Updated: Aug 1, 2022
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A lot of us have preconceived ideas about Jesus. For example, many believe he is just an exceptional moral teacher. He is, but more than that he is TRUTH. And TRUTH demands reflection and response that looks like a radical reorganization of your life.
In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus brings some truth that demands just that. He highlights a danger: an unhealthy heart leads to death. He gives a directive: urgent humility leads to life. The context is Jesus teaching about the kind of TOV life that characterizes his people, of which he is the prototype. This is who he is calling us to be! By the way, TOV is the Hebrew word for "good", but with a fuller intent which implies something which fulfills the purpose for which it was created. When something is doing what it was created to do - that's TOV.
Matthew 5:21-26 21“You’re familiar with the commandment taught to those of old: ‘Do not murder or you will be judged.’ 22But I’m telling you, if you hold anger in your heart toward a fellow believer, you are subject to judgment. And whoever demeans and insults a fellow believer is answerable to the congregation. And whoever calls down curses upon a fellow believer is in danger of being sent to a fiery hell. 23“So then, if you are presenting a gift before the altar and suddenly you remember a quarrel you have with a fellow believer, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar and go at once to apologize to the one who is offended. Then, after you have reconciled, come to the altar and present your gift. 25It is always better to come to terms with the one who wants to sue you before you go to trial, or you may be found guilty by the judge, and he will hand you over to the officers, who will throw you into prison. 26 Believe me, you won’t get out of prison until you have paid the full amount!”
Jesus is referring to the 6th command - don't murder. Many of his hearers thought as long as they didn't commit the act, their attitude didn't matter. However, Jesus shatters their self-righteousness but highlights that heart attitude counts. To describe the consequences of relational disunity, he uses pictures of judgment, gehenna ( translated as hell, but really a rubbish dump outside Jerusalem where child sacrifice used to take place), impaired worship relationship with God, and imprisonment. The idea is that this trajectory does not lead anywhere good.
We live in an angry age. Passive aggression is normal, road rage is a given, and social media is a place where people comment without consequence. It doesn't seem to matter what the subject is, and it gives voice to what is in the heart. The things people want to do to each other...
To be clear, Jesus is not saying one can't get angry, but he is warning about holding on to unrighteous anger, which is we feel like we have been wronged. Righteous anger, which Jesus himself demonstrated, is when a person is angry because of injustice done to others, or dishonor of God.
In our country, 6083 people were murdered from January through March 2022. That is incredibly tragic. The gravity of Jesus' words is that if one carries anger in your heart, in God's eyes, it's the same as murder.
You are called to Take Responsibility: Guard your Heart. Watch Your Words. Make the First Move.
GUARD YOUR HEART
Jer 17:10 (NIV) “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
Our son was in agony in January of this year. From the outside, he looked fine, but he couldn't walk because his back was so sore. Eventually, an MRI scan revealed an abscess on his spine, which if left untreated could result in paralysis or at worst, fatality.
Three practical ways to guard your heart (no one else can guard your heart for you
1. Open your Bible and Psalm 139 as a daily prayer. Ask God to search your heart, reveal anything horrible in there and lead you in the way of life. He knows what is in there, and He wants you to be free of it. He can't deal with it if you won't let him.
2. Stop Blameshifting. Blame shifting is when you say "He made me angry". Truth is, no one can make you angry. Sure, people do horrible things, but the decision to be angry and stay angry is sole with you. Rather say "When she did that, I got angry". This shifts the responsibility of your anger to you, rather than blaming someone else for it. When you own it, you can deal with it.
3. Set Boundaries. A lot of the time, we get frustrated, angry, and eventually contemptuous because I believe the lie is that we can't set boundaries. We can't say "no" because we like to please people. We can't rest because we need to work more because we find acceptance and identity in what we do. We end up overwhelemd, overworked, and angry. Truth is, the more healthy your rhythms are, the healthier your heart will be too.
WATCH YOUR WORDS
Matt 15:18-19 (NIV) But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
There are two types of cricket chirps that I know. The first is the peaceful chirp chirp chirp in the evening. The second is a continuous shrill chirp. That is the sound of mole crickets. Mole crickets burrow into the ground and eat all the roots of your lawn. After a while, you end up with dead patches of grass everywhere. The noise that you hear is just a sign of what's the destruction underneath.
#Paulsprotip ins 2 Tim 2:23 is simply - Don't get involved in foolish arguments. My paraphrase: stop commenting on the latest argument on social media. It's not going to lead anywhere good.
Speak words that are pure "If you don't have anything good to say… ask God what he would say, and say that. It's probably going to be good.
MAKE THE FIRST MOVE
Heb 12:14-15 (NIV) Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
There is a plant that grows here called a fire stick. It is extremely poisonous, yet it's all over the place. Admired even.
Jesus is calling us to deal with the things in our hearts before they cause more harm. And he asks you to make the first move.
A practical mantra: Keep short accounts. If there is relational tension, deal with it quickly. Make the first move. Urgent humility. That leads to life.
Repentance: If you become convicted that someone is offended or angry with them, you go to them to reconcile. Their response to that is not your responsibility.
Forgiveness: If you have become angry with someone, ask for the grace of God to help you forgive them. Dig up the root.
Why does Jesus put such an emphasis on this? Why does he call you to be a #peacemaker?
I guess it is because where there is unity, there is a blessing, and he wants the best for you. Living with anger, bitterness and offense is not tov. It's not what you were created for.
Psalms 133:1,3 (NIV) How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!.. …For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore
Through the power of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, and the person of the Holy Spirit, you are free and empowered. Free and empowered to forgive as you have been forgiven. Free and empowered to live with the humility Jesus lived with. Free and empowered to reconcile as you have been reconciled to God.
Your move. What's it going to be?
Take Responsibility: Guard your Heart. Watch Your Words. Make the First Move.