The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ manifesto – His statement about what is important to Him in the Kingdom of God. Of course it is important that the concept of the law would be central to what Jesus has to say. However Jesus says something that we would not expect – especially after telling everyone how much respect He has for the law that they have known.
Last month, I asked anbut there is more to it than that. It is also important to talk about why a proper definition of the gospel is needed.d answered the question, “What is the Gospel?” As I have thought about this question I realized that it is not only important to talk about what the gospel is, but there is more to it than that. It is also important to talk about why a proper definition of the gospel is needed. Why should we care about how we define the gospel?
Recently, in response to a statement about the commonality of the gospel amongst different denominations or groups of Christians someone said to me – “To be honest with you I could not disagree more. It is the Gospel that separates us (SDA) from other denomination's "gospel." Our (SDA) doctrines define the Gospel for us, they cannot be separated from the Gospel. Any deviation from sound doctrine is not the Gospel at all it's a false gospel.”
“I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves…. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load….For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised so that they may boast in your flesh.” Gal 5:12; 6:4, 5, 13
On Tuesday the Supreme Court heard two cases regarding the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. The interesting aspect of these cases is that the companies involved (Hobby Lobby being the more famous of the two) are for profit companies whose owners are committed Christians who believe that certain forms of contraception covered by the mandate are against their religious beliefs and that they should not be paying to provide them for their customers.
Last Friday Arizona became the first state to pass a bill that will allow for-profit business owners to claim a religious exemption in service to customers and treatment of employees. The bill, which would have allowed business owners to refuse to serve gay people and discriminate between genders in terms of pay, was vetoed by the governor yesterday.
I recently went through a word study of grace in the Bible. In the NASB, the word grace appears approximately 125 times. A good amount of the time the word is used either in greeting at the beginning of an epistle or at the conclusion of an epistle. It happened so often that it almost made me think that God’s grace might be something that only applied to Christians, a concept that only made sense in discussing what God had done for us.
We spend a lot of time during the Christmas season talking about things that don’t have much to do with what the holiday commemorates. There is certainly a lot of misguided focus on gift-giving and consumerism. Some Christians and television stations are overly focused on a war on Christmas that is not nearly as extensive as they seem to want it to be. The cliché is that Jesus is the reason for the season – and that is certainly true. If we are going to celebrate the coming of the Savior during this holiday season, then it is important for us to understand who Jesus is.
I am tempted to use this space at this time to talk about some of the interesting things going on this week. On Tuesday the Supreme Court decided to hear cases involving the religious rights of corporations. As a budding church-state scholar this is right in my wheelhouse and a fascinating and complex religio-political issue.