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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
I would like you, if you would, to pull out your phone, please don’t use it, but pull it out. And I would like you to imagine that just hypothetically, at this very moment, maybe in ten, nine, eight, seven, six, bang! Every phone was flashing, every pad, every news station, every satellite, all over the world. And it was flashing.
And the God of the universe said, “I have a message, and in the next hour, I will be giving a message to the entire world.” He would speak it in a language that everyone of all humanity would understand exactly what He is saying.
It’s going to come on your phone, or it will come on your tablet. No communication of any kind could happen anywhere. God is going to speak to humanity. What do you think are the big issues He would address? Would He just look at racism and politics and corruption and just the unraveling and the evil in the world? What would He say? What would be the big issues?
And then, finally, what solution would He provide? Speaking to all of us at the same time: this is how the world gets solved. And then maybe more specifically, what do you think He would ask each one of us to do to be a part of the solution?
Now, that’s a pretty big hypothetical and if you’d like to have a lot of fun at a dinner party, you might raise those questions and say, “What do you think?” “Well, what do you think?” And, “I don’t know, what do you think?” “I think the big issue would be this.” “No, it would be this.” And that would be a lot of fun.
And here’s the amazing thing. This message that God would give, this sermon to all humanity, are you ready for this? It has already been given. It was given by God the Son. It’s commonly called the Sermon on the Mount, it is found in Luke 6 and then in Matthew chapter 5, 6, and 7.
But I have this, I just, it’s somewhere between a fear, a burden, and a concern that many of us who absolutely would say, “I’m a follower of Jesus,” we do not get the message. We don’t really understand what God is saying. We have analyzed a few trees over here and a tree over here and it has something to do with the Bible and something to with prayer and something to do with the cross and something to do with forgiveness and something to do with being a good person.
And we have got all these trees, but I believe that many, many, many, many very sincere Christians have completely missed the forest and really do not know the singular most important sermon or message from God.
If you would pull out your notes, I’m going to give you the summary of that message and then we will cover the very end, because here’s what God would say, because this is what He did say.
He would say the fundamental problem in the world is life isn’t fair. Most of you have experienced that. If you’re older, you have experienced it a lot. If you come from a different background or born into a situation unlike a lot of people, you may have experienced it extremely.
In one word, the biggest problem in the world is injustice. Some people, no fault of their own, they are born blind; they can’t see. Some people are lame. Some people are born in abject poverty. Some people were beaten before they were very old. Some people have been abandoned, abused. Some people have lost their jobs. There has been greed, corruption. There have been coups in countries that have killed millions of people.
When God looks on the earth that He made, that He loves, what we see today is not what He wanted nor created. Sin occurred. And what you’re going to see is in His sermon, everything He says in those beatitudes are about bringing about justice, first in incremental ways now, and then forever and ever and ever. That’s the corporate issue.
The private issue gets a little more personal. The fundamental problem in my life and in your life is we don’t measure up. You don’t, okay? And, by the way, don’t get over it. You’re not the father you want to be, you’re not the man you want to be, you’re not the student you want to be, you’re not the woman you want to be, you’re not the daughter you want to be. You’re not always kind, always loving. You have private thoughts, you have lust, you have little lies and big lies, you have stolen, you have stolen people’s ideas, you have marred their reputation, you have assassinated them with your lips.
What I’m describing is humanity. In one word, it’s unrighteousness. And what the Sermon on the Mount does, and this is what I think we miss, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount introduces a kingdom, that’s an odd word for Americans. It really works everywhere else in the world.
Most people, for all time, is used to having a king or a dictator, or someone that you realize what they say is: this is the way of life. But Jesus’ kingdom or way of life promises justice and He redefines righteousness.
And He introduces this concept of His way or His kingdom with Him being the King and calling and asking us to follow and all of His sermons were about the kingdom of God. In Matthew chapter 5, verses 1 through 12, He sets forth the prerequisites to enter the kingdom and to experience and to expand it now and forever.
And so, contrary to: be a good person, make the world a better place, here’s five lessons on morality, just try and figure out in your mind what would Jesus do and try really hard to do what He would do – He says, “All of that is completely the opposite of what I want.”
He’s not looking for little moral robots. He is saying you need to see how desperate you are. Poor in spirit. You’re spiritually bankrupt. Your good deeds and my good deeds and the best of humanity is like a dirty, righteous, filthy rag compared to the supreme, pristine, unapproachable light of God’s holiness.
And those that see that and get that realize their need, they mourn! And, therefore, God comforts them. He says, “When you begin to thirst, not for fame and wealth and significance and power, but for righteousness, you’ll be satisfied.”
He says those people that are gentle, that are willing to let go of their rights and serve other people, you actually one day, justice, you’re going to inherit the earth.
Each one of these beatitudes is not like a new moral code. Here’s what He is saying: These are the heart conditions and the kind of people that represent My values.
And then notice, not only does He tell us these are the prerequisites to both enter and expand His kingdom, but then in Matthew chapter 5:13 through 16, He says: There is the purpose for this now and later. Remember? “You’re the light of the world. You’re the salt of the earth.”
In other words, the kind of life that follows Jesus by His power and His life exposes darkness. The kind of life that is others centered and kind and overcomes evil with good and works in these counter-cultural ways as a follower of Jesus, you preserve righteousness. You begin to give people a taste of what heaven and real life is like.
And then, in Matthew 5:17 through 48, you can turn the page if you’re not there, He sets forth the king’s way by contrasting it with the current interpretation of the law. Now, we have different laws at different times and He takes all of the Old Testament and He is speaking to the scribes, the Pharisees. They will hear all this and there is this multitude of people.
And He goes down through and He looks at the law of murder and it was just about the physical act and He said, “No, life is sacred. That’s the kingdom value.” There was the law of reconciliation. He said, “Relationships matter more than fulfilling religious requirements.” He said, “When it comes to adultery, it’s not just the physical act, it’s fidelity. It’s a heart of purity. A mind and a heart that is sexually pure and longs to
be pleasing to your heavenly Father.”
He looked at the law of divorce and He says, “I created a man and a woman to come together forever and the covenant that you make matters and it’s holy. And apart from unique, unique circumstances, it should never, ever be broken.”
It’s the law of oaths. In this time, everyone knew, and there are some cultures where lying is okay, literally. I have been in cultures where lying is morally okay as long as you don’t get caught. By this time in Judaism, everyone knew that unless you said, “I swear by the Temple,” or, “I swear by God,” then you have to tell the truth. Any other time, lying would be okay.
And He says, “I don’t want to hear…” none of that. “Your yes is yes; your no is no.” What He’s really saying is the kingdom value is we are men and women of integrity.
We’ll look at the law of retribution – paying back when you incur injustice. And we will look at the law of love. But what I want you to see, look at the bullet point underneath. In each case, Jesus sets forth what the exceeding righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees look like for His kingdom followers.
Remember, verse 20 is the key to this whole sermon. He says to them and He says to us, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees,” who fast twice a week, who tithe everything from their money down to their herbs and spices, who are squeaky clean externally and morally.
He says, “Unless your righteousness is above theirs, you can’t even enter the kingdom.” Because theirs was external and it was hypocritical.
And then these are the points, what He does after chapter 5, He says, “Then, here’s how the practices look.” Because giving is important because you can’t ever win over greed unless you become generous. Praying is important because you’ll never overcome pride unless your dependent in prayer. And fasting is critical because we all have things that get a hold of our life and we need to break free from them. But you do it for the right reason, with the right motive. And then the word Father. It’s about relationship.
Then, in chapter 7, it’s filled with warnings. Jesus makes clear that living out His kingdom values requires a new heart. Jeremiah 31 said there would be a new covenant. Someday, someway, there would be a new day. There would be a Savior, there would be a Messiah. And what He is going to do, He’ll take the heart of stone inside of human beings and He’d make it a heart of flesh and people would want to obey from the inside out. And Jesus has made this impossible standard to help us see we need a new heart and we need new power that only He can provide.
But look at chapter 7, verse 13. He has told them about all these things. He told them about connecting with their heavenly Father. And so He says in verse 12, “So, whatever you wish what others would do for you, do for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
He’s talking about this complete inside out, upside down, completely different way of thinking that goes against human nature. But notice He says, “Enter the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction. And those who enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life and those who find it are few.” We do not take that seriously.
You have grown up in an Evangelical world where I prayed a prayer or I had a little spiritual moment. He is saying that to enter the kingdom, you need a new heart. You don’t need to be remodeled, you don’t need to try harder, you need a completely new life and I need a new life.
And then the warning goes on. He says, “Beware of false prophets.” What are they? Those are people who tell you things that aren’t true. “They come to you in sheep’s clothing and inwardly, they’re ravenous wolves.”
And then He gives this parallel. He says, “You’ll recognize them by their fruits,” their lifestyles, how they actually live. And then He gives this example, “Are grapes gathered from a thorn bush,” of course not, “or figs from thistles?” Of course not. “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but a diseased tree bears bad fruit.
A healthy tree can’t bear bad fruit nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, you will recognize them by their fruit. “
It’s not that they prayed a prayer. Their life! This is a supernatural life of new power that brings transformation and new speech and Luke takes the same passage and says, “The way you evidence this is that the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart.” He said if there hasn’t been a change, if there is not a revolution, if Jesus isn’t the focus of your life, be careful.
This isn’t a “try hard, be nice, be moral, come to church” – this is a revolution that has to occur. So, He warns us.
Jesus also makes it clear that only those with an eternal perspective of His sovereign rulership, in other words, final justice can live this counter cultural life. Again, He gives it in verse 21 of chapter 7.
He says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and cast out demons in Your name? Didn’t we do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of lawlessness.’”
When you grasp this new life, the forest, not just some trees, not just some spiritual little cues here and there. Unless you have an eternal perspective, when Jesus says, “Give good for evil,” when you’re encountering injustice, when Jesus says you are poor in spirit and you’re thinking, I’ve got plenty of money, I’ve got a great job, I’m pretty smart, I’m a person that makes it happen.
When Jesus says to do the most counter-cultural things: to give, to love, to care – when it costs a lot, are you ready? Be willing to die. I had a small group of people at my home last night and I shared an interview that I can’t share publicly because of the danger to his life. It’s an interview with a young pastor in Syria who, every day, lives in a world and the people with him, to become a follower of Jesus – “Yes, I am receiving God’s grace. And, yes, I am signing up, that I, in all likelihood, need to be prepared to die, and probably will die.” It produces a little bit different kind of follower.
Notice, Jesus makes clear that only through death to our personal agendas and selfish ambition can this supernatural life that expands His kingdom be experienced. Notice what He says in this warning.
He says, “Everyone,” verse 24 of chapter 7, “everyone who hears the words of Mine and does them,” doesn’t agree with them, doesn’t have them underlined in their Bible, doesn’t have them on a plaque at home, doesn’t have their kids learn them at a Christian school.
“‘Everyone who has these words of mine and does them will be wise like a man who built his house on the rock and the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and it beat on the house, but it didn’t fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand and the rain fell and the flood came and the winds blew and they beat against the house and it fell. And great was the fall.’ And when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching as One who had great authority and not like their scribes.”
Under the bullet point where it says we need to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, I want you to write the words: the required response.
What is the required response of a follower of Jesus to be more righteous than the scribes and the Pharisees? And then under that, I have given you the bullet point, but under the bullet point it says: “Jesus made clear that His kingdom values require a new heart and new power,” I want you to write the words: new relationship. And under that, write the word: God as Father. That’s what they missed. They had religion, they had morality. All of chapter 6 was a practice to please One. When your Father, who sees in secret, He will reward you.
So, a new heart, a new life. And then on your notes on the left side, write the word: faith. This is new to all of them. Yes, He has healed people, He has raised people from the dead, He has fed five thousand. He is now claiming to be the King and He has now set this King and there is His way, which is called His kingdom. And if you want to follow Me, you need to believe in Me. And believing in Me, you have new relationship that requires a new heart and a born-again experience. And you’ll be pleasing to your heavenly Father. You got it?
The bullet point under that says: “Jesus makes it clear that only those with an eternal perspective of His sovereignty can live this counter-cultural life.” Under that, I want you to write: new allegiance. New allegiance.
You see, the Sermon on the Mount says there is a new relationship: God the Father through Jesus. Now there is a new allegiance. And write under that, “Jesus is Lord.” Not religion. And for us, not money, not success, not education, not what people think, not how your body looks. Jesus is Lord.