By Matt Sapp
We’re working through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) together at Central Baptist Church, Newnan, Georgia, this summer. Jesus’ sermon is the most important body of ethical teaching in the history of the world. It redefines how we relate to one another and clarifies how we relate to God. As we grapple with what scripture means in our world today, there’s no better place to start.
Here are five things the Sermon on the Mount encourages us to “BE” this summer.
Jesus defines what it means to be blessed. God’s blessings aren’t always conferred on those we might expect—or in ways we might expect them to be.
Money, power, and status are nowhere to be found when Jesus talks about blessings. Instead, Jesus teaches that there is blessing in mercy and in mourning, in peacemaking and in poverty, in seeking righteousness and in the pure in heart.
Be blessed this summer by finding ways to align yourself with the things and people God blesses.
Don’t be boring this summer! God calls us to live vibrant, engaging, interesting lives. You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Act like it.
Your life is meant to be full of flavor and warmth, light and love.
Salt enhances and preserves everything it touches. You should seek to do the same. Light is the source of life and the instigator of activity. Jesus says you are, too.
We often think of holiness as a path toward self-improvement, but improving our individual behavior is only a small part of holiness. Jesus teaches that holiness is really about how our conduct impacts our neighbors.
When talking about holiness, Jesus shifts the emphasis from personal righteousness (the righteousness of the Pharisees) to that which is characterized by the protection of one’s fellow man.
For many of us, a new understanding of holiness requires a significant shift in thinking. Maybe this summer is a time to “be holy” by starting to make the mental transition away from a holiness defined only by personal righteousness toward a holiness that demonstrates concern for those around us.
This summer, stop asking, “What’s fair?”, and start asking, “What’s the most generous thing I could responsibly do in this situation?” Fairness is about keeping score. Generosity lets you tear up the scorecard.
When fairness ceases to be your standard, you’ll never have to feel the urge to “get even” again. You just get the blessing of being generous to those around you. So go the extra mile. Turn the other cheek. Give more than what is asked of you.
If you could just do one thing this summer, this is the one I would suggest. Jesus thinks it’s pretty important. Try it and see what happens.
Prayer forms us into humble people. When Jesus teaches us how to pray, he’s teaching us to be God-directed rather than self-directed. Even the posture of prayer—head bowed, eyes closed, hands folded—is an act of humility.
In prayer we learn to rely on God’s providence, we come to accept and extend forgiveness, and we recognize that we cannot overcome our temptations alone.
So pray this summer. And pray as Jesus teaches. It will help you be humble.
These are our first five lessons from the Sermon on the Mount: Be Blessed. Be Interesting. Be Holy. Be Generous. Be Humble. Take a look at all five. Find one that’s a strength of yours and celebrate it, and then choose one that you can work on. It’ll make for a great summer.