“You have heard that it was said to people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause will be subject to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ will have to answer to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of hell fire. . . You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery, but I tell you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28 – EHV)
What’s more important – our actions or our hearts? Does God want our actions which means doing the right things the right ways, or does God want our hearts which means doing whatever we do for the right reason?
In Jesus’ day as in our day, too many people (ourselves sometimes included) think God is more concerned about our actions and we think we have passed Jesus’ test by being more than good enough. It is easy to think that we know the 10 Commandments. We know what we are to do and not do -- don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t hate others, and we think as long as do our best, that’s what God wants.
I think in today’s world the temptation has tilted to the other extreme where people think God is only concerned about our hearts. They reason that God doesn’t care if we sleep with someone before we are married – as long as we love them. It doesn’t matter if we get divorced, as long as we’re convinced it’s the right thing for the kids. A little white lie isn’t harmful – as long as I’m telling it for a good reason. And God understands if I speak words to tear into someone – after all, just look at how much they hurt me. God doesn’t worry about our actions, it’s all about our heart.
By now I think most of us realize that Jesus isn’t just talking about murder or divorce – what we would call “big” sins. Jesus is also talking about sins that are so effortless and easy we might not even realize we’re doing them – replacing God’s demands for holiness with our standards of rightness. I’ve never killed anyone, I’ve never slept with someone out of wedlock. Check, check. And even if I’ve done those things, I’ve done them with a heart that I think God will understand – I only hated my enemies, slept with people I loved or lied when it made sense. Check, check, check.
What does God want – our actions or our hearts? That is really the wrong question to ask. God wants holiness and perfection. Is there a week, a day, an hour – a minute! – that’s gone by when we haven’t fallen into the sins that God says puts us all in the danger of the fires of hell? Every day we can and should say, “Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth. In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child”? Our thoughts, our actions, our hearts have not done what God demands, and God says that earns every one of us hell.
What truly matters is a repentant heart that has been led to see its sin – in both its actions and at its very core in our hearts -- and humbly lays everything before God and his perfect and unending mercy. I pray as we read and reread these words of Jesus, we see even more why we need the grace of God that has covered all of the sins of our thoughts, our words and our actions. Our best is not anywhere near perfect. On the other hand, Jesus’ perfect life and perfect death is more than perfect – it is our eternal salvation.
Pastor Mark Gartner
Bible Information Class
We are looking to start a new Bible Information Class (BIC), otherwise known as an Adult Instruction Class. We highly encourage our members to attend as a simple review of the Christian faith—or better yet, invite someone new and come with them! If you are interested in attending or know someone who may be, please speak to Pastor Frey.
Starting last weekend, we began topics for our Bible Studies. We pray that you join us as we grow together in the grace and knowledge of God and his Holy Word!
On Sunday mornings, Pastor Frey will be leading a study on the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther—three books, written at an interesting point in the history of God’s people—and yet three books we probably don’t know much about.
On Monday mornings and Tuesday evenings Pastor Gartner will be leading a study on the distinction between law and gospel. Knowing the difference between these two main teachings of the Bible is of the up-most importance. And yet, knowing when and how to apply these two teachings is something that no one can completely master this side of heaven. This study will more assuredly be a great benefit for all who attend.
NOTE: We do have audio recordings and the Lesson Sheets of each of these Bible Classes. If you have been unable to attend and would like these sent to you, please email Pastor Frey or Pastor Gartner. Right now we send recordings each week to about a dozen people.
Ash Wednesday is just around the corner—on February 26th! We will once again be having our midweek Lenten service at 10:30am and 6:30pm. Light refreshments will be served before and after our morning service, while Lenten meals will be served starting at 5:30 before our evening service. Please sign-up on the sheets in the entryway if you are interested in attending the meal each week. Please also note that confirmation class during the Lenten season will be held from 5:00-6:00.
This year our theme is: “The Son of God Goes Forth to War.” When many people picture Jesus they see him as a Gentle Shepherd, a patient teacher, or on his heavenly throne in his full glory. This Lenten season we will be taking a look at Jesus’ role as a warrior. He is the one who was greatly opposed but ultimately won the victory over our greatest enemies.
Roller Skating at Skate City
Plan to join fellow members of St. John and their guests for an evening of roller skating/blading on Sunday, March 15th from 4:30-6:30 pm at Skate City in Kimberly. The cost is $6.00 per person including skates. To reserve the rink, a minimum of 60 people need to attend. Sign up today; a sheet is on the counter in the entryway.