Series: Student Ministry: The Sermon on the Mount

You are headed back to class very soon. You will again be amid people that you both love to be around and hate to be around. School crams your dearest friends together with those who treat you the worst. It also has a way of either growing your faith in Christ or hurting it deeply. Sadly, most of the time it is the latter. Most of the time teenagers find great struggle with their faith in school. A conglomeration of things happen. For one, it is very easy to just do what everyone else is doing. Therefore choosing wise friends is crucial for anyone. It is also difficult because we tend to think that we can do things on our own. It is this latter point that we will focus on today.

You are sinful people and need divine help to treat others well.

This is all given in the context of right actions toward others. Jesus doesn’t imagine there being a separation between right worship of God and the way a person treats others. He reveals this to be more like a right angle. If the relationship with God is going well then the relationship with those around us will go well too. And here, Jesus reveals to us that we need God’s aid in order to treat others as we should.

You are sinful people and need divine help to treat others well.

We Judge Ourselves and See That We Are Sinful (Matthew 7:5-6)

We discussed this passage last week. It is a big part of understanding the message that follows. Jesus here discussed proper and improper judging of others. If you will remember last week, we said that a person will judge others rightly when he seems himself as sinful.

The fact is, right judgment of ourselves causes us to see our own shortcomings. We see that we ourselves are fallen and sinful creatures who tend to judge others wrongly. We hypocritically judge the sin of others while ignoring our own (Matthew 7:6). But this is not what we ought to do.

The non-Christian sees this in their self as well. It is not as if this is an idea foreign to lost people. They notice it about themselves all the time. The problem is their resolution of the problem rings hollow and is unachievable. I know a person who tries their hardest to live up to a standard like this. They listen to everyone’s viewpoint and all of a sudden, long after the fact, blast people or their views in a very unloving manner causing people much harm. The fact is, this is an unlivable position. This is also why the people who claim to be live and let live in our society seem to be just as judgmental as anyone else in society. It is not possible for people to live that way.

The sermon on the Mount reveals to us our intense fallenness. We cannot treat people as we should without divine aid. Without God’s help, it is not possible for me to treat my fellow man as I ought. This is why people are so crummy to one another so very often, and it is also why no one acts perfectly toward their fellow man all the time. We need help. An example of this came to my attention on a Facebook comment. A person stated that they believed that the open internet would bring people together as they got to see people different than them online. But, they lamented that rather than bringing people together it seems to have torn people apart. Well, as a Christian, I can say that I knew that the internet would not bring people together. We are sinful and in need of divine aid. Jesus has told us that we are fallen and because of that we act terribly toward other people and are in need of God’s aid to treat people well.

Christian, examine your own life honestly. Look at your moral failings and breathe them in before you go to school. Examine how short you fall of God’s standard before walking into class. It will do you some good. We tend to write off our failures as insignificant, but don’t do that. See your failures and understand that you need God’s aid to live well this school year and really throughout the rest of your life.

We Are In Need Of Divine Aid And Need Only Ask (Matthew 7:7-11)

Sandwiched right in between a discussion of our own shortcomings and right judgment and then the right treatment of others is Jesus telling us to ask and it will be given to us. What is this passage about?

Jesus is saying that if you are going to live the life that you are called to live then you need God’s aid in doing so. And the really encouraging thing is that these are good gifts, and God is a good and gracious Father who will supply us with good gifts, but we must ask.

Jesus here tells his hearers

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

Matthew 7:7-8 ESV

Commenting on this text in his Expositor’s Bible Commentary, D.A. Carson stated that

“Far too often Christians do not have the marks of richly textured discipleship because they do not ask, or they ask with selfish motives.”

D. A. Carson, taken from Expositor’s Bible Commentary

How is it that a person is going to judge rightly? How is it that a person is going to treat others as they ought? By asking God for the grace to do it. God must supply our need. And the encouraging thing is that God is a good and loving Father who is totally willing to give these good gifts to his children.

Notice what Jesus says here. What father would give his child a stone instead of bread or snakes to eat instead of fish. These are things that would be considered horrible substitutes of the thing asked. Bread in this time and place was usually backed flat and looked like a stone. What father would place in front of his child this fake bread when the child asked for real bread? Snakes were something that could be found in the water much like fish. What father would lay snakes down on the plate for the child to eat when they wanted and needed fish? The answer is that it would not happen. Then Jesus gets to his point. He was fond of using an argument of lesser to greater. If you father here on earth (the lesser) would not do these things, then how much better will your Father in Heaven (greater) treat you when you ask. In other words, how much greater can you expect your Father in Heaven to treat you?

Ask. Do you desire to live a godly life? Ask God to provide you with the necessary love, patience, mercy to do so. God will give to you what you need. Sometimes my children ask for something they do not need because they don’t know any better. It is the same way with God. Ask God, he will give to you what you need. And don’t just ask once and forget it. Ask, seek, knock is the progression of someone insistent on getting what he needs. This is not the description of a person half heartedly wanting to do something. This person longs for God’s aid.

The Christian living in his own strength is not going to live a godly life. He may think that he is doing so, but he will judge people wrongly and treat them in ways that he should not. Christians must live in dependence upon God, asking him for divine aid and God is gracious to answer that request. In and of ourselves, there is nothing special. Christ has made us holy. We did not make ourselves holy. God is transforming us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot do that. And Christ here reminds us that we are sinners in rebellion against God and, even though we are redeemed and being molded into the likeness of Christ, we need divine aid to live as we ought with the people around us. We need God’s aid if we are going to treat those around us well.

As G. Campbell Morgan said in commenting on this text,

“We must live near God if we would live in right relationship with our fellow men.” – G. Campbell Morgan

G. Campbell Morgan taken from The Gospel According to Matthew

So, how is it that we are to behave toward our fellow human beings?

When Empowered By God’s Grace We Can Treat Others The Way We Ought (Matthew 7:12)

The way we are to treat our fellow human beings is not that difficult to ascertain. It is quite simple and is likely something that you have heard stated over and over.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 7:12 ESV

The Golden Rule is how we should treat others. Jesus did not invent the Golden Rule, but he was the first person to state it positively. Before Jesus it was “don’t do to others what you would not want done to yourself”. That is the rule that we give to children. I have said, “If you don’t want people to hit you then don’t hit them”, countless times. And, the point is well received. But in framing it positively Jesus makes this rule more applicable to every situation in life. So, now there is a positive goal to be met in every interaction with others. Treat these people the way that you would want to be treated.

This sounds easy, it truly does. Yet, when you start considering what this means you begin to understand just how impossible this is to do. If you want to be treated with kindness then you should treat other people with kindness. It is not easy to always be kind and respectful to other people. Quickly imagine your first day of school and it becomes rather obvious that this is yet another standard that we don’t meet. God’s standard for us, and the fulfillment of the Second Table of the Law is to treat other people how we want to be treated. We know how other people should be treated already, if only we treated others how we want to be treated then we would fulfill those obligations. The problem is that we can’t meet his demand.

Because we can’t meet this demand, this Law does something to us. It causes us to once again see our need for the Savior. We once again see and understand how incredibly miserably we fall short of God’s standard. It drives us to the cross where the perfect Son of God laid down his life in the place of sinners. And those who see their sinfulness and trust in the one who accomplished salvation for people will be redeemed. And this redemption moves us to live holy lives, treating people with honor and respect. This redemption does not make us perfect, but God supplies divine aid to the endeavor.

R. Dwain Minor