WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
MARCH 19, 2023
TOPIC: THE HIGHER STANDARDS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
BY T. O. BANSO
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28 New King James Version).
Sometimes Christians make the mistake of using the same yardsticks the world uses. We sometimes celebrate the wrong values they celebrate. We, unfortunately, copy the ways of the world. This should not be.
The teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ when He was on earth were different from that of the religious leaders of His days. His teaching could be described as revolutionary. He didn’t copy the world or the prevailing teachings of His days. He disabused the mind of those who thought that He had come to destroy the Law or the Prophets, saying that He did not come to destroy but to fulfil them. Nevertheless, He corrected some wrong interpretations of the law by the Jewish scholars that the people had heard.
The corrections Jesus made were consistent with the message of the kingdom He preached. Matthew 4:17 says Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” However, in Matthew 12:28, He said, “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (International Standard Version). In His teachings, He spoke many parables about the kingdom of heaven/God.
Indeed, one of the observations people made about Jesus was how He taught with authority. Luke 4:31-32 says, “Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority” (New King James Version). Similarly, Matthew 7:28-29 says, “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (New King James Version).
Jesus taught in a way the people had never been taught before and they were amazed. This should not have surprised them because He is the Son of God. The scribes or teachers of the law were mere men; Jesus is God. He is the Word. As John 1:1 says, in the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The depth of Jesus’ wisdom, knowledge, and understanding could not be compared to that of those scribes or religious leaders. Therefore, Jesus corrected some wrong teachings.
In Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire” (New King James Version). Did you see how Jesus spoke with authority? Many translations do not have the phrase “without a cause” after “is angry with his brother.”
What Jesus said was different from what the people had been hearing. The sixth commandment in the Bible is “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Jesus told the people that murder was beyond the literal act of killing but included committing murder in the heart when there is anger in someone’s heart against another person. That’s the standard of the kingdom of God. It is a higher standard. Unrighteous anger can lead to murder. Ephesians 4:26 says to be angry, and not sin; don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.
Avoid unrighteous anger or harbouring malice against anyone. Jesus said whoever said to his brother (or sister), “Raca” (empty head) would be taken to the Jewish court (the Sanhedrin) but whoever said, “You fool!” would face the judgment of God – he would be in danger of hellfire. Don’t insult anyone or call him/her a fool or an idiot. Jesus said whoever did so would answer for it in hellfire.
Jesus said further in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (New King James Version). “You shall not commit adultery” is the seventh commandment in the Bible. Again, Jesus’ teaching set a higher standard. His definition of adultery went beyond what the people had been taught.
A child of God must know that looking at a woman with an evil desire for her amounts to committing adultery in his heart. He must avoid it, as a sinful desire could lead to sinful action. Jesus said literal adultery and mental adultery/adultery in the heart are both sins. This is higher than the world’s standard. Even Job who lived before Jesus’ time on earth said in Job 31:1 that he had made a covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully at a girl or woman. He wasn’t even born again. Follow the teaching of Jesus.
As Jesus said, from within the heart of men proceed sexual immorality and other sins which defiled them (Matthew 15:19-20; Mark 7:21-23). One of the gates to your heart is your eyes. Discipline your eyes. God has called you to a life of holiness. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” Without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
Jesus further challenged the status quo in Matthew 5:33-37, saying, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (New King James Version).
Jesus didn’t forbid swearing an oath in court, a judicial oath, or an official oath, but the frivolous practice of swearing in ordinary conversations. Instead of the teaching that people must not break their oaths but keep them to the Lord, Jesus told them not to take an oath at all either by heaven, because it was God’s throne, or by created things. Their ‘yes’ should be ‘yes,’ and ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one. Jesus’ focus was on the abuse of oaths, as the people carelessly swore in common speech, which they didn’t regard as binding on them once the oaths were by created things, not in God’s name. Jesus emphasized the need to be truthful without swearing at all.
Not yet done with correcting the wrong teachings that people had heard, Jesus also said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:38-41 New King James Version). Luke 6:29 says something similar. The command Jesus referred to was originally for judges (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21).
It was not for individuals to act on for personal revenge. Jesus addressed this and told His followers not to seek revenge. Vengeance belongs to God (Deuteronomy 32:35; Leviticus 19:18; Psalm 94:1; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). We should turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, or forgo our rights when necessary, as Jesus has said, but this does not mean that He forbad acting in self-defence against harm. He was talking about retaliation, not self-defence.
Jesus also corrected another wrong interpretation of the law about loving one’s friends and hating one’s enemies and told His followers what to do. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:38-45 New King James Version).
The world may love their friends and hate their enemies but it must not be so with the followers of Christ. They must love both friends and enemies. They must do good to all just as God their Father does. They must emulate God. Jesus said if we loved those who loved us, what would be our reward because tax collectors (sinners) did the same? (Verse 46). And if we greet our brethren only, what do we do more than others because even the tax collectors do so? (Verse 47). According to Jesus, we should be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Only those who have yielded control of their lives to the Holy Spirit can obey these teachings of Jesus. Indeed, they are counter-cultural. Nobody can obey these teachings through his power. But we must not forget that we are members of the kingdom of God. Jesus’ standards must be our standards. His standards are higher than that of the world. We must follow the teachings of Jesus if indeed we are His disciples. “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed’” (John 8:31 New King James Version). We must depend on the Holy Spirit and ask for His help to do what Jesus has asked us to do and not make excuses.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit that you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto You today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and God raised Him on the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Holy Spirit, help me to follow the teachings of Jesus so that I will be His true disciple. Empower me to live up to the standards of the kingdom of God and not live by the standards of the world. I shall not make excuses in Jesus’ name.
(For over 900 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President of Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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