A PERFECT GOD DEMANDS PERFECTION

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48 NASB).

Matthew 5-7 is what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus lays down some pretty heavy things to describe what God’s kingdom is like. For the most part it is filled with things that sound completely opposite to the world in which we live. For instance He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are those who hunger and thirst and my favorite: Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you.” I don’t know about you but at first glance these things don’t sound like blessings.

Jesus was a bit misunderstood in His day because He spoke of a heavenly kingdom and his audience didn’t have ears to hear. You see Jesus lived and spoke from the Spirit while His hearers were attempting to interpret Him with only earthly ears. So what He saw as blessing appeared to be a curse to most. Jesus understood how much the world needed Him and that the poor, mourning, hungry, thirsty and persecuted ones would be the ones to come to Him because they would recognize their need. Jesus knew how to see through things to the source and goal; whereas we tend to be blinded by the immediate.

So when we come to Matthew 5:48 and its command to be perfect we think to ourselves “How can I be perfect?” If we look at the immediate context for this verse we will see Jesus had just said we are to love even our enemies. He made the point that anyone can love those who love them back but we are to love even those that don’t. This is God’s kind of love. Essentially Jesus is telling us to love with God’s perfect love. Well, the question still remains can we be perfect and love others with God’s kind of love?

If we look at another section of the Sermon on the Mount we discover Jesus mentions the Ten commandments but not to set them aside, He actually seems to tighten down on them a bit. He says things like, “You have heard it was said, Do not commit murder; but I say don’t even be angry with a brother.” Again He said, “You have heard it was said, You shall not commit adultery; but I say you will be guilty even for looking at a woman with lust.”

When we look at what Jesus had said prior to His command for perfection it seems to make a little more sense. You see I believe what Jesus is doing in this sermon is backing us all into a corner. He is saying to us in so many words that God is perfect, and He demands perfection from us. For those people standing in front of Him that day it must have been tough to hear and even now I think most people attempt to rationalize what Jesus said by saying things like “Well, what He really meant was…” Essentially we end up saying something equivalent to God just wants us to do our best and that’s all He asks of us. I say Phooey!

I think Jesus meant exactly what He said and has a right to demand perfection, but the good news is He already knows apart from Him we cannot attain it. So really what He’s doing here is pushing us in the hopes that we will give perfection a good try, because He knows if we do we will eventually come to the same conclusion He has and we might cry out to Him for salvation.

In Hebrews 10:14 we read, “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Wow, there you have it! God does in fact demand perfection but He then goes on to fulfill it in us. You see God is perfect and His Law is perfect therefore He rightfully demands perfection from His creation. God gave us His law on tablets of stone through Moses then Jesus came along teaching us the Spirit behind the commandments. Not only that, but He fulfilled it too. “For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4).

Louie

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LET THIS MIND BE IN YOU, WHICH WAS ALSO IN CHRIST JESUS

One of the few things God really demands of us is for us to repent. Although in a sense repentance is even a gift of God we still have to have our minds changed. We have to get God’s point of view on his world. From the World’s point of view the Kingdom of God is upside down. What if the world’s point of view is the one that’s really upside down?

Jesus said some really radical things while he walked the earth. In what is possibly his most famous sermon, what’s come to be known as “The Sermon on the Mount”, he said things like ” Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who hunger and thirst, blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” The average person hearing this would be thinking “what in the world is this man talking about?” What planet is he from where it’s a blessing to be so needy, mistreated and empty?

One of the root problems since the fall of man is pride. Just like Lucifer before him man has come to think of himself more highly than he ought therefore he is blinded to his true condition. So Jesus is saying those that come to see themselves as desperate are in the perfect position to be blessed. It is only after we see ourselves as we really are that we cry out for God to fill our emptiness. Jesus did say, “The well don’t need a doctor” so as long as we think we’re okay we’ll continue to walk around under a false sense of security. Even a glance through the gospels shows us how Jesus performed miracle after miracle for sick, blind, broken and sinful people that acknowledged their need but refused to when the “religious leaders” demanded him. In fact he told them they were really only cleaned up on the outside but inside they were rotten. They really were in a desperate situation but blinded by pride they refused to acknowledge the truth.

If you look in Isaiah 14 and read the description of the mind of Lucifer and why he fell and compare that to the mind of Christ as described in Philippians 2 you will see another seeming opposite. Whereas Lucifer thinks too highly of himself and believes he can be “Like” God; Jesus, even though he is God, didn’t consider that something to be grasped or held tightly to rather he came as a servant and was obedient even to the point of death on the cross. You see the God revealed to us through Christ is a God that thinks more highly of others instead of himself so much so he even died for them (Us).

You see God understands the predicament we are in so rather than flood the earth again to put an end to everything he decided to come to us in the form of a man and give his own life as a ransom for many. While the preaching of the cross is foolishness to the world, to them that believe it is the power of God. I love the fact that God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and the weak to shame the strong. He does this so no one has any room to brag about themselves.

Have you ever thought how it might be in Heaven? I know one thing that won’t be there and that’s any room for bragging on anyone except Jesus Christ. No one is going to walk up to you and say, “What did you do to get in here? I did___” No there is only one way anyone will enjoy Heaven and that’s because Jesus Christ, the God man, lived a sinless life and died a sinners death. He became sin so we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Louie

JESUS FULFILLS THE LAW IN US

We’ve been reading through Matthew in our Sunday School class the last few weeks and this week we were in chapter five. Many of you Bible readers out there know this is the beginning of what is commonly known as Jesus’ sermon on the mount. It starts with what is usually called the Beatitudes such as “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst, the merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, those who have been persecuted for righteousness sake” and all that are called many mean and nasty things. Okay so that last part was mine. The point is only the ones who recognize they are in a position of need will be open to receive from God.

Jesus then moves on to tell us he didn’t come to abolish or do away with the Law rather he came to fulfill it. He says, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now that’s some pretty stout words don’t you think? If you were one of those standing there hearing this from Jesus’ own mouth that day you would probably be thinking to yourself “Who possibly stands a chance then?” The religious leaders were looked up to by the common man as the standard for God’s holiness and they were a step above the average guy. Jesus was making what seemed to be an impossible demand but was it?

If you jump ahead for a second and look at the last verse of Matthew five you will read where Jesus summed up this part of the sermon with “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” After he walked them through the “You have heard it was said”…statements of “Do not commit murder but I say, everyone who is angry with his brother is guilty.” Followed by you’ve heard “Do not commit adultery, but I say don’t lust in your heart.” Then on to the severity of keeping the union of marriage intact and keeping your word. He also told us not to resist an evil person, love not only your neighbor but your enemy too.”

The main point of this sermon was for Jesus to show them and us that we absolutely have no ability in our selves to keep the law of God. The scribes and pharisees thought they were doing a pretty good job but Jesus was showing us not only what the Law said but the Spirit in which it was intended. Ultimately the Law of God tells us perfection is demanded of us and rightly so. After all we are talking about a perfect God aren’t we?

Forgive me for jumping out of Matthew for a moment to look at what the Apostle Paul told us in Romans seven but I think it applies here. In Romans seven Paul recorded for us his very own struggle with covetousness. He says, “I wouldn’t have known what coveting was if the Law hadn’t said, “Do not covet.” He then goes on to tell us the more he tried not to covet the more he coveted. At first it seems like the Law is the problem then but Paul quickly says that isn’t the case. He says, “The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” Once he reminds himself the Law isn’t his problem he moves on to see that there is something wrong in him. Although the commandment is good there is something within him that isn’t allowing him to obey it. He finally cries out saying “Who will deliver me?” Then we read “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord?” Paul walked us through his struggle with his efforts to be perfect as God and his Law demands in order to show us Jesus Christ is the only perfect one, and if the Law is going to be fulfilled in him, and us, Christ in us is our only hope!

So, when Jesus preaches in Matthew five, making what sounds like impossible demands, it is his attempt to get his audience, and we the reader, to see that in and of ourselves or in our flesh we cannot please God. Jesus is preaching the fullness of what the Law is really telling us so we might be driven to cry out just as the Apostle Paul did at the end of Romans seven. If we could ever really see that God is perfect, he demands perfection, and we have no hope of achieving it on our own we just might come to understand the mystery Paul so frequently shared which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

“What the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4 NASB

Louie

THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN

    Israel had long anticipated the coming of Messiah and when he did arrive most missed it. As far back as the Garden of Eden God promised one who would crush the head of the serpent. In the time of Moses the promise was there would be one like him to rise up from among the people. When you think of a serpent stomper or a Moses type you think of someone with a strong personality, possibly a military leader; someone to free them from the oppressive Roman government.

   Most know the story about John the Baptist leading the way by preaching “Repent, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He announced Jesus as the Messiah, the one they were all waiting for.

   As the story progresses John ends up in prison and Jesus begins his ministry preaching “Repent, the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” It seems he picked right up where John had left off. Recently I thought maybe he proclaimed repentance because he knew what type of Messiah the people were looking for and their idea wasn’t quite accurate. He wanted them to see him for who he was and that was going to require them to have a change of mind.

   In the gospel of Matthew we find what is commonly called “the Sermon on the Mount.” This is where Jesus lays out the whole message of how this kingdom works. He takes us through a series of statements that sound irrational on the surface. Think how this must have sounded to the original audience. Jesus declared “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” What is he saying? How can he stand there and tell me I’m blessed if I’m poor in spirit and mourning? He goes on to say, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”

    It seems having your mind changed is crucial to the whole idea of what it means to be in the kingdom. The religious leaders thought being godly meant giving tithes, not eating certain foods, not working on the Sabbath, being circumcised etc. As if we could climb a religious ladder to arrive at godliness. Jesus, on the other hand, taught it is only them that see their need that can be filled. As long as we think we’re doing pretty well we’re deceived, because the truth is God’s power is perfected in weakness. If we are a cup that is already full we are unable to receive what God has for us. So the truth is we have to be emptied of our self sufficiency.

   This Kingdom Jesus came to reveal works quite differently than the one in which the world lives. God’s Kingdom says, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Jesus said, “The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, but anyone that wants to be leader in my Kingdom will be the servant of all.” Some might say God’s Kingdom is upside down, but the reality is his is right side up and the world’s is the one that is upside down. His kingdom isn’t run from the top down but rather the bottom up. Paul said, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” This is of course so no one will ever get the wrong idea that they are the ones that made this possible. If anyone is going to brag they are going to brag about knowing God not about how great, smart or mighty they are. Jesus even said of his self “I am meek and lowly of heart”, and we are told to learn of him.    

Written by Louie

OUR CONVERSATION IS IN HEAVEN

 “For our conversation is in heaven…” Philippians 3:20

When Jesus came here his first sermon, according to Matthew four, was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Throughout the next three chapters 5-7 Jesus preached or taught what the kingdom of heaven is like. Most of what he said was in direct opposition to the way of the world, but it would only make sense seeing how the world system had become corrupted because of sin.

In the midst of what is commonly called “The sermon on the Mount” Jesus taught us a prayer. Usually it is known as “The Lords Prayer.” I’m not going to spend the time to go through all of it here but I would like to focus on one point. Jesus said, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” So the plan is for Jesus to introduce heavens rule and authority on the earth.

After we have received Christ by faith and he comes, by his Spirit, to take up residence within us we are translated into the kingdom of the Son. This is an event that has already happened to we that are in Christ. According to the letter to the Ephesians God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places. If this is true then we are already, in a manner of speaking, in heaven. Of course our physical bodies have to be changed but for all practical purposes we are already citizens of heaven and have everything God promises us at our disposal.

As we live our lives in the here and now we are to live them in a heavenly manner with a heavenly perspective on things. Our lives should reflect heaven right here, right now! So when someone says, “Man, you act like you’re from another planet” you might say, “well in a way your right. I am from somewhere else; heaven is my home.” Paul wrote in Colossians 3:1-3 “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

Just because someone claims to be a believer they may not walk as one. Sometimes the lure of this world deceives us and we get caught up in its ways. Paul told the Philippians “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship (conversation) is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

If the kingdom is at hand, we want God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven, we’ve been translated into the kingdom of the Son, seated with him in heavenly places, and our lives are now hidden with Christ in God; our priorities and lifestyle will continuously be at odds with the worlds. We kingdom citizens will become more and more obvious to them around us because we live our lives from a heavenly vantage point. We evaluate things from an eternal perspective. The things that shake others won’t shake us and we won’t spend the time and energy on the same endeavors as the world. I think this is God’s plan all along though. He wants us as his representatives to model a heavenly, kingdom minded, lifestyle that will in turn create a hunger and thirst in others to want what we’ve got. There is just something about a believer that is at rest with God; his life is filled with a love, joy and peace that marks everyone that is a heavenly citizen.

Written by Louie

THE LAW AND JESUS DEMAND PERFECTION

There have been many, many sermons, teachings and discussions about the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus presents us with some pretty amazing statements. He turns everything upside down by saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn; those who hunger and thirst etc. The average person hearing this from the world’s viewpoint would think this guy has lost his mind. What could be a blessing about being poor, sad or hungry?

For many years there was, and sometimes still is, the false idea that if you are well off you are blessed. The disciples were shocked to hear Jesus say, “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” The disciples looked at him and said “Then who can be saved?” You see, they thought, like many others, that riches were a sure sign that God was blessing them. Jesus says no. The point is that those that are needy are the only ones likely to see their need for Christ.

Jesus was born under law according to Galatians where it says, “God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that he might redeem those who were under the Law…” This means that Jesus’ whole life he lived under the shadow of the Temple, animal sacrifices, the Levitical Priesthood and everything else that was expected of the Jews found in the Old Covenant Law. It wasn’t until he died on the cross that the New Covenant was enacted.

Hebrews 9:16-17, “For where a covenant is there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.” So this shines a little light on Jesus’ sermons doesn’t it?

The Old Covenant Law requires perfection from its adherents and Jesus agreed with that wholeheartedly. He not only preached the Law he preached the Spirit behind the Law. He made statements like “You have heard it said you shall not commit murder but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty! You have heard it said you shall not commit adultery but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” So Jesus is explaining how the Law demands perfection and so does he. He says, “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Ultimately I would say a large portion of Jesus’ teaching was essentially one of cranking down extra tight on the Law. He said he came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. This fulfillment took place by way of his death, burial and resurrection. Until that happened he continued to push people towards perfection. All the while knowing no one could perform up to the perfect standards of the Law, but He understood the reason God gave the Law to begin with.

It isn’t difficult to see once you learn the purpose in the giving of the Law. God gave it to us in order to expose the sin in our lives so we would run to Christ for deliverance. It isn’t until we see that God requires perfection, and we try really hard to obtain it, in our own strength, that we will be willing to cry out to Jesus Christ. Of course this is what God intended for us all along. I am so thankful he is patient with us and waits until we finally get completely worn down and give in. Once we cry out to him it’s as if he says, “Finally you see you can’t do it, come to me!”

Louie