Monday, May 17, 2010

Loving Your Enemies

A fantastic and detailed commentary on the command "Love Your Enemies" placed in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, is found here:

There's a lot there, but I highly recommend the teacher, William Higgins, who is my friend and is an excellent exegete and church historian.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sermon on the Mount: A New Translation (SKV)

Introduction: Those who are blessed by God
How fortunate are the depressed because they will rule God’s kingdom!
How fortunate are the sorrowful, because God will cheer them up.
How fortunate are the lowly, because God will give them the earth.
How fortunate are those who desperately desire justice, because they will get just what they want.
How fortunate are those who act in compassion, for God will be compassionate to them.
How fortunate are those single-minded on God, for they will see Him.
How fortunate are the creators of peaceful communities, for God will make them rulers.
How fortunate are the sufferers for righteousness, because they will rule God’s kingdom!

*How fortunate you are when your enemies verbally abuse you and do and speak evil against you because you follow me. When that happens, you are like the prophets of the past who suffered for their message they received from God. Even as they are now rewarded by God, so will you be. So when you are persecuted for me, be happy about what you will receive—jump up and down in joy and praise God!

*You are essential for the world. But if you lose the basic qualities that make you important, you cannot regain them. You will be useless, cast out of God’s kingdom and trampled.

*You are God’s glory and truth in the world. You are the kingdom of God to come, and you cannot be hidden. Nor should you be hidden—God’s glory should be displayed, not hidden. So display the true righteousness of God before everyone, so that people will see your acts of God and so glorify the Father.

Part A: The Law of God
Some think that I am setting aside the Old Testament, especially Moses’ law—but I have not come to do that. Rather, I have come to complete the Old Testament. Pay attention, here: even the least bit of Moses’ law will stand written, until every minor part of it is done as it stands written. Therefore, whoever is lax with Moses’ law and teaches others to do the same—they may enter the coming kingdom, but they will be unimportant there. But whoever emphasizes obedience in their own lives and in others’, they will be called great in God’s kingdom. Unless you have a better righteousness than today’s Bible teachers, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

1. Murder and Hate

You’ve heard the teaching, how Moses told the ancients, “Don’t murder.” Some tell you that God judges just those who are guilty of murder. But I command you that every person who is hostile to others is going to be judged by God. In the kingdom, the one who insults another will be condemned by the Supreme Court. And the insulter will be punished by hell.

If you wish to make an offering to God and remember that you have wronged someone, then don’t finish making your offering. Making everyone else wait, first go and make it right with the one you wronged—then go to God.

You are going to God with all of these around you. Whomever you have wronged will accuse you before God. And for your debt to them, God will put you under the authority of Satan and Satan will put you in judgment. And you will not be released until you have repaid your debt, even the smallest bit.

2. Adultery and Purity
You’ve heard the teaching, “Just don’t commit adultery.” But I say to you that if you even look at the opposite sex with desire to possess, then you have already intended to commit adultery, and so you will be judged by God.

If your good eye is what is encouraging you to fall from devotion to God, pluck it out and throw it away. It is to your benefit to lose even a part of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown away into hell. If your good hand is what is encouraging you to fall from devotion to God, chop it off and throw it away. It is to your benefit that you lose even a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown away into hell.

3. Divorce and Remarriage
You’ve heard it taught, “If you want to divorce your wife, just give her a written notice of the fact.” But I command you that if you divorce your spouse you are causing them to be unfaithful to your marital covenant—unless they have already been unfaithful. This means that if you marry a divorcee, you are committing adultery.

4. Keeping Promises
Again, you have heard it taught that Moses said, “Don’t break your oath.” They teach you, “As long as you invoke God, you need to keep your promise.” But I say to you, invoke nothing in your promises— not heaven nor earth nor Jerusalem. If you invoke any of them, you are ultimately invoking God— for heaven is God’s throne, the earth is God’s footstool and Jerusalem is God’s city. You might as well not invoke your head, either—it is God who determines what happens to your head. You don’t have the power to make a hair of it either white or black. Instead of invoking anything, just make a promise and keep it. Or don’t make a promise. But if you do anything else, you are an evil person, associated with Satan.

5. Submitting to Evil Authorities
Some teach, “Whoever harms one’s eye must have his eye harmed, and whoever harms one’s tooth must have his tooth harmed.” But I command you, do not resist an evil authority. As an authority wrongly slaps you, give him an opportunity to slap you again. As a creditor takes you to court to collect what he can, give him an opportunity to take more than you can afford. As a soldier conscripts you a legal amount, offer him more than the legal amount. If an authority demands something from you—give it to them. And if they insist on “borrowing” from you, let them have it.

6. Love Your Enemies
You have been taught that Moses said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I command you to love your enemies and to pray blessings on those who harm you. Do this so you will be like your Father in heaven, and so you will be his children and so inherit his kingdom. God grants sunshine and rain to everyone without exclusion—no matter they are good or evil, righteous or unrighteous. God gives great rewards to only the righteous—but if you love only those who love you, how are you more righteous than any evildoer? If you offer blessings only to those you like, how are you more righteous than any pagan? So if you want God’s reward, then love without exclusion, even as the Father does.

Part B: God’s Purity
Don’t do your religious deeds openly so that you would gain something from others, or else you will not gain any blessing from your Father in heaven.

1. Giving To The Poor
When you give to the poor, don’t let it be known with a megaphone, as some pretenders do in churches and benevolence centers so that people would say how great they are. Listen here, they’ve already got their pay. As for you, keep your giving even a secret from yourself— hide it, if you can. For God sees every hidden thing and will pay you back according to what he sees.

2. Prayer
When you pray, don’t be like the pretenders who make a show of praying in the churches and on street corners so people would notice their prayers. Listen to me, they have already got everything they asked for. But as for you, pray in the room with no windows, shut the door and pray to your Father, whom no one sees. But God, he will see you in hiding and give to you accordingly.

Also, don’t go on and on in prayer, like people who don’t believe—they think God hears them because of their speech. Your Father knows your need before you even ask, so don’t be like those who get carried away with long prayers.

This is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven
Your reputation is smeared—make your name holy!
This world is corrupt—make your kingdom come!
Make your desire be accomplished on earth, even as it is truly accomplished in heaven!
Give us everything we need this day to survive.
Cancel our debt to you, as we will cancel the debts others owe us.
Don’t bring us into situations that test our faith in You
But take us out of the realm of evil.
If you wipe away people’s sins, your Father will fully accept you. But if you do not fully accept others, your Father will not wipe away your sins.

3. Fasting
When you fast before God, don’t be a sad sack like the pretenders—they put on an unhappy face so people would notice their fasting. Listen to me, they’ve already got everything they’re fasting for. As for you, act in your fast as you normally would—put on normal clothes and do your normal hygiene. No one will notice your fast except your Father in heaven, who is unseen. God will see your hidden act and give to you accordingly.

Part C: Wealth and Possessions
Don’t collect important stuff on earth for your personal use. All stuff on earth breaks down, wears out, is destroyed or is stolen. Instead, if you give to the poor, God will keep the important stuff for you in heaven. There, your stuff never breaks down, wears out, gets destroyed or is stolen. Build up your savings account in heaven—for where you keep your stuff, that’s where your true self is kept.
Your eye is like a window. What you do with your eye shows who you are. If your eye is open, generously sharing, then your body is enlightened. If your eye is shaded with covetousness—desiring to have what others have—then your whole self is darkened, spiritually dead. Thus if your “enlightenment” is pure darkness, you are completely blind.

No one can truly have two gods he is committed to. In the end, every man will display his love for one god by consistently serving him and he will display his contempt for the other by neglecting service for him. You cannot commit yourself to both the Father God and the god of Wealth.

You might be concerned because surrendering what we have to the poor seems like economic suicide. And not storing up for the future seems like irresponsibility. But listen to me—Don’t bother about your livelihood. Don’t worry about what you will eat or drink or wear. Your life, as a whole, is more than what you stuff in your mouth, isn’t it? And isn’t a living body more than having clothes to wear?
Study the birds. Do they go to stores, work to make money, or savings accounts? No, they rely on the Father in heaven to feed them—and somehow they get fed.

Doesn’t God consider you more important than them? And tell me, which one of you increased your quality or quantity of life by being anxious about tomorrow’s food? And clothes—why bother about being concerned about them? Study wild flowers. You see how they spring up? They don’t haunt retail shops or have closets full of clothes, but even the richest woman in Beverly Hills isn’t clothed as beautifully as these. So if God provides clothes for flowers that pop up one day and are mowed down the next, surely he will provide for the mustard-seed-faith troupe.

So stop worrying! Stop saying “How can you ask this of us? How can we provide for ourselves? How can we survive?” You are talking like unbelievers—those who don’t know that God provides for them. Your Father knows what you need already. Focus instead on God’s kingdom and accomplishing God’s righteousness, and your boss—the Father—will provide all these basics for you. So stop being concerned about the future. It is enough to be concerned about today’s trouble, and let the future go.

Part D: Christian Leadership
Don’t condemn others, or else you will be condemned by God. With whatever kind of judgement you judge, that’s how God will judge you—either with mercy or with harshness. With whatever kind of measuring stick you use, that’s how you will be measured as well.

You so easily point out the inconsistencies of your fellow Christian, but neglect the major sins you perform before God. You note the speck of dust in another’s eye, but neglect the two by four that is stuck in your own. There you go to your friend—“We’ve got to get rid of this speck of dust in your eye”, meanwhile, you’re hitting him with your two by four! Stop pretending you have no problems! If you get rid of your two by four, then you’d be able to see. And then you can help your friend get rid of his speck.

Don’t offer the Holy Spirit to those after worldly gain, nor to those who are impure. Your gift will be destroyed by them and then they will attempt to tear you down.

But if you ask, then God will grant you what you need. If you seek the Lord, you will find what you need. If you knock on his door, he will welcome you into the kingdom. For everyone who asks him will receive from Him. Whoever seeks God will find Him. And whoever knocks on his door, it will be opened.

You fathers out there, if your kids ask you for a sandwich, you wouldn’t give them a rock and say, “Here, eat this” would you? If they ask you for a hamburger, you wouldn’t put them in a bullring with a red cape, would you? Look, you guys may not be the best people in the world, but at least you know how to give your kids what they need. Don’t you think that your Father in heaven will give the good things you need when you ask for it?

Part E: Mercy and Your Future
Always consider what others need. Consider, “What is the best I want for myself—how do I want people to treat me?”. Then turn around and give to others exactly what you thought of. If you do this, you will ultimately obey the Word of God.
Look for the unpopular routes to heaven. There are many ways that everyone likes in seeking God’s favor—but they lead to your destruction. Sure, they’re popular, but they are also deadly. But the way to God’s blessing and life is so difficult that few will accept it.

Even so, there are teachers that look great, and are so charismatic, but they are false teachers, leading you away from God. They may look like well-groomed sheepdogs, but in reality they are wolves, seeking to fill their stomachs, not care for the sheep.

How will you know the difference between a guard dog and a wolf? By their actions. How do you know if you’ve got an apple tree? If there are any apples on it. If there are peaches on it, it ain’t an apple tree. Even so, a good teacher does good things, but a false teacher does evil things. If an apple tree only bears rotten fruit, then you know there’s a problem with the tree. Even so, every teacher who does evil things is taken away from God's people and is judged. So you will know who are the good and bad teachers by what they do.

On the last day, there will be many who call me “Lord”, but not all of them will enter God’s kingdom. Only the one who does God’s will has the opportunity to enter. Many will get my attention on the final day and say, “My Lord, didn’t I teach your word? And I prayed for people, and they were healed! And I was able to give them spiritual healing!” And I will make my final decision: “I never knew you. Get lost—you aren’t entering God’s kingdom. You are those who did what was evil in God’s sight.”

Conclusion: Obeying Jesus
Here’s my final story: Whoever has heard my teaching—from “How fortunate are the poor” to here—and puts these teachings into practice, they are the fortunate ones. These doers of the word are like a builder who establishes a level, solid, concrete foundation for his house. Floods came, earthquakes came, wind storms came—but nothing could destroy that building, because it was built not just on good theory, but good practice. However, there are many who have heard my teaching and then thinks, “Interesting ideas…” but never accomplishes any of it. That person is like the builder who has gone to school, read all the books, and then said, “Forget it, I’m building my house my way.” So he decides sand is cheaper than concrete and who needs to go through all the effort for it to be level? And he builds his house. Let me tell you, the next flood, the next earthquake, the next wind storm—whatever disaster is next on the grid—and that house will fall so hard, you’d need a microscope to find the pieces. This isn’t just another sermon—it is your life and death. Please pay attention and do as I have said.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Sermon on the Mount-- Matthew 5-7

This post is a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' most significant teaching in the book of Matthew. The Sermon on the Mount is a reversion of the law of God as given by Moses-- more streamlined, more accurate and applicable to everyone who has God's Spirit. If we live by this teaching of Jesus, then we will be in line to enter God's kingdom, and in the best place to live in God's Spirit now.

But there are many who say that the Sermon isn't for Christians today-- if you think that, please read the last bit, Matthew 7:25-27. Jesus there says that those who hear the sermon but refuse to obey it will be judged on the last day. He repeats this in Matthew 12:46-50. Please don't be fooled by those who think the Sermon is for those in the past. It is for today, for today's people. Let us live it out and place our hope on Jesus, our King and Lawgiver.

Steve Kimes
Pastor of Anawim Christian Community

Who Are The People of God? Matthew 5:3-10

We can look around at the different religions and the many different kinds of Christianity and we can wonder, who among all of these different kinds of religious people does God really care for? Some religions are strict, others are lax; some are private and personal, while others are public and in-your-face; some are meditative, others are ethical, while others are very social. And each one of them has their own ideas of what makes up the people of God and who really belongs.
Of all the people in the world, Jesus is one of the few who we can trust to really know what God prefers. Jesus lived among his people and taught and healed—but more importantly, God gave his stamp of approval on his life and teaching beyond anyone else, because God raised him from the dead. No other religious teacher or prophet or theologian could claim that. So rather than delving into theology or religious doctrine, let’s just look at what Jesus said about the subject.

The Beatitudes—Matthew 5:3-10
The Beatitudes are Jesus’ blueprint for God’s people. He didn’t come up with it himself—although he packaged it. Most of this teaching comes from the Hebrew Bible (which is usually today called the Old Testament). It is called “the beatitudes” today because each statement speaks about a blessing that the people of God will receive. “Beatitude” comes from a Latin word which means “state of bliss”. And these statements explain who will receive a state of blessing or fortune from God. Before we explain it, though, let’s hear what Jesus has to say about God’s people for himself:

The poor in spirit are fortunate because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Those who grieve are fortunate, because they will be cheered. The meek are fortunate, because they will inherit the earth. Those hungry and thirsty for justice are fortunate, because they will eat their fill. The merciful are fortunate, because they will be granted mercy. The clean in heart are fortunate, because they will see God. The peacemakers are fortunate, because they will be called 'sons of God.' Those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness are fortunate, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

Who are these people?
The first thing we want to look at are the characteristics of God’s people. Jesus statements about these characteristics can be divided in two: a. Situational characteristics and b. Ethical characteristics.

The Anawim of God
Some of the characteristics of God’s people relate to the awful situations they find themselves in:
· The poor in spirit (oppressed, especially economically),
· The grieving (remorseful about the situations they find themselves in),
· The meek (lowly, disenfranchised or outcast),
· Those hungering and thirsting for justice (greatly desiring right to prevail in their lives)
· And the persecuted (rejected or spoken ill of).

This isn’t exactly a top-ten of things that we want to be! These characteristics can be summarized in one Hebrew word—anawim. The Bible speaks much of the anawim, because they are the kinds of people God focuses on, and desires to help more than anyone else. (Read Exodus 22:21-24; Psalm 37:11 and Psalm 34:6.) That’s because they have no one else but God to turn to. No power on earth will pay attention to them, because most people would prefer to pretend that they didn’t even exist. Some of the anawim in our society are the homeless, the mentally ill, the elderly, the chronically sick and all the various others who are socially outcast. These are the poor, the lowly, the outcast—and they are God’s people. If a person thinks that they are of God or His people, but have never experienced this kind of rejection by society, then they are not, in reality of God’s true people.

The Loving of God
However, one cannot just be rejected or poor and be of God’s people. Many teachers and theologians today will teach that Jesus said that everyone who is poor or outcast represents him. But that simply isn’t true. Jesus said that those of his “brothers” who are needy are his people. And Jesus said that his brothers would “do the will of my Father in heaven”. In other words, they listened to and obeyed God. But what kind of obedience is Jesus talking about? Not drinking on a Friday night? Studying the Bible every day? Standing on a street corner yelling, “You’re going to hell” to everyone you see? Hmmm… let’s see what Jesus says:
· The merciful (those who do good to everyone in need without exception);
· The clean in heart (those who do what is right because they have a mind focused on God, and not because of superficial reasons)
· The peacemakers (those who do good to their enemies, who refuse to judge on appearances and who gather people to be devoted to God);
· And the persecuted for righteousness’ sake (those who are rejected because they were doing the good God said to do).

These are the people who keep two things on their main agenda: They are devoted to God first and foremost, not allowing anything else in their lives to get in the way of their love of God. Second, they are doing everything they can to benefit other people, no matter who they are. This makes sense, because Jesus said that these two things are to be the focus of everyone who lives for God (Matthew 22:35-40). They love God and they love other people. And sometimes they get burned because of it. Sometimes they are rejected or even physically hurt because of it. But they know it’s worth it.

How can it be worth it?
It doesn’t seem worth it. Jesus is saying that God’s people are those who are so focused on devotion to God and assisting others that they get hurt by it. It just doesn’t seem right. But it really is—in fact, it is a weird sense of justice that indicates that these are God’s people and not others. Just look at what God’s people get:
· Theirs is the kingdom of heaven (God lets them rule His coming nation!)
· They will be cheered (God gives them happiness!)
· They will inherit the earth (God gives them land and city to be in charge of!)
· They will eat their fill (God will give them true justice—forever!)
· They will receive mercy (God will overlook their faults and meet their needs!)
· They will see God (God will let them be in his presence!)
· They will be called sons of God (God will call them his own!)

All wrapped up, these are the blessings of God that almost everyone wants. It is peace, security, true spirituality, all of one’s needs met, a peaceful society to live in. It is winning the real lottery—obtaining true happiness that you could never get with cash.
So why do these people get it, and not others? Because only God is offering it, and only those who are truly devoted to God and His ways will get it. And how can anyone know that we were really devoted—and not just faking it? How can anyone know that we really cared about other people and weren’t just faking it? Because we acted in love even though we were living in hard times. We stayed right with God, even though we suffered for it. We continued to help others, even though people thought we were wrong to do it. We suffered and loved at the same time.

How fortunate are the oppressed because they will rule God’s kingdom!
How fortunate are the sorrowful, because God will cheer them up.
How fortunate are the lowly, because God will give them the earth.
How fortunate are those who desperately desire justice, because they will get just what they want.

How fortunate are those who act in compassion, for God will be compassionate to them.
How fortunate are those single-minded on God, for they will see Him.
How fortunate are the creators of peaceful communities, for God will make them rulers.
How fortunate are the sufferers for righteousness, because they will rule God’s kingdom!

Character and Conflict-- Matthew 5:11-16

Jesus already spoke about his unique vision of the character of the true people of God in the first part of the Sermon on the Mount, called the Beatitudes. However, Jesus’ vision really is unique—in fact, it is disagreed with by most religious leaders that have ever lived, including most Christian ones! Jesus really did know who God really desires to help, because Jesus is the only one to hear it directly from the Father. He has the full vision of God, while all other prophets and religious teachers only have a part of God’s plan.
Most teachers say that God’s people are righteous—but they think that God’s people just need to follow a particular code or list of rules to be God’s people. Jesus is saying that rules aren’t the heart of God’s people. Rather God’s people are interested in being merciful to other people and in having a motivation to be right before God in everything they do—whether their list of rules is long or short. Most religious teachers say that wealth and a good life are signs of God’s blessing. Jesus says that those who are oppressed and poor and looking to God to help them out of the trouble they find themselves in—these are the ones who will truly be blessed by God.
Jesus’ teaching is strange to most people, and most people will strongly disagree with it. This makes it difficult for those following what Jesus truly says. If everyone says that to be a good Christian you just need to pray a prayer, what does that mean for those who follow Jesus’ words to be merciful and clean in heart? If everyone says that to be a good Christian, everything will be going well in your life, what does that mean for those who listen to Jesus’ words about oppression and persecution?
After the Beatitudes, Jesus gives us some additional words of encouragement to remain in the character of God’s people. He gives three teachings, all of which are reflections on enduring in God’s character, although the world tells you something differently.

1. Act Like A Lottery Winner—Matthew 5:11-12
You are fortunate when they disparage you and persecute and speak all kinds of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and show gladness, because your reward is much in heaven, for even so did they persecute the prophets who were before you.
Jesus tells us that it makes sense that we will be spoken ill of, especially by people who hold to their own views about religion or how life should be lived. They will say, “Don’t allow yourself to be oppressed—you need to agree with us and to do what we do.” And if you don’t—in other words, if you stick with Jesus in opposition to their points of view—then people will say terrible things about you—even lies and horrible slander. This is normal, Jesus says. More than normal, it is a cause of great joy!
How can this be? Normal people don’t get lied about, slandered, hated and then have a party about it. That just doesn’t make sense. Jesus tells us to remember the prophets of God. They were speaking the truth of God and have been honored by God’s people for countless generations. However, they were rejected and hated and slandered about by the generation they spoke to. They weren’t liked at all! But what happened to them? They received great reward from God. God gave them much more after their life in His presence than they could possibly expect on earth.
This means that the prophets, although they were despised on earth, were actually like secret lottery winners. No, they haven't collected their prize yet, but they had the ticket. The ticket to winning the lottery, Jesus says, is living a merciful, godly life and being persecuted for it. So if you’ve got the ticket—act like it! Be happy, jump up and down, sing praises to God, have a party! Sure, people will think you’re nuts—“No, I don’t think I want to go to your ‘Persecution Party’”—but since you know the secret, you might as well enjoy it (Acts 5:41).

2. Don’t be like Marlon Brando—Matthew 5:13
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt is foolish, with what will it be made salty? It is capable for nothing except as an outcast to be trampled on by men.

In Jesus’ day, salt was used for a number of things—just like today. We use salt for seasoning food, for snow covered sidewalks, for liquid absorption and much more. Jesus wasn’t using the image of salt to speak of it’s use, rather he was using salt because of it’s ability to still look like salt, but not to be useful anymore. Salt can lose its “salty” character, and so it is no longer useful to anyone for anything.
Even so, Jesus says, can God’s people lose their basic character. We have to remember that the basic character of God’s people is to have our hearts focused on God, to be merciful and to be oppressed because of our stand to follow Jesus. But in a world—especially a church—that is telling us that God’s people are NOT like that, it is easy to focus on what other people say are the characteristics of God. But if we lose focus, if we lose track of what Jesus says is most important—mercy, devotion and being persecuted—then we are like salt that is no longer useful. We will no longer be God’s people. We will only be fit to be thrown out of God’s kingdom.
Jesus is telling us not to be like Marlon Brando. Marlon Brando was famous as a character actor. In front of the camera, he was a new person, a different character than he really was. However, when he lived his real life, he was something completely different. Marlon Brando was a consummate actor—able to believably be what he was not. Jesus is saying that we are to constantly be the people of God—and that means acting like it all the time. We must always be merciful. We must always have devotion to God. And we must not shrink from or be depressed by persecution. We must embrace the characteristics of God’s people, and be glad that we are who God made us to be, and never be anything else.

3. Show off like a sports star
You are the light of the world. A city being set on a mountain is not able to be hidden. And nor is a lamp burned and placed under a container, but upon a lampstand and to shine everywhere in the house. Thus, shine your light before men, so that they can see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
When we are God’s people—the real ones, not the fake ones that the world is filled with—we often want to shrink back and hide. We don’t want people to see our true character, because they might think we are stupid (or worse, they might tell us so). We’d rather show people that we are normal, in other words, just like them. If people saw that we were constantly, 100 percent devoted to God in all things—they’d think we were fanatics. If people saw that we were always being merciful, they’d think that we were soft-hearted or easy to take advantage of. If people saw that we were pleased to receive persecution, they might use it as an excuse to abuse us. If people saw that we were seeking God for justice, they might think that we were idiots or lazy.
And so we are tempted to go undercover with our true character. To hide the true character of God’s people with something that is more acceptable. Jesus, however, tells us to do just the opposite—we need to show off! The work that we do, the character that we’ve become isn’t our own decision, but it is God’s work. If it is God’s work, then we shouldn’t hide it! Instead, we need to display God’s work as often as possible.
First of all, Jesus says, God’s character in your life CANNOT be hidden. If you put a city on a mountain—that can’t be hidden. Even so, Jesus says, that’s what God’s people are like. They are like the sun in the sky—try as you like, you can’t hide it’s presence. (I Timothy 5:25)
But also, Jesus says, God’s character in us SHOULDN’T be hidden. A lamp is made to shine the light. Even so, God’s people are placed on earth to display God’s light. Does Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods hide in closets because they don’t want to be boastful about their abilities? Absolutely not! They show it to as many people as possible! Even so, we are to show God’s work.
This doesn’t mean that we are to show off how much we pray or whatever to impress people (Matthew 6:1-2). Rather, we show our devotion and especially the persecution we suffer to show God’s glory. Perhaps people won’t be impressed with us. Perhaps they will find us disgusting. But that’s just shows who are in God’s people and who aren’t.

Don’t be ashamed of being what God made you to be: Devoted to Him.

Jesus and the Law-- Matthew 5:18-20

Did Jesus embrace the Law of Moses?
Did Jesus support Moses, or was he Moses’ worst enemy? Did Jesus fully accept all of the law of Moses, or did he reject every command? And why even bring it up? Well, it is important. If someone comes up to you and insists that you not do any activity on the Sabbath (however he interprets that), then you need to know what Jesus thought of Moses’ command of the Sabbath. If you are struggling whether as a Christian how seriously you should take the food laws of Moses, you should know something about this subject.

Why is Jesus bringing up this subject?
In the context Jesus was speaking—the Sermon on the Mount to a large group of Jews in the midst of Israel—it seems that the answer would be simple. Of course he supports the Law! That’s what everyone would expect. So why even bring up the subject? First of all, Jesus brought it up because people around him questioned him about it. They asked, “Are you getting rid of the Old Testament?” So Jesus felt that he should answer the question.
So why did they bring it up? Because there were many times that Jesus sounded as if he was opposing the commands of the Old Testament. Sometimes it seemed as if Jesus was going to throw the whole thing away and start again. And many Christians throughout the years thought he was doing just that. Not only that, but the next section Jesus was going to discuss is full of many statements that sounds like he is contradicting the Old Testament. The section is called the Six Antitheses, where Jesus quotes the Old Testament, and then he makes a statement that seems to contradict the verse.
So which is it? Does Jesus support the Old Testament, or oppose it? Let’s read what he says:

Some think that I am setting aside the Old Testament, especially Moses’ law—but I have not come to do that. Rather, I have come to complete the Old Testament. Pay attention, here: even the least bit of Moses’ law will stand written, until every minor part of it is done as it stands written. Therefore, whoever is lax with Moses’ law and teaches others to do the same—they may enter the coming kingdom, but they will be unimportant there. But whoever emphasizes obedience in their own lives and in others’, they will be called great in God’s kingdom. Unless you have a better righteousness than today’s Bible teachers, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus’ general view of Moses’ law
Generally, Jesus is very affirming of the Old Testament, especially Moses’ law. Jesus says that Moses’ law will remain and it will be authoritative until the end of the age, when God’s kingdom will come. Not only that, but Jesus affirms the teaching of the whole law. The true teachers teach the whole Old Testament, Jesus said, leaving nothing out, even the least significant command. It seems as if Jesus fully supported the law.

How did Jesus fulfill the law of Moses?
Jesus thought so highly of Moses’ law, that he claimed that he would complete or fulfill it to the utmost extent. But what did Jesus actually mean by that? He meant three things:

a. Jesus would obey the Mosaic Law to the full extent
Jesus was a fully observant Jew, and never disobeyed the law of Moses. No Jew could accuse him of sin, which was determined by the law of Moses—not even his enemies (John 8:46). Jesus obeyed the law better than Moses or David did. Not only did Jesus obey the law that was written down to the letter, but he obeyed the Greater Law that stood behind the Mosaic Law.

b. Jesus would fulfill the paradigms that were only partially fulfilled in the Mosaic Law
All throughout the books of Moses, as well as the rest of the Hebrew Bible, there were many examples of God’s people, but all of them failed in some way. Moses and David were murderers, Aaron participated in idolatry, Abraham was a deceiver and Jacob was greedy. The children of Israel failed God’s law again and again. However, Jesus took Moses’ and David’s place, as well as the nation of Israel as a whole, and he fulfilled all of their roles perfectly, without any fault before God. Thus, Jesus fulfilled every role the Hebrew Bible presents—he was an obedient deliverer, a just judge, a devoted mediator, and a holy nation who endured through testing. Many of the Scriptures that Jesus was fulfilling were not prophecies at all, but simply stories that needed to be completed (see Matthew 2:15 and Hosea 11:1-2).

c. Jesus would fulfill the prophecies that are stated in the Hebrew Bible
Jesus stated many times that the Scripture would be fulfilled in him (for example, Matthew 26:31, 54). By this, he meant that there were many things in the Hebrew Scriptures that God says would happen. However, they had not occurred yet. Jesus said that he himself would be the focus of the completion of these promises.

Did Jesus contradict Moses?
Many people have trouble with Jesus saying, “Whoever is lax with Moses’ law will be least in God’s kingdom.” This is because they see Jesus opposing Moses in many places in his teaching: Concerning divorce, about how to treat one’s enemies, whether Gentiles can enter God’s kingdom, and in many other areas Jesus on the surface seems to be contradicting Moses. Does this mean that Jesus’ himself would be least in God’s kingdom? Looking closer, however, Jesus does not oppose the Torah in any way. Often Jesus is seen as doing away with Sabbath and cleansing laws of Moses’ law, but he is not doing so. At times he is prioritizing them, so that if they are in conflict, it can be seen which laws should be obeyed in a certain context. At times he is adjusting them, to make them be interpreted in light of compassion and justice. And at times he is heightening them, so they are to be interpreted in light of God’s higher laws. But never does he just say that this law has no place; nor does he set aside any command. To look at this closer, see the tract: “Did Jesus Oppose the Law?”

Does this mean that we need to place a railing on our roofs? (Deuteronomy 22:8)
Jesus is supporting the law to such a degree, does he then expect us to live it out? Should we start wearing God’s word on our forehead and stop eating bacon? Not necessarily. We need to remember that Jesus is speaking to his fellow Jews, not Gentiles. There are two cases in Matthew that he spoke to Gentiles and spoke of his demands. His demand for them was not to follow Moses, but to have faith (Matthew 8:5-13; 15:21-28) At first, Jesus sent his disciples to Israel alone, but when he sent them finally to the Gentiles, they were to teach Jesus’ commands, not Moses’. (Matthew 10:1, 5-6; 28:19-20). We were not born under the law, so if we do not obey it, we are not disobeying it, because we were never submitted to it. However, in proclaiming Jesus as Lord, we are submitting ourselves to Him—so we need to obey Jesus even as the Jews obeyed Moses (only better).

The higher righteousness
Finally, Jesus points out that simple obedience to Moses’ law isn’t good enough. After all, the Pharisees and Sadducees were trying very much to obey Moses’ law—and yet they still failed. Why is this? Because they were focusing on some specific laws, such as tithing and sabbath-keeping, but not on the laws that would cause one not to be judged by God. Moses’ law isn’t enough—we need to obey the Higher Law.
In order to assist us to be fully acceptable and obedient to God, Jesus taught us how to follow the law by which God will judge us on the final day. This higher law is: The one who is faithful to God will receive reward from God; The one who is merciful to others will receive mercy from God; The one who is lowered by others will be raised by God; Whatever one repents of will not be held against them. These laws do not replace the law of Moses, but they adequately explain how anyone could obey any law and be right before God. This could be another way in which Jesus fulfills the law: by teaching the true obedience of it.
This is the law that Jesus is going to explain to his disciples through the next sermon on the mount. This is the law God demands obedience of. This is the law that will cause us to have life. It is simpler than Moses’ law, but, in the end, much more difficult to do. We need God’s help for obedience.

Moses’ law is good and holy—
Jesus’ law is the pure law of God

Six Antitheses-- Matthew 5:21-48

The largest distinct section of the Sermon on the Mount is Matthew 5:21-48. This is also called the “six antitheses” because Jesus makes six quotations or paraphrases of commands of Moses in the Bible, and then he says, “But I say” and makes a similar but stronger statement. These antitheses—or oppositional statements—form the outline of this section, with other passages that relate to Jesus’ commands added to them.

What Jesus is teaching about the law
The hardest thing to understand about what Jesus is saying here, is that it looks like he is just flat contradicting God’s word in the Law. He is saying, “Moses said one thing, but I am saying another.” This is especially hard to understand because Jesus just said that he did not come to set aside the Law. But if we look at each statement closely, we will notice that Jesus isn’t denying anything that Moses says. He quotes Moses, or a paraphrase of Moses, and rather than denying that it isn’t true, he makes a statement that could be taken in addition to Moses. In other words, it is like he is saying, “What Moses said is right, but it isn’t enough. Let me fill it out some more.” So Jesus isn’t denying Moses, but actually making broader applications of Moses that wouldn’t be understood in a literal reading of the Law. Jesus is interpreting the Law, not contradicting it.

Jesus’ and other’s interpretations of Moses
Why is Jesus interpreting Moses? Isn’t God’s word complete in itself? Obviously, Jesus feels that there is something inadequate in how God’s word is expressed, because Jesus—God’s Son—needs to finish it out. But why? Because there were teachers who were taking important points of God’s word and interpreting it wrongly. Jesus knew what God desired because he experienced in heaven God’s will. And though Moses’ law is an expression of God’s will, it is being interpreted wrongly. The interpretations Jesus primarily attacks in the six antitheses are those which limit personal responsibility. Jesus is mostly contradicting the attitude of, “I can follow God and still do what I want.” People who make excuses, who minimize the impact of God’s word in their lives. Anyone who comes to God’s word and still remain the same person, Jesus says, does not truly want to submit to God.
Now let’s look at each antitheses. We will see what interpretation Jesus was contradicting, and we will also look at his interpretation:

1. You have heard that it was said to the ancients, “You shall not murder and whoever murders will be guilty to judgment.” But I say to you that everyone who is angry against his brother is guilty to judgment. Whoever says to his brother, “Raka” will be guilty to the Sanhedrin. Whoever says, “Idiot” will be guilty to the hell of fire.
Moses’ law—“Do not murder.”
Some taught it meant—“As long as you don’t murder, you can express other kinds of hatred.”
Jesus said—“Anyone who expresses even the smallest amount of hatred will be condemned by God.”

2. You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with covetousness for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Moses’ law—“Do not have sex with someone not your spouse.”
Some taught it meant—“As long as you don’t have sexual intercourse, you can express your desire in other ways.”
Jesus said—“Even the smallest expression of your illicit desire indicates that you are an adulterer.”

3. And it was said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a divorce notice.” But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on grounds of sexual unfaithfulness, makes her commit adultery and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Moses’ law—“If you divorce, give your spouse a divorce notice.”
Some taught it meant—“You can get divorced for any reason.”
Jesus said—“Unless your spouse has already broken faith in the marriage, the one who enforces the divorce is the one who breaks faith in the marriage.”

4. Again, you have heard that it was said to the ancients, “Do not break an oath, but you shall pay back to the Lord your oaths.” But I command you, do not swear at all—either by heaven (for it is God’s throne), or by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King, Nor swear by your head for you are not able to make one hair while or black. But let your word be, “yes, yes; no, no.” But whatever more than this is of the evil one.
Moses’ law—“Make all oaths in Yahweh’s name.”
Some taught it meant—“Any oath made in someone else’s name, apart from God’s, need not be kept.”
Jesus said—“Every promise made is before God. Keep it or lose your integrity and be a liar like Satan.”

5. You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you do not resist an evil person.
Moses’ Law—“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life.”
Some taught it meant—“Any authority who steals from me or oppresses me, I can rebel against.”
Jesus said—“Do good to those who oppress you.”

6. You have heard that it was said, “You will love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and he sends rain upon the righteous and the unrighteous.
Moses’ Law—“Love your neighbor. Do not do good to nations who have hated you.”
Some taught it meant—“Destroy those who hate God. Express hatred to those who persecute you.”
Jesus said—“Do good to your enemies, for that is what God constantly does. If you act like God, you will be rewarded by God.”

Preparation for judgment
Since Jesus was just interpreting Moses’ law, does it mean anything to us, really? Absolutely. Jesus is not only telling us how Moses’ law is inadequate, he is also telling us what God expects of us. Jesus states clearly in the first antitheses the threat of judgement on the last day if we fail to obey God’s real commands—the commands that control our minds. And these commands do not change, whether we are submitted to Moses’ law or a law of any nation. We will not be judged according to Moses or the law of the U.S. congress. Rather, we will be judged by God’s law, the obedience of which is in one’s mind and desires.

The internal law
What are these laws? Jesus mentions a few of them here: Do not express hatred for another, but do good to everyone no matter what they did to you. Do nothing sexually immoral. Do not break any commitments you make. Do not rebel against any authority, even evil ones. These are not laws that we can just wake up one day and say, “Well, it’s illegal to do this, so I think I’ll just stop.” Rather, these are laws that must begin to be obeyed in our minds. Our thoughts are what determine what our small, seeming insignificant actions will be. Thus, we must depend on the Spirit of God to obey in this way. Without the Spirit, we cannot obey God.