Faithlife Sermons

Living the Kingdom Life

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Introduction

The crowds are spellbound. In front of them stands this Man, this preacher from godforsaken Galilee, a so-called Rabbi who never studied under a real Rabbi, who somehow preaches with authority and clarity that they’ve never seen or heard before.
He’s talking about the Law of Moses. You know, the law that everybody grew up hearing every Sabbath day in synagogue. The 613 commands that whoever lives by - if anyone can actually live by them - will be called “righteous”.
But following all those rules isn’t enough for this guy, this - Jesus of Nazareth. No, he’s calling for something much deeper than that.
Actually, it seems like what he’s really talking about is a radically different sort of lifestyle, a whole new sort of kingdom.
And it doesn’t make any sense.
A kingdom where the poor in spirit, the meek, and the persecuted are most blessed
A kingdom where people don’t retaliate to get justice for themselves but love their enemies
A kingdom where people don’t get angry or even look at other people with lustful eyes
Matthew 7:24–27 ESV
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Jesus Expects Us To Live This Kingdom Life

It’s been 2000 years since Jesus first preached this sermon. 2000 years since Jesus laid out his plan, his manifesto, for the kind of kingdom he is going to create and the kind of people who will live in it. But we look around us - we look within ourselves - and we don’t really see it. And it’s not like people haven’t tried!
So what do we do with this Sermon that demands more of us than we can actually live? Especially in light of Jesus’ conclusion and call to action? Well, maybe:

A) Jesus doesn’t really expect us to do these things

Maybe the Sermon on the Mount is just a vision of the ideal. A vision of what the world might be when God finally reboots the world and eradicates sin once and for all. When humanity loses its sinful inclination, of course they’ll live the perfect kingdom life that Jesus describes!
But until then, the Sermon on the Mount remains nothing more than a vision that we “admire from afar”. In reality, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.
Sure, we can try to live by these principles, and we might get it right some of the time.
But anyone who thinks they can really live their whole lives by this code is at best naive or at worst dillusional. It’s just not practical!
But that’s not what Jesus said. He said “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
It’s not exactly accurate to say that the Sermon on the Mount was Jesus’ description of the kingdom life. It wasn’t just descriptive; it was imperative!
Jesus doesn’t describe “And in the kingdom of heaven there will be no lustful stares.” He instructs: “Do not look at a woman to lust after her.”
Jesus doesn’t describe “And in the kingdom of heaven there will be no more worrying.” He instructs: “Do not worry about your life.”
Jesus doesn’t describe “And in the kingdom of heaven we will love everybody.” He instructs: “Love your enemies.”
So it seems that Jesus really intended his listeners to do what he said.

B) Jesus really expects only a certain group of people to do these things

Okay, but maybe he meant that only those listeners had to do what he said! Surely not everyone can live up to these high standards!
I mean, we all have moments of weakness when our eyes go looking at things we shouldn’t be looking at that conjure lustful thoughts in our minds.
And everyone has to be thinking about their future at some point to make preparations, right?
So perhaps this is just a lifestyle meant for super Christians. You know, the twelve apostles and the leaders of the church. The preachers and the preacher’s kids, the youth ministers and their wives, the elders and deacons. It’s meant for those people who take religious vows, those who have degrees in Bible, those Bible nerds taking Intro to Preaching.
It’s meant for the rest of the world, not uncle Jim the plumber or Ms Susan the managing director or Brandon and Shelby in the youth group. Or me.
But that’s not what Jesus said. He said “Everyone. Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
However much we try to avoid it, Jesus really leaves us with only One. Sobering. Conclusion.

C) Jesus really expects all of us to do these things

The Sermon on the Mount is not just a suggestion. These are marching orders from the Lord God of hosts, High King over all creation and Commander-in-Chief of the legions of heaven.
Perhaps you’re starting to feel discouraged. You look at the track record of your own life and you know that you can’t possibly live up to the commands of Christ. We’ve all been there, haven’t we?
We try not to look with lustful eyes, but in a moment of idleness, one fleeting thought enters our minds, and we’re lost.
We try not to get angry and to love our enemies, but then someone pushes our buttons just hard enough and we snap.
We try not to worry, but then we learn that all our grad school applications got rejected and the company where we’re getting our internship shuts down, and we descend into frantic scrambling because we want to secure our future.

Jesus Equips Us To Live The Kingdom Life

John Stott, whom Dr Swindle recommended and I now second, addresses this dilemma so well. Here he’s describing Tolstoy who pondered the same question:
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount 3. Is the Sermon Practical?

For the standards of the Sermon are neither readily attainable by every man, nor totally unattainable by any man. To put them beyond anybody’s reach is to ignore the purpose of Christ’s Sermon; to put them within everybody’s is to ignore the reality of man’s sin.

Great! We’re stuck! Jesus expects us to do what we cannot do, and then he kicks us out of the kingdom because we can’t meet those impossible expectations!
Or so it would be, if Jesus had not also equiped us to live the kingdom life.
You see, embedded in the heart of the Sermon on the Mount is a little prayer, what is perhaps the most famous prayer in all of Christianity. It is the prayer of kingdom people, and at its heart, it is a prayer of petition. It is not the prayer of the proud and arrogant who think they have it all together and who boast of their righteous living. It is the prayer of the poor in spirit and of those who mourn, the prayer of the meek and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
It is the prayer of those who recognize that the only way to live the kingdom life is through the life of the King. That is why in the Lord’s Prayer, every line is a cry for God to act and fill us with the grace we need.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors;
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
The great mystery of the gospel is not that God expects humanity to live with high moral and ethical standards - any religion calls for that.
The great mystery of the gospel is that God became a human being to live a holy life, and by the Holy Spirit who now lives in us, our humanity becomes his holy humanity. We are empowered to live the kingdom life when we live in constant relationship with the King himself.

Conclusion

Jesus does expect us to live out the high standards of the Sermon on the Mount, for we are kingdom people and that is how kingdom people are supposed to live.
But with divine expectation also comes divine equipping.
We can choose to ignore Jesus’ teachings as outdated and irrelevant. As instructions that were meant for super-Christians of another time and place, but not for us.
We can choose to accept Jesus’ teachings and
Or we can choose to believe that Jesus expects us to live this kingdom life and that he equips us to live it.
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