The Practices of the King Matthew 5:1-7:29, cont’d.
Matthew 5-7 The Sermon on the Mount, cont’d.
Matt 6:1-18-Jesus now identifies 3 specific practices of the Pharisees that are contrary to the principles He has given in the Beatitudes. He identifies these practices and then shows how they should be done correctly. In all three instances He is making the same basic point: It is not enough to practice spiritual disciplines for earthly rewards…we should look for the reward that comes from God. In each instance He identifies a common spiritual discipline that we should all practice. However, He shows how that each of these disciplines can be abused by making it a means to receive attention from other people. The point is that these spiritual disciplines are meant to be practiced before God, not before men. And, that the heart and intent of the one practicing them will ultimately determine their outcome and their reward. The Pharisees were practicing these spiritual disciplines publicly so that other people would see them. Jesus said that their plan worked perfectly. Other people saw them…and the reward the Pharisees would receive would come from those people. However, Jesus says that these spiritual disciplines are intended to be practiced privately and then God will be the one Who rewards them. One thing to remember: there are times when we are in a public setting and we will be involved in these spiritual disciplines…it is not that we should never give our offerings, pray, or mourn over sin in public. But, when we do so, whether it be in a public, or a private setting, our focus should always be on God, not on other people.
Verse one serves as a summary verse for verses 2-22…”Beware of practicing your righteousness before men, to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” Here then are the three specific examples of how this can happen:
:2-4-It is not enough to give your money just to have the respect of men…because you will get what you expect. Jesus says that we should not make our offerings in front of other people “to be noticed by them”. If you do, you will “have their reward in full”…you get what you are after…no more…certainly you have “no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” However, when you give your offerings out of love and for the glory and honor of the Father…”your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
:5-15-It is not enough to pray just to receive the attention of men…because you will get what you expect. Jesus calls the Pharisees “hypocrites” because they stand in public when they pray…acting like they are praying to God, when in reality they want to be seen by men. Have you ever heard someone pray and suddenly they begin to speak in the King James language, or they begin to quote Bible verses…as if they are trying to impress the people around them with their knowledge of the Bible. Sometimes, people will even break into a sermon in their prayer. It is obvious that they are speaking to the people around them, and not to God…because God does not need to hear their sermon. Jesus also warns us against allowing prayer to simply become a routine, something we do without thinking. He gives us what we commonly refer to as the “Lord’s Prayer”, or “Disciples Prayer”. There is a danger even here…because many people just recite this prayer without any thought, reflection, or contemplation. They just want to say the prayer and get it over. Perhaps we should personalize this prayer and give careful consideration to how it applies directly to our life. Notice that Jesus says that when we pray we are to be aware of: His praise (:9), His Purpose (:10), His Provision (:11), His Promise (:12), His Protection (:13). Maybe if we take these five thoughts about Him…and give careful consideration as to how they apply in our life…then talk with Him about them…we will be praying in the manner which He desires. Someone has asked about verse 13…”Would God actually lead us into temptation?” The answer is, “No.” This verse should be properly read, “Lord, help me to know that You would never lead me into temptation; in fact, You do the exact opposite by delivering me from that very evil thing.” It is intended to give the one praying an intensified sense of confidence in God’s faithfulness by stating something absurd (that God would tempt them) and then showing that the exact opposite to be the real truth (that God would save them from temptation). Jesus ends this teaching on prayer with a warning: When it comes to forgiveness, the reality is that God forgives us 100%. But our experience of that forgiveness will only be to the extent that we are willing to forgive others who have sinned against us.
:16-18-It is not enough to mourn over sin just to appear righteous to men…because you will get what you expect. The purpose of fasting is to intentionally bring our entire being (physical, mental, spiritual), for a specific time, into a heightened level of awareness of spiritual realities. One of those realities is the presence of sin in our life. When this sin is identified we should indeed mourn over it. However, the Pharisees were trying to give the appearance of mourning over sin without truly doing so. They were simply looking for praise from other people, not for forgiveness from God. Jesus tells us that mourning over sin and finding forgiveness for that sin is an exercise between the believer and God, not the believer and other people.
Matthew 6:19-7:12-Jesus now continues to elaborate on how the Beatitudes have practical application in our daily lives. These spiritual attitudes, spiritual qualities will determine:
:19-24-What the final authority in our life will be…the treasures of this world (money, power, etc.), or the treasure of Heaven (God). One of the two will ultimately become the final deciding factor of our life…and will make us who we are. You cannot serve both at the same time; or, one, then the other. Eventually one will become dominant. You must choose God…it is an act of faith. If you don’t, by default, the treasures of the world will take over. Why? Because you are by birth a worldling…under the domination of this domain.
:25-34-Your trust in the faithfulness of God. If we practice them, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”…then we will trust God for all of the necessities of life…and not be stressed out and anxious about them. We will believe that “your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”
This chapter speaks repeatedly of God’s awareness of me, my life, and my circumstances: “Father who sees”-vv. 4,6,18; “Father knows”-vv. 8,32. His awareness should give me…
- conviction (correctly practicing my righteousness before men…in giving-vv. 1-4, in praying-vv. 5-6, in fasting-vv. 16-18; unwillingness to forgive others, vv. 14-15; where my values are, vv. 19-24)
- comfort (He already knows what I need before I pray, v. 7-13; He already knows what I need so don’t be anxious, vv. 25-34).
Prayer: Lord, these verses remind me that You are aware of all things. There is nothing, good or bad, that escapes Your knowledge. Help me to sensitive to Your Holy Spirit when He convicts me of my sin. He recognizes my sin even when I am unaware of it, or when I justify it. And, give me comfort and confidence in the knowledge that You know everything that is happening in my life…and that You will protect me and provide for me when I trust You. Help me to live by the principles of Your kingdom. Show me how to practice the Beatitudes in every aspect of my life.