21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.
Don’t be destroyed by “You shall not…”
For driving we need map.
But there is no a clear map for the road of life.
Most of time in our life, we are confused and have no specific direction.
At this kind of moment, reason and theory are useless, other people’s experiences are also hard to use for reference.
It’s like that you are lost in a forest, the map is useless, for you even don’t know where you are.
If you just don’t move, definitely you will be eaten or starve to death.
Therefore the best solution is go forward, maybe you can find small stream.
The stream will flow into a river, and along the water, you can find a way out.
After you flee out of the forest, you probably still don’t have no a whole picture of this forest.
But if you thought you were unable, you could not, you shouldn’t in the beginning, you will never get out of this forest.
Likewise, when your life is in dire straits or you lost your life direction, what you need the most is not reason or theory which could make you lost the ability to move. What you need the most is faith and courage. Your duty is to move, and God’s is to guide you. You don’t have to know the whole picture of the life, but you still can be saved.
Maybe you could ask: does this have anything to do with the scripture we just read?
Let’s follow Pastor Charlie’s sermon of last week, continue to study the Sermon on the Mount.
The Sermon on the Mount is my favorite scripture in the Bible.
If one day the bible becomes the forbidden book and I can only hide three chapters, I will choose Matthew 5-7 without any hesitation.
We can say that these three chapters include all that a Christian needs for living in this world.
If we can live our lives according to the principles in them, we are the people of heaven and we are like in heaven. So these three chapters are also called as the Constitution of Heaven.
First, Jesus talked about the Beatitude, the eight specialities the people of heaven must have.
Next, Jesus taught us to be salt and light.
And then Jesus talked about the Law, he emphasized its importance. “Until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” And whoever does them can enter the kingdom of heaven. Pastor Charlie already talked about this.
However, in the end of this paragraph, Jesus said a connecting word for the preceding and the following: I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
What does it mean? Your righteousness must be bigger than that of the scribes and Pharisees, or you cannot enter the heaven. In other words, if your righteousness is less than or equals to that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the heaven.
Obviously, Jesus here made a judgment that these scribes and Pharisees will go to hell.
These words must scare everyone. I guess all audiences there prick up their ears.
You know, in that time, the scribes and Pharisees are a group of people whose job is to follow the Law and teach the Law. They were those who emphasized the Law the most. Why did Jesus attack them?
Weren’t they the moral standard in the society? Is it not that what they did was what Jesus requested? Wasn’t Jesus self-contradictory?
This is Jesus’ talking style, which is not always soft and gentle.
Jesus, please preach God’s words, why do you attack the others?
What was worse is the people Jesus attacked were the most respected, most authoritative and most powerful people. Why did Jesus make himself many enemies in the beginning of his ministry? And in the end Jesus was crucified by these people.
We cannot forget, Jesus coming to this world, was not to be a good boy, but to bring the gospel of heaven to man.
Therefore, what the scribes and Pharisees represented must already blocked the way to heaven. That’s why Jesus turned against them at the cost of life.
At this moment, I believe all people would hold the breath, open eyes wide and prick up ears, in order to listen to what Jesus was going to say.
Then Jesus successively used a same sentence to talk a long speech, which we just read.
You have heard that it was said…, But I say to you that….
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not murder.’ But I say to you, Do not be angry with and insult a brother or sister.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, Do not look at a woman with lust in his heart.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You can divorce if you get a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you, Don’t divorce and remarry, except on the ground of unchastity.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, just speak honestly.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall punish the evildoer’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
The first half of these sentences is from Moses’ Law, and the second half are added by Jesus.
Some people think, Jesus was here criticizing these scribes and Pharisees who did not really observe the Law, so he here were not only teaching the people to follow the Law, but the stricter Law: “You shall not murder” is not enough, You even shall not hate and be angry; “You shall not commit adultery” is not enough now, You even shall not have dirty thought in your mind. So you best do not look at women, or wrap them with black cloth, only two eyes showed. But I tell you, if your heart is not clean, only these two eyes can burn you up.
In fact, no matter how strict the Law is, sin cannot be solved only by Law.
Therefore Jesus here was not building higher moral standard and stricter Law system.
What Jesus want us is not our outside behavior’s change, but the whole life transformation.
Besides this, through this kind of sentence, we also find something more astonishing: without Jesus, the Law can make us worse.
Without Jesus, the Law can make us more hypocritical.
Throughout human history, you can find, where the laws or moral control are stronger, where the people are more false.
The political correctness is one of the examples.
In the past when I was in China, I know I must be careful what I say. When I came to America, I supposed that people here have the freedom of speech, but later I found, some words here can never be spoken. Such as, in America, you cannot criticize the minority, you cannot criticize the female, you cannot criticize the homosexual people, and you cannot criticize any religious belief except for the Christianity. I call these as “American Four Cardinal Principles” (Chinese Communist Party use the Four Cardinal Principles to rule the country.)
The original intention of Political Correctness is to call people to speak with respectful language, in order not to offend the others and protect the vulnerable group. But later it was treated as regulations by more and more schools, companies and governments to forcefully execute. Finally the Political Correctness turned to an invisible law which is already beyond the American Constitution and starts to threat American freedom.
I know the Political Correctness was suggested to reduce the conflicts between different race and groups, but because it later over-emphasize the concepts of minority and race, it made this society more divided. Actually in these years after I came to this country, my personal ethnical identity recognition is less and less. I am just a person, I don’t like people categorize me into certain ethnical group or class. If the corp gives me a ticket, or the landlord refuses to rent an apartment to me, I don’t think that’s because I am a Chinese. Actually if someone wants to discriminate you, he/she has hundreds of excuses. Honestly speaking, these years the most expressive discriminations I experienced are due to my dear Chinese people.
if there is no Jesus’ love in people’s hearts, only through controlling human language, it is just an idiot’s daydream to make the society better, and a pile of hypocritical politicians will be created to grab political capital in the name of Political Correctness.
In 2016 presidential election the big mouth Donald Trump received a lot of support in the campaign just because he spoke out a lot of politically incorrect words. Is Trump crazy? Are his supporters crazy? One reason he won the election in the end is that many Americans were already full of disgust for many years to the hypocritical Political Correctness.
Jesus knew this very clearly. He knew the root of sin lies in our hearts. The killing starts from hating, the adultery starts from lust. Without changing the heart, the sinful thoughts will end up with sinful behavior sooner or later. If only the behavior is restricted, the society will be full of hypocrites.
The law and ethics can divide people as the good and the bad. Those who can control their behaviors will think themselves as good people; those who cannot will be categorized as bad people by those self-righteous people.
But the second half of what Jesus said, “But I say to you…” is to require the renewal of our whole life. What Jesus required put all of us into only one category: the sinner. No one is better, for all our hearts cannot change. This seems to make us desperate, but bring us a great news: that is we cannot rely on ourselves any more, we can only reply on Jesus who can transform us from inside out. This is the Gospel.
Without Jesus, the Law can make us more selfish.
Let’s talk again about the Political Correctness. What is the Political Correctness? For instance,
My wife bought a new dress, put it on before the mirror, and ask me: “dear, how is my new dress?” I really feel it looks ugly, but can I say that out? Of course not! I would offend her. So I may say: my dear, you look good in any dress!
This is the Political Correctness, not from the heart, but at least not wrong.
On the surface, I say in this way in order not to offend her, but the true reason is: she will treat me well if I say this to make her happy. If I say what I really think, sooner or later she will cause me troubles.
So now you know, this is the point, what I want is to protect my own interest.
But if every time I answer my wife in this way, and in many other aspects of life, I only say this kind of politically correct words in order to protect myself, I tell you, sooner or later my wife will leave me, for she will find out, who I really care is not her, but myself.
In fact, if there is no love from Jesus Christ in us, no matter Political Correctness, or Jewish Law, or social morality, principles, traditions, cultural, all can become our excuse to protect our own interest. In the name of not offending the others, we hide our selfishness. The whole society also will become more and more selfish.
This is why Jesus told us, “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees”, fearing God in the surface, full of selfishness inside.
In Jesus’ 33 years life, he never reproached any sinful person, but he criticized the Pharisees with the worst words, for in Jesus’ eyes, the sin of being hypocritical is evilest, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
But God’s intention for Law is not like this.
Once an expert in the law asked Jesus, what is the Law? Jesus answered, “Love your God and love your neighbor.”
God’s intention to give us Law is not to control the individual behavior, but help us to build love relationship between each other.
That’s why Jesus said,
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not murder.’ But I say to you, Love your brothers and forgive each other.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, Love your wife.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ But I say to you, Treat the others honestly and sincerely.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall punish the evildoer’ But I say to you, Make peace with the bad people.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
All these Jesus said is not to control our own personal behavior, but help us to build love relationship between each other.
No matter where you are, in family, in workplace, or in church,
If you only satisfy the requirements of society, tradition, institution, law, religious obligation, only do what “you shall do”, so then all your relationships will die, for you only achieve the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and Jesus will tell you, you will not enter the heaven!
In fact, the spirit of the Law is Jesus, and the spirit of Jesus is grace.
Grace is to do a little more for the others, not only complete the legal and moral obligations.
The Law says, how the others hurt you, how you can hurt them.
Jesus says, you need forgive them and pray for them.
The law allows the Roman soldiers force you to carry their baggage for at least one mile.
Jesus says, you can give them one more mile, buy one get one free, no big deal!
This is the Gospel.
For me, there is one thing even more terrible: without Jesus, the Law can make us more unable.
What do I mean?
Our life is like a tree. The Law is like the land without life in itself. It is used to hold the tree, to prevent our life falling down. We must use our root to hold the land tightly, but please don’t forget, the responsibility of a tree is not just to maintain the balance, but to grow up, grow toward the sky, and Jesus Christ is our sky. The value of our life is not to stay where we are, just not fall behind, not fail, not make mistakes; our life’s value is to go forward, grow up, break ourselves, create miracles.
Without Jesus, all laws, experiences, rules, standards, common sense, all this kind of lifeless things can become the excuse for giving up and running away, finally make one person lose all motivation and determination, no guts to break through and create miracles. If so, the Law will become our sky, and our life is not for glorifying God, but just to keep alive.
Let me share a very popular person, whose name is Nick Vujicic.
Nick was born 4 December 1982. He was born without limbs. He only has a small deformed foot with two toes under the left hip, which he calls as “chicken drumstick”, for their dog once thought it as chicken leg and tried to eat it.
His parents was shocked when they first saw him, his father could not stop vomit, and his mom refused to hold him until 4 months later.
His parents cannot understand what happened on him and never received a reasonable medical explanation, but eventually accepted their son’s condition and understood it as God’s plan for their son.
Nick’s childhood is tough. At 10 years old, He attempted suicide in the bathtub but didn’t succeed.
If Nick did nothing in his whole life or committed suicide, no one would blame him, for no one would believe he can make success.
In the eyes of society, according to the general knowledge, Nick is unable to go to school, unable to do sports, unable to drive, unable to work, unable to marry, for he is even unable to hold his wife’s hand, he is unable to anything.
However, Nick’s faith is between “I am unable” and “I am able”, he chose the latter:
He is able to swim, able to ride horse, able to drive, able to beat drum, able to play football, able to surf, he is able to do anything, and for him it seems nothing is impossible.
At 19 years old, he started to learn to do speech, now he is a very famous motivational speaker all over the world.
In 2005, he founded a ministry, “Life Without Limbs” and went to many places to bring people to Jesus Christ.
He does not ask God for arms and legs, for he does know God had given him a pair of angel’s wing.
In 2010, he published his autobiography, “Life without Limits.”
In addition, last year, he published a new book, “Love without Limits”, for God not only gave him angel’s wing, but also give him a real angel. He married with a beautiful girl in 2012 and they have two sons, both are heathy!
Let me share something he said,
- If I fail, I try again, and again, and again. Because the moment I give up, is the moment I fail.
- The most terrible thing in life is not losing limbs, but losing hope and goal.
- No Arms, No Legs, No Worries!
- “It’s a lie to think you’re not good enough. It’s a lie to think you’re not worth anything.”
- The problem is not my body, but the limits I set to my life, which block my eyes to see many possibilities of life.
- Give up or Get up, this is the choice everyone must face.
Imagine, if Nick saw from the eyes of the others, made himself believe he is unable, so he only can make other people complain God is unfair. Instead, he broke through all this limits, became a miracle, making people believe God really exists and brings us abundant love and hope.
Life itself is a miracle. We cannot allow our life be beaten by those “cannot” and “shall not”.
We need ask Jesus for this kind of life. When he is in us, we can become a true man full of love, goal and courage.
Then we won’t be beaten by fear, by selfishness, by anger, by loneliness, by the hurt from other people, beaten by the legalism.
Law is good, but without Jesus, it is just the food without salt and world without light.
We are not machine, which just need rules and laws, what we need is Jesus Christ’ life.
Only Jesus’ gospel can bring us the living life.
May God abundantly bless us!