Summary: This is the introduction to a 14-part series of studies I call “The Christian Character” as described by Jesus to a crowd of people on a Galilean hillside, as he delivered what is more familiarly known as the “Sermon on the Mount.”

Sermon on the Mount

The Christian Character

Matthew 5:3 - 7:27

(Cf. Luke 6:20-49)

Part 1 – Introduction

This is the introduction to a 14-part series of studies I call “The Christian Character” as described by Jesus to a crowd of people on a Galilean hillside, as he delivered what is more familiarly known as the “Sermon on the Mount.”

The 14 parts are as follows:

Part 1 – Introduction

Part 2 – Beatitudes – the poor in spirit

Part 3 - Beatitudes – those who mourn

Part 4 - Beatitudes – the meek, and those who hunger and thirst

Part 5 - Beatitudes – the merciful and the pure in heart

Part 6 - Beatitudes – peacemakers

Part 7 - Beatitudes – the persecuted and insulted

Part 8 - Salt of the earth and light of the world

Part 9 - Righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees; divorce, oaths

Part 10 - Eye for eye, loving neighbor and hating enemy, being perfect

Part 11 - Three things to do, not to be seen by men and a model prayer

Part 12 - Laying up treasures, eye is the lamp of the body, serving two masters

Part 13 - Do not judge, do not give what is holy to dogs and pigs

Part 14 - Ask, seek, and knock; the narrow gate; false prophets; building on the rock

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Please turn to Isaiah 61 – we’ll be reading there in a few minutes

Today’s sermon is the first of a series of studies on Jesus’ sermon commonly called the “Sermon on the Mount,” located in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. The text doesn’t refer to the discourse as a sermon, nor does the word “sermon” appear in the bible; however, that fact alone doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use the word in this and other contexts.

While everyone recognizes the occasion as the “sermon on the mount,” to which I have no objection, I prefer to think of it as Jesus’ extended description of “The Christian Character.”

Some years ago when my wife Robin and I lived in Mandeville, Louisiana, we were driving to Slidell, a town about 20 miles away. Knowing that I would soon be teaching a series of adult classes on Matthew 5-7 I asked her to read the sermon aloud at what she considered to be a normal rate of delivery assuming there were no interruptions or long intervals of silence as originally delivered by Jesus. She did so, and when she stopped reading, 13 minutes had passed.

It takes about 13 minutes to read Jesus’ description of the Christian character.

This series will take about 13 weeks, and in that time we will not plumb the depths of what Jesus said out on the Galilean mountain. We will probe for more than a superficial grasp of what the words and phrases mean, but we will not exhaust the depth of what Jesus revealed.

Countless words have been written and said, and many more will be said about it, yet the 13-minute sermon itself is greater than all that can be said about it in 13 weeks (14 including this introduction) – or 14 lifetimes. You see an extraordinary mode of living described – much of it directly contrary to human nature. Jesus takes us beneath the surface-level “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” his audience had already heard, to show us that where there is a command for or against doing something, there is true purpose and objective that is greater than - but not contrary to - doing or not doing the thing at hand. and that purpose has to do with Christian character.

Jesus’ teaching penetrates directly to the innermost person, not just the person’s observable actions. He shows that the human heart is at the root of--and governs--our actions, and that is where we need to address problems - not merely externally where the action is, but internally, in the heart that prompts our actions.

1. We would learn less than we should from the study of this sermon if we failed to begin by considering the one who spoke it.

Jesus was not just another teacher. He was certainly one of a kind. God, who created earth with its majestic mountains and its mighty seas, and the incomprehensible vastness of the night sky, most importantly created man in his own image. Being in God's image, man is like God in many respects, but unlike him in others. Man has flaws. These flaws lead to actions that render man unfit to be in God’s presence.

So God sent his Son who had been one with the Father throughout all eternity, by whom and through whom all things were created, to take upon himself the form of a man - and not just a man, but a servant. And to that service, the Son of God was divinely anointed.

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