It is our hopeful contention that Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount so very early in His ministry to prepare those who would follow Him for the storms they would face in sharing and living it with others. The gospel of the kingdom of heaven – the good news of God’s reign in the hearts of His people – would be so radically counter-cultural, not only to the heathen Gentile, but to the Jew as well, that it was only fitting and fair to lay it out from the beginning. Full disclosure; nothing hidden.

As we read the Sermon two-thousand years later, we must use our imagination and consider the timing to appreciate God’s approach in the introduction of His New Covenant. It is both simple and instructional: Jesus first taught His followers about life in the kingdom so they could then observe Him walking it out before them and His Father. “He who hears these sayings of mine, and does them…” is the disciple-makers way.

So, what are we to do about these sayings of Jesus in the Beatitudes? Is there a way we should respond to them? Or, are we left to simply hope the blessings will one day be ours?

God intends for every Christian to respond to every offer of His grace in the same way: through faith. It is no coincidence that the process of faith begins with the hearing of faith (Romans 10:17), proceeds through obedience to the faith (Romans 1:5), and culminates with the work that perfects our faith (James 2:22). Indeed, the process of faith answers the question, “How should we study the Sermon on the Mount?” The only way to become a kingdom citizen is by grace, through faith.

The Sermon begins with the Beatitudes for this very reason. Here we find, as D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1971) suggests, “the description of the character of the Christian in general.” And here we discover, right from the start, just how impossible it will be for a mortal man or woman to become a kingdom person, “unless God can do what Jesus Christ says He can, unless He can give us the Holy Spirit who will remake us and bear us into a new realm (Chambers, 1995).”

Indeed, becoming the person described in the Beatitudes is salvation – by grace, through faith. That is a bold statement and perhaps controvertible, but careful consideration will prove it to be true. Poor in spirit, those who mourn, meekness, etc. describe the character of a Christian (i.e., what a saved person has become).

At this point, it is important to reiterate that the Sermon on the Mount is not a list of requirements for entering the kingdom of God, but a description of the life we are empowered to live as we enter in. It is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us (Chambers, 1995).

Stop What You are Doing

There are many ways we can respond to the sayings of Jesus; but first, there is something we must stop doing. The Beatitudes are attitudes and character traits that we cannot become in our own strength. Jesus began His sayings, in this way, to show us that we could not do them; to discourage us from wasting our time and energy attempting to renew our minds and make ourselves.

Let’s be clear: Our current “doings” are very hard things to not do. We have been taught all our lives to change our minds and fix ourselves. We may not believe in a works-based salvation, but we work very hard at saving our lives. This is exactly the opposite of what Jesus is trying to communicate (Matthew 16:25).

Indeed, the first thing we must do, right here at the beginning, is come to God with hopeful, humble, and patient resignation that only He can accomplish these things in us. Jesus said, “For without me, you can do nothing (John 15: 5).” To confess and believe that we are utterly dependent on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is the meaning of “poor in spirit”.

Conditions of the Kingdom

This introduces another important and potentially contentious assertion: The kingdom of God and all its blessings are conditional on our response to them. One simply cannot become a kingdom citizen if they are not first poor in spirit. If a man will not be merciful, he will not receive mercy. To be filled with righteousness, we must be hungry and thirsty for it.

Consequently, surrender, submission, and the willingness to sacrifice are required of all who would enter into the kingdom of God. We must therefore set out hearts and minds to follow Jesus in the life He offers.

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Matthew 4:18-20

Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Matthew 8:21-22

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Matthew 9:9

Follow Him; that’s it. Follow the One who knows the way to the blessings of the kingdom of God. Follow the One who will make us to be His disciples; to be like Him: poor in spirit, mourning and meek, pure in heart, merciful, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, peacemakers, and persecuted.

Whoa!! Persecuted? Yep, persecuted. Jesus makes it clear that following Him may be simple, but it is not easy. We deceive ourselves – and keep ourselves from the blessings – to assume otherwise. Warning: The kingdom life is not the easy, carefree life that has become ever more popular in contemporary “gospel” preaching and teaching.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24

Isn’t it good to know the cost up front; to know that what’s offered is worth more than our life? This “knowing” is an important step in the process. There is no point going further into the Sermon on the Mount if we do not reckon it so; that the investment is worth far more than the reward. So, consider – for as long as you must – the blessings of our being made into the disciples of Jesus Christ.

Is It Worth It to You?

Yes, go back and read the promises of the Master, made to those that will follow Him. The gravity of these sayings is unmistakable, for without the blessings of the Beatitudes, we are left with nothing of the kingdom. Consider that carefully: The kingdom, mercy, and comfort, seeing God and being called His sons and daughters, these define the normal Christian life, the life of our eternal salvation.

The Beatitudes are not some sweet introduction to a sermon. They are the context for all who will follow the One that will make them. This is where we must begin.

“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25

God bless you with eyes to see the wonders of life in His kingdom, and courage to walk with His Son, that you might be made into a kingdom citizen.

Humbly yours and forever His,


Chambers, O., (1995), Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers.

Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1971), Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company.