Those who have really changed don’t feel the need to prove it. Most of the time those who are constantly seeking your forgiveness and approval are still trying to control or manipulate you. If you have done something wrong to someone, apologize. If they reject your apology, move on. The only opinion that matters is God’s. Focus on your relationship with Him. Prove to Him that you have changed. If the people in your life are in-tune with God, He will reveal to them you have changed. If they are not, then they need to change just as much as you
Matthew 5:20 (AMPC)
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness (your uprightness and your right standing with God) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
The scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders of the time. Most people either did not know how to read or did not have access to the scriptures. They relied on the scribes and Pharisees to interpret and explain the scriptures for them. Yet, here Jesus says that they must be more righteous than the leaders and teachers who most likely had taught them.
Righteousness is not about how well you understand the Bible. It is not about what position you have in the Church. It is not about how many people listen to you or respect you. It is not about how long your prayers are or how many good deeds you have done. It is about your relationship with God and the condition of your heart.
Sadly, the gifts God has given us to understand Him better are sometimes the very things that separate us from Him. As good as they may be, if they are used incorrectly, they can greatly harm us and others. While God can still use these gifts to teach the people, at some point He will hold us accountable. We need to take time to examine our own hearts before we teach others. We need to stop blindly accepting everything we are told by our teachers. The minister’s job is to point people to Christ, not to replace Him. At some point, we all need to go directly to the source.
Yet, even when we pray or read the Bible for ourselves, we need to make sure we are doing so with the right intentions. We must be looking through the right lens, or else everything will be distorted, even the good things of God. We must ask ourselves, “What is my ultimate goal? Is it to know Christ and to be like Him, or is it something else?”
Those that have ears, let them hear.
Matthew 5: 17-19 (AMPC)
17 Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo but to complete and fulfill them.
18 For truly I tell you, until the sky and earth pass away and perish, not one smallest letter nor one little hook [identifying certain Hebrew letters] will pass from the Law until all things [it foreshadows] are accomplished.
19 Whoever then breaks or does away with or relaxes one of the least [important] of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven, but he who practices them and teaches others to do so shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
These are perhaps some of the most confusing verses in the Bible. Most of the New Testament tells us that we are not under law, yet Jesus says here that the law is still in effect. There are some who use these verses to discredit Paul and other writers of the New Testament. Some use them as evidence for continuing to practice the ceremonial aspects of the law of Moses. However, when we truly understand what Jesus is saying here, we see that there is no contradiction between His Words and the words of the rest of the New Testament.
Jesus did not come to destroy, but to fulfill. When He died, He said, “It is finished.” He meant what He said. He followed the law perfectly. All the Jewish holidays and rituals were foreshadows of what He accomplished on the Cross. He took the punishment of sin upon Himself, so we do not have to. And whenever we put our faith in what He accomplished, the law is fulfilled for us.
While the ceremonial and judicial aspects of the law no longer apply to those under grace, the moral parts still do. We are not saved by our moral deeds, but if we are saved, He will produce His morality within us.
Everything in the Law and the Old Testament prophecies pointed to Christ. As long as we trust Him and follow His leading, the law is fulfilled.
Matthew 5:13-16 (AMPC)
13 You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men.
14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.
In the previous post, I talked about how being a Christian means to be different. In these verses it shows us how important it is to be different. When a Christian compromises his/her beliefs and tries to blend in with the world, it is like salt that has lost it’s flavor, or like a light that has been hidden. It is our essential qualities of being a Christian that gives us our purpose. If we hide our differences, we have lost our purpose.
Christ describes us as the salt of the earth. The purposes of salt are to preserve and to enhance flavor. If it does neither of those things, it has lost it’s purpose. Likewise, Christians are the moral and spiritual preservatives/enhancers of this world. If the world is falling apart at a faster rate than normal, it is because Christians have lost their purpose. They have blended in so well that people cannot tell the difference.
Christ also describes us as the light of the world. If the world appears darker than usual, it is because Christians have hidden their light. They may act like a Christian in Church or at home, but when they get out into the world, they just act like everybody else.
Church and our private times with God are where we go to get recharged. If these are the only times we let our light shine, if these are the only times we act differently, if these are the only times we focus on bringing Him glory, then we are not being the salt of the earth or the light of the world.
Not everyone is called to be a pastor, an evangelist or a missionary, but we are all called to be a light. In whatever profession we are in, the way we act should bring glory to God. People should look at us and ask themselves, “What makes them different?” And we must not be afraid to share our faith with them when they do.
Matthew 5:10-12 (AMPC)
10 Blessed and happy and enviably fortunate and spiritually prosperous (in the state in which the born-again child of God enjoys and finds satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of his outward conditions) are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (for being and doing right), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!
11 Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of your outward conditions) are you when people revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely on My account.
12 Be glad and supremely joyful, for your reward in heaven is great (strong and intense), for in this same way people persecuted the prophets who were before you.
As I said in the previous post, we are not to seek trouble, but when it does come we should be ready for it. Yet, not only should we be ready, but we can also be joyful that it has come, not because we enjoy being persecuted, but because it is a sign that we are on the right path. A Christianity that does not convict and frustrate the world is not Christianity at all. That does not mean we try to cause trouble, but by simply living and teaching the Christian life, persecution will inevitably come.
There are many who say that Church attendance has steadily declined over the years. There are several reasons for this, but I would argue that the main reason is that the majority of the Western Church has lost it’s joy in persecution. It has tamed and compromised its message in an attempt to draw in more crowds, but sadly they are discovering it is doing the opposite. They can fool some, but most can tell when a pastor is sincere and when a pastor says what he/she thinks you want to hear. While they may have convinced themselves otherwise, many Church organizations care about Church attendance because of the money they can receive, not because they actually care about presenting the unadulterated truth of the Gospel.
Throughout history, the greatest growth spurts of the Church have always come out of persecution. Every revival has come from outcasts rebelling against the system in order to practice what the Bible actually says. The places where Christians are most on fire are the places where Christianity is outlawed. And every time the Church has sought out validation and support from the world, the world eventually takes control of the Church.
The problem of the majority of the Western Church is we have taken our freedoms for granted. Persecution still exists, but it is more subtle and deceptive. We care more about social acceptance than the truth. The Church has offered a way to feel like you’re a Christian without having to separate from worldliness. You can be like Christ and fit in with everyone else too. But this is not so. To be Christian is to be different and it’s the difference that sets the world free. They may laugh at you, insult you, or abuse you because of the difference, but it is only because they don’t want to face the fact that, deep down, they know they need to be different too.
Matthew 5:9 (AMPC)
9 Blessed (enjoying enviable happiness, spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they shall be called the sons of God!
To be a peacemaker does not mean to seek peace at any cost. Jesus Himself said that He did not bring peace, but a sword. And yet later He would say, “My peace I give to you.” How do we reconcile these conflicting statements?
Peace is not the absence of obstacles, but the confidence to overcome them. We are not to seek out trouble, but when it does come, we should be ready to handle it through His Strength.
There are some who think being a peacemaker means compromising their beliefs in order to avoid conflict, or they think it means allowing people to do whatever they want without consequences. However, to give up the faith, or to allow anarchy, is not peace. Sometimes we must stand up and fight in order to protect the peace. But we must do it in a way that honors God. We must not fight for our own selfish desires, but we must seek God’s Will and what is best for all.
There are also some who thrive on drama and conflict. They go out of their way to cause problems, many times because they are bored or empty inside. Strangely, the ones who fear conflict are often the ones causing it. They love causing drama, but they don’t always love being in the middle of it. They try to cause others to fight among themselves so they can watch and enjoy from afar.
Peace is more about the condition of our hearts than about our circumstances. It does not seek trouble, but it is not afraid to face it. It does not like problems, but it can still find joy and stability through Christ in the midst of them.
Depending on a child, student, or employee for emotional support is a form of emotional abuse. Unless the child is over 18, living outside of your house, and has consented to being your friend, do not share your personal issues with them or ask them for relationship advice. Unless your student is over 18, it is off of school grounds, and they have consented to being your friend, do not share your personal issues with them or ask them for relationship advice. Unless your employee is over 18, is off work, and they have consented to being your friend, do not share your personal issues with them or ask them for relationship advice.
If you are sharing a personal issue you had to try to teach a child/student/employee about life because they asked you for advice, that is okay. Please make sure it is an issue that has already been resolved and please emphasize the moral of the story over the emotional toil the situation may have caused you. You are there to teach and support them, not to receive sympathy from them.
If you need someone to vent to or you need emotional support, talk to a spouse, friend, counselor, or best of all, pray to Jesus.
Matthew 5:8 (AMPC)
8 Blessed (happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous—possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God!
To be pure in heart does not mean to be sinless or perfect. It means to have a sincere or genuine heart. We all make mistakes. We all have done bad things. However, there are those who own up to their sins and want to change, while there are others who do not admit their sins and have no desire to change.
God’s Grace is not an excuse to stop trying to be a better person.
I understand that there are those who try too hard and rely too much on themselves. But there are also many who don’t try at all and just expect God to forgive them. Neither of those scenarios are grace.
I do think God expects us to try. I think it is only when we have tried our best and realized it is not enough that we can truly understand our need for God’s Grace and learn to rely on His Power made possible by His Finished Work on the Cross.
The impure in heart depend on God’s Grace to ease their conscience and fear of hell. The pure in heart depend on God’s Grace because they want to see Him one day.
Matthew 5:7 (AMPC)
7 Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy!
Mercy is choosing not to harm or punish someone even though you know you could or even when someone deserves it. It can also mean making the punishment less drastic.
In our society, I fear many have confused mercy with apathy. Many people simply don’t care about disciplining their children or holding people in positions of power accountable. Mercy is not the opposite of justice. It is justice on a leash, preventing it from becoming abusive. Justice never seeks revenge. It is only seeks the safety of the people.
Mercy is best used when someone shows remorse for their actions. Mercy softens or eliminates the punishment in order to provide the person time to change. It recognizes that the people who hurt people are often people that have been hurt and many troublemakers are that way because they have been abused. If they are given a drastic punishment, it may remind them of the abuse they received before and it may drive them to become more abusive themselves. If they are shown mercy and compassion, it could help them realize their mistakes and help them to change.
However, there are also some who abuse the mercy given to them and do not use it as an opportunity to change, but as an opportunity to continue their bad behavior. If they have consistently abused the mercy given to them, then a more harsh punishment may be required.
Discipline is necessary, but should never be enjoyable. It is something we have to do, not something we want to do. When in doubt, it is always better to error on the side of mercy.