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Okay...today is a big day my friends! We are starting the Sermon on the Mount! Whoo-hoo! (are you cheering here with me?? :) And as we do, let me encourage you in a few ways on what we'll be reading here. First of all, personally, these 3 chapters of Matthew (5, 6, 7) have been transformative for me over the years. Before I had faith in Jesus, I would continually read these chapters and I kept thinking to myself - "This guy has got some wisdom! I like what he's saying!" And I do believe that the Spirit was no doubt working on me as I read these chapters. So, I do ask that you would be sensitive to the Spirit as you read The Sermon on the Mount. What is the Spirit speaking to you as you read? Which verses are really jumping out at you - maybe making you think about some areas of your life that might need some tidying up... I know that this happens to me every time I read the Sermon on the Mount.
Here's my other big request for you as you read through the Sermon on the Mount - and really all of the gospels. Try to experience what you are reading as something more than just "historical" teachings or "historical" readings. Try to envision yourself maybe down at your local park and maybe imagine that Jesus was actually at that park surrounded by a bunch of your neighbors and imagine that you heard Jesus actually saying these words to you and your neighbors - today. Would this change your perception of what you are reading? Or, maybe imagine that indeed Jesus is not just at your local park - but in your very home saying these words to you. And truly - He is - as you are reading the Bible you are hearing directly from Jesus. I just want to encourage you that the words you read here in the Sermon on the Mount are incredible spiritual food. And I don't think we can come back to these 3 chapters of Matthew often enough. I pray that you will let the Spirit of Jesus speak directly into your mind and your heart as you read and meditate on the meanings of these 3 chapters of the gospel of Matthew...
We read the Beatitudes today! I would love to share with you the Beatitudes from Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of the Bible called The Message. I really like the way he looks at the Beatitudes -
""You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are--no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being "carefull,' you find yourselves cared for.
"You're blessed when you get your inside world--your mind and heart--put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom." - Matthew 5:3-10 The Message
I know verses 17 & 18 probably are interpreted in different ways - but a friend of mine has encouraged me when in doubt, just stick to the text, which is wise. So, let's look at the Jesus' words here in this text - "Don't misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them. I assure you, until heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of God's law will remain until its purpose is achieved." What does the reading of this text say to you?
And now that we've looked at the text... I need to dive into a commentary on these verses... :) I'm quoting this from Tyndale's One Year Bible Companion book - which I have found to be a very helpful commentary to our daily readings: "In the Old Testament, there were 3 categories of law: ceremonial, civil, and moral. 1. The ceremonial law was related specifically to Israel's worship. Its primary purpose was to point forward to Jesus Christ; these laws are therefore no longer necessary after Jesus' death and resurrection. However, the principles behind these laws - to worship and love a holy God - still apply. 2. The civil law applied to daily living in Israel and these laws cannot be followed specifically today in our modern society and culture. But the principles behind theses laws are timeless and should guide our conduct. 3. The moral law (such as the Ten Commandments) is the direct command of God, and requires obedience. The moral law reveals the nature and will of God, and it still applies today." So, there you have it from one evangelical commentary. I know probably different people reading this blog are going to interpret these verses a bit differently. This framework of these 3 categories of laws above and their fulfillment in Jesus I personally have found helpful and agree with. One other commentary I found related to these verses says this: "Christ does not terminate the law. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid; we establish the law. (Romans 3:31) The law will always be there to point out what sin is, but the law is not the focus, Christ is the focus. Only He can cleanse, and sanctify and change the heart and mind." Again, I know this can be a hot topic to say the least. I recommend everyone please spend a few minutes reading this wonderful article on this topic from Bible.org titled, "The Mosaic Law: Its Function and Purpose in the New Testament," at this link.
Worship Video: Today's readings reminded me of the wonderful worship song "A New Hallelujah" by Michael W. Smith. Here's a great live version of the song featuring the African Children's Choir from Uganda!
Have you ever sung "A New Hallelujah" to God? Click here and sing!
Please join me in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today: "You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14,16 NIV
Prayer Point: Based on Matthew 5:14,16 above, pray to God that you will let your light shine before others in this new year. Pray that God would show you how we wants you to truly be the light of the world this year. And pray that you will give all of the glory to God for your good deeds.
Comments from You: What verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
p.s. I would greatly appreciate it if you would pray for this Bible Blog ministry today. Thanks!