PREPARING TO CLIMB THE MOUNTAIN
What is a good life? All major world religions and philosophical schools are in some way trying to answer this question. Jesus provides his answer to that question in the Sermon on the Mount. He articulates a vision of a life well lived and invites us into it. And in inviting us to live by the Sermon, Jesus is also inviting us to imitate him. This teaching holds pride of place among Jesus’ teachings, and in this lesson we begin a 17-week study of the Sermon.
THE GOOD LIFE
Matthew 5:3-12 is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Commonly known as the Beatitudes, it is a series of blessings. Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are those who mourn…” and so on. These blessings are not formulas, nor are they commands, but they are merely recognitions that certain ways of being in the world are truly good and blessed. This upside-down vision of the good life should challenge our assumptions about what it means to live well in God’s world.
SALT AND LIGHT
The vision of the good life which Jesus articulated in Matthew 5:3-12 may be “good” but it is not necessarily pleasant. It can actually create a temptation to conceal our hope and our faith in order not to draw attention to ourselves. But Jesus immediately speaks into that temptation by reminding us who we are—we are salt and we are light. These two metaphors both speak to the need for us to bear witness to the new covenant by means of our obedience to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.
A GREATER RIGHTEOUSNESS
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that he has not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. What does it mean to fulfill the Law? He also says that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. Does that contradict the doctrine of salvation by faith? In this message, we explore this complex and foundational teaching of the Sermon on the Mount.
VOWS, RETALIATION, HATRED
Jesus offers six examples of what whole-hearted obedience looks like. In the previous sermon ("Murder, Adultery, Divorce"), we looked at the first three. In this sermon, we look at the last three examples. In each case, Jesus calls us beyond a technical, superficial obedience to a heartfelt obedience that mirrors our actions.
THE TWO PATHS
Jesus offers a choice between two paths of life, one easy and one difficult. After a review of the whole Sermon on the Mount up to this point, we can see that the easy path is the path of external-only righteousness and the hard path is that of whole-hearted obedience.
Jesus warns us to be on the lookout against church leaders who are not what they seem. These people have the doctrine and behavior needed from those in positions of influence, but they do not know Jesus. So he helps us to discern who these "wolves in sheep's clothing" are.