I remember years ago while I was in college I had a religion professor make a statement that has sort of stuck with me since. He was preaching on a portion of the Sermon on the Mount and frankly I can’t even tell you which portion. But I remembered he passionately declared this: “The sermon on the Mount should, at some point, offend you…where the Spirit of God arrests your heart because you are living in direct opposition to it.” It was powerful and convicting and has been something I have thought often about ever since that chapel day. I studied the Sermon on the Mount. Maybe you’re unfamiliar with it. If you have the time, which I would recommend making the time, read Matthew 5-7. Let me set the stage for you. Jesus is becoming a known a speaker all over the land of Israel. People are recognizing his name. People are talking about him. People are gathering everywhere he went because there was something about the things he said. Jesus was in the Galilean area roaming all over the region encountering people. There’s a hilltop that overlooks the Sea of Galilee, now called the Beatitudes. This hilltop was the setting for this sermon. Tens of thousands of people flocked to the location because they heard Jesus would be speaking. I imagine it was a clear and beautiful day. I’ve been to this place and it truly is stunning. The crowds gathered.
Then Jesus spoke.
The things Jesus said were not the popular voice. They were countercultural and often counter religion. They were statements that stirred the people to seek God and ways of honoring him instead of Man. The statements were radical. And the people listened. Jesus spoke of forgiving those who have hurt you, of watching your eyes from lust, of redemption, of caring for the poor, of the damages of pride, of faith. Ultimately everything Jesus said was said with purpose to show people something simply profound: that with living in such a way, it goes beyond being religious, it goes beyond being good, and instead brings you a place where we can strive to be holy and God honoring in every facet of our lives.
The Sermon on the Mount was not just a radical message 2000 years ago. It is the same radical message today that causes controversy not because its not true, but because we are innately selfish beings and living in a God-honoring way is harder than living in a self-pleasing way. The message Jesus spoke should convict us. It should offend us, as my professor said, because at some point we aren’t living well to one or more of the things he discussed. Maybe it offends you because you actually hate someone, maybe someone who has hurt you, but Jesus says to forgive and not seek revenge. Maybe this sermon offends you because you do lust and allow your eyes to look at people in such a way that your heart is already unfaithful. Maybe this offends you because you know you are prideful. Maybe it offends you because you are like the Pharisees- the religious people of that day- because you are really good at religion but don’t actually know Jesus, and the very thought of admitting that maybe you’ve focused so much on being good and not being godly is offensive. Maybe it offends you because you are hateful in someway to some person. But there is good news. Jesus is our hope. He spoke that message that day knowing that we would fail, knowing that our sin nature would be something that we would daily have to overcome. His forgiveness and redemption are for us. So be hopeful because Jesus loves you. He died for you. And he wants to redeem you. If the Sermon on the Mount offends you, look honestly at yourself and what is the actual offensive part. Maybe, just maybe, its offensive because God is trying to convict you- trying to arrest your heart- to help bring you into something better and more God honoring. God doesn’t convict us without offering hope. Jesus is our hope. He is our hope for everything we face.
Below are a few thoughts I have on the messages of the Sermon on the Mount. Take the time to read Matthew 5-7 as well. Maybe just maybe God has something he wants to share with you…
-“Blessed are the…” Jesus was giving everyone an opportunity to see his Love and purpose, in order that God would be glorified.
-“You are the salt and light of the earth..” Jesus was calling his followers to a higher standard, so that he would be seen by all men. Our lives are a reflection of our belief.
-Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not remove it, a misconception by many. We are to serve him through the Word. This leads to righteousness. So read the Bible and do what it says.
-Jesus spoke against hatred, no matter who it is directed to because hatred is the equivalent of murder. Nothing about hatred is good.
-Lust is as bad as adultery. It is adultery of the heart. All temptation that leads to lust must be removed- “tear it out and throw it away”.
-Jesus also took a moment to share the sacredness of marriage. He understood that it is not easy, but he stood on the side of restoration. Marriage is the best example on earth as to how to live like Christ in relationship.
-Yes or No…simply put. Jesus was telling the people, as well as us, that we must honor him by honoring commitments. Be a person of your word. The rest is sin and evil.
-Revenge and retaliation often seem like the best choice. Yet Jesus said to be a better example of Love by not acting against those who hurt you.
-Pray for all people, especially those that have hurt you, made your life miserable, wounded you…that leads us to God’s perfection, which is holy. It is healing for us to pray and to forgive.
-Be cautious of pride, especially when serving others. Everything you do, do it to honor God not men. Have the mentality: “its not about me”
-Jesus taught about prayer…its reverence, thankfulness, devotion, and intimacy with God. And fasting is about your relationship with God.
-Whatever you treasure and value will show in your life. If that is not God, others will also see that your heart and life is not for him.
-Jesus said to stop worrying or being anxious. Trust God and have faith. Seek his righteousness and he will be with you.
-Jesus was the only perfect person, so do not judge others. He simply wants your life to reflect him, working through your weaknesses. And to be clear Jesus is not saying avoid accountability or correction.
-Jesus said that God wants to bless you, but often we ask things with false motives or skewed perspective. Serve him first above all else.
-Your relationship with God will have good fruit, evidence of your life following Christ, or bad fruit, evidence of your owns ways. Its either/or not both.
-Jesus spoke of a house built on a foundation…Jesus is our foundation and our rock. If he is our foundation, then nothing we go through in this world can destroy us.