Tuesday, September 29, 2015

{WK4} Review #SermonOnTheMount

MATTHEW 5:17-20
(Read Below)

This is an important passage of Scripture, because it helps us understand how we should read the Bible. There are really a couple of ways that we can read the Bible.

(1) one way to read the Bible is by reading it 
     as a gospel story, from Genesis to Revelation.
(2) the other way to read the Bible is by looking 
     at Genesis to Malachi as a historical account.

One can read the Bible without any preconceived notion of any Christian belief. If we read the Bible like option two our question is this: what does this passage mean in its day? If we read the Bible like option one our question is this: what does this passage mean in light of the biblical story and how do I faithfully live out this text? If Jesus is the goal of the story from Genesis to Revelation, then reading the OT without reference to Jesus will be a terrible misreading. Therefore, we need to understand how to read the Bible.

Matthew 5:17
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.

Jesus is the one that fulfills the law and the prophets. It is clear that Jesus has been accused of abolishing the law and therefore he emphatically starts off by saying, “Do not think….” It makes you wonder what they had such a problem with? Yet Jesus doesn't want everything to be destroyed, but rather he wants everything to be fulfilled.

But really, who comes on the scene and tells them that they are the fulfillment of everything they've hoped for and everything they've believed in? Jesus does! In doing this, Jesus is claiming that he is the long awaited Messiah. When we read the Bible, we need to see Jesus as the central part of the story.  

Matthew 5:18
For truly I tell you, 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.

When Jesus claims that he is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, many people believe we can get rid of the law, but this isn’t the case. This passage shows us how serious Jesus is about fulfilling the law and the prophets…not abolishing them. He says that everything in the law is true, and every part of it will come to be just as it was written. Jesus is the one who comes in order to show us how to understand the law.

Matthew 5:19
Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly 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.

The best way for us to understand this verse is by realizing that Jesus believes that the best way for us to follow him is by following the law. Those who follow Jesus (his teachings) will be called “great” in the kingdom. Those who deny him (his teachings) and cause others to deny him will be called “least” in the kingdom. This is not referring to a hierarchy in the kingdom. It is contrasting those who “do” what Jesus says versus those who “don't-do” what Jesus says. When we read the Bible it is important to understand that following Jesus means to follow Jesus. Seems simple enough right?  

Matthew 5:20
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.

Jesus compares his followers to the religious leaders of the day. I wish I had an easier way to interpret this text, but it seems like Jesus is speaking plainly. What he says is, “If your righteousness doesn't surpass the most righteous people of the day, you will not be part of my kingdom.” It is like saying, “if your righteousness doesn't surpass that of Mother Teresa, you cannot belong to my kingdom.” This seems extreme, but Jesus wants to set up his kingdom and he isn’t afraid to let people walk away.

If this passage helps us to see the way in which we read the Bible, it is important to mention that we ought to read the Bible. You and I ought to value this text enough to know what it inside of it. I am afraid that most Christians aren’t even reading this story. I am not telling you to become Bible scholars. But I am telling you to read the text. See what the Bible has to say.

Following this passage, we will see how Jesus calls us to read certain aspects of the OT. He will talk about things like murder and adultery and loving our enemies. As a heads up, Jesus doesn't make it easier to follow the law of the OT. If anything, he seems to complicate it. For example, it’s easy to not murder someone, but Jesus talks about anger and that’s a bit tougher. What I want us to do is to take the Bible more serious in our lives. If we want to live like Jesus we need to see what he does and the only way to do that is by reading the Story.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

{WK3} Review #SermonOnTheMount

MATTHEW 5:13-16
"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 underfoot."
"You are the light of the world. A town built 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 others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

Jesus uses the image of salt and light to help us understand the importance of being God’s agents of redemption to the world. Therefore, Jesus says, “You are salt and you are light.” Jesus basically says, “If you are my true followers, you will be salt and light.”

Salt and light make an impact. For example, SALT impacts meats by preserving it from decay. LIGHT makes an impact by coming into the darkness and revealing what was hidden.

The church is set in the world with a double role. Salt: we are called to stop or slow down the process of social decay. Light: we are called to dispel the darkness.

Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt is only good if it is salty. If the salt is not cared for properly it will lose its saltiness and therefore becomes good for nothing. There is a warning of judgment within this particular text when it talks about what will happen if salt becomes useless. It will be thrown out and trampled over. Jesus is speaking to those who are faithful and encourages them to remain faithful (remain salty).

Jesus’ followers play a vital role in our culture, because we are called to uphold a certain level of moral and ethical standard. This world operates by a different set of standards. Therefore, Christians are called to live like Jesus in order to be the salt of the earth. But, in order to do that there needs to be a difference in our lives and the lives of those around us. The Christian in called to be distinct from the world. The world wants to listen to authentic followers of Jesus. The problem is that they see something else.

(1) the world sees people who call themselves Christian, yet they look and act and talk just like they do.
(2) the world see a group of hypocrites that are more concerned about other people’s sins than their own.

If Christians are indistinguishable from non-Christians, we are useless.

The second metaphor that Jesus uses is light. Within this section we are given three different images that illustrate light:
1.   A town on a hill (can be seen for miles)
2.   A small oil lamp (it gives light to the whole house)
3.   The light as a metaphor for good deeds

Lights are designed to shine, not hidden. The light reveals the truth. We are supposed to let others see what we are doing. Yet, in MATTHEW 6:1 Jesus says, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” But here we are supposed to let others see. We balance this with the fact that our light shines in order to point people to Jesus, not ourselves.

A community of Jesus that hides itself (doesn't shine) ceases to be a community of Jesus. When we begin to live authentic lives for Jesus people will see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.

What do we do with this passage? We’ve probably heard the idea that Christians are called to be the light to the world a bunch. We recognize that this world is dark and that we are called to bear witness to Jesus. We are light bearers to the message of Jesus that helps people to see. The problem with people in darkness is that they don't know anything else, because nothing is revealed in the darkness. People can only see what the darkness conceals when the light is turned on. We’re called to be light. We expose the darkness for what it is, but we do it in ways that point people to Jesus, not away from Jesus.  

We cannot blame people for being in darkness, if we’re not willing to shine the light. Where is the light?

We have been called and challenged by Jesus to live in a secular society. We are called to go into the world and make a difference in it. Just like salt is added to meat in order to stop it from decaying; we are called to penetrate this world in order to stop it from further decay. The ironic thing is that when this world or society goes bad, Christians have a tendency to throw up our hands and damn the world for being so evil. But shouldn't we look at ourselves?

We cannot blame an unsalted piece of meat for going bad. If the meat doesn't have salt placed on it, it has no other choice but to decay. Therefore, we need to take a serious look at the world and ask ourselves: where is the salt?

What are you doing? How’s your life shining light into the darkness? If you’re not a shining light in this world, don't damn the world for being dark.

Are you becoming the salt of the earth? What are you doing in order to stop the world from total decay? If you aren’t doing anything to stop the moral decay of this world, then stop complaining that this world is evil.

Jesus calls us to be his agents of redemption to the world. What are you doing to fulfill that calling?

grace and peace

Monday, September 14, 2015

{WK2} Review #SermonOnTheMount

MATTHEW 5:3-12
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

As the Sermon on the Mount begins, we have these statements of blessing. Jesus is offering us some insight on who is blessed. We, especially in our country, have a tendency to connect our material possessions with being blessed. We talk about our homes or our jobs or our cars and say, “we are very blessed.” But not-so-surprisingly, Jesus makes no distinction between our worldly good and blessing. Here, Jesus provides us a list of those he calls blessed.

Could you imagine being the first people to hear this list that Jesus provides? You know they had to begin evaluating themselves saying, “am I in or am I out?” The beatitudes are radical statements about the kingdom and it reveals what the kingdom of heaven looks like. I mean, Jesus could have said to the religious people of the day, “You are blessed, because you know the scriptures and you uphold the law,” but he doesn't. Rather, he blesses marginalized people.

Scot McKnight breaks down the beatitudes into three different sections: there is the blessing on the humility of the poor (mt 5:3-5), a blessing on those who pursue righteousness and justice (mt 5:6-8), and a blessing on those who create peace (mt 5:9-12). These are the people Jesus blesses.

Being blessed by Jesus doesn't have anything to do with a person’s situation or circumstance or social status or physical condition, but everything to do with their love for God, love for themselves, and love for their neighbor. When we begin to understand who the kingdom belongs to, we will begin to live completely different lives. This is what Jesus wants us to see in the beatitudes.

We are not blessed because we are poor or persecuted or meek, but regardless of social condition or social status we can be blessed. This is the kingdom. This is who belongs. We all belong to this kingdom.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

{WK1} #SermonOnTheMount

The “Sermon On The Mount” is found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. It is the longest recorded sermon of Jesus, but we are not certain if this sermon was preached in one setting or if Matthew has pieced together different teachings of Jesus in order to make this sermon one unit. Either way, Jesus preaches this sermon.

Matthew wants us to see Jesus as a Teacher, Preacher, and Healer. We see this in a number of ways: Matthew 4:23, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming [preaching] the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people." 

We will see Jesus teaching and preaching in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. Then we will see Jesus healing in Matthew 8 and 9.

Then we see Matthew stating Jesus’ ministry again in Matthew 9:35, "Jesus went though all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming [preaching] the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness."

Matthew bookends this section, by describing the ministry of Jesus (teaching, preaching, healing).

Then we have something amazing taking place in Matthew 10:1, "Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority  to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness." Jesus empowers his followers to do what he just did, to teach what he just taught, and to preach what he just preached.

Matthew presents Jesus to his audience and says, “This is Jesus. This is his teaching. This is what he preaches. These are his healings. Now you decide if you’re going to follow him.” We have the choice: obey or disobey.

Matthew 5:1-2 
Now when Jesus saw the crowd, he went up a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. 

When we hear this text about Jesus going up on a mountain, it is important to connect this with Moses. Matthew does a good job at presenting Jesus as a new Moses. This is important to see, because in the “Sermon On The Mount,” Jesus is a new teacher, teaching a new law, for a new people of God.

Jesus is a different teacher. We will see this especially in Matthew 5:21-48, because Jesus will say things like, “You have heard that it was said…but I say to you….” Jesus does and says things that no other prophet could get away with, because he is God.

If Jesus is the teacher, we are the students. If this is so, we ought to sit and listen. We need to read the bible as students. We must be humble in receiving what God says. Far too often, we approach the bible as experts, not as students. We come with our preconceived ideas of what the text says, therefore we don't learn anything, because we feel like we already know the answer.

My prayer for us, as we look at the “Sermon On The Mount,” is that we would look at these teachings with fresh eyes.

Once we see these teachings with fresh eyes, we can begin to respond to the “Sermon On The Mount” differently. Our response to the sermon is to obey its teachings. Our responsibility is to look at these 1st century teachings and bring them into the 21st century. Essentially, Jesus provides a new way to live for his followers.

He gave us a new way to deal with our enemies, by loving them.
He gave us a new way to deal with money, by sharing it.
He gave us a new way to deal with judging others, by looking in the mirror.

This sermon that Jesus preaches will bring new understanding into light, if we read it with fresh eyes. My prayer is that we will understand the teachings of Jesus and be able to practice them in our daily lives. We are not able to follow these teachings if we don't understand them.

The great author Mark Twain once said, “it ain't those parts of the bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

Here’s to struggling with the "Sermon On The Mount" together. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Lexi: Jesus' Girl

Today was an awesome day! It was such a blessing to see Lexi follow the Lord in baptism. Lexi, your church loves you and supports you! We are here for you when you succeed and when you fail! No matter what, we love you, because God loves you no matter what. 

Grace and peace, Marc 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sermon On The Mount

We will begin a new series this week. We'll be looking at "The Sermon On The Mount." I am excited about this series, because I am always challenged when I read this Sermon (MT 5-7). Within this Sermon, Jesus presents to us the standard of the Christian life.

If you have a chance give it a read before Sunday.
You can read it here: M A T T H E W  5 - 7

We need to look at these 1st century teachings of Jesus and figure out how they apply to us in the 21st century. Here's a hint: even when it's challenging, Jesus still calls us to obey his teachings.

See you Sunday!

"Loving God, Loving Others, Living It"

Baptism Sunday

This Sunday (09.06.2015),  Lexi will follow the Lord in baptism. Lexi, your church loves you and supports you. We are so excited to see what the Lord has in store for you life.

We will see you this Sunday!!!