Worse (and Better) Than I Thought
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. – Matthew 5:21–26
Check out last week’s message here.
“It’s worse than I thought!”
A variation of that phrase has been conveyed in past sermons at Ridgeview, as we have walked through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. It seems to have recurring applications for us. For example, Matthew 5:21-26 shows, first, that my sin is worse than I often think it is. Second, my sin is also more costly than I think it is.
Sin: More Sinful Than I Thought
When my toddler spills my “precious” coffee, and I feel anger and frustration swell in my heart, I cannot stand before God in innocence. “But, I haven’t murdered anyone!” is not a good defense before a holy God. My sin of anger is worthy of judgment.
Jesus himself says to me;
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire… -Matthew 5:22
I can attempt to explain away or soften Christ’s words, yet they still attack the condition of my heart. Jesus has exposed me as a sinner.
Sin: More Costly Than I Thought
However, Pastor Mike highlighted that Jesus is not simply identifying our inability to follow God’s law. Christ is also showing us that our sin (here in particular He speaks of our anger and evil words) comes with great cost.
When my toddler spills my delicious coffee (possible minutes before Sunday worship is about to start), and I respond in anger, my sin has an effect on my relationship with God. “Anger hinders our worship,” as Pastor Mike shared. Therefore, we must deal with sin seriously.
…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. -Matthew 5:23-24
We must deal with sin seriously. The little things we do alone, the attitudes we share and the words we believe to be hidden are truly exposed before God. I cannot separate my actions on the Lord’s day from my actions Monday through Saturday. All of my life is God’s, even the “boxes” of costly little unaddressed sins. I can pretend they do exist with an outward smile, yet I can never fool God about such rebellion.
These sins are those which I will give an account to God for one day. Deadly serious.
The Gospel: Better News Than I Could Imagine
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. -Romans 8:1-4
The Good News that Jesus bled and died for me means HOPE that God’s law (more perfect than I thought) will not condemn me in the end. His holy standard, which brings me to my knees in humility, is fully and forever accomplished in Christ. No condemnation can come upon one who is in Christ Jesus!
The Gospel also means Holy Spirit POWER for the Christian. I can and will truly move forward in obedience by God’s grace and the Spirit’s work. My sin will not overcome me in the end, for I will produce the Spirit-filled fruits of love and joy and peace instead of anger and retaliation.
So, when I go to worship, and am reminded of my sin against a brother or sister, I can stand in Christ’s forgiveness, repent for reconciliation, and walk forward in resolve to not go after that sin again. Christ produces in us serious sin-fighting that is guaranteed by the sweetness of grace.
Questions to Ponder:
- When was the last time I thought about the Gospel and its implications for my life?
- Is there a sphere of my life where I minimize my sin?
- What barriers are keeping me from repentance and reconciliation?