Sermon on the Mount

by Stephen Kaung


3. A HEAVENLY LIFE LIVED ON EARTH

Matthew 6:1-15Take heed not to do your righteousness before men to be seen of them, otherwise ye have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens. When therefore thou doest alms, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may have glory from men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand does; so that thine alms may be in secret, and thy Father who sees in secret will render it to thee.

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets so that they should appear to men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father who sees in secret will render it to thee. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as those who are of the nations: for they think they shall be heard through their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like them, for your Father knows of what things ye have need before ye beg anything of him. Thus therefore pray ye: Our Father who art in the heavens, let thy name be sanctified, let thy kingdom come, let thy will be done as in heaven so upon the earth; give us to-day our needed bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but save us from evil. For if ye forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father also will forgive you yours, but if ye do not forgive men their offences, neither will your Father forgive your offences.


Matthew 6:19-25Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust spoils, and where thieves dig through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust spoils, and where thieves do not dig through nor steal; for where thy treasure is, there will be also thy heart. The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body will be light: but if thine eye be wicked, thy whole body will be dark. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and will love the other, or he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. For this cause I say unto you, Do not be careful about your life, what ye should eat and what ye should drink; nor for your body what ye should put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment?

Matthew 6:33But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not careful therefore for the morrow, for the morrow shall be careful about itself. Sufficient to the day is its own evil.

Shall we pray:
Dear heavenly Father, we do thank Thee that Thou does gather us together unto Thy beloved Son. We believe that Thou art with us and Thou alone can satisfy our hearts. We bow ourselves before Thee and look to Thee to speak to us. We pray that Thou will open our hearts to Thee and open Thy word to us, that Thy word may fall into good ground that will bear fruit patiently, a hundred fold unto Your glory. Lord, we confess that we are far from what Thou dost want us to be, and yet we want to tell Thee that we are willing. May Thy Holy Spirit work within us and bring us to the place where Thou art. May Thy will be done in us as it is in heaven, and we will give Thee all the glory. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

The so-called Sermon on the Mount was spoken by our Lord to His own disciples, to those who have not only believed in Him, but have also answered His call. It is to those who have given themselves to the Lord and allowed the Lord to teach them, to transform them, and to conform them to His own image. The Sermon on the Mount is not a new law for us to keep. The Sermon on the Mount is of grace. Our Lord first gave His life to us and then He began to tell us what that life is.

THE HEAVENLY MAN

The Sermon on the Mount is actually a description of the life of our Lord Jesus. He is the heavenly Man who has come upon this earth and has lived a heavenly life. He came to set up His kingdom upon this earth, and He is drawing a people unto Himself to transform them as He is. These will be His kingdom. These are the people of the kingdom of the heavens. They are the sons of the kingdom of the heavens.

So we do praise and thank the Lord that He is not trying to impose upon us a heavy burden, as if He is setting up a very high standard and then telling us to try and arrive at it. Instead of that, He gives us His own life and then tells us how glorious and how powerful is that life. If we only allowed His life to live out through us, that will be the way we will live. So it is a matter of grace. It is a matter of life. It is a matter of the growing of life, and that is what the Sermon on the Mount is all about.

TRUE BLESSINGS

The Sermon on the Mount begins with the Beatitudes. There, the emphasis is on our being rather our doing because the Lord said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens.” The Lord Himself is the personification of the Beatitudes because this is the way He was when He was upon this earth. He was poor in spirit. He was equal with God but that is not something He grasped at. He emptied Himself and took upon Himself the form of a bondslave. And being in the fashion of a man, He was obedient to the Father even unto death and that the death of the cross. That is the meaning of “the poor in the spirit.”

Naturally, we are all rich in our souls. We think we have a lot in us. We think we can do a great deal. We are proud of ourselves. Humility is something beyond us, and it takes the life of the Lord Jesus within us to be humble because His life is a humble life. It is a life that is emptied of self. And because His life is within us, He is calling us to be like Him by the working of the Holy Spirit and the working of the cross in our lives. We are gradually being emptied of ourselves, and as we are being emptied then we are being filled with the life of the Lord Jesus. It is then that we are truly blessed, that we are really happy in the Lord. So the Beatitudes are a description of the life of our Lord Jesus. And the Lord is telling His disciples: “This is what I want you to be. This is the way you will live upon this earth, and you shall inherit your heavenly inheritance.”

SURPASSING RIGHTEOUSNESS

Also in the Beatitudes, the Lord Jesus tells us that unless our righteousness surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees we cannot enter into the kingdom of the heavens. What is the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? It is a righteousness according to the letter of the law because the scribes and the Pharisees tried to keep every letter of the law. Yet, in doing that they violated the very spirit of the law. Their righteousness is something man-made; it is only an outward appearance. There is no reality within them. They may be dead right, and yet it is legalistic. It gives them great pride, so they boast of their own righteousness. They are hypocritical, superficial, and yet they are critical of other people. Their righteousness makes them very proud. In the sight of God, the Bible says that our own righteousness is as filthy rags. It cannot cover our nakedness and is wholly rejected by God. So as disciples of the Lord Jesus, our righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the scribes and of the Pharisees.

What is our righteousness? What is that surpassing righteousness? It is something that comes out from within. It is a matter of life. By the grace of God this life begins to express itself, so it is of the spirit and it is of life. It is above the letter. It is beyond what the letter demands. It goes to the very heart. It is the outflow of the life within. Our Lord used five different illustrations to show us the righteousness that surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.

A HIDDEN LIFE

In Matthew 6 we see that this chapter can be very clearly divided into two parts. Chapter 6:1-18 deals with this matter of doing all things in secret. In other words, it tells us of a hidden life. As sons of the kingdom of the heavens, we have a hidden life. We have a life that is not seen by the world, yet that life is the very source of what the world can see. In the second part, from verses 19-34, it shows that this kingdom life is a life of faith.

We who are the sons of the kingdom of the heavens have a hidden life because it is heaven living upon the earth. So there is a heavenly part that is not seen by man; it is to be seen by God alone. Oftentimes, we Christians tend to live purely a wholly, outward life. It is as if there is not that inward or hidden life within us. It is as if we are just living before man instead of living before God, but as God’s people we need to remember that we have a hidden life.

In Psalm 91:1 it says, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High abides under the shadow of the Almighty.” We need to live in the secret place of the Most High. If we live in the secret place of the Most High, then we will abide under the shadow of the Almighty. This is the secret of our strength in this world. There is one thing that we really need to seek. We need to seek to live in the secret place of God. Daily we should have that abiding communion with the Father who is in heaven. The more we develop that secret life with the Lord, the more powerful we are able to live on this earth. It gives us the only strength that can live according to the will of God.

When our Lord Jesus came to this world, for thirty years He lived a hidden life. We do not know much about those thirty years, but what communion He had with His Father during those hidden years! How much He developed His life before God and men! After those thirty hidden years, when He came forth to the public, there was such power, such strength there.

We who are the sons of the kingdom of the heavens need to develop a hidden life with God. We need to seek His face and live a life that is face to face with God. That kind of hidden life will give us the power to live upon this earth.

THE DIMENSIONS OF LIFE

In Matthew 6 our Lord Jesus began with an exhortation: “Take heed not to do your righteousness before men to be seen of them. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens.” In Matthew 5 the Lord said, “Your righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the scribes and of the Pharisees.” Here He is still talking about righteousness, but with this righteousness He is dealing with the motive. The motive of our being right is for God and not for men. Then He uses three illustrations. First it is giving alms, and that is our relationship with the world. The second is prayer, and that is our relationship with God Himself. The third is fasting, and that is in relation to ourselves. In other words, you see the three dimensions of life for us who live on this earth. We are related to man, we are related to God, and we are related to ourselves.


Related To Man


How are we to live on this earth? How are we related to the world? The Lord said, “Give alms.” Giving alms is considered righteousness because our God is the great giver. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. And when God gave His Son to us, He gave everything to us. He who has given His own Son to us, will He not give us all things? So our God is a great giver. That is what God is.

As God’s people, God wants us to have that spirit of giving. Naturally, we are all receivers. We want to receive, receive, and receive. We are very stingy in giving because we are so self-centered. But as God’s own people, He wants us to have that spirit of giving. But what is the motive behind our giving? As a matter of fact, all that we can give is what He has given to us.

He wants us to give in such a way that we do it in secret, that we do it not for the sake of being seen by man whether we are helping people or giving to people. When the world gives, they want people to know about it, they want to proclaim it, and they will let everybody know about it. “What a generous giver that person is!” They want to have some kind of memorial. And the Lord says, “If you give in such a way, you already have your reward, and your reward is earthly. You will not receive reward in heaven.”

Therefore, when God’s people give, we need to do it in secret. Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Is it possible? Is it possible for you to give with your right hand and your left hand does not know it? Of course, literally it is impossible. But it is possible. It means that you do not dwell upon what you give. Do not be so self-conscious of what good you have done because you do it for the Lord and you do it unto the Lord. You do it by the grace of God. There is nothing you can boast about. You do not expect to be known by man, or for it to be broadcast, because you do it in secret. Your heavenly Father who is in secret sees it, and then He will reward you from above.

Our righteousness is not for man to see. We are not expecting people to praise us. Our righteousness is for God to see, and our Father who is in heaven will reward us. That is in relation to man.


Related To God


Then our Lord Jesus mentioned prayer. Prayer is also considered a righteousness. Now if all that we pray for is asking the Lord to give us this and give us that, do you think there is any righteousness in it? If our prayer is like this, we are praying like the nations, the Gentiles. But we who are the children of God have a heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us. He knows what we need. Before we ask He already knows what we need and is ready to give because He loves us so much.

How should we pray? The Pharisees and the scribes loved to pray in the synagogues. They did not pray in private; they liked to pray in public only. When they walked down the street and came to the corner of the street, where they could be seen by more people, they prayed long prayers. The Lord said, “They have their reward.” Their prayer does not reach heaven.

Our Lord told us a parable about two men who entered into the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and he went into the temple, up to the front and lifted his eyes. He said, “God, I thank You because I fast twice a week. I give one tenth of my income.” Then he looked at the publican who was behind him and he said, “I am not like that person, a sinful man.” That is the way he prayed.

Then the publican entered into the temple, way at the back. He dared not lift up his eyes. He beat his breast and said, “Oh God, have mercy upon a sinner.” The Lord Jesus said, “When they go home, the publican is more righteous.” The Pharisee was not praying; the Pharisee was reporting.

How easy it is for us to be like that! Often, our prayer is like reporting to God how good we are. Instead of being grateful to God, it is as if God needs to be grateful to us. And the Pharisees prayed long prayers. Yet in their lives, in their hidden lives, they did terrible things!

Thank God, we have a Father who loves us. We have a Father who cares for us, and before we even ask, He knows what we need. So the Lord said, “When you pray, enter into your closet, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is in heaven. And your Father who is in secret hears you.” Our prayer is for God to hear. Our prayer is to express our dependency upon Him. Our prayer is to show that without Him we can do nothing. Our prayer is a communion with our heavenly Father. And our prayer is that His will may be done in us as it is in heaven.

Again you find our Lord Jesus is teaching us in what we call the Lord’s prayer. Actually, it is the prayer the Lord teaches the church to pray. Of course, our Lord Jesus does pray that way, and He teaches us how to pray: “Our Father who art in heaven.” Prayer is based on relationship. We pray as children of God to our Father who is in heaven because there is a relationship. There is a confidence. There is a prayer with faith. It is not just babbling. We are praying with faith from within us because we know our Father. Even if we pray wrongly He will answer rightly. When we pray, we do not just pray for ourselves because prayer is a righteousness. We are doing something right before God.

Our Lord Jesus said that first of all pray: “Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, we should not be self-centered in our prayer. We should pray for God’s name, for His kingdom, and for His will. His name is honored in heaven but His name is not hallowed upon the earth, and we should have this burden. We should take the interest of God as our interest and pray that His name would be honored all over the earth. Of course, if we pray truthfully, we want His name to be honored in our own lives, that we will not bring shame to our God, that the name of God may be honored in us. When people look at us, when people are in contact with us, they can see God in our lives, and glorify God, and let His kingdom come. That is to say, we let the kingship of Christ be upon us. We put ourselves under His rule and let His will be done in us on earth as it is in heaven. This should be the way we pray.

Is this the way that we pray? Or is our prayer just for ourselves or for our families? How large is our scope of prayer? What is the priority in our prayer? If we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things shall be added unto us.

Then, after we have prayed for God’s interests, then we can pray for our needs. “Give us this day our daily bread.” It shows that we depend upon Him for our daily bread, not for the bread for tomorrow but for our daily bread.

Once I read a book on the sermons of Zinzendorf. When he preached on the Lord’s prayer, he feels, “Give us this day our daily bread” is our spiritual bread. It is not the natural bread but the supernatural bread to nourish our spirit. And surely we need that.

“Forgive us our debts as we forgive others.” This is the food for our soul. Our physical body needs bread, and for the welfare of our soul, we need to have forgiveness. So we ask the Lord to forgive our debts, to forgive our sins, but on the condition that we forgive others.

Today, we find a condition among many of God’s people: they have an unforgiving spirit. When our brothers and sisters sin against us or they owe debts to us, that is to say that they do something which is as a debt, we will not forgive. And because we have an unforgiving spirit, God will also not forgive us.

Before we believed in the Lord Jesus, when we repented and asked the Lord to forgive our sins, He forgave everything. His blood cleansed us from all our sins. But there is a difference after you become a child of God. If you want God to forgive your sins and your debts, there is a condition. God wants you to forgive others. If you do not forgive others their debts or their sins, God will not forgive your debts or your sins. This is the difference, and this is something we need to remember. We have to learn to forgive from our hearts. We who have been forgiven so much, how can we hold on to what our brothers and sisters owe us?

You remember the story of Peter. One day he came to the Lord and said, “Lord, if my brother sins against me seven times and I forgive him, do You think that is enough?” And the Lord said, “I do not say seven times; I say seven times seventy.” This is something we need to learn. If we forgive others, then our soul will be healthy.

“Lead us not into temptation, and deliver us from evil.” That is for our spirit that we will not enter into temptation, but rather be delivered from the evil one. So this is a prayer that the Lord teaches us to pray.

“Pray in secret” does not mean that we should not pray in public. Corporate prayer is very important. We need to have our private prayer in secret, but we also need to pray in public. But praying in public does not mean that we come out of our closet. We are tempted to do that because when we pray in public, probably we are very conscious of the people around us. And because we are conscious of their presence, unconsciously we try to pray in such a way that will be more beautiful to impress other people. If we do that we are like the scribes and Pharisees. Our righteousness does not surpass their righteousness. So even in public prayer, may the Lord deliver us from being conscious of people. In our spirit it is as if we are in the closet, and there we commune with our Lord. We pour forth our hearts before Him.


Related To Ourselves


Then our Lord Jesus tells us about our relationship to ourselves, and that is fasting. What is fasting? In the Scripture we are told that fasting is to afflict our soul. In other words, we have such a burden or we are faced with such a crisis that we deny ourselves to the extent of giving up our legitimate food so that we may concentrate on praying before the Lord. So it is an afflicting of our soul. It is between us and the Lord. It is not for people to see.

When the Pharisees fasted, they purposely put on an outward fashion, which told people that they were fasting. People would praise them and say how pious they were. The Lord said, “Don’t do that.” When you fast, wash your face and comb your hair because you are fasting before the Lord. And the Lord will see it in secret and answer your prayer. So this section is on a hidden life. We need to have a hidden life before the Lord. We live for God and our motive is pure. Our heart is in heaven.

A LIFE OF FAITH

Then the Lord began with the second part on this matter of the life of faith. Kingdom life is a life of faith. Oftentimes, we think only a very few chosen people should live a life of faith, but this is a misunderstanding. According to the word of God, every believer, every disciple of the Lord, every son of the kingdom is to live a life of faith. Why? God has already called us out of this world. He has translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. So far as the world is concerned, we who live in this world are strangers and sojourners. We are just passing through. We are aliens so far as the world is concerned.

Abraham sojourned in the land of promise and he lived in tents. In other words, he realized that he did not belong to this world, so he lived in tents. It was only temporary; he was just passing through. He was looking for that city with foundations, whose architect and constructor is God. Now this is a life of faith.

Every believer is to live a life of faith. We are not earth dwellers; we are heavenly people passing through this world. To live a life of faith is the only way for such people to live. So let us correct our concept. Oftentimes our concept is that a chosen few are living a life of faith by having no other business or occupation and are looking to God to supply their needs. But those who have their own occupation and are supplying their own needs do not need to live a life of faith. This is wrong. Every believer, every one of us is to live a life of faith because we are a heavenly people. Our heart is in heaven.

TREASURES

To live a life of faith begins with: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon the earth.” What is the treasure? In the original it is “treasures”—plural number, lots of treasures. Sometimes we think treasure is money, so we interpret this verse to say, “Do not lay up for yourselves your money on this earth because there are the moth, the rust, and the thieves.” But actually it is more than money. Treasures include everything that you love, everything that you depend on, everything that you trust in, everything that means life to you. It can be money, it can be fame, it can be position, or it can be people. Maybe your grandson is your treasure; he is your life. If we lay up our treasures for ourselves upon this earth, we will find our heart is where our treasure is. We will be bound by our treasures, and our heart will be on earth instead of being in heaven. So the emphasis is not the treasures; the emphasis is on the heart. God wants our heart.

In Proverbs it says, “My son, give Me your heart, and then you will delight in My ways.” Why is it that we do not delight in God’s ways? It is because our heart is somewhere else. If our heart is given to the Lord, then our eyes will delight in His ways. What the Lord really wants is our heart. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. It is for this reason that God commands us to lay our treasures in heaven. That is to say, we offer what we consider as treasures to God, just like Abraham, who offered his only son Isaac to God. That which was his treasure he was willing to offer to God. And because he did that, he looked for that city with foundation. He was not being tied down by anything on this earth.

When you hear this word, do you find it very difficult? “Ah, the Lord wants all my money. If I give up all my money, how can I live?” Don’t worry about that. This is not what the Lord is after. The Lord is trying to deliver you from anything that ties you down. The Lord wants you to give yourself totally to Him so that your heart is in heaven. Your heart is with God. That is what God is really after. What God will do with your treasures is up to Him.

You remember the rich young man. He came to the Lord with such sincerity: “Good Master, what can I do to inherit eternal life?”

The Lord looked at him. The Lord loved him and said to him, “Keep the commandments.”

“What commandments?”

“Honor your parents, and so on.”

The young man said, “I have kept them from my youth.” He kept the letter of the word, but he violated the spirit of it because he was very rich. His riches had captured his heart, and the Lord wanted to deliver him. So the Lord said, “Sell all that you have, give to the poor, and come follow Me.” He could not do that. By himself he could not do it.

Immediately following, there was another rich man—Zachaeus, the tax collector. He was an older man and probably richer than this young man. But when the grace of God came upon him, without being asked, he said, “I will give half to the poor. Whatever I have done wrong I will pay four fold.” That is grace.

So do not be afraid. Just give your all to the Lord. Lay it up in heaven. Then you are a steward. Do whatever the Lord wants you to do. You remember the story of C. T. Studd. He is one of the seven missionaries from Cambridge that went to China. He was a millionaire, but he was led by the Lord to give up everything he had. He went to China, later on to India, and finally to Africa. God greatly used him.

Another person that I know is Lady Ogle. When I met her, she was a millionaire, but she lived for God. She said, “All that is mine is the Lord’s. I am only a steward.”

Brothers and sisters, that is what we are. Whatever the Lord has given to us is His. It is up to Him to decide. But thank God, His grace is always sufficient. So do not try to lay up treasures for yourself upon this earth.

PRACTICAL ADVICE

I will give a few more practical words. Does it mean that you have to give everything to the Lord and not provide for your family? Certainly not! The Bible tells us very clearly that we should provide for our family. Does it mean that you cannot put aside something for your retirement? Certainly not! The Lord does not want you to depend upon people’s charity because that does not glorify God. Does it mean that I do not need to work anymore? Certainly not! If you do not work, you do not eat. That is what the Scriptures teach.

Remember, it is the heart. We are to be single of eye and not double minded. Our problem is that we are double minded. We love God and we love mammon. Mammon is wealth. It may be represented by money or other things, and we try to serve two masters. It is impossible. A man cannot serve two masters. You either love the one or hate the other. You either hold on to the one or let go of the other. The Lord makes it very clear to us. A man cannot serve two masters.

What are we going to do with mammon? Mammon should not be our master; it should be our servant. We should use the unrighteous mammon to prepare for our eternal life. That is the way it should be, and that will release us so that our heart may be in heaven.

SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM

Then it follows with verse 25: “For this cause I say unto you, do not be careful about your life, what ye should eat and what ye should drink; nor for your body what you should put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment?”

Why do we worry about eating, drinking, and raiment? It is because our heart, our treasures are not in heaven. The more you hold on to your treasures, the more you worry about what you eat, what you drink, and what you will be clothed with. There is no end to your anxiety. The more treasures you have laid up for yourself, the more worried you become. But if you lay your treasures up in heaven and your heart is with God, then you do not need to worry about what you eat, what you drink, and what you will be clothed with. Why? The Lord said, “Look at the birds.” This look is not just casting a glance. It is intense looking. Look how our heavenly Father takes care of the birds. How much more precious you are than these birds! Consider carefully the lilies of the valley. How beautiful, how glorious the Lord has clothed them! Then look at the glory of Solomon. It is here today; tomorrow it is thrown into the fire. God gave the lilies such clothing. How much more you are than the lilies! Do not be anxious about these things. Your heavenly Father knows it. When your heart is in heaven, then you know your heavenly Father knows everything. You can trust Him.

So the Lord said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Brothers and sisters, this is the way we should live. We should seek the kingdom of God. We should seek His righteousness. And if we do seek, all these things shall be added to us. If we do not seek the kingdom of the heavens and His righteousness, we have to seek all these things ourselves, and we will be anxious about them.

What is living in the kingdom of the heavens? What is the kingdom life like? The kingdom life within us is a life that lives in heaven even though our body is on earth. So may the Lord help us.

Let us pray:

Dear Lord, we want to thank Thee because Thy words are not law. Thy words are grace. We praise and thank Thee that Thou hast already given us that life, and that life is in us, and Thou art going to draw out that life, that it may glorify Thy name. Lord, we want to ask Thee that Thou will continue to teach us that we may really live out that life for Thy glory. We ask in Thy precious name. Amen.


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