God has a plan and a purpose for our lives. He doesn't just create us and then leave us to our own resources. He is a good father. God uses the good days - and the bad days - to help move us to where we are supposed to be - the ultimate “God plan” for our lives. There IS a plan. It is a good plan. Are you tapping into the game plan that God has for you?
Do you have a plan in life? Most of us plan our educational path, our career path, we make family plans, house plans, yard plans, and on and on. However, we often don’t think about planning for our spiritual lives with God. Did you know God has a plan for you? Just as a coach challenges his team, Jesus challenges us with his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount regarding HIS plan for the Christian life. It is HIS plan for YOUR life.
God’s plan isn’t about “right” and “wrong” and a general behavior modification program as many believe. It is about internal, formational heart and soul changes. This isn’t about becoming “your best self” as pop culture would promote, but about becoming the you God created you to be - from the inside out. Ultimately that will provide the most joy, peace and happiness in life. In fact, Scripture tells us when we stay plugged “into the vine” (John 15), we are promised what is known as the “fruits of the spirit.” In Galatians 5:22-23 those fruits are laid out for us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Who doesn’t want those fruits in their lives? However, God’s plan does not mean it will always be easy and work out the way we expect. Doing all the exercises and putting in the hard work the coach requires is not easy either. But there is an ultimate goal and purpose. In the book of James we are told it will be hard to do life with God and with His plan for our lives. However, it is always for our ultimate best! Do you trust God with HIS plan for your life? Are you ready to seek--and live out--that plan with all your heart, mind, body and strength?
INVITATION: Why not study the teachings of Jesus about this “upside down kingdom”? Why not study HIS plan that can produce the fruits of the spirit? Are you ready to consider God’s plan as your plan? Are you ready to have the Holy Spirit “coach” you during your day in day out life? Are you willing to listen for his still, small voice?
MONDAY: Matthew 6:1-4: When you order your life around God, what is the true motivation in your heart? Is it truly for the love of God, or have other motives crept in? These verses deal with your heart stance toward giving. Are you giving to others for God, or are you doing it for human accolades, attention and approval? Perhaps you can begin to pray for a genuine heart this week. God is all about heart change, and only he can do it. Our own efforts in our own power will not elicit these internal changes God calls for.
TUESDAY: Matthew 6:5-15: Jesus next teaches about heart stance and genuineness regarding prayer. Then, he gives us a model for prayer in the “Our Father” or the “Lord’s Prayer.” Spend some time today thinking about the true meaning behind the words Jesus gave in this prayer. It wasn’t meant to be exact words to memorize and say here and there in a rote way. These words are meant to guide us and shape our hearts as we seek to live according to God’s plan while we are here on this earth. Consider taking this prayer into your day today, asking Jesus to have it permeate and resonate within you in a new and deep way. Does a particular word or phrase stand out for you? Ask God what that might mean.
WEDNESDAY: Matthew 6:9:13: Once again, we look at The Lord’s Prayer. Someone once approached an ancient teacher and asked her how to cultivate a deeper prayer life. “Say the Lord’s Prayer,” she replied, “but take an hour to say it.” Far from being a quick, rote form, this prayer Jesus taught us can become a life giving pattern for rich communion with God. Take some time today to slowly and meditatively pray the phrases of this prayer. Consider each clause an invitation to be specific and personal with Jesus. What invitations do you hear God speaking to you?
THURSDAY: Matthew 6:16-18: These verses deal with fasting and again teach about our true interior motives. Interesting, the verse says “WHEN you fast…” It seems to have an assumption that on the Christian life journey fasting will be a spiritual practice. Fasting can involve many areas of life other than just food. Has there ever been any kind of fasting in your spiritual life? Why or why not? Are you willing to ask God about this area of the Christian journey and what He might have for your life? Even if you have some resistance, ask God about that.
FRIDAY: Matthew 6:19-24: We all have the potential to do the right things for the wrong reasons. We all crave and long for recognition, appreciation, attention and approval. But God’s plan for our lives is to get up each day and live sacrificially FOR HIM and for HIS GLORY - - not for any man-made reason. No one can serve two “masters.” Is there a master in your life other than God? Is it motivating your life or somehow determining your value? Things the world sets up as ultimate goals eventually make cruel masters and enslave us. Think about it in your life. Do you and God need to “watch film” and have a new game plan together? Perhaps that “game film” is digging deep into your interior life, i.e. your motives and your heart stance. It never feels good to make big life and value changes initially, but ultimately your life will radiate the fruits of the spirit and you will live in freedom. Living for the benefit of Jesus and not the world is a game changer.
SATURDAY: Matthew: 6:25-34: Righteousness doesn’t come naturally or passively to us. We have to seek it. In fact, it is something we’re told to seek FIRST, along with God’s kingdom. What are your primary pursuits? What do you value most? What do you think about as you lie awake at night or drive down the road in the middle of the day? What aspects of your life occupies most of your energy? How does your life reflect your desire to seek God’s kingdom and experience his righteousness? Pastor Adam showed a film clip of a coach pushing an athlete beyond what he thought he could do. Keep going and going and going in this life. It's hard. This is NOT our permanent home. We are not made for this world. Keep going for Jesus. Keep going knowing there is an ultimate purpose and an ultimate plan.
We often carry around measuring sticks on our Christian journey. How good is good enough? What is the minimum amount we can give or do in order to be pleasing to God? Many of us subconsciously try to find the minimum acceptable standard in areas of our Christian life. Perhaps it's prayer. Or time in scripture. Or maybe it's how often we go to church or give financially. The truth is, many of us measure our Christian life and believe that if we’re “good enough” (whatever that is), then all is fine. The Sermon on the Mount puts any type of measurement standard to rest. Jesus points out that any attempt at measurement is completely missing the point.
In the game of football, you often hear, “upon further review…..” after the officials and the replay booth have analyzed a call on the field after a flag has been thrown. The Sermon on the Mount is similar to a “further review” by Jesus. He re-frames many of the traditionally held beliefs and practices of the Christian life. Jesus, in effect, “throws penalty flags” on many things his audience was comfortable with and sheds a new light on them. Most of what Jesus discusses are things we, too, are comfortable with in our own lives. What if what you always thought, believed, and perceived isn’t what Jesus really meant or what God is actually calling you to? Are you willing to give Jesus access to your entire “field of play” in your life? Are you willing to give Jesus your heart?
The Beatitudes is a section of Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament that promises many types of blessings. However, the way of living taught in this section of God’s “playbook” may not be what you are accustomed to or what our culture adheres to and values. Yet, blessings from God are promised. Are you ready to consider God as your “coach” and the author of the “playbook” of your life?
As you go through this series, consider what our culture typically puts into hashtags for when we are blessed. #blessed often refers to a new house, or kids getting in a certain school, or other material and external things. These things certainly are gifts and blessings from God, but contrast our culture’s definition of what #blessed is with the things Jesus teaches and “coaches” in his Sermon on the Mount. This week we start with #blessedarethepoorinspirit. With such a hashtag, are you willing to “get in the game” with Jesus?
An Epistle is basically a churchy word for a letter. The Epistles are letters from the early church leaders to the various churches that were spreading and growing. Although there are many cultural differences between then and now, the people of that era had the same struggles as people do today. Humans are humans. Our struggles and tendencies are the same. As King Solomon (the wisest person who ever lived) said: “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9).
The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) do not leave open the option of considering Jesus as simply a good, moral teacher. A man who was merely a man and said the things Jesus says in the gospels would not be a moral teacher. As C.S. Lewis points out, “He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.” Who do YOU say that Jesus is?
The seventeen prophets are sometimes discounted because they are often hard to follow and understand. As Stephen pointed out, this is because they aren’t linear or follow a narrative format. Often, they are written in a visionary and poetic way. However, just because something is hard to follow does not mean they should be discounted! As one of the major prophets (Isaiah) wrote, “the word of God will not return void…” it is always worthy of our time and effort to spend time in God’s word.
The books we have navigated so far in this series have dealt with justice: when there is righteousness, there is blessing. When there is wickedness, there is punishment. That is black and white and everyone understands it. However, life is not always black and white. In fact, its’s rarely ever all black or all white. That is where the wisdom and poetry books come in…