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;
Exceeding the Pharisees
EXCEEDING THE PHARISEES
When I read through the Bible any time I see a verse or a passage that speaks of entering into heaven…or not entering into heaven…that verse or passage really catches my eye because I want to go to heaven…the other option is worse than we can ever imagine…so I really pay attention to verses that speak of going to heaven.
- 20 of the passage is one of those verses. Look at what Jesus says.
- Now keep in mind that he is speaking to
“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
- If these people that Jesus is speaking to…If I want to enter into the kingdom of heaven…I must have a righteousness that surpasses…exceeds…goes beyond and above that of the scribes and Pharisees.
Now, I am pretty confident that we don’t fully comprehend the impact that what Jesus says here had on the people that He was talking to.
- When Jesus spoke these words the Pharisees and scribes were considered to be the most “righteous” people there were.
- They were very passionate about being obedient to God’s Law.
- They devoted themselves to its interpretation and claimed for themselves no authority apart from the law.
- The Pharisees and scribes calculated that the Law contained 248 commandments and 365 prohibitions and they aspired to keep all of them.
- In the eyes of the people the Pharisees and scribes were the “world record holders at lawkeeping”…and when it came to righteousness they were the standard by which everyone else was judged.
But now, Jesus comes along and says, “If you want to enter the kingdom of heaven your righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees.”
- This must have been a shocking statement to those who heard it.
- “How can we be more righteous than the Pharisees and scribes? It’s impossible! We’ll never get into kingdom of heaven!”
What is Jesus talking about here when He says “your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees and scribes?” This is something I want to know!
- To help us understand let’s go back up to verse 17 and let Jesus explain.
In vs. 17 Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.”
- Now there is something significant to take notice of with this statement from Jesus.
- Notice how it starts: “Do not think…”
- The way that Jesus phrases this statement suggests that some actually did have the idea that Jesus came to do away with the law and the prophets.
- It may be that some of those who opposed Him, who were jealous of Him, were telling the people that that was what He was going to do…He is going to do away with what they have always heard and been taught…what they believe.
- But what Jesus is doing here is He is telling us how He feels about the Law and the Prophets…He is telling us how He feels about the word of God and His commands.
- He is going to make a comparison between Him, His followers, and the scribes and Pharisees…on how they should treat the word of God.
Jesus says, “I didn’t come to do away with any part of the Law or Prophets…instead He came to fulfill them.”
- The Law and the prophets contain various kinds of teachings:
- It contains doctrinal teachings (Torah – revealed instruction): we find instruction about God and man and salvation…and yet it was only partial revelation. Jesus fulfilled all in the sense of bringing it to completion by His person, teaching, and His work or sacrifice.
- Second, the Law and the prophets contain predictive prophecy. Much of it looks forward to the days of the coming Messiah. It was what was anticipated. Jesus fulfilled it in the sense that what was predicted came to pass in Him. He was also the fulfillment of the sacrificial system.
- And then the Law and the prophets also contain ethical precepts, or the moral law of God. They were often ignored or disobeyed. Jesus however fulfilled them by obeying them.
- Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law or the prophets…He came to fulfill them.
And look at verses 18-19…three things that Jesus says about God’s law: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. 19 “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
There are three things that Jesus says here about God’s law:
- He says that it is permanent; “I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.”
- He says it is unchangeable: Jesus says that not even the least stroke of a pen will be changed.
- And then He says that God’s rules are relevant: They should be kept and taught.
- Jesus Himself often quoted the scriptures.
- He kept them flawlessly Himself.
- Jesus manifested and expected total devotion to God’s rules.
- And in verse 19 He says that standing in the kingdom of heaven will be measured by one’s conformity to the law…their obedience to it…their faithfulness to it…and also by how they teach it to others.
Each commandment, even the least, is a commandment from God Himself…and that makes it important.
- To relax a commandment is to loosen its hold on our conscience and its authority in our life…it is to offend God whose law it is.
- And to disregard even a “least” commandment is to demote oneself into a “least” subject in the kingdom of heaven.
- Greatness in the kingdom belongs to those who are faithful in doing and teaching the whole moral law.
- If you want to be “righteous” then you respect God…and you respect His authority…and you obey His laws and His commands!
- That is how Jesus felt about and treated the law…and that is how He wants us to treat God’s commands.
And that is why Jesus says what He does in vs. 20. Look at it again: Jesus says, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees…
- In vs. 17-19 Jesus tells us what “real, sincere righteousness is.”
- It is obedience to God’s law…it is respect for God and His law…all of it…even what we might consider to be the “least” of His commandments.
- It is keeping it and teaching it…and when we have that kind of righteousness then we surpass above and beyond the kind of righteousness that the scribes and Pharisees had…
- And as a result…we have access into “the kingdom of heaven.”
And to help us better understand…to help us learn Jesus gives us some examples of what the scribes and Pharisees were doing.
- There are six sets of antithesis or contrasts and each one seems to be derived from the Law of Moses. We won’t cover all 6…we will cover just a few…Look at vs. 21:
21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ (But now the contrast). 22 “But I say to you that everyone who is angry (this is an unrighteous anger, it is hatred, malice, revenge) with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca (this was a very offensive term in their culture, it was apparently a very degrading term),’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool (empty headed, blockhead, stupid),’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
- Here is what the Pharisees and scribes would do or teach.
- They would say, “I can’t commit murder because the law forbids it and I am not going to break the law.”
- “But the law doesn’t say anything about destroying his character, his reputation, his dignity.”
- “I won’t kill him but the law doesn’t say that I can’t hate him.”
- You see, the scribes and the Pharisees knew the law…and they were very careful not to violate the law…but what they would do is find a way to go around the law…to circumvent it…they would find loopholes…they twisted it to meet their desires.
- They knew the law but they disregarded the spirit of the law.
Look at verse 27. Jesus says,
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; (Now the contrast) 28 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.
- These scribes and Pharisees would never have an affair…that would violate the law.
- But they wouldn’t think twice about fantasizing or lusting for another woman because the law didn’t specifically forbid that.
- They constantly found loopholes where they could justify their sinful actions.
Look at verse 31. Jesus says, “And it was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; (Now comes the contrast) 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.
- These guys weren’t about to cheat on their wives by sleeping with someone else…that is clearly a violation of Commandment 7.
- But, they would divorce their wives so they could satisfy their lustful desire to marry someone else.
- Technically they thought they could do that to avoid committing adultery.
And look at verse 33. They knew about making vows or promises…and they knew that they were supposed to keep those promises…they knew it was wrong to lie….but they found a way around that…a way to justify their lying by making it all dependent on how you made the vow and what you sealed the promised by.
- If you promised “by God” you had to keep that promise….but if you promised by the “earth or by Jerusalem”….well you didn’t have to keep that promise.
And then there is verse 38. These Pharisees and scribes would never pay back evil done to them with a greater evil…but they would be more than happy to find a way to exactly get even.
- But Jesus says, “Don’t retaliate at all.”
These Pharisees and scribes studied the law…and they knew what the law said…and they prided themselves in keeping the law…as far as the letter of the law…they went out to their way to obey it.
- But the problem was, they looked for ways to not keep it…they looked for ways to justify their sinful actions…they knew the letter of the law but they didn’t have the spirit of the law….
- They weren’t sincerely devoted to the will of God.
- And that is why Jesus tells us that “unless our righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
When it comes to the word of God…when it comes to the Law and the Prophets…we can’t change it to fit what we want…we can’t ignore parts of it…deny pieces of it…or choose what we like or don’t like and disregard the rest of it.
- It is permanent, it is unchangeable, and it is relevant…and when you or I or anyone else intentionally starts making it say something it doesn’t….when they intentionally deny what it does say…when they refuse to obey it…when they circumvent it…when they teach others what it doesn’t say…
- …then their righteousness fails to surpass that of the scribes and the Pharisees…and they shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Never apologize for standing on the word of God.
- Like the scribes and Pharisees many today bend it…and twist it…change it…and add to it in order to draw bigger crowds…to be more prominent…to justify their own desires.
- And in doing so they will belittle, mock, and intimidate those who stand strong.
- But the thing to remember is this: They may gain a great following and be more popular….but you will enter into the kingdom of heaven…to stand in the very presence of God.
Salt and Light
SALT AND LIGHT
Most of you have probably seen this and know what this is….this is a 5 Hour Energy Drink.
- During the day, especially when you are working, you get run down…tired…feeling kind of drained…you just drink one of these and it energizes you for up to 5 hours!
- It gets you going! It puts some life back in your step!
- And there are several different types of these drinks.
I think at times we all feel the need to be energized…we get tired…a little run down…not very motivated…and we need something to “pick us up”…to get us going again…
- Not only do I think that is true physically…but I think that is also true spiritually.
Let’s look again at the passage that was read…but before we do let me remind you of the background once again.
- Jesus has settled in Capernaum…and the people in this area had for many years been subjected by military and political corruption.
- Even their religious leaders were corrupt…it was a time when power and money meant more to their religious leaders than righteousness did.
- The poor were oppressed…the widows were neglected…
- Isaiah described it well when he said that the people were “sitting in darkness and in the land of the shadow of death.”
- Spiritually, these people were drained…exhausted…tired…they needed to be energized!
- And Jesus does that! He not only tries to energize these people…but He also tries to energize us!
Let me ask you this…as a congregation of God’s people what are we here for…what is our mission? Why do we exist?
- How good are we doing? Have we grown tired…weary?
- Are we reaching out to people…are we helping people…are we having any impact on our community…are we changing those around us…are we changing the world?
And what about individually? As a disciple of Christ are you doing what your are supposed to be doing? Have you grown tired spiritually?
- You see, these people were not the only ones who needed to be energized…Christians need it today as well.
- So, let’s look at what Jesus says starting in vs. 13.
Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”
- Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth…”
- Let’s talk about this for just a minute. What does that mean to you?
- Normally we think of salt as being seasoning and that is true…but for these people it mean much more than that.
You don’t have to read very far in commentaries or even on the internet to learn how important and vital salt was to these people.
For these people salt was currency…it was used to barter…it was used for wages.
- In fact, our word “salary” emanates all the way back to a word for salt.
- We may even say that a worker wasn’t “worth his salt.”
- Soldiers were paid in salt.
- Jewish men would carry a little bag of it…and they would barter with it.
Salt was used in all different kinds of ways.
- It was used for cooking and baking.
- They put salt on the table to put on the food.
- They would make a salt brine to clean olives…and they would put it on the different vegetables they would grow.
- It was used for purification…to disinfect…as an antiseptic.
- It was used in the temple.
- They would use salt from the Dead Sea…which was a hard, coarse salt…and when the steps of the temple would get slippery and damp they would put salt on them.
Salt was vital for life…in fact in the desert about the longest you could go without salt was 30 days.
- To the Jewish people salt was a symbol of God because salt was about preserving, and sustaining, and enabling you to live.
- And to the Jewish mind salt was a symbol of the creator.
It was used spiritually in the temple…most of the sacrifices were sprinkled with salt.
- The incense had salt in it.
It was used to seal a covenant between God and man…or between two men.
- Two men might come together to resolve their differences or a conflict and they would have a small table and a small empty bowl…and each would take a little salt from their salt bag and they would put it in the bowl…and they would gently shake the bowl and very quickly the salt would mix and become one and you couldn’t tell whose salt was what.
- And words would be exchanged and a covenant formed…and most Jewish men would rather die than break the covenant of salt.
Salt was a part of every facet of these people’s lives and when Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth” is He saying, “You are the people I am entrusting to influence every part of the world…in daily life…in spiritual matters…in health…in nutrition…in everything that matters.”
- “I want you to be something that people value.”
- “I want you to be something that people take into their very being.”
- “I want you to be a cleansing…purifying agent in society.”
- “I want you to preserve life.”
- “I want you to be someone that people value and trust.”
- “I want you to be my people, my disciples that change the world by the way you live and how you influence other people.”
You know, salt could be used to keep weeds from growing.
- It was there to keep the bad stuff out…and it was there to make the good stuff better.
- That is what Jesus wants from us.
And if you look at this verse Jesus says, “I don’t want you to lose your saltiness.”
- The only way for salt to be corrupted or polluted is to mix it with something it doesn’t belong with…to dilute it.
- You mix it with dirt…can’t put that on your food…can’t keep a pure covenant…can’t use that for purification.
Jesus says, “I don’t want you to lose your saltiness because if you lose that you have lost your influence.”
- And then, according to Jesus, what are you good for?
In fact, look at this passage found in Luke 14: 34-35. Jesus says,
34 “Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 “It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
- What is Jesus talking about when He refers to “salt on the manure pile?”
One of the applications of salt was that salt, especially for the Bedouin tribes that live in the Judean desert…there wasn’t any fire wood for fires or for cook stoves.
- What they would do is they would gather animal dung…mainly from camels and donkeys.
- And they would sprinkle it with salt which would help to dry it out…and when it was dried out they would burn it…and because of the salt it burn brighter, and longer, and hotter than it would without the salt.
- And that is why Jesus says here that if salt becomes tasteless…if it loses its saltiness…it isn’t any good for preventing weeds from growing or for the manure pile.
If we lose our power, we lose our influence, we lose our fire…if we become polluted and corrupted and diluted…then we are good for nothing but to be thrown out.
- So to energize us…to get us going…Jesus says to us, “You are the salt of the earth and I am counting on you to change the people around you…change the world you live in…by the way you live.”
Look at what else He says about us in vs. 14: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 “Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
There are several places in the scriptures where you see the word “tel” in front of a city or name.
- Ezra 2:59: Tel-Melah; Tel-Harsha.
- 2 Kings 19:12: Tel-Assar…Ezekiel 3:15…Tel-Abib.
- In the Hebrew that word “tel” means a “mound or a hill.”
- It wasn’t uncommon for the people to build a city or a town on a hill.
Jesus says here, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
- You can’t hide a city set on a hill.
- And you have seen that to be true….we have all been driving across the plains and someone will have built a house up on a hill…and you can see the light from that house for several miles.
- That is why they put lights on the top of towers…so people can see them from a long distance away.
- It is up there to be seen.
You see, that is what Jesus has called us to be…He has called you and He has called me, and He has called us to be the “salt of the earth”…a constant influence in the lives of others…
- …and He has called us to be the kind of follower that is visible to others at all times.
- We aren’t to be influenced by the world…and we are not to be “out of sight.”
And Jesus says, “Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house.
- I have done this for a long time…and I have started working on this…I suspect that a lot of us have done the same thing.
Jesus says here that “I am a light of the world”…as a Christian…as an example of the Christian faith…the world needs to see me…it needs to see my example…my influence.
- But do you know what I often do…and I am going to guess that a lot of you do the same thing.
- I may be invited to some event…or some event may be going on publicly…like the Goat Cook Off…or a Football or Basketball game…it may even be a funeral or a wedding…or some other social gathering…and instead of people getting to see Christ through me…instead of me going so people can see the way a Christian is to conduct themselves…I stay at home…I close myself up in the house and watch TV…in other words…I put my light under a bushel…
- And when I do that someone else’s light might shine instead of the one that God wants people to see.
Let me illustrate it this way: (Light on, others off…gives light to the whole house…slowly dim until out…whose light do you see now? See the flashlight.)
- If you or I are going to influence people…if we are going to make a difference in the world…if we are going to change things in our community for Christ…we have to let our light be seen.
- I look at things in our society and I can’t help but think that maybe the reason it is so dark spiritually is because we keep putting our light under a bushel.
Now look at verse 16: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- The reason we are salt and light is not so people will praise us…but so they will praise God.
- In the past we have helped people with food…and with gas…and occasionally with a motel room…and in the future we will help others again.
- When we do I hope those people don’t say, “Thank you Sunset Ridge. Or “Thank you” Virgil Webb or Eric Bierman.
- I hope those people say “Thank you God for the food…for the gas…for the shelter.”
- It’s not about us…it is all about Him…when they see our salt…and our light…and our good works…it will draw them to Him. (Politicians).
We all need energized both physically and spiritually.
- We need to “get fired up…get going.”
- People use this (5 hour Energy) for the physical…and the truth is…this is full of sugar.
Spiritually, God doesn’t want us to be full of sugar…He wants us to be salt…something people value…a good influence…a preservative…pure…something that keeps the bad stuff out…a representative of God…
- And he wants us to be a light…sitting on a hill…visible to all…not for our own praise and glory…but for His.
Don’t Get Stuck in the Muck
DON’T GET STUCK IN THE MUCK
Matthew 5: 11-12
It is hard to believe but camp begins in less than 3 ½ months. The first session for the younger kids begins on June 9…I hope you will keep that in mind as you plan your summer.
- About 4 years ago Max dug a small pit out at the camp…and we filled that pit full of water…and Chuck Bailey procured a big rope…and we had some serious “Tug O War”.
- On one side of the pit we got all the boys…and on the other side of the pit we got all the girls…and initially that doesn’t sound very fair…but there were several more girls than there were boys…
- And as you can imagine there was some taunting…and some goading; “You are a bunch of girls!” “You guys think you are so tough!”
- And I would tell the boys, “Don’t let those girls beat you…that will be pretty embarrassing.” Then I would tell the girls, “Come on girls…you can beat that bunch of boys.”
- And then it started…both sides pulling…and pulling…and pulling….as hard as they could…trying to drag the other team into the mud and the muck.
- And after they went back and forth…finally the first boy slipped off of the edge of the pit and into the muck he went…and then the second…and then several more…and then several more.
- The boys let the girls pull them into the pit…into the mud…and the muck…and once they got in it…they had a hard time getting out!
- They would try to climb out and they would slip right back in!
- They were covered….they were stuck in the muck.
In the passage that was read Jesus is going to talk to us about not getting “stuck in the muck.”
- He is not going to talk about mud…but He will talk about a different kind of muck that His disciples can easily get stuck in.
- And He is going to tell us what we need to do to keep from getting “stuck in the muck.”
- Look again at vs. 11.
11 “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.
- Now, notice the three wrongs.
Jesus says, “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you.”
- Now, Jesus wants us to know that if we truly, in our minds and our hearts, make a whole hearted commitment to being just like Christ…not perfect, not sinless….can’t do that…Jesus had to do that for us…
- But if we fully commit ourselves to follow Him and His teachings…if we obey His word and bring our lives up to the standard He desires…
- If we do that Jesus says, “You are going to get insulted.”
- People are going to make fun of you.
- Your light, without having an attitude of “holier than thou”, will expose the darkness in their lives and they aren’t going to like it.
- And they will insult you…and deride you…and they will do what they can to tear you down.
- They will say things that are hurtful.
- That is the first wrong.
Look at the second: They will “persecute you.”
- “Persecute” is an interesting word…do you hear in the word the idea of “pursue?” “Pursue…persecute.”
- That is the Hebrew idea behind this word: People will pursue you to bring you pain!
- People will pursue you to bring suffering and ill-will to your life.
- They don’t like you.
They will insult you and pursue you with the goal of making your life more painful.
- Why? Because you are living for Christ!
- You are standing out…you are being different…and in doing so you are making yourself a target.
Look at the third wrong: “…and they say all kinds of evil against you falsely.”
- They lie! Slander…gossip!
- People will say things about you that are not true!
- People who play in shadows…who enjoy chaos…who like to go and have little conversations behind your back and lie about you with evil intent!
- They will try to change the perception that other people have about you so that those other people will join the group that is persecuting, and insulting, and lying about you!
- Jesus says, “This will happen.”
Now, how do you respond to these kinds of things?
- In vs. 12 Jesus says that we are to “Rejoice and be glad!”
- But that is not how most people respond.
- What are some of the typical responses when you are treated unfairly?
- How do we handle something like this…all the lies, the insults, the harsh treatment?
- And when Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad” what is He telling us?
One typical response is to get ANGRY.
- “You insulted me and I don’t like it!”
- “He insulted me a long time ago and I am still mad!”
- “How long ago did he insult you?” “Twenty years ago!” “And you are still mad?” “Yes, and I am not sure I will ever get over it.”
Do you know what those who insulted you did?
- They pulled you down into the muck…the same muck they are in!
- They insult you…you get angry…you get mad and stay mad….you are stepping into the muck.
Look at this verse: James 1:20 …for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
Ephesians 4:26-27 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
When Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad” one of the things that He is telling us is, “Don’t let them pull you into the muck!”
- “When they insult you…when they make fun of you…and they will…(“So you think you are a Christian?” “You are nothing but a hypocrite.” “What, do you think you are better than I am?”) don’t let them pull you into the mud and the muck!
- Rise above it!
Well, maybe anger isn’t your thing. Maybe you are more of a “get even kind of person.”
- “I don’t get angry, I get even.” “I get revenge.”
- “You insulted me…you just wait…I’ll get you back.”
- “You persecuted me…you hurt me…wait till you see what I do to you.”
- “You lied about me…I will just lie about you.”
When you do something like that in response to what they did to you what have you let them do?
- You have let them pull you into the muck!
Look at these verses: 1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all men.
Ephesians 4:32 And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
- Do you see what Jesus is doing here through the apostle Paul?
- He is saying, “Don’t get down in the mud with them…down into a wrestling match with them.”
- “Be above that!” “Rejoice and be glad.”
So when we do what is right in the eyes of God and someone insults us, and persecutes us, and lies about us…the typical human response is to get ANGRY, TO GET EVEN, and then to GET SASSY!.
- “Did I just say that?”
- Put them in their place…yell at them…talk back to them…”You jerk!”
- Maybe say some other choice words!
Look at these verses: Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.
James 3:8-9 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;
What is Paul and James saying: “Don’t let their lies…their slander…their gossip…their insults…their persecution pull you down into the muck where they are.”
- Instead of sinking down to that level…Jesus says, “Rejoice and be glad.”
Now, back in Matthew look at what Jesus says again in vs. 12. He says: “Rejoice, and be glad,”
- Why? Why do I “rejoice and be glad”? Why not sink into the muck?
- Well, there are two things.
Look what He says: “For your reward in heaven is great.”
- The reason for avoiding getting down in the muck and the mud and wrestling with all the people that are after you is because of your reward.
- When you honor God…when you choose to not get angry…to not get even…to not get sassy…when you choose not to sling mud and muck yourself…when you honor God by not doing those things…God in return will honor you.
- “For your reward in heaven is great” – just think about all that includes.
- But if you sink down into the muck…what do you get?
And it is not easy to swallow your anger…and it not easy to not be sassy…and it is not easy to not get even…
- In fact, some times it is frustrating and tiring…going day after day after day and not hitting back.
- But the thing that keeps us going is He knows…He knows what is going on…He is using us to try and teach those that are hurting us…and we know that He is going to reward us.
And then the second reason for avoiding getting down in the muck is “prophetic identity.” Look at the end of vs. 12:
12 “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
- How did these people…how did the Jews perceive the prophets?
- Because of their service to God the prophets were highly exalted by the people (Elijah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos).
What reward do you think these prophets received from God?
- What Jesus is saying here is, “that by suffering the insults, the persecution, the lies…and not getting stuck in the muck…but remaining faithful to God…these people could expect the prophets reward!
- Jesus has just put these people on the same plain as the prophets.
Just like the prophets were persecuted for their faith in God…you will be too.
- And just like the prophets, if you will endure and remain faithful…you will receive the reward of heaven.
I think about Jesus and how He handled it when they badmouthed Him?
- “He breaks our traditions! He violates the Sabbath! He drives out demons by Satan? He is demon possessed! He is a drunk and a glutton! He is a friend of tax collectors and sinners! He is a blasphemer!
- They mocked Him, hurled insults at Him.
- How did He respond?
1 Peter 2:21-24
21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
We, as the body of Christ are called to a higher standard…a high place.
- Lets not go get down and get stuck in the muck.
- Lets be true followers of Jesus Christ…receivers of grace…and lets offer grace to the world.
The Better Deal
THE BETTER DEAL
Matthew 5: 7-10
Recently Hillary Clinton resigned as the Secretary of State…and you may have seen that she is taking on a career that is more lucrative.
- In fact, she is going to do the same thing that her husband, Bill Clinton, is doing…she is going to hit the speaker circuit…
- The news reported this past week that Bill Clinton makes up to $290,000 per speech!
- $290,000 to hear someone talk.
- How much would you have to pay to get in and hear a $290,000 speaker?
- Well if you had a crowd of 1000 people…it would cost $290 per person.
- If you only drew 500 people it would be $480 dollars.
Now, I don’t know what Bill Clinton says when He speaks…I suspect what he says has a lot to do with politics, social conditions, foreign policy…and I may have it wrong but I would think that a $290,000 speech would be pretty powerful…pretty dynamic…and it would be a life changing experience!
But the truth is what Bill Clinton says or has said…will some day be forgotten…it will not endure.
- And as informative as he may be…what He has to say cannot and will not compare to what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount…
- And when it comes to a life changing experience…it is no contest.
- Jesus tells people who are “sitting in darkness…and sitting in the land of the Shadow of Death” a divinely guaranteed way to get out of that darkness and shadow.
- Jesus gives them hope…when they had no hope…He gives them assurance when there was no assurance…
- He tells us all how to cure the social, the moral, and the religious ills that are so evident in our society…
- And He does it all for free…
- I wonder, if He charged people $290 each to hear what He has to say, would He get bigger crowds?
Last week we looked at the first 4 beatitudes…this morning we are going to cover the next 4. Let me quickly give you the background:
- Jesus has settled in Capernaum…for centuries the people living in the area had been exposed to corrosive moral and religious influence of a pagan environment.
- Their political leaders were corrupt…and so too were their spiritual leaders.
- It was a time when the righteous man was treated like a criminal and the criminal ascended to positions of power.
- And it was a time when religious leaders were concerned more about popularity and prominence and wealth than they were the sound teachings of God.
- It was said that the people “Fear Jehovah, and serve other gods.”
- Isaiah said that the people were “sitting in darkness and in the land of the shadow of death.”
The people were in need of a message of “Hope and Change”…some “good news”…and Jesus brought it.
- “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
- If they would only turn from their sinful ways…if they would only turn back to God…they could have all that the kingdom of heaven offers!
- And Jesus was going through out the region preaching and teaching…and the multitudes were following Him (social and religious outcasts, those who were banned from the temple and the synagogue, the lame, the sick, the diseased…people who were essentially without hope), and Jesus shared with them the “good news”…the “hope of the kingdom of heaven.
And here in chapter 5 He begins with what we call “The Beatitudes.”
- He tells them that they can have the “kingdom of heaven” and all that it holds if they will totally and completely humble themselves before God.
- He tells them that they can find “comfort” for their sins if they “mourn”…if they have a sincere, heartfelt sorrow their sin…a sorrow that leads to repentance.
- Then He tells them that they will “inherit the earth…the land”…that they will receive a “glorious inheritance” if they are truly “gentle” or “meek” toward others…a gentleness based on a true estimate of themselves and how God has treated them.
- Then He tells them that they can be deemed as “righteous” if they will “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
And now, we come to the 5th beatitude or vs. 7. Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
- Notice the blessing at the end of the statement: “…for they shall receive mercy.”
- The word “mercy” is the Greek word “eleeo” (el-eh-eh’-o)…it means “to have compassion…to have pity on”…it means you don’t give to someone what they deserve!
And that is something that these people needed…
- These people that Jesus is speaking too were sinners…they had been influenced by pagan religious practices…they had turned from God…they were “sitting in darkness”…they were liars, adulterers, bigots, slanderers…and because they were they stood condemned to an eternal punishment!
- These people deserved to be lost forever…destroyed.
- They were in need of God’s mercy!
And they could have it…if they themselves were merciful to others…
- I think Jesus well explains this beatitude in chapter 18 starting in vs. 23:
23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 “And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 “But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26 “The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.’ 27 “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28 “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ 29 “So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ 30 “He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31 “So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32 “Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me. 33’Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?’ 34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
- To receive mercy…you must show mercy.
- It didn’t matter if someone else had wronged them…if someone had lied to them…mistreated them…took advantage of them…it didn’t matter because after all, that is the way they had treated God.
And it didn’t matter what hardships or disasters had befallen someone else…
- And it didn’t matter who the “someone else” was…whether they were a Samaritan, or a Jew, or a Gentile…Jesus doesn’t specify here who they were to show mercy too…
- He just simply says, “If you want to receive mercy…then you “Be merciful…be compassionate…take pity on” others regardless of who they are.
Look at verse 8 and beatitude 6: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
- “…for they shall see God”; that is something that no one has ever done in this life.
- But for these people that Jesus is speaking too…and for some of us…that is what we long to do…
- And Jesus says that “seeing God” is something that the “pure in heart” will get to do.
- Who are the “pure in heart?” What does He mean?
The most popular interpretation is “pure in heart” refers to the inward purity…those whose hearts are morally clean.
- And there is good Biblical precedent for that.
Look at Psalms 24:3-4
Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, And has not sworn deceitfully.
Psalms 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
There are several passages in the scriptures that indicate that to be “pure in heart” is talking about having an inward purity…a morality of the heart…and that is for sure part of what Jesus has in mind here.
However, in the context of the other beatitudes “pure in heart” seems to be speaking of sincerity…being authentic.
- In fact, look at Psalms 24 again:
Psalms 24:3-5 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands “and a pure heart,” Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood, And has not sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive a blessing from the LORD And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
- Who is going to receive a blessing from the Lord? The man who has “a pure heart”…”who has not sworn deceitfully”…the man who is sincere in His relationship with God.
- It’s the person whose whole life, both public and private, manifests their devotion to God.
- They are wholly and utterly sincere…there is nothing fake…nothing devious about their desire to please God.
These people that Jesus is speaking too had seen those who looked so good on the outside…in fact, Jesus refers to them in Matthew 23 as “beautiful, whitewashed tombs.”
- And these people were led to believe that those kinds of people were going to “see God.”
- But Jesus referred to them as being nothing but “full of dead men’s bones and uncleanness.”
It is not the person who puts on a “good show”…it’s not the person who simply sounds religious…it’s not the person who wears all the crosses, or beads, or robes and collars…or who puts the religious stickers on the back window of their car.
- It is those who “have clean hands” and who are wholly, and utterly sincere in their relationships to man and God who will “see God.”
Vs. 9 and beatitude 7: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
- Notice the blessing: “…for they shall be called sons of God.” Let me explain the idea behind this statement.
Just recently I was visiting with a young man…and as I watched things he did…the things he said…his mannerisms…I thought to myself…”Wow, he is just like his dad…you can tell that he is Jerry’s son.”
- That is the idea behind this blessing…
Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers…”
- When you are a “peacemaker”…when you are seeking to reconcile someone back into a peaceful relationship with God…when you are seeking to reconcile a conflict between two friends…when you are seeking to resolve a conflict between a husband and wife…when you are trying to reconcile a conflict in a congregation…then you are doing exactly what your Father is and has done.
Look what the apostle Paul says in Colossians 1:20: For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him…
- God is the author of peace and reconciliation.
- Therefore, it is not surprising when we strive to bring about peace and reconciliation between man and man…or especially between God and man…that we shall be called “sons of God.”
Now vs.10 or Beatitude 8: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- I think it interesting that Jesus has just spoke of “peace making” and now he speaks of being persecuted.
- As hard as we may try to make peace with some people, they will refuse to live at peace with us.
- And as hard as you might try to reconcile a situation…some one will oppose you even to the point of slandering you or treating you badly.
- But it is not just limited to “peace making”…there will always be someone who just simply finds the “righteousness that you hunger and thirst” for some thing they despise.
- Being persecuted for the sake of righteousness…for doing what is right in the sight of God…is as normal as breathing air.
- Do not be surprised if anti-Christian hostilities increase…instead, be surprised if they don’t.
For those who are “persecuted for righteousness sake…for those who endure…theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
- You may lose everything on earth…but you will gain everything that is in heaven.
Bill Clinton may get $290,000 dollars when he speaks…and he may give some insights on foreign policy, national politics, social issues, and the economy.
But Jesus gives you more than just some insights…He gives you hope…hope of receiving mercy; hope of seeing God; hope of being called sons of God; hope of obtaining the kingdom of heaven and all that comes with it.
- And He does it all for free…
- You weigh it and decide…which of the two is the better deal…Bill Clinton for $290,000 or Jesus for free?
Good News Beatitudes
GOOD NEWS BEATITUDES
This past Tuesday night President Obama gave the State of the Union address and I haven’t seen the statistics but I suspect that millions of Americans watched it.
- But let me ask you…how long do you think people will remember what he said?
- A couple of weeks…a few months…until the next election?
Through out history there have been some great speeches…great sermons…given by men…for us the “Gettysburg Address” is probably the most well known.
- But as great as those speeches and sermons were…none has endured…none were as important…none affected all of mankind…like the one spoken by Christ here in Matthew 5-7.
- This is what is known as the Sermon on the Mount…Christ spoke these words 2000 years ago…and what Jesus says here in this sermon is as applicable to us today as it was when He first spoke this.
- It is probably the best-known part of the teachings of Jesus…but arguably it may be His least understood teachings…and it is very likely the least obeyed…and because it is we see the multitude of problems and godless living that exists in our nation, our families, and our individual lives.
- If we understood what Christ says here…and obeyed what He says we, as a society, would save ourselves many disappointments and heartaches.
- So, lets begin with this sermon from Christ that can move people from “darkness and the shadow of death” into the kingdom of heaven.
Now Jesus begins His sermon with what we call “The Beatitudes”…the term “Beatitudes” comes from the Latin word “Beatus” which means “happy, fortunate, or blissful”…a term assigned to this section of Jesus’ sermon because each statement begins with “Blessed.”
- This morning we are only going to cover the first 4.
Let me give you the background to the giving of this sermon.
- Jesus has settled in Capernaum…which is located on the north end of the Sea of Galilee.
- For centuries the people living in this area had been exposed to political and military aggression from the north.
- They had also been exposed to the corrosive moral and religious influences of a pagan environment.
- It was said of them that “They fear Jehovah, and serve other gods.”
- Isaiah spoke of them as “sitting in darkness…and in the land of the shadow of death.”
- These people were in need of “Hope and Change” and Jesus brought it to them.
- And really, His was not a message of “Hope and Change”…it was a message of “Change and Hope” for in verse 17 of chapter 4 it says that “Jesus began preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
- If these people were going to get out of the “darkness…out of the shadow of death”…if they were going to get out from under the physical and spiritual oppression…they were going to have to “repent…stop living a life of sin…stop doing the things they were doing that caused them to be in the darkness…and turn to God and allow the kingdom of God to reign in their hearts.”
- Only then would they have “hope.”
So Jesus is going all through Galilee teaching and proclaiming the “good news of the kingdom” and He was “healing every kind of disease and sickness.”
- And I want you to look at chapter 4: 24-25…I want you to see who was following Him and who it was He was teaching and preaching too.
And the news about Him went out into all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 And great multitudes followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
- These crowds consisted of those who were not only physical outcasts…but spiritual outcasts.
- People who were not allowed into the synagogues or the temple…people who were separated from society…
- People who were spiritually without hope.
- People who were in need of some “good news”…some instruction on how to get out of the spiritual darkness they were in.
- And Jesus gives it to them…look now at chapter 5:1.
1And when He saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 And opening His mouth He began to teach them, saying, 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Now, I want you to notice is the word “Blessed’…every beatitude in this passage starts with “Blessed”…some versions have “happy.”
- This word “blessed” is the Greek word “makarios”…and it means much more than just “happy.”
- “Happiness” is a subjective state…it is what you may feel.
- Jesus is making an objective judgment about these people and He is declaring what God thinks of them…and what they are on that account…they are “Blessed.”
- You are “blessed” by God even though you may not feel happy.
Now if you will look at the end of each beatitude you will see the blessing!
- Jesus says: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- “Theirs is the reign of God…and everything that goes with it!”
- Hope, salvation, peace, joy, heaven…all that heaven promises.
That is something that these people would want…because as far as they were concerned those things were out of their reach!
- They were the outcasts…the separated…even their own spiritual leaders considered them as nothing but hopeless sinners!
- The possibility of possessing the “kingdom of heaven” would be something they would want to know about!
- And so do I.
So, how do you obtain it…what does it take for it become yours? What did it take for these poor, separated, outcasts to obtain it?
- Well, look at what Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”
- What does He mean by “poor in Spirit?”
- The O.T. supplies us the necessary background to understand what Jesus means.
In the O.T. to be “poor” meant to be in literal, material need…to be poverty stricken.
- But gradually, because the needy had no refuge but God, “poverty” came to have spiritual overtones and to be identified with “humble dependence on God.”
For example: Psalms 34:6 This poor man cried and the LORD heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.
- The “poor man” is one who is both afflicted and unable to save himself, and he therefore totally depends on God for His salvation, recognizing that God owes him nothing.
Isaiah 41:17 “The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the LORD, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.
- They are totally dependent on God.
In Isaiah 57:15 the “poor” are described as people with a “contrite, penitent, repentant, and humble spirit.”
So, to be “poor in spirit” is to acknowledge your spiritual poverty…a spiritual bankruptcy before God.
- It is to say, “God I need you…I cannot save myself…I depend entirely on you God for my salvation!”
- “I have nothing to offer, nothing to plead, nothing with which to by the favor of heaven.”
Rock of Ages: 454
“Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked, come to thee for dress; Helpless, look to thee for grace; Foul, I to the fountain fly; Wash me, Savior, or I die.
These words express very well what it means to be “poor in spirit.”
What would be the opposite?
- “I don’t need you God! I haven’t done anything that is all that wrong! I am glad God that I am not like all these other sinners.”
- Arrogance; Pride.
You see, when Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”…the individual that realizes that His salvation is totally dependent on God… to that person “the kingdom of heaven”; the “rule of God that brings salvation, and hope, and peace, and joy” is given.
- Not to the “spiritually rich…or those who think they don’t need God.”
- Not to the mighty who think they can gain their own salvation.
- Not to the Pharisees who arrogantly thought they were already rich in their attainments.
- Not to the Sadducees who thought they were already right with God.
- But to the “poor in spirit”.
- Unless you are poor in spirit you will never come to Christ for salvation anyway…because you do not see your need too.
Back up in chapter 4:23 it says that Jesus was “proclaiming the gospel…the good news.”
- Well, this was “good news” to these people…and it is good news for all today who “are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Look at the second beatitude; vs. 4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
- “…for they shall be comforted”; what does that mean? And how is it obtained?
- Well, if we understand who it is that is “comforted” then we will understand what it means to “be comforted.”
So what does Jesus mean when He says, “Blessed are those who mourn?”
- What kind of sorrow causes you to reap a state of blessedness with God?
- Well, look what the apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 7: 9-10:
9 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. 10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
- When Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn…”, He isn’t talking about the sorrow that is experienced when a loved one dies.
- Jesus is talking about those who mourn the loss of innocence, the loss of righteousness…who sorrow over sin, over the evil in the world as well as their own sins.
- Jesus is talking about the person who is heartbroken over his sin and the sin of others.
Those mourners, who grieve their own sinfulness, who are saddened by the sins of others…those who do not delight in sin at all…they will be comforted by the only comfort which can relieve their distress, namely the free forgiveness of God.
Now the third beatitude, vs. 5: “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
- Notice the blessing for those who are gentle: ...for they shall inherit the earth.
- What does he mean?
Do you see the word “earth?” That is the Greek word “ge” (ghay) and that word can be translated “land”…and that meant something to these people.
Psalms 37:9 For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.
Psalms 37:11 But the humble will inherit the land,
Psalms 37:22 For those blessed by Him will inherit the land; But those cursed by Him will be cut off.
Psalms 37:34 Wait for the LORD, and keep His way, And He will exalt you to inherit the land; When the wicked are cut off, you will see it.
Isaiah 57:13 But he who takes refuge in Me shall inherit the land, And shall possess My holy mountain.”
Isaiah 60:21 “Then all your people will be righteous; They will possess the land forever,”
- In the context of these passages “the land” spoke of a “glorious inheritance”…a type of spiritual “promised land”…a land of peace, and joy, and hope in the presence of God.
- And look at who Jesus says is going to “inherit that land?”
- The word “gentle” or “meek” means “humble, considerate, courteous.
- And what Jesus is speaking of here is a gentleness toward others which is determined by a true estimate of one’s self.
- The man who is truly “gentle” or “meek” is the man who is truly amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do.”
- (“Without God I am lost; I myself am nothing more than a sinner…what do I have to boast in? On my own, I am no better than he is. If God and other people treat me with kindness and patience…how can I but treat others the same way?”)
- A true estimate of one’s self makes him gentle, humble, sensitive and patient in all of his dealings with others.
- The “gentle” man will inherit the earth…or land.
- But the wicked and godless may boast and throw their weight around, yet they will be “cut off.”
Look now a the 4th beatitude, Matthew 4:6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
- Again, the blessing “for they shall be satisfied” is better understood when you understand who “those who hunger and thirst”
When Jesus speaks of those who “hunger and thirst” He isn’t talking about those who are simply “hungry and thirsty.”
- He is speaking of those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness”…
- And this is a continuous action…this speaks of people who never run out of a desire for that which is “right” in the sight of God…they have a constant appetite…thirst for “righteousness.”
And as far as “righteousness” is concerned there are three aspects of “righteousness” found in the Bible…
- One is to be “righteous” or “justified” in the sight of God…having a right relationship with God.
- Two is “moral righteousness”…a righteousness of character and conduct that pleases God…doing that which is right in the sight of God.
- And three: “social righteousness”…seeking that which is right for others (freeing them from bondage, oppression, treating them fairly, promoting justice).
This beatitude refutes the idea that you can crawl into a corner and hide.
- This beatitude says that we are to be active…letting nothing hinder our efforts of striving for “righteousness.”
- And those who have a constant hunger and thirst for righteousness…Jesus says will be filled with “righteousness”…they will be imputed as “righteous” in the eyes of God.
Four beatitudes taught by Jesus…all were “good news” to those He was talking to: They could obtain the kingdom of heaven; they could find comfort for sin; they could obtain a “glorious inheritance”; and they could be “righteous” in the eyes of God.
But on the other hand: they could reject the kingdom of heaven; they could find no comfort when it came to their sin; they could be judgmental and mean spirited and be cut off from the land; and they could be “unrighteous” in the eyes of God.
- They had to choose.
- And that same choice is yours today!
- Give it some thought and if you decide today…or in the days and weeks ahead…we are here to assist you.
He Brought Hope and Change
HE BROUGHT HOPE AND CHANGE
About 5 years ago a young senator came on the scene and began his campaign to become president of the United States…and his message was “Hope and Change.”
- People were convinced that things were hopeless and that change was necessary.
A little over 2000 years ago Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah came on the scene and He didn’t just preach a message of “Hope and Change”…but He also brought “Hope and Change”…hope and change that was very much needed…and is still needed today.
We have read the passage but I want you to look once again at verses 12-16 because these verses give us some insight on the way things were when Jesus began His ministry.
- Jesus’ identity as David’s son who is at the same time David’s Lord has been established in chapter 1.
- From the wise men He has received the honor due to the One who is King of kings and Lord of lords; chapter 2.
- He has been declared Sovereign, and by means of His baptism has confirmed His decision to take upon Himself the sins of the world; chapter 3.
- He has proved Himself worthy as Savior for in the wilderness He has triumphed over the devil.
- Now, when we come to this chapter nothing prevents Him from carrying forward the task assigned and voluntarily assumed by Him.
In verse 12 He hears that John the Baptist has been taken into custody and really this is no surprise.
- The Jewish leaders, especially those around Jerusalem were jealous of crowds that were going out to see John…and many of them didn’t like John’s straight forwardness…and John was certain to be arrested when he confronted Herod about having his brother’s wife.
- And not only that, John had succeeded in doing what God sent Him to do…and now it was time for him to decrease and it was time for Jesus to increase; John 3:30.
- So, as disappointing as it was, it was no surprise that John had been taken into custody.
But there is something more about this verse…the fact that John had been taken into custody gives us in sight about the way things were at the time.
- It was a time when the religious leaders were corrupt and cared little about what was right.
- It was a time when what God wanted and commanded was overruled by human desires and traditions.
- It was a time when a preacher of righteousness was imprisoned as a criminal while those who were criminals were raised to positions of power and authority.
- It was a time when people needed hope and change.
So when Jesus hears of John’s arrest He withdrew into Galilee probably to prevent a pre-mature incident as a result of His increasing popularity.
- And He leaves Nazareth…and He settles in Capernaum…which was strategic for Jesus.
- Capernaum is situated on the northern end of the Sea of Galilee…and it is a long ways from Jerusalem.
- It was a fairly populated city…and it was also located on the trade route that connected Damascus with the Mediterranean Sea.
- Travel by land or by sea made access to the surrounding villages easy for Jesus to share His message with the people in the area.
- So Jesus settles in Capernaum…and now I want you to look at verses 14-16 because these verses are going to give us some more insight into the way things were.
14 This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– 16 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, And to those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a light dawned.”
- For centuries the people living in this large territory had been exposed to political and military aggression from the north (Syria and Assyria) and to the corrosive moral and religious influences of a pagan environment.
- They had been overrun and imperiled on a scale much larger than the people of Jerusalem had been…it was said of them that “They fear Jehovah, and served other gods.”
- When Isaiah says that these people “were sitting in darkness…and in the land of the shadow of death”…he was right.
- They were smothered by physical as well as spiritual oppression.
- They needed “Hope and Change” …and Jesus brought it to them…and to be more accurate what Jesus brought was “Change and Hope.”
- Look at verse 17:
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
- Do you see the word “preach”?
- That word “preach” simply means “to proclaim”…to make known truth.
- So when Jesus came preaching, it was not a matter of “What do you think?”…instead it was a matter of “This is the way it is!”
If these people wanted to get out of the “darkness”…if they wanted to get out of the “shadow of death”…it they wanted to get out from under the physical and spiritual oppression…if they wanted to the decadence and moral corruption…they were going to have to “Repent!”
- From the religious leaders…to the corrupt politicians…to the immoral peddlers of human flesh…to the slanderers and thieves…
- They needed to “Change…stop living a life of sin…stop doing the things they were doing that brought about the “darkness” and turn back to God…allow the kingdom of heaven…the reign of God to dwell in their hearts.”
If your society…if your culture…if your nation…if your home…if your own life is sitting in darkness…if you want change…if you want to get out of the shadow of death…it starts with the people…it starts with self…making the change.
- And the only place where there is no darkness…no shadow of death…is in the kingdom of God.
- It is not enough to just change and try some other ungodly practice…if you want to get out of the “darkness” you must enter into the kingdom of heaven.
And people often say, “It is too hard!”
- To wrench anything out of its accustomed course often is a painful process.
- It does great violence to the existing pattern.
- Many people want change but they are unwilling to undergo the severe pain that often must precede it.
Jesus’ message though was uncompromising…the need to change was a certainty…as painful as it is if you want to get out of the “shadow of death” you must change.
And to get His message of “Change and Hope” out…Jesus calls some men to help…vs. 18:
And walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 And they immediately left the nets, and followed Him. 21 And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 And they immediately left the boat and their father, and followed Him.
- Jesus’ message of “Change and Hope” was not intended only for the men living during His ministry…it was intended for the ages.
- He would be put to death in just a little over 3 years…so it is no surprise at all that at the very beginning of His ministry that He chose men to perpetuate and continue His message…even unto today.
And to show the people that He had the power to bring them out of darkness…and out of the shadow of death…look at what Jesus does starting in verse 23:
And Jesus was going about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel (good news) of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. 24 And the news about Him went out into all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, taken with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25 And great multitudes followed Him from Galilee and Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.
- Jesus had enormous and sometimes baffling power…people were amazed.
- If they had the flu, He healed them…if they had leprosy…He healed them.
- If they were demon-possessed, He cast the demons out.
- If they were mentally ill, He healed their minds.
- If their bodies were damaged, He made their bodies whole again.
- Whatever held them captive….whatever held them in bondage…Jesus set them free…all to demonstrate that He could also liberate them from “darkness and the shadow of death.”
- And He still can today.
And now look at chapter 5:1-12. Speaking to the same crowds mentioned in the previous verses the passage says:
5:1 And when He saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 And opening His mouth He began to teach them, saying,
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 “Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
When Jesus came and began His ministry it was not a time of happiness.
- Instead it was a time of darkness…of oppression…of corruption…of immorality…of uncertainty and fear.
- And the burden of these things weighed heavily on the people.
And in that setting Jesus’ message was that blessings and happiness were not far from reach.
- To the typical Hebrew, blessing and happiness seemed to be a universe away.
- To the Gentile there literally was no hope.
- But here in what we call the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus points to change that can take place in each of them…and as a result they can know God-like joy that is lasting and no one can take it away.
The message is no different today!
- Through the Word that we possess Jesus still proclaim it today.
- “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
- “Change and Hope!”
- Does our world need to “Repent…to Change?” (Is it steeped in darkness and the shadow of death?)
- Does our nation need to “Repent…to Change?”
- What about our homes and families?
- What about each of us…what about you?
- His message…His invitation to follow Him still stands.
- Any other solution that is offered out there is wholly inadequate…it will not bring you into the light.
- It is only when you “Repent, and allow the kingdom of heaven to dwell in your heart” that you can be set free.
- Is it time to submit to His gracious rule and reap the benefits of His reign?
- If it is, I hope that you will begin today.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2022