The Heart For Obedience

This morning I’m reading Matthew chapter 5.  Beginning in verse 17, Jesus addresses His PURPOSE.  Some of the people who were listening to His teachings and following Him were misunderstanding Him…apparently they were interpreting His progressiveness as license to ignore God’s Law.  He clears-up the confusion, and introduces a little more to chew on, as was His teaching style…

17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For 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.”

I like how Jesus teaches.  In this section, He strips away the legitimacy of both extreme views….licentiousness and legalism.  Licentiousness is the belief that God doesn’t really care about our moral beliefs & behaviors so we “have license” to do whatever the hell we want.  He clearly knocks this off the shelf.  Legalism is the belief that our acceptance before God is dependent upon the perfection of our doctrinal beliefs & outward practices.  He exposes this fallacy in a more more nuanced fashion by noting the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, who in that time were the ultimate pious-rule-followers.  So…what’s the point?

God is concerned with our hearts…aka our motives & values & desires.  The following wise words are from the study notes below verse 20 in my Bible:

“Jesus was saying that His listeners needed a different kind of obedience altogether (out of love for God), not just a more intense version of the Pharisees’ obedience (which was mere legal compliance). Our obedience must 1) come from what God does in us, not what we can do by ourselves, 2) be God-centered, not self-centered, 3) be based on reverence for God, not approval from people, and 4) go beyond keeping the law to living by the principles behind the law.” 


Good-News in a Bad-News World

Ashamed and dismayed by the rancid violence and moral apathy of the world we live in.  It seems like every day I read about some new atrocity that drives another nail into the coffin of goodness in the world….misguided people believing and doing stupid things in order to perpetrate twisted world-views.  Where is all this hatred coming from?  And what’s the cure?

A good friend of mine has a 5-year-old grandson who apparently overheard some of the latest shooting reports on the news.  He asked me how he’s supposed to explain hatred and violence to this precious young soul in his care.  We had an encouraging conversation that gave me some hope…not because we figured-out a fix for society, but we did recall some fundamental truths we can rest in and teach to others:

1. This world is not home, it is temporary…and it is broken.
2. There will always be evil in the world, and hatred is never overcome by hatred.
3. God is alive and well.  He has a plan, and will have the last word.
4. Jesus is God’s voice of love to mankind, His Word continues to flow through His followers today.
5. Not all people who call themselves “Christians” are truly following Jesus’ example.
6. None of us can change this broken world, but each of us can know and follow Jesus.
7. When lots of people follow Jesus’ example in their own lives, evil is defeated…and really wonderful things happen.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

“He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.” Matthew 26:52

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21