16 September 2018 8AM
The New Law
The series we’ve been following is called Soul Stories, and when Reverend Peter explained it to me, he said that it was about personal revelation. He asked me to speak about an “Aha!” moment that I’ve had: a mind-shift, or a moment when something just clicked into place. I wrestled for long with this, trying to figure out what my soul story is. What is the revelation that has been most meaningful in my life, and yet is still relevant to people who don’t share my circumstance? And I knew immediately what it was, but not how to put in into words. That’s really what I wrestled with, is describing my soul story. And so I finally settled on “The New Law” as my title, and so today I’ll be sharing with you my understanding of the New Law that Jesus brought. My verses are from Matthew 5:17-48, the Sermon on the Mount.
First off, let me give some background. So in the beginning, in Genesis, God created the world God created man and woman, and everything was perfect. Then the people sinned, and created a divide between Man and God. The wage of sin is death, and so only death could atone for sin. In the Old Testament, God gave the Israelites the Covenant of the Law, what I will refer to as the Old Law, and He also gave them the system of sacrifice. The covenant was that if the Israelites obeyed the Old Law, they would not be in sin, and they could enter the presence of God. If they did break the Law, thereby sinning, they would have to sacrifice an animal in atonement for that sin. This is Sunday School 101, the Ten Commandments, Moses, the wilderness. But, as I hope we all know, the sacrificial system, 1 death for 1 sin, wasn’t enough, and we needed Jesus to set us free from that, by becoming the one atoning sacrifice for all sin. In doing so, He created the New Covenant, the Covenant of The Blood, which only requires of us to believe in Him and accept Him as our saviour. However, He also gave us the New Law.
3) Pleasure, not prerequisite
Verse 17-19 Jesus gave many instructions in the Bible, which are not prerequisites for entering God’s presence. We don’t have to follow them in order to uphold our side of the Covenant. In fact, we don’t need to do them at all per se. In verse 19 He says: whoever sets these aside… will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s still in the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ’s work on the Cross is sufficient. No action of ours could add anything to it. Nothing we can do can make us more worthy of Him. So why should we follow His instructions? There is nothing enforcing these rules, so what makes us follow them? Obedience is a pleasure, not a prerequisite. We do not follow the instructions of Jesus because we have to, but we should follow them because He has our love and respect. Following these laws is not a burden, but rather a pleasure. God has ever been good to us. He has loved us and blessed us. And if we love Him, if we respect Him, then surely we will obey Him? The same way that there is probably little that my parents could do now to discipline me and yet I still listen to them. If I can obey my parents, surely I can obey God. And even more, if I know that God is good, and I know that He knows best, then surely His instructions are good? If I am trying to figure out a microwave, I follow the instructions of the person who built it. So surely if I am trying to figure out life, I should follow the instructions of the One who created it? And surely if I follow these instructions, it will go well with me?
So what is the New Law? Verse 21-30 Jesus is taking the Old Law, and upgrading it. Do not murder now becomes do not hold on to anger. Do not commit adultery now becomes do not lust. So what is Jesus saying here? What is the significance of this? The Jews of the time viewed sin as the physical acts, which were forbidden. Jesus is breaking that idea. He is making the Law even stricter. He’s saying it’s not the act that matters; it’s your heart. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t kill your brother, you were angry with him, and that means that you have fallen short of the standard of the New Law. Verse 48. That’s the New Law. Perfection, not only in your deeds, but in your thoughts, and in your emotions as well. That’s the standard. Gouge out your eye, verse 29, rather than stumble. This New Law is so much more difficult to keep to than the Old Law. The Old Law required self-control, but this New Law requires something more. Most people can manage not to commit murder. But how many people can say that they can stop themselves from getting angry? It’s a good thing that we do not need to uphold the New Law in order to have a relationship with God, or else we’d be in a bit of a pickle.
5) Soul Story
I’m in Stellenbosch, studying Law. My revelation hasn’t been a Road to Damascus moment. It’s been little conversations, small revelations. I’ll mention one as an example. In Stellenbosch, I have a friend called Emil. Emil doesn’t like Christians, but he considers me one of his best friends. When I brought this up he said no, I’m not a “Christian Christian”. This bothered me, because I mean I’m a local preacher, I worked in the church for a year, I try to live for God wherever I can. What do you mean I’m not a “Christian Christian”? Emil says likes me because I care about people, because I make time for people, because I try to genuinely love the people around me. If that confuses you good because me too. Did he not just describe a Christian? So what’s the truth here does he like us or not? Emil has not experienced the church as a body of people who follow the New Law. Emil has not experienced the church as a body of loving people. So this is my Soul Story. This is my revelation, and it’s not a comfortable one, but it is an important one. After that conversation, I started to be more aware. This is happening all around us. My residence is predominantly Christian, I’d say about 75% at least. And yet we are widely acknowledged as the most intolerant residence on campus. People don’t want to talk to me when they find out I am a Christian because the Christians they have met are condescending, overpowering, judgemental, not loving.
We have misunderstood. We are set free from the Covenant of the Law, but the Law is not meaningless to us. Jesus has loved us, blessed us. He has always held us. The God of all creation died for us. Is it not only fair that we follow his Law? For sure we do not have to, but is it really too much to ask of us? This is my revelation: God does not require of me to follow His Law, but He certainly deserves it. And His Law is perfect love.
We call ourselves Christians, little Christs, that’s what it means. And when the world looks at us, they use what they see to build an image of who God is. That’s their first impression. Verses 43-47 speak about love. About how our love must be more than the love in the world. Even pagans can love. So what sets us apart? What did Emil not see? Perfect Love. Love that is not only a deed. Not only feeding the poor, but having compassion on them as well. Not only turning the other cheek, but also loving the one that strikes you. The compassion and the love are the important things here. The feeding and the turning of the cheek are secondary. They are things. It’s the heart that’s the issue. That’s what the New Law is about. Its about the heart.
I feel that we are not doing it right. That we are not being fair to God. It’s not a condemnation. I don’t want any of this to feel like an indictment. Romans 8:1-2 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” I’m not condemning, I’m trying to encourage. We are the hands and feet. We are His lights. So we should shine. There is so much hate in this world. Can we not add a little love? That standard of perfection? The one we can’t possibly to meet? It’s been met, by Jesus. And the beauty of what He did is that we don’t need to try to summon up perfect love from our imperfect hearts. We don’t need to try to make light from dark. He has the light. He allows us to share in His. He gives us the strength to love others as He instructed. I pray we use it.
How many Emils are there in the world? How many people do not know of the overwhelming love of God, simply because no one has shown it to them?
The Harvest is ready but the labourers are few. God is looking for labourers. And I’m sure most of us want to be those labourers. And yet how often do we overlook the harvest? That man on the street corner holding the sign? The cashier who was rude to you? How much harvest do we miss because we use our own hearts to look at the world? The labour is not to convert. The labour is not to evangelise. The labour is love. The way to harvest is to love. Without condition, without reward, without praise or prompting. Just love. 1 John 4: 7-21 Is a very powerful piece about love. But one verse stands out, I’d like to read it as we finish. Verse 16