Beginning the Sermon on the Mount

preaching through the sermon on the mount is both terrifying and humbling for me.

the words of jesus set a bar that is entirely unattainable.   he even says midway through the sermon,  after telling us that we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us,  that we just need to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect.   (5:48)

talk about impossible. but that’s just the point.   the religious leaders of that day…especially the pharisees…had created an elaborate system of rules and requirements that people needed to keep in order to be right with god.   sort of a self-guided path to righteousness.

earlier in the sermon,  though,  jesus even blew that plan out of the water with these words:   for I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.   (5:20)

now here’s the humbling part.   my righteousness will never exceed that of the pharisees.   they were too good at it.   their law-keeping was impeccable.   their religiosity was stellar.   their spirituality was superior.   geez.   i probably commit more “sins” before noon most days,  than a rank and file pharisee committed in a month.

but what i lack in religious behavior is made up for in grace.

i cannot make myself  right with god by my own rule-keeping.   i cannot account for my own sin by doing things that god will notice.   i cannot make god love me more  by jumping through spiritual hoops and saying,  “daddy,  watch me!   daddy,  watch me!”  

i cannot balance the scales with god by fulfilling the commands of the sermon on the mount.   that can only be done by faith…by trusting that jesus’ death on the cross,  alone,  is sufficient to make me right with god.

here’s the terrifying part:   the words of jesus in the sermon on the mount are not mere religious ideas.   he did not speak these words and expect them to fall on deaf ears.   i don’t think his intent was to go through an empty exercise of laying out a lifestyle of total surrender to the kingdom…only to have his followers “spiritualize” the teaching or write it off as “unrealistic”.

are you ready to face your fear?

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2 thoughts on “Beginning the Sermon on the Mount

  1. Man…!! A Sermon that has been retold and rethunk a billion times, over centuries of time…and it NEVER gets old…it NEVER looses its power to make “Christian” groan with as much angst as the Rich Man who wanted to know how to get to heaven?!…(kinda).

    Agh!!… I love Kierkagaard’s book, Works of Love…”Love your Neighbor”. (he really slays the topic to pieces)
    the concept seems easy…until you realize who your neighbor is.

    Ok, maybe not so hard…if, in these days, you hardly speak directly to your neighbor…

    oh, oh oh but to forgive your neighbor…lest your Father forgive you…that’s a gut puncher. Oh the times I begged for the “OT wrath of Israelite hot-mess again God” to come out upon certain humans who just played some serious “aint right”…. and on top of that…not only are we to forgive…but, pray for their salvation (if applicable). um, wow. I have to keep repeating”vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord”….

    The “Forgive others as your Father forgave you”
    …we are called to pray and plead for the unbeliever (seeing how these were the aint rights in my story) – it was here that I saw the road of Pilgrim’s Progress get pretty narrow.

    It is here that I realize …how badly I needed God’s mercy for treating him the same way I’d been treated- Psalm 66:16.

    Ask, Seek, Knock…

  2. Oh Padre Miguel… the Sermon on the Mount…what a gut puncher.

    (You think the crowd was all standing there staring at their wrist sundials… like, “When is this guy going to wrap it up?”… fish buffet opening in like 10 min’s!!… ).

    The road for “Christian” gets pretty narrow after this sermon, the hike a little steeper

    … I know I’ve found myself doing an under the breath “scoff” at the rich man for asking such a “Dumb” question once or twice… (ya, sell your stuff dude). and then realized, hey, the “stuff” of the rich guy can be symbolized by any like “Idol” in our lives that is blocking our entrance to discipleship and the kingdom.

    Kierkagaard beats “love your neighbor as yourself” to death in his book Works of Love…and you’re thinking, how easy!

    Love this guy and that person and those people over there…but, the real uphill battle for me ? When those folks who are “Neighbor” are also “Enemy”… I’m like, what!?
    and not that I give to cracks about petty “I don’t like you’s”, (ya, so)…its that “Forgive your neighbor, lest God can forgive you.” It’s when you’ve been wronged so harshly and the Lord calls you to pray for your enemies for their salvation… um, what!! Oh how I wanted the “wrath of the Lord” brought down as if they were “hot mess Israelites”… you know? Praying for the vengeance that the Lord claims is his and praying like King David to have it executed… but wait…no, no no… anything anyone has ever done to me, have I not done it to my Lord? Gut punched and by my own dirty hands.

    I recently met Texicans, Kent Whitaker and his wife (Murder by Family). – they spoke at our church…man!! The things he had to say about forgiveness in the midst of my struggle to overcome this concept … I couldnt believe the timing of his words – I went to hear him twice.

    Psalms 66:16-20.

    Ask, Seek, Knock.

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