Last year my church asked me to put together small group study material based on the words of Jesus from the book of Matthew. For reasons beyond my control the course was interrupted and the lessons were never completed. It has been my ongoing desire to finish my part of the project and, if sufficient interest warrants it, perhaps some day publish it. The lessons were called “Red Letters from Mathew.” If the readers of this blog indicate interest in having a Bible study of this nature, I will attempt to finish the course and make it available here. Part of the introduction follows.

 

RED LETTERS FROM MATTHEW

 

     

INTRODUCTION

The general human failing is to want what is right and important, but at the same time not commit to the kind of life that will produce the action that we know to be right and the condition that we want to enjoy. This is the feature of human character that explains why the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Dallas Willard

 

The disciplined life will cost us, But, ..the undisciplined life will cost us far more, now and forever.

Cornelius Platanga Jr. in Christianity Today Sept. 2006

 

If you want a different perspective on life, pick up any copy of a red letter Bible and read the words of Jesus. Almost everything he had to say runs counter to the prevailing wisdom of our day. Jesus came to this earth as a king but said his was not an earthly kingdom. Instead of laws, the heavenly kingdom is governed by principles: principles, totally radical from our typical perspectives. The most successful in the kingdom of Jesus are the most humble among us. Instead of taking up arms and crusading against the evils of the day, Jesus said his purposes would be realized when people took up a cross and followed him in a life of self denial.

 

During his lifetime, Jesus had no halls or buildings dedicated, or set aside for his use. The one who had ‘no place to lay his head’ used whatever was available to him. The lack of dedicated facilities never stopped the messiah from disseminating his words to his followers. When he needed an oratory hall he used a mountain. A big rock became the throne on which ‘he sat down’ and from which he taught the first principles of his kingship.

 

Our Christ came to this earth for the purpose of ‘fulfilling the law,’ and forever putting it away. In the Old Testament, the book of Deuteronomy is the mountaintop farewell address of Moses. In some of the closing scenes of that book, Moses divides the people into two groups and places them on two mountains. He calls the one mountain the ‘mountain of blessing;’ the other one the ‘mountain of curses.’ He then proceeds to enunciate a long list of curses that would be placed on the people if they broke the covenant that they had newly made with their God. One of those curses is found in Deut. 21:23 “anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse.”

 

In the discourse before us, all the followers of Jesus are on the same mountain; the mountain of cursing has disappeared; only one mountain is left. For the Christian, Golgotha was our mountain of curses. There, the sinless one took on himself all the curses of the law, ‘hung on a tree,’ and once and for all, fulfilled all the demands of the law and left us who pledge allegiance to the new covenant with only one mountain; the mount ‘of the beatitudes,’ the mountain of blessing.

 

How do the subjects of this new kingdom live?

 

They live a life where ‘thoughts and intents of the heart’ are more important than actions, because all actions spring from those intentions. The principles of the new kingdom makes the hater as guilty as the murderer; the lustful as vile as the adulterer. Under this new regime, even ‘worrying’ is outside the bounds Christian propriety, and age-old virtues of fasting, praying, and giving to the needy can be improperly done. They live under a new standard that ‘raises the bar’ so high that only those who are forgiven by God’s grace can ever be ‘redeemed from the curse,’ and live in the freedom of His blessing.

 

Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

to the house of the God of Jacob.

He will teach us His ways

so that we may walk in His paths.

Micah 4:2 (NIV)

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