What Is the Meaning of the Sermon on the Mount?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matt. 5:3 ESV

What is the Sermon the Mount really about? Is the Sermon a new set of commandments for Christians? Or just a re-interpretation of the Ten Commandments? Or as some say, a Divine directive for U. S. government policy? Or, nice teaching from the Great Teacher?

In reality, the Sermon on the Mount is about the interior life of the Christian. The Sermon on the Mount is what our lives will look like when the Holy Spirit is having his way in us.

Beware of placing our Lord as Teacher first instead of Saviour. That tendency is prevalent to-day, and it is a dangerous tendency. We must know Him first as Saviour before His teaching can have any meaning for us, or before it can have any meaning other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. Fancy coming to men and women with defective lives and defiled hearts and wrong mainsprings, and telling them to be pure in heart! What is the use of giving us an ideal we cannot possibly attain? We are happier without it.

If Jesus is a Teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalise us by erecting a standard we cannot come anywhere near. But if by being “born again from above” we know Him first as Saviour, we know that He did not come to teach us only: He came to make us what He teaches we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us (emphasis mine).

Oswald Chambers, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Hants, UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1960).

Listen to Him; learn of Him; be like Him; receive Him into thine heart; let Him be revealed within thee, so shalt thou also be conformed to these qualities, and participate in this bliss.

F. B. Meyer, Blessed Are Ye: Talks on the Beatitudes

When a Man of God Dies…

. . . Nothing of God Dies. 

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9.

Passing away this week: a theologian, Thomas Oden; a missionary, Helen Roseveare;  a worship leader, Cliff Barrows; and a Patriarch, Randolph Adler. Through their lives, ministries, and/or books, each of these individuals exemplified Christ and now through their passing, we feel their absence.

In today’s quote, A, W, Tozer examines what happens spiritually when a mentor is taken from us. In many instances, our relationship with the Lord is so intertwined with our relationship with the mentor, when the mentor leaves our daily lives, our relationship with the Lord suffers. Often, we have trusted the Lord through our mentor’s faith and obeyed the Lord through that mentor’s understanding. With their leaving, God challenges us to believe his covenant promises, stand on his Word, and trust his provision through our own convictions and by our own faith.

We cannot think rightly of God until we begin to think of Him as always being there, and there first. Joshua had this to learn. He had been so long the servant of God’s servant Moses, and had with such assurance received God’s word at his mouth, that Moses and the God of Moses had become blended in his thinking, so blended that he could hardly separate the two thoughts; by association they always appeared together in his mind. Now Moses is dead, and lest the young Joshua be struck down with despair, God spoke to assure him, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.” Moses was dead, but the God of Moses still lived. Nothing had changed and nothing had been lost. Nothing of God dies when a man of God dies.

A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man (Camp Hill, PA: Wingspread, 1950), 3.

HT: A.W. Tozer Daily Devotional

Advent Awkwardness: The In-Between Believer

3 Advent A

This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.

Mark 1:4 NLT

John the Baptist was an in-between man. He ministered in-between the Old and New Covenants. John preached in-between the fulfillment of messianic prophecy and its immediate fulfillment in Christ. John was like an Old Testament prophet in dress, speech, and food, but he pointed to the Lamb of God, the Savior of the world. John desired no personal recognition or acclamation, but he was considered greatest among the prophets (Matt. 11:11; Mark 1:3).

Like an Old Testament prophet, he prepared national Israel for the coming of the Lord, yet he called individual Israelites to change their hearts and repent. John’s ministry was in-between ages, covenants, and promises. John’s life was in-between the Law and the Gospel. John was an Advent prophet living in anticipation of Christ’s first coming, yet a model for us as we await Jesus’s second coming (Matt. 17:11-13).

We, too, are in-between believers: we wait for the Kingdom of God to appear visibly while living internally under its sway. Like John the Baptist, we are called to exhort others to repentance as we point them to Christ, the sin-bearer. In anticipation, we yearn to see Christ face-to-face at his second coming while living by faith after his first appearing. We live in-between the first and second comings, the manger and the Parousia. Like John, we are Advent prophets, responsible to call the lost to repentance and point them to the coming King, the redeemer of the world.

John appears in the wilderness as a man dedicated to God. First of all he preaches repentance, purification, and the gathering together of the people for the coming of God. In a sense this proclamation summaries the whole of prophecy at the very moment when history is reaching its goal. His mission is to open the door for God, so that Israel is ready to welcome him and to prepare for his hour in history. The important things are first his call to repentance, which continues what all the prophets have said, and second his witness to Christ, which again makes prophecy concrete in the image of the lamb, which is the Lamb of God.

Pope Benedict XVI, Benedictus (Yonkers, NY: Magnificat, 2006), 373.

Advent Waiting: Watching for the Bridegroom

Advent: Second Week
Advent: Second Week

So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.

Matt. 24: 42 NLT

Watchfulness is a passionate desire for the presence of the bridegroom which awakens within us a spiritual sensitivity to the signs of his soon arrival. This spiritual sensitivity is a heart connection with the Holy Spirit who graces the believer with insights and discernment concerning the times and seasons immediately preceding Christ’s parousia. A watchful attitude is characterized by being spiritually alert, holy and ready for Christ’s return, as opposed to spiritual dullness typified by worldly attitudes and sinful passions. (HT: Mike Bickle)

We must not only have faith in [Christ], but must wait on Him; not only must hope, but must watch for Him; not only love Him, but must long for Him; not only obey Him, but must look out, look up earnestly for our reward, which is Himself. We must not only make Him the Object of our faith, hope, and charity, but we must make it our duty not to believe the world, not to hope in the world, not to love the world. We must resolve not to hang on the world’s opinion, or study its wishes. It is our mere wisdom to be thus detached from all things below. . . .

They, then, watch and wait for their Lord, who are tender and sensitive in their devotion towards Him; who feed on the thought of Him, hang on His words; live in His smile, and thrive and grow under His hand. They are eager for His approval, quick in catching His meaning, jealous of His honour. They see Him in all things, expect Him in all events, and amid all the cares, the interests, and the pursuits of this life, still would feel an awful joy, not a disappointment, did they hear that He was on the point of coming.

John Henry Newman,   “Waiting for Christ”


Advent’s Meaning: The Three Comings

1 Advent A
1 Advent A

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3

The season of Advent celebrates three comings of Christ: one future, one past, and one present. Advent waiting is present-day thankfulness for Christ’s first coming in the manger while eagerly expecting Christ’s second coming in glorious majesty. This present thankfulness, this present waiting; God uses to enter our lives afresh in power and purity (1 Cor. 7:29-31).

Advent prepares our hearts for the second coming of Christ as we express gratitude to Christ for his first coming. Our hearts and lives must be prepared and ready for his return. Advent is a season of repentance for we know that Christ comes again in holiness, power, and judgment. Advent is a season of joy for we will encounter Christ in newness of life. Advent is a season of personal renewal as we focus anew on “keeping our eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2).

The season of Advent should lead us into deep repentance: Christ comes now into our hearts by the presence of the Holy Spirit as we spiritually prepare for his return. Advent is a season of deep delight for we are grateful for Christ’s coming in the manger: the incarnation made the way for our salvation. Advent is a season of brokenness: our repentance builds within us an eager expectation for the coming of Christ. Advent is a season of revival: we surrender our wills afresh to God for the coming year.

In preparation for the coming church year, we yearn for the personal  transformation. Advent waiting is the prayerful longing to see Jesus face-to-face and experience the Holy Spirit deeply and personally.  Advent waiting cleanses, converts, and renews our hearts as we await Christ’s physical appearance in the skies (1 John 3:2-3).

In this present world, we endure while calmly trusting the Holy Spirit to be Christ in us in the midst of a fallen and decadent world. In hope, we look forward to seeing our blessed Savior face-to-face. In faith, we trust his promises standing on his Word. In love, we reach out to others that they too might know the Christ who comes.

A summary of Robert Webber’s thoughts on Advent from his book, Ancient-Future Time:

Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of the Messiah.

The Messiah’s coming is understood in three different senses: (1) His coming to earth in Bethlehem, (2) His second-coming at the consummation of God’s purposes and (3) His coming in the present moment into my life.

The coming of Messiah to me in this moment is predicated on repentance.

Repentance is not something we can take, but it must be granted us by God.

Isaiah is the prophet of Advent because in his life and prophetic word, he represented the hope of Advent.

John the Baptist and Mary, Jesus mother, reveal Advent spirituality: the former by his single-minded mission and self-giving love, the latter by her willingness to yield her life to God’s will.

Robert Webber, Ancient Future Faith: Forming Spirituality Through the Church Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004).

HT: Joel Willitts


Send Us Out: Day Forty, Forty Days of Prayer

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Matt 9:37-38

Lord, send us out to preach your gospel to the lost, the least, and the lonely. Father, show us how to reach our family, friends, and neighbors who do not know you. Spirit, give us boldness to proclaim your truth without fear or reticence. Break our hearts with love for those who need your love the most. We pray that no one would be lost because we failed to heed your command to make disciples of all nations. Help us to walk in wisdom, making the most of every opportunity you have given us. Open the hearts of those we encounter to hear your gospel. May you add to our number daily those who are being saved.

~~ Nicholas Beckham

Burdens: Day Thirty-Nine, Forty Days of Prayer


Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.

Psalm 55:22 ESV

Lord, we cast our burdens upon you for they are heavy. Our hearts are broken and downcast. Our spirits are burdened over loved ones who are sick, lost, and dying. Please come and sustain us as you have promised. Please heal and save those we fervently love and diligently serve. Let us not be moved from steadfast faith and complete trust in your all-mighty power. Do not allow Satan to come and steal our hope in your faithfulness. We thank you, Lord, that you hear our prayers on behalf of our loved ones. Come and have mercy on us, we pray in Jesus’s name. Amen!

~~India B. Davis

Great Love: Day Thirty-Eight, Forty Days of Prayer


In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

1 John 4:9

O’ Jesus, the greatness of your love for us staggers our imaginations. Thank you for your great love that is never ending and unshakeable and indissoluble. Lord, you remind us every day through your Word that we are loved. Therefore, we ask dear Lord that your love for us will move through our hearts to our family, friends, neighbors, and those in need. Lord, you love us unconditionally. Father take away the lies of the evil one who would convince us that we are not good enough to be loved so powerfully and so deeply. We thank you, Lord, that your love has set us FREE from the law of sin and death and that we are free forever to be loved by you. Lord in your Mercy! Hear our prayer. Amen!

~~India B. Davis

Our Hearts: Day Thirty-Seven, Forty Days of Prayer


Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Ps 86:11 NIV

Lord Jesus Christ, take our lips and speak through them, take our minds and think through them, take our hearts and set them on fire for love of you.

~~Adapted from W. H. Aiken (1841-1927)



Precious Jesus: Day Thirty-Six, Forty Days of Prayer


And [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.

Colossians 1:18 ESV

We hail you precious Jesus, praise, honor and glory be to you. Blessed Christ who for our sake condescended from your great heavenly throne, and from the sweet fellowship of the Father, you came into our fallen misery and became God incarnate in human flesh–one with us. We seek you, make our hearts a precious dwelling place for your presence, adorn our lives with your fruit, replenish our ministries with your gifts, and possess our hearts fully and completely. You are Jesus our Savior, be our complete and total deliverer and rid us of the sin that so easily ruins the sweet fellowship of your presence. Grant us committed hearts full of affection and devotion, give us compassion for others’ pain, trials, and struggles. Pray that we may love others as you have loved us, that we may forgive as you forgave us and that we may show mercy to the merciless. In your blessed name, we pray. Amen.

~~ Fr. Glenn E. Davis