Summary: Only the righteousness of Christ enables us to go beyond selfishness and greed.
Remember the old Star Trek television series? It captured the imagination of an entire generation when it first came out. The crew of the starship USS Enterprise endeavored on a 5-year mission – and as those familiar words explain – “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”
“Go beyond!” That was the mission of the starship Enterprise and its crew. And each episode recounted their experiences as they boldly went forth. The ability to forge ahead into uncharted territory takes courage and foresight. The life of a Christian is of no exception. In fact, our Savior himself is urging us to forge ahead and go beyond. Let us consider these words of Jesus, then, and learn from him, as our Savior urges us to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” So, DARE TO GO BEYOND! 1) Being Letter Perfect and 2) By Clinging to His Grace.
1) Being Letter Perfect.
The Pharisees heard the cry. They heard God say, “Love the Lord with all your heart with all your soul with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.” They knew the rules but didn’t know God. In their attempt to be letter perfect, they ignored the greater principles that stood behind God’s rules. Jesus once said the Pharisees would strain out a gnat and swallow a camel (Matthew 23:24). Jesus says to us, “Don’t be like them. Your righteousness has to far exceed this sorry display."
When we look at our own lives we see that we’re no different from the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. We, too, know the rules, and we try to be letter perfect. We know God commands worship--so we go to church once a week but ignore the greater principle of making worship a daily lifestyle. We would never consider having an affair--again God has a rule against that--but we don’t even think twice about viewing on-line pornography for the purpose of sexual self-gratification. We would never dare lie under oath in a courtroom, but its alright to stretch the truth when your parents ask why you came home late.
We are good at being letter perfect. And the danger is that we can become content with our outward keeping of God’s commands. We are all good at thinking we deserve God’s love and mercy. We become content with merely going through the motions – thinking that we have earned God’s love by being letter perfect.
What must we do to be letter perfect? Must we attend Sunday school and Bible study, too? Letter-perfect people will try to answer that question with a watch or clock. As long as we “put in our time” and suffer with the rest as the pastor drones on, well, then we’ve done our duty. How much are we supposed to give as an offering? Letter-perfect people will try to answer that question with a dollar amount as if we can somehow put a price on the work of redemption. Yet, sinful hearts will be tempted to put a price tag on Christ’s work. When we do that we will be led to do less than what God requires because we’ll be more concerned about the penny than with the principle. God requires us to be faithful, to give in response to his love in a way which demonstrates that his forgiving mercy is the most important thing to us. Only then will we see beyond. And that means we must go beyond. We must go beyond being letter perfect. We need perfection.
Let us not think we are buying God off, or fulfilling his commands by simply coming to church or attending a Bible study. These are all attitudes of a Pharisee -- a person who is more interested in keeping rules than loving God. Being concerned with only the letter of the law produces people who do less than God requires, for God always requires more than outward obedience. God desires complete devotion to him and his Word. He demands we offer him devoted lives. God requires a willing heart and glad spirit.
The Pharisees were trying to live perfect lives. What kind of demands is Jesus painting for us in the land beyond perfection? Obviously, for us to go beyond perfection, we need to go beyond the letter of the law. We need to go beyond the law through grace. We need to simply hear the word of Christ: “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.” Jesus is referring to the Bible, specifically the Old Testament. From Genesis to Malachi, there is one primary message: all people are sinful and deserve punishment from God, but God promised to send a Savior from sin.
2) By Clinging to His Grace.