Sometimes I think the way Jesus presented His messages was a little unusual, . He would say these wonderful truths, then seemingly change the subject in a moments notice. For instance, the famous sermon on the mount in Matthew 5. Jesus starts out with the “Blessed are they” speech. It’s basically an “everything is beautiful” feel good message. (v3-v11) Then He says, (paraphrased) “Now that you know you are blessed because of God, don’t hide it. Let your light shine.” (v13-v16) After that it turns a little rigid. Jesus makes a very strong statement concerning the law of the prophets. He says: “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20)

What the heck happened? Jesus went from everything is beautiful to unless your righteousness (your uprightness and your right standing with God) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The scribes and Pharisees were the religious elite. They had studied scripture for years. If anyone knew the law, it was them. Read the book of Leviticus. You will find it very detailed in describing how to do everything according to the law. There was no way these people listening to Jesus could practice the law better than the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus just upped the ante.

It gets worse! Jesus first clarifies what righteousness physically looks like in the eyes of God. Now He digs deeper into our spiritual pockets and makes it clear on what He expects of us concerning our heart and mind. Verses 21-22 make the point if we harbor anger against someone it’s the same as killing someone. Verses 27-28 add to the problem. Having evil desire for a woman is as committing adultery in our heart. Again, Jesus just upped the ante.

I have two points to make. Here’s the first. Jesus was setting up the death and resurrection prophecy. He was reminding the people of their need for a savior. He was making it very clear that it is impossible to be righteous enough, on our own, to be accepted into the kingdom of God. (Isaiah 64:6) The sermon on the mount was like an opening statement in a courthouse for the accused. In this case we are the accused. And we have been found guilty because of one man. (Romans 5:18) Jesus reminds us, in the sermon on the mount, that we completely fall short of being able to meet the requirements of the law. (Romans 3:23) He is refreshing our memory of why He came to earth. He came to fulfill the law because we can’t. He came so we could enter the kingdom of God with one simple decision. The decision to follow Him. The law required a sacrifice. He came to fulfill it and He did with His death and resurrection. He did it so we could enter the kingdom of heaven to live with Him forever. He did it to pay the price that we cannot pay to be in right standing with the Father.

“Next Level Thinking” fully accepts the price that Jesus paid for our sin. It fully accepts that we can live under His grace. It fully accepts that we don’t have to try to fulfill the law. (Romans 8:2)

Are you still trying to fulfill the law?

Are you still trying to earn your salvation?

If so, ask the Lord to reveal to you the power of His grace and the depth of His love for you.

Next week I will share with you part 2.

I appreciate your comments.

To hear the audio version of this article, visit http://audioboo.fm/boos/756155-he-upped-the-ante-part-1