July 29 I Friday
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 5:20
In Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, He takes a deep dive into the inner life of the human heart. Jesus teaches, “‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). Most of us have probably never murdered anyone, but according to Jesus, the attitude of our heart and the anger that exists beneath the surface is just as treacherous as murder.
Jesus continues, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). If we look at someone lustfully, we have committed adultery. Jesus adds, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Matthew 5:31-32). Divorce was common and composed of writing a certificate of divorce, going to the priest, having it authorized and sending the wife away.
As Jesus moves through examples of Old Testament laws, we will notice that He is not addressing the external actions of our behaviour, but the internal attitude of our heart. We have a risk of overestimating how good and righteous we are, and that God should just accept us because we are nice and have not committed any big sins, but Jesus is raising the standard much higher than that.
Through Jesus’s teachings, He is actually amplifying the righteousness of God, and in the process, revealing how short we have fallen of God’s glory. God’s Law and His glory are to be understood together. 1 John 3:4 tells us, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” Sin is an archery term. If we shot and missed the bullseye, it is sin, regardless of whether we missed it by an inch or a mile. Romans 3:23 reveals, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The standard by which we are measured is the glory of God—the perfect bullseye. Altogether, when we fail to fulfill the Law of God, we fall short of the glory of God.
Only when we humbly accept this truth will we be eager to receive the good news that God has offered: His perfect righteousness as a gift to any who would have faith in the finished work of His Son.
Prayer: Precious Jesus, thank You for Your teaching that showcases the righteousness of God, and how far I have fallen from Your glory. Help me to humbly accept this truth and to receive the gift of Your righteousness.