“Not The Smallest Letter” ( Matthew 5: 18, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


Jesus tells us not to assume He comes to destroy the Law; rather He comes to fulfill the Law. He warns that unless we are more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees, we “will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) It is not enough to refrain from murder; we must refrain from being angry or insulting. It is not enough that we refrain from adultery; we must refrain from lust. It is not enough that we keep our oaths; we must not make oaths at all. It is not enough to love our neighbor; we must also love our enemy. It is not enough to be righteous; we must not be righteous “in front of people, to be seen by them.” (Matthew 6:1) It is not enough to pray; we must not pray in public “to be seen by people” or “babble like the idolators, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words.” (Matthew 6:5,7) It is not enough to fast; we must “put oil on [our] heads, and wash [our] faces.” (Matthew 6:17)

“Whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

Looking in the mirror, I see the least in the kingdom of heaven for I break the least of these commands more times than I can count. I find no room in my heart for self-righteousness. The only righteousness I have belongs to another — my righteousness rests solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ, who fulfills the Law and the Prophets.

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“No Care In A Year Of Drought” ( Jeremiah 17: 7 – 8, NEB ) by Carley Evans


(by Carley Evans on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 4:44pm)

Are you able to remain green when “the heat comes” “in a year of drought?” Are your roots stretched “along the stream” “like a tree planted by the waterside?” When the sky dries up and rain does not fall, are you able to “bear fruit?” Are you able to see “when good comes” because “your heart is [not] far from the Lord?” (Jeremiah 17:6)

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and rests his confidence upon Him. He is like a tree.” He is like a tree with a healthy root system and full foliage that “stays green.” This man “has nothing to fear.” He “feels no care, and does not cease to bear fruit” for the Lord.

Yet, Jesus asks: “But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” And here is another parable that [Jesus] tells. It is aimed at those who are sure of their own goodness and look down on everyone else. ‘Two men go up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stands up and prays thus: ‘I thank Thee, O God, that I am not like the rest of men, greedy, dishonest, adulterous; or, for that matter, like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all that I get.’ But the other keeps his distance and does not even raise his eyes to heaven, but beat upon his breast, saying, ‘O God, have mercy on me, sinner that I am.’ It is this man, I tell you, and not the other, who goes home acquitted of his sins. For everyone who exalts himself is humbled; and whoever humbles himself is exalted.’ ” (Luke 18:8-14)

The man who is exalted is the one who puts his trust in the Lord; the one who recognizes that “the heart is the most deceitful of all things, desperately sick; who can fathom it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The man who prays, “Heal me, O Lord, and I am healed, save me and I am saved;” (Jeremiah 17:14)  this is the one who is exalted. This man is “like a tree planted by the waterside, that stretches its roots along the stream, When the heat comes, it has nothing to fear.”



“No Place For Human Pride” ( 1 Corinthians 1: 30, NEB ) by Carley Evans


“There is no place for human pride in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1: 30)

 

When Jesus heals a demon-possessed man of his blindness and deafness, the Pharisees say, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:24, NIV) Jesus tells them, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:30-31, NIV)

 

In His hometown, Jesus offends His neighbors — people who’ve known Him all His life. Jesus says, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” (Matthew 13:57, NIV)

 

The Pharisees complain against Jesus’ disciples, accusing them of not washing their hands before eating. Jesus replies, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3, NIV) He reminds the Pharisees that they avoid financially supporting their own mothers and fathers via setting aside money as a gift to God. “Thus,” says Jesus, “you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition.” (Matthew 15:6, NIV)

 

The Pharisees and Sadducees ask Jesus to “show them a sign from heaven.” Jesus tells them, “you know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16:1,3-4, NIV)

 

Human pride is reflected in each of these encounters. The Pharisees are awash with self-righteousness and self-aggrandizement. Jesus says, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child never enters it.” (Mark 10:14-15, NIV)

 

In the presence of Jesus, there is no place for human pride.

“The Lord’s Standard” (Proverbs 21: 2, NEB) by Carley Evans


“A man may think he is always right, but the Lord fixes a standard for the heart.”

A person justifies his acts to himself. For example, if you are running late to an important meeting and many are waiting on you, is it right to run a red light if there are no cars coming in either direction? Some say, ‘Yes.’ Others say, ‘No.’ Some are just bewildered, knowing they’d consider running the light.

Whatever you decide, you justify your decision to yourself as the correct one. Otherwise, if you are like most people, you won’t do that which you’ve decided is wrong. In order to commit an illegal or immoral act, you must first decide it is ‘not so bad,’ ‘the correct or better thing to do in this situation,’ or ‘okay because everyone else is doing it.’

You see yourself as being in the right.

“But the Lord fixes a standard for the heart,” writes Solomon. Jesus knows that it is what comes out of the heart that defiles a man. And, unfortunately, a person’s heart is deceitful above all things, says Jeremiah.

God’s standard is high; fixed so high we can not attain to it. We must place ourselves under the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ where God’s mercy overshadows us. Here we are justified not by ourselves, but by God Himself. Rejoice! I say again – Rejoice!