Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Matthew 5b

January 23rd, 2011 by Vic

“It’s the Attitude of the Heart that’s important”

Matthew 5:13-48

January 23, 2011

Last Sunday we looked at 8 attitudes of kingdom citizens.  Jesus’ sermon continues with more shocking statements.  He says things in a way that they had not quite heard before.  When you stop and think about it, what He says really makes sense.

One of the funny commercials on TV this week was comparing some product with the competition.  The Competitor argued that his product was a very wise choice if you didn’t think about it.  That’s kind of satan’s logic.

Last week Rick Warren launched his Daniel program with over 6,000 in attendance.  The woman’s report I read was reflecting on the lack of logic in the speeches that were declaring a scientific correlation between their health plan and Daniel’s.  She said in the 2 hour service, she never heard the name of Jesus.  Jesus warned us to watch and pray.  Stay awake.  God is not hiding.

5:13-16  Being salt is not an option or accessory.  Jesus does not say, “I want you to be salt” or “you should aim at being salt.”  He does not say, “Your words and your deeds are like salt and light.”  He says, “You, as a whole person are very special.  You are very valuable.  You are indispensable in this world.”  You are salt.  You are light.  You are just common salt, but you are God’s salt.  You are light—God’s light.

This is an ‘emphatic declarative’ in the Greek that could be translated, “You, I’m talking to you!”  In your minds eye Jesus is sitting in the hills with you.  He grabs your shoulders.  He looks straight in your eyes and says, “You are salt and light in this world.  You are very important.  You are necessary.  You will make a difference.  You can change every situation that you are in.  I know you can do it.  I will be with you always.”

“But Lord, I’m not anything like you have been describing.  I’m not a good peacemaker.  I don’t hunger and thirst for righteousness very often.  I don’t like it when I’m persecuted unjustly.  Sometimes I’m impatient and do not wait for You to help me.”  “I’m not very meek.  I don’t show a lot of mercy.”

Jesus knows our inferiority feelings, our fears, our questions, our imperfections, and yet He says, “I believe you can do it.  You are salt and light.  My strength will be made perfect in your weakness.”

God wants people of salt to inhibit the corruption.  He wants people of light to dispel the darkness.

5:13  Salt taken from the Dead Sea had a residue of gypsum in it.  In high humidity the salt would leach away and only gypsum was left.  It looked like salt, but was only good for roofs or paths.  Our salt is more stable today, but the metaphor is obvious.  What good is salt in a salt shaker?  The value of salt is in its use, not its looks.  Its nature does not change when it is in food.  Salt does not have to do anything, just be salt and penetrate the world where God places you.  God has shaken you out of His salt shaker and put you right where he wants you to preserve, flavor, and create a hunger and thirst for living water.

The teaching is obvious.  You are salt.  The world is rotting.  It cannot preserve or save itself.  Salt can stop the process of social decay.  If Christians function as God planned, by the power of Jesus working within us, we can make our world better.

Salt creates thirst.  Salt cleans.  Salt melts ice.  Salt is necessary for life.  Salt enhances flavor.  Salt promotes healing.  It is medicinal.  It sterilizes.  It is abrasive.  When salt is added to water it adds buoyancy.  It changes the boiling point and raises the freezing point.

Jesus said we are change agents.  If we compromise with the world we have as much value as a layer of gypsum dust on the city streets.  Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold and rob you of your uniqueness.

5:14  You are the light.  In John 9:5 Jesus says He is the Light of the world.  Here He says, “You are the light.”  Your function is to be the light.

The children sing a song, “This little light of mine.”  Remember you are the light.  Your Bible is not the light.  Your gospel tracts are not the light.  Your church building is not the light.  Your words are not the light.  You are the light.  A light is intended to be seen, as salt is intended to be used.  Light overcomes darkness.  Light brings hope at the end of a tunnel.

5:15  The Jews understood the analogy.  Lamps were put on a stand so you could see.  They were not a decoration.  Jesus has made us lights so others can see Him in us.  Jesus is the source of our light.  We shine because of the Light of Jesus within us.  By our very nature we shine.  Our value is in being what God wants us to be.

Light is a source of comfort.  Light is essential to life.  Light is a deterrent to evil.  Light promotes growth and produces heat.  Light can purify and destroy.  It attracts attention.  It gives direction.  It makes no noise.  Just like salt.

5:16  Jesus quickly connects light with our works.  Our works are not the light, but being a light shining means we do good works.  Our nature is light.  Our function is doing good.  By seeing our good deeds, the world will see God.  Our light, our good deeds reveals God.  The light is not to bring attention to itself.  The light is on the stand to reveal what is in the darkness.  Others will see that God is very near.  God is closer to the world than they realize.

5:17  Jesus’ teaching sounded radically different from the Torah teaching that the people were used to hearing.  However, Matthew wants the reader to know that the radical lifestyle that Jesus requires is not contrary to the spirit of the Torah.  Two times Jesus says, “I did not come to destroy.” (abolish, annul)  What He says does not contradict the Law of Moses.

5:18  It should be an obvious fact that God’s law will never change.  Jesus said, “I have come to fulfill it.  I have come to put the law in your hearts.”  The Law of Moses is like a rose bud.  Jesus came to show you the rose in full bloom.  By the very nature of the Law when the rose comes the bud disappears, but it has always been a rose.  Its nature never changes.  The revelation of beauty is progressive.  Jesus came to complete, and bring the law to its intended meaning.

5:19  While some are trying to change God’s law, you have the desire and power to keep it.

5:20  To be a kingdom citizen your righteousness must be greater than that of your accusers.  The Pharisees’ religion is not good enough.  God does not care how pretty your salt shaker is; He is concerned about your saltiness.  God is not concerned about the style of your religion, but your heart.  The spirit of the law is greater than the container or letter of the law.  The attitude of the heart is important.

The nature of Christians is to be salt and light.  Now Jesus uses 6 antitheses that introduce us to new ways to describe kingdom citizens, “You have heard it said…but I say…”

Jesus gives us new standards for living.  Our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees.  Righteousness is not found in keeping the law but in desiring to keep the Law.  There is a lot of shock value in this radical teaching.  The Holy Spirit comes to give us the desire and power to live by the spirit of the law.

The Pharisees did the right things for the wrong desires.  They knew how to use the law to avoid the law.  We do that to.  Mom says, “Wash the dishes” and we leave the silverware, pots, glasses, etc.  The law only said to wash the dishes.  Is our desire to do enough to avoid punishment or do we desire to please God?  Do we serve God to avoid punishment or because He is God?

5:21  Even before the law of Moses, the ancients agreed that God judges the murderer.  It is universally agreed that murder is sin in God’s eyes.  This is not a controversial subject.  The Pharisees agreed that God judges the murderer.  But Jesus says God also judges the sarcastic, the slanderer, the one who is angry and the one who has offended his brother.

“You have understood” suggests Jesus is not criticizing the OT, but their understanding.

5:22  God judges the angry because they would like to murder.  He judges the one who speaks with contempt or pride because that one is also destroying his brother.

5:23  Therefore, if God sees your heart, it makes sense to keep your heart clean.  Be reconciled to your brother before you are tempted to hurt him.  If your heart is not right with your brother, no matter how many gifts you bring to God, they have little value.

Raka = blockhead or idiot, the equivalent of fool.  Name calling was a serious matter for Jews.

The standard for kingdom citizens is a pure heart, a heart desiring to keep the law and please God.

Anger is not appropriate among Christians.  It is the root of murder.  We are to avoid causing anger in others and take care of any anger quickly.  Anger requires urgent action.

5:27  The second antithesis that Jesus uses to illustrate the new standards of living for kingdom citizens is adultery.  The law said the adulterer was to be stoned.  Adultery is a contagious sin.

5:28  Jesus says adultery is only an outward indication of an inward sin problem.  The eye sinned before the body.  The sin was in the heart before the eye.  The body and eye were only used as instruments to sin.  Why kill the body?  You need to get rid of the thing that causes the sin.  Get rid of everything in your heart that might cause you to sin.

Literally this phrase reads, “a man looking at the woman to entice her to lust.”  The intent is sin.  The root of sin is in the thoughts.  Lust is a kind of theft, so symbolically cut off your right hand.  Deal radically with sin.  All sin begins with the imagination.  What feeds your imagination?

Phil 4:8  Whatever is good…think on these things.

Titus 1:15  To the pure all things are pure.

Matthew 6:22  If the eye of the heart is good, your life will be good.

It is always interesting to hear the political pundits who tell you what their opponents’ motives are.  After Obama’s speech in Tuson, one commentator said something to the effect that everyone wants to cooperate now, but soon the issues will divide them.  He was judging other people by the intent of his own heart.  Jesus said in the same way you judge others, God will judge you because you commit the same sin.

5:31  The law says you can divorce.  Jesus says, read the whole law.  Even the law puts more conditions on divorce than you are quoting.  What is the intent of your heart?  Marriage is a permanent commitment.

5:32  Divorce does not happen when a legal requirement is satisfied.  Divorce occurs when unfaithfulness in the heart begins.

You need to see a couple things here.  Jesus is not teaching us about divorce, but He is using the divorce law to show the inadequacy of the righteousness of the Pharisee.

Also you need to remember that in that culture women were not equal with men, except in the teaching of Jesus.  Jesus says, you can’t blame everything on the wife.  The sin rests with the husband too.

5:33  Oath-taking is a serious matter.  The Jews interpreted the law to say that only those oaths that used the Lord’s name (to the Lord) had to be kept.  An oath was only as binding as to how closely it was related to God’s name.

5:34  But Jesus reminds kingdom citizens that you do not need to swear.  God hears every statement, not just oaths.  Every word is heard by God whether you call on His name or not.  Swearing is not necessary.

Jesus might be saying, “If you were all honest, you would never need to swear.”  Oath taking is really an indication of your dishonesty.  A common Greek saying was “One who is not believed without an appeal to God stands condemned already.”  The stress is on truthfulness.

5:38  The law demands justice.  An eye for an eye was written to avoid excessive punishment.  The penalty must be limited to the crime so retaliation did not snowball into a vicious circle.

5:39  Jesus said, not only do you need to limit your retaliation, but you need to be slow to seek justice and to stand up for your own rights.  Mercy triumphs over justice.  Good overcomes evil.  To return evil for evil is to feed the evil and be a part of its increase.  Jesus requires non-retaliation.  Allow yourself to be vulnerable so you have to trust God.  Don’t demand your rights.

5:40  Don’t seek retaliation.  Do good.  Comply with unreasonable requests.

5:41  It does not please God if you obey the law because you feel compelled by the consequences of failure.  Jesus wants you to want to obey.  Be charitable.  Love mercy.

5:43  The law says love your neighbor, and you assume that means you do not have to love those who are not your neighbor.  Love your neighbor is a quote from Lev 19:18.  Your neighbor is a Jew.  Your enemy is a Gentile.

5:44  But Jesus says, love your enemies also.  Because the Bible said love your neighbor the Pharisees implied that you should hate your enemies, but that is not compatible with God.  To love your enemy was a radically new idea.

To be persecuted for righteousness sake is to align oneself with the prophets (5:12).  But to bless and pray for those who persecute me is to align myself with the character of God (5:44).  Disciples must live in a way superior to the world around them.

5:45  If you love everybody, you will be like your Father.  God’s love is not partial.  He does not love only those who love Him.  He sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  Do you have your Father’s love?  Imitate your heavenly Father.

5:46  You preserve your uniqueness by loving your enemies.  You will be different from the world.

5:48  This word for perfect is telios, which refers to something that has reached the goal to which it was created.  It means whole, complete, total or mature.  Unrestricted love fulfills and completes the whole law.  This verse is the same as Lev 19:2 except holy is replaced by perfect.

We say a tool is perfect for the job when it functions exactly as required.  We say a person is perfect for the job when his skills and experience have fitted him for the task.

Jesus is saying we are to function as we are designed to function.

Think through what Jesus is saying.

1. The law says God judges murder, but Jesus says God judges the motives of the heart.

2. The law condemns adultery, but Jesus condemns the evil heart.

3. The law allowed divorce, but Jesus said you are using the law to avoid the law of creation.

4. The law said God hears oaths with God’s name, but Jesus said God hears everything we say.

5. The law limits the penalty for crime, but Jesus said don’t demand justice.

6. The law said love your neighbor, but Jesus said love your enemy.

Jesus came to show us the original meaning to the law in full bloom.  He sent the Holy Spirit so we could have the Law written on our hearts.  Love God with all your heart and do what you want.

It’s the attitude of the heart that’s important.  Do you have your Father’s love in your heart?  Are you a child of the kingdom or a child of wrath?

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