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Living together as followers of Jesus

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Matthew 7:1-12

Introduction

Some of you may know that I’ve been recently living amongst college community as part of the theological college I attend. There are a range of personalities and people from different backgrounds who live in close proximity to one another. Close proximity makes the social distancing thing a bit tricky!

I think the idea is that approximately 1/3rd of our learning is done in the classroom, 1/3rd in textbooks, and 1/3rd in community…Not only do we attend lectures together, we share life, lunches and dinners, we pray, and we play.

Here’s a picture in our common room that might give you a glimpse into what the play life is like. Once upon a time, there was a rugby team called the cellmate- and you might even see a familiar face in the back row on your left!

Living in community shapes our learning and formation. For example, the way we interact, handle differences and manage stress and sin are no doubt instrumental to help us grow together as followers of Jesus. It’s been said that learning and living in community can be full of joy as well as tears.

Do you find yourself a part of any communities? Well, I suppose you are at church! It’s great to hear how the fathers and children had a good weekend away last weekend. What might you find easy or hard about being part of community life?

As Jesus addresses the disciples on the sermon on the mount, he teaches a group of disciples who are in fellowship with one another, and not just individuals in isolation. It’s as important to us as it is for the disciples in the day.

Today, as we read Matthew 7:1-12, I hope we consider what characterises our community and our relationships as we seek to follow Jesus together? How do we live well together?

Today, In Matthew 7, If you find it helpful to take notes, we cover three broad points

1. Realise our need: judging, hypocrisy and discernment (7:1-6

2. God meets our needs (7:7-11)

3. Realise the needs of others: the Golden rule (7:12)

Living well together mean we realise our need before God, we ask God to meet our needs in prayer, and we consider the needs of one another.

1.Realise our need: judging, hypocrisy and discernment (7:1-6)

Our first main point highlights some issues that address outward behaviour yet also reveals deeper needs.

Let’s first take a look at why Jesus tells them not to judge. Judging others invites others to judge them, and in fact, it invites god’s judgement on them.

Matthew 7:1–2 CSB

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use.

He is not saying that we are to avoid making any sort of judgements. For example, like whether the ball is in or out, whether the try is awarded, or which film deserves the best picture award. Nor is he saying that the process and court of law are irrelevant. Nor is he saying we should not help one another deal with sin in a trusted relationship and confront it if necessary.

We have intellect, reason, and critical faculties. We see that in verse 6 Jesus urges his disciples to be discerning about giving what is holy to dogs and throwing pearls to pigs.

So what is Jesus saying? When you think of a judge, what do you think of? A man with a white curly wig, ruling over the court of law? Perhaps Jesus is telling his disciples not to put on the wig of superior judgement ,to think they know best or are superior or moral over what others should or should not do…Perhaps they took pride in how well their own righteousness…how well they thought they followed the laws and looked down on those who didn’t.

Yet Jesus reminds the disciples that they actually lived under God’s judgement, and their attitude to their neighbour mattered. No matter how righteous they thought they were, they were sinners before a Holy God.

This is God’s standard:​

Matthew 5:48 CSB

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We all fall far short of God’s prefect standard and righteousness. The disciples needed to be reminded of the promises of showing mercy and forgiveness.

Remember

​Matthew 5:7 CSB

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

and

Matthew 6:14 CSB

“For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.

In doing so, they would also receive mercy and forgiveness. Yet, by judging others, they would also be judged. Jesus reminds them that they lived before God and they ought not to judge one another, …what the disciples needed was to see their own need before God.

Perhaps we live in a somewhat competitive environment, in our schools, workplaces, its just as easy to compete and compare ourselves to one another. We tend to look horizontally,  and perhaps look down on someone or think they are less valued because of the work he or she does, or because of someone’s grade/ performance or income, or even because of someone’s lifestyle. Our society seems to assign value to each other by how we dress, where we live, where we eat, which clubs we have access to, but in reality, we are not to judge over one another…what matters is how we live vertically before God our judge and maker.

The next issue Jesus addresses is hypocrisy, related to the critical attitude that fails to see our own needs. It appears that the disciples were not only prone to think highly and too much of themselves, but they also failed to see their own sin and their problems. It seems that the disciples wanted to help others, but they needed to first help themselves. The hypocrites wanted to attend to the other’s needs before their own.

Take a look at Jesus’s rebuke in verse 3

​Matthew 7:3–5 CSB

Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

The disciples made a big deal of someone’s small shortcomings but they failed to see their own issues. To live well with others, not only were they not to judge others, but they had to address their own sin. Although they saw a little speck or fleck in someone’s eye. They had trouble seeing the plank or big beam of wood in their own eye. Just as a carpenter was familiar with the big beams used to make the buildings, the disciples weren’t seeing clearly because it blocked their vision.

Do you remember the safety instructions when you board the plane before take off? “In case of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks above your seat will deploy, please place the mask first and then assist your child or other passengers”

Help yourself first so that you can help others.

The hypocrites wanted to help others and give others the oxygen mask, yet Jesus told them that they needed to save themselves first. They needed to realise they had a need and needed saving. How might we think others have the problems, when in fact, the greater problem is within us. Our perception is flawed, Clouded by sinful hearts, double-mindedness, people-pleasing natures.

Our inability to see sin for what it is seen in other parts of scripture:

The prophet Jeremiah reminds us

​Jeremiah 17:9 CSB

The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?

John also says

​1 John 1:8  CSB

If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Are we aware of the issues we all have, our sinful tendency to see others faults and not our own, to set a double standard? Perhaps we think we know better and we elevate ourselves above others because of age, station in life, our experiences. There may be some truth in this, but we need to be careful that in fact, we are equally sinful before our creator and judge and in need of His mercy and forgiveness.

Friends, we may be in danger but not be aware of it. Some of us may need to stop playing judge, stop our double-mindedness and stop our condemning attitude and realise that the righteousness God accepts is way beyond our own efforts. The type of community that characterises believers and followers of Jesus is one that is not proud or hypocritical, yet one that sees our sin and our need before God.

Jesus moves on to third issue: gospel opposition. He urges the disciples to be discerning. He warns them that some people from outside the faith might mistreat them and their message about the good news of the Kingdom, and warns the disciples to discern their level of investment.

We see contrasts here between clean and unclean, precious and despised. Look at verse 6,

​Matthew 7:6 CSB

Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.

This is similar to the incident later in Matthew 10 where Jesus says

Matthew 10:14  CSB

If anyone does not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that house or town.

Jesus urges the disciples to be discerning of how others would treat them and their message. The had something of great worth, like pearls and treasures, namely words of life in the gospel, yet contrasted to pigs that were ritually unclean, or dogs, that were not the house puppies of today but probably wild scavengers that wouldn’t appreciate that which is holy.

Perhaps some of us may have struggled with a work colleague or friend who opposes you because you are a Christian and you’ve been hoping to share the gospel with them? Or perhaps it’s the family member who is not only closed to hearing but becomes offensive to you. As much as you try to invest in them, as much as you are kind and loving, they just take advantage of you. Perhaps it is an instance where discernment is required.

So we’ve looked at the first of how Jesus outlines a community ought to function. We’ve identified some issues. Not only are we not to judge, nor be hypocritical, the reason is because we need to see our own needs before our Judge and creator. We have something of great treasure in the gospel and need discernment.

How then can we be discerning? When do we stay, when do we go? This leads us to our next point

2. God meets our needs (7:7-11)

Jesus exhorts us to Go to God in prayer to meet our need. A community seeking to live righteously goes to God to meet our needs. We need to ask God in prayer.  Jesus encourages us to Go to our Heavenly Father in prayer because that is how God intends to relate to us, and we are reminded of His loving nature and provision. In verses 7 and 8, we see three actions which complement each other like a beautifully sounding chord. The three actions, like three notes, ring out so that we hear the provision of our Heavenly Father.

Matthew 7:7–11 CSB

“Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Who among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him.

In stark contrast to our human limitations that need discernment about pearls, pigs, giving what is holy and dogs, we see the steadfast love of the Heavenly Father who gives good gifts to his Children who ask Him.

It was thought that possibly stones and bread looked alike. However, they are in start contrast.…One is good for food and nourishment whist the other is just stone cold. In the same way, a fish and snake (possibly an eel from the lake) may have looked alike yet were functionally different. Our heavenly Father knows what is for our true good and nourishment. As we seek to live righteously in community, we are reminded that God meets our needs and we can pray to him and ask Him.

We read earlier at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in

​Matthew 5:6 CSB

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

We might see children ask for many things that are probably not too healthy for them. You may observe this in children. For instance, they want to be filled with more ice cream, sugar, screen time, computer games etc. We may realise that it’s not healthy but they may not agree.

Our heavenly Father knows what is truly for our good.

Some among us may question this. Some of us may have been struggling to pray. We may feel like we’ve not seen fruit or we doubt God’s power. We might wonder if God really cares? Jesus encourages his followers to come to God in prayer. We see here an open invitation to ask, seek and knock, and the promise of God to answer and meet us because He is good.

When faced with struggles and sin, when faced with the realisation that we have been running our own lives, confronted by pride or hypocrisy, or in need to discern what is best, have you asked God to provide what you need? Prayer is a gift to us . As a community seeking to honour God, let us be characterised by prayerfulness. Our natural instinct may be to work harder, do more, but let’s approach God, whether that be on our own, in our families, with friends, in small groups, whatever the way, may we be thankful that God answers our prayers.

At this point, I’d like to address the person who may have come along today who is considering Christianity but not yet placed faith in Jesus. I hope you see here that Christianity is about a relationship with God. It’s not about doing the right things , not about just moral rules like not judging others or not being a hypocrite. Its about grace…and love…, realising our need that we stand in place to be judged, that we have sin…that we have great need that we can’t meet ourselves. But what we also see, is that Our Father in Heaven, through the Lord Jesus, meets our greatest need…

The Father invites us to come to him through Jesus the Son, to enter into a relationship with Him. The Lord Jesus makes it possible, by his perfect life and death, to be our righteousness. A community that follows Jesus realises our need for Him, and depends on Him through prayer.

Some of you may know the song Amazing grace, the words of the first verse may ring in many of our ears:

Amazing Grace,

How sweet, the sound

that saved, a wretch, like me

I once, was lost, but now am found,

was blind, but now, i see

Friends, do you see? Have you celebrated the amazing grace, that brings us to the Father, from far off to near, proud to humble, from self dependent to trusting? As a community that seeks to follow Jesus, we live in His righteousness and By His grace.

3. Realise the needs of others: the Golden rule (7:12)

From seeing one’s own need of the Gospel, asking God to meet our needs, Followers of Jesus now consider one another. Take a look at verse 12.

​Matthew 7:12 CSB

Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

This verse is somewhat of a gold nugget that captures the heart of the issue- being concerned about our neighbour. Living in the Kingdom means thinking of oneself less, and thinking more about the other person. It’s about putting ourselves in the shoes of our neighbours, to not judge them, or criticise, but to be ready to serve.  How often do you think you go about considering whether or not you would be willing to do for others what you would want them do for you? What cost might that be on your time, or your money, or perhaps your other priorities? Are we too busy looking inwards that we find it hard to look outwards? Are we aware of the needs of our neighbour? why not pick up the phone, or arrange a time to go for a walk or a meal to catch up? Perhaps you’ve been busy with many things, but living as a follower of Jesus means looking out for another. It means inter-dependence, and community.

The way of the kingdom means loving our neighbour, for this is the Law and the Prophets. We have echoes of The greatest law which is to Love God with all our heart, and the next, to love our neighbour as ourselves.  Yet As we hear the words of Jesus, we also see his example.  We need to hold on to the Righteousness that He has given us, as he points us to the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets in Himself. Remember Jesus words to the disciples earlier on the Mount.

​Matthew 5:17 CSB

“Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

Jesus is the suffering servant, who humbled himself at the cross so that the Law and the Prophets would be fulfilled. He calls us to follow Him. Just as he served us, we follow him by loving our neighbour.  In the letter to the Galatians, Apostle Paul urges the believers to Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus,

​Philippians 2:5–8 CSB

Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. As we follow Jesus, our community is shaped by humility modelled by the Lord Jesus and prayerful dependence on God. We must think less of self and more of the other.

It’s by grace that we are saved. Knowing that our Lord is gracious and compassionate, and restores those who confess and repent, on this side of heaven, i think we need to be realistic. We are sinners saved by grace and declared righteous yet the battle with sin is ongoing. Sin will be an imposition and imposture on our individual lives and on our community life. We may see the scars of sin in our own lives, our families, our church. Brother and sisters, we are sinners saved by grace, and our brothers and sisters in the church or christian community may hurt and disappoint us as well.. Yet as God’s spirit works in us to reveal our sin and meet our needs. When we see judgementalism, hypocrisy or just thinking we can run our lives our way, we need to respond in repentance and faith as we trust that God knows better and provides our needs. We can be free of guilt and shame because Jesus clothes us in His Righteousness. Yet the christian life is a pattern of ongoing confession and repentance and faith. We can celebrate the gift of prayer, and god’s loving nature. And we can see at the Cross, His great love for us, that we those sinners, may go free.

Get people from different backgrounds ,personalities into a room, and perhaps see how we struggle with our self centredness and brokenness. Christians still struggle, but we have a reason to celebrate. Our fellowship is shaped by the Lord Jesus and His Word, and we stand in his righteousness.  What will shape our community?

As we draw to a close today, we’ve been reminded of a new community shaped by our Lord Jesus, by His humility and service to us. As we look at our issues, we see our sin and our need. Yet we can Go to our Heavenly Father who meets our need in prayer and then let us consider each other’s needs.