Turn with me to Matthew 5:27-30. Today we continue to work our way through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. As we get started I hope everyone sees that great benefit in working your way though a section of the Bile piece by piece. It forces us to teach the entire counsel of God. It eliminates the sinful desire that I might have in avoiding uncomfortable passages. We get to see God’s Word unfiltered, which should be what we desire. So with that said let us read our text, pray that the Holy Spirit would guide us, and see what Jesus wants to tell us this morning.
Sadly, many of the attacks are coming from people who falsely claim to be Christians. Paul called these people wolves in sheep clothing. It is not something that should surprise us. God’s word tells us this will happen.
Case in point, our text today. In Matthew 5, we find Jesus making some very radical statements about a specific sin, adultery. There could be so much said about these verses, but time will not allow me. Therefore I am going to focus on what I believe are three main points that we can draw from the scripture. First, we are all guilty of adultery. Second, Jesus is serious about adultery. Third, the only solution to adultery is death.
We are all adulterers.
As I stated last week, Jesus in this section is rebuking the teaching of the Scribes and the Pharisees. You can see this in verse 20 when he says, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” You can also see this implicitly when Jesus makes the repetitive statement “You have heard that it was said…” in verses 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, and 43. Jesus is pointing out the false oral teachings of the scribes and the Pharisees.
The main issue regarding the Scribes and the Pharisees was that they believed in their ability to save themselves. Their religion was a self centered, external religion. This is what we call works based salvation, or legalism; the idea that you can earn your way to heaven by your outward behavior. This teaching was Satanic because just like the devil, the Scribes and the Pharisees had distorted God’s Word and made it about their glory, not God's glory. Last week’s hoop was murder. This week’s hoop is adultery. And just like last week, Jesus takes the prohibited act of adultery and pushes it down into our hearts, where the real issue lies.
Jesus says, no. This is not the intent of the law, to merely restrain your physical body. The intent of the law is to point to the wickedness of your adulterous heart. The standard of the Scribes and the Pharisees was too low. Because it is not the body that is the issue it is the heart.
So with that said, who is an adulterer? My guess is every single one of them standing on the side of the mountain, and every single one of us sitting here today. If you have had one, just one lustful thought towards someone not your spouse, then you are as guilty as someone caught in the act. If you look at pornography you are an adulterer, if you day dream about some hunky guy your are an adulterer, if your eyes intentionally wander to places that they shouldn’t you are an adulterer, if you watch an R rated movie looking forward to the inevitable nude scene you are an adulterer, if you watch some television show because of the steamy sex scenes you are an adulterer.
Do you know what is interesting? We love to blame Hollywood and the media outlets and the advertisers for all the sex that is thrown in our face. Do you know why they do it? Because we demand it. They have scantily clothed women selling burgers because our evil heart’s desire it. If we want to fix Hollywood, it begins right here with our hearts.
This was the point of Jesus’ teaching. It was to raise the bar to the appropriate level that God intended. Society had lowered it, just like what is happening today. Jesus' words were an indict all of them and all of us. Jesus wants us to recognize that we are all guilty as we stand before a Holy God and that we are all sinners at our core.
Perhaps many of you are familiar with the story of the women who was caught in the act of adultery in John 8. The Scribes and the Pharisee were ready to stone her and they brought her before Jesus, and Jesus said to them:
Jesus is serious about sin.
As I stated earlier, there is a war on the doctrine of sin. The world wants to argue that God is casual about sex. The world wants to paint a picture that God thinks sleeping around is biological and innocent. The world loves to tell you that God wants you to be happy, so if lusting outside of marriage makes you happy then go for it. The world loves to tell the story of John 8 and leave out Matthew 5. Jesus flat out tells us that if you don’t stop sinning, your destiny is Hell.
In fact, Jesus is so serious about sin that he died on a cross so as to breaks it chains. In fact, the next time you are about ready to click on that webpage, or text your old boyfriend, or go parking with a girlfriend, I want you to think about Jesus spilling his blood for the sin that you are thinking about.
I want you to look over your shoulder and see your Savior hanging on the cross with blood dripping from his head and nails in his hands and I want you to hear him say, “I love you.”
How do we fix the problem?
There are few passages that Jesus speaks so bluntly about his desire for us to live Holy lives. Jesus does not mince words. The cure he provides for the sin of adultery in one’s life is off the charts. It is zealous and it is extreme.
Now I want us to consider here what Jesus is doing. In a way, I believe Jesus is messing with the scribes and the Pharisees. He is pushing their theology to the limits of ridiculous. Remember the Scribes and Pharisees taught that avoiding hell was all about external, mechanical obedience of sin. Jesus then throws it back in their face and says, that if we are going to get serious about this, then lets get serious. If your theology is about what your body does and does not do then start ripping off the parts of your body that get you in trouble. If you eye wanders, tear it out. If your hand lingers, cut it off. Now we all know that if you tear out one eye, your other eye will do twice the sinning. Likewise your hand. Jesus has already told us that it isn’t your body, it is your heart.
Now here is what is interesting, despite how radical tearing out your eye and cutting off your hand is, Jesus actually calls us to do something even more extreme. If we want to get serious about avoiding Hell by eliminating sin in our lives, we must do way more than tear out an eye, we have to die to self.
This is what Jesus is pushing us to in our text. He is taking the law of God and pushing it down into our heart. He is raising the bar to such a high level that none of us can reach it. His words are for the purpose of indicting everyone as adulterers, so that we will recognize our desperate need for a Savior.
I leave you with what I believe is the complete answer to overcoming adultery, and you will see that it is merely the Gospel.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 23, 2014
Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5:21-26. Today, we continue our journey through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. As we work through the text today, and every Sunday for that matter, it is important for us to remember that every passage has context; meaning that the Bible is not to be read as random unconnected statements of facts, but that we must read it as it flows from one passage to the next. Today that is doubly true, because we are looking at a portion of text that is within a singular Sermon and it flows out of a statement that Jesus just made. So with that said, let us look read our scripture, pray and then exposit it.
Jesus then goes on to say that for us to get into heaven our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. As we saw last Sunday, this creates a problem for us, because Romans 3:10 tells us that, “None is righteous, no not one.” Therefore, we lack righteousness, yet we need righteousness to get into God's Kingdom. As I said, Jesus proclaims that he fulfills the law, therefore He is righteous. Therefore Jesus has what we need, righteousness. And the good news is that Jesus will give us His righteousness, and the way we receive it is through faith in Him.
Having said that, the religious leaders during the times of Jesus, the scribes and the Pharisees, had made a mess of this age old truth. Instead of placing the focus on faith in God, they put the emphasis on faith in good works. And Jesus was calling them out during the Sermon on the Mount when he said:
In the days of Jesus, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and not many people could read Hebrew because the language of the day was Aramaic. In addition few people had copies of the Old Testament. If you were a commoner, people like you and me, the way you would know the Bible was through teachers. They would orally tell you what the Bible said, but they wouldn't just read it to you, they would teach it. This is why Jesus said, “You have heard…” You can see this same pattern through the rest of Matthew 5, “You have heard, you have heard, you have heard.” What Jesus is referring to is the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees.
The people couldn’t check to see for themselves what the Bible said, they had to trust the Scribes and the Pharisees. The Scribes and the Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Jews. They were the ones who were in charge. The problem with the people not having Bibles is that you cannot trust humanity. As I stated, the scribes and the Pharisees had a made a mess out of God’s Word. They had placed themselves, not under God’s Word, but over it. They manipulated it, changed it, added to it, and subtracted from it and then they went out and taught the people. As you can imagine, Jesus was not happy with them. In fact, Jesus eventually pronounces judgment on them in Matthew 23.
Never trust a person or a Church who doesn’t encourage you to check their teaching against God’s Word. If a Pastor or Priest or some other religious leader tells you to let them worry about what the Bible says, run away as fast as you can. If Sunday morning is all about rituals, and going through the motions and God’s Word is not preeminent, then welcome to Satan’s playground. For Satan loves to twist and distort what God’s Word truly says. He did it in the Garden, he did it in the days of Jesus and he is doing it today, and the main way he does it is by turning our eyes from God and to ourselves. This is exactly what Jesus is rebuking through the rest of Matthew, Chapter 5.
The Scribes and Pharisees had turned God’s law into something it was never meant to be. The Scribes and the Pharisees turned God’s Law into a list of things that you did externally in order to earn your way into heaven. They turned God’s law into a mechanical process, teaching that as long as you jumped through the right hoops, you would be accepted by God.
Jesus comes and blows the roof off of Satan’s house, and he starts with what we see as the “sinful” human act Murder.
Behind this teaching of the Pharisees is a different spirit, or intent, then what God intended. The spirit behind the Scribes and the Pharisees was to instruct that you could be good enough to get into heaven, all you had to do was obey externally. This is what we call works based salvation, that your ability to get into heaven rests in your own hands. Jesus comes to reeducate the people and the way he does it is important. Look at verse 22.
And what does the Author of the law say about murder?
How many times have you heard people say that they are going to heaven because they are a good person? When they say this they are thinking like a Pharisee and Scribe. They believe because they have not violated any major civil laws, they are “good.” Because they have never actually acted out their anger by ending someone else's life, the believe that they are good enough to get to heaven. This is just not true. For your thoughts towards another person is enough evidence to make you liable to the hell of fire.
The issue is not the level of the offense. The issue is, and has always been, your heart. Think about sickness and symptoms. Symptoms do not determine sickness. Symptoms point to the reality of our sickness. Physical murder is a symptom that you are a sinner, but so is insulting someone. They are symptoms of the same sickness..sin.
To end, Jesus then says this:
Do you know what? God detests this form of hallow religion. He is not a God that will be mocked.
What the people needed was Jesus Christ. For what stands in the middle of liable to the hell of fire and loving obedience is Jesus. For when we accept Christ in our lives, and His spirit comes and dwells in our hearts, we no longer go through the motions, we live out faith. We are convicted by the Holy Spirit to obey and we lay down our offering and we go and reconcile ourselves to our brothers. The only way we can do this is by Christ in us.
If you are sitting here today at Cornerstone Church and you call yourself a Christian, and there is someone out there that you have sinfully angered, and you think that you being here is the answer, then you don't get it. Sitting in these chairs doesn't save you. Christ saves you. And those who have been saved by Christ, live to reconcile. Reconciliation is your spiritual DNA. So stop fooling yourself, and make things right with your brother, before it is too late.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 16, 2014.
Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5:17. Here at Cornerstone we desire to be Bible people, and by Bible people I do not mean the four gospels, or the New Testament. I mean the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation and everything in between. Every single thread that weaves its way through God's redemptive story we want to read and embrace.
Too often this is not the case for Christians. Too often Christians only read portions of God's word. One reason that some people limit themselves is because they see the Old Testament as the law, and because of Jesus, we are not under the law, we are under Grace. Therefore, they believe the law is not important. First, this is an extremely shortsighted understanding of grace. Second, it is unfortunate because when we do this we are cheating ourselves out of understanding the fullness of God's glory as displayed in Jesus Christ, and therefore we cheat ourselves out of the joy of deeply knowing Him and what Christ has done for us.
Our text today helps explain why we, at Cornerstone Church, are entire Bible people, namely because Jesus was an entire Bible person. Let us begin today with reading our scripture, we will pray and then we will see what God had to say for us this morning.
Now that we know what Jesus means by the law and prophets, let us ask the question why does he make that statement about not abolishing the law and prophets, the Old Testament? Perhaps this seems odd to you. One possible reason is because there were a fair number of people who desired for Jesus to do just that. At this point in Jesus' ministry he was becoming extremely popular. Very large crowds were following him, and the religious leaders, the Pharisees, were starting to take notice and were concerned about his popularity. One reason He was so popular was that the Jews were tired of the burden, or the yoke, that was placed upon them by the Pharisees. Many of the Jews may have desired a complete reset of the Jewish system. The believed the bathwater was dirty, so they were ready to pitch it, baby included. Jesus kills these dreams by stating clearly that this is not why he came. He had not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill.
What does Jesus mean when he says that he has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets? This statement means several things, all of which are the basis to why we worship Jesus. His fulfillment of the Old Testament is what makes Him worthy to be praised. This is why we sing songs about Jesus and study about Jesus and pray to Jesus and testify about Jesus. It is because He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Or to put it another way, Jesus is the fulfillment of all redemptive history.
The first way that Christ fulfills the Old Testament is that it testifies about Him. The Old Testament is the shadow and Christ is the substance. The Old Testament is just one long story that points to Jesus. Listen to what Jesus says in John 5:39.
Jesus is saying that when you read Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Isaiah, Psalms, Malachi, etc. they all point to one reality, Him. Think of each book of the Old Testament as the brush strokes of God in the creation of His singular masterpiece paining, His Son. Each Book provides more and more and more detail, color, and clarity of who the painting is about. This is not the only place that Jesus says something like this. Listen to His Words on the road to Emmaus:
Jesus is telling his followers that when you read the Old Testament something in your heart cries out Jesus. You should see the Gospel of Christ dripping from every page.
Here is just a sample of what I mean. Jesus is the Seed of Eve in Genesis 3, He is the Passover Lamb in Exodus, He is the High Priest in Leviticus, He is the bronze serpent in Numbers, He is the Prophet in Deuteronomy, He is the Army Commander in Joshua, He is the lawgiver in Judges, He is the kinsman redeemer in Ruth, He is the Temple, He is the peace offering, He is the show bread, He is the lamp, He is the sacrifice, He is the King, He is Israel, He is the suffering servant, and so on and so on. Every single book testifies, points to, Jesus Christ, sometimes generally and sometimes specifically, but make no mistake, He is the substance of the shadow that is cast in the law and the prophets. This is one way by which Jesus fulfills the Old Testament. However, this is not the only way that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament. Let us look at Matthew 5:18
Why is the Old Testament called “the law?” The answer to that is quite simple. The Old Testament is primarily about God interacting with His people by means of law. We see this right out of the gates in the Garden of Eden.
Of course, we know how that went. Adam and Eve disobeyed the law. Next, in the book of Exodus we have God delivering the Israelites out of Egypt in Exodus. What is the first thing God did? He established the law.
With that said, what does Jesus mean in verse 18 when he says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” This is a pretty significant statement, for one dot of the law is pretty small. Yet Jesus says that all of it must be accomplished. What is he talking about? How does Jesus fulfill or accomplish the demands of the law?
Jesus accomplishes the law by giving it what it demands, specifically obedience and payment. The purpose of laws is to require a certain type of behavior. Take a moment to think about some of our local laws, speeding, seat belts, driving while intoxicated, possession of illegal drugs, etc. Each law is an attempt to make people live in a certain way that the State believes is good, or right. The law demands obedience. Alongside those laws is punishment. Speeding for example, if you exceed the speed limit and are caught, the fine is, let’s say $100. If there was no punishment, there are no teeth in the law. People will not obey. Punishment goes hand in hand with law. If there is a law, without teeth, then it is pointless. The law of God is no different. The first law that was given to man occurred in the Garden of Eden. God said you shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. That was the law. Alongside that law was the punishment. God said if they disobey His law, they will die. Once again we know how the story goes. They ate from the tree and Adam and Even were instantly spiritually dead, and eventually they physically died. Due to their disobedience death entered into the world through sin.
Once again, as stated above, the Law as given to Israel was similar. Listen to what God says to Israel in Deuteronomy 28:15.
So once again, this law of God came with demands. It demanded obedience and it demanded punishment, and we are no different. All humanity sits under the law of God.
The law for all mankind is to live Godly lives. Everyone of us. We are all called to love Him, to trust him, to give thanks to Him, to honor him. You, me and every single person on this planet. If we do, we are His treasured possession, and if we don't we are going to feel His wrath.
And just like the Israelites, we can't fulfill the demands of the law. No matter how hard we try, we fall short. We have all lied, lusted, coveted, cursed, gossiped, you name it. We are sinners. WE are rebels just like Adam and Eve and just like the Israelites. We want to live according to our own law, not Gods. Two famous verses that all of us should have memorized are Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23.
We have all rejected our God and transgressed His law. This is what sin is. It is rejecting his authority in our lives. It is rejecting his sovereignty over us. Instead of loving Him, we want to love ourselves. Instead of living for Him, we want to live for ourselves. Instead of listening to him, we listen to ourselves. This is sin, this is law breaking. And the punishment for this, the wage, is death. And no matter how hard we try we cannot abide by the law. We cannot end our rebellion. We do not have the capacity to do it.
We cannot please God; However for justice to be upheld there must a price that must be paid, and Jesus does just that. Jesus fulfills the legal demand of the law. Jesus accomplishes the law by absorbing its punishment. He takes upon himself the wrath that we deserve. He stands in our place.
Jesus fulfilled the demands of the law and paid the price required. Our sins required our life, yet Jesus gave us His life instead. This is Grace, and it is amazing.
Second, not only did Jesus pay the price that the law demands, but he lived the life that the law demands. Listen to Galatians 4:4-5.
Jesus submitted himself to the same law that you and I, and all of us are accountable to. This was part of the plan. In order for Jesus to redeem us, to bring us to God, he had to live a perfectly obedient life, a righteous life, under the law. If he would have sinned, than they entire rescue operation would have been over. Jesus Christ fulfilled all requirements of the law, to the dot. Everything His Father asked him to do, he did. The compass of Jesus’ life was His Father’s will. No matter what, Jesus drank from the cup that His Father gave Him. Jesus was on mission to do exactly what God asked of him. You can see this in a few chapters before this at the time of Jesus’ baptism.
Jesus fulfilled all righteousness. He is the only one every to walk on this planet that is without sin. No other religion, no other philosophy, no other academic can say this. It is an exclusive reality of Christ. He is the only one who is righteous. He fulfills every dot every iota of the law. He lived the life we couldn't. Jesus has what we lack. Which leads us to the last point.
Turn with me to Philippians 3:4-10. The writer of this passage is Paul. Paul was on the fast track of becoming the best Pharisee of his day, but Jesus interfered with his plans. Listen to what Paul says.
How can our righteousness exceed those of the Pharisees and scribes? Only through what is called the great exchange. Jesus takes our punishment and we take his righteousness. It is at the cross that the law and grace collide. And they way by which we receive this amazing grace is by faith. Just like Paul says, we do not have a righteousness of our own. None of you are good enough to avoid God's wrath, we must receive Christ righteousness by faith alone. Thanks be to Jesus.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 9, 2014.
Open your Bibles to Matthew 5:13-16. We are going to get right to work today, so let us read our passage, pray and then pursue God by studying His Word.
Yet, to this average group of people Jesus proclaims this over-the-top statement and tells them that they are salt of the earth and light of the world. And the use of “You” in this passage is not passive, it is emphatic, meaning that Jesus is saying that you, and you alone, are salt and light. The disciple that Jesus just got done describing in the beatitudes of verse 2-12 is the one who is salt and light. No one else.
You almost wonder if at that moment, the people looked around with a confused look on their face and said, “Who us?” For this statement seems somewhat ridiculous, when thinking about the crowd who was listening. How can stinky fisherman, tax-collectors, and sinners be salt of the earth and light of the world? Yet Jesus, who is truth incarnate, looks at them in the eyes and tells flat out who they truly are.
These words that Jesus spoke 2000 were not only for the disciples on the side of the mountain, but they are for all Christians. Jesus might as well be standing on this stage and looking at each one of you in the eyes, with perfect knowledge of all your past, and say these exact words, “You, Cornerstone, are salt of the earth and light of the world.” And when Jesus proclaims truth to us, we must not doubt His words. We must embrace them. We must swallow them. Jesus, in this passage is not just saying words to pass the time, he is speaking into our lives so as to wake up our soul to the reality of who we are in Christ. So what does Jesus mean when he says that His disciples are salt and light?
First, let us start with salt. What is salt? To begin, salt is not a neutral compound. Salt is a distinct, powerful and extremely useful substance on this planet. Ever since the beginning of civilization, people have used salt to improve life in one way or the other. The two main purposes of salt in the times of Jesus were food preservation and food flavoring. In those days, they did not have freezers or refrigerators for their meat. If an animal was killed, it was salted, packed in salt. Why? So as to stop the decay of the meat. Without salt, the meat would begin to break down, decompose, smell, eventually becoming putrid and rotten, repulsive to those who pass by. Salt was used to slow down the decay. Salt was rubbed into the meat so that it would not decompose as quickly.
Salt also provides flavor. This does not need a lot of explanation, because all of us can relate to this. In fact, many of you today will eat the food for our pot-luck and instantly your taste buds will cry out for salt. In fact, when you do eat today, attempt to imagine these foods without salt. If you were eating saltless food, would you savor every bite, or would you merely be going through the motions?
Next, let us dwell upon light. What is light? Light is the way by which we see. Without light, there is darkness. Without light, I cannot see the nose in the front of my face. Without light, we stub our toes and startle when we hear a sound. I am sure many of you have experienced extreme darkness before, perhaps in a cave, or being shut in a closet when you were a child, with absolutely no light reaching your eyes. It is an eerie and unsettling feeling; however, all that darkness is, is the absence of something, namely light.
With these two descriptions of who a Christian is, salt and light, we catch a glimpse of how God sees the world. When God peers down and looks upon humanity, he does not see an explosion of life and light. He sees decay and darkness. God sees death and decomposition and rottenness. He sees blindness, senselessness, a people who lack vision, understanding, and knowledge. This is a true today and it was 2000 years ago.
The world loves to proclaim how we in this age are so wise and smart, but let us be hones, we are just as lost as they were 2000 years ago. Despite all the information we have, despite our self-proclaimed enlightenment, and civility, we still have wars. We still have broken hearts. We still have starving children. We still have domestic violence. We still have drug and alcohol addiction. We still have anxiety, fear, anger, confusion. None of the knowledge that we have obtained answers the deeper questions and problems of life. The world is just as broken today as it was during the time of Jesus.
What is amazing is that in the midst of this decay and darkness, Jesus tells his His followers, that they, and they alone, provide the answers to these two problems. I love how David Platt puts it in his book radical. In fact, he names an entire chapter this. “There is no plan B.” The Church, meaning those who have faith in Christ, are the only option on the table. God has set up one way by which He rolls out his purposes for this dark and decaying world, and this plan is you and me and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Think about this for a moment. How often have you as a Christian felt inferior in this world? How many times have you cowered and shrunk back from having a crucial conversation with a co-worker, family member, friend of neighbor?
Several weeks ago we read, “Blessed are the meek” and we saw that meekness does not mean weakness. Instead meekness is like a tamed animal. Picture a lion that you can pet. Meekness is power under control.
The sad fact is that Christians don’t see themselves as approachable lions. Instead we have a tendency to see ourselves as beaten dogs, lurking in the shadows, flinching at every sudden movement or noise. This doesn’t make sense. This is entirely inconsistent with who God tells us we are in Christ. We are not second-handers. We are not subpar. We ARE salt and light. We are not becoming salt, we are not becoming light. It is a fact. We are plan A. We have in our possession the cure to the cancer.
So what does it mean to be salt and light? First, salt and light does not come naturally. We are not born salty and glowing. In fact, by nature, we are still born into darkness. From birth until God intervenes into our life, we are spiritually dead, destined for physical and eternal death, and utterly and absolutely walking in darkness. It is only when we have believed in our heart that Jesus is the Messiah that we become this new creation. For it is He who is the cause and the source of our transformation. If you have not been born again by the spirit of God, then you are not salty and you do not have light.
So if we are to understand what it means for us to be salt and light, we need to understand what it means that Jesus is salt and light. Turn with me to John 1:4-13.
So how does this text help? What does it tell us about Jesus being salt? Look at the main purpose of Jesus coming into this world. Jesus came into the world to shine light and to give life.
Now think about this. What is the main problem in this world? Our main problem is sin. Why? First, because sin has caused us to have darkened minds.
Jesus' main purpose in coming into this world is to reverse the curse that was brought on through Adam and Eve's rebellion. He comes to shine light into our hearts and to stop the decay of our lives. He is the incarnate salt and light of God. Meaning that God has come in the flesh and his presence reveals to us our sinfulness and need for a savior and and his righteousness. His presence in the flesh is the living revelation of how God was going to save humanity. Jesus is the mystery revealed, and when the light of Jesus shines into our lives, we have only one response, to accept his gift of grace, and when we do this the decay of our lives is stopped, for we are given eternal life.
So how does that translate to us, the Church? If this is how Jesus is salt and light, how are we, the Body of Christ, salt and light? Our being salt and light is similar, but yet different, for we do not preserve and illumine as Christ did, but instead we point to the one who does.
First, we are to live as if we have been salted by Christ. When Jesus Christ, comes into our lives and delivers us from death, everything changes. We go from children of wrath to children of God. God tells us that we, in fact, become new creatures, another way to think of this is that we become salty. When we are living in this bland world we add a flavor that is distinct. We love. We forgive. We have peace. We have discernment. These things are not present in those who are passing away, only those who have been salted by Christ. It is us, and us alone who are salt.
When people come in contact with Christians we have an effect. Sometimes good and sometimes bad. We are either like salt in their wound, or they crave more. Either we repulse them or they are drawn to what makes us different. For those who are drawn to us, what is really happening is that they are drawn to Christ in us. And this is where light comes in.
The primary way we are light is through the proclamation of the Gospel. For it is the gospel that is the light that shines in the hearts of men.
Jesus makes this very clear, that we have a job to do on earth. We are not so sit around in our holy huddle and merely have potlucks, not that there is anything bad about potlucks. However, our main task is to shine. We are not to hide out. We are to be in the world. We are to be like grains of salt being worked into the meat. We are to be a beacon of light for all of Cascade and the surrounding areas. This is our mission.
So let us not be disobedient. Let us be who God saved us to be. Let us chose today to be salt and light starting today.
Preached on Mary 2, 2014 at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA
Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5. Today we are at the end of our journey through the Beatitudes. I hope it has been as beneficial to you as it has been for me. These 8 simple statements are jam packed with truth and grace and challenge, and hopefully it has transformed your thinking and your heart all for the glory of God, and also for your good. Let us began by reading the entire section, then we will pray and ask for God's guidance, and then we will see what God has prepared for us today.
As I have stated over and over again, the beatitudes are supernatural, meaning that these are not qualities that the natural man can produce in his life. It takes the work of the Spirit of God to produce these things. In our Sunday School class, this week we saw the that our book describe the beatitudes as the “ethics of the Kingdom,” for these are the qualities that one should observe when looking at a citizen of Heaven. It is the work of God in our lives that cause us to be poor in spirit, mourn over our sin, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, and have a pure in heart. The unbeliever does not have any of these qualities that Christ is describing in his opening remarks of the Sermon on the Mount.
Last week we unpacked verse nine, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” It is at this point that Jesus makes a switch, for his text begins to turn the focus away from a Christian's character and to the world. For a peacemaker is one who desires to go out into the war of this world and make peace in the hearts of the lost. They desire to be like Paul and go from city to city making peace, by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
However, an interesting thing happens when a Christian does this. IN the midst of attempting to make peace, a war is declared against him or her. A peacemaker is not welcomed with open arms. Instead verse 10 tells us that a Christian is reviled, lied about, and persecuted. We saw this last week when we examined what it looked like to go and make peace. Paul had proclaimed the Gospel in Lystra and they stoned him until they thought the killed him. Paul in an attempt to make peace between God and man, through the proclamation of the Gospel, created a significantly strong reaction to the point they wanted him dead. Jesus, in Matthew 5:10-12, tell us that this is standard operating procedure. This is just how it works.
In verse 10 Jesus says, “"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.” What does that mean, “righteousness sake?” I think the answer is one verse down? Take a look at verse 11.
Therefore, I believe that for sake of righteousness and for the sake of Christ are synonymous. They are the same. This is crucial for us to understand right up front. The persecution that Jesus is talking about in verse ten that is “blessed” is not any type of persecution. It not persecution because you are rude. It is not persecution because you are insensitive. It is persecution that is due to following Jesus. Meaning when we are truly being His disciples, i.e. acting like, speaking like him, loving like him people will hate you for it. When we start displaying the image of Jesus in our daily lives we will be persecuted.
This still doesn't completely answer the question of why? It just deepens it to an extent. The question is now, why does the world hate the image of Jesus. Why does the world hate the living display of righteousness that is found exclusively in Jesus? Because it reminds them of who they aren't.
The world cannot stand the incarnate display of God's standard. It is too piercing. The judgment is too uncomfortable. So what do they do? The darkness attacks the light. From the moment Jesus was born, there was a hit put on him: Herod, his home town, the scribes, Pharisees, lawyers, Judas, Pontius Pilate, and the crowds who chanted crucify him, crucify him. They all wanted him dead. Why? Because the darkness hates the lights. It wants to extinguish it.
And now as Jesus stands on the side of the mountain, he tells his disciples, that it will also happen to them, and it does. Of the 12 disciples, minus Judas, who were sitting there listening, 100 percent of them were persecuted. Peter, Thomas, Philip, Andrew, Thaddeus, and Simon were crucified. Bartholomew was beaten with rods and then beheaded. James Son of Alpheaeus was clubbed to death. James son of Zebedee was executed by sword. Matthew was killed with a spear. The only one not to be killed was John and he was exiled to an Island so that they wouldn’t have to look at him, and it is believed that John was horribly scarred because they tried to kill him, but couldn’t.
This pattern of persecution was not exclusive to the 12. The first martyr was actually Stephen. His story is laid out in Acts 6 and 7. He was a disciple that was appointed to help the neglected widows. He is described as full of grace and power, and there was something about this grace and this power that enraged the people to the point that they stone him to death. Stephen's Spirit filled words caused such anger in the hearts of these men that they threw rocks as hard as they could so as to stop the heart of Stephen. Why? Because they could not stand seeing the image of Christ in Stephen’s life.
And then there is Paul. We saw a picture of his persecution last week when discussing peacemaking. Listen to Paul’s description of his life:
According to Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, since the murder of Jesus, it is estimated that 70 million followers of Christ have been killed because of their faith. It is further estimated that 100,000 Christians die every year directly because of their faith in Christ, and it is believed that this number is on the rise in the world.
As I said, the proof is in the pudding. Jesus said it would happen, and it has played out exactly as he said, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” Paul put it very bluntly as he wrote to his young apprentice in 2 Timothy 3:12
This leads us to a point of self-examination for all of us. Are you being persecuted? Are people reviling you and uttering all kinds of evil against you falsely on Jesus’ account? If no, then why not? Is it because that God’s word is not true, or is it because of something else.
Let me throw some question out there for us, and I am putting myself right in the front of these questions. I struggle with these things as much as the next person. How many of us refuse to join in the gossip at the coffee shop? How many of us refuse to laugh at the dirty jokes? How many of us chose not to watch R rated movies? How many of us stand up for the unborn? How many of us stand up for a God designed marriage that glorifies Him? How many of us run to the person at work and pray with them when you hear they are going through a divorce? How many of us carry our Bible at all times so that at any moment we can encourage someone with God’s Word? How many of you have shared the gospel with your co-workers, classmates, neighbors, family, and strangers on the bus? How many of us invite people to church? How many of us move to Sudan?
It is no wonder that Satan hasn’t sent lions to devour us, we are no threat! We might as well be working for the enemy. Instead of letting our light shine, we are hiding under a bushel basket where no one can see it. This is why there is no persecution in our lives. We instead sit at home and watch Netflix. Is this what God saved us to do?
No, Jesus ransomed us to be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness in his marvelous light.
The problem is that when the world looks at some “Christians,” they are not enraged by the display of their righteous acts, for they do not see an image of Christ. Instead the world looks at “Christians” and sees an image of themselves.