Expressing Faith

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. [8] 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)

As I have been reflecting and meditating this morning, I am reminded of how I generally focus on the latter parts of these promises. By this, I mean that I focus mainly on the outcome, the faithfulness of God to give, open, and reveal. This is truly important and should always be at the forefront of my thoughts. The faithfulness, goodness, and kindness of God toward me are a wellspring of hope and truth. Yet, this morning my mind came to rest on the proactive requirement of these promises. There is a requirement of initiative on my part in these actions. There is a sense that Jesus is telling me that I must put my faith, trust, and hope into action. Do I want the Father to give? I must ask in faith. Do I want the way opened for me? I must knock in faith. Do I want to find the true treasure? I must seek in faith. For it is only by putting my faith into action that these answers are promised. Do I truly believe and trust that God is inclined to hear me and respond? That is the self-examination of my heart that needs to be put in clear focus.

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Inward & Outward

You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:5 (ESV)

Jesus has taught that the whole of the law can be summed up in the phrase, “Love God and Love People”. This truth is continually found in the teaching of Jesus throughout the gospels and this verse is another representation of that teaching. How do we go about loving others well? We must first love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Loving God means that we are seeking to please him by fighting (through his strength) the sin that still clings to our hearts. It means that we are well aware of our own personal weaknesses and failings. In our state of humility and personal awareness, we are then able to share the love, grace, mercy, and goodness of God with others who need to hear and be reminded of the good news of the gospel. It is only in this state of humility that we will then bring the hope of Christ to our brothers and sisters who are hurting and in need.

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Make No Provision

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:14 (ESV)

This week I have been meditating and focusing my thoughts on this verse from Romans where Paul sums up his teaching on how love is the fulfillment of the law. I was leading a small group through the larger passage of verses 8-14 and we spent a good amount of time discussing what this verse looks like in our lives as we seek to not only put on Jesus but to make no provision to gratify our fleshly desires. This really is a double requirement in life as it would be difficult to have one and not the other. How can we put on Christ, but continue making provision for sin? How can we stop making provision for sin, if we are not putting on Christ? Paul’s encouragement and challenge is to do both at the same time. For as we put on Christ, we will necessarily want to rid ourselves of those fleshly desires and no longer seek their gratification.

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Specks and Logs

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 

Matthew 7:3-4 (ESV)

Continuing in his teaching on our interactions and relationships with others, Jesus further explains the role of judging in the lives of believers. As with all of Jesus’ teachings, the premise is wrapped around the basic theme of love. The first step in our relationships and dealing with other people is to always come from a heart of humility with an intention to love. This is the central and key point of Jesus’ teaching on judging others. We are not called to be the heavy-handed instrument of God’s righteousness that brings the news of judgment with no affection and concern. Jesus tells us that our first step in helping others see their need for God’s mercy and grace in their life is to first recognize and understand our own deeper and greater need for God’s mercy and grace in our lives. We are to relate to each other in humbleness working in love through the power of Christ himself.

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Judging Not

“Judge not, that you be not judged. [2] For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

Matthew 7:1-2 ESV

Patience, kindness, mercy, and grace are the characteristics and heart attitudes that should mark my interactions with others. Pronouncing eternal judgment on others should not be part of my thoughts and actions toward others. Oftentimes I want to make character decisions and judgments about others and pronounce a decree of God against a person. I want to not only evaluate and discern a person’s heart attitude and motivation, I want to be the judge of their soul by declaring judgments that belong only to the Lord. This is the “judge not” that Jesus is talking about in this passage. It is a call to let God be the rightful judge of humanity and for me to demonstrate the love of God to everyone I encounter.

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Love for Today

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:34 ESV

Jesus now brings this section on anxiety and worry to a close by reminding us of the freedom we have in Christ through all the many promises that he has presented beforehand. I have heard this singular verse spoken to me and others as if it is a cure-all for every person who is struggling with anxiousness. We want to take this ending point of the previous paragraph’s teaching and make it a commandment to coldly lay at the feet of people as an ideal. Notice that Jesus is not laying down a list of commands before the crowd he is speaking to. He has just spent time working through the rationale and understanding necessary to reach this conclusion. We too should take the time to understand all these truths and incorporate them into our daily walk. As we do, we will then be able to battle anxiety about tomorrow and focus on the daily bread provided for our living this life today.

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First Priority

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33 ESV

All these things… the things that the Gentiles seek after and prioritize over and above God. The things that we see as daily necessities like food and clothing are often elevated to higher levels of importance in our hearts and minds than they should. All these things will be added when we are setting our hearts on the proper priority of seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. In the day-to-day movement and flow of life it is easy to become distracted and then occupied with the things of this world and to let the material and physical circumstances begin to have more importance than they should. The solution Jesus offers to our chasing after secondary things is rather simple and obvious. Seek Jesus first and foremost. In everything you do, Jesus is the center and the foundation upon which it all stands.

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Seeking Contentment

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.

Matthew 6:31-32 ESV

Jesus summarizes his teaching on anxiety in this verse with a reminder to not be anxious about our food, drink, or clothing. The anxiousness that Jesus is talking about is further clarified in the next sentence by stating that the Gentiles seek after these things. It is the fixation of our hearts and minds on material objects over and above the spiritual realities and Jesus himself that is the source of our anxiousness. We worry and stress about our physical comforts and needs, when all the while our heavenly Father knows that we have need of these things. Our stress and our anxiousness are a reflection of our continuing struggle with contentment and trust. Our anxiety is a hazard light raising the alarm that something is not quite right in our hearts. Our anxiety is an important indicator of the current state of our faith and trust in our heavenly Father who loves us, cares for us, and provides for all we need and have in this world.

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Rich Inspiration

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Matthew 6:30 ESV

Look around and see the breadth of God’s love and beauty in the world. The creation is God’s canvas to illustrate his tender care and compassion for all things. The beauty of nature is a living reminder of our loving God and his daily provision. Jesus continues to point us back to reality by opening our eyes to truly seeing the world, God’s creation, that is all around us. There is life all around us that is arrayed in a wondrous beauty that causes an emotional response in us. The beauty of the world around us is magnificent. Yet, we continue to miss the Creator of this beauty and his sustaining providence in all of nature. Jesus wants us to take a moment and just gaze at all of creation in wonder and let it draw our hearts to the Creator. To see the beauty of the world and have our faith deepened.

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Lilly Lessons

And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Matthew 6:28-29 ESV

Once again, Jesus is continuing his discourse on anxiety and worry. He started this section by confirming that life is of more importance than what we are going to eat and what we are going to wear, yet these two things still pick and pull at all of us. We become anxious about clothing and possessions to such an extreme that they dominate our thoughts and become idols craving and demanding our attention. Jesus wants us to take our cues from the birds of the air and now the lilies of the field. These lilies are unmatched in their beauty and we should take note of how our heavenly Father has given these lilies an arrayment of beauty that surpasses even the pomp and glory of a king in procession.

Clothing has never been a consistent source of anxiety for me. I have never been overly stressed and concerned about my clothing or what I will wear or how I will look. To be fair, I have tended to push back on the social norms of what is expected to be worn for most of my life. Yet, I find myself falling into this trap with others at times. I worry less about what I wear but I often make snap judgments about others based on their choice of clothing for a particular activity or event. I find myself setting a standard that is solely based on my choices as the line of demarcation. Instead of understanding the person and seeing opportunities for Jesus, I only see my self-righteous value judgments about others. Which, now that I work this through in my mind is a revelation about the hidden stressor I have about clothing in my own life. Where I think of myself as being unconcerned, I am finding that there is a deeper anxiousness residing in my heart that truly does care about what I wear and my struggle to fit into the world and culture around me.

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