Sermon on the Mount

by Stephen Kaung


2. A KINGLY CHARACTER

Matthew 5:1-12But seeing the crowds, he went up into the mountain, and having sat down, his disciples came to him; and, having opened his mouth, he taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. Blessed they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Blessed the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed the peace-makers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed they who are persecuted on account of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens. Blessed are ye when they may reproach and persecute you, and say every wicked thing against you, lying, for my sake. Rejoice and exult, for your reward is great in the heavens; for thus have they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:20For I say unto you, that unless your righteousness surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of the heavens.

Matthew 5:48Be ye therefore perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Shall we pray:
Dear Lord, our hearts do bow before Thee. Thou dost love us so much, and Thou dost love us to the end, to the uttermost, for which we are grateful. As we have gathered around Thyself this morning, we pray that Thy love will once again open our hearts. May Thy love fill our hearts. May Thou open our inner eyes that we may see Thee, that we may see Thy beauty and Thy glory, that we may be attracted to Thee. May we open our hearts and allow Thee to fill us, that Thy name may be honored and glorified. We trust Thy Holy Spirit to open Thy word to us and lead us into Thy truth. We ask all in the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Thank God for gathering us together again. We are especially thankful to the Lord that He should invite us to His own table once again to taste His love. His love is really sweet.

When our Lord Jesus gave the so-called Sermon on the Mount, He went to the mountain and His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and began to teach them. The Sermon on the Mount is addressed to the disciples of our Lord Jesus. Even though a great crowd also gathered around Him, yet our Lord Jesus addressed Himself only to His disciples. As a matter of fact, only His disciples were able to hear such words.

Thank God, we who believe in the Lord Jesus are not only children of God, but He has given His own life to us. At the same time, we are also being called to be His disciples. Only His children could be His disciples because it is an inward thing, not an outward imitation. Since we have His life in us, we are able to learn of Him because this learning is an inward learning. So our Lord Jesus opened His mouth and began to teach His disciples.

We have said that our Lord Jesus is not giving a new law. The Sermon on the Mount is not a new law for people to keep, because in a very real sense there is no one in the universe who can keep the words of the Sermon on the Mount. Of course, there is one Person and that is the Lord Himself.

The Lord Jesus is not trying to give us a new law to keep. He is trying to show what His life really is. We have already received that life, and He wants to demonstrate to us what that life can do for you and for me. He is the King of the kingdom of the heavens, and He is the personification of that kingdom. If you want to know what the kingdom of the heavens is, look at the Lord Jesus because He is the kingdom of the heavens. The kingdom of the heavens expresses His life, what His life really is. So here our Lord is trying to help us to see how we can live a life of heaven upon the earth. He has already given us His own life. Now He is trying to show us what that life is able to do. If we live by that life He has given to us, we will live the kingdom life. We will live a life of heaven upon the earth.

Actually, the Sermon on the Mount is a description of the life of our Lord Jesus. He has come to this earth and He has lived it once. Now He wants every one of us to live in the same way. He is teaching His disciples. He is not trying to condemn us. He is trying to bring us to the place where all the potentials of that life may be fully realized.

So we are here as His disciples learning our Master, and it is a gradual and progressive process. Do not expect that you will be complete and perfect in one day. It takes a lifetime for us to learn our Lord Jesus. So let us be encouraged. We may experience many failures, but thank God, through failures we learn. And gradually we come to know what that life really is. Let God be glorified.

THE BEATITUDES

The discourse on the mount begins with the Beatitudes. Eight times the Lord said, “Blessed are those…” Maybe you will find nine times, but usually we call it eight blessings because the eighth and the ninth ones are put together.

The word blessed in the original Greek means “happy.” Who are those who are really happy? “Happy are those who are poor in spirit.” How very different this is from the world! In the kingdom of this world happiness is found somewhere else, not in what we have seen described here. But this is the true happiness. This is a happiness that comes from above, and this is a happiness that is bubbling forth from within. This is a happiness that is given by God, and when God sees us in this state He is happy. The kingdom of the heavens is totally different from the kingdom of this earth. What the kingdom of this earth may consider as happy, in the kingdom of the heavens it is sorrow. But what the kingdom of the heavens considers as happy, the kingdom of the world will not understand because the kingdom of the heavens is totally different from that of the earth.

In these Beatitudes the emphasis is not on doing; the emphasis is on being. It says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek.” Here the emphasis is not on doing; it is on being. You are a person who is poor in spirit. You are a person who mourns. You are a person who is meek. Here the emphasis is on being and not on doing because in the sight of God being is more important than doing. In other words, what you are is more important than what you do. You do because of what you are. Everything comes from within your being. It is not something that is being put on or added upon you. It is something that comes from within. It is the outflow of life. It is character.

When you read the Beatitudes, immediately you see a picture before you. You see the picture of our Lord Jesus because this is what He is. When He was on the earth, this is what He demonstrated to us. God has given that very life to each one of us, and that life has once been demonstrated in the life of our Lord Jesus. This life has been given to you and to me. The Lord is trying to teach us to let that life live, and if you allow that life to live you will find the same thing that you find in the Beatitudes. What is important here is Christian character.

Some people take the Sermon on the Mount as Christian ethics, especially the liberals in Christianity. They love the Sermon on the Mount. They do not care about the other parts of the Bible because they say the Sermon on the Mount gives us the Christian ethics. It is higher than we can find in the world, and it is Christian ethics that we should look forward to. We should try our best to arrive at such high moral standards. In other words, we use our natural life and try to educate it, cultivate it, develop it, improve it, until we begin to arrive at such Christian ethics.

What is Christian character? Christian character is not an improvement of our natural life. It is not trying to beautify our flesh. Christian character is from a new life. God has given us a new life, and this new life has a new nature. If we follow that new nature and cultivate it, then that new nature will develop into a new character. This alone is Christian character. Why? If you consider the Sermon on the Mount as Christian ethics and you try to arrive at it by your own effort, you may achieve something externally. For instance, you may appear to be very humble.

I remember when we were young we tried to be humble. The way we tried was by bending our body as if we are very humble. But when you bend your body, actually in your heart you are telling people, “See how humble I am.” So it is hypocritical. It is not real. It is just imitation. It is something completely outward.

The Sermon on the Mount is not Christian ethics. The Sermon on the Mount is Christian character. It shows the nature of this life. So let us from the very beginning lay hold of this truth. It is not something that you try to achieve by your natural strength. It is turning to the life that is given to you and allowing that life to develop into Christian character.


The Poor in Spirit


The Lord said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.” This is so opposite to the concept of the world. In the world it is said, “Blessed are those who are rich in soul because they can do everything.” We say some people are very dynamic, very charismatic. Some people have real power. They are either rich in position, rich in wealth, or rich in influence, or rich in learning. We say these people are blessed because they will gain. But in the kingdom of the heavens you find, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

What does “poor in spirit” mean? Poor in spirit does not mean “poor spirit.” Some people have a very bad spirit.

What do you mean by “poor in spirit”? Look at our Lord Jesus. In Philippians 2:6-8 it says that our Lord Jesus, being in the form of God, He is equal with God, and yet this is not something that He tried to grasp at because He is God. He is one with God, equal in glory, yet the Bible tells us that He emptied Himself. Of course, He could not empty Himself of His deity because that is what He is, but He emptied Himself of all the glory and honor that was related to His deity. He emptied Himself and He took upon Himself the form of a bondslave instead of the form of God. He took upon Himself the form of a bondslave, and being in the fashion of a man He humbled Himself. He was obedient to the Father, even unto death, and that the death of the cross. This is poor in spirit. Actually, He was rich, and yet He laid aside His riches to become poor in order that we might be enriched. This is humility. This is true humility.

The Bible tells us: “God gives grace to the humble and He rejects the proud.” Naturally, we are all proud. It is only through the dealing of the Lord that He shows us that in our flesh there is no good. How we think we have good! If we are not perfect, at least we have some good, and because of that we are boastful of ourselves. But when the light of God comes upon us, He will reduce us to zero. And when we are being reduced to zero, we come to the place of being poor in spirit. In other words, before God we realize we have nothing. We are nobody, and God is to be our all and in all. Humility opens the way for us to be filled with the fulness of God.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit because theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.” The kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. So this is the first “blessed.”


Those Who Mourn


“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” The mourning here is not mourning for ourselves. Naturally, if we are not proud of ourselves, then we will develop a kind of self-pity. We feel that we are not as good as other people and we develop an inferior complex. We begin to pity ourselves, and we become mournful and moody. This is not what is meant here.

“Blessed are those who mourn,” is what our Lord Jesus was while He was on earth. In Isaiah 53:3-4, it says that He was a Man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He bore our grief and carried our sorrows. In other words, He was not sorrowful for Himself. He was not having grief for His own reason. But because He is love, He is full of compassion. And when He looked upon this world, He wept. Because He loved us so much, He knows that we are not in the right place, and He is grieved for our sake. That is being mournful.

We should not try to pity ourselves but we should be filled with the compassion of God. And we should be so sympathetic to the world. Because of this we shall be comforted.


The Meek


“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Our Lord said in Matthew 11:29: “Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest in your souls.”

Our Lord Jesus is the meek one. What do you mean by meekness? Meekness means “selflessness.” He was selfless, and because He was selfless He could yield Himself completely to God. There was no opposition within Him against God, and He was able to carry out the will of God.

In Matthew 12, Matthew quoted the words of Isaiah 42: “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen, whom I have anointed . . . He shall not strive or cry out, nor shall any one hear his voice in the streets.” This is what our Lord Jesus is. He never strives, yet He gained the earth.

You remember Abraham and Lot and how Abraham allowed Lot to choose whatever he felt was the best land. Abraham did not strive. But after Lot left, God said to Abraham: “You look to the east and west, north, and south. Whatever you can see is yours.” Even the part that Lot chose, God also gave to Abraham. He was meek, and because of his meekness he inherited the earth. You do not need to strive for yourself; God will give it to you.

“Blessed are the meek.” Being meek does not mean you are weak. Actually, there is great strength in meekness because you have the strength of the power of God.


Those Who Hunger and Thirst After Righteousness


“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Some people feel they are very righteous, but this is self-righteousness. This is the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. If you really seek for true righteousness, you will be filled. God will fill you with it.

In Hebrews 1:9 it says that because our Lord Jesus loves righteousness more than anybody else, God has anointed Him with joy above all else. When our Lord was on earth, how He sought righteousness! In everything, He did right in the sight of God, and because of that, He was filled. So we need to be hungry and thirsty after true righteousness. We humble ourselves, realizing that we have no righteousness of our own, but Christ is our righteousness.


The Merciful


“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” God loves mercy not sacrifice. One day when Matthew, the publican, gathered his fellow publicans to have a feast with the Lord, the Pharisees began to criticize the Lord Jesus for eating with the sinners and publicans. Our Lord Jesus said, “God loves mercy not sacrifice. I come to seek the sick not the well.” When our Lord was on earth, He was so merciful.

What is mercy? Mercy is showing love and giving grace to those who are undeserving. God has given us mercy. He has shown so much mercy to us. Should we not also be merciful to others? In one of the parables our Lord Jesus told, He said that a servant of his owed him so much. When he begged for mercy, the master had compassion on him and forgave all his debt. But when he went out from the presence of his master, he saw a fellow servant who owed him only a little bit. He held onto his neck and said, “Pay.” When his fellow servant asked for mercy, he would not give it. He put him into prison. When the news came to the master, he called his servant back and said, “I forgave you so much and yet you do not forgive.” So he threw him into prison because he did not show mercy.

We have been forgiven so much. How can we not forgive those who have sinned against us? If we do not forgive, even our prayers will not be answered. Mercy glories over judgment. One day, when we shall be judged at the judgment seat of Christ, if we have shown mercy to others, it will glory over judgment.


The Pure In Heart


“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” God looks upon the heart and not upon the appearance. What is meant by “pure in heart”? Pure in heart is more than having a clean heart. Pure in heart means there is such purity. In other words, you are not double minded; your eye is single. If your eye is single, then your whole body is light. If your eye is double, then great is the darkness.

When our Lord Jesus was on earth, how pure He was! In His heart there was no one but the Father. He did not consider Himself. He only said, “Is it the Father’s will?” If it was the Father’s will, even if it meant death and the death of the cross, He would accept it. He drank that cup because He is pure in heart. He saw God all the time. And we who have the life of the Lord will allow that life to grow until all our double mindedness is cleared out, until we have no ulterior motive before God. We love Him because of Himself. Then we shall see Him with such clarity.


The Peacemakers


“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Look at our Lord Jesus. He is the Prince of peace. He came into this world to bring peace. On the cross He has made peace for the Jews and Gentiles. He is the peacemaker. And God wants us to be peacemakers. To be peacemakers does not mean to compromise. Our Lord Jesus never compromised but He made peace between man and God. He made peace between the Jews and the Gentiles. We also should follow His footsteps. Then we show ourselves as the sons of God.


The Persecuted


“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, because this is the way they persecuted the prophets.” Because of the righteousness of God, our Lord Jesus would not compromise. How He suffered because of that! And we should follow His footsteps. The life within us will give us the strength to endure and to suffer for the sake of righteousness. That righteous life will not allow you to do the same thing as the world is doing. Other people may do it but you cannot because you have the life in you. We who are the Lord’s must practice righteousness because God is righteous.

Our Lord added one more. He said, “If you are being persecuted by the world because of My name, rejoice and exult for your reward is great in the heavens.”

The world rejected our Lord. And we who follow Him should go out of the gate and suffer together with Him, suffer for the name of the Lord, and suffer for the sake of righteousness. This is a demonstration of the strength of life.

At the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord has given us these Beatitudes. He showed us who He is and what He is, and He said, “You have My life in you. Let that life live out. Then you are really in that blessed position.”

SALT AND LIGHT

Patiently and by faith we will inherit our inheritance by the grace of God, by the working of the Holy Spirit, and by the working of the cross in our lives. And when we begin to demonstrate that kind of Christian character, this is the testimony of the kingdom of the heavens. We will be as salt and as light. Salt will prevent corruption. Even though the world may look down upon us, yet they do not know that it is Christians who are keeping this world from total corruption. It is the Christians who are slowing down the process of total corruption. We Christians serve a purpose in this world. We are keeping this world from total corruption.

We are to be the light of the world to shine upon the darkness, to expose what is in darkness, and to show what real light is. This will become our testimony on this earth. This is how the Sermon on the Mount began. It is a blessed life.

THE LAW OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

Then it is followed by this statement of the Lord: “Unless your righteousness surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

What is the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? In a sense, the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is something that is respected by the world. At the time of our Lord Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees were models for the people because they had a righteousness. What was their righteousness? Their righteousness was the righteousness according to the law.

When Paul was Saul, he said, “According to the righteousness of the law I am perfect.” The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is the righteousness of the law, but it is the righteousness of the letter of the law. They tried to keep every letter of the law, but in keeping the letter of the law they violated the very spirit of the law. In the eyes of the world they were very righteous, yet their righteousness was hypocritical. So our Lord said, “You scribes and Pharisees are hypocrites because you keep everything external. There is nothing inward in you.” Because it was an external righteousness, it was just a kind of behavior. It was not a character. It was not real. It was hypocritical. Because of that, they became very arrogant and critical of people. Such righteousness is harmful instead of helpful.

So the Lord said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you cannot enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” And the Lord used five illustrations to explain it. He took two illustrations from the Ten Commandments, two illustrations from the statutes and ordinances, and one illustration from the tradition of the fathers. He used these illustrations to show them what the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was and what the righteousness that surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was.

THE SPIRIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

We will just take the principle without going into details but you will see the difference there. The righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees is all outward; it is human effort. And whenever it is of human effort, all that can be reached is outward correctness. There is nothing real within it. But the righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees comes from within. It is of the heart. It is the result of the life, and because of this, it is living and real. That is the difference.

The Lord is trying to teach us that the Sermon on the Mount is not a law; it is grace. It comes from within. It is the overflow of the life. It is supernaturally natural, and therefore there is no evil in it.

BE PERFECT

At the end of Matthew 5 our Lord concludes with this statement: “Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Because we have such a life within us, how can we live in an ordinary, common way? Because of the life the world has, they have a manner of life. But we have a new life in us. Can we live the same, common way as the other people? If that is the case, then how can we show that we have another life? With this new life of Christ in us, He expects us to be extra-ordinary. For a Christian to live an ordinary life is a shame because having this life in us God expects us to be extra-ordinary. So do not be content to say, “Well, I am as good as other people.” If you are as good as other people, you are shameful because you should be extra-ordinary. God is perfect and He wants His children to be perfect. You say, “How can I be perfect as God is perfect?” God is perfectly perfect. Our perfection is relative.

WALK IN LOVE

Let me use an illustration in I John 1:7: “If you walk in the light as God is in the light, you have fellowship with one another, and the blood of God’s Son Jesus Christ cleanses you from all sin.”

God is light. He dwells in light. He is perfect light. He is a hundred candlelights. There is no darkness in Him and there is no turning in Him. That is God. But the Bible says, “If you walk in light…” What is that light? In verse 5 it says, “God is light.” In other words, you who believe in the Lord Jesus have the light of life in you. That life in you is light. It will shine.

When you first believe in the Lord Jesus, you have that life in you and that life has a nature of light. Even though that nature of light in you is the same nature as “God is light” you only have one candlelight. He is a hundred candlelights. You have one candlelight, but if you walk in that one candlelight, your fellowship with God will be uninterrupted. The degree of light is a hundred degree difference, but the nature of light is the same. Even though you know the light only a little, if you walk in the light of life, there is no hindrance between you and God in fellowship. As you fellowship with God, then the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanses you from all sin. Because of your fellowship with God, then your life grows a little bit more, and you begin to see a little bit clearer. You begin to see what is of God, what is not of God. You see things that you have not seen before.

Now what do you do? You walk in two candlelights. Your fellowship with God is uninterrupted, and you grow a little bit more. Your light grows a little bit more, and you have three candlelights. You see clearer now than before. Can you still walk in two candlelights? If you walk in two candlelights, your fellowship with God will have problems. You need to repent, and the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse you. Then you follow the three candlelights, and your fellowship with God again is so wonderful. That is the way we gradually grow in life. So, be ye perfect because God is perfect.

How we praise and thank God! First of all, He put His life in us, and gradually that life shines. He cannot do it all at once. We could not stand it. We would be dead. How lovely He is! How gently He treats us! Gradually, as our life begins to grow, more light is given and we follow that life. Gradually, a new character is being built. We are transformed from glory to glory by the Holy Spirit until we are conformed to His image. That is the kingdom of the heavens.

Shall we pray:

Dear Lord, we want to thank Thee because Thy kingdom is real. Thy kingdom is an inward reality. Thy kingdom is of life, and how glorious is that life! We thank Thee for dealing with us so gently. Thou art leading us step by step until we are conformed to Thy image. Lord, show mercy again upon us. Lead us to the place where You are that we may see Thee and we may be like Thee. In the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.


Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)