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A Virtual Tour of the Sermon on the Mount

Tom Pennington • Matthew 5:3-7:27

  • 2014-03-23 AM
  • The Sermon on the Mount
  • Sermons


This morning, I want to take the two-and-a-half years we have studied the Sermon on the Mount, and I want to bring it together in one comprehensive overview. Think of it as a kind of virtual tour of the Sermon on the Mount. You didn't think I could do it, but I can do it. All right? So, buckle your seat belts. Here we go.

I want to begin in Matthew chapter 4. The last three verses of Matthew 4, Matthew summarizes for us nearly two years of Jesus' public ministry in Galilee, the Galilean ministry as it's called, about over eighteen months of ministry. And in that summary, Matthew tells us in verse 25 about large crowds that followed Him during that ministry. In chapter 5, verse 1, he introduces us to those crowds, and one specific circumstance. Notice chapter 5, verse 1: "When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him."

Now, when we put Matthew's and Luke's account together, we come to understand that this sermon was given under very unusual circumstances. The night before, Jesus had left His hometown of Capernaum there on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. He had left in the evening and had gone into the hills northeast of Capernaum, and there—and it was one of the rare times in His ministry, one of the very few we find where—He spent the entire night praying.

The next morning, the morning on which He preached this sermon, He called to Himself all of His disciples in the Galilee area, a large group of them. They came up to where He had been praying, and there He appointed twelve of His disciples to be His apostles, His official representatives.

Then Jesus, the twelve He had just appointed, as well as all the other disciples in that region, came down from the mountain, down from the—think hillside. It wasn't a mountain like the Rockies, it was a large hill. They came down the hillside, and there a large crowd had gathered and was waiting for Jesus. According to Luke, Jesus found a flat place, a kind of plateau, and He sat down. He assumed the position of a teacher. The twelve He had just chosen were the closest to Him. Then you had around them all the rest of His disciples. And then beyond them and sort of pressing in on them was what Matthew calls "large crowds," who were yet around them. And verse 2 says, "He opened His mouth and began to teach them." Having assumed the position of a teacher, Jesus began to teach. The focus of His teaching was on His disciples: the twelve and the rest of the disciples gathered around. The crowd simply listened in, as it were, over their shoulders to what Jesus taught His own.

Now, He began this sermon by identifying the citizens of the kingdom. He starts by telling us about their character. The Beatitudes, as we call them, describe the character of those who are already part of Jesus' spiritual kingdom. Here's how you recognize those who belong to the spiritual kingdom over which Jesus rules. At the same time that they are a present reality, they also are a sort of textbook for kingdom living. They're qualities you manifest if you're a true disciple, and qualities you should be manifesting more and more as time goes on. Let's look at them briefly. This is the character of Jesus' true disciples.

Verse 3: "Blessed are the poor in spirit." We live in constant awareness that we are spiritually bankrupt. We are beggars. We have no merit. We have no good works. We have nothing God will accept from us as righteous in and of ourselves. We are beggars, begging God for His mercy and His grace. This is the only way anyone ever enters the kingdom of Christ. And this is how His disciples continue to live, with the awareness that they have no merit, they have nothing, everything comes to them from God.

Verse 4 says, "Blessed are those who mourn." True disciples mourn over their personal sin. We enter Jesus' kingdom mourning our sin, and that becomes the regular practice of our lives. And this isn't just feeling bad about our sin. Judas regretted, felt bad, about his sin. Instead, it is the kind of mourning that sees the offense our sin is to the holy character of God and hates it. The word "mourn" is a strong Greek word; in fact, it's used a number of places in the New Testament of people mourning over the death of a close family member. We mourn over our sin like most people mourn over the death of someone they love.

Verse 5: "Blessed are the gentle." Probably better translated "meek." With reference to God, meekness means we constantly submit: we submit to God's will in His providence in our lives, what He brings into our lives; and we submit to His Word. When it comes to other people, this meekness manifests itself as treating other people with a humble, gracious, gentle spirit, even when they have wronged us. Blessed are the gentle or the meek.

Verse 6: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." True disciples are marked by a consuming desire for righteousness: both the imputed righteousness of Christ, the righteousness that comes as a gift from God based on grace alone through faith alone; but also, it is a hungering and thirsting for a righteous character and for righteous conduct. So, to hunger after righteousness means you desire not only to have imputed righteousness, the righteousness of Christ, but you long to have personal righteousness as well.

Verse 7: "Blessed are the merciful," those who show mercy, who are full of mercy. In other words, true disciples respond to the sin and guilt of those who have sinned against us with forgiveness and restoration. And we respond to the need and poverty of others with practical help. We're merciful. We respond to the misery of suffering in the same way that our Father does, with compassion.

In verse 8, "Blessed are the pure in heart." At salvation, God completely cleansed our hearts. He made us pure. And if you're a true disciple, you long for that purity to continue. And so, you address your sin, you confess your sin, you repent of your sin. But you go beyond mere confession, you also pursue ongoing, real purity. In other words, you're to be in the practice of cleansing your own heart from the patterns of sin. That's why in 2 Corinthians 7, Paul says, "[Cleansing] ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit." In other words, we are, as Paul put it, to be putting off sin. We are to be putting sin to death, mortifying sin, pursuing personal purity.

Verse 9: "Blessed are the peacemakers." True disciples, everywhere they go they make peace. They pursue peace between sinners and God by sharing the gospel with them, by praying for their salvation. They want to see peace between the people they know and God. They want to see peace between themselves and the people with whom they may be in conflict. True disciples can't stand to have that conflict continue, and they take every step they can to see themselves reconciled. True disciples pursue peace between others who are in conflict with each other. If you know someone who is in conflict with another believer, you long for that conflict to be resolved and you try to make peace.

In verses 10 to 12 He says, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness" and for My sake. Jesus' final description of those who are a part of His spiritual kingdom is that they have been and they will be persecuted because of their connection to Jesus Christ and their pursuit of righteousness. Now, it's important that you understand what persecution is. Otherwise, you might hear that all believers are persecuted and wonder why you've never experienced physical persecution. Matthew and Luke explain that being persecuted is a term that's much broader than that. It includes, if you look at the context, it includes being insulted, ridiculed, having all kinds of evil falsely said about you, being hated, being ostracized, having your name scorned as evil, and at times enduring physical persecution. So, most of the forms then of persecution are not physical violence but demeaning attitudes, verbal attacks, and social ostracizing. If you're in Christ, you have and you will experience that kind of persecution.

The first seven of the Beatitudes describe our character, and the final Beatitude says, here's how people will respond because you have that kind of character.

So, that's the character of the citizens of His kingdom. But He goes on in verses 13 to 16 to describe their influence. When we demonstrate the character described in those Beatitudes, we will also have a powerful influence on the people around us. Now, Jesus describes that influence in two pictures.

First of all, in verse 13 He says, "You are the salt of the earth." The major function of salt in the ancient world was as a preservative: it kept meat from rotting and decaying. Jesus called us salt to show that we have a preserving, purifying influence in the world around us. We combat the moral and spiritual decay that is all around us, and we do so simply by being the kind of people we are: by being pure in heart; by hungering and thirsting after righteousness; by being gentle; by being beggars in spirit.

The second image He uses to describe our influence is in verses 14 to 16: "You are the light of the world." What does light do? Well, the light, even in this room this morning, allows us to see things as they really are. And that's how it is with us as Christians. We, as Christians, serve that function in a dark world. We, by our presence, turn the light on what is evil. We also turn the light on what is true and beautiful and excellent. We're like light in letting people see what's dirty and evil, and letting them see what's good and beautiful.

How do we do that? How do we serve as salt and light? We do in three ways. And it's so important to understand, all three of these are essential for us to be salt and light. First of all, we are salt and light by our character, by being a picture of Jesus and the gospel. Secondly, we are salt and light by our good works, by living out the implications of the gospel. And thirdly, we are salt and light by our message, by proclaiming Jesus and the gospel. One of those is not enough. Two of those is not enough. To really be salt and light, we have to be a picture of Jesus and the gospel, we have to live out the implications of the gospel, and we have to proclaim Jesus and the gospel. That's the character and influence of those who are a part of Jesus' spiritual kingdom. And that's just Jesus' introduction.

That brings us to the body of the sermon. We've called the body of the sermon, the righteousness of the kingdom. This is how the true citizens of Jesus' spiritual kingdom actually live. Now, it's not a coincidence that Jesus begins and ends the body of this sermon in the same way. Look at chapter 5, verse 17: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets." Notice that expression "the Law or the Prophets." That is shorthand for the Hebrew Old Testament, the Scriptures that they had at the time. "I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." Turn over to chapter 7, verse 12. Here's how the body of the sermon ends: "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you"—Notice this— "for this is the Law and the Prophets." This is a summary of the Old Testament. The Sermon on the Mount then is Jesus' exposition of the basic message of the Old Testament. From chapter 5, verse 17, to chapter 7, verse 12, Jesus describes how those who are the citizens of His spiritual kingdom actually live. And mark this: the essence of kingdom living is wholehearted obedience to the Scripture.

Now, when we unfold that, we sort of unpack that, we see this righteousness manifest itself in three different ways. First of all, the righteousness of the kingdom manifests itself as a right relationship to Scripture: a true subject of Jesus' spiritual kingdom can always be recognized by how he or she responds to Scripture. Jesus goes on, the rest of chapter 5, to detail four responses to Scripture that should characterize and do characterize every genuine believer.

First of all, understand Jesus' relationship to the Scripture. Verse 17: "Do not think"—Don't you dare think like this, Jesus said—"that I came to abolish the"—Old Testament Scriptures. "I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." How did Jesus fulfill the Scripture, the Old Testament as we call it? Well, He fulfilled it by explaining it in His teaching. That's part of what this sermon is about. He fulfilled it by obeying it perfectly in His life. He kept the Old Testament, unlike us. And He fulfilled it by embodying in His person its pictures and types. He was the ultimate fulfillment of those pictures and types that the Old Testament is filled with. So, He came to fulfill it. You need to understand Jesus' relationship to the Scripture, the Old Testament Scripture: it was not to abolish, but to fulfill.

Secondly, you must believe Jesus' view of the Scripture. In one monumental verse, Jesus explains His own high view of Scripture. Look at verse 18: "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest"—Hebrew—"letter or"—not the smallest distinguishing— "stroke"—on a letter. Think of the little tail that distinguishes our capital "O" from our capital "Q."— "shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." That's Jesus' view of Scripture, and that needs to be your view of Scripture if you're going to be His disciple. Notice, Jesus believed in Scripture's permanent authority: "Until heaven and earth pass away." He believed in its verbal inspiration; that is, that every word was breathed out by God. Not even every word. Every letter and every stroke that distinguished one letter from another. He believed in what theologians call plenary inspiration; that is, the whole thing was breathed out by God in its entirety. Notice how He puts it: "until all is accomplished." He believed in complete inerrancy: every letter, every stroke, will all be accomplished. And He also implies here He believed in its careful preservation, because when He says that neither the smallest letter nor the smallest stroke shall pass away, He's implying that God's Word had been preserved to His own time. Now, in His own time there were no original autographs, there wasn't the scroll Moses wrote in or Joshua wrote in; instead, He had copies of manuscripts, and they had translations, including the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. And Jesus says, "Not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away." He was implying that God had preserved and would preserve His Word. So, you must believe Jesus' view of the Scripture.

Thirdly, you must accept Jesus' diagnosis with the Scripture. In verses 19 and 20, He uses the Scripture to diagnose the spiritual condition of three categories of people. First of all, notice how verse 19 begins. He says in chapter 5, verse 19: "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in [My] kingdom." Here He's talking about the disciple who is not worthy of honor because he downplays the role of the Scripture. In the second half of verse 19, He talks about the true disciple who is worthy of honor because he teaches and practices the Scripture. And in verse 20, He identifies the false disciple, who is not in His kingdom at all because his obedience to Scripture is only external and not truly internal at the heart level. You see, Jesus' disciple's obedience to the Scripture is radically different from the scribes and Pharisees. Look at verse 20: "Unless your righteousness" far "surpasses" or literally, overflows "that of the scribes and Pharisees, you" absolutely "will not enter the kingdom of heaven." You're not getting into My kingdom unless your righteousness is far beyond that, your obedience to the Scripture is far beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees.

So, what does that look like? Well, the fourth response we must have to Scripture is, we must follow Jesus' teaching of the Scripture. And that begins at verse 21 and runs through the rest of the chapter. In Matthew 5:21, down through verse 48, Jesus provides six illustrations of how the righteousness of true disciples differs from and surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees. Six illustrations. In each of the six illustrations, Jesus first showed how the scribes had misinterpreted the Old Testament: "You have heard that it was said." Jesus wasn't attacking the Old Testament (He just said He came to fulfill it), He was attacking the scribe's teaching about the Old Testament. And then He explained the true meaning of the Old Testament: "You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you." Jesus' point is that the righteousness of His disciples starts in the heart and flows out to the conduct. It's obedience in the heart and from the heart, not merely external conformity. If you have children, you know the difference between the two. We must be as concerned about obedience in the heart as we are about the external act. And so, Jesus gives these six illustrations to show us this.

The first illustration is in verses 21 to 26. And Jesus says, listen, if you're My disciple, it's not enough for you not to commit murder, you must also deal with the sinful anger in your heart. You must stop that. You must deal with that struggle.

In verses 27 to 30, He gives the second illustration. He says listen, it's not enough for you not to commit adultery, you've got to stop lust in your heart. Pluck out your right eye, cut off your right hand. In other words, get radical. If you're going to be My disciple, get radical with dealing with lust in your life. In our day we could say, get an internet filter, get rid of the internet if you have to, but get radical in dealing with lust in your heart if you're going to be My disciple. Don't be external in this deal, like the scribes were.

The third example He gives in verses 31 to 32 is, if you're going to be My disciple, it's not enough for you not to commit adultery, you also can't get involved in an unbiblical divorce. It's the moral equivalent.

In verses 33 to 37, He gives a fourth example. The scribes and Pharisees had worked out this really clever way to get around the vows and promises they made, not to keep their word basically. It's kind of the scribal equivalent of having your fingers crossed behind your back. And Jesus said, listen, you're going to be My disciple? You've got to embrace radical truthfulness. Don't play word games to get around your vows and commitments. The fifth example He gives in verses 38 to 42 involves the lex talionis, the law of an eye for an eye from the Old Testament. Now understand that in the Old Testament context, that law was given for one purpose, and that was to make sure that the punishment fit the crime, which was really novel in the ancient world. If someone's eye's put out, you can't kill that person for having put out the eye. There has to be an equivalent punishment: an eye for an eye. That was God's mercy. And the scribes had taken that command for God's mercy and had turned it into an excuse for their own personal revenge. And Jesus says, not if you're going to be My disciple. You need to be willing to be wronged and not seek revenge, but rather, add a blessing. And He gives several examples of that.

The sixth and final example Jesus gives here is in verses 43 to 47. He says, if you're going to be My disciple, when I say to love your neighbor, it's not enough to love your friends, you also have to love your enemies. You've got to love those who do wrong to you, just as your Father does.

Now, Jesus finishes this whole section with an amazing summary in verse 48. Look at chapter 5, verse 48: "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." The Greek word for "perfect" often means "to come to full maturity." Here, it's the moral maturity that obeys the Scripture from the heart and in the heart, and in so doing reflects, however imperfectly, the character of our Father. So, the true disciple then has a right relationship to Scripture: he listens to how Jesus teaches and explains it, he buys into Jesus' view of Scripture. This is how His disciple responds. But the true disciple also has, secondly, a right relationship to God. This is what chapter 6 deals with. He has a right relationship to God. The point of Matthew 6 is that we are to love God more than we love ourselves. The chapter is divided into two distinct sections. Verses 1 through 18 tells us that loving God means we must pursue His glory rather than our own glory. Look at verse 1. Here's the general principle: "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." Jesus here is dealing with the motive behind our obedience. We're to obey, yes, but it's not enough to obey, we have to obey for the right reason. If you do the right thing, if you obey God in order to seen by people, you are, in Jesus' words, a hypocrite. The Greek word describes someone who wears a mask, someone who plays a part, a person who's not what he pretends to be, an actor in the worst sense of that expression. The hypocrite (Notice verse 1) the hypocrite performs his spiritual activities "to be noticed by [men]." But that's not his real goal. His real goal in verse 2: to "be honored by men." Literally, the Greek text says, "to be glorified by men." He doesn't want God to get the glory, he wants the glory. He loves himself too much. If you do your spiritual activities for your own glory, Jesus says, you are a hypocrite and you will receive no reward with your Father; everything you're getting, you're getting right now.

Now, He follows that general principle in verses 2 through 18 with three examples. Three examples. And they're just representative examples, they're not exhaustive examples. These are just three categories that He uses to illustrate the point. The first one is in verses 2 through 4: "when you give." Make sure when you give to the poor that you don't do it to be seen by people, but rather you do it out of a heart of love for those people and love for God. In verses 5 through 15, He has the second example: "when you pray" make sure that it's God that you care about seeing you and hearing you rather than the people around you. And of course, He takes a little side road off of that to give us this rich teaching on the Lord's Prayer, which I wish we had time to go through. But I encourage you to go back and listen to the number of messages that we studied that together. But ultimately, it's an example. It's an example of not doing what you do to be seen by others. The third example comes in verses 16 to 18: "when you fast." So, the point is love God rather than yourself, so when you obey God, do it for His glory and not for your own glory.

Now the second half of chapter 6, beginning in verse 19 running through verse 34, explains to us that loving God also means we must pursue the advancement of His kingdom rather than our own. And ultimately that comes down to status and possessions. Status and stuff. And so, for the rest of chapter 6, our Lord explains how we should think about wealth and possessions. It's really about materialism: preferring material possessions to spiritual values.

Now in this section, Jesus does a couple of things. First of all, He helps us recognize the dangers of materialism in verses 19 to 24. You need to see the dangers. There are three dangers. The first danger is being consumed by materialism. Notice verse 21: "Where your treasure is, there your heart" —that is, in biblical terms, your entire inner self— "will be also." Where you invest—if you invest everything in materialism, that's where your whole being, your whole heart, will be. You will be consumed by it. The second warning comes in the next verses: being spiritually blinded by materialism. Notice the end of verse 23. He uses the example here of the eye being like a lamp for the body. He's talking spiritually, ultimately. Here's His point at the end of verse 23: if the spiritual "light that is in you is darkness,"—in other words, if materialism blinds you—"how great is"—that— "darkness!" The third warning about the danger of materialism is in verse 24, and that's becoming a worshiper of materialism. Look at how verse 24 ends: "You cannot serve"—you cannot worship— "God and wealth." You'll end up worshiping one or the other. You better beware, you will become a worshiper of materialism.

Now, having identified the dangers, in verses 24 to 34, the rest of chapter 6, Jesus teaches us how to overcome the dangers of materialism. He begins with a simple command. Look at verse 25: "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on." There's the command. Don't worry about the needs of this life, or you'll get sucked into materialism. And then He gives us a series of arguments for not worrying about the needs of this life.

The first argument is from God's character: you can trust your Father. The middle of verse 25: after all, it was your Father who gave you life. Verse 26: your Father feeds everything. Is He really not going to feed you? Your Father determined, verse 27, the length of your lifespan. Verses 28 to 30: your Father clothes all of creation. Do you really believe He'll clothe a flower of the field and not clothe you? You can trust your Father. You see, the real problem with worry that leads to materialism is a lack of trust of God. Look at the end of verse 30: "You of little faith!" You don't trust the Father.

The second argument He gives for not worrying about the needs of this life is the argument from kingdom priorities. Verses 31 to 33: listen, you now live for a different kingdom. "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness," not your own kingdom. You don't live like the Gentiles live. You used to, but not anymore. You live for a different kingdom.

And the third argument, the one with which He ends this argument in verse 34, is the argument from simple logic: you can only live in today anyway. So do what needs to be done about tomorrow's issues today, and don't worry about it. Don't carry that worry with you.

So, citizens of Jesus' kingdom, then, have a right relationship to the Scripture, and they also have a right relationship to God. Thirdly, they have a right relationship to others. And this brings us to chapter 7, verses 1 through 12. This section is about our relationships and, specifically, how to respond to the sins of others. Verses 1 through 6 are about response to the sins of others.

The first 5 verses are responding to the sins of fellow believers. How do you respond to the sins of fellow believers? Well, you respond with grace. Look at verse 1: "Do not judge." Do not judge. Now that can't mean that we're not to judge at all, because here in the very context, in verses 3 through 6, we have to judge who's a brother and treat him one way, and who's not and treat him differently. Also, down in verses 15 to 16 we're told that we must judge false teachers by their fruit. So, understand then, Jesus is not forbidding all judging, all evaluating, He is instead forbidding having a harsh, critical spirit. We must not be judgmental. We must never delight in criticizing and finding fault with others. In other words, we are to respond to the sins of other believers with grace. Why? Well Jesus gives us the reason. Look at verse 1: "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For"—because, here's why— "in the way you judge,"—God will judge you—"and by your standard of measure,"—God will measure it out— "to you."

God will deal with you as you deal with others. If you respond to the sins of others with a harsh, condemning spirit, then expect God to be harsh in His judgment of you. If on the other hand you are gracious and merciful toward the sins of others, then you can expect for God to respond to you in the same way. Respond with grace.

Verses 3 through 5 tell us we're to respond with humility. You see, pride (verse 3) makes us quick to notice the speck in our brother's eye, and not to notice the beam in our own. Verse 4: pride makes us quick to correct the sins of others while we tolerate our own. So, what does humility do? Look at verse 5. Humility drives us to take the log out of our own eye first, and then we don't just ignore the sin in our brother's life, then we're able to help our brother with his sin. That's humility. So, respond to the sins of other Christians with grace and with humility.

Verse 6 is the hardest verse in the Sermon on the Mount to interpret. But here we move from responding to the sins of fellow believers to responding to the sins of antagonistic unbelievers. There are two pictures. Notice: "Do not give what is holy to dogs." And then the second picture, "Do not throw your pearls before swine." Both pictures make the same point: the dogs and the swine both refer to antagonistic unbelievers; "what is holy" and "pearls" both refer to the message of Christ and the gospel. Now, I don't have time to defend that this morning. You'll have to go back and listen to that message if you want a defense, but for now you'll have to take my word. Because the gospel is both holy and valuable, we are not to continue to spread that valuable message among those who have heard it, defiantly rejected it, and have now become antagonistic to its message. Why? Because verse 6 says they will treat the message as worthless, and they will turn and trample the messenger.

Now, that's a lot to deal with. How do we deal with that? Well, in verses 7 through 11, Jesus urges us to pray. Because the verses before it are about relationship, the verses after it is about relationship, clearly, this is not a general admonition to pray, this is an admonition about the importance of praying for wisdom in our relationships. Jesus has just told us that we've got to walk this fine line between being judgmental and critical on the one hand, or totally lacking in discernment on the other. He's told us there's a time when we stop sharing the gospel with those who make themselves its enemies. How can we make that decision? How can we make such fine distinctions? The answer, in verses 7 through 11, is pray for God's wisdom in your relationships.

He ends this section on relationships in verse twelve by giving us one overarching principle for how to conduct our relationships. It is a comprehensive summary of our entire duty to all the people in our lives. It marks the end of the body of Jesus' sermon. The rest of chapter 7 is really a conclusion and an invitation. Verse twelve is Jesus' summary of everything God expects from you in every human relationship. Look at it: "In everything, [verse twelve] therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." This is a summary of everything the Old Testament teaches about your relationship to other people. This is amazing summary. Now understand this: the golden rule is an impossible standard that drives us all to Christ, because you have never once kept this command fully in your life, and neither have I. It shows us our need for the gospel. At the same time, for us who have come to genuine faith in Christ, for us who have entered His kingdom, it becomes a helpful summary that directs our conduct. Let's say you're in a circumstance that the Scriptures deal with, but you forget that command at this point. How do you respond? Or let's say you're in a circumstance where the Scriptures don't specifically speak. How do you respond? Think of the Golden Rule, as verse 12, as a kind of Swiss Army knife of ethical decisions: you break it out, and it helps you sort out that immediate circumstance. How would you want to be treated if you were thinking in a biblical way? That's how you treat that person.

Now that brings the body of the sermon to a close, and it ushers us in to Jesus' conclusion. We've seen the citizens of the kingdom. We've seen the righteousness of the kingdom. We can call Jesus' conclusion, the dangers of the kingdom. Jesus finishes this sermon with three great warnings.

First of all, in verses 13 and 14, beware of the wrong entrance. Jesus describes these two gates and two roads and two destinations with two different crowds of people. The two gates are entry points to two entirely different spiritual journeys. One leads to destruction, the other to life.

The narrow gate is the entry point to Jesus' spiritual kingdom. It is the entry point to true spiritual salvation, to eternal life. And notice Jesus describes that entry point as "the narrow gate." Why does He call it that? Well, because it's hard to find. It's a tiny, little gate that's hard to find. The only entry point that leads to eternal life is Jesus Christ and the gospel He taught. Every other gate leads to destruction, and tragically, most people have entered the wide gate. It's hard to find. In the clutter that's out there of all the ways to God, it's hard to find this tiny, little, narrow gate, the only way in. It's also hard to fit through. There's only one at a time that can enter. You can't go in with your parents. You can't go in with the spiritual mentors in your life. You've got to go in one by one. You have to go in alone. You have to trust the right person, and you have to trust and believe in the right gospel. The person is saved by God's grace alone, through faith alone in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. That's the only way in. It's hard to fit through. It's also hard to accept because it demands everything. Jesus says, if anyone would come after Me, let him "deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me." It's narrow.

Secondly, we need not only beware of the wrong entrance, but we need to beware of false teachers, verses 15 to 20. One reason so many choose the wide gate is that there are false teachers disguised as real sheep and as genuine shepherds that stand at the wide gate, saying, this is way to God, go in here. In spite of their clever disguise, Jesus assures us that His true disciples will be able to recognize and identify false teachers. How? By their fruit.

What is the fruit that helps us identify false teachers? Well, let me just summarize it for you. We can identify the fruit of their character and conduct. Look at how they live. Secondly, we can identify the fruit of their content. What do they teach? Is it clearly biblical? Thirdly, we can identify their fruit by looking at their converts. Look at the people who follow them. Does their teaching produce in the lives of their followers true love for God and love for the Scripture and true love for holiness? Or is it all about them and what they get out of it? Beware of false teachers.

The third and final warning is to beware of a false profession: verses 21 to 27, one paragraph with two parts. The first part is the warning itself about self-deception. In verse 21 to 23, Jesus says listen, many are going to show up on the day of judgment and say, here I am, I profess You as Lord. And notice verse 23: "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me.'" And here's what all who are self-deceived have in common: "you who practice lawlessness." Not externally. Scribes and Pharisees externally look good. But in the heart and from the heart there's lawlessness, there's a disobedience to God and His Word.

Then Jesus gives an illustration of self-deception in the two houses. Two men built two very similar houses. Those houses represent two professing Christians, who built very similar looking Christian lives. But only one of their professions and one of their lives will withstand the judgment, because it has a foundation. The other will be destroyed and swept away. So, what's the foundation? The foundation is a heart that bows completely to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Notice verse 24: "Everyone who hears these words of Mine and [does] them." In fact, Luke tells us what precipitated this section of the sermon was Jesus saying, "Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and . . . not do [the things which] I say?" So, the foundation of sand is when a false disciple hears Jesus' teaching and doesn't act on it; the foundation of rock is when a genuine disciple hears Jesus' teaching and does what's commanded. Sinclair Ferguson tells us that "Jesus really ends this sermon by telling us that there are two ways to respond: one is to put His sermon into practice and obedience, the other is to ignore it."

How did most of the people who heard this sermon respond? Look at chapter 7, verse 28: "When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." The Greek word for "amazed" there literally means "to be struck out of one's mind." They were struck out of their minds by Jesus' teaching. But notice what Matthew didn't say. He doesn't say they obeyed it. You see, many who heard Jesus that day are a tragic illustration of the very warning with which Jesus finished this sermon.

Let me ask you, how do you do when you look at this sermon? How do you do with your own life? Do you live out, do you have, the character of a citizen of His kingdom? Do you live out the Beatitudes? Are you a beggar in spirit? Do you mourn over your sin? Is there a hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do you have a pure heart that longs to stay pure? And so forth? Do you seek to obey God's Word in your heart and from your heart? Do you love God? Do you do your spiritual activities to be seen by men or by God? Do you live to advance God's kingdom or your own? Do you worship Him, or do you worship wealth? Do you love God's people and seek to treat them the way He's prescribed, or do you love yourself? Do you not only profess Jesus as Lord, but do you obey Him as Lord? Jesus said in Luke chapter 11, verse 28: "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and [do] it." There's no better way to summarize this sermon than that. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for this magnificent sermon that our Lord preached. Thank you for how it confronts us, it challenges us, it encourages us all at the same time. Father, may we not merely be hearers of what He taught, but may we act on what He taught and prove ourselves to be true disciples. Father, I pray for the person here who's failed the test as we've gone through this text this morning. Make that clear and obvious and bring them to the point where they see that they are beggars in spirit, who can only fall on their face before You, crying out for Your mercy and Your grace. And may they do that even today. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.

The Sermon on the Mount