SERMON ON THE MOUNT: Getting to the Heart of the Matter     Matthew 5:21-26 

It’s my privilege to talk about a passage of Scripture today that isn’t very pleasant, but, hopefully, we’ll be able to join together and realize we’re not alone as we go to this passage.  This is part of the Sermon on the Mount series that Ryan started a few weeks ago.  When Ryan talked to me about it, I was excited to take a sermon; then I took a look at the passage I’m going to be dealing with:  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… (Matt. 5:21-22a)  Liable to the same judgment as if you commit murder.  Whoa!  Anybody been angry this week?  Hopefully as we dig in we’ll be able to understand this topic of anger, and hopefully, leave with some hope.

I want to take a little bit of time with “Travels with Dan.”  Many of you know that this past November, Kerry and I were able to go to the Holy Land.  We had a great time.  When Ryan approached me about preaching a sermon from the Sermon on the Mount, it immediately brought up some memories of a place called the Mount of Beatitudes.  {Shows pictures of view from location and a church.} A place where it has multiples aluminum storefront doors to keep it safe.  Any time you go to Israel, any place where there’s even a rumor that Jesus might have stepped there, they’re going to build a church.  Right there at the church was a Catholic Retreat Center.  We stayed there overnight.  It was not fancy, but it was quiet and restful.  Kerry and I arrived at the Retreat Center, after dark, after a full day of seeing things.  We were pretty exhausted; I had in mind to take a nap because we had 45 minutes before they served us supper.  Kerry had in mind to go see things.  We got our cardkey for our room and entered our room.  We tried to flip the switches and nothing worked.  I was thinking we blew a fuse.  I went to the office and I said, “We must have blown a fuse or something, nothing works.”  He said, “Did you listen to my instructions?”  “Well, no.”  “When you get in there you need to be looking for a slot that’s around the door, slide it in there and all your electricity will come on.  When you take the key out all the electricity goes off.”  I went back and demonstrated for Kerry and everything worked fine.  Lights and air conditioning came on.  We put our luggage on the floor and I proceeded to curl up on one of the twin beds.  I was out!  When I fell asleep, Kerry was reading some of the pamphlets, but eventually decided to go see some things.  Since we only had one cardkey, she grabbed it and left.  Five minutes later, I wake up in a sweat; it’s dark and I didn’t quite remember where I was.  I got my way out of the bed and start walking and try to figure out what’s happening.  I ran into my suitcase, barefoot, so I had a good stubbed toe.  Then I hit the coffee table, so that was my knee.  Eventually, I got to the door to shed some light.  Needless to say, I was a little bit miffed.  I caught myself saying, “How could she have taken the key?!”

Then I look at this passage I’m suppose to be preaching on and realize. . . . But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother (or sister or wife) will be liable to judgment.  It’s that same judgment that he says murderers will face.  If I were to ask for a show of hands of how many of us committed murder, there would be fewer of us.  You realize the bar has been put pretty low.  If you committed murder, you’re in danger of judgment.  Jesus comes and says if you’re angry, you’re in danger of that same kind of judgment.  He’s calling us to far exceed the righteousness that the Scribes and Pharisees called people to in that day.  He’s saying I’m bringing the kingdom of God to you, and I want you to know, hey, it’s a high standard, but I invite you to come and be part of it.

In his invitation, I think there’s some help. (Matthew 5:21-26) 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. {I called someone a fool on Broadway this week.  I did.  It just kind of popped out.  Let me go on and read the rest of the verses so we can see what’s coming.}  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.  Wow!

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with 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.   That’s hard to stomach.  Just before Jesus was teaching this Sermon on the Mount and calling us into this kingdom, it says: Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. (Matt. 4:23)   I just have to ask you, “Is that verse good news?”   I wrestle with it.  I want to tell you that the Sermon on the Mount is very good news.  I also want to tell you that I believe this passage is very, very good news for us too.  It’s just the way we have to dig into a little and see.

Jesus is saying those verses to us, but I have to ask, Jesus, didn’t you get pretty angry in your day?  Weren’t there some times you got angry?  {Asks congregation for examples.}  Clear the temple. . . .the moneychangers.  {Dan shows picture of “The Angry Christ.”  Tells of how Kerry has a picture of a loving, manly Jesus that she had her students look at.  What would have happened had she had this other picture instead?}  We don’t want to strip Jesus of his humanity. . . .he got angry.  If he got angry and then he’s telling us not to be angry, something’s not jiving there.  Let’s take a look at what he got angry at.   He looked around at them angrily…. (Mark 3:5)   In Mark 3, there was a man with a withered hand, a palsied hand.  It was the Sabbath, Jesus had been teaching, the Scribes and Pharisees were in the corner, and someone brought this guy up with this withered hand.  The Scribes and Pharisees were watching to see if. . . . .Are you going to heal him?  You’re going to do too much work on the Sabbath.  Jesus asked them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or is it a day that we’re suppose to just ignore?”  Nobody said anything.  It was quiet.  Then this verse comes:  He looked around at them angrily, because he was so grieved with the hardness of their hearts.  He was so grieved with the lack of compassion, that they would be after a system that couldn’t even be compassionate to a need right in front of them.  I believe what’s going on here is that Jesus is so grieved, he’s so moved with love for these people, that he’s angry at them that they can’t get beyond their blindness.  So, yes, he’s angry.  But he’s angry because he’s motivated by love.

Another time was when he overturned the moneychanger’s table in the temple.   My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of thieves! (Matt. 21:12)  I believe what Jesus is angry at. . . .I don’t know if he’s angry at the moneychangers.  I don’t know if he’s angry at the Pharisees.  I think he’s angry at a system that exploits people.  A system that was suppose to bring peace into the lives of these individuals, and instead it exploited them, it extorted them of money, and he went in there and cleaned the decks.  He was angry.

Another time—A deep anger welled up within him and he was deeply troubled.  (John 11:33 & 38)   Right before this was the verse Jesus wept.  He’s standing at Lazarus’ tomb and a deep anger wells up within him.  For years, I thought he was angry at all the people who were watching, who just didn’t have quite enough faith to think Jesus could make a difference in that situation.  The more I look at it. . . . .no, he was angry at death!  He was angry at decay.  He was angry at what had entered into his creation and was ruining it.  In fact, he’d already said to them. . . . .generations, generations, generations before, way back in the garden. . . .hey, all of this is yours.  This is paradise.  I want to walk with you and talk with you and there’s one thing I don’t want you to do—eat from that tree.  If you eat from the tree, you’re going to die.  We ate from the tree and we’ve been dying ever since.  Jesus is angry at that which comes into his creation and ruins it.

That brings us then to these verses.  I look at Jesus’s anger that’s been demonstrated in those three verses. . . .an anger that’s motivated by love.  An anger against systems that exploit.  An anger against death that destroys his creation.  He says to us here:  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…   I think right there is the difference.  When I look at Jesus’s anger, I don’t see it directed toward other people.  Sure, people are involved in those things, but Jesus sees right through that to see what’s the core.  I have a hard time, especially when that guy cuts me off in traffic.  Especially when a person blocks my goal.  I have a hard time, so I get angry. . . .with people.  Jesus is inviting me to become part of his kingdom and is saying there’s no room for that here.

This word ‘angry’ is interesting.  There’s two words for angry in the New Testament.  One is anger that’s an eruption, that’s an explosive. . . .it happens just like that.  Then there’s this word, which is kind of like a slow boil.  It’s kind of like swelling up.  It means swell up or infection; it begins to infect you.  The best picture is like a pimple on your nose.  You know something’s wrong; everybody else sees it, you don’t.  It doesn’t feel right.  That’s what this anger is.  It swells up, it infects, it distorts.

We go on to the next part of the verse—…whoever insults his brother…  I don’t know if I like this translation as much.  There’s one translation that says:  …if you call your brother an idiot.   I like the word idiot, it just kind of flows.  This is the word ‘raca.’  It means empty.  Some people have translated it to be ’empty headed,’ hence the translation ‘idiot.’  It seems to mean, in the language/context, empty person, in other words, you look at a person and you look right through them and you see nothing.  You dehumanize them.  They’re not worth your time.  You don’t see them.  There’s an emptiness there and you degrade them.  That’s where they come up with the word ‘insult.’

I read books about World War II because I don’t want to forget the heroism.  I don’t want to forget the ugliness, the evil, that happened during WWII.  I could not imagine how a group of people were vilified to the point where they weren’t even seen as humans.  Whether they were Jewish, homosexuals, gypsies, they were taken away to concentration camps so a very civilized people could forget them.  I believe what Jesus is saying here is that’s not part of my kingdom.  Never dehumanize another person, because I love them.

And whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire.  I had a friend in college who took this very seriously, and every once in a while I’d slip out with something. . . .You fool!  And he’d say, “Dan, stop that, you’re in danger!”  “Craig, I don’t….”   We went back and forth on that throughout college.  I would just say to you, this is not about words, because when it becomes words, it becomes legalism.  It becomes that righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.  I can come up with a lot more words that can epitomize what this word is saying.  No, it’s the heart.  It’s the heart.  Just as that raca was dehumanizing people, this word ‘fool’. . . .it’s ‘moros.’  We get the word ‘moron’ from it.  We also get the word ‘morals’ from it.  That’s interesting—-morals and moron.  Really it was to be devoid of morals.  You see a person and you say that person has no moral value.  I believe, when we do that, that we de-image that person.  That person is made in the image of God.  Every person in this room is made in the image of God.  Every person in this community is made in the image of God.  When you drive down Broadway and that guy cuts you off, do you say, “He’s made in the image of God?”  Probably not, but Jesus is saying, hey, it’s my kingdom and I’m inviting you into that and I want to empower you to be able to do that.  Not to dehumanize, not to devalue, not to de-image, but to lift up the people around us.

I believe that kingdom living is a commitment to God’s view of people.  We need to come and embrace that and put ourselves at the mercy of that.  In Matthew 22, last week, we looked at that question that Jesus faced:  What’s the greatest commandment?  Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.    Love the Lord your God.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

I told you I like the word idiot and it just rolls off.  Usually when it rolls off my tongue, it’s talking about me.  I usually say, “You idiot, how could you forget that?”  Why didn’t you write that down?  You idiot!!  Why did you run over the sprinkler with your lawn mower?  You idiot!  I begin to realize. . . .wow!  This passage is saying that I’ve got to love myself.  I’ve got to come to grips with the fact that I, too, am made in the image of God.  When I say I’m an idiot, I’m saying to God, “You made an idiot here.”  We’re made in the image of God.

In Ephesians 4:26-27, there’s a great series of verses.  In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while your are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.  In those verses it seems to tell us hey, you can be angry and not sin.  But, you need to be aware of what that anger is.  Taking some time to bring yourself into the awareness of what’s going on inside of me right now.  Is this an anger that’s motivated by love?  Is this an anger that sees this person as totally devoid of value?  Is this an anger that’s angry at a system that’s exploiting God’s creation, or is this an anger that sees a person as an enemy?

In your anger do not sin.  Let’s become aware of what kind of anger.  Then it says do not let the sun go down while you’re still angry.  Let’s take action to deal with that anger that we have.  I have friends that have said, “We take that very seriously.  If we have an argument, we are not going to put our heads on a pillow until we have taken care of that.”  Yet, it’s a great thing, and I think, as soon as possible, we need to deal with that anger; we need to take action.  I’m not saying don’t sleep until you deal with it.  But deal with it.

Finally, do not give the devil a foothold.  This is interesting because I always looked at anger as something we deal with it. . . .almost psychological stuff, but anger is spiritual warfare.  If we don’t deal with the anger in our hearts toward other people, toward people walking around imaging God, the devil may get a foothold and he’ll cause even more havoc.  Having the reason why we deal with the anger.   Awareness.  Action.  Reason.  I say I can be aware, and that’s good.  I say I’m glad to know the reason.  But I also say what kind of action am I suppose to take to be able to deal with anger?  I hopped online and there’s all kind of suggestions.  Have you ever looked up: How to control your anger?  There were breathing exercises.  There was close your eyes and picture a beach.  I love beaches, but it didn’t do anything for my anger.  Stop and visualize the person you’re angry at and then see them in their pajamas.  That didn’t work either.

You can find twenty-five ways to take care of your anger, I want to give you one way.  One way and I believe it’s what Jesus is talking about and I believe it’s God’s way of dealing with our anger.  I think it’s coming to grips with just what the gospel is. . . .simple.  All six years that Ryan has been here, he’s been teaching us more and more about what the gospel truly is and that there’s really four phases of the gospel.  There’s creation, in which God made this beautiful garden and he put us into that garden.  He called us to live to the fullest with him.  But we fell.  We chose our own way.  We thought we knew the best.  In that fall, creation began to groan.  We saw a brokenness—a brokenness with our relationship with God, a brokenness with our relationship with each other.  Then Jesus came and stepped into the world. . . .the Son of God, God himself came into the world and redeemed it.  He bought it back.  In buying it back, he said I’ve come to restore.  I asked that question what does restoration mean?  My view of the gospel was that it started in Genesis 3 when we made a mistake.  Everything was crummy.  Jesus came down and took the crumminess on him and made things right and heaven’s coming.  Yet here, Jesus came to redeem and restore and I want to tell you, I think he came to restore what was going on in the garden.

I look forward to heaven and I love that song “I Can Only Imagine.”   I can only imagine the heavenly glories.  But I’ve got to tell you, I can only imagine what the garden was like too.  I believe very much that if it wouldn’t fly in the garden, I don’t think it really has much place in the kingdom of God, in the kingdom that Jesus Christ came and started there.  In the Sermon on the Mount, it tells us this is the way to live in the kingdom.  As I was thinking through that, I was just picturing I wonder what it would have been like if God came down one day in the garden and Eve comes out alone.  Eve says, “You know, it’s good to see you, God.  Thanks for Adam.  He’s a good man, but he is kind of an idiot.”  I think God would have looked at her and said, “Have you been getting too close to that tree?”  God calls us to view people as he views them.

I came across a quote from Max Lucado.  I haven’t read Max Lucado in a while, but I love his stuff.  He was talking about being made in the image of God.  He said:  “You are made in God’s image, for God’s glory…  There is something of God in you and that makes you very special.  The reason God loves you is because there’s something of Him inside you and He wants to bring that out.”  That’s a wonderful statement for us to wrestle with ourselves and realize yes, he wants to bring the image of God out more and more so more people can see it.  When I was a kid, I collected pennies.  A lot of times you get a real dirty penny and you could hardly see Lincoln on it, so you’d sit there and scrub and you’d polish, and then little by little the image of Lincoln would come out.  I think that’s what God’s doing. . . .he’s polishing us and his image is coming out.  He desires his image to come out in everybody that’s around us, not just those of us here, but those out there on Broadway, those in our community, those in our neighborhood, those we pass in the store.  He wants us to realize that they, too, are made in the image of God, and we have no right to be angry at those people.

Romans 8:1-3a looks at the work that Jesus did.  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.  {Just stop there a minute.  The power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you.  Can you claim that?  Yeah, we may say anger still seems to creep up.  Yes, it does, but God invites us to come along side and let his Spirit come and let his power bring life into us.  And little by little by little by little, we’ll see that anger disappear AS little by little by little by little we see people in the eyes of God.}  The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature.  So God did what the law could not do.   I believe this kingdom living means we have to have a commitment to see people as God sees them.

Going on in Matthew:  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.   So, the first movement was talking about how we have anger toward someone else.  This movement is talking about how someone has anger toward us.  Oftentimes we think, well, if they’re angry toward us they’ve got to work it out.  Jesus says, “Not in my kingdom; and I’m inviting you to come into my kingdom and be instruments of reconciliation. You, too, can come and make a difference.”   Kingdom living is a commitment to reconciliation.

In 1 John 4:7,12, it says:  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. . . . . .if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.  We’re called to love one another.  We love one another as the power of God fills us and his love spills out to others around us.  Interesting quote I saw by Paul Tripp, a counselor on the east coast:  “If you want the litmus test for living your best, God-glorifying life right here, right now, don’t look primarily at your theological knowledge, biblical literacy, or church involvement (although all of these are very important).  Instead, you should examine the quality of your relationships.”  Wow!  If you want to see where you stand in walking with God, look at the relationships you have around you.  Look at how you view those people.  Look at how you see them.  Look and see. . .am I motivated to go to them and make a difference?  To seek reconciliation.

You may be asking:  How do we go about reconciliation?  There’s a great book called “The Peacemaker,”  by Ken Sande.  He’s come up with some guidelines for reconciliation:  1) Be prayerful for the situation.  If you’re at the altar and you’re getting ready to worship and all of a sudden you remember, whoa, this person’s got a problem with me, GO! but go prayerfully.  Maybe I should have worded this ‘continue’ to be prayerful in the situation, because who put that idea/thought in your head anyway?  I doubt that it was you.  God is always talking to us.  God is always there with us.  Talk to him.  Be prayerful as you go to this person to seek reconciliation.  Be humble as you go.  Realize you’re not going so you can ‘win a point.’  Hey, you’re angry at me and guess what?  You’re wrong.  NO!  You’re going to seek reconciliation/RESTORATION, because that’s what Jesus came to do to restore.  Along with that humility is be willing to admit the part that you had to play in that.  Oooo, this is the uncomfortable part, so I’ll let Ken Sande tell us about it:  “Even if you did not start the dispute, your lack of understanding, careless words, impatience, or failure to respond in a loving manner may have aggravated the situation.  Prayerfully examine your role in the conflict and then write down everything you have done or failed to do that may have been a factor…”  Boy, that last little part’s a kicker!  But take that step.  Approach humbly and understand the part you had in this.

Be mindful that God’s in control.  I think too many times we want to have control.  I want to go, I want to make sure this person forgives me, this person gets over it…   Hey, God’s in control and He’s got his timing, so I need to be realistic about this whole process.  As I go and seek reconciliation with someone, it may not be reciprocated.  You know what, that’s okay.  God didn’t say it HAD to be reciprocated, he said GO to that person, and then come back and worship me.

This is a picture of my dad.  Dad died 10 years ago on Memorial Day.  This picture was taken near the end of his life.  He had Alzheimer’s and it was beginning to sap some of who he was.  I’ll always remember some very special times with him.   Dad was a pastor.  I was a PK (preacher’s kid).  Dad was a pastor in little churches, so I got to see firsthand what it was like just to be a pastor with all kinds of people.  This is a special story I want to share.  I wasn’t a great athlete, but I did enjoy playing football.  In high school, our team actually was fairly good.  My senior year, we were vying for the championship.  We were playing our arch rival.  You’ve got to realize these were towns of 2,000-2,500 people.  It was the kind of school where, during halftime, I have to grab my trombone and play in the pep band.  I was a running back; my good friend, Dave, was the quarterback.  The call was we were going to do an end-around; I was going to be the lead blocker; Charlie, my friend the running back, was behind me; Dave was going to pitch the ball to him and we were going to go around the end.  We started the play, I was getting ready to block and all of a sudden I felt something in my butt.  I looked and saw the ball rolling away.  I realized….oh, I don’t think the ball got to Charlie.  Somehow my pads got in the way.  I turned around to try to get the ball, and, in the process, I kicked the ball another five yards behind.  Eventually, Dave, the quarterback, fell on the ball and we lost 15 yards.  The situation escalated from there.  The three of us went off and coach made us sit on the bench.  After a little while, he came over and started to ream us!  It was the kind of lecture where you keep your helmet on and just put your head down.  He just went to town, yelling, yelling, yelling!  He stopped to take a breath, and, I kid you not, in that breath I heard a voice from the crowd behind, “What a way to give them confidence, Coach!”  I’m sitting there saying, “Oh, I recognize that voice.”  Then there was this little feminine voice that said, “I agree with you, Reverend Elliott.”  Then I knew I was toast.  Coach didn’t say another word and walked back to the game.  Dave, who was sitting next to me, said, “Hey, was that your dad?”  I said, “Yeah, I think it was.”  He said, “That was cool!”

We lost the game, we lost the championship.  I’m walking out to the locker room and Coach came up to me.  He kind of hemmed and hawed and said, “Dan, could you just explain to your dad that it gets pretty emotional and sometimes I lose my temper?”  I said, “Coach, don’t worry, I’ll talk to dad.”  I took the bus home and walked home.  As I walked into the house, dad walked up to me.  He said, “Dan, I think I need to go see Coach Mack.  You want to go with me?”  I said, “Sure.”  We walked to Coach’s house.  I couldn’t tell you what we talked about, but it wasn’t about the game.  At one point, I did say, “Hey, dad, what are you going to do if Coach doesn’t respond to this?”  Dad just said, “Hey, it’s up to God.”  When we rang the doorbell, Coach Mack opened the door.  Coach said, “Well, hello, Reverend Elliott.  Hi, Dan.”  Dad just stuck his hand out.  Coach stuck his hand out.  They shook hands and dad said, “Coach, I was wrong today and need to apologize.  I know it’s tense out there and you want to win the game.  You’re working with these boys and I appreciate it very much.  Please forgive me.”  Coach didn’t know how to respond.  He had a big smile and said, “Reverend Elliott, don’t you worry.”  But dad and Coach were friends from that time on.  There was a reconciliation that took place and I was able to be right on the front row seat.  I loved it.  Kingdom living means we’re committed to reconciliation.  It’s not easy, but God says I won’t leave you alone and I’ll help you as you do that.

Let’s go to the last movement, verses 25 and 26 — 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.  It seems like each of these couplet of verses goes a little bit deeper.  Or maybe I should say, a little bit higher in its demand.  First, we’re not to be angry at the people around us, we’re to see them as God sees them.  Secondly, even when someone’s angry at us, we’re suppose to go and seek reconciliation.  Thirdly, if someone’s our enemy, if someone’s our accuser, if someone’s trying to take us to court to get every last penny, we’re suppose to come to terms with that person.  Some people have translated this to mean you should never go to court.  I can’t say that.  We live in a broken, fallen world, but I do believe Jesus invites us into his kingdom and gives us the grace that he has to seek to come to terms, before things get so desperate.

The same Ken Sande had a little encounter with some folks who called him.  There were four partners in this business — three were Christians, one was not.  They decided they were going to sell the business and split the profits.  The one non-Christian said, “I should get more because I put in a ton of time.”  The other three said, “No, you shouldn’t get more.”  It was back and forth, back and forth.  Finally the one said, “We’re going to go to court and settle it.”  The others said, “We don’t want to go to court.”  They called up Ken Sande and said, “Could you come and mediate for us?”  Ken Sande came and the guy said, “I don’t want to go to mediation, I want to go to court!”  So there was a conflict.  Finally, Ken Sande was talking to the three Christian guys and said, “Have you taken time to really count the cost?  How much has this cost you?”  One guy pulled out his calculator and said, “Well, it’s probably about $5000 worth of our time.”  Ken asked, “How much will a court case cost?”  “Probably 10 – 20 times that.”   Another guy said, “I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this.  As I’ve lost sleep, I’ve become very impatient with my with and my kids; it’s cost me some relationship at home.”  They finally said, “Okay, let’s just talk to him and meet him where he wants to me.”  The three went to him and kind of came to a mutual point in the middle and they agreed to the terms.  Two weeks later, Ken Sande was walking and he saw one of the guys and went up to him and said, “Hey, how did it all work out?”  The guy said, “You know what?  It’s terrific!  If I’d known this would’ve happened, I would have done it much, much sooner.”

That’s one of those illustrations where it worked.  I’ve also seen illustrations where it hasn’t worked quite that smoothly.  As I look at these verses, and I’m not trying to over spiritualize, I do want to point out something else.  Kingdom living is a commitment that God’s good news is really my good news.  What do I mean by that?  As I look at these verses, I ask, “Who is really my accuser?  Who is really my enemy?”  It’s that enemy that whispers to me, “You’re not worth the image of God.”  No, God’s not pleased with you.  You need to do this, this, this, and this in order to please God.  I tell you, the accuser is always at our side, whispering in our ears, demeaning the fact that we’re the image of God, trying to dehumanize us.  We need to come to terms with Satan and say, “Jesus took care of that.”  Jesus took care of that, because now His righteousness is MY righteousness and I’ve been invited into His kingdom and I don’t have to deal with what you’re whispering in my ear anymore.  I am worth something to God Almighty.  He loves me.  I am His image-bearer into this society and I’ve been called to carry His image to other people.  I remember when I was going through a tough time and Kerry put a note in my Bible.  I opened it up one morning and it said, “We hate Satan’s guts!”

There’s one last thing on your notes.  What can we do?  Yes, we struggle with anger.  Yes, we struggle with reconciliation.  Yes, we struggle with God that we really do have worth.  I’m going to give you a simple acrostic:  RELAX.  {Before I go through it, let me say, if you have a problem with anger, get some professional help.  I think the vast majority of us wrestle with anger erupting in our hearts, but I want to encourage you to grab onto the fact that the gospel of God is the Good News for me.}  I need to RELAX and (R) rely on God.  I need to rely on His power.  That power, the life-giving Spirit, working within me, little by little, changing my view of the people around me.  I need to (E) engage with God.  I need to talk with him, I need to process with him.  He is with me wherever I go.  He’s with you wherever you go.  You’re never alone, you’re never forsaken.  Talk to Him.  Engage with Him.  We need to (L) look for God.  I’ve got to admit, I love looking out at creation, I love looking up at the sky here in Colorado.  I love looking at trees.  Trees are just amazing creations to me.  Only an awesome God could create them.  But, I think God also wants us to look at his creation walking right by us.  He wants us to see each other as his image.  He wants us to see people who walk by us as people who are carrying a piece of him inside.  That includes those of us who have committed our lives to Jesus and have accepted that truth that we are in his image.  And those that have never even had a dream about it and think God is a farce.  They’re still made in the image of God and we’re called to go to them.  So look for God around you.  (A) Affirm God’s work in his word.  Affirm the fact that his Good News is right here and his invitation to become part of his kingdom is a very real invitation.  Then (X) — What’s your x-factor in this whole situation with anger?  This whole situation with stepping into his kingdom?  My x-factor is worry and anxiety.  I realize that the base of that is just simple trust in God, regardless of what may be thrown out at me, to know God is in control.  I don’t know what your x-factor is, but I know I’ve got to work with anxiety.  I love the fact that Jesus has invited me to be part of His kingdom, even though I can get anxious about it, because it’s His power that’s going to make a difference in our lives.

Let’s bow our heads in a word of prayer.  Our dear heavenly Father, thank you so much.  Thank you, Jesus, that you stepped into this world to bring redemption and restoration.  Thank you that you desire so much to reengage us and to walk with us and talk with us.  Lord, you do that.  Not only that, you’ve made us your temples.  How amazing is that?  I praise you for that.  Lord, give us your view of people.  Help us to see others as you see them.  Give us the courage to seek reconciliation with one another and those outside of our body.  Lord, give us the trust, the faith, to embrace your Good News as our Good News.  We love you.  We love you, we want to walk strong in your kingdom.  Teach us, Lord.  In the name of Jesus, I pray this.  Amen.