Too often instead of being in the world but not of it,
we are of the world but not in it.
Yet unless you are living counter-culturally,
you are not His disciple,
and if you are not His disciple,
you may not be a Christian at all.
That’s what Jesus taught His disciples when He took them aside to teach them with His “Sermon on the Mount.” This message is not how you become a Christian, but what a true Christian looks like. And a true Christian is counter-cultural.
He swims against the world’s tides.
Every statement in “The Sermon on the Mount” is counter-cultural. We saw that when we studied the Beatitudes, and now, in Sept and Oct, we will begin to go deeper into what Augustine called the “Golden Mean,” and we will continue to see how counter-cultural the true Christian life is.
We will be challenged, but if we hunger and thirst for His righteousness, we will be satisfied. That’s His promise!
The most contented people I know are those passionate for the Lord.
Let me tell you how I experienced this a few weeks ago, during the week of a milestone birthday.
Two close friends, Twila and Debbie, had planned a birthday party for me of believing friends. I wanted to have a significant time of earnest prayer for our hearts and our ministries in our community. But that is not what happened, for as Solomon says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
The day before my birthday I was seated on the pickleball sidelines with a woman I’ll call Piper, waiting for our turn to play. I have felt my heart drawn to Piper, sensing her loneliness, and had prayed for an opening to talk to her about the Lord. Just then, I felt a nudge from the Spirit. Talk to her about Me.”
I resisted, even though I had been praying for this! It is so uncomfortably cross-cultural to bring up Jesus! Yet I also know, from the Sermon on the Mount, “If salt has lost its saltiness — what good is it?” It’s not enough to be loving, I needed to be bold.
I wanted to be bold, like salt, but I just didn’t know how to begin. I had this silent dialogue with the Lord.
I don’t know how to begin, Lord.
Tell her about your Bible study starting in a few weeks.
But that’s so direct!
She is lonely. Tell her how you have gotten closer to some women here at pickleball through Bible study.
(I always wonder when people tell me the Lord tells them something — for He doesn’t talk out loud, it is more a stream of consciousness. But when it is different from the easy way I’m prone to swim, I suspect the voice of my Lord.)
So with a deep breath, I dove in and started swimming against the tide:
“Piper — I’ve gotten closer to some of the women here through being in a Bible study with them.”
Loudly she exclaimed: “BIBLE STUDY! I’VE NEVER STUDIED THE BIBLE!”
The next words came naturally: “The Bible has changed my life.”
And we were off and running! I told her how it had rescued my marriage, my mothering, my life! I even invited her to study.
“I have a friend who has been talking to me about this. And my son would love it if I did that — he’s really into the Bible.”
Wow, I thought. You ARE wooing her, surrounding her.
“We’d love to have you come!”
“But I just gave away my only Bible.”
“Well, that’s easily remedied. I have lots of Bibles!”
She was quiet. Then out of the blue she asked, “What are you doing tomorrow?”
I paused, a bit confused. Piper didn’t fit into my birthday plan — but…of course, I needed to change my direction if God was leading.
“Well, it happens to be my birthday, and Twila here has planned a party.”
“Can I come?”
I laughed — I couldn’t help it. “Of course! I’d love to have you come!” Then I made her a map to my house on the back of a receipt.
And so we had a very different kind of party than I had planned — but it was absolutely wonderful. Piper came late so we had a chance to pray and then we warmly welcomed her.
When we started talking about Bible study, Marty, who also plays pickleball and came to her first study last year, said: “Oh Piper, you have to come to study. I know how you feel. When Dee asked me last year I thought, No, no, no. But it is wonderful. It will change your life!”
“I do have Thursdays free – oh – –why did I say that!“
We roared with laughter.
Then she said, “I just gave away my Bible. I opened it up first because I had never opened it since I’d been given it as a wedding gift forty years ago. The first page was dedicated to me and my ex. So I ripped that page out and gave it to the Catholic church.”
We roared with laughter again.
And last week we had our first Bible study and Piper came! It was wild but fun. I pretended to be a man on the street and asked the group to give me some wrong answers to the question, “Who is a Christian?”
Piper said, “Well, Trump certainly isn’t!” Then she went on and on and the group was great — just smiling and listening and not letting us go down that detour, despite, I suspect, opinions on both sides. And when we talked about why we’d come to the study and someone mentioned how hungering and thirsting after God can lead to satisfaction and an end of emptiness, Piper said, “I like that.” (Please say a quick prayer for her!)
Oh it is so much fun to step onto the raft that is flowing with God’s current. Such an adventure! The cross-cultural Christian life is the most exciting life possible!
The cross-cultural life is a life where you move with the current of God instead of the current of the world. And it is exciting. It is a blessed, yes indeed, happy life. Charles Spurgeon said “The symbol and sign of a true Christian’s life is joy!” The Sermon on the Mount says the same — for “blessed” in the beatitudes could be translated “happy!”
This week we are going to do an overview of The Sermon on the Mount by getting a road map of it. You will hear one of my absolute favorite Tim Keller sermons. In fact, we will listen to it on Tuesday and Wednesday and then reflect on it the rest of the week. This was a sermon for disciples — the setting is that Jesus went up on the mountain to get away from the crowd and His disciples came to Him — and He began to teach them. This is a sermon for you — not telling you how to become a Christian, but telling you what a true Christian looks like.
I’ll often be referring to John Stott’s commentary: The Message of The Sermon on the Mount, and some of you may want to get it. (Completely optional!) By the way, if you don’t know about “Hoopla,” an ap for renting library books (e-books and audio books) it is great. You can get the commentary below through Hoopla and keep it for a month. You are allowed 5 books per month.
I so hope you will join us for this series on being a true Christian, a disciple, a cross-cultural Christian. It will last until early November, will be moderate in homework, and can absolutely change your life. There is no charge for being here, though occasionally you may be asked to buy a 2.50 sermon. I do have costs for running this blog, but through many of you, the Lord has been so gracious to provide. I am so thankful to you for it is a ministry to those who cannot afford to buy Bible studies, including women overseas and women who have gotten out of prison and are trying to stay strong through abiding in Him.
If it is your first time here, simply follow these easy “getting started” directions. https://deebrestin.com/getting-started/
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- If this is your first time here, or you haven’t been here recently, tell us a little bit about yourself. If you have been here this summer, tell us what two things most occupy your mind and life.
Monday: The Beatitudes (Quick Review)
3. We studied the Beatitudes this summer, and since they are a preface to the rest of the sermon, read them again now (Matthew 5:1-11).
A. If you studied them with us this summer or have in the past, take one Beatitude and share what it means and how it is impacting your life.
B. Is there one that really puzzles you? If so, share what it is and ask questions. (This is a great group with which to do that!)
Last week we heard a Tim Keller sermon about Matthew 5:11-12. He talked about how living counter-culturally will naturally lead to persecution. For example, if you are a Christian waiter who reports all his tips due to wanting to be pure in heart, you may get flack from the other waiters. Or if you share your faith, being merciful to those who are without life and without hope, you may be ridiculed. (Keller said to be sure persecution is due to righteousness and not obnoxiousness!)
C. Can you share a time when living cross-culturally for Jesus led to some kind of persecution?
Tuesday-Wednesday: Free Keller Sermon
4. Listen to this sermon over the next two days and share your notes and comments.
Thursday-Friday: Reflecting on The Road Map
5. The Sermon on the Mount is a depiction of two ways of life: the “religious” person and the “gospel-living person.” One of the most shocking comments Jesus made is in Matthew 5:20. This sets up the difference between The Pharisees and the teachers of the law (the religious people of that day) and true Christians. Meditate on Matthew 5:20.
A. What does Jesus tell them? Do you think they were shocked? If so, why?
B. What did the Pharisees think would get them into heaven? What will get us into heaven? (See 1 John 5:11-12)
C. Why is this truth counter-cultural to what most people believe?
6. Jesus continually addressed not just the fruit of sin, but the seed of the fruit that would lead to sin. What was it in each of the following passages?
A. What is the seed that can lead to murder according to Matthew 5:21-22?
B. What is the seed that can lead to adultery according to Matthew 5:27-28?
C. Challenge question: Why does Jesus tell us not to make oaths? (Matt. 5:33-37)
7. Which of the above is particularly convicting or helpful to you in rooting out the seed of sin and why?
8. In the following, describe first the way of the religious person, and then the way of the gospel-oriented disciple. Ponder why this is.
A. Matthew 6:1-4
B. Matthew 6:5-8
C. Matthew 6:16-18
D. Matthew 6:25-34
9. Which of the above is the most helpful or convicting to you and why?
10. What is your take-a-way this week and why?