Tag Archives: Sermon on the Mount

Compromising Purity – Adulteration

by yin yang Source:

by yin yang Source

Intimacy with God… with self… with others.

We speak here of “Purity” and “Adulteration”, and a reader might think, “Ah… I know EXACTLY what we’re talking about here! This will be about S-E-X! Mwah hah haa!”

But no. That’s not what this is really about. Let’s deal with this bogey in the very beginning.

Adulteration (from which, indeed, we get the word “adultery”) is NOT simply about sex. It’s about “watering down”, it’s about “weakening”, it’s about “rendering impotent”.

“Oooo”, one might say. “Now we’re talking about ‘impotence’. This just keeps getting better and better.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ve struggled with how to draft this post, because I feel like I see these “connections” among concepts that are just so clear and simple… and I want to share them with you, Gentle Reader… but I do NOT want to stand in, or even LOOK like I’m standing in, the position of telling you what to think, what to believe, what to be convicted by. That is SO the realm of the Holy Spirit… and you, your mind, heart, convictions… are such a sacred place. I don’t want to just seem like I’m traipsing through your conscience in hobnail religious boots, telling you, “You gotta believe this, or ELSE!!!”

So, I’ve struggled. How do I share, communicate, this lovely picture of connections with you… without the implication that if you don’t see things the same way, you are out of order?

The best I can offer to meet my concerns is simply to say what I’ve just said. To be open and transparent about all this with you, and if these words ring true to you… your heart, your spirit, your reading of scripture and your experience of the presence and ministry of Christ… then great! Feel free to use them in whatever way suits. If these words don’t fit, don’t hesitate to lay them aside.

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There is this simplicity, this joyful and wondrous secret of “how” we enhance our intimacy of relationship with God… that Jesus shares in His opening ministry volley of Sermon on the Mount. And it’s when He discusses, of all things, “Adultery!”

And for centuries since, as all about us in religious circles today, just as people doubtless did the day He spoke… we focus on legalisms and criteria (“annulment” versus “divorce”… how do we interpret “husband of one wife”… or “is a divorced pastor now disqualified to serve”… etc.). In all of this, we rather miss the mark. We can easily miss His point entirely.

Jesus BEGINS with discussion of legalism, yes. But He then elevates the discourse to an entirely new level, as He progresses from “qualifications” to “relationship”.

“You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart... It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce. But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” [Matthew 5:27-28;31-32]

What I would point out here is simply that while Jesus indeed makes reference to sexual immorality as a legitimate reason for divorce, the crux of His teaching here on adultery is the relationship of a husband and wife. His focus is not on carnal faithlessness, but relational betrayal of trust. For Jesus, the issue of adultery is vastly bigger than “sex, drugs, rock-and-roll” as is so often oversimplified.

Does carnal infidelity constitute a form of adultery? Certainly.

But my point here is that “adultery”, as it relates to purity as an aspect of our intimacy with God, is an overarching issue of “trust” in “love”… vastly more encompassing than sexual promiscuity.

For many posts, many months actually, I’ve been struck by the reality that we trust only insofar as we love, and we can truly love only insofar as we trust. If our trust of another is limited or conditional, so will be our love. I’ve come to realize that herein lies the “love limiter” for most people in their relationship with God. Multitudes of believers “love God with all their heart, mind, and strength” insofar as they are able… But that “ability”, their capacity in their “all”, is bounded and limited by the extent to which they can truly trust Him… Him or anyone else in their lives.

It is very hard to learn to trust. Many of us never achieve the skill in this lifetime. Therefore, our capacity to love God utterly is compromised from the front, by our incapacity to trust anyone utterly… even Him.

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Could it be that Jesus addresses this here?

Could it be that He references the deep trust relationship that should exist between a husband and wife here?

Could it be that for Him, “adultery” weakens and waters down the foundation of trust itself in relationship? And in that denaturing, compromises the capacity to love at all?

I pose the possibility that the hallmark of “purity” is “trust”, and that trust paves the road of love. There are two means for undermining the trust of purity and love. One is betrayal, to receive and accept the trust of another, claim to fulfill the expectations of the other, and then intentionally fail to meet them. The other, less visible form of adulteration, is simply to refuse to dare to trust.

It’s a rather passive-aggressive situation.

We can adulterate love, violate purity, either by actively betraying the trust OF another… or by passively denying trust TO another. In both cases, we personally maintain the integrity of our own control, our own management, and our own defenses intact. We need not trust the other, we need not trust God, we need not risk… or so we think.

We think such defensiveness keeps us safe, keeps us strong, keeps us protected.

On the contrary… this form of adultery, this isolationism, simply keeps us from connecting. It can “feel” safer… like being wrapped up in cotton wool, or bubble wrap. But it simply keeps us cut off, apart, and alienated from others, from self, from God.

It does not strengthen, it weakens. It cuts off from light, from nurturance, from love.

When we invest our sense of safety, our passionate desire, our sense of “what-we’ve-absolutely-GOT-to-have-to-be-OK” into someone or something else that is not “right” for us… we weaken and water down our own capacity to love and be loved. The most frequent example used is that of the marital covenant… but “adultery”… the inappropriate investment of personal security and passion, can be applied to work, career, community esteem, money, education, anything.

Jesus focuses on the “relationship” with some “object” of our passion that will define us. His teaching here is much broader than just His legalistic example of “pornographic lust”… He speaks of the investment of the heart itself. As so often Jesus does, He starts with the simple and concrete, and elevates the dialogue to the simple and relational.

So… the question I am left with, the challenge I hear in my own heart, is…

Is there anything beyond the gracious gifts that God grants to me, that I look upon with the passionate desire and belief that without THAT (other, unpossessed) thing (object, person, position)… my life is just not worth living?

Such a view will weaken me, weaken my grace, water down my love and my capacity to love. When I do this, I am failing to trust… trust God, trust self, trust others who bless and grace my life. When I do this, I shall find myself hungry and wanting, because I have rendered my own pure nurturance from grace into something lesser and weaker.

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Enjoy, in utter purity, the grace and blessings God showers upon us. Do not betray their trust in us… nor reject relationship with them out of mistrust of God or His grace.

God is incredibly faithful and effective in spontaneous provision, and sometimes, reaching for the blessings we wrongly think we need, can weaken the blessing we actually have.

If none of this makes sense, I apologize. This idea is very hard to wrap words around. Your comments are more than welcome.

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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds


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An Embrace takes Empty Hands

Broke_Chain“When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.’” [Luke 11]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
‘Give us this day our daily bread.
‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] [Matthew 6:9-13]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We are exploring the unfurling of a wondrous Rose, in our gardens of spirit, considering the Lord’s gift to our lives of the Lord’s Prayer. We have acknowledged that there are two iterations of the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus gave an “amplified version” to the Multitudes in Sermon on the Mount, and a much leaner version in the Gospel of Luke to the Disciples. We have noted that “thee, thou, thy” is a more familiar form in older English, than “you, your” as we use the words today.

As we look at the Lord’s Prayer, one phrase per post, today we will consider:

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” [Multitude’s Version]

“And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” [Disciples’ Version]

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Just a couple quick notes on this, and then examine what the Lord reveals in your own spirit with your own Rose. These two verses are truly different in the places the words differ. For one thing, that “forgive” is again one of those different “magic Greek thingy words”, that is not just a petition or command, but rather a statement of action throughout time, and in range of scope.

There are two notable differences between these two teachings. For one thing, the Multitudes version uses an actual “debt” word that implies a financial obligation. It reads something like “release us from what we owe to others, to the extent that we release others from what they owe us.” The Disciples’ version is nothing like that. First, the word “sin” there is actually “sin”, “falling short-ness”. The “debt” word is debt, yes. But rather than “to the extent that we release” (Multitude text), the Disciples’ form is more directive… “release us from our sins, because we release everyone who owes us.” The phrasing is much more stark… much more framed as “expectation”.

I suspect that this is the first really confrontive challenge any Christian faces in truly embracing Jesus. Here is an essential “requirement” of what Don Merritt has written eloquently on as the “counter-intuitive”. The internal sense of sin, guilt, or shame is one of the deepest sources of pain any of us ever know. Freedom from this pain passes through the mist of “forgiveness”. But Jesus is very clear here, that to experience the release of forgiveness, one must first execute the release of forgiving.

Contemplate your Rose. Savor its aroma. Embrace the freedom Jesus offers, realizing that to embrace Him and His love, our hands must first be empty of the burdens of others’ offenses.

Grace to thee, Gentle Reader.


Posted by on January 29, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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Whose What???!!!

5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” [Matthew 6]

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We all recognize these words, Gentle Reader, don’t we? These are Jesus’ teaching from the middle of Sermon on the Mount, when, at the beginning of His public ministry, Our Lord was in the process of detonating what must have seemed like a Theological Nuclear Device in the middle of a multitude of listeners.

I invite you to take just a moment and leave our Christian lives, knowledge, background… and imagine yourself THERE instead. I mean, the whole Sermon on the Mount is almost inconceivable from that view. It is so easy for us to take it all for granted. We’ve “heard this all our lives” so to speak. But not THEM! Not THERE! The “God they knew”… was nothing LIKE the “God we know”!

THEY knew the terrifying, deadly God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They knew the destructive God of Exodus. They knew the bloodthirsty God of Aaron and Abraham. They knew the Destroyer God of Sodom and Gomorrah. They knew the vindictive God of Ezekiel and Elijah. They had HEARD of a tender, compassionate God… from David… sometimes. The PREDICTED Messiah, from Isaiah. But the God they KNEW was the legalistic, retributive God of the Babylonian captivity… and now, the Roman captivity of God’s Own City itself!

God spoke through Prophets… but that often did not go well. God spoke through the Law… but that assuredly was not going well. God spoke through Temple Worship, and Study of the Torah. By keeping the Law, performing the right acts of religious obedience (tithing, sabbath, worship)… one could MOLLIFY this Dangerous God, and preserve oneself from doom, curse, and destruction.

So we… were we there… would be waiting… fearfully hoping… for the Promise to be Fulfilled… for the long awaited Messiah… the Savior promised by Isaiah… to come! We are the People of God! God’s Chosen People! And we pray, sacrifice, live according to over 600 laws in obedience to Holy God? And WHY DO WE DO THIS??? Because we have learned, both through the scriptures that are read to us endlessly… through the history of our people… through the preaching of our religious leaders… that if we DON’T… we are REBELLIOUS… and GOD is likely to DESTROY US!!! … AGAIN!!!

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As Jesus took me this morning, to the hillside where He revealed the Truth in Sermon on the Mount, for the very first time, ever… He showed me all this. He let my heart and my mind be freed of my 20th/21st century knowledge of God. I could “see” as a listener that day could see, with only the Law, the Prophets, and the history to guide my relationship with God… and He let me “hear with their ears” that day.

As I seemed to stand there, on that hillside… I realized, given all this, how desperately I yearned for the coming of that Promised Messiah. I felt how deeply I hoped for the Promised Savior of Isaiah. I needed His rescue! I needed His compassion! I needed His authority and protection! But… in my heart… I needed Him to save and protect me NOT from the Romans, or the Babylonians, or the Philistines, or the Assyrians, or the Egyptians…. Not at all. Like the people who cowered in terror when Moses and God let the people hear God’s voice on Mt. Sinai so long ago… I felt I needed the Messiah’s protection, from GOD HIMSELF!

I invite you there, Gentle Reader. I invite you onto that hillside with me. I invite you to forget… for just this one fleeting moment… everything you now KNOW about God and grace. Imagine that you are one of God’s Chosen People, bound with Him in the Covenant of Abraham… inescapable, unattainable, unfulfillable… and, as Paul said, “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31] And, we LIVE in those hands. We eat, sleep, BREATHE in those hands. We cannot ESCAPE those hands! I truly cannot imagine, for more than the briefest of moments, what it would be like to live in such fear.

NOW, Gentle Reader! Now, if we’ve managed to catch even the barest glimpse of what such a heart would be… NOW let Jesus enter the scene. Now, look again, with fresh new eyes and ears, on the Sermon on the Mount!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Beyond all else… imagine what it would be like to hear Jesus, after seeing sufficient signs and wonders to KNOW that He speaks with the authority and blessing of Almighty God… imagine what it would mean to hear Him say:

“Pray, then, in this way:

‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] [Matthew 6]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

In the next few posts, we’re going to look at the Lord’s Prayer. Over the past six weeks or so, God has been unfolding it before me slowly, carefully, gradually… like watching a Rose unfurl petal by petal. I would like to share that little journey with you… not to “teach” it…. not to imply that we should “dissect this rose”, and “analyze it”, or “squeeze all its juices out” to distill for some compound or perfume. None of that. Any of that, and the Rose is destroyed.

No, Gentle Reader. And I don’t even want to measure, weigh, or photograph this Rose. I don’t want to try to “communicate” this Rose… in my way… as my experience… to you so that you have the SAME experience. But rather I want to “show you a Rose” as it has bloomed and taken my breath away, in MY garden, MY backyard… in hopes that you will pull on a sweater and go out into YOUR garden, and see if the Lord has planted such a rose there for you.

Together, let us “listen to our Roses”. Let that Rose raise its voice to God in praise. Let us still ourselves to hear the song it sings. Let us enjoy that hymn of worship and praise, and see if, in the listening, we are changed. Harmony, somehow, seems always to change us.

Grace to thee, Gentle Reader! I believe there’s a Rose singing to you and Him somewhere…


Posted by on January 18, 2014 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized


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