Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Matthew 6

January 30th, 2011 by Vic

Matthew 6

January 30, 2011

“You Are Your Secrets”

In the early 60’s, Dr. O. Hobart Mowrer wrote “The New Group Therapy”.  It was a college textbook.  Mower said, “Most of us live depleted existences: weak, restless, apprehensive, pessimistic, and neurotic.  And the reason is that when we perform a good deed we advertize it, display it–and thus collect and enjoy the credit then and there.  But when we do something cheap and mean, we carefully hide and deny it, with the result that the ‘credit’ for acts of this kind remains with us and accumulates.  A person of this kind has no confidence or zest and lacks creativity.  He is too busy pretending, too insecure, too afraid of being found out.”  Therefore, “I find myself, more and more guiding neurotic individuals into a twofold strategy which involves (a) confession of past misdeeds and (b) concealment of present and future good works.”  Just as the wrong kind of ‘credit’ if accumulated, will eventually destroy you from the inside out so will good ‘credit’, if accumulated, give you strength and inner confidence.  The net effect is that you are, in any case, what you keep back and save.  You are your secrets.”

We’ll see the basis of this teaching in Matthew 6.

Jesus has been talking to a large group of disciples.  They are on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus has been teaching that happiness comes from an internal attitude and not any external circumstances.

Jesus has called us the salt and light of the world.  Disciples of Jesus are to penetrate and change the world, not by external restraint, but by the internal character compulsion of love.

Jesus gave us new standards.  Our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the popular religious leaders.  An external righteousness does not meet the new standards of Jesus.  Religious leaders have been telling you “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not divorce, do not swear, take an eye for an eye, hate your enemy, give to the needy, pray, fast.”  But Jesus sees the intent of the heart.  Jesus is concerned about our motives.

6:1 gives the principle for the first 18 verses in chapter 6.  “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them.  If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”  You are paid in full by men’s applause.

Notice what Jesus is saying.  ‘be careful’ – Stay alert.  It takes some effort to obey this warning.

‘acts of righteousness’ – Jesus assumes we are doing good deeds.  The assumption is that we will keep doing what we are doing.  He has been telling us to be salt and light, a positive influence in the world.  Now he talks about our motivation.

‘before men’ – Our good deeds are always done before men.  We live in this world.  We function as salt and light in this world.  People will see us.

‘to be seen by them’ – We enjoy men’s applause.  It is nice to be appreciated.  The danger is in seeking the applause of men.  We are not to seek the approval of men, but the approval of God.

Applause has very little value, but Satan makes it attractive.  Jesus is telling us not to seek popularity, but seek the glory of God.  Jesus concluded the last chapter by saying we should do our good works so people give glory to God and not us.  He concludes this chapter by saying, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and everything else will fall into its proper place.’ That is the theme.  Seek to glorify God.

Jesus discusses the 3 acts of righteousness that were important to the Jews.  These are the 3 great pillars on which the good life was based: alms giving, prayer, and fasting

Jesus is saying if your motives are not right, your religious acts have no value to God.  Men may praise you but that is all the reward you will get.

Are you doing good for the right reasons?  What are your secrets?  What is your real motive?  Who is sitting on the throne in your inner kingdom?

Now listen to Jesus.  Matthew 6:2-4

Jesus does not say, do not let anyone see what you give, but He is saying, do not give to be seen.  The motive determines the value before God.  Let your light so shine that when men see your good works they glorify the Father.

A couple words here need to be noted.  The word for hypocrite originally meant an interpreter.  Plato said the prophets could speak what the gods told them, but they could not add to it.  They were thus hypocrites.  The meaning changed so for Jesus a hypocrite was a mask wearer.  He is an actor covering the face of his real self and speaking someone else’s words.

The second word translated, ‘they have received’ is an accounting term.  The word is written across purchase orders and means, ‘paid in full’.

Now look again at verse 2.  Jesus is warning us.  If we give alms to be honored by men, we have been paid in full.  You get a spiritually signed receipt that says, ‘paid in full’.  So there is some reward, there is some satisfaction in men’s praise.  Jesus does not deny that, but He simply reminds us…Paid in full.

Verses 3-4 tell us how we should be doing it.  Do not be concerned who gets the credit.  Do not worry about how much the right hand is giving or whether he is out-giving the left hand.  God knows.  God sees your heart.  You must do good with the right motive and God will reward.

There is no public reward for private piety, nor is there eternal reward for public piety.

If you are able to give a needy person a sack of groceries and nobody knows, but you and God, you have added a deposit to your savings account in heaven.  Verses 19-21 remind us of this.

Matthew 6:5-8 repeats the teaching.  Those who wear masks have been paid in full.  Jesus mentioned synagogues and street corners, but today He may have said ‘You Tube’ and ‘Facebook’.  If you want to impress a lot of people with your prayers, God is not impressed.

To avoid the temptation to seek men’s applause, Jesus says go to a quiet place where you can’t impress anybody.  Quit repeating yourself; God does not need your words.  Make your public prayers short.

In each of these 3 acts of righteousness Jesus tells us not to do what the hypocrites are doing, then He tells us what to do.  Verse 8 says this is HOW you should pray.  Now remember Jesus is talking about motives here.  These principles were given for public prayer.  He says Our Father.

So when you pray, how do you pray?   (1) Reverence for God and (2) humility of heart.  Verses 9-10 are directed toward God.  He is our Father, King and Master.  Verses 11-13 are requests for the present, past, and future.

How do we pray for our collective witness?  With flowery words about God?  Maybe, but they are not necessary.  With tears?  Maybe, but they are not necessary.  With my hands raised?  Maybe, but that is not necessary either.

HOW DO WE PRAY?  WITH REVERENCE TOWARD GOD AND HUMILITY BEFORE HIM.

Our reverence to God may be expressed by remembering he is the Father of all men.  His Name is holy.  His kingdom is spiritual.  His will is required.

Our humility before God may be expressed by seeing our need of Him.  As our Father, He satisfies our daily hunger.  As our King, He has authority to forgive our debts.  We need His protection from evil forces that are greater than we are.

I think Jesus prayed this simple prayer.  He was not teaching with a Power Point presentation.   Here on a hill in front of the crowd He talked to God and then turned to His disciples and said let me explain what I mean when I asked the Father to forgive us as we forgive others.

6:14-15  Prayer from an unforgiving heart has no value.  The motive of your heart determines the value of your prayer.  A humble man is a forgiven man and a forgiving kind of person.

This is how you pray.  Do you see how simple it is?  There is no repetition.  There are no big words.  There is no chanting.  But there is reverence and humility.

6:16-18  FASTING is the third pillar of the Jewish religion.  When you fast, do not put on gloomy masks like hypocrites.  There is a little play on words here.  Jesus says they mask their faces to pretend they are sincere.  They are insincerely demonstrating their sincerity or vice versa.

But when you fast, just be yourself.  Put on your makeup; comb your hair; look normal.  Don’t change your appearance to look spiritual.  Humble your heart so you look good to God.

Three times now Jesus has said the same thing.  You are your secrets.  Don’t seek men’s praise.  Their praise means you have been paid in full already.

Now beginning at Matthew 6:19 Jesus teaches that a good attitude reflects a total trust in God.  If God is on the throne of our heart, we will naturally trust Him.

Religious leaders were doing their religious acts to impress people so they would be respected and continue to have a prestigious position.  They were trying to lay up the treasure of men’s approval.  They worked for job security.  They could pull the right strings.  They knew people in high places.

Notice there are 2 kinds of treasures: the things of earth and the things of heaven.  Man was made with a desire to save up spiritual treasures that the love of God planned for us to do.  Satan tempts us to enjoy the visible pleasures that are available now.  Money is made more attractive than truth and honesty.  Pleasure seems more attractive than love.  Things seem more attractive than God Himself.

Contrast the 2 treasures.  Every form of earthly treasure can be destroyed or stolen, but the things that destroy our earthly treasure can’t touch the heavenly.  All forms of decay are powerless against our heavenly treasure.  Every earthly possession has its own enemies, every earthly joy is self destructive, but nothing destroys our treasure in heaven.

Where your treasure is, you’ll find your heart there also.  Your treasure is what you value.  Your treasure is what you work hard to attain.  Your treasure is what you dread most to lose.  Your treasure is what controls all the decisions of your life.

Jesus mentioned 2 treasures; now He mentions 2 kinds of eyes: good and bad.  The good eye sees clearly so the whole body benefits.  The bad eye has double vision and the whole body suffers.  The heart is the eye of our souls.  He uses the eye here to illustrate 2 kinds of hearts.  The good heart has God in it and the bad heart does not have God in it.  Do you want to know what kind of heart you have?  Look at your treasure.  Do you want to know where your heart is?  Find your treasure.

Next Jesus mentions 2 masters.  Slaves can only give total allegiance to one master.  Slaves don’t have 2 eight hour jobs.  Who do you serve?  God or money?  (mammon means property)

6:25 – “Therefore” why worry if you can trust?  Are you storing up food for God’s glory or because you do not trust Him?  Are you making investments for God’s glory or because you do not trust Him?  Jesus is not forbidding the careful preparation of good stewards or the wise investment of committed Christians.  But Jesus is against the fearful focus of the heart on some hypothetical event in the future.  Jesus is warning us against worry.

Now in 3 different ways, Jesus is going to tell us that worry is not from God.  In verses 25-30 we are cautioned not to worry about our life because life is more than food and the body is more than clothes.  God can abundantly supply.  In verses 31-33 we are cautioned not to worry about physical needs because God knows our needs. God can abundantly supply.   In verse 34 we are cautioned not to worry about the future because you can’t change the future with worry.

Let’s look at the first caution.  (6:25) Don’t worry about the future.  You are important to God.  Worry is contrary to all the laws of nature.  Look at your dog.  Every creature that God created teaches us to trust and not worry.  We learn about planning from the ant.  We can be ready for tomorrow.  What you can prepare for, do it and do not worry.  What you cannot prepare for, do not worry, trust God.  No other creature can trust quite like we can.

The second caution, don’t worry about your physical needs.  God made you so you have to trust Him.  Jesus prayed only for daily bread.  He knew we were made to continually come to God.

The very name we use to address God should remind us that worry is contrary to the trust that Our Father expects of His children.  As God’s child we were created with receptivity, wonder and trust.  Except we become as little children we cannot enjoy heaven. (Matt, 19:14)

Instead of sitting around worrying, do something.  Jesus says, “Seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be yours as well.”

Don’t seek treasures of earth.  Don’t seek the applause of men.  Don’t focus on food and clothes.  Don’t wait for God to make things perfect.  Don’t be apathetic.  “SEEK”  “GO AFTER IT”

“FIRST” make it the focus of your life.  Make sure it is top priority.

“THE KINGDOM OF GOD” is within you.  Build it.  Keep it in top shape.  God dwells within you.  Keep your heart right so God feels welcome.

“AND HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS” is different from that of the religious leaders.  Our righteousness must exceed theirs.  Now Jesus says our righteousness is not really ours, it is God’s within us.

The attitudes that Jesus said Kingdom citizens would have, spring from the righteousness of God living within us.  We have power to humbly live by the new standards that Jesus gives us, because of His presence within us.

We must put God first.  We must love Him as Lord of all our lives.  Worry is an indication we are not trusting.  Worry is contrary to the commands of God’s law, the lessons of God’s creation, and the essence of God’s love.

6:34  Here is the third caution not to worry.  You were not created to worry, so what does worry do?  It does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but it empties today of its strength.  It does not enable you to escape tomorrow’s evil, but it makes you unfit to deal with it when it comes.  Worry does not help tomorrow, it only hurts today.

Trust God and you will have strength to live tomorrow.  Worry and you will suck the sunshine out of today.

How do you stop worrying and start trusting?

1. Look at the birds and remember God.  God provides.

2. Look at the lilies and remember God. God beautifies abundantly.

3. Look at your grandkids and remember the love of Jesus.  God cares.

You see love and trust go together.  When you worry you are not trusting.  When you are not trusting, you have forgotten how much God loves you.

God made us to trust Him.  However our ability to trust may have been damaged and is not functioning properly.  You may have to sit with Jesus a while to renew a right spirit within.  Consider the birds the lilies and the love of God until trust replaces worry in your heart.

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