For the 100th time
Tell me something.
If you ask your kids to do something 100 times, will the 100th time cause them to internalize your command and desire from their heart to do their chores? Better still – if you are asked to do something 100 times, will the 100th time create in you the innate desire to, say … drive the exact speed limit. Every day. All the time. Forever?
Heart change is outside the job description of the law. The law show us what is expected and its job description ends there.
On the surface, the famous Sermon on the Mount looks like that. It’s structured like the giving of the law as previously seen in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy … aaaaaand delivered on a mountain like when Moses delivered it. All the way through His the sermon, it appears Jesus is simply saying “don’t do this, do this instead” … until you get to His conclusion.
The thing about conclusions is this: they don’t introduce new topics. Instead, they bring together what you’ve been saying the entire time. Jesus concludes His sermon by inviting people into a “narrow” way before inviting them to consider whether they will build their lives on the rock or the sand. (Spoiler alert, Christ is the rock.)
If you read the entire sermon in one sitting, you’ll find that the yikes-factor is incredibly high. By mid-sermon you should be asking, “who can do this?” … which was why Jesus used the word, “narrow” to describe the way leading to life. He wasn’t inviting the best-of-the-best Christians to aim high and do what the average, run-of-the-mill-sinner couldn’t do in order to win heaven.
Jesus was pointing to Himself. Life with God comes by Christ alone. That sounds incredibly narrow, but it ends up being incredibly broad, leading to freedom because grace doesn’t discriminate based on performance. If life with God could come by simply being a good person, that sounds broad but in reality is incredibly narrow because it erases grace and discriminates based entirely on performance.
Jesus concludes His sermon by revealing that in the end, Judgement day is not about how well you lived, but in whom you trusted. This famous section of verses freaks Christians out. You know … the “Lord! Lord! Didn’t we do amazing things in your name?” part. (Mt 7:21-23)
This illustration reinforces Jesus sermon: the problem wasn’t with what the Pharisees were doing, the problem was in the fact that they trusted in what they were doing. Without question, when the gospel grips our hearts, the Spirit does a work and we desire to do good works – but these are a byproduct of justification through faith in Christ, not the foundation for it.
Christ’s intent was (is) to have people see how great their sin is and how great their need for a Saviour is. Jesus audience already had the law. They had it for 42 generations since Abraham. God did not incarnate Himself to deliver the law again and make yet another appeal for better behaviour. The sermon on the Mount is Christ delivering the law, and dialling it to eleven so that the listeners would trust in Him – the One who came to perfectly fulfill the law for them.
God requires perfection because He is perfect.
He provided perfection for you in Christ because He’s gracious.
He now works in us by His Spirit so that our hearts desire His perfection.
All is grace … He’s that good.