- Because Of Your Love
- Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing (Nettleton)
- Build My Life
- This morning we are in the beginning section of Matthew chapter 6. To just recap where we are, Matthew is writing this gospel in order to prove that Jesus is in fact the Messiah and King that the Old Testament points to. Up until this point, Jesus’ story has been fixed on his birth and baptism. Soon after his tempted by Satan in the desert in which Christ triumphs in the wilderness over the very temptations that Israel faced and failed in the wilderness. Jesus has been followed by many people including the his disciples. They were following him because of his message which was in Matt 4:17
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”not only this but he had healed a great many people so that his fame had gone out into all of Syria, the text says. So this all culminates in what is first of 5 different discourses that are written about here in the book of Matthew. Like Moses, here Jesus, the true and better Moses, goes up on a mountain and gives this deeper understanding of what the Law of the Old Testament was pointing to, and even showing his authority over the law by saying “But I say...”Jesus here is giving us a deeper understanding into the heart of God by showing us our hearts do not desire the things that God desires. We like hard lines in the concrete, but not necessarily the actual intent behind the rules. And Jesus goes as far to say the “We must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.”So, I’m sure the people in the crowd there, and most of us look at this “New Law” and command like “hmm, so Jesus said that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven. And now there’s all the layers to these rules that require more effort. I’m know I’m going to fail at that. I know myself. I certainly can’t be perfect like God is perfect. Well, if I can’t actually do what is right, because it’s hard, I can at least look the part.”This is hypocrisy.Jesus, knowing what was in their hearts, now warns the people about doing just that because it is not about outward religiosity, but about the heart.Please stand for the reading of God’s word.What is Done in Secret
6 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
The Lord’s Prayer
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.Let us pray.I found this story about an eastern ascetic holy man who covered himself with ashes as a sign of humility and regularly sat on a prominent street corner of his city. When tourists asked permission to take his picture, the mystic would rearrange his ashes to give the best image of destitution and humility.There’s something interesting about a man who desires nothing more than to look his best while simultaneously desiring to look destitute. Jesus realizes that this is a problem because what the Pharisees had been doing all along. In other places, Jesus would call the Pharisees white washed tombs. Pretty and put together on the outside, but decaying on the inside. It is because as humans we innately want praise for good things that we do. And sometimes, we want the praise for things that should be only to the glory of God.Jesus says to those that practice this
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.What does it mean to practice your righteousness? It means doing things that signify your right living before God’s law. Jesus is telling them that these acts are not meant to be seen and praise by people, but rather to signify your devotion to God and his word.The punishment here is severe
for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heavenWow. That’s a strong statement, is it not? That all that God has for you could be null and void if you worship has the wrong motive. God is not interested in the outward appearance of religiosity, he is interested in the heart of your worship. We can certainly look the part, but thats not what God wants.So Jesus, moves here from basically the bracket statement of “Beware” into the different areas he needs to address.These are the 3 so-called “Pillars of Judaism”Giving alms (which means giving to the needy or destitute), Prayer, and FastingGivingFirst, giving...
2 “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.This very well may be where the phrase “Toot your own horn” comes from (I did not look that up of course) but it stands to reason because typically we use that phrase when we want to “humble brag” about an aspect of our life. Similarly, the phrase in the Greek is an idiom and not pointing to any specific religious practice that Jews might have. Instead he is pointing to the heart of the giver.This reminds me of the exchange between Judas Iscariot and Jesus regarding the alabaster jar of perfume that was used to clean Jesus’s feet. Judas insisted that the jar, because it was worth a lot of money, should have been sold and the money given to the poor. But Jesus saw right through the intention that Judas had, it was because he was in control of the money bag and would help himself to its contents. Thus his outward showing of a charitable mindset, was out of greed for money.But the woman’s worship was accepted.This is what a hypocrite is. One who acts the part, but is not who he says he is. This is the one thing that I almost hear all people say about Christians. That we are just a bunch of hypocrites. Some of the judgment is unfounded, because they simply do not believe what we say we believe. But let’s not give them a reason! But I know that I have acted hypocritically by saying one things like “Bless those who curse you” By immediately “Blessing out someone who made be angry” We should be conscious of our own tendency for hypocrisy so that we don’t end up acting like the hypocrites in this chapter.Jesus says, that these people have received their reward. They got what they wanted, the praise of people. That is such a shallow reward compared to the infinite glory of God.Jesus corrects this by showing the true way that someone should give to the poor:Say: Verse 3What does it mean to not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing? This a proverbial phrase saying that the action should be done as secretly as possible. It is this that pleases the Lord. So much so that he will reward this type of giving.A commentator says about this that :If the reward is not granted in this life, it will be in the life to come. In multitudes of cases, however, alms given to the poor are “lent to the Lord” (Pr. 19:17), and will be repaid in this life. Rarely, perhaps never, has it been found that the man who is liberal to the poor has ever suffered by it in his worldly circumstances.1
17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD,
and he will repay him for his deed.Our unnannounced, uncalled attention to, faithful, charitable giving please God. Though the worship may not be paid back in this life. This is why Jesus says to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven in verse 20 and also this heavenly focus shows where our heart is when it comes to money. Because we cannot serve both. But, I’m sure we’ll get into that next week.So what does it look like for us to give in secret, In a way that is pleasing to the Lord?I remember growing up and being given money to put in the offering plate as it passed by. It was always change. A couple of quarters, maybe some dimes. But I was given this money specifically for the offering plate. Now, my parents were teaching me about cheerful giving and giving me a way to practice that giving in church. But I loved how it felt to put that money in the offering plate and receive approval of my parents.This is not the attitude of the person who pleases God. Though this section isn’t technically about the generous giving, or tithing, I think the same principles apply.Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7
7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.So, it of course is the attitude of our giving. That’s not to say that planning and giving a certain amount can’t be cheerful. We just need to remind ourselves that when we give we are not giving our of ritual, but out of love for Christ’s body, the church, and to meet the needs of those in need.You may also be out there and think that God wants your money. On one hand, that you can bargain your way into heaven. Or on the other, refusing to give because loving God doesn’t mean parting with my money.To that I say that God wants your heart first and foremost. And the more that we are conformed into the pattern of the Bible and understand the cost of following Christ, we will truly understand what it means to give secretly and sacrificially know that God is pleased because our heart matches his heart.PrayerSo after giving, Jesus moves on to talking about prayer. And Jesus, giving 2 warnings and two exhortations about prayer. The first regarding public prayer:
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.Not Loud, but lowly.Look the hypocrites are back at it again. They are out here praying in a public place so that they could be seen by others. Now this says synagogues. You might be saying to yourself “I thought synagogues were places of worship. They should be praying there. And we publically pray in church services, should we not do that?” I want to assure you that is not what this is talking about. It seems like these places are places of gathering people. Jews, at the time, were very accustomed to praying at certain times of day. They would stop their work or whatever they were doing and offer prayer to God. So, what it seemed like is that they were trying to be noticed for how good they prayed.And just like the others, Jesus tells them that they have received their reward.Helpfully, we are given a command by Jesus:
6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.The greek seems to signify an inner room or closet. I have heard of folks that have a dedicated prayer closet so that they can be alone and pray.Jews would have had houses, typically with a flat roof and and little room up there that they could go to to pray in secret. And God hears those prayers and answers them.Is this to say that you can’t pray while you’re out mowing the yard or driving the car or in a grocery store? No, its not saying that at all. But Jesus here is getting at the reality, again, of the heart of prayer. That pray is an act of worship and communication to God. However, if you do not have a place where you can go to God, apart from the busy-ness of your life, and be with him alone in prayer, I would encourage you to do so. While Jesus could have said numerous things, he desires that we desire to seek him alone in prayer and he has promised a reward from God in our prayers. Which may look like hope, peace, patience, kindness, self-control. God gives this spiritual gifts to us and I believe that these are the reward of seeking God honestly and humbly in prayer like thisSecond, Jesus warns us about the words we use in prayer:
7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.Not many, but meaningful.Jesus reminds us here about the importance of content in our prayers. The Gentiles here are said heap up “empty phrases.” Other translations say babbling or vain repetitions.This would remind those listening here to Jesus of prophets of Baal vs Elijah on Mount Carmel in 1 Kings 18. These prophets were trying to call down fire from their god. The scriptures say that they went from morning til noon saying “O Baal, answer us!” Can you imagine how tiresome that was to hear? Even Elijah joked and said maybe he had fallen asleep.The end of that story says that “No one answered; no one paid attention.” This is the result of these kinds of prayers. They were hoping that this way of praying would cause their gods to hear them. That somehow the length or the repetition of the words themselves would cause them to be heard.But Jesus reminds us that our God is not like their gods.
8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.Isn’t this a comfort? That our God is not caught off guard by our needs. That he cares to give us what we need. Jesus expands on this in the next chapter when he talks about our worries about what we will eat, drink, and where. Saying that our heavenly father knows that we have need of these things, but first we should seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. We should first seek the furthering of Christ’s church on earth and to live righteously.Jesus doesn’t just leave this idea here. In his kindness he gives us a rubric by which to pray. Christ knows that us humans have sinful habits to pray with wrong intentions and so gives us a prayer to model our prayers afterI believe that it is more about the varying concepts that these words portray than us having to stay within only the words of this prayer. Otherwise Paul would have been wrong to pray for the newly converted because that isn’t listed here. Obviously, that’s not the case. So here we go.One commentator helpful sections these prayers into petitions dealing with God exclusively and the other section of petitions that have to do with ourselves
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heavenOur first directive is to address who we are praying to. We are not praying to some human made idol or god of our own design, but instead a Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father. This reminds us of his sovereign authority over the earth, and also his compassionate care for his people. His name is to be regarded as holy. That’s what “hallowed” means. Here we are saying that his name the “I AM” of the Old Testament should be celebrated, venerated and esteemed as holy everywhere and receive proper honor from all people.WOW! That sounds amazingly difficult! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been flippant in prayer. Not showing the reverence to God that he deserves. Especially before a meal. But Jesus here directs us to give God the honor that he deserves and we should be asking ourselves whether or not our attitude fits here because we are learning here that its about the heart not just the acts.Next is your kingdom come.The petition is the expression of a wish that God may reign everywhere; that his laws may be obeyed; and especially that the gospel of Christ may be advanced everywhere, till the world shall be filled with his glory.Barnes, A. (1884–1885). Notes on the New Testament: Matthew & Mark. (R. Frew, Ed.) (p. 67). London: Blackie & Son.And finally your will be done. That all people would obey God’s law and be holy like God is holy. We see that God’s will is already perfectly obeyed in heaven. In Psalm 103:20-21 we see:
20 Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!So, we are simply asking that this would be done in our lives and in the lives of others.There is a reason why this section is first. It is because God and his glory and his kingdom are the most important. Once we understand this, our needs fall into place. Once we have God first in our hearts as the object of our worship, we then are in the right place to petition God.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.Starting with our daily bread. I’m sure you are familiar with the little devotional magazines that you can pick up in the lobby of some churches. Maybe even this one. I didn’t look really hard. But its a daily devotion for a month. Much like that, it seems that Jesus intended that we pray for our daily sustenance. Not only that, but it also seems like it uses the word “us” not “me” meaning that there is a plural number of people involved in this prayer. I don’t know about you but the congregation doesn’t meet every day, but families share homes every day. So, it stands to reason that family prayer is what is in view here.Let’s never waste an opportunity to show our families that we are sustained by God. Sure we work and we make good choice, most of the time, but God is ultimately the provider of our homes and our health. So modeling for your family a life of reliance on God for his sustaining power. And the cool thing is that he wants to give good things to his children. This broken world may beat us down and take our stuff, but God supplies what we really need. That way we can say with the proverb writer:
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for meor with Paul in 1 Timothy 6:8
8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.Next we ask forgiveness for our debts. This doesn’t denote that there is some sort of economy where I owe God a debt. Our sins resemble debts. We have sinned. We have broken God’s law. We have not lived the way that Christ has said we should. Just look back at the previous chapter. That list is something that I have messed up on, and its not even all of the 10 commandments. But instead we are pleading that God forgives us. But look here, it’s after we have already forgiven our debtors. That means, like in chapter 5:23-24, there is onus on you to extend the same forgiveness to others that you are asking of God.If we jump down to verses 14-15 we see this idea expanded.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.Do we think this way? Does our understanding of God’s mercy lead us to show others mercy? If we do not forgive, God will not forgive us. Jesus nailed that debt to the cross, and we say well that’s good for me but this person is in the wrong. NO! We are to forgive, not hold what they did to us against them. Show mercy. Show love. Show compassion. The world is full of the other stuff.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.The final thing we are to ask for, and that God wants us to ask for is that we are not led into temptation and that we are saved the evil.We already know from James 1:13 that God does not tempt anyone. So what does it mean for us to ask God not to lead us into temptation. It means that we are asking that God not permit any temptation to come our way. We understand that God has power and control over the world in such a way that its only by his will that we permitted to be tried and tempted. But we have hope!Hear the words of Paul from 1 Corinthians 10:13:
God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.If temptation/trial/etc. happens to us, God has given us a way of escape. We have the object of our faith to look at and know what is the right and wrong thing to do in any given situation.Finally, deliver us from evil. It is ok to pray this. It’s ok to desire a world that isn’t broken. That’s what we are promised. That Christ will make all things new. And he starts that in our hearts by making us a new creation. While we are in the world, and struggle with the fallenness of it, we have a hope to rescued from evil.Now, if you have not believed in God. This comes as a warning, but with a great promise. The warning is that without God, there is no deliverance from evil. If you do not trust in Jesus Christ, God’s son sent to save you from our sin, you will die apart from him. We are debtors to God and our good works cannot pay back the debt of sin that we owe. But there is hope. We find it in Christ, who died to pay the debt of sin that we owe. It says in Romans 10:9 that
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.And 1 John 1:9 says that
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.That’s our hope. Confessing your debt to God, believing that Christ pays your debt by his death, burial and resurrection, we will be saved. You will then truly be able to forgive others, now understanding the heart behind the action.Now I said before that this prayer is a model or a rubric that shows how we should pray. I’ve found that going through and just remembering how these pieces fit together and what we pray about can be difficult to remember. I’ve found that the ACTS method helps a lot in framing my prayers in a similar way to how the Lord’s prayer shows us.A - AdorationPraising God and loving God for his character, love, holiness and the like.C- ConfessionConfession of sins. Confession back to God of the things he’s revealed in scripture.T - ThanksgivingPraising God for the good things that have happened in your life. Thanking him for his care and love toward usS - SupplicationPraying for the needs of others and ourselves. Interesting that this is last. And should be if we’ve ordered our prayer correctly.FastingFinally, fasting.
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.Now when I think of fasting, nowadays, its mostly in a health context. Like intermittent fasting. That’s basically fasting for most of your day and having a certain eating window of about 6 or so hours where you consume all your calories for the day. But, in America, religious fasting for the most part is either nonexistent or improperly done. I think of Lent. Lent is the 40 days before Easter and is meant for a time of reflection on what Christ is about to do on the cross. Usually people fast from technology, or chocolate, or something else. And when you crave those things you should fill it with meditation and prayer. But if you’re familiar with some of the practices, some people receive ashes on their forehead on Ash Wednesday to signify that they have began to fast. And then people post this on social media. I think its interesting because I think that this goes against the command written here in Matthew 6. That we should not disfigure our face in a way that shows that a fast is happening. So Jesus here is looking at the Pharisees and saying that their outward appearance is a representation of their inward hypocrisy.Remembering that this is a Pillar of Judaism, you can see that they fasted a lot in the Old Testament. Usually during special times of the year (Festivals, decrees, etc) or during times of deep sorrow. Like David weeping and fasting over his sick child that he had with Bathsheba.But it seems here that Jesus is talking about those who want to be, again, seen as being devoutly religious because of their fasting, that they actually make it look like they are fasting so as to seem more spiritual. But remember God is looking at the heart, the secret place where our desires show themselves. He sees this as hypocritical because they are doing it for show! To be seen by others as doing what is religious. But of course, as we’ve seen. Jesus wants to get underneath that and get into how we should present ourselves while fasting.As a side note, it should be interesting to all of us that this says “when you fast” it does not say “if.” We are so blessed here in the United States to not have to want for food. Us having food does not rely on us having a good crop this year. In Battle Ground alone there are multiple grocery stores. I think in our excess we have forgotten what it is to rely on God for our provision and direction. And also, we have forgotten how to fast. How to actually look to God for sustenance and desire to be filled with wisdom from God as our food.In the New Testament, we see that the apostles continued occasional fasting to seek the Lord’s guidance or to ask for the Lord’s favor. Jesus warns that we should not look like we are fasting, in order that we might be thought of as more righteous. Instead, it is a matter of the heart of it all. That we are truly seeking God, and abstaining from food to focus on God in prayer, meditation, and scripture study.Now, there is no rule given us by Christ that shows when we should fast, or how often. But that does not seem to mean never. So, I would encourage you, that if you haven’t considered fasting before, I would suggest that you try just fasting for one meal. Maybe once a month or once a week, to focus on what God has done in your life. If you have a tough decision coming up or there’s a sickness in your family, consider fasting for a meal with some friends that will do the same. Spend that time in prayer and in the Bible remembering that God is the provider of what we need. Times like that have been encouraging to me in the past with some of my closest friends.ApplicationSo, we are supposed practice our right living with the view that God alone should be worshipped. God alone should be the object and substance of our practice.We should give, not desiring to seen giving. But giving generously. Lending back to God what he has lent to us to steward over.We should pray, not desiring to impress others, but do commune with our God and do so out of reverence and humilityAnd we should fast, not to show that we are more religious or righteous than others, but to truly in order that we may seek God and remind ourselves that he is our provider.In all of this, people around you may not see your motives or even acknowledge your actions, but be sure that God in heaven sees these things and will reward you for them.Like John Milton said in Paradise Lost:“For neither man nor angel can discern hypocrisy, the only evil that walks invisible, except to God alone.”Let us then live before God without hypocrisy and in true worship before him.Let’s pray.
- The Heart Of Worship
2 Corinthians 13:14ESV
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