How serious is it for us to faithfully keep the commandments of God? For the Children of Israel it was a matter of life and death. Before they entered the promised land, Moses gave them this warning:
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. (Deuteronomy 30:15-18)
This is the God of the Old Testament we might be thinking. Surely the God of the New Testament would not sound so severe? Let us examine some of the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount contained in today’s Gospel:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:27-30)
Does Jesus sound any less severe? Sin and death or righteousness and life. We have a choice. We can choose one or the other. Our choice is all important.
If we have to rely only on our human nature then we are lost. The Apostle Paul warned:
Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. (1 Corinthians 3:1-2)
Our human nature often does not want solid food. That was true for the Church in Corinth. They were caught up in jealousy and quarreling. Paul continues:
For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
The Church in Corinth had gotten off track. They were arguing over who was the true apostle. Do we not argue over which church is the true church? Let us concern ourselves over who can give the growth. God will do his part to help us, but we must do our part. We must seek him above all else. He has given his Son Jesus to wipe away our sins and the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. A part from him we can do nothing good.
God warns the Israelites and all of us by his word given through Moses:
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
We cannot choose life without seeking the God of life. We must seek his word daily. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask: “Give us this day our daily prayer.” Jesus said:
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
The psalmist wrItes:
With my whole heart I seek you;
do not let me stray from your commandments.
I treasure your word in my heart,
so that I may not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes.
With my lips I declare
all the ordinances of your mouth.
I delight in the way of your decrees
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts,
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word. (Psalm 119:10-16
We must seek the aid of the Holy Spirit as well. The Apostle Paul writes;
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:2-6)
Worldly people do not struggle with sin, only the disciples of Jesus Christ. He is at our side to help us. Let us choose life!
Happy are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
Happy are they who observe his decrees
and seek him with all their hearts! (Psalm 119:1-2)