Episode 2 - Laying Down the Law - Part 2
October 14, 2022
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The title of this inaugural podcast on the Sermon on the Mount is “Laying Down the Law.” It’s intended as a sort of a provocative double entendre. Is Jesus’s sermon the Law of the New Covenant? Does it supersede the old contract with God? Is it just a new set of amendments? Alternatively, should we view it entirely different? In many ways, it seems a lot tougher than the first contract. If Israel failed with the first one, how can we follow a tougher one? Does God expect perfection?
Hey, I'm Matt Brownell.
And I'm Van Owens.
And I'm Tim Adams.
Welcome to Climbing the Mountain, where we dive into the scriptures and discuss themes,
connections, and real life application.
We're kicking off a series here where we're going to examine the Sermon on the Mount and
discuss implications for this teaching for Christians today.
Tim is going to take it away and give us a summary of where we were just last time.
Yeah, so we covered a lot last time.
It was a great discussion.
My key takeaways were we were thinking about what is the Sermon on the Mount?
Is this a new law that's given to us?
Is it an amendment to the old law?
And we didn't actually land on a particular thing in our last conversation.
But we did have some takeaways.
And one was whatever we might call this, the Sermon on the Mount is teaching given to us
by our instructor, the one instructor, the Messiah.
He's speaking with authority to his disciples.
And so, however we approach this, we need to approach it extremely seriously.
This is important teaching for our lives.
That was one big takeaway.
But we also talked about in the New Covenant that Jesus instituted in Luke 22 and it's
talked about in Hebrews, we don't just have new information being given to us.
Not just this crazy high standard that Jesus is giving, which is even higher than the old
law, the Mosaic law.
We actually have the Holy Spirit helping us and guiding us and equipping us to when we
come to the Sermon on the Mount.
And so that gives me hope as I'm reading these words and as they seem weighty and challenging.
I'm not just doing this on my own under my own power.
I'm doing this as a part of the new creation.
There is something supernatural happening here.
We're chimeras, right?
We're not just the sinful nature anymore.
We've got that spiritual nature that's supernatural inside of us doing its thing.
And it reminded me of Romans 12 where Paul says, don't be conformed to this world.
The world is pushing us into, is trying to put it, push us into its mold everywhere around
you, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you made discern
what is the will of God, what is the good and acceptable and perfect will.
And that testing you made discern, it actually has a meaning of that you may approve.
It's almost like the Holy Spirit is working on us in the process of sanctification so
that we start to desire the things that God desires.
And it's that kind of work on our hearts and minds.
As we struggle with what Jesus is teaching here, as we struggle with it and not just
set it aside if we hold on to it.
So I want to return now to this notion of righteousness because last time we kind of
talked a little bit about how the Pharisees, you know, Jesus uses them as an example of
our righteousness needs to surpass theirs.
What does he mean by that?
And I think in poor, and then he gives a few examples of what he means, you know, not just
don't go to the letter of the law of murder, you want to get to the heart of it, hate,
and weed that out of your heart.
But I think in this context, I'd like to focus a little bit about on righteousness and what
does that mean?
And is there something, because I think this ties in with the rest of the sermon, is there
some kind of structure that we can look at with the Beatitudes that we'll, to start at
least if we try to answer what does Jesus mean by righteousness?
And I want to start us off here in just noting the structure of the Beatitudes.
It starts off with blessed or the poor in spirit for theirs as the kingdom of heaven.
And then at the end, it's blessed are the persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs
as the kingdom of heaven.
So he's saying, theirs is the kingdom of heaven, poor in spirit and persecuted for righteousness.
And then in between, he has all these blessed are, you know, those who mourn for that, they'll
be comforted, blessed are they will be.
So it's a, there's is, and then there's a future.
So there's a present and future to all of this.
And he said, but after the first four, at the fourth one of each, he talks about righteousness,
blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Everything before that is, you could say the blessedness of emptiness.
Like, you are empty.
And so what do you want?
You hunger and thirst for righteousness.
You see your need and you hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Well, what is that?
And then he talks about blessed are the merciful.
It seems like you've now filled up on something and you can provide mercy and you filled up
on something and you're, you're pure in heart and you can, you, you see God and you're a
These are, I would put before us, maybe some of the qualities that Jesus is looking for
that we could test maybe in the rest of the sermon.
Does he mean that with righteousness?
If you're merciful, if you're pure, if you're a peacemaker.
And when we look at these examples later, you know, it says, you know, about not being
That's being a peacemaker, not lusting.
That you know, yeah, don't commit adultery, but don't even lust.
That seems like purity right there, divorce, keeping your own.
So all of these seem retaliation, you know, all of these things seem like, you know, loving
your enemies, examples of, of purity, mercy and peacemaking to me.
That's really interesting.
I've never made that explicit connection between being merciful, pure in heart and a
peacemaker with what you're seeing in the rest of the sermon.
But I mean, you, you were focused on Matthew five.
If you think about Matthew six, Matthew six is the first half of it is all about religious
observances and how to do them with a pure heart and it's all about not being seen by
people, but being seen by God.
And the promise for the pure in heart is that they will see God, which that's pretty cool.
I haven't, I hadn't thought about that until, until now.
And I'm glad that you brought us back to when, when you're talking about righteousness
to the Beatitudes, because it is easy to, when you're thinking about the Surreal amount,
to focus on the explicit teachings that relate to our behavior, whether that's about treating
people kindly and not in anger, or whether that's about not worrying about money.
But Jesus starts with the Beatitudes for a reason and I've definitely heard, I've
heard it said that this is the foundation of the Surreal amount.
And I wholeheartedly agree with that because these qualities are all over the place.
If you go, if you scroll, if you keep going, I'm scrolling on my phone here.
If you're flipping your pages, he too, down to the end of chapter six, I think in verse
33, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
So again, you know, I think also related to this is seeking after and struggling with
God and trying to be like him.
Because if I go back to the end of the Beatitudes, I think there's eight, right?
What are you, when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you
falsely on my account?
That part, I think supports verse 10.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.
So the righteousness there, I think there's a parallelism there, I see with, you know,
you're being persecuted in both cases.
One is for righteousness and the other is on account of Jesus.
And so I think there's also a dimension to this where the righteousness that, you know,
the key is really with Jesus to be found in him and not looking to ourselves, our own
resources, but to God, I think is part of also the, what I see in the Beatitudes, but
that even in the prayer, I think that's another thing that I've been thinking about.
I think, Matt, what you were saying when you were sort of laying out that the first part
of the Beatitudes is sort of that emptying.
And then the second part is what you, what you actually do.
I think that a big part of what's going on here, and this is something that I personally
struggle with is the performative aspects of the way that I live my religious life.
And a lot of what Jesus corrects throughout the sermon is, you know, you've heard it said
and he talks about some performance.
You've heard it said, don't kill that.
Well, that's, I mean, it's sort of an anti performance, but you don't kill anybody.
So that means don't kill people.
But then he talks about the, the inward aspect of I'm telling you, don't even hate them
and how the two validate each other.
You cannot, you can't have the performative aspects of your religion.
Don't mean anything if they're just a performance, just like the inward parts, the parts that
you're being filled up with don't mean anything if you don't then act on them.
And I think what Jesus is talking about here, he's, he's really in a way giving us a true
definition of righteousness, of what it should be, because what the Pharisees and the teachers
of the law called righteousness had become for many of them just a performance, just
how they looked to the people outside of them.
Then the emphasis became, how do I look?
How do I look?
Do I look righteous?
Instead of am I righteous?
Am I being righteous?
Can I, can I ask a question and this is, this is a tangent, but it's, it's directly related
And I think it's really important as we're talking about the sermon on the mount.
So merciful, pure and heart peacemakers, you know, if we accept, which I think is very
valid that those are components of being righteous.
Jesus says, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness.
And then he kind of leans in on that and says, let me remind you again, like you said, Matt,
that you actually are going to be blessed when you're persecuted.
Why are we getting persecuted for righteousness?
Why are we getting persecuted for doing these great things?
Isn't this what the world wants a bunch of people to be merciful?
Yeah, that's a valid question.
Why wouldn't anyone love mercy and peacemaking?
But Jesus says, no, that's not what's going to happen when you try to do those kind of
And I think part of it is that your light shines on darkness and people don't like to
They don't like to have that light shine on them.
And maybe they don't like, let's say you're at work and the boss says, you guys can have
a half hour break, right?
And then everyone else wants to take an hour, but you go back to work after half an hour
and everyone suddenly hates you because you're making them all look bad.
And yes, the world wants mercy, but what Jesus is saying is, but the world doesn't understand
what mercy really is.
And what mercy really is, the world doesn't want.
That if the person makes you walk with them a mile to carry their burden, that's not mercy.
It just looks like mercy.
What's mercy is to go two miles.
What's mercy is to say, no, I'll carry it all the way home for you.
And the world thinks that is stupid and crazy and overboard.
And now you've bridged from being kind to being abused and your rights violated.
And I think that part of what Jesus is saying here is that the world likes the word, the
concept of mercy in general, but the world doesn't understand what mercy really is.
The world doesn't understand what purity really is.
You know, Jesus is a perfect example of perfect and crucified.
And I just think that that's helpful for me because when I'm thinking about these words
like righteousness, it can be a very spiritual word.
It can feel like it's not so much connected to my day-to-day life.
But then I think when I read the Sermon on the Mount, there can be parts of it that are
like that where it feels like either it's not connected to me or I feel a certain sort
of repulsion to it.
Like you were saying, Van.
Like I don't think I want that.
And that's too much righteousness.
That's too much righteousness.
And so if the Sermon on the Mount is a picture of what righteousness looks like, which I
think is a good example, our description of what it is, then I think as we're approaching
it, as we're preparing to dig into it, we're going to have times where we are doing some
of that recoiling ourselves, where we're tempted to persecute the righteousness ourselves.
And I think we just need to be aware of that, that Jesus is the one defining righteousness
It's not us defining righteousness.
And that needs to change our posture.
I like that setup.
That's pretty good to remember.
Maybe we can also pivot to the seriousness, because I think it relates, of how Jesus kind
of wraps up his sermon with this.
The first time I read this, I was a religious guy.
I was a pastor's kid.
And boy, did it get me stone cold sober.
In Matthew 7, this is verse 21, not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, we'll enter the
kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven.
On that day, many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast
out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name?
And then I will declare them, I never knew you.
Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.
And this word, lawbreakers or lawlessness, anemia in Greek, those who work iniquity,
it describes the condition of being without law, either because you're either ignorant
of it or you violate it.
It can also mean contempt and violation of law, basically wickedness.
So I think Jesus is saying, we really need to take this pretty seriously.
He's ratcheted up the stakes like this pretty hard, pretty high, because you're shut out
of the kingdom of God.
He's saying he doesn't know you.
And I think this relates back to what we were seeing in the Beatitudes about never really
being satisfied unless you hunger and thirst after God's righteousness.
It's sort of a summary, I think, at the end of Matthew 5 where in verse 48 he says, be
perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.
And I think unless our passion in life is to know God in the struggle to be like him
in the world, we're just doing religion.
It's not relationship.
Yeah, I just, I guess I want to just echo how important that is.
I think the, it makes me feel so grateful for the Holy Spirit.
Because yeah, Matthew, I mean, it's not like he just gives one hard teaching at the end
of Matthew 7.
He has like four back to back, right?
Enter through the narrow gate.
It's going to be hard.
Watch out for people who teach you things that, you know, sound good, but aren't, don't bear
And make sure to do my will.
And you could even think you're doing it, right?
You could be doing miracles in my name, but not be doing my will.
And by the way, hear what I say and put into practice.
It's like so, it's so challenging.
But he does say at the very beginning, like blessed are the poor in spirit.
And so it's like recognizing that we're, we're struggling is, and it's going to be really
He wants us to do that.
Instead of it being something we have to like pretend will never happen.
Because we're going to do everything perfect.
I think that's, that's exactly what this sermon does to me when I read it and I meditate on
It makes me, it crushes me and it brings me back to the, the beatitudes again.
And I circle back to them and think, Oh my gosh, I need God.
I can't do this.
And I'm convicted by my sin and I, and I, I want to change and I, and I feel, oh man,
this is hard.
And, but I think it would be much worse if we never looked in the mirror, you know, and
just coasted, right?
That's the, that's the lazy river to hell right there.
And, you know, the, and then he ends the sermon talking about building.
It's something that you are building.
It's not something that you are sort of in what I was saying before.
If I thought, if I memorized it, I would have it.
It's not something that it doesn't work that way.
It's something that I have to build and I have to build it on the right foundation.
You know, if you build your house on the rock, it'll stand in the storm.
If you build it on not the rock, the rock being Jesus, if I build it on my own character,
if I build it on my own performance, if I build it on my church attendance or on my
denominational affiliation or on my education or on my talent or on anything that's not
that rock, which is Jesus, then when the storm comes, it's not going to stand.
And it's something that we're, we're building.
I really love the, the thought of that because building involves creativity and it involves
It involves, it involves other people.
It involves the Holy Spirit and it, it, it's sort of an encouragement at the end of all
that really hard stuff at the end where it says you, you might look like you're on the
way, but you might be going in the complete opposite direction because I've got to build
it and I've got to realize that as long as I'm on this side of eternity, that building
That building is something that has to keep going on.
This is, this is good stuff.
I, I love you like leaning into that analogy because Jesus is so good with his analogies.
And when, when I think about kind of the quintessential analogies that Jesus makes about this relationship
of walking with him and it being a process of obedience and grace and love, I think about
I don't know if you guys mind if I just read a few.
Yeah, please go for it.
Because I think this is, this is at the end of Jesus' ministry and he's kind of reflecting
back and he's reminding his disciples of the paradigm.
And so he, Matthew seven, he uses that idea of builder and here it's, it's gardening.
The gardening analogy.
So in Matthew 15 verse one, he says, I am the true vine and my father is the gardener.
He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me.
He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit.
You are clean already because of the word I have spoken to you.
Remain in me and I will remain in you just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself
unless it remains in the vine.
So neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine.
You are the branches.
The one who remains in me and I and him bears much fruit because apart from me, you can
If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out like a branch and dries up and such branches
are gathered up and thrown into the fire and are burned up.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be
done for you.
My father is honored by this that you bear much fruit and show that you are my disciples.
So I mean there, right?
Jesus is like really hitting this point.
You can't do anything unless you remain in me.
But if you remain in me, you're going to be pruned.
You keep on bearing more fruit.
And my question then is like, well, how do I remain in you, Jesus?
And so then he answers that in verse nine and 10.
It is just as the father has loved me, I have also loved you remain in my love.
If you obey my commandments, you remain in my love just as I have obeyed my father's
commandments and remain in his love.
And so I mean, he talks earlier about loving, right?
You're going to keep his commands.
And I appreciate what you shared, Mata.
It's not that they're like equivalent, right?
Love precedes obedience.
But love can't be absent from obedience.
But I think here it's like the analogy is just like it's a vine, right?
It's just all linked up.
We can't separate ourselves from Jesus.
We can't separate Jesus from his teachings.
We can't separate Jesus' teachings from our lives.
It's just this all, this mass that is continuously growing and building and bringing God glory
in that pruning, growing process.
I don't know if any of you have rose bushes.
I have, I've killed a few.
And I'm in the active process of killing one now.
The blight got one and I didn't know if you clipped one, you could take it over to the
I figured that out though, the hard way.
We have one beautiful rose bush left.
And what I've learned though is you really do need to prune the heck out of them a lot.
And that is what they need.
They really thrive after that.
And I like this.
I do think this reminds me a lot of the love piece I think of as God loving us first and
because he did, we have a chance to love him and that it is all intertwined.
And thank goodness we have the Holy Spirit and we remain in him holding on to his commands,
not letting go of them, returning to them again and again and again.
We fall down, we pick ourselves up, we go back and we're going to keep getting pruned
and that's going to feel really hard, but it's going to prepare us to bear fruit.
And that's something that just, you know, my rose bush produces flowers because it's
just stayed there and it's still absorbing all the water from the ground.
And the Holy Spirit's going to keep moving in us and we're going to get pruned and it's
not going to feel good and that sin that we, you know, self-reliance or whatever is going
to get chopped at and taken down.
And then we're going to be producing something that's beautiful that glorifies God.
And you know, the fruit that comes from that.
I mean, I think the question I think you were going to follow up with was like, well, I
mean, how can we, how can we do this?
How can we do what the Sermon on the Mount calls us to do?
I mean, Jesus is loving him as to keep his commands, but I can't keep these.
And so what happens if we sin?
What happens if we fall short of the commands that are being talked about here?
Are there scriptures that you guys think about when you're thinking about that process of
sinning and getting back on your feet again or fault or even, you know, sometimes it's
not the same sins that we do, but it's the good that we don't do.
How do we move forward in those times when we're like, I want to love Jesus.
I want to keep his commands, but I feel like I'm having trouble holding onto this.
What do you guys think about that?
I guess it's like the process of sanctification, right?
What keeps you guys going?
I think, I think the world lies to us and we have to keep going back to his word.
I'm, I'm not okay if I'm spending, if I'm not spending time in the word, if I'm not
reminding myself of what's real, I get weird, real easy.
I'm so, my natural inclination is to be self-reliant and rely on my own strength and not look to
And the more that I realize, the more I read the Bible, the more I realize I have to keep
my eyes focused on him.
And yeah, I'm going to mess up.
And I've started to, to realize the longer that I've been holding onto Jesus that I've
tasted more of his mercy and it's made me more secure.
And I think that I, I am an insecure person and that I want people to like me.
And so talking about my sin is hard and I don't want to look bad.
And I don't want people to think, Oh, why would you be struggling with that?
And shouldn't you be further along?
And I often think, Yeah, I should be.
I thought I'd be a lot further along than I am right now, you know?
But I'm not.
And I am really grateful that I have mercy.
And I think that you got to just keep going back.
And these are some of the verses that I think help me, you know, to remember and to focus
I think that and you guys and our virtual audience out there is going to have to forgive
me because it's getting late at night where I am right here.
So I'm not recalling the scripture.
I believe it's in Philippians where it talks about all attaining to or living up to what
you've already attained.
And I think, you know, being, having been a Christian as long as I have, going on 40
Now, anything that you've been doing for 40 years, you ought to be really, really, you
ought to be an expert at it.
And sometimes I feel like I'm a novice all over again.
And passages like that helped me because they helped me to understand that.
So I'm not trying to, I'm not trying to cure cancer here.
I'm trying to live what I already know, what I've already experienced, because what happens
is when I sin.
So when I, when I fall to something.
I, in my mind, I want to say, well, see, you're a loser.
You've always been a loser.
You're always going to be a loser.
And I want to park there and I want to stop there.
But then I think, no, I'm not a loser.
I know what God has done in my life.
I know what it takes.
I know, like you were saying that, I know that if I'm not in the word deeply and consistently
and for me, because I need it, not because I need to teach somebody that, not because
somebody's going to ask me what's your Bible study like these days or what are you studying
in your Bible, but then I do it because I know that I need it because if I don't do
it, I'm a mess.
And that's what, that's what keeps me going.
That's what keeps me saying, you know what?
You're not a loser because the Holy Spirit is in you.
And it's not, it goes beyond, you're not a loser because you've been doing this for 40
years and there's, you get there, you know, longevity counts.
No, I'm not a loser because Jesus loves me and I love him.
The Holy Spirit is in me and I know how to get back out of this.
My sinful nature wants to tell me, no, you don't know how to get yours.
You're not going to.
And it's that that keeps me going.
That the Holy Spirit is in me, groaning, communicating things that I can't with my mind, but that
helps me with my spirit.
When I'm weak, then I'm strong.
If I can just keep focused on Jesus, I am, you know, he carries me.
And I think the, so much of faith, you know, how we are, we live is just keeping our eyes
focused on Jesus.
I mean, the author and perfector of our faith, right?
I think that when I read things like John 1, where it says in the beginning, the word
was with God and the word was God.
The way that he uses that with word, it actually means toward.
Jesus's whole orientation is toward the Father.
And you can see that the rest of the, you know, he says, oh, I can only do what I see
my father doing.
I only say what my father's told me to say.
And that is so amazing, right?
He models what faith is for us, look to God.
I know that we're coming up on time.
I don't know if we answered the question at all still, but this has been a fun discussion.
I guess I just want to bring it back in my mind to the Sermon on the Mount there because
I think the Sermon on the Mount is supposed to and can serve as this amazing way of coming
back to Jesus.
I think that it's that look in the mirror of where am I compared to where Jesus wants
And each time I look at it, every year, every month, I look at it again.
I'm going to see a new smudge on my face that I need to wipe off.
And it can be difficult and it can be scary and I know doing that for 40 years, that must
be like, wow, this is a lot of work to keep on going through this.
But to be able to do that in the hope and the confidence that we're doing it with Jesus,
we're doing it in communion with the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is using this
as a tool to make us more like Jesus.
And so maybe to wrap up here, I don't think that if I was to answer this, the Sermon on
the Mount is new law in the same way the old law was like, here's the letter of the law
and you've got to go up to this and because people went up to the edge and then whatever
didn't say that, okay, and I've got all these loopholes now and I can, or they went to the
other extreme of building a hedge around the Torah and I'm not even getting close to it
and Jesus came in through and had a lot of fun, I think breaking those hedges down.
But it's more getting to the heart and getting to the motivations and getting to relationship
and almost to that point where the correlation I see in Romans 12 about by testing you may
And I think that our hearts would change and we would desire the things that God desires,
that we would desire Him as most important above all the other things that we could desire
in this world.
Yeah, I think that the Sermon on the Mount helps us every day in every hour at every
Jesus is ascending that mountain and sitting down prepared to teach and we have to keep
looking that way.
He's up there, so he's a little higher so we can see him if we look in that direction.
But it's just that every day making that decision, I can follow Jesus and I can sit down at His
feet and I can listen to what He says or I can do this other thing.
Yeah, and this is, I think, is where we'll have to keep on digging in because unless
people forget what we talked about at the beginning of this episode, Jesus is like,
if you don't follow what I'm saying, you're doomed.
So, I think the Sermon on the Mount is both this aspirational, inspirational vision of
the future and it is the word of our teacher that we have to follow today.
I think we have to live in the both and there and we can't lose sight of those dual realities.
That's a great ending there.
This has been fun.
This is fun.
I love this.