Victoria Fellowship Church
International & Interdenominational
Bible Study Worksheet – January 22, 2017
Theme: Building Blocks for Godly Living
Topic: Purified Thoughts
Text: Matthew 5:21-30; Proverbs 4:20-27
Key Verse: Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (NIV)
Last Sunday we considered “Effective Witnessing” as one of the “Building Blocks for Godly Living”. We saw, especially, that the life the Christian is the most powerful witness in today’s sophisticated world. Learning from that study include the following:
- The effectiveness of the Christian’s witness is seen in the extent to which he (a) draws unbelievers to commit their lives to Christ and (b) makes the world uncomfortable in evil
- In an environment where most people seem to already know the gospel message but have not believed, the upright life of the Christian, endorsed by God’s miraculous interventions in his affairs, is the most powerful witness.
- Christians need to give attention, by follow-up and mentoring, to making disciples of those who newly come to faith in Christ as new converts are certain to face significant pressures from previous relationships and environments, and may also be discouraged by other Christians’ apparent shortcomings.
This Sunday, we will be discussing “Purified Thoughts” as an absolutely essential requirement for a godly life. It is in the context of purified thoughts that Solomon admonishes to “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it”. Key learning from the study should include the following:
- The most heinous sins and crimes start with a small unwholesome thought which the bearer nurtures until it is ready for expression. While we cannot stop a fleeting thought, we can guard our hearts to stifle such thoughts.
- A sin is committed whenever there is a readiness to commit it, even if the opportunity to do so does not present itself. Consequently, it is possible to commit murder without physically killing someone, and to commit adultery without physically having sexual intercourse with someone. In this way, one may be declared innocent before a court of law but guilty before God.
- God always provides a way of escape when we are tempted. Guarding our hearts includes seeing and making use of the ways of escape that He provides.
A significant limitation of the human mind is that it only judges things and people by what the physical senses pick up. We judge people by what they say and do, and what we call the “body language”. However, Prophet Isaiah writing about The Righteous Branch, says of Him: “… He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;” (Isaiah 11:3). This Righteous Branch (Jesus Christ) later said “… the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” – Luke 6:45, and that “… out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matthew 15:19) Solomon saw this when in our key verse he counsels us to guard our hearts because “everything [we] do flows from it”. In our first main text, Jesus warns that murder is in fact a maturation of a hateful heart, just as adultery starts with a lustful heart. A man’s heart is extremely powerful and is well equipped to conjure up both constructive and destructive pictures. To guard it is to channel its power into positive ends. God knows we can do this, otherwise He would not have commanded us to do it.
1. Give examples of evils that start as a small seed in the heart, and how they might eventually blossom into destructive words or actions.
In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus focused on the issue of relationships between us and others. After making the point that murder is an ultimate consummation of anger, He identifies the relationship issues that fuel the anger. First, He speaks of when we are angry with someone else – v22. The Authorised Version (KJV) renders the first part thus: “… whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”. How can someone be angry with another without a cause? It is called resentment – a continuous dislike for a person whether or not the person has wronged us. Then He speaks of when we know that someone else has something against us – vv23-24. Finally, He speaks of when two of you simply disagree and seek legal redress. In all three situations, He places the onus of the initiative to make peace on the Christian.
2. What thoughts make it difficult for us to take the initiative to make peace in each of the three situations Jesus addresses and how can we overcome the reluctance?
When we speak of a Christian falling into sin, most Christians assume it is sexual sin. While we judge our conduct in this regard by what is known, Jesus in vv27-30 makes the point that we could be guilty of sexual sin even when no act has been performed and no scandal created. He notes that the sinful act we see starts with a thought in the heart that has been nurtured to the point that all that is needed is an opportunity to act it out. Whether that opportunity presents itself or not is no longer material – the maturation of the thought to the point of readiness for expression is a sin. It is like an officer who desires to be assigned a duty that gives opportunities for him to take bribe, but has not been assigned such a duty. A sin can be committed even when there is no opportunity to practically commit it. Here, God’s ethical standard exceeds that of the law – v20.
3. What typical personal thought failings account for the widespread nature of sexual sin in the Church, and what can individuals do to curb it?
Father, we ask that Your Spirit alert us whenever an unwholesome thought that could mature into sin springs up in our hearts. Teach us to nip such thoughts in the bud by taking the ways of escape which You always provide, in Jesus’ name. Amen.