Live like Our Heavenly Father
Sermon by: Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - May 1, 2013
*When we got to vs. 43-48 last week, we spent our time focused on the last verse, where Jesus said: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
*Remember that this word "perfect" does not mean sinless perfection, even though our Heavenly Father is perfectly sinless. This "perfect" means "full-grown, mature, complete, working well, fully instructed, reaching your goal." But even this standard of perfection is impossibly high for human strength.
*Jesus Christ is the only person who ever reached the standard of perfection. Michael Luke described it this way: "He was arrested, roughed up, insulted by the police. The authorities spat on Him, blindfolded Him, and slapped Him in the face. Then the Roman soldiers mocked Him by crowning Him with thorns and putting a purple robe on Him, and a weak reed in His hand as a make-believe scepter. They jeered at Him, 'Hail King of the Jews!' Then they scourged Him.
*Jesus had the power to strike them blind, to paralyze their hands, to choke them on their own spit, to condemn them to hell. But with divine dignity, He held His peace." (1)
*And when they nailed Him to a cross, Jesus prayed, "Father forgive them." He did not return evil for evil, but turned the other cheek. And then He died on the cross for our sins:
-So that our sins could be washed away by His blood.
-So that we could be righteous in His sight.
-And so we could live righteously as part of the family of God.
*All of these things happen when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The bottom line last week was this: Make sure you belong to the Father's family by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
*Tonight we go deeper to see how being in God's family should affect the way we live. In order to do that, let's read Matt 5:43-48.
*It's funny how people in families resemble one another. My brother was taller than me, and he looked more like my dad. But our voices were so much alike that even our mother couldn't tell which son she was talking to when we got on the phone.
*There are always some kinds of resemblance in families, and I'm not just talking about our physical appearance. I'm talking about the way we talk, our mannerisms, quirks, habits and attitudes.
*What's true about our earthly families is also true about God's Heavenly family: There will be a family resemblance. That's because saved people are born again into God's family by God's Holy Spirit.
*The Lord explained this to Nicodemus in John 3:3-6:
3. Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.''
4. Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?''
5. Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
*"You must be born again," Jesus said. The reason why is because physical birth can only give physical life. Horses produce horses. Dogs produce dogs. And mortal people produce mortal people. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh."
*But "that which is born of the Spirit (i.e. given birth by God's Spirit) is spirit." The Holy Spirit produces a new kind of person by a new kind of birth: Spiritual birth that gives us God's eternal life. When we are born again, we get a brand new nature, so we start to resemble our Heavenly Father. But how should we resemble our Heavenly Father? In vs. 44, Jesus shows us four ways.
1. First: By loving our enemies.
*In vs. 43&44, Jesus said:
43. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44. But I say to you, love your enemies."
*Going in, it's important for us to know that the scribes and Pharisees had twisted the Word of God in vs. 43. God never told us to hate our enemies. The command in Leviticus 19:18 was "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
*So the scribes and Pharisees twisted God's Word in two ways. First, they left something out. They should have said, "Love your neighbor AS YOURSELF." Then they added the teaching to "hate your enemy." The scribes and Pharisees twisted the Scripture the same ways cults do today: Adding to, and taking away from the Word of God.
*Mark Adams explained it this way: "The people listening to Jesus' sermon that day had heard it said that they should hate their enemies. But they didn't hear God saying this. He had told them to love their neighbors, but the Pharisees had added the last part. And Jesus responded to this common teaching by saying, 'No, -- if you want to be like God, you must act in love toward all people, even those who persecute you.'
*But please note that Jesus does not say, 'Love the way your enemies live. Love the things they do. Defend their evil practices.' No, Jesus is talking about loving spiritually blind men and women who know nothing of Christ's power and love." (2)
*As Jesus simply said in vs. 44: "Love your enemies." Here, Jesus was talking about loving our enemies with God's kind of undeserved, agape love.
*Melvin Newland described this God-kind of love by saying: "It is not the kind of romantic love for someone else that is splashed across the pages of much of our pulp fiction today. Rather, it is the desire to do that which is the very best for the object of our love.
*We may not personally like the person we are told to love, but we still seek the very best for that person. In fact, this love may even cause a parent disciplining their child to honestly say, "This hurts me worse than it hurts you." (3)
*William Barclay explained agape love this way: "If we regard a person with agape love, it means that no matter what that person does to us, no matter how he treats us, no matter if he insults us or injures us or grieves us, we will never allow any bitterness against him to invade our hearts. But will regard him with that unconquerable benevolence and goodwill which will seek nothing but his highest good."
*Barclay added: "Agape does not mean a feeling of the heart, which we cannot help, and which comes unbidden and unsought. Agape means a determination of the mind, whereby we achieve this unconquerable goodwill even to those who hurt and injure us." (4)
*This matters because over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries face persecution today, simply for following Jesus Christ. It also matters, because someone may mistreat you for your faith in Jesus. (5)
*In 2004, our International Mission Board reported the story of a former Muslim from South Asia who has suffered for the Lord. They changed his name to Lamak for security reasons. He was born into a wealthy and powerful Muslim family, but Lamak turned his life over to Jesus, while he was working in Singapore.
*When he went home four years later, Lamak took the risk of sharing Jesus with his family. His father-in-law was so enraged he had Lamak strapped to a chair, and used live electric wires to force him to renounce Jesus. But this young man refused to deny Christ.
*Today Lamak has scars on his arms from the torture. But he uses these scars to share his testimony with other people. They ask Lamak about his scars, and he tells them about Jesus!
*Lamak has also worked with our short-term missions workers. At the time of the story, he had helped plant 32 churches and had baptized 500 Muslim believers. Lamak was able to do that only because he loves his enemies. And that's what the Lord wants us to do. (6)
*How should we resemble our Heavenly Father? -- By loving our enemies.
2. And by blessing those who curse us.
*As Jesus also said in vs. 44: "Bless those who curse you."
*Well to "bless" in that verse means to "speak well of" or "praise" someone. The original word is where we get our word "eulogy." To "curse" someone is to "to declare them to be evil or detestable; denounce them, doom them or call down harm upon them." And there are certainly people who curse us that way today. They say all kinds of vile things about us, simply because we are Bible-believing Christians.
*To get an idea of how bad it has gotten in the United States, consider the work of Mikey Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. According to "Defense News," the organization "Advocates for secularism in the military" and "campaigns against public prayer and proselytizing by Air Force officers."
*The Department of Defense first opened its doors to Weinstein in early 2009, just after President Obama took office. After failing in a lawsuit that Weinstein launched during the Bush administration, General Norton Schwartz, then-Air Force Chief of Staff, accepted a meeting with Weinstein to discuss his concerns about what he called "improper religious influence" in the military."
*"Defense News" called Weinstein one of the "100 Most Influential People in U.S. Defense." He was a consultant on a new so-called "religious tolerance" policy that includes "court-martialing military chaplains who share the Christian Gospel during spiritual counseling of American troops."
*Here is a little of what Mr. Weinstein once wrote about Christians: "Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation's armed forces."
*Weinstein also said: "We MUST vigorously support the continuing efforts to expose pathologically anti-gay, Islamaphobic, and rabidly intolerant agitators for what they are: die-hard enemies of the United States Constitution. Monsters, one and all." He also called sharing our faith "spiritual rape," and said: "What the Pentagon needs is to understand is that it is sedition and treason. It should be punished." (7)
*God help us! But how can we bless people like Mr. Weinstein when they curse us?
*John Gill helped me so much when he explained: "Blessing here, does not signify praising them, for that would be sinful." Rather, blessing here means to "give good words, use kind language, mild and soft expressions, such as may either win them, or put them to shame and silence." (8). As 1 Peter 3:9 says, "Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing."
*How should we resemble our Heavenly Father? -- By blessing those who curse us.
3. And by doing good to those who hate us.
*In vs. 44, Jesus also said: "Do good to those who hate you." Proverbs 25 says:
21. If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;
22. For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
*John Gill explained that the coals of fire weren't talking about heaping more punishment on our enemies, but bringing them to shame, repentance and love by showing kindness to them. (9). When we show Godly mercy and grace, we can help point people to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
*Michael Luke told about a tough drill sergeant whose life once overflowed with drinking, cursing and sex sin. The sergeant was also once arrogant and cruel to his men. But he became a Christian and turned his life around.
*Someone asked what made the difference, and the sergeant told about a private in his platoon who was a courageous Christian in his outlook and behavior. This private was frequently harassed by others but was faithful to Jesus Christ.
*One night the private came into the barracks quite late. It was a very rainy night. Before getting into his bunk, he knelt, as usual to pray. The sergeant was in a foul mood that night. So he picked up one of his own boots, heavy with wet mud. Then he threw it across the room, hitting the private in the side of the head. The private said nothing. He wiped the mud from his face and crawled into bed.
*But the next morning, the sergeant woke up and found his muddy boots cleaned and polished by his bed. He said: "It broke my heart." And he gave his life to the Lord. (1)
*Doing good to someone who hates you can change their life for all eternity. God could use your loving-kindness to point them to Jesus and save their souls. But even if they never come around to the truth, we need to do good anyway, because that's what our Heavenly Father does! As Jesus said in vs. 45: "He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."
*How should we resemble our Heavenly Father? -- By doing good to those who hate us.
4. And by praying for those who spitefully use us and persecute us.
*Jesus closed out vs. 44 by saying, "Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."
*Geoff Baggett asks, "Do you see the genius of this command? -- It's hard to hate someone when you are praying for them." Geoff also tells us to "understand, Jesus is talking about good prayers here. He's not talking about praying for God to send an earthquake and swallow them into the abyss or something like that. Jesus is talking about genuinely going to God on behalf of the people who persecute you. . ."
*Charles Spurgeon once said that 'prayer is the forerunner of mercy.' And he was right! It is hard to hate when you are praying for someone. Your prayer enables God to turn your hate into love, not warm, fuzzy, feel-good love, but Godly, agape Christian love. So the first step to loving your enemies and dealing with your personal conflicts is to start praying for the people that you are in conflict with." (10)
43. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,
45. that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47. And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
48. Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
*How in the world are we going to pull this off? -- It starts with being born-again by trusting in the only one who ever got it all right. Our perfect Savior Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again from the dead. Now when we call on the name of the Lord and receive Jesus, we are born again with a brand new nature, and we start to resemble our Heavenly Father.
*Ray Stedman put it this way: "When God's life becomes your life, you can expect many changes. It may take awhile. There is growth involved. You are like a new baby at first, but watch: you cannot be the same person. You cannot go on the way you were. If you do, you have never been born again. When you get in touch with the life of God, things are going to be different." (11)
*But we will never make it without Jesus. God calls us to be like our Heavenly Father, but we will never make it without Jesus. One poet put it this way:
"I've tried in vain a thousand ways, My fears to quell, my hopes to raise;
But all I need, the Bible says, is Jesus.
My soul is night, my heart is steel, I cannot see, I cannot feel,
For life, for light, I must appeal to Jesus.
He died, He lives, He reigns, He pleads, There's love in all His words and deeds,
All -- All the guilty sinner needs is Jesus.
Though some will mock, though some will blame, In spite of fear, in spite of shame,
I'll go to Him, because His name is Jesus." (12)
*Would you please bow for prayer.
(1) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "Love Your Enemies" by Michael Luke - Matthew 5:38-48
(2) Redlandbaptist.org sermon "What Does a Godly Person Look Like?" - Series: The Sermon on the Mount - by Mark Adams - January 7, 2007 - Matthew 5:33-48
(3) SermonCentral sermon "Just like Your Father" by Melvin Newland - Matthew 5:43-48
(4) "Christian Love" - Matthew 5:43-48 - "Barclay's Daily Bible Study Series - NT" by William Barclay - Revised Edition - Copyright 1975 - First published by the Saint Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland - The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
"CP Today" 122006 - Found in: "Church Leaders Intelligence Report - 02072007
(6) IMB Lottie Moon illus - 2004
"Pentagon Taps Anti-Christian Extremist for Religious Tolerance Policy" by Ken Klukowski - 28 Apr 2013 - http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2013/04/28/Pentagon-Consults-Extremist-Who-Calls-Christians-Monsters-and-Enemies-of-the-Constitution-to-Develop-Religious-Tolerance-Policy
"Pentagon refuses to turn over records of communications with controversial anti-Christian activist" by Kirsten Andersen - Wed Oct 02, 2013 14:32 ES - http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/pentagon-refuses-to-turn-over-records-of-communications-with-controversial
(8) "John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible" - Matthew 5:44
(9) "John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible" - Proverbs 25:22
(10) SermonCentral sermon "SURVIVOR 7: How to Survive Conflict" by Geoff Baggett - Matthew 5:43-48
(11) Online sermon: "Born of the Spirit" by Ray C. Stedman - Series: The Gospel of John - John 3:1-16 - Message No: 8 - Catalog No: 3838 - Date: May 15, 1983 - http://www.pbc.org/system/message_files/4182/3838.html
(12) Cross & Crown sermon "How Can God Make Us Righteous" by James McCullen - 2 Corinthians 5:21