Passage: Matthew 5:17-20.
As we look at these few verses they seem to be like a bridge into the rest of the sermon on the mount. So far we’ve thought about who can be in the kingdom of heaven (anyone who repents and believes, anyone who attaches themselves to Jesus). Now we move into what does it look like to live in the kingdom.
Jesus’ words for some would have been infuriating – was he throwing out the law and prophets for something else? For others listening, the call to have a righteousness that surpasses even the Pharisees and Religious leaders might have seemed like a heavy burden.
So, was Jesus just a heretic or someone who piled on even more burdens to people already struggling? Or, was he offering something else?
This morning we see that Jesus isn’t a heretic or someone who piles on the pressure to people already struggling. He isn’t anti law and the prophets, rather he is giving us a clearer picture of what they mean and how they point to him.
The righteousness that surpasses isn’t calling for a righteousness that is more in quantity but a righteousness that’s more in quality*. True righteousness is found in Jesus, given to us and changes our lives from the inside out, if we repent and believe.
As you read these verses this morning, what questions come up? What thoughts do you have? What do you think Jesus is saying to these people on the mount?
In his book ‘The Divine Conspiracy’ Dallas Willard says:
“To be sure, law is not the source of rightness, but it is forever the course of rightness.”
- In what ways could it be tempting to make the law our source of rightness? What does it look like if we do? What does it mean for our lives?
- How different is it then when it’s the course? What changes? How does this affect our lives?
We looked at a quote from Tim Keller** this morning – here it is again with a little more added on:
“There is, then, a great gulf between the understanding that God accepts us because of our efforts and the understanding that God accepts us because of what Jesus has done. Religion operates on the principle “I obey—therefore I am accepted by God.” But the operating principle of the gospel is “I am accepted by God through what Christ has done—therefore I obey. Two people living their lives on the basis of these two different principles may sit next to each other in the church pew. They both pray, give money generously and are loyal and faithful to their family and church, trying to live decent lives. However, they do so out of radically different motivations, in two radically different spiritual identities, and the result is two radically different kinds of lives.
The primary difference is that of motivation. In religion, we try to obey the divine standards out of fear. We believe if we don’t obey we are going to lose God’s blessing in this world and the next. In the gospel, the motivation is one of gratitude for the blessings we have already received because of Christ. While the moralist is forced into obedience, motivated by the fear of rejection, a Christian rushes into obedience, motivated by a desire to please and resemble the one who gave his life for us”
- What strikes you as interesting about this?
- How might it look to obey God out of fear?
- What would it look like to obey out of love? How would this look practically?
* NIV application commentary New Testament
** Tim Keller: The reason for God pg.179/180)