Summary: Do you think that pleasing God means making and keeping a long list of rules? Think again.

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Tearing up the Checklists

It’s Monday evening at your house. You have had a long day and now after dinner you are going through the mail at the kitchen table. A long envelope falls out of the stack of junk mail that is hand addressed to you. The feel of the paper is rich and textured; the stamp of a design most beautiful. It appears to be an invitation. Carefully peeling back the envelope’s flap you open a card that reads;

"You are invited to an audience with the Lord Jesus for a discussion about your account with Almighty God. Prepare to meet Him on Sunday."

Would you feel compelled to start going over a checklist in defense of your life’s choices or would you begin to anticipate the opportunity to meet the Lord face to face?

Checklists abound! Performance is measured everywhere - at school with grades, at work with reviews, on the streets by police with radar guns, on the football field with stats and scores. And that is not a bad thing. I am not anti-competitive. Measuring results helps to assure a quality product and maximum productivity.

Bringing our natural ideas about gaining the approval of others into our relationship with God, we start to create lists of rules; extensive do’s and don’ts; which we use to assess our own spirituality as well as the spirituality of others. We hope to prove our acceptability by maintaining our checklists.

Q.- What kinds of rules show up on those lists?

HOWEVER.... (big pause here!) nobody gains God’s acceptance based on keeping the rules or being good!

Turn with me this morning, please, to Matt. 5: 17-20

Let me re-read that last verse.

The Pharisees of whom Jesus spoke were among the best rule-keepers of all time!

They devoted themselves intense study to the Law of Moses, working out the application to every detail of living. Jesus had issues with them, but He recognized their sincere diligence in trying to do the right things...

In Matthew 23:23 He says, "You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cummin."

They tithed from the smallest produce of their gardens! Now that’s keeping the absolute letter of the law! Such a conscientious observation of the rules is not condemned. That verse continues " have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."

But Jesus said even such attention to detail in keeping the rules is insufficient to please God! He says to us "....unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven."

If you are a rule-keeper that statement should send a chill down your spine!

Few, if any, of us keeps rules as well as the Pharisees. For those who are trying to love God by being religious Jesus’ words are a high wall that blocks out hope. In comparision to the rigidly righteous Pharisees, most of us realize that we haven’t kept the rules even on our own check-list to very well.

What then is the hope of our approval before God?

How might our righteousness surpass that of the Pharisees?

For understanding, let’s go back to the 17th verse. {read it.}

In this Sermon, Jesus is challenging those who follow Him to think about the whole concept of right and wrong in completely new ways that goes beyond religion and keeping rules. Repeatedly, He says, “You have heard it said... but I say to you.”

Some people, gaining only a partial understanding of His words, make the mistake of thinking that there are no more rules!

Jesus reminds us that He didn’t wipe out the 10 Commandments, and God’s expectation of holiness in us. He came to fulfil God’s Law not to abolish it! The New Covenant which starts to unfold with the Gospel of Matthew, does not invalidate the part of the Bible that precedes it! Jesus came to bring those truths to their ultimate revelation. He came to carry them to their logical conclusion.

The Law of Moses shows us the righteous demands of God. Paul explains to us that (Galatians 3:24-25) "the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law."

The Law of Moses also contained provisions for a way of forgiveness for God’s people when they failed to meet His demands. If a person sinned under the Law, there were prescribed sacrifices and offerings that were to be brought to the priests so that the sinner could be released from the guilt and penalty of his transgression.

Jesus came to show us, in person, the holiness of God and to be, in person, the sacrifice that takes away our guiltiness. In that sense, He fulfilled the Law.

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