The Next Step in Our Life
Carlton Foster – July 18, 2020
I can’t remember distinctly the activities of my early childhood, but I remembered this scene when I was in class with my 3-year old classmates; the teacher would help us to repeat our ‘ABC’s. I remembered liking the break periods where we would go into the playground and play with my friends. It was in those days when the schoolmaster uses belts to spank you if you misbehaved. Now I am much-much older, I no longer need the help of the teacher or the schoolmaster, but I still remembered and still use today some of the “Dos” and “Don’ts” they taught me.
Now I understand what Paul the apostle is saying in Galatians 3:24-25, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” As new Christians, the laws of God teach us what we should not do and what we should do. The law is like a teacher teaching what is right from what is wrong. Now that we are well taught and that we are grown up, we no longer need to be taught what is right or wrong from God’s law, because we remembered them. The next step is to move on to the experiences and instructions from Jesus Christ – he is the “faith that is come”. Another version of the NLT Bible translates it this way, “Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.”
So what is the next step? In Matthew 5:19-20, Jesus was hinting what the next steps look like. He said, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The Scribes and the Pharisees knew the laws, they teach them; however, there were more steps that they should do but were not doing. It is what Jesus said about righteousness – which is right doings that is interesting: our righteousness – right doings must exceed the doings of the Scribes and Pharisees for us to enter into the kingdom of heaven. What are these “right doings” that we need to do more than what the Pharisees were doing?
Jesus one day said to the crowds and his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example, for they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden”. Here is a list of things that they were doing that were not good:
These individuals are the official interpreters of the laws of Moses. Jesus said we should practice and obey whatever they tell us, but we must not follow their examples because they don’t practice what they teach. So what are these “right doings” that we need to do more than what the Pharisees were doing? Someone came to Jesus with the same question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus replied. “If you want to receive eternal life, keep the commandments.” The person said, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments, what else must I do?” Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
It seems like that was the next step. To be perfect is to do the important aspects of the laws, which are love, justice, mercy, and faith. Jesus expounded these in Matthew 5, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Jesus ended the teachings by saying, “you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
The Lord also said in Isaiah 58, that we must “Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for us. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share our food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need our help. Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing our fingers and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Be known as a re-builder of walls and a restorer of homes. We must keep the Sabbath day holy by doing good deeds. Don’t pursue our self-interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day of doing good deeds. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your selfish desires or talk idly.
So the next steps in our life are to use the lessons from God’s laws as the “schoolmaster” had taught us and to do acts of mercy and love to our neighbors (or anyone within our reach – even our enemies). Are we spending most of our time learning about the laws of God (Bible studies, sermonizing, etc.), and spending little or no time showing acts of mercy and love to our neighbors? If we are grown-up, we should spend more time planning and helping the unfortunates and teaching them about Jesus and the Kingdom of God, instead of spending all our time in churches like what the Scribes and Pharisees did. Do the next step!