The contrast could not have been greater. On one side stood revered religious leaders whose very presence enlisted admiration. In their regal robes denoting their exalted position, they represented the height of spiritual achievement. Known as sticklers for adherence to the minutest rules of the law, they now appeared in stark contrast to the One that stood before them.
He was dressed in ordinary clothing. There were no trappings of success to be seen. The commonly believed evidences of divine favor were absent from His life. He didn’t even have a home to call his own. Standing on the Mount of Blessings before the masses who had come to hear His words of instruction and hope, He made this declaration,
“Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:20
Was He serious? How could anyone hope to exceed the righteousness displayed by the scribes and Pharisees? This week as we look into The Blessings of the Righteous, we’ll start with the repeating of the obvious – righteous living is a requirement of God.
For help in understanding Christ’s shocking statement about exceeding the righteousness of the religious rulers we look to the Apostle Paul. In his constant battles with the scribes and Pharisees, Paul shows the complete fallacy of reverting back to the observation of ceremonial laws on which they had built their sense of righteousness. He exposed the motives of those who promoted circumcision, showing that this was a vain attempt to earn righteousness by keeping the commandments of the law.
Their man-made safeguards against contamination with sin and sinners closed them off in a life of focusing on what not to do. Knowing that being aware of what not to do was only half the battle, Paul emphasizes what the righteous should do. Here he sums it up in one verse.
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men.” Galatians 6:10
As we therefore have opportunity… Those few words are the challenge of modern Christianity. Somehow over time, living a life of dedicated/intentional/focused/daily service to Christ has become optional. Sacrificing for the good of others as a way of life has been reserved for the missionaries in distant lands. But we can come no closer to Christ than when we do for others.
“Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me”. Matthew 25:44, 45
What would be the impact on this world if those of us who claimed to be followers of Christ made it our life’s purpose to do good to others? What would the impact be if our goal in life was not our personal advancement but the advancement of others? What would be the impact on this world if our righteousness exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees?
Here are a few Hit the Mark questions for this week’s lesson discussion:
- What does the word “righteous” mean to you?
- What does “right-doing” mean to you?
- What did Jesus mean by saying that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees?
- Can a person “decide” to become righteous and thus become righteous? Why yes or no?
- If all of our righteousness is as filthy rags, how is it that the Bible considers people as righteous?
- Is the following statement True, Mostly True, Somewhat True or Not True: We should never expect that we will be righteous during our lifetimes. Explain your answer.
We close this week with the familiar words of Matthew 5:14-16 NIV. The blessings of the righteous are many and to many:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16 NIV
Until next week, let’s all continue to Hit the Mark in Sabbath School!
For online lessons please visit http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/15a/less05.html
For the commandments are like a lamp, instruction is like a light, and rebukes of discipline are like the road leading to life Proverbs 6:23 NET
We have an unhealthy relationship with the word discipline. It connotes the worst in our emotions. Pain and some form of suffering are usually associated with this word. And sadly, many people today are damaged physically, mentally and spiritually by our often flawed ideas of what constitutes proper discipline. Simply put, we have merged the word discipline with punishment.
This week as we look at A Matter of Life and Death we will concentrate on discipline from the eyes of God. As the Bible states “his ways are not are ways’‘ and this is certainly true in the area of discipline.
Don’t look down! Whenever a guide says those three words you can rest assured you are not walking on an ordinary path. It is to your advantage and safety that you keep your eyes focused on what’s before you and not what’s beneath you. Your target destination is your aim and your safe arrival is found in keeping the goal in view.
This week as we take up the subject From Ears to Feet, we hear the author of these chapters in Proverbs telling us to not look down. We are journeying to the City of God and dangers are all along the way.
Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Proverbs 4:25
While there are numerous lessons to be gleaned from our study we’ll only have the luxury to consider a few.
Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.Proverbs 4:26
First, we are on a journey. We are not to be stagnant and resigned to stay where we are. Our religious experience should be growing and deepening as we walk this pathway to the City of God.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Psalms 92:12
It is not enough to say we no longer do the bad that we used to do. Our goal is Christlikeness, and that will take continuous effort on our part.
Every week, in Sabbath school classes across the world, someone will be talking. It’s estimated that the normal pace for English speaking averages between 120 to 160 words per minute. That translates to 5400 – 7200 words for the typical 45 minute Sabbath school class.
How many of those words are being spoken by you the teacher? If your answer is that you are speaking the majority of those 5400 – 7200 words, you are more than likely missing the mark as an effective Sabbath school teacher.
Sabbath school teachers have to consciously fight the tendency to lecture and preach to the members of their classes. One of the 2 biggest complaints about Sabbath school teachers is that they do all or most of the talking and don’t involve the class members.
Although the information shared may be true and useful, we have to be wise in our manner of presentation. The evidence shows, without question, that members learn more and enjoy the process of learning even more when there is opportunity for meaningful interaction and dialogue.
Guiding a class that is consistently known for a great discussion takes a lot of preparation and forethought. Preparing your materials and talking points and devising stimulating questions is a process that demands time from the teacher. To simply lecture a class or read the lesson out loud not only short changes the members of the class but also stunts your growth as a teacher.
To give members “something to talk about” means that you have guided your class in a manner where they are actively participating and the learning is mutual and shared. Here are a few dos and don’ts to aid you in having great discussions:
Do prepare thought-provoking questions for each part of your theme
Do anticipate the probable answers you’ll receive and have follow-up questions ready
Do make your questions appropriate for visitors as well as long time members
Don’t answer your own questions. Let the class answer the questions.
Don’t limit the answer to the 1st response. Build on it and re-launch it
Don’t ignore raised hands in an effort to get to your points of interest
Following these simple guidelines can enhance any class for any teacher. When they come to your session this week, make sure that you give them “something to talk about.”
It’s that time of the year for the annual ritual of making New Year’s resolutions. Heading the most popular resolutions will be losing weight and improving your health. Although those are great goals, they are not on my list of five.
Another frequently cited resolution is becoming debt free. I am all for that and it’s certainly the best way to live. “Owe no man anything” was written for a good reason. But that’s not in my five.
In accordance with the mandatory listing of New Years Resolutions, here’s my top 5:
We like Jesus. For some that’s too mild of a statement. We love Jesus. We especially love the Jesus who steps in on time, the One who comes to our rescue. We love that Jesus so much we even write songs about Him. Jesus on the main line tell Him what you want…
Nothing compares to the hope one can derive from knowing that Jesus cares. Through the deepest night of despair there is always the confidence that comes from believing that Jesus is with us and will see us through. We want that Jesus.
We also want the Jesus who will fight our battles for us. The text “vengeance is mine” has kept the sanity of many a believer. As we navigate through life we need a shield before us and behind us and no one can do that better than Jesus. We want that Jesus.
We especially want the Jesus that brings forgiveness to our guilty consciences. Lifting the burden of guilt that crushes our souls is a miracle in itself. Regardless of our past we have the promise of forgiveness to those who ask for it. We want that Jesus.
But there is a Jesus we don’t want. We never talk about this Jesus. He’s like that embarrassing relative we want no one to know of. It’s the Jesus that walks the narrow road and who goes against the grain of our lives and against the currents of society. We’re not the first to disown this Jesus but we may be of the generation who ignore Him at the greatest peril.
For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels. Mark 8:38
I thought that I would focus this week on the “not judging” part of the One Lawgiver and Judge lesson. After all, the phrase “judge not” is probably one of the most oft quoted and misquoted Bible verses of our generation. It sometimes serves as our “get out of jail free” card.
The discerning of right and wrong, good and evil has been blurred by the misapplication of the phrase “judge not.” The Bible is full of examples of those who called out sin. Remember the work of John the Baptist? Even James, who chides the church for judging, did not shy away from calling wrong what it was – wrong. Listen to the following:
“Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” James 4:4
“Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8
From James’s own words it’s clear that not judging others is not to be interpreted as an excuse to take a pass on the discerning and stating of what is right or wrong. And just as importantly, it cannot be used as a shield to protect ourselves from being held accountable for our own actions and conduct.