“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
We might think of our struggle against sin as a completely internal affair. Hebrews 12:3-4 suggests that there is an external component to it. The hostility we endure from sinners is part of our own struggle against sin. It isn’t hard to see why: the hostility from sinners triggers a guttural, visceral pride response in us, and pride is the root of all sin.
Think of any time you were slighted and how you responded to it. This is what the hostility of sinners triggers within us. We want to fight back. We want to return insult for insult. We want to defend our honor. We want vindication. We might even want vengeance.
In this passage, though, we are exhorted to look to Jesus who resisted sin to the point of actually shedding his own blood. We are reminded by the that we have not yet resisted to the point of shutting our own blood. It isn’t resisting sinners, but resistong sin, that is the key point here.
I was listening to Ravi Zacharias this morning when he quoted Gandhi saying something to the effect that Christians will not make a dent in India until the Sermon on the Mount becomes part of their creed. Gandhi saw what many modern skeptics see, which is a gap between the Christian proclamation and testimony and how those same Christians live their lives.
If we are followers of Christ, shouldn’t we model what Jesus preached?
Where will Christians stand in history as we look back? Some would say we were on the wrong side of slavery, the Holocaust and Apartheid, but Christians were most definitely on the right side of each of those evils – at least, some might say, the real followers of Christ.…
In the Sermon on the Mount (where Jesus spoke to His disciples, not the crowds that also followed Him) a couple of the subjects that Jesus addressed seem contradictory at first blush. They both relate on the surface to the way we act in public, before other people. He said, on the one hand:
You are the light of the world…. 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 5:14, 16)
Jesus, on the other hand, gave the following negative instruction:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1);
Jesus went on to provide the following examples: “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 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.” (Matthew 6:2-6)
How do we let our light shine before men without practicing our righteousness before men?
Clearly, “letting your let shine” does not mean “practicing your righteousness”. In fact, “your righteousness” is the problem…. We have no righteousness. Our righteousness is like filthy rags before God. (Isaiah 64:6) We have no righteousness before God, so if we are practicing any righteousness at all, we are practicing our own righteousness.
When Jesus talked about letting our light shine, He was talking about letting the light of Christ shine. Jesus is our righteousness. (1 Corinthians 1:30) We do not rely on ourselves, but on the righteousness that God gives us freely when we let go of our own righteousness and accept the atoning sacrifice of Jesus to make us “right” with the Father.
The difference between letting our lights shine and practicing our own righteousness is not observed in what we, but in why we do it. The difference is something that only God sees and can measure. (Psalm 139:2)
The heart/motivation of a person is the important thing when it comes to God and is what we should be concerned about as well. (Prov. 4:23) We should be continually on guard, checking always to be sure our heart motivation is right. Jesus, in effect, was saying, “Check your heart.”
But, we may not even accurately know our own motivations. For that reason, David prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!” (Psalm 139:23) David did not pray those words to be heard by people; he was crying out to God, “Help me!”
When we turn our sincere prayer to God, who sees everything and knows us better than we know ourselves, we are in the right position to let our lights shine. When our focus is on what other people think, we are not letting our lights shine; we are practicing righteousness, which means nothing to God.
When our audience is God, rather than man, our lights will shine, and God will be pleased. If our motives are to glorify Christ, our lights will shine, and people will be drawn to Jesus. When our motives are to follow, and honor and be like Christ as He instructs us to be, we are letting our lights shine in what we do, and people will glorify God.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
When God’s reward is our greatest desire, our lights will shine, and men will notice, but they will not so much notice us, as they will notice God. People intuitively pick up on our motivations. When we are looking for praise form others, people know it. When are seeking praise from God, people wonder what it is we are looking for because they know it is not the honor of men that we seek.
If someone is standing, staring at the sky, others will look up also to see what we are seeing. When our focus is on God, people should wonder what we are focused on and be inspired to see what we see.
When a light shines, whether it is the sun, or a candle, a lamp, a flashlight or something else, we do not notice the light as much as the objects that are illuminated by the light. The brighter the light, the less able we are to look at the light, itself, but the greater we are able to see everything else with clarity.
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” – C. S. Lewis
5457/phōs (a neuter noun) – properly, light (stressing its results, what it manifests). In Scripture, phōs (“light”) is the manifestation of God’s self-existent life. See John 1:4-5 “In Him [Christ] was life, and the life was the light [phōs] of men. The light (phōs) shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 8:12: “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the Light (phōs) of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light (phōs) of life.'” (NASB)
God’s light (phōs) reveals His presence and preferences. In contrast, darkness obscures God’s will and presence. Through the light of faith, God reveals and shares His life which overcomes all spiritual darkness. We can not see things as they really are, unless God gives us light. God’s light alone reveals reality so the Psalmist proclaims, “In Thy light, we see light.” (Ps 36:9) Phōs preeminently conveys the manifestation of God’s life (Jn 1:4) so believers can perceive true reality, through faith. Without divine light, we would all be shut up to spiritual (eternal) obscurity. Light is in Christ and emanates from Him (cf. Heb 1:3). We do not turn on a flashlight (or light a candle) to see the flashlight or the candle! Light makes what is spiritual (eternal) become intelligible (“visible”). God shares light so He Himself becomes visible to the eye of the soul.
3708/horáō – properly, to see, often in the metaphorical sense: “to see with the mind” (“spiritually see”), i.e. perceive (with inward spiritual perception). Horaō (“see”) typically refers to grasping the meaning of something through God’s revelation, i.e. perceiving on the invisible (supernatural) plane. Horaō denotes the physical act of seeing and connotes the mental discernment accompanying it. Horaō (“see”) implies comprehension – like in the expression, “I see what you mean” (“I see what you are saying”). Horaō focuses on the mental and spiritual enlightenment that brings understanding, i.e. inner illumination that also implies “take heed” (give regard to).
2570/kalós – attractively good; good that inspires (motivates) others to embrace what is lovely (beautiful, praiseworthy); i.e. well done so as to be winsome (appealing).
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When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountain. The disciples followed and gathered around Him when He sat down. So began the Sermon on the Mount.
Though the text does not clearly say, I believe it was just Jesus and the disciples on the mountain. Jesus was sitting, and the disciples were around Him. there was no room for the crowds to gather, and they could not hear Him as He sat with the disciples around Him.
The Sermon on the Mount, therefore, was not for the crowds, but for the followers of Jesus.
I understand a blog post has gone viral around the Internet called “Bake for them Two”. The blogger suggests that, when asked to bake a wedding cake for a gay marriage, Christians should not just bake one; they should bake two, even if they believe gay marriage is wrong. The basis for the blog article is this statement in the Sermon on the Mount: if someone forces you to walk a mile with them, walk with them two. (Matthew 5:41)
The back drop to the short parable is that Roman law required people to carry a Roman soldier’s equipment up to a mile if demanded. Such a request of a Jew in that time of Roman occupation of the Promised Land would have been anathema. It would have been a difficult thing for the religious Jews of Judea to stomach – to help their occupiers by carrying their equipment. The suggestion by Jesus that one should be willing to go two miles if required to carry the equipment for one mile was a radical idea (like turning the other cheek, praying for your persecutors and loving your enemies, which are also part of the Sermon on the Mount).
The Bake for Them Two blogger suggests that the same principle should be applied to the current controversy over wedding cakes for gay marriage. Even if a person believes that gay marriage is immoral, if asked to bake one wedding cake for a gay marriage, we should bake two!
Before I even read the first blog, I came across a video blog (Stand to Reason) in which the blogger questions the idea that baking two wedding cakes is the proper response of the Christian who believes that the union of same sex couples is sin/immoral. The speaker poses these questions: if someone asks you to steal a man’s cloak, should you steal two? If someone asks you to make one pornographic movie, should you make two? Going back to Jesus, who was a carpenter: if someone asked him to make one idol, should Jesus make two?
The video blogger obviously concludes that the Christian should not bake one wedding cake for the gay couple, let alone two. The argument might seem compelling to the Christian who wants to do the right thing and not endorse what is believed to be an immoral act. But does the argument logically follow? Is that what Jesus would really say?