As we dive into the Sermon on the Mount it will be helpful to ask and answer a very specific question: Do you believe what Jesus believed?1 Notice I am not asking if you believe in Jesus. I am asking a question to which I already know the answer – at least for most of you. And that answer is no.
How can I make such a judgmental declaration? I will answer that with Jesus’ answer:
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
We do not do what Jesus says to do. We do not live the way Jesus teaches us to live. Some of us will say we try, but at some point it just is too hard to carry out. But, “It is too hard,” would have no bearing on the matter if we truly trusted everything that came out of Jesus’ mouth.
In my previous two Putting Greens I have emphasized that Jesus’ entire Sermon on the Mount is about life in the Kingdom of God. So let’s start there, because Jesus had some starling things to say about the Kingdom. For instance, he said,
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46)
Do you see the common theme Jesus is teaching about the Kingdom? It seems the man and the merchant both saw something of extraordinary value, and extraordinary appeal, and realized with sudden clarity they wanted it above all else. “Too hard” was irrelevant. With this new clarity, everything they had previously thought valuable was immediately and soundly devalued in comparison to this new treasure.
Now, for them, the cost of giving something up paled in comparison to the benefit of what they would get in return. It’s not what they had to give up – these things no longer had a hold on them – it’s what they would receive in return.
Let’s Play “Let’s Make a Deal”
Years ago I was running on a treadmill with a TV on the wall in front of me showing “Let’s Make a Deal.” Three contestants were each handed $500 in cash. The host assured them behind Doors #1, #2 and #3 was at least one prize worth $10,000, and maybe behind multiple doors. One by one he asked if they would be willing to exchange their $500 cash for a chance at the prizes.
The first declined and kept the cash. Behind Door #1 was a $10,000 Audio/Visual room.
The second declined, and behind Door #2 was a $15,000 outdoor stone patio set with a stone fireplace.
By this time I’m thinking, “Roll the dice! It’s only $500. Let go of the cash and see what’s behind the next door. What have you got to lose?”
But the third declined. And behind Door #3 was a brand-new car.
Why would they hold onto the $500, with an opportunity for something so much better? Clearly the $500 meant a lot more to them than it would to me. I’m not rich, but come on, it’s only $500, and they did not even have it five minutes earlier.
Our host, Jesus, makes some startling promises about what he has to offer us, beyond the door, to Life in the flow of the Kingdom here, now. If we will only give up our “$500.”
He promises a full, abundant life. He promises freedom. He promises the Light of Life. He promises a banquet of living – a feast of life! – overflowing with the riches of the Kingdom.
But we don’t really believe him, do we? We don’t really trust him, apparently. We hold onto our “$500,” our ‘C’ life, afraid, or unwilling, to exchange it for what’s behind the Kingdom of God door. Why?
Well, the $500 is a known. Your particular “$500” may be an attitude, a habit, co-dependency, victim status, obsession, fixation, entrenched heart, or whatever. It may be control, or, “If I don’t, it won’t,” or, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” Or comfort, and the status quo. As you read this you know precisely what I am talking about – for you.
It has become comfortable, even if I know in my heart it is not healthy, or not the absolute best. But it is familiar. I’ve been living with it for so long; what would life be like if I gave it up? The man and the merchant are calling out to you, “Give it up! Let go. Surrender your $500 to Jesus and start to live, really live!”
But first you must determine if you trust Jesus, if you believe what Jesus believed.