February 15, 2009
INTRODUCTION – In the goodness and sovereignty of God, He has ordained that every one of you should live in the United States of America. Most of you were born here. A few of you emigrated here.
Most of us would say – compared to the other nations of the earth – we are citizens of a great nation. And yet over the last 50 years, we’ve seen much of our greatness tarnished – – and one must wonder if we will ever be able to recover that greatness again.
Whether it be the sins of individual greed that have caused men to sacrifice their families and their integrity, or corporate greed that has ruined financially hundreds and thousands of lives; or the sins of selfishness and again corporate greed that have led to most of the almost 50 million abortions since 1973; or the sins of sexual perversion that have led to the proliferation of pornography; the break up of untold families due to adultery and then divorce; sexual abuse of the vulnerable ones amongst us; and homosexuality and the chaos and confusion that has caused to our society; or the sins of the fear of man and lack of inner courage and conviction that has caused our government leaders to spend as if there is no tomorrow – – locking in a few votes, while plaguing the future generations with a debt load that is so huge most of us cannot even fathom it….
The good news this morning – – is while our nation continues to reap the devastating consequences of its sin, there is a nation within our nation that is rising up with healing in its wings. This “holy nation” as Peter calls it, is also described in scripture as a kingdom – – a kingdom ruled by a righteous, just and merciful King – – a kingdom that is characterized by a people who walk increasingly in righteousness, peace, joy and supernatural power.
The gospel of Matthew as much or more than any other book in the Bible describes this kingdom, and explains how we can be an integral part of it. And I would like for you to turn to chapter 6 as we continue in our series through this great book..
In this passage, Jesus gives us an overriding principle of righteousness; And if you have been tracking with us – – you know that righteousness is one of the chief things He is after in this global people He is building. Then He gives us two examples of what that would look like in the matters of giving and praying.
I. The Overriding Principle: Motives are everything to God. Everything we do in the kingdom and in life is to be done for one audience and that one audience alone – – and that audience is God the Father. Anything we do with the motive of being applauded and noticed by men will have no audience with God or reward from God. (read Matt. 6:1)
Two Examples. A. Giving to the Poor – (read Matt. 6:2-4) 5 observations or truths from this passage 1. It is assumed that we will give to the poor (cf. 5:42 “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”) Beyond this command – Why the assumption?
Well because of the strong theme throughout the Old Testament that giving to the poor is to be part of the lifestyle of any people who claim to know and walk with God. 98 separate references to poor in old test; 50 references to the needy Prov. 29:7 “The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor, The wicked does not understand such concern.” Prov. 31:20 “She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy.” Isa. 58:7 “Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
The Jews knew this well and to a significant extent gave themselves to giving to the poor; they just did it for the wrong reasons.
2. Do not bring attention to yourself or your giving like the hypocrites did – 6:2 How not to give. Who are the hypocrites? How would you find out? 3 occurences of this word in Matt. 6, but no connection or explanation. The next one in 15:7 – – context clearly identifies them as the Pharisees and Scribes. Next one in 22:18 – context identifies them as disciples of the Pharisees sent to trick Jesus by the Pharisees . Next 7 occurences all in chapter 23 and each time Jesus addresses them as scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites
How did they give? With great fanfare – it was a public spectacle! Greek word translated hypocrite here actually often referred to actors or acting in Greek culture. Actors pretend to be something they are not. People who are a part of this holy nation or kingdom that King Jesus rules over should not need to pretend.
3. When you give to be noticed and applauded by men – that is your reward in full. 6:2 The greek word translated “received” in the NIV or “have” in the NASV is a commercial term referring to a business owner who has “received his payment in full”. Whatever the people you were seeking to impress have given you in return for your performance is all you get. Nothing from God; and fleeting applause from men – certainly no blessing, favor or lasting rewards from men. Please remember that a man or woman can applaud you in public, and hate and slander you in private in the same day.
M’Neile succinctly writes, “good deeds cannot merit more than one reward; to gain it from men is to lose it from God.”
4. When you give to the poor, do it as secretively as you possibly can. 6:3 If this is so, then why did Jesus say in Matt. 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”?? Well as Levertoff put it, “Although the disciples are to be seen doing good works, they must not do good works in order to be seen.”
This holy nation or kingdom of priests that King Jesus is building should be increasingly known in society as a people who meet real needs; but they should never do it to be noticed by men.
5. God the Father will reward this kind of giving. 6:4 Why no explanation? Perhaps because of the assumption that the Jews would be familiar with promises in the O.T. such as: Psalm 112 (read it) Proverbs 19:17 One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD,And He will repay him for his good deed
B. Praying – Matt. 6:5-8 1. Is assumed that we will be a praying people vs. 5 Most every man and woman in the O.T. that God used was a praying person. The O.T. is full of commands to pray and examples of what happens when you pray – whether individually like Hannah, David or Daniel – – or corporately like the Israelites did in times of spiritual renewal under leaders like Nehemiah, Ezra, King David, etc.
2. When we pray we are not to bring attention to ourselves in any way and thus be like the hypocrites. 6:5 How did they pray? And Why did they pray? Their motive was to be noticed and applauded by men.
3. Their reward is that human notice or applause and nothing else. 6:5
4. When we pray, we should find a place where we are alone and unnoticed. Our motive should be to have one audience = God the Father. 6:6
CONCLUSION – For whatever reasons, we humanoids are very given to people pleasing. We care way too much about what people think about us, and more of our actions and deeds in life than we are aware of are motivated by that fleshly desire to be liked and respected and honored by men. For us to be powerful agents of transformation in our society and culture, we must be rid of these motives and develop the right motives.
I want to share some concluding thoughts and then we will partake of the Lord’s table together. 1. For those of you who pray for the purity of the church, one crucial characteristic we all need to grow more in is the constant awareness of God’s holy presence. Jer. 23:23-25 a lack of awareness of God’s presence leads to corruption
2. Whether the kinds of figures that have been thrown at us by President Obama and his cabinet can completely be trusted – I will leave for you to decide. But the fact is more and more people in our society are living on the ragged edge financially. This problem has been growing under the last 3 or 4 administrations regardless of which party is in the majority; and both parties have proven themselves to be greatly inept at doing anything at a root level to solve it. The church’s role
3. If the body of Christ let’s say in Los Osos, Morro Bay and Cayucos really took these words to heart – – and over the next few years – – made secret prayer a priority, and came to a place in their discipleship where the Holy Spirit at any place and any time could say respond to that need and we would do it solely to please Him…never needing for anyone to know….the potential for impact is huge!
4. So does this mean say during our sharing time on Sunday mornings or during a home group meeting – or with a friend at coffee – we can never share about a great opportunity God gave us to minister to someone – – or that we cannot share about something God spoke to us about when we were alone with Him in prayer? Not necessarily. The issue is the motive. Look back at Jesus’s overriding principle in vs. 1 – – “In order to….”
Does this mean if I want to put money in the big homeless water jug over on the table next to the fireplace – – I have to make sure and do it when no one is looking? No, it means you need to do it to please Jesus and receive His reward, not to please men and receive their honor or applause. By the way there are at least three ways you can give to the needy through our church. 1. The homeless water jug; 2. Checks or cash to the homeless feeding fund. $71.00 presently 3. checks or cash to the benevolence fund – which we use to help out families or individuals in need.
5. How should this impact our parenting? We have been taught by the family specialists that our children’s self esteems are fragile and that they need a lot of affirmation and applause for the good things they do. Best way they will get this is by observing you walk it out = both spending secret times alone with God & giving to the poor and needy
COMMUNION – Fortunately our Lord lived solely to please His Father and to receive the promises the Father gave Him – – so He was willing to become poor that we might become rich – the apostle Paul said. He died so that we might live, which in the process of doing so seemed utterly foolish to everyone who knew Him and followed Him
This blood would have never been spilled if Jesus Christ cared about the praise and honor of men. This blood was spilled so that the power of man pleasing could be broken over you and me.