Beware of placing our Lord’s role as teacher ahead of His purpose as savior. That tendency is prevalent today, and it is dangerous. We must know Jesus first as savior before His teaching can have any meaning for us—or, we could say, before it can have any meaning other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. What is the use of giving us an ideal we cannot possibly attain? We are happier without it.
If Jesus is only a teacher, all He can do is tantalize us by erecting a standard we cannot come anywhere near. But if—by being born again from above—we know Him first as savior, we know that He did not come only to teach us: He came to make us what He teaches we should be. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the life we will live when the Holy Spirit is having His way with us. The Sermon on the Mount produces despair in the heart of an unsaved person, and that is the very thing Jesus means it to do—because as soon as we reach the point of despair we are willing to come to Him as paupers to receive from Him.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit”—that is the first principle of the kingdom. As long as we have a conceited, self-righteous idea that we can do these things if God will help us, God allows us to go on until we break the neck of our ignorance over some obstacle. Then we will be willing to come and receive from Him.