Are We Living A Performance Or Living For God?

I’d meant to just write one post about the Sermon on the Mount. Now here we are three weeks later with a third post on this study. And the first two only got through chapter five! I’m marveling at how much depth there is in such a familiar passage of scripture.

In the first part of this sermon, Jesus focuses on what God expects from those He’s in a relationship with. And it’s not always something that makes sense to human beings. The Beatitudes cover actions and character traits that don’t seem particularly positive from a human perspective, yet Jesus describes them as “blessed.” Then He starts talking about how law-keeping will change under the New Covenant. Walking in the spirit raises the bar higher, aiming for being like God rather than just living by the letter of His law. We end up keeping the law as we live in the spirit. And Jesus sticks with this theme of God’s expectations verses man’s ideas as He continues the sermon.

Righteous Play-Acting

Jesus tells His hearers not to “do merciful deeds,” pray, or fast “as the hypocrites do” (Matt. 6:1-18, WEB). Those things are good — even essential — but they need to come from the right heart. The word hupokrites (G5273) means a stage actor or player who assumes a character’s role. So if you call someone who’s not on stage a hupokrites, you’re accusing them of playing a role in their lives. These people are living a performance, pretending to follow God while having other motives.

Hypocrites pretend to follow God so they can show-off to other people. But if we do that, Jesus warns “you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 6:1, WEB). The hypocrites do things for human praise and when they get it “they have received their reward” (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16, WEB). If your only motive is impressing people, then that’s all you’ll get out of your righteous play-acting. Continue reading

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“Because We Love The Brethren”

We had a lovely first day of the Feast yesterday. Our little group is live-streaming from Pacific Church of God, and the sermon yesterday was excellent. Mr. Railston’s main theme was using the Feast to make a positive difference in the lives of other people, instead of focusing on “what can I do for me this Feast?” Our focus should be on rejoicing with others and giving them reason to rejoice, not simply making ourselves happy.

There were two scriptures that particularly stood out to me. In a discussion of Matt. 22:35-40, Mr. Railston pointed out that the first great commandment, loving God, could be done in isolation. The second great commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself, must be fulfilled in the presence of other people. And here’s the second scripture:

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. (1 John 3:14)

"Because We Love The Brethren" marissabaker.wordpress.comI’ve studied the subject of love in the Bible often, but I hadn’t thought much about the scripture in 1 John, or about the fact that we need to be around people to love them. It’s not that I really expected to love my brethren as a hermit — I just hadn’t thought of it in those words. I tend toward a more introspective approach to life, and my first reaction is to worry about changing myself and bringing “every thought into submission.” While it is important to be personally working toward perfection, I think my approach should probably be a little closer to C.S. Lewis’s councel to “not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.” Sometimes action has to come before we feel like doing something or we think we’re perfectly ready.