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Sunday, June 24, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "Generous"

“Generous”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
June 24, 2018 :: Matthew 7:1-12 

It’s been a few weeks since we were in the Gospel of Matthew together. Last week, Donnie Rosie preached on being “heavenly minded” about our Heavenly Father. And the week before that we celebrated our 20th anniversary together as pastor and flock.  So, you might not remember what we’ve recently learned in the Gospel of Matthew. Let’s review.

We’re studying the theological biography of Jesus Christ named the Gospel of Matthew, and we’ve gotten to the first big chunk of Jesus’ astonishingly authoritative teaching often called the Sermon on the Mount. We’ve actually been dwelling together in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount since February, and we’ve seen some awesome things.

King Jesus has been teaching us about His upside-down and inside-out kingdom.

Do you remember this?

Upside-down because we would have never come up with this stuff on our own.

It doesn’t seem right or normal to us.

But that’s because we are neither right nor normal. We and our world are fundamentally broken, so that we see everything askew.

But Jesus is making all things new. His kingdom has drawn near, and that means that we must change to fit within it. We must repent and follow our King and live as citizens of the kingdom that is nearly here.

In other words, we are being turned right-side-up.

And Jesus’ kingdom is also inside-out.

That is that Jesus is focused on our hearts.

He is not satisfied with external obedience alone, such as that practiced by the scribes and the Pharisees.

King Jesus wants something greater.

King Jesus is not satisfied with just having our outsides.

King Jesus wants our insides. He wants our hearts.

And Jesus wants us to follow Him from the inside out to every single corner of our lives. To be perfect.

To be whole.

And as we live as whole citizens of this upside-down and inside-out kingdom, we will flourish. We will be rewarded. We will receive. We will be blessed. And we will be a blessing to others. Jesus says that we will be a blessing to the world.

And last time, we got up to the end of Matthew chapter 6 where King Jesus sets out our prevailing kingdom priorities for us.

We are not to prioritize worry about food, drink, clothing, or the future.

Instead we are to follow our Hide the Word verse which says?

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

What a wonderful promise!

What do you think it means to seek this kingdom and this righteousness first and foremost?

Well, I’m sure it’s everything that has come before it in the Sermon on the Mount. Everything we just said.

But I also think it’s everything that comes after it.

Chapter 7 flows right out of chapter 6. Remember, Matthew didn’t put any chapter breaks in here when he wrote it. And Jesus taught it all at one time.

So chapter 7 is, at least in part, an explanation of what it means to seek first the Father’s kingdom and the Father’s righteousness.

And I’d like total up verses 1 through 12 of chapter 7 with one summary word: “Generous.”

This next section, verses 1 through 12, is notoriously hard to recognize how it all fits together.

When I studied it the last couple of weeks, I thought I could preach this in 4 separate messages with 4 separate big ideas. And I could.

But it was harder to see how it all fit together.

I think there are a couple of threads that run all the way through, but as I was on a long walk this week with Jordan during our “staycation,” and as we were talking about this passage, Jordan helped me to see that the theme of generosity or graciousness kind of tied it all together.

There is a lot here to chew on, but I want to summarize it with just two points, both about generosity.

Here’s number one:

#1. BE GENEROUS WITH OTHERS.

And I don’t mean primarily with money.

I mean with the basic ways you treat someone.

How you relate to them. Relate to other people with graciousness and generosity of spirit.

Our Lord Jesus begins with a prohibition. V.1

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Here’s how to seek first the Father’s kingdom and His righteousness–refrain from sinful judging.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

A lot of people like that verse. But I don’t think they really understand it.

I don’t think that Jesus is forbidding all judgment.

I don’t think that Jesus is saying that we should not analyze and evaluate the actions and intentions of other people. He is not saying that there is no right or wrong. He is not saying that we should make any judgments whatsoever.

Jesus Himself makes judgments, and in just the next few verses, will both make more judgments and command us to make a few judgments ourselves.

Jesus is not saying we should not be practicing discernment.

He is saying that we should not be judgmental.

We should not be condemnatory.

We should not be accusatory (or the old word for it is “censorious”).

We should not judge too harshly, or unfairly, or hypocritically, or lovelessly.

As the kids say today, Jesus doesn’t want us to be all “judgy.”

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a time or place for judging. There is.

But there is also is a time and place and a way to not be judging.

Jesus says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

And then He elaborates. V.2

“For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

That could be that others will judge or measure you by the standards you use (that sometimes happens and it can be painful), but I think He’s saying that God will which is a much more scary proposition!

Jesus draws from the world of carpentry. His adopted father was a carpenter, so He probably knew all about measuring.

Jordan here is a carpenter by trade.

Jordan, do you use a different measuring stick to figure out what the opening is than the one you use to figure out where to cut the two by four? Of course not.

Do you use a foot ruler for one and then a metric ruler for the other? Of course not.

Whatever tool you use to measure for the piece you need is the same tool you should use to cut the piece you need.

Using different measures can yield different results. And unfair ones. Where the buyer gets less than they paid for, right?

Jesus says, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

So, the question is. How do you want to be judged?

How do you want to be measured?

I’m going to say today that we all want to be measured graciously.

We all want to be judged generously.

Don’t we?

I want to be measured with love.

I don’t just want to be measured by justice.

I want to be measured by grace.

I want to be judged by kindness.

How do you want to be judged?

Well, at least no less than justice, right?

And, if possible, a little grace?

Well, Jesus says, that’s how you should treat others, especially other Christians. V.3

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? [I love this illustration!] How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”

I always think of the Three Stooges whenever I read this. It just reads like a comedy routine. Imagine the mayhem!

Again from the carpenter’s shop.

You think you see something wrong with your brother. He’s got a little piece of sawdust in his eye. And you’re going to help him out.

You are judging him, and you’re telling him what’s wrong.

But! You’ve got a big old telephone pole sticking out of your eye!

Jesus is hilarious!

“Let me get that for you.”

How’s that going to work out? Bonk!

Now, notice, Jesus is not saying that your brother has no speck.

And He’s not even saying that it would be unloving to point out the speck or help someone dig it out.

There is a time and place for discernment, making a judgment, making an evaluation, helping someone to see where they’ve gone wrong.

But there’s some self-judgment that needs to come first.

Some self-evaluation. V.5

“You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”

Often, the problem is that we can’t see our own planks.

Or, we don’t even want to see them.

Jesus says to find those planks first. Seek first the kingdom by rooting out your planks before you go sticking your finger in someone else’s eye.

Do you see that word “hypocrite” in verse 5?

He’s not afraid to make a judgment, is He?!

“Hypocrite” has been an important word in the Sermon on the Mount, hasn’t it?

It means someone who is not living inside-out. Where the insides match the outsides.

Here the idea is that on the outside you’re a great moral judge. You see clearly what is wrong with others!

But really you are a hypocrite. You can’t even see what is wrong with you.

That’s what the Pharisees were like. Everybody else was always wrong, but not them.

There was a different standard for them. A different measurement.

How are you doing at this?

I think that this one of the greatest temptations for followers of Jesus Christ.

We love to make judgments about other people.

And we are quick to judge and to judge harshly.

And not be generous! And not be gracious with others.

Even though that’s exactly how we want to be treated and, in fact, how we have been treated by God through Christ!

I think that’s why Jesus put it right after telling us to seek the Father’s kingdom and His righteousness.

How are you doing with being gracious with other people?

How are you doing at this on social media?

I know that not everybody is on social media, but if you are, how are you doing?

Are you posting about others as you would want them to post about you?

That’s what Jesus says in verse 12. Skip down there for a second where he brings all of this to a conclusion.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Remember that Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets? The first 2/3 of your Bible?

Well, here He says that you can sum up the moral teaching of the first 2/3 of your Bible by simply doing to others what you would have them do to you if you were in their situation.

Are you doing that online?

Are you posting about the Democrats the way you would want them to post about you?

Or other way around. Are you posting about the Republicans or the Trump Supporters in the way you would want them to post about you if the shoe was on the other foot?

Or your neighbors. Are you saying things about or doing things to your neighbors as you would have them do to you?

Or your co-workers?
Or your spouse?
Or your kids?
Or your parents?
Or your boss?
Or that person that cut you off in traffic or in the checkout line?
Or people who identify as LGBT?
Or Muslims?
Or immigrants?

How are you doing at judging others?

Because Jesus is calling us to be generous.

I think that’s how we want to be judged.

Anything else is hypocrisy.

So we need to change. We need to repent. We need to be turned right-side up because the kingdom of heaven is near.

Now, I’m not saying that we don’t call sin “sin.”

We certainly do. We don’t pretend that it isn’t.

But we address our own sin before we address anybody else’s.

And however we address that sin needs to be using the very same tape measure that we would want them to use on us.

It’s kind of ironic but the kind of people that I am most prone to be judgy about are angry judgy people.

I see angry judgy people on Facebook, and I say, “I’m glad I’m not like that!” And then I tell my wife about the way “those people” are acting, and what have I just done?

I tell myself, “Oh, I would never do that.” And in the saying it, I’ve done it.

President George W. Bush once said, “Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples - while judging ourselves by our best intentions.” That’s hypocrisy.

“[F]irst take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”

I don’t know about you, but I love generous people.

People that are truly gracious and kind and caring and open-handed and open-hearted with others. Even when they don’t deserve it. Especially when they don’t deserve it.

Don’t you just love a person who has a generous spirit?

Don’t you just want to be that person?

Now, in verse 6, Jesus kind of says, “on the other hand.”

He says that there is a kind of generosity that can actually go too far. Look at verse 6.

"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.”

This is one of the hardest verses in the Sermon on the Mount to interpret, and there are a lot of interpretive options.

I think it’s most likely that the thing that is “sacred” and the “pearls” are both referring the precious gospel message. One is like the sacred meat from the temple and the other is like a treasured necklace. You don’t give the sacrificial meat to the wild scavenger dogs in the street (that’s totally inappropriate) or give your pearls to the wild boars who would mistake them for kernels of corn and then get mad because they aren’t.

They don’t know how to treat those things! And in fact, they hate them. They don’t appreciate what they have. They have utter contempt for them.

And will attack you if you try to give it to them!

I think that the dogs and pigs are those people whom we try to share the good things of the gospel with but they utterly reject them.

Not just once in a small way but outright and totally.

And Jesus is saying that it’s a waste of time and a degradation of the gospel to try to force it on them.

Eventually, you just walk away and shake the dust off your sandals.

The limit to gospel generosity is when it’s absolutely rejected.

I think that’s what He means here.

And it takes great discernment to know when or when not to do that.

You see why I say that Jesus does not condemn judging outright?

He actually calls us to discern, to judge, if someone is acting like a dog or a pig!

If they are, then don’t be pushing this valuable teaching onto them. It’s wasteful.

But if they are at all open, then keep going. Be generous with them.

Because you know what?

#2. GOD IS GENEROUS WITH YOU.  V.7

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Those are precious promises about prayer.

Ask. Seek. Knock.

And keep doing it.

It could be translated, “Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking.”

Because God answers persistent prayers.

Now, of course, this does not mean that Christians get everything they want.

What things do you think Jesus is assuming that we’ll pray for?

A Ford Mustang GT Fastback? Maybe.

I think He’s assuming that we’re going to pray for the ability to not be judgmental.

He’s thinking that we’ll pray for the ability to discern whether or not to give someone the sacred and the pearls.

He’s thinking that we will be praying for the kingdom.

Because we’re seeking it first!

Same word in verse 7 for “seeking” as the word in Matthew 6:33.

Seeking the kingdom!

What did Jesus tell us to pray for?

“Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts...
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”

V.8  Everyone who asks for that stuff receives; he who seeks the kingdom finds it; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

He’s assuming that we’re going to pray that we would live out the beatitudes. And that we would be salt and light. And that we would pray that we would have a greater righteousness that issues into love instead of murder and hate, faithfulness instead of adultery and impure thoughts, integrity instead of dodging the truth, and generosity instead of vindictiveness. Generous love even for our enemies.

That’s what Jesus is assuming we’re asking, seeking, and knocking for.

And everyone who asks for that stuff receives; he who seeks the kingdom finds it; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Why?

Not because we deserve it.

But because God our Father is generous. V.9

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? [None of you will do that. That’s not normal. That’s not the way it works.]  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

How generous is our Father?!

Don’t miss how amazing it is that Jesus uses that word “Father” to describe God.

We are so used to it, but it is astonishing when you think about it.

Staggering.

That we can call God our Father because that’s how He relates to us who belong to His Son.

Assuming you are His child.

This whole thing is only true for those who have received Jesus as their Savior and Lord.

To those who believed in His name, the Lord gave the right to become children of God.

I hope that’s all of you. Everyone here.

If not, I call on you now to trust Jesus as your Savior and put your faith in what He did for you on the Cross.

Because if you don’t, God is not your Father.

But if you do, then He is.

He who has the Son has life.
He who does not have the Son does not have life.
If you believe in the name of the Son of God then you may know that you have eternal life.

And you can call God “Father.”

And you can expect good gifts.

You know how give good gifts and you’re flawed by sin and evil.

“[H]ow much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

So ask!

Because your Father is so generous!

And, of course, again, that means that we need to be generous, too. V.12

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

It doesn’t say, “Do what others have done to you.”

No, they aren’t setting the standard.

And it doesn’t say, “Do this SO THAT others will do it for you.”

No, you do this without any promises of reciprocity.

Jesus says, “Do to others WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO TO YOU.”

What you would want if the shoe was on the other foot.

He’s saying to love them! We call it the “Golden Rule,” but it’s basically just loving people like the Old Testament taught. The Law and the Prophets.

And the New Testament agrees. The Apostle Paul said in Galatians, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal 5:14).

“Do to others what you would have them do to you...”

Because that’s what we’d want, right? We’d want to be loved.

We want people to be patient with us.
To be kind to us.
To not treat us with envy.
To not boast to us.
To not act out of pride.
To not be rude to us.
To not be self-seeking around us.
To not be easily angered by us.
To not keep a record of our wrongs.
To not delight in our evil but to rejoice with the truth.
To protect us, trust us, hope for us, persevere and not fail for us.

That’s what I want. Don’t you?

“[D]o to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

And it’s what Jesus did for us, and it’s how God treats His children every single day.


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