Do you find prayer to be work? Is it hard for you to focus, to know how to approach God or to think of what to say to Him? Prayer is hard for a lot of people, but prayer is probably the most important spiritual discipline of the Christian life other than the reading of God’s Word. Prayer puts us directly in communication with the sovereign God of the universe and is used by God to carry out His purposes in our lives and the lives of those around us. We need to be people of prayer, yet we often fail miserably at prayer.
My hope is for God to invigorate your passion for prayer and to transform your prayer life as we make our way through the Lord’s Prayer, over the course of the next six weeks. The Lord’s Prayer is so much more than an element in our Sunday liturgy. It is the model a prayer Jesus prescribes for His disciples. It is the framework I use for my daily morning prayers and has led me down the path of a more focused and contemplative prayer life. Starting this Sunday, we will go line by line through this great prayer and begin to understand how it aids us praying. Why not start 2016 with a brand new or renewed resolve to grow in God’s grace through prayer?
This Sunday, we arrive at the last two verses of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. And in those last two verses, you’re given the crowd’s reaction to Jesus’ message. Imagine yourself in that crowd. How would you react to all that you just heard? How would you expect Matthew to tell us the crowd responded? Matthew didn’t say, “And many obeyed Him.” He tells us, “the crowds were astonished at His teaching for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” The crowds focus wasn’t on their own duty or even on the sermon itself. Their focus was on the Preacher. They reacted to Jesus, the man, not His message. The Sermon on the Mount calls you and me to that same reaction. It causes you to consider Jesus. Whether or not you’re in the kingdom of heaven depends on who you say Jesus is. Join us this Sunday as we wrap up our survey of the Sermon on the Mount and consider the identity and authority of Jesus, and what that means for you.
In a life that’s full of choices, Jesus, in this week’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount, offers listeners only two choices. It’s a choice of journeys and a choice of ultimate destinations, and two couldn’t be more different. In the conclusion to His sermon, Jesus wants to make sure you understand the consequences of this choice that every one of us will have to make. Which way will you choose?
I can only think of a couple of people I find it easy to buy Christmas gifts for. With everyone else, I agonize over the right gift. Apparently I am just as difficult to shop for. My family insists that I share my Amazon wish list so they can select items from it to get for me.
Thankfully, Christians have a heavenly Father who knows how to give His children good gifts. He’s especially eager to give us those gifts that grow us in Christ-likeness. Jesus tells you, in this week’s passage in the Sermon on the Mount, that God will provide all you need for spiritual development if you ask. But what and how do you ask? Find out this Sunday, as we worship together and dig deeper into the greatest sermon ever.
What drives more people from church than anything else? Well, my own experience tells me it’s judgmentalism. I’m sad to say, I’ve seen quite a few people leave the church because they were criticized by others or feared being criticized after something happened for which they felt they would be judged. I’m not picking on any one particular church. And, really, I’m not picking on just the church. Humanity, in its brokenness, seems to beset with a critical spirit.
Often, it is our way of feeling better about ourselves. John Stott said, “We have a fatal tendency to exaggerate the faults of others and minimize the gravity of our own. We have a rosy view of ourselves and a jaundiced view of others.” Isn’t it true that we are quick to find fault in everyone else except ourselves? None of this is what Jesus wants from His disciples. Christians need a discerning, not a critical spirit. A discerning, not critical, spirit is what will preserve unity within the body of Christ, without sacrificing the integrity of the Christian faith. This week, as we continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us three instructions for cultivating a healthy spirit within the church. They’re sure to fuel church growth, if not in numbers, certainly in depth.
What sin, would you guess, do Christians commit the most? Is it lying, coveting, anger? I haven’t seen any surveys on the topic, but my guess is that worrying is the sin we commit most often, and we do so without giving it a thought. We spend so much of our time worrying. If you have children, you probably worry. If your finances are tight, your health is precarious, your job is stressful or you to do list is overflowing, you’re probably worried about it.
In these week’s passage, Jesus is telling you not to worry. He commands, “do not be anxious” three times in this short passage and mentions the word “anxious” (also the word for worry) six times in all. Jesus doesn’t want you to be worried about worrying, He wants you to know you’ve got nothing to worry about. This Sunday, we’re going to look at the eight reasons Jesus gives you to abandon every one of your worries.
Most of us know the warning signs for a heart attack: pressure in the center of the chest, pain in the neck, jaw and arms, shortness of breath and lightheadedness. These warning signs get your attention and, if you show up at the emergency room with any of them, you’ll be seen by a doctor immediately. I wonder, how many of us know the warning signs of self-righteousness and people pleasing?
This week, Jesus is going to warn us about the consequences of righteous deeds conducted for the sake of being noticed by others. There are eternal consequences to this kind of people pleasing, according to Jesus. The practice of righteousness and spiritual disciplines is encouraged by Jesus, provided one’s motives are right. As we’ll see Sunday, Christ-centeredness is the motivation for genuine righteousness. Anything less than that falls short of pleasing our Father in heaven.
The Sermon on the Mount is, without question, the best sermon ever. And it is, without question, the most quoted sermon ever. Everyone, from Gandhi to President Obama, has quoted the Sermon on the Mount. This week, we come to one of the most quoted sayings of Jesus about turning the other cheek. You’ve no doubt used the expression yourself, but do you really know what it means? Where does one even find the self-control to turn the other check when attacked and insulted by another? It is only out of love that we are able to do this.
Jesus calls His disciples to an outrageous standard of love, as made apparent in this week’s passage. Christians are called to “love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.” As familiar as we are with those admonitions, I wonder how many of us are willing to respond, in such away, to those who try and take us down and those who try and bring harm to us because of our faith. That sort of response is not the way we humans are normally wired. We are wired to fight back or flee, rather than to respond with the kind of love Jesus commands. So how is it remotely possible to love like Jesus requires of His disciples? It is only because of God’s outrageous love that Christ’s disciples love others outrageously.
You’ve probably heard someone say, “If you’re looking for the perfect church, don’t join or you’ll ruin it!” That’s both funny and true. There is no such thing as the perfect church, at least not this side of glory. Yet Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, is encouraging those in the kingdom of heaven (His disciples) to strive for perfect obedience. He exhorts them, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s easy for Jesus to say, because He is perfect and without sin. But you and I are not.
Don’t let that discourage you. Because of their identity in Christ, His disciples are advancing in perfection in the kingdom of heaven. They are advancing in faithulness and advancing in their faith in Jesus. So, altough this week’s passage might discourage you, because of past or current sins or because of past or current hurts, please come and find hope in Jesus. Don’t move backward but move forward with hope and healing. God is greater than whatever you face.
Is Christianity a “religion?” How would you answer? I think most American Christians would say it is not. A popular YouTube video, with over 30 million views, is titled, “Why I hate religion but love Jesus.” That certainly fits the sentiment of most believers. As good as it may sound, is that true? Can you hate religion and still love Jesus? It seems that’s not an option, according to Jesus’ own words, as we’ll see this week in our continuing journey through His Sermon on the Mount. Christianity is an inside-out religion, founded by Jesus and followed by His disciples. Christianity is about more than religion, but certainly not less.
So join us this Sunday at 10:30 AM, as we journey through the The Sermon on the Mount and worship our Lord together in the body of Christ.