In Matthew chapter 5, we see Jesus lays down some very stern commands. In fact, they are impossible to do.
20 “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;”
Why would Jesus be so harsh? Surely He knows we are not capable of keeping these commandments. I mean I have a hard enough time memorizing a single verse much less the entire Old Testament. I definitely can not or have not kept the law like a Pharisee. To exceed “their righteousness” would take a miracle.
Jesus doesn’t just stop there but continues this same teaching…
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”
So now Jesus is teaching it is not only my outward actions that have to be correct, but my thought life is equal to that of my actions. In His words—I have already done it my heart. This is a whole new level of righteousness. I mean how do we get past this one. I mean, I can still keep the law but maybe think about another woman and no one would ever know. Right? But Jesus says that even this is sin–that I have already broken the commandment in my heart. This is a whole new level of righteousness that not even the Pharisees and scribes could keep. No wonder He says it must exceed them.
48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Wow. There is the icing on the cake. Who can be perfect? We are all doomed!
Jesus continues to teach for two more chapters in Matthew covering many more teachings, but then at the beginning of chapter 8 Jesus does something amazing.
First of all, can you imagine the scene with me? There Jesus is on the side of the mountain and all of these people have gathered around to hear His teachings. Many of them are probably feeling hopeless. Pharisees, at first, are probably feeling somewhat prideful that they are righteous until Jesus starts cutting to the whole heart thing. Then sweeping them off of their feet when He claims they must be “perfect.” Now they are mad! Who can obey such teachings as these?
Then Jesus does something beautiful at the beginning of chapter 8.
When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
So continue viewing this scene with me. Jesus has been on the side of the mountain teaching. Many people below Him listening. Everyone by now are realizing they cannot do what He is commanding. What can they do? Will they be condemned forever? This is impossible!
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26
Jesus does something awesome! He walks down (representing God the Father) and walks among the people. Not just to visit the “righteous” Pharisees, but no Jesus makes perfectly clear that He came for ALL. He not only talks to the leper, He not only gets into vicinity of the leper (forbidden to do), but He touches him. HE TOUCHES HIM!!! The leper is then made clean! When we say “I do” to Jesus, Jesus says “I AM!” He becomes everything we need—first and foremost our righteousness! This is freedom! (2 Corinthians 5:21)
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4
Grace is not a concept or a doctrine that can be taught. He is a person to be experienced through personal relationship. Grace is a person. Grace is Jesus.
LAW: Given impersonally through Moses, a servant of God
GRACE: Came personally through Jesus, the Son of God
LAW: Reveals what man ought to be
GRACE: Reveals Who God is
LAW: Results in miracles of death
GRACE: Results in miracles of life
LAW: The letter of the law kills
GRACE: The Spirit of grace gives life
LAW: Demands righteousness from sinfully bankrupt man
GRACE: Provides righteousness as a gift to man”
LAW: Old, inflexible wine-skin
GRACE: New, intoxicating wine
LAW: Sins remembered and punished by God
GRACE: Sins forgiven and remembered no more by God
LAW: Dispenses blessings and curses
GRACE: Dispenses only blessings
LAW: Man-centered—what you must do for God
GRACE: God/Jesus-centered—what God will do for you/what Jesus has done for you
LAW: You are disqualified by your disobedience
GRACE: You are qualified by Jesus’ obedience
LAW: You are justified by your works
GRACE: You are justified by faith
Many “church going” people claim to know these truths today but in reality they are still living under the law.
I encourage you today to examine the scriptures for yourself. Be convicted of right standing with Christ by “being” in a relationship with Christ—Not doing something to earn favor.
Then we will “do” out of our “being” instead of trying to “be” out of our “doing.”