Faithlife Sermons

The Right and Wrong Way to Live

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Introduction: 8 Criticisms

  • In their book, unChristian, Kinnaman and Lyons list 8 criticisms that outsiders have for churches and for Christians. The criticisms are legitimate, fair observations about the way that Christians live and the impact it has on the lives of others.
  • Jesus' sermon to the crowds might have been called unGodly, as an ancient version of Kinnaman's book.
    • Instead of the criticisms of Mosaics and Busters, here we have Jesus ruling on what the religious leaders were teaching.
    • "Here's what people are teaching in the name of God," he said."This is not acceptable."
    • What they were presenting to potential converts was burdensome, Matthew 23:4.
    • By their lives and teaching, they actually prevented people from coming into the Kingdom of God.
  • The net effect of the people Kinnaman describes and the people Jesus speaks about is the same. Both groups are alienating, self-righteous, and burdensome.

I. The Problem with a System of Laws:

  • We said last week that the Pharisees had a well-developed system of laws that arose as elaborations on the far simpler law God had given them.
  • In fact, the Rabbis said, "We build a fence around the Law." In other words, they created additional laws to keep the Jewish people from breaking the first laws.
  • But, as we all know, laws don't solve anything. They actually create greater problems. So that by the time of Jesus, the Jewish system had become cold and arrogant. With these built-in problems:
    • New laws have to be continually invented for new situations.
    • Accountability shifts from honoring God to pleasing man.
    • Law reduces a person's ability to personally think and discern. Too much reliance on Law and not enough personal accountability.
    • Law creates a judgmental spirit.
    • Law produces inconsistencies.
    • Law produces a false sense of being righteous.
    • Law eventually becomes burdensome.
    • Law does not change the heart. It is strictly external.

2. Exceeding the Scribes and Pharisees

  • You might well say, "What Jesus expects is impossible. Exceed?"
  • What Jesus is calling for, on the other hand, is heart-based righteousness, rather than a law of externals.
  • In this saying he adds no new laws. Doesn't increase the demands. He merely shifts the center of motivation for our obedience.
    • The Law's center was outside. External to the individual. Coersive. Impossible to produce long term change.
      • It reminds me of the S.T.E.P. program.
      • STEP worked to train children to be internally motivated to do the right thing, rather than relying on the constant coertion of parents.
    • What Jesus called for was internal. It originated in the heart. It existed because of an intentional decision to follow and obey Jesus.

3 Playing Fast and Loose:

  • Law is not concerned with the heart. It only addresses matters of behavior. So, for example, it doesn't matter what you say as you drive your car, only that you drive your car legally. Tell people off. Experience road rage. Just drive legally, and you're okay. That's the way law is.
    • Law can't measure heart. So any system that focuses on behavior, only, soon becomes exterior and shallow. You can see this in how Jesus addresses issues that the Jewish leaders would have understood.
  • Examples of this "fast and loose" thinking.
      • Hateful, insulting language toward another person is okay as long as you don't murder them.
      • Lustful looks toward another person is okay as long as you don't commit adultery.
      • Alright not to keep your marriage commitments as long as you have a decree.
      • Some oaths are binding, some aren't. Too bad if you don't know which.
      • If someone hurts you, it is alright to strike back as long as it is a measured amount.


  • God never intended for the Law to be interpreted or enacted in the way the Jewish religious leaders did.
  • God's statement to Hosea gives insight into the heart and the intention of God. For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings, 6:6.
  • With the conversion of the heart of man everything else follows in the correct order. Until the heart is converted, nothing else matters.
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