Tired of ordinary sermons? For a refreshing change, try the Sermon on the Mount. The contents of this timeless sermon are not ordinary; its speaker was not ordinary; its purpose was not ordinary; its implications were not ordinary. About the only thing ordinary about the Sermon on the Mount were the issues with which the hearers were dealing. These were as old as time itself; they have not changed since then by any appreciable amount. The names are different, the customs are different, but the struggles are the same. It is a timeless message aimed directly at the heart of humanity.
While men of lesser minds and lower purposes argued over the insignificant, Jesus spoke to the heart of man’s relationships – relationships with each other and relationships with God! The principle lessons of the Sermon on the Mount involve the heart of man. Somehow the Pharisees and scribes had omitted this all important dimension of religion. Outward displays and other trivia had supplanted the essence of spirituality. And as if that were not enough, they had become a self-help group to encourage others to be just like them in their heartless, Godless religion. They were willing to compass land and sea to make one disciple and when this was accomplished, their converts were two-fold more children of hell than they were themselves (see Matthew 23.15).
Jesus’ teachings regarding the heart were not new. The Old Testament had from the beginning demanded that man’s heart maintain an allegiance to God. The “heartectomy” that the Pharisees and other religious leaders had performed upon the carcass of religion was without God’s approval. In fact, God had delivered similar messages to His children in ages past; they just hadn’t heard; neither had the scribes and Pharisees. But the Christian religion could not be established without replanting the heart into the midst of all things. What would the faith of Christ be without the Father’s love extended to humanity through the death of His only begotten Son? Indeed, what would man’s response be were it not for our desire to respond to the Father in kind for His unconditional love?
This remarkable sermon should serve as the model for all time; its primary lessons must never be lost on any generation. When the critical dimension that Jesus so succinctly identified as being essential to spirituality is forgotten, spirituality becomes merely religion and the living body which He desires to inhabit becomes a putrefying carcass. This was the tree that John saw when the axe was laid to its root (Matthew 3.10) and this was the righteousness of the Pharisees that must be exceeded if man was to attain to a real relationship with Creator God (Matthew 5.20).
Jesus knew that the specks had to be removed, but not unless the planks were addressed first (Matthew 7.6). He did not major in minors; He majored in majors and minored in minors. Balance was and is of fundamental importance to the Christian religion. Jesus refused to ignore the essential by obsessive demands regarding the trivial! Jesus talked about matters that matter! And, the heart is a matter that really matters!
1. At what point in time did God become concerned about the heart in matters religious?
2. Who removed the heart from religion? Why was it necessary for Jesus to put it back where it belonged?
3. When man attempts to feign service to God (the heart not being involved), how does God see that type of service?
4. On a scale of one to ten, how important would you rate the heart in matters religious?
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