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Sermon on the Mount: What did we learn?
“When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”
Matthew 7:28-29 NASB1995
The epic Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus fairly early in His ministry and captured primarily in the Gospel of Matthew (chapters 5-7), has a template for the believer that is worth revisiting again and again. I have spent several weeks exploring this beautiful sermon for the Heaven on Wheels devotionals, sometimes going verse by verse. Jesus is giving us the things and behaviors we should layer on top of the Ten Commandments This is what I discovered, which is much more than what you can glean just casually reading the verses:
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Beatitudes (blessings) Matthew 5:3-11: Jesus lays out the behaviors at the start of the sermon that every Christian should follow. The Beatitudes are climbed, one step at a time.
The first three Beatitudes set the tone for our spiritual character and disposition:
Poor in Spirit - We recognize our complete lack of spiritual virtue and our need to be totally humbled before God. We have the Kingdom of God.
Mourning - God uses suffering to draw us to Him. We also regret and mourn our sins and our past behaviors and mourn and have empathy for the suffering and tragedies of others. God will comfort us.
Meek or Gentle - This state is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest and stems from complete trust in God to guide and lead us; this is how we should deal with others. The Holy Spirit guides us into this state, which will allow us to inherit the Earth and be heir to everything Christ promises.
The fourth Beatitude now shifts our focus to sanctification:
Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness - This passion for God’s way and will is the foundation of belief. We have a true hunger and thirst for His Word, His Ways and His Wisdom and to become righteous. God will satisfy us now and into eternal life as long as we pursue this with our whole being.
The fifth through eighth Beatitudes guide us to the attitudes and the face that we show to others:
Merciful - God has been infinitely merciful to me and I don’t deserve it. I now need to return the favor and be merciful to others through unsparing generosity and total forgiveness. God will sustain and grant His mercy on the merciful.
Pure in Spirit - God sees our hearts and our inner thoughts and desires. If week seek His righteousness, we begin to change our lusts for things of this world and focus on His Kingdom through the Holy Spirit. We will see God!
Peacemakers - We are called by Jesus to model peace actively in a world filled with big and little wars. We engage in our communities, churches and each other to bring peace, becoming Sons and Daughters of God.
Persecuted - It is a given that many, if not most, Christians will suffer persecution at some time in their lives. It may be nasty comments on Social Media or can be outright persecution by a government or terrorist group or some agency. By modeling the first seven blessings of God, we are fully prepared for persecution and will see the Kingdom of God!
Salt and Light Matthew 5:13-16: After we are modeled by the Holy Spirit with the template of the Beatitudes, Jesus wants us to be salt and light to the world. Salt preserves and keeps things from being corrupted or turning rotten (it purifies). When salt becomes watered down it is no good for anything except being trampled underfoot. Light is essential to life and Jesus is our light. When our light of belief shines, others cannot help but wonder what we have that they are lacking.
Fulfilling the Law Matthew 5:17-20: Jesus tells us that He did not come to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill that law. His grace sets us free from the curse of not following God’s law, but we are not set free from its standard of holiness. Jesus did not override the Old Testament, but gives us the goal of exceeding the righteousness of the Pharisees and Scribes.
Considering Murder Matthew 5:21-26: Jesus goes beyond the historical “thou shalt not kill” and admonishes us that we are just as guilty of murder of another person when we are irrationally angry or curse others or hold a grudge. Righteous anger is acceptable (about injustice and suffering), but we do not act on that anger but we advance God’s kingdom.
Considering Adultery Matthew 5:27-30: Jesus goes beyond the actual physical act of adultery and tells that we are just as guilty of adultery when we lust after someone else with our eyes or swoon over a handsome or beautiful celebrity. We are committing sexual sin by viewing prurient entertainment or pornography and then “returning” to our marriage. It is better to “cut off” the offending parts of our body (figuratively - by not watching or ogling) than give our lives over to sin.
Considering Marriage Matthew 5:31-32: Jesus goes beyond the historical reasons for divorce, which were done for convenience but did not please God and admonishes us that divorce, other than for sexual immortality, results in adultery if the person remarries.
Considering Oaths and Vows Matthew 5:33-37: Jesus goes beyond the casual vows that seem innocuous and warns us that we should not swear oaths (“I swear…”) but just affirm “yes” or “no” and let our word stand. It is recognized that oaths are occasionally required by a government.
Considering An Eye for an Eye Matthew 5:38-42: We are asked not to retaliate for the insults and provocations of our enemies, but to go the extra mile and bless our enemies.
Considering Our Enemies Matthew 5:43-48: Jesus AGAIN tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us. I heard a sermon this week that said we not only need to pray for our enemies, but we tell NO ONE but God about the damaged relationship or issue (no gossip) and we pray for blessings on those who hate us or persecute us or even just ignore us.
Give, Pray, Fast in Secret and Avoid Repetition Matthew 6:1-8, Matthew 6:16-18: Jesus calls out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees in these passages (interspersed with the perfect prayer) and tells us to give, pray and fast in a way that it is between us and God and not be showcased or paraded for the world to see. Also, simplicity is better and meaningless repetition becomes just that: meaningless.
The Perfect Lord’s Prayer Matthew 6:9-13: Jesus tells us how to pray. We honor our Father in Heaven, pray for His kingdom to come, ask for our daily needs, ask for forgiveness (and we must give it first), and pray that we can avoid temptations.
Emphasizing Forgiveness Matthew 6:14-15: This is obviously one of the most important things that Jesus wants us to do. We are to FORGIVE others and not get caught up in tit-for-tat or cancel culture or any other ways to retaliate or get revenge. When we forgive our Father in Heaven will forgive us. Very, very difficult - the Holy Spirit is certainly needed to help us obey this command.
Treasures Matthew 6:19-21: Our treasures are heavenly, not earth-bound. Our focus should shift from acquisition and the “next great thing” to giving and being selfless. I covet the experiences of this life and the memories. This is one of the hardest commands to follow, but it should be in our prayers every day.
Light (or Darkness) in Our Eyes Matthew 6:22-23: We have light in our eyes if we are focused on God and on the eternal. Darkness obscures our vision when we are distracted by things of this life. The light in our eyes (or lack thereof) follows where our treasure is stored.
Two Masters Matthew 6:24: Pure and simple, you cannot serve both money and God. Your money is from God and giving back to Him will cause an abundance of blessings (not a lottery win). God is first and last and He will provide.
The Cure for Anxiety Matthew 6:25-34: Putting my trust in God is the best way that I have found to remove fears and anxiety from my life. If you have a Kingdom perspective (eternal life), the woes of this short mortal existence fade into obscurity. Worry does not add a single minute to your life and may even take minutes away. Trust and believe!
Judging Matthew 7:1-5: We are called to remove the logs in our own eyes before helping a brother with a speck in his and to judge only in a way that we would accept for ourselves. We are also called to unconditional love, NOT unconditional approval. Judging and discernment are two sides of the same coin. It is not a free pass to any behavior or sin on the part of others, but we are to show love and discernment and judge in a just way.
Pearls Before Swine Matthew 7:6: This is the other side of the judging coin. We judge in a just way and with discernment. Throwing what is holy to dogs (hard-core unbelievers) and casting our pearls of wisdom before swine (those who trample any message of God’s) is a waste of our time.
Ask..Seek..Knock Matthew 7:7-11: Bring your requests to God, who will give good gifts. We ask, we seek, we knock - be persistent and humble! Also know that the answer may be NO or be delayed because of God’s perfect timing.
The Golden Rule Matthew 7:12: Treat others the way you want to be treated! This is stated in a proactive way, meaning that we go the extra mile, like the Good Samaritan.
The Narrow Gate Matthew 7:13-14: Our path to eternal life is through a narrow gate. The road to Hell is broad, well-lit and paved with “good intentions”.
False Prophets Matthew 7:15-20: Beware of false prophets, who talk a good talk but can lead you right onto the wrong path! Fear those who can kill the soul!
The Will of the Father Matthew 7:21-23: If you claim Jesus as your savior and do nothing more to establish a relationship with Him and follow His will and commands and repent of sin (and stop repeating those sins), He will not know you at the day of judgment.
The Two Foundations Matthew 7:24-27: Build your foundation on solid rock, on your faith and relationship with Jesus!
Be blessed by God, be salt and light, control your anger and lust and be faithful to your spouse, forgive and forgive again and forgive your enemies, keep your prayers/giving/fasting secret and be humble, pray the perfect prayer and avoid repetition, serve one Master only and gain treasures in Heaven, give over your anxieties to Him, be just in your judging and be discerning, ask/seek/knock in your requests to God, treat others in a way you would want to treated, stay on the narrow path and avoid false prophets, build that foundation of a faith relationship with our Lord so that you are among the blessed sheep!
I learned SO much doing this deep examination of the Sermon on the Mount. I hope that you learned a lot, too. My next devotional will begin an in-depth examination of Romans 8, starting with Romans 8:1-4: The Law and the Life of the Spirit.
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