Summary: This is sermon #2 of the Sermon on the Mount Series. (#1 was preached by Ronnie Morgan). In this section of Matt. 5 Jesus explains what the "good life" really is by contrasting it with anger, contempt, and malace which lead to murder. (with help from Dal
The Sermon on the Mount #2
Kingdom of the Heart - Respect
CHCC: September 16, 2007
What do you think most people want out of life? I’ve noticed that when you ask parents what they want for their kids, they usually say something like, “I don’t care what job they have. I just want them to be happy.” People want what “happiness” for themselves and their loved ones. But what kind of life makes someone happy? Some people look for the good life in money or possessions. Some people look to marriage and family to give them the good life. Others go after pleasure or status or education or success in a career. But the question remains: “Exactly what IS the good life?”
Plenty of people have tried to answer that question. But in the Sermon on the Mount you can get what I consider the definitive answer … a description of the good life from the One who Created life. In the Beatitudes, Jesus started out by describing who is ELIGIBLE for the good life. The rest of the sermon explains what the Good Life IS and how we can LIVE it.
The first thing Jesus did, in Matthew 5:17-20, was to be sure people understood that the good life means obeying God’s perfect Law. Some people seem to think God came up with Laws just to make life harder. The truth is that every Prohibition God gives is for our own GOOD. God KNOWS what will makes life good … and He knows what will ultimately make us miserable. God’s Law is a blue-print for living the good life.
The people listening to Jesus were probably not surprised to hear him say I did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it. But his next statement must have shocked them I can picture them looking around and asking each other, “Did you hear what I heard? Did he really say we have to be more righteous than the PHARISEES?”
Who could be more righteous than Pharisees? They were the most Religious people around. They researched “righteous;” they talked “righteous;” they walked “righteous;” they even dressed “righteous.” How could ANYONE be part of the Kingdom of Heaven if they had to be more “righteous” than the Righteousness Professionals?
Jesus was not being naïve or idealistic about the human condition. He dove straight into the most depraved of all human sins by quoting the 6th Commandment: You shall not murder.
1. The heart of murder
Of all the Laws about how we treat each other, this is the most basic. It’s kind of like Jesus was starting at the “primer” level: The Good Life 101 – If you want to have the good life … then don’t murder anyone. But Jesus took this command to a new level. You have heard that it said ’Do not murder, …But I tell you, anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.
According to the last United Nations survey, there are about 12,000 murders in the USA each year. There were all kinds of circumstances behind those murders, but you can be sure of one thing. ANGER was at the heart of all of them. Jesus went straight to the heart of the matter.
Dallas Willard put it this way, Anger and contempt are the twin scourges of the earth, these bitter emotions form the poisonous brew in which human existence stands suspended. Few people ever get free of them in this life, and for most of us even old age does not bring relief. To cut off the root of anger is to wither the tree of human evil. (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy p. 151)
In its simplest form, anger is nothing more than an inborn response … and it serves an important function. I’m starting the Grandparent phase of life, so I’ve seen recent examples of how instinctive anger is. Even my adorable grandchildren can throw a temper tantrum if someone takes a toy away. And guess what … we didn’t have to TRAIN them on how to get angry.
Anger is the spontaneous reaction we have when someone interferes with our will or messes up our plans. If you doubt that, see what emotion seizes you on the way home when someone cuts you off on 410. (The other day, Susan and I were driving to church when a car wasn’t cooperating with my need to change lanes. I got a little irate and Susan said, “Don’t you think your temper is a little quick?” Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m just glad to have SOMETHING that’s still quick!)
Instinctive anger in itself is not sinful … even though we are better off to avoid it when we can. But natural anger can quickly turn to something evil. . That real problem comes when we indulge anger. We nurture it and feed on it and rehearse it until it takes over our minds and hearts.