Welcome to Refinery Life Australia.
This week we are continuing our series titled Listening To Heaven’s Infallible Teacher.
The messages for the next couple of weeks will be coming from the Sermon on the Mount..
Today we are talking about Believe and Behave.
Matthew 5:22 ESV
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.
Matthew 5:21-48 (ESV)
In Jesus name we pray.
Perhaps the greatest demands of all the teachings of Jesus are found in this segment of the Sermon on the Mount.
In the preceding four verses, Jesus declared that the law, not the burdensome laws of the scribes, but the law of God based on the two great principles of reverence for God and respect for others, is a reliable guide for successful living.
Now Jesus demonstrated how respect for others affects our behaviour.
He expects those of us who believe to behave!
Jesus made it quite clear that Christianity is no easy, do as you please religion.
In love and yet in firmness He said that if we dare bear His name, we are to believe and behave!
That Christianity is not simply a private affair between you and God is seen in that all areas Jesus mentioned deal with your relationship to other people.
Jesus said that there are five problems with others that we will not have when we believe and behave.
- The problem of anger (Matthew 5:21-26).
Jesus contended that outward conformity to the old law that forbids killing is not sufficient.
He taught that we would be judged according to the inward desires of our hearts.
Very clearly the old law said, “Thou shall not kill.”
But Jesus forbids even the attitude of anger against others.
The King James Version says that a man is condemned who is angry with his brother “without cause” in verse 33.
It is significant that the words without cause are not found in any of the ancient manuscripts.
Jesus statement is actually a total prohibition against anger in any form.
It is not enough, according to Christian standards, simply to refrain from hitting a person.
Christianity requires that we not even desire to hit a person, and that we not harbour bad feelings against a brother.
- The danger of anger (verse 22)
The word danger appears three times in this one verse, obviously underscoring the danger of anger.
Even a casual familiarity with Scripture gives knowledge of when our Lord went into the temple and saw a man who’s hand was deformed.
Mark 3:5 records that when Jesus looked on those who opposed his healing, He did so “with anger.”
The apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and sin not.”
From these two references it is obvious that anger is not always condemned in the Bible.
God has given us the ability to feel anger, but expects us to use it constructively.
We should notice in this passage in Matthew that Jesus was not speaking about anger concerning a situation but about anger directed toward individuals.
It seems that what Jesus was forbidding here is selfish and vindictive anger.
The word race can hardly be translated because it describes a tone of voice more than content of meaning.
Jesus forbids the use of this because it displays a spirit of arrogance and contemptuous anger.
He said that one who is guilty of this is liable to the judgement of God.
Jesus also forbids the use of the word fool.
This word was used to cast aspersions on the moral character of another person.
Jesus forbids us to destroy another person’s name and reputation.
To persist in doing so is to be liable to the severest judgement of all, the judgement of the fires of hell itself.
B. The defeat of anger (verses 23-26)
Jesus painted the picture of a worshipper standing before the alter.
There comes to the worshippers mind that someone is angry with him, or perhaps he is angry with someone else.
Should he complete his act of worship and then go solve his problem, or should he solve his problem first?
Jesus contended that we should discontinue worship, go to our brother or sister, make things right, and then return to a meaningful worship experience.
Jesus was clearly saying that Christians should take the initiative in reconciliation.
Such reconciliation will never come by wishful thinking or even by praying alone.
The sooner we take this initiative in asking and granting forgiveness, the better ad the easier it is.
The longer we wait, the more set becomes the attitude of resentment and anger.
Therefore, Jesus said, in verse 24, “First be reconciled to thy brother.”
Also in this passage Jesus was saying that Christian reconciliation is a prerequisite to fellowship with God.
Whenever we hold grudges and attitudes of anger toward others, we become estranged from god.
The admonition is first to be reconciled to our brother or sister and then come and offer our gift to God.
2. The problem of adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).
Any act that damages everyone concerned can never lead to a happy or Christlike life.
In the matter of adultery, everybody involved loses.
Never is there a happy ending to an affair, wether that affair is extramarital or premarital.
Therefore Jesus attacked this problem head on.
He asserted that if you believe as you should, you will behave as you should in your personal morals.
- The root of adultery (verse 28).
Just as Jesus did in the case of murder, He distinguished between the deed and the thought.
The law condemned the act of adultery, Jesus condemned the attitude of adultery.
We can conclude that the attitude He condemned is the lustful look.
But the lustful look is not he passing thought, nor a physical desire, nor a glance.
If we take the law of Moses literally, a man on a desert island could never be guilty of adultery.
But according to the teachings of Christ, he could if he persisted in his lustful attitude toward women.
In his imagination he could treat a woman as a passing pleasure instead of as a person.
A woman does not need to be physically present for him to commit adultery with her in his heart.
Thus Jesus dealt with the root of the problem of adultery, which is a matter of the heart.
B. The remedy for adultery (verses 29-32).
Jesus seemed two offer two remedies.
First, there is personal purity.
It is true that amputation of an arm may stop thievery, but it does not remove the heart of the thief.
The goal Jesus was advocation was not mutilation of the body but purity of morals.
The second remedy Jesus offered was respect for marriage.
Divorce was a husbands prerogative in the old Jewish law.
He could terminate the marriage whenever he chose.
All he had to do was serve a written document of divorce to his wife.
Jesus however, said that a person who believes and behaves should go one step further.
He will respect marriage as the Devine institution God intended it to be.
In our application of this principle of Jesus, we must be carful not to become pharisaical in our attitude.
Surely, if God will forgive those who lie, steal, or commit adultery and repent, he will forgive those who have made a mistake in their marriage.
3. The problem of dishonesty (Matthew 5:33-37).
- The problem of dishonesty is compounded by empty oaths.
The Jews were notorious for dividing oaths into two classes, those that were absolutely binding and those that were not binding.
For instance, an oath that contained the name of God was binding, but an oath that omitted the name of God was not binding.
Those that wee not familiar with these tricks could believe a person’s oath when the oath meant absolutely nothing.
In light of this, Jesus did not forbid taking an oath such as one we would take in jury service or when being inducted into the armed forces.
What He did reject was an on again off again truth telling.
He was simply saying that we must tell the truth under all circumstances.
B. The problem of dishonesty is solved by Christian character.
A person’s word should be their bond.
Christians should never need to take an oath to substantiate what they are saying.
Their guarantee should be their Christian character.
In the business world you may get a person to sign all kinds of contracts and take all kinds of oaths, but none of these will solve the problem of dishonesty.
This problem is solved only by Christian character produced by belief in Jesus Christ that changes the way a person behaves.
4. The problem of retaliation (Matthew 5:38-42)
Retaliation was unlimited in the early days of mankind.
The law of the jungle prevailed.
If a man knocked out another man’s tooth, he could expect to have all of his knocked out.
Because of this unrestrained retaliation, the law from Exodus 21:23-24 came into being.
It simply states “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
Though it may be hard for us to understand, at that time limited retaliation was an advancement in the area of personal morality.
This law precisely defines the amount of revenge that was permitted.
But Jesus contended that repaying evil with evil falls short of the Christian concept of believing and behaving.
- The senselessness of retaliation.
What good does retaliation do?
Does it restore a lost eye, or does it replace a broken tooth?
Exchanging comments and caustic criticism gets us nowhere except in serious trouble.
Violence has always bred violence.
B. The alternative.
The ancient law of unlimited retaliation and the later law of limited retaliation was now replaced by Jesus with the law of no retaliation.
Here Jesus was speaking about personal wrong done by a personal enemy.
He was not speaking about a proper response to war or unprovoked attack.
We should also keep in mind that Jesus was speaking to committed followers.
This is difficult for mature Christians and is certainly beyond the ability of new followers of Christ.
The overall implication of Jesus’ teaching in this passage is that if we are slapped in the face, we must never hit back nor run.
Instead, we must stand our ground, take the insult, and demonstrate that, as Christians, we would rather suffer wrong than do wrong.
5. The problem of hate (Matthew 5:43-48)
Personally, I believe this is the ultimate test of the Christian who wants to believe and behave.
- The destructiveness of hate.
In verse 46 Jesus said that hate destroys our rewards.
In verse 47 He says that it destroys our testimony in that we become no different than the lost people around us.
Hate ultimately destroys the person that hates.
Hate has a way of clinging to the person who doesn’t deal with it quickly and effectively.
Hate warps our judgement, breaks down our personal peace of mind, creates nervous disorders and high blood pressure, and can actually cause illness and death.
These facts are confirmed by doctors in clinical studies.
So it is obvious why Jesus said we must avoid the destructiveness of hate.
We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our Christian testimony, we owe it to our church, and we owe it to the Christ we serve.
B. The destruction of hate.
Jesus gives us four steps to take in the destruction of hate.
First, we must love our enemies.
This commandment can be obeyed only by those who are Christians.
Apart from the grace of God, we can never really love a person who does not love us.
The second step is to bless our enemies.
This means we must speak well of them.
Again this can only be done with the grace of God, otherwise you can’t bless a person who is cursing you.
The third step is, do good to them.
It is not difficult to do good to those who do good for you, but to do good for those who do you harm requires the Lordship of Christ in the fullest sense.
Jesus offered a fourth and final tip.
He asked us to pray for our enemies.
It has been said that our natural impulse is to prey on our enemies, not pray for our enemies.
Yet this is love’s requirement of those who believe and behave.
In verse 48 Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
On the surface this is an impossible imperative, since no one can be as perfect as God.
Yet the word perfect should not be interpreted to mean sinless or flawless.
Rather, we should understand it to mean whole, complete and mature.
Jesus seemed to be saying, “Stop acting like a child!”
He encourages us to grow up and become mature as our heavenly Father is mature and thus make our love all inclusive.
When you draw love’s circle big enough to include all humankind, you will exclude the problems of anger, adultery, dishonesty, retaliation, and hate.
Then you will be numbered among this who “believe and behave.”
Until next time
Stay in the Blessings
I really want to encourage you to be diligent with your Bible study time, because God has so much more for us than we can get from just going to church once or twice a week and hearing someone else talk about the Word.
When you spend time with God, your life will change in amazing ways, because God is a Redeemer.
Theres nothing thats too hard for Him, and He can make you whole, spirit, soul and body!
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