This was the final week of our study of Kay Arthur’s book on the Sermon on the Mount, Lord, I’m Torn Between Two Masters. In many ways, Arthur definitely came “full circle” from Week 1 when she focused on the kingdom of heaven, what it is, and its coming glory. This final week focused on possessing the kingdom of heaven and coming to a true understanding of how Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount shines a light on His kingdom.
The life of righteousness set before us in the Sermon on the Mount is one that is impossible to attain without Christ. Many non-believers will try to emulate the principles of the Sermon but will ultimately fail in achieving a righteousness that “surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees.” (Matthew 5:20) This life of righteousness is one characterized by complete dependence on Christ. A persistent striving to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7) and a belief that God delights in our dependence on Him. This is His character.
We note the parallels between the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments in that the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) begin with our relationship with God (vv 2-6; poorness in spirit, mourning, meekness, a hunger/thirst for righteousness) and then turn to our relationship with others (vv 7-12; mercy, making peace, persecution). In the same way, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) first instruct us on relating to YHWH (vv 2-8; idols, taking the LORD’s name in vain, keeping the Sabbath) before instructing us on relating to our fellow man (vv 9-17; honoring parents, murder, adultery, stealing, lying, coveting).
As we have learned throughout this study, Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). His Sermon on the Mount gives us a fuller understanding of the Law and how this Law is fulfilled through our Savior and ultimately fulfilled in our lives when we strive to live by the higher Law of Love.
There was an interesting “news” feature on ABC World News describing how “nearly 6 in 10 Americans blend their faith with new age beliefs.” According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Americans from all religions are blending their traditional beliefs with new age and eastern beliefs, such as astrology, reincarnation, and yoga. What is most disturbing about this trend is how it stands in striking opposition to the teaching of Jesus. Humans will always want to enter the kingdom of God on their own terms. That is the story of the Fall in Genesis 3. But what does Jesus say?
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few… 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, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:13-14; 21-23)
In the words of Kay Arthur, “How small is that gate? It’s so small that it causes you to bow in total poverty of spirit in order to enter it. How narrow is the way that leads to life? It is the narrow way of righteousness, a righteousness that actually exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees.” (p 242)
Strive to enter by the narrow gate, friends. Jesus is the only way through that gate and his teaching is pure and true. Do not be fooled by false teachers and do not be swayed by the desire to find a spirituality that “fits” your lifestyle or makes sense on the afternoon talk shows. Our God is a holy God who calls us to a life of righteousness modeled after Christ. Make the choice. Shalom!
Thank you to all of the lovely women of Grace Chapel who joined us for this study of the Sermon on the Mount. As many of you know, I will be taking a break from leading study and blogging to prepare to have my first child in a few short weeks. I wish God’s blessing on you and your family and look forward to joining you again very soon!