Small Group Lesson:
Read Romans 7:15, 18-19
Can you relate to what the Apostle Paul wrote about his experience trying to live according to God's Law?
When confronted with our inability to keep God's Law we can be tempted to relax God's laws to make them easier to obey. This is what some religious leaders in Jesus’ day did.
Read Matthew 5:17-20
|Murder (5:21-26)||Command||Restrict to action only||Extend to thoughts|
Restrict to action only
|Extend to thoughts|
|Divorce (5:31-32)||Permission||Extend for nearly any cause||Restrict to adultery|
|Oaths (5:33-37)||Command||Restrict only certain promises||Extend to yes/no|
|Retaliation (5:38-42)||Permission||Extend to “just causes”||Restrict to nothing|
|Love (5:43-48)||Command||Restrict to neighbors||Extend to enemies|
Jesus taught that the heart and true fulfillment of God's law is to love God and to love people. The Pharisees' version of the law was an easier law to keep because it restricted the law to external regulations. Jesus' commands are more difficult because he extended the law to include our hearts.
Look at the six examples that Jesus addresses in Matthew 5. Give an example of how you tend to relax God's Law. What does God's Law require of you at a heart level?
Mysteriously, though God's desire for us is to perfectly keep his Law, he knows that we on our own are totally incapable. Inability to keep God's Law drives us toward Christ. The Gospel is that Jesus fulfilled God's Law for us and his perfect obedience is applied to us when we believe in Christ.
Fleshly responses to the Law. When we are not focused on the gospel we tend to react to God's Law and our inability to obey in these ways:
- Relax God's Law so it can be kept.
- Judge others so that you will feel better about your lack of obedience.
- Take pride in what laws you are able to obey.
- Choose to feel depressed, hopeless, or angry.
Gospel-focused responses to the Law. When we trust in Christ and his gospel we tend to react to God's Law and our inability to obey in these ways:
- Humbly seek God's grace and mercy.
- Trust in Jesus' perfect obedience on our behalf.
- Hunger and thirst for righteousness.
- Seek to be transformed from the inside out by the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
(Interestingly, these gospel-focused responses above resemble the characteristics in Matthew 5:3-12.)
Which of the above fleshly responses are you prone to? Which of the above gospel-focused responses do you need to see more of in your life? The solution is to further trust in the gospel of Jesus!
Because the problem of disobedience exists in our hearts, God promised to change our hearts (Ezekiel 36:25-27). God changes us now through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, and we have the good hope that this transformation will one day be complete in heaven (Philippians 1:6).
Can you imagine life without sin and temptation? What will that be like?