The Kingdom of Heaven: Put Away Lust

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

Matthew 5:27-30

If you hate someone, you’ve as good as broken the 6th commandment: “You shall not murder.” So we discovered in the last post.

Now Jesus looks at the 7th commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”

And once again, He strikes at the root of the law.

It’s not just the physical act of adultery that God condemns. It’s the thoughts, the desires, the lust that precede the action – even if the action never happens. Continue reading


The Kingdom of Heaven: Thou Shalt Not Be Angry

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

Matthew 5:21-26, NKJV

It’s easy to point fingers at the “big sins.” Murderers, rapists, robbers, scandalous tax collectors – they’re all the bad guys who deserve God’s wrath.

But what’s this that Jesus is saying?

Yes, murder is bad. And whoever murders will face judgment.

But guess what? Being angry at someone for no reason is right up there with murder! Continue reading

The Kingdom of Heaven: The Law Fulfilled

“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

(Matthew 5:17-20, NKJV)

This can be somewhat of a controversial passage, particularly in debates over the role of the Old Testament Law in the New Testament era. My own opinion has changed multiple times over the years, so rather than take this opportunity to share a shifting opinion, I want to focus on how the original hearers would have heard and understood it.

Because that’s my goal with this series anyway. We’re putting ourselves in the shoes of a first-century Jew who is being introduced to Jesus through the Gospel of Matthew. If we were that Jew, how would we understand this portion of the Sermon on the Mount? And how does it relate to what comes before and after it, in context? Continue reading

The Kingdom of Heaven: Light in the Darkness

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

(Matt. 5:13-16)

This passage comes right on the heels of “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you.”

I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

It’s often easy for us – especially if we’ve grown up in the church and are already familiar with a passage, to accept the separations of chapters and verses and miss the broader context and flow of meaning. But Jesus’ sermon wasn’t a random hodge-podge of various topics.

So why did He go from a discourse on the blessings of persecution to suddenly talking metaphors of light and dark? Continue reading

The Kingdom of Heaven: Intro

A few months back, I wrote a post on what the Gospel is not.

Now I want to focus on what the Gospel is.

When Jesus was here, what did He preach? When He spoke of a Kingdom of Heaven, what did He mean?

In an effort to answer these questions, I will be doing a series of blog posts on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew.

Before we begin, let’s first try to take off our religious glasses and preconceptions and try to focus only on what Jesus actually did and said. Because if we’re Christians (Christ-followers), then we need to know how to follow Christ: what that means, and what that looks like. Continue reading