August 30, 2009

Hide Your Giving, Not Your Motives - Aug 30, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


The other morning I was in a hurry to get somewhere. I had skipped breakfast, so I stopped in at McDonalds to get a little something to eat. As the lady slid the window open to hand me my food, I could tell that she wasn’t having a stellar day.

Her eyelids were at half-mast. She was moving in a way that enabled her to conserve as much energy as possible. And when she spoke her tone was anything but enthusiastic:

“Welcome to McDonalds. Your order will be ready in just a moment.”

When she handed me my food and slid the window closed, she put the cherry on top of her warm and gracious performance by saying, (again, in a bland and cheerless tone):

“Have a good one.”

I drove away smiling. I was sorry that she was having a bad day, but the contrast between what her words meant and what her tone said was, well, humorous.

I’m sure she said what she was supposed to. I’m sure that she had been taught to greet customers and say something nice to them as they left. But as far as greetings were concerned, she was missing the point.

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day missed the point to, not when it came to greetings, but when it came to what God’s Word meant. The Pharisees said they were teaching the people to act like God wanted them to. But they were getting it so wrong, they were actually teaching the people to act like everyone else in the world, and not like God’s followers.

Jesus addressed these false teachings of the Pharisees, in the first part of the Sermon on the Mount. For the past few Sundays we’ve heard Jesus correct their bad interpretations of God’s Word by saying, “You’ve heard it said… but I tell you”.

Now Jesus is moving on. Now Jesus is going to address their false worship in the second part of the Sermon on the Mount.

The Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew, chapters 5-7. Chapter five was about the Pharisee’s false teaching, chapter six is about the Pharisee’s false religion.

In Matthew 6, Jesus is going to talk about religious things. Charitable giving. Prayer. Fasting. These were things that the Pharisees were doing. But, they were doing them all wrong. They were doing these things with hidden motives.

Later on in His ministry, Jesus told the people why the Pharisees did all the things they did. Why they gave so much to the poor. Why they prayed out loud. Why they fasted so frequently.

Turn to Matthew 23, verse 5. This is a key passage to remember when we’re looking at Matthew 6. Speaking about the Pharisees, Jesus says…

“Everything they do is done for men to see…” (Matthew 23:5a NIV).

Their acts of worship were done to buy attention. They hadn’t been teaching the truth with their words, and they weren’t teaching true religion with their actions either.

In the first part of His sermon Jesus led His followers and all who were listening to a deeper understanding of God’s Law. Now, He helps them to see what genuine religion is.

The first religious topic that Jesus deals with, is charitable giving. Take your Bible’s and turn to Matthew 6, verse 1. You can also follow along in the bulletin. This is the sermon text.

1“Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:1-4 NIV).

Here Jesus talks about God’s followers giving to the needy, and being rewarded by their heavenly Father for doing so. The idea of “rewards” from God makes some Christians uncomfortable. It sounds too much like paying for past sins with good deeds.

But Jesus isn’t talking about sinner earning forgiveness. Forgiveness CAN’T be purchased by our good deeds. Forgiveness was purchased for all sinners when Jesus suffered our punishment. We receive this forgiveness, as a gift from Jesus. When Jesus talks about rewards here, He’s not talking about salvation from sin.

That said, some Christians are still on their guard when someone starts talking about God rewarding Christians for doing what’s right. They’re on their guard because they’ve seen people use Christianity for profit.

I was watching television late one night, when I stumbled on a late night preacher. He was going off. He was so charismatic and so entertaining. So I watched for a while. I couldn’t believe my ears. Here’s his offer: send him 24 dollars as a “faith offering” and in 24 hours you’d experience a miracle.

God doesn’t work that way though. He doesn’t set up a star chart for our good deeds. This many will earn you a pony. This kind of good deed will get you a yacht. This many prayers will ensure good health. God doesn’t work that way.

God certainly promises to bless His followers when they do what is right. But He doesn’t usually tell us exactly what the blessing will be.

Let me show you one place where God does say how He’ll bless His followers for their behavior. Turn to Mark 10, verse 29.

“29“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-31 NIV).

Here Jesus says exactly how those who put Him and the Gospel first will be blessed. But usually we aren’t told what our blessing will be.

When it comes to giving to the needy, our Father in heaven says He’ll bless us but He doesn’t tell us how. Perhaps with possessions. Maybe with peace. Maybe wisdom. Stronger faith. Experience. Greater perseverance. Increased love for those around us. Long life. Joy. He doesn’t tell us which. He just says, when you give in secret, there will be a reward.

Now, when it comes to giving to the needy, Jesus says that there are two possible rewards that can be received. Let’s look again at Matthew 6, verse 2.

2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 3But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:2-4 NIV).

First of all Jesus says, WHEN you give to the needy. He’s assuming that this is something that God’s followers will not neglect to do. When you give to the needy, you will either have the reward of…

A) Human recognition and honor.
B) God’s recognition and blessing.

It’s not just a matter of doing it! For it to be valuable in God’s eyes it must be a true act of worship, not just some religious publicity stunt. It must be an act intended FOR GOD’S EYES ONLY. An act, of faith.

TO help the people remember how give and how NOT to give, Jesus attaches two funny pictures to His teaching.

First, a trumpet. When you give to the needy, do not announce it with TRUMPETS, as the hypocrites do!

After the sermon we’re going to pass the offering plates around as we usually do. This gives our members an opportunity to support the preaching of the Good News with their own money. Now, imagine that the guy next to you has a trumpet slung around his neck, and when the plate comes down your row and gets to him, he stands up, and… Tum Ta-da-dah Tum-tum-Tum TUM!!!

He sounds off on his trumpet and says, “I just wanted you all to know that I’m putting an extra $30 in the collection plate today because, well, I’m a giver. Thank you.”

If someone actually did that you’d know why, and God would know why too. Jesus says, that type of a person has their reward in full before they even sit down. Human recognition is what they way. A moment in the spot-light. A bit of honor. And that’s all they’ll have.

Don’t toot your own horn.

Jesus continues with another funny picture to help us remember what Christians SHOULD do when it comes to giving to the needy. Jesus says, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

Okay, I’ve got to warn you, this is going to get a little silly.

(Holding his hands up, pastor puts googly eyes on them so they look like rudimentary hand puppets)

I told you this was going to get silly.

This is what Jesus says, don’t let your LEFT hand know what your RIGHT hand is doing.

(When the left hand is looking away from the right hand, the right hand picks up a dollar bill and tosses it in the collection plate.)

Christians, when we give to the needy, we don’t want to do it in order to get a pat on the back. In fact, we don’t even want ourselves to know about it so that WE don’t pat ourselves on the back. Jesus says, AVOID SELF CONGRATULATION too!

(Pastor pats himself on the back)

We don’t wan tour pride to grow. Wow, I gave to the needy, IN SECRET! Wow, I’M really CHRISTIAN!

The right attitude is this: He’s watching me. My Father in heaven is seeing this. He’s my audience, and the only audience I need.

Jesus talks about people who give like this in Matthew, chapter 25. Turn there if you’ve got your Bible, Matthew 25, verse 34. Here Jesus is talking about the Last Judgment when all people are gathered and He sorts them. The righteous on the right. The faithless on the left.

On that day Jesus will point to the good deeds of the Christian as evidence of their faith in Him. But they won’t remember. Their left hand didn’t see what their right was doing. Verse 34…

“34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Mathew 25:34-40 NIV).

The other day I was online looking at an old high-school classmate’s Facebook page. Somewhere on his page he had typed this interesting statement:

“Religions kill. What I have is a relationship with Jesus Christ”

In our day and age, “religion” has come to be viewed in a negative light. We might say, “He balances his checkbook religiously”. Or “She drinks religiously”. It’s not a good thing. Doing something “religiously” has come to mean doing something consistently, without thought, or maybe even obsessively.

Too many people think that religion is just a rigorous DOING of what the rules say. That’s what the Pharisees thought. To them religion was DOING what you’re supposed to do. Give to the poor, pray, fast, etc. Just go through the motions.

Jesus says, NO. True religion is more like a relationship. More like a FRIENDSHIP between a person and God. In this friendship…

God talks to you through the Bible, and you talk to Him in prayer. God does things for you, and you do things for God. You enjoy each other’s company. You feel happy to see each other if it’s been a while since your last meeting. This friendship with God is different than other friendships you have though. He’s a friend who’s really out of your league. A friend whom you’re indebted to. He saved your life once, by giving up what He love the most. His own Son.

The Pharisees didn’t have this kind of relationship with the Father. They were only God’s FAKE friends. They used their connection to God for personal gain. And this motive of theirs was only slightly hidden.

That’s not us though. That’s not us. We have a real relationship with the Father. He has chosen us to be His friends. Called us to believe. Cleansed us by His Son’s blood. We’re not just connected to God in name, but by faith. So, when we do our acts of worship, let’s make sure they’re done TO HIM, and TO HIM ALONE. With no hidden motives.

Now, before we close I’d like to say one more thing. Jesus isn’t saying that we are never to do anything good in front of people. Just that our INTENTION should not be to get ATTENTION.

In Matthew 5, verse 16 Jesus says,

“…let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16b NIV)

Our hidden giving might be found out. But that should never be our intention. Our good actions are done with our Father as our audience, and so that HE IS PRAISED, not us.


The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

August 23, 2009

Blessed are the Peacemakers - Aug 23, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".

I’m going to begin our message today by retelling some of a fictional story originally written by Victor Hugo. The story is called, “Les Miserables”. It is a story about a man named Jean Valjean who was orphaned as a young child. His sister raised him and when he grew old enough he began to support his sister and her seven children by chopping wood.

One day, Jean can find no work, and the cries of his sister’s starving children is too much for him. In the middle of the night he breaks into the baker’s shop and steals a single loaf of bread. In the morning he is arrested and taken away to serve time for his theft.

After four years he attempts to escape, but fails. Years are added to his sentence. He tried to escape again, but fails once more. More years are added to his sentence. All together he ends up serving 19 years for stealing a single loaf of bread.

When he finally gets out, he is a bitter man. No one will take him in or even feed him because he is a ex-convict. He must travel with a yellow passport and announce his criminal record to everyone.

Finally he ends up at the Good Bishop’s house. He knocks on the Bishop’s door and enters announces loudly,

“Look here, I am galley slave. Here is my yellow passport. It says: ‘Five years for robbery and fourteen years for trying to escape. The man is very dangerous.’ Now that you know who I am, will you give me a little food, and let me sleep in the stable?” (Quotations from “Les Misérables” adapted from Victor Hugo and taken from “The Book of Virtues for Young People” by William J. Bennett ).

But the Good Bishop says that Jean will dine with him tonight and after that he is welcome to sleep in the Bishop’s own home. True to his word, after supper the Good Bishop graciously shows Jean to a bed where he can sleep.

But Jean wakes up in the middle of the night and decides that he will rob the man. Finding the silverware they had eaten supper with, Jean takes it all and leaves through the garden at the back of the house.

In the morning, the Good Bishop finds Jean and the silverware are missing. He thinks to himself that he should have given the silverware away to the poor anyway. It was too valuable just to have around. And certainly, Jean was a poor man.

But soon, Jean returns, accompanied by five soldier who, finding an ex-convict with a bag full of silverware easily figure out what has happened.

But when the Good Bishop sees Jean he exclaims, “Oh, you are back again! I am glad to see you. I gave you the candlesticks, too, which are silver also, and will bring forty francs. Why did you not take them?”

The Good Bishop convinces the soldiers that he indeed gave Jean the silver. They release Jean and leave. Then Jean says,

“Is it true that I am free? I may go?”

“Yes,” the Good Bishop replies, “but before you go take your candlesticks. Depart in peace, but do not go through the garden, for the front door is always open to you day and night.”

How many times in real life do you meet a person who shows compassion of this kind, for an enemy?

The Good Bishop of Hugo’s tale was living what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says, “Love your enemies”.

The part of the Sermon on the Mount that we’re going to take a look at today is found in Matthew, chapter 5. You can follow along in the bulletin, or in your own Bible by turning to Matthew 5, verse 43. Jesus says,

“43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:43-44 NIV).

The people had heard, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy” from the Pharisees. But the Pharisees hadn’t gotten this from the Bible. They had STARTED with a passage from the Old Testament. But they had altered and twisted it until they came up with a completely different idea.

Turn to Leviticus 19, verse 18. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus. This is the passage the Pharisees had started with.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18 NIV).

The idea that God expresses here is, “How to love people. As if they were actually YOU.” Imagine that you could meet yourself. Not a copy of yourself, but you meeting yourself. How would you treat yourself? God says that’s how you should treat everyone you meet.

But the Pharisees chopped off that last part, “as yourself”. They began teaching God was saying WHO to love, not HOW to love. Not love everyone LIKE YOU LOVE YOURSELF, but just love YOUR NEIGHBOR. Then they taught that “your neighbor” was only those people near to you, your fellow Jews. Not the Samaritans, you can treat them like dirt. Not the Romans, feel free to hate them.

Jesus corrects this atrocious misrepresentation of God’s word. He tell the crowd listening that there should be no division between neighbors and enemies. Jesus says, while you may HAVE enemies, BE AN ENEMY TO NONE.

Jesus says to love our enemies. Love is more than merely wishing someone well. Love is more than an emotion in the heart. Love shows itself tangibly through actions like the Good Bishop giving Jean Valjean his silverware and saving him from making a horrible, life destroying mistake.

Jesus says we should pray for our enemies also. We should ask God to bless the people who make our lives hard.

If you love and pray for your enemies, are you really their enemy? No! He may remain your enemy, but Jesus says, don’t you be his enemy.

Jesus tells us to treat our enemies with love, because that’s what God the Father does. Look at Matthew 5, verse 44-45.

“44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:44-45 NIV).

Right now there are millions of people around the world enjoying the same good weather that we are today. Good people, and bad. God doesn’t differentiate between the good and bad when He makes the sun rise in the morning or the rain fall of fields of thirsty crops.

God’s behavior confuses sinners. Why bless the evil? That isn’t what we would do. Typically, we are nice to nice and jerks to the jerks.

Think about how you drive. You’re the idiot who hasn’t been paying attention and needs to quickly merge before you run over some big orange cones. You simultaneously flick on the blinker and twist around to see if there’s a spot.

There’s not.

But the drive just behind you sees your predicament and slows up, motioning you to come on over.

What do you do? At the very least we acknowledge their kindness with a thankful gesture. You know, “the wave” that says, “I’m a big dope, but you saved me! You’re the man! Thanks!”

Now think of a different scenario. Your traveling south down I-5 near Northgate. The express lanes are closed, so the sign says to merge right because your lane is going to end soon. A courteous driver, you get over right away. But other drivers stay in the lane until the last possible second, hoping to hop ahead of some traffic. They all bunch up where the lane ends, blinkers flashing, finally trying to merge.

This irritates you. If they’d have just gotten over when the sign SAID TO, they wouldn’t be all slowed up and about to slow you up too! So, you decide in response to their little maneuver, you’ll hug the bumper of the car ahead of you as closely as possible. You’ll also stare straight forward as a way of communicating that they themselves into that spot, and they won’t get any merging help from you.

On the road we respond to good with good, and to bad with bad. And while it might be easiest to see on the road, it happens everywhere in our lives.

But God doesn’t act like us. He blesses the bad and the good alike.

When God blesses the wicked, He’s not saying it’s okay to do what the wicked do, He’s simply exercising His goodness. The fact that the wicked are wicked can’t change the fact that God is good. Perhaps they’ll eventually realize that all their good things come from His gracious hand.

When Jesus says, “love your enemies”, He’s talking to His followers. He’s telling us to remember who we are. If we are the followers of God, than we should act like it. We should follow Father by doing things His way. We should love friend and enemy both.

Jesus sure followed His Father’s example. He was the Son of God from eternity. He was pure and sinless. All sinners were His enemies. Yet He loved sinners by becoming human to save them. He suffered and died on the cross so that our death sentence would not be carried out on us.

Though Jesus has many human enemies, HE IS AN ENEMY TO NONE. The Bible says that if you are a sinner, Jesus suffered for your sins while He was on the cross of Calvary. The Bible says that Jesus took your punishment away, and because He did, your sins are forgiven. To you, God’s mortal enemy, Jesus gives forgiveness and eternal life.

This section of the Sermon on the Mount is the last time that Jesus uses the phrase, “you have heard it said… but I tell you”. Jesus has used this phrase six times. He has been explaining how the Pharisees were missing the point when it came to God’s Law. They said, “Don’t murder, but hatred in the heart is okay”. They said, “Don’t commit adultery, but lust in the heart is alright”. They lowered God’s standards enough so that they could convince themselves they were right with God.

Jesus shows that by their tampering, the Pharisees had made God’s code of conduct no greater than the code followed by everyone.

Let’s look at Jesus’ final words in Matthew 5, verse 46. There Jesus says,

“46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:46-48 NIV).

“Every good turn deserves another”. It comes natural to repay good with good. The tax collectors of Jesus’ day were known for getting filthy rich because they overcharged people. Yet, they still were nice to the people who were nice to them.

Treating family friendliness is also something that everyone does. Even if the family is some cousin that we hardly even know, if they showed up on our doorstep, we wouldn’t treat them like a complete stranger.

As followers of Jesus and His Father in Heaven, Christians are called to a higher standard. Loving friends and family is ordinary. God calls us to complete love. Love that extends itself even to our enemies.

God calls us to be like Him, who blesses ALL people with sun and rain. He calls us to be like His Son, who suffered to rescue His enemies from hell.

The Pharisees lowered the bar, but Christ put God’s standards back where they were supposed to be.

At the beginning of His sermon, Jesus said to His followers,

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 NIV).

God has made peace with us by taking our sins away through Jesus’ cross. By making peace with our enemies, we show that we ARE the children of God.

Like Christ Jesus our Savior, let’s also be: enemies to none, Sons of our Father in Heaven, letting Him set our standards.


The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

August 15, 2009

Our Response to Evil - Aug 16, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


In 2008 it was estimated that somewhere around 1,200 kids were skipping school in the European country of Albania. But they weren’t skipping school to hang out at the mall, or go on a road trip. They were skipping school ALL YEAR LONG because they were afraid they might be murdered if they left their homes. These kids were targets, and many still are, because their families are involved in what is called a blood feud.

Now, most of us probably aren’t real familiar with that term, “blood feud”. So, let me tell you what it’s all about. Or at least how it works in Albania.

A blood feud is based on the idea that a family’s honor must be protected. When someone disrespects your family in a certain way, your family’s honor is dirtied and must be cleansed. But a family’s honor can only be cleansed by the shedding of blood. That blood doesn’t have to be the guilty person’s blood. It can be any male member of his family.

There are a few other rules usually observed in a blood feud. One of them is no entering an enemy’s home. That’s why many Albanian kids are imprisoned in their own homes.

When you strip away all the tradition and nonsense about honor, blood feuds are nothing more than responding to evil with more evil. This is nothing new. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, man’s instinct has been to repay evil with more evil.

But the Bible teaches us very plainly that this is not what God wants. If you’d like to follow along, you can turn to Romans 12 verse 17. There Paul writes,

“17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Paul learned this from Jesus. And Jesus taught this very thing in the Sermon on the Mount.

We’ve been studying the Sermon on the Mount for a number of weeks now. The part of that Sermon which we’re going to look at today is the fifth time that Jesus says, “You have heard it said …but I tell you”.

The people had been taught one thing by the religious teachers of their day, but Jesus says, “listen up, here’s the truth about how God wants you to live.”

If you want to follow along in your own Bible, the sermon text is found in Matthew 5, verse 38. It’s also printed in the bulletin. Jesus says,

“38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:38-42 NIV).

We’ve all heard those words before, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. But where do they come from? They come from the Laws that God gave Moses to use in governing the ancient Nation of Israel.

Turn to Deuteronomy 19, verse 18. This is the place where the phrase comes from. This is part of how God instructed Moses to make the Israelite court system work.

“18The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, 19then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you. 20The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19:18-21 NIV).

It was God’s will that crimes be punished justly. Punishment for a criminal should correspond to his crime. That’s what an “eye for an eye” means, justice.

But the Pharisees taught that this was how God wanted all people to react to each other. The Pharisees were teaching the people that when someone did something evil to them, they should do the same. They should fight back. They should “put up their dukes” (raise your hands to fight).

But in verse 38, Jesus says,

““38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person…”(Matthew 5:38-39a NIV).

Jesus uses the word “resist”. In the Greek what that word means is “to stand – opposed”. We might say, “To put up your dukes”, to get ready to fight.

Jesus says, “No. When someone does something evil to you, your response shouldn’t be to put up your dukes, your response should be to put out your hands in love.” Then Jesus goes on to explain exactly how we SHOULD react when confronted with evil in verse 39

The examples that Jesus uses here are ordered in a downward stair-step. He starts with the situation that is most difficult to respond well to. Then he steps it down to a slightly easier situation, and so on.

Verse 39, Jesus says,

“…If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39 NIV).

What would your response be, if I were to walk down out of the pulpit, come over to you and slap you across the face.

That’d be pretty shocking, wouldn’t it? What would your reaction be? I’m thinking that most of us probably wouldn’t react with a slap back. Maybe we would. But probably not. Probably our first response would be a look of anger and shock. Maybe more anger than shock. Maybe more shock than anger. I’m not sure how each of us would react.

But probably we’d be shooting some serious daggers with our eyes. And our heart probably wouldn’t be filled with warm loving thoughts, or even just completely with righteous anger. That might be there, some righteous anger. But there would also be some sinful, hateful anger as well. We’d be embarrassed, and we’d be hurt. Slapped in the face!? If there’s one thing we understand, you don’t mess with people’s faces.

It’s very difficult to respond to a slap in the face with anything other than anger and hatred. But Jesus says, “Your response in that situation should be to offer your other cheek to them.”

When violence is done to us, Jesus says our response should be TOLERANT PATIENCE. That’s hard.

Jesus steps it down in verse 40, there He says,

“And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:40 NIV).

The tunic was the shirt that touched their skin. The cloak, was their outer, more expensive garment, like a jacket. Jesus is saying that if someone wants to sue you and take something from you, you should ALSO give them something more valuable than what they’re already stealing.

He says, if someone comes to take something of yours, don’t put up your dukes and fight for your stuff. Don’t respond to evil with more greedy, hate-filled, violent evil.

Jesus says that our response to theft is to give more was expected. Boy, that’s hard too.

Jesus steps it down once more in verse 41, He says,

“If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:40 NIV).

Someone forces you to do something. Jesus says, “Don’t put up your dukes and say, ‘I don’t want to do this, so I’m going to drag my feet and fight you ever step of the way.” Jesus says, instead voluntarily serve them. Make your service a gift, and make it double what was expected.

You see how Jesus steps down from physical violence (don’t put up your dukes), to theft of possessions (don’t put up your dukes), to the forced taking of our time and effort (don’t put up your dukes). Whether it effects our BODY, our POSSESSION, or our TIME and EFFORT, we aren’t to respond to evil with evil.

With His next words Jesus moves down one last step to a slightly different subject. In verse 42 Jesus says,

”Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42 NIV).

Here Jesus switches from an evil person forcing you to do something, to a person who is simply asking for something.

Jesus says, if you have it, give it. In fact, Luke 6 verse 35 records an additional word from Jesus about lending things. He says,

“…love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back” (Luke 6:35 NIV).

Jesus says don’t lend things at all. Give them. When you lend, don’t expect to get that thing back.

Jesus was teaching the people not to close their hearts to evil people but to voluntarily serve them in love. And He says to do the same thing to people who simply come asking. Don’t close your heart to them because of greed, or selfishness or for any other reason. Maybe because you don’t like them. Don’t close your heart to them, Jesus says, but openly give. Openly lend, not expecting to receive anything back.

Now some people will say, “Okay pastor, so Jesus wants me to give every time that someone asks for something?” No. That’s not what Jesus is saying here. He doesn’t want us to practice these commands of His like robots. When it comes to our health, our resources, our time and effort, there will be times when we can’t say yes to the person who asks because we have other God given responsibilities.

Jesus never tells us, “When someone asks you to feed their drug habit, feed them. When someone asks you to feed their irresponsibility, encourage that attitude.”

Remember, Jesus is addressing the misapplication of an “eye for an eye”. The point that Jesus is making here comes back to the teaching of the Pharisees. They said when someone does something bad to you, “put up your dukes”, resist them, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.

Jesus says, No! Don’t do that! Don’t respond to evil with evil, instead, respond by doing good. That’s Jesus’ main point. These examples serve to show us how God would have us do this. Of course we shouldn’t neglect our other God-given responsibilities to do these things.

Of course, we aren’t good at doing these things at all, are we. Turning the other cheek, going the extra mile. We aren’t good at responding to evil with good. We’ve failed many times in the past. Blurted out insults when people have insulted us. We’ve clawed and fought over stupid possessions. Grudgingly, unhappily done what someone simply asked us to do. Our response to good and bad alike has often been evil.

But God’s response has been very different. God has responded to our sinfulness with patience, and love. And ultimately God responded to our sin, by commissioning Jesus to save us. Through Jesus, God repays our evil, with forgiveness and salvation.

On the way to the cross, where He Jesus experienced a cosmic beating for our sins, Jesus was slapped many times. But over and over He turned the other cheek. He didn’t put up His dukes. He didn’t retaliate. When beaten. When scourged. Even when tortured to death for no good reason. Even when He experienced borrowed guilt and horrific punishment for sins that He did not commit. For the sins that we committed yesterday and this morning.

Instead, Jesus turned the other cheek. Instead He gave us the priceless coat of His righteous life. Instead He went the extra mile, all the way to death. And because He did, our sins stand forgiven.

All our petty get-back-at-you comments, all our eye-for-an-eye deeds, they’ve been suffered for and forgiven us, because God’s response to our evil, was to send His Son to be our Savior.

Do you ever think about what really made it possible for Jesus to do what He did? Sure, He was God, but He was also truly man. And as a man it was very difficult for Him to experience what He did. When He saw His suffering approaching, Jesus prayed fervently in the garden of Gethsemane that there might be some other way. But when the Father gave no other path, Jesus moved on boldly to the cross.

What made that possible? How could the man Jesus go there? I’d suggest to you, that Jesus was able to march boldly to the cross because He trusted absolutely in the Father’s goodness. He trusted absolutely that God the Father would make all things right in the end. He trusted that at the end of His pain, and suffering and death, the redemption of sinners would be done, and then His Father would raise Him from death, to glorious, eternal life.

Trust in the same Father God is what makes it possible for us to live like Jesus. Trust in that our Father above will give us all we need in this life. Trust that our Father will not abandon us, especially when we are laying it all on the line in an attempt to follow His Son’s teachings.

Trust in God is what made it possible for Christians to die for Christ. To lose their possessions gladly in His service. To give their hours and years freely to the doing of God’s work.

There are SO MANY reasons to repay evil with good.

When we repay evil with good, we are WORSHIPPING God through our interaction with others.

When we repay evil with good, we are EXPRESSING OUR FAITH in a way that others can plainly see.

When we repay evil with good, we LEAVE DOORS OPEN for the Holy Spirit to work on the people we come into contact with. Who’s going to listen to the Christian who’s no different than the unbeliever? Nobody. We’re called to be different in Christ. Forgiven by Him and then changed by Him. We are called to re-learn how to respond to the evil world. We are called to respond like our Savior did.

Evil always wants to spread. It wants to rub off from one person to another. Evil wants to drop seeds that sprout up and blossom into more evil. Evil wants to leave splinters that fester with bitterness until they burst into outward sin. That is Satan’s goal when evil is done to you. SATAN WANTS THE EVIL DEEDS DONE TO CHRISTIANS TO CAUSE AN EVIL RESPONSE. In that way, Satan can control God’s people.

Don’t let Satan use you like a puppet. Listen for your Savior’s voice, and just like Him, repay evil with good.

In Albania, blood feuds exist because generations have been taught to respond to evil with more evil. But there is hope for the future in that country. One article that I read said that the youth of Albania is not absorbing the old ways so well anymore. Too many of them have been affected by the foolishness and evil of blood feuds. The hope is that the next generation is learning a better way.

And that’s what we need to do too. We need to learn a better way. We need to absorb Christ’s way. We need to re-learn how to respond to evil. Let’s pray.

Prayer: Father in heaven, first we pray for all the grieving families in countries that still practice blood feuds. By your followers, show them a better way. Comfort them by your love and teach them to know and give the forgiveness that comes from Jesus.

Teach us also Lord. We need to re-learn so much. Help us to get out of the sinful habits that we have fallen into. Help us to see them, and to change. Help us to grow in Christ .

Thank you Jesus, for responding to all our evil with dedicated love. Great Savior, lend us your Spirit so that we can praise you and worship you with all that we are. Amen.

The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

August 9, 2009

The Simple, Generic Truth - Aug 9, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


When you buy medicine, do you buy brand name, or generic? Do you buy Tylenol, or the cheapest box of generic acetaminophen that you can find?

Generic products sometimes carry the stigma of being cheap. But, when it comes to drugs, it makes sense to buy generic. When what’s in the box is the same substance, who really cares if it’s got a pretty label, or a catchy slogan.

What matters isn’t the packaging, but what the product actually does.

The same thing is true of promises. What matters isn’t the outward packaging, but what the person actually does.

That’s what Jesus says in the part of the Sermon on the Mount that we’re taking a look at today. For a number of weeks now we’ve been listening to Jesus correct the Pharisees’ shallow understanding of God’s Law. Today we’ll hear Jesus speak about telling the simple truth.

If you’d like to follow along in your own Bible, turn to Matthew 5, verse 33. There Jesus says,

“33“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:33-37 NIV).

Did you ever do the cross your fingers thing? You know, if you’re crossing your fingers you can lie and it’s okay? Did you ever do that when you were a kid? The Pharisees did.

Well, okay, they didn’t actually cross their fingers and hold them behind their back. What they did was they rated different oaths. Some oaths had to be kept, others didn’t matter.

If a Pharisee swore “by the altar” that he’d do something, he didn’t have to keep that promise. But, if a Pharisee swore “by THE SACRIFICE that was on the altar”, THEN he had to keep his promise.

Sound stupid? Jesus thought so too. Turn to Mathew 23, verse 16. Here Jesus is denouncing the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Jesus says…

“16“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it” (Matthew 23:16-22 NIV).

It’s easy for us to condemn the Pharisees. How stupid could they be? Only some of your promises matter to God? Only certain ones really need to be kept?

But don’t WE do the same thing? I think we might. Are there circumstances that we believe excuse us from being truthful? Are there circumstances that excuse us from keeping promises that we’ve made?

Maybe when someone is unkind to us, we feel that we no longer have to keep a promise we’ve made to them. If they’ve broken a promise to us, we might think we’re no longer obligated keep promises we’ve made to them. The Pharisees weren’t the only ones who found ways to avoid keeping their promises. We do it also.

But Jesus’ teaching is uncomplicated. He says, “Don’t swear that you’re going to do something, and then fail to do it. Don’t swear at all, just DO what you say you’re going to do.”

What would it say about us if we had to make all sorts of oaths so that people will believe what we say? It would say that most of the time we’re lying.

You know people who can’t be trusted. People who speak the language of lies more than the language of truth. People who regularly sprinkle little oaths into their conversation. Oaths like, “I swear to God” Or maybe, “no really, I’m serious, I’m not even making this up”.

As followers of the God of truth, we should not have to sprinkle our conversation with such promises in order for people to believe us. We aught to speak the truth with such consistency that we are know for it. We should consistently DO what we SAY we’re going to do so that that nobody ever doubts that we’ll follow through.

But we fail.

We get put on the spot in a social setting, and instead of telling the truth, we say what we think people want to hear. We tell a little pressure lie.

We find ourselves in a situation where telling the truth probably won’t get us what we want, so we tell a little lie of manipulation.

We don’t want disappoint someone who needs something, so we say we’ll help, and we never get around to doing it. We over commit ourselves and our promises are slowly broken as we drag our feet and never get around to doing what we said we’d do.

We might not make oaths in the same way that the Pharisees did, but we break promises just the same. When pressure, anger, greed or temptation comes our way, promises get broken.

Jesus had to deal with all the pressures of life too, but He never lied in the face of those pressures. Even then His words could have saved Him from certain death, Jesus wouldn’t lie.

What I’m talking about is that time in Jesus’ trial before the Jewish Sanhedrim where He was called on to speak. You can turn to Mark 14, verse 62 if you’d like. I’m going to read from there in a second.

There Jesus is standing before the Jewish supreme court. He’s been arrested and many false witnesses have come forward to try and make something stick to Jesus so the they can have Him executed. But nothing has been working. It almost seems like the Sanhedrim will fail to get Jesus killed. But then the High Priest asks Jesus if he is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One. Without hesitation Jesus says,

“I am, …And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).

And with those words Jesus sealed His ticket to the cross as far as the Jews were concerned. Jesus signed His own death sentence by refusing to lie and by telling the truth. And because He never told a lie, and suffered for our every lie, our lies have all been forgiven, erased, washed away and forgotten by God the Father.

And also, because Jesus never lied, never broke an oath, God the Father has restored His Son to glory. Now He lives our Risen Savior forever.

So why should we do anything but tell the truth with love and gentle humility? Jesus will bless us as we follow His example. He has already made us His own forgiven children. Let us now truly learn to live lives that are free from lies and true to God.

What we need to be is more generic in what we say. Not cheap and flimsy, but simple and without manipulative decoration and exaggeration.

To do what we say we’ll do. And to not over commit ourselves to so many things that we can’t help but break our word.

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for taking away all our lies. Thank you for forgiving us because of Christ’s complete truthfulness and His cross. Send your Holy Spirit into our hearts by your Word, so that we always speak the truth, and not lies which are the language of the devil. Give us strength and endurance to actually do what we say we’ll do. Help us also to not over commit ourselves to so many things that we can’t help but break our promises. We pray these things through Jesus, Your Son, our Savior. Amen.

The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

August 1, 2009

A Certificate of Divorce - Aug 2, 2009

To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".


I grew up in a small town in South Dakota called Lemmon. The high school that I attended wasn’t real big, but one thing that was really nice about Lemmon High was that it had a wood shop that was fully furnished with power tools and hand tools, and the high school offered classes in woodworking.

One of the things that I learned in wood shop was the strength of wood glue. Our teacher showed us that when two pieces of wood are glued together properly, the glue is stronger than the wood itself. If you break the two pieces of wood that have been glued together, apart, the break may happen along the glue, but it isn’t the glue that breaks. Pieces from either side are torn off leaving a rough, damages edge on both pieces of wood.

Marriage is like wood glue. When two people are joined together by God, that bond is strong. And when those two people are broken apart by divorce, there’s never a clean break. People joined together in marriage are never the same after they’ve been torn apart.

Divorce is hard. I don’t’ know from experience. I’ve never been divorced. And I’ve never been right in the middle of a divorce. My parents didn’t get divorced. I haven’t experienced it in my own family. So, I can’t tell you what it’s like first hand.

I’ve heard people talk about it though. One woman described divorce as being like a slow motion car accident where you see it coming, but you can’t stop it. You don’t know how many people are going to get hurt or how badly, but you know that they are.

Another woman described divorce. She said that it would have been easier if her husband had died. She wasn’t being malicious either. She explains. When she got married his family accepted her and loved her, became her family. His friends became her friends. And when the divorce happened, nobody knew how to treat them anymore. So she ended up losing her family and her friends.

If he had died they all would have rallied around her to support. But not in divorce. They didn’t know what to do.

The Sermon on the Mount is not about divorce, but in it Jesus talks about divorce. In past weeks we’ve emphasized that one of the things Jesus was doing in the Sermon on the Mount was correcting the shallow understanding of God’s word that the Pharisees and Scribes had been teaching the people.

Jesus has already corrected the Pharisees false interpretation of the fifth and sixth commandments (you shall not commit murder, you shall not commit adultery) and now Jesus moves on to a related topic. Divorce.

Before we read Jesus’ words about divorce, we need to understand a little about the Jewish culture of His time.

The Jewish culture of Jesus’ day was a male dominated culture. Jewish women were not allowed to testify in a court of law. Jewish women were not allowed to initiate a divorce. Only the men were allowed to do that. In other places women may have had these rights. But not in Israel.

To make things worse, false interpretations of the Bible had made divorce very easy for a man to obtain. The thing considered most important in a divorce, at that time, was that a man give his wife a proper certificate stating that he had officially sent her away. As long as she got the “receipt”, this transaction was considered OK, and that man could then move on to whatever new relationship he was looking forward to.

Obviously, I’m not saying this was right, just this was the way it was.

The Jews tried to justify this treatment of women by pointing to an obscure passage in Deuteronomy 24. You can turn there if you like. Deuteronomy 24, verse 1. This is the passage that Jewish men used to justify the practice of divorcing a woman by giving her a certificate of divorce.
“1If 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,” (Deuteronomy 24:1 NIV).

I’ve cut the verse off here because it goes on to talk about other things that we’re aren’t central to our study. But this is the passing comment that is found in the Bible, that they then used to justify the practice of giving a woman a certificate of divorce and sending her away from the family.

The passage says that when a woman becomes displeasing to her husband because he found something “INDECENT” about her, and he decides to divorce her, he would give her a legal document that made this official.

Now you might ask, what exactly does that mean, “Indecent”. Couldn’t that be understood in a variety of ways? And that’s where the problem started. The Jews argued about when divorce was alright. And somewhere along the way that little phrase, “something indecent”, began to be used as a loop-hole.

By the time Jesus came into the scene, history records that at least one Jewish Rabbi interpreted “something indecent” so broadly that he said it was permissible for a man to divorce his current wife whenever he found another woman who was more beautiful.

You can hear how Jesus responded to this idea later in his ministry. Turn to Matthew 19, verse 3. Later on in Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees questioned Jesus about divorce. This is the record of Jesus’ response.
3Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”
4“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
7“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”
8Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:3-9 NIV).

The ancient nation of Israel was made up of all sorts of people. Believers and unbelievers. Generally nice folks, and down right wicked people. By saying that this law was made for those who were “hard hearted”, Jesus is pointing out the fact that this Law was a exception that had been made for the unbelieving.

When a wicked man grew tired of his wife, but couldn’t divorce her, he might seek some other way to sever that bond other than divorce. No doubt, that way would be more damaging than divorce.

This exception was not to be used to abuse of marriage. This exception was meant to safeguard women from wicked husbands.

As we’ve said already, the Pharisees taught a shallow keeping of God’s Law. Because they had kept God’s Law according to their interpretation of it, they actually believed they were righteous before God.

They didn’t actually take a persons life with their own hands. They didn’t murder in that way. They hired someone else to do it. They didn’t physically commit adultery, they just divorced their wives for no good reason and moved on to the next. Oh, but they made sure to give them a certificate of divorce. Because that’s what the Bible says to do.

Jesus responds to this sinful interpretation of God’s Word and this abuse of women and marriage in the Sermon on the Mount. I’m at Matthew 5, verse 31.
“31“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But 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” (Matthew 5:31-32 NIV).

Now I can’t explain everything about what Jesus says here. It’s hard for me to understand all of it. Not because what Jesus says is unclear, but because I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it.

For your information, “marital unfaithfulness” is a bit of a loop-hole English translation. The Greek word that is used here actually means, “fornication”. That is, sexual activity with someone besides your spouse.

Sometimes people get this idea that “marital unfaithfulness” means breaking one of the promises that you made on your marriage day. And maybe you wrote your own vows. Made a lot of promises. And if you spouse then breaks any of those promises it must be okay to get a divorce because they’re being “unfaithful” to their marriage promises. You might understand things that way from this translation where it says, “marital unfaithfulness”. But it’s being very specific in the Greek, “sexual unfaithfulness”.

Read verse 32 again. There are two main ways that this verse is understood.

Some understand this to mean that when a man divorces his wife, and no sexual misconduct has been done, they are still married before God. Even though there’s a certificate of divorce, they’re still married before God. And when the wife then gets married to her next husband, she is caused to commit adultery with that man because she’s still married to her first husband in the eyes of God.

Some understand this to mean that when a man divorces his wife and no sexual misconduct has been done, he is causing others to assume that she has committed adultery when in fact she hasn’t! All they know is Deuteronomy 24. So, they assume that the husband must have found something “indecent” about her. Hmm. Wonder what that indecent thing could be? And when that wrongly divorced woman marries another man, they assume that he’s the one that she committed adultery with in the first place.

Regardless of which was you understand this, of this much we can be certain: Jesus is saying, “You fellas out there who think that you’re alright with God because you handed your poor wife a piece of paper, you’re wrong. You’ve sinned against your wife, her next husband, against marriage and against God. You might be able to twist scripture to justify your outrageous behavior, but before God this is nothing but pure sin.”

So what do we take home from Jesus’ lesson? First of all, Jesus was reprimanding the Jews for their abusive treatment of God’s Word. They wanted divorce and so they found a passage that they could use to justify their desire. We don’t want to do that.

In Seminary I was taught to write a type of paper called an “Exegesis”. That means you take the original language of part of the Bible and study it’s structure and vocabulary to derive the original, Holy Spirit intended meaning. The meaning that “comes out” from the Word itself.

What the Jews were doing wasn’t exegesis, it was “Eisegesis”. Taking their own ideas and preconceived notions and finding a way to fit them into the Bible. We don’t want to do that. We want to pay attention to what God is actually saying in our study, not just disregard what doesn’t seem to match up with our own preconceived, personal thesis. We want to let God speak for Himself, instead of us telling Him what His word means.

Secondly, we can look at Jesus’ words here in a positive way. He spoke about divorce, so we can look at our own marriages and safeguard them from divorce. We do this when we build our up our relationship with our spouse with time and love.

When we don’t care for our spouses needs, troubles, worries, then we aren’t just being inconsiderate, we’re actually hurting ourselves. God said that the two shall become one flesh. We want to actively love our wives. Putting their needs before our own. We want to actively respect our husbands. Putting their needs before our own. We want to put Christ’s instructions for relationships into our hearts and minds, and then into action as we interact with our spouses.

Thirdly, we want to remember people that we know who have experienced divorce, or are experiencing divorce. We want to remember married people we know who are struggling. And we want to pray for these people. We’re going to do that in just a second, but one more thing.

The full name of our church is, “Redemption Evangelical Lutheran Church”. We purposefully call ourselves, “Evangelical”. I don’t know what everything thinks when they hear that word, but here’s what it means: the Good News of sins forgiven through Jesus is our bread and butter. No matter what topic we meditate on, the Good News of Jesus has an important connection to it.

If we’re talking about sin and hell, “evangelical“ means we’re gonna also talk about how Jesus took away our sin by dying in our place on the cross. With His perfect record credited to our account, the path to hell is barred to us and the way to heaven is open.

If we’re talking about Christian living, then evangelical means we’re also going to talk about how forgiveness that flows from Jesus is what powers us to live holy lives.

Whatever, the topic, Christ’s Cross has an important role in that conversation. That’s what “evangelical” means. Forgiveness in Christ is our bread and butter.

So, what sins have you committed against your spouse? Against God’s gift of marriage? Perhaps you’ve never been married. Perhaps your greatest sin in connection with divorce has been unfairly judging those who have been through a divorce.

Whatever sins you’ve committed that land somewhere near the topic of divorce, Jesus suffered cross time for those sins. He was tortured, body and soul, for our sins against marriage. And because he was, our sins against marriage have been paid for. In Christ Jesus we find forgiveness.

I said earlier that I’d like to pray for married people and people going through divorces. I’d like to do this in a different way today. I’m going to give you a topic to pray about. Then we’ll have a few moments of silence where you can pray quietly to yourself. Then I’ll direct your prayers to a new topic.

Think of someone you know, that has been through a divorce, and is still dealing with the fallout of that separation. Pray for them now.

Think of someone you know, who is struggling in a divorce right now. Pray for them now.

Think of someone you know, who’s marriage seems to be in trouble. Pray for them now.

Think of someone who is married that you care for. Pray for their marriage now.

Prayer: Father in heaven, thank you for blessing the human race with the gift of marriage. Give our younger generations wisdom to see that divorces and marriage problems don’t exist because marriage is flawed, but because we are. Help us to teach our youth rightly what the responsibilities and roles of husband and wife are, so that they can have strong marriages built on your principles.

Give those who are currently married: patience, active love, perseverance, selflessness, joy and fulfillment. Move our hearts to repent of our sins against our spouses, and to seek their forgiveness openly.

Move our hearts also to come to you Christ Jesus, with a humble and repentant heart concerning all our sins against you. You are our great Husband, the Husband of the Church for whom you died. Forgive us. Love us. And thank you for loving us even when we were faithless to you. Amen.

The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.