*What usually happens to those who really practice Christianity?
*The approval of men – How does one get it?
*Human behavior – What does it really depict?
*How can true righteousness be achieved?
*What is the only goal of lasting value?
Jesus spoke about the principles covered in the Sermon on the Mount on various occasions. Let us notice certain additional principles that are not specifically mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount beginning in Luke, chapter six, with what could be called the Sermon on the Plain. In Luke 6:22 Jesus stated, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.” People who are persecuted generally do not feel blessed at the time of the persecution. So, what Jesus is referring to is the end result of being faithful to God-the rewards that will follow. One who really begins to live the truth of God will surely find persecution and rejection by associates or friends and family. This is an undeniable fact. Yet, Jesus said, “Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke 6:23). These who will be rewarded are those who have been willing to give up everything for God’s way of life. But what about those who give up nothing? They are mentioned in verse twenty-four. “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.” The only reward the rich receive is what they get out of this physical life. “Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:25-26). So, there are those who give up everything and those who give up nothing. To be accepted in this world means rejecting the truth of God. It means to cherish all that this world offers-the physical amenities and approbation of men.
The truth of the matter is: We reap what we sow. A reflection of the Sermon on the Mount, as mentioned in Luke 6:36-38, tells us that mercy will lead to mercy, fair judgment will lead to fair judgment, condemnation will lead to condemnation, forgiveness will lead to forgiveness, and giving will lead to receiving. Doing good to those who do good to you is no different in behavior than any other sinner (v. 33). There is little value to that. Lending to those who lend to you falls in the same category (v. 34). It is useless. Giving and lending to one’s enemy, not expecting any return, is where the true rewards lie (v. 35). God is kind to both the good and evil (v. 35). As God is merciful, so should we be merciful (v. 36). We should try to do as God does.
Jesus talked about fruits in the Sermon on the Mount. Notice what He said in Luke 6:43-44. “For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.” Jesus is saying there cannot be a dichotomy between what one professes and what one practices. This is just as true of one’s speech. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45). A man’s speech will eventually tell what kind of a man he is, no matter how he may appear. Behavior is not the result of an accident; it is the revelation of the innermost motives of the heart and mind.
So, what is true righteousness?
True righteousness means to love one’s enemies. It means to do good to those who hate you. It means to bless those who curse you. It means to pray for those who mistreat or abuse you. It means not to retaliate. It means to give freely. It means to treat others the way you would like to be treated. These are the principles Jesus expounded in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere in the Gospels. How much do we live up to these principles? The degree by which we do reveals the extent to which we really practice true Christianity. True righteousness cannot come about by human effort. It requires the power of the Holy Spirit. It requires putting down the pulls of the flesh. Then, and only then, can one begin to live the principles of love enumerated above.
Apart from what was said in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught many other principles. One of these teachings is found in Luke 7:36-50. It is very moving.
And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment (vv. 36-38).
Why did this woman do this? She did this for at least two reasons. She knew what she was and she knew Who Jesus was. She knew He was the Son of God. And she knew she needed God’s forgiveness and mercy. But, what did the Pharisee know and how did he react? “Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner” (v. 39). Jesus knew what the Pharisee was thinking, so He explained something.
And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little (Luke 7:40-47).
What did Jesus mean by this last statement?
What Jesus meant was that this woman was not forgiven because of her love. Rather, her love was the result of the forgiveness she received. Love and gratitude flow from forgiveness. Secondly, the majority of men do not recognize the depth of their sin. This Pharisee certainly didn’t. He had no concept of what the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was all about. The woman knew Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior of the world. The woman had deeply repented, and she received forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a matter of the depth of one’s sin; it is seeing and comprehending the need for repentance and the acceptance of the sacrifice of Christ made in payment for that sin. The woman may have had much to repent of, but she also repented much. Her love toward God and Christ flowed from the forgiveness that was granted her. “And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. . . . Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:48-50).
A teaching of Christ that is informative is found in Matthew, chapter eleven. Jesus, talking about John the Baptist, said
. . . What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he (Matt. 11:7-11).
John performed no miracles, yet his mission was so profound he is called the greatest of the prophets. Why? Because he was responsible for preparing the nation to receive the Messiah. He was the forerunner of Christ; he ushered in an entirely new era. Yet, Jesus said, even John the Baptist should be regarded lower than the least in the Kingdom of God. What was Jesus saying? He was showing the importance of the Kingdom of God-the only goal in life that is of any lasting value. Jesus went on to say, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:12).
What did Jesus mean by this?
John ushered in the beginning of the spiritual dispensation. The physical dispensation would no longer carry any weight. The problem with the Jewish religious leaders was that they could not accept the fact that complete truth was to be found beyond what was in the Law and the Prophets. They assumed the revelation from God ended with the Hebrew Scriptures. They failed to realize the Law and the Prophets pointed to Christ. So, from the time John the Baptist ushered in the New Testament dispensation up to the moment Christ spoke, “the kingdom of God is gotten by men of driving force,” those who enter the Kingdom of God are men who see the value of the kingdom and strive to attain it. They make this the primary goal and aim of life. “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it” (Luke 16:16). For all the classes of men called to the truth of God, the aim and goal is no longer physical; it is to attain to the Kingdom of God. Paul urged the Christians in his day “. . . to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The Kingdom of God is gotten by men of driving force. “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall” (2 Pet. 1:10).
Jesus constantly taught the need to repent. In Matthew 4:17 we read, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” So, Jesus taught a message of repentance-coming to regret breaking God’s law, then turning around and going the other way. Later, He rebuked the cities who refused to repent.
Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee (Matt. 11:20-24).
There is a judgment coming for all men. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). When is that judgment? “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of [judgment]” (John 5:28-29). The judgment will be at the time of the Resurrection. The wise and prudent of this world failed to grasp the significance of Jesus’ presence, but babes in Christ understand (Matt. 11:25). Babes in Christ are the ones called of God and given spiritual understanding. Jesus came to reveal the Father; spiritual truth was not limited to the law and the prophets. Spiritual truth cannot be found in the wisdom of men. It comes by means of divine revelation.
Jesus assures us, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:27-30).
We can come to God through Christ in the assurance of His promises.