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Tag Archives: the Sermon on the Mount

The Picture of Perfection

As a young aspiring athlete, my picture of perfection was the best player in every sport. Wayne Gretsky in hockey, Dr. J in basketball, Steve Carlton in baseball and Reggie White in football. Before the existence of social media, news was strictly based upon a player’s performance. Today, there is no picture of perfection as critics on the right and left pick apart rising stars like vultures during a feeding frenzy.

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

The Sermon on the Mount points to perfection, but in the sense of striving towards it. The apostle Paul quotes an Old Testament prophet in Romans 3:9-12 to burst the bubble on human perfection. In case you haven’t heard, this is impossible as all men and women has fallen short of God’s glory despite how hard each has tried, Romans 3:23. Despite this painful reality, Hebrews 4:15-16 refers to Jesus as a great high priest who was a model of perfection, dying on our behalf.

For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), [d]recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live], Ephesians 2:10.

If life is meant to be a series of trial and error, sooner or later you’ll start to take steps toward perfection. The apostle Paul compares God to a spiritual potter, constantly molding and fashioning us into His image, Romans 9:20-21. Meanwhile, Paul compares God to a carpenter in the passage above. Depending upon your gifts and talents, the Holy Spirit seeks to guide you toward the good works God has planned for you in the future, Philippians 1:6. As you keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, may your life resemble the fruits if God’s Spirit like a picture of spiritual perfection.

by Jay Mankus

Making God Your Top Priority in 2023

A top priority refers to something of greatest importance. While attending Seminary, one of my professors introduced me to the Triangle Theory. Based upon time management, a triangle diagram is used as an aide to analyze how you spend your time outside of sleeping. When you do an honest assessment of your day-to-day activities, the average hours you invest in this or that will highlight what your top priority is at this moment in time.

And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a [u]deserted place, and there He prayed. 36 And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him [[v]pursuing Him eagerly and hunting Him out], 37 And they found Him and said to Him, Everybody is looking for You. 38 And He said to them, Let us be going on into the neighboring country towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out, Mark 1:35-38.

One of Paul’s missionary helpers, John Mark, recalls a story told to him by one of Jesus’ disciples. While the disciples slept in, Jesus got up early in the morning to go walking in the wilderness. After finding a quiet place, Jesus prays to his heavenly Father. Based upon the words above, Jesus top priority to begin each day was seeking guidance from God to determine where He wanted Jesus to go and what God wanted Him to do.

But seek ([z]aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness ([aa]His way of doing and being right), and then all these things [ab]taken together will be given you besides. 34 So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble, Matthew 6:33-34.

Perhaps, the Sermon on the Mount provides an introduction to Jesus’ prayer life. This insight begins with the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:1-15. After fasting is touched upon, Jesus concludes this section of his message on what Christians should strive for: hunger and thirst for righteousness. When God becomes your top priority, your mindset changes from earth toward heaven. The apostle Paul lays this out in Colossians 3:1-17. May these passages of the Bible inspire you to make Jesus Lord of all in 2023.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus Brings His Light into Dark Places

One of the first Christian songs I was introduced to was Pass It On. This campfire begins with “it only takes a spark to get a fire going.” During the first retreat I ever attended in high school, I was told by the Youth Director to “come as you are.” The context surrounding this Saturday night message was that Jesus meets you were you currently are in life. While many outside the church believe religion is about following a set of rules, Jesus brings His light into dark places to reach lost and lonely people, Luke 19:10.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your [z]moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and [aa]recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven, Matthew 5:14-16

The Sermon on the Mount is the only uninterrupted message presented by Jesus in the Bible. While the gospels are full of parables which illustrate spiritual truths, these 3 chapters (Matthew 5-7) highlight the need for followers of Jesus to shine their own light within their hearts into dark places on earth. The lives of Christians should add spiritual flavor to conversations as well as point to the city of a hill, (the local church) where the Holy Spirit thrives.

[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while [j]effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and [k]delight. 14 Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [[l]against God] and [m]questioning and doubting [among yourselves], 15 That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world, 16 Holding out [to it] and offering [to all men] the Word of Life, so that in the day of Christ I may have something of which exultantly to rejoice and glory in that I did not run my race in vain or spend my labor to no purpose, Philippians 2:13-16.

Hiding God’s light was not an option for the apostle Paul who spent his entire Christian life fulfilling the great commission, Acts 1:8. Paul personally experienced imprisonment and nearly died on a couple of occasions by brining Jesus’ light into dark places throughout the Middle East. Yet, despite the pain Paul endured, he called one congregation to become shinning spiritual stars by holding out the Bible to all nations. This is the model modern day Christians should emulate to shine God’s light into the darkness.

by Jay Mankus

When Your Punishment is Greater Than What You Can Bear

As a child, I was grounded a few times by my parents. My worst punishment as a student was being called to the principal’s office. When I gave up trying to improve as a saxophone player in 8th grade, I became a troublemaker. Subsequently, I was rolling up fake joints made out of oregano. However, our band director thought it was the real thing. After being dragged down to the main office like criminals, the boy who brought the oregano to school cracked under pressure. While I was cleared of any charges, my band director never forgave me.

Then Cain said to the Lord, My punishment is]greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, You have driven me out this day from the face of the land, and from Your face I will be hidden; and I will be a fugitive and a vagabond and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me. 15 And the Lord said to him, [d]Therefore, if anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark or sign upon Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. 16 So Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod [wandering], east of Eden, Genesis 4:13-16.

In the case of Cain, he verbalized his concerns to the Lord in the passage above. Perhaps, nightmares of Abel’s death kept replaying in his mind. Cain’s overwhelming conscience brought conviction and regret to his heart and soul daily. Sensing that other members of his family would eventually hunt him down in revenge, Cain asked God for some sort of intervention. God’s solution is detailed above with a mark, a visible sign to avoid touching Cain. Yet, this doesn’t mean Cain lived happily ever after as a social outcast forced to think about what he had done to his brother.

But I say to you that everyone who continues to be [ad]angry with his brother or harbors malice (enmity of heart) against him shall be [ae]liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court; and whoever speaks contemptuously and insultingly to his brother shall be [af]liable to and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, You [ag]cursed fool! [You empty-headed idiot!] shall be [ah]liable to and unable to escape the hell (Gehenna) of fire, Matthew 5:22.

There’s a lesson in every crime as illustrated by shows like Cold Case Files and Forensic Files. No matter how careful the killer is, there is always at least one clue left behind at the scene of the crime. Although Cain denied any involvement, God saw right through Cain’s lie. Jesus indirectly mentions Cain in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. Jesus equates hatred with murder. The jealousy within Cain due to the prosperity of his little brother conceived a root of bitterness inside of Cain’s heart. When you give the devil a foothold, Ephesians 4:26-28, hatred can lead to murder. May Cain’s story serve as a warning for all people.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 269: I Believe

Jonathan David and Melissa Helser are a Christian couple who have released three studio albums with Bethel Music. The Helser’s projects include Endless Ocean, Bottomless Sea in 2014, On the Shores in 2015 and Beautiful Surrender in 2016. This worship-oriented couple have released one of my favorite versions of I Believe.

Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, Be lifted up and thrown into the sea! and does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him. 24 For this reason I am telling you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe (trust and be confident) that it is granted to you, and you will [get it], Mark 11:23-24.

One of the differences between a successful orayer life and an average one is belief. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus implores those in attendance to keep on asking God like the woman in the parable of the Persistent Widow. May today’s song challenge you to stop focusing on the mountains blocking you and start believing in the God of miracles.

by Jay Mankus

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

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