This is post 2 of 4 reviewing the Sermon on the Mount material covered at White Station Junior High Camp.
When we hear the word "Obedience" we often think of following the rules and blinding doing what some authority figure tells us is the right thing to do. With no room to move around or swim in the ocean of God's grace, it's like we are trapped in the kiddie pool when it comes to obeying God. Then Jesus begins to say things like, "You have heard it taught in this way... but I want you to know what that law really means." Immediately the pool grows deeper and wider and we are understanding and experiencing how God's blessing of grace is to be lived out in obedience, connecting us to God's heart and character, which are displayed within His law.
There are two types of obedience. The first type is what we might call a shallow obedience because it is based upon a set of rule and regulations. The aim of this obedience is to simply let people see that I know how to follow the rules and perform well enough to get by with the minimum requirements. The second type is what we might call a deep obedience because it comes from our hearts and connects us with the reasons behind the rules and regulations. Obedience can be shallow or deep, but Jesus claims that God deserves our deep obedience to him.
Teaching: Read Matthew 5:17-48
We discussed the passages in small groups and then shared our findings with each other, but I made sure to hit on the following points from the texts:
Practice deep obedience. When you are asked to do something, try to figure out how you can go beyond what the person wants done to show that you understand the deeper meaning of the request or rule. Develop a heart of service that moves beyond what’s required, and that development starts by taking the initiative right now.
Invent ways this week to go beyond what you are asked to do, or even what you feel you need to do to “make the asker happy” and look for a deeper way to obey, serve, and love other. AND then...take this attitude home with you, to school with you, and to work with you.
This year at White Station Junior High Camp, I was blessed by being able to teach the Sermon on the Mount in 4 sessions over the week. With input from many people, including Randy Harris and his book Living Jesus, we had a great time unpacking Jesus's teaching. I want to recommend Harris's book to anyone who reads this blog...it is worth your time and it will challenge all of us to take Jesus' words seriously. I will post four times over the next few days because I promised the students I would give them the content of the class. So, here is the first of four...
Before we can ever do what Jesus asks us to do, we must realize and live in the reality that we are blessed by God to be a blessing to others. In this first of four sessions, the class will discover the way God, through Jesus, has chosen to bless us before he requires anything from us.
Teaching: Read Matthew 5:1-16
“Poor in spirit” is a term with deep meaning, it refers to a hebrew term “anawim” which is very important in understanding Jesus’ connection with these people. The “anawim” are a specific group of people who were left behind during the Exile of Israel. Now, understand that Exile is when another nation comes to your nation and takes back to their nation all of the useful people who can work, become wives, who were deemed valuable to the enemy nation. Those who were left were “anawim,” that is that they were the group who were deemed un-useful, unworthy, un-valuable - the pathetic, pitiful, and worthless. Jesus tells the people, as he tells us who sometimes feel this way, You are blessed by God in your “anawim” experiences, that is when you really understand and own the Kingdom of God.
God provides blessings for people who are experiencing:
Jesus is telling those who will listen: Let me describe the “good life” for you...
Yes - there are competing definitions of the “good life” in our world, but to Jesus the “good life” boils down to one very important aspect: Do you feel blessed (or loved) by God?
And Jesus also shows us his leaning...when we understand that we are not good enough, can’t perform well enough, when the world we live in becomes uncomfortable, when we know these things... there is room for God to show us His love and care.
So much so that Jesus calls us salt and light... our feeling of blessing (or being loved) is to be shared with others)
You are valuable. God has not only placed his value in you from the beginning, but has given you gifts and trophies at the weirdest moments in your life. Think of a time when you felt like a loser, you were mourning a significant loss, you were being made fun of because you decided to keep the peace and not pick a side, or you decided to back down instead of fight.
How did God display to you that you were valuable and that your choices were pleasing to him? How does this thought, this moment, this memory move you to worship God and to trust that God will take care of you?
Pick someone out, a person of the same gender, and let them know that God has placed value in them and upon them. Think of someone who you know needs that word right now...and remember that God thinks you are valuable, and that gives you the freedom and ability to know that others are valuable to God as well.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.