October 13, 2010

Being a Christian Ain't Easy! (Part 2 Jesus makes it impossible to obey the rules!)

As I reviewed my last post "Being a Christian Ain't Easy" something struck me. Who am I to be proclaiming Jesus, Paul and James right in anything! I'm sure they are in Heaven breathing a deep sigh of relief now that Steve has declared them correct.

Taken together, Jesus's "Sermon on the Mount" recorded in Matthew's gospel, Paul's introduction of God's grace and our faith in his letter to the Roman's and James's practical description of what it means to have faith in Jesus, is a pretty good foundation for our understanding of God, Jesus and our role as children of God.  Jesus sets the "real" rules, Paul tells us that all is not lost because we can't follow all the rules and James hammers home the parable of the two men who build their houses on either the rocks or on the sand (Matt 7:24-27) by saying "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" ( James 1:22, I like the King James version)

From the beginning of the "Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew chapter 5:1 to the end in Chapter 7:28, Jesus is
talking about the life one should live as a child of God. He tells us not to be anxious, God will take care of us (6:34), we need to live in harmony with our friends and our enemies (5:43-47), above all else seek the kingdom of God before all other concerns (7:33), he especially teaches how a true child of God should pray 96:5-15).  If our Bibles were taken away and all we had was our memory of a few verses of scripture, I would want to have the "Sermon on the Mount " committed to memory.

There are two parts of the "Sermon" that stand out for me. the first is in  Chp 5:17-20.  To paraphrase, Jesus tells the people he has not come to change the law or to abolish it. He has come to clarify the law and show us the true meaning of the laws God gave. Jewish law to then was taken from the Torah (the first five books of Moses).  Jewish religious leaders attempted to develop a code of laws which insured the laws of the Torah were followed.  The resulting code has been called the 613 mitzvot. Most of the laws were very specific, for example, thou shall not travel more than a set number of cubics.

While the intentions were good,  the end result was a set of laws which captured the letter of the law but did not express the spirit of the law of God through Moses. Jesus said He came to see the laws were fulfilled. As an example of fulfilling the law against murder, he said, "You have heard it said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgement.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire." (Matthew 5:21-22 RSV) Those are strong words and most of us find them hard to follow.  Jesus knew the people at that time, and frankly us of today, were good at following the letter of the law but terrible at following the spirit of the law.  Read the "Sermon on the Mount" and you will quickly see that most, if not all , of us can follow the letter of the law but we can not follow the spirit of the law.

As thus, Jesus has set up some standards which will convict all of us of sin. and this is the second part of the Sermon on the Mount which stands out to me. that part is in Matthew 5:48, "you, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."  The Psalmists recognized this when they wrote, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." The plain truth is that humans are not capable, on their own, of living a life which pleases God.  None are without fault. all are subject to the Fires of Judgement!

And that was the situation in which we found ourselves. Fortunately, Jesus also brought us a message of hope. A way out of this mess. In John 3:16, Jesus says, "For God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Paul expands on that subject in his letter to the Romans, "Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." More about this next time.

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