23 Oct

Matthew 5:43-48


43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This is quiet a passage. This is several in a series of “you have heard it said…but I tell you” statements that strike at the very heart of Christianity. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches  that the inner condition of the Heart was the most important.  In this passage, He deals more with that. The law required certain things.  The Pharisees added many things to the law so that it became a burden that no one could bear. Yet Jesus taught us here that the outward sin of life begins in the heart. He teaches us that merely keeping rules is not what God seeks from us. He seeks a relationship that will be a guide to us.

Proverbs 4:23 says “Keep your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.” We are made by the things that are in our heart.  We can do our best to follow the rules and we may even be good at it but if our heart is wrong, we are wrong.

The sixth commandment teaches us that it is wrong to murder.

But Jesus went to the heart of things. He knew that no one would ever commit murder if they did not first harbor anger and hatred for someone.

Jesus traced this anger and hatred to two terms that were used as a great insult.

Raca—Stupid or Empty head—This was different than our casual picking at one another.

You Fool-Would be the equivalent of our calling someone a crook or liar.

When someone insults us, when someone attacks our character, it makes us angry. It hurts us. And oftentimes, it causes us to hold a grudge.

William H. Walton says To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee.

A wildlife expert, during a visit to Yellowstone Park, once observed that the only animal the grizzly bear would share food with was a skunk. It wasn’t that the grizzly wanted to share his food but rather that he chose to. With one swing of his powerful paw he could have crushed the skunk. So why did he allow the skunk to eat with him? Because he knew the high cost of getting even.

A good memory can be a great tool in serving the Lord but a good memory used for the wrong purpose can be an anchor that is tied to our foot and we have just tried to swim across the lake.

We are instead to follow the direction of  Colossians 3:13 which tells us…

whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was reminded one day of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before. But she acted as if she had never even heard of the incident. “Don’t you remember it?” her friend asked. “No,” came Barton’s reply, “I distinctly remember forgetting it.”

In his book. Lee: The Last Years, Charles Bracelen Flood reports that after the Civil War, Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss. After a brief silence, Lee said, “Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it.” It is better to forgive the injustices of the past than to allow them to remain, let bitterness take root and poison the rest of our life.

Many Christians allow grudges and bitterness to fill their heart. It may never lead to murder but it will hinder your relationship with Christ. The biggest reason that I find for people not being willing to forgive others is that they don’t really have an understanding of how Christ has forgiven them.

I want you to think for a minute about some of the worse things you have done morally. Be honest with yourself and with God. Did you know that as a child of God, washed in the blood of Jesus Christ, you are fully forgiven? Did you know that Jesus in eternity past knew you would make those mistakes and yet He still chose for you to be born because He has a plan for you. Now, if God can forgive us when we fail, shouldn’t we forgive others?

I want to close today with a parable that Jesus taught… Normally, I preach to you out of the New American Standard Version of the Scripture.   It is the closest to literal of any of the translations, in my opinion.  But today, I want to close by reading this parable from a popular paraphrased version of the Scripture. This is something you will rarely hear me do. But I found this particular version meaningful and I want to be sure you heard the lesson behind it. This is Matthew 18:21-35 from THE MESSAGE.

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

 Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

 “The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

 “The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’

 “The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

 “The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

Let me make it clear.. I am a vile, sinful, filthy creature… I am unworthy of my beautiful wife or my precious children. I am unworthy of the friendships that I have. The only thing that makes me of any value is the fact that Jesus loved me enough to die for me. I was headed for Hell and he paid the penalty for every lustful thought, every selfish action, every grudge, every harsh word, every greedy move, everything that I have ever done that has fallen short of God’s standard for me.

I committed my life to Him and said when I did that, that I would spend the rest of my life serving Him. But Satan tries to hold me back. He finds my weak spot or several weak spots and uses it to try to destroy my walk with Jesus.

And one of the best ways he can hit me personally is through the art of grudge holding. You hurt me, you hurt my family, I have a hard time dealing with it.  I say “I forgive” but the bitter feelings that seem to stay with me indicate that’s not true. It affects my other relationships, it affects my preaching, but most importantly it affects my relationship with Jesus.

Just last night, I told Danna that I was having a hard time with some relationships with people that I have not seen in some time but will be seeing soon. I told her that I didn’t know how I was going to deal with it.

Then I began reviewing my sermon notes… and I realized that if I let it go unchecked, it was going to seriously hurt my Jesus.

And that’s something I can never do.

And neither can you.


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