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Matt 5-7: The Sermon on the Mount Print E-mail
Monday, 01 August 2005

I was reading this week in the latest Readers’ Digest an article on what we can expect in the near future.  In celebrating their 1000th issue, they wanted to do a feature on certain trends that will impact our lives over the next five to ten years.  The article began with these words, in bold, large print: “It’s all about you.”  In the different sections of the feature, ranging from medical trends to media trends, the focus seemed to revolve around the simple mantra, “It’s all about you.”  Whether it is ipods and the internet or new jobs and healthy eating, the ‘new’ trends all revolve around the man-centered ideal. 

Needless to say, this is no ‘new’ ideal.  In fact, since Adam’s fall in the garden, man has constantly been trying to prove the point and live the lie that it is all about us.  We are not the first, nor the last, me-centered generation.  As with Copernicus and his revelation, we are fighting to hold on to the ideal that the world really revolves around us.

Yet, Jesus addresses this notion in the very opening of the Sermon on the Mount that we read just a moment ago.  He begins his teaching with this truth: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus begins his teaching with a radical truth.  The ones who are truly blessed are the ones who place no stock in themselves.  They are the ones who admit from the beginning that they are spiritually bankrupt, with nothing in and of themselves of worth to offer a holy God.  Jesus teaches that the kingdom belongs to those.  Even as we have seen in the past two weeks, Jesus, the King, has arrived and he has brought the Kingdom with him.  We saw the introduction of the kingdom last week with the preaching of John and the call to repentance and obedience.  In the Sermon on the Mount, even as we see in the Beatitudes, Jesus is continuing to teach us that the people of the Kingdom will be characterized by obedience to the king.  They will be a people who are distinct and set apart from the world.  They will be poor and meek.  They will mourn.  They will hunger and thirst for righteousness, offering mercy to those in need.  They will be pure in heart and peacemakers, even though they will be persecuted for the sake of righteousness.  For all of this, the world will call them insane and treat them as outcasts.  Yet, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom belongs to such as these and goes on to tell us more about them in his Sermon.

This morning, in looking at the Sermon on the Mount, I simply want to ask and answer three questions to help us understand all that Jesus is teaching us. 

First, how are we to be characterized as citizens of the Kingdom?

As we have already mentioned, we saw last week that people of the Kingdom will be characterized by obedience to the Father and His commands.  Of course, the obvious question then becomes: what are His commands?

In seeking to answer such a question, Jesus begins the major portion of the Sermon, by explaining his relation to the Old Testament, or the Law and the Prophets.  He tells us in 5:17, 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.  This is a great statement of the Lord’s.  He is teaching us how the Law and the Prophets are all pointing to Him.  Thus, we are not to do away with the Old Testament, but rather we are to read it and understand it in light of Christ and our redemption through Him.  In this way, we see that none of the Law will pass away until all is accomplished (5:18). 

Thus, Christ, offers us the true interpretation of the Law concerning specific commandments that apparently the religious leaders of the day had misunderstood and misapplied.  By giving us the true meaning of these commands, Christ is teaching us how the citizens of the Kingdom will be characterized.  He mentions six areas of radical obedience.

First, we are to labor for peace.  We see this in verses 21-26.  Here, and in other places in the Sermon, Jesus fleshes out the Beatitude, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (5:9).  It is not enough for us simply not to murder as seemingly some were teaching, we must labor not to be angry with our brothers and sisters.  If you are here this morning and there is animosity between you and someone else, I challenge you, the text challenges you, to go and make that right.

Second, we are to labor for sexual purity.  We see this in verses 27-30.  I would dare say that for most of the men in this room, these verses hit home.  It is not enough that we simply do not commit adultery, we must labor to not even lust after a woman.  The call here is to radical obedience.  What does Jesus mean by telling us to gouge our eyes and cut off our hands?  He is telling us to go to extremes to deal with this sin.  If your television is a source for temptation that you cannot resist, then get rid of it.  Better to miss a few games or to miss a few shows, then to go to hell having seen them.  If the internet is a source of temptation, then take some action.  Find accountability, set up filters, or end your service if you have to.  Better to miss some emails than to go to hell having received them.  Brothers, this is a call to radical obedience.  The text calls you to take action today, make war with the sin of lust as a citizen of the kingdom.

Third, we are to labor for faithful marriages.  We see this in verses 31-32.  Brothers and sisters we must fight for our marriages and the marriages of one another.  Marriage can be difficult, but this is not excuse to forget the fact that God hates divorce.  Citizens of the kingdom should be characterized by faithful marriages.

Fourth, we are to labor for trustworthiness.  In verses 33-37, Jesus speaks against making oaths just to prove that you mean what you say.  Rather, we should have the reputation of trustworthiness.  When we say yes, we mean yes and when we say no, we mean no.  This, too, should characterize us as the people of God.

Fifth, we are to labor for forgiveness.  We see this in verses 38-42 and also in 6:14-15.  We are to be people who forgive and do not seek retaliation when we have been wronged.  Since we have been forgiven so much, we should in turn be able to forgive others.  If we are not able to forgive, then we need to meditate anew on just what God has done to call us His own.  Our forgiveness of others is evidence that indeed we know the glory of the forgiveness we have been shown in Christ.

Sixth, we are to labor for love for our enemies.  We see again and again this call to be peacemakers and to be merciful.  In verses 43-47, Jesus calls us not to just love those that love us, but to also love our enemies.  We are called to love those who are difficult to love.  We are called to love the undesirables.  We are called to love even those who persecute us.  Again, Jesus is calling for his followers to be characterized by radical obedience in all areas of their lives.

Before looking at 6:1-18, let me add just a couple more calls to obedience that Christ gives us in the Sermon.  Seventh, in 6:19-34, Jesus calls us to labor in valuing and trusting God over all else.  We know no other King, we serve in no other Kingdom.  Our treasures are to be in heaven and not on this earth.  As the world busies themselves with more and more stuff, we are called to be a people who are content to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and let Him provide for all of our needs.  If this is an area you struggle in, I challenge you, even this day, consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.  Ask yourself, ‘If God can provide for them, can He not provide for me?’

Last, Christ calls us to labor for integrity in our judgments.  In the first 6 verses of chapter 7, Christ calls us to avoid the hypocritical attitude of pointing out everything that is wrong with someone else while neglecting to consider our own weaknesses and struggles.  In such a sense we are to avoid judging others.  And even though verse 6 is somewhat difficult to understand in context, it seems that Christ is calling us at the same time to use wisdom and discernment as we relate with others.

Thus, in all of this, we see a picture of how the citizens of the Kingdom are to be characterized.  Is Christianity, then, simply reduced to rules and regulations?  What about the possibility of legalism, pride, and conceit?  Christ addresses this in 6:1-18 and it leads to our second question to answer this morning.

Second, in what manner should we pursue these characteristics?

Are we simply to develop a wall chart that we hang in the back of the sanctuary to see who is ‘keeping up’ and who is ‘lagging behind?’  No, Christ prevents such an approach with his teaching found in 6:1-18.

Essentially Christ is calling us labor humbly as we pursue these characteristics.  Look at 6:1 with me.  If we simply practice our righteousness before one another to receive praise from men then we are forfeiting our reward in heaven.  Rather, Christ teaches us, specifically in regard to giving to the needy, praying, and fasting, to do these things in such a way that our right hand does not know what our left hand is doing (6:3).  We should not give to earn the praise of men.  We should not pray in such a way as to draw attention to ourselves and our piety.  We should not fast so as to say to one another, ‘Look how much I can suffer for the Lord.’  Rather, we are to practice our righteousness in such a humble manner that the Lord will reward us in heaven.

Also, in 7:7-11, we see that we are to labor continually.  A call for simple prayers is not necessarily a call for infrequent prayers.  No, as citizens of the kingdom we are to make our requests known to our God, believing that He delights in doing good to His children.  After all, If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him (7:11).  Thus, we should pursue these characteristics humbly and continually as citizens of the Kingdom.  And it is in this way, that we are called to live in obedience to the Law and the Prophets, as Jesus summarizes with the golden rule in 7:12, bringing the main part of the Sermon to a close.  Thus, we only have one question remaining this morning.

Third, why should we labor?

In the end, why should we labor to be characterized in such a way?  Why should all this be important to us as citizens of the kingdom?  Let me offer three reasons from the text.

First, we are called to be salt and light in a dead and dark world.  This is what Jesus teaches us in 5:13-16.  We should labor to be characterized by radical obedience so that men may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven (5:16).  As we have seen, not so that men will praise us and our goodness, but so that men will praise God for His great work in us.  We are to be a people who are set apart from the world by our radical obedience to God.  In this way we can indeed be salt and light in a dead and dark world.

Second, we should labor in such a way because we are children of a perfect heavenly Father.  Look at 5:48 with me.  As children of the Most High God, we should live in a way that reflects his holiness.  Granted, we will not do this perfectly until Christ returns and we are glorified, but that is not to be an excuse for our sin and laziness.  The Sermon on the Mount does point out our need for God in our obedience for we begin with being poor in spirit.  Yet, it does not relieve us of the responsibility of keeping the commands of our Holy God.  We are to be characterized by radical obedience because we are children of the King.

Third, and finally, we should labor because we are true, fruit bearing disciples of Jesus Christ, who are building our house upon the rock.  Matthew concludes his account of the Sermon on the Mount with four sets of warnings: two ways, two trees, two claims, and two builders.  We are either on the narrow road which leads to life or we are on the broad road which leads to destruction.  We are either bearing fruit in keeping with repentance or we are bearing fruit in keeping with rebellion.  Either are claim to know Christ is validated by our obedience to His commands, or we are simply deceiving ourselves and are really workers of lawlessness.  And finally, we are either building our house upon the sand by rejecting the Words of Christ, or we are building our house upon the rock by being obedient to the Words of our Lord.  In the end, there is no in between.

As we saw last week, all obedience to the Father begins with faith in His Son.  Thus, if you are here this morning and have never admitted your spiritual bankruptcy and placed your faith in Christ, then I encourage you to plead with the Lord for mercy even this morning as we close our service.  If, on the other hand, you are a citizen of the Kingdom and the Lord has convicted about some specific area of obedience that we have discussed this morning, I challenge you to repent of your sins and ask the Lord for grace to be radically obedient to his commands that you might indeed be salt and light in a dead and dark world for His glory.  Amen.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 25 July 2006 )

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