- Sermon Notes
Living Before the Father
As we come to Matthew chapter 6, we find Jesus giving one of his most famous messages to the people. This is at the very beginning of his ministry and he has settled in a small town called Capernaum at the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. Behind Capernaum is a hill that rises to the edge of the plateau that we now call the Golan Heights.
Jesus began his ministry doing great miracles, healing the sick of all kinds of diseases and the news about him went out into all Israel and so great multitudes followed him.
This Sermon on the Mount as it has come to be called was like nothing they had ever heard before. They had been taught by religious leaders who emphasized outward religion. But the Sermon on the Mount is all about the transformation that God brings about in the heart.
He began by talking about the attitudes of their heart and said that the favor of God and the fullness of joy would be theirs when they had this heart within them. Then, he pointed them toward the world and said they were the salt and they were the light that God was sending to make a difference in the world; because the world needs salt and the world needs light.
But what does that light within their hearts look like? That's what Jesus then began to describe. They had heard it said, "You shall not murder," but Jesus said, "But I say to you, don't be angry with your brother in your heart."
And then when we come to chapter 6, Jesus continued speaking to them about what the heart that is transformed by God looks like. And the theme that of his message here was that instead of having a religion that was before men, they needed a relationship that was before their father in heaven.
I. Truly Desire God’s Hand in Your Life
- Verse one immediately gets our attention because Jesus speaks directly about the motives of our heart.
- “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men… To be noticed by them.”
- Remember that in chapter 5 Jesus had said, “Let your light so shine before men that they glorify your Father in heaven.” Are these two verses at odds with each other? Not at all.
- In chapter 5 Jesus was saying, “If God has made a difference in your life; don't hide it under a bushel.”
- But here Jesus is saying, “Don't do good things just so that you'll be noticed by men, that's absolutely the wrong motive.”
A. Don’t toot your own horn
- The first example that Jesus presents to them is that of doing acts of charity. This could be money that is given, but it can also mean things that are given to others; even time, talents, or expertise that is given to help someone else.
- Notice Jesus uses the words "when you give” not, “if you give.” It was assumed that a man of God would be someone who was generous to others.
- “Don't be like the hypocrites who had a trumpet sounded as they were giving,” Jesus said.
- The word hypocrite is used many times in this message so it's good for us to understand it. This is one of those words that come directly out of the Greek into English and it literally means, “To be an actor.”
- Hypocrisy is pretending to have beliefs, opinions, virtues, or standards that one does not actually have. Hypocrisy is not simply failing to fully practice those virtues that one preaches.
Illus - the British philosopher Samuel Johnson once said, “Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for virtues that he has yet to obtain.”
Otherwise, every single person could be charged with hypocrisy, yet that was not what Jesus was saying.
Illus – For example, do you believe that, “Every word that proceeds from your mouth should be such a word that's good for edification?” Do you do this?
- The problem was that there were people who said that they wanted to honor God, but actually wanted to be honored by men.
Illus - This is the reason why we don't give plaques and recognition to generous people. Yet, there is a whole industry dedicated for this purpose. It’s called, “Who’s Who in America…”
- “Practice your righteousness before the Father, for He is the One who will bless you.”
- He is the one who blesses on earth, and He is the one who blesses in heaven.
B. Wash your face and comb your hair
- Jump over to verse 16 where Jesus talks about fasting, this is also very similar.
- “Don't fast in order to be seen by men; in fact, don't even let men know what you're doing.” This is what he meant by, “Anoint your head and wash your face.”
- Apparently, there were those who would make a big scene about the fact that they were fasting, but the motive of their heart was to give the appearance of fasting, but there was no change happening in their heart.
- Fasting is saying, “no” to the flesh so that we can say, “yes” to God. It's about getting our heart’s priority back on God.
Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
- God spoke through Isaiah about the fast that He would choose.
Isaiah 58:6-12 “Then you will call and the Lord will answer.”
- Notice in verse 18 where Jesus said that your Father sees in secret and He will repay you.
- That's the whole point; trusting that God will change our heart and move in our lives and cause us to be those he would use.
II. God Teaches Us About Prayer
- One of the things that always strikes me when I read this passage is that God is speaking directly to His people through His Son Jesus.
- You can almost hear God saying, I've been watching people pray for thousands of years and I have some things I want to say…
- Notice also that Jesus said, “When you pray.” Again; the assumption is that those who are godly understand the importance of prayer.
- Someone might say, “Do I really need to pray?”
- Who was the greatest man who ever lived? Without question that would be Jesus. He prayed and therefore I should also pray.
- Then, Jesus gave great insight into the life of prayer that God desires.
A. Pray in secret
- Beware, Jesus said, not to pray for the purpose of being seen or noticed by men.
- Jesus is not saying that there's anything wrong with public prayer; in fact, it was an important part of the early church as it is today.
- The point, again, is the motive. Authentic prayer is communication with God. Others can say, “Amen,” but it's about God, not men.
Illus – I had lunch with a man many years ago in a restaurant and he asked to pray for our lunch. I was a bit surprised, however, when his voice suddenly turned quite loud and it didn't take long to figure out the reason as people began to turn their heads toward us.
- Jesus also prayed in public, but the greatest portion of his prayer life was just between him and God.
Mark 1:35, In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.
Luke 5:16, But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
Luke 6:12, It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.
B. Do not use meaningless repetition
- Jesus is making this point about prayer clear. There are people still today who believe that meaningless repetition is how they will be heard by God.
- There are many faiths that prescribe prayers that must be repeated a certain number of times. “Pray the ‘Our Father’ prayer 10 times,” for example.
- Jesus said that this was “meaningless;” in other words, they don't mean it and therefore, it has no meaning.
- Do you use the same prayer all the time? Of course, a simple prayer of thanks before a meal is very appropriate. In fact, a long prayer wouldn’t be appreciated at all, especially if the food is getting cold.
- Prayers with children should be simple, but we should still mean them.
Illus - How about this edifying prayer? “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”
No worries, if that should be a bit unsettling, you could always sing a song. “Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop, when the wind blows the cradle will rock…”
If that doesn’t settle them you could always say, “Good night, sleep tight.,..”
C. Pray in this way
- Jesus then gave an example of how then to pray.
- He begins, “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.” He is our Father and he is also to be highly honored.
- Your kingdom come… Let your kingdom come into my life, and let it come into all the earth.
- Your will be done on earth… Not, “my will be done in heaven,” but God's will be done on earth.
- Give us this day our daily bread… We look to you, God, for our daily provision. We trust that you will provide the manna that we need each day.
- Forgive us our debts, even as we forgive our debtors… Prayer is about changing me.
- God wants us to forgive others that trespass against us. He really does. But if we refuse to forgive, then we are being stubborn in our relationship to God.
- This is about our heart before God.
- Someone might say, “I can't forgive because they don't deserve it.” But we didn't deserve it either and yet God forgave us.
- But if we refuse to forgive, and we hold on to our bitterness, that root of bitterness begins to affect every area of our lives.
- What Jesus is saying is that a root of bitterness will even prevent us from having the relationship with God that He desires with us.
- Lead us not into temptation… Probably the best explanation for what Jesus is saying is found in the bible itself.
1 Corinthians 10:13, No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
- Verse 8 is very helpful. Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. But I need to ask.
- Does God need our worship? No, but I need to worship.
- Does God need our prayers? No, but I need to pray.
- When I get in the presence of God, I'm reminded of the greatness of God.
Matthew 6:1-18 NASB
1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.