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Tag Archives: the Sermon on the Mount

Forward Your Love

The Pay It Forward Movement and Foundation was founded in the United States. The inspiration behind this concept was to start a ripple effect of kind acts in America with a goal to spread love around the world. Pay it forward dates back to ancient Greece in 317 B.C. A play performed in Athens used pay it forward as a key plot concept. In the passage below, John calls Christians to forward God’s love.

They have testified before the church of your love and friendship. You will do well to forward them on their journey [and you will please do so] in a way worthy of God’s [service], 3 John 1:3.

Most modern books contain a forward. This homophone serves as an introduction to a book, setting the tone for what will follow. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:43-47, Jesus reveals the role that love plays in a Christian’s life. Forward is the direction or the future path you will take in life. The act of love is what separates a person of faith from others who walk the face of the earth.

Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity), 1 John 3:18.

Yet, John isn’t content with merely talking about love. While the expression “talk is cheap” may not have been around during the first century, John is set on forwarding the love of God. The theory in the passage above likely applies to philosophers that John met in sharing the good news about Jesus Christ. While the intellectual like to talk, a true believer is inspired to live out and forward God’s love daily.

by Jay Mankus

The Lust of Polluting Passions

The United States Environmental Protection Agency defines pollution as any emissions which are or could be harmful to people. Certain states set their environmental standards based upon EPA recommendations. Meanwhile, the Bible defines pollution as any form of darkness, Matthew 6:22-23, that seeks to diminish the light of Christ. One of Jesus’ disciples refers to one specific spiritual pollutant: the lust of earthly passions.

And particularly those who walk after the flesh and indulge in the lust of polluting passion and scorn and despise authority. Presumptuous [and] daring [self-willed and self-loving creatures]! They scoff at and revile dignitaries (glorious ones) without trembling, 2 Peter 2:10.

Peter appears to be referencing the Sermon on the Mount in the passage above. Jesus spoke about Christians being the light of the World in Matthew 5:14-16. One chapter later, Jesus compares human eyes to the spiritual lamp of your body, Matthew 6:22-23. If your eyes become unhealthy, the lust of polluting passions will fill your life with darkness. The apostle Paul compares this spiritual pollution to uniting yourself with someone during a one-night stand, 1 Corinthians 6:15-16.

For this reason God gave them over and abandoned them to vile affections and degrading passions. For their women exchanged their natural function for an unnatural and abnormal one, 27 And the men also turned from natural relations with women and were set ablaze (burning out, consumed) with lust for one another—men committing shameful acts with men and suffering in their own [d]bodies and personalities the inevitable consequences and penalty of their wrong-doing and going astray, which was [their] fitting retribution, Romans 1:26-27.

When people stop caring about God, these individuals will begin to feed their flesh daily. Like a drug addict searching for a more powerful substance to satisfy their desire to achieve a new high, sexual addictions set ablaze the lust of polluting passions. In the passage above, the apostle Paul reveals the origin of unwholesome desires. When natural affection is corrupted by the lust of polluting passions, spiritual lives become unfit for faith. Hebrews 6:4-6 compares this lifestyle to someone who crucifies Jesus over and over again. May the Bible serve as a form of detox to set you free from lust.

by Jay Mankus

You Can Only Serve One Lord Faithfully

Between telling stories of parables, teaching at local synagogues and preaching to the masses, Jesus visually connected with his audience. While Jesus never told anyone the answers outside of his disciples, illustrations were shared in public to make people think. This style of teaching created a spiritual hunger deep inside of many of Jesus’ followers. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that you can only serve one master faithfully. Depending upon what you treasure dictates your final decision.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light, Matthew 6:21-22.

Unfortunately, theology (the science of God) is used by some modern-day preachers to speak down to members of their congregation. This is not consistent with Jesus’ first century teachings. Your eyes are designed by God to be the lamp of your body. However, if your eyes start to deteriorate, darkness will enter your life. If this darkness is not addressed, you might find yourself trying to serve God and money.

But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you [your [r]conscience] is darkened, how dense is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be [s]against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon ([t]deceitful riches, money, possessions, or [u]whatever is trusted in), Matthew 6:23-24.

At some point over the past 50 years, the fire and brimstone preaching of the 1970’s has become water downed with positive and politically correct sermons. Instead of focusing on hard-hitting messages that confront darkness living inside of Christians, mainline churches prefer themes that promote increased giving. While the apostle Paul is clear that no one is perfect, Romans 3:9-12, your priorities and time dictate who you’re serving, Matthew 6:33-34. Who and what you seek first will determine who you will serve in the future.

by Jay Mankus

Intense and Unfailing Love

My parents took me to see Rocky I in the theaters in 1976. When Rocky III debuted 6 years later, this coincided with an inner desire to become a great athlete. The theme song Eye of the Tiger was a daily goal, striving to possess the same intensity of a prized fighter in each of my sports competitions. Two years later, I became a running machine while training for cross country just like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV. Unfortunately, my high school years were full of intensity but lacked love and understanding.

Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and [e]disregards the offenses of others], 1 Peter 4:8.

Intense refers to an extreme degree, force, or strength in which you pursue something. While intense is often associated with competitions, Peter urges first century Christians to pursue their spiritual lives with the same passion. In the passage above, Peter appears to reference Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:14-15. At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, forgiving and loving others is essential for being forgiven by God. This is the purpose and reason for pursuing intense and unfailing love.

You have granted me life and favor, and Your providence has preserved my spirit. 13 Yet these [the present evils] have You hid in Your heart [for me since my creation]; I know that this was with You [in Your purpose and thought], Job 10:12-13.

Whether I like it or not, I have become more like my father as I grow older. My passion for sports has faded, put on hold to become a better father and spiritual life coach for my children. While I am far from the earthly father that God wants me to be, the missing ingredient is an unfailing love like Jesus. Regardless of what has happened in life, all bitterness, grudges, and pain must be released and let go of for good. If I can exchange my intensity for sports and replace it with God’s unfailing love, forgiveness and reconciliation will become a reality on earth.

by Jay Mankus

When the Love of Money Goes Too Far

As a former seminary student and Bible teacher, I cringe every time ill-informed politicians take the Bible out of context. Rather than correct these errors, journalists and television commentator’s often gloss over these ungodly beliefs to avoid confrontation or criticism. Perhaps this explains why some people believe that you can’t be a Christian and wealthy at the same time. However, the root of all evil is when the love of money goes too far.

For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many [e]acute [mental] pangs, 1 Timothy 6:10.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to money in Matthew 6:19-24 and Matthew 6:32-34. The first passage alludes to treasures that your heart can’t stop thinking about. When trust in God is replaced by money, souls become consumed by anxiety and worry. As long as individuals supplement money in exchange for faith in God, panic attacks will wear down troubled and weary souls. This unhealthy craving for money continues today as a sign that the love of money has gone too far.

Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh [craving for sensual gratification] and the lust of the eyes [greedy longings of the mind] and the pride of life [assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father but are from the world [itself], 1 John 2:15-16.

One of Jesus’ disciples combines acts of the sinful nature with a love for earthly treasures. The answer to reversing sensual gratifications, greedy longings and the pride of self-reliance is found in Galatians 5:16-25. This internal wrestling match goes on daily between the flesh and God’s Spirit. Yet, according to Jesus the only way to break away is through turning your attention towards seeking first God’s righteousness. Until your spiritual priorities change, you’re at risk at letting the love of money go too far.

by Jay Mankus

The Purpose of the Law

One of my first impressions of God as a child was a disciplinarian. If I made a mistake, did something bad or really screwed up, God would punish me like disobedient Israelites in the Old Testament. Perhaps, the Roman Catholic priests that I grew accustom of listening to each Sunday at mass ingrained this concept into my head. Everything seemed so absolute with right and wrong clearly defined in the Bible. Yet, from a logical perspective, I didn’t know the purpose of God’s laws.

What then do we conclude? Is the Law identical with sin? Certainly not! Nevertheless, if it had not been for the Law, I should not have recognized sin or have known its meaning. [For instance] I would not have known about covetousness [would have had no consciousness of sin or sense of guilt] if the Law had not [repeatedly] said, You shall not covet and have an evil desire [for one thing and another]. But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment [to express itself], got a hold on me and aroused and stimulated all kinds of forbidden desires (lust, covetousness). For without the Law sin is dead [the sense of it is inactive and a lifeless thing], Romans 7:7-8.

The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter to clearing up this matter for anyone who still may be confused or uncertain. According to the passage above, the purpose of the law is to recognize sin. When anyone goes outside the defined boundaries set in the Bible, you are proceeding into troubled waters. You may not feel any different at first. In fact, you may be amoral, not knowing right from wrong. Yet, the more you read the Bible, these words are like a lamp for our feet to guide your steps, Psalm 119:105.

For sin, seizing the opportunity and getting a hold on me [by taking its incentive] from the commandment, beguiled and entrapped and cheated me, and using it [as a weapon], killed me. 12 The Law therefore is holy, and [each] commandment is holy and just and good. 13 Did that which is good then prove fatal [bringing death] to me? Certainly not! It was sin, working death in me by using this good thing [as a weapon], in order that through the commandment sin might be shown up clearly to be sin, that the extreme malignity and immeasurable sinfulness of sin might plainly appear, Romans 7:11-13.

However, the Sermon on the Mount may reveal another purpose of the law. Jesus urges listeners of this famous speech to strive for perfection, Matthew 5:48. Unfortunately, anyone who seeks perfection will be consumed by disappointment and failure. This is what the apostle Paul realized as a former Pharisee. Despite possessing a zeal that surpassed most religious leaders of his day, Paul’s sinful tendencies was laid bare by God’s law. The true purpose of the law is to help human beings see their sinful nature so that confession compels trespassers to cry out to the Savior of the world, John 3:16-17.

by Jay Mankus

Prepare Yourself for Perilous Times

Eschatology comes from the Greek word ἔσχατος. When translated into English, éschatos refers to the part of theology concerned with the final events of history. One of the Gospel authors devotes an entire chapter to the signs of the times. In the passage below, Matthew highlights specific events to look for as Jesus reflect upon what the end of times will resemble. This chapter serves as a map to prepare readers of the Bible for perilous times.

While He was seated on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately and said, Tell us, when will this take place, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end (the completion, the consummation) of the age? Jesus answered them, Be careful that no one misleads you [deceiving you and leading you into error]. For many will come in (on the strength of) My name [appropriating the name which belongs to Me], saying, I am the Christ (the Messiah), and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened or troubled, for this must take place, but the end is not yet, Matthew 24:3-6.

The initial sign of the times is wars and rumors of wars. This is followed by famines and earthquakes. The imagery Jesus chooses to describe these perilous times like the pain a woman endures during the child bearing process. The book of Daniel in the Old Testament and Revelation in the New Testament refer to specific events that set in motion the arrival of the anti-Christ. If you’re not taken up into heaven by the Rapture, Jesus’ second coming, these perilous times will be beyond what most individuals can handle.

But understand this, that in the last days will come (set in) perilous times of great stress and trouble [hard to deal with and hard to bear], 2 Timothy 3:1.

In view of what lies ahead, I am reminded of something that Jesus says during the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. In the middle of this famous speech, Jesus provides advice to prepare yourself for perilous times. Matthew 6:34 highlights that each day has enough trouble of it’s own. Therefore, don’t be overwhelmed by the circumstances that is beyond your control. Rather, take one day at a time, with the perspective that each new day is a gift from God.

by Jay Mankus

Beyond the Grave

Kerameikos is the name of the the first organized cemetery in the world. The Kerameikos is located in Athens, Greece which dates back to 1200 Before Christ. Visitors will find this cemetery north of the Acropolis. Kerameikos contains two sections divided by the Wall of Themistocles. This final resting place for the dead reminds the living where they will one day end up.

Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest do who have no hope [beyond the grave], 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

The Bible addresses life beyond the grave. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to two different destinations, Matthew 7:13-14. One road leads to destruction while a less traveled path ends near the gates of heaven. If you haven’t made up your mind, the choice is yours, Deuteronomy 30:15-17. God isn’t forcing you to comply, offering free will as a way to exercise your mind, Revelation 3:20.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud cry of summons, with the shout of an archangel, and with the blast of the trumpet of God. And those who have departed this life in Christ will rise first, 1 Thessalonians 4:16.

The apostle Paul puts another spin on life beyond the grave. Paul illustrates what Jesus’ return will look like, Without any sign of formal warning, Jesus will descend from heaven with a loud cry, followed by an angelic shout before the blast from the trumpet of God sounds the alarm. Anyone who put their faith in Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, before dying will rise from cemetery’s around the world first. Once this has been completed, living Christians will vanish from the earth in twinkling of an eye. In order to celebrate life beyond the grave, make sure you choose Jesus, Acts 4:12.

by Jay Mankus

95% Obedience

Tracy Morgan debuted in a series of Rocket Mortgage advertisements in 2021. These commercials begin with Tracy suggesting that he is pretty sure about a topic that he is not 100% certain about. The purpose of these ads is to illustrate that being certain is better than being unsure. This reminds me of a recent sermon message I heard entitled 95% Obedience. This would be similar to the concept behind the Purge films, allowing disobedience once a year.

You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect, Matthew 5:48.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets a lofty goal, perfection. Unfortunately, this is impossible to accomplish by mere human efforts, Romans 3:10-12. The apostle Paul came to the realization that the weaker you get, this opens the door for people of faith to lean on Jesus like never before, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Despite this chance to grow, Paul writes about a friend named Demas who deserted the ministry due to a love for the world, 2 Timothy 4:10.

Saul said to Samuel, Yes, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag king of Amalek and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took from the spoil sheep and oxen, the chief of the things to be utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal. 22 Samuel said, Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams, 1 Samuel 15:20-22.

For one reason or another, Israel’s first King adopted an 95% Obedience mindset. It’s unclear if arrogance or proud was the root cause of this decision, but Saul began to deviate from Samuel’s instructions. If you pick and choose when you’re going to obey God, this says something about your true allegiance. It’s like telling a significant other, “I’ll be faithful 95% of the year, but do whatever I want a few times a year.” Genuine faith is all in for God, moving all your chips to the center of the table, by trusting in the Lord for the final outcome.

by Jay Mankus

The Possession of a Priceless Privilege

Launched in 1997, Mastercard’s Priceless Advertisement Campaign has been one of the most iconic branding initiatives in recent history. The point of these commercials was to highlight that while some material items can be purchased, other moments in life are priceless. I’m not sure what inspired the apostle Paul to use a similar expression in a first century letter, but his relationship with God was invaluable.

Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One), Philippians 3:8.

Value is often reflected by the time you put into a specific art, craft, hobby, or skill. The workaholic tends to be so consumed by their work that everything else is put on hold. Meanwhile, relational individuals follow the path of Mary in the Bible, savoring every moment that she had with Jesus, Luke 10:41-42. Perhaps, this account triggered Paul to write about the possession of the priceless privilege of being a follower of Christ.

And that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him, not having any [self-achieved] righteousness that can be called my own, based on my obedience to the Law’s demands (ritualistic uprightness and supposed right standing with God thus acquired), but possessing that [genuine righteousness] which comes through faith in Christ (the Anointed One), the [truly] right standing with God, which comes from God by [saving] faith, Philippians 3:9.

This privilege is made possible by faith. In his letter to the Church at Rome, Paul writes about faith coming from hearing the message, the good news about Jesus Christ, Romans 10:17. For those of us who did not hear the Sermon on the Mount in person, the Bible is a valuable resource to remind Christians of this priceless privilege. Before this day ends, make sure you take a few minutes, whether in Word or prayer, to thank the Lord for being a child of God.

by Jay Mankus

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