Sapphire Sky

April 29, 2019

What Does It Mean to Be a Real Christian?

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 12:57 am

white and black lighthouse near the cliff and white and red house

Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount …

 

I grew up with Joe. We went to the same church and were involved in the same activities. We had the same children’s Bible Club leaders, the same Sunday School teachers, and the same youth leaders. But as we went through high school, something changed. Joe’s parents stopped making him go to church, so he stopped coming. Joe went on with his life, but Christianity was a thing of the past for him.

Laura was an active member of our college fellowship group. She was energetic, outgoing, and always telling everyone about Jesus. I lost touch with Laura after graduation and it was not until many years later that I found her on social media. She was no longer interested in the things of God and had chosen instead to live a lifestyle of active rebellion against Him.

Craig was a nice guy. We would see Craig and his family at church regularly and he always knew the right words to challenge and encourage you. But it was not until his marriage started to fall apart that we realized that it was all an act. Craig knew how to act one way at church on Sundays and another way with his family and friends.

We encounter people like Joe, Laura, and Craig all the time. We may be like them ourselves. We may be like Joe, where Christianity has been forced on us and we have no desire to know God for ourselves. We may be like Laura, full of excitement for God but lacking in enough depth to weather great temptations in her life. Or finally, we may be like Craig, where Christianity has become a comfortable lifestyle, but there is no desire to obey God if things do not go our way.

What does Jesus have to say to people like these? What does He have to say to people like us, when we only let Him in on our surface and refuse for Him to change our hearts?

Jesus concludes His great Sermon on the Mount with a call for action. He has been showing His disciples what it means to truly follow Him, and to be part of the Kingdom of God! He has shown that our happiness is not in what we have but in how poor we are in His sight (see here). He has shown what it really means to keep the law on God’s terms (see here). He has shown God’s true standards for anger, purity, marriage, honesty, and revenge. He has shown what true worship looks like (with good deeds and prayer) and what it means to really trust Him with both our valuables and our anxiety. He has shown how we need to confront each other and yet guard ourselves (see here).

But it is one thing to talk like you are part of God’s kingdom, it is another thing to act like you are part of the God’s kingdom. It is the difference between a true disciple of Jesus Christ and one who only pretends to be His disciple. And it is the difference between life and death.

Jesus ends with warnings. Beware!

Beware the easy way that leads to death!

Beware the false teachers who would mislead you!

Beware of fooling yourself, and not knowing Him!

Beware of the destruction that will come if you refuse to obey Him!

Matthew 7:13-27
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

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April 22, 2019

What did Jesus say about Judging?

Filed under: culture, encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 7:00 am

man wearing a suit jacket and stripe necktie

Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount…

 

“Don’t judge”.

This is a popular saying in our culture, and it is frequently used to defend a person’s actions, decisions, or lifestyle against criticism. Practically any type of verbal criticism is considered to be “judging”:

  • Gossip against a neighbor for guilty-looking behavior
  • Guessing a person’s motivation for their actions
  • Preaching against a specific sin
  • Declaring a lifestyle as wrong

Many people who are familiar with Scripture may even refer to Jesus’ words here, in Matthew 7:1, where He says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Therefore, shouldn’t we be silent, and not speak against things that we see to be wrong?

Or, should we do as many well-meaning teachers do, and try to explain away Jesus’ words until it no longer applies to us?

Or to put this in another perspective, how can we answer real problems in this world and yet still obey Jesus’ command not to judge?

Jesus calls us to a life that transcends the failures of one another.

Matthew 7:1-12
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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April 8, 2019

What did Jesus say about Anxiety?

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , , — Steve Knaus @ 12:35 am

man in blue and brown plaid dress shirt touching his hair

Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount…

 

Worry.

It is the epidemic of our day. It affects men and women, the young and the old, the rich and the poor.

Workers worry about their job. Parents worry about their children. Children worry about the future. Worry can cause sickness, depression, and broken relationships. In its severe forms, worry can cause panic attacks or require medication.

It is personally difficult for me to write a blog post about worry. I would never want to present myself as someone who has no anxiety and has it all figured out. I am benefiting no one if I only come up with “pat answers” that never address real problems.

I have close friends who have struggled greatly with worry and anxiety. Some have been frozen by panic and others have needed medication to manage stress. I have personally experienced the struggle with depression and anxiety for the last several years. I am not here to offer some glib retort about how I am so much better than everyone else.

But Jesus himself taught about worry, and not in sensitive and reassuring terms. Three times He repeats the command, “Don’t be anxious!” This is not a comforting pat on the back, this is a direct command for those who are worrying – stop it! Stop worrying about your food and where it will come from! Stop worrying about your clothes and what you look like to others! Stop worrying about the necessities of life!

There are very few of us who are so destitute that we have no food to eat and literally no clothes to wear.  But we have our own anxieties that we all worry about. Will I pass this test? Can I provide for my family? How will I pay the bills? Will my children be safe? Is my sickness serious?

“The truth is, the believer is not immune to worry just because he’s been vaccinated by saving grace.” – Stephen Davey 6

Jesus uses examples from nature in the Sermon on the Mount to address the issue of anxiety. For both of these examples, he reiterates same two lessons: First, remember that God is our father and he will take care of us! Second, we are disobeying God when we don’t trust him!

Jesus repeats the command three times: “Do not be anxious!

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