Summary: Only those who hear his words and put them into practice live in the Land of Fulfillment.
The Land of Fulfillment
Pastor Jim Luthy
There is a place we’ll call the Land of Never. It’s not Never Land. It has no mermaids, no pirates, no Captain Hook or Tinkerbell. But it does have quite a few Lost Boys.
The Land of Never is an imaginary place that is the aspiration of us all. If we ever make it to the Land of Never, we’ll feel as though we’ve arrived—promising us a clean conscience, favor with God, and the reverence of men. Wouldn’t you like that?
There is a problem with the Land of Never, though. The Land of Never is governed by a series of laws, some of which came from the Creator, some which came from the minds of men, and others that are even conceived in our own minds. The Land of Never derives its name from the fact that we can never follow all of the laws. We can never match the goodness of God. We can never satisfy all the laws of men. And we can never live up to our own expectations without feeling like a failure and the bearing the weight of shame. You see, nobody ever really arrives in the Land of Never. The best anyone can ever hope for is giving the appearance of having arrived. Yet anyone who believes in any form of a god and who has an active conscience longs to live in the Land of Never.
There is another land called the Land of Lawlessness. The Land of Lawlessness is quite different than the Land of Never, for there is no law. In the Land of Lawlessness, everyone does what is right in his own eyes. Of course, this Land appeals to us as well, because in the Land of Lawlessness we can pursue all the desires of our flesh. Understand that we were all born into the Land of Lawlessness. If we have belief in a god and an active conscience, we may desire to live in the Land of Never, but try as we might we never make it.
In Jesus’ day, there were a limited number of people who appeared to reside in the Land of Never. These were the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. Most of the people wanted to feel as though they could make it to the Land of Never, but they were resigned to living in the Land of Lawlessness, with varying levels of satisfaction with their place.
When Jesus came proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, He proclaimed the availability of the kingdom to everyone from the spiritual zeros to the spiritual heroes. He declared to those living in the Land of Lawlessness that they could be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, provided they didn’t lose their saltiness or hide their lamp under a bowl. This was incredible news to those in the Land of Lawlessness. They thought he was opening the doors to the Land of Never. Jesus’ message was such good news to those who could never measure up, they assumed he was simply merging the two kingdoms, making it possible to dwell in the Land of Lawlessness but proclaim citizenship in the Land of Never. The people were in danger of believing that they could have their sin and be righteous too.
Many people think Jesus came to merge the Lands of Never and Lawlessness. They believe that Jesus opened the door of heaven to the sinners and prostitutes and so opened the door to them, no matter their sin. Paul wrote about this in Romans when he asked, What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1)
I once worked with a woman who was very vocal about her faith in Christ. In many ways, she was the model for boldness. She talked a lot about her church, shared things the pastor said, and even talked about how great it was to be forgiven. Unfortunately, she also talked about the wild parties she attended and spoke openly about relationships with men who were not her husband. It was usually at the end of these stories that she talked about how great it was to be forgiven. But Jesus did not come to merge the Land of Never with the Land of Lawlessness. This is precisely where he was going with Matthew 5:17-20:
“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. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”