Summary: Jesus lays out here that His Kingdom is not about lowering the standards, but about raising us up.
HOW TO BE GREAT IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: Practice and teach what Jesus commands.
- Matthew 5:19.
- At one level, this is very simple and straightforward. At another, it takes a lifetime to live out.
DOESN’T GRACE LOWER THE STANDARD? Jesus’ Kingdom is not about lowering the standard down, but about raising us up.
- In vv. 17-18, Jesus makes it clear that He hasn’t come to lower the standard. He’s not saying, “All that sin stuff that God harped about in the Old Testament – you don’t need to worry about that now. It’s all water under the bridge.”
- If you have the standard way up here (raise hand high) and what people can do way down here (put other hand low), there are basically two ways to get the two together. You can lower your standard or raise up the people.
- Jesus here is making clear early on in the Sermon on the Mount that He hasn’t come to lower the standard. See v. 17a and v. 18a.
- Rather, He has come to raise us up. Romans 6-8 is the best New Testament explanation of what all Jesus intends. Having saved us by His death and resurrection, He gives us a new heart, making us new creatures, and gives us the Holy Spirit within us to help us to be able to live out His life.
- This is an incredible offer.
- As Jesus alludes to at the close of v. 17 and v. 18, this is about “fulfilling” and seeing “everything” “accomplished.” Clearly, I think a large part of the meaning of that lies in Jesus’ life and experiences. Jesus fulfilled the Law and accomplished everything His Father asked Him to do.
- But this new Kingdom is also about us being able to do things we couldn’t do in our own strength. Through His power and His Spirit, we can do great things.
A. Misunderstanding grace.
- Grace is God giving us something we don’t deserve (salvation).
- But too often grace is confused with license. Because I’m “saved by grace” that means I don’t have to make any changes to the way I live.
- It concerns me deeply that this has become such a widely-held belief of the church in America today. There are many people who believe themselves to be Christians because they walked down an aisle or went to church for a while, even though there has been no change in their lives, even though God is not the boss of their lives, even though they don’t at all follow Jesus. And if you asked them how they can live that way and still be a Christian, they would point to grace.
- It’s a terrible misrepresentation of what grace is really about and the Bible makes it clear that’s not what Jesus intended. Grace is not an excuse for our sins. It is a doorway so we can live beyond our sins.
- The Bible teaches us that grace is the only door into a relationship with God, but grace is not where we stop.
B. New heart and the Spirit within me.
- Salvation explained in Romans: repentance, belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection, new heart, walking with the Holy Spirit.
C. A higher standard.
- One way that we know that Jesus is not lowering the standards through grace is that six times following these verses He says, “You have heard it said” about a teaching that comes from the Old Testament. In each case, He goes on, not to lower the standard, but to raise the standard.
D. What are “these commandments”?
- There are three basic parts of the Law of God: the moral law, the judicial law, and the ceremonial law.
- Jesus fulfilled all three.
- Is He saying here that they binding on us?
- He obviously doesn’t mean all the traditions that the Pharisees added to the Law.
- In Acts 15, at the Council at Jerusalem, the Gentile believers are not asked to maintain the whole Law.
- I would say for our purposes today that thinking of the Ten Commandments might be the best way to handle this.
LIVING OUT A "RIGHT-WITH-GOD" LIFE: Three important problems with the Pharisees’ “righteousness” were that it (a) was focused on externals, (b) picked and chose what to obey, and (c) was self-centered.
- Matthew 5:20.
- Checklists flatter, but it’s the heart that matters.
- We need to have a heartfelt obedience that comes with a love for God.
- We need to watch our motives and attitudes.
B. Picked and chose what to obey.