Matthew 28:1-20 – Witnessing the resurrection

WITNESSING THE RESURRECTION.

 

MATTHEW 28v1-20.

 

The word witness          – 1) eyewitness – observe – [to wirness something]

– 2) to testify – corroborate – [ to be a witness – to say

what you saw]

1. THE WITNESS OF THE ANGEL.

 

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

The actions of the angel and the words of the angel.

The angel caused the quake!! So often in the Bible and earthquake is a sign -“The Lord is speaking!”  The earth shook / quaked when Jesus died – now it quaked as he rose again.

Hebrews 1:1-2

1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, …

Jesus is God’s final word to mankind – he is the supreme revelation of God – God is not going to speak in a better way – the resurrection shows that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

“Stone rolled away” – picked up and removed – sat upon like a hunter sitting on a prize kill!

WHY was the stone moved? So Jesus could get out of the tomb?? NO!! He could walk through walls!! It was as a witness to the women, the guards and the other disciples.

The angel then speaks to the women – “He is risen – go tell his disciples!!”

2. THE WITNESS OF THE WOMEN.

Matthew 28:1

1 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. (NIV)

Matthew 28:5-7

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” (NIV)

The two Marys [plus other – see other gospels]

Their devotion to Jesus was evident – following his ministry – at the cross – at his burial [must have been there otherwise would not have know where to go] — Now at tomb.

The women did not see Jesus rise – just the results of his having risen.

We could expect a rebuke in view of their lack of faith – Jesus had said he would rise on the third day – why were they so afraid and surprised???  “He said he would rise again and again and again ……….

BUT no rebuke from the angel just a gentle reminder.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.

How gentle God is with his children!!

Just a “Come and see.” Come and witness for yourself the resurrection. NOW go and tell the disciples. And they ran to tell!

There is no suggestion that the women doubted the angel’s witness.

Now I have told you.  – You are now witnesses – it is your responsibility to carry the message to the disciples. – Once you have witnessed tha risen Christ you are responsible to be a witness for the risen Christ and to be a carrier of his message.

They believed and ran to obey.

When they met Jesus on the way  – their response is the only true response we can have to the risen Lord – worship at his feet

His message ‘ Go tell those cowards who ran off and left me alone I never want to see them again!!’  NO!! NO!!

‘Tell my brothers….’

What an encouragement – no matter how much we let him down he comes to us “My brother, my sister

3. THE WITNESS OF THE GUARDS.

 

Matthew 28:4 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. (NIV)

What quaked more – the earth or the guards.

The Jewish leaders had made the tomb secure – a stone – a seal – a Roman guard. What puny, futile efforts in the face God’s resurrection power. God laughs at man’s security!

Psalm 2:4

4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs;

the Lord scoffs at them. (NIV)

Psalm 46:6

6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;

he lifts his voice, the earth melts. (NIV)

Matthew 28:11-15

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day. (NIV)

The women saw and spread the news – the guards allowed themselves to be used to hush up the news and to tell lies!!

Only some of the guard wen to the Jewish leaders – they were scattered.

The Sanhedrin – do not reject their story – not told if they believed the stroy BUT they didn’t want it linked to claims of the resurection.

The lengths to which people will go to surpress the truth.

ILLUS.: Deedat – He knows his arguments against the gospel are weak BUT he plays on the ignorance of the people.

They stole the body – think about that – John tells iu that the grave clothes were neatly placed in the tomb. [Jn.20v7]

The disciples stole the body but first took the time to unwrap it and neatly fold the grave clothes while a guard of Roman soldiers was outside!!! After having moved a 2 ton stone so quietly that they did not wake the sleeping guards.

ILLUS.: Imagine the conversation with one guard after hearing the explanation.

Enquirers #1 “O that explains it then

”        #2 “ You mean to tell me that all 12 [?] of you were asleep when a few fishermen came and moved the stone and carried away the body and you never woke!! Some sllepers you must be?!!”

”             #3 – a believer –  ” If you were sleeping how do you know what happened? You didn’t see anyone carrying the body away! You are merely guessing!! I too have a solution and it is far more reasonable than yours – Jesus rose from the dead!!”

All man solution to the resurrestion are flawed! There is more evidence for the historical evidence of Jesus Christ than for any other historical event of the time!!

 

4. THE WITNESS OF THE DISCIPLES.       

Matthew 28:16-20

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

The response of the disciples was the same as the women – they worshipped!!

“.. some doubted.”  – only temporarily. We know that they all did believe [Acts 1 coming of Spirit on all]

They were witnesses to:-

His Claim – ALL authority.

His Commission – ALL nations

His Comfort  – ALL time

Women    – saw – believed – GO!}

} be witnesses

Disciples – saw – believed – GO!}

As you go MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS (ta eqnh)

MY WITNESS! —

Problem with being in Missionary / Church work we tend to get caught up in activities of keeping the machinery of OUR ministry going and can loose sight of the world and people.

How many non-Christian friends do you have??

Witnessing is not just linked to aggressive evangelism!

Acts 1v8 “….. BE my witnesses.”  “Witnessing is not something we DO, it is something we are.”  “It is not what I say, it is what I am”

Jesus did not get his authority because he rose from the dead – He had the authority and he demonstrated it by rising from the dead.

As HIS witnesses we have HIS authority because HE is with us ALWAYS!!

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Matthew 14:22-33 – When Faith Falters

Matthew 14:22-33 When Faith Falters

INTRODUCTION

Many of you know Joni Erickson Tada. She was paralyzed in a swimming accident as a teen. This life-changing accident lead her on a journey of faith. And from her experiences with God, she has become a well known Christian speaker and artist. In a recent devotional she wrote about another moment of importance in her life. She says,

“When I was little and went horseback riding with my sisters, I had a hard time keeping up. My problem was that I was riding a little pony only half the size of their mounts. I had to gallop twice as fast just to keep up. I didn’t mind. I took it as a challenge until we came to the edge of a river. My sisters on their big horses thought it was fun and exciting to cross the river at the deepest part. They never seemed to notice that my little pony sank quite a bit deeper into the swirling waters. It was scary, but I wasn’t about to let them know.”

So, Joni rode her mount into the river; she continues,

“One crossing in particular sticks in my memory: the Gorsuch Switch Crossing on the Patapsco River. It had rained earlier that week and the river was brown and swollen
As our horses waded out toward midstream, I became transfixed staring at the swirling waters rushing around the legs of my pony. It made me scared and dizzy. I began to lose my balance in the saddle.”

Have you ever crossed a stream on a fallen log? I can tell you, you’re fine until you look down at the rushing water and then suddenly you’re off balance, struggling to keep from falling and you usually wind up scooting across the rest of the way on the seat of your pants. Or you climb up a ladder to get to that high pitch of the roof, to repair a loose shingle. And when you look down, you freeze. That is what it is like when doubt seeps in; we lose our focus, our sense of balance, and our confidence. You know what I mean, you are going along in life and everything is going your way until something happens that makes you doubt and then it seems that everything turns against you. You get a good job and they tell you you are doing great but the company gets bought off and you find yourself unemployed wondering if anyone will ever hire you again. You’re in a good relationship but you’re afraid to trust him and the doubt begins to drive a wedge of suspicion between you. You’ve always wanted to go to college, but you got more than one C in school, so you changed your mind, and took the first job offered to you after you graduated.

Doubt. It is that insidious, spreading fear that makes us take our eyes off the goal and question our abilities and worth. That’s what happened to Peter. For a moment, he was walking on water, literally, then doubt seeped in and he began to sink. I love this biblical story because Peter is so human, he is so like us. He is bold and willing to take risks on the one hand and fearful and full of doubt on the other. He shows us what it means to be a Christian caught midway between faith and doubt. We want to believe but doubt comes so naturally to us. In fact, this very story challenges the faith of many of us. We have a hard time conceiving of anyone walking on water. Our faith sinks as we doubt the validity of a story which violates natural law. But just for now try to put the science aside. This scripture isn’t concerned with science but faith. Focus on what the story says about who Jesus is and what it means to be one of his disciples.

The first thing we should notice is that while Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and sent them across the sea, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. The story gives us bifocal image – in one scene we see Jesus in prayer on the mountain, which traditionally symbolizes the place where the presence and power of God is found – while at the same time the disciples were being battered by wind and waves in a small boat on the sea. They were rowing for all they were worth but getting nowhere because the wind was against them. Have you ever felt like that? That no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t get ahead? You work and work but still can’t get the bills paid up. You’ve been in program after program but you still can’t break the addiction. You try a new diet every month but you still can’t lose the weight the doctor says has to come off. You’ve been to therapist after therapist, but still the pain won’t let you go. Sometimes it seems the wind is against us and our efforts are fruitless. By the time Jesus came walking toward them in the hours just before dawn, the disciples were soaked to the bone, dead-tired and near despair. They’d been rowing for hours but the shore didn’t seem much closer than when they’d started. The wind was against them and they were getting no where on their own. Then they saw Jesus and cried out in fear, “It’s a ghost.” But he immediately reassured them, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Jesus had been on the way to his disciples for a long time before they noticed him. He was concerned with their needs even when he seemed to be absent from them. The time on the mountain was not time apart from them, but time preparing for the work of saving them.

When life is battering us around and the wind is against us, sometimes we don’t realize that Jesus is coming to us through the events of our lives. We may not immediately recognize the ways that he is present, interceding for us. But he is there, working for our good long before we are able to hear the words of assurance, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” But like Peter, sometimes we want proof. How do we know that Jesus is the one who comes to us? We catch a glimpse of something but it is fleeting and mysterious. How do we know that Jesus is there in the shadows, coming across the turmoil of our lives? How do we know that he is the one who can help us? Peter said, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” It was an odd question. He might have said, “Lord, if it is you, make this storm stop,” or “Lord, if it is you, give us the strength of ten men so we can make it to the other side of the sea.” But Peter wanted more than that. He said, “If it is you, bid me come to where you are. Let me join you on the water. Show me that I can do whatever you command me to do. Take away my doubt. Make me have faith.” And Jesus said “come.” Barbara Brown Taylor paints a vivid description of what this moment must have been like:

“Peter swung his legs over the side of the boat and, while all the other disciples watched with their hearts beating in their mouths, he placed his feet on the surface of the water – the waves crashing against the side of the boat, the wind whipping his hair into his eyes – he put his feet flat on top of the water, took a huge, trembling breath, and stood up. Then he took a few hesitant steps toward Jesus across the heaving surface, like the first steps he ever took in his life, and he was doing fine until a gust of wind almost toppled him, and he got scared and felt his feet sinking into the black waves below and he went down like a stone.”

We know that sinking feeling. When doubt creeps into our minds and fear grips our hearts we stop hoping for what is possible and start worrying about all that could go wrong. When our faith falters, we take our eyes off the goal and focus on the obstacles. And when we do, they grow larger and more powerful and we sink under their weight. If the fear of failure is foremost in your mind, then you will certainly fail. It is the nature of human behavior. It is also the nature of faith, but with a slight difference. For a moment, Peter forgot that he wasn’t dependent only upon his own ability. It wasn’t what he could accomplish, but what God could accomplish through him. He lost sight of the one who called him to venture forth from the safety of the boat and gave him the power to fulfill what had been commanded. He accepted the risk of faith by answering Jesus’ call and climbing over the rim of the boat but his doubt crept back when he felt the force of the wind and saw the size of the waves. He shifted his attention from the power of God in Jesus to his own limitations and fears and he started to sink like a rock.

CONCLUSION

But before he went down, he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out a strong hand to catch him and haul him into the boat, wet and shivering. At least Peter had the good sense to call out for help when he needed it. Some of us would rather drown than admit we need help! We should notice that Matthew says Jesus immediately reached out to catch him. He didn’t have to beg for help or wait until he was floundering in the water – the help was there immediately, even as Jesus rebuked him, “you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Why do any of us doubt? “Because we are afraid, because the sea is so vast and we are so small. Because the storm is so powerful and we are so easily sunk. Because life is beyond our control and we are so helpless in its grip? Why do we doubt? Because we are afraid, even when we do have faith. Because we do have faith, you know. We do not have none; we have some. Like Peter, we have a little and a little is better than nothing.” In the Gospel of Matthew the word oligopistos (of little faith) was never used to speak of nonbelievers. Rather it was spoken as a rebuke to people of faith who didn’t use the resources of faith available to them. Jesus rebuked Peter not for being faithless, but for not exercising the faith that he had. Faith is like a muscle, it will waste away if it is not used. It must be exercised; it must be practiced. Jesus had taught the disciples that with the faith of a mustard seed they could move mountains. But faced with the immediate threat of a churning sea, Peter’s doubt seemed more real to him than his faith. Yet, in his
moment of crisis he reached out with the little bit of faith that he had and it was enough.

That is the good news in this story. Jesus can reach out to save us of little faith, even as we sink in doubt and fear. That is good news indeed, because like Peter, faith and doubt are all mixed up in us – giving us courage and feeding our fears, lifting us up and bearing us down, supporting our weight on the wild seas of our lives and sinking us like stones. Faith and doubt co-exist in us. We obey and fear, we walk and sink, we believe and doubt
It is not like we do only one or the other, we do both. “Which is why we need Jesus,” says, Taylor. “It’s why we wouldn’t be caught dead on the water without him. Our fears and doubts may paralyze us, but they are also what makes us cry out for his saving touch. If we never sank – if we could walk on the water just fine all by ourselves – we wouldn’t need a savior. . . Our doubts, fearsome as they are remind us who we are and whose we are and whom we need in our lives to save us. When we sink, as Peter does, as we all do, our Lord reaches out and catches us, responding first with grace and then with judgment – “Why did you doubt?” – but never, never with rejection. He returns us to the boat knowing full well that the only reason we are in the boat in the first place is because we believe, or want to believe, and because we mean to follow him through all our doubtful days.”

Maybe our desire to believe is enough for Jesus to work with. It is at least a beginning. It gives us a place in the boat with the others who are struggling to believe more and doubt less. It is in the boat that we find people who are listening for Jesus’ voice in the darkness. It is there that we find people willing to obey the call when it comes and take the risk of faith. And it is there that we find help when the seas of life threaten to overwhelm us. Maybe it is enough to offer up our little faith, praying with the epileptic in the gospel of Mark, “Lord, I believe, help Thou my unbelief (Mark 9:24).” When Peter was hauled out of the sea by the scruff of his neck, he fell grateful and exhausted onto the deck of the boat. Then Jesus climbed in behind him. Did you notice that? When Peter couldn’t come to Jesus, Jesus came to him and to all those waiting there in the boat. When we can’t walk to
Jesus, Jesus walks toward us and climbs into our life circumstances with us to bring the
help that we need. And like Peter Joni found the help she needed, in her moment of doubt and fear. She wrote,

“The voice of my sister Jay finally broke through my panic. “Look up, Joni! Keep looking up!” Sure enough, as soon as I focused on my sister on the other side, I was able to regain my balance and finish the crossing.”

And she concludes her story with reference to this event,

“That little story came to mind recently when I was reading about Peter in Matthew 14. It seems he had a similar problem as he walked on the water toward the Lord Jesus. He looked down at the raging waters, got dizzy, and lost his balance. Because he took his eyes off the Lord and put them on the swirling waves around him, he began to sink. How much we are like him! …we let our circumstances almost transfix us,… We become dizzy with fear and anxiety And before you know it, we’ve lost all balance. It’s easy to panic, isn’t it? And admittedly, it’s hard to look up especially when you feel like you’re sinking. But my pony and I made it across the Patapsco and Peter made it back to his boat. Thousands before you, enduring the gale force winds of circumstance, have made it through keeping their eyes on the Lord Jesus!”

And as Peter and the disciples learned the lesson of faith and doubt, they also discovered the care and compassion of Christ; and they learned of the faithfulness and presence of God. The moment Jesus stepped into the boat, the sea became calm and the wind was stilled and everyone knew they were in the presence of the Almighty God. And they fell
down and worshipped him. They recognized the God who has promised them, and each and everyone of us.

[But now] thus says the Lord,
He who created you, O Jacob,
He who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine;
When you pass through the waters I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
When you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isa 43:1-3

When the winds which have been against us suddenly cease, when the fears that have gripped us lose their power, when the deliverance that we have hoped for is in sight, then we know without a doubt that we are in the presence of the Almighty. And like the disciples “in the awesome silence of that night becoming day, all of us who are in this boat together worship him, saying, ’Truly, you are the son of God.’”
 

Matthew 5:38-42 – Turning the other cheek – going the 2nd mile

Matthew 5v38-42

 

Turning the other cheek – going the 2nd mile!

 

Introduction.

The modern western world in which we live is a strong defender of individuals’ rights!

Workers’ rights!

Patients’ rights!

Students’ rights!

Teachers’ rights! Etc………

 

The legal profession has flourished in this climate of defending the rights of individuals or groups.

The thing is that it is inevitable that your inalienable rights and my inalienable rights are inevitably going to conflict at some point.

Whether in family, business or between two nations when each party insists on their rights things begin to unravel.

 

Unless rights are balanced with responsibilities – unless there is give and take on both sides – trouble will follow. ILLUS.: There are those who live by the give and take rule – “You give and I take!”

 

However, is Jesus simply saying we must balance rights and responsibilities or is he saying much more than that?

 

  1. 1.     “You have heard … BUT I say …”

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ (NIV)

This well-known law is to be found in Exodus 21, Leviticus 24 and Deuteronomy 19.

Three things need to be remembered about this law:

a)     However prescriptive this law may have been it was also and probably, more importantly, restrictive. It was to prevent retaliation with interest.

ILLUS.: You accidentally cut off my brother’s finger  so I cut off two of your fingers, so you retaliate and cut off my brother’s hand so I then cut off your whole arm  etc… the result is blood feuds and tribal warfare that go on forever.

This law restricted such practices.

 

b)    When the whole law is read it becomes clear that others restitution was also possible. Monetary compensation.

 

c)     The law was given to the Jewish people as a nation. It was not designed to be executed by individuals bend on personal vendettas. It was for the judiciary!

 

By Jesus day some of these restrictions were overlooked and personal retaliation was pushed to the limits – bitterness, recriminations, revenge, malice, etc. were common place.

 

Jesus then responds to this situation with ringing authority..

39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. …

How are we to understand this statement?

 

a)     Is Jesus saying no one should ever resist evil people but simply give in and give them what they what?

There are those who have and do hold such a view. Tolstoy, for example, held that there should be no police, military or magistrates as they resist evil people.

However, such a position goes beyond what Jesus said ~ it says that no one can resist an evil person who is attacking a third party! So if I see someone being attacked in the street I must just watch? If I know someone is abusing a child I must not resist? NO!! I don’t for a minute believe that Jesus meant that. Such a position is untenable.

 

b)    Is Jesus saying that no Christian should resist evil directed at him and by extension therefore no Christian should be in the military or police or any other law enforcement agency?

Those who hold such a view acknowledge that God has given certain powers to the State [Romans 13] but Christians shouldn’t be involved. These would generally be committed pacifists!

 

  1. 2.     Four illustrations and a principle.

 

As with any text of scripture if we take it out of context and also fail to understand the background and idiom of language we are liable to misinterpretation.

So we must balance what Jesus says here with what he says elsewhere – and the Bible in general. If we don’t we end up distorting and misinterpreting what Jesus means.

 

ILLUS.: So to take Jesus point about giving to everyone who asks to a literalistic extreme. Am I to give to a beggar who preys on me for money to by alcohol or drugs ~ never to question, never to restrain his habit?

If I did I would soon have nothing to look after my family and be worse than a pagan … 1 Timothy 5:8 8 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (NIV)

 

In these verse Jesus is not talking about being a police officer or a soldier or a magistrate RATHER he is talking about personal attitudes and action and personal self-sacrifice. This is the theme that runs all the way through the Sermon on the Mount and if we ignore that we distort Jesus’ meaning.

 

Jesus gives 4 illustrations:

a/ Be willing to sacrifice your right to personal dignity.

 

Matthew 5:39 If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (NIV)

Why the right cheek? Most people are right-handed so to be struck on the right cheek means it’s a backhand. It is an insulting slap – design to humiliate more than physically injure / hurt. This attitude of not retaliating to abuse is esp. truth when the reason is righteousness for the sake of God’s kingdom – [we saw this in 5v10-12] but it is not limited to attacks for righteousness.

ILLUS.: There is a story about an Irish preacher who used to be a boxer. At a heated argument after one of his meeting a man punched him. People wondered what he would do. He simply offered the man his other cheek – the man obliged and knocked him to the floor. The preacher stood up, “The Lord gave no further instructions!” Smack!

I don’t think that is what Jesus intended.

The principle is non-retaliation. Our natural response is, “I have my rights!” Smack back!

Jesus is our example of how to react ~ 1 Peter 2:23 23 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. (NIV)

This principle applies not just to physical insult ~ it is more often verbal but non-retaliation still applies … Proverbs 15:1  A gentle answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger. (NIV)

 

b/ Be willing to sacrifice your right to personal security.

Matthew 5:40 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. (NIV)

 

This is about lawsuits and the security of our possessions. The tunic would be our suit of clothes and the cloak would be our overcoat. The outer coat was recognised in Jewish Law as someone’s inalienable possession. Exodus 22:26-27 26 If you take your neighbour’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, 27 because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

It may seem unlikely that people would go to court over a change of clothes – but the principle is “even those things which we regard as our rights by law we must be prepared to abandon.

Jesus is really saying, “It is better to lose your cloak than to irreversibly sever a relationship!”

This is true of all relationships but esp. within the body of Christ ~ among the people of God. 1 Corinthians 6:7-9

7 The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8 Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: (NIV)

 

c / Be willing to sacrifice your right to personal privacy.

Matthew 5:41 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (NIV)

Jesus is speaking to a group of people who are completely at the mercy of the Roman military. An ordinary Roman soldier could legally commandeer any civilian, for example, to carry his luggage one-mile.

In the account of Jesus crucifixion Simon of Cyrene was commandeered to carry Jesus cross – he did offer nor did he have a choice!

Jesus is saying, “Instead of doing it grudgingly and irritably rather do it willing and cheerfully and offer to carry it further.”

We don’t like having our privacy invaded ~ esp. in this country, hence the inherent opposition to ID cards. We see it as a violation of our privacy and our human rights.

What Jesus is really say is, “You don’t really have any rights!”

 

d / Be willing to sacrifice your right to personal property.

Matthew 5:42 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (NIV)

This last illustration Jesus gives is telling us to be cheerful lenders and givers. The issue is not that we give to every Tom, Dick or Harry who wishes to bleed us dry. NO, what Jesus will not tolerant is a mercenary, penny-pinching, tight-fisted attitude. Don’t always be asking yourself, ‘What’s in it for me?’”

In other words be generous, magnanimous ~ Think of what God has done for us, God’s attitude to us while we were still his enemies.  Ephesians 1:7-8 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (NIV)

1 John 3:1  How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (NIV)

 

What Jesus is calling to do is show the same attitudes and actions toward others that he has shown towards us.

 

Jesus emphasises one principle:

As follows of Christ the attitude of rights, restitution, retaliation and revenge are superseded by an attitude of redemption, love, mercy and grace ~ in other words the way of the cross!

Will we suffer abuse and have our rights infringed?

OF COURSE!

Either because of our faith or simply because that’s life!

 

Jesus in this passage is not saying there shouldn’t be justice or restitution. BUT it is not our place to take the law into our own hands.

 

On the contrary we are to act redemptively ~ to turn these difficult situations which may be impositions or insults into opportunities to do good in return.

 

I don’t know about you but I find this very difficult to swallow! You see, when someone hurts me I want to hurt them back or if I can’t I want to ignore them or secretly I wish them ill.

 

BUT the way of the cross doesn’t allow me do that.

Romans 12:14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

Paul -1 Corinthians 4:12-13 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly.

 

Our natural reaction is to want to force the other person to do what is right – i.e. to uphold what I believe to be my rights.

BUT God calls me to ‘turn the other cheek’ – ‘to go the second mile’. To demonstrate self-control, self-denial and self-sacrifice.

The normal Christian, Christlike, life is a putting aside of accepted secular behaviour and replacing it with behaviour that is enlivened and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

In other words to respond like Jesus.

1 Peter 2:23-24 23 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. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;

He is calling us to live righteously: –

–         Instead of reaction blindly to provocation to act lovingly.

–         When I say no to my rights and ‘yes’ to God I am responding like Jesus “Father, not my will but your be done”.

 

What happens when I respond instead of react?

I begin to build / repair bridges instead of tearing them down and destroying them. EASY? Never!!

 

BUT remember God has given us an example in Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit to enable us to live this kind of life!

 

So our prayer should be this:-

“O fill me, Saviour, Jesus with your love!

Renew me with your Spirit from above…

            … the words from the 4th verse of our closing hymn

(Prasie #727: Beyond all knowledge {It passeth knowledge})

 

Turning the other cheek – going the 2nd mile!

 

Matthew 5v38-42

 

1.       “You have heard … but I say”

 

 

“An eye for an eye”

 

–  more restrictive than prescriptive

–  provision was made for compensation

–  a law for the authorities not the

individual

 

 

 

“Don’t resist the evil person”

 

Is Jesus simply saying …

– No restraints on evil people generally?

– Christians shouldn’t be involved in

restraining evil people?

 

 

 2.       Four illustrations and a principle

 

–  Be willing to sacrifice your right to

personal dignity.

If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. v39

 

–  Be willing to sacrifice your right to

personal security.

And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  v40

 

– Be willing to sacrifice your right to

personal privacy.

If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. v41

– Be willing to sacrifice your right to

personal property.

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.  v42

 

Jesus emphasises one principle:

As follows of Christ the desire for rights, restitution, retaliation and revenge are superseded by an attitude of redemption, love, mercy and grace ~ the way of the cross! ~  (1 Peter2v23)

 

Matthew 5:33-37 – Plain Speaking

Matthew 5v33-37.

“Plain Speaking”

 

Introduction.

It is very common in our society to hear people use God’s name. Often it is used as a profanity or an exclamation – “O my God!” Sometimes it is in order to give weight to what they are saying, “I am telling you this is the honest-to-God truth!” or “By all that is holy!” Or they preface what they say with “Well, to be honest …!”  ( You mean that what you have been saying so far is not honest?!

 

I realise that for many – maybe for most – it is probably just a habit! However the fact is tat we live in a society where truth telling is becoming an increasing rare activity!

 

When you hear Politicians and Spin-doctors do you take everything they say as being open and honest?

What is the underlying problem about the present crisis with Iraq? – Isn’t it that we can’t trust the word of Saddam Hussein – but then we heard Pres. Bush and PM Blair and other leaders and we wonder if what they are telling us is accurate – Is there a hidden agenda?

In the end it makes us sceptical – who do you believe to be telling the truth? The result is that in the end even if the truth is then told we tend not to believe it because of all the spin-doctoring that has been going on.

 

The situation in Jesus’ day was not dissimilar! Let’s look at it.

  1. 1.     The original intention.

Remember that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus laid down Kingdom principles in the Beatitudes. He sets the standards very high – in fact at perfection level – “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect!” [5v48]

Jesus moves the focus of righteousness [right living] for outward compliance to a set of rules to inner attitude of heart and mind.

Thus it is no good priding myself on the fact that I haven’t murdered anyone if in fact I treat them with anger and contempt – or that I haven’t had sexual intercourse outside marriage if in fact my heart and mind are full of lust and immoral thoughts.

 

Having dealt with the Jewish leaders permissive attitude on divorce he now deals with their similar attitude towards oath taking / swearing.

Matthew 5:33  “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ (NIV)

This is not a direct quote from any one OT law but rather a summary of many times where oath taking is mentioned.

Exodus 20:7  “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

Deuteronomy 23:21 If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. (NIV)

There are numerous other examples – the intent is clear – don’t make a vow and then break it – don’t swear-falsely – don’t commit perjury!

 

  1. 2.     The convenient distortion.

 

How then were the Pharisees and Jewish Religious Leaders distorting this original injunction?

Human being are ingenious at squirming their way out of promises.

ILLUS.: As kids we would cross our fingers so that what we said was not binding.

The Pharisees were doing a similar thing – they shifted the attention away from the vow itself to the formula for making the vow!

The moved the focus from the vow to the Lord’s name.

In practice it meant the following:-

1)    I promise by the hair on my head to pay you £100. Breaking this promise was not considered wrong because God’s name wasn’t used.

2)    I promised, in the name of God, to pay you £100. Breaking such a promise was considered to be wrong because God’s name was invoked.

 

They concocted all kinds of elaborate formulae to make vows but could weasel out if the Lord’s name wasn’t used. Jesus shows contempt for their scheming in Matthew 23:16-22 where he calls the Pharisees ‘blind guides’,  “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it. (NIV)

 

What Jesus teaches here in the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5] is the same.

 

  1. 3.     The truthful implication.

“Let what you say be simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’!”

 

Jesus is arguing that the formulae for making vows is completely irrelevant. Because whatever distinctions one tries to make the vow is still taken before God as all the world is his.

So if they vowed by ‘heaven’ it is God’s throne, if by ‘earth’ it is his footstool, if by the temple it is his too…

 

It is quite simple to follow Jesus logic here – if the precise wording of the vow-formula is irrelevant then there is absolutely no point to having special vows. As all vows are made before God, all should be solemnly kept.

If that is so then we should simply be people of our word and do what we say we will do! In other words…

Matthew 5:34 & 37 34 .. Do not swear at all: … 37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’, and your ‘No’, ‘No’; …

 

Of course, not to keep one’s word is to lie! … thus Jesus adds ‘… this comes from evil!”

Either from the evil of our hearts. Matthew 15:18-19 18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (NIV)

 

  1. 4.     The practical application.

1)    If vowing / swearing is criticised by Jesus why does God himself do it?

When Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son. Isaac…

Genesis 22:16-17 16 [God] said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make …

CF…Hebrews 6:13

13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no-one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself,

 

The purpose of a divine oath is not to increase God’s credibility … because God can’t lie Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, rather it is to strengthen our faith and help our unbelief. God accommodates himself to our level.

 

2)    If oath-taking is prohibited, is it an absolute rule?

So, for example, should we be sworn in in a Court of Law? “I swear by almighty God to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!”

There are certain groups like the Quakers [Society of Friends] who hold this view.

ILLUS.: In Matthew 26 Jesus didn’t refuse to reply to when the High Priest put him under oath …Matthew 26:63-64The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

64 “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. …)

Jesus didn’t say we should refuse to take an oath BUT he was correcting an abuse of oath-taking and emphasising that honest people don’t need to resort to oaths — simply be truthful all the time!

 

3)    Why do people resort to oaths

I swear to …”

By God I tell you it’s true …”

WHY? It is a kind of manipulation – an effort to add weight to our words so as to put pressure on the other person. Instead of simply saying something and allowing the other party to make a sensible judgement those who habitually use oaths are trying to bypass the others understanding and judgement.

ILLUS.: My experience of some salesmen …

“Let me be honest here …” ‘You mean you have been lying so far!’

“I am telling you hand on my heart / hand on the Bible …”

If we hear this kind of talk too often / all the time it become meaningless – in fact we are less inclined to believe such a person.

So we must be careful not to be like that.

Jesus calls us to plain truthful speaking.

 

4)    Plain speaking is no excuse for rudeness or unkindness! We are to speak the truth in love…[Eph.4v15]

Build each other up…[1 Thess.5v7]

I was just being honest…” YES! And at the same time were unkind, hurtful and rude!

 

James in his letter has a lot to say about the use of the tongue – what we say can build up or destroy.

Sometimes we say too much.

Sometimes we say too little or nothing at all – a look can be just as destructive as a word.

 

Conclusion.

The use of oaths / vows arises because too often people are lairs. And by an oath we try to assure / convince the other party we are telling the truth.

We need also to be careful to use words correctly – by which I mean if we constantly use exaggeration or hyperbole or superlatives we end up devaluing language and promises.

ILLUS.: A celebrity recently describe an intrusion into her wedding party as ‘being violated’ – NO! a woman who have been beaten and raped has been violated!

We resort to unnecessary exaggeration and swearing usually to try and portray ourselves in a better light and diminish someone else in order to gain maximum benefit for self!

Paul tells the Ephesian Christians… Ephesians 4:25… each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body. (NIV)

Paul tells the Corinthian Christians 1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (NIV)

 

Jesus is urging us as Christians / as members of His Kingdom to speak plainly – say what you mean and mean what you say – be honest, loving and kind!

 

Plain Speaking!

 

Matthew 5v33-37 [23v16-22]

 1.   The original intention.

  • Don’t make a vow and then break it
  • Don’t swear falsely / commit perjury

 2.   The convenient distortion.

  • Promises made without specifically using God’s name can be broken
  • Arbitrary criteria for which oath formulae were binding and which weren’t

 3.   The truthful implication.

  • Since God created / owns everything all oaths, irrespective of the formula used are made before him

 

 4.   The practical application.

 

  • If vowing / swearing is criticised by Jesus why does God himself do it?        

                 [Genesis 22v16-17; Hebrews 6v13]

God swears not to increase his

credibility but to strengthen our faith

and accommodate human unbelief.

 

  • If oath-taking is discouraged, is it an absolute rule?

Jesus didn’t refuse to reply under

oath

Jesus didn’t forbid oath taking but

was correcting its misuse

Jesus is stressing truth at all times

 

  • Why do people generally resort to oaths?

To add weigh to their opinion

To pressurise / manipulate others

 

  • Plain speaking is no excuse for rudeness or unkindness

Speak the truth in love …[Eph. 4v15]

Build each other up … [1 Thess. 5v7]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jesus is urging Christians to ‘say what we mean and to mean what we say’ while being honest, loving and kind!

Matthew 5:31-32; Mark 10:1-12 – Marriage and Divorce

Matthew 5v31-32; Mark 10v1-12

 

Marriage and Divorce

 

cf. Matthew 19; 1 Corinthians 7; Deuteronomy 24; Hosea.

 

Recap.

Last week we looked at “What the Bible says about sex” –

REVIEW OHPs

SEX! What does the Bible say?

 

Matthew 5v27-30; Song of Songs.

 

Contemporary views of sexual relationships.

For many can be either heterosexual or homosexual

  • Entertainment
  • Recreational
  • Dating-sex
  • Cohabiting
  • Marriage

 

Research and Reflection.

 

  • Marriage most stable relationship

–          most fulfilling emotionally, socially and physically.

–          most stable and secure for children.

–          key ingredient for stable community.

 

  • Growing number of woman opting to wait

 for marriage before starting a sexual

 relationship.

  • The sexual revolution has favoured men.
  • Husbands make the best lovers!

 

 

 

What does the Bible say?

  • Sex is a fact of life.

–          divine creation – Genesis 1v27

–          divine command – Genesis 1v28

–          divine concern – Genesis 2v18 & 24

 

  • Sex is a facet of love.

–          agape (sacred)

–          philia (social)

–          eros (sexual)

 

The kingdom view of sexuality.

  • Not just actions but attitudes.

–          Guard your eyes – Job 31v1;

1 John 2v16; 2 Peter 2v14

–          Guard your heart – Matthew 5v28; Mark 7v21-23

 

  • Sexual sin is not unforgivable.

1 John1v9; John 8v1-11; Psalms 32 & 51

 

  • Sex in the boundaries of marriage is a

gift from God to be enjoyed and valued.

Genesis 2v24-25; Song of Songs.

_____________________________________

 

Introduction.

We come this morning to one of the difficult issues of life – divorce! It is difficult because it breaks hearts, it negatively affects children and it weakens society in general.

It is challenging for Christians because on the one hand we are called upon to uphold marriage God’s sacred institution and we are also called upon to reach out to those in society who are hurting and need support and comfort.

 

I am not going to bore you with reams of statistics – We all know that today fewer people marry as many more simply co-habit. Of those that do marry about 1 in 3 get divorced. It is estimated that with in the next 20 years half the children in Britain will live in stepfamilies or with only one parent. The sociological implications of this we have yet to fully realise.

 

What does the Bible have to say about this issue.

In Matthew 5v31-32 we have Jesus’ teaching about this issue – Matthew 19 / Mark 10 is almost the same but adds a few things. Paul deals with a number of issues about marriage in 1Corithians 7.

In the OT we generally tend to go to Genesis 2 and Deuteronomy 24, both of which Jesus refers to.

 

  1. 1.     The Pharisees’ 1st question.

The Pharisees were not particularly anxious about divorce – their purpose as on other occasion is to trap Jesus – and as before Jesus avoids the trap and deals with the issue.

Matthew 19:3  Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” (NIV)

 

Background:

Two schools of thought amongst the Pharisees at the time.

¨     One groups argued that a man could divorce his wife for the slightest reason.  If he didn’t like the way she ironed his shirt / or if he suddenly decided that he no longer like her hairstyle – trivial things.

¨     The other group argued only on the ground of “unfaithfulness” on the part of the wife.

Both based their reasons on Deuteronomy 24:1

1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, [some uncleanness in her (KJV)] and he writes her a certificate of divorce, …….

She was then free to remarry BUT if later divorced again was not permitted to remarry her 1st husband.

 

In Jesus day a man could divorce his wife but not vice-versa.

Also, the Pharisees who opted for easy divorce – on trivial grounds – was operating on the basis that his happiness, not his wife’s, was the all important issue. This is so relevant today – People feel they have an inalienable right to personal happiness and to remove anything / anyone who does not serve that end.

 

The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus in jumping into one or other of their camps – he does neither.

 

  1. 2.     The Pharisees’ 2nd question.

 

Jesus responds by asking a question.

Matthew 19:7 7 “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

 

Jesus knows their thinking – they are bound up in legalistic argument. And their understanding was shallow because they were focussing on the laws to regulate their failures instead of focussing on the first principles of God’s original intention.

 

Their response was accurate – Moses did allow a man to write a divorce certificate for his wife and send her away.

However this God allowed under Moses not because it was his wish BUT because the people were not living up to his standards and he wants the situation to be properly regulated and controlled and the abandoned wife afforded some measure of protection. This permission was only granted Jesus reminds them in v.5 because the human heart is often so hard and so sinful that divorce becomes necessary.

 

  1. 3.     Jesus’ Response.
Back to first principles

 

Jesus takes the Pharisees back to God’s original intention for marriage.

“It was not like this in the beginning…” –

 

Matthew 19:4-6 4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (NIV)

 

Jesus taught the Marriage is God’s idea – it is not an arrangement that man has evolved and that he can change to suit himself.

 

Jesus then, quoting from Genesis 2 gives three key elements marriage.

¨     Leaves – it talks of leaving mother and father  – a new family unit/ relationship is established. This new unit is recognised by society at large.

¨     United – a mutual / permanent relationship is established

¨     One flesh – there is a coming together in sexual union in this marriage relationship. It is within this union only that sexual activity is permissible.

 

This is God’s design – and so Jesus adds – Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate –

 

God makes allowance for our weaknesses and sinfulness

Matthew 19:8  … “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. (NIV)

 

Divorce is against God’s original design. The Jewish men of Jesus day wanted an easy way out and they made the rules –Jesus will have none of it and echoes what God said through Malachi – Malachi 2:14-16 14 …. the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner/ companion, the wife of your marriage covenant.

15 Has not [the LORD] made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth.

16 “I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “…

God was so angry with those in Malachi’s day who were divorcing their wives esp. because the wife had been faithful. “The words “wife of your youth” and “Partner/companion” are put in to show the aggravated nature of the offence. She was thus wronged, the companion of those earlier and brighter days, when in the bloom of her young beauty she left her father’s house, and shared your early struggles, and rejoiced in your later success; who walked arm-in-arm with you along the pilgrimage of life, cheering you in its trials by her gentle ministry; and now, when the bloom of her youth is faded, and the friends of her youth have gone, when her father and mother are in the grave, then you cruelly cast her off as a worn-out, worthless thing, and insult her holiest affection by putting another in her place.” – Larry Richards

 

This was the result of the selfish pleasure seeking men of Malachi’s day and God says “I hate it….”

 

Jesus now states that to divorce one’s spouse and marry another constitutes adultery. Straight forward enough!

However – Matthew expands this statement and puts in and exception clause.

 

Matthew 19:9 9 I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (NIV)

 

Matthew 5v32 adds … and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery. (NIV)

 

Here Jesus gives one reason for which divorce it permitted – marital unfaithfulness.

 

¨      Marital unfaithfulness is treated as a special case because it breaks the oneness of the one flesh union of the married couple. Hebrews 13:4 4 Marriage should be honoured by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (NIV)

However, forgiveness is possible, both by God and the offended party, and divorce is not therefore inevitable. After genuine sorrow and forgiveness restoration is possible. BUT even so there are scars and consequences as King David discovered to his cost.

 

¨     Although Jesus permits divorce on account of marital unfaithfulness this permission / concession must be seen against the background of his strong endorsement of the permanence of marriage. The gospel is the gospel of reconciliation.

ILLUS.: Hosea is the classic example of a man with an unfaithful wife and yet he pursues her, and loves her and restores her – in spite of her blatant adultery.

Therefore divorce should only be pursued after every effort has been made towards reconciliation with the guilty party.

It is easy for me as one who is happily married to says these things and I don’t in any way want to diminish pain and hurt a person feels when his/her spouse has been unfaithful. BUT I honestly believe this is God’s way – reconciliation.

 

¨     HOWEVER – in spite of our best effort reconciliation is not always possible – God is a loving, understanding and compassionate father. Thus is believe that God allows divorce as an option in cases of martial unfaithfulness where reconciliation fails.

 

¨      Another justification for divorce is found in 1 Corinthians where Paul deals with the case of a Christian married to a non-Christian. 1 Corinthians 7:15  But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. (NIV)       1 Corinthians 7:15 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. (KJV)

If the unbeliever insists on leaving the believer has to acquiesce. Here again permission is granted reluctantly.

 

4. The question of remarriage.

 

¨     What about the matter of remarriage of those who have been divorced because their spouse has been unfaithful or desert them because he/she is a believer. Godly scholars have disagreed on this issue for centuries! I don’t believe it is possible to be dogmatic – no doubt some will disagree.

  • Does “except for marital unfaithfulness” [Matt.5 & 19] refer to divorce only or to divorce and remarriage. It seems to me there are two reasons for allowing remarriage in these circumstances:-

1)    To me the most straight forward reasoning of the text is thus – Mark says “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery” [and vice versa] Matthew adds the clause “except for marital unfaithfulness” – In other words the one who divorces and remarries commits adultery EXCEPT in the case where there was unfaithfulness – in which case the one flesh relationship is broken // and under the OT laws such a one would be put to death leaving the offended party free to remarry.

2)    In the OT divorce and remarriage were permitted [Dt.24] – Jesus does say Moses was wrong to allow this – just that this was not God’s original purpose.

  • What does Paul mean in 1 Corinthians 7v15 when he says “not bound” [NIV]  / “not under bondage” [KJV] – Does he mean that the believer whose unbelieving spouse has deserted him/her is free to divorce only or doe he mean the marriage is dissolved and the believer is free to remarry? We can’t be certain!!

 

It seems to me that re-marriage is permissible under the circumstances I have outlined.

 

HOWEVER – Any Christian contemplating re-marriage should carefully consider the following:-

  • Don’t even consider marrying a non-Christian
  • Remember we are all imperfect human beings – and so is anyone you subsequently marry. ONLY Jesus is perfect and the ultimate source of satisfaction and fulfilment.
  • It may be God’s will that you remain single – prayerfully consider and seek counsel from mature Christians you value.
  • A depressing fact is that second time marriages are more likely to end in divorce than first time marriages.

 

5. What about singles?

 

In Matthews account there are some extra verses added:

Matthew 19:10-12         10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” (NIV)

 

Jesus disciples found the standards Jesus set for marriage extremely high and demanding and considered whether it was better not to marry at all.

Jesus reply is amazing – “Not everyone can accept this word,… i.e. that ….. it is better not to marry.” –

He lists three groups:-

– Those born impotent

–       those who were castrated as a requirement for service where they were surrounded by royal women

–       and those who live as singles for the sake of God’s kingdom {Paul says that same thing}

Jesus teaches that singleness is a perfectly viable option for life – no better than marriage and certainly not inferior, in fact God esp. calls some to such a position.

 

Concluding Comments

 

Given the state of marriage in our nation we need to affirm the high place that God’s gives marriage. It is good for the couple, for the children, for society and indeed for singles who are part of society. Marriage is God’s design – God’s ideal.

On the other hand, God knows our world is far from ideal. God is compassionate, merciful and understanding of our human weaknesses.

 

May God give us his wisdom as we continue to grapple with this and other difficult issues.

May he also give us his deep compassion and love for hurting people.

 

Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage.

 

Matthew 5v31-32; 19v1-12; Deuteronomy 24v1-4.

 1.       Marriage.

God’s original plan à life long, monogamous, heterosexual.

 2.       Divorce.

Pharisees’ 1st question – Matt.19v3

  • Is divorce permitted for any reason?

 

Pharisees’ 2nd question – Matt.19v7

  • Didn’t God allow divorce in the OT?

 

Jesus’ response

  • God’s ideal – Matt.19v4-6

Genesis 2

           Leave

                United

                Become one flesh

 

  • God’s allowances – Matt.19v8-9; Dt.24

Divorce permitted:-

for unfaithfulness as a result of hardhearted selfishness.

if an unbelieving partner leaves.

 

Forgiveness and reconciliation is possible

 

 3.       Remarriage

 

  • Widow / widower – no problem

OT allowed it Deut.24 – Jesus doesn’t

say OT was wrong

  • Divorce and remarriage allowed in

cases of unfaithfulness (in OT

unfaithful spouse would be put to

death)

 4.       Singleness.

 

  • Perfectly acceptable lifestyle.
  • In no way is singleness inferior to marriage.
  • In some case God specially calls to a single life for the sake of his kingdom – (e.g. The Apostle Paul)

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

God is a God of:

  • Compassion and understanding
  • Mercy and grace and forgiveness
  • New beginnings

     

Matthew 5:27-30 – Sex: What does the Bible say?

SEX! What does the Bible say?

 

Matthew 5v27-30

 

Introduction

 

Enough of this moralising. Sleep with whoever you want, whenever you want, but do it carefully.” – so said a university’s safe sex week leaflet back in 1993!

 

Our young people face enormous pressure in a society that exploits and misrepresents sexuality. The condom culture has emphasised protection (or safe sex – really should be safer sex as 100% safety is not possible) – BUT it has done little or nothing to help people understand the place and purpose of sex.

Someone, in their late teens or early 20’s, who is still a virgin is considered to have something wrong with them!

 

The danger we face as Christians – and the perception that those outside the church have – is that Christians are prudish, puritanical, judgmental and out-of-touch with real-life. And we have to say that such a perception is not totally unfounded.

 

Let me say this now and I will come back to it later – Sex is great! WHY? Because it was God’s idea!

It is not sordid, or sinful or sterile (if you’ll excuse the pun!) Our sexuality, our attraction to the opposite sex, our need for physical intimacy is a gift from God. LATER!

 

1. Contemporary views of sex.

 

These are broad-brush strokes – I am sure you know them well.

  • Ø Entertainment – to participate in or watch. The pornography industry is huge – esp. now with the internet. Its addictive. More of a problem for men but not exclusively.
  • Ø Recreational / casual / playboy-playgirl image whether in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.

The one-night-stand. Multiple partners.

  • Ø A dating sexual relationship – almost expected that if a couple have a steady dating relationship that they will be sleeping together even if they don’t live together.
  • Ø Cohabiting – this is so accepted in our society now that with some people to talk about your husband / wife is not as PC as to say “partner”. Some cohabiting couple have long and committed relationship BUT the fact remains that cohabiting couples are 80% more likely to split up than married couples.
  • Ø Marriage – still many marry but divorce is much more prevalent – England and Wales 100 years ago ~ 600 per year now about 170,000 – despite far few marriages.

 

 2. Research and Reflection.

 

What is interesting to observe in recent years is the growing body of research that is showing how marriage is the most stable relationship – the most fulfilling sexually – the best suited environment for children to feel secure and happy, the best ingredient for stable society, etc.

For example statistics show, contrary what some tried to tell us, that the marriages least likely to break down are amongst the group of people who did not live or sleep together before marriage!

 

A recent opinion poll in USA showed that increasing numbers of girls are refusing pre-marital sex – wanting to save themselves for a husband who will commit his life first!

Interesting – recently read a book review – (I can’t remember the title) – written by a Jewish lady in the USA [a psychologist or sociologist] who was arguing that the sexual revolution since the 60’s far from empowering women, sexually and in others ways, has actually done the opposite. In the days when most people married before a sexual relationship started, there was a mystic about a woman and a man had to make a commitment to her before he could satisfy his sexual desires. Now men can have want they want with no commitment.

 

This difference in approach between men and women is shown in an experiment conducted on a University campus: [from the book – and TV show – by Prof. Robert Winston, Human Instinct]: “… male and female researchers accosted students of the opposite sex and asked if they wanted to have sex. Some three-quarters of the men said they would agree to immediate sex; none of the women agreed (although a small minority accepted a dinner invitation). [page 106]

Thought for the Day, 14 November 2002 -Anne Atkins

Here’s the latest absolutely revolutionary research. Marriage makes you happy. Well, duh. It’s been popular since the dawn of time, so presumably there’s some reason other than a biologically driven need for wedding cakes and new hats. The magazine Top Sante has polled two thousand women, and discovered further gobsmacking news. Husbands make the best lovers. I ask you. If you could choose between a man who disappears at dawn without cleaning his teeth and one who can keep you satisfied night after night for a lifetime – there’s not much contest, is there? The security of marriage, continues the survey, allows for more imagination and innovation in the bedroom.

Sexual morality is by no means the heart of Christianity – more a fringe benefit, if you like – but it’s much talked-about, and much misunderstood. We can all imagine God, can’t we? The great Killjoy in the sky; like a divine dietician denying us every cream cake for our benefit. In fact, the bible doesn’t start with prohibitions at all, but with a glorious image of the true and original sexual relationship: a man and woman preferring each other before all the world – exactly what modern woman finds fulfilling. How extraordinary: God isn’t spoiling our fun at all, but redeeming it.

 

So what does the Bible say?

 

 

 

3. What does the Bible say?

 

  • Ø Sex is a fact of life.

I don’t mean the usually awkward and embarrassing exchanges between Father / son and Mother/daughter at the onset of puberty.

Rather – the fact that sexuality is a Divine Creation.

Genesis 1:27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (NIV)

The differences in human sexuality were part of God’s plan. It is not for embarrassment or under the counter exploitation. It is a creation of God for which he should be praised.

Sexual activity is a Divine Command.

Genesis 1:28 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.

Sadly the church has often been silently respectful or just negative about the area of sexuality. But God is positive about it – the Bible offers clear and sensible understanding and teaching if we will care to look!

Sexual activity is a Divine concern.

Genesis 2:18  The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:24  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

God is saying “Adam, you need and companion and helper. The ‘one flesh’ is referring to a physical relationship. It concerns God when two people marry but have an unhealthy sex life. It also concerns him hen two people have a sexual relationship outside the marriage bond – this is contrary to his design and purpose.

An aside about being singles, and I will say more about this next week – In affirming marriage the Bible is not saying that singles are somehow inadequate or incomplete – far from it – each and every person is significant and valuable in their own right. They can have a happy and fulfilled life and can often make a contribution to life and society in ways that married people never can!

 

  • Ø Sex is a facet of love.

Facet is one surface of a cut gem. Sex is one facet of love.

The Greeks had three words for love – we have one.

Agape (sacred) – an unconditional sacrificial love – used to describe God’s love for us, esp. in Jesus sacrifice for us! A love we are to reflect to others esp. a spouse.

Philia (social) – a brotherly love, a deep affection, a social kindness, a care and concern and so on.

Eros (sexual) – English word erotic –

First two should be seen in the life of any Christian – all three in the ‘one flesh’ marriage relationship. There needs to be spiritual unity, social unity and sexual unity.

 

Sexuality is a very strong human desire and out of control can lead to chaos and pain and suffering. Thus Jesus raises the standard from just the act of sexual infidelity to one of heart and mind!

 

4. The Kingdom View of sexual attitudes.

 

We have seen throughout the Sermon on the Mount so far that Jesus raises the standards of kingdom living from the level of outward action to inner attitude.

In dealing with adultery he does the same thing.

I will deal with this in greater detail next week when we look at divorce and remarriage.

 

Last week we looked at anger and contempt which unchecked ended in violence and murder. Now Jesus moves on to sex.

This is today’s news – violence and sex are two of the greatest problem areas in our society today.

 

Jesus knew that the men of his day who might consider themselves to be pure and right because they had not committed a physical act of adultery where the same men who would follow a woman with their eyes.  – absorbed by her body and lust in their eyes – fantasising about what it would be like to touch her and have intercourse with her.

 

We all know this kind of activity because there are few who have not at some time engaged in it. It includes all types of men – pastors and plumber, professors and postmen. In this day of equal opportunity women as well – and also between those of the same sex.

 

  • Guard your eyes.

Job did this – Job 31:1  “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. (NIV)

John mentions this in his letter.

1 John 2:16 …the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes …

There are things we can’t help seeing – but looking longingly and lingering lustfully – feeding a fantasy is where sexual infidelity starts.

So we need to guard what we look at!

 

But listen to Jesus … Matthew 5:29 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (NIV)

Same about hands!

Is Jesus suggesting that we mutilate our body? NO but rather making a point to his hearers that even if you dismembered your body to the point where physically it would be impossible to murder, commit adultery, even look lustfully – it would still be possible to be full of anger and sexual lusting. WHY?

Mark 7:21-23 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’.” (NIV)

 

  • Ø Guard your heart.

Matthew 5:28 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (NIV)

This can also apply to woman of course.

We must be careful not to go beyond what Jesus is saying.

 

Sexual desire is not, in itself, wrong – so long as it is use correctly.

Temptation is not, in itself, wrong – Jesus was tempted. But we should not wilfully enter into it.

 

Looking at a woman (or man), in itself, is not wrong.

“Looking lustfully” at someone who is not your spouse is what Jesus is talking about. It is looking at her with the purpose of desire her. Indulging and cultivating that desire – fantasising about having sex with that one. Peter puts it graphically – 2 Peter 2:14 14 With eyes full of adultery, …

 

For many this is a chosen habit that they indulge and enjoy.

BUT it is not the type of character required by Jesus to be a member of his Kingdom.

 

  • Ø Sexual sin is not unforgivable.

The church has too often treated those who have sinned sexually as if it is worse than other sin. While doing so they committed the sin of pride and judgementalism.

God forgave David; Jesus forgave the woman caught in the very act of adultery.

Remember we are all guilty at heart level – and Jesus says that counts for more!

Whatever we may have done God is always ready to forgive and give us a new beginning.

 

  • Ø Sex in the boundaries of marriage is a gift from God.

God only gives good gift.

The Song of Songs, a part of which we read, is that wonderful erotic poem in the middle of the Bible that talks about sex more than all the rest, and it never even mentions self-restraint. It is an intoxicating celebration of all that sexual love is and can be: a magnificent abandonment of two people to one another, exclusively and for life, for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.

To quote Anne Atkins in closing –

According to one commentator …, sex reduces stress, boosts immunity, increases confidence, slows aging and gives you a good workout. …. Exciting though this is, however, it’s nothing to what is to come. Sex isn’t just good in itself; it also symbolises the selflessness, fidelity and durability behind the primary human relationship, that between man and woman, on which all social bonds are founded.

But there is something more inspiring still. Over and over again erotic love, in the bible, is used to picture something more crucial and life-giving even than the love between man and woman: that between God and us. No wonder it’s important to get it right.

Erotic love is for life: divine love is forever. Man’s love for woman is as strong as death and unyielding as the grave. But God’s love for us is stronger than death, and even overcomes the grave. copyright 2002 BBC

 

 

SEX! What does the Bible say?

 

Matthew 5v27-30; Song of Songs.

 

Contemporary views of sexual relationships.

 

  • For many can be either heterosexual or homosexual

    Entertainment

  • Recreational
  • Dating-sex
  • Cohabiting
  • Marriage

 

Research and Reflection.

 

  • Marriage most stable relationship

–       most fulfilling emotionally, socially and physically.

–       most stable and secure for children.

–       key ingredient for stable community.

 

  • Growing number of woman opting to wait

 for marriage before starting a sexual

 relationship.

  • The sexual revolution has favoured men.
  • Husbands make the best lovers!

 

 

 

What does the Bible say?

 

  • Sex is a fact of life.

–       divine creation – Genesis 1v27

–       divine command – Genesis 1v28

–       divine concern – Genesis 2v18 & 24

 

  • Sex is a facet of love.

–       agape (sacred)

–       philia (social)

–       eros (sexual)

 

The kingdom view of sexuality.

 

  • Not just actions but attitudes.

–       Guard your eyes – Job 31v1;

1 John 2v16; 2 Peter 2v14

–        Guard your heart – Matthew 5v28;

Mark 7v21-23

 

  • Sexual sin is not unforgivable.

1 John1v9; John 8v1-11; Psalms 32 & 51

 

  • Sex in the boundaries of marriage is a

gift from God to be enjoyed and valued.

Genesis 2v24-25; Song of Songs.

 

Matthew 5:21-26 – Losing your cool!

Matthew 5v21-26. LOSING YOUR COOL!

(Extra Reading Ephesians 4v25-32)

INTRODUCTION.

In the previous section Jesus talks about the OT Law and that he didn’t come to do away with / abolish the OT Law but really to fulfil it. What did he mean by that?

Simply this, that the OT pointed to his coming and when he came, not only did he perfectly obey God, BUT he gave us kingdom principles that supersede the OT Law.

Thus the statement that entrance into God’s kingdom required a righteousness that was far superior to that of the Jewish Religious leaders [5v20] shows that outward compliance to rules and regulations is inadequate – we need changing on the inside.

In the remainder of his sermon Jesus now illustrates how this is to workout in practice.

He raises the standard from a purely mechanical obedience to an attitude of heart and mind that acts positively and beneficially towards God and other people.

The first illustrated point he makes is about murder and anger.

1. RAISING THE BAR!

He raises the standard from a purely mechanical obedience to an attitude of heart and mind that acts positively and beneficially towards other people because of a new and living relationship with God.

V 21 and 22 . “you have heard that it was said ….but I say to you

Jesus is doing two things here:

–         we know that the Jewish religious leaders added layer upon layer of rules and regulations to the original instructions for God – so we cannot assume that everything the people heard about the OT was actually in the OT.

Jesus is not saying the principles of the OT are wrong but their misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

–         “But I tell you…” shows his authority and that his requirements go to the heart and not just outward actions.

He is overthrowing erroneous traditions and showing the real direction towards which the OT points.

Not just murder but anger and contempt – i.e. not just action but attitude and motive as well.

2. WHAT IS ANGER?

Anger in itself is an emotional response – it is a feeling that seizes us. As such it is not necessarily wrong.

  • Anger – interfering with my will.

Usually anger is an intense feeling towards others, sometimes resulting in harming them, if they should interfere in my life or thwart my will.

Anger directed toward someone is wounding – when I know someone is angry with me it hurts. And very often it evokes my anger in return.

At this level is like an alarm bell that tells me there is resistance or obstruction of my will. However, very rarely is anger just a warning signal, almost inevitably anger turns into something inherently sinful.

Why? Because there is a degree of malice in almost every degree of anger. That’s why when someone is angry with us it hurts. Just a look, (or a refusal to look) just a raised voice (or refusing to speak to us), they intend to cause us pain and usually succeed.

  • Anger – wounding my ego.

Anger usually rises as a spontaneous response BUT we can then actively indulge it and we usually do – and even enjoy being angry.

It is possible to the point where we become angry people.

This because our ego is wounded / our vanity is offended so we embrace anger to defend our self-righteous egos.

ILLUS.: Why are there incidents of road rage? Because of one incident with another motorist? Probably not, but that is the trigger that releases pent up emotion.

ILLUS.: A few weeks ago two teenage girls were killed in a street shoot out. They were caught in the cross-fire of other people’s anger.

Why do these things happen? Because someone has allowed anger to smother / to burst into flame / and explode in murderous actions.

Is it any wonder Jesus started here – this is where the new principles of his kingdom need to begin and take root.

It is easy to see it in road rage of street murder or physical abuse. BUT anger doesn’t have to be physically expressed to poison the world.

Just by harbouring anger it affects our bodies and our environment. It saps our mental and emotional energy.

It takes energy to remind ourselves of how badly so-and-so has treated us.

3. JESUS’ PROHIBITION AND WARNING.

  • The Warning.

Some see three levels of punishment – a kind of progression from judgement (presumably from people in general), to Sanhedrin (Religious / civil court), to the fire of hell (divine judgement).

BUT Jesus Jewish hearers would have understood that God himself stood behind the legal system of the state. Jesus moves through the system to drive home the point that the punishment to be feared is indeed divine – hell!

  • The Prohibition

But what is Jesus prohibiting?

Murder? Yes! His hearers would not disagree – nor would we.

Anger? Behind the murderer’s action is anger, malice, hatred – so those feeling are also blameworthy and thus subject to judgement.

Contempt? Jesus talks about calling someone ‘Raca’ or ‘fool’.

Both are abusive term of contempt.

In a way contempt is worse that anger. In anger I want to hurt you BUT in contempt I don’t care whether I hurt you or not.

It is using abusive language – considering people of no value. Racial, sexual or cultural abuse or simply considering someone a “waste of space”.

Jesus raises the bar! The judgement that was thought to hang over the murderer actually hangs over the angry, spiteful, vengeful, contemptuous person as well.

4. ISN’T SOME ANGER JUSTIFIED, DIDN’T JESUS GET ANGRY!

Yes to both questions BUT we need to be careful.

Jesus was angry about the profiteering in the Temple [Matt.21v12ff], he was angry with legalists and hypocrites; AND in Matt.23 he even called the Pharisees and teachers of the law “you blind fools!”

There is a place for burning with anger at sin and injustice!

Our problem, if we are honest, is that we usually “burn with indignation and anger, not at sin and injustice, but offence to ourselves.” [Carson]

Jesus never did – when he was arrested, illegally tried, beaten, spit upon, flogged and crucified his response was “Forgive!”

1 Peter 2:23 23 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. (NIV)

Let’s face it we are quick to get angry when we are offended BUT slow to get anger at sin and injustice in others areas – then we tend to philosophise.

5. TWO POSITIVE ACTION ILLUSTRATIONS.

Jesus uses two illustrations that show us how to manage anger. These are not rules they are stories to illustrate a point.

  • Right relationships before religious ritual.

When you go to the temple to offer your gift and remember someone is angry with you – it is more important to forget the ritual and restore the relationship.

This is a significant occasion – like a baptism or ordination service or getting married. Jesus is using an extreme situation to make a point.

Humans love to substitute ceremony for purity, integrity and love BUT Jesus will have none of it.

  • Deal with the acorn before it becomes an oak tree.

This is a similar illustration to the first one – it is about restoring relationship. Not allowing a situation to fester and grow out of proportion and out of control.

It is far easier to pick up an acorn than it is to uproot an oak tree.

In both cases Jesus is condemning personal animosity.

6. HOW TO POSITIVELY DEAL WITH OUR ANGRY HEARTS

Jesus is not simply teaching in this section a new set of ‘Do Not’ rules.

Rather he is teaching how to positively deal with the sinfulness of our natural responses – at heart level not action level. It presupposes a work of God to create in us a new heart – spiritual life – spiritual birth.

Jesus is showing us the preciousness of human beings.

ILLUS.: £5 note – crisp and new worth £5; old , torn, tattered and dirty is still worth £5

He is teaching us that people are valuable and merely NOT killing them doesn’t do justice to that human worth!

The point is not that we have a list of things to avoid doing to others.

Not getting angry is a way some people have of winning.

They can ignore you and treat you as nothing!

OR some will say “I don’t get mad – I get even!” BUT you don’t have to be angry to be mean, unkind and contemptuous.

Jesus is taking us to a level that reflects the kind of love God has for us. As we more and more share in the life of God  – kingdom life – our life are brought into harmony with his life.

I don’t fulfil kingdom principles by simply NOT being angry or NOT treating people with contempt.

When I positively seek right relationships and positively pick up acorns before they become oak trees the negative is taken care of.

ILLUS.: recently went to SGM to speak at the annual thanksgiving. When I got there my friend Ian Bucahannan didn’t congratulate me for NOT going to Madrid or Paris. I took steps to go to London and that took care of me not ending up somewhere else.

“Likewise, when I value those around me and see them as God’s creatures designed for his eternal purposes, I don’t make an additional point of not hating them or calling them twerps or fools. Not doing those things is simply part of the package.” Paul – “He that loves has fulfilled the Law” Really!!!

Not going to Paris and Madrid is a poor plan for going to London. And not being wrongly angry is a poor plan for treating people with love. It won’t work and that was never Jesus’ intention.

Laws, like the 10 commandments, that deal with actions can’t reach the source of the actions, the human heart. Paul again – “If a law had been given that could impart life then righteousness would certainly have come by the law”. Gal.3v21.

BUT it could not, that is why we need the saving grace and mercy of God through faith in Christ and the gift and constant filling of the Holy Spirit to live kingdom lives that please God and reflect his love and concern for humans.

1 John 4:19-21

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (NIV)

Matthew 5:13-16 – Being a salt-and-light Christian

Being a salt-and-light Christian.
Matthew 5:13-16

If Jesus was bodily present in our church this morning, we would delight in introducing him to others.

The statisticians tell us that something like 85% [or more] of the British public believe in God. Yet only about 5% attend church on a regular basis [compared to about 12% a decade ago]

Most people are too polite to tell us to our faces but they perceive the Church and Christians as dull and boring and irrelevant.

Most are not interested in committing their lives to Christ unless they observe attractive and consistent patterns of living in the Christians they know. Joe Aldrich, author of the book Life-Style Evangelism, put it like this: “Christians are to be good news before they share the good news.”

Jesus put it like this…Matthew 5:13-16 – “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. You are the light of the world – like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

Though it’s tempting, to run ahead and talk about practical tips for communicating our faith would be premature.

Bill Hybels in his book, Being a contagious Christian, points out that in the medical world if someone is going to be contagious they must first have the disease. So in a similar way before we can become highly contagious Christians, salt-and-light Christians, who positively influence others for Christ, we must first live in a way that convinces people around us that we actually have it ourselves!

Note in these verses Jesus asserts that we are salt and light; he says nothing about what we have to say?

  • He doesn’t give us a three point evangelistic sermon.
  • He doesn’t teach us the four spiritual laws.
  • He doesn’t even draw us the bridge illustration.

If we want to be the kind of high-impact salt-and-light Christians that Jesus said that we are to be, we’re going to have to first take some preliminary steps of self-examination and then be willing to make any needed character adjustments. We must start by making certain that the way we live backs up the words we’re speak.

To repeat the cliché, “Does you walk match your talk”.

Jesus knew the importance of perceptions. That’s why He gave us such clear instructions about being salt and light. He knows that as you learn to live out these guidelines in tangible ways, people will begin to “see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Do you see what Jesus was getting at in these verses in Matthew 5? He was telling us that the attitudes and actions of each of His followers either draw people toward a relationship with God or push them further away.

As we saw last week it is possible to live in the light and / be light and to offend and invite persecution because people who are exposed will either accept Christ or reject him and often persecute the messenger! But let the offence caused be because of the message of the cross and Not because of the messenger.

So Jesus was pleading with His people – then and now – to live in a way that would draw people toward the Father. Think about it: how we conduct our daily lives has implications that reach all the way into eternity.

1. Christians who repel others from Christ.
Salt and Light can be good. But it can also be bad.
The Christian who repels the lost is the salt that has lost its potency and the light that has been hidden. The Christian is not having the desired impact on the people around them.

Let’s look at three types of Christians that repel people from Christ.

1) The “in-your-face” Christians
These are the hard sell, confrontational evangelists. They are the ones who stop you in the street, “Do you know you are going to hell without Christ.” The Bible-basher always trying to ram their beliefs down someone’s throat.
2) The “holier-than-thou” Christians
These are the smug and the self-righteous types. They have exchanged their priestly, Pharisaic garments for more contemporary clothing, but their hearts are just as judgmental. They make it plain that you probably couldn’t live up to their level of spirituality, so you might as well not try. They are the ones who expect people to live and behave like them. You become like us and then God will accept you – that is the message that is conveyed even if they preach salvation by grace in words, their attitude say otherwise. You know the type don’t you?

3) The cosmetic Christians

These are the Christians which seekers realise only have a veneer of Christianity. Their faith, only skin deep, doesn’t change their character and values. The seeker sees these people, and says, “There is no real difference between me and them, except that I might have more fun.”

One writer, “If sin dims our testimony so that our “light” is no longer visible, some of those we might have influenced for Christ may drift on in spiritual darkness.”

But that is the warning. That is not how it is meant to be. It is as Michael Green wrote in his commentary, “If Christians are insipid they are useless to Christ. There should be a flavour of Christ-likeness, a sparkle of joy and unselfishness about him or her that is immensely attractive.” That is what we are calling Contagious Christians, those who draw lost people toward Christ.
2. Christians who draw people toward Christ.
Christians who appropriately are a flavouring influence on those around them, and demonstrate the reality of their faith are salt-and-light Christians. They are the Christians who demonstrate what are called “good works”, that influence people toward Christ.

Three examples of salt-and-light Christians .

1)    The Costly Christians

Believers who live out their faith even when it demands sacrifice.

To demonstrate the power of costly Christianity in his transition from atheism to Christianity, Lee Strobel, author of The case for Christ and The Case for Faith, shares the story of Ron Bronski.
Ronnie was a member of a street gang in Chicago. A rival gang had beaten up his brother, so Ronnie decided that he was going to get even.
One night, he got a pistol, and waited for, Gary, the guy responsible for his brother’s beating. When Gary came out of the building with a few other gang members, Ronnie came up behind them, yelled his gang name, and pulled the trigger. The gun just clicked. The gang members turned around, and Ronnie pulled the trigger again. This time a shot was fired into the air. The members of the gang began to run off in different directions.
Ronnie ran off in hot pursuit of Gary. He shot again and caught Gary in the back. Ronnie walked up to Gary, turned him over, and putting the gun to his head, pulled the trigger once more. This time the gun locked up. He dropped the gun and ran.
Ronnie knew now he had to get out of town. So he packed up his girlfriend and they left that night for Portland, Oregon.
In Portland, Ronnie got a job, where several Christians worked, and over time he made a commitment to Christ. Ronnie began to transform. He became a model member of his church and community.
But something deep inside continued to gnaw at his soul. He knew he had been restored in his relationship with God, but not yet to society. There was still a warrant out for his arrest for attempted murder although the Chicago Police had discontinued looking for Ron Bronski a long time ago. He could have stayed in Portland without ever being caught, but he knew what he had to do.
He kissed his wife and children and took a train to Chicago, to turn himself in. He knew he was looking at up to 20 years in prison.
Lee Strobel, still an atheist at the time, was assigned to the criminal courts building by the Chicago Tribune. He was used to hearing people who were obviously guilty trying to exploit the system, trying to find any loophole to get out of responsibility for the crime they committed.
Then in walks Ronnie who tells the judge, “I did it. I’m guilty because not only did I shoot him, I was trying to kill him. But now I have become a Christian and I realise what I did was wrong. I’m sorry for what I did.”

Lee Strobel’s assessment “this drew me towards Christ.” To see someone so convinced of their faith that they were willing to be faithful even when it meant up to 20 years in prison made a remarkable impact, and showed him that Ronnie’s faith was for real.

Bill Hybels has written, “Sacrifices impact people for a lifetime. And in a day when narcissistically ’looking out for number one’ has been elevated to an art form, almost any kind of sacrifice will cause a stir.”

2) The Compassionate Christian

When action-oriented compassion is absent, it’s a telltale sign that something’s spiritually amiss. Whether the problem is with the organisation or the individual, uncaring Christianity does not attract inquirers into its fold. But a clear and consistent demonstration of Christ-like love is a powerful magnet that pulls people toward Him. So let talk about being a compassionate Christian.

One of the primary reasons God calls His followers to be extraordinarily caring people is because acts of mercy open up people’s hearts like nothing else can. Put another way, there’s tremendous pulling power in the expression of even a single act of kindness. And God wants that power to draw people toward his Son.

Not just one-off tokens but intentional efforts to serve the real needs of people God has placed around us. It is the cooking of meals for a neighbour’s family who is ill.

It is child minding for those who don’t have someone readily available. It is volunteering to help them work on the car, or the house. The list could go on and on because it is any type of service that demonstrates in a very practical way the love of God.

 3) The Consistent Christian

ILLUS.: Definition of an English Gentleman – A man who uses his butter-knife even when he dines alone.

Same principle applied to the Christian — We are talking about those who demonstrate integrity of faith even when you don’t know you are being watched.

Being authentic about the struggles present in our lives. Being honest, what we would call being “real”.

What people need to see in you and me are more than pasted-on smiles and religious slogans? They need to see us grapple with fear and sadness and anger and jealousy and loss. They need to hear us talk openly about our struggles with issues of purity. They need to watch us work out your faith without discounting the everyday realities of life.

ILLUS.: Story of a business owner who had employed scores of Christians in his company. He watched them like a hawk. “You know, I was naturally drawn to God by observing Christian workers who were conscientious and kind and thorough and aggressive on the job,” he said. “But I’ll tell you what really impressed me. One day a guy who I knew to be a fresh convert asked if he could see me after work. I agreed to meet with him, but later in the day I started to worry that this young religious zealot might be coming to try to convert me, too.”
“I was surprised when he came in my office with his head hanging low and said to me, ’Sir, I’ll only take a few minutes, but I’m here to ask your forgiveness. Over the years I’ve worked for you I’ve done what a lot of other employees do, like borrowing a few company products here and there. And I’ve taken some extra supplies; I’ve abused telephone privileges; and I’ve cheated the time clock now and then.
“’But I became a Christian a few months ago and it’s real – not the smoke and mirror stuff. In gratitude for what Christ has done for me and in obedience to Him, I want to make amends to you and the company for the wrongs I’ve done. So could we figure out a way to do that? If you have to fire me for what I’ve done, I’ll understand. I deserve it. Or, if you want to dock my pay, dock it whatever figure you think is appropriate. If you want to give me some extra work to do on my own time, that would be okay, too, I just want to make things right with God and between us
.’”
Well they worked things out. And the business owner said that this conversation made a deeper spiritual impact on him than anything else ever had. It was the single most impressive demonstration of true Christianity he had ever witnessed.

What was it that made this new believer so contagious? Was it a clever new gospel presentation? Was it a well-rehearsed testimony? Obviously not. It was merely a genuine and humble admission of wrongdoing along with a willingness to make it right. It was consistent Christianity.

Perhaps there’s something you should confess at work, in your home, or in your neighbourhood. Or there could be an area of your life that you know isn’t right, but you’re still trying to cover it up in the hope that nobody will find out. Maybe now God’s Spirit is prompting you to go to somebody and say, “Because I mean business about my relationship with God and I want to be right before Him and with you, I need to apologise.”

Can I give you an inside scoop? People who are investigating Christianity don’t expect perfection from Christians. They’re too streetwise for that! What they do hope to find is someone with the courage to confess their blunders and make things right. They want to see humility and repentance, and maybe even restitution.

Conclusion:
Last week we finished looking at the Beatitudes – the characteristics of people who belong to God and to his Kingdom.

When people see Jesus disciples living like that many will glorify our heavenly Father.

These words of Jesus contain warning as well as instruction. Romans 1:22  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools / acted foolishly.

What has this to do with being salt and light.

Same word – losing saltiness / becoming tainted = foolish.

SO – if the salt fools around it looses its impact / effectiveness. Jesus assessment “Such salt is good for nothing” – his testimony is worthless. Wouldn’t you rather Jesus’ assessment of you was “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

What is Jesus urging us to do – in today’s language “Get out there and shine!” How are we to shine? Jesus spells it out – clear and unequivocal – works! That’s shakes some of us evangelicals!!

We are not saved by works BUT we are saved to do good works!

James 2:17-18 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action / works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. (NIV)

“If faith doesn’t wok, it is highly suspect. It can shout, it can preach, it can pound the pulpit but if it doesn’t work, it’s dead!”

How is my LIGHT-LIFE?

a)     Kindle the flame – if you light is a flicker instead of a flame tell the Lord, I admit I’m a pretty pathetic light. I’m just smouldering – giving a lot of smoke but little light. Lord, please, set me alight!”

b)    Trim the wick – carefully and consistently work at your lifestyle to remove less-than-satisfactory living that hinders your glow.

c)     Replenish the oil – draw deeply on the God-given resources of the Holy Spirit and the Word.

d)    What’s you motivation? A candle doesn’t shine just to be seen – nor to illuminate other candles. [There are some Christians whose over-riding ambition is simply to be seen – they have a problem.  There is too much darkness out there to be concerned with self-glorification. Our works are to glorify our Father in Heaven.

Jesus doesn’t want us to be useless and dull and irrelevant.

He wants us to be useful, attractive, relevant, full-of-life people who draw others – not to us – but to Him!

 

Being a salt-and-light Christian.

 

Matthew 5v13-16.

 

“Christians are to be good news before they share the good news” Joe Aldrich

1. Christians who repel others from Christ

  • The ‘in-your-face’ Christian
  • The ‘holier-than-thou’ Christian
  • The cosmetic Christian

 

2. Christians who draw people towards Christ

  • The costly Christian
  • The compassionate Christian
  • The consistent Christian

 

Warning and Instruction

     Don’t be good-for-nothing – be salty!

     Don’t be dull – Shine!

 

          

Matthew 5:10-16 – Blessed are the persecuted

Matthew 5:10-16

The Acid Test for the Spiritually Prosperous

Late at night a jeep drove into the clearing. Four men with machine guns jumped out. Inside they handcuffed the schoolteacher and pastor of the local church. He and a friend were forced into the jeep. They rode along the rugged road until they reached the bridge. There they pushed the pastor out. Knowing what was going to happen he asked permission to write a few words in his diary. He noted the time, the date, and the events, which were transpiring.

He wrote: “We are going to heaven.”

Then he was told to walk to the bridge. As Pastor Yona walked he sang;

There is a happy land where saints in glory stand,

There’s a land that is fairer than day,

And by faith we can see it afar:

For the Father waits over the way,

To prepare us a dwelling place there.

His song ended with a burst of machine gun bullets and his body tumbled off the bridge into the river below.

Another chapter was written in the Book of Acts.

On Sunday, April 8, 1945, German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was taken from a worship service he had just conducted for prisoners. Hitler’s Gestapo took him to a concentration camp in Flossenburg, tried him for treason, and hanged him just a few days before the Allied Forces liberated the prison camp. A medical doctor at the scene described his final moments:

Through the half-open door in one of the huts I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so submissive to the will of God. (H. Fisher-Hullstrung, “A Report from Flossenburg,” in I Knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer, p. 232).

The writer William Barclay observes:

All the world knows of the Christians who were flung to the lions or burned at the stake; but these were kindly deaths. Nero wrapped the Christians in pitch and set them alight, and used them as living torches to light his hunting dogs upon them to tear them to death. They were tortured on the rack; they were scraped with pincers; molten lead was poured hissing upon them; red hot brass plates were affixed to the tenderest parts of their bodies; eyes were torn out; parts of their bodies were cut off and roasted before their eyes; their hands and feet were burned while cold water was poured over them to lengthen the agony . . . these things a man had to be prepared for, if he took his stand with Christ (DSBS Matthew, Vol. I, p. 112).

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

SPIRITUALLY PROSPEROUS PEOPLE ARE PERSECUTED

Spiritually prosperous

The person describe as “blessed” is in a right relationship with the LORD God through Jesus Christ. He is being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ (Col. 27- 29). He can be described as being after God’s own heart. It is a serene and untouchable self-contained joy that is beyond the chances, changes and circumstances in life. “Happiness has its root, not in outward circumstances, but in inward condition of character,” G. C. Morgan. It is a life lived in a right relationship with God. This kind of life is “completely untouchable and unassailable.” It comes from walking in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and being conformed to His image and likeness.

John R. W. Stott helps us summarize where we have been and the resulting values.

The beatitudes paint a comprehensive portrait of a Christian disciple. We see him first alone on his knees before God, acknowledging his spiritual poverty and mourning over it. This makes him meek or gentle in all his relationships, since honesty compels him to allow others to think of him what before God he confesses himself to be. Yet he is far from acquiescing in his sinfulness, for he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, longing to grow in grace and in goodness.

. . . His relationship with God does not cause him to withdraw from society, nor is he insulated from the world’s pain. On the contrary, he is in the thick of it, showing mercy to those battered by adversity and sin. He is transparently sincere in all his dealings and seeks to play a constructive role as a peacemaker. Yet he is not thanked for his efforts, but rather opposed, slandered, insulted and persecuted on account of the righteousness for which he stands and the Christ with whom he is identified” (Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 54).

Such a person is approved of God and as a result is in direct antagonism to the values of the world system. It is because the values and standards of Jesus Christ are in direct conflict with the commonly accepted values and standards of the world. We have heard much in the news and media publications about values, family values and clarifying our values. It is the “in thing” in the media. “Values” is a word you can throw around and have it mean anything you want it to mean and make everybody else think you mean the same thing they do. It is a politician’s catchall word. But what you are not being told is there are clearly two opposing standards of values––one that is distinctively characterized by the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the other standard that is set by the world. Like water and oil they do not mix. Jesus said you will love one and hate the other. You cannot serve God and the world system at the same time. In fact, the world won’t let you do it. You cannot serve two masters. Because of your identification with Christ you will be persecuted.

Definition of Persecution

Jesus said the “persecuted” are blessed. The word “persecuted” means to pursue with hostile intent; thus, ridiculed, denounced, ill–treated, injured, threatened with death, inflict injury upon you. It is the imagery of being hunted down like an animal and killing it. In our context it means, “putting to flight, driving away.” In the New Testament it is used of “inflicting suffering on people who hold beliefs that the establishment frowns on, and it is this kind of persecution of which Jesus speaks here” (Morris).

The tense of the verb suggests those “who have allowed themselves to be persecuted,” or “have endured persecution.” The idea is that they did not flee from it, but willingly submitted to it when it came to them.

In verse eleven, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.” Jesus said they will “revile you” meaning reproach, revile, heap insults upon you, upbraid them in violent language, will call you evil and contemptuous names, ridicule you because you are Christians. The enemies will try to capitalise on hostility toward you and use verbal abuse, reproaching, insulting language. However, believers are to live above reproach so they never rightly deserve this kind of abuse as a form of punishment.

Believers can expect that they will “say all kinds of evil against you falsely.” These are a great variety of hostile accusations, lying, deliberately inventing the most improbable lies. Every conceivable harmfulness in a hostile sense, such as hostile speech and hostile accusations are intended.

A number of years ago newspapers in a Latin American country deliberately printed disinformation on Quechua Indian ministries and mission directors, pastors, etc. On one occasion an embassy manufactured poll results, surveys, interviews, and documentaries and provided them as exclusive interviews for a very popular radio station to broadcast. This disinformation was provided to sway voters and turn the election. When confronted with the evidence they confessed up and said it had been going on over a long period of time. They just happened to get caught that time. Even a professing Christian, the pride and joy of evangelical outreach, and the head a large news department in a prestigious radio station of high integrity “doctored” the news to reflect an anti–Christian, communist viewpoint when President Allende was assassinated in Chile. The news director deliberately rewrote the news and gave it a procommunist slant. Persecution comes in many ways and varieties. Sometimes it is focused on individuals or churches or mission organizations, and at other times it is broad anti-Christian propaganda.

Cause of persecution (vv. 10-11)

Jesus is specific as to the cause of persecution. The important thing Christ emphasized is “for the sake of righteousness,” and “on account of Me” (vv. 10-11). If you are a disciple of Christ this is what is going to happen to you. The believer is persecuted because he is a certain type of person and because he behaves in a certain way. This what is going to happen to you because you are a Christian.

People will suffer for doing evil things, but such suffering is punishment, not persecution. Jesus is not saying that people in general will receive a blessing because they are persecuted for whatever cause. Those who receive the blessing for being persecuted are those who are identified with Christ and persecuted because they are like Him. Reproach, persecution and slander are occasions of blessings, not punishment for unrighteousness.

Jesus will not compromise His standards to accommodate the world’s values. Stott says, “In the beatitudes Jesus throws out a fundamental challenge to the non–Christian world and its outlook, and requires His disciples to adopt His altogether different set of values” (p. 55).

Who will be persecuted? Those who are characterised as having Christian character will be persecuted. They are “righteous,” i.e. they are those who have a right standing before God based upon the death and resurrection of Christ. They are dikaiosune “righteous.” They are like Christ. They are persecuted because of the character and quality of their lives. They uphold God’s standards of justice and refuse to compromise with paganism. In the process they are being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ.

Because of our identification with Christ we are “salt” and “light” and the world cannot tolerate that standard. “Anybody who enters into fellowship with Jesus must undergo a transvaluation of values,” said Thielicke. It is like sprinkling salt into open putrid sores and shinning a light on to the corruption in a dark pagan world.

The gulf is between the disciples and the people. Jesus refused to be in tune with the world or to accommodate to its standards. Bonhoeffer said the “disciples are strangers in the world, unwelcome guests and disturbers of the peace. No wonder the world rejects them!” He knew. He sealed his life with those words at the end of a Nazi hangman’s rope.

The New Testament is full of examples of persecution and how the early church dealt with her distinctiveness. Here are a few for you to checkout: Hebrews 11:33-38; 2 Cor. 11:23ff; Acts 6:8-15; 7:54-8:1; Jn. 15:18-25; 1 Peter 4:13, 14; Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 3:12. Cross-reference these with other Scripture passages and I think you will be amazed at how major a theme this is in the Bible.

Jesus said this persecution is “on the account of Me.” It is because you belong to Christ.

Not because they deserved it

This persecution comes not because they deserve it. It is not because of power struggles with others. It is not because of selfishness, martyr complex, paranoia, or because they are hostile, critical, and judgmental and are now getting back what they have been giving out to others. The Christian is not to give them a reason for punishment by the very character of their lifestyle.

Our Christian character affects every aspect of our life: our work, social life, home, politics, etc. And we become salt and light in those crucial areas of our lives.

As the mighty Roman Empire flourished and included a territory that ranged from Britain to the Euphrates and Germany to north Africa the crucial question was how to keep it amalgamated. At first the worship of the goddess Roma, the spirit of Rome, was the unifying source. As time went on the person who incarnated that spirit of Rome was the Emperor. He became regarded as a god and divine honours were paid to him. This was a voluntary thing at first. Then in time this emperor–worship became compulsory. It was this compulsory Emperor-worship that caused great persecutions of thousands of Christians. William Barclay writes, “Once a year a man had to go and burn a pinch of incense to the godhead of Caesar and say, ‘Caesar is Lord.’ And that is precisely what the Christian refused to do. For them Jesus Christ was the Lord, and to no man would they give that title which belonged to Christ” (p. 114).

The early Christians refused to go along with it. They refused to conform and were confronted with a choice, “Caesar or Christ?” They chose Christ. They refused to compromise. The result was that no matter how outstanding a citizen the Christian was he was automatically outlawed and branded a disloyal citizen. Their only “crime was Christ.” Barclay adds, “The only crime of the Christian was that he set Christ above Caesar; and for that supreme loyalty the Christians died in their thousands, and faced torture for the sake of the lonely supremacy of Jesus Christ.”

Modern day Christians would quickly brand the early Christians narrow–minded bigots and extremist. In a day when tolerance is taken to the extreme to mean you cannot have any deeply held personal convictions it is in vogue to be intolerant of those who are committed Christians. The most intolerant people you see and her in the media are those who are intolerant of Christians who desire to be like Christ.

THE RESPONSE OF SPIRITUALLY PROSPEROUS PEOPLE TO PERSECUTION.

Attitudes of the blessed

Jesus describes our attitudes by saying, “rejoice and be glad” (v. 12). Barclay says the word for “be glad” is from the verb agalliasthai meaning “to leap exceedingly.” It is a joy that “leaps for joy.” This joy does not leave them when the circumstances in life change. We can translate it “exult, be glad, overjoyed, be exceedingly glad,” or literally “jump for joy.”

This is not our typical response.

The typical response of the unbeliever is to sulk like a child, to lick our wounds in self–pity like a dog, or just grin and bear it like a Stoic or pretend we enjoy it like a masochist. Jesus said, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:44–48).

Worthy to suffer shame

The apostle Paul demonstrated in his life that mature Christianity rejoices while being persecuted. Paul and Silas were in the inner dungeon in the Philippian jail after having been severely beaten with many stripes. Their feet were secured in stocks with chains on their feet and at midnight Paul and Silas were praying, and singing praises unto God. They were having a worship service in the jail! Jesus said, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matt. 18:20). They were rejoicing in His presence counting it a privilege and opportunity to suffer for Him.

Acts chapter five tells us about “great fear came upon the whole church” in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit purged Ananias and Sapphira from it. The church was filled with the Holy Spirit, but the high priest and all his associates “were filled with jealousy, and laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in a public jail” (v. 17-18). An angel came during the night and set them free. At daybreak the apostles were in the Temple preaching! Someone reported it to the authorities and they were once again confronted. “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and behold, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (v. 28). They still whine that same tune. Peter, filled with the Spirit of God said, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (vv. 29-31). That didn’t calm things down. “But when they heard this, they were cut to the quick and were intending to slay them” (v. 33). Finally the Sanhedrin listened to Gamaliel and “after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them.” What was the response of the apostles after another flogging? Verse forty-one reads, “So they went on their way from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (vv. 40-41).

When Festo Kevingra was being persecuted under Idi Amin in Uganda he fled for his life leaving everything he possessed behind. He said to his wife as they crawled under a barbed wire fence and stepped into freedom in a neighbouring country, “This is the blessedness of nothingness.” Festo could rejoice and be glad because he was persecuted because of the Name of Jesus. The joy of the believer under fire is to be, not in spite of, but because of persecution.

You are in good company

Rejoicing in persecution is completely contrary to the world’s way of thinking. Persecution is, as Stott notes, a “token of genuineness, a certificate of Christian authenticity.” It is a “normal mark of Christian discipleship as being pure in heart or merciful.” Jesus and the writer of Hebrews reminds us we are in good company––they killed the prophets before us. In the great hall of faith chapter the writer tells us of those who have walked by faith down through the centuries who “experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill–treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (11:36-38). Jesus said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:12). If we are persecuted today we belong to a noble succession of believers. In the early church persecution for the true believer was as widespread as universal popularity was of the false prophets. Morris remarks, “God’s people have always been rejected by the worldly: persecution puts us in good company.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it eloquently, “Suffering, then is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his master. . . Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer. In fact, it is a joy and a token of His grace” (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 81)

Salt and light

Jesus went on to describe the penetrating power of the gospel in people who are transformed by it as likened to “light” and “salt” (5:13-16).

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 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.

Christians must be salty. “Salt is needed where there is corruption. Light is needed where there is darkness,” says G. C. Morgan. We are to live Christ before a watching world. We are to live it out as salt and light.

You are “salt” (v. 13). Salt preserves from total corruption and destruction. It preserves and gives flavor to life. It also stimulates the appetite.

We are to be a moral disinfectant in a world whose standards are low, constantly changing, or non-existent. We are to have a preserving effect upon the community.

Pure sodium chloride does not deteriorate. Jesus is probably emphasizing adulteration of character. It would be unthinkable for the disciples to lose their character just as for salt to become salt less.

Moreover, the world is absolutely dark spiritually; light penetrates and illumines that darkness. Jesus said, “You (alone of all men) are like the light of the world” (TEV).

In the same way a small well-placed lamp lights every one in the one room house. Let your light shine before men. Our Christian life should be perfectly visible to all men, at work, at play, at home.

You ask, what has this to do with persecution? Everything. What is your light? It is our daily life style and witness. It is where you live out your Christian values. If you live Christ before a watching world there is a price to pay. The cause of persecution is salt and light. The world does not like salt rubbed into its open putrid sores and rottenness. It detests the Light of Jesus Christ exposing its corruption in a dark and wicked world.

Don’t miss the important message in this beatitude of Christ. We live in a day where the emphasis is come on down cast your vote for Jesus. Come on sign up here today and we will guarantee you a life of your dreams. Christ will give you all your desires if you just come on and vote for Him today. We have a prosperity plan for you. We will guarantee you with eternal security and joy and happiness and fulfillment.

Give me a break! Jesus promised none of the sort. He did promise, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Does that sound like a Madison Avenue ad campaign and multimedia blitz?

REWARD OF THOSE WHO ENDURE PERSECUTION (VV. 10, 12).

Those who undergo persecution for God’s cause and not for any fault of their own receive a blessing –– the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

The reward is not salvation. The disciples are already saved. This is a blessing that is in store for those who follow Christ in persecution because of His righteousness. “God’s goodness overflows toward the persecuted. . . Jesus is not talking about a reward in the here and now. Whatever compensations they receive in this world, the full reward of the persecuted is reserved for the next” (Morris, p. 103). It is a “future recompense for a present condition of persecution and reproach.”

You are “blessed” because you submit to the will of God. Because of persecution you are being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ. Note in verse one this is the same underlying attitude and the same ultimate reward. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Now Jesus says, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . Blessed are you when . . . ” Perhaps it is even a double blessing.

“Theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v. 10). “Your reward in heaven is great” (v. 12).

I like the reminder of John R. W. Stott: “We may lose everything on earth, but we shall inherit everything in heaven––not as a reward for merit, however, because the promise of the reward is free.”

Some abiding principles and practical applications

When you hunger and thirst for righteousness you will suffer for the righteousness you hunger after. This has been true in every age of Christianity. It is true to day. We should be surprised if anti–Christian hostility does not increase.

What is my life and witness like when the heat is on? What are our reactions to the pressures of life? Do we compromise and give in? Do we stand alone? Do we face the battle? Are we prone to compromise and therefore become adulterated? Have we become worthless salt?

Am I like salt and light to the community? It is the nature of light to illume––to shine.

Do I rejoice and am I glad when I am persecuted because I am like Jesus?

Are my attitudes and behavior being conformed to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ? If so, we can expect to be persecuted (v. 12).

Am I quick to compromise even on little things? Am I quick to seek “peace at any price”?

In second century Christianity a businessman went up to Tertullian discussing business affairs. He ended the conversation by asking, “What can I do? I must live!” “Must you?” replied Tertullian. “Must you!” We too are faced with choices of loyalty and living.

Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna in the early church. He was dragged before the tribunal of the Roman magistrate and given the choice of sacrificing to the godhead of Caesar or die. The old venerable preacher replied, “Eighty and six years have I served Christ, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” They proceeded to take him to the stake and as the flames leaped upon his body he prayed, “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy well–beloved and ever–blessed Son, by whom we have received the knowledge of Thee. . . I thank thee that Thou hast graciously thought me worthy of this day and of this hour.”

May He give us courage to do likewise.

Title: Matthew 5:10 The Acid Test for the Spiritually Prosperous
Series: The Beatitudes of Jesus

This message was preached by Wil Pounds at South McGehee Baptist Church, McGehee, Arkansas.

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 1999. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author’s written consent. Scripture quotations from the New American Standard Bible (c) 1973 The Lockman Foundation.

Matthew 5:10-12 – Blessed are the persecuted

Blessed Are the Persecuted

March 16, 1986

Matthew 5:10-12

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The first question I would like to take up this morning is whether Jesus’ words about persecution are relevant in these days. Has modern society become so tolerant that talk of persecution is outdated? My answer is that these verses are very relevant and not at all outdated. Let me mention two reasons why this teaching on persecution is still relevant today.

1. The first reason comes from a global perspective. Let’s just take two countries as examples. Peru’s National Evangelical Council has documented the killings of 90 evangelical Christians from 1983 through 1985. 70% were pentecostals, and 20% were Presbyterians, the rest undetermined. The Maoist Sendero Luminoso oppose the evangelicals because they refuse to join the armed struggle of the guerrillas. And the government police oppose them because they treat the wounds of guerillas. Besides the 90 killed in the last three years, another 20 have disappeared after being detained by police for questioning.

The other country I will mention is Romania. I just received a letter a couple weeks ago from John Swanson, the pastor of Elim Baptist in Anoka, in which he told me of a businessman who just returned from Romania with tragic stories of the persecution of Baptists in that land. The man will be speaking in their evening service on April 6 with a first-hand report.

According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, 2.2 billion people lived in 79 countries under significant restrictions on their religious freedom in 1980. 60% of all Christians live in these countries. And 16% (224 million) of all Christians live in countries where there is severe state interference and harassment.

So the least we can say is that from a global standpoint the words of Jesus are very relevant, and indeed very precious, for millions of our brothers and sisters who live under the pressure of constant surveillance.

2. My second reason for saying that these words about persecution are relevant today is taken from the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (See Acts 14:22; John 15:20; Matthew 10:25.)

How could Paul make such a sweeping statement? “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” He makes it on the basis of a deep conviction about the nature of Christianity and the nature of the sinfulness of man. He is convinced that there is such a tension between the message and way of life of Christians on the one hand and the mindset and way of life of the world on the other that conflict is inevitable.

This conviction is rooted in the nature of fallen man and the nature of the new creation in Christ. Therefore it does not go out of date. It is still true today. Sooner or later a deeply God-centered Christian will be mistreated for the things he believes or the life he lives.

So these words of Jesus about persecution are relevant for today not only because millions of Christians in our global village are being persecuted for their faith this very day, but also because to one degree or another all of you who are in dead earnest about putting God first in your work and home and school and leisure will bump into some form of opposition sooner or later. And none of us knows when our freedoms may cease or when we may be called by God to go to a dangerous place or take a stand here that will cause many to dislike us.

Now what is this teaching of Jesus?

First, let’s focus on why the persecutions come. This is important because not all persecuted people are blessed. Only those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. Verse 10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”

Recall the structure of the beatitudes. There are two groups of four, and each group ends with a reference to righteousness. The first group ends with verse 6: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” And the second group ends with verse 10: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”

The three beatitudes that lead to hunger for righteousness are descriptions of a kind of holy emptiness. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn over their needy condition and the meek who hand their cause over to God. It’s natural that these three descriptions of emptiness and need should be followed by a description of hunger. If you don’t have something you hunger for it.

Then the next three beatitudes are descriptions not of emptiness but of fullness. The hunger is beginning to be satisfied by an overflowing mercy, a pure heart and a power to make peace. So the righteousness longed for in verse 6 is given in the form of mercy, purity, and peacemaking. The result is persecution for this very righteousness.

Another way to define the righteousness of verse 10 is to look at its parallel in verse 11. In verse 10 the persecution is “on account of righteousness”, but in verse 11 it is “on account of Jesus”. “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” “On my account” and “on account of righteousness” probably mean the same thing.

So what we learn from this is that true righteousness — the righteousness that surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (5:20) — always involves a relationship with Jesus. True righteousness is not done for its own sake. It is done for Jesus’ sake. The mercy and the purity and the peacemaking of a disciple of Jesus comes from Jesus (“without me you can do nothing,” John 15:5) and is done for the honor of Jesus. It’s this attachment to Jesus that gives our righteousness its distinct character.

But that raises a question: if that is what righteousness means — being merciful and pure and peaceable by relying on Jesus and living for his glory — why would anybody persecute that? It doesn’t seem very offensive.

The answer that goes to the root cause is found in Luke 16:14-15. Jesus has just said, “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Then comes the persecution, the mockery. Verse 14 says, “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him.” There is the persecution and part of its explanation: “they were loves of money.” In other words, Jesus’ attitude toward money is an attack on their love of money.

Then comes the rest of the explanation of their mockery. Verse 15: “But he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men.'” So here is the root of persecution with its two shafts. One shaft is the love of something evil or untrue and the other shaft is the need to justify that love. This is the root cause of persecution.

Jesus comes on the scene with a way of life and a message that implies that the love of money is treason against God. “You can’t serve two sovereigns!” This is not an antagonistic insult. It is part of his purity. It is true. It is essential to know if you are going to be saved. But it goes against the Pharisee’s love of money. So to justify themselves they put Jesus down. This is standard operating procedure for self-justification. And this the root of all persecution.

So we can see why a life devoted to righteousness or godliness will be persecuted or reviled or spoken against.

— If you cherish chastity, your life will be an attack on people’s love for free sex.

— If you embrace temperance, your life will be a statement against the love of alcohol.

— If you pursue self-control, your life will indict excess eating.

— If you live simply and happily, you will show the folly of luxury.

— If you walk humbly with your God, you will expose the evil of pride.

–If you are punctual and thorough in your dealings, you will lay open the inferiority of laziness and negligence.

— If you speak with compassion, you will throw callousness into sharp relief.

— If you are earnest, you will make the flippant look flippant instead of clever.

— And if you are spiritually minded you will expose the worldlimindedness of those around you.

When you desire to be godly in all your affairs and relationships — when you follow the righteousness of Jesus in his strength and for his glory — there are two possible responses people can have who stay around you. These are described in John 3:20-21.

For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. [That is one possible response: hating the light and not accepting it.] But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God. [That is the other possible response: doing the truth and coming to it and freely admitting that all good in us is accomplished by God.]

The two options are persecution or conversion. (See these two options in Matthew 5:10 and 16.) But, we ask, what about all the unbelievers in my life who are neither converted nor persecuting — who are just civil, or even polite? There are at least two possible explanations.

One is that your light is under a bushel. You are keeping the stumbling block of the cross well concealed (Galatians 5:11; 6:12-13). You don’t let your distinctive values show.

The other is that you are letting them show and the people around you are moving toward one or the other of these two polls: persecution or conversion. Neither of these must happen immediately. There are all kinds of factors that can hinder expressions of persecution. We see these often in the gospels when the Pharisees were angered but were hindered by expediency from from expressing their anger in outright persecution. Neither persecution nor conversion will always happen immediately. In fact many people are torn inside themselves, partly hating the claims of Christianity in your life, partly attracted by them.

So we should all examine ourselves to see if we are playing a kind of cowardly Christian incognito. And if so we should repent and resolve to be more sincere in the expression of who we really are. But we must not assume that, because there is no persecution right now and no conversion right now, the fault must lie with us. The gestation period for the new birth may be nearing a happy end. Or the storm may be ready to break against you.

But in either case you can be very content. Which leads us to our other consideration this morning: the blessedness of the persecuted.

Verse 11: “Blessed — fortunate — are you when men revile you and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad…”

Now this is a shocking piece of counsel. What can possibly justify the command to be glad when we are hated, and mocked and tortured and killed. And make no mistake about it — Jesus does have death in view here. This is what they did to the prophets (Matthew 23:30; 1 Kings 18:13; 19:10; Nehemiah 9:26; Jeremiah 26:23). This is what they would do to the disciples. So he says in Matthew 24:9, “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.”

What can justify such counsel to people in pain? — “Rejoice and be glad!?” I see two possibilities: either this is the talk of an insensitive, sophomoric, ivory tower theologian who has never known what it is to scream with pain, or this is the talk of one who has seen something and tasted something and knows something about a reality that most people have never tasted or glimpsed.

This is the Lord speaking. It is not some pastoral novice that blunders into a funeral home slapping people on the back, saying, “Praise God, anyhow.” This is the Lord. And he says to his disciples, most of whom will drink the cup of martyrdom, “Rejoice and be glad” when you are persecuted, when you suffer. How can he say this?

He can say it because he knows beyond any shadow of a doubt that the reward of heaven will more than compensate for any suffering we must endure in the service of Christ. “Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” There is a mystery here — the mystery of joy in the midst of agony; the mystery of gladness in the midst of misery and groaning. And this mystery is contained in a miracle, namely, the miracle of faith — the bedrock assurance that heaven is a hundredfold compensation for every pain. To the degree that you believe what Jesus sees in heaven, to that degree you will be able to rejoice and be glad in suffering. “Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”

But this raises a question: In order to rejoice and be glad in the suffering of persecution must you not believe that the suffering itself enlarges your reward in heaven? If the same reward in heaven could be obtained without suffering, would we not cry out against the uselessness of suffering rather than being glad to embrace it?

If nothing more comes of suffering than of not suffering why embrace it with joy? What gave Rowland Taylor and Bishop Ridley and John Bradford the impulse to kiss the stakes at which they were burned? What moved Obadiah Holmes, after ninety lashes turned his back to jelly for Jesus, to say to to the magistrates, “You have struck me with roses”? Why did Thomas Hardcastle say that persecution is “a precious season of grace”?

I think the answer is that the more your faith is tested through suffering the greater will be your reward. I think this is taught in Matthew 19:29 (“And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life”), but especially in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18,

For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.

He says that affliction “prepares” or “brings about” an eternal weight of glory. As Charles Hodge says,

Afflictions are the cause of eternal glory. Not the meritorious cause, but still the procuring cause. God has seen fit to reveal his purpose not only to reward with exceeding joy the afflictions of his people, but to make those afflictions the means of working out that joy. (Commentary on Second Corinthians, p. 104)

In other words, Rejoice and be glad in the midst of suffering for righteousness and for Jesus, because that very suffering will receive a very great compensation and a very great reward. And the greater the suffering your faith endures, the greater the reward you will receive in heaven. So rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven!

I close by pressing home one of the clear implications of this text. Jesus wills for his disciples to desire the reward of heaven more than we desire the reward of the world. Jesus wills for us to have our treasure in heaven not on earth (6:19-20). Jesus wills for your heart to be so set on heaven that to leave this earth is a cause of rejoicing. Not without tears! — as Paul said, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,” and as Jesus sweat blood in Gesthemane in the face of his own pain, but for the joy set before him endured the cross.

Jesus wills for us to have our hearts primarily in heaven, our hopes primarily in heaven, our longings primarily in heaven, our joy primarily in heaven. There is no other way that you can rejoice and be glad at the loss of your earthly joys. How shall we rejoice and be glad when these things are taken from us if we have not loved heaven more?

So what shall we do? How shall we keep our hearts in heaven? Make a regular practice of your life to consider the prophets of old who were persecuted and killed for the cause of God and righteousness. Turn often to Hebrews 11:36-38 and read how by faith they suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, ill-treated — of whom the world was not worthy!

Go often to these great men and women of old and get inside their hearts. Put yourself on the rack with them and learn how to love heaven with them. Listen as they say, “Abuse suffered for the Christ is greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt, for we look to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26).

Read the testimonies of those who have given their all for Christ.

The letter of John Hooper written three weeks before he was burned at the stake in England in 1555: “You must now turn all your [thoughts] from the peril you see, and mark the felicity that followeth the peril…Beware of beholding too much the felicity or misery of this world; for the consideration and too earnest love or fear of either of them draweth from God.” (Ryle, Light from Old Times, p. 115)

You children, consider the children of John Rogers. He was burned alive the same year Hooper was, because of his faith in Christ. His children accompanied him to the place of execution and called out encouragements to him through their tears that he might be strong and not turn back and dishonor Christ. (Ryle, p. 64)

Consider the famous Bonhoeffer. As he left his prison room on the way to the gallows in 1945, he said to Payne Best, “This is the end — for me the beginning of life.” (Bethge, p. 830) Ten years later the camp doctor wrote,

At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God. (Bethge, p. 830-31)

Or consider the last letter of Vanya Moiseyev, the 20 year old Baptist soldier in the Soviet Red army. He had been tortured for some time. July 16, 1972 they wemt too far, and he died. On July 15 he wrote to his brother Vladimir,

Don’t tell our parents everything. Just tell them, “Vanya wrote me a letter and writes that Jesus Christ is going into battle. This is a Christian battle, and he doesn’t know whether he will be back.”

I desire that all of you, dear friend, young and old, remember this one verse. Revelation 2:10 — “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (M. Grant, Vanya, pp. 175f.)

Look to the prophets! Look to the martys! Whatever you must do to get your heart in heaven and off the world, do it! Otherwise you will not be able to obey the command of our Lord, “Rejoice and be glad in persecution, for great is your reward in heaven.”

And let the battle cry of the missions movement of our church continue to be;

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot, martyr

Addendum

If someone should ask whether having our heart in heaven will make us useless on earth, the answer is given by Jesus in the very next paragraph of the Sermon on the Mount. People who have their hearts so much in heaven that they fear no man but rejoice in persecution — such radically free and joyful people are the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”!!!!