Resemble God! (Kingdom Living #5)
Kingdom Living #5 - Resemble God!
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor • Oct 18, 2015 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor
Good morning and welcome! I’m so glad you are here with us this morning. If this is your first time or 100th time, we are glad that you are here today in our community. Whether you arrived here this morning because of an Internet search, because you were invited, or you already knew the way, we are grateful that you are here today. Our simple prayer for you is that you would experience welcome, that you would experience acceptance, and that you would find space to encounter the loving presence of the living God during your time with us this morning!
Last week we considered the impact of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17-20 as we are making our way through the Sermon on the Mount. Specifically, we focused on verse 20 where Jesus instructs us that unless our righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees we would not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17–20)
We wrestled a bit with the “Good News” in all this.
When Jesus says that your righteousness has to exceed that of the Pharisees, something that seemed impossible to those hearing it, Jesus was signaling that he wants us to learn to be dependent on a God who cares and provides for us.
The announcement of “Good News” in the Beatitudes was not intended to become conditions we should aspire to, it was an acknowledgement of how God sees us as we are.
Jesus turns to an expert in dependency and asks us to learn from them,
"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it" (Luke 18:17).
We get into the Kingdom with our hands open. We have to let go of everything we believe qualifies us and everything that we think disqualifies us.
Throughout this sermon series, I’ve tried to highlight what I think is the difficult challenge of following Jesus into Life. Over and over, we see that Jesus accepts us just as we are, but Jesus doesn’t leave us where he finds us. Instead Jesus calls us to trust him and follow him through the narrow gate into Life, into the Kingdom of God.
Murder, Court, Adultery, Divorce, Oaths, Enemies, Oh My!
This comes into sharper focus in this next section of the Sermon on the Mount. Here, we see a shift from an announcement of “Good News,” to what seem like commands. That’s the tension, isn’t it? We are blessed as we are, and to enter into life means we will do something, we will be something, and it costs us something.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:21-22,
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
Jesus doesn’t mess around, he goes straight for the jugular, doesn’t he? Do you want to have life? If so, you don’t just have to give up murder, you have to give up anger too.
From the opening verse of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is unpacking a lot.
He’s reminding us of the commandment to live as people who are becoming reconciled with each other. In one verse, Jesus orders, structures, and directs our daily lives: “Do you want to have life? If so, you don’t just have to give up murder, you have to give up anger too.
Seems simple, right?
Learn to live in the tension of being frustrated, disappointed, upset, and sad. Inhabit the tension between these feelings and your ability to trust in a caring Father. But don’t let all of that direct your actions. Instead, bring these feelings to God.
You are the kind of people who trust that God will provide for you.
You are the kind of people who value life just as the Creator God does.
Those in the audience who were Jewish knew that Jesus was invoking the Law, that good guardian of the people of God that sets them apart from other nations.
“Who is this wise great nation and understanding people? What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near to us whenever we pray to him?” (Paraphrase of Deuteronomy 4:5-8)
Matthew 5:21 draws from commandment six of the 10 Commandments.
I want to pause and explain something, watch this...
“You have heard that it was said... But I tell you.”
Did you notice the use of a rabbinic idiom?
I didn’t, either.
It’s the phrase “You have heard that it was said,” and “But I tell you.”
This common rabbinic idiom meant, “Others have interpreted God’s word to mean one thing, but I interpret it differently, in the following way.”
So the people were expecting him to explain what it meant when God said “You shall not murder.” Was he going to qualify it, “Unless, you are justified?” Was he going to say, “Unless the person is a hated enemy?” How would Jesus (re)interpret God’s Law?
I’m willing to guess that more than a few folks were surprised when he said,
“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:22)
Six times Jesus invokes the “You have heard that it was said... but I tell you” refrain. And each time he does, he seems to be getting at something deeper, something just below the surface.
Scholars, theologians, and seminarians see these six commandments as Jesus establishing his authority to interpret the Law.
As I enter into this traditional understanding of these six commands using Matthew 5:20 as an explanation, Jesus is giving six new commandments, and they are tougher than the originals.
And yet, somehow, I’m missing the “Good News” part in all of this.
It feels like Jesus is saying, “You don’t measure up. Try Harder.” But most of the people already knew they didn’t measure up.
Remember the “Good News” that Jesus announced was “Blessed are the spiritual zeroes, the spiritual bankrupt, the deprived, the deficient, the spiritual beggars, those without a wisp of religion” all of y’all are welcomed in the Kingdom. That is exactly why it is good news!
Only the really, really religious thought they actually measured up.
Look, I know I have a tough sell here.
Either Jesus is saying “Try Harder!”
Or Jesus is saying, “If you want to see God break into this world with His Kingdom, then you will need to act like it.”
If we want to live within in the Kingdom of God, we have to live as his subjects, under his rule and reign. Doing this will impact how we arrange, order, and structure how we live our lives. And that’s what I see here in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s not Jesus saying, “Try Harder.” It’s Jesus saying, “You belong to God, so act like it!”
Think of it this way, maybe Jesus was saying, “An apple tree doesn’t wrestle with producing apples, it’s not conflicted about who it is.” If everything is working correctly, an apple tree will produce apples. Or, if you know who you are, who you belong to, and trust that this person is at work for your benefit, then you are free to be who you are.
Jesus says in these opening verses of the Sermon on the Mount, since you belong to God.
You don’t murder people, you don’t even get angry with them.
You aren’t cheaters, you even share what belongs to you with others.
You don’t just avoid breaking your promises, but you keep your word in all situations and tell the truth even when it embarrasses you.
You don’t commit adultery, you don’t even lust after those who are attractive to you.
You keep your word.
You give your time, talent, and treasure away.
You love those who hate you.
This requires something from us, doesn’t it? Trust, that’s what. Trust that shapes our identity. Trustthat makes us who we are meant to be.
Kingdom People Try to Live Reconciled Lives With Each Other.
In our culture, somehow, we totally respect Jesus as a religious leader, but he has been excluded as an intellectual for most of us, which is a shame, because the dude is wicked smart.
Story: I’ve been wrestling with the outcome of being betrayed by a close friend. As I’ve processed the betrayal in counseling, my counselor has helped me understand that their betrayal isn’t my fault. It’s not my fault that this friend betrayed me or that my biological father betrayed me. I’m also not the kind of person who attracts people who will ultimately betray me. This has been helpful because you feel like a fool once you’ve been betrayed. But my counselor and my mentor reminded me that if I had the choice, “Would I rather be a person who is trusting or someone who suspicious of everyone?”
One of the things that my counselor has asked me to do is to process this betrayal,
not to apologize for it,
not to minimize it,
not to compartmentalize it.
He has asked me to fully experience the full depth and impact of the betrayal.
I have to say that has been really difficult. It’s been really painful too. I’m starting to realize just how upset, frustrated, and disappointed I am. Then I had a new discovery, which is, I’m also mad. I’m really mad. I remember a recent conversation where I unpacked my betrayal and the person listening said, “You sound really angry.” And I was caught off guard, I didn’t feel angry, I didn’t look angry, I wasn’t seething or foaming at the mouth, I hadn’t even raised my voice. Yet, this friend could hear something I was blind to, my anger. Back in counseling, my counselor gave me permission to be angry and helped me to see that as we move through the stages of grief, anger is an area we have to process. We cannot begin to fully heal until we have acknowledged, unpacked, and processed our anger.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21–24)
Many of us exclude ourselves from Jesus’s reach here. We falsely think that this first command doesn’t apply to us.
“Anger is just an emotion,” we say.
“It can’t be sinful to have a spontaneous emotional response to something outside of our control,” we tell ourselves.
I tend to agree with you here. However, Jesus is getting at something deeper, if you will. He’s reminding us of who we are, and asking us to believe something about ourselves.
Kingdom people try to live reconciled lives with each other.
Kingdom people try to live reconciled lives with each other.
Anger indulged disintegrates our shared humanity. It doesn’t have to be acted on to be a poison to us and others.
Therefore, Jesus prohibits it.
Let’s keep going.
“Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:21–24)
What was it that led Cain to kill his brother, Abel?
“But I haven’t killed anyone,” you say.
“I haven’t attempted to kill anyone,” you retort.
“I haven’t even thought about or plotted to kill anyone,” you plead.
And yet Jesus is still speaking to us about our anger.
For many of us, it’s the collection of small irritations, slights, and disappointments that build up into something larger. This may be why Jesus says, “Keep short accounts.” (Matthew 5:25)
Let’s keep pushing in.
I’ve heard a lot of thoughts about what this anger passage means, here’s my offering.
‘Raca’ is an Aramaic expression that sounds a lot like the sounds you make to clear your throat right before you spit in someone’s face.
It’s a sign of your contempt.
As I continue to process my betrayal, I don’t find myself raging in anger, but contempt, I could totally get behind contempt. Understanding that Jesus was getting the root cause of our anger, contempt, was a simple invitation for me. As I processed my betrayal, I realized that I am (I was) willing to completely dismiss my betrayer.
It’s as if I wished they were actually dead.
If you are with me, I think we can start to enter into the passage with Jesus now. Most of us understand and are willing to acknowledge our contempt of others. What if Jesus is warning us that it is here, this place of contempt, that we cross the boundary marker.
There’s this thing I’ve been learning as I’ve continue to study scripture, often we will see a boundary marker, in this case, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment” and just assume that the passage is only about the boundary, so we skip it and assume it’s not about us because our issue is less than the boundary marker. That’s how I have traditionally entered into this passage, I’m not interested in harming my friend.
I just don’t want anything to do with them.
As soon as I arrived at this conclusion, I was convicted.
Wow, Jesus is brilliant!
What Do We Do?
We do what Jesus says.
We check ourselves and live as Kingdom people.
Remembering that Kingdom people try to live reconciled lives with each other.
An insight before our Practical Tip...
What happens if the person you are in conflict with doesn’t realize there’s a conflict? Or what if they don’t recognize any wrong-doing on their part?
What is your responsibility in the conflict?
Don’t be angry with them?
Don’t condemn the person?
Forget the wrong ever happened or act like it never happened?
You might consider what are you angry about and who with?
What was your expectation prior to the situation that resulted in your anger?
Where did you get that expectation?
Who disappointed you? The perpetrator? God?
Remember that last "Blessed" in the Beatitudes?
What if persecuted means just being taken advantage of? Or, being a person who trusts that God will provide?
Jesus invites us to live in the tension of the Kingdom. Being Kingdom people is hard.
I want to you to try the Three Column Discovery Bible Study handout I created for you last week. I think it might be helpful. It’s a sheet of paper divided into three columns. The left most column has the scripture we studied today, you are invited to rewrite the passage in your own words as means to extract what it means using your own words, then the rightmost column invites you to consider what you must do to obey. I’d like you try doing this during the week and tell me what happens!