Standard

The only way to meet Christ’s standard of righteousness is with Christ’s righteousness

Read: Matthew 5

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20)

“…I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement.” (Matthew 5:22a)

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Reflect:

Jesus sets the bar extremely high for entry into heaven’s kingdom.

Granted, John the Baptist declared the Pharisees to be a “brood of vipers” (3:7) which is possibly akin to calling them “sons of Satan.” But to the Jewish layman, the Pharisees must have seemed the strictest, most actively religious Jews around. Yet Jesus said even their upright behaviour was not enough to get them into the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus took a few strictures from the Law and drew them tighter still. Don’t murder: don’t even call a fellow believer a nasty name. Don’t commit adultery: don’t even think lustful thoughts; and don’t divorce your wife thinking you’ll be free to remarry, because that will bring even greater condemnation upon you.

Then Jesus expands on the positive commands of the Law. Fulfil your vows: and when you say even a simple “Yes” or “No,” keep this as an absolute promise. Just recompense may be sought lawfully: but extravagant generosity, reckless kindness and radical hospitality are even better. Love your neighbour: and love your enemy as well.

Jesus sums it all up with an impossible standard. “Be perfect” in the same way God the Father is perfect. How is this level of righteousness possible? Humanly, it isn’t.

But through his death on the cross Jesus Christ swapped his righteousness for my sin. This is called imputation. My righteousness can only surpass that of the Pharisees because God has credited me with Christ’s righteousness. I am made perfect with Christ’s perfection.

crux:

The only way to meet Christ’s standard of righteousness is with Christ’s righteousness.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

O Perfect One, you are good, you are glorious.
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD.

Your anger and wrath is always deserved, always righteous. You are never malicious or capricious in your judgement, unlike me – forgive me, please.

You are faithful, keeping your promises forever. You never leave your people, though I may turn my back on you – forgive me, please.

You are extravagantly generous, gracious and merciful. You never reject your people’s needs though in your mercy you frequently refuse to grant my sinful desires – forgive me, please.

You are loving, indeed you are love. Without you there is no real love. In you is perfect love which casts out fear and enables me to pray for the good of my enemies. Bless my enemies with love for you, LORD, please.

LORD, you are perfect and so clearly I am not. Please justify me with Christ’s righteousness. Forgive my sin. Renew me and make me a new creation in Christ my king.

Amen.

Unless

Unless I hate my sin, I won’t really love my Saviour

Read: Matthew 3

“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:8-10)

Reflect:

John the Baptist, or John B. as I like to call him, is firm and direct with his audience of Pharisees and Sadducees. They are “religious” people who have come to hear a “spiritual” person and the message they get is this:

“It is not enough to say you’re sorry, you need to show you are sorry.”

This is the same message James gave in his epistle: Faith without works is not real faith; practice what you preach; don’t just talk about it, go and do it.

John B. told his religious auditors that their whole identity was in question: it was not enough to claim a genetic heritage as Israelites, in Abraham. Genes aren’t enough to connect a person into a true relationship with the true and living God. Being a Jew was not enough to save them then, just as it is not enough to save anyone now.

John B. uses fiery imagery to get across the point that the unrepentant Pharisees and Sadducees were risking their lives when they refused to “prepare the way for the Lord” (3:3) in their own hearts by repenting of their sins. Repentance from sin is necessary because until we despise our sin, we will never welcome our Saviour.

crux:

Unless I hate my sin, I won’t really love my Saviour.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Please help me to hate my sin.

Show me how utterly despicable my sin is in your sight, so I may despise it as you do.

O LORD, I am scared as I pray this prayer. What might you make me suffer so I begin to hate my sin? What have I been clinging to that I will have to give up?

I know I’m forgiven: thank you for forgiving me by Christ’s sacrifice.
I know I’m justified: thank you for justifying me by Christ’s blood.
I know I am saved: thank you for saving me by Christ’s death.

I also know I am not yet fully sanctified: thank you for your promise to complete the work you have begun in me by your Spirit’s presence and counsel.

LORD, make me love righteousness. Help me think about noble, admirable, praiseworthy and excellent things. Keep me from evil; deliver me from temptation. Help me to flee from the devil and run to you. Make me fruitful in repentance.

Thank you for raising me up, a mere stone that you have transformed into a child of Abraham.

Amen.

Sharing

Sex is about sharing my body with my spouse

Read: SongĀ of Songs 7

[He] May your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine,
the fragrance of your breath like apples,
and your mouth like the best wine.
[She] May the wine go straight to my beloved,
flowing gently over lips and teeth. (Songs 7:8-9)

Reflect:

This chapter shows the enormous beauty and joy to be found in the love between a husband and his wife. They delight in each other’s bodies and delight also in sharing their body with the other. This is the joy of give-and-take in a marriage, which is true joy.

Marriage is not about catch-and-snatch: luring another person in to some sort of sexual honeypot trap and then stealing from them sexually. Rather, the sexual side of marriage is about enjoying each other together, being generous towards the other.

As Paul says (1 Corinthians 7:4) “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but yields it to his wife.” In yielding, we are ceasing to rule over ourselves and learning the joy of mutual submission and sharing our most private self.

Crux:

Sex is about sharing my body with my spouse.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I must admit I’m shy to be talking with you about this topic, but you’ve initiated the conversation by including it in your holy Scriptures. Shy as I am, I have to thank you for opening up the topic.

You have showed me in your word that sex between married spouses is intended to be a physically delightful thing to be shared and enjoyed together. Please may it always be so between my husband Jeff and me.

Thank you for your good creation and your good created order. Please help us to always keep to the joy you offer us within your created order. Do not let us overstep our bounds.

Please also help us to use your words to talk with our teenage children about righteous sex in marriage so they may value it for their future but not overstep and seek to steal it too early.

Amen.