Sunday, August 10, 2008

August 10th - How Do You Get to Heaven?

Prayer Requests -
- Pastor Aaron

Text - Matthew 5:17-48

The background is that Jesus went up on a mountain and sat down to teach his disciples specifically, but then a crowd gathered and he preached the most famous sermon ever, called the "Sermon on the Mount". I believe that this mountain was probably created specifically to have perfect accoustics to share the truths Jesus was about to share, to explain to his listeners how they could attain Heaven.

So, I could tell you how to get to Heaven, but I would much rather let Jesus do it.

v. 17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

The Law and the Prophets are two of the three portions of the Old Testament. The Law is the first 5 Books of Moses, from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Prophets are the writings of those like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Micah and many more. Not mentioned here, but mentioned elsewhere (Luke 24:44) are the Psalms, or Writings, which are things like the Book of Proverbs, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes. The Law, Prophets, and Writings is another way to say, "The entire Old Testament."

Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah in this verse, he was fulfilling the Messianic prophecies.

v. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Here Jesus is speaking of a different Law, specifically the Law of the 10 Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. (Exodus 20) This Law is the embodiment of truth and knowledge. (Romans 2:20)

They are:
1. You shall have no others Gods
2. You shalt not make any graven image (money, idols)
3. You shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
4. Honor the Sabbath Day, to keep it Holy
5. Obey your Father and Mother, that your days may be long on the earth
6. Thou shalt not murder
7. Thou shalt not commit adultery
8. Thou shalt not steal
9. Thou shalt not bear false witness (aka lie)
10. Thou shalt not covet

v. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

If you keep and teach the Law perfectly, you will be called great in the kingdom of heaven, but failing to keep them has dire consequences.

v. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders of the day. This could be rewritten today as, "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the pastor and the elders, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Notice that it says exceeds, Jesus was saying that the Pharisees and scribes, whose job it was to keep religious ordinances, were not righteous enough to enter Heaven.

v. 21-26 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Jesus began to confront his listeners with how righteous they must be. He specifically chose the Commandment that most of them thought they had kept, the 6th Commandment which says, "Thou shalt not murder." He showed them that God was concerned both with their actions and the intents of their heart, and if they'd had murderous thoughts, they would be judged as murderers.

The word translated "You Fool" is Raka which does not have a direct English translation. By our best account, this word is similar to the f-word or s-word and is very strong language to express dislike. The Bible calls some people fools (Psalm 14:1 for example) so the main context is being angry without cause, because Christ was frequently angry with cause, and Psalm 7:11 says God is angry with the wicked every day.

Verse 25 links the natural world with the spiritual world, Christ showed his listeners that they had a debt to pay against God which was bigger than they could possibly pay. He said, "You will never get out until you have paid the last penny." A sin against an infinite God requires an infinite retribution, and so the punishment of Hell will go on forever.

v. 27-30 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Again Christ showed that God is concerned with the intents of the heart.

Compare Job 31:1-4
I have made a covenant with my eyes;
how then could I gaze at a virgin?
What would be my portion from God above
and my heritage from the Almighty on high?
Is not calamity for the unrighteous,
and disaster for the workers of iniquity?
Does not he see my ways
and number all my steps?

When we make a covenant with our eyes, we look away from things that will cause lust in our hearts. Girls can be just as guilty as the guys that are looking at them if they dress immodestly. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

Here Hell shows us how much God hates sin, that he will punish it for eternity.

v. 31-32 "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

God hates divorce. One reason is because the church is the Bride of Christ, and our marriages represent his betrothal with the church. It is important to note that Christ will be wedding one church, which is made up of all believers, he is not marrying each individual believer. I will not be wearing a wedding dress, because if Christ married each believer, he would be an adulterer. Be careful while listening to "Christian Radio" because they often refer to Jesus less as our Lord and Saviour and more as our girlfriend and boyfriend, and this is obviously not true and is very insulting to Christ.

v. 33-37 "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.

I like this verse, because it says what it means, which is to say what you mean. Keep your promises, and don't make promises you know you can't keep.

v. 38-42 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Jesus later said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35) This is the summation of this verse, and how Jesus conducted his ministry. He was wronged in more ways than we could count, yet he still gave and gave and is the most followed man in history.

Another way to say the Acts 20:35 verse is, "You receive more through giving than you do by taking." Because you receive blessings by giving.

v. 43-47 "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, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Reach out to others, both friends and non. No-one deserves Heaven, but Christ reached out to us, so should we do the same with others. One way of doing this is through Gospel tracts.

v. 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Verse 48 brings the whole thing together, first Jesus said their righteousness must exceed the religious leaders' righteousness, then he concluded, "You must be perfect." Many people who were listening to this sermon probably thought they were going to Heaven when it started, and there were probably some parts that made them think they were definitely going, but once Jesus got to hatred being the same as murder and lust the same as adultery, they realized they were not going to make it. Jesus confirmed that by saying they must be perfect.

Is anyone in this class perfect? We're not, so we're also in trouble, we need to have perfect righteousness to get to Heaven. The reason we read the Sermon on the Mount was because you have to see yourself as lost before you can be found, you have to humble yourself before the Lord before he will lift you up.

1 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

My sister likes the phrase, "Jesus lived a perfect life and faced a sinner's judgment so that we can live a sinner's life and face a righteous judgment." Jesus was God in every way, he was born of the virgin Mary, where he lived a perfect, sinless life, and demonstrated his love for us by dying in our place on the cross. He paid every last penny of our infinite debt by facing the full and infinite wrath of God. His perfection can be credited to our account and we can go to Heaven based on his merits.

Verses 3-9 of Matthew 5 explain what we must do.

v. 3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

These are the people the don't think they can make it on their own goodness, who recognize their badness.

v. 4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Mourn over your sin and how much it has offended God.

v. 5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Fall down at the feet of God and admit to your sinfulness and lostness.

v. 6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

This is the hardest one. Do your best to stop sinning and start seeking after godliness. Make a covenant with your eyes, try to keep your thoughts pure, do your absolute best, strive for perfection.

v. 7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Forgive others as Christ will forgive you. Afterall, your offense against God is infinitely bigger than any offense someone can make against you.

v. 8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Ezekiel said that sins have made our heart sick. (Ezekiel 16:30) So those with sin are not pure in heart and will not see God. But God says that he will replace our heart with a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), then our new heart, washed by the blood shed by Jesus Christ, will be pure and allow us to see God.

v. 9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

This isn't like someone who stops a war between countries, this is someone who makes peace between men and God. The Bible says we have made ourselves enemies of God (James 4:4), and that Jesus Christ offers the peace treaty (Romans 5:1), therefore a peacemaker is someone who declares the Good News of peace available with God through the cross of Christ.

In all, these 7 verses can be summarized with one word, "Repent" which is a turning from sin to righteousness, instead of running away from God, running towards him.

When you repent and put your faith in Jesus Christ and his atoning death and resurrection, then you can go to Heaven on his righteousness, not because you're a good person, but because you're a bad person forgiven by a good God who paid your fine on the cross.

v. 10-12 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The world will hate us because it hated Christ first. In Myrtle Beach with Tyler M. we made an atheist really mad just by telling him we knew the truth. People have been beaten, exiled, and killed through history for standing up for God, and we shouldn't expect any better treatment.

Follow-up questions:

Which day is the Sabbath?

The Sabbath started on Saturday and remains on Saturday. We are in a unique position as Christians because Christ rose from the grave on Sunday, which we call the Lord's Day. Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath, which was to provide a rest for those waiting for the Messiah, and now we live for Christ every day, we should be reading our Bibles, praying, and loving God every day, because we have found our rest in Jesus Christ.

Some churches believe that by worshipping only on Saturday, they will get to go to Heaven, but we've learned today that they have to be perfect to go to Heaven, and keeping one Commandment impeccably will not make up for the ones they break.

I believe, without much direct scriptural evidence, that the reason the Lord's Day is on Sunday instead of the Sabbath is a matter of inheritance. Adam and Eve were created on Day 6 and were able to enjoy all of creation on Day 7. We have now been moved to worshipping on Day 1, Sunday, and have become inheritors with Christ of every good thing, we are no longer just partakers, but made children of God through adoption.

In all, this is a very tough question, but we should remember that keeping just the 4th Commandment will not earn us Heaven, that we must either be perfect to go to Heaven, or inherit Christ's perfection through his death on the cross and our repentance and faith to go to Heaven. In all, worship God on every day, and thank him that we've found rest in the death and resurrection of his Son.