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Sunday, April 22, 2018

[Matt's Messages] “But I Tell You (2)”

“But I Tell You (2)”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
April 22, 2018 :: Matthew 5:27-37 

We are learning to following Jesus together by studying His theological biography, the Gospel of Matthew. And we’ve reached Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus is teaching with unusual authority. He has gone up on a mountainside and has begun rocking the world of His listeners by teaching them about the kingdom of heaven.

He’s turning their world (and our world) upside down. Because He’s teaching them what God truly values and what God truly wants from us.

How to flourish by living counter-culturally. The Good Life of the Kingdom. The Beatitudes.

How to change the world by living as salt and light. Bringing glory to our Father in Heaven.

And now how to live out a righteousness that is greater than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law.

Jesus has not come to abolish the Law but to what? To fulfill it. Every jot and tittle.

Jesus has come not just as the ultimate interpreter of the Law. Which He is. But He has come as the ultimate fulfillment of the Law. He is the whole point of the Law.

And He calls His followers to live out a greater righteousness than the righteousness that the Jewish religious leaders were living out before them.

And He gives us 6 examples.

Six illustrations of what of both how He fulfills the Old Testament and how He wants us to live out a greater righteousness.

Scholars called them the 6 antitheses.

But I call them the 6 “But I Tell You’s.”

Here’s our title for today’s message.

Last week, I told you that I would try think up a more clever title for today’s message.

Well, I failed. I couldn’t think of anything.

So, I’m going to call it, “But I Tell You (2).” The sequel!

I thought about calling it “But I Tell Y’inz,” for our Pittsburgh fans. But that’s basically the same thing.

If you remember, the Greek is “ego de lego.” Did anybody say “ego de lego at Sunday lunch last week?”

Six times He says it. And the emphasis is on the “I.”

“You have heard it said...but I [Jesus] tell you...how it really is now that I have come.”

The first one was the longest, and it set the pattern.

Do you remember the pattern?

There are how many parts to each “but I tell you?” Three parts.

What are they?

First, He quotes from the Torah.

Then, He gives the authoritative explanation of that quotation with all of its Messianic meaning. And in that interpretation, He explodes the myths about the popular interpretations that these people had always heard and believed. What they had been taught often erroneously. Jesus corrects those and sets everything straight.

And then third and lastly, Jesus gives a practical application to daily life, really an antidote to the problem He’s addressing.

He quotes from the Law. He gives the Messianic meaning. And then He gives a practical application to daily life.

Last week we looked at just one. This week, I want to try to look at the next three. Verses 27 through 37.

These are hard teachings.

There’s no getting around it. These words make us uncomfortable. They challenge us.

They convict us. And if they don’t, then we aren’t paying attention.

The Lord Jesus is incredibly serious about this greater righteousness.

And He’s calling us to live His way as citizens of His Kingdom.

The good news is that He will provide all of the grace we need to live the life that He wants us to live.

All we have to do is believe and follow Him.

So, let’s look closer at what Jesus tells us.

In verse 27, He starts again.

“You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'”

That’s follows the pattern, right?

That’s part number one. Jesus quotes the Torah.

“You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'”

Where is that from? That’s one of the 10 Commandments. It’s the seventh commandment where God through Moses prohibited sexual relations between two people who were not married to each other.

Having sex with someone who is not your own spouse. Exodus 20, verse 14.

“Do not commit adultery.”

And what did the Pharisees say to that?

“Check! Got that one down. It’s a little harder to obey than the last one–‘Do not murder.’ But a little will-power and a little divorce and remarriage if necessary to get the right spouse lined up, and we can and will keep that commandment. Check! We are righteous!”

But Jesus says, “No, no wait a second. I am asking for something greater than that.” v.28

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

And, of course, it goes the other way, too, ladies. But Jesus for several obvious reasons focuses here on the men.

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

That’s a lot like the last one, isn’t it?

Hateful anger is murder in the mind.

Sexual lust is adultery in the heart.

Jesus goes internal.

Jesus goes in deep.

He goes to the attitude. He goes to the affections. He goes past the externals and to the internals. He goes to the root.

Jesus goes to the heart.

And it’s on the heart level that Jesus requires righteousness.

Jesus requires purity.

Now, that’s where the Law was always aimed, wasn’t it?

The Law was never like, “Just don’t sleep with someone who isn’t your spouse, and you’re good.”

What does the 10th Commandment forbid?  “You shall not...” what?

“Covet.” That’s a hear thing. And one of the things that you shall not covet is your neighbor’s wife.

The Law was always driving towards internal purity. Not just external purity.

Internal fidelity. Not just external fidelity.

Internal faithfulness. Not just external faithfulness.

And that’s what King Jesus wants from every citizen of His kingdom.

It’s not enough to keep from jumping into a foreign bed.

We are called to not even go there in our minds.

The sensual stare, the lustful gaze, the lingering look, the imagining fantasies.

Those things are sin.

If she’s not your wife, you should not look at her that way.
If he’s not your husband, you should not look at him that way.

And if you do, you are committing adultery in your heart.

Now, just like murder is worse than anger.

Committing physical adultery is worse than mental adultery.

But they both have the same root.
They both have the same heart.
They are both sin.
And they both grieve the Lord and are dangerous to our souls.

Why does Jesus care so much about this?

One of the biggest reasons is because marriage is designed to be a picture of God’s relationship with His people and more specifically Jesus’ relationship with His church.

So, of course, He cares!

And He has designed sexuality to be a great gift to be shared within the context of the covenant of marriage.

So any perversion of that grand design will fail to bring glory to Him as the Designer and will not be good for us either.

Now, we’ve seen the first two parts. What is the practical application?What is the medicine that Doctor Jesus would apply to this adultery and lust problem?

Point number one of three.

#1. DO WHAT IT TAKES TO DEFEAT SEXUAL SIN.

Listen to Jesus. Verse 29

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Do you see how seriously Jesus treats this?

Do you think He’s a little overboard?

Do you want to risk it?

Jesus is asking the question, “What is your sin worth to you?”

“Will you do whatever it takes to defeat sexual sin?”

Everything between a lustful look and extramarital intercourse.

Do whatever it takes to defeat sexual sin.

Now, before you go grab a knife, there is a key word in Jesus’ two examples here that is very important. What is it?

“If.”

If your right eye causes you to sin [causes you to stumble, to fall away], gouge it out and throw it away.”

Can your eye really do that?

No. Can blind people lust just as well as sighted people?

Absolutely.

How about your right hand? Can it cause you, make you, sin?

You can sin with it, sure.

But does it cause your sin?

No.

This is a hypothetical. But it’s a serious hypothetical.

Jesus is saying that we have to be ready to take drastic action to combat our sinful tendencies.

We have to get radical.

We have to get violent (so to speak).

Our Lord Jesus is calling us to wage war against our own sinful tendencies.

So, it’s not our favorite eye or our favorite hand, but what do we need to give up?

What do we need to sacrifice?

What changes do we need to make to cut this sin out of our hearts and lives?

The changes have to start on the heart level. My eye and my hand can’t make me sin, but my sinful heart sure can. And I can’t cut that out. I have to have the Spirit change me!

I need to repent. I need a new heart. And I need my new heart to be continually renewed.

You see how Jesus is always calling us to repent because the kingdom of heaven is near?

Is that hard?

Sometimes, yeah. But Jesus never said that following Him would be easy.

He just said that it would be worth it!

This is the greater righteousness.

Cultivating purity on the inside.

And that, of course, will mean making changes, including practical ones.

For guys, especially, it means accountability.

It might mean a filter on your computer.

It might mean turning off data on your phone.

It might mean switching jobs so that you aren’t near that person that you are tempted to lust after.

Do whatever it takes.

That’s what Jesus is saying.

If you are lusting after someone to whom you are not married, what will it take for you to stop?

This is hard. It’s always been hard, but it’s especially hard in our sexualized culture.

Where we don’t think much about sexual purity at all.

Men and women live together without being married. And that’s seen as normal.

Marriage is weird in our culture. It’s maybe seen as the eventual goal, but sex comes way before marriage. In fact, sex comes whenever you want it. As long as the two (or more!) people consent.

Every commercial. Every magazine cover. Every pop-up ad invites lust.

But that’s not what is normal. Not in the kingdom.

The kingdom seems upside down, but it’s actually right side up.

It’s us that are upside down.

And Jesus is saying that we need to do whatever it takes to live right side up.

From the inside out.

Now, the next one is connected. It’s also about marriage and adultery and about divorce. V.31

“It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.'”

Now, that’s not one of the 10 Commandments, but it is from the Torah. That’s a quote from Deuteronomy chapter 24 where Moses explains that if a man marries a woman who becomes “displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her,” he is to write her a legal document that releases her from the marriage and frees her to marry another man.

Now that’s all well and good.

But the Pharisees had twisted that to their own ends in a couple different ways.

One was how they interpreted the words “something indecent.”

There were two main schools of thought. One, the school of Rabbi Shammai taught that the something indecent was basically adultery.

The other school, that of Rabbi Hillel, taught that it was basically anything he didn’t like about her. The way she looked, the way she talked, the way she raised the kids, and even (I’m not making this up even) if she burned his food!

He could just write up a certificate, say, “I divorce you,” and send her packing.

Now, you can see how that kind of teaching could easily be abused. You can see how they could have a “use her and then lose her” approach to marriage.

So you aren’t “technically” committing adultery, but you’re getting married, getting divorced, and getting remarried to someone new just to keep things spicy in the bedroom.

And the other way that they twisted the Law was by basically requiring divorce whenever the husband identified this “something indecent.” Requiring it.

And in that culture, do you see how perilous that was for the women involved? How vulnerable that left them? That’s not how it should be! That’s not what was intended in the Law! The women should have been protected and safe and cared for and valued. Not tossed out like unwanted goods.

So, here’s what the Messiah says. V.32

“But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”

In other words, “There will be no easy divorces for my followers! They will not just toss out their marriage vows for any and all reasons. They won’t give up on their marriages just because the going gets rough and they are unhappy.”

King Jesus says, to divorce for except for marital unfaithfulness is sin.

And in fact, it causes the divorced person to sin.

“Causes her to become an adulteress.” I think that’s because it assumes in that culture that she’ll have to remarry. “And anyone who marries [a woman divorced on those grounds] commits adultery.”

And it’s your fault if you dump her!

The 2011 NIV translates it, “makes her the victim of adultery.” That’s really well said.

Just because you have a legal piece of paper doesn’t mean that your divorce is righteous in God’s eyes.

Not all divorces are sinful, but many of them are.

Jesus does give an exception here in verse 32. “Except for marital unfaithfulness.” The Greek word is “porneia” which was a general term for a number of sexual sins: adultery, prostitution, fornication, and other sexual transgressions that break the marital bond.

If your spouse commits sexual infidelity, it is not sinful to divorce them.

Remember Joseph and Mary? Remember what Joseph thought Mary had done? Remember that Joseph was a righteous man and was going to divorce her quietly.

If he was right about what she had done, he would have been within his rights to divorce her.

But!

He didn’t have to.

Not just because she was actually a virgin, but because of forgiveness!

You see both Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Shammai were wrong to require divorce even in the case of porneia!

If the unfaithfulness is repented of, it can be forgiven, and the marriage can be saved!

I’ve seen it happen. Several times. And it’s glorious!

Now, you’ll notice that this is the shortest of the 6 “But I Tell You’s.”

I think that’s because Matthew is going to tell us more about Jesus’ teaching about marriage and divorce when we get to chapter 19. So there’s more to come later.

And you’ll notice that He breaks the pattern here, too. There is the first part and the second part, but no practical application.

I think it’s because it’s just plain obvious.

#2. STAY FAITHFUL TO YOUR SPOUSE.

If you are married, then stay faithful to your husband or your wife.

Don’t divorce.

Avoid divorce like the plague.

And don’t do anything that would endanger your marriage. Don’t allow yourself to fall into that “porneia,” that marital unfaithfulness that would give your spouse biblical grounds for divorcing you.

That’s what King Jesus wants from His followers.

Anything else is sin.

Now, I know that’s a hard teaching.

Some of you have experienced divorce.

Some of you had it happen to you and some of you chose it.

Some of you chose it on biblical grounds, and some of you probably chose it for the wrong reasons.

And there is grace, more than enough grace, in the blood of Jesus to forgive repentant sinners and to give us all power we need to follow Him anew.

But we still need to choose to follow Him.

What do you need to do to stay faithful to your spouse?

Remember, Jesus is looking at your heart!

And I know it also raises lots of questions. There are so many “what ifs” and “what abouts” when it comes to these things.

I read most of a 300 page book on “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage” yesterday just to bone up on the details.

If you have questions about this, that’s why I’m here.

But hear this. This is what Jesus is saying to those of us who are married today.

Stay faithful to your spouse.

Keep your promises.

#3. KEEP ALL OF YOUR PROMISES.

Let’s look at that this last one because I think it’s connected. V.33

“‘Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.'”

That seems pretty straightforward. It’s kind of a loose translation of Leviticus 19:12.

Kind of a riff off of the 3rd Commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain.

It sounds good. It’s from the Law.

What could go wrong?

Well, here’s what they were apparently doing with that. They were emphasizing the last three words. “Keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.”

So there’s a loophole. If you oath wasn’t to the Lord then, guess what? You don’t have to keep them.

And they had an elaborate list of oaths and what you could take your vow by that would make the vow binding or not binding. Jesus will talk about this again in chapter 23 when He takes down the Pharisees for splitting these hairs.

They were actually using these kinds of words as escape hatches.

“Well, I said cross my heart and hope to die, but I didn’t say, ‘I swear to God.’ So it doesn’t count!”

It was all loopholes.

So Jesus says verse 34.

“But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.”

Don’t swear by something less than God to diminish your accountability.

Don’t throw in some approved substitutes for God’s name to establish some loopholes for yourselves.

In fact, don’t swear at all. Not if that’s how you’re going to do it!

Now, I don’t think that Jesus is absolutely prohibiting all taking of oaths. Jesus Himself takes an oath in chapter 26.

This is not about courtrooms or marital vows or oaths of office. (Insight from Charles Quarles.)

This is about being truthful.
This is about being honest.
This is about being men and women of integrity.

This is about our being so trustworthy that oaths are not necessary.

No extra guarantees are needed because we just do we say we’re going to do.

Verse 37.

“Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Say what you mean and mean what you say. And keep all of your promises.

Don’t use those fancy oaths for things you can’t control and you don’t own.

You don’t own heaven. It’s God’s throne. If you break your promise, you can bring heaven down to person you promised it to.

You don’t own the earth. It’s God’s footstool. Don’t mess with it.

You don’t own Jerusalem. Don’t try to put it up for collateral. It’s the city of the Great King.

You don’t even own your own head. You control your DNA. You can’t make your hair grow out white or black. Young or old.

Just say what you mean and mean what you say.

Anything else comes from Satan.

He likes to pretend that he owns everything!

Don’t be like him.

Be like God! Because He always keeps His promises.

To your spouse.
To your kids.
At work.
In your neighborhood.
At church.

Is that easy to do?

Not always. Sometimes keeping your promises hurts big time.

And, yes, there are some promises that you should repent of and not keep. Like if you promise to murder someone or promise to commit adultery, you should not keep those promises.

But any promise that was good should be as good as gold.

Because we are following King Jesus Who has kept and is keeping and will always keep all of His promises to us.

That’s what He’s told us.


***

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

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