Monday, December 24, 2018

Devotional: God’s Standards For Kingdom Living, Matthew 5:13-20

Outline of Matthew 5.13-20

In the rest of chapter 5 Jesus challenges those who would be His disciples with some very hard, perhaps hyperbolic, teaching about our relationship to God's law. The point is that legalistic fulfilling of the letter of the law is not enough. God wants total transformation of our hearts, goals,and desires to match His character and that we value His kingdom above our own desires and even our own needs. It is not enough just to agree with Jesus or believe the right things about him. Faith means that we follow Jesus without reservation and humbly commit to imitation of Christ in the power of the Spirit. Faith opens up God’s resources to us and allows God to make his home in us. It overwhelms us with the beauty of God’s grace and love so that we want to be different and then gives us the power to be different. What God wants from us is a love relationship with Jesus, guided by the revelation of him in the Bible and practiced publicly.

In verses 17-20 Jesus corrects some misunderstandings about God’s revelation to his people in the Torah which also apply to the revelation of the New Testament. The bottom line is that the whole revelation of God in the Bible is about Jesus, leads us into relationship with Jesus, and is only effective when actualized in our lives by Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. In these four verses Jesus gives four principles about how God’s revelation in scripture enables us to live out Jesus’ character and actions.

First, Jesus is the embodiment, goal and direction of every word of the Bible. (5:17) Jesus was not throwing away the Torah. Its principles still apply. But they all point to him. Jesus fulfilled the law by living it out perfectly. Jesus fulfilled the law by providing a way for it to change us from the inside-out. Jesus fulfills the law in our lives by giving us the Spirit who works it into our lives. Being like Jesus is the goal of the law and he provides the direction and the power for that.

Secondly, Jesus promises that God will accomplish everything he promises in his word. (5:18) Until “heaven and earth pass away” God is working in your life to accomplish every little detail of his plan for your life and for the entire universe.He will destroy evil, and present us to the Father transformed into the likeness of the Son. Each one of us participates in this righteousness now as we submit to Jesus’ direction in the power of the Spirit and let it lead us into deeper relationship in Christ.

Third, God calls to a deeper level of obedience at the level of priorities, commitment and attitude; not just adherence to an external standard. (5:19) Then he promises reward based on our heart commitment to these standards. God is preparing us for greater service in his eternal kingdom, and there will be levels of authority (“least, greatest”) there. Your obedience to God’s Word and commitment to emulating and following Christ will have effect on your eternal lifestyle. As we submit to the Word, read the Word, let the Spirit activate the Word in our lives, and teach the Word of God to others, then we grow into Christ who is the embodiment of the Word and are made ready for what is coming.

Finally, Jesus says that a righteousness imposed from the outside in is not enough. The standard for entrance into God’s Kingdom is perfection (5:20), God’s character. Our real problem is our corrupt heart; rules can never deal with that. Thus, we need Jesus’ righteousness which guarantees our entrance into the kingdom, the Spirit’s power to provide for our growth into Christ and ability to serve him, and the Father’s love that guarantees that his plan will be completed to make us perfect in the image of Christ.

Jesus tells us what that this looks like in verses 13-16. We need to live lifestyles (salt) that make people thirsty for God; lifestyles that display changed hearts in Godly relationships, words and action. We need to be light that shows Jesus to others, a lamp that teaches by words and example what Jesus is like and what he wants from us. We must be a “city on a hill,” a shining example of what relationship with God is all about that provides a place where hurting people can come for guidance, protection, and sanctuary. True Christianity cannot be kept private. We should live a life that says, “Here I am, I’m not perfect yet but I’m growing. Do you see Jesus in me?”

You can choose to live by your own power, by rules and external standards which can never please God. Or you can choose to live by Christ’s righteousness, trusting in His death and resurrection for your eternal destiny, living daily in submission to his Word and by the power of His Spirit. This is the kind of righteousness that will create the image of Jesus in you and allow you to experience kingdom living now. This is the kind of righteousness that will make you salty, creating a thirst for Jesus in those who come in contact with you and will make you a light that God’s people flock to for direction, care and safety. Walking with Jesus is a moment by moment choice to be with Him, submit to Him, love him and serve Him.

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