Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's not about rules like you may think

This past Sunday, Pastor Fuller titled his sermon, "Surprised by Jesus." 
It was based around the passage of Matthew 5:21-37
This reading is shortly after the beatitudes where Jesus presents us radical reversals like, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" and "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me." 

After this He talks about His followers being salt and light to the world, and then follows with a conversation about the Law. For instance, "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell." Jesus is challenging us once again to look outside the box of rules. Of course, Jesus isn't saying, "Forget the 10 commandments, do whatever you want ," instead He is saying, being angry with your brother or discouraging toward another is just as bad as murder so don't do either. Don't say, "Well I won't murder, but I will be rude and angry towards people." 
Instead say, "I won't murder and I won't be rude and angry either, because none of them are life-giving."

Jesus continues to challenge us. He's good at that, isn't is He?
"You have heard that it was said, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your whole body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell..." 
Here He goes again by going outside the tablet of rules (10 commandments) and says, don't even think about committing adultery for it is as bad as the act. He says if one eye makes you stumble, tear it out, not literally of course, but to get rid of the sin in our lives for it is better to repent, than to continue to sin. 

THEN, Jesus talks about a common issue in our culture today, divorce.
"It was said, 'WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." 
This one can really make people feel uncomfortable, but I was so glad Pastor Fuller talked about it. He said that with any passage, learning the context and history is vital to understanding. 
I learned that back in biblical times, divorce had become a casual thing. The Hillelite rabbis had created the "any cause divorce" because they believed the word 'cause' in Deuteronomy 24:1 meant a divorce could occur for any cause. Men could divorce his wife for whatever reason, even the smallest reasons like forgetting to sweep the floor. This became extremely common among Jews so that's why some Pharisees asked Jesus (Matthew 19:3) if  any cause divorce was lawful and Jesus answered with a bold no. He wanted the any cause divorce to end. He took it serious, but the Jews of the day did not. They only took advantage of divorce. [Check out this article for more info about divorce]
Here again, we see Jesus taking the rules a step further.

Now, He wasn't challenging us to simply add more rules and regulations to our lives. That was one of the reasons why Jesus always challenged the Pharisees, because they were focusing on religious customs and losing sight of the real reason  of faith in this life. 
Jesus didn't come to get rid of the Law (10 commandments), He came to fulfill it, meaning lets go even further than these commandments, not so we can feel boxed in but, so we can be free.

Jesus says the most important commandments are, "love God and love others, including your enemies." Pastor Fuller explained that Jesus doesn't have a problem with the 10 commandments, but Jesus wants our sole priorities to be loving God and others. When we do this, the 10 commandments are checked off. If we love others, we will not murder. If we love others, we will not commit adultery. If we love others, we will not steal. If we love others, we will not lie and so on. 

Many people think that being a Christian means that you have to follow a long list of rules, but being a Christian means to follow Jesus, which in turn, translates to loving God and people. Instead of being scared off by the intimidating 10 commandments, we should focus on God and who He is. When we do that, we can only love Him and because we love Him, we want to obey Him and make Him happy. Everything else falls into place. 

Pastor Fuller said, "Jesus wants to get us past the rules of living to the heart of living."
Jesus' heart is love.
Therefore, as Christians our hearts and lives should focus on love. 
It's not about rules, it's about heart.

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