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Matthew 5

DAILY DEVOTION

FOR

FRIDAY, MARCH 31

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5

This chapter begins one of the most famous sermons ever preached, even more famous than mine.  It is called the Sermon on the Mount. Tradition holds that it was preached on a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  I have actually had the privilege of standing where this took place.  It is a most beautiful backdrop for such an amazing message.

I have the same problem I had yesterday:  too much material and not enough space.  So, I will be content just to hit some high points as we work through this first section of the Sermon on the Mount.  

The key to this sermon may actually be found in Matthew 5:20 where Jesus said, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  

If you had been a first century Jew, this would have been a devastating blow when you heard it the first time.  The reason that is the case is that most common people back then thought the religious leaders like scribes and Pharisees were the most righteous people around.  The common man would have thought it impossible to exceed the righteousness that those men exhibited.  And based on what Jesus said, if you can’t do better than that, you don’t get to go to heaven.

I would agree that the scribes and Pharisees were very righteous men.  But their righteousness was a self-righteousness.  They found their value in “being better” than anyone else.  They were not ashamed to admit it.  They were not ashamed to act like it.  And they were not ashamed to make sure everyone knew just how good they were.  

But that wasn’t the kind of righteousness Jesus was talking about.  Honestly, our self-righteousness stinks to God.  It actually stinks to most other people.  Our self-righteousness is good for nothing but to ruin us.  So, Jesus isn’t saying we should be righteous like that.

He is talking about a righteousness that we couldn’t work up on our own if our lives depended upon it.  (By the way, our lives and eternity do depend on this.)  Jesus is talking about a righteousness that is so radical that it has to be given to us.  It has to be placed in us by the One who possesses it.

This is made evident by the teaching Jesus does beginning in verse 21.  He mentions a variety of topics with a particular pattern.  He says, “You have heard that it was said…”  That is in reference to the religious tradition of the scribes and Pharisees.  That’s the way people judged and were judged.  But Jesus flips that upside down.

He says, “But I say to you…”  In every instance throughout the rest of the chapter, Jesus takes the topic away from the “letter of the Law” and puts it in the “spirit of the Law”.  In other words, Jesus teaches theses topics exactly how God intended for them to always be taught.  And we discover, in each instance, that we are completely incapable on our own of living by the spirit of the Law.  We have to have the Spirit of God in us to ever have any hope of living by the Spirit.

Geez Louis… I am out of space again.  So, just let me leave you with this.  One of the main purposes of the Sermon on the Mount is to teach us another way to live, a better way to live, a way that God always intended for us to live but a way that is completely impossible for us to live on our own.  It is only as God lives in us that we can live out this life in the glorious, abundant way He intended.

Posted by Joe Ligon with 0 Comments

Matthew 4

DAILY DEVOTION

FOR

THURSDAY, MARCH 30

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 4

When we finished chapter 3 yesterday, things were on a spiritual high.  Jesus had just been baptized to “fulfill all righteousness”.  The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus and God the Father spoke.  Then we get to chapter 4.

The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Then, it seems, everything goes south in a hurry.  There is so much in this chapter that we should talk about.  There is so much in this chapter that I want to talk about.  But I only have one page to write on and that means I have to be very selective.

I’ve decided to just focus on the temptation that happens at the beginning of the chapter.  The Bible says after Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry.  (I want to say, “Ya think?” I have trouble going four hours without food. Sometimes 40 minutes is a stretch.) It was then the devil showed up to do his dirtiest work.

You probably noticed Satan tempted Jesus three times.  This is significant because it may very well be every temptation fits into one of three categories.  The Bible says, “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life – is not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16)  

So think about this.  Satan’s first temptation had to do with Jesus’ physical hunger (desire of the flesh).  The second one had to do with proving He was God’s Son (the pride of life).  The third one had to do with seeing “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (the desire of the eyes).  

Oddly enough the first temptation recorded in the Bible (Genesis 3) fits this same pattern.  It may be that Satan actually is limited in what he can do.  But he is just really good at doing it.  And, too often, we are easy marks.

Another interesting thing about this temptation in the wilderness is that the first two times Satan attacked Jesus it was about Jesus’ identity: “If you are the Son of God”.  This attack was at the very heart of who Jesus is which may be the deepest attack against any of us.  When we struggle with our identity or feel compelled to prove who we are, this attack may be in play.

 

Here’s something else to think about.  In the first temptation, Satan addressed Jesus as “The Son of God”.  But the Scripture Jesus answered with begins with “Man”.  In other words, Jesus is not facing these attacks from His divinity.  He is facing these attacks in His humanity.  This should give us so much hope.  Jesus defeated these temptations as a man, albeit the perfect man.  But, if we learn from this, we too, should be able to experience more victory over our temptations.  

That brings up the question of how was Jesus able to be victorious.  I am quite convinced His victory is based on two things: one, the presence of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16); two, the power of God’s Word.  That, by the way, is the only basis that any of us have for victory: allow the Spirit to fill you (Ephesians 5:18) and stay in the Word of God.

Speaking of God’s Word, it is also important that we see that Satan knows and used God’s Word in his temptation of Jesus.  That’s kind of scary.  But again if we go back to the first temptation in the Garden of Eden, Satan said to Eve, “Has not God said…”  Now more often than not when Satan uses God’s Word, he omits parts of it which means he misuses God’s Word.  But that reinforces the fact that we desperately need to know what God’s Word actually says so we will be better prepared to recognize the truth from error, however slight.

Welp, my space is gone.  And I was just getting started on this amazing chapter. 

Posted by Joe Ligon with 0 Comments

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