Thursday, February 4, 2010

To the nth. To the cross.

The Word for today:
Matthew 6:1-18

Mark this: Matthew 5:17 --
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

A man once told me, "My religion is the Sermon on the Mount. If we live by the Sermon on the Mount," he said, "we'll go to heaven."

He was absolutely right.

"The trouble is," I told him, "no one has ever lived by it. Except Jesus."

The Sermon on the Mount is what the Bible calls "law." The most famous version of the law, prior to the Sermon on the Mount, was given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Written in stone by the finger of God, we call them The Ten Commandments. They are found in Exodus 20.

What Jesus does in the Sermon on the Mount is quote a commandment, and then ratchet it up. It is law lifted to the nth degree. Consider:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell."

I do not know a man who has kept this commandment. And if a man were to tell me he has fulfilled this commandment--in the telling he'd be breaking the 9th commandment: Thou shalt not lie.

This is severe. This is the unbending and pitiless law--the standard by which we are to live. Falling short of this standard, we enter into the realm of sin.

Entering into the realm of sin, we see our need for a Savior, a Redeemer. When we see our need for a Redeemer, we have read the Sermon on the Mount aright. Because, as law, it is meant to point us to the cross:

Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (1)

When the Sermon on the Mount drives us to the cross to cry out for mercy, that's when we honor the law, that's when we keep the law--when we say, honestly, "I'm not measuring up to it."

At the cross, Jesus paid the wages of my sin. He paid the last farthing (2) that I owed according to the law.

Jesus paid it all.

But there's even more Good News to the gospel: while the Sermon on the Mount gives us the ethic to live by, it does not give us the dynamic. The Holy Spirit is the dynamic; we cannot achieve God's standard under our own power.

And God sends his Spirit to live in those saved by faith in Jesus Christ. While Jesus is Emmanuel--God with us, the Holy Spirit is God within us. That's the complete Good News.

And as we learn to depend on his life, 'we' will ever more so be fulfilling the Sermon on the Mount.

Love the law. It is a picture of Jesus, reflecting his nature, ever true to his nature. The Sermon on the Mount is sublime, because it's Jesus!

God with us or God within us, Jesus is the only one who will ever live the law.

(1) Galatians 3:24 (2) Matthew 5:26

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