Have you ever heard of the Golden Rule? Or the Lord’s Prayer? Have you ever heard of the Beatitudes? Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘Love your enemies’? Do you know where all these things came from? The Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is three chapters long. It takes about twenty minutes to read through and it’s loaded. Actually, it’s so full, we are taking the entire summer to break it down verse by verse.
I have to warn you before we jump into this sermon by Jesus. Jesus says some crazy stuff like; ‘You have heard, don’t commit murder but I tell you, when you are angry, you commit murder.’ And, ‘You have heard, don’t commit adultery, but I tell you, when you look at a woman lustfully, that is adultery.’ And, ‘If you sin with your eye, cut it out. If you sin with your hand, cut it off, better that than going to hell.’ The standard of being a disciple of Christ in this sermon seems to get higher and higher. To follow Christ, I can’t look at girls. I probably committed murder on the way to church because I was mad at someone. And later today, if I’m not careful, I might have to gouge my eye out or cut off my hand. Good grief! Who wants to sign up now to be a disciple of Christ?
To understand the Sermon on the Mount, you need to know it’s about the Kingdom of God. God sent Jesus to establish His kingdom in our hearts. John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was the man to prepare people that Jesus was coming. John was the prophet nicked named ‘Thunder in the Desert’, chosen by God, to tell people about Jesus’ arrival. He told people that the Kingdom of God is coming and Jesus is the One who will transform you from the inside out. This is what he said.
11 “I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama – compared to him I’m a mere stagehand – will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. 12 He’s going to clean house – make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.” MSG Matthew 3:11-12
God sends Jesus to establish God’s Kingdom in our hearts. But it’s not what people expected, it’s a different kingdom. It’s a kingdom that would be in people’s hearts. It’s not a physical kingdom with an army that would fight and remove the Roman oppression. It was a spiritual kingdom to redeem people’s hearts. So, it makes sense that Jesus’ first sermon is about the Kingdom of God.
Real quick overview. Matthew 5, in general, is about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. He introduces us to a whole new understanding of God’s values called the Beatitudes. He talks about anger, lust, divorce, your enemies, etc. Matthew 6, in general, is about our relationship with God. He teaches us how to be real and not a religious fake and how to pray. Jesus teaches us that trust in God should change how you view money and worry. Matthew 7, in general, is about how you treat others. Don’t judge, clean up your own life first. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
For us personally, the Sermon on the Mount is a picture of what our lives would look like if we lived in God’s kingdom on this earth. It’s a picture of what it looks like if we trusted God 100%. That’s why the Sermon on the Mount can be a struggle for us. It can sound odd to us. Jesus says things like, ‘Love your enemy,’ ‘Don’t worry about tomorrow,’ ‘Your blessed when you are at the end of your rope.’ That doesn’t fit in with the world we live in. We want to get even with our enemy. It’s seems normal for everyone to live in constant fear of tomorrow. And if being at the end of our rope means you are blessed, thank you but no thanks. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus introducing us to God’s kingdom and it is completely opposite of the Kingdom we live in day to day.
This is what I want you to see today. The Sermon on the Mount is about God’s kingdom being established in your heart and transforming you forever. It’s an invitation to you to give your life to Christ and live a completely new life.
Here is the setting.
1 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down 2 and taught his climbing companions. MSG Matthew 5:1-2
In Matthew 5, Jesus is still new to everyone. He is preaching, he is healing, he’s freeing people from the demonic. By this time, he has picked up a few disciples. No one has ever seen anything like Jesus. Everyone was astonished. Jesus is exciting. Jesus is a big hit. He is creating a buzz.
Have you ever seen a street performer? You are in the city walking, you see a big crowd and walk over to see what’s going on. You show up, it’s hard to see everything but you work your way through the crowd and what do you see? You see the main group performing. You see a small group of people who would be groupies or supporters and everyone else is just there to see what happens next. It’s kind of exciting.
That’s what is happening with Jesus. It’s exciting. His disciples are there. A few committed followers are there. But, the rest of the people are there just checking things out. Because there are so many people just checking things out, they are only there for the excitement, Jesus climbs higher on the hillside. Why? He intentionally pulls away from the masses because he is about to have a direct talk about the Kingdom of God. He wants to talk to those who are willing to follow him, not just there for the excitement.
Jesus is still available to everyone, but only a few followed Jesus to higher ground. What happens is, Jesus begins talking to his disciples while a few others from the crowd listened in. The mass crowds didn’t follow Jesus up the hill. For them, the show was over, they would have gone back to life. That is when Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount.
The question I have for you today is; do you follow after Jesus?
Here is why I ask. Everyone is looking for happiness, for joy, for meaning in life. For most people, we look for happiness on our own terms. That means we tend to be selfish and we look for anything that will make us happy. If we aren’t careful, the more we pursue happiness, the more selfish we become. Let’s be clear, wanting to be happy isn’t wrong. I want to be happy and want everyone reading this to be happy. But to find happiness, real happiness, never comes from being selfish.
Scripture paints a picture of what it looks like when we pursue happiness through being selfish. Let’s read this and I want you to think if these things are showing up in your life.
19 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; 20 trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; 21 the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. MSG Galatians 5:21
This kind of happiness, through being selfish, is a temporary emotion that can change when circumstances change. I when I get what I want, I am happy. If I don’t get what I want, I am sad. If I don’t feel happy, I must find it somehow. Paul said it well; “…frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; …all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants.”
I have to stop and ask you a very serious questions, ‘In all your attempts to find long term happiness in your life, how is it working for you?’ Think about that. ‘What have you done to find happiness?’ ‘What are you doing to find happiness?’ ‘Is it working?’ ‘Are you discovering that the older you get, the more relaxed you are becoming?’ ‘Or are you becoming more controlling, uptight, or on edge?’ ‘Do you feel like you are living in bondage?’ ‘Do you find that you are only happy when things go your way?’
Here is another question. ‘To you, where is God in all of this?’ ‘You are looking for long term happiness, joy and meaning, is God the answer to you?’ Let’s pretend we aren’t in church. What would your honest answer be? Would you say, “I want happiness, so I pursue God.” Or would you say, “I want happiness, but I have no clue how God would bring me happiness.”
I want to take the time to talk specifically to those who grew up in Church or who are growing up in Church. I think growing up in Church can be one of the most dangerous places to grow up. Here is why. We can learn all the right Bible stories. We can go on all the right missions trips. We can attend the right Christian concerts. We can have all the right information. If we aren’t careful, that activity doesn’t change our hearts, it only changes our behaviors. What happens? Church, Jesus and God stuff becomes a religious event. We do the behaviors but your hearts aren’t transformed.
Stop and think about this. I am a Christian growing up in church. I do the right behaviors at the right time. But, because I haven’t surrendered my life to Christ and experience Him transforming my heart, I search for happiness but not with God.
And as you grow older, to find happiness, you begin to dabble in alcohol, vaping, marijuana, sexual activity on and on. Maybe for you, to find happiness, it’s endless gaming to a point it pulls you out of the real world with real relationships and responsibilities. By the way, gaming isn’t wrong, it’s fun. But when you game so much, you it damages your relationships or responsibilities, it’s a problem. Maybe for you, you begin to believe lies like, “No one likes you” or “You are worthless” and it leave you feeling defeated or depressed It’s a struggle to get out of that emotional bondage. Maybe for you, you want to succeed at all costs to finally prove to yourself and others that you are valuable. We look to these things because we believe they will make us happy or at least numb our pain.
How does that happen? You are growing up in Church, in worship sets that praise God, around people who are trying to figure it all out. It happens because Church, Church activity and Church knowledge is all worthless unless we surrender to Christ and ask Him to transform our heart.
And if we aren’t careful, we who grew up in Church, or are growing up in Church, we may have the right information about God but we may not believe that God holds the answer to meaningful, long term happiness.
That’s what is happening when Jesus climbed the hillside. The show, the excitement was over. The masses didn’t see Jesus as the answer to finding long term, meaningful happiness. Most didn’t follow Jesus up the hill because they didn’t understand what Jesus had to offer.
Jesus is about to reveal, to those who follow, how God wants to establish God’s kingdom in our hearts. How God wants to transform us. How happiness can be ours. The kind of happiness that is like a gushing wellspring. This happiness isn’t dependent on everything going our way. It’s like a foundation to our lives.
The disciples who followed Jesus higher up the hill, heard the secret to long term, meaningful happiness. They heard how to establish God’s Kingdom in their hearts. When we give our lives to Christ, we can find true happiness.
Again, Paul paints a picture of what it looks like when we give our lives to Christ.
22 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard – things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, 23 not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. MSG Galatians 5:22-23
The Sermon on the Mount is about Jesus establishing God’s kingdom and transforming our hearts. It’s an invitation to us to give our lives to Christ. It’s actually a pathway to discovering meaningful, long term happiness. But I warn you, everything Jesus teaches is completely opposite of the world we live in.
Throughout this summer there will some common themes you will need to wrestle with.
First, God’s kingdom, to us, doesn’t makes sense. It will feel like an upside-down kingdom. You will see this next week when we jump into the Beatitudes. You will find yourself, maybe, creating reasons on your mind why what Jesus said doesn’t apply to you.
Second, Jesus is here to establish God’s kingdom in your heart. It’s a transformation of your heart. You will find yourself, maybe, struggling to go all in. There will be a tension in your heart and mind about giving up the kingdom you live in for God’s kingdom.
Third, to invite God into our hearts, it requires simple faith. It’s simple to do but hard to live out. To radically place your trust in Christ changes everything. To surrender to Christ as your Lord and Savior means we place every area of our lives before God.
My question that I leave you with today is this; do you follow after Jesus? He goes higher on the hill, what do you do? Do you think Jesus is the answer to discovering meaningful, long term happiness?