We ran out of time yesterday, as we ended our morning service...nothing unusual. But, one of the reasons for this blog post is to help us all keep thinking and doing what God began yesterday, in our hearts, as we listened to the preaching of His Word.
Following are some practical applications of what we learned, in our study of Matthew 5.
1. Listen to your anger (James 1:19). What is it telling you about the nature of your desires (James 4:1-4)? Is your primary concern the glory of God? Or are you wanting something else? Ask God for wisdom (James 1:5-8).
2. Identify your desires (both good and bad) that have become sinful (James 1:20). For example, a good desire would be to get to work on time, but a traffic jam has made that an impossibility. Am I going to get mad or am I going to ask God (James 4:2-3) to help me deal with this circumstance in a God-honoring way? Am I willing to submit my will to His will?
3. Confess your sinful ways (I John 1:9) of trying to get what you want, and your lack of faith for thinking that God is not involved in your life (I Peter 2:23). Ask him to forgive you for playing His role as God in your life.
4. Trust God and submit to His sovereignty over the details of your life.
5. Recognize that vengeance is up to God (Romans 12:19).
6. Return evil with good (Romans 12:21), thereby fulfilling the law of God. Love both your neighbor and enemy (Matthew 5:44; Matthew 22:39; Ephesians 4:32).
7. Talk to people and make things right (Matthew 5:23-26).
8. Listen more than you talk (James 1:19). Gather information regarding the situation. Listen to what God is trying to teach you. Don’t jump to conclusions. Ask questions, don’t accuse.
9. Accept what God says about your sinful anger to be true (James 1:21) and get rid of it, by repeating the process of dealing biblically with anger (Ephesians 4:31).
If you have ever been coached, or have coached children who are trying to learn a sport, you’re probably familiar with the phrase - “Keep your eye on the ball". The consequences of not keeping your eye on the ball at times, can be rather amusing, but often times disastrous.
In the spiritual realm, the consequences of not keeping our focus on God’s eternal kingdom, results in a life, characterized by worry – the heart issue we dealt with in our Bible text yesterday (Matthew 6:19-35).
Worry is like the engine light that goes on in the panel of your car. You don’t take a hammer out and beat the panel until the light goes out. You realize the light says something is probably wrong with your engine. Worry tells us that something is wrong with the focus of our heart. Worry is our evaluation of God. We are saying, by our worry, that He is neither powerful enough to provide or protect, or wise enough to carry out His promises.
Jesus tells us not to worry, in the context of his contrasting two ways to live. We either live for this world or eternity (Matthew 6:19-20,24,33). When we live for our world, we become king and there is a lot to worry about when you are king. Isn’t there? We are misguided, that we somehow have acquired both the wisdom and power to rule our own lives.
When we choose to live for the kingdom of God, our lives are characterized by faith. God is king of both here and now, and heaven.
Let’s trust HIM!
Next time you worry, let it be a reminder that you need to refocus on the "ball" (His kingdom), and follow Paul’s Spirit-inspired words and pray to the King (Philippians 4:6-8).
Read Joshua 24:1-28.
Fear is an emotion, given to us by God, to drive us to trust in Him alone. The emotion is never neutral. It will drive us in the direction of trusting God or it will drive us inward, and away from God. Fear reveals our heart desires and also reveals how we interpret the uncertain, insecure, and wicked world in which we live.
When fear is handled in a godly way, the result is faith and the focus is always on God. When it is handled in an ungodly way, the result is unbelief and the focus is on ourselves.
We are not alone!
We have a high priest in Jesus, Who is able to sympathize with all our human emotions, and One Who, in every respect, was tempted as we are, but without ever sinning (Hebrews 4:13). That means that in every instance of fear, He used that fear to drive Him fully and completely to His heavenly Father.
The clearest example we have is the night when He was betrayed, when He became sorrowful and troubled (Matthew 26:37). In the following moments, He prayed three times, in great anguish, that God remove from Him the cup of suffering, but each time, His sorrow and trouble led Him to trust in the Father’s perfect will. (Matthew 26:39)
Yesterday in church, we saw that the great apostle, Paul, was also afraid (Acts 18:1-11). Who wouldn’t be, after all he went through to get to Corinth.
But both the fear of Paul and Christ were overcome by their fear of God. Both trusted God in obedience.
There is clear negative example in the OT that we read as our scripture reading in yesterday morning’s service. It is found in Deuteronomy 1. When faced with the report of giants in the promised land, the recently, miraculously liberated nation of Israel did not trust the God who had delivered them. Their fears revealed their unbelief and they turned inward, and away from God. They rebelled and murmured in unbelief and thought God hated them and wanted to destroy them (Deuteronomy 1:26-27).
The accurate report of the spies, being bigger and stronger, did not lead them to trust in God, but turned them inward, to the own weaknesses and that lead them to despair. No one questioned the veracity of the report. The people were indeed bigger and stronger and, humanly speaking, there was reason to be afraid.
God understands our fears, but He does not tolerate unbelief (Deuteronomy 1:32). He gently comes alongside his people and reminds them that He is bigger than their fears (Deuteronomy 1:29-31). He would fight for the people, just like when He delivered them from Egypt. He would lovingly carry them during this troubling time.
But, they refused to believe God was bigger than their fears and paid the price (Deuteronomy 1:34-35).
Look at Deuteronomy 1:36-38. In contrast to the thousands of Israelites who let their fears drive them away from God, we have a godly example of two men that trusted God, Caleb and Joshua. They faced the same giants, but they believed God and His Word. The giants in the land drove them to trust in God.
Where are your fears driving you?
Yesterday, we learned that when Jesus answered Peter’s magnanimous question about forgiving a repentant brother up to seven times, he used in his answer an idiomatic expression (70 +7 or 70 x 7, depending on your version) that all those listening would have understood as “more than you can count” Peter.
To Peter, forgiveness was about keeping score. To Jesus, it was about setting the scoreboard back to zero.
And then he tells the wonderful story of the king's forgiveness and then follows up with a stern warning for those who like to keep score.
But as I was reflecting yesterday afternoon about the number and how we think Jesus was actually saying 490 and not “more than you can count”, I began to see the foolishness of limiting our forgiveness to “just” 490.
I’ve been married this September to the same woman for 24 years. Over those same years, I have sinned against my wife a “few times” by violating God’s command to love her as Christ loves the church. Actually, it is a lot easier for me to love myself than to love her – and not because she is unlovable. She isn't! I’m just real good at loving myself at her expense.
Let’s be extremely lenient and say that I count only 3 of those sins of loving myself more than the command (Ephesians 5:25) of our Heavenly Father, a week. That would mean that early on in the 3rd year of our marriage I would have passed the 491 “sins against her” mark.
What kind of marriage would we have today if my wife had kept score instead of zeroing the score on a ongoing basis?
What about my kids? My parents? My brothers and sisters in the Lord?
Psalm 130:3-4 says the following: If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
If God kept score, it would be a blowout with me on the losing end. But, because of Christ, he doesn't. He forgives and as His children He demands the same from us (Matthew 18:35).
Thank the Lord for people who don’t keep score, especially my wife.