The following is an excerpt from Randy Harris’ new book, Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount, now available from Leafwood Publishers. We are currently giving away 10 copies on Goodreads and you can request to review the book as well. A 12-part DVD series, Living Jesus, has also been released in conjunction with the book. You can view the trailer below.
In the last five hundred years the church has argued about whether Jesus really said everything in the sermon or whether Gospel writers just based it on true events of Jesus’ oral teachings but bent it toward their own way of thinking. That would make the sermon a way of showing Christ’s authority as the Messiah, rather than an actual manual for living.
The bottom line is that over two thousand years the church has believed and practiced the Sermon on the Mount in one or more of five ways:
- We can do this.
- Church leaders can do this but it’s too hard for regular folk.
- These teachings of Christ are too hard for anyone, and if we try to follow them it leads to legalism.
- The teachings are too hard but they show our need for God’s grace; keeping the laws literally is not the point.
- Yes, they are too hard but by God’s blessing and grace we must try to keep them.
My journey has taken me through all of these approaches as I’ve studied, heard, prayed, and tried to live the sermon. But I have come closer to the fifth category than ever before. This book is the story of how I’ve gotten there and what I’m trying to do about it. And it’s an invitation to you to come with me, to live the sermon, to do what Jesus says. Category number five above is really a return to what the early church though: we can do this. But we certainly need God’s empowerment and grace in order to obey what Jesus says.
So this book is not just a study of the Sermon on the Mount. It’s a way of discovering what Jesus says so we can do what Jesus says. My intention is not to add information on advance scholarship about the Sermon on the Mount. The simple historical sketch I just gave is about as much as we need for our purposes.
What I’ve written here is different from other writings on the Sermon on the Mount. For more than two thousand years we have benefitted from scholars, translators, and interpreters who have indeed debated and taken different positions on the words of Christ, yet they have been talking about the most important words we have on record of the teachings of Jesus. I believe that by using the best translations available and accepting that these words were written based on the oral teachings of Christ and written down for us by Matthew and Luke, we must take these words seriously as a rule of life. In fact, many Christian communities throughout the centuries have based their rules of living together on the words of this sermon. So I’m not attempting to write a scholarly book on the Sermon on the Mount. I’m trying to provide a field manual for living the life Jesus wants for us.
This book, which includes the content from a film series I did by the same name, can stand along, or it can be used with the DVD as a field manual for groups or individuals who not only want to know more about the Sermon on the Mound but also to live what it teaches.
The Sermon on the Mount is full of hard teachings, but at my core I believe Jesus wants us to live out these teachings, however imperfectly. I believe also that by living these teachings Jesus gives us an incredible and abundant life. He even promises that if we practice the commands and teach others to do so, we will be called “great in the kingdom of heaven.” He says that those who hear his words and put them into practice are wise. Those who do not are foolish.
Categories: Blog, Excerpt
Tags: Excerpt, Leafwood Publishers, Living Jesus, Randy Harris