Archives For Matthew

Christ said his disciples are the "salt" of the world.Two documents from Chris Brauns’s personal notes for his series on the Sermon on the Mount. One is an uneven summary of the sermons. The other is the glossary of terms I thought I should understand in order to preach the series.

Sunday I preached my 25th and final sermon in my series on the Sermon on the Mount. The exhortation was to “make fresh decisions to be astonished by hearing Jesus’s words and obeying them.” Listen here.

As a part of the sermon, I pointed out some highlights from the series. You can review those highlights in the below document.

SERMON SUMMARIES FOR THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

It may also be of interest to you see the glossary I made for my own study. This is technical because I wrote it for my own use. It’s unedited and of uneven quality.

Glossary for the Sermon on the Mount

It is self-referentially absurd to claim there are no absolutes.In Sunday’s sermon, I defined the term “self-referential absurdity.” This is an important concept when dealing with the mind of the late modern age. Have you ever encountered self-referential absurdity?

Self-Referential Absurdity – When the application of a claim to itself refutes what is being claimed, it demonstrates “self-referential absurdity.”

The most obvious example of “self-referential absurdity” is the claim that there are no absolutes. Such a claim contradicts itself by saying absolutely that there are no absolutes.

Likewise, people who insist that it is wrong to make moral judgments of any sort, are themselves making moral judgments, and hence demonstrate “self-referential absurdity.”

When Jesus gave the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12, he made sure to anchor His ethic in the “law and the prophets.” So what Jesus taught is in sharp contrast with the view many hold today that ethics are strictly a matter of the views of people.

Our culture is infatuated with Jesus’s admonition, “Judge not, that you be not judged (Matthew 7:1-2).” But, as I explained in Sunday’s sermon, the reason this is a favorite saying may not be good news.

There are, arguably, two reasons, our culture so often quotes Jesus’s prohibition of making judgments. First, hypocritical judging, which is what Jesus warned against, is ugly. The person who presumes to know why another person suffers, or the motives of another’s heart, or another’s status with Christ, puts him or herself in the place of God. Jesus warned against such hypocrisy in the strongest possible terms (Matthew 7:2).

Of course, when Jesus warned, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” he did not mean that we are not to make reasoned moral judgments. After all, in this same context, Christ cautions that we should identify some as “dogs” and “pigs” so as to not see truth trampled in the filth (Matthew 7:6).

The second reason that our culture is so enamored with the concept of not judging is that many do not like the idea of judgment at all. “Judge not” means to some that not even God judges. Yet, the idea that God will not judge is patently false. The Bible consistently stresses that God is a God who will judge sin. Consider a small sampling of biblical examples of judgment.

TABLE 1. SELECT BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF GOD’S JUDGMENT

Example Text Comment / Summary
The Fall / Adam & Eve’s Disobedience Gen 3 Adam and Eve rebelled against God and God pronounces a sentence of spiritual death and all the pain and heart ache of a fallen world.
The Noahic Flood Gen 6-9 God destroyed everyone on earth except Noah and his family: the one family who had faith.
Sodom and Gomorrah Gen 19:23-29 God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, though Lot is spared
The Passover Exodus 12 God struck dead the firstborn in Egypt except those covered by the lamb’s blood (Exodus 12:21-28).
The Golden Calf Exodus 32 God sent the tribe of Levi to execute about 3,000 and more died from a plague because of their idolatry at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
So severe that even Cannabilism Lev 26:14-35 God warned that if Israel broke covenant that the judgment would so severe that there would even be cannibalism (Lev 26:29).
Adult Israel dies in wilderness Num 14:20-38 God vowed that all of the adults of Israel (save Joshua and Caleb), who would not follow Moses into the Promised Land, would die.
Jericho Josh 6 The city of Jericho was completely devoted to destruction.
Jesus promises judgment Matt 16:26-28 Jesus warned that he will return and reward people according to what they have done.
THE CROSS 2 Cor 5:21, 1 Pt 2:21, 1 Jn 4:10 God’s simultaneous demonstration of love & judgment. Love: Jesus died for sin. Judgment: Jesus received the punishment we deserve.
Ananias and Saphira Acts 5:1-11 Ananias and Sapphira lied about their commitment to the Church and God struck them dead.
Herod Acts 12:23 God struck Herod dead while people were praising him for having the voice of a god.
Those who destroy the church 1 Cor 3:17 God warns that people who harm God’s temple (the church) will be destroyed.
Warning to N.T. Believers 1 Cor 10:1-22 Paul warned the church at Corinth that examples of O.T. judgment are warnings for our day as well as then.
Partakers of communion in unworthy manner 1 Cor 11:27-34 Paul explained that the reason some are sick and have died was because they participated in communion in an unworthy manner.
Leaders / Teachers Warned Luke 12:47; Jam 3:1; Heb 13:17 Warnings that those in positions of responsibility have an increased accountability to Jesus when He returns.
The Judgment Seat of Christ 2 Cor 5:9-10; Rom 14:10-12 When Christ judges Christians resulting in rewards for some and a sense of loss for others.
The Great White Throne Judgment Revelation 20:11-15 Follows the Millennial Kingdom and is the occasion when the unsaved of all the world will receive their punishment of eternal hell.
Jesus’s final words in Revelation Revelation 22:12-13, 16, 20 Jesus promised that He will soon return and that when he does he will dispense punishment to those whose who do not know Him.

If these examples of biblical judgment people do not make you uncomfortable, then maybe you are not engaging with this idea of God’s judgment. The judgment of a holy God is a sobering topic. It is so uncomfortable the reality is that many churches in North America speak little of God’s judgment. And, perhaps the reason many pastors won’t speak of judgment is the same reason Jesus admonition, “Judge not that you be not judged,” is the most popular saying in the Bible.

For biblical Christianity, there is no denying the reality of judgment. Some insist that the Old Testament presents God as a harsher judge. But this is inconsistent with the Bible. Look at the table above. Read Revelation 20-22.

Some counter, “Well, then I’m not sure if I want the Bible. I’m not sure that I want judgment at all.”

But the person who objects to God’s judgment does want judgment. All people do. Every sane person believes in judgment. You need only to go to a high school football game and see a bad call and see people express their indignation at injustice to know people believe in justice. Or, watch a political leader make a decision that affects the standard of living. People cry out for justice. We all want judgment if a loved one is harmed. We should!

The fact is that people who object against God’s judgment are okay with justice and judgment. They just want to dictate judgment on their own terms and that, says Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2, is what we must not do. To insist on being the judge is a matter of pride. Only God is worthy of rendering judgment.

But then someone else will counter, “These examples of God’s judgment are harsh. Think of Sodom! Think of eternal hell. How can a God of such harsh judgment be loving?”

This is where we need to go to the middle of the above table and focus on the the Cross! On the Cross we see how God’s love and God’s judgment are both on display. John tells us (1 John 4:10) that the ultimate display of love is that Christ died for our sins. The reason he died, was to give Christ as the propitiation or atoning sacrifice for our sins.

For sure, one reason that our culture appreciates Jesus’s admonition to not be hypocritically judgmental is because such hypocrisy is so ugly and damaging. But, I fear, the greater reason so many quote Matthew 7:1-2 is because they have misread it to mean even God does not judge. About this, unbelieving culture could not be more mistaken. God is just and he will judge sin. Those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, will suffer God’s judgment eternally (John 3:36, Revelation 21:8).

See also:

What do Christians mean when they reference the gospel or good news?

The Pastoral Privilege of Telling Christians When Jesus Will Return

Jonathan Edwards Was as High on Heaven as He Was Hot on Hell

A Soft View of Hell Makes Hard People

PassingthePlateYesterday, I posted Christian Smith and Michael O. Emerson’s conclusions about why Americans don’t give.

Now, here are six facts they discovered in their research about American giving.

  1. At least one out of five American Christians – 20% of all U.S. Christians –give literally nothing to church, para-church, or nonreligious charities.
  2. The vast majority of American Christians give very little to church, para-church, or nonreligious charities.
  3. American Christians do not give their dollars evenly among themselves, but, rather, a small minority of generous givers among them contributes most of the total Christian dollars given.
  4. Higher income Christians – like Americans generally – give little to no more money as a percentage of household income than lower income earning Christians.
  5. Despite a massive growth of real per capital income over the 20th century, the average percentage share of income given by American Christians not only did not grow in proportion but actually declined slightly during this time period.
  6. The vast majority of the money that American Christians do give to religion is spent in and for their own local communities of faith – little is spent on missions, development, and poverty relief outside of local congregations, particularly outside the United States, in ways that benefit people other than the givers themselves.

See also:

Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money

Christian Smith on Why Americans Give So Little Financially

Don’t Store Up Treasure on Earth: John R.W. Stott on What Jesus Doesn’t and Does Mean

 

Augustine:

It is a great duty of natural affection (it will be said) for a father to lay up for his sons; rather it is a great vanity, one who must soon die is laying up for those who must soon die also.

Luther:

See to it that greed does not take you in with a sweet suggestion and lovely deception like this: that you intend to advance yourself or your children into a higher . . . social position. The more you get the more you will want; and you will always be aiming for something higher and better. No one is satisfied with his position in life.”

Of course, balance is in order. It is not wrong to leave provision for one’s family.

Christian Smith, who coined the term “moralistic therapeutic deism,” is one of the foremost sociologists in the world. In a book he wrote with Michael Emerson and Patricia Snell, Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money, Smith summarized why Americans give so little. He breaks his conclusions down into six points (p. 175-179):

  1. Materialistic consumption has become a nearly inescapable way of life in the United States . . . The first and perhaps most formidable rival to generous voluntary giving of American Christians, then, aiding and abetting any of their natural human tendencies toward selfishness and stinginess, is America’s institutionalized mass consumerism.
  2. A lot of pastors appear to be uncomfortable with the issue of money in their churches . . . Many are also afraid of being branded by the money-grubbing stereotype. The net result seems to us to be a lot of pastors out there who have made peace with low expectations, tolerance for chronic paltry giving by many of their members, and the use of money collection procedures oriented as much to minimize problems and conflicts as to effectively build their churches and the spiritual faithfulness of their members.
  3. More than a few American Christians seem to be at least somewhat uninformed or confused about the meanings, expectations, and purposes of faithful Christian financial giving. . . a lack of clarity among American Christians about the expectations for giving by their faith traditions and church leaders.
  4. Some Christians mistrust organizations to which they would give money. . . The good of financial responsibility, when tainted by distrust, thus comes to serve the bad of miserly giving.
  5. No Americans seem to talk with anyone else about the question of voluntary financial giving . . . The de facto practice is: every person for themselves. And that does little to facilitate generous financial giving.
  6. Many American Christians appear to avoid adopting systematic, routinized methods for carrying out their financial giving. Instead, they want to give in an unplanned, situational, almost impulsive manner.

“Put all these factors together and we may conclude it is a wonder that American Christians give away as much money as they do. As best we can tell, numerous powerful cultural, organizational, interpersonal, and institutional influences work together against generous financial giving. In the face of these dynamics, it would seem to require the truly highly committed, deeply involved, well-taught, very organized, culturally critical, and confidently led Christian to faithfully give away, say, 10 percent of his or her income. Such Christians do exist in American churches. But they are a distinct minority. And so, the actual financial giving of American Christians as a whole turns out to be . . . [ungenerous].” (page 179)

The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 : Christian Counter-Culture)

Screenshot 2015-09-30 17.04.16

The oft quotable F.D. Bruner interacting with Matthew 6:19-21 in Matthew: A Commentary. Volume 1: The Christbook, Matthew 1-12
writes (page 321):

Jesus does not quash ambition; he elevates it. The Christian is to be ambitious, passionate, acquisitive, enterprising — for the Father’s approval, for the “well done” of God’s Final Judgment. Thus Jesus’ ethic is not so much ascetic as athletic.

Also:

The moth is nature’s corrosion eating away, the rust time’s corrosions, and the thief humanity’s corrosions — and all three together represent the insecurity of life lived for accumulation.

Focus on Fasting

Chris —  September 28, 2015

One of the ways God’s people should respond to grave injustice in the world is to fast and pray for the gospel message to go out to all nations. A number of our flock responded to my sermon on Matthew 6:16-18 and a challenge to focus on fasting. You can listen to the sermon here.

The black notebook to the right is the binder I use for some of my prayer notes for our church family. This week, I have crammed into it many response sheets from those who want prayer and/or are committing to fasting and praying on Tuesday. This was in response to the sermon on 9/27/15.

The logic of my sermon developed as follows:

  1. I asked our people if a captain in the United States army was justified in “beating up: an Afghan leader (one who the United States helped put in place) who sexually abused a young boy he had chained to his bed. (See U.S. Soldiers told to Ignore Sexual Abuse of Boys by Afghan Allies).
  2. We defined fasting (per Lloyd-Jones) as voluntarily giving up a legitimate activity for the purpose of prayer and spiritual focus. Food is one obvious example but we might also choose to fast from media, screens, entertainment etc. The possibility of rewards and God answering our prayers should encourage us to do so.
  3. We reviewed Jesus’s warnings about fasting. Don’t fast to look spiritual in front of people. Be careful not to do acts of righteousness with the applause of people in view (Matthew 6:1). Further, do not approach fasting as a “work” to earn or merit something from God.
  4. We reviewed examples of biblical occasions of fasting (2 Chronicles 20:3, Ezra 8:21-23, Nehemiah 1:4, Acts 13:2-3, Acts 14:21-24. We concluded with Calvin that, ““Wherever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter it would be expedient to appoint fasting along with prayer.”
  5. We then returned to the original question. How should we respond to the sexual abuse in Afghanistan? It isn’t really for us to know precisely what should have been done in that situation. What is far more important than whether or not we would hit an Afghan leader as a soldier is to consider if we are so concerned about the cause of missions in the world that we fast and pray for the gospel to go out? We should consider which  we believe would help more: (a) Punching someone (b) Proclaiming the gospel?
  6. Bearing in mind that our heavenly Father who hears in secret will reward those who pray in secret (Matthew 6:18), we were challenged to consider making a specific commitment to fast.

I asked people to consider fasting during the daylight on Tuesday. I also encouraged our people to let our pastors know if they are fasting and praying and to share their prayer requests. Many responded.

Now let’s follow through. Let’s be praying people who cry out to God for justice.

See also:

John Piper’s recommended study: A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer

Scripture Passages to Help You Pray

Pray the Lord’s Prayer, Don’t Chant It

Children praying during a time of worship at Vacation Bible School in 2013.In our series at the Red Brick Church on the Sermon on the Mount, one of our central emphases has been to pray rather than chant the Lord’s Prayer. It is of no value to mindlessly recite the Lord’s prayer. Rather, praying the Lord’s Prayer means understanding what each phrase means and how it should guide our prayers.

Think of the Lord’s Prayer as “hand rails” we hold onto as we pray. But we must walk through the prayer in our minds as we engage with God.

If you are unsure what each phrase of the Lord’s Prayer means, then follow this link (Westminster Confessions and Heidelberg Catechism on the Lord’s Prayer) to a document I created which brings together the explanations given by the Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms as well as the Heidelberg Catechism. These catechisms give beautiful and elegant explanations of the Lord’s Prayer.

The below video from the New City Catechism will also help you understand the Lord’s Prayer.