As __________ read the passage did you notice all the sets of two?
- In fact, all the way through the Sermon on the Mount Jesus presents sets of two.
- In chapter 5:20 there are two kinds of righteousness…that of the scribes and Pharisees and the righteousness that exceeds theirs.
- In chapter 6: 19 there are two treasures…one laid up in heaven and one laid up here on earth.
- In chapter 6:24 there are two masters…God and mammon.
- In chapter 6:32-33 there are two ambitions…seek after worldly things or seek first the kingdom of God.
And now here in Matthew 7:13-14 there are 4 sets of two: the narrow gate and the wide gate; the broad way and the narrow way; two destinations, destruction and life; and two groups of people; the many and the few.
- And if you continue on in chapter 7 you will find there are two kinds of teachers, two kinds of trees, two kinds of pleas, and finally two kinds of foundations.
Now, there are a couple of things that Jesus is doing with all these sets of twos…one thing He is doing is He is making contrasts.
- He is making contrasts in order to get people to make the right choice.
- You have the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees…and a righteousness that exceeds theirs…with one there will be no heaven for you…with the other you will enter into the kingdom of heaven.
- With the two treasures…one is eternal…the other will be eaten up, destroyed, or stolen.
- With the two masters…One can give you eternal life….the other can only satisfy temporarily.
- You see, with all of these sets of 2 Jesus is making a contrast to help us make the right choice.
But then the second thing that Jesus is doing with all these sets of 2 is presenting us with the stark reality of things.
- Most people like to have several options or several choices.
- Go into Dairy Queen sometime and look at all the different choices of soft drinks that are available.
- At Sonic they have 25 different flavors of Milk Shakes…I can remember when we the primary two choices were vanilla and chocolate.
- People are not satisfied with 150 channels on TV…we want 200 or 250.
- We prefer to be given a lot of choices.
But what Jesus does with all of these sets of 2 is He brings us to the stark reality that when it comes to righteousness…and treasures…and ambitions…and masters…and gates…and ways…and destinations…and groups of people…there are only 2 choices.
- It is one or the other….there are no other options…no other choices.
- And with the contrasts that He has made there is no sensible reason why anyone would make the wrong choice.
Let’s look at verse 13 and 14….and let me tell you, as we go through this it is “gut check” time!
- It is time for all of us to be honest…and to decide where we stand.
Look at verse 13…notice first of all the TWO WAYS.
- One way is “broad”, spacious, roomy…it is the wide and easy way.
- There is room on it for a diversity of opinions and loosening of morals.
- It is the road of tolerance and permissiveness.
- It has no curbs or boundaries of either thought or conduct.
- Travelers on this road follow their own inclinations, that is, the desires of the human heart.
- Superficiality, self-love, hypocrisy, mechanical religion, false ambition, fault finding are common characteristics of those who travel this road.
- There is no resistance or effort required to travel this road.
- There is no such thing as “ only one truth” on this road.
- That is why this broad road is easy.
But the “narrow way” on the other hand is hard.
- In fact, the word “narrow” in the Greek could actually be translated “to suffer tribulation; troubled; standing obstacles in the way.”
- It is the “hard” way because those who travel this road will be persecuted, insulted, slandered; Matthew 5: 11-12.
- Those who travel the narrow way will be slapped on one cheek and perhaps even on the other.
- They will have to go the extra mile with those who demand it…and they will have to love their enemies…and judge themselves before judging others.
- This road will not be easy.
And its narrowness is due to something called “divine revelation”, which restricts travelers to the confines of what God has revealed in Scripture to be true and good.
- Its boundaries are clearly marked.
- In other words the narrow way includes a life style…a lifestyle that obeys God…a lifestyle that glorifies God…a lifestyle unlike that of the world.
- The narrow way is a “committed” way…it is a path that you must stay on.
- And it is a “costly way.”
- It cost Jesus His life and it demands ours for Christ says in Matthew 16:24, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
So, those are the TWO WAYS…one broad…the other narrow; one easy that faces no resistance and allows anything…and one that is hard that lives in the confines of the word of God…one that follows the world…and one that follows Christ.
- And the stark reality…No one can travel both ways…it is one or the other…which WAY are you traveling?
Second, notice the two gates.
- The gate that leads to the “easy way” is wide…it is a simple matter to get on to the easy road.
- There is no limit to the luggage that people can take with them.
- They don’t have to leave anything behind…not even their sins, not even their sinful lifestyle…not even their self-righteousness, or their pride.
- This gate will let you take whatever you want with you.
But the gate leading to the hard way is small.
- In fact, there is only one way to enter this gate and that is through Jesus Christ who says in John 10: 9, “I am the door, if anyone enters through Me, He shall be saved.”
- And the only way to enter into Christ is through baptism for Gal. 3:27 and Romans 6:3 tells us that when you are baptized you are “baptized into Christ.”
- The gate is small…there is only one way to enter it.
And In order to enter it you must leave everything behind…sin, selfish ambition, covetousness…even if necessary family and friends.
- And this gate can only be entered one by one.
- So, there are only two gates and everyone has or will enter into one of them.
Then there are two destinations.
- The broad way or the wide gate leads to
- Jesus doesn’t specifically define this for us…but it seems safe to say that everything and everyone who goes down the wide way will be destroyed…and that forever.
- The broad road is a spiritual suicide road.
By contrast, the hard way, entered by the narrow gate, leads to life…a life so glorious, so wonderful that human words cannot fully describe it.
- Every one…is heading to one of these two places…and that includes you.
And then there are the two crowds or two groups of people.
- The many will enter into the wide gate and travel on the easy road.
- This road will be crowded with people of every kind.
- And often they will look as though they are having a wonderful life…some will have riches and comforts and pleasures of every kind….and they will entice others to come with them!
- But then others on the easy road will be sour, and bitter…while others will be kind and gentle…and others poor and miserable.
Then there are the few.
- The narrow gate…and hard way….will seem to be deserted in comparison.
- Those who find it will be few…but they will all be rich in heavenly treasures.
- And the travelers on this road will be despised by many of those on the other road.
- This road can be a bit lonelier…but the fellowship at the journey’s end causes each one to press on.
- To which crowd do you belong?
So, there it is. Jesus has clearly laid it out for us. It is your choice.
- And now it is “gut check” time!
- Time to be honest…
- Which gate have you gone through…which “way” are you traveling (everyone is going some where)?
- What is your destination? (Have you come to Christ? Are you still on the right path?)
- Which crowd to you belong to…the many…or the few?
The good…and the bad of all of this is you can change roads, destinations, and crowds at any time.
- Check your gut and if you need to get on the “narrow way” do so today because tomorrow may never come.
Ask Seek and Knock
ASK, SEEK, FIND
To many people this is a confusing passage of scripture.
- Jesus says, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.”
- And people are encouraged by the promises of receiving and finding and it being opened to them…and so they pray….they pray for someone’s health…they pray for rain…they pray for the government…or they pray for their favorite team to win…or for a new job.
- But then when they don’t receive their requests they slide into the depths of depression and despair thinking that God doesn’t hear their prayer…or that God doesn’t keep His promises…or that prayer doesn’t seem to do any good.
- As encouraging as this passage is…for many it becomes just as discouraging.
- So what about Jesus’ instructions here…why don’t people receive what they ask for?
- What is it that Jesus is promising in this passage?
First, remember who Jesus is speaking to here…if you go back to Matthew 4:18-22 and chapter 5:1 Jesus is primarily speaking to His disciples.
- They have been called to be “fishers of men” and these are His instructions to them…or they are His instructions to us.
With that in mind notice what Jesus says in verse 7…notice the verbs: “ask, seek, and knock.”
- All three of these are present imperatives…they are commands…with continuing action…which means that as His disciples we are to keep on doing these things…we keep asking, and we keep seeking, and we keep knocking.
- We are to be persistence, we are to persevere, press on…a keeping on.
- This is not something we do once in a while…we don’t seek whenever the mood strikes…or only knock when it is convenient.
- A disciple…a follower of Christ is to keeps asking, and keep seeking, and keep knocking…he is persistent…constantly inquiring of and pursuing God.
And if I understand verse 8 correctly the promises that Jesus makes here apply to everyone who continuously and consistently ask, seek, and knock…this is not limited to just the Jews, or Gentiles, or to the rich or the poor, or to males or females.
- The promises that go with these commands apply to anyone who keeps these commands.
And that in turn tells me that for those who do not persist in asking, who do not continue to seek, who do not continue to knock…who do not constantly pursue after God…God is not obligated to keep these promises.
- The promises that Jesus mentions here belong to those who we might say have “tasted of the heavenly gifts and who continue to press on for more.
Now, notice verses 9-10: “Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 “Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
- There are two things here that we need to pick up on.
- First, notice what Jesus says the “son” asks for…in verse 9 he asks for a loaf and in verse 10 he asks for a fish.
- In verse 11 Jesus implies that both of these requests are “good” which indicates that we as His disciples should ask for those things that are “good” in His sight.
- Perhaps things that we need instead of what we want.
The second thing to notice is, “God is trustworthy…He is not going to trick you and give you something that is not good for you.
- If you ask for that which is good He is not going to give you anything that is not good for you.
- He is not going to give you anything that is evil…or that will turn out to be harmful to you…
- Our earthly fathers might make a mistake thinking they are giving us what is best but God never makes a mistake in what He gives…He knows everything….He knows us…He knows our future…and He will never give us anything that is not good…to do so would be completely against His nature.
So, if we ask for good things, He grants them; if we ask for things which are not good (either not good in themselves, or not good for us or for others, directly or indirectly, immediately or ultimately) He denies them; and only He knows the difference.
Now, look at verse 11: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
- I believe this is the verse that causes so many to be confused and discouraged with prayer.
- People do not understand what “good” is.
- They look at all these things they might want and they say, “That would be good.”
- “It would be good to have a new car…it would be good to have a better job…it would be good to get some rain…it would be good to get well”…and all of those things would be good.
- And when they don’t get those things they think their prayers aren’t any good…or that God doesn’t hear…or God must be upset with me.
When He says that “Your Father who is in heaven will give what is good to those who ask Him” what is the “good” that He is talking about?
- Look at Luke 11 starting in verse 9…a parallel passage to what Jesus says here in Matthew 7:
And I say to you, ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. 10 “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened. 11 “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
- I believe this is the reason why so many people are disillusioned with prayer and why they feel as though God is mad at them…or they harbor ill feelings toward God.
- This passage has never been about “asking God for whatever you want or whatever you think is good…
- This passage is not about God being some kind of cosmic vending machine and all we have to do is drop in our token prayer and He will dispense whatever we want.
This passage is about asking our Father in heaven to give us the Holy Spirit…and in giving us the Holy Spirit He gives us everything that goes with the Spirit: every grace, every gift.
- He is talking about giving us the greater gifts.
Let me ask you this…my daughter has been sick for a long time…and I continue to ask God to make her well….
- At the same time in spite of her illness she has developed a strong faith in God, she has devoted her life to God, she is teaching her daughter to be faithful to God….
- Which is the greater gift…her health…or her faith? Her physical well-being or her salvation?
We consistently pray for rain…and there is nothing wrong with that.
- But what is the greater gift…rain or redemption.
This passage is about asking, seeking, knocking persistently…persevering and pressing on…asking a loving trustworthy God…not so much for good health…not so much for a better job…not so much for a new car…
- But for the greater, better gifts given to us through the Holy Spirit.
- Gifts like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I know of several, including myself at one time, who have been disillusioned, and discouraged, and disappointed with God because of a misunderstanding of what Jesus promises here.
- When I understand what Jesus is saying here I am confident that God has kept fully His promises…and I am encouraged to keep asking, and keep seeking, and keep knocking because I know He will continue to give to me those “good” gifts.
But also know this: This passage is not the complete, all-encompassing, overruling all other instructions on prayer given to us in the Bible. (There are other passages and other instructions that encourage us to pray for physical as well as spiritual things).
- But, if you have blamed yourself…decided that it doesn’t do any good for you to pray…been angry with God…because you looked at this passage and misunderstood it…then I plead with you to lay those wrong feelings…those misconceptions down…and be completely restored to your Father in heaven who loves you so much that He died for you.
Matthew 7: 1-5
I don’t know if you realize it or not but this passage and especially verse 1 is one of the most unique passages in all the Bible.
- When it comes to atheists, and unbelievers, and lukewarm Christians, of all the verses in the Bible this is the only one they have memorized.
- How many times have you heard it?
- A man is cheating on his wife… as a concerned friend you talk to him and tell him that he is wrong for doing so… and the response you receives is: “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
Some use this passage to justify not making any judgments at all when it comes to people and their character, and their conduct.
And some say this forbids a Christian from ever sitting on a jury in a court of law.
- Is that what Jesus is saying here?
- Is He telling us not to make any judgments about people at all?
- What is Jesus saying here?
Well, to help us understand what Jesus is saying here we must go back to Matthew 5:20.
- In Matthew 5:20 Jesus says: 20 “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness
surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of
- All the way through this discourse, from the beginning of chapter 5 to the end of chapter 7 there seems to be an underlying theme that says that “God’s people…followers of Christ…kingdom people…are to be different from the world…and what the world ..and specifically we are to be different from the scribes and Pharisees.”
- We are to have a “righteousness” that exceeds theirs.
So, what were the scribes and Pharisees doing? Turn to Luke 7:36:
36 Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him. And He entered the Pharisee’s house, and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume 38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet, and anointing them with the perfume. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”
The Pharisees, in their self-righteous arrogance, said there are people who are “sinners” and then there are us Pharisees.
- They didn’t see themselves as being sinners…or at least they didn’t see themselves as having the same faults as others.
Look at Luke 18: 9: And He also told this parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
- Here it is right there…this is exactly what Jesus is referring too in Matthew 7:1.
- Looking at yourself as being “righteous… and viewing others with contempt.”
Look at the rest of this starting in verse 10:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. 11 “The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. 12’l fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get’
Do you see the attitude that these Pharisee’s had? They were arrogant… and were self-righteously over critical of others.
- And they were always going around pointing out the faults of others and never seeing their own.
So when Jesus says in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not lest you be judged”, He is not talking about making sound judgments about open and obvious sin.
- In fact, in 1 Cor. 5:1-7 Paul rebukes the church at Corinth for not making a judgment and rebuking a brother in sin.
- And in verse 11 of that same chapter the apostle Paul says “not to associate with and brother who is immoral.”
- And in verse 12 Paul says that we are “to judge those who within the church but not those who are outside.”
- Some judgments have to be made.
- So Jesus is not talking about and forbidding making some sound judgments about sin…and the necessity to reprove a brother or sister in Christ.
Jesus is not forbidding making some judgments in reference to what some were teaching and whether they were a false teacher or not. 1 John 4:1-3.
And He is not forbidding making some judgments about what someone believes and doesn’t believe in reference to salvation; Acts 19:1-7.
- I can take what the Bible says and get a good idea of where someone stands in their beliefs; how else will I know if they need to be taught a more “perfect” way.
He is not forbidding making a judgment in reference to a person’s moral character and whether we should or shouldn’t be their companion.
- In 1 Corinthians 15:33 we are told that “bad company corrupts good morals.”
- We have to make judgments about whether someone is bad company.
He is not forbidding sitting in a courtroom as a juror.
When Jesus says, “Judge not lest you be judged”, He is not saying that you are not to make any judgments at all!
- He is talking about having a “holier than thou”, critical attitude in which you view others with contempt and condemn them because they do not meet your standard.
Now, in reference to this attitude of looking at others with contempt…It is like the story of the newspaper reporter that was doing a story about the laziness that existed in the South.
- And one day he drove by a field and out in the field was a man sitting in a chair hoeing weeds.
- Boy, this had to be the ultimate in laziness…so the reporter turned his car around and went back.
- And what he saw this time changed his entire outlook.
- He saw that the pant legs of the farmer that he saw hung loose…that he had not legs.
- So what he initially thought was laziness turned out be courage.
You cannot always see other people’s motives.
- You cannot see what is in their minds.
- We cannot know all the facts.
- We cannot fully know a person’s circumstances and situation.
- We cannot know the temptations he faces…the environment he lives in.
- We cannot know his health situation.
- And yet, we sometimes take our limited knowledge…and sometimes we take our limited view of things…and we want to harshly judge others.
Before we make judgments about someone we need to get all the facts; don’t work off of assumptions, half-truths, and hear say.
The point is, sometimes what we see is not what is…and what is sometimes is something only God can see and know…
- And when we start harshly judging other people we are basically saying, “I can see as God sees.”
- We put ourselves on the same level as God…and that is a dangerous thing to do.
- In fact, that will bring judgment from God on us and that may be the primary concern.
- The concern may not be so much for those you criticize but for yourself because when we judge and condemn we put ourselves on the same level as God.
Look at this found in Rom 14:3-4
3 Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. 4 Who are you to judge the servant of another?
But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.
We can’t know everything in everyone else’s heart.
- We can’t know their motives…only God can do that…and we need to leave the judging and condemning to God.
In fact, look at the warning in Matthew 7:
2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
How would you like for God to judge you the way you judge others?
- If you require perfection from others do you want God to require perfection from you?
- If you judge others harshly with no mercy and grace…do you want God to judge you harshly with no mercy and grace?
Look at vs. 3: “And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
Do you see the word “look”?
- In the Greek that word means “to gaze, to keep looking at something.”
- Jesus is speaking here of a person who is so busy looking at someone else’s faults that he can’t see his own.
- And the truth of the matter is…the other guy may have faults…but they aren’t near as bad as the guy who is being judgmental and critical.
Several years ago several of us went out to play golf (Eldon…first tee). .
Before you judge someone else…look at your own life!
- We can be so busy looking at someone else’s faults and judging them that we fail to look at ourselves…and make the corrections that we need to make.
- Don’t get so busy judging others that you can’t see what is amiss in your own life.
Now verse 5: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
- Let me ask you this…if you had something in your eye and you couldn’t get it out…but I could…would you want me to just leave it there?
- No, you would want me to help wouldn’t you?
Jesus is not forbidding correcting a brother or a sister who is involved in sin…or whose life is not what it should be.
- As brothers in Christ we are to help…instruct…and possibly even rebuke.
What Jesus is condemning here is being critical of another without being critical of ourselves.
- Judging another without first judging ourselves.
Let’s say that I approach a brother, I have two grown children and neither has remained faithful, and I arrogantly approach a brother and criticize him because his children are not attending services, how affective am I going to be in helping that brother?
- If I approach him and say, “Brother, as a father whose children have drifted away from Christ, whose children are caught up in denominational teachings, let me talk to you about your children”…which of these two approaches will have the better chance of success?
If we see our situation first…we might be a little bit slower in criticizing and condemning someone else.
- When we see our own short comings then we will not approach a brother in judgment…instead we will approach him as a fellow sinner…trying to help.
Jesus is saying, if you want to help your brother with his sin you have to take the huge plank if self-righteousness out of your own eye…because it is then and only then that you can truly see to help your brother.
- As long as we have a self-righteous attitude we will not help a brother…we will only criticize and judge.
Jesus is not telling us that we are not to make any judgments of people at all.
- Sometimes we must make some judgments for the sake of safety and well-being both physically and spiritually.
- Sometimes we must make some judgments for the well-being of others.
- Jesus is not telling us that we can’t sit on a jury.
- What Jesus is telling us is having a “holier than thou”, self-righteous critical attitude that sees others with contempt and condemnation is wrong.
- That kind of attitude will draw no one to Christ.
- Over the years that kind of attitude has driven people away from our assemblies.
- And we are not in the driving away business…we are in the “bring them to Christ” business.
- We are to save if we can…and not condemn.
Matthew 6: 19-24
I want to begin with a simple little exercise…you don’t have to answer out loud…
- Which one is your choice: Dish or Direct TV? (Why did you make that choice?)
- Red, Orange or blue…or from left to right door 1, 2, or 3? (Hard to know which one isn’t it?)
- This one is tough! (How do you make the right choice? It would be nice to have someone tell you, “This is the right one…and the best choice!)
- It is not always easy to make the right choice…but in this passage Jesus makes it easy…IF we will listen to Him.
Look at the passage that was read again…in vs. 19 and 20 there are two choices: treasures on earth and treasures in heaven.
- In vs. 22-23 there are two choices: a clear or sound eye and a bad eye.
- In vs. 24 there are two choices: God and mammon.
- And in vs. 25-34 there are two choices: our body and God’s kingdom.
- These are difficult choices because worldly ambition and the spell of materialism has a pretty strong pull on us. When you see some of the things that people have and the pleasures and comforts that they enjoy…that looks like the way to go.
- But when it comes to “treasures in heaven” you can’t see them.
- So, this is kind of difficult…how do you know which ones to go with?
Well, we don’t have to wonder because Jesus tells us what to choose. Look at vs. 19 and 20 again. Jesus says: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth,
- Because “moths and rust destroy them…and thieves break in and steal them.”
- Jesus mentions “moths” – in Jesus’ day people considered their fine clothing to be one of their treasures…just like some people do today. Over time what happens to that fine clothing. (ripped some of that fine clothing)
- “Rust”- literally means “an eating away” and could refer to corrosion or it could also be referring to any devouring pest or vermin. (rats, mice, ants, worms, etc.) Book-the only survivor of the whole set. (Termites).
- And in Jesus’ day houses were made out of mud and clay and it was easy for a thief to break in and steal anything valuable. (And when it comes to houses and how easy they can be gone…ask people in Moore, Okla. Or in West, Texas).
- And what Jesus is saying here is “treasures here on earth”…the material things we value…are corruptible, they are temporary and there is no lasting security in them.
- Many years ago I graduated from high school…do you know where all those graduation gifts I received are? (Broke, worn out, rusted, thrown out, out dated, stolen, gone, or lost)
- And the first car I ever owned that I was so proud of…worn out…fell apart.
- And some of the really neat clothes I had…
- Jesus says, “Don’t put your security…your future…your happiness and contentment in those things…don’t fool yourself into believing that life consists in the abundance of your possession…because the things you have are only temporary.”
But look at the other choice…the other option: “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…”
- Why? “Because neither moth, nor rust destroys, and neither do thieves break in and steal.”
- There is no guess work here…there is no wondering about making the right choice.
- Sure you can see the material things and they look so good and pleasurable…especially since you can’t see the “heavenly things”.
- Jesus tells us that the material things will disappear….but the treasures laid up in heaven will last forever and ever with no depreciation or deterioration.
Now, when Jesus speaks of “treasures in heaven” what is He talking about?
- Simply put it is to do anything in this life that someday will result in the reward of heaven.
- Things such as developing a Christ-like character; increasing in faith, hope and charity.
- Grow in the knowledge of Christ; endeavor to bring others to Christ; use our money and possessions for Christian causes; show compassion, love, patience, understanding and so on.
- It is obeying God.
- All of these are temporal activities with an eternal reward in heaven.
- No burglar can steal it…no worm or rat can destroy it…there are no moths, or mice to eat it…it cannot corrode.
- They are indestructible and Jesus seems to be saying to us, “These things are a safe investment…they are safe and secure.”
- And what Jesus says in verse 21 is “let your heart desire those treasures that lead to heaven.”
Now look at the second set of choices found in verses 22-23: a clear (or sound eye) or a bad eye.
- And again this is a difficult choice because when you look at those who have a “bad eye” they seem to have all of these possessions…and all of these different kinds of pleasures.
- But what do people with a “clear eye” have?
Well look at what Jesus says. Jesus says, “If your eye is clear…if your eye is focused on Christ…if your eye is focused on heaven…then your whole body will be full of light!”
- You will be filled with hope, and joy, and peace, and love, and faith, kindness, and compassion…free from worry, and greed, and immorality, and wickedness.
- Your whole body will be “full of light.”
“But if your eye is bad…if your eye focusses on the things of this world…the wicked pleasures of this world…the values and ideas of this world…your bad eye will plunge you into a darkness that Jesus says “is great!”
- It is a darkness where there is no hope, no joy, no peace, no love, or kindness, or compassion.
- It is a darkness of misery, pain, depression, hopelessness, and destruction.
You do not have to wonder about which one to choose…or which one is best…Jesus tells us…the only question is “will you listen to Him?”
Look at the next two choices found in verse 24: God or mammon.
- There are only two possibilities…it is one or the other…it is impossible to serve both.
- And when the choice is seen for what it is…a choice between the Creator and the created, between the personal, glorious, living God and a miserable thing called money….between worship and idolatry…it seems inconceivable that anyone would make the wrong choice.
- Serving one will give you eternal life….serving the other will make your miserable for life.
Now, look at verses 25-34. It is a shame that this passage is so often separated from the previous verses.
- Look at how it begins: “For this reason I say to you…”; the NIV says, “Therefore…”
- What Jesus says here in verses 25-34 relates back to what He has just taught us in verses 19-24.
- And what we have decided to do in verses 19-24 will determine what we will choose to do in verses 25-34.
In other words, what did Jesus tell us to do in verse 20: “Lay up your treasures in heaven.”
- Do those things that will result in the reward of heaven.
What does He tell us to do in verse 22: “Have a clear eye”…focus on Christ…focus on heaven.”
And what does He tell us to do in verse 24: “Serve God.”
- Now if we have done those things…what are we going to choose to do in verse 33? (Seek first the kingdom of God.)
- What is it in verse 25 are we not going to do? (Be anxious for our life…what we are going to eat, drink, or what we will wear.”
- If we are “laying up or treasures in heaven, if we have a clear eye (focusing on Christ), if we are serving God we are not going to become engrossed in the cares of this world…instead we will seek His Kingdom and His righteousness…”
- And look at what Jesus promises in verse 33: “and all of these things shall be added or provided to you.” (not just food, drink, shelter, and clothing…but also the security, the peace, the joy that comes with having these things).
But if we choose to lay up our treasures here on earth, if we choose to have a bad eye, if we choose to serve mammon instead of God…then what are we going to do in verse 25: Be anxious…worry…worry about life…worry about what you are going to eat…worry about what you are going to drink…worry about what you will wear…
- Five times in this passage Jesus speaks of worry…that is all you will do…is worry, worry, worry, and worry.
- And if you look at verse 32, when you worry about these things you are doing just what the Gentiles…or the unfaithful are doing.
- And the sad thing…when you choose to worry about all these things…the indication is from verse 33…you will never be satisfied.
So, which will you choose: to lay up treasures here on earth….or to lay up treasures in heaven?
- To have a clear eye….or a bad eye.
- To serve God…or mammon?
- To seek first the kingdom of God and find peace, contentment, security and joy….or constantly worry, be miserable, and never satisfied.
- Unlike many choices in life where it is hard to know what to do…where these is no one to tell you which is best…Jesus makes the choices here clear…I hope that we each one will listen to Him.
Look At Me
LOOK AT ME!
I am glad that you are here today…Happy Mother’s Day to all.
- Nothing brings more joy to a mother than to have her kids with her in church to worship God who has made her the mother that she is.
- Did you know that in the days of Christ there was a morning prayer in which the men would say, “Thank you God for not making me a gentile, for not making me a slave, and for not making me a woman.”
- That sounds awful. But you talk to a Jewish man and here is what he means by that. He means that a woman has a harder life. That she has multiplied pain in childbirth. Women have a monthly cycle, they have to wear dark clothing from head to toe so no one will ever have to see their form. The Jews say that the pain and much suffering for a man begins on the 8th day after his birth when he is circumcised. For the woman it begins the moment she was born. The man will say “thank you God for making me a man because a woman has a harder life.
- And here is something interesting: It is a proven fact that if your mother doesn’t have any children more than likely you won’t either. Happy Mother’s Day.
Let’s look at the passage that was read…In this passage Jesus continues talking to us about having a “righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.”
- In chapter 5:20 Jesus catches our attention by saying, “that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we won’t enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
- Wow! Not enter into the kingdom of heaven?
- That makes these principles a matter of salvation!
- I always thought it was just hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized…and I have done that…but now Jesus is telling me that there is more to it than that?
- Now I have to have a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees?
- What were they doing? What must I do?
Well, in chapter 5 starting in vs. 21 to the end of the chapter Jesus gives us 5 instances where he contrasts what the scribes and Pharisees were doing with what we need to do.
- And those 5 instances dealt with “moral righteousness” or doing what is right morally.
- But now, in chapter 6 Jesus moves to “religious righteousness” doing what is right in reference to religious activities.
- And look what He says again in vs. 1:
Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
- In the next 17 verses Jesus is going to mention 3 acts of worship…and He is not telling us not to do these things…He is telling us not to do them “to be noticed by men.”
- Don’t do these things for your own honor and glory…so that men will exalt you.
So look at the first area of “religious activity” that He speaks of…look at vs. 2:
“When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing 4 that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
Here is what Jesus is saying about giving.
- In Jesus’ day, in the first century, during the time between the two testaments, especially when they came back from exile, there was a lot more poverty than normal.
- They had been passed through different masters…there were the Persians and the Greeks and now, when Jesus speaks, the Roman Empire.
- Poverty was wide spread.
Giving to the needy, to the poor was considered the highest calling.
- It was one of the greatest things you could do. There was a huge emphasis placed on giving to the poor.
Now where they gave was in very public places. They were giving in the synagogues and apparently out in the market places where people were.
- And to get the people’s attention the scribes and Pharisees or the Rabbi’s would take their trumpet (probably a Shofar) and he would sound a blast on it!
- And those in hearing distance would start to come because they know that this is a call for the gathering.
- And people who are in daily need of food and daily need of alms would gather around them.
And so the scribes and Pharisees or the Rabbi would again raise up the horn and blow another blast…and then a third time…and even longer until finally there is a lot of poor people around and a lot of others watching.
- Then he dips into his money bag hanging from his belt and then he gives out his coins to everybody.
- And then what happens? The needy among them get down on their knees and thank him and all the Jewish people go away saying what? “He is such a wonderful man. God bless our Rabbi. He gives and he gives and he gives. He is so holy.”
- And what is the reward that the Rabbi has sought? “Yeah, praise me. I am good.”
- He has just received all the reward he is going to get.
Jesus says, “Give in such a way that no one knows, that no one sees.”
- “Don’t give to be seen by men…don’t give for your own glory…but give instead for the glory of God.” (So people will thank God for the help they have received.)
Now Jesus speaks to us about prayer. Look at vs. 5:
“And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men.
- Now, there are no trumpets being blown but they are out there on the street corners. They are out there in a place where everyone is watching and gathering and seeing and they are praying out loud. Wow, how impressive!
Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
- When you pray do not be like the hypocrites who love to pray to be seen by men.
- Jesus isn’t telling us not to pray.
- Jesus is telling us not to pray “in order to be seen by men.”
The Hebrew people the Jewish people had a prayer for everything. (Look sometime on Wikipedia)
- There was morning prayers, and they were long and involved and they prayed all through the day.
- There was a Hebrew baruch…or blessings to give. “Bless you O Lord God, King of the universe. Bless you God for giving us this…and for giving us that.
- Hebrew men that were very religious, very spiritual minded, they prayed when the woke up; they prayed before they got dressed.
- They would have a morning mikfah, the morning immersion of the head and face and hands; there was a blessing for that.
- There was and still is a prayer before they eat, there is a blessing after they eat.
- There is a blessing for the clothes they wear, there is a blessing for the road they walk on; there is a blessing for everything.
- Then there is formal prayer 3 times a day. You have to do that and then there is this other thing where you have to do 100 separate blessings all through the day.
- If you see something that is unique and different, there is a blessing for that.
- So, all through the day they are just praying.
- There is a blessing when you get home. There is a blessing for food. There is a blessing after the food. There is a blessing for the lighting of the candles. There is a blessing for the blessing. There is a blessing before you go to bed, when you are in bed, there is a blessing…
And for some of them they loved standing on the street corners and praying for everything just to show everyone how righteous and religious they were.
- “Bless you O Lord God, King of the universe; bless you for giving us the sun, bless you for making it bright, for making it warm, for the light so we can see, for the warmth and the light because our crops grow, thank you Lord for this and for that and for the other.”
- And they have blessing after blessing and it goes on and on and on.
And all the people around them are in amazement and they are saying, “Wow, the Rabbis are really great men of prayer.”
- And the Rabbis swelled with pride. To be seen is why they do it.
So Jesus comes a long and He says that it is good to pray and it is good to pray all day, and it is good to pray 3 times a day, and to pray to God and to pray in the temple, prayer is good and keep praying.
- But don’t pray just to be seen by men.
- Don’t pray for your own glory. Don’t do it all for show.
When Jesus says here to “go into your inner room and shut the door”, don’t take that to extremes.
- To interpret that with rigid literalism would be guilty of the pharisaism which Jesus is warning us about.
- If all of our praying were to be in secret we would have to give up praying in church, family prayers and prayer meetings.
- What Jesus is emphasizing here is praying in sincerity and not to be seen by men
And look at verse 7: And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 “Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. 9 “Pray, then, in this way:
- Jesus is saying, “I don’t want you to think that you have to pray hour upon hour upon hour for ever in order for God to bless you and hear you.”
- “That is how the pagans do it! Don’t be like them.”
- And notice He says, “Pray, then, in this way:
Vs. 9: ‘Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.
10’Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.
11’Give us this day our daily bread.
12’And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13’And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.]’
How long did it take to read that prayer?
- Contrast that to a man who stands on the street corners or in the synagogues going on and on and on and on just to be impressive.
- This is a 15-18 second prayer.
- It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out…and do you know why? “Because your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.”
- What it needs to be is sincere with pure motives.
Then the third thing Jesus talks about is fasting; vs. 16. “And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face (what is a gloomy face…what does that look like?) as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face 18 so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.
What is Jesus talking about? He is saying that it is not about show…that you need to be sincere… there needs to be a relationship between you and your heavenly Father that is pure, and good, and healthy, and holy.
- That we don’t seek to impress people with our holiness but with His.
In verse 2, 5, and 16 Jesus says “don’t do as the hypocrites do.”
- That word “hypocrites” in the Greek literally means “a stage-player…an actor.”
- It speaks of one who comes out on a stage and performs…they pretend to be something they are not…and they seek to gain the approval of their audience.
- What Jesus is saying to us is, as His disciples simply play to an audience of One…and covet the approval of your Father in Heaven.
An Eye For An Eye
AN EYE FOR AN EYE
Read Luke 9: 51-54; Matt. 5:38-42
Have you ever felt this way? I think that most of us have. At some point in time, when someone has insulted us, humiliated us, or hurt us, we sometimes want to strike back.
- Maybe not to the extent of destroying someone like these disciples had in mind…but still
- It is kind of like the story of the little old lady who was trying to find a parking space at a big city mall…because of her age she was wanting a space up close…and after hunting through the parking lot she finally spied a space. And just as she was about to pull in a car driven by a young teenage girl cut in front of her and took the spot. And as the younger girl got out of her car she said, “See what you can do when you are young a fast.” At that the older lady rammed the younger girl’s car with her Cadillac and said, “See what you can do when you are old and rich!”
I think everyone of us at some time has had an urge to “get even.”
- Maybe while we are driving…maybe because of what someone says to us?
- Maybe because of the way we are treated…maybe when we have been cheated.
Here in Luke 9, Jesus disciples want to “get even.”
- They wanted revenge! They wanted to retaliate.
- Here Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and the disciples aren’t too pleased that he has chosen to go through Samaria.
- Samaritans weren’t very highly thought of.
- Most Jews detested them and went out of their way to avoid having anything to do with them.
- So, the disciples weren’t too fond of going through Samaria in the first place.
And then when Jesus asked these people for help…the disciples didn’t care for that either.
- It was humiliating to them for Jesus to ask for help…especially from these people.
And then when these Samaritans refused to receive Jesus, the disciples were furious.
- They ask Jesus, “Do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”
The disciples wanted revenge.
- But look what Jesus says in vs. 55: “But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
- Jesus doesn’t want us to retaliate.
- He doesn’t want us “getting even.”
- That is not what He came for; it’s not what He wanted His disciples to do, and it’s not what He wants us to do.
- In fact, if you look at this verse very closely you’ll see that Jesus doesn’t even want us to have a “spirit of retaliation.”
- Jesus doesn’t want us to retaliate.
But where did the disciples get this kind of thinking? Where do some today get this kind of an idea?
Turn with me if you would to Matt. 5: 38. Jesus speaks here and He says:
“You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”
- Do you see that, “You have heard that it was said…”?
- This is what many of the Jewish Rabbis were teaching.
- They were taking these words from Exodus 21:24, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”, and using them to justify retaliation…or personal revenge.
- If anyone wronged them they would just turn to this passage and use it as justification for “getting even.”
- “Why, if someone does injury to you, you have the right to do injury back.”
- They may have even felt like it was their duty to get even.
- No wonder the disciples felt the way they did in Luke 9.
- It is very possible that they were taught to be that way.
But these Rabbis were doing what a lot of people do…they were misusing the scriptures.
- They were making it say something it didn’t say.
- The Rabbis were twisting it…using it out of context in order to justify their own vengeful actions.
Exodus 21 isn’t talking about revenge and retaliation.
- It has nothing to do with revenge and retaliation.
Exodus 21:24, if you go to that passage and look is dealing with “case laws.”
- Case laws that were to be exacted or enforced by the courts or ruling council.
- These laws were never intended for someone to exact personal revenge.
The emphasis of this “case law” found in Exodus 21:24 had to do with making restitution for damages.
- And it worked on the principle of giving an exact equivalent for the damages you suffered…no more…and no less.
- If you took an eye…you gave an eye…an exact equivalent in restitution.
- If you took a tooth you gave a tooth.
- If you killed a calf…you gave a calf.
- It’s the principle of exact equivalent.
It was a law that was designed to keep someone from being unfairly under compensated or over compensated.
- It protected the victim by giving just restitution.
- But it also protected the wrongdoer because it limited the compensation that a victim would receive.
For example, in 1994 Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, NM bought a 49 cent cup of coffee at McDonald’s. After she bought the cup of coffee she put it between her knees in order to add cream to it. In the process of removing the lid she spilt the entire cup of coffee and it ran down into the seat and she suffered 3rd degree burns. She spent 8 days in the hospital and incurred about $12000 worth of medical expenses. She filed suit against McDonald’s for $20,000 to cover the cost of her medical expenses. When the case went to court the jury awarded Stella $165,000 dollars and $2.7 million dollars for punitive damages. And amount that most people felt like was a ridiculous amount for the injury sustained.
That was the purpose of the law in Exodus 21:24…it was to protect the victim by giving just restitution and at the same time it protected the wrongdoer because it limited the compensation the victim would receive.
- It worked on the principle of giving an exact equivalent for the damage you received…no less and no more.
The law found in Exodus 21:24 and quoted in Matthew 5:38 had nothing to do with retaliation.
- In fact, it was given to prevent retaliation.
- It kept people from taking the law into their own hands by providing a just restitution.
- And it eliminated personal revenge because it was a law that the courts or judicial councils were to exact.
- The Rabbis were misusing this passage!
Look at it again, Matthew 5:38: Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”
Look what he says next: “But I say to you…”
- “They say it is ok…that revenge is justified…that’s what they tell you”…but…Jesus says, “Not I don’t tell you that.”
Look what he says: “But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to Him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”
Do you know what Jesus is saying here?
- At first it looks like he is saying, “Well, just let people abuse you.”
- “Just be uncompromisingly passive and let any tyrant or thug who comes along take advantage of you.”
- “Don’t do anything to prevent the spread of evil.”
- Some people take this that way.
- One man took this passage this way to the extent that he “let the lice nibble at him and refused to kill any of them maintaining that he had to suffer and could not resist evil.”
That is not what Jesus is saying.
- Jesus wasn’t even that way…He wasn’t a weakling…He was strong.
- And He Himself resisted evil and stood up against those who were wicked.
- Several times He stood up against the Pharisees and Scribes and opposed them.
- In Eph. 6:10 we are told to “take up the full armor of God, that we might be able to resist the evil day.”
- In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul told Timothy that he was to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience.”
- This passage isn’t telling us to be completely passive and letting evil go unchecked.
This passage is dealing with revenge…retaliation…getting even…what you do when someone who is evil wrongs you.
- And Christ is telling us here, that as Christians, as Kingdom people, we are to so completely forgo revenge, so completely refrain from retaliation…that we even allow the evil person to double the injury.
- They slap you on the cheek, you resist retaliation to the point of “turning the other cheek.”
- They take your shirt you resist retaliation to the point of “giving your coat also.”
- They force you to go with them one mile, you resist retaliation to the point of “going with them the second.”
- They come and ask you for something your resist retaliation to the point of “giving more if you have to.”
Jesus is talking about refusing, refraining, forgoing completely exacting revenge and getting even.
- It doesn’t matter what the situation might be…it doesn’t matter how mistreated we are…or how unfair it might seem…Don’t retaliate!
Paul says it this way in Romans 12: 17: “Never…never pay back evil for evil to anyone.”
Jesus doesn’t want us to retaliate…He wants us to go the “extra mile” to keep from retaliating.
- This isn’t easy…it isn’t easy to turn the other cheek.
- Someone slaps us we want to slap them back.
- How do you do this?
I think Jesus tells us how to do this in vs. 44.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Love! Love your enemies!
- Back up there in verse 39 Jesus gives us four scenarios…four cameos…all situations where a person would be tempted to strike back.
- Situations that the normal man wouldn’t tolerate.
- The only thing that can give a person the power to refrain in those situations is love.
- A sacrificial, selfless love.
- The same kind of love that Jesus manifested as He was nailed to the cross.
Remember the song we sing, “He could have called 10,000 angels”?
- Jesus could have exacted revenge right then and there…but He didn’t?
- Why? Love. A love that denies self and seeks the highest good of the other person and all of society as well.
- It is a love that never returns evil for evil.
The second way you keep from retaliating is changing the way you see things…look at vs. 44-45 again.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
- Which is more important?
- In vs. 39 Jesus speaks of getting “slapped on the cheek.”
- In vs. 40 He mentions your coat.
- In vs. 41 He mentions walking an extra mile.
- In vs. 42 He speaks of “giving to another that which is yours.”
- In comparison to verse 45 and being “the son of your Father who is in heaven”, which is most important?
That is how you overcome the urge to retaliate…seeing things through Spiritual eyes.
- Realizing what is important.
- All those things that Jesus spoke of in verse 39-42, every one of them is going to pass away, including the cheek.
- But being a son of the Father will last forever.
The third thing that will keep you from retaliating is realizing what it can result in.
- Remember the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.
- In that story Cain gets even with Abel after God accepts Abel’s sacrifice and rejects Cain’s.
- The price of revenge was high…look at vs. 11-12, 15.
Sometimes we think we want to get even but it’s not worth the price that you will pay.
- The story is told of an incident that happed to Dale Carnegie when he visited Yellowstone Park and watched rangers feed the grizzly bears.
- One night the rangers brought out garbage to attract the bears and sure enough the bears came.
- Huge, ferocious creatures, perhaps the most ferocious animal in the S.
- And as they were feeding the grizzlies Dale Carnegie noticed that the bears wouldn’t allow any other animals to eat with them except for skunks.
- All the other animals were run off except for the skunks.
Dale Carnegie asked one of the rangers, “How could this be? It’s obvious that the grizzlies don’t like it. Why those skunks seem to be running around so arrogant and obnoxious stealing food right in front of the bears. Why don’t the bears get even with the skunks and run them off too?”
- The ranger replied, “The cost is just too high.”
God tells us in Romans 12 that “Vengeance is His.”
- We need to let Him do it.
- If we do it the price might be too high.
I think that we all at sometime have an urge to “get even” with someone.
- But that is not what we are here for.
- We are here to serve Christ and to save as many as possible…not to destroy.
- Christ wants us to forgo exacting revenge to the point of turning the other cheek…giving your coat…going the second mile…and giving after you have already given.
It’s not easy but it can be done.
- It takes love…love for God…love for Christ…love for people…and love for your enemies.
- It requires looking at things through spiritual eyes realizing that some things are not that important.
- And it can be done by realizing that the cost of retaliation may be too high.
Christ doesn’t want us to retaliate…but there is something else that Christ doesn’t want us to do either…that’s be lost.
Let Your Yes Be Yes
LET YOUR “YES” BE “YES” AND YOUR “NO” BE “NO”
Matthew 5: 33-37
A month or so ago in the news a senator from Chicago was facing corruption charges and he spent the weekend huddling with his lawyers preparing for his grand jury testimony. As I saw that I thought it was a little odd. If your goal in going before the grand jury is to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, why does it take hours and hours to prepare for that?
- Why not just simply tell the truth? Why not just be honest?
Now it would be foolish to think that lawyers and politicians are the only people who like to play games with the truth.
- A recent survey found that most Americans think it is wrong to lie under oath, but in other situations telling a lie is only a minor problem if it is a problem at all.
- And about the only time that it is wrong to lie is when you promise that you are not lying.
What about us? As God’s people do we have a problem just being honest?
Let’s look at this passage that was read because Jesus is going to deal with this very thing.
- First, let’s go back to verse 20. Jesus says in vs. 20:
“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees (most Americans…Lawyers and Politicians), you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.
- That is a pretty strong statement!
- The scribes and Pharisees were considered to be the most spiritual men of their society…most people thought that if anyone was going to go to heaven…it would certainly be these guys.
- They looked good…and they sounded good…
- But from what Jesus says here, they fell way short of entering the kingdom of heaven.
- You see, just because some act religious…and look religious doesn’t mean that they are right with God.
- So what was it that the scribes and Pharisees were doing? And what must we do to exceed their righteousness?
Well, Jesus gives us 7 examples to help us understand what we need to do to exceed the scribes and Pharisees in righteousness…
- And as He gives us these examples He contrasts what the scribes and Pharisees were doing with what they should have been doing.
- He will say, “You have heard that it was said…then He will say…”but I say unto you.”
- He will point out that righteousness is not just about keeping the letter of the law….but it is also about keeping the spirit of the law as well.
Now, we have already covered the first three examples or situations…
- The first one dealt with murder and anger.
- The Pharisees and scribes would say, “We haven’t committed murder…we have kept the letter of the law…but Jesus would say, “Keep the spirit of the law…“Don’t even be angry!”
The Pharisees then would say, “We haven’t committed adultery…we have kept the letter of the law…but Jesus would say, “Keep the spirit of the law…Don’t even lust after a woman that way!”
And the Pharisees would say, “I gave my wife a certificate of divorce…we have kept the letter of the law….and Jesus says, “Stop making your marriage so cheap! Concentrate on making your marriages work instead of justifying reasons to dissolve them! Keep the spirit of the law.
Now we come to the 4th example…look again at verse 33:
“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’
- Now, the truth of the matter is, this statement here in vs. 33 is not an accurate quotation of any of the laws of Moses.
- But at the same time this statement is a pretty good summary of several Old Testament precepts which requires people who make vows to keep them. (Numbers 30:2; Lev. 19:12; Deut. 23:21)
- So this is what the law said.
Now, when you look at this it is not hard to see what the scribes and Pharisees were doing.
- They were masters at finding loopholes…finding ways to get out of keeping their promises.
- Here is what they were doing…look at the end of what Jesus says:
“You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.”
- They ignored the first halve of the command but stressed the second half.
- And what they said was, “The only vows that were really binding were those where you invoked the Lord as grounds for keeping that vow.”
- If you said, “I swear by the Lord…or I promise before God”, that vow was binding…you had to keep it.
- But if you swore by something else…that vow wasn’t binding…and you didn’t have to keep it.
- So basically what they did was they had devised a way to renege on their vows…they devised a way to justify lying!
Here is another passage that shows you what they were doing. This is Matthew 23: 16-18. Jesus says:
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obligated.’ 17 “You fools and blind men; which is more important, the gold, or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 “And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering upon it, he is obligated.’
- Whether you had to keep your word or not all depended on what you swore by.
- So, they had devised a way to justify not keeping their word.
Now, go back to Matthew 5. Look at what Jesus says in vs. 34: “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 “Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
Here is what Jesus is saying to them?
- Jesus is saying that no matter what they swear by they can’t help but swear by God…
- The whole world is God’s and everything in it is God’s and they can’t leave Him out no matter what they swear by.
- Therefore, all of their oaths or vows are binding.
Look again at Matthew 23:19: “You blind men, which is more important, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 “Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 “And he who swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22 “And he who swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.
- They had come up with this idea that only those vows that were sworn to “in the name of the Lord”, were binding…thus they provided for themselves a way to not keep their word.
- And Jesus says, “It makes no difference what you swear by you cannot help but swear by God…and therefore, all of your vows are binding.”
But Jesus goes farther than that. In fact, He is going to get to the literal “heart of the matter”. Look back in Matthew 5 at the beginning of verse 34, where Jesus says, “…make no oath at all.”
- Jesus is saying, “Don’t swear by anything.”
- If you promise to do something or not do something…then just simply keep your word!
- Your honesty, your integrity, your reputation should be such that when you say you will or won’t do something…people can take you at your word without all this “swearing on something”.
In fact, look at verse 37:
37 “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; and anything beyond these is of evil.
- It is that simple…if you say “Yes”, then keep your word.
- And if you say “No”…then keep your word.
- Don’t play word games to try and get out of doing what you said you would do.
- Don’t try to use some technicality to keep from doing what you promised to do.
For example, let me show you some things we do to get out of keeping our promises:
“Anita, I am going to take you Houston as soon as school is out.”
- When the end of the year comes Anita says, “Are we going to Houston?”
- “But you said you would take me.”
- “I did…but I didn’t promise.”
- We think that just because we didn’t say, “I promise” that we don’t have to keep our word.
- We do this kind of thing a lot with our kids.
- We tell them we will do something…then renege because we “didn’t promise.”
Or I tell Anita that I am going to take her to Houston…but I have justification for not doing what I said I would because I have my fingers crossed.
And let me tell you another popular excuse that is used for not keeping our word today.
- It is the “I don’t like it excuse.”
- We buy something on credit…we start the payments…but then we decide that we don’t like what we bought…so we quit paying for it…and we break our word…the promise we made when we bought it.
- We think sometimes that because we don’t like something it is ok to break our promise.
- This same excuse is used a lot when it comes to marriage.
Jesus says, “Don’t play word games…don’t use technicalities to void or affirm your promises.
- Instead, just be honest…keep your word….and if you say you are going to do something then do it.
Let me mention one more…this is one I ran across just last week. I was talking with a funeral director and I asked him, “What do you do when people won’t pay? After all, you can’t repossess the casket?
- He said, “We just lose. There is nothing we can do.”
- And he told me that I would be amazed at the number of people who have promised to pay, they sign on the line, and then don’t pay.
Some of you have had this done to you…and it may be that some here this morning have done this to others.
- Listen, when you order something…when you sign on the line…when you tell someone you will pay…when you enter into an agreement…you keep your word!
- Be honest! Have some integrity…do what is morally right…and if you agree to something then do what you agreed to do.
- If you don’t pay what you owe…not only do you prove to be dishonest…but it is also a form of stealing!
- And to do it while claiming to be a Christian is to damage the reputation of Christ.
Look at verse 37 again and notice specifically the last part of the verse. Jesus says, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; and anything beyond these is of evil.
- Why does He say that anything beyond “Yes, yes” or “No, no” is of evil?
The reason He says this is because the need to swear by something…or to make an oath…comes from our untruthfulness…our dishonesty.
- We feel this need to swear by something because we know that our simple word is not likely to be trusted.
- And the reason why it may not be trusted is because in the past our word was not trustworthy.
Jesus is saying here that we are to “Let our statement be “yes, yes” or “No, no”…and be so trustworthy that we don’t need to swear on anything.
- As God’s people our reputation should be such that when someone asks us to do something…and we say “yes”…that is all they need to hear.
- In short, our word should be as good as gold.
A bunch of politicians were traveling down the road in an old bus…when they ran off the road and crashed into a tree. Well, an old farmer that was working in his field ran over to see what happened…and after he checked on the politicians he got his shovel and buried them. A few days later the sheriff came out and the farmer told him what had happened. The Sheriff asked him, “Did the coroner come out? Are you sure they were all dead?” The old farmer said, “Well, some of them said they were still alive but you know how them politicians lie!”
Sadly, some people have a reputation for not being honest…for not meaning what they say…but it must not be that way for us as a child of God because Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes, and the Pharisees…you shall not enter the kingdom of God.
If you need to repent…you can’t change the past…but you can start today.
Some may have done this…not only do you need to repent….but you also need Christ because in Him and through Him you can be forgiven.
Certificate of Divorce
CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE
The passage that was read is one of the most difficult and most controversial passages in all of scripture…and the subject matter elicits some extremely strong emotions in people because of the way that the have been affected by it.
- Before we get into this lets go back just a little.
Back in vs. 20 Jesus tells us that “unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisee, we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
- Now that is a pretty strong statement…and one that catches my attention because I want to go to heaven.
And because He wants us to go to heaven…to help us understand what it means for our righteousness to exceed the scribes and Pharisees…He gives us 7 examples of what the scribes and Pharisees were doing.
- And to point out the contrast between what they were doing and what they should have been doing…what they were doing and what we must do to exceed their righteousness…what Jesus does is He says, “You have heard that it was said”….then he will say, “But I say unto you…”
- He will point out that righteousness is not just about keeping the letter of the Law…but it is also about keeping the spirit of the Law.
So Jesus begins in verse 21 and He says, “You have heard that he ancients were told, “You shall not commit murder…
- The letter of the law….”you shall not commit murder.” (commandment 6)
…but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court.”
- The spirit of the law…”don’t even be angry!”
- Deal with your anger and stop it before it gets started.”
- If you are angry with someone…or they are angry with you…you go to them and do what you can to be reconciled…you resolve the issue and then you come back and worship God.
Then Jesus meddles a little more…He gets a little more personal.
“You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery…”
- The letter of the Law….(commandment 7).
- Do you think anyone in the crowd got a little nervous over this?
“…but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
- The spirit of the Law…”Don’t even look at a woman improperly.”
Do you see the pattern?
- Letter of the Law…Don’t murder; Spirit of the Law….Don’t be angry.
- Letter of the Law…Don’t lie with another man’s wife; Spirit of the law…Don’t even think about it! Get it out of your mind and out of your heart…remove it!
Do you see how the scribes and Pharisees played with the Law?
- “Pharisee, in this matter of adultery, how are you today?”
- “Oh, I am good…I haven’t slept with my neighbors wife yet. Now I think about her all day long but that is OK because I am in the letter of the Law…I haven’t broken the Law. You know, the Law doesn’t say you can’t think about it. The Law just says, “Don’t do it.”
Jesus is saying, “I have a higher righteousness for you. I don’t even want you to think about it.”
- And notice that Jesus doesn’t put this off on the other person…on the neighbor’s wife.
- He puts this off on self. This is something that is your responsibility to do yourself.
Now, what do you think Jesus is going to mention next? He has just spoken of adultery…what almost always follows problems with adultery? Divorce!
And it was said, “Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce…”
- The letter of the Law…
- Where was that said? Deuteronomy 24. This is not a 10 commandment.
- But still, the letter of the Law said that Jewish men could divorce their wives but they had to give them “a certificate of divorce…”
- It was mandatory.
But now, look at the spirit of the Law: But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
- Notice the exception: “everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity…”
- This gives you a pretty good idea of what the scribes and Pharisees were doing and teaching.
- They weren’t divorcing their wives only for unchastity…they were divorcing their wives for any reason they could justify!
Let’s look at the passage in Deuteronomy 24 where this law or this command is stated: “When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, 2 and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.
- Now in the first verse notice what the justification is for writing your wife a certificate of divorce: “she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her.”
- Guess what the scribes and Pharisees spent their time debating? What is an indecency?
- One Rabbi said, “Is she burns your dinner and that displeases you…out she goes.”
- Other Rabbis interpreted this teaching in a more conservative way and said it had to involve some indecency like adultery, or some immoral activity.
- Jesus said, “Except for unchastity”…do you think He is talking about divorcing her because she burnt supper…or because of some immoral activity?
But the scribes and Pharisees weren’t focusing in so much on the cause of the divorce…they were focusing more on her “not finding favor”…no being pleasing anymore and just making sure they kept the letter of the law….”Give her a certificate of divorce.”
- It doesn’t matter what she did or didn’t do…just as long as you “give her a certificate of divorce.”
“Mr. Pharisee, I heard you divorced your wife?’
- “Yes I did. She burned my toast for the third time this week and I just had it. I got rid of her! Not only that she had put on a few pounds…and some of her beauty had begun to fade. But that is OK because I gave her a certificate of divorce!”
- “What are you going to do now?”
- “Well, now that I am single I am going to have a good time. I have already been checking out my neighbor’s wife down the street…and now that I no longer have a wife…I might try to move in on that.”
- It was all OK…it was all justified…get rid of her for any reason at all just as long as you give her a certificate of divorce.
But Jesus calls us to a higher righteousness: Vs. 32 …but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
- “unchastity” – adultery, fornication, harlotry, incest….that is justification for divorce…but not all these other reasons you are using.
What Jesus is saying here is “Stop playing games with marriage!” “Stop making your marriage so cheap!”
- There is no such thing as a “disposable wife”…get tired of one, just get rid of her and get another.
- Have some integrity!
- “Stop disrespecting God….stop disrespecting God’s institution of marriage…and stop disrespecting your wife.”
- “Get your heart right!”
This teaching is about protecting women from men who would cheapen them and their covenant, not only with their mate but with God…men who would toss their marriage aside in order to satisfy their selfish desires…and feel justified in doing so all because they obeyed the letter of the Law and gave her a certificate of divorce.
- And Jesus says, “It is not just about keeping the letter of the Law…it is also about keeping the spirit of the Law…you make your marriages work!”
- “You keep the covenant you entered into…you keep the vows you made before God…things are not going to be easy…things are not going to be perfect…there will be times when you will not be happy…but you work through those things…and you keep your marriage in tact…and only in the case of unchastity, adultery, immorality do you dissolve the marriage.”
- “You have a righteousness that exceeds the scribes and Pharisees.”
- Now how do you feel about being a disciple of Christ?
Look at what Jesus says again: …but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
- What does that mean?
- How do you make her commit adultery…and if she has a certificate of divorce and you marry her…why is it you commit adultery?
- Can a divorced woman never remarry even though it is not her fault that her husband divorced her?
- What does all of this mean?
I have about 7 or 8 books in my office that I have read on this…and it seems that everyone has their own idea about what Jesus is saying here…and those who wrote those books are more studied on this topic than I am…and if they can’t figure it out…it is for sure that I can’t either.
- But maybe that is Jesus’ point.
- Maybe Jesus is saying, “When you divorce your wife, except for the cause of unchastity…you affect your kids, your grandkids, you affect your wife, you affect your family…you affect the woman you marry afterward…and you affect her kids and family…
- …you make a huge, long lasting mess of things that may never be straightened out…and that can have all kinds of serious consequences!
- In short, when you put your wife away so you can chase another skirt down the street…it is a sin…it is wrong…and you cannot even imagine the problems you have created.
So, Jesus, can I murder? No.
- Can I be angry and hate? No.
- Can I commit adultery? No.
- Can I think about committing adultery in my heart? No.
- Can I write on a piece of paper and end my marriage? No.
- Man up! That is what Jesus is saying. Have some integrity! Be strong! And you take care of your marriage…and your wife….and wives…you take care of your husbands….and your marriage…and you respect and honor God…because the truth is, if your righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees…you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Look at verse 27 again.
- In this verse Jesus mentions one of the worst sins that a man or woman can commit…adultery.
- The Bible defines it as any act that violates the sanctity of God’s marriage design.
- Its affects are tremendous!
- Families are destroyed; lives are shattered.
- Victims are scarred deeply.
- Their value systems are damaged; the hurt and disappointment is enormous.
- Their confidence, trust and self-worth is destroyed.
- The affects are lifelong.
Psychologist say that to be victimized by this sin is worse than losing your mate to death.
- In death there is no violation of trust…there is no deception…no betrayal…there is no rejection.
- But the sin of adultery has all of these.
- It is a horrible thing to be victimized by.
And for those who commit adultery…it causes unbelievable guilt…shame…and distrust.
- It destroys your honor, your integrity, and in many cases it destroys the soundness of mind and the physical body.
- It can start one on a downward spiral that they cannot pull out of.
- The ultimate consequence that one can possibly suffer in committing adultery is mentioned twice in vs. 29 – 30 and that is “hell” or “eternal punishment.”
Adultery is a horrible thing.
- There is nothing good about it.
- It is one of the worst sins you can commit…but it is also one of the strongest temptations you can face.
- And because it is so bad…God tells us in these verses what we must do to prevent committing adultery.
So look if you would at verse 27 again.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’;
- Now remember back in verse 20 Jesus tells us that “unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, we will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
- So what the scribes and Pharisees were doing is they were teaching the people that you couldn’t commit adultery unless you physically committed the act.
- As long as you didn’t commit the act…you were innocent of violating the command.
But look at what Jesus says in verse 28: …but…”but” says that something is wrong with their thinking!
- Jesus says, “…but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
- Do you realize what Jesus has just given us here? He has just given us the equation for adultery.
- This is where it begins!
Jesus says, “Everyone who LOOKS on a woman to LUST for her has already committed adultery.”
- The word “lust” is speaking of a strong desire…to set the heart upon.
- And it is looking with the purpose of fulfilling those selfish desires…to feed one’s sensual appetites.
This isn’t talking about simply looking…Jesus isn’t saying that we can’t look at a woman…if that is the case we would all have to wear blinders.
- What He is talking about is intentionally looking with selfish and sensual desires in mind.
- This isn’t by accident…this is by choice.
This is what David did…look at this in 2 Samuel 11:2: Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.
- David’s desires are stirred.
- And in verse 4 it says that he “sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her…”
- He “looked”…with lust…and he committed adultery.
Look at Genesis 39: 7; And it came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”
- The master’s wife here “looked with desire at Joseph” and the only reason she didn’t commit the act of adultery is Joseph refused!
“Looking with desire”…looking to lust is where adultery begins.
- In fact, according to Jesus it is adultery!
- And if you are going to keep from committing adultery…if you are going to maintain sexual purity you are going to have to stop this!
Well, how do you do that? Look at verses 29-30:
“And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 “And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell.
- This is what you do.
- This sounds horrible…can you imagine the pain?
- Tearing your eye out…cutting off your hand? No one wants to get rid of their eye…or their hand.
- Your eyesight is precious to you.
- Isn’t this kind of drastic?
Well, that is part of Jesus’ point!
- When it comes to committing adultery…you take drastic action!
- The consequences of this sin are so devastating…you do whatever it takes….even if it is painful…even if you have to lose that which is precious and valuable to you…don’t do this.
Jesus is saying in terms that we might consider bazaar…don’t dilly dally around with this!
- Deal with it immediately…precisely.
- Half way measures won’t work!
- This is a deadly, dangerous, destructive sin…do what you must and don’t even let it get started.
And why is Jesus so adamant about this? Look at the end of verse 29 and the end of verse 30.
- The reason Jesus is so forceful with this…is His concern of people being lost in hell.
You know, we often laugh and joke about hell…but as bad as plucking your eye out might be…as bad as cutting off your hand might be…as bad as being blind and crippled might be…as painful and miserable as this might be…hell is infinitely worse.
- And Jesus is saying that the physical sin or the lustful sin of adultery will condemn you to the infernal regions…and whatever you have to do…no matter how painful…or how miserable it might make you…you stop this sin before it ever gets started.
Look at verse 29 again. Jesus says: “And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you;
- Do you see the word “stumble”? That is the Greek word “skandalizo”; we get our word “scandalize” from this word…this word means “to trip up or entrap.”
- It has the meaning behind it of “the bait in a trap.”
- It is that which draws you into a trap.
- It is anything that causes your destruction.
So Christ’s real emphasis is cutting off…removing anything that will cause your destruction.
- Whatever it is…get rid of it…get it out of your life.
- And cut off everything that arouses those desires and tempts you to commit adultery.
If some of the literature, the books, the magazines that you are reading are part of the problem…cut them off!
- If movies, TV shows are part of the problem…cut them off. (Promoted by Hollywood…common practice among many young people to be free sexually)
- If some of your associates…people you work with…or people you are friends with…are encouraging this problem…cut them off.
- If a relationship…or a habit…or an activity leads you to the trap…cut if off.
- If it is a Facebook acquaintance…or someone you are texting with…a chat room…cut it off.
- If there is a fire within you…don’t give it fuel.
- Don’t read anything that will harm you…don’t look at pictures…if music arouses you…cut it off.
In Eph. 4:27 the apostle Paul says, “Do not give the devil opportunity…”
- In Romans 13:14 the apostle Paul writes; “Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”
- In Col. 3:5 Paul says, “Consider your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed!”
That is what you must do to keep from committing adultery…we must be dead to it and all of its desires.
Adultery is such a horrible thing…it does so much harm…it ruins so many…it can cause those who commit it to be cast into hell.
- Still, people get involved in it.
- One survey reported that in 41% of marriages one or both spouses have admitted to infidelity either physically and emotionally.
- And emotional or verbal adultery is just as damaging to the spouse as the physical act. (chat rooms, instant messaging, social networking, or simply over the phone)
It is the worst thing you can do.
- It is a result of your desires…desires that you allow to become strong and uncontrolled.
- Jesus says, “Stop before your begin!
- Whatever it takes…however drastic…put a stop to those desires…cut them off…tear them out…get rid of them.
- Save yourself some grief and pain…Listen to Christ.
Now, what if someone has committed adultery…is there any hope for them? Let me show you two passages:
John 8:3-11 And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6 And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7 But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. 10 And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11 And she said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.”]
- For years it has been taught by some that if you commit adultery you are condemned and there is nothing you can do.
- Well, Jesus doesn’t tell this woman that.
- What I believe he does tell her in the verse 11 is, “You can’t do anything about the past…you cannot undo what you have done…but you start now, from this point…and don’t do it again.”
1 Cor 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.
- Adultery, both physical and emotionally, condemns you to be lost…but because of Christ and your sincere repentance…sins of adultery can be forgiven.
- You may still suffer the consequences…but you can be forgiven…and that is reason enough to be devoted to Christ.
Now, look at one more passage:
1 Cor 7:3-6 Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
- Take care of your marriages. If you will treat her the way God intends…and if you will treat him the way God intends your mate will never want to go anywhere else because no one will treat them as good as you do.
- But if you fail to keep up the maintenance on your marriage…you become indifferent about it…then you are running the risk of infidelity coming into your marriage.
- For the sake of your family…your children…love your mate and take care of your marriage.
And one last thing…and this doesn’t just apply to young people…middle aged and older adults get married…you be careful about who you marry!
- If he or she has had multiple partners at the same time…or if he or she is in the practice of going from one girl or guy to the next and having immoral relationships with them…and you decide you want to marry him or her…if you think he or she will stop doing that kind of thing after you get married…your fooling yourself.
- He or she may be the best looking thing in town…but you would be better off having a homely mate than to have one that you can’t trust…one that is not faithful.
Adultery, both physical and emotional are devastating…and the consequences on everyone involved are life long…perhaps even eternal.
- Jesus says, “Stop this before it gets started. Whatever it takes…no matter how drastic…stop this before it starts.”
Now, there is an adultery that is possibly more common than the one we have talked about this morning…and that is adultery against God.
- The apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 11:2: For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.
- Sadly a lot of people commit adultery against God…but even this can be forgiven.
- What does it take…well, like the Prodigal Son…repent and come home.
Jesus On Anger
JESUS ON ANGER
After spending 3 ½ hours enduring the long lines, surly clerks, and insane regulations at the Department of Motor Vehicles, a man stopped at a sporting goods store to pick up a gift for his son. The man decided on a baseball bat and he went up to the front to check out. The clerk asked him, “Cash or Charge?” Well, the man kind of snapped at the clerk, “Cash!” Then he realized how rude that was and so he apologized to the clerk and he explained, “I have just spent the whole afternoon at the Motor Vehicle Dept.” And the clerk responded, “Shall I gift wrap the bat…or are you going back there?”
Sometimes we do some pretty crazy things when we allow anger to control us.
- In fact, have you ever noticed that things get broken when people are angry?
- A tennis player gets angry and shatters their racquet.
- I saw a young man break a bone in his hand by punching a hole in a wall.
- In anger you slam the door and a picture falls off the way and shatters.
- Angry words break a heart…and ruin a relationship.
- A nation gets angry at a nation and the peace is broken.
- Church unity is broken by anger.
- Anger can be one of the most destructive things in our life.
Look at verse 20 here in chapter 5. Jesus says that “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
- Now in verses 21-48 Jesus gives us six examples of how our righteousness it to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.
- And interestingly enough the first area that He mentions that our righteousness is to exceed the scribes and Pharisees in if we want to enter into the kingdom of heaven is the area of anger.
- Let’s look at this and see what Jesus has to say about anger. Let’s begin in vs. 21.
In vs. 21 Jesus refers to the 6th commandment that is found in Exodus 20:13 and He says, “You have heard that the ancients were told, “You shall not murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.”
- The people understood this and they knew better than to violate this commandment.
- But, look at the next verse because it gives you an idea of what the scribes and Pharisees were doing…look at vs. 22 again.
Jesus says, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
- These religious leaders wouldn’t murder anyone…they wouldn’t physically take someone’s life…but they felt justified in being angry with a brother, and showing contempt for a brother, and destroying them verbally.
- So their idea was, “Even though I harbor these harsh feelings I have still kept the commandment because I haven’t committed murder.”
- Their standard of judging themselves was not by what was in their heart…their standard of judging themselves was “what they did or didn’t do.”
Well, Jesus sets things straight…and He tells them that it is about what is in your heart… that if you harbor all these hard feelings toward a brother you are just as guilty before the court as you would be if you had murdered him.
- You see, the commandment condemns more than just the act of murder…it also condemns the spirit or attitude, the emotions of murder…and that is where our righteousness is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees…you cannot harbor harsh feelings toward a brother or sister…have hatred in your heart… and enter the kingdom of heaven; 1 John 3:15.
- And the standard we are to judge ourselves by is not whether we murdered someone or not…the standard is how we feel, our thoughts, our attitude and emotions…the standard is what we have in our heart.
Now, look at verse 22 again…there seems to be a progression of anger here. Jesus says, “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother…
- Not all “anger” is wrong; the Bible speaks of God’s anger which is always holy and pure.
- Jesus became angry with the Money Changers in the temple; John 2:14-16.
- Sometimes it is even necessary for people to express a righteous anger.
But notice again what Jesus says, “…everyone who is angry with his brother.”
- What Jesus seems to be referring to here is an anger that is not limited to the sin…we need to be angry about the sin…but this anger he speaks of here seems to be an anger that is hostile to the brother.
- In other words, “Hate the sin but don’t hate your brother.”
- How can you restore a brother back to righteousness if you hate him?
- So Jesus seems to be saying, “There is nothing wrong with a righteous anger…and anger over the sin…but don’t have an unrighteous anger…an anger that is based on pride, vanity, hatred, malice and revenge toward the person.
Now, look what Jesus says again, “…everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court…or subject to the judgment.”
- Is this a human court or is this the divine court?
- Jesus has to be talking about the divine court because only God can justly determine what is in the heart.
Now, notice what seems to be the progression of anger here.
- The first thing you do is you get angry…you harbor those harsh feelings…and before long they come out…you verbalize them. Look at the end of verse 22:
…and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court;
- Now the anger has verbalized itself!
- The word “’Raca”…it is not certain what it actually means…may come from a Hebrew word that means “empty headed”…”worthless.”
- It would be equivalent to calling someone a “nitwit…a moron…a numbskull…stupid”…an insult to their intelligence.
Some scholars think that this word originated from the sound of a person who is clearing their throat…”Raaaacah!”….that is what I think of you.
- The idea though is one of great contempt and insult.
So you start out with this silent anger…silent malice…and now it manifests itself in this contemptible and hateful speech…and Jesus says, “When you get to this point…you are guilty before the “supreme court.”
- In short…things are getting worse and worse.
And now, look at the end of verse 22: …and whoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
- There where Jesus says, “You fool”, that is the Hebrew word “more’” from which we get our word “moron.”
- In the O.T. this word was applied to those who denied the existence of God and who plunged into evil doing…an apostate….an outcast.
- Now, if a person denied the existence of God…if he was an apostate…where is he doomed for?
- You see, this was an expression of malice…of settled hatred…and could possibly be equated with telling someone to “Go to hell” and Jesus says here that the man who condemns his brother to hell is in danger of hell himself.
So, as you can see…anger is a dangerous thing.
- It can cause you to stand condemned as if though you have committed murder.
- And one of the things that Jesus is trying to tell us here is, “Don’t let this get started!”
- You let your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees by stopping this before it ever gets this far.
- Yes, be angry about the sin…but don’t be hostile toward your brother or the person who has sinned against you.
Now, look at verses 23-26. Jesus gives us a practical application of the principles He has taught us.
- He has just taught us how serious and dangerous anger and insult are…and now He is going to tell us to avoid them like the plague and take action as quickly as possible.
- He is going to give us two illustrations…the first taken from going to the temple to offer sacrifices to God….the second from going to court to answer the charges of the accuser.
Now, notice as we read this that the first illustration concerns a “brother” and the second concerns an “opponent or enemy.”
- In both illustrations the basic situation is the same…somebody has a grievance against you…
- And the basic lesson is the same…take immediate, urgent action…
- Look what Jesus says starting in verse 23…”If therefore,”
- This “therefore” ties these verses with the consequences of having an angry spirit.
- If we are angry…of if our anger has caused someone else to be angry with us…look at what we are to do.
If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar (in the context of today we might say, “If you are in church, in the middle of a service of worship”), and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar (Leave church immediately), and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.
- There is a sense of urgency in what Jesus says here.
- How can you profess your love to God while at the same time be estranged from your brother?
- Haven’t we been commanded to “love one another?”
- How can we have peace with God…when there is no peace with our brother?
Jesus’ instructions are to go and do all that is within your ability to be reconciled to your brother…you do all you can to erase the animosity…the hurt feelings…
- They may not respond in kind to our efforts…but more times than not they will…
- And then you come and worship God.
Worship becomes a sham if we have behaved so poorly prior to our coming to worship that we have knowingly hurt someone.
- Jesus says, “Settle things immediately.”
Now, vs. 25-26: “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 “Truly I say to you, you shall not come out of there, until you have paid up the last cent.
- In debtor’s prison, in order to get out, someone else would have to pay your debt because you can’t make money in prison.
- So Jesus says, “This is urgent business!”
- Settle matters first…reconcile your differences…resolve the hurt feelings and the unjust anger…don’t go before the judge with these feelings of hostility between you and another…because you will pay the full price for what is in your heart.
Jesus tells us that our righteousness is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees if we are going to enter the kingdom of heaven.
- Most people will be able to stand before God and say that they have not murdered anyone.
- But, how many can say that they have never hated anyone or harbored anger and contempt for someone else?
- Jesus wants our hearts to be pure as well as our actions.
- I hope that if you are harboring hatred or anger toward a brother or sister in Christ…or if you know of a brother or sister that has something against you, that you will take the high road and do what you can to reconcile the problem.
- Harboring anger has devastating effects on your life, your relationship with God, and the lives of others.
- Do not let anger tear you apart, let it go, give it to God.
Let me close with two passages of scripture: 1 John 4:20-21
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
Heb 12:14-15 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023