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Blessings from the Mountains

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MATTHEW 5:1-6                                                                                    28 JANUARY 2024

PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH

 

Today we are going to begin a look at what could be called the greatest sermon ever preached. It comes to us in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5 and 6.


We usually refer to that sermon as the Sermon on the Mount. The preacher, of course, is Jesus.


The topic of His sermon is Christian Living and Seeking God’s Blessings.


Several years ago, a Christian publication showed a cartoon with a preacher standing at the back door of the auditorium following his sermon. He was greeting the people as they were leaving after the service.


The cartoon shows a man shaking the preacher’s hand. He looks the preacher in the eye and says, “Powerful sermons, preacher. They are thoughtful and well-researched.” He goes on to say, “I can always see myself in the sermons ---- and I want you to knock it off!”


You know, that was the kind of sermons Jesus preached. His messages always hit home with those who heard them. And the people either loved Him or hated Him because of it.


Near the beginning of His ministry, Jesus took His disciples up to a mountain – think about it as taking them on a retreat – a getaway for a time of refreshing and instruction in the fundamentals of how they were to follow Him.


We can go back to verses 23-26 for some background on why Jesus retreated to the mountains with his close disciples.


READ: Matthew 4:23-26; 5:1


Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him.

In His teaching, Jesus latched on to a couple of really basic themes He wanted His disciples to understand as they were also beginning their ministry alongside Him.


One theme is that followers of Christ – like us here today – are to think and act differently than the world around them thinks and acts.


We are not supposed to adjust our moral climate to that of our global environment. We are expected to set the standard of behavior for the rest of the world to follow.


Another theme Jesus emphasized is that He is calling those who claim they are following Him to be an authentic counter-culture to the worldly culture.


He is asking us to live distinctive lives, teaching the world the joys of being part of God's family through His Son.


And we are to do that in such a manner as to make goodness and integrity attractive to those who are outside of Christ.


The Sermon on the Mount is relevant for everyday living as a follower of Christ.


The Sermon is not a list of laws to be followed and obeyed. It is not a list of do’s and don'ts.


The Sermon on the Mount is about submission and obedience to the will of God.


You will notice that the plan of salvation is not found in the Sermon on the Mount.


But what it is: It contains the guidelines we, as followers of Christ, are to follow when we have been obedient to the Biblical plan of salvation.


Throughout the Bible, we find reminders that we are in a battle between the kingdom of the world and the Kingdom of God. We are also told who wins the battle in the end. Of course, God does.


The important thing is who we individually choose to serve.


Now, I am sure that most of us here at Princeton Christian Church would like to grow in numbers. And that is right to want that.


We also want to grow in maturity and become more Christ-like.


We want to be a people who live differently from the world so that, by our example, people are drawn to Christ. We could say that we need to be magnets – drawing others to Christ.


The Sermon on the Mount consists of several sections.


The first section is about seeking God’s blessing. Verses 3-11 are commonly known as the Beatitudes.


Now what is a Beatitude? Not a word we often use in everyday conversation.


But the Biblical meaning of blessed is more than happy. It is a little more involved than happy.


It means that one who is blessed is the recipient of God’s favor.


It means to be content. To have inner joy and peace.


The Beatitudes cause us to have the right attitude. They define the right mindset for the believer.


Jesus quotes 9 Beatitudes in the first few verses of Matthew 5. These are essential virtues we need to receive God’s blessings.


Jesus is not simply listing nine categories of people here. He is talking about the qualities of life that should be present in every disciple.


These virtues actually seem to build one on another as you read through them. We can see a progression of maturity in faith.


Some deal with our relationship with God, while others deal with our relationships with one another.


So, let’s look at the first one today.


Matthew 5:3 says: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”


He didn’t say blessed are the poor, although, of course, he loved the poor. But God doesn’t automatically favor the poor – the homeless or the bankrupt persons.


It is common knowledge that very often, the condition of homelessness or bankruptcy is the result of a lifestyle of laziness, drunkenness, gluttony, or indulgence in all kinds of pleasure.


Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Blessed are those who recognize that they are spiritually impoverished. We are blessed in that condition when we honestly evaluate ourselves and realize that we are not able to do much on our own.


The very first step in coming to God is recognizing that you are spiritually broke. You have nothing of value to offer God.


The Bible tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6).


You might remember the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector who prayed side by side in the temple.


The Pharisee boasted as he prayed: “I fast, I tithe, I keep the law. What a good boy am I! The tax collector prayed a bit more humble prayer as he said, “God, be merciful to me. I am a sinner.”


Jesus said the tax collector was justified, but the Pharisee was not.


When we are proud of our goodness and feel we can do it all on our own, we are not in God’s favor.


When we can see ourselves as spiritually bankrupt we are ready to allow God to help u and to receive His riches.


Think about the hymn written by John Newton – the first stanza goes like this: “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound! That saved a wretch like me.”


John Newton wasn’t just putting nice words together to make a song. He knew what he had been, and he knew what the word “wretch” meant.


He was at sea by the age of 11. He fell into a life that was so wretched that his crewmates considered him just a little better than an animal. He was a deserter; he was publicly flogged more than once; he participated in the slave trade; he raped the women and beat the men. There was no sin that was too vile for him to avoid.


He said at one time, “I was fast bound in chains. I had little desire and no power at all to recover myself.”


He came to a point in his life while suffering from fever and depression; he stole away and began to pray. He said he made no promises but “cast myself before the Lord to do with me as He would please.”


Two years later, John Newton married his teenage sweetheart and began studying for ministry.


When he chose the word “wretch” to describe himself, he knew all about being wretched. From his own experience, he knew that only spiritual beggars make good disciples.


There is a statement that sounds contradictory, but it is the truth: This is it: “In the Christian life, the closer you get to God, the more unworthy you feel.”


Remember what the Prophet Isaiah (6:5) wrote when he saw the Lord in the temple: “I am ruined. I am a man of unclean lips. I am unworthy?”


When we don’t understand the poverty of our spirit, we cannot come to Christ for blessing. But what a blessing we receive when we admit our poverty and our dependence on the provision that only Christ can give us.


When we cease relying on our own goodness and turn to God, He forgives; He saves; He puts His righteousness in us.

 

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