No messages the past two days, these two days have possibly been my two worst since beginning my walk with the Lord about 2 1/2 years ago. I began to write this particular message Tuesday morning, and the passage was just screaming at me. I could not write. My spirit was (and really still is) twisted. I certainly could not write the next passage in the sermon on the mount, actually turning the page from Matthew Chapter 5 to chapter 6, a real feeling of moving on to the next larger portion of Jesus talk.
Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. So I was ready to move on, but when I turned the page, I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t think. I wanted to write, because that’s what I do. But this passage just hit me, because in my soul I was angry (I still am, but it’s now hopefully a more controlled anger and not a burning rage). I read this, actually began to write something, but had to stop. I had to stop because really what I write, I write for me, and then I share with those who would read it. But to write on Tuesday morning would have been doing the very opposite of what I’m writing, Jesus telling us all not to practice our religion, our righteousness, for the approval and opinion of others.
This isn’t the only place where Jesus teaches this. During his passion week, Jesus lays out seven woes to the scribes and Pharisees, and during this he tells his followers “They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.” Matthew 23:5-7 ESV. I hope I don’t do this to be seen by others. If I had written anything the last two days, it definitely would have been for the wrong reasons. So I didn’t write. I’ve spent the last two days sorting out issues inside myself, and confronting others. I have not been prayerfully doing anything. I have reached out to my brothers, and have unloaded and shared some of my burdens. I have also been making many spirited accusations and assumptions, and when I say spirited I don’t mean the Holy Spirit. I’ve been driven by the unholy spirit, the satan, the spirit of shame, blame and accusation. I was caught up in the spiritual warfare my pastor talks about regularly, and I was getting my ass kicked. The devil was running my life.
But this morning, I can say that I am casting out the devil. Again. I am not going to play his game anymore. I’m sure I will have more battles with that unholy spirit, but for today, I am casting out the devil by the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
So now I can write about what Jesus is telling us here as we start Mathew chapter 6. I can write as part of my spiritual discipline of journaling which I just happen to share with others. Jesus is talking here in chapter about traps which can block us from truly entering the kingdom of God breaking into not the world, and the first team he warns of is the respectability trap. We don’t pray in order to be seen praying. We don’t read the Bible in order to be seen praying. We don’t give to the church to be seen giving, like we don’t give to the poor to be seen giving. We do all we do for an audience of one.
You want to be honored by others? You want people to say good things about you? That’s great, go right ahead. God will not stand in your way. He will simply step aside and let us have our way. Your approval by others, the honors you might receive, the glory that might come your way, He will not stop you from pursuing them. If that is what is important to you, He will quite courteously step aside by your wish, and let you pursue that which is important to you.
God is not present where He is not wanted. He knows where He is wanted, and where He is not. If we are looking for the response and approval of others, he usually does not step on our wishes. He usually will let us carry out our own plans. If our goal is to impress others with our piety, our righteousness, our “devotion to God”, he will let us pursue that. But never forget, he will have the final say.
But – if we play to the audience of one, God alone, he will also give us what we seek. “”Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 ESV. I know, that’s from later in the sermon, but it just fit. Seek first the kingdom of God. These are not rules but guides for the heart. You don’t have to purposefully hide the good things you do to be right with God. If you are doing what you do for the audience if one, He doesn’t mind if others see. There may be a situation where you keep it hidden, there may also be situations when you can inspire others to follow your lead and multiply the goodness and change other hearts. Just be sure you are seeking first the kingdom of God.
Last night and this morning I did return to my regular times of prayer. I am using a liturgy of prayer I came across. I do believe prayer changes things, I also believe the number one thing in my life I need to change is “me”. So I am praying several time tested prayers during my prayer time, praying these prayers in the expectation that over time, they will help form me to be more like Christ. Here is part of my morning liturgy that I prayed this morning.
A prayer for grace.
“Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought us in safety to this new day: preserve us with your mighty power, that we may not fall unto sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all we do, direct us to the fulfilling of your purpose, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen”
Feel free to pray this prayer on my behalf today, I need all I can get.
My name is John, faithful believer in Jesus Christ, thanks for letting me share.
“”Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:1 ESV