Shortly after Jesus began to preach and teach, “He saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them” Matthew 5:1. What an amazing life-changing and cultural changing lesson this was! We all discover from this sermon traditionally called the “Sermon on the Mount” that Jesus wants us in the world but not of the world. He wants His people to be different and counter cultural to the way the world behaves.
Time and again, Jesus stated in His sermon, the way things were among the religious types of their day, and then He instructs his people to be different. For example:
Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard . . . but I say to you . . . .”
Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard . . . but I say to you . . . .”
Matthew 5:33-34, “Again, you have heard . . . but I say to you . . . .”
Matthew 5:38-39, “You have heard . . . but I say to you . . . .”
Matthew 5:43-44, “You have heard . . . but I say to you . . . .”
In Matthew 6, He further explains how His listeners were to be different when they give to the needy (6:2), and when they pray (6:5), and when they fast (6:16).
Matthew 6:8a sums this sermon up succinctly in five words, “8 Do not be like them.” Everything Jesus preaches hinges on these five words. Christ-followers must be different from others who live in this world.
Let’s not forget that the people of the “2 world follow the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts” Ephesians 2:2-3. 1 John 5:19 makes things clear, “19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” The world’s system has been devised by the devil and is currently orchestrated by “rulers, authorities, powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” Ephesians 6:12.
Jesus simply, clearly and powerfully declared that the heart of the Christians has to be different from the others of this world. One is being guided by the prince of darkness and the other by our Lord, Jesus Christ. Our lives must reflect the life of Jesus. Do they? “Do not be like them.”