Devotional Ruminations: Matthew 5:27-30

Mount of BeatitudesI am currently reading in the gospel of Matthew for my devotions. I have really been challenged to walk with Jesus and sit at His feet and reacquaint myself with what it means to be His follower. Matthew 5-7 comprise what we commonly know as the Sermon on the Mount. Contemporary Christians must hear the Master’s words and then receive them with all of their moral weight. Matthew 5:27-30 deals with the subject of lust. This sin of lust makes promise after promise to satisfy only to bring moral and marital ruin. Here are four observations on lust from the words of Jesus.

1. Lust is not confined to action, rather it is committed at the level of intent. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ [action] [28] But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart [intent]” (vv. 27-28). “You can look but not touch” badly misses the mark of Jesus’ teaching.

2. Lust is a sin that promises gratification but actually leads to destruction (physical, relational, and spiritual) (cf. Proverbs 5:1-6). “For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (v. 29, 30). Jesus says this twice. It should really capture our attention.

3. Lust must be fought militantly. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (v. 29)…”And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (v. 30). Hyperbole? Yes, I think so. But to simply place these statements under that literary rubric and then diminish the weight of these statements is the height of folly. If we do not resist lust (and any other sin) “to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4), we are placing our souls and bodies in eternal danger.

4. Lust does not characterize a follower of Christ. The very inclusion of this topic is an imperative for being set apart (i.e. holy) as followers of Christ. Yes, sex is a natural, God-given human drive (and it should be celebrated and enjoyed according to God’s pattern; cf. Proverbs 5:15-19; Song of Solomon). Yes, we live in a hyper-sexualized culture. Yes, we are surrounded by and immersed in sexually-charged content. But none of these realities excuse us from not battling the sin of lust. Moreover, the follower of Christ can overcome this sin (Romans 6:6-7).

We must see lust as our Lord described it. Battling and overcoming lust is what Jesus said His disciples must do, thereby distinguishing themselves as salt and light in a morally decaying and dark culture by the grace of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit. So battle lust my brothers and sisters knowing that the battle is hard but the victory is yours.

(Image of Mt. Eremos from bibleplaces.com, Mount of Beatitudes)

Christ as Example, Yes, but Savior First and Foremost

A good word from Martin Luther on the importance of preaching the gospel in Christ’s person and work before moving to preaching Christ as an example.  As a preacher, we might unwittingly miss the gospel in our pursuit of making application.

Be sure, moreover, that you do not make Christ into Moses, as if Christ did nothing more than teach and provide examples as the other saints do, as if the gospel were simply a textbook of teachings or laws.  Therefore, you should grasp Christ, his words, works, sufferings, in a two-fold manner.  First as an example that is presented to you, which you should follow and imitate.  As St. Peter says in I Peter 4, ‘Christ suffered for us, thereby leaving us an example.’  Thus when you see how he prays, fasts, helps people, and shows them love, so also you should do, both for yourself and for your neighbor. However this is the smallest part of the gospel.  For on this level Christ is of no more help to you than some other saint.  His life remains his own and does not yet contribute anything to you.  In short this mode [of understand Christ as simply an example] does not make Christians but only hypocrites.  You must grasp Christ at a much higher level.  Even though this higher level has for a long time been the very best, the preaching of it has been something rare.  The chief article and foundation of the gospel is that before you take Christ as an example, you accept and recognize him as a gift, as a present that God has given you and that it is your own (Martin Luther, “Proclamation Verses Moralism” in Richard Lischer, ed., Theories of Preaching [Durham, NC: Labyrinth, 1987], 97).

Does God’s Character Change from the Old Testament to the New Testament?

Is Jehovah of the Old Testament a polar opposite of Jesus in the New Testament?  The antithesis can be framed by setting forth that God the Father is constantly angry, quick-tempered, and ready to zealously carry out judgment toward sinners in the Old Testament whereas God the Son is consistently loving, patient, and merciful toward sinners in the New Testament.  In order to briefly consider this apparent contrast one must consider Exodus 34:6-7 as a full-orbed look at Jehovah in the Old Testament which describes Him as one “who will by no means clear the guilty” but also depicts Him as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”.  More importantly, Jesus made the Father known (exegesato, literally, “exegeted him”; NASB: “explained him”) according to John 1:18 (cf. John 14:8-9).  Paul Benware aptly summarizes,

What is seen in the character of Christ is exactly the same as the character of God of the Old Testament: One who is holy and righteous and yet is slow to anger and loyal in His love (Paul Benware, Survey of the Old Testament [Chicago: Moody, 1993], 236). 

Godzilla, Cults, and Ossuaries

Hollywood special effects are amazing!  The days of the original Godzilla (1954) stomping through milk carton looking buildings are long gone.  Today this movie is laughable rather than fearful (one wonders if the viewers then went more for the comedy than the terror themselves!).  Our eyes have developed a rather sophisticated taste for special effects.  Hollywood has made us special effect junkies.  Nevertheless, we are more often that not still able to discern between Hollywood special effects and reality.  Oh that this ability to discern was present in people when it comes to Jesus Christ and true Christianity.

There are two particular examples that have recently presented themselves in the mainstream media.  One comes from the realm of a cult the other comes from the realm of a moviemaker.  The first is concerning a cult called Growing in Grace.  It is a twenty year old cult that is headquartered in Doral, FL.  Its leader is Dr. Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda.  The home page of the official website of this sect states “The Man Christ Jesus, Dr. Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, is coming to the USA!  The King of kings and Lords of lords has arrived in America.”  An article in Foxnews.com states the following:

De Jesus had just a few hundred followers when he launched his church in a
Hialeah warehouse about 20 years ago. Today, he commands a global movement from his Doral headquarters that boasts 335 education centers, 200 pastors, 287 radio programs and a 24-hour Spanish-language TV network that’s available to 2 million homes — including by special request from some U.S. cable companies (
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,254360,00.html).

 

 

One wonders why this lunatic would receive such a following.  The reason: a lack of discernment and a non-assuming loyalty to a personality cult.  If the claim that he is Jesus Christ is not enough to make people seriously wonder about this man’s deluded mind, there is also the reality that “only De Jesus and his right hand man, Carlos Cestero, are authorized to preach.”  Hmmm.  We should be reminded that Jesus Himself said “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24; cf. Mark 13:22).    

 

The second opportunity for some to be carried away or at least question historic Christianity is today’s unveiling of what is thought to be the ossuaries (ancient coffins) which allegedly contain the remains of Jesus and his family.  A documentary, “The Lost Tomb of Jesus,” challenges the tenet of the Christian faith that Jesus rose from the dead.  The filmmaker’s assertion is that ten stone boxes uncovered in a Jerusalem suburb in 1980 contain the bones of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and their children.  Of course, this is not really a new claim.  This is along the lines of the The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown and the movie by the same name produced by Ron Howard.  Essentially they both basically state that Orthodox Christianity, which has had pride of place for two thousand years, has essentially bullied its way to prominence, suppressing and oppressing any truth which undermines it. Documentaries such as “The Lost Tomb of Jesus” and Brown’s novel seek to plant a seed in skeptics and Christians minds alike that they have found the silver bullet to refute Christianity. 

 

Discernment is a lost virtue.  How can we tell what is real from what is false?  Know the truth.  The intent of this post is not to be a scholarly refutation of either of the topics broached.  On the other hand, neither is this a facile dismissal of them.  If Christians would return to the most basic of disciplines, reading our Bibles, we would quickly see that these claims are no more substantial or real than Godzilla stomping over those milk carton buildings.