So today we are going to continue our study of Jesus’ famous teaching, “The Sermon on the Mount.” I really enjoy these summer moments where we really get to dive into Scripture like this, and to be spending the summer really engaging The Sermon on the Mount well, it just feels big! I think it feels so big because Jesus is literally laying out for his disciples (and all of us) a new way to live…a better way to live, but a challenging way to live because everything He teaches seems to push so hard against our human nature, or the way we people would think or live or react to life. This makes it such an important moment where Jesus is really laying a pathway to life out for us. I mean what a gift right? It’s really our hope that as we walk through this teaching that you are grabbing hold of what Jesus is saying in such a way that it can really become part your life…see that is when these studies get fun! When scripture comes to life for us like that! If you think about what Jesus is doing, he is literally teaching us how to be His disciples here and while that sounds awesome and exciting and like something you and I would and have really decided to jump into, in our lives…it isn’t all that easy to live out. And last week we really were able to bring out that specific idea that Jesus makes things so clear but not really all that easy to live out, which is the point in so many ways…that it is hard to live out! Actually it’s impossible to live out without Jesus in our lives. We need Him or we will never live this stuff out…that is the point. I have told you week after week here at MRG that I absolutely love how Jesus takes something like religion and spirituality which let’s face it can be so complicated, and He makes it clear and simple to understand and boils it all down to two things…loving God and loving others.
Matthew 22:34 When the Pharisees heard how he had bested the Sadducees, they gathered their forces for an assault. 35 One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: 36 “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” 37 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ 38 This is the most important, the first on any list. 39 But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ 40 These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” MSG
This isn’t a new Scripture for us to read, I know it comes up a lot but man is it refreshing. He is saying let’s take all the complexities of theology and spirituality out of the mix, and let’s focus on love. Jesus in just a few sentences takes all of Spirituality and really gives us a refreshing and clear take on something that up until this point and still today can be very hard to understand…and he says “Hey, let’s just focus on loving God and loving others…that is what matters, everything will come out of love.” You know what, that is awesome, that is clear, and that is something I can wrap my mind around…everything for Jesus will center on love, because as we really started to discover last week, everything for Jesus centers on what is going on, on the inside. Jesus isn’t worried about our ability to do external behaviors, because we can follow rules, and do all the good church things, we can look the part of good Christian without ever experiencing true life change…Jesus is always focused on internal life change…NOT on outward behaviors. This is really where His confrontations with the religious leaders of that time really were hitting the hardest. All these people knew was a religious rule dominated way of living. All they knew was how to follow the list of “do’s and don’t do’s” and Jesus wasn’t impressed with how good these leaders were at doing this stuff and these guys were great at doing all the right things, but Jesus kept pointing to their heart condition, and relentlessly wouldn’t pull off of the idea that love matters more than all this rule following, love is the most important thing, in fact He goes as far as to give them a new commandment do you remember this?
John 13:34 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. 35 This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples — when they see the love you have for each other.” MSG
How will people know that we are His disciples? When they see the love we have for each other.
Now take a moment here, and think about your experience around church over the years. Think back to your church experience, what was the interaction like with people. You know for so many of us I don’t think we would talk about love would we? I think for most of us we felt hurt, and judged, and like we could never measure up, which is interesting isn’t it? Even to this day, with Jesus’ teaching loud and clear in front of us, many of us wouldn’t say that our experience around church or with church people involved feeling all this love. We often hear and see and have experienced the exact opposite…why is that? Well because from Jesus’ time all the way to the present, love isn’t the central focus of our faith, for most people it’s rules, it’s religion…it’s actually the very opposite of what Jesus taught, and it’s the very opposite of what mattered to Jesus. I tried to hit on this some last week. When it comes to people inside the church, I really don’t think people inside churches are deliberately ringing their hands trying to rebel against Jesus’ teaching, I don’t think that is it at all. I think the challenge is allowing Jesus in, to the deepest parts of who we are. This is why love is so challenging and why it’s such a big deal. This is why love is so transforming, because it means Jesus is now living inside my heart. It shows that God’s love is in us, changing us from the inside out. Love is bigger than just following a list of rules and doing a lot of good church things love means that God is changing me from the inside out and today we are going to close out Chapter 5 and it’s in this section of the sermon that Jesus does something really interesting. He keeps raising the bar when it comes to love…and even who we should love…because let’s face it some people are easier to love than others.
So I want you thinking about this as we jump into today’s message. Jesus pushes in on the heart. He wants us to love. Everything for Jesus will center back on the idea of loving God and loving others and He goes as far as to create a new Commandment for us to live out and that is to love one another literally going as far as to say that people will know you are Christian’s because of the love they see coming out of your life. Deep internal transformation…which is challenging because our hearts become the last thing we would ever fully give over to God. Ok, with all that said it is very important that each week of this series we remember some very important things about this teaching which give it context.
The first thing that is really important to focus on as we study and personalize this teaching from Jesus is to remember who He is talking to, which takes us back to week one of the series.
Matthew 5:1 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
Jesus is speaking very specifically to His followers. He is speaking to us Christian’s. I love the idea that the committed climbed with Him…but I also see this as something to really keep in mind. Jesus is speaking very specifically to us who follow Him…so I would say it this way, He is talking to us church people or Christian’s.
The second thing to remember is that Jesus isn’t really messing around here. He starts by pushing in on us Christian’s hard with 8 statements about being blessed that are very opposite of the way we humans would feel blessed. He talks of pain, of persecution, of adversity and says that all of those things can literally push us deeper into God’s kingdom and allow us to center more and more on Him (and not us)…which would allow us to be blessed in all circumstances not just when we get the new car, or the nice beach house for vacation. We learned as we studied that section just how opposite Jesus thinks.
Then we got into the third thing we need to remember. Jesus told us that we are to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world. Which is an incredible moment. This is Jesus, literally explains that we are here on this planet with a greater purpose than just crossing days off of a calendar until we go party in heaven for all of eternity…we are actually here to take God to those in this world who need Him!
Then if you remember this from last week we jumped into a larger chunk of scripture, which to me really lead us into a little bit of a 2 part series that started last week, and ends this week where Jesus really hits on our hearts and just how important our inside world is to Him. If you remember I really wanted to take a step back last week and really look at what Jesus was saying from a larger perspective, I didn’t want to jump into the details as much because I wanted you to see Jesus’ greater goal for this section of scripture. I told you there was a theme to it. Jesus pushes in on us in this section of Scripture starting with the idea that He actually has come to complete the scriptures…or the law.
Matthew 5:17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them. NLT
That is such a big deal and then He said, “Oh by the way, you need to be better at following God’s law than the people that you look at as best at it (the Pharisees)…which we spent a good bit of time talking about last week. Jesus then lists 6 commandments that they would have known pretty well, and He takes the commandment as they know it and makes it even more challenging to live out than what they would have known prior…He does this by making a statement that looks like this…
“You have heard that it was said ________ but I tell you _________.”
With every commandment that he rattles off He seems to make it harder to live out! I mean let’s just look at the first two…
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
So this would be pretty challenging. Jesus takes all these commandments that they would know, and let’s face it, some of them aren’t really all that challenging I hope, and he makes them more challenging as He takes them into our heart condition. He equates anger to murder. He takes adultery and turns it to looking at a woman lustfully because of what is happening in our hearts. This is very different right? He takes things like murder and adultery and raising the bar on them to a level where it seems really hard to live out, almost impossible…and I really believe that is the point. We can’t live this stuff out without Jesus in our lives. We will not get this done without Him. We need Him to fulfill the law for us which thankfully He is telling us that He actually came to handle all of that for us. Jesus gets it done we don’t…we can’t…we need Him living inside us.
Do you see what Jesus is doing here? Do you see what this can mean for you and I? Jesus is taking all we look at and know, which is religious rule following, things that stay shallow and on the outside and He is literally introducing a new way to live, and that would be us leaning on and depending on Him to fulfill the very things that He is showing us that we can’t get done in our own strength. He is saying, “let me take the weight of life and sin and rules from you. You can’t do this, but I can.” Jesus worked through some very, very important ideas last week and I really wanted us to take a step back and not get into the details but to see the greater message from this section of scripture and that message is this. Jesus literally came to this Earth to fulfill the law…to complete the scriptures. That isn’t our job, it is His job, and the sooner we get to a place where we understand just how much we need Him in our lives the better off we are going to be. We need Jesus living and active in our lives to do what only He can do for us…this is a new way to live, and I hope that was a very redemptive moment for you last week.
So today, I would like to jump into some of the details with you from this same section of scripture, specifically the very end of Chapter 5 where Jesus challenges us to grow up. Remember He is working His way through 6 very common commandments and He keeps challenging them by saying you have heard it said ______ but I tell you ______. Always making it more challenging to live out…which we are understanding is really the point, we can’t live this out without Him in our lives, but right at the end of the chapter He hits something that we really need to engage into today.
Matthew 5:38 “Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ 39 Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. 40 If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. 41 And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. 42 No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. 43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish — to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. 46 If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. 47 If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. 48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. MSG
Ok, so if you are sitting on this hill listening to this teaching aren’t you once again looking around thinking to yourself, what in the world did we get ourselves into here? Jesus again is pushing against every instinct we would have as people. What is your reaction when someone hits you…or hurts you…or causes you pain? What about if someone drags you into court or attacks you and tries to take unfair advantage of you? What do you want to do? Hit back right? Fight! Yet Jesus says that we aren’t supposed to do that we are once again supposed to do the opposite of everything our instincts would tell us to do.
Matthew 5:41 And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. 42 No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.” MSG
So can we just talk for a moment here, have you ever thought this way? I don’t know about you but I can’t say that I viewed times like these as opportunities to practice the servant life. I can’t say that I thought to myself, “Hey someone just hurt me, or offended me what an awesome opportunity I now have!” So we need to see this and think about what is happening here. I have told you from day one that Jesus is going to push against our human instincts and in this case…wow is he ever pushing against our human nature. But let’s remember what Jesus is up to. Who is he talking to? He is talking to His disciples and showing them how a disciple of His should live which we know is challenging, and we also see by this part of the series that His way of living is completely opposite of the ways of this world. This moment is eye opening, where again almost like in “The Beattitudes,” He seems to take what you and I would see as challenging or difficult and what Jesus sees is an actual opportunity in those types of moments to show God’s love. Wow right? Then he continues.
43 “You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ 44 I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.”
Ok, so let’s really slow this down for a moment. Jesus again seems to be asking us to do something really challenging if it isn’t just impossible…love your enemies. You have got to be kidding me right? But can we just settle in for a moment? I really need to ask you a question here today because I think there is something that we don’t want to breeze by in this moment. Think about your life with people. We have talked about this pretty openly over the last few months here at MRG, life with people is messy. There is stress…hurts…emotions…arguments…things to work through with people. I mean if we are honest life would be a lot easier without all the people stuff right? Well think about all that drama, and how much work, and energy, and emotion we have in all of that. I mean we have to prove how right we are and how wrong they are…all the time right? Isn’t it exhausting to always be fighting for justice? When I say justice I mean that you work and fight and scratch and claw to prove how right you are and how wrong they are. You work and work to make sure they know and you know…and blah, blah blah. So let me ask you the question that I hope makes us think today.
What would your life look like if you lived out what Jesus is talking about here?
Think about it. What would life look like if we could live out what Jesus just asked of us disciples here? What would your life look like if you saw these difficult moments as opportunities to practice the servant life? What would your life look like if instead of hating your enemies and working to win the latest argument or confrontation you were able to use those moments and those people (and I know you have a person in your mind right now) to bring out the best in you not the worst. Think about the peace that you could walk in in life if you saw life the way Jesus did? If you could just stop fighting, and love on people, not needing to “win” all the time. Think about what life could look like if we could literally engage this life that Jesus called us to live. It sounds peaceful and different doesn’t it?
Remember Jesus is always pushing for us to live opposite of our nature. It could be so big for all of us and here’s what is really cool. If you are at all like me you may be thinking how in the world could I ever live this out? I mean you probably have a specific person or situation in your mind…look I get it, I have challenging people in my life too. People that nothing in my human instincts would say, you know what they are awful to me so this is a good opportunity for me to live out the servant life. Ha, not exactly what is going through my mind either! But here’s what is so cool, Jesus gives us the key to being able to live this way. I think what Jesus says next really is the way to actually live out this idea of loving my enemies…this is the key, this is the action step, and this is the thing that I want you to really put into practice in your life.
Matthew 5:44 When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, 45 for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best — the sun to warm and the rain to nourish — to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. MSG
Ok, Jesus gives us the key here on how to engage the kind of life where we can actually love others the way Jesus would have us love them…even those people that are actually not all that easy to love. He says when someone gives you a hard time respond with the energies of prayer. Can I tell you something? This absolutely will work for you. How do I say this so confidently it’s because I have tried it, and it works. I have been hurt or in tough spots and remembered what Jesus’ asks us to do here and have prayed for someone who gives me a hard time and it absolutely is the way to respond as a true disciple to the tough people in your life. If you want your heart to change towards someone, you must respond with the energies of prayer but and this is a pretty big but…when someone hurts you, when someone gives you a hard time what is the last thing you would want to do? Pray for them. What do you want to do? You want to hurt them back right! We talk so often about how challenging it is to live life with people and we have been able to be honest with each other, some people are easier to love than others right? Well this is the key to loving others, and to having heart change towards someone else…when they hurt you or give you a hard time, pray for them. I want to challenge you today to grab hold of this, and make it a practice in your life. Be intentional and focused on putting this into practice. Pray for those who hurt you, pray for those who you are struggling in relationship with…it will be the last thing you really want to do when you are walking through the drama, hurts, and challenges of relationship with them…but it will be the game changer for you.
Imagine walking into the next family get together with that person, the one who has given you a hard time, but this time instead of spending the week working on how to coax the proper apology out of them for all they have done to wrong you, what if this time you took that emotion, time, and energy and prayed for them. Imagine walking into Christmas having prayed for the person who you struggle with…that you know will be there at the family get together. I’m telling you it can be a game changer. As you pray for someone your heart changes, and you start to realize they may actually have stuff going on too…and maybe God will open up a new door for you and them moving forward…but even if they do not ever give you what you want…you will have modeled for them what it truly means to be a disciple of Christ. Interesting isn’t it? What would life look like if you could deliberately respond with the energies of prayer to those who hurt you. This is a different way to live. Then Jesus finishes chapter 5 off with a yet another strong statement…and it really is the thing I want to leave you with today.
Matthew 5:48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. MSG
So let’s really think about this. Jesus goes through this whole thing about how we respond to people that hurt us and then challenges us to grow up and treat people the way that God treats us. So if nothing else opened your eyes today I wonder if this will.
First of all none of us like to be told to grow up, yet it comes up a lot in scripture. And to Jesus as he speaks specifically to his disciples here, He really wants to see us grow up and live as the kingdom subjects we were created to be. He wants to see us stand in our God-created identity…we are to literally treat people the way God treats us. Now think about how you have treated God in your life, and how He continues to love, support, and forgive you in all your mistakes and issues too. So if I personalize this for a moment. Jesus is telling me that I should treat people the way God treats me…and I am thankful to say that God has forgiven me of so many mistakes. I am so thankful that God regardless of where I’m at or what dumb thing I have done lately, He doesn’t quit on me. You know, I can admit that at times, I’m not all that easy to love either…yet God is still there with me, and doesn’t even flinch as He continues to love me…so yeah this is how I should treat others also. God gives me grace and I should give that to others as well. Once again I am going to need God’s help here as He continues to raise the bar on how to live as His disciple, I simply can’t live this…loving my enemies, responding with the energies of prayer when someone gives me a hard time…and treating people the way God treats me? Yeah, I’m going to need God in my life to make this happen.
So as we close out this first Chapter today of this teaching from Jesus I think we have learned a lot, but if you were sitting on that hill listening to this sermon, I think you would be very aware on something and that is that Jesus is really going to focus on our heart condition. It is about God living in us, and changing us from the inside out. Remember Jesus isn’t worried about the outward behavior or appearance, we can fake that pretty well. He is after your heart. We can only live as a true disciple of Jesus’ when we are fully surrendered to Him allowing Him to change us from the inside out…which then comes out in our actions…specifically in the love we have in our hearts for God and for others…this stuff isn’t easy. It isn’t easy to love as Jesus would, and I think that is the point. We can’t do this without Him living and active in our lives. So as we leave here today I wonder if you can’t start to see and almost feel what life would look like if we lived as Jesus did, and loved as Jesus would have us love. Especially in this area of love, so let’s personalize this as we leave here today.
What would your life look like if you began to treat others the way God treated you?
What would your life look like if you looked at the challenging people and situations and see them as an opportunity rather than a hardship?
What would your life look like if the next time someone gave you a hard time you responded with the energies of prayer?
Being a disciple of Jesus means we are going to live opposite of the ways of the world…and if you think about it, it also means that every challenge we face literally pushes us deeper into God’s arms. This is a different way to live.