Welcome! So good to see you guys today. If you’re new here at Hope City, I hope that you’ll take a few minutes after church and say hi. I’ll be out front looking forward to meeting you. I think that everyone here should leave knowing someone else’s name. Hope City is more than just a service, it’s a place where you can experience Home! So, when you’re here, you’re family. Welcome!
I’m a music lover. I’m constantly listening to music. Apple music has become my best friend. The ability to stream all kinds of music from all kinds of artists is key! But I love when something I’ve heard and known for a long time gets remixed. A good remix is more than just a cover. A cover is playing something someone else wrote just maybe on a different instrument, or in a different octave or key.
A remix on the other hand is when you build something better on the foundation of the original. It doesn’t negate the original, it enhances it.
Today we are starting a 3-week series called “REMIX”, because in the book of Matthew, we see Jesus dropping a remix of His own. This Remix of course is not musical, but rather lyrical. The words that Jesus uses are key for us to listen in on and apply to our own lives.
See the problem is that there are times when we need to hear a remix… Sometimes the original has become so normal to us that we miss out on what is actually being said. Or maybe we’ve run into the same old same old and it becomes routine or habit and it starts losing the power that it once had.
Tiffany, is my best friend. She and I recently celebrated our 13-year wedding anniversary. And over the course of the past 13 years I’ve told this woman I love her at least every day. And she has done the same for me. I’ve heard it, and it lives in my brain. I’m confident in her love for me, but the other day she said something that caught my attention. She said, “Peter, I’m IN love with you.”
Sometimes a good remix shakes things up and adds value and adds meaning to something we knew, but needed to understand on a deeper level.
In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus says this phrase 6 times…
“You have heard it said” (Mt 5:43)
This is the best way to start a remix. In other words, you’ve heard it before… but listen up now.
Today we are going to be looking at one of the six times Jesus says, you’ve heard it said. Turn or swipe over in your Bible to Matthew 5:43. This is found on Page **** in your Bibles. This passage of Scripture is known as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was sitting on the hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee sharing with the crowd that had gathered around Him. I took this picture of the place where they think that Jesus delivered this message. Jesus and those listening could look out and see Israel here to the North and the South, and the Decapolis, or the Ten Cities across the sea to the East. And in seeing that you could imagine the customs and traditions represented by each of these locations. And let’s look back to what Jesus says,
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (Mt 5:43)
Here’s what is common, what is normal. There is something normal and understood about loving people close to you, and hating those who are against you. There are two terms here, Love & Hate.
Love= seeking the benefit of others often at the sacrifice of your own selfish desires or motives. We can love people, we can love things, we can love ideas.
But set against Love is Hate.
Hate= the intense desire to see someone or something suffer, be ruined, or destroyed. Again, we can hate people, things, or ideas.
In 1991, The Hip Hop artists “Cyprus Hill” coined the word Hater in their song Psychobetabuckdown. It was largely used for people who were jealous. Well In 1997, “The Notorious B.I.G, Biggie Smalls” remixed Cyprus Hills word Hater by adding Playa Hater to it. Those jealous of who He was. Then in 2000, The group 3LW records a song called “Playa’s Gonna Play” which had a line in there that said, Haters Gonna Hate. Now fast forward to 2014, and T-Swift drops her catchy “Shake It Off” tune with the chorus, “Playa’s gonna play, play, play, play, play, and the Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” And now suddenly, we have a pop culture ideology wrapped up in the phrase Haters Gonna Hate. There has been a cultural progression of this hatred mentality.
We’ve pushed this phrase into common language, and accepted the fact that anyone that doesn’t agree with you should be labeled a hater, and disregarded. Diminished for their inability to be just like you. It places my desires, my feelings, ahead of your own.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (Mt 5:43)
Love those like you, and disregard those who are different.
The pop culture of Jesus day and age was pushing a similar agenda. The Essenes, not a half bad band name by the way, were a sect of Judaism, that popularized the idea that anyone that wasn’t like you were to be hated. So, in their case, anyone that wasn’t Jewish it was okay to Hate. “Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy” … The Greek ethic of the time also stressed the fact that you should hurt your enemy more than they hurt you.
This was common, this was normal. And unfortunately, this IS common, and this IS normal. See, this is not only the Greek ethic, this is the natural human ethic.
This past week, we have seen hatred come to light. Hatred was spotlighted in our country, and it has been put on display for everyone to see. It didn’t spring up overnight, this is Hatred that has lived in the quiet recesses of evil, and this week, it bubbled over into the limelight. The events that have happened in Charlottesville, North Carolina reveal a common human emotion—Hatred. What has happened in Charlottesville is disgusting and deeply disturbing. It feeds directly into the common phrase that Jesus is addressing. Love your neighbor, and Hate your enemy.
Jesus speaks directly to the situation our country is facing, and to the situation we must face in our own lives–that is Hatred.
Look at what Jesus says, you’ve heard it said… This is what is normal…
44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. (Mt 5:44–45)
Jesus flips normal on its head. He says, not only should you love those who love you, but you should love those who are different than you. Centered amid this message, Jesus says something extreme. Jesus talks about identity. He talks about who you are.
He says, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may live in the fullness of your identity as sons & daughters of God.
The other day Tiffany and I were resolving a dispute in our house between two children, and after things calmed down, we wanted to help our kids understand why what they were doing was wrong. Our goal is to always parent & shepherd our kid’s hearts. It isn’t just about behavior modification, parenting is about heart change. And we started talking to our kids about how they were each other’s brother and sister, and how they needed to be each other’s biggest fans, best friends, and constant supporter. There are enough people out in the world that want to make fun, and point out how dumb you are, different you are, etc.… But a brother or sister, doesn’t do that. At least not when you share the last name Gowesky. Gowesky’s don’t do that. Their IDENTITY was defining their BEHAVIOR.
In the same way, Jesus is saying, Listen, if you say that you are a child of God, then you need to act like Him. Jesus centers this teaching around a main idea, The Children of God should imitate the heart of God. If you’re taking notes today, write that down. Even if you’re not taking notes today, write this down. The Children of God should imitate the heart of God. Children do what they see their parents do. This may be one of the scariest things as a parent, when you see your negative traits show up in your children… But we work with our kids, we train them, we show them, we correct them, we love them enough to point them in the right direction.
And Jesus is doing the same thing here. He is correcting a toxic heart attitude of Hatred. Jesus is saying, all of you who claim God as your Heavenly Father, you better think, and act like the Father. And the Heart of the Father is Love and Grace.
This is why I need you to hear me clearly. For a follower of Jesus, there is no room for the Alt Right, no room for White Supremacy, no room for White Nationalism, no room for Racism. We unequivocally condemn this, and acknowledge that every man, every woman, every child has been made in the image of God. As Christians, God has adopted us into a family. A family made up of every nation, every tribe, every tongue, every skin tone… Heaven is going to be the most diverse place you’ve been. And it grieves me to see how little diversity there is in the local church. We need one another.
We cannot sit around and witness evil without saying anything about it. Letting it lurk in the dark is unacceptable, what’s even worse is letting it wander around in the light. Racism, White Supremacy, White Nationalism, and the Alt Right are abhorrent to God. They are anti-Gospel, and anti-Christianity. It stands in direct opposition to what it means to be a Christian. And we cannot stand by and watch this happen. The heart of a Christian was not made for Hate but for Love. There is no room for hate. This is what led Martin Luther King, Jr to say,
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
As men and women who follow Jesus, our hearts move from Darkness into Light. And that light must shine the brightest in the darkest nights.
Which is why we can’t just love those people who love us… Jesus explains, Jesus says,
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Mt 5:43–47)
Sun and Rain… in an agrarian society, these two items were considered God’s blessing. God’s provision. And who does God give these two things to? Both the righteous and the unrighteous. The deserving and the undeserving.
It’s normal to love those who are like you, who are close to you. Everyone does that. That’s not impressive. In fact, Jesus said, even the tax collectors do that. Tax collectors were those people who were considered the lowest and worst in the Jewish society. They were seen as the ones who rebelled the most against God’s ways. And even the Tax collectors will love people who love them.
But Jesus says,
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Mt 5:48)
Be perfect, this doesn’t mean without flaw or as Good as possible, this means whole and complete. Jesus is saying, be completely like your heavenly Father. Just as He is complete and whole.
Love your enemies.
And there are three things that will help move your heart towards love.
Look at how the King James Version puts it… just 4 verses before this…
But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Mt 5:44)
To Imitate the heart of God, to love our enemies, we can follow these three steps.
- Bless Others
Blessing is a churchy word. “Be blessed brother”. But what does this actually mean? What does it mean to be a blessing to others? When you can, show you+ can. Go out of your way to provide for others, to care for others, to show value in others. This might mean that you show up for your friends and neighbors when you know that they are in need. Blessing others is taking the good things that God has given you and using them for the benefit of others.
- Do Good to Others
Doing good for others is easy to understand but hard to practice. This requires that you put your own desires behind the desires of others. And yet it doesn’t have to be immense acts. Do you know where goodness starts? Acknowledging others. This past week I was stopping for gas on rt.64 and I went in to give the attendant some cash for the fill up, and the woman in front of me was barking orders for the lottery tickets she was buying, and she barely acknowledged that she was speaking to another human being. Save your rude attitude for Siri or Alexa… but affirm others humanity. When I handed him the 30 bucks, I looked him square in the eyes and said thank you. I hope you have a great day. Look into their eyes, not just at their face. Engage their humanity! It’s contagious.
- Pray For Others
When we pray for others it melts the hatred from our hearts. It’s hard to both pray for someone and hate them with the same heart. You can only genuinely do one of them at a time! A.W. Tozer has said, “We cannot Pray in Love, and Live in hate and still think we are worshipping God.” That is so powerful!
Try asking God to bless your enemies. Ask God to lead them to His heart, His mind, and His will. Prayer is powerful, and it will change you!
The condition of our heart, is of top priority to Jesus. Your heart, my heart is not allowed to just be normal. Normal, status quo, loves those close to us, and hates those who hate us. Haters gonna hate? Maybe, but Christians are called to Love.
What is your heart imitating? The hatred of the world? Or the heart of the Father?
Every now and then we need a good heart check. It’s like sitting down on the doctors exam table… We need to hear how we’re doing.
Today we need to pause and ask God to forgive us for the times when we imitate the heart of hatred, rather than the heart of the Father. We need to ask God to forgive us for the hatred that lives in our hearts, even in the deep dark corners we keep from everyone else.
We planted Hope City Church to show the Love of God to Sarasota, and so that you would experience God’s love in your life.
We planted Hope City Church to push back the Evil and the Hate our world experiences.
We planted Hope City Church to show people there is another way, and His name is Jesus.
Jesus instructed us to love others, and not only did Jesus instruct us, He demonstrated His own love for us. He did this for us while we still were men and women who didn’t acknowledge Him, wouldn’t call ourselves Christians, Christ Followers, or members of a church. Even while we had our backs turned to Jesus, Christ died for us. He showed us the heart of the father. In fact, we can only experience the heart of the Father through the death of His Son, Jesus.
See, sin separates us from God. It keeps us from having a relationship with God, the kind of personal relationship that we crave. Sin blocks that, and sin needs to be removed for us to know God and experience His presence in our lives.
Jesus hung on a cross to pay the penalty of our sin, our hatred… And we remember that when we take communion. We remember that Jesus blood was spilled for us, and that his body was broken, for the brokenness of my sin.
Today we are going to remember what God has done for us through Jesus by taking communion. That is what communion is, it is a time to remember. A time to look back and see what God has done for us, but it is also a time to look forward. In light of what God has done, what will we go and do?
So, let me ask you again, what is your heart imitating? Is your heart imitating God the Father? Or have you allowed hatred to get in the way of what God has designed your heart to do.
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself… (Le 19:18)