Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday March 20, 2014 Matthew 5:17-20

17 “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. 18 For truly I tell you, 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. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly 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. 20 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. NIV Matthew 5:17-20
Jesus did not come to challenge God’s laws, but to fulfill them.   He took numerous opportunities to explain this during His time on earth, and sums it up in Luke,  Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27

God’s core message for his people has always been consistent. Jesus describes it this way; “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself0 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40.  Jesus’ life perfectly embodied this.  Because of our own sinful nature we, God’s people, continue to struggle with this.  Jesus’ life was an example for us to follow.  How closely we abide by God’s law during our lifetime will determine how great our reward is in heaven.  The amount of effort we put forth here on earth will determine our roll in eternity.  How wonderful and amazing for us that just a short lifetime of faith, obedience and submission will lead us to an ETERNITY of joy!
The Pharisees were known to practice hypocritical legalism. They interpreted and altered God’s laws for their own benefit, claiming to follow the laws externally to gain favor with God, while breaking them inwardly with selfish intent. Jesus cautioned against this.  One must be righteous, as well as believe that Jesus is the son of God, to get into heaven.  Righteousness is not earned by works, but comes about by following Jesus with pure intent and a good heart.  We must be very careful not to alter and interpret God’s laws for our own benefit.  EVERYTHING we do should  be for the glory of God!  --Kelly Supek


Linda W said...

"How closely we abide by God’s law during our lifetime will determine how great our reward is in heaven."

Would you share more about what you mean here? Thank you!

Kelly Supek said...

I'm taking that from verse 19 which says, "Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly 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." Considering these words, coupled with the latter about the righteousness (or lack thereof) of the Pharisees, I believe it to mean that if you alter or change (your actions) God's commands in any way for your own benefit, you may still get to heaven, but will not be regarded as highly as you would if you had purely followed (your actions) His command. My assumption is that by "command" he means God's laws, Jesus's teachings, and everything God teaches us through scripture. These commands show us how God wants us to act. How closely we choose to abide by them directs all of our decisions in life. In addition, scripture tells us that living in obedience to God's direction will result in reward. Some state WHEN the reward will be given, others do not. Here are a few examples:
Matthew 6:16-18
“And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
Matthew 6:1-6
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
Matthew 6:20
“But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…” lay up for yourselves, I interpret this to mean that by our actions we can obtain treasures in heaven.
Perhaps most convincing of all:
Matthew 16:27
For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.
I’m sure there are additional scriptures, but these are a representative few supporting why I believe that how well we abide by God’s laws (or commands/what he tells us to do) can determine our rewards in heaven.
In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren writes “ From the Bible we can surmise that God will ask us two crucial questions [on judgment day]: First, “What did you do with my Son, Jesus Christ?” . . . did you accept what Jesus did for you and did you learn to love and trust him? Second, “What did you do with what I gave you?” What did you do with your life?
The first will determine where you spend eternity. The second question will determine what you do in eternity.”
Each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God . . .Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God.” Romans 14:10b, 12

Linda W said...

Thanks Kelly-- I think we may be running up against a limitation inherent in cyber community that is not part of face to face fellowship. I appreciate you taking so much time to share this and I agree with much of what you've written here. Please grace me here if I'm less than clear here in my writing. I'm sure if we were sitting together, it would be easy to understand what we're both talking about.

My question comes more from the perspective of works righteousness and the health and wealth teaching so prevalent today . I've heard it expressed this way, "People nowadays want the bread on the table, but not the baker." I.e.; God as a means to an end, not an end in and of Himself.

You are so right that God that God commands obedience and he cares about our hearts and motivation a lot. As you point out, God can still use impure motives, but ultimately he calls us to repentance sin and self-righteousness. So I don't think we disagree, I'm just trying to reflect more about our contemporary idea of "reward".

My humble thoughts about obedience and reward-- The finished work of the cross and the amazing implications of Romans 5:6-8 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 cause us to love God more completely, stand in complete awe of Him, repent, and pour out our lives in gratitude for His saving grace. Not only are our hearts changed, but our priorities change--what we deem important is transformed by the Gospel.

Our obedience is then a response to grace, not an effort to win acceptance or reward from God. We WANT to obey a God that amazing that we love so deeply. We want Jesus for the sheer joy of Jesus. There's a peace and joy in this whether your life is filled with material abundance, your body is broken by disease or disability, or you live on a dollar a day in Africa.

My own love for God grew much more from my failures and pain than my successes. I know high-achieving people who have impeccable moral records and outward obedience, but also self-centered, prideful hearts, and in some cases, secret lives of sin.


Kelly Supek said...

I understand what you’re asking, Linda, and I will try to explain a bit more. Only God can know one's heart. I believe that if you follow God with a pure heart and good intent, to the best of your ability, He will reward you. That said, following God focused only on what you will gain from it, is contrary to all of these things. It is contrary because it is void of the knowledge and acceptance that God is our creator and Savior, and that we have NO purpose but that for which He made us. That said, staying pure, selfless, and faithful to God's word is NOT easy. It takes LOTS of effort and is our quest to be as righteous as possible in God's eyes. We do this in gratitude for all He has done for us, in respect for Him as our creator, because it pleases Him and, of course, because He loves us and we love Him. I believe scripture tells us that we will be rewarded for this. How we will be reward is yet to be seen. James 5:16b says, "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." This may open an even larger can of worms, but I believe it means that God is especially attentive to the prayers of the righteous. This in itself could be considered a reward. I also understand that whether or not He grants their requests depends on His own will. In the end, we as Christians believe that the Bible is the LIVING, breathing word of God and, with the power of the Holy Spirit living within us, God will speak to us through His word. He may speak to you differently than He speaks to me. We all receive our own, unique messages as God ushers us along in our journey to grow closer to Him and our own, God-given purpose. For me, staying focused on God in this broken world is easier when I hold onto His word and His promises tightly, and with both hands. It reminds me that this life is temporary, and that staying on the straight and narrow path and keeping my eye on the prize will lead me directly to Jesus (the prize) and an unimaginably amazing eternity. We deserve NOTHING from God, and the more we are aware of this, the easier it is to live in accordance with His commands. To further clarify, I am not speaking of our efforts in the secular sense as in what we've done, or what OTHERS can outwardly see. Not even in the pains or trials we've endured gracefully. What I am referring to is the deepest and most personal part of our hearts where temptation tries to take hold, our intentions are formed, our character evolves, and faith lays its roots. It is here where we wrestle with the ongoing decisions of everyday life and measure them against God's laws. It is here that we find our humility. It is here where God sees who we truly are. We must be very careful of our own motives, and we must not compare our journey with anyone else’s. We must remain focused on our own, vertical relationship with God, and what He is telling us to do. Only God can know someone’s true heart, we must take care to focus only on our own. I hope this helps clarify what I was trying to say.

Linda W said...

Thanks Kelly! Yes-- God's word is truth and the gospel is meant to be lived out now. If not, Christianity devolves into just another set of ideas in the American consumer's religious marketplace. And you're right, the idea of rewards is complicated-- it gets touchy because some Christians use this concept to puff up their importance and look down on others. I love what Timothy Keller says about the idea of rewards and humility-- (paraphrasing) "Faith is a gift from God, not a moral virtue. If you have more of it than someone else, be thankful."