Saturday, February 6, 2021

Sermon On The Mount - Part 3

Bobservations Column

By Pastor Bob Lawrenz

Many authors today offer their books in audio form. It’s a blessing to those that travel and those that cannot get to a library or a book store. And when it is the author that is reading his own words, something amazing happens. Their words are put together with the right inflection and correct context, and a much richer meaning is supplied to the listener.

Similarly, with our Deuteronomy 24 reading today, we read what the Lord has written to the Israelites in the Levitical Law. It left much room for embellishment by teachers and scribes who would come later on to teach the people. But then in today’s Matthew 5 teaching, Jesus speaks as the Word of God, the original source of the words in Deuteronomy 24, and He gives us a more accurate and richer meaning to the passage. Jesus’ instruction leaves no room for embellishment.

In the past week, I have had three occasions to be reminded of Psalm 89:34:
“My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that has gone out of my lips.”

Embellishment alters the meaning of what has been written or spoken. And if you have never noticed, every case heard by the US Supreme Court has one purpose: to alter the meaning of previous legislation, in essence negating the original law by creating exceptions to the law. Today. Our laws are so vaguely written, that anyone can argue most any meaning they want to read into a law. We can no longer say that we are a nation that follows the Rule of Law.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof:…”

In the 1960’s, the Supreme Court heard a case and determined that these first two phrases of the First Amendment implied that there was to be a separation of Church and State. In fact, the Amendment says no such thing. It prohibits legislators from establishing a religion, or interfering with the free exercise of religion, period. It does not say that religion cannot influence the Congress; indeed our laws were established on Biblical Principles!

Jesus frees us from embellishments like this, in Colossians 2:14 ~
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against
us, which was contrary to us, nailing it to His cross.”

Those confusing ordinances are already fulfilled by Christ Jesus.

Today's Audio Message: Matthew 5:31-48

The Sermon On The Mount - Part 3

This week we are still in the midst of Jesus’ first sermon – the Sermon on the Mount. In review, remember how Jesus started off by speaking about the type of life that is blessed by God?  His values are quite the opposite of what our world values. Jesus taught the disciples things like, “Blessed are those who are poor in spirit…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the meek.” Jesus went on to teach them that when we live according to His values, rather than the values of this world, we become as light and salt in this world of darkness, and in doing so we point the way to Him. Others are drawn to Him when they see the evidence of Him in our lives. We are to point others to Him, not ourselves. Jesus' teachings were much different than any they had heard before. While the Pharisees were interested in outward appearances and works, with a great emphasis on the letter of the law, Jesus was interested in our hearts.

The Jews lived by the Law, it was their rule of life. The Law was given to them by God, and handed down from the fathers. It was how they gauged a right relationship with God.

Jesus had no desire to abolish the Law, in fact, He came to fulfill it. He taught His disciples that righteousness doesn’t come from the outward action of obeying the Law.  In fact true righteousness isn't even possible in ourselves, nor can we obtain it on our own.  Righteousness is obtained by the blood of Christ, the cleansing of our sin, and the indwelling of His Spirit in our hearts.  We must be changed from within.  Just a quick overview of the Beatitudes, reveals that these things are not natural to us. 

Jesus affirmed this idea in verse 20 by saying, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  For the Jew, no one obeyed the law better than the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. If their righteousness had to surpass that of their religious leaders in order to enter heaven,  then it was impossible for them to attain. This is exactly the point of what Jesus was teaching.  He is teaching spiritual truths, not works of the flesh.  

The only way we can become righteous is to be made righteous by God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Romans 5:18-19 says, “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 reiterates this by saying, “ For he (God the Father) hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

I am sure His disciples wrestled a bit with this, and probably wondered how they should live in a way to please God if not by ritual and works.

As we finish chapter 5, Jesus continues to expound on examples of the Law and uses them to illustrate and explain exactly how we are to relate to it. Jesus is making clear that He is dealing with attitudes, the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Observing the Law was not a matter of adhering to external codes of conduct, but truly involves a rigorous self-examination of heart and soul.  Only God has the power to change the heart.

Jeremiah 3:17 states, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"

The moral aspect of the Law is holy, just and good, but it is powerless to change the heart.  We need a Savior!

Interesting how Jesus is displaying His authority. Six times over Jesus says, “You have heard it said…But I tell you.” By expounding on the requirements of the Law, Jesus is revealing equal authority with God, the Father. 

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