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Climbing The Mountain

Matt Brownell, Tim Adams, and Van Owens

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Climbing the Mountain is a weekly podcast devoted to the Word of God and its application in the lives of believers today. Grounded in the Sermon of the Mount, we dive into connecting scriptures to explore themes and implications.

Episode 25 - Matthew 5 Conclusion

March 24, 2023

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In this episode, we conclude Matthew 5 and share thoughts and reflections from the the first section of the sermon on the mount.

Hey, I'm Matt Brownell.
And I'm Van Owens.
And I'm Tim Adams.
Welcome to Climbing the Mountain, where we dive into the scriptures and discuss themes,
connections, and real life application.
We're kicking off a series here where we're going to examine the Sermon on the Mount and
discuss implications for this teaching for Christians today.
If you've been with us from the beginning of this podcast series, you may have noticed
that we didn't start the Sermon on the Mount from the beginning, from the Beatitudes.
That was deliberate.
Instead, we started at Matthew 5:17.
We're going to end with the Beatitudes after we're done with everything here.
We're going to circle back to them.
That was intentional.
But I want to read Matthew 17.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.
So as we're reaching the end of this first section, and the Bible with its chapter markings
don't always do a great job of ending it right where the thought ends, but this is actually
a pretty good ending to a thought.
To refresh, Jesus has taught us that we must not be like the teachers of the law who had
relaxed God's holy, perfect commands.
If our righteousness doesn't surpass theirs, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus gives six examples of the kind of relaxed teaching that was in his day, the legalism
that it created loopholes for wiggling out of really following the law.
He's now summing up this entire section of teaching with the following verses.
I'm going to read Matthew 5:46-48.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
Do not even the pagans do that?
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.
Jesus is summing up not only this example of the loving your enemies, but also the rest
of his teaching that began in verse 17.
It's a breathtaking statement.
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.
What do you think he means by perfect?
Well, you know, when I first read this a long time ago as a young Christian, I thought,
well, why am I doing this then?
Because I'm never going to get there.
It's sort of like there's a famous standup routine that Steve Martin did early in his
career where he said, I'm going to tell you how to make a million dollars and never pay
Step number one, get a million dollars.
Step number two, and the scripture feels like that to me.
It's like, be perfect.
Come on.
I mean, I'd like to think so.
You know, I think, but there's no way I'm ever going to get there in a million years.
I think what it means is that you don't get there on this side of eternity and that, you
know, perfection is obviously something that is beyond the human ability to achieve.
But that means that we keep, we keep striving for it.
We keep going after it and that we continue that and that it never stops.
We never get to the point where, OK, I have achieved the degree in human perfection or
I have risen to this level and I'm perfect now and I don't have to, I don't have to continue
to try that the moment we stop trying is the moment when we're lost again.
And so that's what I think it means.
It's tough because it's a command.
I mean, that's like, I think why it can feel that, oh, it's just give up.
He didn't say try to be perfect.
It definitely sounds similar to like in Leviticus where God says, be holy as I am holy.
And Peter brings that up in 1 Peter as well when he's calling us to imitate God.
But yeah, it's interesting because Jesus is easy to kind of dismiss in some ways because
we're like, oh, he's God.
But like, he was fully man.
And he was perfect.
And so in one sense, I mean, still, I think we talked about, we quote, C.S. Lewis a fair
amount in these.
But C.S. Loewis said something kind of like, well, it's going to be easier for the teacher to
know how to do things than the student.
So Jesus being God and knowing, just being God completely, like, it's going to be easier
for him, but he still was fully man and was perfect.
So that to me is enough to at least not dismiss, well, I'm never going to get there, right,
and to embrace the journey.
It can't mean if you're not fully perfect, this side of eternity, then you're doomed
because there's so much grace throughout the scriptures.
And there is no one perfect we've all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
And 1 John talks about when you sin, how there's an advocate who speaks, the father
of God, or our defense.
And anyone who claims to be without sin is a liar.
So that can't be what it means.
But I think what it means is, I mean, it definitely includes try.
But I kind of take a step back and say, like, God really wants us to be like him, right?
Like be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.
God wants us to be like him, and he wants all of us to be like him.
There's no facet of our life which does not fall under this statement, which, I mean, is it
why it's such a great summary of the verses that we have spent so much time digging into.
I love what you're just saying there, because I think that is, that's where, I think that
follows the argument that he's making here, right?
And when I was thinking about this, I struggled because I'm a perfectionist, and I know no
matter how hard I try, it's not going to turn out perfect.
Nothing in life is perfect.
And I have a hard time with that.
And I can burn myself out trying and on my own strength.
But I think there's a quality here where we, it's like we, I think we need to rely on God's
strength to get there.
But more, I think what you were saying about it, there is an argument he's making, which
I think we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us that we may be children
of our Father in heaven.
And I think the argument he's making is that we should be like our Father.
We should imitate God who sends the rain and on the righteous and the unrighteous farmer
who need it.
Well, let me back up though and say, I don't think that he's saying there's some kind of
performative aspect here where acting so much like God will mean we qualify to be his children.
I think he's saying, no, you are his children, you're just not acting like it.
You should act like him.
And I think it reminds me a little of what we were talking about with the, about honesty
and oaths and vows and how some of the other podcasts where we could either imitate God
and or we could imitate the Father of lies.
And so I think it's in that kind of vein of thinking.
Yeah, I think that I think the, the trying, as you said, Tim is definitely a part of it,
but it's, it's not just the trying.
And I also think the how, how we try is very important.
You know, you think the, the, the church is the body of Christ.
And so there's a, the, the operative word in all of this of what we're saying is we,
there is a perfection that can be achieved among us as the church that we cannot achieve
And I think even some of the conversations that we've had, that we've had even here during
this podcast have, have, uh, have further solidified that for me, that I feel safer in
some of these big controversial things that I'm not sure how I should think about it or
what I should do or how, how can I, how can I implement these things?
I feel safer in being able to talk them through with my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I feel like, you know, I say to my, to my buddy at work, um, during the pandemic, we
were the only two people there and we talk about all kinds of things and we come up with
these grand ideas.
And I said, I said to her once, you know, together we're a genius.
And, and, but I think that that is absolutely true of the church as individuals we're, we're
stumbling, bumbling sinners.
We cannot, there's not much we can do about that, but in our unity, we're, we're a genius
and in our unity, we can be perfect, but it depends upon our unity and the, the unity and the
love and the, the mutual respect and honor and care that we give each other.
I think is crucial to being able to fulfill this command.
It's a really good insight where the rubber meets the road, uh, how we need each other.
Well, maybe picking up on that, how we need each other.
I think one of these things, um, that we were saying before is that this is hard and
that we need Jesus.
And so I guess how, how does Jesus help us be perfect?
Like God, our father.
I think I'm still learning that, um, because I, I'm trying to tap into Jesus more and more.
But the, the short answer I have for this is Jesus didn't just tell us, he showed us
and he didn't, I don't know.
He, we can follow not just his teachings, but his example of life and the, the contours
of the decisions he made, um, to, to see practically, like, okay, what does it look
like to, to, to be perfect, to be like God.
Um, and for this whole past year, um, we're recording this at the beginning of 2023.
So it's, you know, thinking about 2022, um, so much of what I've been trying to do is
like, I just want to be closer with Jesus on like a, a, a moment by moment basis.
If I, if I adopt Jesus's lifestyle, if I, if I do the things that he did, the habits
that he had, you know, he's going to, to work on my heart.
Um, and he's going to change me in ways that I can't change just by trying to like muscle
Um, so I don't know.
I feel like, yeah, that's, that's not like a concrete answer, but it feels like, because
I'm like so in the middle of trying to figure this out.
And like my working hypothesis is like, am I just trying to stay as close to Jesus as
I can
then, you know, he's, he's, there's a, there's no madness in the, in the method,
It's very intentional and, and he's going to work on me.
He's going to make me perfect.
I think that he, so we have, like you were saying, Tim, we have the example of Jesus
from the scripture.
We can, we can read the gospel and we can see how he, how he lived, how he reacted, what
he did, what he said.
We also have as Christians, the indwelling of the Holy spirit.
So we have the, we have the Holy spirit who, who will guide us and who will help us to
make those decisions.
I was thinking, I was thinking about it as I was driving home, there was a, there was
a night this week where the weather was pretty bad.
I was driving home.
I was super tired and part of me thought this is the night that I don't make it because
I'm just, I'm just, I'm exhausted and I thought if I don't pull over, I'm not going to make
And then I was, I, I have for the first time in my life a relatively newer, a relatively
late model car.
So it's got, you know, it's got GPS and it's got the driver assisted thing that tells me
when I'm going off, when I'm just going to veer out of a lane and it's got a little thing.
I just discovered it that night.
It's got a little thing that pops up on my screen.
It was a little coffee cup with steam coming out of it and it said, driver attention is
And I said, whoa.
And so, you know, I pulled over, I got myself a cup of coffee.
I turned my music up a little louder and I thought this is, this is part of the way that
Jesus helps us to be perfect.
Now all that stuff that's added to my car is not going to keep me from having an accident.
If I am not, if I'm not making my best effort in a situation like that, but it will push
You know, when I start to veer off a lane, my steering wheel doesn't forcefully push
me back.
It nudges.
I can, I can feel it.
And I think, oh, I have to get over.
I could say sometimes it doesn't when I'm getting off the highway.
When I cross that line, it tells me you're crossing the line and I can force it because
I'm doing it intentionally.
And I think that that's the way that, that's the way that in my clumsy analogy, the Holy
Spirit operates for me sometimes.
It's that little nudge that says, no, you're veering a little bit here.
And I can, in my will, decide, yes, I am veering.
I need to get back on the road or I can decide, no, I'm going to veer.
And I think the, the, the perfection comes from listening to the Holy Spirit, from doing
exactly what you said to him, staying as close to Jesus as I can, staying as close to him
in my mind, in my, in my meditative life, in my prayers, in my reading, in my example,
that old trope as flawed as it is as of what would Jesus do.
And what did he do?
We've got that.
We've got that here.
Let's go back to the scripture and let it dwell on our hearts richly.
And when you were talking about the driving example, it reminded me of, so we, we have
different sources that we can listen to.
And I think it's really important because I think what we're talking about is the process
of sanctification that we keep going back to the scripture and we keep letting it renew
our minds because there is an alternative voice that's out there.
The world is acting on us, sinful nature, all of that.
And it reminded me of a friend who told me in college, hey, you know, we're talking about
driving and, you know, I was, we were talking about driving when you're tired and he was
like, oh yeah, here's what you do.
You roll down the windows, you get some fresh air.
I was like, oh yeah, I'm with you.
You know, you drive, you get some coffee like you were saying.
These are all good things to do.
And then the third thing he said, which gave me pause was, and then you drive really fast.
I was like, wait, what?
What did you just say?
I heard you have the first two things and then what?
What was that?
You drive really fast.
Oh yeah.
You know, the adrenaline starts pumping and then you, you know, and I, and I thought, I,
I don't know if that sounds like a good idea.
But I tried it one time.
Thankfully a police officer was not far behind me and pulled me over right away.
I didn't, I don't know how fast I was going.
I was falling asleep.
He thought I was drunk or something.
I was, I was falling asleep.
I had already rolled the window down.
I had turned the, the, the radio up loud.
I was singing.
I was drinking whatever coffee was left and, and I was tired and I was starting to fall
asleep and then the, and I remember the sirens going on and, and like it was not real.
Like I didn't even realize what was happening.
I was so close to dying at that point.
Like, so thankfully God sent that police officer to save my life, but we should be listening
to the Bible because the lies around us are, they, they might have a, a bit of truth to
them and then I'll, something that will kill you.
And so I think for me, that's this process of sanctification is keep coming back to Jesus,
keep listening to him.
The Holy spirit will take that word and write it on our hearts.
And I think the other thing that this, this sermon does is it breaks me and I think it
drives me back to the beatitudes, blessed are the poor in spirit.
And I think that when we are, when we see how much we need Jesus, that's another thing.
It's that gratitude that will keep us going.
So as we look back at each of these six antitheses, it's a funny word.
What patterns emerge for you?
Yeah, it's funny because part of me wants to like rehash everything we've said before,
but I don't want to, you know, I don't want to do that.
24 more episodes.
Here we go.
So, the, what I, when I think about the patterns or, you know, these kind of big themes that
we're seeing, really, I'm seeing like live life in the sight of God and live life conscious
of God to, to be like him.
And that kind of is how I put it all together, you know, think about the oaths, right?
The whole thing about oaths is that the heaven, heaven is God's throne and the earth is his
footstool, right?
That he's got, you can't make your hair white or black, but like God can.
And so just be a person of integrity or the, you know, thinking about anger, you know,
and the call to reconcile.
Like we're called to reconcile quickly with, with our neighbor and the example of that is,
is God who's always reconciling with his people.
And also he's, you know, when, what's the trigger for us to reconcile?
It's when we go to the sacrifice, right?
It's when we come to the altar and we're, we're coming to God, living life in the sight
of God.
Oh, I'm not, I'm not good, right?
I have to, I have to go reconcile with my brother.
So I think of it like the analogy is just like, you know, if you think about just light,
just like permeating every corner of the room.
And when that's happening, you know, you, you live, you live differently.
Like everything's exposed.
And you just go, Oh, I see the dust there.
I'm going to clean that up.
I see this, you know, this mess that has kind of been hidden in the shadows.
I'm going to clean that up.
Um, in the same way like God is God is, and Jesus through these teachings is beaming light
into like every corner of our life and saying, um, I see this, right?
And, and we want to be like our heavenly father.
And so these are the ways we can be like our heavenly father.
And I see it, the sort of the, uh, the pattern that emerges from me in the course of these
verses is that there's no, um, there's no differentiation between what I do and what
motivates me that, that these things are, are, are intricately and, and inextricably
connected there, that, that the motivation is what matters because the motivation is
what's true.
Uh, you know, if you look at a woman lustfully, you've committed adultery with her in your
heart and you know, if you're angry with your brother, then you're a murderer.
And it's, it's talking about how what's inside of us, what, what's inside of us is
what, who we really are.
Despite of how we act, because we can act, we can try to look a certain way.
We can, we can think of our lives as, as something that we're acting out as if we were in a
movie reading a script, but there's no differentiation.
We are what's inside of us.
I think for me, it's, uh, that I think the first thing I think is maybe related back
to what I was saying before about seeing my need for, for God.
Um, the, the thing that he's doing here, the first pattern I see is that he's taking away
all the loopholes, uh, and God's standards feel impossibly high and that, uh, that this
is really, really tough.
And I bet that he stunned his audience because if the more we look at this, I feel stunned
and, uh, I don't measure up to any standard of God and I see my need for him.
And I think there's, um, there's an, in a sense that there's also this, um, this hope
of grace in that Jesus says he's going to fulfill this.
He's the one who is perfect when I, I need his, and I need his righteousness, um, to
clothe me, um, because I get angry.
I lust.
I thankfully am not divorced, but that's only because of Jesus in the first place.
I'm dishonest.
I, I, I retaliate.
My flesh is, uh, I don't, I don't naturally want to love people who mistreat me.
This is all stuff that I don't want to do, but that Jesus did and I need to stay with
him and I need him.
And so I, I think that's, that's where we can even experience this, this blessing of
in seeing our need and then understanding how God is there to meet our need.
But is, so is there an overall theme that connects each of these, these six examples
that he gives, you think? It's hard to, it's hard to.
It's hard to say it as an overall theme, but I think that, I think that it does rest in
the fact that, uh, that this is really hard.
It seems impossibly hard, but it's doable within the context of our faith.
Um, I don't know if you'd call that a theme, but that's, that's what happens to me as I
read these passages.
I think I, you know, he often starts with what the law said and the law was hard.
The law was, wow, that's a, that's a tough row to hoe right there.
And then he says, well, if you think that's tough, how about this?
And then you say, well, that one was tough.
This one is impossible.
And but it, but it's not only, it's not only possible.
It is, uh, it is imminently doable, um, within the context of our faith.
So faith.
I think that's one of the big three, right?
Mercy, faith, justice.
Uh, how about you, Tim?
I struggled to kind of put it all in a one theme.
Um, you know, Jesus starts the section by talking about how righteousness needs to surpass
that of the Pharisees and the ends with be perfect.
So like those feel, but what is he doing?
He's proclaiming the kingdom of God and he's, this is, this is the sermon where he starts
it by saying, blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.
And all throughout, um, you know, he's, he's showing the kingdom way.
He's showing us what it looks like to be a part of, of his under his rule.
So I'd say, you know, that's probably how I, the theme, right?
It's, this is, these are, this is a painting of what the kingdom life looks like.
Um, and in all of its facets and, you know, in all these different examples.
For me, I was thinking about one of our conversations we had, uh, a while ago where we were talking
about what does it mean to fulfill the law and how we said love, you know, faith acting
through love and that love in each of these examples, there's some kind of breakdown of
love, uh, you know, anger, judging others, like othering other people and, um, lying
and, and I think that, or dishonoring each other in lust or breaking our, our, our vows.
I think the, um, the thing that, that threads it through for me is this, this aspect of love
culminating in an appeal to love like God does, who loves his enemies that in somehow,
I mean, this is, I don't think this is a quote from the, the Old Testament at all, but, but
it's a, a good summary.
He's, I think he's saying of the law that you would love your enemies because that's
what God does.
That's what God does for all of us.
Um, okay.
So last question, we're coming in for a landing here on this.
I think we can just carry it through.
Um, we talked a little bit about the semantic field here that existed in Jesus's day with
terms like raca carrying salvic salvific weight.
That's another fun word.
Uh, anyway, this, this, uh, word meaning like, you know, uh, I think hypocrisy would be another
one. Its akin to heresy.
And Paul uses it, um, when he calls false teachers, hypocritical liars in 1st Timothy
So as we're wrapping up chapter five and we're transitioning now into chapter six, there's
several examples of hypocritical, hypocritical actions that Jesus talks about in that chapter,
which we're going to consider before we do, though, I want to consider the weight of these
kind of hypocritical teachings that Jesus exposes here in chapter five.
How do we guard against veering into hypocrisy in what we teach or believe or what we hear
about the word of God?
How do we know if we've got blinders on or earmuffs to God's word?
Well, so, you know, I think that the, the most reliable way, um, I, I'm reading, uh,
I'm reading a novel, um, about medieval times and there's a, there's a section where the
hero of the novel meets his estranged father and his brothers and he is describing them
and he describes one of his brothers as looking, looking how he thinks he looks.
And I thought it was a really weird thing to say.
And then I thought, Oh, we're talking about medieval Europe.
This is a man who's in his forties at this point or his, his late thirties and he's probably
never seen a reflection of himself in the mirror.
So he doesn't really know exactly what he looks like.
And I, and as I was reading that, I thought, and then I read this question and I thought
the way to guard against hypocrisy is to know what you look like.
And the only way to know what you look like, I'm going back to the fact that we're a church,
we're a brotherhood, we're a fellowship, we're a community.
And sometimes you need somebody else to tell you what you look like.
And it's, it's really the only way to guard against hypocrisy because otherwise you'll
just think you look great and you think you're doing fine and you think you've got it all
down, but you need somebody else to tell you, Hey, buddy, there's some, you know, you got
something hanging out of your nose there.
You know, you need the community to help you to avoid hypocrisy.
It's like the, do you remember the naked gun movies or I think there's police squad was
the, the TV show Leslie Nielsen.
There's one episode where there's this like seven foot tall lab tech.
You can't even see his face.
And so the gag is he's like, Hey, you got something on your face and you just do, and
then like half a banana falls off onto the table.
Oh, that was on there.
Not something small, but something big.
That's funny.
I, I, I think I totally agree with that.
And the other part, I mean, you're talking about, you know, hearing the word of God and
a big part of that, you know, as we've been doing these lessons, for instance, or these
discussions, you spend all this time thinking about other people and what they should do.
And that's a great way to get into a hypocritical mindset, right?
But what I've always had to, you know, the challenge and what I've been trying to wrestle
with the past six months is like, okay.
Let me just sit with this, you know, let me just sit with the scripture and allow the
word of God to come into my life and wash over my life.
And yeah, I mean, if, if my goal, I think of my goals to be, my goals to like muscle
through and be perfect myself, right?
It's going to be really easy to look for exceptions for me because it's hard and it's scary.
And maybe they don't apply to other people, you know, for me, right?
That's exactly what we do.
But yeah, but if I, if my goal is to just be with God, right?
I am a son of God and he wants me to be like him and to be with him and to be with him
forever and I just keep on moving towards that.
Then I think that helps me to be able to approach the word of God with a lot more honesty and
confidence that I can, I can come and really be cut and convicted and shown to be in the
And that, that's okay.
Because God just wants to continue working on me.
But really, you know, you can always wonder, do I have, do I have a blinder?
And I feel like that's just, I just got to pray and say, I don't want a blinder.
If there's a blinder on me, take it off and just kind of trust because ultimately I don't
know what I don't know.
So yeah.
And isn't there a section where Paul's like basically says, well, you know, you have your
beliefs and, you know, pray that God reveals it to you, you know?
So there is that.
And he says that at one point he's like, my conscience is clear.
He's like, but even that my conscience is clear.
He doesn't mean that I'm good.
It just, God's going to judge.
So that's, that could be scary.
That would have been scary to me a year ago.
It was scary to me a year ago.
It's a little less scary now because it's like, God's a good judge.
So yeah, there is that aspect.
I like what you're saying there where it is tough to come into the light and, and, but
it's, but what I'm also hearing is that we can trust God, that God, God loves us when
we were sinners.
He sent Jesus to die for us.
How much more now even, right?
That he, that, that we have his Holy Spirit in us, that he's, he's accepted us and put,
set his love upon us.
I think, you know, I think of what you said earlier, Tim, about fine being with and staying
as close to Jesus as possible.
And I think about the scene at the last supper when he tells them all, one of you is going
to betray me.
And one at a time they always, they go to him and say, is it me?
Surely not.
I Lord, is it, is it me?
But they all, yeah, go to him and say, anything after I said, sure.
How about I?
They all go to him and say, is it me?
I used to read that and think, boy, these guys are just, they're so clueless.
What are, are they just trying to justify themselves?
Are they, but I think that they were all understanding that there's something in me that could be
the betrayer.
I think they all realized that.
I think that I used to think of it as just kind of, they were kind of dumb, but now I
think of it more as I think they were probably just really humble and saying, oh, one of
us is a betrayer.
Is it me Lord?
Is it me?
And so, and the way we, the way we act upon that is staying as close to Jesus as we can.
Being as transparent to each other as we can be.
Being just being in the fellowship, just being somebody who volunteers in the fellowship
with that, is it me attitude?
You know, something else you said, Van resonated with me and it reminds me about what we're
doing here right now is wrestling with the word in community.
And I think that's really important to do.
And Tim, something you reminded, something you said a few episodes ago where you were
saying, yeah, you know, sometimes the books that I read, the commentaries are the best
ones are from dead people.
And it reminded me of a CS Lewis quote where he basically says the same thing, you know,
it's better to read from people in a different context historically than you.
Because they're, you know, I'm paraphrasing him, but they basically their blind spots
are different than your blind spots and you can see theirs and they can see yours.
Yeah, that's true.
And that's true for, and that's why the body of Christ is such an amazing place that we
can help each other to watch our life and doctrine closely and persevere in them.
Amen to that.
This is awesome, guys.
I'm so grateful for this.
Thank you.
Thank you.

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