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The Upside-Down Kingdom

Manipulation On The Lips

Rev. Philip Miller | February 27, 2022

Selected highlights from this sermon

Swearing to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” in a court of law is a big deal. But what about swearing in the context of our everyday relationships? Swearing oaths of all sizes and shapes is such a big deal that Jesus talks about it in the Sermon on the Mount.

Why do we do these things? In this message, Pastor Miller explains the motivations behind why we use oaths, then unravels what Jesus meant when He said: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

A few weeks ago my daughter, Violet, came up to me and she had a little bit of concern etched across her face and she was worried about her eyes. She had started to notice that objects at distance were fuzzy at points, and she wasn’t sure what was going on. So we made an eye exam appointment and we were fully expecting that since Krista and I are both nearsighted that was probably what the issue was. So we go through all the tests that they normally do. Boy, that’s stressful, isn’t it? A or B? A or B? It’s like, “I don’t know!”

Anyway, all those tests, and it turns out she didn’t have any problems with her vision at distance. She was one-hundred percent. It was working. We’re like, “What’s going on?” And so it turns out what the issue was is that she has a... your eyes have a focusing system, and when you’re working up close and doing lots of reading and school work and that sort of thing, your eyes can get strained, and then when they try to focus at distance they have trouble dialing it in. They get tired and so what we needed actually was a prescription. She got this mild prescription for the glasses, and it turns out it’s all about up-close work in order to help her then have the energy in the focusing system to focus at distance. So that’s the prescription that she got. 

Now, why do I bring that up? Well, it’s one thing to understand the symptoms. It’s another to get the diagnosis right. Right? And the key to the effectiveness of the prescription is the accuracy of the diagnosis. And this is what Jesus is doing in the Sermon on the Mount. He’s operating like a doctor. And the symptoms in this world of the brokenness of humanity are obvious, aren’t they? Murder, rage, violence, cheating, adultery, infidelity, broken marriages and promises in homes… There are so many more than that but I list these because these are the topics that Jesus has already been engaged with, and the symptoms of all the brokenness of humanity are obvious in this world, aren’t they? I mean, everyone can agree those are the things that are wrong.

The diagnosis is harder. That’s the difficult part. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day (the scribes and the Pharisees) diagnosed the problem with humanity as largely behavioral. “The problem is we have bad sinful habits, and the key is we need to break those habits and replace them with new habits to do good.” So they prescribed; the prescription fits the diagnosis. They prescribed a long list of dos and don’ts all in the service of reforming behavior to make people good. This is what most religion attempts to do. Here’s a list of rules. Now you go keep them. Work really, really hard at being really, really good by keeping all of the rules that God expects, but Jesus has a totally different diagnosis here.

Jesus is showing us in the Sermon on the Mount that the problem is not just out there in our behavior and our habits. It’s actually in our hearts. It’s on the inside, that our behavior is symptomatic; it flows from our hearts, that murder flows from anger in our heart, that adultery flows from lust in our hearts, that divorce flows from hardness in our hearts.

So we can modify all our behavior, all day long, all we want, but unless we deal with the problems in our hearts, and our hearts are transformed on the inside, we’re never going to be truly right. We’re never going to be the people that God wants us to be. And so Jesus’ prescription is different than the Pharisees’. Jesus’ prescription is “You need a new heart. I need a new heart.”

“Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” “Repent, follow Me, come to Me and I will give you a new heart, a new abundant life in the kingdom of heaven. By My Spirit, and My power and presence, I will take your heart of stone, and I will change it into a heart of flesh and tenderness.”

He’s giving us a series of illustrations of what that kind of heart actually looks like. This is what we’ve looked at the last few weeks. “I can take your heart of anger and bitterness and I can turn it into something full of peace and reconciliation. I can take your heart that is captivated by lust and I will turn it into one of self-giving love and loyalty. I can take your heart that is hard and prone to divorce and breaking your promises and I can make you tender and faithful, full of mercy on the inside.” And today we come to a fourth illustration of this kind of heart, the heart that Jesus can give us, and it’s a heart that Jesus says doesn’t swear oaths, but simply says “yes” and “no.”

Now I don’t know about you, but when I read this I’m like, “Wait a minute. That feels like an abrupt shift. I mean these are clearly moral issues, all this stuff, and now we’re taking oaths? I don’t even have a problem with this. Right? Hold on. What’s going on? This is weird. Is it just me? Do you also feel like this is a weird shift? Well, let’s look at it. Let’s see what Jesus is doing here. Let’s dig in.

Matthew 5:33–37. It’s on page 810 in the pew Bible there by your knees if you want to use that. Page 810. Matthew 5:33 down to 37. Let’s read these verses. I’ll give you kind of our outline for this morning and we’ll pray and jump in. Okay?

Matthew 5:33, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, or it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.” (chuckles) (Some of us have tried.)

Verse 37, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

So let’s let Jesus be our doctor this morning. Shall we? Let’s look at The Symptoms, The Diagnosis, and The Prescription of Doctor Jesus. Okay?

Let’s pray and jump in.

Father, we love you and we ask that you would do some heart surgery on us this morning. This whole series, this section, has been powerfully insightful into the way that we live and operate and the problems that lie deep in our heart. Do that again. Help us to see it, to see who we are, see how our words are reflective of our hearts, and the wholeness that you can bring us on the inside. We open ourselves up. We hold nothing back this morning. Teach us, change us, and make us new, for Jesus’ sake, Amen. Amen.

First, let’s look at The Symptoms here. Jesus, in this passage, is once again pitting Himself against, not the Old Testament Law, but the teaching of the Pharisees as they applied that Old Testament Law to life. The Old Testament Law required truthfulness both before God and before man. You’ll remember that the ninth commandment forbids bearing false testimony against your neighbor. A text that is relevant to what we’re talking about this morning is Numbers 30:2, or Deuteronomy 23:21, both of which talked about keeping the vows that you swear before God. If you make a promise before God you better keep it.

So the Old Testament is clear that we are, God’s people, are to speak truth and to keep our word. Right? We’re to speak truth and keep our word.

Now, when Jesus engages in all this talk about swearing oaths on various things, He’s interacting with the case law surrounding truthfulness. Okay? This is a casuistry, to use a legal term, the case law of how speaking truth and keeping your word plays out in everyday life. And in doing so He is taking the Pharisees to task. This is not the only time Jesus will attack the Pharisees on this topic. Another extended passage is in Matthew 23, verses 16 down to 22. This is what Jesus says there.

“Woe to you, blind guides (talking of the Pharisees), who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.”

Now, if you are lost and confused and this feels very foreign to you, welcome to the crowd. Okay? What on Earth is going on in these passages? Well, we have to go back to the first century. The first century Jewish people would routinely swear oaths, make promises using oaths that verify their truthfulness. You could see the kinds of things they would swear upon in these lists that Jesus reads: heaven, Earth, Jerusalem, temple, their own bodies, sacrifices, the temple gold, etc. It’s so much of the kind of thing we still do today. We just change the template.

So we say, “I swear, I promise it’s true, on my mother’s grave (you know?) and on a stack of Bibles, and all that is holy, scouts’ honor (right?), with God as my witness.” Or in court we’ll say, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Right?

Now why do societies consistently develop swearing oaths like this? Let’s think like anthropologists this morning. Why do people swear oaths like this? Isn’t it because we know deep down that people tend to be less than truthful? (chuckles) This is not new. People are out there who are trying to pull the wool over our eyes, who try to tell the story in a way that they end up looking good. They have agendas. They’re working the angles. And we know from experience that people will say whatever is in their best interest most of the time, especially under pressure. People end up breaking promises, shifting the blame, hiding the truth, avoiding accountability, saving face. And so what happens is...we invented this thing, swearing oaths, in order to assert our credibility in the face of doubt. So when people doubt us, we feel the need to say, “No, no, no, no, no, I’m being truthful and I show that by using an oath or swearing something. Even kids pinky swear, right? Right? When you’re five years old you feel the need to do this. It’s why we put people under oath on the stand in a courtroom so that they will feel the weight and consequence of the words that they use.

Now, in Jesus’ day it was common to the Jewish people to swear oaths to establish their credibility with others. There’s nothing new about that, but what we’re watching here is we’re seeing the symptoms of what the Pharisees worked out in terms of the various levels of oaths that could be taken, each with different weightiness before God so at some of these different see them here, the earth and heaven, the temple, the gold of the temple, the altar, the sacrifice on the altar...the Pharisees were working out, and they taught people to do this, that a broken vow was to be taken only as seriously as the object upon which it was sworn. A broken vow was only to be taken as seriously as the object upon which it was sworn, so the more holy the object, the more serious the breach was. So the closer the object was to the holy presence of God, the more serious the vow was considered to be, because you were invoking the presence and weight of God in your promise.

So if you swore by something that was sacred to God, like the holy temple in which He dwells, it meant you were invoking the presence of God for your vow, and you couldn’t break it. That was an could not justify breaking a vow that you had made based on the holy presence where God dwells. Right?  But if you swore by something more mundane, like “I swear by my front door,” you know, that’s less sacred. It’s your own house. It’s not as big of a deal. So you see the logic. It’s kind of messed up, and it’s ripe for abuse, isn’t it?

You can imagine. Let’s say somebody comes to you and they need some money, and they say, “Hey, I swear by the temple I’ll pay you on Friday. It’s payday, I’ll be able to pay you. I swear by the temple I’ll pay you on Friday.” And then Friday comes and goes and they haven’t paid up. And you say, “Hey, you have to pay me. You promised.” And he says, “I didn’t promise.” You say, “Yeah, you did. You swore on the temple.” “Oh, on the temple?” “Yeah, it’s the presence of God. You’ve got to take that as holy. Why aren’t you paying me?” “Oh well, were you thinking of the gold shiny, you know, inner sanctum of the temple when I said temple? Oh, I was thinking of the pavement stone on the outside of the step on the very perimeter of the temple. Like that’s just walk on that. I was just, this is a misunderstanding. You know? Whoops, sorry! My fingers were crossed. Right?”

This is silly! You can see all of this nonsense in Jesus’ rebuke in Matthew 23. “If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, it’s no big deal, but if you swear by the gold of the temple, oh the golden part of the temple, that, that you have to keep your promise. Right? If you swear by the altar, ah, it might be the leg of the altar that’s just touching the ground, the dirty part. Like, “Oh that’s not a big deal. That’s what I was thinking about.” But if it’s the gift on the altar, there’s no way out of that because that’s sacred to the Lord.

You see the nonsense, and Jesus looked at this and He says, “This is full of untrustworthy manipulation and exploitation. This is full of untrustworthy manipulation and exploitation. The only reason you need these vows in the first place is because you’re untrustworthy people. That’s the issue here. The fact that you have to use vows and swear oaths like this is an indicator of the low-trust culture of your hearts, your relationships. And so these oaths are actually ways that you are manipulating each other. You’re manipulating each other. You’re trying to convince someone to believe you so they’ll do what you want, and so you can get what you are after. That’s what you’re doing with these oaths. You are trying to power over someone else’s defenses and make them do what you want.”

“I swear it’s true. You can believe me.” And these vows are prone to exploitation, that the way you’re using them, you are just wriggling off the hook here, guys. You are creating loopholes and fine print so you can deceive and defraud each other. You go in planning an exit strategy. You make a promise intending never to keep it. Jesus says, “All these vows, all these level of oaths, all these escape clauses that you’ve built into the system, it’s symptomatic of a deeper problem that runs all the way into your heart.

We’ve looked at the symptoms. Now let’s make a diagnosis. Jesus said this behavior of oath-taking, of vow-swearing and these loopholes and fingers crossing, and fine print contract, it all comes down to the fact that your “yeses” so often don’t mean yes. And your “nos” so often don’t mean no. And He says, “That’s a problem in your heart.”

There are entire industries in this world that exist to make yeses mean nos, and to make nos to mean yeses. Right? He says, “This is a heart problem ultimately. It’s a heart that’s diseased with disintegrated and coercive self-interest. It’s a heart that is diseased with disintegrated and coercive self-interest. The reason, Jesus said, that we swear oaths is we’re trying to get people to believe us, and it’s because [at the] baseline we’re not very trustworthy. We’re untrustworthy people because our hearts lack integrity. Our hearts lack integrity.

Remember math? Math? We learned about integers, whole numbers, and fractions, divided numbers? Right? The integrity integer is wholeness. Integrity means consistency and integrated, whole. This is the idea behind integrity. No duplicity, no double-talk, no disintegration in who we are.

Psalm 15 speaks of a righteous man who walks with integrity, speaks truth in his heart and swears to his own hurt and does not change. Even when it’s hard, he keeps his word. If you have a heart of integrity, friends, you won’t need to swear oaths. That’s Jesus’ point. Your yes will simply mean yes. Your no will simply mean no. People will know they can trust you on the basis of your words because you are a person of integrity. But the problem is we’re not people of integrity. We’re disintegrated beings. We lack the integrity that God desires, and we’re full of coercive self-interest. He says, “Look, behind all of these

oaths you’re swearing you’re trying to manipulate people. You’re trying to get them to trust you and do what you want. You’re trying to control them. You are trying to coerce them and gain power over other people with the words you’re using. You’re using people for your own ends. Don’t you see that? And then when you break your promises, you write loopholes into your contract as you cross your fingers behind your back, you’re defrauding and deceiving other people. You’re selfish, self-interested to the core.”

And the Pharisees told everybody it was okay for them to do this, to exploit all these little technicalities in the Law. And Jesus said, “Look, I’m telling you, you need a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. You need to be perfect as your heavenly Father in heaven is perfect. You need a heart full of integrity and faithfulness that keeps its word and its promises.”

Now, unless we think poorly of the Pharisees and just think this is their problem and not ours, we’ve got to realize we are chock full of the kind of selfish duplicity that Jesus says has to go. We’re full of it. Of course, sometimes we outright lie, right? We just come up against the pressure, and we back down. We lie, we say something, and that’s obviously wrong. But sometimes we engage in low-level, socially acceptable deceit. Have you noticed?

Remember the movie “Zorro”? This is a while back. Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas, right? And Don Diego at one point says to Zorro, “A nobleman is nothing but a man who says one thing and thinks another.” That’s what I’m talking about: polished, civilized deceit.

Let me give you five of them.

The first one, obvious one: little white lies. Little white lies. Don’t you love how we’ve labeled this? What a self-deceiving label! It’s just a little white lie. It’s no big deal. Just a little bit of lack of integrity. Just a small crack. It’s okay. You can patch that up. Good grief.

Second one: polite untruths, polite untruths. “I’d love to go, but I’m busy that day.” (chuckles) You’re not busy. (laughter)

Exaggerations, right? “You always do this!” “You never do this!” “It was the absolute best!” “It was amazing!” When we do that, when we inflate our words, we devalue the currency, right? And then it doesn’t mean as much. We lose credibility when we’re over-exaggerating all the time.

The fourth one: spin. Our world is full of spin, selective use of the facts in order to shade things a certain way so that we can advance our narrative or our agenda. Right?

“I’m not invading. I’m just going to call those countries independent and then move my troops in.”

The fifth one is flattery. This is telling people what they want to hear. Right?

“What did you think of my performance?”

“It was great. It was, no, it was really good. (mumbles)”

Jesus is warning us that our words are telling. Our words are revealing something about our hearts, about what’s going on in the inside. “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) And when our hearts are full of integrity, our yes’s mean “yes” and our no’s mean “no.” We don’t have to dress it up with a vow. It’s just, it’s who we are. But when our hearts are full of dis-integrity our yeses mean no, and our nos mean yes. And that separation is the problem. You can dress it up with a vow, you can try to manipulate or get your way out of it. Jesus says anything more than the pure integrity of a yes means yes and a no means no, all the shade and nuance and excuses we make, anything (verse 37), anything more than this comes from evil.

That’s a strong word, isn’t it? Evil? Jesus means that. He says it’s evil working in and through us when we live in this kind of a dis-integrated self. Let me give you five evils that come out of this kind of dis-integrity. Okay?

Number one: It destroys community. It destroys community. When people can’t trust each other, when governments are known to lie, when media is known to distort the truth, and businesses regularly break contracts, when spouses are deceitful and deceiving, it always destroys community. Trust is the social glue of a people, and without it everything falls apart. It destroys community.

Number 2: It disintegrates identity. It disintegrates identity. The only way we really know who we are is that there’s something stable inside, something stable underneath who we are deep down. And when we go through life and we’re one way with one group of people, and we’re another way with another group of people, when we’re one way on Facebook or on social media or whatever, and we filter everything out there, and then we’re really a different person. Do you know what I’m talking about? When we live in that kind of disintegration, we’re always shifting, we’re always sort of like a chameleon, trying to fit into different groups and different social settings, we start to lose who we really are. We start to lose who we really are underneath. We confuse the mask with the identity behind it, and disintegrated people disintegrate. It’s a huge problem.

The third thing is it desecrates others. It desecrates others. When I say, “I swear to you,” and then I go out and I break my oath, I’m exploiting, aren’t I? It’s coercive, it’s manipulative, it’s using other people for my ends, and it is a desecration to the image of God in someone else. I am not treating the other person as a person made in the likeness and image of God to be cherished and upheld, I’m trashing them.

The fourth thing is it decimates credibility. You know this. When we lie, even about little things, eventually it catches up to us, doesn’t it? No one will believe what we say in the end, or the boy who cried wolf one too many times.

And then the fifth thing is it’s delusional thinking. It’s delusional thinking. The more we tell lies and twist the truth, and the more we begin to live in the alternative reality we’ve created for ourselves with our word, we become deluded. We lose the ability—people who are perpetual liars lose the ability to distinguish truth from error over time. It gets fuzzy and cloudy and you can literally start believing the lie that you told yourself for so long, and you can’t even see reality. It’s a huge problem.

And this is kind of where the Pharisees ended up. I swear by the temple, but not by the gold of the temple. I swore by the altar, but not by the sacrifice on the altar. I swore by the earth, not by heaven. I’m off the hook. I technically didn’t invoke the presence of God, technically, so I can break my vow. And Jesus is like, “Are you kidding me? (bangs pulpit) What is wrong with you people? How delusional can you get? God is everywhere. He sees all. He knows all. It doesn’t matter what you swear by. It’s not by heaven or Earth, or the temple or its gold, or the altar or the sacrifice on it. It doesn’t matter. God is the creator and sustainer of the universe, of all things everywhere. The whole universe is God’s! He’s everywhere, always present. You might think you’ve not invoked the presence of God in your vow, but there is nowhere you can go from the presence of God. Every promise, every vow, every sworn pledge is made in the presence of God. There is nowhere you can hide from the presence of God.”

As Jesus says in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you that men will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Not the purposeful words that you’ve spoken, not the rehearsed word! The careless ones, the stuff you said off the cuff and you didn’t...all of it, because it’s coming from your heart. And Jesus says, “Let your “yes” be yes; let your “no” be no. Your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This is the kind of new heart that you need that is at home in the kingdom of heaven.

“So here’s my prescription.” Dr. Jesus, what’s your prescription? It’s important to remember that Jesus is not laying down a new Law here. He’s illustrating a new heart. When He says, “Don’t take an oath at all. Let what you say be simply yes or no.” His problem is not with oaths per se. Hear me clearly. The Bible is full of oaths and covenants and promises. Yes? God routinely gives covenants and oaths and promises to His people. Jesus answers under oath when He’s on trial. Paul takes a vow in Acts to God. The problem is not with oaths per se. Jesus is not laying down a new Law that we can never take oaths under any circumstances. He is illustrating the kind of heart that is available to us in the kingdom of heaven, the kind of heart that He is offering to us if we will come and follow Him. It is the integrity of a childlike heart, the integrity of a childlike heart.

We keep coming back to this, friends, the difference between the heart of an orphan and the heart of a child. The heart of an orphan and the heart of a child. There are two ways we can live in the universe. I can live as an orphan in that I have to fend for myself and I’m all alone in the universe. I need to make sure my needs get met because no one’s looking after me except for me. And so if I have to use a vow in order to get ahead in life, it makes you believe me, and so you end up doing what I want, and I get what I need. If an oath helps me gain an edge or power over you so that I can get ahead in life, so be it. And if I need to write in a little loophole so I can get out of my contract, get out and get ahead, and if I can get away with that, I’m going to do it because I’m an orphan. And I’m on my own. I’m fending for myself. There’s no God. I’m just going to do what I gotta do to get through life, and I’ve gotta look for number one.” Right? Gotta look out for number one. That’s orphan language.

The Pharisees are just as much orphans, by the way. They’re not pursuing relationship with God. They’re managing around God. Do you see that? What are the rules? How do I just have to just keep Him off my back, check the box so I can get on with what I want? How do I squirrel round? It’s like the IRS. It’s like “What exemptions can I take so I can keep as much of my money as I want and stay in control? What does God need? Ok, fine, I’ll give it to you.” There’s no relationship here. This is an orphan working the system for its own advantage.

But Jesus comes and gives us another way altogether, another heart. He says by the power of My Spirit in Jesus Christ, in Me, I’m going to make you not an orphan but a child of God. If you trust in Me, I will give you the right to become children of God. That’s who you are. You won’t have to be on your own. You won’t have to fend for yourself because you will have a heavenly Father who is watching over you. He is caring for you. He is protecting you. He’s providing for you, and at every moment of every day He is with you. He is for you, and He is life to you, which means you don’t have to go manipulate with your words to get what you want from other people. You don’t have to coerce other people, power over them to get what you want. You don’t have to create loopholes so you can make sure you’re taken care of in the end. You can just simply say yes and mean it. You can say no and mean it because your Father is always with you. He’s with you to give you resources and strength. He sees all. He knows all, and He gives you His Holy Spirit to be with you at every moment of every day, to teach you to walk in integrity, in perfect wholeness just like your Father who is in heaven.

See Jesus is teaching us by the power of the Spirit to become the kind of people for whom “yes” means yes and “no” means no, and we’ve learned to keep our promises with the kind of integrity that is at home in the kingdom of heaven. We’re learning to live like children of God.

Friends, God is making you and me into the kind of people who don’t need oaths to be believed. He’s making us become like Himself, people of integrity who say yes and mean it, who say no and follow through. It’s that simple. No more untrustworthy manipulation and exploitation, no more disintegrated, coercive self-interest. No, this is the integrity of a childlike heart that is at home in the kingdom of heaven.

Bottom line takeaway: Jesus offers to make you whole, friends.

Jesus offers to make us whole, and the first step to integrity is admitting that we don’t have any. (chuckles) It’s counterintuitive, isn’t it? The first step toward integrity is admitting that we don’t have any. Jeremiah 17:9. The Bible says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and abundantly wicked, who can know it?” We can’t even figure out the mess that’s inside our hearts, can we? Do you know who can? Verse 10: “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind.”

The first step toward integrity is confessing that we don’t have any, admitting honestly with God that we’re a mess, that we’re full of disintegration, duplicity, self-delusion, pretending, and deceit. That’s our hearts. But there’s good news, friends, for people like us who hunger and thirst for righteousness who want to have a heart full of integrity that’s right before God. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied,” because Jesus, friends, is the true integrity that we need. Right? Jesus is the integrity that we need. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! He is true through and through. He is whole. He is an integrated being. He is righteousness at every level of His being, and the only one with the integrity of a childlike heart. Do you realize He was disintegrated on the cross for you? He was disintegrated on the cross for you. He died in your place and for your sake as your substitute, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God. He was fractured in order that we might be whole. He was disintegrated that we might be integrated and brought home. And by grace through faith in Christ the Spirit of Jesus now lives in us and guides us into the way of Jesus and into the integrity of a childlike heart. This is something only God can do in us.

We are children of God. If we have trusted in Jesus Christ, we are children of God by grace through faith in Him now and forever. Amen? And then Jesus is showing us the way. By His word and by His Spirit, He is transforming us so that the fragmented and disintegrated orphan hearts that we usually live with are coming together and being made whole again by the power of the Spirit. The Spirit is conforming us to the image of Christ, to His likeness, cultivating the life and heart of God within us, transforming us ultimately into glory so that we might be like our Father who is heaven, perfect in every way.

Jesus, friends, is our physician. He’s our heart surgeon. He has looked at our symptoms, given us a diagnosis. He has written us a prescription, and His prescription is Himself. “I am the solution to your problems. I can give you a new heart. Come, follow Me, and I will transform you into the kind of people who live with integrity from a whole heart so that your ‘yes’ is yes, and your ‘no’ means no, and your words are whole, just like your hearts in the kingdom of heaven.”

Friends, this is what Jesus alone can do for you and for me if we open our lives to Him.

Would you pray with me?

Father, we want to be whole. We pray that you would search us and know our hearts, and see if there’s any wicked way in us so that you might lead us in the way everlasting, the way of Jesus. Father, we invite your Holy Spirit to put His finger on the disintegrated parts of who we are, the small everyday things we excuse, and pretend they’re no big deal, but they’re symptomatic of hearts that are a mess, chock full of sin, unlike you.

Father, would you, by grace through faith in the power of your Spirit make us more like Jesus. Teach us to walk in your way. Teach us to give you our hearts. Teach us to be new, for Jesus’ sake we pray, Amen. 

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