Summary: As Paul was well aware, the Christian life is an unrelenting conflict between our sinful nature and this spirit or heart that God puts in us at our conversion. So the questions are not which church should I attend, am I doing the right religious things? B
If you have read the Gospels you have heard Jesus rebuke the Pharisees, the upstanding religious leaders and lawmakers in Ancient Israel. Well, we don’t know the half of it. They weren’t just talking about the 10 Commandments when they spoke of the laws. Here are some of the over 600 man made rules the Jews had to live by, or else:
• A new lamp could be moved from one place to another on the Sabbath, but not an old one.
• Hot food could be kept warm on the Sabbath by covering it with clothes, feathers or dried flax, but not with damp herbs or straw, which might generate some fresh heat (and therefore “work”).
• Someone with a sore throat could swallow liquid to ease the discomfort, but was not allowed to gargle, which would count as work on the Sabbath.
• Not many years ago in a Dear Rabbi section of a Jerusalem newspaper a person was told they could open a refrigerator on the Sabbath if it did not have a light in it. If it had a light it would be an infraction of the Sabbath law because it would be causing the electricity suppliers to work on the day of rest. Does that mean you couldn’t use lights at all on the Sabbath?
As ridiculous as these sound, the Pharisees and lawmakers had convinced people that these were necessary to be right with God, to be pure. That’s why Jesus responded in Mt 23, “Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
I agree with Martyn Lloyd Jones that the perfect seven beatitudes are placed in an intentional order by Jesus. The first three are about right self-awareness and our need, which then leads to the hunger and thirst that promises us to be filled, then these last three are the results of this filling. Kind of like walking up the mountain in the first three, reaching the summit in the fourth, and coming down the other side in the final three.
Being merciful last week corresponded to being poor in Spirit. When we see how much mercy we needed and got, we extend that mercy to others. Today being pure in heart corresponds to mourning over the state of our heart and desiring it to be purified by God so that we may one day see Him. Every Christian who sees themselves as they truly are, will crave for:
I. A Heart Transplant
And God is the master cardiologist. The heart is the seat of emotions, reason, conscience, understanding, desires, will and intention, decision making, and faith. The centre of our being, our personality.
It’s also where our sinful nature resides. Where the conflict between our new heart in Christ and our old heart in sin takes place? This doesn’t happen on our shoulders, but in our heart.
As Paul was well aware, the Christian life is an unrelenting conflict between our sinful nature and this spirit or heart that God puts in us at our conversion. So the questions are not which church should I attend, am I doing the right religious things? But, is God changing my heart, are my motives and desires different from what they were, is everything I do driven by a love for God?