Did Jesus Believe the Bible?

Jesus epitomized the spirit of transformational revolution. He sought to revolutionize the religious system of his day which cared more about wearing the right clothes and eating the right foods than caring for the sick into system that valued the outcasts and that listened to the hurting. He replaced the ethic of persnickety self-righteousness with the ethic of love, asking us to do “whatever you wish that other would do to you (Matt 7:12).”

What Was Jesus Up To?

Though scholars, ethicists, and the average church goer all applaud Jesus for reinfusing kindness into religion, they still debate the nature and goal of his reformation. One popular idea that floats through the halls of academia and occasionally relaxes in the lounge of pop culture states that Jesus came to create a new religion. In stark contrast to the angry God of the Old Testament who huffed and puffed away whole civilizations, Jesus forgave the prostitutes and ate dinner with the tax collectors. In other words, Jesus came to unbox religion from the constraints of a tradition waylaid with sacred texts that had obscured the guiding star of divine love.

Other thinkers claim, Jesus that came to show humanity that religion was in a constant state of evolution. Jesus discovered that faith was not found in static texts but in the cultivation of one’s hidden eternal spark found. As souls developed their kernel of divinity, both humans and God would develop better and truer ideas of tolerance, kindness, justice, mercy, and love. In other words, Jesus came to help men and women evolve into Godhood. People like the apostles who tried to place both Jesus and faith within the Scriptures profoundly misunderstood the revolutionary ethic of Jesus.

When we confront the above ideas in literature, the classroom, and YouTube, we must return to the Scriptures and see what Jesus says about Jesus’s revolution Spirit.

Did Jesus Toss the Bible?

In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus defines the radical nature of his ministry and teaching. He does not agree with the world’s assessment of him. He tells his disciples, “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.” Jesus does not see himself at war with the God of the Old Testament. He does not find the stories of Adam and Eve, Jonah in the Wale, or Sodom and Gomorrah embarrassing or intolerant. He did not think the the Scriptures needed to evolve. In verse 18, Jesus says that until heaven and earth pass away, his word will stand. The expression “heaven and earth” was a colloquial phrase used to convey something similar to our phrase “when pigs fly.” Jesus’s point is rhetorical and clear. The Old Testament will never be outdated.

At this juncture, many theologians and friends will nominally shake their head in agreement before tossing out a, “but.” They assert that the Word of God is eternal but that not all doctrines our needed. For example when the waters of popular opinion become to shallow to sustain God’s view of sexuality or of race, many in the church will encourage us to toss those doctrines overboard so that we can reach the lost and dying with the love and mercy of Christ. Though perhaps well-intended, the impulse to jettison the less palatable parts of the Bible runs counter to Jesus’s understanding of his message. He declares that “not an iota or dot, will pass from the law (Matt 5:17).”

When Jesus tackles the teaching of the Pharisees and the scribes, he does not take issue with their text but with their misinterpretation of their text. He repeatedly says, “You have heard…but I say to you.” Jesus will not tolerate those who pull out sharpies and start crossing out lines for the purpose of restricting or loosening the laws of God.

When men and women do begin to edit God’s law, they invariably restrict its application and expand its exceptions, tolerating all kinds of evil. According to the pharisees and scribes, a righteous person could be consumed with anger and bitterness if they did not murder. He could sexually harass her neighbors if he did not sleep with them. Moreover, he could still sleep with her secretary if he went through the divorce courts first. The pure in heart could also lie if the lie was inconsequential. Lastly, the holy people could take out vengeance on her neighbor if she did so with moderation. Pharisees and scribes achieved righteousness but denying righteousness. Those who read through Matthew 5:21-48 can easily grasp why Jesus said in verse 20, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.

The Fulfillment of the Law

Jesus fulfilled the law when he perfectly obeyed the law. Now, he stands between us and the law not to protect us from the law but to empower us to obey it. When Christians believe, Jesus writes his heart upon their hearts and gifts them the Holy Spirit, enabling to follow the law. Because he fulfilled the moral law, his people can be moral.

But fulfillment consists not simply of obedience. When Jesus speaks of fulfillment, he is also declaring himself to be the zenith of the Old Testament. He is the savior that was promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. He is the prophet that Moses was never able to be. He is the shepherd king that David aspired to be. He is the perfect high priest. He is the culmination of the Old Testament. All the stories about exile and redemption were pointing to him. For example, the Passover was pointing to the day when he would be the perfect sacrifice on the cross. Jesus came to fulfill the law. He loves even the odd rules about fabrics and eating shrimp for it points to the saving work of Jesus. He is the fulfillment of all that came before. He abolished nothing.

Final Thoughts

Jesus did not take issues with the Jewish Scriptures. He founded his ministry upon them. Rather, he took issue with how the Pharisees and the scribes interpreted the Scriptures. He was revolutionary because he rightly interpreted the Word of God through the Christological lens. Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. May we too be found faithful in our pursuit of holiness!

Salt and Light: Evangelism +

Once Christians recognize that the ooze flowing from towards the world’s reservoir is one of hostility, they tend to build sandbag forts around their communities. In the days of old, men and women retreated into the deserts or set up monasteries behind large brick walls to keep the sins and sorrows of this world at bay. In the modern era, Christians construct walls around exclusive social groups centered upon everything from denominational structures to youth sports in an effort to keep out the displeasure of the world.

Though this impulse arises naturally, it contradicts to the commands of Jesus. After finishing up the beatitudes, Jesus tells his disciples to be salt and light (Matt 5:13-16). In other words, Jesus is declaring that his followers have been redeemed in part for the purpose of preserving the world from decay and for the purpose of saving it from darkness. In short, the followers of Christ should not retreat but engage this dying and dark world.

The Need for Salt

When Jesus employs the analogy of salt, he implies that the world is in a state of decay. Though the modern soul gravitates towards notions of evolutionary progress, Jesus shares no such hope. He located evil not in earthly systems but in the hearts of those who create those cultural systems. From the center of the soul comes the evil that “defiles a person (Matt 5:18).” Technology alone cannot change our disposition towards destruction. The great physicist Albert Einstein famously noted,

The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.

The technology of this century has also failed to change our thinking. The arrival of the internet has opened new worlds of information to millions of souls and has allowed families on opposite sides of the world to converse through live video chats. Though the internet can facilitate great good, it can also be used to bully teenagers, to steal hospital data, and to traffic in sexually explicit images. Even the medical sciences which enable doctors to create new drugs that can destroy cancer cells can also be used to create the poisons stuffed into missile warhead. Technology and education cannot keep the world from social decay. We need a new way of thinking.

Christ alone can change human thinking. He can turn our hearts of hatred into hearts of love. He died to free us from the paralyzing shame of sin and rose from the dead to demonstrate that all who believe on him for salvation can think and act according to the ethic of love through his power. Christians are to share this good news with their decaying world. They are to be salt and light.

The Benefits of Salt

When Christians encounter sin and brokenness in this world, they cannot close their eyes to their neighbor’s suffering. Rather, they are to address it, rubbing salt into this world’s decaying flesh. For example when a Christian sees a city councilwoman misusing the food pantry funds, he should speak up and vote her out of office. When a believer sees her classmate being bullied, she should counter her school’s culture and extend love to the harassed soul. And when a family is wrecked by strife, the saved family member should speak well of all involved and refuse to engage in the gossip. Though such actions may expose the Christian to false accusations, slander, and criticisms of being “too good for the rest of us,” society always benefits from the presence of the Christian. The poor receive better care. The bullied student is pulled back from the edge of suicide. And the entire extended family has Christmas at grandma’s house for the first time in decades. Martin Luther rightfully concluded,

Salting has to bite…If you want to…help people, you must be sharp and rub salt into their wounds…denouncing what is not right.

Christians possess the new way of thinking, the salt the preserves society from decay.

When society goes bad and politics devolve, Christians should not point fingers at the decaying world. It is doing what it has always done: decay. Instead, they should examine their own lives. The famed British pastor John Stott noted,

No one reproaches the meat for going bad! It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is where is the salt?

Why Light

The next logical question that comes from Jesus’s discourse is: “Must the salt be recognizable?” Can Christians quietly vote for noble political candidates, donate to good causes, and encourage the hurting apart from the gospel of Christ? In other words, can Christians advocate for good in the public square apart from their faith?
Jesus says no. He says his followers are, “the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden (Matt 5:14).” When Christians interact with the world around them, they do so as little lights. Just as Christ came into the world containing life, “and the life was the light of men (Jn 1:4),” the followers of Jesus bring truth to bear on their world because the light of Christ has shown in their hearts (2 Cor 4:6). They do not hide Christ for he is the foundation of their convictions. They share Jesus with the world for the light of the gospel is the only power that can reorient human thinking to the ethic of love. Just as no one would turn on a flashlight and hide it under their covers, no Christians will experience the love of Christ and then hide Jesus from society. She shares Jesus with her family, coworkers, and neighbors.

Moreover, she should do so confidential for Jesus promises to go with the Christian as she shines the light. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus proclaims,

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Though the world will hate us and persecute us, we have nothing to fear for God is with us. The light will not snuffed out. It will push back the darkness.

Equipped with this knowledge, the people of God should set out to bring the truth and grace of God to bear on this world. They shine the light of Christ when sitting down to lunch with the unlovables, when taking the sick to the doctor, and when visiting the elderly. And as they do so, they explain who their God is and how his love has lead them to a new way of thinking. They bring the gospel to bear on all of life so that the world may “give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16).”

Do We Have To?

If a soul can comfortably hide the light of Christ within the confines of private religion and avoid salting this decaying world, that soul possess a worthless faith. Moreover, it is destined for destruction. In verses 13 and 14 of Matthew 5, Jesus bluntly tells his disciples “You are” the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Salting and lighting are essential qualities of the faith. If our faith does not preserve and enlighten the world around us, we prove ourselves to have no faith at all. In Jesus day, salt was contained in the rocks around the Dead Sea. As rain fell and evaporated back into the sky, the salt would evaporate from the rocks. The rocks would still have the white hew of salt but would no longer contain salt. Such rocks were good for nothing. They could not keep even a small piece of meat from decay. A professional faith which benefits neither one’s soul nor his neighbor’s is in the words of Jesus, “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet (Matt 5:13-16).” Faith that lacks salt and light proves to be no faith at all. Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted,

Either we are the salt of the earth, or else we are annihilated; either we follow the call or we are crushed beneath it.

May God help us all to be salt and light.

Blessed are the Meek

Meekness doesn’t resonate with a world stitched together with slogans such as Nike’s “Just Do it” or Microsoft’s “Your potential. Our passion.” The West equates self-effacement, a lack of bravado, and an unwillingness to play the system with a specific kind of weakness that always leads to failure. In other words, we are completely unfamiliar with the term “meekness.”

Yet, Jesus prizes the word in his famed Sermon on the Mount, declaring, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Mt 5:5).” Those who hope to follow Jesus into the new heavens and the new earth, most both understand and embrace meekness. So what is it and why does it matter? Let’s take a look.

What is Meekness?

To begin with, we must state what meekness is not. It is not a general disposition towards an unhealthy propensity towards submission and niceness that causes some souls to play dead every time a controversy or decision arises. Biblical meekness should not be equated with the guy who never speaks up in his group project, who never voices his opinion when picking a restaurant, or who simply shrugs his shoulders when his wife asks if they should send the kids to public or private school.

Rather, meekness relates to brokenness. The Greek word for meekness, praus, means the breaking of a wild horse. We could say it is an abandonment of self for the sake of others. Instead of standing upon its or her rights or privilege, the meek soul seeks the good of others irrespective of the personal cost. As the martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted, the meek “renounce every right of their own and live for Christ.” The meek have had their impulses towards selfishness, pride, and self-aggrandizement broken by the love of Christ.

We see this concept exemplified in the lives of both Moses and Jesus. In Numbers 12:3, the Scriptures report, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” The comment comes in the context of a power grab. Moses’s sister and brother, Miriam who was a prophetess and Aaron who was the chief priest, had just attacked Moses saying, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also (Nu. 12:2)?” God takes note of this family squabble and quickly settles it, declaring Moses to be his man and afflicting Miriam with leprosy. In this moment, Moses does the unthinkable. The text says, “And Moses cried to the Lord, “O God, please heal her – please. (Nu. 12:13).” Instead of condemning his sister, rejoicing in his own vindication, or standing upon his rights as the prophet of God, Moses asks God to forgive his sister. He exemplifies the counsel of King David who encouraged the God’s people to and “refrain from anger,” and are “generous and give (Ps 37:8,21).”

As noted earlier, the concept of meekness does not come to an end in with the close of the Old Testament. Jesus described himself as meek or gentle in Matthew 11:29. The verse says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle (or meek) and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus never stood upon principle, welcoming gentiles, children, prostitutes, taxes collectors, and lepers to his table. No man, woman, or child should stand aloof from Jesus because of their sin. If they will but come to the Messiah, the grand physician will make them well. He freely bestows rest on all who ask.

When the mob of temple guards came to arrest Jesus in Matthew 26 and the apostle Peter began to swinging his sword in Jesus’s defense, our savior said “Stop.” The Scriptures record:

Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so (Mt 26:52-54)?

Jesus resisted those who attacked truth, readily calling a spade a spade. But he never claimed his rights or privileges as the Son of God. As the apostle Paul noted in Philippians 2:8, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus died so that we might live. Those who know that Jesus’s humiliation led to their exaltation cannot help but be meek for they are nothing apart from Christ. We are saved because Jesus was meek.

Why Does Meekness Matter Part 1?

As noted in previous blogs, the beatitudes are sequential and connected. They exist as a whole with each beatitude resting upon those that proceeded it.
Consequently to achieve meekness, the soul must first be poor in spirit and mourn. Those who know Christ know that they possess nothing good in and of themselves. No one is righteous, no, not one (Rm 3:10). They grasp that negotiating with God amounts to a child negotiating with his Dad for a trip to Disney World with a twenty-dollar bill stolen from his Dad’s wallet. Those who are poor in spirit realize the insanity of their attempt to reach heaven apart from God mercy.

The soul’s realization of its spiritual poverty will inevitably lead the soul to sorrow. Psalm 119:136 states, “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” Though tears can lack genuineness, the soul cannot reach heaven apart from the tears of repentance. To experience the comfort of Jesus, the soul must first mourn its spiritual poverty.

Those who understand their brokenness and God’s love will not stand upon rights tied to citizenship, one’s station in life, or church membership. They freely, willingly, and generously put the needs of others before their own. The meek know all they have comes from God’s merciful hand. Since God freely preferred them above himself, they cannot help but prefer others needs and wants before their own. The famous pastor, Martyn Lloyd-Jones summed up the sentiment of this beatitude well when he wrote:

Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in an attitude and conduct with respect to others.

Why Does Meekness Matter Part 2?

Meekness is the natural outgrowth of faith. And it is also an expression of hope. Jesus said the meek will inherit the earth. Some theologians have believed that Jesus is talking about the physical earth. Yet a quick scan of history has proved this not to be true. The meek have often been persecuted and murdered for their faith. Moreover, Jesus’s use of the future tense verb implies that the concept in Matthew 5 has yet to arrive. He is talking about the kingdom to come. In other words, Christians can prefer the interests of their neighbors to their own because this world is not their final hope. In Psalm 37:27-29, David defined it this way,

Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.

The inheritance of the meek is not tied to maturing stocks, real estate investments, or family heirlooms. Christians can happily give all those things away and more, knowing that no one can take their heavenly inheritance.

For example, the famed politician William Wilberforce grew up a child of means and died poor He devoted his money to the building up of the church, to the abolishment of slavery, and to the wellbeing of his family. He gave away his earthly wealth because he had attained something far greater.

Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.