Pulpit Series Volume 19 Issue 35 November 15, 2009
I love the way Jesus taught. It was easy to understand always relevant, and of course applicable. It was “do-able”. His goal was to transform people, not merely inform them.
Sermons that ask people to change without sharing the practical steps of how to change only produce guilt and frustration.
Matthew 5 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.
Jesus began by sharing eight secrets of genuine happiness;
1. You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope.
2. You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear.
3. You're blessed when you're content with just who you are.
4. You're blessed when you have a good appetite for God.
5. You're blessed when you care, for you will be cared for.
6. You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.
7. You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.
8. You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. This drives you deeper into God's kingdom.
Then Jesus spoke to his climbing companions about living an exemplary lifestyle, controlling anger, restoring relationships, and the issues of adultery and divorce.
Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness?
Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God.
This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right.
Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
Or say you're out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don't lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him.
Adultery and Divorce
You know the next commandment pretty well, too: 'Don't go to bed with another's spouse.' But don't think you've preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body.
Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.
Let's not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here's what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer.
You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly.
Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump.
Remember the Scripture that says, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights'? Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are 'legal.' Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you're responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you're automatically an adulterer yourself. You can't use legal cover to mask a moral failure.
Next he spoke of keeping promises
And don't say anything you don't mean. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, 'I'll pray for you,' and never doing it, or saying, 'God be with you,' and not meaning it. You don't make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. Just say 'yes' and 'no.' When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.
Then Jesus moved on to other practical life issues. Like how to give with the right attitude, how to pray, and how to store up treasure in heaven.
Completing God's Law
Don't suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures— either God's Law or the Prophets. I'm not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together.
God's Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won't know the first thing about entering the kingdom.
You're familiar with the command to the ancients, 'Do not murder.' I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder.
Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift wrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.
No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves.
This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty.
If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that.
If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal?
Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
He wraps up his message by telling us to not judge others, encouraging persistence when asking God to meet our needs, and warning us about false teachers.
What I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
This is the kind of preaching that we need in churches today.
We need Jesus style teaching it makes a difference in peoples day-to-day lives.
Jesus said, I have come that you might have life. He didn’t say, I’ve come that you might have religion. Christianity is a life.
When Jesus finished his teaching he usually wanted them to go and do likewise.
Christ-like preaching explains life to people. It produces a changed lifestyle.
Life-related preaching doesn’t just inform, it transforms.
It changes people because the Word is applied where people actually live.
Its not enough to simply proclaim,
Christ is the Answer.
We must show the unchurched
how Christ is the Answer.