Message from David Vaughan
What a movement of God last weekend on Easter.
If you weren’t with us…we had great attendance, energy, and life change, both in person and online. The thing I am most thrilled about, though, were the 38 courageous folks who went All In over the weekend. Every number has a name, every name has a story and every story matters to God!
- The youngest person was 7.
- The oldest person was 79. (He found me afterward and told me, "I’ve seen a lot, but I’ve never experienced anything like that.")
- We had fathers and mothers baptizing their children.
- We had parents going all in with their children.
- We had someone who has been in legal trouble decide they needed a life change through Jesus.
- We had someone who struggles with mental health issues decide to rely on God and seek only the hope He can give.
- We had someone who had deep sorrow from losing children in the family go to God for comfort.
- We had people who had never been on our campus (and only watched online) decide this was their moment to say yes. And, a guy named Jerry who watches us on TV Sunday mornings on Star64 texted Conor that he now wants to go All In.
- We even had a baptism via video from our missionary partners in the country of Jordan.
It is the church working right and it never gets old! So what now? Well, let me answer by asking another question. How often do you change your mind about something? I’ve been monitoring this with myself this week…like - Are the Reds for real this year or not? I’ve changed my mind four times about whether I believe there really are five monkeys loose over in Price Hill in the St Joseph Cemetery. (Maybe there are, maybe they’re not. If they are, maybe they eat those cicadas which are coming!)
Some folks change their minds faster than Cincinnati weather! As we move into this next section of The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is going to say this a lot – "You need to change your mind/thinking on this!"
Jesus had this powerful, but stunningly irritating ability to totally re-frame any topic or discussion. Just when you thought you had him and/or this Christianity thing all figured out, Jesus came along and recalibrated how to think about stuff - "You’ve heard this…you’ve been told this…you used to think this…but now, as a kingdom follower, this is how I want you to think about this person or that subject. I want you to think a new way about anger, adultery, divorce, values, revenge, and loving your enemies." That is the list of what’s coming up over the next six weeks. What a great post-Easter run we’re going to have!
So, since we’ve gone from Graves to Gardens, now it’s time to build on that, because Jesus said this in Matthew 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."
Anybody here think they are pretty good/righteous? Anybody here perfect?
This is common among those of us who grew up with a form of religion that emphasizes the outward, but not the inner life. It is the thinking that I am good enough because of what I do. I must be a Christian because of this or that…OR I must be a Christian because of what I don’t do! Highly religious people in Jesus' day (and ours) like to focus on the outside to look holy and godly.
But Jesus says here, "Change your thinking about this, because it’s not enough. Your righteousness is as filthy rags." It’s NEVER enough – which is the name of our series and what we’ll unpack each week.
So, no matter how bad you are or how good you are on the outside, your good enough is not good enough. Because God knows your motive. The Bible says the "man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart." This is why what you think on the inside is more important than how you act on the outside. It’s why God is after your heart, as well as your mind. Because the mind is the battlefield of the soul. Every sin starts in the mind.
Buckle your seatbelts for the next six weeks, because Jesus' radical teaching is going to teach us how to be "transformed by the renewing of our minds." It will be a series that contrasts what we think and what we have heard vs what God thinks. Jesus has a new and better way to think and, therefore, to live.
In the verses I’ve been assigned today, Jesus is going to ask us to change our thinking about the danger of hate and anger and the value of reconciling a relationship. This is my main goal today – to talk with you about your broken relationships.
This message might very well transform your entire life today so wake up and take notes, because people are going to disappoint you! They will let you down. So, let me summarize what Jesus is going to say – quit murdering your relationships! And, this works whether you’re a believer or not!
Let’s dive right in, beginning in chapter 5, verse 21 and 22. “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you (FYI – this should not be skipped over lightly – Jesus has authority – who is the ultimate authority in your life?) that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment."
Not committing murder is not enough. Jesus says we shouldn’t be angry with our brother or sister. OH, my. Anybody here in trouble?! Anybody good enough now? By making this statement 2000 years ago, Jesus shattered the illusion of self-righteousness the scribes and teachers of the law had. In their day, murder was strictly limited to the physical taking of another person’s life, but now Jesus raises the bar to another level. Jesus' statement here makes all of them and all of us guilty of murder.
Because who among us has never been angry with another person? I don’t know about you, but there have been many times when I’ve been angry with someone.
-I got bit by a dog knocking on doors one summer…and I still have a mark on my leg! The apostle Paul said, "I bear on my body…" -I got hit by a golf ball by someone who didn’t yell fore one-time… -I am still upset about a thief that broke into my car in Bible College behind my apartment and stole my cassette tapes. They were all Christian music and sermons! (I would have loved to see his face when he discovered that later!)
Notice, it’s more of the attitude behind the act that Jesus is concerned about. It is ‘the spirit of the law’ that’s more important than ‘the letter of the law.’ Because the law can’t police the deeper issues of your life which are internal. Jesus is trying to fix/address the ROOT of our issues, not the fruit. Murder and hate have been around since the garden of Eden and, in case you haven’t noticed, are still a huge problem today.
Now, there is a difference between holy and unholy anger. The scriptures say "God himself is angry with the wicked every day." But being angry at the right person, for the right reason, in the right way is the difference. Jesus is talking about the kind of anger that is unjustified, unrighteous, and likely out of control. "But David, my anger is over quick." So is an atomic bomb, but look at the collateral damage. The rage some of us have is killing our family and our relationships.
Jesus is not done. "Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell." Raca was an epithet commonly used in Jesus' day. It was a term of malicious abuse, derision, and slander. It was their version of trash-talking and disrespecting someone, and it was sharing that word with an arrogant and superior attitude which catches the ire and attention of the Almighty.
“Therefore, (this is an important word to begin verse 23…) if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift."
Their ’gift’ would have been a little harder to leave because it was an animal - a sheep or goat. Here- hold my calf or doves. It’s inconvenient. Yes – restoring and/or reconciling relationships is inconvenient, but oh so necessary.
Jesus is saying here that horizontal reconciliation or relationships take precedence over vertical reconciliation or relationship. When this is not right, THIS is not right!
This is further outlined in Matthew 18, and oh, if people would only follow this so many problems in and out of the church would be helped or solved. Look at Matthew 18:15-17…"If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector."
So, if we remember an offense we have done, the command is to GO. If someone has offended us, the command is the same – GO! In a biblically functioning church, people are going and coming all the time. I have gone myself and I have had folks come to me. It’s messy, but it’s always appreciated. I am asking you right now to practice Matthew 18 this week with someone. If it’s me or a staff member, or a church member, or member of our family - pick up the phone to call or text and set a date to have this difficult, but necessary conversation. Keeping it to yourself is Never Enough! You’ll find it is healing and helpful.
Sadly though, we live in a culture in and outside of the church that follows another pattern. It’s posting instead of talking (trust me, I know about this). The danger is we talk ‘at’ people, but not 'with' people. And, this 'outrage' is normal on social media. As a result, we have learned conflict resolution from angry people on Facebook and Twitter, which isn’t conflict resolution at all. It’s just venting and ranting. Jesus says here a dialogue is much more beneficial (and biblical) than a monologue!
Verse 25 says, "Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Verses 25 and 26 are basically an application of verses 23 and 24. Jesus uses an illustration from the common practice in their day of imprisoning a person for an unpaid debt, so Jesus teaches that if you’ve got an issue with someone, it would be wise to try to resolve it privately before it is known publicly. Mend your relational fences quickly. The time for reconciliation is always now. Tomorrow is too late.
My friend Jamie’s story is a reflection of many of the themes today - anger, relational repair, and having the courage to do the right thing. You may have heard of Jamie, especially his influence in politics here on the west side. If you haven’t, you likely will.
Jamie went All In in January of 2020 and I was his Stride partner (Stride is our next step program after baptism and that team is ready to help you, too, by the way if you went All in). I can tell you he is not the same Jamie as he was. So, pray for him as the sifting is not done and the devil would like nothing better than to take him out. His struggles are on full display, but so is the grace of God that Jesus provides!
Maybe you also want a new beginning. Or you watched all those folks that went All In last weekend and you’re ready to go now. We’re going to do one more song to close out our service in just a moment, and we’ll have folks down front to talk with you if you’re ready to go All In! We can do yours today right after the service or schedule it so you can be reconciled to God, too.
The Cross is the ultimate symbol of vertical and horizontal reconciliation. Jesus came (Jamie said it) to seek and save the lost. So trust Him, because the battle belongs to the Lord.