Studies in the Sermon on the Mount Book Club – Won’t you read along with us?
This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London.
The obvious question with which to start is this: Why should we consider the Sermon on the Mount at all? Why should I call your attention to it and to its teaching? I suppose fundamentally, therefore, my main reason for preaching on the Sermon on the Mount was that I had felt this persuasion, this compulsion, this leading of the Spirit. I feel the particular reason for doing so is the peculiar condition of the life of the Christian Church in general at the present time.
- I do not think it is a harsh judgment to say that the most obvious feature of the life of the Christian Church today is, alas, its superficiality.
- I am thinking not only of modern evangelistic activities as compared and contrasted with the great evangelistic efforts of the Church in the past-the present-day tendency to boisterousness, for example, and the use of means which would have horrified and shocked our fathers; but I also have in mind the life of the Church in general where the same thing is true, even in such matters as her conception of holiness and her whole approach to the doctrine of sanctification. The important thing for us is to discover the causes of this.
- I would suggest that one main cause is our attitude to the Bible, our failure to take it seriously, our failure to take it as it is and to allow it to speak to us. Coupled with that, perhaps, is our invariable tendency to go from one extreme to the other. But the main thing, I feel, is our attitude towards the Scriptures.
- Our approach to the Bible is something which is of vital importance.
- The commonest cause of all this is our tendency so often to approach the Bible with a theory. We go to our Bibles with this theory, and everything we read is controlled by it.
- There is nothing so dangerous as to come to the Bible with a theory, with preconceived ideas, with some pet idea of our own, because the moment we do so, we shall be tempted to overemphasize one aspect and under-emphasize another.
- This particular danger tends chiefly to manifest itself in the matter of the relationship between law and grace. That has always been true in the Church from the very beginning and it is still true today.
- Is it not true to say of many of us that in actual practice our view of the doctrine of grace is such that we scarcely ever take the plain teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ seriously?
- What does the Sermon on the Mount mean to us? Where does it come in our lives and what is its place in our thinking and outlook? What is our relationship to this extraordinary Sermon that has such a prominent position in these three chapters in the Gospel according to St. Matthew?
- For whom is the Sermon on the Mount intended? To whom does it apply? What is really the purpose of this Sermon; what is its relevance?
- There was once the so-called `social gospel’ view of the Sermon on the Mount.
- But of course the real answer to this view of the Sermon on the Mount is that it has always ignored the Beatitudes,
- Another view, which is perhaps a little more serious for us, is that which regards the Sermon on the Mount as nothing but an elaboration or an exposition of the Mosaic Law. I feel it is totally inadequate if for no other reason than that it, also, fails to take account of the Beatitudes.
- Then the next view I want to mention is what we may call the `dispensational’ view of the Sermon on the Mount. A dispensational view of the Sermon on the Mount, saying that it has nothing whatsoever to do with modern Christians. It is meant `for the kingdom age’.
- Another very important consideration is that there is no teaching to be found in the Sermon on the Mount which is not also found in the various New Testament Epistles.
- The Sermon on the Mount is nothing but a great and grand and perfect elaboration of what our Lord called His `new commandment’. His new commandment was that we love one another even as He has loved us. The Sermon on the Mount is nothing but a grand elaboration of that.
- The dispensational view is based on a wrong conception of the kingdom of God.
- There is nothing, therefore, so dangerous as to say that the Sermon on the Mount has nothing to do with modern Christians. Indeed, I will put it like this: it is something which is meant for all Christian people. It is a perfect picture of the life of the kingdom of God.
- The great purpose of this Sermon is to give an exposition of the kingdom as something which is essentially spiritual. The kingdom is primarily something `within you’. It is that which governs and controls the heart and mind and outlook.
- This is how Christians ought to live; this is how Christians are meant to live.
- The man who is truly forgiven and knows it, is a man who forgives. That is the meaning of the Sermon on the Mount at this point.
- Why should we study it? Why should we try to live it?
- He died in order that I might now live the Sermon on the Mount. He has made this possible for me.
- The second reason for studying it is that nothing shows me the absolute need of the new birth, and of the Holy Spirit and His work within, so much as the Sermon on the Mount.
- There is nothing that so leads to the gospel and its grace as the Sermon on the Mount.
- Another reason is this. The more we live and try to practice this Sermon on the Mount, the more shall we experience blessing.
- I suggest to you it is the best means of evangelism.
- If you read the history of the Church you will find it has always been when men and women have taken this Sermon seriously and faced themselves in the light of it, that true revival has come.
Chapter Two: General View and Analysis
- No part of this Sermon can be understood truly except in the light of the whole.
- The whole is greater than a collection of the parts, and we must never lose sight of this wholeness.
- Unless we have understood and grasped the Sermon on the Mount as a whole, we cannot understand properly any one of its particular injunctions.
- Everything in this Sermon, if we treat it rightly, and if we are to derive benefit from considering it, must be taken in its setting; and, as I have just been emphasizing, the order in which the statements come in the Sermon is really of supreme importance. The Beatitudes do not come at the end, they come at the beginning, and I do not hesitate to say that unless we are perfectly clear about them we should go no further.
- There is a kind of logical sequence in this Sermon. Not only that, there is certainly a spiritual order and sequence. Our Lord does not say these things accidentally; the whole thing is deliberate. Certain postulates are laid down, and on the basis of those, certain other things follow.
- Never discuss any particular injunction of the Sermon with a person until I am perfectly happy and clear in my mind that that person is a Christian. It is wrong to ask anybody who is not first a Christian to try to live or practise the Sermon on the Mount. To expect Christian conduct from a person who is not born again is heresy.
- We always tend to forget that every New Testament letter was written to Christians and not to non-Christians; and the appeals in terms of ethics in every Epistle are always addressed only to those who are believers, to those who are new men and women in Christ Jesus. This Sermon on the Mount is exactly the same.
- The Sermon is divided up into general and particular. The general part of the Sermon occupies v. 3 to v. 16. There you have certain broad statements with regard to the Christian. Then the remainder of the Sermon is concerned with particular aspects of his life and conduct. First the general theme, and then an illustration of this theme in particular.
- But we can sub-divide it a little further for the sake of convenience. In V. 3-10 you have the character of the Christian described in and of itself.
- Then v. ii, 12, I would say, show us the character of the Christian as proved by the reaction of the world to him.
- v. 13-I6 is an account of the relationship of the Christian to the world, or, if you prefer it, these verses are descriptive of the function of the Christian in society and in the world,
- There, then, is a general account of the Christian.
- From there on, I suggest, we come to what I may call the particular examples and illustrations of how such a man lives in a world like this. Here we can sub-divide like this. In v. 17-48 we have the Christian facing the law of God and its demands.
- Then we are told of his relationship towards such matters as murder, adultery and divorce; then how he should speak and then his position with regard to the whole question of retaliation and self-defence, and his attitude towards his neighbour.
- The whole of chapter vi, I suggest,’ relates to the Christian as living his life in the presence of God, in active submission to Him, and in entire dependence upon Him.
- Chapter vii can be regarded in general as an account of the Christian as one who lives always under the judgment of God, and in the fear of God.
- Certain things always characterize the Christian, and these are certainly the three most important principles. The Christian is a man who of necessity must be concerned about keeping God’s law.
- Again one of the essential and most obvious things about a Christian is that he is a man who lives always realizing he is in the presence of God. The world does not live in this way; that is the big difference between the Christian and the non-Christian.
- The third thing is equally true and fundamental. The Christian is a man who always walks in the fear of God-not craven fear, because `perfect love casteth out’ that fear. Not only does he approach God in terms of the Epistle to the Hebrews, `with reverence and godly fear’, but he lives his whole life like that.
- Let me now lay down a number of controlling principles which should govern the interpretation of this Sermon.
- What is of supreme importance is that we must always remember that the Sermon on the Mount is a description of character and not a code of ethics or of morals.
- The Christian, while he puts his emphasis upon the spirit, is also concerned about the letter. But he is not concerned only about the letter, and he must never consider the letter apart from the spirit.
- If you find yourself arguing with the Sermon on the Mount at any point, it means either that there is something wrong with you or else that your interpretation of the Sermon is wrong.
- If you criticize this Sermon at any point you are really saying a great deal about yourself.
- Finally, if you regard any particular injunction in this Sermon as impossible, once more your interpretation and understanding of it must be wrong.
- There was a time when the designation applied to the Christian was that he was a `God-fearing’ man. I do not think you can ever improve on that-a `God-fearing’ man. It is a wonderful description of the true Christian.
- So we must not only take the injunctions of the Sermon seriously. We must also check our particular interpretation in the light of the principles I have given.
- I maintain again that if only every Christian in the Church today were living the Sermon on the Mount, the great revival for which we are praying and longing would already have started.
Chapter Three: An Introduction to the Beatitudes
- Happiness is the great question confronting mankind. The whole world is longing for happiness and it is tragic to observe the ways in which people are seeking it.
- The Sermon on the Mount says, however, that if you really want to be happy, here is the way. This and this alone is the type of person who is truly happy, who is really blessed.
- There are certain general lessons, I suggest, to be drawn from the Beatitudes. First, all Christians are to be like this.
- From the standpoint of character, and of what we are meant to be, there is no difference between one Christian and another.
- It is the Roman Catholic Church that canonizes certain people, not the New Testament.
- The second principle I would put in this form; all Christians are meant to manifest all of these characteristics.
- None of these descriptions refers to what we may call a natural tendency. Each one of them is wholly a disposition which is produced by grace alone and the operation of the Holy Spirit upon us.
- These descriptions, I suggest, indicate clearly (perhaps more clearly than anything else in the entire realm of Scripture) the essential, utter difference between the Christian and the non-Christian.
- The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it.
- Our ambition should be to be like Christ, the more like Him the better, and the more like Him we become, the more we shall be unlike everybody who is not a Christian.
- The Christian and the non-Christian are absolutely different in what they admire. Then, obviously, they must be different in what they seek. Then, of course, they are absolutely different in what they do.
- Another essential difference between men is in their belief as to what they can do.
- The truth is that the Christian and the non-Christian belong to two entirely different realms.
- What is this kingdom, then? It means, in its essence, Christ’s rule or the sphere and realm in which He is reigning.
- It can be considered in three ways as follows. Many times when He was here in the days of His flesh our Lord said that the kingdom of heaven was already present.
- It means that; but it also means that the kingdom of God is present at this moment in all who are true believers.
- The kingdom of God is only present in the Church in the hearts of true believers, in the hearts of those who have submitted to Christ and in whom and among whom He reigns.
- The third and last way of looking at the kingdom is this. There is a sense in which it is yet to come. It has come; it is coming; it is to come.
- The vital questions which we therefore ask ourselves are these. Do we belong to this kingdom? Are we ruled by Christ? Is He our King and our Lord? Are we manifesting these qualities in our daily lives? Is it our ambition to do so? Do we see that this is what we are meant to be? Are we truly blessed? Are we happy? Have we been filled? Have we got peace?
Chapter Four: Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
- It is not surprising that this is the first, because it is obviously, as I think we shall see, the key to all that follows.
- There is no one in the kingdom of God who is not poor in spirit. It is the fundamental characteristic of the Christian and of the citizen of the kingdom of heaven, and all the other characteristics are in a sense the result of this one.
- We shall see that it really means an emptying, while the others are a manifestation of a fullness.
- What our Lord is concerned about here is the spirit; it is poverty of spirit. In other words, it is ultimately a man’s attitude towards himself. That is the thing that matters, not whether he is wealthy or poor.
- You will never find a greater antithesis to the worldly spirit and outlook than that which you find in this verse.
- There is nothing so unchristian in the Church today as this foolish talk about `personality’.
- To be `poor in spirit’ does not mean that we should be diffident or nervous, nor does it mean that we should be retiring, weak or lacking in courage.
- Neither does it mean that we are to become what I can best describe as imitators of Uriah Heep. Many, again, have mistaken being `poor in spirit’ for that.
- As it were, glories in his poverty of spirit and thereby proves he is not humble. It is an affectation of something which he obviously does not feel.
- Then again, to be `poor in spirit’ is not a matter of the suppression of personality.
- To be `poor in spirit’ is not even to be humble in the sense in which we speak of the humility of great scholars. Generally speaking, the truly great thinker is a humble man. It is `a little learning’ that `is a dangerous thing’.
- It was the spirit of a man like Gideon, for instance, who, when the Lord sent an angel to him to tell him the great thing he was to do, said, `No, no, this is impossible; I belong to the lowest tribe and to the lowest family in the tribe.’
- It was the spirit of Moses, who felt deeply unworthy of the task that was laid upon him and was conscious of his insufficiency and inadequacy.
- You find it in David, when he said, `Lord, who am I that thou shouldst come to me?’
- You see it perfectly, for instance, in a man like the apostle Peter who was naturally aggressive, self-assertive, and self-confident-a typical modern man of the world, brimful of this confidence and believing in himself. But look at him when he truly sees the Lord. He says, `Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord.’
- Or look at it as you see it in the apostle Paul. Here was a man, again with great powers, and obviously, as a natural man, fully aware of them. But in reading his Epistles you will find that the fight he had to wage to the end of his life was the fight against pride.
- But, of course, we see this most of all as we look at the life of our Lord Himself. He became a Man, He took upon Him `the likeness of sinful flesh’. Though He was equal with God He did not clutch at the prerogatives of His Godhead. He decided that while He was here on earth He would live as a man, though He was still God. And this was the result. He said, `I can do nothing of myself.’
- That, then, is what is meant by being `poor in spirit’. It means a complete absence of pride, a complete absence of self-assurance and of self-reliance. It means a consciousness that we are nothing in the presence of God. It is nothing, then, that we can produce; it is nothing that we can do in ourselves. It is just this tremendous awareness of our utter nothingness as we come face to face with God. That is to be `poor in spirit’.
- It is to feel that we are nothing, and that we have nothing, and that we look to God in utter submission to Him and in utter dependence upon Him and His grace and mercy.
- It is, I say, to experience to some extent what Isaiah experienced when, having seen the vision, he said, `Woe is me!… I am a man of unclean lips’-that is `poverty of spirit’.
- Am I like that, am I poor in spirit? How do I really feel about myself as I think of myself in terms of God, and in the presence of God? And as I live my life, what are the things I am saying, what are the things I am praying about, what are the things I like to think of with regard to myself?
- How does one therefore become `poor in spirit’? The answer is that you do not look at yourself or begin by trying to do things to yourself.
- The way to become poor in spirit is to look at God. Read this Book about Him, read His law, look at what He expects from us, contemplate standing before Him. It is also to look at the Lord Jesus Christ and to view Him as we see Him in the Gospels.
- Look at Him; and the more we look at Him, the more hopeless shall we feel by ourselves, and in and of ourselves, and the more shall we become `poor in spirit’. Look at Him, keep looking at Him. Look at the saints, look at the men who have been most filled with the Spirit and used. But above all, look again at Him, and then you will have nothing to do to yourself.
Chapter Five: Blessed are They That Mourn
- This, like the first, stands out at once, and marks off the Christian as being quite unlike the man who is not a Christian and who belongs to the world.
- Once more it is clear, that we have here something which is entirely spiritual in its meaning.
- Those who are commended are those who mourn in spirit; they, says our Lord, are the happy people.
- This description of the Christian as one who `mourns’ is one that makes us feel that somehow or another this is not as evident in the Church today as it once was.
- The explanation of this is fairly obvious. It is partly a reaction against the kind of false puritanism that is often manifested itself in an assumed piety. It almost gave the impression that to be religious was to be miserable.
- But I also think that another explanation of this is the idea which has gained currency that if we as Christians are to attract those who are not Christian we must deliberately affect an appearance of brightness and joviality. Probably that is the main explanation of the absence of this characteristic of mourning in the life of the Church today.
- The final explanation of the state of the Church today is a defective sense of sin and it defective doctrine of sin. Coupled with that, of course, is a failure to understand the true nature of Christian joy. There is the double failure.
- There is not the real, deep conviction of sin as was once the case; and on the other hand there is this superficial conception of joy and happiness which is very different indeed from that which we find in the New Testament.
- Those who are going to be converted and who wish to be truly happy and blessed are those who first of all mourn. Conviction is an essential preliminary to true conversion.
- Let us start, for instance, with our Lord Himself. One thing we observe is that we have no record anywhere that He ever laughed.
- We are told He was to be a `man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’, that His visage would be so marred that none would desire Him. That is the prophecy concerning Him, and as you look at these accounts of Him in the New Testament Gospels you will see that the prophecy was literally fulfilled.
- To `mourn’ is something that follows of necessity from being `poor in spirit’. It is quite inevitable. As I confront God and His holiness, and contemplate the life that I am meant to live, I see myself, my utter helplessness and hopelessness. I discover my quality of spirit and immediately that makes me mourn.
- The man who is truly Christian is a man who mourns also because of the sins of others. He does not stop at himself. He sees the same thing in others.
- The man who mourns is really happy, says Christ; that is the paradox.
- The man who truly mourns because of his sinful state and condition is a man who is going to repent;
- And the man who truly repents as the result of the work of the Holy Spirit upon him, is a man who is certain to be led to the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Having seen his utter sinfulness and hopelessness, he looks for a Saviour, and he finds Him in Christ. No-one can truly know Him as his personal Saviour and Redeemer unless he has first of all known what it is to mourn.
- If we truly mourn, we shall rejoice, we shall be made happy, we shall be comforted.
- Your great sorrow leads to joy, and without the sorrow there is no joy.
- The man who mourns truly is comforted and is happy; and thus the Christian life is spent in this way, mourning and joy, sorrow and happiness, and the one should lead to the other immediately.
- He knows there is a glory coming; he knows that a day will dawn when Christ will return, and sin will be banished from the earth. There will be `new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness’. 0 blessed hope! ‘Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.’
- But what hope has the man who does not believe these things? What hope has the man who is not a Christian?
- There is no comfort for the world now. But for the Christian man who mourns because of sin and because of the state of the world, there is this comfort-the comfort of the blessed hope, the glory that yet remains.
- He is a man who looks at life seriously; he contemplates it spiritually, and he sees in it sin and its effects. He is a serious, sober-minded man. His outlook is always serious, but because of these views which he has, and his understanding of truth, he also has `a joy unspeakable and full of glory’.
- The Christian is not superficial in any sense, but is fundamentally serious and fundamentally happy.
- A deep doctrine of sin, a high doctrine of joy, and the two together produce this blessed, happy man who mourns, and who at the same time is comforted. The way to experience that, obviously, is to read the Scriptures, to study and meditate upon them, to pray to God for His Spirit to reveal sin in us to ourselves, and then to reveal to us the Lord Jesus Christ in all His fullness.
Chapter Six: Blessed are the Meek
- We must point out that this Beatitude, this particular description of the Christian, causes real surprise because it is so completely and entirely opposed to everything which the natural man thinks.
- We are reminded at the very beginning that the Christian is altogether different from the world.
- Matthew was writing primarily for the Jews. He places the Beatitudes in the forefront of the Gospel for that reason. They had ideas of the kingdom which, you remember, were not only materialistic but military also, and to them the Messiah was one who was going to lead them to victory. So they were thinking in terms of conquest and fighting in a material sense, and immediately our Lord dismisses all that. It is a great contrast to the Jews’ way of thinking.
- But further, this Beatitude comes, alas, in the form of a very striking contrast to much thinking within the Christian Church at the present time. Am I wrong when I suggest that the controlling and prevailing thought of the Christian Church throughout the world seems to be the very opposite of what is indicated in this text?
- `Blessed are the meek’, not those who trust to their own organizing, not those who trust to their own powers and abilities and their own institutions. Rather it is the very reverse of that.
- There is an obvious logical connection between these different Beatitudes. Each one suggests the next and leads to the next.
- I would point out, also, that these Beatitudes as they proceed become increasingly difficult.
- Perhaps the best way of approaching this is to look at it in terms of certain examples.
- I think, the greatest gentleman in the Old Testament-Abraham, and as you look at him you see a great and wonderful portrait of meekness. It is the great characteristic of his life.
- You see it again in Moses, who is actually described as the most meek man on the face of the earth.
- The same is true of David, especially in his relations with Saul. Read the story of David again and you will see meekness exemplified in a most extraordinary manner.
- Look at the portrait of Stephen and you will see this text illustrated. Look at it in the case of Paul, that mighty man of God.
- But of course we must come to the supreme example, and stand and look at our Lord Himself. You see it in the whole of His life. His attitude towards His enemies, but perhaps still more His utter submission to His Father, show His meekness.
- He humbled Himself, became as a servant and even went to the death on the cross. That is meekness; that is lowliness; that is true humility; that is the quality which He Himself is teaching at this point.
- First, let us notice again that it is not a natural quality. It is not a matter of a natural disposition, because all Christians are meant to be like this. It is not only some Christians. Every Christian, whatever his natural temperament or psychology may be, is meant to be like this.
- No, it is not a matter of natural disposition; it is something that is produced by the Spirit of God.
- Meekness is compatible with great strength. Meekness is compatible with great authority and power. That meekness is not merely a matter of outward manner, but also, and still more, of inward spirit.
- Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. It is therefore two things. It is my attitude towards myself, and it is an expression of that in my relationship to others.
- You see how inevitably it follows being `poor in spirit’ and `mourning’. A man can never be meek unless he is poor in spirit. A man can never be meek unless he has seen himself as a vile sinner. These other things must come first.
- The meek man is not proud of himself, he does not in any sense glory in himself.
- The meek man likewise does not demand anything for himself.
- The man who is meek is not even sensitive about himself. He is not always watching himself and his own interests. He is not always on the defensive.
- To be truly meek means we no longer protect ourselves, because we see there is nothing worth defending.
- The man who is truly meek never pities himself, he is never sorry for himself.
- The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do. That, it seems to me, is its essential quality.
- A person who is of the type that I have been describing must of necessity be mild.
- it also means that there will be a complete absence of the spirit of retaliation, having our own back or seeing that the other person pays for it. It also means, therefore, that we shall be patient and long-suffering, especially when we suffer unjustly.
- Above all we must be ready to be taught by the Spirit, and led by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Meekness always implies a teachable spirit.
- We are to leave everything-ourselves, our rights, our cause, our whole future-in the hands of God, and especially so if we feel we are suffering unjustly.
- The meek already inherit the earth in this life, in this way. A man who is truly meek is a man who is always satisfied, he is a man who is already content.
- All things are yours if you are meek and truly Christian; you have already inherited the earth.
- But obviously it has a future reference also.
- You are going to judge the world, you are going to judge angels. You will then have inherited the earth.
- But I think it is all to be found in those words of our Lord in Luke xiv. ii: `Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’ There, then, is what is meant by being meek.
- If we truly claim that we have received the Holy Spirit, and this is the claim of every Christian, we have no excuse if we are not meek. It is not something that you do and I do. It is a character that is produced in us by the Spirit. It is the direct fruit of the Spirit.
Chapter 7: Righteousness and Blessedness
- In this particular statement in the Sermon on the Mount we are looking at another of the characteristics of the Christian, a further description of the Christian man.
- If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture you can be quite certain you are a Christian; if it is not, then you had better examine the foundations again.
- In this verse we have one of the most notable statements of the Christian gospel and everything that it has to give us. Let me describe it as the great charter for every seeking soul, the outstanding declaration of the Christian gospel to all who are unhappy about themselves and their spiritual state, and who long for an order and quality of life that they have not hitherto enjoyed. We can also describe it as one of the most typical statements of the gospel.
- It emphasizes one of the most fundamental doctrines of the gospel, namely, that our salvation is entirely of grace or by grace, that it is entirely the free gift of God.
- According to the Scriptures happiness is never something that should be sought directly; it is always something that results from seeking something else.
- Whenever you put happiness before righteousness, you will be doomed to misery. That is the great message of the Bible from beginning to end.
- Oh, the tragedy that we do not follow the simple teaching and instruction of the Word of God, but are always coveting and seeking this experience which we hope we are going to have.
- The desire for righteousness, the act of hungering and thirsting for it, means ultimately the desire to be free from sin in all its forms and in its every manifestation.
- It means a desire to be free from sin, because sin separates us from God. Therefore, positively, it means a desire to be right with God; it also means of necessity a desire to be free from the power of sin.
- It means a desire to be free from the very desire for sin, because we find that the man who truly examines himself in the light of the Scriptures not only discovers that he is in the bondage of sin; still more horrible is the fact that he likes it, that he wants it. Even after he has seen it is wrong, he still wants it.
- The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is a man who wants to get rid of that desire for sin, not only outside, but inside as well.
- To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to desire to be free from self in all its horrible manifestations, in all its forms.
- To hunger and thirst after righteousness is nothing but the longing to be positively holy.
- It means that one’s supreme desire in life is to know God and to be in fellowship with Him, to walk with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the light.
- To be in fellowship with God means to be walking with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the light, in that blessed purity and holiness. The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is the man who longs for that above everything else.
- To hunger and thirst really means to be desperate, to be starving, to feel life is ebbing out, to realize my urgent need of help.
- If you really are hungering and thirsting after righteousness you will be filled.
- Hunger and thirst after righteousness, long to be like Christ, and then you will have that and the blessedness.
- How does it happen? It happens-and this is the glory of the gospel-it happens immediately, thank God. But, it is also a continuing process. The Holy Spirit, as already shown, begins within us His great work of delivering us from the power of sin and from the pollution of sin. We have to hunger and thirst for this deliverance, from the power and from the pollution. And if you hunger and thirst for that you will get it.
- But of course, finally, this promise is fulfilled perfectly and absolutely in eternity. There is a day coming when all who are in Christ and belong to Him shall stand in the presence of God, faultless, blameless, without spot and without wrinkle.
- You see the Christian is one who at one and the same time is hungering and thirsting, and yet he is filled. And the more he is filled the more he hungers and thirsts. That is the blessedness of this Christian life.
- It goes on. You reach a certain stage in sanctification, but you do not rest upon that for the rest of your life. You go on changing from glory into glory `till in heaven we take our place’.
- It goes on and on; perfect, yet not perfect; hungering, thirsting, yet filled and satisfied, but longing for more, never having enough because it is so glorious and so wondrous; fully satisfied by Him and yet a supreme desire to `know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.’
Chapter 8: The Tests of Spiritual Appetite
- This Beatitude is of exceptional value because it provides us with a perfect test which we can apply to ourselves, a test not only of our condition at any given time, but also of our whole position. It operates in two main ways. It is a very wonderful test of our doctrine, and also a very thorough-going, practical test of where, exactly, we stand.
- This one Beatitude deals with what I would describe as the two commonest objections to the Christian doctrine of salvation.
- But surely,’ they say, `salvation cannot be as easy as that.’ That is the first statement. Then, when one points out to them that it must be like that because of the character of the righteousness about which the text speaks, they begin to object and to say that that is making it much too difficult, indeed so difficult as to make it impossible.
- Those who have really understood what righteousness means never object to the fact that the gospel `makes it too easy’; they realize that apart from it they would be left entirely without hope, utterly lost.
- To object to the gospel because it `makes things too easy’, or to object to it because it makes things too difficult, is just virtually to confess that we are not Christians at all. The Christian is one who admits that the statements and the demands of the gospel are impossible, but thanks God that the gospel does the impossible for us and gives us salvation as a free gift.
- Are we enjoying our Christian life and experience? Do we know that our sins are forgiven? Are we rejoicing in that fact, or are we still trying to make ourselves Christian, trying somehow to make ourselves righteous? Is it all a vain effort? Are we enjoying peace with God? Do we rejoice in the Lord always? Those are the tests that we must apply. If we are not enjoying these things, the only explanation of that fact is that we are not truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness. For if we do hunger and thirst we shall be filled.
- The question that now remains is obviously this: How can we tell whether we are hungering and thirsting after righteousness?
- I suggest the way to discover the answer is to study the Scriptures, as, for example, Hebrews xi, because there we have some great and glorious examples of people who did hunger and thirst after righteousness and were filled.
- Then you can supplement scriptural biography by reading about some of the great saints who have adorned the Church of Christ.
- We come to the conclusion that there are certain tests which we can apply to ourselves to discover whether we are hungering and thirsting after righteousness or not.
- The first test is this: Do we see through all our own false righteousness?
- We are not hungering and thirsting after righteousness as long as we are holding with any sense of self-satisfaction to anything that is in us, or to anything that we have ever done.
- It also means that we have a deep awareness of our need of deliverance and our need of a Savior; that we see how desperate we are, and realize that unless a Savior and salvation are provided, we really are entirely without hope.
- If we want to die like the righteous we must also want to live like the righteous. These two things go together.
- The person who is truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness obviously avoids everything that is opposed to such a righteousness.
- ‘I suggest that if we are truly hungering and thirsting after righteousness we shall not only avoid things that we know to be bad and harmful, we shall even avoid things that tend to dull or take the edge off our spiritual appetites. There are so many things like that, things that are quite harmless in themselves and which arc perfectly legitimate. Yet if you find that you are spending much of your time with them, and that you desire the things of God less, you must avoid them.
- To hunger and thirst after righteousness means we shall remind ourselves of this righteousness actively. We shall so discipline our lives as to keep it constantly before us.
- I am suggesting that unless we day by day voluntarily and deliberately remind ourselves of this righteousness which we need, we are not very likely to be hungering and thirsting after it.
- The man who is hungering and thirsting after righteousness always puts himself in the way of getting it.
- The man who hungers and thirsts after righteousness is the man who never misses an opportunity of being in those certain places where people seem to find this righteousness.
- Then, reading the Bible. Here is the great textbook on this matter.
- Study and read this Book. Try to understand it; read books about it.
- And then, prayer. It is God alone who can give us this gift. Do we ask Him for it? How much time do we spend in His presence?
- And then, as I have already said, there is the need for reading the biographies of the saints and all the literature you can lay your hands on about these things.
- To hunger and thirst after righteousness is to do all that and, having done it, to realize that it is not enough, that it will never produce it.
- These are the ways in which we prove whether we are hungering and thirsting after this righteousness or not. Is it the greatest desire of our life? Is it the deepest longing of our being? Can I say quite honestly and truly that I desire above everything else in this world truly to know God and to be like the Lord Jesus Christ, to be rid of self in every shape and form, and to live only, always and entirely to His glory and to His honor?
- Anybody who dies in this world without being clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ goes on to utter hopelessness and wretchedness. That is the teaching of the Bible; that is what the Bible says.
- That is a great reason for hungering and thirsting after righteousness-the hatefulness of sin.
- But lastly I put it in a positive form. If only we knew something of the glory and the wonder of this new life of righteousness, we should desire nothing else.
Chapter 9: Blessed are the Merciful
- Our Lord is depicting and delineating the Christian man and the Christian character. He is obviously searching us and testing us, and it is good that we should realize that, if we take the Beatitudes as a whole, it is a kind of general test to which we are being subjected. How are we reacting to these searching tests and probings? They really tell us everything about our Christian profession.
- The Christian gospel places all its primary emphasis upon being, rather than doing. The gospel puts a greater weight upon our attitude than upon our actions.
- A Christian is something before he does anything; and we have to be Christian before we can act as Christians.
- Being is more important than doing, attitude is more significant than action. Primarily it is our essential character that matters.
- We are not meant to control our Christianity; our Christianity is rather meant to control us.
- The particular question here is: Are we merciful?
- It does not mean that we should be `easy-going’, as we put it.
- The merciful person, many people think, is one who smiles at transgression and law breaking.
- What is mercy? I think perhaps the best way of approaching it is to compare it with grace. The best definition of the two that I have ever encountered is this: `Grace is especially associated with men in their sins; mercy is especially associated with men in their misery.’ In other words, while grace looks down upon sin as a whole, mercy looks especially upon the miserable consequences of sin. So that mercy really means a sense of pity plus a desire to relieve the suffering. That is the essential meaning of being merciful; it is pity plus the action. So the Christian has a feeling of pity. His concern about the misery of men and women leads to an anxiety to relieve it.
- The great New Testament illustration of being merciful is the parable of the Good Samaritan.
- The perfect and central example of mercy and being merciful is the sending by God of His only begotten Son into this world, and the coming of the Son.
- Our Lord is really saying that I am only truly forgiven when I am truly repentant. To be truly repentant means that I realize I deserve nothing but punishment, and that if I am forgiven it is to be attributed entirely to the love of God and to His mercy and grace, and to nothing else at all. But I go further; it means this. If I am truly repentant and realize my position before God, and realize that I am only forgiven in that way, then of necessity I shall forgive those who trespass against me.
- I have taken the trouble to point out in each case how every one of these Beatitudes follows the previous one. This principle was never more important than it is here.
- We are to feel a sense of sorrow for all who are helpless slaves of sin. That is to be our attitude towards people.
- If I know that I am a debtor to mercy alone, if I know that I am a Christian solely because of that free grace of God, there should be no pride left in me, there should be nothing vindictive, there should be no insisting upon my rights. Rather, as I look out upon others, if there is anything in them that is unworthy, or that is a manifestation of sin, I should have this great sorrow for them in my heart.
- If you are not forgiving your brother, you can ask God for forgiveness, but you will have no confidence in your prayer, and your prayer will not be answered. That is what this Beatitude says.
- For the one condition of forgiveness is repentance. Repentance means, among other things, that I realize that I have no claim upon God at all, and that it is only His grace and mercy that forgive.
- I am simply asking this. Are you merciful? Are you sorry for every sinner even though that sinner offends you? Have you pity upon all who are the victims and the dupes of the world and the flesh and the devil? That is the test. `Blessed-happy-are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.’
Chapter 10: Blessed are the Pure in Heart
- We come now to what is undoubtedly one of the greatest utterances to be found anywhere in the whole realm of Holy Scripture. Anyone who realizes even something of the meaning of the words, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God”, can approach them only with a sense of awe and of complete inadequacy.
- Who are the pure in heart? Essentially, as I am going to show you, they are those who are mourning about the impurity of their hearts.
- We begin of course with the `heart’. The gospel of Jesus Christ is concerned about the heart: all its emphasis is upon the heart. The heart is the whole center of His teaching. He puts His emphasis upon the heart and not upon the head.
- We have to remind ourselves again that the Christian faith is ultimately not only a matter of doctrine or understanding or of intellect, it is a condition of the heart.
- “Blessed are the pure in heart”; blessed are those who are pure, not merely on the surface but in the center of their being and at the source of their every activity. It is as deep as that.
- Then, secondly, it emphasizes that the heart is always the seat of all our troubles. The trouble is in the heart, and the heart is desperately wicked and deceitful.
- Now we come to the second term. “Blessed”, says our Lord, “are the pure in heart”, and you see again how packed with doctrine these Beatitudes are.
- What does our Lord mean by “pure in heart”? It is generally agreed that the word has at any rate two main meanings. One meaning is that it is without hypocrisy; it means, if you like, “single”.
- This pureness of heart, therefore, corresponds to “singleness”. It means, if you like, “without folds”; it is open, nothing hidden. You can describe it as sincerity; it means single-minded, or single-eyed devotion.
- Now the pure heart is the heart that is no longer divided,
- But that is not the only meaning of this term “purity”. It also obviously carries the further meaning of “cleansed”, “without defilement”.
- But perhaps we can perfectly express it by saying that being pure in heart means to be like the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. To be pure in heart, in other words, means to keep “the first and great commandment”, which is that “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Reducing it still further, it means that we should live to the glory of God in every respect, and that that should be the supreme desire of our life. It means that we desire God, that we desire to know Him, that we desire to love Him and to serve Him.
- We must be pure in heart before we can see God.
- Our terms are so inadequate, and our minds are so small and finite, that there is a danger in any attempt at a description of God and His glory. All we know is that there is this glorious promise that, in some way or other, the pure in heart shall see God.
- I suggest, therefore, that it means something like this. As with all the other Beatitudes, the promise is partly fulfilled here and now. In a sense there is a vision of God even while we are in this world.
- But of course that is a mere nothing as compared with what is yet to be.
- Do you realize that a day is coming when you are going to see the blessed God face to face? Not as in a glass, darkly; but face to face. Surely the moment we grasp this, everything else pales into insignificance.
- Do you spend time in meditating upon the glory that yet awaits you? If you do, the greatest concern of your life will be to have a pure heart.
- But how can our hearts become pure? There are two great ideas. First there are those who say there is only one thing to do, that we must become monks and segregate ourselves from the world. All such efforts at self-cleansing are doomed to failure.
- The way of the Scriptures is rather this. All you and I can do is to realize the blackness of our hearts as they are by nature, and as we do so we shall join David in the prayer, “Create in me a clean heart, 0 God; and renew a right spirit within me”.
- The only way in which we can have a clean heart is for the Holy Spirit to enter into us and to cleanse it for us.
- That does not mean that I therefore remain passive in the matter.
- Our one confidence is that He is working in us and preparing us for that. But let us also work and purify ourselves `even as he is pure’.
Chapter 11: Blessed are the Peacemakers
- There is nothing more fatal than for the natural man to think that he can take the Beatitudes and try to put them into practice. Here once more this particular Beatitude reminds us that this is utterly impossible. Only a new man can live this new life.
- According to the Scripture, the trouble is in the heart of man and nothing but a new heart, nothing but a new man can possibly deal with the problem.
- There is nothing I know of in Scripture which so utterly condemns humanism and idealism as this Sermon on the Mount, which has always apparently been the humanists’ favorite passage of Scripture.
- The great need of the world today is for a number of peacemakers.
- What is it, then, to be a peacemaker? He is one about whom we can say two main things. Passively, we can say that he is peaceable, for a quarrelsome person cannot be a peacemaker. Then, actively, this person must be pacific, he must be one who makes peace actively. One who not only does not make trouble, but who goes out of his way to produce peace.
- What does this involve and imply? To sum it up in a phrase, it means a new heart, a pure heart.
- Here you see how it links up with our definition of the meek. Before one can be a peacemaker one really must be entirely delivered from self, from self-interest, from self-concern. Before you can be a peacemaker you really must be entirely forgetful of self because as long as you are thinking about yourself, and shielding yourself, you cannot be doing the work properly. To be a peacemaker you must be, as it were, absolutely neutral so that you can bring the two sides together. You must not be sensitive, you must not be touchy, you must not be on the defensive. If you are, you will not be a very good peacemaker.
- The peacemaker is one who is not always looking at everything in terms of the effect it has upon himself. Now is not that the whole trouble with us by nature? We look at everything as it affects us. `What is the reaction upon me? What is this going to mean to me?’
- The first thing, therefore, we must say about the peacemaker is that he has an entirely new view of himself, a new view which really amounts to this. He has seen himself and has come to see that in a sense this miserable, wretched self is not worth bothering about at all.
- Indeed, can we not agree that one of the best tests of whether we are truly Christian or not is just this: Do I hate my natural self? Have you come to hate yourself, your natural self? Can you say with Paul, `O wretched man that I am’? If you have not, and if you cannot, you will not be a peacemaker.
- You must have an entirely new view of the other person. It also means an entirely new view of the world.
- He is a man who is ready to humble himself, and he is ready to do anything and everything in order that the glory of God may be promoted.
- Now that is the theory. But what about the practice? It is in practice that you prove whether you are a peacemaker or not.
- First and foremost it means that you learn not to speak. If only we could all control our tongues there would be much less discord in this world.
- The next thing I would say is that we should always view any and every situation in the light of the gospel. When you face a situation that tends to lead to trouble, not only must you not speak, you must think.
- You must take the situation and put it into the context of the gospel and ask, `What are the implications of this? It is not only I who am involved.
- The moment you think of it like that you are beginning to make peace. But as long as you are thinking of it in a personal sense there will be war.
- The next principle which I would ask you to apply would be this. You must now become positive and go out of your way to look for means and methods of making peace.
- And the last thing in the practical realm is that, as peacemakers, we should be endeavoring to diffuse peace wherever we are. We do this by being selfless, by being lovable, by being approachable and by not standing on our dignity.
- Let me sum it all up like this: the benediction pronounced on such people is that they `shall be called the children of God’. Called means `owned’. `Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be “owned” as the children of God.’ Who is going to own them? God is going to own them as His children. It means that the peacemaker is a child of God and that he is like his Father.
- To be a peacemaker is to be like God, and like the Son of God. He is called, you will remember, `the Prince of Peace’, and you know what He did as the Prince of Peace.
- You finish with self, and then you begin to follow Jesus Christ. You realize what He did for you in order that you might enjoy that blessed peace of God, and you begin to desire that everybody else should have it.
Chapter 12: The Christian and Persecution
- The best way of putting it, therefore, would be to say that, whereas all the others have been a direct description, this (Beatitude) is indirect. ‘This is what is going to happen to you because you are a Christian’, says Christ.
- I do not think you will ever find the biblical doctrines of sin and the world put more perfectly or precisely anywhere in Scripture than in just these two Beatitudes-‘Blessed are the peacemakers’, and `Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake’. If a Christian man is a peacemaker this is what happens to him.
- There is certainly no Beatitude that has been so frequently misunderstood and misapplied. Therefore we must approach it with great circumspection and care.
- There are Christian people who are being actively and bitterly persecuted in many countries at this very moment, and there may well be a strong case for saying that this may be the most important verse in your life and mine.
- What, then, does this Beatitude mean? Let me put it like this. Being righteous, practicing righteousness, really means being like the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore they are blessed who are persecuted for being like Him. What is more, those who are like Him always will be persecuted.
- By whom are the righteous persecuted? You will find as you go through the Scriptures, and as you study the history of the Church, that the persecution is not confined to the world. Some of the most grievous persecution has been suffered by the righteous at the hands of the Church herself, and at the hands of religious people. It has often come from nominal Christians.
- Obviously, then, we can draw certain conclusions from all this. For one thing, it tells us a great deal about our ideas concerning the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. If our conception of Him is such that He can be admired and applauded by the non-Christian, we have a wrong view of Him.
- That leads to the second conclusion. This Beatitude tests our ideas as to what the Christian is.
- And yet is not our idea of what we call the perfect Christian nearly always that he is a nice, popular man who never offends anybody, and is so easy to get on with? But if this Beatitude is true, that is not the real Christian, because the real Christian is a man who is not praised by everybody. They did not praise our Lord, and they will never praise the man who is like Him.
- So I draw my next deduction. It concerns the natural, unregenerate man, and it is this. The natural mind, as Paul says, `is enmity against God’. Though he talks about God, he really hates God. And when the Son of God came on earth he hated and crucified Him. And that is the attitude of the world towards Him now.
- This leads to the last deduction, which is that the new birth is an absolute necessity before anybody can become a Christian.
- Finally, let us ask ourselves this question: Do we know what it is to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake?
- If ever you find yourself persecuted for Christ and for righteousness’ sake, you have in a sense got the final proof of the fact that you are a Christian, that you are a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
Chapter 13: Rejoicing in Tribulation
- There are three principles with regard to the Christian which emerge very clearly from what our Lord tells us here. They are quite obvious; and yet I think that often we must all plead guilty to the fact that we forget them. The first is once again that he is unlike everybody who is not a Christian. The gospel of Jesus Christ creates a clear-cut division and distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian. The non-Christian himself proves that by persecuting the Christian.
- The second principle is that the Christian’s life is controlled and dominated by Jesus Christ, by his loyalty to Christ, and by his concern to do everything for Christ’s sake. If we are truly Christian, our desire must be, however much we may fail in practice, to live for Christ, to glory in His name and to live to glorify Him.
- The third general characteristic of the Christian is that his life should be controlled by thoughts of heaven and of the world to come.
- Let us look first of all at the way in which the Christian should face persecution. We can put it first of all negatively.
- The Christian must not retaliate. Furthermore, not only must he not retaliate; he must also not feel resentment.
- The third negative is that we must never be depressed by persecution.
- Now let us ask a second question. Why is the Christian to rejoice like this, and how is it possible for him to do so? Why then does he rejoice in it? Why should he be exceeding glad? Here are our Lord’s answers. The first is that this persecution which he is receiving for Christ’s sake is proof to the Christian of who he is and what he is.
- Or, take the second argument to prove this. It means, of course, that we have become identified with Christ. If we are thus being maligned falsely and persecuted for His sake, it must mean that our lives have become like His. The second cause of rejoicing and of joy is, of course, that this persecution is proof also of where we are going.
- Let us look at it in this way. According to this argument, my whole outlook upon everything that happens to me should be governed by these three things: my realization of who I am, my consciousness of where I am going, and my knowledge of what awaits me when I get there.
- The Christian is a man who should always be thinking of the end.
- What is this reward? Well, the Bible does not tell us much about it, for a very good reason. It is so glorious and wonderful that our human language is of necessity almost bound to detract from its glory. But it does tell us something like this. We shall see Him as He is, and worship in His glorious presence.
- Unmixed joy, and glory, and holiness, and purity and wonder! That is what is awaiting us. That is your destiny and mine in Christ as certainly as we are alive at this moment. How foolish we are that we do not spend our time in thinking about that. How often do you think of heaven and rejoice as you think of it?
Chapter 14: The Salt of the Earth
- We now come to a new and fresh section in the Sermon on the Mount. In verses 3–12 our Lord and Savior has been delineating the Christian character. Here at verse 13 He moves forward and applies His description. Having seen what the Christian is, we now come to consider how the Christian should manifest this. Or, if you prefer it, having realized what we are, we must now go on to consider what we must be.
- There are certain senses in which we can say that this question of the function of the Christian in the world as it is today is one of the most urgent matters confronting the Church and the individual Christian at this present time. It is obviously a very large subject, and in many ways an apparently difficult one. But it is dealt with very clearly in the Scriptures.
- It is put perfectly by our Lord when He says, `Ye are the salt of the earth.’ What does that imply? It clearly implies rottenness in the earth; it implies a tendency to pollution and to becoming foul and offensive. That is what the Bible has to say about this world. It is fallen, sinful and bad. Its tendency is to evil and to wars. It is like meat which has a tendency to putrefy and to become polluted. It is like something which can only be kept wholesome by means of a preservative or antiseptic. As the result of sin and the fall, life in the world in general tends to get into a putrid state. That, according to the Bible, is the only sane and right view to take of humanity.
- What does this have to say about the Christian who is in the world, the kind of world at which we have been looking? It tells him he is to be as salt; `ye, and ye alone’-for that is the emphasis of the text-‘are the salt of the earth’. What does this tell us? We are to be unlike the world.
- The Christian is not only to be different, he is to glory in this difference. He is to be as different from other people as the Lord Jesus Christ was clearly different from the world in which He lived.
- It seems to me that the first thing which is emphasized by our Lord is that one of the Christian’s main functions with respect to society is a purely negative one.
- Salt’s main function, therefore, is surely negative rather than positive.
- I wonder how often we conceive of ourselves in this way, as agents in the world meant to prevent this particular process of putrefaction and decay.
- There are those who say that the Christian should act as salt in the earth by means of the Church’s making pronouncements about the general situation of the world, about political, economic and international affairs and other such subjects. Undoubtedly in many churches, if not in the vast majority, that is how this text would be interpreted. Now, as I see it, that is a most serious misunderstanding of scriptural teaching.
- I suggest to you, therefore, that the Christian is to function as the salt of the earth in a much more individual sense. He does so by his individual life and character, by just being the man that he is in every sphere in which he finds himself. He can do this, not only in a private capacity in his home, his workshop or office, or wherever he may happen to be, but also as a citizen in the country in which he lives.
- As Christians we are citizens of a country, and it is our business to play our part as citizens, and thereby act as salt indirectly in innumerable respects. But that is a very different thing from the Church’s doing so.
- The primary task of the Church is to evangelize and to preach the gospel.
- I think it is true to say that during the last fifty years the Christian Church has paid more direct attention to politics and to social and economic questions than in the whole of the previous hundred years. But what is the result? No-one can dispute it. The result is that we are living in a society which is much more immoral than it was fifty years ago, in which vice and law-breaking and lawlessness are rampant.
- Though the Church makes her great pronouncements about war and politics, and other major issues, the average man is not affected. But if you have a man working at a bench who is a true Christian, and whose life has been saved and transformed by the Holy Spirit, it does affect others all around him. That is the way in which we can act as salt in the earth at a time like this. It is not something to be done by the Church in general; it is something to be done by the individual Christian.
Chapter 15: The Light of the World.
- First of all let us look at its negative import or claim. It always represents itself in terms of light, and men who are interested in that kind of movement always refer to it as `enlightenment’. Knowledge, they say, is that which brings light, and, of course, in so many respects it does.
- Scripture still proclaims- that the world as such is in a state of gross darkness, in spite of our having discovered all this great and new knowledge, we have failed to discover the most important thing of all, namely, what to do with our knowledge.
- Is it not obvious that our Lord’s statement is still true, that the world is in a state of terrible darkness? Think of it in the realm of personal life and conduct and behavior.
- There is obviously no light at all in this world apart from the light that is provided by Christian people and the Christian faith.
- The darkness of the world has never been more evident than it is now, and here comes this astonishing and startling statement. That, then, is the negative implication of our text.
- Now let us consider its positive implications. Its claim is that the ordinary Christian, though he may never have read any philosophy at all, knows and understands more about life than the greatest expert who is not a Christian.
- Let us always remember that it is a statement concerning the ordinary, average Christian, not certain Christians only. It is applicable to all who rightly claim this name.
- The Lord who said, `Ye are the light of the world,’ also said, `I am the light of the world.’ These two statements must always be taken together, since the Christian is only `the light of the world’ because of his relationship to Him who is-Himself `the light of the world’.
- It is essential that we bear in mind both aspects of this matter. As those who believe the gospel we have received light and knowledge and instruction. But, in addition, it has become part of us. It has become our life, so that we thus become reflectors of it.
- The light that is Christ Himself, the light that is ultimately God, is the light that is in the Christian.
- Here is a man who has become a Christian; he lives in society, in his office or workshop. Because he is a Christian he immediately has a certain effect, a controlling effect, which we considered together earlier. It is only after that, that he has this specific and particular function of acting as light. In other words Scripture, in dealing with the Christian, always emphasizes first what he is, before it begins to speak of what he does.
- Far too often we Christians tend to reverse the order. We have spoken in a very enlightened manner, but we have not always lived as the salt of the earth. Whether we like it or not, our lives should always be the first thing to speak; and if our lips speak more than our lives it will avail very little. So often the tragedy has been that people proclaim the gospel in words, but their whole life and demeanor has been a denial of it. The world does not pay much attention to them.
- Let us never forget this order deliberately chosen by our Lord; `the salt of the earth’ before `the light of the world’. We are something before we begin to act as something. The two things should always go together, but the order and sequence should be the one which He sets down here.
- Bearing that in mind, let us now look at it practically. How is the Christian to show that he is indeed `the light of the world’?
- The first thing light does is to expose the darkness and the things that belong to darkness.
- Light not only reveals the hidden things of darkness, it also explains the cause of the darkness.
- The sole cause of the troubles of the world at this moment, from the personal to the international level, is nothing but man’s estrangement from God. That is the light which only Christians have, and which they can give to the world.
- In spite of all the knowledge that has been amassed in the last two hundred years since the beginning of the enlightenment half-way through the eighteenth century, fallen man by nature still `loves darkness rather than light’. The result is that, though he knows what is right, he prefers and does what is evil.
- Light not only exposes the darkness; it shows and provides the only way out of the darkness.
- What man needs is not more light; he needs a nature that will love the light and hate the darkness-the exact opposite of his loving the darkness and hating the light.
- The Christian is here to tell him that there is a way to God, a very simple one. It is to know one Person called Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
- He gives us that new life, the life that loves the light and hates the darkness, instead of loving the darkness and hating the light.
Chapter 16, Let Your Light So Shine
- The first thing to consider is why we as Christians should be like salt and light, and why we should desire to be so. It seems to me that our Lord has three main arguments there. The first is that, by definition, we were meant to be such.
- But let us come to the second argument, which seems to me to be that our position becomes not only contradictory but even ridiculous if we do not act in this way. We are to be like `a city that is set on a hill’, and `a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid’. In other words, if we are truly Christian we cannot be hid.
- They are more outside, in a sense, than the man who is entirely worldly and makes no claim or profession, because he at least has his own society. Of all people, then, these are the most pathetic and the most tragic, and the solemn warning which we have in this verse is the warning of our Lord against getting into such a state and condition.
- God give us grace to take this solemn warning unto ourselves. A mere formal profession of Christianity is something that will ultimately always suffer that fate.
- Perhaps we can sum it all up in this way. The true Christian cannot be hid, he cannot escape notice. A man truly living and functioning as a Christian will stand out. He will be like salt; he will be like a city set upon a hill, a candle set upon a candlestick.
- The true Christian does not even desire to hide his light. He sees how ridiculous it is to claim to be a Christian and yet deliberately to try to hide the fact.
- These comparisons and illustrations, then, are meant by our Lord to show us that any desire which we may find in ourselves to hide the fact that we are Christian is not only to be regarded as ridiculous and contradictory, it is, if we indulge it and persist in it, something which (though I do not understand the doctrine at this point) may lead to a final casting out.
- That is the first statement. Let us now come to the second, which is a very practical one. How are we to ensure that we really do function as salt and as light?
- Am I sure that I have the oil, the life that which the Holy Spirit of God alone can give to me? The first exhortation, then, must be that we must seek this constantly.
- We so often tend to think that these gracious invitations of our Lord are something which are given once and for ever. He says, `Come unto me’ if you want the water of life, `Come unto me’ if you want the bread of life. But we tend to think that once and for ever we come to Christ and thereafter we have this permanent supply. Not at all. It is a supply that we have to renew; we have to go back and receive it constantly. We are to live in contact with Him, and it is only as we constantly receive this life from Him that we shall function as salt and as light.
- But, of course, it not only means constant prayer, it means what our Lord Himself describes as `hungering and thirsting after righteousness’.
- The second essential is the wick. We must attend to this also. To keep that lamp burning brightly the oil is not enough, you must keep on trimming the wick. That is our Lord’s illustration.
- What does this mean in practice for us? I think it means that we constantly have to remind ourselves of the Beatitudes. We should read them every day. I ought to remind myself daily that I am to be poor in spirit, merciful, meek, a peacemaker, pure in heart, and so on. There is nothing that is better calculated to keep the wick in order and trimmed than just to remind myself of what I am by the grace of God, and of what I am meant to be. That, I suggest, is something for us to do in the morning before we start our day.
- But not only are we to remind ourselves of the Beatitudes, we are to live accordingly. What does this mean? It means that we are to avoid everything that is opposed to this character, we are to be entirely unlike the world.
- We are to be humble, peaceable, peacemaking in all our talk and behavior, and especially in our reactions to the behavior of other persons.
- The last principle is the supreme importance of doing all this in the right way.
- In other words, we are to do everything for God’s sake, and for His glory. Self is to be absent, and must be utterly crushed in all its subtlety, for His sake, for His glory.
- It follows from this that we are to do these things in such a way as to lead other men to glorify Him, and glory in Him, and give themselves to Him.
- In other words, in all our work and Christian living these three things should always be uppermost. We shall always do it for His sake and His glory. We shall lead men to Him and to glorify Him. And all will be based upon a love for them and a compassion for them in their lost condition.
- We are to live in such a way that, as men and women look at us, we shall become a problem to them. They will ask, `What is it? Why are these people so different in every way, different in their conduct and behavior, different in their reactions? There is something about them which we do not understand; we cannot explain it.’ And they will be driven to the only real explanation, which is that we are the people of God, children of God, `heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ’. We have become reflectors of Christ, re-producers of Christ. As He is `the light of the world’ so we have become `the light of the world’.
Chapter 17: Christ and the Old Testament
- The theme of the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount is in many ways just that, the kind of life of righteousness which the Christian is to live.
- He says that everything He is going to teach is in absolute harmony with the entire teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures.
- This teaching of His which is in such harmony with the Old Testament is in complete disharmony with, and an utter contradiction of, the teaching of the Pharisees and scribes.
- Our Lord was not content with making positive statements only; He made negative ones also. He was not content with just stating His doctrine. He also criticized other doctrines.
- The real tragedy, they say, is that the simple, glorious gospel of Jesus was turned by this other man into what has become Christianity, which is entirely different from the religion of Jesus.
- For the second view is that Christ abolished the law completely, and that He introduced grace in place of it.
- What, then, is meant by `the law’ in particular, at this point? It seems to me we must agree that the word, as used here, means the entire law. This, as given to the children of Israel, consisted of three parts, the moral, the judicial and the ceremonial.
- Our Lord is here referring to everything that it teaches directly about life, conduct and behavior.
- What is meant by `the prophets’? The term clearly means all that we have in the prophetic books of the Old Testament. There again we must never forget that there are two main aspects. The prophets actually taught the law, and they applied and interpreted it.
- That leaves us with one final term, the term `fulfil’. There has been a great deal of confusion with regard to its meaning,
- The real meaning of the word `fulfil’ is to carry out, to fulfil in the sense of giving full obedience to it, literally carrying out everything that has been said and stated in the law and in the prophets.
- Having defined our terms, let us now consider what our Lord is really saying to us. What is His actual teaching?
- Our Lord emphasizes it by the word `for’, which always calls attention to something and denotes seriousness and importance. Then He adds to the importance by saying, `Verily I say unto you.’ He is impressing the statement with all the authority He possesses. The law that God has laid down, and which you can read in the Old Testament, and everything that has been said by the prophets, is going to be fulfilled down to the minutest detail, and it will hold and stand until this absolute fulfilment has been entirely carried out. I do not think I need emphasize the vital importance of that any further.
- All the law and all the prophets point to Him and will be fulfilled in Him down to the smallest detail. Everything that is in the law and the prophets culminates in Christ, and He is the fulfilment of them. It is the most stupendous claim that He ever made.
- Our Lord Jesus Christ in these two verses confirms the whole of the Old Testament. He puts His seal of authority, His imprimatur, upon the whole of the Old Testament canon, the whole of the law and the prophets.
- To the Lord Jesus Christ the Old Testament was the Word of God; it was Scripture.
- The moment you begin to question the authority of the Old Testament, you are of necessity questioning the authority of the Son of God Himself, and you will find yourself in endless trouble and difficulty
Chapter 18: Christ Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets
- Our Lord claims that He is the fulfillment, in and of Himself, of that which was taught by the Old Testament prophets.
- I feel increasingly that it is very regrettable that the New Testament should ever have been printed alone, because we tend to fall into the serious error of thinking that, because we are Christians, we do not need the Old Testament.
- Let us also observe, very hurriedly, how Christ fulfils the law. This again is something so wonderful that it should lead us to worship and adoration. First, He was `made under the law’. Though He is eternally above it, as Son of God He came and was made under the law, as one who had to carry it out.
- What was happening upon the cross was that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was enduring in His own holy body the penalty prescribed by the holy law of God for the sin of man.
- One of the ways in which the law has to be fulfilled is that its punishment of sin must be carried out. This punishment is death, and that was why He died.
- Unless you interpret the cross, and Christ’s death upon it, in strict terms of the fulfilling of the law you have not the scriptural view of the death upon the cross.
- By so dying upon the cross and bearing in Himself and upon Himself the punishment due to sin, He has fulfilled all the Old Testament types.
- Jesus Christ, by His death and all He has done, is an absolute fulfilment of all these types and shadows. He is the high priest, He is the offering, He is the sacrifice, and He has presented His blood in heaven so that the whole of the ceremonial law has been fulfilled in Him.
- But we go a step beyond this and say that He fulfils the law also in us and through us by means of the Holy Spirit.
- The prophets have been fulfilled in and through our Lord Jesus Christ; and yet there still remains something to be fulfilled.
- In His death, resurrection and ascension the whole of the ceremonial law has been entirely fulfilled.
- Seeing it all fulfilled and carried out in Him, I say I am fulfilling it all by believing in Him and by subjecting myself to Him. That is the position with regard to the ceremonial law.
- What of the judicial law? This was primarily and especially for the nation of Israel, as God’s theocracy, in its then special circumstances.
- There is then no longer a theocratic nation, so the judicial law has likewise been fulfilled.
- That leaves us with the moral law. The position with regard to this is different, because here God is laying down something which is permanent and perpetual, the relationship which must always subsist between Himself and man.
- The moral law, as interpreted by the New Testament, stands now as much as it has ever done, and will do so until the end of time and until we are perfected.
- What then is the relationship of the Christian to the law? The Christian is no longer under the law in the sense that the law is a covenant of works. But that does not release him from it as a rule of life.
- We tend to have a wrong view of law and to think of it as something that is opposed to grace. But it is not. Nor must the law be thought of as being identical with grace. It was never meant to be something in and of itself.
- The law was given, in a sense, in order to show men that they could never justify themselves before God, and in order that we might be brought to Christ.
- We must never separate these two things. Grace is not sentimental; holiness is not an experience.
- What is the will of the Father? The Ten Commandments and the moral law. They have never been abrogated.
Chapter 19: Righteousness Exceeding That of the Scribes and Pharisees
- First, His teaching is in no way inconsistent with that of the law and the prophets; but, secondly, it is very different from the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees.
- We have seen, too, that our attitude towards the law, therefore, is most important. Our Lord has not come to make it easier for us or to make it in any sense less stringent in its demands upon us. His purpose in coming was to enable us to keep the law, not to abrogate it. So He emphasizes here that we must know what the law is, and then must keep it: we must obviously be clear in our minds as to what the law is, and what it demands of us. We have seen that that is the biblical doctrine of holiness. Holiness is not an experience that we have; it means keeping and fulfilling the law of God.
- The first and, in a sense, the basic charge against them is that their religion was entirely external and formal instead of being a religion of the heart.
- The kingdom of God is concerned about the heart; it is not my external actions, but what I am inside that is important.
- The second charge which our Lord brought against the scribes and Pharisees was that they were obviously more concerned with the ceremonial than with the moral; and that, of course, always follows upon the first.
- The next charge which our Lord brings against them, however, is that they were clearly primarily concerned about themselves and their own righteousness, with the result that they were almost invariably self-satisfied. In other words the ultimate object of the Pharisee was to glorify not God, but himself.
- The ultimate condemnation of the Pharisee is that there is in his life a complete absence of the spirit delineated in the Beatitudes. That is the difference between him and the Christian. The Christian is a man who exemplifies the Beatitudes.
- In the last analysis our Lord condemns these Pharisees for completely failing to keep the law.
- The test of sanctity is your relationship to God, your attitude to Him and your love for Him. How do you stand up to that particular test?
- The trouble with the Pharisees was that they were interested in details rather than principles, that they were interested in actions rather than in motives, and that they were interested in doing rather than in being.
- Our Lord did not come to teach justification or salvation by works, or by our own righteousness.
- Some of the most vital questions that can be asked, then, are these. Do you know God? Do you love God? Can you say honestly that the biggest and the first thing in your life is to glorify Him and that you so want to do this that you do not care what it may cost you in any sense? Do you feel that this must come first, not that you may be better than somebody else, but that you may honor and glorify and love that God who, though you have sinned against Him grievously, has sent His only begotten Son to the cross on Calvary’s hill to die for you, that you might be forgiven and that He might restore you unto Himself? Let every man examine himself.
Chapter 20: The Letter and the Spirit
- He expounds the relationship of the Christian to the law in two respects. He gives us His own positive exposition of the law, and He also contrasts it with the false teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. Indeed, there is a sense in which it can be said that the whole of the remainder of this Sermon, from verse 21 right through to the end of chapter seven is nothing but an elaboration of that fundamental proposition, that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees if we are indeed to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
- In V.21-48, then, our Lord is concerned mainly to give a true account of the law. He does this by putting forward a series of six particular statements.
- I do not hesitate to suggest that our Lord was really more concerned about these common principles than He was about the particulars. In other words, He lays down certain principles and then illustrates them.
- The first thing we must consider is the formula which He uses: `Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time’. What our Lord is really doing here is showing the true teaching of the law over against the false representations of it made by the Pharisees and the scribes.
- We must also consider this other extraordinary statement: ‘I say unto you’. This is, of course, one of the most crucial statements with regard to the doctrine of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He does not hesitate here to set Himself up as the authority. He claims to speak as God.
- Everything we have in this Sermon on the Mount must be accepted as coming from the Son of God Himself.
- Let us once and for all get rid of the idea that our Lord came to set up a new law, or to announce a new code of ethics. It is not meant to be a detailed code of ethics; it is not a new kind of moral law which was given by Him.
- Now it is characteristic of human nature that we always prefer to have things cut and dried rather than have them in the form of principles. That is why certain forms of religion are always popular.
- But it is not at all like that under the New Testament dispensation. However, we still tend to like this sort of thing.
- If you take the Sermon on the Mount with these six detailed statements and say, `As long as I do not commit adultery-and so on-I am all right’, you have entirely missed our Lord’s point. It is not a code of ethics.
- The gospel of Jesus Christ does not treat us like that. It does not treat us as children. It is not another law, but something which gives us life. It lays down certain principles and asks us to apply them. Its essential teaching is that we are given a new outlook and understanding which we must apply with respect to every detail of our lives.
- Our Lord’s chief desire was to show the true meaning and intent of the law, and to correct the erroneous conclusions which had been drawn from it by the Pharisees and scribes and all the false notions which they had founded upon it. These, I suggest, are the principles. First, it is the spirit of the law that matters primarily, not the letter only.
- That does not mean of course that the letter does not matter; but it does mean that we must put the spirit before it and interpret the letter according to the spirit.
- Now take a second principle, which is really another way of putting the first. Conformity to the law must not be thought of in terms of actions only. Thoughts, motives and desires are equally important. The law of God is concerned as much with what leads to the action as it is with the action itself.
- The scribes and Pharisees were concerned only about the act of adultery or the act of murder. But our Lord was at pains to emphasize to them that it is the desire in man’s heart and mind to do these things that is really and ultimately reprehensible in the sight of God.
- The next principle we can put in this form. The law must be thought of not only in a negative manner, but also positively. The ultimate purpose of the law is not merely to prevent our doing certain things that are wrong; its real object is to lead us positively, not only to do that which is right, but also to love it.
- The fourth principle is that the purpose of the law as expounded by Christ is not to keep us in a state of obedience to oppressive rules, but to promote the free development of our spiritual character.
- That, in turn, brings us to the fifth principle which is that the law of God, and all these ethical instructions of the Bible, must never be regarded as an end in themselves. We must never think of them as something to which we just have to try to conform. The ultimate objective of all this teaching is that you and I might come to know God.
- The one test which you must always apply to yourself is this, `What is my relationship to God? Do I know Him? Am I pleasing Him?’
- `Has God been supreme in my life today? Have I lived to the glory and the honor of God? Do I know Him better? Have I a zeal for His honor and glory? Has there been anything in me that has been unlike Christ-thoughts, imaginations, desires, impulses?’
- Examine yourself in the light of a living Person and not merely in terms of a mechanical code of rules and regulations.
- Discipline in the Christian life is a good and essential thing. But if your main object and intent is to conform to the discipline that you have set for yourself it may very well be the greatest danger to your soul.
Chapter 21: Thou Shalt Not Kill
- Verses 2I-26 we have the first of this series of six examples which our Lord gives of His interpretation of the law of God over and against that of the scribes and Pharisees.
- The contrast, therefore, is not between the law given through Moses and the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ; it is a contrast, rather, between the false interpretation of the law of Moses, and the true presentation of the law given by our Lord Himself.
- He presents us with six contrasts, each of which is introduced by the formula: `Ye have heard it was said by them of old time… but I say unto you.’
- The Pharisees, by putting these two things together in juxtaposition, had reduced the import of this commandment `Thou shalt not kill’ to just a question of committing actual murder. By immediately adding the second to the first they had weakened the whole injunction.
- The second thing they did was to reduce and confine the sanctions with which this prohibition was associated, to mere punishment at the hands of the civil magistrates.
- That was their full and complete interpretation of the great commandment which says: Thou shalt not kill. In other words they had evacuated it of its truly great content and had reduced it merely to a question of murder. Furthermore, they did not mention the judgment of God at all. It is only the judgment of the local court that seems to matter.
- It is possible for us to face the law of God as we find it in the Bible, but so to interpret and define it, as to make it something which we can keep very easily because we only keep it negatively. So we may persuade ourselves that all is well.
- The first principle is that what matters is not merely the letter of the law but the spirit.
- The true way of understanding `Thou shalt not kill’ is this: `Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.’
- Anger in the heart towards any human being, and especially to those who belong to the household of faith, is, according to our Lord, something that is as reprehensible in the sight of God as murder.
- Not only must we not feel this causeless anger; we must never even be guilty of expressions of contempt.
- Contempt, a feeling of scorn and derision, is the very spirit that ultimately leads to murder.
- Killing does not only mean destroying life physically, it means still more trying to destroy the spirit and the soul, destroying the person in any shape or form.
- Our anger must only be against sin; we must never feel angry with the sinner, but only full of sorrow and compassion for him.
- Our Lord’s anger was always a righteous indignation, it was a holy anger, an expression of the wrath of God Himself.
- God hates evil. God’s anger is displayed against it, and His wrath will be poured out upon it.
- The holier we become, the more anger we shall feel against sin.
- We must never feel angry with a person as such; we must draw a distinction between the person himself and what he does.
- Let us now go on to the second statement. Our attitude is meant to be not negative, but positive. Not only are we not to harbor murder and evil thoughts in our heart against another; but the commandment not to kill really means we should take positive steps to put ourselves right with our brother.
- We have to reach the stage in which there shall be nothing wrong even in spirit between our brother and ourselves.
- In the sight of God there is no value whatsoever in an act of worship if we harbor a known sin.
- We must not only think in terms of our brother whom we are offending, or with whom there is something wrong, we must always think of ourselves before God.
- His terms are very easy. They are just this, that I face and acknowledge this sin and confess it utterly and absolutely, that I stop any self-defense or self-justification, though there was provocation from this other person. I must just confess and admit it without any reservation to God. If there is something in actual practice that I can do about it I must do it at once. Then He will tell me that all is right.
Chapter 22: The Exceeding Sinfulness of Sin
- There is nothing at the present time which is more urgently necessary than that we should truly grasp the biblical doctrine with respect to sin. I assert that most of our failures and troubles in the Church, as well as in the world, are due to the fact that we have not really understood this doctrine.
- I suggest that unless we are clear about the doctrine of sin we shall never truly understand the New Testament way of salvation.
- Regeneration is meaningless to people who have a negative view of sin and do not realize its profundity.
- If you dislike the New Testament doctrine of sin, it simply means that you are not a Christian. For you cannot be one without believing that you must be born again and without realizing that nothing but the death of Christ upon the cross saves you and reconciles you to God.
- There is no true evangelism without the doctrine of sin, and without an understanding of what sin is.
- A gospel which merely says `Come to Jesus’, and offers Him as a Friend, and offers a marvelous new life, without convicting of sin, is not New Testament evangelism.
- If you do not like the doctrine of hell you are just disagreeing with Jesus Christ. He, the Son of God, believed in hell; and it is in His exposure of the true nature of sin that He teaches that sin ultimately lands men in hell.
- Self-satisfaction, smugness and glibness are the very antithesis of the New Testament doctrine of holiness.
- Above all, this doctrine of sin leads us to see the absolute need of a power greater than ourselves to deliver us. It is a doctrine that makes a man run to Christ and rely upon Him; it makes him realize that without Him he can do nothing.
- Finally, it is surely only a true grasp of the New Testament doctrine of sin that enables us to realize the greatness of God’s love to us.
- Why do not we love God as we should? It is because we have never realized what He has done for us in Christ, and this itself is because we have not realized the nature and the problem of sin. It is only as we see what sin really is in the sight of God, and realize that, nevertheless, He did not spare His only Son, that we begin to understand and to measure His love.
- The first thing our Lord emphasizes is what we may call the depth or the power of sin.
- Sin is not merely a matter of actions and of deeds; it is something within the heart that leads to the action. In other words the teaching here is the characteristic teaching of the Bible everywhere about this subject, namely, that what we must really concentrate upon is not so much sins as sin.
- Then there is the perverting nature and effect of sin. Sin is something that perverts.
- Sin has perverted man, turning good itself into evil.
- Finally, sin is something which is destructive.
- God and sin are utterly incompatible, and therefore sin, of necessity, leads to hell.
Chapter 23: The Mortification of Sin
- Our Lord was anxious to teach at one and the same time the real and horrible nature of sin, the terrible danger in which sin involves us, and the importance of dealing with sin and getting rid of it.
- What He says in effect is this: `If the most precious thing you have, in a sense, is the cause of sin, get rid of it.’ He is saying that, however valuable a thing may be to you in and of itself, if it is going to trap you and cause you to stumble, get rid of it, throw it away. Such is His way of emphasizing the importance of holiness, and the terrible danger which confronts us as the result of sin.
- It is not merely a question of not committing certain acts; it is a question of dealing with the pollution of sin in the heart, this force that is within us, these powers which are resident in our very natures as the result of the fall. These are the problems, and merely to deal with them in a negative manner is not enough. We are concerned about the state of our hearts.
- Our Lord indicates a number of points, which we must observe and grasp. The first, obviously, is that we must realize the nature of sin, and also its consequences.
- There is no doubt whatever that an inadequate view of sin is the chief cause of a lack of holiness and sanctification, and indeed of most of the false teaching with respect to sanctification.
- We must grasp the idea of `sin’ as distinct from `sins’. We must see it as something that leads to the actions and that exists apart from them.
- The second thing we must realize is the importance of the soul and its destiny.
- If my faculties, propensities and abilities do lead me to sin, then I must forsake them and get rid of them.
- Our Lord here shows us that the importance of the soul and its destiny is such that everything must be subservient to it. Everything else must be secondary where this is concerned, and we must examine the whole of our life and see to it that this is ever in the forefront of our considerations. Nothing must be allowed to come between you and your soul’s eternal destiny.
- Do we all realize that the most important thing we have to do in this world is to prepare ourselves for eternity?
- We are all so very concerned about this life. But are we equally concerned about our soul and spirit and our eternal destiny? That is the question our Lord is asking us.
- The third principle is that we must hate sin, and do all we can to destroy it at all costs within ourselves.
- We must train ourselves to hate sin. In other words we must study it and understand its working. I think we have been very negligent in this respect.
- The next principle is that we must realize that the ideal in this matter is to have a clean and pure heart, a heart that is free from lusts. The idea is not simply that we be free from certain actions, but that our hearts should become pure.
- Our standard must always be a positive one. We must never think of holiness merely in terms of not doing certain things.
- The last principle is the importance of the mortification of sin.
- Any teaching that makes us live an unnatural life is not New Testament holiness.
- These are things which we must do. What does it mean? Again, I am merely going to give some indication of the principles. First, we must never feed the flesh’.
- We must avoid everything that tends to tarnish and hinder our holiness. Anything that I know does me harm, anything that arouses, and disturbs, and shakes my composure, no matter what it is, I must avoid it.
- Morbid scrupulosity is always concerned about itself, its state and condition, and its own achievements. True holiness, on the other hand, is always concerned about pleasing God, glorifying Him and ministering to the glory of Jesus Christ. If you and I keep that ever in the foreground of our minds we need not be very worried about becoming morbid.
- The next principle I would lay down would he this, that the must deliberately restrain the flesh and deal with every suggestion and insinuation of evil.
- That, in turn, leads me to the last great principle, which I put in this form: We must realize once more the price that had to be paid to deliver us from sin. To the true Christian there is no greater stimulus and incentive in the fight to `mortify the deeds of the body’ than this.
- If we realize the power and the true nature of sin; if we realize the awful grip it has on man, and its polluting effect; then we shall realize that we are poor in spirit and utterly feeble, and we shall plead constantly for that power which the Holy Spirit alone can give us. And with this power we shall proceed to `pluck out the eye’ and `cut off the hand’, `mortify the flesh’, and thus deal with the problem.
Chapter 24: Christ’s Teaching on Divorce
- Our Lord’s purpose was to correct the perversion, the false interpretation of the law which was being taught to the people by the Pharisees and scribes.
- The first principle He emphasizes is that of the sanctity of marriage. Marriage is not a civil contract, or a sacrament; marriage is something in which these two persons become one flesh. There is an indissolubility about it, and our Lord goes right back to that great principle.
- Because of the hardness of their hearts, God made a concession, as it were. He did not abrogate His original law with regard to marriage.
- The first principle leads us to the second, which is that God has never anywhere commanded anybody to divorce.
- The next principle is one which is of the utmost importance. There is only one legitimate cause and reason for divorce-that which is here called `fornication’.
- There is only one cause for divorce. There is one; but there is only one. And that is unfaithfulness by one party.
- Nothing is a cause for divorce save fornication. It does not matter how difficult it may be, it does not matter what the stress or the strain, or whatever can be said about the incompatibility of temperament.
- It is this question of the `one flesh’ again; and the person who is guilty of adultery has broken the bond and has become united to another. The link has gone, the one flesh no longer obtains, and therefore divorce is legitimate.
- Our Lord says that if you divorce your wife for any other reason you cause her to commit adultery.
- We can say not only that a person who thus has divorced his wife because of her adultery is entitled to do so. We can go further and say that the divorce has ended the marriage, and that this man is now free and as a free man he is entitled to re-marriage. Divorce puts an end to this connection, our Lord Himself says so.
- Even adultery is not the unforgivable sin. It is a terrible sin, but God forbid that there should be anyone who feels that he or she has sinned himself or herself outside the love of God or outside His kingdom because of adultery. No; if you truly repent and realize the enormity of your sin and cast yourself upon the boundless love and mercy and grace of God, you can be forgiven and I assure you of pardon.
Chapter 25 – The Christian and the Taking of Oaths
- One of the greatest problems with which Moses had to deal was the tendency of people to lie to one another and deliberately to say things that were not true.
- Another object of this Mosaic legislation was to restrict oath-taking to serious and important matters. There was the tendency on the part of the people to take an oath about any trivial kind of matter. On the slightest pretext they would take an oath in the name of God.
- That was the trouble with the Pharisees and scribes; they reduced the whole great question to one of perjury only. In other words, they thought there was no harm in a man taking an oath at any time as long as he did not forswear himself. As long as he did not do that he could take an oath by heaven, by Jerusalem and almost by anything. Thus they opened a door for men to multiply oaths at any time or with respect to any matter whatsoever.
- The other characteristic of their false interpretation was that they drew a distinction between various oaths, saying that some were binding while others were not.
- The case for not taking an oath in a Court of Law as based upon this Scripture is something which indeed seems unsatisfactory. The conclusion we can come to, based upon Scripture, is that, while oath-taking must be restricted, there are certain solemn, vital occasions when it is right, when it is not only legitimate, but actually adds a solemnity and an authority which nothing else can give.
- The first thing that our Lord wants to do is to forbid the use of the sacred title always in the matter of swearing or cursing. The name of God and of Christ must never be used in this way.
- The second thing He absolutely forbids is swearing by any creature, because all belong to God.
- Furthermore, He forbids all oaths in ordinary conversation. There is no need to take an oath about an argument, and you must not do so. Indeed I go further and would remind you that He says no oaths or exaggerated avowals are ever necessary. It must either be yea, yea; or Nay, nay.
- We must not exaggerate, or allow people to exaggerate for us, because exaggeration becomes a lie. It gives those who hear a false impression.
Chapter 26: An Eye for an Eye, and a Tooth for a Tooth
- The main intent of the Mosaic legislation was to control excesses. In this case in particular, it was to control anger and violence and the desire for revenge.
- From our very earliest days we have this desire for revenge; it is one of the most hideous and ugly results of the fall of man, and of original sin.
- The punishment must fit the crime and not be in excess of it.
- The principle of justice must come in, and justice is never excessive in its demands. There is a correspondence between the crime and the punishment, the thing done and what is to be done about it.
- They were turning a negative injunction into a positive one and, furthermore, were interpreting it and carrying it out themselves, and teaching others to do so, instead of seeing that it was something that was to be carried out only by the appointed judges who were responsible for law and order.
- There is possibly no passage in Scripture which has produced as much heat and disputation as this very teaching which tells us not to resist evil and to be loving and forgiving.
- First, we must never regard the Sermon on the Mount as a code of ethics, or a set of rules to cover our conduct in detail. We must not think of it as being a new kind of law to replace the old Mosaic law; it is rather a matter of emphasizing the spirit of the law.
- Secondly, these teachings are never to be applied mechanically or as a kind of rule of thumb. It is the spirit rather than the letter. Not that we depreciate the letter, but it is the spirit that we must emphasize.
- Thirdly, if our interpretation ever makes the teaching appear to be ridiculous or leads us to a ridiculous position, it is patently a wrong interpretation.
- If our interpretation makes the teaching appear to be impossible it also is wrong. Nothing our Lord teaches is ever impossible.
- Lastly, we must remember that if our interpretation of any one of these things contradicts the plain and obvious teaching of Scripture at another point, again it is obvious that our interpretation has gone astray. Scripture must be taken and compared with Scripture. There is no contradiction in biblical teaching.
- He says, `I say unto you, That ye resist not evil.’ They say, `an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’. What does it mean? We must inevitably start with the negative which is that this statement is not to be taken literally. The first main principle is that this teaching is not for nations or for the world. Indeed we can go further and say that this teaching has nothing whatever to do with a man who is not a Christian.
- Therefore to advocate this teaching as a policy for a country or a nation is no less than heresy. It is heretical in this way: if we ask a man who has not been born again, and who has not received the Holy Spirit, to live the Christian life, we are really saying that a man can justify himself by works, and that is heresy. We are suggesting that a man by his own efforts, and by putting his mind to it, can live this life. That is an absolute contradiction of the whole of the New Testament.
- This has nothing to do with nations or so-called Christian pacifism, Christian socialism and things like that. They cannot be based on this teaching; indeed they are a denial of it.
- Secondly, this teaching, which concerns the Christian individual and nobody else, applies to him only in his personal relationships and not in his relationships as a citizen of his country. This is the whole crux of the teaching.
- Here we have nothing but the reaction of the Christian as an individual to the things that are done to him personally.
- The third principle which controls the interpretation of this subject is, clearly, that the question of killing and taking of life is not considered as such in this teaching, whether it be regarded as capital punishment, or killing in war, or any other form of killing.
- Therefore, to interpret this paragraph in terms of pacifism and nothing else is to reduce this great and wonderful Christian teaching to a mere matter of legalism. And those who base their pacifism upon this paragraph-whether pacifism is right or wrong I am not concerned to say-are guilty of a kind of heresy. They have dropped back into the legalism of the Pharisees and scribes; and that is an utterly false interpretation.
- What, then, is taught here? Surely there is but one principle in this teaching, and that is a man’s attitude towards himself.
- What He asks you to face is yourself, and it is very much easier to discuss pacifism than to face His clear teaching at this point.
- He is saying in effect that if we are to be truly Christian we must become dead to self. It is not a question of whether we should go into the Army or anything else; it is a question of what I think of myself, and of my attitude towards myself.
- It is very spiritual teaching, and it works out in the following respects. First, I must be right in my attitude towards myself and the spirit of self-defense that immediately rises when any wrong is done to me. I must also deal with the desire for revenge and the spirit of retaliation that is so characteristic of the natural self. Then there is the attitude of self towards injustices that are done to it and towards the demands that are made upon it by the community or by the State. And finally there is the attitude of self to personal possessions.
Chapter 27 – The Cloak and the Second Mile
- The first principle is this whole question which we generally-refer to as `turning the other cheek’. It means that we must rid ourselves of the spirit of retaliation, of the desire to defend ourselves and to revenge ourselves for any injury or wrong that is done to us.
- We should not be concerned about personal injuries and insults, whether of a physical kind or any other.
- Our Lord desires to produce in us a spirit that does not take offence easily at such things.
- Seek immediate means of retaliation. He wants us to reach a state in which we are indifferent to self and self-esteem.
- Our Lord’s teaching here does not mean that we should be unconcerned about the defense of law and order. To turn the other cheek does not mean that it does not matter at all what happens in national affairs, whether there is order or chaos. Not at all.
- What our Lord says is that I am not to be concerned about myself, my own personal honor and so on.
- The second illustration our Lord uses is this matter of the cloak and the coat.
- Our Lord is concerned here with the tendency to insist upon our rights, our legal rights.
- He says we must not insist upon our legal rights even though we may at times suffer injustice as the result.
- The Christian is not to be concerned about personal insults. But when it is a matter of honor and justice, righteousness and truth, he must be concerned and thus he makes his protest.
- When the law is not honored, when it is flagrantly broken, not in any personal interest, not in any way to protect himself, he acts as a believer in God, as one who believes that all law ultimately derives from God.
- The next principle involves the question of going the second mile. The principle is that, not only are we to do what is demanded of us, we are to go beyond it in the spirit of our Lord’s teaching here.
- Our Lord says that not only must we not resent these things, we must do them willingly; and we must even be prepared to go beyond what is demanded of us. Any resentment that we may feel against the legitimate, authoritative government of our land is something which our Lord condemns. The government that is in power has a right to do these things, and it is our business to carry out the law.
- If we become excited about these matters, or lose our temper about them, if we are always talking about them and if they interfere with our loyalty to Christ or our devotion to Him, if these things are monopolizing the center of our lives, we are living the Christian life, to put it mildly, at the very lowest level.
- This injunction does not say that we are not entitled to a change of government. But this must always be done by lawful means. It does not say that we must take no interest in politics and in the reform of law.
- Let us be certain however that our interest in the change is never personal and selfish, but that it is always done in the interest of government and justice and truth and righteousness.
- The last point, which we can only touch upon, is the whole question of giving and lending. It is this denial of self once more.
- He is rebuking the wrong spirit of those who are always considering themselves, whether they are being struck on the face, or whether their coat is being taken, or whether they are compelled to carry the baggage or to give of their own goods and wealth to help someone in need.
- We must always be ready to listen and to give a man the benefit of the doubt.
- The love of God is a love that gives of itself in order to help and strengthen those who are in need.
- We should see clearly that it takes a new man to live this kind of life. This is no theory for the world or for the non-Christian. No man can hope to live like this unless he is born again, unless he has received the Holy Spirit.
Chapter 28: Denying Self and Following Christ
- Our Lord’s primary concern here is with what we are, rather than with what we do.
- It is so essential that we should take the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount in the order in which it is given.
- In this paragraph we have our attitude towards ourselves presented in a negative manner.
- The Sermon on the Mount is full of doctrine.
- The important thing is not so much that I turn the other cheek, as that I should be in a state in which I am ready to do so. The doctrine involves my whole view of myself.
- We must not be concerned about ourselves at all. The whole trouble in life, as we have seen, is ultimately this concern about self, and what our Lord is inculcating here is that it is something of which we must rid ourselves entirely. We must rid ourselves of this constant tendency to be watching the interests of self, to be always on the look-out for insults or attacks or injuries, always in this defensive attitude.
- The condition which our Lord is here describing is one in which a man simply cannot be hurt.
- The most difficult thing is for a man to die to himself, to his own approval or censure of himself.
- The next point is obviously that only the Christian can do this. That is where we find doctrine in this paragraph. No man can possibly attain to this except a Christian. It is the very opposite and antithesis of what is true of the natural man.
- The first thing we must do is to face this whole problem of the self in an honest manner. We must cease to make excuses, cease trying to evade and circumvent it. It is to be faced honestly and squarely. We must hold all this teaching before us and examine ourselves in the light of it.
- Such self-examination is essential if we are to conquer in this matter.
- Another thing on the practical level which is of the very greatest importance is to realize the extent to which self controls your life.
- It is an amazing and terrible discovery to note the extent to which self-interest and self-concern are involved,
- If you analyze the whole of your life, not only your actions and conduct, but your dress, your appearance, everything, it will amaze you to discover the extent to which this unhealthy attitude towards self comes in.
- I wonder whether we have ever realized the extent to which the misery and the unhappiness and the failure and the trouble in our lives is due to one thing only, namely self.
- There is no question about it. Self is the main cause of unhappiness in life.
- Most of the unhappiness and sorrow, and most of our troubles in life and in experience, arise from this ultimate origin and source, this self.
- According to the teaching of Scripture, self was responsible for the fall. But for it, sin would never have entered into the world.
- Self always means defiance of God; it always means that I put myself on the throne instead of God, and therefore it is always something that separates me from Him.
- The ultimate cause of any misery or lack of joy is separation from God, and the one cause of separation from Him is self.
- Any desire to glorify self or safeguard the interests of self is of necessity a sin, because I am looking at myself instead of looking at God and seeking His honor and glory.
- Holiness eventually means this, deliverance from this self-centered life. Holiness, in other words, must not be thought of primarily in terms of actions, but in terms of an attitude towards self.
- Why did the Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God ever come into this world? He came ultimately in order to deliver mankind from self.
- If we say we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and believe that He has died for our sins, it means that our greatest desire should be to die to self.
- That is the life to which we are called. Not the life of self-defense or self-sensitivity, but such a life that, even if we are insulted, we do not retaliate; if we receive a blow on the right cheek we are ready to turn the other also; if a man sues us at the law and takes away our coat we are ready to give our cloak also; if we are compelled to go a mile, we go twain; if a man comes and asks something of me I do not say, `This is mine’; I say rather, `If this man is in need and I can help him, I will’.
- If we are trying to live this kind of life in and of ourselves, we are doomed; we are damned before we start. But with the blessed promise and offer of the Spirit of God to come and dwell in us and work in us, there is hope for us. God has made this life possible.
CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE: LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
- While we are in this life and world, God does indeed cause His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, He blesses people who hate Him, and He does send rain upon those who defy Him. Yes, God goes on doing that. But at the same time He announces to them that, unless they repent, they shall finally be destroyed. Therefore there is no ultimate contradiction.
- We are told we must positively love these people. We are even to love our enemies. Itis not simply that we are not to strike back at them, but that we must be positive in our attitude towards them. Our Lord is at pains to have us see that our `neighbour’ must of necessity include even our enemy.
- The first thing, of necessity, is that our treatment of others must never depend upon what they are, or upon what they do to us. It must be entirely controlled and governed by our view of them and of their condition.
- This is a tremendously important principle, because according to our Lord that is the kind of love that we are to have, and the love that we are to manifest with respect to others.
- How then may we manifest this love of God in our contact with other people? Here it is: `Bless them that curse you’, which, in more ordinary language, we put like this: reply to the bitter words with kind words.
- Secondly: `Do good to them that hate you’, which means benevolent actions for spiteful actions. When somebody has beenreally spiteful and cruel to us we must not be the same to them. Rather we must respond with actions of benevolence.
- Lastly: `Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ In other words, when we are being cruelly persecuted by another person, we must pray for them.
- This is the way in which we should test ourselves. Do you pray for people who persecute you and who use you despitefully?
- Do you ask God to have mercy and pity upon them, and not to punish them? Do you ask God to save their souls and open their eyes before it is too late? Do you feel a great concern? It is that which brought Christ to earth and sent Him to the cross. He was so concerned about us that He did not think about Himself. And we are to treat other people like that.
- What God commands is that we should love a man and treat him as if we do like him.
Chapter 30: What Do Ye More Than Others?
- His desire has been that they should understand and grasp who they are and how they are to live. And here He sums it all up in this amazing statement that comes right at the very end: `Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ That is to be the quality of life we are to live.
- The gospel of Jesus Christ, though I object to much modern use of the term, is essentially paradoxical; there is an apparent contradiction in it from the beginning to the very end.
- The Christian is essentially a unique and special kind of person. Our Lord tells us here that this special characteristic, this uniqueness, is twofold. First of all it is a uniqueness that separates him from everybody who is not a Christian. The Christian, you see, is a man who is different from others. He does what other people do, yes; but he does more than they do.
- The Christian is a man who is above, and goes beyond, the natural man at his very best and highest.
- The second aspect of this uniqueness of the Christian is that he is not only unlike others, but he is meant to be positively like God and like Christ.
- The question which we must ask ourselves, then, if we want to know for certain whether we are truly Christian or not, is this: Is there that about me which cannot be explained in natural terms? Is there something special and unique about me and my life which is never to be found in the non-Christian?
- First of all, the Christian is different from the natural man, and goes beyond the natural man in his thinking.
- Or look at it in terms of morality. The natural man’s attitude towards morality is generally negative. His concern is that he should not do certain things. He does not want to be dishonest, unjust or immoral. The Christian’s attitude towards morality is always positive; he hungers and thirsts after a positive righteousness like that of God Himself.
- Or again, consider it in terms of sin. The natural man always thinks of sin in terms of actions, things that are done or not done. The Christian is interested in the heart.
- Then what about the attitude of these two men towards other people? Your natural man may regard others with tolerance; he may bring himself to be sorry for them and say that we must not be too hard on others. But the Christian goes beyond that. He sees them as sinners, and as the dupes of Satan; he sees them as the terrible victims of sin.
- The same is true of their respective views of God. The natural man thinks of God primarily as Someone who is to be obeyed, and Someone whom he fears. That is not the essential view of the Christian. The Christian loves God because he has come to know Him as Father.
- Then in the matter of living, the way in which the Christian does everything is different. The great motive to Christian living is love.
- Look at these two men as they react to what happens to them in this life and world. What about the trials and tribulations that come, as they must come, such as sickness or war? The Christian rejoices in tribulations for he sees a hidden meaning in them. He can wrestle with the storm, he can rejoice in the midst of his tribulation. The other man never rises to that.
- Our Lord puts it here finally in the matter of injuries and injustice. How does your natural man behave when he suffers these?
- There has never been a natural man who has been able to love his enemy, to do good to them that hate him, to bless them that curse him, and to pray for them that despitefully use him and persecute him. The Christian is a man who positively loves his enemy, and goes out of his way to do good to them that hate him, and to pray for them that use him despitefully and malign him.
- But finally let us look at these two men as they die. The natural man, maintains the same general attitude to death as he had to life, and he goes out with stoical calm and resignation. That is not the Christian’s way of facing death. The Christian is one who should be able to face death as Paul faced it, and he should be able to say: `To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain’, and: `having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.’ He is entering into his eternal home, going into the presence of’ God. Even more, the Christian not only dies gloriously and triumphantly; he knows where he is going. He is not only not afraid; there is a sense of anticipation.
- What is it that thus makes the Christian a special person? What is it that accounts for this uniqueness? What makes him do more than others? It is his whole outlook on sin. The Christian man has seen himself as utterly hopeless and condemned; he has seen himself as a man who is utterly guilty before God and who has no claim whatsoever on His love. He has seen himself as an enemy of God and an outsider. And then he has seen and understood something about the free grace of God in Jesus Christ.
- Not only that, he has an entirely new outlook towards life in this world. He comes to see that it is only an antechamber to real life and that he himself is a sojourner and a pilgrim.
- The Christian is a man who believes he is going to look into the face of Christ. He loves his enemies and does good to them that hate him, because he is conscious of what has been done for him, what is coming to him, and of the glory that remains.
- I end, then, with this searching question. It is the most profound question a man can ever face in this life and world. Is there anything special about you?
- God grant that as we examine ourselves we may discover something of the uniqueness and the separateness that not only divides us from others, but which proclaims that we are children of our Father which is in heaven.
Chapter One from Volume 2, “Living the Righteous Life”
- We come now to quite a new section, and it runs right through this sixth chapter. Here we have what we may well call a picture of the Christian living his life in this world in the presence of God, in active submission to God, and in entire dependence upon Him. Or, to put it in another way, this section presents a picture of the children in relationship to their Father as they wend their way on this pilgrimage called life.
- The chapter reviews our life as a whole, and it considers it under two main aspects. The first is what we may call our religious life, the culture and nurture of the soul, our piety, our worship, the whole religious aspect of our life, and everything that concerns our direct relationship to God. The second picture is that of the Christian in his relationship to life in general, not so much as a purely religious being now, but as a man who is subject to `the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, a man who is concerned about food and drink, clothing and shelter, who may have a family and children to bring up, and who therefore is subject to what is called in the Scriptures `the cares of this world’.
- Those are the two great divisions of this chapter, the directly religious part of the Christian life, and the mundane.
- There is no greater fallacy than to imagine that the moment a man is converted and becomes a Christian, all his problems are solved and all his difficulties vanish. The Christian life is full of difficulties, full of pitfalls and snares. That is why we need the Scriptures. They would have been unnecessary but for that.
- I sometimes think that it is one of the most uncomfortable chapters to read in the entire Scriptures. It probes and examines and holds a mirror up before us, and it will not allow us to escape. There is no chapter which is more calculated to promote self-humbling and humiliation than this particular one.
- He goes on to give us three illustrations of that principle, in the matters of almsgiving, praying and fasting. There, ultimately, is the whole of one’s religious life and practice.
- Let us consider this in the form of a number of subsidiary principles. The first of these is this-the delicate nature of the Christian life. The Christian life is always a matter of balance and poise.
- Let us never forget this, the Christian at one and the same time is to be attracting attention to himself, and yet not attracting attention to himself.
- The second subsidiary principle is that the ultimate choice is always the choice between pleasing self and pleasing God.
- According to our Lord it comes to this: man by nature desires the praise of man more than the praise of God.
- That brings us to the next subsidiary principle which perhaps is the most important of all. The supreme matter in this life and world for all of us is to realize our relationship to God.
- The second thing which we have to remember in this connection is that we are always in the presence of God. We are always in His sight. He sees our every action, indeed our every thought.
- The next subsidiary principle concerns rewards. Here He indicates that it is quite right to seek the reward which God gives.
- Concern about rewards is legitimate and is even encouraged by the New Testament. The New Testament teaches us that there will be a `judgment of rewards’.
- The second thing about rewards is this. There is no reward from God for those who seek it from men. This is a terrifying thought but it is an absolute statement.
- Let us now consider briefly what our Lord has to say about this particular matter with respect to almsgiving. The wrong way to do this is to announce it. Do not announce to others in any shape or form what you are doing. That is obvious. But this is less obvious: Do not even announce it to yourself. That is difficult.
- How is this to be done? There is only one answer, and that is that we should have such a love for God that we have no time to think about ourselves. Let us keep our eyes upon the ultimate, let us remember that we are always in the presence and sight of God, and let us live only to please Him.
Chapter Two from Volume Two, “How to Pray”
- The whole point of the teaching here is our Lord’s devastating exposure of the terrible effects of sin upon the human soul, and especially sin in the form of self and of pride.
- The essence of the biblical teaching on sin is that it is essentially a disposition. It is a state of heart. I suppose we can sum it up by saying that sin is ultimately self-worship and self-adulation; and our Lord shows (what to me is an alarming and terrifying thing) that this tendency on our part to self-adulation is something that follows us even into the very presence of God.
- This is our Lord’s instruction to Christian people, not to the non-Christian. It is His warning to those who have been born again; even they have to be careful lest in their prayers and devotions they become guilty of this hypocrisy of the Pharisees.
- The trouble with the false way is that its very approach is wrong. Its essential fault is that it is concentrating on itself. It is the concentrating of attention on the one who is praying rather than on the One to whom the prayer is offered.
- There are two main errors underlying this whole approach to God in prayer. The first is that my interest, if I am like the Pharisee, is in myself as the one who is praying. The second is that I feel that the efficacy of my prayer depends upon my much praying or upon my particular manner of prayer.
- Another form which this takes is the terrible sin of praying in public in a manner which suggests a desire to have an effect upon the people present rather than to approach God with reverence and godly fear.
- Public prayer should be such that the people who are praying silently and the one who is uttering the words should be no longer conscious of each other, but should be carried on the wings of prayer into the very presence of God.
- The second trouble in connection with this wrong approach arises when we tend to concentrate on the form of our prayers, or on the amount or length of time spent in prayer.
- The one thing that is important when we pray anywhere is that we must realize we are approaching God. That is the one thing that matters.
- First of all there is the process of exclusion. To make sure that I realize I am approaching God I have to exclude certain things. I have to enter into that closet.
- The principle is that there are certain things which we have to shut out whether we are praying in public or whether we are praying in secret. Here are some of them. You shut out and forget other people. Then you shut out and forget yourself. That is what is meant by entering into thy closet.
- The next step is realization. We must realize that we are in the presence of God. It means realization of something of who God is and what God is. But above all, our Lord insists that we should realize that, in addition to that, He is our Father.
- Finally we must have confidence. We must come with the simple confidence of a child. We need a child-like faith.
- I must get rid of this thought that God is standing between me and my desires and that which is best for me. I must see God as my Father who has purchased my ultimate good in Christ, and is waiting to bless me with His own fullness in Christ Jesus.
Chapter Three from Volume Two, “Fasting”
- You remember that in this section of the Sermon on the Mount our Lord is talking about the question of personal righteousness.
- It is important, however, that we should realize that what our Lord says here about fasting is equally applicable to the whole question of discipline in our spiritual lives.
- Particularly for Evangelicals, this whole question of fasting has almost disappeared from our lives and even out of the field of our consideration.
- As men and women are beginning to consider the days and the times through which we are passing with a new seriousness, and as many are beginning to look for revival and reawakening, the question of fasting has become more and more important.
- Our Lord at this point was primarily concerned with only one aspect of the subject, and that was the tendency to do these things in order to be seen of men.
- What is really the place of fasting in the Christian life? Where does it come in according to the teaching of the Bible? The answer is roughly like this. It is something that is taught in the Old Testament. Under the Law of Moses the children of Israel were commanded to fast once a year, and this was binding upon that nation and people forever.
- When we come to New Testament times, we find that the Pharisees fasted twice in the week. They were never commanded to do so by God, but they did so, and made it a vital part of their religion. It is always the tendency of a certain type of religious person to go beyond the Scriptures; and that was the position with the Pharisees.
- When we come to look at our Lord’s teaching we find that though He never taught fasting directly, He certainly taught it indirectly.
- Going on beyond our Lord’s teaching and practice to that of the early Church, we find it was something that was practiced by the apostles.
- Indeed, on any important occasion, when faced with any vital decision, the early Church always seemed to give themselves to fasting as well as to prayer.
- The saints of God in all ages and in all places have not only believed in fasting, they have practiced it.
- God’s people have felt that fasting is not only right, but is of great value and of great importance under certain conditions.
- The biblical notion of fasting is that, for certain spiritual reasons and purposes, men and women decide to abstain from food.
- Fasting means an abstinence from food for the sake of certain special purposes such as prayer or meditation or the seeking of God for some peculiar reason or under some exceptional circumstance.
- Fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not only be confined to the question of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate, but which for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting. There, I suggest, is a kind of general definition of what is meant by fasting.
- If we fast in a mechanical manner, or merely for the sake of doing so, I suggest that we are violating the biblical teaching with regard to the whole matter.
- Anything we do merely for the sake of doing it, or as a matter of rule or rote, is surely an entire violation of the scriptural teaching. We must never regard fasting as an end in itself.
- We should never regard fasting as a part of our discipline.
- So it is wrong to reduce fasting merely to a part of the process of discipline. Rather is it something that I do in order to reach that higher spiritual realm of prayer to God, or meditation, or intense intercession. And that puts it into an entirely different category.
- Another false way of regarding fasting I would put like this. There are some people who fast because they expect direct and immediate results from it.
- The moment we begin to say, `Because I do this, I get that’, it means that we are controlling the blessing. That is to insult God and to violate the great doctrine of His final and ultimate sovereignty. No, we must never advocate fasting as a means of blessing.
- Therefore we should never advocate, indulge in, or practice fasting as a method or a means of obtaining direct blessing. The value of fasting is indirect, not direct.
- We do harm to the cause of Christ if we claim as miraculous something which can be easily explained on a natural level. The same danger is present in this question of fasting-a confusion between the physical and the spiritual.
- It should always be regarded as a means to an end, and not as an end in itself. It is something that a man should do only when he feels impelled or led to it by spiritual reasons.
- I must discipline myself at all times, and must fast only when I feel led by the Spirit of God to do so, when I am intent on some mighty spiritual purpose, not according to rule, but because I feel there is some peculiar need of an entire concentration of the whole of my being upon God and my worship of Him. That is the time to fast, and that is the way to approach the subject.
- The wrong way is to call attention to the fact that we are doing it. Any announcing of the fact of what we are doing, or calling attention to it, is something which is utterly reprehensible to Him. You must not call attention to the fact that you are fasting.
- But this is not only a question of fasting. It is pathetic sometimes to observe the way in which people do this even in the matter of singing hymns-the uplifted face at certain points and the rising on tiptoe. These things are affected, and it is when they are affected that they become so sad.
- I cannot understand the Christian who wants to look like the typical, average, worldly person in appearance, in dress or in anything else-the loudness, the vulgarity, the sensuality of it all. No Christian should want to look like that.
- As Christians we should all desire to be unlike those worldlings, and yet at the same time we must never get into the position of saying that it is our dress that truly proclaims what we are.
- Don’t worry about the impression you are making; just forget yourself and give yourself entirely to God. Be concerned only about God and about pleasing Him. Be concerned only about His honor and His glory.
- If a man is living entirely to the glory of God, you need not prescribe for him when he has to fast, you need not prescribe the sort of clothes he has to put on or anything else. If he has forgotten himself and given himself to God, the New Testament says that man will know how to eat and drink and dress because he will be doing it all to the glory of God.
Chapter Four from Volume Two, “When Ye Pray”
- Our Lord clearly found it necessary not only to warn His followers against certain dangers in connection with prayer, but also to give them positive instruction.
- Prayer is beyond any question the highest activity of the human soul.
- It is the highest activity of the human soul, and therefore it is at the same time the ultimate test of a man’s true spiritual condition. There is nothing that tells the truth about us as Christian people so much as our prayer life.
- Ultimately, therefore, a man discovers the real condition of his spiritual life when he examines himself in private, when he is alone with God.
- It is not only the highest activity of the soul, it is the ultimate test of our true spiritual condition.
- More and more we miss the very greatest blessings in the Christian life because we do not know how to pray aright.
- We need to be taught how to pray, and we need to be taught what to pray for.
- `The Lord’s Prayer’. It is a perfect synopsis of our Lord’s instruction on how to pray, and what to pray for.
- The first is that this prayer is undoubtedly a pattern prayer. The very way in which our Lord introduces it indicates that.
- That does not mean, of course, that when we pray we are simply to repeat the Lord’s Prayer and stop at that, for that is obviously something that was not true of our Lord Himself.
- We might say that what we have in the Lord’s Prayer is a kind of skeleton.
- The Lord’s Prayer covers everything; and all we do is to take these principles and employ and expand them and base our every petition upon them. That is the way in which it is to be approached.
- This prayer is obviously meant not only for the disciples, but for all Christians in all places and at all times.
- Do you know that the essence of true prayer is found in the two words in verse 9, `Our Father’? I suggest that if you can say from your heart, whatever your condition, `My Father’, in a sense your prayer is already answered.
- Prayer means speaking to God, forgetting ourselves, and realizing His presence.
- It is only those who are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who can say, `Our Father’.
- It is vital when we pray to God, and call Him our Father, that we should remind ourselves that He is `our Father which is in heaven’, that we should remind ourselves of His majesty and of His greatness and of His almighty power.
- Remember that you are approaching the almighty, eternal, ever-blessed holy God. But remember also that that God, in Christ, has become your Father, who not only knows all about you in the sense that He is omniscient, He knows all about you also in the sense that a father knows all about his child.
Chapter 5 from Volume Two, “Prayer: Adoration”
- We come now to the next division of the Lord’s Prayer which is that which deals with our petitions.
- The first three-‘Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven’-have regard to God and His glory; the others have reference to ourselves.
- That is the vital point-the order of the petitions, not the number. The first three are concerned about and look only to God and His glory.
- Not only must our desires and petitions with regard to God come first, but we must notice, too, that half the petitions are devoted to God and His glory and only the remainder deal with our particular needs and problems.
- Before we begin to think of ourselves and our own needs, even before our concern for others, we must start with this great concern about God and His honor and His glory. There is no principle in connection with the Christian life that exceeds this in importance.
- Let us look now at the first petition: `Hallowed be thy name’. The word `Hallowed’ means to sanctify, or to revere, or to make and keep holy.
- The purpose of the petition is to express this desire that God Himself may be revered, may be sanctified, that the very name of God and all it denotes and represents may be honored amongst men, may be holy throughout the entire world.
- It means a burning desire that the whole world may bow before God in adoration, in reverence, in praise, in worship, in honor and in thanksgiving. Is that our supreme desire? Is that the thing that is always uppermost in our minds whenever we pray to God? I would remind you again that it should be so whatever our circumstances. It is when we look at it in that way that we see how utterly valueless much of our praying must be.
- The second is `Thy kingdom come’. The kingdom of God really means the reign of God; it means the law and the rule of God.
- The kingdom can be regarded in three ways. InTop of Form one sense the kingdom has already come. It came when the Lord Jesus Christ was here.
- The kingdom of God is also here at this moment in the hearts and lives of all who submit to Him, in all who believe in Him.
- But the day is yet to come when His kingdom shall have been established here upon the earth.
- When we pray, `Thy kingdom come’, we are praying for the success of the gospel, its sway and power; we are praying for the conversion of men and women; we are praying that the kingdom of God may come today in Britain, in Europe, in America, in Australia, everywhere in the world. `Thy kingdom come’ is an all-inclusive missionary prayer.
- It is a prayer which indicates that we are `Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God’ (2 Peter iii. 12).
- The third petition, `Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven’ needs no explanation. It is a kind of logical consequence and conclusion from the second, as that was a logical conclusion from the first. The result of the coming of the kingdom of God amongst men will be that the will of God will be done amongst men.
- Our innermost and greatest desire should be the desire for God’s honor and glory.
Chapter Six from Volume Two, “Prayer – Petition”
- The first concerns the all-inclusiveness of these petitions. All our great needs are summed up in them. `Give us this day our daily bread’. `Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’. `And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’. Our whole life is found there in those three petitions, and that is what makes this prayer so utterly amazing. In such a small compass our Lord has covered the whole life of the believer in every respect. Our physical needs, our mental needs and, of course, our spiritual needs are included.
- The second general comment concerns the wonderful order in which these petitions are put.
- Our Lord is now considering our needs, and clearly the first thing that is necessary is that we must be enabled to continue our existence in this world.
- He then goes on to deal with the need of cleansing from the defilement and guilt of sin; and, lastly, with the need for being kept from sin and its power. That is the true way to look at man’s life.
- So that is the order-daily bread; forgiveness of sins; to be kept from anything that may cast me again into sin, to be delivered from everything that is opposed to my higher interests and to my true life. The sum of it all is that ultimately there is nothing in the whole realm of Scripture which so plainly shows us our entire dependence upon God as does this prayer, and especially these three petitions. The only thing that really matters for us is that we know God as our Father.
- In other words, all we are to ask for is sufficient, or what is necessary, for each day. It is a prayer for necessities.
- It is meant to cover all our material needs, everything that is necessary for the life of man in this world.
- It must be emphasized, of course, that all we pray for must be absolute necessities. We are not told to pray for luxuries or superabundance, nor are we promised such things. But we are promised that we shall have enough.
- The promises of God never fail. But they refer to necessities only, and our idea of necessity is not always God’s. But we are told to pray for necessities.
- Why tell Him about things that He knows already?’ This brings us to the heart of the meaning of prayer. We do not tell God these things because He is not aware of them. No, we must think of prayer more as a relationship between father and child; and the value of prayer is that it keeps us in touch and contact with God.
- We must all realize our utter dependence upon God, even for our daily bread. If God willed it so, we should have no daily bread. It is a good thing for us at least once a day, but the oftener the better, to remind ourselves that our times, our health, and our very existence, are in His hands. Our food and all these necessary things come from Him, and we depend upon His grace and mercy for them.
- We come now to the second division, which is often a great cause of difficulty. `And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.’ There are two main difficulties about this. There are those who feel that there is no need for a Christian to ask for forgiveness, and these people are divided into two groups.
- Some of them say that Christians need not ask for forgiveness, because we are justified by faith, by which they mean, of course, that we are justified by faith in the presence of God.
- Others say there is no need to ask for forgiveness because of their view of sanctification. Their position is that they do not sin any longer; they are perfect.
- But having been justified, as we walk through this world we become soiled and tarnished by sin. That is true of every Christian. Though we know we have been forgiven, we need forgiveness still for particular sins and failures.
- With regard to those who claim that they are so sanctified that they do not need forgiveness, we learn again from John’s Epistle that `If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us’. The man who does not know the blackness of his own heart, but is simply concerned with his own theories, is a man who is not examining himself truly. The greater the saint the greater is the sense of sin and the awareness of sin within.
- There are people who say that this prayer should never be used by Christian people, for to do so, they say, is to go back to the law.
- The only way of forgiveness before Christ, after Christ and always, is through Christ and Him crucified.
- The proof that you and I are forgiven is that we forgive others. If we think that our sins are forgiven by God and we refuse to forgive somebody else, we are making a mistake; we have never been forgiven.
- If you are refusing forgiveness to anybody I suggest that you have never been forgiven.
- Now just a word about the last petition, `Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’. That is the final request and it means this. We are asking that we should never be led into a situation where we are liable to be tempted by Satan.
- And coupled with that is this other aspect of the petition, that we pray to be delivered from evil. Some would say `from the evil one’, but I think that limits the meaning, for `evil’ here includes not only Satan but evil in every shape and form. It certainly includes Satan; we need to be delivered from him and his wiles. But there is evil also in our hearts, so we need to be delivered from that, and from the evil in the world as well. We need to be delivered from it all. It is a great request, a comprehensive petition.
- Why should we ask that we may be kept from evil? For the great and wonderful reason that our fellowship with God may never be broken.
- Then, you remember, there is a postscript: `For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.’ It is in some of the old versions; it is not in others. We do not know for certain whether our Lord did actually utter it at this point or not; but whether He did or not, it is very appropriate.
- There must be a kind of final thanksgiving, there must be some sort of doxology.
- We must end as we began, by praising Him. The measure of our spirituality is the amount of praise and of thanksgiving in our prayers.
Chapter Seven from Volume Two, “Seven Treasures on Earth and in Heaven”
* The theme of this section of the Sermon on the Mount is, you remember, the relationship of the Christian to God as his Father. There is nothing more important than this.
* The great secret of life according to our Lord is to see ourselves and to conceive of ourselves always as children of our heavenly Father. If only we do that we shall be delivered immediately from two of the main temptations that attack us all in this life.
* The first is the very subtle one that comes to every Christian in the matter of his personal piety. In that connection our Lord says that the one thing that matters, and the one consideration for me, should always be that God’s eye is upon me.
* In handling this question of personal piety He deals first with the temptations that come from the flesh and the devil.
* But having dealt with that, our Lord proceeds to show that there is another problem, and that is the problem of the world itself.
* One of the most subtle problems with which the Christian ever has to deal is this problem of his relationship to the world.
* Our Lord teaches that this attack from the world, or this temptation to worldliness, generally takes two main forms. First of all there may be a positive love of the world. Secondly, there may be anxiety, or a spirit of anxious care with respect to it. We shall see that our Lord shows that one is as dangerous as the other.
* Here is the injunction: `Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven’. That is the injunction; that is the exhortation. The remainder, you see, goes into the realm of reason and explanation.
* But look first of all at the exhortation itself. It is a twofold one-negative and positive.
* Our Lord is concerned here not so much about our possessions as with our attitude towards our possessions.
* It is a question of one’s whole attitude towards life in this world.
* What He is warning against here, in other words, is that a man should confine his ambition, his interests and his hopes to this life.
* No matter what it is, or how small it is, if it is everything to you, that is your treasure, that is the thing for which you are living.
* How do we do this in practice? The first thing is to have a right view of life, and especially a right view of `the glory’.
* We are walking through this world under the eye of God, in the direction of God and towards our everlasting hope. That is the principle.
* If we have a right view of ourselves in this world as pilgrims, as children of God going to our Father, everything falls into its true perspective.
* We begin to think of ourselves only as stewards who must give an account of them.
* It matters not whether it is money, or intellect, or ourselves, or our personalities, or whatever gift we may have.
Chapter Eight from Volume Two, “God or Mammon”
* We are dealing here with the subject of worldliness, or worldly-mindedness, and the whole problem of the world; but we must cease to think of it in terms of people who are in the world outside. This is the peculiar danger of Christian people.
* Worldliness is an attitude towards life. It is a general outlook, and it is so subtle that it can come into the most holy things of all.
* Our Lord is saying that worldly treasures do not last; that they are transitory, passing, and ephemeral.
* Not only is there an element of decay in these things; it is also true that we always tend to tire of them. That is why we are always talking about new things and seeking them.
* The last fact, therefore, about these things is that they inevitably perish.
* So our Lord appeals to our common sense, and reminds us that these worldly treasures never last.
* These heavenly things are imperishable and the thieves cannot break through and steal. Why? Because God Himself is reserving them for us. There is no enemy that can ever rob us of them, or can ever enter in. It is impossible because God Himself is the Guardian.
* His second argument is based upon the terrible spiritual danger involved in laying up treasures on earth and not in heaven.
* The first thing against which He warns us in this spiritual sense is the awful grip and power of these earthly things upon us.
* He tells us that this terrible thing that grips us tends to affect the entire personality; not merely part of us, but the whole man. And the first thing He mentions is the `heart’.
* The next thing about them is a little more subtle. They not only grip the heart, they grip the mind.
* Having shown that where the treasure is, the heart will be also, He says that it is not only the heart but the mind as well. These are the things that control man.
* This blurring of the vision by love of earthly treasures tends to affect us morally also! How clever we all are at explaining that a particular thing we do is not really dishonest.
* But lastly, these things not only grip the heart and mind, they also affect the will.
* What we do is the result of what we think; so what is going to determine our lives and the exercise of our wills is what we think, and that in turn is determined by where our treasure is-our heart.
* These earthly treasures are so powerful that they grip the entire personality. They grip a man’s heart, his mind and his will; they tend to affect his spirit, his soul and his whole being. Whatever realm of life we may be looking at, or thinking about, we shall find these things are there. Everyone is affected by them; they are a terrible danger.
* We must remember that the way in which we look at these things ultimately determines our relationship to God.
* The man who thinks he is godly because he talks about God, and says he believes in God, and goes to a place of worship occasionally, but is really living for certain earthly things-how great is that man’s darkness!
* There is nothing in the last analysis that is so insulting to God as to take His name upon us and yet to show clearly that we are serving mammon in some shape or form. That is the most terrible thing of all. It is the greatest insult to God; and how easily and unconsciously we can all become guilty of this.
Chapter Nine from Volume Two, “Sin’s Foul Bondage”
- The first thing we must note is that sin is obviously something that has an entirely disturbing and upsetting effect upon the normal balance in man, and the normal functioning of his qualities.
- Man, as the result of sin and the Fall, is no longer governed by his mind and understanding; he is governed by his desires, his affections and his lusts. That is the teaching of Scripture.
- It is the heart that covets these worldly things, and the heart in sinful man is so powerful that it governs his mind, his understanding and his intellect.
- This is one of the greatest tragedies about sin and its effects. In the first instance it upsets the order and the balance; and the greatest and supreme gift becomes subservient to the lesser. `Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’
- The second thing that sin does is to blind man in certain vital respects.
- In the same way sin blinds us to the relative values of things.
- Is it not true that all the things about which we bother so much belong to a very short span of time, and though we know that there are other things that are eternal and endless, we scarcely stop to think about them at all? That is the effect of sin-relative values are not appreciated.
- Consider yet another respect in which sin and evil blind the mind of man. They blind him to the impossibility of mixing opposites. It is all here. Man is always trying to mix things which cannot be mixed. Still worse is the fact that he persuades himself that he can do it successfully. He is quite sure this compromise is possible, and yet our Lord tells us it is not.
- Once you have lost the division between the world and the Church, the Church ceases to be truly Christian.
- The next effect of sin upon man is to make him a slave of things that were meant to serve him. This is one of the terrible, tragic things about it. According to our Lord here, these earthly, worldly things tend to become our god. We serve them; we love them. Our heart is captivated by them; we are at their service.
- All these things that can be so dangerous to our souls because of sin were given to us by God, and we were meant to enjoy them-food and clothing, family and friends and all such things. These are all but a manifestation of the kindness and the graciousness of God. He has given them to us that we might have a happy and enjoyable life in this world; but because of sin, we have become their slaves.
- The last point, however, is the most serious and the most solemn of all. The final effect of sin upon mankind is that it entirely ruins man. That is the teaching of the Bible from beginning to end.
- How does sin ruin man? It ruins man in the sense that, having spent his lifetime in laying up certain things here on earth, he finds himself at the end with nothing.
- Think of all the things for which you tend to be living at this moment, the things that really count, the things that really matter in your life. Then ask yourself this simple question: `How many of these things will I be able to take with me when I die?’ That is the test.
- Sin is final ruination which leaves a man with nothing at the end.
- If you are not a Christian do not trust your mind; it is the most dangerous thing you can do. But when you become a Christian your mind is put back in the center and you become a rational being.
- There is nothing more tragic than for a man to find at the end of his life that he has been entirely wrong all the time.
Chapter Ten from Volume 2, “Be Not Anxious”:
- There are two main aspects to be considered-what the Christian does in private, and what he does in public.
- The great thing is to concentrate on this danger of being oppressed and obsessed by the things that are seen, the things that belong to time and to this world alone.
- What our Lord is warning us against, therefore, is the danger of thus being distracted from the main objective in life by care, by this anxiety about earthly, worldly things, by looking so much at them that we do not look at God-this danger of living the double life, this false view, this dualism.
- The main trouble with most of us is that we have forgotten first principles, and especially this vital one that the things we enjoy in this life are the gift of God.
- It is God Himself who gives us life, and the body in which we live it; and if He has done that we can draw this deduction, that His purpose with respect to us will be fulfilled.
- God never leaves unfinished any work He has begun; whatever He starts, whatever He has purposed, He will most surely fulfil. And therefore we come back to this, that there is a plan for every life in the mind of God. We must never regard our lives in this world as accidental.
Chapter 11 from Volume 2, “Birds and Flowers”:
- With regard to the whole question of food and drink and the maintenance of life, our Lord provides us with a double argument, or, if you like, with two main arguments. The first is derived from the birds of the air.
- Man has to sow; he is commanded by God to do so. But he is to rely upon God who alone can give the increase.
- These little birds who make no provision in the sense of preparing or producing food for themselves, have it provided for them. God looks after them and takes care of them. He sees to it that there is something for them to eat. He sees to it that their life is sustained.
- God is our Father, and if our Father takes this great care of the birds to whom He is related only in His general providence, how much greater, of necessity, must be His care for us.
- An earthly father may be kind, for instance, to the birds or to animals; but it is inconceivable that a man should provide sustenance for mere creatures and neglect his own children. If this is true of an earthly father, how much more is it true of our heavenly Father?
- God is not to me merely a Creator. He is the Creator, but He is more than that; He is my God and Father in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. We should reason thus with ourselves, according to our Lord; and the moment we do that, care and anxiety and worry are quite impossible. The moment we begin to apply these truths to our minds fear goes out immediately and of necessity.
Chapter 12 from Volume 2, “Little Faith”:
- We have here our Lord’s final argument concerning the problem of anxious care. Or, perhaps, we can describe it as being our Lord’s summing up of the warning not to `take thought’ about our lives as to what we shall eat or drink, or about our bodies in the matter of dress. It is the conclusion of the detailed argument which He has worked out in terms of birds and flowers.
- There is an obvious lack of faith. `O ye of little faith.’ That is the ultimate cause of the trouble. The question that obviously arises is this: What does our Lord mean by `little faith’? Who are the people whom He is describing here and against whom this charge is preferred? Once more we must remind ourselves that they are Christian people, and only Christian people.
- Our Lord is speaking here about Christian people who have only saving faith, and who tend to stop at that. Those are the people about whom He is concerned, and His desire is that they should be led, as the result of listening to Him, to a larger and deeper faith.
- Worry and anxiety, being cast down and defeated, being mastered by life and its attendant circumstances, are always due, in a Christian, to lack of faith.
- What then is this condition which is described by our Lord as being `little faith’? It is faith that is confined solely to the question of the salvation of our souls, and it does not go beyond that. It does not extend to the whole of life and to everything in life.
- A little faith is a faith which does not lay hold of all the promises of God. It is interested only in some of them, and it concentrates on these.
- Faith, according to our Lord’s teaching in this paragraph, is primarily thinking; and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him.
- Christian faith is essentially thinking. The trouble with most people, however, is that they will not think. Our Lord, here, is urging us to think, and to think in a Christian manner. That is the very essence of faith.
- Little faith, if you like, can also be described as a failure to take scriptural statements at their face value and to believe them utterly.
- `Little faith’ really means a failure to realize the implications of salvation, and the position resulting from salvation.
- The trouble with us Christian people is that we do not realize what we are as children of God, we do not see God’s gracious purposes with respect to us.
- Or, to put it the other way round, we have to realize what God is as our heavenly Father. Here, again, is something which Christian people are so slow to learn. We believe in God; but how slow we are to believe and to realize that He is what He says He is, our heavenly Father.
- Think first of the immutable purposes of God with regard to His children, and I would emphasize that word `immutable’.
- Then think of His great love. The tragedy of our position is that we do not know the love of God as we should.
- Then we must meditate upon His concern for us. That is what our Lord is emphasizing here. If He is concerned about the birds, how much more for us?
- Then think about His power and His ability.
- This `little faith’, is ultimately due to a failure to apply what we know, and claim to believe, to the circumstances and details of life.
- To be worried is an utter contradiction of our position as children of God. There is no circumstance or condition in this life which should lead a Christian to worry. He has no right to worry; and if he does he is not only condemning himself as being a man of little faith, he is also dishonoring his God and being disloyal to his blessed Savior.
Chapter 13 from Volume 2, “Increasing Faith”:
* His essential argument is that we, as Christians, are to be different from the Gentiles.
* The statement is that if I am guilty of being worried and anxious about these matters of food and drink and clothing, and about my life in this world, and certain things which I lack-if these dominate me and my life, then I am really living and behaving as a heathen.
* The heathen know nothing about the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, and know nothing about God’s way of salvation. They are entirely ignorant of the view of life which is taught in the Bible.
* The heathen who hold this pagan view of life generally view the things that happen to us in one of two main ways. There are those amongst them who believe that everything in this life is accidental. That view is sometimes known as the `theory of contingency’ which teaches that things happen without rhyme or reason, and that you never know what is going to happen next.
* The other view, commonly called `fatalism’, is the extreme opposite of that. It teaches that what is to be will be. It does not matter what you may do or say, it is going to happen. `What is to be will be.’
* The Christian view, on the other hand, the one taught in the Bible, and especially at this particular point in the Sermon on the Mount, is what can
be described as the doctrine of `certainty’. Life, it says, is not controlled by blind necessity, but certain things are certain because we are in the hands of the living God.
* What our Lord is saying is that, if you are living a life full of anxiety and worry, you are virtually spiritually dead and taking the pagan view of life.
* You can always tell what a man’s philosophy of life is by the way in which he lives and by the way he reacts to the things that are happening round about him. That is why a time of crisis always sifts people.
* That is what we are seeing all around us; that is the way in which the majority of people seem to be living today. They argue that, since you do not know what is going to happen next month or next year, the essence of wisdom is to say, `Well, let’s spend all we have; let’s get the maximum pleasure out of life now.’ Thus they are quite negligent of consequences and quite heedless about their eternal destiny.
* I suggest, therefore, that there are certain questions which we should always be putting to ourselves. Here are some of them. Do I face the things that happen to me in this world as the Gentiles do? When these things happen to me, when there seem to be difficulties about food, or drink, or clothing, or difficulties in some relationship in life, how do I face them? How do I react? Is my reaction just that of the heathen, and of people who do not pretend to be Christian? How do I react during a war? How do I react to illness and pestilence and loss? It is a very good question to ask.
* But let us go further. Does my Christian faith affect my view of life and control it in all matters? I claim to be Christian, and hold the Christian faith; the question I now ask myself is, Does that Christian faith of mine affect my whole detailed view of life? Is it always determining my reaction and my response to the particular things that happen? Or, we can put it like this. Is it clear and obvious to myself and to everybody else that my whole approach to life, my essential view of life in general and in particular, is altogether different from that of the non-Christian? It should be.
* Do I always place everything in my life, and everything that happens to me, in the context of my Christian faith, and then look at it in the light of that context? The heathen cannot do that.
* Nothing can happen to us apart from God. He knows all about us. If it is true to say that the very hairs of our head are all numbered, then we must remember that we are never in any position or situation outside God’s knowledge or care. If we were but to grasp this, it would surely cause worry and strain and anxiety to be banished once and for ever.
* Once more we find our Lord repeating Himself. He says: You are concerned about these other things, and you are putting them first. But you must not. What you have to put first is the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
* In practice it means that, as children of our heavenly Father, we should be seeking to know Him better.
* We can paraphrase our Lord’s words thus: If you want to seek anything, if you want to be anxious about anything, be anxious about your spiritual condition, your nearness to God and your relationship to Him. If you put that first, worry will go; that is the result.
* Put God, His glory and the coming of His kingdom, and your relationship to Him, your nearness to Him and your holiness in the central position, and you have the pledged word of God Himself through the lips of His Son, that all these other things, as they are necessary for your well-being in this life and world, shall be added unto you.
Chapter 14 from Volume 2, “Worry: Its Cause and Cure”:
- You will not find anywhere in any textbook a more thorough analysis of worry, anxiety, and the anxious care that tends to kill man in this world, than you find in this paragraph which we have been considering in detail.
- Worry has an active imagination, and it can envisage all sorts and kinds of possibilities. It can envisage strange eventualities, and with its terrible power and activity it can transport us into the future and into a situation that is yet to come. And there we find ourselves worried and troubled and borne down by something which is purely imaginary.
- Indeed we can go further and say that worry is never of any value at all. This is seen with particular clarity as you come to face the future. Apart from anything else, it is a pure waste of energy because however much you worry you cannot do anything about it.
- The result of worrying about the future is that you are crippling yourself in the present.
- You must learn to trust God day by day for every particular occasion, and never try to go ahead of Him.
- We must learn to leave the future entirely in God’s hands.
- We must learn this vital importance of walking with God day by day, of relying upon Him day by day, and applying to Him for the particular needs of each day.
- I must never allow thought with regard to the future to inhibit in any way my usefulness in the present.
- There is nothing in the Scripture which indicates that it is wrong to save or to be insured. But if I am always thinking about this insurance, or my bank balance, or as to whether I have saved enough and so on, then that is something which our Lord is concerned about and condemns.
- All the things we have been dealing with in the last four or five chapters apply only to Christians.
- Worry is always a failure to grasp and apply our faith.
- A large part of faith, especially in this connection, consists of just refusing anxious thoughts. That to me is perhaps the most important and the most practical thing of all.