Series: “Christ’s Kingdom” (post #5)
Jesus spent His three-and-a-half-year earthly ministry bringing a touch of His heavenly kingdom to the earth. Then, after being crucified, He resurrected and ascended back to heaven. This left a gaping hole in regards to earthly life being touched by Christ’s kingdom. Fortunately, Jesus had a plan to fill that hole. He left all of His followers with the assignment of picking up where He left off in bringing a touch of His kingdom to each situation in which they found themselves.
Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) has been described as His kingdom manifesto. In it He lays out what being a “kingdom citizen” looks like. It’s sad that the world at large oftentimes understands the Sermon on the Mount as being a works-based plan that if lived closely enough produces salvation. To the contrary, the sermon provides a way for the saved person to evidence a salvation that has previously been obtained by the individual believing in Christ as Savior.
If you doubt that the Sermon on the Mount isn’t for lost people, let me point out that it opens with eight beatitudes (blessings). Each beatitude holds a promise within it, and the promises make it clear that Jesus is talking to saved believers. Those promises are:
- The saved believer has the kingdom of heaven, which is Christ’s kingdom (Matthew 5:3).
- The saved believer shall be comforted by God (Matthew 5:4).
- The saved believer shall inherit the earth by one day reigning with Jesus upon it (Matthew 5:5).
- The saved believer will be filled with righteousness by God (Matthew 5:6).
- The saved believer will obtain mercy from God (Matthew 5:7).
- The saved believer will one day literally see God (Matthew 5:8).
- The saved believer will be called a son (child) of God (Matthew 5:9).
- The saved believer has the kingdom of heaven, which is Christ’s kingdom (Matthew 5:10).
It is interesting that the opening promise and the closing promise of the beatitudes are exactly the same. Jesus says of saved believers, “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This identifies for us the audience He has in mind for this particular sermon. He’s talking to citizens of His kingdom. Today we call such people “Christians” (Acts 11:26).
As we study the entirety of the sermon, we learn that it majors upon seriously raising the bar for what passes for normal in human interactions. As evidence of this, here is a point-by-point list of the topics that Jesus addresses in the sermon. I’ll ask you to please read each one slowly and carefully so you can really catch what Jesus is throwing. Here goes:
- The kingdom citizen understands that when he or she is unfairly reviled and persecuted for the sake of Jesus, that earns them great rewards in heaven (Matthew 5:11-12).
- The kingdom citizen sees himself or herself as being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Both roles are awesome responsibilities.
- The kingdom citizen recognizes that the Old Testament is every bit as God inspired and as spiritually valuable as the New Testament (Matthew 5:17-18).
- The kingdom citizen understands that keeping God’s commandments and teaching others to keep them gets you called “great” in the kingdom, while breaking those commandments gets you called “least” in the kingdom (Matthew 5:19-20).
- The kingdom citizen exhibits an outward and inward righteousness that is greater than the merely outward righteousness of the lost Jewish religious leaders (Matthew 5:20).
- The kingdom citizen seeks to reconcile with the person with whom he or she bears an anger without legitimate cause. It’s not enough to merely refrain from murdering the person or calling the person spiteful names (Matthew 5:21-22). There must also be an inner abating of the illegitimate anger.
- The kingdom citizen understands that holding on to illegitimate anger ruins his or her attempts to worship God and potentially causes severe consequences with legal authorities (Matthew 5:23-26)
- The kingdom citizen resists the temptation to look lustfully at another person (Matthew 5:27-30). It’s not enough to merely refrain from physically acting upon the inner lust by engaging in sexual relations with the person.
- The kingdom citizen considers marriage to be especially sacred, with adultery being the only God-approved grounds for divorce (Matthew 5:31-32). (For the record, the apostle Paul later added in the God-approved grounds of a Christian spouse being abandoned by a non-Christian spouse, 1 Corinthians 7:12-15.)
- The kingdom citizen avoids all foolish and false oath taking (Matthew 5:33-37).
- The kingdom citizen turns the other cheek when struck rather than cling to the old “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” standard of retaliation (Matthew 5:38-39).
- The kingdom citizen exhibits exceedingly gracious, even illogical, behavior when unjustly wronged (Matthew 5:40-41).
- The kingdom citizen kindly gives to those who ask to borrow (Matthew 5:42).
- The kingdom citizen loves his or her enemies and earnestly prays for them (Matthew 5:43-48).
- The kingdom citizen does his or her charitable deeds in private, not seeking the praise of others (Matthew 6:1-4).
- The kingdom citizen has a vibrant prayer life that includes various kinds of spiritual principles as part of it (Matthew 6:5-13).
- The kingdom citizen forgives those who have sinned against him or her (Matthew 6:14-15).
- The kingdom citizen does his or her fasting in private, not seeking the praise of others (Matthew 6:16-18).
- The kingdom citizen lays up treasures in heaven rather than upon the earth (Matthew 6:19-21).
- The kingdom citizen keeps his or her eye focused upon that which is good, which means that his or her motives and goals are godly (Matthew 6:22-23).
- The kingdom citizen serves God rather than riches (Matthew 6:24).
- The kingdom citizen doesn’t worry because he or she knows that God will meet every need (Matthew 6:25-34).
- The kingdom citizen doesn’t judge hypocritically by condemning others for the same sins he or she personally commits (Matthew 7:1-5).
- The kingdom citizen exhibits spiritual discernment regarding to whom he or she imparts spiritual truth (Matthew 7:6).
- The kingdom citizen prays persistently in faithful expectation that God will grant each worthy request (Matthew 7:7-11).
- The kingdom citizen does unto others what he or she would have others do unto them (Matthew 7:12).
- The kingdom citizen understands that he or she will always be in the minority in this world because living God’s way is difficult and relatively few people choose it (Matthew 7:13-14).
- The kingdom citizen exhibits spiritual discernment by being able to recognize false prophets by the bad fruits those prophets produce (Matthew 7:15-20).
- The kingdom citizen understands that everyone who claims to be a believer in Jesus isn’t truly authentic (Matthew 7:21-23).
- The kingdom citizen understands that living out the teachings of Jesus can be compared to building a house upon solid rock, while refusing to live out His teachings can be compared to building a house upon sand (Matthew 7:24-27).
Well, by now I trust that you get the idea. The kingdom citizen is called to live out a higher code of morality than the lost person. Again, this higher code doesn’t produce salvation; it evidences it. Even more than that, it causes the kingdom citizen to bring a touch of Christ’s kingdom to every situation in which he or she happens to be. This touch of the kingdom is how we Christians can effectively serve as “salt” and “light” to this spiritually decaying, spiritually dark world, and it’s how we can continue the radical spiritual movement that Jesus Himself began some 2,000 years ago.