Living out Our Faith Pastor Jim Stegall
One of the basic premises of the Christian faith is that our belief in Christ and reliance on the Scriptures must go beyond lip-service and be active in our everyday lives. For the Scripture passage in view in this post, Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees, who had fallen into the trap of not living out what they taught or professed to believe.
After establishing that he has come not to replace the Law, but rather bring its fulfillment, Jesus takes an unveiled jab at the Pharisees and Law teachers of Israel. He shows that what defines greatness in his kingdom is both knowing and living the Scriptures. However, those who know and teach the Scriptures without actively living them out will be considered among the least of all people in the kingdom of heaven. What a statement! What a charge to us, as well. For us to have a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of these Pharisees, we must demonstrate our love for Christ by following his commandments. This takes intentionality and diligence.
I assume many reading this grew up in Christian homes with Christian values. In such settings, I believe that the greatest challenge a person faces is familiarity. Familiarity is a merciless snare that is ready to trap all who fall prey to its lulling temptations. Many of us, especially in the Bible Belt, grew up singing the songs and hymns, hearing the sermons, memorizing the Bible, and learning the Sunday school lessons. After years and decades of living in these rhythms, it can be very easy to lose our edge and just go through the motions without even realizing we have lost our wonder and awe of Christ. Eventually, without us being aware of it, we can become like the Pharisees.
The Pharisees were the great teachers of Israel. They knew the Scriptures and all of their extra-biblical materials front, back, and sideways. But, amidst it all, they had forgotten God and were not serving him in their lives. I fear that we can all easily fall into the same snare if we are not careful. Having been inundated with church stuff most of our lives, we must be on guard against the wiles of familiarity that kill our faith. May we not forget our first love, Jesus, like the church of Smyrna did (Revelation 2:4). Life is most joyous, satisfactory, and worthwhile when we are loving God by living according to the Scriptures, so let us set our hearts on adoring and treasuring Christ unto this end.