Are We Missing The Point?
In the Old Testament the Law was given to the people by God to provide them with a list of do's and don'ts that were the yardstick of the righteousness that God required of them. In addition God provided a Tabernacle - a place where he dwelt -and he instituted the priesthood of the Levites, to serve and administer the sacrificial system.
All this was to make up for the shortcomings of the people as they tried and failed to obey the Law. By the 1st century the Law had been developed into a very complex system of rules and regulations that set out a pattern of behavior that all true followers of God were expected to follow. People were judged and given honor by the way they were perceived to have kept these rules. This was especially so for the religious class, the Scribes, Pharisees and Priests.
However, they were all missing the point. It was obvious that to expect people to keep all of the Law all of the time was asking for the impossible. The underlying reason that God gave this impossible to maintain standard was to get people to realize that they could not do it alone. That they needed a Redeemer who could fulfill the Law and so let them off the hook. That was the whole point of the Law, and they missed it.
In the New Testament we see Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount. He presented a series of statements that were completely at odds to the way the world works.
Blessed are the poor in spirit; those who mourn; the meek; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; the merciful; the pure in heart; the peacemakers; those who are persecuted because of righteousness. He says, turn the other cheek; give up your cloak; walk the extra mile; and so on.
The Law gave mankind things to do to be right with God. Jesus now gives mankind something to be. In just the same way that the Pharisees focussed on expanding the do's and don’ts of the Law and missed the point that they needed a Redeemer, so the religious Christian church has focussed on trying to change their natural nature to reflect the perfect nature revealed in the Sermon on the Mount. At the same time they miss the point that is being revealed, i.e. that it is impossible to transformed into the perfection of Jesus without some supernatural help.
The underlying purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to reveal to us our need to be born again of the Spirit, as Jesus states to the religious leader Nicodemus in John ch.3. It is only by being born again that we can be transformed in to a 'new creation' that has within the perfection that Jesus is talking about.
We not only need a Redeemer, we need to be one with the One who is that perfect person. The One who has all those attributes, the One who transcends and overcomes the fallen world and its ways. This then is the 'mystery of the ages' - "Christ in you, the hope of glory".(Col. 1:27).
The Sermon on the Mount reveals to us that we need to be changed, reborn, a new creation and that we need to be one with Jesus by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Only then can we be the person who the Father desires us to be.
To reduce it to s series of action points or self-imposed behavioral aspirations is to miss the point entirely. WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) is not about us doing what Jesus would do - it’s about us allowing Jesus to do what he does in us, by us and through us.
Christ in us, the hope of glory.
Do we get the point or do we miss it?