Re:Verse passage – Matthew 7:24-29 (day four)
Jesus ends this sermon with a metaphor that delivers a word of warning. He says that the teaching he gave us should become the new foundation for our lives, just like the foundation on which an entire home is built. Too often, we want to take Jesus’ words and graft them into our already-constructed worldview. We find ways to fit them into our life like filling in cracks in the walls, or building an addition on our house. We try to fit Jesus into what we’ve already built.
But Jesus does not mince words. Any other foundation for life will wash away as soon as a storm comes. If we encounter Jesus’ words and realize that we have built a house for ourselves on the sand, then we don’t just add another room founded on the gospel, we have to tear the whole house down and start anew, building on the firm foundation of truth.
This takes a great amount of faith and patience. Demolishing what we have built on the shaky foundation, on the ways of the world, is challenging, even heartbreaking. But it’s in our newly built home that we’ll find an appreciation for the storms – they remind us what a firm foundation we have in Christ.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 7:15-23 (day four)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer coined the phrase “cheap grace” in his famous book, The Cost of Discipleship. He describes cheap grace as a grace that requires no repentance, no sacrifice, and ultimately no cross. We want Jesus’ free gift without having to do anything in response. I think this is what Jesus is warning us about here. There will be people who talk like they know Jesus, but never truly surrender their lives to him, never suffer with him, and never know him intimately.
Of course, grace is given to us freely by a gracious God. We don’t have to earn it or “purchase” it on our own, but that doesn’t mean it’s not costly. Grace calls us to become more like Christ. Grace calls us to rid our lives of sin so that we can make room for the Spirit. Grace calls us to participate in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Grace calls us to lay our lives down so that we may have life abundant.
This is a great passage for us to meditate on as we begin the season of Lent. A season where we’re challenged to pray, “more of You, and less of me.” This creates the room for the Spirit to work in us and produce this good fruit by which we are known.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 7:13-14 (day four)
We’ve all heard it said that “nothing worth having is easy.” Yet, we’re constantly drawn to things that offer an easier, seemingly effortless way to reach our goals. We fall for commercials that say their product can make us lose weight without any effort on our part. We search for the magic pill that will heal all our ailments. We’re duped by schemes that promise us we will “get rich fast!”
But there are no shortcuts to the things in life that really matter. And our spiritual life follows the same pattern. There are no shortcuts to sanctification. There are no loopholes to having an intimate relationship with God. There’s no magic pill or “become godly fast!” scheme that gets us closer to Jesus.
That’s not how God designed us. Rather, it’s in the hour-to-hour, day-by-day, walking with Christ that we find we slowly but surely go from glory to glory. This can be maddening at times, as it often feels like we’re going one step forward and two steps back. But we can have faith that the God who created us for the day-by-day way to glory also has the patience to walk that road with us, as slow and winding as it seems, through the narrow gate and into eternity.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 7:7-11 (day four)
There is much about Christianity that involves mystery. There are some things about God, the universe he created, and the spiritual reality we live in that are too great for us to understand.
But at the same time, we also serve a God who knows us and wants to be known by us. He invites us to know him here. What grace, that the eternal God of the universe desires for us to know him like this!
Having trouble loving your neighbor? Ask God what he loves about them. He loves to answer that question. Having a hard time knowing God’s plan for your life? Seek how God is already moving – we see it through Scripture, in history, and the movement of the Spirit around us. He doesn’t hide his will from us. Need somewhere to run with your anxieties and fears? Knock on God’s door – he has an open door policy and he’s ready to receive you.
Though there is mystery, our Lord wants to make himself known to you. Ask, seek, knock. He’s ready for you.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 7:1-6, 12 (day four)
Jesus uses the analogy of eyesight a lot in this sermon. In the opening beatitudes, he says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Now he’s showing us what it takes to be able to see God and live with a pure heart, and it’s not easy.
When I used to read this story as a kid I would think, “How do they not know there’s a log in their own eye?! Wouldn’t that hurt?” But that kind of impairment isn’t the sort of thing that happens overnight. Hypocrisy doesn’t spring up out of nowhere. It starts with a small problem of sin, but the longer we go with an unrepentant heart, the more it builds on itself. Eventually, our sin has blinded us so effectively that we look as ridiculous as someone walking around unaware of the log in their eye.
This is why a daily time of confession before God is so essential to the Christian life. We need God’s help in recognizing our own sin. If we’ve developed a log in our eye through years of resentment, pride, and stubbornness, then the only way to remove it is through God’s grace. The act of humbling ourselves in confession every day before God keeps us from haphazardly judging others, as that kind of judgment only happens in the dark. His grace brings us back to the light, where we can see clearly again.
If you want to follow the golden rule, confession is the first step.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 6:25-34 (day four)
Jesus had us check in on our relationship with money last week. How did that go for you? Was it as convicting for you as it was for me? I hate to break it to you, but it’s not over. Jesus continues the conversation and expands his thoughts on the matter in these verses. He says, “You cannot serve both God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life…”
When we focus on and strive for the things our flesh wants: comfort, security, peace of mind, social status – all of which often involve money – we’ll soon find that the harder we try to get it, the harder it is to take hold of. The tighter the grip we try to have on our circumstances and livelihood or our comfort and security, the more we find ourselves backed into a corner by fear and anxiety. A life pursuing creature comforts on our own won’t get us the real peace that we’re after, we’ll just find that those things don’t satisfy.
We hear a similar message from Jesus in Luke 9:24-25, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?”
Ask the Lord to help you loosen the vice grip you have on your life. That’s when you’ll find life abundant.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 6:9-15 (day four)
It is stunning to see the God of the universe inviting us to participate in life with him. He invites us to join in the activities of heaven, to look past the curtain and participate in holy, wonderful things – most of all, prayer.
Sometimes we forget how incredible this invitation is because we have learned to talk to God like a friend – which we should – but may we never forget what an incredible privilege God is extending to us when he invites us to pray.
He invites us to join with the heavenly host proclaiming him as holy. He invites us to speak heavenly realities into earthly places. He invites us to come to him with our every need. He invites us to come to him seeking mercy. He invites us to find our refuge in him when evil surrounds us.
God is inviting you to participate in the things of heaven. Take him up on it.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18 (day four)
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)
Pious actions can have impure motives. When we pray, fast, and give with the hopes of creating the right social reputation for ourselves, Jesus says we’ll get what we’re after – but we’ll still be missing out. We’ll be so busy looking at our admirers that we won’t see God. But when we do these things as Jesus instructs us too – with anonymity, humility, and sincerity, in the secret place we share with him alone – then we shall see God. Outward appearance matters much less to us after we’ve had an encounter with the God who created humility.
This is what we celebrate at Christmas – the fact that God came down, condescended into human form, humbly taking the form of a child so that we might see him, know him, and be reconciled to him. When we allow our piety to make us prideful, we’ve missed the point.
Let’s pray Psalm 139 this week, “Search me, O God, and know my heart…” that he may continue to create a pure and humble heart in us, just like the heart of Jesus.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 5:33-48 (day four)
We started this series a few weeks ago by looking at the beatitudes. When we hear things like, “Blessed are the gentle,” “Blessed are the merciful,” or “Blessed are the peacemakers,” that sounds nice to our ears. But here is where the rubber meets the road. The command to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, to prayer for those who persecute us – these all serve big hits to our pride. They go entirely against the culture that surrounds us and influences us.
I’ve noticed that it’s one thing to treat a stranger in this way, or to be graceful and merciful to an acquaintance, but it is much harder to live this kind of life when it comes to family or the people closest to me. Sometimes the ones closest to us can quickly take on the title of enemy, as wounds from them hurt even deeper. When a family member offends me, it is a much bigger hit to my pride to turn the other cheek than if a stranger said something hurtful. It is in these close relationships that our ability to show patience, mercy, or grace is pushed to the limits. But it’s at these limits that the Spirit meets us, grows in us, and causes us to look more like Christ.
If you find you’re at your limit, look for the Spirit. Through him, this kind of Kingdom living is possible.
Re:Verse passage – Matthew 5:17-32 (day four)
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”
One of the principal values of the Kingdom of God is reconciliation. Jesus came so that we would be reconciled to the Father, and in Kingdom life, through the power of the Spirit, we can also be reconciled to one another. But we often don’t take the work of reconciliation as seriously as we should.
Jesus tells us that before we present our offering at the altar – before we present ourselves as holy and living sacrifices to God in worship – if there is enmity between us and someone else, it needs to be handled immediately. We cannot hang on to old grudges or simply wait for time to help us forget them. The enemy would love nothing more than for us to take unforgiveness casually. We have to fight through our pride and even the awkwardness that we feel in order to get to peace – ASAP, Jesus says.
That being said, we know that Jesus lived the human life. He understands the complexity of human relationships. He knows that there are some wounds which will not fully heal until we’re in heaven, and that’s exactly his point here. We can’t fulfill the law perfectly. We can’t forgive perfectly. We can’t reconcile perfectly. Jesus can. What step of faith do you need to take today in order to live a life of peace?