Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sermon On The Mount - Introduction


Let me encourage you to read this passage through several times this summer. Take time to just read it without stopping to analyze. Read it through and listen for common phrases and try to get a broader sense of the themes Jesus is talking about. Do take time to also look at specific verses or words as well.
This sermon starts off with the beatitudes. I remember memorizing these as a kid in Sunday School. They set the standard for following Jesus. They have a sense of “this is what is important!” It is almost as if you have an index in the beatitudes, and then Jesus begins to walk through the rest of the sermon expounding what they mean and refer to. I want to give you some foundational thoughts to consider as we go through the beatitudes and this sermon of Jesus. Look for these themes that we find in Matthew 5:13-20 which follows immediately after the beatitudes.

Theme 1: What is important? Why are the beatitudes key? Matthew 5:13-16
We have two pictures in these verses. The first is salt, the second is light. The beatitudes are key because they describe a life that reflects the character of God. They describe a life that allows people to see the truth of who God is. That is the real question, isn’t it? A Buddhist comes up to you and asks how you know God is the “Christian” God and not the one who revealed himself through Buddha? Or Allah, the god of Islam, or on of the thousands of gods of Hindu. Who is God the Creator of the ends of the earth? The beatitudes tell us, and over the next several weeks we will be looking at each trait listed. And as we study them, as we live them out through the power of God – God will reveal Himself through you to those around you.
Salt is a preserver and a symbol of friendship to which the Arabs still regard it today. If we, the church, the followers of Jesus lose our saltiness, our holiness, what good are we? Are we no different than the one who does not follow Jesus? – That is an impossibility!
Light is meant to be seen. The light of Jesus is to be seen in us. It is to be seen so people will come to see Jesus for who He is. Does the church just keep the light here in a building like this? Is not that similar to hiding it under a bushel? It is to be out there, in the world, where all may see it. The beatitudes are important because they reveal the standard to which we strive.

Theme 2: The Law is fulfilled in the Beatitudes! Matthew 5:17-19
The firefighter runs into a burning building. He grabs the fallen boy, throws him over his shoulder, and carries him out. There is only one way to be saved from that fire, you have to get out of the building. The boy couldn’t save himself because of the smoke and fear, but the firefighter did for the boy what the boy could not do, and saved him. Jesus is saying the Law is valid until the end of time. You have to keep the Law if you want to see God… but read the fine print. Often the fine print puts the limits and boundaries and boxes around all the good stuff, the contract. The fine print here is that Jesus fulfilled the Law, and if we give our lives to Him, we fulfill the Law through Him.

Theme 3: The Beatitudes lead to a righteousness beyond the Law! Matthew 5:20
The Scribes and Pharisees had the job of knowing the Law inside and out. They were like lawyers, though here they were expected to follow the law as completely as they could. Up to this point no one was able to fulfill the law. Romans 3:23 says that everyone was found wanting, for if you blew it even just once, you were guilty of the whole thing. But look at the following phrases:
“You have heard it was said…” vs. 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, and 43
“But I say to you…” vs. 22, 28, 32, 34, 39, and 44
Jesus spells out not just the letter of the Law, but the spirit as well. Jesus is telling us it isn’t just about doing the right thing, it is about being the right person. Following Jesus is about love and mercy and grace. It is like those 3-d images that on the surface is just a bunch of shapes and colours. As you stare at it and go slightly cross-eyed, though a 3-d picture pops out of the background. You have to look through the Law to see the truth of it.

So the challenge is this: What are you doing with and for Jesus Christ today? This sermon of Jesus closes with a parable of two foundations. One man built on a rock, the other on the sand. The only difference is not that one prayed a prayer of confession to God. The difference was not some deep thinking and pious thoughts. It was not based on church attendance, or the condition of the building they met in. It was that one of them acted on Jesus’ words, and the other did nothing. Following Jesus is about walking step in step with His Spirit.

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