IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




Kingdom Motives

Date: Nov. 15, 2015

Author: Bob Henkins

Matthew 6:1-18

Key Verse: Matthew 6:4

“Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

How many of you remember the “Be Like Mike” Gatorade marketing campaign that came out in the 90’s? The ad first ran in the late summer of 1991 after the Chicago Bulls won their first of six titles. It had a catchy song and became an immediate hit. (Sometimes I dream, That he is me, You've got to see that's how I dream to be, I dream I move, I dream I groove, Like Mike, If I could Be Like Mike, Like Mike, Oh, if I could Be Like Mike, Be Like Mike, Be Like Mike, Again I try, Just need to fly, For just one day if I could, Be that way, I dream I move, I dream I groove, Like Mike, If I could Be Like Mike, I wanna be, I wanna be, Like Mike, Oh, if I could Be Like Mike) Soon everyone wanted to actually be like Mike – that is like Michael Jordan. It not only inspired kids to want to play basketball (and of course drink Gatorade) but so many other things as well, like a life coach to write a book on how to improve your life. There was even a movie. Right at the end of last week’s passage, verse 18 says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Just as Michael Jordan inspired people to want to be better than what they currently are, to be great at something, Jesus inspired people to want to be perfect just like their heavenly Father. Jesus wanted people to think about their motivation. And that’s what we’re going to look at in today’s passage. Why do you do the things you do? What’s your motive behind them? What is your inspiration? Who do you want to be like?

We saw from last week’s passage how the people of Jesus’ time thought that maybe he was going to get rid of the law and replace it with something new. However he told them that he wasn’t going to get rid of the law, but he was going to fulfill it and make the standard even higher. So Jesus took the laws that they thought were easy to obey, like “do not murder” and “do not commit adultery” and raised them to a new level, saying that if you get angry with someone it was the same as murder and if you looked at someone lustfully, it was the same as adultery. In essence, Jesus was saying that the law goes deeper than just our outward actions, but it goes all the way to our core, our inner motives. It’s not just what you do, but WHY you do it. And Jesus expounds upon this concept in this chapter. Jesus deals with three areas in our life, giving, praying and fasting.

Let’s start with verse 1. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” The first thing I notice about this verse is that if we want to be perfect like our heavenly Father, Jesus expects us to PRACTICE righteousness. Just as a lawyer practices law and a doctor practices medicine, a believer (Christian) should practice righteousness. There is kind of a running joke, why do we say that lawyers and doctors have to practice, can’t they get it right! So if you’re a believer, you’re expected to practice righteousness. Because if you’re not, are you really a believer in the first place? If lawyers and doctors go through the trouble to get their degrees and then they never use them eventually they won’t be considered a doctor or lawyer any more. If you don’t use it, you lose it. And just as lawyers and doctors are not perfect, maybe that’s where the whole practicing idea comes in, but Christians are not perfect either and so we need a lot of practice to get righteousness right too. Actually we can never be righteous by ourselves we saw that from last week. The law makes it perfectly clear we can never be righteous we need Jesus for that, however that doesn’t mean we should stop practicing it.

Ok we got the point we should practice righteousness. Now what? What does that even mean? So to help the people understand of how to practice righteousness Jesus gives them three examples. The first one is giving. Take a look at verse 2-4. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” One way to practice righteousness is to be generous and give to others. Again, Jesus has an expectation that believers will give to others because he says WHEN you give to the needy not IF you give. The Israelites had this concept of Jubilee where every seventh year debts would be canceled. So if you owed money to someone, or they owed it to you, on the seventh year that debt would be forgotten. (Deu 15:9) Once when a rich young man came to Jesus seeking God, Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mt 19:21) When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth and he didn’t want to sacrifice it. However there were many people that would give, even generously. But the problem was, as Jesus points out here, their motive in doing so was not quite right. What happened back in Jesus’ day was the churches had these offering boxes, (you may remember from our study of 1&2 Kings, they took a chest and put a hole in it for people to donate their money but some of them were a little different in ) where they had a metal funnel, like an upside down tuba, that would take the money down to the container. And some of the people would come in with a big bag of coins and poor them in slowly so that they made the most noise possible as they bounces all through this metal funnel. And you can imagine what a commotion this made as they poured their offering in so everyone in the whole place couldn’t help but notice. It was as if they were announcing it with trumpets and people would say, “Wow, look how generous they are.” The problem with this was their motive. Again, why do they do the things they do? They weren’t giving because they sincerely cared about the poor, no, they gave because they wanted to be praised by the people who were there. So Jesus called them hypocrites because they were pretending to be something they weren’t. The Greek word hypocrite is used to refer to an actor on a stage who hides his real identity in order to play a role. They pretend to be someone other than themselves. So these givers were pretending to care about the needy but what they really cared about was being admired and adored by people. So Jesus’ conclusion is, if that’s what you’re after, then that’s all you’re going to get. If all you want is people’s praise, then that’s all you’ll get. And as we know, people’s praise doesn’t last very long. That’s why they have to keep doing it over and over and over again because we live in a “what have you done for me lately” kind of world. People who crave attention like this will get exhausted over time because it requires more time and resources. So Jesus tells us, when you give, do it quietly, don’t make a big show about it and most of all, God should be the one who gets the honor and glory because after all in the end, everything we have, was given to us by God.

The next example of practicing righteousness is prayer. Let’s look at verse 5. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.” In this second example is similar to the first because Jesus is again dealing with our inner motives. Why does the hypocrite in this verse pray? Because they love their heavenly Father and want to communicate and be with him, no, they do because they want people to think they are so holy and pious. So they get up there in front of everyone so they can be admired for their holiness as their prayer goes on FOREVER. This example is a like the first in that they are seeking people’s praise but it’s a little different because they want people to see them better than they really are, so that they would be raised up. But Jesus wants them to think about prayer differently. Take a look at verses 6-15. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 “This, then, is how you should 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 today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Now I can talk a lot about these verses and go in debt on each one, but that’s not really my point. So I want to highlight what this prayer reveals. Through this prayer Jesus is pointing our relationship with our heavenly Father. To practice righteousness we must have a right relationship with our heavenly Father and that begins with communication. We need to communicate with him to express our needs, desires and passions. Not only that we need his protection and provision but most of all we need to WANT to be WITH him and desire to do his will. Jesus presents this image of heaven on earth. So our motive for praying shouldn’t be to look good in front of people, but to deepen our relationship with God.

And the last example Jesus gives is fasting. Take a look at verses 16-18. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Again this example is much like the first two but instead of thinking how spiritual someone is, with this people are praised for their commitment to God and how much self-denial they have. They are like actors at the academy awards going for the Oscar. The purpose of fasting is to help us to draw nearer to God so that we may focus on him. Fasting helps to sharpen and discipline us in self-control. Jesus said, "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41). Fasting is a way of training ourselves in submission to the Lord so He can strengthen us in our mastery over our own selves. Fasting makes us stronger to stand against the temptations of the flesh. Fasting is similar to an athlete in training. And most athletes don’t train in the public view, they do in mostly in private. Their reward is not during this train period but at the end of the competition. Likewise Jesus tells us to wait for our reward, which we will receive in heaven.

In this passage Jesus asks us, why do you do the things you do? What is the motive behind our actions? Jesus is encouraging us to be like our Father who is generous and gives to us, to enjoy spending time with our Father in prayer and desiring the things he desires, and to trust in our Father by overcoming ourselves through fasting and trust him to provide and sustain us. May God richly bless you and be with you.

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Prepare the Way for the Lord

Luke 3:1-20

Key Verse: 3:4

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

  “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.

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