Today’s read included Matthew 5-7 and corresponding passages from Luke, where Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount. Our neighborhood ladies’ Bible study group just finished eight weeks on this very topic. We used Jen Wilkin’s study as our guide through these amazing words of Jesus, and I learned a lot.
I was also challenged. Jesus’ sermon touches every aspect of our lives, from the beginning of our faith in Him (Blessed are the poor in spirit), to how we worship God, how we treat others, how we live in this present culture, and especially addresses our heart motivations. In Jen’s words, we are called to live as citizens of the kingdom of God with a deeper obedience than what appears on the surface.
While we wouldn’t think of committing murder or adultery, Jesus challenges our heart attitudes of anger and lust. We’re called to treat others with preference, even to honor and pray for our enemies instead of treating them with hatred and revenge. We’re taught to pray with humility and dependence, not with fancy words that impress others. We’re asked to examine our motives in giving, fasting and praying, and challenged to do those things in secret, where only our Father knows what we did. Jesus addresses our tendency to judge one another and be blind to our own faults. He also warns us that most of the world will choose the wider, easier path that leads to destruction and that few will be willing to enter through the narrow way, the gate to life that is Jesus Himself.
One topic Jesus covers is so relevant today – anxiety! He addresses it first by reminding us that we must choose our master. If we desire the things of the world, we will not serve God, because our hearts will be divided. And a divided heart is an anxious heart. The better path is to trust God for the provision of all our needs, and seek His kingdom, first, and only.
Jesus leaves us with a challenge: Believe Me and act on My words, and you will build a life on a secure foundation that will weather the storms of life that inevitably come to all people. Or, build your life your own way, pursuing the possessions, affirmation, and comforts of the world, and treating others as the world would treat them, and your shaky foundation will fail. Your life will fall apart, and “its fall will be great.”
What a different place our world would be if just those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers truly lived and believed and acted as Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount. The world would stop looking for God to perform miracles in order to believe in Him, for they would see that He is alive and well by the influence of our lives. And isn’t that the point of it all anyway, that the world would see Jesus in us, and glorify our Father in heaven?