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About this series
What the World Needs Now
It's easy to identify things we wish were different when we look around and see what's happening in the world. The trouble is there are so many opinions, so many experts, and we're so divided - even within the Christian community - that it becomes frustrating, messy, and even dangerous. In this series, Chip calls a big timeout to find out what Jesus would say in the midst of our current circumstances. The first-century world was amazingly parallel to our issues and problems. So, Chip goes to Jesus' words, in the book of Matthew, to see how He would counsel us today. He gets very practical about what it means for us personally, and then how we can apply it, to genuinely make a difference, as followers of Jesus.More from this series
Until you’re poor in spirit, until you realize you don’t bring anything to this party that can merit God’s favor, until you get that to the point…
When was the last time you felt crushed over your sin? Our tendency, “Well, everyone does that. Everyone logs on now and then. Everyone has a little envy. Everyone is a little bit materialistic. Everyone is kind of lazy like me. Everyone does it so it must be okay.” Really? Probably not to God. And we probably don’t experience His power.
Chapter 6, He is going to now shift gears, because think of the question that it raises, okay? Get your mind back into my Jewish friends. Okay, I don’t measure up, I feel really bad about the things that I never even thought were sin. So, how do you live this righteous life?
If doing the stuff that we have been doing and following the Pharisees isn’t the way, how in the world do you ever get right with God? And so, notice what He does in chapter 6 and the beginning of 7, He gives them four, what I call warnings that kill the movement of God in your soul. And they kill the movement of God in churches.
The first issue is the issue of motives. He talks about giving in verses 1 through 4, prayer in verses 5 through 8, and fasting in verses 16 through 18. And all you need to know is that in Jewish culture, that the three primary disciplines, the way you earned your favor with God is how much you gave, how long you prayed, and how often you fasted.
So, if you want to get close to God, give a lot, pray a lot, and fast a lot. And so, the Pharisees did. Notice, picking it up. You got your Bible open? Follow along. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them; for then you’ll have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
This is radical: Abba. He is introducing, whoa-oh, it’s about relationship. “Thus,” not if, “when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Do you notice how often: reward, reward, reward, Father. “And when you pray,” verse 5, “you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love t stand and pray in the synagogues at the street corners so they can be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But when you pray, shut the door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Then He teaches the Lord’s Prayer.
Verse 16, “And when you fast, don’t look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces and their fasting may be seen by others. Truly I say to you,” are you getting the idea? “They have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face that you may be fasting not to be seen by others, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
The key issue is motives. He says, okay, the practice of giving, the practice of praying, and the practice of fasting is essential. We only break the lust of the eyes and wanting more by being generous and giving. The only way we break the hold of pride on our life, prayer is the evidence of: Help me, God. Dependency. And the only way we break the desire for food that is unhealthy or sex that’s unhealthy or shopping that’s unhealthy or whatever it is is you fast from it. But they are just means of grace. But notice He says you do it, you do it to please your Father, not to earn brownie points.
The diagnostic question, then, is: who am I seeking to please? Who am I seeking to please? Do you know which of the beatitudes He just taught them? “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
The word meekness or translated gentle or humble – it’s the idea of, literally, in the ancient Greek literature, it was a wild stallion that is tamed; it’s power under control. And the picture here, it’s an idea of submission. It’s the idea that I am going to trust God. I accept my giving, my fasting, my praying – I can’t earn my way, but I can please God.
And so, when I do the right things in the right way, the spiritual disciplines that renew my mind, and when I do it out of a love relationship, He said, Wow. True spirituality occurs.
The next movement killer isn’t just our motives, but it’s materialism. Look at verse 19. He is now going to go to the other god. And the other god that tempts all of us is money. So, He says in verse 19, “Don’t lay up for yourselves treasure on earth,” and then the reason is to protect them, because you’re going to lose it.
“It’s where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves can break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves,” heaven is a real – He is talking about the kingdom of God, the heaven that is real. He said, “Lay up for yourselves treasures where moth can’t get and rust can’t destroy and thieves can’t break in.”
And then He talks about the lamp of the body, which is really the essence of: where is your passion, where is your focus, what really matters? And then look at verse 24, He wants to protect them. He says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will love the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
And so, the next key issue of this new revolution is materialism. You can jot that in there. He talks about their money. Now, did you notice, remember? Who were the people that were materialistic? The Pharisees. The Pharisees had worked their religious system where they actually became very, very rich.
In fact, then they taught, this might sound a little familiar. Then they taught the evidence of true spirituality and God’s blessing is how much money you have. So, the more money we have, we must be really spiritual. It’s called the Prosperity Gospel today. You plant a seed, send money to our ministry, and the fact that I have two jets and three mansions and all this stuff is evidence that God is blessing me and it’s from the pit of hell. It’s from the pit of hell.
See, ask yourself: what’s the agenda? See, here’s the real question. The diagnostic question is: whose agenda or kingdom am I seeking to accomplish? Mine: success, fame, wealth, my happiness; or Jesus’?
The thing to ask yourself is: do I use people to get money and things or do I use my money and my things to love people?
And if you back it away, this is us, just us here, right? We are the serious Christians.
We came to church. Jesus is saying, This will kill your soul! There are some things in life that aren’t both/and. This is one of them. It’s either/or. Jesus or money. And if you look at your time and your energy and your passions and the demand and the pressure of work or education, etcetera – if it drives everything.
Or, if you look at your giving, your prayer, and your fasting and the meter is really pretty low, then you have your answer.
But this is a revolution of love, this is the kind, anointed King and Savior saying, You may end up being very successful in accomplishing you goals. Here’s the scariest, the scariest thing that can ever happen in any person’s life is to be absolutely successful at the exactly wrong thing.
It’s kind of like all of life is against this wall and when you get to the top, and you have a ladder that goes to another wall that promised life was there and you get to the top and it’s empty. And Jesus is saying, I’ll take care of you.
In fact, look at your Bible, because I don’t have time to read it all. You’ll notice after this – right? I put it in your notes. But after this, He says to them, “So, why are you so uptight about: what are we going to eat?” “Well, we are uptight about what we are going to eat because You’re talking about living this radical life of faith.” “What are you uptight about: what you are going to wear? Or why do you worry so much?”
See, what He is saying is: do you trust Me? This new revolution is about a love and entrusting of Me as the Savior.
Look down at verse 33. He gets to the end of this whole section. He basically promises that: I am going to take care of you.
But notice what He says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Don’t worry about tomorrow. Don’t be uptight about the stock market. Don’t be uptight about what school your kids get in or if you’re going to get married or not get married. Today has got enough problems of its own. Just trust Me today. I have got you in the palm of My hand and I love you.
Are you ready? Did you see the beatitude He just taught them? Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. You know what that means? This passion to be holy, this passion to be right with God, this passion that in your whole life to want to please God and love God and be used by God – blessed are those who hunger. That’s what drives you. Your motivation. You hunger and thirst, not for riches, not for success, not for fame, not for a better body, not for more likes, not for more followers. God – this is a revolution. Do you understand how this revolutionized the world?
Well, He gets from chapter 6 as He continues to flesh out His agenda. And the third big movement killer is the issue is misapplication. They have heard a lot of truth, and He says the problem is sometimes we take truth and we apply it to other people instead of ourselves.
Beginning at chapter 7, it’ll probably sound very familiar. He says, “Judge not, lest you be judged. For with the judgment you pronounced, you will be judged, and with the measure that you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you seek the speck in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the log that is your own? Or how do you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is a log in your own? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
And then I think in a reference here to the Pharisees and people who are hard-hearted and aren’t open to God, He says, “Don’t give to the dogs what is holy, don’t throw your pearls before swine, they trample them under foot, and they’ll turn and attack you.”
And then He goes into: if you have real needs, instead of asking the government or demanding it from them, instead of asking education or asking technology, in and of themselves, no problem. When you have great need, ask, seek, knock. Your Father really wants to provide.
Verse 12 actually goes with what is above. “So, whatever you wish that others would do for you, do for them. This will fulfill the Law and the Prophets.” And then notice this, “Be careful, enter by the narrow gate; the gate is wide and easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Notice He’ll go on and say, “Beware of the false prophets,” He said, here’s what you know is it’s not what people say, it’s not their emotional experience. “Good trees produce good fruit; bad trees produce bad fruit. Anyone who hears My words and actually puts them into practice is like a man who builds his house on the rock; anyone who hears my words and intellectually even agrees with them and doesn’t put them into practice is a fool.” And He will say, “I never knew you.”
So, what you see He does is He fleshes out the rest of these beatitudes. Under judging you might write: merciful. “Blessed are the merciful.” Blessed are the merciful. Why? “For they will be shown mercy.”
We’ve got a whole generation of people that we judge everyone. We want people that don’t know Christ to live like Christians. We call them in our culture – they don’t have the power. Neither do we, apart from Jesus.
Where He talks about the preaching, don’t throw your sacred teaching before the dogs or the swine. People that are adamant and ask, He’s talking about, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Blessed are people that, instead of trying to convince people that don’t want to be convinced are bridgebuilders instead of people that are antagonists.
That they make the Christian life and what it means to be a follower of Christ winsome and loving and kind and you agree to disagree and we have clear standards of truth but we apply them, we ask, “What’s this got to do with me?” Instead of, “Why is everyone else wrong?”
If you listen to a radio talk-show: blame, blame, blame, blame, blame, blame. Go on ninety percent of Christians’ Facebook and we are passing on all this stuff: “They did that, they did that, they did that, I’m with this party, I’m against that party. That person did that. That person did this. This person did that.” And Jesus is saying: guess what – that’s fruitless. What about you? What do you need to own? How could you be a peacemaker? How could you love people that you totally disagree with and treat them with dignity and with kindness? Not approving of what they do or what they say.
You understand that lost people, evil people, love to hang out with Jesus. Why? It’s not like He caved into their lifestyle. Let me ask you: how many lost, evil people in alternative everything are your friends and that would like to hang out with you? The Christianity today has basically become moralism.
We are on this side and we think people that don’t know Jesus are the enemy. Reminder: He came to die for them, like He came to die for us. The agenda is to love them. You don’t have to agree, but to love them. It’s the kindness of God that led us to repentance. It’s the kindness of God through us that will lead people to Him. It’s just truth. It’s just Jesus’ teaching.
The final movement that will squash our souls is what I just call misperception. I read it. He says there is a narrow gate. We are living in a day, even in the Church that says, “Oh, you know what? As long as you are sincere, we are going to change the rules and what the Bible says about holiness, what the Bible says about marriage, what the Bible says about sex, what the Bible says about eternity, what the Bible says about a real heaven and a real hell, you know…you guys are really pretty narrow.”
Here’s the deal. You choose to be a loving, winsome, non-judgmental person who, in your heart of hearts realizes, Man, I am poor in spirit. I need God. And I take my sin seriously and, oh God, I need Your forgiveness and Your comfort – and you become that kind of believer that says, You know something? I don’t have the power apart from You. I am going to be meek. But my passion, my life, my time, I’m hungering and thirsting for righteousness. And I am going to have motives, I am going to be pure in heart as best I know.
And, Lord, I am not going to judge people. I am going to show them the kind of mercy. I am not going to have those critical thoughts in my mind. I catch myself often, because I do this a lot, Oh, why is he doing that? Why is she doing that? That’s…
And God has just, I have memorized a passage, every time that is happening now, I start praying, God, I wonder what Your plan is for him. I wonder what it is for them. I wonder how they got to where they got. Oh, Lord, would You help them? Would You love them? Would You encourage them? And then, Is there anything You would want me to do right now to express Your love? And I am on a journey and I have got a long way to do.
But if you would be a bold person to say, “The way is narrow,” Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. You will be persecuted. Do it winsomely. Do it lovingly.” And He started with the kingdom of heaven, He ends with the kingdom of heaven, and you should ask yourself and I’ll ask myself: Where is my fruit? Not religious fruit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. That’s the Christ-like life.
Are you ready to recharge, re-engage in a revolution of love? Ask yourself: Which of these, one beatitude, which one of these do I need to say “Oh, God, whoo. Forgive me, for I have sinned. Oh, God, will You help me?”
When we confess our sins, He is faithful and He is righteous or just to not just forgive but to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. What would it look like for us to walk out of here to hunger and thirst, to be the men and women in our little sphere of influence? Starting in our homes, apartments, or with roommates, passing out of where we drive, where we get our coffee or tea, where we work out, where we do our dry cleaning, where we go to work – what would it look like for seeds to be planted and grow right where you are?