Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the seventh chapter of this book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the third and final chapter in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew which contains the Sermon on the Mount. It is within chapters five, six and seven of this gospel we find Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which He used to not only introduce the kingdom of heaven unto His disciples and followers, but also to reveal unto them how to align themselves with the authority of that kingdom. When we think about the declaration that is found in the fourth chapter of this New Testament gospel we must needs recognize and understand that the very first words He spoke concerning the kingdom of heaven was calling men and women to “Repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand.” It would be immediately after declaring that the kingdom of heaven was at hand and inviting certain men to walk with Him in fellowship. Perhaps one of the greatest demonstrations of the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth is not only men and women walking in fellowship with and following the Lord Jesus Christ, but also walking in fellowship and community with each other. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning the kingdom of heaven and the fourth chapter of the book is that immediately after declaring the kingdom of heaven was at hand we find Jesus inviting men to walk with and follow Him, as well as great multitudes beginning to follow Jesus—and not only follow Jesus, but also walk with Jesus and the disciples whom He had called to fellowship with Him. What we must needs realize and recognize concerning the kingdom of heaven is that there is not only the element of walking with and following Jesus in fellowship, but there is also the element of walking in fellowship with those whom Jesus has called, as well as those who have made the decision to walk follow Jesus because of the words they heard Him speak, as well as the works they witnessed and beheld Him performing.
As you read the words which are found in chapters five and six of this New Testament gospel you will find at the very heart of it a powerful invitation to a personal righteousness that is greater than and exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. Time and time again within the fifth chapter of this New Testament book you will find Jesus speaking concerning that which His disciples and those who followers had heard said and spoken and that which they had been taught by the scribes, the teachers of the Law, the elders of Israel, and even the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the like. With this being we also find Jesus comparing and contrasting that which was spoken unto them and that which they had heard taught in their presence, but how Jesus was now speaking unto them something entirely and altogether different. In fact, what makes this truly remarkable and astounding is when you consider how the seventh chapter concludes and draws to a close, for it does so with those who heard Jesus teach and speak being amazed and astonished at His teaching and His words, for He taught them not as their scribes, elders and teachers of the Law had taught them, but as one who had authority. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for when we read Jesus’ words found within the Sermon on the Mount we find an authority that surrounds the words He spoke, as well as the truth that is found in the means and method in which He taught the disciples and those who followed Him. It is absolutely necessary that we understand this, for within the Sermon on the Mount Jesus not only contrasted the necessary that we realize how the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees which was according to the Law and the prophets, as well as their own traditions, and yet how the righteousness which Jesus came to teach and bring in the earth was a righteousness that was of His Father who was in heaven.
There are multiple accounts and examples found within the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus refers to alludes to that which His disciples and followers had heard spoken unto and taught to them which defined their righteousness and that which they believed was pleasing in the sight of the living God, and how there was a different righteousness—a righteousness that was not earthly, a righteousness that was not earthly, and a righteousness that was not of this world. The righteousness which Jesus came to establish and bring unto and in the midst of those days was a righteousness that was entirely and altogether separate and independent of the righteousness which the scribes and Pharisees believed was pleasing in the sight of the living God. It is absolutely necessary that we realize and recognize this truth, for the very core and foundation of the Sermon on the Mount which Jesus taught and sought to establish in the midst of the earth was a righteousness that was not only different from the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, but a righteousness that exceeded it. Moreover, as you read the words found within this Sermon on the Mount you will find three distinct and three specific examples in the sixth chapter—not only of this false righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, but also how Jesus described it as hypocrisy. It is when you come to the sixth chapter of this Sermon on the Mount you will find Jesus instructing His disciples not to be as the hypocrites who not only believed that their righteousness was pleasing and acceptable in the sight of the living God, but also sought to flash before and in the sight of those during that generation. Jesus would use the elements, disciplines and practices of prayer, giving and fasting—particularly and especially when speaking unto His disciples and followers—and how they were not to be as those who sounded a trumpet in the streets and in the synagogues alerting others to their “righteousness,” to their “piety” and to their “holiness” and “obedience unto the living God. That which Jesus was speaking about was that righteousness which was flashy and showy that it might garner and gather the attention, accolades and praise of men as juxtaposed and set in stark contrast to that righteousness which was performed in the secret places within our hearts, within our spirits, within our souls, and even within our closets of prayer.
I find it absolutely incredible to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and how when speaking of the “righteousness” of the scribes and the Pharisees in the earth it was such which received reward from men here upon the earth without even touching the heart of the Father which is in heaven. As you read the words found in the sixth chapter you will find Jesus instructing His disciples and followers to not lay up for themselves treasures here within and upon the earth where moth and rust do corrupt, and where thieves enter in to steal and destroy. Instead, the disciples and followers of Jesus were to lay up for themselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor ruth corrupt and pollute, nor where thieves can enter in to steal and to destroy. We must needs acknowledge this within our hearts and spirits for within the sixth chapter we are brought face to face with the reward of the hypocrite here upon the earth as directly set against the treasure of the righteous which is found in heaven. Oh how absolutely critical and vital this is when we take the time to think about and consider it, for it brings us face to face with whether or not we are seeking rewards here within and upon the earth which have no eternal worth, value and significance, or whether we are seeking and storing up treasure for ourselves in heaven. What’s more, is that it is in the same chapter where Jesus instructs and invites not to even seek after those things in this life which the Gentiles do seek and chase after—things such as what we shall eat, what we shall drink, and what we shall wear. At the very heart of this is the emphatic declaration Jesus would make unto His disciples that their Father in heaven knew what they had need of before they even asked them. If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand when reading the words which Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount is not only the fact that we are not to use vain repetitions in our praying as the Gentiles do who think they will be heard for their much praying, but also that we are not seek those things which the Gentiles do seek and chase after. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the sixth chapter concerning that which we are to seek after here within the earth:
“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and they Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before you ask him. After this manner therefore pray he: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:3-13).
“NO man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his statures? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothed the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things to the Gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:24-34).
FOR AFTER ALL THESE THINGS DO THE GENTILES SEEK! AS THE HEATHEN DO! THE HEATHEN USE VAIN REPETITIONS WHEN THEY PRAY! THE HEATHEN THINK THEY WILL BE HEARD FOR THEIR MUCH SPEAKING! THE GENTILES SEEK AFTER WHAT THEY WILL EAT, WHAT THEY WILL DRINK, WHAT THEY WILL WEAR! Perhaps what makes the sixth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew is that there are essentially three different groups and classes of people which Jesus spoke of and referenced—the hypocrites, the heathen, and the Gentiles. When speaking of the hypocrites Jesus described them as those who sounded a trumpet to announce and proclaim their giving, and those who prayed loudly in the corners of the streets and in the synagogues. Such an example of this reality and truth is found in the parable Jesus told concerning the Pharisee and the publican in which Jesus described the Pharisee as being arrogant, proud and boastful in his prayer as he boasted of his righteousness and the works which he had performed in this life and upon the earth. The words which are found in this passage of Scripture are absolutely remarkable and astounding when you take the time to think about and consider them, for in the fifth chapter Jesus declared unto His disciples and followers how their righteousness needed to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, while in the sixth chapter Jesus seemed to transition from speaking of the scribes and Pharisees to now speaking concerning hypocrites who made a show and performance of their giving, their fasting and their praying, as well as speaking of the heathen who used vain repetitions in their prayers thinking they will be heard for their much speaking. In addition to this, Jesus also spoke concerning the Gentiles who spent their days and their times living lives absent faith within their hearts and spirits as they would seek and pursue after those things they would eat, those things they would drink, and those things they would wear.
I find it absolutely incredible when reading the words contained in the fifth chapter how Jesus instructed us to have and possess a righteousness that exceeded that of the scribes and the Pharisees, while in the sixth chapter we find Jesus instructing us to be not like the hypocrites. It is in the sixth chapter Jesus instructs us to be not like the hypocrites in terms of prayer, in terms of fasting, and in terms of giving. In all reality, that which Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers was an incredibly powerful invitation given unto them to be entirely and altogether different and separate from the hypocrites when they prayed, when they fasted, and when they gave. What’s more, is that you almost get the strong and powerful sense that what Jesus invited His disciples and followers into was an entirely different realm and experience of giving, of praying, and fasting than that which was experienced by the hypocrites. Even more than this, you will find this subject matter of prayer and coming before the Father being further expounded upon and explained in the seventh chapter as you will find Jesus speaking the famous words concerning “asking,” “seeking,” and “knocking.” We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for within this Sermon on the Mount—not only does Jesus instruct us and invite us to be entirely and altogether separate from the hypocrites, from the heathen, from the Gentiles, and from the scribes and Pharisees, but He also invites us into an entirely different experience with our heavenly Father. What makes the words which Jesus spoke in the sixth chapter so incredibly powerful—particularly as it pertains to that of prayer and the needs we have within our life—is the element of faith, the element of trust, and the element of confidence in God our Father. Not only this, but there is this strong language of relationship that is presented to us in the Sermon on the Mount as Jesus introduces His disciples and followers to an entirely different type of relationship with the living God than they had previously had. If there is one thing we must not and ought not lose sight of when reading the words contained in the Sermon on the Mount is the intrinsic link and connection between Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of heaven, and how at the very heart and center of that kingdom was a Father in heaven who knows exactly what we have need of before we ask Him, and who not only sees in secret, but also dwells in and abides in the secret while rewarding openly.
I sit here today thinking about the tremendous truth that is found in the Sermon on the Mount, and I am absolutely and entirely gripped and captivated with and by the fact that in direct connection to fasting, in direct connection to giving, and in direct connection to prayer Jesus speaks of the Father. We have great need to realize and recognize this, for when you read Jesus’ words in this sermon—not only will you encounter the tremendous truth that our Father sees in secret and rewards openly, but you will also notice that the Father knows what we have need of us before we ask Him. Pause for a moment and think about this absolutely astonishing and astounding reality—the reality that we can give in the sight of, we can fast before, and we can pray unto a Father in heaven who not only knows what we have need of before we ask Him, but who also sees in secret and rewards openly. I have to admit that I absolutely love and appreciate the words which Jesus spoke within this Sermon on the Mount, for not only did He introduce us to God as our Father which is in heaven, but He also emphatically declares unto us that our Father in heaven knows exactly what we have need of before we ask Him. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to emphatically declare that if we seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, then all these things will be added unto us. At the very heart of this is not only an absence of worry, but also the presence of trust and faith within our hearts—and not only trust and faith within our hearts, but faith and trust in a God whom we can call upon, know and experience as our Father which is in heaven. We have great need to recognize and pay close attention to this within our hearts and spirits, for it calls and draws us into an entirely different and powerful perspective concerning the relationship we have with God who is our Father in heaven. Oh how absolutely incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that not only can we know God as our Father, but we can also pray unto and call upon God as our Father which is in heaven.
One of the greatest truths that is found within the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus calling His disciples and followers—both at that time, as well as throughout history up to this present day—is the distinction that needs to be made between His disciples and followers and the scribes and Pharisees, as well as from the hypocrites, the heathen and the Gentiles. When we speak of the kingdom of heaven—not only must we recognize that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, but we must also recognize that our giving, our praying and our fasting must not be like that of the hypocrites. THE PRAYERS OF THE HYPOCRITES! THE FASTING OF THE HYPOCRITES! THE GIVING OF THE HYPOCRITES! Would it shock and surprise you to think and even consider that hypocrites can pray—and even pray in the streets and in the church buildings? Would it shock and surprise you to think and consider that hypocrites can give alms and give unto the poor—even give tithes and offerings in the house of the Lord? Furthermore, would it shock and surprise you to think and consider that hypocrites can even fast in this life—and not only fast, but also show, demonstrate and present themselves as fasting before and unto men? When we think and speak about the kingdom of heaven we must needs realize and understand that our righteousness must be different than that of the scribes and the Pharisees, and our praying, our giving and our fasting must be different than that of the hypocrites. Not only this, but we must also understand and acknowledge the fact that our prayers must be entirely and altogether different from that of the heathen who not only use vain repetitions when they pray, but who also think they can and will be heard for their much speaking. In addition to this, Jesus speaks concerning the Gentiles and how the Gentiles seek after the physical needs of the flesh—that which we eat, that which we drink, and that which we wear. What Jesus is in essence speaking within this sermon is that our hearts must not be tied and linked to this pursuit of those things which might even be necessary in this physical life in the flesh—things such as what we eat, what we drink, and what we will wear.
In all reality, that which is presented before and unto us in this passage of Scripture is a declaration and pronouncement that the disciples and followers of Jesus Christ must be entirely and altogether different from the hypocrites, from the heathen, and even from the Gentiles. The heart of the disciple and follower of Jesus the Christ must possess this inner trust, confidence and faith—not only in a God who knows what we have need of, and not only a God who sees in secret, but also in a God who is our Father in heaven. I absolutely love how when Jesus taught His disciples and followers to pray He instructed them to pray beginning with the declaration of “Our Father.” What’s more, is I love the fact that when Jesus taught the disciples and His followers to pray, He didn’t simply instruct them to pray “Father,” or “God the Father,” but rather “Our Father.” Thus, when Jesus instructed His disciples and followers to pray using the words “Our Father”—not only was He directly linking in fellowship the disciples and followers with Him as brethren, but also with each other as brethren. At the very beginning, and at the very core and heart of the prayer our Lord taught us to pray is this idea of community and fellowship with each other and with God who is our Father who is in heaven. Oh that we would truly realize and recognize that at the very heart of the Lord’s prayer is this idea of community with each other as brethren, as well as fellowship with God who is our Father who is in heaven. How absolutely remarkable and powerful this truly is when you take the time to think about and consider it, for when we speak of the kingdom of heaven we must needs recognize and understand that the kingdom is one of fellowship and community with each other, as well as fellowship with God as our Father who is in heaven. It is in the fourth chapter where we see the kingdom of heaven being manifested and demonstrated in both walking with and following Jesus, as well as in walking and fellowshipping with each other—those whom Jesus has called as His disciples and followers, and those who have made the decision to follow Him.
We must needs pay close attention to the words which are found in the Sermon on the Mount, for when we come to the seventh chapter of this Sermon we find a dramatic shift in the language which Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers. It is when you come to the words which are found in the seventh chapter that you find the first two words Jesus speaking being “Judge not.” Pause for a moment before attempting to delve any further into those words and the language and text which comes after it. Stop and think about the tremendous weight and significance of what is actually being spoken by Jesus when He instructs His disciples and followers to “Judge not,” and/or to “Do not judge.” Before you go any further into the language Jesus spoke concerning the speck in someone else’s eye and the log or plank that is in your eye think about what it means to live your life absent of judgment. Stop and think about what a life absent of judgment would indeed and would in fact look like. Stop and think about what your life would indeed and would look like if you were able to live—as the slogan of popular gym and fitness chain Planet Fitness describes as “judgment free.” What would and what could your life look like if you were able to live completely and utterly absent of any form and type of judgment upon others? What would your relationships look like if you were able to live a life absolutely set free and delivered from casting judgment upon others? Not only this, but how many relationships have you potentially forfeited and sacrificed upon the altar of judgment? How many relationships have you potentially forfeited and sacrificed on the altar of condemnation, accusation, cynicism and the like? I would dare say that there are many among us who have sacrificed relationships within our hearts and lives simply because we ourselves could not live judgment free. There are countless men and women among us who have hearts full of judgment, hearts full of cynicism and hearts full of condemnation that they are absolutely and entirely unable to truly open themselves up to relationship(s) and fellowship. There are men and women among us who have been unable to truly live in community with others because they are unable to move beyond the judgment and cynicism that is found within their hearts.
What I find so absolutely incredible about the words located and contained within Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is that although He instructs us not to be like the hypocrites, and although He instructs us to not be like the heathen and the Gentiles, and although He declares unto us how our righteousness needs to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, He also instructs us not to be those who cast and pass judgment upon others. This is truly important for us to realize and recognize for the kingdom of heaven is such that is completely and entirely free and absent of any form and type of judgment. Accusation, condemnation, judgment, and cynicism has absolutely no place in the kingdom of heaven—this together with an absence of love within our hearts for our neighbors and enemies, and a lack of trust within our hearts in others. Oh dear reader—mark my words and mark them well, for in the kingdom of heaven there is absolutely no room, nor is there any place for judgment, accusation, criticism, condemnation and cynicism. When thinking about the disciple and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ you must needs realize and understand that there is absolutely no room allowed for judgment, criticism, accusation and condemnation, and we as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs live completely and altogether free from judgment, criticism, condemnation and accusation. If you are one who professes to be a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ there is absolutely no room for any accusation, any judgment, any condemnation and any criticism within your heart, and you must needs live your life completely and utterly set free from it. The disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ must be one who is entirely and altogether unwilling to cast judgment upon another—regardless of their personal opinions, feelings, thoughts and emotions. In all reality, that which Jesus exclaims and declares is that the heart and life of a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs be those who are absolutely and entirely unwilling to allow judgment, condemnation and criticism to creep in unawares, and they must be those who cannot give themselves to any form of judgment. Oh even as I am reading these words I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Rome, as well as the words which James the half brother of Jesus wrote in the epistle he wrote unto saints which were scattered. Consider if you will the following words which were written and recorded in each of these epistles concerning judgment within our hearts and our spirits:
“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condmenest thyself: for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are shure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkwest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despises thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteousness judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteosness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law: (for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Romans 2:1-16).
“My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not them partiain yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him/ But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy: and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:1-13).
I am sitting here right now thinking and considering Jesus’ words concerning judgment and not judging others, and I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote and spoke about, as well as the words which James wrote and spoke within their epistles. What I find so absolutely remarkable and astounding when reading these words is that while it was true Jesus spent a considerable amount of time instructing His disciples and followers not to be as the hypocrites, He would also at the same time instruct them not to be those who judge others. In fact, it is when you read Jesus’ words in the opening verses of the seventh chapter that you find an additional element of hypocrisy—and not only hypocrisy, but I would also dare say religion itself—namely, that of judging others while excusing yourself. As you read the words which our Lord spoke within these verses it is absolutely remarkable and astonishing to consider how in the sixth chapter He spoke of hypocrisy and of the hypocrites in terms of prayer, giving and fasting, and yet how within this particular passage and section of the sermon He speaks of judgment in terms of judging others while completely and utterly ignoring that which is found within our own hearts and lives. In the opening verses of the seventh chapter we find Jesus speaking unto His disciples and followers concerning judgment as He instructed them not to be judged. What’s more, is that Jesus would go on to instruct them to be judged that they themselves might not be judged. What makes this truly interesting and unique is when you think about and consider the fact that in the fifth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus declaring unto His followers that they ought to forgive that their heavenly Father in heaven might forgive them, and here in this particular portion of the sermon we find Jesus speaking of judgment—and not only judgment, but how when we judge others we are actually opening ourselves up to judgment. There is absolutely no mistake when reading these words found within this Sermon on the Mount that we must needs forgive those who have trespassed against us that our heavenly Father might forgive us our trespasses, as well as not judging others that we ourselves not be judged. UNFORGIVEN AND JUDGED! THE COMPANY OF THE UNFORGIVEN AND JUDGED! Oh how absolutely incredible and astonishing it is to think about and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and how Jesus directly linked our forgiving others to our being forgiven of the Father who is in heaven, and our judging others to our being judged.
FORGIVE AND BE FORGIVEN! DO NOT JUDGE AND BE NOT JUDGED! It is truly something unique to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and encounter and come face to face with the fact that Jesus instructed us as His disciples and followers to be those who forgave others their trespasses against us that we might be forgiven of our Father who is in heaven. Not only this, but here in this portion of the Sermon we find Jesus instructing His disciples and followers not to judge that they themselves be not judged. Moreover, you will also find Jesus speaking and declaring unto His disciples that whatever measure they themselves judged others they would be judged themselves. It’s worth noting within this passage that immediately after Jesus instructed His followers to judge not that they be not judged He would go on to declare that with whatever judgment we judged we would be judged, and with whatever measure we meted, it would be measured unto us again. What we must also realize is that in the same context of judgment found in the opening verses of the seventh chapter Jesus would once more use the word “hypocrite” as He would describe the hypocrite as one who judged, condemned, criticized and accused others of the speck that was in their eye while also at the same time ignoring and neglecting the log, the plank and the beam that was present within their eye. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to this, for when delivering this sermon unto His disciples and followers—those who would listen to and hear Him on this particular day—Jesus would speak of hypocrisy in terms of worship and religious practices, and would not speak of hypocrisy in terms of judging others. What would begin with Jesus instructing His disciples and followers not to judge others lest they themselves be judged He would also describe unto them how that one who spoke unto their brother concerning the speck that was in their eye while ignoring and neglecting the beam that was in their eye was nothing more than a hypocrite. Oh if there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning hypocrisy it’s that it accuses, condemns and judges the sins of others while at the same time ignoring, excusing and rejecting the sin that is present within their own heart and life.
The more I think about and consider the words which are found within the Sermon on the Mount which Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that Jesus sought to bring His disciples and followers into an entirely different reality than that of the scribes and Pharisees of that day. Jesus came seeking to establish the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of the Father within and upon the earth, and the underlying truth surrounding that is that there must needs be a distinction between the disciples and followers within that kingdom and the world and systems which were present before and all around them. Perhaps three of the most difficult things to think about when considering the words which Jesus spoke within the Sermon on the Mount is not only to love our enemies, and not only to forgive others, but also not to judge others. I cannot help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with the fact that the kingdom of heaven—that which was set up in the midst of the Roman Empire, and that which was set up in the midst of a religious system that was in place in the midst of that generation—was such that called on men and women to forgive others their trespasses which were committed against them, love their enemies, bless those who cursed them, do good to those who hated them, and not to judge those before and around them. Stop and think about just how absolutely significant and powerful this is within the heart and life of a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, for the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs be those who live their lives absent judgment against others, willing to forgive others, and willing to love their enemies. Permit me to ask you who might be reading these words if this does indeed and does in fact describe you and your life as a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Does your life as a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ include living absent judging, criticizing, accusing, and condemning others? Does your life as a disciple and follower of Jesus include living a life where you’re able to forgive others those trespasses which they have committed against you? Could you even forgive those who have wronged you, sinned against you, and even trespassed against you? Could you live your life completely and utterly absent holding any form of malice, anger, bitterness and resentment within your heart towards others who have perhaps wronged you in one way, shape or another.
FORGIVING OTHERS! LOVING ENEMIES! PRAYING FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTED YOU! BLESSING THOSE WHO CURSED YOU! DOING GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE YOU! REFUSING TO JUDGE OTHERS! These words are such which are absolutely foreign for a lot of men and women when they think about them, and yet I am absolutely and completely convinced they are absolutely necessary if we want to live our lives as true disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more, is that I am absolutely and completely convinced that these words form a blueprint and roadmap for us as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ who desire the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven within our hearts and lives. There is a great need for the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to be those who are absolutely and utterly willing to forgive others—and not only forgive others, but forgive them for whatever trespass they committed against them, and forgive them up to seventy times seven. There is a great need for the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to be those who are willing to live completely and utterly free from any form of bitterness, anger, resentment, offense, malice, and hatred within their hearts—something Jesus would go on to describe as placing men and women in danger of judgment. In all reality, I would dare say that what we find within these passages of Scripture is a powerful blueprint and roadmap for how we are to live in community and fellowship with each other—and not only how we are to live in fellowship and community with each other, but also how we are to live in the midst of a world that will hate us, a world that may persecute us, a world that may despise us and despitefully use us, a world that will reject and marginalize us, and a world that will vehemently oppose us. The truth of the matter is that we are living in days when the body of Christ and the followers of Jesus Christ—particularly and especially within this nation—might very well join those in third world and foreign countries who experience the hatred and animosity of nations, the hatred and malice of those around them, and tremendous opposition and affliction. Oh there is not a doubt in my mind that the words which Jesus spoke within the Sermon on the Mount were absolutely paramount and critical for His disciples and followers—particularly and especially when He would depart from them and they were forced to live and remain in a world that would eventually rise up against them in persecution, opposition and affliction.
DO NOT JUDGE OTHERS AND DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU! DO NOT JUDGE LEST YOU BE JUDGED AND DO UNTO OTHERS WHAT YOU WOULD WANT THEM TO DO UNTO YOU! THE LANGUAGE OF RECIPROCATION! THE LANGUAGE OF COMMUNITY! THE LANGUAGE OF FELLOWSHIP! THE LANGUAGE OF RELATIONSHIP! RECOGNZING THE STRONG AND POWERFUL LINK BETWEEN JUDGING OTHERS AND US OURSELVES BEING JUDGED! UNDERSTANDING THE STRONG AND POWERFUL LINK BETWEEN DOING UNTO OTHERS WHAT WE WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO US! WOULD YOU DARE TREAT SOMEONE ANY DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU WOULD WANT TO TREATED? WOULD YOU DARE TREAT SOMEONE ONE WAY AND THEN EXPECT THEM TO TREAT YOU DIFFERENTLY? ENTITLEMENT AND EXPECTATION! YOU RECEIVE WHAT YOU GIVE AND YOU GIVE WHAT YOU RECEIVE! WHAT ARE YOU GIVING UNTO OTHERS IN THIS LIFE? WHAT ARE YOU DOING UNTO OTHERS IN THIS LIFE? FORGIVING OTHERS AS YOU WANT THEM TO FORGIVE YOU! LOVING OTHERS AS YOU WOULD WANT THEM TO LOVE YOU! REFUSING TO JUDGE OTHERS AS YOU WOULD WANT THEM NOT TO JUDGE YOU! PRAYING FOR OTHERS AS YOU WOULD WANT THEM PRAYING FOR YOU! BLESSING OTHERS AS YOU WOULD WANT THEM TO BLESS YOU!
The more I read the words which are found within Jesus’ words within the Sermon on the Mount the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely remarkable and astounding that at the very heart of this sermon and message appears to be a wonderful and powerful invitation to live in community and fellowship with the brethren, as well as living together in the midst of the world with those who do not walk with and follow Christ. What’s important to note as that while Jesus did indeed and did in fact speak within this sermon about living in fellowship with the Father—namely, through prayer, through fasting and through giving—Jesus also gave sound teaching and sound instruction unto His disciples and followers concerning relationships within this life. If we speak about and consider the reality of the kingdom of heaven we must needs realize and understand that at the very heart of the kingdom of heaven is relationships—not only relationship with the Father, and with the Son, and with the person of the Holy Spirit, but also relationship with others. In fact—as we will later see within the gospel narratives Jesus and others will emphatically proclaim and declare that the whole Law of Moses can be summarized into two commands. IF you take the whole Law which was given unto Moses atop Sinai in the wilderness you will find that it can be summarized into two distinct and two unmistakable commands—namely, loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand this truth and reality, for if you not only want to know the Law, but also obey and fulfill it you must needs understand that it is summarized in loving the Lord our God and loving neighbors. With this being said, however, we must also realize that Jesus added an entirely different element to this reality when He declared how we have heard it said that we are to love our neighbors, and yet He would bring us into the place where we must needs love our enemies. Essentially that which Jesus would do was take the concept of loving other and turn it on its head as He would now invite us into a place where we would love our enemies—even those who cursed us, even those who hated us, and even those you persecuted and despitefully used us.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within the Sermon on the Mount and I am brought into the awesome and incredible reality that the words which our Lord spoke in the hearing of those who listened to His words on this day that He gave us practical ways—not only to pursue and partake in that righteousness which is of the kingdom of heaven, but also how we are to live in relationship and fellowship with others. What we must needs realize and recognize and understand concerning this concept of relationship and fellowship is that it is not mutually exclusive to our brethren and our neighbors. Jesus did not give us one set of instructions for our neighbors and our brethren and an entirely different set of instructions for our enemies and those who allegedly and/or apparently do wrong and evil unto us. Oh we would like to think and consider for a moment that we have somehow been called, and somehow been granted permission to live in fellowship with our brethren differently than we are our neighbours, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. There is absolutely nowhere in Scripture where Jesus gives a certain and specific set of rules and standards for how we are to live in relationship, community and fellowship with those before and all around us who are our brethren, and an entirely and altogether separate set of standards for those who might be perceived as our enemies. What’s more, is that as you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find in the fifth chapter Jesus speaks of those who are peacemakers, as well as taking that which His audience and hearers had heard concerning holding anger, malice and resentment within their heart, and how that was just as evil and vile as carrying out murder toward and against others. There is within the fifth chapter specific language concerning our relationships with others, while there is also contained within this chapter language concerning those who are perceived as our enemies, those who persecute and despitefully use us, those who curse us, as well as those who hate us.
When you come to the sixth chapter you will find Jesus commanding and instructing us to forgive others their trespasses against us knowing that if we fail to forgive others their trespasses against us our heavenly Father cannot and will not forgive us those trespasses which were committed before and against Him. Oh how we must needs realize and recognize the strong and powerful link that exists between our willingness to forgive others their trespasses committed against us and the forgiveness of our Father in heaven of our trespasses which have been committed against Him. In all reality, I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart of what is the greater trespass—the trespass which was committed against us, or the trespass which we have committed against the Father which is in heaven. OH how incredibly tragic, deadly and dangerous it is to think about and consider how we could indeed and could in fact find ourselves in danger of not being forgiven of our trespasses committed against the Father because of our unwillingness to forgive others. What’s more, is that even in the prayer which our Lord taught His disciples to pray He instructed and commanded them to ask the Father to forgive their trespasses as they in turn forgave those who trespassed against them. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of just how incredibly powerful this truly is, for when you come to the seventh chapter you will find Jesus taking this language even further as He would command and instruct us not to judge others lest we ourselves also be judged. Moreover, Jesus would go on to declare and express that with whatever measure we judge so also shall we be judged, and with whatever measure we mete out and unto others, so also will that be measured and meted out unto us. Building even further upon this concept of judgment Jesus would again use the word “hypocrite,” for He would speak of those who were careful and cautious to point out the speck which is in the eye of another while all the while excusing, ignoring, and perhaps even pardoning the log, the plank and the beam which is in their own eye. Once more Jesus would use the language of hypocrisy when speaking about those who dared judge in the life of another—perhaps even that which might be done in moderation—while completely and entirely ignoring that which is done within their own life—perhaps in excess.
If and as you continue realizing the words which are found within this Sermon you will find Jesus instructing His disciples to do unto others as they would do unto them, for this command and instruction was the law and the prophets. Pause for a moment and think about just how absolutely incredible this truly is, for if you want to truly understand the law and the prophets you must needs understand the law and principle of reciprocity. If you want to truly understand the Law and the prophets you must not only understand it in terms of loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength, as well as loving our neighbor as ourselves, but we must also learn and understand it in terms of doing unto others that which we would have them do unto us. What we must needs notice and recognize when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture is that Jesus didn’t invite and instruct His disciples to do unto others as they did unto us, for that would entirely and altogether open a door of revenge, and perhaps even vengeance. It’s interesting when reading Jesus’ words in what has been commonly known as “the Golden Rule” that if He had spoken and declared unto His disciples to do unto others as others did and as others had done unto them—not only would it potentially speak of revenge, but it would and could also speak about our treatment of others being entirely contingent and based on how they treated us. Oh we must needs realize and recognize that Jesus in no way, shape or form every declared unto us that our treatment of others was entirely and altogether based on their treatment of us. You will not find anywhere in Scripture Jesus ever declaring unto His disciples that their treatment of others was based on how they had treated them, or perhaps even how they were presently treating them.
This language of reciprocity that is found at the very heart and center of “the Golden Rule” is truly and absolutely remarkable and wonderful when you take the time to think about it, for it presents us with the tremendous truth that how we treat others, and what we do unto others cannot and must not be according to that which they have done unto us, or even that which they might be presently doing unto us. Oh there would be those who would treat others based on how they have treated them, thus not only demonstrating the mentality and mindset of revenge, but also entitlement. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—if there is one thing we must needs realize understand is that if you are one who is only willing to treat someone else based on the degree and measure in which they treated you, you are in tremendous danger of living with an entitlement mindset. Only those who live their lives with a sense of entitlement will do unto others exactly as they have done unto them, or will only do unto and for others that which they have done unto them. Such individuals expect others to do good unto them in order for them to do good unto them, and yet such a notion and idea is entirely and altogether contrary to that which Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount, for within it Jesus instructed and invited His disciples to love their enemies, to bless those who cursed them, to do good to those who hated them, and to pray for those who persecuted and despitefully used them. Tell me dear reader—is there any sense of entitlement found within loving your enemies? Is there any sense of entitlement that is found in doing good to those who hate you, and/or even blessing those who curse you? Is there any sense of entitlement in praying in forgiving others their trespasses which have been committed against you? Is there any sense of entitlement in refusing to judge others according to what they have or have not done—perhaps according to our opinion and thought? Oh there is absolutely nowhere within these verses when we see Jesus inviting His disciples and followers to do unto others as they have done unto them, nor even do unto others as others might be presently doing unto them. That which Jesus instructed His disciples to do was do unto others as they would have them do unto them.
DO UNTO OTHERS EVEN IF THEY HAVEN’T DONE IT UNTO YOU! DO UNTO OTHERS EVEN IF THEY WON’T DO UNTO YOU! What we must needs realize and recognize within this passage is that doing unto others as we would have them do unto us doesn’t even suggest that they will do unto us what we have done unto them. We would like to think that doing unto others automatically means and suggests that they will reciprocate the gesture of kindness and love which we have demonstrated toward them, and yet the truth of the matter is that nowhere in “the Golden Rule” did Jesus ever declare that when we did unto others as we would have them do unto us that they can and/or even will recognize what we have done unto them and do the same unto us. Jesus used the language of those who despitefully use us! Jesus used the language of the possibility of enemies within this life—whether actual enemies or perceived enemies! Jesus used the language of those who curse and those who have cursed us! Jesus used the language of those who hated us! In spite and in the midst of all this we find Jesus instructing His disciples to do unto others—in spite of whether or not they have done or would do the same thing unto and for them—as we would have them do unto us. What this means is that if you would want someone else to forgive you of your trespass committed against them you yourself must needs forgive them their trespass committed against you. If you would want someone else to pray for you—even if you persecuted and despitefully used them—you must needs pray for those who persecute and despitefully use you. If you would want someone to love you as they love themselves then you must be willing to love them as yourself. If you want someone else to bless you—even if you should curse them—then you ought to bless them if they curse you. Oh please note that I am in no way suggesting that you would ever curse others, or would ever hate others, or would even ever persecute and despitefully use another.
The language of the golden rule is actually quite challenging when you truly take the time to think about and consider it, for the language that is found within it is not even necessarily the language of faith, but rather the language of believing in the goodness that is found in others. For you to do unto others as you would have them do unto you requires you to trust that there is goodness within the hearts of others, and that others would do unto you according to that measure and degree of goodness that is found within them. Perhaps one of the most tremendous truths surrounding doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is the fact that Jesus in no way guarantees that they will recognize what you have done unto and for them, and can and will reciprocate and respond in kind. The words which Jesus speaks within this passage of Scripture is one that is actually quite challenging when you think about and consider it, for the words which He speaks here invites us into a place where we do unto others and treat others as we would have them do unto us without demanding or even expecting it in return. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—permit me to ask you whether or not you would be willing to do unto others as you would have them do unto you if you never experienced the reciprocation of that goodness within and toward you within your life. Would you truly be willing to do unto others as you would have them do unto you without ever having any guarantee and assurance that they would indeed ever return the treatment? Are you willing to do unto others as you would have them do unto you whilst knowing that there has never been any guarantee that they will even appreciate and receive it? It’s worth thinking about and considering how even though Jesus instructed us to do unto others as we would have them do unto He would not guarantee that they would even receive, reciprocate and appreciate it. Oh we dare not and must not think for a single moment—much less expect within our hearts—that when we do unto others as we would have them do unto us that they will appreciate and reciprocate how we have treated them unto us. Jesus did in fact invite us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and at the very heart of this is believing in the goodness that can be found within the hearts and lives of others. To truly do unto others as we would have them do unto us requires us to cast aside all manner and all forms of judgment and cynicism and actually trust in the goodness that can be found within the hearts of others.
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find myself being absolutely gripped and captivated that at the very heart of the kingdom of heaven is how we live in relationship together with others—and not only how we live in relationship together with our neighbor and brother, but also how we live together with our enemies and those who would hate us, those who would curse us, and those who would persecute and despitefully use us. We are invited and instructed to forgive others the trespasses they have committed against us that we might also be forgiven of our trespasses which we have committed before and against the Father which is in heaven. We have been invited into a place where we are entirely and altogether unwilling to judge others lest we ourselves be judged—and not only judged, but judged according to the same measure in which we have judged others. Oh there is something absolutely remarkable and astounding surrounding what we know as “the Golden Rule,” for at the very heart of the Golden Rule is a willing to cast aside all judgment and all cynicism, and to truly believe in the goodness that is in others, or perhaps that goodness which we believe can indeed and can in fact be present within others. Doing unto others as we would have them do unto us not only is an act of fulfilling both the Law and the prophets, but it is also a means of laying aside all expectation and all manner of entitlement as we believe that they might never treat us the same way we have treated them. To do unto others as we would have them do unto us is entirely and altogether different from doing unto others as they have done unto us, for the one is entirely based on the condition of our heart, while the other is based on the actions of others. Oh we must needs realize and understand this, for doing unto others as they have done or as they are doing unto us is entirely and altogether based on them, while doing unto others as they would do unto us is based entirely on ourselves. Oh it is with this in mind that I leave you with the following words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints of Rome which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle. Consider if you will the following words which are found in this passage beginning with the ninth verse:
”Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil: cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you; bless and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. IF it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).