- JRM Sydney
THE UPSIDE DOWN KINGDOM
The central idea is that the Kingdom of God is unlike anything that this world has ever seen and that His Kingdom is radically different and utterly amazing. The upside-down imagery is intended to convey the way the kingdom of God challenges the prevailing social order – how the values of the kingdom stand in an inverse relationship to the values of the world. That is, what is highly valued at the top of one order ranks at the bottom of the other
The USIDE DOWN PRINCIPLES OF THE KINGDOM
You GAIN LIFE by LOSING IT
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
- Matthew 10:39
You RECEIVE BY GIVING
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
- Luke 6:38
Your are EXALTED when you are HUMBLE
The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
- Matthew 23:11-12
Our WEAKNESS is our STRENGTH
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
We RULE by SERVING
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- Matthew 20: 25-28
Nothing else in all Scriptures describes fully the picture of this Upside Down Kingdom than the SERMON on the MOUNT. How do we live in this new Kingdom Citizenship we have been transferred to? What does a Christian life look like? What does Kingdom living mean? The Sermon on the Mount answers these questions
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.
Why is JESUS on the mountain when he spoke of the sermon on the mount?
Because He is bringing a revolution. Revolutionaries propagating new kingdom ideologies normally gather their followers on the mountains. (e.g. NPA). JESUS mentions that He comes to re-establish the Kingdom - a new administration. It was said that the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ Manifesto of the Kingdom. (A manifesto is normally a declaration pertaining to how life will be lived within that sphere of rule) The Sermon on the Mount is how Citizens of the Kingdom of God should live within His sphere of reign. Unlike other kingdoms, Jesus did not just teach or speak of anything that He Himself hasn’t done or modelled.
"The Sermon on the Mount is the part of Jesus’ teaching that is best known, least understood and least obeyed." John Stott
It is radical to the original hearers because they were expecting a King like David who will lead them to a political and material victory and prosperity. This was the agenda they were expecting. Instead, Jesus emphasised the spiritual implications of what it means or what it looks like when He is truly King of your life.
Take note: This is not a list of Dos and Don’ts on how to gain salvation or eternal life. Remember that Jesus is already talking to the 'disciples' here. They already are saved and are already followers of Him. This is instead the expected behaviour or should be the natural result or fruit of following Jesus - if indeed we are following Him.
One thing you will realise though. That as you read the Sermon on the Mount, you will really have a sense of realisation that you are indeed a sinner and how much you need the Grace of God and the Saviour in your life. But as we read the Sermon on the mount we are not also to say: "well I don’t need to do that anymore because I am already saved", instead it is God’s invitation to the saved to live in this world reflecting that indeed they are saved. It is God’s instructions to his disciples of what life should look like while we are still here on earth, waiting for the final arrival and consummation of His Kingdom.
The Sermon on the Mount is said to be Jesus’ signature itinerant message to every place that He goes to. I.e. This was repeated but on a different setting in Luke 6:17-26 (Blessings and Woes). And in many occasions in the Gospels we find jesus procaliming the 'gospel of the Kingdom of God'.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God
But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases..
The Apostles and the early disciples lived and breathed and built their life upon the sermon on the mount; as reflected in all of the letters written by them. I wonder if Christians today will begin to live and grow in the practice of the Sermon on the Mount; it will perhaps radically influence our society and make a difference and point many people to Jesus, as much as the early church had in their time. Talk about Christlikeness - imitating Christ - this is the place to go. Jesus is the Sermon on the Mount personified.
What is Jesus trying to do here in the sermon on the mount?
If we can break it down into four parts we can say these are what Jesus is trying to accomplish:
1. Teaching the Beatitudes: The Character of Kingdom Citizens
This is the essence of the upside-down kingdom. It’s interesting how each line starts with the word “Blessed are those…’ Who doesn’t want to be blessed? The original word used for this is “Happy are those…” In effect, Jesus is saying, you want to know the path to real and lasting happiness? It's not in the things that this world says you will be happy with. It's upside-down in principle:
2. Fixing What’s Wrong: Correcting the Mindset of the Disciples
Correcting the misunderstandings in the mIndset or belief of the listeners
Many times in the Sermon on the mount you will hear Jesus say: “You have heard that it was said…
But I tell you… "
Much of discipleship is about unlearning as much as it is also about learning. Modern-day Christians grew up with many mentalities and perspectives that are not necessarily "Christian" or Biblical. E.g. The world says follow your heart - the Bible says "The heart is deceitful above all things.." Which ones are going to be the guiding principles of your life, the Popular Culture versus the WORD of GOD?
3. Doing What's Right: Living Kingdom Life
As much as we have been brainwashed by worldly mindset to think that happiness means doing whatever we want, the Kingdom of God still has ETHICS and NORMS. We might think of these as a list of Dos and Donts but it is something the Lord wants us to do not because He needs anything from us. He wants us to practice it for our own good and the health of the community He has saved:
E.g. Do not be like the hypocrites… Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…
Do not worry about your life..
Do not Judge… When you give…
When you pray…
When you fast…
The word, WHEN denotes that this is expected. Jesus did not use “IF"...
We don't say "IF you breathe..", we say "WHEN you breathe..." because it is expected. The Kingdom of God has expectations to its citizens. (e.g. when you became Australian Citizens. It also means that these teachings are not optional. It’s not a Preference - it’s a norm.
4. Seeking After God: Choosing Your King
We will notice that in the Sermon on the Mount, there are always two options: The Narrow Gate or the Broad Gate
The Wise Builder or the Foolish Builder Treasures in Heaven or Treasures on Earth
(Remember our Message last week on "Between Two Kingdoms"?)
The Sermon on the Mount is no easy way to live while we are here on earth; and it takes time to grow into it as well. But sometimes it will also test what ideals of kingdom do we like to have and if it doesn’t match the kingdom that God describes, sometimes we get frustrated. E.g the Jews expected a political, economic, military-led kingdom. They wanted to drive out the Roman oppressors - but what does Jesus teach in the Sermon on the Mount: “LOVE YOUR ENEMIES”
We normally would like to define God’s Kingdom based on our preferences, comfort, our pleasure and our satisfaction - but the problem with that is it will be frustrating - because, in that version of a kingdom that we want, WE are at the centre of it. It’s all about ME. What I want. And every time, the kingdom we want to belong to becomes self-centred, the sermon on the mount will shake that, because the Kingdom of God is centred on Him and selfless-serving-others-focused.
THE HOLY SPIRIT'S ROLE
We should never preach or teach on the Sermon on the Mount legalistically or as a tool to condemn or guilt-trip anyone. It is for us to reflect that this life in the Kingdom is impossible to live without the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit within. Thus, it should draw us closer to JESUS. Much of the characters here - e.g. the Beatitudes is more caught than taught. You become like those you are always with. WALK WITH JESUS and you will be humble. You will be generous. You will be selfless. you will be forgiving. etc.
This is actually not something you do FOR GOD. God doesn’t need anything from you. This is something you do for yourself.. and it is God, the Holy Spirit capable and willing to do it through you, for you.. and there has to be an active, living, flowing, access of the Holy Spirit in your life for you to experience this.
I am not the best bicyclist, but no matter how good of a bike rider you are - if there is not a right or enough air in the tires - your efforts are futile.. you will become weary too quick in this Christian life with a flat tire. We need air in our tires - the HOLY SPIRIT - you have to ask each morning at all times - ask for the Holy Spirit to work in you - to give you air.
Lastly, are we presenting JESUS to the world as KING? It is called the Gospel of the Kingdom.. and yes Jesus is Saviour but He is Saviour King!
Talking about an upside-down kingdom - on other kingdoms, the people give their lives to save their king. In God’s Kingdom - it’s the King who gave His life as a ransom for His people and because of that unconditional love, I am willing to lay down my life for Him as well. The Sermon on the Mount gives me that opportunity to live for Him.
QUESTIONS for DISCUSSION:
What striking ideas do you find hard to understand in the Sermon on the Mount?
What instructions do you find hard to practice?
Which part/s are your favourite/s? Why?
Why is the Gospel of the Kingdom called an upside-down Kingdom?
What kind of kingdom are the Jews expecting to come in their time? Why were they surprised at the Kingdom that Jesus taught?
What makes the Sermon on the Mount a radical teaching in their time and in ours?
How can you practically grow living out these upside-down kingdom principles?