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Author:Rev. Todd Bordow
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Congregation:Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church
 Fort Worth, Texas
Title:Anger in the Kingdom of Heaven
Text:Matthew 5:21-26 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Todd Bordow, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Imagine for a moment that you are in heaven. I don\'t mean in heaven after you die. I mean you are in heaven right now, with everybody else in the church. Imagine you are all standing in the very presence of God right now.

Now imagine one of you becoming angry with a brother. And right there, in the presence of God, you hurl an insult at a fellow Christian. Doesn\'t that thought make you a bit uncomfortable? It doesn\'t fit, does it? The anger in your heart, or the insult that you threw; they are out of place in heaven; they do not fit in the presence of God.

Well, the point of our passage today is that for Christians, what I just described is not imagination, it is reality. In Christ you are members of God\'s heavenly kingdom. You are not to think of yourselves merely as living in Texas. Eph 1 says that in Christ you have been raised to live with God in heaven. Keep this thought of your heavenly citizenship in mind as we work through this text.

Now, some of the Jews were offended when Jesus declared that they were not under the Mosaic Law anymore. Jesus, you say we are not under the Law. At least with the Law we had holy standards. What standards could you bring that are greater than our Law?

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus actually argues from the lessor to the greater. The Mosaic Law was for the kingdom of Israel, but Jesus came to bring the kingdom of heaven. If you think the Law was holy in that earthly kingdom, what do you think the standards are in God\'s heavenly kingdom? If the Law was holy in Israel, an even higher standard exists in heaven.

Beginning in v. 21 Jesus contrasts the old Law with the commands in his heavenly kingdom. You have heard this law, but now I say to you. The people were astonished at this. Christ was not speaking like the other Rabbis. The Rabbis would only offer their interpretations of the law, but none of them would dare claim that the Law had ended. Jesus comes and changes the commandments.

Who is Jesus that he can change God\'s law? Well, he is God. He has the authority to change any law. If Jesus says we are not bound by the food laws of Israel, that\'s it. He said it; he has that authority.

Also, Jesus can change the Law because he came to change the nature of the kingdom. The Mosaic Law was the law of the Land; the law of the land of Canaan. In the Old Covenant Canaan was a picture of heaven. Canaan was the blessed land flowing with milk and honey, the land of God\'s presence, the land where God\'s enemies were not allowed to live. Canaan pictured heaven.

But Jesus came to bring us directly to heaven. There is no more picture. Jesus came to end the picture and bring in the reality. As the Kingdom of Canaan had its laws, so the kingdom of heaven has its laws. Which place do you think would have the holiest laws, Canaan or heaven?

Jesus begins by contrasting the Law of Israel concerning murder, with the law of heaven, which deals with much more than murder. Under the Mosaic law, if an Israelite murdered a fellow Israelite, he was brought before the elders of Israel. This court of elders later became known as the Sanhedrin. If the Sanhedrin found you guilty, they put you to death.

Jesus contrasts the murder command with his command. His commands deal more directly with the heart. When an unbeliever stands before God on Judgment Day, will he be spared from judgment because he never actually murdered another person? No, because God not only hates murder, he hates the inward disposition of anger that sometimes can lead to murder.

The Mosaic Law had no punishment for inward anger, it only dealt with murder. Though God was always concerned with the heart, the law itself did not did not legislate against inward anger.

But what about the law of heaven? In Christ you have been raised to the presence of God in heaven.Do you think anger and hatred belong in heaven?

Jesus reveals how seriously God considers anger in his heavenly kingdom. You have heard it said to the ancients, you shall not murder, and that whoever murders shall be liable to judgment; but I say to you, everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable for judgment.

The word \"brother\" in v. 22 reminds us that Jesus is specifically dealing with our relationship with fellow believers in his kingdom. Later in the chapter he will deal with our relationships with unbelievers. In God\'s kingdom, a Christian is someone for whom Jesus suffered and died; he as an adopted child of God, even with all his faults. When you become angry with a brother or sister, you are saying, \"God may be changing you, but he\'s not changing you fast enough for me. God may think you are valuable, but not to me right now.\"

Those of you who are parents, how do you feel when someone treats your child poorly? You are upset, are you not? Would we expect anything less from our Father in heaven? What does God think when he sees his children turn on each other and treat each other disrespectfully?

Even that one little insult that you hurl at a brother is serious to God. In v. 22 Jesus gives some examples of how our anger is expressed. These Greek words in some of your translations were examples of insults people threw at each other. How seriously does God take anger between brothers in his kingdom? Whoever insults his brother is guilty before the Sanhedrin, and whoever calls his brother disrespectful names will be guilty of hell fire.

Jesus is using the term \"Sanhedrin\" or \"council\" as a figure of speech for the heavenly council. He is not suggesting that on earth church elders should excommunicate someone for throwing an insult.

Christ is saying; In Israel, a human court judged murder. But in heaven, the heavenly court even judges insults and attitudes of anger. Throwing an insult at one of God\'s children is so serious it is worthy of eternal punishment in hell.

Now, we cannot take this verse out of context. If you take this verse to mean that if you are ever angry at or insult another Christian you are going to hell, I can assure you that no one is going to heaven, and I mean no one.

Remember, Jesus is speaking to his disciples. He is speaking to Christians who now live in God\'s presence; who are members of his heavenly city. We have been accepted in God\'s presence only because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

But now that you live in his holy presence, here is how seriously God takes the sin of anger against a fellow brother or sister. You may think these attitudes and hurtful words are small in God\'s eyes, but they are actually sinful enough to send people to hell!

Now Jesus knows our weaknesses, and that we will fall often in this area. He not only reminds us how serious anger is among members of his family, he instructs us what to do after we have committed this sin.

If you have become angry and disrespectful toward your brother, you must confess it to God and ask him to help you not think such thoughts. If your anger has resulted in you hurting another believer, God provides the remedy for this, and he provides the remedy with two illustrations.

The first illustration concerns offering an animal at the temple gate. \"If, therefore, you are offering your gift at the altar, and remember that you have wronged a brother, leave the gift there before the altar and go reconcile with your brother. Then come and offer the gift.\"

Our Lord couldn\'t have given a more shocking illustration to demonstrate the importance he places on reconciliation. Jesus is not speaking literally here. If you traveled to the temple from another city, there was no place to leave a goat for a few days and then come offer it again. Jesus is using hyperbolic language to make a point.

The point is that reconciliation is so important to God that there is no worship of God without it. Your formal religious duties of praying, singing, reading your Bible, listening to a sermon; they mean nothing to God if you have no desire to reconcile with the brother that you have offended. Do you want God to be pleased with your worship? Then go tell your wounded Christian brother that you are sorry.

Jesus is not giving a chronological order for reconciliation. If you need to apologize to a brother, but he is on vacation, Jesus isn\'t saying that you cannot pray or go to church until that brother returns from vacation, when you can reconcile with him.

The point is that if you refuse to reconcile with your brother, your worship is hypocritical. If the one you need to reconcile with is not present, determine in your heart to reconcile. Remember, God desires obedience, not sacrifice.

The Apostle Peter in I Peter 3 warns Christian husbands; if you are treating your wives disrespectfully, if you are not seeking to apologize to her when you do so, your prayers are hindered. Husbands, that is another way of saying, if you injure your wife with hurtful words or attitudes, and instead of apologizing you come into your den, and close your door to have your devotions; forget it. God is not interested. He doesn\'t want to hear your prayers. Here is what pleases God. Go out to your wife, apologize, and then come have your prayer time. The same applies to the Christian wife.

In vv. 25&26 the Lord adds a second illustration to compound the first; both illustrations make the same point. The first illustration borrowed pictures from temple worship; the second illustration borrows pictures from a debtor thrown into debtors\' prison.

How important is reconciliation between Christians? If you owe another man a debt, go and pay the debt quickly, or else he will drag you to court and you will be found guilty, and then you will be placed into debtor\'s prison. Truly I say to you will not get out of prison until every last penny is paid.

Now you must match the second illustration with the first, and remember the context. I say this because v. 26 is one of the key verses Roman Catholicism uses to support the idea of purgatory. They take this verse to mean that there is a place after death where you pay for your sins, and after you have fully paid you will be freed.

But the two illustrations make the same point. The debtor\'s prison in the second illustration matches the hell fire in the first illustration. The debtor\'s prison is a picture of hell. The financial debt represents the apology that you owe to the Christian you have offended.

If you owe an apology to a brother you have hurt, take care of it quickly. You cannot refuse to reconcile, and say to yourself, I don\'t need to worry about it, I\'m saved anyway. I\'m going to heaven.

Jesus says, if you refuse to practice reconciliation with your Christian brothers, you will prove yourself an unbeliever, and you will be thrown into an eternal prison to pay an eternal debt. If the first illustration did not impress you with the importance of how you treat fellow Christians, the second will. Lord willing both do.

Children, God is not pleased when you are mean to your brother or sister. If you do treat your brother or sister meanly, the Lord wants you to go to them and say, \"I\'m sorry.\" This is very pleasing to God.

Husbands and wives, God is displeased with your disrespectful words and attitudes towards your spouse. Apologize often. Pray for spiritual growth in this area, for only God can change your inward attitudes.

Parents, apologize to your children as often as you need to. Apologize for being too strict when you shouldn\'t have, and apologize for spoiling them when you should have been stricter. Your children are God\'s people also and they deserve the same respect as anyone else in God\'s kingdom.

Reconciliation will characterize a healthy church. In a healthy church people will be saying, \"I\'m sorry,\" often. As sinners you will often say things you shouldn\'t say. But in a church where the members realize Jesus has lifted them to live in God\'s heavenly presence, you will hear a lot of, \"I\'m sorry, I shouldn\'t have said that to you.\" A Christian that is pleasing to God is a Christian who is not too proud to say, \"I\'m sorry.\"

Now, not everyone you seek reconciliation with will forgive you. That is not your problem; that is their problem. Sometimes you just have to give people time to forgive. You just attempt to right your wrongs, and if another is not willing to forgive, that is between them and God. The Apostle Paul wrote in Rom 12:18, \"If possible, as far as it depends at you, live at peace with all men.\"

As you seek to reconcile with those you have offended you are living out the gospel of Jesus Christ. We offended God with our sin, yet God reconciled us to himself through the death of his Son. Since God has reconciled us to himself, how can we not do likewise to others?

The Jews listening to Jesus were not yet aware how difficult this command would prove to be. In their mind the kingdom of God only consisted of Israelites. But Jesus was about to change all that. Soon God\'s kingdom would spread throughout the Gentile world. God would redeem people very different from them; people of different races and classes, different convictions, different tastes, different politics.

But no matter where in the world we are, or what class, or race, or age, when we meet a fellow Christian we are to treat them respectfully, for these are members of God\'s family.

In the Corinthian church, the wealthier Christians were insulting the poorer Christians by not serving them the best food in their fellowship meals. Paul warned them; if you continue on this path and take the Supper while hurting Christ\'s people, you are storing up judgment for yourself. Do not ignore God\'s command while performing religious duties. Instead, repent, remember that God\'s people are valuable to him, and seek to reconcile with those you hurt. Then you are taking the Supper in a worthy manner.

And so Beloved, do not just imagine what it would be like to live in the very presence of God in heaven. You already do as citizens of the heavenly kingdom. You have been accepted in heaven. You now live before his face every minute of every day. You must always remember you only have one foot in this world; the other stands in the presence of God in heaven.

Anger and disrespect do not belong in heaven; they are so sinful that unbelievers will be condemned for these very sins. When you fall in this area, confess it to God, and if your anger has hurt another, go and say you are sorry. This is how to please your Lord and Savior.

As we partake of the Lord\'s Supper, let us thank God heaven is ours because of the body and blood of Christ, which has redeemed us eternally. And let us determine to practice reconciliation so that we may glorify our great savior\'s name. Amen

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Todd Bordow, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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