The Longest Sermon Ever Given

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Download the bulletin insert here: Handout.11.15.15

You’ve heard of filibusters. That weird rule in the senate where a person can basically talk for as long as they want about any topic in order to delay or block a vote on something. The longest ever by an individual was Strom Thurmond in 1957 at 24:18. That’s a long time to keep talking.
But the longest filibuster has nothing on the longest sermon ever given. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the current record for the longest sermon is 53 hours and 18 minutes which included over 600 slides. That happened last year in Mount Dora, FL. And today, I hope to break that record!!  Just kidding.
While it probably didn’t take 53 hours to give it, I would argue that one of the sermons that Jesus gave is actually the longest sermon ever given. Because we are still preaching it today, 2,000 years later.
What I’m talking about is commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount. Hence the title of this series.
Now, I could easily read through the whole thing in much less time than my usual talk takes, but the thing about when Jesus preaches is that it is so deep that it really will require a whole lifetime to unpack, comprehend, and apply. And for our purposes, we are going to take the next seven weeks doing just that. This series will last right up until the new year. And the truth is that even doing seven weeks will feel rushed. There is just so much to it whenever Jesus speaks. But we will do our best.
One thing that will help us is something we are trying out for the first time here at Reality with this series is what is called “sermon based small groups.” The way it works is that in the life groups, instead of reading a separate book – you will be using the Sunday morning sermons as your curriculum. In your bulletin will be handouts that you can fill in as you listen, and there will be follow on discussion questions and other things to study on your own. Even if you are not in a small group, you can use these to help you get the most out of what we are talking about.
My notes will be online on our website as always – realitychurch.com – and they will include the fill ins and details from the bulletin in case you couldn’t make it on a Sunday or just want to review.
I encourage each of you to participate to the maximum extent, especially those of you that meant what you said last week and those of you that intend to live out the life purposes we learned about the past couple months.

So, let’s get to it.
What is commonly called the Sermon on the Mount is found in chapters 5, 6, & 7 of the Gospel of Matthew. Several of the things in this “sermon” are repeated in Mark and Luke, and we will look at those too. The reason it is called the sermon on the mount comes from the way Matthew introduces it to the reader:
Matthew 5
1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
Jesus goes up on a mountainside (more like a hillside) so the crowds can hear him better and starts to teach them, hence the Sermon on the Mount.
Now, some may wonder how just going up on a hillside could help a few thousand people hear you without a microphone. Well, in the place Jesus did this, near the Sea of Galilee, the hills make kind of a bowl shape and the wind acts as a natural amplifier. Given these conditions and a strong voice, you could be heard about a hundred yards away easily. The same kind of thing happened when Jesus was preaching from a boat. I would love to experience that!
So, that’s where we get the “Sermon on the Mount” title.
Now, there is one thing to understand about what is recorded here in Matthew. While it is possible that all of this was included in one sermon from a mountainside, it is more likely that the various things that are recorded here were actually common sayings of Jesus that he shared in multiple locations at multiple times. And then after he was resurrected and the apostles received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit reminded them of all the things that Jesus had said, something Jesus promised would happen.
John 14
25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Then over the next 30 years, the apostles taught others these sayings of Jesus and all that they remembered of his actions and words. These stories began as only oral stories. Told from person to person – which was completely normal for those days and they would repeat them constantly to have them completely memorized.
Then as the apostles started getting older and it looked like they would die before Jesus came back, the other believers urged them to write these things down – so they did. You will find that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are not exact copies of each other. Some of the stories are in different orders or may not have exactly the same details. That’s because of what I just explained. Also, each gospel was not written as a history book – except, perhaps Luke, but each had a specific point to show about Jesus.
Matthew’s gospel was mostly aimed at showing that Jesus was indeed the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament -that’s why you see a lot of “as it was foretold” in his gospel.
Mark was a student of Peter and wrote his gospel from the sayings of Peter.
John’s was the last one and his is quite different than the others because he was aiming to show that Jesus was indeed divine – both God and Man – and many believe the other books were in circulation by the time he wrote his, so he didn’t need to repeat the stories from the other three.
Anyway, I say all of that because understanding these things will help you understand some of the possibly confusing things you find in the Gospel’s particularly.  And it’s important to understand that while it is called the Sermon on the Mount – it may or may not have been literally one single sermon given from a mountainside but more likely a collection of various sermons given on various mountainsides placed in one narrative. This is why you will find bits and pieces of it in the other gospels but not portrayed as one sermon from a mountainside. It doesn’t matter for interpretation sake, but it may matter if you start to wonder why things are different in the different gospels as we go along.
So, enough history and bible-ology, let’s get into the sermon itself. But instead of starting at the beginning in Matthew 5. I’m going to begin with Jesus’s concluding remarks in Matthew 7, because what he says here will be important to remember throughout this study.
At the end of his long monologue, where he covers about 20 different points of great variety, but all having to do with the right way to live, he concludes with this:
Matthew 7
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
And then Matthew concludes the scene with:
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
It’s an interesting analogy that Jesus uses to illustrate the difference between a person who hears all the great things that Jesus says and actually puts them into practice, and the person who doesn’t.
Jesus often used parables and illustrations to both show and hide the truth he was speaking. But he didn’t just make up fantastical stories. He told stories that were of every day common occurrences for the people he was speaking to. Preachers do the same thing today, to try to help make the truths in God’s Word easier to apply to our world today.
In this case, Jesus was referring to something he probably had personal experience in. After all, he was a carpenter, and probably knew a thing or two about building a house. And one thing that would have been obviously true to the people around him and even to us a few thousand years later, is that building a house on sand was a pretty stupid thing to do.
From a quick reading of this it would seem that the lesson is obvious:
It’s better to do what God says than not to.
If you do what God says, when the troubles in life come you will have a sure foundation and your house will not collapse. If you don’t do what he says, then when the troubles in life come they will blow your house down and you will have to start over again.
Seems like really good advice.
But as is usually the case there is more to it than that.
You see, the problem with this and other simplistic views of Jesus’s parables is that they often miss the most important truth that they are communicating.
One thing you need to understand when reading the parables that Jesus tells, is that every single one of them is ultimately about salvation. Yes, they show good moral truths and good ways to be, but at the heart of them, they are all illustrating some truths about salvation, both how to OBTAIN SALVATION and about the difference between those who are IN the kingdom and those who are NOT. And this one is no different.
So, let’s take a closer look.
Matthew 7
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Is Jesus really talking about building houses? No. As you will see in the next several weeks or if you just read it for yourself, Jesus was not giving carpentry advice in the sermon on the mount. He was giving LIFE advice. So, what Jesus is really referring to here is what you build your life upon.
And if the house is not a house but your life, then what do you think he is actually referring to when he talks about the storm? Is he referring to general life difficulties that come up? Probably not since in the fool’s case the storm causes his house to fall with a great crash. If the house is his life, then this would really indicate the end of his life. And we know that there are plenty of fools that keep on living when the storms in life come their way.
No, Jesus was not referring to storms that happen WITHIN your lifetime – but the ultimate storm that will happen at the END of your lifetime. You see the purpose of the storm in this parable is to test the strength of the house. Will it stand or not. And likewise the final judgment will test whether your life will stand or not.
Revelation 20
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
That’s the storm Jesus is referring to. The final storm that will test each one of us and judge us according to what we have done with our life – or in the illustration, what kind of house we have built.
“Now, wait a minute preacher man….haven’t you always told us and doesn’t the bible say that we are not saved by works, but by grace, by believing in the name of Jesus and asking Him to forgive us of our sins? Isn’t that how we get saved? So, what’s all this about judging us for what we have done – sounds pretty works based to me!!”
Now, hold your horses there, Nelly. You are absolutely correct. We are not saved by our works. We cannot get into heaven by how good we are, and we can’t stay out by how bad we are. There is only one way that your name is put in the book of life – and that is by placing your faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul tells us all about it in Ephesians:
Ephesians 2
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.
And the way we accept that grace is found in Romans:
Romans 10:9
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
And earlier in Romans, Paul even says this…
Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
So, what’s Jesus talking about?
Well, he’s talking about exactly the same thing, but he’s making a point that is commonly skipped over by the prosperity gospel preachers.
Salvation is not just saying a prayer and getting your get-out-of-hell-free ticket and then going on your merry way living life the same way you did before. In fact, if you have truly invited Jesus Christ to be the lord of your life (as Romans 10:9 says), then it will be IMPOSSIBLE for you to stay the same.
Why?  Because you are a new creation.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Does a new creation look and act the same as the old creation? If so, what’s the point of creating something new? If nothing changes – why is it new?
And what specifically is new about this new creation?
Romans 8:9
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.
You can read the whole chapter this week on your own, but the gist of it is that when you become a Christ Follower – when you make that confession of faith and make Jesus your Lord, something amazing happens. You become a new creation that now has the actual Spirit of Christ inside of you. Before that, all you had was your human nature – your sinful nature. But when you let Christ take over, you now have a spirit nature.
And guess what the spirit nature does…
It gives you the ABILITY and the CHOICE to obey God, whereas before you could not.
Romans 8:7
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.
But your new nature gives you something new.
Romans 8:12
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.
The wording of this is a little different than we would probably say things today, but Paul is saying that we INDEED have an obligation – but it is no longer to our sinful nature, our flesh. We are no longer slaves to our desires. Instead we are now obligated to live according to the spirit. We are obligated as Christ Followers to actually Follow Him.
And it is not an external legalistic duty that is imposed on us for being Christians. It is not a giant list of rules that you now must abide by if you want to go to heaven. No, it is FREEDOM. It is FREEDOM from the slavery of having to satisfy your every whim and desire.
The sin nature is a merciless task master. Just think of any kind of bad habit you have tried to quit. Think of any sin that you struggle with. Is it EVER satisfied? Does doing that make you free or make you a slave?
Christ came to set us free from that.
If you read the rest of Romans 8, and the end of Romans 7 you will see just how freeing it is to be obligated to Christ rather than obligated to your sinful nature.
And thus we come back around to what Jesus spelled out in far fewer words.
Matthew 7
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
The person who hear’s God’s words AND puts them into practice will be like the one who has built his LIFE on the ROCK (PETRA) that is Christ Jesus himself.
This is a very important concept to understand that we often get backwards.
We are not saved by what we do, but when we do get saved it changes what we do.
Salvation is the cause and obedience to God is the effect. Obedience to God does not save you. But being saved causes you to obey God – or at least it will prompt you to and give you the power to.
A common theme throughout the New Testament is that Christ Followers are known by their fruit. By their actions. This is true for anyone of any belief structure. What people know about you will be based on your actions, not your intentions.
I once knew someone who was extremely unreliable, but would always get upset when I wouldn’t believe him when he promised he would do something. Countless times he had failed to deliver on promises – in fact he almost ALWAYS failed to follow through, but for some reason he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t trust him because “this time he really means it.” He wanted to be KNOWN as reliable but didn’t want to actually BE reliable.
How may of us want to be KNOWN as Christ Followers but don’t want to ACTUALLY FOLLOW Christ? Because following means I’m not in control.
And that’s the whole point.
Notice in the illustration that there is only one difference between the two house builders, and it is not in the structure or content of their houses. The houses either stand or fall based solely on their foundations. One is on the rock, and the other is on the sand. One person builds their life upon the solid Rock that is Jesus Christ, the Word of God. And another will build their life on the shifting sands of public opinion and self-wisdom.
The wise person relinquishes control of his own life and decides to follow Jesus – thus building his house upon the rock.
The fool decides to retain control and stick with his own infinite wisdom and builds his house on that.
The result speaks for itself.

Another important distinction to make in this illustration is a little bit difficult to catch in our language and in the way we think about things.
Because of the way it is stated, many might assume that the wise builder was wise to begin with and BECAUSE HE LISTENED AND OBEYED, HE WAS THEREFORE building his house on the rock.
And that likewise the fool was a fool already and BECAUSE HE LISTENED AND IGNORED, HE WAS THEREFORE building his house on the sand.
In other words, it would be easy to think that the act of obeying or disobeying causes the difference between building on the rock or on the sand. That obedience is the fundamental choice here, which determines the strength of the house…
But in reality, the fundamental choice that both the fool and the wise person make is NOT about obedience, but about their foundation. You can’t start building until you have a foundation. The foundation comes first.
Jesus is using the “A is LIKE B” comparison not to say that “A EQUALS B” but that they share similar attributes.
THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!
Hes saying that the person you see that listens and obeys has a FOUNDATION that is different than the person you see that listens and does not obey.
OBEDIENCE IS NOT THE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A HOUSE THAT STANDS AND A HOUSE THAT FALLS.
OBEDIENCE OR DISOBEDIENCE IS ONLY THE VISIBLE EVIDENCE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE.
The fundamental difference between the two examples is not what kind of house they build, not what kind of actions they perform, but what kind of foundation they have.
The person who has their foundation in the ROCK is therefore WISE.
Likewise the person who has their foundation in CHRIST is therefore WISE.
The person who has their foundation is SAND is therefore a FOOL.
Likewise the person who has their foundation in SELF-WISDOM and POPULAR-OPINION is therefore a FOOL.
And the external evidence that will be noticeable between these two people will be their capacity to listen to and obey the words of God.
Because, as is clear in Scripture. The one who does NOT have Christ as a foundation is INCAPABLE of obeying God. Whereas the person who DOES have Christ as a foundation is ABLE to obey God, though they still have a choice.
This one illustration echoes what is taught throughout the New Testament by Jesus and His followers. Put simply:
What you do on the outside does not define what you are on the inside. If that were the case then the Pharisees would be good to go because they kept the law perfectly. But Jesus in this passage and through much of the Sermon on the Mount pointed out that what really matters is what is in your heart.
AND THAT…
What you ARE on the INSIDE will be made MANIFEST on the OUTSIDE in action and deed.
James really said it best:
A faith that produces NO external evidence (i.e. Good Works) is a DEAD FAITH, which is really NO FAITH at all.
So, for the next seven weeks I will NOT be talking about good suggestions on how to live. I will be covering what Jesus said will be the evidence of His Spirit living inside of you. Yes, a lot of what He said IS describing better ways to be and live, but these ways to be and live are only accessible through the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of you. That’s why they seem so impossible. Because they ARE IMPOSSIBLE if you are trying to do it on your own power.
KEY CONCEPT
SALVATION IS THE CAUSE
OBEDIENCE IS THE EFFECT
But obedience does not come automatically.  In Romans it is clear that there is a choice.  Before you have Christ you absolutely cannot obey him and cannot please him. But once you have Christ and His spirit inside of you, you are now ABLE to obey, but you still have a choice to do so or not.
And it is because there is still an element of choice that preachers still have a job to equip and build up the church until we all come to perfect knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 4).
First, we must share with you the good news of Jesus Christ so that you come to believe in Him and join His family.
And once youve done that, then its our continued duty to now teach you how a child of God is supposed to behave. And its far less about teaching a bunch of new rules to follow as it is to show you all the ways that Christ has set you free and how FOLLOWING HIM is such a better way to live.

So, what should we do with this perhaps new knowledge as we approach the rest of the Sermon on the Mount? This new knowledge that Jesus was not saying that it was just a good idea to do what He says, but that that it is NECESSARY to put your foundation in Him and then choose to obey.
Well, first, if you have not chosen the Jesus Christ as your foundation, then you need to do that first – otherwise the rest of this will be a futile effort.  I’ll talk more about that in a minute.
But once you’ve done that. Once you have “confessed with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord” the next step is all about your attitude, which consequently will stem directly from what you believe about Christ.
Basically, it’s about approaching the words of Jesus with the right attitude. In fact the only attitude that is appropriate when reading ANY of God’s Word: Pre-Deciding to Obey.
It’s pre-deciding that whatever we learn – whatever Jesus says – whatever God’s Word says – I will pre-decide to follow it, to apply it to my life, to obey.
Even if it’s something completely contrary to something I currently believe or practice.
Because that is exactly what Jesus is saying here. He is saying that the wise person has his foundation in the rock that is Jesus and will thus do whatever Jesus says. But it is the fool that has his foundation in the shifting sands of his own wisdom and understanding, that will listen but still decide to do things their own way.
As it says in Proverbs in two places:
Proverbs 14:12 & Proverbs 16:25
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
If you really think about it there really are only two ways to approach Scripture that stem from your relationship with Christ.
1. If Jesus is your Lord/Master/King, then you can pre-decide to trust in the Word of the infinite and all knowing God over your limited knowledge and experience and do what He says regardless of how you feel about it.
OR
2. If Jesus is just your Golden Ticket and following is optional, then you can pre-decide that you are going to check out what He says and if it seems right to you, you will do what it says, otherwise you will stick with your own gut. Keep the hay, leave the sticks, so to speak.
If that seems kind of harsh, then think about it this way…
Do you know what you are doing when you read God’s Word without pre-deciding to obey it? When you decide to pick and choose what to follow and what to reject? When you hear God’s Words, and judge for yourself what is acceptable and what is not, you are in effect making yourself equal to or greater than God.

Do you know who else did that a long time ago?
Isaiah 14
12 How you have fallen from heaven,
    morning star, son of the dawn!
You have been cast down to the earth,
    you who once laid low the nations!
13 You said in your heart,
    “I will ascend to the heavens;
I will raise my throne
    above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
    on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.
14 I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.”
In case you didn’t know, this is talking about Satan. And it doesn’t end well for him.
15 But you are brought down to the realm of the dead,
    to the depths of the pit.
He too decided that HE would sit on the throne, that HE would make HIMSELF like the MOST HIGH – able to cast judgment on all below him. Able to make the rules himself. Able to be subject to no one.
Do we do any different when we hear God’s Words and decide that I know better?
It’s all about the attitude. Pre-Deciding one way or the other is ultimately about your attitude. It’s not about achieving perfection or always getting it right. It’s about your heart’s intention.
It’s the difference between saying “I’ll TRY to do things God’s way” and saying “I WILL do things God’s way.”  In both cases you and God both know that you will not always do things His way. But it’s like the way you would tell your spouse, or perhaps even better, your kids, that you will always be there for them. The truth is that you will not always be there for them. There are many possible circumstances that could prevent that, but you can confidently say “I WILL be there for you,” instead of “I will TRY to be there for you” because in your heart you have pre-determined that you WILL if at all possible be there for them.
Do you see the difference? Having an I’LL TRY attitude is pre-excusing your possible failure. Having an I WILL attitude does not presuppose success, but indicates an attitude that failure is not an option as long as I can do something about it. As the great Yoda says…”There is no try, there is only do.”
Last week, you all stood up and said three times that we will serve the Lord. This is what it means to serve the Lord. It’s pre-deciding to obey. Because if you don’t pre-decide to obey, you are pre-deciding to disobey when He tells you something you don’t like. There’s no middle ground here.
Obedience is ultimately an attitude of the heart. It’s far less about perfectly following all of the rules as it is the submission of your heart to God’s authority. Any parent can tell you that. No parent will get upset and punish a child who honestly tried to obey, because they are obeying in their heart. But a child that has no intention of obeying and just ignores you, or does the deed with a rotten attitude and rebellious spirit…that’s a different story. God is less concerned about your ACTS of obedience as he is about your ATTITUDE of obedience. (but guess what, you can’t CLAIM an attitude of obedience while disobeying).  Obedience is an attitude of the heart.
If you read the Bible and only believe and practice the things you currently believe or the things you want to believe, then you have a disobedient heart and Jesus says you are a fool. But if you read your Bible, having pre-decided to change your way of thinking to match what the Bible says, then you have an attitude of obedience. And that pleases God.