Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 6’

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Pray in this way…

October 2, 2012

Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name…

Why God’s name should be ‘Hallowed’?

The Lords Prayer is a string of requests.  We have not because we ask not, but Jesus gives us the requests to ask. We are to request that God’s kingdom will come and that His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven; we are to ask for our daily provision, we are to ask that our sins be forgiven, and for protection from Evil.  But before we begin praying for ourselves we are to request of God that His Name, be Hallowed, that His name be made Holy, set apart, sanctified.

God’s name should be set apart for two reasons.

1.         Because of Who he is.  This is the God Proclaimed throughout all of Scripture as Holy, Holy, Holy.  The Seraphim surrounding His Throne sing this out in Isaiah 6, The Creatures in Revelation 5 proclaim this reality “to Him who sits on the throne… be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.  When People have encounters with God whether Moses in Exodus 3, Isaiah in Isaiah 6, Job in Job 48, Saul on the Damascus Road, John in Revelation; the almost universal response is to acknowledge God’s uniqueness and Holiness by falling on ones face and proclaiming your own sin.  Indeed it is predicted that at His Name Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and that God is Lord over all.  So How do we approach this Awesome God in Prayer?

2.         Because of What He did.   The response to being confronted with God’s holiness is universal, shock and awe.  Yet now we draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we receive mercy. (Hebrews 4:16) How can we do this?  We are able to approach God, because we are made Holy through the sinless life, sacrificial death and saving resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.  We have been crucified with Him, we no longer live, but Christ lives within us.  Though full of imperfections we are made perfect in His sacrifice.  Christ bore our sins; and made our lives, though red with the crimson stain of sin, as white as snow.

For this reason we pray that His name be set apart and made holy.  The world calls out to a myriad of idols and self help gurus, but we cry to the Holy God, who saw us, saved us and will secure us from want and sin, throughout all of eternity.

 

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Why should we pray the Lord’s Prayer?

September 21, 2012

Christ came so that we would have life, not only a good life but an abundant life.  Part of that abundant life is found in the discipline of prayer.  In Matthew 6 Jesus is in the middle of His “Sermon on the Mount,” a conversation concerning the role of the blessed in relation to: each other, to society, to the Law, and to God their Father.  Present were His disciples, 12 men in the presence of the Light of the world, yet still in the dark about how to live a blessed life pleasing to God through, working, fasting, giving, and praying.  This is where Jesus said; Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth…You are the salt of the earth… The light of the world… Love your enemies… when you give, sound no trumpet before you… and when you pray, Pray like this…

Prayer is a given for the followers of Jesus. Jesus tells his disciples “when you Pray..”  not “if you pray” or “should you pray” but when.  It is an assumption that the disciples will pray and that we will and should pray.  Jesus here, is instructing them how to pray.  We seek advice on “How To” do almost everything.  A quick search of Amazon.com reveals over 950,000 titles on How to do everything.  There are 20,000 books on how to do home improvements, 57,000 books on how to use electronics, 15,000 books on how to play sports, 5,200 books on how to take care of babies.  And Just in case you are curious there are 48 nonfiction books on How to Pray, by various authors some Christian and some of other faiths.

In Matthew we have the ultimate expert instructing us on how to pray.  Jesus was one with the Father, (John 10:30) and even with that unique oneness relationship He could do nothing apart from the Father.  Prayer was essential for Him as He lived his life, and embarked upon His Work.  If He had to pray, how much more are we in need of God’s help through prayer?

Jesus knew How to approach the Father, He was perfect without sin, He knew that we must learn to ask God for what we need.  Later in the next Chapter of Matthew, 7:7-11 Jesus describes the response of a father to the need of his children, “which one among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?  If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give what is good to those who ask him!”  “ask and it will be given to you; and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Why is this prayer important?  It is literally God’s instruction to his disciples and through them to us on how to approach Him in prayer, what we should say and what our attitude should be when we approach the Father in Prayer.

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Mastering Mammon… Part III

March 23, 2012

We wrap up our focus on this passage of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:22-24 by examining on of the most quoted verses of the Sermon.

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. What are some  modern examples of trying to serve two masters?

Is it possible to serve two masters?

Yes, in a sense, you can serve two masters.  You can have to jobs, you can have two hobbies, and you can have multiple careers over the course of your lifetime.  Jesus is not saying that you cannot serve two masters in the sense that you can not do two things at once.  Jesus IS saying that you cannot serve both God AND mammon.  You cannot serve both God and material desires, greed, lusts or treasures.  God has called for us to be holy, because He is holy (Lev 19, 1 Peter 1:16).  He has bought us.  We are no longer our own, we are God’s, bought with the precious blood of His son.  Therefore we are not slaves to the flesh, or to unrighteousness we are slaves to Christ. (1 Corinthians 7:22)  If you are not saved, if you are not one of God’s children, then you can have and serve as many masters as your flesh will allow you to serve; and your evil eye will deny you the light of God’s truth and your body shall be full of darkness.  But if you are saved and believe on Christ, then you are His and you can only serve Him and prosper.  With that single clear focus, you seek first His kingdom, and everything else shall be added to you.

Some Modern examples of serving two masters:

Driving and texting:  this is a really simple analogy but appropriate.  When we drive we are being called upon to keep our eyes on the road.  This is both prudent and necessary to travel the journey set out before us.  But if we allow our eyes to drift, if we focus on a text message and texting instead of the road that tragedy can occur.

Marriage versus pornography:  Ultimately Jesus is addressing our own selfishness and greed in Matthew 6:22-24.  We are not to store up treasures but rather trust in God, if so we will not be anxious but rely on Him and seek His Kingdom, it is what we should be committed to do.  Likewise we are committed in a marriage.  We are to focus on that marriage and serve our spouse, submitting to one another “as Christ served the church.” (Eph 5:25)  We are to give to our spouses sacrificially and selflessly; but when one of the partners is engaged in pornography, it soon becomes his (or her) master.  It saps a marriage of intimacy and is a perfect example of greed and selfishness.  Porn slowly obscures the light of God’s glorious plan for sex and marriage and fills the addict with darkness.  Soon the only light in their lives is the glow of the computer screen before them.  They seek after pleasure and love, but they end up being denied both.

Sports versus the church:  This one might get a stronger reaction than pornography.  Parents have to make a decision; are we going to allow our children’s sports to separate us from the gathering together of believers in God’s church.  The fellowship of believers is something that is displayed in scripture and we are commanded not to forsake it.  And yet how many Sundays are missed a year because of sports games, practices, tournaments etc.  Your kids will value what you display to them as valuable.  This is not legalism, this is not old fashioned, this is the word of God.  Are you willing to sacrifice your children’s future on the altar of Sports (or fill in any entanglement that keeps them from church, or following Christ.)

 

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The gaze of the Godly… Part II

March 22, 2012

We continue looking at the Sermon on the Mount by examining the difference between the two types of eyes that Jesus mentions in the passage of 6:22-24.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

 

What does Jesus mean when he talks about clear eyes and bad eyes?

We often use terminology an idioms involving the eyes to denote how someone is feeling or acting.  They might be “dreamy-eyed” in love, or “bleary-eyed” if they are tired.  Someone may even be “cock-eyed” in how they look at situations.  Here we are coming up against two common Hebrew idioms.  The “clear” eye or “single” eye and the “evil eye.”  Key to understanding the meaning of both of these is to look at the context into which they are placed.  Jesus is in the middle of a discussion of material processions and their effects on the life of the believer.  So the “good” eye and the “evil” eye here is referring to matters pertaining to material possessions and one’s attitude toward them.

The clear eye “Words that are closely related to “haplous” mean “liberality” (Ro 12:8; 2, I Cor. 9:11) and “generously” (James 1:5). The implication in the present verse is that if our heart, represented by the eye, is generous (clear), our whole spiritual life will be flooded with spiritual understanding, or light. If our eye is bad, however, if it is diseased or damaged, no light can enter, and the whole body will be full of darkness. If our hearts are encumbered with material concerns they become “blind” and insensitive to spiritual concerns.”[1]  The single or clear eye is “one that does not allow the allurement of wealth and possessions to distract him from God.”[2] Those who seek to divide their loyalties and focus on both “things” as well as God are blinded by a type of double vision.  In trying to look at two items at the same time, the vision becomes blurry and hence useless.  The “Good” or “Clear” eye is one “whose vision is not blurred by focusing on two objects at the same time, God and possessions.”[3]  It represents “single-minded” devotion to God, with one’s heart set on God alone.[4]

The Bad eye  The Greek word here is “Poneros (bad) usually means evil, as it is translated here in the King James Version. In the Septuagint  (Greek Old Testament LXX) it is often used in translating the Hebrew expression “evil eye” a Jewish colloquialism that means grudging, or stingy (see Deut. 15:9, Pr. 23:6 “Do not eat the bread of a selfish man [literally an “evil eye”]). “A man with an evil eye” for example, is one who “hastens after wealth” (Pr. 28:22 “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth, And does not know that want will come upon him.”).”  The eye that is bad is the heart that is selfishly indulgent. The person who is materialistic and greedy is spiritually blind. Because he has no way of recognizing true light, he thinks he has light when he does not. What is thought to be light is therefore really darkness, and because of the self-deception, how great is the darkness! The principle is simple and sobering: the way we look at and use our money is a sure barometer of our spiritual condition.”[5] “An “evil eye,” conversely, was a stingy, jealous or greedy eye; yet it also signifies here a bad eye (Mt 6:23), one that cannot see properly.”[6]

So let’s tie all this together.  Jesus is instructing His disciples on how to lived the blessed life of one who is called the child of God. What distinguishes the children of God is not that they pray, fast, give and serve; but that they do these things for God alone.  Essential to living this life is having a singular focus on God.  We are to pray only to God. (6:9)  We are to fast and give for God alone. (6:3-4;16-18) We are to Serve God alone . (6:24) And we are to seek only Him and His Kingdom first. (6:33)  So in this passage (6:22-23) Jesus is making the point that those who are full of light have “good” eyes, clear eyes that generously seek and direct their attention on God.  Those who have evil eyes, place their gaze on the things of the world; mammon and treasures on earth.  They shall be full of darkness; unable to serve themselves or God.


[1] MacArthur, John: Matthew 1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press 1985.

[2] Quarles, Charles. The Sermon on the Mount 249

[3] Ibid.

[4] Keener, The Gospel According to Matthew, IVP. 232.

[5] MacArthur, John: Matthew 1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press 1985.

[6] Keener, The Gospel According to Matthew. 232

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The eyes have it…Part 1.

March 21, 2012

 

As we continue on in our look at the Sermon on the Mount, we come to a section that has fostered much speculation and much disagreement. When Jesus states that the eyes are the lamp of the body, what does he mean? How can the body be full of darkness, even though there is some light from the lamp? Below we will begin to look at these questions in several parts. First we will look at the different schools of thought concerning the eyes, we will then look at how this applies to serving two masters in 6:24.

Matthew 6:22-23

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

What does he mean when he says, “the eye is the lamp of the body”?

Generally there are two schools of thought here:

One school says that the eyes are the lamp of the body because it shines out onto what the heart desires. “A lamp emits light”[1] The eyes radiate the light that resides within a person, “the light source is the heart– where a persons treasure is (6:21)”[2] Therefore a good eye would land on things that were pleasing to God and beneficial for the person; a bad eye would focus on displeasing, even idolatrous things, that were bad for the person. If one had lust in the heart, their bad eyes would find objects to lust after and eyes would bear witness to the darkness inside of them; whereas if one is pure of heart one would focus on God, and their eyes would bear witness to God’s light inside them.

The second school of thought says that rather than emitting light onto objects the eyes serve to let light into the body, revealing the condition of the heart, allowing light in and dispelling darkness. “The majority of commentators understand verse 22 to mean that the eye is the instrument by which external light passes into the body.”[3] So what the eye takes in, the body becomes. If one lusts after “things”, and the eyes seek after “things”, then “things, material possessions etc.” begin to fill the body. Whereas if one focuses on God, looks to God alone, then one is filled with His light.

Regardless of which school you subscribe to, it is clear that “Jesus is referring to the universally recognized truth that the eye is the organ that makes sight possible.”[4] “Since the eye is the source of light for the body, the condition of the eye is important.”[5] “God’s Word often uses the eye to represent the attitudes of the mind. If the eye is properly focused on the light, the body can function properly in its movements. But if the eye is out of focus and seeing double, it results in unsteady movements. It is most difficult to make progress while trying to look in two directions at the same time. If our aim in life is to get material gain, it will mean darkness within. But if our outlook is to serve and glorify God, there will be light within. If what should be light is really darkness, then we are being controlled by darkness; and outlook determines the outcome.”[6] The eyes stand between our hearts and the outside world; ready to be directed by the desire of our hearts and taking in everything we place them on. It’s like placing a lamp on a windowsill; the lamp shines out onto the world illuminating what’s outside, but it also shines inward letting light into the dark places of the house. So Jesus’ point here is to focus our attention, not so much on the function of the eyes, but rather the condition of the eyes. Is the light bright? Is it good and illuminating? Or is the light evil, bad and adding to the darkness?


[1] Dockery, Seeking the Kingdom, The Sermon on the mount for today. 90

[2] Dockery, 90

[3] Quarles, The Sermon on the Mount 244

[4] Quarles, 246

[5] Ibid.

[6] Wiersbe, Warren: Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Pub: 1989.

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Matthew 6:16-18 Fasting, What is Jesus Saying?

February 29, 2012

“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. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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.

(Matthew 6:16-18 ESV)

What is Jesus trying to communicate in this passage?

There were three pillars of Jewish religious practice that Jesus addresses in the SoM.  Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting.  Fasting was a common part of life for faithful Jews.  The Pharisees fasted twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.  Their practice was to “disfigure their faces and look dismal”, most likely they spread ashes on their beards in order to look pale and somber.[1]  They wanted to be noticed and to draw attention to the fact that they were fasting.  Jesus is directing this teaching to contrast with those who would act in such manner, to contrast with those who fasted primarily so that others would know that they were fasting.  Thus Jesus begins, “when you fast, do not look somber…”  Like with every element of the Sermon Jesus is drawing the hearer’s attention toward the condition of the heart.  What is the hearts motive for fasting?  Is it to seek God and deny oneself out of devotion to God or commemoration of His deeds?  Or is the motive of the heart to garner the praise and admiration of men?  Would we rather hear from men, “look how spiritual he is.” ? Or would we rather hear from our Father, “well done, good and faithful servant.”  Giving to the poor, praying and fasting are all good endeavors and none of them is wrong in and of themselves.  But each can be perverted and used to steal glory that rightfully belongs to God.

“To use good things to our own ends is always the sign of false religion. How easy it is to take something like fasting and try to use it to get God to do what we want…Fasting must forever center on God. Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights—these must never replace God as the center of our fasting.”[2]  This is the key to what Jesus is saying.  Whether we give, whether we pray, or whether we fast, God must be our focus, so we do these things for the benefit of His eyes alone.  If we seek others approval we have made their approval, in essence, our god.

As with almsgiving and prayer, Jesus’ followers could and would practice fasting as an act of private piety. His main concern was their inner spirit with which fasting was performed. They were to be pure in motive as they fasted and not to fast as a means of gaining approval from others.

Ultimately Jesus is continuing to inform His followers of God’s preference for the affections of their heart rather than the public display of their worship.  Those who pursue God, do so effectively by having a pure heart that hungers for more than food and thirsts for more than attention.  The Christ-follower hungers and thirsts for righteousness and in the end gains a vision of God and the abundance of His Kingdom.

Read the Reasons Why We Fast… Here.
Read How Fasting informs our Past, Present and Future… Here…

[1] Dockery, Seeking the Kingdom. 82

[2] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: the discipline of Fasting.

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Why Should We Fast?

February 28, 2012

While Jesus never commands that we fast and fasting is never commanded in the New Testament, Jesus assumes that those who truly follow God will on occasion forsake food to communicate their reliance upon Him.  Following His example, and baring witness that “man does not live by bread alone.”  This was the practice in NT Judaism, and the early church continued His instruction on fasting.  We fast not to lose weight, not to get others attention, not to earn favor with God, and not merely because others fast.  We fast individually order to privately communicate to God that we are setting our entire focus on Him, and that we are seeking Him above our own physical needs and relying on Him to supply our needs during the fast.  We fast corporately  to express the same to God as a group, that we as a church, a Sunday school class, a youth group, etc. are seeking God above our physical needs and relying on Him to sustain us during the time of our fast.  The end should always be greater than the means, that God will receive glory through our weakness and reliance upon Him.  That we might receive a vision of Him high and lifted up above our earthy needs, capable of sustaining us in lean times and times of plenty.

Ten reasons for why one should fast:[1]

A.  To strengthen prayer (Ezra 8:23; Neh. 1:4; Dan. 9:3; Joel 2:12-17; Acts 13:3)

B.  To seek God’s guidance (Judges 20:26-28; Acts 14:23)

C.  To express grief (Judges 20:26; 1 Sam. 31:11-13; 2 Sam. 1:11-12)

D.  To seek from God deliverance or protection (2 Chr. 20:34; Ezra 8:21-23; Esther 4:6; Ps.109:21-26)

E.  To express repentance and the return to God (1 Sam. 7:6; Joel 2:12; Jonah 3:5-8)

F.  To humble oneself before God (1 Kings 21:27-29; Ps, 35:13)

G.  To express concern for the work of God (Neh. 1:3-11; Isa, 58:6-7; Dan, 9:3) Historically Christians       have fasted as they have sought the revival of the Church.

H.  To minister to the needs of others (Isa. 58:6-7)

I.  To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God (Mt. 4:1-11)

J.  To express love and worship to God (Lk. 2:37)

 

Read How Fasting informs our Past, Present and Future… Here.


[1] Adapted from Chapter 9 in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Nav-Press) by Donald S. Whitney, 1991.