Lesson 80—September 6, 2015
Obeying Jesus—Making it Right with a Pure Heart
Scripture: Matthew 5:23-24
Lesson Goal: To learn our role and responsibility in biblical reconciliation to an offended brother or sister.
Introduction: I begin today with a proverb from days of old: [tweetthis]“The person who refuses to forgive his brother or sister destroys the very bridge over which they themselves must walk.”[/tweetthis] Please give some thought to this proverb. Then please write its meaning as it concerns personal anger toward another.
Today we once again see the seriousness of anger, as we focus on how this anger affects and hinders our worship of God. Jesus points out how sins of anger and hatred toward others affect our fellowship with God.
(Verse 23) “Therefore”—this refers back to the truth which Jesus had shared that sin, as well as righteous, is a matter of the heart. The internal affects the external.
John MacArthur writes:
Worship was a major concern of the scribes and Pharisees, directly or indirectly the focus of almost everything they did. They spent much time in the synagogues and in the temple. They made sacrifices, offered prayers, gave tithes and carried on religious activities of every sort. But it was all heartless external ceremony.
Jesus made a clear and direct point that as long as there is internal sin, outward acts of worship are not acceptable to God. How much of our private and public worship is hindered because of sin in our hearts? Most often we, “church folks,” equate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of our public worship to the perceived quality of the music, singing, and preaching, without giving any regard to the purity of the heart of the worshiper.
• Please read 1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 1:11-16; Hosea 6:6 and Micah 6:6-8. In summary form, prayerfully write the meaning of these verses.
• Please read Matthew 5:8. Explain the meaning of this verse in the context of worship.
John R. Stott says this of verse 23:
If you are in church, in the middle of a service of worship, and suddenly remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave church at once and put it right. Do not wait until the service has ended. Seek out your brother and ask for forgiveness. First go; then come. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your worship to God.
In verse 23, Jesus places before us a biblical truth that challenges each of us to our very core. It is not an easy verse taught or lived. It is one of those verses “where preachers fear to tread.” The ultimate answer for sinful anger in the heart of a true believer toward another believer is reconciliation. A true believer cannot expect, or even hope, to be right with God if he is not right with his brother. Our inability or lack of desire to seek reconciliation hinders our worship of God and hinders our Christian walk. We, true believers, cannot expect to find joy in worship, joy in serving, or joy in living until we have truly done our part to deal with anger.
As we look very closely at verses 23 and 24, read what they actually say not what you thought they said. Notice that Jesus said, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Again, notice what is said: “that your brother has something against you….” Jesus wants us to understand that as we worship and we remember that someone is angry toward us, we are to desire and seek reconciliation to the offended brother or sister.
It is our biblical responsibility to desire and seek reconciliation to the one who is angry or offended because of us. We are to genuinely strive for reconciliation, to remove hostility, to seek harmony. We are instructed by Jesus that it should be in our character, as His followers, to be the seeker of reconciliation to the one we have offended. But we are not responsible for the response or reaction of the one to whom we have sought reconciliation. Our hearts must be pure in motive and action to go and seek reconciliation, but it becomes a matter of the heart of the offended or angry brother or sister to extend biblical grace and forgiveness.
Jesus did not give us an option. He instructs that when we remember that we have a brother or sister who has something against us, we must go and seek reconciliation. The world, society, and certainly the forces of evil would try to convince us that to do so is a sign of weakness or an admission of guilt on our part. This is a lie! It is neither a sign of weakness nor an admission of guilt! In fact, it is the exact opposite. It takes a desire to follow Jesus, which only comes by the work of the Holy Spirit, to genuinely and sincerely go and seek reconciliation. In order for us to do this in a Christ-like, truly biblical manner we must ask God for the love, grace and wisdom to seek reconciliation, laying aside our fleshly egos and pride.
Often, we do not heed the words of Jesus found in verses 23-24, because we are fearful of the response of the individual to whom we seek reconciliation. We are afraid they will question our motives or that they will only be more offended or angry because we have sought reconciliation. We are fearful that there may not be a pleasant and happy outcome. We often disobey Jesus’ words by excusing ourselves, because of the fear or risk involved in making ourselves vulnerable by seeking or initiating reconciliation.
Please remember that Jesus did not make you or me responsible for the response or reaction of the one to whom we go and seek reconciliation. We are not responsibility for the “happy ever after” ending. As His followers, we must obey Jesus and leave the response of the offended one to that individual and to God.
Another important truth is that as a follower of Jesus, we should never go to anyone with a pretense of seeking reconciliation to make a point that we ourselves have been offended. We should never try to camouflage an unholy desire or motive by seemingly becoming or acting spiritual. Let me give a hypothetical example. The conversation might go like this:
I just had to come and talk to you to see if there is anything wrong, because I’ve noticed you have been treating me differently. I just wanted you to know that if I have done anything to make you treat me differently, or to make you unfriendly toward me, I want to get it right. I just had to find out because I didn’t know of anything I have done to you to deserve this kind of treatment, but just in case I have, I wanted to make it right. You sure seem distant and reserved in our friendship; in fact, I met you on Springer Road last week and you didn’t even wave at me. You’ve never been this selfish or unfriendly before. I just thought the Lord wanted me to come and talk to you to make you feel better. I didn’t want you to be mad at me.
• What’s wrong with the above hypothetical situation concerning reconciliation? What’s the truth of the above situation?
[tweetthis]True reconciliation must be sought with a pure heart. Motives cannot be fake, camouflaged, or pretentious.[/tweetthis]
Is the Holy Spirit calling someone to your attention that you must sincerely seek to be reconciled with before you can move forward in your walk with Christ? Please remember, do not be held in bondage to your fear. You are only responsible for desiring and seeking to be reconciled to the offended individual or individuals. Their reaction is up to them. Make sure your heart is pure and your intent is Christ-like.
Regarding verses 23-24, what would happen to our public worship at MHBC if we all took Jesus’ words seriously and simply trusted Him, obeyed Him and left the outcome to Him?
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).