Summary: Indroduction sermon to a new series on the Sermon on the Mount
1 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, 3 “Blessed…” Matthew 5:1-3a
There is a triviality that I want to address before we move fully into this study. It is not so important that I could not just ignore it and go on with no mention of it at all, but it is something I think tends to come to the mind of some folks when they begin a study of these several chapters from Matthew’s gospel, so I think I’d like to tackle it, get it put in its proper perspective, and then we can move on to the task at hand without hindrance, at least from this particular point of error.
Now I have to say that I personally do not remember ever being in a class on the Sermon on the Mount where the teacher began by asserting that the way to remember the word ‘beatitudes’ is by noting that Jesus is teaching here, attitudes that we should ‘be’.
But for the same reason that I believe in the Lock Ness Monster, because so many reliable people with no reason to lie have said they have seen him, I also have to believe that some folks out there have made this statement about the beatitudes, simply because on more than one occasion and in the presence of different people, when I’ve asked a group if they know what the word ‘beatitude’ means, there has inevitably been at least one in the crowd who has chimed in with ‘they are attitudes we should be’.
(Perhaps I should insert here that Alistair Begg is a Scot and he says Nessie doesn’t exist; but what does he know?)
Now I do not wish to express any undo disrespect for my peers in the pulpit and in teaching ministries of our churches across this great land. So as politely and respectfully as possible I would just like to say to those proponents of this teaching that perhaps it would be advisable, to go and study their Bible doctrines and compare them to these early verses of Matthew 5 and ask themselves if they think it is possible for a non-Christian to ‘be’ these things.
The teaching that verses 3 through 9 of Matthew 5 set forth attitudes toward life, God and others that we should be striving to establish in our selves demonstrates from the one presuming to teach a point of ignorance of what Jesus actually was communicating to the multitude in front of Him or the 21st century student of the Holy Spirit.
Just let me put this issue to rest by saying, and also by way of introduction into our study, that the very beginning of wisdom and knowledge as relates to the passage we call the Sermon on the Mount is the realization that we are entirely incapable of manufacturing in ourselves even the beginnings of the characteristics Jesus is setting forth as those things that will bring blessing in and from our lives.
Jesus very often (and very frustratingly, for the legalist) told people to do things that were impossible for them to do, and the reason He did so was to hopefully cause them to realize their utter weakness and ineptitude so they would turn to Him for the solution to their problem.
As we go into this study of the Sermon on the Mount, let me just say that I do so with fear and trepidation, especially since the ‘attitudes-we-should-be’ teachers are now going to be very anxious to find some flaw in my own teaching; but more so because I am more aware than anyone of my cluelessness and my absolute need to depend on great men who have gone before me such as D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, James Montgomery Boice, John R.W. Stott and others; and most importantly of course, the leading and enlightening of the Holy Spirit of the scriptures if I have any hopes of giving you anything of help and worth whatsoever.
Come to think of it, maybe I could use that as my disclaimer. If any of the aforementioned offended parties comes to me with a challenge over something I will say in this series, I could reply that I think I got that from Stott or Boice or Lloyd-Jones or someone else, and perhaps they should go read those commentaries themselves to find out who is guilty and write him a letter.
In any case, without further ado, we step in.
SINNERS AND SLEDGE HAMMERS
In an essay printed in God in the Dock, by C.S. Lewis, Lewis is responding to a series of criticisms of various of his writings by a man named Dr W. Norman Pettinger. In the process of answering these critiques Lewis responds to some accusation Pettinger made that Lewis did not ‘care for’ the Sermon on the Mount but preferred instead to focus on Paul’s teachings.