Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on Mary 11, 2014.
Turn with me to Matthew 5:38-48. Today we are turning our attention back to the Sermon on the Mount. Prior to Easter, we were examining the words of Jesus' famous sermon verse by verse. I have to admit, as much as I loved to preach the explicit Gospel over the last three weeks, I have missed finding the deeps treasures in Matthew 5-7.
In our text today, Jesus shows us what Kingdom love looks like. We will very quickly see that this love Jesus is describing is foreign, or alien, in this fallen and broken world. We will see that this love is a radical love. So as always, let us read our text, pray that God would open our hearts, and then allow God to mold us into Christ-likeness.
Your biggest problem in this world is not your circumstances, it is not your finances, it is not your relationships, it is not your government. The biggest problem that you have in your life is you. You are the problem. Likewise in my life, my biggest problem is me. To use a common phrase, “I am my own worst enemy.”
Why can I say this? Why do I feel comfortable pointing the finger? Because the Bible is my source. We have examined these text many, many times.
At the center of all of these versus lie our hearts. At the core of your heart is your self. We are the problem.
The question is, what is going on in our hearts when we do the sinful things we do? Yes, we know that we are sinners, and we are separated from God and we are desperately sick spiritually, but what is happening? I think the best verse to explain this is James 4:1.
Another word for what James 4 is describing is entitlement. We believe we are entitled to stuff. We believe we are entitled to comfort. We believe that we are entitled to respect. We believe we are entitled to honor. We believe we are entitled to respect. In fact, we don't just think we are entitled to all these things, we demand it. When we don't receive these things we are upset. We are offended. We kick and scream and complain and retaliate. It is as if we are spoiled little Kings and Queens yelling, “Off with their heads.” And this is the problem that Jesus is addressing in our passages today. It is the problem of self. It is the problem of self-centered-entitlement. It is the problem of the world.
Now that we know what problem Jesus is addressing, let us now take step back and understand who Jesus is preaching to. Let's start by looking at verse 45.
These descriptions are not description of the citizens of the world, they are descriptions of citizens of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is preaching not to those who dwell in the dominion of darkness, but who dwell in the dominion of the Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and make no mistake, these two groups of people live differently, or at least should live differently. There should be something very distinct about followers of Jesus.
What is interesting about these two groups of people, those who are worldly and those who are children of God, is that geographically they live in the same physical territory. The Kingdoms simultaneously coexist. For example, this sermon was for the disciples, yet on that mountain that day there stood both believers and unbelievers. There was a mix, and this is is still true today. This reality is all part of God's plan.
The response stands at a stark contrast to the initial action: turn the other cheek, give him your cloak as well, go with him two miles, give your money away. These responses are night and day different from the evil response. They are almost the opposite. Explicitly, Jesus tells us that we are not to resist the evil. We are suppose to accept what is dished out.
And if that was not enough, not only do we have to not resist the evil that is dished out, we are to love and pray for the people who dish it.
What is crucial for us to understand is that Jesus is not asking his disciples to do something that he is not willing to do. This is exactly the life of Jesus when he walked the earth. He is the ultimate example of this lifestyle. His own town rejected him and attempted to throw him off a cliff, but he did not retaliate. He was mocked by Herod, Pilate, Roman guards, the Sanhedrin, and he opened not his mouth. With holes in his hands and feet, thorns in his brow, his flesh torn open, slowly suffocating on a cross, he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” How wild is that? Jesus was praying for the people who, not only struck him on the right cheek, but who were accomplices to his murder. This is radical love. This is love that the world does not have. This is love that is blinding as compared to the darkness of revenge, and this is their King of the Kingdom.
I love that we have a King who fearlessly leads the way. He does not sit back and tell us to do something that he has not already done. He is a King who rides into battle, leading the charge. He loved to the fullest, even unto death. This love is a love that the world had never seen. It is a scandalous love. It is an explosive love. It is a radical love, and it is the love that our King wants us to have filling our hearts.
How? How can we display the same radical love as our King. How is it possible to be like Christ? There is only one way, we must be born of God.
Verse 8 goes so far as to say that if you don't have love, then you don't know God. And we are not talking about intellectual know, but intimate know. Meaning that if you don't love, then you are not his child. It is impossible to be God's child without having love. Being born of God and loving as Christ loved are inseparable.
So this begs the question, how do we become born of God? We must deny ourselves and trust Christ.
We must lay down our lives, so that we can save our lives. We must die to self and live for Christ. When we stop living for ourselves, we will stop acting like the world and stop feel entitled. No longer will there be fighting and quarreling, because it takes two to tango. If one person refuses, the fight is short lived. When Jesus becomes you greatest treasure, someone stealing your coat is insignificant.
A guy by the name of George Muller, who was a mighty follower of Christ said this: “There was a day when I died, utterly died, died to George Muller and his opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world its approval or censure, died to the approval or blame of my brethren and friends and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.” If you get a chance do some study on George Muller. This man wreaked of love.
This is what people don't get. People love to proclaim love, and hold up peace signs, and sing songs like “We are the World,” and “All We Need is Love” yet they don't get it. Love is not something that is manufactured by jingles and ad campaigns. Love is not something that can be conjured up in a sinners heart. The heart is desperately sick. No matter how hard you try to love, you can't. The only way this world is filled with love is through repenting and placing your faith in Christ Jesus. Love is a fruit of abiding in the vine of Jesus Christ.
So what happens when people start to love like Jesus loved? Simple, hearts are changed. When we live like Christ and radically love those who are unlovable, mountains are moved and sinners become saints. Why? Because when the citizens of the Kingdom of God act like their King, the world is coming into contact with the King himself. And it is the love of Christ that can break hearts of stone.
I can't recall what book I read this story from, but it moved me. There was a young man in a village who became a Christian. As you can expect he was full of joy and excitement and he wanted to share the Gospel with his family and his village. He went to his village and began to share the message of Jesus Christ with them. The immediately began to beat him. The beat him so bad that they knocked him out and drug him outside the village. He awoke and thought to himself he must have wrongly shared the Gospel or perhaps they just misunderstood, so he went back to them and shared the Gospel again. They did the same thing. They beat him up and drug him outside the village again. Once again, he woke up and went back a third time to share Christ. They began to beat him again, and then they stopped and they began to cry, for they recognized that whatever had captured his heart and gave him the radical love that compelled him to come back over and over again, must be worth listening to, so they did, and his entire village was saved. Why? Because of the love of Christ that dwelled in his heart and was poured out onto the lives of his family and friends.
Have you done something like that? Could you do something like that? What if all of us lived a life as radical as that young mans? What do you think would happen? Revival is what would happen. If we denied ourselves and followed Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit then hearts would break and people would not only hear the Gospel, but they would see the Gospel. They would not be able to deny the evidence that the God of radical love dwells in our hearts.
So let us commit to follow Christ. Let us die to self and live for Christ. Let us lay down our entitlements and be filled with the love of Jesus Christ and let us live like him.