The Lord’s Message:  Standards for Holy Living

The Lord’s Message:  Standards for Holy Living
Date:  February 12, 2023 
Where:  Tilghman UMC 
Scripture Reference:  Matthew 5:21-37 

Three weeks ago, we began a journey exploring the Sermon on the Mount.  Our first stop was at the Beatitudes.  Blessings from God in spite of our circumstances.  Last Sunday, we explored who we are and what we are called for.  That is to be salt and light showing forth the love of Jesus through our daily living.  Last Sunday, we ended with Jesus saying that if our righteousness does not surpass the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, then we could not get into heaven, Matthew 5:20.  This Sunday, Jesus explains the “Standards for Holy Living.”   

Let us pray. 

If you recall when we began this sermon series, I said that the Sermon on the Mount reminds me of God coming down on Mt. Sinai and giving Moses and the Israelites the Ten Commandments and other laws to live by.  Jesus at the top of the Mount is raising the bar to clear up any misconceptions as to the understanding of God’s laws, the “Standards for Holy Living.”  In addressing these misconceptions, Jesus is not throwing out the old law and creating a new law.  Rather, He is stating this is what the law says, and I am going to heart of the law to show you, as sons and daughters of God,  how to live out its deepest meaning.  This is what Jesus means by being salt and light.   

The first law that Jesus is addressing is the sixth of the Ten Commandments that thou shalt not murder.  Jesus says it is not the act of actually taking someone’s life that is murder, but having anger against them murders their soul.  Look at verses 21- 22.  They are created in the image of God.  When we say to them, “I wish you were dead,” we are destroying the essence of God in them.  

Does this mean that we should never have arguments and disagreements?  That is not what is being said here.  We are all different.  We all have different thoughts and ideas.  With that, we are going to have arguments and disagreements.  We should always remember that when we have an argument or disagreement with someone, we should never attack the person.   

What we are witnessing in society today is if I do not like your opinion on something, then I am going to say nasty things about you and not your opinion on something.  We saw that on full display at the State of the Union.  Some Republicans were attacking the President on his views of the economy and the state of the nation.  He, in return, was attacking the Republicans on their views.  This is not how you work together for the good of the country.  They all should be ashamed of themselves.  But they do not want to turn down the rhetoric  because then they will be seen as weak.  These attacks progress until the discussions boils over into rage, which can end up in physical violence.  I pray that this church does not follow in this line of addressing disputes.   

Instead, we should follow what Jesus says.  That if we have a dispute we should, as it says in verse 25, settle it quickly.  Jesus goes on to say that if we are living as salt and light then when we have a disagreement with someone it should stay heavy on our hearts until the matter is addressed.  It is so heavy, as it says in verse 23-24, that we cannot thankfully make an offering to the Lord.  This matter becomes detrimental to our relationship with God.   

Our thought process in all arguments and disputes should be not to win at all costs, but to better understand each other.  We are all sisters and brothers in Christ. 

Our next commandment, which is the seventh of the Ten Commandments,  do not commit adultery.   All marriages in the Christian community should strive for faithfulness of the husband and wife to each other.  Covetous desire is the first step to breaking the vow of this faithfulness.  In the Marriage Covenant, the husband and wife both vow to “live together in holy marriage…and forsaking all others, be faithful to each other as long as you both shall live.”  When we are lusting after someone else, then we are breaking the Marriage Covenant.  Jesus says in verses 29 & 30 that is would be better to lose an eye or a limb that losing the whole body.  Most people do not understand that sexual sin, which lust or coveting is, causes harm inside of our bodies.  The other sins cause harm outside of the body, stealing, murder, taking the Lord’s name in vain, not honoring our father and mother, etc.  Sexual sin causes harm to our bodies which is where the Holy Spirit lives.  Paul says this best in  

1 Corinthians 6:18-20.   So, gentlemen and ladies, when you are watching the Super Bowl this evening and a commercial comes on that has a partly clothed woman or man that is enticing you to purchase the item for great sexual happiness look away.  The principle that “sex sells” is correct, because we allow lust to enter our hearts.   

Of course, with marriage, some will unfortunately be led to divorce.  Which is not one of the Ten Commandments.  Jesus is addressing this here, because divorce is not God’s plan, Matthew 19:6.   In verse 31, this is referencing a law that was made that allowed a husband to divorce his wife for any reason as long as he wrote it down.  The reasons could be so petty.  She burned my toast this morning.  I wanted lamb chops for supper last night and she gave me steak.  The reference to this law is found in Deuteronomy 24:1.  God made this law for one purpose and man used the law for his own advantage instead of thinking of his wife.  Divorce in Jesus’ day was quite different than in our day.  If a wife were divorced from her husband she was kicked out of his house and had no means to support herself and her children.  She was left with a life of poverty and most often the only means was for support was through prostitution.   

Even in our day, where unfortunately, half of all marriages end in divorce, there is still a lot of pain and anguish for the couple and their children.  Now, I will also say that God does not want people to stay married if there is abuse, physical or mental, or they just cannot seem to get along together.  In abusive situation, the person that is being abused needs to get out of that marriage.  The person needs to also seek counseling.  Where couples cannot seem to get along, counseling should be the first resort.  If unable to work out the differences, then divorce.  In verse 32, Jesus addresses unfaithfulness.  This requires a lot of prayer and counseling.  Some marriages can be healed.  Many are not.  Marriage is hard work and requires 100% commitment on both the husband and the wife.  In all cases, through prayer, counseling and discernment, people can go on with their lives.  The Church should lovingly pray for and care for the divorced persons and their family.  God wants people to be made whole.   

Jesus next addresses the uses of Oaths.  Oaths were allowed in the Old Testament.  In Numbers 30:2, it says that if you make a pledge or an oath make sure you keep it.  Jesus says in verses 34-37 that you should not make an oath, but if you are a truthful person then simply saying Yes or No should be enough.  Only a person that is known for being untruthful has to make an oath.   

In all these cases, Jesus is setting the Standard for Holy Living.  In all these cases, we will fail.  As much as we will try not to sin, everyone of us will sin.  Does that mean that our sin will prevent us from going to Heaven?  Yes and No.  Yes, there will not be any sinners in Heaven.  No, our sin can be forgiven.  The Good News is that Jesus knows we are all sinners and God has provided a plan for us to receive forgiveness.  That plan is Jesus.  By believing that Jesus was born as one of us but did not sin.  Jesus led a perfect life.  Jesus gave His life for all of us by dying on a rugged cross.  God placed our sins, past, present and future on Jesus.  Now as the Book of Psalms 103:1-5 & 10-12 tell us that God has removed our sins as far as the East is from the West.   

Yes, we will all sin, but if we confess our sins to God, then we will be forgiven.  God will allow us to enter into Heaven. For our time here on earth,  Jesus has set the Standards for Holy Living.  Jesus has also paid for price for our failure to live up to them.  The Good News is that we are forgiven.  We should try in every way to be more like Christ today than we were yesterday.  Amen. 

February 14, 2023 9:33 am