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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:Murder begins in the heart but life comes from God
Text:LD 40 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 6th Commandment (Murder)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 1984 Book of Praise
Bible verses from NKJV

Psalm 134:1,2,3

Hymn 1A

Psalm 36:1,2,3

Psalm 72:2,7

Hymn 38:1,2,3,4

Read:  Matthew 5:17-26;  1 John 4:7-21

Text:  Lord’s Day 40

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we read through God’s law, the sixth commandment is one that we could easily gloss over.  It is, after all, only 4 words long:  “You shall not kill.”  (In fact, it is only two word’s in the original Hebrew language:  Don’t murder.)

The command not to kill is also a commandment that appears to be very specific.  This commandment does not prohibit all killing, but clearly speaks of murder, the violent taking of another man’s life.  It speaks about assassination, killing out of hate and revenge, genocide, abortion and euthanasia.  And so to preach about such acts of murder in the context of the 6th commandment is valid.  However if we limit our understanding of the 6th commandment to such violent acts, we would be in danger of failing to understand the full intent of this commandment.  For in giving this commandment, the LORD was not simply forbidding us to murder a person with a gun or a knife or a vial of poison, but He was also commanding us to love our neighbour as ourselves.  The LORD has given us a new heart and a new life, and so He wants the love we show for our neighbour to come from the heart-change that we have received in Christ.  And so this afternoon our focus will not be so much on the physical act of murder but on the root of murder, the anger and hatred that boils in a sin-filled heart and the way of life, the true love for God and the neighbour, that flows from a heart that is filled with God’s grace.  I preach to you the Word of the LORD under the following theme:

Murder begins in the heart but life comes from God.

1.    The root of murder.

2.    The way of life.

1. The root of murder.

We tend to treat rules and laws as a boundary marker or a fence, as a way to keep us on the straight and narrow.  On the one hand that is appropriate:  when we live within set boundaries we don’t expect to get into trouble from the law, our employer, from our parents or from our school teachers and we can expect things to go well for us.  But it can be that we follow a set of laws to the letter but fail to do what those laws intended.

Take the rules of the road, for example.  According to the law, you may not exceed 100 km/h on the Freeway, your blood alcohol content may not exceed 0.05 and you may not hold a mobile telephone in your hand while driving.  But the intent of those laws is for you to drive safely, for the preservation of your life and the lives of all others who are using the road.  Now if you had a couple of drinks bringing your limit to 0.045 and alcohol goes to your head, and the rain was pouring down, the windows were fogging up, you were talking on a CB radio and you were driving at 100 km/h on the Freeway, technically speaking you might not be breaking any of the laws I just referred to.  But would you be fulfilling the intent of the law?  Would you be driving in a manner that was safe for both you and the other people on the road?  Probably not.  The law is there to teach us what it means to drive safely and to punish us if we do not.  But to drive safely requires more than simply sticking to the letter of the law: we need to uphold the spirit of the law.  We need to do what the law is designed to have us do: to be safe and sober in our driving habits.

The same principle applies to the law of the LORD.  We can not treat God’s law as a checklist where so long as we obey the letter of the law everything is good and we are declared righteous in the eyes of God. 

This is something that the scribes and Pharisees did not understand.  Two thousand years ago, the scribes and Pharisees had a list of laws longer than your arm.  But Jesus was not impressed.  He told the people of Israel:

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The problem with the scribes and Pharisees was not that they had reduced the number of rules and regulations: to the contrary, they had expanded them.  The problem was that they used the law in an entirely wrong manner with the result being that they would strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.  (Matthew 23:24)

Consider their explanation of the 6th commandment.  Matthew 5:21:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’”

This was the teaching of the Pharisees and in itself it was right.  The 6th commandment says “You shall not murder” and Numbers 35:12 taught that if a man killed someone else, he would have to stand before the congregation in judgment and if he was guilty of murder he must be judged accordingly and put to death.  So the Pharisees taught that for a man to commit murder was a terrible thing and if he did so he should be brought before the court, and the judgement he received should match the seriousness of the crime.  You do the crime, you pay the time.  But the Pharisees also taught that as long as one did not actually commit murder, all was well: he had kept and fulfilled the law.

But keeping the letter of the law is not the same as keeping the spirit of the law.  The way of the Pharisees is to say, “So long as I do A, B and C, I am ok – and for the rest, I can do what I like.  So long as I do not take out my knife and physically kill my enemy, I am keeping the law – and I can get back at my enemy in some other way.

And there we see the problem with the righteousness of the Pharisees.  Their righteousness was an external code of conduct, a way to live before men.  But it did not come out of a love for God with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind and with all their strength.  The righteousness of the Pharisees caused them to be white-washed tombs:  beautiful and squeaky clean on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones and uncleanness on the inside.  (Matthew 23:27)

But that is not what God intended when He gave the law to His people.  Keeping the law is not to be seen as something imposed on the outside, but we keep the law because of a change that has taken place on the inside, in our hearts.  In Matthew 15:19 our Lord Jesus said,

“out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.”  (Matthew 15:19)

And when we see God’s law from this perspective then we will not only look at the external things of what we do or do not do; but we learn how God wants us to lived changed lives out of a new heart that He has given to us.

And that is why the Catechism’s explanation of the 6th commandment is so biblical.  Lord’s Day 40 makes it clear that murder is a terrible sin against God, but it does not stop there.  It also teaches us that we are not to dishonour, hate, injure or kill our neighbour by thoughts, words, or gestures whether personally or through another.  It also calls us to put away revenge.  And it teaches us in answer 106 that the root of murder includes things such as envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge – and that God regards all these things as if they themselves were murder.

When the catechism speaks of the root of murder it focuses on the state of our hearts.  And as we reflect on the state of our hearts, we need to ask ourselves how the state of our hearts is displayed by our actions, how we react to things that happen. 

You are driving along the Freeway, late for an appointment when the car in front of you fails to merge smoothly and you have to swerve and jam on your brakes to avoid hitting him.  What do you do?  Yell and shout and thump your steering wheel in a bout of road rage?

You are on the phone trying to get a technician out to fix your washing machine under warranty.  You’ve been put on hold and then forwarded on to three different people and you still don’t seem to be getting anywhere, when the next person who speaks says that you will be put through to the first person you spoke to.  How do you respond in such a situation?

You are on the school bus and the person sitting next you keeps kicking your seat and waving his arms around your head to annoy you.  What do you want to do:  smash his head in?

You are at work, supervising a construction site when one of your workers failed to follow  instructions costing $500 in materials and setting the job back by two hours.  What do you say to him – and how do you say it?

When these or other things happen and we blow up in a rage, we are quick to blame the other person.  They did something to make us angry.  They pushed our buttons until we snapped.  They pushed us to the limit and then sent us over the edge.  But perhaps the way we respond to these things tell us more about what is going on inside ourselves and the evilness that is still in our hearts. 

The Catechism lists a number of things that come from an evil heart.  Envy or jealousy is a form of hatred for by it we imply that other people deserve less while we think we deserve more.  Envy is extreme selfishness for with envy we want more blessings and others can have more misery.

Hatred is showing contempt for another person.  It is saying that another person is not worth living.  Hatred can be shown by breaking off all communication with the other person.  It can be shown by facial expressions, by rude gestures, by harmful words.  Being a bully is a sign of hatred.  Of course the bully thinks he’s just being funny, playing a joke to make other people laugh, trying to be cool at the expense of another person.  But bullies: have you ever thought of the terrible blows you are inflicting on the heart and the mind of the person you are bullying?  The same applies to snide remarks or clever jokes.  Teenagers and school children in particular can be so cruel.  They can pick on certain people for any excuse imaginable: for what they look like, for the clothes they wear, for having different interests.  Snide remarks are made of others and people are made to look ignorant and foolish.  But God sees this as the same as murder because it comes from the same source, from an evil heart of hatred.

In Matthew 5:22 Jesus said,

“But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.  And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council.  But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

There is a hatred that is right: a hatred against sin and the devil.  But taking our rage out on other people is sinful anger.  It is also sinful to say to our brother “Raca”, that is to call someone a worthless person, an idiot, a moron.  It is also a sin to call someone a fool, when we insult them for who they are.  For when we use such terms we are treating others with contempt.  All forms of murder, whether physical or not, is treating the other person with contempt, as if they do not deserve the air that they breathe.  And the thought that someone is worthless leads to murder.  Abortion, for example, says that the unborn child is worthless.  Euthanasia is not death with dignity but the snuffing out of a life deemed not worth living.  Suicide also the ultimate statement that our own life is worthless and hopeless.  And to this we can think of other ways we treat our neighbour with contempt.  For how do we treat the hungry?  What do we think of those starving in Somalia?  What is our attitude to the homeless?  What is our response to the refugee – even those who arrive illegally by boat to Christmas Island?  Red neck stickers on Four Wheeled Drives telling people to “F” off because Australia is full are not funny, nor are they a godly expression of an immigration policy.  They are sin against the 6th commandment.

But why does this matter so much?  Why is it such a serious thing if we get angry, if we belittle another person, if we treat someone with contempt?  Because these things show us what is going on in our hearts!  And what we think and what we say and what we do shows us who we serve!  Ephesians 4:26,27 says,

“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.”

How we act shows us who we are aligning ourselves with.  In John 8:44 Jesus said,

“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.  He was a murderer from the beginning.”

God is not a murderer.  God is the God of life.  And God loves and values us so much that He gave up His only Son while we were yet sinners.  But when we show envy, hatred, anger and a desire for revenge, we turn away from God and to Satan.  And we belittle and destroy the very same humanity that God sent His Son to die for.  To show contempt for one who was created in the image of God is to show contempt for God Himself!

And that is a hard thing to say.  Jesus said, “unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  But so often our righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.  For we do get angry.  For we do cherish hatred in our hearts.  For we do get bitter and desire revenge.  But then we may remember that the same Jesus who gave these commands also gave His life as a ransom for His followers who could not obey them.    Jesus took a place lower than us when He humbled Himself on a cross.  He willingly accepted the cursing, the beating, the striking, the mockery, the belittling, the pain and being killed on a cross so that we might receive eternal life in Him.  And so we turn from death to life, from Satan to Christ.  And so we may follow our Lord and Saviour, who declared Himself to us in Exodus 34:6,7 saying,

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

2. The way of life.

A right view of our neighbour starts off with a right view of ourselves.  Hatred and envy and murder come from a heart that says that we are better, that we are more worthy than others.  The way to stop being murderers is to acknowledge that this is not true at all.  We need to remember that by nature we were enemies of God and the objects of His wrath.  By nature we were all sinners deserving the eternal punishment of hell.  But the innocent and perfect Son of God was murdered for us.  Jesus Christ hung on the cross and He died so that in Him we might have life.  1 John 4:9-11 says,

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [that is to satisfy God’s anger] for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

When Jesus died and rose again, He did not simply take away our sins:  what He did was He freed us from being in bondage to Satan, the one who was a murderer from the beginning, and brought us back into fellowship with God.  And so now we do not want to follow the ways of our old master, but we want to walk in the ways of the Lord.  Verse 12 of 1 John 4 says,

“No one has seen God at any time.  If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.”

And verse 16,

“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us.  God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.”

And that will be displayed in how we live with our neighbour.  The Catechism teaches us in answer 107,

“When God condemns envy, hatred, and anger, He commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves, to show patience, peace, gentleness, mercy, and friendliness toward him, to protect him from harm as much as we can, and to do good even to our enemies.”

Christians love because they are God’s children and because God loves.  We can not love God but hate our brother because when God’s love is inside us, we will live out of that love and we will display that love to one another not just in words but also in deeds.

It is not easy to show such love, particularly when people do not respond to us in a Christian manner and are so “unlovable”.  And so we must ask God for His grace and the Holy Spirit so that the love that comes from God might fill our hearts and minds to the point that we too can show love even to our enemies. 

The way of life is the way of love.  And that love must penetrate every relationship in our lives.  We can not love God but hate our neighbour; rather our love for God must result in a love for our brother and sister.

Jesus said,

“Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

But our love is not strong enough to do that.  And so we turn back to the God of love and the God of life.  And with our eyes fixed on the cross, the greatest sign of love that the world has ever known, Jesus Christ says to us:  “Through My act of love I have paid the price for your hatred.  I have paid for your sin and brought you from death to life.  I did not do it because you were so good and loving and kind.  I did not do it because you were so worthy of my love.  It was when you were my enemy, a child of that murderer called Satan, filled with hatred and with death, hating Me and hating others, that I came and gave myself for You.”

And now God’s love has been made complete, has been perfected in us (1 John 4:17).  And so out of thankfulness to God for the new life He has given us in Christ, we will not simply avoid the physical acts of murder.  But in the place of hatred and murder will be love.  A love that comes from the heart and that overflows in good, in patience, peace, gentleness, mercy and friendliness to all.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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