Temptations of the Digital Age - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Selected Scriptures

  • 2019-08-18 AM
  • Sermons

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This past week I read an article about a man named Steve Irwin. Steve Irwin was catching crocodiles by the age of nine. In his twenties, he was hired to work for the Australian government as a trapper and removing crocodiles from populated areas. Eventually, was over a park there in Australia and he met and married Terri Rains from Eugene, Oregon, who actually came to the park as a tourist. They met there and after they got to know each other, they decided to be married. And they invited, and I don't recommend this, but they invited a television crew to join them on their camping honeymoon. Frankly, I don't recommend either of those. The resulting program was picked up by the Discovery channel, and the series became an international hit; Steve Irwin became known as the Crocodile Hunter.

It was in September of 2006 that he was filming a new series called, Ocean's Deadliest, off the Great Barrier Reef. He was swimming with dangerous creatures as was not uncommon for him and specifically in this case, swimming with a sting ray, that are not ordinarily aggressive toward humans, and in the process of swimming with the sting ray, he came over the top of the ray, when its tail came up and spiked him in the chest. The serrated, poisonous spine pierced Steve Irwin's heart. This entire incident was captured on video, and the video showed him pulling the barb from his chest moments before he lost consciousness and his soon death. Here's a man who was comfortable being extremely close to danger.

We might argue, too comfortable. And that dangerous animal struck his heart and took his life. As I read that story, I thought that is a wonderful parable for what happens to us spiritually every day of our lives. We live in a world surrounded by danger, and its easy for us to forget the danger to our hearts and ultimately our spiritual lives, from the sins that surround us, especially in our day, those that come at us from the digital world. And if we are not careful, and if we swim too close, one of those deadly sins can pierce our hearts and destroy our lives.

Last week, we began to consider the unique temptations that we face in the digital world, the digital age in which we live. Through your devices and the Internet, and as I said last time, I am not suggesting that you get rid of them, they're useful tools, and I have no desire to return the pre-digital age. But, we need to be aware of their dangers, and through those devices and the Internet that you use every day, that I use every day, we are confronted with real, serious, dangerous, temptations in several specific categories.

Last week, we considered, what I would say is the principle temptation that comes to us through the digital age, the most destructive, and that is, substituting the trivial for the essential. This happens every day. We noted the common expressions of this temptation, and that is to substitute personal opinion for biblical truth. This happens in a couple of ways. We can do so either by embracing the mindset of our age or by promoting our own pet views, becoming the champion of those views that are not clearly spelled out in Scripture, and in so doing, distract ourselves, and others from those things that are truly essential.

We also saw that this danger of substituting the trivial for the essential comes when we substitute worthless distractions for biblical priorities. In other words, we do whatever, instead of those things that have always been the priorities of believers. Specifically, worship, Scripture meditation, prayer, and praise. Our digital devices, in many cases, have displaced those things to some degree, from our modern lives. And we also looked at substituting virtual relationships for biblical relationships.

Today, I want us to move to another category of sins. We've looked at the principle temptation. Let's consider the internal temptations. And, with these temptations comes the very real danger of substituting powerful internal heart sins, for the pure heart that we are to have as believers. The digital age has brought new, compelling, destructive temptations of the heart. It's not that they're new in the sense that these temptations have never existed, rather, it's brought them at us in a new and unique way. What are these internal temptations that can seriously damage us, that can pierce our hearts and destroy our spiritual lives?

Well, the first and greatest of these temptations is pride, self-love, and self-promotion. Pride, self-love and self-promotion, of course, all of those are really one and the same with different expressions. This issue is so pandemic, that if we were forced to try to capture the digital age with a single sin, it would be this one. I think nothing reflects this trend toward self-love and self-promotion any better than the selfie. The innocent selfie.

Do you understand that not so long ago, taking pictures of yourself was considered so unacceptable that it was a joke, you were a joke, if you had pictures of yourself in your wallet or in your home? But today, Facebook and Instagram are filled with them; they're everywhere. But the Internet and social media is awash in pride and self-promotion far beyond the relatively harmless selfie.

It has become acceptable, even morally good, to fill your social media with comments and photos that overtly tout your achievements, your accomplishments, even your good looks. That, by the way, is why, another reason, I don't have a social media account, so I don't want to be deceptive, and try to portray something that isn't true. You know, it is amazing to me how often I read on the Internet someone says this, "I am just so proud of myself." That should strike us as very strange, but sadly, it doesn't. It's everywhere, I mean when I finish a bike ride, which I enjoy doing, the ap that I use, gives me an opportunity to post my amazing accomplishment for all of my friends to read about.

Now some realize, that such overt pride and self promotion is not good so they resort to subtler means, but they still design their posts, and their photos to illicit the praise and admiration of others. I mean, you do so through things like the humble brag. You know what the humble brag is, right? It's where you say things like this, "I am so grateful to God, that He enabled my incredibly brilliant children to graduate with 4.0 GPA's. Now you understand what that is, right? You understand that it's like transparent to most people? Or "I thank God that He gifted me to be the most successful person in my company." In this somewhat subtler approach, people post only positive things about themselves. And what this does, is it creates a huge gap between their perfect Facebook or Instagram world and the reality of their lives. Or they stage a perfect Pinterest shot and what's in front of the camera, presents them as this wonderfully creative person consumed with beauty that permeates their home, but the rest of the house, just outside the camera lens, is an absolute wreck.

Christians, in the interest of keeping everyone informed, find creative ways to actually post all of their good works for others to see, rather than doing them for God to see. I think one of the great temptations to pride that comes from the Internet is the fact that there is egalitarianism. Egalitarianism reigns, that is, this level playing field in which we all appear to be equal. And for some, that leads to the conclusion that they're an expert because they've talked about something, you know, on-line. And that leads them, then, to conclude that they're qualified to correct everyone else, and they do. And, of course, the word pride, has become the key word for a number of sinful choices, including and perhaps especially, the LGBTQ community, and its cause, pride. In our day, and in the digital age, it's like a virtue.

But what does the Bible say? What does God say? What does the Bible say specifically about pride? Let me just, and by the way, with all of these that I am going to touch on this morning, I'm really, just giving you an overview. I admit that, in the light of the time we have with the Lord's table and just the time period, I am not going to be able to cover them in depth. Let me just kind of give you something to think about, give you some hooks on which to hang some things.

What does the Bible say about pride? Number one, pride was the first sin in the universe, conceived in the heart of Satan. You realize this is where sin began? In Ezekiel 28, you have the prophet Ezekiel first addressing the King of Tyre, a human king, who certainly represented evil and who was motivated by Satan and even, I think, empowered by Satan. But about the middle of Ezekiel 28, things begin to change and Ezekiel begins to talk about someone who is greater than the King of Tyre. Someone who was a covering cherub. Someone who existed in the garden of God, and so forth. You're talking about Satan, you're talking about the person who inspired the King of Tyre. And this is what Ezekiel says about Satan in Ezekiel 28:17, "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor."

Where did sin begin? It began by a spontaneous combustion in the heart of the greatest creature God ever made. The prime minister of heaven. He was lifted up with pride, and that's where it all began.

Come down to the world and secondly, you discover that pride is the greatest and defining sin of humanity. In Isaiah, chapter 2. Isaiah, turn there with me, Isaiah 2. Isaiah's talking about the coming Day of the Lord. And, of course, there are sort of hints of that in what happened in his time, but he's talking about something much greater, that has to yet to be fulfilled, that will be fulfilled when God takes back this planet from the usurper. And in describing that coming Day of the Lord, and you'll see overtones here of even the book of Revelation, in apocalyptic literature, he wants to identify the defining sin of humanity. When God comes to set everything straight, what does He do? He deals with pride. Notice chapter 2 of Isaiah, verse 10,

Enter the rock hide in the dust

From the terror of the Lord and from the splendor of His majesty.

[And here's what God will do on the Day of the Lord],

The proud look of man will be abased

And the loftiness of man will be humbled,

And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning

[Notice this],

Against everyone [It's not just humanity as a whole, it's every individual] who is proud and lofty, [and against everyone] who is lifted up,

That he may be abased.

[And then he has several verses that sort of picture that in different images, and look at verse 17],

The pride of man will be humbled

And the loftiness of men will be abased;

And the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

You understand how bad pride is? When God wants to characterize the rebellion of humanity, how does He describe it? In the sin of pride.

Thirdly, God hates pride. Proverbs 16:5, and again, notice the comprehensive language. "Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord." There's that word that describes the sort of worst to God. Abomination means, it's repulsive to God. God is violently opposed to it. And, "Assuredly," that proud person, "will not be unpunished."

Fourthly, Scripture says, that believers must hate pride and pursue humility. Proverbs 8:13 says, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil." If you're going to fear God, you have to hate evil. What evil? Listen to the rest of the verse, "Pride and arrogance...I hate."

Let me ask you, do you hate pride? Do you hate pride? Colossians 3:12 says, "So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on... humility." Put on humility. This is what the Scriptures teach about pride. But how do we do that; I mean, let's just be honest, there isn't one person here this morning who hasn't sinned in this way. We are all guilty of pride. Not like once in our lifetime, but like every day. How do we do this? How do we put off pride and put on humility?

Well I'm going to give you a little list. I wish I had time to go into them. Just write them down, or if you don't get them all, they'll be posted on-line, but here are some biblical ways to put off this terrible enemy of pride, and to put on humility:

Number one, don't measure yourself favorably against others. In 2 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 12, Paul is speaking of the pride of the false teachers in Corinth, and of their self-promotion and he says, when they, "compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding." He says, don't do that, don't measure yourselves against one another. And then in verse 18 of 2 Corinthians 10, he says, "it is not he who commends himself who is approved, but he whom the Lord commends." So, don't measure yourself favorably against others, just don't. Don't compare yourself against others, in a favorable way.

Number two, don't subtly, or overtly promote or praise yourself. Proverbs 27:2, "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth." Why don't you try posting that on your social media account? A stranger and not your own lips. Proverbs 25:27, "It is not good to eat much honey, Nor is it glory to search out one's own glory." You hear what the Proverb is saying? It doesn't bring you glory, when you're the one proclaiming your glory. That's a fabrication, that's a pretense. Nobody else is celebrating your glory. It's just you. It's a lie.

Number three, remind yourself, you have nothing you haven't received. This is my favorite and this verse is in my mind all the time. This is my own personal short sword of the Spirit as it's described in Ephesians 6, to fight the sin of pride in my own life because we're all battling that. But, 1 Corinthians 4:7 says this, "What do you have that you did not receive?" What's the answer to that question? Nothing. You were born naked. And whatever you came into the world with, naked, that is, with maybe, how you look, or the brain you have, or whatever else, that was given to you by God as well. There's nothing that you have, you didn't receive. And then he goes on to say, "And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" It's illogical.

Number four, regard others as more important than yourselves. In Philippians 2, in a key passage about humility, where we're told to have the mind of Christ in this way, copy His humility, copy what He did, Paul says, "regard others as more important than yourselves." You want to fight pride in your life? Look around you and say, these people are more important than I am. That's not pretense, by the way, because remember the great commandments, love God, and whom? Yourself? No, love others.

Number five, constantly look for ways to put the needs and interests of others before your own. He goes on there, in that same passage in Philippians 2, after he says consider others better, he says, "don't merely look out for your own interests, but look out for the interests of others." You want to grow toward humility? Stop thinking just about what you need, and start thinking about the needs of the people around you, and move to meet them.

Turn with me to 1 Peter, chapter 5. A couple of years ago, I pointed this passage out to you at length, but let me just remind you. Here in 1 Peter 5, we find three more ways to promote humility in our lives, to battle pride. In the middle of this passage that runs from chapter 5, verse 5 down through verse 7, in the middle of it, you'll notice, there's a quote from the Old Testament. All caps in your Bible. It's the Proverb "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." So, how do we go from being battled by God because of our pride, to receiving His grace in humility? What's the path from pride to humility? Well the commands that surround this Proverb lay out the path. You want to be moving from pride to humility? Here it is.

This is number six in our little list, submit to human authorities. Submit to human authorities, verse 5, "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders." You see, pride doesn't like to be told what to do by anyone, whether it's God, or anybody else. And so we resist human authority, whether it's the elders of the church, whether it's government, whether it's parents, you name it. And Peter says, you want to become humble? Start submitting yourselves to the human authorities God has placed in your life. Because, in doing so, you submit to God Himself.

Number two or number seven in our little list here, serve the menial needs of others. Look at verse 5, "and all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another." He uses a Greek verb there, that means, to gird on the towel of a slave. Now you tell me, what you think Peter's is thinking of, when he says, you need to gird on the towel of a slave? His mind is going back to the upper room, when our Lord got up from that dinner and tied on the towel of a slave and washed the feet of His disciples. Peter is saying, you want to become humble? Start serving other people in the lowliest ways you can think of. That'll help you become humble. Do exactly what Jesus did. He said, I've given you an example. Follow in my steps.

And then, number eight, in verses 6 and 7 here, submit to God's providence. Verse 6 says, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God," meaning your circumstances, "that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all of your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." You want to move from pride to humility? There it is. And it's imperative. But here's what I want you to get believer, listen carefully. Even in the digital age we live in. Even when we are surrounded by pride and self-promotion and self-love as a virtue, God still hates it. And as believers, we must still hate pride and we must deliberately pursue humility.

A second internal sin is covetousness. Covetousness. The digital age feeds covetousness more than at any other time in human history. Take Amazon, for example. Now I am not picking on Amazon. Amazon is incredibly convenient, particularly for those of us who don't particularly care to shop in malls and places like that. I use it. I use it all the time, so I am not saying you shouldn't do this, but I just want you to think about the temptation it invites. With its millions of products from all over the world, it's like walking through history's largest mall. Things that even the wealthiest of people in previous generations could never have purchased because of the distance and the transportation challenges, those things can be ours tomorrow with a simple click. That invites covetousness. For others, Pinterest, becomes a huge source of temptation in this way. Again, let's just be honest with each other. There is a very fine line between appreciating the beauty that others have created and enjoy, and coveting it.

Facebook, Instagram, You Tube, they all awaken covetousness because you read the post, or you see the photos, and the videos that others take, and you find yourself coveting. Coveting their stuff, their success, their appearance, their relationships, their friends, their influence, their lives. You can covet any of those things. You can covet possessions, you can covet money, wealth, clothing, houses, cars, physical appearance, life circumstances, lifestyle, vacations, cars, a spouse, a sexual partner, that's really what pornography is. Success, reputation, you can covet anything. Again, what does the Bible say about covetousness? Is this like a harmless peccadillo that we should embrace like our culture does?

Well, let's start with the fact that it's forbidden in the Ten Commandments. It's the tenth commandment, Exodus 20, verse 17, "You shall not covet [covet what? Well He goes on to say, you shall not covet...] your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey [you say, good there, never had that problem. Ok, maybe you're not going to be so good here?] or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Secondly, covetousness actually characterizes unbelievers. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians, chapter 6. First Corinthians, chapter 6, verse 9. Paul says, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God." Those whose life patterns are characterized by, not that Christians don't sin, we do, but those whose life patterns are characterized habitually by unrighteousness, are not believers. And they're not going to be, they're not in the spiritual kingdom of Christ now, and there not going to be in the future literal kingdom of Christ either.

What's unrighteousness? Well, there's a list that follows and there's a very surprising one here in verse 10, "nor the covetous." They're not going to inherit the kingdom of God. Those whose lives are characterized by covetousness, are not Christians. And then he says, verse 11, "Such were some of you; but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." So recognize, this is not a harmless little thing. Covetousness characterizes the life patterns of unbelievers.

Thirdly, that means it's unacceptable for believers. Paul says to the Ephesian elders in Acts, chapter 20, verse 33, this is an amazing testimony, he was there for three years with them, and he says, "I coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes." Three years and he says I never coveted anything that belonged to anyone else. Romans 13:9 says, the commandment that says "you shall not covet... is summed up in the saying, you shall love your neighbor as yourself." If you really love your neighbor, you're not going to want what is his. Even more serious is 1 Corinthians, chapter 5. This is a shocking text to me, if you're still there in 1 Corinthians, look at it. First Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 9, he says,

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; [talking about church discipline, he said, you misunderstood me, verse 10], I didn't mean the immoral people of this world, [that is, unbelievers], with the covetous, the swindlers, the idolaters, well then you would have to go out of the world. [So I didn't say disengage with unbelievers who do these things, or you would have to leave the world], But actually, [verse 11], I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is...[notice], covetous,... not even to eat with such a one.

Wow! That's a shocking statement. So that means, number four, that covetousness must be replaced with contentment and thankfulness. Contentment, 1 Timothy 6:8, "If we have food and covering, with these we should be content." Hebrews 13:5, "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have." And not just content, thankful for what you have. First Thessalonians 5:18, "In everything give thanks." In your total circumstance, give thanks. "For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Understand covetousness is not a little thing and yet, our culture, particularly the digital world, feeds it.

There's a third heart sin that characterizes the digital age, and that is envy. Envy. Let me define that for you because it's a little, I think, unsure in some people's minds of how to differentiate this, what is envy? Here's a definition. Envy is the displeasure, anger or malice that comes from seeing someone else have what you want. It is the displeasure, anger, or malice that comes from seeing someone else have what you want. It's prompted by seeing the success of others. In Genesis 26: verses 12-14, we read about the success of Isaac.

He sowed in that land and he reaped in the same year a hundred fold; [that was an unheard of crop]. And the Lord blessed him, and the man became rich, and he continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him.

This is how envy works. You see what someone else has, you have displeasure, anger, and feelings of, I'd like for him to get it, because he's got what you want. The digital age feeds the monster of envy. I mean, that's clearly true when it comes to possessions and success.

But I think one of the big temptations in this area, is experiences. A good family friend was telling us that she had to get off of social media because as she read about the lives of others and their exciting experiences, and their travels, and all that they were doing, she found herself comparing their lives to her rather ordinary, humdrum, work-a-day life and she was filled with envy. Now, you can't see into the hearts of others, neither can I, and honestly, some times we can't even correctly diagnose our own hearts, so how do you know if you struggle with envy?

The way you know is because of the sins that accompany envy. Look at Romans, chapter 1. I pointed this out when we were here, Romans, chapter 1, Paul gives a list, at the end of Romans 1, of the sins of pagans, a long list and notice verse 29, the middle of verse 29. He has the expression "full of" which means these sins permeate the hearts of unbelievers, and then he has five nouns.

Notice, first of all, envy, that's our word we're looking at, but then, as I pointed out to you when we worked through this text, the next four words describe the consequences of envy. Where envy is in the heart, these things result: murder, that's often the direct result of envy. I mean that was true of Cain, right? And why he killed Abel. It was true of the murderous thoughts although they didn't carry it out, of Joseph's brothers; they envied him. It was true of the religious leaders of the first century, they handed Jesus over to death, why? Because of envy.

Murder, strife, look at that word. That's the arguments, the state of arguing, and state of conflict, that springs from envy. Deceit, that's taking advantage of someone through underhanded methods because you envy them. Malice, that's hating others so you intentionally try to hurt them, and again, that's often born of envy. So, now you can see whether or not you have an envious heart.

Are those kinds of things present? Let me put it at the bottom level here for you. When you go on the Internet, and when someone makes a harmless post, and the comments they begin to receive are highly argumentative and combative and unexplainably cruel and vicious, those responses are often because of what? Envy. Envy of that person's reputation, their success, their following, their attractiveness, or frankly, I am convinced, even at times, of their niceness, because it confronts the ugly spirit of the person whose writing that. Those who routinely make harsh, critical, negative posts are often envious, so ask yourself, are you tempted to do that? Are you the kind of person who is always doing that on-line? It's often born out of envy. Those who love to attack others, often do so out of a spirit of envy.

What does the Bible say about the sin of envy? Well Proverbs 23:17 says, "Do not let your heart envy sinners, But live in the fear of the Lord always." Fear of God and envying are mutually exclusive. In fact, go to Galatians. Galatians, chapter 5, here Paul lists the deeds of the flesh. Notice, Galatians 5, verse 19, "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident which are..." and it gets to a surprising one down in verse 21, "envying... of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things," that is, as a habit of life, of course, we all are tempted to and actually sin in this way. But if you practice envying, as a habit of life, if this is what characterizes you, then those who practice such things, "will not inherit the kingdom of God."

First Peter, chapter 2, verse 1 says, put aside, lay off like a garment, all envying. It's unacceptable in the life of a Christian. In fact, Titus 3:3 says it's unbelievers who do that. Titus 3:3 says, unbelievers spend their lives in malice and envy.

There's a fourth internal sin that I'll add to my little list here, and it's anger and hatred. Anger and hatred. In recent weeks, in the tragic shootings in our country, we have seen the poison fruit of the anger and hatred that is regularly spread on the Internet. But, let's acknowledge that most of the anger and hatred that happens on the Internet, never shows up in the headlines. Instead, it stays buried in the endless stream of comments that random Americans post on-line. And it is shocking. I try not to read the comments anymore because some of them aren't worth reading they are so vile and vicious. This is the anger and hatred that comes spewing out. It is rampant on the Internet. Typically, the anger and hatred in the digital world are leveled against things like other races and nationalities. Let me tell you, racism is alive and well on planet earth and especially on the Internet. It's also aimed at all human authorities, whether it's government or elders or bosses or parents or teachers; people are, by nature, rebels against God, and against all of the authority He's put in place, and it just comes spewing out. Their anger and hatred.

I think, the most common expression of anger from Christians on the Internet, comes directed, in these ways, I think it comes directed at our political opponents. Those from, the other political party, whichever that might happen to be. Those whose views differ from ours on such things as immigration, gun-control, climate change. Look, I'm not saying you shouldn't have a position on those things, and you can't express those things to others, I am just saying, you should not do so given to intemperate anger. That's a sin.

Cultural opponents are another target of Christian's anger. Those who are opposed to what the Bible teaches. Those who champion such causes as the LGBTQ agenda, abortion, and other sins in our culture. It is absolutely right to hate those sins, and to speak out against them, but it is not right to do, as I have seen, unfortunately, so many professing Christians do, and that is to pour out this anger, and vitriol against with whom we disagree.

Another target, I think, of Christian anger on the Internet, is the outright enemies of the Christian faith. Brothers and sisters, it's wrong for you to be able to go to an atheist site, and see professing Christians pour out anger, and bitterness, and hatred against those people. Listen, the devil is the enemy, not the victims of the devil.

What does the Bible say about anger and bitterness? Proverbs 29:22 says, "An angry man stirs up strife, And a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression." When you get into anger, they're all kinds of sins that accompany it. Proverbs 30, verse 33, "the churning of milk produces butter, So the churning of anger produces strife." That is, argumentative, combative battles. As Christians, we need to be able to disagree without being filled with anger, and hatred, and animosity with those with whom we disagree. I read a meme the other day, that had a picture of Kermit the Frog sipping a cup of tea. And the caption read, and this is good, "Many people don't know this, but you can read something you disagree with on the Internet and just move on with your life."

It's true, you really can. Anger is a serious, serious sin. Go to Matthew, chapter 5. Matthew, chapter 5, our Lord here in the Sermon on the Mount is correcting the misunderstandings of the law that had become prevalent in the first century through the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees. And so, He says this in verse 21, Matthew 5, verse 21, "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder'", that's in the Bible, but here's what they added in the first century, "and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'" What they did by adding that, was they made the external act, the only sin forbidden by this command. And, in addition to that, they made it a purely human matter, something between human beings, as opposed to an offense against God.

Jesus says, No, not true, verse 22, "But I say to you," Here Jesus says, let Me interpret the commandment about murder for you. Here's what it really means. I say to you... "that everyone", again, notice the inclusive language, everyone "who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court."

In other words, Jesus is saying, and by the way, through this verse, the sins aren't getting worse, don't think the sins are getting worse, but the level of judicial involvement is getting worse. It starts with the local court, that's the expression here. Jesus said, if the commandment against murder were enforced in keeping with the spirit with which it was given, you could be found guilty of violating that commandment at the local court. That's what He is saying, by being angry. Just by being angry.

And then He goes on, verse 22, "and whoever says to his brother, 'You good for nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court." Again, that's not worse, He's just saying, sometimes anger is in the heart, that's the first one. Sometimes it comes out of the mouth, in vile language. In attacking the other person. And He's saying, if you're angry enough, to use language that's intended to hurt in your anger another person, then your case could go from the local court to the supreme court, which was required by the way. Because this is a capital offense, murder was a capital offense, that couldn't be done at the local level, it that had to do to the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of Israel. And He's saying, if your case went to the Supreme Court, and they kept the law the way God intended it, you could be liable at the Supreme Court level for murder, because of being angry enough for saying to the person in your home, "You good for nothing." And doing so in anger.

And then what Jesus says next is shocking. "And whoever says, 'You fool,'" again, that's not worse necessarily than "You good for nothing", it's just another expression of deriding a person in anger. "Whoever says, 'You fool', shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell." That is shocking. You know what Jesus says? He says, when you stand before God, if the only thing that's ever happened in your life, is an outburst of anger, in which, you used words to hurt another person, you will go to hell. That's it. And anger alone, can damn a person to eternal hell, Jesus says. And it is in spirit a violation of the law against murder. Because, you may not act on that murderous thought, that murderous expression, but God knows that's what you would do, if you could get away with it.

That's shocking. Look at Ephesians, what about us as believers? How do we respond to this, Ephesians, chapter 4. In verses 26 and 27, he says, if you get angry, he says, don't get angry, but if you do get angry, "don't let the sun go down on your anger." In other words, deal with it before the day is done, because in anger, notice this, you, "give the devil an opportunity", in your life. What do you do with anger, verse 31, "Let all bitterness," and here two words for anger, "wrath and anger." One means clamming up, by the way, that's anger. The person who sulks away, who pouts, who keeps their mouth shut and ignores the other person in their life for days; that's anger. And the person who blows up; that's the other word. He says, don't let these things in your life, let them, "be put away from you." Instead, verse 32, "Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." That's how we're to respond to anger.

Now, do you understand, that these are not innocent sins, these are not pets to get comfortable around? These are dangerous, deadly, soul-destroying sins. If these sins characterize you? If these are the habitual practice of your life? You need the forgiveness of God that's found in Jesus Christ and in His Gospel. Because if these were the only sins you ever committed, you will stand before God, and you will be condemned based on those sins to be eternally separated from His presence. You need to believe in the perfect life, the substitutionary death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that's the only way you can be forgiven. And I pray that you'll do that even this morning.

Believers, have you become too comfortable with these dangerous and deadly sins? You live in a digital age, in which they're just all around you. But if you swim too close, you can pierce your heart and destroy your spiritual life. If you've failed in these areas, and let's again, be honest with each other, we have all failed in these areas. There's not a one of these sins, that there's a single person here, that hasn't committed over the last period of time. It's just the reality. Then we find forgiveness for those sins at the cross which is what we celebrate in the Lord's table. Take a moment and prepare your heart, as the men come.

Our Father, as we come to the Lord's table, we come confessing all of our sins including these deadly, soul-destroying sins. Pride, covetousness, and envy, of anger, hatred. Father, these are part and parcel of the world in which we live. Forgive us for swimming too close. For taking these things to ourselves as if they are pets that can be lived with. Lord, help us to see them for what they are. Forgive us, O God, and help us to resolve to be like Christ in these ways, who never once sinned in these ways.

Father, thank you that because of that, He was able to lay down His life to pay the price for our committing them, so that we could enjoy Your forgiveness. Lord, cleanse us, forgive us, prepare our hearts to remember the forgiveness He purchased at the cross.

We pray In Jesus' name.

Amen.