I get to preach on one of my favorite topics this Sunday — how the Cross changed the Law. It is something I have written about elsewhere, and it is a topic that is endlessly fascinating to me. By tracking how Jesus upgraded, reinterpreted and ignored various categories of the Law, I feel like we get a much clearer picture of the heart of our Father. I’m certain I’ll expand on that in future posts, but I’m pretty anxious to write about what I’ve been meditating on this morning.
One of the categories in the Law is something I call moral law — the actions, attitudes, thoughts and beliefs that God expects of those made in his image. In the Old Testament, those laws were things like “Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not commit adultery. Do not lie. Don’t scheme to get something that isn’t rightfully yours (covet).” Since many of those are in the 10 Commandments, we are pretty familiar with them.
In the New Testament, Jesus upgrades this portion of the Law. He says things like “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder…’ but I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment… and anyone who says ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” He also said “You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” In the Old Testament, as long as a man and woman didn’t actually have sex they were OK, but in the New Testament, Jesus talks about the condition of our minds and hearts — the seedbed of our actions. Indulging in thoughts and feelings of anger acclimates us to it and allows us to progressively take steps towards acts of violence. Similarly, indulging in a lustful fantasy life makes it that much easier to do things we otherwise wouldn’t. It is said that if you put a frog into boiling water it will jump right out, but if you put it into room temp water and slowly raise the heat it will stay in until it cooks itself to death. I don’t think people are much different.
What I find fascinating is that, in so many areas, Jesus looses the restrictiveness of the Law or ignores it completely and yet, in the area of character and integrity, Jesus intentionally sets the standard beyond anyone’s ability to reach on their own. Of course, as Christians, we understand that this was so that we would be perpetually dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Indeed, as those reborn as the children of God and those who have the Spirit of God living inside of us, we should look more like our Father than anyone. But Jesus is also doing something else, he is teaching us to live in freedom with free will for eternity.
Would you consider something with me?
When God created the world, everything was good. There wasn’t sin, sickness, demons or death. We don’t know how long the world remained in that state, but we do know that Satan eventually came to tempt Adam and Eve. And let’s pause right there. Satan. Where did he come from?
Those who have far more interest in this than I do have pieced together various portions of Scripture and come up with a storyline for Satan. He was originally created as Lucifer, one of the three Archangels alongside Gabriel and Michael. Some traditions say that he was the most beautiful and the most glorious of the Three and the worship leader in the Throne Room. Eventually, Lucifer decided that he wanted to receive the same kind of praise as he was giving. He convinced one third of the angels to rebel against God in hopes of setting up their own kingdom. He failed in his revolt and was banished from Heaven. Supposedly, this happened before Adam and Eve were created and Satan then worms his way into the Garden.
But here is the point I want to make — when Satan was created, he was created good and with a free will. He didn’t have a sinful bent, nor did he have anyone entice him towards sin and rebellion. He came to that choice out of his own free will. He coveted God’s glory and praise and schemed to take it for himself. He indulged in the fantasy of what it would feel like to be on the receiving end of that angelic worship and it ended with him in rebellion against God. Does it make more sense now why Jesus cares so much about the thoughts, attitudes, emotions and opinions of our hearts?
In order for love to flourish between people, there must be freedom. Freedom to make good choices as well as bad. In upgrading our understanding of what it means to be made in God’s image, Jesus is teaching us how to make good choices. He is teaching us how to nip evil in the bud before it grows up into sin in our lives. He is teaching us how we are to look at and feel towards those around us who are also God’s sons and daughters. Jesus is teaching us how to be free and how to live in his Kingdom before it has even fully arrived.
Thanks for reading friends.