Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Doug gulped a mouthful of tablets as usual before he retired to bed. The scholarly old man just finished perusing the last documents of the new regulations of the society. Poor health and constant late nights had caused him to feel more lethargic as ever.
As he began to lie down to bed, his phone rang. “Yes!”
“Oh no! Prof., that idiot has done it again,” the other person on the line muttered.
“Calm down, Rex. What done it again?”
“Calvin has changed some rules in our society! He wanted to change what you have done over the last ten years!” Doug’s assistance hollered.
“What! Calvin again?”
The People-Choice-Awards Society was a powerful entity in the city, highly sponsored by the corporate world and sanctioned by the government itself. Doug with some prominent professors and business people had founded the society, giving out awards for life-changing works either through a person or a group. As years went by, there were added regulations to protect its awards until it was almost impossible for common people to participate. No one dared to criticize the Society because of its many high-standing patronages. Doug often boasted, “My rules are chiselled on stone.”
Calvin was a young successful businessman. He had done a great deal for society especially among the poor and was named caring entrepreneur of the year by a famous newspaper. Yet, he could not break in to Doug’s Society although he submitted his work many times. One day, he thought to change things within and was appointed into the board.
From inside, he could see all the unbending extra regulations, making it extremely difficult for anyone to win without help and intervention. The young entrepreneur looked up to the sky and decided to change things so that the original intention of the Society would be realised again.
After many years heading the outfit, Doug had proudly added new laws to secure his position in the Society and also to please the many opinions of various people.
“Calvin, do you care to explain why you have to change some regulations which we had set so meticulously by all of us?” Doug questioned his colleague.
“Yes! I think we need a clarification from you,” Rex insisted.
Calvin cleared his throat. “Listen to me, all my esteemed colleagues. I did not change the regulations at all. I simply simplify them for the sake of better following. Through the years, the laws have been too rigid and stiff. Furthermore, the added regulations made them more impenetrable. We need to guide the people who submitted their applications so that they could follow along with us,” he explained confidently.
It was Doug who roped in Calvin to the board. The plot was to have as many on his side as possible. The longer the energetic young man was in, the hotter he was to handle. In the end, Calvin managed to get more than half onto his side for the change. Doug was losing the popularity and the majority vote.
“But...it was agreed already our set of rules,” Doug argued.
“Do you have better ones?” One influential board member spoke.
“Doug, we have benefitted by your many years of service here. It’s time we need fresher ideas from the younger generation,” opined another.
The old man was smiling on the outside but gritted his guts. “I suggest we go for a vote on this,” he suggested, hoping against hope to win.
As the 10 board members began to vote, Calvin was praying for an overwhelming support. The votes were counted, 9 to 1. Doug took a long hard look at Rex, stood up and said, “I resign!”
The Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5:17-20 was a history changing time for Israel and for the rest of the world. The Law of Moses given by God at Mount Sinai had always been the supreme laws of the Land. Kings would make or break in regards to those laws. The whole nation rises or falls depending on them. God desires His people to follow His laws to shout His fame but sadly, they fail and fail Him miserably!
The laws of Moses first of all are good laws – scholars of the Bible argued that they are more humane than the laws of Israel’s many surrounding nations. When Jesus came upon the scene, He seemed like abolishing all those laws. Of course, the Pharisees and teachers, strict guardians of Moses’ laws, especially the Ten Commandments, were shoving and screaming at Jesus. They added many laws until they reached 613 commandments. (According to Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 23b-24a, the negative commandments number 365, which coincides with the number of days in the solar year and the positive commandments number 248, a number ascribed to the number of bones and main organs in the human body) One can now see the impenetrable laws which evolve to become a trap for everyone. In fact, God wants the laws to be an ‘X-ray’ to show that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory. A ‘wake-up’ call for all, that everyone needs a Saviour!
The Son of God managed to stir up all kinds of emotions among the people when He made some seemingly new alterations to laws that they were taught carefully to obey since young. When we look a little closer at Scriptures, Jesus Christ neither abolishes nor changes the laws of Moses. In fact, He upgrades them even further. The people of Israel used to obey from the power of the will and when Jesus came, He wanted them to obey from inside out. Murder stemmed from anger and adultery caused by lust from the heart (Matthew 5:21-22; 27-28). Jesus wanted a complete overhaul of the heart! In fact a new heart must replace an old one and that would need divine intervention. This was not a surprise if the people understood the Old Testament correctly! It was prophesied from Moses to the prophets!
The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live (Deuteronomy 30:6).
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart (Jeremiah 24:7).
Thus, Jesus began to change the mindset of the people of His days that without God in them to help them, they would fail miserably. Only after Jesus died and resurrected, the people began this ‘new heart’ lives with the Holy Spirit in them.
And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).
With 613 tangled and complex laws, it is unsurprising that the Jews were ensnared in the circle of confusion. One can remember when at the Garden of Eden, there was only one law – do not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17).
Jesus then shortened 613 laws to two greatest commandments which all the Law and the Prophets hung on (Matthew 22:34-40).
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’’
No one could and can fulfill or fully obey Moses’ laws except one Man – Jesus Christ! He lived a perfect sinless life and no one could point a finger at Him or talk a single bad about Him. Therefore He was worthy to die on our behalf for all our sins. When He died on the cross for the sins of mankind, Jesus in essence ‘carried believers’ over to God! Not one person could or can earn himself or herself to be restored to the relationship with God!
When we go to heaven, God sees Jesus’ sacrifice as the seal of redemption! Not us! We are all sinners condemned to hell if not for our Saviour!
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).
So, we come back to the Person of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus left to heaven after His resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit to be in every believer. He was the promise of God of how a ‘new heart’ believer should live from then on. The Holy Spirit is working His way in us so that we can obey the two greatest commandments mentioned above. From the inside out!
Next: Anger and Murder (Matthew 5:21-26)
Thursday, January 9, 2014
This is a book about doing the most difficult task – to forgive. What I like about Matthew West’s forgiveness is the real life stories of brokenness and despair of being hurt and the laboriously burdensome journey to forgiveness. Although the stories here ended with forgiveness and victory, there are always real incomprehensible struggles within each character. There was always the “why me?” question ringing loudly within. At the end, it was God! The grace of God that always manages to set the pace for healing in all kinds of hurt. And I believe Matthew West in this book shouts, “It is possible!” Not humanly possible but God-possible! The author’s intention is clear: do not let unforgiveness keep you bound, let forgiveness set you free to your God-given destiny!
Thank you Book Sneeze for the free ebook for the purpose of this review.