Missing the Point

The most widely studied sermon in history is, without doubt,
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  In it, he
sets forth what we could call his “kingdom constitution,” the new world order
(that should have been the order all along, until mankind messed it up).  It serves as a blueprint for what life under
Christ’s rule should look like, and gives Christians a great place to begin
building character and determining priorities.


You have heard from the Sermon on the Mount before; many
“old sayings” in our culture are lifted directly from Matthew 5-7.




“Judge not, lest you be judged.”


“Love your enemies.”


“Narrow is the road that leads to life.”


“The meek shall inherit the earth.”


“You are the light of the world.”


“Our Father, who art in heaven…”


In the culture of Jesus’ day, the “old sayings” were lifted
from the Ten Commandments and the various laws of Moses, and people could
readily repeat such phrases as, “you shall not murder,” “you shall not commit
adultery,” and even “an eye for an eye.”


The people of those times had grown comfortable with this
“cultural righteousness,” believing that as long as they kept the letter of
laws, they would be pleasing to God.  In
the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus blows that kind of thinking out of the
water.  He said: “I warn you—unless your
righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law
and the Pharisees, you will never enter the 

Kingdom of Heaven!" (Matthew 5:20)
Who were these teachers? 
They were the super-righteous, pious, lawful, exemplary types who did
everything right.  They were known for
adding to and expanding the Law, just to make sure they never came close to
breaking it.


Yet their goodness wasn’t good enough, according to Jesus.


I imagine the listeners started to fidget a little
here.  “I’m going to have to do better
than the ‘holy men’ if I want to go to heaven?”


Right.


You see, the holy men of Jesus’ day had missed the heart of
the law.  They were great at following
rules, but not so great at loving God. 
To them, religion was a list of do’s and don’ts, not a life-changing
experience and a living relationship with the Creator.


Jesus said to them, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do
not murder,’ but I tell you that anger can put you in danger of judgment.  Even calling your brother a fool can bring
down God’s wrath upon you.”


He continued, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not
commit adultery,’ but I tell you that whoever looks at a woman with lust has
already committed adultery with her in his heart.”


“You have heard, ‘Do not break your vows,’ but I tell you,
don’t swear at all.  Simply let your
‘Yes’ by ‘yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘no’.”


Jesus continues with further examples, and I hope you get His point.  Real obedience to God’s law
isn’t just about conforming to the external rules, it’s about the heart.  Apparently, the religious crowd in ancient Israel missed
this.


I wonder if I miss it, sometimes.  I mean, I do the right things, in
general.  People look at me as a moral,
upstanding citizen.  They see my good
deeds and my church participation.  They
know I’m charitable and they see me avoiding the ‘big’ sins.  But what does God see?


He sees my heart.


I’d encourage you to set some time aside this week and read
Matthew 5-7.  Contemplate the words of
Jesus.  You have heard many of them
before.  But just like those “teachers of
the law,” it’s possible to know the right words and still completely miss the
point.

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