For Lord’s Day, January 31, 2016
Sometimes there are meaningful things gleaned in commentaries for sermon preparation that won’t make it “out of the woodshed” and into the sermons. Preparing for tomorrow evening’s sermon that will introduce our Lord’s magnificent “Sermon on the Mount” with His glorious “Beatitudes”, I have these particle shavings to share that I trust can serve us well for building up to the message on Matthew 5:1-12. First, some whittlings from the work of Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
I do not think it is a harsh judgment to say that the most obvious feature of the life of the Christian Church today is, alas, its superficiality. That judgment is based not only on contemporary observation, but still more on contemporary observation in the light of previous epochs and eras in the life of the Church … [for example the Church’s modern] use of means which would have horrified and shocked our fathers … and her conception of holiness and her whole approach to the doctrine of sanctification. – Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount.
With tomorrow’s morning Scripture about how to acceptably worship God with attentive hearts, what Lloyd-Jones points to behind the above symptoms should sober us: “… one main cause is our attitude to the Bible.” He goes on to say what should also motivate us considering what we have recently focused on in Matthew’s Gospel account of church life, evangelism, and growth:
I am never tired of saying that what the Church needs to do is not to organize evangelistic campaigns to attract outside people, but to begin herself to live the Christian life … [The Sermon on the Mount] is how the Christian is meant to live … I maintain again that if only every Christian in the Church today were living the Sermon on the Mount, the great revival for which we are praying and longing would already have started. Amazing and astounding things would happen; the world would be shocked, and men and women would be drawn and attracted to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ … The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first. That is how revival comes. That must also be true of us as individuals. It should not be our ambition to be as much like everybody else as we can, though we happen to be Christian, but rather to be as different from everybody who is not a Christian as we can possibly be. Our ambition should be to be like Christ, the more like Him the better, and the more like Him we become, the more we shall be unlike everybody who is not a Christian.
Mindful of the source of a holy witness being holy whole-hearted worship, Thomas Watson, in his introduction to his Beatitudes, observes the manner of proper listening to Jesus preaching (as seen in the response at the end of the Sermon on the Mount). He warns Christians how to come to worship and attend upon the Lord if we would ever expect others to follow our lead to Him here:
Many sit and stare the minister in the face, yet scarce know a word he says. They are thinking of their wares and drugs and are often casting up accounts in the church. If a man be in a mill, though you speak never so loud to him, he does not hear you for the noise of the mill. We preach to men about matters of salvation, but the mill of worldly business makes such a noise that they cannot hear; ‘in hearing they hear not’. – Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes.
Watson also writes something that should help us prepare for tomorrow’s morning sermon on Leviticus 19:30 about sanctifying the Lord in our hearts by sanctifying His Sabbath worship within the congregation with reverent hearts: “the flock of God … must take all opportunities to hear”; for, “when the Word of God is preached, the bread of life is distributed.” And if we have so received, Watson, like Lloyd-Jones, describes how we will serve the Bread of Life to other beggars like ourselves: “Let us proclaim to the world that we do believe a blessedness to come by living blessed lives; walk as becomes the heirs of blessedness … Be assured they shall never be blessed who bless themselves in their sins.”