Delivered From Religion & Politics By the Righteousness of the Kingdom

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically today’s passage is found in verses twenty-one through forty-seven of the fifth chapter. “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing” (Matthew 5:21-26).

 

            “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:27-30).

 

            “It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving fort the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32).

 

            “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear. Not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matthew 5:33-37).

 

            “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:38-42).

 

            “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-47).

 

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find a shift taking place within the Sermon on the Mount which the Lord Jesus delivered unto His disciples and the multitudes that gathered themselves unto Him. If you read the beginning verses of this particular passage of Scripture you will find Jesus introducing the kingdom of heaven with a series of declarations which have been come to be known as “The Beatitudes.” In all reality I would like to refer to the opening verses and words of this Sermon on the Mount as “The Be-Attitudes” or “The Attitude of Being” within the kingdom of heaven. The words which we find in the opening verses of the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew call and draw our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the reality of Jesus’ call to His disciples and the multitudes to an attitude of being within the kingdom of heaven. I continue to believe that what we find within this passage of Scripture is a powerful introduction to the kingdom of heaven within the earth—something which John the Baptist had spoken of and something which the Lord Himself had spoken of. John the Baptist would emphatically declare unto the people the kingdom of heaven was at hand and would call them unto a place of repentance—and not only unto a place of repentance but also a place of bearing fruit worthy of that repentance. By the time the Lord Jesus stepped on to the scene we find Him also calling the people unto a place of repentance for the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

 

            If you read the words which are found in the final verses of the fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find the Lord Jesus calling men and women unto a place of repentance for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for in the very last verses of the fourth chapter we find a powerful demonstration and manifestation of the kingdom being manifested in the earth through Jesus’ ministry among the multitudes which gathered themselves unto Him. In the final verses of the fourth chapter we find the Lord Jesus ministering unto and among all those who came unto Him and offering them the ministry of the kingdom—that which would dramatically and radically alter the trajectory of their lives. If you being reading with the twenty-third verse of the fourth chapter you will find the apostle Matthew writing of Jesus’ walking about throughout all Galilee teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for after being tempted of the devil in the wilderness the Lord Jesus would return in the power of the Holy Spirit and would come and dwell in Capernaum that the prophetic word of Isaiah might be fulfilled. The apostle Matthew reveals how the Lord Jesus would walk by the Sea of Galilee and would call Simon and his brother Andrew to follow Him as well as James and his brother John to follow Him. Immediately after calling these two sets of brothers to follow Him we find Jesus beginning to engage Himself in the ministry and work of the kingdom in the midst of the earth:

 

            “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them. And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” (Matthew 4:23-25).

 

            Please don’t miss the incredible importance of the words and language found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely awesome and wonderful truth surrounding the beginning of the manifestation of the kingdom within the earth. John the Baptist was indeed the prophetic forerunner and messenger of the Messiah who would go before His face preparing the way for Him to be manifested in the earth. John the Baptist would preach repentance unto all those who would come unto him and would baptize men and women in water unto repentance for the remission of sins. Important to note is that John the Baptist would not bring forth the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven but would merely herald and introduce the manifestation of the kingdom in the midst of the earth. John the Baptist would indeed declare and proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, however, he would not actually be the one who would initiate the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. John the Baptist would prepare men and women for the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven among them through repentance and through baptism in water unto and for the remission of their sins. It would be through repentance and baptism John the Baptist would prepare and make ready a people for the coming of the Messiah—and not only the coming of the Messiah but also the manifestation of the kingdom.

 

            As you come to the twenty-third chapter of this gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find Jesus beginning to move within and throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. This is incredibly necessary for us to pay attention to for it calls and draws our attention to the astounding and remarkable reality that Jesus would begin the manifestation of the kingdom within Galilee as he would teach and preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. What’s more is that in addition to teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven the Lord Jesus would also introduce the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven and the authority that was found therein. That which we read within this passage of Scripture concerning the Lord Jesus calls and draws our attention to the unbelievable truth surrounding the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth and how Jesus would heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. Moreover the apostle Matthew also writes and records how the fame of the Lord Jesus would go throughout all Syria and how they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy. What’s more is the apostle Matthew also goes on to write how Jesus healed those who would come unto Him and how there would follow Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan.

 

            The words which we find in the final verses of the fourth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the introduction of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. John the Baptist would herald the coming of the kingdom by calling men unto repentance and baptizing them in water. Jesus Himself would also proclaim the kingdom of heaven unto men in the region of Galilee when He would invite them to repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. That which we find and read in the final verses of the fourth chapter brings us face to face with the teaching of the gospel of the kingdom—that which Jesus would speak introducing men and women to the kingdom of heaven. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear what Jesus would teach and preach concerning the gospel of the kingdom and even what the gospel of the kingdom was. We have absolutely no idea what Jesus taught and preached in the synagogues at this particular juncture within the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. The only thing we know is that the Lord Jesus would go about throughout all Galilee teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, thus introducing men and women to the kingdom of heaven which had come unto and among them. Within the region of Galilee Jesus would enter into each of their synagogues and would in fact teach and preach unto and among them calling men and women unto repentance for the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

 

            While we don’t know what “the gospel of the kingdom” was which Jesus preached in the synagogues in Galilee we come to the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of this New Testament gospel and are brought face to face with the beginning of the declaration of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. Although we aren’t given any indication as to what the gospel of the kingdom was in the fourth chapter and even the words which the Lord Jesus spoke we find that powerfully and wonderfully shifting and changing when you come to the fifth chapter. It is in the fifth chapter where we find Jesus seeing the multitudes and going up into a mountain where He would set Himself before them together with His disciples. It would be there upon the mountain the Lord Jesus would begin opening His mouth and would begin expounding upon the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth. There upon that mountain the Lord Jesus would wonderfully and beautifully teach all those who had gathered themselves unto Him concerning the gospel of the kingdom of heaven and what the kingdom of heaven looked liked in the midst of the earth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and what is found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding that which the kingdom of heaven looked like in the midst of the earth. Oh we can see the manifestation and demonstration of the kingdom of heaven being exercised by the Lord Jesus in the fourth chapter when He healed all manner of sickness and disease and when He cast out all manner of unclean and evil spirits.

 

            Upon coming to the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of this New Testament gospel narrative you will find the Lord Jesus beginning to teach and expound unto men and women the truth concerning the kingdom of heaven which had indeed come unto and among them. Jesus would begin by speaking of that which has been commonly referred to by students and scholars of the Scripture alike as “The Beatitudes.” At the very beginning of the New Testament gospel narrative written concerning the Sermon on the Mount we find the apostle Matthew writing and recording the words which Jesus would speak concerning this attitude of being in the midst of the earth. When speaking unto His disciples and followers the Lord Jesus would speak of “the poor in spirit,” “they that mourn,” “the meek,” “They which do hunger and thirst after righteousness,” “the merciful,” “the pure in heart,” “the peacemakers,” and “they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The words and language which are found here are absolutely and incredibly powerful when you truly take the time to think about and consider them. The words which we read here come face to face with that which the Lord Jesus would indeed call His disciples and followers to in the midst of the earth for He would call them unto an attitude of being among men. When introducing men and women to the kingdom of heaven Jesus would begin with this series of “Be-attitudes” and that which would call men and women unto a place of being in the midst of the earth.

 

            If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s not only that which Jesus called His disciples and followers to but also that which was promised unto them as a direct result. When speaking of the poor in spirit Jesus would declare that theirs was the kingdom of heaven while when speaking of those that mourned Jesus would declare that they would be comforted. When speaking of the meek Jesus would declare how they would inherit the earth while declaring of those who hungered and thirsted after righteousness would be filled. As He spoke of the merciful Jesus would declare that they would obtain mercy and those who were pure in heart would see God. Those who were peacemakers in the midst of the earth would be called the children of God and those who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake would be given the kingdom of heaven. These “Be-attitudes” would begin and conclude with the declaration of the kingdom for not only would the poor in spirit but also those who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake would inherit and receive the kingdom of heaven. Oh I am absolutely and completely convinced when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that if you want to truly understand the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth you must needs pay attention to the words Jesus uses to begin this Sermon on the Mount. Jesus would indeed begin this Sermon on the Mount using the words centered upon the invitation to “Be” within and upon the earth as the citizens of the kingdom of heaven would operate and function entirely different within the earth.

 

            When you read the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find Him introducing the kingdom of heaven—and not only introducing the kingdom of heaven but also introducing the righteousness of the kingdom and the righteousness of heaven. You cannot have a discussion about the kingdom of heaven without at the same time speaking of the righteousness which the kingdom itself demands and requires in the midst of the earth. Within the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus would speak of two distinct righteousness’ which would be present in the midst of the earth—the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and the righteousness of the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is absolutely incredible to think about and consider for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous and incredible truth surrounding the powerful distinction between these two righteousness’ in the earth and how it is possible for there to be two competing lines of thought surrounding this righteousness—and not only righteousness but that righteousness which pleases, honors and glorifies the living God. In fact it would be in this particular portion of Scripture the Lord Jesus would emphatically declare unto His disciples and the multitude which had gathered themselves unto Him how He had not come to abolish or destroy the Law but that the law might be fulfilled and carried out through Him. Jesus would not come to destroy or abolish the Law but would indeed come to fulfill the Law within and upon the earth. Moreover Jesus would declare that the earth would fade and would pass but not one jot or tittle of the Law would pass until all would be fulfilled.

 

            If you want to truly understand the words and language which is found within this passage of Scripture you must needs recognize and understand the distinction and difference between the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and the righteousness of the citizens of heaven. When Jesus came to the earth—not only did He come introducing the kingdom of heaven unto men but He also came calling and inviting men unto an entirely different place of righteousness in the earth. There is not a doubt in my mind that this Sermon on the Mount was the means whereby Jesus offered His disciples and followers the opportunity to deliver themselves out from underneath the cruel and oppressive bondage imposed upon them by religion. I have previously written how those who were alive during those days were not only cruelly oppressed and afflicted by Rome and the political system that governed much of the known world during that time but were also oppressed and afflicted by religion and the religious taskmasters which were present among them. I firmly believe that those who were present during the days in which the Lord Jesus walked upon the face of the earth were those who were perhaps crushed under the tremendous and immense weight of religious oppression as well as political oppression. There is not a doubt in my mind that what we find within this passage of Scripture is a wonderful invitation given by Jesus for men and women to deliver themselves out from under the cruel oppression and affliction of both Rome as well as religion. You cannot read the four gospel narratives without encountering and coming face to face with a people who were under the tremendous weight and burden of religion—and not only under the burden and weight of religion but also that which centered upon legalism, tradition and hypocrisy.

 

            What we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture is Jesus’ declaration unto His disciples and followers that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and the Pharisees they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is absolutely necessary for us to recognize and understand these words which were spoken by the Lord Jesus for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the fundamental difference between that righteousness which the scribes and Pharisees gave themselves to and thought pleased, honored and glorified the living God. Within this Sermon on the Mount Jesus clearly set forth the incredible truth that there was indeed a tremendous difference between the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees although He would not say or speak anything concerning the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees in terms of what it actually looked like. Of course we know from the words which we find in the fifteenth and twenty-third chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew that Jesus would indeed bring His disciples and followers into a place of awareness of what the “righteousness” of the scribes and Pharisees was truly like in the midst of the earth. In fact, I would like to briefly call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament gospel beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:

 

            “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; and honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:1-9).

 

            “And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear. And understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came his disciples, and said unto him, KNowest thou that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: these are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man” (Matthew 15:10-20).

 

            Please pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for what we find here is the scribes and the Pharisees coming unto Jesus in Jerusalem attempting to indict and accuse His disciples of transgressing the tradition of the elders. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s how the scribes and Pharisees came unto Jesus seeking to accuse and indict His disciples—not of violating that which was commanded in the Law of Moses but rather that which was found within “the tradition of the elders.” This is incredibly important for us to recognize and pay attention to for what we find here in this passage of Scripture calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth surrounding the scribes and the Pharisees and what they perceived as being worthy of adhering to and following. The scribes and the Pharisees sought to accuse and indict the disciples of the Lord Jesus—not according to the Law of Moses but rather according to the tradition of the elders. Upon hearing their accusation—not only would Jesus accuse them of transgressing the commandment of God by their traditions but He would also indict them for teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.

 

            That which we find in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew must needs be carefully considered when seeking to understand the words Jesus spoke concerning the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus was clearly seeking to set forth and draw a powerful distinction between the righteousness the scribes and the Pharisees believed themselves to possess and the righteousness of the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus. It is absolutely clear when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that there were not only two types of citizens in the earth—citizens of the kingdom of heaven and citizens of Rome—but there were also two types of righteousness which was found upon the earth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for when we read the words which the Lord Jesus spoke on this particular occasion we find Him indicting the righteousness—or the so-called alleged righteousness—of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus was clearly demonstrating unto His disciples and followers that there was a righteousness which the scribes and the Pharisees believed themselves to possess—a righteousness which they thought pleased and honored the living God. Oh you cannot read the four gospel narratives without encountering the scribes and the Pharisees believing themselves to not only be righteous but also to be holy in the sight of the living God. It would be the Lord Jesus who would emphatically declare unto them the exact opposite of that which they had believed and thought within and of themselves.

 

            In order to understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture beginning to read with and from the twenty-first verse it is absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to Jesus’ words concerning the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus clearly sought to demonstrate unto His readers and His audience that there was a righteousness which the scribes and the Pharisees believed themselves to have possessed which was entirely and altogether different from the righteousness which the Lord Jesus came to introduce within and upon the earth. There is absolutely no doubt when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that the Lord Jesus came to introduce an entirely new and different righteousness—one that was not steeped in the traditions of man nor was found in legalism, religion and hypocrisy. The scribes and the Pharisees believed their righteousness satisfied the Law of Moses—and not only the Law of Moses but also the traditions of the elders and the traditions of men. That which the Lord Jesus sought to convey unto them was something entirely and altogether different for the Lord Jesus would declare unto his disciples and followers that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes of the Pharisees they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Oh how incredibly important and necessary this truly is when you take the time to consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for that which the Lord Jesus was declaring unto his disciples and followers was that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees would not grant them entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

            The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will encounter this tremendous truth of a definitive line in the sand Jesus was drawing in the hearts and minds of His disciples. The words which you find in this passage of Scripture can and will call and draw your attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and how that righteousness was entirely and altogether different from the righteousness of the citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus made it perfectly clear that except and unless the righteousness of His disciples and followers exceeded that of the scribes and the Pharisees they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. That which we must needs understand concerning these words which the Lord Jesus spoke is that the righteousness of the kingdom would be entirely and altogether different to the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. The scribes and the Pharisees believed they could be righteous by an external and outward observance of the Law without realizing that true obedience to the Law of God given unto Moses atop the mountain has never and will never begin nor will it be demonstrated by external and outward obedience and manifestation. Oh there are many who think and believe they can walk in obedience to that which the living and eternal God commanded simply by an external show of obeisance and homage to the living God and what he commanded and yet they don’t realize that true obedience begins within the heart.

 

            As you continue reading within this passage of Scripture you will find yourself coming face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the righteousness of the kingdom and how this righteousness is one that is born within the heart of a man. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding something that is more often than not overlooked when speaking of the righteousness which pleases the living God. It is indeed true that for centuries and generations men and women would believe themselves to have walked in obedience and righteousness in the sight of the living God through their observance and keeping of the Law which was given unto Moses. From the time of Moses and that time when the Law was in fact given unto the time of the Lord Jesus men and women believed themselves to be in compliance to that which the living God had commanded and required of them simply through their external and outward obedience to the word and commands of the living God. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not the case. There are those who think and believe that they walk in obedience to the living God—and not only walk in obedience but also please the living God—simply by an external and outward manifestation of obedience to the words and commands which are found in the Law. The truth of the matter, however, is that external observance of that which the living God commanded has never and will never be true obedience and faithfulness in the sight and presence of the living God. That which the Lord Jesus was conveying unto His audience in this passage of Scripture is simply that there was a righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees which was entirely and altogether different from the righteousness He and His Father was calling them to.

 

            I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding this righteousness which the Lord Jesus called and invited His disciples to give themselves to within the earth. The more you read the words which are found in this passage the more you will discover that true righteousness which inherits the kingdom of heaven is not born from external and outward obedience to the Law of God but rather an inward obedience and observance from within the heart. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand that true obedience in the sight of the living God must needs be found within the heart rather than any outward and external obedience. Oh I continue to believe there are many men and women who think and believe they can outwardly observe that which is found within the Scripture itself and yet have it never touch nor transform their heart. In all reality that which the Lord Jesus was emphatically declaring in this passage was that true righteousness is such that both touches and transforms the heart of a man—and not only touches and transforms a man but also calls and draws them into a place where they obey from the heart and not merely according to external and outward observance of the Law and that which was commanded and instructed by the living God. If you want to truly understand the words and language which is found in this passage of Scripture you must needs recognize that true righteousness in the sight of the living God is indeed birthed within the heart rather than based on any external and outward show of obedience to that which was commanded.

 

            It was Jesus Himself who declared that He did not come to destroy or abolish the Law but rather to fulfill the law. With this being said the Lord Jesus also declared unto His disciples and followers that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. Had Jesus merely left it at that I am convinced His disciples and followers might very well have been somewhat confused and perplexed as to what the righteousness of the kingdom did indeed look like. It would have been very easy for the Lord Jesus to declare unto his disicples and followers that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven, however, I am convinced that had Jesus done that without at the same time revealing unto them what that righteousness looked like He would have left more questions unanswered within the hearts and minds of those who had gathered themselves unto Him to listen. There is something about the words which we find in this passage of Scripture for the words which we find here call and draw our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the righteousness of the kingdom which is that righteousness that truly pleases, honors and glorifies the living God. It is this righteousness which would indeed be born within and from the heart rather than an external show and display of obedience to that which the living God has commanded and instructed within His law.

 

            If you read the words which are found in the fifth chapter beginning to read with and from the twenty-first verse you will find Jesus expounding upon this incredible truth surrounding this righteousness of the kingdom of heaven. The words and language which you find in these passages of Scripture call and invite you into the place where you don’t merely seek to observe the Law and what was commanded within it but also carefully examine the condition of your heart. That which the Lord Jesus speaks within this passage of Scripture must needs be recognized and understood as a wonderful and powerful invitation to deliver ourselves from an outward and external observance of the Law without taking the time to carefully consider the nature and condition of our hearts. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of that which is found in this passage of Scripture for to do so would be to entirely and altogether miss that which the Lord Jesus was seeking to convey and speak unto His disciples and followers. Perhaps the single greatest truth that is found within this passage of Scripture is the tremendous deception, trap and snare of mere outward obedience to the Law of Moses without taking the time to carefully examine the condition of our hearts. Oh there are those who think and believe they can somehow walk in outward and external obedience to the Law without ever taking the time to come face to face with the condition of their hearts.

 

            The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you will be brought face to face with a righteousness that pleases and honors the living God—a righteousness which is not merely born of outward and external observance of the Law but also a transformation of the heart. In all reality I would dare say that true obedience to the living God must needs have at the very core and center of it the transformation of one’s heart. One cannot and must not think they can merely observe that which the living God has commanded without allowing their hearts to be transformed. There are countless men and women who think and believe they can casually observe the Law given unto Moses and how that somehow satisfies that which the living God had required. I am absolutely convinced that what the living and eternal God desires more than anything is not an external observance of the Law but an inward transformation of one’s heart. It is only when one’s heart is truly transformed in the sight and presence of the Lord can one truly walk in obedience in the sight and presence of the Lord Jesus. It is only when one truly allows their heart to be changed and transformed they are able to walk in and abide in a righteousness that is pleasing and acceptable in the sight of the living God. Countless men and women throughout history have thought and even believed they could casually, outwardly and externally obey the Law and that which the living God had commanded without allowing their hearts to be transformed. The truth of the matter, however, is that such a reality is not only dangerous but it is also defeating and deceptive.

 

            I sit here today reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the fact that the instruction Jesus gave to His disciples and followers called and drew them into the place where they recognized that righteousness was not something which can be found merely by observing the letter without being transformed by the God of the letter. What’s more is I would dare say that if and unless our obedience to that which was commanded by the Law of the living God doesn’t transform our hearts we have sorely missed the truth of the matter. There is something to be said about the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture for what we find here must needs call and draw our attention to the fact that obedience to and observance of the Law of Moses is such that must needs be born within and from our hearts as we not only obey from the heart but also allow our heart to be transformed by the power of the living God. There is perhaps no greater or better demonstration and manifestation of this within Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount than when He declared how they had heard it was said by them of old time that they should not commit adultery. Jesus, however, would take this commandment and the understanding of it and turn it on its head for He would declare that whosoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely necessary it is for there were those who thought they were walking in obedience to the Law of Moses simply by abstaining from committing any form of adultery, fornication and lust within their life. There were those who thought and believed that simply refusing to commit and abstaining from adultery satisfied the Law of Moses and allowed one to be righteous in the sight and presence of the living God.

 

            I can’t help but be reminded of the rich young ruler who came unto Jesus asking Him what good thing he must needs do to be saved and to inherit eternal life. The Lord Jesus would speak unto Him and ask him what the Law commanded and what was written in the Law. This rich young ruler would emphatically declare unto Jesus those things which were written and commanded in the Law of Moses and how he had kept them from his youth up. That which this rich young ruler would do next is something that would open him up to something that would cause him to leave the presence of Jesus sorrowful. This rich young ruler would declare unto Jesus how he had kept all these commandments written in the Law of Moses from his youth up but would then ask Him what he still lacked. It would be in response to this the Lord Jesus would declare unto Him that if He wanted to be whole and if He wanted to be righteous he needed to go and sell all he had and give to the poor and then come and follow Him that he might have treasure in heaven. It’s important to note that although this rich young ruler had observed that which was written and commanded in the Law of Moses and although he would enter into the presence of the Lord Jesus asking what good thing he needed to do to inherit eternal life he would leave the presence of the Lord Jesus sorrowful because he realized that what the Lord Jesus asked of him was too much for him to handle. This rich young ruler had much possessions and much wealth and was not willing to part with any of it that he might have treasure in heaven and that he might follow the Lord Jesus.

 

            The narrative of the rich young ruler is such that warrants a strong and careful consideration within our hearts and lives for it forces us into the place where we must contend and come face to face with whether or not we ourselves are those who have responded and would respond the same way. The narrative of the rich young ruler demonstrates one who had kept and observed that which was written and commanded in the Law of Moses from his youth up and yet when Jesus asked and demanded more of him than what he was willing to give he left and departed from the presence of Jesus sorrowful. Oh I can’t help but wonder how many men and women among us enter into the presence of the Lord Jesus boasting of how we have kept the Law and commandments of the living God—perhaps even from our youth up—and yet we leave the presence of the Lord Jesus sorrowful because we realize He was asking and inviting us into something that was entirely and altogether different than what we have thought and expected. I am absolutely convinced there are and there have been countless men and women who have entered into the presence of the Lord Jesus seeking eternal life and seeking entrance and access into the kingdom of heaven. There are countless men and women who will seek to make the argument and boast that they have kept and observed the commandments written in the Law of Moses from their youth up and think that such a reality satisfies that which pleases, honors and glorifies the living God. These individuals find themselves in an unfamiliar place when they realize that the Lord Jesus calls and invites them into something much deeper and much greater than that which they had previously thought. They thought they could merely observe the letter of the Law without actually allowing their hearts to be transformed by the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. Such individuals thought and believed they could be righteous in the sight of God. The rich young ruler undoubtedly knew and thought he had kept all of these commandments written in the Law from his youth up and yet there appears to be something that indicates he felt there was something that was still missing.

 

            YET YOU STILL LACK ONE THING! I am absolutely convinced that what we find within this passage of Scripture brings us face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding that which many might lack within their hearts and lives in this life. There are many men and women who believe they have walked in obedience in the sight of the living God and believe they are righteous in the sight of the living God and yet the Lord Jesus speaks unto them and declares that they still lack one thing. I can’t help but think about the words which were spoken unto the rich young ruler and how the same words which Jesus spoke unto him were and are the same words which He speaks to many of us. There are countless men and women who think and believe that they are righteous in the sight of the living God and yet the Lord Jesus declares unto them that they still lack one thing within their hearts and lives. There are those among us who think and believe that their outward observance of the Law of Moses and that which was written in the Word of God has somehow guaranteed they are righteous in the sight of the living God. The truth of the matter, however, is that there are and there will be countless men and women who are surprised to find the Lord Jesus emphatically declaring unto them that there is still one thing they lack. What’s more is there will be countless men and women who will be incredibly shocked and surprised to think about and consider the tremendous truth surrounding that which is still required within their lives—namely an obedience that not only touches but also transforms the heart. Oh there are countless men and women who think and believe that obedience that pleases God is merely external and outward in nature and they take absolutely no thought to consider the fact obedience and righteousness are not merely outward and external manifestations within our lives but must needs touch and transform our hearts.

 

            The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with Jesus’ words concerning that which His disciples and followers had previously heard taught unto them but how He was introducing something entirely different. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when considering the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s that Jesus wasn’t introducing a new Law but rather a new and different way of obeying the Law which was already in place. With this being said we must needs recognize that the words which the Lord Jesus spoke were in fact found present in the Old Testament and were spoken by prophets, poets and kings alike. There were those in the Old Testament who realized and recognized that the living God did not delight in the sacrifice and offerings of bulls and goats as much as He did in an honest and contrite heart. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the Old Testament you will find countless examples of those who emphatically declared that the LORD is not as pleased with the sacrifice and blood of bulls and goats as He is in the heart and spirit of a man. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for the same way the living God is not as delighted in the blood of bulls and goats as He is in a humble heart and a contrite spirit so also is the living God not as delighted in an external and outward obedience and obeisance to the Law of Moses as He is to an inward obedience that touches and transforms the heart. We must needs recognize and understand the words which are found within the Old Testament for they help support and strengthen the words which we find here in the Sermon on the Mount and it is with this I would like to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the Old Testament concerning that which pleases and honors the living God:

 

            “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:22-23).

 

            “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. But they like men have transgressed the covenant: There have they dealt treacherously against me” (Hosea 6:6).

 

            “Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give the firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:6-8).

 

            “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: For the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wrought, and he went forwardly in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him” (Isaiah 57:15-19).

 

            “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: Where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:1-2).

 

            It is absolutely necessary for us to recognize the significance of the words which are found here—particularly and especially when we consider the words which our Lord spoke—for they call and draw us to the place where we recognize that the LORD does not have nor does He take as much delight and pleasure in mere outward and external obedience to the Law as He does in obedience from and with the heart. That which our Lord introduced His disciples and followers to was more than simply an external obedience to the Law but rather an inward obedience that begins within the heart of a man. Our Lord made it perfectly clear that outward and external obedience—even according to that which we have been taught and read—is not as necessary and vital as an inward obedience which begins with the heart. If there is one thing our Lord taught us within this passage of Scripture it’s that obedience—true obedience which pleases and honors the living God—begins within our hearts. The words which our Lord spoke here call and draw our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding an outward observance of the Law which might very well have been taught—even by the scribes, the Pharisees, the elders, the teachers of the Law, the chief priests and the like—is not the obedience which the Lord Jesus Christ desires and which He came to introduce as a direct manifestation of the kingdom of heaven. There is a great need within ourselves to recognize that true obedience to the Law and true obedience in the sight of the living God begins with our heart and anything that is outward and external is but a reflection of that which is present within our hearts.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find myself coming face to face with Jesus’ continued use of “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time” and “it hath been said” demonstrates that which His disciples and followers had heard taught unto them by the scribes, the Pharisees and the religious community. Within this particular section of the Sermon Jesus called their attention to that which they heard taught and spoken unto them and yet how He was introducing them to something that was entirely and altogether different. The Lord Jesus was not introducing a new Law for his disciples and followers to adhere to and obey but rather a new way of obeying that which had already been delivered and committed unto them. Those unto whom Jesus would speak were introduced to an entirely new and different way of obeying the Law—and not only an entirely new way of obeying the Law but also how the Law can be transgressed by more than just outward and external appearances and manifestations. The Lord Jesus would speak of the commandment not to murder, however, he would go on to speak of those who were angry at their brother without a cause being in danger of the judgment. Moreover Jesus would go on to declare that it was written in the Law and declared of those of old time that one should not commit adultery, however, He would state that this could be violated within and by the heart within oneself. If you want to understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you must needs know that what Jesus was doing was explaining to His disciples and followers that not only could the Law be transgressed within the heart while outwardly observing it but also that obedience to the Law begins within the heart. Oh there is a great need for us to pay attention to the words which Jesus spoke on this particular occasion and how one could obey the Law to the letter externally and yet still be guilty of transgressing it with their hearts, with their thoughts and even with their words.

 

Perhaps the greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not our obedience is indeed such that begins with our heart. There is a great need for us to acknowledge whether or not we are such who might profess allegiance and obedience to the Word of God and that which He has spoken and commanded and yet throughout words, through our actions and even through our thoughts demonstrate the contrary. We as the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs recognize and understand that we can appear righteous outwardly—much like Jesus declared and spoke of concerning the scribes and Pharisees—and yet inwardly be filled with all manner of iniquity, idolatry, fornication, adultery, wickedness and the like. When I read the words found in this passage of Scripture I am brought face to face with the fact that any obedience I claim and profess to have before and in the sight of the living God must needs be more than simply external and outward in nature but must truly begin with my heart. I must purpose and resolve within myself that I am going to be one who is not only transformed by and through obedience but also that my obedience can and will be demonstrated and manifested within and from my heart rather than mere external and outward demonstrations which make me appear to be righteous while at the same time being one who is disobedient and rebellious in the sight of the living God.

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