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Sermon on the Mount 1Connect with God
By Bill Hybels Kevin Harney Sherry Harney
ZondervanCopyright © 2002 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Beatitudes
Some time ago I had a chance to sit at a dinner table with an Indy race car driver. Through the meal I could not help but begin asking questions about what it is like to drive one of these powerful cars. I asked what it is like to drive over 250 mph down the backstretch of a raceway. What does it feel like to pass someone going 230 mph and to come within inches of their car or feel the buzz and smell the burn of tires on tires? What is it like to get loose in a turn going 190 mph? I just kept asking the questions and he kept giving me answers. He loved talking about it. You might say I sat there in wide-eyed wonderment during the course of that meal. I was taking in everything he said.
Some years ago I spoke with an astronaut. This guy had actually spent time on the moon! When we would sit down for meals together, I found myself amazed at what this man had experienced. It was so strange and foreign to me that I just took in every word he said. I asked him about what it felt like to be weightless. What did the earth look like when you were standing on the moon? Did you ever get sick of Tang? I sat in wide-eyed wonderment in this situation as well.
Do you know what wide-eyed wonderment is? It is when you are thoroughly fascinated with the subject matter and you can't seem to take it all in. This happens when you begin to hear about something so new, so strange, or so foreign to your life-experience that you are staggered by what you hear. I believe this is what the crowd must have felt when Jesus sat on the mountainside and taught about His kingdom. It was all so new, so powerful, and so fresh that they must have been in complete wide-eyed wonderment.
Making the Connection
1. Describe a situation in which you found yourself in wide-eyed wonderment.
Tell about a spiritual experience that left you in wide-eyed wonderment.
Knowing and Being Known
Read Matthew 5:1-12
2. Which of these words of blessing (beatitudes) speaks to our relationship with God and which ones speak to our relationship with each other?
How do some of these beatitudes speak to both our relationship with God and each other?
3. Each of the beatitudes has two parts: part one begins, "Blessed are ..." and part two begins "for they ..." The second part of each of these beatitudes grows out of the first part. Some of the beatitudes seem to make sense and fit into our worldview; others do not. Identify one of the beatitudes that makes sense to you (in other words, one in which you think that part two grows naturally out of part one). Explain what you believe Jesus is communicating in this beatitude and why it makes sense to you.
4. Some of the beatitudes seem almost backwards. Identify one of the beatitudes that does not seem to make sense (in other words, part two does not seem to grow naturally out of part one). What do you think Jesus is trying to communicate through this seemingly backward statement?
5. Like the scribes and Pharisees of the first century, we can be tempted to think we are "rich in spirit." What are some signals or signs that spiritual pride is creeping in and that a person is beginning to believe he or she is rich in spirit?
Why is this such a dangerous heart condition?
6. Describe a time when you were deeply struck by your poverty of spirit.
How did this reality draw you closer to the heart of God?
Read 2 Corinthians 5:21 and 1 John 4:9-10
7. What is the role of God the Father in imputed righteousness?
What is the role of God the Son in this process?
8. What spiritual realities or life experiences have caused you to hunger and thirst for God's righteousness?
What can we do as followers of Christ to deepen our hunger for the things of God?
Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit
The scribes and Pharisees in the crowd that day were wealthy in spiritual knowledge and piety, and downright affluent in spiritual activities. They were raising the spiritual bar higher and higher and were certain they could leap over it in a single bound! They did not need anything from Jesus. They had manufactured enough righteousness in their own human willpower that they could say, "We don't need what you are talking about. We are rich in spirit."
There was another group in the crowd that day. These were the poor in spirit. This group knew they were not members of the spiritual honor society. They knew they were not setting righteousness records. They would freely admit that they were not impressive spiritually, morally, or ethically. In fact, people in that group hung their heads low because they knew their spiritual net worth was downright scandalous.
Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness
There is a miraculous transfer at the heart of biblical Christianity. Theologians call it "imputed righteousness." This spiritual reality sets Christianity apart from every other religion in the world.
In every other religious system, a person finds righteousness through following a set of religious rules and regulations. The more you follow the rules, the more righteousness you find. In Christianity, we experience imputed righteousness. It is given to us by God, not earned. When we realize that we have insufficient righteousness in our heart and life and come to the point where we know we will never measure up or achieve God's standard of perfect righteousness, we have taken the first step. At this point we begin to hunger and thirst for the righteousness we can never find on our own. Finally, we look heavenward and cry, "I want to be in a right relationship with You, God, but I know there is no way I can do it! Help me, God!"
In that moment, God hears our cry and orders the transfer of the righteousness of Jesus Christ to our account. We are made righteous because of Christ, not by anything we have done. His righteousness is imputed to us, and on that final day, when we stand before the Father, we will be seen as perfectly righteous because of what God has done for us through His Son, Jesus.
Excerpted from Sermon on the Mount 1 by Bill Hybels Kevin Harney Sherry Harney Copyright © 2002 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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