Monthly Archives: August 2015

Blessed are Those Who Mourn

The second beatitude deals with mourning and comfort. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). This mourning is two-fold: it includes mourning over personal sin, as well as mourning over the sin present in society. Blomberg wrote, “Mourning includes grief caused by both personal sin and loss and social evil and oppression” (Blomberg, Matthew, 99). Christians should mourn over the sin in their own lives, as well as the sin that pervades their culture and the world.

The result of mourning our sin is the comfort of God. Only those who mourn their sin will “turn to God for forgiveness and help” (Osbourne, Matthew, Kindle Location 3296). Only mourners of sin repent and experience the grace and comfort of God. Those who mourn, however, will be comforted by God.

So, let’s be mourners. Mourn your own sin, and let your brokenness drive you to the cross. Mourn the sin around you, and pray for God to work in the midst of our sin-filled world.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit.

The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes. The first beatitude from Jesus is as follows: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Jesus begins by acknowledging the “blessedness” of the poor.

This seems a strange way to start the sermon (Jesus probably wouldn’t have gotten an “A” in a homiletics class for this introduction). Nevertheless, it is interesting. Why does Jesus start off with the “poor?” Because only those who recognize their poverty (spiritually) will trust Christ and enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus was not speaking to economically poor people (although there are certainly economically poor people who are “poor in spirit” and for Jesus’ description here). Instead, He is talking to those who are “poor in spirit,” or those who humbly recognize their spiritual poverty and need for grace. It is those who recognize their spiritually destitute position who will humble themselves, turn from sin (repent), and believe the gospel (faith). 

Here is the question: are you “poor in spirit?” Do you recognize your spiritual poverty and the need for God’s grace? Do you understand that you are spiritually broke and needed Jesus to pay the price you could never pay? Only those people will enter the kingdom of heaven. They are the ones who are truly blessed.

Best Resource for the Sermon on the Mount.

Most exegetical commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew will provide in-depth analysis on the Sermon on the Mount. Osbourne’s commentary (in the Zondervan Exegetical NT series, which I have been citing in this series of blog posts) provides some helpful insights, as do the commentaries by Nolland (NIGTC), Turner (BECNT), Morris (PNTC), and Blomberg (NAC). Keener’s socio-rhetorical commentary is also helpful (but massive!)

The best non-commentary resource, in my opinion, is Carson’s brief work on the Sermon on the Mount. Carson explains each section in a straightforward manner, and he applies the text to modern believers. As I work though the Sermon on the Mount, I plan on utilizing Carson’s work, so stay tuned for the next few posts!

The Sermon on the Mount and Justification.

I have been going through Matthew’s Gospel, and now I have arrived at the Sermon on the Mount. I plan on spending quite a bit of time studying this, and I will share my discoveries and thoughts as I go along. Before digging into the Sermon on the Mount over the next few weeks, let me point out the audience: disciples. Matthew wrote, “Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him” (Matthew 5:1). The sermon was directed towards people who were already following Jesus; they were already His disciples. 

Why is this important to point out? Because I have heard people point to the Sermon on the Mount to argue for “works righteousness.” I have witnessed to people who believe Jesus was teaching that our righteousness must exceed the Pharisees (which is true), which means have to obey all the commands to be righteous (which is wrong…and impossible!). Our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, but all our righteous works are filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Our righteousness can never exceed that of the Pharisees. Jesus’ statement is not intended to boost out self-confidence or drive us to obey God’s commands in order to be saved. Instead, it is intended to remind us we are incapable of being righteous and to cause us to seek a righteousness that is not our own. In short, it is intended to drive us to the gospel.

The gospel reminds us that we are sinners and incapable of earning forgiveness through works. So, Jesus took our sin on Himself and died on the cross so that we could receive His righteousness. Our sin in exchange for Jesus’ righteousness…what an exchange! Ultimately, the Sermon on the Mount reinforces the gospel, not challenges it. Unbelievers are not being challenged to obey to become righteous. Instead, believers are being reminded that (1) their righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, (2) they cannot exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, and (3) they must rest in the righteousness of Christ that is imputed by grace through faith in His subtitutionary death. Praise God for sending Jesus Christ to take our sins so we could be made the righteousness of God!

Popular Jesus.

Matthew seems to describe Jesus as “popular.” That is, He has a lot of people following Him around. In Matthew 4:25, Matthew wrote, “And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.” Jesus seemed to have quite a following.

I wonder what attracted most of these people to Jesus. Was it His unique preaching and teaching? Was it His miracles? In this passage, Matthew doesn’t come out and say it, but he seems to imply that the crowd has gathered due to Jesus’ healing ministry. Nothing draws a crowd like sick, paralyzed, and demon-possessed people being healed, it seems.

As I read this passage, my mind rushed forward to the cross. Where were these people on that tragic yet victorious day? Were they yelling “crucify Him?” Were they hiding, like the disciples? Were they at the cross, like the women? It is hard to say. But I can say this with confidence: many of the people comprising this crowd did not continue to follow Jesus long-term. They may have initially been excited but quickly drifted away, or they may have lasted a little while longer but eventually run out of gas. Either way, they did not stick with it.

Sadly, the same thing seems to be true today. Many people make a decision to follow Jesus, but it doesn’t last. Or, they make a commitment that lasts a little while, but they eventually burn out. Genuine believers, however, will not turn back from following Jesus. Instead, they will follow Him because He endured the cross, rose from the dead, and sent His Holy Spirit to indwell and empower them. Their continued faithfulness is not based on their own strength or power, but on the One who redeemed them. So take confidence in this, Christian: “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Continue pursuing Jesus, and remember that He is faithful to finish what He started!

Preaching, Teaching, and Healing.

Matthew 4:23-25 provides a summary of Jesus’ ministry. As Osborne wrote, “The three participles of v. 23 (teaching, preaching, healing) pretty much say it all” (Osborne, Matthew, Kindle Location 3055). He goes on to say these participles describe “Jesus’ powerful ministry” (Kindle Location 3055). The rest of Matthew’s gospel will flesh these our, culminating in Christ’s greatest work: His substitutionary death on the cross.

The ministry of Jesus reminds us of the importance of teaching and preaching, as well as the importance of meeting physical needs. Jesus Christ shared the gospel (vs. 23), but he also performed miracles and healed the sick (vs. 24). Christians must be faithful to share the truth, but they should also seek to imitate Christ and meet physical needs when possible. Let’s seek to do these two things faithfully.

Fishers of Men.

In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus began calling His disciples. His first four disciples were fishermen (although Jesus called disciples from other walks of life; Matthew Himself was a tax collector). When Jesus called these disciples He said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (vs. 19). Clearly Jesus had a purpose for these disciples: they would fish for men.

The idea of disciples of Jesus fishing for men, or participating in evangelism, should come as no surprise to Christians. After all, Jesus left us the Great Commission to motivate us to share the gospel. Evangelism is an essential aspect of discipleship. Sadly, we often draw too sharp of a distinction between discipleship and evangelism. While they are certainly distinct, they are also connected.

Here, Jesus calls these men to teach them to evangelize. As Osborne said, “The purpose of discipleship is evangelistic, to learn a whole new type of ‘fishing'” (Osborne, Matthew, Kindle Location 2914). There is obviously a connection between the two. Disciples must be taught to evangelize, and those who evangelize must be prepared to make disciples (including teaching them to evangelize!).

Let me close by asking you a question: are you a disciple of Jesus? If so, are you sharing the gospel? Are you fishing for men? Part of being a disciple is sharing the gospel. Let’s get busy telling people about Jesus. Let’s fish for men!

Ordinary People.

Have you ever stopped and considered the people Jesus chose to call as His disciples? In Matthew 4:18-22, Jesus is walking along the Sea of Galilee. He sees Peter and Andrew casting nets, and He calls them to follow Him. Then, He passes James and John, who are mending their nets, and He calls these brothers to follow Him. They are four, ordinary men working out on the lake, and Jesus chooses them as His disciples and ultimately uses them to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth!

I’m not sure about you, but I find this comforting. Jesus isn’t looking for the best looking or the most talented. As a matter of fact, God usually chooses people who seem insignificant in the eyes of the world (1 Corinthians 1:26-31) so that He can receive all the glory for what He accomplishes through ordinary people. God isn’t looking for you to be awesome, He is looking for you to be available. Christian, God can use you for His honor and glory if you will simply be available and choose to follow Him, just like those early disciples did!

The Simple Message of Jesus

Jesus preached a simple message: repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:14-15). In Matthew’s gospel, the public ministry of Jesus is described following His temptation in the wilderness. This ministry involved proclamation, and the message was one of repentance. Matthew wrote, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'” (Matthew 4:17). It would probably surprise many contemporary people (including Some professed Christians) that Jesus’ preaching was characterized by repentance. Turn from your sin (a taboo word these days) and trust God was His essential message.

Let me draw out two points from this. First, we must allow Scripture to shape our view of Jesus. Too often we allow other people and other sources to shape or influence of view of Jesus. Because of this, we often think of Jesus as a kind and loving speaker who simply affirmed people, but this is not the biblical picture of Jesus’ preaching. Instead, He called people to turn from their sins and believe God. Second, true gospel preaching involves repentance. People must be told to place their faith in Jesus Christ, but they must also be told to turn from their sin to Jesus Christ. A failure to preach repentance is ultimately a failure to preach the gospel.

So, read your Bible. Believe in Jesus, but believe in the Jesus of the Bible. Also, emphasize repentance in your personal life (we should be regular repenters), and if you are a preacher, emphasize it in your messages. As Jesus Himself said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). Believe this. Practice this. And share this!

Prophecy, Inspiration, and Daily Devotions.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Matthew constantly points to Old Testament passages to show Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. In Matthew 4:12-17, Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 to show Jesus lived in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali to fulfill prophecy. Evidentialists (apologists that rely on proofs to support the claims of Christianity) often point to fulfilled prophecy as evidence of the divine origin of Scripture. Even those who utilize a different approach to apologetics (presuppositional, classical, etc.) should recognize the value of fulfilled prophecy. 

Fulfilled prophecy is one of many reasons I believe in the inspiration of Scripture. Here, Matthew sees Jesus move to Capernaum as the fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1-2. Isaiah prophesied about “a great light” appearing to those who were “dwelling in darkness” in Zebulun and Naphtali (vs. 16). This light dawned on “those dwelling in the region and shadow of death” (vs. 16). According to Matthew, Jesus was this “great light,” and the Gospels bear this out. Jesus is the “light of the world,” after all! Jesus fulfilled this prophecy, revealing the inspiration (only God could predict this and bring it to pass) and trustworthiness of the Bible.

If we believe the Bible is inspired by God and able to be trusted, our response should be to value Scripture. We should read it and obey it. We should memorize it and share it. So, don’t be a Christian who knows about fulfilled prophecy, inspiration, and inerrancy but fails to spend time in the Word of God. Instead, commit to dwelling in the Word daily. Allow the light of the world to shine through the pages of Scripture and into your heart, conforming you into His image!