Who are You Imitating?

Matthew 5-7

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 5-7.  You may know this as “The Sermon on the Mount”, and this may be among the most well known passages in the Bible.  The Jews Jesus was teaching knew the Old Testament laws really well.  Jesus took this opportunity to focus on what God really requires – he focused on matters of the heart, not just following the letter of the law.

For example, the old law said, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”  Jesus took it further and taught, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”  This is a difficult teaching, but wait – there’s more.  

Then, in Matt 5:42-45, Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – This is even harder to follow.

In this passage, Jesus is telling us more of the reason behind his new rules.  God loves even those who hate him, and he does them good – in spite of their hatred for Him.  And we should imitate this characteristic of God.  Jesus takes this even further in verse 48, where he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  – Ok, now this isn’t possible to obey without some serious help from God.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  Basically, this is asking God to forgive me only to the extent I forgive others.  Jesus then told us plainly in Matt 6: 14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  – This is a pretty good reason to forgive others! – But still not easy to do.

Then, Jesus tells us in Matt 7: 1-2, “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.”  – Did you catch that?  I will be judged in the same way I judge others.  This is a pretty good reason for me to not condemn others!  This goes back to the old saying, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

As I read these passages, a couple things jump out to me.  First, I need to imitate God as much as possible. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at doing this, so I need to beg for His forgiveness.  Fortunately, He is loving and extends grace.  From His example, I recognize I need to be loving, and extend grace too.

Second, once I recognize I am a worthless sinner, saved only by the grace of God, it’s suddenly easier for me to be less eager to condemn others.  Then, if I can see them through God’s eyes – as other sinners in need of grace – that makes it even easier for me to extend grace to others.  And that grace may take the form of forgiving them, or of not judging them, or even turning the other cheek if they hit me.  On our own, this isn’t possible, but we can do these things with God’s help.  Ultimately, we can (again with God’s help) come to the point of loving or enemies, and blessing those who persecute us.

Jesus closes this section talking about the wise builder (who built on a rock) and the foolish builder (who built on sand).  The wise man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and put it into practice – building his life on the rock.  The foolish man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and didn’t put it into practice – building his life without a foundation.  In both instances, storms come.  But only the house built on the rock survived.  By analogy, only the life founded on Jesus’ teachings will not be destroyed.

So again, we find that today’s reading has implications for us today, and for eternity.  And just knowing these truths isn’t enough, we must put them into practice.  Please join me in taking this seriously.  Apply this to your life.  Ask God’s help living up to these requirements that are impossible to accomplish on our own.  Become an imitator of God.  The reward is eternal.

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 5-7.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 8:1-13 and Luke 7 as we continue on our Bible reading plan. SeekGrowLove.

God’s Will vs. My Will

matt 6 10

God has a specific purpose, plan, and will for our lives. He knows what is best and He only wants the best for us. Sadly, as humans and sinners, we sometimes fail to accept and recognize God’s will for our lives. We usually can find ourselves planning our own lives instead of asking God to be the orchestrator. We should align our will with God’s and let Him direct our path.

Within God’s Word, the Bible, we find many references that He has a plan for our lives and wants us to allow Him to be in charge. In Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray. This prayer is commonly know as the Lord’s Prayer. Beginning in verse 9,

“Pray, then in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name.

‘Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

‘Give us this day our daily bread.

‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

[For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

Do you notice one specific aspect of the Lord’s Prayer? Jesus says that we, as His disciples, should pray that God’s will be done.

Sometimes it is hard to settle for God’s will. It might not always be what we would like or want. Ultimately, it is the right thing. We may not think so at the moment, but later on in life it will be clear that God’s will was the right way. God is perfect and He has a perfect plan for our lives. Another common Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11 shares this: “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” God has plans for our lives! He has plans to prosper us and give us a future with hope! Isn’t that amazing!?

Every morning when I wake up or before I leave my house, I quote and proclaim that “This is the day that the LORD has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it” -Psalm 118:24. I also say a prayer asking that God’s will be done in my life. I pray and ask God to guide my decisions, words, actions, and ultimately my whole life. I want His will to be done in my life, not my own.

Today I encourage you to pray to our Heavenly Father, and ask that His will be done in your life. Even when His will might not be what you would like, it is the perfect plan for your life. Are you willing to accept and follow God’s will for your life instead of your own?

-Brenan Dominguez

The Lord’s Prayer

Luke 11

Luke 11 2

In Luke 11 the disciples ask Jesus how to pray and he gives them the Lord’s prayer, which you probably heard before.

 

1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins,   for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’”

There are several parts of this prayer that are important and that I think we sometimes miss.  First he praises God and asks for the kingdom to come.  I think it is important to start our prayers by focusing on God, because he deserves the respect and it helps to remind us that he is more important and greater than our problems.  Then it is important to remind ourselves that we are sinners in need of forgiveness and that we need to forgive others as well.  Also, when praying for ourselves we need to keep it simple, by only asking for the basics of our physical needs and for God to guide us spiritually.

Then later he goes on.

9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

 

God is very good at giving gifts, and he is not looking to hide himself from us.  If you need something then ask for it.  If you need more wisdom or patience to deal with an issue in your life, then ask God for it, and keep on asking God for it. Just make sure to check your motives as it says in James 4:3.  If you are asking for your own selfish reasons then you may need to rethink your request.  But if you are asking for something for the reason of helping to further the kingdom and the gospel then God is excited to give to his children.

-Chris Mattison

How to Pray: Words

Wednesday October 4th, 2017

Lord's Prayer

Unlike when we discussed the posture you should have when you pray, the Bible actually has a lot to say about what words you should use when you pray. Jesus gives a great lesson on prayer in Matthew 6:5-15. I want to start by looking at what the Lord’s Prayer can show us.

We can split the topics of prayer into three categories:

  1. Praises (Matt 6:9)
  2. Petitions (Matt 6:11)
  3. Repentance (Matt 6:12-13)

You might notice that this is one category more than we usually talk about when we pray at church. Jesus himself says that we need to pray for repentance, so make sure you don’t forget to add this to your prayers. Praises and petitions are a lot more familiar to most of us, though. When we praise, we thank God for who he is and what he has done and petitions are when we ask God to provide for us.

Another thing Jesus says is to not babble (Matthew 6:7). Repeating yourself does not make yourself heard. Keep your prayers to the point. Especially when you are praying for a group of people. You don’t need to make your prayer sound special and eloquent. God already knows what needs to be said, so you don’t need to repeat yourself. This is not to say that you shouldn’t continue to pray for something.  If something is on your heart, you should pray for it continuously. In my opinion however, the reason for this is not so that God will be more likely to consider your prayers. More on that tomorrow.

Here a few interesting things to note. Discussion can be a form of prayer. In Luke 9:18, Jesus is praying and talking to his disciples. I believe that when we discuss our prayers with each other, we are participating in a form of prayer. Another form of prayer is music. We can praise God in our songs or we can ask for His help; we can even repent through song.

Jesus gives a few more commands regarding how we should pray in Matthew 6.  For one, he says that we should pray in private. But he also says that God already knows what we need before we ask him (Matthew 6:8), so why do we need to make these prayers in private? You’ll have to come back tomorrow to hear the answer to that one, but I’ll give you a hint now. It has to do with our memory verse: being changed.

-Nathaniel Johnson