Tuesday, June 18, 2019

25 Years of Joy


Married June 18, 1994


***

The Happy Husband
Oft, oft, methinks, the while with thee
I breathe, as from the heart, thy dear
And dedicated name, I hear
A promise and a mystery,
A pledge of more than passing life,
Yea, in that very name of wife!

A pulse of love that ne'er can sleep!
A feeling that upbraids the heart
With happiness beyond desert,
That gladness half requests to weep!
Nor bless I not the keener sense
And unalarming turbulence.

Of transient joys, that ask no sting
From jealous fears, or coy denying;
But born beneath Love's brooding wing,
And into tenderness soon dying.
Wheel out their giddy moment, then
Resign the soul to love again;

A more precipitated vein
Of notes that eddy in the flow
Of smoothest song, they come, they go,
And leave their sweeter understrain
Its own sweet self-a love of thee
That seems, yet cannot greater be!

- Samuel Taylor Coleridge [poemhunter.com]

Sunday, June 16, 2019

"Drop Everything" [Matt's Messages]

“Drop Everything”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
June 16, 2019 :: Matthew 19:13-30

Our series on the Gospel of Matthew is called “Following Jesus” because Matthew is a theological biography of the most compelling Person Who ever lived.

When you learn Who Jesus truly is and put your trust in Him, you are compelled to follow Him.

The Gospel of Matthew is an introduction to the identity of Jesus is and an invitation to discipleship.

Last week, we learned that Jesus is the Lord of Marriage.

We think that marriage is just about two people who fall in love and commit to each other. But marriage is much bigger than that, and Jesus is in charge of it.

He is the Lord of Marriage.

He is also the Lord of Singleness.

The Lord of Marriage Himself was single. Celibate and single.

The last paragraph we looked at last week said that some people (for some time and some for a lifetime) are called to forsake marriage “for the kingdom of heaven.”

And Jesus is the King of that Kingdom.

So Jesus is the Lord of Singleness.

He is over marriage, and He is worth more than marriage.

In today’s passage, we are asked to give up even more than marriage.

Here’s our title for today, “Drop Everything.”

We tend to use that phrase when something really important has come up and needs to move up to first priority.

You can just see the text message on your phone, right?

“Drop everything and get over here.”

We could summarize the application of this entire passage with the imperative, “Drop everything and follow Jesus.”

Jesus is headed towards Jerusalem.

And we know what’s going to happen Him when He gets there.

And He’s encountering various people along the way.

And when He encounters them, He has significant interactions with them. And thenwith His disciples about those interactions.

Last week, it was some Pharisees who tried to trap Him. And the disciples were flabbergasted at what He had told the Pharisees.

Today, the first encounter almost didn’t happen because the disciples tried to keep it from happening. But Jesus made sure it did happen. vv.13-15

“Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’  When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.”

Does this stuff sound familiar?

It sounds to me a lot like chapter 18.

Some kids like him wanted to be near Jesus.

Their parents wanted them to be touched by Jesus and prayed for by Jesus.

But the disciples didn’t want to be bothered. They didn’t want to be interrupted.

They didn’t want to have to deal with “the insignificant.”

Jesus was too important to spend time with little kids!

So they rebuked the parents; they scolded them; they tried to turn these kids away.

“Go. Go. Shoo, shoo.”

But Jesus rebuked the rebukers!

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”

Now, again, Jesus is first off talking about the little children.

He wants them. He wants to bless them. He puts His hands on them and prays for them.

Kids, it’s not just a song that “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

He loves you.

And, adults, we need to love kids, too.

We need to protect them and care for them and teach them and bring them to Jesus so to speak.

They are not insignificant. They are precious in His sight.

So what are you doing to value little children?

Isaac is going up to the Ranch to work with little kids.

Our children’s ministry team is serving back there in Children’s Church and Nursery, and they’re having a meeting on the 30th and they need to some more workers.

And Family Bible Week is coming up, and there are still ministry positions to fill.

We need to love the little children for Jesus sake.

But also notice what Jesus says at the very end of verse 14.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I don’t think He means the kingdom belongs exclusively to children.

I think He means like He did back in chapter 18 that the kingdom belongs to those who are LIKE children.

Children are dependent. Children are needy, and they are know they are needy.

Children are humble.

Little children are a picture of humility and dependence.

So let me say it this way:

#1. HUMBLE YOURSELF.

The first thing that Jesus is asking us to drop today is our pride.

Jesus is saying that we need to humble ourselves.

To become like little children.

One of the reasons why there are little children running around our lives is so that we are constantly reminded of what we need to be like before God.

We are needy kids.

Again, we’re not supposed to be child-ish, but we are supposed to be child-like.

In what ways are you humbling yourself these days?

If you are not humbling yourself, then you should worry that the kingdom of heaven does not belong to you.

The next person Jesus encountered was worried about that very thing. And he had reason to be. He was worried that he would not see the kingdom of heaven.

But he was worried about this because he wasn’t sure if he had done enough good deeds.

He was a rich young man (and Luke tells us that he was a ruler, perhaps a Pharisee himself). V.16

“Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’”

Now, is that a good question or a bad one?

What do you think?

Well, he’s not trying to trick Jesus, I think.

So it’s not a bad question like the Pharisees had last week.

This isn’t a trap. He seems genuinely concerned with knowing the answer.

But’s a flawed question anyway, isn’t it?

“What good thing must I do to get eternal life?’”

He’s assuming a lot there, isn’t he?

He’s assuming that you can get eternal life by doing good stuff.

By the way, this is the first time that the phrase “eternal life” is in the Gospel of Matthew. It won’t be the last, but it is the first.

Matthew prefers to talk about the Kingdom of Heaven.

But entering the Kingdom and enjoying eternal life are pretty much the same thing.

This young man says, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?’”

And Jesus answers his question with a question of His own. V.17

“‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.’”

Interesting answer, isn’t it?

I think it’s interesting that He doesn’t just say, “Oh no, my friend, you can’t earn eternal life by your good works. That’s not how it works. You simply ask me into your heart, and I will save you.” That’s not what He says.

First, He takes issue with the word “good.”

“‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good.”

I think He’s getting across the idea that there isn’t enough good in this guy to earn eternal life. There’s only one person Who has the requisite goodness, and that’s God.

And His standard is pretty hard to meet.

But let’s go with that for second. “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”

That’s definitely one way to get there. If you do it perfectly.

“How’re you doing at those?” v.18

“‘Which ones?’ the man inquired. Jesus replied, ‘'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'’”

Now, let’s just do a little Bible study together. Turn over to Exodus chapter 20, and we’ll see which of the commandments Jesus has named. Pew Bible page #73 and #74.

Which commandments did Jesus name?

Which one is murder? It’s number 6.

“Do not commit adultery.” That’s number 7.

“Do not steal.” That’s number 8.

“Do not give false testimony.” That’s number 9.

“Honor your father and mother.” (Very appropriate for Father’s Day). That’s number 5. He goes back to number 5.

And then “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

That’s not one of the 10.

That’s Leviticus 19:18, and Jesus says that it’s the second part of the greatest commandment.

So which of the Big Ten has Jesus not named?

#1, #2, #3, #4, and #10.

No other gods.
No idols.
Don’t misuse God’s name.
Remember the Sabbath Day.

And what’s number 10?

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s stuff.”

No greed.

Hmmm. I wonder if Jesus left these ones out on purpose?

Do you think He’s backing this guy into a corner?

I don’t think this young man sees it coming. V.20

“‘All these I have kept,’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?’”

What do you think?

Do you think he’s kept those?

I’m sure he has to his own satisfaction.

Maybe even to his own community’s satisfaction.

Externally, he’s not murdered anybody, not cheated on his wife, not stolen money from his neighbor, not lied in court, and not dishonored his parents.

Good for him.

But he still feels like something is missing, doesn’t he?

“What do I still lack?”

“Have I done enough?”

“I feel like I’m not there yet.”

Well, we know that he hasn’t done it. Not perfectly. Not enough.

We know what Jesus taught in the Sermon the Mount about those very commandments, how they go right down to the heart.

He doesn’t just want external obedience. He wants internal obedience.

His kingdom is inside-out.

And that’s probably what this young man was feeling.

There’s a reason why he feels like he hasn’t done enough.

It’s because he hasn’t done enough.

And he can’t do enough!

The Law can’t save him.

The Law can only show him how far off he is.

Now, Jesus is going to show him how far off he is.  V.21

“What do I still lack?”

“Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’”

In other words, “Drop everything and follow me.”

This is the same teaching He was doing in the Sermon on the Mount.

You see that word “perfect” in verse 21? That’s the word for “whole” or “complete” or we said “from the inside-out.”

The same on inside as on the outside.

If you want to be whole and complete, then sell everything you have and give it away to the poor, and you will have “treasure in heaven.”

Remember that from the Sermon on the Mount?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

He’s just telling this guy what He said to everyone n the Sermon the Mount.

Except he’s a little more drastic.

He tells this guy to sell it all and give it all away.

Why?

He doesn’t tell everybody to do that.

He encounters other rich people and doesn’t tell them to do the exact same thing.

Why does He tell this guy?

Because of the 10th commandment, right?

Because of the 1st and 2nd commandments, right?

“You shall not covet.
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol.”

This guy worshiped money, and Jesus knew it.

Wealth had become an idol for him. A false god.

And Jesus said that to follow Him, this man need to forsake his false god.

#2. FORSAKE YOUR FALSE GODS.

The young man asked if he had done enough, but Jesus said, “That’s not the question.”

The question is, “Am I enough for you?”

“You’ve got too much! And it threatens what should be my proper place in your heart.”

And here’s how we know that Jesus put his finger on it. V.22

“When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”

And, obviously, his great wealth had him.

This young man refused to follow Jesus because he loved his money too much.

He couldn’t conceive of giving it all up to follow Jesus.

Now, Jesus does not ask all of His followers to give up all of their finances.

But!

Don’t get too comfortable!

Jesus may ask it of you or me at any time.

And if we aren’t willing to comply with that request, then it might show us how our wealth has become our god.

So here’s the question:

Is Jesus your greatest treasure?

I’m sure that this guy had given money before.

He had given alms. He had made the proper offerings.

But Jesus asked him to give up everything to show that Jesus was worth everything to him.

Is Jesus your greatest treasure?

If not, what is?

It might not be money.

“The love of money is the root of all kinds of evils.”

But there are lots of other things out there that could become a false god for us.

An idol is anything that takes the rightful place of God in your heart and life.

What threatens to do that for you?

Topple it. Topple that idol. Forsake it and turn from it.

Jesus is saying, “Drop everything and follow me.”

Do you see that “follow me” in verse 21.

That’s the point of this whole Gospel.

Learn Who Jesus is and then follow Him accordingly.

Who is Jesus? He’s the greatest treasure ever.

Drop everything and follow Him.

Now, that’s going to look different for different people.

But it probably means for all of us living on less and being sacrificial with our giving, especially to the poor (notice the poor there in verse 21, we often miss Jesus’ concern  for the poor).

We need to make sure that we don’t love money more than we love Jesus, and one of the ways to do that is to give till it hurts so that we are sacrificing for Jesus.

Become wealth can easily become a trap.

And friends, we are fabulously wealthy compared to most of the rest of the world and the rest of history.

You and I may not think of ourselves as rich, but by world standards, we most definitely are.

And here’s what Jesus says. V.23 The guy has left, and He turns to His disciples.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’”

Now, some people have tried to argue this away, but Jesus means exactly what He says.

Here is a needle. I asked Heather if I could borrow one of her needles.

She put this yarn on it, so that I couldn’t lose it, and so that I didn’t hurt myself, I think.

Can you see the eye of this needle?

Can you see through it?

Okay, I have also asked Heather if I could borrow one of her camels.

Bring the camel in now.

[I’m just kidding. She doesn’t have one...yet.]

The biggest animal that the Jews were around and the smallest opening that the Jews knew.

Can you fit one of those through here?

“I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” v.25

“When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’”

“I mean, I thought that rich people were blessed by God.

Aren’t rich people the most likely candidates for the kingdom?

They have money to give.
They have time to study the Bible.
They obviously have God’s blessing.

If they can’t be saved, then then who can?!”

“Jesus looked at them [I love that!] and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”

#3. TRUST GOD TO SAVE YOU.

You can’t do this.

You can’t do some good thing and get eternal life.

You can’t clean up your act enough.

You can’t pay for your own sins.

You can’t cleanse your heart so that you are acceptable.

And you certainly can’t buy your way in.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”

And we know how He made it possible.

We know what happens in Jerusalem.

We know what happens at Golgotha.

We know what happens at the Place of the Skull.

The Cross happens.

Jesus is crucified.

And in His death, He purchases our salvation.

With us mere humans it is impossible, but with God and His Son Jesus all things are possible.

Have you come to trust in God for your salvation?

Not in your own works, your own goodness, your own righteousness.

But in God alone.

In Jesus alone and what He did for you on that Cross.

You see, if the rich become like a little child and simply trust in Jesus, then they can be saved.

It takes a miracle, but that’s the business that God is in.

One more paragraph and then we’re done.

Peter has to respond to this, and he does it in his own inimitable way. V.27

“Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?’”

He’s been listening to all this and wondering if he understand how it all works.

Peter knows that, unlike the rich young man who just went away NOT a disciple, he and the other disciples have left things to follow Jesus.

So what does that mean?

Now, Jesus is really gentle with Peter.

He could say, “Peter, have you really given up everything?”

Because we’re going to see that Peter has a lot more still to give up.

But he is following. He hasn’t turned away.

And Jesus says, “Oh yes, you’ll get everything.” v.28

“Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake [don’t miss that!] will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

Next time, he’s going to illustrate that last sentence with a parable.

But it basically means here that the little children get the kingdom and the rich young men don’t get the kingdom.

If you are first, you must lay that aside and humble yourself and become last.

But those that are last, will be moved to the front of the line.

And boy will it be worth it!

#4. LEAVE EVERYTHING FOR JESUS.

Leave everything for Jesus, and you will receive everything with Jesus.

That’s what the rich young man was missing.

He was not believing in the great reward.

Following Jesus comes with great reward.

You can’t give up enough!

Because Jesus will return everything a hundredfold! V.28 again.

“I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things [when the whole world gets resurrected and born again], when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

I wish I had time to talk about that in light of our conference this week.

There are various views of how exactly this will be fulfilled. And the EFCA is making a decision this Wednesday about which views are acceptable to hold and which ones are outside of our boundaries. I think there’s room for a few more variances than we have now.

But we all believe that Jesus is coming back in glory and going to sit on His glorious throne.

And then Peter and the others who have given up so much will rule and reign and judge with Him.

And so will we!  V.29

“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake [for Jesus’ sake] will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit [not “earn;” it’s a gift, it’s inherited as gift] eternal life.”

That’s how you get eternal life.

That’s how you enter the kingdom.

Like a little child, dropping everything to be picked up by your Father.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones
49. If Your Brother Sins Against You
50. The Lord of Marriage

Sunday, June 09, 2019

"The Lord of Marriage" [Matt's Messages]

“The Lord of Marriage”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
June 9, 2019 :: Matthew 19:1-12

Matthew 19 marks the beginning of a new section in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus has finished his 4th major block of teaching and is now headed towards Jerusalem.

And on His way, He runs into several different people and has some significant interactions with them, which we might call “teachable moments.”

Today, it’s some Pharisees, and they have a test for Him on His theology of marriage.

How do you think that’s going to go?

Here’s a life-hack for you. A pro-tip for living:

Never try to lay a trap for Jesus.

Unless you like falling into your own traps!

“When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.”

Here is Jesus marching towards Jerusalem.

You and I know what is going to happen there.

And Jesus knows what’s going to happen there.

But everybody else is still kind of in the dark.

In verse 1, Jesus finishes His teaching on humility and being great in the kingdom and God’s love for the little ones and the importance of resolving our conflicts and forgiving one another. And then He leaves the North and heads South towards Jerusalem.

And the crowds begin to form.

And, as He has done throughout this book, Jesus heals the sick in those crowds.

And then in verse 3, some Pharisees come, and they see the good work that Jesus is doing, and they see how the crowds are following Him, and they are convinced by His words that He is the Messiah, and they bow before Him and lead the nation to follow Him themselves.

Just kidding. LOL. That’s not at all what they do!

That’s what they should do, but it’s not what they do.

No, they come to Jesus and try to trap Him. V.3

“Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?’”

“Let’s give Jesus a test and see if He passes.”

They are not sincere.

They are not asking this question to find out the truth.

They have an agenda with this question.

They want to trap Jesus.

How does that work?

Well, there was a big debate during this time about the theology of divorce.

There were two major schools of thought. The school of Rabbi Shammai and the school of Rabbi Hillel.

Rabbi Shammai said that God requires divorce only in the case of adultery. But Rabbi Hillel said that God allows divorce any time a man is unhappy with his wife. Even if she burns dinner or her eyebrows get too bushy.

And the Pharisees think that they can trap Jesus with this question.

“Which side are you on?”

“If you side with Rabbi Hillel, and anything goes, doesn’t that contradict what you said at the Sermon on the Mount? And where does it all end?

But if you side with Rabbi Shammai (and I think that’s what they hope He will do), then you might get into trouble with Herod Antipas.”

Remember Him? Remember what happened to John the Baptist when He made a pronouncement about some divorce being against God’s law?

Prison first. And then off with his head.

They think they’ve got Him.

Maybe they’ve even stumped Him.

Can Jesus answer this stumper of a question?

What do you think?

I entitled this message, “The Lord of Marriage.”

Because Jesus is not just the Lord of the Sabbath or the Lord of all of the other things we’ve seen Him master in this book.

He is also the Lord over marriage.

Not only does Jesus have a theology of marriage, His theology flows from His own authority.

The Pharisees obviously don’t recognize this or they wouldn’t be asking the question this way, but that’s their mistake.

Jesus pushes back. V.4

“‘Haven't you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.’”

It’s always a sick burn when Jesus says, “Haven’t you read your Bibles?”

They think they have Him stumped, and He says, “I think the answer to that one is on the first page of your Bible. Haven’t you read it?”

“I think you’re missing the point. Let’s go back and look.”

And Jesus leads them on a Bible study of Genesis 1 and 2.

Jesus is saying that they are starting in the wrong place with their questions.

We’ll see that they are starting with Deuteronomy 24, but the Jesus says, “You’ve got to go back further than that or you’ll be missing the point.”

And speaking of points, I have three points of application for today’s message.

Here’s the first:

#1. TRUST THE DESIGNER TO DEFINE MARRIAGE.

V.4 again.

“‘Haven't you read,’ he replied, ‘that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one.

Marriage is God’s idea.

He designed it.

It’s not something that we came up with.

It came from (v.4), “the Creator.”

The Designer.

The Original Lord of Marriage.

Marriage is God’s idea, and so we should get our ideas of what marriage should be from Him.  Make sense?

Obviously, this flies in the face of so much of our modern culture, including among Christians.

We want to define marriage our own way.

We want to do what we want to do with it.

And we figure that God (if He exists) just has to be okay with that.

But that’s exactly wrong.

He is the Lord of Marriage. We need to listen to Him.

This passage (vv.4-6) is very relevant to a whole host of contemporary issues and questions.

It addresses marriage and also divorce.

It also addresses same-sex marriage and transgenderism, doesn’t it?

It has implications for those.

Because Jesus says Genesis 1 says that humans are made male and female. Remember when we talked about that back in February? 

Two biological sexes. Different and complementary. Male and female, not interchangeable. Not changeable. And it was “tov” It was good.

And here’s what marriage is:

Jesus says that Genesis 2 says that a man (1 man, this passage addresses bigamy and polygamy, too, a man) will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (1 biological woman), and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one.

So here’s God’s math:

One plus one equals one.

One man and one woman come together to be one flesh.

That’s the design.

Don’t believe it if people tell you that Jesus never said anything about same-sex marriage.

Jesus said, “I agree with Genesis.”

The Creator has designed marriage, and it is good.

By the way, this passage also addresses co-habitation, doesn’t it?

Living together as if you are married when you aren’t.

That is not how God designed the one flesh relationship.

The one flesh relationship is for a husband and a wife.

Two people who have de-prioritized all other loyalties and then re-prioritized each other as their number one loyalty on earth so that they have actually formed a new entity, a new family, a new unity.

“So they are no longer two, but one.”

That’s what marriage, and it’s where sex belongs.

“One flesh” means more than just sex, but it doesn’t mean less.

Two bodies coming together in sexual intimacy is for marriage, by God’s design.

I say, “Trust the Designer” because I want to emphasize that when we obey the Lord of Marriage, we are trusting that He knows best.

Because it doesn’t always seem that way.

I know that some people have same-sex attraction, persistent same-sex attraction. And they want to marry somebody of the same sex, and it seems like that would be really good to them.

But that’s not how the Creator designed marriage. That’s not what marriage is.

And the Lord of Marriage is calling us to trust Him to do things His way and be blessed.

I know that some people suffer from gender dysphoria. They feel great unease about their own bodies. They would rather be the other sex than they were born.

I empathize with that pain. It must be very great, and I don’t pretend to know the half of it.

But I do know that my Creator is good and His design for creation is good.

And I know that I can trust Him.

And I know that some people are wary of marriage. They think it’s just a piece of paper. They have seen the ravages of divorce. They want to make sure that this person they want to be with is the right person, and so they want to test drive the relationship and live like they’re married before they are married just to make sure. And there are, unfortunately in some cases, financial benefits to living together instead of getting married.

But that’s not how God designed it.

That’s going against the grain of the universe.

As is polygamy. And, as we’ll see, as is divorce.

Jesus is asking us to trust the Lord of Marriage and do it His way.

You see his application? V.6

“Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Application point number two:

#2. DON’T RUSH TO AMPUTATE WHAT THE LORD HAS STITCHED.

“[W]hat God has joined together, let man not separate.’”

What has God joined together?

He calls it “one flesh.”

Now, it’s just a metaphor, but what a picture that is!

It’s like one man surgically sewn together with one woman to form a new unity.

And after the surgery heals, there’s just one entity there.

And Who is the surgeon?

“What GOD has joined together.”

Marriage is not just something that two people do to themselves.

It’s not even just something that the state does to two people.

Jesus says that God puts people together into marriages.

So we should be very careful about pulling them apart!

Do you see how this answers the Pharisees’ question?

They wanted to know when it was okay to divorce.

Jesus says, “Divorce?! Uh. That’s never ‘okay.’ That’s never best. That’s never good, never ‘tov.’ Divorce wasn’t the idea. Divorce wasn’t the design, the intention.”

Don’t do that if you can at all help it.

Don’t just amputate what the Lord has stitched together.

Now, I know that this is a painful subject for many us here.

We have all been touched by divorce in our families, and many of you have experienced divorces personally.

I know this painful.

For some of you, it’s painful because you didn’t want it, but it happened to you anyway.

For some of you, it’s painful because you know you did it wrong, and you feel the weight of that.

For some of you, it's painful because you're going through it right now.

For some of you, most of you, you feel some degree of shame. Even if you didn’t do anything shameful in the whole process, you still feel shame put on you by others. Even what I’ve said so far this morning might seem to pile it on further.

There is confusion and hurt. When you let someone into your life so that they get all the way to one-flesh, and then that relationship breaks and becomes jagged, it’s got to hurt. Being in conflict and estranged and eventually divided from the person who was the closest person to you has got to hurt and have lingering effects.

I know that divorces are painful.

And so does the Lord.

And divorce, even sinful divorce, is not the unforgivable sin.

And not all divorces are sinful (at least on one side) as we’ll see in verse 9.

But Jesus is saying that divorce should be avoided if at all possible.

We should be extremely reluctant to divorce.

Because what God has joined together is something we should not separate.

That’s not how it was designed.

Marriage wasn’t designed to be temporary.

It was to be dissolved only by death.

So the Pharisees have a comeback.

They don’t realize that they have already lost.

They whip out Deuteronomy 24:1, and think they have answered Him. V.7

“‘Why then,’ they asked, ‘did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?’ [Huh, Jesus? Riddle me that! Answer that one!]

Jesus replied, [You numbskulls] ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”

Notice that word “permitted.”

Here’s where Jesus differs from Rabbi Shammai.

He thought that if there was adultery, then God required a divorce.

“No,” Jesus says, “God through Moses permitted a divorce in those cases because of hard hearts, but He didn’t command them.”

You don’t have to divorce even when there has been sexual immorality.

That’s not the way it was is in the beginning.

The design was for permanence.

Marriage was built to last.

Yes, we messed it all up. Hard hearts. Lots of sin. Lots of covenant breaking.

Yes, divorce got allowed. (Even polygamy gets allowed for a time.)

But that wasn’t the design.

Don’t rush out and get a divorce!

Make every effort.
Make every effort.
Make every effort you can to salvage that thing.

I know that’s not what the world says.

The world rushes to divorce.

And so do many professing Christians.

And again, there are solid reasons to divorce, as we’ll see in verse 9.

And if you have divorced for the wrong reasons, there is plenty grace at the Cross for all repentant sinners.

But the Lord of Marriage says, “Don’t rush to amputate what I have sewn together.”

Make every effort.

Divorce should be a last resort.

Remember the last chapter.

Remember the amazing grace of forgiveness.

How much we have been forgiven, which gives us the power to unleash much forgiveness into our relationships.

Make every effort.

Because, verse 9:

“I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Now, you hear the exception there. And there is at least one other exception that Paul lays out in 1 Corinthians 7, abandonment by an unbelieving spouse.

But the emphasis here isn’t on the exception of sexual immorality, the Greek is “porneia” from which we get our word “porn” and it means various kinds of covenant breaking marital sexual unfaithfulness.

The emphasis isn’t on the exception.

It’s on the fact that if you divorce and remarry for the wrong reasons, you are committing adultery, breaking the 7th commandment.

You’re badly amputating what the Lord has sewn together.

And notice by Whose word this is. V.9

“I tell you...”

Don’t miss that! That’s super important.

Remember, this is the Gospel of Matthew. Keep your eye on the ball!

Who does this guy think He is?

He thinks He’s the Lord of Marriage!

It’s like the Sermon on the Mount.

“Moses said this, but I tell you...”

Don’t do it.

Don’t divorce for the wrong reasons.

“What God has joined together, let man not separate.”

Now, there is an exception here.

And it’s a true one. If one spouse falls into marital unfaithfulness (porneia), they are in that moment ripping up the surgery themselves and defacing the one-flesh relationship.

If your spouse has done that to you, you are permitted by the Lord of Marriage to divorce them.

Permitted, not commanded!

I’d still say, “Make every effort.”

“Make every effort.”

Even when it doesn’t feel like it.

Because we know that our marriages are pictures of Christ and the Church.

And if we can salvage them, they can still be wonderfully beautiful pictures of Christ and the Church.

We should be extremely reluctant to throw away any pictures of Christ and the Church.

But it is permitted, especially if they are unrepentant.

If they are amputating what the Lord has stitched together, you certainly don’t have to pretend that all is well.

But the Lord of Marriage wants us to do everything we can to uphold it.

Now, the disciples overreact to what Jesus has just taught. V.10

“The disciples said to him, ‘If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.’”

I’m pretty sure that was Peter!

Sounds like him, doesn’t it?

He was married already. He knew that marriage was a lot of work.

And now Jesus says that it’s for better, for worse, and for keeps.

You might feel trapped in a marriage if it’s for life. A life sentence.

What’s fascinating is that even though that’s a rash overreaction, Jesus basically says, “Yeah, that’s right for some people.”

For some people it is better to not marry. V.11

“Jesus replied, ‘Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. [There’s three kinds.] For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage [or became eunuchs] because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.’”

So, surprisingly, our last application point is:

#3. SERIOUSLY CONSIDER CELIBACY FOR THE KINGDOM.

Ironically, the Lord of Marriage says that marriage is not for everyone.

Some people are (at least for a time and some for a lifetime) called to celibate singleness.

And that’s not strange.

We think that’s so strange.

We think that’s so hard.

“Celibacy is so hard!”

But Jesus says, “Marriage is hard. Celibacy is just a different kind of hard.”

You know what’s hard?

Being born a eunuch. Being celibate because your body came out that way.

Being celibate because somebody did that to you.

It’s actually much easier to choose to live the celibate lifestyle than to have forced on you.

And what if you choose it for the kingdom?

Isn’t that quite a phrase in verse 12, “because of the kingdom of heaven.”

I read a quote yesterday from Douglas O’Donnell that really struck me.

He said, “The kingdom of heaven is so important that it should seem perfectly normal if someone would want to give up marriage for it.”

There are a bunch of reasons why it can be advantageous for the kingdom for you to stay single, at least for a time, and for some a life-time.

And if you are called to that, embrace it. “The one who can accept this should accept this.”

And those of us who are married should celebrate those who are single right now for the kingdom.

I think, all too often, we’ve treated singles as second-class kingdom citizens.

But that’s totally wrong. The Apostle Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 7, as well.

Single Christians are first-class kingdom citizens if they are living for the Lord.

And this church has an awesome history of having wonderful single people in it serving the Lord.

And there are many right here in this room today.

If you are single right now and serving the Lord, thank you.

Thank you for being celibate.

Thank you for being devoted.

Thank you for using your singleness for the Kingdom.

You know who you are like?

You’re like the Apostle Paul.

And you’re like the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because ironically, the Lord of Marriage never got married Himself.

Or perhaps better to say, He’s still engaged to be married to the Church His Bride, and we await the Wedding Supper of the Lamb when all earthly marriages will be o over and we all will have in full what they all pointed to in part, the relationship between the Lord of Marriage and His Church.

What a glorious day that will be!


***

Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith
48. These Little Ones

Sunday, June 02, 2019

"Never Shaken" [Matt's Messages]

“Never Shaken”
June 2, 2019 :: Psalm 15

Next week, I plan to return us to the Gospel of Matthew and maybe stay there a while! But this week, I felt called away from Matthew again and back into the Psalms once more.

As I’ve said a number of times, for me 2019 is a year of Psalms. Every morning with my cup of coffee. Sitting on the end of the couch next to the window. Psalms. Psalms. Psalms.

I’m up to Psalm 69 now in my daily times with the Lord.

But when I thought about our high school graduates, Meizhen, Laura, Robin, Hudson, and what we might want to say to them on Graduation Sunday, my mind immediately went to Psalm 15.

I didn’t really know why. I was talking about it with Heather Joy, and Psalm 15 is what just jumped out to the front of my brain.

And so I looked at Psalm 15 closely, and I realized what attracted me to it in the first place, and that was the description in Psalm 15 of a person who will never be shaken. Psalm 15 ends with the words, “He who does these things will never be shaken.”

Which is almost word for word what we saw on Mother’s Day in Psalm 62, right? Do you remember?

That sermon was called “Unshaken Moms.”

David wrote, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

And I realized that I want that for our graduates.

And not just the one that graduated from the Mitchell Homeschool.

So we could call this message, “Unshaken Grads” to go with “Unshaken Moms.”

But it’s really for all of us, and there are only a few grads, so I just went with the title “Never Shaken.”

“Never Shaken”

There will be many things that threaten to shake you in life.

But they don’t have to shake you. They don’t have to win.

They don’t have to knock you off of your feet and push you down the hill.

There is a life that is unshakable.

And that’s what David is singing about in Psalm 15.

This song starts with a question.

There are actually two questions in verse 1, but the Hebrews loved to repeat themselves.

The Hebrews loved to repeat themselves.

Did I mention that the Hebrews loved to repeat themselves?

Verse 1 is yet another example of what we call Hebrew Parallelism.

The Hebrews loved to repeat themselves.

The two questions David asks in verse 1 are really two versions of the same question.

Let’s look at it. V.1

“A psalm of David. LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?”

This is a song about qualifications!

Don’t you just love a song about qualifications?

This is a song about a certain kind of person.

“Who is qualified?”

Notice that verse 1 is a prayer.

David talks to Yahweh, to his God.

David talks directly to the LORD.

And he asks him a question.

“LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?”

What is he talking about?

I don’t think David literally meant who can live in the tabernacle.

The tabernacle was the sacred tent that the NIV84 calls “the sanctuary.”

The holy hill is Zion, where David pitched the tabernacle and eventually Solomon placed the temple. The temple mount is the holy hill.

I don’t think that David expected any humans to literally live in the tabernacle, even the priests didn’t do that.

But he did expect some to come for a visit.

Some scholars have thought that this Psalm was an “entrance” song that would be sung as worshippers came to bring their sacrifices to the tabernacle.

And that could be.

But we’re going to see in verses 2 through 5 that the answer to the song’s opening question is NOT someone who does the right rituals.

There were right rituals for worshippers to do in the Old Testament. The book of Leviticus lays them out nicely for us to read.

But that’s not what this Psalm celebrates.

This Psalm celebrates a certain kind of heart. A certain kind of character. A certain way of life. A person with a certain kind of way of living their lives before God.

We could say that this Psalm sings about the kind of person that God wants to be with.

What kind of a person does God want to be with?

What kind of a person does God want to dwell with, fellowship with, enjoy their personal presence?

Remember, the tabernacle was an earthly symbol of the presence of God.

A tent in the center of the tent city.

A home in the middle of God’s people.

What kind of person does God want in His home?

How would you answer that question?

If you were writing this song.

“LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?”

The rest of the song answers that question for us.

It’s like a list of what God is looking for from His people.

It’s not an exhaustive list.

It’s more like a representative list.

And it’s not a replacement for the ten commandments or even the Sermon on the Mount.

It’s just a song that paints a beautiful picture of godly person.

The kind of person God wants to dwell with.

And today it’s my prayer that our graduates and all of the rest of us live like this song sings.

I’ve summarized it in 5 application points.

#1. WALK THE WALK.

What kind of person does God want to relate to in His home? Who gets past the security and is welcomed in? V.2

“He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous...”

In other words, somebody who walks the walk.

This is not just somebody who goes through the motions.

It’s not somebody who is just “all talk.”

But somebody who actually lives their lives with integrity.

That word “blameless” here does not mean perfect. It means “ethical” and “whole.” It means somebody who practices what they preach. Ethical rightness, not moral perfection.

We would say, “He walks with integrity.”

He does the right thing.

She does the right thing.

I think that this quality goes first in the song because it summarizes all of the rest of it.

If you want to know what “walking the walk” looks like, you just read the rest of verses 2-5 and you’ll see.

We all know what the opposite looks like.

It looks like a hypocrite. All talk, no walk.

One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from the man named David whom I worked for in the summer of 1993. He was a pastor, but I’m not sure what he really believed.

David told me that the Bible was a pretty good attempt by man to explain God. But that’s it. I don’t think he really believed that the Bible was from God.

But we spent a lot of time together that summer, and this is what he said to me at the end of our time together.

He said, “Matt, you are the only fundamentalist (and by that he meant somebody who believed the Bible) I’ve ever met that lived out what you preach.”

And that was sad to me that he didn’t know any other genuine Christians, but it encouraged me so much that he believed I was the real deal and that it showed by how I live.

God wants His people to actually live out what we believe.

Walk the walk.

#2. TALK THE TRUTH IN LOVE.

As disciples, we do have to talk, but we have to talk the truth, and we have to talk it in love. V.2 again.

What kind of person does God want to relate to in His home?

“He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous who speaks the truth from his heart...”

From his heart.

So here it’s talking the talk that goes along with the walk.

For real, from the heart.

Sounds a lot like Jesus, doesn’t it?

It’ll be a thousand years after this song writer wrote Psalm 15 that his great-great-great-great.....grandson would say, “...out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

What comes out of our mouths?

Or to update it to 2019, what comes out of you thumbs?

What kind of communication is issuing from our hearts? V.3

“[The one who dwells with God...] has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman...”

See how he uses his words?

See how she uses her words?

She uses them in love.

She doesn’t lie about her neighbor, her co-worker, her friend.

He doesn’t pass along the juicy gossip to others.

Here’s the word, I think of:

This person is “safe.”

Not only do they have integrity, but you feel safe around them.

They’re not going to use what you say in a destructive or hurtful way.

What they say is true, yes, but more than that, they use their words to build others up and care for the people around them.

Words are so powerful, friends. How are we using them?

Especially on social media.

What are we saying?

Who is listening?

Are we safe people?

Does verse 3 sound like you?

“[This one] has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman...”

On Facebook. On Twitter. On Instagram. On Snapchat.

Or whatever is the newest thing.

The one whom God wants in His house is a safe person. People feel safe around them because of how they talk the truth in love.

#3. HONOR THE GODLY.

Not only do they walk the walk and talk the truth but they walk with the wise. V.4

What kind of person does God want to relate to in His home?

“[The one] who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD...”

This one might be a bit of a surprise.

To hear that the godly person despises a vile man.

That doesn’t mean that he isn’t supposed to love that vile man, as well.

To love them for Christ.

But he doesn’t love them for themselves.

He doesn’t honor them.

He doesn’t honor the dishonorable.

He doesn’t celebrate the evil.

No, he honors “those who fear the LORD.”

What is the fear of the LORD?

It’s the beginning of wisdom. This is a wisdom Psalm.

This kind of person honors the wise. She honors the believer. She stands with the godly.

In many ways, this is about choosing your friends.

And this is true for our graduates who are just being released out into the world.

Whom are you going to associate with? Who will be your closest friends?

And it’s also true for all of the rest of us.

We need to be careful with whom we stand with, whom we walk with.

Solomon says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

I think we really get into trouble when we begin to honor those who are dishonorable.

I see this, also on social media.

Not that we don’t do it in other arenas of life, but it’s on display when we broadcast on the internet.

I see Christians praising and honoring and celebrating some of the worst kinds of people and the worst kinds of behaviors.

Now, I’m not saying that we need to spew out outrage and shame on the internet other. There is plenty of that out there already.

But whom do we stand with?
Who do we support?
If somebody looked at your social media accounts, would they know that you stand with the godly?

Could they tell that you honor the honorable?

Do you honor those who fear the LORD?

God wants the people in His house (so to speak) that honor the kind of people He wants in His house.

Honor the Godly.

#4. KEEP YOUR WORD.

V.4 again. What kind of person does God want to relate to in His home?

“[The one] who keeps his oath even when it hurts...”

This is the kind of person who keeps their promises even when it is no longer advantageous to do so.

I know that’s not how the world works.

The world says, “If you can find a better deal somewhere, then break your contract if you can get away with it.”

But God says, “Keep your word even when it hurts.”

The world should be able to look at the Church and rightly assume that a handshake will be enough.

Sadly, that is not the case in general.

Is it the case with you?

Keep your word.

#5. LOVE MERCY AND JUSTICE. V.5

What kind of person does God want to relate to in His home?

“[The one]...who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.”

I don’t think that David is saying that we can never have a business transaction where we charge interest.

He is not saying that we shouldn’t put our money in a savings account.

He’s saying that we shouldn’t practice predatory lending.

In Israel at the time, Israelites were not allowed to charge interest to fellow Israelites. In general, they could loan some money and keep a safety deposit to ensure repayment.

But they weren’t allowed to charge interest because if another Israelite had to borrow money, it meant that they were in trouble. They had experienced extreme hardship.

They weren’t using capital to build a business or something like that.

They had experienced extreme loss and were poor and needed help.

What do you do when your brother or sister is in trouble like that?

How do you see them?

The world sees them as an easy mark!

The world sees them as someone to take advantage of.

Payday loans. High interest rates.

Extortion. They have no other options, so it’s a great chance to get rich off of them.

But God is looking for the merciful.

“Blessed are the merciful.”

You see a person in trouble, and you don’t say, “Look at the opportunity here!”

It’s not illegal to charge somebody exorbitant interest rates, but that’s not the kind of heart that God is seeking.

God would rather that we lost money keeping our word or helping the needy than if we shrewdly held onto every penny.

And more than mercy, He also desires justice.

Solomon says, “A wicked man accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the course of justice” (Proverbs 17:23).

That’s not the kind of person God wants to hang out with.

God cares what we do with our money.

He wants us seek justice with it.

He wants us to put our money where our hearts are supposed to be.

Honorable in all of our dealings.

It’s so easy to cut corners, isn’t it?

We may not ever be in a position to actually take a bribe for lying in court.

But we often are tempted to trim the truth in our favor, aren’t we?

To not say it like it is if it hurts us and helps somebody else.

But that’s the kind of person that God wants to dwell with.

That’s the kind of person God wants over at His house.

What kind of people do you want in your house?

This is the kind of person that God is looking to relate to in His home.

People who walk the walk.
People who talk the talk in love.
People who honor the godly.
People who keep their word.
People who love mercy and justice.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” v.5

“He who does these things will never be shaken.”

David says more than just that these kind of people are welcome to visit at God’s house.

He says that they will have a quality to their life that is unshakable.

Now, he’s not disagreeing with himself from Psalm 62.

In Psalm 62 on Mother’s Day, we learned that we get this unshakableness from trusting in God.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Psalm 62 and Psalm 15 go together.

Psalm 15 tells us what a person lives like who trusts God like Psalm 62 says to.

You can’t do Psalm 15 without faith in God.

Psalm 62 and Psalm 15 go together.

What we told the Moms is true for the Grads and for all of us.

But that kind of Psalm 62 faith makes us into different kind of people, Psalm 15 people.

People who live like this will never be shaken.

Of course, none of us live like this...perfectly.

I don’t know about you, but when I read Psalm 15, I often feel despair.

Because I know how much I have not walked the walk.

I know how many times I have lied and slandered and gossiped and not been a safe person for others.

I know how many times I have honored the dishonorable and ignored the godly.

I know how I have broken promises when it served me.

When I have taken advantage of the weak and overlooked injustice when it was to my advantage.

I know how far I have missed the mark.

I probably don’t know how far I have missed the mark.

And when I think about that, I realize how wonderful it is that the Psalms are not just about us, but about Jesus.

David knew how far he had fallen short.

David knew the blessings of being forgiven. Read Psalm 32 this afternoon!

Jesus is the only person in history who could sing this song about Himself and have utter confidence that He could dwell in the sanctuary and live on the holy hill.

Jesus is the Who of verse 1.

He is the perfect singer of verses 2 through 5.

And He was not shaken.

He was unshakable.

Even facing the Cross.

Worship at the Lord’s Table

At this Table, we marvel at how the perfect human lived His life and then died His death.

He walked the walked the walk.
He talked the truth in love.
He honored those who fear the LORD.
He kept His word EVEN WHEN IT HURT.

Even when the nails went into His flesh.

He loved mercy and justice.

And He was not shaken.

And for all who put their faith and trust in Him, we get everything coming to Him.

That’s the great exchange.

Our sin on Him. His righteousness on us.

His reward on us, not because we have done it perfectly, but because He has.

And because of His grace.

We can be unshaken because He was.

We can relate to God on Jesus’ perfect record.

We can dwell with the Lord because Jesus has lived His perfect life and died His loving death for us.

That’s what we celebrate here.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

[Matt's Messages] "If Your Brother Sins Against You"

“If Your Brother Sins Against You”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
May 26, 2019 :: Matthew 18:15-35

Pop Quiz. Who can remember what book of the Bible we have been studying together since December of 2017?

You are forgiven if you couldn’t remember, because we’ve ended up taking two long breaks from Matthew in the last two months.

We’ve made it up to chapter 18. If you want to turn there with me, we’re going to be in Matthew 18, starting in verse 15 this morning.

The last time we were in Matthew together was the last Sunday of April, and the disciples were asking Jesus which one of them was the G.O.A.T. The greatest of all time in the kingdom of heaven. Do you remember that?

He said that it was the humble.

“Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

So Jesus told us that we are to become like these little ones, and to welcome these little ones and to not harm these little ones and to not hate these little ones.

Because He loves the little ones.

And it was amazing because we realized that WE, His disciples, are the little ones that He’s talking about.

The Father loves us and doesn’t want us to wander off and get lost.

The section ended by Jesus telling a story about a search and rescue operation.

Where a shepherd had a hundred sheep, but one of them wandered away. And the shepherd left the ninety-nine on the hills and went looking for the one that had wandered off.

And Jesus said that that was like the heart of God for wandering disciples. “Your heavenly Father is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

Does that sound kind of familiar?

It seems like a long time ago to me. A lot has happened since then.

But Jesus remains the same, and so does His teaching.

In the next section, the one we’re going to look at today, Jesus continues His fourth major block of teaching in this Gospel, His teaching on relationships and obedience, by explaining to His disciples what they should do if another one of the disciples sins against them.

“If Your Brother Sins Against You”

Now, I think this is intimately connected to what we just talked about. Jesus isn’t just starting a brand new topic here. Look for more search and rescue here. Look for more about wandering sheep, wandering people, wandering disciples.

We were just told how the Father feels about wandering disciples.

Now, we’re told how we’re supposed to relate to them ourselves.

Jesus could have said, “WHEN your brother sins against you...” because it’s inevitable.

The church is full of sinners. There are no other kind of members.

Everybody in this room is a sinner, and guess what, sinners sin.

Now, everybody who belongs to Jesus is also a saint, so we don’t have to sin all of the time. In fact, saint is our deeper and truer identity now that we are in Christ.

But we still sin. I do. My wife and kids can tell you.

You don’t have to say, “Amen.”

It’s inevitable that brothers and sisters (the word here translated “brother” refers to both kinds of siblings...it’s inevitable that brothers and sisters) will sin against each other from time to time.

So what should a Christian do when their Christian sibling sins against them?

By the way, I love that Jesus uses family language here.

This is about sin by a member of the family of God against a member of the family of God.

It’s not about the world and how we relate to them though there may be transferable principles to other kinds of conflicts.

This is a family matter.

One of you sinning against me. Me sinning against one of you.

How should we handle that in this family of God?

Jesus gives 5 steps.

Number one:

#1. GO AND SHOW HIM HIS FAULT.

If it’s a sister, go and show her her fault. V.15

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

Step #1. Go and show your brother his fault.

Privately.

This is in most instances a very private matter. Just the offender and the offended.

If your brother sins against you, go to him and try to make it right.

Now, what does the world say to do when this happens?

If your brother or sister sins against you...what?

“Go...see a lawyer!
Go...tell your neighbor!
Go...gossip about it to your friends!

Whatever you do, don’t go to him or her, I mean, they should come to you.  After all, they’re the ones that hurt you!”

But that’s not what Jesus says. Jesus says, “Go to them.” Yes, they hurt you. They sinned against you. It was a real sin. A real hurt. A real debt. A real stab.

But you are to go and try to show them where they have gone wrong.

As I have gotten older, I have found this to be harder to do.

I don’t like conflict.

If you have sinned against me, chances are, I have run away from confronting you.

At least at first.

Now, it’s better in many cases if you can to overlook an offense.

The Proverbs say that it’s a glory to overlook an offense.

But that means that a sin is unilaterally forgiven, and it won’t come between us at all.

If you can’t overlook something, the Lord calls you to go to your spiritual sibling and try to work things out.

If we consistently practiced step #1, we would have very few Christians ever get to step #4.

If we consistently practiced step #1 in our marriages, we would have very few Christians ever get divorced. Not that it wouldn’t happen, but it would become much more rare.

But we avoid confrontation, and we let offenses pile up, and we wait for the other person to take the initiative, and before you know it, we’re bitter and divided.

Now, it’s important how we go about showing somebody their fault, too.

Most of the time, we need to do it in a Galatians 6:1 way.

Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

Gently.

Of course, there are also times when flipping over tables is appropriate.

And it takes some wisdom to discern which times are which.

The point here is that we are to go and show our brother his fault.

And see here what the goal is. V.15 again.

“If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

You see the goal? All along, that’s the goal. To win your brother over. Restoration of fellowship. Debts forgiven. Relationship restored.

“If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”

If he was a sheep, he’s been rescued!

Most of time when we confront somebody poorly, we want satisfaction not restoration.

We want an apology, not a brother back.

But Jesus is interested in family harmony.

The point of these steps is to get things back to where they belong.

Now, if you have sinned against someone else, if you’re on the other side of this equation, you aren’t supposed to wait for the confrontation.

Remember what Jesus said back at the Sermon on the Mount, “[I]f you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

If we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, we should be meeting each other on the way!

This last week, my conscience was heavy with some sins of the tongue that I had committed, and I had sinned in front of a group of Christians (and really against the group). So when I was convicted, I went to the whole group and asked for their forgiveness.

And they all readily granted it, for which I’m thankful.

Because we are family, and we want to do whatever depends on us to maintain that family unity.

But, however, that doesn’t mean that your brother will always listen, does it? V.16

“But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'”

That’s step two.

#2. TAKE ONE OR TWO OTHERS ALONG.

We only take this step if step #1 failed to win our brother back. “But if he won’t listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”

Now, that last piece is a quote from Deuteronomy 19:15. It’s got a judicial ring to it.  There is a case being built here against the person who has sinned that needs to be established in case this thing goes before the whole church.

But I don’t think that the two or three going along is only for establishing “who said what.” I think that the two or three going back to talk with the erring brother is a more serious attempt at winning them back.

It’s getting a small group involved in someone’s life and showing how seriously concerned they all are about the well-being of this brother or sister who is wandering. It’s probably also to introduce more help if the conflict needs mediation, arbitration, and conciliation. Sometimes, we just can’t handle conflicts on our own. We need help!

Take one or two others along.

Now, what does the world say at this point?

The world says, “Give it up! Forget it. He’s not worth it. She’s a joke.”

The world says, “Get what you can. Cut your losses. Forget about that other person.”

But God says, “Go after them.”

Now, remember the point of going after them is to try to win them.

It’s not to gang up on them, it’s to gather round them in love.

Take one or two others along.

But that doesn’t always “work.” What if the sheep doesn’t want to be rescued? V.17

“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church...”

#3. TELL IT TO THE CHURCH. 

That’s step number three. “Tell it to the church.”

At this point, it’s gotten beyond affecting just a small group. It threatens to affect the whole church, so the whole church needs to get involved.

If the Pastor or another Elder was not part of your “Step 2 Team,” this would be the time to get them involved.

“Tell it to the church.”

Now, that doesn’t mean stand up on a Sunday morning during “testimony time” and gossip about your friend’s behavior!

It means to get church leaders involved, meet with the principal people in the situation, get counsel, get a larger group of members together to intervene, set certain people to praying, and make it clear to the member who is trapped in the sin that this is serious business and needs to be dealt with.

I will level with you: this part (when something gets to this step in the process) it is no fun.

There has been almost nothing more painful and difficult for me in pastoral ministry than leading a church through this process at this step. Most of it is the role of a Pastor or Elder to do. And it’s a difficult business that no one enjoys. If you did enjoy it, there’d be something wrong with you.

But it is love! It’s love go after the wandering sheep even if the wandering sheep doesn’t want to be found.

I have not practiced this perfectly or even consistently as I would want.

And when this process is handled poorly, even more people get hurt.

But this is Jesus’ command to us, and it is love.

This is what a loving shepherd does for wandering sheep.

This is what a loving family does for the family they love.

They seek reconciliation and restoration.

“Tell it to the church.”

Remember where that word “church” came from in the Gospel of Matthew?

Remember when Jesus asked Peter the big question?

“Who do you say that I am?”

And Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”

And Jesus said, “That’s right, and on this Rock, I will build MY CHURCH.”

“My messianic community. My called out gathering of people.”

The church belongs to Jesus.

And now the church, belonging to Jesus, gets involved in this conflict to try to resolve it and bring reconciliation and restoration to the family.

And when that works, it’s glorious!

I’ve seen this at work. And it’s glorious thing.

But, of course, it doesn’t always work because sometimes disciples just want to keep sinning.

So you tell it to the church (v.17), “...and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

#4. TREAT HIM LIKE AN OUTSIDER.

Now, remember, this didn’t start with telling the church.

If sins against one another can be cared for privately, that’s the way to go.

And most of them can.

The vast majority of them can.

But sometimes you get the whole church involved, and they still don’t want to listen.

Then you treat them like a “pagan or a tax collector.”

I love that. Remember what Matthew did before he because an apostle?!

This is step #4. And it’s called by various names, sometimes “Church Discipline” or  "Disfellowshipping” or “Ex-communication” because if someone is an outsider, outside of the Christian fellowship, they shouldn’t be taking communion.

The “you” here in verse 17 is singular. The church declares him or her an outsider, but each individual member needs to act that way, too.

If he refuses to listen to the church–the church has, as a whole, reached out to him and tried to bring him back, but he has refused to turn–then you treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Not as an enemy, but as someone who is outside of the family of God, someone who is clearly not a believer because they are not acting like one. As someone who you cannot have fellowship.

Somebody outside of the family.

I know that brings up a host of questions. It takes wisdom and discernment to make good decisions about what is and what is not acceptable.

And we need to extend to grace to one another as we stumble forward together.

And we need to be careful to not make matters worse by doing it poorly.

But the principle is clear. Step #4 is to treat them as outsiders. Put them out of the church family, and treat them like they are out of the church family.

Now, here the world goes ballistic! It says, “How cruel! How unloving!” But it is really just the opposite.

You’re still trying to win them and restore them.

You are still trying to rescue them!

The whole point is to rescue your brother or sister while maintaining the purity of the church.

This drastic action of step #4 is meant to shock people back to their senses.  It is “putting them outside” for their own good and for the church’s purity. This is taught other places in the New Testament. Check out 1 Corinthians 5 today for another example.

And no one is to be exempt. Pastors like me are to be treated the exact same way. Carefully, with two or three witnesses, but equally. 1 Timothy 5 says, “Those [elders] who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning” (v.20).

This is serious stuff. To be treated with prayer.

And verse 18 says that we are doing the Lord’s business when we do it. V.18

‘I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven [or, better, “has already been bound in heaven], and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven [or, better translation, “already been loosed in heaven.” This is the Lord’s business. It’s serious and needs prayer.] ‘Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.’”

Does that language sound familiar to you?

It’s also like chapter 16, isn’t it?

Jesus told Peter that he would have that kind of authority.

And now we find out that the church together has that kind of deep authority.

And if we are doing things right and righteously, there is symmetry between what the church does here and what God wants in heaven.

Now, it’s been a while since we were in the Gospel of Matthew together.

But there is a principle we’ve been seeing over and over again as we’ve gone through it together.

The Gospel of Matthew is a theological biography of Jesus Christ.

“Keep your eye on the ball.” Right?

What is the ball? “Who is Jesus?”

Don’t miss it in verse 20.

Look at that claim that He’s making.

He’s claiming that when the church gathers together and prayerfully does this deep authority work of trying to bring reconciliation between disciples and restoration of sinners back to fellowship, where is He?

Right there with them.

Right in the center.

Right there in their midst.

Who could do that?

That’s a big claim there!

This guy is saying that He’s in the middle of all of these messy conflicts between believers. Calling them to each other. Calling them to be family. Calling them to repentance and love.

Sometimes we think that verse 20 is about prayer meetings.

But it’s really about congregational meetings. (Which, hopefully, are prayer meetings, too!)

The congregation gathered together in the name of the Lord Jesus to do the work of  the church of the Lord Jesus.

And where is Jesus? Right there in the middle.

One more step.

What happens if your brother or sister repents?

#5. FORGIVE HIM FROM YOUR HEART.

Look at verse 21.

Peter knew that’s where Jesus was heading with all of this. That’s why he came and asked him the question he did in verse 21.

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? [Notice the similar language] Up to seven times?’”

That’s a lot! Some of thee rabbis just said 3. Peter is being generous. Have you ever been sinned against 7 times and had to forgive 7 times? It’s hard to do. But (v.22)...

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. [Again and again and again.] Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.

That’s over one gazillion dollars in today’s money. No joke. This was more money than was in Israel at that time! It’s 20 years wages times 10,000. Somewhere between 6 and 9 billion in today’s dollars. It’s the biggest weight of currency times the highest Greek number. This is a gazillion dollars.

Jesus is using the highest of hyperbole to get across His point.

“Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt [and of course that wouldn’t have done it. This debt could NEVER be repaid]. The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. [WOW!] But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii [not a small amount of money–a hundred days’ wages is a considerable sum – say $14,000 – it’s a real debt but nothing compared to what he’s just been forgiven].

He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. [Wait. What?] His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' [Sound familiar?] But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. [This man had obviously learned NOTHING. He was bitter and irrational and unforgiving and UNCHANGED.]

Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.  Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

Wow. What a powerful story!

The point of this parable is not to explain the mechanics of how God forgives and when.

The point is not to teach that we get forgiven, then there is a test to see if we will forgive and then God takes away our forgiveness.

Parables don’t work like that. Most of the time there isn’t a one-for-one analogy between each character and scene and real life.

I think the message of the parable is twofold.

First, that we have been forgiven a massive sin debt that we could never pay.

We should marvel at what Jesus did for on the Cross.

And second, that “forgiven people forgive” (See the notes from the Zondervan NIV Study Bible on Matthew 18:35).

And so Jesus is warning us that if we aren’t people who forgive then we may not yet be people who have been forgiven.

If someone is consumed by bitterness and unwilling to forgive their brother or sister in Christ, then it calls into question their salvation.

We shouldn’t give false assurance to someone like that that they are saved.

Because the grace of God transforms us to be gracious people.

Disciples of Jesus forgive disciples of Jesus. That’s just what we do.

And we do it “from the heart.” For real.

This is why Jesus taught us to pray like this in the Disciples’ Prayer. Remember that from the Sermon on the Mount?

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Jesus closes with this crazy story to move us to do the opposite.

We are supposed to see ourselves as the one who is forgiven an astronomical gazillion dollar debt to God.

And then been transformed by that forgiveness.

So if a brother or sister sins against you and then repents, what should you do?

What would you do?

What will you do?

“Forgive your brother from your heart.”


***

Previous Messages in This Series:01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God
43. The Pharisees and Sadducees
44. The Question and the Promise
45. Take Up His Cross
46. Like the Sun
47. Seed-Sized Faith