Falling Short and Finding Grace
“But He gives more grace.”
I‘ve spent a lot of time studying the Sermon on the Mount lately. As I’ve immersed myself in the words of Christ, one thing has become increasingly apparent: Jesus is greatly concerned, not just about my conduct, but about the condition of my heart.
- It’s not enough to avoid murder; hatred and unjustified anger are condemned as well. More than that, I must actively pursue peace with others — even if I’ve done nothing wrong (Matt. 5:21-26).
- Adultery is wrong, but so is lust. Jesus teaches that God designed marriage as something far deeper than a mere contract, and outward obedience to the technical aspects of my wedding vows just isn’t enough (Matt. 5:27-32).
- Swearing and oath-taking are also forbidden. That’s an easy one for some, but letting truth saturate everything we say isn’t so simple (Matt. 5:33-37).
Jesus is greatly concerned…about the condition of my heart.
As if these standards aren’t high enough, Jesus goes on to say that pride and impure motives can even undermine spiritual disciplines like giving to the needy, fasting and praying (Matt. 6:1-18).
Amazingly, after Jesus fully exposes the sinfulness of every human heart, He proceeds to describe in beautiful detail the love and provision of God. Our holy Creator feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass of the field, and He does the same for us (Matt. 6:25-33).
Wait a second. I thought we were talking about sin?
Does it seem to you like Jesus is changing the subject? One minute He’s talking about the sinfulness of humanity, and the next He’s pointing us toward the grace and mercy of God. Did we miss a slide in His PowerPoint presentation? On the contrary, this abrupt transition is very deliberate and timely.
Our perceived righteousness is like filthy rags in the sight of God.
In the first part of His sermon, Jesus masterfully uses some of the most basic and seemingly easy Old Testament laws to demonstrate that we’re all “carnal, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14). Nobody in attendance had earned any gold stars for their attempted obedience — and neither have we. In fact, our perceived righteousness is “like filthy rags” in the sight of God (Isa. 64:6).
The primary function of the Law is to convince humanity that they fall desperately short of God’s holiness (Gal. 3:19; Rom. 7:7). That’s why Jesus didn’t start by talking about the birds of the air; instead, He started with the sin of the heart that makes mercy necessary. Only when we realize that we fall hopelessly short of God’s glory can we find the grace we so desperately need.
Feel up to a challenge? Consider memorizing the Sermon on the Mount! Scripture Memory Fellowship has a great program to help you learn every verse in 23 weeks. Click here to check it out.