“Emmanuel’s Target” – Matthew 12:22-37

October 11th, 2015

Matthew 12:22-37 (Mk 3:19-30; Lk 6:43-45; 11:14-23; 12:10)

“Emmanuel’s Target”

 

Service Orientation:  Jesus’ teaching is brutal in that He forces us to see our hearts as they really are.  But His teaching is gracious, hope-filled and loving because He offers Himself as an option by which to liberate us from the destruction which will inevitably be ours if we follow our unredeemed heart.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. — Proverbs 4:23

 

Background Information:

  • This section continues the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law (Jn 16:8).
  • Jesus’ words in this passage are addressed to a hostile audience who refuse to see Him as Emmanuel the Messiah.
  • (v. 22) The man had been in a truly dreadful condition, as all sin’s captives are. The demon had possessed him, and as a result, the man could neither talk nor see.  Matthew has already taught us to think of physical ailments in spiritual terms.  Therefore, we observe that the man could not talk in order to call out to Jesus to save him, nor could he see his way to come to Jesus.  His friends brought this helpless sinner to the Savior, and Jesus healed him immediately.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 212)
  • (v. 23) Existēmi (to be amazed; NIV – astonished) means to be totally astounded, beside oneself with amazement and wonder. One writer suggests that “it means to be literally knocked out of your senses,” and another that “it means to be out of your mind with amazement.”  In ways that we may not fully see from the narrative, this particular miracle was unusually overwhelming, as if Jesus meant to intensify its demonstration of supernaturalness.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 306)
  • Howard Marshall suggests that this connection could have resulted from the title’s being understood particularly in terms of the character of Solomon, who had a reputation for power over evil spirits (NIDNTT, vol. 3, 651). (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 117)

(v. 23) In this context, the Messianic term, “Son of David” has huge significance for David is the only OT character to drive out of a person Satan.  Furthermore, David’s son Solomon is credited with establishing the “incantations” or “rituals” that were used by the exorcists of Jesus’ day to cast out demons.

  • The Greek construction expects a negative response but allows for the possibility that the answer could be yes. (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 116-7)
  • (v. 23) Son of David was one of many scriptural titles for the Messiah (see 2 Sm 7:12-16; Ps 89:3; Isa 9:6-7), and for the people to consider whether Jesus could be the Son of David was a query related to His being the Messiah. That was the title later ascribed to Jesus by the crowds who welcomed Him into Jerusalem as their Messiah and King (Mt 21:9; cf. v. 5).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 306)
  • (v. 24) The Pharisees do not deny the miracle but instead attribute Jesus’ power to Satan. This is a most serious charge, because practicing magic under the influence of Satan was a capital offense, punishable by stoning.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 447)
  • (v. 35) That which fills (NIV – stored up) translates the Greek noun perisseuma, which means great abundance, fullness, or overflow. It carries the idea of excess, which, in the terms of Jesus’ figure, spills over from the heart and out of the mouth in the form of words.  What the heart is full of, will overflow from the mouth.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 319)
  • (v. 36) The basic meaning of argos (careless) is useless, barren, unproductive, or otherwise worthless. Such words include those that are flippant, irresponsible, or in any way inappropriate.  Hypocritical words are among the most careless and worthless that men speak and are, unfortunately, among the most common.  When men self-consciously keep their vocabulary orthodox, moral, and evangelically acceptable while among fellow Christians–for the sake of impressing them or to keep from embarrassing ourselves–those words are careless and worthless in God’s sight, and He will render them against their account.  The calculated hypocrisy of such “holy talk” is a stench in His nostrils.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 320)

 

The reality of who you are starts in your heart.  — Steve Brown

 

The question to be answered is . . . What is Jesus pushing us to understand in these sobering statements?

 

Answer:  That your destiny and your life will be a result of what your heart chooses to embrace and reject.   You will become what your heart treasures.

 

In Scripture the heart represents the seat of thought and will, rather than the seat of emotions (represented by the bowels, or stomach area, as indicated in the KJV renderings of Sg of Sol 5:4; Jer 31:20; Phil 1:8; 2:1; Col 3:12; Philem 7:12, 20; and 1 Jn 3:17).  The heart represents the character of a person, and therefore to say that words reveal what the heart is like is to say they reveal what the person is like.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 318)

 

Heart is used in Scripture as the most comprehensive term for the authentic person. It is the part of our being where we desire, deliberate, and decide. It has been described as “the place of conscious and decisive spiritual activity,” “the comprehensive term for a person as a whole; his feelings, desires, passions, thought, understanding and will,” and “the center of a person. The place to which God turns.” (J. Stowell, Fan The Flame, 13)

 

Your god is whatever your heart clings to.  —Martin Luther

 

We live in a culture in which we are superficial in our relationships.   Image is everything.  But with God the opposite is the case.  Image is nothing.  What is in the heart is everything.

 

The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart

 

The reason that Christianity is the best friend of government is because Christianity is the only religion in the world that deals with the heart.  —Thomas Jefferson.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Heart

 

Like Scripture writers, Augustine thinks of the heart not just as the seat of emotion or desire but also as the governing center of a human being–the human being at his center, at his core, considered in his fundamental orientation.  From the heart “flow the springs of life” (Prv 4:23).  Hence, in Scripture, integrity is a pure heart (Mt 5:8); where integrity is lacking, it is the heart that is “perverse” and “devious above all else” (Jer 17:9).  Accordingly, when Paul wants to describe the source of our new power, love, and integrity, he testifies that Jesus Christ has taken up residence at the governing center of human lives: he “dwells in our hearts” (Eph 3:17).  Depending on its orientation, then, the fact that “the heart wants what it wants” may be our shame or our salvation.  (Augustine, The City of God, as quoted by Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 62-3)

 

 

  1. Jesus provides all the evidence we need to worship Him as Emmanuel. If you reject Jesus it is not on the basis of facts but upon your preconceptions.  Basically your desire to justify the darkness and wickedness of your own rebellious heart and mind.  (Mt 12:22-29, 33-35; see also: Ex 8:19; Hos 5:4; Mt 11:4; 21:23-32; Mk 3:20-28; Lk 11:14-22; Jn 3:19; Rom 1:18-32; 2 Cor 10:5)

 

The Pharisees’ response reflects the basic response of every person who intentionally rejects Jesus Christ.  They did not reject Him for lack of evidence but because they were biased against Him.  Their own deeds were evil and they could not handle the intimidating reality of Jesus’ righteousness; they were children of darkness and could not tolerate His light (Jn 3:19).  They were not looking for truth but for ways to justify their own wickedness and to destroy anyone who dared expose them.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 309)

 

“If you stop and ask yourself why you are not so devoted as the (early) Christians, your own heart will tell you that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it.” (William Law as quoted by Jon Johnston; Courage – You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, 34)

 

Theirs was willful unbelief.  In the face of the undeniable evidence of Jesus’ deity and messiahship, they rejected Him.  They did not reject the Spirit’s work in Jesus’ life and ministry for lack of evidence, but rather for lack of humility.  The Pharisees were also guilty of an ongoing pattern of sin, and not merely a spur-of-the-moment reaction.  This was persistent rebellion that proudly refused to submit, regardless of what Jesus said or did.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 164)

 

The ego is the ugly little troll that lives underneath the bridge between your mind and your heart.  —Dennis Miller

 

The Pharisees were guilty of vincible ignorance when it came to Jesus.  They had no excuse for missing the appearance of the Son of God.  The Scriptures plainly taught about what the Messiah would do, and there was Jesus performing miracle after miracle right in front of their eyes.  How could they miss it?  They did not want God in their thinking.  Their minds were blinded by their bias against Jesus, and so they lost themselves in willful ignorance.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 386)

 

The heart that is now so much in love with sin and so full of enmity against holiness will not be easily changed.  A deceitful heart will find other excuses when the present ones are answered.  The old man will struggle hard before it is subdued.  Perhaps they do not know that  repentance is a grace of God’s giving.  The heart of stone is too hard for any created power to break.   Repentance is a gift that only God can give and fortunately when He gives it He does so freely.  Because men can only repent when God enables, Paul said to Timothy, “God peradventure will give them repentance” (2 Tm 2:25).  Many that presume upon having repentance at leisure find themselves disappointed.  Either a sudden death arrests them or a hard heart and a sleepy conscience seizes upon them.  It is a very bold adventure to reject God’s gracious offers, presuming upon future time or grace.”  (Owen Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation, 131)

 

Beware lest you delay repentance so long that your heart become hardened to that point where your conscience ceases to function and the voice of God is unheard in your soul.    (Owen Roberts; Repentance, 240)

 

Our sinful pride fights against the exposure of our thoughts, intentions, motives, and desires.  But without such exposure, we become easy prey to the wiles of the devil who knows our hearts and is able to exploit our weaknesses.  Seventeenth-century philosopher Blaise Pascal once wrote, “Truly it is an evil to be full of faults, but it is a still greater evil…to be unwilling to recognize them.” (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 43)

 

Jesus’ point was this:  “Haven’t I demonstrated before you and all of Israel My power over Satan and his kingdom of evil, darkness, and destruction?  Haven’t I cleansed people of every kind of disease and freed them from every kind of demonic control and oppression?  Haven’t I demonstrated My authority over both sin and death?  Haven’t I rescued souls from hell?  Who could have such power and authority but God Himself?  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 310)

 

Replying to the charge that he is casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, Jesus points out that a. it is absurd (vv. 25, 26); b. it is also inconsistent (v. 27); c. it exposes the wickedness of those who make it, showing whose sons these blasphemers really are, in the same way in which the good deeds and attitudes of others supply evidence to prove what kind of individuals these good men are inwardly (vv. 33-37).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 525)

 

Could not the Pharisees see that everything Jesus said and did was opposed to Satan?  Jesus healed sickness and disease, which were brought upon mankind by sin, which, in turn, was brought and promoted by Satan.  Jesus raised people from death, which was also a consequence of sin and indirectly the work of Satan (cf. Heb 2:14-17).  Jesus cast out demons, which, as He had just pointed out, was in obvious opposition to Satan.  He even forgave sins–something Satan neither would nor could do–and verified His authority to forgive sins by His power to perform miracles (Mt 9:5-6).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 310)

 

Jesus again trapped the self-righteous Pharisees in their perverted thinking, publicly exposing their hard-heartedness and absurd illogic.  As He pointed out to them on other occasions, no matter what they thought of Him personally, His works indisputably testified to His goodness and to His divine power (Jn 5:36; 10:25, 37-38; 14:11; cf. Mt 11:4-5).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 316-7)

 

If you harden your heart with pride, you soften your brain with it, too. —Jewish proverb

 

Yet most of the sin-blinded people remained ambivalent about Jesus’ identity and the source of His great power.  They knew that miracles would be proof signs of the Messiah; but they also expected Him to come with royal fanfare and with military might.  But instead of regal robes, sovereign authority, a throne, trumpets, swords, horses, chariots, and a mighty army, they saw a Man of compassion, gentleness, and humility–with a following of twelve nondescript disciples and a multitude of hangers-on whose loyalty could hardly be counted on.  Because Jesus did not appear to be a conqueror or a king by their definition, the people would not accept His being the Messiah.  They had chosen to be selective about the OT predictions of the Messiah.  His predicted coming in power and glory to defeat the foes of Israel and set His people free was easy for them to be excited about.  His predicted coming in meekness and humility was not.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 305)

 

On a logical level, the Christian worldview is the only one that is not self-refuting.  Moreover, because it is based on historical events, it can be proven.  Most religions are, and have always been, based on myths.  Christianity is unique in that it is founded on specific historical truth claims, notably the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The historical evidence is sufficient to compel agreement from any fair investigation of the facts.  So Christianity is not just a creed or a philosophy or good ideas about how to live our lives.  It is truth.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 317)

 

The first thing that we need to come to terms with, in order for us to be saved, in order to us to grow in Christ, in order for us to mature, in order for us to be effective in the Kingdom of God; is for us to understand that WE ARE THE PROBLEM!  And if we are the problem, we are not going to be the solution.  We must forget about “doing” or “being” something on our own to solve our own problems and to save us from our sins.

It is our sinful nature, our deceitfully wicked hearts that trick us into believing we are OK and that everything will be OK if we simply do our best.  That is where we go wrong.  And it is only when we come to repent of our sinful self, that we will ever have a chance of becoming all that God desires for us to be.  Likewise, the church must come to a point of corporate repenting for her sinful nature, if she is ever going to grow and mature in Christ.  Therefore, we desperately are in need of God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy if we are to be saved and mature as Christians.  — Pastor Keith

 

The world, that sat in darkness, and lay in wickedness, was in Satan’s possession, and under his power, as a house in the possession and under the power of a strong man; so is every unregenerate soul; there Satan resides, there he rules.  Now, (1) The design of Christ’s gospel was to spoil the devil’s house, which, as a strong man, he kept in the world; to turn the people from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, from this world to a better, from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18); to alter the property of souls.  (2) Pursuant to this design, he bound the strong man, when he cast out unclean spirits by his word:  thus he wrested the sword out of the devil’s hand, that he might wrest the scepter out of it.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 172)

 

The way this verse is structured in the original language tells us this was not a cynical question.  The people were beginning to sense the truth.  They were wondering, “Could we be in the presence of the Messiah?”  The OT had foretold that the Messiah would come in the line of David and would restore David’s kingdom.  In fact, it was Matthew’s stated goal to show that Jesus was the Son of David (1:1).  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 376)

 

We have all heard it said, “United we stand, divided we fall.”  There is much truth in that adage.  It is a common strategy of military leaders to divide their enemies and thereby conquer them.  If a general can somehow induce his enemies to squabble among themselves, his battle is 90% won.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 377)

 

So many sophisticated people refuse to believe in Satan because they think the church teaches as fact a view of the devil that originated as a caricature in the Middle Ages–a funny little fellow with horns wearing a red suit and carrying a pitchfork.  It is true that this image originated in the church, but not because the church thought Satan looked like that.  The medieval church believed very much in the devil and understood his power to disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14).  If the church had authorized portraits of Satan that reflected the actual view of him, they might have depicted a suave and attractive figure.  Instead, he was given a ridiculous appearance.  They knew that the devil’s principle sin was pride, and they tried to take advantage of that and keep him away by mocking him and making him look ludicrous.  But no one ever believed he was really like that.  He is not a ludicrous figure but a powerful spiritual being with great malice toward God and His people.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 378)

 

They had only one option.  Because Jesus’ power was indisputably supernatural, because the only two sources of supernatural power are God and Satan, and because they refused to recognize Jesus as being from God, they were forced to conclude that He was an agent of Satan.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 307)

 

Every religiously literate Jew knew that the prophets predicted that just such signs would accompany the Messiah’s coming (Isa 29:18; 35:5-6).  They also knew that the Messiah was to be Israel’s supreme and eternal King (Ps 2:6; Jer 23:5; Zech 9:9).  “Therefore,” Jesus was saying, “if I am the Messiah, I am also the coming King, and if I am the King, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 309-10)

 

There are no rules.  Just follow your heart.  —Robin Williams

 

Many today say that they cannot have faith in Christ because it is not “reasonable”.  But what do they mean by reasonable?  Do they mean that faith in Christ is inherently irrational and therefore does not make logical sense?  Or do they mean that in their value system, faith in Christ doesn’t make sense?

You see it is impossible to have reason without a value system by which to judge your reasons for thinking.  Hitler thought and acted completely within reason when he killed 6 million in the gas chambers during WWII.   He earnestly believed that Jews and resisters were less than human and so in his mind killing them was the only reasonable thing to do.  Reason is based on a value system.  It is the value system that determines the reasonableness of one’s actions.  But if we do not share the same value system, then it is impossible for us to determine the actions of another with a different value system, to be reasonable.

So again, I come back to those who say faith in Christ is unreasonable.  Of course it is.  If they are working with a different value system, they are going to think that a person of faith is unreasonable, just as a person from FL thinks it is unreasonable for a person from MI to root for U of M and a person from MI thinks it is unreasonable for a person from FL to root for FL state.  It is the value system that sets the standard for reasonableness.  No wonder Jesus said, I am the way , the truth and the life.  No one can come to the father except through Christ.  Why?  Because HE (Christ) IS the value system.  If we don’t accept Him, then we will be totally unreasonable in our behaviors and judgments.  We have adopted the wrong value system.  — Keith Porter

 

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him:  ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a Great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God:  or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.  (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 55-6)

 

The Messianic conception of many of the people, including to some extent Christ’s own disciples, was distinctly materialistic, earthly, Judaistic (Mt 20:21; 23:37-39; Lk 19:41, 42; Acts 1:6; Jn 6:15, 35-42).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 524)

 

The kingdom of God came not with a mighty military leader, but with a gentle and compassionate Servant.  The real enemy to be conquered was not the Romans but Satan.  That Jesus was powerfully casting out demons and plundering Satan’s kingdom revealed that the kingdom of God had begun.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 244)

 

In a culture whose best-selling books and most popular TV shows and movies are about wizards, witches, and vampires, are we too scientifically sophisticated for Satan?  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 327)

 

  1. Neutrality is impossible. Your heart will always default to its true affection and master.   (Mt 12:30; see also: 1 Kis 18:21; Mt 6:24; Mk 9:40; Lk 9:50; 16:13)  

 

Love to God will expel love to the world; love to the world will deaden the soul’s love to God.  “No man can serve two masters”:  it is impossible to love God and the world, to serve him and mammon.  Here is a most fertile cause of declension in Divine love; guard against it as you would fortify yourself against your greatest foe.  It is a vortex that has engulfed millions of souls; multitudes of professing Christians have been drawn into its eddy, and have gone down into its gulf.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 56)

 

We almost never hear unbelievers say, “I’m against Jesus.”  Instead, they say, “I don’t believe in Jesus” or “I don’t feel the need for Jesus.”  They think they can take Him or leave Him.  But Jesus said that is not possible.  Anyone who is not actively for Him is truly against Him.  Again, there is no neutrality.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 381)

 

To refuse to follow Christ is to choose to follow Satan.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 245)

 

The heart is never neutral.  —Anthony Ashley Cooper

 

Jesus referred repeatedly to Satan as “the ruler of this world” (Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11).  Paul speaks of “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:2) and of “the rulers of the darkness of this age (Eph 6:12).  So, Satan is a ruler, and that means there are two realms with two monarchs.  However, the realms are not equal by any means.  Satan is no match for God.  But there is an intense battle between the two kingdoms, and there is no neutral ground.  Everyone is in one kingdom or the other.  If you are not in the kingdom of God, there is only one other kingdom you can be in–the kingdom of the evil one.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 379)

 

Am I truly on the Lord’s side, or am I trying to shuffle through life in a state of cowardly neutrality?  ‘Whoever is not against us is for us’ is a test that we ought to apply to others.  Am I given to condemning everyone who does not speak with my theology and worship with my liturgy and share my ideas?  Am I limiting the kingdom of God to those who think as I do?  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 47)

 

The claims of Jesus are the claims of Jesus.  We either believe them or we don’t.  What he said in verse 30 is either true or false.  We can re-imagine Jesus into our own image, twisting and turning his words to sound a lot like our own.  This has been done in many Christian denominations, hasn’t it?  Such behavior I find intellectually dishonest.  Don’t call yourself a Christian if you don’t believe Jesus ever existed.  Don’t call yourself a Christian if you believe only half of the red letters in your Bible have any connection to the historical Jesus.  Don’t call yourself a Christian if you think Jesus didn’t die for your sins and rise for your justification.  Don’t call yourself a Christian if you think obeying Christ’s commands are optional.  And don’t call yourself a Christian if you think there are many ways to God.  To be a Christian is, at the very least, to take Jesus at his word.  “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (v. 30).  Thus saith the Lord.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 332)

 

…in the sterilized world where everything must be completely neutral, even having a point of view is suspect.  (Philip K. Howard; The Death of Common Sense, 72)

 

“Tolerance” can be a genuinely harmful force when it becomes a euphemism for moral exhaustion and a rigid or indifferent neutrality in response to every great moral issue—when, in G. K. Chesterton’s phrase, it becomes the virtue of people who do not believe in anything.  For that paves the road to injustice. (William J. Bennett, The Death of Outrage, 122)

 

We must be either for Him or against Him, but not neutral.  There are only two kingdoms, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness.  This is the “sword of division” spoken of in 10:34.  In context, Jesus’ reply draws a clear line of distinction:  those not with Him are against Him.  It is a statement of awareness but also of judgment.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 158)

 

In this struggle between Christ and Satan neutrality is impossible (so also Mk 9:40; Lk 9:50), as is shown by v. 30.  He who is not with me is against me.  Reason:  there are only two great empires: a. that of God, or heaven, with Christ as Head, and b. that of Satan.  A person belongs either to the one or to the other.  Consequently if he is not in intimate association with Christ, he is down on, that is, against, him.  To be “with” Jesus means to gather; to be down on him means to scatter:  he who does not gather with me scatters.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 527)

 

There is no meaner moral attitude than that of a timid and selfish neutrality between right and wrong.  (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 175)

 

To be “with” Jesus means to be instrumental in gathering people to be his followers (Prv 11:30; Dn 12:3; Mt 9:37, 38; Lk 19:10; Jn 4:35, 36; 1 Cor 9:22).  To be “against” him means to be unwilling to follow him in his mission to gather the lost.  It means to leave them in their shepherdless, scattered condition, an easy prey for Satan (cf. Jn 10:12).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 527)

 

Those who are not trusting in Christ are building up a horde of sin, which makes them subject to a “mother lode” of wrath.  If sin is what is concealed in your heart, nothing can come out of your heart except evil.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 392)

 

This was the second time they had said such a dreadful thing.  The first time, the Lord ignored them, but warned His disciples against them (9:34; 10:25).  Now the Pharisees were becoming bolder, more contemptuous, more hardened in unbelief.  They did not know it, but this time they had crossed the mysterious boundary line between God’s mercy and His wrath.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 232)

 

James warned double-minded people to purify their hearts (Jam 4:8).  Failure to find the wholeness to which Jesus invited people results from trying to face in two directions at once, from trying to gain the benefits of conflicting loyalties.  That is double-mindedness.  It conjures up a picture of straddling the fence.

  1. Stanley Jones says that people’s spiritual failures result form being inwardly divided. In The Christ of the Mount (p. 200), he lists nine expressions of human dividedness that Jesus pointed out:

(1) You do your beautiful religious acts with divided motives–you give to God, but also “to be seen of men” (6:1-4).

(2) You pray in two directions–to be heard of God and to be overheard of people (6:5-15).

(3) You fast with divided purpose–you do it before God and yet you hope that people will give you credit for being abstemious (6:16-18).

(4) You try to lay up treasure in two directions–upon earth and in heaven (6:19-21).

(5) You see in two directions–your outlook is divided (6:22-23).

(6) You are trying to be loyal in two directions–trying to serve God and mammon(6:24).

(7) You are anxious in two directions–toward what you shall eat and drink and be clothed with, and also toward the kingdom of God (6:25-34).

(8) You are criticizing in two directions–toward your sister or brother with rather heavy emphasis and toward yourself rather lightly (7:1-5).

(9) You are giving yourself–giving yourself to God and also giving that holy thing called personality to the dogs of appetite and the swine of desire (7:6). (Jason Martin; The Sermon on the Mount, 130)

 

III.  The pursuits (thesaurus) of your heart will dictate your potential for forgiveness, grace, and spiritual growth or unforgiveness, judgment, and death.  (Mt 12:31-35; see also: Dt 9:6; 10:16; 2 Chr 30:8; Ps 95:7-8; Prv 5:1-23; Isa 5:20; Jer 19:15; Mt 7:16-27; Mk 3:28-30; Lk 12:10; 23:34; Acts 7:51; Rom 1:18-32; 2:4-6; 1 Cor 10:14; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 4:30-31; Col 3:8; 1 Thes 5:19; 2 Thes 2:1-17; 1 Tm 6:3-5, 10-11; 2 Tm 3 :1-9; 4:2-4; Heb 2:3-4; 3:7-8; 6:4-8; 10:26-31; 1 Jn 5:16 )

 

Their sin is unpardonable because they are unwilling to tread the path that leads to pardon.  For a thief, an adulterer, and a murderer there is hope.  The message of the gospel may cause him to cry out, “O God be merciful to me, the sinner.”  But when a man has become hardened, so that he has made up his mind not to pay any attention to the promptings of the Spirit, not even to listen to his pleading and warning voice, he has placed himself on the road that leads to perdition.  He has sinned the sin “unto death” (1 Jn 5:16; see also Heb 6:4-8).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 529)

 

The blasphemy against the Spirit is the result of gradual progress in sin.  Grieving the Spirit (Eph 4:30), if unrepented of, leads to resisting the Spirit (Acts 7:51), which, if persisted in, develops into quenching the Spirit (1 Thes 5:19).  The true solution is found in Ps 95:7b, 8a, “Today O that you would listen to his voice.  Harden not your hearts!”  Cf. Heb 3:7, 8a.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 529)

 

A person’s heart is a reservoir, a storehouse or, as the original literally expresses it, a thesaurus.  Compare Mt 2:11 where the word is used to indicate a chest or box from which the wise men took gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  What a man brings out of this inner storehouse, whether good of bad, precious or cheap, depends on what he was carrying in it.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 530)

 

The context makes clear what the unforgivable sin is.  It is what the Pharisees had done.  They had called good, evil, and evil, good.  Or to put it another way, they had called the good work of God in delivering the demon-possessed man demonic.  This is called a sin against the Holy Spirit because the deliverance was by the power of the Holy Spirit and because they were identifying him with Satan.  It is unforgivable because it is a case of distorting reality so thoroughly that repentance is impossible, and without repentance there can be no forgiveness.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 214)

 

Or how can we describe people so heedless of God’s greatest favor?  Paul calls their problem “hardness” or stubbornness (Rom 2:2-5).  The work in Greek is sklerotes, which is the source of our medical word sclerosis.  Arteriosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries, in the case of the physical heart.  But we speak of a spiritual heart; and it, too, has arteries that may harden.  What can bring about such a condition?  There would be many answers, but this much we can agree upon:  anyone who is capable of ignoring God’s kindness, patience, and forbearance is a chronic sufferer from that condition.  (David Jeremiah, Captured by Grace, 74)

 

Your heart follows your money and your efforts. . . . Put first things first and the secondary things will take care of themselves.  — Steve Brown

 

One who rejects full light can have no more light–and no forgiveness.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 314)

 

In every person’s life, there is a time when he or she does not understand who Jesus is, and if the person blasphemes Jesus in that time, it can be forgiven.  But if the Spirit of God reveals the truth to that person, and he afterward tramples the son of God underfoot and insults the Spirit, there is nothing to expect but judgment.  This leads me and many others to conclude that the unforgivable sin is blaspheming against the Holy Spirit by blaspheming against Christ after the Spirit has revealed to a person that Jesus is the Son of God.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 386-7)

 

Walford’s concise definition of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is “attributing to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God,” basically doing what the Pharisees are doing here.  And it involves, if we flesh out that basic definition a bit, the “combination of clear knowledge and deliberate rejection of Christ.”  So there’s a certain amount of light in the head–one can see clearly who Jesus is, as plainly as the Pharisees saw his miracles–and yet there is hatred of that light in the heart.  Therefore, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a knowledge of the light, a hatred of it, and I’ll add (and this addition is key) that there is also an earnest and persistent effort to put out the light.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 333)

 

If we shut our eyes and ears to God’s way for long enough, if we turn our backs upon the messages which God is sending us, if we prefer our own ideas to the ideas which God is seeking to put into our minds, in the end we come to a stage when we cannot recognize God’s truth and God’s beauty and God’s goodness when we see them.  We come to a stage when our own evil seems to us good, and when God’s good seems to us evil.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 51)

 

If people cannot recognize the good when they see it, they cannot desire it.  If they do not recognize evil as evil, they cannot be sorry for it and wish to depart from it.  And if they cannot, in spite of failures, love the good and hate the evil, then they cannot repent; and if they cannot repent, they cannot be forgiven, for repentance is the only condition of forgiveness.  It would save much heartbreak if people would realize that the very people who cannot have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit are those who fear that they have, for the sin against the Holy Spirit can be truly described as the loss of all sense of sin.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 51-2)

 

It is an attitude that closes one’s mind and conscience to the convictions of the Spirit until the conscience becomes so hardened that the one voice which calls to God, the voice of the Spirit, can no longer get through.  Such are then beyond pardon, beyond hearing the call to pardon.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 159)

 

As William Wilberforce once said, “Prosperity hardens the heart.”  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 90)

 

The only sin that God is unable to forgive is the unwillingness to accept forgiveness.  Thus the “unforgivable sin” is a state of moral insensitivity caused by continuous refusal to respond to the overtures of the Spirit of God.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 119)

 

Jesus drew a line at the edge of God’s forgiveness.  He was telling them that even though God is extremely merciful, profoundly gracious, and overwhelmingly forgiving, there is a limit to His mercy.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 383)

 

I believe that, left to ourselves, believers have the capability in our hearts to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit.  That capacity is not erased from our hearts by conversion. However, I am convinced that God, in His mercy and grace, keeps believers from ever committing this sin.  The Apostle Paul tells us that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).  Part of that good work involves keeping us from committing this terrible sin.  If God did not keep us from doing so, we could and we would.  But because He does, we do not.  Therein lies our comfort–that the weakness of our flesh is trumped by the grace of God.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 387)

 

Skim through these two verses again and notice twice the phrase “will not be forgiven”–that refers to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  But then also notice the phrase “will be forgiven” (also repeated twice), and then notice the word “every” in verse 31.  “Every” is the loveliest word in the world.  “Therefore I tell you every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 334)

 

If the kingdom of God has come, take a reality check.  If you live your days without much reference to God, with a few passing words of prayer, your mind consumed with earning and buying, your eyes dashing from one advertisement to another, your heart longing for one more nice purchase–then wake up!

There’s a reality you haven’t seen or paid much attention to.  It’s the kingdom of God, right here, and it’s very, very important to you.  Unless you check in, life will be a dash–and then gone.  But people of the kingdom live forever in God’s peace and love.  Take time today, right now.  Live one day regarding your life as being in God’s kingdom and yourself as his true servant.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 244)

 

Most ministers have had people come to them wondering if they have committed the unforgivable sin when they have done nothing of the sort.  In fact, the fear that they might have sinned unforgivably is the best possible proof that they have not.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 214)

 

The only sin that God is unable to forgive is the unwillingness to accept forgiveness.  -Robert H. Mounce

 

These things should be noted.  (a) It is a calculated sin, not one of impulse.  (b) It is a sin of knowledge, not of ignorance, but a sin against spiritual knowledge and light.  God has not set a mysterious line over which one may unwittingly cross.  When the Pharisees could no longer deny, they blasphemed.  (c) It is a sin of finality.  When they could no longer ignore, they rejected completely, and Jesus had no option but to ratify their choice.  (d) It is not an isolated act but a habitual attitude.  (e) It is a sin of the heart, not merely of the intellect or the tongue.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 70-1)

 

Here, as always when the text itself is not immediately clear, the context must be our guide.  From it we learn that the Pharisees are ascribing to Satan what the Holy Spirit, through Christ, is achieving.  Moreover, they are doing this willfully, deliberately.  In spite of all the evidences to the contrary they still affirm that Jesus is expelling demons by the power of Beelzebul.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 529)

 

Blasphemy is defiant irreverence, the uniquely terrible sin of intentionally and openly speaking evil against holy God or defaming or mocking Him (cf. Mk 2:7).  The OT penalty for such blasphemy was death by stoning (Lv 24:16).  In the last days blasphemy will be an outstanding characteristic of those who rebelliously and insolently oppose God (Rv 13:5-6; 16:9; 17:3).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 311)

 

Even a believer can blaspheme, since any thought or word that sullies or defames the Lord’s name constitutes blasphemy.  To question God’s goodness, wisdom, fairness, truthfulness, love, or faithfulness is a form of blasphemy.  All of that is forgivable by grace.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 312)

 

It not only reflected unbelief, but determined unbelief–the refusal, after having seen all the evidence necessary to complete understanding, even to consider believing in Christ.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 312)

 

It reflected determined rejection of Jesus as the Messiah against every evidence and argument.  It reflected seeing the truth incarnate and then knowingly rejecting Him and condemning Him.  It demonstrated an absolute and permanent refusal to believe, which resulted in loss of opportunity ever to be forgiven…either in this age, or in the age to come.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 312)

 

So often today our evangelism is too gentle.  In order to be politically correct, we invite people to come to Jesus.  We ask them if they would like to receive Jesus and tell them they will be glad if they do, for believing in Him will enrich their lives, give them meaning, and so on.  But God does not invite people to come to Jesus.  He commands them to come (Acts 17:30).  It is every person’s duty to submit to the Lord of glory.  Those who refuse to come to Christ sin grievously against the Son of God and God Himself.  They are in rebellion against the King of kings.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 381)

 

Let us then try to understand what Jesus meant by the sin against the Holy Spirit.  One thing is necessary.  We must grasp the fact that Jesus was not speaking about the Holy Spirit in the full Christian sense of the term.  He could not have been, for Pentecost had to come before the Holy Spirit came upon men and women in all his power and light and fullness.  This must be interpreted in the light of the Jewish conception of the Holy Spirit.

According to Jewish teaching, the Holy Spirit had two supreme functions.  First, the Holy Spirit brought God’s truth to men and women; second, the Holy Spirit enabled them to recognize and to understand that truth when they saw it.  So people, as the Jews saw it, needed the Holy Spirit, both to receive and to recognize God’s truth.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 50)

 

It is the law of life that we hear what we have trained ourselves to hear; day by day we must listen to God, so that day by day God’s voice may become not fainter and fainter until we cannot hear it at all, but clearer and clearer until it becomes the one sound to which above all our ears are attuned.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 53)

 

It is very easy to solve an insoluble problem if you begin by taking all the insoluble elements out of it.  And that is how a great deal of modern thinking does with Christianity.  Knock out all the miracles; pooh-pooh all Christ’s claims; say nothing about Incarnation; declare Resurrection to be entirely unhistorical, and you will not have much difficulty in accounting for the rest; and it will not be worth the accounting for.  But here is the thing to be dealt with, that whole life, the Christ of the Gospels.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 175-6)

 

Here the lesson that He would have us draw is of the connection between character and conduct; how what we do is determined by what we are, and how, not of course with the same absolute regularity and constancy, but still somewhat in the same fashion as the fruit is true to the tree, so, after all allowance made for ups and downs, for the irregular play of will and conscience, for the strife that is waged within a man, for the temptations of external circumstances, and the like–still, in general, as is the inner man, so is the outward manifestation.  The facts of a life are important mainly as registering and making visible the inner condition of the doer.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 181-2)

 

The worst kind of sin involves driving a wedge between Jesus and the people whom he wants to reach.  Pharisees sought to do that by accusing Jesus of partnership with the devil.  Today we see it happen when learned professors cynically dismiss religion, when talk-show hosts smirk about religious hypocrites, and when pastors take their sermon cues from psychology instead of the Bible.

Give no encouragement to people who try to undermine Jesus.  They are in great danger, and spoiled faith rides in their wake.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 243)

 

You want to know what makes a person thankful?  They think about their blessings.  You want to know what makes a person hard-hearted and stiff-necked?  They think about themselves.

 

In my judgment, this is a close parallel to what Paul writes in the first chapter of Romans, where he traces the downward path of sin.  The root problem is rejection of the truth about God, Paul says (vv. 18-20).  But this soon leads to a downhill path of perversion ending with what he calls a “depraved mind” (v. 28).  A depraved mind is the confirmed mental state of those who not only practice the vices listed in the final paragraph of Romans 1 but also “approve of those who practice them” (v. 32).  Those who approve of evil are saying that those evil practices are right and that the contrary good acts must be evil. . . .Those who have declined to that level are beyond hope, and lest we dismiss this too readily, we must keep in mind that this is exactly what Paul says of a declining secular society such as our own.  If people in our culture really consider evil things to be good and good to be evil, what possible chance of genuine repentance and conversion do they have?  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 215)

 

  1. You are eternally responsible for every act, even for every word you form in your mind as they reveal the affections of your heart. (Mt 12:36; see also: Ps 39:1; 81:10; 139:4; Prv 10:11-32; 18:21; Isa 42:22; 55:6-7; Mt 7:7; 11:28-30; 15:18-20; Lk 6:43-45; 22:22; Jn 7:37; Acts 2:23; Rom 10:9-10;  Jam 1:12-15, 26; 3:2-12; 4:2; Rv 3:18; 22:17)

 

Every man remains fully responsible for what he is, thinks, speaks, and does, for though it is true that he cannot change his own heart, it is also true that with strength given to him by God he is able to flee to him who renews hearts and lives.  The Lord is even willing and eager to give whatever he demands of men.  If men do not receive it, this is their fault, not God’s (Ps 81:10; Isa 45:22; 55:6, 7; Mt 7:7; 11:28-30; Lk 22:22; Jn 7:37; Acts 2:23; Jas 4:2b; Rv 3:18; 22:17b).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 531)

 

It is little wonder that Jesus chose to speak here about the awful responsibility of words.  The scribes and Pharisees had just spoken the most terrible words.  They had looked on the Son of God and called him the ally of the devil.  Such words were dreadful words indeed.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 53)

 

In Matthew 25 it is by our works that we are acknowledged to be righteous; here it’s our words.  Our works (what we actually do) and our words (what we actually say) show whether we have faith in Christ or not.  We are justified by faith alone, but true faith is never alone–it comes out in our words and in our works.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 336)

 

Sin God can deal with.  That is what the cross is all about.  It is stiff-necked, hard-hearted, unrepentant religious, pious, do-gooders who are lost and without hope.  —Steve Brown

 

The person who harbors ill will against someone will eventually express those feelings.  The person who is filled with lustful thoughts will express those thoughts in crude or suggestive remarks.  The person who is persistently angry and hateful will sooner or later put those feelings into words.  In the same way, the person who is genuinely loving, kind, and considerate cannot help expressing those feelings in words as well as actions.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 319)

 

It is a humbling thing–and a warning thing–to remember that the words which show what we are are the words we speak when our guard is down.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 55)

 

We have a tendency to connect the mouth more to the brain than to the heart.  We think that our words reflect the thoughts in our minds.  But Jesus said that the driving force behind the words that we use is not the intellect but the heart, the very core of our being.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 390-1)

 

We say things like “I didn’t mean what I said.”  However, as Jesus has taught in the Sermon on the Mount (5:22-26, 33-37; 6:7; 7:4, 5, 21-23), here he again teaches that our words are reliable indicators of who we are, so reliable that on Judgment Day Jesus will know we are Christians by our tongues.  What is in the heart–good or bad–comes out of the mouth.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 335-6)

 

There was a defining moment in my spiritual life.  It happened when I realized that if I insisted on becoming consumed by every major sporting event or political race, every move of the stock market, or even every worry of parenting, if I let these things seize my heart, I simply could not enter into a true celebration of the Sabbath or the joy of a baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, or Christmas or Easter, or any other true and significant celebration.  I have learned the necessity of “guarding my heart” (Pr 4:23) because my heart does not have an infinite capacity to rejoice or be alarmed.  By becoming preoccupied with passing things, I exhaust my heart’s ability to care about the things that really do matter.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 110)

 

“To be preoccupied with getting theological knowledge as an end itself, to approach Bible study with no higher motive than to desire to know all the answers, is the direct rout to a state of self-satisfied self-deception.  We need to guard our hearts against such an attitude, and pray to be kept from it.”   (J. I. Packer; Knowing God, 17)

 

A common expression in the computer world is GIGO, which stands for “Garbage in, garbage out.”  In other words, the quality of data entered determines the quality of the results produced from that data.  In exactly the same way, the quality of what is in a person’s heart determines the quality of speech his mouth produces.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 319)

 

The Pharisees could not hide their evil behind their status, robes, and position; their words betrayed their true character.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 247)

 

A person can get a good indication of his spiritual condition by listening to his own words.  A Christian can fall into evil words just as he can fall into evil deeds, but his customary speaking will be pure just as his customary activities will be righteous.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 321)

 

Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher, said:  “Choose rather to fling a chance stone than to speak a chance word.”  Once the hurting word or the offensive word is spoken, nothing will bring it back; and it pursues a course of damage wherever it goes.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 55)

 

Unbelievers cannot help but spread poison with their tongue, but Christians can and should guard their words.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 391)

 

He indicated here that every casual, thoughtless word that we speak is going to find its way into the last judgment.  However, some commentators take issue with that rendition and say that Jesus was talking about not causal speech but empty speech, saying that every empty word will be brought into the judgment.  What is an empty word?  It is a promise that has no substance.  It could include a very serious promise, such as a wedding vow.  If you stand before God and a group of witnesses on your wedding day and promise to be faithful, but you do not do what you promise, the emptiness of that promise will be made clear on the day of judgment.  But I think every promise will be so judged.  There have been all kinds of times in my life when I have told people that I was going to do something on their behalf but did not do it.  In those cases, my words were empty.  These empty words will be brought before God in the day of judgment, and I will be asked to give an account.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 393)

 

I read in Scripture that at the last judgment every tongue will be silenced and there will be no protests as the whole world is brought before God and shown to be guilty.  I think God is going to take each persons’ brain and push “play” on the controls so that the brain will pour out all of its memories.  We’ll stand there listening to ourselves condemn ourselves.”  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 394)

 

Can you understand how serous this is and how desperate it makes your case?  A careless word would be the least offensive act you have committed.  But if even that single careless word is sufficient to condemn you at God’s judgment, how much more the other very evil evils you have done?  How about your envy of other people?  Or your greed?  Or your depravity?  How about strife, deceit, and malice?  Or slander?  Have you never slandered anyone?  How about insolent words, arrogant words, or boastful words?  How about the times you disobeyed or even dishonored your parents?  What about your senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless, or otherwise blatantly non-Christian behavior?  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 216)

 

For it frequently happens that erroneous judgments are formed by men who do not intentionally, after all, oppose what is right, but err through ignorance; who do not cherish a hidden and concealed venom, but whose rashness carries them headlong.  The meaning therefore is, that Christ reproved them with the greater severity, because he was a witness and judge of their inward malice.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 67)

 

When a person is arrested, he is warned that anything he says will be used against him; similarly the Lord warns us that our words will rise up against us.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 235)

 

William Hendricks explains in Keeping Your Ethical Edge Sharp:  “What we do in the small issues of life sets the stage for bigger issues.  What we do at the copier, on the phone, in front of the mail machine are important and set the stage for how we will respond to greater temptations that will come!  It is also true that once we violate our conscience in an area it is easier to do it the next time.  Before long, our heart becomes callous.”(R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 148)

 

Harsh words wound; critical words destroy.  Once words are spoken they cannot be recalled and we cannot be free from the responsibility of having made the statement.  One of the awesome things about being human beings is that we will be in all eternity the persons who have done and said what we have done and said today.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 161)

 

  1. CONCLUSION: Jesus as your Master and Savior can transform, guard, encourage, enlighten, and enliven our vulnerable hearts.  (Ps 141:3; Prv 3:5-6; 4:23; Jer 17:9; Acts 3:14-17; 4:10-12; Rom 3:9-26; 2 Cor 5:17; 10:5; Eph 6:10-18; 2 Thes 2:1-17; 1 Tm 1:13-15; 2 Tm 3:1-9; Heb 5:14; Rv 21:4-5)

 

What is the remedy?  The only remedy is a radical change of heart, for as Jesus says, it is “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mt 12:34).  We need a cleansed heart, a new heart.  The only way we can receive a changed heart is by a new birth, which is a product of the work of God in salvation.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 217)

 

It takes a good man to do good things.  So how shallow is all that talk, “do, do, do,” this, that, and the other thing.  All right, but be; that is the first thing; or, as Christ said, “Make the tree good, and the fruit” will take care of itself.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 182)

 

Any desire of the heart for Christ, any secret brokenness, any godly sorrow over indwelling sin, any feeble going out of self and leaning on Jesus, is the gracious work of the Holy Ghost in the soul, and must not be undervalued or unacknowledged.  A truly humble view of self, is one of the most precious fruits of the Spirit:  it indicates more real fruitfulness, perhaps, than any other state of mind.  That ear of corn which is the most full of grain, hangs the lowest; that bough which is the most heavily laden with fruit, bends the nearest to the ground.  It is no unequivocal mark of great spiritual fruitfulness in a believer, when tenderness of conscience, contrition of spirit, low thoughts of self, and high thoughts of Jesus, mark the state of his soul.  “Who hath despised the day of small things?”–not Jesus.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 163)

 

Now since no man is so cautious in speech, or maintains such a wise restraint upon himself, as never to allow some idle words to escape him, there remains for all of us absolute despair, if the Lord should treat us with rigor.  But as the confident hope of our salvation rests on the assurance that God will not enter into judgment with us, (Ps 143:2) but will bury in gracious forgetfulness the sins which deserve innumerable deaths, we entertain no doubt that, when he removes the condemnation of our whole life, he will likewise pardon the guilt of idle talking.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 81)

 

The consistent teaching of both Old and New Testaments is that the only way of salvation is by God’s grace working through man’s faith.  Jesus’ point is not that words are the basis of salvation or condemnation but that they are reliable evidence of the reality of salvation.  The speech of a redeemed person will be different, because it comes from his renewed heart.  Pure, wholesome, praising speech shows a new heart.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 320)

 

Rejoice when the Holy Spirit convicts, so you mourn over your sinfulness and are poor in spirit and hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Be glad as you mourn, are discouraged and hunger and thirst; because the holy Spirit is alive and active in your hearts.  (Mt 5:2-9; Jn 16:8 )

 

Christ’s word comes to each of us as the briefest statement of all that it is our highest duty and truest wisdom to aim at in life–“Make the tree good.”  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 183)

 

The Pharisee is always blind as an owl to the light of God and true goodness; keen-sighted as a hawk for trivial breaches of his cobweb regulations, and cruel as a vulture to tear with beak and claw.  The race is not extinct.  We all carry one inside us, and need God’s help to cast him out.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 171)

 

When we lose our temper we throw away logic, reason, priorities, reputation and dignity.  Satan desires to rob us of all of these virtues because they are given to us by God.   Don’t lose control of your temper.   Allow God, through the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit, to guard and keep our hearts and minds through Christ our Lord.

 

Worship Point:  We will never worship that which our cold, hard hearts refuse to acknowledge.

 

“Without the engagement of the heart, we do not really worship. The engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of the feelings and emotions and affections of the heart. Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.”  (John Piper; Desiring God, 81)

 

My brother, only the heart is hard that does not know it is hard.  Only he is hardened who does not know he is hardened.  When we are concerned for our coldness, it is because of the yearning God has put there.  God has not rejected us.  (Bernard of Clairvaux as quoted by A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 90)

 

A man after God’s own heart is constantly rejoicing with a broken heart.  (Buddy Briggs; May 6th, 2012)

 

Gospel Application:  As fallen, depraved, broken humans, we are helpless to change our own hearts.  But inviting Jesus to come into our hearts means transformation has already begun.  (Jer 13:23; 2 Cor 5:17; )

 

D.L Moody said, “I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts.  But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God.  We must be emptied before we can be filled.”  (J. Kuhatschek, Taking The Guesswork Out of Applying The Bible, 153ff).

 

The principle is this:  true repentance is a change of mind, of heart, of disposition:  it is the making of a new heart and of a right spirit.  It originates in regeneration; in our being born again; in our obtaining a new nature and becoming new creatures in Christ by the Spirit.  And it flows forth, in unmistakable manifestations, in a new course of conduct; in a reformed life; a life aiming at new ends, conducted under a new rule, and aspiring to attain to a new standard.  Repentance, springing from a true fear of God and a true sight of sin, manifests itself in a dutiful obedience to God’s law and a jealous abstinence from sin.  True and saving repentance is not a mere shaking off the evil fruit from the tree, and trying on fruit of a better appearance.  It is the changing of the tree’s very nature; and good fruit is then naturally brought forth, and not artificially appended.  The penitent exclaims, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  Thus much for the healing of the tree.  He obeys the command, “Cease to do evil, learn to do well.”  Thus much for the new, good fruit.  “Make the tree good, and the fruit good” (Mt 12:33)” (Hugh Martin; Jonah, 271-2)

 

What we have received is a gift of grace, unearned in any way.  We need to understand that man’s free will is free only in that God never compels anybody to sin.  The sinner is not free to do either good or evil because his corrupt heart, formed by Satan’s dominion, always inclines him to sin.  Man is enslaved by that heart, a bondage that can be broken only by God’s merciful intervention.  (Emailed from Carole Jacobus 8/17/10)

 

Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)

 

There are many diseases of the body which are incurable.  The cleverest doctors cannot heal them.  But, thank God! there are no incurable diseases of soul.  All manner and quantity of sins can be washed away by Christ.  The hardest and most wicked of hearts can be changed.  (J. C. Ryle; The Power of the Holy Spirit)

 

“Gospel repentance is not a little hanging down of the head.  It’s a working of the heart until your sin becomes more odious to you than any punishment for it.” — Richard Sibbes

 

“One part of repentance is to set the will against sinful behavior.  But in spiritual renewal, your eyes are opened to deeper forms of “flesh” in the heart from which sinful behavior springs—root attitudes and values that serve as forms of works-righteousness and self-will.  All Christians maintain ways to keep mastery of their own lives through residual schemes of self-salvation, ways of continuing to seek to earn our acceptance.  To do this, we fix our hearts on created things such as work, love, possessions, romance, acclaim, and so on . . . . Revivals always require a relinquishment of idols (Jdg 10:10-16; Ex 33:1-6).  As this deeper work of repentance proceeds, the Christian begins to hunger for the love and presence of God.”  — Tim Keller

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Look to Jesus for the power and guidance you need to guard your heart.  (Prv 3:5-6; 4:23; Heb 12:1-17)

 

Doing is the second step, and Being is the first.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, St. Matthew 9-17, 182)

 

 

Christ

In Our Heart

 

 

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