Summary: Jesus redefines the new righteousness by redefining sin itself: beyond the concrete act, sin begins with the intention of the heart. (Michael Card - The Gospel of Identity, P. 57)
Title: A New Righteousness Part II
Text: Matthew 5:27-37
Thesis: Jesus redefines the new righteousness by redefining sin itself: beyond the concrete act, sin begins with the intention of the heart. (Michael Card, Matthew – The Gospel of Identity, P. 57)
Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” Matthew 5:20
Leo Tolstoy tells of a man in a boat: The opposite shore has been pointed out to him, he has been given a pair of oars and he is left alone. He rows a short distance and the current works against him. Other boats are in the same stream. Some are struggling valiantly against the current while others are just drifting along. “Is this the way?” the man asks. “Of course it is! What do you think? There is no other way.” So our rower takes his ease. But suddenly he becomes aware of a menacing sound—the roar of the rapids. He realizes his peril and recalls what he had forgotten—his oars, his appointed course and the opposite shore. With all his might he rows upstream crying with genuine contrition, “What a fool I was to drift!” Tolstoy interprets his parable—the current is the tradition of the world which sweeps away countless multitudes. The oars are the will of the individual and the opposite shore is God. A person can either acquiesce to the temptations to drift or take a firm resolve against them.
The question is simply do we go with the flow?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus goes back to the Ten Commandments and broadens them. In particular, he takes pervading sins—anger, sexual immorality, deceptive speech—and warns us against not taking them seriously.
Jesus continues this pattern of teaching… he states the Commandment, his Contradiction and then his Explanation on how to be better.
I. Be Better Thinkers, i.e., think better thoughts
“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28
For most of his career as a British journalist, Malcolm Muggeridge was a quarrelsome writer known for heavy drinking and smoking, womanizing, and espousing his agnostic viewpoint. But towards the end of his life he came to faith in Christ. But as a younger man he wrote a letter to his father and described an incident that revealed the sinful bent of his heart and the power of the flesh.
Just after graduating from Cambridge, Muggeridge moved to India to teach English. One day as he was strolling by a nearby river in the early evening, he spotted the silhouette of a woman bathing on the other side. Muggeridge later wrote that his heart began to race with what he called the "wild unreasonableness which is called passion." Overcome by lust, he plunged into the water and started crossing the river. As he approached the woman, he suddenly realized that she was a toothless, wrinkled, and deformed leper. He quickly threw himself back into the river and started swimming in the other direction.
Years later, Muggeridge admitted that the real shock that morning was not the leper, as mind-bending as that would be. Rather, it was the condition of his own heart, dark, with appetites overpowering his weak will. He wrote, "If only I could paint, I'd make a wonderful picture of a passionate boy running after that and call it: ‘The Lusts of the Flesh.’” (Adapted from Simon Ponsonby, Loving Mercy, (Monarch Books, 2012), pp. 46-47)
Jesus is rightly pointing out that the letter of the law is to avoid actually committing adultery but the spirit of the law is to avoid lingering thoughts and imaginations about and the desires to commit adultery.
The Apostle Paul wrote, "Take every thought captive" because he knew the mind is the root issue and cause of all moral failures. The mind begins the process of every action we take.
In his Epistle the Apostle James insightfully wrote, Remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desire, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. James 1:13-15
That’s why it is important that we do as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:8, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
The next Commandment is about marriage.
II. Be Better Spouses
“You have heard that the law says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery.” Matthew 5:31-32