Matthew 5:27-9:17 (January 13, 2013)
Conviction in the Heart. Was your world rocked this week by what you read? If not, what did you read? What did you hear from Jesus? Who among us remains unscathed from the sinful scandal in our hearts? I underlined Matthew 5:28, 5:37, 5:39, 5:44, 5:48, 6:2, 6:6, 6:15, 6:17, 6:19, 6:25, 7:1, 7:3, etc. I might as well have been led out into the sagebrush desert west of town and be plugged full with a magazine round from a Sig P250 9mm. The Sermon on the Mount crumples my stubborn individualism faster than any other words I might hear in a given week. Wow.
The Sermon on the Mount is a well-known passage in Idaho Falls. But Oswald Chambers warns us, “Beware of placing our Lord as Teacher first instead of Savior. That tendency is prevalent today, and it is a dangerous tendency. We must know Him first as Savior before His teaching can have any meaning for us or before it can have any meaning other than that of an ideal that leads to despair. Fancy coming to men and women with defective lives and defiled hearts and wrong mainsprings, and telling them to be pure in heart! What is the use of giving us an ideal we cannot possibly attain? We are happier without it. If Jesus is a teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalize us by erecting a standard we cannot come anywhere near. But if by being born again from above we know Him first as Savior, we know that He did not come to teach us only: He came to make us what He teaches we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us.”
Co-dependency on God. I would suggest to you that the Sermon on the Mount purposely should drive us (all of us) to helplessness, which is a very difficult position for self-reliant, independent, religiously competitive folk like us in Idaho Falls to accept. Oswald shares, “As long as we have a conceited, self-righteous idea that we can do the thing if God will help us, God has to allow us to go on until we break the neck of our ignorance over some obstacle, then we will be willing to come and receive Him. The bedrock of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possession; not decisions for Jesus Christ, but a sense of absolute futility, ‘I cannot begin to do it.’ Then, Jesus says, ‘Blessed are you.’ That is the entrance, and it takes us a long while to believe we are poor.”
Five years ago, Eugene Peterson, devoted about thirty pages of devotional commentary on the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) in his book, Tell It Slant. Think of the simple request to the Father, “Give us daily bread.” Eugene muses, “Praying for bread acknowledges need. We are creatures who are interdependent in this huge and intricate marvel of creation, where everything and everyone is related and in touch with everything and everyone else. When we pray for bread we make a decidedly un-American declaration of dependence. We don’t have it within ourselves to be ourselves. We renounce the silly pretentiousness of posing as a self-made person.”
Corpse brought to Life. But will people of the Kingdom in Idaho Falls pray in the New Year 2013? Eugene adds, “Prayer is the core of the Sermon on the Mount teaching. It is located at almost the exact center of the Sermon. It holds the Sermon together and animates it. A kingdom-of-heaven life consists of things to do and ways to think, but if there is no prayer at the center nothing lives. Prayer is the heart that pumps blood into all the words and acts. Prayer is not just one more thing in an inventory of elements that make up a following-Jesus, kingdom-of-heaven life. Prayer is the whole heart. If there is no heart doing its work from the center, no matter how precise the words, no matter how perfectly formed the actions, there is only a corpse. It may be a very lovely corpse. The embalmer’s art, especially when the embalmer knows his or her Bible, works wonders with appearances. But dead is dead. R.I.P.”
Quite frankly, among the most unusual people, things come to life in Matthew 7-9: a leper, a centurion, a mother-in-law, demon-possessed men, and a paralytic. In 2013, look for some of the King’s work among the helpless fringe in Idaho Falls. This is the King’s territory for magnifying His glory.
Coming up this week, Read Matthew 9:18-Matthew 13:30 . . . Are you a laborer among the Kingdom harvest in Idaho Falls? Do you know of anyone else whose works and words compare to the King described in these chapters?