"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. …Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matt. 5:17, 19, 20.
A story was told recently (sadly, a true one) of a woman who attends a huge "mega-church" each Sunday morning. She started attending a while back, and is involved in some of their groups and programs and even puts $100 in the offering plate each week. However, each Monday, she returns to her weekday routine of selfishness, heavy drinking, and dating a married man.
Then, each Sunday, she returns to the mega-church and hears that she was already "forgiven" for her continuing vile behavior when she was baptized a while back. Further, she's told that she's GUARANTEED eternal life with God, even if she continues to sin!
Clearly, something is wrong with this message, and it's not just in her interpretation. She has in fact taken away a very different Gospel than the one Jesus taught.
So what's going on here?
The "Law" of which Jesus spoke was of course the Moral Law of the Hebrew Bible, summarized by the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Jesus never abolished God's moral Laws.
In this passage, Jesus tells us that if ANYONE relaxes these Laws, or teaches that they should be relaxed, then they will be called "least" in God's heavenly kingdom. (Even if it's her minister who tells her that "Good Works" are not necessary for salvation.)
Jesus goes on to say that our Righteous behavior must be greater than that of the Pharisees. Here, he directly links our behavior with our future entry into Heaven. Salvation is not automatic. We cannot force God to give us eternal life by attending church services or by saying a simple prayer.
Jesus clearly calls on us to repent (feel sorry for) our behavior, and to stop sinning (Matt. 4:17.) We are challenged by Jesus to become perfectly mature in our actions (Matt. 5:48) and it is by our active obedience that we will be judged worthy of entry into eternal life (Mark 19:17.)
Those who follow Jesus must walk through the "Narrow Gate" of Righteousness (Matt. 7:13-14) and we cannot rely on any others' actions or righteousness - we will be accountable for our own actions (Matt. 16:27; Mark 10:38.)
We must do what Jesus commands, and count ourselves as his friends only if we obey him (John 15:14) his words will not disappear (Matt. 24:35) and our lives will be built on a solid foundation if we obey his teachings (Luke 6:47.)
Jesus challenges us to act in accordance with God's Ideal Law for our lives, and tells us that when we fall short, God forgives us if we are trusting in God and seeking to live according to His Will.
This woman's church probably doesn't teach these important teachings of Jesus, but it should! We should be careful to follow God's Laws, as Jesus revealed them through his life, ministry and death.