I'm teaching Sermon on the Mount, Part 2 (Matthew 6 & 7) starting tomorrow, and I thought I'd post weekly (or sporadic) updates on what I'm learning in the process of teaching.
In the spring we studied the first part of the Sermon, Matthew 5. That's all I was able to cover in nine weeks. I reminded my class that there is nothing more ironic than me teaching other people about meekness, being pure in heart, and hungering thirsting for righteousness. (Just ask Mr. Peevie, or any of the Peevies, for that matter.)
Fortunately--blessedly!--the Sermon is all about grace. It's not about my own level (or lack of) spirituality. It's not about how Jesusy I am. It's all about grace, about knowing that--thank God!--what Jesus wants is not for me to grit my teeth and swear I'll be more pure in heart tomorrow. Jesus wants the Sermon to bring us back to the reality of the cross.
Look at the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) if you don't believe me. I like to call them a Manifesto for Kingdom Living. The manifesto is a description of the character of the believer--and yet none of the characteristics and behaviors it describes are natural human tendencies.
None of us is naturally poor in spirit. We don't automatically mourn over our sin, or meekly put the well-being of another person ahead of our own well-being--especially that guy that just cut me off in traffic.
Instead of hungering and thirsting after righteousness, we pursue substitutes that we desperately hope might fill us. Sometimes these substitutes are legitimate, harmless, or neutral in themselves--like watching TV, or drinking wine. But for me, these substitutes often spoil my appetite for righteousness.
We'd rather punish than show mercy; and we are painfully aware that our hearts are far from pure. Look at our world--at the relationships between nations, between partisan segments of government; look at our violent cities, our segregated neighborhoods, our broken relationships. We are not natural peacemakers in any sense of the word.
None of these characteristics is a natural personality trait or temperament. Each one is produced by grace alone. They are fundamentally spiritual, and they can only be produced by the Spirit.
OK, I've gotten carried away. I didn't mean to preach a sermon. (Jesus already did that!) I'll keep you posted--but in the meantime, I'd love to know what you think.