Jesus Defines Murder
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Standard;Mt 5:21-26 – You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not commit murder; and whover murders will be liable to judgement. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable will be liable to judgement; 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, 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.”

Jesus has just told his followers that their righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. The righteousness of the Pharisees was completely external, the righteousness that God demands is internal........ Spirit wrought, Spirit directed, then expressed outwardly in works. And as we mentioned last week, this righteousness  is only possible for those who have put on Christ, and keep Him on through faith.

A faith that is a gift from God that causes us to hunger and thirst for this righteousness to burst forward in our life, and godly sorrow that leads to repentance for the times it doesn't.

Now, in v21, Jesus begins to show us the contrast between external righteousness and internal righteousness. Buckle your seat belt. This is going to be a rough ride. In the weeks ahead we will hear the harshest preaching of the Law, that we have ever heard. When Jesus is done with us, there will be no wriggle room.

May the Holy Spirit use these words in the weeks ahead to show us how much we are like the Pharisees. By the time we are through with these words, He will show us how far short we fall of the standards of God. How much we need Jesus.

My prayer is that He will use these words to break us of any and all spiritual pride and that He will empower us to actually start living as He intended us to live,  not the mediocrity  we have come to accept.

You see, while we may view these teachings as harsh. In reality they are the laws which are present in every man's heart since the day of Creation. It's how God intended us to live. It's what we were truly “built” for, but unfortunately we have buried it deeply under the laters of sin, neglect, and tradition.

The first stop for Jesus is the command to not murder. How could anyone get that one wrong? Someone who once was a living human being created in the image of God, is now no longer a living human being because someone took steps to purposely end that person's life. How could anyone get that one wrong?

Well, they did. So have we for that matter. In fact we've gone over and above the murder of the heart. We've allowed it to spill over into the actual spilling of innocent blood.  Over 3,000 unborn children die every day in this country alone due to legalized abortion and few people really believe this is an act of murder, because it too has been buried under the rubble of the tradition of our culture.  If we really believed it was murder,  there would be more outrage over the matter.

President Obama just recently released funds to agencies in other countries that perform abortions, and just two weeks ago he lifted the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, which is another way of saying, let's kill someone else for their body parts.

And then you have to wonder, how many more unborn children are murdered because a birth control device has not allowed a zygote to implant in the womb?

Yes, the Jews had this one wrong, but we dare not gloat. It's one thing to say you possess the truth, and quite another to act on it.

Let's look at these verses and just attempt to rephrase them a bit to see if we can get the gist  of what Jesus is saying. Perhaps this will help us to learn this teaching, to unbury our hearts,  and learn to apply it in practical ways in our own lives.

“You've been taught for as long as you can remember that you shouldn't commit murder, and everyone who commits murder will be dealt with in court. But I say to you that if this commandment were correctly understood, even the person who is enraged in his mind against someone, to the point that they wish them harm deserves to go to the same court for they are guilty in God's eyes of the same crime.....murder.

Further, those who would view someone else as utterly useless, deserves to be taken to an even higher court, and whoever regards someone as moronic deserves to go to hell.  

Why Jesus? What's the problem here? The problem is God does not make junk. Every person that God has made is a statement from on high, and every person has been made in God's image. So to call a person a moron is to call God a moron. To consider someone useless is to consider God as useless, and to be enraged to the point of just having the thought of doing harm to a person is to think to do harm to something that God has made in His image.

Our attitude toward our fellow pots is a reflection of our attitude to the Potter. God is the Potter, we are the clay.  Ro 9:20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, "Why have you made me like this?"  21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

Unjust anger, regarding others as useless, and stupid is a reply against God and's tantamount to murder in the eyes of the Potter, and murderers will not inherit the kingdom of God. If you don't care about this aspect of your heart and you have no godly sorrow over this sin, you wll go to hell.

 Re 21:8 "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
We need to view our attitudes toward others in a muvh more serious light. Change my heart O God! Let me see people as You see them, not as that pompous Pharisee inside of me wants to see them!

In verse 23, Jesus tells us the heart of the problem and gives us the solution. And He does it with the good old “therefore” word. Therefore......  Because this kind of an attitude toward others is murder, and because unrepentant murderers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Here's what I want you to do about it! And He uses a couple of parables to illustrate His point.

When you come to Me for forgiveness of sin, (bringing your gift to the altar) and I cause you to recall your sins against another, don't blow it off. I tell you, don't even bother asking for My forgiveness, until you humbly seek forgiveness from the party you have murdered  with your words and your high and mighty attitude.  

So how do you handle this with the modern day communion practices in church? Most people don't take the time to make sure they are clear on this matter before they come to the table, and according to these words of Jesus, communion will not ber any benefit to them at all, since they are still in their sins. So, don't come! Stop worrying about what others think, think about what God thinks!

When it comes to your mind that you have thought ill of a brother. (A fellow believer) Stop! As soon as possible go to him and get it squared away.....privately. Be reconciled, make it good between you and he. He may not forgive you, but you have done your part and can come to Jesus  and He will forgive you and clear your conscience.

Then Jesus gives us another example: “Suppose you owe someone some money. Square it up with them before you go to court. If you don't, you run the risk of being dragged before the judge, who will turn you over to the jailer, and you'll rot there until you can pay the debt.”

Now with the word “accuser” we move beyond hurtful words and attitudes against our brothers in Christ and include unbelievers as well.

Here's how this applies to what Jesus is speaking about. If you have murdered someone with your words and wrong spirited attitude about them, get it squared away as soon as possible, lest you suddenly find yourself standing before God.

It is appointed for man to die once and then the judgment. Once you are before your judge, it is too late to make amends. He has no recourse but to cast you into prison, eternal hell fire where the debt can never be repaid.  So, if this would come to your mind, acknowledge it as sin, ask God for His forgiveness and then ASAP get it squared away with that person.

And don't miss the other implication here....that of the one who has been wronged. He is to complete the reconciliation. It takes two to reconcile doesn't it? He is to accept the genuine apology and the matter is to be forgotten.....forgiven.

It seems unfair, but when we are wronged, we immediately assume a debt. We must forgive that person who wronged us. We owe it the moment we are wronged and ought to joyfully pay it in person, when the contrite brother comes to us asking for the settlement of forgiveness.

Why joy? Because we have set that person free from a debt that would've condemned him to hell with all the other unrepentant murderers, and it is the proof that we have been set free from the same damning penalty of  unforgiveness.

Or don't you believe that part of the Lord's prayer that we recite every week? You know, “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And Jesus goes on to say immediately after the Lord's Prayer, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

So what do we do? What do we do when our anger seethes against someone? When we are just burning up inside over what we perceive as imperfections? We go to them and confess our anger. “You made me angry when you ___________________ forgive my anger.

What do you do, when you insult someone, intimating that they are ask them for forgiveness.

What do you do when you accuse someone of being stupid? You ask them for forgiveness.

It won't be easy, but the alternative is terrible. All that anger and pride cooking away in our heart, making us miserable because that's not the way God intended for us to live!  Deal with it now for your own peeace and happiness and assurance that you will be able to stand before the judge on the Last Day.

Pray the Lord will bring your offenses to mind! Pray that He will let you see people as He sees them and when He does it will be apparent to you whom you have wronged and to whom you need to ask for forgiveness.

When we put this admonition from Jesus into practice, it won't be long before we finally begin to see others as He sees them, and we'll stop with our wrongful and hurtful judgments against them.  I mean how many trips to an offended brother or sister will it take before we finally get it? 7? 70? 70 times 7?

What do you do when it's too late? What do you do when the person is no longer alive? Well, what did Paul do? He consented to the actual murder of Stephen! He couldn't go to the Christians that he had killed and ask for forgiveness!

No, all he could do was go to God and ask for the same. Recognize and confess your sins of anger and insult, call them what they are ....murder and ask God for His forgiveness and then receive it. Go and sin no more!  If nothing else, do it in honor of that person for whom it was too late!

It is amazing how quickly and easily we fall into this sin. The heart of this sin is pride, a false sense that we are somehow better than others that God has made in His image. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. It's time we dealt with this sin in all it's seriousness. There are likely people in this room who need to reach out both in asking for forgiveness and extending forgiveness. I know...because it's who we are, and what we've become. It's in our hearts and we need to seriously deal with it.

We need to remind each other about it, teach each other about it, and demonstrate it in our daily living. God has no room in heaven for those who elevate themselves by tearing down others. Jesus makes it clear here that unless we repent of this sin and seek to bear fruit worthy of repentance (seek reconciliation) we will spend eternity in hell.

It's not the sin, that seals our doom, it's just proof that we really don't understand what Jesus did for us on the cross. He had good reason to be angry with us! And compared to Him, we walk around here like a bunch of bumbling, useless  spiritual idiots....but He loves us and forgives us anyway. He died for us while we were yet sinners! He loved and put up with us, should we not learn to love and put up with others.

John echoes the sentiments of Jesus here in his first letter:

1Jo 3:15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Stop thinking more highly of yourself and less of others, it makes you a murderer. Repent and be saved!

 1Jo 4:20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

If we are tearing down others, we are lying about our faith. How can we say we love God, while we think more highly of ourselves  than others. How can we say we want God to take care of our sins when we refuse to let go of those who have sinned against us?

Corrie Ten Boom was in Nazi concentration camps during WW2. She watched her sister die at Ravensbruck. After the war she was touring in Holland speaking on the necessity of forgiveness when she came face to face with one of the guards of Ravensbruck.

Listen to the encounter as she described it and please note that the guard confessed his sin and asked her for forgiveness for the cruel things he had done to his fellow created beings. This little account is a complete summary of what Jesus wants to take place in our hearts and in His church as stated in our text.    

“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard there.” No, he did not remember me. “But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein,”—again the hand came out—”will you forgive me?”
And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place. Could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking? It could have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it— I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart.
But forgiveness is not an emotion— I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust out my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!” For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then. But even then, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit

In that moment Corrie and that guard experienced what God had built them to experience. It's what He built you and I to experience as well. It's not harsh, it's what God wants for us!

Do you see what we need in order to do this? We need the power of Jesus. Ask for it. Then move your mouth if you need to ask for forgiveness, and extend the hand, and if you are the one who needs to forgive, extend the hand, do what you can do and let Jesus do the rest.

And know this brothers and sisters. As harsh as this Law is.....God's grace is greater. He can and will forgive all of our murderous actions, as we humbly come to Him and ask for forgiveness, and  as we receive His lovingkindness, it will serve as a motivation to keep trying to extend it to others.