Have you ever gotten lost? I don’t mean you turned down a wrong street and had to go back. I’m talking about the kind of lost where even Siri is going “Yeah, I got nothing.” A few years ago, I was on my way back from a family get-together in East Texas, and somehow, I got completely off track. I knew my way home, but one wrong turn got me completely lost. The woman I was dating at the time kept telling me what I should have done differently, but I was in no mood to listen (I know a lot of the guys reading this can probably relate in some way). With five kids in a car, all of them saying how hungry and tired they were, and almost no cell reception, I was ready to throw in the towel. Finally, after driving around for what could not have been less than an hour, we came to a spot where we were able to get signal on our phones just well enough that our navigation came on, and we ended up heading in the right direction. That story, I think, is a perfect illustration of how we can often think we’re headed the direction we should be going, only to find out that the way we were going wasn’t the right way at all.
This week, we are continuing our Sermon On The Mount series with the Fulfillment of the Law. In Matthew 5, Jesus is beginning His ministry on the earth with the longest sermon He gives anywhere in the Bible. He begins His sermon with what is known today as the BeAttitudes, which Danette talked about in week one of our series. They are a list of traits that help us to be blessed by God. In the next section, He calls us out to live in those blessings, and to share them with others, so that they may come to know Christ and live in them as well. The section we are covering today is a little more complex, I think. At the time, the rule of law was the only accepted way to God. The Jews were so intent on living out these rituals that it must have been exhausting. There were so many rituals they had to perform. Hebrews 9:11-14 (CEV) says “Christ came as the high priest of the good things that are now here. He also went into a much better tent that wasn’t made by humans and that doesn’t belong to this world. Then Christ went once for all into the most holy place and freed us from sin forever. He did this by offering his own blood instead of the blood of goats and bulls. According to the Law of Moses, those people who become unclean are not fit to worship God. Yet they will be considered clean, if they are sprinkled with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a sacrificed calf. But Christ was sinless, and he offered himself as an eternal and spiritual sacrifice to God. That’s why his blood is much more powerful and makes our consciences clear. Now we can serve the living God and no longer do things that lead to death.” Today, we will be looking at how Jesus’ coming fulfilled the requirement for the sacrifices of the Old Testament, and how that changes everything for us.
Matthew 5:17 (CEV) says “Don’t suppose that I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them their full meaning.” This brings me to my first point.
The Law Was Not Sufficient For Salvation
The Pharisees were so set in following the rules that they couldn’t see that Jesus was there to set them free from the rituals they held fast to. Jesus tells them in Matthew 5:20 (CEV) “You must obey God’s commands better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law obey them. If you don’t, I promise you that you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus made a habit of upsetting the religious elites of His day, and He made no exception here. This comment was basically a slap in the face to the Pharisees and religious rule keepers of the day, and it was His way of saying that He wanted his followers to be more than just rule keepers. You see, the law was given to us by God, and it was His way of showing us how to love Him and each other, but the Pharisees had attached all these caviots to the law. They had added things to the law to give themselves more control, but what Jesus came for was a relationship. He cares more about what’s in your heart than what rules you follow. Galatians 3:10 – 12 (NLT) says But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.’ So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.’ This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says ‘It is through obeying the law that a person has life.’” That’s not to say that, just because we have accepted Christ, we can go on with our lives and live in sin. Grace does not give us the freedom to ignore the law, but it does give us the peace that, even when we make a mistake, our salvation is not lost. John Bunyan said “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” Our faith is where our salvation comes from, and not our deeds, but an authentic faith encourages us to follow God’s law. My second point is this:
Christ Came To Fulfill The Law So That We Could Have Freedom & A Full Life
The Greek word for life is Zoe, which translated means life real and genuine or a life active and vigorous. This is what Christ came to give us, and why His fulfillment of the law is such wonderful news. John 10:10 (CEV) says “A thief comes only to rob, kill, and destroy. I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in it’s fullest.” Jesus came to be the sacrifice necessary for us to be able to have that life. Our relationship with God no longer depends on the rules and rituals we keep, or what we bring to Him as a sacrifice. We can now have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. Think about that for a minute!!!!! I like the way The Message paraphrases Matthew 5:18. It says “I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.” It doesn’t say anything about the Law not being important. In fact, it says quite the opposite. We are still to follow God’s Law, but we do not lean on our ability to follow it for our salvation.
C.S. Lewis said “A man who was merely-man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend it.”
We can either trust that Jesus is who He said He is, and that His sacrifice was enough to atone for our sins, or we can continue trying to prove ourselves to God by the things we do. Have you ever known someone like that; someone so set in their ways that they couldn’t accept anything different? I talked a little last week about loving people who were different than us, and I think it applies just the same here. We all know those people who are so bent on following the rules that they miss out on the relationship, and they judge people who don’t live up to their idea of a perfect life. Maybe you know someone who doesn’t trust anyone that has tattoos. Maybe you know someone who talks poorly about people who are gay or lesbian, or people of different religions, different backgrounds, different skin colors, or with different political ideas and beliefs. Maybe this person even uses Scripture as their reason for believing the way that they do, or judging them the way they do. They believe that they are above those people simply because their sins are different. This was not at all what the law intended. Jesus is more interested in what is in our hearts, and how we treat people, and not so much on how many rules or rituals we follow. Romans 10:3 – 4 (NLT) says “For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God.” The reason that Jesus was able to fulfill the law is because He lived a perfect life. The Greek word used here is the word “pleroo”, which means to make full, or to give to fill to the full. You have the choice. You can wear yourself out trying to follow a set of rules, or you can surrender all of that, follow Him, and live the full life He wants you to have. My last point is this;
If Not For Christ’s Fulfillment Of The Law, Gentiles Would Not Have Had A Path To Salvation
For those of us who are not Jewish, we were not exactly welcome to the party in Jesus’ day. The Gentiles were very much looked down upon by Jews, even to the point that most Jews considered anyone who was not Jewish to be less than human, or unclean. One article that I read this week even went so far as to say that non-Jews are considered human waste (they used a stronger word, which I won’t repeat). In Romans 9:25 – 26 (NLT), Paul talks about the prophecy of Hosea where God professes His love for the Gentiles. It says “Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before.’ And, ‘Then, at the place where they were told, You are not my people, there they will be called children of the living God.’” Jesus didn’t just die to save the Jews. He died to save everyone. Grace was meant for everyone. Acts 15:11 (CEV) says “But our Lord Jesus was kind to us, and we saved by faith in him, just as the Gentiles are.” As much division as there was between Jew and Gentile, Christ came and died for both.
Romans 6:14 (NLT) says “Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” Romans 8:17 (NLT) says “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ, we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” All of those who have accepted Christ and have been baptized in His name get to share in His blessing, because through our baptism, we shared in His death. It doesn’t matter whether you’re Jew, Gentile, black, white, brown, have tattoos, have a past (we all do), or what walk of life you come from. Jesus’ sacrifice paved the way for all to join in the kingdom of Heaven, and that is something we should all embrace.
In this section of the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus is setting up the rest of His message. He will go on to talk about things like anger, murder, adultery, divorce, worry, prayer, revenge, love for your enemies, giving, fasting, promises, light, money, prejudice, false prophets, how to be a true follower, and a few others. Here’s the takeaway for this week. Jesus came and fulfilled the law for all of us, to give us all a full and free life. We are no longer under the rule of religious law, but our salvation is now based on faith. Let’s thank Him for that.
We thank You for giving us a direct path to You, Lord. We are so grateful that You were willing to send Your Son to pay our debt, a debt that we can never hope to repay. Lord, we pray that Your pursuit of us would be so overwhelming that a wave of repentance would wash over our entire world. Father, we pray for our country, for it’s leaders, and for those who are facing incredible hardships. Lord, you have called us to love even the least among us, and we pray for the strength to do exactly that. We pray that our leaders would seek Your guidance over their own ambition, and that they would show Your love and grace to those in the world who need it. Let our country again be a source of hope for those who are oppressed, burdened, broken, and tired. Again, Lord, we thank You for sending Your Son to be the sacrifice for our sins. It’s in His name we pray
Next week, Bill will be continue our series by talking about anger and murder. I hope you will check in with us for that. I’m looking forward to it. If you would like to talk to someone about what Christ’s fulfillment of the law means for yourself, or you would like to learn more about what it means to be a follower of Christ, please feel free to email us. Maybe you need prayer, or just someone to talk to. I encourage you to reach out. There will always be someone who would love to talk to you, and help you on your next step in this journey of faith. I hope you all have a blessed week!!!!!