Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Sermon On the Hill

I have been working my way through the wonders of Matthew 5-6 the past few days, once again exploring the wondrous words of the Sermon on the Mount.  For far too many Christians, these familiar passages are undervalued.  This is Jesus at his most radical, turning the world upside down with his words.  Just think of all the teachings included in this magnificent message.  The Beatitudes, which the late, great Rich Mullins referred to as "the condensed version of everything Jesus wanted us to know."  His teachings on salt & light.  His constant reminders that "you have heard it said, but I say" as he explained that he had come to fulfill the law and the prophecies.  His admonitions to let our word be our bond, to turn the other cheek and to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  Teaching us to pray with the model we call The LORD'S Prayer.  Reminding us not to be hypocritical or flashy as we serve others, give to the needy and fast.  His much ignored teaching that earthly treasure is worthless in heaven.  And finally, his reminder that we need not worry, because his Father - our God - will take care of our needs. This amazing set of teachings must have had the Pharisees pulling their beards out, because it was such a departure from the legalism of the day.  And to be honest, it is a departure from the legalism often preached in the 21st century church as well.  Jesus calls us to radical action and love.  We prefer the words of Paul, which give us guidelines and rules we can argue about.  Jesus is blunt, to the point, and preaching a lifestyle change that most of us try to avoid.  The Sermon on the Hill is a blueprint for how to be a Jesus Freak.  And that scares us.

But it should also give us hope.  The sermon is a reminder that God's love is available to one and all, no matter our situation and no matter our sins.  Check out these words from Philip Yancey:

“Thunderously, inarguably, the Sermon on the Mount proves that before God we all stand on level ground: murderers and temper-throwers, adulterers and lusters, thieves and coveters. We are all desperate, and that is in fact the only state appropriate to a human being who wants to know God. Having fallen from the absolute Ideal, we have nowhere to land but in the safety net of absolute grace.”   ― The Jesus I Never Knew

Philip wrote another great book called What's So Amazing About Grace?, and his words above answer that question.  Grace, given to us in the form of the love of God whose name is Jesus, is always there.  We cannot earn it. We will never deserve it.  And yet it is always there to catch us when we fall. The Sermon on the Mount teaches us how to live in grace and share it with the rest of the world.

So here is my challenge to you today.  Read Matthew 5-6, and read it slowly. Soak in it. Think about how world changing it must have been to stand on that hillside and hear those words. Think about what they mean to us as Christ-followers.  And then get serious.  Memorize The Beatitudes.  They should be written on your heart.  Let's put the power back in the words of Jesus, and to the call he puts on our lives.  It's time to get radical...

Because of Jesus,

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