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There is an obstacle to be removed before acceptable worship can be rendered by your heart. Something has to be done!

Now our reading is taken again from the Sermon on the Mount this morning, from Matthew chapter 5. Matthew chapter 5, and we'll begin to read at verse 21 - and you remember that last Lord's Day morning we looked at verses 21 and 22, half of these words of the Lord Jesus Christ concerning the sin of murder among brethren.

Verse 21, remember it is the Lord Jesus Christ speaking: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool", or rebel, "shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing".

Let's take a moments prayer: Father in heaven, these are very difficult words that we ponder today. Indeed we have felt the two-edged sharp sword of the word of God already from studying these words, but we pray that we will be honest with ourselves, that we will be honest with Thy word - and, Lord, that we will root out those things in our lives which are not pleasing to Thyself, Lord that we will follow the example and the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. Impart Thy Spirit to us for understanding and for the power of the preaching, for we ask it in the Saviour's name. Amen.

Last week we learnt how the Lord Jesus Christ went from the mere outward committal of the crime of murder to the very seed of it within the heart. We looked at how it can begin with an inward hate, deep in the heart where no man can see, only God, there can well up within us a resentment toward another. We saw that the Lord Jesus Christ went further than the Pharisees to simply judge the outward expression of violence and murder, but to go deep within the recesses of man's motives, those dark recesses and chambers where polluted things hold empire o'er the soul. The Lord Jesus pronounced judgement upon the inward hating of the heart, but He went further and described how that hatred of the heart can express itself in contemptible words toward another. He went further and said that those words, like calling your brother 'Raca', 'empty head', was worthy of judgement also.

But we saw the very disturbing words of the Lord Jesus, that when we call our brother or sister in Christ 'Fool' - and the definition of that word 'fool' we saw is really 'rebel', or someone who is against God and exempt from the grace of God, perhaps calling someone beyond redemption and worthy of condemnation - by that very act we put ourselves in a place that is guilty of hell fire. Now that is very important, and I hope that I stressed to you that does not mean we will get hell fire, for there is now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus. But what the Lord was saying is that if this was in the law of the land, if this was in the legal civil system, we would be under severe guilt and penalty. In the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, to have such a hatred between brethren in the Lord is guilty of hell fire.

Therefore the Lord seeks to illustrate these principles, this is what we're going to look at today in verses 23 to 26. That's why He begins with this word in verse 23: 'Therefore' - 'The implications of what I have just said', verse 21 and 22, 'I want to illustrate to you what I mean'. Now the Lord Jesus, here, was laying down a principle which these Jews would have known very well. The idea behind it is this: the concept of sacrifice. The Old Testament concept of coming to the altar and bringing your gift to God for sacrifice. Often not known to us today in the New Testament age, in the Old Testament if a man did a wrong thing that action actually disturbed his relationship between him and God. That is why sacrifice came in, now we all know this: sacrifice came in to restore the relationship between that man and his God, but the Jew in the Old Testament never ever held the view that sacrifice could atone for deliberate sin - that is very important. Sacrifice never, in the Old Testament, atoned for deliberate sin - or what the Jews called 'the sin of the high hand', in other words wilful, rebellious sin against God.

If we come to worship God and we remember that our brother has ought against us, it is futile to worship God. It's pointless!

Now, if a man committed a sin unawares - if you like, was overtaken or swept into sin in a moment of passion when his mind was not in him - the sacrifice that the Jews knew, they believed to be able to atone for those sins. But if a man deliberately, defiantly, callously, and open-eyed committed a sin against God, those Old Testament sacrifices were powerless to atone. Before we go on any further, we know today in the New Testament that all the Old Testament sacrifices were powerless to atone, but what I speak of today is the instructions, the reason why God gave these sacrifices. God was telling them: 'Those sins that overtake you, those sins that you commit unawares, if you give this offering I will look down and have grace upon you. But if you deliberately commit a sin against me with your eyes open, callously, those atonements will not suffice'.

Let me give you an example. If a man was making a sin offering, say to atone for the sin of theft, that offering was held completely unavailing until the things that that man stole were returned to the owner. So if you came as a thief to offer your sacrifice unto the altar of God there had to be a judgement take place, there had to be a criminal inquiry as to whether what you had stolen had been restored. If it was found out that you had not restored the things that had been stolen, your offering was taken out of the camp and it was burnt as something that was unclean. Also you remember from the Old Testament that if a man was taking his paschal lamb to the priest as an offering, and if on his way he remembered that he had leaven in his house he had to go back to his house, take out the leaven, before he brought the offering to God. Now this is so important, for I want you to see that there is not a carte blanc atonement for sin in the Old Testament Scriptures. The atonement and the offering that we find there does not atone for deliberate sin against your brother.

Therefore, to be effective, the sacrifice had to include confession of sin. To be effective there had to be the element of true repentance - in other words meaning the rectifying of the consequences of your sin toward your brother. It wasn't enough to simply come to God and confess your sin, but you had to go to the one offended. Even the Day of Atonement couldn't avail for a man's sin unless he was personally reconciled with his neighbour and his brother.

Now in the light of that backdrop of the Old Testament we see the significance of the words of the Lord Jesus. It's very clear and categoric what He is saying, in fact He is enshrining this principle in the law and saying to His disciples: 'You cannot be right with God until you are right with men'. In other words, we cannot have the hope of forgiveness until we have confessed our sins not only to God, but to men that we have offended. Indeed, I believe that this is the backdrop to the teaching in the book of Hebrews, and there's a very difficult verse that many theologians ponder and debate about and confuse many, in Hebrews 10 and verse 26. It says this, now think of it in the light of what we have just looked at: 'If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins'.

Do you see it? 'If we sin wilfully'. Indeed it's what David was encapsulating in Psalm 51 and verses 16 and 17, when he prayed to God over his sin of adultery which was wilful, deliberate, open-eyed sin, he says: 'Lord, thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it', sacrifice would not atone for that sin alone, 'thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise'. This is so important for our understanding of what the Lord Jesus Christ said and so, with this Old Testament Jewish concept as a backdrop, let's look at the first illustration that the Lord Jesus gives us in verses 23 and 24.

We could put it like this: He describes a scene of strife in God's house, and how it ought to be resolved. Strife in God's house resolved - and the question that has to be asked of us, and let me say that the Lord Jesus Christ pulls this illustration from the Old Testament, speaks to his disciples, and the principles that are behind it apply to us today in our dispensation and in our age. They ask us the very pertinent question: are we participating in futile religious practices? In other words, if we come to worship God and we remember that our brother has ought against us, it is futile to worship God. It's pointless! The reason, perhaps, we are coming to the Lord's Table - to confess our sins, to examine ourselves - if we haven't made things right with our fellow men, the Lord will not see our worship.

It is the convicting voice, that solemn moment when you bow down to worship God and suddenly you become conscious of something that is wrong

I believe, perhaps in the mind of the Lord Jesus, that as He speaks of these men coming to give their offering to God to the altar, He has in His mind the idea of the offering that Cain and Abel gave in the book of Genesis. As you look at that, you find that there is a principle that there must first be acceptance of the offerer before there is acceptance of the offering. We read: 'And the Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering, but unto Cain and his offering He had not respect'. There is acceptance of the offerer before the offering can be received.

This applies to the Lord's Table. The Table of the Lord is a place not only of worship, but it is a place where there is manifested the union of the Lord's people. It speaks of unity, it is the table of fellowship. That's why, in the book of Corinthians, Paul says to them: 'For we being many are one loaf, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one loaf'. As the loaf is broken and each little bit of bread is consumed by you, the loaf still exists, but it exists pulling together every participant in the Lord's Supper. We become the one loaf. It was talked of in the early Church as 'The Love Feast', and each brother is to worship God, lifting up holy hands without wrath or doubting before God. Love is to be our constant spirit as we worship the Lord, and the Lord Jesus says - whether it's the Old Testament offering, whether it's this middle partition in between the Old Testament and the New that we have here, whether it's now in our church age - He says: 'No matter what is, as we worship God we are not to retain our anger against brethren'.

We grieve the Holy Spirit, and it hinders our communion with God, when there is anger between us. It is backsliding, and the Lord speaks of it as such. He says our worship is futile because of the disposition that we are in, and that's why He says in [Romans]: 'As far as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men'. Now can I ask you in light of this: are you perhaps participating in futile practices? Are you here today and you maybe don't realise, because of the disposition of your heart, that your prayers don't even reach the ceiling? The reason for that is that you may suffer from a pricked conscience, that is the illustration that the Lord gives. If you come to the altar, you walk through all those holy places, and come to the place where your sacrifice and offering will be accepted - and as soon as you come to that altar rail and you lift that sacrifice up to God, you remember something! The wrong, anything that gives you a cause to be annoyed, or indeed specifically here a cause for your brother to be annoyed at you - 'If thy brother hath ought against thee'. In Mark's gospel the Lord Jesus speaks of the opposite: 'When ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any'. So if you have got something against someone else, or if somebody else has something against you, and you come to worship God and God's Holy Spirit reminds you of that - you've got to do something about it! Do you know why? Because if you carry on without offering it means nothing.

It is the convicting voice, that solemn moment when you bow down to worship God and suddenly you become conscious of something that is wrong. You come to God in deep sincerity, you really want to worship Him, you come to God's altar to give a gift to God and for God from your life, but then suddenly - as if a cloud blocks out your mind - you remember a sin that casts all of God's brightness away from you. You remember a wrong you have done to your brother, or a wrong that he or she has done to you. My friend, don't think this is chance that it comes into your head, it's not! The Lord Jesus says that it is God, He infers that God is bringing it to our mind in order that we deal with it. So often when things come into our mind we blame the devil, don't we? We say: 'I hear the accuser roar of ills that I have done' - but maybe it's not the accuser roaring! Maybe it's the Holy Spirit of God coming and putting His finger on something that is not right between you and your brother, and that's the difference between the Holy Spirit and the accuser. The accuser brings to your mind things that God has already forgiven, the accuser brings to your mind things that you have repented from and confessed to God, but the Holy Spirit brings to your mind things that you're still hiding from Him.

You do need to be brave, because it's absolutely humiliating. It's hard to do. It's hard and a proud man can't do it, a proud woman can't do it

This is God's voice speaking to you. Everybody wants to hear God's voice today, don't they? 'I want to hear God speak to me. I want to see God. I want to know God actually relating to me and having a relationship with me' - but nobody wants to hear this voice of God. Nobody wants to hear God reminding them of something that they have against their brother. This is so awesome, because it is the realisation of this in our hearts that will determine the acceptance of our offering to God, and ultimately the blessing that God gives us in our lives! The blessing that we have as a Christian will depend on how we deal with that voice in our hearts. Indeed, possibly I would go as far as to say that the whole future of our spiritual experience will depend upon how we deal with that voice!

Nothing could be of greater importance at this moment in time than that you listen to what God is saying to you. As you've come into this place and perhaps here remember - I'm not talking about some kind of introverted fanatical raking up of something morbid, I'm not talking about looking for things because when you do that Satan can grab hold of those things and torture your mind and heart. I'm not asking you to wallow in your sin, and to become all self-loathing because of it - but what I am asking you to do is: if the Holy Spirit brings to your mind and heart a sin against another brother, deal with it! Bring it into the light! Plunge it beneath the blood, and have done with it and forget about it! But, oh, deal with it!

We can be participating in futile practices because of these things. As we come, if our conscience is pricked, do you know what the Lord Jesus Christ says that we must do? We must pursue reconciling priorities. We must get our priorities right, and the priority in this instance is not the Breaking of Bread, it is not the worship of God - but the Lord Jesus says the priority, look at it, is to leave your gift. In other words there is an obstacle to be removed before acceptable worship can be rendered by your heart. Something has to be done! He says: 'Leave your gift, and first be reconciled to your brother'.

Now imagine the implications of this. If we don't leave our gift and be reconciled to our brother it means that our prayers are hindered, it means that God doesn't hear us. The prophet said that: 'If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me'. Feelings of separation and enmity between disciples and believers doesn't just affect our relationship with them, but the Lord is saying it affects our relationship with God, and indeed God's relationship with us - His ability to bless us. We make an obstruction before God in order that He can't touch our lives because we're obstinate and rebellious toward Him.

How much more powerful and availing would prayer be if Christians were not divided? Have you ever thought about this? My friend, if you're sitting here and the Holy Spirit has brought to your mind something that someone has against you, or that you have against someone else, I know what you're thinking: 'Well, I'm not going to make up! I wasn't the one in the wrong, it wasn't my fault!'. Or maybe it's: 'I was in the right, and it'll only give them a smug satisfaction if I went to them and sorted things out'. Listen to what Oswald Chambers says: 'Unless you are willing to yield your right to your self on that point absolutely, you need not pray any more for there is a barrier higher than Calvary between you and God'. That's serious, isn't it? To have a barrier higher than Calvary between you and God!

So the instruction of the Lord Jesus is: 'Go! Postpone your offering to God. Seek reconciliation with your brother'. Guy King, the great Christian writer, said this - and I agree wholeheartedly with him: 'Probably there are more churches deprived of spiritual blessing for this cause than for any other, and', he says, 'probably there are few quicker ways to an outpouring of blessing than the happy composition of these quarrels'. It's probably number one on the hit list of the reasons why God is not blessing His children, and it's the very thing that if we were to do - leave our offering and go to our brother - the whole outpouring of God's blessing could come in upon us!

I believe in the power of the blood, oh, I believe it. But I believe what Duncan Campbell said, and it is this: 'Calvary will not cover what you will not uncover'

So, 'Go', He says. 'Ah, but it's not my fault', isn't that what we say? 'But I didn't do it! Whose fault is it? Who's wrong? Surely you have to decide who's wrong and then it's the wrong person goes to the person who is wronged. Surely you have to get things right, whose fault it is, who has been wronged?'. My friend, look at the words of the Lord Jesus: 'You go if your brother has something against you'! You might not have anything against him, but if he has something against you and you know it, you go! It doesn't say: 'You meet him halfway', it says: 'You go to him' - there's no questions of your rights that come into it. What the Lord is saying - do you know what He was saying? 'If you are so earnest to bring your gift to God, can you be brave enough to go to your brother and bring him your heart?'.

It's serious, isn't it? You do need to be brave, because it's absolutely humiliating. It's hard to do. It's hard and a proud man can't do it, a proud woman can't do it. But it still remains the fact that the quickest way to the heights is down to the depths. Some of us find that our efforts in doing this are ignored and rejected, and you can only do your part and then come back to offer your offering to God - you can only do what God has asked you to do - but I have found in many occasions that the opposite is the case, that this is the best advice that has ever been given to anybody in the world, because more often than not it works! You and you brother can be united together because of the honesty, because you have opened your heart to them - but the fact is this: whether they accept it or not, the Lord says it must be done! It must be done!

Sometimes it's not just an apology, but it's restitution has to be added. Some of you men will remember hearing about the Nicholson shed in the shipyard, that's restitution. That is when these men were converted, and they realised that there was so much that they had stolen from the shipyard that they were pricked in their conscience - and they knew that they weren't right with God because of it, so they brought everything back, and they had to build a new shed because there was so much came back. My friend, that's restitution - and sometimes there is a restitution that needs to be made in connection with the wrong that we have done to our brother. If we desire God's blessing in our life, we need to go now, we need to go straight away and do something about it, whatever the cost. Do you know why? Because it's getting in the way of you and God, can you see that?

I believe in the power of the blood, oh, I believe it. But I believe what Duncan Campbell said, and it is this: 'Calvary will not cover what you will not uncover'. We need to bring it into the light, for if we walk in the light - if we walk in the light - we have fellowship one with the other, and the blood of Jesus Christ God's Son cleanses us from all sin. I would vouch to say that God has never forgiven a sin that has not been confessed. Oh, I know there are secret things that we can't even remember, but you know it's the disposition of our heart - that's what He's looking for. The disposition of whether our heart is confessing known sin and all unknown sin that we have - but there are some of us that hold a little sin, and it could be this sin against another brother, and we will not let it go - and that will be the death of us spiritually!

There is strife in God's house that must be resolved, but secondly the illustration that the Lord gives us is strife in the courthouse that must be avoided. Verses 25 and 26, He says: 'Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way'. Agree with him quickly, and the scene that's given here is two men going to the courthouse - one has something against the other and he's dragging him to court. Now they're not just ordinary people, these are brethren, these are the children of God, these are Christians. Now that word 'adversary' doesn't mean, how we think of the devil, as a deadly foe - but what it does mean is 'one who has a lawsuit against another'. Here the brother has something against his brother, and he is bringing a lawsuit against him and taking him to court. These two brethren are subjects of the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The Lord is saying: 'My courts are open, my courts are in heaven, and differences between brethren and breaches of the peace of my kingdom will come before me if they are unresolved in this lifetime'.

Come with me for a moment to the judgment seat of Christ. You face the Lord, unreconciled with your brother and sister in Christ. What are you going to say? What will you say? 'Lord, it wasn't my fault!' - do you think that's going to wash?

Do you see what He's saying? The purpose of the Lord's words here is to show us that present quarrels here and now will affect our future in eternity. They will affect it! If we don't settle the matter now out of court we will be taken to court and the Lord will deal with us there judicially, in a way where He can see everything! The reason why the Lord gives this illustration of the court is twofold. The first is that He wants to stress that urgency is needed in dealing with these things. Urgency! 'Agree with thine adversary quickly while thou art in the way' - hurry with the reconciliation. While you have the opportunity, do it before the opportunity passes. The Lord speaks of a debtors prison, He speaks of a man being taken to court and He's saying to him: 'Before you cross the threshold of the court, before all hope of an amicable settlement is gone, deal with it! While you're going to the court let the settlement be done, arrange a settlement now before the law takes its course'.

Along the way it's possible to come to some agreement between you, it's possible to arrange some terms of payment of the debt, but you've got to do it quickly. You've got to do it on the way to the courthouse that's no great distance. You've got to do it before it's too late, for if it's postponed you enter into the time factor - that is exactly what the Lord is illustrating here - for we do not know what a day brings forth. You don't know! Death hurries us beyond the power of reconciliation. Death takes us to a place where we no longer can control our relationships and apologise for past thoughts, but where God will judge them.

Suppose that we were to die quite soon and you never settled that problem. Suppose the Lord was to come again, and He's coming very soon, He could come at any time - that's what the Lord means when He says: 'While you're on the way'. Do you notice that life is but a few yards along the road of eternity, along that road that comes to a courthouse where we can be cast into prison and we will be in there until we pay every farthing?

What is the key to this interpretation? I believe it's Romans chapter 14 verses 10 to 12, listen to what Paul says: 'But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God' - specifically that verse is in relationship to your relationship to your brethren. Second Corinthians 5:9 and 10: 'Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad'.

Come with me for a moment to the judgment seat of Christ. You face the Lord, unreconciled with your brother and sister in Christ. What are you going to say? What will you say? 'Lord, it wasn't my fault!' - do you think that's going to wash? Was that not what Adam said? 'It was her fault!'. The Lord says: 'If anyone has ought against you, you go'. What are you going to say? 'Lord, You don't understand' - the All-knowing doesn't understand your problem? The one who hung on a cross and said: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do', He doesn't understand the problems that you have with another brother? 'But Lord, I couldn't admit that I'm wrong, I just couldn't bring myself to do it!'. I wonder, if we say that the Lord might say: 'Are you sure you're in the right place? Are you sure you didn't get mixed up in the queue? Because this is the place where blessed are they that are poor in spirit!'. Poor in spirit!

You see the Lord, through Paul in 1 Corinthians 11, brings this right home with regards to the Lord's Table - how everything must be in order, and if we meet at the Lord's Table and we have not agreed with our adversary quickly, we will be in trouble in eternity. Now I'm not talking about hell, I'm not talking about purgatory, but I'm talking about eternal loss! Eternal loss! How are we to obey Christ? Do you know how we're to obey Him? Look: do you see if I was to take this passage and bring it right today, here and now, and say: 'Now how, Lord Jesus, can we apply this here in the Iron Hall?' - do you know what He's asking you to do? Before I even finish my message this morning, He's asking you to get out of your seat and go over to a brother that you've offended. That's what He's saying! Now, I would drop dead if that happened! But my friend, that's what He's asking, isn't it? That, perhaps, would be the greatest message ever preached in this Hall, and you'd be the one preaching it.

Do you see if we did this? There would be no-one here tonight only them who had sorted out their differences

You see, what we do is we don't do it quickly, sure we don't? That's the problem: we don't do it when we're offended, and these things grow out of all proportion. They're like the acorn covered over and ignored, unseen in the heart of the earth, and one day will spring to a shoot and then to a small shrub - before we know it it will grow into a mighty, strong, overwhelming oak tree out of man's control! That's what's happening all around us: family quarrels that have descended down generations, and still haven't been solved. Within the church family, perhaps a silly word 10 years ago festers and is the cause of a schism 10 years later! As far as I can see - now I can't see everything - but as far as I can see most of the Evangelical splits today aren't about doctrine, sure they're not? They aren't about the truth, but they're about some problem or grievance that was never confronted at the time and has grown into a monster of destruction!

What do we do? We don't agree with our adversary while we're on the way, we say: 'Ach, just forget about it! Forget about it, it's nothing' - and that is the most deadly thing of all, because it's not nothing. Christ doesn't tell us to forget about it, because it's the seed of murder - and that's not nothing! Eventually the seed of murder will cause blood to be spilt! We could go on, literally, into how to fulfil this - because the Lord was talking about a debtors prison, and if you owe money you need to pay it! Owe no man anything - and as the man says, and he's right: 'A pound covering your eye can shut out the light'. There's many an unbeliever has been put off Christianity because a Christian owed him too much money!

You can apply it to everything - but whatever you apply it to my friend, the point is this: restitution has to take place quickly. I read this week that it happened once or twice during the Keswick Convention that the town's Post Office had run out of postal orders through the working of the Holy Spirit on the consciences and wills of many who, longing desperately to be right with God, had been convicted about their unpaid bills - so they went down to the local Post Office and sorted them out.

There's a penalty that's threatened, and that's why the Lord said: 'Do it quickly'. Gehenna was the illustration given last week - 'Gehenna', hell fire, that doesn't mean we get hell fire, but it means that that is the worth of the crime that we're committing amongst brethren. What is the penalty here? It's being cast into prison and paying everything, every last farthing - that's not purgatory, but what the Lord is saying is: 'If you committed this crime against ordinary people in society and were caught, you'd be put into the debtors prison until you paid it and you wouldn't get out - yet you're committing it among brethren, and you won't go and sort it out!'.

In 1 Samuel 15, and I close with this, Saul was told by God to go and destroy the Amalekites entirely. Do you remember? 'Go and destroy the Amalekites, women, children, all their animals, destroy absolutely everything'. Do you know what he thought? He says: 'I don't need to go as far as that, now do I? I don't really need to go to that length, I'll spare some of the people and some of the beasts, and some of the cattle I'll spare to sacrifice to God'. He thought all was well, and what was the next thing he did? He came and worshipped God, but suddenly Samuel the prophet arrived and said: 'What have you been doing?'. Saul replied: 'I've just been carrying out the commandments of God'. 'If you have', said Samuel, 'what is the meaning of the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the cattle that I am hearing? What have you done?'. 'I decided to spare some of them. I wanted to spare some of them for God'. Then Samuel, he uttered these momentous words, listen: 'Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams'.

One great preacher said of that story: 'I always feel sorry for King Saul, because I understand him so well'. We'll go to the altar, we'll remember, but will we leave the altar? 'First go to thy brother whom thou hast offended and be reconciled and then return'. Do you see if we did this? There would be no-one here tonight only them who had sorted out their differences. Do you see if that happened? The windows of heaven could open out and pour blessing so great that we wouldn't have room to receive it.

'I bring my sins to Thee,
The sins I cannot count,
That all may cleansed be,
In Thy once open fount.
I bring them, Saviour, all to Thee,
The burden is too great for me'.

Now please: don't commit the sin that the Lord is telling you not to! Don't confess it to God if you're not prepared to confess it to the one you've offended.

Let us bow our heads, and I know I made a comment earlier on that I would be very surprised if this happened - but, you know, it shows us how far away we are from the mark. We don't even believe that this is possible. You know, how great it would be after this meeting - no-one would know why you were doing it, not that it would matter anyway - if you wandered over to that person. It doesn't matter whether you're right or they're right, what matters is that it's sorted out. That's the only way, today, that you can obey this message.

Father, we pray for grace, for these words are hard words. They strip us of all pride and selfishness because none of us like to admit that we're wrong, or even take wrong when it's not our own, but Lord we have Christ as our example - and that is exactly what He did. He was counted among the transgressors, that freedom might be bestowed upon the repentant. Lord, help us, please help us - give us grace to obey Thy word. Lord, we know that the blessing will be enormous - in our own lives, even, the release and the joy that will fill us for settling these differences within our lives. Now we pray that the grace of God, and the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the peace of the Holy Spirit may reign among us now and evermore. Amen.

Don't miss Part 6 of 'The Sermon On The Mount': "Dangerous Liaisons Of The Mind"

Transcribed by:
Preach The Word.
July 2001

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifth tape in his 'Sermon On The Mount' series, titled "Be Reconciled To Thy Brother" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.

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