Posted by: Brad Beaman | December 1, 2007

Sermon on the Mount: A Matter of the heart

I remember the shock I felt as a teenager when the minister confessed to our small town church that he had broken all ten of the Ten Commandments. He had my complete attention when he told us he planned to use the morning sermon time to tell us how he had broken all of the Ten Commandments.

My particular interest was how and when did he commit murder and adultery without any of us knowing anything about it? Yes, the minister was true to his word. He disclosed to us how he had broken all of the Ten Commandments. But it played out much different than I thought it would.

That is because of the verses we find here in Matthew 5:21-32. You do not have to kill to commit murder and you do not have to have an extra marital affair to commit adultery. That is because Jesus takes the commandments beyond external and makes them a matter of the heart.             

A Matter of the heart Matthew 5:21-32

The Christian life must go beyond a list of do’s and don’ts. When this happens the emphasis becomes external and this produces legalism. Christianity loses its influence when it is reduced to an external code. Jesus explains why this is inadequate.

Six times Jesus used the expression you have heard it said. He then tells what the external law is in that case and then goes beyond the external to the matter of the heart.

It was the religious who made the mistake of emphasis on the external. The more dedicated and faithful you are as a Christian the more needed is the reminder that external emphasis is not enough, but there needs to be a transformation of the attitude of the heart.

Murder
When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, one of those was “Thou Shall not murder.” This is the 6th of the 10 commandments. (Exodus 20:13) Now most people breathe a sigh of relief and think aha, here is a command I have not broken. But Jesus took the outward command thou shall not kill and made it a matter of the heart. He went to the spirit of the law. Anyone who is angry with his brother is guilty of murder.

Matthew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Being angry seems a far cry from cold blooded murder, but Jesus gets to the root of the problem, hate. If you call your brother a pea-brain you are subject to court. If you call your brother a fool you are in danger of the fire of hell.
Matthew 5: 23-24 “Therefore, if 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 you worship God and come under conviction about a wrong relationship, then right then to right the wrong relationship. Is that easy? No But that is part of the higher standard of righteousness that Jesus calls us to.

If there is some immediate action on the way to court, settle the matter before you get there.

Matthew 5:25-26 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Jesus went a long way beyond the standard of the Pharisees. Not murdering someone may seem like a breeze, but not getting angry, not letting some unkind words, or even thoughts, bubble out of your heart. Wow! That is some very high standards. The point isn’t who is right or who is wrong, the point is reconciliation.

The point isn’t who is right or who is wrong, the point is reconciliation. As a follower of Jesus Christ you are called on to take quick action to reconcile your differences. Grace is a higher calling than the law.

Adultery

Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.”

Jesus is referring to the 7th commandment (Exodus 20:14). Jesus says,

Matthew 5:28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Don’t even think it!

Jesus demands more than the purity of the marriage bed, but He even calls for purity of the mind. Even thinking an impure thought is a sin and we need to go to God and ask forgiveness.

Divorce
The Pharisees would approve of divorce as long as a man gave his wife a paper stating she was a free woman, a certificate of divorce. This practice was based on:

Deuteronomy 24:1-3. If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, 3 and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies,

Moses wanted to discourage divorce. If a woman had no certificate of divorce she could not remarry. The divorced woman had no place to go. The law that Moses meant to protect women the Scribes and Pharisees turned to justify divorce.

Jesus goes to beyond the law again:

Matthew 5:31-31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 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”

Jesus held up a high standard for marriage. One man married to one woman for a lifelong commitment. His standard of marriage was rooted in creation (Genesis 2:24) the two become one flesh. No dedicated follower of Christ can accept the Pharisees standards. The reasons for divorce in the Old Testiment by Moses was because of the hardness of the peoples hearts.

Jesus takes us to the highest view of marriage, God’s ideal. The two become one flesh. Jesus makes marriage a matter of the heart. It is the hardness of hearts that leads to divorce. Jesus warns against divorce and remarriage. Instead believers are to stay committed to their spouse.

Jesus addresses lust that, attitude of the heart that leads to adultery. King David lusted after Bathsheba which led to adultery. When impure thoughts occur it is the time to turn to God.

Matthew 5:29-30 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.
We must turn from lust, for the sake of the marriage relationship and for our relationship with God. Lust can affect both. We need the power of Jesus to be victorious in this important battle. Too many Christians have fallen in this area.

Jesus calls us to extremes to rid yourself of lust. Drastic measures are needed to keep the mind pure. We need to be immersed in Scripture and in prayer. There is an extreme discipline necessary to preserve our spiritual life. It is a matter of the heart.

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Responses

  1. my heart is hurting right now. my brother has just died. we prayed him into the arms of Jesus my sister angela and myself. what a battle please pray for our familly who are attending his funeral next tuesday where my unsaved family will attend. god bless you all and thank you for your prayers
    mary o’connor

    • Hi Mary,

      Thanks for sharing this prayer reqeust. I am praying for you during this difficult time. In Christ, Brad


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