Sermon: The Christian Counter Culture (Part 1) Matthew 5:1-12

The Christian Counter Culture (Part 1)

Matthew 5:1-12

Truth Taught- Jesus’ teaching is not in line with our culture’s values and worldview. He is God and His ways are not our ways.


  1. Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount

One of the church’s greatest failures today is that the church fits in far too well with our secular world. This world is a fallen sinful place. This is a biblical truth that affects everything all the time. The only way this will ever change is when Christ returns and sets up His kingdom. Until then we are stuck with the consequences of our sin.

People think that a utopia can be achieved by man’s efforts without God. People who are anti- Jesus, God, and Christianity want to tell everyone about their moral standards. They think everyone should line up and follow their rules.

Beloved we cannot and must not ever follow the world’s standards. We must never allow our culture to dictate our views and our behavior.

God tells us that His ways and mankind’s ways are not in sink with each other. If you think for a second that our secular culture and its values are anything like true righteousness God requires you are gravely mistaken. A culture that seeks to live without God is a culture to be separated from.

Our society calls murder a mother’s choice. Calls perversion an alternate life style. It has a name for everyone who disagrees with them. You are homophobic if you disagree with them.

My fear is that all too often we fit in with our secular world far too well. Beloved we must stand up for God’s truth and seek to go against culture.

Isaiah 55:8–9 (ESV)

   For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

   For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God’s purpose in saving us is to call us out of the world to form a new people. His people must be different than the world. We must have a different value system. We must have different worldview. Things that are important to our secular society must not capture our gaze. We must be different.

The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus teaching His disciples of another way to live. He teaches them and us about a counter-culture, a society with different values and ways of thinking. Jesus’ words are different. He leads us into righteousness by way of paradox. He takes the value system of the world and turns it upside down so that we will no longer be fooled by things the world might tell us is good and right.

God Has Always Desired a People Who Will Live By His Statutes and Not by the World’s Standards

God has always desired His people to live differently than the world around them…

Leviticus 18:1–5 (ESV)

18 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.

God is most happy with us when we seek to live by His ways and His commands while being different from our world. Israel kept forgetting that she was to be different from the peoples and nations around her. They mingled with the nations and learned from them, not God.

They wanted to be like the nations not like God. They desired what the world had for them not what God had for them. They were tired of God as their King and wanted a king like the others had.

1 Samuel 8:4–7 (ESV)

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.

Ezekiel 20:32 (ESV)

32 “What is in your mind shall never happen—the thought, ‘Let us be like the nations, like the tribes of the countries, and worship wood and stone.’

So God sent prophets to speak His Word to the people that they would repent and turn from their idols back to God. They did not. They wanted to be like the culture around them, not like God.

Matthew 5:1 (ESV)

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Sermon on the Mount is for all of Jesus’ followers. He spoke these works directly to His disciples while the great crowd looked on. His words are not for the lost world but for His people.

The central focus of this great teaching that spans three chapters in Matthew’s gospel is…
Matthew 6:8a (ESV)

Do not be like them. Very much echoing Leviticus 18…Do not do as they do.

God’s People Described

Jesus lays out eight beatitudes that are to show who God’s people are. These eight are to be lived out by every Christian. These should describe us. If someone is speak about us and saying I forget his name but he’s the guy who is meek, merciful, poor in spirit, pure in heart, mourns, hungers for righteousness, a peacemaker, and persecuted. These eight qualities should describe us.

The Character that is Commended

We will look at what has been called the Beatitudes. These are eight character traits that every Christian should seek to live out. The more we sincerely live these characteristics the happier we will be. Jesus tells us basically to not get fooled by this world. The traits they recommend may promise happiness but they are empty and will not produce happiness. He gives us a way of living that will produce happiness within us.

The Blessings God Promises

Each of the Beatitudes starts off with the word blessed. This word in the original is the Greek word makarios, which can be used for blessed but actually and more often is translated happy. The happiness is not from the world’s standards but this is what God has for all Christians who seek to live these eight character traits that Jesus endorses. Most every Christian will affirm that they are the happiest when they are practicing godliness. There is a direct connection between holiness and happiness.


Matthew 5:2–12 (ESV)

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Let’s enter the world of God’s ways and commands, which He promises will be joy for us; let’s enter the world of Christian paradox…

  1. Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Here Jesus begins His amazing teaching with the poor. Now, in the OT the poor were the afflicted and the ones unable to save or help themselves. They were without all other resources and in their struggle reached for God to save them while realizing they had no claim on God at all.

It is very fitting, then for Jesus to capture this plight of the poor man and move it to the spiritual realm and claim, blessed are the poor in spirit. What does it mean to be poor in spirit? To be poor in spirit is to be in spiritual poverty and spiritually bankrupt before God.

Jesus spent His ministry efforts preaching the Good News to the poor. As He preached He was displaying the fact that He is the God’s Messiah-King.

Matthew 11:4–6 (ESV)

And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Notice very closely the Messiah verses found in Isaiah…

Isaiah 61:1 (ESV)

61 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me

       to bring good news to the poor;

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

       to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

The poor here is the poor in spirit, those destitute of any claim of self-righteousness.

To be poor in spirit is to realize without any doubt that we have nothing to offer God we are dirt poor when it comes to anything to offer God or any claim that He is somehow obligated to save us.

Listen, the best place for a sinner to be is in the shoes of the tax collector in Jesus’ parable…

Luke 18:9–14 (ESV)

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

John Calvin writes…He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit.

So, God’s people are described here. Poor in spirit is the heart of one who claims salvation is of the Lord 100%. I have nothing to add because I am bankrupt spiritually. Praise God! He is the One rich in mercy and grace. As believers, we live our entire Christian life with the mindset that if there is anything good in me it’s because of God. He is the Righteous One, He is the One who has everything I desperately need and He is loving and merciful and full of grace. God loves to give the poor in spirit everything.

What is the gift the poor in spirit receive?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God are the same thing. It is the Kingdom in which God’s Messiah-King reins and rules.

At the heart of this theme is the idea of God’s messianic kingdom. It is a kingdom that will be ruled by God’s appointed Messiah, who will be not just the Redeemer of His people, but their King. So when John speaks of the radical nearness of this breakthrough, the intrusion of the kingdom of God, he’s speaking of this kingdom of the Messiah.

For this reason, during His earthly ministry, Jesus made comments such as, “If I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:20).

What the poor in spirit receive as God’s gift is the Ruler He has appointed to be our Savior Messiah-King. The gift here that Jesus mentions, notice, it isn’t salvation per se but it is to be ruled by a gracious King. To be included into God’s eternal reign is to be the most blessed and most happy.

We should realize the Kingdom of God is not given to Pharisees who thought they were righteous on their own. It’s not given to those who think God owes them something. It’s not given to those who think they have something to offer God. The Kingdom is given to sinners who understand the desperation sin produces and turn to God in repentance and forgiveness. The Kingdom is given to…

Tax Collectors- truly this man went down to his house justified


Luke 7:47–50 (ESV)

47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Do you see the paradox? We are prone to think it’s the religious who receive God’s grace and the Kingdom. Jesus tells us that’s not how God is. God doesn’t need anything from us. In fact, everything we put forth as a payment or as something to barter with when it comes to God saving us does nothing but work against us. God loves to give His Kingdom to sinners who come to Him without any claim to salvation.

So, beloved, stay poor in spirit and watch what God does. You will find happiness as you depend on God for everything.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

God is happy to make you happy.

I think Jesus’ Words are very appropriate here…

Luke 12:32 (ESV)

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.


*Resources Used:

Matthew by D A Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary

A Theology of Matthew by Charles Quarles

A Gospel of Matthew by France

Matthew by Craig Bloomberg

Matthew by Doriani

Matthew by Charles Price

Matthew by Leon Morris

Blue Letter Bible

The Message of the Sermon on the Mount by John Stott


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