Here is what Matthew recorded after Jesus finished sharing his Sermon on the Mount:
The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:28-29)
If there is anything we can learn from this body of teaching it is the impact and connectedness that genuine kingdom living and principles can have in a culture. Jesus embodied authentically the kingdom principles he taught and as Matthew recorded it was evident.
I believe that people will still respond in a similar way to genuine kingdom living in the real world. Our culture just grows uglier and as it does the urgent need to confront and connect this culture with God’s kingdom grows. But admittedly it is a daunting task.
The violent, frightening and even anti-Christian nature of culture encourages us not to confront but to retreat. It is much safer to stay within our church walls and not venture out. But where would we be if Christ had done that? His culture was just as brutal and oppressive. Yet he modeled and taught aggressive kingdom living.
If we are to follow his example, it means:
Emerging out of our “church culture”. Often we do not realize how “churched” we have become- how insulated we are from culture at large. While this insulation is comforting it is not connecting the lost, the hungry, the desperate to Christ. In his Sermon on the Mount Christ shook off and consequently shook up the religious culture of his day. He went outside of the box to reach the lost. The inside of the box may be warm, safe and snug, but lost folks are not in it.
Using language that connects. Jesus taught in parables for a reason. It was every-day language that was easily understandable. Paul in Athens quoted local philosophers. We must understand that the culture at-large is not talking about a “night with ebon pinion” or even about more common church words like redemption, remission, or repentance. To connect like Christ and make kingdom living real we must present him in terms culture can embrace.
Doing ministry that relates. Check out the roster of ministries at most churches. It is all about inreach. While inreach is important, what of outreach? We are surrounded by the hurting, the homeless, the helpless and the hopeless, yet sometimes we are more concerned about the condition of our parking lot than ministering to them. This is exactly what the sermon spoke against. Kingdom living in the real world is about doing ministry that relates to people needing Jesus.
Not long after he delivered his sermon, Jesus sent out his disciples in what we call the “limited commission” recorded in Matthew chapter ten. Here is part of the divine advice Jesus shared during preparation:
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves, Therefore be shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (vs. 16)
Notice Christ’s admission of the cultural challenge. They were sheep entering into a wolf culture. So are we. Notice also how Christ encouraged them to be ready to engage that culture in a wise, practical and genuine way. To me this is kingdom living in the real world. It is our call today.
Remember what the crowds said about Jesus after his sermon? If we want to gauge what kind of impact we are having in our culture and how successfully we are connecting Christ to it, then we must ask ourselves a key question.
In our attempts to model authentic kingdom living to the lost world- just what are the crowds saying about us?