Archive | August, 2016

PURITY TEST

28 Aug

Last week, I talked to you from the “Sermon On The Mount” about anger and how it could ultimately destroy.  I was rather pointed and direct. I was that way because there are some issues I believe we leave unchecked and like a forest fire, they are often left to go out of control.

Today, I want to address something else that I firmly believe has been left to go unchecked for way too long.  I want to talk about sexual temptation. The temptation for many parents right now would be to reach over and cover the ears of their children. But trust me when I say that when the church ignores it, when Christian parents refuse to address it, when we don’t talk about it because it’s “uncomfortable”

Although temptations of this nature have been strong since the fall of man, our day of permissiveness and perversion has brought an increase in those destructive influences that no society in history has had before.

2 Timothy 3:13

13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Ours is a day of unbridled indulgence in sexual passion. It seems to be the almost uninterrupted theme of our society’s entertainment. Mass media uses sex to sell its products and to glamorize its programs. Sex crimes are at all-time highs, while infidelity, divorce, and perversion are justified. Marriage, sexual fidelity, and moral purity are scorned, ridiculed, and laughed at. We are preoccupied with sex to a degree perhaps never before seen in a civilized culture.

But one of the biggest problems of our day and even in the day when Jesus walked the earth is the idea that we only deal with thing s if they are seen on the outside. That’s what I love about the Sermon on the Mount. He doesn’t deal with just the outside. He deals with the heart.

Jesus continues to take the mask off of the self-righteous externalism promoted by the scribes and Pharisees by showing that the only righteousness acceptable to God is purity of heart. Without that purity, the outward life makes no difference. God’s divine evaluation takes place in the heart. He judges the source and origin of sin, not just how it shows or doesn’t show.

“As a person thinks within himself, so he is” (Prov. 23:7)

Anger and sexual lust are two of the most powerful influences on humanity. When we allow them to run free, we soon find out that we are more controlled than in control. Every person has experienced temptation to anger and to sexual sin, and every person has at some time and to some degree given in to those temptations.

In its many forms, sexual license is destroying lives physically, morally, mentally, and spiritually. It is destroying marriages, families, and even whole communities.

Let’s look at our main text… Matthew 5:27-30

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’;28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

Now let’s look at this from the beginning:

 [27]”You have heard that it was said, ’You shall not commit adultery.’ “

In both the Old and New Testaments the word relates to any sex with anyone other than your spouse.

The law of Moses portrays adultery as one of the most despicable and heinous of sins, punishable by death.

Check out Leviticus 20:10…

10 ‘If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.

In strongly opposing adultery, the Pharisees appeared to be entirely scriptural. When the scribes and Pharisees told Jesus that Moses commanded them to stone the woman caught in the act of adultery, they were correct. Had not Jesus forgiven her of her sin she would have deserved stoning.

The sixth commandment protects the sanctity of life and the seventh the sanctity of marriage. Those who rely solely on what is seen on the outside break both of those commandments, because in their hearts they attack the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage, whether they do so outwardly or not. When they are angry or hate, they commit murder. When they lust sexually, they commit adultery. And when they do either of those things, they choose to despise God’s law and God’s name.

Someone once said:
Sex is like fire. In a fireplace, it’s warm and delightful. Outside the fireplace, it’s destructive and uncontrollable

Throughout the New Testament, prohibitions against sexual immorality are every bit as clear as those of the Old.

Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals will inherit the Kingdom of God .. I Corinthians 6:9

Regardless of how much a couple may care for each other and be deeply in love, sexual relations outside of marriage are forbidden according to the Word of God. In every case, without exception, it is a grievous sin against God. There is no other way to interpret that.

Let’s look at I Corinthians 6 again a little further. Let’s not just stop at verse 9.

1 Corinthians 6:9-19

[9]Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, [10]nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. [11]And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. [12]”All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.[13]”Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”–and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. [14]And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. [15]Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! [16]Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” [17]But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. [18]Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. [19]Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, (ESV)

The philosophy of sexual immorality is not new to our day. It was common in New Testament times, and Paul faced it full force in Corinth. His comment

“Food is for the stomach, and the stomach is for food” (1 Cor. 6:13)

expressed the common Greek notion that biological functions are just biological functions and have no moral significance. It was a belief many of the Corinthian believers had reverted to, or had never given up, in order to justify their sexual misconduct.

Apparently they were arguing, as do many today, that sex is simply a biological act, no different morally from eating, drinking, or sleeping.

But Paul strongly refutes that idea by going on to say,

“God will do away with both of them [that is, food and the stomach]. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body” (v. 13).

The body is more than biological. For Christians it is a member of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and belongs to the Lord rather than to us. It is therefore never to be used for any purpose that dishonors the God who made and indwells it. Christians should have but one response to sexual temptation-running away from it.

Now over to 1 Corinthians 7

God created sex and gives it as a blessing to those who enjoy it within the bounds of marriage. Sexual expression not only is a thrilling privilege but an obligation of marriage.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5 [3]The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. [4]For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. [5]Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Not everyone understands the nature  of adultery.
Returning from Sunday school, where the Ten Commandments had been the topic of the day, a young boy asked his father, “Daddy, what does it mean when it says, ‘Thou shalt not commit agriculture’?” There was hardly a beat between the question and the father’s reply: “Son, that just means that you’re not supposed to plow the other man’s field.”

We have seen the deed of adultery. Now let’s talk about desire.
Matthew 5:28

[28]But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Jesus is therefore of intentional looking with the purpose of lusting. This is the intentional continual dwelling on lustful thoughts, or the intentional selection of a particular location, like a beach, book, magazine, TV program, movie or internet site, with the desire of pursuing lustful thoughts.

Someone will surely respond, “That’s only normal and natural. I can’t help it if desires are aroused in my heart at the sight of a person of the opposite sex.” That may be true, but that does not make it right.

The process specified here is important. Looking at a woman lustfully does not cause a man to commit adultery in his thoughts. He already has committed adultery with her in his heart. It is not lustful looking that causes the sin in the heart, but the sin in the heart that causes lustful looking. The lustful looking is but the expression of a heart that is already immoral and adulterous. The heart is the soil where the seeds of sin are imbedded and begin to grow.

Jesus is not speaking of unexpected and unavoidable exposure to sexual temptation. There is no sin if the temptation is resisted and the gaze is turned elsewhere. It is continuing to look in order to satisfy lustful desires that Jesus condemns, because it evidences a vile, immoral heart.

Look beyond the immediate context to the broader one of covenant. Marriage is a covenant between two people for life, and adultery violates that covenant. When two persons agree to be husband and wife, for one to entertain thoughts of relating sexually to someone other than the spouse makes that one guilty of breaking that agreement. Jesus expects His followers to keep that agreement in both deed and attitude.

God is a God who keeps His promises and He expects His followers to do the same. When we fail to do so yet claim to be His followers, we misrepresent His character.

Although Jesus here uses a man as the example, His condemnation of lustful thoughts as well as actions applies equally to women. Women are equally susceptible to lustful looking, and even to inciting men to lust.

Parents have a responsibility in guiding the dress of their children. Godly modesty requires that we consider the implication of our dress on others.

And watch out, that also means we must take care that our own dress is unnecessarily distracting, provoking sin.

Just as the adulterous heart plans to expose itself to lust-satisfying situations, the godly heart plans to avoid them whenever possible and to flee from them when unavoidable. Just as the adulterous heart panders to itself in advance, so the godly heart protects itself in advance, praying with the psalmist:
Psalm 119:37-38 [37]Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. [38]Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.

Paul told Timothy:
2 Timothy 2:22

[22]So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 

How do we flee? At times it means physically removing ourselves from situations, like Joseph & Potiphar`s wife.

The second part of this, pursuing righteousness, takes work in advance of the situations.

Job said:
Job 31:1-11

“I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? [2]What would be my portion from God above and my heritage from the Almighty on high? [3]Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? [4]Does not he see my ways and number all my steps? [5]”If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened to deceit; [6](Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!) [7]if my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes, and if any spot has stuck to my hands, [8] then let me sow, and another eat, and let what grows for me be rooted out. [9]”If my heart has been enticed toward a woman, and I have lain in wait at my neighbor’s door, [10]then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down on her. [11]For that would be a heinous crime; that would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges;

Like Job, therefore, we must make a covenant with our eyes-and with every other part of our bodies, minds, and spirits-to shun lust and pursue purity.

Many people misunderstand how to deal with desire.
A wealthy couple desired to employ a chauffeur. The lady of the house advertised, the applicants were screened, and four suitable candidates were brought before her for the final selection. She called the prospective chauffeurs to her balcony and pointed out a brick wall alongside the driveway. Then she asked the prospective chauffeurs, “How close do you think you could come to that wall without scratching my car.”

The first man felt that he could drive within a foot of the wall without damaging the car. The second felt sure that he could come within six inches. The third believed that he could get within three inches. The fourth candidate said, “I do not know how close I could come to the wall without damaging your car. Instead, I would try to stay as far away from that wall as I could.”
This candidate had a different focus. He understood that true skill in driving is not based so much on the ability to steer the car to a narrow miss as on the ability to keep a wide margin of safety.

Like the fourth candidate, there are many aspects of human nature, such as sexual temptation, that are best dealt with by keeping a wide margin of safety.

Okay, we’ve talked about deed. We’ve talked about desire.

Finally, let’s talk about deliverance.

Matthew 5:29-30

[29]If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. [30]And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 
Here Jesus points the way to deliverance from heart sin. At first His advice seems contradictory with what He has just been saying. If the problem is in the heart, what good is plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand? If the right eye were lost, the left would continue to look lustfully, and if the right hand were cut off, the left would still remain to carry on sinful acts.

Verses 29 and 30 emphasize how seriously we are to regard this problem. Anything that leads to lust should be given up. We should regard sin so seriously as to prefer to lose an eye or a hand rather than to lose ourselves in sin.

This means taking literally the basic intent of the passage, rather than physically removing the eye. The loss of one eye or one hand cannot in itself prevent a lustful look or thought. The word-picture is to emphasize deliberate, decisive action in dealing with our natural leaning to sin.

Jesus is speaking figuratively of those things, physical or otherwise, that cause us to be tempted or make us more susceptible to temptation. In Jewish culture, the right eye and right hand represented a person’s best and most precious faculties. The eye is the medium through which one is tempted to lust and the hand represents the physical actions that result from lusting. Jesus is calling us to consider what mediums we use for lusting and consider the actions that will result

Nothing is so valuable as to be worth preserving at the expense of righteousness, and ultimately, eternal life. This strong message is obviously not to be interpreted in a wooden, literal way so that the Lord appears to be advocating mutilation. Mutilation will not cleanse the heart.

The intent of these words is simply to call for dramatic severing of the sinful impulses in us which push us to evil action. Maintaining an undefiled thought life demands strict self-discipline.

.Paul tells us:
Philippians 4:8

[8]Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 

A life filled with uplifting thoughts and overflowing with service will be less likely to be subject to the sins Jesus warns against.

But more than that, we must recognize the absolute necessity of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. We cannot suppress our flesh alone. Willpower will not do it! Paul is careful to tell us:
Romans 8:12-13

[12]So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. [13]For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

The phrase that Christ uses in Matthew 5:30 about something causes you to sin/makes … stumble was often used of the bait stick that springs the trap when an animal touches it.

Anything that morally or spiritually traps us, that causes us to fall into sin or to stay in sin, should be eliminated quickly and totally.

If we know that going to a particular place, or being alone with a particular person causes us to fall into temptation, then we should plan to avoid these things in advance, and should the situation arise unexpectedly, not remain in the situation.

If we do not consciously and purposefully control what is around us, where we go, what we do, what we watch and read, the company we keep, and the conversations we have, then those things will control us. And what we cannot control we should discard without hesitation.

Obviously getting rid of harmful influences will not change a corrupt heart into a pure heart. Outward acts cannot produce inner benefits. That outward act is effective protection, because it comes from a heart that seeks to do God’s will instead of its own.

A popular proverb says,

“Sow a thought and reap an act. Sow an act and reap a habit. Sow a habit and reap a character. Sow a character and reap a destiny.”

That process perfectly illustrates Jesus’ main thrust in this passage: No matter where it ends, sin always begins when an evil thought is sown in the mind and heart.

James 1:15

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 

The consequence of not dealing with this problem is severe. In dramatic fashion, Christ has set forth how drastically we need to deal with lust and He gives us a perspective that no action is too radical given the consequences.

Jesus again sets forth the impossible standards of His kingdom righteousness. All people are murderers and adulterers. Many do not realize that they are because of the subtlety of sin and its blinding effect on the mind. Jesus does not suggest that the scribes and Pharisees, or anyone else, could deliver themselves from the propensity to sin. As always, the impossibility that He sets forth has a twofold purpose: to make men and women despair of their own righteousness and to seek His. The Lord’s remedy for a wicked heart is a new heart, and His answer for our helplessness is His sufficiency.

We must never let our piety and spiritual accomplishments dull us to our potential for sin. We must discipline the very members of our bodies. If our eyes, hands, and feet are causing us to stumble, we must take desperate measures to keep that from happening. Even if we are not in a pattern of habitual sin, we should make a covenant with our eyes in advance of temptation, to stop, to leave the scene if necessary.

If God is speaking to you about some things that need to be put out of your life, do what he says today. If God is telling you to change your visual habits, then do it for your soul’s sake and that of your family. If God is saying that a relationship must end, then do it today. Or perhaps there is some pleasure that is okay for others but is causing you to stumble, and you know it must go. If so, get rid of it right now. You cannot do it through your own willpower. Obey God with humility and prayer. Ask him for strength, and then do what He says.

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All About Anger

21 Aug

Matthew 5:21-26:

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.

One of the most shocking crimes a society deals with is when a child kills. Sometimes it is a swarming of a child by a group of kids. Sometimes it is the killing of parents by children. And sometimes, its  the killing of a girl directed by another girl who happens to be jealous of her.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Why does murder occur? Jesus will say in Matthew 15 that it is out of a person’s own heart that “come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matt. 15:19).

We do not sin simply because of Satan or because of social depravity, stress, bad influences, or any other cause you may think of in this neverending victim culture. Those things may tempt us to sin and make it easier to do so, but when we commit sin-or even have the intention of committing sin-it is our decision . Sin is an act of the will.

No doubt most people at the time of Jesus were in full agreement with capital punishment for the crime but were convinced that they were innocent of that particular evil.

But the truth is this: the anger that lies behind murder, You see, it is anger which many people think is not really a sin that is actually one of the worst of sins.And it is anger that leads to health issues, broken relationships, our relationship with God, and yes, even murder.

Anger, unchecked and uncorrected, affects: 1) Our View of Ourselves, 2) Our Worship of God, and 3) Our Relation to Others.

So let’s look at it.

Anger affects how we view ourselves.
Matthew 5:21-22

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

When it refers to “those of old”, we are talking about rabbis and scribes who were the authors of numerous traditions and rules that had been so spoken  and so enforced that they had come to replace the authority of Scripture.  And their traditions had even defined murder. For example, it did not include the act of killing someone in self defense.

Murder was strictly limited to the act of physically taking another person’s life.

 

Jesus had already warned that God’s righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees

But Jesus stepped beyond that. He said basically “that’s a good rule. But it goes beyond that. It’s not just the act of murder but the heart behind it.

In verse 22 Jesus gives three examples that show the divine definition of murder: being angry with another person, insult him, or calling him a fool.

First, there is the evil and and danger of anger.

Matthew 5:22

22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

Ultimately, Jesus was saying this:

“Let me tell what the Scriptures themselves say, what God’s truth is on the matter. You cannot justify yourselves because you have not committed the physical act of murder. Murder goes much deeper than that. It originates in the heart, not in the hands. It starts with evil thoughts, regardless of whether or not those thoughts are brought to consummation in action.”

We must not think that God forbids all anger with other people. There is a place for righteous indignation against sin.

Jesus himself was angry when he cleared the temple. He was angry with those who assailed him for healing on the Sabbath. And in Matthew 23:17 he called the Pharisees “blind fools.” So we conclude that there is a place for anger. Jesus was angry at sin and injustice, but he never became angry at personal insult or affront. Peter says that when Jesus was dying, “when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). But we see that there is a place for righteous anger. Such anger brings pleasure to God.

Jesus therefore does not prohibit every form of anger. Paul tells us to:
Ephesians 4:26-32

 26 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. 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 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, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. 

In our day of peace and harmony at any cost, of positive thinking, and of confusing godly love with human sentimentality, we often need to show more anger against certain things. There are things in our country, our communities, our schools, and even in our churches about which we have no excuse for not being angry, vocally angry. God Himself is “angry with the wicked every day” (Ps. 7:11, KJV).

But Jesus is not talking about anger over God’s being dishonored, but rather selfish anger, anger against a brother, whoever that might be, because he or she have done something against us, or simply irritates and displeases us. This type of anger has to do with brooding, simmering anger that is nurtured and not allowed to die. It is seen in the holding of a grudge, in the smoldering bitterness that refuses to forgive. It is the anger that cherishes resentment and does not want reconciliation.

According to Jesus, such anger is a form of murder. That’s how seriously He takes it.

Then there is the evil and danger of slander.

Matthew 5:22

[22](But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment); whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; (and whoever says, ’You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire). 

The specific insult mentioned in the original language in the second half of verse 22 is Raca which was a term commonly used in Jesus’ day that has no exact modern translation. It is a term of malicious abuse, derision, and slander. It has been variously rendered as brainless idiot, worthless fellow, silly fool, empty head, blockhead, and the like. It was a word of arrogant contempt. David spoke of persons who use such slander as those who “sharpen their tongues as a serpent; poison of a viper is under their lips” (Ps. 140:3).

To slander a creature made in God’s image is to slander God Himself and is equivalent to murdering that person.

Finally, there is the evil and danger of condemning character.

Matthew 5:22

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council); and whoever says, ’You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire”

Jesus’ prohibition is against slanderously calling a person a fool out of anger and hatred. Such an expression of malicious animosity is tantamount to murder and makes us liable to the hell of fire /guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

Geenna (hell) is derived from Hinnom, the name of a valley just southwest of Jerusalem used as the city dump. It was a forbidding place where trash was continually burned and where the fire, smoke, and stench never ceased. The name of the valley therefore came to be a metonym for the place of eternal torment, and was so used by Jesus eleven times

There is no mistaking the severity of the Savior’s words. He teaches that anger contains the seeds of murder, that abusive language contains the spirit of murder, and that cursing language implies the very desire to murder.
This does not mean that we should go ahead and murder someone we hate, since we have already sinned inwardly. Obviously, sinful feelings are not excuses for sinful deeds.

Anger puts people at a disadvantage in every undertaking in life. When Sinbad and his sailors landed on a tropical island, they saw high up in the trees coconuts which could quench their thirst and satisfy their hunger. The coconuts were far above the reach of Sinbad and the sailors, but in the branches of the trees were the chattering apes. Sinbad and his men began to throw stones and sticks up at the apes. This enraged the monkeys and they began to seize the coconuts and hurl them down at the men on the ground. That was just what Sinbad and his men wanted. They got the apes angry so that the apes would gather their food for them. That is a good illustration of how by indulgence in anger we play into the hands of our foes.

But anger not only effects how we view ourselves but also how we worship God.

Matthew 5:23-24

[23]So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24]leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (ESV)

Jesus’ teaching not only affects our view of ourselves by shattering all self-righteousness and showing that we are guilty and worthy of hell, but it also shows how the sins of anger and hatred affect our relationship to God,

Worship was a major concern of the scribes and Pharisees, directly or indirectly the focus of almost everything they did. They spent much time in the synagogues and in the Temple. They made sacrifices, offered prayers, gave tithes, and carried on religious activities of every sort. But it was all heartless external ceremony.
• One of the greatest pitfalls in the instruction of children is to focus on external obedience while neglecting heartful devotion. When we neglect the heart in instruction, especially in teaching about honouring God, we train little Pharisees. That is why so many teens show so little interest in the things of faith once they leave home. Parents who spent all their time in focusing on external ritual obedience find out too late that they neglected the essence of proper worship in heart-felt devotion.

In Matthew 5:23, So /Therefore refers back to Jesus’ point that sin, just as righteousness, is first of all internal. As long as there is internal sin, outward acts of worship are not acceptable to God. Jesus continues to focus on the particular sin of hatred against someone else, a brother in the broadest sense. Reconciliation must precede worship.

The scene of offering your gift at the altar was a familiar one to Jews. Every Jew realized that sin caused a breach in one’s relationship with God, and that the sacrifices and offerings were intended to restore a right relationship with Him. Jesus said, “if you remember that your brother has something against you.” Unresolved conflict has priority and must be settled.
• Notice it is that the situation here is when your brother has something against you. It is not sufficient to say that this is his problem, let him deal with it. Matthew 18 deals with the situation when we have something against another. In this situation it deals with the flip side. What is the “something” that Christ refers to?

The phrase your brother has something against you could also refer to anger or hatred on the brother’s part. That is, even if we hold nothing against him, if he is angry with or hates us, we should do everything in our power to be reconciled to him. Obviously we cannot change another person’s heart or attitude, but our desire and effort should be to close the breach as much as is possible from our side and to hold no anger ourselves even if the other person does.
• We cannot guarantee that another person will agree to be reconciled with us, but we should make every effort “as far as it depends on” us (Rom 12:18).

Regardless of who is responsible for the break in relationship-and often there is guilt on both sides-we should determine to make a reconciliation before we come before God to worship. True worship is not enhanced by better music, better prayers, better architecture, or even better preaching. True worship is enhanced by better relationships between those who come to worship.
• When one in our family or school or a friend has something against you, we have a responsibility to act.
• This is the courageous and mature action. This shows character and forges bonds much closer than casual friendliness.

In this situation, here in Matthew 5:24, Jesus specifies that we should: leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Isaiah 1:11-17

[11]”What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats. [12]”When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? [13]Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations– I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. [14]Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. [15]When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. [16]Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, [17]learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. (ESV)

Settle the breach between you and your brother before you try to settle the breach between you and God. Not to do that is to be a hypocrite by asking for forgiveness without repenting. Paul interprets this concept in relation to the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11). An in 1 Peter 3:7 God also warns husbands to honor their wives lest their prayers be hindered. God receives no worship from a believer who is not on speaking terms with another.
When there is animosity or sin of any sort in our heart there cannot be integrity in our worship. Samuel said:
1 Samuel 15:22

[22]And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 

Nearly a thousand years before Christ preached the Sermon on the Mount the psalmist had declared:
Psalm 66:18

[18]If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. (ESV)
We live in a time of “easy believism” and name it and claim it theology. The result of the lack of confession is a shallow faith and powerless ministry.

Feel as if your prayers are going nowhere, and worship is boring; check first your confession of sin. Is it heartfelt denunciation of sin and pleading before God, or are you going through the motions.

There is probably no more neglected aspect of Christian life and worship in particular than the genuine confession and agonizing over sin.

Anger has an affect on our worship with God, but not in the ways we often think. There is a story of a little Scottish boy wouldn’t eat his prunes, so his mother sent him off to bed saying, “God is angry at you.”

Soon after the boy went to his room a violent storm broke out. Amidst flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, the mother looked into the boy’s room, worried that he would be terrified. When she opened the door she found him looking out the window muttering, “My, such a fuss to make over a few prunes.”

Anger effects how we view ourselves, how we worship God, and finally, how we relate with others.
Matthew 5:25-26 [25]Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. [26]Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. 

These verses are essentially a commentary on the previous two. Using an illustration from the common practice of imprisoning a person for an unpaid debt, Jesus teaches that if someone holds a debt of any sort against us, that person is to make it good as soon as possible and before it is too late and the result is judgment

The time for reconciliation, just as the time for salvation, is always now. Tomorrow is often too late. We are not to allow bitterness, anger, hatred, or any other sin to keep us separated from other people, whoever they are.

In the first two verses of our text,  the command for reconciliation is given to the innocent as well as the guilty party. But in the last two verses, the focus is strictly on the one who is guilty. Roman law provided that a plaintiff could bring the accused with him to face the judge. The two themselves could settle the matter while you are going with him to court/on the way, but not after the court became involved. If a man had wronged someone and that issue was headed for court, he should come to terms quickly and settle the account  before he had to face judgment. The sequence of going from the judge to the guard/officer to prison shows the typical procedure in dealing with a guilty person. To avoid judgment and prison he had to pay the last penny/cent (a small Roman coin) owed.

In light of vv. 21–22 they obviously refer primarily to the spiritual goal of averting God’s wrath on Judgment Day before it is too late to (avert judgment). As a metaphor with one central point of comparison, the details of vv. 25–26 must not be allegorized. No spiritual counterparts to the adversary and officer appear, nor does v. 26 support the traditional Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, as if one could ever pay enough to get out of hell.
This illustration is a picture of sin against another person. Such sin must be resolved to avoid having to face a sentence front the divine Judge. The precise penalty to which Jesus alludes is not made clear. Being put/thrown into prison and not being able to get out until the debt is paid is an analogy of God’s punishment. The basic teaching is plain and unmistakable: we are to make every effort, with no delay, to make our relationship right with our brother before our relationship can be right with God and to avoid judgment.

In the context of first century justice, a convicted criminal in prison could not, at that time, pay his debt to society by simply serving his time. Restitution had to be made. He might have to sell his property, or perhaps his wife or children could manage to pay his debt; sometimes family members would even be sold into slavery to pay such a debt. But anyone who is condemned by God and cast into the prison of hell will never be able to regain their freedom, no matter what the members of his family might be willing to do. That would be the fate of anyone following the example of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. The righteousness of Jesus’ disciples had to surpass that of those false teachers. This is possible only when Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to sinners through faith

In the fullest sense, of course, because no one ever fully has right attitudes toward others, no worship is acceptable. Thus everything Jesus teaches in this passage, as in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, is to show the absolutely perfect standard of God’s righteousness and the absolutely impossible task of our meeting that standard in our own power. He shatters self-righteousness in order to drive us to His righteousness, which alone is acceptable to God.

NOW THAT VBS IS OVER

14 Aug

Wow! What an amazing week we just had! Absolutely incredible! I have looked forward to every Vacation Bible School we have ever had and this past week has never disappointed.

But now it’s over!  And we’ve had a couple of days to rest and reflect. And the next question is “What now?”

You know, our whole purpose in life is to carry the light of Jesus wherever we go.  When we began a relationship with Him, we were instructed to be witnesses for Him. (Acts 1:8). We were instructed to carry His light.

That’s what Matthew 5:16 tells us:

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.

This past week, many of you let your light for Jesus shine… whether it was in the snack line, on the rec field, at Imagination Station, upstairs watching videos or enjoying Bible adventures, you let your light shine.  Many children heard about Jesus (some literally for the first time) and it was because of you. That is awesome!

But now VBS is over.  It won’t be long before we start planning again. But let me ask you a question. Does that mean we stop letting our light shine?

Of course you would say “no”. I expected that.

But the truth is that many of us won’t.

You see, I am concerned about what I see going on in the world around us. I have voiced that many times.  That is no secret.

I am seeing immorality made legal. I am seeing wrong made right. I am seeing churches empty and everyone quit pursuing Jesus in the name of our own selfish fulfillment.

None of this is new. You have heard me say it before.

And you have also heard me say this: I blame the church.

And by the church, I mean I blame the Christians (the majority of them) who make up the church.

We don’t seem to get it.  We sing praises to Jesus on Sunday morning. This week, we yelled out (over and over) that we need to “Follow Him!”  Children went home singing about Jesus.  And many of them will be back or we’ll cross paths with them again.

And when they see us, that light needs to continue to shine.

But most of the time, we don’t let it shine.

Or worse, we let it shine only when it’s convenient.  It’s great to take that light out on Sunday morning and let it shine in each others faces.  We might even compare our lights (mine is brighter than yours).

But then we leave the church and we tuck that light away (nothing to see here).  The preacher comes over to our house, the light comes back out. Certain friends come over or we are just at the house with only our family, the light gets put away.

The world sees that and they have a word for it: FAKE

And it’s that fake Christianity that many of the children we saw here will also see as well.

And their parents.. many who know you and sent their children to VBS at your invitation will also see it.

Many of them who met or saw you for the first time this week and will now recognize you in other places will see it.

That light was meant to be constantly on… not hidden.

But most of us carry on like we are ashamed of it.

We would never say that outloud! Yet that’s exactly how we carry on. We are often too quiet about or faith in a world that desperately needs to hear it.

We need to be like Paul who said in Romans 1:16:

“I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.”

We need to boldly speak out our faith and live it out in an amazing way.

But many of us do not.

We “compartmentalize” our lives.

Perhaps one of the most fascinating Presidents of the 20th century was John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Kennedy was known for his bravery during the Cuban Missile Crisis, his cool head during the Bay of Pigs invasion, and his numerous extramarital affairs.

One of the women, Mimi Alford, when writing about him, would say that one of the most amazing things about him was the way he would “compartmentalize” his life. He could be the playboy with one of his many mistresses at night, and devoted family man and President during the day and as long as the two didn’t interfere with each other, then he was perfectly fine.

Isn’t that the way a lot of Christians live their lives?

The Bible has a word for it: double minded.

James 4:1-8

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it On your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Look again at verse 4:

You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?

There it is: plain as day in the scripture.

We cannot be friends with both the world and Jesus.

But many of us do that!

And we think it’s okay.

As long as Pastor Rick doesn’t know.

Or even if he does. Who cares?

“Hey, we’re all sinners. God still loves me”

Well, no joke.

But what gives you the right to treat Him like that.

The scripture says you’re like an adulterer.

You whisper love to Jesus raising your hands in praise and then at the same time, you’re crawling into bed with the world and enjoying all of its pleasures.

Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

We are a world sinking further and further into oblivion.

Do you believe that Jesus is real?

Do you believe that He truly died for your sins?

Do you believe that He rose again on the third day?

Do you believe that His Spirit is among us and walks with us and is there at our disposal?Trying to communicate with us and trying to steer us in the right direction?

Then live like it matters.

I so want you to understand that you’re hurting the heart of Jesus when you compartmentalize like that.

Think about what He did for you?

Think about the nail scarred hands.

Imagine that hammer hitting the hands of Jesus… driving it deeper into the wood.

“It’s my business”

“Don’t tell me who to love”

“God still loves me”

“I’m sure Jesus will understand”

“Hey, there are others doing worse”

“Everybody’s a hypocrite”

“Don’t I have a right to be happy?”

“It’s just one weekend”

Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

He died for you! Live for Him!

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I WANT TO LIVE MY LIFE FOR YOU

9 Aug

You stood before voices so mean

And died for us to have eternity

And all you’re asking in return

Is that we live our life for you alone.

So…

I want to live my life for you

In all I say and do

May others see in me your light

As I serve you with all my might

 

Sometimes amidst the maddening crowd

Those who hate you yell so loud

And sometimes your voice I barely hear

But your love for me is all too clear.

So…

I want to live my life for you

In all I say and do

May others see in me your light

As I serve you with all my might

 

And one day I’ll stand before your throne

My time will have come. I’ll be called home

I hope you’ll look at me and grin

And say “well done” as I enter in.

 

I want to live my life for you

In all I say and do

May others see in me your light

As I serve you with all my might