The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

Sermon on the Mount: Love your WHAT!??

Somehow I looked over this one at the time, so it’s a little out of order…

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 36:5-9

Lord, we marvel at the tremendous love you have for all people. That you send rain, and provide food, clothing and shelter. How is it that we think it’s ok to be less loving than you, less giving than you, less merciful than you? Father, humble our hearts, take away our stubborn minds, and teach us your ways. As we look at what Jesus taught, help us to listen, and to understand. Ma we be prepared to do as Jesus taught.

Love your WHAT!??

Read Matthew 5:20, 43-48

Last time we looked at Jesus’ teaching of not seeking retaliation. Instead, we’re to ‘turn the other cheek’ and seek the good of the other person by doing the extra bit. Jesus teaching on loving enemies follows on from this, and Jesus doesn’t let up in making us feel uncomfortable here. Jesus words stretches and challenges us to live godly lives.

As I mention last time, there are people around today who use the Bible for their own selfish desires, and it was no different in Jesus day. It is against this misuse of the Bible we need to understand Jesus’ words. Again, when God established his people as the nation Israel, he gave them laws to live by. Laws that would reflect God’s character. By keeping these laws, God’s people would be a light to all the other peoples on earth. Part of this law said you weren’t to hate anyone of your own people, or bear a grudge against them. But it doesn’t say anything about enemies! That must mean we only need to love our own people. Anyone else we can treat like dirt, right? Sounds fair enough. Well, no. They got it wrong. How can you be a light to people when you are treating them like dirt? Simple really – you can’t!

It is against this we need to understand Jesus teaching. Instead of hating our enemies, Jesus says to love them. What does it mean it ‘love our enemies’? It doesn’t necessarily mean we need to get warm, fuzzy feelings every time we think about our enemy. What it does mean is those expressions of kindness that we extend toward our friends, even our closest friends, we are to extend toward out enemies.

But why? What’s the point? Have you ever noticed when it rains, it rains on everyone. And the same with the sun? It doesn’t rain on this or that person because they’ve been good or bad. And it’s God who sends the rain isn’t it? God extends kindness to everyone. So we ought to be doing the same.

Further more, God did something very special when we were still his enemies. Can anyone think what that might be? God sent Jesus to pay for our sins by dying in our place. That is the ultimate act of kindness, isn’t it? When we didn’t deserve it at all, God gave us Jesus. So really, there’s no end to loving people, even our enemies, to show what God is like.

Rather than trying to work out a minimum standard of behaviour where we can tick the box and be accepted by God, we need to understand we have been accepted by God, and we are to be ever moving in the direction of being like him – holy. Instead of asking ‘who do I have to love?’, we need to be loving everyone and asking ‘how can I extend kindness to them?’. It is by this way our friends and even our enemies will see what God is like.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008

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October 8, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sermon on the Mount: Jesus shows off ‘showing off’…

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 147:7-11

Lord, we thanks and praise you for the great love you have for each one for us, and you bless us day after day, not only with the things that we need, but with things to enjoy. Lord, your word teaches us that you are not impressed by what people can do. Instead, you take great delight in those who put their hope in you. Lord, in the light of this, we confess that there have been times when we’ve showed off. When we’ve tried to impress others and you, and make ourselves out to be better than what we are. Lord, as we look at what Jesus taught, humble our hearts, and help us understand. Enable us to do things not to show off, but to honour you.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Sermon on the Mount: Jesus shows off ‘showing off’…

Read Matthew 6:1-8

We’ve all seen show offs haven’t we? Perhaps we’ve showed off ourselves. I’ve been called a show off a number of times, and probably not without reason. Why do people show off? To draw attention to themselves. To be noticed. To make themselves out to be better then what they are. Jesus reckoned people showed off so people would say how good they were. They might give a whole lot of money so someone might say “Fred, you’re the most generous man I know!” Or they might pray in public so someone might say, “Wow, he must be so holy to pray like that!!”

But this doesn’t impress Jesus at all. Jesus says if all you want is for people to tell you how good you are, then that’s all you’re going to get. You have nothing more coming from God. You have received your reward in full. Because the faith of such a person is not sincere. They aren’t focussed on God. They’re just looking to show off.

So what does a since faith look like? When it comes to giving, not just money, but anything – even our time – we’re to do so with our left hand not knowing what our right hand is doing. In other words, we’re to give without expecting anything in return. In this way our concern is the other person, and not scoring points with other people or God.

It’s the same with prayer. We ought not use prayer as a way to impress others. Instead we ought to pray in private. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray publically. The Bible often speaks of people getting together to pray. But when we pray publically, there might be part of us trying to impress the others. When we pray in private, there’s no risk of that happening. Even still, we need to be careful with our private prayers that we don’t end up trying to impress God. When we do pray, we shouldn’t feel we need to use big, fancy words to get God’s attention. Or say the same prayer over and over and over again to score points with God. God knows what we need! He doesn’t need us to tell him. And we pray in Jesus’ name who made us right with God, so there’s no sense in trying to score points with him. Instead we should simply ask God for what we need.

Living Christian lives is not a matter of showing off. Following Jesus is about having concern for others and having a sincere faith in God knowing that you have been made right with him by Jesus.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sermon on the Mount: Going the extra mile, and beyond…

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 18:20-30

Lord, as we have been looking as the message Jesus preached so many years ago, we have come to see that living Christian lives is very different to the world. For you do not judge as the world judges, nor value what the world values. Often you despise the things the world values, and we think little of what you ask of us. Help us see the wisdom in Jesus’ words this morning that we may live different lives, radical lives, so people know that we belong to you.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

Going the extra mile, and beyond…

Read Matthew 5:20, 38-48

This is perhaps one of the hardest teachings of Jesus. And we’ve heard it that many times, it’s become a cliché – “turn the other check”. Yet it still makes us uncomfortable. Jesus seems to be asking the impossible here. Are we suppose to get around butt-naked for the sake of others and literally give the shirt off our back?

Well you don’t need to look too far today to find people interpreting the Bible for their own gain. In Jesus’ day, it was exactly the same. Way back in the Old Testament when God made his people into a nation, he gave them a law that said if someone deliberately injures another, then they should have the same done to them. So if I broke your leg, you would have the right to break my leg. The whole point of the law was to limit payback. I have heard in some indigenous cultures there’s a system of payback. One person does something to another, then the other person does something worse to get back at them. It goes on and on, and there’s no end to it. This law was given to stop all that nonsense, and to give respect to people, even nasty people.

Some people in Jesus day had a different take on that law. They used this law to justify payback. They didn’t respect people. They weren’t concerned for there welfare. They just used God’s law to justify their own selfishness. It was pathetic! It is against this abuse of God’s law that we need to understand Jesus’ teaching.

By teaching what he does Jesus places the emphasis back on respect for the other person. This doesn’t mean we need to strip naked every time someone demands something of us. Jesus is using exaggerated language here. He is actually saying to go beyond the minimum standard, and actually do something positive for the other person, even if they’ve cost us or offended us.

In Jesus’ day, a person’s cloak was very important, particularly if the person was poor. It may have been the only thing they had to keep them warm at night. So to give away your cloak was no small thing. Why would Jesus make such a wild statement? Living life upside down and following Jesus is about thinking about the other person and not to be so selfish. When we start jumping up and down demanding our rights, who are we really concerned about? Ourselves! Are we thinking of the other person? Hardly!

So this teaching of Jesus isn’t about going around butt-naked. Jesus is using exaggerated language to show what it is do deny ourselves and put others first. After all, it was Jesus who denied his very life to put us ahead of him so that we would enjoy eternity. 

Jesus presses the issue again we he tells people to walk the extra mile. Have you ever been asked to do something, and you do it only because you had to? I have. I drag my feet and don’t do any more then what I have to. Jesus isn’t impressed with that. Jesus says to think about the other person, and to do the extra work. Again it was Jesus who did the extra work for us, work that we could not do, in obeying God perfectly. It’s in Jesus that we can experience God’s blessings.

We have been blessed so much as Christians. May we show others how blessed we are and bless them by thinking of them. Even if it means putting them first.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

September 7, 2008 Posted by | Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sermon on the Mount: Jesus take on anger management – How do we do it?

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 51:10-17

Lord, living the way you want in this life is hard work. It seems temptation is around every corner, and we are always seeing and hearing examples of behaviour that you don’t want us to do. Like the Psalm Lord, we pray you would create in us a new heart, one that rejoices in your ways so people may learn about your great love from us. Lord, teach us to be humble when things don’t go our way. May we even seek the needs of others, even when they’re against us. As we look at what Jesus taught, help us to understand what is taught, and help us to respond.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Jesus take on anger management – How do we do it?

Read Matthew 5:20-26

We’ve been talking about living life upside-down, living differently to the rest of the world. So far we’ve said the unlucky people by worldly standards are actually the lucky people by God’s standards – they have God’s blessing. We’ve also talked about what we can expect from living lives differently to other people. We said that we might cop a bit of flak from others, but we can also expect people to turn and praise God for what the see in us.
But how do we live life upside-down? What does an upside down life look like day in and day out? That’s what we’ll be talking about the next few times we meet, starting today.

There are plenty of people around today that think being Christian is about observing a minimum standard of behaviour. That so long as you don’t commit any big sins like murder, and live a good life, you’ll be right. And they’re partly right. Responding to the gospel and following Jesus demands a change in behavioural standards. But their mostly wrong. Because Jesus takes that standard of behaviour, and takes it to a whole new level. Jesus raises the bar.

How far does Jesus raise the bar? There were a number of religious groups in Jesus’ day and one of them was called the Pharisees. These people knew the law of God really, really well. They were religious nutters! When it came to being devoted to God, they were pedantic! There was not an area of their life that their devotion to God affected. Anyone could spot a Pharisee from 100m away. Their devotion to God was that obvious! And to all this religious devotion and activity Jesus says NOT GOOD ENOUGH! “… unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now that is a shocking thing to say. Anyone would’ve thought if anyone was going to go to heaven, it would be a Pharisee. Jesus says, no chance!

What’s the problem with the Pharisees? The problem with the Pharisees is the same problem we can have today – that living life the way God wants is about ticking boxes, like on a check list. We can start thinking that so long as we’ve done our Christian quota – gone to church, said our prayers, read our Bible – God will be happy with that. Jesus says no! It’s a lot more than that. And if you haven’t understood anything I’ve been saying, I want you to understand this, and keep this in mind: Living Christian lives is not about keeping a check list of a behaviour standard. The Christian life is about doing the most you can in service to God, and in service to others. After all, Jesus gave everything he had for us, by dying on a cross for our sins so we can be friends with God. The only appropriate response is to give everything we have, and give the most that we can. Even to the point we ask ‘how can I do more?’ when we’ve done everything. Some will be able to do more than others. That’s ok. God doesn’t expect us to all be the same. But he does expect us to do what we can.

Jesus puts this in very concrete terms for us by talking about murder and anger. Now, I take it there aren’t any murderers amongst us. Just in case there is, and I’ve offended you, I am really, really sorry, and there’s no need to meet me in the back ally afterwards. But we do get angry with people, don’t we? We might start calling them nasty names and holding grudges against them. Has anyone done that? I have. And we might start thinking, “I haven’t done anything wrong. I haven’t actually murdered them… yet!” Well, Jesus says you have done something wrong. God isn’t happy with your behaviour. You need to do something about it. You need to stop bearing a grudge and say to the person, “look, I’m sorry. Can we talk about what happened?” That’s what living life upside-down looks like. That’s what living Christian lives and following Jesus involves. It’s not easy. But it is worthwhile.

Again, living Christian lives is not about keeping a check list of a behaviour standard. The Christian life is about doing the most you can in service to God, and in service to others in response to the love Jesus has shown to each of us.

 

 

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

August 23, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sermon on the Mount: Living life upside-down – What can we expect?

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 36:5-9

Lord, you are the source of all life. You made all things, and give what each one needs day in and day out. So often Lord we forget this, and take everything for granted. As we reflect on how you want us to live, may we be always mindful of your all-sustaining love for us, and live in such a way people can see your light and love in us, and in turn will want to praise you.

Living life upside-down – What can we expect?

Read Matthew 5:11-16

Last time I spoke about living life upside-down, and I was saying that the lucky people in life are really the people who appear unlucky by worldly standards. The reason for this is these people are more likely to look beyond themselves and the world and have their focus on God. Those who appear lucky by worldly standards will have their focus on themselves, what they can do, and not give a thought about God.

Now, if we’re living life upside down, the way God wants us to live what can we expect? How will people respond to us? Jesus says we will be persecuted and put down for our faith in him. Now why would that be? Because people don’t want too know about Jesus. Because the way we live might challenge the way they live? This persecution can come in big ways or small ways. In some countries today, people are sent to prison because of their faith in Jesus – imagine that! That’s pretty big! For us, it might mean getting the cold shoulder every so often. Either way, no matter how big or small, being persecuted isn’t all that nice. We tend to avoid it when we can, and when we can’t, we whinge about it. But Jesus says we are to rejoice when we’re persecuted when it happens in his name. The reason for this is those who are persecuted have grown to such a point in there faith it’s obvious to everyone that they belong to Jesus.

So, if we’re to live life upside, down, the way God wants, and we’re being persecuted for it, what’s the point? What good is it going to do? Particularly what good can we do? Jesus says the point is to let people know we belong to God so they will also praise him, and it doesn’t take much for people to find out. To illustrate the point, Jesus talks about salt and light. Now who has ever put salt on their food? How much salt do you need to make a difference? Can you see the salt? Sometimes, not all the time. Even though you use the tiniest amount of salt, it still makes a difference when we taste it.

The same with light. Occasionally I get a bit dopey. When I go out I sometimes for get to put the front light on, and when I come home that night, I can’t find the keyhole to unlock the door. So I get my mobile phone and I open my phone where the screen gives off light. In the day time, the light that the screen gives off doesn’t make any difference at all. But when it’s dark, it makes every big of difference so I can unlock my door.

 We may feel like we’re not doing anything, or making any difference to the people around us. But Jesus says it doesn’t take much to make a difference. In fact, we’re probably making more difference than what we know!

So what can we expect from living lives upside down. We can expect a bit of flak for being different, for belonging to God. But we can also expect to be making a difference no matter how small we may feel.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

August 10, 2008 Posted by | Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sermon on the Mount: Living life upside down

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

What does it mean to be Christian, and live a godly life? Ask around today, and you’ll get several different answers: be good, don’t do bad stuff, go to church, be tolerant and love everyone, be excusive and follow only Jesus. Who’s got the right ideas? Who’s up the garden path?

            In Jesus day, the religious leaders know what it was to be godly. At least they thought they knew. They had regulations for every aspect of their lives that they could tick off to make sure they were following God. It sounded good in theory, but it left Jesus unimpressed. Hence we come to Jesus’ ­Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon we learn that living Christian lives isn’t about ticking boxes to stay in God’s good books. It’s an ongoing process of becoming more and more like God and continually moving in the direction of holiness. It’s a sermon that turned religious protocol and expectation upside down in Jesus’ day, and if we’re honest, it does the same today. That’s why we can understand Jesus instructions to us as living life upside down. It’s a sermon that challenges our expectations of the Christian life, and stretches us to live accordingly.

 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 32

Lord, often we don’t rejoice in the things you rejoice in, and the things we do rejoice in your often despise. Yet you have drawn us into a relationship with us, and call each one of us ‘friend”. Help us to see life from your perspective. Help us understand what Jesus taught. And help us live our lives upside-down.

In Jesus name we pray.

Living life upside-down

Read: Matthew 5:1-10 

Going by worldly standards, who would you say the lucky people are? People with money and possessions? People who have extraordinary abilities? People who are famous? People who are powerful? People with a high education? It’s these kinds of people who the world calls lucky. But Jesus comes along and turns this way of thinking upside down. Jesus says no! It’s actually the lowly people, the down-and-outers, those who are doing it tough that are lucky. And it’s not just that they are lucky, they are blessed by God. They have God’s approval. They have God’s thumbs up.

So who are these people, and how is it that the unlucky are actually lucky? Jesus gives 9 characteristics of these people and gives reasons for them being blessed. The first 4 consider how the person relates to God, and the following 5 considers how the same person relates to the world.

The poor in spirit are those who recognise their helplessness. They know they can’t compete with the fast pace of the world. As such, these people don’t live by the standards of the world. These people long for the things of heaven and not the things of the world. It is by Jesus himself that people can enjoy the things of heaven.

Those who mourn are those who know they’re not worthy of God because of they’re sin. This is a wild statement to make because in Jesus’ day, plenty of people did things to make sure they didn’t sin and therefore we’re worthy of God – or so they thought. The reality is no one can ever be good for God. What God wants is for people to understand that, and cast themselves on his mercy. Because in God’s mercy, he sent Jesus to take away our sins so we would be good enough for God. It’s not about what we can do, but what God has done.

The meek are those who don’t seek revenge for wrong done to them. Has anyone had someone do something wrong to you? Of course! We all have. And the first thing we want to do is get back at them, right? But Jesus says no! It doesn’t really matter because God owns the whole earth anyway, and can give it to who ever he pleases. Squabbling over this and that doesn’t do anyone any favours because it’s all just temporary. We stand to loose it one day. But those who long for heaven, and depend on God’s mercy, they’ll inherit the whole earth. Again it is Jesus who makes this possible.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are like those who mourn. They want to live the way God wants but they know they can’t. Despite all attempts not to sin, they keep on doing the same old thing. Jesus says that they will be filled with righteousness. This will happen because Jesus will become their righteousness. Jesus will be righteous on their behalf. So instead of depending on their selves for righteousness, where there’s none to be found for anyone, they will depend on Jesus who is righteous.

The merciful are those who don’t bare grudges – sounds a bit like the meek, doesn’t it? They have a forgiving spirit, and love those who are suffering. Jesus says that the same kind of mercy we show others is the same mercy God will show us.

Those who are pure in heart are those who are honest and want to worship God in truth – consistent with the Bible. Many people today want to make God out of what they think, and in Jesus’ day, outward appearance were all that matter. Truth was dispensable. Not so with Jesus. Truth and purity were a great priority. And it just makes sense. If our hope is in heaven, if we mourn over sin in our lives, if we’re dependent on God for mercy and righteousness, then surely we want to know God as he really is and respond to him properly. In this way, those who are pure in heart will not only know God, but they will see God.

The peacemakers are pretty straight forward. They’re the ones making peace. But it’s more than that. God is already at work in the world to bring the world back to himself. This is called reconciliation, and God is doing this through the person of Jesus. So the peacemakers aren’t just running around saying “don’t fight!” They are doing the very work of God to bring people together in a proper relationship with God and each other. As such, these people will become sons of God, as surely as Jesus is THE Son of God.

The main point to all this is we need to have our focus on God. If we think we’re someone, and we can somehow earn our way to God, and we’re somehow more important then other people, and others owe us respect, then we’ll be focussing on ourselves, and only be giving lip service to God. That’s why Jesus doesn’t call the rich, or the able body ‘lucky’, because they have no reason to look beyond themselves. But if we’ve come to that point where we know we can’t depend on ourselves, there’s every reason to look beyond ourselves and the world. It is then we realise and there’s nothing in this world worth arguing and squabbling over, like two seagulls over a potato chip. Instead, we’ll be focussed on God and his purposes. That’s what makes us blessed, because it is that relationship with God that really matters.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

July 26, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Gospels, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment