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The Character Equation


"And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.  Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you, when men shall revile and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake.  Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."  
Matthew 5:1-12
                                                                                                       

How important is character?  In the above passage, we read the words of Jesus in that greatest of all sermons we call the Sermon on the Mount.  What powerful words and what a powerful impact they must have made on the disciples who heard them.  The Character Equation, as I have called it, consists of three elements.  Character, Conduct, and Influence.  The equation is:  C + C= I.

Character + Conduct = Influence

Is it not true that every one of us has influence upon others?  It may be good influence, or bad. Nevertheless, it is influence.  We don't want our children to hang around other children who will be a bad influence on them.  Why is this so?  Because the Bible says:
"Evil communications corrupt good manners."  I Corinthians 15:33
  
Moffatt's translation puts it this way: "Bad company is the ruin of good character."  So, it matters who we hang around with.  Make no mistake about it, character plus conduct equals influence. It all begins with character. When you add character and conduct you get influence. Out of character comes conduct and out of conduct comes influence.
C + C = I.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ gathers his disciples around him, and He teaches them what true Christian character is.  Christianity is not something I do, but it is first and foremost, something I am.  Many people believe that you do certain things and in the performing of those certain things, one is therefore a Christian.  This is not so.  It does not mean that Christians don't DO certain things.  Of course, they do.    But the Sermon on the Mount is Christ's message to the believer which says, it's not "Live like this and you will be a Christian."  No.  But, "Because you are a Christian you will live like this."
So, let's dive into the Sermon on the Mount and find out about Christian character and how it affects the life of the believer and those with whom he/she comes in contact.

I. The Prompting of the Sermon

What prompted this message?  What caused Jesus to preach this message to His disciples that day on the hillside?   Two things are very clear.
           
1. People and
2. Prayer
Let's take the first one…

People
            "And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him."  Matthew 5:1

People!  He saw the people!  Look at it.  He saw the multitudes and then he turns from them as if he is leaving them and goes up into a mountain and begins to talk to his disciples.  He wants to get to the multitudes, of course.  However, in order to do so, he gets 12 men and teaches them so they can go to the multitudes and reach them for the glory of God.  What happens when you see people without God and without hope?  Does it touch your heart?  Does it make you want to say something?  These people were lost and in need of hope.  Jesus realizes that in order to do this He needs to get these men on board with how this is to take place.  May we be sensitive enough to see people!  When Jesus looked at people, he looked at them three ways. He looked AT them, THROUGH them, and PAST them.  Most of the time we only look AT people. But thank the Lord, Jesus looks PAST them.  What is that?  He looks beyond their faults and sees their needs.  He looks past your faults and sins and sees YOUR need!  Hallelujah! Remember, Jesus does not look at us in the light of our present failures, but in the light of our potential.

Now, the second one.

Prayer

"And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and he continued all night in prayer to God.  And he came down with them and stood in the plain ... and he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor for yours is the kingdom of God." Luke 6:12, 17, 20

This is Luke's gospel record of the sermon Jesus preached.  He says Christ preached this message after He had prayed all night.  Can you imagine?  An all-night prayer meeting with the Father ends with Jesus having a message to preach to the men who would soon, in the book of Acts, turn the world upside down!  How cool is this?  If every preacher would spend half that time in prayer what kind of preaching do you suppose would come forth from their lips in these last days?  My dear fellow Christian, this is the kind of thing we need in our lives.  Not just for preaching purposes, but to live our lives as his willing servants and be the influence this lost world needs. We must never underestimate the power of prayer and the need for it.  One senior preacher said years ago, "we talk so much about prayer, we think we did it."

II. The Procedure of the Sermon

"And when He was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth and taught them, saying ..."
 
How is Jesus going to reach these multitudes?  The procedure is to get 12 men yielded to the King, Jesus Christ, and teach them.  Pour into them.  Fellow believer, He wants to pour into you as well!  He wants to teach you!  It takes a teachable spirit and a hunger to be able to sit at his feet and receive.  Attitude is very key here.  May I ask you something?  Do you have a teachable spirit?  That is, is your attitude one that receives teaching, or do you have the answers already?  Why is that so important?  The scripture says,

"Thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent and hast revealed them unto babes."  Matthew 11:25
That is, He hides things.  Did you hear that?  He hides things.  He hides things from the "know it all's".  Yet, He reveals things unto the humble - those who know that without Jesus they are nothing. This teachability also lends itself to guidance from the Lord.  Our attitude towards Him plays a vital role in divine guidance.  Let us always remember that the attitude of our heart towards God establishes the basis of guidance from God.  How can He pour into me and reveal things to me if my attitude is, for example: "God dealt me a bad hand in life?"  Always endeavor to keep your heart soft before Him.  God is not responsible for every brown blade of grass in my front yard!  As we keep our hearts pliable, and our attitude teachable, He will open his mouth and reveal things to us in a most remarkable way.  He is the Lord, and I am the servant.

III. The Personality of the Sermon

The personality, or nature of this message is an unfolding of principles in a teaching, preaching sort of way.  It's not just teaching.  It's not just preaching.  It's both.  My pastor used to say to me, "Jerry, good teaching is preaching, and good preaching is teaching."  I never forgot that. One of Christ's main principles he is trying to get across to them in this sermon is this:  The Kingdom of God is first spiritual, then material.  Let me give you an example of this.

The Sermon on the Mount is three chapters long.  Matthew 5, 6, and 7.  In Matthew 6:9, Jesus tells them how to pray.  You probably know this one by memory, I'm certain.

"Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven…"
 
And then this scripture from Romans:
 
"The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost."  Romans 14:17

Many think that the kingdom of God is only a physical one.  We can see that the kingdom of God is a spiritual matter before it is a material thing.  It's not meat and drink.  That means it's not material first.  His kingdom WILL come to earth someday.  But for the believer, the Christian, the kingdom of God is within us.  (Luke 17:21) The kingdom is His reign in our lives. He lives in us.  His kingdom rule over my heart.  He's in charge of my life.  Spiritual first.  "Thy kingdom rule come in this earthen vessel."  Jesus is going to push this home into their hearts. He wants to bring it home to your heart as well.  The day you surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ He began to dwell, live, make a home in your heart.  That means that He rules your life. He is the king of your heart.  You and I now want to please Him first and not ourselves or anyone else.  Why? Because we do not belong to ourselves anymore.  We belong to Him.  Listen to it:

"What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, and ye are not your own?  For you were bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."  I Corinthians 6:19,20  
 
So, because of this fact, the Sermon on the Mount is not to be used as a set of rules or ethics, or morals that a man does his best to follow and that is all.  Oh, no.  This message is only for those who are not their own.  For those who have been washed in the blood, who have made Jesus king of their life.

IV. The Proclamation of the Sermon

In verse 2 it says Jesus opened his mouth and taught them saying ... Taught who?  The disciples. We must never forget that this message is for Christians.  It is a proclamation to us, His church, who are the blood washed children of God.  This sermon is complete.  It has no wasted words.  He leaves nothing out.  He speaks with freedom, and liberty.  In fact, that's what the phrase "He opened His mouth" infers.  It's a way of saying, He spoke with liberty; He spoke with freedom, and He leaves nothing out.  What a great thing.  The church needs a proclamation like this.  I am afraid there is too much left out of our preaching these days.  To gain the crowds and appease the people, we have sacrificed much of the truth.  However, it is the truth that can set people free.  It's truth that confronts sin, and leaves nothing out.  It is truth that exposes the problem and conceals nothing.  It's truth that proclaims, exposes and makes manifest things as they really are.  Praise the Lord for the Word of God!  We need a genuine God sent message.  When hearing or reading a message there are some key ingredients to look for which mark it as genuine.  Jeremiah the prophet gives us three.

"The prophet that has a dream let him tell a dream; and he that has my word let him speak my word faithfully.  For what is the chaff to the wheat? Saith the Lord.  Is not my word like as a fire? Saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?"  Jeremiah 23:28-29.

So, what are these ingredients?

            1. His word is like wheat.
            2. His word is like a fire.
            3. His word is like a hammer.

This is powerful to me.  His Word is like wheat in that it feeds my soul.  It has substance to it. There's something about the proclaimed Word of God under the anointing of the Holy Spirit that gives nourishment and causes growth.  If the power of life is to work in us, we need real food.  His Word is also like fire in that it kindles or sparks a feeling in my spirit.  I like what the two men on the Emmaus road said in Luke 24:32.

"Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us by the way, and opened to us the scriptures?"

Did you see that?  BURN!  Their hearts burned!  The power of a genuine word is that it causes the heart to be stirred.  Like ashes in a fire that is about to go out, His Word can stir them up and bring that fire back again!  And the Lord is doing that to YOU!  Yes, YOU!  You are being brought back again to a renewed hunger and thirst for the living God!  Somebody needs to know that!  He has not forgotten you, nor has He forsaken you.  You think you've been left where you are only to waste away.  Well, you are wrong.  He is bringing you to a place in your life where you can grow and develop like you were supposed to but for some reason, whether of your own making or not, it didn't happen.  But the Word of God is coming to you now, and it's causing a stirring, a burning, and a moving inside and it clicks in your spirit.  Doesn't it?  Well, doesn't it?  Say, yes.  Good.

And His Word is like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces.  It takes more than one blow from a hammer to crack the rock.  It may take two, three, or maybe four blows from the hammer of God's Word before we begin to see something happen.  So, keep reading it!  Keep listening to it!  Keep going to church where the message is preached!  Don't stop the hammer coming down on you.  Ask the Lord to allow that word to find a place in your heart.  To lodge there.  To take root, and to grow for His glory.  His word is effective!  It will hit us.  It may hurt us.  But rest assured it will help us, and it will heal us!  Hallelujah!

V. The Principles of the Sermon

The principles of this message are in two parts.  First, we see the general principles and then, secondly, the specific principles. We will only speak to the general.

First, the general principles are listed in order in verses 3-16.  They begin with the Beatitudes.
The characteristics of a Christian in verses 3-10.  Then, in verses 11-12 we see what kind of a reaction the Christian receives from non-believers. Then, in verses 13-16 the function of the Christian in society.   So, let's list the Beatitudes.  There are eight in number.

  • 1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • 2. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • 3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  • 4. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
  • 5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
  • 6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  • 7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
  • 8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Each of these characteristics of a Christian explodes with the undeniable truth that the Christian is different from those who are not Christian.  An error of the church in modern times, is that it thinks being like the world is attractive to the world.  But this is not the case.  Christian, our attractiveness to the world is not in our SAMENESS, but in our DISTINCTIVENESS.  We are different!  We are not better, no, but we are better off.  Do you see the difference?  We are better off, but we are in no way better than anyone else.  Yes, we are distinctive; different.  How so?

We live by a Distinct Rule.  What is this distinct rule?  It's the Bible.  The Bible is our distinctive. It is what sets apart the believer from the non-believer.  This book says the we are not our own.  In 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 it states, as you may remember, that we are not our own.  We do not belong to ourselves.  So, we are to behave in a manner that glorifies God both in our bodies and in our spirit, which belong to God.  So, we are not to hold up the Bible and then pull it down to the level of our experience, but we are to rise to the level of ITS experience!  Opposite to the unbeliever, we believe the Bible is our only rule of faith and conduct.  The B.I.B.L.E. yes, that's the book for me!

We also live by a Distinct Reasoning.  We are to have a different mindset.  The Bible says that we are to have the mind of Christ.  What is that?  Well, the scripture tells us in Philippians 2:6-8 that Jesus did not consider being equal with God a thing to hang on to or grasp.  But He emptied himself.  Did you see that?  He emptied Himself.  He emptied himself and became a servant.  A servant.  Yes, a servant.  Ah… this is it!  His mindset, His reasoning was, I am a servant of the Lord.  Listen to the scripture: "He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:8.  We now think differently than we used to.  We used to think we were Number ONE!  But now, we know that we are not Number One, nor number two, or three or four!  The reasoning and mindset of a Christian is Jesus is the Lord and I am the servant.  I am not in charge, He is.

We live by a Distinct Ruler.  Who is this Ruler?  Jesus.  He is my Savior, but also, He is my Lord. We sing a song that has these words: "Ruler of my heart today, Jesus Lord to me…"  He is Lord of my life which means that instead of me taking the initiative for my life, He does.  It means that we as Christians do not take matters into our own hands.  We do not seek revenge.  We do not call the shots.  He is sovereign and in charge.  I am not.  This brings great satisfaction to my spirit and now, I do not live my life in fear.  "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."   Hebrews 13:6   Ten Thousand Hallelujahs!

So, we are distinct.   Christian friend, the lines are being blurred as to the fundamental difference between a Christian and a non-Christian.  This must be addressed.  The world has crept into the church and the church is gradually taking on the world's mindset.  The line of separation was clearer in times past.  We have been sold the idea that the church must be attractive to the sinner outside, and we need to become like them if we are to influence them. This is just not the case.  We do not love the same things the world loves.  We do not hunger and thirst for the same things the world, or sinner hungers and thirsts for.  Listen to the Beatitude: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst."  After what? After popularity? No. After money? No. Position? No. Blessed are those which do hunger and thirst after righteousness!  Righteousness is right standing with God.  Ask a man on the street who wants nothing to do with Christianity what he is seeking.  You will see that what he wants and what the Christian wants are two different things.  Because we are different in the things we desire, it then becomes obvious that the Christian is different in the things he/she does.  If we as Christians continue to be different from the world, we will find that the church and world will not be getting closer together, but further apart.  So, the problem is not with an inconsistent world, but with an inconsistent church.  Are we consistent?  Lord, help me to be consistent.  When I fail, help me to repent.  When I obey, teach me to praise you, for it is you, Lord, in me, that conquered in the first place.  I desire my character to produce godly conduct and my conduct to result in influence that brings glory and honor to you, Lord Jesus.  Fellow believer in Christ, do not be ashamed of the fact that you are distinct, or different.  Don't be ashamed of the gospel, and don't hide your light under a bushel.  Cherish your relationship with Jesus.  Be thankful for the character He is producing in you by means of testing and proving.  Why? Because the Christian, i.e.  the poor in spirit, the one who mourns, those who are meek and hunger and thirst after righteousness, etc.  are considered by our Lord Jesus to be BLESSED!  YES, I SAID BLESSED.  Each Beatitude begins with that word.  How does it feel to be called Blessed by the Lord Himself?  Pastor Jerry, what does blessed mean in these verses?  Ah, glad you asked.

The Greek word for blessed here, is a most wonderful word.  It was used in secular circles and carried over into the sacred, or Christian.  It means, to be happy, or to be congratulated.  But it goes a bit deeper.  "It was a word used to describe the social position of the wealthy who are, because of their wealth, above the normal cares and worries of other people."   Is there anyone reading this that has already started to shout?  Well, I have.  Listen, because of Jesus death on Calvary and my surrender to Him in repentance and faith, the Bible says I am rich!  Not in material things, but in the wealth and riches of His grace.  Listen to it:

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be [become] rich."  II Corinthians 8:9

You may not have this world's wealth, but you are rich in the grace, and mercy He has poured out upon you through His Son Jesus Christ.  This now places you and me in a position where we are now ABOVE THE NORMAL CARES AND WORRIES of those people who have no relationship with Jesus Christ.  Your position is a position of BLESSED!!  You don't need to be anxious anymore.  You don't need to worry about this virus thing anymore.  You don't need to stay awake at night and be consumed with doubt, fear, and frustration.  You are now a child of God!  It doesn't mean there will be no problems to face.  Oh, no!  But because of your wealth and riches in Jesus, your position as a child of God, you need not fear or worry.  Why?  Because the peace that passes all understanding will protect your heart and your mind through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Why my heart and my mind?  Because that's where your trouble is.  And He will keep you from fleeing your faith and keep you from running to the world for help. Somebody needs to hear this.  You've been told by the enemy that you are history.  You've gone too far!  It's over for you.  You have sinned past the point of His grace.  Listen, there is no sin He can't forgive and no bondage He can't deliver you from.  As a man/woman of godly character, you are blessed. And from that character comes conduct and out of that conduct comes influence to a lost and lonely world.  Praise Him!  You’ve only just begun!  Concentrate on letting your light shine before men, (character) that they may see your good works (conduct) and glorify your Father which is in heaven (influence).  It doesn't get any better than this!

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