Compassion To The Least of These

My heart is torn and broken.
I prayed one day for God to open my eyes to the current refugee crisis we have not only in our country but throughout the entire world; not only the refugee crisis but the illegal immigration crisis that we have in America today. I asked God to give me the eyes of compassion that Jesus talked about in Matthew 25:31-46. The result broke my heart. The result ripped out my heart and made my heart wrench with pain: I saw the refugees and the illegal immigrants through the eyes of Jesus.

Many may respond, “But what about the Islamic extremists? They are going to try and establish a caliphate here in America! They are going to kill Christians for not converting to Islam!” or “Illegal Mexicans shouldn’t be here! They don’t deserve to be in our country, they’ve come here illegally and should be deported!”

There is a major storm brewing in our country. Our country is divided more than it ever has been. Not only is our country divided, but we as Christians, our church is divided. There is a storm sweeping across the nation and the church is being flooded by anger and division. I want to focus on two key verses: Matthew 8:23-27 and Matthew 25:31-46.
Call it prophecy, or call it divine intervention in my own personal life, but there is a great storm sweeping across our nation, and unless we repent, we will drown in the flood of hate.

Application teaching is not one of my strongest points, but this is a message that I have felt led by God for a while to get out. I will be breaking down the exegesis of both of these scriptures in a later lesson as part of my Internal vs External Righteousness series, so bear with me as that is not the intent of this lesson, but the application of the scriptures as I feel led by the Spirit to do so.
It’s going to be extremely hard to not get political when I talk about this, so I apologize in advance. My purpose is not to offend anyone but to speak the truth in love. This is a message that our country, especially Christians need to hear.

This is NOT from a liberal standpoint but from my heart that is will be clearly backed from Scripture. I have no backslid back into a liberal ideology, I am far from doing so. I am still a conservative and will be for the foreseeable future. This is a Christian biblical view, and not my worldly conservative view, although some of the thoughts do come from that.

Without any further introductions let’s dive into God’s Word.

Then Jesus saw go into the boat and started across the lake with His disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him up, shouting “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
Jesus responded “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then He got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly all was calm.
The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey Him!”
Matthew 8:23-27 NLT

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him saying ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ and the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for you the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer saying ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to you?’ Then He will answer them, saying ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
– Matthew 25:31-46 ESV

There are three problems in our country in regard to the refugee and immigration crisis I see from these pieces of scripture:
1) People are afraid and have little faith that God will protect them in the midst of the storm. They live in constant fear as everyone is here to kill them or take over our country.
2) There is a severe lack of compassion for the increase of refugees and illegal immigrants coming into our country.
3) Some Christians are so politically minded when it comes to their views of the refugee crisis and illegal immigration, that they lose sight of Jesus in the process and begin to think like the world, instead of seeing things through the eyes of Jesus with love and compassion.

  1. Do not be afraid

Everyone is panicking. There are self-proclaiming Evangelical Christians who are so fearful that the refugees and illegal immigrants that are in our country are going to somehow take over everything and take away their God given liberties and freedoms.
The thought process of some of these Evangelicals is that all the refugees are going to kill everyone and every single one of them are Radical Islamists, and they want to establish Sharia Law and they will start persecuting and killing Christians. They have a fear that illegal immigrants are going to take away jobs from Americans when there are veterans who are unemployed and homeless.

We as Christians are not of this world, we are citizens of heaven first and foremost, and citizens of America last. We, as Christians, are refugees ourselves, strangers passing through until we are called home or Jesus’ second coming (Philippians 3:20).

Time after time there are many Scriptures that tell us to not be afraid and not to live our lives in fear. So why are we living our lives in such pandemonium that it has overcome us? Why do we give our fear to the world instead of giving our fear to the Lord?
Joshua 1:9 ESV says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
2 Timothy 1:7 ESV says “for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.”

We as Christians must not fear the waves of that crashing up against our country. Remember: Jesus Himself rebuked the wind and the waves. He commanded the waves to be still in the midst of chaos. We as Christians need to pray for our country and speak peace into the waves crashing up against our coast. The spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you (Romans 8:11 NLT). We need to turn our eyes upon Jesus in the midst of chaos. Otherwise, the waves of the world will consume us and we will surely die.

We are commanded by Christ to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are commanded to not repay evil or evil, but to respond with love, compassion, and forgiveness (Matthew 5:38-48).

What are we so afraid? For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (1 Timothy 1:7 KJV).

  1. The Least of These

This subject is a touchy one, and I get it. I understand the viewpoint of the current Presidential administration and that of his supporters when they want stronger immigration laws and to build a border wall, and the administration wants a travel ban from the countries where most of the radical Islamists are coming from. But I think there is a deeper issue that needs to be looked at and considered. Please bear with me.

Illegal immigration:
I think it’s extremely important that we enforce stronger immigration laws. The current system we have for immigrants is so broken, it is impossible for people to become citizens. It’s much easier for them to illegally cross into the country and live here than it is to go through all the red tape to come into our country. I do agree that it is wrong for them to cross the border illegally and stay in our country. But, with that being said you need first understand why many of them are crossing into our country in the first place.
The lot of them have a legitimate reason as to why they are crossing the border to come into America, and it’s not to steal your job or to harm you. While there is a major systemic problem with the statistic of illegal immigrants and crime, that is an entirely separate issue.

The majority of them (meaning immigrants, not criminals) genuinely want a better life for themselves and their families, just the as any other red blooded American. These immigrants want better healthcare and a better way of life, just like you and me. Many of them are fleeing oppression from corrupt governments, or are escaping extreme poverty. Extreme poverty in Mexico is leaps and bounds in comparison to extreme poverty in America.
I was stationed in Monterey, California at a small Army post for three years. Inland by about 20 minutes is the Salinas Valley, also known as the salad bowl of America. Many fruits and vegetables that you buy in the supermarket today, are from the Salinas Valley or Watsonville area of the central coast of California. These immigrants are working dirty jobs that most Americans, even ones who are unemployed will not work.  They spend hours busting their backs in the fields picking fruits and vegetables for us to eat, and most American’s would not want to do that job because it’s hard daunting labor.

Many of these immigrants are business or restaurant owners who provide to the economy. They want to live a better life here in America, than where they lived before. They want to live in America because they want to experience the same God given liberties and freedoms that we have that they don’t have living in Mexico or other South America countries.
I am not implying for amnesty. As a matter of fact, I am against amnesty because it will protect criminals and people who come to our country and do not provide anything back to society or the economy except to feed off the government. We have enough problems with American criminals and welfare bums who are perfectly able to work and provide nothing back to society or to the economy, they equally refuse to work and want to live off the system. I understand there are people who are physically and mentally unable to work. Those are not the people I am talking about.  But again, that is not the issue at hand. The issue is a lack of compassion and understanding. Unless we have compassion and understanding for the least of these, we will never have compassion for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ when times are hard.

Our immigration system needs to be reformed greatly. I think there needs to be a change in the way people that I mentioned above can become citizens. If they are contributing to the economy, and have a business, then I think a few exception should be waivered and they are at a minimum. There should be a requirement that these immigrants work if they want to live here. No exceptions.
If there are people who are here and do not work, and or are criminals, they should be deported immediately, no questions asked. That should not be tolerated.

We need to have compassion. We are called by Jesus to have compassion for the least of these. Now that doesn’t mean you should open your home to an illegal immigrant or a refugee, you can help in other ways by giving your time to help them or by donating money to causes that benefit them. I’m not saying I have the answer to change the world, but what we are missing is a great witness opportunity here to share the message of the Gospel with the illegal immigrants by showing them love, and most importantly to the refugees that are coming here. We need to show them the love to Christ because we are commanded to do so.

The Refugee Crisis:

I must confess I am extremely torn on this issue. I am a war veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I have seen what radical Islamism is first hand. As a matter of fact, I have brothers and sisters in arms who have given their lives because of it. I am going to do my best to choose my words carefully while I explain my position on this.

Do I think there needs to be a travel ban on the countries that are written in President Trump’s executive order? Yes.
Do I think it’s necessary that we completely ban them permanently from entering our country? No.
We need to use discernment when it comes to this, the only way we can gain that wisdom is through the obedience of our government to God.

There needs to be tighter restrictions on those from the countries written in the travel ban from entering into our country, there should probably be more countries added to it. I think this needs to happen for our own protection. We cannot just blindly allow them to enter our country freely without certain restrictions. The evidence is clear in Europe right now, what a relaxed immigration system for those from such countries are doing right now. Terrorism is running ramped in Germany, Franc, and England. All three of these countries have similar freedoms to that of Americans (minus gun control, but that is an ENTIRELY different issue of which I will not get into). Now these countries are plagued with Islamic terrorism, so much to the point where it’s a part of their daily lives, many news sources in Europe have said so themselves; This is inexcusable. While this is my flesh speaking, and some of it may seem arrogant, so I apologize, but this is a reality. The reality is that we live in a fallen world, and Islam is not a peaceful religion, but a religion that centers itself on revenge and the death of those who do not believe what they believe. Whether you like that last statement or not, it is true.

The issue at hand is much greater than what I’ve said above. The other stark reality is, the majority of the people fleeing from these war torn countries are trying to escape ISIS. War, death and destruction are a part of their daily lives. All they want to do escape war and live in a country where there is peace and no war.
On the flip side, I don’t have an exact number, but there are some of them whom are fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are trying to escape persecution. ISIS is trying to exterminate Christians in the middle-east and are doing a very good job at it right now.
Should we only accept Christian refugees? No. But it’s a start.

Now many people will say that this isn’t our problem and we don’t need to worry about other countries and take care of America first. Part of me agrees with that and another part says that we are indeed responsible.
The other harsh reality is, that many of these war torn countries are at war because of the American military. That’s a very hard pill to swallow, even for me, someone who has been to war to fight terrorism. As I am typing this, it makes my stomach churn and I almost have tears in my eyes. But the reality is, we are the reason why their countries are at war, and we are the reason why ISIS has thrived because we relaxed a status of forces agreement with Iraq, and ignored credible intelligence in Syria about the formation of ISIS. We could have prevent ISIS and we didn’t. Now we are stuck in an endless war where there has no victory in site whatsoever.

A Christ Centered Focus:
Let me back off a moment and take a deep breath. The above view is a worldly view and not a Christ centered focused view. The view above is my opinion, and yes its very politically motivated. I am a Christian first, but I am a conservative.

It’s very hard for me to have a Christ centered view on this without my flesh getting in the way and getting angry about it. My flesh wants an all-out ban and the destruction of ISIS. Could the destruction of ISIS be God’s will? Perhaps. God abhors evil and so should we. But I think Matthew 5:43-48 says something different in how we, as Christians should respond to this travel ban and how we should respond to our enemies. I broke this verse down in a part two of Internal Vs External Righteousness – Great Expectations, but I want to look at it from the two above standpoints, in conjunction with what Jesus said in Matthew 25:31-46 and how we can parallel the two.

  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48 ESV

We are called to show the love of Christ to our enemies, not only are we to love them, but Jesus tells us He wants us to pray for them.
This very illustration is of the fathers love and we are to be abounding in love as Jesus teaches. In that way you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven (v45a NLT).

I don’t think I really need to go into the detail of what the Bible says about loving your enemies because the verse speaks for itself. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it is the Gospel and we are commanded that we obey Jesus’ teachings, this is not an option, nor are there are any exceptions to the above teachings.
There is clearly a lack of compassion from Bible believing, Evangelical proclaiming Christians who seem to lack the character trait for the least of these that Jesus was talking about in Matthew 25. I don’t want to keep beating a dead horse so I’ll move on to the next subject, I think you get my point by now.

  1. Politically (In)Correct:

Breaking news:
Dear Conservatives, Jesus was not a Republican.
Dear Liberals, Jesus was not a Socialist.

Everyone needs to stop politicizing the ministry and teachings of Jesus Christ. The only thing Jesus ever said was to render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesers; and unto God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21 KJV). They were talking about paying taxes. Are we to obey our government? Yes. But as I said before, we are citizens of heaven first, Americans and our political affiliation is dead last.  We ourselves are sojourners, refugees and immigrants to the land of the free, because of the brave and by the true grace and blessing of the one true God. There is no doubt that God has blessed the United States of America richly.

There is nothing wrong whatsoever with getting involved in politics, as a matter of fact if you know me well enough, you’ll know that it’s one of my greater passions in life.
But it becomes a problem when we are consumed more with politics than we are with God. Anything that satisfies and consumes us more than God is an idol, and idolatry is strictly forbidden (1 Corinthians 10:1-22). I am very guilty of the sin of placing politics before God.

While I have nothing against getting involved in politics, at one point I was very involved myself.  I think we as Conservative Christians have placed more of an emphasis on politics than what we have on Jesus.
I am a recovering political activist. I used to be consumed with politics every day to where I was listening to political radio every single day. The only thing that ever resulted from it was anger. I was always upset and was stirred up about something or was always worried. Then one day, it hit me. I didn’t need to be so consumed by things of this world and the only thing that I should be consumed with is Christ. I made politics to be my idol instead of being satisfied and consumed in Jesus.

What breaks my heart is people who are claiming to be Republican Evangelical Christians are the ones lacking compassion for the least of these like Jesus was talking about. You know who is showing illegal immigrants and refugees compassion and literally exemplifying the love of Christ? The liberal left. Many of whom are anti-Christian and are the one are showing the attribute of loving others better than we are.

 

In conclusion, not only for myself but for my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ: we need to stop worrying so much. The sky is not falling and the world is not ending (as of now anyway). It doesn’t matter who is President or who runs the House and the Senate of country, the forces of evil will not stop just because we have a Republican President. We need to be more Kingdom Minded. We need to have more compassion.
We as Christians need to have more compassion for the least of these like Christ commanded us. We are called to be humble, gentle and patient, bearing with one another in love (Ephesians 4:2). We need to show grace to others as Christ showed us grace and not to live like the world because God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
We are called to be compassionate to others because Christ was compassionate to us (Galatians 5:13).
We need to remember that we ourselves are not citizens of this world, but sojourners ourselves in a foreign land (1 Peter 2:11-12).

Stop and think on these things. Pray and ask God to reveal something to you through the reading of His Word about compassion.

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Internal vs External Righteousness – Great Expectations – Part Three

In part two I focused on anger, lust, and divorce. In part three, although it is short, I focus on oaths, retaliation and loving your enemies. This is the last part from Matthew 5, next I will be moving into Matthew 6.

Oaths

The telling of the complete truth at all times is so fraught with danger, that it is possible only to the one who trusts completely in God. Once my word is not regarded as reliable, I shall try to establish my integrity by the use of oaths; but these tend rapidly to become mechanical and virtually meaningless. The rabbis tried to counter this by laying down oaths which could be relied on. Jesus is concerned here, not with the demands of authority that under certain circumstances an oath be taken, but with the perfect honesty which will make oaths unnecessary. I, as a Christian, am entitled to expect that those who know me will accept my word, if I am invariably truthful. Why should a person judge, or other authorized person, who does not know me, accept my unwarranted statement that I am a Christian and release me from an oath, or affirmation which is an oath under another name?

The Old Testament recognized the useful role of swearing oaths in certain situations (Even God swore oaths: Gen 22:16; Jos 5:6; Ps 89:3-4,35; Isa 45:22; Jer 22:5; Eze 26:7). Jesus was urging the honesty and integrity in our speech that swearing oaths in support of assertions or commitments would not be necessary.

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:33-37

Matthew 23:16-22 is considered here also, this time it was spoken as a woe to the scribes and the Pharisees. When the teachers of the law and the Pharisees took an oath, they differentiated between what was binding and what was not. This allowed for evasive-oath-taking. Jesus rejected all subtleties by showing how foolish they were and by insisting that people simply tell the truth. I will dive deeper into this in a later lesson, because the entire context of Matthew 23 and the Seven Woes is extremely rich, that I’d like to go into greater detail in that in a separate blog.

Retaliation/Love Your Enemies

Any and every effort to explain these verses in terms of law is bound to fail. We are simply given a picture of how the regenerate will behave if they respond to their new nature.
The law, eye for eye, and tooth for tooth (Ex 21:24; Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21) does not command revenge, but moderation in revenge, which should not exceed the damage done. While the high-priestly party among the Sadducees still applied the law literally at this time, most Pharisees insisted on the monetary equivalent’s being paid. These limitations prohibited exacting a great vengeance or having different penalties for different social classes. Jesus contradicted those who saw in this principle grounds for personal vengeance.

The context of verse 39 (do not resist the one who is evil), means that one should not seek justice for oneself. There is no suggestion that by inaction or silence we should encourage injustice to others. Nor is it implied that we should not lie our case in the Divine Judge’s hands.

In conjunction with this verses 43-44, sum up how we should respond to your enemies. Not only are we to show the love of Christ to our enemies, but we called to pray for them.
This very illustration is of the fathers love and we are to be abounding in love as Jesus teaches. In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven (v45a NLT). We are called to perfection just as our Father is perfect (v48). This perfection does not speak of sinlessness, but that we are feeling towards the perfect in complete control by the Holy Spirit.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 
Matthew 5:38-48 ESV

There is an old song says “They will know that we are Christians by our love…” Even non-believers can show love, but the love that we must show our enemies is the love in regard to favor, goodwill, and benevolence. In return, the effects of benevolence are expressed to wish well to or do good to. Ultimately, we are called to love others the way Christ loved us, in agape love. That doesn’t mean we would do to our enemies what would please them but we would do so but choosing to show them goodwill and benevolence, in the likeness of Christ (Father forgive them, for they know not what they do).

As you can see Matthew 5 is chocked full of a deeper hidden meaning of internal vs external righteousness by focusing on anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation and loving your enemies. These are extremely important because Jesus is setting a new standard, a standard of great expectations for what it means to be one of His disciples.
Likewise, Jesus continues His standards of great expectations in Chapters 6-7, the continuation of The Sermon on the Mount. Each chapter escalates on the other, setting the standard higher and higher.

Internal vs External Righteousness – Great Expectations – Part Two

In part one I observed the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes and what it means to be salt and light.

In the second part, I will be observing the context of the external laws along with Jesus’ standards set for anger, lust and divorce.
These are some hard teachings but it fits well with the context of internal vs external righteousness and Jesus’ great expectations He has for His followers.

C. The External Law

By far the passage here is one of the most staggering things that Jesus teaches during His sermon on the mount. This is where Jesus drops the atomic bomb on what external righteousness looks like in accordance with the Law.

First off, Jesus did not come destroy the Law but to fulfill it and to enable those who trust Him to fulfill its demands. Jesus fulfilled the Law both by His obedience to it and by His sacrificial death, through which He satisfied the law’s demands for those who trust Him.

Over and over again Jesus broke what the Jews called the Law. He came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it. He did this by not observing the handwashing that the Law laid down; He healed sick people on the Sabbath even though it was forbidden by the Law; it was for this very reason that they crucified Him as a law-breaker; yet Jesus seems to speak of the Law with an adoration and reverence that no Rabbi or Pharisee could even begin to fathom.

Let’s be clear that Jesus is not speaking against observing all the requirements but against hypocritical Pharisaical legalism. Such legalism was not keeping the details of the Law but the hollow sham of keeping the Laws externally in an attempt to gain merit before God while breaking them inwardly. It was following the letter of the Law while ignoring its spirit. Jesus was showing the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Law and their view of righteousness by works. Paul speaks of this in greater detail in Ephesians 2:1-10 giving emphasis to the Law and grace. Jesus preaches that righteousness comes only through faith in Him and His work on the cross. In the rest of the chapter, Jesus speaks in great detail with six examples of Pharisaical external righteousness.

Jesus then turned to His relationship to the already living relationship of God. The threefold division of Scripture as we see in Luke 24:44, had not yet become general, so here the Prophets (v17) meant all the books of the Old Testament apart from the Law. He had come to fulfill (pleroo) all of them, but since His great conflict with the Pharisees would be about the Law, He limited His remarks to it. The Law was a revelation of God’s will and it would, therefore, stand until heaven and earth disappear (NIV). To relax a commandment as such (v19) is to claim authority over God thus living in an external self-sovereign-righteousness.

“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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes 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 does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:17-20 ESV

Across the spectrum of translations, verse 18 is worded differently. Hang with me for a moment on this rabbit trail because I think it’s extremely important to point out the context of both part A and part B of this verse as I break down the Greek for “iota” and “dot”; and also what it says at the end of the verse “until all is accomplished”. Within every text, there is a context. The different translations read as follows:

“For verily I say unto you, til heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle, shall in no wise pass from the law, til all be fulfilledKJV
“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished 1977 NASB
“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, nor the least stroke of a pen, will be any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished NIV
“For I assure you: until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished.” HCSB
“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” NLT

Without getting lost in the 6 different translations let’s take a look at the Greek context of the two underlined parts of the verse.

The Greek Word used here is iota; it’s the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet. It’s put (figuratively) for a very small part of anything or otherwise known as a jot as translated in the KJV. The word for “dot” as used in the ESV comes from the Greek word keraia, is a feminine form of the word keras. Keraia means something horn-like, it is the apex of the Hebrew letter, otherwise known as a “tittle” hat tip again to the KJV.

Secondly “until all is accomplished” from the NASB, is the Greek word ginomai, it literally means to come into being, to happen or to become. The word is used with great latitude in a literal, figurative and intensive aspect. It’s derivative from the Greek word genea which literally means generation, by the implication of an age.

So in other words “until all is accomplished” is referring to the full manifestation of God’s kingdom as later seen in Matthew 24-25. As R.C. Sproul sums it up: Jesus kept the Law for you and for me and received the reward for us.

D. You Have Heard That It Was Said…

To follow up the external law, Jesus goes into greater detail of six specific examples of external righteousness of the Pharisees that violates the law itself.
In these next six short warnings from Christ, each escalates from the other to a climax of the point Jesus wants to get across.

This section of teaching is one of the most important in the whole New Testament. There are few important things that need to be pointed out.

First, Jesus speaks with a great authority like no other man has spoken before. When people heard Jesus speak, they would marvel over the authority in which He spoke with. In Mark 1:22 after Jesus had finished preaching in the synagogue in Capernaum, it says: And there were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And in likeness at the end of His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:28-29 it says: And when Jesus had finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

The scribes, like the later rabbis, teach by citing what previous teachers said. Their authority is the tradition. Jesus teachings directly from Scripture with His own authority, confidently correcting what previous generations had said. No one had ever heard anyone teach like this before. Typically teachings were started out with a characteristic phrase like “Thus says the Lord”. The teacher claimed no personal authority over it whatsoever. The characteristic phrase a Scribe or a Rabbi would say is “There is a teaching that…” and would never dare follow it up with an opinion unless he could back it up with teachings of the past. Individuality was the last quality that one would claim. But to Jesus, such a statement required no authority over than that fact that He Himself made it. Jesus was His own authority!

This brings up three interesting things to ponder about:  Jesus was crazy or was just weird and unique. He was a megalomaniac and wanted power. Or Jesus was the Son of God. No one dared to claim such authority when it came to speaking the eternal Word of God.

Anger

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall now murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and who ever says ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser’s hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” – Matthew 5:21-26 ESV

Right off the bat what Jesus said here was extremely startling. He was setting the standard by quoting the ancient law from Exodus 20:13 “You shall not kill!” Not only was he setting the new standard but Jesus was setting an extremely high standard as one who has authority. He said that in God’s sight it was not only the man who committed murder who was guilty, but the man who is angry with his brother is also guilty and liable to judgment.

So then, Jesus condemns all selfish anger. Scripture says that anger is forbidden: James 1:20 and Colossians 3:8 are clear about that. Even the highest of pagans saw the foolishness of anger.

Both King James and the NIV translate the second part of verse 22 in the term “You fool” as its Greek word Raca. Jewish law had sanctions against the word Raca because it was an extreme insult; a man would be condemned for saying such a thing to a brother. The word is extremely difficult to translate because it’s a tone of voice rather than an actual word. The whole accent is an accent of contempt. To put quite simply to call a man Raca was to call him a brainless idiot, a silly fool, or empty-headed. It is a word someone would use if they despised another with arrogant contempt.
The sin of contempt is liable to severe judgment in front of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jews. What Jesus was saying was not meant to be taken literally, but it’s if He was saying that the sin of habitual anger is bad, but the sin of contempt is worse.

Verses 23-25 talks about reconciliation and coming to terms with an offended brother.  It’s extremely important to consider the fact that Jesus knows the high cost of forgiveness. He does so by His sacrifice on the cross (Matthew 27). This verse tends to be over looked because it’s a hard reality to swallow. One might say “You have no idea what he/she said or did to me.” While that may be true Jesus says differently here.
Later on in a conversation with Peter in Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive a brother who sinned against Him. Jesus responded to him that he must forgive his brother seventy times seven times; that’s 490 times!

Jesus is quite clear about this basic fact: We cannot be right with God unless we are right with each other; we cannot hope for forgiveness unless we show others that forgiveness first and confess our sin before God and the person whom we have or was offended.

Lust

This next subject is a difficult one. It is one of the most overlooked sins in the church today because a lot of times it’s a sin that is perfectly acceptable in many social norms and circles and is passed off as “normal”.
Many women and men in the church today struggle with the sins of the flesh. It’s a deep dark place that holds its person captive as a slave. The only freedom a person has is to simply give in the flesh and let it reek its havoc.

That sin is lust. We live in a sexualized culture that is so beyond itself, it has become normal and acceptable everywhere. From television to books, magazines, music and clothing, sex is practically everywhere. Lust has caused issues in marriages and torn apart families. Lust has caused problems in the work place to systemic proportions. Sex and lust have gone from taboo to a social norm.

The biggest pandemic with lust is pornography. It’s a sin most often held in secret and shame. The number of men and women in the Christian church today who view pornography on a weekly basis is staggering. It is an extremely easy sin to cover and the person viewing it can weeks, months, or even years without anyone knowing of it.
Every time someone looks at pornography, they commit adultery with that person in their hearts.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” – Matthew 5:27-30 ESV

This is the second new standard Jesus is laying down and He drops a major bomb on His listeners. The law: “You shall not commit adultery” is from Exodus 20:14. The issue of adultery was so serious that the punished parties would be punished by nothing less than death (Lev 20:10). So once again, Jesus not only drops a bomb on a forbidden action, but He drops another bomb, perhaps a bigger bomb on the very thought of lusting after another individual.

Jesus is not talking about a passing glance or a general normal attraction to those of the opposite sex; but a willful, calculated glance that arouses sexual desire (in other words “checking somebody out”). According to Jesus, this is a form of adultery even if it is only in the heart.

Divorce

Jesus’ teaching on divorce has caused a lot of controversies, therefore it’s important to address it with a few simple facts. (a) Jesus was addressing people whose characters are described in verses 3-10. He was not placing the unregenerate Gentile under greater restriction than had already been laid on the Jew (Dt 24:1-4). (b) From the fact that the punishment for adultery was death, it may be argued that adultery automatically puts an end to marriage, but this cannot be certain from this passage.

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the grounds of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” – Matthew 5:31-32 ESV

Jesus later goes into detail later on in Matthew 19:3-10, where later the Pharisees tested him on the subject of a lawful divorce. So for sake of context, let’s take a look at what the passage has to say.

And the Pharisees came up to Him and tested Him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered them “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to Him, “When then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning, it was not so. And I say to you: Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
The disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

The Pharisees question seems to reflect the opinion of Hillel, a rabbi who allowed divorce for the slightest reason by interpreting “some indecency” in Deut 24:1-4 very broadly. A rival teacher, Shammai, regarded only sexual unchastity as proper grounds. Jesus’ answer transcends this debate about the wording of Deuteronomy and returns to the order of the creation by God (Gen 2:24).

Hearing Jesus’ view of marriage, the Pharisees think they can set Him against Moses. But, Jesus shows that Moses was not justifying divorce, much less “commanding” it, as the Pharisees claim. Rather, Moses’ regulation protected wives in the event of divorce. After a conditional statement “if then”, Deut 24:1-4 ends with the prohibition for a man to remarry who had earlier divorced, treating her like property to be discarded and reacquired at will rather than as a person who is his partner by covenant. A hardness of heart with respect to marriage and divorce is specifically restrained by this case law.

The Greek word for “sexual immorality” is broad, including a number of sexual sins besides adultery. In this clause, Jesus recognizes sexual infidelity strikes at the heart of the marital covenant between spouses and is, therefore, grounds for divorce. However, divorce not mandatory, and reconciliation is desirable.

After Jesus is done teaching the first thing that comes to the disciple’s minds is (my words) “Screw that, I’m just not going to get married!” The disciple’s reaction seems both selfish and cynical. Jesus acknowledges that the lifelong commitment of marriage can only be fulfilled through God’s gifting and may not be His calling to all. Others may pursue the single life by choice, for the sake of advancing God’s kingdom as we see written in 1 Corinthians 7:7-9.

In part three I will continue to observe the remainder of Matthew 5 while talking about oaths, retaliation, and loving your enemies.
Part four I will begin to talk about the parables and what it means in connection to internal vs external righteousness.

Internal vs External Righteousness – Great Expectations Part One

This is the beginning of a multiple part series I’m calling Internal vs External Righteousness – Great Expectations.
In this first series I focus on the teaches of Jesus in particular the Beatitudes and what it means to be salt and light. This will eventually lead up to Jesus’ continued teachings of parables and what it means to have an internal relationship with Him versus having external righteousness, namely by works, which I spoke of briefly in a previous blog when I focused on Ephesians 2:1-10.

“Authentic righteousness involves obedience to the commands of God.” – RC Sproul
What does authentic righteousness look like? What does it mean to have authentic faith?

In Matthew 5:20 Jesus says “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.”
What did Jesus mean when He said this? This is an internal versus an external faith paradigm.

The Pharisees had an external faith. To be clear, Jesus was not criticizing the Pharisees strict observation of the law, but for the emphasis on the external conformity to it without the heart application. They lacked the internal relationship and heart application of the scriptures they so diligently practiced. They knew the Scriptures inside and out, forwards and backwards and every which way the pendulum could swing. But, they only had an external faith because they wanted everyone to see how righteous they were. By focusing on their external righteousness, they avoided the real intent of the law and ignored its real demands. Jesus goes quite into detail of their external righteousness in Matthew 23.

While this issue speaks more about legalism, the sentiment here is the external hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:20, is rather startling when I look at it from a deeper context. The deeper issue we see here is Jesus’ warning of external righteousness and the lack of internal righteousness. You cannot “check the box” your way into Heaven. You can go to church every Sunday, go to a Bible study every Wednesday, pray, read your Bible etc, but still be stuck in the religiosity of external righteousness. Jesus breaks this down multiple times, particularly in the parables, in which I will get into greater detail in another blog.
The parables should shake you to the very core, lest you be stuck in external religiosity. Even more so, in Revelation, the letters to the seven churches, which I’ll also dive into, is a screaming warning of external religiosity and the dangers of carnal Christianity.

This is such a deep complex subject, because it’s written all over in the teachings of Christ, Paul, the book of James and in the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation. My ultimate goal is to explain all of these in a greater detail in multiple blog posts.
Many of the things written in scriptures are startling and it really tells us, as His elect how we are supposed to live our lives in accordance with said scriptures. Jesus’ parables alone, will separate the men from the boys for a lack of better terms.

With that being said: What does it look like for our righteousness to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees?

PART I: The Teachings of Jesus Christ
First and foremost let’s examine the teachings of Jesus, primarily what does Jesus have to say about internal vs external righteousness?
Towards the end of His ministry on earth before His resurrection, Jesus began to speak in parables. The term “parable” like the Old Testament term translated as “proverb”, refers broadly to a comparison of some sort. Most of Jesus’ parables are clear, but some contained a depth of meaning that one a person with the right relationship with Jesus would have understood. Only in the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:18-23) and the parable of the weeds (vv. 36-43) does he give an interpretation to the disciples. Otherwise, the ungodly are left to miss the deeper meaning, because of their darkened thoughts and hearts, they a lacked a relationship with God (Romans 1:21).
But first, with every text there is a context. Therefore, I want to dial it back a bit to Matthew 5-7, by looking at The Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus begins to break down what it means to be one of His disciples.

Chapter 1: The Sermon on the Mount

A: The Beatitudes
I love how Matthew 5:2 (NASB) starts out by saying “And opening His mouth He began to teach them saying,” and then He begins His teaching with what’s known as The Beatitudes. He, Jesus, the Word became Flesh, God incarnate was about to drop a bomb on His disciples and the multitudes that came to hear Him teach.
He started saying how blessed 9 groups of people are followed by an eternal reward.

“And he opened His mouth and taught them saying:
Blessed are the poor in the spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:2-11 (ESV)

There is an interesting contrast between The Sermon on the Mount in Mathew 5:2-11 and the Law-giving in Luke 6:20-23. The latter begins with the Ten Commandments, which give the fundamental laws governing the behavior of those that would be in a covenant relationship with God. The Beatitudes are addressed to those who show their lives that they have achieved what the Decalogue demands. So far from being a new law, as some dispensationalists believe, the Sermon describes the life of those who by grace have passed beyond the law. The contrast between the two in Luke 6:20-23 reads as follows:

“And He lifted up His eyes on His disciples and said:
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” Luke 6:20-23 ESV

What’s interesting in the account of the Beatitudes written in Matthew and then in Luke. Jesus follows up the Beatitudes with a list of “woes” in verses 24-26 that have a counterpart with the blessings of the previous verses. The woes were meant to be for those who do not realize their spiritual poverty but rely on their own achievements (external righteousness), and will reap the consequences until the end. The term “woe” often introduces a prophetic oracle of dooms.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
Woe to you when people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” Luke 6:24-26 ESV

Both version begin with a series of utterances, defining true blessings, which form as it were the text which the rest of the sermon expounds. Matthew has a series of nine; of these Luke chose to select the first, fourth, second and ninth; but adds them to four antithetical woes, which recall the prophetic language of the Old Testament. Furthermore, whereas the account of the Beatitudes were written in third person, Luke chooses to use them in the second person form.
Since the Beatitudes are worded differently between Matthew and Luke, some have claimed that Luke was focusing entirely on socioeconomic categories, as opposed to Matthew’s more spiritual focus. However, the word for “poor” (anawim) in Luke’s account is used in the Old Testament and first century Judaism to describe pious people (e.g. 2 Sam 22:28; Ps 12:5, 69:29; Is 49:13). The “poor” are those who have God as their only resource. Thus, in Luke’s account, they are associated with the Son of Man and the prophets and expect end-times vindication on the one hand and are identified with Jesus’ disciples on the other. Matthews use of the word “poor in spirit” (Mt 5:3), makes the implication explicit. Jesus more than likely said something as how Luke phrased it, and Matthew chose to phrase it to bring out the implication. Therefore, Jesus’ coming is especially good news for the poor and the oppressed.

B. Salt and Light
In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus continues to keep His focus on character rather than works. Salt and light function in virtue of what they are, not what they do. It is probably the preservation rather than the seasoning value of salt which here is being stressed. The emphasis of salt losing its saltiness in verse 13, this is usually explained by the salt being the outside layer of rock salt, where the salinity has been lost by the action of the sun and rain or that it has been adulterated. Neither really suits the context. Rather the physically impossible shows that the disciple without a salty effect has never been a true one. Note that our light (v16) is not our good deeds, rather the means by which people see that they are good. So again, we see Jesus’ contrast about internal vs external righteousness.

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness {has become tasteless NASB}, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 NIV

In verse 14 the word used for “light” (phos) means to make manifest, especially by rays. In comparison with the word luminous (phaniano) meaning to lighten or show or literally appear, seem, be seen or shine. The emphasis here is much greater then light itself. In the same way (v16) we are to let that manifested ray of light shine before men.
Later on in Matthew 6:1, Jesus was speaking of an external righteousness; but that is not the case in 5:16. Here Jesus commended good works properly motivated, so that God might be glorified. In verse 6:1 He discouraged improperly motivated good works, namely those intended to bring self-glorification (external righteousness). The stress was not on the openness or hiddenness of actions but on the reasons for them.
It’s extremely important that that we put emphasis on the fact that our good deeds not ought to bring attention to ourselves, but to God. What Jesus is saying here is him speaking out against “theatrical goodness” much like that of the Pharisees that Jesus later warns about in verse 20.

In part two I will focus on the Jesus’ warning of the external fulfillment of the Law

The Grace of God – Sola Gratia

The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink. – The Grace of God

Grace is a perfection of the Divine character which is exercised only toward the elect. Grace is the sole source from which flows the goodwill, love and salvation of God unto His chosen people.
Abraham Booth in his book The Reign of Grace he said “It is the eternal and absolute free favor of God, manifested in the vouchsafement (to grant of, give as a favor) of spiritual and eternal blessings to the guilty and the unworthy.”
Divine grace is the sovereign and saving favor of God exercised in the bestowment of blessings upon those who have no merit in them and for which no compensation is demanded from them. It is the favor of God shown to those who not only have no positive deserts of their own, but who are thoroughly ill-deserving and hell-deserving (total depravity). Grace can neither be bought, earned nor won by any creature. If it could be, it would cease to be grace. Grace is eternal, grace is free, grace is Sovereign.

There are three principle characteristics of Divine grace.

  1. Grace is eternal. – It was planned before it was exercised.2 Timothy 1:8-9
    Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.

    – The goal of God’s election and calling is the sanctification of His people as we see in Ephesians 1:4-6.Ephesians 1:4-6

    Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love, He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
    This is a marvelous affirmation that salvation is by grace, not by human merit. I’ll get into detail on this when we look at my primary text in Ephesians 2:1-10.
  2. Grace is free – No one can purchase it – “Being justified freely by His grace” (Romans 3:24 KJV).
  3. Grace is Sovereign – God exercises it and gives it to whom He pleases.
    Romans 5:20-21
    And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    If grace does indeed reign, it is on the throne and the occupant of said throne is Sovereign

Hebrews 4:16
Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
In page 86 from The Attributes of God, A.W. Pink sums up grace as unmerited favor of God. Pink says “Just because grace is unmerited favor, it must be exercised in a sovereign manner. Therefore does the Lord declare ‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious (Exodus 33:19)’. Were God to show grace to all of Adam’s descendants, men would at once conclude that he was righteously compelled to take them to heaven as a meet compensation for allowing the human race to fall into sin. But the great God is under no obligation to any of His creatures, least of all to those who are rebels against Him.”

 

  1. Eternal life is a gift – therefore it can neither be earned by good works, nor claimed as a right. Seeing that salvation is a gift, no one has the right to tell God who he ought to give it to.
    After this A.W. Pink asked a few questions that seemed rather startling to me when I first read them. When I taught the lesson I almost didn’t ask these two questions:
    Is God obligated to force His gift on those who do not value it?
    Is God compelled to save those who are determined to go their own way?
    I think the return answer is “no” simply because God is Sovereign. The answer can be found in Exodus 33:19 KJV, again as it says, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious”Therefore, grace cannot be earned or won by any efforts of man is too self-emptying for self-righteousness. Grace singles out whom it places to be for the elect only, raising protest from people who want to rebel against God. The distinguishing grace of God is seen in saving the elect that He Sovereignly chose to be his favorites. By “distinguishing” it means grace discriminates, makes differences chooses some while passing others. It was distinguishing grace that chose Abraham from the midst of idolatrous neighbors and made him a “friend of God”.

In Matthew 15:10-14 the disciples gave quite the opinion to Jesus about the Pharisees. But Jesus did not hesitate and said that no one “has authority that is not planted by God”, and think they can lead others but are blind themselves. The Scripture reads as follows:

Matthew 15:10-14 ESV

And he called the people to him and said to them “Hear and understand; it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my Heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone, they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Nowhere does the glory of God’s free and sovereign grace more conspicuously than in the unworthiness and unlikeliness of its objects.
Beautifully said by James Harvey (1751) he said: “Where sin has abounded, says the proclamation from the court of heaven, grace doth much more abound”.

Now the grace of God is manifested in and by and through the Lord Jesus Christ
John 1:17

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.

Grace and truth were fully revealed and perfectly exemplified when Jesus came to this earth and died for His elect upon the cross. It is through Christ the mediator alone, that the grace of God flows to His elect as we see in Romans 5:15-21.
Romans 5:15-21

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand, the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression by the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted in condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted in justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the any were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the any will be made righteous. And the Law came in that the transgressions might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

I think it’s extremely crucial as we focus on the take away from what Paul is saying in the above text in Romans 5. It’s a presentation of the word justification. Without justification, grace would no longer be grace and it would cease to exist. The Greek word for justification is dikaiôma, which means an equitable deed. But in this passage, it’s meant as doing right or justice for someone, in a favorable sense. Without being acquitted of our sins, we are still held under the punishment of the Law, and grace wouldn’t exist, thus the importance of the justification of our sins.

 

  1. The grace of God is proclaimed in the Gospel – In Acts 20:24, it announces that unless we are saved by grace, we cannot be saved at all. It declares apart from Christ, the gift of God’s grace the state of every man is desperate, irremediable (no hope for a cure), and hopeless. The Gospel address men as guilty, condemned, perishing criminals. THANK GOD FOR GRACE. Grace is our only hope.
    Every person stands before God condemned as sinners of His Holy Law. Merely awaiting a death sentence, but because of grace, the sentence has passed from them as we see stated in John 3:18 and in Romans 3:19.
    Our only hope is grace, relying on the mercy of God.
    The Gospel sets us free. It is the publisher of grace, the Holy Spirit is the bestower and our guide.On page 90 from The Attributes of God, Pink ends the chapter with a quote by G.S. Bishop about why we need grace and how totally and utterly depraved we are without it.Grace is a provision for men who are so fallen that they cannot lift the axe of justice, so corrupt that they cannot change their own natures, so averse to God that they cannot turn to Him, so blind that they cannot see Him, so deaf that they cannot hear Him, and so dead that He Himself must open their graves and lift them into resurrection.


The scriptures are full of verses about God’s grace, and even though it’s something we don’t deserve, God in His loving kindness wants the best for our lives. As we discover God’s riches for us written in the Scriptures for our lives through grace, we come to realize how amazing the gift of grace truly is. The scripture I chose to go more into detail in was from Ephesians 2:1-10. The primary context of the point Paul is trying to get across climaxes at verses 8-9. But I felt it was extremely necessary to go to the start to find out the reason of what he meant by “for by grace you have been saved” and why we are made alive in Christ because of grace.

Ephesians 2:1-10
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the Heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, in order that He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

There is a lot being said here, so with the help of William Barclay and the ESV Reformation Study Bible, let’s break this down into laymen’s terms.

(v 1-3) When Paul speaks of “you” in verse 2 he means Gentiles; when he speaks of “us” in the other passages he is speaking of the Jews. In this passage, Paul was showing how Christ’s life was like for Jews and Gentiles alike bringing them together is one in Christ.
(i) When Paul says that life was filled with sin and trespasses, the Greek word for sin is hamartis. It’s derived from a shooting word (as in archery) and it literally means a miss. Sin is a failure to hit the target of life. Hamartis, brings us face to face with what sin is, the failure to be what it ought to be.

When we come to realize what sin is, we see that it’s not something that theologians made up. It is something with which life is permeated. It is a failure in any sphere of life to be what we ought to be and could be.

The word Paul uses for trespasses is paraptoma. It Greek it literally means to slip or fall. Trespass is taking the wrong road when we should have taken the right one. It is missing the truth that we should have known. Therefore, it’s a failure to reach the goal we are striving for.
The central idea of sin is failure, failure to hit the target, failure to take the right turn on the road, and failure to make life what it could become.

There are five points that can be summed up in these three verses:

First, the natural state of all human beings is spiritual death.
Second, in our natural state, we are active in rebellion against God.
Third, we are subject to the evil rule of Satan (v2)
Fourth, We are fully unable to cease our rebellion against God
Fifth, we are totally exposed to the just anger of God.

(v4-10) In verse 1 Paul began by saying that we are dead our trespasses and sins, now he is saying that God in His love and mercy, made us alive in Jesus Christ. So with that being said, what did Paul mean by that?

We see three things involved in being dead in sins and trespasses.

  • We see that sin kills innocence. Not even Jesus can give man back his innocence, because by nature we are still yet sinners, but what he can do is take away the guilt and shame associated with the sin and we are no longer guilty.
    The first thing sin does is creates a feeling of estrangement between us and God. As we see in Isaiah 6:5 and Luke 5:8, both Isaiah and Peter have a similar reaction when they realize they are unworthy of coming before God because of their sinful nature.
    Isaiah 6:5 “Woe is me, for I am ruined! I am a man if unclean lips.”
    Luke 5:8 “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”Enter Jesus. He takes away this estrangement. He tells us, despite our sinful nature, through His saving Sovereign grace the door is open, the veil is torn, and we have full access to the Holy of Holies. We can enter into the presence of God and the only sacrifice we have to offer is ourselves.
    This is a HUGE paradigm shift when you break down what it means for the veil to be torn between us and God. When you look in Leviticus 16-23, we can see the Law and the Day of Atonement it’s extremely crucial to know just how important it is that we no longer have to go through the veil to have complete access to the presence of God. The Law is extremely detailed and every single step is very important. If one step is missed, the high priest would fall to his death before the presence of God because he was not worthy to be in God’s presence.
  • We see that sin kills the ideals by which men live. Jesus regenerates this ideal in the hearts of His elect. The grace of Jesus rekindles the ideals which repeated failing to sin has extinguished. And by that, we are free from sin and we can live life again in freedom.
  • Greater than anything else, Jesus revives and restores the lost will. Sin slowly destroys man’s will, Jesus recreates our will.
    This is what Christ does for us. When we love Him, that love restores and regenerates our will towards goodness.Finally, Paul closes this passage with a great exposition with an interesting two-sided paradox. This is where Paul really drives home the real meat and potatoes of this passage.Paul insists that it is by grace that we are saved. We have not, and cannot earn our salvation. It is a gift from God and our job is to accept the gift. This is true for two reasons
    – God is perfect. Therefore, only perfection is good for Him. In our fallen nature, we cannot bring perfection to God. So if we can ever earn our way towards God in our fallen nature, it must always be God who gives the gift of perfection through saving grace.
    – God is love. Sin therefore is a crime, not against law but against love. Now it’s possible to make atonement for a broken law (but it’s also a vicious never ending cycle), but it’s impossible to make atonement for a broken heart. Sin not only breaks God’s Holy and Perfect Law but it also breaks His heart.

    The only thing that can restore this relationship between God and man is free forgiveness and the gift of grace.

In conclusion to this text, works have nothing to do with earning salvation. Yet Paul goes on to say we are recreated by God for good works. Now this where the paradox climaxes and it results of a major paradigm shift.
While it seems rather contradicting, all the good works in the world cannot put us right before God. Good works can never earn salvation. Yet the paradox here is there is something radically wrong if our salvation does not produce good works. (I can imagine a dog turning its head to the side after I read that. So let me explain a little better.)

It is not that our good works put God in our debt, rather its God’s love that lay on us the obligation through a regenerated heart to try throughout all of our life to be worthy of it.
This is our relationship with God.

We know that God wants us to do. God has prepared the life before us the life He expects us to live as chosen people. He tells us how to do so in his Holy Word and through His Son Jesus.

Only faith, not works can bring acceptance with God. God good works are vital and are evidence of a life with God. Our good works are a fruit of salvation, not its cause, those who do not produce good works show that they do not have a saving faith. If we look at James 2, it explains this paradox more in detail about faith and works.

James 2:14-26
What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but has no works? Can that faith save him? If brother or sister is without clothing and need of daily food, and one of you says to them “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled”, and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our faith justified by works, when he offered up Isaac; his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of he works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says ‘And Abraham believed God, and I was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, and not by faith alone. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

In final conclusion: We cannot earn Gods love, but we can and must show how grateful we are for His saving grace. We do this but seeking with our whole hearts, to live the kind of life that we are commanded to live. Daily we must come before God with empty buckets asking God for grace. Jesus doesn’t just deconstruct but He reconstructs us through grace, therefore we must DAILY renew our mind with our empty buckets.  And that brings true joy to the Father’s heart.

 

**All scripture is from NASB 1977 unless otherwise noted

***All commentary and notes are derived from The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink. William Barclay and the ESV Reformation Study Bible

 

 

To Which Kingdom Do You Belong?

We must trust in the Sovereignty and Providence of God and to His promise of a better world to come. Our hope is in Christ and not in a president or in our government. (Revelation 11:15).
We must remember that ultimately we are not in control of the world events around us. We must trust in God and in His Sovereign will for our nation.

 We need to be more passionate about advancing the gospel than we are a political agenda. We need to fix the church before we go “make America great again.”

The things of this earth will pass but when we leave from here we are taking the gospel with us, not our political affiliation. 

So, where are we placing our hope? Are we placing our hope and building a castle in a kingdom that will fail? Or are we placing our hope in the Eternal Kingdom built for us in the Kingdom of Heaven?

By no means does this mean you should avoid politics, but we must put God first and above all. Because if we place our hope in an earthly kingdom we will be let down. 

If anything remember this: the Kingdom of God does not advance through political power but through the gospel. (Phillipines 3:20, Hebrews 11:9-10). 

Lukewarm 


I can either choose to live a life of righteousness or choose to live in sin. I cannot do both. 

In the book of Revelation 3:20 God says he hates lukewarm Christians. Either you are full on for God or you are not there is no in between 

As for myself? I’ve been living in the land in between. I am a wretched man. One day I’m all in for God and in the same day I fold it all and am ice cold. 

 More often than not I’m ice cold. Makes me really wonder where my priorities lay anymore.