September 25, 2020

Jesus Teaches God’s Laws

Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt

By Chaplain Mike
Today’s Gospel: Matthew 5:21-37

what kind of world would it be…

if we heard his laws with diff’rent ears
if we heard them not as classroom rules
designed to keep us all in line —
sit up straight
eyes to the front
hands to yourself
lips sealed —
you’d better straighten up, mister
or there’ll be hell to pay!

what kind of world would it be…

if instead we felt our father’s heart break
each time we fumed and fussed and spewed
hateful words and evil looks
little knowing in our rage
the sick’ning ache within his gut
the wave of grief, the deep despair
how much he hates our hate
it might as well be


  1. Wonderful poem, Mike.

    Psalm 119:77 “Let your tender mercies come to me, that I may live: for your law is my delight.” (AKJV)

    Let’s get the delight back.

    • Sorry, Mike. Re-reading your poem, I realise I went on a bit of tangent with my comment.

      It is related, though; the viewing of God’s laws as ‘classroom rules’ rather than a reflection of his heart, and as life-giving, if approached in Christ.

  2. Steve Newell says

    It’s interesting that when Jesus teaches that Law, he shows us how it’s just our actions but our thoughts and words. When we think that we can keep even one aspect of the law, we must always remember that we just call the whole Law 100% all of the time. As James wrote “For whoever keeps the whole law but falls in one point has become accountable for all of it” (James 2:10)

    Jesus is driving home how sinful we really are and how much we cannot do anything that will justify us before a Holy and Righteous God. Praise be to God that Christ took my punishment for my sins and I get his righteousness in return. Luther called this the “Great Exchange”.

    • That’s right. It’s almost like he lifts the bar even higher, and it’s a standard impossible for us to reach—unless Jesus lives it through us. That’s where the delight comes in, I think.

  3. CM,

    Confirmation of the direction of my sermon this morning. We’ve been moving through Genesis, and this morning we are looking at the Fall – Genesis 3. The emphasis is on the fact that sin should elicit heartbreak first and foremost (rather than judgment/condemnation). Heartbreak because all the goodness that God intended and created in Gen 1-2 is corrupted in Gen 3. Sin is bad not because it breaks the rules, but because it destroys the goodness that God intends for creation, others and us. The commands of God are based on His goodness, not the other way around. This view of sin causes me to take sin even more seriously, and because of that throw myself on the goodness and grace of God even more fully. It all goes back to the goodness and love that He intended from the beginning.

    But, you said it all much shorter and much more poetically!!

  4. So true!

    Sadly, it has become popular for Christians to say that the Law of God has been done away with. They say it is no longer relevant. But they do not realize how great an insult that is to the Father. Their words cut at the heart of all that is just when they speak in that manner.

    I thank God that He has inspired holy men to make a record of His thoughts (The Scriptures). For instead of relying on the opinions carnal-minded people who claim to be God’s spokesmen, we can go straight to the inspired Word of God to see what He has to say about His Law.

    “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” says the Lord: “I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they will be My people” (Hebrews 8:10 HCSB).

    “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus”
    (Revelation 14:12 NKJV).

    Blessings to you…
    ~ Christopher Esty

    • Also, following God’s law is a sign that one is regenerate. Another popular idea hovering around these days in Christian circles is that a person can be given the gift of justification without also the gift of transformation of heart that longs to obey God’s law. Calvin said that one cannot have Christ as justifier if we refuse to have him as our sanctifier.

      Apparently, this teaching of the necessity of Christian obedience to God’s law must be preached again in our pulpits today.

      • St. Paul reminds us (Romans 7) that we will not do that which we ought to do, and we will do that which we shouldn’t.

        St. Paul wrote that about himself, and after he had been grabbed a hold of by Christ Jesus, NOT BEFORE he was a believer.

        The fact of the matter is that we are fully sinful, and yet fully justified.

        We are not justified and then begin attaining more and more righteousness…we are DECLARED RIGHTEOUS for Jesus’ sake.

      • I think the emphasis is not on that we must follow the law as the regenerate, but that we CAN, by the new life in the Spirit. Obedience to the law as a sign of regeneration concerns me, because no one obeys the law perfectly – not even the regenerate…not this side of the resurrection, that is. Everyone has their favorite litmus test for which law proves one is saved, and it never is a law with which the promoter struggles personally. Funny how that works.

        But the law is perfect, as the psalmist declares. The problem is not the law; the problem is our sinful nature. As Paul declares, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” (Romans 7:14). We need to die and be raised with Christ through the waters of baptism to new life.

        • Most laws used to prove one is saved are completely of human origin and can’t be found in the bible at all (e.g. don’t drink; don’t chew; or go out with girls who do…).

          • for those who have been “going out with girls that do…” have a blessed Valentine’s Day !!

            GREG R

  5. @ Chap Mike and JeffD: if you haven’t read it already, please check out Feb 7 entry at Out of Ur reg. the Epic Fail Pastor’s Conference. Check it out, it reads like an IMONK post.


  6. Vickie Jacobs says

    The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: (Psalms 19:7)
    Sin is the transgression of the law (I John 3:4)
    The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law (I Corinthians 15:56)
    Death could not have entered into the world if sin had not entered first. Sin introduced death and armed him with a dagger so both body and soul are slain.
    Because the strength of sin is the law. The law of God forbids all transgression and sentences those who commit it to eternal death.
    Sin gets its controling and binding power from the law. The law curses the transgresser and provides no help for him. If nothing else intervenes, he must, through it, continue to be under the empire of death. But, what the law could not do, because it is law (the law provides no pardon) is done by Jesus Christ. He died to slay death and rose again to bring man from under the empire of death. Done by his mercy. He gave us victory over sin, Satan, death, the grave and hell.
    Now, the law was a curse because of this and really was used as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. (Galatians 3:13,23,24)
    There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1,2)
    For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. He paid the penality (Romans 8:3,4) and made sin known (Romans ch. 7) It was purged with blood (Heb.9:22)
    The law was not destroyed. (Romans 3:31) It was established (Romans 3:31) Jeremiah 31:33 said I will put the law in their inward parts and establish it in their hearts. He becomes a new creature in Christ and given a new name (Isaiah 62:2) and Romans 2:28,29. “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” He is now the Israel of God (Galations 6:15,16) He is now Spiritual Israel. (Revelation 2:17)

  7. A critique of your poem (sorry I’m an english student)

    When writing poetry, try to give the reader concrete rather than abstract images to help them visualise what you are trying to say. What are ‘hateful words’ and ‘evil looks’ like? Are there any metaphors or images that you could use to illustrate these concepts, or about how God feels about sin? What about taste, sound, or smell etc?

    If a phrase comes too easily, it is generally better to avoid it, as it is likely that it has been said in that way too many times before. I would reconsider ‘the sick’ning ache within his gut’ and the wave of grief’, as I feel that you could come up with something more original.

    With regards to the words ‘sick’ning’ and ‘diff’rent’, you don’t really need to abbreviate these words. If you were writing in metre, then you may need to shorten words in order to stick to it, but this still looks like you can’t make the words fir properly. This however is a free verse poem, and it doesn’t matter if a line reads more like prose. If you want to take something out, take out ANY unnecessary words.

    Try reading Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath or Carol Ann Duffy

    The last line is great – keep it the same. It provides the interesting juxtaposition of a shocking phrase presented in an throwaway manner

    (This is just constructive criticism – feel free to ignore any/ all of it, its your poem in the end)

  8. I don’t mean to be critical of the replys to Chaplain Mike’s beautiful poem, but it seems to me that many of you have missed the poem’s point. The point, it seems to me, is that too many times we Christians get caught up with the “letter of thee law” rather than the spirit.