Lustful Intent

Journal Entry // April 29, 2023

“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. (ESV)

Matthew 5:27–28

As Jesus helped us understand that he has come not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it, so too does he now take the time to correctly interpret some points of the Law and teach us to better understand the spirit of the law and not just the letter of the law. He has previously interpreted for us the deeper true meaning of “Do not murder”. Here Jesus now brings us to the commandment to not commit adultery. Again, Jesus here brings a point of emphasis that centers on the heart and not just the outward expressions that everyone can see. Jesus is teaching us that the true intentions of our hearts are important. More than that, our heart’s motivations are essential to following Christ and living a holy godly life.

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Merciful Reconciliation

Journal Entry // April 9, 2023

Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. [26] Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. (ESV)

Matthew 5:25-26

Jesus is now ending this section on anger with a real-world example of how important and prudent reconciliation is in our relationships. Jesus is commending the person who understands the necessity of reconciliation before it is too late. In this case, the person who is being called to court before a judge is exhorted to reconcile with his accuser way before the judge has an opportunity to put him in prison. I have read this verse so many times, but this is probably the first time I have noticed that the person going to court to face his accuser is actually guilty. There is an assumption in this story that the judge is going to place the man in prison if he is not reconciled with his accuser. It’s not a matter of mediation or compromise, it is reconciliation through mercy and grace. In this, Jesus is showing us that we are the ones in desperate need of spiritual reconciliation with God.  We are the ones on the way to court with our accuser and we already stand guilty before the judge. Yet, God in his unlimited mercy and grace offers us reconciliation and mercy through the saving work of Christ on the cross.

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Prioritize Reconciliation

Journal Entry // April 6, 2023

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (ESV)

Matthew 5:23-24

Once again Jesus is demonstrating the importance of dealing with sin that has captured and ensnared us. Here he tells us that reconciliation with the one we have wronged is more important than the gift we are offering to God. Truly, in order for us to have an acceptable offering to God, we must first be reconciled with others. Harboring anger and bitterness or having wronged someone is to always precede sacrifice and service toward God. Reconciliation with our brother is vital to our reconciliation with God.

First be reconciled. This is a bit surprising to read. My first inclination is to think that I must first give my offering to God. That I must prioritize my service and offering to God over and above anything. So to read Jesus instructing me to seek reconciliation with my brother first, seems contradictory. Shouldn’t I first come before the Lord in humility?

Isn’t this the key though? How can I come before the Lord in humility when my heart is harboring anger, resentment, or bitterness toward my brother? How can I truly seek the Lord with a humble heart, when my brother has something against me? To restore fellowship with God, I must first restore fellowship with my brother.

How do I know when my brother has something against me? I would like to say that I probably already know when I have wronged another. Unless my anger and bitterness are blinding me, my heart should already perceive the broken fellowship and relationship. Or I am blind to it, then the Lord will reveal this to me. Notice that Jesus tells me to leave my gift on the alter. Here there is a blindness or ignorance to the need for reconciliation and an assumption that the Spirit will prompt my heart to remember.

When I feel a dryness to my spiritual life or when God seems distant, this could be the reminder I need to seek reconciliation with my brother. Seek reconciliation first with my brother, then come in humility before the Lord. Jesus prioritizes relationships and so should I. As I examine my heart for sin, I must include my personal community relationships as well as my obedience and relationship with Christ. Reconciliation with my brother and repentance before my Lord.

Murderous Anger

Journal Entry // April 5, 2023

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’
[22] 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 whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (ESV)

Matthew 5:21-22

Jesus has now confirmed that the Law and the Prophets are not being done away with, but still have a vital and important role in the life of his followers in the kingdom of God. Having established its importance and continuing influence in our lives, Jesus now begins to expound upon the spiritual intent of the commandments beginning with the prohibition of murder. When we think of the sixth commandment, we naturally and obviously think of the act of murder. Jesus wants us to not only consider the heinousness of physically murdering another person created in the image of God, but he wants us to go further in our righteousness and understand the dangerous and destructive steps that lead one to murder.

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Exceeding Righteousness

Journal Entry // April 2, 2023

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (ESV)

Matthew 5:20

In summation of this section on the fulfillment and accomplishment of the Law, Jesus brings us to a perplexing statement. Having just told us that we are not to relax on any point of the Law, be it great or small, he now informs us that our righteousness should exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. They were the models and pillars of what righteousness looked like. They were the ones that were suppose to be leading and teaching the people of God. Yet, Jesus here tells us that our righteousness must surpass and exceed theirs.

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Faulty Relaxation

Journal Entry // April 1, 2023

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. (ESV)

Matthew 5:19

Jesus, having spoken about the continued importance and permanence of the fulfilled Law and the Prophets, now extends this importance from theoretical to practical. All of the Law has been fulfilled in Jesus and it will surely not pass away until Jesus ushers in the New Heavens and the New Earth. With this continued importance in the life of all believers, Jesus warns us to take each and every commandment seriously. We want to separate the commandments into light and heavy or minor and major if you prefer. We do this because it makes us feel better when we fail to live up to the commandments and find ourselves flailing in the current of sin. We want to say to ourselves, “Oh, it’s just a minor sin.” Jesus is warning us to not relax even on the seemingly least of these commandments and be careful not to teach our error of relaxation to others.

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Until All is Accomplished

Journal Entry // March 29, 2023

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. (ESV)

Matthew 5:18

Just as Jesus previously stated that he had come to fulfill the Law and not abolish it, he then says that the Law will be present and active until it is all accomplished. This accomplishment of the Law is its actual complete fulfillment in Jesus. When will the Law be accomplished? When Christ returns and ushers in a new heaven and a new earth. Until then, the Law is still vitally important. Jesus tells us that every stroke of the Law is essential for not even the tiniest dot that was written will pass away before it is accomplished. In our minds, we want to move on from the Old Testament and into the New Testament. We want to devalue the Law and make it irrelevant to our modern post-resurrection lives. Jesus tells us just the opposite. The Law and the Prophets are still of value and we would be wise to continue to learn from them as they reveal the heart of our Savior.

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Fulfillment Embodied

Journal Entry // March 25, 2023

“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. (ESV)

Matthew 5:17

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Whenever we wonder why the Old Testament is important, Jesus fulfilled it. Whenever we question the importance of the Law in our everyday life, Jesus fulfilled it. Whenever we suggest that we simply follow Jesus by walking in love, then we must remember that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. If we are to take up our cross and follow Christ, then we must always remember that Jesus came not to abolish the Old Testament, but to fulfill it. Jesus moves into this next section of his sermon to begin unwrapping what he means in this statement. He will bring clarity and understanding into this phrase over the next thirty-one verses. Helping us to see and understand that the Law is for our health and fellowship with God. The demands of the Law have been fulfilled in Jesus and the ethics are now better understood in light of this fulfillment.

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Conduit of Praise

Journal Entry // March 22, 2023

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (ESV)

Matthew 5:16

Jesus has now reached the conclusion of his salt and light analogy and brings us to the point and purpose of living life in God’s design. We are to live life in such a way that we are active and engaging the people in the community around us. Shining our light by living a life of humble dependence upon Jesus. This humble dependent life will then be the display upon which people see the good works of God being demonstrated and performed. This in turn will stir their hearts to bring glory to the Father in heaven. I am to be like a rock of Ebenezer (1 Samuel 7:12). A memorial stone set up to remind the people of all the good and loving ways the Lord has provided for us. I am to be a stone pointing people back to the High King of Heaven. I demonstrate God’s love and mercy and goodness every day through my humble obedience and believing faith. Making much of Jesus and giving glory to my Father.

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Hiding Light

Journal Entry // March 21, 2023

Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. (ESV)

Matthew 5:15

We are the light of the world. We are the lamp that has been lit for a purpose. That purpose is the same as that of any lamp. We are designed specifically to bring the light of the gospel of Jesus to a lost and broken dark world. We are to highlight and shine forth the wonderful good news of salvation and freedom found only in the work of Christ upon the cross. We put this on a stand so that this glorious truth may give its light to everyone around us. This light of the gospel will illuminate the hearts and minds of people. It will change and transform as only the power of Christ can. This light of the gospel is the work of Christ and we are the lamps of Christ, lit to display the light and take it to the farthest corner of every house in this world.

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