Tim Keller | March 28, 1999
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus contrasts two groups who appear the same on the outside, but have different motives on the inside. Religious people are superficial, hiding behind the letter of the law; but people who are changed by the gospel are shining in the spirit of the law.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount teaches us about facing hard times, being a good influence, and the importance of God’s laws. It also shows us how being a Christian is special and different from just being religious. Theologian Karl Barth argued that religious people, not just the Jewish people, played a role in Jesus’ death, showing the difference between being Christian and being religious. The Sermon on the Mount offers two ways to live: following religious traditions or living out the goodness in the teachings of Jesus.
1. Goodness in the teachings of Jesus shines brighter
The way of Jesus and religious righteousness are different. Jesus’ way is about including and healing people, like salt that preserves and fixes. But religious righteousness can exclude and judge people. Even if it’s not popular, the way of Jesus is attractive because it shows love and mercy. You can tell real Christian faith from just being religious by how a person reacts to diverse places like New York City.
2. Goodness in the teachings of Jesus goes deeper
Jesus tells us that it’s not enough to just follow rules on the outside; we need to be good on the inside too. The Ten Commandments teach us that avoiding murder or adultery isn’t enough; we also need to rid our hearts of hatred and lust. Jesus asks us to be sincere, to speak truthfully, and to respond to wrongs with hope, forgiveness, and love. This goes beyond the shallow goodness of being religious out of fear or pride, showing the deeper, brighter goodness that comes from a real change of heart.
3. Goodness in the teachings of Jesus is sweeter
The Sermon on the Mount shows us that we can only follow its teachings if we see God as our Father. Being positive, loving those who are different, and not worrying all come from knowing how much God values us. This is different from those who follow God’s laws just to feel good about themselves. The goodness in Jesus’ teachings is based on knowing God as our Father, which changes why we do what we do and makes Christianity different from just being religious.
4. Goodness in the teachings of Jesus is higher
The Gospel gives us a better understanding of God’s laws than other types of goodness. Liberal religion focuses on God’s love and our efforts, and conservative religion emphasizes following rules. But Christianity is unique because it believes that Jesus perfectly fulfilled God’s laws. This means that by believing in Jesus, God sees us as if we are living the Sermon on the Mount perfectly every day, making Christianity stand out from other religions.
February Book Offer
In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller shows us how a proper understanding of the Bible reveals the truth about societal ideals and our own hearts — and that there is only one God who can wholly satisfy our cravings and fulfill our hopes.
February Book Offer