This sermon is from the series THINGS JESUS TAUGHT US and was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log Georgia on Sunday, November 17, 2013 by Pastor Paul Mims.
Matthew 5:33-37During a trial, in a small Georgia town, the local prosecuting attorney called his first witness to the stand. The witness was a proper well-dressed elderly lady, the Grandmother type, well spoken, and poised. She was sworn in on the Bible and asked if she would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help her God.
The prosecuting attorney approached the woman and asked, “Mrs. MacDuffie, do you know me?’” She responded, “Why, yes I do know you, Mr. Williams. I’ve known you since you were a young boy and frankly, you’ve been a big disappointment to me. You lie, cheat on your wife, manipulate people and talk badly about them behind their backs. You think you’re a rising big shot when you haven’t the sense to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper-pushing shyster. Yes, I know you quite well.”
The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, “Mrs. MacDuffie, do you know the defense attorney?”
She again replied, “Why, yes, I do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He’s lazy, bigoted, has a bad drinking problem. The man can’t build or keep a normal relationship with anyone and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. Yes, I know him.”
The defense attorney almost fainted. Laughter mixed with gasps, thundered throughout the courtroom and the audience was on the verge of chaos.
At this point, the judge brought the courtroom to silence, called both counselors to the bench, and in a very quiet voice said, “If either of you morons asks her if she knows me, you’re going to jail!”
I do not have to tell you that we live in a world where truth is very scarce in all professions and circumstances. Almost everyone is suspect as to whether they are telling the total truth. It is true of preachers, advertisers, lawyers, salesmen, clerks, doctors, teachers, writers, politicians, scientists, and any profession you can name.
We talk a lot. If you are an average person, between the time when you say “Good Morning” and “Good Night” you will have had about thirty different conversations in a day’s time. Most of us speak about 25 to 30 thousand words a day. That amounts to about 15 years of our lives continuously talking.
Jesus was very concerned about our talking and taught us how he wants his followers to talk. So, he probes us with the question, “What language do you speak?” By the term “language” is not meant English, Spanish, French, or many of earth’s other languages. He wants to know if we speak false language, vile language, compromising language, or truthful language. He wants us to not have to assure our hearers with an oath.
Do you remember when you were a child you would say something to a friend and they would question you as to whether or not it was true? The response was, “Cross my heart and hope to die if I am telling a lie.”
I. THE LANGUAGE OF OATHS “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep oaths you have made to the Lord. But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.” (vv.33-35)
The Jewish teachers always insisted that the truth was paramount in the faith. They held that four kinds of people were shut out from the presence of God: the scoffer, the hypocrite, the liar, and the slanderer. They taught that a person who breaks his word is as bad as an idolater.
The Old Testament scriptures were very strong on oaths: “If a man vows a vow unto the Lord, or swears an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” (Numbers 20:2) “When you shall vow a vow unto the Lord your God, you shalt not slack to pay it; for the Lord your God shall surely require it of you; and it would be sin in you.” (Deuteronomy 23:21,22)
In the time of Jesus the religious people were taking oaths where no oaths were necessary. They were using sacred language in a frivolous way. Jesus saw that they were reviling the sacred with their irreverent speech. When they would swear using God’s name they thought that they were bringing God into the situation. Jesus told them that God was already in the situation. There could not be a language for the Temple and another for the marketplace in the life of a believer. God must be honored in both places.
For us there cannot be one language for the church and another for the secular world for all of life is sacred and our Lord wants his followers to be the same in both worlds.
Edgar Guest wrote:
I have to live with myself, and so I want to be fit for myself to know;
I want to be able as the days go by always to look myself in the eye.
I don’t want to stand with the setting sun and hate myself for the things I’ve done
I can never hide myself from me, I see what others may never see.
I know what others may never know, I can never fool myself and so
Whatever happens, I want to be self-respecting and conscience free.
II. THE LANGUAGE THAT COMES FROM THE EVIL ONE “And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (vv.36,37)
We must all ask ourselves, “Is my word completely trustworthy and God honoring? Do people trust me for the strength of my character so they do not require an oath from me?”
Three boys were late for school one day. They had stopped off and gone fishing. When they arrived at school about eleven o’clock the principle said, “Boys, where have you been?” “Oh, we had a flat tire on the way here.” “Fine, he said to the each of the boys, ‘You sit here, you sit here, and you sit here. I am going to give you a test today. Which tire was it?” They were found out to be lying.
Jesus said that language that is untruthful, vile, and profanes the sacred comes from the evil one.
Consider the vile language we hear from others around us and through movies and television. Where does it come from? It comes from the atheistic and corrupt writers in the media who are obsessed with the “F” word and who have a very limited vocabulary.
Notice the use “Jesus” and “Jesus Christ” or “Christ” as swear words that flow from the lips of both actors and actresses alike. Jesus said that this comes from the evil one. Satan is attacking Jesus thousands of times a day through our media.
It is a very serious thing in the eyes of God to profane his holy name. There was a time when this was done in private. Now it pervades the media and common life.
III. THE LANGUAGE OF REDEMPTION “But I tell you…” (v.34)
Jesus amplified the Old Testament teachings to a higher level and stated that his followers were to be different in their speech because it proceeds from the heart. When Jesus cleans up our hearts, he cleans up our speech.
I read in Christianity Today the testimony of Kristen Powers who is a Democratic commentator at Fox News. She said, “If someone had told me seven years ago that I’d be writing for Christianity Today about I came to believe in God I would have laughed out loud… After college, I worked as an appointee in the Clinton administration from 1992 to 1998. The White House surrounded me with intellectual people who, if they had any deep faith in God, never expressed it. Later, when I moved to New York, where I worked in Democratic politics, my world became increasingly secular. Everyone I knew was politically left-leaning, and my group of friends was overwhelmingly atheists.
To the extent that I encountered Christians, it was in the news cycle…I didn’t feel that I was missing much. So when I began dating a man who was into Jesus, I was not looking for God. In fact, the week before I met him, a friend had asked me if I had any deal breakers in dating. My response: “Just nobody who is religious.”
A few months into our relationship, my boyfriend called to say he had something important to talk to me about. He said, “Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?” My stomach sank. I started to panic. Oh no, was my first thought. He’s crazy.
When I answered no, he asked, “Do you think you could ever believe it?” He explained that he was at a point in life when he wanted to get married and felt that I could be that person, but that he couldn’t marry a non-Christian…As he talked, I grew conflicted. On the one hand, I was creeped out. On the other hand, I had enormous respect for him. He was smart, educated, and intellectually curious. I remember thinking, “What if this is true and I’m not even willing to consider it?”
A few weeks later, I went to church with him. I was so clueless about Christianity that I didn’t know that some Presbyterians were evangelicals. So when we arrived at the Redeemer Presbyterian Church, I was shocked and repelled by what I saw. I was used to the high-church liturgy of my youth in the Episcopal Church in Alaska. We were meeting in an auditorium with a band playing what I later learned was “praise music.” I thought, “How am I going to tell him I can never come back?”
But then, the pastor preached. I was fascinated. I had never heard a pastor talk about the things he did. Tim Keller’s sermon was intellectually rigorous, weaving in art, history, and philosophy. I decided to come back and hear him again. Soon, hearing Keller speak on Sunday became the highlight of my week. I thought of it as just an interesting lecture –not really church. I just tolerated the rest of it in order to hear him. He usually brings in Jesus at the end of the sermon to tie his points together. For the first few months, I left feeling frustrated: Why did he have to ruin a perfectly good talk with this Jesus nonsense?
Each week, Keller made a case for Christianity. He also made the case against atheism and agnosticism. He expertly exposed the intellectual weaknesses of a purely secular worldview. I came to realize that even if Christianity wasn’t the real thing, neither was atheism.
I began to read the Bible… Then one night in 2006, on a trip to Taiwan, I woke up in what felt like a strange cross between a dream and reality. Jesus came to me and said, “Here I am.” It felt so real I didn’t know what to make of it. I was so traumatized by Jesus visiting me.
I tried to write off the experience as misfiring synapses, but I couldn’t shake it. When I returned to New York a few days later, I was lost. I suddenly felt God everywhere and it was terrifying. More important, it was unwelcome. It felt like an invasion. I started to fear I was going crazy.
I was told, “You need to be in a Bible study.” I didn’t like the sound of that, but I was desperate. My whole world was imploding. My boy friend told me he thought we should break up. We did. How was I going to tell my family or friends about what had happened? Nobody would understand. I didn’t understand. It says a lot about the family I grew up in that one of my most pressing concerns was that Christians would try to turn me into a Republican.
I remember walking into the Bible study. I had a knot in my stomach. In my mind, only weirdos and zealots went to Bible studies. I don’t remember what was said that day. All I know is that when I left, everything had changed. I’ll never forget standing outside that apartment on the Upper East Side and saying to myself, “It’s true. It’s completely true.” The world looked entirely different, like a veil had been lifted off it. I had not an iota of doubt. I was filled with indescribable joy.
The horror of the prospect of being a devout Christian crept back in almost immediately. I spent the next few months doing my best to wrestle away from God. It was pointless. Everywhere I turned, there He was. Slowly there was less fear and more joy. The Hound of Heaven had pursued me and caught me – whether I liked it or not.”
Kristen had come out of the secular, atheistic, agnostic culture of our day into being able to speak the language of redemption. Behind her speech now was a redeemed heart. And it would show in her writing for USA TODAY, NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE, THE DAILY BEAST and in Her appearances on Fox News. And that is making all the difference in her life. And He can do the same in your life!
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!