Most people when confronted with the Gospel will counter with something similar to, "I'm a pretty good person." Without getting too far off topic, just know that there is no "good" person. We are all messed up, and from the moment of our conception, we are all bad. This doesn't change that people continuously deny Jesus, because they feel they are good enough and God will allow them into heaven based on that.
Entrance into heaven does not work that way. In verse 20 of Matthew 5 Jesus says, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." For the next few minutes let's take a look at what it would take for a person to be "good enough" to enter heaven.
One. You must be righteous. That's simple enough, be a good person. If you ask, "what does it take to get to heaven?" most people will tell you exactly that. Be a good person, or do more good with your life than you do bad. This also leads to the question, "how good is good enough?" Which carries us right into our next point.
Two. Your righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. I'm no ancient Hebrew scholar, but I have read the list of rules and laws these guys were required to follow and let's just say, it was strenuous. BUT, Jesus says more is required! Your righteousness must exceed the scribes and Pharisees to enter heaven. What on earth is to be done if these men haven't done enough good in their lives to pull it off?
Three. Changing your idea of "good." We have the idea that doing good is equal to being good. It is not. God is good and He is THE standard of what is required to be considered good. We miss this a lot. We think of doing better than our buddy, our neighbor or our co-worker makes us above average and therefore good. When in reality the standard for good is being like God, and anything less than being like God not good AKA bad.
Four. Recognizing the inadequacy of your own righteousness. Isaiah 64:6 says our righteous deeds are to Him as filthy rags. This is what our "good" actions look like when we do those actions without Him. As much as we want to do good on our own, even our best efforts fall magnificently short. Not only short, but disgusting to God.
Five. Accepting the adequacy of Jesus. There is only one way to live up to God's standard of "good" and that is to accept His offer to do it for you. Yes it is actually that easy. God sets up an impossible task, to live a life that measures up to Him. He then reveals to people that they can't live this life. He does not leave us in our hopeless realization, but instead shows us that He will do the work for us. God sent Jesus to be perfect, because that is what is He requires, and because we have failed miserably. But luckily for us, where we are perfectly inadequate He is perfectly adequate.
Most likely you are already aware that before refrigeration, salt was the preserver of the ancient world, and you have likely heard the illustration used when explaining this passage.. once the salt has lost its preserving quality it is no longer needed and is thrown away. Being that salt can't be discarded just anywhere it would usually end up on roads and walking paths to keep the growth of grass and weeds down. I do not deny this being a very good explanation, but what about the more obvious idea?
Salt has a definite taste. You never try a food and wonder if you are tasting salt or not. The presence of salt, or lack of it, in a food is easily determined. You can distinguish the taste of salt easier than most other flavors we add to food. Jesus goes further with Verse 14, making everything even more clear to the reader. Jesus tells us that a city on a hill cannot be hidden. I don't know if you are familiar with the ancient Middle east, but the ancient cities were mostly built on top of hills or "tels." These tels are very steep hills found all over the areas of the Negev. Today a lot of the tels remain and stick out like a sore thumb across the desert landscape. These hills are prominent enough, that even an untrained eye can catch their intrusion on the flat geography. If the hills themselves stood out I can only imagine how much a city still sitting there would catch a traveller's attention.
Finally, Jesus gives us the verse for the famous children's song, "This Little Light of Mine." When reading verse 15, think about being in your house at night, and the electricity is off. Most of the time around here this is due to a tornado or snow, and suddenly candles have much more importance than their scents. Now think about lighting these candles during the storm and placing them under a basket. The problem is obvious, lamp is made to use the light produced by it, so why would we ever light it and then cover it up?
The same a salt is very different from everything else, the same way a city on the hill stands out, and the light from the candle shines through even the darkest night, the Christian should be just as distinguishable from his/her surrounding. The Christian is not called to blend in with everybody around him, but rather to be as obviously different from non believers as all of these things are different.
Notice the words Jesus uses here. He does not say, "if you feel like it," or "you may standout." Jesus says, "you are" different, and because you aredifferent you need to act like it. These works that we do are not in order for us to feel better about ourselves, or to make people notice how good we are. The good works have the one purpose of bringing glory to our Father who is in heaven.
Today as you walk into the world, walk out knowing that you are very different from the world you are going into. You have something it does not have, the Holy Spirit living inside of you. With Him living through you, you have the power to be the salt of the world, the city on the hill, and the lamp shining into the darkness to bring people to God the Father. Never forget this fact, there is something very different about you, and that difference is powerful.
There are several "what or who is the greatest" that could be argued for all time. Who is the greatest basketball player? What is the greatest football team? Who was the greatest president? But, there is one such list that is easy... What is the greatest sermon of all time? Hands down it is found in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. To top it all off it was also given by the greatest teacher of all time. Jesus. This is a look at my favorite parts of that sermon.
If you check the subtitle in your Bible, Matthew 5:2-12 is probably called the Beatitudes which is defined by dictionary.com as, "noun supreme blessedness; exalted happiness." In this Jesus gives his followers and the people listening on this day His keys to "exalted happiness."
What does it mean to be meek? Meekness if the attitude of being overly submissive or extremely patient. I don't know about you life, but when we start talking about patience I started squirming a little. This is one area I truly struggle, but my struggle is not waiting on something for myself, rather the actions and attitudes of others. I find myself most angry when a person does something I stopped doing long ago when I became more mature. For that person to not be at my level of maturity is appalling to me. Then I realize, usually much after the fact, that I was once exactly where that person is and rather than tear them down I should build that person up, because I have been brought up from the same path.
This one is easy to understand. To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to crave righteousness as if it were food or water. Something we must have and would go to great lengths to obtain. If we were in a situation where we needed to find food or die, we would exhaust all possibilities to make that happen. This needs to become our attitude toward righteousness. It is not enough to talk about righteousness as though it were an unattainable idea, but instead chase and pursue it as a promise for those saved from the bondage of sin.
I remember being a higher school student when the tragedy of September 11th took place, and Osama bin Laden was given credit for the attacks. The U.S. government put a huge reward for the capture of bin Laden, and the teenage me was thinking, "man, I would shoot bin Laden myself for the things he did and the money would just be a bonus." Luckily my teenage self was never in a place to make that happen, but God did work on my heart using bin Laden. (I bet you never thought you would hear that!) He revealed to me through the Bible that before Christ, I was seen just as disgusting as bin Laden. (Isaiah 64:6) Think about that for a moment. Before you came to Jesus, you were just as lost and guilty of sin as Osama bin Laden, and Jesus died for you anyway. Knowing this, how could I ever look down on, despise, or reject a person who needs Jesus? I can not. I will attempt to grasp the mercy that was shown to me and pour it out on others.
Whether good or bad, what is the motive for why you do things? To be honest, we all have a tendency to do good things when it will result in something we want. It is much easier to make the right choice when it will benefit us, but is the benefit to yourself what motivates you to the action? Being pure is about more than avoiding the bad decisions and fleeing evil, but also having the pure heart to choose to do right simply because it is right.
In churches across the U.S. the idea of actually being persecuted for our faith is a foreign concept. Most church goers do not think the Bible is serious about the persecution to come for believers. Of course there are different levels of persecution for people, but Jesus clearly says we will be persecuted. (John 15:20) Maybe the focus for believers should not be,
"will I be persecuted?"
"why am I not being persecuted?"
For starters: I am nothing special, I love Jesus and He is my Lord. I am the husband of a godly woman. She is working with me to raise a godly child. I am a teacher. I love to read and write.