I think most of the guys in our mid-week bible study are starting to get a crick in their neck. Not from staring into their webcams during our Zoom gathering but from looking up at the bar being set by the Lord Jesus as we study together the Sermon on the Mount. As we’ve gone through Matthew 5 over the past several weeks, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard one of our guys remark, “Radical! Counter-cultural! Impossible! Can’t do this in our own power!”
True enough. As Jesus contrasts the Pharisees’ various formulas for righteous living, Jesus focuses on the fountain of righteousness — the heart. They say don’t do this, Jesus says don’t even think that. They’re focused on actions, Jesus calls out attitude. They’re concerned with what’s on the outside, Jesus cracks open the inside. Why’s Jesus doing this?
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:20 ESV)
High, high bar. Sore, sore neck. “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2Cor. 2:16).
Spoiler alert! We are. Something I read in Romans this mornings reminds me of that.
But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed.
(Romans 6:17 ESV)
Jesus saved us so that He might commit us to a standard of teaching. We were entrusted to the gospel of the kingdom of heaven and all the divine dynamics which come with the kingdom of heaven. We were delivered from sin’s destructive playbook and unto a set of life-giving principles which are literally out of this world. A high standard of teaching. A really high standard — like heavenly high. So high we’re not gonna do it in our own power, by our own effort, or through our own sheer willpower.
It only happens as we become obedient from the heart.
Obedient from the heart, that’s the literal rendering of the original, that’s what the ESV has gone with. The CSB and NKJV render it in a similar manner, “obeyed from the heart.” The NIV and NLT translate it a little differently, wholeheartedly obeyed.
There’s a couple of flavors there, I think. Wholehearted obedience speaks more to the sincerity and fullness of obedience — which makes sense in the context of contrasting it to how we were once slaves of sin. But the flavor I’m savoring this morning, as I chew on having become obedient from the heart, is more the source of obedience.
To seek to follow after the standard of teaching committed to us, is only possible and attainable for us, as it originates in new hearts placed within us. Apart from a supernatural heart transplant the kingdom’s standard of teaching is beyond us. In order to be obedient with a whole heart we first need to be obedient from a new heart (Jer. 24:7).
What God calls us to do, He enables us to. And He has. He has given us new hearts.
Ours is to desire to walk in obedience. To accept the standard of teaching, and then, by faith, believe He has provided the power to live up to that standard. Able to jump the high bar set by God the Son because God the Father has re-wired us for obedience from the heart through God the Spirit.
All by His grace. All for His glory.