Jesus said, “For I am telling you that unless the right that you do goes beyond that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you won’t gain entrance into the kingdom of the heavens.”
— Matthew 5:20 (USC)
The heart is central to the matter of our eternal destiny.
We cannot say we are godly and lovers of God if love hasn’t penetrated our hearts.
And when love has broken through we are changed. Until we are changed, beyond our design and will in many cases, we do not have the hearts we need to do the right things that go beyond the Christian legalist.
We see, here, that God is in control over who he changes; that if we are not changed the right things we do won’t go beyond the person who says they’re Christian but cannot live their commitment to Christ.
These are no doubt difficult requirements; didn’t some of Jesus’ disciples also despair at what was demanded of them? (See John 6:60-66)
Yet it is only God who can grant such a purging of oneself – and the only ones who deny this are those who have never experienced such a purging.
These are hard things to read, to hear, to take note of, and to assimilate into one’s being. But such are the things of Jesus Christ.
The main point that Jesus seems to make, here, is multi-faceted; but it’s centred on the fact of God’s grace. If the Pharisees couldn’t please God by obeying the Law we would be fools to attempt to do that which they were masters. The heart is what Jesus is getting to; the heart of knowing God better and loving God more.
When our hearts are attuned to the things of God we readily trust and obey. And, when we know that the only way our righteousness outstrips that of the Pharisees is through the pure acceptance of the grace of God that forgives us, we gain entrance into the kingdom of the heavens.
When God has broken through the layers of our stiff-necked opposition we can and wish to trust and obey.
Transformed hearts, and minds that gladly conform to the Kingdom mindset, are the righteousness of God indwelt in us by his Holy Spirit.
QUESTIONS in REVIEW:
1. What was it like for you when you discovered the Christian lifestyle was not about trying, but centrally about training?
2. If you are still confused about grace, how can you investigate what it really means?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Note: USC version is Under the Southern Cross, The New Testament in Australian English (2014). This translation was painstakingly developed by Dr. Richard Moore, a NT Greek scholar, over nearly thirty years.