The word faithful is one of the terms most commonly applied to God. When we say God is faithful we are saying that He keeps His promises. From the human perspective those who believe this are those who have faith in Him. You see, it all comes down to a very simple question, Can I trust God to do what He has said He will do? If I decide the answer is yes and live accordingly then I am a believer. If I decide the answer is no and live accordingly then I am an unbeliever. Everything finally depends on Gods character.
Many have a hard time trusting God because they have seldom met people who can be trusted. Theyve learned through repeated disappointment to be suspicious of promises, to withhold their trust so they wont be deceived again. This is why the Lord is so deeply concerned that His disciples become promise keepers. The world desperately needs to experience Gods faithfulness firsthand, not just hear about it. In this short passage comprised of only five verses from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls us to be faithful. He wants people to be able to experience the heart of God through us. As witnesses of Jesus Christ our actions speak much louder than our words. So after renouncing the hypocritical way people were treating Gods ancient command about promises He tells His followers to never use oaths to strengthen our promises because everyone should already recognize us as people of our word.
A. Understanding Jesus (Mt 5:33-37)
1. What is an oath?
a) It is a spiritually guaranteed promise. I invoke a curse upon myself by asking God to punish me if I were to break my promise to you.
b) For example, if I make an oath by my head (v 36) I am inviting God to cut off my head if I am not telling you the truth or fail to do what Ive promised.
2. What was Jesus saying?
a) He was putting a stop to the deceitful games that were being played to avoid obeying the Lords command in Leviticus 19:11, 12 (and Nu 30:2).
You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God
b) He was saying we are to be people who are so dependable no oaths are needed. We should be so entirely truthful and open that no oath could make our work stronger. We should speak from the heart and our simplest word should be as trustworthy as the most sacred oath.
c) In fact, He was saying God has asked us to be faithful as He is. (In Lev 19:2 God sets the true standard: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.)
B. Obeying Jesus
Though none of us keep our promises with the absolute faithfulness God does, we cannot be disciples without embracing His high calling to be promise keepers. Obeying this call will always be costly because, in practice, promises are hard to keep. But obedience brings great rewards. Lets look more closely at what it means to be a promise keeper.
1. The price of a promise: According to Jesus I must be very careful about what I say or even imply Ill do because every commitment I make has the weight of a promise. Therefore stopping to pray before I commit to something becomes all the more important.
By not keeping my word (or lying) I:
a) Undermine my own integrity: I lose part of myself, welcome a spirit of confusion, and diminish my capacity to know God.
b) Undermine my authority, credibility: People lose respect; my testimony is diminished in its impact.
c) Undermine my faith in God: In effect I am gambling that there will be no repercussions for my broken promise. If I get away with it my fear of God decreases.
Why do people break promises? (Here are three reasons out of many):
a) Insincerity: I never intended to keep it. I only used a promise to control somebody.
b) Immaturity: I think of promises as expressions of strong emotion. I was simply saying thats how I felt at the time but if circumstances turn out differently than I expected I feel released from my promise.
c) Indifference: I dont expect God to punish me if I break my promise, so breaking it appears easier than keeping it.
2. The power of a promise
a) People build their lives around faithful people (the responsible adult)
b) People trust what you say (you are a credible witness).
c) People encounter the faithfulness of God through you.
C. Believing Jesus
1. Jesus under oath: Mt 26:59-66
2. Jesus promise: Jn 6:40 - For this is the will of My Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise Him up on the last day.
3. The question is: Who among all the voices in the world do you believe can and will keep their promise. To whom will you trust your eternity?
1) Name someone you know whom you trust. Tell us why. 2) Identify a promise that youre keeping either to God or to another person.
3) What should a person do if they realize they have made a promise they should never have made? (Hint: Proverbs 6:1-5 suggest a course of action.) 4) Some people might respond to this lesson by saying, Then Ill never commit to anything again! Obviously thats not what Jesus intended. Describe for us the process you go through when deciding whether to commit to something or not.