In his Sermon on the Mount, after his Beatitudes and before he launches into the meat of his talk, Jesus pauses, and so will we. He pauses to introduce his main teaching by saying this:
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law (Torah – God’s teachings and way of life) or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17 Italics mine)
“Do not think ….” What Jesus is about to teach is apparently so new, the people might think he is doing away with the Older Testament laws. (Let’s get into the practice of saying “Older Testament,” not Old Testament.) But what he about to teach is not new at all. It may appear new, but only because his Jewish audience has had performance drilled into their heads for centuries.
As have we. We, can-do Americans, are all about performance, aren’t we? If you think you are not, look inside a little closer. You are, at least to some degree. But your loving Heavenly Father is not looking at your performance; he is looking at your heart.
Look at these two Older Testament passages, both showing the true heart of the Father’s “laws:”
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen is better than the fat of rams. (1 Samuel 15:22)
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and to know God rather than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)
Jesus repeated this “mercy over sacrifice” passage twice in his teachings:
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” (Matthew 9:13)
“If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.” (Matthew 12:7)
He clearly wanted to get this point across. And why? Because they – and we – had missed the true heart of the Father. The heart behind the “laws.” We must first understand the translation, “laws,” is a terrible translation. Terrible! Whenever you see “law” think “Torah – God’s teachings and way of life.”
Yes, they carry the weight of commands, and we are to seek to follow and obey his teachings. We all know that when we do not, we suffer. Yet we are not so much punished for our sins as by our sins.
If we are focused on the letter of his teachings, and not the Spirit of his teachings, we will miss the heart of the Father, and thus live a flat, low-energy life, with a flat, low-energy relationship with God. Yes, he will be “God” to us, not our loving Heavenly Father. And Jesus will be “Christ” to us, and not my Lord and Savior, and my best friend.
The Holy Spirit through Paul put it this way:
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6 Bold added)
The letter kills “the life that is truly life,”1 because we miss the Spirit, the heart and life infused throughout the Father’s teachings. Instead, we focus on performance. We focus on getting it right, and not getting in trouble. That, my friend, is no life to the full.2
We do not want to live an “I got to” life; we want to live an “I get to” life. Next week we will discover how to do this.
Next Week: Lifeless – Better Life – Best Life
11 Timothy 6:19