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On The Mountain

Matthew 5-7    |   Shaun LePage   |   April 23, 2006

I. Introduction

A.   Let me start by asking a couple questions: What is right? and What is important?

1.     What is right? How do we determine what is right?

a)    I read a story this week about Steve Gallagher. Steve used to think pornography was no big deal. Today, he leads Pure Life Ministries and has devoted his life to helping other men overcome their sexual sins.

b)    What changed for Steve? His perspective! Over time, pornography proved itself to be a very big deal in his life. His pornography addiction led to other sexual sins and that led to jail time. He tells people that his “life disintegrated around him.” He has a right perspective—now—of the destructive nature of pornography. That perspective changed everything.

2.     What is important? How do we determine what is important? Most Christians will say, “God, family, the Bible…” But the way they use their time and money and abilities doesn’t match up with that answer.

a)    H.B. London tells the story of a young boy who wanted to build a tree house with his father. The boy repeatedly asked his father if they could work on the tree house but the man always had an excuse for not getting involved in the project. The boy desperately wanted his father’s attention, but the man was generally focused on other things. The father’s perspective changed after his son was involved in a serious accident and lay dying in the hospital. This man, who had not taken the time to give his son ample attention before the accident, was now struggling with how to relate to his dying boy. His heart was broken when this little guy turned to him and spoke the final words his father would ever hear from him: “I’m sorry dad, it looks like we won’t get around to building that tree house after all.” (Pastor to Pastor, Vol. 28)

b)    What changed for that dad? His perspective! It took the death of his son to teach him what was really important.

3.     Wouldn’t it be great if we could figure out what is right without ruining our lives doing what is wrong? Wouldn’t it be better if we could figure out what is important without wasting precious years on what is insignificant in light of eternity.

4.     Of course, we can. Some people refuse God’s wisdom and perspective. They choose rather to walk straight down into the lowest and darkest corners of this world. They choose to pay a high cost for wisdom—ruined marriages, broken families, bankrupt integrity and wasted time. Much of what we find within the pages of the Bible is foresight. It is wisdom freely offered to those who will simply take a walk up a mountain with God to get His perspective. If we’re willing to open it up and listen to God, we can gain an understanding of what is truly right and truly important.

B.    The Sermon on the Mount is a perfect example.

1.     Matthew 5:1—the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount—says Jesus “went up on the mountain” and then He “opened His mouth and began teaching” His disciples. Jesus’ sanctuary that day—His pulpit—was one of the beautiful green mountains that rose up from the Sea of Galilee [ppt]. And I think this is a metaphor to communicate the importance of the sermon.

2.     Mountains and hills had special religious significance in the Old Testament. God chose to appear to His servants on mountains.

a)    Abraham—for example—was instructed by God to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, on one of the mountains in the land of Moriah. That text—Genesis 22—does not tell us exactly what mountain Abraham was led to, but we’re told in 2 Chronicles 3 that God later appeared to David on “Mt. Moriah” and Solomon later built the temple on that same spot. The ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us the Jews clearly believed that the temple was built on the same mountain where Abraham had been led to sacrifice Isaac. This same mountain, of course, is some of the most priceless real estate in the world today—Jerusalem. The site of the Jewish Wailing Wall and the Muslim Dome on the Rock—both religions consider Abraham to be their founder.

b)    Mt. Sinai—later called Mt. Horeb—is probably the most significant example, however as we think of the Sermon on the Mount. In the Book of Exodus, God called Moses up to Mt. Sinai to receive the Law. The Israelites camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai for an entire year while Moses repeatedly went up the mountain to meet with YHWH—God.

c)    One could almost say that for the Jews, any significant encounter with God took place on a mountain. Remember that Matthew is the gospel that was written by a Jew for Jews about the King of the Jews. So he took special note of the fact that Jesus went up on a mountain to deliver this amazing sermon—the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is pictured as the new Moses—not receiving new laws from God, but giving a correct understanding of the Law already given. Giving a higher perspective of the Law than the shallow view of the Pharisees.

C.   This sermon is another part of Matthew’s presentation of the person of Jesus Christ. He’s answering the question, “Who is this Jesus?” There were a lot of opinions out there, but as one of the Apostles, one of His original witnesses, Matthew wrote to set the record straight.

1.     In chapters 1-4, Matthew tells us Jesus is the son of Abraham, the son of David, the Christ—the Jewish Messiah. He fulfilled the Scriptures concerning the coming Messiah. And that He was even more. He was “Immanuel” God with us. Jesus then demonstrated His authority—in other words, He backed up these claims Matthew made about Him—by healing the sick, raising up the paralyzed and casting out demons.

2.     In chapters 5-7, Jesus taught with great authority. In the Sermon on the Mount—the first of five great speeches or discourses in the gospel of Matthew—Jesus preached not like one of the interpreters of the Law, but as the One who gave it in the first place.

3.     He takes us up and gives us a higher perspective on righteousness. He gives us a Kingdom perspective on how we are to live our lives. He teaches us what is right and what is important.

D.   CPS: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls us to seek Kingdom righteousness and store up Kingdom rewards.

II.   Body—Matthew 5-7. Today, I want to give a big picture of the Sermon on the Mount. In the weeks to come, we’ll look at the details.

A.   Key Verse: Matthew 6:33. This verse—better than any other in the sermon—summarizes the message. It includes the command to seek “His Kingdom and His righteousness” and the promise of God’s provision—His reward—as a result. On the basis of this verse and the emphasis throughout this sermon on “Kingdom…Righteousness…and Reward” I want to suggest two Key Commands to try to capture the message of this sermon for us.

B.    Key Commands:

1.     Seek Kingdom Righteousness—Kingdom righteousness is what is truly right!

a)    What is the Kingdom?

(i)    The Kingdom of Heaven is future.

(a)  Jesus preached this sermon as the Kingdom of Messiah was being offered to Israel. At this point in the gospel of Matthew, the Jews had not yet rejected Jesus as their Messiah. The offer was on the table and we’ll never know what might have happened had the Jews accepted Jesus as King.

(b) But, the kingdom was rejected so it is yet future. The Kingdom is now being offered to Jews and Gentiles in this present Church Age. When this Church Age is completed, then the Kingdom will be established by Christ on earth for a period of 1,000 years according to Revelation 20.

(ii)  But, the Kingdom of heaven is also right now.

(a)  Why else would Jesus talk about rejoicing in the midst of persecution if this sermon was only for the future kingdom in which there will be no persecution? Why else would Jesus tell us, “Do not be like” the Pharisees? Why else would Jesus tell us to pray—in 6:10—“Your kingdom come”?

(b) Colossians 1:13—God “transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son...” Past tense! If you have trusted Jesus Christ with your eternal destiny—if you have put your faith in Him and Him alone for salvation—you have been transferred to the Kingdom of Jesus and you will never be exiled. You and I are in the kingdom—present tense.

(c)  Because “the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son” is present in a spiritual sense, the Sermon on the Mount is intended for us. We are to live it.

1.     Our response is not to feel guilty for not living up to this standard. Our response is to draw attention to the Father. Our response is to “let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven.” It’s a very important difference. We’re not trying to live this standard to be saved—to earn our way into the Kingdom. God “transferred us to the Kingdom”—we could never make it any other way. Nor are we trying to live this standard to maintain our salvation or even to prove that we are saved. This sermon is for disciples—those who have been saved and who desire to give everything to follow Christ. Who desire to express their gratitude for the free gift of salvation in the way they live their lives.

2.     We should want to live this kind of life—let our light shine—so that we can point people to the Kingdom of Heaven. This Kingdom is present because the King is present and ruling over our lives, but it is coming in the future in a way that we can only dream of now. Do you believe that? Then live like the subjects of the Kingdom that you are so that God will be glorified and the people around us will get a glimpse of the Kingdom that is coming.

(iii)    Here’s the heart of it: What is the Kingdom? The Kingdom is God’s perspective! The Kingdom is God’s view of things. If we are to see this world rightly, we must have Kingdom eyes. If we’re going to understand what is right and important, we must have Kingdom minds. If we’re going to use our time on earth for eternal and not temporary matters, we must do Kingdom deeds.

(iv)    This is what Paul was trying to tell us in Colossians 3:1-4. Set your hearts and minds on things above! Don’t get caught up in the shallow, petty, temporary things of this world. Yes, we must live in this world, but we are not of it. We have been transferred to the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son. We are citizens of that Kingdom, but we are aliens of this world’s kingdom.

b)    What is righteousness? Over the past several weeks before Palm Sunday and Easter, we looked at how the grace of God and the Holy Spirit are absolutely necessary for those who desire to live the life Jesus calls us to in the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible explains that there are two different kinds of righteousness. The theologians have described them with the terms:

(i)   Imputed Righteousness. This is justification—meaning that Christ filled our account with righteousness. We are declared “not guilty” before God because Christ became our righteous substitute.

(ii)  Renewed Righteousness. This is sanctification—this is the life-long growth of the Christian in becoming Christ-like. We were declared righteous at the moment we trusted in Christ for salvation and were given the Holy Spirit in order that we might become righteous in our moral character. This is the kind of righteousness we’re dealing with in trying to live out the Sermon on the Mount—Christ-likeness.

(a)  Again, in Matthew 6:33, Jesus instructs us to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…” This tells us what kind of righteousness we’re talking about here. Not my idea of righteousness. Not your idea of righteousness. Jesus’ idea of righteousness. The King’s idea of righteousness. Kingdom righteousness.

(b) Look at 5:20. This statement must have been shocking. The Scribes and Pharisees were considered the most righteous people in the nation. But in reality, they were hypocrites.

1.     Look at 6:2. Don’t give like the Scribes and Pharisees—the hypocrites. We have a higher standard.

2.     Look at 6:8. Don’t pray like the Scribes and Pharisees—the hypocrites. We have a higher standard.

3.     Look at 6:16. Don’t fast like the Scribes and Pharisees—the hypocrites. We have a higher standard.

c)    Kingdom Righteousness is “What is right!” What is truly righteous! It is from the King Himself and if we don’t get His perspective we will have a wrong understanding of what true righteousness is.

2.     Seek Kingdom Reward—Kingdom reward is what is truly important! This is such an important subject! We mess this up all the time. We are so quick to forget what is really important.

a)    Again, in 6:33, Jesus told us that if we “seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness “…all these things will be added to you.” God will reward you. Getting our priorities straight and living Kingdom-focused lives results in God-given reward.

b)    If you’ve never explored the Bible truth about eternal rewards, you really need to be here as we study the Sermon on the Mount. I believe this could be one of the most significant studies of your life as a believer. Look at just some of the verses in this sermon which emphasize kingdom rewards:

(i)    Each one of the Beatitudes—5:3-12—contains a promise of reward! Look at 5:11,12 where this is especially clear.

(ii) Look at 6:1. There is no reward from God for practicing righteousness for the honor of men. The motivation here in this verse for “not practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them” is loss of reward.

(iii)    Look at 6:4. Giving “secretly” (we’ll talk more about what “secret” means later) will be rewarded by God.

(iv)    Look at 6:6. Praying “secretly” will be rewarded by God.

(v) Look at 6:18. Fasting “secretly” will be rewarded by God.

(vi)    Look at 6:19. We have a choice: Earthly treasure or heavenly treasure. Heavenly treasure is just as real as a shiny new car, a fat bank account or an impressive portfolio.

c)    This is Jesus talking, people! Reward is a good and wonderful thing which we are to “store up” for ourselves in heaven! The problem is not with storing up treasure. The problem is with storing up treasure here on earth. The problem is not with investing. The problem is with investing only in the short-term with no consideration for the long-term—meaning eternity, heaven.

d)    How do we store up Kingdom rewards? We understand Kingdom righteousness and we practice Kingdom righteousness.

III.Conclusion

A.   During the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day in 1994, one documentary featured a very unique sequence of interviews. The commentators spoke with two men who were a part of the Normandy invasion in 1944. One was a soldier who fought on the ground. Reflecting back on that time he said, “I was convinced there was no way we could possibly win.” The other interview involved a pilot who saw things much differently from his vantage point in the air. He said, “I was convinced there was no way we could possibly lose.”

B.    If we live with only our limited view from the ground we will become discouraged and defeated and we will lose sight of what is right and important. But, if we get God’s perspective, we’ll see everything completely different. We won’t waste so much time and energy on that which is wrong and worthless. If we listen to and trust the King, then we’ll know what is right and important.

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