Relevant: Attitude Affects Performance

Sermon Summary

This message looks at three examples Jesus gave in His sermon on the mount that deal with attitudes of the heart. From His teaching on the subject we can conclude that attitudes effect our performance as we seek to live our lives for Christ. We see that attitudes are not exempt from judgement, they reveal the intent of our hearts, and they directly affect our actions. Understanding these things should help us get on the path to achieving a better attitude. Next weeks sermon will give some very practical steps with which to accomplish this goal.

Community Group Study Guide

 1. Two questions in one! How does your attitude affect your daily life and are you ever affected by the attitudes of others? Explain.

 2. Some people think as long as they don't actually say something or do something to hurt others that their attitudes don't really matter. However, we are accountable to God for our attitudes. Why do you think God puts so much emphasis on our attitudes?

Matthew 5:21-22a “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment...

James 3:14  But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.
James 3:15  Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.
James 3:16  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

3. Attitude reveals so much about a person and their motives. It stands to reason if a person works on improving the motives of their heart, their attitude will follow. As a follower of Christ we are to begin living with a new attitude. Read the following Scripture and discuss how this concept applies to your life.

Eph 4:22  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;
Eph 4:23  to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
Eph 4:24  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Eph 4:25  Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

4. Attitudes are born in the heart, actions are born in attitudes, and actions give birth to consequences, some very good and some very bad. In other words, attitude affects everything we do, both good and bad. Every behavior can be traced back to a thought or attitude. Jesus made it very clear to His disciples when He said this...

Mat 15:17  "Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?
Mat 15:18  But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.'
Mat 15:19  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
Mat 15:20  These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.'"

Now read the following passage from Jesus' brother James and discuss why attitude affects our performance in life.

James 1:13  When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
James 1:14  but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
James 1:15  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James 1:16  Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.


Full Sermon Notes
"No sickness, no secret, no chain is strong enough to keep us from Your love!" Love those lyrics! No matter what you face with your physical body, no matter what you faced in your mind and emotions, and no matter what demons you fight spiritually, nothing can separate you from God's love. And here's another major thing to remember…God's got your back in all things! He'll give you what you need to have a winning attitude no matter what and when you allow Him to fix and re-focus your attitude, your performance and ability to live life to the fullest goes through the roof! Let's pray and ask God to help us understand how important attitude really is!

Prayer

We talked a little last week about how the religious leaders and teachers of the law during Jesus' day thought as long as they looked good on the outside and kept the letter of the law, as far as appearance goes, then they would not have to worry about the intent of the law. Nothing could be further from the truth and Jesus made sure He drove that point home in the next part of His sermon. Let's read what He said and see if it has any relevance for our lives today. Matthew 5:21-26...

Matthew 5:21-26 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca, ’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Jesus uses three different examples to show that a person's attitude is of extreme importance in their life and we've to to understand the important role attitude plays in our life. Why is a person's attitude so important? There are many reasons. Reason #1...

Reason #1
Attitude Is Not Exempt

Not exempt from what? Not exempt from the sin list! Not exempt from judgement!

Matthew 5:21-22a “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment...

You see, some people think as long as I don't actually do a bad deed, I'm ok! I'll just be angry inside! I'll just think bad things about that person, but I won't actually say them. We'll talk about what nursing a bad attitude can lead to in a minute, but it's not just what it can lead to that is a sin, a bad attitude is a sin all by itself.  
Now please hear me on this. I'm not talking about a fleeting thought. Something that just pops in your head for a second when someone upsets you or says something hurtful, or cuts you off in traffic. Sometimes a thought will cross my mind and I'm like, "Where in the world did that come from? Sorry Lord, I just called someone You created and idiot! Sorry!" The Lord knows my heart and that I didn't really think that person was an idiot. His or her behavior may not have been so smart, but I'm not always that smart either. We all make mistakes, don't we? And thank God for His forgiveness!

What I'm talking about is when a person lets that fleeting thought turn into a bad attitude. They nurse the thought and dwell on it. Bad attitudes are as sinful as bad behavior, and bad behavior usually starts with a bad attitude! Jesus explains further in the second part of verse 22...

Matthew 5:22b... Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca, ’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

I know, that's pretty harsh. What is Jesus trying to say here? It's simple. Just because you've never murdered anyone or committed any of the "big" sins, doesn't mean you're innocent and good enough to enter heaven. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law had a false security. Again, they thought as long as they had not committed the outward, big sins, they were fine. The truth was they needed the forgiveness of Jesus just as much, if not more than some of the people they thought were so unclean and foolish. Raca was a term these guys used frequently that showed contempt for someone! Not the way God wanted His people treating each other. And calling someone a fool took the criticism to an all time low. It indicated spite and hate! Jesus wasn't trying to be legalistic or mean spirited when He warned them that these things were also subject to the judgement of God, rather, He was trying desperately to break through their religious pride and reach their hearts with the truth! And what was that truth? Without the forgiveness and cleansing of God our hearts remain filthy and will continually produce bad attitudes worthy of judgement! And what is the answer to this predicament? It could be found in one of the Psalms the Pharisees knew well, but didn't practice. Psalm 130.

Psalm 130 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

Bottom line is that God will forgive anyone who is willing to admit their need for forgiveness and not just for outward sins, but for sins of the heart…translation: bad attitudes!
This takes us to our second reason attitude is so important and affects our performance in life…

Reason #2
Attitude Reveals Intent

A bad or a good attitude reveals or reflects the intent and content of a persons heart! Jesus taught that the attitudes and conditions of the heart were so important, if they weren't right, a person might want to leave a worship service and find the person they had a problem with and get that right and then come back to worship. Listen to His words in Matthew 5:23-24

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

When you read this, you might be inclined to think: "Sounds like the problem is with the brother who has something against me! It's on them." Here's the problem with that. If you know someone has a problem with you, you should at least care to know whether or not you did something to cause the issue. If you know it's something you said or did, then you need to make amends. You may not have intentionally done anything, but if your heart is right with God, you'll want to find out what happened so you can fix it if you can. I know there's sometimes when a person will not respond positively to your overtures of reconciliation, and if that happens, you can put things in God's hands and head back to worship, because you've done your part. Don't give up and keep praying, but you've done what you can for now! If, on the other hand, you have an "I don't really care what they think" attitude then your motives and intentions will have been revealed. It's hard to truly worship a God who cares so deeply about the unity of His family if your attitude is "I don't care!" In fact Paul had some really good words that explain this concept in Ephesians 4:22-27 & 32.

Ephesians 4:22-27 & 32 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin” : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
and do not give the devil a foothold.

And then down in verse 32, Paul instructs us to...

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Your attitude does reflect your intent! Is it your intention to live for me, myself, and I, or is it the intention of your heart to live for Christ and those He has called you to serve? Your heart is the place where attitude is born. So let me ask you a question…Where's your heart? The writer of Proverbs said this...

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.

And this...

Proverbs 2:1-5 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

and this...

Proverbs 23:17-19 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD. There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off. Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path.

So why is the heart so important? Because attitudes are born in the heart, and actions are born in attitudes, and actions give birth to consequences, some very good and some very bad. This leads directly to our last point for today.

Reason #3
Attitude Affects Action

Matthew 5:25-26 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

We live in a litigious world. Every other advertisement on TV seems to be for a lawyer. Don't get me wrong, there are some good Christian lawyers and we have some in our church. It is a needed profession, but it is sad to me that we need so many and so often. I think we would all agree that part of the reason there's such a need for lawyers today gets back to attitude. You've got people who knowingly wrong other people and take advantage of them because of selfish motives. This can be on the part of individuals or corperations, or even at times government. For example: sometimes insurance companies won't pay what they should because they are trying to save money rather than do what is right by the policy. Other times, we all end up paying higher premiums because of people who claim losses that were false or go way beyond what the actual losses were. I think most lawyers would say they wouldn't have nearly as much work if people had a Christ-like attitude about things. You know, it's more blessed to give than to receive, and do unto others what you would have them do unto you!

Jesus was encouraging His followers to let their Christ-like attitudes prevail in their relationships with others and even in their business dealings. If there was a disagreement, Jesus encouraged them to try and work it out without having to go before the authorities in court. Jesus was using this as an example of how our attitudes affect our actions! James, Jesus' brother said this...

James 4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?

This is were it gets extremely relevant to my life and yours. Our attitude, whether Christ-like or not will eventually begin to affect our actions, our performance in life, our everything. From our school life, to our career life, from our extra curricular life, to our home life and of course our spiritual life. That's why we're to guard our hearts at all cost! You see, every outward sin no matter how small or how big and horrible can be traced back to ones disposition, attitude, or intention.
And the scary truth is found in James 1:13-16...

James 1:13-16 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.

Some of you in this room today are either under deception or dangerously close to it. You think it's okay to flirt with bad attitudes. Attitudes of anger, hate, lust, pride, arrogance, spite, jealously and the list goes on. You think as long as you don't cross the line from thought to action, you'll be fine. That's a very thin line and one that most people never thought they would cross. If you have been deceived into thinking that your thought life and your attitudes don't matter then let me end the message this: Jesus was questioned by the religious rulers about His disciples not following the outward washing of hands before a meal. They weren't concerned that the disciples might get sick, they were pushing a religious ritual of purification. They were all about the outward appearances, but once again Jesus took it inward and let them know it was a matter of the heart. Matthew 15:7...

Matthew 15:7-20 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men. ’ ” Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ ” Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ ”

So according to Jesus, attitude comes from the heart and will eventually affect everything in your life! But here's the good news: If you've had a bad attitude that's come from a bad heart, Jesus can fix that!! After all He's the great Physician. In fact next week we're going to talk about taking sick leave for spiritual surgery.
But here's more good news: You don't have to wait until next week to ask God to heal you of your bad attitudes. You can do that today. Just admit you need fixing and ask Him to heal you of those old bad attitudes and you can walk out of here today with a new attitude and on a new path of life. Let's pray!