“The Sermon on the Mount” – Matthew 5-7
If you have your bibles and want to follow along, we are in Matthew chapters 5 -7. This passage is called the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has called his disciples to be followers, crowds of people have gathered in God’s name to find healing for their pain and suffering, and now Jesus goes up on the mountain to give his most famous sermon. Jesus goes up on the mountainside to deliver a Word to the people just like Moses. And, it is up on this mountain that Jesus teaches his followers what he expects of them.
Jesus begins by describing nine kinds of people. And, maybe you’ll find yourself in these descriptions… hopeless, grief stricken, and unexceptional… passionate for justice, show mercy with acts of kindness compassion and forgiveness, pure heart and filled with integrity, and peacemaker… harassed for doing the right thing… insulted or spoke badly about because of your beliefs.
Jesus teaches us that each kind of person finds a Kingdom reward. But today we are only looking at one of the beatitudes: People who are merciful showing kindness, compassionate and forgiving will receive the same.
Jesus teaches us that he has come to fulfill the Law and Prophets, not take them away (Matthew 5. 17). And, Jesus instructs the people that those who follow the Law and the Prophets will be called great in the Kingdom, but those who do not follow will be called the lowest in the Kingdom (Matthew 5.19).
Jesus teaches that not only should we not commit murder, but he also instructs us that we shouldn’t even stay angry with our brother or sister or we will be in danger of judgment (Matthew 5.22).
When we love one another, we are to do so with all our heart. Jesus requires us to pray for those who have harassed us. It’s easy to love those who love us. God gives us love so we can love others, even those that hurt and harm us. Our hearts are healed only through the unconditional love of others the way God loves them.
When God sees unconditional love rising up inside our hearts and shared with others, then you and I will have our reward in heaven. Unconditional love toward others allows God’s love to transform us from the inside out. It is through his Spirit that the image of God can be established inside of us. When we are transformed by God’s love, God’s love naturally begins to flow out of us to others.
Jesus inspires us to seek the alone place with God our Heavenly Father. Jesus wants us to have the benefit of discovering a deep personal relationship with the Father that can only come by way of intimacy in private, secret prayer. In the secret places of prayer we come face to face with a living God who is really in love with us.
This love is not the human love that leads to marriage and procreation, but love because we exist in God’s image. And we exist to love one another. Every other love in this life is an artificial sweetener, and has no real sustaining properties.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus holds nothing back when he talks about forgiveness. Jesus instructs us that either we forgive or we will not be forgiven. When we get alone with God in prayer that’s when we can be brutally honest about whom or what needs forgiving. Truly forgiving someone comes at a high price of having to face our sins and the sins of others toward us. We have to be alone with our feelings and our thoughts. We have to come clean, and get beyond our daily routines, defensive mechanism and survival mode.
We must look at the situation from the eyes of our Creator God who created every individual in his image. At times it may seem repulsive and impossible to get beyond our self to see the person as someone who is created in God’s own image.
We can no longer hold on to judgment because our judgment has no effect on the person, but our condemnation of that person can make us miserable. Forgiveness begins with a choice, a choice of our will. God gave us free choice. Choice to choose goodness instead of evil. The problem we often face is that we cannot see our own sin in light of someone else’s sin.
We begin to judge that someone else’s sins are worse than ours. We begin to rationalize what a good person we are, and how evil the other person is because of their behavior. Often when we have conflict with others, we no longer see them as a person but as an object to be distained. We fail to realize how essential it is for us to choose our own pathway to forgiveness. Forgiveness begins with our true inner self that is laid bare before our Creator God.
Jesus moves us from prayer and forgiveness into the spiritual discipline of fasting. Jesus didn’t say “if you fast,” he said “when you fast.” Fasting is a time for modest reflection. And, modest reflection is best done in secret between you and God. Fasting can accelerate the pathway of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a condition of the heart, and is different from reconciliation. Forgiveness is between you and God, while reconciliation is between you and the other person. After we have thoroughly examined ourselves, we don’t share our testimony with just anyone. We share with those who will hear, receive, and put it into practice. Otherwise, we can be torn to bits because of misunderstanding.
The way of Kingdom living is a difficult road, and one of selflessness. There are two outcomes we can choose today – the narrow way of forgiveness or the broad way of judgment. We can choose being false or being truth-filled. We can be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control or we can hold on to malice, anger, and bitterness in our hearts.
Those who enter the Kingdom are those who practice what Jesus preached, and live out what he died to give the world – forgiveness of their sins. And, at the end of his sermon his parting words to the people was a reminder to seek out wisdom and not be foolish. At the end of Jesus’ most well-known speech he leaves us with a question: Will you put these words into practice?
Forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness means to cancel a debt owed. When people hurt us, they owe us something. But Jesus has paid that debt, and they no longer owe us anything. The debt of all sin in the world hung on the cross – Jesus. Jesus took on the sin of the world, and we have the opportunity to partake of God’s great gift. Jesus’ death and resurrection is not only for what you and I have done to others that we feel remorse about, but it’s the sin we’ve done without knowing it…and it’s the sin done to us. Appropriation of God’s great gift is ours to choose. When we choose the path of unforgiveness, hurtful memories may haunt us for a lifetime.
Deliverance is a process. Jesus gave the disciples authority to deliver from evil. Jesus sent his disciples out two by two into ministry, never alone. Jesus gave his followers the authority to heal the sick and drive out demons. They were given the authority to rebuke the powers of darkness as long as they rested in Jesus’ authority…that’s why we pray in his name.
Deliverance can happen with a single word, “Go!” (Matthew 8.28). Deliverance can happen after naming the problem (Mark 5. 1-20). Deliverance can happen when faith is exercised and spiritual disciplines are lived out (Matthew 17.14). Deliverance can happen when we pray, then command the evil to leave us (Mark 9.14-29). Deliverance and healing may happen at the same time (Luke 9.37-42). Deliverance happens when two or more believers come into agreement for deliverance and healing (Mark 7.24-30).
The Cross is our answer. We can appropriate the forgiveness found in the Cross as we live into the teachings of Jesus. And, our testimony will reflect the fruit of forgiveness for those who have hurt us. On the Cross God forgave the sins of the world. Our holding judgment is our sin against God and not the person who hurt(s) us.
Prayer: Creator God, create in me a new heart, a heart that can sustain the releasing of the pain and suffering I have experienced. I release my right to be angry at the bad things that have happened to me. And, I accept the power of forgiveness you give me because of the Cross. Deliver me from evil, and help me to see who the “least of these” are in my life. I choose to forgive… [name] and I release them from my judgment and into your hands. I pray that you would touch their hearts and bring them to repentance. In the mighty name of Jesus! Amen!