Pride Prolonged

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Matthew 6:27 ESV

A life filled with anxiousness is a life spent denying the sovereign control of God over the workings of the universe and the affairs of humanity. It may be that I give ascent to the sovereign control and right that God has in being our Creator and Lord, but my everyday thoughts and words reveal the true character and nature of my heart. It is commendary to repeat the great verses of Scripture where we recite and honor the Kingship of Jesus but if these verses have not soaked our hearts in their unalterable truth, then we will find ourselves acting contrary to the very Scripture we recite. We will find that we have become hypocrites and idolaters as we sing these great truths but act in a manner that shows we are still clinging to and holding fast to our own will and might. Our idolatry becomes our own desire to be in control and make God’s blessings come to pass in our lives.

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Bird Watching

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 6:26 ESV

There are a multitude of reasons for my tendency to be anxious and worried. I can come up with a thousand different reasons for letting my fear overwhelm me and lead me into a state of anxiety. Yet, I think this verse hits the mark for me on a deep heart level. At the heart of my struggle with worry and anxiety is an underlying doubt and unbelief in my value and worth before the Lord. I doubt that my Creator and Savior truly means what he says about his deep and personal love for me. I struggle in my heart to truly understand that I am a treasured possession of the Lord God Himself. I doubt the countless stories in the Bible where God demonstrates this Fatherly love for his people. I doubt the many instances and evidences in my life where he has demonstrated his Fatherly love for me. My doubt runs deep at times and I spiral into a well of depression and fear.

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Countering Anxiety

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  

Matthew 6:25 ESV

At this point in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has finished his teaching treasure in heaven and has led us to understand and apply the important mindset of serving God alone without any duplicity and with complete devotion. Having taken this principle into our hearts, we are to apply this in such a manner that all anxiety is cast far from us. This sounds so simple as we read this passage and make the connection in our mind that Jesus is our perfect loving Master and as we give our whole hearts and lives to him, he alone will care for us and give us everything we have and need in this life and in heaven. Life is more than food and clothing. Life is more than these outer adornments and gathering of material things. It is more than a multitude of novel and unique experiences. It is more than indulging our cravings and desires. Life is meant to be lived in the presence of our Lord and Savior with humility and devotion. Jesus is life… our life.  

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Single Serving

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Matthew 6:24 ESV

Jesus concludes this section of the sermon by giving us a summary and personal application to his command that we lay up treasures in heaven. One of the most important factors in following Jesus with humble obedience is our complete dedication and devotion to God. We are a doubleminded people who continually see our desires and affections being tempted and drawn away from our Savior. We are a people that want to live for the treasures of heaven but are drawn and distracted by the treasures of this world. Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters. We cannot be doubleminded with dual allegiance. We cannot serve God and the World at the same time. Our hearts are simply not designed this way. Our hearts are designed to focus and be completely devoted to one object of worship. Jesus is calling us to examine ourselves and ensure that we are fully devoted to our Father in Heaven and not these temporal worldly distractions that have no eternal value.

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Good Eye

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, [23] but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Matthew 6:22-23 ESV

The eye is the lamp of the body. This is a phrase that can speak to several different areas of our life. There is the thought that the eye works as a lamp to reveal the condition and state of our inner life. A healthy eye denotes a clear vision devoted to the Lord, whereas a bad eye reveals the cloudy vision of corruption. I tend to think of this passage in terms of what is being brought into my mind and heart through my vision. With the eye being a lamp for the body, the object and focus of my eye is of vital importance. With my eye being the lamp, it illuminates what my body (inner life) sees and focuses on. Thus if my eyes are healthy, I am allowing the light of the gospel into my body by focusing on the spiritual good. If my eye is bad, then darkness is clouding my vision and the light of the gospel is being withheld from my body and the darkness within me builds and thrives.

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Heart Location

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:21 (ESV)

“Where is your treasure being stored?” This is the key question that Jesus is asking in this passage as he encourages us to examine our hearts and understand the true state of our desires and affections. The gauge of our heart is a matter of evaluating the location of our treasure. Is our treasure located here on the earth or are we storing up for ourselves a treasure in heaven where Jesus is located? The answer to this question answers the bigger question of the status of our hearts. The answer to this question reveals what is at the center of our lives. Our hearts will be located in the same place as our treasure and our hearts will be attuned to spending as much time and energy as needed to enjoy the treasure.  

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Two Treasures

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, [20] but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Matthew 6:19-20 ESV

The focus of the last three passages has been on engaging our hearts in giving, praying, and fasting. Jesus now sums up these three points by connecting the three spiritual disciplines with the idea of spiritual treasure. A treasure that is being stored up for us in heaven as we put them into practice and engage our hearts with our service. The contrast is that we are not to focus on building worldly wealth as a substitute for a humble dependence upon God. We can be wealthy and be blessed by the Lord both financially and materially, but we are not to trust in our wealth by any means. We are not to look to our wealth and physical resources as a source of security. Our only source of hope and security comes from God alone and he is concerned with our eternal soul and the storing up of treasure in heaven where he is and where he will bring us.

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Secret Fasting

But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, [18] that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:17-18 ESV

Following up on the previous verse where Jesus pointed out the fault of the hypocrites in fasting, he now moves into a prescriptive remedy for proper fasting. This prescription is rather simple and points us to one key factor: our heart motivation. There are many different ways we can fast and humble ourselves before the Lord, but the essential element of them all is that we have our hearts set on pleasing the Lord alone. Whereas the hypocrites disfigured their faces to accentuate their outward appearance and enhance the visual cues of their fasting upon their bodies, we are to be fresh and clean in our appearance. Meaning, we should just go about our day as we normally would without calling attention to our fast. This is the secret Jesus is advocating. A secret and private audience with the only One that matters, Jesus. If our motivation is set upon the Lord alone and we are seeking only to please him, then we will find our reward. A spiritual reward with eternal significance and meaning.

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Joyful Fasting

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

Matthew 6:16 ESV

As with the other parts of the sermon, Jesus begins his instruction on fasting with a warning not to imitate the hypocrites who, well-meaning as they may be, corrupt their spiritual obedience by pursuing worldly praise. In this passage, Jesus points out their corruptness by emphasizing the hypocrite’s intentional disfiguring of their faces and he leaves no doubt as to their secondary or maybe even primary motivation – to be seen by others. The hypocrites fast with a gloomy face. Jesus is calling us to live a life in the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This covers all areas of our lives, including our fasting. When we fast, not if, we are to have joy! We fast for a variety of reasons and oftentimes to repent or grieve over a particular sin in our life. We want to make this a time of gloom as we lament the control we have ceded to the power of sin. Fasting is all of that to be sure, but it is also a time of great joy and wonder as we celebrate the power of Jesus to cancel sin. There is forgiveness and healing to be found in Jesus and fasting works to realign our hearts to this spiritual truth. So there is always great joy in our fasting along with a time to lament and grieve our failing within the framework of the victory of Jesus upon the cross.

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Relationship Maintenance

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (ESV)

Matthew 6:14-15

Having reached the conclusion of this portion focused on prayer, Jesus reemphasizes the need for us to prioritize forgiveness in our life. It is quite normal to read this and think that Jesus is here telling us that our salvation needs to be secured every day, but this is not the case. As his death and resurrection have already secured our eternal salvation once and for all, this call for forgiveness is about our relationships. Having been saved through the blood of Christ, we are now justified and clothed in the righteousness of Christ. The Father has brought us into a personal relationship with him and adopted us as sons and daughters. Jesus is reminding us of this great truth of forgiveness. The rich and abundant love of God was given to us through his forgiveness and having been given this forgiveness we are to go and do likewise. We are to be forgiving people that bring restoration and healing to every relationship.

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