Wed Pm Worship
Text: Matt 5:43-48 (King James Version)
"Father, I am your servant, willing and desiring to be used to bless your people."
OPEN: The military apparently understands the need to
make their instructions memorable and so they occasionally resort to humor to
explain the basics. For example:
Instructions printed on Rocket Launcher tells soldiers to 'Aim towards the Enemy.'
U.S. Marine Corps tells its recruits that when it comes to grenades: 'When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is *not* our friend.'
Additional words of wisdom include:
1. If the enemy is in range, so are you.
2. The enemy invariably attacks on one of two occasions:
* When you're ready for them.
* When you're not ready for them.
3. Don't draw fire from the enemy - it irritates the people around you.
4. Make it too tough for the enemy to get in and you can't get out.
APPLY: These are some of the accumulated wisdom of the military when engaging the enemy.
If you ignore these instructions, you can get hurt, you can get killed, and you can get the people around your killed. You may think you have a better idea...but your better idea could be disastrous. So pay attention to the instructions. Every good soldier knows that instructions like these can help them deal effectively with their enemy.
Now here in Matthew 5 Jesus gives us His wisdom on how WE can deal effectively with our enemies. He says we are to:
* Love them
* Pray for them
* Greet them
In another passage, Paul quotes Proverbs and tells us that "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink." Romans 12:20
So I have to FEED my enemy if they're hungry and I need to give my enemy something to drink if they're thirsty.
I'm sorry - did I miss something here?
These are my enemies.
And there's a reason they're my enemies - I don't like them!
They've hurt me. They've wronged me. They've done me dirty.
These are not people I WANT to feed / pray for/ or greet on the street.
These are people I don't like... they are my enemies!!!
So, why on earth would I want to do something nice for these guys?
One person I read gave a number of reasons why we should:
1. It's cheaper than getting a lawyer.
2. Decreases the likelihood of ever being a guest on the Jerry Springer show.
3. BUT - most importantly - because Jesus said so.
This is what He tells me to do.
I don't have to like it. I just have to obey.
And one of the reasons I need to obey is because this has ALWAYS been God's will.
It was part of the Old Testament Law. In Exodus 23:4-5 God's people were instructed that... 'If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.'
In Proverbs we're told 'If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.' Proverbs 25:21-22
And of course we see the same command in the New Testament. Jesus tells us:
'... Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you' Luke 6:27
'love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.' Luke 6:35
And Paul writes: 'Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.' Romans 12:14
And 'Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.' Romans 12:21
So this has ALWAYS been God's will for you and for me.
But that still brings me back to the question: Why?
Why would I want to be nice to these folks?
As I examined today's text, I came across 4 reasons I think Jesus told us to love our enemies.
1st - it purges me of my pagan past.
I used to be a soldier for Satan. I used to wage war under his banner and fight like He does.
Satan is the accuser of the brethren... he's the destroyer of everything God holds precious.
AND HE HATES. And he hates. And he hates.
And he teaches his followers to hate.
In Galatians Paul writes to Christians and tells them not to behave like that
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: (amongst which are) ... hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions' Galatians 5:19-20
If I allow myself the luxury of hating my mortal enemies, I go back to my pagan roots.
I go back to living life like I did before I came to Christ.
So Jesus says - don't do that!
'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...' Matt. 5:44
So 1st - when I learn to love my enemies, I purge myself of my pagan past
2ndly, when I love my enemies I witness to the world of God's wonderful love.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said
Jesus said that when I love my enemies I show that I am a son of my Father in heaven for 'He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.' Matthew 5:45
Now, if it were me - if I were God - only the good and righteous would see sunshine and rain. The other guys could stand out in a cold, cold desert and they could whistle for all the sun and rain they want... but they wouldn't get any.
But God's not like that.
God gives those things even to the unrighteous and even to His enemies.
God shows love to the undeserving.
In fact, God showed His love to us while we were still His enemies
Romans 5 tells us that '...when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son...' (Romans 5:10)
Thus, when I reflect THAT kind of love to the undeserving I become a walking billboard that tells the world that there is a God who loves - not only me - but even the most defiled and undeserving.
But, by contrast (if I don't show this love) it becomes obvious I don't represent a God of love. ILLUS: Jay Leno told of the time he found himself behind a car at a stoplight whose bumper sticker read, 'Honk If You Love Jesus.'
Jay says he liked that, so he gave his horn a light tap, and the guy in front stuck his head out the window and shouted 'The light's still red, you moron!'
Now, why does that strike us as funny?
It strikes us as funny because the man in the car had advertised a God of love... but his actions advertised an entirely different kind of god.
So 1st - I need to learn to love my enemies because that purges me of my pagan past.
2ndly - I need to love my enemies because it witnesses to the world about God's wonderful love.
3rdly - I need to love my enemies because God wants us to grow up to be like Him.
Until I learn to love my enemies... I haven't grown up.
I'm still immature in my faith if I have hate toward someone I know.
So Jesus tells us: grow up.
Well, that's not quite the way He says it.
What Jesus says is: 'Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect' (Matthew 5:48)
Now, when people usually think about the English word 'perfect' what do they think of? (sinlessness). But that's not what that word means here. The Greek word translated 'perfect' in Matthew 5:48 is 'telios'. This same word shows up in Hebrews where it says that milk is for infants, but 'solid food is for the (telios) mature' (Hebrews 5:13-14).
'Telios' means 'to be mature, complete, grown up'.
Thus, in Matthew 5:48, Jesus is telling us that, when we love our enemies, we 'grow up, therefore, as our heavenly Father is grown up.'
But when we stubbornly hang on to hatred, we DEFY God's desire for us to grow up and become like Him. In fact, this is such a serious matter that God says - if you can't love others, you've got a problem.
ILLUS: A friend of mine in a fairly large congregation once told me that there was a time in his ministry when he struggled with this. There was a conflict in his church and there was one particular man that he'd begun to hate.
He couldn't say anything good about the man, and he recalls walking down the hallway toward this man at church and wanting to turn around and walk the other way.
Now, at this time he was particularly proud of his own ministry in that congregation. He was serving God... he was doing God's work... he was in God's will.
But then, one day - in his devotions - he read 1 John 4:20
'If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar...'
The passage just stared out at him and condemned him.
It seemed to shout at him: 'You don't love God! You may say you love Him, but if you hate your brother... you're a liar!
That shook him, and from that day on, he began to pray for this other man.
Now, at the time I spoke with my friend he still hadn't gone to this man and asked forgiveness, but his prayers began to change him... and it changed how he looked at this man.
So 1st - I need to learn to love my enemies because that purges me of my pagan past
2ndly - I need to love my enemies because it witnesses to the world about God's wonderful love
3rdly - I need to love my enemies because God wants us to grow up to be like Him
And lastly - I need to love my enemies because they are sinners.
When Jesus came to this earth - He came with a specific objective.
Paul writes: 'Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst.' 1Ti 1:15
Jesus had an agenda, and His agenda was to save as many people as He could.
2 Peter 3:9 tells us 'The Lord is... patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.'
God doesn't want anyone to die in sin.
That's why Jesus came to die on the cross - to save sinners.
NOW... is your enemy a sinner?
OF COURSE THEY ARE!
That's why they're your enemy isn't it - they've SINNED against you.
And since they are sinners - your enemy is one of God's prospects.
Your enemy is someone God wants to bring to repentance and salvation.
And you - you lucky devil - you are the one who gets to help Him meet that goal.
ILLUS: A group of college students toured the slums of a city... and one of the students, seeing a little girl playing in the dirt, asked a guide, 'Why doesn't her mother clean her up?'
'Well,' he replied, 'that girl's mother probably loves her, but she doesn't hate dirt. You hate dirt, but you don't love her enough to go down there and clean her up. Until hate for dirt and love for that child are in the same person, that little girl is likely to remain as she is.'
God wants you and I to hate sin... but He wants us love for those who've sinned against us. Because - until our hatred of the dirt and our love for our enemy are in the same person - our enemies will remain as they are. And they may go to hell because you wanted to leave them that way. You will have become complicit in their damnation.
Showing love for our enemies is the armament God has issued us to contend with our enemies.
Showing love for our enemies is the weapon of choice for the army of God.
Because - when we pray for our enemies/ greet them/ feed them, give them a drink - God can work on their hearts to bring about the change HE WANTS in their lives.
Now, think about this. Your enemy is your enemy because he thinks you're wrong and he's right. And you think you're right and he's wrong. So each of you pushes and shoves and insults and gossips about the other because the other person is only getting what they deserve. And every time you push back in hatred and anger, your enemy feels justified and pushing back.
However, when you obey Jesus by loving your enemy, you've changed the rules of engagement. You've changed the playing field. You throw your 'enemy' off balance so that God can bring them to their knees before His throne.
This is so important to God, He tells us in Proverbs
'If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22
He'll reward us if we do this!
Because you've shown that you're serious about purging your pagan past.
It shows you are serious about witnessing to others about His love.
It shows you are serious about growing up to be like Him.
And it shows you are serious about saving sinners.
CLOSE: Years ago I read a woman's true story about how her family learned this lesson. They were new Christians and during their family Bible readings, they ran across the verse, 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him' (Romans 12:20 RSV).
The mother said hers sons, 7 and 10 at the time, were especially puzzled. 'Why should you feed your enemy?' they wondered. Her husband and she wondered too, but the only answer John could think of to give the boys was 'We're supposed to because God says so.'
Day after day John Jr. came home from school complaining about a classmate who sat behind him in 5th grade. 'Bob keeps jabbing me when Miss Smith isn't looking. One of these days, when we're out on the play ground, I'm going to jab him back.'
The mother was ready to go down to the school and jab Bob herself. She thought to herself:
'Obviously the boy was a brat. Besides, why wasn't Miss Smith doing a better job with her kids? I'd better give her an oral jab, too, at the same time!'
She was still fuming over this injustice her 7 year old spoke up: 'Maybe he should feed his enemy.' The 3 of us were startled. 'None of us was sure about this 'enemy' business. It didn't seem that an enemy would be in the 5th grade. An enemy was someone who was way off... well, somewhere. We all looked at John. Since he was the head of the family , he should come up with the solution. But the only answer he could offer was the same one he had give before:
'I guess we should because God said so.''
'Well,' the mother asked John Jr., 'do you know what Bob likes to eat? If you're going to feed him, you may as well get something he likes.'
'Jelly beans,' he almost shouted, 'Bob just loves jelly beans.'
So we bought a bag of jelly beans for him to take to school the next day, and decided that the next time Bob jabbed John Jr., John was simply to turn around and deposit the bag on his 'enemy's' desk. We would see whether or not this enemy feeding worked.
The next afternoon, the boys rushed home from the school bus and John Jr. called ahead, 'It worked, Mom! It worked.'
Mom wanted the details: 'What did Bob do? What did he say?'
'He was so surprised he didn't say anything - he just took the jelly beans. But he didn't jab me the rest of the day!'
In time, John Jr. and Bob became the best of friends - all because of a little bag of Jelly Beans.
Both of her sons subsequently because missionaries on foreign fields. Their way of showing friendship with any 'enemies' of the faith was to invite the inhabitants of those countries into their own homes to share food with them around their own tables.