Sermon on the Mount One – Introduction
By Fred Pruitt
1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him: 2 And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying … (Matt 5:1,2).
“The Sermon on the Mount,” as it is called, was a major factor in the Spirit’s drawing me inward to God from my earliest days. I didn’t “know the Lord” in my childhood and adolescence, and would not know what that meant until the year I turned 21. But I knew even in those childhood days that God was always “there.” I prayed kid prayers, to get good grades, to catch a big bass, stuff like that.
It becomes something more serious in adolescence, this “ever-present God,” always hanging out around us, knowing what we are doing, what we’re thinking. In early childhood, there was a comfort in knowing God was “there.” But not so much in our teens. We’re discovering things, new feelings and emotions along with new feelings and sensations in our bodies, and the thought of God being “there” in some of our discoveries can make us extremely uncomfortable. We would rather He looked the other way.
Now there’s a whole world out there of people who are just like us or who we used to be, who have the same inner thoughts, inner struggles, inner weaknesses that we have had. While caught in that life it permeates whatever we are doing. We so want to overcome, to succeed. We try to be good people, people like we know we should be, but we know in our depths that we don’t measure up. Inwardly we feel lost and alone, and still hope God is looking the other way.
But God has never looked the other way, has He?
In recent years, the Sermon on the Mount and multitudes of things Jesus said in the Synoptic Gospels have come under attack. Many dismiss these things as unnecessary and legalistic, and only applicable for those “under” the Law of Moses, having no meaning whatsoever for Christians “under grace.”
That’s a lotta baby to throw out with the bath water.
I understand the fear of legalism and the vigilance of those who watch the walls, ready always for any incursion it might attempt to pierce into the kingdom of grace and bring down those walls. But the Spirit pulls us deeper than those silly surface issues, into the substance, into the kernel. He takes us past the husks and outer shells, to the meat inside, which is the sustenance that comes only from God.
Jesus spoke of it to the disciples after He had talked with the woman at the well. “Jesus,” they said, “we got some food in the town. Here, have some!”
Jesus replied, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34).”
For years, I took that figuratively. But then in these later years, I take it literally. My meat, i.e., my food, that which sustains my body and mind, is not from the flesh and blood of animals, nor is it found in the consumption of vegetables. It is, instead, found in the “doing” of the “will of Him that sent [me] and to finish His work.”
Understand, as meats and vegetables sustain the body, the expressed will of God in us sustains us spiritually. Just as Satan’s “turn these stones into bread” meant more than just physical bread to feed the body. It was an attempt to draw Jesus into the false sustenance of the outer temporal world, the world Adam and Eve had opened in themselves when they tasted the fruit, the world in which we all live now. Jesus had to face the same temptation and overcome it Himself, and then overcome it individually in everyone who is His. “No,” He said to the enemy, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4).
Wait a minute!!! Are you trying to subtly throw in some legalism here? Legalism, like most anything else, is in the eye of the beholder! What is legalism to one person is Spirit-unction, Spirit-drive in another.
To some, it is just about the issue of “written commandments” versus grace, which operates outside of a written code. Anything that comes to us demanding our outer obedience to a written code, e.g., the Law of Moses, is perceived as a possible threat. But, as I said above, it is all in the eye (or consciousness) of the beholder! Some hear, “Thou shalt,” or “Thou shalt not,” as tasks they must perform or obey to receive God’s blessing. In this sense the law speaks to our false perception of separated self, commanding it to perform that which it does not have to stuff to perform! And then we, caught in the deception of separated or independent self from birth, respond out of our own false perception of ourselves and God, and subsequently receive condemnation from the law because we are never fully able to live up to it!
However, if at that juncture we “press on through to the other side,” into the rest of Romans 8, (spoken of all throughout this blog), we hear the same “commandments,” the same words, but perceive them differently. “Thou shalt” and “Thou shalt not” become pronunciations of the Spirit in our lives, testifying to the works of God in us, i.e., what God works in us and as us, to which we always say, “This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.” (Ps 118:23).
It was not legalism to Jesus because He knew how He operated. “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do, the Son does likewise.” “The Father that dwells in Me, He does the works.” Jesus was not trying to prove Himself to be the Son of God by “trying to act like God would act,” but rather, to find in Himself no inherent goodness or righteousness, but only trusting moment by moment the Father’s perfect upholding, comfort, words and actions in everything, nothing excepted.
There is no other way to adequately live a human life, than to continuously see and recognize God All in all, above all, through all, and in all. The foreground through which we see (the temporal roiling state of this world) is not torn away so that it is no longer there, but instead the false image begins to thin out and becomes at most a veneer, behind which a greater Light is dawning. We get bits and pieces of it, anyway.
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” (Matt 24:35).
End Part One
We’ll look into “the Beatitudes” next article!