Jesus finished what the Law started without changing it

When you think about the church as a whole in general, what’s the first thing you think of? Maybe if you’re in another country where the Bible is illegal and churches are threatened, you have a different perspective than we do here in America. But here in the US, generally what I run into when I talk to people about the church is the idea that “church people” are always fast to pass judgment.

This is a horrible example and it may not even be relevant, but one of the most popular comedy sketches in the history of television was Dana Carvey’s Church Lady–a cantankerous old woman character who fussed and fretted about modern trends and popular culture (and it was pretty funny, honestly).

I’ve had this conversation with people before. If you go to church, it usually means that you have no problem condemning actions or choices or the beliefs of other people. You sit on a high horse and pass judgment on people you don’t know. Whether it’s actually true or not, that seems to be the general perception.

But isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Isn’t the Bible a book of dos and don’ts? As Christ-followers, don’t we have the right and a duty to tell other people when they’re wrong?

Oh, this is such a slippery slope. And in situations like this, it’s always best to go back to the source to see what the Bible actually says.

dreamstime_m_9338559Today’s verse is Matthew 5:17.

Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.

This is still the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus’ best known messages. One of many things I love about Jesus is that He wanted people to understand why He’d come. He didn’t just walk about thumping people on the head and telling people that they were wrong. He spent His time building relationships with people.

But by that same token, as He says in this verse, He didn’t come to do away with the Law. He came to finish what the Law started.

Everything that God had done throughout the Old Testament was a picture to demonstrate that God had a relationship with people. The Laws weren’t given as a means to get to heaven or to reach God. The Laws were given to show people they could never be good enough and that they would have to rely on God’s grace through faith for salvation. Sound familiar?

Jesus came to bridge the gap between a perfect God and a broken world. And He didn’t accomplish this by walking around beating people down because they had sinned. He didn’t make it happen by standing above everyone and pointing out everything they’d done wrong. He didn’t do it by jumping down somebody’s throat because they say something that disagrees with God’s Word.

No. But at the same time, Jesus didn’t pull His punches either. He spoke the Truth because He is the Truth. He didn’t change one thing about Scripture that God had already established. I mean, think about that. God doesn’t change, and Jesus is God. So if you can’t separate God from Jesus, you can’t separate Jesus from the Bible.

You can respect another person’s choice to believe something without believing it yourself. You can demonstrate love and kindness toward people who believe differently than you do without thinking poorly of them. Pointing out where people are wrong won’t help you build a relationship with them. When you point at someone else’s faults, remember there are four fingers pointing back at you. Try to keep that in mind the next time you are being critical of someone else’s choices. We can’t make decisions for other people, and I’ve never once seen where a heated debate changed anybody’s mind.

Be clear. What the Bible says goes, and you can’t separate Jesus from the Bible. What God says is true and right. Period. Whether we like it or not. But nobody has the right to tear someone else down for what they do or don’t believe.

Jesus wanted people to understand why He was here and make up their own minds. That’s what we should be doing too.


A temple in Tikal

Temporary greatness

What does it take to be great? As much as I dislike the spotlight, there’s a part of me that really wants to see a novel with my name on it sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. There’s a part of me that would like to be known.

Being great is an accomplishment that everyone in the world seeks, if they’re honest. We all want to be known for something. We all want to leave our mark on the world. So how is it that only some people succeed and others don’t? Well, what is the definition of greatness, actually? Because it varies from person to person.

On earth, being great translates into being wealthy and famous and powerful. On earth, great kings and queens and rulers thousands of years ago were so great that they had temples built to commemorate their death, massive structures of stone that still exist to this day. But is that really greatness? Because when your money runs out and your influence runs out and you reach the limit of your talent and people get tired of you, you’re no longer great and you fall from the spotlight. But is greatness supposed to be temporary?

A temple in Tikal

A temple in Tikal - Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:19.

So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

This verse comes from a message that Jesus preached called The Sermon on the Mount. It’s the same chapter that you find the Beatitudes, one of the most paradoxical chapters in all of Scripture.

This part of the message is talking about the Law. Basically, Jesus is telling people that He didn’t come to do away with the Law Moses wrote on God’s behalf (the Old Testament pretty much) but that He came to accomplish its purpose. It’s purpose being to bridge the gap between God and Mankind. That’s when He says this, but afterward He cautions them that obeying the Law won’t get them into heaven.

So what does this mean? When I read this, my first question is what is the least commandment? But I don’t guess that really matters, because even if I ignore the commandment that is the least of all of them, I will be the least in eternity.

But if you obey God’s laws and teach them to others, you will be great. Not on earth but in heaven.

Compare the difference to being great on earth to being great in heaven. Just about everything on earth is temporary. Very few things down here are going to last into eternity, those few things being mainly our souls and our love for God and each other . . . and some of our works which will be tested to see if they were worth anything. And that’s about it. No money. No power. No influence. No status. No titles. Nothing of that sort will make it.

But in heaven, there will be a different sort of rank and status. It’s completely opposite of the way we live here, where the person who cared the most about money and power on earth will be less important than someone who cared about others. It will be a place where people who trusted God with everything they had while they lived on earth will outrank people who chose to clung to their own wisdom.

Notice, everyone is still in heaven. And, yes, it will still be wonderful no matter what rank or station you are at, but there will be quality of life in heaven and not many people talk about that. We may all believe in Jesus but not all of us know Him as well as we should. Those people who know Him and live like Him will receive a better reward than those of us who just lived to achieve money and power on earth.

In essence, I guess Jesus is saying that you will receive the reward you seek. If you’re after money and power and wealth and fame on earth and if you work hard enough for it, generally speaking — sometimes — maybe — possibly, you’ll achieve it. And if you seek to be great in heaven and you go about it by obeying God’s laws and teaching others, then you’ll achieve it when you get to heaven. But it’s rare that you will achieve both. Not unheard of. But rare.

So, it’s important to ask yourself what is more important, being great on earth for a little while? Or being great in heaven forever?