Recently, I referenced the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount for a Facebook posting.
Matthew 5-7 gives us Jesus’ teachings as a code of ethics for the disciples and a standard of behavior for those who believe that Jesus is their Savior.
When you read those chapters, you will undoubtedly notice that they are stated pretty cut and dried concerning the expectations of the followers of Jesus. They are not given to us with a multiple-choice type of submission. They are stated in a matter-of-fact, do-this-if-you-are-believers, way. They do not give us an either/or choice to pick and choose those we want to follow if they give us warm fuzzies in our heart. Another version of this sermon can also be found in Luke 6:17-26.
When I study a portion of Scripture, I like to read that passage in various translations and I have discovered that I really like the instructive way these passages are translated for The Message Bible. If you’re able, I encourage you to read that version for your personal study. (Those who have access to the Internet can find The Message on biblegateway.com.) As I studied the way Matthew stated the Beatitudes, for example, and compared it to the Luke passages, I found that it is apparent that Matthew adhered to the Old Testament expectations of God’s people who were implored to commit themselves to the Covenant. Luke, on the other hand, seems to present a New Testament point of view. Recognize that you are a sinner, ask for forgiveness, and then accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, pick up your cross, and follow him.
Try to picture the area where Jesus gave these teachings. The scene was near the Sea of Galilee, basically an amphitheater, where his words would have resonated for all to hear. In today’s world we have all manner of technology that makes it possible for the Gospel message to be amplified and heard by all. Now, just as then, there are many who hear the message but turn it off and go back to their homes to continue living their lives with no thought of how great a change following Jesus’ teachings would make in their lives.
Some of those folks in today’s world have just heard the Gospel messages of the birth of Jesus. Along the way they’re heard John 3:16-17 and have chosen to believe that those words are very nice, but God wasn’t talking to them. Again I make reference to The Message where those verses state: “This is how much God loved the world: he gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.”
Even though the majority of us know and love those verses in the King James’ or NIV translations, I challenge you to reread them as stated above and to share The Message translation with those who are uncommitted so that their lives may be transformed by the unconditional love of God.
You have been blessed to be a blessings to others. Make this New Year count for the Kingdom of God. Happy New Year!
The writer is the pastor of Pastoral Care & Visitation at the Sidney First United Methodist Church.