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Monday, January 19, 2015

Sermon on the Mount 1 (Introduction)

Matt 7:21-29




Have you noticed that churches are generally full at Christmas and over Easter but not every other Sunday?
Why do you think that is?

Someone has suggested that it is possibly because on those two days we proclaim what we believe.
We believe that God became a human being in Jesus. We believe that Jesus died and was raised from the dead.... that is our belief and many are happy to say that that is what we believe.

But between those two events we proclaim for the most part how we live. And that doesn’t really draw the crowds. It’s far easier to proclaim what we believe than to live out what we believe.

Now, (according to Wesley), what has come to be called Sermon on the Mount sets out how we are called to live in the clearest and most comprehensive teaching that Jesus gave regarding what his kingdom on earth is like. It is found in chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew’s gospel. Matthew is really only called by Jesus in chapter 9. Now I know its stretching it a little, but can we lift from this: Chapters 5, 6, and 7…. this is what the kingdom is like, in chapter 9…… Matthew, do you want to be a part of it? This is the way it works, do you want to be in it?

The Sermon on the Mount is not a utopian set of ideals or a set of ideas for a perfect world. It is the foundation for how we are meant to live today, now. And to use modern language, it is non-negotiable.

I want to begin this series where Jesus ends it. With a parable about a wise person who will go to heaven and a foolish person who will go to hell, based on their response to these words, says Jesus.
So let’s have a look at:     the one who builds on sand,
   the one who builds on rock
   and let’s finish with some practical application based on what we learn.

“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven,” says Jesus.

What does it mean to say “Lord, Lord?” What is "Lord, Lord" religion?

Wesley suggests the following with regard to Lord, Lord, religion: It implies verbal religion, it implies saying the right thing, praying, saying or reciting creeds, speaking well of God. Maybe even singing praises to his name. It may even include prophesying and teaching in Jesus name, preaching in Jesus name, kind of like I am doing now. But don’t believe that because I am preaching, I am well on my way to heaven.
It can include more: driving out demons, laying hands on people and they get better, healing the sick. All of this is Lord, Lord religion.

John Wesley says that “we may by the grace of God snatch souls from hell yet drop into it when we are finished. We may bring others to the kingdom of God but never enter it ourselves.” You see, doing things, saying things, living righteously, does not bring you into the Kingdom of God (note that Matthew calls the Kingdom of God the Kingdom of Heaven).

What is the kingdom of God?

Jesus teaches that it is something that is inside us. First, it is sown in the heart like a tiny little mustard seed. Then it grows and it grows and it puts forth great branches on which grow all kinds of fruit. Jesus said often that anyone who does not have this kingdom of God within them, will not enter into it, no matter what they’ve done, how they've lived, or how loudly they have cried, “Jesus, we bless your name.” He will say to them, “even while you were driving out demons or healing the sick in my name, I never knew you.”

And in this life, the storms of life will rise and may well carry them away and even destroy what they have built because it is not built on the rock of Jesus and his teaching.

“I never knew you”, Jesus will say.

Why? Because their hearts were not right towards God. And notice in verse 22, many will be like this. Many will be like this! I don’t know about you, but I find that frightening.

Is your heart right with God? ………..How do I know if my heart is right with God? ……Is there any way of knowing in this life whether my heart is right with God?

The Sermon on the Mount helps us to see what a heart that is right with God looks like. We are going to see that it is poor in spirit, it is meek, it is merciful, it is salt and light in the world around it. It has a particular relationship to the law of God. It loves in a certain way, even enemies. It turns the other cheek, it gives to the poor, it prays, it fasts in a certain way. It builds up treasure in heaven....I could go on and on and on..... in fact we are going to go on and on and on in the next 14 weeks.

This, says Jesus, is the only foundation to build your life on: Christ, his blood, his righteousness and his teaching. And that foundation, and only that foundation will stand in this life and in the next.

A few warnings:

Don’t think that if you have such a foundation, that you will never see problems again. Don’t think you will not be tried and tested; you will be, again and again, like gold is tested in the fire. In fact God will use the storms of this life to purify you.

Expect no preferential treatment if you build your life on this rock, regarding hardship that might come your way, or even suffering. Building on this rock will not keep those things away from you, but know this: what destroys others will make you stronger and more pure.

Friends, upon what foundation are you building?

As you plan for your future, do you see in Christ’s teaching wisdom or foolishness?

What kind of faith are you resting on? The faith described in the Sermon on the Mount, or a faith seasoned with the common sense of this world?

Wesley said “faith which does not produce the whole religion described in the Sermon on the Mount is not the faith of the gospel, is not the faith which leads to glory. Beware of resting on unholy and unsaving faith.”

As you hear that, you may think that our faith rests on works. No! Our faith doesn’t rest on works, our faith leads to works. Real faith leads to works. It cannot but help lead to works.

This series on the Sermon on the Mount will, by the grace of God, help us to see ourselves as God does.
And hopefully it will help us to identify our foundation: Whether we are building on the rock, Jesus’ teaching and his way, or on sand. And it will teach us, if necessary, how to start building on rock.

My hope and my prayer is that you will be encouraged to do just that.

I close with these words, “Build on the rock.”

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