Heart Matters Matter

Sermon on the Mount ‌  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jesus wants us to have really good hearts. The believers call to righteousness does not stop at merely doing the right thing, it extends to having the right heart.

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Laughing Gas Reveals the Heart

Have you ever been with someone after they have been given laughing gas at the dentist? You can never be sure of what they are going to say which makes it extremely entertaining. There is no filter or restraint, so what they are thinking just comes straight out.
· One girl woke up and felt like “a unicorn just took me on a ride to a magical palace, to the land of the blueberries”.
· Another girl woke up thinking she was sore because she crashed her NASCAR car during a race.
· In a YouTube video, 2 older brothers convince their sister that there is an ongoing Zombie apocalypse and then begin to ask questions like, “Should we save the family dog or the cat?” Her answer, “The cat, you idiot! The dog’s the worst, he’s already dying.”
We often hide the thoughts and passions of our heart, but the Lord sees them. He addresses the issue in the Sermon on the Mount. When we talk about the heart we can mean many different things: the heart as mind, the heart as our true self, the heart as our thoughts and desires, the heart as emotion, and many, many more meanings.

Motivations of the Heart

As we continue to look at the words of Christ He builds on the fact that He is the fulfillment of the Law and that believers should be righteous out of a motivation of love for God and others. In the next verses He is going to give examples of what true motivation looks like. We are going to deal briefly with all 7 – murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, revenge, and loving others.
We learned last week that Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not do away with it. Because of His position and sacrifice the sacrificial system and the priesthood of the OT were no longer necessary. However, the moral law, the ethical teaching, and the prophetic voice of the OT were just as valid as ever. In fact, Jesus would take it next level and deal with the issues of the heart. He would point out that God is not interested in just doing the right thing, God is interested in WHY we do the right things.

Dealing with the Heart

So, as I mentioned, Jesus is going to point out several examples of what He means. What we find is that Jesus does not contradict the Law; instead, He points out the distortions of the Law where the Scribes and Pharisees were guilty. It is pretty easy to notice that these statements echo the 10 Commandments:
Exodus 20:13–17 NIV
“You shall not murder. “You shall not commit adultery. “You shall not steal. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Preventing a Murderous Heart

The first example that Jesus uses focuses on the commandment against murder.
Matthew 5:21–26 NIV
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

That Was When

Can you imagine living in a society where everything is okay, short of murder? The religious leaders of Israel had apparently gotten to the place where angry thoughts, insulting words, and evil looks were ok – just as long as you didn’t murder someone, it was okay.

But, This is Now

Jesus goes to the root of the problem – anger, insults, and unforgiveness. The fruit of the tree (murder) is a result of the roots. Stop the sin at the point of the root!

Preventing an Adulterous Heart

Jesus moves on from the 6th commandment to the 7th commandment – “you shall not commit adultery”.
Matthew 5:27–30 NIV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall 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 stumble, 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 stumble, 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.
These are all some of the hard sayings of the Bible. What makes them harder is the interpretation of the statements. This is a good example. Should we cut off our arms and gouge out our eyes? No! Jesus is clearly speaking figuratively here and in other places as well. We must be concerned with the intent of His statements.
This issue came up when the early English editions of the NT came out.
Shortly after the publication of William Tyndale’s English New Testament, the attempt to restrict its circulation was defended on the ground that the simple reader might mistakenly take such language literally and “pluck out his eyes, and so the whole realm will be full of blind men, to the great decay of the nation and the manifest loss of the King’s grace; and thus by reading of the Holy Scriptures will the whole realm come into confusion.” So a preaching friar is said to have declared in a Cambridge sermon; but he met his match in Hugh Latimer, who, in a sermon preached the following Sunday, said that simple people were well able to distinguish between literal and figurative terms. “For example,” Latimer went on, “if we paint a fox preaching in a friar’s hood, nobody imagines that a fox is meant, but that craft and hypocrisy are described, which so often are found disguised in that garb.”[1]
So, we must read these things with a thoughtful mind. Let’s consider some history.

That Was When

Once again, the rabbis were attempting to limit the scope of the commandment you shall not commit adultery.[2] The 10th commandment deals with coveting but apparently the religious leaders had allowed for all types of sexual immorality short of intercourse with another man’s wife. According to their interpretation of the law, they could do anything short of sleeping with another man’s wife and still be sexually pure.
Jesus showed his disciples that their righteousness needed to go beyond the righteousness of the Pharisees.

According to Jesus, Now…

Jesus points out that the root of the issue goes much deeper and needs to be dealt with before the ugly fruit of adultery takes place. Michael Green writes this:
Here again it is not merely the act that is condemned, but the attitude from which it comes. Deliberately to foster lust, by erotic books, plays, films, magazines and websites, is to fly in the face of this commandment. For who is to know when the bridle of decency or convention will snap under the strain, and the racehorse of our passions break loose? ‘Man looks upon the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’[3]
I’ve heard it said, and maybe you have as well, sex is like a fire. When the fire is in the fireplace, it is good and warms a home; but when it is outside of the fireplace, it will burn the home down.
Be careful when dealing with fire!

Avoiding Divorce at All Costs (Almost)

Divorce was a hot button issue back then just as it is today.
Matthew 5:31–32 NIV
“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 sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Again, a very difficult topic and one that has affected many in our society and in the church.

Divorce Was Common in the Time of Jesus

In the Greek and Roman world, a divorce could be formalized in either written or oral notification. The 1st Century poet Martial spoke of women who had been divorced 10 times. All the man had to do was find something “indecent” in his wife (basically the equivalent of burning the toast). The Jews interpretation of “something indecent” fluctuated between two extremes – the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel. The 1stwas very restrictive on the definition, the 2nd was very open. Obviously, the school of Hillel was the most popular.

Jesus Emphasizes the Importance of Marriage

Jesus provides sexual immorality as the only instance in which divorce is permitted. Of course, the reason that God instituted marriage is the ideal. God intended marriage to be exclusive and lifelong.
I have counseled many struggling marriages with the hopes of restoring the marriage. In many instances these marriages survived and flourished. Unfortunately, some did not survive. I believe that as Jesus said, infidelity is justification for divorce. I also believe that physical and emotional abuse are justifiable reasons for divorce.
It is simply a reality that many Christians have been divorced and remarried. I do not believe that what Jesus is saying is that failure cannot be forgiven, or that a new marriage cannot be happy and fruitful. I believe that the woman at the well would say the same thing.

Be a Man or Woman of Your Word

Jesus takes up the issue of oaths. Kids learn very early on in the playground the value of taking an oath. They pinky swear for a solemn oath or cross their fingers when they want to break an oath. Unfortunately, this becomes more complex as they grow up but just as real.
Matthew 5:33–37 NIV
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath 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. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
What a topic to discuss right before an election!

In the Days of Jesus

The OT insisted that oaths be kept. By the time of Jesus, the Jews had created lots of ways to “cross their fingers behind their backs”. Any oath which succeeded in avoiding the name of God was not absolutely binding; one could swear by one’s head, by Jerusalem, by heaven, by earth, and so on. God was not thought of as a partner in such a transaction, so to break faith was not serious.[4]

Again, Jesus is After the Root Issue

True righteousness, according to Jesus is to be trustworthy and true. I’ve heard people take this to extremes and refuse to give testimony in the courts, refuse to take an oath of office in the military, or make any commitments. Even Jesus gave testimony in the courts and God frequently bound Himself by oath. Verse 37 says, “all you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Be honest. Be real.

Giving Up Your Rights

Whether you know it or not, as disciples of Christ we are expected to give up our rights. I think we candy coat Christianity too much. Our friends and family have probably already told us, “I can’t live the way you do.” Well, it is a valid statement. However, if you want to be a Christian, it is a life of surrender.
Matthew 5:38–42 NIV
“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 anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Once again, we need to be reminded of the earlier point, “if we paint a fox preaching in a friar’s hood, nobody imagines that a fox is meant, but that craft and hypocrisy are described,…”
I hope this doesn’t encourage you to leave your front doors open while you sleep. Let’s see what is at the root of this issue.
“Jesus is not talking about global pacifism or the abolition of police forces or the rights and wrongs of war. He is not talking about the responsibilities of states at all. Paul does that in Romans 13:1–7. No, he is prohibiting for members of the kingdom the attitude that says, ‘The so-and-so has cheated me. Wait till I get even with him!’ Natural—but wrong.”[5]

That Was When

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth sounds vicious but it was actually restrictive. It ended blood feuds between families or tribes. It was actually proportionate to the crime. In fact, our legal system uses it to establish the fact that the penalty should fit the crime and not be more severe. Still though, it didn’t deal with the heart or the attitude of the people.
However, the Pharisees took it to the extreme. It was ended to restrict legal issues but they took it to a personal level. “They tried to use it to justify personal revenge, although the law explicitly forbade this: ‘You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people.’”[6]

Jesus Goes Next Level

The world advocates getting even, looking out for oneself, and protecting one’s “personal rights.” Jesus’ followers, however, were to hold loosely to their “personal rights,” preferring to forgo those rights for the sake of bearing witness to the gospel and the kingdom.[7]

Love for Enemies

The last of the examples that Jesus uses to illustrate the difference between the Old way of the Law and the New Covenant of love was to point out how to respond to our enemies:
Matthew 5:43–48 NIV
“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 children 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 own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Who is My Neighbor?

The OT gave this direction in Leviticus
Leviticus 19:18 NIV
“ ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
Now, they interpreted this very narrowly. “Love your neighbor” but they drew the circle very tightly. Outsiders were not “in my circle”. When a Pharisee asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29), Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. In that parable, Jesus explained that his followers must show love to all kinds of people—no matter what faith, nationality, or personality—enemies included.[8]

Jesus Draws Big Circles

Alfred Plummer summed up the alternatives with admirable simplicity:
‘To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is divine.’4[9]
The poet, Edwin Markham, explains the attitude of Christ and the attitude that is expected of a Christian.
“He drew a circle that shut me out- Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle and took him In!”

Experiencing a Change of Heart

James McDonald has written a book titled, “Lord, Change My Attitude”. In the introduction he asks 5 provocative questions:
1. “Are you open to considering what the Lord has to say about changing your attitude?”
2. “Are you willing to be changed?”
3. “Are you willing to change your attitude?”
4. “Are you willing to focus exclusively on your attitude?”
5. “Are you willing to go after this change of attitude with urgency?”[10]
The teachings of Jesus are remarkable. Does Jesus teach love? Yes! But does He require something of us that is remarkable as well? Yes! You and I are challenged to be different – to be remarkable. How are we doing?
Holy Spirit, help us!
[1]Walter C. Kaiser Jr. et al., Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 360–361. [2] John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 87. [3]Michael Green, The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 94. [4]Michael Green, The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 96. [5]Michael Green, The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 96. [6] John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 104. [7]Bruce B. Barton, Matthew, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), 102s. [8]Bruce B. Barton, Matthew, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1996), 105. [9] John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 122. [10]Excerpt From: James Macdonald. “Lord, Change My Attitude.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/lord-change-my-attitude/id969319404
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