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Judging others! – Matthew 7:1-6

Judging others! – Matthew 7:1-6
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 12, 2019

One of the first justifications people will use to excuse or defend their poor choices in life or ungodly lifestyles are the verses we will look at this morning. I have found it interesting that while they never read the Bible, often neglect church, and have no clue who God truly is they can quote this passage almost verbatim. What they fail to realize is that it doesn’t expose Christians for “judging” them incorrectly but rather the hypocrisy of their choices and ignorance of Scripture.

The Pharisees were some of the most judgmental people in history. They were quick to judge the actions, spiritual behavior, and the cultures of others around them while neglecting their own spiritual ineptitude. They were the Muslims and Mormons of their day. While some believers can be seen as having the same judgmental attitude we need to fully understand what Jesus was teaching and why. Let’s take a fresh look at what Jesus taught about judging others…

READ: Matthew 7:1-6

My mother used to remind us that we may not fully understand why people do some of the things they do and that we needed to “walk a mile in their shoes” before we could. She meant that you should see what that person is going through to fully understand something about them. Basically you don’t know what I’m going through until you are me. This is patently false. Let’s see what Jesus taught…

I. We need to use a proper scale! (Vv. 1-2)

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

  1. There is in reality no such thing as blind justice. Juries and judges are influenced by evidence, arguments, examination of evidence, not to mention their own past histories and experiences. We do not live in a vacuum. Jesus fully understood this and he also understood how peopled lived, judged one another, and were judged. They lived under constant judgment by their rabbis, the temple priests, the Pharisees, and the Sanhedrin. Not to mention one another because one of the favorite local pastimes of the day was to talk about every little thing people did. It was these Pharisees who were now judging Jesus. He did not teach the same way they did and they resented it. Jesus taught that one’s righteousness, standing with God, was not dependent upon their acts but rather on how they loved God and one another. He was not teaching the kind of kingdom they anticipated or asking for the kind of uprightness they were exhibiting. So they rejected him. They had elevated themselves above the common crowd while Jesus easily mingled and fellowshipped with them. Jesus therefore warned them and the crowd against hypocritical judging: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Jesus meant the hypocritical judgmental attitude of the Pharisees and not the judgment of a person’s sinfulness. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” If you judge someone hypocritically you will be judged by the same harsh nearsightedness you judged another with! Jesus was teaching we need to use a proper scale!

  EXAMPLE: Being able to have the correct weight or measurement when one went to the market was extremely important in Jesus’ day. There were no set standards of weights or measures during that time and people were often cheated. The Romans tried to set standards but even they were guilty of tilting the scales in order to gain an advantage and more money in their coffers. Jesus deliberately used terms his listeners could readily understand and being measured by an unfair advantage they understood. The same is just as true of our lives today and we need to use a proper scale as well when we judge someone else!

My Mom could slice and dice another person’s faults faster than a Veg-O-Matic. While she hated it if others looked at her life too closely she was often more than willing to inspect the lives of others and render her verdict. While we cannot judge someone’s eternal destiny we can look at someone’s lifestyle and deduce if they are saved or not, or if they are living in sin or not. However, before we do Jesus taught that…

II. We had better have 20/20 vision! (Vv. 3-4)

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?

  1. Here we discover that indeed we can judge someone else’s life but we had better make sure ours was in focus first. Jesus was raised by a carpenter, which meant he knew how to use brick, mortar, wood, stone, and how to repair, build, or replace furniture or buildings. One of the worst things that can happen when you are working with wood is to get a piece of sawdust in your eye. Anyone who has ever experienced this understands immediately what Jesus was teaching here. You never rub your eye when you get dirt or sawdust in it because that can make it far worse and you could lose your eyesight! One of the first things to do is rinse it with clean water and to have someone else look into your eye to see if they can see the speck of sawdust. It is amazing how one miniscule piece of sawdust can create such irritation. This is why on the idea of judgment Jesus related, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Someone else’s small sin may be just a speck compared to the sinful prideful plank protruding from our eyeball! And this is exactly where the Pharisees were coming from! They could easily pick at the small slivers of sin they saw in other people but had a prodigious problem with the plank in their eye! Jesus therefore asks them, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” This certainly can be true for us as well. We dare not try to judge someone else’s sinful condition if we ourselves are walking in the same sin! However just as we want someone to immediately help us to remove the speck of sawdust irritating our eye we would do well in listening to someone who comes to us to help us see our own sin that is blinding us. Jesus is teaching us that when we judge someone else, we had better have 20/20 vision!

  EXAMPLE: “I can’t see a thing without my glasses!” my mother would often lament. And we would laugh at her because more often than not they were perched on top of her head hidden in her high red hair! She loved to read and I learned to read at an early age because of her. She was an avid reader but she did not always read things that were accurate. Like folks who think everything they read on the Internet is true, my Mom would read things like Fate Magazine, the National Enquirer, or Star Magazine and think that what they wrote was real. I remember her cautioning me one time when I showed her just how false one of their stories on the Bible was: “Don’t look for the speck in someone else’s eye without removing your own!” I reminded her that I had in fact not only read the Bible in both Hebrew and Greek but had to study its history, archeology, and context all the time. She was undeterred. Jesus taught that in judging someone else’s sin we had better have 20/20 vision!

My mother grew up extremely poor and never got over the fact. She never went past 7th grade in her education and often thought she knew more than others. While she was extremely well read, she never got over her past. She was however a very hard worker but often saw other people’s work ethic as slovenly or useless so consequently if it wasn’t done her way it was incorrect. Her advice wasn’t always asked for but she was more than willing to give it! Jesus teaches his listeners here that…

III. We should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth! (Vv. 5-6)

You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

  1. Jesus immediately places the problem of spiritual nearsightedness where it belongs and he is also quick to label it for what it was: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus knew that it is easy to stand back and judge someone before one judged themselves. We all do it. Sadly my mother was often quick to place labels on others but hers were not insightful like Jesus’ were. They came from her childhood background and prejudice, which by the way is a word that comes from prejudging someone before knowing all the facts. Interestingly Jesus does in fact support the notion we can indeed judge some for their actions if they say they follow God, however, we must first do surgery on our own eyesight. We must be willing to examine our lives in the issue involved. Notice he did not say you had to be without sin or that any sin would disqualify you but rather the idea here is that you had better make sure you do not suffer from the very sin you are judging in someone else’s life! First remove your sin and then you can help your brother see clearer his own sin. And notice he uses the term “brother” meaning a fellow believer and not someone who does not know God. Yet Jesus continued by also giving his disciples a warning: “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.” Jesus did not mean we were never to go and witness to the lost but rather we were not to give to those we know who disdain God the sacred truth so that they can further pervert it. The reason was obvious: “If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” We often forget that we have a sacred calling to share a sacred truth. The good news, the gospel message of mankind’s redemption! The wonderful truth is he has also given us the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13) to help us know when, where, and to whom we are to share our faith! Jesus is teaching us that we should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth!

  EXAMPLE: My mother used to buy Lottery tickets all the time and she used to enter every sweepstakes and crackpot game she could. She was always “on the verge” of winning and of course she never did. Now she did not spend a ton of money on these schemes, only a few dollars once in a while. Yet she did it with regularity. Recently I heard a radio host ask a financial advisor what someone should do if they won the bazillion dollar jackpot. His first advice was, “Do not tell anyone.” He reasoned that you’d have every crackpot, scammer, and unknown relative show up with their hand out. Jesus understood that the gospel is the same because it is more valuable than any treasure. Therefore, he taught that we should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth!

Conclusion:

We need to use a proper scale! We had better have 20/20 vision! We should be discerning as to who will listen to the truth!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Why worry? – Matthew 6:25-34

Why worry? – Matthew 6:25-34
By Pastor Lee Hemen
May 5, 2019

We worry and fret about so many things in life: Clothes, money, family, relationships, how others see us, our schooling, jobs, and on and on and on it goes. My wife will tell you I am a grade “A” number one worrier. I know that I shouldn’t be but sometimes it just creeps up on me and takes over. I know it comes from when I was kid and our financial uncertainty and migrant home status growing up. God has done a lot in my life to help me to not worry so much.

The Hebrews of Jesus’ day had good reason to worry about a lot of things: daily food, housing, if their clothing wore out, and often finding daily work in order to pay the bills and feed their selves. Then there were the Romans, the pagan influence that surrounded them, and their own spiritual and governmental leadership which exacted harsh taxes and personal demands from them as well. Yet in the midst of this Jesus teaches his followers that they truly did not need to worry because God cared for them. Let discover what he taught and why…

READ: Matthew 6:25-34

Jesus had just gotten through teaching his listeners about where their hearts should truly reside and now he continues by telling them not to worry! Was he crazy? Most of the Jews at that time had nothing compared to what we have on our day and age. Jesus begins by teaching them…

I. Why worry when God sees your life as valuable! (Vv. 25-27)

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

  1. Jesus knew that those he was speaking to often experienced tough times. Each day brought about challenges many of us could not endure today. We expect a lot of things to be handed to us and to be recognized for our existence. When even the smallest thing goes wrong we often are thrown for a loop. Yet here in the midst of people who truly could be forgiven for wondering where their next meal would come from Jesus tells them “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” It was, yet, like the rest of us it was often hard for them to see life was. However the Creator of the universe is concerned about the smallest creatures: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” If these little feathery animals were a concern of almighty God, didn’t they matter more to him? And of course the answer is “Yes” because we matter to God, so much so he came as a man to walk among us! So Jesus asks a rhetorical question: “Are you not much more valuable than they?” They knew the answer just as we do. Jesus also knew that our worrying did not affect the outcome of our lives at all: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” We do not need to worry. It is good to know we do not have to be concerned so much; why worry when God sees your life as valuable!

  EXAMPLE: Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heaven and home, When Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Why worry when God sees your life as valuable!

Life is sacred to the Lord and always has been yet us humans take it for granted especially now when we live longer and have healthier lives. The average lifespan during Jesus’ day was late 40s or early 50s if you were lucky. Jesus now reminds them…

II. Why worry when your faith can sustain you! (Vv. 28-30)

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

  1. Jesus furthers his argument against worry by telling his listeners, “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” I used to have a reoccurring dream when I was younger that I forgot my locker combination and only once did I dream I forgot to get dressed for school and showed up naked for class! Needless to say it was embarrassing even in my dream! Clothes back during Jesus’ day were important for survival. Clothes were used as bedding, covering, protection, and modesty. And they were expensive. Today we take clothes for granted and throw out or give away literally tons of perfectly good garments each year! We then spend time going to new or used clothing stores to buy new clothes with holes in them or other people’s castoffs! Yet Jesus reminded his listeners that flowers of the field had nothing over them on the care and concern of the Lord. Solomon was never dressed as well as a lily or a blade of grass! So, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” And of course the immediate answer is “Yes!” In fact we today could probably get by with fewer clothes and a lot less shoes. I know that may sound like anathema to some of you but each of us probably has clothing or shoes we haven’t worn in years, if ever. Why then should you worry when your faith can sustain you!

  EXAMPLE: “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear, And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears; Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Why worry when your faith can sustain you!

Things are not important to the Lord and never have been. He sees creation with eyes that see his plan unfolding far into the future. Life is more than things which are here today and gone tomorrow. Nothing we own now will be important when we leave this life. I have learned that life therefore is a matter of perspective and Jesus teaches us…

III. Why worry when God gives us just what we need! (Vv. 31-34)

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

  1. The tough question we should ask ourselves daily is, “Will I trust God with my life today?” I suspect that when we give our lives to Christ we have a tendency to think that since we have it is now God’s problem and not ours. Yet we forget that when we do we have given him the authority and care of our lives completely. However we often take them back at will whenever we think that God can’t handle it like he should. Recently I heard some talking head on TV telling his audience that he didn’t believe in God because he never got anything he ever prayed for; I thought to myself, “What a nincompoop. He knows nothing of how prayer works or who God truly is.” Sadly there are many believers who might be in the same leaky faith boat. Jesus bluntly tells the crowd, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” He plainly related that such shallow belief is paganistic at its core because “the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Again, God knows us and he knows what we need; we simply do not trust that he does! We are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to [us] as well.” My Dad used to tell my Mom that all her worrying “didn’t change a thing” it just made everyone else miserable and he was correct. Worrying doesn’t add one hair to our head and in fact takes them away due to stress! (Yes, I know I am bald! Remember I told you I can be a worry wart sometimes.) “Therefore,” Jesus softly admonishes his listeners, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Why worry when God gives us just what we need!

  EXAMPLE: Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Why worry when God gives us just what we need!

Conclusion:

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, And I know He watches me. Civilla Martin was born in Nova Scotia in 1866. Her husband was an evangelist who traveled all over the United States. She accompanied him and they worked together on most of the musical arrangements that were sung.

In 1904 Civilla was visiting an ill, bedridden friend. Although discouraged and sick, her friend remembered that God, her Heavenly Father, was watching over each little sparrow and would certianly watch after her. Matthew 10:29-31: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Mrs. Martin was a poet and thought this would be a perfect idea for a poem. She jotted down the idea and by the end of the day, had completed “His Eye is On The Sparrow”.

The entire poem was sent to a well-known composer of that day, Charles Gabriel.

Why worry when God sees your life as valuable! Why worry when your faith can sustain you! Why worry when God gives us just what we need!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Where is your heart? – Matthew 6:19-24

Where is your heart? – Matthew 6:19-24
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 28, 2019

When I was going to seminary one of things we were told to look at very closely was the reason why we wanted to be a pastor in the first place. And one of my instructors bluntly told us that if we could not confidently say we were called of God we should go do something else. He continued by relating that our calling was what would keep us grounded during tough or good times because it came from the Lord. Ministering was not a “job” but when it became one, and it would sometimes, we could rely on our calling from God to strengthen us. It would show us where our heart truly was.

Jesus wanted his listeners to understand that following God was more than following a set of rules. After Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead everything would change concerning an individual’s relationship with God. What became important was not past history or one’s heritage but rather if you could confidently say you trusted the Messiah with your life. It would be a matter of one’s heart, what made one truly a follower of Jesus would be their faith. Let’s discover what Jesus taught about one’s heart…

READ: Matthew 6:19-24

So many things that we think are important in life are not as vital as we think. In fact we could get along without a lot of things we have. Jesus taught that…

I. We need to be sure of where our heart resides! (Vv. 19-21)

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

  1. We use all kinds of equipment to measure the weather: Rain gauges, thermometers, wind gauges, and barometers to measure the barometric pressure. A multitude of computer models make predictions as to what might occur in the future concerning the weather. We are given spiritual equipment as well that measures our commitment to the Lord; he’s called the Holy Spirit. One such measurement the Spirit uses is how much importance we place on things in our life and if these “things” are more important than people or God. Jesus bluntly tells his audience, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Jesus knew that the Pharisees put a huge stock in personal wealth and prestige. Mankind had forgotten that this world is not all there is to life. Life is eternal and we will either spend it with God in his presence or separated from him forever. Storing up things that are here today and worthless tomorrow makes no sense in a life led by the Spirit. Now Jesus is not telling his disciples to not prepare for the future or that savings are bad. What Jesus is sharing is the fact of what is important for the disciple of Christ. Instead you should “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Jesus also is not referring to having more good deeds as compared to bad actions. Our lives are not weighed between the good and bad we do. It is a matter of the heart, of who you are as a believer. What is your focus in life? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Far too many are focused on their job, their income, their family, or having fun, fun, fun! If this is your focus in life that is where your heart will be and one has to remember that age will take away your good looks and your health; politicians will rob you of your hard earned money; and your education is only good for the time when you can use it. Your life is eternal and how you store things up that matter there now shows God where your heart is for eternity. Jesus taught that we need to be sure of where our heart resides!

  EXAMPLE: “Do you know where your children are?” was a question used as a public service announcement for parents on American television especially from the late 1960s through the late 1980s. One of the first adopters of the phrase was Mel Epstein, the Director of On-Air Promotions at New York’s WNEW-TV, who began using the phrase in 1967 in response to rising crime in the city. With how believers are not held accountable for their actions or attitudes and have begun to have the heretical notion that it doesn’t matter how they act or what they do outside of church perhaps we need to ask the question: “Do you know where your heart is?” Jesus taught his listeners that we need to be sure of where our heart resides!

What we focus on in life shows what we care about most. Jesus did not say we could never have fun, watch our health, or save for the future but rather if we do anything to the exclusion of living for God we are failing for eternity. It is a matter of who we trust and have faith in. Jesus taught that…

II. We need to be aware if our heart sees the light! (Vv. 22-23)

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

  1. There is a term that I find kind of irritating that a lot of the world uses when it is mystified by someone’s, especially a child’s, faith, kindness, compassion, wisdom or spirituality they often say that they are “an old soul”. What in the world does that even mean? That they are a piece of wore out old shoe leather with a hole in the bottom? Actually, the term comes from the feeling that someone is spiritually wiser than their actual age. It is tied up in Buddhist and Hindu idea of reincarnation or metempsychosis. Metempsychosis is a philosophical term referring to the transmigration of the soul after death into a human or animal. It does not occur and is a complete misunderstanding of the concept of the human soul. All of this to say that there are those who misconstrue what Jesus taught about being the light of the world. Jesus was not and is not the reincarnation of anyone. He is God. And being God he is totally holy without any sin. Light represented the holiness and purity of God for the Jew. If we place our faith and trust in the Messiah Jesus we will have the light of God in our lives! John reminds us that “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12 NIV), meaning the holiness of God! Jesus had just gotten through telling his followers that they were “the light of the world”, having the gospel message, and that they were to “let their light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14,16 NIV)” Our relationship with Jesus makes us the light of the world and when we allow the shadows and darkness of the world to rob us of his light we dim the light of him in our lives. Therefore what we focus on in life matters. Jesus reminds us that “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” When we place our faith and trust in Jesus we are given everything we need to live for him but we still make life choices on how we will live our lives. Believers cannot keep one foot in the world and then go to church on Sundays thinking that this is good enough. Jesus bluntly related that “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” We need to be aware if our heart sees the light!

  EXAMPLE: What we watch on TV, what we read in books or view on the Internet, and what movies we go to all influence how we relate to our world. This is why pornography has such an impact on people and men especially. Men are hands on and sight oriented. Jesus was teaching his listeners that what they fill their eyes with will influence their lives for God. There is an old children’s song that goes: “O be careful little eyes what you see. O be careful little eyes what you see. There’s a Father up above. And He’s looking down in love. So, be careful little eyes what you see.” We need to be aware if our heart sees the light!

The folk singer Bob Dylan wrote a song where he related that no matter who you are in life or where you live “you’re gonna have to serve somebody… it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody”! He was reiterating what Jesus spoke about here in Matthew’s gospel. It all boils down to who you give your life’s allegiance to. Jesus taught that…

III. We need to know who our heart serves! (v. 24)

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

  1. The Old Testament prophets Joshua, Samuel, Elijah, and Ezekiel all warned the Israelites over and over that they would need to choose who they were going to serve. The words of Joshua to the Israelites still stand as a challenge for all generations when he admonished them: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:14-15 NIV)” While his challenge was to the Hebrews to throw away their false worship of manmade idols his warning is a reminder for believers today to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. And after teaching about what their life focus should be Jesus admonishes his listeners by reminding them, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” Actually Jesus uses the term “mammon” which comes from a Greek word. Similar root words exist in Hebrew, Latin, Aramaic, Chaldean and Syrian. All are translated “money, wealth, and material possessions.” Some think that it comes from the name of a Chaldean or Syrian God. Paul wrote that “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” And that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. (1 Timothy 6:6-10 NIV)” Luke related that when Jesus taught what he did “The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.’ (Luke 16:14-15 NIV)” Jesus knew we need to know who our heart serves!

  EXAMPLE: Duke University there is a story about a fraternity hazing prank. A pledge was kidnapped from his dorm, took 30 miles out into the North Carolina woods wearing nothing but the Duke Blue Devil mascot outfit. He trudged through the night, calculating how long it would take him to walk back to campus. After an hour or so, he saw the lights and heard music and singing coming from an old country church in the midst of a revival meeting. He thought to himself, “Church people are good people. Surely someone will give me a ride back to Duke.” So he walked across the parking lot and in the front door wearing his Blue Devil costume. The preacher stopped his preaching and stared. Everyone else turned to look at what the preacher was looking at. Suddenly, the preacher dove out the window. The other folk began diving out windows too, until there was only one person left. She was too old and too frail to dive out the window, and the devil was standing between her and the church’s only door. She began to plead in a soft voice, “Mr. Devil, my husband, bless his heart, was a deacon in this church for almost 40 years, one of my sons is a missionary, and my daughter is married to a pastor, and I was president of the Women’s Missionary Society for 20 years, but I just want you to know—I’ve been on your side all along!” We need to know who our heart serves!

Conclusion:

We need to be sure of where our heart resides! We need to be aware if our heart sees the light! We need to know who our heart serves!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Fasting! – Matthew 6:16-18

Fasting! – Matthew 6:16-18
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 14, 2019

There are some Christian disciplines that have gone by the wayside in our day and age. Of course becoming a hermit and forcing every bit of personal contact out of your life is not what Jesus meant when he said for us to “go into all the world”. And I confess I like zippers, buttons, and running water. However the disciplines of giving and prayer should be practiced. Today we are going to look at the discipline of fasting and why Jesus spoke about it.

I remember the first time I led a group of youth to fast. After the first four hours some of them were already going into fits about being hungry and that it was not such a good idea for them to do. We did it to focus on world hunger and our fast was only for 24 hours. You would have thought it was for 24 days! Let’s discover what Jesus taught about fasting…

READ: Matthew 6:16-18

We have to understand why Jesus mentioned fasting here and what it meant for the Hebrew people before we can make assertions as to whether we as believers should in fact fast. We live in a self-indulgent society where we hardly ever allow ourselves to go without anything and in Jesus’ day fasting was often a way to commemorate national disasters and they had over 21 different fasts! So Jesus tells his audience…

I. Be sure you are fasting for the right reasons! (v. 16)

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

  1. There are two major fast days and four minor fast days that are part of the Jewish year. The first major fast is Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Its central themes are atonement and repentance. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. Tisha B’Av is an annual fast day in Judaism, on which a number of disasters in Jewish history occurred, primarily the destruction of both Solomon’s Temple by the Babylonians and later Herod’s Temple by the Romans. Tisha B’Av is regarded as the saddest day in the Jewish calendar and it is thus believed to be a day which is destined for tragedy. It lasts nine days in all! Major fasts begin before sundown, when it is still light outside, and end after the next sundown, when it is dark outside and three stars can be seen in the sky. Major fasts are absolute. The faster may not eat food, drink, brush his teeth, comb his hair, or take a bath. Turns out there are 25 holidays and events throughout the year associated with a tradition of fasting! No food or drink is taken from dawn until nightfall. It doesn’t seem that Jesus fasted often. In fact, his critics condemned him for “eating and drinking” (Matthew 11:19) instead of fasting. There is only one example in Scripture of Jesus fasting. It immediately followed Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 3:13), which began his public ministry. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness in order to fast for forty days and nights. During that time of fasting, Jesus was repeatedly tempted by the devil. This testing time prepared him for the three-year ministry that would change the world. Jesus’ forty day fast is not an example for us to follow because it was strictly for Jesus to do as God directed him! Jesus therefore tells his listeners, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Fasting had become so common it had lost its sacredness to focus the individual on God! The Pharisees would often put on special make up or announce that they were fasting to show the crowds how pious they were! Like prayer and giving, fasting for Jesus was to be done for the right reasons!

  EXAMPLE: Today is when many churches will celebrate Palm Sunday in recognizing when Jesus rode into Jerusalem and the crowds tossed their cloaks and palm branches on the ground to signify Jesus as the coming Messiah. Interestingly it was a time of the Passover celebrating when the Angel of Death passed over the Hebrew houses who had painted their doorposts and lintels with the blood of a sacrificed lamb.. What a great time to think about fasting to refocus oneself on Jesus! Perhaps you could do without certain things in your life that get in between you and your relationship with Jesus? Whatever you decide to do, be sure you are fasting for the right reasons!

Should believers fast in our day and age and if so what kind of fasting should we observe? These are great questions and deserve some consideration. However, if you decide to fast you not only should make sure you are doing it for the right reasons but Jesus also taught that we should…

II. Be sure we are fasting so that others do not notice! (Vv. 17-18)

But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

  1. Fasting is deciding to go without or restrict oneself of certain things such as food, electronics, or outside things that would distract us from trying to focus ourselves on what God desires. The observance of Lent for some denominations helps them to focus on the time leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus. Most evangelicals, like Baptists, do not observe Lent because of the connotation of the person trying to earn favor with God by depriving themselves of certain things. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends before Easter. The purpose of Lent is to prepare the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches. There is no sacrifice we can make that draws us any closer to God than Jesus! Can we fast or should we fast? Believers can fast but it isn’t something we do in order to gain spiritually. We can to focus ourselves on the Lord. If you are not already spending time daily with God, fasting may make you more irritable. And in fact when we decide to go without something in order to fast others should not be aware. Jesus remarked, “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Fasting is to be between us and the Lord. I believe we would do well to fast not just food but perhaps television, electronics such as cell phones, video games, texting, and computers for a period of time in order to refocus ourselves on the Lord. We have far too many distractions in our day and age. There is some evidence that early Christians fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays as well as on other occasions, and this is still practiced in Eastern Orthodoxy today but there is no scriptural suggestion we should do so. Be sure you are fasting so that others do not notice!

  EXAMPLE: A Summer Missionary we had years ago loved to read. So much so she often excluded family and friends in order to immerse herself in her books. She made the conscious decision to not read and instead spend that time in getting to know people around her better. She spent the next week having tea with friends, talking to her family, and introducing herself to new people. It was a life-changing “fast” for her! She ended up meeting her future husband and made closer ties to her family and friends. She decided not to let anyone know what she was doing but everyone who knew her saw the change and how it impacted her life! Jesus knew that fasting for the Hebrews had lost its true focus and so he related that should be sure they were fasting so that others do not notice!

Conclusion:
Be sure you are fasting for the right reasons! Be sure you are fasting so that others do not notice!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Praying! – Matthew 6:5-15

Praying! – Matthew 6:5-15
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 7, 2019

When asked what believers need to do the most the answer always is to “pray” and this is good advice. If one’s prayer life is nonexistent their relationship with God is basically nonexistent. As a new believer having been brought up in a faith that taught that prayer was by route, meaningless, and automatic to discover that it was actually speaking with God was amazing to me. It changed my life dramatically. Praying is the heart and life of a Christian’s faith walk with God.

In Luke’s gospel we learn that “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ (Luke 11:1 NIV)” And here in Matthew’s gospel we discover the same prayer being offered by Jesus as part of his sermon. Jesus did not mean for his example to become a formula or a mantra we were to use until it became a mind-numbing chant. Let’s discover what Jesus taught about praying…

READ: Matthew 6:5-15

Jesus’ disciples would learn that prayer for Jesus was a personal thing and not something one did in order to appease an angry deity. Jesus often went off by himself to pray but here we find he includes simple teaching on the subject of praying. The first thing we discover is that…

I. Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber! (Vv. 5-8)

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

  1. An individual talking with God had become a real problem with the Hebrew people. From intimate conversations with God like that of Abraham, Moses, and David prayer had now developed into the ritualistic chanting of the Temple. Or worse an outward display for the unwashed crowds to display the Pharisees’ phony piety! So Jesus teaches that “when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” Instead of a personal conversation between a person and their God prayer had become a sham! Jesus says this kind of prayer is hypocritical! He goes on to lay it out for his listeners, “I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Jesus knew God desired a personal relationship with them! And like with their acts of personal giving they were to make their prayer personal as well: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” God does not need public displays because he knows the individual’s heart already. Prayer is an intimate conversation and Jesus knew that their “Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Talking with God is supposed to be give-and-take. Too many folks have never heard God’s voice because they’ve never taken the time to hear him speaking to them! We live in a fast paced society that wants instant results and have forgotten that a deep spiritual relationship is developed not rushed. God is not your personal servant waiting on the sidelines to answer your beck and call when you need him. Therefore Jesus tells them that “when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” You cannot expect to know someone intimately if you never spend time with them. Sure God knows what we are going to pray before we pray it but he desires our full attention and he desires us, therefore, “Do not be like [these hypocrites], for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” We come to know God and his will and ways when we spend time talking with him! Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber!

  EXAMPLE: We often do not know what God desires to communicate to us because we are so involved in just spewing words at him! I guess some think that God only listens when we pray hard and fast! The other day I was asked by an older gentleman who saw me with my granddaughter if she “talked a lot”. I told him she was sparse with her words but soon she probably would be a chatter box. He remarked that his daughter had been a “little chatter box” who just went on and on about everything. He remarked, “I loved every minute of it and now we have a great relationship where she calls me almost every day to tell me about how things are going.” This is what Jesus wanted his listeners to understand about prayer. Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber!

I discovered early on in my marriage relationship that I had better become a good listener to my wife. And I had better be willing to share my day with her as well. Give and take in our relationship is what has made our marriage strong. We spend time talking with each other daily. We discover here that…

II. Praying for Jesus was an intimate thing! (Vv. 9-11)

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread.

  1. I have heard this prayer example of Jesus used as a model to pray, as a formula one uses to get to the heart of God, or as some kind of outline for all our prayer. While there may be some validity to some of these I believe Jesus was first and foremost trying to get his listeners to remember what prayer was about and so he bluntly tells them “This, then, is how you should pray”. He isn’t telling them to pray exactly what he prays nor is he giving them an ultimate guide formula to emulate but rather he is teaching them that their prayer should contain some thought. When we speak with friends or loved ones we usually ask them how they are doing or what’s new in their lives. Prayer, being a conversation with a loving God whom we are trying to know better, should be done in the same manner! We are speaking with the Creator of all things who is holy, loving, and far beyond our comprehension! While he loves us and cares for us God is not our “Buddy”, he is a holy God! So we should come before him by reminding ourselves of just who we are speaking to: “Our Father in heaven”! He is a Living God who exists and is not some dead manmade idol of wood, stone, or metal! Also remember Jesus is teaching them how to pray to God that at that time was before he had died on a cross, was resurrected, and ascended back to heaven himself! Jesus is therefore teaching his fellow Hebrews how to reestablish their personal contact with a holy God that they had lost! They had forgotten what Job had known: “Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. (Job 16:19 NIV)” We as believers now enjoy our advocate Jesus but we should always remember we are speaking with a holy God and “hallowed” is his “name”! At the core of our existence is to know and do the will of God. We do not seek God because we want things to go our way. How shallow is that kind of relationship? Instead we should be willing to pray to him “your kingdom come, you will be done on earth as it is in heaven”! Believe me Jesus understood that God’s will, would be done no matter what. This is why he would pray in the garden when he was facing the trial of his life, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42 NIV)” And yet we can also ask God for our daily needs for life: “Give us today our daily bread.” It shows our daily dependence on God’s care. It is here we discover that praying for Jesus was an intimate thing!

  EXAMPLE: I like mornings in our household during the week because my grandkids come over very early and I get to spend a few moments praying with them and getting them back to sleep. (Mom and Dad work and I get the privilege of being with them before school.) I spend time talking to Jesus with them about their day, their parents, and school. It is a special time. It isn’t hurried. It is kind of cozy in fact. Prayer for Jesus is supposed to be just like this because praying for Jesus was an intimate thing!

When I first learned to pray it was all by formula and in fact we used a prop so that our prayer would become something you could do unconsciously without any thought at all. This is not how Jesus viewed prayer. Yet it is how prayer had become in his day! We learn that…

III. Praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness! (Vv. 12-15)

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

  1. The entire reason Jesus came to earth was to fulfill God’s promise to mankind to redeem them back to his self. In order for that to be accomplished a debt had to be paid. We have a tendency to forget that sin exacts a heavy price because it is against the holy nature of God. God does not wink at our sin nor does he laugh at it or excuse it because he sees us as wayward kids. Sin is serious business for God so much so he came as Jesus to sacrifice himself for our sin. Now all of this to say that God sees sin as a debt and this is why he tells his audience that when we pray we have to be willing to ask God, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” This is an exacting thing because it requires forgiveness on our part which was something the Pharisees had a hard time with. They believed in an eye-for-an-eye payback, yet we have to forgive. Jesus also knew that being the weak creatures we all are we need all the strength we can get so he relates that when we pray we should ask God to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” Jesus knew that God never leads us into evil and the wording suggests we are to ask for him to lead us to his strength. In fact as we look at this sentence knowing it is given to Hebrew listeners we discover that it contains hope because Jesus would indeed deliver us from not only the sting of death but Satan’s influence as well. And then Jesus reminds his listeners that “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” This is a reminder of the fact we reap what we sow and we want to sow the things of God in our lives. It is not the idea of balancing the scales between being good and bad or doing good or bad but that we are accountable for our lives and whether or not they are lived for God or not! Again this would be a tough concept for his listeners and so they needed to be reminded of it. If one wants to draw close to God and speak intimately to him they cannot harbor animosity, anger, or hatred to one of those he came to die for! And we must never forget that praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness!

  EXAMPLE: A special Scripture for me is 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)” Jesus desires that we “walk in the light” of his grace. I am not a perfect person and I often blow it. However prayer has become a time for me to declare my ungodliness honestly and openly before him. I have learned like John did that “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8 NIV)” And we cannot “walk” with Jesus! Yet if we “confess our sins” he is more than willing to forgive us! John concludes by reminding his readers that “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. (1 John 1:10 NIV)” I am overjoyed that praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness!

Conclusion:

Praying for Jesus was not just gibber jabber! Praying for Jesus was an intimate thing! Praying for Jesus was a means for forgiveness!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Vows, revenge, and enemies! – Matthew 5:33-48

Vows, revenge, and enemies! – Matthew 5:33-48
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 24, 2019

Foul language, disrespect, arrogance and revengeful attitudes have become a societal norm. So much so you have those who actually think that you can dictate through laws how to make people act respectful toward one another. The Washington State Legislature is considering a law that would enforce rules against bullying in schools. Believe me it will not stop the perceived problem they are trying to solve. Laws are a Band-Aid approach to a deeper problem.

Remember Jesus was trying to get his audience to realize that it isn’t what comes out of a person that matters as much as what is inside a person. Jesus taught that “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45 NIV)” That which is “stored up” inside of us is what truly shows the world what we believe when it comes flowing out of us. This is why Jesus now addresses the issues of vows, revenge, and how one treats their enemies…

READ: Matthew5:33-48

For some the old adage “A promise made is a promise kept” still means something while for others it is simply something you say in order to get people to feel good about you. Words mean things. My Dad would teach us that “A man is only as good as his word” and when you make an oath or promise it means something to those you make it to and you keep it. Jesus taught that…

I. Our words should be our bond! (Vv. 33-37)

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

  1. Jesus continues with their distorted view of how they taught the Law: “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’” To make an oath meant that you were willing to abide by what you promised to do, however, by Jesus’ time people actually thought that if they did not use God’s name or anything pertaining to him, like the temple, they could get away with breaking their vows. Jesus is relating that nothing could be further from the truth. While the Pharisees were quick to make a vow they were just as quick to ignore them if it no longer suited them and they would deliberately use certain wording so they could not be held accountable when they broke their promises! If it sounds like a lawyer it should because the means of using the right phrase to escape liability was an art form for them! God detested it then just as he does now! They would say things like “By Jerusalem the holy city” or “as heaven is my witness” knowing all along that they were already thinking of how they could break their oath because they had not actually been bound by using God’s real name! It’s kind of like when people use “Jimmie Crickets” or “gosh darn” instead of Jesus’ or God’s name when they swear. Don’t they realize that God looks at the intent? Jesus was not fooled by their turning of a phrase and tells the crowd, “But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.” Words matter and when you make a promise you should keep it because of who you are and whom you represent: The Lord! This is why Jesus tells them to keep it simple and to not try to fool anyone: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” As believers our words should be our bond!

  EXAMPLE: “Don’t make a promise you can’t keep” my father once told me. He was correct because a person is only as good as their word. In our day we have forgotten just how important our words can be. Teenagers have learned that a few snarky words posted online can destroy one’s reputation. Far too often we hear politicians using words to escape taking a stand on issues or to be held accountable. I have even seen and heard this in Christian churches where folks are nice to one’s face but use hurtful words when describing the person to others. “Bless their hearts.” Jesus boldly taught that as his disciples our words should be our bond!

Revenge has become something to be admired in movies, video games, books, and TV but in real life it can get you jail time. The latest mass shootings are a form of revenge perpetrated by their attacker on people they seek to do harm against in order to justify their distorted worldview. In a further discussion on favorite sayings concerning the notion of revenge we find Jesus teaching that…

II. Personal payback should be replaced by compassion! (Vv. 38-42) 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

  1. We think we’ve got it bad when our Internet goes down or our cell connection drops and we want someone to be responsible for it! Recently millennials were asked what they thought was the worst thing that could happen to them and most said not getting any “likes” on a personal post! We say that bullying has no place in our society yet we have fostered it by allowing bullies to not suffer the consequences of their actions. Instead of allowing for payback Jesus teaches us something quite radical. He again reminds his listeners, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’” Jesus was referring to several Old Testament passages: “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. (Deuteronomy 19:21 NIV)” They were called the lex talionis, the law of retaliation. This law was given to protect the innocent and to make sure retaliation did not occur beyond the offense. The Pharisees used this as a means to extract vengeance on those that disagreed with them or those they disliked for whatever reason. Jesus however dramatically changes this by relating, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.” He could not be serious, could he? Jesus’ disciples had to be different than the rest of the world. Pay back or vengeance was not to be a part of their lives. God’s children are to be changed and practice his righteousness, compassion, and humility. So Jesus continues by telling his astonished listeners, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” What Jesus is asking his followers to do was humanly impossible for them to do without the presence of Jesus in their lives. Any Roman soldier could enlist anyone to carry his pack for a certain distance and now Jesus is telling them that they should actually carry it even further without being asked!? Yes and even farther! Jesus also wanted them to not lend money or anything else to one another but instead give freely from their heart! Personal payback should be replaced by compassion!

  EXAMPLE: There is a famous scene from the movie Princes Bride where Spanish pirate Inigo Montoya longs to find the mysterious six-fingered man who scarred his face and murdered his father. He has spent his entire life training to be a master swordsman, endlessly rehearsing the words he will speak to the murderer when he finds him. Montoya’s moment arrives when he encounters the sadistic Count Rugen, the six-fingered man. Over and over, he says the words: “Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!” He kills his nemesis but realizes he can’t have his father back by doing so; Jesus teaches us that personal payback should be replaced by compassion!

I find it astonishing that it seems easier for some folks to go around the world than across the street to be neighborly. In the continuation of Jesus’ discussion concerning oaths he faces head on his society’s idea of who constituted their “neighbor” just who they should consider being friendly with or doing something for. Interestingly we do the very same thing. We discover Jesus teaching us that…

III. Our adversary should become our prayer concern! (Vv. 43-48)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

  1. The Pharisees had taught contrary to what God commanded to hate their enemies so Jesus reminds his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” They had either forgotten or deliberately neglected what God had actually told them: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18 NIV)” Instead of getting angry, wanting retribution, or hating their enemies God desired something extraordinary: “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” His disciples were to be like him! If they were to be the children of God they needed to act like his children but this was impossible without Jesus in their lives! It was totally inconceivable for the Pharisees to care about anyone else but their own but God was not like them. He loves everyone even when they do not love him! In fact “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” So Jesus begins to ask them a series of questions to make them think about whom they really followed, their ungodly teachers or would they listen to him? “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” The Pharisees could not even think they were to be kind to tax-collectors or their enemies! Yet Jesus relates that even the unbelieving pagans could be kind and compassionate to their enemies unlike the Pharisees! Jesus’ followers were to be different than the Pharisees! They were to be better and in fact they were to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Of course it was impossible until they gave their faith and trust to Jesus but when that happens, Jesus is tacitly teaching us that our adversary should become our prayer concern!

  EXAMPLE: When was the last time you prayed for your enemy? Not the coined phrase whereby we try to escape the requirement of compassion and pray, “Lord, you have your will with them” but rather where you earnestly and deliberately pray for those who seek to do you harm. When was the last time you went out of your way to help someone you dislike? Have you ever given someone money without ever expecting anything in return? We all want recognition for the help we give or the money we lend but Jesus says we should not. In fact Jesus related that our adversary should become our prayer concern!

Conclusion:

Our words should be our bond! Personal payback should be replaced by compassion! Our adversary should become our prayer concern!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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Lust and love! – Matthew 5:27-32

Lust and love! – Matthew 5:27-32
By Pastor Lee Hemen
March 17, 2013

Our society as a whole often confuses lust and love. It has become more of a concern because we have begun to endorse and even encourage perverted lifestyles because we have blurred the lines between the two. Young children are often caught in the crosshairs of politically correct garbage rather than the truth. Some are undergoing chemical, physical, and emotional sex changes in order to sooth the ungodly consciences of adults. Sadly we will reap the consequences of such ungodly and perverted politically correctness.

Here in Matthew’s gospel we see Jesus meeting head on the age old ungodliness of sexuality. He confronts how people viewed marriage and sexual relationships. With the Internet and the rise of pornography addiction we need to look again at what Jesus taught about lust and love and why…

READ: Matthew 5:27-32

We must remind ourselves that here in the beatitudes Jesus deliberately used extreme examples in order to gain the crowd’s attention. He wanted them to be shocked to their senses in order for them to begin to think about their worldview and whether they actually lived for the Lord or not. We discover…

I. The cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical! (Vv. 27-30)

You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

  1. There is more to one’s faith than just feeling good about one’s self. If all we needed to do was a few good things once in a while in order to make ourselves feel better about ourselves Jesus did not have to come to earth, walk among us, cruelly suffer and die on a cross, and be raised from the dead! We could do Habitat for Humanity, join the Peace Corps, or mow the widow’s lawn next door. Marching for a cause may make you feel good and show the world you’re serious about something but the intent of your heart is what God truly looks at. It is this intent that gets most of us into trouble. This is exactly why Jesus focuses the crowd by reminding them that “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’” Jesus was referencing Exodus 20:14 where God gave the commandment “You shall not commit adultery.” The Pharisees knew the commandments and meticulously followed them but they had totally missed the point, just as many believers do in our day! They were only concerned with the outward act. God is not as concerned with the outward act as he is concerned for the inner heart of a person. This is why James, Jesus’ brother would write: “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15 NIV)” Jesus goes on to relate, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Wow! We need to be aware of where our hearts (everything that makes us who we are) resides because the cure can be far worse than the cause: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” Was Jesus advocating dismembering or disfiguring one’s body to resolve their sin condition? Nope, what he was doing was focusing on the enormity of the power of sin in one’s life! The cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical!

  EXAMPLE: There’s an old story about a country doctor who gave his patient a total examination, he scratched his head in bewilderment, and asked, “Have you had this before?” When the patient answered, “Yes,” the doctor wrinkled his brow and said, “Well, you’ve got it again.” There’s nothing as frustrating as a problem that defies diagnosis. What a relief it is to find a skilled doctor who can say with confidence, “This is your problem and this treatment will help.” Jesus as the Great Physician has given us the cure for the ultimate disease! We discover there that the cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical and in Jesus we have the cure!

When we sin we often forget what it destroys relationships, our self-esteem, and our standing with a holy God! Lust can destroy our marriage as well. The ungodly view of marriage in Jesus’ day had left many women destitute simply because their ungodly husbands had treated them so horrendously. Here we discover…

II. Marriage is sacred! (Vv. 31-32)

It has been said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.” But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

  1. Nothing in our society today has suffered as much as marriage. Contrary to what some would have you believe, divorce is not the same among believing Christians and the world. In Jesus’ day the view of women was completely ungodly. They were basically relegated to being the property of men. God had never intended the relationship between a husband and wife to be seen this way or to be practiced the way it was during the lifetime of Jesus. Believe me he is just as disgusted with how we view marriage. While we may not see women as property how both men and women have disdained the sacredness of marriage is disgusting. Jesus goes right to the heart of the issue during his day by relating, “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’” Jesus was introducing his argument with a well known truth. Among the Jewish leaders were two schools of thought regarding divorce: 1) There were those who said it was permissible for a husband to divorce his wife for any reason at all like burning the soup or keeping a messy house, but the other group 2) said divorce was permissible only for a major offense. In Jesus’ response, the Lord strongly taught that marriage is viewed by God as a special relationship between a man and a woman and the Lord! Jesus was not giving us specific regulations to adhere to concerning marriage but rather he was teaching how horrible their view of their marriage vow was! Notice what he tells them: “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.” Improperly trying to dispose of one’s wife was tacitly making her sin and that sin was just as horrendous! Again Jesus is trying to help people see that the intent of a person’s heart was extremely important to God. When we marry someone we are giving them our lives and it is similar to us giving our lives to God! When later asked by the nearsighted Pharisees if it was okay for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason, Jesus replied, “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law… but at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will ‘become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. (Mark 10:5-9 NIV)” In fact when a man and a woman marry it is a sacred commitment and should not be disdained or handled improperly!

  EXAMPLE: There are those that think that by simply living together they can bypass the sacredness of marriage and ignore what God teaches us about this relationship. They are wrong because when they do they are committing adultery. And there is no reason for the couple to stay together or to be committed to being faithful. Interestingly it was recently disclosed that Ciara and Russell Wilson remained abstinent until after their wedding, and now the singer is opening up about the couple’s decision, explaining that it wasn’t easy. “That took a lot of prayer,” the 33-year-old admitted to InStyle in a recent interview. “It was hard. I can’t lie.” The star, who graced the fashion magazine’s April cover issue, had previously spoken about her and Wilson’s decision, noting that “you shouldn’t feel like you have to give your body away to get someone to like you.” God sees it as something special and when you give yourself away before being totally committed you will suffer the consequences of that decision. Jesus taught that marriage is sacred!

Conclusion:

The cure for the sin of inner adultery is radical and that marriage is sacred!

This article is copyrighted © 2019 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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