If any of us read the sermon and say, "I'm resolved to live like this," it might very well be commendable.
But, if undertaken in the power of our own grit and determination, we're sure to crash and burn and it will leave us feeling guilty or ashamed and defeated. We might even give up on the whole notion of being a Christian.
But consider what Tom Wright says about the Sermon on the Mount:
The Sermon on the Mount isn't just about us. If it was, we might admire it as a fine bit of idealism, but we'd then return to our normal lives. It's about Jesus himself. This was the blueprint for his own life. He asks nothing of his followers that he hasn't faced himself. And, within his own life, we can already sense a theme that will grow larger and larger [as we read further in Matthew's Gospel] until we can't miss it. If this is the pattern that Jesus himself followed exactly, Matthew is inviting us to draw the conclusion: that in Jesus we see the Emmanuel, the God-with-us person. The Sermon on the Mount isn't just about how to behave. It's about discovering the living God in the loving, and dying, Jesus, and learning to reflect that love ourselves into the world that needs it so badly.As I see it, in the entire Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes that life of perfect surrender to God that He and He alone has lived.
And in describing a life that shows us "a new way to be human," He also shows us a way of life that we imperfect, forgiven sinners can only appropriate as we let Jesus into the center of our lives.
In Revelation 3:20, the risen Jesus speaks to a congregation in a town called Laodicaea:
"Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me."Don't take the words of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount as a judgment over your life. That's not Jesus' ultimate intent! See them instead as an invitation to let Him live in you and as you keep letting Him in, His life will be replicated within you.
Paul explains how this works in the New Testament book of Galatians. He speaks of how God's law--the Commandments--alerted him to the reality of his sin, his distance from God, and his need for a Savior. Then he says:
For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2:19-21)Riffing off of this passage of Scripture, Martin Luther talked about what happens when Christ lives in a believer and is confronted by the temptation to violate the radical ethic of love for God and neighbor that Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount:
When [the devil] comes knocking upon the door of my heart and asks, ‘Who lives here?’ the dear Lord Jesus goes to the door and says, ‘Martin Luther used to live here but he has moved out. Now I live here.’ The devil, seeing the nail prints in His hands, and the pierced side, takes flight immediately.Let Jesus into your life and, no matter how imperfect you know yourself to be, He will change you from the inside out. Only the grace of God obeys the loving will of God and Jesus is the only One Who can bring that saving grace into your life.
All you have to do is open the door to Jesus each day. Don't worry; just keep letting Jesus in to the inner recesses of your life. That's all you need to do. Christ will do the rest.