September 2, 2012 Back To Basics #276
1st lesson this month on the topic: What It Means To Follow Jesus
What this lesson is about: Today’s lesson is about the foundational qualities that should
characterize Christian disciples’ lives.
How this lesson can impact your life: Understand the kind of person Jesus calls you to
be as His follower and commit to being that kind of person.
Our lesson outline today covers 3 topics:
1. “Your Inner Attitude” Matthew 5: 1-6; When we become followers of Christ, He
begins to grow His own character within us. Our following Jesus expresses inward
aspirations and attitudes of humility, repentance, gentleness, and righteousness.
2. “Your Outward Relationships” Matthew 5: 7-12; Our following Jesus leads us to
relate to others with mercy and purity of heart. Our following Jesus includes serving as
peacemakers and remaining faithful under persecution.
3. “Your Worldwide Influence” Matthew 5: 13-16; Our following Jesus draws us into
influential relationships with people who need Christ. Our following Jesus is a means
God uses to bring the light of salvation to darkened hearts.
The biggest room I have is the room for improvement.
There is a story about a man who left his hotel one night to walk to a nearby
A passing car hit a puddle and splashed him, but he thought little damage was
With each step he took toward the streetlight on the corner he could see more and
more clearly just how messed up his was.
The Sermon on the Mount is that streetlight for each of us.
The Lord’s sermon is not intended to discourage us.
But rather to show us what following Jesus really means.
It serves as a spiritual compass to keep us growing and moving in the direction He
wants us to go.
Because the Lord seeks to lead each believer, we rightly can draw two
We are on the way, and
We have not yet arrived.
In other words, we are saved by grace through faith in Christ; and we also are in
the process of becoming what He wants us to be.
Our 1st Scripture text is found in Matthew 5: 1-6 (Your Inner Attitude):
HCSB 1When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came
to Him. 2 Then He began to teach them, saying: 3“The poor in spirit are blessed,
for the kingdom of
heaven is theirs. 4Those who mourn are blessed,
for they will be comforted. 5The gentle are blessed,
for they will inherit the earth. 6Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed,
for they will
Matthew 4: 23-24 sets the stage for the Sermon on the Mount.
People from all over Galilee and surrounding areas flocked to see and hear Jesus
and to seek healing.
One day, “when He saw the crowds,” He went up on a nearby mountain v1.
Teachers of that day customarily spoke from a seated position.
Jesus sat down with His disciples gathered around Him and “began to teach them”
Jesus declared people who exhibit particular characteristics to be divinely blessed.
Note that the Beatitudes do not describe eight separate and distinct groups of
But eight characteristics or qualities that define one group-those who have begun
to follow the Lord.
Blessedness or happiness
The first four Beatitudes reflect inner attitudes.
The first of which is “poor in spirit v3. (#1)
Poor in spirit is opposite the attitude of being arrogantly and proudly self-
sufficient, a trait prized and admired by the world today.
It signifies we are unable to earn God’s blessing.
People who think they can please God on their own are blind to their sins and
ignorant of God’s high standards.
“Those who mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted” v4. (#2)
Jesus did not specify what sort of mourning He had in mind, so it could include
In the context of the other Beatitudes, mourning over our sins of commission and
omission probably should receive emphasis.
When we honestly repent of our lapses into sin, we are comforted anew with the
assurance our sins all have been atoned in Christ.
The next Beatitude is gentleness (#3).
The word translated “gentle” conveys the notion of being meek, humble,
sensitive, considerate, and courteous v5.
Gentleness puts the focus on others rather than self.
This inner attitude stems from a spiritually educated awareness of our own
#4 is a “hunger and thirst for righteousness v6.
This righteousness is not the righteousness of Christ through which God views us
Rather this is the inner desire to make right choices, say right words, and do right
actions, which is part of God’s work to make us more like Christ.
We who seek to follow Christ know we don’t measure up to His standards, but we
want to do so.
Though we grow in right living, in this life we will never be absolutely righteous.
So in what sense are we called blessed as we long for righteousness?
We have the sure hope that we will be filled with righteousness v6.
The process has begun, and our limited progress brings encouragement.
That process won’t be completed until Christ’s second coming (1John 3:2).
Until then, may He find us faithful!
Our 2nd Scripture text is found in Matthew 5: 7-12 (Your Outward Relationship):
HCSB 7 The merciful are blessed,
for they will be shown mercy. 8 The pure in heart are blessed,
they will see God. 9The peacemakers are blessed,
for they will be called sons of God. 10Those who are
persecuted for righteousness are blessed,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. 11 “You are blessed when
they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. 12 Be glad and
rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were
While the first four Beatitudes focus on inward attitudes, the last four concern outward
#5 being merciful involves forgiving, but it also includes a loving response to the
miserable and helpless v7.
As God’s children we have received mercy, and this equips us to extend mercy.
Merciful actions may involve money, helpful words, practical deeds, or simply
Believers’ mercies have included providing forgiveness for my impatience or
failures, transportation in a pinch, meals during family illnesses, encouraging
letters, caring phone calls, emails, and more.
The merciful will be shown mercy v7
Our acts of mercy don’t earn for us mercy from God or anyone else.
Showing mercy demonstrates we have received God’s mercy.
The more we give, the more we have to give.
God’s mercy flows through those whose habit is to offer a helping, consoling, or
#6 Jesus then described as blessed those who are pure in heart v8.
The Pharisees were scrupulous about performing washing rituals that made them
Jesus stripped away their pretense, saying that they were as beautiful tombs on the
outside but filled with impurities within (23:27).
Heart indicates the core of our being-our thoughts, our feelings, our intentions,
our values, our longings.
The word pure describes those whose hearts are cleansed by Christ and
empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Such hearts lead us away from acting with any kind of deceit, meanness, or selfish
#7 peacemakers are blessed, for they will be called sons of God v9.
“Sons of God” is a way of saying “like father, like son.”
God is the supreme Peacemaker, making peace between sinners and Himself
Churches’ outreach efforts are good avenues for all believers to act as
Many believers at times may act more as troublemakers than peacemakers.
Strained and broken relationships are common in our homes, our churches, and
Look around you. Could God use you as a peacemaker in a particular situation?
Remember the price Jesus paid to provide our peace with God and trust Him to
The final Beatitude seems contradictory.
Mixing persecution and blessing seems like mixing oil and water.
Perhaps this is the reason Jesus added comments in verses 11-12.
He shifted to the second person, you, apparently addressing His chosen disciples.
#8 Notice first that the persecution is “for righteousness” v10.
And in verse 11 Jesus defined that as “because of Me.”
People who willfully reject Christ are prone to reject those who live for Christ.
This can include insults, false accusation, and slanderous gossip.
In what sense are persecuted Christians blessed?
They are citizens of His kingdom.
Jesus never encouraged His followers to hide their faith in Him when facing
But rather to “be glad and rejoice” v12.
He added that their heavenly reward would be great v12.
He placed persecuted believers in the same category as God’s persecuted prophets
In the world’s eyes, they were zeros; in God’s eyes, they are heroes.
Let’s recall that Jesus wasn’t giving us a list of qualities toward which we are to
strive in order to be blessed.
He was saying we are blessed because these qualities, though at various stages of
development; demonstrated that we are His followers.
Let us consciously follow Him throughout our daily lives and allow Him to make
these qualities in us increasingly evident.
Our last Scripture text is found in Matthew 5: 13-16 (Your Worldwide Influence):
HCSB 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s
no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. 14 “You are the light of the
world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but
rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light
shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Jesus stressed believers’ influence in the world by declaring “You are the salt of the
Salt has several uses, but the most prominent are to preserve and to flavor.
Believers are to act as checks on the world’s corruption.
We cannot impact worldly people by avoiding them.
We need to be the most upright, friendly, available, thoughtful, considerate, and
helpful people on the block, on the job, or on the team.
Our saltiness can help check bad behavior and also can make others thirsty for
Since Jesus truly is “the light of the world” (John 9:5);
Our being “the light of the world” is true in the sense we reflect His life imparted
to us by the indwelling Holy Spirit (Matt. 5:14).
We believers are to be open and obvious Christians in all ordinary activities,
shining the light of God’s truth in a spiritually darkened world.
The word for good in “good works” means both good and attractive v16.
Such deeds are carried out in a way that is admirable, and reflect the quality of
They are not intended to draw the spotlight to us but to God.
In other words, Jesus doesn’t want us to be spiritual show-offs.
He wants us to live and serve in ways through which God can show Himself.
This often requires a verbal witness or testimony from us.
The beginning of the Sermon on the Mount focuses on the basics of what it means to
Let the Beatitudes encourage you to live out what God has put into you as His
Also remember that following Jesus doesn’t lead us to seclusion but to
involvement with people who need Him.
What are some “baskets” we allow to cover the light of Christ in our lives?
How do we keep pride from sneaking up on us as people notice our good deeds?
Shining in the Darkness
In the beginning when God created light, He called it “good.” When the plague of
darkness covered Egypt for three days, there was light where the Israelites lived (Ex.
10:21-23). As God led Israel on its march to freedom from Egyptian slavery, He did so
with a pillar of fire by night, providing both illumination and protection for His people
(Ex. 13:21). When Moses came down from God’s presence on Mt. Sinai, his face was so
radiant with God’s glory that the Israelites were afraid to look at him (Ex. 34: 29-35.
God likes light. God is light (1John 1:5).
When Jesus says we are the light of the world, He is saying we must reflect the divine
glory and let the world see that we have been with Jesus. Most of us have seen
composite photographs taken from space showing what the world looks like at night.
The darkness of the oceans and the great landmasses are interrupted by the brilliant light
of the cities of the world. As our world becomes darker morally and spiritually,
Christians will become increasingly like those cities shining in the darkness in the photos;
they cannot be hidden!
May that light be beautiful, delightful, and excellent.
Lord may we all be empowered and led by the Holy Spirit to develop these basic qualities
of the Christian life.
Do Your holy work within us that we may do the kind of things that point others to You
and bring You glory.