Journal Entry // June 3, 2023
But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV)
The contrast and remedy to hypocritical praying that Jesus provides in this passage is the same as his instruction on giving. Our heart motivations and reasons behind our actions are of vital importance. The hypocrite cares more about the applause received from his performance whereas the humble and faithful are focused on their relationship with Jesus. This is why Jesus continues to encourage us to seek him in secret. Not so much about keeping our actions private but focusing on the inward desire of our hearts. We should long for those times of close personal prayer done behind closed doors. This will allow us the freedom to pour out our hearts to the Lord without any hindrances. This secret prayer will fuel our motivations and allow us to pray in secret, with the right attitude, even when we are in the midst of a group or on a street corner.
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Journal Entry // May 29, 2023
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (ESV)
We must not be like the hypocrites. This is the continued theme of Jesus in this section of the sermon. Jesus is following up his instruction about humble giving by moving us into the inner motivation of prayer. You would think that prayer in and of itself would easily be something that is done with humility as we are prostrating ourselves before God to seek him and converse with him. Yet, Jesus warns us that our prayers, much like our giving, can be done with sinful self-focused motivations that are hypocritical by nature. These prayers are given to be seen by others and are not focused on worshipping and conversing with our God. These hypocritical prayers are the opposite of humbleness as they are meant to be seen by others and to receive their praise.
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Journal Entry // May 28, 2023
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV)
Jesus is here continuing his thought on giving to the needy. Having just explained that we should not announce our giving to bring acclaim or praise to ourselves and therefore receive our reward as the hypocrite does, Jesus tells us that we should give to the poor in secret and thus receive our reward from God alone. First, we must see that Jesus is making the assumption that we will be generous in our giving to the poor. It is not some random act of kindness that we haphazardly give when we feel the need. Jesus is assuming that we will be a generous people who are giving to the poor and needy. Second, we must not mistake giving in secret to mean that we should never let anyone know about our gift. The contrast in this statement is with the person who gives by announcing the gift with trumpets. We are to be a people who give our gifts without fanfare and without expectation of receiving praise and adulation from the people around us. Our giving should be done naturally and without fanfare. It should be done for the praise of God alone.
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Journal Entry // May 21, 2023
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (ESV)
This section of the Sermon on the Mount is setting our focus on the dangers of hypocritical faith or a faith lived before other people to receive their applause and commendation instead of God’s approval alone. The first thing to notice in the passage is that Jesus expects his disciples to be giving to the needy. It’s not “if” you give, but “when” you give. There is a healthy and just expectation that the followers of Christ will be generous with their time, their talents, and their treasure. They will have a good desire to give generously to those in need. Not just financial needs, but emotional, relational, physical, and spiritual needs as well. Just as important as it is to be generous and giving of ourselves and our resources, it is just as important to give with proper motivation and desire. The hypocrites give because they want to be acknowledged for their generosity in giving. The followers of Christ are to give with a heart motivation of thanksgiving. We give to others because Christ has given so abundantly to us that we only desire to demonstrate our trust and dependence upon him through our sacrifice of giving.
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Journal Entry // May 18, 2023
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (ESV)
Jesus ends this section of the sermon where he is teaching us a proper understanding of what it means for Him to be the fulfillment of the Law by telling us we must therefore be perfect. We must be perfect just like our heavenly Father is perfect. For this is the aim of pursuing Christ with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We are to live a life in conformity to Scripture and Scripture is the outworking of God’s character of God. So as we are pursuing to be faithful to all the Bible teaches and commands, then we are in fact seeking a life of perfection that reflects the very heart and nature of the Father. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the perfection and holiness of our great and wonderful God is revealed. This is what Jesus is calling us to pursue… a life of faithful obedience that pursues and reflects the very heart of God.
Continue reading “Pursuing Perfection” →
Journal Entry // May 15, 2023
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (ESV)
In this passage, Jesus expands on his call for his disciples to love their enemies. He does this by setting before them two case studies. Two situations where the disciples, like us, want to stay in their comfort zone and areas of safety. Jesus points to our natural tendency to only love those who love us already and to greet only those we are already in community or relationship with. Jesus is calling us to something greater. He calls us to be just like him and break out of our day-to-day safe environments and encounter those who think differently, act differently, and daresay live a life in opposition to our beliefs and God’s law. Jesus, in calling us to love our enemies, is simply wanting us to live a life that emulates the life he lived while he walked among us. A life of bringing the gospel into every area of life; especially where it is most needed.
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Journal Entry // May 14, 2023
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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. (ESV)
This is the last of the “You have heard that it was said,” passages in Matthew 5. It is important to note that this particular statement is not found in the Law but rather is a saying or misinterpretation of God’s Law in the Old Testament. This is true for all the previous statements as well. As Jesus is not correcting the Old Testament but rather correcting the misinterpretation and application to life we can better see and understand what is required through Christ. This misinterpretation would flow from the thought that God hates evil and anyone who embodies evil is an enemy of God which means that it would only be natural for someone to hate the enemies of God even though God never commands this in the Law and the prophets.
Continue reading “Rain of Love” →
Journal Entry // May 7, 2023
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (ESV)
In this passage, Jesus is bringing our attention to the idea of retaliation. As with most of these warnings, Jesus is speaking directly to the people of the culture and time of his visitation. It would be an easy matter to take this verse out of context and apply this commandment meant for civil authorities to provide an appropriate and adequate punishment based on the crime that was committed and move it into our personal life and circumstances. Doing so would lead us to the thought that personal retaliation is not only justified but required. Jesus calls this out and speaks to our hearts with difficult words that deal with our ever-present felt need for retaliation.
Continue reading “The Cheek of Love” →
Journal Entry // May 6, 2023
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (ESV)
Jesus has previously interpreted three commandments in terms of what they mean through His fulfillment of the Law. On the surface, it seems somewhat of a letdown to move from anger to lust to divorce to oaths. As I read through this passage it always seems like it is a bit out of place. The previous three are these big overarching commandments that we all tend to dull down to concepts that meet our needs and allow us to be obedient in our own minds. Oaths on the other hand seem so minor and inconsequential at first read. It has always been a difficult passage for me to glean points of development from over the years. Yet, this passage has a lot to say about my life and character. How I use oaths is important and it would benefit me greatly to understand what Jesus is saying and apply it to my heart.
Continue reading “Character Building” →
Journal Entry // May 3, 2023
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (ESV)
Jesus continues his discourse on helping us better understand and interpret the laws and commandments that have been given by God for our good and the good of others. Here Jesus interprets the common practice of the day (and today) of a simple divorce without parameters. Divorce was prevalent in these days as it is today. People then and now did/do not understand the importance of their marriage vows before God. They simply wanted to live a prideful self-righteous life and would send their spouse away if they were displeased. Even if the spouse had done nothing wrong in the marriage relationship, they could end up divorced because they no longer brought satisfaction or pleasure to their partner.
Continue reading “Cultivating Marriage” →