Surpass Religious Righteousness or else

Did you ever wonder who Jesus was talking to when He said, “You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world?”  Toward the end of Matthew 5 there is a clear indication to whom He was speaking, “And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they?”  Jesus was talking to the chosen race, the people God set apart to declare His message.  Because Jesus was talking to Jews He made the statement, “even the Gentiles do the same,” which then makes sense that He was speaking to Jews.

We are told in John’s gospel that Jesus came to His own and His own received Him not.  In a general sense it can be said Jesus came to the human race having become human, but in a more specific way He came to the Jewish people.  It was the Jew who first received the Law, the covenants, the promises of salvation, the Messiah, and the prophecies of His coming.  The Jewish nation is the city set on a hill, which cannot be hid, the lamp that gives light to all that are in the house.  It was to the Jew that Jesus said, “let your light shine in such a way that men will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” 

Jesus was on a timetable, however, and so He preached His message to the Jew first, which is why He rejected helping a Gentile woman, in Mark 7:24-27.  "When he went into the house, he did not want anyone to know, but he was not able to escape notice.  Instead, a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him and came and fee at his feet.  The woman was a Greek, of Syrophoenician origin.  She asked him to cast the demon out of her daughter.  He said to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and to throw it to the dogs.” 

The first person on Jesus agenda was the Jew, and so after His sacrificial death for sin, He sent out the eleven to evangelize Jerusalem and Judea first.  Afterward He sent Paul and others to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.  For the past two thousand years God has been sending people forth to the ends of the earth with a gospel of faith and repentance, so that, men might hear, believe, and be transformed, so that, in behavior they might go beyond the righteousness of the religious men of Jesus’ day.  “For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond the righteousness of the experts in the law, and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:20.

Yesterday, I attended my friend’s father’s funeral.  My friend spoke to me of his father’s death, and how six weeks earlier, knowing he was going to die, considered what he believed about Jesus.  He called his son in and said, “I know you won’t like this or agree with it, I know how you feel and what you believe, but I want to tell you what I believe.  I have been thinking about all the people who reject Christ and His teaching, and so just by the numbers, I have chosen to reject Him too.  On his death bed my friend’s father was heard to say, as he slipped into a coma, “Where am I? Who are you? And, help, help, help!” 

When speaking to my friend’s cousin, I asked him what church he was attending, which he replied, “I don’t have time for that.”  I replied, “I hope you won’t end up like Dave’s father.”  To which he replied, “Let me ask  you a question, do you believe that a man who sets another man on fire, like what recently happened in my neighborhood, can be forgiven, and is a person who could do such a thing as sinful as a relatively good person?”  In brief, I replied, “You do not know the greatness of God or His holiness to ask me such a question.  If you knew the God who created all things from nothing, who is as holy as He is powerful, you would fearfully bow in worship before the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Once Jesus came to His own, “the Jew",” today when He returns He will come to the “Christian,” I wonder, will He find faith on the earth? The questions that remain for all the readers of this blog are these, do you claim the name of Christ or Christian, and have you entered into a trusting relationship with Him, whereby, you trust His work on the cross to save you from the sin that condemns you to eternal torment?  Is your life being transformed by the washing of the Word of God, as you read daily for knowledge and application?  Does your righteousness surpass that of the religious, by the forgiveness of your sins, when you were born again and given new spiritual life upon the confession of your faith?  Is the evidence of your saving faith seen in the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, so that, your good deeds are first inward of the heart, making you a true worshipper of Jesus Christ, so that, your inward change results in a change of attitude, actions, and motive?  Is the end of your faith the saving of your soul?