5:1 “When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. After he sat down his disciples came to him. 5:2 “Then he began to teach them by saying:
5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me.
5:12 “Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way.”
Lord, Your new covenant of grace is both a freeing gift and a challenge to every Believer to live righteously before You from a Holy Spirit-informed heart of love. I pray I may be ever mindful of this.
Matthew records that Jesus saw the crowds and “went up the mountain” (5:1). [NET translator notes observe that this may be “idiomatic...or even intentionally reminiscent of Exodus ” the implication being that Jesus’ purpose was to recast, not replace, the law of the Ten Commandments, also given on a mountain, in the grace of the new covenant.]
“His disciples came to Him....Then He began to teach them” (vss. 1,2). Although Jesus’ comments are addressed to His disciples, the crowd listens (see Matt. 7:28). Jesus defines the nature of the personal relationship God desires for His children to have with each other, and with Him, in what has become known as The Beatitudes:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them” (vs. 3). The poor in spirit are the humble in spirit, who recognize their spiritual poverty and are open to being abundantly filled with the Holy Spirit. Some blessings are conditional on one first showing the right spiritual attitude or action, then blessing follows (e.g., the merciful will be shown mercy).
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (vs. 4). This fallen world is filled with loss, thus one is constantly mourning the loss of what was once enjoyed before the Fall, the comfort of the immediate presence of God and the absence of sin. Those who do not mourn the loss of the ever-present God in them (due to the presence of unconfessed, unrepented, unforgiven sin) do not avail themselves of the comfort of God.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (vs. 5). To be “meek” means ‘to have ones power under control,’ and in the case of the Christian, under the control of God. This teaching complements other Scripture passages which discuss human interactions in a world inclined toward anger and rage. We are capable of lashing out powerfully — verbally, physically, or otherwise; God’s desire is that we control that power and choose to be meek.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (vs. 6). If we understand what Jesus meant by “righteousness,” then we will better understand why He honors those who hunger and thirst for it. Simplified, righteousness is having our thoughts and deeds in ‘right standing before God’ ― this speaks of the condition and expression of our heart. The humble Believer, who knows they are unable to live righteously before God by their own effort, hungers and thirsts for the refining work of the Holy Spirit.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (vs. 7). This blessing is conditional ― be merciful and you will receive mercy. The act of being merciful is giving up the worldly notion of fairness and in its place living the Godly law of love, thereby being a powerful witness of and for Christ.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (vs. 8). This, in a literal sense, is impossible; however, “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). All pureness comes from the Holy Spirit. When we get out of God’s way and allow Him through the power of His Holy Spirit to be Lord in some area of our life, He blesses us and, at the same time, others through us — we then ‘see’ the pure heart of God through spiritual eyes.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (vs. 9). A peacemaker is not necessarily a pacifist; the Bahai religion teaches pacifism, Biblical Christianity does not. A Christian peacemaker is one who lovingly seeks to avoid conflict, but does not allow unrighteous aggressors to abuse him or her (thus enabling their sin).
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things about you falsely on account of me. Rejoice and be glad because your reward is great in heaven, for they persecuted the prophets before you in the same way” (vss. 10-12). When we are righteous in our service to God we are dwelling in the kingdom of heaven, although we may at the same time be persecuted for standing up for God.
When Jesus describes the boundaries for a blessed relationship with Him, are we at once encouraged and challenged, excited and chastised?
Do we read in His words His loving desire to bless us, His awareness of our struggles, and His provision ready to be poured out when our hearts are turned toward Him?
Compare and contrast “peacemaker” and “pacifist.”
Encourage yourself by remembering at least one principle from the Beatitudes which you have experience when in right-relationship with God or with others.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you have successfully surrendered a part of your life and He has used that to bless others.
Today I choose to celebrate my surrender to God. I will ask Him to reveal to me something which blocks His blessing and to sustain me in surrendering it. I will ask others to pray in agreement with me and to hold me accountable.
Be Specific __________________________________________________
Salt and Light
5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its flavor, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people. 5:14 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill cannot be hidden. 5:15 People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they can see your good deeds and give honor to your Father in heaven.
Fulfillment of the Law and Prophets
5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them. 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place. 5:19 So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Lord, mindful that Jesus is the fulfillment of the old Law and the Prophets, may I be bold in proclaiming His new message of Grace.
Jesus wants His children to make a difference within their circle of influence, by being both the salt of the earth and light in the world:
Salt both adds flavor and serves as a preservative. Using salt as illustration, Jesus warns that if it is not protected from bad elements, it can be rendered worthless and then “thrown out and trampled on” (Matt. 5:13) — the children of God are to bring the Lord’s values and wisdom in to this sometimes tasteless and decaying world.
Light both illumines the way and reveals dangers. Using the image of light, Jesus informs that His children are to be bold and put their light “on a lampstand” (Matt. 5:15) — to give glory to God and avoid compromising and confusing people of the world by living in a lifestyle consistent with their standing in the Lord God.
The notion of Christ being our perfection is consistent with His teaching that both the Law and the Prophets point to Him and that He has come “to fulfill them” (5:17). Summarizing our transformation from Old Testament bondage to Law (eternal condemnation) to our New Testament freedom by Grace (eternal life), Jesus forewarns: “Unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law...you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20).
[Note: Our righteousness cannot go beyond that of the experts of our own accord, but through His imparted-righteousness at the moment of our salvation we can — we are hopeless without Christ our perfection. Those not justified in Christ will never enter the kingdom of heaven, because in order to do so they must keep the law perfectly to have any hope of eternal life. For those who have faith in Christ, everything needed to attain eternal life is already in place. This is a radical message, which undermines the teaching of the religious leaders of the day and their idolatry of tradition, but which shines light on the fulfillment of the Law and on the prophesy of Jesus the Messiah.]
Unless we are both foolish (living in worldly ways) and selfish (failing to tell others), believing in Jesus changes everything ― who we are in Christ and what we do as His children!
Our transformation from the Old Testament bondage to the Law and condemnation to our New Testament freedom by grace and eternal life is at once mind boggling and humbling.
Our purpose in life as His children, to be witness to His transforming Truth and to never drift back into the old self, is challenging and hopeless without the help of the indwelling Spirit.
The peace of freedom (bringing power to serve in Jesus’ name) versus the bondage of legalism (enduring law without benefit of grace) is worth throwing off the shackles of Law for the wings of Grace.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you a place in your life where you are allowing yourself to be distracted by worldly priorities and where you might better prioritize His call to tell His story.
Today I choose to identify and surrender a foolish worldly way which I have allowed to become a habit. I will pray for opportunity to boldly share with an unsaved person the joy and peace I have through faith in the One Who liberated me from the wrath of God.
Be Specific _________________________________________________
Anger and Murder
5:21 “You have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ 5:22 But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment. And whoever insults a brother will be brought before the council, and whoever says ‘Fool’ will be sent to fiery hell. 5:23 So then, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 5:24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift. 5:25 Reach agreement quickly with your accuser while on the way to court, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the warden, and you will be thrown into prison. 5:26 I tell you the truth, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny!
5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 5:28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 5:30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell.
5:31 “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a legal document.’ 5:32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
5:33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not break an oath, but fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 5:34 But I say to you, do not take oaths at all – not by heaven, because it is the throne of God, 5:35 not by earth, because it is his footstool, and not by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. 5:36 Do not take an oath by your head, because you are not able to make one hair white or black. 5:37 Let your word be ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.’ More than this is from the evil one.
5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 5:39 But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer. But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well. 5:40 And if someone wants to sue you and to take your tunic, give him your coat also. 5:41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not reject the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ 5:44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, 5:45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? 5:47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? 5:48 So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Lord, as I read Your teaching, may my heart and mind be transformed to begin to see the world, and my purpose in it, through Your eyes.
Jesus walks through a series of examples on what it means to live as a child of the Kingdom, rather than as a hopeless slave to Law, and teaches regarding the most emotionally and sociologically powerful issues of the day.
Anger & Murder. Whereas the Ten Commandments include the act of murder, Jesus speaks of any instance where the heart bears a seed of anger, bitterness, distain, or unforgiveness — such pollutes a righteous heart and ‘murders’ your relationship with other Believers. And “you will be thrown in to prison” (Matt. 5:25), both emotionally and spiritually isolated from fellowship with your family in Christ.
Adultery. The Ten Commandments specify the physical act of sexual immorality (relations with a person not ones own spouse) as ‘adultery’. Jesus saying “Do not commit adultery” (Matt. 5:27) is referring to any thought which even contemplates such an act. King David, when he viewed Bathsheba bathing, failed the test because he failed to turn away, allowing himself to be tempted as he looked and contemplated a wrong relationship. Jesus advises to stop the downward slide when being tested by not allowing the opportunity to be tempted — protect the heart by being proactive and, “if your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away!” (Matt. 5:30).
Divorce. The Old Testament’s legalistic application of “divorce” (see Deut. 24:1-4) was designed to constrain the carelessness by which men with “hard hearts” (Matt. 19:8) were discarding their wife for another woman merely for convenience or pleasure. Jesus describes the consequences when saying, “everyone who divorces his wife ... makes her commit adultery” (Matt. 5:31). He does not intend that marriage to or by any and every divorced woman (or man) is adultery, He speaks of a Christian who is non-Biblically divorced.
Oaths. In ancient tradition, it was common to make an oath so as to lend artificial credibility to ones promise. Leviticus 19:12 specifically forbids making an oath and using God’s name to lend credibility. Jesus instructs to simply be honorable when giving your word: “Let your word be ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.’ More than this is from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). Christians should be known as people of unquestionable integrity in all matters.
Retaliation. Jesus refers to the ancient tradition of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (see Exod. 21:23-25), God’s words given to Moses on the mountain. In primitive times the culture was highly literal and abstracts not well understood; thus, a long detailed list of actions and consequences was felt necessary. Since the culture in New Testament times is now capable of abstract thought, Jesus instructs, “whoever strikes you on the cheek, turn the other to him as well” (Matt. 5:39), in order to reduce conflict — metaphorically, He is speaking of any action which violates others boundaries. His intent is not to teach a pacifistic response to an attack designed to do real harm, but to instruct not react to provocations designed to drag one down to another’s level.
Love of Enemies. Jesus reminds His listeners that Leviticus instructs them not to bear a grudge or seek retaliation against others, but rather to “love your neighbor” (see Lev. 19:18). He notes that some have added to this “hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemy” (Matt. 5:43, 44). Jesus reminds that they were once the enemies of God, yet He loved them; they should do likewise, loving their enemies and praying that they also receive the gift of the eternal love of God.
There has been as much, or more, bad teaching since Christ walked among us as there was before He came; Christ has been misrepresented and His Word distorted.
As you read the Scriptural passages on what it means to be a child of God versus a worldly person, which most clarified (or challenged) your understanding and the intended application?
Jesus challenges us to be Christ-like, not merely in law-based behavior, but in the very essence of our hearts and minds. He calls us to be loving and loyal, faithful and forgiving, righteous and respectful — this is challenging when our fallen nature is to be hateful, disloyal, faithless, unforgiving, fallen, and disrespectful. Only with the Holy Spirit in us can we overcome our nature and become more like Him.
Bring to mind one of those character traits as it might be practiced in your life as a Believer, and consider how difficult it would be, without God’s help, to be as God calls you to be.
Ask the Holy Spirit to direct your attention to any source of ‘spiritual authority’ upon which you rely that is suspect (lacking truth in word and action) and where you find your deeds not matching the words of your mouth. Conversely, ask Him to show you where, and under whose authority, you are being a good and faithful servant.
Today I choose to do a careful assessment of the people and publications which I allow to be a source of spiritual influence in my life, looking closely at how well the Beatitudes are being lived out in them. If there is not a close parallel to seeking after perfection in their lives and teaching, then I will remove them from my life.
I will seek to discern if there are places in my life where I play the part of a righteous Christian, but my heart is really in a worldly place. I will repent, ask God’s forgiveness, and submit to the Holy Spirit’s cleansing.
Be Specific ____________________________________________________
6:1 “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. 6:2 Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. 6:3 But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 6:4 so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
6:5 “Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. 6:6 But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. 6:7 When you pray, do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles, because they think that by their many words they will be heard. 6:8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
6:9 So pray this way:
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored,
6:10 may your kingdom come,
may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
6:11 Give us today our daily bread,
6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.
6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
6:14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 6:15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.
6:16 “When you fast, do not look sullen like the hypocrites, for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. 6:17 When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 6:18 so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.
6:19 “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 6:20 But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If then your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 6:23 But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Lord, help me to be humble and concerned only with receiving Your approval, rather than wanting and seeking the approval of man.
Jesus challenges us to assess our motivation for giving, praying, fasting, or (by implication) anything we do in our Christian walk, and to prioritize those things we feel led by Him to do. He calls us to continue our heart-assessment by ‘keeping it real’.
Pure-hearted giving. Jesus warns us to not be prideful in our giving, but to do so out of love, not simply to “be seen by people” (Matt. 6:1).
Private prayer. Jesus instructs that prayer is primarily a private matter (versus an occasion to show off) and offers an example to His disciples of a humble and teachable prayer, known as The Lord’s Prayer. He gives this prayer as a guideline to follow in personal prayer, not as specific words for the Church to recite en masse when gathered for worship. Matthew cautions, before offering the sample prayer: “Do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray....so that people can see Do not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray....so that people can see them....pray to your Father in secret” (Matt. 6:5,6) and “Do not babble repetitiously like the Gentiles....So pray this way” (vss. 7,9).
“Forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12), reminds us of the relationship between our obedience in forgiving others and being blessed with God’s forgiveness.
Proper fasting. Jesus neither promotes nor restricts fasting, He merely instructs that those who choose to fast not do so as a public spectacle, looking for the admiration of men — rather, do so privately, for “your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:18). As is true with giving and praying, if one is merely seeking the accolades of man God will not honor such a shallow self-serving heart. [Note: To “fast” does not necessarily mean to simply ‘refrain from eating’; it may also be to cease from doing anything which harms the body or spirit.]
Lasting treasure. Jesus reminds us that what we value is reflected in our priorities, for “there your heart will also be” (Matt. 6:21). How we invest our time, talents, and treasures points to what we value the most. He reminds us that if God is not first, whatever displaces Him is a worldly idol: “You can not serve God and money” (vs. 24).
Have you heard God calling you to fast (refrain from) anything which you are doing that is out of balance in your life?
Our obedience in forgiveness of others, which leads to our being blessed by God, is strong incentive to forgive, but to forgive from a loving heart is a purer motive.
The challenge of Jesus to continue in our heart-assessment by prioritizing and being intentional about what we do or say calls for daily meditation and prayer.
Consider the things you have allowed to become more important than God, as evidenced by what you prioritize or participate in while knowing that God disapproves.
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where, in your practice of religion, a prideful heart may be leading you to draw attention away from Jesus and toward yourself instead.
Today I choose to discern if I give, pray, fast, or prioritize with wrong motives rather than in love-motivated obedience.
Be Specific ________________________________________________
Do Not Worry
6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing?
6:26 Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are?
6:27 And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life?
6:28 Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. 6:29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these!
6:30 And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? 6:31 So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’
6:32 For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
6:33 But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
6:34 So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.
Lord, may the Enemy not trick me into worrying about things rather than feeling comforted in knowing the loving and all-powerful Lord God holds me in the palm of His hand.
Jesus encourages not to worry about the necessities of life. The “unconverted” (Matt. 6:32), those not in the family of God, worry about these things, because they do not have a loving God Who provides. Jesus reminds that we have a loving God Who knows what we have need of.
Instead of worrying, Jesus instructs that if we will focus on God’s kingdom and righteousness, “all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). The admonition that we stay focused on meeting the challenges of the day rather than worrying about what may come in the days ahead (“today has enough trouble of its own,” vs. 34) is a comforting cure for anxiety.
Worrying about necessities is in actuality doubting the loving provision that has been promised to us by the Lord God. When we worry we are distracted and take our eyes off of our obligation to serve Him in all ways, which should be our highest priority.
In our worry we fall easy prey to the Deceiver and become poor witnesses of Christ in us. Have you allowed yourself to worry about something over which you had no control, and your walk and witness for Christ were harmed?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where and when you tend to worry most and ask for His help in letting those worries go when you see them surfacing.
Today I choose to consider if my worrying is evidence that I do not trust God’s promise to meet my needs. If so, I choose to repent, ask His forgiveness, reject the lies of Satan that tempt me to doubt, and fully trust Him based on what I know not how I feel.
Be Specific __________________________________________________
Do Not Judge
7:1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 7:2 For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. 7:3 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? 7:4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? 7:5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 7:6 Do not give what is holy to dogs or throw your pearls before pigs; otherwise they will trample them under their feet and turn around and tear you to pieces.
Ask, Seek, Knock
7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. 7:8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 7:9 Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 7:10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 7:11 If you then, although you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 7:12 In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets.
The Narrow Gate
7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 7:14 But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Lord, if I stand in any way as “righteous” before You it is because of the work of Christ on the Cross and the presence of Your Holy Spirit in me. May I never act self-righteous and hold anyone to a higher standard than I hold for myself, but rather through the filter of Grace.
Jesus cautions against judging others, encourages His listeners to pray, and teaches that the way to eternal life is narrow and neither easily found nor followed.
Do not judge. Jesus informs His listeners that whatever standard they apply to others will be applied to them. If harsh perfectionism is expected of others, then God will also expect the same of us; if we have arrogant pride of position or title or wealth, then the folly of such pride will be amplified; if we entertain self-importance due to outward beauty, physical prowess, unique talent, then every flaw we have will be counted against us. When we see ourselves from the world’s perspective rather than as unique and valuable children of God, we cast our value as “pearls before pigs” (Matt. 7:6) for people to trample, rather than as persons in a place worthy to be sought.
Ask, seek, knock. Jesus encourages Believers to bring everything to God so that He may respond to fervent and righteous prayers with blessings. He reminds to “treat others as you would want them to treat you” (Matt. 7:12), a righteous standard for every citizen of a successful civilization and “not completely unique in the ancient world, but here it is stated in its most emphatic, selfless form” (NET sn).
The narrow gate. Jesus notes that far easier than following God’s way is following the “many” (Matt. 7:13) and wandering carelessly away from Him and His blessings, blessings both realized on earth and promised in Heaven. To follow God’s way through life is difficult, and “there are few who find it” (vs. 14).
The world wants us obsessed with, thus controlled by, the same priorities over which worldly people are. What we obsess over we become slaves to. Worldly people want us worry about their approval, so that we will sell out God in order to fit into their debauched and hopeless “chasing after the wind” (Eccl. 5:16).
Do we treat others as God would have us to, not only because that is how we’d want them to behave toward us, but because God asks us to?
Following Christ is sacrificial: Every genuine confession of faith requires that we give up everyone and everything in the world for Jesus and allow Him to decide who and what we need. While we may be poor in worldly things and rejected by worldly people, we are loved more dearly by God and His family of true Believers than any non-Believer in the world could ever hope to be loved.
Have you found yourself convicted by the Holy Spirit within for looking down on someone (dressed poorly, poorly spoken, different in some way) and being caught up in a momentary sense of superiority?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you when you are distracted by the unimportant to the detriment of what is important to God.
Today I choose to consider things I may be doing that are unintentional distractions from God on my part, but intentional temptations for my attention on the part of the Enemy. I will repent, look to the Holy Spirit for help in being teachable, and invite Him to protect me from drifting into worldly distractions and priorities.
Be Specific ________________________________________________
A Tree and Its Fruit
7:15 Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.
7:16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they?
7:17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
7:18 A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit.
7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
7:20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.
Judgment of Pretenders
7:21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
7:22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’
7:23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’
Hearing and Doing
7:24 Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock.
7:25 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock.
7:26 Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
7:27 The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!
7:28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teaching,
7:29 because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law.
Lord, because of my faith in Christ I am no longer under the Law but covered by the covenant of Grace. Help me to display, as evidence of that faith and grace, the fruit of the Holy Spirit that is given to me.
Jesus calls His followers to be discerning and to seek the wisdom from God which enables them to recognize, in order to flee, Christian “pretenders” and false teachings:
Tree and its fruit. Jesus warns there are many who pretend to be from and to speak for God, yet who are being used as tools of the Deceiver to trick those seeking Truth. Consider the walk and the talk of those who claim they are of God and, if their fruit (what they do and say) does not line up with His righteous standard, flee from those who come in “sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves” (Matt. 7:15).
Judgment of pretenders. Jesus saves His harshest words for those who fake having faith, thereby confusing and manipulating others. These are pretenders who: Cry out loudly in public, Lord, Lord; falsely claim to prophesy in His name; pretend to cast out demons, yet are really in league with the demons; and masquerade with theater-like stunts the “many powerful deeds of God” (Matt. 7:22). Jesus says, “I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you’“ (vs. 23).
Hearing and doing. Using a parable of building a house on rock instead of on sand, Jesus illustrates the difference between “a wise man” (Matt. 7:24) building a life on His words versus a foolish man building his life on the world’s lies — the foolish man will be “utterly destroyed” (vs. 27).
“Pretenders” are lawbreakers. As such, they are neither saved under the old covenant of Law through works nor under the new covenant of Grace by faith.
When has the Holy Spirit shown you that someone whom you trusted was actually a false prophet? Were you resistant to that truth at first? Have you separated yourself from that person, or are you still resisting the wisdom and protection of the Holy Spirit?
Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you an author, preacher, teacher, entertainer, or other (book, radio, television, gathering, etc.) who claims to speak with Biblical authority, but who is in fact a false prophet.
Today I choose to consider carefully if there are ‘pretenders’ in my life claiming the name of Christ but showing no evidence of the fruit of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God. Once identified, I choose to exercise extreme care that I am not influenced by them.
I will assess where I have a tendency to “build on the rock” (on the teachings of Jesus) versus on “shifting sand” (the teachings of the world). I will ask others to pray for me as I struggle to know for sure.
Be Specific ________________________________________
All Bible text is from the NET unless otherwise indicated - http://bible.org
Note 1: These Studies often rely upon the guidance of the NET Translators from their associated notes. Careful attention has been given to cite that source where it has been quoted directly or closely paraphrased. Feedback is encouraged where credit has not been sufficiently assigned.
Note 2: When NET text is quoted in commentary and discussion all pronouns referring to God are capitalized, though they are lower-case in the original NET text.
Commentary text is from David M. Colburn, D.Min. unless otherwise noted.
Copyright © 2012 by David M. Colburn. This is a BibleSeven Study –“The Chronological Gospels” – “Week 3 of 12” - prepared by David M. Colburn and edited for bible.org in June of 2012. This text may be used for non-profit educational purposes only, with credit; all other usage requires prior written consent of the author.