Jesus And Prayer

TEXT: Matthew 6:5-15

5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
 
 

You can tell from reading the text that Jesus not only assumed that we would pray [when you pray] but He taught us how to pray and how not to pray. First of all, lets talk about how not to pray…

  1. First of all, we are not to pray like the “Hypocrites.” They loved to pray in public, even on the street corners. I had a preacher friend in college who would not say a blessing at a restaurant because he interpreted this scripture to mean that we are never to pray in a public place. I am certain that this is not what Jesus is referring to because He Himself prayed in public many times and that includes the model prayer in this text. I thank God for public prayer. I am exhorted by the prayers of others. What Jesus is forbidding is praying in public with the wrong motive. If you pray to impress men, you are praying like the hypocrites.
  2. Secondly, we are not to pray like heathens. Remember the story about Elijah and the prophets of baal. Remember how they hollowed and screamed and said the same thing over and over and over. Jesus called this vain repetition. It is not the volume or the cadence that counts…it is the heart.

Now lets look at Jesus instruction on how to pray…

  1. Pray in private…go away by yourself and shut the door behind you. Again, this is not a slam on public prayer but we need to pray more in private than we do in public. Every believer needs a PLACE of prayer and a TIME of prayer.
  2. Begin your prayer with praise. The AV and NASB use the word “Hallowed” and I like to use that word when I pray but I must admit that I have never fully understood what “Hallowed be Thy name” actually meant. To hallow is to make or set a part as holy. It means to respect, honor and revere. Simply stated, we begin our prayers by honoring, respecting and giving reverence our Heavenly Father. We can do this by acknowledging His attributes or praising Him for His attributes. For example, God is: Eternal, Holy, immutable [unchanging], Infinite, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscience, Self-existent, self-sufficient, Good, Loving, Gracious, Merciful, Kind and Sovereign. This is not an exhaustive list but it will give you an idea.
  3. Pray in God’s will–May Your Kingdom Come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. God gave you a will and He expects you to exercise your will but the first giant step in your sanctification is for you to desire what He desires. The only explanation I have for this transformation in my life and prayers is God’s grace. I spent most of my life [unfortunately] trying to build my kingdom. It has only been in the last few years that I have been able to pray this part of the LORD’s prayer honestly. I want what He want and I pray for His will to be done.
  4. Give us today our daily bread. This is probably the one part of the model prayer that I pray the most. Maybe it’s because it is so natural…”Give us” or “Give me”. Sometimes I get convicted about too much “Give me” in my prayers. I don’t think necessarily of bread [light bread, homemade rolls] but I think in terms of what I am going to need for the day. Since I do not know in the morning what I am going to need through the day, I simply pray, “Father give me today, the grace I need for today.” When you interpret this through the context of the entire sermon, I believe Jesus is teaching to live one day at a time.
  5. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. Christ secured our forgiveness by making an offering of Himself once and for all. This is a historical event. Our forgiveness has been secured. Many denomination have interpreted this to mean that we must ask for forgiveness daily or we lose our salvation. It shocks some of my pentecostal brothers when I tell them this but it is true…you cannot confess all your sins because you do not know all your sins. Don’t make penitence a work, something you have to do daily to be saved. Jesus is teaching us to have an attitude of constant repentance. Unfortunately, we think the person who never repents is the better person but a devoted follower of Christ repents daily and sometimes many times a day. Holy people have a greater sensitivity to sin and therefore they repent often. The Pharisees were considered holy by the general public and they never repented of anything. The outward part of their life was polished like a tomb rock. In their minds, they made no mistakes to repent of but Jesus called them hypocrites. HYPOCRITES never repent: they do not see a need to repent.
  6. Not only do we continue daily to draw from the forgiveness we have in Christ, we must share that forgiveness with others. Forgiveness is not always easy: many times I have to pray, LORD help me to forgive. I know that it is not an option [v.14-15] but at times I struggle and I ask for His help.
  7. Last but not least…Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. I know you heard about the man who prayed, “Lord, you don’t need to bother about leading me into temptation, I can find it on my own.” We aren’t asking Him to lead into Temptation but to lead us not into temptation. Don’t leave out the ‘not’. The devil is out to destroy us and would if it were not for the grace and intervention of God. Make no mistake about it, no mere human is a match for Satan.

CONCLUSION:

  1. Both Sin and Satan are subtle: they will deceive YOU! [why we must pray]
  2. PRIDE blinds: it is the only disease where everyone knows you have it except yourself.
  3. SELF-WILL destroys your spiritual sensitivity. If you pursue your agenda, your self-will long enough, you will lose your ability to know God’s will and your desire to do His will. The most feared of all judgement is for God to say to a man, “Have Thine own way.”
  4. As John Calvin said, “Your only safe haven is in the will of God.”
  5. Two questions in closing: [1] Do you have the ability or desire to repent and [2] Do you desire the will of God more than your own will.
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Integrity

TEXT: Matthew 6:1-4

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Most people have the illusion that the sermon on the mount is not practical but nothing could be further from the truth. The sermon on the mount is Jesus teachings about daily spiritual disciplines that anyone can practice if they commit their life to Christ and have a desire to please Him. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not command us to do miracles, heal the sick or raise the dead. He teaches us to prayer, spend time alone with the Father in secret, love others, do good deeds, to give, etc. The only thing required on our part is obedience.

Today, we renew this series that we began some time ago and we resume with Matthew chapter 6:1-4.

You know my love for stewardship and the text does lend itself to the subject of giving and the proper way to give but I have decided to deal more with the motive than the giving itself. I call your attention to verse 2 where Jesus said, “Don’t do like the hypocrites do.” They gave but not the right way or with the right motive.

What is a hypocrite and what motivates them?

The word hypocrite originally referred to a an actor, stage player, a dissembler, pretender. In the Roman/Greek culture, acting was not a popular trade. People who went on stage were not treated with celebrity status in those days: matter of fact, they were not even popular and very few people entered the profession for that reason. To overcome this problem of have so few people to play the various parts, some were forced to play more than one part. They did this by using a different mask. When you think about it, some aspects of acting have not changed: actors today work to deceive the audience. Silvester Stallone played Rambo, a Viet Nam vet who suffered from post combat syndrome. In real life, Silvester was a draft dodger. Just watching the movies, you would think he was Rambo but he was anything but.

Jesus called the Pharisees, Scribes and Jewish religious leaders hypocrites. That seems to be a bit cruel: why did Jesus call them play actors, pretenders and dissemblers?

Four characteristics of a hypocrite

  1. HYPOCRITES PLAY TO THE AUDIENCE. They are performers. They are more concerned about “Doing” than “Being”; more concerned about performance than purity. Hypocrites are actors on a stage.  Jesus is more concerned with the heart than the hand: motive is everything to HIM. The love of Christ should constrain [controls] us. A true disciple plays to the audience of one. We want to please others but our first obligation is to please the LORD Jesus Christ who is our Savior and our LORD. I would be dishonest if I told you that I do not care what people thing about me. I care but I cannot be preoccupied with or motivated by what they think. Are you worried about what people think about you? It is an hypocritical trait. Paul told the Corinthians in his second epistleOur only goal is to always please the Lord, whether we are living here in this body or there with him. 10 We must all stand before Christ to be judged. Everyone will get what they should. They will be paid for whatever they did—good or bad—when they lived in this earthly body.11 We know what it means to fear the Lord, so we try to help people accept the truth. God knows what we really are, and I hope that in your hearts you know us too. 12 We are not trying to prove ourselves to you again. But we are telling you about ourselves. We are giving you reasons to be proud of us. Then you will have an answer for those who are proud about what can be seen. They don’t care about what is in a person’s heart. 13 If we are crazy, it is for God. If we have our right mind, it is for you. 14 The love of Christ controls us.
  2. HYPOCRITES ARE NEVER WHAT THEY PRETEND TO BE: they are not integrated. Their heart and their actions are miles a part. They do good deeds but they do them to be praised by men. They do not give alms to the poor because they love the poor or because they love Jesus. They give because they love praise. This means that they are duplicitous. They have a hidden agenda. This is crystal clear in the N.T. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story of Jesus healing the man with a withered hand. Jesus did it on the sabbath in the synagogue with some Pharisees present. When Jesus healed the man, they did not speak openly in protest: that would have made them look cold and cruel but they did leave the synagogue mad and they had a secret meeting and began to plan how they might kill Jesus. Again in Matthew 22, Jesus is teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem and He tells the story about the King whose son was about to be wed. The Pharisees heard the story but they did not say anything openly in protest. They left the place where Jesus was teaching and made plans to catch Jesus saying something wrong. Chapter 21 of Matthew ends with these words… When the leading priests and Pharisees heard this parable, they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. They wanted to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowds, who considered Jesus to be a prophet. Did you catch that: they wanted to arrest HIM but they were afraid of what the people would think. They even acknowledge that Jesus has INTEGRITY which they lack…[Matthew 22:15-17] Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 16 They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. 17 Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Did you catch that: they knew that Jesus was ‘Honest’ which is another word for integrity. He had something they didn’t have and they confess it. Jesus was perfectly integrated: His heart was at one with everything He did or said. Jesus had no guile. He was not duplicitous. He did not say one thing and believe another. Hypocrites are pretenders: if they were to be honest, they would give themselves away so in order to protect their precious reputations, they hide their motives. They carry a hidden agenda. Beware of the hidden agenda.
  3. HYPOCRITES DEMAND ATTENTION: Hypocrites love the stage, they enjoy being in the spot light and the center of the stage. They make some things very obvious, so obvious that it is difficult to miss. They demand and get more attention than Jesus. What have you been talking about this week? What are you excited about? The right answer is Jesus but that is not who most people are talking about–they love to talk about the hypocrites in the church. Now every organization has hypocrites but for some reason, those in church seem to get the most attention. Jesus said, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. Don’t get the idea that the Scribes and Pharisees were sloppy…they were they opposite…they were polished…flawless in their performance and extremely proud of their flawlessness but their heart was bad. Listen to me folks, all churches have hypocrites and they love the stage but we can’t put the spot light on them, we have to put the spot light on Jesus.
  4. HYPOCRITES ARE NITPICKERS–FLAW FINDERS–FRUIT INSPECTORS. Why talk about what’s wrong with us when we can talk about what’s right with Jesus. Do you know what a nit is? It is the egg of the lice. Nit picking is an extremely laborious and tedious process which takes a lot of time and thorough examination. Am I flawed? Yes and I am afraid it shows. Is the church I pastor flawed? Sure it is–all churches have flaws. Could I sit down and make a list of all the things that are wrong with DBC? I could but it is not necessary, I have a unappointed committee of nay-sayers and nit-pickers who are constantly reminding me of our faults. I do declare, these folks get very excited when they spot a flaw. If we were as intense about sharing Christ as we are ripping and tearing at His body the church, we would see a world of difference. We are not focused on Jesus. We prefer to talk about what is wrong with church leaders and members than we do to talk about what is right with Jesus. This is a sad and true statement: very sad and very true.
    • I want you to make a concentrated effort to focus on Jesus this week.
    • I want you to pray for all our church leaders
    • I want to challenge you to ask God to give you the opportunity and the courage to talk to one person this week about “What’s right with Jesus.”
    • Always remember, the motive [heart] is always important to Jesus.

The Rick Young Ruler

17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

This is a fascinating story with a sad ending. It is the story of a young man who came to the right person[Jesus], in the right manner [kneeling humbly], and he ask the right question. I would have preferred he use the same wording as the Philippian jailor, “What must I do to be saved?” But he phrases the question a little differently, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” If you study the two question closely, you will see that they sound a like but they are quite different.

One thing is certain: the rich young ruler is seeking something. In spite of his great affluence and his youthful success, there was something missing in his life and he knew it. No doubt he had a good upbringing but evidently he was taught a works theology. He had far too much confidence in his moral goodness. He was a religious young man and he thought that he could get to heaven by his own doing.

This young man was successful, rich, influential  and no doubt very intelligent but he is spiritually ignorant. When he addressed Jesus as “Good” master or teacher, Jesus questioned him: “Why do you call Me good, only One is good and that is God.” Now you and I know that Jesus is good and He is God. Had He not been good, He would not have been God but He was good and He was God. I know it, you know it but this young man did not. [1] He failed to recognize the deity of Christ. I don’t think it entered his mind that he was talking directly to God. The young man made the same mistake that our present culture is making… he recognized Jesus as a “Good man” but not as God. C.S. Lewis wisely stated: “Jesus is either who He said He was or He is a liar and a lunatic. The one thing that he cannot be is merely a good man.” You cannot be saved until you confess that Jesus is the Son of God. You will never see Christ as your Savior until you see Him as God.

Not only did he fail to understand that Jesus was God; [2] He did not understand that he himself was a sinner in need of a Savior. He knows something is missing; that something is not right yet he believes that if Jesus will just give him more information that he can remedy his own problems. Obviously, he had no comprehension of human depravity. He did not see his sin and shame. Folks, we lack the power to deal with sin. We can not atone for sin. We can not cleanse the heart of sin. We cannot overcome sin. We need a Savior. The death of Christ at Calvary broke sins grasp and His resurrection set us free from the power sin and death. We need a Savior. We need Jesus desperately. God is holy and His standard is absolute perfection. You and I cannot live up to His standard. We could not do it in ten life times. A part from Christ, we are hopelessly lost and living under the wrath of our sin. Jesus is the only person who can save us from the destructive consequences of sin. So this man does not know who Jesus is and he does not himself either. He thinks he is close to perfect. He declares that he has not violated one commandment but he is a walking violation. How does the very first commandment read? I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. “You must not have any other god but me.” Obviously he had another god before God. This man’s god was money. Jesus knew exactly what his god was and by asking one question, Jesus revealed the identity of that god to the young man.

His gross ignorance does not stop here: [3] This young man does not know the superior worth of heavenly treasures. He was filthy rich and Jesus knew it. Jesus knew exactly what was in the young man’s heart. Jesus knew his treasure and it was his money. In a gentle way, Jesus said, “You give Me your treasure and then I will give you Mine.” So here it is: Jesus offers an eternal treasure for a temporal treasure; a heavenly treasure for an earthly treasure. Jesus offers him something that will last for something that will not last. Sadly, the young man said no to Jesus. Why would he do such a thing? Because he was convinced in his mind that his treasure was greater. Yes, he was wrong. He just didn’t understand the greater worth of an eternal treasure. He was blinded by the god of this world and it is sad. Our world and our churches are filled with people who are just as blind and ignorant as this young man. Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.” C. S. Lewis said, “Nothing truely belongs to us until we give it away.” Jesus said, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.” [Luke 17:33]

He does not know who Jesus is; he does not know his own sin and self; he does not know that heavenly treasures are greater than earthly treasures and [4] He does not know the joy of serving Christ. Jesus gave this young man a royal invitation to be His disciple. Very few people got that invitation. He could have discovered a whole new dimension to life but he chose rather to pursue earthly ambitions. It is a sad story with a sad ending. The bible says the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. This man could have had a life of purpose, joy and fulfillment and yet he chooses to be sad. All those who bow to the god Mammon will end up sad and dejected. The young man offered Jesus his goodness but Jesus did not want his goodness, Jesus wanted his heart. Christ has no desire to tweak your life: He is not trying to make you better at any particular thing–His purpose is to transform you. The rich young ruler came to be informed but Jesus didn’t give him the information he was seeking. We don’t just need information, we need transformation. Devils are informed: our need is to be transformed and only Christ and His grace can make that a reality.