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- The Chosen
Sermon on the Mount
“It Begins in the Heart”
Before we begin it’s important we review Jesus’ last statement, and what we learned is that Jesus didn’t come to abolish or invalidate the Law, but to fulfill it, that is, to bring it to completion. And what we’ll see is not only does Jesus confirm the Law, but we also will see God’s perspective, or His take on the fullness of its meaning.
Jesus’ quarrel isn’t over the Law, but with the religious leader’s narrow interpretation of the Law. They were restricting the Law to a person’s action alone. But Jesus expanded the Law to include the heart’s intent or the root cause of the action, like murder involving angry thoughts, and adultery to lustful looks.
Read Matthew 5:21-30
The idea of our actions being caused by something deeper inside was acted out in its entirety back in the beginning in the story of Cain and Able.
Cain was a farmer while Able was a shepherd. Cain offered God a portion of the harvest while Able offered his very best, the first-born lamb. God preferred Able’s offering and this caused Cain to become very upset, and in his anger he killed his brother.
“So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7 NKJV)
Cain didn’t all of a sudden wake up and start singing,
“Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I got a wonderful feeling,
I think I’ll kill my brother today.”
Rather it all began with anger, un-resolved and un-confessed anger. If Cain had confessed his anger and resolved it then murder probably would not have been the outcome.
This is what Jesus is pointing to. The sin of murder begins with the sin of anger, and so in God’s eyes they are one and the same, and the penalty is the same.
This story of anger being the cause of Able’s murder wasn’t lost on one little boy. He wrote to God, “Dear God, Maybe Cain and Able would not kill each other so much if they had their own rooms. It works for my brothers and I.”
Now what Jesus said caused a lot of grief, because the religious leaders of that day, as well as many in our own day base their salvation and relationship with God on comparisons, that is, how they stack up or compare with others.
This sort of comparison is at the heart of Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Luke 18:9-14. In this parable the Pharisee was telling God how good he was not like extortioners, adulterers, or even the tax collector. The tax collector on the other hand knew of his sinful condition and hung his head confessing his sinfulness asking for mercy.
In the parable Jesus said that it was the tax collector that left justified, having his sins forgiven, while the Pharisee left with his sins intact.
How often people believe that they’re okay with God because they’re not as bad as the next guy. But when confronted with the words of Jesus they realize that no one is ever good enough to stand before a holy and righteous God. And they realize that God’s requirements are beyond our ability or capability to keep.
What’s also important to understand is that Jesus isn’t trying to find more ways to condemn us, because Jesus said that he hadn’t come to condemn, but to save. What Jesus is getting at is the heart of the matter, because our relationship with God is not based on our actions or ability to be good; rather our relationship begins with the heart.
Let’s start with Jesus’ first example, murder.
Read Matthew 5:21-22
Jesus is saying that our anger never remains in our thoughts, but is acted out in our words and eventually in our deeds.
The word “Raca” means empty-headed fool. It’s to show contempt for a person’s mental capacity. Today it’d be like calling someone a stupid idiot. The word “fool,” is “moros” and it’s where we get our word, “moron.” What Jesus reveals is that these are more than just names but they directly attack a person’s character.
Now we really don’t think too much about name-calling, or as they say in sports, trash-talking. But they really hurt, and in a way, while they may not kill us, they do assassinate our character. These sorts of names are what call, “fighting words.”
Further they get filed in the back of our minds and have a way of assimilating into our psyche, as we believe them to be true. And they are also a way that Satan gets in and attacks, therefore we need to bring every thought into obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5.
Now, the severity of judgment seems to escalate with the words we use. To be angry produces the same judgment as murder, but when it escalates to insults like calling someone an idiot moves it to a higher court. The word “council” is the Greek word for Sanhedrin, the highest court in the land. And when we assassinate their character by calling them a fool or moron, then hell fire is the end judgment.
Jesus is saying that in the same way murder is judged, so will those how have anger issues towards others, and if it escalates into slanderous language, then the judgment will be worse.
This has caused a lot of problems with people who take this literally, like if you call someone a moron you’re going straight to hell. But what Jesus is doing is using graphic language to get our attention and to drive his point home. He is uses a hyperbole, and overstatement to shake us out of our complacency and self-righteous attitudes.
While we may not have committed murder, we shouldn’t think we’re safe from judgment, because if you have anger in your heart towards someone where you get to the point of assassinating their character, you’re just as guilty.
Now at this point I’m usually given the argument of it being “righteous anger.” What is “righteous anger.” Martin Luther may have given the best definition. He said it’s “an anger of love, one that wishes no one any evil, one that is friendly to the person, but hostile to the sin.”
In our modern day Christian ease language we’d say it’s anger that hates the sin but loves the sinner.
This is something I struggle with, especially when I see someone get the raw end of the deal, or when someone is judging others when they’re doing the same thing, which is called hypocrisy. This upsets me and I just want to take their heads off, or in Michaela vernacular, “I want to snatch them bald-headed.”
Now I try to rationalize it saying, “It’s righteous anger,” and it may be, but my attitude stinks, so it’s not so righteous as I would like to think it is.
Jesus then goes on to give two illustrations which reveal and interesting twist.
Read Matthew 5:23-26
Jesus isn’t dealing with our anger issues with others; rather it’s other’s anger issues with us that we’ve caused.
We’re far more likely to remember our anger against someone else and what they’ve done to us rather than what we’ve done to offend them that have cause them to be angry with us.
In the first example is that before we offer our sacrifices to God if we remember that someone has a problem with us, we are to go make it right by them before we offer anything to God. Remember the Great Commandment that the way we show God how much we love Him is by loving our neighbor as ourselves. So let’s not say we love God if we’re not being loving to others.
What this means is that if we remember that someone is upset with us, let’s not wait or put it off. We are to go immediately and make it right.
Unresolved problems are like unexploded bombs. In Europe there are hundreds of tons of unexploded ammunition left over from WWII, and they’re killing people every year. Over time corrosion begins to make them extremely unstable and they explode at the slightest tremor.
So it is with unresolved anger. It gets more corrosive as time goes by and when we least expect it’ll blow up in our face, and we’ll be the ones who are hurt if we don’t go and defuse it. So Jesus is telling us to go make peace before it’s too late.
The second illustration is probably the most unused in our day, and it’s probably the reason our courts our so clogged up. It’s because we haven’t taken Jesus’ advise when we’re in the wrong. We try to ignore it hoping that it’ll go away, and then we find ourselves in court wondering why God let it happen.
What we need to do is to find common ground with those we’ve wronged and make arrangements to make it right.
Now Jesus deals with the sin of adultery, and He does so the same way He did with murder.
Read Matthew 5:27-30
Again the religious leaders where taking a conveniently narrow view and interpretation of adultery. And Jesus widens the meaning that if we can commit murder with our words, then we can commit adultery in our hearts.
What does it mean to look lustfully? Personally I think we all know the answer to that one, but we want some definition so we can find some sort of loophole.
Now God doesn’t forbid us from looking, He actually gave us the desire, which is to be fulfilled in the confines of marriage. But lust sets in when our gaze has sexual overtones. It’s where we desire the person in ways that are only reserved for marriage. It’s undressing a person with our eyes, which means in our hearts.
If we want to please God then we must set parameters or boundaries on what we may and may not look at, and how long we’re to look at it.
This is what Job did. He said that he made a covenant, and agreement with his eyes that he wouldn’t look, or gaze intently upon a woman, Job: 31:1, because he knew his heart always follows his eyes, and because of that, Job was never enticed to act upon the temptation.
In our society that thrives on sexual enticement, we need to use restraint and be careful what we allow ourselves to see and put limits and stay within them.
Now, Jesus gives us some practical advice when it comes to doing this, and it has nothing to do with self-mutilation, rather it’s about disciplining ourselves to overcome sin’s desires.
So what did Jesus mean when He said to pluck out our eyes if they have sinned? Simply don’t look. Behave as if we actually plucked out our eyes, because being blinded means we can’t see that which causes us to sin.
To cut off our hands and feet means don’t go there. Behave as if you actually cut off our hands and feet so we don’t do or go to those places that cause us to stumble.
John Stott said,
“We may have had to become culturally “maimed” in order to preserve our purity of mind. The only question is whether, for the sake of this gain, we are willing to bear that loss and endure that ridicule.”
“That is to say, it is better to forgo some experiences this life offers in order to enter the life which is life indeed; it is better to accept some cultural amputation in this world than risk final destruction in the next.”
“We have to decide, quite simply, whether to live for this world, or the next, whether to follow the crowd or Jesus Christ.”
And so the whole matter that’s before us is what is the condition of our hearts. Listen to what the Bible says,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV)
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”(Matthew 12:34 NKJV)
We need to deal with our hearts, not so much with our actions. David realized this after His sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband, Uriah. He said,
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me … The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 5:10, 17 NKJV)
How’s your heart? Confess and Repent and avoid the judgment to come.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study