THE ETHICS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Jesus’ Sermon on the mount as recorded in Matthew from chapter 5 and chapter 7 as it speaks to us is extremely hard. It certainly is for our age as it is for the Kingdom Age to come, and yet when it impacts our life, we become extremely uncomfortable. It’s an ethics in which no one can stand when it’s presented and say, “I can do that”, “I can keep that”. All of us struggle with this Kingdom Ethics. It seems like what the Lord has done is, to come to this time and He has taken the Old Testament Law, and He intensified it and raised it from the area of legal requirements to the area of attitudes and motives. The fact is, we couldn’t keep the legal requirements, how much less could we keep the attitudes and motives? And He gives us this for the purpose that the Law might become a tutor that brings us to Christ (cf. Gal. 3:19-26). I feel like the main purpose of these words that really are beyond my ability not only to keep but to ever imagine keeping it, is to become a mirror to my life that says, “As far as you come, you haven’t come far enough. As good as you might be, you aren’t good enough”. And it’s a thing that brings to my mind my total inadequacy to be what God wants me to be, and yet the same moment i feel that tremendous inadequacy, i feel the drawing power of God’s love that says, “Yes you are inadequate, but I am completely adequate, and I live in you”. And so therefore, it’s a passage that brings every man to a place of looking at his own life, and looking at his own heart, and examining his own motives, and really just coming to a time of introspection. To read it is to become uncomfortable, and to read is to become still before the Lord and know that He is God (cf. Ps. 46:10).

There are several passages in the New Testament which are worth reading to maybe give us an idea of what the Lord really wants to say to us through His Sermon on the mount. I would like to first look at the parallel that’s found in Luke 6:36-38, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven…”. And then look at Romans 14:7-10, “For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister[a]? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat”. And then again lastly, Galatians 6:1, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted”. There seems to be happening something here that i’m not real familiar with. There seems to be a new note being sounded here that i don’t feel real comfortable with, and the new note is, as we do to others so will God do to us. We will stand before God as we treat others. Does it mean God deals with us in a commensurate way as we deal with others? Absolutely! Just look at Matthew 5:7 at the very beginning of the Mountain Sermon, Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy” – the merciful are those who relate with others with a forgiving and compassionate spirit. And then the very well-known passage of the Lord’s prayer where it says, “…and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”, “…for if we forgive men their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. For if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

Matthew 7:1-5 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”. What we’re talking about here is a critical judgmental spirit. It reminds me a lot of another parable that Jesus told, about the man who owed is master a huge debt but was forgiven totally that debt because the master had compassion on him. However when this man found a fellow servant who owed him a measly sum of money, he threw that person into the debtors’ prison. When the master learned of this, he was outraged and said, “I forgave you a huge debt, yet you refused to show mercy on your fellow servant and forgive his debt. Because of your hard heartedness I no longer forgive you of your debt and I demand that it be repaid. You will be thrown into jail until then”. And so what we have here is, the measure in which that man judged is the same measure that man was judged. This is not to say that we can’t judge at all or we shouldn’t say anything about anyone. It speaks about taking the beam out of our own eyes before we take the speck at our brother’s eyes. It’s not saying “Dont’ judge…” for the very same chapter 7 of Matthew speaks about, “…by their fruits you shall know them”. I am forced by who i am to make a valid and (hopefully) correct spiritual evaluation of people. I am responsible for the health and growth of the corporate body of Christ, and therefore i must form opinions about people and how they would function in leadership responsibilities. I have not choice but to form opinions because this is what all rational beings do. So what it’s not saying really is, ‘Don’t ever make any opinions or evaluations about people’. I think it’s talking about attitude. I think we one truth from two sides. I think what we have here is the attitude behind the evaluation. When every part of the believer’s life, every part of his attitudes, every part of his hopes and dreams have been surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ, he now does things from a totally different motive. Now, the believer judges things in light of the fact that he has experienced God’s forgiveness; not because of what he has done, not because of what he can do of has done, but on what God has done for him.

The word ‘to judge’ comes into the English language as the word critique. It is the Greek word ‘krino’. “Stop criticizing one another, for in the way that you criticize, you will be criticized” – criticism is like a boomerang, we throw it at someone, it always comes back and lands in our hearts. When we start criticizing and continue to criticize with a view towards destruction, it becomes like a plague and everybody starts criticizing about everybody. None of us are without fault. There is ample room for criticism in every life if we want to take the time to find it. “As you judge others, you will be judged”. What amazes me is that we’ve been completely forgiven by Jesus Christ. We’ve been forgiven of everything and washed clean in His blood, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and have been promised the Kingdom, and then we walk out in the street and stick our bony finger in people’s noses, and say, “What’s the matter with you?” It amazes me that we try to put rules on people before they ever meet Jesus Christ, when we could never keep those same rules before we met Jesus Christ. And we walk around out with that sanctimonious little holier-than-thou attitude and wonder why people don’t come to church. We beat people over their heads with our self-righteous morality. Try to ask people who are not Christians, what they think about the church, what do they think about the redeemed people of the Lord – people who have a high moral life, people who say they love Jesus? What do you think? More often than not, people would say the church is full of hypocrites. The very things that we preach, we don’t do to be a witness. Everything that we think we do for God is simply lip-service. If you’re living a Christ-like life you will attract lost people. And the very fact that we’re not attracting lost people says volumes about our lives. We are a self-righteous hypocritical people to the lost world. The very people we’re trying to reach, we have built a wall between, and we sit back in our church and act so self-righteous. So Jesus says, “By the standard by which you judge others, i will judge you”. And here’s the picture He uses, a guy comes up and has a speck in his eye, and here’s another guy who’s got a beam sticking out of his eye, and says, “Just let me take the speck out of your eye, friend”. Wouldn’t that be ridiculous? I’m sure the crowd that day just giggled each other on how ridiculous it is. Now, Jesus didn’t say we’re not supposed to get the speck out of our brother’s eye, because all those passages especially Matthew 18:15-17 says we’ve got to deal with church discipline. Not to mention 1 John 4:1-3 that says something about to test the spirits to see whether they are of God. We’ve got to make evaluations about it. But how do we do it? You best look at your own life before you criticize anybody. You best get on our knees in confession of sin and commitment of life before you ever start looking at other people’s lives. The real key key to a spiritual evaluation of people is in a humble and loving spirit.

I appreciate more if people would come to me in real concern and honesty, and tell me something that really bothers them about me. That would never hurt my feelings. I appreciate their freedom of which they come in honesty and say, “I want to talk to you about this, Jun. I feel like this is something you need to think about and pray about”. I submit to you, i never, never feel anything, but complimented the fact that they’ll come and talk to me. But there is another spirit here, when unloving, self-righteous, and judgmental brethren criticize others not from the spiritual ground of humility and self-giving love but from the ground of superiority; thinking that they have the right to impose upon others rules they could not keep themselves. Jesus said, “You hypocrites…” – the word ‘hypocrite’ is a very unusual word that means ‘to judge under’. Have you ever seen the little masks they used in Greek theaters logo or emblem? The one that has the face with one smile and one frown, and it has a handle underneath the Greek actors used to hold in front of their face when they have to project a part whether it’s sad or a laughing matter. The problem is, the person behind the mask wasn’t really what the mask shows them to be. And that’s where the word ‘hypocrite’ in english came from. I guess we all are hypocrites one time or another. We put up a facade when we walk into the doors of our church. You aren’t who you are at church. You are who you are at home. You are who you are around those whom you feel most comfortable with. We are hypocrites. We all are! We’re so afraid for people to know who and what we are because we’re afraid they won’t accept us, or love us. And so we all go around wearing that mask as we play church. God help us!

Jesus reserved this word ‘hypocrite’ for His most stinging rebuke to the scribes and pharisees who were more concerned about their nit-picking rules than they were about people. I say to you, the day the church is more concerned about rules than it is about people, it has ceased to be the church of Jesus Christ, and has become the church of the pharisees. People are judging your live by whether they respond to Jesus Christ through you or whether they do not. How many people have you attracted to the Lord Jesus Christ? How many have been drawn closer to Him or have come to know the Lord through you, by who you are at work, at play, or whatever? If you want to imbibe the New Testament Spirit, you’d be hungering for the souls of men, and loving people no matter what. Let’s get them to Jesus, and He’ll change their lives. The Bible says that Jesus works on the inside, and changes the heart first, and as the heart is changed, every area of life begins to be changed in concentric out-going circles until it finds its culmination when Jesus returns.

#hypocrisy, #kingdom-ethics, #pharisees