Lesson 76—August 2, 2015
Raising the Bar
Scripture: Matthew 5:21 (focusing on 5:21a)
Lesson Goal: To learn that in fulfilling the law, Jesus did not lower the standards, but in fact, raised the standards.
Although the calendar still shows seven more weeks of summer, if you ask our school teachers when summer ends, many would probably say, “This week.” This week marks the return of teachers, administrators and students to their respective places of higher learning. For these, summer has passed and a new school year begins. It is a time of great excitement and anticipation for some; for others, it is a time of anxiousness and the unknown. With each new year, there are new opportunities as well as new challenges.
Would your Life Focus class please take a few moments today to pray for our schools? Pray for the students, teachers, administrators, and all the many support personnel.
This afternoon at 5:00 pm, I invite the entire church family to gather in the sanctuary for a special evening of prayer. Anyone who wishes is then invited to join as we divide into “Prayer Walker” teams and disburse to prayer walk the campuses of every school in our county. For those who wish to remain at the church, instead of walking the campuses, there will be a time of prayer in the sanctuary.
It is our desire to pray for God’s wisdom, blessings, guidance and protection upon all our campuses. Mars Hill Baptist Church family, let us be active prayer partners for all our schools. Please come out and help make a difference for in our county for God’s glory.
I also want to share that each Sunday evening, during the month of August, God is giving us special opportunities to minister in our communities. Please pray and join with your church family in making the most of these God-given opportunities.
In Matthew 5:20, we find one of the most radical statements Jesus ever made: “To gain entrance into the Kingdom, our righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, (who were content with religious ceremonies which gave them an outward, ritual cleansing, but which never changed their hearts)” (MacDonald).
Jesus very clearly sought to drive home the point that external righteousness, without internal heart change and reality, will not gain entrance into the Kingdom. The only righteousness God will accept for entrance into the Kingdom is that which He gives to those who accept Jesus as Savior. Please read 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Now in this great sermon, Jesus demonstrates and illustrates that where there is real righteousness, there will also be the practical application of righteousness. For the remaining portion of His sermon, Jesus is going to expound upon the truth of real righteousness and practical living.
• How is the fact that you are a follower of Jesus Christ made known to the world?
• Please explain the following statements.
1) My actions are a window into my heart.
2) Real righteousness begins in the heart, in fact, if it does not begin in the heart, it does not exist at all.
Please read the words of Solomon’s prayer recorded in 1 Kings 8:39.
Please read David’s final words to Solomon in 1 Chronicles 28:9.
Let me remind you that our outward actions of life are important. I do not want to give the impression they are not important. As followers of Jesus, our daily outward actions are the greatest visible witness to the world that Jesus is our Lord. The character of our lives testifies to the fact that Jesus is the Lord and master of our lives (VV 3-12). But contrary to external, showy, hypocritical righteousness, as portrayed by the scribes and Pharisees, our righteousness is a righteousness of the heart gained not by our own
works but given to us by the wonderful grace of God as a result of our faith in Jesus Christ our Savior.
Jesus now turns His attention to the importance and motives of the heart as they pertain to outward actions of life.
• Is it possible to do a good thing with the wrong motive? Please explain and illustrate your answer.
Read Jeremiah 17:10.
• Please read the clear words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:4-5. In your own words, please explain Paul’s words.
In Matthew 5:20, Jesus spoke of a righteousness that must surpass the righteous of the scribes and Pharisees. As He continues His sermon, He offers several examples in which God’s righteousness (true righteousness) surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus deals with subjects such as murder, sexual sin, divorce, speaking the truth, retaliation and loving others. He wants His listeners to know that in no way is He abolishing the law and the prophets; in fact, He stands in agreement with all of Scripture. The testimony of all the Scripture is that true righteousness is a matter of the heart.
• Please explain the following: We can be fooled (deceived) by the outward appearance of other
people, but God is not deceived, because He sees the heart.
• Has there been a time in your life when you tried to present outward actions of righteousness but your heart was unclean? Please answer honestly.
Jesus begins verse 21 by stating, “You have heard that it was said to those of old…”
John MacArthur offers these words:
The Jewish leaders and the rank and file of the people were amazed at Jesus’ radical departure—in both content and delivery—from the type of teaching they were used to. Whether (in their minds) He was right or wrong, it was obvious to them that “He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22). Among Jesus’ most amazing departures from traditional teaching was His insistence that tradition and Scripture were in conflict and that inner righteousness, not outward form, is the central and necessary characteristic of a right relationship to God.
Jesus taught that the attitudes of the heart, the motives of the heart, were just as important as the external outward actions. The scribes and Pharisees thought righteousness consisted of performing certain actions, rituals and ceremonies. Jesus, without abolishing the old way, brings a higher way of thinking. He doesn’t lower the bar or standard of conduct of life. He, in fact, raised it to a higher standard. Warren Wiersbe states it this way: “The person who says that he ‘lives by the Sermon on the Mount’ may not realize that the Sermon on the Mount is more difficult to keep than the original Ten Commandments.”
• How do we (followers of Jesus Christ) show forth our love for Him?
• When was the last time you shared with someone what Jesus Christ means to you?
This week marks the beginning of a new school year, and in just a few weeks we will begin a new church year. What do you think would happen if every follower of Jesus Christ in our Life Focus study would make it their goal to tell at least one person a week what Jesus Christ means to them and what He has done for them?
If Jesus is truly real in your life, make Him real to others by telling them about Him!!