The Weightier Matters of the Law

The Law of God is vital to our walk with Him. It’s establishment reveals to us God’s standard of righteousness. Through it we know whether we are fulfilling His divine pleasure or if we’re “missing the mark” (cp. Rom. 7:7). When God gives us His word we cannot minimize one passage while esteeming another for “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, NKJV). Knowing such to be true, how can there be “weightier matters of the law” (Matt. 23:23)?

As Jesus was finishing His years of teaching the arrival of God’s Kingdom, many religious leaders by this point were filled with rage against Him. They believed Him to be a destroyer of the Law of Moses (cp. Matt. 5:18). They believed Him a blasphemer (cp. Matt. 9:1-3). They wanted Him killed!

Jesus had enough. He was done teaching them in parables for the hardness of their hearts. Instead, He was going to set them straight and tell them what they so needed to hear but were too dull to heed; what they so needed to understand but were too blind to see. Instead of talking to them He warned the multitudes—who could discern for themselves—about themin front of them (Matt. 23:1), before condemning these leaders face-to-face for their hypocrisy (v. 13ff). The True Judge—with Righteousness in His breath—pronounced His seven woes (v. 14 was added to later manuscripts) against these “lawyerly” hypocrites.You see, these men placed great burdens upon others—in essence, “shut up the kingdom of heaven” (v. 13)—who wished to enter. In fact, while they zealously sought for people to be added to God’s kingdom, they would “make him twice as much the son of hell” (v. 15)!

So, what was their guilt of hypocrisy? They taught, but did not practice what they taught (Matt. 23:1). Further, they were “minoring in majors and majoring in minors”. In other words, they were meticulous enough to “pay tithe in mint and anise and cumin” yet neglected “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.

In a nutshell, Jesus lived and taught the need to keep whole law (Matt. 5:17). He understood, however, where the greater “weight” of the law resided: in justice, mercy, and faith(fulness). Justice would be exercised (v. 14; Mk. 12:40), rather than devouring the very ones in need. Mercy would be extended to “the guiltless” (Matt. 12:1-8). Living faithfully would demonstrate consistency between the demands upon others to keep the law of God, while practicing the very same thing.

Now, consider your walk with the Lord as a Christian and be careful that you keep all of God’s word (law), but be especially mindful of the weightier matters of the law.

– Mitch

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Sharing in the Sacrifice

What an amazing and wonderful picture the totality of the sacrificial offering was. Read more

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I’m Allowed to Love Myself

This will probably become a sermon sometime in the next few months, but in a discussion with someone this morning something really struck me and I can’t help but begin my exploration of it right here.

What are the two greatest commandments? See Matthew 22:34-40.

1. Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, soul, and mind.

2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Look at that second commandment again. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I’ve often looked at the first three words–love your neighbor. But what about that ellipsis at the end? “As you love yourself.” What about that?

In my conversation this morning, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m allowed to love myself. In fact, more than allowed, I’m commanded to. If I don’t love myself, how will I love my neighbor properly?

Maybe this is nothing to you, but this was an epiphany for me. I spend most of my time hating myself. I see all my mistakes and sins. I know that I’m unworthy. I’ve trained myself to think that if in any moment I actually think I might be someone lovable, then I am being proud and arrogant. I’ve trained myself to believe I’m supposed to notice all my bad choices and bad actions. I talk to myself about them all the time. I call myself names. I’m one of those people who likes to express what is bad about me before others get a chance to. That way the hurt won’t sting as badly. 

But look at what Jesus said. I’m allowed to love myself. I’m supposed to love myself. Loving myself isn’t selfishness. Loving myself isn’t refusing to love others. In fact, loving myself is the path to love others truly.

How do I love myself? I Corinthians 13:4-7 provides some clues.

Am I patient with myself? Do I realize that today’s mistakes don’t define me? Do I realize that God is still working within me? Do I know that He will conform me to the image of His Son in His time so I don’t have to hate myself today for my mistakes?

Am I kind to myself?  Do I take care of myself? When I’m tired do I let myself rest? When I need solitude, do I seek it? When I need to eat, do I? When I need to express how I feel, will I? Do I speak kindly to myself?

Am I envious? I know this one seems to be about others. If I love them, I won’t envy them. However, I think I can see this about myself too. If I am envious of others, I don’t love myself. Do I see the gifts God has given me? Am I thankful for them? Do I love me for those gifts of God?

Do I boast or am I arrogant? This one lets me know that loving myself is not about personal pride. If I’m boasting in myself, them I’m puffing myself up. Instead, I need to boast in God, His grace, His love, His work in me.

Am I rude to myself? Sometimes I talk to myself in ways I would never talk to others. I miss a turn and start berating myself, “Idiot, moron. How could you do something so stupid?” This gets back to patience and kindness. 

Do I insist on my own way? I’ve learned that the way that seems right to me ends in death. I need to follow God’s way. Loving me means giving me the freedom to surrender to Christ and follow His will.

Am I irritable? I’ve found that I’m most irritable or easily-provoked with others when I am irritated with myself. I think this goes along with patience and kindness. Can I accept that I messed up earlier without letting myself be bogged down for days in personal anger?

Am I resentful? Do I take into account wrongs suffered. If I spend my days keeping score of all the wrongs I’ve done, I won’t be able to love me. Here’s what I need to learn. God knew all the wrongs I would commit and sent Jesus to die for me anyway. That’s how much He loved me. Loving myself doesn’t mean ignoring my wrongs. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean keeping a running total of all the wrong I’ve committed to bring up when I might start thinking something nice about myself either.

Do I rejoice in wrongdoing or in the truth? This ties in with the resentful demonstrating that not keeping score of my wrongs does not mean I’m just allowed to do wrong without concern. Loving myself means learning to rejoice when I do surrender to Jesus’ truth. All too often, when I do have victories I don’t rejoice, instead I let past defeats tarnish present victories.

Do I bear, believe, hope and endure all things? Loving myself means recognizing that whatever I’m facing right now will pass. I don’t need to escape into fantasy. I don’t need to escape into sin. I don’t need to escape through death. I can sit in God’s arms, with Him as my refuge and face whatever is going on. I can know that I will get through this. I can know that whatever mistakes I’ve made, God will work it out for good for me and I can hang on.

What a revelation for me today. I’m allowed to love myself. Then I’ll be able to love you. I think I’ll start today.

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Be Angry and Do Not Sin; But How?

“Be angry and do not sin;” Paul wrote, “do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27).

I did not realize the importance of this passage until relatively recently. It’s only been within the past few years that I’ve recognized how many of my sins came about because I was angry. I didn’t see it because I often didn’t view myself as angry unless I was yelling or absolutely incensed. However, I’ve come to recognize that if I’m not careful I carry a controlled anger around with me. We might call it resentment or bitterness.

I’ve often overlooked that because I didn’t think there could possibly be any harm. I was keeping myself under control (as far as the yelling goes) so I was all right; or so I thought. However, when I let that seemingly low-level of anger linger it opens the door for many sins. It does, as Paul wrote, give the devil opportunity.

When do I gossip? When I begin to resent someone or am angry with them. When do I clamor? When I’m angry. I’ve found it is easier to lust when I’m angry because I want to get into a fantasy world instead of deal with the reality of whatever has angered me. When do I display my arrogance? When I resent someone and want to try to be better than they are.

Do you get the picture? I’m frankly amazed at how often sin follows on the heals of anger that I don’t deal with in a healthy way.

As amazing as that discovery is, one of the things I learn from it is if I want to avoid a good number of the sins with which I struggle, I need to handle anger appropriately.

5 Ways to Become Slower to Anger

First, I need to learn not to be so easily angered. As James 1:19 says, I must work on being slow to anger. Those who are slow to anger have wisdom, but the easily provoked exalt folly (Proverbs 14:29). Those who are slow to anger and rule their spirits are stronger than mighty conquerors (Proverbs 16:32).

I’d like to share five keys that are increasingly helping me develop slowness to anger (though I’m by no means a master of this):

  1. Sense of reality: People make mistakes. It doesn’t mean they are worse than me. It doesn’t mean they are ignorant or malicious. It means they are people. When I’m anchored in that reality, I am not as easily angered when I recognize people acting like people will.
  2. Humility: When I recognize my own mistakes, I’m not so easily angered by the mistakes of others. When someone cuts me off in traffic, I can remember the number of times I’ve made the same mistake and have patience with those others.
  3. More concerned for others souls than for my own defense: When I’m focused on defending my honor or demanding my rights, I get easily angered. However, when I’m more concerned for the souls of others, I don’t get angry as easily. Rather, their sins sadden me, not because of how it impacts me, but because I know what it means for their souls.
  4. Examine personal involvement: Sometimes someone has angered me but I’m actually the root cause. For instance, I may have started some sarcastic banter but the other person took it to a level I wasn’t expecting. They probably did that because my sarcasm hurt them. If I can see my own involvement, I can defuse my anger by apologizing for what I did wrong. Sometimes someone has angered me because they hurt my pride. They may not have even done anything wrong, but because of my arrogance I’m angry. When I see my own pride and arrogance, I can defuse my anger by understanding that the other is not really to blame, I am.
  5. Proper sense of importance: Sometimes I get absolutely enraged and then come down off the emotion to realize what I was so angry about was really not all that important in the grand scheme of things. Does it really matter that Tessa drank my last root beer? Is it really all that important that Marita is five minutes late to our dinner appointment? In ten years, will this thing I’m enraged about matter? What about in ten days?

If I work on these five keys, it will be increasingly hard to anger me.

7 Ways to Deal with Anger Once It Has Started

However, Ephesians 4:26-27 doesn’t say that anger is a sin. It simply assumes that sometimes we will be angered. Anger is just an emotion, neither good nor bad. It simply is. The question is what will we do with it when it happens. Thus, no matter how well we learn to be slow to anger, there will be things that anger us. In fact, I think there are some things so bad that if we weren’t angered it would mean we were abnormal. If we’re not angered when someone abuses our spouses, parents, or children verbally, emotionally, or physically, there is something wrong with us. If we’re not angry when someone attacks our Lord, His church, or our brethren, there is something wrong with us. However, even healthy anger can lead to sin if we don’t respond correctly. What should we do when we’re angered? How can we keep the sun from going down on it?

  1. Sit in the feeling: Don’t try to escape the feeling. Don’t make yourself feel guilty about having the feeling. Simply understand that is the feeling you have and be honest with yourself about it.
  2. Determine the cause: Why are you angry? At whom are you angry? What did they do?
  3. Consider the impact: How did their action impact you? Did it injure your pride? Did it affect your pocketbook? Did it hurt your feelings? Did it tarnish your reputation? Did it cause you inconvenience? Did it cause you to fear? How did their actions actually affect you in a practical way?
  4. Be honest about your own sins: Sometimes you’re carrying this low-level anger because of your own sinfulness. Perhaps you’re carrying a grudge. Perhaps you’re seeking revenge. I can give you a personal example. I get angry when Marita asks me things like, “Did you brush Trina’s teeth when you put her to bed?” My first thought is, “How stupid does she think I am? How dare she question me on this basic thing?” But then I remember, there have been times when she asked and I had to say, “No, I forgot.” It was my own untrustworthiness that prompted her question. How can I be mad at her about that?
  5. Talk to the person: When someone has sinned against you, you need to go to them with gentleness and let them know how they hurt you. Many times when we get those feelings in the open there will be a very quick apology and reconciliation. When there’s not, at least you can have the peace knowing that as much as depends on you, you are at peace with them.
  6. Pray about it: Take your anger to God. He can handle it, even if you are angry with Him. Let Him know it is there and seek His help in dealing with it. Read the psalms, they are filled with the anger of men turning their emotions over to God for deliverance.
  7. Cast it out to others: Sometimes you are angry and you can’t talk to the person who caused the problem. Perhaps you are carrying a long time resentment against someone who is dead, moved away, or that you don’t even know. Perhaps you are angry at someone because they died. Perhaps you are angry at someone who hurt you and then was gone (thief, hit and run, rapist). Perhaps you are angry at someone you did try to talk to and they rejected your efforts. Perhaps you are angry at someone but your fear of them is too great to talk to them directly just yet. Find someone you can talk to about your anger, not as a cathartic dump, but as a means to find reality in the situation. Don’t talk to them to gossip about the person at whom you are angry but as a means to help you find peace in the situation, focusing on your side of the issue. Sometimes, just letting out the secret anger defuses it and makes it lose its power. Of course, be careful with this. It can easily turn into slander sessions and it can easily turn into conversations that feed the anger instead of defusing it.

Anger really does give the devil opportunity. Deal with it quickly. Deal with it healthfully. Don’t let it master you. Don’t justify it. Don’t soft sell it to yourself just because you think you have it under control. Remember, Cain killed Abel because of his anger. Anger caused Cain’s own demise. If we don’t deal with our anger quickly, it will kill us eventually.

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The Sect Spoken Against Everywhere

When Paul finally arrived in Rome as a prisoner, he called together the local leaders of the Jews. He wanted to speak to them about why he had been sent to Rome in chains. As he introduced his desire, they responded by saying, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against” (Acts 28:21-22).

How sad. The sect that upholds the truth that can set us free is spoken against everywhere (I Timothy 3:15; John 8:32). If you are like me, you tend to think that such a great thing when presented properly will be accepted by all. Even if they decide not to agree at least they ought to appreciate what we believe and be tolerant of our goals. Yet, that is simply not the case. 

No matter what we do, if we are faithful to God and His word, some will simply not like us. Jesus Himself said that some would speak against us and believe they are speaking in the name of God (John 15:21). That means some who even believe they are acting as Christians will persecute and speak out against those who are truly practicing the truth. 

When others speak against us, instead of softening what Jesus taught or hiding in our church buildings, we need to rely on God. We can pray as the psalmist that God not allow our enemies to exult over us or put us to shame (Psalm 25:2). We can ask God to lead us on level paths and not give us up to the will of our adversaries (Psalm 27:11). False witnesses abound against us, but God can provide us with faith and victory. We can take refuge in God and seek His deliverance (Psalm 31:1-2). 

We do not retaliate with vengeance. We do not try to put our enemies in their place. When we are wise, we will respond as Jesus did while on trial, simply allowing the enemies to speak. We do not have to provide a defense against our attackers. God will defend in His time. Rather, we treat those who would attack us with kindness, patience, love (Romans 12:20-21). We need to overcome evil with good, not rise to the evil and return it upon them. It is so easy to seek vengeance, to seek retaliation, to try to provide tit for tat. That is not how Christ would have us act. 

Lean on Christ. Do the right thing. Be at peace with others as much as depends on you. Let our enemies beat their heads against the wall trying to get us to move away from Christ. We can take refuge in God and find deliverance. As we live by these means, some of our enemies will even be softened and repent, becoming able to glorify God on the day of visitation (I Peter 2:12).

No matter what we do, someone won’t like us. No matter what we do, some will speak against us. That will hurt us. However, we can lean on God and He will provide deliverance in His time. Let’s just do the right thing today no matter what anyone else says about us.

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Lust is the Problem

I don’t know how many times I’ve read Matthew 5:27-30 and I’ve always seen it as a simple condemnation of sexual lust. I wonder if there isn’t something more here as well.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

No doubt, there is a condemnation of lust in this passage. If we lust after someone sexually, we may think we can say, “Oh, but at least I didn’t actually commit sexual immorality with them,” but we have already taken that action in our hearts. We have already violated God’s will.

However, I think there might be something more here. Not just a simple condemnation. Is it possible there is a warning in this passage as well? 

I can’t help but remember the time my wife and I decided we were going to go look at some new cars with the commitment that we weren’t going to buy anything. We headed out at 5 pm. By 9 pm we were pulling up to a friend’s house to show them our new car. What happened? The fact is, we had already bought a new car in our hearts. All that was left was to go through the motions to do it in reality. 

Many Christians know they should steer clear of pornography, adultery, homosexuality, or other kinds of sexual immorality. However, they think they can control and enjoy their lust. They think they can fill their hearts with all kinds of sexual thoughts and never actually act out on it. Some are even Christians who have physically committed those other sins and are trying to stop, but they think they can continue to stare at their eye-candy and allow mental fantasies to take place. They keep wondering why they can’t stop their sinful behaviors.

Perhaps Jesus’ point is more than just a condemnation. It is a warning. Lust is the problem. If you’ve already committed adultery with someone in your heart over and over again, guess what is likely to happen when the opportunity arises. You’ll likely commit adultery with them in your bed. 

I learned a long time ago that I can’t say, “I’m just going to go look at new cars, I won’t buy one.” Perhaps we all need to learn the same thing about immorality. “I’m just going to look at and think about that person sexually, I’m not going to do anything with them,” probably won’t work either.

Lust is the problem. Start working there.

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Answering the Devil’s Challenge about God’s Love

Below is a disturbing video. It is a challenge laid down by a religious group stating Satan’s challenge. 

Prove God’s love. It is a bit shocking, but I think we need to answer the challenge.

How do we answer this challenge? We don’t answer it by stating all the doctrines about God’s love. We don’t simply quote the verses about God’s love.

We prove God’s love by loving.

I John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.” We prove His love for us by loving others based on His love for us.

I John 3:18 says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” We need to quit talking about God’s love. We need to quit trying to defend God’s love through doctrinal debate or theological arguments. We need to show God’s love in deed and in truth.

Prove that God loves you. Prove it by loving others.

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Weep with Those Who Weep

Romans 12:15 says we need to learn to weep with those who weep, it doesn’t say we need to learn to correct those who weep, cheer up those who weep, or abandon those who weep. It says we need to weep with them.

The Skit Guys provide a great thought on this in their video called “The Mourning Booth.”

We could learn a lot from the waitress in this video.

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What Does It Mean to Have Jesus In Us?

Sadly, we all too often pigeon hole Jesus in our lives. We have religious things in which we know Jesus is around so we are really religious. But then there are other times when we act like Jesus isn’t there at all. Jesus wants us to be real in our relationship with Him. Everything we do should be about Him (Romans 12:1-2). That doesn’t mean we only do “religious” things. That means we do whatever we do for him, whether we are telling a joke, driving, talking to our spouse, raising our kids, working our job, or worshiping God with the brethren.

I found this great little video that illustrates the problem we sometimes have.

Enjoy!

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God Doesn’t Make Junk, Let Him Re-Make You: A Video

Have you ever wondered if God could really love you? Have you ever wondered why God would put up with you after all that you’ve done? Have you ever wanted to back out because being a Christian has been tough?

When I saw this, I cried. I hope it helps you see how our life with God works.

-Edwin

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