#8 (The “Remember” Series)
TEXT: Matt. 5:21-26
INTRO: The biggest problems among Christians that can hinder a proper witness of Christ’s love are the myriad small things that often go unforgiven! It is rarely the big issues that go unforgiven; it is usually a host of little things that rub us the wrong way that we cling to. All this irritation and unforgiveness builds up and creates a wall in relationships. At the base however of spirituality is not how well we learn doctrines or how well we learn to properly worship or even how well we follow religious guidelines, it is how MUCH LIKE JESUS WE ARE, AND THIS INCLUDES BEING FORGIVEN AND FORGIVING others!
There will always be sources of irritations to distract us from loving others, we need to grow up and learn to forgive or we will miss out on what it really means to be spiritual! It is impossible to be spiritual without experiencing forgiveness, both accepting it and giving it unconditionally!
ILLUS: A MAN WHO WORKED IN THE POST OFFICE HAD A GROUCHY OLD MAN COME IN ONE DAY. THE OLD GROUCH ASKED THE POSTAL WORKER IF HE WOULD PLEASE WRITE OUT FOR HIM A POST CARD. THE OLD GROUCH INSTRUCTED HIM WHAT TO WRITE AND HOW TO ADDRESS THE POST CARD. AFTER SPENDING QUITE SOME TIME WRITING OUT IN FULL THE MESSAGE THE MAN WANTED WRITTEN THE POST OFFICE WORKER ASKED, “IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE I CAN DO FOR YOU SIR?” THE OLD GROUCH LOOKED AT THE CARD AND SAID, “YES, COULD YOU ADD A P.S. AND WRITE: ‘PLEASE EXCUSE THE SLOPPY HANDWRITING!”’ IT IS THE MYRIAD OF THINGS LIKE THIS THAT BUILD UP IN OUR HEARTS WITH UNFORGIVENESS THAT ROB US OF BEING LIKE JESUS! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
We tend to put lots of energy in being busy for the Lord and learning Scripture and how to praise and worship, but we need first to learn to be like Christ in forgiveness and then the other stuff will find their proper expression and meaning!
PROP SENT: The Bible teaches that nothing is as important as being in right relationship with God and each other, not even our worship and gifts mean much to God if we are harboring unforgiveness towards others. The root of spirituality is more about WHAT WE ARE that it is what we DO!
I. CALLOUS CHARACTER -22
1. Everyone clearly understands the judgment that falls on those guilty of really big sins!
a. Ironically, it is easier for most people to forgive big transgressions than it is the host of little ones that build up over time!
b. Those that are clearly guilty of big sins will usually not go unpunished, and everyone clearly applauds this!!!
2. But Jesus is about to make an important point, while we may applaud those people who are punished for evil sins like murder there is a hidden murderer in all of us if we continue to hold grudges and anger towards others!
a. This changes the whole concept of “taking joy” in punishing guilty people who have committed the “big” sins!
b. While murder as a crime is over quickly, anger and unforgiveness in the heart can continue to cause injury long term!
3. NOTHING is more important to God than our being in right relationship with HIM and EACH OTHER!
a. No style of worship is more important!
b. No doctrinal creed is more important!
c. No tithe is more important!
d. No religious association is more important, etc.
1. Jesus now spells this out clearly, anyone who harbors hate or anger toward his brother is just as guilty as the out-right murderer!
a. This is pretty straight forward stuff!
b. This should sure change the self righteous attitude we have toward those who have committed horrible crimes, or more likely, it should change the way we feel about ourselves and all the petty things we fail to forgive others for!
2. Life is too short to build up a list of all the things people have done against us, things we will be sure to remember so we can get even or treat them badly for it in the future sometime!
3. Jesus’ point here is simple; sin begins in the heart long before it becomes an outward act, that’s why forgiveness is a must for God’s people, it keeps the heart from getting cluttered with the seeds of sin!
ILLUS: THE STORY
IS TOLD OF 2 BUDDHIST MONKS WHO WERE WALKING THROUGH A THUNDERSTORM WHEN THEY
CANE TO A SWOLLEN STREAM. AT THE
STREAM WAS A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG JAPANESE WOMAN IN A KIMONO TRYING TO
4. As Christians, we are quick to condemn the sins of our society, things like homosexuality, murder, stealing, adultery, etc. Yet, how many of God’s people run around holding grudges and anger in their hearts toward others? IF WE DO WE ARE JUST AS GUILTY!!!
a. Jesus had in mind a crowd of Jews, some of which may have contained the very religious Pharisees and others.
b. In this audience were very religious and sincere people, people who claimed to be God’s people, they were good at praying, tithing, helping the poor, faithful to God’s house, well versed in Scripture, they knew how to sing and praise, the protocols of worship, etc.
c. But they were just as wicked as the hard line criminals if they harbored unforgiveness and anger toward their brothers!
5. The Pharisees were good at being petty toward others … and so can we!
a. Jesus was the model, He certainly did condemn sin but He also sought to forgive sinners!
b. Even when He was cruelly mistreated He did not retaliate or hold grudges, He forgave freely and so should we!
c. Chances are we are in church with a plethora of grudges and petty things we are holding onto towards others, and then we wonder why it is hard to worship in freedom!
II. CONDUCT & “CHARISMATA” -24
1. The picture here is one of a worshiper who has come to praise God, bringing a gift, probably a gift of thanksgiving.
a. This was the usual picture of a good worshiper of that day, to come to God’s house prepared to worship and praise the Lord!
b. The man is not put down as a false worshiper, but Jesus is pointing out an important aspect here about praise and worship, that it means nothing to God if we aren’t in right fellowship with one another!
2. This is a strong point, and how many Christians in this country right now are finding it hard to enjoy worship and feel like their praise is acceptable to God because they are harboring grudges toward brethren somewhere!
3. Giftedness means nothing to God without Godliness!
b. We can be gifted in the church, but if we are harboring unforgiveness in our hearts our gifts mean nothing to God! He would rather have us leave our gifts at the altar and take care of the relationship issues and then come back and offer those gifts!
4. Worship and praise take a back seat to love, the reason being is that worship and praise is not real when we are in broken relationships, we are then just pretending to love when we really aren’t!
a. This was precisely the problem with
the Pentecostal church in
b. Hence 1 Cor. 13 – even if they spoke in tongues and prophesied but had no love they were only making noise to God!
5. There is NO substitute for right relationships in God’s mind. His character is to forgive freely, and if we call ourselves “Christians” then so must our character be like Christ to forgive freely!
a. It is not easy I know, but it is a must!
b. It is much easier to learn to worship and praise, to memorize and tithe, but to forgive is divine!
ILLUS: THOSE WHO
LEARN TO LOOK LIKE CHRISTIANS WITHOUT PRACTICING THE TOUGH STUFF WE ARE CALLED
TO LIKE FORGIVENESS ARE LIKE COUNTERFEIT MONEY. COUNTERFEIT MONEY CAN BE MADE TO LOOK
LIKE THE REAL THING, IT CAN EVEN CIRCULATE THROUGH SOCIETY AND BE USEFUL FOR A
WHILE, BUT IT LACKS IN REAL AUTHORITY BECAUSE IT IS NOT THE REAL ARTICLE!
EVENTUALLY IT WILL BE SEEN FOR WHAT
IT REALLY IS – WORTHLESS! THE
PHARISEES WERE LIKE THIS; THEY LOOKED GOOD IN CHURCH
1. Jesus makes very clear here the priority He places on right relationships!
2. There can be little doubt about what Jesus was saying, leave the gifts behind and take care of loving one another, THEN come offer your gifts!
a. Jesus did not deprecate gifts at all, in fact, His point was to make gifts more beautiful and important by this instruction!
b. Gifts are appreciated more when they come from loving hearts than from grudging ones!
3. A gift will be spurned by others if it is given out of any other motive than love!
4. There is simply no other way to interpret here what Jesus is saying, He places a high priority on love and forgiveness!
a. After all, the issue was that this man had someone he was not in right relationship with, and this needed to be repaired above all things.
b. PRAISING AND WORSHIPING GOD IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR BEING RIGHT WITH ONE ANOTHER!
c. This same concept is found in the communion passage in 1 Cor. -34 – their communion practices were unacceptable to God because of their attitude toward one another, for “not correctly discerning the body of Christ.”
5. You can tell your kids HOW to pray, HOW to worship, HOW to study the Bible, etc., but you must show them HOW TO FORGIVE AND LOVE OTHERS, TO BE CHRIST LIKE or it won’t make much an impact on them!
ILLUS: ONE LITTLE BOY TAUGHT HIS MOM THIS POINT ... AS HE WAS PRAYING ONE NIGHT AS HIS MOM HAD TAUGHT HIM, “NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP, I PRAY THE LORD MY SOUL TO KEEP, IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE ... IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE …” THIS KEPT RUNNING THROUGH HIS MIND AND HE SUDDENLY STOPPED HIS PRAYER AND RAN DOWNSTAIRS TO HIS MOTHER’S SURPRISE! A FEW MINUTES LATER HE CAME BACK UP AND AGAIN KNELT AT THE BED LOOKING AT HIS CONFUSED MOTHER. “DANNY,” SHE SAID, “YOU SHOULDN’T STOP TALKING TO GOD IN THE MIDDLE OF YOUR PRAYER AND RUN AWAY, THAT’S NOT NICE, WHAT IN THE WORLD DID YOU DO?” DANNY THEN EXPLAINED, “MOM, I THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT I WAS PRAYING AND IT HIT ME, I HAD PUT MY BROTHER TED’S WOODEN SOLDIERS ALL ON THEIR HEAD INSTEAD OF THEIR FEET LIKE TED HAD PLACED THEM JUST TO MAKE HIM MAD IN THE MORNING WHEN HE SAW IT ... THEN I HEARD MYSELF PRAYING “IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE ...” AND I THOUGHT IF THAT HAPPENED I DIDN’T WANT HIM TO REMEMBER ME IN ANGER SO I THOUGHT GOD WOULDN’T MIND WAITING FOR THE REST OF THE PRAYER WHILE I UNDID WHAT I DID FIRST.” THE MOM SIMPLY RESPONDED WITH A QUIVER IN HER VOICE, “YOU’RE RIGHT DEAR, GOD DOESN’T MIND ONE BIT!” IF ONLY WE COULD LEARN WHAT THIS LITTLE BOY DISCOVERED – SOURCE UNKNOWN
a. The gifts are not condemned, only the condition of the giver in the text. Take care of the priority of relationships and then bring the gifts!
b. Healthy relationships in a church make the gifts of the Spirit even more powerful and their impact even greater, and more appreciated!
III. CONCILIATORY OR CONSEQUENCES -26
1. Jesus had earlier pronounced a “blessing on the peacemakers” of this world.
2. His point here is that we should settle matters quickly when we are at odds with someone, otherwise the wounds fester and are harder to heal. The likelihood of severe consequences increase with the length of time without reconciliation!
a. The issue Jesus is making has to do with settling things as soon as is possible.
b. This reduces the severity of the consequences and may even keep those consequences from becoming reality if we deal with things in a timely matter.
c. After all, this is the whole point of salvation. If we accept Christ’s forgiveness now in this life we will escape the ultimate consequences of sin altogether!
d. Those who procrastinate however will experience the full measure of the consequences of sin, eternal damnation after they die!
3. It is interesting here that Jesus ignores the whole issue of WHO IS RIGHT, His only interest in the story is restored relationship! Thus it doesn’t matter who is right, just that they are right with each other!
a. This is the role of the peacemaker, those who don’t care who is right or not, just that things be made right between people!
b. This is the problem with the U.N. – they send in peacekeepers and they often fail in their mission because the world needs peacemakers more than peacekeepers!
c. You can’t keep peace where none has been made! First we have to reconcile the parties, peacemaking, and then we can continue peacekeeping!
4. This is the one area of forgiveness many Christians are weak on. They might bring themselves to eventually forgive but they want to enjoy the anger for a little while first, or at least make the other person suffer for a while first!
a. The tragedy of this is that the consequences of the broken relationship grows with the passing of time and anger builds, hatred gets fixed in our hearts the longer we harbor it, thus it is harder to get rid of later! We may say unkind things to others and thus bring more people into the hurt that takes more time to fix later!
b. God’s forgiveness is immediate and sure and we must learn to do the same!
5. Wounds heal faster if they are dressed immediately and the damage is contained when a heart attack victim gets immediate care! This is true in the spiritual realm as well!
a. We Christians sometimes want to wait until we feel like God is telling us to do something about the relationship, Jesus is telling us here – DO SOMETHING! ... do it right away – don’t wait!
b. How many times do we have to hear this?
ILLUS: LIKE THE MAN WHO ANGERED EVERYONE AT AN INTERSECTION. THE CARS WERE ALL WAITING FOR THE LIGHT TO TURN GREEN SO THEY COULD GO. IT FINALLY DID BUT THE MAN IN THE CAR AT THE LIGHT DIDN’T MOVE! AGAIN THE LIGHT TURNED GREEN BUT HE STAYED ... AND AGAIN AND AGAIN IT HAPPENED! FINALLY EVERYONE WAS MAD AND GOT OUT AND ASKED THE MAN WHAT HE WAS DOING! HE FINALLY RESPONDED, “WELL I JUST WANTED TO BE SURE THIS LIGHT REALLY DOES TURN GREEN SO PEOPLE CAN GO, I TESTED IT SEVERAL TIMES JUST TO MAKE SURE.” (THIS IS NOT A TRUE STORY) OBVIOUSLY SOMEONE LIKE THIS WOULD BE CONSIDERED CRAZY ... YET THIS IS WHAT WE DO WITH GOD AND HIS CALL FOR US TO FORGIVE FREELY OTHERS. WE WAIT AND WAIT FOR THAT GREEN LIGHT, AND EVEN WHEN GOD GIVES IT WE WAIT EVEN MORE TO MAKE SURE IT IS REALLY A GREEN LIGHT. IN THE MEANTIME, GREATER DAMAGE OCCURS TO THE RELATIONSHIP AND EVERYONE AROUND US CONTINUES TO GET ANGRIER AND ANGRIER! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
1. Consequences of sin are absolute, there is real penalty for unforgiveness!
a. Jesus’ words here indicate the sureness of penalty!
b. There is no end to the suffering of unforgiveness.
2. Not only does the other person lose out when we fail to forgive and reconcile, but Jesus clearly says here we are the losers too!
a. “Two wrongs don’t make one right!”
b. Damage is a sure thing where tension and friction continue!
3. Hence, Jesus’ strong words on forgiveness, not an easy task to be sure, but a necessary one!
a. It is not so much that people don’t like Christ as much as it is they don’t like Christians – so for us, the more we are really like Christ the more people will like Christians!
b. We are to be like Christ, forgiving freely, even as you have been forgiven freely!
CONCLUSION: It is far easier to appear spiritual than to be spiritual! The real impact of Christianity in this world will not be how well we can defend doctrine, or even how well we can worship! It will be how much we have been transformed into the image of Christ. While it is important to receive Christ’s forgiveness, it is equally important to remember to give it to others ... REMEMBER FORGIVENESS!