“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. ” (Matthew 15:18, ESV)
Nothing is more difficult to preach than a sermon that has brought conviction to the preacher. Over the course of the seven-plus years that I have been preaching, I have experienced several "opportunities for growth" where the Holy Spirit has brought conviction upon my heart in the process of preparing and delivering a sermon. I think this is good! Especially given the fact that pastors are people too, we sin! It is my prayer each and every time I deliver a sermon, that God's Word would be spoken through me and that I would have enough sense to get out of the way so that His Spirit can work through me. This week is one of those instances where God is working heavily upon my heart as a pastor and more importantly, a follower of Christ.
In preparing for this Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:21-37, God has brought a conviction upon my heart that I would like to share with you, both to bring healing to my heart (James 5:16) and hopefully to encourage you to do the same.
A key passage for me this week is Matthew 5:21-26, where Jesus says in verse 22 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire." (ESV). It is amazing that many years prior to the advent of psychology and emotional awareness training, that Jesus is giving some practical help to those who struggle with anger. Most potent for me this week is Jesus' reference to "fool". In the Greek language, the word for "fool" is moros (where we get the modern word for "moron"). It seems there is a progression from feelings of anger, to insulting a fellow brother (or sister), to the most extreme form of acting upon our feelings of anger, in this case calling someone a fool (or moron).
Just prior to these verses, Jesus speaks of coming not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). Jesus is not being legalistic here, but is speaking very practically in that matters of our heart eventually surface somehow! As a counselor, I have worked with several individuals and families seeking to help them discover these emotional time-bombs before they explode in actions that one may later regret. Truth be told, I have needed help in this area myself (I am a firm believer that no pastor or counselor can be effective without having been a "counselee" themselves). But there is hope! Just as James 5:16 calls us to confess our sins "so that you may be healed" (emotionally, physically, spiritually), Jesus calls us to seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters before it's too late! (while there is still time! Matthew 5:25).
Maybe you are needing some encouragement to seek reconciliation with someone whom you have wronged in your heart, or maybe you are needing to offer forgiveness to someone who has hurt you. My friend, let it be known that Jesus is in the business of healing our emotional woundedness, and the way to healing resides in knowing that Jesus has carried our afflictions and has suffered for our sake (Isaiah 53:4-5). Seek out those with whom you have had anger toward, and ask their forgiveness. Forgive them in your heart and before God. And, don't forget to forgive yourself! God has already offered His great and wonderful gift of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Allow yourself to receive that forgiveness, even now. And if you don't know Jesus, ask him into your heart, to forgive your sins. If you need to re-commit to the Lord, do so now in prayer. God's love and grace covers a multitude of sin. God can handle our doubts, fears, and our reluctance to come to him. Let God heal your inner wounds of anger and fear.