MONDAY MINUTES With Pastor Chris McCool (February 7, 2022)

In today’s post, we look at the fifth installment of an article by Elder Michael Ivey regarding the Sermon on the Mount, and how it applies to us today. I hope you enjoy these articles; they have been very convicting and enlightening for me!

May the Lord bless you is my prayer.

Elder Chris McCool, Pastor

A Contextual Summary of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Part 5)

by Elder Michael Ivey

II. Organization of the Sermon

B. Nature of Commitment (cont.)

Jesus continues his teaching on the subject of singular devotion to God in Matthew 6:22-23 using the eye as a metaphor for single-minded focus on loving and pleasing God. We cannot serve God with singular devotion and also be distracted by competing interests. For instance, we cannot focus on serving God as an active church member and at the same time accept employment which requires we be at work during meeting time. 

Jesus likens such cross purpose to being cross-eyed, which according to nature causes visual confusion; and if left uncorrected can lead to calamity. He characterizes this cross-purpose confused thinking as evil (calamitous), profound darkness. Left uncorrected such thinking produces mental darkness which shrouds our thinking and so confuses judgment that we lose all sight of what is right according to God’s moral authority.

Jesus concludes this portion of his lesson on the importance of singular devotion to God in Matthew 6:24 by stating we cannot serve two masters. We cannot do so because we will consciously choose to love one and hate the other; or else unconsciously we will choose one over the other by allowing ourselves to be influenced and thus pulled toward one; which of necessity causes us to avoid the other.  In either case, whether by conscious or unconscious choice we will serve only one master.  In Jesus’ kingdom the choice must be God. 

C. Challenges to Disciples’ Maintaining Devotion to God

Throughout the Sermon Jesus identifies a number of things which distract or else serve to lure us away or otherwise defeat our efforts to be faithful followers in his church/kingdom of heaven. Most of [the things] Jesus mentions are behaviors and attitudes that impede our devotion to God alone. They include:   

Matthew 5:20-48 Ye have heard: Jesus warns against falling into legalistic thinking in which outwardly we practice the statutory commands to avoid technical sinning, such as to not commit murder, while inwardly we cultivate sinful anger against another; which involves inwardly harboring attitudes that if adequately motivated and acted upon can produce murder. 

Matthew 5:39-42 But I say: Jesus notes how legalism produces misapplication of justice. As an example of this he cites a principle of magistrate adjudication under Moses law, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” which the scribes and Pharisees pretentiously used and taught to justify exacting personal revenge. He notes such legalistic misapplication of scripture prevent us from exercising kingdom of heaven graces such as mercy, longsuffering, repentance and forgiveness.     

Matthew 6:1-18 Seen of men: Jesus characterizes hypocritical self-righteousness as pretend godliness which is designed to be “seen of men.” This is false religion in that it uses worship of God as a pretense to gain power, popularity or influence among folks who are sincere believers. Doing so greatly displeases God. This deceitful, feigned religion of taking God’s name in vain by blasphemous invocation of his moral authority, is why in Matthew 23 Jesus repeatedly expressed extreme displeasure with scribes and Pharisees as “woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees.” Indeed, a survey of the four gospels indicates Jesus’ most frequent indictment is against those who engaged in sins associated with religious hypocrisy. 

From these verses we understand in Jesus’ church/Kingdom of heaven we cannot practice religion for personal gain, as to receive “glory of men” and to “seen of men.” And because Jesus searches the intent of our hearts, he knows when we are motivated by self-promotion/pleasure. Furthermore, in as much as he knows our secret intentions, when we act on self-serving motives Jesus denies us the spiritual delights of God’s kingdom of heaven blessings. 

[In t]his series of verses Jesus provides several examples of how disciples who give in to self-worship turn godly faithful good works into meaningless exercises of vain glory. Examples he cites to make this point include: alms giving, prayer and fasting to receive the glory of men and to be seen of men.  When we use these, or any of our duties to God to “be seen of men” our reward is how others react to us; which can be with indifference, suspicion, jealousy, contempt, and sometimes with admiration and praise.  But whatever their reaction, it is temporary and without any power to bless. Thus, while we may or may not impress others and receive their reward, when we make a show of our religion it is certain we will get no reward from God. He assuredly withholds the joy of the blessed as promised in the Beatitudes.

To be continued. . . .