What is Jesus’ turn the other cheek meaning?

First, let’s look at how Jesus teaches in a specific pattern throughout the Sermon on the Mount.

  1. He starts with: “You’ve been taught {the old way of doing things}…”
  2. Then he explains: “But I say {the new way of doing things}…”
  3. And he finishes: “Here’s how {this topic} impacts your life…”

In today’s devotional verses, Jesus says:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:38–39 ESV

He quotes Old Testament law from passages like Exodus 21:24Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 19:21.

This law was not meant to be brutal. Instead, it was meant to limit retaliation to a proportional affect.

So if you were hurt, you couldn’t justly hurt the offender in a tenfold way—like killing them for it.

…but, Jesus is taking this “right” away. Saying that disciples have no right to retribution.

Commentator Matthew Henry wrote, “…for it is the second blow that makes the quarrel.”

Violence builds upon itself. Evil for evil is self-perpetuating.

In today’s passage, Jesus isn’t telling us to be doormats or passive objects of abuse. Instead, we’re called to a new standard: giving up personal vengeance.

The True Turn The Other Cheek Meaning

So what did Jesus really mean?

First, notice how curiously specific Jesus’ phrase is: “…if anyone slapsyou on the right cheek…” (Emphasis mine.)

Here’s how it worked. Most people (70 – 95%) are right handed.

To be slapped on the right cheek meant someone would be hitting you with the backside of their left hand. And the left hand was associated with weakness and even impurity.

Even more, in their culture any slap was considered an insult. It was a degrading action and a sign of great disrespect. And it was doubly so if someone backhanded you.

Surprisingly, pastor Keith Krell explains in this article that if a man hit you “with the back of his hand instead of punching you in the mouth, you could collect twice the damages because an insult was worse than an injury in Jesus’ honor-shame society.”

Jesus’ teaching was a sign of both brilliance and humility before God.

Brilliance because he offered people a real solution for being abused.

And humble because he still called his disciples—which includes us today—to the higher standard of leaving vengeance off the table.

  • Do you seek revenge anywhere in your life?
  • Are you hanging onto a proverbial list of people who have wronged you, so you can get back at them?
  • Have you surrendered your right to retaliate to God?
  • Where do you need to submit your thirst for vengeance to God?
  • Are you being abused? How can you remove yourself from the situation in a non-violent way? Pray for wisdom and the Holy Spirit’s guidance here.
  • Finally, what is Jesus’ true turn the other cheek meaning to you?

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The Devils Beatitudes

Posted: September 24, 2017 in Thoughts on God

THE DEVIL’S BEATITUDES

If the devil were to write his beatitudes, they would probably go something like this:

1. Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians – they save me the effort of trying to keep them from God’s blessings.

2. Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked – its pretty easy to keep them from working for God.

3. Blessed are the touchy who stop going to church – they are my missionaries.

4. Blessed are the trouble makers – they shall be called my children.

5. Blessed are the complainers – I’m all ears for them.

6. Blessed are those who are bored with the minister’s mannerisms and mistakes – for they get nothing out of his sermons.

7. Blessed is the church member who expects to be invited to his own church – for he is a part of the problem instead of the solution.

8. Blessed are those who gossip – for they shall cause strife and division – that pleases me.

9. Blessed are those who are easily offended – for they will soon get angry and quit.

10. Blessed are those who do not give their offering to carry on God’s work – for they are my helpers.

11. Blessed is he who professes to love God but hates his brother and sister – for they shall be with me forever.

What is God like?

Posted: September 21, 2017 in Thoughts on God

Answer the following question out loud: “What is God like?”

In today’s devotional verse, we read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1 ESV

The “Word” John writes about is three things:

  1. Eternal;
  2. A distinct personality who is God’s companion;
  3. God himself.

Later in John 1, we discover that this “Word” also “became flesh and dwelt among us…the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

This Word is none other than Jesus himself. But isn’t that a funny way to introduce Jesus, as the “Word”?

Why would God be described this way?

There are many ways to answer this question, but one of the most straightforward is this: Jesus is the most perfect communication of who God is, what he cares about, and what his mission is in the world.

So if we want to know what God is like and who he is, we go to the Gospels and look at Jesus. Everything he said and did was exactly what the Father wanted him to say and do. His compassion, his brilliance, his backbone, his miracles, his heartache… Everything perfectly communicates the heart and personality of God.

Through Jesus, we can know exactly who God is.

How Jesus Answers, “What Is God Like?”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

John 14:9

When we look at Jesus, we see the clearest picture of who God is.
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For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

John 12:49 ESV

When we listen to Jesus, we’re hearing God’s words from the Word himself. 
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Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.

John 14:1

When we believe in Jesus, we’re trusting in God.
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If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14:15

When we obey Jesus, we’re loving God.
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So, what is God like?

  • To look at Jesus is to look at God.
  • To listen to Jesus is to listen to God.
  • To believe in Jesus is to believe in God.
  • To obey Jesus is to love God.

Today, read one story about Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John and identify which one of the four things Jesus is revealing to you about God.

Paul found himself in jail—again.

He was a repeat offender.

In and out of the penal system all of his adult life. In fact, he would end up dying in prison. But, as we know, he was much more than a common criminal.

The only laws he broke were those that stood against the advancement of God’s Kingdom. A radical departure from his former way of life!

In today’s devotional verse, he explains how he views his imprisonment:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Philippians 1:12-14 (ESV)

Today, we know Paul was innocent. The Philippians knew it, too. Heck, even Paul knew Paul was innocent!

But rather than don the mantle of a victim and cry, “Woe is me!”— Paul thought about and prayed for the Philippian church (Philippians 1:3-4).

Rather than be consumed with thoughts about himself and the injustice he suffered, he considered others and what was happening in their lives.

How did he do this?

How could he elevate his mind from dwelling solely on his circumstances to pray for others?

And then, to top it all off, how did he experience joy from this practice?

How Paul’s Trials Advance The Gospel

Paul did this because he understood what his trials were for. Plain and simple, he knew trials advance the Gospel. And at his core, that’s what Paul was all about.

That’s what he spent his life “being poured out as a drink offering” for.

Just like an upturned glass of fine merlot, Paul spilt everything he had to serve Jesus.

Paul knew that:

  1. His trials propelled the Gospel forward in a way that he couldn’t orchestrate via his own power, eloquence, or influence.
  2. His trials were used for the benefit of others, to build up, edify, and strengthen them.
  3. His trials served to make others bold in advancing the gospel alongside of him because of how he faced them.

Paul didn’t wallow in self-pity or launch a PR campaign to garner sympathy. Rather, he rejoiced that God was at work through both his circumstances and his attitude in them.

To our God, obstacles are opportunities. Because where human strength fails, God’s power shines.

All eyes can fixate and focus on the singular, undeniable power at work because no one could possibly take the credit except for him.

  • What’s your first reaction to trials in your life?
  • Do you believe your trials advance the Gospel?
  • When you are wronged or face injustice, do you see it as an opportunity to advance the Gospel, edify your brothers and sisters in Christ, and embolden the Church?
  • Where in your life can you prayerfully put this attitude into practice right now?
  • Do you expect joy or displeasure in this practice? Why?

Being the salt of the earth

Posted: September 19, 2017 in Thoughts on God

What does it mean to be the salt of the earth?

Today’s verse comes from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount:

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Matthew 5:13 ESV

Jesus says that when salt has lost its taste, it’s only good for being trampled beneath people’s feet.

So the big question is: “Are you salty?”

Here are three questions to ask yourself.

The Salt of the Earth Makes People Thirsty

One of the simplest things salt does is make people thirsty.

Chemically, salt makes us thirsty because our brain sends a signal to drink water to balance sodium levels in the blood.

While first-century folks wouldn’t have known the exact physiology of this, they didn’t need to. Because they experienced the same sensation of being thirsty after eating salty dishes.

For disciples, we can take a cue from our food. Just as our brains create a desire for water, our lives should create a desire in people for the living water of Jesus.

Does your life make people thirsty for Jesus?

The Salt of the Earth Improves Taste

The word translated as “has lost its taste” is moraino. In Greek, this literally means “cause to become nonsense” or “make foolish.”

In this sense, disciples are to act in a way that helps people understand and apply the gospel.

Just like a sharp palette identifies particular flavors in a meal, Christians should help people make sense of the gospel’s flavor. This means every situation should be viewed through a gospel-centered lens.

Does your life add grace and enrich the understanding of the gospel in peoples’ lives?

The Salt of the Earth Preserves and Protects

Finally, salt is a preservative.

By dehydrating food, it preserves it from spoiling.

An article in the Scientific American explains even more effects of salt:

“…these processes not only prevent spoilage of foods, but more importantly serve to inhibit or prevent growth of food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella or Clostridium botulinum when properly applied.

Salt both preserves and protects.

We doe this by ensuring our doctrine remains undefiled and undiluted. We don’t gather teachers who tell us what we want to hear.

Instead, we crave the truth from God’s Word itself. We commit to it. And are changed by it.

The true gospel saves us eternally and in this life.

Does your life participate in God’s preserving and protecting work through the gospel?

Let your yes be yes

Posted: September 18, 2017 in Thoughts on God

It’s happening.

Gray hair is sprinkling into my temples.

As we all do, I’m getting older. But in today’s verse, Jesus uses the inevitable aging process to show us something. Something key about the character of a disciple.

How many times have you said something like, “I swear to God it’s true…” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us simply: let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.

And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply “Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Matthew 5:36–37

So what’s going on here?

3 Ways Jesus Calls Us Higher

First, Jesus takes our word to another level. Because he shows us our commitment to doing what we say is a direct window into who we really are. It’s a mirror for our integrity.

Our commitment to doing what we say is a direct window into who we really are.
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Second, Jesus reminds us we only have power over our actions—not over anything greater we would swear by. That is why disciples are not to evoke a “higher power” to help people trust they’ll make good on their commitments.

Matthew Henry said we should live with “such a constant regard to truth as would render oaths unnecessary.”

Third, swearing by greater powers comes from the “evil one.” Remember Jesus’s description of the Devil in John 8:44? He said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Notice that lying, or breaking oaths, is part of his nature. When he speaks, he cannot be trusted.

But as disciples, we embody Jesus’s character. And he is named “Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11).

Let Your Yes Mean Yes

So our questions today are:

  1. Why do you make promises by appealing to a higher authority?
  2. Jesus shows us a simple way of being true. How would fully committing to your yeses and no’s make your life look different?
  3. Do you let your yes mean yes?
  4. When was the last time you broke your word? Seek forgiveness from this person and make it right. Tell them you’re doing so because Jesus shows us a higher way.

How to grow your spiritual life

Posted: September 13, 2017 in Thoughts on God

I’ve always thought about today’s passage in an external sense, rather than about the spiritual life. After all, that’s how it presents itself.

The lazy person reaps ruin while the diligent can expect a healthy harvest.

Simple. Makes sense. It’s a good challenge to keep me working hard and ensure I don’t let myself slack off.

But what if we consider this sowing-and-reaping principle in terms of our spiritual life? Specifically in our relationship with God.

Read today’s devotional verse:

I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.

Proverbs 24:30–34 ESV

We might not all live in castles or own vineyards, but we do all have the most valuable possession in the world: a human heart, soul, and spiritual life that needs tending.

Which scene resembles your inner quality of life in the following facets:

  1. Your spiritual life and relationship with the Lord,
  2. and your relationship with yourself?

If you’re like me, it’s probably a mix of the two.

Tending To Your Spiritual Life

There are places in my relationship with the Lord I can honestly say are well-cultivated.

For me, being in the Bible and in prayer are two places I’ve experienced incredible life. I have also put myself on the line in order to be obedient to his direction—even though it’s been scary and uncomfortable.

It’s a mainstay of my personal relationship with Jesus.

I may not have a heart populated by colonnades and cascading fountains, but there is life there for both myself and for others.

But if I dig deeper:

  • What about pride and my desire for recognition and praise?
  • What about envy?
  • What about my greed?
  • What about mean-spiritedness and incessant judgment of other people based on appearances?
  • What about how I deal with anger?
  • And the list goes on…

You see, the further I look past the well-tended fixtures of my inner life, I notice neglected places and crumbling walls.

I see nettles intruding on flower beds, choking the life out of what is good.

Tending To Your Personal Inner Life

The same goes for my relationship with myself.

  • Do I hold myself accountable for my attitudes?
  • Do I deal with anger before it blossoms into resentment?
  • Am I the same man in private as I am in public?
  • Am I cultivating habits that, while not comfortable, will produce life?
  • And again, the list goes on…

I encourage you to survey your spiritual life in the same way. Find both areas that are flourishing and those that are crumbling.

How can you be diligent to tend to both? How will you increase fruitful areas while tilling up the weed-infested ones and starting over?

For me, it all starts with a willingness to see reality. So, are you willing to see the real problems that exist in your heart? Are you willing to admit that there are cycles of trouble in your life that don’t stem from everyone else’s actions, but are caused by your own attitudes and dispositions?

Here’s the deal. Until you own the entirety your inner life—the fruit trees and the weeds—you’ll never have the power or clarity to nurture it to its full potential.

So, if you find yourself in a spiritual draught, be diligent in cultivating the places where life can be found.

We can nurture wonderful landscapes within our hearts and minds—but we must do so on purpose. The question today is, are you?