I have never in my lifetime seen the kind of vindictiveness expressed towards a president as we have seen evidenced towards President Trump: the hatred, lack of submission, people saying “He’s not my President”, etc. I was not a big fan President Obama, but the Bible teaches us that we are to respect governing authorities, so I never called him “Obummer”, or some of those other derogatory names, or say that he wasn’t my President. The truth is, that the men who are duly elected, ARE our President, whether we like it or not. It is our choice whether we will love them, pray for them, and cooperate with them.
And it is the same with Jesus Christ. We saw last week that He is the King of the Universe. That is a fact. HE IS KING, whether you like it or not; but it is your choice whether you will accept Him here on earth, and cooperate with Him. Those who choose to believe in Him, and cooperate with Him, are called His “disciples.” And these first verses of Matthew 5 tell us something about the relationship of the King and His disciples.
I. The King of The Disciples
We closed last week’s message by seeing how great crowds followed Jesus from all over the region as the news about Him went out. So what did Jesus do when these great crowds came? The Bible tells us here at Matthew 5 opens, that “When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain”.
A person might read this and think, well, so what; this is just an introduction. But it is really has very significant ties with Old Testament prophecies, and points to Jesus as King. When it says here that Jesus “went up on the mountain”, Chuck Quarles of our Southeastern Baptist Seminary tells us that these are the exact same words used 3 times in Exodus of how Moses went up to Mt. Sinai in the Old Testament, to get the word of God in the 10 Commandments and the Old Testament Law. Except here, now Jesus goes up on the mountain to give His people the word from God — only He doesn’t have to wait for God to write His Law on tablets of stone, because He IS GOD! He IS the King! In fact, Moses had prophesied in Deuteronomy 18 that God would one day raise up a prophet like him (only greater) and that everyone should listen to Him. These verses are telling us that JESUS is that One! HE is the King that Moses and the whole Old Testament were pointing to all those years ago. From the lips of Jesus would come the greatest sermon that has ever been preached on earth — and these words came not just from a prophet, or from a human teacher, but from the lips of the King of Heaven Himself! And when He preached, the people knew it! If you look at the end of Matthew 7, :28-29 says “When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” This little introduction tells us: THIS IS THE KING whom all of us as disciples are to follow. He is the King of the disciples.
And I think it is very interesting that the Bible says here that “When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain.” Now why would He do that? Probably a couple of reasons:
First, He moved away from “the crowd” so that “His disciples came to Him.” Jesus was never just about crowds. Jesus never pandered to the crowds. He loves people, as we have seen. But He never “played to the crowd”; He never lowered His standards just in order to get “a bunch of people” to follow Him. He actually moved away from the crowd, to see who would really follow Him up that mountain. Jesus’ disciples and pastors and churches today need to learn from Him.
Sadly, most churches of Jesus Christ in the 20th century made the mistake of falling into a “consumer mentality” with the church. They were seeing a decline in attendance in many of their churches, and so church leaders began to ask: “How can we get more people to come; what do people want” and they began seeking to do whatever it took to appease them. And people fell right into this “consumer mentality”, and began looking for churches who would do something for them, and cater to them — and we ended up raising up a whole generation of people who think that the church exists for THEM, for their preference, and their opinion, and their comfort — instead of being an army which is committed to making disciples who will sacrificially serve the King, the Lord Jesus Christ.
So churches started making decisions based on “what people want” instead of on what God’s word tells us we are supposed to be doing. Listen: we make a HUGE mistake in the church when we do that. When we start asking what we want, we make OURSELVES the Lord instead of Jesus. And we go in horrible, unBiblical directions:
— When we start asking people what they want, what do we get? We get a Golden Calf. That’s what the people wanted! They wanted an idol! It was wrong; it was idolatrous — but like Aaron told Moses, that’s what the people wanted!
— When we start asking people what they want, they want to go back to Egypt! They can’t see the Promised Land that is ahead of them. They don’t know what God has for them if they will just follow Him forward by faith. And so they would choose the captivity of the past over the uncertainty of the future — if we just ask them what they want.
— When we start asking people what they want, they want a King Saul. He was head and shoulders above all the other men in Israel; he was obviously the one people wanted. But the people couldn’t see what was on the inside: that his heart was not right with God, and he compromised, and “the one they all wanted” led the whole nation to defeat. But that’s what we get when we give people what they want.
— When we start asking people what they want, they say they want a “happy life” — but they think that “happy” means “easy”; and full of seeking pleasure for themselves and what they want to do. They don’t realize that true happiness comes from becoming the kind of person Jesus outlines in the Beatitudes of the next 8 verses, and that becoming like that takes humility, and mourning, and trials and difficulties that we would never “choose” to go through because it’s not what we “want.” (I know when God brought me through my illness, I said, “I would never have chosen to go through that, but God did and He taught me so much through it. And how many times do we say things like that, in retrospect, about some difficult thing we went through? But given our choice, we would never choose to do that — it’s not what we “want.”
So we need to remember: as a pastor, as church leaders, as teachers, as a church body; we are not here to “dumb everything down” and compromise God’s word to make everything as appealing to people as possible and give them what they want. We are not here just to give everybody what they want:
— they want entertainment instead of truth
— they want easy short-term success that won’t last vs. patient, long-term progress
— they want popularity instead of persecution
— they want convenience instead of commitment
When we were up at Pittsburgh last week, one of the church planters was driving us around his church field, and we passed by a certain church of another denomination, and we were amazed at the big sign they had out front. (I wish I had taken a picture of it) It said: “30 minute worship.” They were advertising “30 minute worship” — in and out in 30 minutes! Soon it will be 15; soon it will be 5. Some churches are already doing “drive through worship” — only it’s not “worship”; it’s some kind of cheap prostitution of Christianity, intended to make you “feel good” about your religious life real quick, without really having the commitment that involved with a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord. (And no, prostitution is not too strong of a word; it is exactly what it is.)
We’ve got to be careful about going down that road of giving people what they think they need. We need to careful about pandering to the crowds. Jesus never did that. Even when He did feed the 5000, He followed it with words of commitment that were so strong that John 6:66 says that “many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him any more.” And Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “You do not want to go away also, do You?”
But Jesus didn’t pander to the crowd. He went up on the mountain, so that those who would follow Him, would follow Him there. And second, He did it so that He could effectively preach God’s word to them — because Jesus knew that is what they really needed. Not what they “THOUGHT” they needed, but what they really needed. And it’s what we need today too, as we shall see in a moment.
II. The Commitment of the Disciples
“His disciples came to Him.”
You know why “His disciples came to Him”? Because that is what disciples DO. Disciples go to to Jesus! Disciples follow Jesus. That is what discipleship IS, as we have seen. You remember just a few weeks ago, when we looked at Matthew 4:19, and Jesus called His disciples. He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” We saw that over and over in the Gospels, Jesus’ invitation to people is “Follow Me.” That is what disciples do. Disciples follow Jesus. Those who do not follow Jesus are NOT His disciples.
Disciples follow Jesus: “His disciples came to Him.” If we are His disciples today, then we too will come to Jesus:
— First of all, it means that you will come to Him as your Lord & Savior. It means that you will stop living your own life, doing whatever you want to, and you will turn around and follow Jesus as the Savior of your sins, and the Lord of your life. Everyone must do this in order to be saved.
For the Bible tells us that we have all walked away from God in our sin, going our own way with our lives. Isaiah 53:6 says “All we like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned his own way.” That’s what sin is — it’s going our way instead of God’s way. But amazingly, God still loved us so much that He came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, and He became the sacrificial payment for our sins when He died for us on the cross. That verse in Isaiah 53 goes on to say: “All we like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way — but the Lord has laid on HIM the iniquity of us all.” All of our sins were placed on Jesus when He died for us on the cross, so that we could be forgiven, and come back to God. But each of us has to make the decision to actually come back to Him, for ourselves. Jesus says; “Come to Me” — but you have to decide to do that. You do it by turning away from your self-centered, self-led life, to follow Jesus as your Lord & Savior. This isn’t just “saying a prayer” or “being baptized”, or “filling out a card” or “going down to the front of the church.” It is coming to Jesus as your Lord & God and starting to follow Him. If you have never done it, that is the first step to becoming a real disciple of King Jesus.
— Second, “coming to Jesus” means that after you are saved, you “come to Him” every day, by spending time with Him in His word and prayer. See, God made us for the specific purpose of spending time with Him, and beholding His glory, which is what we were made to be satisfied with. But our sin separated us from God and His glory (like Romans 3:23 says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”) When we are saved, the “wall” that our sins put up between us and God has come down — but that is not the “end”; that is just the beginning of the Christian life. Now we are free to come to Jesus and enjoy Him the way that we were originally meant to. And the way that we do that is by learning about Him in His word and hearing what He has to say to us; by talking to Him in prayer, and singing to Him and worshiping Him. This is what disciples do: they “come to Jesus” every day in worship — first thing every morning, and then all through the day.
— And “coming to Jesus” also means that you go where He leads in this world; that you will do what He would do here. Too many people think that “coming to Jesus” just means making a commitment to Christ, and then going to church. But following Jesus, really being a disciple of Jesus, is much more than that. It means that you follow Jesus where He is working in the world. The next chapters of this Book of Matthew outline how Peter and Andrew and James and John actually FOLLOWED Jesus in His ministry in the world: “reaching and teaching and caring” for people.
If we are really His disciples, we will do the same thing: we will follow Jesus by serving where He is working in the world.
This is one of the reasons why I was so excited by the response of our people in prayer meeting a couple of Wednesday nights ago, to the challenge of my Pittsburgh mission report to pray, and go, on mission partnership to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Lord is working in Pittsburgh. The work is hard, but He is working. And He is calling us to go there. And I was excited to see that over 40 of us committed to be prayer partners for Pittsburgh, and over 20 of us said we would be open to going there on a future mission trip. This was exciting to me because it means that Jesus’ disciples are going to go where He is leading in our world! That is what we are supposed to be doing as His disciples. His disciples come to Him!
And it is not only to Pittsburgh. Jesus’ disciples are going to go wherever He leads, in every area of life. Your commitment as a disciple of Jesus is to follow Him.
Listen: we have some great families here in Burke County, and some great family relationships — as good as I have seen everywhere. But we also have to understand: your greatest commitment in life is not to stay with family (your parents & grandparents) — Your commitment is to follow Jesus. Make no mistake, the Bible commands us to love your family as you obey the Lord, (and on this Fathers Day, God commands us to honor our Fathers; that is a godly thing to do) but Jesus also makes it very clear that for His disciples, our Fathers are not #1. Our families are not #1. HE is #1. He said in Matthew 10:37, “He who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son and daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Jesus is saying if you are His disciple, your family is NOT #1. JESUS is #1. You are to be willing to follow Him where He leads — even if it is away from your family.
Many of you know we just sent our daughter Libby with her husband Joshua to Indianapolis to serve as an associate minister in a church there. It was hard to see them off. There went not only our only girl, but also half our grand daughters, and another on the way due in August. We miss them greatly. It was SO neat having them here these last 6 months, coming to church with us, coming over to our house every Sunday for dinner like a real family; Grandmommie made the girls macaroni and cheese every Sunday. We loved it! But folks, I would not have them anywhere in the world other than following Jesus! I am proud of them; I am grateful that they are following Jesus. There is no place better for my kids and grandkids than following Him.
And I tell you the truth, there is no place better for YOUR kids than following Jesus either. Whether it is here, or halfway around the world. And the same thing is true for you, too. Disciples follow Jesus. I was telling Cheryl the other day: we’ve never really gotten to “pick” where we were going to live. We’ve never said: “Oh, this would be nice; let’s live there!” We’ve just gone wherever the Lord has called us.
But listen: that’s not just for pastors. That’s for all of us, if we are disciples of Jesus. Disciples go where Jesus leads them to serve Him:
— If He tells you to stay here in Morganton and serve Him by teaching Sunday School and VBS and by working in local missions and Burke United Christian ministry, then you do that.
— If He tells you to uproot and move to Pittsburgh and get a job and help one of those mission churches up there, you do that.
— If He tells you to sell everything and move halfway around the world on a foreign field, you do that.
Disciples of Jesus follow where He leads in His kingdom work. It is what you are here for. God did not put you here on earth to live “The American Dream.” He put you here to glorify Him by following Jesus as His disciple wherever He leads.
III. The Food of the Disciples
:2 “He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying …”
Now it would be easy to skip over this, and just get right into the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest message ever preached on Planet Earth. But these words are important. The disciples were committed to follow Jesus — and part of that commitment is the commitment to FEED off of His words.
We just saw that one of the reasons why Jesus went up on the mountain was so that He could effectively teach those who would come to Him from the crowds, because He knew that THIS is what they really needed; they needed the “daily bread” of His word more than they needed their daily food!
Remember Jesus had just quoted that great verse in Matthew 4 when He was tempted: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4, Deut. 8:3). This is vitally true for the disciple of Jesus Christ. The disciple feeds on the word of God every day. It is our daily bread.
It is interesting that we find this analogy symbolizing God’s word as “food” all through scripture:
— It was Deuteronomy 8:3 where God first said man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God. He said His word is our “daily bread.”
— Psalm 119:103 says it is like “honey” to our mouth.
— I Peter 2:2 says it is our “pure milk.”
— Hebrews 5 says it is our “meat”; our “solid food.”
Over and over in scripture, God compares His word to food for us. And the reason He does it because it is such a powerful illustration. We KNOW how much we need, and want, food.
When we were in Pittsburgh two weeks ago, about noon, the Director, Cliff, suggested we go on a 1-2 hour boat tour around the city, to give us a perspective of the city we could not get by driving. He said then afterwards we’ll go get lunch. Well I could see one of the other guys on the trip out of the corner of my eye, and when Cliff suggested we go on the boat tour, and then to eat, he had a shocked look on his face, like “WHAT? It’s lunch time NOW!” If we go on that tour, who knows what time it’s gonna be when we eat. I wish I’d had my camera, because a picture is worth 1000 words!
But hey, I understand; I’ve been there. Food is important to us. I like to eat; way too much. And truthfully, food is not just something we “like”; it is something we NEED. We must have it. We can do without food for a time — and if the truth be known, more of us could do without food for a time! — but we eventually HAVE to have it. It is necessary to keep us alive.
And God is telling us that the same thing is true spiritually. He calls His word our “food” all theses times because we need it so badly. We need the bread of God’s word to keep us alive and strong spiritually. There have been times when I haven’t eaten in a while, and I’ll get weak, or get a headache, or whatever, and I’ll think: you know what, it’s been 6-7-8 hours since I’ve eaten; I need to get something in my system.
Well the same thing is true spiritually. Some of you are going: I just don’t really “feel right” spiritually; I am depressed, or I am grumpy, or I don’t have the attitude I should have; I don’t have the right outlook for the day; I don’t have direction; I don’t have purpose … The problem for many of us is that just like your body suffers when you don’t eat food, so your spirit suffers when you are starving for the word of God. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.” You NEED God’s word every day, just like your body needs food.
— If you have not picked up your Bible and read it since we met last Sunday, you are starving for the word of God. One “meal” on Sunday is not enough! You need it every day!
— Or even if you are reading a verse before you start your day in the morning; that’s good — but it’s like a starvation diet. You need more of the word of God to feed on.
— There are SO many Christians who would say today, things just aren’t right with me; I don’t know what I need. Now I can’t know the individual problems and needs of every person here today, but I think I CAN say that across the board one of the biggest problems we have as a people of God is that we are undernourished in the Word of God. It is almost certain that at least PART of the problem for virtually every person in this room today is that we need more of the word of God in our lives. It is our food; it is our bread; it is our meat; it is our honey — we NEED the word of God; like Mary, we need to just SIT at the feet of Jesus, and nourish ourselves on the words that come from His lips. The words of Jesus are the food of His disciples.
The question is: ARE you His disciple? You may say, “Oh, yeah, pastor; I got saved years ago; I was baptized; I joined a church.” That’s nice; but those things do not make you His disciple.
God’s word shows us here that:
— Disciples follow Jesus as Lord & Savior
— Disciples follow Jesus daily in His word
— Disciples follow Jesus wherever He leads in life and ministry
If that’s what a disciple is; then can you say that you are really a disciple of the King?