Messiah on Judging Others – Matthew 7:1-6

Judge not that you be not judged. (Mt 7:1)

Recall that the main thesis of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is the revelation of the nature of kingdom righteousness. Beginning by pronouncing blessings upon God’s righteous ones (5:1-16), Jesus explains how kingdom citizens look and behave – in a manner that is strikingly different from the world around them. Matthew 5:17-20 describes the greater righteousness that is expected of these kingdom dwellers; the thesis statement of the entire sermon is: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20). This “exceeding righteousness” is not found where it might be expected to be, in the keeping of external laws, but it is the result of Jesus fulfilling the Law in His perfectly righteous life, obedient death, and triumphant resurrection. The resultant righteous life of New Covenant kingdom subjects surpasses the Jewish outward conformity to law by altering the motives of the heart; so it is not just the murderer who is liable to judgment, but the one how hates or insults his brother; it’s not only the act of physical adultery that is sinful, but one is culpable for looking at a woman with lustful intent. The exceeding righteousness of the kingdom is summarized in verse 48: “You therefore must be perfect as you heavenly Father is perfect.”

In our fallen condition, there are certain dangers that accompany this high standard of righteousness. The first danger is that of hypocrisy. In chapter 6, Jesus warns against hypocrisy by contrasting the heart motives of His kingdom subjects with those of hypocrites who desired for their good works to be seen by men (6:1-18). Instead God’s kingdom subjects are admonished to live, not as the gentiles who are anxious about earthly concerns but seeking first the invisible kingdom of God and His righteousness (6:19-34). In our text chapter 7, Jesus warns against another danger, judgmentalism, which breeds in human depravity, as God calls His people to perfection.

Sadly, Matthew 7:1 is one of the most misunderstood texts of Scripture. It is often quoted by sinners seeking to escape the guilt of sin, which the law instigates. But at its core, this injunction on judgment reveals the heart of God to bless the merciful (5:7), as well as reveal how, as truly righteous kingdom citizens, we ought to eschew anger (5:21-26), revenge (5:38-42) and hatred (5:43-47). As was said, “faults are thick where love is thin.” The judgment that Jesus forbids is that which pretends to know God’s verdict on another person’s life; it manifests as we underestimate the magnitude of our own sins and overestimate the size of others’. The sanction, “judge not,” comes to mean “judge yourselves first and most rigorously” (Mt 7:2-5).

An Excellent King – Proverbs 31:1-9

“Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9 ESV)

In his providence, God takes us to a portion of scripture that deals with the character of a national ruler while we are concurrently ensnared by our own nation’s election season. We should be on guard against allowing this text to become a catalyst for politics or a subtle voters’ guide. However, this passage does inform us about God’s expectations for kings and all those in national authority.

Proverbs 31 records the words of King Lemuel. As we’ve noted concerning the identity of Agur in chapter 30, commentators have reached no consensus regarding Lemuel. Guesses range from a neighboring king to another name for Solomon himself. We will not attempt to answer this question during our messages in chapter 31, but we will be able to discern the message of this Spirit-inspired chapter of scripture despite our ignorance of the human author. Verses 1-9 provide us with the words of King Lemuel’s mother.

The most striking aspect of her counsel is that she is most concerned about the king’s character. In an age in which character takes a backseat to embellished credentials and empty promises, this emphasis is quite refreshing. In fact, it is consistent with the rest of scripture; for example, the qualifications the Apostle Paul gives for a pastor have more to do with character than anything else. Lemuel’s mother’s advice stands in stark contrast to today’s political environment and leadership industry and brings us back to what really matters.

So what really matters for the character of an excellent king? First, he is not to allow the lusts of his flesh to steal his strength needed to fulfill his noble office. His mother mentions women (v3) and drunkenness (v4-7) as examples of ways in which a king’s heart can be turned from his occupation. Second, he is to use his authority for the benefit of the needy (v8-9). Certainly, the king’s job is not limited to these two categories, but this counsel does encompass a load of responsibilities that we will unpack in our message. Furthermore we can see that these two strands of wisdom are applications of one main attribute of godly leadership: self-denial. In other words, Lemuel’s mother tells him that to be an excellent king is to deny the desires of your own flesh and give yourself entirely to those who need you most. What can be said of an excellent king can be applied to any excellent leader. And where do we look for the best example of this? Solomon certainly didn’t exemplify this perfectly. Lemuel, whoever he was, didn’t either. No king or emperor or United States President, past or future, ever has or ever will perfectly fulfill this role. The only One who is the truly Excellent King is the King of Kings, our Lord Jesus Christ!

Redeemed for a Price – Exodus 13:1-2; 11-16

Beginning in Exodus chapter 12, the Passover, which we have thus far covered over four sermons, has been the central event in focus. Next week we arrive at one last Passover text in chapter 13:1-2 and 11-16, wherein the Lord saves the firstborn of the Israelites while judging the Egyptians by taking the lives of their firstborn (12:29). After saving the firstborn of Israel and those within their doors, the Lord then declared to Moses that they were to be set apart: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine’” (13:1-2). The word “consecrate” in the original is ‘Kadash,’ meaning ‘to be set apart,’ in this context, unto the Lord. What is this referring to? The firstborn who are consecrated may refer to the priests of Exodus 19:22: “And let the priests also, which come near to the Lord, sanctify themselves, lest the Lord break forth upon them.” We find these priests serving the Lord by making burnt offerings unto God in Exodus 24:5; this ministry is later taken over by the sons of Levi.

Interestingly in verses 11-16, Moses gives us further insight on the firstborn, as all of the firstborn animals were to be given to God as a sacrificial offering upon entering the Promised Land. But one animal, the donkey, along with man, was singled out to be redeemed. “Every firstborn of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. Every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem” (13:13). As a ceremonially unclean animal, the donkey most likely represents all unclean animals. But man is also mentioned; like the unclean donkey, man was also to be redeemed. Although our text doesn’t specify the redemption price, Numbers 18:15-16 does: “Everything that first opens the womb of all flesh, which they bring to the Lord, whether man or beast, shall be yours; nevertheless the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. And those redeemed of the devoted things you shall redeem when one month old, according to your valuation, for five shekels of silver.”

Redemption is costly. There was a price paid at the Passover – the life of an unblemished Lamb and the redemption price of the firstborn consecrated to the Lord. All this points to the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15), Jesus Christ, who paid the ultimate price for our redemption (Mt 20:28), giving His very life so that we may live with Him (1Th 5:10).

Knowing Christ- A Lifelong Pursuit for Every Christian (Philippians 3:8-16)

As you read through this short epistle to the Philippians,  the theme of joy becomes apparent. The word joy is mentioned 5x and rejoice/rejoicing 7x. In verse one of this chapter, Paul seems to be closing out the letter as he writes, “Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord..”; but then, seemingly changing course, he gives a word of warning against the Judaizers. (As you recall, they are the ones that the Jerusalem council addressed in Acts 15 and Paul also in his epistle to the Galatians.   They insisted that the Gentile believers keep the Old Testament ceremonial laws, starting especially with the law of circumcision.)

But on closer examination, we can see the link between his warning about these false teachers and the theme of his epistle- namely joy. Nothing would rob a Christian more of his joy in Christ and the assurance of his salvation, than the thought that he needs to add his own works to Christ’s work on the cross in order to be accepted with God.

Paul uses his own testimony to refute these false teachers; and in so doing, he gives us one of the most beautiful passages on what it means to believe in Christ and what we are to aim for as we live out our Christian faith.

In the first place, to believe in Christ is to renounce all confidence in our goodness to gain favor with God, and to look to Christ alone as our only hope of being accepted with Him. Before meeting Christ, Paul thought he kept the law of God perfectly and he was as moral and righteous as they come; but once God exposed the sin of his heart, he acknowledged that he was a murderer (Acts 26:9-10), a blasphemer (1 Tim 1:13), and a covetous man (Rom 7:7-8).

Paul not only renounced his credentials for self-righteousness, but counted them as refuse when compared to Christ’s righteousness (:7-8).

Now that he is in Christ, Paul goes on to tell us what the goal of his Christian life has been (:8-11), and the manner in which he pursues that goal (:12-14). God willing, this will be the focus of our study together.

The goal is to experience more of the reality of Christ’s presence in our lives through our union with him in His death and resurrection, in order that we may be conformed more and more to His image.

And the manner in which we are to pursue this goal is not by looking back and reminiscing on past accomplishments and growth in grace, but by pressing forward and straining, as a runner does when seeking to reach the finish line.

Messiah on Materialism – Matthew 6:19-34

You cannot serve God and money. (Mt 6:24)

We have seen throughout chapter 6 how Jesus draws a series of contrasts between the hypocrites and His disciples, on charity, prayer, and fasting. In our text next week, He continues to contrast: treasures on earth with those in heaven (vss. 19-21), a good and bad eye (vss 22-23), two masters – God and money (v. 24), and the pagans who are anxious about their natural lives and those disciples who seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (vss 25-34). There is so much in our text that we can focus on, but the main theme that ties this pericope together is Messiah’s view on materialism.

It is the normal human tendency to try to accumulate material objects and net worth on earth. As we amass wealth, we can see and enjoy our earthly comforts with our natural senses; however Jesus admonishes us not to store up earthly treasure, but rather to seek to make deposits in an invisible heavenly account, where it is not only secure from the elements, but it will accumulate genuine benefits. Even in the best investments on earth, all material objects will ultimately be lost, if not by the elements of earth (moth and rust) then certainly on the last day, when according to Peter, “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.” (2 Pet 3:7). Without question, every material object will eventually perish. So would it not then be best for us to focus our attention and energy laying up eternal treasure in heaven by serving God instead of money? Though many have tried to serve both, Jesus tells us that it is in fact impossible to do so – one necessarily excludes the other. No one can serve two masters … (6:24).

Since serving God necessarily rules out serving money, it follows that, as a result, the one who serves God can trust God’s promise that they need not be anxious about anything – even the most basic things which money buys – food and clothing. The practical application of serving God and living for invisible, eternal treasures is that we know by faith that God will meet all of our physical needs as we set our priorities on His kingdom and righteousness. If we serve money, we walk by sight trusting in what is seen, but if we serve God, we walk by faith that God is just and will rightly recompense those who lay up their treasure in heaven. Where does your eye, your heart, your treasure lie?

The Sayings of Agur – Proverbs 30:10-33

If you have been foolish, exalting yourself,
or if you have been devising evil,
put your hand on your mouth.
Proverbs 30:32 ESV

We are continuing our study in the discourse given by the mysterious man identified by the name of Agur. Previously, we considered Agur’s main concern as he stared death in the mirror: the knowledge of God. In our text for this Sunday, he carries on his speech in an observational tone about things on earth. Agur seems to be analyzing creatures, situations, and human behaviors that boggle his mind. His curiosity and use of metaphor parallel the style of Ecclesiastes, which is one reason some commentators think Agur is another name for Solomon.

Whatever the case, verses 10-33 teach us about contrasts. These examples of contrasts fall in line with the overarching contrast of the entire chapter: God and man. God is wisdom and man, in his natural state, is foolish. These observations capture some of that foolishness, compare it with the way things ought to be, and hope to redirect man’s course for foolishness to wisdom.

The contrasts in verses 11-16 can be summarized as greed versus contentment. God is totally content whereas man is indulgent: “The leech has two daughters: Give and Give. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, ‘Enough.’” Agur saw this played out in a greedy generation of children and we are tragically seeing the same thing today.

Agur also highlights the good kind of contrasts, such as the “four things that are exceedingly small, but they are exceedingly wise” in verses 24-28. Here, we’re reminded of how God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. In man’s attempt to buy wisdom, he winds up looking like a fool and stumbling over himself. However, as man humbles himself before God Almighty, he will find wisdom. What a contrast!

At the end of the day, Agur’s frustration is that man seems to upset the divine order. Indeed, man does with sin. The solution, according to Agur, seems to fall short, however. He proposes that man simply stop his foolishness. Such ceasing of sin cannot happen without the work of the Spirit, as God draws foolish sinners to Christ, the True Wise Son.

The Passover and the Lord’s Supper – Exodus 12:43-51; 13:3-10

In our study of the book of Exodus thus far, we devoted two sermons concerning the Passover which is one of the main events of the book. First in chapter 12 verses 1-13, we saw how the blood of the lamb pointed to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Secondly, in chapter 12 verses 14-20, we looked the Feast of Unleavened Bread where we saw that sin, to which leaven points, could only be cured by salvation in Christ. In this our final examination of the Passover, God further elaborates on the institution of the Passover – specifically, who could partake in the Passover, and Moses’ command to the people from God: “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place. (13:3)

Next Sunday we shall see how Jesus Christ remembered the Passover and transformed this epic historical event of the LORD passing over His people, into the New Testament ordinance often referred to as the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is central to the church and the Lord’s Day gathering of His people. Jesus instituted this ordinance on the very night of the Passover – the night He was to be betrayed. Like the Passover, which was to be remembered by the Israelites, in the Lord’s Supper we too remember the death of Jesus Christ for us on the cross. Paul made this clear in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

The Lord’s Supper is to be remembered, and as such is a memorial; however, there are other important aspects of the Lord’s Supper that we will consider as well. It is also a “means of grace,” just as the preaching of the Word is. A “means” ‎is simply an instrument or thing through which an effect is extended or communicated. ‎‎“Grace” is a gift or blessing from God. As we partake in the Lord’s Supper we are spiritually feasting on Christ’s body and blood, so the blessing of His death and atonement are extended to us by the Holy Spirit through faith. We will also consider the eschatological aspect of the Lord’s Supper, as we look forward to the day when the Lord returns and we shall feast with Him at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Mt 26:29; Rev 19:6-9)