Relevant: The Employee Handbook

Sermon Summary

This message looks at the portion of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount dealing with God's law. Jesus said He had not come to do away with the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. God has given us the Bible as a handbook on how to live our lives. Therefore, the rules are important. The problem is we are weakened in our human nature and cannot, in our own power, fulfill the demands of the law. This is why Jesus left heaven and came to the earth and allowed Himself to be our sacrifice. He fulfilled the law we could not and He did it on our behalf. The purpose of the law was to lead us back to God by showing us how to live a holy life. This puts us in a predicament and if we are humble and smart enough to admit we don't have the power to live that holy life, we will turn to Jesus Christ! We allow Jesus to forgive us for transgressing the law of God and breaking the rules of the handbook, but we also ask Jesus to give us the strength to turn from the things that are keeping us from the life He desires us to live. So we don't just accept His forgiveness for sin, we accept His power to overcome it. We will never be perfect in this life, but we can, with His help, fulfill the intent of the law which is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Let's jump right in! Have you ever made a decision to do something you knew went against the handbook (God's Word), but you also knew He would forgive you so you did it anyway? What we will always discover in this scenario is the consequences of a bad decision are not worth it even though God is gracious to forgive. Your thoughts, experiences?

2. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law. What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the law and why is that so relevant for you and me? The following passage will help with this question.

Romans 8:1-6 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace...

3. If we are saved by the grace of God and stay saved by the grace of God, why is it so important that we still follow God's law?

Romans 5:19-6:1-4 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

4. Jesus wasn't trying to teach a letter of the law legalism, rather He was trying to teach us to understand and to live by the intent of the law. An expert in the law once approached Jesus and asked Him which commandment was the most important in all of the law. Jesus gives him an answer which also lets us know the intent of the law. Read what Jesus said in His answer to the expert and explain why His answer helps us understand the intent of the law.

Matthew 22:34-40. Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Full Sermon Notes 

"Far be it from me not to believe even when my eyes can't see!" I just love that line. You see, we walk by faith and not by sight! I can't tell you how important that is when you walk through some of the harsh realities of this world. Just like so many of the dear people west of here with all of their earthly belongings piled high by the street  because of the flooding. We can't always see how, but God is working even in the midst of our greatest trials, struggles and difficulties. We just have to hold His hand and trust His heart and let His Spirit guide our every step! He has promised to do just that for everyone who will trust Him.
Let's ask God to help us trust Him no matter what this life throws at us! Let's pray...

Prayer!

Two weeks ago we talked about allowing Jesus to be our boss. Last week we talked about our job description which tells us we are to continue Jesus' mission to save the lost and we do that by being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. This week we are going to discover that God has given us detailed instructions on how to fulfill that job description. It's a wonderful thing that God not only created us to live but He also created a guide to show us how to live! And when it comes to living for Him and being a servant in His kingdom, you could call this guide a manual or an employee handbook. In today's portion of His sermon on the mount we find Jesus talking about this handbook as He speaks about the Word of God. Let's listen in as Jesus continues His teaching in what has become known as the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:17-20. I think you will find this to be very relevant to your life. Jesus said...

Matthew 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

There are five things in these four verses that are critical to know as a follower of Jesus Christ and the details are found in our handbook! The first is...

The Rules are Important!

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

There were people in Jesus' day that were called antinomians. The word antinomian means lawless in the Greek. Antinomians tried to take Jesus' teaching on grace to mean that once a person was under grace they no longer had to follow the moral code of Scripture. Jesus' response to this was clear especially when you read the literal Greek translation of this verse. Jesus said, "Don't even begin to think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets!" By the way, the law and the prophets are the two oldest parts of the Old Testament and Jesus didn't come to destroy them, He came to fulfill them. What does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets? That He fulfilled the prophecies concerning the Jewish Messiah is easy to understand. But what does it mean that Jesus fulfilled the law? Well, Jesus fulfilled the righteous demands of the law that we were incapable of fulfilling because of our sinful nature. Check out these powerful words in Romans 8:1-6...

Romans 8:1-6 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace;

Did you see that? God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful man, (He didn't sin), but He was a sin offering for you and me! He was condemned so that He could condemn sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us! Now that's love. Listen to this verse in 2 Corinthians 5:21...

2 Corinthians 5:21 "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

So that we might become the righteousness of God, not so we could continue living in the filth and sickness of wickedness! In fact, Paul put it this way when he compared Adam with Jesus in Romans 5:19-6:1-4
 
Romans 5:19-6:1-4 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Thank God for His grace and mercy, because without them there would be no hope for you and me, but His grace and mercy do not exempt us from the law they bring us into compliance with the law so we can live a new life! And this brings us to the next critical thing we must understand about the rules...

The Rules have a Purpose!

Matthew 5:18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

The law was designed to lead us back to a relationship with God, and to help us know how to live in peace with one another. Again, the Ten Commandments are not bad, it's just that we're not good enough to keep them and that's were the grace, mercy, and love of God comes in! He takes care of our penalty, and on top of that gives us the power to do better. There's nothing wrong with God, our Boss, our Lord, asking us to not worship idols or to let anything else take His position as God in our life! There's nothing wrong with Him asking us not to kill, steal, or to covet, or to use His name in vain, or commit adultery, or be dishonest!  And is it asking to much to ask us to honor our parents and take one day a week to rest and worship? When Jesus says not even the smallest letter or stroke of a pen will disappear from the law until it accomplishes what it's supposed to, Jesus is not imposing a letter of the law legalism. Jesus was more concerned with the intent of the law, and ultimately the law was designed to help us live in such a way that we could be restored to right fellowship with God.

Living in sin and opposition to the law had separated us from God, and our relationships with one another had turned tragic! God was brokenhearted. So brokenhearted that He was willing to give His only begotten Son to be the sacrifice for all who would believe in Him. In fact, we see in the book of Galatians that the purpose of the law was to lead us to Christ.

Galatians 3:22-24 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.

How does the law lead us to Christ? The law holds up to us God's ideal for each of us, but at the same time makes it painfully apparent that we, in our fallen nature, can't reach God's ideal! We have broken the law and on our own, are simply unable to keep the law. This puts us in a predicament and if we are humble and smart enough to admit we can't save ourselves, we will be led to Jesus Christ! And guess what? Once we have been led to Christ and accept the fact that He chose to love us, forgive us, and save us, we are justified by faith in what Jesus did on the Cross and that can never, ever be taken away from us! Check this out in Ephesians 1:7-8 and Ephesians 1:13-14...

Ephesians 1:7-8 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

Ephesians 1:13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Now, Jesus gets really practical. Just like Paul said, Jesus tells us that just because we've been saved by grace doesn't mean we ignore what's right and what's wrong in life. Because we've found forgiveness doesn't mean we can ignore the rules. Here's what Jesus said...

Don't Break the Rules!

Matthew 5:19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Did you notice He didn't say if you break a rule you will be kicked out of the Kingdom of heaven, but you will be called least! And those who practice and teach the commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Why is this? Because those who ignore God's principles and teach others to ignore His principles hurt the cause of Christ in this world and those who live by and teach His live-giving principles advance the cause of Christ! Let me give you a very relevant illustration.

Let's just say you work at a factory around very dangerous equipment and there are some very specific instructions about safety and the use of safety equipment. Let's just say you ignore those instructions and get seriously injured. You are taken by ambulance to the hospital where you are stitched up and released. Your company pays the bill and set's up rehab for you. Now, just because the company didn't fire you, paid your hospital bill, your therapy bill, and welcomed you back to work after you got better, doesn't mean you should continue ignoring the safety protocols. That just wouldn't make sense, would it? But sometimes people do that on a spiritual level. Jesus pays the price for their sin, forgives them of their sin, and offers to help them do better, but they fall back into the same patterns of destructive and dangerous living. Now, if you do that in your job, you might get fired, but the beautiful thing about Jesus is He won't fire you or kick you out of the family, but He might transfer you to a lesser job in the kingdom.

"Okay, I'm still not sure why the rules are so important if we're saved by the grace of God?" Well, you might remember a few weeks ago, I told you that God not only wants to save your soul, but He also wants to save your life here in this old world. Paul put it uniquely in the book of Romans 13:8-14...

Romans 13:8-14 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

Now, this leads us to one final thing Jesus said in our text for today, and it may surprise you...

Look Beyond the Rules!

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Why did Jesus say this? Well, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law knew the letter of the law, but they either didn't know or had forgotten the intent of the law. And we must remember, the rules of the law were intended not just so we could obey a set of do's and don'ts, but were intended to point us to a relationship with God Himself.

But we must not forget that because of God's holiness, we must be perfect in order to ever hope to be in His presence! However, none of us are perfect! This is precisely why Jesus came and lived a perfect life and then exchanged that perfect life for our imperfect life on the old rugged cross! He then covers us in His perfection so we can be reunited with God! Peter said this in 1 Peter 2:24-25...

1 Peter 2:24-25 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

So we don't find forgiveness and salvation based on the good we do or the bad we don't do! We find salvation in who Jesus is and what Jesus did for us! And when it is all said and done Jesus did what He did for us because He wanted to give us forgiveness for the penalty of sin and wanted to give us victory over the power over sin! In fact there was a Pharisee, who happened to be an expert in the law, once tested Jesus concerning this topic. Let's Read Matthew 22:34-40 and we'll discover the two most important rules in the employee handbook for a follower of Jesus Christ...

Matthew 22:34-40. Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Let's pray!