9.29.14 6:26am – Family room. chair
Lord, You are Awesome. Thank you for breathing air into my lungs that I may spend another day moving in your will. Walk with me through today’s devotion and journaling that I might understand and communicate your message.
I love atheists, even if they do sometimes drive me crazy with their preposterous presuppositions and horrible hermeneutics. They challenge me to look at difficult areas of my faith that I might be tempted to gloss over. I’ll be honest, I was one of them once too. Today’s reading was one of those verses I liked to use to build a case for the inconsistency of Christians. And because I found it challenging after I became a Christian it was one of the first passages I tried to understand.
Matthew 5:17-20 The Fulfillment of the Law
- Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 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.
The law and prophets were very important to Jesus, down to the smallest letter or the least command. But like the Pharisees who were outwardly obedient to the law, Jesus stressed that it was your motivation for that obedience, what was in your heart that really mattered. This is made clear throughout the gospels, and you see further clarifications in the following paragraphs. I can see myself doing this in a sense. I tend to rate sin and compare myself with other people. I mean, at least I never killed anyone. At least I never physically cheated on my wife. Sure I may have wished someone would die, and maybe I looked lustfully at a woman or two, but surely that’s not as bad as actually doing those actions! I still struggle with this, probably because I don’t want to admit that I am wrong. This is what challenges me now.
What use to challenge me was why do some Christians get tattoos and eat bacon if Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the law. I started to look into this and even posted once on this blog about my personal struggles about whether I should get a new tattoo or not. I haven’t gone back to read it since I wrote it, but I remember touching on a different category of law. Further into my studies I discovered that the categories of laws can essentially be broken down into three groups:
- Ceremonial Law: These are the laws God gave to Israel to separate the people of Israel from the Polytheistic Pagan nations that surrounded them. These laws included regulations concerning clothing, cleanliness, diet. We no longer need to sacrifice animals to cover our sin, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross took away our sin and these laws were fulfilled in Him, meaning they have come to completion.
- Civil/Judicial Law: Are laws which are culturally specific to ancient Israel. Laws falling into this category included penalties for various crimes, rules for business transactions. These expired after the fall of the Jewish civil government. Today, as a U.S. citizen I no longer have to pay parliamentary taxes, because we are no longer under control of the British government.
- Moral Law: These are God’s laws that are binding for all people, in all cultures, at all times. These will never expire, because God’s moral character will never change. These include the ten commandments; laws that we all know, they are the laws written on our hearts (Rom 2).
And it is the moral laws that Jesus further goes on to describe in the following paragraphs. I have found that reading a verse in context will overrule many of these objections. When God says he has judged other nations for having broken a law, it is most likely a moral law. Understanding this, has helped me significantly in so many areas.
Lord, I thank you for the objections you have overruled and opened my eyes to your grace. I pray that you change my heart so that your moral laws come naturally, so that I don’t have to struggle as much as I do with impure thoughts. As always it is in Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!