Summary: Following Christ calls for realistic action and not just rhetorical rambling

(Based on a message by James W. Moore taken from his book Yes, Lord, I Have Sinned But I Have Several Excellent Excuses)

TEXT: MATTHEW 23:23-28


INTRODUCTION: A. Friday was Veteran’s Day

1. Recognize veterans

2. “The Pledge of Allegiance” - Senator John McCain

As you may know, I spent five and one half years as a prisoner of war during the

Vietnam War. In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary

confinement or two or three to a cell. In 1971 the NVA moved us from these

conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room.

This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the

efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles

from home.

One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian.

Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama. He didn’t wear a pair of shoes

until he was 13 years old.

At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy. He later earned a commission by going to

Officer Training School. Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot

down and captured in 1967. Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the

opportunities this country and our military provide for people who want to work

and want to succeed.

As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to

receive packages from home. In some of these packages were handkerchiefs,

scarves and other items of clothing.

Mike got himself a bamboo needle. Over a period of a couple of months, he created

an American flag and sewed on the inside of his shirt.

Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike’s shirt on the

wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance.

I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day

now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell it was indeed the most important

and meaningful event.

One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically ,and discovered

Mike’s shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it.

That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all of

us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours. Then, they opened

the door of the cell and threw him in. We cleaned him up as well as we could..

The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept.

Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room.

As I said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could. After the excitement died

down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath that dim light

bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend,

Mike Christian. He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he

had received, making another American flag. He was not making the flag because

it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how

important it was to us to be able to Pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.

So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the

sacrifice and courage that thousands of Americans have made to build our nation

and promote freedom around the world.

Let’s pray…

B. In our passage today, Jesus addresses some people who thought they knew everything

--They thought they did everything right and considered themselves experts on how

people should behave and think

1. They were good at analyzing other peoples’ behaviors and attitudes but failures at

doing so with their own

2. They were great arm-chair quarterbacks

--they knew exactly what someone else should do in each and every situation

3. They thought of themselves as able to infallibly judge the actions and attitudes of

others and yet, couldn’t seem to understand that they entirely missed the point of

anything that God had commanded.

4. A man is driving along a country road and his car breaks down. He doesn’t

know anything about engines but he opens the hood hoping he can find something


As he stands there looking confused, a cow wanders up to the fence. She sticks

her head over the top, peeks under the hood, looks at the man and says, “It’s the


The man does a quick double-take and can’t believe his eyes or his ears. He

tells himself that cows can’t talk and turn his attention back to the motor. The cow

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