In our Sunday School classes at Southern Calvert Baptist Church, we are finishing up our study on Exodus and Leviticus. We have learned some great lessons about the calling that God gives to each person and how we need to respond to God’s calling. We have also learned about what life is supposed to be like when we are part of the family of God. This coming Sunday, we are going to learn about teachings for daily living. Leviticus 17-27 is a series of teachings about daily living. I want to compare Leviticus 17-27 with what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel of Matthew 5. I want to divide the passage into 5 sins, give Jesus’ explanation, and then the solution that He offers to us.
Jesus is speaking to a very religious crowd. They expected that if they continued to obey their spiritual leaders, by way of birth and good works, they would earn heaven one day. His goal is to get the people to repent. That means that they would see reality as it is and not their illusions of reality. In doing so, their minds would be changed, they would place their trust in Christ as the Messiah, and that they would follow Him to eternal life in heaven. In order to get the people to see reality, Jesus addresses several sins that dominate our daily lives, even though upon hearing them, the audience claimed not to practice them.
The first sin that Jesus addresses is murder. The crowd had been taught not to murder. Most people do not murder because they are afraid of getting caught. On the other hand, they play out murder fantasies in their minds when they are controlled by anger. They also commit murder by cutting people to pieces with their words. Jesus points out that being controlled by anger, playing murder fantasies out in your mind, and cutting people to pieces, in the eyes of God, is the same as taking a knife and plunging it into a person’s heart. Jesus does offer a solution to the problem. First, you have to be aware that your sin nature desires to be controlled by anger and cause you to act out of anger. You must not let anger control you. You must not allow yourself to act out of anger. Be careful what you say when you are angry. Make sure that those words do not cut others to pieces. If you have acted out of anger and harmed someone, either with words or actions, go to that person and ask for forgiveness. Confess what you did. Do not try to shift the blame to others or justify your actions. Agree that you did it and that it was wrong. If someone else acts out against you in anger, seek to confront that person, in love and humility, and then extend forgiveness to that person. This will transform your relationships with the people around you. How are you doing in your battle with anger? Do you play out murder fantasies in your mind? Do you cut people to pieces with your words? Are there any relationships that need to be restored? What are you going to do about them?
II. Sexual Sin
The next major sin that dominates our daily lives is sexual sin. We are constantly bombarded with adds and images. Our sin nature is enticed by sex, especially sex outside of the confines of marriage. Jesus deals with sexual sin in the form of adultery, which goes hand in hand with divorce. Again, the people in the crowd would never commit adultery because of the fact that they might get caught. They had no problem lusting after others left and right because no body could see that. Jesus reveals the truth to them that if they are doing it in their minds, God sees and He equates lust in the heart with the act of adultery. Jesus uses the blanket word “adultery” to cover all sexual sins. In Leviticus 18, God gets very specific about sexual sin. He let’s the children of Israel know that the Egyptians practiced these sexual sins, the country that they just left, and that the people of the land of Canaan, the land they were going to possess, also practiced all of these sexual sins.
- blood relatives
- Abortion – they practiced abortion by sacrificing the unwanted children who came out of sexual sin to the pagan god Molech.
Jesus’ solution is to take extreme measures to avoid sexual sin. If the internet causes you to stumble, do away with it. If there is a person at your job who is going to cause you to commit sexual sin, ask to be moved to a different department or, in a worse case scenario, leave your job. Is your marriage worth a job? Is your eternal outcome worth the comfort of internet in the home? How are you doing in your daily battle with lust? Do you have an accountability partner in whom you can confide and who can help you in your time of need?
III. False Vows
This does not seem like much of a problem until you realize the implications of it. The idea of making a vow is the equivalent off adding “I promise” to something that you say that you will do or not do. The reason that we have to add “I promise” is because your word is not enough. Some where along the way, you have said something and not done it. Or, you have said that you would not do something and then you did it. God always keeps His Word. When He says yes, He does it. When He says no, He does not do it. We are to be people of our word. Our yes is always yes and our no is always no. Our word is better than a promise. Are you a person who keeps his word, always? If not, you need to repent, confess your sin, ask God for forgiveness, and be aware moving forward that you need to keep your word at all times.
Revenge in itself is not a sin. Taking your own revenge is a sin. God is the Judge and He will enact revenge at the right time, in His time. We are taught “an eye for an eye” which actually means do not do any worse to them than what they did to you. This is a law to keep people civil because of our bestial nature. Jesus takes it one step further and teaches that we are not to take revenge. Instead, we are to show mercy and grace to those who sin against us. Mercy means that we do not give them what they actually deserve, revenge. Grace means that we give them something that they do not deserve. We are to pray for those who sin against us and we are to seek to serve them when we are able. How do you treat those who sin against you? Do you seek revenge? Do you pray for them until, in your heart, you are ready to serve them?
The audience of Jesus’ message would have been familiar with the idea of loving God and loving your neighbor. On the other hand, there was another common teaching that you could hate your enemy. That comes natural to us because of our sin nature. Jesus teaches to love our enemies and we are to demonstrate that love by praying for them and we are to pray for them until we have a desire to serve them. It is hard to pray for someone and then hate them at the same time. How do you treat those who are your enemies? Do you pray for them? Do you seek to serve them?
The final teaching that Jesus gives ties all of this together. It is an often misunderstood verse in the Bible.
48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5)
Perfect does not mean without blame or fault. It does not mean complete. Perfect could be translated “mature”. God is complete and we are to be in the process of becoming complete. This process is called maturity. It is like a child. It is natural for a child to act selfishly like children do. But, as the child grows physically, he or she also matures emotionally and mentally. There is a change from being selfish to being considerate of others. The same thing is true spiritually. In the above mentioned areas, none of us is complete. We all struggle with them daily. We are aware of it and by the grace of God, we get better at handling the temptation that each one of these sins brings with it to captivate us. Are you maturing in your battle with the 5 sins mentioned above?
May the Lord help us lean on Him and depend on His help in our battle with anger, sexual sin, not keeping our word, taking revenge, and hate.