influence

The Ultimate Rabbi Teaches

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Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying: (Matt 5:1-2 NIV84) [see full text below]

What drew people to Jesus? Many followed Him when He began His public ministry. They came from far away to be close to Him—to see Him, to be touched by Him, to hear Him (Matt 4:17, 23-25). He was the ultimate Rabbi or Teacher. But what was it that drew people to Him?

Jesus was unlike other rabbis who had their own interpretations and traditions based on the Law of Moses. Other rabbis were exclusive and expected their disciples to accept and respect their teaching and authority. But Jesus was not like them.

The message Jesus taught was simple yet deep. Not deep in an unreachable sense but it penetrated the heart—the inner being and spirit of a person.

The condensed version of the Lord’s message is found in Matthew 4:17—

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

For the complete message of Jesus, we need to read all four of the gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—and be familiar with the Old Testament Scriptures He referred to and those He fulfilled as the Messiah.

The Sermon on the Mount is the expanded version of the Lord’s message on the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew’s gospel is written from a Jewish point of view, so he uses the term Kingdom of Heaven, which is the term the Jews favored out of reverence for God’s name.

The other gospels use the Kingdom of God. They are essentially interchangeable terms to describe the realm of God’s sovereign rule.

The Sermon on the Mount—a collection of teachings

These three chapters in Matthew—5 through 7— are Matthew’s collection of Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven (God). It is the heart and soul of God’s kingdom—God’s sovereign realm or domain. It is neither geographic nor political but much greater and more personal.

The Jewish view of God’s kingdom became geo-political—localized to the physical region of the Promised Land on earth and their national identity as Israel. This is similar to the view of the church during the time of the crusades.

Sadly, these same limits exist in the hearts and minds of many self-proclaimed Christians today. But as said before, God’s kingdom is much greater. It is not limited to a physical territory or sense of national identity. The Kingdom of God (Heaven) is not a geo-political realm but spiritual and eternal.

Insights

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll consider how great and pervasive the Kingdom of Heaven is through devotional studies of the Sermon on the Mount.

The Kingdom of Heaven (God) is the realm of God’s reign within a person’s heart and mind. When someone chooses to become a follower of Jesus, they choose to have God reign in their lives—their heart, their mind, and their actions.

The reign of God in a person’s life is not intended to be private but to influence and impact the lives of others around us. This is the essence of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

Redefining the Nature of God’s Kingdom

Jesus was the ultimate rabbi but His message wasn’t restricted to a few or for the most spiritually minded. His message was intended for all who would hear Him, listen to Him, and trust Him. While He taught His disciples, other followers heard Him also.

His message wasn’t exclusive and neither did He exclude those who followed Him.

People from many walks of life, regardless of economic or social status, were drawn to follow Jesus. Even those He chose as apostles were from many different backgrounds who would not associate with one another if not for following Jesus.

In the first portion of Chapter 5, Jesus redefines the nature of God’s kingdom. This is seen in the list of attributes or heart attitudes known as the Beatitudes and the metaphors of salt and light used to describe the influence and impact of those in God’s kingdom.

Next week, we’ll begin to look at the Beatitudes. But read ahead—there is a richness and depth to these simple statements of Jesus known as the Sermon on the Mount. Our goal in these devotions is to discover truth which will impact our life and the life of those around us.

How has the Sermon on the Mount impacted your life…or has it?

Reflection—

The Kingdom of Heaven (God) is not a geo-political realm but spiritual and eternal. When God reigns in a person’s life it ought to influence and impact the lives of others around them. This is the essence of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.

Prayer Focus—

Even if you’re familiar with the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, ask God for fresh insights and applications of truth from it, as you read and study. If you’re not familiar with it, ask the Lord to open your understanding of what He intended for those who trust in Him.


Devo Scripture Text

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

(Matthew 5:1-12 NIV84)

The Infection of Overreaction

Drive out a mocker, and conflict will leave.

Quarreling and abuse will stop.

Do not be a friend of one who has a bad temper, and never keep company with a hothead,

or you will learn his ways and set a trap for yourself. (Proverbs 22:10, 24-25 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 22:1-29 GW)


We live in a world of overreaction. Overreacting is not a new phenomenon. It’s ancient. But social media and the internet provide an environment that superheats overreaction.

The volatility and vitriol spewed out in public view is shocking. Well, it used to be but now it seems to be the norm. I find myself wanting to say, “Ok, everybody…take a deep breath and let’s calm down.” But there would be reactions and overreactions to that too.

Unfortunately, social media provides a platform for expressing opinions and overreaction. It encourages it. It is an outlet for people who might be too timid to say things in other settings. This isn’t an indictment of social media, just an observation.

At first glance, these two verses seem to be admonitions to take action to exclude those who mock and have anger issues. The immediate solution is to eliminate the problem and that is one way to resolve things. But I see something deeper to consider.

What drives the mocker to mock and causes the anger to boil in a person? Why is the influence of the mocker and the person with anger issues so infectious?

These are two different concerns.

First, the influence of those who mock and those with anger issues is infectious. It either pulls us along with its force of emotion or stirs us to react.

The longer we’re exposed to such influences, the more likely we are to be infected by them. This is the warning given—…you will learn his ways and set a trap for yourself.

Sometimes, the only solution is to exclude the one who stirs up strife, arguments, and abuse. When one person influences a group in a destructive way and refuses to change their ways—the good of the whole becomes more important.

This is true for a sports team, a work environment, and within a church community or small group. It can be a drastic step to take but a necessity.

When it’s us

But what if you and I are the mocker or the one who has habitual anger issues? What can we do about it? Especially when we see our influence corrupting others and we are excluded because of it.

This goes back to the question of what drives the mocker or what stirs up the boiling cauldron of rage? The possible reasons are myriad but the means to resolve it are pretty basic.

It requires some honest soul searching. We need to ask ourselves some hard questions like—Why am I so angry about this? Why do I feel compelled to blurt things out?

Honest questions such as these should lead us to search our heart with the Lord’s help. This requires honest prayer, reflection, and a willingness to change.

As we begin to understand the core issue—we need to commit to pursuing change.

When I realize what needs to change, I know I need help to do so. My go-to’s are honest prayer, positive and corrective truth to build on, and God’s help.

At the heart of it all—at least my heart—is the need for self-control. I’m intrigued and thankful that self-control is a fruit of God’s Spirit living in me (Gal 5:23). I’m also glad both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interceding (praying) on my behalf (Rom 8:27, 34).

This is how I can avoid the infection of overreaction—self-control with the help of God.

Reflection—

Honest questions can lead us to search our heart with the Lord’s help. Honest prayer and reflection can lead to a willingness to change. When we begin to understand what needs to change and consciously move towards making it, we need to rely on the Lords help.

Prayer Focus—

When you pursue significant change in your life, be honest with God in prayer and be open to God’s Spirit working in your life—He’s already praying for you.

©Word-Strong_2019


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My Sister—Wisdom

Siblings have a unique relationship. It's more than the relationship of best friends—although I know siblings who are truly best friends. I've seen this with my mom and her sister and my own daughters. This can also be true of brothers and some brother-sister relationships.

The relationship of siblings is unique because they share similar DNA. This can be a good and bad thing and leads to what I call the love-hate element of sibling relationships. They can be each other's protectors or advocates then arch-enemies within minutes of each role.

I've seen this over and over again in my own family and with other siblings.

Smoother Than Oil, Bitter As Wormwood

Some advice in Proverbs is pointed. Figurative language is used but the point made is hard to ignore, especially considering the author. King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He knew a thing or two about women (1 Kings 11:3).

Though he was a great king and wise man, his heart was turned away from God to the idolatry of all his wives. He allowed their influence and their desire to rule in his life. So he turned away from the God whom he knew to be true and from the wise truth he spoke and wrote.

Guard Your Heart!

It's been said, "the eyes are the windows to the soul." This is a popular version of similar expressions throughout history. A person's eyes are a truer indication of the state of their soul than their facial expression and words.

In this case, the eyes are windows for others to look inside another person—into their soul, their heart. A person can wear a smile on their face while trying to cover the grief within them that's seen in their eyes.