Monday, August 6, 2012

Why "Try Harder" Won't Work

{My Journey Through the Sermon on the Mount}

I always wonder how Jesus taught the sermon on the mount? Did he just go up to the mountain and start blurting all of this stuff out? Were his disciples asking him topical questions and these were his responses? Did he know that the pharisees were listening, defending their prideful religious behavior by saying "Well it's not like I've committed murder or adultery Jesus. Why are you making me out to be so bad?"

Can't you just imagine that conversation among the disciples and pharisees and this is Jesus' response? This is how I imagine the conversation going down:

Pharisees: Jesus, you're always saying we've broken the commandments, when we haven't. You're always warning us that we're hypocrites, that we only appear to be righteous. How can you accuse us of such a thing when we are working so hard at keeping the Law?

Jesus: 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 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."

You guys think you're so "good" at keeping the law? Well how about your heart? Have you ever had an impure thought? Have you ever looked at a woman with lustful intent? If so, it's your thought life, the deep recesses of your heart that declare your guilt before the LORD, not just your actions.

Pharisees: Okay, you got us there. Well, I guess we'll just try harder in our own strength not to even let our minds wander. We'll do everything within our own power to stop sinning.

Jesus: Really? You'll do anything. You think that you can just beat sin in your own strength? Okay . . . 29 "If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell."

Do you see Jesus' point here? We can't defeat sin in our own strength. We'd have to mutilate our entire body! We can't be "good enough" on the outside, because even our hearts are deeply sinful.

This issue of sin, religion, try hard, etc is a battle that we can't fight on our own. The act of sinning starts long before the hands, it starts in the heart. We can (and should) take drastic measures against sin. We should be willing to do whatever it takes, to keep our hearts from wandering. But, that still won't be enough. We have to allow Jesus to work in us and through us. We have to rest in His promise of Matthew 11:30 that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.

That's the beauty of the Cross. We no longer have to fight sin on our own, because the battle has already been won! We can't keep trying harder, because we will never be able to try hard enough. We must accept the grace God has given us through Jesus and the Holy Spirit to pay the penalty of sin and free us from its power.

We don't have to work at being good, because He is good. We don't have to put sin to death, because He was put to death. We don't have to do enough, because He is enough.

We just have to believe, trust, rest, and be thankful.

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