On the Mountain

“On the Mountain”
Exodus 24:9-18 Matthew 17:1-9
Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu…and the seventy elders of Israel went up the mountain. There…they saw God. It was the most glorious thing they had ever seen or ever would see. To catch even a simple glimpse of God is to behold a beauty that is dazzling beyond all imagination and perfect beyond all thought. Therefore…seeing God was all that these men could ever want. But…they were given a further privilege…”they saw God, and they ate and drank.”
Our Bibles don’t indicate what Israel’s leaders ate and drank…in any more detail than it tells us what they saw. Maybe they consumed what was left of the fellowship offerings they had sacrificed to the Lord. Maybe they shared bread and water together…or maybe it was bread and wine. But…whatever they ate and drank…it was a meal of covenant fellowship. In those days it was common for people making a covenant to sit down and share a meal together afterward. Breaking bread was a symbolic act of friendship. Israel’s leaders eating and drinking on the mountain showed that they had fellowship with God…and with each other.
Few things create a greater sense of fellowship than sharing a meal. There is something about eating and drinking with other people that fosters friendship. The power of a meal to bring people together is vividly shown in “Babette’s Feast,” a film set around a dinner table. In the film a master chef living in exile from Paris in a small Danish fishing village spends her fortune to prepare an elaborate feast. Although her guests are generally cantankerous and unkind… the feast forms a setting for the restoration of old friendships…the rekindling of old loves…and the reconciliation of old enemies. Meals have a way of bringing people together. Any gathering is more intimate when people share foods. This is why it is so important for households to make the dinner table a central part of their daily routine. This is also why Thanksgiving dinner holds such a prominent place in American culture. Sharing a meal is a powerful symbol of belonging. We feel it every Wednesday evening…every Lord’s Acre Day.
Think about the significance of the prophet…the priests and the elders of Israel eating and drinking with God…and it happened as part of a public worship. This chapter of Exodus describes a covenant worship service. The service included a call to worship…the reading of God’s word…a confession of faith…and the sprinkling of sacrificial blood. Then…the whole thing concluded with a sacramental meal…the sharing of food and drink that symbolized communion with God. First God invited the leaders of Israel to worship. He spoke to them through the Word…and they responded in faith, promising to obey. But their obedience could never be perfect; so God provided a sacrifice for their sin. Finally…God invited Israel’s representatives to sit down for a meal of covenantal friendship. Atonement had been made for their sin…and now the way was clear for them to have table fellowship. They not only saw God. They also ate and drank with him.
The theme of eating and drinking with God runs throughout Scripture. The Bible often describes our relationship with God in terms of sharing a meal. The idea is present in the ancient patriarchs. Abraham is the earliest example. He welcomed a divine angel to his tents for dinner. He welcomed strangers. King David said…”You prepare a table before me.” Isaiah promised that one day God would sit down with his people at a great banquet.
Then Jesus came to be the King…and he described his kingdom in terms of eating and drinking. He said that it was like a great banquet: “many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was saying that the prophecy had come true…there is a place for everyone at his table. He is not only the King of Israel…he came to rule the world. So…his covenant meal isn’t just for Moses and the elders anymore…or even just for the Israelites. It’s for people all over the world.
God is always busy handing out invitations to his feast. Every time the gospel is preached…people are invited to eat and drink with God. God is getting ready to throw the last and longest banquet of all…what the book of Revelation calls the “wedding supper of the lamb.” The way to RSVP for that great banquet is to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. One day God will welcome everyone who trusts in Jesus to sit down at the feast that will never end.
Even now the final preparations are being made. While we are waiting for the announcement that dinner is ready…God has given us a special meal to remind us that we belong to him by covenant. This meal is the Lord’s Supper.
What all the covenant feasts show us is that God wants to have a relationship with each of us. He invites us to sit down with him…to share a meal. He offers us the kind of intimate fellowship we have with our closest family and friends when we sit down together around the dinner table.
Is this the kind of relationship that you have with God? Do you have such a close friendship that it’s like sitting down to eat and drink…to truly fellowship with God? There was a time in my life when God was nothing more than a distant force that would strike me if I even got close to temptation or to doing wrong. What a difference fellowship has made.
The way to have this kind of relationship with God is Jesus Christ. Jesus said…”Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me. Jesus is ready and waiting to sit down with us at the table. Has your heart been “strangely warmed” by his knocking…by his invitation…like that of John Wesley…like mine?
Let us also be like Peter…James and John. It’s quite clear that they truly enjoyed that mountain top experience. They wanted to stay. My guess is that at some time…perhaps more than once…in your Christian journey…you have felt as Peter, James and John felt that day. Your mountaintop experience may have been on a retreat…at a particular worship service…a Sunday school outing…a celebration of wedding or baptism… or a fellowship gathering. You felt close to God…to Jesus Christ…and didn’t want it to end. You didn’t want to leave…go back down the mountain…into the routine and challenges of daily life.
You see…Peter…James and John…did leave that mountain. They returned to the challenges of daily life. They used that mountaintop experience as inspiration to be a part of God’s work on earth…taking God’s word and love to the world.
That mountaintop experience is a gift that God gives us to provide strength for the daily ministry and to enable us to walk the way of the Christian in a world that is not yet Christian. Susanna Wesley had a prayer: “Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church or closet, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in thy presence.”
As you know…I was blessed with a mountain top experience last month…as I toured the Holy Land with a group of Christians…most of whom I did not know when the trip started. We experienced fellowship throughout the trip…at meals…on the tour bus…at the tour sites…and in worship. At the end of the trip…at the site of the Garden Tomb… we gathered at the Lord’s Table…a mountain top experience on top of the week of mountain top experiences.
On that mountaintop I was renewed…not transfigured as Jesus was…but renewed…asking myself how I can be more as Jesus and Susanna Wesley described…taking my religious experience to those around me…transforming the world through God’s word and God’s love. I came away committed to reading my Bible again…from start to finish…one chapter a day…absorbing and meditating on the words of the Bible study guide and John Wesley’s notes on that chapter. Then asking myself…and God…”How am I doing?”… asking God to use the words of that chapter and the study notes to show me ways to fix where I fall short…ways to increasingly take His word and His love to our hurting community and world…people who are not on the mountain top.
“How am I doing?” That’s the question I’ve asked you to consider as we studied the Sermon on the Mount the last few weeks. Now, as we approach Lent…a time of traditionally giving up something…a time that ends with the celebration of the risen Lord who has promised to be with us always…perhaps instead of the traditional giving up of something…we can add something that helps us hear this answer to the “How am I doing” question.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

You Shall Love!

“You shall……Love!”
Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 Matthew 5:38-48
Last week I closed with the suggestion that we all read the Sermon on the Mount at least once a week then ask the question…”How am I doing?” “Not easy”…you might say.
Hear what C. S. Lewis…the great 20th century author and Christian apologist wrote in response to the accusation that he did not much care for the Sermon on the Mount.
“…if ‘caring for’ here means ‘liking’ or ‘enjoying’, I suppose no one ‘cares for’ it. Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledge hammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of a man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure.”
Regardless of our response to the Sermon on the Mount…it is indeed Jesus’ manual for living as a Christian…and it very much reflects and repeats what we heard in Leviticus this morning. There really is something to this!
The 19th century Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte almost lost his arm when he was a little boy. He would have been taken to the hospital to have it amputated if it were not for a neighbor lady who said she would nurse him back to health and she did. As the arm was healing…Whyte went through intense pain. But the woman would say…”I like the pain. I like the pain…because that meant he had feeling in his arm and it was healing. As a result…when Whyte preached he would often say…”I like the pain. I like the pain.” In a similar way we should like the pain of the Sermon on the Mount.
It pays us an immense compliment and gives us great hope. The fact that Jesus commands us to live it means that it is possible. It is possible for all of us to grow in our faith so that all of the characteristics of the Sermon on the Mount progressively become more evident in our lives. Jesus believes in us…believes that we can consistently reflect the Sermon’s extraordinary standards….and he is with us to help every step of the way.
Today’s passage began with Jesus presenting the Old Testament teaching…”You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” That’s an exact statement from the Old Testament…it’s in there three times. It represents what the lawyers call the law of retaliation or Lex Talionis. Today’s system of civil…penal and international law is based on the idea of reparation and equity found in Lex Talionis. The Bible makes it clear that this law was given to the judges…not individuals for use in settling their own disputes.
But…today we heard Jesus’ revolutionary teaching…”But I say to you, do not resist the evil one. Jesus gave us four one sentence explanations. They were specific to the culture of that time…but are still applicable today.
“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other, also.” Jesus was describing an insult that came because of a person’s faith. The Jew could seek legal satisfaction for that insult through Lex Talionis. But…Jesus said don’t. Instead of taking the other person to the cleaners…lovingly absorb the insult. Swallow our pride and give up the idea of rights to reparation for the insult.
There’s a second application for this teaching. Each of us is to set aside our petty ways of getting even…punishing others by returning their own sins to them. If your spouse is messy…you leave things messy in return. If your friend is late…you are late the next time yourself. Jesus…instead…wants us to make the other person and that person’s well- being the center of our focus. Think of him or her and adjust our actions according to what we think will point that person to Christ. When we really do this we will begin to really affect them. This kind of love…perhaps it’s vulnerable…brings them to spiritual awareness.
“And if someone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” It was possible in that day to sue others for the very shirt on their backs. But…no one could take another’s cloak for a permanent possession. Jesus was giving advice to the poor among his followers…those who had been reduced to the garments on their backs because of persecution for their faith. He was teaching that even if they sued falsely to give them the cloak though they could not take it legally. This was meant to make the persecutor aware of Jesus…to turn to Jesus.
Note that Jesus is likely not referring to the average lawsuit so common in our society today. If his teaching was wrongly applied it would do away with the possibility of legal redress. This is advice for the righteous who are pushed against the wall for the name of Christ. We should listen well…because someday we may need it.
“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”…Jesus said. During Roman times it was common custom for the Roman military to force Jews to carry their goods for a mile. Almost all Jews had been subjected to this.
What Jesus was supporting here was willing cheerfulness for any of his followers who would come under this form of persecution. There are two ways to perform any task. You can mow the lawn with a hangdog expression…like you are mowing the Mojave Desert. Or you can mow it and say…”There are birds in the sky, there are clouds above, it is not raining—this is a great day!” Jesus is calling for a revolutionary response in a difficult situation…a response of cheerfulness…the kind that would cause a hardened soldier to say…”What’s with him? This person has something I do not understand.” You might call this ridiculous but this is the way Rome was won. Revolutionarily righteous people possessing revolutionary joy even when treated unfairly call everyone’s heart to Christ.
Then, there’s the believer who is being persecuted through the borrowing of others. Jesus’ advice is “Give to the one who begs from you and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Jesus’ advice is a set of principles for meeting the personal wrongs of those who follow him. He wants his followers to reject a tightfisted…penny-pinching attitude that says this is mine and I’ll never share it.
He is saying that the righteous are to give to those who are attempting to hurt them through borrowing.
Jesus said…”You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ That was the traditional teaching at the time. But…that is not actually what the Old Testament said. The advice to “hate your enemy” cannot be found anywhere in the Old Testament. It was added over time by the teachers.
By Jesus’ time the hatred of foreigners was so much a part of everyday life that the Jews thought they were honoring God by despising anyone who was not Jewish. The standard love in Jesus’ day was limited love…a limited love that might even be the case for some today. It could be described by this short poem:
Believe as I believe, no more, no less;
That I am right, and no one else, confess;
Feel as I feel, think only as I think;
Eat what I eat, and drink but what I drink;
Look as I look, do always as I do;
Then and only then, will I fellowship with you.
But…Jesus said…”Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” If practiced by you and me this could change our entire community. If a person impartially shows love to enemies as well as to friends that person will be like God…who shows the impartiality of his love by sending the sun and rain on both the righteous and unrighteous. When we love without limits we are like God. Limitless love…God’s love…changes things.
Tax collectors might think they have it bad today…but theirs is nothing like the reputation they had in Jesus’ time. The Roman Empire used a tax system in which the government would designate how much money was to be collected from a specific area…then hire a man to collect. Each tax-gatherer had to turn in that amount but could keep whatever else he could get. Tax-gatherers were crooks…rich crooks…and they were loathed by everyone…especially the Jews…because the collectors were employees of the Gentiles. Jesus’ point is that even those disgusting…double crossing tax collectors loved their own tax-gathering buddies. So if a person loves only his friends…he is doing no better than a swindling tax collector. So…you love your friends who return the love…big deal!
In other words…followers of Jesus should do more than what is common among nonbelievers in the way they show love. It is this “more” that makes Christian love different. The question to ask is…”is there a ‘more’ in my love?” Is there something about my love that cannot be explained in natural terms? Is there something special and unique about my love to others that is not present in the life of the unbeliever? These are important questions because if there is not a “more” to our love…if we love only those with whom we have something in common and who treat us well…if there is nothing more than that…we are perhaps not Christians at all. The call is to practice unlimited love.
Love…that builds bridges and open doors…not walls.
Love…that welcomes and helps those fleeing war with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Love…that seeks God’s justice for an otherwise law-abiding contributing neighbor whose only crime is taking the risk of crossing a line on a map in order to build a better life for family and those he or she serves.
Real love causes God’s justice to trump selfish interests.
Jesus tells us to love our enemies. How are we to do this? We must first notice that Jesus did not ask us here…nor has he ever asked us…to love our enemies in the same way that we love our loved ones…those nearest and dearest to us. There are people for whom we have a spontaneous …natural…instinctive love. We do not have to make any effort to love them…we just do. Jesus is not asking us to have a romantic love or a buddy love or a family love or an emotional love for our enemies. He is asking us to have a deliberate…intelligent…determined love…an unbreakable goodwill toward them.
In one of his best books…”Mere Christianity”….C. S. Lewis wrote….”The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste your time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor…act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone…you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike…you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less….The difference between a Christian and worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affections or ‘likings’ and the Christian has only ‘charity.’ The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them…and is like them…the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly…finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on…including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning.”
Jesus’ first command is to love our enemies. The second is to pray for those who persecute you. This is an extremely high call taking us to the peak of selfless love. Jesus is our greatest example…for while he was being crucified…possibly even when the nails were being driven through his hands…he prayed repeatedly…”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” When you pray for others while they are persecuting you…you are approaching the throne of God on their behalf. If you do that you are truly walking with Jesus. One of the benefits of praying for our enemies is that it changes us. It is impossible to go on praying for another without loving that person. Those for whom we truly pray will become objects of our conscious love.
“How am I doing?” was the question I suggested you ask yourself each time you read the Sermon on the Mount. That’s still the question to ask…and I still urge you to read the Sermon on the Mount once a week. Thanking Jesus for being with you to you do as he instructs…should also be a part of your meditation after reading that manual for living.
How are we doing?


Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Matthew 5:21-37
In this section of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus introduces six…what are called…”antitheses”. They are called that because they are presented in such a way as to seem to contradict the laws given to Moses. In each of the six Jesus uses some form of the phrasing…”You have heard it said…but I say.”
Jesus was not contradicting the laws as they were given to Moses at all. He might have been contradicting some of the petty rules the scribes and Pharisees had cooked up to seem to show outward obedience to the rules. He was also clarifying the laws…and most importantly he was saying that it’s not just your outward actions that matter. It’s what’s in your heart.
Let’s look at four of these antitheses this morning.
The longer I live…the more I value my relationships. When I was younger I had little idea of how important they are. I took them for granted. I did not fully understand that human relationships greatly affect our heavenly relationship.
Jesus made a strong statement in the first antithesis. It clearly claims that those guilty of contemptuous anger are guilty enough to go to Hell. Jesus says in effect, “The Old Testament Law condemns murder, but I say that contemptuous anger will get you a fiery Hell just as surely. Jesus means what he says. Let that sink in.
However…we must not think that he forbids all anger with other people. Jesus himself was angry when he cleared the Temple. He was angry with those who criticized him for healing on the Sabbath. He called the Pharisees “blind fools.” So…we can conclude there is a place for anger. Jesus was angry at sin and injustice…but he never became angry at personal insult or affront. Truly righteous anger…in fact…brings pleasure to God.
But in the Sermon on the Mount…Jesus is speaking of unrighteous anger…and his words leave no doubt about what he means. Most of us are quick to get angry at personal affront…at name calling…at insults…but slow to become angry with sin and injustice. Instead we need to take our Lord’s word to heart.
Jesus is saying that we must not think ourselves innocent because we have not shed blood. We are guilty enough to receive punishment if we have felt anger or contempt. In essence…He says…”You may think you are removed from murder morally. But you are wrong. Have you ever wished someone were dead? Then your heart has known murder!” In view of this, we cannot escape the truth that many of us have murdered others in our mind or heart.
The radical righteousness that Jesus demands is not merely a refraining from outward sin…it is on the inside. And…He makes us see that our only hope is Jesus Christ…who fulfilled all righteousness and offers it to us as a free gift. Jesus’ radical demand is meant to drive us to him for grace. He welcomes murderers…those who have blood on their hands and those who don’t.
What this means for us believers is that we must rid ourselves of any thought of spiritual superiority. It is true that a long association with Christ and his Word and his church can make us feel spiritually superior. This kind of smugness makes the words…”fool, nitwit and idiot” roll off our tongues as naturally as breathing. Believers must get rid of any thought of superiority. Furthermore…we must never devalue others. No one is worthless. God created…and God loves everyone…including the sinner.
We need to be positive about others…not condoning their sin…but remembering that God loves them as well as us. It was said of Alexander Whyte….the great preacher from Edinburgh, Scotland…that “all his geese become swans.” He had a way of seeing the best in people and bringing it out. This is the way of the righteous in his or her relationships. What can be better than going through life seeing all the geese as swans?
Let’s begin our thoughts on the second antithesis with a question. How does one live in purity in an age of sensuality? Is that possible? If so, how? Jesus built his thoughts on the seventh commandment which prohibits adultery,
Jesus said…”You have heard it said…you shall not commit adultery.” Moses and the scribes and Pharisees emphasized the outward demonstration of adultery…which for many became a conveniently narrow definition of sexual sin. That made it clear. You were either an adulterer or you were not. How convenient.
But…Jesus knows our hearts and he’s not buying this idea. Instead he is communicating a radically new standard of sexual purity…in line with the Old Testament…but it completes and supersedes the earlier teaching.
To understand what Jesus means let us first see what he does not mean. Jesus does not mean it is wrong to look at another person and admire that man or woman…but it is wrong to do so lustfully. He does not forbid the natural…normal attraction that is part of our humanity. What he forbids is deep seated lust that consumes the inner person. It is not the first glance that is sin…but the second that swells with lust and feeds on the person. This occurs in the heart…the center of a person’s being. Mental infidelity makes a person completely guilty.
Few male and female believers have not crossed the line from attraction to lust at one time. We could all be adulterers by this standard. President Jimmy Carter even confessed to this sin. Knowing this should deliver us from all thoughts of judgment toward those who have fallen into adultery. It should also create in some a poverty of spirit and a humility that realizes we are spiritually bankrupt to a degree and it should make us amazed that God loves us as he does.
There is another truth in Jesus’s statement as well. Sensual fantasies come before sensual sins. That was exactly the case with King David on that warm spring night in Palestine when he could not sleep and strode onto the rooftop garden for some cool evening air to look at his city.
Our imagination is one of God’s gifts that distinguishes us from animals. Through it we dream great dreams and create many great works. Without it there would be no great works of art or great achievements of science. But…as with any of God’s gifts it must be used responsibly. When abused, the imagination spawns great evil.
In the beginning…divorce was inconceivable and impossible. In his third antitheses Jesus used words from Genesis to make two points. First is the intimacy of the marriage relationship…the two shall become one…there is no other intimacy like it. It is deeper than a person’s relationship to their own children. Marriage is the deepest human relationship.
After intimacy…Jesus’ emphasis is on permanence. God’s ideal was…and is…monogamous…intimate…enduring marriage. This is what he approves of. Anything less is a departure from the divine model.
Malachi told us that “God hates divorce. Malachi believed divorce was simply not meant to be.
Jesus corrected the Pharisees by telling them that Moses only permitted divorce…he didn’t command it. What Moses did command was the granting of a divorce certificate for the woman’s protection. The reason God allowed divorce was the hardness of heart that had taken over the men of Israel. It was a concession from God to human weakness…reluctant permission at best.
Jesus said…”Whoever divorces his wife…except for sexual immorality…and marries another…commits adultery.” That is…divorce is allowed if your mate is guilty of marital unfaithfulness. But…if you divorce for any other reason and remarry…it is you who commits adultery. Our Lord Jesus Christ permitted divorce and remarriage on one ground and one ground only…marital unfaithfulness.
Do notice that he permitted it and did not command it. If you learn that your mate has been having an adulterous affair…it does not follow that the only correct path is to seek a divorce. Too often men and women eagerly pounce on the infidelity of their mates as the opportunity to get out of a relationship they wanted to end anyway. Many look for a way out instead of a way through their challenges.
To consider the fourth antithesis…consider this statement…today there is a truth shortage. There was a time when western culture was distinguished from other cultures by at least an outward sense of obligation to tell the truth. But…now there is a strong indifference to truth-telling. This has not only infected day-to-day conversation. It has affected the most solemn pledges of life. Perjury under oath is common. The sacred vows of marriage are broken often. God’s name is invoked by blatant liars who purport to be Christian witnesses to the truth.
There is a spreading epidemic…but we must not make the mistake of thinking it occurs only out there because it happens among believers, too. It is difficult for many to always tell the truth. Do you find yourself speaking to someone then suddenly realizing that what you are saying is not the complete truth? It’s something in us and in the culture in which we live. And…it’s becoming more common and more acceptable. What are “alternative facts” anyway?
In Jesus’ time the traditional Biblical teaching had come under massive abuse. Somewhere along the line some rabbis…but not all of them…began to teach that an oath was not binding if it did not include God’s name or imply it. Therefore…if you swore by your own or someone else’s life or the life of the king…or by some object…but did not mention or allude to the name of God you were not bound. The swearing of oaths had degenerated into a system of rules as to when you could lie and when you could not. The results were incredible. It became common practice to attempt to convince another that you were telling the truth…while lying…by bringing some other person or eminent object into reference. The deception was very subtle. Everyone was what we today call a “spin doctor”.
Jesus ruled out making vows using references to people or objects as backup. The reason was…God stands behind everything. All of creation belongs to God. You cannot refer to a part of it without referring ultimately to him.
Our Lord said that the radically righteous people living in God’s kingdom…do not need to swear that they are telling the truth and in fact should refrain from using oaths and vows. The radically righteous do not need oaths. Their word simply is the truth!
How does this translate into life today? What conclusion can we make concerning our speech? Oath-taking is permitted in some cases….but it is not encouraged. In civil life oath-taking…as in court proceedings…is permitted…and when a person does so it is not a sin against Christ’s teachings. Also…on rare occasions it may be necessary as it was for Paul. However…oaths are not to be a normal part of our everyday conversation. In normal relations oaths should never fall from our lips. People living in God’s kingdom do not need such devices. Their commitment to truthfulness should be evident to all.
Christ calls us to a life of profound truthfulness. Our problem is that we live in a radically deceptive world…a world that has deeply rooted deceitfulness. We are awash in a sea of media deception. Men are told that if they dye the gray out…they will be handsome and virile and attractive to women everywhere. Rivers of hyperbole and exaggeration flow through advertising…political campaigns…and much more. Language has changed to the extent that we do not know what the other person is saying. Clever and creative double meanings are the order of the day.
It is not easy to be totally truthful…but it is necessary for the church and the world. More than ever our world longs for freedom from dishonesty. Sure…it cultivates deception and promotes it…but deep down people long to escape the show and pretense. Many look eagerly to believers to display the honesty and integrity for which they so desperately long. Our integrity as followers of Christ can make all the difference in our struggling world. When people know that you do not lie…your testimony will have more effect than all the theology you could study…learn…and attempt to push on them. What a difference a truth-filled life can make.
What can we do to personally promote Jesus’ call to radical truthfulness? Remember that for Jesus words were sacred…they were an outward sign of an inward condition. We need a truthful spirit that brings forth truthful speech. We also need to remember that our Lord hears every word…and that we will be called to give an accounting for those words. Our words are a part of the path to eternity. We would do well to take this seriously.
Four of Jesus’ antitheses for us to consider this morning…and as we go forth into God’s world. We’ll look at others next week.
In the meantime…consider what would happen if you and I read the Sermon on the Mount…Matthew, chapters 5, 6 and 7… once every week…and asked ourselves the same question that former New York City mayor Ed Koch often asked people he encountered. That question…”How am I doing?”