Friday, August 7, 2009

Words of Life

This past Sunday, I began a new series of messages based on Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount," found in Matthew 5-7. 1 As someone who's grown up in the church, served as a church secretary, youth & children's minister, preacher/pastor, led worship, led bible studies, written devotions, sermons, meditations, and term papers about biblical issues, personally encouraged people to align themselves with God's word, and regularly studies the Bible, you might think that I rarely encounter passages that cause me to rethink my lifestyle at this point. Let me state emphatically, clearly, and unambiguously, for those of you who might make such an assumption, that nothing could be further from the truth. The more I encounter God's word, the more I discover things about my life that need to change. I've talked to aged saints who would say the same. And, I believe that Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" is one of the most universally challenging passages in the Bible.

In this passage, as Jesus teaches his new followers, he raises the standard of righteousness from the keeping of a list of contingent rules to an attitude of full devotion to God at the level of the heart, mind, soul, and body. And, as he applies that attitude to various situations in which we might find ourselves, it becomes quite clear, that we all have a long way to go. If you think you've arrived in regard to righteousness, you probably haven't.

I was told by a listener, that they were distracted on Sunday, when I asked the audience to read Jesus' words from a Bible, rather than simply listen to me as I read it. They were distracted from my words, because they enjoyed reading the words on the page of the Bible. My response was, "Good. I've accomplished my goal." My desire, as a "preacher" is to help people hear what God has communicated in his Word, because His words are what really matters.

In John 6:66 we read that many of Jesus followers began to desert him, because his teaching was esoteric. Indeed, Jesus words in this passage must have been a little disconcerting to the original listeners. So, Jesus, speaking to this situation, poses the following question to his close followers--the twelve--, "Do you want to leave me too?" Peter's response is something that resonates in my heart. I desire that all of us, as Jesus' followers, would get the point where we too can say, in response to Jesus' words, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

So this Sunday, as I preach, if I find my Safeharbor friends with their heads down, and their Bibles open, please know that I have accomplished my goal. For they are encountering Jesus' words--challenging words, inspiring words, words of hope, words of LIFE.

1. Jesus preaches this message from the side of a mountain (or hill). The traditional site is thought to be near the town of Capernaum, by the Sea of Gallilee.


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