For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 (American Standard Version)
One of the forever highly disputable concepts that we must each seek an adequate balance of is that between justification by faith and that of righteous acts or following laws and commands. It seems to some to be a contradiction within the Bible and many people stumble over this hurdle. Or perhaps in confusion, many leave the company of believers altogether.
In personal experience, as a young man I felt pressured to limit my presence in a certain church due to a conflict of views as to what were acceptable actions. There was a woman who did not feel I had dressed appropriately. I felt injured and angry that my offering and my coming to the meeting was judged and insulted by another fellow sinner. I soon left that church as I could not adjust my faith and my acts of worship to suit other people´s opinion of what I should wear. I am sure we have all have been through similar situations.
This highly arguable theme could take an entire book and there are many written on the subject. The aim though is not to dive deep into the what and the why. An attempt will be made though, to draw near to the heart of Jesus and to lift Him up.
Jesus states here in Matthew 5 that He came not to do away with the law but to fulfill it. He goes on to warn us from thinking we will not be weighed according to it. Then as our text suggests, He expects us to have a higher righteousness even than the extremely strict followers of that law.
Now to those of us, who believe we are justified by faith and have found freedom in Christ, how exactly are we to find consolation with a text like this. Do you think we should throw away one text because we prefer another, or pick out the texts that we feel comfortable with and try to ignore others?
If we stand in our traditional ways of thought and make all interpretations stand to our fallen patterns of reason, we are sure to fall short again in understanding and comprehension. We must go back to the basic with this and with any other theme we may find within the Holy Scriptures. We need to stop bringing down Holy writings to earthly levels.
Unfortunately it has been the sad tendency of every people throughout the ages to bend God´s will and His word to suit our simple popular interpretations. The words of the Lord are as lofty as the One who utters them and their intentions are just as eternal. This means as we read them or ponder on them, we need to lift them always higher if we are to honor our Lord.
God´s intended and our correct position should always to be bringing glory to Him. In whatever we do, be it thought or action, feeling or intention. Sin entered when we took our eyes and hearts off of Him and turned our attention to us. This began with the very first of our race and it has continued down to this very day.
Jesus was the only One history records as having lived out His days with us without taking His attention from His Father. Rather, Jesus was constantly in complete accord with God above. He looked not at this world as we do but held each and everything up as an offering of service and honor to that powerful entity that He knew and loved.
So when Jesus sounds to us to be contradicting terms and giving us two choices, it is only due to our limited traditional ways of seeing things. If we read and study, with God´s intentions in mind, never leaving room for self to rise up, we will honor Him and He can open our hearts and understandings.
Jesus calls us insistently to break the bond that the world has over us. This bond, born out of sin, has lorded over us through the generations and does not want us to return with a correct heart to our Savior. It will try to confuse us if it cannot turn us against God. The Devil is clever and he knows that a sick Christian, with lower impressions of God wins a far greater victory than a healthy sinner.
We desperately need to return again to God and to His Son. Today is like the times Jesus described when he said that many will be calling upon His name, but their hearts are far from Him. We have correct doctrine, but that alone can never bring us into the presence of God. Let us keep it straight. What do we want? Do we want correct doctrine or a relationship with the Divine?
Our proper position should always be to lift up, to make bigger, to have faith, and to follow even when there is nothing but His promise to give us hope. Jesus came, He fulfilled the law but He did not do away with anything God had spoken until that time. He revealed to us a more complete path to return and correct our adjustment with the Father. He became our way.
This is not a cold and distant process. This can only be done in living experience. You and I cannot do it. It is something which Jesus performs as we approach, obey, love and follow. It is a conscious and real encounter. We cannot stand back on our professed beliefs. We have to live through it in actual experience.
It is not good enough to say that we are close or correct with the Lord. We have to literally take His hand and to feel His presence. We have to be so accustomed to hearing His speaking voice within us and the Holy Spirit needs to flow freely through our nature. It fills to overflowing and consistently directs us in reverent awe towards the Father and the Son. It is this Spirit which we need to recognize and depend on.
Whoever cannot say that they are feeling that Spirit washing over them in waves of love and adoration for the Lord, has fallen short today. Perhaps this includes all of us. What is important is that we realize it when that closeness and that presence are not there. It is vital to go running to our knees and seek even harder to restore that relationship.
Let us never disconnect Jesus from His word. Our righteousness will need to exceed that of the Pharisees. You may be a good person, but Jesus shows us that we cannot be good enough. We need Him, we need to be so close that He is free to live in and work inside of us. He brings His Divine nature and He brings His atonement.
As we turn to Him with the intention of bowing to His will and obeying whatever He confides to us in each given moment, He is pleased to work as the restorer of our souls and we will notice that closeness in living experience. This is to what we work and what we seek. Push hard, seek diligently and revel in those waves of Holy Presence which sweep over and fill to overflowing.
You would not have suffered yourself to read this far in my ramblings, if you did not have something burning inside to draw nearer to Him. Blessed are you because you did not get this from the world. Go forward into Him. May He be pleased to enable your efforts in joyful findings of Him and His presence today. This life, this filling which can only be found in Him is that of which He encouraged us to seek.
Bless you, dear follower of Jesus, bless you.