The Sermon on the Mount: Principles for Christian Living – Part 2

                 As Jesus continues His sermon there are a couple of things for us to consider. One of the things to consider is the audience. Jesus is teaching His disciples. These disciples are those who are following Him in general. These are not just the twelve disciples, though no doubt they were present. Among those in the multitude of people were the religious leaders of that time. A lot of the teaching of Jesus is very convicting to these religious leaders, because it hits to the very core of their belief system and their customs. Another thing to consider is that though Jesus is preaching to the audience before Him, the principles of what He taught still applies to us today. In this second part of the Sermon on the Mount we find twelve more principles for Christians living.

                The prayer principle. Read Matthew 6:5-15. Jesus teaches on how we are to pray. There are three things we see here. First of all notice, the motive of prayer. In verse 5-8 Jesus tells us that when we pray it must be with God and not for men. Prayer is not something that we do to display our religiousness. The purpose of prayer is not for communication to men. When we pray, our motive should be that of worship to God. We come to God in prayer because we love Him and we desire to spend intimate time with Him. It is unfortunate that when we pray in public our prayers seem more like sermons than they do communication with God. It is interesting that when we pray in public, we tend to talk as if we are sending a message to those around us. Sometimes we talk to God in a way that makes Him look less than who is. This ought not to be! The motive of our prayer should be to worship God and to communicate with Him. The second thing we see about prayer is the example of prayer. In verses 9-13 we have what is often referred to as the ‘Lord’s prayer’. Here Jesus is showing us how we should pray. Notice the outline of this prayer: 1. Praise (v. 9) 2. Submission (v. 10) 3. Asking for provision (v. 11) 4. Asking for forgiveness (v. 12) 5. Asking for protection (v. 13) 6. Praise (v. 13). Notice how the prayer begins with praise to God and ends with praise to God. The prayer also includes a submission to the will of God. Our prayer should be: ‘Lord, just as you have your way in heaven, may you have your way in my life’. Before we bring our requests to God, we begin with submission to His Lordship as if to say, ‘so be it, whatever you desire for me, I will accept.’ Once we have given Him praise and submitted to His Lordship and His will, then we can pray for provision. We should ask God to meet specific needs in our lives. I believe it is important to bring specific requests to God. Tell God what is on your mind. Tell Him what you need. Tell Him what you desire. As the scripture says, “You have not because you ask not.” We should also make sure we confess our sins to God when we pray. Confession of sin rids our self of the things in our lives that hinders our walk with God. We should confess these things to God and seek His forgiveness. We should also ask God to protect us from temptation and from evil. Ask God to put a shield around you and to keep you from sin as you go throughout your day. Finally, as we end our prayer, we should once again give Him praise. Making sure that He receives all the glory in our life. In verses 14-15 we find an explanation of the prayer for forgiveness. In the context of this passage, Jesus here is explaining the statement in the model prayer of ‘forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.’ The thought here is that though God’s forgiveness of sin not based on one’s forgiving of others, a Christian’s forgiveness is based on realizing that He has been forgiven. These verses are not saying that our sins are no longer paid for if we do not forgive others, but rather that our fellowship with God is hinder. You cannot walk in fellowship with God if you harbor unforgiveness in your heart.

                The fasting principle. Read Matthew 6:16-18. To fast is to give something up for a period of time for the purpose of knowing God more. Fasting is a good thing. However, fasting is not an outward show. The question concerning fasting is the same as in anything and that is, our heart. What is your motive when you fast? Where is your heart? Fasting is not just giving up food. Sometimes it is good to fast from other things such as television, social media, computers, work, etc. The principle here is that fasting is a time to get alone with God and to get to know Him more. It is not something we should advertise or commercialize. Fasting is a personal thing, an intimate time just between you and God.

                The treasure principle. Read Matthew 6:19-21. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were intent on building great treasures on the earth. Here Jesus says that we are not to lay up treasures on the earth, but we are to lay up treasures in heaven. This principle strikes at the very core of our attitude toward money. How do you view money? How do you view your possessions? As Christians, we must understand that everything we have belongs to God. It is our responsibility to simply manage what God gives us. Now, is God concerned about the riches of this world? Does God desire that you hoard all the money He gives you? No! God wants you to invest in His kingdom. How do we do this? We do this by giving. We do this by understanding that we have no right to do what we want to do with our money and possessions because it is not ours to do. Unfortunately, this Pharisaical attitude of building earthly treasures has crept into the doors of the church. We like having money in the bank. We think we are successful as a church if we have money in the bank. We think we have a problem or we are in some danger of the church failing and closing down when money is spent. Since when is it our concern or our responsibility to keep the church going? Did not Jesus say; that He will build His church? The church does not belong to us. The money that the church has is not ours to hold on to. This attitude is of controlling or holding on to my church is completely unbiblical. The local church should simply be a vehicle through which resources flow for ministry, not a bank. When I give to the local church I should give with the confidence that every penny will be used for the work of the ministry. I am laying up treasures in heaven. I am investing in God’s kingdom, not an earthly empire!

The light principle. Read Matthew 6:22-23. Here Jesus continues attacking the religious crowd of His day. He says, you are looking at earthly and temporary things and as a result you are full of darkness. The phrase: “The lamp for the body is the eye” is so true. What you look at, what you focus on becomes the attitude of your heart. What your eyes focus on affects your whole self. What do you focus on? Do you focus on the earthly treasures? Do you look at the circumstances of the here and now or do you see what God can do? Do you have a heavenly vision? Do you focus on how you can lay up more treasure in heaven or how you can protect what you have on the earth? Are you ministry minded? Is your focus on how you or the church can reach more people with the gospel and expand its influence throughout the world or are you focused on your on comfort? What you look at, what you focus on, how you see things, is what you become? Think about it. If you see everything in a pessimistic light, you will be a very discouraging and pessimistic person. If you see limitations on what God can do, you will become a hindrance to the church. If you see the negative side of everything, you will be a very negative person. If all you see is what pleases you or makes you comfortable, you will become full of darkness. However, if you see everything with the attitude that God is on the throne. If you see that God can do all things. If you see a vision for ministry and reaching more and more people with the Gospel. If you see the positive side of everything. You will become a person full of light and enthusiasm and power and faith! “The lamp of the body is the eye.” What are you looking at?

The loyalty principle. Read Matthew 6:24. Jesus is telling the religious crowd, look, you cannot focus on the earthly things and focus on heavenly things at the same time. You cannot serve both God and yourself. You cannot serve your bank account and God at the same time. You must let go. You must surrender. Where is your loyalty? Who or what do you serve?

The don’t worry principle. Read Matthew 6:25-34. Since we are to lay up treasures in heaven and not on earth, since we are to be focused on our worship of God and serving Him, then, Jesus says, ‘don’t worry, I got it!’ We are told that since Jesus cares for His creation all around us, how much more so will He care for us! In verse 33 it goes back to our focus. We are to focus on the kingdom of God, on serving Him. We are to focus on doing the work of the ministry. We are to focus on Jesus and His righteousness and seek to be like Him and pleasing to Him. If we stay focused on these things, then God will take care of the rest. We don’t have to worry about the money or the limitations or the, what ifs. We are to simply focus on serving Jesus and He will take care of it all.

The judging principle. Read Matthew 7:1-6. This is one of the most misused passages in all of God’s Word. This passage does not teach that judgments should never be made. The point here is that a person should not be habitually critical. To criticize others without examine your own life first is hypocritical. Judgment is sometimes needed but the one doing the judging must first be certain of their own life. When seeking to help someone, proper care must be exercised in way that would be beneficial. Having a critical attitude is not beneficial. Being negative about everything is not beneficial. Jesus adds here that we are to not entrust holy things with unholy people. We should practice good judgment in choosing who will be a position of judging or in leadership.

                The persistence principle. Read Matthew 7:7-12. Here Jesus shows how persistence in prayer pays off. The idea here is that we are to keep on asking and keep on seeking and keep on knocking. To ask God for something is to ask Him for something that He has already promised to us. To seek for something is to ask God for direction in an area where we do not know the answer. To knock is to knock on a door that is closed. When we are persistent in that asking, seeking, and knocking, God will answer. Never give up on God. Keep on living for Him. Keep on praying. His answer and His blessings for your life will come in His time.

                The narrow way principle. Read Matthew 7:13-14. The broad gate is that of the outward righteousness of the Pharisees. There are many who are following a religion. There are many whose entire belief system is based on the religion of their family. It is this path that leads to hell. The narrow gate is the gate that leads to heaven. There are few that find this gate. Those who go through this gate are those who do not be external requirements, but rather, they have experienced an internal transformation. This principle is sad but true. There are more people sitting in churches today that are going through the broad gate of religion and tradition and they are all on their way to hell. However, there are few who have truly trusted in Jesus and their lives have been completely transformed. Which gate will you enter?

                The fruit principle. Read Matthew 7:15-20. Jesus identifies the religious Pharisees as false prophets. They have all the outward signs of religion but they are lost as lost could be because they bear no fruit. A life that is bearing good fruit is a life that prays and fasts with the right motive, that lays up treasures in heaven, that focuses on the right things, that serves God and God alone, that does not worry but seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, that is pure in judgment, that is persistent in prayer, and that has gone through the narrow gate of life transformation. What kind of fruit do you have?

                The knowing principle. Matthew 7:21-23. Jesus begins the invitation at the close of His sermon. He explains that there will be many that will say: I have prayed, I have given my money, I have fasted, I have not judged, but, Jesus will say, ‘I do not know you.’ In other words, doing all the right religious things will not save you. It is a matter of the heart. It is a matter of your motive and focus. It is a matter of surrender. You may have done all the right things, but if you have not surrendered all to Jesus in such a way that your life has been transformed, then you are not saved. What is the condition of your heart? Have you surrendered? Do you know Him? Does He know you?

The foundation principle. Matthew 7:24-29. At the closing of His sermon, Jesus extends the invitation. He says that if you do as He says, if you build your life on Him, you will be saved. However, if you do not surrender, if you do not trust in Jesus completely, your life will crumble and you will be lost. The choice is yours. Will you hold on to your life, to your ways, to your money, to your religion, or will you trust in Jesus alone?

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