Through the Bible in a Year – June 22

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Ki 5-6; Mat 6; Psalm 69

As we have been exploring, there is a brand of what passes for Christianity, that pays little or no heed to the actual words of Jesus. To an extent we are all guilty of this. Certainly it is not too much to say that if the vast majority of Christians strove to be obedient to the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, the church would look somewhat different to how it looks.

Think for example about the exhortations to acts of piety done in private, and then consider the walls of so many churches festooned in plaques celebrating wealthy benefactors. ‘Truly I tell you, they have received their reward” How often do we make so much in public of such acts, showing that as a church we have the same mindset whether as donors or recipients.

And then of course, the command ‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth!’ But do we as Christians disengage from the mania with acquisitiveness with which the world is being slowly destroyed? The accumulation of those things we can see, that tempt the eye and thus reveal the covetousness of our hearts and our lack of desire for God.

Take no thought for what you eat or wear . . . I could go on

So often it seems in the West in particular the Church is up in arms about people’s ‘lifestyles’, ften in regard about which our Lord says nothing – yet when it comes to the plain commands of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (and elsewhere) we merge into the background and become indistinguishable from our surroundings.

As we shall see, the consequences of disobedience are great – but we don’t seem to believe this.

Through the Bible in a Year – June 21

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Ki 3-4; Mat 5; Psalm 68

Yesterday we thought about how the humanity of Jesus is revelaed in his being tempted, but better understood as his being a child of God.

Now we enter the territory of the Sermon on the Mount. Contrary to many, we need to realise, this is meant to be lived. We are to be poor in spirit – humble – mourners (how can we be otherwise as we see the world in which we live?) – to be meek (gentle in the strength that comes from above) – hungry for God’s Life – merciful – pure in heart – peacemakers – and thus persecuted.

The last beatitude is the one which really makes such an impression on our mind. To be frank why would anyone persecute a Christian. Yes we see how our brethren are actively persecuted in so many parts of the world – but in the West as Christians we long ago made our peace with the surrounding culture. And in the West we have largely sought to avoid concrete obedience to the teaching of Jesus. We have separated our lives out – the spiritual, a sort of message, or a set of feelings -and the material, where we live lives that are no different to those amongst whom we live and a thousand miles away from the life revealed to us in the Sermon.

Ultimately this disconnect is an abandonment of Christ. He is our teacher – we are told to follow him. The Sermon is nothing less than the description of the life of a disciple, but we have chosen the easy course and so books abound on how we must not take the Sermon seriously. It is we are told ‘about the age to come’. BUT in Christ the age to come has dawned. The call to truly repentant lives has been proclaimed – the highway has been made straight. It is not complicated, obedience to Jesus. It is tough, but not complicated. We have created a false gospel, which requires no response on our part, it is a thing that is almost impossible to communicate to others, for it is so complex. But it is much much easier than obedience to Jesus.

From Ghandi, to many indigenous people’s to whom the gospel came – the disconnect between our lives and the teaching of Jesus is plain. We struggle to know how to communicate the gospel?? The answer Jesus gives us is plain – Live it. Of course then that final Beatitude may well become true for you also – but as Jesus says, that is a matter for rejoicing, no?

Through the Bible in a Year – May 21st

The scheme for May – June can be found here

1 Sa 12-13; Heb 12-13; Psalm 30

As we have seen, the letter to the Hebrews is most strange to our ears. We rarely if ever hear preaching based on it – and that is our loss. For it is deep and rich scripture. In places terrifying, challenging, but also immensely practical.

Here in Chapter 13 we find immensely rich council for the people of God. ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers . . .’ How much of our Christian life is lived in direct contradiction to the teaching of Jesus – ‘when you throw a feast, do not invite your friends . . .’ [It is interesting to note that one of the top hits on Luke 14:12-14 is entitled ‘What does it mean?’, when the meaning is as plain as day]

Christian Life is only Christian life as it takes for its sole point of reference the Life of Jesus. The one who loves his enemies and dies for those who hate him. The one who comes into the world as a stranger. How often have we thrown parties for those who cannot pay us back, those we do not know, those we invite not because we know they will charm our table, but because we who have no charm to speak of have been fed at his? Who do we invite to sit and eat at our table??