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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 »

Bible with Cross ShadowOur God is a process-oriented problem solver. Give Him a problem – say, expressing His glory through mud babies – and He will give you a solution process. The Bible is a story of process. Getting back what He lost in the garden has been a long process (filled with His long-suffering). Most of the major themes of the New Testament are processes: Belief, salvation, sanctification, and transformation, to name a few.

This may be news to you; for we have become an event oriented society, and much of our teaching has leaned in this direction. The mind of Christ runs counter to this way of thinking. The renewal of our minds will come more quickly for those that accept God’s way for solving the problems of His kingdom.

Let’s consider how this applies to the next of Jesus’ sayings.

For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:46-48

As you can see, Jesus expects that we shall be perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect. Whether you believe this is a possibility for this life, or reserved for the next, it is the destination Jesus has in mind; and destinations require journeys. He tying this to our treatment of others in this life makes it clear that we are in the process of being perfected.

Praise God this is so. How miserable would the Christian life be if it were limited to a waiting for some last minute transformation? No, that is not God’s way. His Son is saving, transforming, and sanctifying His people as salt and light on this side of heaven. He is making each one that will follow Him. We are all in process. Read the rest of this entry »

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