1. Kingdom Glimpses
“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...” (Declaration of Independence)
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (FDR).
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” (Martin Luther King, Jr.).
“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” (Lincoln).
Jesus’s greatest recorded message: the Sermon on the Mount
One biblical commentary said, “The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed.”
It’s ironic that unbelievers often hold the Sermon on the Mount in higher regard than Christians do.
If you Google “greatest speeches in history,” the Sermon on the Mount shows up on virtually every list.
Dr. James T. Fisher, a non-Christian psychologist, “If you were to take the sum total of all the authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental health — if you were to combine them, refine them, and cleave out the excess verbiage — and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summary of the Sermon on the Mount.”
Christians tend to downplay, dismiss, or ignore the Sermon on the Mount.
We don’t take it seriously. Familiarity breeds contempt.
Matt 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
Some don’t like what Jesus teaches, but would rather pick and choose what they want (like a buffet).
Matt 5:32 “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
Matt 5:39 “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.”
Matt 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
Matt 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Some dismiss the Sermon on the Mount as the “impossible ideal.”
Dr. Jonathan Pennington, “This view… contributes to the neglect, evasion, or at least confusion regarding the Sermon on the Mount in much of the Protestant tradition.”
Beau Martin, “Blessed are those who don’t exist, because everything I’m about to say is unattainable.”
Subject: What is the Sermon on the Mount? What is the purpose of the largest single block of teaching from Jesus that we have?
Scripture: Matthew 5:1-12. Keep it open on your lap, but we’re not going to read it until the end.
The Sermon on the Mount is God’s design for human flourishing. This teaching is the Creator’s plan for the humans he created.
“Blessed” is best understood as flourishing.
Not, if you do this, then God will bless you.
Not, health, wealth, and prosperity for your best materialistic life now.
Dr. Jordan Peterson, “The Sermon on the Mount outlines the true nature of man, and the proper aim of mankind.”
God’s design for human flourishing begins with who you are, not what you do.
The Christian life is not about behavior management but character transformation.
Illustration: Learning to tell the truth unconsciously…
Application: Character is an extension of identity. Who am I? Identity is formed in large part by the people you love and relate to. Who are my people?
The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’s vision for the kingdom people of God. This teaching is the Lord’s glimpse of kingdom life for the children of God.
The Sermon on the Mount is about us, not just me or you.
Illustration: John Stott wrote in 1985: “The followers of Jesus are to be different—different from both the nominal church and the secular world, different from both the religious and the irreligious. The Sermon on the Mount is the most complete delineation anywhere in the New Testament of the Christian counter-culture… too often what [today’s young people] see in the church is not counter-culture but conformism, not a new society which embodies the ideals [of meaning, peace, love, and reality] but another version of the old society which they have renounced, not life but death… Insofar as the church is conformed to the world… the church is contradicting its true identity. No comment could be more hurtful to the Christian than the words, ‘But you are no different from anybody else.’”
If we belong to Jesus, we are different… 1 Peter 2:9-10.
Who We Are
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
We are people who have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are not self-righteous but are poor in spirit. And yet, God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms.
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
We have contributed to the pain and suffering and death in the world, and we are heartbroken by our sin. But the Lord comforts us in our grief.
Matthew 5:5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
We do not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but in meekness we treat others with gentleness, humility, patience, and respect. Rather than fighting to get as much as possible for ourselves, we trust God’s promise that we will inherit everything in Christ.
Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
We are a people who long to see the end of pain, suffering, and injustice in the world. We hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness to come and set all the wrong things right again. And in Christ, we taste true love and justice for everyone.
Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
We deserved judgment, but God gave us mercy through Jesus’s death and resurrection. Therefore, we are merciful to others. And God’s mercies to us are new every morning.
Matthew 5:8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
We are not double-minded but are devoted to one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. And one day, we will see Him face to face.
Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
We embody shalom, God’s peace, because we are sons and daughters of God who bear a family resemblance to Jesus.
Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
We will be rejected by the world around us because we live for Jesus. But, when people laugh at us, slander us, mock us, lie about us, and say evil things about us because of our faith, we will rejoice. Gladness will fill our hearts because we will know that the King of Heaven Himself approves of us and has sent us on His behalf.
1 Peter 2:9-10… Is this true of you?
Jesus is inviting you into the kingdom community of God’s people.
Communion is your RSVP.