Blessed are the poor in spirit

If there is a place we all need to counteract in our lives, it’s probably lust. Most of us want something, we want something and Jesus says to us that if we are to counteract lust then we are going to have to dig into the Word of God. (Matthew 5:27-30) Now wanting something may not be inherently sinful, but what we do with that desire and how we allow that desire to grow and be cultivated matters. At this point in His sermon, Jesus now quotes the 7th commandment in Matthew 5:27~You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (ESV) Adultery refers to a person having sexual relations with someone other than his or her spouse. Most standing there felt pretty good about themselves. I can even hear them talking back to Him. That is right Jesus, reach up on that clothesline, put a dime in the meter and park it there preacher. To wit Jesus says, I will park it here. Matthew 5: 28~But I say to you that everyone who looks (βλέπω blepō) at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (ESV)

(βλέπω blepō) is a verb meaning to look, it’s present tense, denoting a continuous action, it’s repeated—looking. So lust begins with a look, we perceive, discern or process and then understand. See the progression of the word Christ Jesus used? Martin Luther offers us some practical advice, you cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair. Jesus says that adultery begins in the heart as the act of lust is conceived and grows to bring harm to those around us. Just ask King David who lost a warrior, his own child, and even the Lord’s favor for a season, all because of lust. Moreover, the act of lust is more serious than our random musing of lust because it harms more people. Why? Because lust is a sin. Left unchecked, lust leads to wrong acts. Fantasy will build a desire for reality. The acting upon a thing, which will cause more sin in our lives, which in turn causes more pain, pain for us and those around us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: Sow a thought and reap an act. Sow an act and reap a habit. Sow a habit and reap a character. Sow a character and reap a destiny. I want to encourage you today by reminding you of Our Takeaway: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 5:3.

When we set out to counteract lust, we do so by making a commitment in advance. We need to learn what our triggers are. If you are a man and yoga pants are a trigger, then do not go to a yoga or spin class. For there will be a temptation. If you know that romance novels spark you and light your fire, then do not read them. If porn is a problem cut the chord. We do this in advance. Listen to Job 31:1~I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman. (NIV)

To avoid lust, make a covenant with your eyes not to ever think about it. Jesus continues his message hillside that day with some hyperbole. Saying pluck out and cutoff (Matthew 5:29). Jesus was telling us to ruthlessly root out the things in life that cause us to stumble and fall in our faith. Saying dispose of sin, by making your mind up in advance because this will radically change your life. All sin begins in the mind—as our thoughts lead to actions and which will reap habits and alter our character. Therefore, to counteract lust, we need to change how we think. Take a look at the list of eight things Paul posits for us in Philippians 4:8~Finally, brothers, and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. (NIV)

If we are righteous and not just religious, we will conform to all the commands in the Bible, as we learn better how to control our anger, and counteract the lusts placed before us. Take time today and focus in on confessing one of your shortcomings and then choose one of the eight Paul offers to replace it with.

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.