CREATING A COUNTERCULTURE- The Sermon on the Mount
The last time I preached I introduced you to the topic of the Kingdom of God. We know Jesus came to usher in a Kingdom that was an upside-down kingdom.
My topic for today is Creating a counterculture.
Jesus described Kingdom culture and Christian character in this one passage of scripture popularly known as the Sermon on the Mount.
My text is Matt 5:1-3. But we will read from verse 1 to 11
A little about the author of this text. Matthew who was also called Levi is the author of this book. He was a tax collector by profession. Matthew is largely writing for a Jewish audience
In his writing Matthew makes several references to the OT to show the link between the Messiah they longed for and Jesus who was God incarnate
In the gospel of Matthew, the Kingdom of heaven as he calls it was a main running motif.
God always wanted a unique people to be set apart for him. Israel were his chosen people. They were supposed to be a light to the Gentiles.” will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
These were familiar texts to the Jews.
Jesus was showing them how to really live it out.
Matt 5 to 7 explains the kingdom culture making lots of reference to the Old Testament, saying you know this in your scriptures, but this is the real heart of the matter: the sermon on the mount is a treatise replete with phrases like “you have heard it said, but I say to you”… , or you believed and lived like this, but know I am telling you how it really should be done.
E.g.) 5:21 – You have heard about do not commit murder – but I say even if you are angry, it is murder
5:27- You have heard it say do not commit adultery – but I say even if you look with lust
This sermon ends in chapter 7. What Jesus is drawing their attention to is the heart of the matter. It is all about relationships and not rules. Love and forgiveness are the currency of this kingdom.
He emphasizes fruit Ch7:16 -20 By their fruit you will recognize them.
He ends with the parable of the wise and foolish builders once emphasising obedience.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
Introducing a counterculture.
As I said earlier, Jesus came to usher in an upside-down kingdom.
As Christians, we are supposed to be the salt and light of this world.
Also, we do not belong to this world. We are in but not of it.
The Jews too forgot their “otherness” and consorted with the nations around them and took on the culture, practices and even worship of other gods.
We are supposed to create a counterculture too.
This is important to understand if we must understand the Sermon on the Mount. He was ushering this new kingdom that John the Baptist had told them about when he said “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand”.
The sermon on the mount is about returning to roots by turning away from all the adulteration of the law and returning to true righteous living.
The whole sermon on the mount can also be seen as a compare and contrast in style. The pagans live like this, or you have heard it said, but I say live like this. eg) the pagans pray like this, but you pray like this. The pagans run after riches, but you seek the kingdom.
Moses gave them the law on a mountain. Jesus gave them a life imparting counterculture on a mountain. It was not a set of laws like the 10 commandments. Rather it describes a culture or the character of a person who lives to please God.
Note the OT ended with Cruses, the NT first sermon opens with blessings. It was the dawn of a new era.
The Pharisees and scribes had put their own twist to the understanding and application of the law. Jesus was about to set it right.
WHO IS THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT FOR?
This talk on the mount is a discipling moment that Jesus is having with those who followed Him. He is telling them that if they want to be a part of my Kingdom then this is how they need to be and live.
This sermon is not to be used as a code of social ethics. It cannot be applied by all of society. The Sermon on the mount was not for general consumption. This was Jesus’ teaching to his disciples or followers. This is kingdom culture.
Is living by the sermon on the Mount doable or is it idealism? It is doable only if we are born again.
Some may say this is the hardest set of teachings to live by. Who said anything about it being easy? In fact, Jesus said how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. He was raising the bar!!
Is it any wonder that Jesus opens it with “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs, is the kingdom of heaven”?
IS THIS SERMON RELEVANT FOR TODAY?
The first obvious answer is yes, simply because all scripture is God-breathed 16 All Scripture is God-breathed (1Tim 3:16-17)
WHY PRACTICE THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT?
It is the foundation for Christian living. It is by adopting a poverty of spirit that says, “apart from you I can do nothing”.
It is the best evangelistic tool you will ever find. It is also by demonstrating Christ like love to one another and by this shall all men know that you are my disciples.
So, let’s look at Matthew 5:1 -3 today.
3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
He goes to the mountain top to be with his disciples and away from the crowds. This teaching was for those who wanted to follow Him.
He sits down to teach – It was common in those days for the Rabbi to sit and teach while the rest stood and listened.
First, the Beatitudes are how every Christian should live. This is not just for some pious people, but for every Christ-follower because it is a description of Christian character. We are meant to display all 8 characteristics in our life!
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I am not surprised that this is the first for I think all else hinges on this first one.
Blessed or happy is how one can interpret this word. “ is the Greek word which means happy, content.
The first thing that strikes me is that Jesus wants us to be happy. He is not a killjoy!!
What is true happiness? Can happiness be the end goal of all things? Is that what Jesus is saying when He says you are “Blessed”? Or could it be more?
Happiness is a part of it but not the whole thing. It also implies favour with God.
Blessedness is also a characteristic of God. And we can only share that through our union with Christ.
“Poor in Spirit”
What is it?
The Greek word for “poor” is “Ptochos” i.e., to crouch, to cower like a beggar.
Jesus is not talking about material poverty, but spiritual poverty.
Jesus is basically saying that you cannot rely on your own goodness to enter into God’s kingdom. It is not an appeal to deny our worth as human beings, but to recognize our sin and desperate need for salvation.
Matthew Henry comments that “to be poor in spirit, is to have humble thoughts of ourselves, of what we are, and have, and do
It means I am spiritually destitute, and I need a saviour.
It means that in and of myself I am morally bankrupt and there is nothing good in me without Christ. This is not an excuse or licence for self-loathing or hate as some streams of Christianity indulge in. It is unbiblical and cannot find any basis in scripture.
The Beatitudes acts as a mirror to show me how full of me I am and how much I need to have more of Christ in me.
How do I become “poor in spirit”?
It is a recognition that I do not have anything worthy to bring to God.
When we come to God emptying ourselves of pride, independence, self-achievements.
I need to recognize that I cannot do it on my own. I need Him to fill me.
The poor in spirit like Zacchaeus received the kingdom.
Following from being poor in spirit you can mourn, be meek, thirst after righteousness or be merciful to others.
Why do I need to be “poor in spirit?”
Unless I recognize my poverty I will not recognize the need for a Saviour.
Because apart from Jesus I can do nothing.
Pride will lead me to anger, independence, folly, unforgiveness, unrighteous living, seeking satisfaction elsewhere which will lead to all kinds of sin.
How do I become “poor in spirit”?
Be humble: Humility will keep me dependent and trusting God to meet my every need – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and material.
We need to come to Jesus’ poor in spirit and not in a poverty spirit.
There is a big difference. The former comes in a posture of humility saying that I need one that is greater than me and acknowledges the “all-sufficiency of the Saviour”. The latter says I am living in lack of what I have is not enough and denies the “all-sufficiency of the Saviour”.
Dependence grates against everything that is part of the cultures in which we live today that promote, applaud self-reliance, self-confidence, self-effort, self-promotion.
Paul says I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20.
Paul considered all his achievements as dung compared to knowing Jesus. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ Phil 3:8
The kingdom of heaven is mine.
I will live in awe of the finished work of the Cross
I will be thankful for His grace in my life.
I will live in dependence on the Holy spirit
My Prayer life will grow
I will not think highly of myself
I will serve with humility because no task is too small for me.
I will love like Christ.
This Kingdom culture can only be lived out when Jesus is the King of our hearts. We need Him every moment of the day. To be mindful of Him. For this, we need to acknowledge our need of Him by being poor or humble of spirit.
When we live in this way we are blessed, happy, content and enjoy all favour as citizens of the Kingdom of God. Amen!