Fighting the Fight with Prayer


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During the reign of King Saul (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:10) the valiant troops of the Transjordan tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish and Nodab with 44,760 men  who were described as “experts in war.” These soldiers were specialist in handling both a shield and the sword. When it came to drawing the bow, there were no others who were as capable as these men. With their combined fighting force they drove the uncircumcised out of the land. Why were they able to conquer their enemy? What was the secret to their victory? It wasn’t their valor or bravery. Nor was it their expertise of shield, or sword, or bow. All would have been in vain if they would have relied on these. These warriors were victorious because they were mighty warriors in the weapon of… prayer. Let’s start our study by reading 1 Chronicles 5:18-22.

They Fought the Battle with Prayer:

  1. “They cried out to God in the battle…” (v. 20)
    • Deuteronomy 20.1-4 – In the Law of Moses, the twelve tribes of Israel were given principles that governed warfare. First among them was seeking God’s blessing before battle.
    • It was not an uncommon practice for the nation (Judges 20.18; 1 Samuel 7.8-10; 2 Chronicles 20.20-22). However, one at least one occasion, it could become ritualistic and lead to devastating results (1 Samuel 4.1-3).
    • In our text, the soldiers are praying during the battle. When it would have been easier to focus on the enemy at hand, they focused on God.
  2. “He granted their urgent plea…” (v. 20)
    • “Urgent” suggest a frantic prayer in a time of trouble. We don’t know the words of their plea but we can get an idea from other urgent prayers: Psalm 3.7; 2 Chronicles 14.11; 20.12.
    • We don’t know the size of the opposing army, but based on the spoils it seems the enemy army was rather larger. But the size of the other army doesn’t matter at all, big or small, powerful or weak, they urgently need God for they fight.
  3. “Because they put their trust in Him.” (v. 20)
    • Psalm 20.7 reminds us, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”
    • The text clearly points out the marshaling might of the Transjordan tribes (1 Chronicles 5.18). Nevertheless they didn’t trust in themselves, they trusted in God as evidenced by their prayer. Therefore, God gave them the victory (1 Chronicles 5.21-22)

There are Four Lessons to Draw from this Story:

  1. WE’RE ENGAGED IN A GREAT SPIRITUAL BATTLE.
    • The battle the Transjordan tribes fought was the Lord’s (ref. 1 Chronicles 5:22). The fight had a deeper, richer spiritual context that a mere political or ethnic conflict.
    • Paul reminds us that our fight isn’t against “flesh and blood” but rather against the dark, evil powers of Satan (Ephesians 6.10-12).
  2. PRAYER IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE CHRISTIAN’S ARMOR.
    • God has given us spiritual armor to help us in our spiritual fight (Ephesians 6.13-17).
    • One essential component of our armor is prayer (Ephesians 6.18).
    • It’s not uncommon to hear prayer referred to as the straps that hold all of our armor in place. This is an apt comparison. It takes prayer to hold the “breastplate of righteousness” in place, and secure the “shield of faith” to one’s arm, and to keep the “helmet of salvation” securely on one’s head.
  3. WE FIGHT THE BATTLE WITH PRAYER.
    • Certainly, a short prayer before a meal, or a quick word before an important event is well and good. But these prayers will not suffice to sustain the Christian life in the spiritual battle we are fighting.
    • Note the words used to describe prayers: “Be constant in prayer” (Romans 12.12); “strive together with me in your prayers” (Romans 15.30); “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4.2); lastly “struggling on your behalf in his prayers” (Colossians 4:12) and from our text “urgent plea” (1 Chronicles 5:20 ESV)
    • Praying quick, rote, throwaway prayers won’t bring about the victory.
    • The kind of prayers that bring victory in the battle are “constant… striving… watchful… struggling… urgent pleas.” Do these describe your prayers? They better or defeat is at hand.
  4. PRAYER IS A POWERFUL WEAPON IN THE HANDS OF ORDINARY PEOPLE.
    • “Pray for one another” James writes in James 5:16.
    • To encourage us to pray for one another, he reminds us that the great prophet Elijah was human just like us. And through his prayers he did mighty works (James 5.16b-17).
    • Even though we’re ordinary people, we can work mighty deeds through prayer. We must never lose sight of this important spiritual truth!

Unfortunately, the story of the children of the half-tribe of Manasseh doesn’t end well. The next scene, after their triumph through prayer, says “They were unfaithful to the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples, whom God had destroyed before them” (1 Chronicles 5:25). It goes on to say God punished them by leading them into captivity. They in essence stopped praying. We’ve got to remember, that we can’t rest on our spiritual laurels, even though Jesus as won the war, the fight still rages. There is always an urgent need for Christians to pray. We must constantly be striving and struggling in praying for ourselves, our loved ones, our church, our country, our friends and our enemies. Because our souls and their souls depend on it. So fight the battle with prayer.

When Nature Rages


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We awoke Tuesday morning to the terrible news of the tornado outbreak that struck Nashville, Mt. Juliet, and Putnam County. In the middle of the night, as a front passed through the mid-state, perhaps the most terrifying of all storms, nocturnal tornadoes left a wide swath of destruction. As the week has pasted, our screens have been plastered with images of destroyed homes, business, and school. But we’ve also seen the number 25, a number that represents the total dead, yet cannot capture the totality of their lives. We’ve seen their pictures, we’ve heard their names and we’ve read their stories. While contractors can rebuild broken buildings, but broken hearts can only be healed by God.

It’s not uncommon in times such as these that people ask such questions as: Where was God? Why didn’t He save these people? Why did He let this happen? The sadness and heartache can even test the strongest of faiths. These are tough questions no doubt and they require faithful answers. That’s what we’ll do as we consider the topic When Nature Rages: A Biblical Perspective on Natural Disasters and the Christian’s Response.

  1. Three Foundational Facts about God and His Creation:
    • God is good (Mark 10.18)
    • He is creator (Genesis 1.1)
    • Therefore, our good God is in control of His creation
      • In response to Job and his friends God demonstrates His power and authority by highlighting His control over creation (Job 38-41).
      • Jesus holds the creation together because as God He controls the creation (Colossians 1.16-17).
  1. Examples and Reasons of Natural Disasters in the Bible:
    • The Flood – For Judgement (Genesis 6.17)
    • Famine, Drought, Blight, Pestilence – For Repentance (Amos 4.6-13)
    • Hail Storm – For Deliverance (Joshua 10.11)
    • Earth Quake – Death and Resurrection of Jesus (Matthew 27.51; 28.2)
    • Windstorm – Used by Satan to Tempt Job (Job 1.18-22)
    • Any disaster – Time and Chance (Ecclesiastes 9.11-12)
    • There are many more examples we could cite but these will suffice to show that there are many different reasons God has used or allowed natural disasters to occur.
  1. Why did God allow THIS disaster?
    • There are no easy answers or simple platitudes that will suffice to answer the question why did God allow THIS disaster happen.
    • Unlike the examples we just cited, we don’t have divine revelation as to the reason for this disaster.
    • Why did Josh, Erin and Sawyer Kimberlin die? Then a few doors down, why was little four year old Hatti Collins ripped from her parent’s arms? Then not far away from these deaths, how come the Grooms family survived, despite the fact they’re home was completely blown away. How does one make sense of this?
    • Eric Grooms said it this way, “God just put His hand down and said nope you’re not taking these today. I mean literally you take the floor and the house and leave the people. Nobody can do that but God. Nobody.” So true.
    • Even without clear answers as to who lives and who dies and the why behind a disaster, we still trust our God and worship Him just as Job did when tragedy befall him (Job 1.20-21).
    • In the end, no matter the reason for the disaster, God will show His glory through any tragedy (cf. John 9.1-3). David Begnaud, a reporter for CBS, said this, “There was a resilience that seemed to bond them [the people of Cookeville] together which was inspiring to me… Every single person I talked to mentioned God.” God is showing His glory.
  1. How should Christians response to natural disasters?
    • WEEP WITH THOSE WHO WEEP. It’s easy to become detached from the world around us, but God calls us to empathize with those who hurt (Romans 12.15; Hebrews 13.3).
    • HELP THOSE IN NEED. It’s also a time for us to help those who have lost so much. We certainly help the brethren (Acts 11.27-30) but our hearts must extend to all persons who need assistance (Galatians 6.10).
    • DRAW NEAR TO GOD. James 4:8 reminds us to, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Disasters should lead us to draw closer to God.
      • Psalm 46.1-3 with hyperbolic language regarding natural disasters, the Psalmist calls for us to turn to God as our “refuge and strength.”
      • As with many disasters, some people live and some people die within close proximity to each other. No doubt God was with those who “miraculously” survived, but He was also with those who died in faith. He is the “refuge and strength” of the living and the dead.
      • Clint Pit said of his sister Erin and her family, “As terrible as it sounds they wouldn’t want to live without each other. They’re all together not and that’s all we can really ask for.” God was their refuge.
  1. CONSIDER OUR OWN SPIRITUAL STATE. Our lives our short. We appear for a while and then we vanish away (James 4.13-17).
    • In response to a political and structural disaster of His time, Jesus challenges us to look past the why a disaster happened to what our response should be (Luke 13.1-5).
    • Whether it’s a nocturnal tornado, or an earthquake, or a raging fire, or perhaps a car wreck, etc. our lives can, and are, upended in the blink of an eye. When tragedy strikes someone else, we must take stock of our own spiritual state because it could be us next.

Ever since sin entered the world, disasters have been a part of the human experience. We won’t always be able to make sense of why they happen but we can look to our good God for help to see us through. For He is “our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth give way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).

 

Week 10 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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In the first section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us that our righteousness must be greater than that of the Pharisees (they only obeyed the letter but not the heart of the Law) and greater also than that of the pagans. Now, in this week’s reading, Jesus draws the same two contracts regarding our religion. He teaches we shouldn’t be hypocritical like the Pharisees, nor mechanical or materialistic like the pagans. Remember, so long as you’re breathing it’s a good time to start The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 10 – March 9-13:

Monday – Matt. 6:5-15: Just as in the case with almsgiving, there is a tendency for people to use their prayers as a means of impressing others with their piety. Prayer is to be communion with God, not a means of increasing one’s reputation in the manner of the “hypocrites” (vv. 5-6). Rather, Jesus calls on praying disciples to, “Go into your inner room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (v. 6). He further instructs believers to not pray in the manner of “Gentiles” heaping word upon word as a means to entice a reluctant God. Jesus turns this image of God as a grudging giver on its head, “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (v. 8). Jesus’ example prayer (vv. 9-13) guides us to see God as the source of glory and supplier of our spiritual and physical needs. Lastly, our Lord supplies one bit of commentary on His prayer, in short He says, only the forgiving will be forgiven. In a way then, prayer is a transformative exercise that aligns the disciple’s heart to God.

In what ways do your prayers need to: align with Jesus’ instructions on how to pray (vv. 5-8), more closely resemble His model prayer (vv. 9-13), and a proper heart (vv. 14-15)?

Tuesday – Matt. 6:16-18: In his third, and last, example of the proper practice of piety, Jesus turns to the act of fasting. In biblical terms, fasting is never about health or weight loss, but rather it was about “afflicting” oneself before God to entreat His favor. As with almsgiving and prayer, it is assumed that disciples will fast; the issue is not whether to do it but how. In a culture where few now give serious attention to fasting as a religious discipline this assumption can cause surprise. Fasting is often mentioned in the Old Testament as a response to a distressing situation, whether by an individual or a group (2 Samuel 12:16-23; Daniel 9:3; Ezra 8:21-23; Jonah 3:5-9 to just name a few). Several fast days were prescribed for the people the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-31; 23:27-23) and later, during the exile, the fast established in memory of the destruction of Jerusalem (Zechariah 7:3-5; 8:19). It’s not until New Testament times that we read about the weekly fast of the Pharisees (Luke 9:14). However, their faux fast were not to draw the favor of God, but the favor of men (v. 16). The sort of fasting Jesus envisions here is presumably of choice, not routine. Whether individually, or in a group, for the disciple, during a fast everything is to be outwardly normal. Fasting like almsgiving and prayer, is to be between the believer and God.

Jesus’ instructions assume His followers will fast (for spiritual reasons, not health reasons), describe a time when you fasted. Why were you fasting? How did this spiritual discipline help you? If you’ve never fasted why not?

Wednesday – Matt. 6:19-24: Jesus’ words on money and treasure strike at the core of human selfishness, challenging both the well-to-do who have possessions to guard and the poor who wish they could acquire them. He challenges us with three truths: If disciples really trust God, they will live as if treasure in heaven is what matters most (vv. 16-21). Second, the person whose perspectives are distorted by materialism is blind to God’s truth (vv. 22-23). Lastly, one must love God or money; there is no middle ground (v. 24). Perhaps the greatest threat to Christians in America is not Islam, spiritualism, or atheism, but rather the all-pervasive materialism of our affluent society. Our Lord demands from His followers a wholehearted devotion to Him. Therefore, whatsoever tethers one’s heart to the earth should be released.

Why is it impossible to serve two masters? How does this principle connect with the Lord’s teaching on laying up “treasures on earth” verses laying up “treasure in heaven”?

Thursday – Matt. 6:25-34: In our last reading, Jesus has exhorted His disciples not to value earthly treasure of heavenly possessions (vv. 16-24). Now He goes one step further, He also exhorts us not to value possessions enough to worry about them (vv. 25-34). Christians must not agonize over seeking material gain, but should trust God’s power to provide our needs. If God cares for the birds, lilies, or grass, how much more for people created in His image and for His blessed children? Anxiety will not add even a single hour to one’s life (or cubit to one’s stature as some translations read). Indeed, worry does just the opposite; it shortens life. Yet when Jesus forbids His disciples from worrying about tomorrow this does not suggest that He expects us to ignore whatever concerns arise. Rather, He expects us to express dependence on God in each of these concerns, praying for our needs (ref. Matthew 6:11). The pagans, Jesus says, seek after the necessities of life in a worried pace. In contrast, the believer seeks God’s agenda instead, fully trusting He will provide.

From your perspective, how will the crucial choices we make between serving God or money (Matthew 6:24) affect our ability to live free from worry?

Friday – Matt. 7:1-6 (cf. Luke 6:37-42): Moving from materialism, Jesus addresses interpersonal relationships. “Judge not, that you be not judged” (v. 1). Judging others assumes a divine prerogative. The final judgment belongs to God alone, and those who seek to judge others usurp God’s position. Nevertheless, Jesus is not opposed to offering correction, but only offering correction in a judgmental attitude, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (v. 3). Consider the absurdity of walking around with a thick beam protruding from one’s eye, totally ignorant of one’s grotesque state. In spiritual terms, one must first pluck out any impediments to their own sight before they can see well enough to help others remove the source of their blindness. However, even when one is right, one should not impose the truth on others against their will (v. 6).

How does vv. 3-5 help define the kind of “judging” Jesus is talking about in vv. 1-2?

The #1 Reason Not To Sin


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What motivates you to not give into temptation? I realize, depending on the situation several different reasons might be cited. For example, an unhappily-married couple facing the temptation of divorce might stay together for the sake of the kids. Or, an employee may not steal because he or she is afraid of getting caught. Or, a person might not give into sin because they want to sleep well at night.

These reasons are all well and good, however, there is one fatal flaw they all share… the motivation for not sinning is temporal consequences and relationships. The couple is staying together for the kid’s sake, what holds the marriage together when the kids move out? When the employee figures out how not to get caught, what will keep him or her from stealing? When a person learns how to cope with guilt and shame so they can sleep at night, what’ll stop them from sinning? In short, so long as our reasons for not sinning are solely based on our ever-changing consequences and/or relationships, we will yield to temptation and sin.

There has to be a better way in fighting the battle against sin. There is and it’s the #1 reason not to sin… God. To learn this lesson, let’s start with the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife from Genesis 39.1-20.

  1. JOSEPH’S REASONS FOR NOT SINNING WITH POTIPHAR’S WIFE
    • His Position of Trust (v. 8) – Joseph wasn’t going to betray the high position of trust Potiphar had given him.
    • His Master and Mistress (v. 9a) – While Joseph was a powerful member of the household he still respected his master’s and mistress’ authority in the house.
    • His God (v. 9b) – Most importantly, Joseph wouldn’t sin against his God.
  1. SIN AS A CIRCUMSTANTIAL OR PERSON-TO-PERSON PROBLEM
    • This is not to suggest we should ignore the importance of circumstances or personal relationships when facing temptations.
    • Joseph uses them both to resist temptation (Genesis 39.8-9a)
    • Jesus teaches us what to do when someone sins against us individually (Matthew 18.15-17)
    • But to solely see sin in circumstantial or person-to-person terms decreases our motivation to fight temptation.
    • Our problem with fighting sin is that we’re self-centered. We resist sin simply because we don’t like its consequences, or because we’re ashamed of the stigma attached to it. These are inadequate reasons. We’re called to be God-centered in everything, especially in how we view sin. Realizing that all sin is sin against God brings focus and purpose to our resisting temptation.
  1. ALL SIN IS A PERSON-TO-GOD PROBLEM
    • The Bible consistently presents sin as a person-to-God offence.
    • God kept Abimelech from sinning against Him (Genesis 20.6)
    • David says he sinned against God alone (Psalm 51.4)
    • He who oppress the poor sins against God (Proverbs 14.31)
    • Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5.3)
    • We’ve all sinned against God (Romans 8:23)
  1. A GOD-CENTERED VIEW OF SIN WILL…
    • REFUTE THE LIE: IT’S NOT A SIN IF NO ONE IS KNOWS OR GETS HURT. David’s sin is the classic example. It appears it was going to be “secret” affair but snowballed (2 Samuel 12.12). Sin is never secret God knows.
    • GIVE US THE PROPER MOTIVATION TO FIGHT TEMPTATION. As mentioned temporal circumstances and relationships maybe useful but aren’t the best defenses against temptation. The Hebrew writer (Hebrew 10.26-31) gives us a healthy reminder of who we’re really sinning against and the consequences.
    • DEMONSTRATES THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF THE GOSPEL. Why do we show grace, and mercy, and love and forgiveness to others? Because Jesus Christ has shown us grace, mercy, love and forgiveness, despite the fact we have sinned against Him (Colossians 3:12-17). Without a God-centered view of sin, there’s no God-centered gospel to truly transform the sinner.

So, if we want to overcome temptation, then we have to see our relationship with our God as the #1 reason not to sin. He has saved us and thus calls for us as His children to live lives of holiness before Him (1 Peter 1.15-16). It won’t always be easy. Joseph does the right thing (because he’s thinking the right thoughts), he maintains his moral high standard and resists temptation. Yet, as a result of his righteous behavior, he’s framed and thrown into prison (Genesis 39.20). Making a stand for what is right is going to be tough, but it’s a fight we must win through Christ Jesus because our souls are at stake. Therefore, may our prayer echo that of the Psalmist, “Lord may we store up Your words in our heart, that we might not sin against You” (ref. Psalm 119.11).

Check out my other sites:

Jackson Heights Church of Christ – www.thebibleway.org

My Other Website: www.simplesermonoutlines.com

 

Week 9 Summaries and Questions for the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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Just like it did 2,000 years ago, the Sermon on the Mount challenges disciple’s resolve to live the distinctness of the Christian counterculture.  Jesus calls us to us fidelity in marriage no matter what, truth telling at all cost, humiliation in the form of nonresistance, and above all to show our attitude of total love even to an enemy. His words here are both most admired and most resented. Yet, despite the difficulty of living our these teachings, our Lord’s word is good – intrinsically good for individuals and society. If you haven’t already, it’s always a good time to start The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 9 – March 2-6:

Monday – Matt. 5:31-32: The third teaching of Jesus follows naturally from the second, inasmuch as sexual sin often leads to divorce. Again, Jesus requires a more exacting standard of His followers than was the norm of His day. The process for divorce under the Law of Moses is outlined in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. The bill of divorce, demanded by Moses and mentioned here by Jesus, was a protection for the woman that freed her to marry someone else. The religious teachers of Jesus’ day wrongfully assumed divorce was a part of God’s will and simply sending away one’s wife with a divorce certificate satisfied the Law’s demands (this is especially clear in Matthew 19:1-12). It’s against such a backdrop that our Savior calls on people to appreciate the true meaning and solemnity of marriage. For Him, marriage is intended to be a lifelong union of one man and one woman, and it is not to be dissolved lightly. Jesus’ teaching on divorce clearly contrasts with His and our culture.

Why do you think our Lord has such a high view of fidelity to one’s spouse? What would make your Top Ten List for how to avoid divorce?

Tuesday – Matt. 5:33-37: The fourth, “You have heard…” statement doesn’t actually appear verbatim in the Old Testament, but is perhaps a conflation of Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2 and Deuteronomy 23:23. The situation described is one in which many Jews viewed swearing an oath by “heaven or earth, “or by “the temple,” or even by “one’s head” was not as binding as swearing “by God.” Jesus stresses that each one of these items belongs to God, so that the conventional distinctions were spurious. The point of our Lord’s teaching is not avoiding oaths all together (Paul makes oath statements on several occasions i.e. Romans 1:9; 9:1); rather the issue is telling the truth because God witnesses every word one speaks. Therefore, Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one” (v. 37; cf. James 5:12).

According to Jesus, what’s the problem with making oaths? Why should oaths be unnecessary for the Lord’s followers?

Wednesday – Matt. 5:38-42: Revenge comes easily to us, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” the saying goes. However, in this fifth saying, the Lord Jesus calls His disciples to a higher ethic that transcends tit-for-tat retribution. His teaching stresses the need to decisively break the natural chain of evil action and reaction that often characterizes human relationships. Jesus invites His hearers to grapple with the application of His points. Nonresistance means disdaining one’s honor (vv. 38-39), one’s most basic possessions (v. 40), one’s labor and time when others seek them by force (v. 41), and one must also disdain these things in view of the needs of the poor (v. 42); then, when the kingdom comes, one’s deeds, rather than one’s wealth and honor will matter (cf. Matthew 25:34-46). One’s vested interest must be in heaven, not on earth; if one cannot value the kingdom that much, one has no place in it.

Looking closely at vv. 39-42, how would you contrast our natural responses in such situations with the responses Jesus expects of us? What do you think is accomplished by turning the other cheek or going a second mile?

Thursday – Matt. 5:43-48 (Luke 6:27-36): With this, His sixth and last commentary on how the Law of Moses had been taught, our Lord teaches that one whose righteousness would surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees (ref. Matthew 5:20) must exemplify a higher standard of virtue than loving those friendly to one’s own interest. We all love our friends, but love for our enemies is quite another matter. As disciples of Jesus we are not to take our standards from our human nature but rather, from the God we serve. Our God is a loving God who indiscriminately gives good gifts to all, regardless of whether they are friend or foe. Therefore, we must be like Him loving even our enemies.

How is Jesus Himself an example of what it means to “Love your enemies” (v. 44)? How might you reflect the Lord’s character when you are mistreated? Focus on the one person who could be considered your chief enemy and, this week, reach out to him or her with some practical act of love.

Friday – Matt. 6:1-4: Today’s reading begins a new section in the Sermon on the Mount. In the next three readings, Jesus will teach on the proper practice of piety: Almsgiving (vv. 1-4); Praying (vv. 5-15), and Fasting (vv. 16-18). The overarching thesis of this section is: Do your righteousness for God to see you, not others (v. 1). In all three examples, Jesus warns us to not be like the “hypocrites” seeking public praise (vv. 2, 5, 16). Rather, our focus should be on God’s glory, which in turn will solicit His praise (vv. 4, 6, 18). Jesus begins this teaching with almsgiving. It’s an accepted fact that it is a religious duty to help the poor but, as in all ages, some are more interested in public reputation rather than relief of poverty. Our Lord teaches that it is indeed important to give, just not to be known to give.

According to Jesus, how are we to do acts of charity? Why is it important that we give this way? It what way(s) are you tempted to violate this principle?

Week 8 Summaries and Questions of the Life of Jesus Reading Plan


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Without question, the Sermon on the Mount is the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus but perhaps the least obeyed. Throughout the centuries untold numbers of people have dissected, analyzed, discussed, taught, and wrote about this magnum opus of Jesus. Yet, its message continues to challenge readers today. It’s the nearest thing to a manifesto that He ever uttered, for it is His own description of what He wanted his followers to be and to do. For the next few weeks we’ll explore this great teaching of our Lord one section at a time. It’s always a good time to start The Life and Teachings of Jesus 2020 Reading Plan.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 8 – February 24-28:

Monday – Matt. 5:1-12 (cf. Luke 6:20-26): Without question, the Sermon on the Mount is the best-known teaching of Jesus. Throughout the centuries untold numbers of people have dissected, analyzed, discussed, taught, and wrote about this magnum opus of Jesus. Yet, its message continues to challenge readers today. After the scene is set in vv. 1-2, Jesus begins His discourse with a series of nine Beatitudes (vv. 3-12), a declaration of blessed happiness and joy. The sharply paradoxical character of these statements runs counter to conventional values. Thus, the Beatitudes call on those who would be God’s people to stand out as different from those around them.

The Beatitudes describe the qualities Jesus requires of those who will follow Him. How would your life look different if you lived out these sayings to their fullest?

Tuesday – Matt. 5:13-16 (cf. Luke 14:34-35): Coming out of the Beatitudes Jesus summarizes Christianity and its relationship to the unbelieving world through the elements of salt and light. “You are the salt of the earth” (v. 13). Believers flavor the world in which they live and help prevent its corruption. “You are the light of the world” (v. 14). The world needs the light of the gospel of Jesus, and it is through the disciples that it must be made visible. Ultimately, the disciple whose salt is diluted or whose light is hidden is worthless. Nominal believers who do not live a life of discipleship will be “thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (v. 13); the phrase is intentionally graphic.

How are you “salt” and “light” in your community? List any areas in which your “salt” has lost its taste or your “light” may be hidden. What can you do today to change?

Wednesday – Matt. 5:17-20: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (v. 17). In this manner Jesus begins the second section of His sermon (5:17-48). Here He clarifies that He will neither give a new law nor modify the old, but rather explain the true significance of law and the prophets. Furthermore, Jesus “fulfills” the law by keeping it perfectly and embodying its types and symbols. With strong words, He warns against anyone breaking even the least of the commandments and teaching others to do the same. Lastly, the statement that the righteousness of those who enter the kingdom must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees must have come as a very surprising, if not alarming, piece of news to His audience.

Looking ahead at vv. 21-48, how does Jesus illustrate that one’s righteousness must exceed that of the religious elites of His day, the scribes and Pharisees?

Thursday – Matt. 5:21-26 (Luke 12:57-59): Once Jesus has made it clear that He is not opposing the law but fulfilling it, He shows how the customary practice of the law in His day, as interpreted by the scribes and Pharisees, is inadequate. Jesus uses six varied topics to illustrate the concept of a righteousness which goes beyond the legal correctness of the scribes and Pharisees (see v. 20). Each is presented in the form of a contrast between what the people had heard, “You have heard that it was said…” to Jesus’ more demanding ethic, “But I say…” The principle of vv. 21-22 is that the actual committing of murder is only the outward manifestation of an inward attitude which itself is culpable before God. Angry thoughts and contemptuous words deserve equally severe judgment Jesus declares; indeed, the “the fires of hell” goes beyond the human death penalty which the Old Testament declared for murder.

In what way(s), are Jesus’ words about anger shocking? Why do you think that it’s important to come to terms quickly with those who have “something against you” (v. 23)?

Friday – Matt. 5:27-30: In this second saying, Jesus addresses adultery and lust. His warning against lust challenges many. Of course the Lord is not referring to noticing a person’s beauty, but to imbibing it, meditating on it, harboring a desire for an illicit relationship. This, Jesus says is tantamount to adultery. We should note that Jesus squarely places the blame and responsibility for lust on the person doing the lusting. Thus, Jesus declares in a graphic manner that by whatever means necessary, the lust-er should cast off the sin of lust. He doesn’t mean that one literally plucks out an eye or cut off one’s right hand to combat temptation. Rather His point is this, do everything you can to not sin; a partial loss, however painful, is preferable to the total loss of the body (and soul).

Jesus graphically illustrates the importance of dealing with sin in one’s life. What difference might His teaching make in the way that you consider your own personal conduct and decisions?

The Temptation of Jesus


The Temptation of Jesus.jpg

We all struggle with various temptations. Maybe you’re tempted to cheat, lie, or steal. Maybe your greatest temptation is indifference to those around you. Maybe the siren song of lust and sexual temptations are an allurement for you. Maybe your primary temptation is an angry outburst and an uncontrolled tongue. Maybe pride and a judgmental attitude are your temptation du jour. We could go on and on listing various temptations. Whatever sinful enticements you or I struggle with, the temptation of Jesus gives us an example, the ultimate example, of resisting the devil’s schemes to entrap our souls. Let’s begin by reading Matthew 4:1-11

(1) “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (2) And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (3) And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.’ (4) But he answered, ‘It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

(5) Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple (6) and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'” (7) Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

(8) Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. (9) And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (10) Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” (11) Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.”

1. His Temptations Were God-Ordained But Not God-Inflicted:

  • v. 1| The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted, but it was Satan who did the tempting.
  • Job 1:6-12| It’s not unlike Job’s experience.
  • James 1:13-15| James reminds us that God does not tempt us.

2. He Was Tempted When He Was Most Susceptible:

  • vv. 1-3| Jesus had been fasting, miraculously, for 40 days. He was physically, emotionally, and spiritually susceptible to Satan’s temptations
  • Matthew 26:40-41| Our Lord reminds the disciples, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is so weak.” Despite our willingness to follow Jesus, Satan will attack us at our weakest point.
  • Matthew 6:13| This informs us on why we pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”
  • 1 Peter 5:8-9| If we resist Satan he will flee from us. However, we must not let our guard down because he will look for a “more opportune time” (Luke 4:13) to attack us again.

3. His Experience Was Unique Yet Universal:

  • vv. 3-9| Jesus’ temptations were unique in nature. I doubt any of us have ever been tempted directly by Satan in the same way Jesus was, yet, our Savior’s temptations are universal.
  • 1 John 2:16| All temptations (whether Jesus’ or our own) can be boiled down to lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
  • Hebrews 2:18; 4:15| We can take strength from the fact that our Lord Jesus knows how we are tempted. We can go to Him for grace because His temptation experience was universal in nature.

4. He Resisted Temptations With The Word Of God:

  • vv. 4, 7, 10| Jesus thwarted each temptation by quoting scripture. There’s a model here for us to follow.
  • Ephesians 6:16, 17b| In the whole armor of God passage, we attack evil with “the sword of the spirit, the word of God” but we defend ourselves through the “shield of faith” because we believe God’s word.
  • Romans 10:17| The faith needed to confront Satan with God’s word comes from getting into God’s word.

5. His Temptations Were Tough But Temporary:

  • v. 11| Jesus’ temptations were no doubt tough. So tough, “angels came and were ministering to Him.”
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13| God promises we will not tempted beyond what we can bear. There is always a way of escape.
  • Jams 4:7| If we resist the Devil he will flee from us.
  • Hebrews 1:14| Angels are ministering spirits. Perhaps there a connection here. As angels ministered to Jesus following His temptation, then after we do battle with Satan God will send us heavenly help.

Jesus came in human form. He knows the weight of sin and the heaviness of temptation. He was not shadowboxing with the devil. Our Lord Jesus was tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin. We sinners must learn from our Lord and cling to Him, that we might by faith win the victory for His glory and our good.

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