Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jesus's Commands - Matthew 5:27-30

This passage today has got to be one of the most controversial passages of the Bible.

"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut if off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell."

Recently I showed a video to the youth that was put out by an atheist.  His argument against Christians was if Christians claim to be followers of Jesus Christ then why don't they obey what he says.  He used this passage to try and show the absurdity of Jesus's commands.

It isn't only atheists who struggle with passages like this.  Many Christians struggle with it as well.  I would say a majority of Christians, in their attempt to deal with this passage, tend to just over look it which in reality isn't dealing with it at all.

Was Jesus really commanding his followers to mutilate themselves?  The answer is an obvious no but a closer look at this passage needs to be taken to understand exactly what Jesus was saying.

We need to understand that Jesus was taking the law to a new level.  To interpret this passage literally would be to put Jesus in line with the Pharisees.  This might be the sort of thing a Pharisee would say if he really wasn't so concerned with his own physical welfare.

Notice that Jesus prefaces this command with a discussion about adultery.  Pharisees would say that the act of adultery is the sin.  As long as one did not commit the act they were okay.  In fact, this was the whole reason why the Pharisees developed an oral law that surrounded the written law.  In their attempt not to break the written law they added extra laws as sort of a security system.  Picture the written law as a lock box in a bank.  It is surrounded by a number of security measures.  It cannot be accessed until the door leading to the vault is unlocked and then the door of the vault where the security box is kept is unlocked.

Judaism had become a very "outward" religion even though its ancient texts (the Old Testament) portrayed it as being a very "inward" religion.  The people were more concerned about following the law then their relationship with God.  As long as they don't appear to be sinning then they are okay.  Many Christians have fallen into the same trap.

Jesus went even further by saying that sin isn't the action itself but the intention.  To even lust after a woman is to commit adultery.  If we were to go by the Pharisaical view then a person who wanted to stop sinning would take drastic physical measures, but this is not what Jesus was saying because he just got through saying it wasn't the action that is sin but the intent.

What causes us to sin?  It is not our eye or our hand.  What causes us to sin is a sinful nature.  It is a love for all that is selfish.  If one wants to be free from sin then a drastic measure must be taken.  A person must die to self!

What does it mean to die to self?  Look at Colossians 3

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  4 When Christ, who is your a life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.  6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. b  7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.  8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices  10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.  11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
If you want to quit sinning then you must do the drastic thing and give up control of your life and turn it over to Jesus.  What causes us to sin?  Self-will.  Self-will must be sacrificed and God's will must replace it.  What is God's will?  One word summarizes every command of God.  God's will for us is to love.

Let me end by saying this.  To love is perhaps the hardest command of all because it isn't just doing some physical action.  All of us have experienced obedience in such a way that we do what we are told but our heart isn't in it.  God wants our heart to be in it.  God showed the world that strict obedience to His law is impossible.  There is not one person who can obey it wholly for self-will will always be at odds with God's will, but the command to love changes this.  Love is not just an action it is a state of being that involves the physical, emotional and spiritual sides of human beings.  Love is the opposite of self-will.  Love is doing what is best and right for others.  Love is not looking at our own interests but it is putting the interests of others before us.  Love is the drastic change that needs to take place in the heart in order to stop sinning.

Do you want to stop sinning?  Then give your life completely to God.  Allow him to transform you into the loving being he created you to be.  Do something drastic!!

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