I am inching my way through the final stages of my cold. I seem to have a not so good day, followed by a better one. Outside of my Chiropractor appointment, I didn’t have other commitments. That provided me an opportunity to work on some projects at home.
BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.… Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:20,48 HCSB
As Jesus delivers what is referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount” He is calling His disciples to live by kingdom principles. Those principles involve how they conduct their lives. Jesus was criticized for breaking the law, but He firmly asserted, “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matt. 5:17 HCSB)
The “righteousness” of the scribes and Pharisees was related to not only their strict adherence to the Law of Moses, but to their own standard of conduct. How could an individual live a life that surpassed the righteousness of these religious leaders?
Later on Jesus calls His followers not to the standard of the religious leaders of the day, but the God Himself as our “heavenly father”! What we see in leading up to this statement are Jesus words that begin with, “you have heard that is was said….” Jesus takes the teaching and standards of the “day” or even the religious leaders and elevates them to a whole new level.
In doing so, He discusses, murder, cursing others, forgiveness, adultery, radical responses to offenses, divorce, “going the second mile,” loving your enemies, just to name a few of the topics. (Matt. 5:27-26) In each of these topics we see Jesus saying, what is acceptable to man or culture, is not the standard that God call us to hold. God call us to make Him our standard, not those around.
We need to see that Jesus is using strong examples, to get our attention and to let us know how high God’s standard is for our life. Can we live up to that standard? No. Not on our own strength or through our own efforts. Jesus was able to accomplish that and the life He lived, He lived for us as well.
Paul declared, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV) We also read, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.“ (1 Corinthians 1:30 NIV) “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17 ESV)
In many other places in the Bible we see the truth that “our righteousness” is not earned, it is a gift of God’s grace. But we also see that God calls us to live by the standards of His kingdom and not our own. His power provides us the desire and the ability to seek to please Him.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NIV) “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:13 NLT)
When we think we are “doing good” – we look at the Lord’s standards and realize how we “miss the mark.” But that is not to discourage us, but to show how much we need Christ’s forgiveness and grace. We also need His Spirit to help give us the “desire and power to do what pleases Him.”