Summary: Good reception with God requires right relationships with people.
Intro: During the last couple of weeks up at Camp Elkanah near Starkey, I found myself a bit cut off from the rest of the world. I’m really not all that attached to our cell phone, but needing to check messages at the office, I found myself wandering around camp with my phone up in the air searching for a signal. There were a few high spots where I’d get a signal for just a few seconds and then it was gone. The signal was being blocked by trees or a hill, or buildings or just distance. So I started climbing up the hill. As I did, I’d get the signal to hold a little bit longer. The higher I went and the further around the hill, the stronger the signal became. At last, the signal became strong enough to sustain a phone call and I was able to get through.
-Have you ever felt like the connection between you and God just wasn’t strong enough to sustain a conversation? Have you felt like something was blocking the way? Here’s the heart of what I want to communicate today:
Prop: Good reception with God requires right relationships with people.
TS: Let’s look at some of the relational dynamics from this passage that will give us some guidance in getting closer to God.
I. Obstacles to Good Reception with God (Matthew 5:21-24)
-Anytime we disregard what is important to God, we hinder our ability to connect with Him. And guess what is most important to God? People! Who or what else has He made in His own image? Even angels do not experience the closeness of God on the level that humans can. Angels might be considered servants, but humans are considered as sons of God- made in His image. When we attack another human verbally, emotionally, physically, we are attacking one who bears God’s image. When we withhold our love and blessing from those around us, we are operating at cross purposes with God, who pressed His image into them at conception.
-With that in mind, let’s look at a few of these hindrances or obstacles that may cause us to lose our reception with God.
A. Anger (5:21-22)
21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ’Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother [Some manuscripts add without cause] will be subject to judgment.
-Anger is generally the root cause of murder. Many murders are committed out of rage and hatred for another person. Jesus is going back to the heart of the issue and instead of saying, “Thou shalt not murder, He says, “Control the anger that leads to violence.”
-Anger can be a good thing. Apparently it is a God-given emotion. However, it has a destructive side to it that can hurt people and disable your connection with God.
-So being angry can create problems, but venting anger with words or actions can create all kinds of connection problems as well.
B. Disrespect (5:22b-c)
22b,c Again, anyone who says to his brother, ’Raca, ’is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ’You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
-“Raca” comes from the Aramaic word rak, meaning “to spit.” Apparently in the Middle Eastern culture, most fights start by spitting, which was (and still is) very insulting. Have you ever been “spittin’ mad?” Calling someone a fool was insulting, but not as bad as spitting. There may be an escalation of aggression here. Being angry enough to call someone a fool may lead to the insulting act of spitting, which may lead to violence, and possibly even murder (Lawrence Richards, TVBBCNT, 28). Just watch a little news, and you’ll soon hear of someone who was murdered because someone lost their temper.
-Here’s a question for you: How far have you given yourself permission to go when you get angry? What boundaries have you established for your anger? What is so important that you would chew out, spit out, or strike out at someone who was created in God’s image? Is it pride, reputation, dominance? Is it the need to be right, to look good in front of others?
-When we devalue another human who was made in God’s image, we are disrespecting God Himself. At least respect the image of God in that person, even if it is impossible to see it. What they do with God’s image is up to them, but what you do with it is up to you, and you will answer to the God whose image you bear.
-God looks deeper than the actions, right into the heart of man. Before it ever turns into murder, it begins as a thought, then an insulting word, then an insulting action, and then to violence. Respect will help us bite our tongue. Save your venom for your real enemy. You can hiss and spit at the devil. He’s the one who really wants to destroy you.