Salt and Light: What Y’All Are, When You Are in Christ (Matthew 5:13–16)

sermon05Salt and Light: What Y’All Are, When You Are in Christ (Matthew 5:13–16)

This little light of mine, I’m goin’ let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

If you have been around church for any length of time, you’ve probably heard this children’s song. It takes it wording from this week’s passage, Matthew 5:13–16, where Jesus tells his disciples that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

In truth, this is an important passage for understanding who we are. But if we take our cues from this children’s song alone, we might think that Jesus calls us as individuals to be salt packets or lone candlesticks. Yet, the language is clearly addressed to the community of disciples who are following Christ together. And therefore the application is not for individuals, but for the whole community of Christ.

In this week’s sermon I looked at what it means for the church to be Salt and Light. And what we discovered is how Jesus intends his community of faith to be permanent citizens of his kingdom who display covenant faithfulness to his Father in heaven. Such an identity stands in continuity with the Old Testament and against the world around us.

You can listen to the sermon online, Discussion questions are below, as are a list of additional resources. Continue reading

The Center of the Sermon on the Mount: Twelve Truths About Our Father in Heaven

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All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
— Matthew 11:27 —

Perhaps of the most surprising (and edifying) aspects of the Sermon on the Mount is the emphasis Jesus’ makes on his Father in heaven. While we may consider the Sermon as a explanation of the Law (see 5:17–48), or instructions for true piety (see 6:1–18), or a warnings to walk in the true way (see 7:13–28), the heartbeat of the Sermon is a love for the Father. And more than that, the Sermon is about how disciples of Christ might know and enjoy the Father’s love.

The importance of this Father-centered vision of the Sermon cannot be understated. As John 14:6 indicates, Jesus came to bring us to the Father. Likewise, Matthew’s own Gospel identifies how Jesus seeks to reveal the Father to those whom the Father has given (see above, Matthew 11:25–27). Therefore, it is worth noting how in his first discourse, the Father plays a prominent role. In what follows, I’ve notated twelve truths about what Jesus tells us about his Father and his Father’s love for those who seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Continue reading

Getting Into the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1–12)

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Getting Into the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1–12)

This Sunday we started walking through the Sermon on the Mount. Considering the question of true happiness, we first looked at how we should read Jesus’ words. And then we looked at the nine statements of blessing/happiness known as the Beatitudes.

After stating that the Beatitudes are not entrance requirements for the kingdom, but words of wisdom given to Christ’s disciples who are in the kingdom, we looked at each of the beatitudes. These words of Christ are meant to comfort us and challenge us and help us walk with our Lord, for the glory of our Father in heaven.

You can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources, including a sermon series on the Beatitudes, can be found below. Continue reading

A Mountain, A Map, and a Mercy Seat: An Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 4:23–8:1)

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A Mountain, A Map, and A Mercy Seat (Matthew 4:23–8:1)

This Sunday we started a new series on the Sermon on the Mount. In this introductory message, I sought to outline the whole message and to highlight the center section, where Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer.

You can listen to the sermon online. But be sure to listen with this visual aid. Discussion questions and additional resources can be found below.

Sermon on the Mount Overview copy

Discussion Questions Continue reading

Three Wrong Ways to Read the Sermon on the Mount

jazmin-quaynor-36221-unsplash.jpgThe Sermon on the Mount is probably the most famous sermon ever preached, and for good reason. Its speaker is the Lord Jesus Christ; its location on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee is unique; and its language is both beautiful and profound. Even non-believers are familiar with many of the words Jesus spoke in this sermon.

Yet, for as well-known as the Sermon is, it is often misunderstand and misused. Therefore, as we begin to study this passage of Scripture, we should look at three common, but misguided ways to approach the sermon. Continue reading

The Significance of the Sermon on the Mount: 10 Reflections from Herman Ridderbos

sermon05What is the Sermon on the Mount about?

That question has puzzled pastors, theologians, and Bible scholars for centuries. While large volumes have been written on the subject, sometimes a slimmer response is helpful. On that note, one finds great help from the late Dutch New Testament scholar Herman Ridderbos.

Writing a chapter on the Sermon on the Mount (“The Significance of the Sermon on the Mount,” in When the Time Had Fully Come: Studies in New Testament Theology26–43), Ridderbos explains the eschatological nature of Christ’s kingdom and how the arrival of Christ’s kingdom as a fulfillment of the Law and Prophets helps us understand and apply Jesus’ famous words.  Continue reading

The Artistic Evangelist: Seeing the Structure of Matthew’s Gospel

quino-al-110318-unsplash.jpgIn his theological commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing, Jonathan Pennington spends chapter five outlining the structure of Matthew’s Gospel and the Sermon on the Mount, in particular. Following Robert Gundry’s observation that Matthew is a book filled with “literary and theological art,” Pennington alerts the careful reader to the way Matthew organized his Gospel.

What follows are a few observations about the way Matthew wrote his Gospel and how the whole book is held together with a discernible fivefold structure. Tomorrow, I’ll provided a detailed outline of the Sermon on the Mount. Continue reading

“Whatever You Ask in Prayer”: A Christ-Centered Re-Reading of a Commonly Misused Verse

rob-bye-103200-unsplash“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
— Matthew 21:22 —

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer,
believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
— Mark 11:24 —

In my high school year book, my senior quote was from Jesus: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Young in my faith but zealous, I was learning how to follow Christ and this verse seemed to be an appropriate way to express my devotion. Not to mention, it marked something of my eighteen-year-old theology: If I put my mind to it, Jesus could do anything.

In subsequent years, I’ve seen that my introduction to Christ came through various shades of moralistic, therapeutic deism with splashes of the Bible mixed in. I believed in God, the Bible, the historical death and resurrection, and my need for salvation, but I really didn’t understand the logic of the gospel—even though I believed in Christ crucified.

I believe God, in his unspeakable kindness, used a psychologically-slanted message of salvation to create in me a simple trust in Jesus. In a way that only a sovereign God could design, he planted the truth of Christ’s preciousness in my heart, even if it would take some time to see the darker lines of the gospel—namely God’s absolute holiness, my absolute need for atonement, and that faith included a dying to self and living for his glory (in a word, repentance is part of saving faith).

For me, college served as a crash course in theology, where the doctrines of grace began to redraw my earlier understanding of Christ and salvation. But before college, I believed Christ came to save me from hell and to help me fulfill my life’s purposes. After all I had found verses that said as much—Matthew 21:22 and Mark 11:24 being prime examples.

So, in my misguided zeal, I quoted Mark 11:24, a verse that I think many people misunderstand. Continue reading

What Death Steals, the Lord Can Restore: Remembering Easter at Christmas (Matthew 2:16–18)

advent03Few passages of Scripture are heavier than Matthew 2:16–18, the historical account of Herod’s slaughter of the innocent children in Bethlehem. But few passages are also able to reach the depths of human loss and comfort the grieving in their deepest pain.

When read in conjunction with Jeremiah 31:15, which Matthew quotes in verse 18, we find in Matthew’s Gospel a promise of resurrection—even at Christmas time. In other words, God promises that what death steals, the Lord has recover through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And all who trust in him can experience his resurrection life.

If you are feeling the soul-crushing effects of sin and death, I pray this message might bring you encouragement. You can listen to or read the sermon notes online. Discussion questions are below, along with some further resources. But first, let me encourage you to take eleven minutes to watch this video by John Piper. In it Piper the theologian-poet reads from his story of the Innkeeper, a fictitious but faithful story of the effects of Herod’s rage on the residents of Bethlehem.

As much as we want to turn away from such pain, we need to embrace the power of the resurrection to heal us and help us in our loss. May God be pleased to use these resources to bring comfort to you.

Continue reading

Matthew’s Intertextual “Mashups”: Learning to Read Scripture from Jesus’ Inspired Disciple

matthewIt is well known that Matthew cites regularly from the Old Testament. He opens his Gospel by introducing Jesus as Abraham and David’s Son (1:1). He places Jesus at the end of Israel’s history—at least from Abraham to David through the exile to himself—and even frames this genealogy after the Toledōt structure of Genesis. Not surprisingly, the rest of his Gospel echoes, alludes, and cites the Old Testament. But one facet of his citations recently caught my eye.

In reading Richard Hays Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, Hays shows multiple places in Matthew’s Gospel where the Evangelist (or Jesus) speaks from two (or three) passages of Scripture. Hays calls this metalepsis, “a literary technique of citing or echoing a small bit of a precursor text in such a way that the reader can grasp the significance of the echo only by recalling or recovering the original context from which the fragmentary echo came and then reading the two texts in dialogical juxtaposition” (11). It’s the way Americans often weave movie quotes into their everyday conversation. Only, in the New Testament, it is the Hebrew Scriptures which form the well from which the biblical authors draw. This is how Jesus taught and spoke, and it is the way his Spirit-filled disciples do too.

Therefore, in reading Matthew, what at first looks like a simple citation from the Old Testament is often a more elaborate conflation of two or more passages. In what follows I will list a consider three examples mentioned by Hays, cite a few others, and draw a couple points of application for reading as a disciple of Jesus’s disciple, the apostle Matthew.  Continue reading