(1/27) A question I have come to ask a lot of people when trying to discern where they are spiritually is simply this; "When your time comes to die, do you know where you will spend eternity?" Often, I
will get the reply that, "I think I will go to heaven." I will usually press that and ask this, "If God were to ask you, 'Why should I let you into my heaven?' What would you say?" What would you say? An answer that I hear a lot
is, "Because, I am a pretty good person, not perfect, but not to bad. I haven't killed anyone, I don't steal, I haven't cheated on my spouse, I try to be good to be people, so I think I would go to heaven."
Many people measure their righteousness by whether or not they have ever broken the "big laws." In His famous Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus will tell us that our measure of righteousness falls way
short of God's. His intent is to get us to repent - to change our minds with a view of changing our actions about being right with God. Last week we saw, that all of scripture is centered on Jesus, that He came to clarify,
confirm, and fulfill God's word. And then He gave us the key verse of this whole sermon. 5:20 says, "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means
enter the kingdom of heaven." This must have been a little shocking. These were the teachers, the conservatives. They have spent their lives studying the Bible, and doing religious stuff. They pray regularly, go to temple and
synagogue and disciple others. If they won't make it, who can? In the rest of chapter 5, our Lord Jesus is going to tell us, that being good isn't good enough. That no matter how much good we have done or how much bad we have
avoided doing, and no matter how good we appear on the outside, all of our hearts are still dirty and need to be changed like a baby's diaper.
He begins with a couple of the Ten Commandments. verse 21 says
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ This is the sixth commandment from Exodus 20:13. You shall not kill, is
more literally, you shall not murder. You shall not take a human life with criminal intent. Whoever does so, must answer to a court, and in many cases must forfeit their own life. This is the Law of God (first stated in Gen. 9:6
and affirmed in Ex.21). By the way, this does not refer to all forms of taking life. It doesn't apply to animals, or in the cases of capital punishment, accidental homocide, self-defense, or just police or military action.
Murder is seen by most people as one of the worst crimes a person can commit. The first crime recorded in the Bible was murder. We average about 45 murders a day in the U.S.A. or an average of 16,500
murders a year. Most can be called crimes of passion, as they result from strong emotions. Others are calculated, planned, and carried out as many of our TV crime drama shows portray. The Pharisees and scribes were teaching that
hate is okay (5:43) as long as you don't physically carry out the anger in killing the person that you hate. Murder is a crime that most people can honestly say they have never committed. But, is that true? Jesus says that is
not true. Listen: verse 22 says, "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But
whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire."
Anger, slander, and character defamation, makes you just as guilty of murder as if you took a life. I need you to listen carefully. I want to explain some things to you.
First, It is not wrong to be angry. Anger is an emotion. God gave us emotions. Remember we are created in His image. God gets angry, Jesus got angry. Psalm 7:11 says, "God is a just judge, And God is
angry with the wicked every day. We know that our Lord Jesus got angry and drove the money changers out of the temple on two occasions. And Mark tells us in 3:1-6, "And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had
a withered hand. So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him. And He said to the man who had the withered hand, "Step forward." Then He said to them, "Is it lawful on the
Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they kept silent. 5 And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand."
And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him." Paul quotes Psalm 4:4 in Ephesians 4:26
when He says, "Be angry and do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your wrath." We may call it righteous indignation, but anger is an emotion that should be displayed when injustice or wrong decisions or actions are taken
against God or people. We should be angry that our children aren't safe in school, we should be angry that government wastes money, raises the debt and then raises taxes. We should be angry over abortion and gay rights, or when
our children disobey or make careless decisions, or that we can't pray in Jesus name in public. But our anger is against the actions, the decisions, the carelessness, the crime, the sin, the problems, etc., but our hearts'
desire is that the person(s) responsible would change their minds or take corrective actions, and start making right decisions. We want them to repent, not to hurt or die. God may be angry with the wicked but he reminds us in
Ezekiel 18:23, & 32 that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that they turn or repent and live.
Our anger becomes sin when it turns to hate against the person that we are angry with and we wish harm, pain, or death would happen to that person. Do you understand this? John did. Under the inspiration
of God John wrote, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has
eternal life abiding in him." (1 John 3:14-15)
Second, all sin begins in the heart. Our Lord Jesus said in Matt. 15:19, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies." And Paul says,
that a world that eliminates God from their minds, murder is a result, "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled
with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of
evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful, (Rom. 1:28-31).
Thirdly, And we must never forget that while we as people may judge by appearances and by actions, God judges the heart. That's what he told Samuel when he was sent to anoint David as the next King. 1
Sam. 16:7, "For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." Solomon prayed and said, "give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You
alone know the hearts of all the sons of men)," (1 Kings 8:39). And God says, that He will indeed, search the hearts and will give to everyone accordingly. Jeremiah 17:10 says, "I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings."
Fourth, Slander, and Character Defamation, both expressions of anger and hatred, are judged as equally the same as murder, by God. Maybe not by man's supreme court but definitely by God's. And if murder
is enough to send someone to hell, so is slander. The reason why, as we told you two weeks ago, is that God made every person and He made them in His image. When you assault the character of another person, you are assaulting
the creation of God; whether they are saved or not. It's like a parent or a family member saying that if you hurt my family you hurt me. Raca is word that we don't have any English equivalent for. It seems to mean something like
an empty air-head, so stupid that it seems one doesn't have any brains. You fool is, "Moros" from which we get Moron, a stupid, godless, imbecile. We know that such ill spoken words of slander can destroy a person's spirit, a
person's reputation, their career, and their character as James 3 reminds us.
Fifth, but similar to the fourth, is that the Bible is clear that God will judge not only our deeds, but the things we failed to do, and our words. Jesus, our Lord, said in Matt. 12:36-37, "But I say to
you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." And Paul reminds us in Romans 2:15-16, "who show
the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ,
according to my gospel."
Can you imagine how this must have arrested their attention? Who is innocent? Who has not been so angry that hatred and name calling hasn't resulted? Who can honestly stand clean before a Holy God? Who
can be part of God's Kingdom? Is there a Solution?
Answer; Yes, there is. There must be repentence expressed two ways: that is, repentence and confession. Again, repentence is the internal action of changing the mind that leads to changing the actions,
and confession is the external agreeing that your action and thoughts were wrong. Confession is to verbally agree with God that my thoughts, words, and deeds were wrong, and both expresses sorrow and remorse. The Old Testament
makes it clear that those who repent and confess their sins to God are forgiven. Listen to David in Psalm 32:1-6, "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not
impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of
summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah. For this cause everyone who is godly shall
pray to You
In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters
They shall not come near him. But confession and repentance to God is just half of the solution. Anger expressed verbally or physically must also be repented of to the person you have hated, cursed,
slandered, or whose character you have attacked because of your anger. So notice 2 more lessons: "23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your
gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
First or 6th, God wants your repentance more than He wants your worship. Keep your check in your pocket, don't take your lamb, heifer, or goat, bull, ox, or doves to the priest; don't sing the songs until
you have repented and confessed to the person you are angry with. Look at Isaiah 1:10-20. "Hear the word of the Lord, You rulers of Sodom; Give ear to the law of our God, You people of Gomorrah: "To what purpose is the multitude
of your sacrifices to Me?" Says the Lord. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. "When you come to appear before Me, Who has
required this from your hand, To trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; They are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide
My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do
good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the Lord, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red
like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword"; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
This is just one of many such references in the Bible to get your heart right before you worship. Whether reconciliation ever takes place is another matter. Admitting that you were wrong for hating and
slandering and asking for forgiveness is a must. We dealt with this in our series, last spring, on Forgiveness. The 12 hardest words in the English language, someone said, are: "I was wrong, I am sorry, Please Forgive me, I love
You." Even today, before you take communion, or giving your offering, you may need to call, see, or approach someone that you have publically slandered or expressed your hatred towards, and say those 12 words. Psalm 66:18
reminds us that, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." Let me give you two more Old Testament illustrations.
1.) To King Saul who had only partially obeyed God but claimed that he fully obeyed with some minor exceptions, Samuel said, "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying
the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of
the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king." (1Sam. 15:22-23).
2,) Hosea 6:6 says what Jesus says in Matt. 9:13; and 12:7, "For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, And the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. God wants you to respond with Grace, Mercy and Loving
kindness to those you are angry with more than your acts or gifts of religion, and we will look at specific ways when we reach the end of this chapter. But the point is, Don't even bother to think that you are Okay with God if
you haven't repented and confessed your anger and hatred towards others. First seek reconciliation and then worship God.
Our 7th and Last lesson is this. If you don't repent and confess you hateful anger, God Himself will hold you accountable. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest
your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison." He uses the illustration of owing money to someone who is in the position to take you to court. You can be put in
debtor's prison and kept there until your family and friends come up with the money. Jesus, Himself would a similar illustration in Matthew 18 with the story of the servant who wouldn't forgive a $20 debt, though he himself had
just been forgiven a 20 million $ debt. The point being simply, that if you don't repent and confess and seek forgiveness for the hurtful things you said and did towards those you expressed anger and hatred towards, God Himself
will hold you responsible and will not let your mind and heart rest until you do so.
We all need to think differently about what it means to be righteous and right before God. Being Good is not good enough. Though you have never drawn blood, you may be as guilty as any mass murderer in
history. But these is good news. Jesus died for your sins and will forgive you if you turn to Him in repentance and faith. That's what David is trying to tell us in Psalm 32. If you do that, He will by His Holy Spirit come to
you and will empower you to do what would be so hard or impossible with out Him. He will strengthen you to say those 12 hard words.
This is a very crucial time. Communion and an offering are being presented. You may need to go out and make a phone call, or go see someone, if you do, its okay. Or you may need to refrain from both
knowing that you can't get in touch with the person or persons until tomorrow, just let the trays pass. First deal with your sin and anger then worship. Let's pray.
1. For Salvation
2. For Forgiveness
3. For Obedience and Reconciliation.
Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman