Exceeding Expectations

Matthew 5:1-6:4

“Therefore, you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” ~Matthew 5:48

Perfection, according to Jesus, is at the top of the list of kingdom requirements for you and me. That is what he said at the end of Matthew 5: Be perfect, just like God.

You really need to spend more than one sitting to absorb all that Jesus said here in this chapter. This has been called the “Sermon on the Mount”, and it extends clear through chapter 7. Truly, it is the greatest sermon ever preached. Rather than speaking to massive throngs of seekers, Jesus huddled with his disciples and began to explain for them what life in the kingdom of God was to be about.

As you read through Christ’s teachings, you begin to realize that rather than backing down from the rigid, legalistic, impossible, burdensome demands of Jewish law, Jesus was actually calling his followers to a much higher standard. He wasn’t asking for less, he was asking for more. He was revealing what God really required for anyone who wanted to be one of his true children.

Over time, the religious leaders of the Jewish people had boiled down the law of God to a long list of do’s and don’ts. Eventually, the spirit of the law had been lost and rigid, loveless, legal applications had taken its place. The result was that along the way, the people of God, the Jews, wandered from what was meant to produce an intimate love relationship with their God and had settled instead for a religious system that measured spirituality through outward acts of piety.

But, as Jesus taught, the Jews had missed the point. Which, by the way, is just as easy for us to do in our walk with God. The spiritual drift is always away from loving intimacy with the Father toward measurable acts of religiosity: Church attendance, tithing, serving in a ministry, not doing this, doing that…

Jesus’ bottom line in all of these teachings in Matthew 5 (as well as in chapters 6 and 7) is that God wants not your outward acts of piety and prideful obedience to the minutiae of some religious legal system—he wants your heart. He wants a heart that is fully engaged, fully devoted, and fully in love with him.

If you will offer God that kind of heart, then your obedience will go way beyond what the law requires, and you will experience the blessed life of belonging to the Real Kingdom, not just a religious kingdom.

And you will be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is.

“The law works fear and wrath; grace works hope and mercy.” ~Martin Luther

Reflect and Apply: Has the Heavenly Father arrested you heart? Have you invited him to create a new heart in you—one that longs for him and his rule more than even life itself? That is the heart that is perfect before him!

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