The Golden Rule

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Welcome to week 6 of this 7 week series on The Sermon on the Mount. If you’ve been with us the whole time, you can probably see now why 7 weeks is barely enough time to cover this even though you can read straight through it in about 5 minutes. It’s DEEP!

And we’re almost done. Just one more week after this one, and the last one will most definitely not be the least one. I encourage you vehemently to be here next week, and if you have family in town, bring them too!

But before we get into today’s reading, I must keep my word and remind you of the all too important lesson we learned from the conclusion in week 1 that we must remember throughout.

Matthew 7

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

I don’t have time to go into the full explanation today, but the underlying understanding that this helps us have is that the only way to be wise is to have your foundation on the Rock, which is Jesus Christ. And if you DO have that foundation, it will be evident in your ability and desire to put into practice the words of God. In other words, OBEY.

REMEMBER

OBEDIENCE is an attitude of the heart that says I will pre-decide to be and do what God asks of me, no matter what.

So, let us today, before we go any further, do just that. Will you pray with me?

Father, we are your servants. We have gladly accepted your salvation and forgiveness, and we gladly make you our Lord and master. Enlighten us with your Word today so that we may know the right way to live and empower us to do your will not our own. Amen.

Now, if you actually have not accepted Jesus as your personal savior and made him lord of your life, you always have that opportunity.

Romans 10:9

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

If you truly believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then you can believe everything else about Him, and you can make Him your Lord anytime you choose. It doesn’t have to be at the end of a service with a prayer led by the pastor. You can do it right now in your seat, or in your car on the way home, or in the shower tomorrow morning. The only location that matters is that it happens in your heart. But I encourage you to do it sooner rather than later.

But for now, let’s get into God’s Word together with an attitude of obedience! Are you ready?

Since we are so deep into this there’s a good chance some of you weren’t here for the whole thing, or even if you were you’ve forgotten where we’ve been. So I’ll catch you up.

The Sermon on the Mount is a long sermon that Jesus gives to his disciples from a mountainside. Many others were listening in, but it is directed at his followers. It covers 3 chapters in the gospel of Matthew, 5, 6, & 7.

He begins with the Beatitudes, which tell us what kind of people are truly happy. I did not cover that part in depth but will be talking a lot about that in the next series that starts in January called “The Pursuit of Happiness.”

Next, Jesus tells us that we ARE salt and light. Not that we should be, but that we ARE salt and light, the only salt and light of the earth. If we don’t preserve and we don’t shine, no one will and no one can.

Next, Jesus tells us how he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it – and then he gave six examples of what that meant which included several new ways of looking at old commands that basically made them even more impossible to follow. Which was exactly the point because what Jesus was getting at was not more external rules, but making it clear that what God wants is the right heart.

Next, Jesus talks about doing our good deeds in front of others for the wrong reason. He tells us that even the good things we do are not good if they are done for the the recognition of others. And within that section he told us how we should pray and if you were here last week, you saw that this was more than just a prayer. I encourage you to watch it if you missed it.

Next, Jesus tells us not to worry – and He also tells us why. It’s all about getting your priorities right. It’s about seeking after God instead of the things of this world which are so temporary. Again, it’s an issue of the heart. And in this case it is also an issue of the mind, because what you are seeking is not based on what you want to seek – it’s based on what you actually are seeking, which can be measured by the contents of your mind, which will be made up of the things you feed your mind. I gave a challenge that week to start giving God equal air time, and I hope many of you are taking me up on that. It can truly change your life.

And all of that brings us to what we are covering today.

At first glance it may seem that all of these things are not really connected. Jesus seems to be going all over the place. Doesn’t he know that a sermon should only have at most three points?

The real problem for us is not that Jesus is a poor sermon writer, it’s that he is speaking so far above our heads, or rather so much deeper than our own souls. Which is why it takes so much effort and time to bring it to where we can understand it and apply – and even then it’s still too much for us.  It’s no wonder that his disciples still didn’t understand him until basically he came back from the dead.

This not-so-long, but extremely deep sermon is, in fact, not disjointed. Which will probably become more clear next week as we conclude. But what Jesus has been doing is giving us instructions on right kingdom living. He’s explaining the real standards that God had put in place long ago but had been perverted by man through the years.

He addresses right living with regard to

self (salt and light),

morality (the six examples of having a righteousness greater than the Pharisees),

religion (the three examples of how not to practice the faith), and

money and possessions (that we will never be happy unless we get our thinking right about them) – and

each of these areas boils down to having the right heart.  Today will be no different.

In today’s reading, Jesus addresses kingdom living as it pertains to human relations. How it is we are to treat each other.

So, let’s pick it up in chapter 7.

Matthew 7

1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

6 Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Not that much to read, but as usual, it is packed with all kinds of goodies and it is also laden with all kinds of misconceptions by those who like to stay at the surface.  So, let’s get into it.

One thing that often happens, which is quite understandable but also tragic at the same time, is that we often take the Bible in very small chunks. That, in itself, is not a problem because it’s almost impossible to keep it all in mind and understand it without doing so. But the tragedy is that we often leave it in chunks and fail to zoom back out to see how the chunks are very much connected and lose a great deal of their meaning when kept separate.

The verses for today are some of the most abused.

First, we forget that this is part of a larger sermon. Then, because it Is in the middle of said sermon, we forget who Jesus is talking to because that’s two chapters earlier. And worst of all, we notice that there are nice subject headings above these chunks and that tells our brain that they must be separate.  It’s an easy mistake to make, which is why I guess preachers are still needed.

I encourage you to remember this so that when you are reading you don’t make these mistakes, and God’s word will open up to you like perhaps never before. It’s really a practice of zooming in and and zooming out. Read it first zoomed out – take it all in – then zoom in and focus on the different parts – then zoom back out to see how it fits the big picture – then zoom in again – and repeat.

With all that said, it’s time to zoom in.

There are two obvious chunks of this section so let’s address them in turn.  Up first is one of the bible passages that our modern culture loves!! And misunderstands completely!

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Don’t judge! Don’t judge!

It’s right there in the Bible! 

Why are you worried about the speck in my eye?

What about that big log in your own eye? 

Jesus said not to judge, so there!

It is true – He did say those words. But He also said these:

Matthew 18

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Uh oh, it’s another one of those contradictions. You just can’t believe anything this guy says! One minute he’s telling us to not judge people and the next he’s telling us to go and point out someone’s fault to them…So, which one is it?

It’s both, of course! And it requires zooming back out to get it.

Who is Jesus talking to? Well, he’s talking to his disciples directly, but who else is listening? The Pharisees and religious elite – and Jesus knows it.

And remember in that society, these religious elite were not seen as the enemies they are today. They were the standard. All the common people no-kidding thought these leaders were doing it right..and it sucked. The religious leaders were extremely SELF-righteous, which is practically what the whole SOM is talking AGAINST. And this bit about judging is no different.

I like to picture Jesus with a bit of a twinkle in his eyes as he talks with his disciples. They are all aptly listening, truly wanting to hear what he has to say – but in the background are all these better-than-you do-gooders just waiting for Jesus to say something they can pounce on. And so Jesus, in His masterful way talks both to the disciples AND to the nay-sayers at the same time.

He’s basically saying to his followers – “don’t be like those guys over there” – without explicitly saying it. And he does it in such a masterful way that the self-righteous Pharisees can’t help but know he’s talking about them, but not in an obvious way that they could do something about it. It’s no wonder they pretty quickly began planning how to kill him.

So, back to the bit about not judging. It’s clear in the later Matthew passage that we are expected to judge the actions of other believers (hence brother or sister) and call each other on it when we are not living right. It’s not a self-righteous looking-down-on-you kind of judgment, but an I-care-about-you and I don’t want to see you fall back into the slavery that Christ saved you from kind of judgment. So you approach them in private for the hope of restoration, not condemnation.

JUDGMENT AND CONDEMNATION ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

Condemnation, especially in human terms, is about looking down on another as beneath you because of something the have done.

Condemnation, when handed down by another sinful human being is not about helping the other, but about making the SELF feel MORE RIGHTEOUS.

There is only ONE who has the RIGHT to condemn, and HE took OUR condemnation on Himself so that we could be forgiven. But that same Savior still judges the hearts of men.

Judgment is simply making a distinction between right and wrong based on the objective standard of God’s Word. The Bible is very clear on many matters as to their right and wrongness, and we would be foolish to suggest or pretend like we have no right to make such a distinction for the BENEFIT of our brothers and sisters in Christ. If you saw someone about to eat poison, would it be right or wrong for you to try to stop them? How much more so than when someone is trying to eat poison of the soul?!?

What Jesus is speaking against here in the SOM is not judging in general, but self-righteous judging. Judging not to help that person, but to make yourself look and feel better than them. This is what the Pharisees did for a living. And Jesus is telling his followers not to be that way or you will, like them, be judged by GOD by the same unfair measure that you judge others. In other words, you will be judged by your own unrealistic standards that you know you don’t even come close to measuring up to in the one place it counts – your heart.

The bit about the speck and the log is just a good illustration of how the self-righteous behave. They have this huge log of sin in their own eye – the sin of self-righteousness and pride – but they ignore it or don’t see it because they are too busy trying to point out how bad others are so as to keep the negative attention away from themselves.

Now, I want to point out something about this log and speck statement that is almost never noticed.  We totally latch on to the negative command to NOT JUDGE (because if I can’t judge you, then neither can you judge me), but totally miss the positive command to REMOVE THE LOG from your own eye.

Jesus didn’t say, never judge anyone because you have no hope of removing the log in your own eye and thus will never be qualified to judge anyone, and no one else can do that either so it’s best if you all just go around not judging and you will never be judged so you can just do whatever you want because no one has a right to call you on it.

No, he’s pretty clear in that later passage that we absolutely are supposed to call each other out, as believers, on our sins and don’t just drop it after the first encounter.

Jesus is pretty clear we’re supposed to chase it to the ground. Either to the point of “winning them over” or kicking them out. Jesus is not cool with sin going unchecked within His body.

But the only way that we can even correctly notice another’s sin (or speck) is if we get rid of the log in our own eyes. In other words – live right yourself (the crux of the previous two chapters of this sermon) – and then you WILL be able to see clearly enough to help your fellow believers with their own sin struggles.

So, once again, Jesus is not actually saying to never judge. He’s saying to do it right. With the right heart. Imagine that! 

In this same section is that weird verse:

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

This one is extremely cultural, but basically dogs and pigs were both the opposite of beloved house pets. They were scavenger mongrels that were really good for nothing in that society and actually were quite vicious (the dogs AND the pigs) and would “turn and tear you to pieces.”

I don’t have time to get into this right now, but I will include a very descriptive excerpt from John MacArthur’s notes on the subject within my notes that are posted online. In summary, here’s what John says about this odd-to-us statement:

Jesus’ point is that certain truths and blessings of our faith are not to be shared with people who are totally antagonistic to the things of God. Such people are spiritual dogs and swine, who have no appreciation for that which is holy and righteous. They will take that which is holy, the pearls (the rarest and most valuable of jewels; see Matt. 13:45-46) of God’s Word, as foolishness and as an insult.

Clearly that can open a whole can of worms that I can’t get into today, but hopefully you can see that Jesus was here not supporting a “no-judgment” theme, but rather a “proper-judgment”.

Basically, this one chunk is another example of Jesus telling us to simply do things the right way, to have the right heart about things. And in this case, in how we judge each other.

The next chunk is actually related to this but is often never seen that way.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

This is another passage that is fun to quote out of context with the hope that it means something that it doesn’t.

Just like the “Judge not” statement can allow an insincere and especially self-righteous person to believe or tout that we’re not supposed to judge each other and especially that you should not judge me! This passage will lead a prosperity-gospel Jesus-in-a-Lamp believer into thinking that God is going to give them everything they want if they just ask for it.

Both sentiments are untrue. Which becomes quite obvious when this is looked at in context.  One point that should be glaringly obvious if we zoom out a little bit is that this statement is in the same sermon as when Jesus tells us specifically what to seek. Remember from a few weeks ago with the E.A.T. God thing? Just a few sentences before this bit about asking and seeking, Jesus tells us NOT to seek after all of these earthly things, earthly treasures, and such – but TO seek after His Kingdom and all that you need will be given to you. 

So, clearly this bit about asking and seeking and knocking could NOT be talking about asking and seeking and knocking on God’s door about the stuff in your Thingdom.

And to that what we learned about the Disciple’s Prayer last week – the main thing we should be asking for is forgiveness and help with not failing Him again. The daily bread is really the only “stuff-like” thing in there.

So, no, God is not your genie in a lamp ready to grant you your infinite wishes. 

But He does answer prayer. He answers the right kind of prayer, the right way. 

That’s just the context of the SOM – let’s look at the context of the rest of the New Testament. Where else does it talk about asking God for things?

1 John 3

 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.

James 4

You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

1 John 1

14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Ah, that is the key. According to His will. That’s ultimately what it means to pray in Jesus’ NAME. It’s claiming his NAME and his RULE – you can’t have the one without the other. It’s asking and seeking and knocking within the context of God’s good and perfect will.

Which, do you remember how we know what that is?

Romans 12

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Circle HIS WILL and GOD’s WILL in these two verses and draw a line between them.

If you want to actually get a YES from God, then you must pray for something that is within His will. But you won’t know what that is if you are not renewing your mind, if you are staying conformed to the pattern of this world. If you are not ACTUALLY seeking His kingdom instead of Your Thingdom by how you fill your brain bucket. 

Amazing how it always comes down to that EAT God thing again, isn’t it? You just can’t get around it.

There is no short cut.

If you want a Yes from God, you must pray according to his will.

If you want to know His will, you must renew your mind.

You must ACTUALLY seek His kingdom instead of your thingdom. 

Some other things to point out about this is that it’s not just ask. It’s ask – which can be done passively and in a stationary position.

But then it’s seek, which even my kids will tell you that it’s hard to find something standing in one place.

It’s knock – it’s get up and try to open the door. It’s take steps in the direction. It’s you going after God, not waiting for Him to come to you.

AND these are all present imperatives which mean he is saying keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. Don’t stop. Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking in your search for Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done, give us our daily bread, forgive us our sins, keep us from temptation, deliver us from the evil one –  keep asking, seeking, and knocking on those doors – and you will get what you ask for.

It all ties together.

But this chunk is not just about prayer. This is also an illustration of proper human relations by illustrating God’s relationship to us.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

The bread and stone difference is obvious, but the snake is not suggesting something harmful for the child but rather something that was forbidden by God in this culture. The two examples are that a good father cares for the physical wellbeing of their child as well as their spiritual wellbeing. God does this for us and will thus only answer our prayers in a way that is wise and beneficial to us. 

William Barclay put it this way:

There is a lesson here; God will always answer our prayers; but he will answer them in his way, and his way will be the way of perfect wisdom and of perfect love. Often if he answered our prayers, as we at the moment desired, it would be the worst thing possible for us, for in our ignorance we often ask for gifts which would be our ruin. This saying of Jesus tells us, not only that God will answer, but that God will answer in wisdom and in love.

William Barclay, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “The Charter of Prayer (Matt 7:7-11)”.

Another way to say this is that God, like a good father, will not give his son a stone to eat instead of bread, even if that’s what he asks for. 

Then Jesus sums up the crux of human relations.

12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

It’s simply another way of saying the second greatest commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself.” With a reminder that “love” is not the feeling love, but the love that is always acting in accordance with the other’s best interest.

Hence, treat others how you would like to be treated and you pretty much can’t go wrong – unless you are a sadist.

And this DO is another present imperative in the Greek, which means KEEP ON DOING. It’s not a “do it if you feel like it” it’s a COMMAND. KEEP ON DOING to others what you HOPE they will do to you. And notice this is not contingent on how they respond. It’s a HOPE that they will reciprocate, not an expectation. 

KEY CONCEPT

IN EVERYTHING, KEEP DOING TO OTHERS WHAT YOU HOPE, NOT EXPECT, THEY WILL DO FOR YOU.

This sentiment actually sums up both chunks we covered today.

We should judge others the way we would like to be judged. And if you think you would not like to be judged then the truly best thing for you would absolutely be for a brother or sister in Christ to come alongside you to help you escape from whatever sin you are allowing to enslave you.  That is a good thing! It is a good thing to have someone who cares enough about you that they are not ok with letting you hurt yourself. I personally, very much hope that if I ever start falling into some kind of sin that my brothers and sisters in Christ would care enough to judge what I’m doing as wrong and harmful to me and others and come to my rescue. And because I want that treatment (as should all of you) I will likewise do the rescuing for others when needed. But I won’t just sit on my high horse and look down on anyone, because I wouldn’t want anyone to do that to me.

Likewise, in the same way that God will not give me a stone when I need bread, I should treat others in a like manner. We should care about each other’s physical and spiritual needs. And meet them when we can, without being asked. That’s how I want to be treated, so that’s how I should treat others.

Ultimately this is what LOVE is all about. AGAPE love, not puppy love. Love is how we treat each other, not how we feel about each other. That is how LOVE WINS.

Let’s Pray