The Sermon on the Mount: Attainable ideals?
We have been listening to sermons on various Sermon on the Mount passages (Matthew 5-7). Are they really applicable to us today, and if so, how can we possibly apply them? Whether we are young or older Christians in the faith, one response stands out: every one of them teaches us a principle which is in such stark contrast to how human beings generally live.
We all live in community and can daily feel the pervading spirit around us. Maxims like – ‘you only live once’, ‘get as much out of life as you can’, ‘who will ever know about it ?’, and ‘what is sex for if not for pleasure ?’ constantly confront us – especially as we encounter issues or situations where we need to make decisions or sometimes take ethical stands.
As one Christian writer puts it, Jesus’ counterpoints to certain purely secular views can be expressed thus:
You cannot be happy unless you are rich! – Blessed are the poor in spirit
Don’t let him get away with it! – Blessed are the patient
Laugh and the world laughs with you – Blessed are those who mourn
Nature gave you sex instincts – you ought to give them free expression – Blessed are the clean of heart
Seek to be popular and well-known – Blessed are you when men revile you and speak all manner of evil against you falsely because of Me
In time of peace prepare for war – Blessed are the peacemakers.
There is no doubt that with human strength alone, none of Jesus’ teachings are achievable. What’s more, when we do start practising them, we will draw upon ourselves the wrath of the world because we are not in sync with its spirit. What then are we to do? – treat them as fanciful ideals which we politely listen to every now and then, and then lightly brush off as unattainable? Emphatically not! We see that Jesus wants us to live them out fully — rejecting the spirit of the world, and following His Spirit instead.
Jesus died for us to be transformed
Several times in the Sermon we hear Jesus say – ‘You have heard that it was said…., BUT I TELL YOU….. Jesus died for us so that we may be presented perfect to the Heavenly Father – so he tells us the new way of living we must follow. And He commands: ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt 5:48). We must therefore take the Sermon’s teachings as achievable and strive for them daily in all aspects of our lives.
Jesus gave us the power to be transformed
Jesus knew that the Sermon set an impossible standard for humans. So He gave you and me supernatural power to carry them out. How? In John 16:13,14 He promised his disciples that when He left them, He would give them the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit. Struggling Christian young or old, be assured and encouraged; Christ has empowered you by the Holy Spirit who is now living in you. You are enabled to live out the Sermon with joy despite the hostility of the spirit of the world.
Commit afresh to live out the Sermon on the Mount
Are you and I compromising? Settling for less than what Jesus wants us to have in our daily walk here on earth?
Let us recommit ourselves afresh to boldly living out the principles of the Sermon that Jesus has taught us and reaping the fruits that come with it.
God Bless you,
By Daniel John, Elder (YCKC Bulletin 30 June 2019)