God has a plan to change our world. But God Never Changes the World the way we think He should. We think that the way God should change our world is by removing ungodly people from power and replacing them with godly people. We think God should change our world by putting prayer back in the classroom and bringing the Bible back to the public square. And these are good things for sure. But doing these things are not the way God plans to change our world.
Instead, God has a different kind of plan for bringing about change. His plan has always been to establish His kingdom reign in the hearts of men and women – so that through us He might bless the world, heal the broken and make things right. In other words, God doesn’t choose political powers to change the world, God chooses people who have been changed by Him to change the world. This is the good news of the kingdom. This is why Jesus came. Jesus came to turn the world upside down through ordinary people who are being changed by Him. It’s what I like to call, Jesus’ Kingdom Revolution.
Jesus’ Kindgom revolution is an altogether different kind of revolution. His is a revolution of abundant life. His is a revolution of changed lives. And His is a revolution of new kind of righteousness. So today we are going to unpack each aspect of His revolution as we return to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. For in Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus lays out for us How God plans to change the world through the people He is changing! So if you have your Bible, please open it to Matthew 5:17-20 and let’s take our first look at the foundations of Jesus’ Kingdom Revolution. Jesus says to His followers: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
In the verses we’ve just read, Jesus breaks down His kingdom revolution into three parts: In the first two verses, Jesus reveals the purpose of His revolution. In verse 19, Jesus reveals the process of His revolution. And in verse 20, Jesus reveals the power of His revolution. So let’s start by digging into the purpose of Jesus’ kingdom revolution:
Jesus’ revolution has a purpose So what is that purpose? Jesus has just told the spiritual bankrupt, the meek, the pure in heart – the religious have nots – that theirs is the kingdom of heaven and they’re the hope of the world. So it sounds like Jesus is about to overthrow the religious establishment, and perhaps even throw out the Law and the Prophets, and everything that has gone on up to this time. But Jesus begins by saying, “Not so fast.” He says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
What he is saying is this: He has come to fulfill the purpose of the law. So what was the purpose of the law? Why did God give His Law to His Chosen People – the Jews? God gave the Law to Israel in order to create a Covenant People. To be a people who would live as God intended, enjoying abundant life under God’s reign and being the blessing God intended them to be in the world. This all started when God called Abram to leave his people and his country and go to a land He would show them. God promised to bless Him and from His offspring create a people who would bless the world. That people became the Israelites with them God made a covenant of the law. Listen to how this came about in the OT, Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:3-6
God chose to bless the Jews by inviting them to enter into a covenant relationship with Him. Their part of this relationship was to obey Him fully and keep all the Laws of the Covenant. Basically, To love and honor God, to love and honor their neighbors. If they fulfill their covenant commitments, they will enjoy God’s blessing. They will be treasured by God. And they will show the world what it’s like to live under the reign of God. And they will be the blessing God intends them to be to the world. But what happened? What happened is this: Over and over again, God’s people failed. They kept breaking His laws and breaking their covenant relationship. So they never FULFILLED their end of the Covenant. They never fulfilled the purpose of the Law.
So what did God do? Over and over again He sent His Prophets to call them back to their covenant relationship. But Israel wanted to be like other nations. They would rather have men reign over them than God. So they NEVER fulfilled God’s purpose: to be a people who lived as God intended, enjoying abundant life under God’s reign and being the blessing God intended them to be in the world.
Now as Jesus comes on the scene, there’s a new group of Covenant enforcers: The Scribes and the Pharisees. The religious leaders of Israel. These men are very zealous, very moral and quite cunning. In trying to enforce the Covenant they’ve now created an exhaustive list of rules based on the Law – rules that focus on doing external acts righteousness. They taught if you lived morally exemplary lives, God would once again bless Israel. But in focusing on external righteousness they totally miss the whole point of the Law: loving God and loving your neighbor. So although their intentions were good, THEY TOO FAILED TO FULFILL God’s purpose for His people: to live as God intended, enjoying abundant life under God’s reign and being the blessing God intended them to be in the world.
So now, along comes Jesus, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. He is not here to overthrow the Law and the Prophets but is here to FULFILL God’s ORIGINAL purpose for the Law. Jesus has come to create a new kingdom people – a community of ordinary people who will live as God intended, enjoy abundant life under God’s reign and become the blessing God intends them to be in the world. Jesus has come to fulfill intended purpose of the Law and the Prophets. So he says, For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. And what that means for us is this: Jesus is still working in the world today to establish a new kingdom people who will live as God intended, enjoy abundant life under God’s reign and become the blessing God intends them to be in the world. In other words: God has a plan to change our world. And that plan has a King who has come to establish God’s reign in every heart.
So take heart. The Jesus’s revolution has a purpose. And it will not be completely fulfilled until the day the heavens and earth disappear. So no matter what you see happening in our world today, Jesus is still working to fulfill God’s plan. That’s what this passage is all about. He has come to show us how to live the way God intended. He has come to include you and I in His kingdom. And He has come to give us abundant life under the reign of God. This is his promise: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10 So Jesus is still working to fulfill God’s purpose: Jesus is creating a new kingdom of God’s people who will live as God intended, who will enjoy abundant life under God’s reign, and who will be the blessing God intends us to be in the world. This is the Jesus revolution! If you take anything away from this message today, it’s this: If Jesus is your King, then you are part of what God is doing to change the world. You are not just the hope of the world, you are part of God’s plan to change our world. That’s God’s purpose for your life. Here now is the process. Here now is how God wants to use your life to spread the good news of His kingdom:
Jesus’ revolution has a process Jesus says, Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19
The way we participate with Jesus in bringing about this kingdom revolution is by fully obeying His commands and teaching others to do the same. The reason the Jews failed to be God’s Covenant people is that they failed to fully obey God’s Word. They only practiced the parts of God’s Word that were convenient for them. They only obeyed enough of the law to get by – just enough to be considered a good person – just enough to keep up appearances. Just enough to look good on the outside, but their hearts were far from God. This was not the way God intended for God’s people to live, and…
This is not the way of the kingdom. Jesus is teaching us here that those who are great in His Kingdom will walk the talk. We won’t settle for having a form of religion, we won’t settle for just getting by. We won’t settle for appearances. Instead, we will seek to learn all that God desires of us so we can put His Word into PRACTICE in our lives, so that we will not only please Him, but will teach others how to follow Him.
What Jesus is giving us here is a foretaste of the Great Commission. The PROCESS He gives us to spread His Kingdom revolution. Let me remind you of the process He calls us to by reading this once again: Jesus came to his disciples and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Look at the next to last verse. The way we make disciples, the way we spread the good news of the kingdom is tied up in that little phrase “teaching them to obey all I have commanded you.” Now we cannot teach what we do not know, and we cannot teach what we have not put into practice in our lives.
So if there’s one thing we must take away from this teaching, is that we must not only be committed to learning God’s Word, but we must be equally committed to putting God’s Word into practice. For when we put God’s Word into practice, we teach others what kingdom living looks like. In other words, each one of us has an opportunity to be great in the kingdom. Each one of us has the opportunity to change our world, by learning to live the way God intends us to live, and then putting what we’re learning into practice.
Did you know that’s one of the goals of our Journey Groups? Journey Groups are meant to be communities of Christ followers who are learning from Jesus how to live and love like Jesus. Following Jesus is not something Jesus wants us to do alone, but together. He put us together so we can learn to love one another, serve one another, encourage one another, pray for one another, carry one another’s burdens, confess our sins with one another, live in harmony with one another, honor one another, forgive one another, teach one another and build up one another. To obey God’s Word is to put it into practice by loving one another the way God intended. This is the way of the kingdom. When we do this, we are not only living as God intended, we’re teaching one another the ways of the kingdom. I learn how to encourage by watching you. I learn how to forgive by being forgiven. I learn how to honor by seeing you honor: This is the Jesus’ revolution! We begin changing the world by being changed by the Word, and putting it into practice with one another. And when we are obeying God’s Word and teaching one another, Jesus’s Kingdom advances!
Do you see how Jesus set this up? That’s why he says those who obey and teach His commands will be called great in the kingdom. It’s HIS WAY of spreading the good news of the kingdom THROUGH HIS PEOPLE. Jesus’ kingdom revolution has a process: He advances the kingdom through people who are obeying and teaching His word. You want to help change the world? Get into the Word. Learn to apply it with others. Walk the talk. That’s the process of the kingdom revolution.
Ok, so Jesus has laid out His plan for including us in His kingdom revolution. He’s just taught us how we can spread the good news of the kingdom. But now he’s about to reveal to us the power of His revolution:
Jesus’ revolution has a power Jesus concludes his teaching on God’s plan to change the world with this challenge from verse 20: For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20
Obviously, Jesus is making a point here. There is something not right about the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees. What made their righteousness wrong was their emphasis on external behavior. They were so obsessed with keeping the letter of the law that they neglected the righteousness of their hearts. Jesus exposes their hypocrisy for us in Matthew 23, saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:25 Jesus reveals the contrast between what is on the inside and what is on the outside. The Pharisees were clean on the outside, but they were full of greed and self-indulgence in their hearts. And that made them hypocrites. They had no real power. They only had the form of religion, so could make no difference with their lives.
A few verses later Jesus expands on this contrast by saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” So Jesus sees right through their façade. And in so doing, he tells us that simply doing righteous acts does not cut it in His Kingdom. Anyone can perform righteous acts. But even the best of performers are spiritually dead on the inside. Simply having an appearance of righteousness has no power to change our world.
So what kind of righteousness is Jesus looking for? A righteousness of the heart. How can we know if we have this kind righteousness? This will now be the subject matter of the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount.
First, we will see that this kind of righteousness will be evident in your attitudes. The Pharisees had created all kind of ingenious ways of working around the intentions of God’s Law. For example, they found ways to harbor bitterness and hatred toward their neighbors while remaining innocent in their own eyes with regard to murder. They never killed anyone, but they often held their neighbors in contempt. We can do the same. We can hold contempt in our hearts toward our spouses or bitterness toward our neighbors, or even our brothers or sisters in Christ – by judging them on their failures to live righteously. When we do that we are no better than the Pharisees. But that’s not the way of the kingdom. Jesus came to give us a righteousness that works all the way down into our hearts. A righteousness that will eventually produce love, purity, and holiness in every kind of relationship… This kind of righteousness has POWER, because it’s the righteousness of Jesus. It’s how God intended us to live when He first created us.
Second, we will see that this kind of righteousness will be evident in your desires. In Matthew 6, Jesus will address three different kinds of behavior: giving, praying and fasting. He won’t tell us to stop giving, praying or fasting, but he will ask us to check the motives of our hearts. We are not to give, pray or fast to make an appearance of righteousness. No, the kind of righteousness that God approves of is that please Him, not a righteousness that seeks to please man.
Thirdly, we will see that this kind of righteousness will be evident in new ambitions. Again in Matthew 6, Jesus will reveal what righteous desires look like. He will show us that those who have new hearts, will have new ambitions. We will no longer be consumed with the things of this world but will be consumed with the things of God’s kingdom.
Finally, we will see that this kind of righteousness will be evident in a new way of relating with others. No longer will we judge others but we will love others the same way Jesus loves. And when we love others as Jesus loves, our love then will have the power to change lives. So how does this power work?
The power of this new kind of righteousness works this way: When you trust in Jesus, God gives you a new heart, as He promised in Ezekiel 36:26-27, “I’ll give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands.” This is the power of the revolution. God gives us a new heart so we can live a new way – from the heart.
And the way we receive this new heart is through faith in Jesus Christ. For at the moment you put your faith in Jesus, God doesn’t just give you eternal life, God doesn’t just forgive your sins, God gives you the power to live a whole new kind of life. Because the moment you put your trust in Jesus, God gives you the righteous heart of Jesus, so you can now life this new life with the power of Jesus. Jesus is the power of the revolution. He is the power that changes you so you can change the world.
So yes, God has a plan to change the world. But it starts and ends with Jesus. It’s Jesus who is creating a new kingdom of God’s people who will live as God intended, enjoy abundant life under God’s reign, and who will be the blessing God intends us to be in the world!
And the power to make this happen comes from Jesus, when you put your trust in Him. So let me ask you, have you put your trust in Jesus?
If you have, then God is changing you so you can change the world with Him. Let’s pray.