Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Sermon on the Mount is One Eternal Round

My resolution for this month is to "seek for and do the will of the Father" - taken from Matthew 7:21-23, which says:

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Two points only for now about what this passage means, then more throughout the month about my actual efforts to incorporate this message.

1) This passage is perhaps the best example in all of our recorded scriptures of a simple refutation of the concept of "confess his name and be saved". That concept lies at the heart of why many reject Mormonism as not being Christian (the erroneous idea that we believe we can work our way into heaven), and it is diametrically opposed to this passage.

This passage reads as if it was directly responding to that idea - the idea that all one needs to do is confess that Jesus is the Christ (or, in reality, that Jesus is the Christ in one particular, generally accepted codification). This even goes so far as to say that confessing his name AND doing "wonderful works" in that name is not enough. That ties in well with my posts from last month about the need to produce "fruit of the vine" rather than our own works - that it's not doing what we think we should do that is important, but that it's doing what HE wants us to do that is important.

2) This passage also is the ultimate definition of "taking the Lord's name in vain". This describes those people who claim to be representing the Lord but not doing what His Father wants them to do. "Vain" means "arrogantly and/or without effect". Therefore, those who use His name in order to justify their actions when those actions are not what God wants them to do are guilty of both definitions above - arrogance and ineffectiveness.

Using the Lord's name without effect (like the non-thinking, reflexive, blasphemous usage that is SO common even among those who profess to be Christian) is bad enough. Doing so to justify improper actions is even worse.

The important point to make is that NOBODY is immune from this temptation or tendency - except for those who follow the admonition earlier in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:33-37) to "swear not at all, but let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." In that context, nothing should be done "in thy name" except for sacred ordinances that require such attribution (e.g., "baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." [Matthew 28:19]) and prophetic statements that truly do express His will ("Thus saith the Lord.").

My understanding of the multiple statements in the Sermon on the Mount regarding claiming to speak and act for the Lord makes me very wary of doing so outside the parameters set in the these passages. I believe that it is important to be careful to give credit where credit is due and avoid arrogance, but also not to begin to claim reflexively to represent Him in all we do - thus embracing the opposite manifestation of the arrogance that occurs when we fail to credit him.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)

Truly, it is fascinating that the final message of the Sermon on the Mount is the same as the first message of the Sermon on the Mount.


J. O. said...

My understanding is that a double of words such as "yea, yea, nay, nay" and "Lord, Lord" in that culture is a sign of a covenant being made. The Sermon on the Mount as a temple text supports this.

Drawing on your points, then, with this angle, we could see strong implications and responsibilities of the Lord's covenant people.

Papa D said...

Exactly, Jennifer. I didn't make it explicit in the post, but that's the core to which I was pointing when I mentioned the performance of sacred ordinances.