Two Works

Sermon on the Mount: Instructions for Life

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

These works are the deeds that we might do in service to God. Jesus explained that not everything we do for Him is accepted by Him. There are right works and wrong works.

The right works are those that are according to God’s will (Matthew 7:21). God’s will is found in what Jesus taught. He said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16). This message would then be sent from heaven by the Holy Spirit to the apostles. Jesus told them, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26). These apostles were then commissioned to preach the gospel throughout the world and teach the disciples to “observe all that [Jesus] commanded” (Matthew 28:20).

The right works will be those works that are authorized in the word of God. Paul wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). He told Timothy, “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me” (2 Timothy 1:13).

The wrong works include whatever we think will honor the Lord. Notice that Jesus described people who claimed to do things in His name but were actually practicing lawlessness (Matthew 7:22-23). The problem is that we, as mere men, do not think like God. Yet many fail to see this. They believe that if they think a particular action will please God, then it must actually be pleasing to Him. The Lord rebuked the wicked, “You thought that I was just like you” (Psalm 50:21). Too many fail in this regard – they think that God is like them. Yet as we noticed earlier, the ways and thoughts of God are infinitely superior to our own (Isaiah 55:8-9).

There is only one set of works that is right. These are the works that are revealed in the word of God. Again, Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable…so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Following the Scriptures exclusively to determine which works are good will make us different because most people think that anything we do for the Lord is good. Yet we must do what He has told us to do. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). We must do what has been authorized in His word (Colossians 3:17), not presume to know what would please Him. When we attempt to make such presumptions regarding the will of God, we will fail. Paul explained why this is: “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:11-12). The only way we can know God’s will is to look at what He has revealed in His word. Therefore, the only way we can do what will please Him is to look at what His word defines as a “good work.

The above post is an excerpt from the book, Sermon on the Mount: Instructions for Life. Follow the link to learn more about the book and purchase your copy today!

Do Not Give What Is Holy to Dogs

Sermon on the Mount: Instructions for Life

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).

Before we can apply Jesus’ proverb, we need to understand the point He was making. In using dogs and swine in His illustration, He was speaking of animals that were both viewed negatively by people in that time (very different, particularly about dogs, from how people today view them). They were discussed in contrast with a “brother” in the prior verses (Matthew 7:3-5).

Jesus specifically commented on the expected behavior of these animals because they were used to represent the behavior that people often exhibit when they are taught the truth. The dogs and swine in Jesus’ proverb are symbolic of people who trample over the truth and viciously attack those who teach it. That which is “holy” refers to the teaching, correction, or help that we might give to others who need to make changes in their lives (cf. Matthew 7:5).

As we apply this proverb, we need to understand Jesus’ underlying point that we cannot treat everyone the same. This may sound shocking for some that Jesus would teach this. But as we look closely at what He said, we can plainly see that this was what He meant. He said we are “not [to] give what is holy to dogs” because we need to give that to others. This is not possible to do if we try to treat everyone the same. We must exercise good judgment if we are to be just.

The sad reality is that not everyone will respond positively to our help that we offer them in their spiritual lives. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he wrote, “So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). Though we might speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), many will not take it that way. They will reject the truth, attack us for “judging” them, question our motives, and hate us despite our efforts to show them the path that leads to life. In our efforts to teach others, a time may come when we will have to “shake the dust off [our] feet” and move on (Matthew 10:14).

Failing to do this deprives others – those who could be receptive to the truth – of the help that we could provide. By continuing to try to teach those who have demonstrated a willful rejection to the truth, we are taking time away from potential opportunities to teach others who might be open to the truth.

Furthermore, we have certain responsibilities that God has given us – family, work, church, etc. If we fail to follow Jesus’ instruction to “not give what is holy to dogs,” we may neglect our other responsibilities. Notice what Jesus said in a similar passage: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (Matthew 15:26). In context, He was speaking with a Canaanite woman who had come to Jesus to heal her daughter. He explained to her that He was “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). He was not going to allow Himself to become distracted from His mission by going off and healing people from all the other nations. In the end, He did heal this woman’s daughter when she demonstrated her great faith (Matthew 15:27-28); but His initial point stands. We cannot neglect the primary responsibilities that God has given us. This of course does not mean that we cannot do more – in many cases we certainly can. But we must not neglect our responsibilities because we fail to exercise good judgment and refuse to move on from those who prove themselves to be “dogs” and “swine.”

The above post is an excerpt from the book, Sermon on the Mount: Instructions for Life. Follow the link to learn more about the book and purchase your copy today!

Praying with Sincerity

Sermon on the Mount: Instructions for Life

When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:5-8).

Again, notice the actions of the hypocrites. They were praying in a public place at a highly visible location (Matthew 6:5). They used “many words” so that they would be heard by men (Matthew 6:8).

As we noticed with those who would turn helping the poor into a show, it is possible to benefit others when these prayers were offered. If one is leading others in prayer, though his heart may be corrupt, his prayer may benefit those who are sincere that are being led in that prayer. But when praying in public, is our intent to offer prayers and supplications to God or is it to impress others with our eloquence?

Jesus said we are to pray in secret (Matthew 6:6). This does not mean we cannot offer public prayers or pray in a public place. The point is that private prayers should be private. If we do offer a prayer (not leading others in prayer in an assembly that has gathered for that purpose) in a public place (such as praying before a meal in a restaurant), we should do so discreetly and not make a show of it. Others may notice what we are doing, but we are not to pray in such a way as to draw more attention to ourselves. We should be praying to God, not to be noticed by others.

Also, Jesus said that we are to pray with simplicity, rather than using “meaningless repetition” and “many words” (Matthew 6:7). We do not need to try and impress anyone with our eloquence or verbosity. Remember what Jesus said: “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:8). Therefore, our prayers do not need to contain many unnecessary words; they just need to be offered in simplicity and sincerity.

The above post is an excerpt from the book, Sermon on the Mount: Instructions for Life. Follow the link to learn more about the book and purchase your copy today!

Example to Others

Sermon on the Mount: Instructions for Life

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

Jesus used three analogies to emphasize the fact that we are to be examples to others. First, He said that we are “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Salt is a preservative. Of course, this does not mean that if we can increase the number of righteous people in the world, then God’s judgment will be delayed. Paul told the Athenians that God has “fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). Instead, we act as a “preservative” in that by living righteously, we are preserving what is good and right on the earth. By our righteous example, we are showing others what is right and encouraging them by our influence to be good as well.

Second, Jesus said we are “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Light is important because it shows the way. The psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Again, by our example as we are directed by the word of God, we are showing others the way that they should go. Paul encouraged the brethren in Philippi to be different from the world: “Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). Jesus explained the clear and unmistakable difference between right (light) and wrong (darkness): “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19-20). Those who do right – as long as they do not compromise – will not blend in with those who do wrong. By our actions, we highlight the contrast between right and wrong.

Third, Jesus described His disciples as “a city set on a hill” (Matthew 5:14). This means we are highly visible, emphasizing again our example. Not only is a city on a hill highly visible, but it is also in a position of strength. The wise man wrote, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). Those who are righteous have the strength of God to protect them. We are to live righteously because we trust in God to save us.

Our righteousness should be visible to others. Jesus said that others should “see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We are to be an example to others in all that we do. The way we do this is through righteous living.

The above post is an excerpt from the book, Sermon on the Mount: Instructions for Life. Follow the link to learn more about the book and purchase your copy today!

NEW RELEASE: Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount (cover)We would like to announce our newest title – Sermon on the Mount: Instructions for Life by Andy Sochor – is now available.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave instructions for the life of a disciple. As people came to follow Him, He wanted them to be sure they understood what it meant to be His disciple. So He provided them with instructions showing the type of life they would be called to live. Jesus explained that the life of a disciple is:

  1. A blessed life
  2. A righteous life
  3. A sincere life
  4. A focused life
  5. A just life
  6. A different life

This material breaks down Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5-7 into 13 lessons with questions at the end of each one, making it helpful for both personal and group Bible studies. Read more about the book and purchase your copy today!

If you would like to place a bulk order, please contact us.

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