For the week commencing 27th October 2019
Notes for next Saturday and Sunday’s sermon on Matthew 6:1-18
REMEMBER that our Sunshine Beach service this coming weekend is at 5pm Saturday, 2nd November.
Next weekend is a one-off sermon in the middle of our series on making disciples, as there a few people who can’t be with us next weekend either because they are serving in the triathlon, or because their road is blocked. Although it is a one-off, it is related nonetheless to our current series, as it is all about being REAL as disciples and not fake or hypocritical.
DAY 1: Read Matthew 6:1-4
The passage before this one, ends with the exhortation to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. How do you in that area? Are you perfect? Not me! Praise God that in Jesus we have someone who is able to “keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy”! (see Jude v24). Perfect!
So even though it is only possible to be perfect through Jesus and his death and resurrection, we still aim for perfection. What does it look like? A pure heart. Love in place of lust. Love for enemies as well as regular neighbours. Straight talking. And not being generous, simply so that other people will notice us being generous and think how wonderful we are!
I’m sure Jesus is again using hyperbole here! People didn’t literally announce their giving with trumpets and it’s not actually possible for us to give so that our left hand doesn’t know what our right is doing. But the point is clear and penetrating. Only play to an audience of one. Don’t give so others know or notice. Give anonymously wherever possible. Don’t agree for your name to go up on the honour board of your old school as a benefactor. Don’t let the person next to you at church see you putting in those $100 dollar notes. Use the envelopes. Give through the internet. When you give so other people notice, then the only reward you have is other people noticing! When you give in such a way that it’s completely between you and God, then your reward at the very least will be hearing the words from God, “well done, good and faithful servant”.
DAY 2: Read Matthew 6:5-8
Once again Jesus is exaggerating to make the point. And again both sides of the illustration are exaggerated. In other words – there weren’t those who literally stood praying on corners and it’s not always necessary to go into your room and close the door to pray.
Nevertheless the point is absolutely clear and it cuts to the heart: have pure motives. Don’t do anything in your Christian life to be noticed by others; to impress others; to show off; to show others how wise, how godly, how mature, how superior, how clever, how important, how prayerful you are. If your motive includes any of these then your only reward will ever be the kudos of other men and women. How shallow! But when prayer is simply between you and God – then your Father – who sees what is done in secret and knows your heart – will reward you. I’m not sure of the actual nature of the reward but perhaps again we won’t be too far out if we think of it as those wonderful words “well done…”
This doesn’t mean we should never pray in public or gather for prayer meetings. Remember – Jesus is exaggerating to make the point. But it will mean that when we do pray in public, our prayers will be real and genuine – never to impress others.
Vv7-8 challenge us in the area of meaningless repetition, as those in pagan religions were known to do with their mantras and chants. We don’t have to impress God by chanting the same things over and over. He won’t be more convinced to act if we repeat phrases. (Think how annoyed a parent gets when a child asks for the same thing over and over!) And the Lord knows our needs so it’s not as if we need to fill him in on what’s going on. May the Lord help us to be people of deep and genuine and heartfelt prayer as we grow in our relationship with him.
DAY 3: Read Matthew 6:9-15
Please note carefully in v9 that Jesus says “This, then is how you should pray” – emphasis mine! Jesus is telling us how to pray, not what to pray. He’s giving us a model not giving us the only words we should ever pray. In fact, there is a danger here isn’t there with the Lord’s prayer? Sometimes I think we’re in danger of using it in such a way as Jesus spoke against in vv7-8!! So, we do need to be careful that when we say the Lord’s prayer we’re not rattling off empty phrases without engaging our heart.
Note the balance of the prayer which ought to be reflected in our prayer – namely – that half of the prayer is given over to praying for the honour of God’s name, the coming of his kingdom and the doing of his will. Would half your present prays be more about God’s honour and glory then about you? And then when the prayer comes to pray about our needs the emphasis is on sin, forgiveness and temptation. Only one line is given over to our needs and that in itself is wonderfully balanced to protect us from greed because the sense is ‘give us today the needs of today’.
What about forgiveness here in v12 and vv14-15? The issue is not that of a necessary sequence – Mark must forgive Susan before God can forgive Mark. “It’s all about attitude. There is no forgiveness for the one who does not forgive. How could it be otherwise? Their unforgiving spirit bears strong witness to the fact that they have never repented.” (DA Carson).
Lord teach us to pray!! To pray after the model of Jesus! To pray about the really important matters such as the honour of your name across Noosa and Peregian, and to depend on you to flee the evil one and be people of genuine forgiveness!
DAY 4: Read Matthew 6:16-18
Jesus’ third example where people often engage in Christian behaviour simply to be recognised or admired by others is the area of fasting. Note that he doesn’t speak against fasting – he assumes his disciples will fast. That in itself is interesting for us to consider! (Mind you, he also defended his disciples for not fasting in Matthew 9:14-17, so he equally speaks out against both hypocrisy and legalism!
There were particular feasts during which the Jews fasted such as the Day of Atonement or the Jewish new year. But they would also fast if the autumn rains failed to appear or as a sign of repentance or brokenness before the Lord. But what began as spiritual self-discipline was turned into pompous self-righteousness. They would make out like they were suffering terribly! What was once a sign of humiliation, became a sign of self-righteous self-display.
It’s important that we consider how this sort of things happens today. Almost any Christian act of devotion can be turned into something that’s designed to show off our piety. Here’s the thing: no voluntary act of spiritual discipline is ever to become an occasion for self-promotion. Otherwise, any value to the act is utterly negated! (See DA Carson in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount).
All of 6:1-18 is very searching! Whom am I trying to please and impress as I live my Christian life?
By Mark Calder