Welcome back as we continue our exploration of the Sermon on the Mount. We continue this week looking into the passage we looked at last week. It encompasses three important parts of life; what we say and do, how we repair the damage and restoring peace. One thing that goes a long way in resolving the turmoil our words and actions create is grace. We need to extend grace. Grace can resolve most anything. Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This week we dig a little deeper, here is the passage to refresh our memories;
Matthew 5:21-26, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, `Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, `Raca, ‘ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, `You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
There are times when we are good at determining what someone’s motives are. We observe them, listen to them and can usually figure out what they are up to. Some people however, are deceitful and it takes careful observation and eventually their motive shows through. Life boils down to two kinds of people, those who have the interest of others in their heart and those who only care about themselves. At times we can be on both sides of that, but in the end our true nature should reveal itself.
What makes a person good? How do we determine what makes someone good? We look at their actions. We listen to what they say. We look at how they influence those around them. We call the ones who care for others good.
That’s all well and good, but what happens when the heat is turned up? What happens when we cause things to go bad? Do we take responsibility? Do we resolve things with the others involved? Do we make the effort? We are involved in many altercations in our lives, some are intentional and some are not. It is the ones that we do intentionally that we need to deal with. Guilt is the byproduct of selfish behavior, intentionally doing something that harms someone else.
I have heard it said, “I don’t get mad, I get even.” Do we ever stop to consider the intent of others? Most times we don’t, we just figure they did it on purpose and there needs to be payback.
We sometimes think the actions of others are premeditated against us. Now, sometimes they are, but most times, especially in the environment we currently are living in, they are nothing more than trying to keep too many balls in the air. There is no intent, we all are trying to make it through. Our teaching today suggests we need to take a little more time and think things through before we decide to get even.
The middle passage talks about offering a gift to God and the condition of our heart. Our gift is not acceptable to God if our heart contains guilt. Our gift is not acceptable if certain things are present in our heart. Galatians 5:19-21 helps us identify those things;
Galatians 5:19-21; The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God
These things separate us from God. Jesus tells us that we need to resolve the condition of our heart before we can approach the altar and make an offering, worship God. Think of it this way, God doesn’t want our gifts if our heart isn’t in it. We cannot harbor animosity in our hearts toward others and expect to be right with God. Remember Paul’s words;
Ephesians 4:26-27; NLT; … And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
When we add this with our lesson last week, we start to see a pattern. Jesus said we don’t have the right to devalue what God values. He then said if we have, we need to straighten it out, resolve those issues, before we can come before God. God wants our heart to be in tune with His.
It can be difficult to resolve things, but follow me on this. God doesn’t ask us to change the heart of someone else, He asks us to change our heart. He asks us to recognize that we have harbored animosity in our heart. He asks us to take responsibility for that and do something about it. He asks us to make the effort to resolve it.
We resolve things through the process of seeking forgiveness for the things in our hearts that don’t honor God and seeking forgiveness from those we have sinned against. God doesn’t require that they forgive us but that we seek it. When we humble ourselves to seek forgiveness, we move closer to God.
Let’s take a look in our hearts and then the people around us. Are there some things we need to resolve? We need to resolve them if we desire to be close to God and experience His blessing. Now is a good time to do some house cleaning and get right with God.