Jesus told His disciples that “…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Then, He ups the ante. Jesus provides a short list of actions and attitudes that would make us guilty of sin and deserving of the very fires of hell: anger, lust, divorce, marrying a divorcee, lying, seeking revenge, worrying, and judging others are among the list. Read that list again, slowly. Go ahead. How far into the list do you get before becoming guilty of sin and deserving of hell? I can’t get past the first word.
I’ve had sincere Christian friends ask me for guidance as they struggled with Jesus’ Sermon. The gist of their struggle goes like this, “I claim to follow Christ, yet I repeatedly and continually do not live up to His requirements.”
This is a legitimate concern, and I believe Jesus’ intent in His Sermon is to lead us there.
Lead us there; but not leave us there.
Embedded in His Sermon, Jesus offers two key points that declare the Good News in the midst of all the bad news. First: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17). It is clear that we cannot keep the Law; but Jesus can. He can, has, does, and will keep the Law.
Second: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33). Jesus offers us His Kingdom and His Righteousness, but not through anything we’ve done and not through anything we can do. It is through what He has done. How can we receive this Kingdom and Righteousness?
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)