Chapter 1.
The Delight from Depending on God

Matthew 5:1-3

We now begin a wonderful adventure in the chapters of the New Testament entitled as "The Sermon on the Mount." How fitting is the title because the truths found within these chapters are not easily learned, they must be climbed like a mountain cliff with the help of the Lord. Yet, as we apply and grow in the areas where Jesus challenged us, we find joy and satisfaction, like the mountain climber who reaches the crown of the mountain. The title is also fitting because the truths contained in this message from Christ elevate us to mountain levels in spiritual growth. They challenge us to a higher standard, a higher level of godly living in our lives. They are patterns of the life of Jesus Christ Himself.

The Sermon on the Mount is one of the most misunderstood messages that Jesus ever gave. One group says it is God's plan of salvation, that if we ever hope to go to Heaven, we must obey these rules. This sermon, however, does not tell us how to be saved, it tells saved people how to live. It is a sermon for Christians today and tomorrow. It teaches us how to behave day by day. The message of this sermon is important to us because of several reasons.

1. The Essentials of the new birth are revealed in its message. Its standards are much too high and demanding to be met by human effort. Only those individuals who partake of God's own nature through the person of Jesus Christ can fulfill the demands in this sermon. The standards of the Sermon on the Mount go far beyond those of Moses in the Law, demanding not only righteous actions but righteous attitudes. It demands that men not only do that which is right, but that they be right. No part of the Bible more clearly shows man's desperate situation without the Lord in his life.

2. The Expectation or hope of our salvation and saintly living is found only in Christ. The Lord is the only one who can help us reach God's spiritual standards. If man cannot live up to the divine standard, he needs a supernatural power to enable him. The proper response to the sermon points to Christ.

3. God's Example for happiness and success are found in the sermon. It reveals the standards, the objectives, and the motivations that, with God's help, will fulfill what God has designed man to be. Here we find the way of joy, peace, and contentment.

4. It is a great Evangelistic resource for telling others about Christ. A Christian who personifies these principles of Jesus will be a spiritual magnet, attracting others to the Lord Jesus Christ who empowers the believer to live as he does. The life that is obedient and surrendered to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount is the church's greatest tool for evangelism.

5. The Elements of how to please the Lord with our life are found in this message. That is the believer's highest reason for following Jesus' teaching. It pleases God.

In the late 1860's, the science of bacteriology was still in its infancy. Sir Joseph Lister was a pioneer British surgeon that campaigned for sanitary operating room procedures. The medical hygiene of surgeons in that time was terrible and filthy. Hands were not scrubbed, street clothes were worn during surgeries that were attended by spectators that gathered around the operating table to watch. Surgical dressings were made from pressed sawdust pads made from the floors of log mills. Instruments were washed in soapy water, but not sterilized.

In some hospitals, as many as 90% of the patients died after their surgery from infections. Yet, the majority of doctors thought Lister was a nut and scoffed at his ideas for cleanliness which were known as "Listerism." The doctors, however, that implemented Lister's ideas and procedures reported fewer post-operative infections and higher survival rates. It was obvious that Dr. Lister was on target even though he was greatly opposed by many. To honor Dr. Lister, a Missouri physician, Joseph Lawrence, invented a mouth wash that killed germs and bad breath on contact. He named it Listerine and millions purchased the mouth wash and continue to do so even today, 125 years later. Lister's message of his life was cleanliness and such is the message of the Sermon of the Mount.

The main theme is true righteousness and godliness. The issue with God is the issue of righteousness or clean, godly living. Righteousness sets us apart as converted. It means right living and living in obedience to God's Word. The profession of faith in Christ means nothing without obedience, holiness, and departing from sin. Some proclaim today, "Come to Jesus as you are and you don't have to change anything." The Bible, however, speaks of transformation when we are saved. We are a new creature in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17—Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

If we come away from conversion just as we were, then how can we call it conversion? The religious leaders in Jesus' day had an artificial, external, righteousness based on the Law, but the righteousness Jesus described is a true and vital righteousness that begins internally, in the heart. The Pharisees were concerned about the minute details of conduct, but they neglected the major matter of character.

Beloved, conduct flows out of the character of a person. When a person is born again, there is a change in the character and behavior of the person. If there is no change and if there is not a hatred for sin in your life, perhaps you have never been born again. We must realize that when we do not live like Christians we create confusion in the minds of others that watch our lives.

At the beginning of the Civil War, there was a lot of confusion created on the battlefield by the uniforms of the soldiers. The gray uniforms, known as the "Rebel color" were not worn only by soldiers of the South. Units from the First Wisconsin, First Iowa, Fifth Maine, 21st New York, and the Twelfth Illinois infantry drilled in gray uniforms which were not well received. At the first battle of Manassas, the uniforms created confusion and a catastrophe as men accidentally fired at their own troops. It was difficult for them to tell who was on what side.

Because of a shortage of cloth, the Second Texas infantry went into battle with pure white uniforms which invited shots from both sides not familiar with this infantry. A southern unit known as the Orleans Guard had stylish blue uniforms which caused them to be mistaken for Yankees. They were fired upon by their own army. All of these problems were created by a failure to clearly identify the side the soldiers represented. The lack of a clear-cut message in their outward appearance created confusion. The same thing happens when we claim to be Christians, but live like the Devil. People are confused and wonder where we really stand, what we really believe, and whose side we are really on. What side are you on and can people tell it? Are you a new creature in Christ?

The very first sermon recorded of the preaching of Christ begins with the theme of great happiness and joy. Being a master Teacher, our Lord did not begin this important sermon with a negative criticism of the scribes and Pharisees. He began with a positive emphasis on righteous character and the blessings that it brings to the life of the Christian. The Pharisees taught that righteousness was an external thing, a matter of obeying rules and regulations. They believed righteousness could be measured by praying, giving, fasting, etc. Christ, however, focused on our attitudes and inward life.

We call this first section of this sermon the "Beatitudes." There are nine beatitudes. The first seven deal with principles of godly conduct. The last two deal with persecution for godly living. In the Beatitudes, Jesus described Christian character that flowed from within. These beatitudes call for full, thorough, frequent self-examination of our lives. They are progressive steps in spiritual growth. Each attitude leads to the next attitude or level of growth in logical succession, and are not in a random or haphazard order. So let the adventure begin!

I. THE AWE & ASTONISHMENT OF THE MESSAGE—5:1-3

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: [2] And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, [3] Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

This mountain, or hill, was somewhere in the vicinity of Capernaum, but where precisely is not mentioned. He ascended the hill, doubtless, because it was more convenient to address the multitude from an elevated position than if He were on the same level with them. In this area, the observer has a view of the Sea of Galilee, which has a tendency to change in appearance almost hourly because of the weather conditions. The most pleasant feature of the landscape in this area is the diversified appearance of the fields. The different plots of land exhibit various colors, according to the condition of their cultivation. Some of the fields are red, where the land has been newly plowed up. Red is the natural appearance of the soil. Other plots are yellow or white, where the harvest is beginning to ripen, or is already ripe. Some of the acreage is green, being covered with grass or springing grain. As the different plots are connected to each other, or intermixed, these multi-colored plots present at some distance an appearance of joyful, checkered work, which is absolutely beautiful. This was the setting for this historical event.

Multitudes gathered to hear the Lord. It must have been quite a site. What will He say? What inspiring thing will this man tell us? Jesus does not preach a fiery sermon. Instead, He sits down and He teaches them like a father that mentors his family in his home. For those who mock teaching in this day and age, may they take note of what is happening here. There is nothing wrong or sissy about "teaching!" One of the requirements of a pastor is the ability to teach.

Jesus begins His Sermon on the Mount addressing the issue of happiness and joy in the life of the Christian, perhaps, because this is what He wants us to have in our lives.

John 15:11—These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

What He says about happiness is astonishing and amazing as we will see. First, let's take a look at the word "blessed." What is this word all about? It comes from the Greek word makarios {mak-ar'-ee-os}. This Greek word is derived from the root mak, which means "large" or "lengthy." Makarios means "fortunate" or "happy." The Greek word was used in Greek literature, in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), and in the New Testament, to describe the kind of happiness that comes from receiving divine favor. Homer used the word to describe a wealthy man, and Plato used it of one who was successful in business. Both Homer and Hesiod spoke of false Greek gods as being happy (makarios) within themselves, because they were unaffected by the world of men who were subject to poverty, disease, weakness, misfortune, and death.

The meaning of makarios can best be seen from one particular usage of it. The Greeks always called Cyprus makaria (the feminine form of the adjective), which means "The Happy Isle," and they did so because they believed that the island of Cyprus was so lovely, so rich, and so fertile an island that a man would never need to go beyond its coastline to find the perfectly happy life. It had such a climate, such flowers and fruits and trees, such minerals, such natural resources that it contained within itself all the materials for perfect happiness.

The word for "blessed" is a much deeper, richer word than "happiness." The New Testament has rescued, the word from this mistaken application, and filled it with a high and holy meaning. Shortsighted and unwise, people call men "happy" when life goes well with them, when they are prosperous, cheerful, good-natured, or loved by relations and friends. People with these kinds of circumstances, however, may not necessarily be blessed. Watching the news and seeing the turmoil in the lives of wealthy athletes or movie stars proves this point.