“What if Jesus Was Serious? – Inside Out Righteousness”

Explore one of history’s most powerful messages, the Sermon on the Mount at Gateway Church in Austin.

Jesus unveils the essence of living in God’s Kingdom. This message isn’t mere idealism; it’s an invitation to live a life shaped by love, compassion, and righteousness. It’s not just a guide; it’s a transformational journey into the heart of humanity. Are you ready to step into this extraordinary way of living?

If Jesus was serious about heart transformation, then our thoughts, motives, and intentions are deeply significant.

Digging Deeper

Work through these discussion questions and do a deeper dive into the message with your family, roommates, or community group.

Discussion Questions

Watch Here:

Message Notes Here:

Week 3 – Inside-Out Righteousness- Matt. 5:21-37

Eric Bryant

Big Idea: If Jesus was serious about heart transformation, then our thoughts, motives, and intentions are deeply significant.

Jesus’ message in Matthew 5-7 really changed my life. I started to take Jesus at His word after I chose to follow Jesus. I would have been probably more of a cultural Christian

Building off of last week when we said- God’s desire for transforming the world starts one heart at a time. We want to unpack that today. This morning the big idea we are working from is this- If Jesus was serious about heart transformation, then our thoughts, motives, and intentions are deeply significant.

And Jesus begins to unpack transformation by using some of the 10 commandments and real life scenarios to poke, prod, and bring God’s restoration to the human condition. Remember Jesus had just said that our righteousness needs to exceed the religious leaders as we discussed last week. 

So He uses 6 vignettes prefaced with a popular rabbinic refrain “You have heard it said…” to take an OT Law/principle which everyone there is very familiar with and help people see it with a renewed lens. 

But we will see that unlike the teachers of his day, his authority is unmatched. 

Today we’re looking at what Jesus says about anger, contempt, sexual lust, and honesty. 

  • This is also the section of the sermon that people have found the most difficult to take Jesus at His word. His interpretation of these well known commands make the law seem unrealistic or even impossible. 
  • But as we said last week, He’s not talking about perfection, but rather the progression of the heart. 
  • And in all reality we could spend a series on each of these, but our hope always is that you would go back, read, reread, and apply to your life what Jesus is saying to you about your thoughts, motives, and intentions.   

In fact you will probably come to the conclusion that God cares just as much about the condition of your heart and mind as  your words and actions. 

And again, a reminder at what Jesus is after, the goal of this series- the message of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus saying, “The kingdom of heaven is here. And if you want to follow me (the king) this is what life will be like.”

So let’s dive in:

If Jesus was serious, then anger left unchecked is more destructive than we realize.

let’s look at this together: 

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.  25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matthew 5:21-26)

  • “You shall not murder”… Jesus is quoting Exodus 20:13. Basic but then he goes expanding and zooming in on this issue to the spiritual molecule- ANGER.
  • He’s not just telling them to not murder people in their heart, but to take it even further and go to that person to be reconciled. 
  • Because your truest self, your outside life, is dictated by your inside world. 
  • “Raca” was quite literally a 4 letter word in Jesus’ language of Aramaic. It means “empty headed” or “worthless” in American it’s the same as “Idiot” but when you’re really mad. In essence it is seeing others with contempt.
  • “In danger of hell fire”. When you and I hear ‘hell’ there’s a ton of baggage and imagery that comes with that, from Dante’s inferno, horror movies, and terrifying church experiences.  But ‘hell’ is the greek “Gehenna” or “Valley of Gehinnom where centuries before when Israel was at its worst, a wicked king Ahaz in a horrible and detestable act, sacrificed his children and leads many in the nation to do the same to the god Ba’al. That valley became synonymous with evil. Later it became a trash heap for Jerusalem where trash would burn in a constant smoldering fire. 
  • This is not explaining away hell, because throughout the Gospels Jesus has a lot to say about hell, here and now and in the life to come. And we don’t have time to unpack hell today but I think 95% of Christians have totally misunderstood hell. Soon we will do a teaching on it. But this valley was a metaphor or word picture for evil reaching a boiling point of judgment. 

But here Jesus is saying, “you’re in danger of the fire of hell” and he’s talking about NOW, not later. That anger left undealt with, unrepented, and unearthed will destroy your view of people. It will destroy your relationships. It will cause some pretty serious consequences. It will be HELL on Earth for the person who never deals with it.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Jesus is teaching from Galilee which was a long way away from the Temple (days of journey) and he gives this extreme example of getting all the way to the temple about to make your sacrifice and realize that you have unresolved issues with someone in your life, he says leave it and go make things right.

It was a way of illustrating what the OT says over and over- God doesn’t care about your lip service and your label or good deeds, if you have wronged someone and not made it right. If you have resentment in your heart towards someone. It is blocking your relationship with God.

Further driving home the point from a few weeks ago that our relationship with God is inextricably linked with others. 

God sees what we often don’t, and that is that unchecked anger leads to contempt. Where we no longer see the humanity in others, they become practically invisible. 

“In anger I want to hurt you. In contempt, I don’t care whether you are hurt or not. Or at least so I say. You are not worthy of consideration one way or the other. We can be angry at someone without denying their worth. But contempt makes it easier for us to hurt them or see them further degraded.”

-Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

If you’ve ever said something like, “I don’t resent them. I honestly don’t think of them. They can live or die, it’s all the same to me.” Then you are in the danger zone of contempt.Where now, anger has become septic and you no longer see people as made in the image of God but rather as invisible nothings that you are “better” than.

But no one is ever invisible to God. No one is unworthy of His attention and love.

In verses 25-26, Jesus uses the Gentile scenario of debt imprisonment to tell his listeners to work out their issues. 

  • That if you feel stuck, it could be that maybe there’s a place where you have not made amends, you’re harboring anger, or you’ve swept things under the rug. 
  • Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers” NOT the peace-fakers
  • Reconciliation – When we face conflict, we can choose to make the other person our enemy, or we can choose to make that person a friend by doing everything in our power to make sure that they know we love them. 

To ensure we live as peacemakers, Jesus gives us two different, seemingly contradictory commands. 

  • In Matthew 5, Jesus declares that the one who has hurt someone should approach the one he offended, but in Matthew 18, Jesus says that the one offended should approach the one who did the offending. 
  • So which is it? Was Jesus confused?
  • I think Jesus knew we would both be reluctant so as long as one of us trusts Jesus at His word and obeys His guidance, we will be on the path towards peace.
  • According to Jesus, if someone hurts us or if we hurt someone, we should sit down in front of that person, face-to-face, to talk through what happened.
  • As soon as you recognize that emotion (it’s keeping you up, it triggers you randomly, etc) Take it to Jesus.

If we can overcome anger in our heart, we will avoid actions which might bring pain and destruction to our relationships.
We may not murder someone, but how many times have we killed relationships?
This is not the way of Jesus.

If Jesus was serious, then sexual brokenness and familial brokenness starts in the mind and heart.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28) 

Jesus brings up another commandment- You shall not commit adultery + You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife

  • In Jesus’ time many Jewish sources warned against lust and emphasized women’s seductiveness. 
  • But Jesus here emphasizes that the responsibility of lust is laid on the one lusting, in this case MEN. 
  • Yes, we know in today’s world it can go both ways. But Jesus in this teaching 2000 years ago, is giving men their talking to. 
  • He is saying then and he’s saying today, that so much of the sexual brokenness, abuse, and objectification of women, begins with the way men tend to view women, reducing them to sexual objects.
  • Jesus doesn’t say “blame women” or “blame culture” He says “Look in the mirror and deal with your lust.” And if the anger part didn’t get you, then the lust one certainly did. 

And at this point if we are not careful we checkout thinking Jesus is being unrealistic or just idealistic. But he’s dealing with core human experiences and bringing rightness or righteousness to them. 

The Bible has a lot to say on the beauty of sex and love, particularly in marriage between a man and woman. 

  • There’s a whole book about it called Song of Solomon. 
  • Jesus is not downing sexual desire, he’s bringing guardrails to it. 
  • Jesus is not talking about the physical and physiological reaction that happens when we see attractive, particularly sexually. 
  • He’s not attacking attraction, attraction is not a sin. Jesus is dealing with what happens after. 
  • He’s talking about the second look, the lingering scroll, the thoughts, and fantasies that develop in your mind and heart.
  • What Jesus is talking about with lust is not JUST about the look, but the intention behind the look. It is looking with the intent to use them as an object to fulfill your sexual fantasies.  
  • Jesus would state clearly today that Pornography in all forms is so destructive to society. It is destructive to our mental, relational, and sexual health. It makes us dehumanize each other as objects of self-gratification instead of beautiful image bearers of God.
  • When we indulge in this we dehumanize the person on the other side of our lust

On the flip-side please don’t be so extreme that you fall into the trap of demonizing them

  • Men, out of fear of lusting, don’t even look at women, or think women are trouble.
  • Then women, on the flip side, feel dehumanized, or like they are the enemy, the ones in danger of causing men to stumble. 
  • We’ve got to get this narrative right. It’s not about not looking at people, but seeing people through the lens of their Creator, as those with dignity and value.

If you can win the battle in your mind, you will not fall emotionally or physically.

I have had too many conversations with too many people who never expected to cheat on their wife or have an emotional affair at work or spend time watching pornography on their computer, but it all began with that lingering lustful glance. 

Trust Jesus at his word.

As I mentioned earlier, the Sermon on the Mount changed my life. This passage inspired me to take my thoughts captive and honor God with my mind. 

Just like any other American, I was raised in a hyper-sexualized culture that sees sex as equivalent with love and sees other people as the means to my happiness. I could easily get caught up in looking for a girl to be there for me and my needs rather than someone to serve and learn to love unconditionally as Jesus loves me.  

So any time I saw a beautiful woman and the enemy sought to tempt me to take a second glance , I chose to pray a blessing for the young woman and then to pray for my future wife and that I might become a man who honored women the way a true man should. And I would quote Matthew 5:8 – “The pure in heart will see God.” I took this as a promise from God that if I would die to my selfish thoughts and sacrifice in that moment then God would let me experience more of His peace, love, guidance, and hope.

Without fully knowing what I was doing,  this action upheld the dignity and humanity of the woman instead of going down the road of objectification.

So back to that hillside with Jesus. Imagine being on that hill and hearing Jesus say these words: 

29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30) 

Can you imagine being the first people on the planet to hear this? Just like this morning, no one’s looking to the right or left because Jesus just let off a grenade that hit everyone!

Now, Jesus again is using hyperbole to drive a point. He’s not advocating self-mutilation or even hurting yourself with shame but rather he’s saying, deal with your issues now. Paul was so real with us understanding EVERYONE can easily fall victim to this, it’s almost the universal temptation. So he says run away from sexual perversion because you’re not strong enough to stay there and think you’ll outlast the temptation 

1 Corinthians 6:18: Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.

Before you bring hell on earth for yourself or for others. And anyone who has dealt with the effects of sexual abuse, misconduct, or addiction will tell you it is hell.

Speaking of hell on earth, have you been through a divorce? Do you know someone close to you who experienced divorce?

Jesus speaks on the subject:

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)

Unfortunately this verse has been used more for prescriptions of when divorce is ok, when Jesus was describing the rampant unfair divorce issue in that culture. Whole theologies have been made from these 2 verses when Jesus again was after the matters of the heart.

In that day and age only men had the power to issue a certificate of divorce, outside of infidelity. Rabbis over centuries crafted lists of when it was ok and no-joke one of those stated “that one could divorce a wife if he did not like her cooking.”

So Jesus goes after the men in particular then again.

This is a great example of how Jesus was seeking to protect and provide for women where they have been oppressed and overlooked. 

But today both men and women can take this seriously. 

He’s likely using hyperbole again here saying- other than the extreme cases where the other partner has already irreparably broken the marriage covenant (infidelity, abuse, etc), then don’t let your HEART go there. 

He’s saying to his FOLLOWERS don’t be so flippant with another human life that you would so quickly discard them and move on. Basically stating- you’re already guilty of cheating with how quick you gave up.

Jesus saw 2000 years ago what sociology and psychology tells us today, about the detriments of broken homes. Jesus 2000 years ago was looking out for the economic, emotional, and spiritual well being of women and children. But those ramifications still exist today

Notice how he couples the sneaky disease of lust with the epidemic of divorce

If Jesus was serious, then the follower of Jesus must choose integrity in our words.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:33-37) 

In Jesus’ time among Gentiles and even some Jews, oaths invoked the witness of a deity, people would swear by other gods as to not bring God’s name into disrepute if something went sideways. 

Jesus is saying don’t bring anything or anyone else into this, it’s all God’s creation anyways and it belongs to him (Isa. 66:11). Jesus is saying- be as good as your WORD.

Ecclesiastes 5:5- 5 It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.

If Jesus was serious about heart transformation, then our thoughts, motives, and intentions are deeply significant.

One time when I was in Los Angeles I was at a breakfast where our pastor was sharing our vision for the church to potential leaders. He shared about resourcing our efforts. One of the men there asked: “Well is this a ‘law church’ or a ‘grace church’?” He was implying that tithing (giving 10% of your income to God through your local church) is an Old Testament and archaic idea. Our pastor responded:

We are a grace church!

The law said “Do not murder” but grace said “you should not even have anger in your heart towards another person”
The law said “Do not commit adultery” but grace said “you should not even have lust in your heart towards another person.”
The law said “Give 10%” but grace says “you can 15, 20, 25%, or even more! Grace is never less than the law.”

I love this idea. Grace is not less than the law. Grace says: we don’t have to live like everyone else. 

We can live a new version of being human – a more generous, more compassionate, more integrated version of being human. We don’t have to give into division or anger or lust or brokenness or dishonesty.  We can rise above it all with God’s help and out of gratitude for all He has done for us!

All humans are made in the image of God according to Genesis 1:26. That means we were made to bring God’s image (his goodness, righteousness, love everywhere we go) in the world.  But we all have chosen to go our own way and in doing so we aren’t living into who we were designed to be. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is calling us back to our design. We don’t have to give into division, anger, lust, brokenness or dishonesty. Jesus lived in a way that we have always failed at and so he is inviting us to learn from him and let him teach us a new way to be human!

So let me ask you: do you see how impossible what Jesus says is the healthy way to live is for us?

How can he expect us to pull this off?

He is casting a vision of a new version of humanity which we can experience if we surrender our life to Him and let Him forgive, lead, and guide us. He wants us to recognize that we can only pull this off when we live in surrender to Jesus and His Lordship/leadership in our lives. We can treat others with love and dignity in our hearts and actions when we remember how Jesus moved toward us when we were His enemies.

Are you willing to ask Him to help you to live more like Jesus? To think more like Jesus?

You will become a better son, daughter, friend, parent, spouse, CEO, employee, student.

It’s about being formed more into His likeness. 

  • Jesus doesn’t just want to patch us up, He wants to restore us to our TRUE humanity. 
  • And this is what His Kingdom is made of, people who participate with Jesus in the restoration of this world as they love one another from the inside out. 
  • You will experience more of God’s presence, peace, love, and guidance in your life. 
  • You will need to sacrifice, surrender, and die to self, but you will never regret doing so. 

Jesus doesn’t just want to patch us up, He wants to restore us to our TRUE humanity. And this is what His Kingdom is made of, people who live out their design as image-bearers, sacrificially loving and partnering with one another to fill the world with God’s image…

As we do every week, I want to encourage you to take this message to heart. Dig Deeper with your roommates, family, or your group. [gatewaychurch.com/diggingdeeper]. 

So if you have felt any sort of shame or guilt or regret today, remember grace is greater than the law.

That means God loves you unconditionally, and He can remove that guilt and shame. 

Just ask Him to forgive you.

I want to encourage you to take advantage of this moment and connect with Jesus in your heart and mind. Ask Him to help you surrender.  Ask Him for forgiveness. Ask Him for guidance. Ask Him to show you your next steps in your life to grow, to serve, to heal, and to belong.

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