Excerpted from “Jesus’ Greatest Teaching: Living the Sermon on the Mount Today” by Bill Gaultiere (available for $3.99).
Dallas Willard says that the “great omission” in Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is learning to obey everything that Jesus taught.
In most churches today we don’t teach people how to obey Jesus’ commands. As a case in point, when was the last time you heard of a class in church or even a sermon on learning how to bless those that curse you? Some of the subjects in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount are touched on from time to time in our churches and Christian groups. Others are not. Rarely do we see concrete training provided for how to actually become the kind of person who obeys a given Bible teaching from the heart.
Consider Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 to 7) with me as a way of discerning from the Lord one personal growth area in which you might develop a “VIM Plan” for your spiritual formation in Christlikeness. (In Renovation of the Heart Dallas Willard teaches on using VIM Plans to make personal life and character changes.)
What is one teaching of Jesus’ from his Sermon on the Mount that God is showing you that you need to learn to live by? Or what personal problem is he encouraging you to overcome with his help? Here is a summary of Jesus’ main teachings…
- Be grateful in the midst of your life problems that you’re blessed because you’re a part of God’s Kingdom (Matt 5:3-11; Beatitudes)
- Appreciate your self-worth as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt 5:13-16)
- Delight in God’s Law that Jesus fulfilled, like the Psalm 1 Man (Matt 5:17-20)
- Eliminate anger as a ruling emotion, so you don’t lose your temper, seek revenge, or internalize anger as resentment or depression (Matt 5:21-26; 38-42)
- Eliminate contempt, e.g., don’t look down on or speak negatively about other people or groups (Matt 5:21-22; 7:1-6)
- Refuse to cultivate lustful desires (Matt 5:27-30)
- Simply speak the truth in love without trying to get people to think well of you or to do what you want them to do (Matt 5:33-37)
- Bless those that curse; love your enemies (Matt 5:43-48)
- Don’t secure yourself through reputation — seek to please God, not people with your generosity, prayers, or fasting (Matt 6:1-18)
- Don’t secure yourself through money — eliminate materialism and greed to store up treasure in heaven (Matt 6:19-24)
- Eliminate worry and anxiety by trusting your Heavenly Father and submitting to his kingdom rule (Matt 6:25-34)
- Don’t judge (condemn) others or try to fix them; ask them (and God) for what you need (Matt 7:1-11).
- Be kind; be considerate and take initiative to do for others as you’d like them to do for you (Matt 7:12; Golden Rule)
- Stay on the narrow path of discipleship to Jesus in all you do, becoming as the good tree that’s rooted in God and naturally bears fruit, building your life on the rock of Christ and his words, not the shifting sands of circumstances (Matt 7:13-27)
Do you want to become this kind of person? You probably have some mixed feelings and some wrestling to do. What is your hesitation? What do you have to give up to learn to obey Jesus?
What spiritual practices might you incorporate into your life, as your means of grace to help you to become more like the disciple of Jesus you’ve envisioned? (See my list of some spiritual disciplines.)