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Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not [the] life more than food and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25

As you can see, the first verse of our next saying begins with the word “therefore”, meaning “for that reason or cause”. The Holy Spirit uses “therefore” often and strategically throughout the Bible to connect dependent thoughts and assertions into a pathway of truth and faith. Therefore, let’s quickly review the saying of Matthew 6:22-24 (Get Focused and Stay Focused):

  1. Your heart will be drawn to the place where you have laid up your treasure.
  2. Singular focus on God allows light to flood our entire being. Allowing distraction invites darkness and deception.
  3. If you serve mammon (i.e., riches and its supporting systems), you will despise God.

This last point should be quite sobering (if not frightening) for all Christians – particularly for the 21st Century Western church, where riches are abundant and abundantly deceitful (Mark 4:18-19).

Our omniscient God, foreseeing the dilemma, has provided the way for our deliverance and the key to our finding the truly abundant life of His kingdom. Spoilers: They are not the same.

Ho! Everyone who thirsts,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat.
Yes, come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without price. Isaiah 55:1

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

At this point, a bit of confusion is understandable; along with a bit of resistance. How do you buy stuff without money? Isn’t wealth a measure of abundance? And why would someone exchange the abundance of this life for a life they cannot see?

Most of us are not risk takers, at least not with the abundance we have been taught to hold so dear. Better safe than sorry, right? “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” comes to mind (but that’s probably my carnal mind speaking). Read the rest of this entry »

If you have been following along with this series, you have by now realized that the Sermon on the Mount is about more than following a list of do’s and don’ts. Oh, it could be understood and taught that way, but Jesus is after more than checklist obedience. He came to save that which was lost, to build His church, and to commission disciples. He intends to lead us, make us, and use us to make others.

Such a life requires more than passive or casual compliance. Disciples are disciplined, focused on the mission, and focused on one Master.

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, 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 that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:22-24

Every once in a while, the translators get it wrong. Here in the NKJV, they have translated the Greek word haplous as “good”. Haplous is not translated as “good” anywhere else in the New Testament. It seems they chose “good” as the opposite of “bad”. This is understandable, but it does not do justice to the meaning of this saying.

The primary meaning of haplous is “simple” or “single”. The KJV uses “single”. On the surface, it does not make sense that the opposite of bad is single. However, it makes perfect sense in the context of the verse that follows (i.e., no one can serve two masters).

Jesus chose His words carefully. An eye that is not singularly focused is bad. Therefore, we can understand this passage to be saying, “If your eye is not singularly focused, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Read the rest of this entry »

This saying of Jesus, now in its third part, has gotten more attention than most of the previous ones for a couple of reasons. Personally, this saying has been especially challenging in my life. I was raised to save for my retirement, and the world has only encouraged that approach for my future security. I am not suggesting that saving is wrong (we covered that in Part 2), but God is using this bit of writing to test my heart.

Secondly, I have a responsibility as a disciple of Jesus Christ to make disciples through my writing. I am hopeful that He is using this to test and prove your heart; for Satan, the world and our carnal mind have deceived us in regards to this matter of laying up treasures for ourselves.

If you have not explored the “do not” of part 1 and part 2, you should do that before proceeding here. The process and its order are important. Once we have dealt with the deception of earthly treasures, we can turn our attention to the second part of this saying – the part we are to do.

Again, for our reference:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on 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 and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

An Eternal Perspective

One of the greatest inhibitors to our hearing and doing this saying is our lack of faith and perspective for eternity. Let’s face it: Most of us spend the greater part of our lives laying up wealth so we can enjoy the last feeble portion of our seventy or eighty years here on earth. We are so focused on investing for retirement that we fail to lay up for that portion of our life that is immeasurable in its duration. Read the rest of this entry »

One way to avoid doing what Jesus is saying is to avoid hearing it in the first place. However, this avoidance strategy does not make us less liable; nor our houses less susceptible to the storms of life. God will not have us live this way. He cares too much for our salvation and well-being (Luke 6:24).

That seems to be God’s purpose in these articles: to encourage our hearing, that we might grow in faith, trusting Him to provide the grace for our obedience. So, let’s press in to hear, that we might do (and not do) according to Jesus’ saying about our treasures.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on 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 and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

What are Your Earthly Treasures?

Part 1 encouraged a pause for reflection and prayer, particularly around this question: What are the treasures you have laid up or treasured on earth? If you have not done so, please read Part 1 and invest the time necessary to hear from our Father in heaven.

As we press in to hear what the Father and Jesus are saying, it will be helpful to clear away the clutter. For example, you may say, “I treasure my wife and kids.” While that is a good thing to say, it is not the treasure Jesus is talking about. Wives and kids are not something that moths and rust can destroy, nor thieves break in and steal. Someone else may say, “I treasure the time I have with my wife and kids.” This too is off the mark; for time cannot be laid up for later use.

I bring this up to make a point: The meaning of “treasure” in our culture is not quite the same as the treasure Jesus is speaking of here. As much as we might prefer to talk about something else, the treasure Jesus is talking about is our wealth. Read the rest of this entry »

Some sayings of Jesus are not very difficult to hear or do. For example, Do Not Swear at All. Others are easy to hear, but difficult to do (Be Extraordinary; Be Perfect). Then there are those that are difficult to do, simply because we have a hard time hearing them. All that Jesus said about treasure is a good case in point.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on 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 and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21

This saying is particularly hard to hear for those in the church that are tempted – and even presently deceived – by the American Dream. Consequently, I am concerned that I may lose a few of you on this one. To be honest, I may lose myself. It is a hard saying; probably one that Jesus used to drive away those that were less than serious about following Him.

So, before you turn away, let me encourage you: We are all in process; and our heavenly Father is sensitive to our place in the race. Consequently, this passage may not mean to you what it means to me – but it must mean something. Rather than run away from its meaning, trust God to reveal what you are to hear, and to give you the grace to do what Jesus says. Read the rest of this entry »

Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:16-18

The first eighteen verses of Matthew 6 speak collectively of our positioning as loyal subjects before our sovereign King. We’ve covered these in smaller bites, but together they make up an important course of the feast we know as the Sermon on the Mount. All that we do as kingdom citizens is to be done before God and – intentionally – not before men.

Importantly, Jesus did not say, “…if you fast”. Fasting is not an optional discipline for the serious Christian; it is assumed. Furthermore, Jesus speaks of fasting in exactly the same way He speaks of doing good works and praying, thus highlighting the importance of fasting in the normal Christian life. Lastly, we discover that the very same consequences are reserved for those who fast to receive worldly benefit: the charge of hypocrisy and loss of heavenly reward.

These are sobering considerations. The discipline of fasting has been lost to much of the church and confused by most of the rest (myself included). Frankly, I think we have made fasting too difficult, causing some to struggle unnecessarily and eventually give up on it altogether. We also have too many man-created prescriptions and plans for fasting. In my humble opinion, we should focus more on motivation than form and procedure, and trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the details. Read the rest of this entry »

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15

This may be the most direct, easily understood and often taught saying of Jesus. So, why is the church so divided over the trespasses of others? How many Christian friendships have been broken and how many churches split apart over unforgiveness?

It is tragically ironic that such a saying – and the consequences of not doing it – has had so little response in the church. We have become too much like the world: quickly offended and slow to forgive.

Perhaps the easy “once saved, always saved” gospel has turned this saying of Jesus into an option. Ongoing forgiveness from our heavenly Father is no longer a matter of concern for many church leaders and their congregants, so why worry about forgiving others (or seeking another’s forgiveness).

So, let me ask you: What does it mean if the Father does not forgive someone’s trespasses? Will He allow such a person into His presence? Does the blood of Jesus somehow make this saying of His null and void? If so, then we would have to surmise that this saying is only for the lost. That is the only way it would make sense, but it doesn’t. The bad fruit is readily apparent.

Pride is not the only sin that our enemies leverage to divide the body of Christ. Unforgiveness has been used to drive wedges between and within fellowships for millennia. What seems like a slight offense often metastasizes into a deadly cancer: division in the church. Read the rest of this entry »

One of the easiest ways to search out the matters of truth that God has hidden in the Scriptures is to harmonize multiple accounts of the sayings of Jesus. We discover such an example in the accounts of “The Model Prayer”. In Luke’s gospel, we find:

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

Notice that the disciple did not ask Jesus “how to pray”. As you might expect, “how” is a very common word in the Bible. In fact, it appears 550 times in the New King James Version. So why is it absent here?

I am convinced, and I hope you will consider, that the disciple was asking for more than instruction in prayer. I believe he recognized that Jesus’ way of prayer was so far removed from their own that what they had been calling prayer might as well have been called “apple”.

Jesus’ way of prayer was about life and relationship. It availed much. It was full of humility and trust. Matthew records His thoughts on the contrasting prayers of men.

And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. Matthew 6:7-8

The prayers of men are about men, and what men want. The prayers of Jesus were (and are) about the Father, and what the Father wants. In this saying, Jesus reveals that learning to pray, at its core, is more about finding the right position before the Father than about what we have to say.

“The Model Prayer” is a model of prayer for our positioning before our Father in heaven. We must come into the Father’s presence through the model He has given us. Without this positioning, all that we have to say are the vain repetitions of man. Read the rest of this entry »

“Revival is God’s people doing God’s work, God’s way.” Vance Havner (2008)

“The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.” Oswald Chambers (1995)

I recently learned an important lesson about doing things God’s way. When a local Sunday School class invited us to lead a study of the Sermon on the Mount (SOTM), I suggested a twenty-six-week series. The class leadership countered with twelve weeks or less and only thirty minutes of teaching each week!

How do you cover fifty-plus sayings of Jesus in such a limited timeframe? Concerned twelve weeks would not allow for anything more than a compromised exploration of the most important sermon ever preached and that generalizing the Sermon would not adequately encourage the doing necessary to produce strong houses (Matthew 7:24-25), I pressed for more time. The leaders stood firm.

Much to my surprise, the syllabus we developed together turned out to be God’s way for the study. He used what I would call an overly simplified approach to reveal several foundations of His kingdom and its good news. Honestly, I am amazed at the revelation and encouragement I received from the study.

In the process, I also learned that deep technical dives into Scripture are not always the best method for teaching, and that God orchestrates teaching opportunities with more consideration for the audience’s needs than the teacher’s abilities and preference.

Lastly, I was once again reminded that God has a way for everything; finding and following His ways always leads to exciting adventures and discoveries.

It should come as no surprise that Jesus has much to say about doing things God’s way: the only way He did everything (John 5:19, 30; John 12:49-50; and John 14:24). In this article, we will explore two of God’s ways for doing the sayings of Jesus. But first… Read the rest of this entry »

Jesus gave ten examples to help us understand that the kingdom is a matter of the heart. We will conclude our review of these here, as well as draw some general conclusion from Chapter 5. In these final examples, it is particularly easy to identify the “doing” associated with Jesus’ sayings – and that is a good thing.

However, we must remember that Jesus’ focus remains on our hearts, not our performance; the goal is to be made into kingdom citizens, not to make or justify ourselves. This is a very good thing; only the most immature Christian would think they could do these sayings in their own strength.

Love, Bless, Do Good, and Pray for Your Enemies

Several times in this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has used “You have heard…” to extend and enrich our understanding of the Father’s heart desire in the Law and the Prophets. As we will now discover, not only is our understanding potentially more limited and shallower than we would like, in at least one case, it might just be wrong.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:43-45

In this case, Jesus is addressing a humanly devised extension of the Law which was not intended by God. While they were told to love their neighbor (Leviticus 19:18), God never commanded the Israelites to conversely hate their enemies.

Israel had many nations as enemies, and God did identify a few who would suffer for their opposition to His people. However, these were exceptions. In fact, it was God’s intention to bless the nations through His people (a promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3). The religious rulers of Jesus’ day had turned a few specific references into a general rule. In doing so, they caused the entire nation to lose sight of God’s eternal plan. As a side note: We would be wise to recognize our own tendencies to do this very thing, particularly those of us who are teachers and preachers of the Word. Read the rest of this entry »

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