What Jesus Said about our Behaviour Intro

September 30, 2012

If you have been keeping track this is the fourth series that we have taught
this year based on “What Jesus said about. . 
.”  In April we spoke about “What
Jesus said About Money” and we focused on Jesus’ words concerning how we make
and how we spend our money.  In May and
June we focused on “What Jesus said About Emotions” and we looked at his words
concerning fear, love, hate and Joy. Through the summer we parked ourselves in
the book of John and looked at the various metaphors that Jesus used for himself.  I am the Way, I am the Gate, I am the
Resurrection, etc.

For the next few weeks we are going to look at “What Jesus
Said about Our Behaviour”.    And too often I hear Christians express scorn
for rules and regulations, they talk about how it is all about a relationship
and how they are under grace not under the law. 
It’s almost as if they think it was Jesus who said “Love God and
do as you please.”  It wasn’t
Jesus who said that it was   Augustine who may have been many things
but he was neither Jesus or infallible. 
And so we have people who call themselves Christ Followers
who have no real sense of the Christ they claim to follow.  If they think of his commands at all they
hear him say “Love each other”  “Do not
judge”  and “Do unto others”.  And while those are indeed things that Jesus
commanded us to do they are not the sum total of what he commanded us to
do.  There was a certain level of
expectations to Jesus’ teaching.  That is
he expected certain things and certain behaviour from those who chose to follow
him. 
Apparently 2000 years ago it
was expected that following Jesus would have an impact on how you behaved and
what you did and on what you didn’t do. 
And Jesus took this quite seriously and warned his disciples that they
should take it seriously as well, listen to his words in Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who calls out to me,
‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the
will of my Father in heaven will enter.”
Wow, that’s harsh.  “Not
everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.”  Somehow that doesn’t seem to line up with the
Jesus that is preached so often these days. 
 The Jesus who loves everybody unconditially
as long as they are sincere and try their best. 
It doesn’t sound like the Jesus who understands that it’s really tough
behaving the way the Bible would direct so with a nod and smile he will sneak
you in under the wire. 
But is that the reality?  This
“But at least you tried” Jesus? The Bible doesn’t seem to indicate that
is.   Instead the Jesus of the Bible
teaches that there are rules that must be followed, things that need to be done
and things that shouldn’t be done.  If we
go back to the scripture that we started with we discover a man comes to Jesus
and enquires about what he has to do to live forever.  That is a good question, “What must I do to
inherit eternal life?”  But the man isn’t
looking for a life change he is looking for a magic bullet, some “one thing”
that he can do to assure himself a place in heaven.  Listen again to his question.  Matthew 19:16 Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good
deed must I do to have eternal life?”   Not
“How should I live?” but “What good deed, what one thing, must I do to have
eternal life?.  Tell me what to do and I
will do and then I can get on with life.” 
And to hear some people’s
theology today that magic bullet is “Just accept Jesus as Lord, pray the prayer
and then get on with life.”  But that
isn’t what Jesus said, what Jesus said was Matthew 19:17 “Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied.
“There is only One who is good. But to answer your question—if you want to
receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” Keep the
commandments?  That doesn’t sound like
Jesus, commandments?  What about grace
and not being under the law?  What are
the commandments that Jesus is talking about? 
Let’s go back to Matthew 5:17 where
Jesus said “Don’t
misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or
the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.”
Well in order to understand what Jesus was saying  it would help if we knew what Jesus was
saying.   So what was the “Law of Moses”
that Jesus spoke of?  Well, the law could
refer to a number of things  1) The Ten
Commandments  2) The first five books of
the Old Testament, which is often referred to as the Pentateuch or five
scrolls. 3) The Law and the Prophets, or what we now call the Old
Testament.  And this is what Jesus said
would not pass away, the Law and the writings of the prophets.
God had been speaking to his
people through the law and prophets for 4000 years, he wasn’t suddenly about to
say, “oops I changed my mind, let’s start over.”   And that’s why Jesus told us in Matthew 5:19 So if you
ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be
called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and
teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Christ wants us to know that he’s not changing the rules in
the middle of the game. 
So the first thing we need to
understand is that the law is necessary and the second thing is that the Christ
Follower is not exempt simply because he follows Christ.  Paul tells us in 1
Corinthians 6:12
You say, “I am allowed to
do anything”—but not everything is good for you. And even though “I am allowed
to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything.
We are able to do anything
because Christ can forgive anything, but let’s not get into the mind-set.  The word of God says in Romans 6:1-2 Well then,
should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his
wonderful grace? Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue
to live in it?
Now keeping
the law means keeping the laws of the land as well as the laws of God, and in
the same way if you don’t agree with them you have every right to break those
laws.  And society has every right to
punish you for breaking them.  In the
early days of the Wesleyan
Church the founders of
our denomination disagreed with slavery and the laws surrounding slavery.  Part of those laws said that it was illegal
to help slaves escape, that would be on the same level today as someone who
helped your car to escape.  That’s called
stealing now and it was called stealing then. 
But that didn’t prevent many Wesleyans from helping slaves escape to the
Northern States
and Canada.   And while they may have been able to justify
what they were doing they were breaking the law and were willing to accept the
consequences of their actions if they got caught.  And a hundred and twenty years later Martin Luther King Jr. said “One who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is
unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to
arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality
expressing the highest respect for law.”
In a word the Christian preserves the world order against
decay by keeping the laws of the land. 
If the laws are unjust he may break them, but that doesn’t mean he is
freed from paying the price for breaking them.
And sometimes people will say “I don’t agree with what the
bible says, or with the rules that the Bible imposes.  And in the same way they have every right to
break those commandments and not obey those rules, but they have to realize
that there is a price to be paid there as well.
But the question remains: why?  Why are there rules?  Cause,
that’s why.  Why are there rules
today?  Same reason, to protect you and
to protect others.  That is why you
aren’t supposed to drive when you’ve been drinking,
why you aren’t supposed to eat raw hamburger and why you aren’t supposed to
sleep with everyone you meet.
Too often people look at the rules that God has put in place
and decide that He does it because He’s a spoil sport, He doesn’t want us to
have any fun, He just sits up there in Heaven snickering because of the rules
He’s put in place.  That couldn’t be any
further from the truth.  God put those
laws in place for our benefit and for our protection. 
It’s a Matter of
God’s Love for Us
Within God’s law there are laws
that are laid down for people’s Physical
Benefit:
  For example Leviticus 11:7-8 The pig has evenly split hooves
but does not chew the cud, so it is unclean. You may not eat the meat of these
animals or even touch their carcasses.
So when the law was given you couldn’t eat bacon, or pork
chops or ham.  They were also told they
couldn’t eat other animals or reptiles or fish, because most of those critters were yucky, the technical
term was unclean but it means the same thing. 
3000 years ago it was difficult to cook pork the right way to kill the
parasites that live in it, we know
today that there are certain time of the year that you can eat shell fish and
certain times that you can’t.  We can
read about it in the paper or hear on the radio but then,
it was just safer to say “Don’t eat this stuff.” 
Other rules are set down for
our Social Benefit: Leviticus 20:10 “If a man
commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the man and the woman who have
committed adultery must be put to death.
Don’t know if that was a
deterrent but it certainly cut down on repeat offenders.  Leviticus 19:11 “Do not steal. “Do not deceive or cheat one another.”
It is rules that keep society from disintegrating.  They keep family together they protect us
from each other. It was Edmund Burke who said “When ancient opinions and rules of life are taken away, the
loss cannot possibly be estimated. From that moment,
we have no compass to govern us, nor
can we know distinctly to what port to steer.” 
Other rules are for our Emotional Benefit: Exodus 20:17 “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet
your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else
that belongs to your neighbor.”

There are issues like covetness,
hatred and lack of forgiveness that will destroy us inside if we allow them
to.  And so there are rules that deal
with these issues.

There are also rules and
regulations that are there for our Spiritual
Benefit: 
There are rules against
worshipping idols Leviticus 26:1 “Do not make idols or set up carved images, or sacred
pillars, or sculptured stones in your land so you may worship them. I am the
LORD your God.
There are rules against
worshipping other gods Exodus 34:14 You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name
is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.
This particular section even
deals with how much we are supposed to return to God Leviticus 27:30 “One tenth of the
produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees,
belongs to the LORD and must be set apart to him as holy.
To be truthful we don’t know
why God required some things, maybe for the same reason that we sometime require
things as parents and so we have the Just
Because Rules
: Leviticus 19:19 “You must obey all my decrees. “Do not mate two different
kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two different kinds of seed. Do
not wear clothing woven from two different kinds of thread.
How come?  Just because. 
There is a lesson there that is lost on us but it wasn’t lost on the
Israelites.  Parents are fond of quoting Leviticus 19:28 . . . do
not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the LORD.
But then they forget Leviticus 19:27 “Do not
trim off the hair on your temples or trim your beards.
Some rules cross over into several areas, Leviticus 18 deals
almost exclusively with sexual issues, things which we would say are governed
for social good.  Without regulations
concerning marriage etc the family unit begins to fail and we are starting to
discover the results of that in Canada
today. 
However they also fall in the
emotional good category as can be attested by the devastation that is felt when
you discover your spouse has been cheating on you,
or even the damage done to yourself when you break your wedding vows. You
understand that you will pay, Proverbs 6:27 Can a man
scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire?
By the way that verse deals specifically with the
consequences of adultery, check it
out for yourself. 
But the rules governing sexual conduct are also there for
our physical good, the physical
consequences of promiscuity cannot be ignored,
whether it unwanted pregnancies or sexual transmitted disease there are a many
things that could be eliminated by following the rules.  I know and you know that AIDS is not simply a
homosexuals disease but we also know that it was spread primarily because
people would not listen to the rules,
rules that said homosexuality is wrong,
rules that said sex outside of marriage is wrong.
And you and I know that if people had of followed the rules
that we wouldn’t have a problem with HIV and AIDS.
When Christ came and offered himself up as a sin offering
for each of us he made many of the laws in Leviticus concerning offerings and the
priesthood irrelevant.  But there are
rules that govern our personal behaviour that still stand and I don’t think I
need to tell you which are which, I
think you can figure that out on your own.
However simply being legal isn’t enough.  The motive under which the scribes and
Pharisees, that is the religious elite of Jesus’ day, lived was to satisfy the
law.  Everything was aimed at doing what
was specified in the law.  Theoretically
a person could say “I have done all that is required by the law.”
It’s a Matter of Our
Love for God
The difference in the life of the Christ Follower is that
the motive is not the law, it is love. We seek to satisfy God not so that we
have fulfilled the law, but because we love God.  For the religious leaders 2000 years ago, and
for some people today, the aim is simply to satisfy the law of God, make sure
that you have dotted all the i and crossed all the ts.  But for the Christian, the Christ Follower
the goal is to show our gratitude for God’s love and salvation.
When you truly love God you
don’t do what you want, you do what he wants. 
When we see the love that God sets before us the we seek to answer that
love with reciprocal love.  And that’s
why Jesus said John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.
He didn’t say if you respect me as a teacher, obey my
commandments.  Or if you acknowledge me
as God, obey by commandments.  Instead he
said “You’ll obey me if you love me.” 
Respect and fear will only take you so far, it will be love that will
take you the rest of the trip.
I hope that we
can see beyond the law to see people and I hope that we can see beyond our own
righteousness to our reason for being righteous and that is our love for
Christ.  And so Christ gives us examples
of what he means.  The law says you shall
not murder, you shall not commit adultery, whoever divorces his wife let him
give her a certificate of divorce, you shall not lie and you shall love your
neighbour. 
Each of these
five statements in one way or another symbolizes the Jewish society in which
Christ was raised.  Each of these five
statements was part of the Mosaic Law laid down to guide the people of Israel.  There was behind each statement a purpose and
that purpose was to hold together a civilization, to keep it from
deterioration, to prevent it from dissolving into chaos, and to allow it to
govern itself.
What these basic
five laws as laid down here did was to act as salt for society.  The Ten Commandments and Mosaic Law was not
intended for a redeemed society it was to prevent an unredeemed society from
tearing itself apart.  Often we think of
the “Ten Commandments” as being Christian principles, but the same guidelines
can be found in most civilizations around the world and throughout history.  Without these principles society and everyone
in it would destroy themselves.  And
Christ is saying that when we have been touched by his love and his grace that
even more is expected of us then what is expected of everyone else.  That when we fulfill the law that we become
salt and light to the world. 
Over the next
couple of weeks we will be looking at what Jesus expects of his followers. 
Earlier I
mentioned a quote that is often attributed to Augustine: “Love God and
do whatever you please.”  But that
isn’t the quote, listen to what Augustine actually said, “Love God and do whatever you
please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One
who is Beloved.”