Today's Word of Encouragement
Sunday, June 07, 2020
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).
Many of the things Jesus taught challenged the accepted norm of the day. For example, If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26-27).
In Matthew 5:20 Jesus presented an impossible challenge. Do not make the mistake of separating 5:20 from 5:17-19. If you do, you will fall into the trap of interpreting v. 20 to mean, “The righteousness of the Pharisees is based on their superior obedience to God’s Law. If the only way we can enter the Kingdom is to be superior to their obedience, then no one can be saved. Therefore, Jesus was not trying not encouraging righteous obedience to God’s Law. He was only emphasizing how far we fall short.”
That’s not what Jesus said or meant. The whole point of the Sermon on the Mount is a call to a genuine righteousness that was uncommon in His day. It is a call to righteous living that does not avoid God’s Law in light of God’s grace, but demonstrates a genuine righteousness the Pharisees never had. Theirs was a self-righteousness based on pride and ego. Jesus calls us to a righteousness based on our love for God, a holy righteousness that is pure and unadulterated. Such love for God compels us to honor His commandments and obey His principles of holy living.
Remember that at this point in the Sermon Jesus is referring to those who have already entered the Kingdom by experiencing the principles in vv. 3-6. The Pharisees were outside the Kingdom because they saw no need for acknowledging their sinful depravity, godly sorrow for their sin, humbling themselves under the authority of God, or cultivating a hunger for true righteousness which leads to salvation. They practiced self-righteousness in hopes that God would declare them good enough to enter His Kingdom.
It’s the same argument Paul made in Ephesians 2:8-10, For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. We are saved by grace through faith to do works of righteousness. Our good works cannot save us, but our good works prove we are saved. A big part of those good works is righteous obedience to the teachings of Jesus.
“Father, continue to mold and shape me into the image of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that I may honor you through a holy and righteous life. I could never exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, so I thank You for the righteousness of Jesus Christ that has been imputed to me because I have believed in and received Him as my Lord and Savior. Continue to give me a hunger and thirst for Your righteousness. Amen”