AGCC Sun. a.m. 4/25/99

#6

"THE LOVE OF LIFE"

TEXT: Ex. 20:13; Matt. 5:21-24,43-48; I Jn. 3:15

INTRO:

Everyday we hear more and more about murder, killing! Our culture is full of killing; every year in this country we kill over 1,000,000 unborn babies mostly for the sake of convenience. We are moving to the day when our elderly will be encouraged to die when they become an inconvenience. Our movies glorify killing, video games also promote "shooting people", we have more guns in our society than any other country on earth. The horrible events of the past few days are a testimony to the lack of respect for life that our secular society has encouraged.

Life is no longer a sacred thing, it is a dispensable thing. It is not surprising that the further our society moves away from God's commandments the less sacred society considers those things God cherishes. The sixth commandment was given to Israel to teach them to love life, to consider it so valuable that the taking of life would result in the loss of your own life.

PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that life is a sacred gift from God, that any society or individual that despises the value of life will lose their way and become corrupt. We are to love life and seek to preserve and sanctify it.

I. THE ANATOMY OF MURDER Matt. 5:21-24 I John 3:15

A. Unchecked Wrath! 5:21-22 I Jn. 3:15 1. While the Old Testament commandment #6 simply said, "Do not murder," Jesus elaborates on the dynamics that lead to murder. a. In Christ we must not only deal with the outward act, we must also deal with the inside drives that move us toward action. b. Christ makes it clear that murder begins in the heart long before it explodes on the scene in action. 2. What Jesus says here is that the process that leads to killing is progressive: a. the first stage is the "RACCA" stage - This is an emotional anger in the moment than explodes by calling someone "You idiot" (the loose translation of the Aramaic word "Racca"). b. This is the first stage of anger, it usually does not move toward a particular act, but is still serious enough that someone expressing this kind of anger is required to come before the Sanhedrin (5:22a). c. The point of coming before spiritual leaders at this point is to make the person accountable and to deal with the anger at this stage before it progresses to the next more dangerous level. 3. Another reason why Jesus expresses the need for appearing before others when this moderate level of anger happens is to prevent the spread of anger. a. The fact of the matter is that unresolved anger in our hearts can spread to others. b. Like all emotions, when we feel them strongly, those who are our friends will be touched by them also. ILLUS: In his autobiography, "Number 1", Billy Martin told about hunting in Texas with Mickey Mantle. Mickey had a friend who would let them hunt on his ranch. When they reached the ranch, Mickey told Billy to wait in the car while he checked in with his friend. Mantle's friend quickly gave them permission to hunt, but he asked Mickey a favor. He had a pet mule in the barn who was going blind, and he didn't have the heart to put him out of his misery. He asked Mickey to shoot the mule for him. When Mickey came back to the car, he pretended to be angry. He scowled and slammed the door. Billy asked him what was wrong, and Mickey said his friend wouldn't let them hunt. "I'm so mad at that guy," Mantle said, "I'm going out to his barn and shoot one of his mules!" Mantle drove like a maniac to the barn. Martin protested, "We can't do that!" But Mickey was adamant. "Just watch me," he shouted. When they got to the barn, Mantle jumped out of the car with his rifle, ran inside, and shot the mule. As he was leaving, though, he heard two shots, and he ran back to the car. He saw that Martin had taken out his rifle, too. "What are you doing, Martin?" he yelled. Martin yelled back, face red with anger, "We'll show that son of a gun! I just killed two of his cows!" Anger can be dangerously contagious. As Proverbs puts it, "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man ... or you may learn his ways" (Prov. 22:24-25). -- Scott Bowerman, Bishopville, South Carolina. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 1.

4. Anger left unchecked at the "RACCA" stage will move onto the "YOU FOOL" stage, a much more serious level of anger! a. This level has already passed the accountability stage to men, it has moved to being accountable to God directly! b. Jesus says this level of anger will leave the individual ready for the dangers of "Hell fire"! (see also I Jn. 3:15) c. This is the level of anger that is actually planning to hurt to someone else, it is anger looking for ways to hurt others either emotionally or physically or both. 5. Jesus clearly states that anger left unchecked to this level puts the angry person in a place that the fires of hell will itself be their reward. (see I Jn. 3:15) a. This should indicate to us the seriousness of God's love for life! b. Satan is an angry being whose only desire is to harm and hurt, so when we allow anger to go unchecked we actually take on Satan's characteristics, and thus put ourselves in line for the same punishment he is experiencing. 6. While the Pharisees and teachers of the law were only concerned with the overt act of murder, Jesus tries to get them to learn to deal with the progressing issues of the heart that lead to murder. a. it is not enough to just throw people in jail for murder, we need to deal with the issues of anger in our society that push people down that road. b. Obviously one of the most important ways we can do this is by showing our children how to deal with anger in their lives by how we ourselves deal with anger in our lives. 7. How do we deal with anger? a. When you experience the "RACCA" stage, do you make yourself accountable to others for that anger, or do you simply ignore it? (1. Accountability can mean counseling (2. It can mean a friend that we can open up to. (3. It must mean some way of having others help us deal with our anger in appropriate ways. b. There is no excuse for the "YOU FOOL" stage of anger! (1. This is anger already out of control. (2. It is anger that already has in mind hurting others.

B. Unacceptable Worship 5:23-24 1. God's love of life is so serious that even the more moderate levels of anger concern Him enough to refuse to accept our worship and our gifts if there is anger in any relationship with anyone else! a. It is hardly conceivable that we could worship and celebrate God when we are not in a healthy relationship with someone else. b. God says to "leave the gifts at the altar" - you can still bring them, but there must be a priority of healthy relationships with others, gifts to God cannot make up for this! c. Please note that the gifts are left at the altar when you know SOMEONE else is angry with you, even if you are not angry there must be an attempt to heal the relationship with others before we can come and enjoy the relationship with God. 2. The greatest freedom to worship God comes with the freedom of being at peace with others! ILLUS: Chris Carrier of Coral Gables, Florida, was abducted when he was 10 years old. His kidnapper, angry with the boy's family, burned him with cigarettes, stabbed him numerous times with an ice pick, then shot him in the head and left him to die in the Everglades. Remarkably, the boy survived, though he lost sight in one eye. No one was ever arrested. Recently, a man confessed to the crime. Carrier, now a youth minister at Granada Presbyterian Church, went to see him. He found David McAllister, a 77-year-old ex-convict, frail and blind, living in a North Miami Beach nursing home. Carrier began visiting often, reading to McAllister from the Bible and praying with him. His ministry opened the door for McAllister to make a profession of faith. No arrest is forthcoming; after 22 years, the statute of limitations on the crime is long past. In Christian Reader (Jan/Feb 98), Carrier says, "While many people can't understand how I could forgive David McAllister, from my point of view I couldn't not forgive him. If I'd chosen to hate him all these years, or spent my life looking for revenge, then I wouldn't be the man I am today, the man my wife and children love, the man God has helped me to be."-- Merv Budd, London, Ontario. Leadership, Vol. 19, no. 2.

3. So serious is the effect of a broken relationship with others that God would rather have us heal that before coming and worshipping Him! a. A relationship with God is much more satisfying when we also have healthy relationships with others. b. Our own love for God cannot be pure when mixed with anger or hatred for others.

II. THE ABOLITION OF MURDER Matt. 5:43-48

A. Unrestricted Warmth 5:43-47 1. Jesus identifies how the Pharisees had changed the Old Testament law to suit their own behaviors - He states how the Pharisees had quoted the Law as saying, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy" a. Yet nowhere in the law was the last phrase "hate your enemy" found! b. They had taken "neighbor" to mean only those who are like them, such as other Jews of the Pharisaical persuasion. c. Therefore all others were NOT neighbors, and since the command was only to love "neighbors" they felt free to hate their enemies. 2. This legal loophole however defies the Old Testament law, for a neighbor was anyone who wasn't of your own grouping! 3. Thus there were no enemies to hate! 4. Hate never accomplishes any good, it only injures, and not just others, but self also!

ILLUS: Jesus didn't teach us to love our enemies for their good. It is for our own good--to keep from becoming the enemy. -- Russ Ford, death row chaplain, Christian Reader, Vol. 34.

5. Rather than hate enemies, we are to love them and pray for them. a. It is hard to hate those whom you pray for! b. The Pharisees taught "HOW TO HATE" while Jesus taught "HOW TO LOVE". 6. There is no strength that comes from loving those who love you, it is learning to love those who despise you that teach you the heart of God. a. Anyone can love those who love them. b. Even wicked people love other wicked people who love them! 7. Since God demonstrates His love toward saint and sinners alike equally, the rain and sunshine fall on both equally, should we not also learn to love equally well those who are Christians and those who are not? a. No wonder Jesus said in Mat 5:20 "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." b. There is no power to Christianity if our love does not exceed the world's concept of love! c. The fact that God loved us when we were His enemies is what ultimately transformed us from enemies of God to the friends of God we are in Christ! 8. Even if we don't murder someone physically, unchecked anger can cause us to murder reputations, murder relationships, murder joy in our lives as well as in others, etc. Only an unrestricted love toward others can heal hearts and free us from the tyranny of hate and anger!

B. Unwavering Will 5:48 1. How much does God expect of us? a. This says it all - to be "perfect like He is!!!!" b. Obviously this doesn't mean to be flawless, it means to be perfect in our love toward others, even our enemies, just like Christ loves them! 2. It means to find a way to destroy in our hearts the natural tendency to become angry with others and instead learn to value others and their life. a. It means more than just being at peace with others, it means actually going out on a limb to love them! b. It is not enough to just be peaceful with others, we must be loving!

ILLUS: It was 1944, and Bert Frizen was an infantryman on the front lines in Europe. American forces had advanced in the face of intermittent shelling and small-arms fire throughout the morning hours, but now all was quiet. His patrol reached the edge of a wooded area with an open field before them. Unknown to the Americans, a battery of Germans waited in a hedgerow about two hundred yards across the field. Bert was one of two scouts who moved out into the clearing. Once he was halfway across the field, the remainder of his battalion followed. Suddenly the Germans opened fire, and machine gun fire ripped into both of Bert's legs. The American battalion withdrew into the woods for protection, while a rapid exchange of fire continued. Bert lay helplessly in a small stream as shots volleyed overhead. There seemed to be no way out. To make matters worse, he now noticed that a German soldier was crawling toward him. Death appeared imminent; he closed his eyes and waited. To his surprise, a considerable period passed without the expected attack, so he ventured opening his eyes again. He was startled to see the German kneeling at his side, smiling. He then noticed that the shooting had stopped. Troops from both sides of the battlefield watched anxiously. Without any verbal exchange, this mysterious German reached down to lift Bert in his arms and proceeded to carry him to the safety of Bert's comrades. Having accomplished his self-appointed mission, and still without speaking a word, the German soldier turned and walked back across the field to his own troop. No one dared break the silence of this sacred moment. Moments later the cease-fire ended, but not before all those present had witnessed how one man risked everything for his enemy. Bert's life was saved through the compassion of a man whom he considered his enemy. This courageous act pictures what Jesus did for us. -- Lynn McAdam, West Germany. Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 4.

3. The idea of being "perfect" means being "mature" - like God's maturity. a. This means not letting our emotions rule our behavior. b. This means disciplining ourselves to do what is right and not just what we want to do. c. it is the idea of being "other" focused instead of "self" directed. 4. God would not ask something of us that is not possible, so to ask us to be "perfect" like He is indicates that this is attainable in the sense of being mature in our love and containing our anger and hatred. 5. Is there anger in your life that needs attention? God offers a solution for it, will you turn your hate into love?

CONCLUSION: The seeds of murder are first planted in our hearts as hate and anger. If hate and anger is not confessed and dealt with it produces a wrath that grows stronger and stronger until it seeks to destroy. Since God is the author of life, He not only opposes the taking of life but also the process that leads to murder. He won't accept worship from us if we are not right with others since it is contrary to the LOVE OF LIFE God has.