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.
In June I began an impromptu study on some verses on the Sermon on the Mount. After that study I decided I would go to the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount and look at the whole thing from start to finish. Today, we look at the final words in that sermon, and how appropriate they are too.
This sermon of Jesus' was famous because from it we learn how to live as Jesus did. He covered everything - blessings, the Law (and how he fulfilled it), murder, adultery, marriage, oath-taking, going the extra mile for someone, loving our enemies, how to pray, praying for our enemies, fasting, money, worry, judging others, taking the narrow path and more. His ideas were, at the time, extraordinary and unique. They still are. Can you imagine any government, anywhere who, instead of going to war, would instead sit down and pray for their enemies? What a world we would live in if we all followed Jesus'. May His Kingdom come!
He finishes his sermon by emphasizing how important His words are. By living them and applying them to our lives, we are building a firm foundation, founded on the rock Himself - Jesus Christ. When the storms of life come our way, we will not fall because our faith, hope and trust is built on a firm foundation - Jesus.
But the foolish man has not built his faith on the Rock. Sadly, the church at large has lost its firm foundation. I see it time and time again, where Pastors encourage the members of their congregations to study books instead of the Bible. Resulting in members getting all their "wisdom" from man rather than from the Word of God. Books like the Circle Maker for instance. This book has deceived many well-meaning Christians into believing that God has given them a new way to pray. He has not. A careful examination of this book reveals that everything it is based on is not even found in the Bible. And yet, whole congregations are reading this book.
Be wise therefore, and build a firm foundation on Jesus Christ and the Word of God. A Bible study should be based on the Bible and nothing more. Taking you through Scripture, precept by precept. It should not be based on new ideas or "fads". This is where the church is losing its firm footing, by placing more emphasis on "book-studies" than Bible studies. When a new "fad" book appears that everyone is "raving" about - beware! And compare it against Scripture. If it is built on a firm foundation of Scripture then you will be in the Word more than you will be reading that book. It will merely be a guide to your Bible studies, nothing more. Keep standing on the Word of God and you will build for yourself a firm foundation in life.
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.
The above verse is one (of many) that prosperity teachers use to enforce the false belief that if we keep asking God for what we want, He'll give it to us, because He gives good things to those who ask. Unfortunately, the dollar signs in their eyes make it hard for prosperity teachers to see the truths in this verse. So what was Jesus really saying?
What is at the heart of faith in Jesus Christ? It is knowing that we are forgiven of our sins, because of His sacrifice on the cross. And because we have been forgiven, we may come before the Father with our requests, knowing they will be heard. But, Jesus is not talking about using God as a personal Genie or Santa Claus, to make all your wishes come true. This is where the prosperity gospel goes off the rails and in fact, uses God exactly in that fashion for all manner of fleshly desires.
But what the verse above is really about is the Holy Spirit, who comes to take up residence within those who have given their lives to Christ. Jesus was not promising that we will receive whatever we ask for like a big house, more money, or perfect health. These are not the things that will help us to become more Christlike. They are only temporary things, earthly things - here today and gone tomorrow. They have no lasting value. When preachers like Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar and Jesse Duplantis say that they can't spread the gospel without their own private jet, you know that isn't true! No one needs a jet to spread the gospel. All you have to do is step outside your door, cross the street and share the gospel with your neighbour! And if God is calling you to spread the gospel overseas, He doesn't need to GIVE you a jet to do that. At most, He may provide the funds to get you there, but He is not going to spend His money frivolously so that you can travel in style. Why in the world do prosperity teachers believe for one moment that they deserve these luxuries? Because they have taken Scripture out of context! Jesus walked this earth with no place to lay his head and call home (Matthew 8:19-20) and yet these false preachers have the audacity to think that they deserve better. They have placed their faith in things that have no eternal value. The gospel they preach is not the real gospel, and so those who fund them are not spreading the truth, but helping to spread lies and are just as complicit in their deception as the preachers themselves are.
Asking, seeking and knocking is not about praying for earthly things that have no value. But who we are in Christ, who we become in Him because of the Holy Spirit who lives within us and guides us, does have lasting value. It is eternal, as we will always and forever have the Holy Spirit living within us, preparing us for the day when we meet God face to face. As the Holy Spirit directs our hearts, we will desire those things that God desires. And so when Jesus says, "Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you," He is talking about receiving His Holy Spirit, seeking His forgiveness and guidance, and being persistent in doing so, because it will help us as we prepare to meet the Lord. The door will be opened to us because we will be whole and complete in Christ Jesus!
Yes, our Heavenly Father knows how to give good things to those who ask Him, but they will always have an eternal value. They will not be fleeting, they will be lasting and they will accomplish His purposes for His Kingdom and for our growth. This is how we prosper - by keeping ourselves attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. For He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus! (Philippians 1:6).
Read Matthew 7:1-6
I think these verses on judging others in Matthew 7:1-6, are probably the hardest for Christians to tackle because whether we realize it or not we always make snap judgments about people in one form or another. I once went into a jewellery store to buy my daughter a fancy present for Christmas. Three things you need to know first before I tell this story:
Oh, and one more thing! At the time, I used a walker to get around. Now when I stepped into that jewellery store every person in the store turned to look at me. I mean really look at me. They looked me up and down and decided en masse that I was not worthy of their time. They judged me by my looks. They assumed I had no money to spend because I wasn't dressed appropriately for their "fine" establishment and I certainly didn't fit the part of someone with money to spend. But at that time in my life I did have money to spend, but no one in the store offered to help me or even say hello. Five sales clerks all turned away from me as if I wasn't there. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
They made a big mistake. Big. Huge. I went shopping somewhere else.
Clearly they judged me based on their standards. So these verses today got me wondering. How often do Christians do the same thing? John 7:24 says, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." That means we are to have discernment. Discernment enables us to listen to our "spidey senses" if we meet someone and feel immediately uncomfortable or unsafe. Discernment, helps us when listening to a preacher who says something contrary to Scripture. Discernment does not create division or hatred like with the Presidential election. Discernment is listening to the Holy Spirit and acting accordingly. It is not hateful, arrogant or pushy as judging someone can be. Discernment is not judging.
But judging is when we try to force our views or opinions on someone else. Instead of judging by God's standards we judge by our own standards and preferences which often leads to disagreements within the church body. This is not discernment. This is judging.
Now as I discussed in previous posts, the Pharisees were religious leaders, and Jesus liked to use them in his parables and sermons as examples of how not to behave. They judged people by the letter, not the spirit, of the law and so they judged others based on their own behaviour and beliefs. But Jesus basically said in Matthew 7:2 and I'm paraphrasing here, "Don't judge people at all if you are judging them the way the Pharisees do, because if you judge people that way, you will be judged with the same severity." Jesus' intent is seen by his use of the words "speck" and "plank" in Matthew 7:3-4. Judgmental people are arrogant, prideful, foolish and can't see clearly because they lack discernment (because of planks in their eyes). They may, like the Pharisees, "know" the Scriptures inside out, but they don't know how to "live" them.
An excellent example of this is the parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the tax collector who went to the Temple to pray.
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14, NKJV).
Jesus says in Matthew 7:6: "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." This verse is hard to understand coming after a discussion on judging others. What is Jesus really saying here? What is holy in this case? Jesus has been talking about the Pharisees (hypocrites) who judge others according to their own standards and not the Word of God. The Word of God is what is sacred or holy in this case. The dogs and swine are those who do not believe nor accept God's Word as holy. We are not to argue or defend ourselves before them using Scripture (what is holy). We are not to judge them based on Scripture either, because they don't accept it. Quite simply we are not to judge anyone who does not know the Lord. Period. Because ultimately, if we do, we are judging them based on Scripture (which Jesus tells us not to do because they don't accept it) and we are judging them based on our own standards, which He also tells us not to do.
Have discernment? Yes. Correct or rebuke your brother or sister in Christ when they are sinning or believing in false doctrines? Yes. (2 John 1:9-10). But judge others? Only God is allowed to do that.
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, NKJV).
Matthew six is all about getting to the heart of our “heart condition.” Jesus called the Pharisees (religious teachers) hypocrites; by pointing out all they did in order to gain God’s favour. They made a point of letting others know when they were doing something charitable (Matthew 6:1-4). They prayed loudly so that everyone would know they were pious and devout (Matthew 6:5-7). They let everyone know when they were fasting (Matthew 6:16-18) by dressing in mourning garb and making their appearance look bad. Jesus called out their self-righteousness by saying they did none of this for God but to gain respect and admiration from their fellow man. He finishes up this part of his sermon by reminding the people not to store up for themselves treasures on earth (which was what the Pharisees/hypocrites were doing). But Jesus says we are to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Why? Because “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon is an Aramaic word meaning “riches” or what you value. Jesus saw right to the heart of the Pharisees and what they valued more than a relationship with God, was how people perceived them. Their “treasure” was admiration and praise from others. Their worries and concerns were never about what they would eat or drink or wear, it was all about their reputation.
Some people today are like that. But others genuinely worry where their next meal will come from and how they will provide for their families. For believers who struggle with a lack of money, their faith is tested every day. But, here is the key to that testing – you can set your heart on the treasures this world has to offer, or you can place your life in the hands of the Saviour and trust Him to provide for your needs. By trusting in God, you are storing up “treasures in heaven”. Now that may seem like a pat answer coming from someone who has no idea what it's like to struggle to put food on the table. But you would be wrong. When My husband and I decided to start a family we made a conscious decision that I would stay home with the children, like our mothers did with us. So we have lived on one salary for 32 years. And we had many times when we were down to our last breadcrumb and our last dollar, but God always came through for us and our children never went hungry. So yes, it is all about trusting God to provide and when you activate that trust you can effectively stop worrying.
There are two things Jesus admonishes us to do that will keep us from worrying:
Jesus once compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32). Mustard seeds are incredibly small, but they grow into huge trees. Jesus was saying to the listeners of His day that His kingdom had seemingly unimpressive beginnings, but it would one day be so great and powerful, the whole world would recognize it.
Each one of us is a mustard seed. Each step of faith we take by trusting in the Lord, helps us grow a little bit more. As we share His love with others, His kingdom enlarges and grows. When we “seek the kingdom of God” we are actively leading others towards faith in Christ – making that kingdom (like the mustard seed) grow.
When we put off worry and place our faith in God, that tiny little mustard seed of faith grows within us and becomes God’s righteousness. We become more Christ-like in our thinking and behaviour. And when that happens, we learn how to take our worries and concerns to the Creator and leave them there.
Jesus finished off Matthew six with these wise words. I highly recommend you memorize them:
“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 6:33-34, NKJV).
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!
As Jesus continues on with his sermon on the mount, we can see how he is addressing the issues of his day and brings them all together. In Matthew 6, he begins by talking about the practices of the hypocrites (Pharisees) in regards to fasting, praying and doing good deeds in public. He makes note that they do all these things to be glorified within themselves. They did not do any of these things for God at all.
Immediately following his descriptions of what not to do, he tells us what to do - store up for ourselves treasure in heaven. So how do we know if we are storing up treasure in the right place? Our eyes are the clue! Well, our metaphorical eyes anyway. As Jesus says, the lamp of the body is the eye. In other words, he is building on an ancient concept that the eyes were the "windows of the soul" through which light entered. Jesus is the "light of life" (John 18:12) and so spiritually, if a person's spiritual sight is healthy and his affections are directed toward heavenly treasure, his whole being will be filled with light.
On the other side of that - if your eyes are bad, your whole body (your whole being) will be filled with darkness. In other words, if your treasure is not laid up in heaven and you do not have any regard for God or His Son, you have no light within you. The darkness within you would be very great indeed. You may feed the poor and help the homeless. You may be a very compassionate person, but if you purposefully choose to ignore God and banish His existence from your life you are choosing to walk in darkness all the days of your life. You are choosing to be eternally separated from God and that is very dark indeed.