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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’m going to ask you to do something a little bit different. The mind is a very, very powerful tool. And you actually have the ability to begin thinking thoughts that will bring pictures of people that you love to your mind.
But I want you to visualize the people that matter the most to you. It could be a best friend, a mate, your kids, your parents. And I want you to listen. Every single one of them has this heart beating. It’s more than just pumping blood and nutriments. It’s the sign of life.
When the children were little, they were nestled up close to moms and dads and that’s what they heard. When you embrace deeply or often, in the middle of the night, when you wake up, if you’re married, you can actually hear the heartbeat of the one next to you.
I want you to think of some of the best and warmest times you have ever had and how important these people are. Boom! Heartbeat stopped. There’s an explosion in a mall and everyone that was in your mind was in that mall and they are gone. For others, a car went left of center; it was a drunk driver on a suspended license. Everyone was in that car or minivan and they are gone.
For some, it’s two military personnel walking up, knocking on the front door and telling you that your son or daughter or husband or wife or uncle was killed in Afghanistan. Now, I want you to pause. I’m not trying to mess with your mind. I want you to think right now, how would you feel? As honest and as raw as you can, how would you feel? Where would your emotions be? What is happening deep inside of you, if, in fact, that was true?
You can now open your eyes, because every twenty-two minutes in America, someone is stabbed or shot or strangled or bludgeoned to death. By the time kids are in sixth grade, they have witnessed eight thousand murders, a hundred thousand acts of violence and we just came out of the century, the twentieth century, that was the bloodiest and most violent in all of human history. A hundred and twenty-five million people slaughtered. Whether it was the Holocaust or sixty million with Stalin or Idi Amin or the Killing Fields or Bosnia or Sudan or the unborn babies.
Here’s what I want you to get, I want you to remember that feeling. If you can’t remember the feeling of what it actually would be like, some of you have been there. Some of you have lost people. I want you to know that whatever you feel, as horrendous as that is, God, one trillion, million, zillion times infinitely feels that more with every, single life that is lost. Because He created them and He died for them and He loved them.
The most precious commodity in all the earth is not money, it’s not fame, it’s not wealth, it’s not property. God says the most precious commodity is life. It’s when a heart starts to beat. And when a life is cut short, when destruction of life happens, it brings a level of sadness and actually anger to God. And Jesus is going to talk about that to us.
And unless you can remember the feeling that you just had, you will not understand at all what He is going to say.
With that, open your notes with me. We are in Matthew chapter 5.
And in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus has been teaching about a new way of living. And we remember there was the beatitudes, characteristics of a true follower in this new kingdom of walking with Him.
He says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law,” verse 17. “I have not come to abolish it to fulfill it. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota or a dot will pass from the Law until it’s accomplished.” Application, “Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you,” here’s our key verse, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
And the scribes and the Pharisees, in terms of external righteousness, were off the chart. And I put the little chart here for you. He is going to now take six specific topics that are the core of religious life in Israel. Murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, retribution.
And what He is going to do, He’s going to say that, “You have heard it said, but I say to you,” and He is always going to first look at, “This is how it has been interpreted, this is the current understanding from the scribes and the Pharisees.” External activities; religiosity. “But I say to you, the fact of that is absolutely true, but I am going to probe underneath of it, and I want you to understand the spirit behind the law of God’s intent.”
And so, on the left side, you have heard it said, it’s about external righteousness; Jesus will say it’s internal. It’s about doing, Jesus will say, there’s doing but it must flow from being. It’s all about duty, which leads to guilt. He goes, “No, it’s about devotion and relationship.” It’s not about performance. It’s not about – it’s about grace. It’s not about the letter of the law, it’s about the spirit of the law. And then He is going to matter of factly say, “It’s not about all this stuff you have in your head. There’s a lot of people that have it in their head. It’s what’s in your heart.”
Now, if you’ll turn the page, in our time today, I want to talk about topic number one. And topic number one, He is going to take those parallel things and what He’s going to do is say, “Okay, you have heard it said, but I say to you,” and topic number one is the sixth commandment. And the sixth commandment is: “Thou shall not kill,” literally.
Now, you need to understand there are seven different words in Hebrew for kill. This word does not mean an accidental death. This isn’t the killing of an animal. This isn’t the execution of a prisoner. This isn’t someone dying in a just war. Literally, it’s two words. The sixth command is only two words. Literally, it’s this: no murder. No murder.
It’s the intentional infliction of the taking of a human life. Prohibited by God. And so, the current interpretation: “You have heard it said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment,’” the Old Testament law. It was very clear. In that season, in that period, you take a life, you lose your life. If it was accidental, there were other laws. But this is very, very clear.
In fact, the prohibition is no murder by – jot these two words – violent hands. It was a world of tremendous violence. And God is going to prohibit killing people. No murder by violent hands.
And I say that because when Jesus says, “Yes, of course, that’s true,” He is going to probe behind, “So, whatever brings a person to when they would do that anyway?” And what is in a person’s heart? What is the root cause that a person would ever get to the point that they would actually kill another human being?
So, let’s look at Jesus’ authoritative interpretation. “But I tell you, anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’” literally, “is answered to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’” we get our word moron, it’s moros, “will be in danger of the fire of hell.”
Now, get your pen out, because you need to jot a few things. You need to see the parallel. Circle the word anger, and then put a line under subject to judgment, circle the word who says, and put a line under to the Sanhedrin, and then circle the word you fool, and put a line under danger of fire of hell.
Jesus is going to say that if you are angry with your brother, you would be liable in the civil court. He is going to say if you would go beyond anger and you would say things that would kill or poison or demean or dismiss, literally, assassinate their soul or their spirit, you would be culpable to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court.
And if you would say “moron,” if you would use words and abuse and contempt that would destroy their soul, malicious gossip, tear them down, He said you’re in danger of the fire of hell.
It’s one of the strongest passages in the entire New Testament. Luke 6:45 gives a little insight. It’s the parallel passage of the Sermon on the Mount. And in it, Jesus says, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good. The evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth what is evil, for the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart.”
And so, what Jesus is saying is, when you have anger, and by the way, there are a couple different words in the New Testament for anger. This isn’t the just, righteous anger that you see where Jesus is flipping over the tables. This is a very interesting word. It’s for smoldering anger, bitterness, resentment, revenge. You have been wronged, you have been hurt, it’s an anger that you nurse. It’s an anger down deep in your soul of resentment or bitterness toward somebody else.
He says when you have that emotion down in there, you are guilty of murder. He said if it goes beyond that and you go beyond that, to you begin to say things, you label a child, “You’re stupid! You’re a dummy! You’re a lousy worker! What’s wrong with you? That’s the dumbest idea ever.” You’re assassinating their personhood.
When you get to the point where you attack their character, when we say, “You’re a fool,” the biblical idea here is you’re emptyheaded, you’re a moron, in fact, your name, your family, your personhood isn’t worth anything.” It’s contempt.
Jesus says, in essence, yes, prohibition of murder by violent hands. But Jesus would say prohibition, by angry hearts. And prohibition by lethal lips.
These are really, really strong words. I don’t know about you, but I would say that if someone asked me casually, “Chip, have you ever broken the sixth command?” Thou shall not murder. I mean, David was a murderer, Paul was a murderer, Moses was a murderer. There’s hope after committing murder. But most of us in this room, I’m going to go out on a limb and say we haven’t killed anybody.
And so, I read that and my natural reaction is, “I’m good. You good? I’m good.” And Jesus would say, “No, you’re not.”
In fact, I jotted down my paraphrase of what He was really saying and what He really means. Three prohibitions. If I intentionally and physically kill someone, I am a murderer and liable of the judicial system and the consequences. Jesus would say if I have internal attitudes of anger and bitterness and resentment and hate and feelings of enmity in my heart towards someone, I am as guilty before God as the actual act and God will bring divine judgment for that unresolved hatred in my heart.
If I have feelings of anger and bitterness that come to the point where I express them in words that dismiss people, belittle people, criticize another person, and murder their spirit and their soul, I’ll be held accountable to even a higher standard and God will bring divine judgment upon my life.
And finally, if my anger and resentment leads to expressions of contempt that demoralize and abuse and damage and literally warp people’s lives for their future, I’m as guilty as being liable to go to hell.
Now what I would say, I’m going to guess there’s not a non-murderer in the room. There’s not a person probably walking on the earth that has not violated the sixth commandment the way Jesus expresses it.
I think there are sometimes Jesus is so clear and so cutting and we all fail so miserably that we just say, “Well, I do that and you do that. Let’s just give everybody a pass.” And did you ever think, did you ever think why there are so many people with addictions? Did you ever think why there are so many people that have dysfunctional families? Death is not always – death is separation, death is destruction, death is ruining life.
You know how many families are just totally messed up because of unresolved anger in people’s hearts, resentment? How many couples have drifted apart just living in the same family? How many divorces are at the heart of unresolved anger and bitterness and resentment? How many grudges have divided families so you don’t visit each other on Thanksgiving, you don’t talk to those people? How many people that when the thought of your ex-mate or an ex-boss or a supervisor comes to your mind, you can’t figure out why your stomach turns into knots?
How many times you have found yourself, over coffee or in a chat room or on the phone, talking about someone else in derogatory, negative ways, passing on untested information? It’s murder! It’s murder! It destroys. You are guilty. You will be judged.
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.