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A Stricter Standard

The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
–Galatians 3:24

In Luke 10:25, a lawyer tried to trap Jesus into blaspheming. He asked, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (v. 26). In other words, “You know the law backward and forward. What do you have to do if that is the way you want to be saved?” So the lawyer answered Him by quoting from two different passages in the Old Testament. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (v. 27). He was saying, “Those are the two greatest commandments.”

Jesus said, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live” (v. 28). Now, had the lawyer been sincere, he would have hung his head and said, “But Jesus, I have not loved God with all my heart. I have allowed other things to take His place in my life. And I have not loved other people like I ought to love them. I have allowed my own self-interest to eclipse their needs. What am I to do?” Had he said that to Jesus, I believe Jesus would never have told the story of the good Samaritan. Instead, Jesus would have told a story to show how we can have eternal life even when we fall short of God’s plan.

But that was not how the lawyer responded. Verse 29 says, “Wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” I had a friend in the first church I pastored who was a pole-vaulter. He told me there are two ways to win at pole-vaulting: jump higher or lower the bar. It is the same way with trying to keep the law to get into heaven: you can either jump high enough to reach God’s standard, or you can lower the requirements. That is what the lawyer was trying to do here. He thought if he could redefine “neighbor” in such a way that he could keep that commandment, then he would be good enough to make it into heaven.

But Jesus did not restrict God’s law; He expanded it. In fact, Jesus’s standard for righteousness was more strict than the Old Testament. In Matthew 7, He said to hate somebody is to be guilty of murder, and to look on another person with lust is the same as committing adultery. Jesus was revealing the true heart of God. God demands absolute perfection not only in our outward actions but in our hearts. You say, “Pastor, who can meet that kind of standard?” That is the point! No one can. And that is why Christ came to die for us. He paid the price for our sin so that when we stand before God, we stand wrapped not in our own goodness but in the righteousness of Jesus.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Stranger In Need Meets A Neighbor In Deed” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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