From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a October 2001 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.

Genuine Christian renewal will always carry in its wake a richer and deeper understanding of Scripture. As there arises in our hearts and minds a determined quest for him who is the sole object of it all — for Jesus Christ himself — we are driven irresistibly to seek a fuller understanding of his wonderful words of life. And when we consider the renewal movement of discipleship to Jesus, that is, the spiritual formation of our souls under God, the Sermon on the Mount is simply the most central text in the Bible.

The Greatest Teaching Ever Given 

The Sermon on the Mount, recorded for us in Matthew 5 – 7 (along with its parallel in Luke), is absolutely the greatest teaching ever given on how to live fully and freely. It is a continuous discourse in which Jesus lays out the principles sufficient for anyone who wants to live the blessed life. This sermon is THE GOLD MINE that the Church has too often dismissed as interesting in a poetic sort of way but having nothing essential to do with how we might actually live today. Or relegated it to another dispensation because it seems like an impossible way to live in our present world. And, tragically, we have too often embraced these convenient ways for neglecting this greatest of teaching, to our own detriment.

O dear friend, believe me, the riches in the Sermon on the Mount are worth a lifetime of study, thought, reflection, and practice. The truths in it can bring life and order to the emotions and the will and the spirit and the soul.

Somebody Confused Somewhere 

But it does need to be understood. When we read the literature on the Sermon on the Mount we have to conclude that somebody is confused somewhere. Many, for example, turn these penetrating words of Jesus into a new set of soul-crushing laws. This, the greatest of all teaching on life, is often used to beat people down and put them into the worst of bondage. It is true, isn’t it, that the best of literature is often taken and used to the worst of ends.

But in this great sermon Jesus is not teaching systematically or exhaustively. He is not giving us a system of doctrine or of moral rules. Rather, he is aiming to convey a certain spirit to us, a spirit that will transform our minds. And he uses concrete examples and everyday situations and striking sayings to fix that spirit and outlook in us.

Read Richard’s companion article, Practicing the Sermon on the Mount.

Text First Published October 2001 · Last Featured on June 2021