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Watch 2022 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Matthew 5

John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Matthew 5


John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Matthew 5
John Bradshaw - Great Chapters of the Bible, Matthew 5
TOPICS: Great Chapters of the Bible, Matthew 5, Beatitudes, Bible Study

This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Few transformations in American history have been quite as dramatic, and like so many great changes in people's lives, this one was brought about by tragedy, by the brutal interruption of a hard-hearted life's chosen course. It was May the 15th in 1972. He was running for the president of the United States.

On that day, Governor George Wallace of Alabama was permanently paralyzed from the waist down. This happened following an assassination attempt in a shopping center in Laurel, Maryland. He was shot five times. One bullet lodged in his spine. His life would never be the same again. His spirit was broken. His confident self-assurance was gone. And until the day of his death 26 years later, he would never experience another day without pain. Governor Wallace had established himself in American politics as an unabashed defender of racial segregation. His first inaugural address as governor of Alabama was delivered during the heart of the American civil rights movement. And it's best remembered for his defiant cry:

George Wallace: And I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!


But a paralyzed man confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his days has a tough time being defiant. It seemed that God finally got through to Governor Wallace. Not long afterwards, he wheeled himself down the center aisle of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, just 500 feet, one block away from the Alabama state capital in Montgomery. This was the very church once pastored a quarter of a century before by Martin Luther King Jr. Turning his wheelchair around, the governor spoke to a hushed congregation in words no one present could forget. He said, "I have learned what suffering means. In a way that was impossible," before the assassination attempt, "I think I can understand some of the pain black people have come to endure. I know I contributed to that pain, and I can only ask your forgiveness".

One sharecropper from Selma, Alabama, who had marched with Martin Luther King, compared the governor's transformation to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. George Wallace, in the sharecropper's words, "was struck down and then got up to do good". Now, as you might expect, not everyone was completely accepting of Wallace's apology. He's been referred to as one of the great villains of the civil rights era. And his actions caused many, many people real hurt. But following Wallace's death in 1998, African-American Congressman John Lewis, a giant in the civil rights movement since the early 1960s, wrote an editorial in the New York Times, in which he said, "The George Wallace who sent troops to intimidate peaceful, orderly marchers in Selma in 1965 was not the same man who died this week. With all his failings, Mr. Wallace deserves recognition for seeking redemption for his mistakes, for his willingness to change and to set things right with those he harmed and with his God".

You know, no experience speaks more decisively to the power of Christianity than a radical change of heart. And we're gonna focus on this experience today in this episode of our ongoing series, "Great Chapters of the Bible". The chapter we're going to be studying is the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. It's the opening chapter in Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount, that great cornerstone of the Christian faith that Jesus delivered at the very start of His ministry. Matthew 5 is truly one of the richest chapters in the four Gospels. It contains a lot of important material.

The chapter starts with the Beatitudes, "blessed are the poor in spirit"; "blessed are the meek"; "blessed are they that mourn". But we're gonna jump over the Beatitudes because we'll look at them another time. Instead, we'll start in Matthew 5, verse 20. We'll see this chapter focuses on a radical change of the human heart. Jesus says some things that absolutely shock the people He's speaking to. He said, "For I say unto you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven".

Now, that was a stunning statement. The Pharisees were considered real religious leaders. They were the spiritual elite. They were rigorous in their obedience and very careful to be seen to be religious and holy and in God's favor. Jesus went on to identify what was so terribly wrong with the professed righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. In some of the strongest words of His entire ministry, Jesus revealed what was wrong with the Pharisees' approach: outwardly, religious; inwardly, it was a different story. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisees, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness".

That's Matthew 23:25-28. So this is the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus was talking about. The kind of behavior that can't qualify anybody for heaven because it's all on the outside and not on the inside. Now, you might have met people like that. You might even be like that. This surface religion that Jesus was warning against was something the Old Testament prophets had warned the people of Israel against for hundreds of years. A thousand years before the time of Christ, the prophet Samuel warned King Saul about this very thing: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams". First Samuel 15:22. As Jesus speaks more about this, He talks about hatred, adultery, and one of the greatest evidences for the power of God. So what would be one of the greatest evidences for the power of God? I'll have that in just a moment.

Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. A major problem facing the world today is the lack of heart religion. You know, it's easy to call yourself a believer, but it's another thing altogether to be one, genuinely. As we look today at a great chapter of the Bible, we're looking at Matthew 5, and we see that God speaks very clearly to this issue, really to the problem of surface religion. There was a lot of it around in Jesus' day. In fact, 700 or so years before Jesus was born, Isaiah the prophet wrote this: "'To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me?' says the Lord. 'I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doing from before [mine] eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, [reprove] the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.'" - Isaiah 1:11 and 15-17.

And then, as always, God assures His people of His power to change them from the inside out so that the reform of their lives won't be only a surface matter any longer. "'Come now and let us reason together,' says the Lord, 'though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.'" Isaiah 1:18. Another of the Old Testament prophets, the prophet Micah, makes a similar appeal in Micah 6, starting in verse 6: "With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, [or] ten thousand rivers of oil? He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" - Micah 6:6-8.

The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 speaks of a genuine inward faith. God wants for us something better than hypocrisy, something better than a surface religion, something better than outward show. You can fool people, you can impress people, but God sees the heart. Right after Jesus warns His audience against the surface righteousness practiced by the religious leaders of His day, He points to two of the Ten Commandments as examples of how obedience goes all the way to the heart. He starts with the sixth commandment, and He says in verses 21 and 22, "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment".

The Apostle John said something very similar, 1 John 3, verse 15: "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him". Now, we understand not murdering, but Jesus takes it much further, and He says, "Don't hate". He gets to the heart of the matter: "Don't hate". He says maybe you won't murder someone, but it's not right for you even to hate that person. Jesus continues on this theme in Matthew 5 when He turns to the seventh commandment, the one forbidding adultery. He says this in verses 27 and 28: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart". Jesus lays out for us the depth of what obedience actually means and the extent to which God will go to change a human heart. No adultery.

Now, that's one thing, but then He goes so far as to say that lust isn't acceptable, which might just seem a little bit old-fashioned today. But we both know that if society just took this simple injunction just a little more seriously, the entire world would be a very different place. Jesus says it's one thing not to commit the act, but what He wants to do is change the heart, even change the desires. Now, if the people listening to Jesus had just gone back and read the language of the Ten Commandments as they were first written, they would have seen how what Jesus was talking about was nothing new. The tenth commandment, the one that forbids coveting, includes the words "you shall not covet your neighbor's wife," Exodus 20, verse 17.

In other words, God declared when the commandments were first proclaimed on Sinai that the reach of these divine commands extended directly to the intentions of the heart. This is what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he said he wouldn't have understood the true depth of God's law except for the command that said, "You shall not covet". He wrote that in Romans 7 and verse 7.

Now, this is a bridge too far for many people. Too much, too demanding. Who can even do that? The intents of the heart? Well, there's one person who can do that, and that's Jesus, and He'll do it when He lives in you. You know, the scribes and the Pharisees of Jesus' day were ignoring all this. They'd forgotten all the admonitions of the Old Testament prophets, from Samuel and Solomon to Isaiah and Micah and others. They saw righteousness as something on the outside, while the inside remained unchanged. In this way, they'd become no different from the heathen nations around them. You can't help but see the stark contrast between this attitude and the word of the Lord to the prophet Samuel in the Old Testament: "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart".

First Samuel 16, verse 7. In other words, in their practice of religion, God's people in Jesus' time had become incredibly like the heathen, who they despised, ironically. What was on the surface mattered more than what was in the heart. It was the purpose of Jesus to draw the chosen nation back to the principles spelled out in the Old Testament, and away from the religion for show which had taken the place of the transformed heart. It's this religion of the heart that true conversion brings, and it makes possible what Jesus urged next. You see, Christianity isn't just about what you do on the outside. You can sing in the choir or shout "amen!" or look the part, and you can say all the right things, but God wants His children to be transformed. As Paul wrote in Romans 12, verse 2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God".

Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, and interestingly, he was a Pharisee, a member of that very group Jesus was correcting so strongly. And Jesus said to him, "You must be born again". Nicodemus had it all going right on the outside, but inwardly he was empty. He was failing spiritually when he wanted to be spiritually successful. And this is where a lot of people find themselves today. From sea to shining sea there are people you would think were doing great spiritually, but on the inside they're dying, and they're failing. And they realize their Christian experience is not nearly what they want it to be. Maybe you've been there. You might be having an experience where you know what God wants. You know what Jesus wants your life to be like. But you just can't deliver it. Well, God has a solution for you, a way forward, and that's what Matthew 5 is all about. More in just a moment.

In Matthew 5, verses 23 and 24 Jesus says, "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". He says, "First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift". Clear up matters. Don't hang on to old scores. Work things out. Reconciliation, unity, no grudges separating you from your neighbor. And then this, the kind of statement that helps us to see that in God's eyes, Christianity is the real thing. The gospel is a living force that can change your life. See, nobody feels good about themselves when they know God wants them to live a certain life, but they can't do it.

Too many people today are living a double life: Christ on the outside but the devil on the inside. All profession of Christ, no possession of Christ. And this is one of the things that gives Christianity a bad name. People call themselves Christian, but you would never know looking at the way they live their life. No power. I'm not talking about people who stumble, people who make mistakes. That's going to happen as you grow as a believer. It's just not necessary to live a life where you claim to be a follower of Jesus, but your heart hasn't been changed. Because the Christ of the Bible is in the business of changing hearts, and He'll change yours.

Look at what Jesus said, starting in verse 38: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away". You know what Jesus is saying. Instead of fighting fire with fire, fight fire with love. If someone mistreats you, love them anyway. They want something? Give them that and more. Someone takes? Give. Someone wants to borrow? Lend.

Jesus isn't talking about what you do on the outside now, He's talking about His ability to change a heart so radically that when someone curses you, you'll bless them in return. In fact, He frames this in a really graphic way: "You have heard that it was said, 'You [should] love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you". That's Matthew 5:43-44. Evidently, it was the belief in Jesus' day that you should love those close to you, your neighbor, while it was okay, even desirable, to hate other people.

Now, that certainly isn't God's way. Christians are supposed to show their love to others, even their enemies. Now, I know that's tough. That's not easy. John, you have no idea how these people wind me up, how hard it is to show kindness. Hard for you, sure. But hard for God? No, it's not. You see, God can do that in a person's life. He can do it in your life. Love your enemy? Yes, you can. What was it that Paul wrote? "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." - That's Philippians 4 and verse 13. This is where Christianity shows us what it's really all about. Nothing gives the world more evidence that the Bible has changed a person's life as when hatred turns to love. This is why Jesus said in John 13:35, "By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another".

Too many Christians seem to have a hard time remembering that. Holding grudges is common, even in the church, and it's poisonous. Refusing to forgive is common, even though Jesus made clear in Matthew chapter 6 that people who refuse to forgive others won't be forgiven by God. You'll find husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, bosses and employees, teammates, students, and teachers holding on to grievances for years, even decades. When Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, He was saying that the righteousness we have has to come from a changed heart. It ought to be evidence of a changed life. Of course, a person could look at someone like Governor George Wallace, who made a career out of hating people and encouraging others to do the same, and find it hard to manifest forgiveness, or to feel anything other than bitterness. But to look at a person and that person's misdeeds, now, that's a dangerous thing. The more important question is the one that addresses what's going on in your heart, not someone else's.

The message of Matthew 5 is that God can change any heart, if you'll let Him. He can still give us the grace to love and forgive our enemies. Historians still debate whether George Wallace was sincere in his request for forgiveness from those he'd wronged so terribly. And that's understandable. Was he sincere, do you think? Was he? Let's let God decide that. Author Dan Carter, who wrote a biography on George Wallace, quoted an English writer who said, "Men's hearts are concealed, but their actions are open to scrutiny". Although human hearts are very much concealed, the Bible assures us, speaking of God: "[You, You only] know the hearts of all the sons of men". First Kings 8:39. And the same God who alone can read our hearts is the One who alone possesses the power to change them.

Let me pray with you now:

Our Father in heaven, we thank You in the name of Jesus that You are able to change our heart. And we don't want to be the type of person who outwardly puts on a good show of being a Christian, demonstrates religiosity, while on the inside we're corrupt and full of malice, and we're sick, and we are failing. Lord, we know it is Your intention to change us inwardly and outwardly, to do a thorough, complete job, to convert us that we might be, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, born again.


Friend, as you look into your heart, what do you see? Do you see a heart that's at one with the heart of God? Do you see a heart that is united with Jesus? If so, then I want you to say, "Thank You, Lord". But if you don't, if you look on the inside and you see a hypocrite, if you look on the inside and you see someone who's just playing a game or going through the motions, whose practice doesn't meet with his or her profession, then right now I'd like you to ask Jesus to give you a new heart.

Father, would You do that for me, for each of us? Give us a new heart, a new mind, that our profession might be demonstrated by a life that reveals to others that there is a Savior. We thank You, and we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


Thank you so much for joining me. I'm looking forward to seeing you again next time. Until then, remember: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
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