I don't think the average person has to go very far to realize our world is broken or at least far from what it could be. Has a week passed in the last year where we didn't hear something about a crazed gunman, an abusive teacher/parent, a school bully, suicides or a financial fallout?
People can be pretty brutal, hurtful and downright "lost". Most of us just shake our heads at the news, some of us shed some tears and most of us hold on tight hoping it doesn't impact us. It's come to a point where we've forgotten how to dream about what could be, and we just hope we don't get negatively affected.
When Jesus was here on earth in physical form He taught a message which has become known as the "Sermon on the Mount". In this amazing sermon He paints a picture of healthy relationships, dignity, grace. He talks about people who aren't about themselves and thier image, but rather looking to bless and benefit others.
If you haven't read it in awhile, it might be worth another look -- Matthew chapters 5-7. And as you read it, my guess is, like me, you'll long for it, wonder what would make it our real experience and what your first step is.
And my guess is it may prompt you to ask: How do we get there? What would it take to have a world like the one that Jesus described? Or we might ask, in light of this picture, what will it take to "fix our world"?
Most people in our culture today would say, the way to fix the world is through more laws and legislation. "You see if we could just have the right laws and get people to get in line with those laws we would be more civil." And I see where people are coming from and that might work, if your highest goal is civility. But what if your goal is more the lifestyle and community described in the Sermon on the Mount? What then?
You see, in the first century when the Sermon on the Mount was first spoken there was a similar approach to "fixing" people. The religious system of that day had over 600 different laws that regulated peoples' lifestyles. And while many conformed to those laws, many found themselves frustrated because they were unable to keep them. So the solution of more laws and tighter legislation is not new and had some level of minor success.
However, if you read the Sermon on the Mount again, you'll notice that Jesus is proposing NOT a change in the externals, but a change at the internal level. In fact, I believe that the whole point of the Sermon is to communicate that our hearts need to change if we'll ever have a chance at seeing the externals affected.
True transformation and change is from the inside out. While laws can help maintain civility, it's a change in the hearts of people that transforms a society. The tricky thing in this whole discussion is that we actually can't change hearts nor can we even change our own hearts (which is probably why most focus on the externals).
But the Bible is clear: Hearts can and will change through relationship with Jesus and His Holy Spirit that works in us. The message of the Gospel is that it's not what we can do but what He does in us and through us as we surrender to Jesus and learn to live in His ways through His power. This is why I devote my life to this important work and I believe that God's intentions are that churches become a place where heart transformation is central and we get to practice the new life.
For more about heart change and the life we're created to live, visit us at Grace Church Roseville or watch/listen to messages at http://www.extendgrace.org -- this blog is adapted from the message: "Jesus: The Sermon" which is being preached on Feb. 2 and 3, 2013.