We study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel. We have extra copies, paper copies. If you would like one to follow along, just raise your hand up real high, and someone will be glad to drop one off at your row, your aisle. There’s one in the back. One all the way over here on this side too. There’s a couple over there, actually, If you’ll jump up and get those for us, I appreciate it. Keep your hands up if you would like one. I believe there’s a network in the building somewhere, or you have 5G somehow, I’m sure you do, every one of you, to access a Bible online if that’s what you would prefer.
Let me pray for us before we start reading. This is our prayer for illumination:
“We come to God’s holy Word, but we need the spirit to speak to us, don’t we? So, Lord, what we see not, show us. What we know not, teach us. What we are not, make us, and grant us a clearer vision of your truth, Lord, a greater faith in your power, and a more confident assurance of your love for us. In Jesus name we pray, amen and amen.”
So far, in the Sermon on the Mount chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew’s gospel, we have studied what Jesus had to say about the character and influence of those who claimed to follow Jesus. In the Beatitudes, we find Jesus teaching that the blessed life, the flourishing life, if you prefer, is one that belongs to those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are merciful, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, those who are meek, those who are pure in heart, those who are peacemakers and those who are persecuted, not just for being idiots, but persecuted for righteousness sake. Sometimes I behave like an idiot and take a little bit of heat. Maybe you do too. That’s not what Jesus was talking about. Who is this king? Though all of that sounds a little strange and seems a little inside out to our linear logical minds, how is it that the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are gentle or meek or lowly, how is it that those are the blessed ones? Who is this king? And what is His kingdom like, this king that’s inviting us to be a part of His kingdom?
Last week, Pastor Matt led us in a study of the short four verses that talk to us about how the character of the disciple is also going to become their influence. Jesus uses these two metaphors of salt and light as He describes the influence of those who follow him. They were to be both a preservative in a rotting world and, at the same time, to arouse curiosity and inspire others to see Jesus, to believe Jesus, to want to enter His kingdom. Their words and their deeds both were to make the invisible kingdom visible and audible. Matthew records how the crowds were astonished at the teachings of Jesus. That started actually before we got to chapter 5, at the end of chapter 4. It’s almost like a book end. And then you go to the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the end of chapter 7, and one more time, we’re told that crowds were just astonished at His teaching because He spoke as one who had authority in a way that they weren’t used to. And all that runs between, in between those two bookends, it’s really beautiful that way. And, here, some of the religious leaders must have started to think maybe Jesus had come to abrogate or to nullify, to abolish, the law of Moses. And, after all, how could He think He could do that? And so, they seem to have taken some umbrage. And it seems like in this text, that we’re going to look at today, anyway, Jesus is heading that off at the pass if, indeed, this is the way it’s done sequentially in His ministry.
Look at Matthew 5:17-20. Those are the four verses we want to look at in Matthew, Chapter 5. Jesus and the scriptures is what we’ll call this study today.
Jesus says to them, “do not think that I come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
That’s what I’m going to call a flourless chocolate cake. It’s my favorite sort of metaphor for scriptures that I think are just jam packed with goodies. I love, I don’t know about you, but I’m a chocoholic and I love flourless chocolate cakes, and yes, you can leave one on my doorstep, it’s okay. No, you don’t have to. Ever since time has been recorded, as far as I can tell, anyway, people have been longing for some kind of word from God. If there is a God, does this God communicate? It’s been a question people have had.
Now, this quote on the screen is attributed to Socrates. Couldn’t tell you for sure, 100% that he actually said it, but it still says something really good and I think it expresses even the longing of our own hearts.
“All the wisdom of this world is but a tiny raft upon which we must set sail when we leave this earth. If only there was a firmer foundation upon which to sail, perhaps some divine word.”Socrates
Socrates, some of you will know, lived some 400 or 500 years before the time of Christ. However, if he’d had a copy of Psalm 119, which was actually written 500 years before that, he might have been able to read what you and I can read in the longest chapter of the Bible, it’s 176 verses long. How many of you have that chapter memorized, raise your hand, please? Okay, good, me neither. It is artfully crafted. It’s in the form of an alphabetic acrostic. Each of the eight lines of its 22 stanzas begin with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet. So, if ABC, let’s pretend, the first stanzas, each line, each of the eight lines begins with A. Second stanza all begin with B, on and on down through the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. That because I think this very creative songwriter wanted people to be able to memorize what he had to say. What’s the theme of Psalm 119? Well, it employs 10 different synonyms in reference to the Word of God. And each of those verses gives reference to, not to exalt just a book or some written words, but actually because they are the Word of God, that’s why they’re to be respected, looked into, and, in every instance, like I say, he makes some kind of reference to whose word it is.
Some of you are familiar with this one, Psalm 119:105. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path”. Some of you think Amy Grant wrote that lyric, don’t you? It’s not true, but it is right out of your Bible. And what does it say there? Think about it just for a moment. It’s a beautiful line, and I think it’s a wonderful use of metaphor or analogy. Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, that is, if I want to assess and evaluate where I’m standing right now in life, thy Word is how I might look at my life. Thy Word would be the filter I want to run the things that are going on in my life. I want to run that through the Word of God, to really accurately be able to understand how I got to where I am right now. And that might be because I didn’t heed some warnings of the Word of God. It might be, though, because I believed the wisdom of the Word of God and the ways of God and the will of God as expressed in the Word of God. So I use God’s Word to see where I’m standing right now. Thy Word is also a light unto my path. So it could also be that the ancient psalmist wants us to see God’s Word as something that can illuminate the path that we might have before us. Or, maybe, it’s several paths, and we need the Word of God to help us decide which path it is wise for us to proceed down. Which path God’s will might be honored and respected. God’s glory might be, the greatest amount of His glory might be poured through whatever our situation is.
So, what did that songwriter want to convey 500 years before the time of Socrates? That I wish Socrates had known about. That I’m really glad we get to know about. And, even though we haven’t memorized all 176 verses, we can be reminded over and over again about this God who communicates. This God who has spoken, hasn’t stuttered, has spoken with great clarity, even though I don’t know everything there is to know of about His Word, even though I can’t answer every question you have, and I certainly can’t answer every question I have about His word, nonetheless, I listen to His word. I read, study, meditate. And if you read through Psalm 119 later on this week, you’ll just have a great time. You see the way the person that wrote it, we don’t know exactly who it is, but the person that wrote it is so caught, seized by God’s great affection as he reads about it through God’s Word.
Permit me a moment to have a little bit of a side rant, if you will. Unless you live an isolated life, you will have figured out by now that we live in a time of intellectual confusion and moral bankruptcy. This has led to widespread institutional skepticism and acrimonious culture wars. And it’s not just that some people no longer believe in truth, I think it’s gone further than that now. I think there are some people that no longer believe in reality itself. We no longer have consensus on what should be called true, good, and beautiful. As a matter of fact, there are some people that take offense if you would ever suggest that something is false, evil, or ugly. I don’t know if those same people apply that kind of thinking to the current levels of domestic violence. I don’t know if they apply that kind of thinking to the current levels of human trafficking in the world. I don’t know if those people would be horrified at the evil being perpetrated by the leadership of Russia right now against the civilian population of Ukraine. So, we find ourselves, as a world, adrift on a rather stormy ocean, tossed back and forth by conflicting ideas without a working compass to show us how to find true north. How can we get our bearings? What are we to do? Will we ever be able to find our way? Here at TVC, we’re not hopeless. We’re sad, we’re grieved by what’s going on. We, ourselves, struggling sometimes to keep our own head above water in the great despair that covers us for the evil and darkness in the world. But we believe that God has spoken to reveal Himself to us and to remind us over and over again, that no matter how dark the world may become, Jesus, the light of the world, has come and He can push back the darkness both the global darkness and the personal darkness. And this is why we keep coming back to the Bible to study. It is God’s Word. Unique in its source, timeless in its truth, broad in its reach, and transforming in its power. Some will claim the Bible’s outdated, irrelevant, even repressive. In spite of this, it remains the best selling book of all time with over five billion, with a “b”, copies in circulation around the globe. Why so much demand? Perhaps we are all a little bit like Socrates longing for a divine word from a transcendent source, greater than we are. Greater than self, which is so worshiped in our own day and time. So, what do you believe about the scriptures? End of pastoral rant. Love ya.
Here, and we’ve said this before, but I’ll quote Tozer because I think this is where we’re at too. We believe “The Holy Scriptures tell us what we could never learn any other way: they tell us what we are”. What does it mean to be human? “They tell us who we are, how we got here, why we are here, and what we are required to do while we remain here”. Do you understand how anchoring that is in a world that has gone mad asking these same questions? Do you realize how anchoring that is? How there’s a true north there for us. And so, we need not despair.
Part of the reason why we teach through books of the Bible is because of the way Jesus talked about the scriptures. What did He believe about the scriptures? Was Jesus just some kind of revolutionary who came in the first century to overthrow the Jewish faith, turn it upside down, inside out? Was Jesus just a power hungry spiritual leader who wanted to make sure nobody was allowed to ask questions about His religious views? Or did He welcome people who said, Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief. You remember how He responded to that fellow? No lightning bolts, no public shaming. No, no, no. He welcomes those who actually are seeking, including with your questions, it’s no sin to doubt. It’s no sin to ask questions. It’s no sin to have moments where you’re sort of shaken a little bit, reevaluating. Why? Because the truth will actually stand because it’s not just principles that some philosopher or some pastor has given, it’s actually a person. Jesus who said I am the way, the truth, and the life. He said he’s all three of those, so we look to him. Jesus didn’t come to deconstruct the Old Testament in order to adjust and accommodate His faith to the cultural norms of the first century. Jesus did not abandon the idea of the ancient text in favor of more contemporary approaches to spirituality. In short, Jesus did not come to nullify or abolish the law. He came to do something remarkably higher and more difficult than that. He came to fulfill the law.
So, let’s look at Jesus and the scriptures just a little bit, as we have just read it. First, He affirmed the authority of the scriptures. I’ll give you four points here if you’re taking notes and all of this will be up online if you prefer it.
He says, don’t think I’ve come to abolish it. Why did He say that? Well, because there are people that are inclined to abolish it. And they wondered if He might be one of them. There are people all the time that want to abolish religion. Imagine no religion. It’s easy if you try. And we’re all holding our candles and swept up in it for the moment feeling the good feels, never really thinking about what we’re singing.
But there are also others that want to drive the thing so hard. And the thing Jesus is being accused of by these scribes and Pharisees, religious leaders of His day, is that he’s trying to usurp the law of Moses. They held the law of Moses in high regard. As a matter of fact, you’ll see that, in some ways, their traditions they held at even higher regard than the law of Moses.
For instance, scribes in Pharisees taught there were 248 commandments in the Old Testament law. 365 prohibitions. 248 do’s and 365 don’ts. And I’ve always been the one who’s tried to say, man, if I just get busy with the do’s, I wouldn’t have to worry about the don’ts. If I could occupy myself with the do’s, what Christ has told me to do, I’d be so busy, I’d just never have time to worry. I wouldn’t have to worry about the don’ts at all.
In Exodus 20:8, for instance, with the scribes and Pharisees, the command of God is remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. And the scribes and Pharisees love the first half of that. And kind of on the second half because they thought holiness equals externalism. And so, what they did was they came up with all these rules that were external sort of things. Like these. No moving your oil lamp from one room to another on Sabbath. No picking up your child, that would be work. No spitting in the dirt because your spittle would furrow through the dirt and that would be like plowing. No looking in a mirror because if you saw a gray hair you might be tempted to pluck it, and that would be harvesting. No traveling from your house. They even came up with a term, over time, the sabbath day journey. And it was about a thousand double steps from your house. To get around it, they would tie a rope to their house and go a thousand steps beyond the rope because they were still connected to their house. I wonder how much more freedom they would’ve had in their time if they had some of the A1devices that we have like Alexa, be holy for me, Google assistant, Roomba, what a great thing that would’ve been for them. No work, just Roomba, get going. Husqvarna robotic lawnmower. I’m looking into one of those. I got such a little yard, I’m pretty sure that thing could take care of that. There is currently on the market an Israeli home robot called Temi capable of recognizing family members, following people around the house, making video calls, replying to user questions, playing music, or carrying small objects from room to room. That sounds like a toddler to me. That’s awesome. If it gets a few years older, maybe it’ll start losing track of time, ask for the keys to the car, and drain the ATM and forget how to clean its Roomba. Somebody throw food, okay, good, yeah, yeah. I was imagining myself, and listen, I know y’all are thinking Thomas doesn’t have enough time, he doesn’t have enough to do, or whatever, but the Christian version of all that might be, you know, you program it to read your daily devotions, to pray some preset prayers, to sing your favorite hymns around the house in one of its awesome selection of either English or Aussie voices. Wouldn’t that be great, yeah? Maybe even it could represent you by coming to church for you each Sunday, serving in the nursery, and maybe even putting some money in the offering box if you could get it to do that for you.
Early in Jesus’ ministry, some of the religious leaders came to believe that Jesus was being so dismissive of the law of Moses that Jesus had to actually say this, don’t think I’ve come to abolish the law. No, the law’s good. It’s not what saves you, it shows you need a savior, but the law of God is good. He said, I’ve not come to abolish it. The Greek word is kataluo, it means to dissolve, demolish, overthrow, or nullify. So, is that what Jesus was doing? Nullifying the law of Moses? Well, the problem for these religious leaders is, I think, it sprang from their sort of equating their traditions to the same level, or the same matter of respect, that God’s law should have. But we’ve got to be careful here because I think we can fall into the same kind of arrogance in our own day and time. What is your pet tradition? Is it church clothes? How many of you, anybody ever hear that you should wear a tie to church? If you’re going to go to church, you ought to wear a certain kind of clothing. I was raised that way, right? So, you didn’t show up in your shorts, or you didn’t show up in your T-shirt. I remember one day looking over at our worship team a couple years ago and there’s a guy over here playing in our worship team and he’s literally wearing an AC/DC t-shirt. I said, that’s the kind of church I want to go to. I don’t like AC/DC, but I just, what’s important is that you come and that you worship, you know? I love that kind of thing, though. And I’ve said this before, forgive me if it’s too repeated for you but, when I was growing up in church, there would be people that would complain because we played acoustic guitars behind the pulpit. And acoustic guitars have six strings. And six is the number 666 is the mark of the beast. So the guitars are the beast. And it’s of the devil to do that. It’s only organ and piano. And so, you can imagine how they felt about the synthesizer when it came along. How that provoked a lot of people wondering are you discarding our rules, our regulations? It’s a very similar kind of a thing.
What about Bible translation? How many of you grew up in some church that it’s KJV only or something like that? It’s like one thing only. You’re only allowed to use that form, that version, that translation of the Bible. I saw one website this week that took all of those little letters that, you know, that we called this version, you know, the KJV or the whatever, NIV whatever, and they dressed out sort of what that meant. KJV was the Know Jesus Version, or the Know’s Jesus version, I guess it would be. NIV is a Nearly Inspired Version. The NLT is the Not Literal Translation. The NASP, which is what I teach out of, is the Nerdy Academic Snooty Bible. The ESV, which a lot of Presbyterians and reformed folk, and I enjoy the ESV too, but it’s called the Elect Standard Version. The CSB is the Cool Southern Baptist version. And then The Message is just called the freestyle poets version. So, I like that. And yeah, let me just, before I get away from any of that, I’m really comfortable with reading all. And, which one should you read? The one you will read. And, more than that, the one you will believe. The one you will obey. The one where the Word of God actually sits in authority over you, not you over it. And that’s the problem, I think, with a lot of, you know, what’s happened around the world, in some churches anyway, is that they have gotten to the place where they’re sitting in the authority over the Word. And if it doesn’t attach to their cultural narrative, they dismiss it. And I don’t have time for that.
I’m too much like Socrates, man. I’m just dying for a divine word in days as dark that we are living in. In days in these kinds of really difficult kinds of days. Well, there is this thing called tradition, and I think it’s good. But traditionalism, I do not think is good. It’s the ism that becomes the problem. Tradition, it’s Jaroslav Pelikan, I think, that said this first, I first read it by. But tradition is the living faith of dead people. Traditionalism is the dead faith of living people. See the difference? Dead faith, living people, traditionalism. We’ve gone to raising our preferences, our way of doing it, somehow or another making it equal to the scriptures.
So, contrary to their accusations in Jesus’ time, He made it quite clear He hadn’t come to abolish the law of prophets, but rather to fulfill them. He rejected the traditions of men but reaffirmed the deep authority of the Old Testament laws in principle. Then drew out the radical implications of having an even greater righteousness than the scribes and Pharisees who had memorized all of the law but had gone way past that. By so doing, Jesus affirmed the standing authority of scripture, Jesus had the utmost respect for it. He talked about their eternal value saying it would not pass away. Heaven and earth would pass away first, He said. That’s how important the scriptures are. He said that not one tiny, not the smallest letter, not one tiny stroke of God’s law would pass away before reality itself just is dismissed and destroyed.
The 10th letter in the Hebrew alphabet is called Yodh, as I understand it. It’s the smallest letter in the entire Hebrew alphabet, 22 letters. One Bible scholar named Edwin Newman in a book called “Strictly Speaking” estimates Yodh was used over 66,000 times in the Old Testament scriptures. And Jesus says, I wouldn’t set aside one of those Yohds, not one. This is God’s Word and so we respect it. He affirmed the authority of scripture. If Jesus is our Lord, our savior, if we are Jesus’ followers, we should not dismiss the authority of scripture either, but find ourselves treasuring it just like He did.
“Let it suffice for us to hold, that sooner shall heaven fall to pieces, and the whole frame of the world become a mass of confusion, than the stability of the law shall give way”.John Calvin
That’s the 16th century French theologian who, I think, loved God’s Word as much or more than most of us. There’s nothing in this book that is unimportant. There’s nothing in this book that’s insignificant. It’s not irrelevant. It’s more relevant than ever, as I read it.
But we do not worship the Word of God. We worship the God of the Word. It’s because of whose word this is that it’s important. So, we’re not literalists that worship, that think poetry should be interpreted and applied literally. We allow the scriptures to speak in the genre of literature they are. Whether that’s historical narrative, imperative commands, or whether that’s eschatological prophecy. We let it speak. I hear so many people just who’ve never even read the Bible say, oh, that’s all those literalists. Well, I don’t take the whole Bible literally, and the reason is because the whole Bible doesn’t want to be taken literally. Some of it’s poetry. It’s beautiful. Still true, but it’s good and beautiful as well. And I can point to it and I can affirm its authority in my life.
Secondly, Jesus came to fulfill the scriptures, affirm the authority of scriptures, and then fulfill the scriptures. How did He do that?
Let me put it up on the screen for you. As to the Law: By living a sinless life, Jesus embodied all the OT’s moral and ethical demands. In His death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled, once for all, the atoning sacrificial demands of the Law. That’s why I can stand up here when we have communion on first Sundays of each month and say, Jesus has done everything that needs to be done for your sin to be completely forgiven and washed away. He has done, past tense, already taken care of it. So, come and say, thank you. That’s what the table is. We are reflecting on this amazing work of Jesus on our behalf. And we are coming with grateful hearts to say thank you to Him. And that we can do because the scriptures teach us that. Without the Bible, we would not know that. Without the Bible, we’d just be sitting here going, I hope whoever the big G man in the sky is, I hope he’s nice. No, we can know what His heart is toward us. Jesus said, my heart is gentle and lowly toward you, I’m meek. And He’s so eager to forgive. So was it blasphemous of Jesus to say that? No, I don’t think so.
As to the prophets, how did He fulfill them? All the covenant promises and prophetic predictions of the OT’s Messianic hope were/will be, fulfilled and realized in the person and work of Jesus. Why the were and the will be? Because some of it has been fulfilled, but not all of it has been fulfilled yet. We’re in an already, but not yet kingdom. It’s already begun, it’s inaugurated, it’s opened, but He’s continuing to unfold His kingdom one day when He returns, which is one of the promises that we hope in here at The Village Chapel. He intends to set the world to rights and everything that has gone wrong. He intends to set it all right. I don’t know about you, I’m longing for that day. I’m hoping for that. That’s not death wish, that’s a life wish. Life as it ought to be wish. And so, I trust Him and I’m so glad he came and fulfilled the scriptures.
Thirdly, Jesus often taught from the scriptures. This is really important too. He believed in the veracity and reliability of the scriptures so much that He actually quotes the scriptures. He quotes 24 different books of the Old Testament if you read across the gospels. 24 different ones. The four books He quotes the most, this is why I’m such a nerd about this kind of stuff, but Psalms, awesome, He quotes the Psalms a lot, okay? Then Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy?! That’s where all our pages are still stuck together. Deuteronomy, He quotes Deuteronomy all the time. Isaiah and Exodus, Jesus believed and taught the scriptures that they are God’s standard for belief and behavior. Belief about what we believe about God. We don’t just believe God exists. We actually believe certain specific things about God. The things He’s revealed about Himself to us in scripture. Not just my fancy ideas of how I can get God to be a cosmic concierge. Not just my personal preferences of the way I would like Jesus to be my Jesus. And we do this all the time in our day and time. We think we’re the center of it all ourselves. And we can just co-op God, co-op Jesus. Take Him and use Him for our purposes and our agenda, whatever that might be. And I’ve just proven over and over again, I’ve been on the planet long enough to know, I can’t, that’s too heavy a weight for me. I would never do that and be fair to anyone else other than me. I certainly wouldn’t be glorifying God in all of my preferences and choices. Whether I’m driving on the highway and I want Jesus to throw lightning bolts at that person that cut me off, or whether I’m just mad at somebody in the neighborhood, or somebody at work, or somebody at school. I can’t handle that kind of authority like Jesus can in His righteous judgment. So, Jesus teaches from the scriptures over and over again. I love this quote from John Stott. He said,
“Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, with all His supernatural knowledge and wisdom, accepted and endorsed the divine origin and authority of the Old Testament Scriptures. He believed them. He obeyed them in His own life and ministry. He quoted them in debate and controversy”.John Stott
So, not only did He affirm the authority of scriptures, if we’re looking for what Jesus and the scriptures have to say, or what He had to say about the scriptures, then He came to fulfill them, He taught from them, and, fourthly, He clarified the true meaning of the scriptures. To first century Jews, the scribes, again, regarded as the most knowledgeable about the scriptures, these scribes. I mean, their entire job all day long was simply copying the scriptures. And they had people that would look over their shoulder, make sure they had done it correctly. And they’re steeped in the scriptures. And the Pharisees were, in their day and time, considered in terms of those who would implement the scriptures or practice the scriptures. They were socially quite well revered because everybody thought of them as holy. Really holy, you know? And so, here’s Jesus coming along and He’s actually publicly debating the most devout practitioners and the most knowledgeable of scholars of the scriptures. They had codified righteousness and then publicly displayed their righteousness with a flare and with very meticulous precision. For them, righteousness was wrapped up in your relationship to the law itself. For Jesus, righteousness is wrapped up in a right relationship with God, not just the scriptures. And so, that’s why He came, to make that possible for us. He re-frames righteousness, even at the end there in verse 20. Unless your righteousness is greater than that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you’ll not even enter. You won’t even begin to understand the kingdom of heaven. In other words, just like He said in the Beatitudes, the whole thing begins with blessed are the poor in spirit. The poverty of spirit it takes. The humility of heart and mind it takes to come before God and say, I got nothing. And there is, present tense, there is the kingdom of heaven, Jesus said. That’s why they’re blessed. The scribes and Pharisees had this sort of haughty public let me perform my religious practices so that others would see me and revere me. But their externalism reduces to little more than trained monkeys and their best trick is hypocrisy. I don’t want to be like that. I hope you don’t want to be like that either. God keep us from that kind of way of thinking.
Back to Stott again. “Christian righteousness is greater than Pharisaic righteousness because it is deeper. It is a righteousness of the heart, a righteousness not of words and deeds only, but especially of thoughts and motives. It is in this sense that Jesus was the fulfillment of the law. He took it to its logical conclusion. He looked beyond a superficial understanding of it to its radical demand for heart righteousness”.
There’s Jesus, all the time, cutting to the heart of the matter. He does it over and over again. He defined righteousness in a completely different way than the scribes and Pharisees. What Jesus meant is that we must have a different, not in degrees, but in kind. A different kind of righteousness. Motivated by love for God. Not motivated by just merely following religious rules, hoping somebody will look at me and think I’m all Mr. Holy and all that sort of thing. I have to confess. I’m a recovering Pharisee. Maybe you are too, or maybe you’re sitting next to one. I tend to want things my way. I think that’s probably a struggle for all of us. I tend to get self-righteous really fast. I know that’s a struggle for all of us. If you’re human, it comes with, you know? The power of God’s Word, though, when you study it, is that it’s like a mirror held up to us so that we can see what we’re really like, what we really need to see about ourselves. It’s really good that way. Not only is the wisdom of God there for us to see in that, the Word that He’s spoken, but also the reality of what’s going on in our own hearts is there as we read the wise warnings of scriptures. As we read the prompting of scripture. Some of the imperatives do this. The indicatives are so helpful. You know, when Paul tells us that our lives have been united with Christ, you understand what great freedom that is for us. Lord, I can’t love those people. Well, you can’t, but Jesus can through you. Lord, I can’t forgive that. Well, you probably, on your own steam, cannot, but let me remind you of how much you’ve been forgiven. And let’s see if that changes it. And then I need the word to remind me over and over and over of all that. It’s powerful on its own.
I’m not going to put this up on the screen, but I want to read a paragraph from Spurgeon. It’s a sermon he delivered in 1886. Sermon was called Christ and His Co-Workers. He said, “suppose a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full grown king of the beast? There he is in the cage, here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I would suggest to them, if they would not object and feel that it was humbling to them, these soldiers, that they should kindly stand back and just open the door. Let the lion out”. I believe Spurgeon said that would be the best way of defending him for, he would take care of himself. And the best apology for the gospel is to let the gospel out. Never mind about defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch, preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified, let the lion out and see who will dare to approach him. The lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all His adversaries.” Beautiful image when you think about it. By studying through books of the Bible, I hope we’re letting the lion out. Let the Word speak. Let it be what leads us and points us to Jesus because I will contend every book points us to Jesus. And that’s what He’s saying, in part, when He says I’m here to fulfill it. He’s basically saying all of that points forward and finds its fulfillment in me. He says those exact words in Luke 24:44. And then, again, repeats it as we read John 5. He’s always saying that that written word points to the living word, who is Jesus himself.
I’ll close with the two quotes, one from Os and one from Packer.
“From the beginning to the end of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, there is the enduring truth of God’s sovereignty and providence”. This is really powerful. “Evil may run rampant”. And it seems to be right now. “Accidents will happen, disappointments and setbacks may dismay the best of us, and at times there may seem to be no meaning to it all. But there is always the relief of the recurring words, ‘But God’, and the tirelessly repeated reassurance that is backed by a thousand reasons: ‘Have no fear'”. And it’s Jesus that will say that over and over again to His disciples, whether they’re on a stormy sea or just shaking in their boots for fear. I agree with Jesus, look to Him. Take courage, He says to His disciples. Have no fear it’s me, I’m the one walking out on the water to you. Take courage means He gives courage. Don’t muster up courage, just receive courage. It’s a gift from Him. Packer, and we’ll close with this,
“The Scriptures are a lifeline God throws us in order to ensure that He and we stay connected while the rescue is in process”. The rescue is in process, my friends, and let’s be rescued.J.I. Packer
All right, let’s pray:
“Lord, thank you for your Word, living and active. Every bit of it true and pointing to you. Eternal. And while we struggle sometimes to understand how to interpret and apply it, Lord, what’s comforting to our hearts and minds and souls is that when the whole world is shaking, globally or personally, when our world is shaking, we can go to your Word and find there the courage as it points us to the one whose name is Jesus. The one who is our king in the kingdom of heaven. In His name, we pray, amen and amen.”