Today’s reading was Matthew Chapters 1 through 9. I was able to read these on my lunch break on my iPhone, which may end up being how I read most of the New Testament during this 30 day journey. (using technology for good things, gotta love it.)
Todays reading took me from Jesus birth into his ministry beginnings. What stood out the most to me was how Jesus challenged his followers thinking from the very beginning. His first major teaching begins in Chapter 5 and is called ‘The Sermon on the Mount” by Christians today. It really is a powerful sermon. It made me wonder if a minister has ever attempted to simply read an adaptation of this sermon on a Sunday morning? Maybe there would be too much for people to digest? Or maybe this would be a very cool idea. (maybe I can get some pulpit time somewhere in the future and give this idea a go.)
Since my 90 Day read through of the Old Testament I have always loved the following passage that is in todays reading.
“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 accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” — [youversion]Matthew 5:17-19[/youversion]
This is one of Jesus first teachings and likely his first teaching in front of a large gathering of people. So Jesus makes it clear that He is not abolishing the law of Moses, but that He is there to fulfill it and accomplish what it was truly meant for. To show us our deep need for a savior. The law of Moses is important, and we as Christians should study it, learn it and teach others about it. I have often thought the modern day Church fails to dig into the Old Testament as much as we should and we fail to give disciples a good big picture of the story of how God has redeemed people by focusing so heavily on the New Testament, which is the climax of Gods story of redemption. The Old Testament is a place where we can learn to know God at a much deeper level than we may expect. So check it out. It is the big ‘half’ of the Bible.
Jesus goes on from there in his sermon and challenges peoples beliefs regarding anger, adultery, and love. He turns some commonly held beliefs on their head. Ideas like it is ok to be angry with someone if they have harmed you, or that you can look at a woman as long as you don’t get involved with her, and that you don’t need to love those who despise you. Jesus challenges the crowd by telling them that even anger places them in front of the Judgement seat of God, that lusting after another woman is the same as adultery, and that we should all love our enemies, because where is the power in love if we only love those who love us? Challenges that continue to be the opposite of what many many people think to be true today. And some say that the Bible is irrelevant for people today.
Out of all of the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount I have always found the following to be the most interesting.
“Not everyone who calls out to me, `Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, `Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, `I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’ — [youversion]Matthew 7:21-23[/youversion]
I know in Bible College I would sit around with some of the guys and we would wonder about these words. As believers these verses can seem haunting. They can cause us to possibly doubt our standing with God. But should they? Today, the second sentence and the very last sentence in this passage have jumped out at me. “Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” and “Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.” Jesus is talking about obedience. Obedience to Gods laws and following the will of God. The challenge in this for us as believers is “Is there a teaching that we continue to fail to follow? Do we know what God wants us to do yet we do not do it?” I would think that if you can say ‘yes’ to either of these two things then you should look at this passage and deeply consider what Jesus is saying. Essentially, are you truly following Jesus or are you using Jesus to do the things you want to do? Jesus is saying that there were people going around and casting our demons in His name. People performing miracles in His name. I mean this sounds amazing, these sound like people that would certainly be ‘saved’. But they were doing these things outside of the will of God, which tells me that they were doing these things for some personal gain or in direct disobedience to God. Are you using Jesus to travel the world as a ‘Missionary’? Are you using Jesus to get a paycheck at a Church? I believe the fruit of following Jesus is that we will obey his teachings and truly serve Him and others rather than ourselves. It comes down to what is in our heart, our motivation. This is an issue that we, as believers, should never become the judge of. God is the Judge. He knows peoples hearts. I am by no means asking us to look at Missionaries or Ministers and question if Jesus would ‘know them’. This is a challenge for each of us individually as believers to come to grips with and grow in our faith. If we know that the answer to either of those two questions might be ‘yes’ then any doubt you have might be a healthy push to get you back on track with God. If the answer is ‘no’ and you are having doubts because of these verses then you need to push those doubts away and trust your savior.
I will finish my thoughts for todays reading with the last section of scripture that I read today.
Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” — [youversion]Matthew 9:35-38[/youversion]
These words mean so much for us today. There are more people on this planet now than there were 2,000 years ago. Which means that the harvest is even greater now. Which also means that there continues to be a shortage of workers. Will you be a worker to bring people to know Jesus and participate in the harvest?