Jesus Contact 11

Applying Our Godliness – part two

Continuing with Jesus’ principles for godly living as He delivered them at the Sermon on the Mount:

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all…Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No;’ anything more than this comes from evil.” Mt. 5:33, 34 & 37. ESV

At this time, the Pharisees were teaching that the only way that one’s words were made true was if they were uttered in an oath. However, Jesus is saying that it is unnecessary to take any oath. Instead, He is teaching us to stand on our integrity, leaning only on our commitment to speak truth.

Next, Jesus takes on the Pharisees again, this time for their practice of justifying personal revenge:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” Mt. 5:38, 39. NKJV

‘An eye for an eye’ is taken from Dt. 19:21 – a Mosaic Law that teaches the punishment for a crime should be limited to the severity of the violation in order to prohibit excessive punishment.

Instead of revenge, Christ is instructing us not to retaliate when we are wronged but instead to try to compassionately defuse the situation with the perpetrator and try to reconcile with him or her (if that’s a safe thing to do). It’s a metaphor! Jesus is not telling us to stand still and let someone beat us to death.

Then Jesus confronts the human tendency to be self-centered and indifferent to the plights of others:

“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Mt. 5:42 ESV

Jesus asks us to extend our compassion to everyone in need, doing whatever is in our power to help him or her. Why? Because it is a way to apply our love, mercy and integrity:

“And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Lk. 6:34-36. ESV

Our motivation needs to be love-based; and even though we shouldn’t focus on self-interest, look at how we are blessed for that love:

“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Lk. 6:38 NKJV

When we live a life of godly integrity by walking in the light that Christ has shed upon the word of God, we’ll be living in a way where we resist anger, honor matrimony, reach out to help our brothers and sisters and in so doing, revenge and indifference will become a practice of the past. In fact, when we step into the shoes of Christ, even the concept of ‘enemy’ can no longer exist. Indeed, Jesus winds up His examples of ‘evolved’ Mosaic Laws with that very thought:

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ ” Mt. 5:43 NKJV

(‘You shall love your neighbor,’ is a quote from Lev. 19:18. The ‘hate your enemy’ part was added by the Pharisees and thus non-scriptural.)

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you, that you may be good sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good…” Mt. 5:44, 45. ESV

When you walk that walk, you cannot have enemies in your heart. And that’s what it’s all about – seeking to become more like God, by following the example of His Son…

Goodnight and God bless.

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Jesus Contact 10

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.