RSS Feed

Tag Archives: the Sermon on the Mount

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

Above and Beyond the Call

The backdrop of the New Testament takes place during the Roman Empire. Unless you were a Roman citizen, you had to do a little extra to get noticed. Scholarly versions of the verse below refer to a practice of impressment by the Roman law on Jews. Therefore, when Jesus urges listeners of the Sermon on the Mount to go the extra mile, this action serves as a plea to go above and beyond the call.

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two [miles], Matthew 5:41.

As a parents of 2 boys who ran cross country and a girl who does spring track, I haven’t met many teenagers who love to run. There were a few on St. Georges track team that won back to back state titles, but runners appear to be a dying breed. Running is one of those hobbies that you have to work at, requiring discipline, focus, and mental toughness. When asked to run an additional mile, few have the energy to be up for this challenge.

Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. 27 But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

In the passage above, Paul is appealing to athletes and sports fans. As a home of the Isthmian Games, Corinth would host this Track and Field Event every two years. This would run opposite of the ancient Greek Olympic Games. To win at this level of competition requires commitment, dedication, and resolve. The average person is content to do what is asked of them. However, if you want to step up your game, going the extra mile will persuade Christians to go above and beyond the call.

The Transition From Elementary Teachings to Faith

From a public education point of view, Elementary is the second of four stages that students must complete prior to graduation. Learning usually begins at some sort of Pre-School, followed by Elementary, Junior High and High School. According to a recent study, the United States ranks 26th in the world for overall education. While stats don’t tell the whole story, the state of Massachusetts was ranked first in education in 2019 while New Mexico was ranked last. As Charter Schools become more competitive and popular, parents will make whatever sacrifices necessary so that their children receive the best education possible.

So we [Jewish Christians] also, when we were minors, were kept like slaves under [the rules of the Hebrew ritual and subject to] the elementary teachings of a system of external observations and regulations, Galatians 4:3.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul is referring to the spiritual side of elementary teaching. As a former high school Bible teacher, I developed curriculum based upon Bloom’s Taxonomy. This building block approach seeks to go well beyond elementary teaching so that students put into practice what they are learning. Instead of just remembering and understanding concepts for unit tests, this education theory forces students to go deeper by applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. Perhaps Jesus had a similar idea at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount by urging listeners, “to put my words into practice,” Matthew 7:24.

But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born subject to [the regulations of] the Law, To purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to atone for) those who were subject to the Law, that we might be adopted and have sonship conferred upon us [and be recognized as God’s sons], Galatians 4:4-5.

The context of today’s selective passage is geared toward Jewish Christians who are struggling with observing the law while grasping their new found faith. When a religious zealot group known as the Judaizers began to overemphasize the law and de-emphasize faith, the apostle Paul felt the need to intervene. The author of Hebrews addresses a more pressing concern, Hebrews 6:4-6, as apathy within first century Christians began to cheapen God’s grace. If you want to graduate from the elementary teachings of studying the Bible, you need to transition from spiritual knowledge toward biblical application. As individuals begin to produce spiritual fruit, the transition from elementary teachings to faith is near completion. However, unlike an earthly graduation, Christian’s are encouraged to keep learning by striving to fulfill God’s will for your life.

by Jay Mankus

Blessed More than Ever Before

Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes. These attitudes to strive for while on earth each begin with the word blessed. Jesus suggests that those who demonstrate or possess these qualities will be filled with peace and prosperity. These 9 traits are realistic goals depending upon your DNA and personality type. However, you won’t have every spiritual gift mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. Nonetheless, once these hidden talents are revealed to you, blessings come as these gifts are put into action, 2 Timothy 1:6.

Do not gather and heap up and store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust and worm consume and destroy, and where thieves break through and steal. 20 But gather and heap up and store for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust nor worm consume and destroy, and where thieves do not break through and steal; 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, Matthew 6:19-21.

In the second chapter of his sermon, Jesus turns his attention toward motives. While probing human hearts, Jesus calls his followers to look inward to examine where you stand. Using treasures in the context of priorities, Jesus wants to know if your focus is on the eternal or temporary? Jesus suggests if your heart is in the right spot, the Lord will provide everything you need for life, Matthew 6:33. However, if you are distracted by fame, fortune or temporary pleasures, blessings will be replaced with a spirit of emptiness.

Will a man rob or defraud God? Yet you rob and defraud Me. But you say, In what way do we rob or defraud You? [You have withheld your] tithes and offerings. You are cursed with the curse, for you are robbing Me, even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes (the whole tenth of your income) into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now by it, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it, Malachi 3:8-10.

An Old Testament prophet adds a new dimension to the source of blessings. According to Malachi, blessings are directly linked to the tithe individuals give to their local church. Those who withhold their income by giving less than ten percent of their salary will experience limited blessings. Malachi refers to this lack of trust as a way people defraud God. However, if you come to a point in your life when you acknowledge that everything you have is a gift from God, hearts are drawn toward tithing. Therefore, if you want to see the storehouses in heaven open up before your very eyes, make 2021 the year you began giving back to the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Aglow and Burning with Passion

The Sermon on the Mount serves as a collection of ideas for followers of Jesus. At the end of the first chapter of this famous speech, Jesus suggests that all Christians should strive for perfection, Matthew 5:48. The passage below inspired the childhood song “This Little Light of Mine.” In other words, God expects believers to stand out, aglow and burning with passion.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men. 14 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 moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven, Matthew 5:13-16.

The apostle Paul adds a new dimension to this concept in his letter to the Church at Rome. Paul implies that spiritual gifts should be offered to others with a spirit of love. Building upon Romans 12:1, part of offering your bodies as a spiritual act of worship involves a passion and zeal for service. When aglow and burning in the Spirit, any desire to hide your faith departs.

Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord, Romans 12:11.

Upon reading the passage above last week, Harry Dixon Loes’ song has a new meaning for me as an adult. While I don’t always feel like sharing my faith, staying aglow is essential. If you allow your spiritual fire for God to grow dim, darkness will surround you. Therefore, before the Holy Spirit fades, pass on the love of Jesus with the gifts, personality or talents bestowed upon you. Like the old camp fire song declares, Pass It On!

by Jay Mankus

The Time Share Theory

The term timeshare was coined in Great Britain during the 1960’s. This vacation system where a property with a divided form of ownership or use rights became popular after World War II. The downside to modern timeshares is that the exact price varies depending upon the week that you own and maintenance fees often increase every year. In addition, trying to sell your timeshare can be extremely difficult which explains the rise in companies devoted to selling unwanted timeshares.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven: A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted, A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up, A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes 3:1-4.

The Time Share Theory is based upon the decisions that you make in life. The choices you make daily will reveal your priorities. During a portion of the Sermon on the Mount detailed in Matthew 6:19-24, Jesus uses the analogy, “where your treasure is, your heart will be also,” Matthew 6:19-24. Thus, whether on purpose or subliminally, habits will determine how you spend your time each week.

Just as the Son of Man came not to be waited on but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many [the price paid to set them free], Matthew 20:28.

A disciple from the tribe of Levi unveils Jesus’ time share theory. According to Matthew in the passage above, Jesus viewed each day as an opportunity to serve to God. John Marks shares a story how an early morning time praying by Jesus changed and shifted what was previous scheduled, Mark 1:35-39. If your daily goal is to seize the day, how your share your time will determine the outcome. The only question remaining is will you be more like Ebenezer Scrooge this Christmas season or more like Jesus?

by Jay Mankus

%d bloggers like this: