Reset // Matthew 5:21-26 // Week 2
The following is a transcript from the sermon presented by Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday October 11, 2020 at our West U Baptist Campus and in our Online Experience on youtube.com/cityriseorg. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTube page.
Introduction: We are living in a fascinating time. Everywhere you turn, people are constantly getting angry—angry at politics, at our president, at the election, and at how people are trying to navigate COVID.
People are charged up and electrified and fuses are short. In this, Jesus says to be salt and light in the world by the way we manage our anger. He calls us to be different here by the way we hold our tongue, manage our words, swallow our opinions and diffuse our anger.
Has your anger ever gotten you into trouble?
It probably first got you into trouble because of a fight with your little brother or sister…so you got a spanking or were grounded.
Then, it may have gotten you into a fight at school…and maybe you got suspended.
Maybe, while playing football, you got a 15 yard personal foul for retaliating for a cheap shot with a big push or hit after the referee blew his whistle…and you got benched, caused the team to run sprints and ended up in the dog house with your coach.
Then, maybe you blew it big time with your wife…and you realized that your anger can actually inflict damage upon your relationship.
In today’s installment of Reset, Lessons from the Mount, we are going to learn from Jesus as he addresses a topic that is close to home in each of us.
Let’s look at Matthew 5:21-26.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Now, before we break down and study this passage, I want you to see the words of Jesus is verse 17-20, as they help us understand these next six sections of the Sermon on the Mount.
“”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 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, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
As Jesus begins his teaching, he declares, “I have not come to abolish (the Law or Prophets) but to fulfill them.”
And then Jesus makes this statement: “Therefore, whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teachers 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.”
What follows these words then, is an intensification of the law, in an effort to get to the heart of his hearer.
Remember, Jesus is proclaiming a new way- a new ethic. He is proclaiming that in his kingdom, there is not just observation of law, but true obedience that comes from the heart.
So, as we break down this passage on anger, let’s keep in mind these two big ideas.
Two big ideas this week:
- Prevention over and against Punishment
- Reconciliation over and against Religion
Let’s look at the first of these big ideas that Jesus presents to us.
I. Prevention over and against Punishment
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
In verse 21, we see the idea of punishment.
Now, punishment is a great motivator to behave, isn’t it?
Illus: When you are driving down the highway and you see the big orange signs that say, “Construction Zone, Speeding Fines Double,” what is your natural tendency?
For the sake of the rest of us, I hope your first tendency is at least to look down at your speedometer.
Maybe, it’s to tap your brakes and get your speed under control.
Whatever the case, the intent of that road sign is to tell you that if you break the law, the punishment for breaking the law is multiplied by 2.
Notice here in verse 21, how Jesus says, “Let me take you to the 6th commandment and the punishment for it.”
And here, he quotes two verses:
“You shall not murder.”
“Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.”
His audience would hear these words and be shaking their heads…yes. Yes, this is right…If a man murders someone, he should die. That’s the right punishment.
But then, Jesus says…wait a minute. I want to deal with a much bigger problem. And this problem actually leads to the punishment. And if we can deal with the root of the problem, then we are on our way to living out the kingdom.
What’s the real problem that we have? Jesus says that the real problem that we have is “Anger.”
You see, Jesus puts anger and murder up on the same level: Anger leads to murder!
One writer says…
“Murder starts with anger like cool water in a pot that’s being heated. Our emotions are like that water. Something sets us off and we begin to simmer. Problems continue to rise and our temperature gets bigger. A few little bubbles start appearing in the water. We begin to seethe just like the water begins to steam a little bit. And then before long, the pot is shaking, and it’s too late. We strike out against someone. The water boils. The pot overflows.”
This is what happened with Cain when he killed his brother Able.
Notice what it says about him in Genesis 4.
…but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
So, we see in verse 5, Cain was very angry. He’s stewing in his anger.
In verse 6, the Lord himself confronts him about it and challenges him to handle it and he tells him that he must rule over it.
But what happens?
He doesn’t deal with his anger. Instead, it boils over. It spills out and he becomes violent and then he kills his brother.
And it all roots back to his anger.
Application: And what’s true is that there are many ways to kill a person beyond physical murder.
Ways that Kill
- Laugh at someone’s hope and kill their future
- Mock someone’s ambition
- Tell someone they will never amount to anything
- Tell your kids that they are good for nothing, that they are stupid and worthless
- Withhold love and attention that sustains life
Anger is a big deal to Jesus.
And what he does next is going to grab his listeners in the throat.
Look at what Tim Keller class, “Three Case Studies” that Jesus puts before his audience.
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”
These three case studies don’t seem all that significant.
- Have you been angry with your brother? Guess what? Me too!
- How about calling someone an “Air-Head?” Have you ever called someone stupid? That’s essentially what saying “Raca” is.
- Have you ever proclaimed something like, “You fool?” “You idiot?”
I’m sure his listeners were chuckling as Jesus gave these illustrations. But then, Jesus goes for the throat.
Jesus declares here, “These offenses…those are enough to send you to the lake of fire.”
These are enough for you to be condemned.
Quote: Charles Spurgeon once said…
“Do not say, ‘I cannot help having a bad temper.’ Friend, you must help it. Pray to God to help you overcome it at once, for either you must kill it, or it will kill you. You cannot carry a bad temper into heaven.”
What’s Spurgeon’s point?
You’ve got to deal with your temper.
Notice James’ counsel to us in James 1:19-21.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
We’ve got to deal with our anger issues. We’ve got to deal with that which leads to filthiness and wickedness. And we do that by receiving the word implanted into us.
We are to received with meekness the implanted word.
Transition: So how do we do that? We see here how seriously Jesus takes our anger issues. We know that we have to deal with it.
What are we to do?
Well, let’s look at the second principle that I shared with you today, as we split this passage into two parts.
Slide: Two big ideas this week:
- Prevention over and against Punishment
- Reconciliation over and against Religion
II. Reconciliation over and against Religion
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
We’ve just said, “We’ve got to deal with our anger issues.” We’ve just seen how seriously Jesus takes our anger…he lifts it to the level of murder.
And we have just heard the call to deal with our anger issues. So, how do we do that?
This section helps us see our need to seek forgiveness for our offenses from our anger and how we can live with a clean conscience.
Go back to James’ words for just a moment.
“…for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
No, it doesn’t it.
You see, when I’ve been angry and I’ve acted on it, it has produced chaos and pain, both in my life and in the lives of those I have hurt. Anger disrupts unity. Anger destroys relationships. Anger tears homes down.
Anger leads to alcoholism and drug dependency.
Anger leads to violence and abuse.
Anger leads to murder.
Anger is a destructive force.
And the problem I see and one I have experienced is how we just want to act like anger doesn’t exist.
Illus: I remember dealing with an angry parent one time. This parent had engaged me for help in their marriage and with their kids. And they would call me when things went sideways. I was really young in my ministry and really didn’t know how to establish boundaries. And besides, they were turning to me for help.
So, one day, I decided to confront them and tell them that the they were the problem. Is as going to tell them that they had an anger issue and that they needed to deal with it. So, we are sitting in a restaurant and we get into the conversation. And I tell them, “Hey…you are the problem. Your anger is destroying your relationships.”
And do you know what they did? They got it, told me I was all wrong and they stormed out of the restaurant in anger.
I’m not making this up! It’s true.
To get a handle on our anger we must seek reconciliation. We must humble ourselves and go to those we have hurt with our anger and make it right.
Note what Jesus says here in verse 23 and 24.
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Go and get right.
Now, imagine this…Jesus is speaking to a bunch of Galileans. They are from the north part of Palestine. Jerusalem is in the southern portion. And devout Jews would travel three times a year (at a minimum) to Jerusalem to make offerings at the temple.
Jesus’ ethic is so radical to them because he is saying…
“Do you feel convicted? Leave your offering right there. Don’t make it. Don’t slaughter it. Don’t let the priests have it to put on the altar. Don’t ignore the conviction. Instead, get out of town, go back home and get right. Or travel throughout Jerusalem until you find your brother and make it right. Then come and make your gift to the Lord. Choose reconciliation over your religious observances every single time.”
You see, our Lord’s desire is that we live with a clean conscience. That’s why the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance things that we need to deal with. His desire for our lives is that we live in peace, free from our anger and restored relationally.
Have you relationships that you need to seek to restore? Have you caused pain because of your anger that you need to deal with? Are you willing to apologize?
Greg Simmons, in his article, “Leave Your Gift and Go,” gives us a 5 Step Process of seeking to live with a clear conscience. I want to give you these 5 Steps and then ask you to consider what, if any of these might you need to apply to your life.
5 Steps to Living with a Clean Conscience
- Confess your sin to God and repent.
- Seek forgiveness from those you have wronged.
- Where necessary, make restitution for any damage you have caused.
- Where possible, seek to restore the relationships.
- Go forward with a sense of urgency.
And why is urgency important?
Quote: Simmons states…
“(Urgency is important), because an unclear conscience is hindering your relationships with God…The longer you wait to clear your conscience, the harder it will be to finally do the right thing. This is a high priority in the eyes of God, and it must be a high priority to us as well.”
The call of Jesus Christ is to a different way. His call is so radical and transformative because it challenges us in every way.
Will you search your heart for this anger? Jesus wants to prevent this anger in our lives, and save us the consequences.
Will you search your heart for the need to reconcile? He longs for your reconciliation more than your religious observance.
Seek Him now.
Remember he said at the end of this Sermon on the Mount.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
May we hear his words and practice them, building our lives upon the rock!