He sets the standard

Sticks and stones may very well break our bones but name-calling will torch your fanny. According to Jesus, the one who set the standard, fulfilling the Law, and brought about amazing grace, Our Lord says calling names is a serious sin. Our charge isn’t casting stones or fuel attendant, rather, we are to be an encourager. Pastor D, is that really what God wants from me? Yes, listen to 1 Thessalonians 5:11~Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. (NIV) This is such a big deal that Jesus now sketches two illustrations for us.

Illustration #1—Worship. Jews would bring their gifts and offerings to the brazen altar in the temple courtyard. This is the outward ritual of worship and was considered very important to the scribes and  Pharisees. Understanding that some people come to worship just to be seen, Christ Jesus says in Matthew 5:23~So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, (ESV). Matthew 5:24~leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (ESV) 

Jesus says that we cannot properly worship God if we have not done all we can to correct our human relationships. Remember Romans 12:18~If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (NIV) Thus, if our hearts are not right with people, God will not accept our acts of worship. This includes prayers, tithing, giving, and all religious activities. God wants us to do all we can possibly do to be reconciled to our brothers and sisters. Hear this encouragement again Hebrew 12:14~ Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord. (NIV) 

Illustration #2—Being Litigious. Matthew 5:24 deals with the conflict between believers while verses 25-26 deals with an adversary or accuser. In Jesus’ day, if a person couldn’t pay a debt, they were not called by relentless Robo-dialers, or attitude-filled individuals pointedly asking for payment. They were summarily picked up and placed in the confines of a staycation. Three hots and a cot, with all the putrid aromas of a not so sublime palate of odoriferous emanations, much worse than any water treatment plant or paper mill assaulting our sensitivities. In short, you went to prison until the debt was paid. This paints a whole new picture the songs and arrangements of Ellis J Crum who rightly said, He paid the debt He did not own, I own the debt I could not pay, I needed someone to wash my sins away and now I sing a brand new song amazing grace, my Jesus paid the debt I could never pay The true point is, all grievances should be settled out of court if possible. 

A trademark and copyright attorney once shared that the worst place in the world to settle a disagreement is in a court of law because one can never really know how a judge or jury is going to rule. To be righteous and not just religious, we must learn the life lessons Our Lord offers us on our journey, as we conform to all the commands found in scripture. What area or person do we need to go and see today so that we can begin rebuilding the broken? Take some time to pray and ask God for His guidance, and when you hear, respond.

Taming the Tongue

The subject posited before us today is one of six delectable selections sure to revolutionize our spiritual life. As Jesus communicates that we are to control our anger (Matthew 5:21-26) Ah yes, one of my personal favorites. Everyone who has ever been angry loves to be told they are angry. So, many, a true cornucopia of delectable responses avail us in response. Yet, Jesus says in Matthew 5:21~You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder…(ESV) Why Yes, I have heard that, and that is why I never carry a weapon, rather, I prefer to fillet and carve my surrounding with my tongue. Matthew 5:22~But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother (sister) will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother (sister) will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. (ESV) The scribes and Pharisees were teaching that the sixth commandment against murder (Ex 20:13) refers to just taking a person’s life. Murderers were liable to judgment, which resulted in death (Ex 21:12). The scribes and Pharisees thought that since they hadn’t physically murdered anyone, they were righteous. But Jesus says watch yourself, watch your tongue.

There is a righteous anger for us to have. Murder, rape, domestic violence, human trafficking should make us angry, but this is a controlled anger. As we look at our world, it’s OK to not like what people say or to even be angry about what was said, however, we don’t set about filleting a person. In fact, if some things don’t make us angry, we can’t be righteous. Ephesians 4:26~And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, (NLT) However, here, Matt records Jesus referring to sinful anger (ὀργίζω orgizō) which results in bitterness, hatred, or even violence. That sounds like what we experience in our culture today when someone gets trashed. Murder is a terrible sin, but so is anger because it violates God’s command to love. Mark 12:31~The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. (NIV).

Jesus is saying to us that being so angry will cause us to spiral out of control, entering a Blue Streak. Ever done that. Found a can of Whoop-(@**), well you know what’s in the can and you opened it. Didn’t have a can opener, just tore it open and it blew through like an amazing summer spectacle. There were lights in the heavens and peels of thunder, the rumbling of rain as the wash of anger, like a torrent filled tirade as life’s gutters stretched from the moment’s monsoon flooding everyone near. We used powerful words like (ῥακά rhaka) and  (μωρός mōros) without even knowing it. Raca is just written Raca in the KJV because it has no real English equivalent. It’s a word of utter contempt. It means empty-head, good-for-nothing. A term of belittling people it’s a serious sin. While (μωρός mōros) gives us moron, and means stupid or an idiot. 

In an act of verbal altercation, we set about roughing up any and all who now attempt to dissuade. Yes, we have lost our minds, pummeling all of who a person truly is in their being. (ῥακά rhaka) is the scorn of a person’s mind, while (μωρός mōros) moron or fool is more serious because it scorns a person’s heart or their character, the fiber of their being. To call one a fool means both stupid and godless. And this places us in in danger of hell fire or the hell of fire. This word is (γέεννα geenna) and is found twelve times in the New Testament. Even though eleven of those times comes from the lips of Jesus Himself, many people would like to forget He too, was a hell-fire preacher. 

Perhaps we should be so bold as to let some of those we love around us know that Jesus is coming back and that we all need to be ready for that soon-coming day. Who is on your heart today, that needs prayer and perhaps a gentle reminder? Let’s take action and win one for the kingdom.

Virtues of the Law

As James shares his unmarked letter, devoid of a return address that might allow us to chat him up about some points of difficulty, he writes in James 2:8~If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. (NIV) To fulfill the Royal Law is a tall task and some Jews that day listening to Messiah speak may have taken Him as a radical, who was discarding the Old Testament. Focusing their shadowy vision, Jesus says, Matthew 5:17~Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (ESV) The terms Law and Prophets refer to two of the three components of the Old Testament, wisdom literature rounding it out. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Old Testament, which is filled with prophetic utterances and promises of God’s salvation through Messiah, rather Jesus would meet each one to fulfill them all. He would live Ten Commandments. Matthew 5:18~For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (ESV)

The word iota or jot refers to the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is Yod. No, not the little green guy from Star Wars, in need of an ear trimmer. Though it could play from Lucas’ Jewish roots. This  smallest letter, not unlike our lowercase “i,” with a dot, in Hebrew is known as a tittle. Jesus says I Am, paying attention to the smallest detail. This means God’s divine inspiration includes not only the words but also the letters of the original text. 2 Peter 1:21~For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

Jesus warns if anyone breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (5:19) In the centuries of silence known as the intertestamental period, rabbis had begun to rate Old Testament commandments according to what they believed were the most important and least important. This is not unlike what we encounter from pulpits today. However, Jesus is saying greatness in the kingdom of heaven depends on maintaining absolute obedience to all Scripture. 

I know this can be hugely frustrating to some, who like to hear clothesline peaching. Well, pastor, that was a good word today, cause I don’t do any of those things, shoot, I’m a pretty good Christian. When what the Lord says that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees or no heaven for us. (5:20) Well, that is something to get upset about. Remember who Christ Jesus is speaking to that day, in His outdoor amphitheater they are people under the Law, not grace. Like many Christians today, they thought the Bible could be obeyed like going to Mortons for lunch, in an a-la-carte style. Christ Jesus then explains with the precision of an Ophthalmologist here are 6 subjects for what the Law requires of each of us and Life lessons will soon follow, even though you never enrolled in Life University. Christ Jesus explains all of this over the remainder of Matthew chapter 5:21-48. 

Without even knowing it, the weary travelers in search of relief and something more form life got signed up for a J-Term or Jesus Term, where we learn a life lesson. Ever started a J-Term like these in the outdoor classroom, individuals who were cumbered with cares and looking for a miracle in their lives. As Jesus opens enrollment that faithful day, He says, welcome to Life U. We are glad you all have gathered here today for our new J-Term, short for Jesus Term. Our Lord shares how we all face, at seemingly sundry times, a well-planned series of Life Lessons aimed at focusing your life on living as Christ in a fallen world.

These life lessons are geared at making us all that we were created to be in Christ. Today, after you have prayed, take time to ponder the life lesson(s) that the Lord has you enrolled in and what you are learning and applying to your life and faith.