Be careful not to do your works of righteousness before men, to be seen by them.
If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. – Jesus (Mt. 6:1)
The reward from the Father is being like the Father:
- God is love.
- You are made in the image of God.
- Jesus says we should grow up into this (be teleios like your Father, Matthew 5:48.)
- The love you were designed to embody is currently less mature and developed than it can be.
- Will you trust Jesus to develop that love in you?
The Sermon on the Mount has a pattern. When we learn the pattern we are better able to keep the ideas before our minds. As we keep the ideas before us, we make choices that lead us in the ways Christ directs. To use the image Christ uses at the end of his sermon we take in his truths like a foundation that we build on with actions. The wise one does this and is strong when the storms come.
What should we aim for?
I will give a list of ideas for specific goals to set. I realize that the ideas of setting goals in church is uncomfortable for some. There is the concern about legalism on one hand, but there can also be a general feeling of discomfort at feeling pressure. This brief article ends with reassurances about the grace focus in these goals. The ideas I list are meant to help us develop and display the grace we have been given.
We will also invite everyone meeting together at 17th Street to share more ideas. The inescapable truth is that we are expected to build on what Jesus says. Together we can encourage one in another in the practical steps of hearing and obeying with hope.
1. Memorize the 8 beatitudes (Mt. 5:3-10).
2. Memorize Matthew 5:48 & 6:1 to separate the vision of maturity (what should be) and the way toward maturity (how to go for it).
The vision beatitudes are positive (persecuted for righteousness, peacemakers, pure in heart, merciful). The disciplines sound more negative (poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hunger for righteousness).
3. Learn how to connect the 8 beatitudes into 4 pairs.
Start by pairing the first and the last beatitudes, both of which end with “for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven”. Work toward the middle by forming pairs. This is what you end up with:
- merciful – hunger for righteousness – Sacrificial giving extends love.
- pure in heart – meek – Humble prayer deepens integrity.
- peacemakers – mourn – Penitent fasting removes pride.
- persecuted for righteousness – poor in spirit – Trusting God helps us treasure wisely.
4. Identify 3 practical concerns Jesus answers at the conclusion of the message.
- Physical? Mt. 6:25-34
- Relational? Mt. 7:1-12
- Spiritual? Mt. 7:13-23
5. Pray and journal a commitment to hear and obey (Mt. 5:24-28).
The goal is character built on Jesus and his teachings. The goals listed above are ways to help us intentionally pursue our ultimate goal. As Dallas Willard says, grace is opposed to earning but it is not opposed to effort. The apostles Peter & Paul says it this way:
His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. – 2 Peter 1:3-9
Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. – Philippians 2:12,13