Well, we’re studying the gospel according to Matthew, and we are calling our study “The King and His Kingdom.” We are going to take a nice chunk of scripture today. We’ve had four verses two weeks ago, four verses last week. And so, we’re going to move the train along the tracks a little quicker. And today, we’re going to go for verses 21 through 48. This is part of what’s called “The Sermon on the Mount.” And most of you will know that chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew comprise the Sermon on the Mount.
We have looked already at its first three sections. We’re sort of in the middle of the third section, but we’ve looked at the Beatitudes, which describe Christian character. What does the blessed life look like? What does the flourishing soul look like? And those Beatitudes so rich in their description of Christian character.
We’ve looked also at the images that Jesus used when he said that those who have that character are to be like salt and light. So the influence of that kind of character in the world in which we live was described with those metaphors, and the idea there is that Christians are to be a spiritual and moral preservative in the world, a light shining brightly with clarity on the Gospel of Jesus.
Third, we’ve studied now what Jesus said about the scriptures and about a basis for heart-deep righteousness, as he even calls out those that are following him, listening to him in verse 20, and tells them that they have got to have a righteousness that far exceeds the righteousness of the religious leaders of his day, namely, the scribes and Pharisees, who happen to have been a part of this crowd as it begins to grow, and we’ll see that a little bit later.
So now, continuing with that thought in mind of this deeper righteousness, one might be tempted to ask the question, “Well, what does that look like?” And that’s where we’re going to go and turn into verses 21-48, where Jesus will offer six examples of what this heart-deep righteousness will look like.
Would you pray with me: This is our prayer for illumination here this morning, before we open the scriptures, we’ll need the help of the Holy Spirit. “Blessed Lord, you have caused all holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant that we may, in such a way, hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of your holy word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life which you’ve given us in our savior, Jesus Christ. Grant to us this morning as we study a clearer vision of your truth, a greater faith in your power and a more confident assurance of your love toward us, in Jesus name we pray, amen, and amen.”
Set your eyes on the page then. Matthew 5 will begin with verse 21: “You have heard it said by the ancients, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, Raca”
Most of your English translations will have that word in there, and that basically means “you empty head,” it’s as if they’re saying, “You’re good for nothing,” okay? And so the idea is that you, sort of with contempt or looking down on someone else, “that person shall be guilty before the Supreme Court” and that’s not our Supreme Court, that’s the next level, he’s just increasing the level as he goes along.
“And whoever shall say ‘You fool’ shall be guilty enough to go into the hell of fire. If therefore, you are presenting your offering at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go your way, first be reconciled and go your way to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly, I say to you, you shall not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.” And so, here is the first of six examples, those verses right there, verses 21-26.
The second one starts like this, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’ but I say to you that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed an adultery with her already in his heart. And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you, for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish than for your whole body to go into hell.”
And then the third statement, “And it was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of dismissal’; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorce woman commits adultery.”
And the fourth statement, “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I say to you, make no oath at all either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.” This is before Grecian Formula or any of that stuff, okay? You can’t make one hair white or black. “But let your statements be ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no.’ and anything beyond these is of evil.”
And the fifth statement, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.” I have such a mischievous mind, when I’m reading this myself, I think, then can I kill him? I’m always looking for that to let me go to the furthest end of the leash as the dog that’s being walked. I want to go to the furthest end and get away with whatever I can get away with, you know? So now, He says, “You must turn the right cheek. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”
Sixth statement, verse 43. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be sons of your father or children of your father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” And then here’s this closer, that’s just an amazing closing statement. “Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.”
Wow. Well, I got to admit, I have somewhat agonized over this passage. This is one of the reasons why I love teaching through books of the Bible though. I’m not, I mean, you may be, and there’s nothing wrong with it if you are, but I’m not like a plaque-saying kind of a guy. In my office, there are no plaques on the wall with a saying. I love to shop through the scriptures. I love to salad bar pick my way through the scriptures and find this one little phrase that just makes me feel all good and squishy and all that sort of thing. I love that kind of thing. So, because of that tendency, I just don’t put any of those kinds of things up on the wall, because I know I’ll just pick and choose what I like, and it’ll be like salad bar, where you leave what you don’t prefer.
And when we come to the scriptures, that’s one of the reasons we teach you books of the Bible, is because we want to hear the whole council of God. When we started the church, prayed about which books should we start with, Lord, and we started with the Book of Judges, and, you know, this is not what they teach you in church planting school, you know, and here’s what you do, you want to go out, and you want to start with a book like Judges, you know, and that sort of thing.
Well, the ancient Roman stoic philosopher, Lucius Annaeus Seneca said, “The way is long if one follows precepts, but short and helpful if one follows patterns.” I think Seneca may have had some insight here for us. Let’s look at a pattern here in what Jesus has said. Perhaps it’ll help us find the shortest and most helpful path to understanding this passage and what he wanted to say.
Professor Jonathan T. Pennington has one of my very favorite commentaries on the Sermon on the Mount, highly recommended to you. He says these six illustrations are stated in three parts. There’s the, sort of you have heard it said, and that’s typically in the six statements, and it’s not consistent the way Jesus says it or the way that Matthew records Jesus saying it, because what’s fascinating to me is he didn’t say you have heard it written or you’ve read it, but he knows that he’s talking to people who have this sort of blend, a bit of Old Testament knowledge, mixed with the really pressing rabbinical school teachings of either Hillel or Shammai or Akiba.
And so, he takes into consideration some of their rabbinic traditions they’ve been taught, as he goes through these six statements. “You’ve heard it said,” because that could include the law of God, and it could also include the rabbinical teachings.
But we have this three-part thing here in these six statements. The Old Testament law rabbinical tradition is stated by Jesus.
Secondly, his interpretation of the intent of God’s laws is stated, where he goes, “But I say to you, you’ve heard it said, but I say to you,” and this would have been nothing less than shocking for first century Jewish years. No Rabbi ever said, “But I say to you,” no, they didn’t speak on their own authority, they always referenced something else. And here’s Jesus coming along, and this is one of the reasons why Matthew and the other four gospels repeat over and over and over again how astonished everyone was at the teachings of Jesus, because he spoke as one having authority and not as the scribes and Pharisees.
So three parts, the Old Testament law or rabbinical tradition, secondly, Jesus’ interpretation of the intent of God’s laws, and thirdly, his practical application. That’s an interesting parallel to the Beatitudes, right? Remember the declaration of blessedness, three parts, declaration of blessedness, the condition of heart or a condition of life, and then the third part was always this attending reward. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed to those who mourn, they shall be comforted.” See, it’s just three parts like that. And here he teaches again, in three parts, Jesus, the master teacher.
And while these six statements that we’re looking at today are often called antithesis or direct opposites if you will, in their literary context and given their theological implications, I would like to suggest that they are more like a set of examples to illustrate the relationship between those who follow Jesus and the law. He’s already talked about his own relationship to the law, his own view of the scriptures. And now I think he’s saying to us, if you follow me, this is what it will look like for you to also honor God’s law and the intent of it. If living like Jesus in a fallen world looks like something, what does it look like?
Now, somebody might ask, Isn’t he doing what he just said he wouldn’t do? Isn’t he now abolishing the law, abrogating the law, setting it aside? And I would say, I suggest no, I don’t think he is at all. As a matter of fact, I think Matthew is presenting Jesus here in this record as the ultimate expository of God’s law, the one who shows us what it really means, what the intent of God’s laws really are. Jesus is bringing out that intent as he points us to the heart motive.
So, we observe this pattern here. I suggest that Jesus isn’t so much trying to teach us here what to think about each and every law, because guess what, he actually teaches about some of these other things in other places, in the gospels, none of these six statements are meant to be the comprehensive total teaching of Jesus on any one of these six statements. He is using all six of these to say, this is the kind of thing that you’ll have to do as you look at God’s laws, you’ll have to look past just the outward observances of it and look to the heart of the matter.
And one more thing to keep in mind is that as we get through Matthew, we’ll come back to some of these subjects. Matthew 19, we’ll hear Jesus talk about divorce, and so, we’ll be in and out a little bit of it. Sinclair Ferguson says it really well, “The real contrast in this section is between the meaning of the law according to Jesus and the meaning of the law according to religious tradition and the ancient teachers.” So he’s highlighting that difference in these six statements “you’ve heard it said, but I say,” and it’s a great teaching device, I believe. Scott McKnight also helps us.
“Christ’s commandment contains the law, but the law does not contain Christ’s commandment. Therefore whoever fulfills the commandments of Christ implicitly fulfills the commandments of the law.”Scott McKnight
So there is no contradiction between Jesus, his teaching, and the laws of God. He has come not to abolish him, not to aggregate them, not to set them aside, but to fulfill them. And I’ll show you by the time we get to the end of all of this, because I don’t know about you, but I felt a little uncomfortable reading some of these six statements for my own life. Maybe you did too. But I want to show you how the fact that Jesus fulfills the law is what really sets me free and he should be able to do that for you as well. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something we can glean from each of these statements.
And I would like to summarize them this way. Jesus focuses on an inner disposition of heart that will lead to greater righteousness, greater than that of the religious rule followers, greater than that than the people who simply live externally and think that’s all it’s just about checking the box, I didn’t commit murder, I’m okay now. No. Avoid anger, he says in verses 21 through 26. “Pursue reconciliation,” that’s the sixth commandment of the deck log. He’s going right back to the 10 commandments, we’ve referenced those earlier, and where God says, “Do not commit murder,” Jesus says, “Do not even allow anger or contempt to rule your heart, live reconciled lives.”
It’s not just about the brakes, it’s also about the gas pedal and the steering wheel. And for a long time, I think Christians, especially in the west, have thought it’s always about the brakes, to use my automobile analogy. I’d say they thought that even before there were brakes in cars and things like that.
The statements here were about the kind of heart that could ultimately lead a person to homicide or murder. This is the kind of anger that’s motivated by things like pride, prejudice, racism, hatred, contempt, elitism, seeking revenge. Jesus says, don’t even get close to wanting to murder someone. Cut the impulse off before it begins to fester, nip it in the bud, reject the kind of anger, contempt, and insult slinging that lead to murder and acts of violence. Further, turn away from your implacable heart and then proactively take up the ministry of reconciliation, be an agent of God’s grace in this world. If I could just put it in some, you know, paraphrase it a little bit.
The Apostle Paul said it this way, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” We pray this right up here all the time, right? And then, “entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
And that’s why even in the Lord’s prayer, which we’ll get to in a few weeks, it’s the only conditional statement in the Lord’s prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” How are you doing at that? I’m not very good at that. Maybe you aren’t very good at that either, but this is good work that’s being done to stir us up by way of conviction, to see how much we do need Jesus to fulfill the law.
“Anyone who hates a brother or sister,” the Apostle John said, “is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.” It’s not alive in them. If their heart goes so dark, as to commit murder like that, the love of God is not living inside of us. The Apostle John says, “Whether you have a grievance with a brother,” verse 23, or “Whether you have a grievance with an enemy,” verse 25, did you notice how far Jesus goes there? And this is a real enemy, not just somebody that was pulling for Duke or pulling for the, what was the other team last time? Sorry, didn’t mean to offend you by asking, I should have known. No, that’s not your real enemy, but anyway, anyone, that inside your heart, there is sort of this tendency for contempt to be stirred up. Oh boy, I might be stepping on some toes here today. Who is the one that you might think of as the despicable other? Who is it? Who’s your repugnant other? Maybe it’s a public figure. Maybe it’s a person in your family or in your office. But the thought of being able to set aside your anger toward that person, your contempt toward that person, is pretty much asking too much in your own mind. Jesus says, no, that’s not asking too much. This is at the heart of what those who might follow Him will do.
And it’s so important that Jesus even highlights the sense of urgency we must have about reconciling with others if you’re going to present your offering before God at the altar. And by the way, that’s one of the reasons I think Matthew was written before 70 AD. Why would he mention the altar if there’s no altar? Because in 70 AD the temple would’ve been torn to pieces, destroyed, pushed over the cliffs into the Kidron Valley down below, but the urgency is what I wanted to highlight. If you’re even going on your way to worship, and you, in your own heart, in your own mind, you’re still entertaining some kind of contempt or anger, Jesus says, set aside your offering, go and deal with the problem. And then come back and present your offering to him. That’s him sharpening your response and my response to this sort of seed of anger that sometimes stirs up within us.
Secondly, avoid lust, pursue sexual purity. The seventh commandment in the deck of law is do not commit adultery. Jesus cuts to the heart and says, “Avoid lust, which springs from the too long lingering gaze “and the flirtation of your imagination about somebody else, who you’re not married to. Jesus connects any and every sexual practice, which is immoral indeed, and declares it immoral also in imagination. Ah, this is bound to crowd, some of you, in your preferences online or in movies or in some of your entertainment choices, as to eye-plucking and hand-severing, what does He mean there? Some of you read that and thought, oh my goodness, I hope He doesn’t mean for us to take that literally. I don’t think He does. I think Jesus knew the art of hyperbole, knew how to use it quite well, but he wants to create, again, a sense of urgency inside you and inside of me, that we would be so careful with our eyes, and so careful about the way we conduct ourselves, that we would see ourselves as dying to that thing. Some of us have some people, some places, and some props that need to go, because they lead us to lust of some kind. And listen, it’s not only sexual lust. There are so many kinds of lust. There’s lust for what others might have, that’s called coveting in the 10th commandment. There’s lust for fame. There are some people that are so obsessed with fame and celebrity, that they just cannot find themselves ever happy with who they are in the world that God has placed them and the way he’s created them. And we all can struggle with this, and I can struggle with each and every one of these six things.
The command to get rid of problematic eyes and hands is an example of Jesus using dramatic speech. He used dramatic speech all the time, but please understand, you and I know, that you can pluck out your right eye or cut off your right hand, and still lust. Fixing it externally isn’t what’s going to change the part of your heart. And so, Jesus says, It’s your heart that matters, cut to that. You’ve heard it said, don’t commit adultery. That’s right, don’t commit adultery. But get at the root problem in your heart, and that’s where he wants us to go. I would suggest, we need less time on our devices, more time in the Word and on our knees. I don’t mean to be a legalist. And maybe I should just say, I need less time on devices and more time in the Word and on my knees. So I’ll say it that way, and then you, if the Holy Spirit is convicting you in some way regarding that as well. I think it’s Piper that said, “The one thing that Twitter’s going to prove is that none of us couldn’t pray, because we didn’t have enough time.” I think he’s right on there, right? There’s plenty of time for browsing your social media. There’s plenty of time for watching 2, 3, 4 shows, whatever it is, in a row, but is there time for the Word? Is there time for that which will change a heart?
I’ve got to hurry, so let me move forward. Lesslie Newbigin, “If this biblical story is not the one that really controls our thinking, then inevitably we shall be swept into the story that the world tells about itself. We shall become increasingly indistinguishable from the pagan world of which we are a part.” Is that us? What does it say about us that, sometimes, when there’s a convention in town of a bunch of religious people, that the hotels sell more of all of these kinds of things that would lead us astray, than they do when there are nonreligious conventions in town. I’ve heard that stated, I don’t know if it’s accurate, but I am stirred by it to ask myself the question, “Is that true? Am I different?” Are we different enough, do people look at us and say, there’s the antidote to what’s going on out in the world, with the darkness and the ranker and the anger and the idolatry that raises things like politics and money and things like that to a much higher level than it ought to ever have had. These people seem to have that all in perspective. And therefore, they’ve learned to love one another because Jesus is the most important thing in their lives.
Thirdly, maintain fidelity in commitments, verses 31-32. So important as well. We need to keep in mind, these two verses are not all that Jesus has to say about marriage, like I said earlier, Matthew 19, when we get there, the Pharisees were preoccupied with the rules and grounds for divorce. Jesus wanted to talk about faithfulness in marriage. And so, Jesus turned to focus onto faithfulness within the institution of marriage, the Pharisees called Moses’ provision for a divorce, “a command,” and in Deuteronomy 24, there’s instruction there about a writ of divorce to be given to a woman, for the sake of protecting the woman in a culture where women were vulnerable. There’s so much more to be said about this, but the Pharisees basically regarded divorce quite casually, Jesus took marriage seriously, with one exception, he called remarriage after such that of a casual or flippant divorce, he called that adultery.
Believe it or not, according to the old Scottish Bible commentator, William Barkley,
“There is no time in history when the marriage bond stood in greater peril of destruction than in the days when Christianity first came into the world, for the Romans and Greeks divorce was as easy writing a note, the Jews were just as bad, where did they get their lax attitude?”William Barkley
Well, Deuteronomy 24:1, “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes, because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house.” According to the scribal interpretations of this passage, all the Jew had to do was find some indecency in his wife. What does that mean? It depends on the definition of the word, not is, but on the definition of the word “indecency.” School of Jewish rabbi, Shammai, what did he say? Well, indecency was marital infidelity. What about Rabbi Hillel? What did he say? If she has just put too much salt in his food, burned the bread, went out with her head uncovered, talked with men on the street, was troublesome or quarrelsome. That’s indecency according to Rabbi Hillel. Rabbi Akiba said that this phrase means she finds no favor in his eyes, means that once he’s tired of looking at her or finds a better-looking woman, a man could divorce his wife, and please note, women had no say in the matter at all. Hmm. So when you travel the road as much as Kim and I had done earlier in our lives, you occasionally stop at a truck stop. I know most of you have probably been to a truck stop before. People have been known to write on the bathroom walls and truck stops, haven’t they? Kim came out of a ladies room one time, and told me that she had seen the message on the wall of her stall that said, “Tom and Sarah, for now.” Kim said, “The woman who wrote that didn’t understand this teaching here by Jesus. If she did, she would’ve written, “Tom and Sarah, forever and ever and ever, lots of hearts, a happy face, and finally the words, or he dies.”
I love the story Steve Brown tells about, in England, before World War I, the American-born Nancy Astor, who was the first woman at an English Parliament, went to dinner at the ancestral home of Winston Churchill. She and Churchill had some definite differences, and women’s rights was one of the differences. At dinner, the conversation got a bit heated, and at one point, Lady Astor stood up and exclaimed, “Winston, if I were married to you, I would put poison in your tea.” And without skipping a beat, his response was, “And if you were my wife, I would drink it.” So, those humorous and odd illustrations, not what you and I have to wrestle with each and every day. We have real people that we need to learn how to love, need to learn how to not be angry with, we need to learn how to not become impatient. When they get stuck in cry mode, it’s really going to be okay if we just relax a little bit, and I forget that so easily. Again, not all that Jesus has to say about marriage, but maintain fidelity in your commitments.
Fourthly, keep your word. So important, Old Testament law prohibited false swearing or perjury, making a vow, then breaking it. Jesus commands us to keep our promises, be people of our word. What a crazy thing that would be if there were like 300 people in Nashville that kept their word. And you think, well, and a lot of people do, they say, “I live by the Beatitudes,” but they don’t even know what they are. Or, “I live by the 10 commandments,” can’t name number 4. “I always keep my word.” Almost every pagan would say, “We ought to keep our word.” And yet none of us do, myself included. And so Jesus is stirring us up and pointing something that’s almost, well, Jesus is pointing at us something that is impossible.
Five, respond with love toward those who persecute you. In the August 1985 edition of Christianity Today, Harvard psychiatrist, Robert Coles, told the amazing story of a girl who had learned to pray for those who were hostile toward her. Coles was in New Orleans in 1960, when a federal judge ruled that the city schools must be integrated. Six-year-old girl, Ruby Bridges, was the only black child to attend William T. Frantz School. Every day, for weeks, she entered and left the building, a mob of mostly adults would be standing as she entered and left the building, and a mob would be yelling at her and threatening her. Six years old. They shook their fists, they shouted obscenities, and they threatened to kill her. One day, her teacher saw her lips moving as she walked through the crowd. Flanked by burley federal marshals that had to protect her, when the teacher told Coles, this writer, about it, he asked Ruby if she was talking to the people, she said, “I wasn’t talking to them.” She replied, “I was just saying a prayer for them.” Coles asked her, “Why would you do that?” And Ruby, six-year-old Ruby said, “because they need praying for.”
You want to learn how not to hate somebody. Who’s your repugnant other? Pray for them. Watch your heart slowly change as you place them before God and ask God’s blessing on their life, ask God to provide for their needs, ask God to change their hearts, whatever it might be, you entrust them into the hands of God instead of taking matters into your own hands. Just like Ruby, just like Jesus, our Lord called his disciples, to what Bonhoeffer would later call “visible participation” in His cross, wow.
Martin Luther King Jr’s most moving sermon, one of them, was “Loving your Enemies” based on Matthew 5:43 and 45 right here. Written from a Georgia jail, he described how Christians are to love, and that hate multiplies hate in a descending spiral of violence. Hate is just as in injurious to the person who hates as it is to their victim. So Jesus, Ruby, and Martin Luther King Jr., all agree, be loving toward those who persecute you, who appear to be your enemies.
And finally, be selfless in love. Now, this is the goal, this verse 48, “Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect.” This is the goal for you, this is the goal for me. He’s about changing us. Grace finds you where you are, accepts you where you are, and never leaves you where you are. I saw an article last week called “Affirming Ourselves to Death.” I was really captured by the title because I think that’s part of what’s wrong with the demands in the world in which we live right now, is that people demand that you affirm everything about, and you couldn’t possibly love them unless you affirm everything about them. And I suggest to you that that’s not the case, that the gospel even calls us to love our enemies, and we’re not affirming our enemies, so when Kim is up here leading us in prayers, and she prays for the person who’s committing so much horrible stuff, that God might save them. I’m convicted because I’m praying that God will knock that person down. And yet, Jesus wants me to be perfect in every way.
Well, we need to look like him, we need to know we belong to him in all of this, and we need to know that because he came to fulfill the law, all of what he said in these six things is actually, in terms of the transformation he wants to work in my heart and in your heart, it’s actually on the table. Because when I look at this on my own steam, apart from Jesus, I got no hope at all. And even when I look at the 10 commandments, if we are real honest, that’s kind of why I said, hello saints, hello sinners, because every single one of us is a sinner in this room. Every single one of us is broken in God’s laws, or maybe I should say it this way, broken ourselves against God’s laws. None of us will live up to all of what Jesus has said here perfectly today. But because Jesus has fulfilled the law, and because I’ve placed my trust, hope, and confidence in Jesus, and He now lives within me, now those six things are on the table for the transformation of my life, as I place my hope, continue to place my hope, confidence, and trust in Jesus, because of His life at work in my life and in your life.
“In a secular age,” as Alan Noble in “You Are Not Your Own,”
“In a secular age such as our own, it requires an intentional effort to remember that we belong to Christ, and that belonging is not merely a doctrine, but a reality that touches every aspect of our lives.”Alan Noble
Oh God, please, may it touch every aspect of our lives this week. In all six of these categories, Lord, change us.
And I’ll end with this Stott quote, which I love so much. “Looking back over all six antitheses, it has become clear what the ‘greater’ righteousness is to which Christians are summoned. It is a deep inward righteousness of the heart where the Holy Spirit has written God’s law….And this righteousness, whether expressed in purity, honesty, or charity, will show to whom we belong. Our Christian calling is to imitate not the world, but the Father.” Be perfect, like He’s perfect. “And it is by this imitation of Him that the Christian counter-culture becomes visible.” We’ve seen what the text says. We’ve seen how Jesus wants us to live in light of that text, but we’ve also acknowledged that we can’t do that on our own. And so, we look to the one who has fulfilled the law, and we realize that our only hope in life and death is in Jesus, amen.
Let’s look to him now in prayer:
Lord, we thank you that in you, we can find life. We thank you, Lord, that in you, we can draw upon a resource of love and joy and peace that is inexhaustible. It’s so true, Lord, we run out of all of those things. We’re overwhelmed sometimes with despair, we’re overwhelmed with our own brokenness, our own addictions, our own tendencies, proclivities that lead us away from you, that separate us from other people, that cause us to sin, looking down on others or seeing others as our repugnant other. We pray, Lord, that you would hear our cry as we repent from our sin and our idolatry, and turn to you, lifting up the empty hands of faith and saying, fill us with your life, fill us with your Holy Spirit, overflow our hearts with your love, with your peace, and with your joy, and with the knowledge that we belong to you. We pray this in your name, amen, and amen.