We’re still looking at the sermon on the mount. Read it here:
Let’s think about this from the perspective of a modern reader. Here is what might really go through someone’s head when they read this. “Poor in spirit … not sure what he means. Mourn … hope that never happens! Meek … I hate those meek Jesus songs. Skipping … skipping … some day I might try to figure this stuff out. Ewwww, here’s the good part! Salt and light … yes! I’m a lamp on a hill, yes! Fulfilling the law, ta da ta da ta da … OK, here we go. Angry = murder. That’s right, except when I got angry at Jane it was justified, she was so wrong. Jesus got angry sometimes, right? Looking = adultery; come on Jesus! As if! Divorce – I’m in, but this is pretty stringent. Oaths – what….? Love your enemies – enemies? I don’t have any enemies, this is probably no big deal though. skipping, skipping, skipping, to the guy who builds on the rock vs the sand. WOW, I should go back and read this better some day!”
The point is, we internally explain all of this away, skip the parts we don’t understand, escape all possible conviction, and then the first part about the poor in spirit makes no sense whatsoever. So we think our fuzzy and anemic understanding of the law is what grace is. We imagine that God just sort of glosses over our sins and shallow minds the same way that we operate. On the contrary, grace presses the law home in a big way, and shows our poverty of spirit, our lack of righteousness, and produces a true hunger for holiness and transformation.
Does this mean I am coming in the back door with condemnation and law? Am I saying, ‘you have to get really good and convicted and feel really awful about yourself before you can enter God’s good graces? In a way, I suppose I am kind of saying that, but what I’m really saying is, what use are mercy and grace if you think you don’t need them? What good is the law at pointing you to grace if you end up explaining it all away and you have no need of supernatural virtue, of the leading of the Spirit? Can you really get the awesome benefit from Jesus’ teaching if you don’t really bother at all with His actual meaning? We reduce grace from real glorious release and freedom to the milk-toast idea that He just glosses over our minor problems and doesn’t care, leaving us essentially untransformed and stuck in our ways. This isn’t actually grace at all, it is a very sad watered down and weak-kneed pharisaism which says, “I’m basically OK, so why would God be unhappy with me?” On the contrary, He cares, little things matter a lot, the state of the heart is the true issue, and in looking at things this way we have release into a tremendous level of grace. This opens the door to a world of moral virtue that goes extremely deep, and gives us a chance to try and fail in order that we might try and succeed.
Put another way, our relationship with Jesus is likened to a romance, He is like the bride and the church is like the groom. It is about passion, about desire, about longing. Fuzzy barely alive passionless numb readings of this text don’t really fit with that idea do they? The bride always seeks in every way to beautify herself as her wedding approaches, because of her passion for her husband, her lover. A woman is always at her most radiant on her wedding day. We read this passage, and we see what He who loves us really likes in a bride. And from love, from passion, from desire, we see how far we are from this high mark, and we seek grace freely to make ourselves like this:
“And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” 1 John 3:3, NASB.
Grace doesn’t say, all is forgiven, so now I can sin! Grace says, all is forgiven, I want to be better! I WANT it!