Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."1 Samuel 16:7
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT – MATTHEW 5-7; LUKE 6:20-49
" I ain’t what I oughta be. I ain’t what I’m gonna be. But praise God I ain’t what I used to be."
Begin with the end in mind: Matthew 7:24-26 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand." What percent rock or sand do we have in our foundations? Knowing and obeying ("puts them in practice") the Word of God is what puts rock in our foundations and makes our lives solid for God’s glory. We will all reap what we sow, partially now and fully in eternity. (Galatians 6:7; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
This sermon gives us a revelation of the holiness of God and how far short we all fall of His glory. "Be ye perfect even as your Heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) It calls us to live a life that is absolutely impossible unless we let Jesus live His life through us. John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." For example, if Jesus were giving us swimming lessons (his teaching) we still could only swim as we swim on His back. Yet as Christians we can now choose to submit to God and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, live a life that progressively grows more and more into the likeness of Christ.
"VIM – Vision, Intention and Means of grace." This is a term used by Dallas Willard to demonstrate the collaborative process of spiritual growth as we co-labor with God in being conformed to the image of Jesus. Our vision, our goal is to live out the Sermon on the Mount, to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. And our intention is to do this day by day, moment by moment starting today (not some time in the future). Yet to do this we must avail ourselves of the power of God through the various means of grace — His Word, prayer, fellowship, service, etc., on a day by day, moment by moment basis for it is impossible to live the Christian life that God calls us to live apart from His power working in and through us. Philippians 2:12-13 ".. continue to work out (not work for) your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will (God gives us the desire to obey Him) and to act (and the power to obey Him) according to his good purpose." Yet He still gives us the choice to obey Him. By definition, love must be voluntary. "If you love Me you will keep My Commandments." (John 15:15) So as Christians we can no longer say "I can’t obey the Lord". We can only confess that at times we chose not to obey Him and confession of sin versus justifying our sin by saying "I just can’t" – is the pathway to on-going progress/growth.
"Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." These folks were very moral people comparatively but not compared to Jesus Christ. They, like all of us, fell short (far short) of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Mother Teresa was far more righteous than Jack the ripper (see diagram “A’ below) but compare her life to Jesus and she too falls short. In fact compared to Jesus’ perfect righteousness there is very little relative difference from one person to the next. See diagram “B’ below.
________________ human righteousness _________________ God’s righteousness
(A) Ã‚ÂÃ‚Â (B) Ã‚ÂÃ‚Â
The righteousness God requires is the righteousness that a perfectly righteous God is required to require. (It is an internal righteousness (in the heart, the attitudes) that leads to an outward, visible righteousness.) A perfectly just God cannot lower His standards or heaven would quickly become just like the fallen world we live in. So the realization of our unrighteousness compared to Christ and the righteousness God requires for us to be in relationship with Him (now and forever — i.e., to go to heaven) drives us to the first attitude (beatitude) Jesus says we need to have. "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3) This attitude (brokeness, humility, awareness of our desperate need for God) is the beginning (i.e. it leads us to salvation by grace through faith, not by works) and it is the ongoing attitude (for ongoing spiritual growth) we need to keep to grow into Christlikeness.
"God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:21) "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:12-14) Dr. Mike Wilkins calls this "restful dissatisfaction." We rest in the finished work of Christ for our assurance of salvation but we are never complacent about our spiritual state.