Our Mouths Reveal Our Motives

Have you ever had to Abandon Deceit? As Jesus shares in Matthew 5:33-37 He says, again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ Matthew 5:33~(ESV) Jesus is referring to taking an oath in which we use the Lord’s name as our guarantee, and then breaking it. Back to Leviticus 19:12~Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD. (NIV) God says to us I am holy, so don’t drag my name through the mud.

Well that seems relevant today, right? Christ Jesus calling out some rabbis who’d developed a way to sidestep this command. They taught that swearing by God’s name was binding, but swearing by heaven, earth, Jerusalem or insert here, was a not so binding loophole. So, be emphatic to get our way, then we can change our mind because we weren’t swearing by God. For us it’d be like saying such things as I swear on my mother’s grave or pretend your seven years old again and say this with me, cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, or give me a stack of Bibles. However, Jesus says in Matthew 5:34-36~But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. (ESV) Ms. Clairol notwithstanding, ladies, you cannot do it on your own.

As an aside, most people begin to show grey hairs in their 30s, and Christ Jesus says righteous people don’t need to guarantee their word with an oath because when they say Yes, that settles it. Many of us grew up in a day and time when the words of John D. Rockefeller Jr. rang true. He said:  I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man’s word should be as good as his bond: that character—not wealth or power or position—is of supreme worth. Jesus says in Matthew 5:37~All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (ESV) So are we driven by the truth? Is our Yes, to be believed? Some believers take this to mean we must refuse to even take an oath in a court of law. What Christ Jesus is stressing is the importance of always telling the truth. 

Every believer and faith practitioner ought to have the singular purpose of walking in the Way of Righteousness as we abandon deceit. Why not take some time today and ask God to reveal if there is a place that needs some reorganizing, or cleaning out. We all have closets that get piled up, and filled with stuff, ask the Lord to help you with a little spring cleaning.



For Better or Worse

Consider with me what the Lord teaches us about divorce and how we are to abhor it. (Matthew 5:31-32) This can be a difficult and emotional topic to tackle, so let’s look at what Jesus says. On the heels of adultery, Christ Jesus turns to the issue of divorce and introduces His subject by saying, It was also said. You will remember this was spoken by Jesus in response to what was being taught, or how the Word of God had been altered. Now our Lord Jesus Christ is a strong Bible preacher, who calls out the current watered-down teaching of His day by fleshing out Deuteronomy 24. Where the Law of Ole Mo states a man could give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away, Deuteronomy 24:1~If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, (NIV) Some Jewish leaders taught that indecency, or uncleanness, in a wife could refer to anything displeasing to her husband, such as burning his toast, or not keeping house to his standard. 

Thus in Israel, a man could divorce his wife by simply passing a note. Does anybody remember 4th grade? Passing a note that asks, Do you like me, check Yes, No, Maybe?  (Deuteronomy 24:1-4) Talk about No contest, because this was considered a domestic matter it didn’t require going to court. Therefore, it’d become very common. Moreover, those who believed in easy divorce also permitted remarriage after divorce. Today’s numbers are in the neighborhood of 42-45% of marriages end in divorce and jump to 60% for a second marriage. Delving deeper, we learn the largest reason cited for quitting, is basic incompatibility at 43%, infidelity at 28% and then money at 22%. 93% of marriage failure rests on our decision making. As one pontiff recorded Marriage is a bond between a person who never remembers anniversaries and one who never forgets them. (Ladies wait for your BOAZ—Ruth 2) Saints hear me, these numbers and trends do not have to own our marriages.

At Mt. Beatitudes Church, Jesus Christ says we need the power of God to work in our lives. Men, we say, is that what you are wearing? Wives hear you look fat, so change! Though innocuous when we spoke, it’s passed through her filter, and she heard an indictment. Why? Because men and women hear differently. Ladies, when your husband says help me with this, what does he mean? He wasn’t asking you to take a look, to share what you thought, or even offer an opinion. Rather, he is saying, grab this, jump in and do right away, or I may raise my voice and lose my cool. 

Jesus looks at the congregation and says stop taking the easy way out. Failure to listen to and live with God will doom us to make some egregious errors, oftentimes caused by poor hearing. Remember 1 John 2:16, for where our eyes look, our mind will wander, and our heart will soon follow. But this doesn’t have to be our history, because Christ Jesus came to make all things new and that includes stale marriages. Still, the conservative Jewish leaders taught divorce could only be on the grounds of adultery, which is to say any form of forbidden sex. This is not Bill Clinton’s definition it is God’s, and in its broadest sense, it includes all sex with anyone other than our spouse, in any form. In the Old Testament, to prove His utter contempt for adultery, God commands Death. Leviticus 20:10~If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. (NIV) Jesus is reiterating marriage that is to be truly considered, before entering into a covenant. Later in 1 Corinthians 7:15, Paul will add abandonment and Peter will add abuse to the list in 1 Peter 3:7 (be considerate, respectful, in the gracious gift of life, so nothing hinders your prayers). Every husband should memorize this.

I believe God is angry with husbands who don’t try to understand their wife and show her honor, as well as wives who do not respect their husband and thus, He doesn’t listen to their prayers. (Ephesians 5:22-33) If true, what does God think about a husband who abuses his wife physically, sexually, or emotionally? As a note to wives: God loves you and commands your husband to honor and love you. If he habitually abuses you physically or sexually you have every right to protect yourself. Separate from him as a way to help him change. I did not say leave him for another man. But if he truly loves you, he will change. If he truly loves God, he will change.

God’s way is always for us to change and become more like the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29) 2 Corinthians 5:17~Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (NIV) We must let God work in our life and marriage. Marriage is hard work, ask Evelyn with 60 plus years of experience, and she’ll share it’s worth it. To recap, the Bible shares three reasons for divorce: adultery, abandonment, and abuse. 

If our desire is to follow Christ Jesus, we must learn to Walk in the Way of Righteousness and not just be religious. This takes considerable prayer, learning how to listen to the Holy Spirit and make small adjustments each day. Remember our journey through life and faith is a long-distance race. So, we come and study God’s word daily, connecting with other believers in small groups, and worship services to be encouraged and to encourage. Who might you encourage in their marriage today? Pray and ask God to help you share how He wants to work in and renew their marriage.



Unordinary

Today, we return to Mt. Beatitudes where we have learned how the scribes and Pharisees were a very religious and pious people in their practice of faith. Yet, Christ Jesus tells His listeners unless their righteousness surpasses the scribes and Pharisees, they will never enter. (Matthew 5:20) Our Lord is sharing that what God desires is not a list of do and do. Isaiah 28:10~For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there. (NIV) The passage shares the stupidity of a whole parcel of believers who want mindless following and box-checking faith. When what the Lord truly desires is a personal relationship Genesis 3:8~Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…(NIV). Are you truly aware that God genuinely desires to walk and talk with you, each day?

As Noel Regney penned, Do you hear what I hear, Ringing through the sky, a shepherd’s song high above the trees, With a voice as big as the sea. Do you hear what I hear: Hillside Jesus Christ asked, Are you righteous or just religious? If we have His righteousness imparted, by faith in Jesus Christ as Paul shares in Philippians 3:9, then we will do seven things, as we follow Jesus Christ The first three we discussed last week: Follow Biblical Commands (5:17-20), Control Our Anger (5:21-26), and Counteract Lust (5:27-30). This week as we again return to our periscope of Matthew 5, we consider the last four points of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. 

Why not take time today to put yourself in the Way of Righteousness, by asking God to reveal to you this week how He would like to remake you in His own image. Take time to also pray for your family and how God will use them and for grace to be shared, as they are often a tool of our Heavenly Father.