What does the ‘good life’ look like for you? I’m not just talking about the end of COVID and the related restrictions. I’m talking about the ideal life that you visualise for yourself; what you think about when you’ve got nothing else capturing your attention. Maybe it’s the achievement of career goals, harmony in certain relationships, financial freedom, meaningful accomplishments, enjoyable travel experiences, and so on.
Jesus taught about the good life. But for him, living the good life is not about career achievements or lifestyle management. He gave a beautiful picture of what it looked like to follow him. It’s called the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7. From this week until Easter, we’re going to study it in our Sunday services.
This sermon is arguably the most famous speech ever given in human history. It contains sayings that have seeped their way into common language: “salt of the earth”, “log in the eye”, and “judge not or you will be judged”. It’s teaching has informed the ethics of entire cultures.
John Stott said the Sermon on the Mount is probably the best known part of the teaching of Jesus, though arguably it is the least understood, and certainly it is the least obeyed.
As you look at this sermon more closely, you may find that it confronts you and confounds your expectations. More than giving us a checklist of moral conduct, it asks us to do the seemingly impossible. Jesus says things like, if we’re angry with someone, you’ll be subject to judgement; if your eye causes us to lust, gouge it out; you must love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Jesus asks us to live a life, a good life, that seems to exceed the capabilities of even the best people. He isn’t just concerned with outward righteousness, but inward righteousness; right behaviour and right character. In his kingdom there should be no complacency, no-one asking, “How close can I get to sin without sinning?” In his kingdom, motive matters as much as action.
The Sermon describes a righteousness that’s only possible by means of a changed heart. As one author puts it, “The Sermon shows us what life should look like for a heart that has been melted and transformed by the gospel of grace, while also making clear the true nature of God’s standards of righteousness—high standards which mean that our right standing with God is ultimately dependent on the grace of the One who tells us of them.”
As we study the Sermon over the next few months you’ll be challenged to think differently about Jesus, what it looks like to follow him, and what our lives should look like. It’s a radical call to live not just a good life, but the best life for him.