Summary: This sermon, "It Begins In The Heart," is part of the Sermon on the Mount series and deals with how God looks at the attitude of our heart as much as he looks at our actions.
Sermon on the Mount
“It Begins in the Heart”
Before we begin it’s important we review Jesus’ last statement, and what we learned is that Jesus didn’t come to abolish or invalidate the Law, but to fulfill it, that is, to bring it to completion. And what we’ll see is not only does Jesus confirm the Law, but we also will see God’s perspective, or His take on the fullness of its meaning.
Jesus’ quarrel isn’t over the Law, but with the religious leader’s narrow interpretation of the Law. They were restricting the Law to a person’s action alone. But Jesus expanded the Law to include the heart’s intent or the root cause of the action, like murder involving angry thoughts, and adultery to lustful looks.
Read Matthew 5:21-30
The idea of our actions being caused by something deeper inside was acted out in its entirety back in the beginning in the story of Cain and Able.
Cain was a farmer while Able was a shepherd. Cain offered God a portion of the harvest while Able offered his very best, the first-born lamb. God preferred Able’s offering and this caused Cain to become very upset, and in his anger he killed his brother.
“So the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7 NKJV)
Cain didn’t all of a sudden wake up and start singing,
“Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I got a wonderful feeling,
I think I’ll kill my brother today.”
Rather it all began with anger, un-resolved and un-confessed anger. If Cain had confessed his anger and resolved it then murder probably would not have been the outcome.
This is what Jesus is pointing to. The sin of murder begins with the sin of anger, and so in God’s eyes they are one and the same, and the penalty is the same.
This story of anger being the cause of Able’s murder wasn’t lost on one little boy. He wrote to God, “Dear God, Maybe Cain and Able would not kill each other so much if they had their own rooms. It works for my brothers and I.”
Now what Jesus said caused a lot of grief, because the religious leaders of that day, as well as many in our own day base their salvation and relationship with God on comparisons, that is, how they stack up or compare with others.
This sort of comparison is at the heart of Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Luke 18:9-14. In this parable the Pharisee was telling God how good he was not like extortioners, adulterers, or even the tax collector. The tax collector on the other hand knew of his sinful condition and hung his head confessing his sinfulness asking for mercy.
In the parable Jesus said that it was the tax collector that left justified, having his sins forgiven, while the Pharisee left with his sins intact.
How often people believe that they’re okay with God because they’re not as bad as the next guy. But when confronted with the words of Jesus they realize that no one is ever good enough to stand before a holy and righteous God. And they realize that God’s requirements are beyond our ability or capability to keep.
What’s also important to understand is that Jesus isn’t trying to find more ways to condemn us, because Jesus said that he hadn’t come to condemn, but to save. What Jesus is getting at is the heart of the matter, because our relationship with God is not based on our actions or ability to be good; rather our relationship begins with the heart.
Let’s start with Jesus’ first example, murder.
Read Matthew 5:21-22
Jesus is saying that our anger never remains in our thoughts, but is acted out in our words and eventually in our deeds.
The word “Raca” means empty-headed fool. It’s to show contempt for a person’s mental capacity. Today it’d be like calling someone a stupid idiot. The word “fool,” is “moros” and it’s where we get our word, “moron.” What Jesus reveals is that these are more than just names but they directly attack a person’s character.
Now we really don’t think too much about name-calling, or as they say in sports, trash-talking. But they really hurt, and in a way, while they may not kill us, they do assassinate our character. These sorts of names are what call, “fighting words.”
Further they get filed in the back of our minds and have a way of assimilating into our psyche, as we believe them to be true. And they are also a way that Satan gets in and attacks, therefore we need to bring every thought into obedience of Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5.