Today I am going to pick up the Mountaintop Motivations series based on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The overall theme in today’s three sections will be love.
Let’s begin with Matthew 5:33-37 NKJV “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. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.”
The issue here is not that Jesus didn’t want people making promises, the problem was the Pharisees had so mangled what promises did and did not have to be kept solely based on how things were worded that Jesus is basically telling people just do what you say.
The religious leaders tried to make things way too religious, if you say something, you should mean it and do it without having to attach God to it. Jesus was encouraging honesty out of love for your neighbor. This takes us to the greatest commandments, love The Lord your God and your neighbor.
This coincides with the next saying of Jesus as well in verses thirty-eight through forty-two. “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.”
We need to notice the absence of love of how commands were carried out. The eye for an eye regarded servants, yet we know another passage states at the time of release a servant can choose to stay thus becoming a member of the household. That is love. Everything Jesus is talking about is love. Now this doesn’t mean we allow people to walk all over us. But let’s think about that for a moment, if our first thought is, I’m not going to let people walk all over me, do we really have a heart of love? If we have the attitude of servant, would we make a different statement?
I believe Jesus answers that in this last section of chapter five.
Matthew 5:43-47 NKJV “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. 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?”
Doesn’t that just hit us right between the eyes?! Jesus said our behavior is no different from an unbeliever if we don’t walk in love. I think we need to sit and ponder this for a minute, if we don’t walk in love we are no different than an unbeliever.
Why don’t we take the time right now and repent of the areas we have not walked in love and ask The Lord to help us walk in love.
Some of you may be reading this thinking, Casey, this is impossible. How can I walk in love like that, how can I have a heart of love like that?
The answer is in verse forty-eight, Therefore you shall be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Wait a minute Casey, I can’t be perfect. Not perfect in every action, not mistake free, but perfect in love, a holy heart, a sanctified life.
People tend to look at Matthew 5:48 as something we should strive for but cannot obtain in this life. Let’s look at other Scriptures that assure us that heart purity not only can be obtained but that it’s God’s will for us.
Psalm 51:7-10 NKJV “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.”
Ezekiel 36:24-29 NKJV “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you.”
Jesus prayed in John 17:17 that we would be sanctified.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-7 NKJV “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 NKJV “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”
Lastly, 1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because as it is written “Be holy for I am holy.”
It is clear that the perfection mentioned at the end of Matthew chapter five is not some high and lofty unattainable goal. Why would we believe Jesus would set forth a goal that would be unattainable? On the contrary that is the work of the Holy Spirit known as the baptism or infilling.
Acts 15:8-9 NKJV “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as He did to us and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”
The purpose of the infilling of the Spirit is to purify our hearts (to sanctify us) and help us live a holy life.
John Wesley said this concerning Matthew 5:48′ “therefore ye shall be perfect; as your Father who is in heaven is perfect” “- So the original runs, referring to all the holiness which is described in the foregoing verses, which our Lord in the beginning of the chapter recommends as happiness, and in the close of it as perfection.”
Notice here, that Wesley says holiness is happiness. I believe this is very key in our culture today. When many teachers are saying our happiness can be found in the fact that God delights in giving us stuff, there are plenty of people that have stuff without happiness. Stuff can never bring happiness. A sanctified heart and life that is independent of the need for stuff can be happy with or without that “stuff”. To focus only on the wealth or healing or relationship that God will give you can actually lead you away from God himself.
If we are honest with ourselves and what we in the American Church have become accustom to it is a “gospel” of comfort with no real trial or hardship. We will have hardship and we won’t always be delivered of it.
Don’t get me wrong I do believe God takes care of his people but when our focus is centered on the wealth and the stuff and the miracle that God can give us we will become miserable.
The focus of the Word of God is never the stuff we can get but a life of love and servant heart.
Much of American Christianity has become a message of how to accumulate stuff to make God attractive to others. Let me make this clear, God is attractive on His own and if a nice car and a nice house and a big bank account is attracting someone to Jesus, it is not the suffering servant Jesus but a false Jesus who exists only to meet our needs.
The American Church needs to return to a servant gospel. We need to return to love and humility and I will say this we need to raise up holy pastors not hoarding pastors.
How I pray that American Churches become holy churches, not churches that see how close to the line they can get.
I pray each of us will heed the words of the last verse of the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew and be perfect as our Father is perfect.
Heavenly Father, fill us with your love, speak to our hearts and change our lives. May we walk in holiness and become more like Jesus everyday. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
Some things to think about:
What are some ways you can live a servant lifestyle in your community?
Even though it was a brief assessment of the American Church, what parts do you agree or disagree with?
Does the focus and or messaging or parts of your local church need to change?