Have you ever really read Matthew 5? I know I have before, and was really paying attention. But for some reason, this time it was like looking into Lake Tahoe- I felt like I could see the bottom, the waters were so crystal clear!
In the past, I have noticed the different themes Jesus is touching on: Anger, Divorce, Lust, Oaths, Retaliation, Loving your enemies. But when you read it without creating sections and themes, when you read it as Jesus spoke it to His disciples with the backdrop of the Pharisees, you see that Jesus is really just talking about one thing. STOP THE RELIGIOSITY. STOP THE OUTWARD MORALITY. GET REAL!
We think, or at least I do sometimes, that we’re doing pretty good. We don’t do this or that. And we DO this good thing and that great thing. However, if we will allow this text to lead us to repentance, we will see that Jesus ups the ante enough to condemn each one of us. And then he tops it of with a demand of perfection: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” and “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
With these raised standards, who can attain? Who can be that perfect? Not me. Obviously not even the scribes and Pharisees, to which he referred. So who? NO ONE. NO ONE is justified in His sight.
I do lust sometimes. I certainly get angry. And I seldom can justify it as being “righteous anger.” I haven’t ever been divorced, but I’ve certainly wanted to. Lusted after it, in moments. Woahhh, killed two birds with one stone, there. I have taken oaths and broken oaths. I have retaliated. And I don’t love my enemies. I have a hard enough time loving my family and friends.
So how can I come before God?
Go from Matthew 5 to Romans 5.
“Therefore, since we have been JUSTIFIED by faith, we have peace with God THROUGH our Lord JESUS Christ.”
The only way I can stand perfect before a perfect Father is Jesus.
And today, I sing,
‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His word…
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!”
He who justified us, who we trust to present us as perfect before a holy God, is trustworthy for all things. So get real with others and get real with Him today. Not real good, or real moral, or real religious or real presentable. Just get real with Jesus! He presents you before the Father BLAMELESS!
“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1
A while back, I handed my son something to drink and as he walked into our living room, with the drink in his clumsy toddler hands, I said, “Don’t spill.” I then realized that my son, who was 2 at the time, was probably going to spill. So I followed up my command of, “Don’t spill” with “But if you do, it’s okay. Mommy will clean it up.”
And I think that’s basically what we see here in John’s command to us! He says “Don’t sin.” And then it’s almost as if he remembers to whom he is writing. He can guess that we are probably going to sin. So he follows it up with, “but if you do, don’t worry. Jesus cleaned it up.”
John issues an impossible command- speaking on behalf of a perfect God, instructing imperfect children to do something that is so against our fallen nature. Though, we do have a new nature. We do have the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us to overcome and be a master over sin. We are able to walk in the Spirit, possessing the fruits of the Spirit. Love when we formerly couldn’t truly and sacrificially love one another, patience when we our own nerves are shot, kindness when we can’t think of a reason to be kind to that undeserving person but we can think of 1,000 reasons to let them have it, faithfulness when we feel like walking away, gentleness when we want to be harsh, and self-control when we really want to let go of all control and follow the desires of our flesh. So, we do have the Spiritual ability to not sin, by the gift of the Holy Spirit Himself. However, we are still in this body of death. We still have desires that we allow to give birth to sin.
So John, knowingly, lovingly says, “Jesus! Jesus is the answer. Don’t spill, but if you do… Jesus is your advocate. Jesus has already cleaned it up!”
God the Father looks down on us and only sees Jesus. His perfection in place of our imperfection. His sacrifice in place of our sin. He is before the Father, having cleaned up our sin. We spilled red wine on God’s brand-new white luxury carpet and Jesus cleaned it up. Not only cleaned it up, but replaced it, restored it, renewed it and made it so our red wine can never stain it again! Our sins are forgiven for His name’s sake. God the Father sees us as perfect because of Jesus Christ the righteous!