One of the most important and challenging passages in all of The Bible is contained in the Book of Matthew, Chapters 5, 6 and 7. Every sincere Christian is aware of this passage, or at least the general gist of it. It’s known as The Sermon On the Mount.
You can read is here:
Jesus’ most famous sermon starts with what we call the Beatitudes. You know …
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:3-5)
The list of blessed-ares is followed by some chunks of teaching on a wide range of topics:
- on being salt and light to the world,
- on fulfillment of the law,
- murder and hatred,
- adultery and lust,
- giving to the poor,
- not worrying about anything, especially our stuff,
- not storing up treasure on earth,
- judging others,
- loving our enemies and much more.
What Jesus teaches is tough, uncompromising and, in many ways completely unrealistic and unachievable. I’m tempted to quote some passages here to prove it, but I’d rather you take the link above and read Jesus’ words for yourself. Go ahead! Take a few minutes and come back …
Just the first part of chapter 5 should leave us feeling completely out of our depth and inadequate. Is this what I have to do, Jesus? No way! I can’t do this!
It seems to me that, at this point, most Christians simply refuse to directly plot their lives in relationship to The Sermon On The Mount. It’s just too hard. We tend to simply allow ourselves to become numb to the words, or perhaps think of the passages as some sort of poetic imagery from Jesus. “Surely it isn’t to be taken literally,” we may argue. We think, hopefully, that Jesus is describing some holy ideal that is not actually required. A dangerous supposition.
True: In one way or another, as I compare myself to The Sermon On The Mount, I must realize that I can’t do this.
If I am a a disciple of Jesus, the Sermon On The Mount is a description of how I must act – how I should be. I must not ignore it and simply put it out of sight and mind. But, instead, I must recognize that it gives evidence that I have a human heart, infested with the disease of original human sin. And that I can’t do this! No matter how hard I try in my own strength, it’s impossible. In reality, I don’t want to live God’s way at all. I want to live my way. I want to be my own small “g” god and simply deny that I need the big “G” God to save me from… well, me! I must realize that everything in me is incapable of meeting the requirements of Jesus – the One I claim to follow.
The moment I accept the hopelessness of my situation, instead of just becoming numb to the Sermon On The Mount – or seeing it as some poetic gobbledygook from Jesus that he doesn’t really mean – I now see that I need a heart transplant. I need my sinful human heart to be surgically removed and replaced with a new heart that God gives me – His heart. And this is not just something that happened once when I was thirteen at a Christian summer camp. This heart transplant is what I need now! And in every moment. The Sermon on the Mount is not simply a list of rules for me to (not) keep. It is a light that shines on my own desperate need for God and His amazing, saving grace.
The reality that my conduct falls far short of the standards described in The Sermon On The Mount is evidence that I am still not completely “dead” to myself and alive only to Christ in me. If it was, “no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me,” (Galatians 2:20) then The Sermon On The Mount would be true in me. Or, as Oswald Chambers (in a manner far more effective than I could, as always) puts it…
“The Sermon on the Mount is not some unattainable goal; it is a statement of what will happen in me when Jesus Christ has changed my nature by putting His own nature in me. Jesus Christ is the only One who can fulfill the Sermon on the Mount.”
It’s a pointless exercise for me to be striving to make myself a better or more acceptable disciple of Jesus in my own strength. This is not about trying harder. Only Jesus can make me His disciple. Oswald Chambers again …
“If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we must be made disciples supernaturally. And as long as we consciously maintain the determined purpose to be His disciples, we can be sure that we are not disciples.”
Nor does the pilgrimage of the disciple allow for a dulled conscience or complacency – accepting a certain deficiency or short fall in me when compared to the standards set out so clearly in The Sermon On The Mount. Instead, in each and every moment of my life, I must surrender more completely. I must be more surrendered than I was in the moment before. I must surrender to Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior. He’s my only hope.
Please read Ozzie’s incredible “My Utmost For His Highest” devo that inspired this blogpost here: