January 17, 2010

Sermon # 8

Matthew 5:21-26

We are started in the Ye have heard section. There are six divisions, and each starts with Ye have heard and But I say unto you. These six sections correspond basically to, and expand upon the 7 beatitudes.

The Lord's message here on the mount shows us one of man's basic problems. Because man is basically a sinner, he desires to take God's word in the least possible meaning. Man does not want to closely examine God's word for its implications, but he will examine all kinds of man-made documents for their implications. As we see here in these passages, when the law says, "Thou shalt not kill," sinful man desires to restrict the definition of kill as much as possible, and ignore the positive, "Thou shalt preserve life.".

I have been on the mailing list of one Baptist Churches. One was dedicated totally to upholding Baptist tradition. They never apply the word of God concerning issues of our day. Christ condemned this kind of foolishness very soundly. That pastor and Church will stand accountable before God for foolishly wasting God's money to promote tradition over the word of God.

Pastors and teachers are to develop God's word, not traditions. Not only pastors, but if authors would spend as much time developing the implications of the ten commandments as they do over developing tradition and feelings, we would see some godly results. But few people would purchase them.

I have attended Baptist meetings which might have a speaker there who is not a Baptist. There is then grumbling over the speaker not being a Baptist even though he had a common love for the Lord Jesus Christ and the word of God.

Something is very wrong with that kind of attitude. It is totally unscriptural.

2 Thessalonians 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
Geneva: Therefore, brethren, stand fast and keep the instructions, which ye have been taught, either by word, or by our Epistle.

In the KJV, Paul tells the people to follow the traditions they had been taught. However, in the Geneva, the word is instructions.

As Christ preached His Sermon on the Mount, He was surrounded by the religious leaders and teachers of His day. These men believed that Moses did not record everything given to him by the Lord. They also held that the Lord spoke to the seventy elders who went with Moses part way up the mount. Then these elders passed on by word of mouth what the Lord said to them.

Christ now publically exposes the religious leaders as the hypocrites. He tells them that they are the current heirs to the "old time" teachers. They feel the heat as he tells the people what is in their hearts.

In these first two Ye have heards Christ condemns the division of the individual into two parts. Today this heresy takes the form of we can love the sinner while hating his sin. It seems that we do not have to listen very long at all to supposedly Christian teachers to hear these blasphemous words come out of their mouths: "We are to love the individual, but we are to hate his sin." We have heard this lie so many times that it is now accepted as Biblical, even by Christians who should know better.

Because a person's thoughts and actions cannot be separated, it means that the current idea that we are to love the sinner but hate the sin is false: it is a Biblical impossibility because it is impossible to separate the sin from the individual. WE WILL DEAL WITH THIS HERESY IN Vv 43-48.

Then our Lord said, ye have heard, he was taking a direct shot at the traditional teaching of the law which reduced it to merely outward formal action. This particular law was against murder. The Jews had reduced this law to no more than a prohibition against intentionally killing someone, and then only if the one murdered was a fellow Jew. As long as they did not kill another Jew, according to their teaching, they were fine upstanding law-keepers, v. 20.

Their righteousness was purely outward formalism; their hearts were full of pride and every evil imagination; their heart attitude was an abomination to the Lord. They were whited sepulchers full of dead men's bones.

Illustration: I have asked people if they are a Christian, and more than a few times, the response was, "Certainly, I live a good moral life. I don't murder or steal, and I keep the law." But if we could probe deeper into their hearts, we would find that they are controlled by unforgiveness, pride (even pride in their desire to obey the word of God), covetousness and/or other evils. These people cannot think about another without some kind of bad or foul emotion rising up within their hearts, including the feeling of pride in their attainments or knowledge.

V. 22, But I say.. Not murdering someone may keep us from man's judgment seat, but it does not protect us at God's judgment seat. Though Christ as the Lawgiver had the right to change the law against murder, he changed nothing. Rather, he expands the law, and gives it its proper meaning.

Vv. 21-26, this first Ye have heard corresponds to and expands upon the first beatitude, v. 3: poverty or humility before one another and before the Lord. The poverty here enables one to go to another to make things right.

We saw last time that our Lord deals with pagan dualism—that is, separating thoughts from action. His law forbids a "mental illness" defense. Society, as well as many Christians, see no connection between thoughts and actions.

Wicked men of all ages have sought to separate the spiritual from the physical, dualism–"this is spiritual, "that is secular." They believe that life is made up of spiritual and secular, and thus relieving their conscience over sin.

"I feel spiritual, and I do spiritual things, so I am fine." But their supposed spirituality does not translate into consistent Christian actions.

It is the old Greek Paganism that says that a person is divided up into the spiritual (thought, emotions) and the physical (actions). This pagan idea must be avoided; it is thoroughly unbiblical. The fact that thoughts and actions cannot be separated gives us two points, the first of which we saw last week.

First, thoughts have consequences. Clearly, the Lord Jesus tells us in these first two Ye have heards, vv. 21-26 & vv. 27-30, that lawless actions begin with a lawless thought. Thoughts and actions cannot be separated, and the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, deals with the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12.

Our Thrice Holy God sees thoughts and actions as the same. However, I would much rather have your lawless thoughts toward me than your lawless actions.

Self-control, starting with our thoughts, is the most important thing anyone can have, for the law of God holds us responsible for every thought because every thought has consequences.

Second, v. 21, anger... What is the Biblical doctrine of anger?

Our Lord clearly tells us that the action of murder is the result of the harbored thoughts of anger and hate.

Our Lord implies:

1) that we will be in bondage to that unclean emotion of anger toward that person until we settle the difficulty. The difficulty must be faced up to and settled between us and that person. If that is not possible, then at least between us and the Lord.

We will see a further illustration of this in chapter 6:

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

2) v. 23, another has something against us. If we suspect another has a problem with us, we are responsible to try to straighten it out.

3) bondage to our emotions is like a prison. There is no release from that torture until the anger is conquered.

Anger identified

Anger is an emotion that can motivate either good or bad action.

V. 21, anger is identified with murder. This anger wishes someone harm, or that they did not exist, or that they would get what they deserve or have coming to them. This anger seeks vengeance or desires to see some kind of ill come toward another, or that God would shower out His vengeance upon the offender.

How could Paul give instructions to be angry?

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry, but sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath, 27 Neither give place to the devil. (Also, Psalms 37:8)

There are two types of anger:

1) anger which causes one to act contrary to the word of God. He loses control of his mind, emotions, actions, speech—any one or all of these areas. He then operates outside of what is according to the word of God. His sin gives place for the devil to work.

2) anger which causes one to act in accord to the word of God. We can say that this is a godly anger that causes us to take action according to the commands of God. Christ often exercised godly anger. Mark 3:5.

I have a friend in Lafayette Indiana. She got angry over the corruption particularly in regard to the wasteful spending by the school board, and sodomite teachers in the system. The result was that she started a free newspaper, called "The Family Times." The paper became quite popular, and really put the right kind of pressure on the "public servants" to clean up their acts.

Sadly, there was not a pastor in the Lafayette area who would support her, not even her own Presberterian pastor, so she had me write some articles for the paper. Even since we have moved away, she has had me do some articles.

Godly anger motivates Godly action. Ungodly anger motivates ungodly action.

Where are the people of God today who get angry enough over sin to do something about it in their communities? The lack of anger against sin allows sin to overtake society.

Let me give more points from this section than you care to follow:

Remember that the altar was still standing in Jerusalem where the required offerings were still being made. These instructions were given to the Pharisees of his day. They taught that God was appeased by the sacrifices appointed by Moses. Christ tells them that God will not accept any man's offering unless he has a proper relationship with those who he has offended.

First, without a cause tells us that there are just causes for anger. Our Lord condemns unjustified anger toward another. Has that person done something contrary to the word of God? If so, there is just cause for anger. If not, there is no cause for anger. And there is never a time for personal offence—offences over something some one else did or did not do which had nothing to do with the word of God.

Nehemiah was had a just cause. Motivated by anger, he severely rebuked the nobles and rulers, 5:6.

The Old Testament is full of instances where God, in His anger and wrath, executed justice and judgment upon the wicked, and where the men of God exercised Godly wrath and anger against sin, e.g., Samuel. The evil of men finally caused the Lord to take lawful action against their wicked ways.

Our Lord warns us here against allowing emotions to well up within us against someone who has done nothing contrary to the commands of God. If they have done nothing against the word of God and we are angry at them, our anger is without a cause. I will have to admit that most of our excitement against others is not over their violation of the word of the Lord. Rather, they have violated a standard which we have established for them.

Godly anger is always under control of the individual; it is always in conformity to the word of God, and godly anger is only motivated by violations of God's word.

Second, v. 22, shall say... Raca (a term of reproach in Christ's day, manning empty headed, senseless) ... thou fool... These two terms are motivated by the anger hidden in the heart.

Third, v. 22, danger of hell fire... On the surface, it appears one is in danger of losing salvation over angry words. Remember, Christ is speaking to the Jewish mentality. Thus, the Geneva gives a much better understanding: worthy to be punished with hell fire...

The Geneva note gives the best explanation:

The Jews used four kinds of punishments, before their government was taken away by Herod: hanging, beheading, stoning, and burning. It is burning that Christ meant, because burning was the greatest punishment; therefore by making mention of a judgment, a council, and a fire, he shows that some sins are worse than others are, but yet they are all such that we must give account for them, and will be punished for them.

Christ is not speaking of eternal hell, but physical punishment. All of this section is emphasizing the importance of controlling anger, with a warning of several civil penalties over uncontrolled anger, vv. 25, 26.

Fourth, v. 23.The emphasis of the message changes from our anger toward someone, to having done ought, something, against someone that causes hard feelings against us.

Rememberest. It is the Spirit who reminds us, and wrong can only be defined by Scripture.

V. 23, assumes two things:

A) The person is sincerely trying to please the Lord.

B) The person is not aware of the problem or has ignored it. It is so easy to ignore what we do not want to remember. But the Lord remembers.

I do not like conflicts, particularly when I was wrong.

If we perceive that someone is holding something against us over something we did to them, then we are to find out what it was, and, if possible, make it right. However, if the hard feelings are over our stand on the word of God, then we owe them nothing.

Normally we offend others with our own stubborn, foolish and dumb actions, particularly within our own families and close friends.

There is no longer an altar, so the teaching is general. Our service to the Lord will not be accepted if we ignore where we have offended others. More than a few times I have tried to pray, and was reminded of where I offended someone. I had to make that right before I could pray.

Keep in mind that our enemy will also bring guilt upon us if he can. Remember, he is a liar and the father of lies, and he uses lies to beat us down. So anything brought to our memory must be compared to scripture, or we will end up "confessing" things that have no Biblical reason for confession, and only make matters worse.

God speaks to us through his word, so before we make fools of ourselves, let God speak as we study his word.

Warning: We cannot pick up an offence for someone else. "You did wrong toward that other person, so now I am offended over your actions."

Fifth, vv. 22-24, with his brother.. The Lord takes for granted that people are sinners and there will be conflicts any time people are together in close associations.

If there is any place where unity should prevail, it should be among the congregation of the Lord. But, sad to say, this is, more often than not, the place where disunity grows out of control and does the most damage.

If we cannot get along with our fellow man whom we can see, how can we expect to get along with the Lord whom we cannot see?
If we cannot communicate one with another, we cannot expect to have clear communication with the Heavenly Father.
If we do not have a clear conscience with others, we cannot have a clear conscience with the Lord.

Sixth, v. 24. leave thy gift... Though there is today no altar, we are told two things by this instruction:

The importance of taking care of the problem as soon as it comes to mind.
There is no pleasing God until the problem is solved. I have met those whose pride prevented them from humbling themselves to their "opponent," and stopped serving the Lord rather than make things right.

Seventh, v. 25. adversary.

1 Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.

The problem must be dealt with as soon as it is brought to our attention, or we are fair game for the adversary. It may take a while for him to catch up with us, but we are available.

Eighth, vv. 25, 26. to the officer, and cast into prison. The Lord compares unjustified anger, hard feeling between two people, or even a refusal to humble ourselves to the bondage of a debt.

Bondage to emotions like anger, unforgiveness, hard feelings and even guilt are like a prison with many tortures. And our adversary will pile on the tortures in our mind.

Ninth, til thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. The Lord clearly tells us that there will be no release from that prison until the matters are Scripturally dealt with.

I have met more than a few who were controlled by their anger and bitterness toward another, yet refuse to settle the problem. You might say, "But that person I have a problem with does not want to make matters right," or "I am unable to contact them to make matters right," or any of a number of reasons we cannot go to that adversary and agree with him. In that case, it must be taken care of between us and the Lord.

It is obvious that the Lord sees the heart. The outside may be fine, but the heart harbors all kinds of evil emotions toward another. The Lord sees the heart, judges accordingly and delivers the person to the officer of the prison.

Tenth, there is no running from the problem. Being on church staffs and pastoring, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people, even pastors, try to run rather than deal with anger, bitterness and hard and hurt feelings. They think they can escape their prison by moving.

The physical location has nothing to do with this prison; when the person seeks to run from the situation, the situation follows because it is in the heart that the bitterness and anger must be settled.

Now certainly, not all situations are possible or feasible to settle with the other person, but it must at least be settled with the Lord; He is the One who delivered us to the officer and He commands the officer.

Eleventh, the individual has the key to his prison. It is called the key of humility. is prison has a key, and the key is in our hands, and the key is called being poor in spirit: Humility before God and man.

Twelfth, as society becomes more humanistic, every man his own god and every man for himself, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to follow our Lord's admonition in this passage. As people think that they are their own gods and acts like it, the situations described by our Lord in vs. 21-26, become more common.

There is no worse enemy or prison than anger, bitterness and hard feelings between people. It is a prison from which there is no release except by humility.

Conclusion:

1) that we will be in bondage to that unclean emotion toward that person until we settle the difficulty. The difficulty must be faced up to and settled between us and that person if it is something which can be settled between the two of us; or if it is something that needs to be settled between us and the Lord, it must be settled.

2) the one who suspects that another has a difficulty toward him is responsible to go to the other individual and try to bring the matter out into the open.

3) there is no worse bondage that bondage to our emotions.

Truly, blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of God.