I suppose the aim of every Christian is to build on solid rock, according to Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27) (ESV).
This scripture challenges, though quite awakening to those sincere in desiring to avoid deception. The problem with tradition is that it provides innocence, comfort and justified feeling, even when in error. Careful analysis of the Sermon on the Mount reveals rampant deception across Christianity. The following are areas where deception can be exposed:
Matthew 5:3“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (ESV). Luke’s version phrased it differently: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20) (ESV). Apparently, in this instance, Matthew had it accurately reported. Luke’s version can easily be translated to mean that all poor people will be in God’s Kingdom. But, obviously, that cannot be true. Being in God’s Kingdom requires the condition of the heart, not necessarily the state of being in poverty.
The poor in spirit are those acknowledging their spiritual inadequacy, being willing to examine all things and holding fast to that which would be truthful (Thessalonians 5:21). The one who is rich in spirit has got no time for that. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were the typical example of the rich in spirit.
Even today, traditional Christians suppose they are rich, as implied by John: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17) (ESV). According to Jesus, such people cannot be in God’s Kingdom.
Matthew 5:4-9: These people are identified with the wise people shown in Ecclesiastes 7:1-14. They seek to add value on other people, more than they think of their own welfare and comfort. Their primary aim is to seek to please God more than receiving respect from human beings. These people are free to associate with anyone, especially the despised, regardless of the opinions of other people. They differ from ordinary Christians, and are mostly categorized with heretics.
False Christians view God as loving them more than those considered as heretics, as they compare themselves favorably against other Christians, due to their focus on Law-keeping. False teachers may also use prosperity as proof of being God’s favorites. The deception is in that it generally feels good to be associated with traditional Christianity. The difference between the two is in that false Christians display benefits accruing to themselves; yet with true Christians, it is the other people who testify to having benefited from true Christians.
Matthew 5:10-12: Christ reveals that persecution may be the only sign that Christians have a part in God’s Kingdom. True Christians are persecuted, mostly, as a result of their association with despised people. The world may not readily identify true Christians. These are different from false Christians who are viewed as acceptable and receiving praises and respect, in abundance, from ordinary people and even from government quarters. True Christians are not on display, as to be identified easily. They are pleasers of God, rather than pleasers of men.
However, this is not suggesting unwise stirring of trouble, to then interpret that as being persecution referred to by Jesus. The key lies in verse 11: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my behalf” (ESV).
Matthew 5:13-16: Being the light and salt of the earth means representing benefits that promote good livelihood to humanity, thereby influencing promotion of justice and good behavior among all people. True Christians manifest principles of God’s Kingdom, wherever they are, but without publicity. False Christians interpret this scripture for self beneficiation, seeking to receive credits for whatever good results, instead of ensuring that God is accorded due glory.
What eludes many people is that Satan’s agents are very good at advertising themselves. This is why they get honored, even with responsibility of representing Christianity, as compared with the unheralded true Christians.
Matthew 5:17-20: Christ is the centre of God’s law, and He came to fulfill it. True Christians look to Jesus and apply everything Jesus taught, than trying to keep those laws according to Moses.False Christians would maintain that because God came to fulfill the law, anyone not keeping the Law of Moses is therefore not a good Christian. They focus on Law-keeping, rather than Jesus.
However, true Christians acknowledge Christ as Lord, and seek to obey everything taught by Him. Only Jesus is the faithful law-keeper. The humble believer simply remains in state of awareness of being sinner, appreciating free grace. Through that repentant sinner, Christ accomplishes all that the Law requires.
Matthew 5:21-48: These verses show exactly how the law of God is applied as compared with the Law of Moses. The emphasis is on loving and praying for one’s enemies, instead of seeking retaliation. True Christians do not regard anyone as enemy, regardless of unacceptable behavior by those who persecute them. The instruction to love enemies is a command that, when applied wholeheartedly, it restores relationships.
Persecutors may not understand true Christians, who seek to engage persecutors peacefully, without consideration of wrong conduct. The tactful engagement leads to understanding and restored relationships. The two principles that are diametrical opposites manifest, either in blaming others for wrongs, or taking responsibility to address wrongs. We are God’s Children when taking responsibility to address wrongs. We belong to Satan when in business of blaming others (Revelation 12:10).
These are grandly violated scriptures, as far as Christianity is concerned, as manifested in Christian denominationalism. If applied adequately, then the Kingdom of God becomes dominant among Christians. However, Christianity is characterized with justification after justification, violating each and every one of these scriptures. The blame-game that started with Adam, against his wife, after they had both taken a wrong tree is rooted, even among traditional Christians.
Matthew 6:1-18: Jesus invalidates all forms of hypocrisy, enabling the establishment of God’s Kingdom, on this earth. Prayer is removed from attachment to personal glory and manipulation of God to fulfill one’s personal desires. Instead, prayer is used as granting God license, or permission to use the petitioner, in advancing God’s Kingdom. The principle of giving is no longer done in order to receive accolades from other people. Nothing is done for purposes of show-off.
Fasting is for the purpose of submission to God’s Kingdom, rather than accomplishment of physical desires. False Christians use prayer and fasting as tools to receive praises, respect and honor from ordinary people. Because of sufficient publicity, false Christians receive abundant honor from ordinary people. Christ says their rewards end with such public approval.
Matthew 6:19-34: Humanly speaking, these instructions can be regarded as inapplicable. However, through the provision of prayer and fasting, according to Jesus’ recommendations, one develops true faith and acquires the principle of totally relying on God. This is the time that a true Christian experiences freedom, removing all forms of fear and anxiety. False Christians, instead, stumble on any of these scriptures, treating them as if they do not exist in the Bible.
The only record we have in the Bible, where God’s Kingdom was probably practiced in full scale is in Acts 4:32-37. This was before the persecution that eventually left the early church in disarray. Most Christians today view Christianity as something to do, for lack of something else to occupy one with. Multitudes subscribe to Christianity, but, very few practice what Jesus taught. Totally relying on God’s will, as compared with focusing on concern for self, are two forces that make a difference between true and false Christianity. (See personal salvation vs. God’s Kingdom).
Matthew 7:1-6: So far, I suppose many Christians do realize that the bar of Christianity appears as unachievable to ordinary people. The question is; do we still have true Christians up to this point, or not? The beginning verses of Matthew 7 disqualify anyone sitting in the business of judging other people. Each individual Christian is expected to take introspection and do something about obeying the instructions of Jesus. There is no two ways about it. Either one is a Christian, guided by Christ’s teachings or a pretender, manipulated by Satan.
False Christians are in business of evaluating how other Christians practice Christianity and yet Christ says judging is not the business of a true Christian. The significance of what Jesus taught is that a Christian makes a difference in other people’s lives, rather than condemning them. We are all sinners, falling short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). What Jesus taught should be taken as Law.
I suppose we have, indeed, learnt that Christianity is not a part-time business, but a full time commitment, as eliminating all other concerns. God loves us as much as to pilot us through all obstacles, as long as we submit and obey everything He taught. There is nothing difficult about Christianity, as it is the business of the one who initiated it—Jesus Christ.
Matthew 7:7-11: Right from the beginning we observed the gradient of Christianity being raised from bottom up, higher and higher. At this stage Jesus Christ assures true Christians that Jesus always avails necessary provisions, as long as we ask, according to our requirements.
Jesus expects Christians who ask, to show commitment to what is intended, as long as the project fulfills God’s will. The wishes and desires of true Christians ought to be intertwined with God’s will, as such a person thinks like God.
Why is it necessary to ask, when Jesus says He knows all our needs before we ask? (Matthew 6:8). Having moved away from physical concerns of the flesh, a bona fide Christian is now operating on spiritual realm. The new levels of concern facing God’s child are different from personal desires of the past.
This is where Christ gives an assurance that a newly begotten child of God should not be concerned with things that might be logically unachievable. With God nothing is impossible.
Christ cannot do anything, without our permission. We display willingness to be used by God when taking initiative to do anything that advances God’s Kingdom. It has never been God’s intention to use Christians as if they are robots. They are free moral agents, taking full responsibility on what they would have thought through, in advancing God’s Kingdom.
At this level, a Christian understands the need to establish God’s Kingdom in one’s area. But, with human limitations, asking becomes very necessary for God’s supernatural intervention. God uses that Christian to accomplish His work.
God is the one doing those things, but following behind the petitioner. We can achieve anything, when asking anything to do with advancement of God’s Kingdom. This is why Jesus is everything to a Christian. Without Christ a Christian cannot achieve anything.
Matthew 7:12-14: At this level, true love begins to manifest, among true Christians. Depending on the calling and spiritual gifts; other people begin to benefit from the spiritual gifts of the truly converted Christians. The person is now living like Jesus, whose occupation was to serve other people, because He considered them as if they were Him.
Every city where Jesus went, people flocked around, listening to Him speaking, or healing their infirmities. In His three and a half year ministry, Jesus practiced the golden rule in full measure. There was no doubt about people benefiting from His works. One cannot practice the golden rule, yet without anyone benefiting from such activities.
Matthew 7:15-20: Why did Jesus give warning against false prophets? Satan employs false prophets, whose mission is to thwart the advancement of God’s Kingdom. His warfare is not by inflicting injury against God’s children. He simply uses deception, which he knows to be winnable with humans. This is why it is always necessary to pray without ceasing. It is impossible to deceive God’s child, when attached to Jesus, who defeated Satan.
One of the prime methods that Satan uses to deceive humanity are miracles (Matthew 24:24). To remain focused, one needs to be guided by the words of Jesus, more than being fascinated by miracle performances. However, a true Christian ceases to be fascinated by miracles at conversion.
Matthew 7:21-23: Indeed, when one considers everything that Jesus taught at the Sermon on the Mount, it is easy to notice why there would be many disappointed people at His second-coming. The point of departure lies, especially, in inability to avoid the trap of show-off, when doing things in order to be seen by men. Remember, Christ kept repeating words like: “they have received their reward” when referring to pretenders.
The things we do for God do not need Curriculum Vitae. It is either we receive honor in this world, or we receive honor at Christ’s second-coming. If Christ did not receive honor, but crucifixion; why would anyone anticipate receiving honor for doing God’s work, if a Christian? This highlights the inability to see the difference that causes deception among God’s people.
Matthew 7:24-28: Then Jesus closes by showing how significant the things He taught were. Indeed, He spoke as one with authority. He remains to be the only authority on human survival, though being ignored by most people. I hope readers use the Sermon on the Mount as standard to recommit themselves to Christian practice. The real problem is on inability to distinguish differences between relying on God’s will, as compared with concerns for self. The two opposing forces that make a difference in practicing either true or false Christianity are self-centredness and altruism.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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