Monday, October 25, 2010

Marriage is Sacred and Binding

Marriage is Binding
Matthew 5:31-32

            --Have a drawing and give out a bunch of worthless certificates. i.e. “Free hot dog at Pelican Park,” “Good for one Lamborghini,” “Good for a house”

            I can give out any certificate for anything I want, but unless the person, or corporation that has to honor that certificate believes it to be valid, then the certificate is only worth as much as the paper it is printed on, which isn’t much because it has already been printed on. There was a belief in the Old Testament times that if you wanted a divorce, you could write out a certificate and give it to your wife and that would be that. The Pharisees took what started out as a way of protecting women and turned it into a belief that God Himself approved of such divorces.
            Let’s look at a passage that shows how the Pharisees believed these certificates of divorce were approved by God and how they tried to test Jesus on the legitimacy of them. Matthew 19:3-9,3Some 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,'[a] 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'[b]? 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 [Notice difference between “command” and “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."
            The only reason that Jesus mentioned where divorce was permitted was adultery. The greek work used for adultery is Porneia, which is where we get the word pornography. In short, it implies all forms of sexual immorality, including what we talked about the last two weeks, namely lust being the same as adultery. But there were other grounds for divorce mentioned in the Old Testament. This had to do with polygamy and how a wife should be treated. In Exodus 21:10-11 it says, “If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. If he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.” I believe if a spouse is abused, neglected, or abandoned they have a Biblical reason for divorce.
            The Pharisees idea of a certificate came from Deuteronomy 24:1, “If 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….” But typical of the Pharisees, they took a small idea, meant as an allowance to be used in rare occasions, and turned it into a huge idea to be used whenever. Now, according to the Pharisees a man can divorce his wife for any reason as long as he gives her a certificate of divorce, which would allow her to remarry. There is historic evidence of Jewish men divorcing their wives for extremely ridiculous things. For example, a man could divorce his wife for burning his food, using too much salt in his food, and for saying insulting things about his mother.
            But once again Jesus saw through the trap, turned the Pharisees’ question on its head, made them look foolish, and used it as a teaching point. The Pharisees knew what Jesus’ views on divorce were and wanted him to publicly disagree with what Moses had written, which would have been a big issue to the Jewish culture. But Jesus didn’t disagree with what Moses had written, He disagreed with how the Pharisees interpreted and applied the teaching.
            Jesus believed that marriage was sacred and binding. If we look at our next passage in the Sermon on the Mount, which is Matt 5:31-32, Jesus said, “It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.'[a] 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.” The NKJV starts out with, “Furthermore, it has been said….” Jesus’ last two teachings started out with “It has been said….” This is the third in the series of teachings that Jesus was telling them that what they thought they knew was wrong. It is like what happened when people first heard someone argue that the world was round, or that it revolved around the sun instead of the sun revolving around the earth. It challenged the way they thought, and made them extremely uncomfortable. And the religious establishment treated Jesus the same way they would treat Copernicus and Galileo 1500 years later. Galileo was found guilty of heresy, or holding a belief contrary to the established church’s beliefs, which at the time was punishable by death. And Copernicus waited until he was dead to have his book released that contained his theory.   
            The certificates that Jewish men were giving their wives were as worthless as the certificates I gave out today. In God’s eyes, except in cases of sexual immorality, abuse, or neglect, the couple was still married, certificate or not. In fact, Jesus said that if a man gave his wife one of those worthless certificates of divorce and she re-married, he caused her and her new husband both to commit adultery.
            Marriage is serious business. It takes a lot of work and effort. I remember in college there was a married couple who were a couple of years older than me. They were both Christians. We were talking one day and he said, “Marriage is hard work.” I remember as if it were yesterday thinking, “How hard could it be?” What do you have to do to have a birthday? You have to stay alive. What do you have to do to have an anniversary? You have to work. The institution of marriage should not be taken lightly and it will take commitment, not only commitment to each other but commitment to Christ. Rick, from Rick and Bubba, talked about his one step plan for a successful marriage—you have to have Jesus Christ as your lord and savior. Triangle illustration. Having Christ in your life will help you face whatever problem that is in your life. That goes for married couples and for singles. Jesus is the answer to whatever problem you are facing. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It Starts in the Heart, pt II (Matt 5:27-30)

It Starts in the Heart, pt. II
Matthew 5:27-30

            We are continuing our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, where we have the nerve to ask, “Can anyone live out the Sermon on the Mount in today’s world?” The Sermon on the Mount is:
            -Jesus’ longest, sustained teaching
            -Three chapters long
            -109 verses
            -2400+ words give or take.
We are finished looking at the first 26 verses and are now moving into, what I personally feel is the hardest teaching in the Bible.
            There may be a few people out there who may be like me. I was an athlete through college and into my post-graduate studies. I have gone through many hard workouts from 7th grade when I started to run through Seminary where I trained with other college programs. I never seemed to mind the hard workouts. Sometimes, I even looked forward to them because I knew they were going to do two things: 1) Challenge me—if the coach wasn’t challenging me with the workouts then it meant he didn’t believe in me; 2) Make me a stronger runner—which is why I trained so hard in the first place. I remember in HS doing 32 repeat 400’s at race pace for a 5K, on the track, which I always found boring. That’s eight miles for anyone doing the math. I had an epiphany that day. An epiphany is a sudden insight into something. I thought, “If I die and go to hell, I don’t want to run repeat 400’s for all of eternity. Maybe I should get right with God.” I remember running speed workouts in the dead of summer, all by myself. I remember working outside in sub-freezing temperatures on Christmas break until it was too cold to work and then went home and ran for 10-15 miles. I wanted to be the best and working hard was something that I looked forward to.
            But when I hear a preacher say, “This is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do,” I don’t look forward to it. It’s one thing to endure a workout. It’s something completely different to endure a trial. A workout has a beginning and an end. The trials that God allows you to go through have a beginning, but you may not know when it started. And it has an end, but you may not see it in this lifetime. But the worse part about it is the fact that you can’t get away from yourself. If you mess up a play, or can’t finish a workout, you may feel bad about it for a few minutes but eventually shake it off and move on. But if God has you going through a spiritual workout and you mess up, good luck sleeping that night. There have been times when I messed up a spiritual challenge and God took me to the woodshed. Is there anyone else here, that messed something up in their spiritual walk, maybe you were the only person that knew about it, and God took you to the cleaners? If He has, then that is a good thing. Proverbs 3:11-12 says,
My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline
       and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
       as a father [a] the son he delights in.
We are going to talk about something today that will make a lot of you feel like failures. Maybe God has rebuked you. Let not your heart be troubled! God rebukes the ones He loves.          
Last week we studied what I believe to be one of the hardest teachings in the Bible, which was Jesus’ teaching that it was not enough not to murder someone, because even if you hated a person you were in danger of facing the same punishment as if you did murder them. This passage is very similar. Matthew 5:27-30, “You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
            This passage, just like last week’s, is designed to show you as a failure. No one can perfectly fulfill Jesus’ commandment. Everyone who listened to Jesus teach this passage that day who were feeling pretty good about themselves and their righteousness, suddenly felt pretty bad about themselves. Once again Jesus was saying, “It’s not enough to just not commit adultery. You have to take it to the next level. If you even look at someone with impure thoughts, you’ve already committed adultery with her in your heart. On a side note, there was a scientific study that showed the chemicals released in the brain after viewing pornography were the same chemicals released after having sex. So Jesus was scientifically and spiritually correct when He said, “You’ve already committed adultery in your heart.” According to your brain, you had sex with that person. The Greek word for “heart” is kardia, which means not only the organ, but it also stood for the center of man’s entire mental and moral activities.
            How many of you have ever watched Wipeout? How many of you watch it because you like watching highly successful members of society race through the obstacle course with cat-like reflexes and amazing precision? How many of you watch it because you like to watch “good’uns” face planting into immovable objects? That’s what I watch it for, that and the witty and sarcastic commentary. I’m old school. I watched that show on Spike TV when it was the Japanese game show with the English over-dubbing. I like watching the people fail. The worse they fail, the harder I laugh. I have to muffle my laughter or Rebekah with think I’m a mean person. And I can’t be alone in this because they show 50 minutes of people face planting and 1 minute of people succeeding.
I like watching them fail because I don’t know them. If it was a loved one or someone I knew, I would be cheering for them and praying that they would make it through the obstacle course unharmed and with the fastest time. That’s the same way God is with us. He loves us and believe it or not, wants to see us win, not face plant into the Big Balls. He loves us, He gives us direction and guidance. It is like if the contestants each had a coach that was willing to train them on how to get through the obstacle course. That’s what He wants to do for us.
            Proverbs 5:21 describes God’s desire to be our coach in this obstacle course we call life. It says, “For a man’s way is in full view of the LORD, and He examines all his paths.” God can see our entire journey and knows which steps we should take and which steps we should avoid. If we think about Wipeout, it is like He has all of our jumps timed out for us. All we have to do is listen to Him. But that’s the problem. Two verses later in 5:23 it reads, “He shall die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.” We are too prideful to listen to Him, and we suffer for it.
            In this passage, Proverbs 5, Solomon, the wisest man to ever walk the face of the earth, was trying to pass his wisdom down to his sons about the dangers of adultery. Let’s look at what he advises.
 1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
       listen well to my words of insight,
 2 that you may maintain discretion
       and your lips may preserve knowledge.
 3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,
       and her speech is smoother than oil;
 4 but in the end she is bitter as gall,
       sharp as a double-edged sword.
 5 Her feet go down to death;
       her steps lead straight to the grave. [a]
 6 She gives no thought to the way of life;
       her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.
 7 Now then, my sons, listen to me;
       do not turn aside from what I say.
 8 Keep to a path far from her,
       do not go near the door of her house,
 9 lest you give your best strength to others
       and your years to one who is cruel,
 10 lest strangers feast on your wealth
       and your toil enrich another man's house.
 11 At the end of your life you will groan,
       when your flesh and body are spent.
 12 You will say, "How I hated discipline!
       How my heart spurned correction!
 13 I would not obey my teachers
       or listen to my instructors.
 14 I have come to the brink of utter ruin
       in the midst of the whole assembly."
 15 Drink water from your own cistern,
       running water from your own well.
 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets,
       your streams of water in the public squares?
 17 Let them be yours alone,
       never to be shared with strangers.
 18 May your fountain be blessed,
       and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer—
       may her breasts satisfy you always,
       may you ever be captivated by her love.
 20 Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
       Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?
 21 For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD,
       and he examines all his paths.
 22 The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
       the cords of his sin hold him fast.
 23 He will die for lack of discipline,
       led astray by his own great folly.
            Solomon’s teaching is pretty wise and pretty powerful even today. Have you ever seen a road sign that warned against a curvy road ahead? This is what Solomon is doing for his sons, and is what God is doing for us, too. It’s like He’s saying, “There is some trouble up ahead. You need to slow down to prepare for it.” I’m telling you there is some trouble up ahead and you need to slow down to prepare for it.
            Jesus said if we look at a woman with lust, we have already committed adultery in our hearts. So is the problem with looking, or with lusting? The problem is with lusting, but looking leads to lusting. According to scientific studies, a person using pornography can get addicted to those same chemicals that we spoke about earlier, and that addiction is even harder to break than the addiction to heroin. If all of you had access to heroin on a minute by minute basis throughout your day, I would be shouting warnings against the dangers of heroin all day every day to you. But you do have access to pornography anywhere and everywhere. People may feel pornography is a victimless pursuit but it is not. It destroys lives. It destroys the lives of people producing it, using it, as well as the innocent family members of the person engaged in it. And it all begins with lust. Jesus said it would have been better if we would have just gouged our eye out. After the service today, we will have an eye gouging ceremony for anyone who wants to participate.
            What separates pornography from drugs, alcohol, and tobacco addiction is that when you see an image, that image, good, positive, or neutral, is in your brain forever. That isn’t necessarily the case with the other three. So when you’re sitting in math class and your brain recalls an image you’ve seen at some point in your life, you now have to deal with it. Last week I told you that you can’t help if a bird lands on your head but you don’t have to let it build a nest in your hair. The same holds true for these thoughts, too. Think about something else. It’s as easy and as hard as that.
Secondly, you can be watching TV, minding your own business and a seductive commercial comes on. You didn’t ask for it. You weren’t seeking it. But there it is and you have to deal with it. Imagine a recovering alcoholic watching a ball game, and then a person jumps out of the television, and slams a beer down their throat. They weren’t asking for it. They weren’t seeking it. So what do you do when that tempting vision comes on the TV, or you see an ad in a magazine, or a billboard? You look away, and as for me and my family we won’t spend our money on their businesses until they get a marketing representative with some moral fiber.
             There are several things that make pornography wrong. 1) It glamorizes sin. 2) It causes the person using it to lust, (which is sin) and then moves them further and further down a path of destruction as they have to seek out different ways to maintain that chemical high. 3). Pornography reduces human beings to sexual items to be bought, sold, used and discarded.
 Johnny Hunt, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said about pornography, “If you look at something that isn’t real, as if it was real, it makes what is real appear not real.” In other words, let’s say you never seen what a horse looks like and so with my limited drawing abilities I draw a picture of a horse and show you. You may look at my picture all day, everyday, in fact the longer you look at my picture the more convinced you are that my horse must be an exact copy of what a real horse looks like. The problem is when you get around to actually seeing what a real horse looks like you’ll have trouble believing it to be real because all you have to compare it with is my picture. What do you think a lifetime of looking at pornography will do to you when you do eventually get married? Will it affect your relationship with your spouse? Yes, because you will be comparing what is real to what isn’t real. Now imagine inserting pornography into a young person’s mind that doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not real. The earlier a young person is exposed to pornography the more normal they are going to think it is. They are going to think it’s as normal as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.
So what if you have been looking at what is not real as if it was real, what do you do now? The first thing you have to do is stop! You are dealing with a sin issue and a chemical addiction, so it will take more than will power and behavior modification. You are going to need God’s help to get you through this. Anyone who has decided to quit and failed. Decided to quit again and failed will tell you it takes more than will power.
Here are some practical suggestions to help you:
1) First and foremost, you need to pray to God, confess your sins (Confess means to agree with God. Can you agree with God on how He feels about pornography?) and ask for His forgiveness. 1 John 1:9
2)  You need to find someone that you can trust that will hold you accountable in your attempt to walk free from your addiction. This includes your parents. You were man or woman enough to get into pornography. Will you be man or woman enough to come clean?
3)  Serious behavior modification. Don’t get on the internet when there is no one else around. Don’t go to certain websites or watch television programs that might trigger something in you. Change your friends. Change the music you listen to.  Everything that you put into your brain is there forever. You can’t get rid of it, but you can dilute it. Water it down so it won’t be as poisonous.
4) Detox your brain. You have to change your thoughts or they’ll destroy your attempts.
            Whether you personally struggle with pornography or not, you will be affected by it at some point in your life. It is a sin problem and there is only one cure for a sin problem, and that is Jesus Christ….


It Starts in the Heart, pt I (Matt 5:21-26)

It Starts in the Heart
Matthew 5:21-26

            There was one time when I was a little kid that I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Apparently, I had been yelled at repeatedly by my parents to put everything away when I was done. I must have thought that I was being treated unfairly because after this particular sandwich, I walked into the living room and with the hint of being a smartaleck, I began to describe to my mother in painstaking details about how I made my sandwich. I got out the plate. I got out the bread. I took two pieces of bread out. I put the bread away. I got out the peanut butter (because you always put peanut butter on first). I put the peanut butter on the bread. I put the peanut butter away. I put the knife in the sink. I got out the jelly. I put the jelly on the bread. I put the spoon away. When I was finished describing this, my mother said, “Good.” She completely missed my point. So I said it again, stressing this time about how I put everything away individually when I was finished with it. Then she said, “That’s good.” I looked at her dumbfounded and angrily walked back into the kitchen. You know I must have been really upset because that story was from like 25 years ago.
            I thought I was being way over the top in my actions, but to my parents I was just doing what I was supposed to do. You hear people say every once in a while, especially adult men, “I’m a good guy. I pay my bills. I take care of my kids. I’ve never been arrested.” I’m never really sure what to say to that. You are supposed to pay your bills, and take care of your kids. And almost everybody I know has never been arrested. So if you’re looking for extra credit points with me, you’re not getting any. Extra credit comes in when you go above and beyond what you are supposed to do.
            Now don’t get me wrong—the world functions when people do what they’re supposed to do. But sometimes we need to take things to the next level. What if that guy that pays his bills, takes care of his kids, and has never been arrested, begins to save up his money and is able to bless other people? What if he not only provides for the basic needs of his kids but invests his life in them? What if instead of just avoiding doing illegal things he helped to make his community better? What if he took his efforts to the next level?
            Sometimes going to the next level can be very humbling. Just watch how good “star” college athletes do in the NFL. Look at some of the Heisman Trophy winners and how good they’re doing in the NFL. Some of them barely make the team, or ride the bench their entire career. Tim Tebow, arguably one of the greatest collegiate football players and Heisman Trophy winner just got dropped to third string and probably won’t play all year unless something bad happens. Colt McCoy, Heisman candidate for the last couple of years, holds the record for most yards thrown, (or something like that) almost got cut by the Browns this year.
            Hollywood is filled with actors and actresses who are working at restaurants and bars until they get their big break. They left home with dreams of making it big, but for one reason or another were not able to get to the next level. Nashville is the same with country musicians. Sometimes taking it to the next level is very difficult.
            I like to play guitar and I know I could be much better but in order for me to get to that next level, I know I have to work at it really hard. What is it for you? What are you doing, or what can you do that you could take to the next level? Maybe it is school work. Maybe it is soccer. Maybe it is something completely different. In the passage we’re going to look at tonight, Jesus is asking us to take our relationships with other people and the way we think to the next level.
            We are continuing our trek through the Sermon on the Mount, asking the question, “Can anyone live out the Sermon on the Mount in today’s world?” We, of course can’t answer that question if we don’t know what’s in the Sermon on the Mount.
            Today’s passage is from Matt. 5:21-26, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. 25"Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
            In that one thirty second passage from His sermon, Jesus turned everyone who thought they were doing pretty good to feeling pretty lousy about themselves. Jesus was basically saying to them that it is not enough to simply not murder anybody. Why? Because 99.9% of us will never murder anyone or even meet someone who has murdered someone. Again don’t get me wrong, not murdering people is good, but is it enough? Imagine coming to church on Sunday, “Hey Pastor Brian. How’s the day going?” “Well I haven’t murdered anyone.” Is that a standard you want your pastor to strive for? I want my pastor to have a higher standard than that. “Adam, as youth pastor at Ferris Hill, what are your goals?” “Well, I’d like to not murder anyone.” Jesus wants His followers, the ones that will be called by His name, and the ones that will carry on His reputation to have a higher standard.
            Remember there were two ruling classes in Israel during Jesus’ time. These two classes both sought control over their government in much the same way as the Democrats and Republicans do today. They were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees were passionate about the keeping the law. So much so, they made up other laws to make sure the Ten Commandments weren’t broken. They eventually created 1,000’s of other rules and regulations which they followed wholeheartedly, and persecuted those who didn’t have the same zeal as they did.
One of the rules they had, which was punishable by a fine and imprisonment was saying, “Raca” to someone else. Raca means “empty head” in English. Jesus was telling them, “Hey, if you call someone an empty head, you might get thrown in jail, but I’m telling you if you so much as even call someone a fool you are in danger of getting thrown in hell.” Jesus equated “hate” with “murder.” If you hate someone, it is like you are murdering someone.
Have you ever had a teacher, or even a parent, threaten to punish you for something and you have to stop and think, “Are they serious? Or are they just bluffing?” How many of you think Jesus was joking or bluffing in this passage? OK, just in case there was someone to chicken to raise their hand, Jesus said later in Matt. 12:36, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”
That was Jesus’ first point of the passage: Murder begins in the heart. His second point dealt with conflict resolution. Paul wrote in Romans 12:18, “If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Sometimes it is just not in your control to live in peace. Sometimes people are just jerks and don’t want to live in peace. That’s why there’s “likes—to—fight—guy.” But Jesus is saying here, “Do your part to resolve the conflict. Stop whatever you are doing and try to make things right.”
An old man once angrily returned a set of car tires to Home Depot that was not up to his standards. He did not have a receipt but the manager refunded the man his money. What makes this story interesting is that Home Depot never has and probably never will sell care tires. The man returned the tires to the wrong store, but desiring good customer service, the manager resolved the conflict, as much as it depended on him.
This is not to say that we should let people walk all over us, or even that we can never be angry. Remember Jesus became angry, thrashed at people with a whip, and threw tables at them. This is commonly referred to as righteous indignation. Eph. 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin.” But what if we all resolved our conflicts rather than letting them fester and boil inside of us? What if we learned to love each other for being a child of God, someone created in His image rather than hating them? What would Milton High School look like? Kings Middle? Hobbs Middle? Would there be less strife?
This is one of the hardest teachings Jesus had. It’s hard not to be angry at times with even your closest friends let alone your worst enemy. So how can we play this out in our lives? Because I don’t think Jesus would have asked us to do something that was impossible.
-Get to know the person. Try to see things from their perspective, or maybe understand how they were raised differently than you.
-Find nice things to say about them rather than a few bad things.
-Pray for them. It’s hard to hate someone you’re praying for.
-In conflict resolution figure out what’s important and what’s not.
-Humble yourself. Perhaps you’re wrong.
-Figure out what will lead to the greater good.