Monday, May 7, 2018

Going the Distance - Martin Wiles

What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. Matthew 23:23 NLT
I thought I had gone the distance . . . but I was nowhere close.
For the past five years, I have been walking a route around our subdivision that I assumed was two miles. Since I could once walk two miles in thirty minutes, I gauged my distance by time.
In the old days, I used the odometer on my car to measure distance. But I couldn’t drive this walking route. Then I remembered my Fitbit had a distance measurement function. All I had to do was walk until it showed I had walked two miles.
After looking at my Fitbit, I walked my normal route. Although I assumed I had been walking two miles, I discovered I had only walked one and a half. Disappointment. So I added what laps I needed to get the two miles. And I was amazed at how tired I was. Going the distance was more tiring than I had remembered. Of course, I’m almost twenty years older than when I walked two miles in thirty minutes.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day thought they were going the distance too, but Jesus burst their bubble. They knew the laws backward and forward. They even added hundreds just to make sure they were going the distance. A distance that allowed them to judge others unjustly, that made them appear holy. But a distance that incurred Jesus’ rebuke. They were good at obeying the laws but terrible at experiencing the distance of grace.
Legalists is what we’d call the religious leaders. Obeying the law of resting on the Sabbath wasn’t good enough for them. They had to establish how far one could or could not walk—as well as other meticulous things a person could or couldn’t do.
But going the distance isn’t about reaching some legalistic plateau. It’s about grace. Jesus fulfilled the law, and when I accept what He has done on my behalf I fulfill the law as well. Legalism leads to pride, manipulation, and a sense of false identity. Grace results in love, kindness, and humility.
While Jesus expects us to obey His commands, He wants us to go the distance because we love Him and appreciate what He’s done on our behalf. And not just so we can say we’ve reached the two-mile mark.
Obey God out of love and appreciation—not a sense of duty.

Prayer: Father, allow the reality of Your grace to overwhelm us so our obedience to You comes from love. 

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