We must remember the context of the sermon in the Gospel of Matthew and the context of this sermon in the history of redemption. In this message on Matthew 5–7, Pastor Bart Box reminds Christians that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah.
- The Setting of the Sermon
- The Subject of the Sermon
- The Seriousness of the Sermon
Good morning. If you would, take your Bibles and turn with me to the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5. We come this week to one of the most profound passages in all of the New Testament, and indeed, in all of the Bible: The Sermon on the Mount. I’ll echo what David said last week. It’s good to be in the New Testament, isn’t it? Particularly, as someone whose last five sermons were Ecclesiastes, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Nahum, and Lamentations,
I’m thrilled to be in the New Testament. So, this morning, we’re going to look at Matthew 5 through Matthew 7 as we, really, just kind of overview the Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 7 Shows Us that Jesus Taught with Divine Authority
Charles Simeon said, regarding the Sermon on the Mount, “There is no portion of the Holy Scriptures for which mankind at large express so great a reverence as that which is called the Sermon on the Mount.” Gandhi, who rejected much of the teachings of the Bible, said that the Sermon on the Mount “went straight to his heart.” He said of some of its verses, “They have delighted me beyond measure.” He was disputing or negotiating with the British government at one point, and this is what he said. He said, “When your country, Britain, and mine, India, shall gather together on the teachings laid down by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, we shall have solved the problems, not only of our countries, but those of the whole world.” Unbelievers are awed at what we see in the Sermon on the Mount. Even when you get to the end of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:28–29, Matthew tells us that, “When Jesus had finished these sayings, the people were astonished because He taught them, not as the scribes and the Pharisees, but as one who had authority.”
We are, as believers, blown away by what He says as well. You think about all the passages, all the lines that we just quote, that we have in our memory and in our minds as we think through the Sermon on the Mount. All the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, hunger and thirst, merciful, the pure in heart. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The Lord’s Prayer is found in the Sermon on the Mount, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
“You cannot serve two masters,” Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. “Either you will love the one and hate the other, or you’ll be devoted to the one and despise the other. No one can serve God and money.” “Judge not so that you be not judged. Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness.” The Golden Rule is in the Sermon on the Mount, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Line upon line that are just precious to us. Someone has said that the Sermon on the Mount is the greatest sermon of all time delivered by the greatest preacher of all time.
That’s pretty disconcerting, by the way, for someone that stands up to preach it. So, we see in the Sermon on the Mount just a treasure trove of the sayings of Jesus. What I want to impress upon you this morning, what I want to impress upon each and every person that’s here, and what I want to impress upon my own soul even, are really two things. I want us to come away…as we overview this Sermon on the Mount, I want us to come away with a good idea, an understanding, of what Jesus is saying…kind of big picture, what Jesus is getting at in the Sermon on the Mount. What is He doing when He’s preaching the sermon?
As you preach a sermon, as you teach a lesson, you’re intending not only to teach them, you’re intending to do something, to create a response among the people. I want to ask, what is Jesus doing? How do we understand the central message of the Sermon on the Mount, and having done that, I want to encourage all of us to realize what Jesus is saying here in these chapters from Matthew 5 to Matthew 7. These words are not just memorable sayings. These are not just verses abstractly…not attached to the messages of Jesus. I want us to see that what Jesus is saying here in the Sermon on the Mount has eternal ramifications, and that our eternal destiny hangs on our adherence to, or our rejection of, what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount.
The Setting of the Sermon in Matthew 7:
I want to walk us through, first, looking at the setting of the sermon, kind of get an idea of the background. Two, to consider the subject or the heart of the sermon, and then last, to consider the seriousness of the Sermon on the Mount. Look with me, if you would, first of all, at the setting for the sermon. What is the background? What is Jesus doing? What’s going on in Matthew 5, and particularly, what surrounds it? One of the greatest dangers that we can encounter is to read the Sermon on the Mount in isolation. In other words, to read it disconnected from everything else that’s going on, both in Matthew, and in the rest of the Bible.
We must remember the context of the sermon in the Gospel of Matthew.
So, I want to point out two things about context. First of all, we must remember the context of the Sermon on the Mount in, first, the Gospel of Matthew. I want you to think primarily about the beginning of the Gospel and the end of the Gospel. First of all, to notice that Matthew begins his Gospel by calling attention to the sins of God’s people.
We looked at it last week, but just to refresh our minds, look back at Matthew 1. You see the mission of Jesus laid out. Matthew traces His lineage, traces that genealogy, shows that all of history has been waiting for this man, this Messiah, Jesus. We read the angel’s words in Matthew 1:21 where the angel says, “She will bear a son,” speaking of Mary, “and you shall call his name Jesus.” Why? “For he will save his people from their sins.”
So, Matthew begins by calling attention to the sins of God’s people, and He ends by calling attention to the death of God’s Messiah. He begins with sin, and He ends with the death of God’s Messiah. We see, for example, that Jesus enters into Jerusalem in Matthew 21. There are 28 chapters in the Gospel of Matthew. Do some quick math; you see that the last quarter, a fourth, of the Gospel of Matthew is concerned with the very last week of the life, the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus.
When you put those two facts together…that Matthew begins with the sins of God’s people and He ends with the death of Christ, the death of God’s Messiah…we see from beginning to end that we are in the domain of sin and salvation and a Savior and redemption, which communicates that this salvation thing is not an inside job. This is not something that we conjure up. This is not something that we do. This is not something that we plan. This is not something that we work toward. This is something that God has accomplished in Christ. This is something that God has done by sending His Son in the likeness of human flesh, sending His Son to die on a cross. So, He takes our sin, takes our guilt, takes the wrath that is due us, and so, we see that salvation, from the very beginning of the Gospel to the very end of the Gospel, is a work of grace.
Matthew 7 Reminds Us that Christ’s Death on the Cross is the only way to be Accepted by God
That is hugely important when we come to the Sermon on the Mount because the last thing that I want us to do is to walk away from this message and think, “You know what? I saw all those things in the Sermon on the Mount.” Or, “I saw all those things this week, and here are the things that I need to do in order to be accepted by God.” That’s the danger when we detach the Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Matthew. When we remember, though, that Matthew starts with the sins of God’s people and the death of God’s Messiah, we remember that the Sermon on the Mount is not primarily a way for us or not in any way a way for us to be accepted by God. His death is the only way that we can be accepted by God. That His righteousness, worked in and through us, is the only way that we can be accounted acceptable before God. It doesn’t matter if we give up all of our stuff, and that we love our neighbor as ourself, or we seek first the kingdom. That is not how we are saved. That is the outworking…hear me…that is the outworking of our salvation, but that is not the way that we are saved. You see that? It’s not how we get into the kingdom; it is those that are in the kingdom, these people act like this. That’s what the Sermon on the Mount is teaching us in the Gospel of Matthew.
We must remember the context of the sermon in the history of redemption.
So, we remember the context of the sermon in the Gospel of Matthew. Number two, we remember the context of the sermon in the history of redemption. We’ve got to remember the context of the sermon in the history of redemption. It’s no coincidence…think about this: This is the first Gospel. We have four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However, Matthew is placed first in our New Testament for a reason. The primary reason that Matthew is placed first among the Gospels is that Matthew, more than any other Gospel writer, is careful, explicit to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the entire story of redemption.
There is in Matthew the crystal clear truths, one, that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. Matthew’s intent on showing that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. Related to that, that His is the long awaited kingdom. Matthew is connecting everything that we have read with what we see here: That Jesus is the long awaited Messiah and that His is the long awaited kingdom. This is where spending nine months in the Old Testament has its advantages. Someone said to me as I was preparing this week, “You have to show the people that it was worth it. That there was a reason that we went through all of that. You have to connect Matthew with everything that has gone on before in the Old Testament.”
You think about all the things that we see in Israel and just think about their beginning. Think about the story of Exodus, how they are redeemed from slavery. We see, for example, in Exodus 4 that they are called the “sons of God.” Israel was to be the son of God. They were to reflect God to the world. They were redeemed from slavery. They were taken to the mountain. They were given the law of God. They are set apart in Exodus 19:5 and 6, they are set apart as a holy nation. They are set apart as a kingdom of priests. They are to “love the Lord their God with all of their heart and all of their soul and all of their mind and all of their strength.” When we get to the end, Nehemiah is pulling their hair out…literally.
Israel ends in failure. The whole Old Testament ends with Israel failing to do what Israel was called to do. That is critically important when we turn from Malachi 4 to Matthew 1, because when we read that “She shall bear a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”, that is not just, “He will save His people from the penalty of their sin.” It is that He will save His people, not only from the penalty of sin, yes, but He will also save His people from the power of sin.
Think about Israel. They were called to love the Lord their God with all of their heart, all of their soul, all of their strength, and they failed to do it. They failed, for example, in the wilderness. What do we see in Matthew 4? Now, the true Israel, Jesus Christ, He goes through the waters, and now He goes into the wilderness, and where Israel failed for forty years, He succeeds for forty days.
Matthew 7 Shows Us that Jesus is the True Israel
So, He is the righteousness. He is the true Israel. He exemplifies the circumcised heart, the man who loves God with all of His heart and all of His soul and all of His strength, and who loves His neighbor as Himself. We see that in Jesus, but notice this: We don’t just see it in Jesus. That’s not just the intention. It’s not just that we see it in Jesus. We also see that He, then, brings His believers, His followers into that kingdom. So, they, too, are to love their neighbor as themselves from the heart. They, too…the followers of Christ…are to love the Lord their God with all of their heart and all of their soul, all of their strength, from the heart. Where Israel could not, Christ’s followers do. Where Israel was called to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests, now God’s people, from the heart, they fulfill it. They are set apart, and they mediate the presence of God, the power of God, and the message of God to the world.
The kingdom idea…it’s everywhere when we come to this Gospel. He is creating a new kingdom, a new kind of people, a new humanity. Where do you see that? Look at Matthew 4. I want you to notice…what is the very first message of Jesus? The first time we get the opportunity to hear Jesus preach, this is what He says in Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” In other words, what had always been the plan of God, what had always been the purposes of God for His people, now it is at hand in and through the person of Christ and His followers.
Look at Matthew 4:23. We see it again, “And he went throughout all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among his people.” What leads into the Sermon on the Mount…this is key…what leads into the Sermon on the Mount is the idea of the kingdom. That God is making, in Christ, a new people, a new nation, a new kingdom. We see, then, as we read the Sermon on the Mount, that kingdom language over and over again. Matthew 5:3, “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Again in verse 10, “…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Or Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom…” Or the Lord’s Prayer, “Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come…” There is the plan of God, as we see all throughout redemptive history, that this was God’s intention all along. The purpose of redemption is…listen to this…to create a new people with a new heart with new affections and new desires and new behaviors.
The Subject of the Sermon in Matthew 7:
“Where do you see that? Isn’t that a little bit too extreme? Is that what’s expected? If I don’t love my neighbor, am I not going to be in the kingdom? If I don’t love my enemy, does that mean that I’m not going to be in the kingdom? Do I have to be that new is the question?” I want you to look at Matthew 5:17–20. I want you to see, really, what I would call the subject of the sermon, really, the heartbeat of the sermon. If you want to say,
“What is the Sermon on the Mount about? How do I understand it? How do I interpret it?” You want to circle this passage. You want to study this passage. This is the key that unlocks the rest of it. Everything else is introductory to it: the Beatitudes, the salt and the light. All of that leads up to this central passage here in 5:17–20, and then everything else from here all the way to Matthew 7:12…you may want to write that down…from 5:17 all the way to 7:12 is one section. Then, Jesus closes out the rest of Matthew 7 with some exhortations.
You see, for example, where Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, the heart of the sermon about the kingdom. What does it look like in the kingdom? That’s the question. He said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” You can see how the Pharisees, obviously, would have understood it that way. That Jesus is coming to set aside all this other stuff, to set aside what makes us distinctive, what sets us apart. Jesus says, “No, I’m not coming to set that which makes you separate apart. I’m coming to give it meaning. I’m coming to show you what it really looks like. I’m coming to show you what it really means, what it really looks like to be set apart for God.”
So, He says in verse 18, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot…” In other words, the smallest characters in the alphabet, “None of those,” He says, “will pass away from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you…” Listen to this line; underline or note it in your Bibles. “…unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Let me read that one more time. “For I tell you, that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus demands a righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and the Pharisees.
Jesus demands a righteousness that exceeds the scribes and the Pharisees. That statement alone ought to stop all of us dead in our tracks. The Pharisees had identified in the Old Testament 613 commandments. They’d identified all the commandments of God in the Old Testament. They’d identified 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments for those keeping score at home. One for every day of the year a negative commandment to prohibition. Not only had they identified all the commandments in the Old Testament, they had then authored and come up with additional ways in which they could prevent any possibility of even transgressing those 613.
So, they built up extra rules and extra regulations, sometimes they referred to as a fence. You can imagine the law of God here. So, they create a fence around it so they won’t even get close to transgressing the law of God. In their society, if you were a parent, a father or a mother, in that society and the Pharisees were going along the way, you and your son were standing by, you would no doubt have pointed at the Pharisees and the scribes and said, “Son, one of these days I want you to be like that. I want you to be holy, and I want you to be obedient.” They love the law. They love righteousness. They love holiness, and Jesus says if our righteousness doesn’t exceed theirs…to put it in our terms…then we’ll go to hell.
Jesus died so that we could be righteous before God.
That’s a strong statement. Unless your righteousness…unless my righteousness exceeds the scribes and the Pharisees, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. What does Jesus mean by that? Does He mean that one day God is going to put all of your works in the balance, and if your good works outweigh your bad works then you’re going to get into heaven? I don’t think that’s what Jesus means. Does it mean that if the Pharisees, as it were, score a 94 on the test of righteousness that we, as followers of Christ…we’ve got to score a 96, 100 maybe? I don’t think that’s what Jesus means. If that’s what Jesus means, then He died for nothing. Then the cross makes no sense unless we fall absolutely short, repeatedly, of His standard of righteousness.
What does He mean then? We can say He doesn’t mean that. Eventually, we’ve got to come to grips with what does He really mean? I think we get a really good glimpse of it in Matthew 23 where, toward the end of the Gospel, Jesus is now engaging the Pharisees one on-one. Here in the Sermon on the Mount, He’s kind of talking at them, talking to His disciples, but talking about them. Here in Matthew 23, now He transitions to talking to them. I want you to hear how Jesus speaks about the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees.
Look, if you would, in verse 25. There are a number of places we could see it, but look if you would in Matthew 23:25, where Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees…” In other words, the very same people that He has mentioned in Matthew 5:20, “unless your righteousness exceeds the scribes and the Pharisees” now He says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” In other words, it’s not about…this is really the heartbeat of it…it’s not about an external righteousness. How can we exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees? It’s not about having more. It’s about having a different kind of righteousness. You see that? It’s not about having more righteousness; it’s about having a different kind of righteousness all together.
Look what He says. He says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees…For you are…” and we get this metaphor here, “…you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” He says, “You look good to the outside world. You do all the things. You have all the trappings of religion, but inside there has never been a change. There’s never been a cleansing by God.” He says, verse 28, “You also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Theirs was an external righteousness. Theirs was all about appearance and approval.
Jesus says that that is not enough. It was not enough in Jesus’ day and it is not enough in our day. What Jesus is saying is simply this: He is not demanding more righteous deeds. I want you to hear this very clearly. He is not demanding more righteous deeds by human effort. That is not what Jesus is saying when He says that, “Your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.” He is not demanding more righteous deeds by human effort.
Jesus Asks for More Righteous Hearts, Not More Righteous Deeds.
However, listen, He is demanding a more righteous heart by divine grace. He is not demanding more righteous deeds but more righteous hearts. In other words, not a quantitatively greater righteousness, but a qualitatively different righteousness. He’s demanding that there be a change, there be a conformity, not to external rules and regulations, but a conformity to the character of Christ. Notice, in the context of the gospel, this does not come through hard work. It does not come through diligence. It does not come through effort. It doesn’t come through anything…listen…it does not come through anything that we manufacture or that we imagine or that we can produce in and of ourselves. It is the work of God in our souls bringing new life by the power of His Spirit and by the work of Christ. It is God doing that. Hear me, it is God.
This is the danger when we read the Sermon on the Mount. We’re going to go to the other extreme. The danger is that we think we can do this, that we can live the Sermon on the Mount. No, we can’t. We need divine grace. We need, as Jesus says in John 3 to Nicodemus, again a Pharisee…He said to him, “You must be born again. Unless one is born again you cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Jesus did not come merely to aid an external reformation. Jesus came not only to forgive sins, but also to effect an internal transformation. Not to help us along the way as we become more and more righteous in and of ourselves, but to bring about an internal transformation, to bring about life where there is death, to bring about love where there is hatred. To bring about purity where there is uncleanness. Jesus came to change us.
Now, I want to be extremely careful, and I want to be extremely sensitive as well. I want you to hear that I’m not saying…when we look at the Sermon on the Mount, and we say that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, I’m not saying that we are going to be perfect. I’m not saying that we will never struggle. We will always struggle. There will always be a growth in conformity to Christ. There will always be a striving after Christ by His Spirit and by His help. We will never reach a point even as Jesus says in verse 48, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” We will never reach that point. We will always be striving toward that.
I’m not saying that we can ever reach the point of perfection, or that we can do this thing on our own, but here’s what I want to war against. Here’s what I want, not only to war against, but to warn against. I want to warn against cultural Christianity, which says things like, “Well, you know I’ve prayed a prayer, and I’ve walked an aisle, or I’ve joined a church, or I’ve been baptized, or I’ve done this or that, and because of that, God’s going to let me into heaven even though there has never been a change in my heart, even though I have never been…to put it in Scriptural terms…I have never been born of God. There’s never been a work of God outside of me that then comes and works in through me, and I’m okay because I’ve done this and I’ve done that.” That is precisely what I want to warn against, and that is precisely what Jesus is warning against.
There were Pharisees…there were people listening to Him all around the crowds; there were disciples; there were those that were far away. There were those that were in between, and Jesus is warning all of them and saying that your righteousness must exceed the scribes and Pharisees, not that you’ve got to do more stuff, but there must be a reality…even if it is just beginning, there must be a change, or we defame the power and the work of Christ in our souls.
Can you imagine if we just said, “You know what? I’m a Christian and the Son of God, by His Spirit, has invaded my soul. He has come, and He has caused me to be born again. He has given me new life, but my life doesn’t look any different.” That just doesn’t make sense. If Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit, comes and He works in our hearts, brothers and sisters, things will be different, even if they are only different in little ways and even if that is slow progress, and even if it all the way to the end of our life is working out, there will be change.
This exceeding righteousness is evident in our …
Jesus, then, speaks to that change. I want to work through those briefly, and I want to show you how Jesus shows us, verse 20, that our righteousness must exceed the scribes and the Pharisees, and how that, then, works out in our lives in four different ways. First of all, He says, if there’s a change in your life, if you’ve got that kind of righteousness, if you have placed your faith in Christ and the God of the universe has changed you, then there will be, even if it’s slight, there will be a change in your attitudes. First of all, there will be a change in your attitudes. In other words, the way that we think, there will be a change in the way that we think.
The Pharisees had devised all sorts of ways. In Matthew 5, this attitude is really covered in verse 21 all the way to verse 48. You see over and over where Jesus says…six times He said it, “You have heard it said, but I say to you…” and it signals to us that the Pharisees were really conjuring up, sort of evading the spirit of the law. They would argue for and devise all sorts of rules and regulations, and so, if they didn’t transgress this or that, then they kept the spirit of the law.
So, they could hate their neighbor; they could hate their brothers and sisters, but as long as they didn’t technically strangle them, then they didn’t have blood on their hands. They’re not murderers. They could lust after all the women in the world, but so long as they didn’t cross that line, they were good. Jesus obliterates those distinctions, and He says, “If a man has hate in his heart, it is as if he has murdered. If a man has lust in his heart, it is as if he has committed adultery already. Yes, love your neighbor. We all know that. Pharisees, we get that.” He said, “But people in the kingdom, it doesn’t stop there. It’s not just a love for a neighbor, but it’s a love for an enemy as well.”
Matthew 7 Emplores us to Keep the Spirit of the Law
In other words, we aren’t seeking just to keep the letter of the law in the kingdom of God. We are seeking to keep the spirit of the law. It’s not just about conforming to the letter of the law. It’s realizing the spirit of the law. It’s not enough for me just to avoid murder. If I hate my wife, and I hate my children, and I hate the people around me, that is not…hear me, brothers and sisters…an exceeding righteousness. I’m not saying that we will be perfect, but if that is all that characterizes us…if all that characterizes us is hatred and lust and swearing and immorality and hatred of the enemy, the worst thing that we can tell someone is, “I know you sin in all those things in your life, but you’re okay.” Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of God.”
We see it in our attitudes. We also see it in our affections. We see it in our affections. Look at Matthew 6. Jesus gives three examples here. He gives examples of the Pharisees, and every single case where He talks about first giving, then praying, then fasting. You’ll notice if you read the passage…I encourage you to do it later…you’ll see parallelism in every single verse. He says the very same thing in every one of those. He kind of clues us into the fact that Jesus really is saying one thing. There ought to be a difference in our affections; that we aren’t seeking the applause of men. We are seeking the heart of God in the kingdom. That those that have been changed by God are not driven by the applause of men, rather they are driven by the heart of God. There’s a change in that.
You see it, for example, in Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them…” Notice, it’s not, “Don’t practice righteousness.” That’s not what He’s saying. Give, yes. Pray, yes. Fast, yes. Practice righteousness. It’s not even that we shouldn’t do it in public. He says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people…” Some people stop right there, but that’s not what He says. He says, “…in order to be seen by them.” In other words, we’re not to be driven by what the world is going to offer us, what the world is going to think about us.
Oh, is it not an addicting thing, the applause of men? If you don’t believe me, preach a sermon some time. Do I preach this text so that people will think that? Do I choose this illustration so that people will think that? Do I say it this way? Do I use this word so that people will know that I know that word? It’s like a hall of mirrors. It’s miserable, but Jesus says that when we have an exceeding righteousness, He begins to deliver us from that, and He begins to change our hearts, so that we are not ultimately driven by what people think, but we are more consumed, more concerned, more in love with the glory of God.
We see it in our attitudes and our affections. We see it also in our ambitions. We see it in our ambitions. Look at Matthew 6:31. You know the text, “Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Here’s the bottom line: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” Life in the kingdom. We aren’t seeking the things of the world. Rather, we are seeking the kingdom of our God. In other words, we are not driven…we are not consumed by houses and cars and clothes and careers and possessions and all the things that this world affords. If you need further comments, see the little orange book. It’s not what drives us. It’s not what moves us.
Matthew 7 Reminds Us that God has the Power to Change Our Hearts and Our Desires
Now, again, is there a battle in our soul? Yes. There is an already and a not yet to the kingdom of God. There is a struggle in the kingdom of God, but what this text is saying…what Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount in the context is, if we don’t see those things at all, if all that we care about are the things of this world, and all that we care about are the things that we can purchase and the things that can bring us comfort…if that’s all that we care about, then more than likely, we’ve never been born again by the Spirit of God. Think about it. When God births in us a new…when He gives us a new heart, He also then gives us affections for Him and for His kingdom. He changes our desires, what we want, what we long for, what we dream about.
So, we see a change in our attitudes and our affections…the things that we desire…our ambitions, and finally, we see a change in our admonitions. We see a change in our admonitions. This is probably the most abused text in all the Sermon on the Mount. Look at Matthew 7:1–5. There’s a change in our admonitions. In other words, what I mean by that is the way we relate one to another. There’s going to be a change. If God is truly doing something in our life, in our homes, in our church, by the Spirit of God, there’s going to be a change in the way that we relate to people.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment that you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
In the kingdom, we are not seeking the condemnation of our brother. That is not our goal, to elevate ourselves in comparison with others, to demean others, to point out all of their faults, to be hypercritical. That is not the way it is in the kingdom of God. However, by the grace of God, when He changes our souls, we begin, slowly but surely…we are seeking the purity of our souls. When I say that, I mean, not only ours, but those around us. By the grace of God, now we are seeking the purity of our souls.
Jesus is not condemning judgment in and of itself. In fact, if you read on in the passage you see that’s exactly what He prescribes. If you read verse 5, you see that He’s talking about judging. What Jesus is condemning is the attitude that says, “He’s the sinner because he doesn’t give like me.” Or, “She’s a sinner because, have you seen the way that she dresses? He’s a sinner. Have you seen his children? Or she’s a sinner. Have you heard the way she talks about people, the way she gossips and slanders?” Jesus is condemning that kind of judgment that always has those pronouns, “he” and “she” and “they,” but never has the pronoun “I” or “me” or “myself.”
Jesus condemns the judgment of others.
In other words, He’s condemning the kind of judgment that never, ever begins here, that never even takes consideration of here and is always looking, “How can I tear others down? How can I bring others down, so that I can feel better about myself?” Jesus says that if we’re going to be in the kingdom of God, the evidence of being in the kingdom…notice it’s not saying the way that we get in. I’m saying the evidence of being in the kingdom, even if it’s slight, even if it’s slow, even if it is a process and it will be, there must be a change in our hearts that shows up in our attitudes, in our affections, in our ambitions, and in our admonitions.
So, I want to ask you: Can you say with confidence this morning…not about your neighbor, not about anybody around you, not about anybody you know, not that that’s not important, but I want to ask you…would you honestly say that, by the grace of God, God has caused you to be born again to a living hope in Jesus Christ? That He has caused you to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to turn from your sin and to place all of your hope and all of your confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ and His shed blood on the cross. Could you say with confidence that the Lord has done that kind of work in my heart that is now causing me to depend and rest solely on Christ, and then, in the same way, is now working itself out, even if it’s slow, even if it’s not as fast as we say we want it, but that also now God is changing me more and more and more into the image of Christ?
The Seriousness of the Sermon in Matthew 7:
There are only two …
Like all good preachers, the best of preachers ends by calling for a response. He puts us on the horns of a dilemma. He doesn’t give us a buffet line to choose from. He doesn’t give us door number one, door number two, door number three, door number four. Jesus narrows it down to just two ways. He says, first of all, there are just two roads. There are just two roads. There is the one that leads to life, and there is the one that leads to destruction. Every person in this room this morning is on one of those two roads, and there are no exceptions. Every single person in this room is either on the narrow road by faith in Christ, trusting wholly in Him, trusting wholly in Christ. You’re either on the narrow road that leads to life having entered in the narrow gate of Christ, or Jesus says in Matthew 7:13, you are on the wide way. You’ve entered the wide gate. You’ve entered the easy way, “the broad way,” He says, “that leads not to life, but to destruction.” When Jesus says destruction, He does not mean an unfulfilled life. He means eternal damnation. He said there are two roads.
Similarly, there are two trees. “There is one,” He says, “that bears bad fruit, and there is one that bears good fruit.” In the same way that everybody is on one of those two roads, everybody here in every single seat is either a good tree or a bad tree. A good tree bringing forth repentance from dead works and faith in Christ, or a bad tree that is determined to embrace sin and turn away from Christ. Jesus says that there will come a day when that bad tree that brings forth bad fruit will be cut down, and it will be thrown into the fire.
There are two roads; there are two trees, and last, there are but two houses. “There is,” Jesus says, “the house that stands upon the rock, and there is the house that crashes upon itself.” Jesus says, in Matthew 7…I want you to read this with me…Matthew 7:24. If you know the children’s song at this point, by the way, I know it’s ringing in your head, but I want you to contrast that peaceful, almost, image of that house collapsing with what we see in what Jesus says in these verses. He said,
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, [And notice what Jesus says] and great was the fall of it.
Jesus says for every single one of us…Jesus says that there is a storm that is coming and, unlike often times when we hear this passage preached, the storm that Jesus is speaking of here is not the storms of life that we often like to identify. Jesus is not talking about the storms of cancer, divorce, or loss. He’s not talking about the storms or the trials and the tribulations that we face. He is talking about a far worse storm than we will ever encounter in this life. Jesus is talking about the storm of standing before a holy and righteous God. All of us will face that storm, and here’s the deal: When I face the storm of God’s judgment, when I stand before the judgment seat of Christ, it will not matter on that last day. If I have not built my house upon the rock, if I have not placed my faith in Christ, if I have not banked all of my trust, all of my hope on the Lord Jesus Christ, and His blood and His righteousness…if I come to that last day, and I’ve not placed my house upon the rock, then it will not matter what others say about my house. It will not matter what others think about my house; it will not matter how good my house looks from the outside. Jesus says that it will fall, and the fall of it will be great. It will be eternal. It will be utter devastation.
However, the good news is that there is not one house, but two houses, and Jesus says there’s another kind of house. There is the man who builds his house upon the rock. There’s the one who places all of his hope and all of his trust upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus says that that same man, he will also appear before the judgment seat. That same woman will also come before the judgment of God, and as the rains fall and the thunder claps, Jesus says that house founded upon Him, founded upon the rock, it will never fall.
There is only one Savior: Jesus Christ, King of the Kingdom!
There are two roads, two trees, and Jesus says there are only two houses. Brothers and sisters, may I also remind you…two roads, two trees, two houses, but there is but one Savior, Jesus Christ, the King of the Kingdom!