Daily D – Matthew 5:20
Matthew 5:20 “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.”
Is it better to declare complete fidelity to a rule or to completely embody the meaning of the rule?
There are those who express the highest degree of allegiance to God’s words of truth and life. Then they behave as if half of what they say they believe does not apply to them.
There are those who are kind and gentle to a fault, meaning they go so far in their kindness and gentleness that it turns into sentimentality or permissiveness exceeding the boundaries of God’s words of truth and life.
A TCU professor was one of the leading minds invited to a particular meeting to address some of the educational challenges in Fort Worth. He is no doubt popular on campus. He wore more than half a dozen plastic wristbands on his arm. He supported every cause his students championed.
It’s nice to be liked by everybody. When I have a friend who is Muslim, however, some of my Christian friends take a step way back. They seem to think like the characters in an old western movie where someone says, “The only good injun is a dead injunction.”
How can we win friends and influence people for Jesus if we want those people to die? If we want people of other faiths to see Jesus for who we know him to be, wishing for their death is probably not our best first move.
Jesus makes it clear in this power-packed paragraph that he did not come to make people comfortable in their sin. Neither did he come to make people comfortable in their legalism.
Jesus makes it clear we should know the truth. He makes it clear we should live in full alignment with the truth. He also makes it clear we should live in full attunement with the truth. Since God is love, everything we do and say should be motivated and animated by his love. Just a thought, but murder is not a loving action.
You and I are to cultivate a heart like his. Jesus continues telling us how to align and attune our hearts with God’s truth in Matthew 5, 6, and 7. His love seeks the highest good for all people everywhere. He wants all people everywhere to know and experience him in a deep and abiding relationship.
You get the idea Jesus is not satisfied until Revelation 7:9 is demonstrably true:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
We are to know God’s truth and live it faithfully and fruitfully. Legalism and sentimentality are not options we may comfortably embrace. The hard work that produces the fruit of the Spirit requires careful reflection and appropriate action in each situation of our lives. It answers for us the question driving us to the very heart of God: What is the most loving action I can take at this moment?
This is a good reason to read from the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John every day. Observe what Jesus does. Listen to what he says. Take note of what he celebrates. Hear his words of correction and redirection. Invite him to draw you into a closer relationship with him so that you may see what he sees and do what he does. Ask him to shape your heart like his.
This is so much harder than legalism or permissiveness. It is also so much better in its outcomes.
I will learn and embody God’s words of truth and life.
Our Father, I do not want merely to hear and understand your words of truth and life. I want to embody them. Cultivate in me a heart like yours. I want to hear and obey you in all things at all times. I want what is best for all people everywhere as you see it. Guide me in applying your truth rightly in every situation. Amen.
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2 Chronicles 35:25 Jeremiah composed laments for Josiah, and to this day all the male and female singers commemorate Josiah in the laments. These became a tradition in Israel and are written in the Laments. (NIV)
2 Chronicles 33:15, 16 He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel.
Matthew 3:8 “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
2 Kings 20:2, 3 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Isaiah 65:24 “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”