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About this series
What the World Needs Now
It's easy to identify things we wish were different when we look around and see what's happening in the world. The trouble is there are so many opinions, so many experts, and we're so divided - even within the Christian community - that it becomes frustrating, messy, and even dangerous. In this series, Chip calls a big timeout to find out what Jesus would say in the midst of our current circumstances. The first-century world was amazingly parallel to our issues and problems. So, Chip goes to Jesus' words, in the book of Matthew, to see how He would counsel us today. He gets very practical about what it means for us personally, and then how we can apply it, to genuinely make a difference, as followers of Jesus.More from this series
I’ve got a rock here somewhere in my pocket. I wonder what I did with it. This rock represents people I have murdered. Any grudges that I have. Any bitterness and resentment in my heart. And in a little while, we are going to give you a chance to really name the rock. Just between you and God. Hurt feelings, ex-boss, ex-mate, current situation. And we are going to ask you to come and only if you have done it, to drop the rock and say, “I’m going to release that person of what I hope happens to them. The vengeance, the payback, the emotion.
And where necessary, are you ready? It gets harder. So, some of you may have this rock all next week because you’re thinking, I’m not ready to do that yet. Then put it in your purse, put it in your pocket every day. And keep carrying around this rock. And if we were better friends, I would bring you an extra rock every day. Every day that you didn’t drop it, I’d just put another one in your pants, another one in your purse. Because that’s what it’s doing to you!
Because for some of you, words have come out of your mouth and, oh, of course they deserved it. Okay? We’ll get to that. Of course they deserved it. And it was ninety percent their fault. That’s the same with me. I know that. But God is going to call you and call me to go not only ask for forgiveness if necessary, but make it right whenever possible, as far as it depends on you.
And what you’ll recognize is that you are as much of a murderer and I am as much of a murderer as David or Paul or Moses. And most of us have done it with our lips and we have done it with our heart. And there is only one hope and it’s the hope that we can come and that the body of Christ, His death on the cross paid for our sin and His blood was shed for us and He has given us mercy and He has forgiven us and we have gotten what we don’t deserve.
And the only reason we are going to drop this rock is not because they deserve it, not because they are a good person, not because it’s going to be better mental health, but we are going to drop this rock because I can’t receive mercy and take what God has given to me that I don’t deserve and I am going to not, He is not going to pass judgment because of Jesus, so neither am I.
Now, it doesn’t mean you hang out with them, it doesn’t mean that everything is going to be wonderful.
And when you have a clear sense that you have forgiven that person, then I am going to ask you to turn your attention and begin to thank God.
If Jesus, if every one of the commands has this level of probing underneath of it and the Spirit of God went all the way through this room, all the way around, and we were just seeing what is going on inside, I will tell you, the cross would become very precious and you’ll be so deeply grateful that you will walk out of this room forgiven and cleansed and anything you have ever said, anything you have ever thought, any assassination with your lips - you’d be clean.
Well, Jesus now applies this to His audience and He applies it, because we are not done. He gives us two very quick parables.
Matthew chapter 12. Jesus has just talked with the Pharisees who, externally, are squeaky clean. And He says to them in verse 33, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good or make the tree bad and the fruit bad. For the tree is known by its fruit.”
In other words, it’s not your intentions, it’s not how you sing. He says your life. Your outward evidence. “You brood of vipers, how can you speak good when you are evil?” Then here’s His point, “For out of the abundance of your heart, the mouth speaks. The good person out of the good treasure brings forth what is good. The evil person out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment, people will give an account of every careless word that they speak.”
Every slander, every gossip, every little post on Facebook, every passing on, every click, every side conversation, every screaming at a child that doesn’t understand what they did wrong, every harboring of resentment in your heart. And you say, “Well, it’s her! It’s her turn to apologize! I’m tired of apologizing. Every time we make up it’s always me. I’m not going there anymore.”
And so, you just keep drifting. “For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.” I don’t know about you, that scares me to death, as it should. Well, Lord Jesus, this is hard for us to hear. I’m sure it was hard for them to hear. Help.
“Therefore,” the parable of priorities. Two applications. Very short parables. “Therefore, if you’re offering your gift at the altar and there remember your brother has something against you, leave your gift in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift.” Underline the line, If you’re offering your gift at the altar.
Times have changed, very unfortunately. If you were a follower of Yahweh, you didn’t think that offering gifts was sort of, “Maybe I will, maybe I won’t depending how I feel.” You would understand that He owns everything and the first tenth of the produce; the first tenth of the cow, the goat; the first child has to be paid for. And you’re going to bring your offering. And if you sinned, you are going to bring a sin offering.
And this is the holiest moment. This offering is going to represent an act of mercy of God’s covering. And that blood is going to remind you that in the future, God is going to bring a Messiah who…
So, this is, there is no more holy moment. Giving is required. God owns everything, I bring the very first and the very best. Few things to a Jew would be more important. The Word is required, prayer is required, giving is required. And now, if you could hear this through the ears of His first century listeners, they would be thinking, This is one of the most sacred, holy moments. This is how you get right with God. This is how you tell Him that there are no idols. My first and best is to You. This is a sin offering. This is how my sins are going to be held off.
And He goes, There is something more important. “If there, you remember,” not that, look at it. Look at the text. This doesn’t say, “If you’re there and you remember you have something against your brother,” you’re mad, you’re angry, “she did that to me,” “he did that to me.” That’s not what it says. What does it say? Look at it!
“If you’re there and you remember your brother has something against you.” What if you have a tiff with someone and if it’s like me, it’s ninety-eight percent their fault and two percent my fault. But things aren’t right. And I’m kidding. Okay? If you’re new, I’m just messing with you a little. I usually say it’s fifty-one percent their fault and forty-nine percent mine. I’m teasing still.
What I want you to get is the principle. And the principle is very clear and very powerful. Right relationships trump religious requirements every time. Right relationships trump religious requirements every time.
Don’t go and read your Bible, don’t go and pray, don’t put something in the offering. If you have a relationship with someone, He goes, “This is the priority. Nothing is more important.” Because the kingdom of God is about love! And if it’s really about love, if there’s a relationship with your mate, with one of your kids, with your friends, with your ex, with someone at work, with someone in your small group, with a co-worker, make it right, because that will be the good works that they will see and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
And if they are a brother or a sister in Christ, Jesus said, “I died for everyone.” You have to come together.
The barriers are defensiveness, blaming, excuses, pride, “Oh, that’s not fair.” Or a self-righteous fulfillment of this, “Oh, yes, I was going to do something and I remembered that that time we had an argument and tone of voice, it was ninety-nine percent your fault, but since I’m so spiritual, I want to ask you to forgive me for my one percent, please. And I hope you feel like a real heel because you are a scumbag and, but, I am following the Bible.”
No. No, no, no. This is even in your heart you feel like it’s ten percent you, ninety percent them. Oh, God, if it was one percent apart from Your holiness I have no hope. I humble myself before You. I completely own my ten percent and since there are large levels of denial, it’s probably at least forty. But it doesn’t matter. I ask You to forgive me, and I go and say, “You know that altercation we had and that conversation that keeps coming around? How I handled that was wrong. Will You forgive me? I’m sorry.” And you don’t bring anything up about anybody else or them.
Parable number two, it’s the parable of urgency. Jesus says, “Settle the matters quickly. Your adversary who is taking you to court, do it while you’re still with him, on the way, or he’ll hand you over to the judge and the judge may hand you over to the officer and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Now, He is giving it to them in their cultural mindset, but circle a few words, because guess who the adversary is. Jesus is saying the adversary is God. He went through, “You have heard it said, if you just don’t physically kill someone, yeah, there’s the Old Testament Law. I say to you, if you have these emotions: hate, anger, bitterness – if you say these things, or if there is contempt, I tell you, it starts with this court, the supreme court, and then hell.
And so, He brings them back, notice, your adversary, “quickly.” Underline quickly. Notice the words, “He’ll hand you over to the judge.” Circle judge. “And the judge,” circle judge, “will hand you over to the officer,” circle officer, “you’ll be thrown into prison.” How many words? Do you get it? This is a crisis. This is not, “You know, I probably ought to make that relationship right. You know, a lot of bad things have come out of my heart. Yeah, I’m angry, but everyone is angry and if they lived in my situation, if they grew up in my, I came from a dysfunctional family and in light of her addictions or his addictions or my unreasonable boss, I think God understands.”
Memo! He doesn’t understand. Murder is murder. You’re the salt of the earth. You’re the light of the earth. Make it right and make it right now.
This isn’t one of those services where the conversation in the car going home isn’t, “Well, did you like the message?” Of course not. Was it interesting? Uh, yeah, for not good reasons.
This is about you meeting God in the next few minutes, and you experiencing a level of forgiveness and cleansing and mercy and love and with all your heart purposing you’re going to give that away.
The principle here is clear and powerful. Delayed obedience will result in dire consequences. There are some of you that have physical issues, relational issues, financial issues, and health issues that are related to unresolved conflict and anger and murder and words. It’s judgment of God.
I can’t tell you who, when, where, or why. What I can tell you is these kind of patterns, God has His favor on some people and God has His love on everyone, but His love sometimes, when there are patterns like this, I call it the velvet vise of discipline. And He is trying to get your attention. And I’ll tell you what, you can keep dissing Him and that vise will get tighter and tighter and tighter and tighter until you come to a breaking point and say, Oh, God.
If you’re a genuine child of God, He’ll take you to the mat, because what you’re doing is killing you and destroying others.
I found a few quotes from a little book that I picked up recently. “Bitterness always feels justified. Bitterness creates the illusion of control and power. When we embrace bitterness, we reject grace.” And here’s the part with no matter who this person is, “remember the good, and the good will grow.”
Isn’t it interesting, when we have a problem with a person, especially family members, especially with one of our kids or a mate or an in-law or a co-worker. Like, there was at one time, they were a pretty good person. Remember that? It was way-back-when, before they…
And what we do is then we take the incident or we take the thing and we put a little box in it and, bam! That’s who they are now forever and ever and ever. They were never kind, they were never helpful, they never loved you. You know that’s not true. And it feeds your soul. It’s like gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp. Poison.
If you’ll turn to the back page, I did not want to leave you to some vague devices to, “I wonder what I should do.” I want to talk to you and then give you the time to learn to take some humble steps to building a bridge.
I’d like you to answer these questions quietly. Do you have anger or bitterness or resentment toward anyone, past or present? And if you’ll just be quiet before God. He’ll bring someone to mind if you do.
Have you murdered anyone in your heart or with your lips? Is there anger, bitterness, resentment? When someone’s name comes up or someone talks about someone, do you have a visceral reaction that is negative? And will you confess this sin right now and receive God’s full forgiveness? I’ll give you time to really process this. But He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, but you have to come clean, you have to admit, you have to agree: yes, this is me.
Can you think of anyone that might feel angry or resentful towards you for any reason? Will you commit to make that relationship right, as far as it depends on you? And maybe you can’t, but there’s usually something you can do, as far as it depends on you.
And then as you go through this process at your own pace, and have the Holy Spirit give a seal in your heart of peace that, yes, you have dealt with this now, and then stop and thank God for His love and kindness and remember the great words of David who sinned greatly and murdered, “Oh, Lord, You are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love to all those who ask for Your help.”