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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Straight Talk About Your Relationships

Robert Jeffress - Straight Talk About Your Relationships


Robert Jeffress - Straight Talk About Your Relationships
Robert Jeffress - Straight Talk About Your Relationships
TOPICS: 18 Minutes with Jesus, Relationships

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. No one enjoys dealing with difficult people. Negative neighbors, coworkers, and even our own family members can spoil an otherwise very good day. Well, Jesus certainly recognized the need to cultivate healthy relationships, and as we'll see today, he addressed that topic in his famous sermon on the mount. My message is titled "Straight Talk About Your Relationships" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

Ruth Graham, the wife of evangelist Billy Graham, was one time asked about her marriage to the great evangelist. The reporter said, "Mrs. Graham, has there ever been a time during your marriage in which you thought about divorce"? With a twinkle in her eyes, she said, "Divorce, no, murder, yes". It's a funny reply, but it's interesting that some people actually use a standard like that to measure their own righteousness. They think as long as they don't actually run away with somebody else's mate, as long as they don't actually kill the mate they're thinking about murdering, well, maybe they're good enough to get into heaven. But as we're going to see today, God has a far higher standard than our standard, and understanding that standard is not only necessary to make it into the Kingdom of God, but it's necessary for us to live with the benefits of the Kingdom of God right now. And that's what we're going to talk about today as we continue our series, "18 Minutes With Jesus," looking at the sermon on the mount.

Turn to Matthew chapter five, and remember in Matthew chapter five, Jesus began this most famous of all sermons by outlining the benefits of living according to his standards. We call those benefits the beatitudes. He talked also last time we saw about when we live according to Jesus' standard we're the salt and light he commanded us to be. But now we're ready to get into the application. How does understanding and applying Jesus' standard apply first of all to our relationships? And that's what he begins with in verse 17. Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill".

That phrase law and prophets refers to the Old Testament. That was the phrase for the Old Testament, which is all the scripture that they had. The rumor was already going on at this beginning point in Jesus' ministry that he was disobeying the Old Testament law. There was an incident in Mark two when he didn't obey the law about the sabbath and so they said, "This rabble rouser is trying to negate the Old Testament". He said, "Oh, far from it. I came to actually fulfill the requirements of the law". In fact, verse 18, "For truly I say to you that until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the law until it's all accomplished".

Now, I'd be guilty of pastoral negligence here if I didn't stop and point out Jesus' attitude toward the scripture, his high view of scripture. Again, remember the scripture at that time was just the Old Testament. Later, it would be expanded to the New Testament. Have you ever heard somebody say, "Well, I believe the ideas of the Bible are inspired. Maybe not the individual words. There may be some errors in the Bible. It's the thoughts of the Bible that are inspired". Have you heard that before? Jesus said no, it's not just the ideas that are inspired. It's the words that make up those ideas that are inspired. Breathed by God. Now, Jesus applies that to scripture. Every part of the Bible, even the smallest letter and stroke is inspired by God. But Jesus' main purpose in saying this was not to talk about the inerrancy of the scripture, which is a fact, his main topic is righteousness.

Look at verse 20. "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven". We had a friend in a former church who was a dentist by profession. He was a pole vaulter by hobby. And I remember he told me one time, he said, "Robert, there are two ways you can succeed at pole vaulting, either learn to jump higher or lower the bar, you get there either way". Well, you know, that lowering the bar I think explains people's view of righteousness. It's why only 4% of Americans, according to the latest polls, only 4% of Americans think there's even a chance they will end up in hell one day. You know why they are so confident in their self-righteousness? They have lowered the bar of what God expects from us.

The average person on the street today or that you talk to believes that just as long as I have a little more righteousness than Charles Manson, Adolph Hitler or Vladimir Putin, as long as I'm a little bit better, that gives me the opportunity to cross the bar, so to speak, to make it into heaven. They've got the wrong standard of righteousness. That's what Jesus' audience had. They had a wrong standard of righteousness. Jesus said, "No, you have to exceed the bar set by the pharisees". Well, the audience gasped at that. You have to be better than the pharisees? Remember, they thought the pharisees were the holiest of all God's people. Let me show you why.

The pharisees were restrict adherents of the Old Testament law. The Old Testament law had 245 commandments and 365 prohibitions, more than 600 rules about what to do and what not to do. And if that weren't enough, the pharisees added to it. They added thousands of regulations about what kind of work exactly you could not do on the sabbath. They made it impossible for anybody to obey those standards. And yet Jesus said even that standard of the pharisees isn't enough. Jesus said the real standard of righteousness is not only your external behavior, but your internal feelings, the attitude that fuels your outward behavior. That was the problem with the pharisees. They had manufactured this external standard of righteousness, which they were fairly good at keeping, not perfect, but Jesus said they were nothing more than dishes that are clean on the outside and dirty on the inside. Jesus has a completely different standard.

Now, to help you understand this and to remind you of the difference between judicial righteousness and ethical righteousness, let me change metaphors for a moment. Let's get out of the world of pole vaulting, which probably nobody can really identify with, and let's go to a painful experience we are facing every week now, and that is filling up our gas tank. It's becoming increasingly painful, isn't it, to do that? Now, I want you to imagine there are two drivers. There's the first driver, he is a non-Christian, and he goes to fill up his spiritual gas tank and he puts the nozzle in the tank and he starts pumping the gas and he watches how much it's costing him and so forth. And then that little sensor automatically cuts off the pump. It says your tank is full in a sense, but is it full? No, there's always room for more gasoline. You have to pump more gasoline in manually to make sure that pump is full. The sensor doesn't have it right.

Now, here is a non-Christian and his goal is to have enough spiritual righteousness to make it all the way into heaven. And so he has this internal sensor that tells him when he has done enough. As long as I haven't dealt drugs or molested children, I'm probably okay. I've got enough. But his internal sensor is faulty, that's not enough. In fact, the amount of righteousness it takes in your spiritual gas tank to make it into heaven is so expensive none of us can afford it. Now, you may have more gas in your tank, more righteousness than I have, and I may have more than Vlad has in his, but you know what? It doesn't matter, none of us has enough. That's why the Bible says for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. What I just described to you is what the Bible terms judicial righteousness, a right standing with God. But the good news is Jesus Christ has more than enough spiritual righteousness, and when we trust in him to be our Savior, he pours his righteousness into our spiritual gas tank, and that's enough to get us into heaven. That's what our judicial righteousness is, it's our right standing with God, and that comes as a gift from Jesus Christ.

Now, driver number two is a Christian. His concern in life is not so much getting to heaven. He already knows he's got enough righteousness to do that, but he has a different destination in mind. He wants to drive to a place in this life that is characterized by freedom from anxiety, contentment with your circumstances, a fulfilled marriage, satisfying relationships. He wants to experience the Kingdom of God now. He needs a different kind of righteousness, ethical righteousness. That's our right acting before God. That's what ethical righteousness is, and it's what the sermon on the mount is all about. It's about how to experience the Kingdom of God now.

Remember the theme, those who modeled the attitudes, affections and actions of Jesus Christ are guaranteed genuine joy in this life and unending happiness in the next life. So here's a Christian and he's trying to fill up his ethical gas tank with ethical righteousness. We've got the wrong standard. People again think as long as they don't murder anybody or sleep with somebody else's mate, that's enough. That's all it takes. Jesus says, "No, my standard is far higher than that if you want to get to where you really want to go in this life," and that's what he's talking about, righteousness in this passage. Let's see how that applies to our relationships. Here was the Old Testament standard.

Matthew 5:21, Jesus said, "Now you have heard that the ancients were said," that's another way of saying you have read in the Bible, the Old Testament, "You shall not commit murder, and whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court". Now, let's hand it to the pharisees. They got it right, they were teaching right. The Old Testament standard was don't murder anybody. That was the minimum standard, don't murder anybody. But Jesus adds to that standard. Look at verse 22, "But I say to you," not in contradiction of the Old Testament, but in addition to it, "That everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court. And whoever says to his brother, 'you good for nothing' shall be guilty before the Supreme Court. And whoever says, 'you fool' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell".

Jesus is addressing the attitudes behind the action of murder. And this is his foundational teaching about relationships. Yes, murder is the extreme, the ultimate way of severing your relationship with another person, but there are other ways to fracture an important relationship. For example, it's possible to murder somebody through infuriation, that is with your anger. That's what Jesus says here. Everyone who is angry is guilty. Does that mean anger is always wrong? No, anger is not always wrong. If you'll remember in our series on Proverbs, "The Solomon Secrets," I defined anger as a natural physical and emotional reaction to perceived injustice. It's natural for us to be angry. You know why we get angry? It's not because we're sinful. It's because we are made in the image of God, who gets angry. We are made in God's image. God is angered over injustice, wrongdoing.

Did you know the word anger in the Old Testament is used 455 times? 375 of those times it refers to the anger of God. The reason we get angry is because God gets angry, and that's not just an Old Testament concept. In John 2, Jesus was angry when he saw the money changers in the temple and he drove them out. Jesus was angry at the pharisees who were hypocrites who tried to make others carry out responsibilities they didn't carry out. No, anger is natural and it's okay as long as it's dealt with correctly and quickly. Emphasize that word quickly. That's why Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:26 and 27, "Be angry and yet do not sin". Isn't that an interesting command? Be angry and yet do not sin. If anger in and of itself were wrong, he never would've said be angry. Is there any other verse in the Bible that says be lustful and do not sin? Be a drunkard, be drunk, but don't sin. Be a thief, but don't sin. No, it's be angry yet don't sin, and here's how to deal with it correctly. "Don't let the sun go down on your anger, and don't give the devil an opportunity".

Deal with anger quickly. One way we destroy another person is by our anger, murder by infuriation. But there's a second way to destroy your relationship. Murder by devaluation, devaluation. Look at verse 22, he went on to say, "Whoever says to his brother, 'you good for nothing' shall be guilty before the Supreme Court". That phrase good for nothing is the Aramaic word racca. It literally means empty headed. When you say, "You are empty headed," you are devaluing another person. That's why James 3:8 to 10 says, "But no one can tame the tongue. It's a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and father and with it we curse men who have been made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way".

Whenever you devalue somebody, you call them empty, you are speaking out against the God who created them, and that's wrong. Don't be guilty by a murder by devaluation. And thirdly, we can destroy your relationship, we can murder somebody by defamation. This is a nuanced difference, but it's still important to understand. Verse 22, "Whoever says, 'you fool' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell". You fool, the Greek word Jesus used here is moros . We get our word moron from it. Now, in our language, we think of a moron as a stupid person but that's not what Jesus had in mind here. That would've been the previous word, empty headed. Here it means a moral reprobate. To call somebody a moros was to defame their character, to engage in character assassination.

Proverbs 11:9 says, "With his mouth the Godless man destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered". Don't be guilty of destroying somebody by devaluing them or by defaming them. Jesus realized that all of us fall short. Let me be the first to say I fall short of that. We all fall short of God's standard for righteousness. So how do we repair relationships that may have been severed? I want you to notice in verses 23 to 26, he gives us two important principles for repairing damaged relationships. The first principle is reconciliation is more powerful than revenge. Remember that reconciliation is more powerful than revenge. Usually our natural instinct if somebody wrongs us is to wrong them, to hurt them, and thus begins an escalation in hostility that ends up many times in a mutual destruction of both parties.

Jesus said, "Let me show you a better way". Reconciliation is more powerful than revenge. Remember Romans 12:18? "If possible, as far as it depends upon you, be at peace with all men". Jesus said in a fractured relationship, first of all, reconciliation is more powerful than revenge. Secondly, reconcile today rather than tomorrow. That's the second principle, look at verses 25 to 26. Jesus said, "Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you've paid up the last cent".

Now, this makes no sense to us in our culture, but it did to Jesus' audience. Remember in Jesus day, really up until 1830 in our own country, there was such a thing as debtor's prison. If you owed somebody money and you refused to pay, they could take you to court. And if the judge ruled against you, you could be thrown into debtor's prison until you repaid. And guess what? You didn't have a chance to repay it, you're in prison. And all that happened was the interest on your debt increased and increased and increased until you could never get out. Jesus was saying it's much better to make peace with your opponent now before he takes you to court, before you run up legal fees, before the judge gives you a ruling that you don't like, before your debt increases anymore from your imprisonment.

How does that relate to our relationships? Reconcile today rather than tomorrow. Let me be real practical with this. Amy and I rarely argue, but when we do, and if it's my fault, which it usually is, I've learned the hard way after 45 years of marriage it's much better if I ask her forgiveness today than wait, because the longer I wait, the more my debt increases, day by day by day, and frankly, the bigger the debt becomes, the less likely I'm to ask forgiveness. The longer it goes, the less likely she is to grant forgiveness. Settle it today. And that's what Jesus is saying. He's saying that reconciliation is more powerful than revenge, and he's saying reconciling today is wiser than reconciling tomorrow. What does Jesus have to say about relationships? Here's the Jesus standard for righteousness. Keep a check, keep a watch on your anger and your words, and if either gets out of hand, work for reconciliation, and do it quickly.
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