Daily Devotions Archive - Sermon on the Mount Series (April-June 2009)

April 20, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 1 (Introduction)

"And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying..." - Matthew 5:1-2

This next series of daily devotions will come from chapters 5 through 7 of the book of Matthew, commonly known as "The Sermon on the Mount." These three chapters are packed full of wisdom that came straight from our Savior about how we should live in this world, which fits perfectly with my "Living a Godly Life" theme. Nowhere else does Jesus give teachings on so many different subject matters all in one place, and that is a big part of what makes this "sermon" so significant. He offers incredible wisdom on how we should think, feel, and act in our daily lives. We would all be wise to listen to His words, and wiser still to go a step farther and do our best to apply them in our lives every day. I hope that I will be able to provide you with some very practical Biblical wisdom in this series.



April 21, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 2 (Beatitudes)

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." - Matthew 5:3-6

To me, the portion of Scripture known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) is one of the most beautiful parts of the Bible. I especially love how Jesus (just as He did so many times) made statements that are the exact opposite of the common way of thinking in order to offer encouragement to all of us. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, and the meek? How can those people be blessed in their suffering? That makes very little sense to a non-believer. Yet it is absolutely true, because we know that Jesus is always there for us, holding us up and leading us through those tough times. These verses also offer a reminder that God rarely uses rich, famous, powerful people to do His work. Instead, He uses ordinary people, in spite of all our faults, to do extraordinary things through Him. We can all thank God for that!



April 22, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 3 (Mercy & Peace)

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. ... Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." - Matthew 5:7, 9

One of the best ways, if not the best way, to spread the Good News of Jesus to the world is by showing mercy, compassion, and love to those around us. Most people won't respond well to an overly religious person saying "I'm right and you're wrong," but many of those same people will respond to acts of kindness and love. Similarly, stating "I'm right and you're wrong" is likely to invoke an argument, while peaceful actions can often speak louder than words. Jesus obviously knew this when He made these two statements in the Beatitudes, and we would all be wise to follow this advice in our daily lives. Treating people the way Jesus would is undoubtedly the best way to show Jesus to the world.



April 23, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 4 (Purity)

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." - Matthew 5:8

You've probably heard the old expression, "cleanliness is next to godliness." I think this also applies to our hearts. There are numerous places throughout the Bible where it is made clear that God wants us to have clean, pure hearts. The word "pure" can apply to a variety of things. It could apply to more obvious sins such as sexual impurity. It can apply to actions that result from thoughts of anger, greed, lust, and a variety of other things, and even to those thoughts themselves. See, Jesus knows that if we allow such thoughts to creep into our minds and hearts, it probably won't be long before we start acting on them. It's not easy to keep our hearts pure, and it seems to be getting harder every day. Still, Jesus knows that it is well worth the effort. By keeping our hearts pure and our minds clean from the garbage that exists in the world and focusing on Jesus instead, we will receive "the peace that passes all understanding" which we have been promised.



April 24, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 5 (Persecution)

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." - Matthew 5:10-12

Of all the Beatitudes, this one likely sounds the strangest to a non-Christian. How in the world can someone rejoice in persecution? Earthly "wisdom" says to get angry and get even! But, once again, Christ rebukes common thinking. Why are we blessed? Because Christians before us and even Jesus Himself were all persecuted in one way or another. Jesus knows how it feels, so He speaks from not only His incredible wisdom but also from experience. God promises to bless those of us who stand up for Him even when it's most difficult. At the same time, that also gives us an opportunity to act as Jesus would. When people verbally attack a Christian, they expect a response filled with anger. Imagine their surprise if you respond with gentle love instead! Might that cause them to go back and re-examine their beliefs?



April 27, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 6 (Light Your World)

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." - Matthew 5:14-16

Jesus is very clear: We don't need to just be "Christians" on Sundays while blending in with the rest of the world during the other six days of the week. If it were dark and you turned on a lamp or a flashlight, you wouldn't cover it up with something; what would that accomplish? Similarly, Jesus clearly tells us that we need to be the light in a very dark world. Good works can't get us into heaven, but they can and do have a positive impact on those around us. Make no mistake: Non-believers are watching us. The best way to potentially let them see the light of Christ is to take his advice, loving them and doing good works in the world around us.



April 28, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 7 (Anger)

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." - Matthew 5:21-22a, 23-24

Jesus goes a step beyond what was said in the Ten Commandments and makes a powerful statement in these verses. As He does so often, He isn't merely looking at actions but at the heart (which, by the way, is a good lesson in itself). We all agree that murder is wrong, but Jesus states that being angry at another person without reason is sinful as well. Think about it like this: What does being angry with someone really accomplish? It may or may not have an impact on the person you're angry with, but it certainly won't help the situation. But it always, without fail, has a negative impact on yourself, because you're so focused on your anger that you can't focus on God. (...to be continued tomorrow)



April 29, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 8 (Anger)

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." - Matthew 5:21-22a, 23-24

(Continued from yesterday...) Anger always has a negative impact on yourself, because it takes your focus away from God. Chances are, you will likely even have a negative impact on other innocent bystanders around you if you take your anger out on them. Anger can creep in so easily and Satan wants to convince you that you have a right to be angry over some little thing that happened. But Jesus, of course, tells us something different. While anger may be justifiable at times (if someone does something against Jesus, for example), it is generally just harmful, pulling us away from God. Anger is always a choice, and the other choice we have is to let God, who is always fair and just, handle the situation. Instead of getting angry, I'm trusting God!



April 30, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 9 (Lust)

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." - Matthew 5:27-28

I wrote about this when I did the series on the Ten Commandments, and I'm going to write about it again here because I believe this is perhaps the most frequently committed yet often overlooked sin in today's world. Former President Jimmy Carter once confessed to lusting after women with his eyes. I wasn't alive at the time, but it's been my understanding that a lot of people made fun of him because of those remarks. However, I admire him for that--not just for the admission, but for even realizing it in the first place, because that doesn't seem to happen very often anymore. Unfortunately, we live in a world where "sex sells" seems to apply more than ever, and it's nearly impossible to avoid being bombarded with sexual images in our daily lives. So, how can we combat this? I'll answer that question in the next part of this series. (To be continued tomorrow...)



May 1, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 10 (Lust)

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." - Matthew 5:27-28

(Continued from yesterday...) So, how can we combat the sexual images that are so prevalent in our society? Just like with a drug or alcohol addition, the first step is admission. If you exhibit anything more than just a passing interest in any person of the opposite sex that you see in real life or TV, especially if it's a woman in a bikini, a man with his shirt off, a cheerleader, or someone dressed in any way that is designed to attract your attention in a sexual manner, then you ARE lusting. I chose to go into so much detail there because lusting has become so commonplace in our society today that most people don't seem to think much about it anymore. Lusting IS a sin, even if you're single, but especially if you're married or in a relationship, because you are breaking the sacred trust you have with that other person. You're also hurting him or her by saying, "I'd rather look at this other person than at you." (To be continued Monday...)



May 4, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 11 (Lust)

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." - Matthew 5:27-28

(Continued from Friday...) Yesterday we learned that the first step in dealing with lust is admission. Once that occurs, it becomes somewhat easier to deal with the problem, but it may still be challenging. So, I have two suggestions. If you're married or in a committed relationship, remember to put him or her first. If you lust after someone else, how does that make your spouse/significant other feel? If you put his or her feelings first and realize how hurtful lust can be, that gives you a very definitive reason to control your lust. If you're single (though this really applies to everyone), just remember that it's sinful and that sin separates you from God. When you're lusting after someone, you're selfishly putting yourself first, you're letting your sinful desires control you, and you're pushing God aside.



May 5, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 12 (Worldliness)

"If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell." - Matthew 5:29-30

Is Jesus speaking literally in these two verses? I doubt it, though I honestly don't know for sure. Either way, I want to go in a slightly different direction with these verses. So many people get caught up in worldly things that they lose sight of what has eternal significance. Obviously you'd like to have your right eye, but which of these options is better? Is it better to keep that eye, live a life of sin apart from Christ, and then spend eternity apart from Him; or is it better to live your (relatively brief) life on earth without it, humbled and spreading God's Word to the world, then getting to spend eternity in heaven? The answer is obvious, but this should give you something to think about. What worldly things do you get caught up in that have no eternal significance?



May 6, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 13 (Divorce)

"Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery." - Matthew 5:31-32

Similar to lust (and often caused by lust), divorce is something that we need to start taking much more seriously. I think we forget that, when two people are married, they become "one flesh" in God's eyes (Genesis 2:24). Jesus does allow an exception, permitting divorce in the case of sexual immorality, although I believe those couples should still try to work things out first. However, that is clearly the one and only exception. So, what about all the other couples that have problems? First of all, if you're not yet married but thinking about it, make sure you're getting married for the right reasons. Despite what society may try to tell you, marriage should NEVER be based on feelings, but instead on a deep commitment to one another and to God. (To be continued tomorrow...)



May 7, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 14 (Divorce)

"Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery." - Matthew 5:31-32

(Continued from yesterday...) To reiterate yesterday's big point, marriage should never, ever be based on feelings. Secondly, if you are already married, you still need to make sure that you aren't letting your feelings control you or impact your decisions. If you've been married for a while, you probably know that you won't always feel a strong, passionate love for your spouse. That simply isn't realistic; it can't be maintained throughout your life. But does that mean it's time to divorce and try something else? Absolutely not! It does mean, though, that you need to refocus your priorities. If you truly put God first, your spouse second, and yourself last, and assuming your spouse has the same attitude, things will improve because your focus is now in the right direction.



May 8, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 15 (Oaths)

"Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." - Matthew 5:33-35, 37

Out of everything Jesus talks about during the "Sermon on the Mount," I feel like I have the least understanding of this passage. My best educated guess of the point He is trying to make will follow. I think He is trying to get us to realize the importance of being honest at all times. For example, if you swear by something for added emphasis, does that mean that when you just give an ordinary "yes" or "no", you don't take it as seriously? Instead, Jesus is saying that our "yes" and "no" responses should be powerful in their own right. If we value honesty as we should and always take it seriously, people will have no trouble believing our answers of simply "yes" and "no" and no added emphasis would be needed.



May 11, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 16 (Revenge)

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away." - Matthew 5:38-42

This reminds me of the old saying, "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Our natural tendencies say that we should get even with a person who wrongs us in some way. But, yet again, Jesus rebukes common tendencies and instead goes in the opposite direction. Why is it so wrong to get even with someone? Because in doing that, you aren't showing the love of Jesus. Most of the time, you also aren't accomplishing anything productive because you're just arguing pointlessly. Instead of harsh comebacks, offer love and forgiveness. You'll be surprised at how much that will surprise the other person and the good things that can result from it. The end of this passage also encourages us to go farther, work harder and give more freely to those in need.



May 12, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 17 (Loving Enemies)

"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

This is sort of a continuation of yesterday's idea, but it goes a step further. Jesus says that not only should we not try to get even with our enemies, but we should love them? Why would we want to love someone who has used us or persecuted us? That doesn't make sense at all--to the world. Not surprisingly, though, Jesus once again speaks in contrast to what the world tells us. We should love everyone, no matter what. I think there are three main reasons for that. First, Jesus loves everyone, which should be reason enough. Second, hating someone harms you, because you're focusing on the hate instead of on God's love, which pulls you away from Him. Focusing on your own emotions is also selfish. Third, you'll have a much better impact on others by showing love instead of hate. Who knows, you may even help bring them closer to God as well!



May 13, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 18 (Loving Enemies)

"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

I really hadn't thought about this idea in this way until I recently rediscovered this passage of Scripture. Jesus certainly makes an interesting point that makes us think. It's generally true though, isn't it? The tax collector in Biblical times was the classic villain, and the same thought can be applied to different types of villains in our modern world. I think about people who are greedy and deceitful, who do whatever it takes to advance their own position and make more money even if they hurt others along the way. If you take a small group of those people, don't you think it would be fairly easy for them to love or at least respect one another because of their common interests? But it would be a lot harder for them to love and respect people they feel are beneath them. Similarly, it's easier for us to love fellow Christians than someone like that, but Jesus set the example we should follow by loving everyone.



May 14, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 19 (Worldly Glory)

"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly." - Matthew 6:1-4

We should never try to seek praise from other people. God doesn't want us to do good deads so that we'll be recognized by others, because then we aren't doing those deeds with pure motives and pure hearts. That's why the people who do their good deads seeking praise from people "already have their reward" as Jesus says here. Instead, God wants us to do our charitable deeds in secret. Of course, if somebody happens to notice along the way, there's nothing wrong with that; it's our intent that God is looking at, and if we are trying to do something good in secret and we aren't seeking praise from other people, then God is pleased with our pure motives and we will be rewarded for that, either in this life or in heaven.



May 15, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 20 (Worldly Glory)

"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 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." - Matthew 6:5-7

This passage carries with it a very similar idea to what I discussed yesterday. The main point is this: In everything we do, God wants us to just do it because it's right, not because we're trying to impress someone or seek praise from others. Is God saying that it's wrong to pray in front of others? Of course not; if that were the case, a lot of pastors and other people would be sinning every Sunday when they pray out loud in church. What Jesus is saying, though, is that when we pray, whether alone or in front of a group, we should just focus on God and not worry about what the people around us may think of our prayers.



May 18, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 21 (Lord's Prayer)

"Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." - Matthew 6:8-13

Most people who read this probably know the Lord's Prayer by heart. But why did Jesus give it to us? There may be many reasons, and this is just my opinion, but I think He was simply demonstrating the manner in which we need to pray. Take a close look at the things He says in His prayer. He starts out by giving glory and honor to God. Next, He asks for God's will to be done, which is what we should all ask for when we pray. If we pray for things we don't need, God probably won't give them to us. But if we're truly in tune with God, we'll know what to pray for and He will gladly grant our requests. (To be continued tomorrow...)



May 19, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 22 (Lord's Prayer)

"Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." - Matthew 6:8-13

(Continued from yesterday...) Next Jesus asks for food for today, which along with water is probably the most important thing we need to physically live each day. He then asks God to forgive us as we forgive others--two actions that should always happen alongside each other. We should practice a spirit of forgiveness because God has forgiven us for all our sins. Jesus asks God to deliver us from Satan, which is certainly a good thing for each of us to pray every day, as Satan is constantly trying to attack and tempt all Christians. He ends by again giving all the honor and glory to God.



May 20, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 23 (Lord's Prayer)

"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

I have struggled to reconcile this idea in my mind. Perhaps someone with more Biblical knowledge than I have can explain it to me better. If the Bible says that God forgives us of every sin when we accept Jesus as our Savior, then when do these two verses come into play? I honestly don't have the answer to that. What I do know, however, is that we should practice forgiveness in our daily lives. Don't hold grudges and forgive without delay, because that's the best way to live a free and unburdened lifestyle. "But how can I forgive this person who did something awful to me?" It should be easy if you truly understand how amazing God's gift of forgiveness truly is. He is perfect and we are far from it, yet He chose to forgive us for every little sin we ever commit. Forgiveness doesn't excuse the other person from that awful thing; it just frees you from that burden and tells God, the ultimate judge, that you trust Him to take care of it for you.



May 21, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 24 (Worldly Glory)

"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

This continues along the theme of a couple of other recent devotions. Why does Jesus talk about doing things for God instead of for men so many times? The reason is probably because this is such a struggle for so many people. If you're doing something good, it's hard not to want to be noticed by other people! But, once again, Jesus says that such people will get their reward down here on earth, in the form of flattery from other people. That may seem nice for a little while, but it doesn't last long. Jesus is all about purity, and He has such a desire to see us do things with pure motives that He feels the need to address this idea on more than on occasion. God just wants us to focus on Him instead of on other people. After all that He has done for us, doesn't that seem fair to you?



May 22, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 25 (Eternal Treasure)

"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 passage, along with the related idea in verse 24, is among my favorites in the entire Bible. Jesus thoroughly and swiftly addresses one of the biggest problems we have in today's world: The love of earthly possessions. Where is your treasure? That is a question to ponder for a while, not one to which you should give an instant answer. Do you enjoy accumulating money and material things? Is having more money and more "stuff" among your primary goals in life? If so, as Jesus clearly and specifically tells us, your heart is centered on earthly treasures. You'll still go to heaven if you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, but you won't have many extra treasures to look forward to. (To be continued Monday...)



May 25, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 26 (Eternal Treasure)

"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

(Continued from Friday...) So, if your sights are set on worldly things, your treasure will stay here. On the other hand, if you're not focused on worldly things, your treasure will be waiting for you in heaven, and I can promise you that any kind of treasure in heaven will be infinitely more incredible than even the best treasure on earth. Is Jesus saying that it is wrong to have a lot of money? Of course not; God has chosen to bless some people with more. But He also expects you to use what you have wisely, whether you have a lot or a little. Only keep for yourselves what you really need, plus a little more for pleasure if you want, because God does want us to enjoy our lives. But then the rest should go to people or organizations that are in need, not toward getting a newer cell phone, TV, car (unless yours is old and it really is a "need"), or anything else that you don't really need. You will be blessed if you have that kind of a giving heart.



May 26, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 27 (Light or Darkness)

"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!" - Matthew 6:22-23

I think these two verses can be applied to a variety of ideas, but the one that first pops into my mind is the issue of lust. If that is what Jesus is primarily referring to here, it would be the second time He addresses the topic during this sermon (Matthew 5:27-28 was the first). However, there are certainly a lot of other things that your eyes can also see which can get you into trouble. Think about it: If your eyes lust after other people, that quickly fills your body with the darkness of sin. Your eyes can also lead you astray by looking at other things such as alcohol or money. But if you keep your eyes focused on good things instead, such as spreading God's Word and looking after those in need, that "light" will spread throughout your body because you're living in the way that God wants you to live.



May 27, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 28 (Choice of Master)

"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 6:24

I had been used to other versions of the Bible (the NIV in particular), and when I first discovered the word "mammon" in the NKJV, I had to do a little research to learn what it means. The word "money" is used in many versions, but I discovered that the word "mammon" actually goes beyond that. I will give a brief explanation here for those of you who may not know what it means just as I didn't. Instead of just serving money, the word implies that you are putting material wealth or greed in an important place in your life and perhaps even turning it into a deity or a "god" that you, perhaps unintentionally, begin to worship. That is an extremely dangerous place to be, but as I observe the world and the people in it, I believe that a lot of people are in that place and many don't even fully realize it. This verse is closely related to the verse "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" that we recently discussed but I think it goes even deeper, reaching down to the very root of what many people struggle with. (To be continued tomorrow...)



May 28, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 29 (Choice of Master)

"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 6:24

(Continued from yesterday...) Is this a struggle for you? If so, the best thing to do is probably to step back and take a hard look at where your money goes. At least 10% off the top should be going back to God in some way, and if God has blessed you with more than you need, I believe that figure should be quite a bit higher than 10%. Remember that your money doesn't belong to you; it belongs to God, and He has entrusted it to you for a short time. Use it in a way that makes Him proud instead of in a way that could grieve Him. Next, take a look at your bills and regular expenses. Are you in firm control of your expenses or do they seem to have control over you? Some are essential (food, water, electricity, housing, insurance) while others are not (TV, phone, internet, etc). If you don't have enough money (now that you're giving God His proper share), take a closer look at the nonessential expenses to see if they can be reduced or eliminated. (To be continued tomorrow...)



May 29, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 30 (Choice of Master)

"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 6:24

(Continued from yesterday...) After setting aside at least 10% for God and reviewing your bills, it's time to see how much you spend in the areas of pleasure and entertainment. Do you have to eat fancy dinners often, spend a lot of money on new clothes, or buy technological gadgets whenever something new comes out? If so, the love of money and worldly possessions has likely surpassed God as the controller of your life. Let me make it very clear to you: Regardless of what commercials may tell you, you never, ever NEED an expensive new outfit or cell phone (or whatever else may tempt you). You may want those things, and buying them is okay--occasionally--but if you feel like you NEED them, you have been led astray by the world. God doesn't want that for you. Neither do I--I am very passionate about this subject matter because I see the love of material things leading so many people astray. Put God first, don't get too many things that you only want and don't need, and give more abundantly to those in need. That is the financial life God wants for all of us.



June 1, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 31 (Worry)

"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 life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?" - Matthew 6:25-27

What does worrying accomplish? Nothing; absolutely nothing. That's what Jesus is implying in verse 27. You can't get any taller by spending time worrying, and neither can worry accomplish anything else except for wasting time. Sometimes it's difficult not to worry about something. Maybe you've lost your job, you have a child in the military in a dangerous area, or a loved one is struggling with cancer. But whatever the case may be, does worrying help any of those situations get better? No, it never does, and that's what Jesus wants us to understand. There's one more thing I think a lot of people don't realize: Worrying and trusting God are exact opposites. If you worry about something, you are telling God that you don't trust Him to handle it, even if you don't realize it. But we CAN trust God to handle everything!



June 2, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 32 (Worry)

"So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" - Matthew 6:28-30

God will always provide. We don't have to worry about that--although many still do. It can be hard not to worry, especially during the kind of difficult economic times we've been enduring. But choosing to worry (and it is always a choice) is just like saying to God, "this situation is so bad that I don't think you can handle it." Is there anything God can't handle? Of course not! God is bigger than everything and He can easily handle any situation, no matter how bad it is. But if God is comprised of so much love that He even cares for the lilies of the field, you can rest assured that He cares very deeply about each and every one of us! He's always with us, no matter the circumstances. You don't need to worry because God is in control.



June 3, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 33 (Worry)

"So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" - Matthew 6:28-30

Today I want to really focus on the clothing aspect of this. Jesus could be talking about two different things here: the worry of poor people about having anything to wear at all, and the worry of everyone else over exactly which clothes they should wear on a given day. The way I interpret it, I think He is speaking more to the second of these two ideas, which is definitely prevalent in this culture. I'm one of the few people who really pays very little attention to what I wear, but I know many people do. If you're one of them I simply want to ask, why? God tells us it's what's on the inside that counts, so why do you focus so much on the outside where it really doesn't matter? (To be continued tomorrow...)



June 4, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 34 (Worry)

"So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" - Matthew 6:28-30

(Continued from yesterday...) If you are one of the people who worries about what to wear each day, why are you so concerned with outward appearance when Jesus makes it clear that it isn't important? In all honesty, I can finish up a conversation with a person then walk away and have absolutely no idea what the person was wearing because it's just not significant. What's on the inside and what the person was talking about are the things that matter, not what he or she looks like! If you spend way too much time getting ready each day or if you judge others based on how they're dressed, I would encourage you to spend less time worrying about yourself and spend that time with God instead. If you work with Him on improving your inside, you are likely to discover that you automatically start to worry less about the outside.



June 5, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 35 (Worry)

"Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." - Matthew 6:31-34

Why does Jesus spend 10 whole verses talking about the subject of worry? Probably because He knows how destructive it can be and how often people struggle with it. I urge you, especially in this economy when it's not always easy, to place your complete trust in God. Trust Him with your life, your finances, your relationships, your (or loved ones') illnesses, and whatever else you may be struggling with. If you can truly do that, you will feel so much more relaxed because Jesus really does give us the "peace that passes all understanding" just as we are promised. As a bonus, you will also please God by showing Him that you really DO trust Him to handle everything!



June 8, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 36 (Judgment)

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." - Matthew 7:1-5

Judgment is another one of those sneaky sins that can creep in over time and can be difficult to control. I've spoken honestly about some other topics that Jesus covered that I don't struggle with, such as lust for material things and worry about what to wear, and I feel like I also need to be honest here, because this is one of the bigger struggles that I have. At least in part, it's probably because I don't struggle with a lot of those other things. Take greed for example: Not once in my life have I struggled with that because there just isn't much that I want, and I'm thankful to God that I have that attitude. At the same time, though, I have a harder time showing patience and understanding to those who do, and sometimes I do unintentionally judge others because of that. (To be continued tomorrow...)



June 9, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 37 (Judgment)

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." - Matthew 7:1-5

(Continued from yesterday...) Yesterday I discussed my personal struggle with being judgmental. While it's not a major problem for me, it is something I have to deal with. For example, I have to be careful when writing my articles and daily devotions because I want to sound helpful and encouraging, not judgmental, though I may not always be successful at doing that. So, how do I combat this problem? I have found two main ways to do that which seem to work fairly well for me (involving self-examination and love), and I will share them with you tomorrow. (To be continued tomorrow...)



June 10, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 38 (Judgment)

"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." - Matthew 7:1-5

(Continued from yesterday...) When I find myself being judgmental, I first stop and force myself to take a step back, focusing on my own shortfalls. It's a lot harder to judge someone else when you remember that you have struggles, too. The second thing I do is to remember that Jesus loves everyone just the same despite their imperfections. If I want to love others as Jesus does, which is a goal of mine, I need to look past their shortfalls and show them love anyway. I love to teach and help and I always want to try to help people overcome their problems, but I know that it's not likely anything good will come of my efforts if love doesn't come first. If you struggle with being judgmental, too, perhaps these ideas can help you gain a better perspective.



June 11, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 39 (Ask, Seek, Knock)

"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." - Matthew 7:7-12

Does this passage mean that, if you pray for a new car or entertainment system that you really don't need, God will magically provide you with one? No, it doesn't. However, I do believe that God will give you whatever you ask for IF you are living in His will. How does that work? Well, if you're truly living in His will, you will only want the things that He already wants to give you. You won't pray for material things that you don't really need because you will be focused on God instead of money and worldly possessions. God simply wants to know that you are living in His will and one way of doing that is by praying and asking for those things that He wants to give to you.



June 12, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 40 (Narrow Gate)

"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." - Matthew 7:13-14

This is perhaps the shortest passage that says the most in the entire Bible. It's definitely near the top of the list, at least, and it's also one of my personal favorites. As true as it must have been during Jesus' time on Earth, it seems to be even more true today. It feels like almost the entire world is going through the wide gate--all those people leading themselves down the path to destruction. Meanwhile, it feels as if fewer and fewer people are managing to find the narrow gate. It's not that the gate itself is hard to find, but worldly desires are so tempting and so many people are easily led away from the narrow gate by them. I've always seen the choice in this way: Either you can have sinful "pleasures" during this brief life or you can enjoy an eternity of true pleasures in the presence of God. There is but one way there, and that is by giving your life over to Christ. If you do that, you will find the narrow gate.



June 15, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 41 (False Prophets)

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." - Matthew 7:15-20

False prophets are all around us. Some are easy to spot, like the inventors of the scientology religion. They plainly stated that the easiest way to make money is to start a religion, so that's what they did. It's easy to see that scientology is a cult. Other false prophets, though, are much more difficult to see. They are in our churches; some may even be leading churches. Not all are intentionally teaching falsely, though the result is the same. What's the best way to tell if a leader is a false prophet? Find out how the person views Jesus. If (s)he declares that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life--the only way to heaven--then (s)he is working for Jesus. Otherwise, the person is working against Jesus and is not accurately spreading the truth of God's Word.



June 16, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 42 (The Unsaved)

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" - Matthew 7:21-23

Going to church every Sunday and talking about God and Jesus won't get you very far. If that's all you ever do, it won't earn you a place in heaven, either. Why is that? Because you can't "earn" a spot. If you could, it would be about our works instead of God's grace, about us instead of Him. But Christianity isn't about being religious; it's about a relationship. Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Have you invited Him into your heart? If you haven't, you're missing out on so much that God has planned for you. If you would like to learn more about what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus, I encourage you to speak to a pastor or, if you don't know of anyone else to talk to, contact me and I'll do anything I can to help. Everything in this world will die away, and your relationship with Christ is the only thing that has eternal significance.



June 17, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 43 (The Wise)

"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock." - Matthew 7:24-25

Nothing gives us a more solid foundation in life than Jesus. Nothing else can even come close. If you have a strong relationship with Jesus, you know that He is your rock--a solid place to hold on to even if the storm waves are crashing all around you. We have covered a wide variety of subject matters over the last nine weeks, and no matter what trial you are facing in your life, chances are pretty good that you can find something from within this sermon of Jesus' that applies to it and can help you through it. And as Jesus Himself says, anyone who does listen to and follow these sayings is wise indeed. He isn't being arrogant in saying that about His own teachings; He's simply being honest. His wisdom is the very wisdom of God, perfect in every way. If you do your best to follow these teachings in your life, I have no doubt that God will bless you for it.



June 18, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 44 (The Unwise)

"But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." - Matthew 7:26-27

Just like I said yesterday, Jesus isn't being arrogant in making this claim about His own teachings; He's simply being honest. He knows what the world is like; He lived here for 33 years and He closely watches it from up above every single day. Jesus gave us all of these teachings so that we can have better lives and be closer to Him. He doesn't want to deprive us of fun and pleasure; instead, He knows the problems and unnecessary drama that sinful activities of earthly "pleasure" so often bring. He doesn't want to see us bring that trouble upon ourselves, even though we so often do it anyway. Just as a good father sets boundaries for his child out of love, so does our Heavenly Father give us guidelines to live by. He only wants what's best for us, His children. That's why His Son Jesus gave us so much wisdom and advised us to live by it each and every day.



June 19, 2009: Sermon On The Mount, Part 45 (Conclusion)

And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. - Matthew 7:28-8:1

I hope you have enjoyed this series of Daily Devotions. More importantly, I hope you have gotten some wisdom out of them that you can apply to your life. Not only did Jesus die for our sins, but He was also a great teacher during His time here on Earth. Even most of those who don't believe He is our Savior will agree that He was a great teacher. Being the Son of God, He would obviously have the very same wisdom that God Himself possesses. Jesus also taught us out of His complete, unconditional love for each and every one of us. He loves us so much that He only wants what's best for us; He wants us to set aside worldly wickedness and follow Him. Not only does that give God the glory, but it creates a better life for us at the same time. Let us be like the multitudes in that day and follow Jesus' teaching in every aspect of our lives!