There are some things that bother me about Christianity as it is modernly practiced. It’s something that so many people are just not getting even though it’s the basics. Perhaps it has to do with our human nature of wanting to understand all those advanced technicalities first instead of starting with the basics, then moving on later to what is advanced. So many Christians want to start with deep theological doctrine– such as the intricacies of eschatology. You will find that they can give you an hour long sermon on eschatology, or refuse to even discuss it with you because of your so-called ignorance of end times events (that’s what eschatology is if your thinking “escha-whatadgy?”), and yet violate almost every single teaching found in the sermon on the mount in the same breath. What makes a better Christian though? What will attract more people to Christ? I think after we spend a few weeks (or even months perhaps) looking at the sermon on the mount you will agree with me that it is better to know these chapters well and even better to live them than to know “deep” theological doctrine. This might mean that the next few posts will be longer than usual though, so bear with me if you will.
As I have been re-reading the book of Matthew I have been so encouraged and inspired by the topics in the Sermon on the Mount. So much so that I felt like I just had to share it with you all. The sermon on the mount is one of the most life changing sermons Jesus ever gave ranging from the topics of marriage, prayer, fasting, how to practice your spirituality, etc.– all recorded in chapters 5-7 in the book of Matthew (also with parts of it recorded in the gospels of Mark and Luke). Everything in here is so important, and yet so few Christians actually live and obey it. In fact if you did so you might be called a radical– you may even at times have to go against the status-quo of modern Christian culture (hopefully not though, hopefully what I have to say is something you have already heard and just needed to be reminded of). If there is just one thing you would want to focus on after accepting Christ as your savior, it would be these three chapters. If you do this you will be literally decades ahead of other Christians as relates to spiritual maturity.
So, with all of that said, we are going to go verse by verse, line by line, precept upon precept through these 3 chapters. My prayer though is that you would spend this time with Christ Himself, seeking understanding of the Word of God by the Spirit of God and that my thoughts would only be secondary to that.
And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying…” -Matthew 5:1-2 NKJV
We probably won’t get much further than these two verses today, since I am guessing by now you are already tired of reading. Notice the first part of the first sentence “and seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain…”. In the previous chapter Jesus had just finished healing multitudes of people from all kinds of sickness, diseases, demons, etc. After performing all these amazing miracles all these multitudes of people began to follow Jesus. Instant mega-church and instant stardom. Yet, what Jesus does is counter-culture– it is counter human logic. Seeing the multitudes He withdraws. What!?! Jesus why would you do that? You just gained a huge following!!! Now you are withdrawing to teach just a handful of disciples when you could be with the multitudes?
It isn’t that mega-churches are bad, they are not. Although they can be if they begin to interfere with your intimacy with Christ. If your Christian walk starts to be about the multitudes of people being dealt with, with the multitudes being healed, so much so that your personal walk with God is hindered then that can be a problem. So long as your private intimacy with Jesus is intact though mega-churches can be OK. What is the key for us to learn here then? Jesus wants intimacy with true disciples, not just a multitude that follows Him for the sake of what they can get out of it. Jesus had a habit of withdrawing to the mountains. It was often in seclusion that Jesus spent time with His father alone, but this time Jesus invites His disciples to His private time and discloses one of the most influential and important sermons that He ever gave. So then, the sermon on the mountain isn’t evangelical. It is for the disciple. It isn’t for the mixed multitude, it is for the Christian that has decided to follow Jesus with all their heart, mind and soul and has left everything behind to do it. It is for the Christian that want’s to be like Christ, and so here Christ explains how that can be done.
The next phrase states “…and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.” Gaining instruction from the Master goes both ways. The master withdrew in order to teach His disciples, but the disciples also knew that they must come to Him in order to learn. To learn from Christ, you must humbly come to Him with an open mind to learn. You can’t expect to learn about how to live life as a Christian through osmosis– there is a formal decision to come to Him and learn from Him. This can and will happen when you go to church, but it is more important that we withdraw from the world for some private time with Jesus, for some personal and intimate instruction through reading the word of God and prayer. We will get to more about that aspect of Christianity known as “devotional time” later on in Chapter 6, for now though lets just remember that Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything without first setting the example by His actions.
“Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying…” Jesus here imparts teaching– through His words. The disciples came ready to learn, so Jesus taught. This concept is still true today, although we do not have the benefit of Jesus in the flesh teaching us through His spoken words we do have the benefit and aid of the Holy Spirit teaching us through the written Word of Christ, the Bible.
In John 16:5-7,12-15 Jesus is instructing the disciples that He must go away to return to the Father. He was talking about how He must be crucified, resurrected, and ascend to the Father in Heaven. He was teaching the disciples that when He left He would send the Holy Spirit to continue to instruct them in the truth.
But now I go away to Him who sent me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you… I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. -John 16 5-7,12-15 NKJV
There is a lot more to be said about what the apostle John records of Jesus’ teaching on the Holy Spirit but the main point I want to make here is that Jesus can and does continue to teach us through His words– just in a different way than that the original disciples experienced at first. We now have the advantage of the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer that will help you to understand the many more things that Jesus wants you to understand. The Holy Spirit will help guide you into truth– He will help you to know what is true teaching and what isn’t. He doesn’t speak on His own authority though, he declares what He has heard spoken (or rather written) from the Word of God, the Bible, as you read it or recall it throughout the day. Jesus says the Spirit takes what is of Jesus’, giving glory to Jesus and declaring it to us. What is Jesus’? His word, His teachings, and even His life is His. It is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the trinity, who is the actualizing agent working in the life of the believer to not only help us to understand God’s Word but also help us to live it out as well.
As you can see there is a whole lot to learn from the sermon on the mount, and so it’s going to take us a while to finish this series. I think it is going to be worth it in the end though, since these concepts are the basics that we really need to understand to be more like Christ. Forget about eschatology for a while, and focus first on the basics. Focus on trying to imitate Christ, then once you have that down you can go have fun and learn about all the fun things contained in Daniel, Revelation, etc.
May God bless you as we go through this book together, and may we both be conformed more and more into the image of Christ as we do.