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Lesson 3: The Sermon on the Mount *

Introduction: The Sermon on the Mount is an astonishing presentation. However, there are varied views on it. Some think it is the "rule book" for when we are in heaven - and therefore it is not for us now. Others think it is intended to make us conclude that God's standard is impossible, and thus we are driven to rely on grace. Some consider it a challenge for them to bring their righteous works to a higher level. My view is that the Sermon on the Mount shows us that grace is not just a matter of salvation, but is a lifestyle. God calls on us to depend on His strength in all things, and that includes how we live. Let's plunge into this challenging study and learn more!

  1. A Positive Future

    1. Read Matthew 5:3-6. Do you want to be in any of these categories: poor, mourning, meek, hungry or thirsting? (No one wants to be any of these.)

      1. What is Jesus saying about people who are in these categories? (They will be blessed by God and their situation will turn out well.)

      2. Has anyone ever told you that you should aspire to be in one of these categories? (I've been told that I should want to be in these categories because they are blessed and end up with good things. I have my doubts that these are goals - other than desiring righteousness. We recently studied that we should aim to be raised in the "first resurrection" - which is the righteous dead. That does not mean I should desire to be dead! Rather, this seems to be a message of mercy for those who find themselves in difficult situations.)

    2. Read Matthew 5:7-9. Would you like to be any of these? (I would. It is a virtue to be merciful, pure in heart, or a peacemaker.)

      1. What positive things do we learn about their future? (Good things will happen to them.)

      2. Step back a moment. We have reviewed a list of things we would generally not want to be, and a list of things we would like to be. What is the good news about both lists? (That good things await them.)

    3. Read Matthew 5:10-12. We again have a list of things we would not like to have happen to us. What positive point does Jesus make about finding ourselves in this situation? (Again, Jesus promises a good outcome. He adds that we are not alone. Special people with a close relationship with God (prophets) found themselves in the same situation. The point is that we are not alone if these things happen to us.)

  2. A Positive Law

    1. Read Matthew 5:13-16. What does God want us to do? (He wants us to bring praise and glory to Him by doing good works.)

      1. What does the reference to worthless salt suggest to us? (If we do not bring praise and glory to God, we are not doing the task given to us.)

    2. Read Matthew 5:17. What is Jesus' mission with regard to the law? (To fulfill it!)

      1. Is this a message of grace? (Yes! Jesus lived, died and was resurrected so that we can accept His completed work on our behalf.)

      2. What, then, does Jesus mean that He is not abolishing the law? (Grace does not logically diminish the law. Rather, it shows how important it is. If the rule of law did not matter, God would have simply abolished the law and saved Himself a lot of pain.)

    3. Read Matthew 5:18-19. Why would people who not only break the law, but teach others to break it, be in the Kingdom of Heaven? (Grace! But, friend, do you want to have a poor reputation for all of eternity? This shows that those who are opposed to keeping the law do not understand the full picture of grace. They do not understand the importance of bringing glory and praise to God by how we live.)

    4. Read Matthew 5:20. These are the top religious leaders of the time. How can our righteousness surpass theirs? Why is that even a goal? (The person who accepts by grace the righteousness of Jesus, will always be more righteous than the most religious person who is working for righteousness. Working for salvation is a fool's errand. It is trusting in self (just like those who worship idols), rather than trusting in God.)

  3. The Law on Steroids?

    1. Read Matthew 5:21-22 and Matthew 5:27-28. Contemplate these verses for a few minutes. What is Jesus warning us against that seems to go beyond what the Ten Commandments require? (Jesus is talking about our mind, our attitude. Anger, angry words, resentment, and lust are all states of mind.)

      1. Read Romans 8:5-8. Does this make sense to you - that the way in which you set your mind determines how you will act? (I think this is Jesus' point. Be careful of your thoughts if you want to avoid getting into trouble with sin.)

        1. If I'm right, what does this say about the nature of anger, lust and harsh words? (I doubt that appreciating beautiful women or getting upset are adultery or murder. Instead, I think Jesus is teaching us that getting angry to the extent of being willing to kill, and willing thoughts about committing adultery, are sins. If we are willing to commit the sin, but lack the opportunity, we do not get a pass on the sin.)

    2. Let's go back and pick up some verses we skipped. Read Matthew 5:23-26. What is the overall counsel here? How would you summarize this in one line? (Do your best to live in peace with others.)

      1. How many times do you hear Christians say that they have difficulty with others, they are victims, because of their religious beliefs? (No doubt pagans give Christians problems at times. However, most of the people I hear say this do not try to live in peace with others.)

    3. Read Matthew 5:29-30. Does this make any sense to you? Jesus just told us that thinking about something was the same as committing the sin. How would removing your eye or your hand stop your brain from sinning? (It will not. I once had a class member who was losing his sight tell me that did not keep him from problems with lust. I think Jesus wants to get our attention about the importance of His teaching. No doubt we all agree that losing some part of our body is better than missing out on heaven.)

  4. Law of Revenge

    1. Read Matthew 5:38-41. What does Jesus mean when He says "You have heard that it was said?" (The law of revenge is written three times as an explicit instruction from God. See Exodus 20:22 and Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:17-20; and, Deuteronomy 19:21.)

    2. Re-read Matthew 5:39 and John 18:22-23. Why did Jesus not follow His own advice? Instead of turning His other cheek, He raised a legal challenge to being slapped!

    3. Skim Matthew 18:23-35 and Read Matthew 18:32-34. Is the law of revenge a Biblical principle? (Yes! The master turned the unforgiving servant over to be tortured. But, payback is not for us. Jesus did not return the slap when He was slapped. We need to leave payback to God. God has forgiven us so much, how can we fail to forgive those who have harmed us?)

      1. Read Psalms 84:5. Jesus is teaching us grace as a lifestyle. Just as we depend on Jesus for our salvation, so we should depend on God to take revenge on those who have harmed us.)

      2. Read Romans 12:19. What promise does Paul share with us about the law of revenge?

      3. Have you tried payback (revenge) in the past? How did that work out? (I'll bet it did not work out well. It did not make you feel better and it prolonged the controversy. Just as grace gives you peace about your salvation, so grace as a lifestyle gives you peace in life.)

    4. Friend, I think the Sermon on the Mount is a call to trust God to take care of us and solve the difficult problems in life. Will you decide, right now, to rely on the strength of God and make grace your lifestyle?

  5. Next week: "Get Up and Walk!" Faith and Healing.
* Copr. 2016, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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