros; “a mountainside”) elsewhere to refer more generally to the hill country that dominated the skyline surrounding Capernaum (14:23; 15:29). So we cannot determine exactly where Jesus delivered his message. The traditional site on the northeast shore of Galilee, known as the Mount of Beatitudes, at least gives a good acoustical illustration of how a speaker could address a large crowd on a plateau in the hills overlooking the lakeside and be heard by thousands at once.
To put the sermon in context Jesus had been baptized by John the Baptist, had undergone temptation by Satan and had been healing people of all manner of diseases. Verse 23-25: “And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. And the news about Him went out into all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, cepileptics, [Epileptics] and paralytics; and He healed them. And great multitudes followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
Jesus then went to the mountain and began to teach. With Him were His disciples. He began with what have been called the Beatitudes. Although “beatitudes” is frequently used as a proper noun to denote a collection of eight dominical logia at the beginning of the Matthean Sermon on the Mount the term “beatitude” properly designates a whole body of sayings with a similar literary form. Such sayings, found in Egyptian, Greek, and Jewish literature, are technically known as macarisms (from the Greek makarios, “blessed” or “happy”). Matthew’s collection of sayings is nonetheless known as the Beatitudes, a term derived from the Latin beati (similarly, “blessed” or “happy”), the word with which each of the eight sayings begins in the Latin Bible.
5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Poor in spirit,” as a virtue, must refer not to a poor quality of faith but to the acknowledgment of one’s spiritual powerlessness and bankruptcy apart from Christ.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”. Mourning is suffering in response to a significant loss. The Jews had lost their country to the Romans.
5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit. It includes kindness, mercy, caring and love.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”. We can hunger for many things but the only one that matters is our hunger for God and his righteousness. Persistence in seeking plays a part here.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy”. Mercy triumphs over judgment. Those who are merciful receive mercy back.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. Pure gold is solid gold all the way through; it is not mixed with anything cheaper. The pure in heart have lives of solid good: their tastes, their thoughts, their desires, their motives are good. They do not value or desire anything evil. Even though the world sees personal purity as a matter for scorn and mockery, those who are characterized by this quality will one day see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”.
Taking the first half of the word, peace, we understand it to mean much the same as the Hebrew word shalom, which bears the idea of wholeness and overall well-being. When a Jew said, “Shalom” he was wishing another more than the absence of trouble, but all that made for a complete, whole life. God’s peace is not narrowly defined. It is much more than the absence of strife; it encompasses all of the person—it is positive.
The second half of the word, makers, demands that we understand that the person is not passive but is a source of peace.
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:3-12). Every man who came to Israel in the name of the Lord was persecuted in some manner or another. Jesus was persecuted and so it would be for His followers.
Thus is the character of the disciple. He is rewarded with comfort, his inheritance, satisfaction, mercy, the ability to see God, be a Son of God and inherit the Kingdom of God. God said: “THUS says the LORD, “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD.
“But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:1-2).
Salt. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men”. Salt, the most commonly used seasoning in antiquity: ‘Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt?’ (Job 6:6). Its preservative powers made it an absolute necessity of life and a virtual synonym for essential life-giving forces and, not surprisingly, endowed it with religious significance. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls the people who listen to him the ‘salt of the earth’ (Matt. 5:13). This means they are those who preserve the earth as salt preserves food. In Israelite worship, salt was used to season incense (Exod. 30:35) and all offerings had to be seasoned with salt (Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24). A related usage finds salt symbolizing the making of a covenant (Num. 18:19; 2 Chron. 13:5). In the case of the disciple salt preserves the word and seasons it appropriately.
Light “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. “Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”. (Mt 5:13-16). “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?” (Mt 7:16). “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). John said: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5).
The Law “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:17-20).
Christ’s New Covenant (see Hebrews 8; Jeremiah 31:32) came to fulfill the Law not abolish it. When the Law of the New Covenant is fulfilled so will the Law of the Old Testament. The Law will be written on believing hearts so that they can never stray from it. “AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS,
AND I WILL WRITE THEM UPON THEIR HEARTS” (Heb 8:10).
Jesus was in constant confrontations with the Pharisees, Sadducees and other religious leaders of the Jews for their legalistic interpretation of the Law. They exalted themselves and their positions and harshly judged the common people for their violations of the letter of the Law. Jesus once accused them of doing the deeds of their “Father the devil”. “You are doing the deeds of your father”… Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies” (John 8:42-44). Our righteousness must exceed theirs in order to live in the Kingdom of God. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).
Relationships with Persons and God
Anger “You have heard that it was said to the ⌊people of old⌋, ‘Do not commit murder,’ and ‘whoever commits murder will be subject to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry at his brother will be subject to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Stupid fool!’ will be subject to the council, and whoever says, ‘Obstinate fool!’ will be subject to fiery hell” (5:21-22). Jesus equates murder and anger and finds they balance on the scale of justice. Whoever is angry at his brother shall be liable to the court (and worse), just as if he had committed murder Paul wisely said: “BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). The reason for this is that on the next day you will have to deal with that anger in addition to whatever comes up in the new day. Sufficient for each day is the evil thereof.
Jesus’ first illustration pertained to an important commandment, “Do not murder” (Ex. 20:13). The Pharisees taught that murder consists of taking someone’s life. But the Lord said the commandment extended not only to the act itself but also to the spirit behind the act. Of course, murder is wrong, but the anger prompting the act is also as wrong as plunging the knife. Furthermore, becoming angry and assuming a position of superiority over another by calling him a derogatory name (such as the Aram. Raca or You fool !) demonstrates sinfulness of the heart. A person with such a sinful heart obviously is a sinner and therefore is headed for the fire of hell (“hell” is lit., “Gehenna”; cf. Matt. 5:29–30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; 7 of the 11 references to Gehenna are in Matthew.).
“If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. “Truly I say to you, you shall not come out of there, until you have paid up the last cent” (5:23-36).
Note that it says “if your brother has something against you” not the other way around. It is dangerous to the Body of Christ to have unresolved anger loose in the body. Only you can help your brother with his anger; otherwise it will fester and contaminate the body. This is a difficult thing to do in that it requires much humility. By the same token it is better to resolve your differences with your opponent at law as the power of adversarial anger can be damaging to all concerned.
Adultery: “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. “And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell. “And it was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Mt 5:27–32).
A practical illustration dealt with the problem of adultery (Ex. 20:14). Once again the Pharisees’ teaching was concerned only with the outward act. They said the only way one could commit adultery was through an act of sexual union. They correctly quoted the commandment, but they missed its point. Adultery begins within one’s heart (looking lustfully) and follows in the act. The lustful desire, in the heart, is as wrong as the act and indicates that one is not rightly related to God. Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 5:29–30 have often been misunderstood.
As for the scriptures imply that of your eye causes you to stumble pluck it out. Obviously Jesus was not teaching physical mutilation, for a blind man could have as much of a problem with lust as a sighted person, and a man with only one hand might use it also to sin. Jesus was advocating the removal of the inward cause of offense. Since a lustful heart would ultimately lead to adultery, one’s heart must be changed. Only by such a change of heart can one escape hell (“Gehenna”; cf. v. 22).
These are some of the hardest sayings by Jesus in the Sermon. Which of us does not lust constantly under these circumstances. This is one of the first totally spiritual entireties. This scripture is impossible to fulfill without the spirit of the Lord. Only He can change your heart so you do not lust. It takes violent action to change your heart in these matters, represented by the removal of the eye or arm. Sins such as adultery must be ripped out by the root.
As for marriage and divorce Jesus’ words must seem unduly harsh in this generation of unfettered divorce. However there is nothing redeeming about this generation. “And Jesus answered and said, “O unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you, and put up with you?” (Luke 9:4; Matthew 17:17). Jesus said Moses permitted divorce but for a reason. “Jesus replies: ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning” (Mt 19:8). Once again Jesus is true to the law while preaching grace. Fortunately adultery can be forgiven, as is so with all sins.
Oaths: The matter of making oaths (Lev. 19:12; Deut. 23:21) was next addressed by the Lord. The Pharisees were notorious for their oaths, which were made on the least provocation. Yet they made allowances for mental reservations within their oaths. If they wanted to be relieved of oaths they had made by heaven, by the earth, by Jerusalem, or by one’s own head, they could argue that since God Himself had not been involved their oaths were not binding. But Jesus said oaths should not even be necessary: Do not swear at all. The fact that oaths were used at all emphasized the wickedness of man’s heart. Furthermore, swearing “by heaven,” “by the earth,” or “by Jerusalem” is binding, since they are God’s throne … footstool, and city, respectively. Even the color of the hair on their heads was determined by God (Matt. 5:36).
“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘ YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. “Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes‘or ‘No, no‘; and anything beyond these is of evil (Mt 5:33-37). Obligating yourself to an oath is actually legalism. God is shut out as you strive to complete your oath. The better response is “if God wills I will do such and such” without the oath.
Revenge “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ [Ex 21:24; Le 24:20; De 19:21] “But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. “And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. “And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Mt 5:38–42).
The words “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” come from Old Testament and they are called the lex talionis, the law of retaliation. This law was given to protect the innocent and to make sure retaliation did not occur beyond the offense. Jesus pointed out, however, that a righteous man would be characterized by humility and selflessness and would not necessarily need to claim his rights under Lex Talions. Instead he might go “the extra mile” to maintain peace. When wronged by being struck on a cheek, or sued for his tunic (undergarment; a cloak was the outer garment), or forced to travel with someone a mile, he would not strike back, demand repayment, or refuse to comply. Instead of retaliating he would do the opposite, and would also commit his case to the Lord who will one day set all things in order (cf. Rom. 12:17–21). This was seen to its greatest extent in the life of the Lord Jesus Himself, as Peter explained (1 Peter 2:23). “and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously”. Also: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Php 2:5-7).
Like Jesus we should claim no right for ourselves but humble ourselves before the Lord who sees all. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,”[De 32:35; Ps 94:1] says the Lord… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Ro 12:19-21).
Alms, Prayer, True Treasure and Fasting
”BEWARE of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. “When therefore you give alms, [offerings to God] do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you”. Righteousness is not a matter between a person and others, but between a person and God. So one’s acts should not be demonstrated before others for then his reward would come from them (vv. 1–2). The Pharisees made a great show of their giving to the needy in the synagogues and on the streets, thinking they were proving how righteous they were. But the Lord said that in giving one should not even let his left hand know what his right hand is doing, that is, it should be so secret that the giver readily forgets what he gave. In this way he demonstrates true righteousness before God and not before people, so God in turn will reward him. One cannot be rewarded, as the Pharisees expected, by both man and God.
“And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. “Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him” (6:5-8).
The Pharisees loved to perform publicly. Rather than making prayer a matter between an individual and God, the Pharisees had turned it into an act to be seen by men—again, to demonstrate their supposed righteousness. Their prayers were directed not to God but to other men, and consisted of long, repetitive phrases (Matt. 6:7).
Jesus then put forth a model prayer which would cover all a man needs from the Father. This simple prayer with universal truths is mis-named “The Lord’s Prayer” when in fact it should be named “The Disciples Prayer”.
“Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name. The first business of prayer is to honor the Father who has given us everything pertaining to life and Godliness. The Father is in Heaven and highly exalted.
Then: ‘Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven” (6:10-11). For those seeking the Kingdom this portion of the prayer is paramount. The Kingdom of God, which Jesus incessantly preached, comes on the earth not in heaven. The Kingdom of God already exists in the spiritual realm of heaven and it must appear on earth in order to complete God’s works. At the Second Advent Jesus will bring with Him to the earth all those who have died in Christ and will set up a Kingdom on this earth for 1000 years. This will be fulfillment for those men of God who died will be on earth (Heb 11:39-40). The earth and Heaven will then be one. His will will be done here and in the spiritual realm.
Jesus goes “Give us this day our daily bread”. Our daily bread is not only the food that sustains our body but the Word of God which sustains and creates our spiritual bodies. The Word is taken from spiritual revelation by God, the word of God through men and the Holy Scriptures.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”. Herein lies Christian salvation. God has forgiven all our sins no matter how ungodly and we must therefore forgive all sins committed against us. This creates the true oneness of the Body of Christ (see below).
“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]’ Believers recognize their spiritual weakness as they pray for deliverance from temptation to evil (cf. James 1:13–14). There is a way we can follow the Lord where we do not encounter serious evil. Christ can deliver us from all evil we face.
“For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (6:1-15). Forgiveness is available from the father and Jesus but we cannot accept this gift of grace if we do not forgive our brother.
“And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. “But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (6:16-18). Once again the Pharisees, hypocrites, who were not righteous, did religious things in public in order to please man. God was not pleased and so they got their full reward from the people.
Mammon: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. “But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [riches]” (6:19-24).
Jesus called riches deceitful. In the parable of the sown seeds he said: “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mt 13:22-23).
One’s attitude toward wealth is another barometer of righteousness. The Pharisees believed the Lord materially blessed all He loved. They were intent on building great treasures on earth. But treasures built here are subject to decay (moth destroys cloth and rust destroys metal; cf. James 5:2–3) or theft, whereas treasures deposited in heaven can never be lost. The Pharisees had this problem because their spiritual eyes were diseased (Matt. 6:22). With their eyes they were coveting money and wealth. Thus they were in spiritual darkness. They were slaves to the master of greed, and their desire for money was so great they were failing in their service to their true Master, God. Money is the translation of the Aramaic word for “wealth or property”. As Timothy said: “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang” (1 Ti 6:10). God doesn’t care if you have a lot of money. He cares when you love the money more than He. Many men of God were wealthy (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Job to name a few).
Anxiety – Food, Clothing, Necessities Anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications are among the most prescribed drugs in the United States - and possibly the most dangerous. According to a report in the 2010 Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, people who use anti-anxiety medication have a 36% increased mortality risk. That means persons using these drugs are almost 40% more likely to die than people who do not use them (Psychology Today, Peter Bongiorno).
The reason people are so predisposed to take anxiety drugs in the numbers they do is that they have no effective God in their lives. The Lord was clear in the Sermon on the Mount as to the cure for anxiety. An anxious person must accept God into their lives. When you have the foundation of the Lord in your life you are living in His rest and are not anxious. The most anxiety seems to be about the everyday things of life –food, shelter, the future, the past, clothing and such things.
Jesus said “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life’s span? “And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. “But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ “For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (6:25-34).
If a person is occupied with the things of God, the true Master, how will he care for his ordinary needs in life, such as food, clothing, and shelter? The Pharisees in their pursuit of material things had never learned to live by faith. Jesus told them and us not to worry about these things, for life is more important than physical things. He cited several illustrations to prove His point. The birds of the air are fed by the heavenly Father, and the lilies of the field grow in such a way that their splendor is greater than even Solomon’s. Jesus was saying God has built into His Creation the means by which all things are cared for. The birds are fed because they diligently work to maintain their lives. They do not store up great amounts of food, but continually work. And believers are far more valuable to God than birds! The lilies grow daily through a natural process. Therefore an individual need not be anxious about his existence (Matt. 6:31), for by worrying he can never add any amount of time, not even a single hour, to his life.
Rather than being like the pagans who are concerned about physical needs, the Lord’s disciples should be concerned about the things of God, His kingdom and His righteousness. Then all these needs will be supplied in God’s timing. This is the life of daily faith. It does no good to worry—do not worry occurs three times (vv. 25, 31, 34; cf. vv. 27–28)—or be concerned about tomorrow for there are sufficient matters to attend to each day. Worrying shows that one has “little faith” in what God can do (v. 30; cf. you of little faith in 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). As a disciple cares each day for the things God has trusted to him, God, his heavenly Father (6:26, 32), cares for his daily needs (The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 33). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books).
Judging Others “DO not judge lest you be judged. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. “And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye”.
A final illustration of Pharisaic practices pertains to judging. The Pharisees were then judging Christ and finding Him to be inadequate. He was not offering the kind of kingdom they anticipated or asking for the kind of righteousness they were exhibiting. So they rejected Him. Jesus therefore warned them against hypocritical judging. Jesus did not say a person cannot remove a speck from his brother’s eye but removing it will be ineffective if the person has bigger sin in his life i.e. “a log in his eye”. The most important statement here is “judge not lest you be judged”. If both parties have sin in their lives, and one judges another, God cannot help but deal with the sin in both. Christ taught “righteous judgment”. “THEREFORE you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Romans 2:1).
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (7:1-6). The swine will not understand what you say, take it wrong and turn and condemn you for saying it. This is an issue of giving “meat in due season” that is not giving information to those who are not mature enough to receive it. Matthew says: “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season. Blessed is that servant, whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing” (24:45-56).
Because of the immaturity of the disciples Jesus left the earth and gave the Holy Spirit to lead them into all the truth. “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12-14).
Persistence in Prayer The Lord was very concerned that prayer be persistent. “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened. “Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 7:7-12). The promises are there and the Lord desires you have them but only the persistent get the prize. “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).
Luke gives another version of the fruitfulness of persistence with a parable. “Suppose one of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he shall answer and say, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (Luke 11:5-8). Even your friendship relationship with God will not get you the prize. Persistence in prayer is absolutely essential in order to receive what you are praying for. God is working something in your spirit by requiring persistence – does he really want it?
Sometimes God cannot get the answer to you instantly. This is illustrated in the book of Daniel. Daniel was praying and fasting seeking to know the future destiny of Israel. The Lord finally met him through an angel after many days. The angel said: “Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. 13 “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia” (Daniel 10:12-13). Heaven had heard Daniel’s prayer as soon as he spoke. However the angel sent to deliver the answer was delayed 21 days by the satanic forces of Persia, the ruling country at that time. So if your prayer is delayed it may not be the fault of the messengers sent by God.
Ways Contrasted—Fruits Contrasted The Lord said: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (v. 7:13-14). This should serve as a dire warning to those walking with God. There is a broad highway that leads straight to destruction and the majority of people travel thereon. Conversely the way to life is narrow and fraught with danger and few even find the road, let alone walk on it. “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt 22:14). While the kingdom had now been expanded to include individuals from all races and backgrounds (many are invited), there is an election (few are chosen). And yet individual response is essential. It has been said that we “choose to be chosen”. Chose the hard way – the Lord is in it.
False Prophets “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “So then, you will know them by their fruits”. How can one determine the character of false teachers? He need only look at the fruit they produce. Grapes and figs do not grow on thorn bushes or thistles. Good fruit trees produce good fruit, but bad fruit trees produce bad fruit. In Jesus’ evaluation, the Pharisees were obviously producing bad fruit; the only thing to do with bad trees is to cut them down and destroy them. If they do not fulfill their purpose for existence, they should be removed.
How do we discern good from evil? Hebrews said: “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb 5:14). It is a process that begins with the gift of discernment from the Holy Spirit (1 Co 12:10). Discernment is important. As Isaiah said: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Is 5:20). We are guilty of that in this generation. If a man is well looked upon by men we call him good. We look at the man of God and call him bad. We shall not see God until we say: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11:9)
Those Who Knew Not God: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS” (7:15-23). People can do many things in the name of religion but if those things were not the will of the Father they will be rejected on judgment day. You see this in today’s religious environment. Many people and churches are doing many good things, having many good programs but such dead works will do them no good if not the will of the Father. Many men are casting out demons and doing mighty works even in the name of the Lord but if those works do not come from the Father they are of no eternal value. Many times self or ego enter into the works and this is not God’s will. We could go on but suffice it to say the religious systems of today were much the same as Jesus faced 2000 years ago. A combination of ego, greed, riches and teaching falsehoods combined to make any working spiritual path impossible. The answer is to seek careful confirmation before initiating any project to ensure it is from the Lord.
Conclusion “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.” Who is the rock but the Lord Jesus Chris, the Word?
The result was that when Jesus had finished these words, the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes” (7:24-29).
In conclusion Jesus presented the two options open to His listeners. They could build on one of two foundations. One foundation was likened to a big rock and the other to sand. The foundation determines the ability of a structure to withstand the elements (rain and winds). Thus hearing and heeding Jesus’ words is wise; one who does not is foolish. Only two courses of action are possible—two kinds of roads and gates (Matt. 7:13–14), two kinds of trees and fruit (vv. 15–20), two kinds of foundations and builders (vv. 24–27).
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