In the last program we looked at the fact that usually when we think of sin, we think of a bad action, which is correct, but it’s only half correct because the action comes about because of the condition of the sinful nature of man and we get to thank our first parents, Adam and Eve for that. Because we’re their descendants, they’ve passed their sinful natures on to us.
We also learned that in both the Greek and Hebrew meanings of the word sin, it means to miss the mark and we see this really clearly through the teaching of Paul to the Roman church.
Romans 3:23, ‘All have sinned and fall short (miss the mark) of the glory of God.’
The New Covenant that God promised to write on the hearts of His people (Jer 31:31) comes through the Messiah – Jesus and when He gave His famous Sermon on the Mount He dealt well and truly with the sinful condition of the heart. He wanted to do more than just deal with the symptoms of the sinful nature and deal with the sinful nature itself.
He begins in Matthew 5 and doesn’t finish until the end of Matthew 7. Within these three chapters Jesus goes into great detail about what He expects from those who love and follow Him, from those who long to obey the Lord and we often talk about how ‘nice’ and ‘peaceful’ and ‘loving’ the Sermon on the Mount is, but in actual fact, the Sermon on the Mount is vastly more difficult to live out than the Law of Moses.
The reason I say that is because the Law of Moses was really a system or do’s and don’ts regarding actions, but the Sermon on the Mount was a direct attack on the heart and attitudes of human beings. That’s why the first verses are called the ‘beatitudes’.
Jesus touched on some very big issues that are just as big and challenging today as they were 2000 years ago.
Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus talks about the sanctity of the Law, it’s importance, His fulfillment of it and that we’re to have a righteousness that even exceeds that of the Pharisees….a big ask considering how fastidious they were for obeying the letter of the Law.
What about this…Matthew 5:21-22, “You’ve heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says ‘You fool’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”
WOW! That’s not talking about an action, that’s talking about the attitude of the heart…the condition of sin inside a person.
What about this…Matthew 5:27-28, ‘You’ve heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’, but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Again…WOW! Now the thought is just as wicked as the action!
What about this…Matthew 5:43-48, ‘You’ve heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing that others? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Jesus expects us to be as perfect as God the Father. That’s not very nice because it’s an expectation we can’t possibly meet. God has a perfect nature and character and we have a sinful nature and character…thank you Adam and Eve!
Read right through the Sermon on the Mount, to the end of Matthew 7 and you discover more of these impossible standards and expectations and if you’re a fair and reasonable person you understand that Jesus wasn’t making life easier for us, He was making our lives so much more difficult and impossible. You want to slink away and say, “God, I want to be perfect like you but I just can’t…I don’t have it in me to be what You want me to be.”
We miss the mark not by a little bit, we miss the mark of God’s perfection and glory by the vastness of the universe. Even if we only missed the perfection of God by the smallest of margins…we’d still have missed it. Where’s the hope in that?
Jesus brings incredible clarity to our understanding of the difference between sin the action and sin the condition.
Again, we sin because we’re sinners, we don’t become a sinner after we sin. It’s already in us.
I mentioned earlier that the Mosaic Law required that we not hurt our neighbour, but according to the standards expressed by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, seeing our neighbour in trouble and not helping him is a sin! Can you see the difference?
Of course, Jesus wanted His listeners and followers to understand the predicament they were in, He wanted them to understand that they were in fact without hope, that they would never measure up to God’s standard of perfection and that they had all missed the mark of God’s perfecting. And that’s why He came. Once they understood that they would never measure up, He could offer them the redemption they so desperately needed.
He would go on to die in their place for their sin, paying the penalty for the rebelling and sin, setting them free from their past sins, but crushing the power of sin within them so that they would no longer be ruled by sin, the slave driver that held them captive.
That’s the power of the Gospel.
Jesus blood and substitutionary atoning sacrifice paid for sin and broke the power of death, hell and the grave.
We now are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who empowers and enables us to overcome the sinful condition, day by day, a process that will be ongoing until this life is over. He also enables and empowers us to not act on our sinful condition.
The Sermon on the Mount that on first reading appears to leave us in a hopeless state, does in fact drive us to the cross where we find redemption and salvation and through Christ and His perfection, ultimately hit the mark, instead of missing it for all eternity.
1 John 1:9, ‘If we confess our sin, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’