The Sermon on the Mount pattern I see:
Visible part = Growth cycle:
- outline via beatitudes Mt 5:3-10
- description of maturing Mt 5:11-48
- disciplines for maturing Mt 6:1-24
Invisible part = Rootedness:
- Physical needs? [Mt 6:25-34] “Root yourself in God as the reality from which physical desires come, and the hope of appropriately pursuing fulfillment of those desires.
- Relational needs? [Mt 7:1-12] “Fixing others, negatively or positively, is not going to help us grow up. We need to be rooted in relating through active empathy.
- Spiritual needs? [Mt 7:13-27] “Easy drifting, dependency or imitating make us vulnerable to the tests of reality. Actually, and actively, building on Jesus is wise.
Jesus says the blessed life is the mature life. He says that we need to treasure wisely, reject what does not lead to what is treasured, pursue what does lead to what is treasured and then actually live out the treasure. This is a cycle that never ceases. The more we grow, the more wisely we should be able to evaluate what is to be treasured. The more we grow the more we see opportunity for growth, and the more intentional we become to pursue that growth.
The “growth” is described as being “teleios” like our Father. The heavenly father is the source of all virtue, goodness, meaning and hope. Growing up in God means extending what is “potential” into what actually “is”.
The “rootedness” is a single message in three spheres. The constant struggle is to see God as actual and relevant to our pressing issues.
“Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6
In the primary colors of human needs (physical, relational, spiritual) combine to express every challenge and opportunity. The need is to go deep in our convictions that God really is essential to the equations, both problems and solutions. Anxieties about stuff, presumption in relating to others, pretense in looking like we are spiritually fine, are contrasted with digging deep toward God’s wisdom so as to address concerns more wisely and effectively.
Spirit as Will
This intentional aspect, of actually choosing how to perceive problems, much less to follow through consistently, is THE biggest problem in living well. Jesus concludes his talk by saying as much.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. … But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”
To “act” is to make use of something very mysterious: our will, or spirit. This is the essence of life that matters most. In “Consciousness & the Brain: John Searle at TEDxCERN” the intersection of the spiritual and the practical is stated crudely:
Our spirituality is our will; the thing-a-ma-jig that can direct the body, chemicals, etc… to act.
What is often confusing for evangelicals is figuring out when it is ok for Jesus to say we should actually “do” something. Evangelicals self-identify as people who focus on the good news of salvation by grace through faith, not by works. In the struggle to distinguish a religious tradition that does not lead to legalism, or self-righteousness, a muddled message of passivity can undermine practical progress.
But Jesus sums up his most foundational message with a call to action. He is quite adamant that our well being, temporal and ultimate, is linked to taking in information, evaluating it, and then activating it. Is that what we tell ourselves? Do we connect our ideas and actions, particularly as they relate to meaning and hope?
So what should our hope be? We hear Jesus’ sermon on the mount saying that a”blessed” is possible. This life involves growing in “righteousness”. Righteousness Jesus is referring to corresponds to who God is, and what it means to be made in his image. Developing, growing, perfecting, actualizing that righteousness is something we need to treasure and then discipline myself to pursue. The wrong audience would be social, as if that opinions of others were the issue to be resolved. The right audience is God and the provision and guidance he gives for living in this world. Deeper and deeper we can trust him for our needs. The more we actively do this, the more we intentionally link what we value and what we pursue to who he is, what he provides and how he guides, the more confidence we can have in the lasting value of our lives.
When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes. – Matthew 7:28,29
blessed = “ahhh”; makarios (Greek); well off; happy; the way things ought to be…
righteous = not wrongish; virtuous; as intended
perfect = mature; complete; grow up; teleios (Greek)