Daily Discipline #119
By Colleen Donahue
Jesus Christ came into a very ancient society that had built its life and customs on “the law and the prophets”. From the start of His public ministry, the Scribes and the Pharisees were in opposition to Him.
Change produces great insecurity in us and this new teacher threatened change. But Jesus needed to make it clear that His purpose in coming was not to nullify or abandon the law, but to complete and fulfill it.
He was indeed a revolutionary, but in the opposite sense of one. He wasn’t trying to over throw the law. Rather He had come to complete and fulfill even the tiniest part of the law which was something that went far beyond the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.
What the Scribes and Pharisees did was not good enough. The law was not just outward rules and regulations. The most important part of it was internal matters of the heart: truth, justice, purity, and holiness.
As 21st century men and women, we have had foundations placed under our lives from our families, churches, schools, and work places. On these building blocks there is good to be built upon. In coming to Christ, we are not abandoning all that we have been taught. Rather, Christ in our lives, is adding to and completing the good that has been started. If there is any untruth and wrong that has been part of our foundation, then that will be exposed, and will crumble under His truth.
This is important, because in coming to Christ we can get off into extremes of which Christ would not approve. His way is one of steadiness and building.
In our study we want to look at Christ as the fulfillment of the Jewish law and what this means for us today.
Christ’s Teaching on Living Above and Beyond the Jewish Law
Day 1 Jesus set out very clearly at the start of His public ministry one of His purposes for coming.
Matthew 5: 17-19
Day 2 In Jewish life, the Scribes and Pharisees had made it their whole life ambition to walk according to the letter of the Jewish law. They thought of themselves as the elite of society and certainly the most righteous. So, when Christ taught that He Himself was the law’s fulfillment, what took them by surprise?
In other words, their righteous lives were not good enough by Christ’s standard to enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
Day 3 In these verses we have the first example of how Christ goes beyond the letter of the law to fulfill it in the deepest sense. To the Jew, committing murder involved only the “act” of killing someone. (Exodus 20:13) But Jesus says with authority that murder begins with the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Anger is at the root of murder.
Matthew 5:21-22 / Psalm 37:8
There is a physical murder but there is also a heart murder or tongue murder. Anger in the heart pours out in scornful words that can kill a person as much as physically killing them. Words can demean and make a person the object of contempt. In this passage, (Matthew 5:21-22) there are three increasing levels of contempt:
A) Unjust anger
B)Anger with an expression of contempt and
C) Anger with contempt and wickedness.
As the severity of anger increases so will the punishment. While the punishment may not be on this earth, it will surely be in a future time.
Day 4 Christ follows these words about anger and murder with how this affects our worship of God. Our relationship with God is tied directly with the relationship we have with other men. There is no real communication with God when we are unreconciled to any man. We may fool men with the surface relationships that we have with one another, but God sees the heart and is not fooled.
Matthew 5:23-26 / Mark 11:25 / 1 John 2:9, 11
Day 5 Thou shalt not commit adultery is the seventh commandment.
Exodus 20:14/ Deuteronomy 5:18
In these verses Jesus again is saying that sin goes beyond the physical act. He points out that there is a connection between our minds and our eyes. Sometimes what is in our mind causes us to “look” and at other times we may get sight of something which causes wrong thinking.
Matthew 5:27-28 / I John 2:15-17
Day 6 Our eyes, our minds, and our hearts must be carefully guarded in a Christian’s life.
Proverbs 4:23/ Jeremiah 4:14 / Luke 6:45
Note: The Hebrew word for “heart” is widely used to represent man’s soul which include his mind, will and emotions.
The eyes are the guardian of the soul. Sin began with “seeing” in the Garden of Eden – causing them to “consider” and finally to act.
Genesis 3: 5-7
Day 7 King David, in walking innocently on his flat roof saw Bathsheba bathing and at first glance saw how beautiful she was. This first look was an innocent one in that he happened to see her. But from this first look he went to the second step of inquiry and then to adultery and finally murder. The mind had become involved which resulted in the acts.
2 Samuel 11: 1-17
Day 8 The Lord keeps us as “the apple of His eye” (or in the center of His sight).
Deuteronomy 32:10 / Psalm 17:8
In reverse, our eyes are to be “ever towards the Lord”.
Psalm 25:15/ Psalm 123:2 / Psalm 141:8
This is the first truth about how to guard our eyes.
Day 9 The eye is the lamp of the body. What function does it have?
The eye in this verse speaks of our conscience, and when our conscience is clear, our whole body is full of light. We are people who walk with a purpose in life. When our eyes stay fixed on what God wants for us then we walk in truth and light and freedom. But when we’re looking all around us—changing direction, second guessing—wanting to experience everything, what do we become?
Day 10- Lust can be translated as “evil desire”. When the mind has contemplated sin, it will make a decision on what to do with the thoughts. The thoughts are acted out when our will sets them in motion. The will involves the body as the instrument and thus sin is committed.
James 1: 14-15
Jesus uses strong words to let us know that we need to deal strongly with ourselves. Whatever part of us that habitually falls into participating in sin needs to be dealt with severely.
Matthew 5:29-30/ Romans 13:14 / Colossians 3:5/ 1 Peter 2:11
(Matthew 5: 31-32/ Mark 10:1-12/ Luke 16:18)
This is the third example of how Christ goes beyond the letter of the law to fulfill it in the deepest sense.
Day 11- Matthew 5:31 quotes what was written in-
Moses was the leader of a very stubborn and headstrong people. They were going to do what they wanted to do. Therefore Moses wrote out an orderly way of taking care of a messy and wrong business – i.e. that of putting away your wife.
Day 12- Notice that Christ is speaking with an authority that is beyond the law. In Matthew 5:32 He says
“But I tell you……”
- “anyone” – it doesn’t matter where we are on the social scale.
- there appears only one reason for divorce : Matthew 5:32a
-if we divorce for any other reason we……
1. cause our spouse to commit adultery-
2. cause the one to marry our divorced spouse to commit adultery--Matthew 5:32b
Adultery is only committed when there has been sexual unfaithfulness of a married person. Therefore this verse is stating that in God’s eyes the divorce is not valid and it’s why He considers adultery to have been committed even though a person may have a “certificate of divorce.”
The “certificate of divorce” was man’s way of dealing with marital trouble. It made it respectable in man’s sight. But, God didn’t recognize this certificate. It was not valid in His sight and that is why to God another sin comes as a result of the divorce – i.e. adultery.
OATHS AND TRUTH
This is the fourth example of how Christ goes beyond the letter of the law to fulfill the law in the deepest sense. To put weight and veracity behind their words the Jews used the “swearing by oaths” technique. If they swore by God’s name, then it was absolutely binding. But, if they swore by their own head etc. then it could be ignored, thereby defeating what they were trying to do in the first place—i.e. let others know that there word was true.
Day 13- We are to be men and woman that only deal in truth and our character is to be the backing to our words. To swear by anything is to really swear by God because He is the Creator and Owner of everything. We are making God an accomplice to our words and promises. Therefore, if we swear falsely by not keeping our word, then we make ourselves and God into a liar. The evil one deals in lies and half truths. If we have to qualify to others our “Yes” or our “No”, then there is doubt about our character and veracity of our words.
Matthew 5:33-37 / I Peter 2:1
WRONG DOING AND RETALIATION—“An eye for an eye”.
Day 14- The fifth example of how Christ goes beyond the letter of the law deals with people that have committed wrongs against us and our reaction to that person and situation. The “eye for an eye” law was meant as a way to keep from having wholesale bloodshed within tribal parties. But Christ is again taking it one step further. By commanding us not to resist an evil person that has done us wrong, we stop the chain of abuse. It cannot spread beyond us unless we react and give it back.
Matthew 5:38-39a / Romans 12:17-18
Day 15- While God placed the law and its execution in the hands of the government, He placed a higher law of love into the hearts of Christ’s disciples. This is our law of action when we are wronged.
Proverbs 25: 21-22 / Luke 6:27-28, 35 / 1Peter 3:9
Day 16- But…”the law of love is not intended to throw open the floodgates to unrestrained cruelty and crime.” Lenski
Notice that in the examples given by Christ, that the second half of the deed (that accepts the injustice and wrong) is completely voluntary. We have mastery over our own heart, and therefore in choosing not to retaliate we keep ourselves from bitterness -- out of which sin springs.
Matthew 5: 39-42/ Romans 13:10 / Galatians 5:14/ James 2:8
These examples are not to encourage an evil person to do more evil. They are for the spiritual interest of the disciple.
Day 17- The example of giving and borrowing is different in that it doesn’t have the aspect of doubling. Jesus doesn’t say to give double what is asked. If a person has wronged us, we will be inclined to be hard hearted back to them. But we have the ability to choose to do otherwise and thus show him the love of God.
Matthew 5: 42/ Luke 3:11 / Luke 12: 33
Christ’s injunctions are not intended to be applied mechanically or with foolish blindness. Love is not to foster crime in others or to expose our loved ones to disaster or death. He does not tell us not to restrain a murder’s hand or not to oppose a tyrant.
When we react in kind to someone that has wronged us, we become part of a cycle of sin. A wrong done to us will show us the state of our own heart. Our heart is either filled with water or gasoline. It is either clean or unclean. How can we know? When a match is thrown in (i.e. a wrong done to us) a fire will explode from the gasoline igniting OR the match will go out when it hits the water.
A reaction that explodes from us whether in word or deed indicates that the heart is unclean and not at peace. When we are able to hand the wrong or injustice over to God and hold our peace, then we know that the love of God has filled our heart and we can voluntarily accept the injustice and give the person forgiveness whether they ask for it or not.
Day 18- Forgiving a person that has wronged us is only possible when God’s love fills our hearts. Forgiving the offender lets that person “off our hook”. They are not able to keep affecting us in thought and action. This doesn’t mean that they are off “God’s hook”. He is the one who will handle any vengeance and give out justice in the situation.
Romans 12:17-21 / Hebrews 10:30
Day 19- This is true freedom in our spirits when we can be wronged and yet not let it affect our minds and hearts. If we react, then we are the ones that suffer the most. Our wrong reaction is as much sin as the initial wrong. It produces a hardness and bitterness in the heart. This leads to unforgiveness and when we have unforgiveness then there is a door opened up to Satan who can then take further advantage of the situation. Satan looks for any crack in our armor and comes in excitedly to wreak further havoc. Meanwhile, the person that initially wronged us may be going on with life completely unaware that we are still suffering from the wrong. In not forgiving, we may think we are getting back at the other person but in reality we just hurt ourselves and let Satan have the advantage. In not forgiving we keep ourselves distant from God.
Mark 11:25/ Luke 17:4 / Ephesians 4:32/ Colossians 3:13
LOVE FOR ENEMIES
This is the 6th example that Christ gives for going above and beyond the law.
Day 20- There are injunctions in the Bible to love our neighbor, but none that say “hate your enemy”. It is quite probable that the Sadducees and Pharisees inferred from loving their neighbor that the opposite would also be true – i.e. to hate their enemy. So Jesus starts His address with what seems to be common, accepted knowledge.
Day 21- “But I tell you….” – this is the 7th time this phrase is used. Jesus stands squarely on the authority given to Him by God. He gives us two commands. What is the first one?
Matthew 5:44a / Luke 6:27
This is opposite teaching to what we are commonly taught. The love referred to here is “agape love”. It is choosing to love with Christ’s love those that are the most unlovable. It is not a love that we can muster up on our own. It comes directly from Jesus Himself abiding in us and reaching out to a lost world through us. On our own, we are incapable of such selfless love.
Day 22- What is Christ’s second command to us?
When we pray for someone, we are going to God on their behalf to ask God for something definite for them. We cannot hate someone that we pray for. The two are incompatible. Can’t we pray that God will “strike them down?” We can speak those words but whenever we pray for the opposite of what God wants, then we pray amiss. Gad has commanded us to love our enemies and loving isn’t asking God for bad things to happen to them.
Day 23- Luke records in chapter 6 a third command:
Luke 6: 27, 35
Doing good (or acting nobly toward) another person begins with prayer for them. God fills our heart with agape love that is able to make us want to do good towards someone that detests and hates us. By acting in the opposite way that we have been treated we break the cycle of evil. The Apostle Paul later gave further instruction on “doing good”.
Romans 12:20-21 / 1 Thessalonians 5:15
Day 24- Finally, what is the fourth command to us in regard to our enemies?
Someone who curses us is praying for harm to come to us. In the amplified Bible it says that to bless those that curse us is to implore God (through prayer) to bless those who abuse, revile, reproach, disparage and misuse you.
Romans 12:14 / James 3:10
Day 25 – Do we have it within ourselves to bless those that curse us? No. Without Jesus abiding within us we have no power for such action. Without Christ, we can do nothing. But with Him we can do all things because of the strength He gives us for the task.
John 15:5/ Philippians 4:13
Day 26- What is the result of our obedience to love our enemies?
We become like Jesus and thus become children of God. When we are able to bless, love, and pray for all men, then we are walking in our Father’s shoes.
1 John 3:10
Day 27- What are the distinguishing marks of a Christian?
Day 28- This is how a Christian goes above and beyond the law. It is not too difficult to love and be kind to those that do that in turn to you. But try to love someone that hates you and you’ll find everything in you wanting to do anything else but love the other person. That is man’s natural reaction without God. But the mark of a man filled with God --with the Holy Spirit-- is that despite his feelings he is able to choose to do good to his enemies. He is able to break the cycle of evil and retaliation.
Ephesians 5:1 / 1 Peter 1:15-16
Day 29- We come now to the final verse in this section of Christ’s teaching where He explains how He is the fulfillment of the law and therefore what it would mean to all those Jews that were following the law as it was known. In this verse, Jesus sums up all His examples of the way that we must live beyond the law.
Day 30- The Greek word used for “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 is teleois. This word implies that a thing is perfect if it realizes the purpose for which it is planned. So, we as men become perfect when we realize the purpose for which God created us. And what is that purpose?
A. We were created in the image of God
B. We were created to be like God in this world. God is full of universal benevolence. He wants all men to be saved and complete in Him.
Romans 2:4/ Titus 3:5
C. God is seeking the highest good for every man and so should we. We are admonished to be imitators of God and thus to live a life of love.
Day 31- Since sin has entered the world we are also men who sin and therefore we can never be perfect in the sense of sinless. But we can be perfect in the sense of walking blamelessly before God and men –i.e. to the best of our knowledge we walk in all the light and truth that we know. We become people that are “growing into complete maturity and godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity.” (Amplified Bible)
Deuteronomy 18:13/ Job 1:1/ Job 2:3 / Philippians 3:12-15/ James 1:4
SUMMARY- We are perfect as our Father is perfect when…..
1. We keep God’s word – Matthew 5:19
2. We are reconciled to a person that has something against us. – Matthew 5:24
3. When we honor the commitment we have made in marriage - Matthew 5:27
4. When we keep our mind, eyes, and hands free from lusting after another person. – Matthew 5:28
5. When we say our “Yes” or “No” and mean it. – Matthew 5:37
6. When we do not retaliate-- Matthew 5:39
7. When we give freely and show a genuine benevolence to all men- Matthew 5:42
8. When we love our enemies – Matthew 5:44
9. When we pray for those that hate us. – Luke 6:28
Can we do this in our own strength? No. It is Christ living within us through His Holy Spirit that enables us to fulfill the law and live above and beyond it.
John 13:35 / Galatians 2:20
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