By Ryan Shaw
The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 has often been called the “Constitution of the Kingdom.” Jesus lays out His terms of discipleship and the standards He means all believers to rise to.
These three chapters make up central teaching for every true Christian. We are meant to take Jesus’ words very seriously. They have often been minimized as idealistic and impossible to live out.
Jesus never gives His people commands that He Himself does not empower them to faithfully live by. To do so would be cruel. Instead there is power available to live the “Sermon on the Mount” lifestyle.
This available power is part of the New Covenant Jesus purchased through His death and resurrection. It is part of what the filling of the Holy Spirit enables us to make real in our lives.
The Sermon on the Mount begins with “the Beatitudes.” They serve a two-fold purpose.
First, they identify core attributes believers are meant to diligently cultivate. What is a believer to be like (at the heart level)? Together, these eight give us a clear picture of what we are to become.
Second, they reveal the qualities critical for effectively bearing fruit in our generation. The verses following the Beatitudes (vs. 13-14) call believers the “salt of the earth and the light of the world.” There is an unmistakable link here.
The Beatitudes reveal the very heart of what God wills for us to develop within. Apart from setting our hearts toward purposely growing in each of the nine beatitudes, we will not have the quality of impact on the world around us which the Lord intends.
The first four deal with internal core characteristics of disciples. The second four highlight external actions.
• “Blessed are the poor in spirit” – We are to cultivate consistent awareness of our desperate need for God. Apart from Him, we can accomplish nothing of spiritual value. This is the essence of humility. Internalizing and living from the true place of Pride to dependence on God in all areas of life and ministry.
• “Blessed are those who mourn” – Whose hearts are becoming sensitive to the power of sin and its deadly effects on people and institutions. We “mourn” because of this insidious power holding believers and unbelievers’ alike captive. We long for the coming of the Kingdom to restore all things to their original intention in the heart of God.
• “Blessed are the meek” –Meekness is power under control. The purposeful restraining of oneself for a higher purpose. Mistreatment is a wonderful tool for the Lord to test our level of meekness.
• “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” – This hunger seems to be at the core of obtaining all spiritual realities in the life of a believer. Without recognition of our sinful nature’s bent against God and a converse proactive cultivating of hunger and thirst to walk in Jesus’ righteousness, we are not living lives pleasing to God.
• “Blessed are the merciful” – At the core of God’s attributes is mercy. Though no human being deserves His mercy, He gives it liberally to all who come to Him according to His terms. We, too, are to live in such a way towards others.
• “Blessed are the pure in heart” – Keeping our hearts free from the incessant pull of the love of the world is at the root of this characteristic. We pursue the highest levels of purity of our eyes, thoughts, desires, ambitions, and much more.
• “Blessed are the peacemakers” – God is a reconciling God. Jesus was sent for the purpose of reconciling humanity back to God through His own flesh. We, too, are becoming what God intends when we help people over division among them.
• “Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness’ sake” – This is the one beatitude that Jesus gives some explanation to. This one is very close to His heart because He knows how common it is. The persecution of true believers is not to surprise us. God uses it and our embracing of it in ways beyond our understanding.