I see the Sermon on the Mount as the manifesto of the ministry of Jesus. Not that Jesus is seeking to bring something new, but rather a resetting of God's intention.
(17)“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (18)For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."
The corruption of God's intention for relationship with man started in the Garden when Adam and Eve partook of the fruit, and it has not stopped since. It certainly did not stop with the advent of the Gospel. From the book of Acts on, much of the New Testament deals with correcting issues of corruption of the Gospel. It did not take long for the sinful ways of man to enter into the church. Even as early as the book of Acts, we see issues such as Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) and Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:18-24). In Corinthians we find sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1,2). In Galatians we have the preaching of a different gospel (Galatians 1:6). The list goes on.
Yet I get the feeling that many believe that finally, 2,000 plus years later, we finally have it figured out. Well, at least our denomination does.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Why these words? Or perhaps more importantly, what is being mourned? Who or what has died?
Romans 6:1,2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
Does the mourning that Jesus is speaking of here have anything to do with our own death? Not our physical death, but the death of our old self, the putting away of our past way of life and now walking in newness of life? Some might argue, why would we mourn the death of our old self? But I believe it is healthy to do that. We should see the destructive force of that old way of living, and all of the misery it caused both for ourselves and those we love, and work through the emotions that go with that that we might be set free from a return to that life. (Matthew 12:43-45)
Again, I am reminded of the 12 Steps of AA:
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
Do you see a mourning process here, because I do. First, we take an honest look at our past way of life. Then we admit where we were wrong and how it played out in our actions. We see the path and toll of destruction we have forged. Next, we lay that old self on the altar before God, closing the casket and sealing it up. If that isn't a reason to be mourning, what is? So now, being at rock bottom, gasping for breath, mourning over the death of our own past, we are finally ready to go to God and ask Him to bury that person. Step 7:
7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
You don't have to know the steps to go through the process. Maybe you didn't write out an inventory, or share it with another, but did you not see the destruction? Do you not see your need for a Savior?
Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to finding a treasure in a field. (Matthew 13:44) Once found, the man saw the value of the treasure, and sold all that he had to possess it. Did this man mourn over some of what he had to lose in order to gain that treasure? I would imagine he did. It is difficult for me to think about selling ALL I own to possess anything. All my tools? All my Legos? All my trinkets and family memories? I might do it, but I would definitely miss some of those things. That is what the man in the parable did, he sold ALL he had because he saw the greater value in possessing the treasure. He mourned the loss of his present possessions, but the value of what he would now possess is where he found comfort.
Jesus talks about dying to ourselves often. He tells us to pick up our cross and follow Him. Is this not an invitation to our own death? What more powerful image could He have chosen that to tell us to pick up our cross? Did some picture the times they had seen men on the side of the road who were on Roman crosses? This was not an uncommon sight. Jesus did this, I believe, knowing that He would have to perform this very act Himself! When you pick up your cross, it is only for one reason, to carry it to the place of your crucifixion. Think about that. Can you imagine the thoughts running through your head as you walk down the street toward the pain and suffering that you know lies ahead? Would you not be mourning your own death?
Jesus tells us to love everyone and pray for those who persecute us. Do you not have to die to yourself to perform such an act? Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" My thought is, how can you truly love even those who persecute you, and pray for them, if you have not first died to yourself that you might live for Christ? And why would you choose to do such a thing unless you see the beauty and value of who Christ is and what it is he offers?
Don't many preach a different gospel today? Have we not watered down and emasculated the gospel message when we say that salvation is simply a matter of belief (head knowledge) that Jesus is Lord, and that accepting His as Savior simply means praying a prayer or even being baptized in His name? If we have not recognized the death that we must die, and what the newness of life is that we must now live in, and mourned that death, if we have not laid aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, (Hebrews 12:1), if we have do not believe that there is no treasure greater than the salvation found only in Jesus, should we really call ourselves saved?