“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)
"The Necessity of Community"
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20) This would have seemed impossible to Jesus’ hearers. The scribes and Pharisees were the most devout people anyone knew.
In saying this, is Jesus simply setting the bar so high that we will realize there is no way we achieve this righteousness on our own? Yes and no. It is true that we cannot merit God’s favor apart from God’s grace, but that’s not Jesus’s point. If Jesus was only “teasing” us (as Homer Simpson would say) with an unachievably high standard, we would have to look at all the instructions in the Sermon on the Mount and dismiss them all as unachievable.
Read through Matthew 5-7. The Sermon on the Mount is packed with incredibly practical teaching that resonates with ancient and modern readers alike. Do you think Jesus’s instructions are really only for a few super-spiritual people? No, that can’t be the answer.
The real reason we can’t achieve the “greater” righteousness alone is that it must be pursued in a community, with others. It is impossible to obey the Sermon on the Mount by ourselves!
The Pharisees didn’t get this, so they tithed scrupulously while not supporting their own destitute parents (Mark 7:9-13; see also Matthew 23:23-24). They didn’t understand that the greater purpose of the Law was to love God and neighbor.
What might this pitfall look like in a modern context? One of the greatest plagues on Western culture over the past several centuries is hyper-individualism. Perhaps you are tempted think that way to some degree – that the church is there for you when your tank needs topping off, but your Christian life is principally a private and individual thing. If that’s the case, then you may have rewritten the Lord’s Prayer – “give me this day my daily bread, and forgive me my debts as I have forgiven my debts to myself…”
God created us for community and through Jesus Christ redeems us into a community – the bride of Christ which Jesus loved and gave himself up for. (Ephesians 5:25-27) To love the Bridegroom (Jesus) is to love the Bride (The Church). To love the church, to participate fully in its life as God’s gift of a community to you, is to be the wise builder who builds upon the rock by listening to the words of Jesus. (Matthew 7:24)
How to pray...
- Pray for our Assistant Pastor, Joe White, as he provides leadership and vision for our small groups and their leaders.
- Pray for our small groups, that they would be a hospitable environment for community and spiritual growth.
- Pray for the small group leaders' huddle on September 10, and pray for all of our small group leaders.
- Pray that our church would be counter-cultural in our pursuit of loving community—that we would resist the temptation to fall into individualism.
- Pray for the many new families and individuals who are and will be attending LBC this fall. Pray that they might find LBC to be a community full of grace and truth. Pray for our next membership class, that we would see our church continue to grow.
For the Family
- What does it mean that the church is the bride of Christ?
- A church is more than a building. Talk about what it means to be part of a church as a Christian.
- Next time you go to the beach, build two castles: one made with sand and one with rocks. Pour a bucket of water over both castles. What happens? What does it mean to be a wise builder who builds on the rock?
Activity: Click HERE to print a church maze.
"The Necessity of Community" - Mike Glodo
Rev. Michael J. Glodo teaches Old and New Testament courses as well as courses in practical theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Oviedo, FL. The diversity of the courses Professor Glodo teaches reflects his diverse research and ministry interests. He is passionate about Old and New Testament studies and ministry philosophy, particularly regarding worship and liturgy. In addition to serving six years as the Stated Clerk for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, he also served in pastoral roles at churches in the St. Louis region. He and his wife, Vicki, have a daughter, Rachel, and son, Samuel.
"For the Family" - Michelle Crouse
Michelle Crouse has served as the director of LBC's children's ministry—SPLASH Kids—since the end of 2011. She and her husband Joshua were married in 2002 and have 2 children. Michelle grew up outside of Boston and graduated from James Madison University in Virginia with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She loves being with kids and loves the opportunity to be a part of teaching children how much they are loved by God, and helping them grow in their understanding of what that means.