About a week ago we came home from my son’s play.  It had been a great night.  Opa was in town.  We saw the play which was really well done.  Our son did great.  Then, we went and celebrated together.  We got Opa settled in and came home to our car pretty seriously vandalized. 

Everybody was upset.  My wife was upset because we had just paid it off and now we have to get it repaired or replaced.  “Why would someone do this?”  Our kids were upset and scared.  They all had trouble going to sleep.  It was even more troubling when the police officer filing the report asked, “Does someone hate you?  Do you have some enemies?  It looks like someone was pretty ticked off at you. They really went after your car. Hard.”

I told him, “I hope not. I’m a pastor.  I’m supposed to make friends for Jesus, not enemies.”

So, there we were at about midnight, troubled because of what had happened, wondering about our next step with our car needs to be, and upset because someone seems to have come after us in some sort of vindictive way.

At the same, I was thinking about the text we’ll study this coming Sunday (Matthew 5:38-48) where Jesus urges us to turn the other cheek and to go the extra mile to show love to people. His words to “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” were ringing in my ears and heart.  And I asked, “How should I respond?  What should the response of my heart be because of what these people or this person has done?  What action should I take?  What should I do if I find out or learn ‘who done it.’”

Jesus' answer is a hard one to swallow at moments like this: “Therefore, be perfect like your heavenly Father is perfect.” “What would your Father do?” is a question that Jesus would have me ask at moments like these. #WWFD (Not "What would the Fonze do?" but "What would your Father do?")

We’ve all been in moments like these where something happened or someone came after us as an enemy would.  Our gut reaction is often vindictive and hateful.  It’s spiteful and mean.  And we justified in these emotions and responses.  But Jesus shocks us by urging a very different response to those who come after us. #WWFD.  “What would your Father do?” is a question that Jesus would have us ask at moments like these.

This Sunday, we’re going to finish up our look at Matthew 5 and learn the depth of the saying from Jesus, “Therefore, be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Lord, help me to live and love like you in any and every situation.

Chiseled by Jesus.

We are shaped by the people around us.  Our parents, our siblings, our friends, our classmates, our teachers all have a very distinct and powerful impact on who we are, the way we think, even the way we talk.  Parents – you know that it’s true.  You’re starting to sound like your mother or father.

We are shaped by the culture around us.  We live in a great country and it has a very distinct culture.  That culture is blasted at us in TV shows and on Netflix.  That culture is quietly pushed at us through the news and radio.  That culture is even shaped by the laws and mentalities of our nation.  We are profoundly – more than we even know – shaped by the fact that we live here instead of in some other country and in some other part of the world.

As Christians this often means that the way we think and even the things that we believe are often shaped by the Bible and culture, the Bible and family, the Bible and … I think you get the idea.

But what happens when the shaping isn’t so good?  What happens when the world is shaping our thinking, our acting, our feeling in ways that violate God’s way of thinking, acting and feeling?  What happens when we’re taught things at home or in school that directly contradict or quietly circumvent the truth that God has given?

Sadly, Christians are often molded by culture instead of molding culture by their Christianity.  But this isn’t anything new.  In Jesus’ day, the church of Jesus’ day was teaching some things about God’s Word and specifically about God’s commands that weren’t quite what God had in mind.  The thinking and even the teaching of the church had been shaped in a way that violated God’s clear words.

Jesus had some work to do.  He had to clear up some things.  He had to set some things straight so that his disciples would have a clear understanding of the way God wanted them to be and to live in this world. He was chiseling them and shaping them by teaching them to the truth.

I’ll be honest, this next section of the Sermon on the Mount is going to get a little uncomfortable.  Jesus is going to take his chisel to our teachings, to our attitudes, at our hearts, even at our lives.  And it’s going to hurt. But we need it.  Our eternity depends on it.  Jesus says so.  More and more we need to conform our thinking, our feeling, our attitudes, our very lives to the Word and will of God.  It will be painful.  But it will be good for us.

This Sunday we will be studying Matthew 5:27-30.  This section and the others around will profoundly and powerfully shape our thinking and our behaving in this world.

Lord, shape us by your Word.  Lord, help us by your Spirit.  Lord, save us by your Son.  Amen.

Of light bulbs and revelation.

It’s an earth shattering thing when it hits you one day that everything that you knew and understood growing up was wrong.  Yikes!  Your parents were wrong.  Your spiritual leader and care-giver was wrong.  Your religion was wrong.  Your creed was wrong.  All of a sudden, the light bulb went on and you saw where they were wrong and where God was right.

That’s what happened to the apostle Paul when he was on his way to Damascus.  He had grown up a good Jew and did what all good Jews did.  He followed the rules that his parents and the rabbis handed on to him. Except Paul was more than a good Jew. He was a great Jew!  He was not just a follower of Judaism, he was an advocate of Judaism and worked tirelessly and aggressively to put down anything opposed to it. 

And then one day, God rocked his world and showed him the truth.  Then one day, God shook his heart.  In that moment and in the moments that followed, Jesus turned the light bulb on and Paul saw that what he had been taught had all been wrong.  He was trying to be saved by morality, but morality without Jesus is demoralizing and only ends in defeat. In that moment, Paul discovered that everything he had learned was wrong.

Jesus the same thing as he sits down with his disciples and with the church of his day and says, “Let me fill in the gaps for you. Let me help you understand the law and the prophets.  Let me help you understand the Scriptures.  Let me turn the light on for you.”  Already then they were missing some key parts of the Scriptures.  They were teaching some of the Scriptures, but not all of it.  They were teaching morality and ethics, but not grace and redemption.

Too often the Christian church is known for its morality and ethics. And Jesus did teach morals and ethics.  In his morality and ethics, Jesus holds the lie and urges us to toe it.  In fact, he urges us to step our game.

But Jesus has more to teach us.  He’s coming to turn the light on for us, to fill in the gaps, and teach about a greater righteousness than morality and ethics could ever give.  He’s coming to show us a greater path to righteousness than any 4- or 7- or 10-step program ever could. 

“I’m right here,” Jesus quietly proclaims.  “I am the one who fulfills the prophets.  I am the one who accomplishes all righteousness.  I am the one who gives you a righteousness that far surpasses the greatest and saintliest person who ever lived.”

The Sermon on the Mount is not just about morality and ethics.  It’s about Jesus who turns the light on for us and shows us what we’ve been missing all along.  He not only sheds light on the fullness of God’s moral expectations, but he also and especially shines the spotlight on the fullness of God’s grace for us and his redemption of us.  And that’s game changing.

I can’t wait to show you what I mean.  Join us this Sunday as we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 5:17-20.