Chapter Ten: The Beauty of the Heart of Christ

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Chapter Ten: The Beauty of the Heart of Christ

Matthew 10:34-39 is a passage about the supremacy of Christ in the life of His followers. It is not optional. There is no wiggle room for different allegiances. You are Christ’s, or you are not.
Upon our first reading of this, we may be taken back with what appears to be harsh words from Jesus. We have been discussing Him as a Savior who is gentle and lowly in heart. He is compassionate, gracious, ever-reaching out to His brothers and sisters in love and grace. He is our intercessor and our advocate.
Now He is talking about a sword? Now He is mentioning division in the closest relationships on earth (i.e., the family)? What in the world is going on? Is this similar to the common misperception of the wrathful God of the OT?
Our minds often have a hard time reconciling this apparent rough Jesus with the gentle Jesus. But He is not bipolar. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).

I. The Religious Setting- Jewish Rejection

Jews rejecting Jesus- The Jewish leaders (scribes and Pharisees and Sadducees) hated Jesus. While the general populace loved Him, they hated Him and frequently sought to kill Him. Why? John MacArthur gives us an idea.
MacArthur quote (135) on Matt. 5:21-6:4, 16-24.
“Furthermore, when He singled out these specific misunderstandings of Moses’ law, Jesus was clearly impugning the Pharisees’ pet doctrines. He was publicly denouncing what they taught. Everyone in the crowd understood that. It was impossible to ignore. Jesus made no effort to make the dichotomy subtle or to outline His differences with them in a delicate fashion. He went for the jugular against their most closely held beliefs. he even mentioned the Pharisees by name and expressly stated that their righteousness was inadequate—lest there by any ambiguity about whose doctrine He was refuting.”—John MacArthur, The Jesus You Can’t Ignore, 135
Jews blasphemy (9:1-8, 18-26, 32-34; 10:24-25)

II. The Reality Stated- Salvation Needed

10:1 (Matt. 4:23 and 9:35)
The reality stated is that Israel was under the oppression of sin and Satan. On the side of sin, they were separated from God. On the side of Satan, they were enduring the oppression of demon possession, diseases,. Israel’s need was salvation (from both sin and suffering). Israel’s need would be met by their Messiah as foretold by the Prophets (e.g., Isa. 53).

III. The Relationship Standard- Supremacy

This brings us to our passage we opened with, Matt. 10:34-39.
Jesus calls for exclusive love—in contrast to all human relationships. We cannot love anyone more than we love Jesus. Why? If we do, does this mean that we do not love anyone else? Is this a contradiction in the Bible?
No, there is no contradiction, only a misunderstanding on our part, and I think that misunderstanding takes place on three levels.
First, our misunderstanding centers on the Whom of our love. We are called, in all the Scripture, to exclusive love of God. Many Jewish people today recite the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ““Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
That is to say, we think that if we love God exclusively we will not love anyone else. But the truth is, is that if you love God exclusively you will love others properly (compare this with Eph. 5:22-6:9).
Second, our misunderstanding also smears the way we think of loving God. God calls for exclusive love, there is no room for faltering. Or, to put it in the words of Jesus, “You cannot serve God and money.” (Matt. 6:24)
Third, our misunderstanding (if we can call it that) affects the way we view God and all things (including people) in relation to Him. Paul gives us some incredible insight into this major problem, which will also provide a wonder segue into our focus in Ortlund’s book.
Romans 1:18-25 gives us a glimpse into our flawed value system. That is, our sin mutates our view and appreciation of people, creation, and most importantly, God.
Notice that God’s “invisible attributes” which are “his eternal power and divine nature” are “clearly perceived.” There was no question, in other words. It is not like the picture where you can see an older lady or a younger lady. They knew.
Rather than acknowledging God as Creator, as beautiful and desirable, they traded (exchanged) Him for the creature (or, creation). They worshipped the dog instead of the Creator Who made the dog. They worshipped human beings instead of the Being Who made all beings. They worshipped the bird instead of the bird-maker. They worshipped the beasts and creeping things (lizards, insects, etc.) rather than the One who spoke all into existence.
If you are wondering how in the world someone could do this, you are not alone. I cannot understand it, but such is the affect of sin upon the human heart, mind, and will. All recipients of grace would be right beside these individuals, had not the Lord Jesus delivered us from this horrible situation.
In other words, their values were way off. But what does this have to do with our chapter? Everything.
It is precisely with all of what we have discussed that Jesus’s statements must be understood. He claims exclusive worship. He leaves no room for another. As Creator, He earns this. But what Ortlund helps us to see, and that through the work of Jonathan Edwards, is that it is Christ’s beauty that should cause us to fling all others aside compared to our love for Him.
He references a sermon that Edwards preached to the children of his congregation, and the main thought was, “There is no love so great and so wonderful as that which is in the heart of Christ.” That is, He is the invaluable object of our desires and love. There is nothing in this world that even begins to come close. We should, as we consider the words of Jesus, come to the conclusion that Asaph does in Psalm 73:25 “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”
I will close with the words of Edwards from a sermon, “God the best portion of the Christian. He writes, “Hence we may learn, that whatever changes a godly man passes through, he is happy; because God, who is unchangeable, is his chosen portion. Though he meet with temporal losses, and be deprived of many, yea, of all his temporal enjoyments; yet God, whom he prefers before all, still remains, and cannot be lost. While he stays in this changeable, troublesome world, he is happy; because his chosen portion, on which he builds as his main foundation for happiness, is above the world, and above all changes.”
So, do you love Christ more than anything? Take stock of your life, consider your goals, your desires, how you spend your time. If Christ is not first, then repent and make Him first. If He is first, be careful to stoke those desires like a fire continually. Continue to take His yoke on you and learn about Him.
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