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About this series
What the World Needs Now
It's easy to identify things we wish were different when we look around and see what's happening in the world. The trouble is there are so many opinions, so many experts, and we're so divided - even within the Christian community - that it becomes frustrating, messy, and even dangerous. In this series, Chip calls a big timeout to find out what Jesus would say in the midst of our current circumstances. The first-century world was amazingly parallel to our issues and problems. So, Chip goes to Jesus' words, in the book of Matthew, to see how He would counsel us today. He gets very practical about what it means for us personally, and then how we can apply it, to genuinely make a difference, as followers of Jesus.More from this series
We are going to be teaching out of Matthew chapter 5. And what I want you to know, as we study this passage is, the context here is Jesus has come into a world much like ours. It’s broken, it’s difficult, there is violence, there is brutality. Eighty percent of the world are slaves. Women are marginalized, children don’t even matter, slaves are treated like pieces of property. Mercy wasn’t even a value. It was brutal; it was violent. Entertainment was watching people get chopped up. I guess things haven’t changed much.
And on the front of your notes, I asked a list of questions and I would like you to think about. Because as you listen to pundits and television and talk shows, you would really think there really isn’t any hope. Or the way a lot of people would answer those questions, like, what the world needs now: more and better education, better wages, eliminate corruption.
All these things have been around forever and I’m sure we need all those things. But historically, what has brought a difference? What really changes things? This group is in power for a while and another group says how wrong they are. And as soon as they get in power, within ten or twenty years, all the same corruption.
The human heart of man, constantly repeated, oppresses people, hurts people, greed rules. Then there is violence. What the world needs, Jesus is going to speak into. And what I want you to know, that He would answer the questions on the front of that page today exactly like He did then.
Is there a bright future for America? It depends on how His people respond. What would you change? If we asked a hundred people: what really needs to change? We would get ninety different answers. And we’d blame eighty-nine different people.
So, I want you to open your notes and I want you to imagine, if we could invite the Lord Jesus on a separate stool to say, “Lord, You have seen all this before. And at the most, the lowest time in human history, You spoke and You launched, actually, a movement.
The movement is literally the Jesus creed. Jesus ministered, He loved people and then He was asked, “What really matters?” And the Jesus creed is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul, and your strength.
And love your neighbor as yourself.
He does amazing miracles that gives Him credibility, He heals every disease, and He casts out demons. So, He comes with this revolutionary thought, not namby-pamby, ooey-gooey love, but a love that is transformative. And He heals people, demonstrating His power, He confronts evil, casting out demons. And then He teaches: there is a kingdom of heaven. There is a new way of doing life. People have been waiting on it. The kingdom of heaven is among you. He has shown up. And He launches the kingdom.
And after He spends all night praying, He chooses twelve that will be the key leaders. And then He will sit down and He will give is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount. And He will describe the character qualities necessary to join this movement. And then He will talk about the strategy of this movement will not be education or technology, it won’t be a change in government or political parties – it will be what this group actually does and how they live.
And then He will go on to describe to them: how does this movement fit in with all they have learned about the law of Moses? And then, finally, He will talk to them about what it really takes to please God is far more than difficult. It is supremely impossible. And so, you’ll need to be dependent. And the way to practice righteousness is different than you have ever heard before.
And as you do this, a little mustard seed of life is going to planted in each and every little network of relationship. And that as you keep living out these beatitudes, not do-attitudes, that all around you, change will occur and He will collect a society of people, and this society of people, as they are changed will literally change the core of systems and politics and institutions.
And whenever the kingdom of God, not just church or religion or politics within the church, but whenever the kingdom of God and the Sermon on the Mount has been followed, empowered by the Holy Spirit, then slavery begins to disappear. And people’s value and dignity, regardless of where they are coming from or what their gender, it begins to come up. And instead of corruption, you get integrity.
And we have seen different season in different countries and if we are ever needed a dose of the Sermon on the Mount, I think what the world needs now is Jesus’ words lived out by Jesus’ people.
So, open your notes and as you do, the setting is Matthew chapter 4, verses 23. I’d like to read that for you.
“And He went through Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom,” notice, that’s His message, “healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So, His fame spread throughout all of Syria and they brought to Him all the sick and those afflicted with various diseases and pains and those oppressed by demons, epileptics and paralytics; and He healed them all.” That’ll get a crowd.
“And great crowds followed from Galilee and the Decapolis and from Jerusalem and Judea and beyond the Jordan.” Do you get it? Syria – people are coming from everywhere.
So, what you need to get, the context is two things. The world is woefully broken. It is flat-out messed up. Immorality is at epic proportions, making even what we have today look very righteous.
Brutality, prejudice, racism. Pain; human life disregarded. And Jesus is wildly popular. He teaches like one who has authority. He solves problems and heals people and then He confronts evil head on, casting out demons. And after He prayed all night, notice what happens. Chapter 5.
“Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He sat down,” that’s the position of a rabbi, speaking with authority, “He sat down, and He began to speak to His disciples.” The primary group are those people that are serious. It’s His followers that He has chosen.
Now, the crowd gets to overhear a lot. And so, this is a sermon for people like us, this is people like – come to a building together to say, “We want to please God, we have been singing about God, we have been worshipping God, we told Jesus that we love Him.” He says, “This is for you.”
And I think it’s interesting when He launches His revolution, He doesn’t give them a program or a game plan. He begins with who. What kind of people, what kind of characteristics, what kind of attitude? What needs to be a part of you in order for the favor of God to be upon you?
“He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Notice now the repetition. He starts with the kingdom of heaven, ends with the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you with all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven; for they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Notice the elevation of Himself. The prophets of Yahweh, the great King, the Creator of all life; they were persecuted. “Now, you will be persecuted because of Me.” He has clearly been doing all this teaching that He is God incarnate, He is the Son of God, He is the Messiah.
Old Testament passages have predicted for hundreds and hundreds of years an Anointed One. That’s what the word Christ means. An Anointed One. A King is going to come and set up God’s kingdom and the world is not like God wants it, but this new King is going to usher in God’s way, God’s values so that people treat one another and they honor God in ways that are best for them and give honor and glory to Him.
And He has just given us the eight characteristics of that kind of person.
As I prayed and as I just studied this, He is going to take each one of these beatitudes and He is going to show this group of people what it looks like in their world, in their context of what it means to be poor in spirit, what it means to mourn and why, what it means to be meek, what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness.
And He is going to implant it in their experience in a way that when He gets done, all the lights are going to come on and they are going to go, Oh. This is the kind of follower, this is the agenda, this is what it means to follow this King. And so, that’s how I am going to teach it. So, with that, you’ll need an overview of what is going on and as you look at the whole passage.
Question number one was this: how can we share in this revolution? Can you get out of your, “I’ve been a Christian forever,” or, “I go to church,” or, “I grew up in the twentieth or twenty-first century” and just realize: imagine a thirty-year-old teacher comes on the scene, He is doing these miracles, your brother was paralyzed; now he can walk. You have seen five thousand people fed. You don’t know what it is about Him, but this guy is from God and you want to be a part of what He is doing.
And He says, “Okay, number one, here are the character qualities.” And you scratch your head. And then what He says, the strategy, the strategy? We are going to change the whole world. There is going to be a revolution of love and the kingdom is going to start and it’s going to be here already, but not yet. “But one day, I will come back as the reigning King and, believe Me, this kind of world is going to be forever and ever and ever. But until then, we are going to start it.”
And then look at verses 13 through 16. He doesn’t say: “Try to be the salt of the earth.” He doesn’t say, “Try to be the light.”
The strategy of Jesus’ movement isn’t something or someone. It’s not technology, it’s not education, it’s not politics. It’s His actual people living out their life like those beatitudes describe in ways that literally transform like salt tasting and infecting things. Like light penetrating in all areas of darkness.
And then the next question is not only: what will we do as the salt and light? But how does this jive – I’m not sure Jesus would use those words – but how does this jive with all that we have learned in the Old Testament?
In other words, they would say, “We know the law is from God and from Moses. We know the prophets spoke. You are from God, but would You help us understand what is Your relationship and this new movement, this revolution of love. How does it fit?”
And so, follow along as I read verses 17 through 20. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Now, verse 20 is the key to the Sermon on the Mount. Verse 20 is where He is going to rock their world and I hope it rocks mine and yours. “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Unless your righteousness – your behavior, your attitudes from the heart, how you live – your rightness with God and rightness with people, unless it exceeds the scribes and the Pharisees, you can’t even get in.
Now, if you’re a good Jewish boy, and all these were good Jewish boys; they grew up in the synagogue. At a minimum, they all had the first five books of the Old Testament memorized and many of them, many more. It was an oral learning. They had scores and scores of the psalms. They know the prophets. And their heroes, if you will, the people that taught them in the synagogues were the Pharisees. And the Pharisees are squeaky clean.
You blow a trumpet and [makes trumpet noise], and they pray out loud and they have got these long things with all these verses they have memorized and they tithe their money, they tithe their time, down to their herbs and spices. These guys were morally squeaky clean, externally.
They were religious over-the-top. And I’m a good Jewish boy, following this young, radical rabbi. Unless I am more holy than them, I can’t even get in? Yi, yi, yi!
And then He said, “Well, what does that mean?” And so, notice in your Bible here, it says: anger, then lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, love your enemies. I have put it on your handout. But what He is going to do is He is going to say, “Murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, retribution, and enemies,” He is going to take those hot topics and He is going to say, “You have heard it said, but I say to you.” “You have heard it said,” Old Testament, and then how the Pharisees say this is what it looks like to be righteous. “But this is what I say.”
And so, “You have heard it said, ‘You shall not murder;’ I say,” internal, “if your anger is in your heart towards your brother, if you say, ‘raca’ to him, ‘you fool,’ you’re in danger. You have heard it said, ‘Don’t commit adultery.’ I say,” No, no, no. It’s not just the action, in your heart, when you look at a woman, if you lust in your heart…
“You have heard it said,” and He goes through each of these hot topics. “You have heard it said, ‘Be good to your friends and hate your enemies,’ but I say to you, love your enemies, pray for them.”
If you’re a good Jewish boy and you are following Him, for whatever level of spirituality you had, you’re getting crushed.
In fact, I put the little chart, what He does with each one of these things all the way through the entire chapter. Basically, what He says, What you have heard about is external righteousness. I am talking about that which flows internal, from the heart. You have learned it’s about doing, doing, doing. Mm-mm. I am telling you it’s being, it’s who you really are. You have had this sense of duty. You’ve got to do all this stuff and all these religious requirements. I am talking about devotion, love, loyalty. You have lived in a world where righteousness is your performance.
If we translated it today: I make it to church three out of every four weeks, I give at least ten percent, I go on a mission trips one every three years. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I have family devotions three out of five nights. All those things are good things. But you can do all those things and your heart in the wrong place.
He says you have been living in a world that is guilt-driven. I am talking about a world that is grace-driven. You have learned about the letter of the law of righteousness and I am talking about the spirit. You have had your head filled with a knowledge about God and I want your heart full with a knowledge of God.
Now, here’s what I want you to get, okay? We started with the beatitudes. You have got to get your mind into the heart and the mind of a twenty-something, dedicated, zealous, Jewish boy or girl.
And when He gets done with chapter 5, here’s what I can tell you: however close you thought you were to God, the distance has now infinitely increased. And what you are feeling right now is: I’m undone. I don’t even remotely measure up.
Translation. What does it mean to be poor in spirit? To be poor in spirit needs to – I sense that I am spiritually bankrupt before God, I bring nothing to the table, I could never earn Your favor; unless You help me, I am doomed.
See, He has taught them. It’s in your brokenness, it’s in the relinquishing of your pride. It’s in you seeing your need.
And second, if they were honest, are you kidding me? These are young guys. I’m not committing adultery, but You’re saying if I just think it? I’m undone! I’m undone! And so, now they move from a poor in spirit.
And so, if they’re honest, they are going, Oh God, I thought I was so much farther along. I do lust, I do have envy, I do have jealousy. And they mourn over their sin and they go, Oh God, I am so far from You. I am so sorry. They’ll be comforted.
Remember the Pharisee and the sinner in the gospels and the Pharisee comes in and says, “I thank God that I’m not like that sinner,” and the sinner, “Oh, God, have mercy on me. I don’t deserve anything.” And Jesus said, “This one leaves justified; this one not.”
See, what He has done in chapter 5 is He has taught the first two beatitudes. And He is saying to you and He is saying to me: if you think you’re doing okay and you think that you compare yourself to other people and you think your religious activity is getting you where you need to get, you are not, you’re not even up to bat, let alone on first base, spiritually. Whoo.
In fact, notice in your notes, I summarized chapter 5. Jesus condemns external righteousness, spiritual activities, when it doesn’t flow from an authentic relationship with God.
Jesus condemns! It doesn’t say it doesn’t quite measure up. He condemns it. The harshest words of Jesus aren’t for Romans that are brutal. He didn’t talk about the politics of the day. He didn’t talk about all those things shouldn’t be happening and the gladiators. He didn’t talk about all the terrible things of slavery. He went after – who? The people who thought they were righteous. And He launched a movement of people that owned their own stuff and loved radically first.