In the post we are continuing to look at Matthew 7. This is the final chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. It is part of the closing argument so to speak. Jesus has been talking about what the Kingdom of God is like, and now He is wrapping up this message. We talked about His warning of self righteousness and how we are to understand ask, seek, and knock in a helpful way. Today I want to begin to look at the next couple of sections because they really go together.
Here is what Jesus says:
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
Now again it’s important to note that this is the closing of the sermon, not the opening. Jesus has been talking for a long time about who is who in the Kingdom, how one in the Kingdom should live and what it all looks like together.
We’ve been looking at Christian leadership in todays culture over several posts. We looked at checking our own hearts first, understanding and leading from God’s narrative, leading with the truth of Jesus and taking care of the home front. Today I want to begin to talk about Christian leadership in a even more outward way.
We need to understand that the Christian worldview is not the worldview of the culture. In some ways of course this is not new. But we are entering a time now where western Christendom is over. Christianity is not. Not at all. But the worldview that has dominated western culture, for good or bad, has changed.
This current environment is much more apostolic than that. What this means is that we are going to have to do actual evangelization in a world that does not know or does not follow the basic truths of Christian thought.
Today we are going to continue to look at Matthew 7. This is the closing of the sermon on the mount. It’s sort of the application part of the sermon. Last time we looked at how self righteousness gets in the way of helping others. Today I want to look at the next section dealing with asking God for things.
Here is what Jesus says
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?If you, then, though 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!
The first paragraph fits into an interesting category of scripture abuse. This is the sort of thing that is often used to justify what is often called the prosperity gospel. The idea that whatever you want, if you just ask God, then He will give it to you.
Today I want to continue a series about what it looks like to lead as a Christian in today’s culture. We first looked at the importance of starting with looking at our own heart and what we are really all about. Then we looked at the importance of defining and living out of the narrative of God’s story vs. narratives dictated by current culture. Next we took an inward turn to look at taking care of our own business first.
Today I want to look at leading with Jesus and His truth.
Now that sounds sort of obvious. But I honestly don’t see a lot of it right now. What I see is a lot of Christians using Jesus to back up their side. I also see a lot of Christians saying true things about Jesus, but only the parts that they want to virtue signal with. I also think there are a lot of Christians who are sort of fixated on a particular part of Jesus and are just trying to follow that one part.
Finally I think there are people who are trying to show that Jesus is relevant to all that is going on right now in an attempt to win particular people over, or perhaps keep particular people from leaving Christianity.
But frankly this is creating confusion and it’s all hijacking Jesus. Now understand I’m not accusing everyone, or anyone in particular, of meaning to do that (although there are certainly people that are). It also risks splitting the body of Christ in places it just doesn’t have to be split.
What often ends up happening is that Jesus ends up being the support for a truth rather than the truth itself.
Today I want to venture into Matthew 7. Jesus is giving the sermon on the mount and this is the closing part of that sermon. As I’ve mentioned several times it’s important to see this entire sermon (Matthew 5-7) as one line of thought, building on itself. But we are pulling some truths out of it a piece at a time, which is also helpful.
In the opening of Matthew 7 Jesus is talking about the idea of judging others. Here is what He says
Do not judge, or you too will be judged.For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Now this might be one of the most misused scriptures in the bible. People say this is Jesus saying that you should make no judgements. But as we’ll see this is not the main idea here.
In this series we’ve been talking about what it looks like to lead in today’s culture. We first said we need to check our own hearts. Then we looked at the need to live out of and lead people within the correct narrative.
Today before we go further out so to speak, I want to talk about going further in.
What I mean is that along with the first battle, the one in our heart, we need to make sure that we fight for those right around us. We need to make sure we take care of the home front so to speak.
The reality is that you are your own first responder. This is true in general of course. For example if there is a medical emergency you are going to respond before the ambulance gets there. If someone breaks into your home you will need to respond long before the police arrive. Do you have a plan? This is true for every area of life.
In a previous post I began to offer a conversation about what actual Christian leadership might look like right now in our current American Culture. This is an ongoing conversation I’m having with some people and I’m sort of sharing out if you will. I want to be clear that I’m not pretending to have all of the right answers. But I think that we need to think about this because what I see is a large lack of leadership out there.
In part one I said the first thing we need to understand is that the most important battle is within. It all starts there. It’s not out there somewhere in some fight against the ever easy to blame “they”. It’s the battle in our own hearts to follow Jesus and actually be about His Kingdom first.
Today I want to think about a second important thing. That is this: What narrative are you living in and out of?
We’ve been looking at Mark 6. This is all part of the sermon on the mount and as I mentioned before, it’s a good idea to read the whole thing for context of each part. However the parts have value even pulled out of the sermon. We’ve looked at two things that I think have a great deal for us to consider today. We looked at acting to be seen by others and then looked at the idea that where we put our treasure (money, time, energy, thoughts and effort) will dictate where our heart ends up.
Today I want to look at what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. Now let me just say off the bat there that many people have way more and better things to say than I do and I’ll be leaning heavily on some of them. However, I thought I would offer some thoughts.
A few months ago I wrote a series of posts about leadership. I’m not going to link them here but if you type leadership in the search function they’ll come up. I mentioned that it is one of the most misunderstood and overcomplicated ideas that people talk about.
Lately I’ve had some people reach out to me asking how we as Christians can lead right now in our culture and who they might look to in Christian leadership. You might be thinking, “why are they asking you?” Haha! Fair question. But in actuality I’ve been thinking a lot about this question.
The reason I’ve been thinking about it is twofold. First, I think in terms of Western Christianity we are at a major turning point. It’s not THE turning point for all of Christianity in history or anything. But it’s for sure an important moment. Secondly is that as I watch across the landscape I see very little actual leadership. What I see is a lot posturing, reacting, and fear based “leadership”. I see a lot of people wanting to be liked, and either trying to hold onto something that is already gone or just changing “christianity” to fit secular leadership. Both are really bad. I mean just awful.
We’ve been looking at Mark 6 which is part of the sermon on the mount. Last time we looked at the idea of not doing or talking about righteousness to be seen by others. Today I want to talk about verses 19-21.
Now Jesus has been talking about not doing acts of righteousness be it charitable giving, praying or fasting to be seen. These are the examples He gives. He says that if you do it to be seen, then you have received your reward – you’ve been seen. But if you do it for the Kingdom – not to be seen – God sees it and will reward you. He then begins to talk about rewards and treasures. He says
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”