Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds…

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. {Matthew 5:20 NKJV}

What is Jesus talking about when He says that the righteousness of a citizen of the kingdom must exceed the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees?

True righteousness is not only about how you act, but how you think. It is about a heart of righteousness and not just righteous acts:

  • “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” {Matthew 5:21-22 NKJV}
  • “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” {Matthew 5:27-28 NKJV}
  • “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all…But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” {Matthew 5:33-34, 37 NKJV}
  • “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” {Matthew 5:43-44 NKJV}

Another aspect of true righteousness is being righteous for the sake of serving and pleasing God, not being seen by men:

  • “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” {Matthew 6:1-2 NKJV}
  • “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who [is] in the secret [place]; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” {Matthew 6:5-6 NKJV}
  • “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who [is] in the secret [place]; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” {Matthew 6:17-18 NKJV}
  • “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.'” {Matthew 23:5-7 NKJV}

Another aspect of true righteousness is applying the same standard of judgment to yourself that you apply others:

  • “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank [is] in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” {Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV}
  • “Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, [that] observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay [them] on men’s shoulders; but they [themselves] will not move them with one of their fingers.” {Matthew 23:3-4 NKJV}

Does your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees?

Dan Fontenot
(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

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The Tongue Is A Fire, A World Of Iniquity

For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he [is] a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. [It is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh [water] and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. – James 3:2-12 NKJV

Let’s consider some things that James has to say about the tongue and speech throughout the book of James:

  • The mouth should be used to ask God for wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” {James 1:5-6 NKJV}
  • The mouth should not be used to blame God for our temptations: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” {James 1:13 NKJV}
  • Like anger, the mouth should be controlled and kept in check: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;” {James 1:19 NKJV}
  • “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion [is] useless.” {James 1:26 NKJV}
  • We must remember that we will be judged for what we say: “So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.” {James 2:12 NKJV}
  • Saying you have faith is not enough. Words must be accompanied with action: “What [does it] profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? … But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” {James 2:14, 18 NKJV}
  • Ability to control the tongue reflects a high level of self-control: “For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he [is] a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.” {James 3:2 NKJV}
  • The tongue, though small, can do a great deal of damage: “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” {James 3:5-6 NKJV}
  • The tongue is extremely difficult to control: “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. [It is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” {James 3:7-8 NKJV}
  • It is wrong to praise God and speak ugly to men: “With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh [water] and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.” {James 3:9-12 NKJV}
  • We often lack because we either fail to ask or ask out of selfish motives: “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend [it] on your pleasures.” {James 4:2-3 NKJV}
  • We should not boast in arrogance about the future without acknowledging God’s will: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what [will happen] tomorrow. For what [is] your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you [ought] to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” {James 4:13-16 NKJV}
  • “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” {James 5:9 NKJV}
  • We should speak with honesty and integrity: “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and [your] ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment.” {James 5:12 NKJV}
  • We should use our tongues for prayer and praise: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” {James 5:13 NKJV}
  • We should use our tongues to confess our sins and pray for one another: “Confess [your] trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” {James 5:16 NKJV}

As we examine ourselves and our relationship with God, let us make sure we examine how we use our mouths and whether we are glorifying God with our tongues.

Dan Fontenot
(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

Sin Is Lawlessness

“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” {1 John 3:4 NKJV}

“Sin” is a word we don’t hear in our society much anymore. We hear about whether or not an activity is “socially acceptable.” We hear whether it is “politically correct” or “sensitive” to someone else’s feelings.

What’s odd to me is that people understand the concept of something being legal in our society. Those who ignore the law or violate the law are sometimes referred to as “outlaws” because of their disregard for the law.

However, violations of God’s laws are far more serious because of the eternal consequences. Consider God’s very clear warnings:

  • “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” {Romans 1:18,32 NKJV}
  • “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”  {1 Corinthians 6:9 NKJV}
  • “…I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” {Galatians 5:21 NKJV}
  • “…shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” {Revelation 21:8 NKJV}

But, what are these things that are so are deserving of such a strict punishment? Only murder? Only the deepest, darkest of evil?

  • “…Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; [they are] whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;…” {Romans 1:24-31 NKJV}
  • “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” {1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV}
  • “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told [you] in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. {Galatians 5:19-21 NKJV}
  • “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” {Revelation 21:8 NKJV}

Many people, even Christians, are surprised to learn that these condemnations exist in the New Testament. Mostly because they have never heard these passages read from the pulpit or lectern even though they are clearly part of God’s inspired message to His people. And, many have never taken the time to read God’s word for themselves.

God’s law is not changed by what is socially acceptable, politically correct, or what laws are passed in any country.

Will you be lawless outlaw? Or will you abide by the inspired law of God?

Dan Fontenot

(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

I Thank My God Always Concerning You

“I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, [that you may be] blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” {1 Corinthians 1:4-9 NKJV}

In this passage, Paul expresses his thankfulness for the brethren in Corinth. This is not an unusual sentiment for the apostle:

  • “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” {Romans 1:8 NKJV}
  • “Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:” {Ephesians 1:15-16 NKJV}
  • “We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints;” {Colossians 1:3-4 NKJV}

Paul’s thankfulness for the Corinthian brethren was not unique to those brethren. However, it may surprise some to hear Paul’s thankfulness for these brethren considering some other things Paul had to say about this church:

  • They were divided and contentious: “For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s [household], that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ.'” {1 Corinthians 1:11-12 NKJV}
  • They were spiritually immature: “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual [people] but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able [to receive it], and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where [there are] envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like [mere] men?” {1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NKJV}
  • They were arrogant: “Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power.” {1 Corinthians 4:18-19 NKJV}
  • They were tolerating sexual immorality in the church: “It is actually reported [that there is] sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles–that a man has his father’s wife!” {1 Corinthians 5:1 NKJV}
  • They were taking each other to law: “But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!” {1 Corinthians 6:6 NKJV}

So, how could Paul be still be thankful for these brethren? The keys are in the text we started with:

  • “The grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus”
  • “The testimony of Christ was confirmed in you”
  • “That you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”
  • “You were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ.”

Paul was thankful for the shared relationship in Christ. It was not about his brethren being perfect, but about them being fellow heirs in Christ. His desire for them was that they would reach their full potential in Christ.

Are we only thankful for brethren with whom we share common interests or with whom see as spiritually strong and mature? We should be thankful for all of our brethren and pray for them to reach their spiritual potential in Christ!

Dan Fontenot
(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)