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The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….

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Sermon On The Mount

Which House Will You Live In? Matthew 7:24-8:3

Do you know what your foundation is in life?

Jesus has been outlining a very clear design and calling for those who want to follow Him, and here at the end, there is a clear choice to make. 2 trees 2 gates 2 houses….The way of the flesh or the way of the Spirit. We must obey the Gospel,

Jesus is contrasting not just between obedience and disobedience, but the vast difference between fleshly liberalism and fleshly moralism and the life of faith. Be warned that we can’t just apply this need of choice only to the unbelieving, it’s for those who have professed faith with their lips, but not in their hearts.A call to the elder brothers as well as the younger. A call of repentance to those who know they need to repent ( the broken sinners) and those that don’t ( the proud). Moralists repent of sins with no issue, but they don’t see the need of repenting of doing the right thing with the wrong motive – those who say “Lord, Lord,” but are far from the kingdom…those that do things in His name, but not for His name…

If you think your own goodness will save you, Jesus might be your example, your hero even, but He might not be your Saviour. Jesus as your example alone will crush you, you’ll never be able to live up to it. Seeing Jesus Christ as the Lamb who takes away your sins will save you – Keller
We can take what He has said,believe and obey Him, or we can ignore Him.

This is the most important choice you will ever make, and there is only the two options.

Two houses, two ways of life.

Which house will you live in?
I. The House on the Rock. v 24-25.

From the outside, the two houses could look exactly the same.

They have a lot in common.They both, have walls, windows, doors, rooms. Both are designed to live in.

But there is a foundational difference between the two that is vitally important.

One is built on a rock, the other on sand.
The man who hears what Jesus has said, and follows through with “doing” and obeying is like the wise man who built his house on the rock.

James, had a bit to say about being doers of the word and not just hearers only ( James 1:22-24).

This is the main difference between the houses and the men in Jesus’ story – one hears and acts, the other hears and does nothing.

If you want to be wise, if you want to have a life that is safe and secure, build your life on the teachings and authority of Jesus and what He has done.

Foundations matter, and the only way to have a strong foundation in life is to trust in what Jesus has done, and what He said is true and faithful.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to be an ‘addition’ to our lives.He came to save us, and to be our Lord and Savior.We don’t build ourselves around Him and His teachings, we build from and in Him and His teachings and authority. We don’t ‘slot’ Him in like a jenga piece. He’s after our hearts, lives, souls, minds, strength, and spirit.

His is the Chief Cornerstone, not a rock for your mantle or a slat for your wall. Not the piece you’ve been missing, but the whole.

You don’t invite someone like Jesus into your life as an advisor, if He is Who He says He is, and has the authority He claims to have, and we believe it to be so – then He should have the rightful place of Savior AND Lord – the foundational premise of all we do our lives.

Why is this so important?

Because when the rains and storms of life come, if you have a solid foundation, your house/life will stand firm.
Storms of life expose not only your weaknesses, but who you are at the core of your being. Your hopes, dreams, faith and loves.

If Jesus is your foundation, and you trust in Him, trials in this life will only prove His faithfulness, and only make you rely on Him more.
The House on the Sand. v 26-27

What’s the other option?

What does life lived without obeying Jesus ( way of the flesh) look like?

You may well think that your life without Jesus is just fine. You appreciate He had some great teachings, and was a very loving person, but you can’t bring yourself to ‘believe’ in Him, or you don’t see His death as having any purpose or meaning at all.

You’ve heard Him, but don’t see the need to do anything about what He said.

Life without Jesus can be, well, life. You could live in this world with a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, even blessing in a way, but there is something fundamentally wrong with treating Jesus that way.

Jesus says the person that hears His words, and doesn’t do anything about them is like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand.

We automatically say, “Of course he’s foolish! Who would do such a stupid thing?!”.

But the man’s action of building on the sand isn’t foolish because he hasn’t heard it’s wrong to do so, but because he has heard and doesn’t trust the authority of the person who told him it was wrong. His own authority has higher value than anyone else’s.

He want a beach view, and to hear the waves at night. He built a castle, but it was made of sand, so what he was really getting himself in for was a sinking feeling that what he founded his life on was susceptible to destruction at the first sign of wind and rain, and something would break down as soon as the tide came in, as soon as death came close.

When you build your life on anything you want, you will fall for anything also.
“When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing. We worship anything.” – GK Chesterton
You may think it’s a great idea to build your life on inclusivity of belief systems. The more the merrier, right?

The worst thing we can do is to ask Jesus to co-exist with all of our other ‘gods’, or idols.

…you might think that’s it’s ok to live however you want, trying out any form of lifestyle that takes your fancy.

…you might even think that your own authority is all that really matters, and to hell with everyone else.

Another approach is to rely completely on your own interpretations and live a life that is ritualistic, controlled by rules and structures of either your making, or someone else’s
The end of it all is, whether by naivety, ignorance, arrogance, pride, or selfishness, you want to build your life by your own design. You want to be your own life’s architect, and you forget or overlook the fact that you have an eternal soul, and if your life choices and plans aren’t founded in eternal truth, then your life is founded on a lie, because you haven’t believed in the Sovereignty of God, or His love He has shown to you through Jesus.

What happens when your life’s foundation is a lie?

When ‘life happens’ to you in this house, that’s built on sand, when storms come, everything falls apart, from the ground up….

The fall of the foolish man’s house was great. It didn’t just collapse – it imploded!
How Should We Respond to Jesus? v.28-8:4

The question for everyone is, what will you do with Jesus? How will you respond? How do we avoid the destruction of a foolish life?

…you could be offended. – He’s not what you expected, and you don’t like the implications of applying His teachings to your life.

…you could be indifferent. – What He did doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect me. Why should I care? I’d rather do my own thing.

…or you could be astonished. – Be amazed at His authority, just like the people on the mount were. They knew the authority of the scribes and Pharisees. They taught with authority they got from studying out and interpreting the law, their experience and knowledge they gained from reading it. Jesus, on the other hand, taught with His own authority – He had a way of clearing through all the intellectual mumbo-jumbo, all the misconceptions, all the misinterpretations, He cut straight to the heart of the issue, with an authority that was without comparison. He knew more the words that made up the law – He was The Word. He knew more than what the law meant – He fulfilled it.

There was no way you could hear Jesus and not be amazed.

He made some very bold statements, claimed to be God, the Son of God.
How do we know what He said was true? How do we know we can even get anywhere near Him if He really is the Son of God, and requires obedience in faith of us? How do we act in faith?

….there is a big difference between amazement and faith.

I can be amazed at people that drive the V8 supercars around a race track, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to put my faith in one of the drivers to take me on a hot-lap.

We can’t stop at amazement. We must see what it means for us.

We must believe that He comes and interacts with us, not make us feel overwhelmed, or inadequate in the face of His authority and Deity in light of our failures, and sin alone, but to make us turn to Him, see Who He really is, not just in His words, but His actions also.

See what He does straight after coming down from the mountain ( 8:1-4).

In cleansing the leper, we see He not only has authority to speak words of meaning, purpose, and holiness that require action on the part of those who would follow Him, but He also has compassion, and is willing to take the risk of getting His hands dirty with our sin and the consequences of our sin.

He is willing to take our sickness on Himself. Thats how we know we can trust Him completely, obey Him completely, because any shortcomings we have, He takes on Himself when we place our faith in Him alone for our healing and deliverance,because He is willing to die for us.

Where will you build your house?

No other foundation

Will you live in the house built on The Rock, or in the house that rocks? Don’t be swayed back and forth by what the world offers as easy and comfortable, seek the compassionate Savior Who takes you as you are, and makes you stable, secure, and completely loved in Him…
Chose one thing….purity, Prayer, humility, giving, judging, forgiveness, worry – get someone alongside you, get accountable to God first, then another mature believer – go out and choose one thing to obey Christ in this week…ask for help with every day…Return to Christs finished work in every moment you are weak, His grace us sufficient…

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Skinning Sheep, Knowing the Good Fruit & Being Known By God: Matthew 7:15-23

There’s nothing worse than being duped by something that isn’t what it seems to be.

When you buy a new car that turns out to be a lemon, clothes that aren’t quite what you had in mind, or products that don’t do what they said they would.

One of the worse disappointments is buying fruit that isn’t quite right… It’s frustrating to bite into what you think is a juicy peach, only to lose a tooth! Or worse, to bite into a strawberry that has the added protein of a grub in it!Bad fruit can ruin your day!

Jesus uses several illustrations in chapter 7, and in between roads, gates, wolves, sheep, builders and floods, we have this section on fruit and trees.

This section is not just about discernment. It’s also about our personal identity before God. It’s not just about us knowing who has got it wrong, but whether God knows us at all.

The fruit we don’t want…

False prophets, are by definition, deceptive and cunning. They are the ultimate pretenders and hypocrites. They seek to hide themselves, by presenting themselves as sheep, while they are really wolves seeking to destroy the flock.

So what constitutes a false prophet or teacher? Jesus says it’s their fruit, that you find out their falsehood by examining what they produce ( 7:16, 20)

If a prophet is meant to speak the Word of God without compromise, than a false prophet would be one that compromises or contradicts the Word.

The context would indicate to us that false teachers would not direct people to the narrow way, they wouldn’t teach people the principles of Christ’s kingdom, they would promote hypocrisy and great outward shows of self-righteousness, they would run from persecution, they would make false claims about doing The Lords work (7:22), basically, they would preach the opposite of the sermon on the mount. They would deny the truth of Who Christ is and what He did for us in His atoning death on the Cross and ressurrection.

This is the fruit of a false prophet, that their false teaching overflows into living false lives. They are hypocrites. They are pretenders. They are self-righteous and self-serving, serving mammon rather than God. Laying up treasures on earth rather than in heaven. They hate their enemies. They are impure and promote all these things and other…Their fruit is no fruit at all. On inspection they only offer thorns and thistles.

It needs to be said that although we must certainly be discerning, it has already been established that we should not judge without proper self-examination first( 7:1-5), even then, only God judges ultimately. We can discern bad fruit, but that doesn’t mean we get to skin the sheep to expose a wolf, or that we get to burn every fishy looking sheep we see.

We love a witch hunt though. We love nothing better than to cut tall poppies down. We gossip about leaders in the church, criticise them for their stand, pass judgement on them, tear them to shreds to their face and behind their back. There seems to be no better pastime in the church than a good old sin hunt that skins everyone alive who doesn’t quite come into our way of thinking on certain issues.

There is a BIG difference between having some doctrinal differences with someone’s teaching over certain aspects of how we interpret God’s Word, and openly false teaching that demotes Christ’s deity, virgin birth, atonement, dismisses the resurrection, the Trinity – the basic tenants of the faith we hold to.

We like to draw lines of difference, but we should always keep in mind that we may well be knocking down the wrong tree or skinning the wrong sheep.

If someone is teaching falsehood – it’s not falsehood based on our preferences. It’s falsehood when tested against the truth of God’s Word and what His grace has revealed to us in Jesus.

When we know the truth, the way, the life, we will recognise error – know the truth and then be free to pray for the false teachers – that they would repent before it’s too late – we should never miss the person, no matter how wrong they may be, we must reach out with the love of Christ to them. Don’t forget the gospel is for sinners.

Don’t ever be caught up in trying to find error in others either. When you spend all your time searching out the negatives, you will become what you feed on. If you feed yourself on negative teaching about how bad other Christians are, you will have feelings of superiority and exclusivity.

The best defence ( and attack) against false teaching is to know the truth, to feed on it consistently, teach it without compromise, and live it without contradiction in your own personal life.

As to the judgements we pass on fellow believers just because they are different in their expression of faith than us – note that you will spend eternity with some people that you have falsely accused. People you refuse to associate with because of certain alignments,associations and doctrinal preferences. Others whose teaching you dismiss as faulty because of a tag or denomination. The bible they use. The hymns they sing. The ministries they engage in or don’t. Don’t limit the grace of God or the power of God to your own personal sphere of influence. When you do, you create a culture of high criticism, where the standard is so high we create classes of believers, and we miss the greatest commandment ( 7:12) and make the Gospel a secondary issue to our own personal ideals.

A gospel that doesn’t appeal to your personal preferences may not be the gospel at all. False teaching isn’t just false teaching because you don’t like it or don’t agree with it or you don’t like the teacher. False teaching is false teaching because it doesn’t agree with Jesus, His Cross, or the Gospel truth that He alone is the way to the Father.

False prophets will be exposed in how they teach and how they live. We discern, God gets to judge.

The fruit we should want…

So we want to avoid thorns and thistles. We want grapes and figs. We want to be sustained, not devoured.

What fruit should we want and how do we get it?

Jesus said His meat, His sustenance came from doing the will of God, Who sent Him. ( John 4:34).

What sustains us and assures us of entrance into the kingdom of God is obedience to His Will, and receiving teaching that directs us to that end. ( 7:21b).

The only way to God is not by way of doing great things in His name ( 7:22), but by doing His will – submitting to His design for your life, following Christ in death to self and total trust of the Heavenly Father.

It is one thing to perform miracles and quite another to do God’s will. God wants a life of righteous obedience, not spectacular deeds.
-Grant Osborne

How easy it is to learn a religious vocabulary, and even memorise Bible verses and religious songs, and yet not obey God’s Will…Words are not a substitute for obedience and neither are religious works. Preaching, casting out demons, and performing miracles can be divinely inspired, but they give no assurance of salvation. – Wiersbe

True fruit that comes from true discipleship is not self-glorifying, it’s God-glorifying.

A true follower follows the will of the Father, lives according to the kingdom principles, seeking humility, purity, forgiveness of others, truthfulness, love, generosity, they reject hypocrisy – especially in themselves, and Christ is central to all they do.

…they practice obedience. The Father’s Will is not simply admired, discussed, praised, debated; it is done. It is not theologically analysed, nor congratulated for it’s high ethical tone; it is done, on earth as it is in heaven- DA Carson

The Question we should all ask ourselves…

The great question everybody must ask of themselves is, ‘Does God know me?’.

God knows all people, and He’s the only one that knows all the hearts of all mankind, but does He know you as His child?

Many think He does know them, but they base that assumption on what they have done. What they have said. ( 7:22)

The most dangerous position to be in is one of self-deception. When we are self-righteous and self-promoting, we may well trick ourselves into thinking that Christ is our Lord, but all along, Jesus is only the Saviour, not our Saviour. He’s Lord, but He’s not our Lord because we’ve got our own personal idea of salvation, and the Cross of Christ is secondary to our accomplishments. We profess to be Christian, but we are only nominal. It’s something we put on our census, but it means nothing to us past a trend or inherited faith.

Acting liking we don’t need a personal relationship with Jesus, that we can just ‘know’ Him and do some good works and all will be well is a delusion. That lifestyle will find us on the broad way. It cheapens God’s grace, and the cross. ( Galatians 2:22).

You can even be correct in your doctrine ( Lord, Lord ) , but far from the kingdom because your knowledge about God outweighs your relationship with Him, and for all that you ‘know’ about Him, He may not know you. ( 7:23)

Saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not…”, points to hearts that are far from understanding God’s grace. God doesn’t need ‘reminding’ of anything. Anyone who thinks they need to ‘remind’ God of all the great works they’ve done in His name, never did them for His name, they did it for their own name, and in professing only their own works, they have ignored the finished work of Christ, and will spend eternity away from God – in departing from His Will, they must depart from Him forever, they created their own law, and are condemned by it…( 7:23)

How can you know you are known by God?

Scripture makes that clear – believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Acknowledge that your relationship with God as believer does not rest upon your good works, but on how you respond to Jesus and His work.

God’s grace calls you to come by showing you the truth of the Gospel, that Christ died on the Cross for your sins, and rose again to make all things right before God. Trusting what Christ has done, for you, is the only way to salvation. If you hear the truth, listen to it. Ask God to reveal Himself. Seek Christ.Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.

The Two Gates – Matthew 7:13-14

Choices are hard to make for some.

We agonise over which flavour ice-cream we want to buy, or are allowed to eat! Between the aisles upon aisles of different types of bread, milk, or cereal we could buy, or the endless lineup of marketing gimmicks we see around that sell the same product in 1,000,000 different ways – we second guess ourselves all the way to the grave on some things it seems, never having made up our minds for certain about whether we made the right call in all situations.

As debilitating as choice can be for some of us, there is really only one choice we all absolutely must make…

Will we follow Christ to God, or not?

It is a choice with only two options. It sounds exclusive and it is. In this age, there is little room for “narrow-mindedness”. We are accused of bigotry, but you can’t actually use that term as a judgement of someone else without being one yourself. Also, we live in a culture where everything is tolerated but intolerance, but the intolerance of our tolerant society stinks like the the hypocrisy and double standards they loathe so much…

Every faith is “narrow”. Even the faith that says all faiths are equal excludes those who disagree. – Keller

If Christ offends you, it’s probably because He’s not Who you think He is.

Jesus is drawing His message to a close. He has given His kingdom principles, outlined the dangers of relying on our own strength, and how God supplies all we need. He now removes any possibility of being neutral and demands a response.

He gives a very specific and direct instruction – enter at the narrow gate.

2 Gates…..

There is another gate He speaks of also…

What is the narrow gate?

– it is a narrow / strait entrance
it leads to life
few find it

What is the wide gate?

it us a wide / broad entrance
it leads to destruction
many go in this way

The descriptions are easy enough to understand. Gates ( doors in Luke’s account – Luke 13:24). Ways. Entrance points.

Two entries, both lead to eternity, but only one leads to eternal life.

One is narrow and strait. Hard to find, sometimes constricting to follow, and only for the few.

The other is wide and broad. Easy to find, lots of room, and plenty of company.

The choice would be easy if we were to base it solely on this life. But this eternity in the balance, not your own personal comfort. This is more than life and death. This is eternity, and we should make not mistakes about what is needful, what is Godly. What is true and what we simply want to hear…

Life. Destruction. There is no missing there is a clear personal accountability for the path you choose to follow and what you trust in.

2 Kinds of people…

We look at all the various races and cultures we are surrounded with. The diverse ethnic practices, structures and even worldviews, and we would say the world is full of all kinds of people.

We may well look at the church and see it the same way.

There are many different looking people in church as well!

But there aren’t that many ‘kinds’ of people in God’s eyes. Before Him, all are sinners. All are unrighteous.

The only distinction God makes between people is whether they are in Christ or not. Whether they have the righteousness of Christ or not. Whether they have submitted themselves to His grace or not.

There are two kinds of people, who in the end, at the judgement, will prove what path they chose in life. Those to whom God will say, “ Your will be done” and those who will say to God, “Your will be done”. – CS Lewis

In the average church, we might be able to find six groups:

1 – those who want little to do with Christianity but are there due to family or peer pressure
2- those who are neutral and somewhat open but have different priorities
3- seekers, who are interested and searching, but not yet ready to convert
4 – faux-Christians who attend regularly and seem to be believers, but have not entered an authentic relationship with Jesus and are not genuine in their activities in the body of Christ
5- young Christians who are open and starting to to grow
6- mature Christians who are earnestly seeking to follow Christ.

Although we may categorise people this way, for Christ, there are really only two groups.

those on the path of obedience
those on the path of disobedience

If you find yourself in the middle categories ( 3 & 4), you have are very mistaken if you think it’s ok to be neutral. That it’s ok to want to go to heaven, but do anything you want while on earth. That is not the will of God for your life, and you cannot pray for God’s Will to be done on earth when you don’t even follow His most basic of principles for your life.

If you hold on to anything in this world as having more meaning than Jesus, you will be destroyed by the very thing you thought would fulfil you.

If instead, you feel Jesus is out of date. Just a crutch for your parents, then in the end, you must truly examine what you are holding onto, and whether it will last as long as your soul will.

If you think Christianity is tiresome rules and rituals, and you despise anyone who tries to control your life, chances are you are living a life where you are desperate for the approval of the world, and you do anything to have moments of pleasure, while emptying yourself of any form of control, including self-control.

Jesus here was speaking to people who heard Him… He will go on to give further instructions about what to do with His word ( 7:24-27), but needless to say, if you listen to Jesus and don’t do anything, you are foolish and you have no foundation in life and there is danger and destruction lying ahead for you…or there is life…

2 Different Ends…

Roadworks are everybody’s favourite gripe…we would detour half an hour out of our way in order to not be stuck for 10 minutes in roadworks. So long as we’re moving, we feel like we are in control.

Come to think of it, it’s not just roadworks that bug us. Other people on the road at all is annoying for some.

The expression “they think they own the road” offends those of us who actually think we own it!
In life, we think we can make our way. So long as we’re moving, we feel like we are in control…but we may be completely unaware of our predicament or destination for that matter, because we have become so invested in “owning” our road.

There is a reason Paul urges us to examine whether we are in the faith, ( 2 Corinthians 13:5), and so we should.

We can delude ourselves into thinking we ‘own’ the road we are on. We’ve earned our place. We’ve done all the right things, made all the right turns, and we are blazing a trail for those behind us to follow…we’ve paved and paid our way.

By our own understanding, by our own reckoning, we assume many things when we look at where we are with any sense of pride in our own accomplishment.

But if you are in the narrow way, you have not paid the price for your place there, it is only by God’s grace you have access to the path and way of life.

You do not get onto the path by your own understanding. You do not get through the strait gate by trusting your own heart. You can’t make your path straight.

So how do you get through the narrow gate? How to you get on the narrow way? Proverbs 3:3-8.

God makes our paths straight when we surrender completely to Him. That is the only way to life, by death to self.

The only way to glory is by the Cross, just ask Jesus about the way He had to go.

If, on the other hand, you are under no illusions that you are on that broad way. You know the direction of your life is not pleasing to God, but you’re not sure about whether you can be forgiven, if there is a way back to God from where you are, or maybe you just don’t care.

If that’s the path you are on, think about where you are going. Right now is easy to think about. You’re enjoying life. You have plenty of company, you fit in. It’s an easier life, a life of least resistance. But what about where you are going?

What joy do you have in your life that lasts?

What is your most desperate need? Relationship? Success? Riches? Comfort? Pleasure ? Fame?

They’re the kind of things everyone is after, and the exact things that will destroy you if you follow them through to their natural conclusions.

One question you may have above all is when can I make the choice? When will it be too late to change paths, to surrender and trust in Christ’s finished work?

If you are wondering how far you can wander away before you have to come back, you are on a very dangerous, destructive path…a path that very nearly destroyed me, but for the grace of God.

God will accept you, from wherever you are coming from. There is always opportunity for repentance before God.
The question remains, when?

The single most important moment of your life before God is right now.

Whether you are on the narrow path and trusting in Christ and being lead by the Spirit, or if you are searching for answers and wondering if there is really a way back to God from the dark paths of sin, this moment will define you…will you obey the Word of God?

What will you choose? There is a definite and hard choice to be made, but the way is clear. A path to God has been outlined for us. It is narrow, it has it’s share of dangers, but it is the only path that leads to life that will last.

“The Golden Rule” Matthew 7:12

We find ourselves in a culture and society where we don’t have to worry too much about lawlessness and corruption. Many other places in the world are in chaos because of governments and citizens are living by certain societal rules that we would consider abnormal.

Rules can be a blessing and a curse, though.

When you are running late to an appointment, speed limits and other silly road rules can be incredibly burdensome. When you are in a car accident, or someone you love is ,you soon get a different perspective.

Rules are there for a reason, but all rules, it seems, are made to be broken. Name any rule that has ever been made and you could be sure that it has been broken.

What is our big problem with rules? It’s not just that we don’t like being told what to do…

We know we have a problem with rules, but we do have a big problem with the self-appointed enforcers of the rules…the hypocrites, we hate hypocrisy – especially in others…

But maybe the biggest problem is that there is too many rules. If we could narrow it down to just one, that’d be great.

Jesus did that in the sermon on the mount, but of course, as with all rules that God gives, keeping the rule is not the end in itself, and the greatest battle we will face is acknowledging we are not capable of meeting even this most well known of all rules…

1: The Direct Command.

There is no denying there is a very explicit instruction here for us, but in our familiarity with it, we can miss it’s importance. This is THE defining point of all of Jesus’ teaching in the sermon on the mount…

If we miss the point of this, we’ve missed the lot!

Therefore….(so)….
because you rely on God for everything ( 6:5-24)
because you shouldn’t worry ( 6: 25-34)
because you shouldn’t judge ( 7:1-6)
because you should ask, seek and knock, always knowing God will provide

Because of all these things, you do to others what you would want them to do to you.

This is the foundational truth of God’s grace in active goodness and mercy in your life, “The Golden Rule”, the ultimate standard of social morality.

We often read it as, ‘Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to yourself’, and that is a noble standard to aspire to, but it’s not original to Christianity, and it’s not actually what Jesus said, it’s much, much more.

Jesus is laying an imperative to positive action on our part, to take the initiative to DO something good for another person. To initiate loving service.

This doesn’t mean that if I would like a box of Krispy Kremes waiting for me when I get home from work, that I should but two boxes for my wife to “enjoy”. She would think I hate her if I did that. I wouldn’t do that for her anymore than she would buy me flowers. She also loves me enough to know as much I’d like the donuts, I don’t need them!

It’s doing something completely selfless for another person, that’s in their best interests, just because you can.

There’s no getting around it, you must put others first, and put aside any rights you think you have, for the sake of the other.

2: The Daunting Challenge.

My idea of a challenge would be to read a book a week. Others have different ideals of a goal weight, or enough money saved for a holiday, car, house, whatever it may be…When we have something to work towards, we can put our heads down and get to it, it’s ‘doable’.

Jesus here has daunting challenge. It seems simple to start with, but once you actually think about it, you so realise it’s much harder than you think!

But here it is…

You can fulfil all the requirement of the Law and the Prophets, if you do to others what you would have them do to you.

You can be saved, if you try hard enough. Here is your chance. Salvation by your own merit.

Of course, it’s not that straightforward, and it certainly isn’t meant to be interpreted that way, even though many do.

“ This statement is not the sum total of Christian truth, nor is it God’s plan of redemption. We should no more build our theology on the Golden Rule than we should build our astronomy on ‘Twinkle, twinkle, little star’…” – Wiersbe

We like it, even when we can’t do it, because it seems like something we have control over. But, as we have already considered, there is a big problem when we try to control other people’s behaviour, or even our level of righteousness, by our actions.

This great truth about doing to others what we would want done to us is a principle that should absolutely guide our attitudes towards others. If it doesn’t we will find ourselves becoming proud, and giving harsh criticism, judging others when we should be pulling the beam out of our own eye so we can help our fellow believer. ( 7:1-5)

This truth is also for the believer specifically. Again, we cannot think that those outside of Christ will care for holiness and eternal things. ( 7:6)

It is also a calling for us to be an influence for positive good in our community. To be salt and light. ( 5:13-16). What better way to show the world what God can do than to be exhibitors of His grace and glory by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness?

In the midst of a challenge in our hearts to be doing this with the right motive, we must also know there will be a cost.

You will suffer for Christ’s sake when you seek to be like Him.

3: The Undeniable Need.

If it’s so hard, why bother?

It’s not enough for us to say, “ Because God said so”. If we are using that as reason to obey, we will never truly obey from our heart out of love, let alone an understanding of who we truly are, as His children, in Christ.

We need to obey God, but our motivation cannot focus on making ourselves look good, or making others feel good. It must be a lot deeper than that, and last a lot longer too.

We dig a big hole for ourselves when we use God’s commands to us as excuses to perform self-righteous acts. Chapter 6 outlined that. God gave us instructions, but we were never meant follow them as an end in itself.

When we become obsessed with standards and rules, we soon lose sight of the more meaningful things.

We worry more about how a person looks than what condition their heart is in.

We gossip about others and condemn them with our words rather than seeking to treat them like we would like to be treated, and forgive, or seek to understand the full story rather than base our assumptions on rumour.

We accuse other Christians of not being Christian based solely on what we see them doing.

We pray for revival, but we can’t honestly say we want it when don’t pray for it to start at the church down the road.

These are all signs of an over-emphasis on outward expressions.

We would do very well to be more heart, and less attack. We need to be different, we need to stand out, but no where in scripture will you find Jesus saying people will know we are followers of Him because we have high standards of outward behaviour.

We need to be obey God, not so we are more righteous, but so we can be more like Jesus, and bring Him glory.

That is the undeniable need of every human being, to be like Jesus, and to fulfil all that is required by God that He has had written down for us in the Law and the Prophets. It’s our deepest need, and we are in desperate need of God’s grace to fulfil it, because we cannot. The previous chapters have outlined this fact, it is a narrow way…

5:17-7:12 are inclusive, bookended by the two facts that at fist glance seem contradictory:
– 5:17, Christ came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets.
-7:12, we do to others what we would want done to us, and that is the Law and the Prophets.

The sections in between outline for us our need to firstly love God purely, without self-righteousness as motivation( 6:1-18), and then our need to love others without selfish ambition as a motivation (6:19-7:11).

‘The major effect of the Golden Rule was to condemn human goodness. It wipes it out. By this standard, all natural, human goodness is condemned and, being weighed in the balances, is found wanting…Matthew 7:12 is God’s straightedge by which a man may know how morally crooked he is.’ – Boice

We cannot love others selflessly without first loving God. Jesus is by no means excluding loving God in His summing up of the Law and Prophets, but is stating what we know already, we won’t love others until we love God.

How on earth can we truly DO this?

Loving someone else selflessly seems to lofty a calling, but it’s actually a lowly one.

Become a servant.

Become like Jesus, take on His mindset. (Philippians 2:1-11). In Christ, we can love another person freely, without a sense of obligation, and without pride.

When we have His mind, we think about others before ourselves, and we do nothing out of prideful ambition, but out of hearts that have Jesus as their focus.

What would you like to be done for you? Do it for someone else, and do it better than what you daydream about for yourself.

This means we simply must put aside personal agendas, vendettas, and forgive others who have hurt us or wronged us.

We must have unity of mind as believers, and the only way to have that is for each of us to have the mind of Christ.

be willing to give up your glory for God’s
be humble enough to serve one another
be humble enough to die to yourself
be humble enough to wait until God’s time to be exalted

If Christ means anything to you…follow Him. Trust in what He did as being enough for you to reach God. Follow what He did for no other reason than to bring glory to His name alone.

Ask, Seek, Knock: Matthew 7:7-11

How quickly do you give up when something starts to get a little harder?

I can remember doing StMary’s Peak in the Flinders. It was an adventure, and an ordeal.

Giving up was a real possibility, but I had to prove myself worthy of the compant! Being told the view was worth it was hardly motivation enough. I lacked stamina, I lacked the fortitude. I made it, but very begrudgingly!

Another person going up with me was persistent. In a mixture of encouragement, intense heat, prodding and empty promises of an easy trek, this other person made it without complaint. They kept going.

What is the difference? Persistence is one factor, but the other person knew what resources they had to call upon. There was never any doubt.

In our Christian lives, if we are honest, we doubt sometimes. We don’t truly know whether we will have all we need, and we worry about today, tomorrow, and anything else we can think of.

We lack persistence, not only our faith, but also in our prayers and pursuit of God, especially when it comes to pursuing His holiness.

1 – Be Persistent In Your Pursuit of God and His Holiness v. 7-8

You might have read through the Sermon on the Mount and been inspired to live in a new way.

I would rather make bricks without straw than try to live the sermon on the mount in my own strength. – Lloyd-Jones

Our lofty ideals of turning over a new leaf and living a morally upright life are excellent intentions, but completely pointless unless we ask for help from Christ and His Spirit.

Our response to studying out the sermon should be instead to go to God for grace, and to do so constantly, persistently asking of Him all the things we need.

Our daily bread, forgiveness of sins, deliverance from evil…

This life we are being called to is not a once-off ‘ say-a-prayer-then-you’re-done’ occasion. It is LIFE. More abundant. Free, liberating, completely new, but life still has to be lived, and while we live on this earth, we have two options, ask God for help and seek His righteousness first, or do it on our own and depend on our own righteousness.

Our failures and mistakes in this life may discourage us sometimes, but they are not meant to, they are meant to drive us to God all the more.

Ask again, seek again, knock on Heaven’s throne room door, again.

He gives, He is not hidden, and He will open the door.

asking….

“You won’t know unless you ask…”, you may have heard that statement in many contexts, and sometimes in can make us frustrated, others times, it leads to us gaining some insight or receiving something we would not have otherwise had.

Getting a free delivery on a furniture item, or a discount off a damaged product is one thing. Asking permission of someone to marry their daughter is quite another!

We ask God for all the things we need, simply because He says He will provide all we need.

seeking….

There are songs written about trying to find what you’re looking for…

We are always looking for something. The next popular trend. The latest news. The newest model car, iphone. We are a seeking people, a restless people.

What are we doing when we are looking for something that still is constantly out of reach the moment we lay hands on the thing we had strived so hard to get?

We are worshipping. We’re looking for righteousness, and more often than not, we’re looking for it in the things our hearts long for.

What we daydream about reveals what we worship, and what we worry about reveals what we trust. What ask for and seek is simply the outward actions of hearts that are deceived into idols to worship and trusting in earthly things while distrusting God.

We also seek righteousness and terms of worship on our own terms, even if we are moral people. That is why Jesus has had so much to say about public displays of self-righteousness.

These are not the things we should be looking for, seeking for…it will only get us lost.

The only place we can be found, and truly find what our hearts really need, is in the kingdom of God and in His righteousness. ( 6:33).

Seeking God, we will always find Him. He doesn’t hide Himself from us when we are looking for Him. If He appears hidden, it’s only because we have placed our own wants and needs above His ways and will.

knocking….

There is another song about knocking on heaven’s door….

People seem to be obsessed with getting into heaven, even if they don’t believe in God.

The door we knock on though, is not shutting us out. It’s a sign of an access that we have to God that means we can come into His presence, because Christ has gone before us. ( Hebrews 5:16).

Knocking on a door can be an awkward thing. What if they are not home? What if they weren’t expected me? What if they don’t want me to come in?

God’s door, although there is only one, is available for us to enter through. Inside, there is safety, provision, and acceptance.

2- Your Heavenly Father Is Far Better Than Any Earthly Father v. 9-11

I’m sure some fathers grow weary of the persistence of their children. The constant nagging can cause them to either turn a blind ear, and switch off, lash out and make sure the child never asks again, or cave in and give something that maybe isn’t in the child’s best interest at all, just to have some peace.

But the child here in the passage is asking for bread, for fish. He is asking for sustenance, for food, for needful things.

No father, who is in their right mind will turn to a child who is asking for a basic daily meal and say, “ You ate yesterday! You are way too needy!”.

Jesus knows that fathers have an instinct to care for their children’s basic needs, and that they would never give something to them that would harm instead of sustain.

Stones and serpents hardly make a balanced meal, it is an extreme example of poor parenting, which although men are evil ( v11a), they instinctively know better than to do this to their children. At least they should. It would be implicit in the text to say that if an earthly father abused his children in this way, or in anyway that endangers their safety or health and well-being, he is not really a father at all.

Although pestering children may be a hassle that causes some men to be begrudging in their ministry and care of their children, God is never like this.

The child with the kind, gentle, and firm father does not fear to ask him for things, but deep down he enjoys the assurance that his father will not give him something which greater wisdom and experience assess as not in the child’s best interests. The child with the extravagant but thoughtless father approaches him with arrogance and lays down his next demand, knowing he will not be refused. The child with the stingy, ill-tempered and abusive father will seldom ask for anything, fearing another meaningless beating. – Carson

The trouble for us with this illustration of fathers is that we look at our earthly fathers, and for good, or for bad, see our Heavenly Father the same way.

The kind father will raise children who believe God is kind and good, but just.

The father who spoils his children will raise children who quickly become disillusioned with a God Who doesn’t give them everything they demand.

The father who is stingy and abuses his children will raise children that think that God is mean, distant, and will always hold back love and forgiveness from them.

Men are evil, fathers are evil, even the best ones sin.

Our Heavenly Father, however, knows not only what we need, but provides it freely when we ask in faith.

We are to approach our Heavenly Father with a trust in His goodness, despite any earthly examples we have the contrary, and expect He will do right by us, because He has promised to do so.

3 – Are You His Child?

There is of course, still a massive question for you to ask. Not of God. His position on the matter is established. He will give, He will be found, He will open.

The question is for you. In order for you to receive the good gifts of God, you need to be His child.

Are you His child?

My parents have a home that is always open. Mum’s hospitality and cooking bring many from near and far. If you visit my parents for a meal, you will be welcomed and well fed, even a bed could be made for you if needed.

They have many people come and go in their home, but their greatest pleasure is to have their children home for a meal. There is a different care given in my parents home that I would receive that you simply wouldn’t. That care about you and for you, but not in the same way. You are not their child.

There are benefits to being a part of a family. To being blood related.

God’s family is the same, unless you’re blood related, you can ask, seek, and knock all you like, you’re not going to get in because although you may want the good gifts of God, you don’t want Him.

Do you want the things of God, but not God or His holiness?

If you want what He offers, you have to be His child to get them.

It sounds exclusive, and it is. It’s a narrow and hard way for us, and not many find it, or want it.

So what would you really ask for?

Who are you asking?

What are you looking for in places you shouldn’t?

Where do you want to enter?

The answers to these questions are simple. There are two choices. Your way, or God’s.The rest of chapter 7 will show us that.

If you choose Jesus, you have great blessings coming to you. If you choose your own way, you will set yourself up for destruction.

We must see God as the perfect Father, Who gave His perfect Son, so we could become part of His family.

Seeing God as Father is harder for some than others, but Christ never doubted His Father would give Him what He asked, and even when the Father didn’t, the Son still obeyed, even unto death.

Asking God to give you what He wants for you, which is His perfect righteousness, will grant you access through the door He has made open for you.

Ask. Seek. Knock. Always.

On Logs & Specks & Dogs & Pigs: Matthew 7:1-6

We have considered the dangers of worrying about the things of this world, and underlying our fears about daily provision seems to be this inbuilt desire we have that is geared towards independence and wanting control.

When something we don’t like gets in our way, we don’t like it. Other people have a way of disrupting our plans, or doing things in such a way that we can’t help but trying to control them.

Some truths would expose us in an instant if anyone were to line up our walk with our talk. Ch 6 has outlined that, and ch 7 goes on to give us some warnings and object lessons of what happens when you do or do not trust in the Word of God.

1. Don’t Judge Others. v 1-2

Judging others is easy. A simple trip to the shops is easy enough to expose our critical attitudes about others, not to mention our attitudes in church. We treat judgement as a favorite pastime in church circles.

What do you talk about on the drive home from church or family functions? Do you gossip? Do you slander? Do shake your head at the positions some people hold to, or the people themselves? Or do you pray for them?

That judging others is the nature of humanity. Right from the start of the human race we have judged others, blamed others. Finger pointing began in the garden, and we are still perfecting the art, trying desperately to distract others ( and God ) from our own sin.

There are several problems that arise when we judge:

-we become judges

James points out this a real dilemma ( James 4:11-12). When we judge our neighbor, we place ourselves above our neighbor, the law, and above God most of all. There is only One Lawgiver and Judge, do you really think you can fill those shoes?

-then we get judged
Are you prepared to face the same scrutiny that you place on others? Would you be able to stand under your own punishment?

We are so quick to look at another person and know automatically what they should be doing or not doing, but when it comes to receiving judgement, we certainly don’t want that same treatment. We want to be heard in context, and understood in full. We want a fair hearing, but think others are unworthy of that.

We don’t like ambiguity. We prefer the clarity of judging. – Miller

For us, it’s black and white. What we see is what is happening, but when jump to conclusions about others and cast judgement on them, we are falling into that trap of self-righteous deception.

We can’t hold others to account based on conclusions only we hold to.

There is a time for calling out sin in the lives of others. Of confronting falsehood. But it is to be done in very certain and particular way where it never ever comes down to exclusive and personal trial where we are the judge, jury and executioner.

This not about abolishing judgement and discernment altogether, this about getting rid of our bad attitudes when it comes to others, and the only way to get rid of a bad attitude is to address the heart change that we need.

The better we think we are, the less we will love. Self-righteous judgement cancels compassion.When we don’t take the time to understand another person more fully, to move towards them with love, we may find ourselves moving away from them altogether. Becoming more exclusive with our love because we have come to believe we hold the monopoly on the truth, when we may have missed the facts, and more pointedly, missed the person. Judgement keeps us from becoming involved with other people and their problems. Judging is a more efficient use of our time we think. – Miller

Don’t Be Blind To Your Own Sin. v 3-5

Not only do you miss the other person, but you will most likely miss your own sin. The problem is hardly ever the other person. It’s usually our own heart, sinfully reacting against being sinned against or hurt.

When all you see is someone else’s sin, you will not see your own.

Walking around with a log in your eye is a difficult task, but if you think you are especially skilled at helping others with sight issues, it’s not usually because you understand what they are going through and want to help, but because you can’t see you own need and your not actually helping others, your just pointing out their need without acknowledging your own.

It’s hypocritical, and we can’t stand hypocrisy. Especially in other people.

We don’t like hypocrites, and we don’t like those who judge others. We look down our noses at people who look down their noses at people, and we get stuck in a vicious cycle of vendettas, plots, gossip, slander, accusation, comparisons, misplaced assumptions, and we soon are the judges we loathed so much.

We must stop and look in the mirror. Not a comparison to another person. Not our own idea of what we should look like and what our practice of faith should be, but the living word of God that reveals the thoughts and intents of our hearts.

When we’ve done that, when we have clearly examined our own patterns of sin in our own lives and dealt with it appropriately, we can then actually help another person.Clear sight leads to helping another person, getting alongside them instead of in their face, but acknowledging and confessing our own sins and failures first.

Initiating confession and repentance is the best way to help another in their own error.

Eye surgery is difficult. It’s delicate. The organ is sensitive there needs to be a level of care given that doesn’t diminish the diagnosis or the need for surgery, but a level also that gives the patient a confidence that the surgeon is on their side!

Would you trust a blind eye surgeon? If you wouldn’t, then don’t be blind to your own sins as you rush in to point out another’s.

There is a great need for unity in the body in order for a building up to be done in truth and love. ( Ephesians 4: 11-16).

Too often our confronting of others is not with love. There might be truth, but truth without love just leaves us with hopelessness, and it certainly isn’t an example we have been left with. When we rush in without love, we tend to be more divisive and destructive than edifying and building up.

Self-surgery at the Cross is required before we trying to go in blind.

Be Discerning v. 6

We seem to think there is a fine line between judgement and discernment. But the problem is usually with our assumptions, and not so much our definitions, but our applications.The problem is when we mash the lines between judgement and discernment together. We need to be discerning, we cannot be judgmental.

The necessity for a Christian to be discerning is paramount, but we have a big problem when we take that responsibility of discernment and warp into a justification for harsh criticism. We become arch-critics, where we are at home in passages which encourage us to spot false prophets by their fruit , and claim “ I’m not being judgmental. I’m just being discerning. I’m a fruit inspector. By saying such things we set ourselves up in a position that is not our’s. – Carson

When we are helping someone else take a speck out of their eye, after taking the log out of our own, there are times when our help, even with the best of intentions, can still be wasted.

You don’t give your dog your furniture as a chew toy. You don’t buy diamond rings or jewels for a pig.

While it’s not be up to us to decide when someone is being a dog or a pig, we can certainly tell when our wasting our energies and resources on projects that are just not worth it in light of eternity.

God’s grace abounds to sinners, and we should always seek to be extending grace to others rather than turning away from them, but there comes a time when we can be too persistent with sacred things that are either not valued by the other side, or are being lessened in value by our own behavior.

Don’t corrupt the Word of God by using it as a battering ram against opponents.

Don’t think that the holiness God has called you to will resonate at all with those who despise pure and precious things.

Pick your battles, know when to move on. ( Titus 3:4-11).

do some personal inventory.

Why do I dislike what they are doing so much? Are there things in my own life that I am blind to because I’m too busy looking at others?

Why do I want to help them? Is it because I don’t think they are like me, or is that they could be more like Jesus?

What would it be like if every person in the church was exactly like you? What kind of church would that be? Would you feel served, ministered to, forgiven, reminded of the Gospel in everyday life if everyone else was you?

– check your pride.

Pride make you a predator, not a person. – Keller

A simple lesson in observation is to note the time when you have ‘won’ an argument. In those times in your life, did you feel more like Jesus? Or, more likely, did you feel proud that you had scored a point?

Sometimes, we are more interested in being right than being like Jesus, and we need a reminder that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Are you a grace hunter or a sin hunter? – Welch

It’s so easy to look at someone and find the negative. We seemed more inclined to self-protective harsh criticism of others than we are to seeing God at work in the lives of others.

Mercy triumphs over judgement, but we take the high road instead of the road less travelled, and we are partial in judgement, accusing some, excusing ourselves and others. We forget that all have sinned. We forget that if we fail in one area, we have failed in all. ( James 2:8-13).

We know this, and earnestly desire mercy of God, and accept it freely. But we keep it to ourselves.

What if Christ came the first time only to judge and condemn, and not to save?

What if, on the Cross, instead of asking for the forgiveness of those who had placed Him there, He called down the angels, and God poured out His wrath on a world deserving of damnation?

What if He had not died in our place, with our sin holding Him to that Cross, and instead, had nailed us to the Cross instead? We say no to that for ourselves, but what are we doing when we take the forgiveness, mercy, grace, and eternal love of God in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, and claim it for our own, but then turn to a brother, a sister, a neighbor for whom Christ died, and judge them as being unworthy?

Christ did not die so you could be justified in your self-righteous judgements of other people. He died so you could be made righteous before God and have peace.

How Not To Worry – Matthew 6:25-34

You arrive at work early in the morning. You are worried about the man that followed you and whether he will ask you for money or stab and kill you then make you open the safe. During the day you realize your wife hasn’t sent you a message like she usually would, so you worry that she may have slept through her alarm, or crashed on her way to work and forgot to call. You get through your work day and worry that you will make it to the appointment you have to get to on time, and that they will charge you a cancellation fee.You get home and greet your wife with tales of your woeful day. You sit down to eat and worry that your wife may not have made dessert tonight. You watch the evening news and you worry.You go to bed and worry about whether or not you have forgotten to do anything. You check that your alarm is set at least four times, and put your back up alarm on, just in case. You keep yourself awake worrying that tomorrow might be exactly the same.
If what you daydream about reveals what your heart worships, then what you worry about may reveal what you trust in to get by in day to day life.
We have ‘little faith’ in God when it comes to little things it seems. We trust Him for big things like upholding the universe and our salvation….but everything else is up to us. That might not be what we believe, but it’s certainly not how we act.
‘ No Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as anxiety’ – Kierkegaard
1. Don’t Worry…
“Therefore…” ( v.25, 31,34)
It seems straight forward in it’s context. You can’t serve God and money, if you can’t make your stuff into an idol and keep your eye on heavenly things at the same time, if you do, you will spend your life debilitated by worry about EVERYTHING….
why we should not worry:
– life is more than food and the body more than clothing
We so often claim to have nothing to eat, or nothing to wear…where what we really mean is we have nothing we want to eat or nothing with the right brand name to wear.

Our appetites control our behavior, so who do people know you as when you are hungry? Are you irritable? Angry? Sad?
Why does your happiness depend on your satisfaction?!
In our society, we can hardly claim to be starving. Skipping meals usually points to busyness rather than necessity.
What about our clothing? We seem more worried about whether people think we are fashionable that we don’t even care about what is functional. We want brand names, certain items, and a certain look. We worry that we may not fit in, or we worry that we will. We are overly concerned with how other people will see us.
– you are more valuable than the birds
The first thing in nature we are told to consider are the birds. They always seem busy, but they never seem worried. They are always working, but never anxious about their long term prospects. They aren’t watching the worm- exchange or the seed fund. They don’t hoard, and they don’t worry about what other birds are eating and whether their diet makes them look fat in their plume and feathers.
The lesson is clear – if God cares for the birds in nature in such ways, then why would He not care for us in the same things? We are of so much more value that any creature, we are the only creatures made in God’s image, this makes us incredibly blessed…we have a Heavenly Father!
We should never believe the lie that God doesn’t care for nature, but we should also never place nature above Him, or even above His care for us. We are His children.
– God is Sovereign over your life
The next law of nature is law of life and death. No one can add height to their
stature, and no one can add a year to their lives.
This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat healthy and exercise, but on the contrary, we steward we have been given, don’t take anything for granted, and we certainly don’t try to manipulate nature in order so we can have more glory in life, whether by social status or physical achievement. You are who God has made you to be, and all you are called to do is walk in His Will.
- God will clothe us
The last example of nature is the flowers.
Unless you have hayfever, flowers are wonderful and beautiful things.
When we worry about what we are going to wear, we should think of how the lilies don’t fuss about how they look, never worry about whether their petals will keep them from looking weird, or if their pollen is faulty.They don’t stress about how they will make themselves. They are flowers. They are created in such a way that they have a glory that can only belong to them. All the riches in the world can’t buy the beauty that a simple lilly possesses ( which not a valid excuse for a man not to buy his wife flowers btw!) But even though they have such great exquisite beauty, they rarely last long, and if a flower can be beautiful one day and dead the next, for no other purpose than to simply be beautiful, why would even bother about whether or not we will be clothed? If these things of such beauty are created by the God Who also made us eternal souls with bodies, why would we worry about whether we will have clothes to wear, let alone how we look in them?
2. Worry = Unbelief
What does it look like when we do worry? When we are obsessed with what we are going to eat, drink or wear?
Jesus says that it is these things that the unbelieving pagan Gentiles worry about.That hurts! But how else could we possibly say it? Worrying, at it’s root, is a lack of faith, and when we worry about whether we will have anything to eat, drink or wear we have forgotten we have a Heavenly Father who knows what we need and longs for us to ask Him for our daily bread.
Pagans treat God like a genie ( v 7-8), and they also worry constantly about their material needs, and even more, their material wants. We are called to much more than that. We are called to be distinctive in how we live in this world, and what better distinctive quality would there be on a day to day level that living lives of trust and not getting attached to ‘stuff’ in this world?
We have little faith, small faith. Although that sounds like another rebuke, it can also be a source of challenge – faith can grow. Jesus is asking His followers to let their ‘little faith’ grow up into a deeper dependence.

3. Seek First The Kingdom & His Righteousness
When we see the context of this message on worry is related to danger of loving our stuff too much, and the bigger picture the danger of self- righteousness, we can put worry in both categories.
Worry is obsessing over what you have and don’t have.
Worry is also an act of self-righteousness, in saying you think you can do a better job than God. ( which you are under-qualified for…!)
Worry is not believing God will get it right, and bitterness is believing God got it wrong – Keller
How do we get rid of this?
The answer that Jesus gives us is Himself. To seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, not our own.
Just as earthly possessions can become an idol which deposes God by becoming disproportionately important, so also can earthly needs become a source of worry which deposes God by fostering distrust..our physical needs, however legitimate they may be, must never supplant our prior commitment to the kingdom of God and His righteousness – Carson
There is nothing better than that, and because there is nothing better than having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, when we have that as our sole source of fulfillment in life, we soon realize, everything else has been included in the deal. ( v 33b).
We have our daily bread, drink and clothing because we are children of a Father Who loves us, and is pleased to give us good things.
We don’t seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness to get the things, we seek Him and get everything else along with it.
“If you read history you will find that Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought the most of the next… It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become ineffective in this. Aim at heaven, and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth, you will get neither” – CS Lewis

When we focus too much on the here and now, we soon lose sight of eternal things. We worry about today, and tomorrow, because we want control or we want comfort, and we want desire these more than we desire the will of the Sovereign Father Who knows what we need.
What do you turn to for comfort? ( what makes you happy…..?)Maybe some of the things you turn to are distracting you from the Comforter?Maybe you are too comfortable?
What about trying to control your worries? How’s that working out for you?
Thinking you can control you worries or your comforts is not only delusional, but also becomes much more selfish, as you not only try to control your own situation, but you try to control your environment as well, and you started judging others on whether or not they are contributing to your quality of life.
What today might be an irritation at what someone else has done to disrupt your own private world, tomorrow becomes warfare as you seek vindication for perceived injustice, and we point out specks of shortcomings while having a beams of disbelief in our own eye.
Anxiety = doubt / cynicism ” has God said?” Anxiety = rebellious independence
Anxiety = relativism, it’s true but is it true for me?
We over-analyse what we don’t & can’t know, instead of meditating on what we can & should know…
-Turn your worries into prayers.
Cast you cares upon Him, because He cares for you. ( 1 Peter 5:7). Prayer at it’s heart is God-focussed and self-forgetful. Be humble, you are needy, ask for what you need.
– Become like a child.
You have a Heavenly Father – ask Him for what you need. Adults try to figure out the cause and logic of things, children just ask. Ask with simple faith, even if it’s “HELP!”.
– focus on today, that’ll give you enough to ask for… – Look to Christ.

worried about food? He’s the Bread of Life. drink? He’s the Living Water
clothing? He’s clothed you in His righteousness life? He’s given His so you could new life

We might look at the Cross and rightly call it the greatest injustice of all time, and we would be right. We may well say that if a perfect man is dead, then our worries about this life would be left for us to worry about…But the Cross doesn’t end in defeat. The only defeat of the Cross is the defeat of sin, and even better is that it doesn’t end in death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us hope of life – that this life with all it’s worries and trials is borne by Christ’s sinless death in our place, and that His rising again justifies us before God, and assures of eternal life. If Christ remained dead, then we should be miserable and worried about our worries. If He is risen, and He is, then what does that do for our worries? Not only do we not have to worry about today to tomorrow, we can look to eternity and see we have a sure and certain hope.

“Treasures of The Heart / When We Love ‘our’ Stuff too much” – Matthew 6:19-24

Is there a specific place that you like to go to window shop?
A dress shop? Shoe shop? A car yard? A book shop?
You know all too well about that fantasy piece of clothing, car, or book set that you would buy if you just had that spare few hundred ( or thousand!). The property you would like to have…or that relationship.
We all have our own idea of treasure. We all have different treasures in mind, but even though the objects of our affections may be different, we are all doing the same thing when we dream about or work towards our treasures, we are all being short-sighted and materialistic.
Jesus had a lot to say about everyday living, things like sex and money were clearly big issues back in His day just as much as they are today.
Our short-sightedness on these issues needs challenging, because we so easily fall into the temptations and traps of both.
There are three ways Jesus points out that materialism affects us, if we pursue it.
I. It corrupts our heart. v19-21
Paul Tripp:
1. Everybody pursues treasure.
2. The thing that you treasure will control your heart.
3. What controls your heart will control, rule, and shape your behavior.
Jesus doesn’t assume that there are any of His followers who are not treasure or reward orientated.
He assumes that every person who has ever lived is value orientated, and serves some form of treasure.
In this section, He was in NO way speaking against having possessions, but He was speaking against a preoccupation with them that would end up destroying us.
He wanted His followers to be good stewards with what He has entrusted them with, but He didn’t want them to love things, He wanted them to love God and pursue His glory.


God has given us good things, but when those good things become ultimate things, we have made idols of Gods blessings in this life.
A desire for God is the only appetite that won’t destroy you when you pursue it with your whole heart. It will complete you.
By telling us to avoid treasure that is bound to this earth, He’s not saying that nothing here is valuable, He made this world, and us, and there is beauty to be found here in what He has provided. There is joy. There can be blessing and feelings of fulfillment in what we see and experience as beings made in His image. But if we want above EVERYTHING else to HAVE that car, that house, that job, that holiday, that relationship, and in having THAT we think we will be satisfied, we will not only be disappointed, we will be devastated.
All those things are good things in themselves, but they have only the value we assign to them. Any of them can actually become evil to us, corrupted, if we assign them a greater value than God.
If we want that car, and in order to get it we re-mortgage the house, that’s a foolish thing, and that car as our treasure has corrupted us.
If we want that relationship, and we would seek to have at the expense of sound, Godly counsel, or at the expense of other relationships against God’s design, that too is short-sighted.
Whatever your treasure might be, Jesus is saying, “ Unless it’s founded in Heaven, it won’t last!”.
Unless you surrender your earthly treasure, it will control and corrupt your heart. It will rule you, and shape you.
What we value tugs at our minds and emotions; it consumes our time with planning, day-dreaming and effort to achieve…we think about about our treasures, we are drawn to them, we fret about them, we measure other things and people by our treasures – Carson
You may even find yourself changing in order to achieve your desired treasure, because what controls your heart will control your behavior.
Christ only gave us two categories of treasures – earthly, or heavenly.

Corruptible, steal-able, or permanent and securely incorruptible.
No moth balls needed for Heavenly treasure!
(Your heart needs protection from the temptation of storing up earthly treasure. Part of that protection is looking forward, knowing what awaits is far better than what we have here, but also that true blessing in this life comes when we assign value to what God values. This means putting Him first, and loving others more than ourselves.)
II.It darkens our mind. v22-23
The heart is not the only thing at risk when we place our affections on earthly things.Our mind can also be blinded,enslaved.
The fact that our hearts is quickly captured by what we inwardly desire is easily traced. But our heart and emotions all too quickly pull along our mind for the ride, and soon we rationalize and justify our actions and thoughts towards certain things, because our intellect has been blindsided by short- sightedness.
We tend to move towards the object we fix our eye on.
That’s why we hit that car or tree we are trying so desperately to miss. Or hit a catch straight to the only fielder we knew was there.
Our eyes are drawn, for good or bad, towards what our heart most desires, and that’s why Jesus moves from the analogy about our heart to looking at the eye, which is entrance to the soul, but to the mind also.
‘The eye is the lamp to the body…’ What do our eyes see and take in?
This life’s dim windows of the soul, distorts the heavens from pole to pole, and we are led to believe a lie, when we see with and not through the eye – William Blake
We now learn to listen with our eyes and think with our feelings…we are meant to see THROUGH the eye, with the conscience; when we start


seeing WITH the eye devoid of the conscience, all kinds of belief can invade your imagination. – Ravi
The more we feed ourselves on dark and temporal things, or things that bring us temporary pleasure, tickle our fancy, distract us from bigger issues, the more we will grow comfortable with it – how great is the darkness! To be full of darkness, is to be without revelation, and without purity. To be debased, depraved, deprived, desentized to Gods grace.
This is a warning from Christ – Who is The Light – don’t feed your body on darkness, it will lead to corruption , and self-destruction, just like laying up earthly treasure for eternal enjoyment – it’s pointless.
The other option then is to have a healthy eye. To have a good or ‘single’ eye. To be single in purpose, undivided loyal, or the opposite of selfishness – in which case a healthy eye is an eye that focusses again on what God desires, and on love and service to others – generosity with what we have, rather than selfish striving for more, at the expense of conscience.
(The good eye is the one fixed on God, unwavering in it’s gaze, constant in its fixation. – Carson)
III.It enslaves our will. v24
It we let the darkness in, if we let our selfish hearts have the say it won’t just be our hearts and minds that are enslaved, but our will becomes enslaved also.
You cannot have it both ways.
You got to serve somebody! ( Romans 6:15-23).
Jesus saying you can’t have two masters makes sense to us.
We wouldn’t want two bosses – sometimes one is more than enough!
When He says, you will hate one and love the other, He saying that one of the two will have your full attention, full allegiance and loyalty, and the other will always play second fiddle.


God isn’t there to play favorites with. He isn’t interested in being something you just add to your collection of possible sources of fulfillment.
Is there nothing else can bring you joy? There are a lot of ‘happy pagans’ going around that seem completely satisfied doing whatever they want!
But what of lasting joy? Moses is commended in the hall of faith as choosing to suffer rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
People pursue meaning in life, and pleasure seems to be the most likely fit.
Whatever you heart desires, that’s what you go after.
The problem with that is that our hearts are deceitful, our eyes have been blinded by the darkness we have entertained our minds on, and when we only live for pleasure, our wills are in bondage to whatever our fantasy is, and it’s a never ending cycle.
Why does it hurt to talk about what we treasure? Why is it so confronting?
Because we don’t like our idols being torn down. It hurts to be transformed. We get offended. We get put off when we’re told to put off…

But the other option is to be consumed by whatever we have set our hearts & minds on…
The pleasure that lies before, that seems within our grasp, is a lot easier to say yes to than self-denial & sacrifice.

But instead of despising the treasures that can steal our souls if we let them, we instead despise the cross of sacrifice, the garden of submission, and embrace what will give us pleasure for a season..

Thankfully, Christ set aside glory for the Cross, otherwise we would be doomed in our passions.
Christ’s passion shows us that our passions can be redeemed.

What are some of the ways we serve money?
Do we spend a little too easily?
Do we hoard our money, are we stingy with it?
Do we get envious of people who have more than us?
If you’re never able to live for anything bigger than your pocketbook, your stomach, and your career, then you’ll never be able to bless those around you, or truly be blessed yourself. – Keller
All these things are easy traps to fall into, but if we instead fix our heart on Jesus, turn our eyes to Him, and surrender our will to Him we will find that we might actually want to budget and steward what He has granted, that we would be generous with our stuff, and that we stop caring so much about what the Jones’ have, and focus on what is ours in Christ.

Also, very importantly, we must see all we have as being granted to us by God – it is His, not ours!
Do you own your possessions, or do they own you? What is there that you couldn’t possibly give up? Maybe thats the exact thing you need to surrender. Fast!
When your possessions own you, you have made this world, and the temporary things in it more important than the One who actually made the whole world. You’re esteeming creation over the Creator, and placing your wants over His design.
Is there anything you feel like you are missing out on in the life, do you think God is holding out on you? Do you worry about food, housing, clothing?
There should be nothing in this world we crave to complete us – 2 Peter 1:3,4. Christ is all we need, and grants us far more than we could ever imagine.
This life can sometimes seem like it isn’t much of a great gig – the work is menial, and the renumeration leaves a bit to be desired, but as believers we need to remember that the superannunation plan is to die for!

We need to avoid eternity amnesia! – Tripp

What’s That Funny Look On Your Faith? / Fast Like this….Matthew 6:16-18

How much do we desire after God?

In the Sermon on the Mount, we have seen how important the issue of the heart is, that our hearts would be transformed, our desires would be for God, and His name. But how often do we truly stop to consider Him, His ways, and His Will for us?

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

— Wilbur Rees

Giving to the needy is a thing we feel compelled to do. Praying is something that seems in our nature. Fasting, well, fasting seems irrelevant. When we hear “fast from food”, we automatically leave out the ‘from’….

Studying it out though soon leads to challenges in our lives, especially in the area of distractions, but also in regards to exposing where our hearts really are. How little of God we settle for at times, and how little we expect of either Himself, or even ourselves!

Fasting stops the coasting Christian, and gives direction to the confused, because it makes us focus on Him.

What is fasting?

Fasting is a deepening of our connection to God. Connection without distraction leads to a certainty of God’s intention or direction, despite our uncertainty of the means God may use to get us where He would have us be to see His purposes fulfilled and His name glorified.

“Abstaining from food for measured periods of time in order to heighten my hunger for the things of God” – James MacDonald

“The first end of fasting is to chastise the flesh that it might be tamed and bought into submission to the Spirit.” – puritan preacher

In Jewish culture, there were fasts in which everybody took part, national ones, usually in connection with important feasts in the calendar. The Day of Atonement was such a one, where the nation together looked to God, a longed to be reconciled to Him fully and have their sins forgiven.

Other occasions in the OT are numerous where Israel as a whole were called to a fast, and it was usually in relation to a time of mourning, repentance from terrible national sins, attacks of evil,death of royalty, or surrender to God. ( Joel 2:12; Jonah 3:5; Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 31:13; 7:6; Esther 4:16)

Individuals would also fast for various reasons, but it was always a moral and spiritual ritual and process of self-discipline as a sign of deep repentance and need of God’s forgiveness, an awareness of His will in a matter or over a request.

In the NT, we see fasting also, but from many different perspectives. The disciples were criticized for not fasting when others were, but Christ’s response was that they didn’t need to fast while He was with them, implying that we do need to when He’s not here. ( Matthew 9:14-17)

There is fasting also in Acts ( ch9,10,13) and Paul listed hunger and fasting as part of his commendation of his ministry to the church at Corinth ( 2 Cor 6:3-10).

What had begun as noble thing was turned into another opportunity to display self-righteousness, and Jesus confronts it here.

He assumes his followers will fast, and He gives them a DO NOT and a DO, both with consequences.

When you fast – DON’T:

If you think following Jesus requires you to look like you’re pulling a face…you’re doing it wrong.

The hypocrites were great actors, method actors. Whatever the role was, they adapted to it.If it was giving, they organize a trumpeter. If praying, got out a megaphone and a theological dictionary. If it was fasting, they got out the best sour grapes they could and sucked lemons, just so people knew they were miserable while they were being so ‘spiritual’.

Too often the church can look more like a stable full of long faces rather than an athletics track full of eager runners.

Thing is, there is nothing spiritual about putting on a show. If you are acting like something you’re not, your actually not just showing how bad your acting skills are, but your exposing how fake your heart is also.

“If we have to look miserable to be considered spiritual, then there is something wrong with our view of spirituality.” – Wiersbe

What turns us from people who honestly desire to please God and follow His commands, into people who put on a show?

What makes people ask that question of us – “What’s that funny look on your faith?”.

It’s pride that would make us disfigure ourselves to be noticed. It’s pride that would make us make ourselves unrecognizable in order to be recognized.

When we get to the stage of changing our physical appearance in order to get praise from men, we have placed our reputations far above the glory of God. We’ve sacrificed a relationship with God on the altar of our ego, instead of putting our ego on the altar so we can be servants of God’s glory. Is it time to ‘altar’ your ego?

“When reputation becomes more important than character, we have become hypocrites.” – Wiersbe

There are things we should be known for. We should be distinctive. We should stand out, but we should stand out for the RIGHT reasons, not self-righteous reasons.

Scripture tells us that men will know we are disciples of Christ when we love one another. Too often we far too busy loving ourselves and loving how we look and we have forgotten that our self-righteousness is repugnant to God, and certainly keeps the world we are trying to reach away as well.

Let God’s Word be our standard, not our own outward actions or appearance.

The reward for the hypocrite is again that they will get what they want, and that can last only for as long you can fake your way through faith.You may be able to fake your way through life, but you won’t be able to fake your way through eternity. Heaven will be very unappealing to those whose constant aim is to draw attention to themselves.

Hell is the place for the self-glorifying.

When you fast – DO:

If fasting the wrong way makes you like gloomy and miserable, then fasting the right way would make you look, well, normal.

Jesus says when you fast, act normally. There is no need to draw attention. No need for the sackcloth and ashes, in this context anyway. Wash you face, look presentable, use deodorant, anoint yourself with oil, do what you would usually do – the only difference being that you’re not eating.

People aren’t supposed to know when are doing a fast for your own personal, individual reasons.

Don’t act. Just be yourself, just more focussed, more fully dedicated, less distracted, looking to God for a change in your heart, for peace in your heart.

Men can’t see your heart, and as frustrating as that can be when there you are misinterpreted or misrepresented, it doesn’t matter. God knows the motive of your heart, and knows what you are truly desiring and who you are truly serving.

Why fast?

“ The only kind of fasting that is of any value is that which involves repentance of sin resulting in a transformed and charitable life.” – Boice

Fasting is not done on it’s own. Without pray, it’s only diet for physical benefit. Fasting and prayer go together.

We fast so we can pray more, and with more clarity.

How does God intend that we fast?

Isaiah 58: 6-9a points out what God would require in the fasting of His people, and it outlines all levels of our relationships:

to loose the bonds of wickedness in our lives
to share with others in their need
to bring enlightenment
to bring healing
to reveal God’s glory in our good works of righteousness
to call upon The Lord
to have your prayers answered with His presence

We have little hunger for God. We rarely hunger a thirst after Him ( Matthew 5:6). Instead, we indulge in whatever takes our fancy, whatever satisfies.

How do we break our enslavement to this self-satisfaction? By looking only to Jesus to fulfill all our needs. To look to the Father Who knows what we need before we ask, and asking Him for new desires. New appetites.

What should we fast from? What do we need to give up?

Well, what good thing do you have an appetite for that keeps you from honoring God with your life?

We don’t fast from sinful behaviors. We are to cut those off. Fasting is about going without something, mainly food, sometimes other items or comforts, so that we can focus on what we truly need.

Good things can distract us from God. We can become obsessed with comfortable things, and the thought of giving up anything makes us defensive, but when you have something in your life that needs addressing, and you need to focus intently on what God would have you do in that or with that, are you enslaved to your appetites or are you a child of God?

‘Don’t tell me to give up…………….that has nothing to do with my relationship with God! Don’t tell me what I can and can’t desire! Those things don’t have a hold on me anyway!’

If those desires that you are so defensive about have no power over you, why are do argue about whether you should give them up or not? Is your belly your god? ( Philippians 3:19) Don’t have your mind set on earthly things.

Do your desires, your appetites, control you, or do you, through the power of the Spirit, control them?

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t have a little of God. Either you are willing to sacrifice some comfort to focus on Him, or you are too comfortable.

Ask God for food that no one else knows about. ( John 4:31-34).Be satisfied to do the Father’s Will…which Jesus certainly never did part way. He didn’t give 10 %. He gave His all for us, was obedient unto death, even death on a cross.

Seek His face. The reward is that you get the Rewarder, and when you have Him, you don’t just have your daily bread, you have the Bread of Life. You have eternal life.

What is better? One day in His courts, in His presence, or a thousand elsewhere, doing your own thing? ( Psalm 84:10)

Let the gnawing in your stomach be only a desire for more of God.

A desire for God is the only appetite that won’t destroy you when you pursue it with your whole heart. It will complete you. Let Him be the treasure of your heart.

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