Applying Our Godliness
We are continuing with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where after He declared that we would be blessed by living a godly life, He starts telling us how to do that very thing. He begins:
“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Mt. 5:14 – 16. ESV
(Up to now, Jesus has only referred to Jehovah God as His Father in heaven. Note He is now telling us that God is our Father as well.)
Jesus is saying that we are to be living testimonies of God’s goodness, examples of the transformation made available for all who walk with God so that we would draw others into wanting to make that same choice. Moreover, Jesus lays out a divine imperative for not only living a godly life but to teach others to do the same – without distortion:
“Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mt. 5:19, 20. ESV
Christ is referring to both the Mosaic Law and the New Covenant. In addition, He is saying that we must adhere to the word of God in its purity instead of falling prey to man-inspired distortions of it, as the people were in His time were taught by the Pharisees.
Walking with Jesus is the only way to raise your righteousness to qualify for your free gift of salvation.
Next, Jesus tackles some of the Mosaic Laws and evolves them into His Father’s ultimate intent for their application:
“You have heard it said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ ” Mt. 5:21 NKJV
The ‘judgment’ referred to the sentence handed down to the guilty offender by the council of the Sanhedrin (high court in Jerusalem). Jesus now brings this law into its highest meaning / application:
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council, and whoever says ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Mt. 5:22 ESV
So, even if you only entertain anger or disdain for another, you are in effect already murdering them – for which you will have to answer for to a heavenly court. I believe Jesus is referring to ‘chronic’ anger and disdain because we are human, subject to bursts of anger. God gets angry too, but His is short-lived and directed at unrighteousness. And He balances that out with abundant mercy. (Num. 14:18; Ps. 30:5.)
Thus, to be godly, we must emulate Him and let go of our anger (that which ought to be directed at the sin and not the sinner) as soon as possible. Then to complete the cycle we do our best to reconcile:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Rom. 12:18 ESV
There is no peace in anger. We must rapidly dispense it because when you are angry with someone, you’re withholding your love – effectively cutting off the love that God wants to send to him or her through you. God will not accept that. In fact, unrepentant anger severs your love connection with Him as well. That brings urgency to your situation because it has eternal ramifications. Jesus clarifies:
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Mt. 5:23, 24. NKJV
God won’t even grant you an audience with Him until you have cleaned up your heart and done the best that you can do to make peace with whom you have a broken relationship.
Jesus then takes on another Mosaic Law:
“You heard it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that a man who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery in his heart.” Mt. 5:27, 28. NASB
“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” Mt. 5:29 ESV
As shown in Jesus’ evolved admonition against murder, adultery too begins in the mind. Jesus is not literally telling you to pluck your eye out. He’s saying that you need to be far removed from that with which you may engage in sin – in this case whether you, the other person, or both are married and either of you are entertaining the possibility of straying. We must run fast and hard from anything that entices us to transgress the word of God.
And because adultery so often is a precursor to divorce, Jesus immediately touches upon the gravity of that situation:
“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except for sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” Mt. 5:31, 32. NKJV
Jesus was speaking to the conditions laid out by the Pharisees for divorce in His time. A man could divorce his wife for just about any reason (as is practiced now). Christ is declaring that divorce is only acceptable if the offending spouse will not relent from their adulterous behavior. However, if the spouse is repentant, it is the Christian duty of the offended spouse to forgive the offender and work together to restore that wounded marriage.
If a divorce is procured for any reason other than unrepentant adultery, the procurer forces the affected spouse to commit adultery if he or she remarries because the divorce was not recognized in God’s eyes.
The Pharisees would later try to justify their stance on divorce by referring to what Moses put forth in Dt. 24:1-4; but these scriptures were not meant to justify divorce but to address the ways the wife was to be ‘protected’ during this process.
God never sanctioned divorce. In fact, He hated it:
For the LORD God of Israel says that He hates divorce, for it covers one’s garments with violence. Mal. 2:16 NKJV
Indeed, if you’ve ever been exposed to couples going through a divorce, there is no peace between them.
Later, Jesus would set the record straight for all time:
“But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mk. 10:6 – 9. NKJV
There was never supposed to be divorce. I believe that divorce is Satan’s greatest weapon. If he can destroy a family, he has the potential of being able to separate generations of people within that family from God within the wake of that destruction.
Blessed be our Lord Jesus. How much stronger can we walk with Him when we make contact and He brings us such clarity to the appropriateness of our steps?
More to come…
Goodnight and God bless.