Continuing our spotlight on our recent Equip Her classes, Libby Farmen shares with us her take-aways from the Wednesday night study on The Sermon on the Mount.
Looking around and talking to people it is easy to see that we as Christians are living in an area where we desperately want to be walking in alignment with God’s will for ourselves, but we struggle to understand, What is God’s will for my life?! Does he want me to take this job or that job, marry this person, adopt a child, be a stay-at-home mom, etc.?
Jen Wilkin’s study of the Sermon on the Mount hits this issue and many more head on as she walks you through Jesus’ longest sermon on record.
Jesus begins his sermon with some shocking news for the disciples as He shares that He isn’t going to be taking up residency as their new earthly king. They aren’t going to be generals in His new army or living in His palace. Prior to these words, the disciples had assumed that Jesus had hand-picked them to be men of war as He freed the Jews and established rule. Instead, Jesus delivers a sobering reality that they, like Him, will be tasked with the very difficult mission of bringing the New Covenant to the world. It is from this astonishing and sobering place that Jesus begins a series of examples and stories that illustrate the life of a Christ-follower.
For each of the nine weeks, Jen tackles a new section of the sermon and provides historical context around how the first readers would have understood Jesus’ message while making it applicable to modern-day Christians. Here are a few personal highlights from the series.
- Fun Fact: Did you know that the beatitudes mirror the story of the prodigal son?
In studying the beatitudes, many people assume they are lists of things that we should do/not do as believers. However, Jen points out they are more about how we are to “be” rather than what we are to “do” – a subtle yet critical distinction. For example, what does it mean to be “poor in spirit?” As a believer, this means that as we recognize our spiritual poverty apart from Christ, it shapes how we are to respond to others here on earth with regard to forgiveness, grace, love etc. Why are the blessed those who are hungry and thirsty? You’ll never look at the beatitudes in the same way, and you’ll understand why Jesus starts his sermon with them.
- Why did Jesus call us to be the “salt of the earth?” While very common, salt was critical and served three major functions – food preservation, prevention of infections, and enhancing taste.
When Jesus calls us to be “the salt of the earth” this is an extremely loaded message – among other things, he is calling us to live a life that makes others thirsty for Christ. Jen will challenge you in this place: Are you living your life in such a way that it makes others thirsty? Do people leave your presence wanting more of what you have?
- Do you struggle with discerning God’s will for your life? When making decisions do you yearn for reassurance that they are the ones God wants you to make? As Jesus begins to wrap up his sermon with the well-known “narrow and wide paths,” I must admit, I had never thought much more about the narrow path than it being the road of salvation. However, as Jen unpacks Jesus’ simple yet loaded illustration, I learned there is much to be discovered in how it applies to something we do a hundred plus times a day — decision making. Jesus teaches the narrow path as a journey of who you are becoming in Christ. The narrow path is not a checklist of behaviors or things you must accomplish, but rather where Jesus meets and shapes us as His child.
Jen artfully teaches that in grace-filled salvation God always cares more about the decision maker than He does the decision. We know this is true, right? God wants our heart, and He wants it fixated on Him. God knew that we would need to make many decisions as we navigate this life, and He said through His Word that when we ask, He will provide us with the tool we need to make these decisions. It is the Lord’s desire that as we walk with Him and are shaped by Him we become able to make right choices as opposed to constantly needing to ask, “What is the right choice?”
So, what is this tool that God has said He would provide? Well, it’s wisdom. God has shared repeatedly that He will give us wisdom to make decisions. He doesn’t want to hand-feed us all our lives as though we are small children but rather grow us in such a way that as we go out into the world and make Him known, we can make both daily and important decisions. Desperation for God’s will is only part of the equation; you must saturate your life with His truth and spirit – delivered through his Word and through prayer. Just as it is impossible to have a conversation with someone 100 yards away, life will feel more confusing when we aren’t close enough to God. The narrow path is a life filled with wisdom – given freely by God through his Word and through prayer.