Many of you who have attended weekend conferences or seminars know that often on Friday night the primary speaker will deliver the “keynote address”, which establishes the main purpose, content, framework, etc. for the meetings that follow. I like the use of the phrase “keynote”, which reminds one of how a choir director will sound the key note of the music with his pitch pipe.
In the same way, Jesus delivered a keynote address, which we now call the Sermon on the Mount. (Matther 5, 6, 7) The Bible organizers wisely put it at the front of the first book, thereby setting the tone for the entire rest of the gospels. But in spite of this high-profile position, I have heard VERY few messages that deal with the Sermon on the Mount. A few sermons here and there on the beattitudes, but that’s about it.
It may be that many pastors are in the same boat that I was in – when they read all these verses, their reaction is “I don’t know how I could actually ever live this out. The standard is simply too high.” Many pastors/churches then retreat to the ten commandments as their standard – as long as they’re not killing anyone or stealing things, they’re ok. Not too hard. The problem is, the ten commandments are not the keynote Jesus gave. It’s the Sermon on the Mount.
So what’s the solution? It’s found in John 14: Jesus tells his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep My commandments”. And Jesus, knowing what a difficult standard those commandments represent, then spoke the next verse, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper.” Jesus doesn’t do things by accident, and it’s no accident that the promise of a Helper comes immediately after the command of obedience.
And what does the Helper do? He is the Holy Spirit, and as His names indicate, He helps us to become holy. Jesus said the Holy Spirit will actually be IN us (John 14:17). He will teach us all things (John 14:26), He will show us our sins (John 16:8) and guide us into all truth (John 16:13). Why these truths are not taught more I don’t understand, but it is, as they say, a cryin’ shame.
As I have believed and acted on these things, what I’ve found is that the Spirit, in a way I don’t understand, gives me to power to overcome sin in my life. I can’t claim to overcome by my own strength. Tried that for 40 years, and got nowhere! But I’ve also found that I need to be brutally honest with myself and God, when the Spirit shows me an area of sin. When I confess to Him the real nature of my bad thoughts, intents, motives, etc. He then lifts me to a higher level, and the old bad habits one by one get killed off (Romans 8:13).
Living in this way, in obedience to what the Spirit is leading me into, the Sermon on the Mount now looks totally different. It looks very reasonable and attainable. When Jesus said “Follow Me”, He wasn’t taunting us. We can really follow Him, if we live in the power of the Spirit. Please carefully consider these things; I believe if they’ve worked in my life, they will in yours as well.