For the last few days, Matthew’s readings have been from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ sermon makes me very uncomfortable.
Jesus takes the Old Testament law – which was barely attainable – and makes it completely out of reach.
- Old Testament says: Don’t kill anyone. Okay, I can manage that.
- Jesus says: Don’t get angry at anyone because you’re committing murder in your heart. Uhhhh. That’s impossible.
Ahhh… the heart. Jesus is shining a magnifying glass on the state of the heart. Ultimately, He wants good actions to flow from the righteousness of the heart as opposed to performing good works to mask the darkness of the heart. Jesus wants us to be convicted… so we will turn to Him to do what we cannot do – NOT change our hypocritical behavior, but change trust Jesus to change our hearts.
Genesis 18 is the story of the Lord visiting Abraham and again promising him a son through Sarah. This time, however, many years have passed (since Abraham first heard the promise), and Sarah is past the age of child-bearing. Sarah overhears the promise and laughs, and God answers…
“Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”
Changing Sarah’s anatomy to open her womb was an easy task compared to changing the darkness of a sinful heart. But I ask you… “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Indeed, nothing is too hard for our God!
For me, this change has happened slowly… moment by moment, choice by choice, so that after years have passed, I can look back and see the slow work of grace in my life. The more God changes my heart from dark to light, my eyes are opened to even more darkness that resides in me. God is merciful and only shows me what will not send me into despair. For if I saw too much at once, I would become hopeless, and lose heart. God is meticulously kind. Thank God.
A great example of His meticulous kindness is seen in his conversation with Abraham about saving the city of Sodom (Genesis 18:22-33). On first glance, it seems like Abraham is negotiating with God, but a pastor explained the passage the opposite way…. God is meticulously expanding Abraham’s heart to be more compassionate.
Abraham: would you destroy the city if you found 50 righteous men?
God: No. I will save the city for 50 righteous men.
Abraham: How about 45?
God conforms Abraham’s heart to be closer to His own. He makes Abraham more compassionate. He does it slowly. He does it meticulously. He does it kindly.