*Section 1: Kingdom Character

His Countercultural Kingdom

The Sermon on the Mount most clearly delineates what it means to serve as a follower of Christ and to live as a participant in His kingdom. In a sense, The Sermon on the Mount gives Jesus’ manifesto on the kingdom of God, and its truths stagger. The sermon speaks not just of God-fearing people living as part of the kingdom that He said “is within [us]” (see Luke 17:21). But surprisingly, Jesus reveals that His followers actually comprise the kingdom itself! Christ’s teachings invert virtually every guiding principle that both humanism and religion espouse, even as they reveal and encapsulate the mind and heart of God.

Christ’s profound Sermon on the Mount rises out of a deceptively simple context. Matthew 5-7 unfolds at a point near the beginning of His ministry. Jesus recently endured forty days of fasting and temptation in the wilderness, the prophet John baptized Him, and Christ began preaching. To all who listened He proclaimed, “The kingdom of Heaven (or kingdom of God—as these phrases are used interchangeably) is near” (Matthew 4:17). Interestingly, Christ’s theme was spoken against a backdrop of the religious and political imprisonment of the Jewish people, a nation awaiting a warrior Messiah who they believed would deliver them from persecution by military means.

When Christ communicated the premise and essentials of kingdom living to those desiring to embed themselves in the experience of God’s kingdom—in this life and forever—He stated His mission to the world. His teachings regarding love and humility, however, must’ve come as a surprise to those expecting Messiah to lead a militant rebellion. Modern believers who’ve heard Christ’s coming taught as a sign of entitlement to health, wealth, and prosperity might feel similar shock as they unpackage the startling realities of this message.

Just as Christ, the warrior King who leads and sets free by a law of love, is a beautiful paradox, so too is the nature of the kingdom. Jesus said that the kingdom had already come near (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:15); it happened in His incarnation. We know, however, that the full consummation of His glorious kingdom is yet future: Jesus taught us to pray for His Father’s kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10). Christ’s description of His reign and rule is full of such mysteries, yet only when we grapple with these paradoxes do we begin to grasp the beautiful realities of Jesus and His kingdom.

Six pivotal concepts aid in understanding The Sermon on the Mount clearly and applying it effectively. Those desiring to fully follow Christ and grasp this great revelation from the Son of God should note …

Jesus’ supremacy serves as the common thread. Christ, based on the totality of His nature and mission, is both the message and the messenger of God. He provides the means through which the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount become a reality in us. Jesus is both lawgiver and the fulfillment of the law. In a real sense, He embodies the law of the New Covenant.

Relationship with God requires “new birth.” The sermon’s text presumes that we don’t live as a part of Christ’s kingdom and cannot understand His teachings until we first are born-again (see John 3:3). Jesus’ teachings present humanity with a New Covenant, a new means by which man can have relationship with God (Jeremiah 31:31-34). Entrance into God’s kingdom comes through salvation by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Jesus and His teachings stand as absolutely authoritative. Christ’s infinite wisdom and rule are projected in The Sermon on the Mount. He is portrayed as our ultimate Judge and the incarnate Word of God (John 1:1-3). Christ alone expressed the heart and mind of God in all of His teachings, and His deity was the source of His authority (see Hebrews 1:1-3).

Relationship with Christ encompasses the only means to true happiness—deep, rooted, abiding joy! Living as one blessed of God far surpasses any transient pleasure life offers (John 16:24). Typically measured in the temporal and tangible, true satisfaction in life comes only through divinely spiritual character qualities. The Beatitudes give the recipe for how to live in the blessing of being God’s royal children.

True disciples of Christ should prove different! Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus consistently repeats, “You have heard it said … but I say …” (Matthew 5:21-48). Cutting against the grain of popular secular and religious philosophies of His day (and ours as well), Jesus suggests a life diametrically opposed to contemporary thought. The wisdom of this world equals foolishness from God’s perspective (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31); to receive God’s best believers must often break with societal norms.

Obedience matters. Within the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives a new moral code reminiscent of the Ten Commandments. Adherence to this new moral law is indicative of those that are “of His kingdom.” Living to please God should affect every aspect of our existence.

Matthew 5-7 powerfully, profoundly, and vividly portrays our King and His kingdom. The message inspires, challenges, stretches. For me, the message defines how I—as a child of God—should live and work and interact. It clearly outlines what the Lord expects from and has in store for those who love Him. May the Holy Spirit enlighten our hearts and minds as He reveals Jesus and His glorious kingdom.

Apply It.

Read aloud and internalize Colossians 1:15-20 and Ephesians 1:18-23. Ask God to show you how Jesus’ authority, power, and supremacy should change you and the way you follow Him.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are: 

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1     

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2 

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king 

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit, backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!