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The constitution of the kingdom and the peril of legalism

[biblegateway passage=”Matthew 15:1-3″]

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do not wash [their] hands when they eat a meal.” He said to them in reply, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? …

Jesus then quotes the prophet Isaiah

v7 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

The confusing thing about the Life of Jesus

  • His rejection of the Religious leaders (mistaken for rebelling against the laws of Moses)
  • and his obedience to the moral law.
  • Jesus was not against following the commandments and the Law he was against following the Laws with incorrect and devisive motives.
  • We obey the Law through command of Matthew 22:37-38. When we obey this command it produces 8 virtues in our lives that lead us into spiritual maturity. These virtues can be found in Matthew 5,6,7.

Legalism when misunderstood, paralyzes people in two ways. 

  • Fear that exerting focused energy will result in ritualism and dead works. People embrace licentiousness, and disreegard all instruction from the Lord, Jude 2,.
  • Legalism creates fear that if you do nothing you will not be saved. You have to earn Gods love and salvation (Extreme Legalism)

When we don’t repent of poor choices it produces legalism in us.

We try to build walls of protection to prevent us from falling into unfavorable circumstances again. We then have to perform and create systems to keep the walls of protection in place.

History and Background Legalism and the Traditions of Men.

The siege of Babylon was prophesied in the following chapters.

  • Habbakuk 1:6
  • Joel 2:1-11

The first Babylonian siege of Jerusalem 597 BC
The final Babylonian siege of Jerusalem 587-586 BC

[biblegateway passage=”Ezekiel 20:23:24″]

Nevertheless I swore to them in the wilderness that I would disperse them among the nations and scatter them in other lands,  because they did not carry out my ordinances, but rejected my statutes and desecrated my sabbaths, having eyes only for the idols of their ancestors.

[biblegateway passage=”2 Kings 17:13″]

The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: “Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your ancestors to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.”

In response to the siege of Jerusalem and the 70 years of captivity, the Religous leaders of Isreal begin to adhere to “The Traditions of Men”

  • They built the temple
  • few more prophets

500 years of silence

  • Final prophets (Malachi) and New Testament 500 yrs.
  • No known prophets bringing word of the Lord.
  • Undoubtedly legalism and religious leaders become more corrupt in this time with no prophets of accountability.
  • After 500 years of silence from heaven, the 2 most radical prophets in the Bible appear on the scene. John the Baptist and Jesus

The Traditions of Men

Its like a map legend to understanding the gospels.

Jesus “breaks” the sabbath?

[biblegateway passage=”Matthew 15:1-9, Mark 7:1-23″] Eating with unclean hands
[biblegateway passage=”Matthew 12:10, Mark 3:2″] Healing the withered hand
[biblegateway passage=”John 5″] Jesus heals at the pool of Bethesda
[biblegateway passage=”John 9:14-16″] Jesus heals the blind man with dirt and spit
[biblegateway passage=”Luke 6:2″] Picking grain in the grain fields

[biblegateway passage=”Matthew:23:4″]

They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.

By creating these “hedge laws”, they were breaking the very command of God.

[biblegateway passage=”Deuteronomy 4:2″]

“You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it, that you may keep the command­ments of the Lord your God which I command you”

Jesus first ministry opportunity Legalism and Licentiousness

John 3 – Nicodemus
John 4 – The Samaritan Woman

It is no accident that Jesus first two ministry opportunities are both examples of extreme responses to God. Nicodemus represents the most legal form of relating to God and the samaritan woman represents the life of compromise and rejecting God.

Jesus ministers to both of them and impacts their lives profoundly. I believe the Holy Spirit is saying I am inviting both extremes into the family and everyone in between.

The 8 attitudes of the kingdom

Jesus settles the issue of Legalism and Love

The 8 beatitudes, when expressed sincerely, through a believer can often times be off-putting and seemingly promote legalism. However, Jesus makes a clear distinction on the difference between whole hearted obedience and legalism. The beatitdues are the 8 virtues that Jesus is leading every believer into so we can be the salt and light of the earth v.13. Make no mistake, the man we love and worship is calling us to obey these commandments whole heartedly and to promote them in others.

The sermon on the mount is the intended fruit that the mosaic law was intended to produce through responding to the Lord in relationship. The religious leaders turn the law into an observance instead of invitations to the Fathers heart.

To walk in the full obedience of the kingdom values laid out in Matthew 5,6, and 7 we voluntarily give ourselves to the beatitudes of Matthew 5

Matthew 5:13 Being the Salt and Light will be burdensome if the 8 beatitudes are not operating in your life to some degree. Not perfectly, but the reach in our heart for them is sincere and determined.

If you make the 8 beatitudes the preoccupation of your mind and heart your life will naturally become a salt and light to this world. You won’t have to try, you will naturally exhibit and demonstrate the character and culture that Jesus promotes in his kingdom. You will in effect, be most effective.

The sermon on the mount is the summary message of the most important things Jesus wanted us to receive in his teaching.

  1. If you want to embrace what Jesus wanted you to embrace in terms of lifestyle choices. Sermon on the mount.
  2. If you want to disciple people in Kingdom values. Sermon on the mount.
  3. If you want to know how to be a faithful disciple. Sermon on the mount.
  4. If you want to know how to overcome anxiety, fear, and depression. Sermon on the mount.
  5. If you want to know how to live a life of peace, happiness, and satisfaction. Grab ahold of the sermon on the mount and never let go!

The Supernatural power of the beatitudes

    • The sermon on the mount is the most masterful teaching  He plants the beatitudes and seeds
    • The human heart is naturally bothered and unsatisfied. These virtues are the best medicine for depression, anxiety, worry, fear…
    • Every human heart longs for happiness the beatitudes lead us into a life of peace.
    • Our hearts and minds are constantly preoccupied with other things.
    • We have to be patient. The beatitudes grow
    • The 8 beatitudes are like a table of contents. Learn and teach them in almost every Bible narrative.
    • The Blessings are not generic. They are designed invitations.

The Holy spirit is always leading us to the 8 beatitudes.

    • Sometimes kicking and screaming

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit
    To be poor in spirit is to recognize all that is available in the glory of God and soberly evaluate how little we are walking in, in comparison to ALL that is available. We will always desperately need Jesus.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn
    Spiritual mourning is seeing the gap and being bothered enough, that we determine we are going to do something about it. We don’t make excuses for our lack of zeal and come up with unbiblical reasons why we need to relax and draw back from pressing in. Instead, we push in harder and deeper we continue to Ask, Seek and Knock.
  3. Blessed are the meek
    The meek are those who recognize that all they have and own are from God and they use it for God. Their time, their money and energy. This is in essence, loving the lord with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. Every opportunity, blessing, and position comes from him, It’s not mine, it’s his.
    The meek resist critisism in all circumstances.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness
    We view righteousness to the spirit like food to the body. When we view righteousness as a requirement to spiritual nourishment we will hunt for, defend an protect it.
  5. Blessed are the merciful
    Being merciful requires our hearts to be alert at all moments. Mercy is not a one-off idea of being nice to people who are unfortunate. Mercy is how we treat people when they have wronged us or when they make mistakes that are costly. In the small parts of life. We must be eager to be merciful.

    • The story of closing the church and people not showing up to do it.
    • John and James want to call fire down from heaven. Luke 9:51-56
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart
    To be pure in heart is to be pure in thought word and deed. Our secret motives and outward communication must come from the spirit. Purity gives us spiritual clarity.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers
    Peacemakers find every means necessary to build a bridge between conflicting parties and a critical spirit. A peacemaker does not allow the momentum of slander pass from ear to ear but does everything to snuff out the flame of criticism by introducing reconciliation to all situations. We do not all the momentum of negativity and criticism of others be carried through our mouth. It stops here! with me.
  8. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
    As you embrace these attitudes you will be challenged and tested in each one and often. Everytime we respond correctly we are working out that spiritual muscle to get stronger and stronger. Our obedience will be tried and tested.

V11 You will be insulted, rejected and live in reproach by both unbelievers and believers if you live and promote the 8 beatitudes.

Salt and Light

V13. We are the salt and light as a result of embracing the 8 beatitudes.

V19 Jesus goes on to say, Whoever minimizes these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called “least”. Whoever follows them and teaches others to do the same will be called “great in the kingdom of heaven“.

Flowers in a garden. Jesus ramps it up!

Reject 6 negatives(Round up) They will kill the 8 beatitudes in our lives.
Embrace 5 positives(Miricle Grow) They will give the 8 beatitudes nutrients to grow in our lives.

The six negatives to reject are in Matthew 5

  • Anger (5:21-26) criticism and murder
  • Immorality (5:27-30)
  • Disregarding the sanctity of marriage (5:31-32)
  • Not keeping our commitments(5:33-37)
  • Retaliating (5:38-42) self defense, enemies etc
  • Being passive in our love to our enemies (5:43-47).

The Five positives are to embrace in Matthew 6

  • serve
  • give
    charitable deeds: giving service and/or money, (6:1-4, 19-21)
  • prayer (6:5-13)
  • bless our adversaries (fullness of forgiveness, 6:14-15; 5:44)
  • fasting (6:16-18).

It’s not too much to think about or remember. These are the keys to personal emotional freedom. Set your mind on what is pure, right and holy. We want these 8 beatitudes to become the preoccupation of our mind.

[biblegateway passage=”Philippians 4:8″]

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

Jesus Final Thoughts Jesus ramps it up again!

Do not worry! Don’t worry about your position, your resources. About others being more blessed than you, about you receiving credit. What about me!?! Matthew 6

Do not Judge. Don’t judge others who will not or are not as committed to the 8 beatitudes and the principles in the Sermon on the mount. Loose the spirit of critisism. Matthew 7

If you worry and you judge it will completely shift the inner dialog that you have with God about the virtues to the negetive circumstances of everyone elses lack of commitment. It will steal the life out of the message and you will lose your salt and your light.

Jesus is not asking us to intellectually agree with what he deems as healthy lifestyle choices he is inviting us to a real culture of change and humility where we go low and lift up others, impacting everyone and the culture around us. He is inviting us into a radical committment of humilty and life style choices.


Jesus called us to live out the eight Beatitudes as we resist 6 temptations and pursue 5 kingdom activities that position us to freely receive more grace. Wedo all this with confidence in His rewards and His provision We do this without criticism of others who pursue God with less intensity or who oppose us (7:1-6), while we seek Jesus to intervene in our relationships (7:7-12). We do all in the fear of God, knowing that our love and obedience will be tested. By walking in these truths, we will impact society, be great in His eyes, receive treasures in heaven, and live in this age with our hearts exhilarated in His grace.

Study Links:

Traditions of the Elders

Nicodemus and the Samaratan Woman