“I have decided to stick with love.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Of all people, those involved in the civil rights movement of the 60s could have justifiably chosen hate. Dr. King was arrested 29 times just for clinging to the rights guaranteed to all under the constitution. Rep. John Lewis, who passed away last week from pancreatic cancer, suffered a fractured skull after being struck by a billy club for leading a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965. When asked about the riots and looting occurring across the country last June, Lewis quoted Dr. King saying, “I still choose love rather than hate. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
 
To choose love over hate is a radical and counter-cultural move, but the choice to love is also biblical and Christian. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus instructed his disciples to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rains on the just and the unjust.”
 
To choose love over hate is to prove to be of a different nature—a new creature born again of God’s spirit. Love is how the Christian sets himself apart from non-believers. Jesus said, “For if you love those who love you, do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”
 
Love is not the passive choice. On the contrary, love is the revolutionary choice. Love tears down strongholds. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:20, “‘ if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good.” Evil can only be overcome with love.

Love is the vehicle the Lord Jesus used to overcome the evil of mankind. When we rebelled against him, indeed, when we killed Him, Jesus was patient. When we were His enemy, He fed us. When we were thirsty, He gave us a drink. He did not repay our evil with evil; instead, He answered our evil with sacrificial love and kindness. He gave us grace meant to lead us to repentance (cf. Romans 2:1-5).
 
The love of Christ tore down the dividing wall of hostility between us and the Father. How vast was the gulf between sinful man and a holy God? Yet the love of Christ was powerful to reconcile the two. His love even healed the horizontal divide between us and our brothers and sisters in Christ (Eph 2:11-22). He joined all those who believed and were born again into one body (cf. 1 Cor 12). No more powerful force exists in the world when compared to the love of Christ.
 
When we choose love over hate, we desire life over death. Love brings life. Hate brings destruction and pain, and death. The end that hate brings is what makes hatred too great a burden to bear.
 
When we choose love over hate, we desire light over darkness. Love brings light, and light evokes hope to those living in the darkness. Hate only drives the hater and the hated deeper into the darkness where Satan waits like a roaring lion to devour them both.
 
When we choose love over hate, we desire freedom over bondage. Hate has enslaved our ancestors since their fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit out of hatred for their Creator and a desire to overthrow Him. Murderous hate seized Cain when he saw that God favored Abel’s offering. Throughout history, we’ve seen how hate enslaves, but we learned how love sets us free through Christ. His love released us from the heavy chains of hatred for God and others.
 

Brothers and sisters let us choose love because hate is much too great a burden to bear. Let us choose to turn the other cheek. Let us decide to go the extra mile. Let us do to others as we would have them do to us. Let us be merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful. The reward for love is enormous, and through love, we prove to be sons and daughters of the Most High God.


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The Echo Chamber

Human beings’ inability to find common ground in their humanity has been a problem for all of human history. We never fail to divide into opposite camps over the slightest of differences. Since God scattered the human race from the Tower of Babel, humanity has separated themselves on race lines. If not over race, we divide over differences in political ideology, moral codes, and resource distribution. Even the Christian family has segmented into thousands of different denominations.

How do these divisions come about? First, we find a point of disagreement. Then, both sides of the conflict form their respective camps and gather supporters. These camps become more and more closed off to people with whom they disagree. The more closed off the separate groups become, they begin to resemble echo chambers where the same polarizing statements are repeated over and over again. Fierce division grows imminent.

We find an example of this phenomenon in 2 Kings 12. Rehoboam has just ascended to the throne of his father, Solomon. Solomon’s former slave driver turned sworn enemy is vying for his part of the kingdom. He gathers some former slaves and travels to Shechem to meet with the new king and his court. The lines of division are drawn at this point, the camps formed, but they have not yet closed themselves off into an echo chamber. They are still willing to talk with one another rather than just about one another.

Jeroboam and the slaves explain they have no beef with the king if he will only promise to go easy on them. Rehoboam’s father, Solomon, had Jeroboam and his people harshly, and their only wish was for their new king to acknowledge this by lightening their burden.

Rehoboam sent the visitors away, promising to give them an answer in three days. Rehoboam then took counsel from his father’s advisors, all of whom understood how harshly Solomon treated the slaves. The older men advised Rehoboam to bend to Jeroboam’s request.

The new king, Rehoboam, then took counsel from his friends, younger men with whom he grew up. The friends of Rehoboam could not appreciate what Jeroboam and the slaves endured under Solomon. Their advice was to ignore the request and impose even more onerous burdens on Jeroboam and his people. Here is where the echo chamber formed. 2 Kings 12:8 says, “but he (Rehoboam) abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.”

The formation of Rehoboam’s echo chamber spelled the end of the United Kingdom of Israel. Ten northern tribes split off with Jeroboam, and two remained with Rehoboam in the south. Of course, all of this was part of God’s judgment on His people for their idolatry, but that does not change the fact that Rehoboam’s group became the instrument of that judgment.

This story contains a relevant and valuable lesson, especially during these times of intense polarization. God judges the nations. Sometimes He brings them down with an outside force, but other times He judges them by causing them to implode from within. When division gives way to camps that become echo chambers, all the signs are present that we are approaching a watershed moment and possibly even an existential threat to our way of life.

God gives us history to warn us. If we know our history, then we will realize what is happening. Has not our nation divided into camps that are quickly becoming echo chambers? Do we not see that the various camps are talking about one another more than they are talking to one another? According to 2 Kings 12, where could we be headed?

If Rehoboam could speak to us today, he would tell us to listen to people who believe differently than you. He would advise us to have conversations with people who’ve had different experiences in life. Your opponent in any ideological disagreement is not your enemy. Quite the contrary, he is the key to both of you escaping the judgment of God.


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Truth for Turbulent Times

   2020 has brought with it some extremely challenging and uncertain circumstances. We have the ongoing COVID crisis with all its many challenges, the social upheaval brought on by the death of George Floyd, a heated debate on the changing of the flag and public policy, and two rulings from the supreme court that challenge a Scriptural worldview. I am sure that many of you have lived through more challenging times, but 2020 is undoubtedly one of the more collectively difficult seasons for all of us. I hope we all understand this—these seasons of trial and tribulation are when we find out what our faith is made of. 

 

   Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch Prime Minister from 1901-1905, famously wrote, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” The Bible declares this same truth. The Lord told Job, “Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine” (Job 41:11). The Spirit of God declares in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all those who dwell therein.”

 

   Hebrews 2:10 reads, “For it was fitting that He, for Whom and by Whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” In other words, Jesus earned the victory overall by suffering for all. Jesus’ suffering anguish on the cross has conquered the coronavirus. He’s defeated the strongholds of injustice. He’s judged the judges. Even death holds no sway over the one who knows Jesus as Savior. 

 

   When we understand the Sovereignty of Christ and consider the battle He won at the cross, we begin to see our difficult circumstances as opportunities instead of challenges. Jesus is for us, and as such, nothing can stand against us. As believers, baptized in and filled with the Holy Spirit, we have an opportunity in this season to be a shining light in the dark world. Ours is a message of hope, a ministry of reconciliation that the world needs to understand. Sure, the times are most challenging, which means that there’s never been a more critical time for the Church to be the Body of Christ. Jesus formed the Church for just such a time as this!

 

   Be encouraged, my dear brothers and sisters. Each day that passes represents one day closer to our deliverance. Keep praying for an end to the coronavirus. Keep standing with the Lord on the controversial issues. Keep Christ at the center, and the gospel the focus of all your relationships. “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not lose heart” (Gal 6:9)


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How Jesus addressed the progressive vs. conservative squabble in the First Century

The divide between the progressive and conservative agendas is at a fever pitch in our nation. The progressive parties want to see positive change and for the country to “get with the times.” Conservative parties wish to see a positive shift back to what they view as “the good ole days.” I am writing in general terms, of course. Every individual who either identifies as progressive or conservative has a nuanced approach to their ideology. My point is that a great rift exists, which makes things difficult for followers of Christ who wish to make a difference for the Kingdom of God.
 

Readers may find it interesting that this battle between progressives and conservatives has been in play for millennia. In the first century, and just prior, two religiously political parties were at odds with one another over ideology. Those two parties were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. A study of these two camps’ history reveals that the Sadducees were the conservatives who valued the writings (the Mishnah) of their ancient Rabbis and wanted to see their traditions and history preserved. The Pharisees were the progressives who were okay with parting somewhat from the Mishnah to make room for new traditions that embraced the contemporary culture.

I recently read a historical account that details the divide between the Pharisees and the Sadducees on how the Feast of Booths should be observed. The Sadducees wanted to keep the observance of the feast pure. The ancient Rabbis who wrote the Mishnah held that the observance was to be one of thanksgiving. The Pharisees, however, wished to make official changes to the celebration to include an element of petition.

The ancient Rabbis wrote into the observance of the Feast of Booths what became known as a “water ceremony” where during the feast, the high priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam into a golden pitcher. He would then march in procession over to the temple and pour the water out as an offering on the altar. This was to express thanks for God’s providing His people with water to drink in the wilderness and for delivering them into the promised land that was fed by streams of running water.

The Pharisees were, in general, more urban people. Instead of fresh river water, they relied on cisterns, which made them dependent upon the rain. Since the Feast of Booths occurred in the fall when their reservoirs were near empty, the Pharisees thought that the holiday was a perfect time to have the High Priest ask for God to send rain for their cisterns.

The Sadducees, seeing the Pharisees’ added petition as a departure from the true meaning of the holiday, resisted the Pharisees’ initiative. The battle over the water ceremony came to blows in the First Century B.C. when Alexander Janneus, the Sadducean king and high priest at the time, made a scene of pouring the water out on his feet instead of giving it on the altar. His was a public act of protest against the Pharisees’ progressive agenda.

Well, long story short, after the death of Janneus, the Pharisees reached a compromise with his wife to allow her son to assume the office of the high priest in exchange for the addition of the petition for rain into the festival. By the time we see Christ attending the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem in John 7, the revised water ceremony had become quite a spectacle. The water parade from the pool of Siloam to the altar took place each morning for seven days. On the seventh day, the ritual was repeated seven times. Each day a petition was made for rain to fill the urban dwellers’ cisterns.

Imagine the tension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees each time the parade ended with a prayer not prescribed in the Mishnah. The last day must have been the tensest of the seven-day observance. Jesus handled this tension in a remarkable way. John 7:37-38 tells us that on the last day of the feast, “Jesus Stood up and cried out, ‘if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as the scripture has said out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”

Jesus was pointing his hearers to a higher truth concerning the coming baptism of the Holy Spirit. I don’t have the space to expound on that topic here, but is it not startling how He could point people to truth without taking a side? With this saying and the way His actions mirrored those of Janneus, Jesus both defied and affirmed the agendas of both parties.

If you read on through the chapter, you see that some people were mad. Some people were glad. Most importantly, though, some people believed!

The moral of this story is that when we find ourselves in the middle of a debate between conservatives and progressives, do not choose a “side.” Keep the gospel of Jesus Christ the focus. It will likely make people from all sides mad. It will make some of them happy. Most importantly, keeping the gospel in focus will lead some people to come to faith in Christ.


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We will be okay.

Who do you know is praying for you? I hope everyone reading this has at least one person who prays for them. If you have a pastor, he likely prays for you. Your spouse hopefully prays or at least has prayed for you.

I want to encourage you that one person prays for you without ceasing. Romans 8:26 teaches us that the very Spirit of the Son is always interceding for you before the Father; “for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words… the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

Understand, it is not as if Jesus intercedes for you from afar. The Holy Spirit dwells inside of you. Galatians 4:6 says, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying ‘Abba Father.'” Romans 8:16 teaches us that the indwelling Holy Spirit is in constant communication with our own spirit.

That your spirit is communicating with His means that he understands what you are going through. He knows your fears. He feels your feelings and discerns your thoughts. He also speaks the language of the Heavenly Father. All of these characteristics allow Him to pray prayers on your behalf, way better than any prayers you could pray for yourself.

Be encouraged, Christian brothers and sisters! Not only are you prayed for, the One praying for you the most is Son of Righteousness. The one most entitled to access to the throne of God the Father is the One who takes your true feelings and desires before Him. If the “prayers of the righteous availeth much,” then the prayers of the Spirit of Christ avail most of all.

Now, I’d like you to shift your thoughts from yourself to all believers for a moment. Not only do you have the Holy Spirit in you, interceding on your behalf. The Scripture teaches that He “intercedes for the saints.” The word “saints” is plural. Who are the saints? He’s not talking about the football team from New Orleans but all who have believed and been justified by the blood of Christ.

Let this truth sink in; the Holy Spirit of Christ dwells in the hearts and lives of all believers. The Father intimately knows every believer in Christ because the Spirit of the Son is always in communication with theirs and tirelessly crying out to the Father in the language of the divine. God knows all the hopes and fears and desires of all the saints on the planet.

The One who loved and died for the church is unceasingly lifting her up before the Lord. She has no spot that He is not praying to blot out and no wrinkle He is not intent on ironing out. Her sanctification and glorification are more sure than the rising of the sun each day. By the Holy Spirit’s continuous prayers, she will be delivered to Him at the marriage supper without spot or wrinkle washed, cleaned, and fully pressed out by His word.

I invite you to meditate on this truth with me. If you have believed, then you have received the Holy Spirit into your heart. Moreover, all who have believed are adopted into the holy family of God. They are your brothers and sisters from every tribe and tongue on the planet. The same Spirit that lives in you and intercedes on your behalf also lives in them. He is making us all one in Him and lifting our collective concerns, thoughts, feelings, and struggles up to His Father.

We have weathered some harsh storms in 2020, but we can rest knowing that we are cared for by the One who cares best. We are not okay, but we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we will be okay.


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When God redeems the scandal.

Through every word we speak and every action we take, we write a story for our lives. Sometimes people write two different stories for their lives—one in public and one in private. When the story a person lives in public does not match up with the one he or she lives in private, it is called a scandal. Most people find themselves involved in some sort of scandal at some point in their lives. The good news is that our God is a redeemer of scandals.
 
King David is a great example. In public, David lived the story of an attentive king who was faithful to his God. In 2 Samuel 11, though, we learn that the story of his private life was something different. While his army was off at war, he was lying low at home, enjoying the comfort of his easy royal life. An examination of his private life also reveals that he lacked self-control as he descended into lust, then adultery, and finally murder.
 
God had every reason to destroy David for his scandalous behavior. Instead, God sent a prophet to David, who opened his eyes to the inconsistency of his life. That confrontation led to David’s repentance. His confession and repentance resulted in his being cleansed and made white as snow (see Psalm 51). David suffered the temporal consequences of his sin, but was saved from the eternal wrath of God, and went on to be one of the great kings of God’s people.
 
Peter also lived a scandal. Publicly, he proclaimed to be the most faithful of all the disciples vowing to follow him even unto death. When no one was looking, however, Peter denied knowing Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. When the rooster crowed, and he saw the truth in Jesus’ prediction of his denial, Peter was devastated.
 
Peter never dreamed that anything good could come out of his scandal. He judged himself a failure at being a disciple and went back to his old occupation of fishing. In an ultimate display of grace and mercy, Jesus did not wait for Peter to come to him and ask for forgiveness. Jesus went to where he was, performed a miracle, and then walked him through repentance (see John 21). Jesus took the initiative to redeem Peter’s scandalous actions.
 
Perhaps the most exceptional example of God redeeming scandal is the story of Saul of Tarsus. Publicly, Saul proclaimed to be a devoted worshipper of Yahweh. He claimed to be a student of the law and the prophets. The hateful life he lived, though, told a different story. When the fulfillment of the law came in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, Saul failed to recognize Him. Saul persecuted the Savior by arresting, abusing, and killing His disciples.
 
One would expect God to completely and utterly destroy such a man as Saul. Astonishingly, though, what we find in the written record in Acts 9 is something completely different. Jesus, instead, came to Saul, confronted his ungodly behavior, and extended to him a hand of grace. His redemption resulted in a name change and a call to be an apostle. Saul, the persecutor of the church, became Paul the apostle– the greatest protagonist in bringing the gospel message to the gentiles.
 
These stories serve as an encouragement for us. We should not be surprised when our scandals are exposed, nor should we be dismayed. Scandals are what we do, but redemption is what God does. When confronted with the inconsistencies of the stories we live, whether it comes from a friend, a preacher, or quiet time with the word, we should see it as a grace. Confrontation is how many of the most beautiful stories begin.
 

If you are currently living two different life stories, one in public and another in private, you are living a scandal. Now is the time to come clean. Don’t listen to your inner defense lawyer. Don’t seek to justify yourself. Instead, confess your sin. Step into the light. Experience his grace. Give the Lord an opportunity to make yours a story of redemption rather than a scandal.

 


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The Sun Came Up This Morning

The sun came up this morning. Did you notice? Last night, while the storms raged, God was ordering the universe for a perfect sunrise this morning. He formed just the right number of clouds in just the right texture to create the oranges, reds, and blues in the eastern sky. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?
 

The gladiolas that last week sent up a loaded shoot of buds, and that yesterday barely revealed their pastel pink blossoms, begin to unfurl from the lowest buds signaling a promise. In short order, the color will climb up the long sturdy stalks as if sending up praise to the Creator who dressed them in glory. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

The yellow rose bush planted tearfully in memory of a loved one years ago sports seven bright blooms. The soft morning light reveals their tight spirals of petals perfectly proportioned by the Creator. As if connected to the loved one that is gone, they say to the morning admirer, “Everything is okay.” The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

The bluebird stands on her porch and whistles, “Thank you.” She tweets a song of thanksgiving for the one who constructed her house. Mostly though, she sings for the one who dressed her in blue. She thanks Him for the night’s rain, for keeping her safe, and for the sustenance His showers provide for her young. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

The leaves of the live oak held on through the late-night storm. This morning they wave gently in gratitude for the morning light. The strong howling winds failed to separate them from their roots. In the early light, they bounce triumphantly in praise as they carry on their work of gathering in the light. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

On the limbs of the pecan tree, the mother squirrel jumps for joy from branch to branch in defiance of gravity. She has stuffed her cheeks with this morning’s manna. Unable to speak, she whips her tail instead to show her gratitude to Jehovah Jireh. He never fails to supply her every need. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

As the sun continues on its circuit, one by one, the shadows light up. By the end of the day, there will be no square inch of green grass that did not taste its heat or hear its declaration. “You will live.” The clouds fail to prevail against the great light that rules the day. The Creator made sure. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

All His creatures praise Him this morning. No bird sits idle without singing. The butterflies, the honeybees, and every creepy crawling thing comes out to thank Him for life. In their own way, in their own voice, according to their own gifts and ability, they spend the morning in worship. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?

All the earth makes a joyful noise to the Lord. The sea roars and all that fills it. The rivers clap their hands. The hills sing for joy together. They make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. The storm may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. The sun came up this morning. Did you notice?


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The Importance of Good Theology During a Global Pandemic

Let’s just admit that we are living through a difficult season. The numbers just cannot be ignored. As of the writing of this column, over 140,000 Americans have contracted the Covid-19 virus. 2,490 people have lost their lives to the virus. Yesterday in his press conference, one of President Trump’s top medical advisors said that before this season passes 100,000 to 200,000 Americans will die and that is if we do a good job with the mitigation measures.

 

This is not the first global pandemic in history, but it is the first that we have encountered, therefore many people are panicking. People are forced, in times like these, to come to grips with their own fragility and mortality. These types of events awaken in people a part of themselves that they never knew. They begin to look outside of themselves for answers. They look for something eternal to hang onto and believe in.

 

Christians must make sure, during a global crisis such as we are in, that the god that they are representing is the true God of Scripture. Uncertain times have a way of exploiting any poor theology of believers. Like Aaron, in Exodus 32, believers accept whatever golden calf the mob makes in their own image. We have all read how that turns out.

 

Theology is nothing more than one’s thoughts about God. Good theology is built on God’s revelation of Himself both in the things He has made and on the Word He inspired. Poor theology is built on thoughts of other false gods made according to the speculations of mortal man. If there was ever a time to have and communicate a solid theology, it is now.

 

The first and most important characteristic of solid theology is the understanding that God doesn’t change (see Hebrews 13:8). Circumstances and situations change. God does not. The character of God is unassailable by Covid-19 or any other plague that ever existed. His unchanging nature is why He is a rock and a refuge that people can cling to in times of great trouble.

 

Second, God is not surprised. The world was caught completely off guard by this global disaster. God, however, exists outside the realm of time. He knows the beginning and the end and everything in between. God is not wringing his hands over the daily reports of new cases and deaths. He remains steadfast in His love and mercy.

 

Third, God has brought this upon us. This may be the toughest aspect of solid theology to accept, but believers must. Either God is sovereign and all-powerful or not. If he is sovereign and all-powerful then you have to accept that he either directed or allowed this plague to fall upon us. Either way, we are experiencing this plague by the hand of God (see Amos 3:6).

 

Fourth, the answer to the “why” questions are not for men to know. Sometimes, God may give us a glimpse of why He allows us to go through seasons like this, but we can never see the whole picture on this side of eternity. As long as we are firm on the unchanging character of God, we should be able to accept that God’s design for this disaster is in accord with His perfect love and justice. Believers walk by faith, and that means they are okay with not having answers to all of the “why” questions for now. When we leave this earth and enter the eternal realm, we will be able to know fully “just as we are fully known” (see 1 Cor 13:8-13).

 

Fifth, and finally, believers must believe that He makes everything good in its time. Ecclesiastes 3 teaches us that “there is a time and a season for every matter under heaven.” Both the times of living and the times of dying are a gift from God. All the circumstances that we face, good and bad, lead us to know Him more fully and worship Him more faithfully. You cannot go wrong if you have put your faith and trust in Him and committed to living every moment for His glory. 


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A Statement From the Leadership Of FBC Wiggins Regarding Coronavirus Concerns


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Murder of the Heart

Ask 10 people which of the Ten Commandments they have not broken and all 10 will likely tell you that they haven’t broken the 6th Commandment—”You shall not murder.” By that they mean they have not committed the physical act of taking someone’s life in cold blood. Turns out, there’s more to the 6th Commandment than most people realize. 

 

We all have an inner Pharisee that wants to let us off the hook when we do wrong. The Pharisee is concerned with outward appearances, actions, and looks. The Pharisee is convinced that it is okay to be angry and hate his brother as long as he doesn’t follow through and murder him. The Pharisee says that it is fine for him to lust after and even fantasize about another man’s wife, as long as he doesn’t actually act on his fantasy and as long as no one else knows of the affair in his heart. Don’t like your wife anymore? The Pharisee has a solution for that too. Just divorce her. Moses said divorce was okay. 

 

The Pharisee listens to the teachers in his culture instead of the Holy Spirit. In so doing, he misses the heart of God in the Ten Commandments. God’s heart in His command not to murder is not just that His people would refrain from the crime of murder, but that they would love one another and value human life. His command not to commit adultery is not just that His people would not cheat on one another but that they would value His design for the family, the fundamental human institution. The righteousness that God requires is heart-deep. 

 

Jesus made this truth clear in the Sermon on the Mount. He confronted the Pharisee’s teachers head-on when He declared, “You have heard it said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder’… but I say to you, anyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to the judgement; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; whoever says ‘You fool’ will be liable to the fires of hell.”

 

Have you ever harbored anger in your heart against someone? Have you ever insulted someone’s intellect (called them a “fool”)? Have you ever unjustly attacked someone’s character? I suspect we all have. Do you understand what Jesus is saying here? In this passage, He convicts every human being for the sin of murder. 

 

God will accept nothing less than heart-deep righteousness, that results from heart deep repentance, by the precious gift of God. It is not enough to appear righteous. Appearances might fool the people around you, but God is not fooled by appearances. He looks right through and sees your heart. If there is anger in your heart, He will find you out and you will not escape His righteous judgement. 

 

So, what does one do to escape this judgement? First, recognize that you are guilty. Put a sock in the mouth of your inner Pharisee. Better yet, expel him from your life altogether. He will only cause you more trouble. Next, plead for God’s mercy. He tells us that He is a God who is rich in mercy, slow to anger, and abounding in grace (Exodus 34:6). Next, trust in Jesus and the sacrifice He made on your behalf. The Bible says that when we have faith in Jesus, God counts it to us as righteousness (Galatians 3:6-9).

 

The righteousness that comes by faith in Christ is heart-deep. With His righteousness we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which allows us to know the heart of God. He also empowers us to love God and love others as we should. It is in loving God and loving your neighbor that the whole law of God is fulfilled (Galatians 5:14). Will we still fall short of God’s heart? Yes. But where our sin increases His grace abounds even more (Romans 5:20) when we are found in Him by faith. We can be sure that He will sanctify us and conform us into the person he created us to be in Christ (Romans 8:29-30).


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