Truth Standing on Its Head

Insight for an Extraordinary Christian Walk from the Sermon on the Mount


By John N. Day

“Paradox is truth standing on her head to attract attention.” (G. K. Chesterton)

Dr. John Day, Bible scholar and pastor, begins with the paradoxical Beatitudes and takes us through our Lord’s greatest sermon in depth, offering readers a “mind-expanding and life-transforming” experience.

How can the meek inherit the earth? How are the persecuted blessed? While these are not things that we naturally associate with happiness, this is Jesus’ startling opposite-from-the-world way of bringing us into the most blessed and happy life—an extraordinary Christian walk.

“This provocative break with our own comfortable presuppositions ultimately drives us to the Cross, where our own failings can be exchanged for the righteousness of Christ.”

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Praise for Truth Standing on Its Head

John Day’s book, Truth Standing on Its Head, is a very provocative study of Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. The exposition of the Beatitudes and the exhortation based on them is very arresting: it grabs us and demands our attention. The rest of the book continues with the same energy and thrust. The break with previous tradition, and with our own comfortable presuppositions, is rather merciless, but the uncompromising exposition of the new ethic ultimately drives us to the Cross, where our own failings can be exchanged for the righteousness of Christ.

Robert E. Longacre, Professor Emeritus, The University of Texas at Arlington

John Day has presented an engaging exposition of Jesus’ most famous discourse, the Sermon on the Mount. John blends his own careful study of Matthew 5-7 and scholarly research into a book that is replete with practical applications for God’s people. The book is well suited for readers who want to dig deeper into the teachings of Jesus and their relevance for today.

Carl Laney, Professor of Biblical Literature, Western Seminary, Portland, OR

A whole lot of energy goes into making the Bible more relevant, but through this exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, John Day makes it clear that Jesus needs no PR firm to help Him find a voice in the twenty-first century. How very timely this two-thousand-year-old sermon sounds today. And how refreshing to encounter this faithful, interesting, insightful, and convicting exposition of the world-changing, paradigm-shifting, expectation-shattering teaching Jesus proclaimed to those who would be His followers. Truth Standing on Its Head is a reminder that the most famous sermon ever preached still calls us to radical discipleship.

Jeremy Smith, Executive Minister First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, MS; Managing Editor, reformation21

The Sermon on the Mount includes some of Jesus’ greatest, most practical words—words about spirituality, purity, influence, adultery, loving one’s enemies, giving, prayer, boasting, worry, wisdom, and other topics. In his insightful, easy-to-read exposition of Matthew 5-7, Dr. Day discusses these topics in simple, yet sublime concepts. This excellent book can help guide readers into God’s way of looking at life.

Roy B. Zuck, Editor, Bibliotheca Sacra

For the Christian, navigating life and following Jesus requires first of all reading the seemingly odd map he drew for us. Fortunately, in our explorations, we can use the keys provided by Pastor John Day to read the map and advance on. Truth Standing on Its Head helps us take our bearings, persevere, and make the walk with confidence.

Mirela DeLong, Editor, LOGOS, Romania

During these times and in this culture of seeking self or relying upon one’s own goodness, truly seeking God and relying upon His grace has been largely lost. We are not called to a life of religion, but one of love and obedience.

This book directs us back to our relationship with God by looking deeply into the mind, words, and life of Jesus Christ. Jesus speaks directly to issues of the heart, which apply to our culture and churches today.

If you struggle in your spiritual pilgrimage or just want to strengthen your spiritual walk, you will find this to be a thorough and carefully written practical guide for addressing the challenges you face today and deepening your relationship with our Lord. This book is not for the faint-hearted, but for those who truly seek the living God, are courageous enough to face themselves to seek the truth, and are willing to live in humble obedience to Him. Freedom does not come through the way of the world, but through God’s perfect way, love, and mercy.

Glenn Beckwith, SE Asia Regional Director, Mission to Unreached Peoples

Here is a book that asks, as Jesus asked, “Are you hungry? What do you ache for?” How we answer these questions, how we try to satisfy our hunger and aches, will dictate what we do with our lives. This is exactly where Truth Standing on Its Head comes in: wise counsel for those who hunger for righteousness and ache to see God. Read it and live it.

Eric Irwin, Pastor, Covenant Presbyterian Church, Issaquah, WA

I heartily recommend these sermons on the Sermon on the Mount by my friend and fellow pastor, John Day. Dr. Day is a careful scholar who has succeeded in providing an accurate interpretation of the Lord’s bracing words, faithful to their historical and Biblical context. He is an able communicator whose own exposition is clear and easily sustains the reader’s interest. And he is a wise and understanding pastor who applies the text in very helpful ways to our modern life. No Christian can be too familiar with the Lord’s great sermon.

Rev. Dr. Robert S. Rayburn, Senior Minister of Faith Presbyterian Church, Tacoma, WA; Stated Clerk of the Pacific Northwest Presbytery (PCA)

In this splendid exposition of the Sermon on the Mount, John Day exhibits his gifts as both scholar and pastor. The text is handled with technical expertise but is never left as a mere specimen of exegetical method. Rather, the work is winsomely sermonic, constantly in touch with today’s real world and its needs. I highly commend it to pastors and other church leaders as well as serious laity eager to mine the Sermon on the Mount for all its golden nuggets.

Eugene H. Merrill, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

John Day writes well. He makes the Sermon on the Mount alive, relevant, and reflective. This is a GOOD read. Just do it!

Rex A. Koivisto, ThD, Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, Multnomah University, Portland, OR

In clear, readable prose, John Day moves carefully through the Sermon on the Mount, showing how it embodies Jesus’ paradoxical fulfillment of the law. Practical and pastoral, Truth Standing on Its Head will both encourage and convict, and point the student to the hard and happy way of obedient discipleship.

Peter J. Leithart, Author; Dean of Graduate Studies and Senior Fellow, New Saint Andrews College, Moscow, ID

Every Christian in the United States should read Truth Standing on Its Head by Pastor John Day. The gloss of our culture so obfuscates Christian values that even the most devout among us could profitably make use of this penetrating road map in their daily lives. Structured around the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Pastor Day, a Biblical scholar, uses informal language and simple contemporary examples to illustrate profound Biblical truths that are not readily apparent. A great guide for focusing on the essentials of the faith in our complex society.

Mike Liles, Jr., Author, Christian Faith in Contemporary Society: The Framework for Belief

Most of us have felt perplexed at one time or another reading the paradoxes of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. What did Jesus mean when He said, “Blessed are the persecuted”? How can it be a happy thing to be hurting? Truth Standing on Its Head is a book that will help answer your questions. With careful and responsible study, Dr. John Day shows what he rightly calls the “mind-expanding and life-changing” relevance of Jesus’ Sermon. This book will be a welcome addition to my library as I prepare to preach on Matthew 5-7. Yet, it is written in a way that is clear and accessible to all readers. It is well suited for small-group Bible studies or for personal devotions.

Chris Brauns, Author, Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds; Pastor, The Red Brick Church, Stillman Valley, IL

This book strongly challenges our modern complacent lifestyles, but does so in a gentle, pastoral way. It digs deep into the meaning of the Scripture, but makes it accessible to everyone. I felt like I listened to a year’s worth of excellent sermons.

Allen Pritzlaff, Missionary to Central Asia, Speaker on Ministry to Muslims

John Day has created an easy to read, yet profound, examination of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. It’s called Truth Standing on Its Head: Insight for an Extraordinary Christian Walk from the Sermon on the Mount.
Breaking these chapters down into more manageable segments for closer scrutiny, Day has written twenty-two separate studies of Jesus’ largest public discourse.
Each of the twenty-two chapters is fairly brief and to the point. And yet each chapter contains some significant thoughts and ideas pertaining to the passage at hand.

Keeping his comments concise, Day has still managed to communicate the depths of the Sermon on the Mount effectively. While at times his writing style isn’t as engaging or captivating as other chapters within the same book, Truth Standing on Its Head is difficult to put down.

The Sermon on the Mount has seemingly been viewed as Christianity simplified. Day draws out the deep meanings of Jesus’ teachings and creates something fresh and new from a topic that is covered frequently in the realm of Christian publishing.

Truth Standing on Its Head is a helpful resource to have on the shelf when studying the Sermon on the Mount. This book easily deserves four stars.

Jeff Randleman, The Randleman Review

John Day has created an easy-to-read examination of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7.

John Day wrote this book in order to explain in modern language the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus preached and taught.  This book is all about the Sermon and breaks it down so we can read and learn from it at out own pace.

Each of the  chapters is  brief and to the point. And yet each chapter contains  thoughts and ideas pertaining to the passage at hand. Topics include marriage, loving your neighbor, sin, praying, the golden rule, and so on.  It has twenty-two chapters and they each tell and explain a story.

This book is great as a help tool while you are studying your Bible.  Buy one for yourself and as Christmas is just around the corner, it would make a great gift.

Edna, MyFavoriteThings blog

A glossy, hardcover book, Truth Standing on Its Head has 167 pages and 22 chapters. Each chapter covers a few of the verses from Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. Scripture is from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted. Additional Scripture references help affirm the explanation offered by the author, John N. Day, who is a senior pastor of the Bellewood Presbyterian Church in Bellevue, Washington. The Scripture passage is fully listed at the start of each chapter. And the Table of Contents also lists the passages covered in the chapters, making it easy for the reader to focus on a particular portion of Scripture. Some chapter titles easily reveal the content, such as “The Spirit of the Law,” “Dealing Seriously with Sin,” “What God Has Joined Together,” and more. Others are more vague, like “Happy and Hungry,” “Says Who,” “Two Roads Diverged,” and “Nike Christians.” Chapters are generally less than ten pages, making them digestible reading portions. No additional material is required, although you may desire to read the Scripture from your own Bible. The book was written to help people better understand the Sermon on the Mount and is best suited for older teenagers and adults.

We appreciated having the Scripture broken apart into manageable sections, as well as having chapters that were an easy-to-read length. Christ is rightfully kept as the center of everything; every word points back to Him. I especially enjoyed the chapter titled “Anxiety Disorder,” as it deals with the treatment of the “disorder,” that of seeking first the Kingdom of God. Day uses real-life experiences to demonstrate truths, making the reading easier to understand and apply. There is a great explanation of justice and not allowing others to perpetrate evil as well as a good explanation of proper treatment of legal immigrants and illegal immigrants and why there is a difference. This book is definitely current with issues of today, both political and social, as well as the connections between the two. Truth Standing on Its Head would be a great study book for parents and students to read through together, as it naturally reveals opportunity to better understand political beliefs, morals, and trends in society.

The Sermon on the Mount is definitely worthy of in-depth study and Truth Standing on Its Head is a great tool for studying it. The book is reasonably priced at $18.95. Anyone desiring to better understand Christ’s words in the Sermon on the Mount would benefit from this book. I recommend it especially for families who want to delve deeper into societal issues with their older children before they step out on their own.

Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine

Be prepared to see the Sermon on the Mount in a new, more personal way. A person cannot read this book without visiting the foot of the cross and falling completely in love again with the Savior who loved each of us so much that he willingly gave his own life for our redemption. Dr. Day does an excellent job of thoroughly discussing this passage of scripture and bringing out the truths found within it. This passage is so often read in one passing that I believe much of the truth in it is missed by Christians. Or worse yet, only certain portions are studied and taken out of context, creating legalism that leads to a Christian walk without grace and Christlike love. Dr. Day systematically explores the deep richness of this passage and teaches with the true heart of a pastor shepherding the flock to the Great Shepherd. He gently leads Christians to the discovery of the mercy and grace of Christ and the deep beauty of a relationship with him.

Abbie Riddle

What is truth? For the Christian, that answer is easy. Truth is found in God’s Word, the Bible, and speaks specifically of Jesus who said of Himself, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”—John 14:6.

Sadly, the words of Jesus are not heeded by most people in the world, but that is to be expected given our free-will nature. Perhaps most telling is how professed Christians handle truth and whether they truly apply what Jesus says to their own lives or merely give these words some “lip service.”

Sermon on the Mount
Dr. John N. Day, a Presbyterian Church of America pastor who oversees a church in Bellevue, Washington, tackles biblical truth in his book, Truth Standing on Its Head. Subtitled, Insight for an extraordinary Christian walk from the Sermon on the Mount, Day takes the reader through the most well-known sermon uttered by Jesus and explains what this means to those who say they follow Jesus Christ. Day addresses the words of Jesus Christ as found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5, 6 and 7.

And it is the Sermon on the Mount which is the heart of the matter for every believer offering what Day recognizes as a paradox: “blessed be are the happy for they shall be humble, hungry, harassed…,” not the promising carefree life many of today’s prosperity preachers say is rightfully ours, rather lives which are being pressed down, squeezed together, and stretched out as followers seek to enter the narrow gate and travel down the road less traveled. Yes, the poor in spirit will most definitely enter heaven and the meek shall inherit the earth, people who have long since given up their rights and claims here to lay up their treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not corrupt.

Brief, Effectual Chapters
Day offers 22 short, but power-packed chapters to help the reader consider his or her place in this life. There is much to ponder therein, but there are a few points Day made which stood out for me including:

There are many false religions in this world, but only Jesus offers the doorway leading to heaven. Islam, which means “submission,” is full of external rules and outward appearances. If you are an enemy of this religion, then its holy book calls you to kill your neighbor. Fully opposite to that is Christianity which can be summed up in one word: love. Love from a God who sent His son to die for the sins of the world, taking the penalty of death due us and instructing His followers to love their enemies. Starkly different belief systems, yet people today who lack a moral compass dismiss the dangers of Islam (let’s negotiate!) and attack the truth espoused by Christians.

Many people, particularly in America, call themselves Christians but are, in fact, not. In the next-to-last chapter, Day examined Matthew 7—verses 15 to 23—where Jesus warned the church of false prophets and the damage they do. At first glance, we may not see them, but we’re told to inspect their fruit. A blackberry bush cannot produce grapes and an apple tree’s fruit will not make you sick. Following that inspection, the false teachers become evident—we would do well to avoid such people!

Personal Heart Examination
Perhaps the most introspective part of the chapter was the second part—our self examination. We may think that we’re fine with God and do all the Christian things and we may pray with fervency, “Lord, Lord,” but for some Jesus will say that He never knew them. That pronouncement will be a tremendous shock to many including some who we think are followers of Jesus.

But, Day doesn’t have the reader looking at everyone else. Instead, he encourages every one of us to examine our own hearts to make sure that we’re in the Way. Moral equivocacy is rampant in the American church today—do we truly hate our sin or do we dismiss that which grieves the Holy Spirit?

Matthew C. Keegan,

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Additional Information

Weight 15.3 oz
Dimensions 6.2 × 9.3 × .7 in
Format Choice

Hardcover (192 pages), eBook (epub), eBook (pdf)

John N. Day is the pastor of the Longbranch Community Church in Longbranch, WA, where he has served since 2011. He loves to see lives transformed by the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus, and the power of the Holy Spirit. He received his PhD in Old Testament from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2001. In addition to Truth Standing on Its Head, he is the author of Crying for Justice: What the Psalms Teach Us about Mercy and Vengeance in an Age of Terrorism (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005). He has a passion for music, and performs locally with the Bluegrass Minstrels, along with the Day Brothers. He is blessed to be married to Ngozi, and together they are seeking to raise their blended family and youngest child, Judah, in the Lord.

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