“Love Your Enemies” – Matthew 5:43–48
Hear know the word of the Lord from Matthew 5:43-48.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48, ESV
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God endures forever. What does it mean to be perfect? Jesus says it right here, "You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Perfect is a word that we throw around. Oh, that's perfect, perfect, perfect. Or maybe if I say the word perfect, some of you are perfectionists are starting to twitch out there, your hearts are strangely warmed and motivated because you want to make the grade. You're also despairing whatever's to come, because, you know, perfection is something that you've always pursued and never accomplished.
As a Cornhusker football fan, this is my absolute favorite time of year because my team is undefeated. It usually doesn't last very long. No one has beaten my team. This is the best time of year. That's perfection. No losses there, right? Although we're realistic, if you would ask an average Cornhusker fan, what would a perfect season be? We don't want too much. We just love a winning season, maybe a good bowl game. That'd be perfect if we could just have that. We used to talk about perfection in terms of those teams in the nineties, especially that '95 Nebraska team, one of if not the best football teams ever to play the game, they were perfect. Even they fumbled the ball. I remember sitting through some of those games, my parents and I yelling all at the television trying to get them to do better. My mom always insisted that she had Tom Osborne's sideline phone number and wanted to call him in the middle of the game. Even they let big plays go, fumbled the ball, threw interceptions. They were perfect compared to other teams, but they weren't perfect.
What does it mean to be perfect? No football team has done it. No sporting team of any kind has done it. Certainly none of us human beings have done it, outside of one the Lord Jesus, the one who is speaking to us here. What would it mean to be perfect? If I asked you what is a perfect life? Maybe you have someone in your mind whose life externally is perfect. They have the right job, the right family, the right money. They take the right vacations. You see that person has a perfect life. I guarantee you; they could tell you all the ways their lives are not perfect. Or maybe spiritually, you say this person acts the right way, speaks the right way with complete humility. If that person is truly knowing and following the Lord Jesus again, I guarantee you that person could tell you better than you might imagine, all the ways in which they fall short of perfection in the corruption of sin, in the flesh.
What does it mean to be perfect? Now, this is something we have to really wrestle with because this is something here that Jesus gives to us. It isn't something we can ignore, something we can sidestep. We have to wrestle with this. We have to grapple with this. Jesus says, "You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect." And moreover, this here is the conclusion to everything that Jesus is teaching us about the law. It's not just the end of our particular passage, it's really the end, the conclusion of what we've been studying in Matthew five since verse 17, as Jesus talked about the requirements of the Law of God on us.
If we read it for what Jesus is saying, this should make us tremble. Even for those of us who by nature are perhaps not perfectionists. What does it mean to be perfect?
Well, our big idea, we're going to take exactly Jesus's words, Our big idea is this Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. As we study what Jesus is saying here, we're going to see three parts.
1. Resembling our Father
2. Resembling our Enemies
3. Righteousness Through Christ
Resembling our Father
Jesus talks about this in verses 43 through 45. Now to review, it's been a while since we've been in the Gospel of Matthew. The last time we were preaching on the preceding passage was May 1st. So it's been a few months since we've been in this. I want to remind you what Jesus is doing in this section of the Sermon on the Mount. He has been teaching us about the full requirements of the law, they started in versus 17 through 20, when Jesus said that he had not come to abolish the law in the prophets, but rather He has come to fulfill every bit of it, every iota, every dot, dot every I cross, every T. Jesus came to accomplish all that the law requires.
Then he begins to deal with some of the common religious teaching of the day. He said five times, and this would be the sixth time he says it the final time when Jesus says, You have heard this over here, you have heard your teachers saying that the law required this. Then Jesus turns and gives us the opposite. But I tell you that, but I say to you that. Then he gives us the opposite, he says, what you have heard is not what the Bible actually teaches. It is a twisting in some way of what the Bible teaches. Either you have unlawfully expanded what the law requires to justify things that you want justified, or you have unlawfully narrowed what the law requires to give yourself some freedom, you think to maybe not do all that the law requires of you. What Jesus is saying is that doesn't accomplish what the law demands that certainly is not what he has come to both teach and to do in his own life.
So in this final section where Jesus is talking about loving our enemies, Jesus is saying that the common teaching, which he summarizes in verse 44, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. He says, that doesn't cut it. So here's what he's saying. He's saying this teaching you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy is both an unlawful narrowing of what the law requires and an unlawful change of what the law actually required from the Old Testament.
You see, when Jesus says you should love your neighbor, and again, that's not him teaching you saying you've heard this, this is what the teachers are telling you. You shall love your neighbor. If you remember what it was written in Leviticus 19:18 that he's quoting, or if you remember when Jesus is asked, what's the greatest commandment? And he says, well, the first great commandment is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and that you should love your neighbor, here's the second one and it's like it, you should love your neighbor. There's an additional phrase there, you should love your neighbor as yourself.
You see, what that command is getting at is about how we should love our neighbor. How should you love your neighbor? You should love your neighbor as yourself. All the way that you love yourself through your sin, all the ways that you keep going and don't give up on yourself. All the ways that you ever look your faults to continue trying to seek the best for yourself. That's your attitude, Jesus is saying, that should be toward your neighbor.
When that last phrase gets dropped so that it's just you shall love your neighbor. The question very quickly changes from how should I love my neighbor to who is my neighbor? In fact, elsewhere in the Gospels in Luke 10:29, that's exactly the question that Jesus is presented with. Well, who is my neighbor? Who is the person? And excluding the other people? Who is the person that I actually have to both consider my neighbor and therefore love? And Jesus in that story, you may remember, told the story, the parable of the Good Samaritan. It shifts not just that whoever your neighbor is, all the neighbors surrounding you, you must love them in this way. But instead a question of who is your neighbor? That narrows the law to only include a certain amount of people who should require your love.
Then Jesus adds another part of it that captured the teaching of the day. You should love your neighbor and hate your enemy. You should love your neighbor on the one side, but also, if it's your enemy, you are entitled to hate your enemy. Now, this is a change because this phrase you shall hate your enemy is not anywhere included in the Old Testament. Some people have argued that it's implied by things such as the imprecatory psalms, the Psalms that were God's people are praying for God to curse their enemies, but that's not what those Psalms teach. Jesus is saying this isn't a lawful way to interpret even those passages. Hating your enemy is not something you are permitted to do according to the Old Testament law.
The effect of both narrowing you shall love your neighbor by dropping off as yourself. So you shall love your neighbor and you shall hate your enemy, turned the law rather than being something that required our utmost toward our neighbor. It changed into something that was entirely discretionary. Well, if I think of you as my neighbor, that's great, I am going to love you, I'm going to care for you, I'm going to do all that you need to do. But if you cross me, well, then you become my enemy and no longer am I going to love you. I'm just going to hate you. And, well, God said it, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But Jesus saying, God never said that.
So Jesus gives the opposite statement. He says, But I say to you, let me correct let me just whisk away all of this false teaching that you've been receiving. But I say to you, Jesus is asserting his authority as the Son of God, as the Word of God incarnate, to interpret the Word of God laid down for us in the Scriptures. He says, "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Now, this idea of loving your enemies is also new. Like hating your enemies, it was new that wasn't included in the Old Testament. But this idea of loving your enemies, it's not in the Old Testament. However, it is a faithful summary of the Old Testament. If someone asked, you summarize the story of the Bible, you don't necessarily need to do so by quoting a verse from the Bible verbatim. You can do that, but you don't necessarily need to do that. If the summary you give is faithful to interpret the whole of what you're talking about. Love your neighbor and hate your enemy was not a faithful summary of what the Old Testament taught. But it was a faithful summary, as Jesus said, you should love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
The idea of praying for those who persecute you as a description of how we should love our enemies is something that's worthy of our thought and attention. Well, we pray for those who persecute us, that loves our enemies, really, our neighbors, neighbors who happen to be our enemies. But it loves our neighbors in two ways. It loves our enemies in two ways.
The first is that we are actually bringing from the bottom of our soul heartfelt prayer before Almighty God asking for God to bless our neighbors. That is a good thing. Maybe our enemies are people who don't love God, who don't know God, who don't believe in God. And so they aren't going on their own behalf before Almighty God in prayer. For us to approach God in prayer and to ask blessings on behalf of our enemies is to bless our enemies. But it's also to love our enemies, to bless our enemies, to pray for them. Because when we pray to God, God is actively at work to change our hearts.
Someone once wrote that prayer is not where we are trying to bend God's will down to ours. God, I see that you're mismanaging the world right now, obviously you're too busy or you have your priorities misplaced. So let me help you to correct things. Let me drag your will down to mine, and I'll fix all of this for us. That's not what prayer is. Prayer is when we go to God and God begins to lift our will up to His. The will of our Father is that we should love our enemies.
Now, why should we love our enemies? Well, Jesus tells us in verse 45, the motivation for all of this. This isn't just a dry, barren command. Jesus says the source of this, the motivation for this, the impetus behind this is that this is the way our Father in heaven treats his own enemies, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. Now, this doesn't mean that you somehow qualify yourself to become a child of God by loving your enemies well enough, like God is sort of watching you and he's judging you. And, well, you're pretty close to qualifying for my adoption. That's not what God is saying here. That's not what Jesus is telling us. In fact, as one commentator R.T. Frank points out, the fact that Jesus calls off the sons of your Father who is in heaven. If He's our father, that implies that we are his children.
So Jesus, in talking about right now, you are not sons of your Father and in order to become sons of your Father, you've got to love your enemies well enough to earn this from him. He is rather saying you are sons of your Father, but you don't look like it. Sons should resemble their father and you don't look like your Father. You don't resemble your Father. How then, would we resemble our father? Well, Jesus explains, "For He God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Every day God is sending blessings not only to the righteous, not only to the good, but to also those who are evil, to those who are unjust, to those who are God's enemies. God every day sends His blessings both to the good and to the evil, both to the just and to the unjust. It's in that sense that we also ought to love our enemies.
So Jesus is not denying that there is a special kind of love that God puts upon His elect people. But he is saying, and what theologians call God's common grace, God extends to the whole Earth, including his enemies.
Let me illustrate this, last Thanksgiving, we spent the day with my wife's family in Lincoln. It was wonderful day. We had some extended family over. We really enjoyed our day. At the end of the day, we had to go back to Omaha. And so if you know, Lincoln, we were heading out 84th Street and at the end of 84th Street, going north on 84th Street before we had to go over to get to the interstate exit to get on the interstate to head back to Omaha. I had a little bit of a flat tire, a tire thing come up my dashboard. So we went to fill up the tire with some air and well as to get some gas before our way home.
As we stopped, there was somebody who was already filling up the tire with air. So we went to fill up with gas and we waited until this person was done filling up their tires and as soon as they were done, I got back in the van and backed out quickly to go over and make sure no one else got in line before us. Well, as I was backing out quickly, I heard a crunch and my car thudded to a stop. I looked at the mirror and suddenly there was a big pole behind me. I got out, I'm thinking, well, I couldn't have been going that fast. But no, the damage was very extensive. I could tell that it was going to be very expensive and believe me, it was a very expensive mistake. I was angry at myself for my foolishness, wonderful day, spoiled by what I had done. I get back in the car and I angrily said, what was that pole even doing there? And I'm just talking to myself and angry and venting. From the backseat I hear this small little voice rising to my level of indignation going, What was that pole even doing there? And I realized, Oh, I'm teaching my children a terrible way to respond in the face of adversity.
The terrifying thing about being a parent is that your children are always watching. Your children will resemble you, either for good or for ill. I had to stop and I had to apologize. I had to seek forgiveness. I had to say, that's not the way to respond. It wasn't like this pole had been playing hide and seek and had hidden somewhere behind the gas station and crept behind me while I wasn't looking. This pole had been there and it was my mistake that I backed up and hit it. And so I had to apologize and ask their forgiveness for this. Children are always watching. They are always learning from their parents. Children will resemble their parents. That's a terrifying thing as a parent, to know that your children will look like you, not just physically, but spiritually.
But it's a blessing, Jesus says, as we think about our father in heaven, because you don't have to look very far to see that the way that God is just showering blessings from Heaven, even upon His enemies. Look around everywhere you see God. People are people openly defying God to his face and what does God do? He patiently showers upon them, his sunshine, his rain. He feeds them. He gives them water to drink. He gives them a place to live. He gives them clothing. God loves the whole world with this common grace for which he blesses them.
Jesus says, that's the way you should act. Watch, observe, look how your Father is in heaven as acting and you should resemble him. Don't do as the religious leaders did by rationalizing, I only have to love my neighbor and then I can hate everyone else. Jesus cuts through these rationalizations. Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors. And again, the motivation is so important so that we would resemble our Father in heaven. The reason that motivation is so important is Jesus says that's not the only possibility here. You may resemble your Father who is in heaven, but if not, you will resemble someone else. Namely, you will begin to resemble those whom you hate. You will resemble your enemies.
Resembling our Enemies
So this brings us to the second section resembling our enemies and verses 46 to 47. Jesus says, "For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?" If our love does not resemble our Father, Jesus is saying our hatred will instead resemble our enemies.
It's such a common excuse. We do it, I hear it all the time from our children. Well, they did it first. Well, they started it. This is something we learned from very early on in our lives. We hate our enemies only because they hated us first. But Jesus exposes this as utter foolishness. Think about what you're saying, you hate your enemy because they have hated you. That means that you are becoming exactly what you say it is that you hate. You don't hate it. You just hate the people who dare to hate you. It's not what they're doing. It's that they dared to do it to you. Don't resemble them. Resemble your Father who is in heaven. W
hat Jesus is touching on, although he doesn't use these words here is what the Bible talks about when it says that we were created in the image and the likeness of God. This is something we encounter very early on in the first chapter of the Bible, in Genesis one that when God created us, He created us male and female, after His image in His likeness. God created us to resemble him. Not physically, not with the physical features. God is a spirit and does not have a body like men. We are rather to resemble him in what the New Testament tells us is the image of Christ or being remade after the image of Christ and knowledge and righteousness and holiness. Specially to resemble God in His love, especially in the way that God shows love to His enemies. Either we are growing an increasing likeness to God, our Father in Heaven, or we are growing in increasing likeness to our enemies whom we hate.
Many years ago, long before I was a pastor, I was hired as a rules strategist for a faction within a political organization who wanted to get their guys elected. It was a pretty interesting job. It was kind of one of the once in a lifetime sort of a thing I got to do. I got flown out somewhere. I showed up on site, and already the convention was well underway. And this organization, the people that I was hired to help, I got led into their war room. They were very well financed. They had a room in this hotel where they were plotting all of their things. And as I was sitting in that war room trying to get a handle and trying to start working on what we were going to do, these people would come in and say, I can't believe what these people did. And they would tell story after story about the shady, underhanded, unethical tactics of the other guys within this organization. And I was saying to myself, wow, this is terrible. I'm glad I'm on the good side. I'm glad I'm on the side of righteousness. Let's go. Let's do this. Let's take it to them. Let's fight these enemies.
Just within the same breath, then I started hearing people I was working for were just as willing to use the same shady, unethical, underhanded tactics to accomplish their agenda. I realized very quickly that I wouldn't be justified in hating my opponents in this thing, and I just focused on my job. I've been hired here to do a job, and so I'm going to help this group to provide the best strategy to accomplish their goals within the rules, within the laws.
Now, ultimately, my clients lost, but it was after a valiant effort where we done everything lawful, we could do to try to accomplish our goals. We fought the good fight, and I would not, as far as I was going to go, resort to becoming the things that we hated.
What Jesus is saying is that we often do that, though, don't we? I can give you a thousand other situations where when I am angry at someone, where I see someone as my enemy, I am tempted to hate them in my heart. And certainly that doesn't flow out into my behavior very well either. But Jesus putting this starkly, he says, either we go one way or another, either we will resemble our Father in heaven, or we will resemble our enemies. Either we will grow in likeness to what we love, or we will grow to look like the thing that we hate.
What Jesus does that, the final verse of this is to show us that there is no middle ground here. You can't sort of pick and choose how you work it out. You certainly can't pick and choose whom to love and whom to hate. There's no middle ground, we are called to be perfect. All right, you perfectionist, buckle in. This is where it gets tough.
Righteousness Through Christ
The third section here that we need righteousness through Christ, righteousness through Christ, verse 48, "You, therefore, must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Jesus says that to resemble God, it's not enough just to maybe do some nice things for some people who have done mean things to us. That's where it starts, but the standards are much higher than that. To resemble God we must be perfect as he is perfect. Now, this doesn't mean that we can become God. We can't become perfect like Him in every respect. There are a lot of ways in which God is perfect that we as human beings will never be perfect. But as his creatures, as his image, we are called to be perfect in the sense of being like God resembling God again, not in our bodies, but in our characters.
Now, this isn't so much a status to achieve. If you hear one thing today, don't hear me saying, well, some of us have achieved this status and we're just here to help the rest of you along. This is every day, if we're honest with ourselves, we realize how far short we fall. None of us have arrived. All of us fall so far short of the standard of perfection.
Jesus is saying this, again, we have to keep the wider perspective in view. I know it's been a while since we looked at these passages, but he's not just talking about our passage today. He's talking about everything from verse 17 onward, as Jesus talked about all the requirements of the law, he's saying, we have to be perfect in every respect if we are to do what God requires of us, if we are to measure up to the standards of God. Again, Jesus says in verse 20, "I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven." You will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless you are perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect. This should make us tremble.
What Jesus has consistently been addressing here is the legalism that lurks in all of our hearts. What is legalism? Legalism constantly looks for loopholes. As we are constantly saying, I'm not that bad because of this or another law requires this and I feel like I'm doing at least that, surely God wouldn't ask more. Jesus says, in every respect, the standard is infinitely high as heaven itself. You must therefore be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect. That's the standard.
There's this legalistic side, each one of us that's trying to justify ourselves to squirm out from under the crushing weight of the law. But Jesus says, No, no, you must be perfect in your anger, in your lust, in your marriages and your oaths and vows and your retaliation. Here, even in the way that you relate to your enemies and your love for your enemies.
Now, whether you're a perfectionist or not, you should realize this perfection is unattainable for us. All of us fall so far short of the glory of God. But what Jesus is confronting us with is there are really only two ways to try to meet this standard. One is the legalism route that he's been shooting down at every turn. Don't think that you can find some loophole that makes the way you're living okay. It's not the case. God's law condemns you where you stand. But the only other way then, if not legalism, if not lowering the standards to maybe a bar, that maybe if I work really hard, I could maybe step over. Usually even that isn't low enough for us. We still fail.
The only other way is to have this standard met, that infinitely high is heaven standard, met by someone else. This is not the path of legalism; this is the path of the Gospel. The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ came into this world to meet the standard for us. He is putting on us the heavy burdens of the law not so we will despair of our own ability to reach this, so that we will be prepared. He's giving us the law as a tutor to prepare us so that we realize that we need him. We don't have a chance. We don't have a hope without him.
Now, in light of this, I want you to remember how the Sermon on the Mount started. Again, remember the setting. Jesus is standing on a mountaintop like a new Moses teaching from Mount Sinai, but now it's a different mountaintop, it's not Sinai. He's teaching the people, speaking according to his own authority. And do you remember how this sermon started back in Matthew 5:3. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Blessed are those who don't have spiritual riches to spare, which is brimming with spiritual goodness and joy and perfection and is just overflowing with merit as though we've earned something before God. Jesus is saying, blessed are those who know that you don't have anything to give and that you need a savior if you are going to find salvation.
Blessed are the poor in spirit and then, as Jesus teaches us in the law, he breaks us all down so that every one of us realizes that we are this poor in spirit. We are spiritually impoverished and bankrupted and we need a savior. Christ, by the good news of the Gospel, promises to give the kingdom to people who cannot earn it.
Christ has met the standard of perfection for you, and the promise of the Gospel is that he promises to give his righteousness, righteousness through faith in Christ, if you look to him by faith. Not some work you do, not some merit you try to put together on your own works. But to look to Jesus by faith.
The gospel is also the Jesus promises that in all these ways that you fall so far short by grace, God's Holy Spirit is going to come into your life and renovate you from the inside out. So that suddenly, as you walk with Jesus over a course of years, you realize, that you are not there, you haven't arrived at the goal of perfection. But as Christ has worked in you by His Holy Spirit, you're a lot closer than you used to be.
Throughout the sermon on the Mount Christ demands from us what he ultimately provides for us. Do you remember how we've seen this at every step of the way, every turn? Initially, in verses 17 through 20, when we considered the law. And Jesus says, "Do not think that I've come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them." He tipped us off to what he's going to do. He's not giving us a plan for living our lives, that boy, I hope you find your way there. Here's a map. Here's the path I'll see on the other side. I hope you make it. None of us would make it. Jesus says he's come to fulfill every bit of it. Dot every I, cross every T. Jesus says, "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." And he's promising that he's going to give that righteousness to us.
Then in the next section, we talked about anger. "You've heard that it was said to those of old you shall not murder and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother, even to be angry, will be liable to judgment." The judgment was the death penalty. Well, Jesus told us then that he was the one who came to fulfill this. He came to suffer under our murderous anger in order to reconcile us to God.
When he addressed sexual ethics, lust and divorce. Jesus says that he has come as the faithful bridegroom to reclaim his wandering bride. When he addressed our dishonesty in the area of oaths and vows. Jesus was hinting at the fact that he had come into this world to fulfill every bit of what God had sworn to in the covenantal oaths that He had made to his people. When Jesus told us in a previous passage about retaliation, you've heard it said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, turn the other cheek and go the extra mile for the one who asks you." Well, Jesus was the one who turned the other cheek. Jesus was the one who went the other mile outside the city to the cross at Golgotha.
Now when Jesus says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you", Jesus is the one who at the cross prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Jesus is the one of whom it was written in Romans 5:10, that "While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son." God loves his enemies because God has loved us. Jesus died for his enemies, that's how much God loves us.
The constant temptation is to turn this upside down. It's to bend the infinitely high as heaven, towering demands of our father who is perfect, and to be perfect like him. The temptation is to bend that down to something that we think we can step over with our own merit, our own goodness, our own ability. But Jesus is just beginning his redemptive work. He's just beginning his teaching. And we're also going to see his miracles and eventually his sacrificial death of the cross. He's laying this foundation of saying, don't think that you can replicate this. He's showing us how poor in spirit we really are. We may excuse, justify and rationalize our sin, but Christ shows the law of God cuts through those rationalizations. Christ has not come to make the law easier for us to achieve. To give us a little boost. To get over the hump. Christ has come to prove that it is absolutely impossible for us to keep the law.
At the same time, he has come to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. While we were yet his enemies, Christ died for the ungodly. Christ loved us as his enemies and died to forgive us of our hatred. Moreover, Christ loved us so much that he will not let us remain as we are, such as he forgives us. He begins this work of sanctification on us, to transform us, to conform us to this law that looks so infinitely high. He begins to change us so that our hearts follow more and more. After that, he insists upon remaking us after his own image.
You see, if you're maybe unfamiliar with Christianity, you're new to Christianity. Understand this, Christianity holds two ideas in tension. The first idea, the one side of this, is that God's infinitely high and high as heaven standards require us to be perfect, as our Heavenly Father is perfect. There's no shirking that. There's no getting around that. There's no loopholes that we can try to exploit, that there's no way to sort of organize our lives to do enough in this life. We have fallen infinitely far short of that infinitely high standard.
The other side of this, even while it rejects the idea that we could climb the ladder somehow by ourselves to reach that, the other side is to hold up the infinitely high as heaven gospel of God's love for us. Blessed are the poor and spirit for they will inherit the kingdom of heaven. We dare not minimize or bring down the standards of the righteousness of the law. Again, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. But what the Bible says is the abounding grace of the Lord Jesus Christ abounds much more than the condemnation that we have incurred under our failure to keep the law. We dare not minimize that. As high as our sins have offended the infinite law of God, much more has the grace of Jesus Christ abounded for us.
You see at the cross, Gods, righteousness and love met. Fully there we see the righteousness of God. Fully there we see the love of God for His people and the suffering and bleeding and dying of Jesus Christ. Fully, God, fully man. At the cross, the unquenchable, consuming fire of God's wrath against us, against our sin, tormented God in the person of His Son and the God man, Jesus Christ. At the same time Jesus Christ endured the cross, despising its shame because of the joy set before him, because of the great love that God has for you.
You can't perfect yourself. There are no rituals you can follow. There are no works that you can perform. There is nothing you can do. You were born in sin. Born behind the eight ball. Born under the condemning law of God. There's nothing that you can do to perfect yourself sufficiently, but Christ has done what you cannot do for yourself.
Will you stop trying? Will you stop pursuing your own efforts? Will you stop pretending like your good works are anything other than what the Bible calls them? Filthy rags in the sight of a holy God whose eyes are too pure to look upon evil as our confession of sin had today. Will you stop trying and realize you have nothing to offer to God? Repent from your sin. That's all you can do, to turn from it. But you instead turn not to something you can do, but to the grace of Jesus Christ. That is your only hope, in receiving His righteousness that He gives you as a gift for you to receive, not by working for it, but by faith, by trusting in him to qualify you. To give you the righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, by which you are qualified to enter into the domain of light, the Kingdom of light. The kingdom of Heaven, forever and ever. It's not by anything that you will do. It will only be by looking in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let's pray. Heavenly Father, I pray, that for all of us, perfectionists and unperfectionists alike, that we would see that you are a perfect perfectionist. That you are the one who holds an infinitely high holy standard by your law, and we fall infinitely far short of it. Father, I pray for those of us who have looked to Christ in faith, strengthen us in this gospel. Use the Word of your gospel to prompt us to again, look to Jesus and faith as we turn from our sins to find grace and forgiveness and redemption there. I pray by the same token, if there are any here who don't yet know Jesus, that you would prompt them, by the power of your Spirit to stop trying. To stop the rituals, to stop the works, to stop everything they've tried to do, to live a life that would be pleasing to you. To recognize that the only way to please you is by faith. To look to Jesus Christ, to trust what he has done as pleasing in your sight as our great high priest who has ascended into the heavenly places. Who ever lives to intercede for us at your right hand, your son, our savior, and to look to him in faith and the righteousness that he provides us as a gift. I pray that you would lead people to trust in Christ and be saved even this morning. That Christ would be glorified in your church would be built up. We pray this all in the powerful name of Jesus Christ, our Savior. It's in his name we pray. Amen.