The sermon is not a body of material to be cognitively mastered.
It’s a life to be lived.
- RANDY HARRIS
You’ve read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). All the blessings Jesus gives. The salt and light analogies. The directions on how to pray, where to put our treasures, who to love.
But isn’t it too hard to follow? Did Jesus really expect us to live like that?
That attitude of expectancy is what Randy Harris convinces us of in Living Jesus.
The question is not only, “Can I?” The question is ultimately, Will I do what Jesus says?
If Jesus tells you that you can, then it’s not a question of ability. It’s a question of will.
. . . Jesus intends for us to live this way, and we can. That’s the single most important interpretive move in hearing the sermon.
It’s practical advice on how to live the life in Jesus.
It all begins with the blessings:
This is one of the things I love best about the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus knows that we can’t follow him until we know his blessing.
I’m convinced the world needs the blessing of God in order to practice the words of the Sermon on the Mount.
And the biggest blessing of all? It’s not what the world sells us.
In American culture, we’ve been told that the good life is having all the stuff you want. The good life is having the perfect family. The good life is being able to retire early. The good life is having total security.
Then Jesus comes along and says, “No, the blessed life is knowing that God loves you and you’re in God’s hands.”
Once we understand more about God’s love, we’re more able to love him and love others, i.e., live out the Sermon on the Mount.
If you try to live out the commands of the Sermon on the Mount without being blessed by God, without feeling loved by God, without knowing that God is holding you close to his side, you’re going to grind away and you’re never going to get there.
Why? Because if that’s the approach you take, you are attempting to win God’s favor by keeping a set of arbitrary commands.
You’re trying to make yourself loved rather than doing it out of response to the love that God’s already given.
Don’t think it’s any accident that Jesus doesn’t start with commands. He starts with blessings. And my question is this: Do you feel blessed by God?
All that is in the first two chapters of Randy’s book. He goes for ten more, explaining all the major sections of Matthew 5-7, and helping us see that Jesus’ words are not just intellectual tidbits to analyze, but rather ways we can live.
About Matthew 5:43-47:
The biggest challenge in my life is not loving my enemies. I have very few enemies.
No, my biggest challenge is loving the irritants that God has placed in my life, because I may be a little short on enemies, but I’m chock full of irritants.
. . . Jesus says when you love those who can’t return your love, you change the world.
About Matthew 7:1-14:
If I can accept that God has been generous towards me when he could have been judgmental, when I accept the notion that God is going to give me the good gifts that I need, then that empowers me to be generous to other people in the way that God is generous to me.
. . . As a result, I start to treat other people the way that God has treated me.
God’s generosity becomes my generosity and that changes the world.
What would the world be like if we replaced insecure, judgmental, anxious people with people who are so confident in God’s generosity that they don’t have to pass judgment?
And dare we take on this challenge?
What if we were generous, not just with our money, but with all that we have?
What if we were generous with our love, our sympathy, our compassion, our spirit?
About Matthew 7:15-23:
When I go to a church that’s really sick, it’s almost always because somebody has been committing theological malpractice there. Because somebody has lost sight of what Jesus really thinks is important.
. . . When you follow Jesus Christ it will never lead you to hurt or abuse or marginalize any group of people; when that happens, that’s not just bad living—that’s a result of bad doctrine.
True teaching doesn’t do that. It loves. It embraces. It transforms. It never humiliates. It never abuses. It never puts down.
By the end of the sermon—and the end of Randy’s book—we are clear we are blessed by God. And in turn, we are to bless others.
Do it, not just understand it.
We often put understanding above doing, but Jesus puts doing it as part of understanding.
If I take this seriously, what am I going to have to do differently?
That is a question we each have to answer.
* * *
How aware are you of God’s blessings in your everyday life? What do you plan to do with them?
Randy also offers a 2-DVD set for group study. I haven’t seen them but having heard Randy speak on numerous occasions, I assure you his talks are witty, insightful, and convicting.
MY THANKS TO ACU PRESS/LEAFWOOD PUBLISHERS
FOR THE REVIEW COPY OF THIS BOOK