Here is a peek from one of the posts in our “Way In” challenge, where we are digging deeper into God’s Word the month of January.
TO THE CRITICS AND THE FANS, IT’S A MATTER OF THE HEART
by Kim Penix
Please read Matthew 5:17-20
I’m a check-off list kind of person. I like to know the plan, rules, and boundaries. When God gave the law in the Old Testament He was doing just that-giving the plan, rules, and boundaries.
In this passage, Christ wanted to make it clear to His critics (Pharisees) that the law given in the Old Testament was still the inerrant authority of God. His teaching was not discarding any of it. He was adding to it by fulfilling the law and providing grace and redemption.
In verse 20 Christ addressed the fans (followers). He said, “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.”
So how do we get our righteousness to exceed that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law? There isn’t a holiness test we need to take and score a better grade on than the Pharisees. We need to focus on the quality of the righteousness at work in our hearts. A righteousness that is evident in the way we live our lives.
We aren’t to follow a list of rules in an attempt to earn His favor, but because we’ve received His grace. The Pharisees had it backwards. While on the outside they appeared to live a perfect life, their hearts were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
So what’s the evidence?
- It should be evident in our attitudes. (Chap. 5:21-48) The Pharisees had created loopholes in the law so they could keep the appearance of holiness. They were hateful toward their neighbors but said they maintained their righteousness because they didn’t commit murder. Christ said that is not exceeding righteousness.
- It should be evident in our desires. (Chap. 6:16-18) There is nothing wrong with doing any works of the law such as giving, praying, and fasting. But we shouldn’t be doing them with the desire to be seen or heard. Our desire should be to worship Christ and offer our lives in thanksgiving for what He has done for us, not to impress others.
- It should be evident in our ambitions. (Chap. 6:33) A heart changed by God is shown by not being consumed by this world. It doesn’t mean if we ever struggle, fall, or give in to the pull of the world that we aren’t a disciple of Jesus. We aren’t already perfected. Yes, that will happen but there should be a predominant desire in our hearts to work in the service of Christ and see His kingdom come.
- It should be evident in our relationships. (Chap. 7:1) We need to be encouraging and sharpen one another. The Pharisees demeaned those who couldn’t live up to their rules. Christ is saying that while we are to encourage one another in love, we are to point out where we see our brother or sister struggling, but only after a time of reflection on where Christ is working in our own lives. Any correction needs to be seasoned with love and humility, loving others as we would want to be loved.
Do you see the evidence in your life? Remember it’s a work in progress. God doesn’t require perfection, just a willingness to grow in Him!
Please leave Kim a comment and we will be sure to lift you up in prayer.
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Would you like to join our 31 day “Way In” challenge beginning January 1, 2015? We will be digging deeper into God’s Word. You can find out more info here.
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