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The Kingdom Handbook

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This sermon is the summary (part 7) of a 26 week series on the Sermon on the Mount. The rest of these weeks are posted below.

 

1. Kingdom Character (Mt 5:1-16) 2. Kingdom Code (Mt 5:17-48) 3. Kingdom Worship (Mt 6:1-18)
4. Kingdom Economy (Mt 6:19-34) 5. Kingdom Relationships (Mt 7:1-12) 6. Kingdom Choices (Mt 7:13-29)

 

December 19, 2004 1
Matthew 5-7

Introduction

For Christmas this year, we seem to be hanging our stockings by the chimney with particular care. Have you noticed that there seems to be a greater number of controversies lately about what can be done to celebrate the holidays in a religiously-neutral way? I heard about one school where the students where asked to bring M&M’s to a holiday party. But they were told not to bring red or green M&M’s because one of the teachers might be offended if there was any hint that the celebration was about a religious holiday.

For two thousand years we have celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, God, who came to earth cloaked in human flesh. Throughout those years, many things have come along to obliterate the simplicity of that celebration. We have developed various customs, traditions, holiday mythology, and heart-warming values. In the minds of many, that’s what the real meaning of Christmas is all about. But here we unapologetically proclaim that Christmas is about Christ. It’s not about shopping or decorations or generosity. It’s not about red and green M&M’s. It’s not even about family. It’s about Jesus.

As we enter the final week before Christmas, we must take care not to allow the trimmings to obliterate the person of Jesus Christ. He is the reason we celebrate.

If Jesus could be here today, what would he want to say? When Jesus came to earth, the Bible says that he came proclaiming the good news that the kingdom of God was near. That was his message: the kingdom.

All this year, we’ve been studying Matthew 5-7, a passage that we’ve been calling The Kingdom Handbook because basically it contains instructions that Jesus gave us about his kingdom.

This week I’d like to do something a little different.

We’ve finished examining at the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse. But now I’d like to go back and try to tie all the pieces together. So this morning we’re going to take another look at the Sermon on the Mount. It’s kind of a speed reader’s version of the Kingdom Handbook. Hopefully, at least some of these things will be familiar to you.

Matthew 5 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, [2] and he began to teach them, saying:

For just a few minutes I’d like you to imagine that you were there that day that Jesus taught his followers about the kingdom. These are the words he’s speaking to you. “The kingdom” is shorthand for heaven. It represents all that God would like to do in human history and all the perfection that one day he will restore to his creation.

Series: Kingdom Character

Jesus begins by describing the kind of people who belong to God’s kingdom. The answer might surprise you. You might heaven to be filled with the best and the brightest, the most worthy, the most spiritual. But here’s what Jesus says.

He begins with one word, “Blessed”. Basically, it means, “Congratulations! You’re the lucky winner.”

[3] "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Those who are Spiritually bankrupt

[4] Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Those who are Deeply dismayed

[5] Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Those who are Completely inadequate

[6] Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Those who are Crying for justice

[7] Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Those who are Unexpectedly forgiving

[8] Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Those who are Absolutely innocent

[9] Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Those who are Promoting harmony

[10] Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Those who are Mistreated for doing right

[11] "Blessed are you when people insult you… because of me. [12] …great is your reward in heaven…

Those who are Mistreated for Jesus

God’s kingdom is not for the strongest or wisest or most deserving. Instead He’s opened his kingdom to the spiritually bankrupt, the deeply dismayed and the completely inadequate.

God’s kingdom is place where our cries for justice will be satisfied at the same time that we are forgiven. But knowing that we will be declared absolutely innocent, we ourselves can be unexpectedly forgiving.

While we wait for God’s kingdom, we go about promoting harmony, but we ourselves can expect to be mistreated for doing right and for Jesus.

If you can relate to any of these characteristics, then “congratulations”, because the kingdom of God is for you.

As we await the final installment God’s kingdom in heaven, we live here on earth. Jesus uses two metaphors to describe our task:

[13] "You are the salt of the earth. …[14] "You are the light of the world. …

Salt represents our basic goodness. We are a moral influence on the world. We make it a better place because of our own good behavior.

Light represents our visibility. As people are able to see us and the way we behave, they will notice that God has made a difference in our lives.

[16] let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Series: Kingdom Code

 

What does that goodness look like? Jesus calls it righteousness. It means doing the right thing. He says,

[17] "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. …

Jesus taught that we enter God’s kingdom through grace. It doesn’t depend on what we do. But that doesn’t mean that we can do anything we want. Jesus doesn’t abolish God’s law, he embodies it. And he says to us…

[20] …unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees…, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Entrance into the kingdom requires perfection. Our perfection comes from what Jesus did. But as those who belong to the kingdom, we still live out the principles of God’s law. We still make it our goal to live out God’s law—not just conformity in our outward behavior, but willingly, internally, in our attitudes and our motives. It’s easier to conform our external behavior to a set of standards. That’s what the Pharisees did. But Jesus wants more from us.

He lays out six examples:

[21] "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder…

Murder is wrong.

[22] But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. …[24] …go and be reconciled to your brother…

But unresolved anger is also wrong.

[27] "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'

Adultery is wrong. God set the limits of sex within marriage.

[28] But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. …

But unrestrained sexual desire is also wrong.

[31] "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.'

God permits divorce.

[32] But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress…

But it is not permitted for any old reason, just for the sake of convenience.

[33] "Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath…

Oaths should be honest.

[34] But I tell you, Do not swear at all: …[37] Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; …

But people should be able to trust all our words, not just those we say under oath.

[38] "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' [39] But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. …

Retribution is legal. But taking personal revenge is wrong.

[43] "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'

It is quite natural to love your neighbor, the likeable guy next door.

[44] But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…

But God wants us to love those who hate us.

[48] Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

All these behaviors, attitudes and motivations are characteristic of God. He wants us to be like him, because we are his children.

What kind of righteousness should we have? Our righteousness must be genuine, not just external actions, but internal attitudes.

That changes our focus on the kind of wrong behavior we need to remove from our lives:

 

not just murder

but unresolved anger

not just adultery

but unrestrained desire

not just abandoning spouse

but capricious divorce

not just breaking an oath

but being untruthful

not just excessive payback

but revenge

not just hating a neighbor

but hating an enemy

 

Series: Kingdom Worship

 

While we’re on the subject of being honest—having our internal heart match our external actions—let’s talk about worship.

Matthew 6 (NIV) "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Acts of worship are supposed to be done for God, not for people.

Jesus gives us three examples: giving, prayer and fasting.

[2] "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do …to be honored by men. …

[3] But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, [4] so that your giving may be in secret. …

When you give, give so that God will notice, not so that people will notice.

[5] "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray … to be seen by men. …

[6] But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. …

When you pray, pray so that God will notice, not so that people will notice. In fact, Jesus even gives us a model prayer:

[9] "This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven,
may your name be honored,
may your kingdom come,
may your will be done
one earth as it is in heaven.

Our prayer is focused on God’s purpose being accomplished.

Give us today our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

Our prayer includes the things we want him to do in our lives.

Here’s the third example:

[16] "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do…to show men they are fasting. …

[17] But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, [18] so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen;

When you fast, fast so that God will notice, not so that people will notice.

If that’s the way you worship—truly directing your actions towards God and not towards men,

[then] your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

That leads us to this general principle: If you perform religious acts to impress other people then you’ll miss God’s reward.

Series: Kingdom Economy

 

One of the things that most quickly captivate our allegiance is money.

So if we’re to be citizens of God’s kingdom, we need to pay special attention to how we deal with wealth.

First, we need to make sure we choose the right bank.

[19] "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.

The deposits we store here on earth will disappear.

[20] But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

The deposits we send on ahead of us to heaven will last forever.

[21] For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Second, we need to stick with our long-term investments. That is, we need to make sure our loyalty lies in heaven, not here on earth.

[24] "No one can serve two masters. …You cannot serve both God and Money.

We have a choice everyday to serve God instead of money. But what about the things we need?

[25] "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. …

Third, we should count on social security, that is, not on the government, but on God’s ability to take care of us. Jesus gives two examples:

[26] Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. …

God takes care of the birds.

[28] …See how the lilies of the field grow. …[30] If that is how God clothes the grass of the field… will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

God takes care of the flowers. He can certainly take care of us.

[31] So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'…

Since God will take care of us, we don’t have to worry about stockpiling to meet any possible future physical needs. That means we can concentrate on saving up treasures in heaven.

[33] But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. …

We can throw our time, our talents and our treasure into things that will last forever—building up God’s kingdom here on earth.

 

1. choose the right bank

2. stick with long-term investments

3. count on social security

4. make saving a priority

Series: Kingdom Relationships

 

Turning from money to relationships, Jesus tells us that belonging to God’s kingdom also effects the way we live with each other.

Matthew 7 (NIV) "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. [2] For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

First, I need to be careful to guard my thoughts about other people.

Making quick, unfair judgments of other people only leads to an unfair judgmental environment where we too will be judged.

[3] "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? …

Hasty judgment is often distorted. So when we do make judgments, we need to be careful and we especially need to examine our own shortcomings.

Second, when it comes to fulfilling my desires, instead of fighting about what I want, I should ask God for what I want.

[7] "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…

[11] If you, . though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

God may not give us everything we want, but we know that he will always give us what is best for us.

[12] So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Finally, I should plan my actions to treat others the way I would like to be treated.

 

1. guarding my thoughts

2. fulfilling my desires

3. planning my actions

Series: Kingdom Choices

 

At the close of his lesson, Jesus presents us with three choices.

Each of us must decide: where are we going? who will guide us? and what will we change?

Where are you going? Jesus says:

[13] "Enter through the narrow gate.

We all face two paths. The path to death:

For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

Easy, broad, many travelers, but leads to destruction.

And the path to life:

[14] But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

difficult, narrow, only a few travelers, but it is the only path that leads to life. You choose.

Who are your guides? There are two teachers.

[15] "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

There are many voices out there claiming to tell the truth. but not all of them speak the truth. How can you tell them apart?

You can tell by comparing what they say to God’s word. Also,

[16] By their fruit you will recognize them. …[17] every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. …

Study the long-term effect of their teaching and their leadership.

And remember that not everyone who names God knows God.

[21] "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. …

Lastly comes the biggest choice of all. What will you change?

There are two foundations:

[24] "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

One who puts God’s word into practice has a solid foundation.

[25] The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

Nobody ever promised life would be easy. But the one who puts God’s word into practice will be able to survive the storms of life when they hit.

By contrast, there’s another way you can respond to God’s word:

[26] But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

One who hears the word, but doesn’t do anything about it, who won’t allow God’s word to change them, that person has an unreliable foundation.

[27] The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

When the storms of life hit them, their house will be destroyed.

What Will You Change?

What is your response to God’s word? You have heard it. Will you do it?

[28] When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, [29] because he taught as one who had authority…

That’s the Sermon on the Mount. Amazing words that are still as fresh, challenging, insightful, penetrating and true as they were 2000 years ago.

God offers us his kingdom by grace. How fortunate we are to be part of it. In order to let others discover his kingdom, He calls us to live by a higher standard of right behavior—to a harmony between our external actions and our internal attitudes. And our worship should have the same integrity—truly directed toward God. Jesus promises to provide for our physical needs so that we can concentrate on developing the kingdom. He calls us to treat others as we would want to be treated. And finally he gives us a choice: will you put these words into practice or will you simply walk away informed and possibly amazed.

A disciple is one who follows Jesus. Who are you following today?


1 Copyright ? 2004 by Lewis B. Bell III (Chip Bell). This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 27 in the The Kingdom Handbook series deliverd by Chip Bell at Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho on December 19, 2004. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with credit.

Related Topics: Spiritual Life