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“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20 NIV).
Jesus’ statement had to be one of the most shocking things he ever said. The Pharisees were considered the top cats of religion. But theirs was, as one writer (not of the brotherhood!) said, selective obedience. And external observance.
The verse is considered a key, if not the key, verse in the Sermon on the Mount, rightly so, it would seem. It prohibits us from seeing the sermon as the great but unattainable ideal. This is to be lived out and done right.
The better righteousness (right-doing) is one of kind not degree, God centered (see 5.48), motivated by God’s approval (so chap. 6), kingdom prioritized.
When Jesus spoke these words, they must have rocked the listeners to their core. Following the Lord was a whole new enterprise, one that forbade the normal assumptions, turned the definition of goodness upside down, and made holiness not only an inner quality but a worldwide mission of salt and light.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). There is a big difference in being persecuted for being a Christian and living by the Word and having people angry at us for being bullies. If we violate Ephesians 4:15, we have no right to claim persecution.
The Apostles were persecuted because they stood up for the Word of God. Countless others have, as well. Yet, we know of those who speak the truth with venom and then lift themselves up as victims when the screaming starts. It is abominable to stand with Christ with such an attitude (Matthew 5:44).
If we do, it won’t be long before we begin preaching our own word alongside the truth. Satan will gladly help us along until our word become predominant, so he can pull more people away from God. Let us never allow our emotions to become his weapon!
I am beginning a series of articles on the Beatitudes and I hope you will read and share them. Today, we look at why Jesus used, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” first. It is so profound and practical. I hope you will read the article and give feedback. Share your thoughts because they are different from mine and I can learn from you.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Life has been quite hectic and so my priorities have not included blogging. Our oldest daughter will be flying back to the states tomorrow night, using her one-way ticket. :) The remaining five of us will follow her in three weeks. Prayers for her safe travels will be greatly appreciated.
We worshiped with the Monduli congregation today. George has been instructing them in personal evangelism. The congregation has been enjoying these classes immensely, begging him to keep coming. One elderly lady, who cannot even read or write, said today that his lessons were sweeter than sugar. It is so encouraging to us to see their zeal. George also taught a wonderful lesson on the beautitudes, from Matthew 5, of course. :)
This evening the missionaries got together to have a meal, have a devotional in English, and everyone also took turns expressing kind remarks and well wishes to Julia. Kind of emotional for her family. All in all, it’s been a wonderful Lord’s Day.