Category Archives: Jesus

The Sermon on the Mount and the Power of Self-Deception

The sermon on the mount is one of the most powerful sermons ever preached. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned that one of Jesus’ longest sermons was only a few minutes long if we have the whole thing recorded. Sometimes less is more. But in these three chapters of Matthew (5-7) Jesus gives us a brief but in depth look into what life in the kingdom looks as well as life as a disciple of Jesus looks like.

When Jesus preached this sermon he ended it making sure that those who heard what he said would go away truly changed. This was no evangelistic sermon and yet Jesus was calling for conversion. He was calling for a conversion of the hearts and minds of those who heard his words.

The very last thing he said in the sermon specifically references the rest of the sermon – “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24). James said something very similar to this in James 1:22, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James then doesn’t give us a parable of wise and foolish builders. James gives us a parable about someone who looks into a mirror and then immediately forgets what they look like being like a person who looks at the law of freedom and forgets what it says…but the one who looks at it and does what it says is not called wise but blessed. Blessing is how Jesus kicked off the sermon on the mount. But there is more.

James 1:22 has both components of Matthew 7:24 – hearing and doing. Tucked in between them in James 1:22 is self-deception. Interestingly enough if you look at how Jesus structures the conclusion of the sermon on the mount he discusses self-deception at length.

Here is how Jesus makes his closing arguments in the sermon on the mount.

7:13-14 – Two ways of living – the wide way that leads to death and the narrow way that leads to life

7:15-20 – The danger of others deceiving you and leading you astray.

7:21-23 – The danger of you deceiving yourself.

7:24-27 – Two ways of living – the one who is wise and the one who is foolish enough to deceive himself in how he “builds”.

Maintaining ourselves as disciples of Jesus will require us to listen and obey. We don’t need to confuse discipleship with salvation. We don’t earn our salvation through 100% perfect obedience but obedience is a necessary part of our discipleship post conversion. The one who deceives himself is the one who is a nominal Christian. Their life looks on the outside like a fully functioning house but in reality it is a death trap because it lack true foundation on Jesus.

The world tries to deceive us into thinking we can have it both ways. We can be a part of Jesus’ house and we can be worldly. We can listen to Jesus but not actually be a disciple. Listening doesn’t make a disciple. A disciple must be committed to following, listening, learning and doing. Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking we can have the world and have Jesus. If Jesus is Lord then nothing else takes the top spot…nothing else even comes close. That is going to take some digging just as we hear Jesus say in his teaching this same parable out on the plain in Luke 6:48-49,

They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Those of us who are teachers need to be training people to dig. More than that…those of us who are teachers need to be digging right alongside those we teach. We need to make sure that all that we say is truly connected to the foundation of Jesus and his teaching. The world may tell us all foundations are the same or that foundations are unnecessary but we know better than that. The question is not if we know better than that. The question is are we living better than that?

Prophets Unaware

Several times in scripture we have people doing things that are prophetic without them recognizing it. There are several instances in the Gospels where the Gospel writer informs us of what is going on. One of those instances is in John 11. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead the Jewish leaders began plotting asContinue Reading

An Important Principle in Reading the Old Testament as it Relates to the New – Fulfillment

We teach a lot more Old Testament to our children than to our adults. At least that is my experience. The Old Testament is so full of great stories that work well with the imagination of our kids. We don’t ever need to graduate out of the Old Testament. Instead we need to understand justContinue Reading

Ironing Out Our Conflicting Message on the Usefulness of the Old Testament

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard in my life that the Old Testament is irrelevant to us because it was nailed to the cross and is therefore no longer useful to Christians today. People have based this view on a number of things. First there is Colossians 2:14 that says somethingContinue Reading

The Three People They Were Looking For in Jesus’ Day

We talk a lot about messianic prophesies in the Old Testament, as we should. What often gets missed is that they weren’t just looking for the Messiah. They were looking for two other people mentioned in the Old Testament and you see this reflected in the Gospels. Matthew 27:46-49, “About three in the afternoon JesusContinue Reading

What Do We Know About Joseph?

The New Testament doesn’t give us an awful lot of information about Joseph but we do know a few things from what we have in Matthew, Luke and John. First, we know that Joseph was Jewish and a descendant of David and originally from Bethlehem. Matthew tells us that in his genealogy in Matthew 1.Continue Reading

Re-envisioning the Manger: 7 Common Misconceptions about the Nativity of Jesus

A few fun facts about the ancient world and the birth of Jesus. 1.  Mary wasn’t necessarily about to give birth any moment on her way to Bethlehem. The classic image of Mary riding on a donkey about 11 months pregnant probably wasn’t the case. Luke 2:4-6 – “4 So Joseph also went up from theContinue Reading

Getting to Know Jesus

More and more I feel the desire to get to know Jesus better. I have known about Him my whole life. I committed my life to being a disciple of Jesus years ago. I remember him every week around the Lord’s table. My desire to get to know Jesus only grows. I want his thoughtsContinue Reading

Is This The Most Faith-Full Moment in Jesus’ Ministry?

When you say John 4 your first thought probably goes the woman at the well. There is another story in that chapter that I find one of the most moving and faith-full moments in the Gospels. I don’t know that I need to get into the business of comparing people’s faith. That just doesn’t seemContinue Reading

The Holy Spirit’s Role in Jesus’ Miracles

Throughout scripture the Holy Spirit has enabled people to do amazing things. The Spirit empowered several of the judges to do the mighty things God called them to do (Samson and Gideon to name a few). The Holy Spirit came on Saul and enabled him to prophesy (1 Sam 10:6-10). The Holy Spirit enabled theContinue Reading


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