Sermon on the Mount

Survive the Storms

“And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching." Matthew 7:28a

We have come to the end of the Sermon on the Mount, and it’s no surprise to find out that all the people listening to Jesus were left astonished at His teaching. The word “astonished” means “to be so amazed as to be practically overwhelmed.” Everyone was overwhelmed by Jesus’ insightful words of wisdom, His straightforward teaching of scripture, His fearful warning of the consequences of turning away from God, but most of all, they were overwhelmed by the authority with which He taught. I don’t know about you, but I have been overwhelmed too!

The Narrow Way

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” Matthew 7:13

In Psalm 73, we find Asaph grappling with being envious of those who seemed to have a good life on the broad road. He couldn’t reconcile the truth that while he was obeying God and suffering, those who were living in disobedience were succeeding. In various verses in Psalm 73 he admits, “I was envious of the boastful when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Behold, these are the ungodly who are always at ease; they increase in riches. Surely I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and chastened every morning.”

Judge Accordingly

“Remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:5

Have you ever tried to help someone get something out of their eye? It’s really difficult. You have to be extremely patient and gentle. The moment you touch their eye it immediately closes or they jerk their head away from you. Although the eye is probably the most sensitive part of someone’s physical body, even more sensitive is their soul. If we truly care for the health of someone’s soul, we need to approach them much like we would if we were helping them with an eye issue - with patience and gentleness.

Don't Worry, Be Holy

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25

Did you know that worry is a leading cause of both physical and mental health problems today? Cancer, ulcers, depression and panic disorder are just some of the effects worry has on the human body. In fact, postmortem psychological reports indicate that most suicidal people feel an intense loss of control in their lives.

God or Mammon?

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Matthew 6:22-23a

The “eye” Jesus is referring to here is the mind. He is addressing what we choose to focus on and think about during the day. Because our minds are the control centers of our bodies, however we process the information surrounding us in this world determines how we live our lives. Our bodies will follow behind the choices our minds make.

The Power of Prayer

“For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8b

I love what Oswald Chambers wrote regarding this verse which he described as “the root of all prayer.” He wrote, “Common sense says, ‘Then why ask Him?’ Prayer is not getting things from God, that is a most initial stage; prayer is getting into perfect communion with God; I tell Him what I know He knows in order that I may know it as He does. Jesus says, ‘Pray because you have a Father, not because it quietens you, and give Him time to answer.’ If the life of Jesus is formed in me by regeneration and I am drawing breath in the fear of the Lord, the Son of God will press forward in front of my common sense and change my attitude to things.”

Stop Hypocrisy

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1

At first reading, these words seem to contradict what Jesus said earlier in Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” But when you look closer at Matthew 5:16 you find there is no contradiction because Jesus tells us the motive behind our good words should always be to glorify our Father in heaven.

Extraordinary Love

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

Unfortunately, we all have enemies. Let’s take a minute and consider who our enemies are today. A family member? A friend? Our spouse? A co-worker? A neighbor? President Trump? Have one in mind? Have two, three, four or twenty in mind? That’s good. Now before thinking of all the reasons why that person is your enemy, pray for them. Stop reading this right now and pray that God would rain down His blessings upon them and would give you a heart of compassion for them.

Leave it to the Lord

“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.” Matthew 5:38-39

How do you respond when you first hear of some sort of evil happening in the world? While some get mad and seek justice, others get really mad and seek revenge. The principle of “an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” is called the principle of retribution and gave judges the formula for dealing with crime. It’s the same idea as “making the punishment fit the crime.” But in Jesus’ day the Rabbis were teaching that people should carry out this punishment themselves rather than going through the legal system. This led many to seek personal revenge. The problem with this is that when really angry people seek revenge, often they don’t just get even, they get more than even.

Be Trustworthy

“Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” Matthew 5:37

The devotional for Sunday’s message is a very simple one. As Christians, we need to be trustworthy. We need to keep our word. We know this issue is close to our Savior’s heart or else He wouldn’t have included it in His Sermon on the Mount. All of the practical teachings within the Sermon on the Mount are given to us in order to shape us into Christ’s image and set us apart from the ways of the world.  

Jesus' Heart on Divorce

“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you...” Matthew 5:31-32a

This Sunday morning I will boldly go where few good preacher men have gone before. In fact, this morning when I went to read one of my favorite authors, I was shocked to see how little he had to say on the dreaded subject of divorce.

Heart of Hearts

“You have heard that it was said to those of old… but I say to you…” Matthew 5:21a, 22a

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus never contradicted what the law said, He only contradicted the interpretation of the law men came up with. This is an extremely important distinction as we move forward because as we learned last week, Jesus didn’t come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He came to shed proper light on it and reveal the depth of it.

Jesus, the Law and You

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." Matthew 5:17a

In Jesus’ day there was a lot of confusion and consternation about the Law among the Jews. They were asking questions like: “Does Jesus believe in the Law? Has He claimed to destroy it? Is He teaching some new way to God or some new way of pleasing God?”

Salt & Light

“You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13

Since ancient times, salt has been used as a food preservative due to its ability to absorb moisture and create an environment where bacteria and mold are unable to reproduce and survive. After sharing the beatitudes - which describe the character of a genuine Christian - Jesus simply states that Christians are the salt of the earth. Although this metaphor can be applied a number of different ways, undoubtedly one of the main applications is the Christian’s duty to preserve the world from deteriorating. Just as salt fights off the bacteria and mold on the food it has been put on, we too should be fighting off the sin and immorality in the communities we’ve been placed in.

Blessed are The Persecuted

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

We have come to the end of the beatitudes and without a doubt Jesus has saved the best for last. The first seven beatitudes are a description of the character of the Christian. They reveal the way we are supposed to be - we are to be like Christ. You would think people would love the person who displayed the beatitudes, but the fact is the people of the kingdom of the world hate people like Christ. Jesus said it would be so in John 15:18-19: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

Blessed are The Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Good morning NCL family,

In the wake of what happened in Charlottesville on Saturday, I have been wanting to write something that would help give us a little understanding of why these types of things keep happening. To be honest, the task of writing something like that seemed too ominous. Every time I tried to write I became so overwhelmed I couldn’t begin.  

Pure in Heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

Although there are many reasons why Southern California has the reputation of being one of the most coveted places to live, there is one thing we have that gives us a bad reputation - the smog. Smog is the haze we see when we look out across the horizon due to the abundance of pollutants in the air. In Orange County, one of the best ways we can tell how bad the smog is on a certain day is by how well we can see Catalina, an island 30 miles offshore. When the smog is really bad we can barely see it, but when there is hardly any smog we can see it so well we can make out the details of the landscape.

Marvelous Mercy

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Matthew 5:7

What is mercy? D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “I think perhaps the best way of approaching it is to compare it with grace. You notice in the introduction to the so-called pastoral epistles that the apostle brings in a new term. Most of his other epistles start by saying ‘grace and peace’ from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, but in his pastoral epistles he says ‘grace, mercy, and peace’ and there is thus an interesting distinction implied between grace and mercy. The best definition of the two that I have ever encountered is this: ‘Grace is especially associated with men in their sins; mercy is especially associated with men in their misery.’ In other words, while grace looks down upon sin as a whole, mercy looks especially upon the miserable consequences of sin.”

Hunger & Thirst

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6

Hunger and thirst are the most powerful forces our physical bodies experience. They compel us to do whatever it takes to give our bodies the food and water they need to function properly and be healthy. In an article for Forbes titled “Hunger Beats Fear As Nature’s Strongest Motivator” JV Chamary wrote, “Hunger is even stronger than fear, a vital emotion that helps protect prey animals from being killed. Given a choice between a dangerous location containing food and staying in a safe zone, hungry mice would spend more time in the scary place. In nature's ranking of motivations, hunger comes out on top. This suggests that when food is available, the brain circuits that control feeding behavior will suppress the activity of neurons that regulate other behaviors.”

Blessed are the Meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

I believe most people today would look at meekness as being weakness, but meekness is not weakness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. William Barkley defined meekness as “strength under control.” I was fascinated to learn that Southern horse breeders claim “the meekest horse wins the race. A meek horse is the one who has most responded to his training. All his strength is harnessed and brought under focused control.”