Memory Verse: Matthew 5:14
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid (KJV).
The kingdom of God stands in stark contrast to the kingdom of man.
The Lesson Outline
1. Unusual Blessings
A. Blessings from God
B. Immeasurable Reward
2. Called to Make a Difference
A. Preserving Agents
B. Active Lights
3. Do Right for Right Reasons
A. Don’t Give to Be Seen
B. True Prayer
At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
1. Examine Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and compare His standard for living with their personal values and actions.
2. Recognise the need to move beyond passive commitment to their faith and embrace a proactive approach to faith that includes engaging others with the gospel.
3. Commit to daily intercession in prayer and respond to the Holy Spirit’s direction in proclaiming truth and serving those in need.
Introducing the Lesson
As we have seen over the past two lessons, becoming Christ’s disciples calls for complete surrender of ourselves to Him and a commitment to follow Him. It is a total change, not only of how we view life, but how we live. It is, in a sense, *”upside-down living.”* Jesus’ teaching helps us see that God’s plan permeates our lives, touching everything that we say or do. Discipleship is transformational, and it impacts every area of life.
The Holy Scriptures
And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Commentary and Application
1. Unusual Blessings
*A. Blessings from God–Matthew 5:1-9
Jesus’ teachings in “The Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) were very different from what His audience was used to hearing. Yet He wasn’t just teaching verbal puzzles. He wanted the crowd to shift their thinking about how to live.
The fundamental principle Jesus repeated was the direct, personal role that God plays in the lives of His children. In verses 1 and 2, Jesus did not directly address God as our Heavenly Father, but His later summary, “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect” (verse 48, NLT), makes that relationship clear.
The idea of blessing is what gives the opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount the traditional title, “The Beatitudes” (verses 3-10). However, such blessing goes beyond emotional happiness and goes beyond the concept of reward that comes to mind when we consider being blessed by God. When God blesses us, He brings to fruition His plan for us. True happiness and blessedness arrive as we live each day to the fullest under the guiding hand of our Creator and Heavenly Father.
But there is another side to each statement. Jesus directly connected some of life’s most difficult experiences with the blessing, happiness, and purpose His Father gives. He did so redemptively, taking things like poverty, sorrow, humility, hunger and thirst, and shaping them into expressions of yearning for communion with God.
Whether or not a person is penniless, if they open their eyes to their spiritually impoverished state without God and then turn to Him, He will begin to build His kingdom within them. Similarly, sorrow and mourning bring God’s intimate comfort, humility leads to immeasurable inheritance, and hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness bring complete fulfilment and satisfaction.
Jesus then began to shift from attitudes toward action. The call to mercy speaks to relationships, and pure hearts address our motives. In addition, we are to work for peace in a world riddled with conflict. In each case, God responds with equally concrete benefits.
Questions for Application
How have you discovered the effectiveness of one or more of these principles?
Why is it necessary to seek God’s enabling power to live out each point?
B. Immeasurable Reward–Matthew 5:10-12
In Matthew 5:10, Jesus was not saying that His followers should expect only conflict and persecution. Scripture describes the godly man or Woman who faithfully lives out God’s truth as prosperous relationally and even materially, though not to the extreme degree some popular teachers have claimed. For example, Proverbs 16:7 says, “When people’s lives please the LORD, even their enemies are at peace with them” (NLT), Or consider Proverbs 21:5: “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty (NLT).
Jesus used the concept of persecution to drive home a truth fundamental to everything else He was saying: This world and unredeemed humanity are fallen, and will eventually pass away. Those who will accept the gospel and be redeemed will find themselves living within a world system deeply influenced by Satan and in total opposition to Christ. Resistance and rejection, then, are a natural by product of this opposition.
Amid whatever trials the believer might face, however, God is present. Note that Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:10-12 are in the present tense. In the midst of persecution, God is present and blessing. Even as mocking, persecution, and slander come against the Christ-follower, God is present and blessing. Jesus said this of His faithful ones: “For the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (verse 10. NLT), Rather than a response of gloom or despair, He called for believers to respond with happiness and joy as they look ahead to heaven’s immeasurable reward.
Questions for Application
What negative reactions to your faith in Čhrist have been difficult to endure?
How can we encourage and support fellow Christians facing persecution ?*2. Called to Make a Difference
A. Preserving Agents– Matthew 5:13
Salt in the ancient world was hard to come by. It was even used as currency. Greeks bought slaves with salt, and the expression “not worth his salt” comes from that unfortunate practice. Roman legions were sometimes paid in salarium, sal being the Latin word for salt, from which we get “salary.” Salt was primarily a preservative. In an age without refrigeration, this function was far more valuable than flavour
For alI these reasons, salt provided a powerful picture of how Christ’s followers were to live among the people around them. They were truly precious agents of change in a fallen and debased culture. They were to bring about restoration and preservation, influencing the lost to turn to God.
The salt of Jesus’ day wås the pure crystals commonly found or today’s tables. Because of impurities, a salty compound could lose its saltiness if the actual salt leached out and left only the residue. As illustrated by the “unsalty” salt Jesus mentioned, His followers could fail in their mission, proving to be ineffective in their service to the Kingdom. Jesus’ audience may have envisioned the salt dregs that were scattered on the earthen roofs of houses to further harden the material and prevent leaks. Roofs at that time were built to be stood on, so the salt was trampled underfoot. This is a compelling picture of believers who fail to bring positive change to a culture and are simply overwhelmed.
The description “the salt of the earth” is still applied in everyday usage to people perceived as upstanding and honest. Yet this popular understanding is the barest hint of what Jesus intended for His followers. We are to be far more than perceived as truthful; we are to be His agents for pointing people to the ultimate Truth.
Questions for Application
What opportunities can you identify to be a preserving and restoring influence on those around you, at home, on your job, or in your community?
What situations might render a follower of Christ “unsalty””?
B. Active Lights– Matthew 5:14-16
Too often, when Christians speak of letting their light shine, it is a passive expression. As if just going about one’s daily routine without falling into any obvious sin is all that Jesus meant by this command in Matthew 5:14-16. When applied this way, much of the personal responsibility Jesus connected with this teaching is ignored. Indeed, Jesus began the illustration with ways that light is observed. A city on a hill and an uncovered lamp are, in fact, seen. But if that was as far as His statement went, then He would have been only describing light’s appearance.
But Jesus Connected the believer’s light with action (verse 16). It is good deeds that do the actual shining for all to see. And these are not merely personal activities. They are actions that have an effect on others, to the point that people respond with praise to God. This reference to praising God is important on two levels. First, it includes the idea that Christ- followers are witnesses to a lost world through those actions that genuinely affect the lives of the lost and invite them into a redemptive encounter with the Heavenly Father.
Second, it shows that any praise for good deeds rightfully belongs to God rather than to any person. Jesus never taught a “gospel of works.”
We can never earn our salvation through good deeds. However, we demonstrate the reality of what Christ has accomplished in us by good works.
Questions for Application
How did someone else’s “light” influence you to accept Christ?
What steps can you take to shine more effectively to lost people around you?
3. Do Right for Right Reasons*
A. Don’t Give to Be Seen– Matthew 6:1-4
As Jesus continued teaching the crowds, He focused on a subject very close to the heart of everyone in the audience–their motivation (Matthew 6:1). Fallen human beings are by nature supremely selfish. Even something done for the benefit of someone else, if not motivated by the Holy Spirit, can become an exercise in ego-building (verses 24).
In Matthew 6, Jesus focused on three righteous acts common in Jewish culture: giving to the poor (verses 2-4), prayer (verses 5-14), and fasting (verses 16-18). He gave the same counsel regarding each. Believers are to shun public praise. If they seek such praise, the accolades they receive will be their only reward. But if they direct their actions toward God, they will enjoy a far more substantial reward. This is consistent with other statements in the Sermon on the Mount about momentary, decaying material life and the eternal and ever- new life God has in store for His children (cf..verses 19-20). One who seeks human praise for a good deed misses out on what God would do in and for them.
This point should not be Stretched out of proportion to Jesus’ intentions, The Christian does not have to live in fear that a struggle to adopt proper motives will cast aside all potential blessing from God. But selfish motives themselves will not be blessed by God, and actions based solely on ego contradict God’s desire that a believer act in humble dedication to Him.
Questions for Application
In light of Jesus’ teaching, how should things like plaques and certificates of recognition in church culture be viewed?
How can the believer balance a desire for a godly public reputation with humble commitment to pleasing the Heavenly Father?
B. True Prayer– Matthew 6:5-8
Before Jesus gave the sample prayer, traditionally known as “The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), He explained briefly some basic principles of prayer that should be applied to all prayer, especially intercessory prayer. While the Lord’s Prayer succinctly shows us what should be included in prayer, Jesus first identified what should be
The first exclusion is any form of self-focus. Jesus singled out those who prayed hypocritically just so they could be seen and admired (verse 5). But there are hypocritical prayers that today’s believer can fall into as well. We must guard against our prayers treating God as if He Owes us a blessing or can be controlled and told what to do in the
guise of quoting a scriptural promise.
Jesus called on His followers to pray privately (verse 6). More than a call to pray in isolation, this is a call for intimacy. The believer who dedicates time to private prayer will grow in relationship to the Heavenly Father. Such prayers make the needed transition from superficial wish lists to substantive worship and intercession. The second key exclusion in effective prayer is mindless repetition (verse 7).
Jesus was not prohibiting a repeated request. His parable about the widow and the unjust judge highlights the widow’s persistence and connects it with persistent prayer (see Luke 18:1-8). Here, Jesus directly referenced repetitious prayer offered like the prayers of pagans. In many false religions, repetitious prayer is a formula to control an idol or false god. So, again, this focuses on how we view God in our prayers.
Both the call for private prayer and the call for focused prayer rely on faith, When the Christian seeks a deeper relationship with God, and that relationship drives his or her prayer life, a wonderful reality becomes ever more clear. Our Heavenly Father sees that our every need is receiving His full attention.
Questions for Application
How can we apply the principles of the “prayer closet” during group prayer time?
Since God already knows our needs, why do we pray?
Call to Discipleship
In the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus calls us to total discipleship. We must trust the Holy Spirit to bring to life in us all that the Saviour taught and lived. As we become disciples, we will encounter resistance from our culture, and perhaps even our closest friends and family. But our obedience will serve as salt and light to point lost people to eternal life.
Ministry in Action
With the help of the Holy Spirit, address where your life fails to reflect Jesus’ teachings.
Consider whether or not you are living out your faith as salt and light.
Seek the help of the Lord if your reputation as Christ’s follower has been passive or lacking.
Develop the discipline of a daily prayer closet and commit to regular intercession for those in need around you.
PS: I know you might agree with some of the points that I have raised in this article. You might not agree with some of the issues raised. Let me know your views about the topic discussed. We would appreciate it if you could drop your comment. Thanks in anticipation.
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