Category Archives: Gospel of Matthew

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

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

Past, Present and Future Components of the Lord’s Supper & Our Spiritual Formation

Past “This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.” – Exodus 12:14 “and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. DoContinue Reading

Fascinating Story Order in the Gospels

Sometimes the Gospels have stories that are ordered in such a way that it just blows my mind. Because these connections span multiple stories it can be easy to miss because we often study one unit of the text at a time rather than looking at the whole or at least big chunks to seeContinue Reading

Sermon on the Mount: A Good Reason to Leave the Assembly Early

Have you ever left worship angry? Let me ask that another way, have you ever left the assembly because you were angry and realized that you had to make it right before you sang one more song or said “Fine, how are you to one more person?”   Jesus straight up tells us that ifContinue Reading

Sermon on the Mount: Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets

In Jesus’ day the phrase Law and Prophets was shorthand for their Bible which we call the Old Testament. The Law included Genesis-Deuteronomy. The prophets included the historical books (Joshua-Esther) and the prophets as we know them (Isaiah-Malachi). What is not included specifically in that phrase are the wisdom and poetry books. There are aContinue Reading

Sermon on the Mount – Salt and Light

Jesus starts the sermon on the mount with some lessons on being instead of lessons on doing. Blessed are the…You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.   The apostle Paul picked up this same approach in several of his letters, reminding people of who they are before telling themContinue Reading

The Sermon on the Mount – The Beatitudes Part 2

Last Sunday I spent some time unpacking the meaning and application of Jesus’ beatitudes in the sermon on the mount. When you have a moment give it a listen. I believe you will be blessed and encouraged as you listen to just how much God loves you.

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