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Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Matthe 5:21-3! "oman# 3:23
This week Shaun White, the red-headed American Olympic snowboarder who has earned a gold medals in each of the last two Olympic Games, wiped out on his first run on the half-pipe and ended up fourth in the competition. The man who e eryone thought was practically guaranteed to bring home a medal for the !nited States fell short of his goal and the e"pectations of almost e eryone. This week we also heard the stories of se eral other Olympians who dedicated years of their li es to their sport, fought their way onto their nations# Olympic teams, tra elled to Sochi, participated in the opening ceremonies, and then were in$ured in practice and were unable to e en compete in the actual competition. %any others will compete and do the ery best they can, and still not stand on the podium to recei e a medal. &t is heartbreaking to watch as these talented young people come so far and then fall short but we understand that not e eryone can be the best. 'ot e eryone gets Olympic gold. (ut we often fall short in other things. We fall short of our goals, we fall short of our e"pectations, and we fall short of the e"pectations of others. These things can be a problem but we ha e bigger problems when we fall short of the goals and e"pectations that our employer has for us or when the pro$ects we work on are behind schedule and o er budget. We worry about these things because sometimes they can cost us our $obs. (ut what happens when we fall short of $o%&# e"pectations) Simply, falling short of God#s best is called sin. &n both Greek and *ebrew the word that is used for sin comes from what is now the sport of archery. When using a bow and arrow to shoot at a target, any shot that does not hit the bull#s-eye is a shot that +misses the mark., That shot, the attempt that +misses the mark,, is the word that translates into -nglish as +sin., Almost, but not .uite. /aul said that +all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God., '"oman# 3:23( &t doesn#t take much to see how /aul#s description draws from that same definition of missing the mark. An arrow that doesn#t make it all the way to the target not only misses the mark but also falls short. Too often we con ince oursel es that sin is something that we set out to do as if we were e"pert marksmen and we would take deliberate effort to miss the target, but as we read scripture we disco er that in our efforts to follow God, we are not gold medal winning, target shooters. Our attempts to follow God and to obey his commands are often similar to those of rank amateurs and missing the mark is all too easy. We begin this morning in Deuteronomy 30:15-20, where God reminds his people that they ha e choice. They can choose whether to follow him, or not, but there are conse.uences to that choice, one way or the other.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to al! in obedience to him, and to !eep his commands, decrees and la s" then you ill live and increase, and the Lord your God ill bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
$ut if your heart turns a ay and you are not obedient, and if you are dra n a ay to bo do n to other gods and orship them, 1% I declare to you this day that you ill certainly be destroyed. &ou ill not live long in the land you are crossing the 'ordan to enter and possess.
)his day I call the heavens and the earth as itnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. *o choose life, so that you and your children may live +, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he ill give you many years in the land he s ore to give to your fathers, -braham, Isaac and 'acob. When we choose whether or not to follow God it is serious business, we are literally choosing between life and death. &f we choose to follow God and to obey his commands God promises to gi e us eternal life as well as blessings in this life. (ut a choice to follow other gods or a choice to turn away from God means that God will not bless us. The choice to turn away from God means that we will die. (ut following God is not an easy thing to do. Too many people ha e con inced themsel es that following God is something that can be done part-time or halfheartedly. &t can#t. As we# e been reading the Sermon on the %ount, we ha e seen that 1esus was serious about God#s people walking the walk and actually li ing like they belie ed. (ut as we continue, 1esus raises the bar e en further. As 1esus describes obedience, his followers, then and now, disco er that getting it right is going to be a lot harder than we thought. &n fact, in a world where the /harisees had built an entire system of rules and regulations around trying to be perfect, 1esus completely destroys the possibility of our achie ing perfection. &n this teaching, 1esus lays out rules so strict that most of us ha e little hope of e er getting it right. &n fact, he repeatedly makes the point that e en those who thought they were doing a pretty good $ob, are really falling far short of the target. 'Matthe 5:21-3!(
.&ou have heard that it as said to the people long ago, /&ou shall not murder, and anyone ho murders ill be sub0ect to 0udgment.1 ++ $ut I tell you that anyone ho is angry ith a brother or sister ill be sub0ect to 0udgment. -gain, anyone ho says to a brother or sister, /2aca,1 is ans erable to the court. -nd anyone ho says, /&ou fool31 ill be in danger of the fire of hell.
.)herefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, +5 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them" then come and offer your gift.
.Settle matters 6uic!ly ith your adversary ho is ta!ing you to court. 7o it hile you are still together on the ay, or your adversary may hand you over to the 0udge, and the 0udge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thro n into prison. +6 )ruly I tell you, you ill not get out until you have paid the last penny.
.&ou have heard that it as said, /&ou shall not commit adultery.1 +% $ut I tell you that anyone ho loo!s at a oman lustfully has already committed adultery ith her in his heart. +( If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and thro it a ay. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your hole body to be thro n into hell. 4, -nd if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and thro it a ay. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your hole body to go into hell.
.It has been said, /-nyone ho divorces his ife must give her a certificate of divorce.1 4+ $ut I tell you that anyone ho divorces his ife, e8cept for se8ual immorality, ma!es her the victim of adultery, and anyone ho marries a divorced oman commits adultery.
.-gain, you have heard that it as said to the people long ago, /7o not brea! your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vo s you have made.1 45 $ut I tell you, do not s ear an oath at all9 either by heaven, for it is God1s throne" 45 or by the earth, for it is his footstool" or by 'erusalem, for it is the city of the Great :ing. 46 -nd do not s ear by your head, for you cannot ma!e even one hair hite or blac!. 4# -ll you need to say is simply /&es1 or /*o1" anything beyond this comes from the evil one. With each line of 1esus# message the chances of us +getting it right, get slimmer. The way that 1esus describes it, being a follower of God is almost completely impossible. *e starts with the one thing that most of us thought for sure we could do. )ot kill someone. Short of going to war or defending our li es, we thought we weren#t murderers, but 1esus says that if we were e er angry, we are guilty of murder. 3ikes4 That raises the bar so far that our situation went from good to hopeless. 1esus says that .anyone ho says to a brother or sister, /2aca,1 is ans erable to the court.; +5aca, is a word that means, +-mpty head,, stupid, or idiot. So if we e er said that, someone was stupid, or empty-headed, or a fool, we ha e fallen short and are guilty of sin. 'e"t 1esus goes after our relationships. This was already harder to do than not murdering someone, but still there are .uite a few people who managed to sa e themsel es for marriage and stay faithful to one person. (ut 1esus says that this isn#t good enough either. &f you e en look at a person of the opposite se" lustfully, you ha e committed adultery. /ick up a copy of /layboy) 3ou#re done. Sport &llustrated Swimsuit issue) 6one. Surf to the seedier parts of the &nternet) 6one. 7et your mind wander while watching some of the half dressed men and women on tele ision) 6one. This teaching takes something that was difficult, but still achie able, and instead makes it almost impossible. Then, if you thought you might be spared an accusation of adultery by being married, 1esus does the same thing for marriage. &n 1esus# world di orce was common and some 5abbi#s argued that the only reason a man needed for di orcing his wife was for her to burn his breakfast. &f di orce was easy, then it is reasonable to think that many people had been di orced or had married someone who was di orced. 1esus essentially says that any di orce or remarriage misses the mark and results in sin. & want to be clear. 1esus isn#t singling out or beating up on di orced people here. &nstead 1esus lifts up a lit of beha iors that were common and accepted in his society, many times e en by the /harisees who thought they were perfect, and completely resets the standard. And still it gets worse. 1esus says that if you swear, not to cuss, but to make a point, you miss the mark. Any time you swear to God, or swear on a stack of (ibles, or swear on your life, or on your mother#s life, or +on my honor,, or swear in court to +tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, with your hand on a (ible, we fall short. &nstead of swearing that we are telling the truth, 1esus simply declares that we should tell the truth8 all the time8 without fail. That#s8 har%. 1esus says that God#s standards are so high that no matter what we do, walking the walk perfectly is totally out of reach. We can try as hard as we can, and that#s good, but despite our best efforts we are going to fall short. We are going to miss the mark. 6espite our best efforts, we all sin.
That#s why /aul said that +all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God., '"oman# 3:23( What we need isn#t perfection. We can#t get the gold medal by trying $ust a little harder. 1esus# point is simply that God#s standards are impossibly high. We can#t possibly be good enough. - er. We can#t possibly be good enough8 on our own or in our own strength. 1esus point is that e can#t be good enough. Our situation is hopeless. We *an&t be good enough. Our only hope is in God#s mercy. Our only hope is for a redeemer, a rescuer. Our only hope is through the forgi eness made a ailable through 1esus# death and resurrection. What we need isn#t perfection. What we nee% is 1esus.
3ou ha e been reading a message presented at Trinity !nited %ethodist ;hurch on the date noted at the top of the first page. 5e . 1ohn /artridge is the pastor at Trinity of /erry heights in %assillon, Ohio. 6uplication of this message is a part of our %edia ministry, if you ha e recei ed a blessing in this way, we would lo e to hear from you. 7etters and donations in support of the %edia ministry or any of our other pro$ects may be sent to Trinity !nited %ethodist ;hurch, 9<=< 7incoln Way -., %assillon, Ohio ::>:>. These messages are a ailable to any interested persons regardless of membership. 3ou may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at subscribe?trinityperryheights.org. &f you ha e .uestions, you can ask them in our discussion forum on @acebook Asearch for /astor 1ohn OnlineB. These messages can also be found online at httpCDDwww.scribd.comD/astor 1ohn /artridge. All Scripture references are from the 'ew &nternational Eersion unless otherwise noted.
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