Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The King and His People

Part 1 of Kingdom Life

Text: Matthew 5:1-2

Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them (Matt. 5:1-2).

Can You See the Difference?

The teaching of Jesus found in Matthew 5-7 is commonly called the “Sermon on the Mount.” The sermon gives us the essence of Christianity. In other words, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his followers how he wants them to live.

There used to be an ABC laundry detergent commercial that asked the question “Can you see the difference?” According to the commercial, clothes washed with ABC look no different than clothes washed with a more expensive brand of detergent.

Sadly, many people say they can’t see a difference between Christians and everybody else.

We Should Be Different

Matthew 4:17 says, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven [1] is at hand.” [2] The kingdom was “at hand” because the King was present. And Jesus declared that all who desire to enter God’s kingdom must “repent.” To repent means to change one’s mind. Those who enter the kingdom of God decide to make Jesus the King of their lives. And when Jesus is our King, we are expected to live a certain way. [3]

The Sermon on the Mount is meant for all Christians--not just a special class of Christians. R. Kent Hughes writes that the Sermon on the Mount “is the antidote to the pretense and sham that plagues Christianity.” [4]

The Sermon on the Mount is the King’s declaration that he expects his people to be different. 

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is often compared to Moses. [5] Jesus is a new and greater Moses. Moses went up a mountain to receive God’s law for the Israelites. Obeying God’s law would make the Israelites different from the other nations. Matthew 5:1-2 says, “Seeing the crowds, [Jesus] went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them.” And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly makes it clear that his followers are to act differently than other people.

We should be concerned with our inward desires, not just our outward actions. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (5:27-28).

We are to love our enemies, not just our family and friends. “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (5:46-47).

We are to try to impress others with our religious acts. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for them you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (6:1).

We are not to worry about material things. “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seeks after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows you need them all” (6:31-32).

If you’re a Christian—a citizen of God’s kingdom—people should be able to see a difference in your life.

What Difference Would It Make? 

What difference would it make if people could see a difference in our lives?

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that living out the Sermon on the Mount “is the best means of evangelism.” “I am never tired of saying that what the Church needs to do is not to organize evangelistic campaigns to attract outside people, but to begin herself to live the Christian life.” [6] 

[1] “The kingdom of heaven” is identical to “the kingdom of God.”
[2] The kingdom of God is the rule of God. God rules in the lives of Christians, but the church is not synonymous with the kingdom. The kingdom is both already here (“the kingdom of God has come upon you,” Matt. 12:28) and not yet here.
[3] This doesn’t mean that we enter the kingdom by our own good works. The only requirements are repentance and faith in Christ.
[4] R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 16.
[5] An example of this is how both Moses and Herod were saved from two murdering kings: Moses from Pharaoh and Jesus from Herod.
[6] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 13.

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