Last night at a College and Career bible study, where we have just started to study the Sermon on the Mount, I was shaken to the core with a verse that concluded the section that we were studying.
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) was not a sermon that Jesus preached to a bunch of non-believers, He preached it to a collection of people who were already following Him, especially the disciples that He had just called, during which He would have gained much other interest.
We see this a little more closely in such verses as,
- Verse 5:13, Jesus says “YOU are the salt.”
- Verse 5:14, Jesus says, “YOU are the light.”
Jesus is implying that the group of people He is talking to are those people making a difference already. He is speaking to you, and to me – believers every where.
Then He later says in 5:20, “For I tell you, unless YOUR righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, YOU will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The Pharisees were people who followed the law to the “T.” And while doing it, they made more rules for the other rules. Their lives were designed to be an “**attractive, popular and powerful faction, ascetic in lifestyle, concerned to present themselves as rigorists for the Torah. They have a body of additional interpretations and traditions, and religious practices are performed according to their interpretation ”
The question perhaps may be obvious, but – who of us, the salt and light, are like the Pharisees? The ones who we must be more righteous than? Do we:
- Follow the ‘law’ in order to appear self-righteous?
- Follow the ‘law’ in order to appear as though we have our stuff in order?
- Follow the ‘law’ because that’s ‘just what you do’?
I know my generation (25-35) is pushing the limits of what we wear to church, and if we can or cannot bring coffee into the sanctuary. To me, those things are fine – they do not relate to our salvation – but where else do we fall short that might qualify us as being pharisaical? Is it:
- Our language and speech (both private and public, online and offline)?
- How we drive?
- Respect and care for the environment, the creation?
- Drinking and partying?
- How we act in our relationships, to our friends, family, and significant others?
- How and why we attend church services?
- (the list does go on … what are other areas that you struggle with?)
The question that I believe Christ is really getting at here is,
“Are you living what you say you live?”
What some of the original listeners might have heard when Jesus ministry started was that they didn’t have to follow all the old laws any more – and yes, there were some:
Jesus does not require us to kill a lamb every time we need to repent.
We no longer have to marry our brothers' wives if our brothers die.
But the laws that pertain to our actions, and the ones that pertain to our relationship with God, and the ones that pertain to us being made separate from the world – all still bear full meaning and point to the fulfillment of the Life of Christ.
So my question to you –
- Are you being a blessing to others, by being merciful, being pure in heart, and a peacemaker?
- Are you living as the salt to the earth, making this world taste better?
- Are you living as the Light unto the world – as a city on a hill, a shining light for Christ?
If not, I encourage you to find your pastor, or good Christian friend to confide in; they are there to help you through whatever you’re living through – and then pursue God’s plans for yourself together.
If yes, I encourage you to remain strong, to continue reading the word and pursuing God in a community of believers, with your whole heart.
I came out of the meeting with a strong sense that God is a God of Action, not a God of inaction. The Lord desires you to be moving forward in your life, and especially in your faith. He wants you to be doing something, to be bettering yourself for His purposes, so that your righteousness will surpass that of the Pharisees.