Devotions In Matthew

Front-Page Living

Scripture reading: Matthew 4:23-25.

News about him spread... (v. 24).

Lord, You made news. Wherever You were, exciting things happened. You gave reporters something to broadcast.

Bad news travels fast. Explosive and destructive events are quickly reported and assessed. "The evil men do" is the stuff of headlines. It "sells" the news media.

Good news sped swiftly when You engaged the crowds to teach and heal. Your conflicts and conquests were "spread all over," attracting need-driven people who clamored for relief.

I can't do for people what You do, but I can be one of those who share the good news with hurting people. I can report Your miracles of love, declaring to the world that Jesus saves.

I was once among those whom others brought to You for healing. Now I am among the bringers, as I help to carry the news.

Front-page living is the lot of those who attest Your power and skill as Savior and Healer. Life with You, life for You, is never dull.

"Those suffering" are many, Lord. Count me among those who commend the Great Physician.


Join the Crowd

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:1-12.

Now when he saw the crowds...he began to teach them (vv.1, 2).

Lord, Your response to the crowds was to teach them. Your words were directed especially to Your disciples, but heard also by the crowds (8:28.)
Some respond to crowds by entertaining them, some by exploiting them, but You responded by educating them. You were there for them, not for yourself. Your example affirms that life in the Kingdom is service to others, service motivated by love.

What You taught on the occasion is enshrined in Scripture as "the Sermon on the Mount." No concentration of truth has been more influential and transforming in the history of literature. Did the crowds ever realize how priceless was their privilege of hearing these words?

When I read the "Sermon" today I join that crowd and those disciples in hearing the truth as personal address to me. You respond to my needs with words. I must respond to Your words with obedience. I must "put them into practice" (8:24-27). They will make me or break me. Help me to listen closely and react wisely.

Strange Kingdom

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:1-12.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (v. 3).

You "began to teach" with a thunderbolt, Lord Jesus. Your kingdom is populated with those who have no merit, who make no claims. They humbly acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy and cast themselves upon Your pardoning mercy.

You utterly reverse the world's philosophy. This generation affirms its value and demands its rights, not as forgiven sinners but as arrogant usurpers. The world counts those as blest who exploit the most "suckers" and accumulate the most wealth.

The poor in spirit know that a contrite heart is the only sacrifice that God accepts from them. Heaven is unimpressed with "blue blood," large estates and political clout. Nobody buys his way into Your kingdom—not with cash, not with work, not with favors. You are a king who cannot be deceived or bribed. Your blessing is freely given, not cleverly traded.

I come today with empty hands, and cling only to Your words of grace. Forgive and change me, Lord of compassion and mercy.

The Comforter

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:1-12.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (v. 4).

Lord, You are indeed a blessed Comforter, and whom You bless are indeed comforted.

You comfort those who mourn their sins by offering them a full and free forgiveness, and a change of heart and habits. You annihilate the past and empower the future: "Your sins are forgiven." "Sin no more." How comforting!
You comfort those who mourn their dead by the hope of resurrection. Your followers do not "grieve like [those] who have no hope" (1 Thess. 4:13). They look forward to reunion, a glorious eternity of shared and deepened life with those whom they "have loved and lost a while."

You comfort those who mourn their sufferings by Your fulfilled promise, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Heb. 13:5). In ordeals of all kinds Your disciples have found Your presence a source of strength and triumph. You share our misery that we may share Your glory.

In my grief and pain today, You are with me. I am comforted. No earthly woe, no demonic force, can rob me of Your blessing.

The Inheritors

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:1-12.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (v. 5).

Lord Jesus, You described yourself as "meek," and "meekness" is a fruit of the Spirit. From this I know that meekness is not a synonym for weakness, as a despising world defines it. Meekness is controlled strength, power exercised in love. It is gentle strength.

For centuries, violent men have ruthlessly exploited and killed in order to grab land from others. Their evil schemes and political chicanery have brought them "legal" titles to the earth. They have raped and polluted nature for personal gain. How can men who do not worship the Creator respect His creation?

But these spoilers will not inherit the earth. "The earth is the Lord's." It will be given to Your rightful heirs, Your children who bear Your image and do Your will.
The meek will not savage the earth. They will treat the "new earth" with profound respect, not confusing the Creator with creation, but finding in every aspect and activity of nature a witness to Your infinite goodness and grace.
Make me Your child and heir, Lord!

Filled!

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:1-12.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be
filled (v. 6).


Appetite determines activity. Persons hungry for food will forage for bread. Those hungry for righteousness will take steps to acquire it.

Appetite expresses nature, also. A vulture could starve to death in a wheat field. Soldiers in World War II tore leaves from New Testaments and rolled tobacco in them. They craved a smoke, not a Savior.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will cherish Your word, Lord. Foraging there, they will discover One who graciously forgives, cleanses and renews those who trust in You. Character, behavior and destiny will be changed, as the Source of righteousness is appropriated by faith that works in love.

Because You are infinite in holiness and grace, their quest will be rewarded. They will be satisfied. Like those You fed in the desert, they will dine to the full with plenty left over.

All who thirst for lesser gods will die disappointed, for "the world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" (1 John 2:17).

Showing Mercy

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:1-12.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy (v. 7).

Those who show mercy will not always be shown mercy, Lord. How merciful was George Fox, yet he was beaten and jailed from time to time. Merciless men will not hesitate to insult and persecute Your followers (vv. 10, 11). Those who reject God's mercy are not inclined to show mercy to others.

What finally matters is Your mercy, and those who receive it will be constrained to emulate it. The more they dispense the more they will receive. You are donor to all, debtor to none. Our mercy never exceeds Yours.

Your mercies are fresh daily. Your mercy follows us constantly, as the Psalmist affirms. Your mercy should be both the cause and pattern of mine, Lord. Let me, day by day, resort to Your mercy for my salvation, and reflect Your mercy in my dealings with others.

An ounce of mercy is better than a pound a flesh. Help me not to clamor for my rights, but to react in mercy to everyone who infringes them. Make me like You, O bountiful displayer of mercy!

Ultimate Vision

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:1-12.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (v. 8).

The invisible God dwells in unapproachable light, unseen and unseeable (1 Tim. 6:15-16). How, then, can we ever see Him, Lord Jesus?

He is revealed in You. He gives us "the light of the knowledge of [His] glory" in Your face (2 Cor. 4:6). You said, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

Moses "persevered because he saw him who is invisible" (Heb. 11:27). He saw God in His words and works. Your words and works, O Jesus, made visible the invisible Father (John 8:28). I have the record of Your words and works in the Bible. As I read it I see God in You—if my heart is pure.

Some looked upon You and did not see God. They branded You a deceiver and blasphemer. The sin of their hearts clouded their vision and warped their perception. Such folly will be repeated where such sin is allowed to remain.
Cleanse my heart, O Christ! Destroy every impurity that would distort my vision. I want to be like You. I want to behold and become!

Cleanse me by Your grace. Then will I "see You more clearly, love You more dearly, and follow You more nearly."

Costly Peacemakers

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:1-12.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (v. 9).

Who will call them sons of God? Those who are reconciled to one another will—but not those who seek power and profit from protracted enmity.

Lord Jesus, You were the supreme peacemaker. You reconciled believing Jews and gentiles, forming them into one body, the church. You thus brought healing to one of the deepest racial and social cleavages of history. The reconciled called You blessed, called You the Son of God. The world labeled You a trouble-maker and plastered You with blasphemous names.

Your peacemaking was costly. Your blood, Your death on the cross, was the price of our reconciliation to God and to one another. Can those who, in Your name, attempt bridge building and peacemaking expect acceptance and adulation? No. The next beatitude discourages such roseate notions. The many who profit from war will not desire peace.

The reconciled will see each other as children of God. And You will so name them! That is what finally matters.

The Prospect Exceeds the Pain

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:1-12.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven (v.10).


Lord Jesus, You are the King of heaven. Wherever You reign the kingdom has come. Your reign is opposed by unrighteous men who push selfish agendas for material gain. It is welcomed by those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they find their fulfillment in You.

Unable to lay hands on You, the unrighteous vent their hostility upon Your disciples. Because of You they are insulted and abused. Where the dominant culture permits, they are even jailed, tortured and killed. Nevertheless, they are blessed.

They are blessed in their association. They join "the prophets" who suffered for Your sake—intrepid men and women who spoke Your word and proclaimed Your rule at the risk of property and life.

They are blessed in their prospect—“great...reward in heaven." Stupid men may gibe at "pie in the sky," but heaven is real and the future of the persecuted is secure. Suffer with You, reign with You—the prospect surpasses the pain.

Who Are "You"?

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:11-16.

You are the salt of the earth....You are the light of the world (vv. 13, 14).

Who are? "You" recalls verse eleven: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." Lord, those who love You enough to endure persecution for Your sake and in Your spirit, they are the salt and light of the world.

Salt exists to counteract corruption, light to counteract darkness. They do not function to satisfy themselves, but to serve others. Indeed, they sacrifice themselves in order to function effectively and helpfully for those around them—“everyone in the house."

"Salt" is a metaphor that calls me to purity. "Light" is a metaphor that calls me to ministry. Impure salt is good for nothing. Hidden light is equally useless.
"Salt" speaks of private influence, unseen but persuasive. "Light" speaks of public impact, open and obvious. The one seasons, the other shines.

Lord, I want to love and follow You whatever the cost. Make me salt and light. Oppose me to corruption and darkness, so that praise to God may result from ministry to people.

Shining

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:13-16.

You are the light of the world.... Let your light shine before men (vv. 14, 16).

If I am the light, I can let my light shine only by being myself.

That is no easy task, Lord. You know that people, including Your people, tend to pretend. We live behind masks, seeking to appear wiser or better or stronger than we really are. We are driven behind facades by fear or pride or both.
You alone can deliver us from the pride and fear that would make us, not holy, but pharisaic. In You we dare to be vulnerable, we dare to confess weakness, ignorance and failure—without blaming others.

What we are comes to expression in what we do—in "good works." Such works are not good per se; otherwise You would not have condemned the Pharisees who paraded their works. Our works are good when done in love and for Your praise.

Let my life be filled with good deeds, Lord. I follow You, of whom it is written, "he went around doing good" (Acts 10:38). Help me to follow closely and constantly!

Teacher of Teachers

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:21-24.

You have heard that it was said.... But I tell you... (vv. 21, 22).

Your words, Lord Jesus, are the test for all other words. If what the ancients—or the moderns—say does not square with what You say, I will reject their words and cling to Yours.

I have had, and still have, many teachers. For the help they have given, and are giving, I am deeply grateful. How fortunate I have been to learn from them! They have opened my eyes and enriched my life by countless shared insights. I shall be forever indebted to my mentors.

They are not infallible, though, and do not always agree with one another. I must have a means of testing their wisdom, and that means is afforded me by Your words. "I tell you" has higher authority than "you have heard."

You were conscious of speaking with supreme authority. I am conscious of being addressed by You. I do not overhear Your words as words to others; I hear them as words to me.

You are the Teacher of teachers. I would be Your disciple. Speak, Lord. Your servant hears.

"Settle Matters Quickly"

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:25-26.

Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court (v. 25).

Lord, that's good advice where person-to-person squabbles are concerned. Long quarrels inflict deep wounds that seldom heal, and when they do heal they leave ugly scars. Individuals have feuded for years, families for generations, and often the original occasion was far less important than the ensuing consequences. Sadly, this has been true of many churches.

"Settle matters quickly" is especially urgent when someone has made You their adversary. The sooner anyone can be reconciled to You the better. Every day without Your forgiveness and peace increases the misery created by our sin.

We are always the wrongdoers when You are the adversary. All Your words and deeds flow from perfect love, wisdom, and holiness. Ours is the wrong, Yours is the right, in every conflict. We can only deepen our guilt and worsen our misery by failing to settle out-of-court quickly.

I praise You for the night I settled. You graciously forgave all my sins and became my truest Friend.

Heart Religion

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:27-32.

...in his heart (v. 28).

Lord, You locate sin in the heart. Murder has its source in anger; adultery springs from lust. If the murder never occurs the anger is condemned. If the adultery is avoided the lust is condemned. What we are in our hearts before God, not what we are in our conduct before men, is the ultimate test of character.

Just as You locate sin in the heart, so You provide grace in the heart. You came, not just to forgive our acts of sin, but to cleanse and keep our inner lives. You promise to write the law upon our hearts. You pronounce a blessing upon the pure in heart. You cleanse the fountain of being that the stream of doing may flow with clarity and sweetness.

True religion is heart-religion. It is a matter of intention, motive, purpose, not simply of words spoken and deeds performed. Rules kept and rituals done may serve as cloaks for sin-filled, sin-poisoned hearts. Your desire is for "truth in the inner parts"—and You can create in us the clean hearts that make such truth possible.

O Lord, search and cleanse my heart!

Useless Speech

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:33-37.

Do not swear at all... (v. 34).

Nothing is more useless, Lord, than taking an oath. For honest persons, oaths are unnecessary. They will tell the truth whether under oath or not. They will even keep their word to their own hurt.

For dishonest persons, oaths are unconvincing. A man who can't be trusted without an oath isn't to be trusted under oath. He may swear "by all that's holy" with unholy intentions.

I recall to my shame, Lord, how as a boy I placed my hand on a Bible and lied without blinking, denying that I had disobeyed, while the taste of forbidden drink was still on my tongue.

Your grace can make liars truthful. They will be faithful to their unsupported words. Their yes is an honest yes; their no is an honest no.

Sincere oaths are pointless. Insincere oaths are useless. Unvarnished truth, simply spoken, suffices between true persons. Only the influence of "the evil one"—a liar from the beginning—has persuaded society that oath-taking has value.

Keep my heart and mouth from lies, O Lord, for You are "the truth."

Perfect Love

Scripture reading: Matthew 5:43-48.

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (v. 48).

You command me, Lord, to be perfect in love—to love as does the Father who sets no boundaries to His love.

"Neighbors," "brothers," and "enemies" are specified recipients of love. The good and the evil alike are to be loved.

I say "recipients," Lord, for the Father's love is expressed in doing, in giving. To love someone does not mean to feel good about them but to do good for them. Love is not mushy sentiment but active good will.

Specifically, this passage tells me that love prays and sends and greets, including the unloving in its activity. Love greets—it recognizes the other as a person, not an object. Love sends—it addresses its resources to others' needs. Love prays—it honors the other as Your creation, the object of Your caring and saving love.

Lord, I cannot love like that unless Your love floods my heart. Your Spirit must possess me if Your example is to guide me. Come, Holy Spirit!

Private Religion

Scripture reading: Matthew 6:1-6.

Be careful not to do your "acts of righteousness" before men, to be seen by them (v. 1).
No good deed goes unnoticed by You, holy Father. Your eyes pierce the secret places and behold the private acts. Known to You are both the deeds we do and the motives which inspire them.

How much is done, not to honor You but to impress people. I think of the wealthy family who always had a news photographer present when they made a donation to charity. I think of the preacher who never went to town, even to purchase socks, without tucking a large, conspicuous Bible under his arm. I think of the woman who boasted that people drove across the state to hear her pray.

This piety on parade, Lord Jesus, becomes an easy temptation. We are often more concerned for reputation than for reality, more eager for human applause than for divine approval. Keep my heart from this snare.

Help me to give without embarrassing the recipients of my gifts. Help me to pray without being heard except by God. Your reward is all I need—but even that I must not self-consciously seek.

How-to Prayer

Scripture reading: Matthew 6:5-15.

But when you pray.... This is how you should pray... (vv. 5, 9).

You teach me, Lord Jesus, that I am to pray. You say, "when you pray," not "if you pray." Prayer is not optional but essential to my life. It is a matter of first importance, not a last resort.

You teach me that I should pray secretly—to gain audience with God, not approval from men.

You teach me that I should pray submissively, recognizing the Father's authority and discerning His will.

You teach me that I should pray briefly, not making speeches but petitioning mercy.

You teach me that I should pray unselfishly, remembering the whole family before the one Father, saying "our Father," "our bread," "our debts."

You teach me that should pray daily, matching the constant awareness of need to the constant source of supply.

You teach me that I should pray forgivingly, not withholding from others the pardon I seek from You.

You teach me to pray defensively—as a means of overcoming temptation and defeating the evil one.

All this brings me back to school, Lord. Teach me to pray!

Living for Heaven

Scripture reading: Matthew 6:19-21.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.... But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... (vv. 19, 20).


I get the message, Lord. I must live in two worlds, but I can only live for one of them.

If things of earth become my identity and security, I am both a pauper and a fool. I live for what I cannot keep, and things enslave me in the process.

If I live for Your glory, I shall abide forever in Your glory. Not even death can rob me of what I treasure most, my relationship with You.

I'm an old man, Lord. I've watched many people across many years. Those who lived for earthly treasures always remained dissatisfied and empty, whatever they possessed. Those who lived for heavenly treasures were content with little or much, were as happy and hopeful in age as in youth, and died in peace and joy.

My heart follows my treasure. Let my treasure be in heaven and my heart will welcome the homeward journey. You are with me here; I will be with You there—how rich can a fellow be!