A Word from Our Life Focus Teachers
Today we draw our closing thoughts from The Sermon on the Mount from our Life Focus teachers.
Through our study of The Sermon on the Mount, the Lord taught me that a pure heart is the foundation on which a Christian life must be built. A person with a pure heart seeks only to glorify God in all they do and wants no recognition or praise. If I am to be the person God wants me to be, every thought, every word, and every action must come from a pure heart. All the beatitudes are dependent on a pure heart as the foundation. Without a pure heart, everything I do is in vain.
What God spoke into my heart, as we studied The Sermon on the Mount was the importance of the beatitudes and their application to our lives as followers of Jesus Christ. Matthew 5:3-11 is the very foundation upon which our new life in Christ is built. Applying the beatitudes to daily life is like picking up a chain. No matter which link you choose, you pick up the whole chain. We can’t apply just one and let the rest slide. They are linked in such a way that each one relies on the other. If we are to live a life surrendered to Christ, it must be a life of obedience, and it can only be built on the foundation of the beatitudes.
God has used these lessons to show me what a self-righteous, judgmental, critical Christian I have been. The Holy Spirit has convicted me of how much of a Pharisee I was. Clean on the outside, but so dirty on the inside. Judging and being critical of others who didn’t dress, act or behave in the way I thought they should.
Now I pray daily that the Holy Spirit will help me to see with a pure heart, be the salt and light, be more loving, give of my time and money, not judge people by the way they look or sometimes act, because I don’t know their hearts. I know that without Jesus and the Holly Spirit, I can be nothing and do nothing.
I have been so blessed by this study.
Three things that really stand out from these studies on The Sermon on the Mount:
• Whether it is in 2016 or in Jesus’ day, the only thing that self-righteousness will get for you is a one-way ticket to hell.
• It’s all about the “pure in heart.”
• Jesus said to love your enemies, pray for your persecutors, so that you may be the sons of the Heavenly Father.
The Sermon on the Mount is the summation of all the Bible on living a surrendered life as a follower of Jesus Christ. Our actions, attitudes and words should be guided by a pure heart and all the teachings of the beatitudes and the rest of the sermon.
God has revealed many things to me through this study. I believe the beatitudes and the similitudes are the foundation for living the Christian life. God has also shown me the importance of a pure heart. This can only come from the power of the Holy Spirit living in me. God has shown me that when I’m not living for Him, I have a lot of Pharisee in me. I thank God for this sermon, because I believe that through this study, many people will be brought closer to Christ.
One of the many things that stood out to me in The Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew 5:20: “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Can you just imagine what was going through the people’s minds and the Pharisees’ minds at this point? They were probably thinking, There is no way I can live up to that. Their deeds, their prayers, and their rule-abiding were well above the average person. Their righteousness far exceeds mine. But what Jesus was trying to tell them is that their righteousness was self-righteousness. The righteousness that they needed was a true righteousness only offered by Jesus. God doesn’t look at the external rituals and obeying of the laws. He doesn’t look at the outside; He looks at the heart. And what’s so alarming is that the Pharisees, the scribes, and so many today have been trapped by satan himself. They really believe they are saved. What God wants us to understand is that it’s all about the heart.
“Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
The fact of the need for a pure heart has made the most impact of all these lessons. It seems to me that this is where it all starts in the life of a follower of Jesus—what we say, what we do, decisions we make and how we treat other people.
Matthew 5:20 tells us that Jesus said: “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees…” The scribes and Pharisees said all the right things and did all the right religious acts, but their motives seemed to have only their own best interests at heart. The scribes and Pharisees were righteous in their own hearts and minds. I want to be righteous in the eyes of God. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). I want what I say and do to bring glory to my Father in heaven, not glory to myself.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). For me, this Scripture is the most touching. I have learned that we, as Christians (true believers), have to maintain a pure heart. A heart that is clean, because without a pure heart, the Lord doesn’t hear our prayers. This is a daily process, asking God to search our hearts and reveal to us the sin that is hidden in our hearts. God is faithful. He will forgive us and create in us a pure heart.
Forgiveness is the part of The Sermon on the Mount that had the biggest impact on me. When we studied Matthew 6:6-15, verses 14 and 15 hit me like a brick. I have always understood that if I wronged someone, I should ask them to forgive me. But when someone has wronged me, Jesus teaches that I should ask forgiveness for my thoughts of how they wronged me. That has always gone against my thought processes. Why should I forgive someone who wronged me? They should be asking me for forgiveness. Wrong! I must forgive because He has forgiven me. How many times have I wronged my Lord and Savior and He’s forgiven me? Needless to say, after this lesson, I made a list of five people who had wronged me, and I went to them and asked each to forgive me for the hard feelings I had held toward them. This could be at the top of my list of things “hardest” to do. I now know it was right for me to do this, and “I did my part.” Thank you, Lord, for your lesson to me about forgiveness.
It has been said: “You can obey the negative by doing nothing.” The love of Jesus in us, and only His love through us, can move us to “do ye even so to them.”
Something that stands out to me is being a part of those who have weathered the storm, those who have lost spouses, sons, grandchildren, good friends, and much more. What I’ve witnessed is their foundation is solid. Jesus is their Rock! They are still standing, hungering for His Word and mourning for a lost and sin-sick world.
Matthew 5-7 was first introduced to me through Bible Drill as the “Sermon on the Mount.” Little did I know that some three decades later I would become so familiar, through my Life Focus class, with the greatest sermon ever preached. I believe that to have Christ’s teachings and direction come to life, by practical application in a Christian’s life, is the very essence of God’s instruction found in Psalm 51:10, Colossians 2:6, Deuteronomy 10:12 and 1 Peter 2:21. That is why these lessons have been so important to me.
To have a better understanding of what is meant by a “pure heart,” “those who mourn,” and “love thy neighbor,” for example, allows me a greater opportunity to have a closer walk with Christ, to be obedient, to seek out every possible opportunity to “let my light shine.” Truly “love God with all my heart, mind and soul,” brings me closer to becoming Christ-like in my daily living. It is overwhelming to know that the passages that document His teaching and preaching so many years ago were also meant for me and all believers today. I am so thankful to better understand His direction in my life. I am also blessed to be in fellowship with so many who live out these teachings. These examples by so many encourage, inspire and motivate me. They also remind me just what living in the power of Christ looks like in today’s world.
Thank you, Lord, for Your word and the study of it! Forgive me of my pharisaical attitude and actions. Help my study of Your word to bring forth fruits worthy of a follower of Christ!
For me, the greatest blessing from The Sermon on the Mount study has been the beatitudes. This study has really opened my eyes to who I am supposed to be and how I am supposed to behave as a follower of Jesus Christ. To start with, I realized that I am not as desperate as I should be for the lost. I have not mourned for the lost the way I should. Next, I find myself so many times wanting to be forgiven, yet sometimes not extending that same forgiveness. As a follower, forgiveness is not an option. As Matthew 6:14-15 states: “For if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This really hit home with me. I realized how worthless I am, and I am going to need LOTS and LOTS of forgiveness. Finally, it really just boils down to the condition of my, Brian Porter’s, heart (Blessed are the pure in heart). Why do I do the things I do? Is it to glorify myself or the Lord Jesus Christ? The Lord has really helped me to understand the fruit that I am bearing. I pray the Lord will purify my heart on a daily basis, so that I am bearing good fruit (complete obedience) for the Lord’s glory and honor!
One of the greatest things I have gleaned from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is how certain verses are more fully understood when taken in context of the whole sermon. These verses are usually quoted or talked about by themselves, separate from the full context of how Jesus truly meant them.
The first verses are Matthew 7:7-8: the “ask, seek, knock” verses. People have quoted this Scripture saying that God will give us whatever we want as long as we have enough faith. But in the verses prior to Matthew 7:7-8, Jesus has spent a great amount of time telling the people what a true follower of Jesus Christ looks like, and they now have come to understand that it is impossible for them to live up to the things He has said. The people know that they must be completely dependent upon God. So since God is the only way, Jesus instructs them to “ask, seek, knock” for God’s help to truly follow Him. Total dependence on God is what they are to ask, seek and knock for, not for whatever they may desire or want.
In the same way, the “narrow gate” and “difficult way,” which Jesus talks about in Matthew 7:13-14, is made plain when you know all that Jesus has just taught. Being a true follower is not easy, even though there are many who make it out to be. Jesus wanted it made clear that only by closely following God can a person be a true follower; and in reality, there are few who do it.
Cindy R. Brackin
The study of The Sermon on the Mount has been a life-altering journey. I never had taken the time to understand the setting nor the importance of the sermon in a Christian’s life, in my life. I can only imagine seeing Jesus, sitting among His disciples as the teacher, and His words as He shares this sermon. As Jesus taught, His words amazed and, at the same time, puzzled His disciples. I can honestly say I have been puzzled and amazed at the meanings of these verses and how they can direct my walk as a Christian.
I have taken three specific truths from this study and have attempted to apply these truths to my daily walk. The first truth is found in Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” I never realized that as a follower of Jesus Christ I should mourn or sorrow for my own sins. I should realize how my sin grieves my Heavenly Father. But more importantly, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I should mourn, or sorrow, for those who have never come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It should grieve my soul for those I know do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Secondly, Matthew 5:8 states: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” I personally had not examined my heart to see all the impurities that dwell there. Nor had I admitted that my heart was far from being pure and that I needed to daily ask for cleansing of my thoughts, motives, and for those impurities. I need the Holy Spirit’s help each day to help take my impure thoughts captive.
Thirdly, Matthew 7:13-14 states: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” I had never really thought about how difficult, as a Christian, it is to stay on this narrow path and not be so easily drawn to the broad road, which is easy to find. As a Christian, the only way for me to maintain my journey on this narrow path is to draw near to Jesus each and every day, to allow Him to guide me on this journey and be obedient in my daily walk with Him.
Through this study, I now have a much better understanding of what Jesus was teaching and trying to make us understand. For me, the beatitudes are completely empty, if my heart is not pure and my motives are for selfish reasons. God has truly laid it on my heart how important it is for us as teachers to do everything possible to make sure that our classes (at such young ages and as young Christians) have a full understanding of what God’s Word says, so that they can be grounded, so deeply rooted, that they can detect when the enemy comes against them. For me, these lessons are allowing me to live my life totally surrendered to Him!
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
When Brother Mickey asked us to write a paragraph about what stood out, or spoke to us the most, I immediately knew what God wanted me to write about. All the lessons over the past several months on The Sermon on the Mount have been amazing. I’ve learned and also been convicted of many things that I need to work on in my daily walk with Christ. Above all, this one lesson on laying up for yourselves treasures in heaven has stood out to me the most.
As a twenty-nine-year-old husband with a three-year-old daughter, there is definitely the pull of wanting to provide nice things for my family. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having nice things, such as a nice house, nice car or nice clothes. But wherever my focus lies the most, whatever occupies my thoughts and my time the most, that is where my treasure is. The more I studied this lesson, I realized someday someone else is going to live in my house, drive my car, and wear my clothes. No matter what I accumulate in this lifetime, it will one day be gone. It will one day be destroyed. That’s when I started to understand and realize I need to be more Kingdom-minded. I need to be more focused on eternal treasure than earthly treasure. As a true follower of Jesus Christ, I need to invest more time in pointing people to Jesus than trying to attain bigger and better things. I pray the Holy Spirit gives me strength to not treasure things of this world, but treasure the things of God.
Again, there is nothing wrong with investing in things here on earth, but I pray that my eternal investments outweigh my earthly investments.
Christ invested His whole life for me. He died for me, rose out of the grave on the third day and defeated death for me. The least I can do is invest my life in Him! Jim Elliot said it best: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
The Sermon on the Mount, I feel, is a love letter and also a warning to us. It tells me we should do things for Jesus Christ with pure hearts, hearts which want to only bring honor and glory to Him—doing things not to bring attention to ourselves, but only to bring honor to Christ. “Others should be first” shows me a pure heart is one which truly loves Christ and is obedient to Him. It shows me that a pure heart to Jesus Christ is one which produces good fruit. I think it speaks in a way to us that Jesus wants us to be like Him and follow His example. We must know Him personally, but we must want Him to know us as one of His flock. Being obedient for Him and to Him is necessary.
What have these lessons meant to me? Almost indescribable!
It has been an amazing 2 ½ years of in-depth study, that I actually look forward to each week. It has been a “wow” time for me. It saddens me when I think about everyone in our church who is not a part of these lessons and that The Sermon on the Mount is not taught in all churches. What a different world we would be living in if all churches had this study.
Sometimes I wish I could have been there in person to hear Jesus teaching this to the people. But for me,
I would have missed most of His teaching. There is so much “meat” in these words that I would not have been able to get it all. It takes me a while to think about and retain what I am hearing. So if I had been there, I probably would have missed at least half of what Jesus was saying. With that said, and with the amount of time that we have been studying Jesus’ teaching, I still have not gotten all that there is. If there was another class starting and teaching the exact same lessons, I would be first to sign up to do it all over again! It has been that good for me!