MONDAY MINUTES With Pastor Chris McCool (January 24, 2022)

This is the third in a series of posts about the Sermon on the Mount, taken from an article written by Elder Mike Ivey. As we have stated in previous posts, this article takes the Sermon on the Mount and applies it to our modern-day culture, which is filled with divisiveness and rancor. He reminds us through Christ’s teachings that we are NOT to allow this division to impact our fellowship with God or with each other!

I hope this series has been as thought-provoking and convicting to you as it has to me! I have sometimes allowed myself to get caught up in the world’s troubles and let them get me down. Praise His name, I don’t have to do that because the Kingdom in which I dwell is not of this world!

Please continue to read along with us as we explore this Sermon.

May the Lord bless you is my prayer!

Elder Chris McCool, Pastor

A Contextual Summation ofJesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Part 3)

By Elder Michael Ivey

I. Context of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (cont.)

The Sermon also cautions of challenges to joy disciples will experience. These are things that can undermine faith in God by causing us to neglect, forget or reject loving and devoted fellowship with God as the singular method to possess and maintain joyous well-being. Examples and details Jesus provides of hazards to discipleship fall into three categories. They are: Ignorance, human pride and distractions. 

Ignorance of God as an obstacle to discipleship, and more specifically ignorance of the values and ethics of his moral authority and our duty to accept and comply with God’s will, is implied in the several statements Jesus makes which begin with the phrase, “Ye have heard that it hath been said;” by which Jesus identifies false teachings and values. He responds to these with “But I say;” after which he corrects ignorant and mistaken conventional values and ethics of society-at-large by teaching God sourced values and ethics. He also warns against the ignorant philosophies and instructions from “false teachers.” These [false teachers] are any who promote values and methods that are not rooted in God’s word; or else, who cynically use godly values to seek ends which do not honor God.

Human pride, as the idolatry of self-pleasure/promotion, is characterized by Jesus as engaging in activities, including public worship, to be “seen of men.” By this he refers to things we do to receive worldly praise and honor rather than to honor God and give him praise. Whenever our motives are self-serving, by design they are not God serving. This is not to suggest we do not receive benefit from serving God. To the contrary, our well being assuredly is blessed when we serve God. Conversely, we do great harm to our well being in terms of loss of comfort, peace, joy and happiness when we engage in self-worship through motivations which place promoting and pleasing self ahead of honoring and pleasing God.

Distraction is the third category Jesus identifies, which hinders joyous well being from God sourced happiness. He characterizes distraction in terms of laying up “treasures on earth” which prevents us from accessing heavenly treasures. Some of the examples Jesus cites include; inordinate concern for our physical appearance, preoccupation with clothing and food and worry over the future impact of worldly troubles (See Matthew 6:27-34). Jesus notes inordinate concern for such as these distracts us from seeking first the kingdom of God; where, by faith we have access to the righteousness of God. 

Repentance is a primary aspect of the context of Jesus’ sermon. Although a command that we must repent is not specifically mentioned in the lesson, a theme of discipleship repentance is woven throughout the message. Perhaps the reason Jesus does not specifically command us to repent in the body of his message is because in Matthew chapter 4, in the lead up to the Sermon, Jesus’ preaching is generally characterized as being focused on the need we have to repent. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17).

Since the “kingdom of heaven” is the topic of Jesus’ Sermon and since his preaching about the kingdom is said to include a call to repent, it logically follows that the thematic orientation of the Sermon on the Mount includes Jesus calling on his disciples to repent. Furthermore, examination of the content of the Sermon reveals Jesus identifies what constitutes true repentance, what we must repent from, and how we do so.

Knowing the meaning of repentance as it is mentioned in the narrative leading up to Jesus’ discourse helps us to better recognize where and how it is incorporated into the Sermon. In Matthew 4:17 the word repent is translated from the Greek word, μετανοέω, metanoeo. It means: to change one’s mind, to think differently (for better), morally to have compunction. 

This meaning fits both the social orientation and the introspective tone of Jesus’ discourse. A recurring theme of the Sermon is a message that changed thinking is necessary in order to participate and receive blessings in the “kingdom of heaven.” To be a follower of Christ Jesus we must engage in ongoing self-examination to be assured our actions are prompted by thoughts and motivations rooted in love and devotion to God. 

Specifically, Jesus implies his disciples cannot think about righteousness with the self-serving mindset of the scribes and Pharisees. Based on what we find in ourselves, what urges are motivating our thought processes and behavior, when these are inconsistent with God’s moral authority as indicated in scripture, we must repent. We are to do this by first apologizing to God and seeking his forgiveness and then by apologizing to all others we have offended and beg their forgiveness; and, of equal importance we must change and bring our behavior in line with God’s moral authority.