In this age of do-in-yourself spirituality, we need something to serve as an anchor to who we're supposed to be.
Constitution of God's Kingdom
In a society that has become more and more and more self destructive, the sermon on the mount gives us a way of living that won't result in us killing ourselves and each other.
He's showing us a way to live that won't turn life into a kind of hell.
It's the ethical backbone of Christianity.
If you were to ask me "What do Christians believe?" I'd have no idea. If you were to ask me "What SHOULD Christians believe" I'd point to the sermon on the mount.
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. (Matthew 5:13)
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. (Matthew 5:14)
Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. (Matthew 5:15)
In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
Brilliant question to always ask is this: Who's talking and who's this person talking to.
Red Letters - Jesus
He's speaking to his disciples. or maybe a better way of saying that is he's speaking to people, who hear his message and say "I'm gonna live like that."
Which is not all Christians. - Especially today.
You can be a Christian without ever taking seriously the way Jesus tells us to live in this world. Many people put their faith in Jesus when it comes to the afterlife. They put Jesus in charge of afterlife affairs and then live their life according to some philosophy that they've found and like in the world.
Jesus isn't speaking to those people. His message is much too radical for that.
If you were to take the sermon on the mount seriously, it will put you at odds with pretty much all the systems of this world.
During the reign of Louie the 14th. AKA: Louie the 14th - The Sun King. Acquired a huge collection of Chinese books. Wanted to find a scholar / librarian who would care for these Chinese books.
Found a Chinese scholar who was Fluent in Chinese and French. Given the position to come to Paris, France and work for Louie the Great. Also he's a Christian. - Newly.
This man was very excited about coming to France. He told his friends - "Can you imagine?! A Christian Nation?! An entire nation:
Imagine his disappointment.
Pretend - lived in some other country, knew nothing of Christianity, but were converted and studied the life of Jesus. Then was told that there was a 'Christian Nation'. What would you expect? You'd expect a nation of people who are living this stuff. It's too easy to make 'Christian' mean something other than 'Christ Like'.
Salt was not just a seasoning to put on food to make it taste better, it was that, but it was also a preservative.
You'd put salt on things like meat to keep it from getting rotten. Refrigerating food has only been around for 100 years. Canning food - 200. We've always been putting salt on food to stop it from going bad.
For centuries we've CORRECTLY understood this to mean that one of the things we're supposed to do in this world is stop this place from getting rotten.
There's a sense that having us here stops this place from getting bad. That's we're a source of good, not for ourselves, but for the world.
Here's what Jesus DIDN'T say.
You HAVE the salt of the earth. No, he said he are the salt. That might seem similar. But there's a world of difference between those two things.
I believe that a huge number of Christians in the world think that he HAVE the salt.
The salt of the Bible. I'll sprinkle this stuff around and that will help you guys out. You're welcome.
The difference is this: It's not our words of our beliefs that preserve the world, it's our lives.
People receive the saltiness not by us preaching, but by us living.
It's not knowing Christian truth, it's living the Jesus way.
There's such a tendency in us that we think as long as we know the right things, that's somehow going to help the world. It won't. The way that we help save the world, is by LIVING how Jesus told us to live.
Jesus comes and says "If salt loses it's saltiness, people throw it away." Again - we don't HAVE the salt, we ARE the salt.
What I believe Jesus is saying is this: "If you don't live this stuff, people can and should disregard what you say."
The Number 1 reason people reject Christianity: Because they believe we're hypocritical.
I think it's important to note that they're not commenting on what we BELIEVE, they're commenting on who we ARE.
So often we think that people reject Christianity because they don't value the truth, or maybe they're evil or something.
Jesus says they'll reject your message if you BELIEVE stuff and it never finds it's way to who you ARE.
Salt losing it's saltiness is Christians losing their Christlikeness.
Put some of you at ease: I realize that the ministry of Jesus is a big pill to swallow in this world.
I don't want to jump ahead but here in a minute, this sermon makes a sharp turn into loving your enemies.
If someone comes and punches you in the face, JESUS says, we give him the other side of our face to punch too. If that doesn't sound counter-intuitive to you, then you're not listening.
He says that we are to LOVE our enemies.
And we know from 1 John what love is, it's laying down your life.
(Who in here is prepared to lay down their life FOR their enemies?)
But Jesus is saying here that the world will and SHOULD reject our message if we're not living it.
It's not about what we know. It's our Christ-like-ness.
Real Christianity is scary. And risky.
"Hey guys I need to give you all my bible knowledge." Look at all these facts about the bible! What's the risk in that?
No, you ARE the salt.
We've lost our saltiness, obviously.
So society ignores us. And we get all kinds of mad! "HEY! You should listen to us!!! We know Bible stuff!!!"
But : If we don't live the Jesus way, no one is going to listen to our Jesus truth.
That wasn't some atheist that said that, Jesus said that.
And how is he going to do that? Through the lives of his followers.
There are people who are big fans of Jesus. But they're not a disciple.
They're not willing to change deep parts about who they are if he comes and tells us that what we're doing is wrong, and it's time to do something different.
They prefer to keep Jesus in charge of afterlife stuff.
My business. But beyond that, please stay out of my business. I'm quite happy in my particular area of the worlds system, Jesus has no business in this part of me.
Most people have a hint that the way the world currently is, is not working. The direction we're heading, is not going to work forever. There needs to at some point, be a change.
Most people don't know of an alternative. They're stuck in system.
Consumerism, materialism, greed, self preservation.
Alternative What they need is to be able to look around and say "Hey, look at those people there! How is it that they're not in our broken system. And wow, it really seems to be working."
We don't try to make people outside our community try to live the Jesus way.
Christian nation? - I'll settle for a Christian church.
We live it out before them, and they're attracted to us, and we invite them in. That's how the change happens.
FORCING them to live how we live wether or not they want to, we'll that's ridiculous.
The teachings of Jesus are for us to use to try to and change the culture.
No we are supposed to be the radical alternative to the world.
WE live the teachings of Jesus, and attract people into our communities. We don't try to force them, no we bring change by how we live.
Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa - outspoken about Abortion - people listened to her.
Many of us have strong feelings about marriage. And divorce. People who get married and divorced and it's not big deal, that's that's deeply broken. - That marriage is a sacred covenant.
So the world looks at us and says: "Ok, well do you guys ever get divorced?" "Yes" "How often" "The same as you."
"Then in what way is marriage sacred to you?"
"Well, it's a belief we have."
Protestants do a little better and catholics do a little better, but Evangelical Christianity, our divorce rates are so similar to secular society it's crazy.
41% of 1st marriages fail - 60% 2nd marriages - 73% 3rd
Average: 46% of marriages fail
What percent of Evangelical marriages fail? 46%.
We're not salt! We're the same!
The sermon on the mount teaches us that people won't care what we think about marriage until we do marriage better.
We don't BRING the salt of a good idea, we ARE the salt.
Now, we get mad because people just throw us away and don't listen to us.
Jesus : "That will happen until you ARE your message."
Do you believe in the idea of loving your enemies? - DO YOU?
I'm gonna say something weird: What you believe, doesn't really matter.
I believe faith in God is something deeper. But just ideas ABOUT stuff.
Doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Doesn't seem like it actually changes all that much. We have to BE what we're wanting to happen.
"If we are not a salty and shining, visible and viable, redemptive alternative to the broken way of the wider society, but are only hypocritically advocating change that we ourselves don't actually live, then we are good for nothing but to be cast aside and ignored. Jesus said so." (Brian Zahnd)
If the only real difference between us and the wider society is what we believe, but not how we live, they won't listen to us.
What's the main difference between us and rest of society when it comes to divorce?
What's the main different between us and wider society when it comes to marriage and divorce? What we believe. But not how we life. At least not up till the point.
"We believe in the sacredness of marriage. We don't have it, but we believe it."
Jesus says lovingly "They're not gonna care what you think." They're just gonna call us annoying hypocrites.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)
We know we need to let our light shine! The question is "HOW?"
No, through our GOOD WORKS.
Our light shines when we ARE the radical alternative to the world.
Just gonna warn you, people are gonna make fun of you.
Accuse you of being idealistic. Paul said they're gonna think you're foolish and weak.
But we, the people who have gathered around Jesus to learn how to live, we live it anyway. Because we're just that radical.
As they pass - spend a minute asking God - "Where does my love need to grow?
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life."