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Series Theme:   Sermon on the Mount Meditations

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PART THREE: Chapter 6

Meditation Title: Overview




Part 1: The Beatitudes

    Requirements of the Kingdom









The Poor in Spirit



Those who Mourn



The Meek



Those who Hunger



The Merciful



The Pure in Heart



The Peacemakers



The Persecuted



Part 2: Remainder of Chapter 5

    The General Nature of Jesus' Followers



Insulted & Slandered












Fulfilling the Law




    Practical Righteousness beyond the Law



Murder & Anger



Offerings & Upsets



Adultery & Lust



Radical Action












Loving Enemies



Be Perfect?



Part 3: Chapter 6

    Practical Righteousness through Piety



Hidden Righteousness



Giving to the Needy



Hidden Prayer



Praying to Father



Praying for God's Rule



Praying for God's Provision







    Values & Priorities






What you see



One Master



Be at peace



God's Will first



Part 4: Chapter 7



Beware Judging



Right assessment



Persist in Asking




Do to Others



It's a Narrow Gate



Be Discerning



Doers not just Hearers



The Fruits of Obedience



The Fruits of Disobedience







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Meditation No. 25

Meditation Title: Hidden Righteousness


Mt 6:1   Be careful not to do your `acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven


A true servant is one who just gets on and does what is needed to be done without comment and without expectation of praise. The trouble is we like praise! We like to be acknowledged for what we do. It helps us feel good about ourselves. Ah, now there is a crucial thought here. Do we do the things we do because we feel good about who we are, or do we do things to make us feel good and make us feel we are someone?


As we change chapters, it seems Jesus has come to the end of the section in the Sermon where he has been dealing with heart righteousness and now moves into a new section where it is almost as if he is giving us a series of tests to check whether our heart righteousness is genuine, not by ensuring that our moral actions flow out of a righteous heart, but seeing whether our pious actions flow out of a genuine relationship with the Lord. He's just about to touch on giving, prayer and fasting, all pious acts that are expressions of faith, but the question arises, are they acts of faith or acts to try and create faith? What follows are examples of ‘acts of righteousness' that Jesus obviously expects believers to do, but he challenges the motivation behind them. These are uncomfortable verses for ‘religious' people, people who perform to try to create a sense of righteousness.


It is probable that Jesus is hitting out at the Pharisees in this section especially, for they were known for doing their ‘acts of righteousness' where they could be seen, to show how religious they were, to show that they were special and thus, to show up everyone else! There always is a very real danger for believers to parade their spirituality, but the trouble is that that simply drives a bigger wedge in between believer and non-believer. Jesus never did that. Jesus got alongside the non-believer to share God's love with them. The Pharisees pointed fingers at the tax collectors and sinners and condemned them. Jesus sat down with them, accepted them as they were and then shared God's love with them and then died for them. Do people around us see us as ‘religious' or loving?


In the second part of the verse there is mention of rewards. Yes, when we do acts of righteousness in good ways, there are rewards, there is the blessing of the Father upon us, but that is when such acts flow out of our relationship with Him, when they are responses to the prompting of His Holy Spirit. On those occasions there is the approval of the Father and that too is conveyed by the Spirit. However if we do these things for our own benefit and we do them publicly, then the only reward we get is the praise of people, and that doesn't last long and is worth little.


No, these things drive right to the heart of our actions. They challenge why we are doing these things; they challenge our motivation and so we are forced to ask ourselves, why am I doing this? Why do I give? Why do I pray? Why do I do any pious acts? The answer has got to be, simply to please my Father in heaven, simply to be a natural response to the prompting of His Spirit, and if it is that then there is no need to seek human acclaim. No, this goes right to the root of our personal security in God. Is my religious faith a natural outworking of the love I have experienced from Him, or is it a form of religion that I use to try to make myself acceptable to Him? Do I “go to church” out of a desire to draw closer to Him, or do I go to win acceptance points in His eyes? This is challenging teaching that Jesus gives!







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Meditation No. 26

Meditation Title: Giving to the Needy


Mt 6:2-4 So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets… 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.


There is an assumption by Jesus that his followers will do certain things as an expression of their relationship with his Father, and giving to the needy is one of those things. We do need to establish this first. When a rich young ruler came to Jesus he said to him, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” (Mt 19:21). In our affluent society many of us probably have as much as this young man had, if not more. In saying this, Jesus was reflecting the Law which often indicated that the more well off should care for the less well off in their society. At the Last Supper we see some words we normally don't much attention to: Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor(Jn 13:29) which would suppose that Jesus made a practice of giving to the poor, even though he, himself, had virtually nothing and relied upon others. In Acts we find the early church caring for the needy as we see reference to the daily distribution of food.” (Acts 6:1) The apostle Paul told the elders at Ephesus, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: `It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35) The apostle John taught, If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 Jn 3:17). Giving, therefore, out of a loving concern for others, should be a natural expression of the life of a Christian, not because the Law says so, but simply because it is an expression of love and care.


Having established that, we now need to note what Jesus is saying here in today's verses. Remember he has just spoken about ‘hidden righteous acts' and about not parading your righteousness before others. This reference to giving is, therefore, his first example of what not to do. As so often, he over-emphasises the point in two ways. First, like we might say, “Don't trumpet your achievements”, he says don't announce your giving with a big fanfare. He then adds to that with the extreme statement, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. In other words keep it as secret as possible. Does that mean we are never to give so that others hear about it? No, of course not, but as a general principle give, and let your giving be done quietly and humbly. Again, to emphasise the point we made in the previous meditation, this is not to be a means of building up your self-esteem; it is simply to be an expression of the relationship you have with your Father in heaven. You do it because He prompts.


We need to learn to give freely, spontaneously and quietly. I once had a lady come to me and say, “The church ought to be helping Mary (not her real name). For her lunches for the elderly, she hardly has any wiping up clothes to dry up the dishes.” The church? This lady was the church and she was well off. My response was, “Well why don't you get them for her and give them to her. That will bless her more than if it was the church.” It also did away with a lot of unnecessary administration! No the thing is that if YOU see a need, YOU do something about it, if you have the means, and when you do, don't tell others about it. It's all right, your Father in heaven will see!







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Meditation No. 27

Meditation Title: Hidden Prayer


Mt 6:6,7    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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.


For some reason there are people who love to parade their spirituality, showing what a wonderful person they really are. Now that sounds a bit unkind, but that's what the Pharisees of Jesus' day were like. Now there have been two things that have been coming out of these meditations. The first is that Jesus is more concerned with the heart, with what comes from inside us, than what we do on the outside. We can put on a show of being religious or being spiritual while, in fact, on the inside we are a mess. So the second thing is don't parade your spirituality, but let it be real, let it be a genuine expression of the relationship you have with your Father in heaven and so if it is, you won't be doing it to impress people, but you will be doing it simply as an expression of your loving communion with God.


Before the verses above Jesus warns against being like hypocrites. The word hypocrite comes from the past where it was applied to play actors. Thus a hypocrite puts on a show, pretends to be something other than they are. Don't pretend, says Jesus, just be real, so if you are going to talk to God, do it where other people can't see you! When you do that it will then just be you and your heavenly Father together and He will rewards you. Jesus never says what the ‘reward' is, but when you are praying alone you are not distracted by other people, and so can sense the presence of the Lord all the better, and when you sense His presence, you will also catch what He's saying to you, and there is no greater reward that to hear Almighty God speaking personally to you!


But Jesus, as a good Pastor, also knows the inadequacies that people feel and the way they try to overcome that. One way, for many people, is simply to use words or formulas in prayer. Jesus cited pagans who babbled words at their deities. Don't be like that, he said. They do it because they are unsure of themselves and their deities and so think they have to catch the attention of their deity and then impress it with many words. The implication is that we don't have to do that because we have an attentive loving heavenly Father and we don't have to catch His attention; He is there watching over us and is open to us all the time. More than that He calls us His children and children don't have to impress their father; he just loves them as they are. So God knows your thoughts, feelings and struggles in prayer and understands and loves you as you are. You don't have to impress Him. It's all right, few words or many, if they come from the heart, that's enough. Don't try to impress God with prayer; He sees through it. Just be His child and relate naturally to Him as a loving father.


Does all this mean there is no room for the church prayer meeting? No, of course not, but even that, let it be behind closed doors – because we're not out to impress the world with our spirituality – and let its form be simple and straight forward, an expression of our love for our Father in heaven. Let it be an outworking of the love we have for Him and not a means of trying to get His attention or win His approval. Let it be a time of expressing our love for Him, seeking His face, and seeking His will for us which we know He wants to express to His children. Let's pray.







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Meditation No. 28

Meditation Title: Praying to Father


Mt 6:9 This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name

Prayer is incredibly simple and is also an incredibly complex mystery. The mystery? Why does God encourage us to pray when He knows every word we will say before we say it? (Psa 139:4) Prayer must, therefore, be for our benefit, not His, unless he just likes hearing His children talking to Him anyway. Today's verse is the start of what is often called, “The Lord's Prayer” or “The Family Prayer”. It is Jesus' structure for prayer, not words which we ought to keep on uttering; it guides us in respect of the way we can pray and the sort of things God is happy for us to pray.


Just now we referred to God enjoying hearing His children talking to Him, for that is what prayer is. It is Christians talking to their heavenly Father. That is unique and it is possible that it is so familiar to many of us that we now take it for granted, but where else in the world do you find a religion that calls God ‘Father' or even more intimately, ‘Daddy'? you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father .” (Rom 8:15 ). Abba is Aramaic for father or more likely, ‘daddy', the cry of smaller children. This is the incredible wonder of the Christian faith: it leaves us calling God, ‘daddy'!


Now it is often said, but for many of us the idea of a father is not a good image. Many of us were either abused by our fathers or ignored by them. They were either too much in our face or were never there. If that has been the case we really struggle with the concept of ‘father', but the truth is that our heavenly Father is perfect. He is loving, caring, sympathetic, understanding, and is always there for us. He looks after us, cares for us, protects us and provides for us. Everything He does is for our good, and it is good! Now perhaps we need to read those last three sentences out loud again and again until the truth of them sinks in.


That is what this prayer structure that Jesus is giving us is all about. It is about us who are children of God coming to our heavenly Father. In these verses on prayer (v.5-15) Jesus uses the word ‘Father' six times and in Matthew's Gospel Jesus refers to God as either our Father or his Father no less than 42 times! This is all about relationship! Jesus wants us to understand that what he has come to bring is not more religious rules and regulations but a living, real relationship with God.


Again, perhaps because this is so familiar to us that we have come to take it for granted, think about this some more. An office boy does not have a relationship with the managing director of a large company. Yes, he may encounter him once in a while but it is a fleeting contact. A waitress does not have a relationship with a customer who comes into the restaurant once a month. She simply has fleeting contact. No, a relationship means regular contract, close contact, contact that opens up the two parties to one another, and that comes through communication.


How many people ‘go to church' once a week, perform their religious rituals, and then forget it until the next Sunday? That is not a relationship. In a relationship you find out about the other person. You make regular contact with them and talk to them. Talking is at the heart of a relationship, talking AND listening. Ah, this is what the mystery of prayer is reduced to, simply expressing and working out a relationship with Almighty God by talking. Pray on.







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Meditation No. 29

Meditation Title: Praying for God's Rule


Mt 6:9,10   This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.


Often people say, “I don't know what to pray about.” Jesus in these verses gives us a variety of things to pray about, but they come in a specific order. We observed yesterday that Jesus wants us to pray, first of all, on the basis that God is our loving heavenly Father, but immediately after that he brings us balance – hallowed be your name . He doesn't want us to have just a wishy-washy idea about God being an old softie, he wants us to remember exactly who God is! When he says hallowed be your name the Living Bible puts it we honour your holy name. To hallow means to honour, revere, respect and acknowledge God's greatness and holiness.


Imagine a little child whose father is a great ambassador. When the child is very small he or she calls their father, “Daddy!” There is a level of simple intimacy which has no pretence and indeed no awareness of the father's bigger role in life. As the child grows it learns what the father does and together with the intimacy there comes a new respect which is founded on knowledge and awareness. Similarly with us and God, as we mature, we begin to realise something more of the wonder and greatness of God, His awesome power and authority, wisdom and knowledge, and His holiness. That brings within us a new awesome respect and reverence for God.


Now within that we noted His awesome power and authority and wisdom and knowledge. Those characteristics of God tell us that God is Creator and Sustainer of this world and, being its designer, knows exactly how it works and how things work best – including our lives and the lives of everyone else. When we then look at the world we realise that because of the Fall the world is not running the way it should be and we find a cry rising up within us for the Lord to come and do something about it. Our desire becomes a desire for Him to come and rule over this world and bring changes to it so that evil is suppressed and good is released.


Wherever God is, He is in control, because He is the Almighty God we've just been describing. In the language of the Old Testament which was brought into the New, He rules and where He rules, because He is a king, that rule is the expression of His kingdom. (We'll see more of this in the days to come.) Our cry, as we see His greatness and goodness set off against the sin of the world is that His kingdom will come and His will, His desires, His knowledge of what is good and perfect, will be expressed.


The more we see God and the more we realise the state of the world around us, the more we will ask for Him to come to reign over the world around us and bring His goodness and love into it. In heaven there is no sin, no rebellion, no failure, and no guilt. All those things abound here on the earth because of the Fall. The only way it will change is if God comes and brings change. We desperately need Him to come and do this, but it seems that most, if not all, of the time He waits until His people are willing to become partners with Him in bringing that change. He waits to see if we will pray. He waits to see if we will be obedient and become doers of His will. Because He will not impose His will on each of us, He waits until He finds those responses in us. As He does, so He moves, so He takes us and uses us and at the same time, He exercises His sovereign power and changes circumstances and situations. Pray it.







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Meditation No. 30

Meditation Title: Praying for God's Provision


Mt 6:11-13   Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one


Living in the age in which we live, perhaps one of the biggest temptations facing any of us is the temptation to believe and then live as if we are all-sufficient. After all for the vast majority of the time, living in the affluent West, if we want food we go to the nearest store or supermarket; if we want fuel we drive a few yards down the road and fill the car up. If we want new clothes, we will probably go into town and buy them. Life seems very stable. The only imponderable for some is how can I stretch the money to the things I would like for my family - but the money is there, limited though it may be. The fruit of this is that we are tempted to think, “Why bother to pray for daily provision, because it is there?”


These verses above are all about God's provision which, as we've just said, we probably take for granted if we live in the affluent parts of the world. But isn't that affluence exactly part of God's provision? Isn't that provision what God wants for all of humanity? Yet still, for those who seem to have it, the temptation is to take it for granted and assume it will always be there.


In Jesus day, bread was the basic food of life, the food for survival. The prayer becomes, “Lord, please give me the basic provisions for life.” Perhaps these things aren't so secure as we think. The writer referred to Jesus as, sustaining all things by his powerful word (Heb 1:3). Jesus sustains all things? He keeps the world going and the inference is that without him it wouldn't. Bread enables life but good food enables health. Perhaps we should consider health as part of the provision we are asking for.


But then there is also a spiritual provision mentioned next. It isn't only material provision that we are in need of, it is also spiritual provision. We need God's forgiveness if we are to enjoy our relationship with Him. Without that forgiveness we have no relationship! His forgiveness is basic to our spiritual life and He only grants His forgiveness to those who come in humble repentance, and humble repentance also includes, as we saw in the Beatitudes, having a good attitude towards others, so if others seek our forgiveness, God expects that we grant it; it's part of that humble repentance attitude that brings us to Him. So there is always a big spiritual need in our lives as well.


Another aspect of that spiritual dimension is the aspect of living righteously, and Jesus is aware of both sin and Satan in the world, and is aware that part of the battle against sin and Satan involves resisting temptation and keeping us out of Satan's clutches. The life God has called us to, is one characterized by godliness and goodness (righteousness) and Satan will seek to make us godless and bad. It's as simple as that! The thought comes into the mind: don't bother to pray, don't bother to read the Bible, don't bother to go to church, don't bother about other people, don't bother about standards. Each one is a subtle temptation to become godless which will soon lead on to us being unrighteous. James wrote, Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jas 3:7). Note the order. It starts with going to God and then resisting Satan.


In these verses we are reminded by Jesus of the scope of our needs: material and spiritual. Yes, God is concerned about both, but the biggest concern is that we see all of our provision as coming from God. Never take it for granted. Ask for it.







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Meditation No. 31

Meditation Title: Forgiveness


Mt 6:14,15   For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.


Can you imagine a human race where forgiveness is not needed? No, the reality is that in a Fallen World people are unpleasant to people and forgiveness is needed. However, perhaps almost more than any other subject, forgiveness needs to be seen as a complete spectrum of Biblical teaching, because many Christians seem to pick out odd verses and miss the main thrust of forgiveness teaching in the Bible.


We have seen a lot already in the Sermon about having a right heart towards other people, going even as far as loving enemies. Now the call to forgive is a call to have a right response towards your offender when they come to you saying sorry and seeking your forgiveness. At that point Jesus expects us to forgive as an expression of the realization that you too are a sinner and you too have been forgiven by God and so you too need to have a forgiving attitude towards the repentant sinner. Failure to do that brings a question mark over your salvation and whether you are letting Jesus be lord over your life. If there is that question mark over your salvation it may be that you are still outside God's forgiveness; hence Jesus' teaching in these verses.


MBecause there is so much confusion about forgiveness, let's explain in as simply as possible. When someone wrongs you, there are two aspects to your response to them: a) holding a right attitude towards them and b) forgiving them when they say sorry. Now we really do have to understand these two aspects because many Christians confuse the first for the forgiveness. When someone wrongs us, the worst you could consider them is your enemy, and we've said already that Jesus has taught us to Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:44). So whatever that person has done to you, you need to obtain God's grace to come to a place of love for that person (not what they did) and have a desire for their good, which involves them coming to repentance over what they did, because until they do they have an unresolved issue before God for which He will hold them accountable. You may think what we have said so far is difficult, so to make it easier we need to learn to call sin, sin. Now if we just say about what they have done, “Oh, it's all right,” we actually demean sin and we demean the reason Jesus went to the Cross. No, what this person did was sin, and they need to repent over it, but that doesn't stop you coming to a right attitude over them, which is to want their best and that includes doing everything possible to help them come to repentance.


Now please note that so far we haven't said anything about you granting them forgiveness, because you can't do that until they have repented. We emphasis you can have a right attitude towards them but you cannot declare forgiveness for sin where the person has not repented. Why do we say that? Because God does not forgive until there is repentance! Check it out in the Bible. You granting forgiveness is to be a ratification of what God does in heaven, and you can't do what heaven won't do! God readily forgives on the basis of what Jesus has done on the Cross when a person repents. If Jesus' work on the Cross covered absolutely everyone and brought automatic forgiveness, why do many people still go to hell (and the New Testament clearly teaches that!)? Forgiveness is conditional on repentance but when repentance comes, forgiveness is freely there from God and it is to be freely there from us. In the meantime, pray for your offender, recognize their sin, pray for them and hold a good attitude. Get ready to forgive.







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Meditation No. 32

Meditation Title: Work Orientated


Mt 6:16   When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting


Fasting for many people tends to be an unknown subject or something that is limited to giving up chocolate for Lent. For Jesus it was something that he knew spiritual people did, something that was just part of life. Fasting, as it is meant in the Bible, is the cutting back or completely abstaining from food for a period of time. Some people today fast from other things, such as watching television, but what is the purpose of fasting? It is the purposeful putting aside of time to seek God (e.g. 2 Chron 20:3, Ezra 8:21, Dan 9:3, Acts 13:2, 14:23), and the purpose of the fast is to sharpen the mind and spirit as the body is disciplined in order to be more receptive to God, and also to show a high degree of commitment or sincerity. In the Scriptures fasting was often the sign of urgent repentance (e.g. Neh 9:1, Joel 2:12 ).


However fasting can simply be an outward appearance of spirituality when, in fact, our lives can be far from God. Thus there were occasions when the Lord said He would not take any notice of Israel 's fasting (Jer 14:12 ) and through Isaiah chided Israel for the poor quality of their lives while they made an appearance of being spiritual through fasting (Isa 58:3-6).


Although fasting was clearly a religious practice in Jesus' day, it seems that Jesus and his disciples were not known for fasting (Mt 9:14 ,15) and Jesus himself indicated that while he was around and active, it was not a time for fasting but for rejoicing. Yet, he said, in the crisis following his death, then would be a time for his followers to fast. Fasting sometimes is an act of desperation in the face of a crisis, an urgent seeking of the Lord in desperation.


Now with all that in mind, we are ready to consider what Jesus was teaching in the verses above. We noted in a previous meditation that Jesus has moved on from righteous living to concerns about reality in a pious life. We have considered giving and then prayer and now Jesus tackles the subject of fasting, and in each case he has the same concern: don't do something outwardly as a show for others or as a means of making yourself feel good. In all of this he is addressing the believing community, those who believe in God and who seek to be spiritual. Look, he says, there are those who are hypocrites when they fast, don't be like them! Now the original use of the word ‘hypocrite' was in respect of actors in a play, those who put on a face, pretending to be something that they were not. That is what a hypocrite does: pretend to be something they are not. So, says Jesus, don't pretend, don't put on a show and, especially, don't put on a public show. In the past, the practice had been to put on sackcloth and pour ashes over your head to disfigure your looks to really abase yourself as you sought to be humble before God. The only trouble was that those trying to show their spirituality in Jesus' day simply did it to look spiritually impressive.


In everything we do, and especially in respect of what we can call our ‘pious acts', our worship, our praying, our giving and even perhaps our fasting, don't do it as a show either for others or for God. Whatever it is let it be an honest reflection or expression of what is going on in your heart. Jesus wants heart and actions to go together and he knows that so often we have this tendency to have a poor heart but try to make out that it is good by false outward actions. Sort your heart out first is the message.







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Meditation No. 33

Meditation Title: Treasures


Mt 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


There are times in Jesus' teaching when you initially think he has spun from one subject to another for no apparent reason, but if you consider fully what he has been saying you will always find a link. For instance, so far Jesus has been speaking, in the recent verses, about pious behaviour, the behaviour of religious people seeking to be pious before God. His primary call is to be real and godly so that the behaviour in question is not pretence but is, in fact, a working out of the genuine relationship that the believer has with God. The reason he's had to be teaching this, is that we have a natural tendency to be self-centred and not God-centred, so that we do things to try to impress ourselves, and ourselves by impressing others, rather than seeking to impress only God. Of course, this is also an indication of the absence of a real relationship with God. Get a real relationship with God, is Jesus' teaching, and let your acts be genuine expressions of that.


Now all of that goes to the very heart of your goals in life. Jesus is saying be God-centred, because so often we are self or world centred. At the very heart of this is where we have our security. Do you see this? If all we have been learning from Jesus' teaching so far, is really applied, then our lives will be God-centred and our security will be in Him and in our eternal future with him. If we are like the Pharisees of Jesus' day, then our pious acts will be a pretence and that really shows that our heart is not with God, it is in the world and in our own efforts and endeavours.


How do we demonstrate this later attitude? We do it by making material prosperity our means of security. By accumulating wealth, a big home, lots of possessions and a big bank balance, we make ourselves feel good. Now there is nothing wrong with those things IF they are simply bonuses to the security we already have in God. These things, material possessions, are temporary and we can lose them, is what Jesus warns. They can be just a cause of worry and anxiety. Instead of these ‘treasures', says Jesus, store up treasures in heaven.


So what are ‘treasures in heaven' that we can ‘store up'? The first treasure, I would suggest, is your name being in heaven written in the Lamb's Book of Life ( Rev 21:27 ). That is the first thing of immense value in eternal terms. The second thing, I would suggest, is all the times you have blessed your Father in heaven by your obedience to His word and His Spirit. Again and again in these verses in this Sermon, Jesus refers to our heavenly Father seeing what we do and the implication is that He will be pleased by the things He sees you doing that come out of a heart of love for Him. From God's point of view, having His children respond to Him and do what He wants, must be a most important blessing. The Bible indicates that He is pleased by such things. The third thing, I suggest, is the accumulation of ‘rewards' that the Bible speaks about which seem to be more than rewards now, but also include rewards that will come in heaven as a result of the lives we have lived here on hearth (see Mt 16:27, Mt 5:12, Lk 6:23, Eph 6:8, Col 3:24). Such rewards, Scripture seems to suggest, will make us the people we will be for eternity, and that is to be our focus, not on the world's things that we will leave behind.








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Meditation No. 34

Meditation Title: What you see


Mt 6:22,23   The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!


I wonder sometimes, if you were a listener to one of Jesus' ‘sermons' how much you would take in? There is so much packaged here, so many word pictures that you might be forgiven if you only came away with a small part of it, but then that is often how it is with sermons; you come away with the particular bit that God was speaking to you about. The other thing, of course, was that Jesus probably repeated this teaching again and again and so his disciples, and then later, us, would be able to recall what he was saying that much easier. I wonder if the listeners to Jesus, having heard him speaking about true piety, then hearing him speak about values (treasures), now when they hear him speaking about what is inside you, suddenly think, “Oh my goodness, this is all about priorities in life! This is all about my heart!” You see, if you take note of what is here, and hearing Jesus, the Son of God, saying it, probably made it so much more real, you realize that behind piety there is the whole question of what is at the heart of our lives.


Let's look at these verses and see if we can see it. He starts out with a word picture saying that our eyes are like a lamp that lights up our whole inner being. What he then says is quite strange; if your eyes are good, NOT “if your eyes see good”. Good eyes see well. As a wearer of glasses, married to a wife with excellent vision, I am particularly aware of this. Good eyes see things that those with poor sight don't see. Hold that thought for a moment, because Jesus speaks about light and darkness and wherever else he does this, light refers to goodness or revelation or the truth. Darkness tends to refer to ignorance, bad, or evil.


Let's take the verse in reverse order: if the light within you is darkness how great is that darkness!” It's as if Jesus is saying, if the knowledge or revelation or truth within you is evil orientated, self-centred, and unrighteous, you are really in a bad state, but that of course is the state of the heart that does not know God. The implication of what Jesus says, is that that was your original state in sin, and unless light from God comes in, that is how you will remain – in darkness! Now why do we say that? Because of what comes before: if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” In other words, if you have poor ‘eyes' that are unable to see and hear what God is saying through Jesus, you will remain in darkness. Jesus comes speaking the truth and revealing the Truth as he performs miracles and heals people. It is obvious for those who ‘have eyes to see' who he is and what he is saying, but the ‘seeing' is determined by the state of heart. “Good eyes' are eyes that see what God is saying and doing because the heart is seeking and open. When a heart is seeking and open, then the things that person sees will touch their heart and be received and that person will be filled with God's revelation, goodness and truth. Light enters that person and overcomes and dispels the darkness.


Thus we come back to our starting point; it is all a matter of priorities, a matter of our heart, the direction we face in life. If it is towards God, then we will receive Jesus and we will receive the Truth and be filled with light. If we are self-centred and unrighteous we will reject what we see and hear of Jesus and the darkness that there is within us remains and our lives stay in darkness. Highly significant and meaningful teaching!








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Meditation No. 35

Meditation Title: One Master


Mt 6:24   No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money.


Someone recently said to me, “People today don't like being told to do things.” Perhaps that is a sign of the end times, but whatever it is, it is the sign of hearts that have trouble with Christian discipleship, because discipleship is all about disciples or students following the teaching and life of a Master. Of course Jesus is our Master and as the Son of God who is all-wise and all-knowing, he calls for our complete allegiance. The other thing about Jesus is that as Lord he instructs and commands. He doesn't say, ‘Please', he just says “Follow me!” He doesn't say, “Please be nice,” he commands, “Don't sin!” The New Testament is full of his commands: love one another, forgive one another, care for one another, and so on. These are commands. Sometimes they are negative commands: don't speak wrongly of others, don't hold grudges, don't tell lies, don't be arrogant, don't be full of pride, and so on. No, the Christian faith is all about calling people to certain standards, calling people to face up to where they are in life.


No more so does this appear than in today's verse. This is sharp, incisive, demanding teaching. You can't serve two masters, Jesus starts out. That's a challenge in itself. Some might be tempted to say, “I don't serve anyone!” but at the end of the verse Jesus indicates that money can be a master. How many of us are driven by money? We go to work to earn money to maintain a certain lifestyle, considerably higher than our parents probably knew. We take out large mortgages, incur large debts, and spend the rest of our lives enslaved by the need to earn more and more money to pay off what we have already committed ourselves to. Did we have to commit ourselves to so much, so that now we have to work such long hours to pay it off? My wife and I never enter into any loan agreement unless we already had the money, or an established income, to cover the mortgage easily. Essentially we didn't believe in debt and only bought what we could afford. It kept us from being slaves to money.


This whole part of the Sermon is all about values and priorities and reality. Thus Jesus brings this powerful challenge which might be expressed as, “You can't serve two masters. You can either be a materialist and be governed and ruled by the desire for material prosperity, or you can be a person of faith whose eyes are on eternity so that material blessings (which are not to be scorned) are simply the fruit of God's blessing, the fruit of the relationship you have with Him.” You either work for one or the other. You are either governed by sight (materialism) or by faith (hearing God).


There is nothing wrong with affluence. Indeed, if anything, we should desire the blessing of it from God for all men. Does God revel in poverty? No, He delights to bless His people. King Solomon was the classic example of that, the man who received God's wisdom and God's blessing and thus became the richest man in the world. But was His intention to work to become the richest man? No, listen to his prayer: “Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” (1 Kings 3:9). His desire was for God's reign to be expressed through him. The riches came as part of the package from God. So when it comes to living and working in this world, what matters most to you: getting more money, or seeking for and doing God's will? Your future hinges on your answer.








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Meditation No. 36

Meditation Title: Be at Peace


Mt 6:25    Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?


Anxiety is a primary characteristic of the fallen human race. Ever since sin entered the world there has been anxiety and it takes many forms. After Adam and Eve had sinned, they would have been anxious about their next encounter with God. Many people are. That anxiety was linked to its cousin, fear. Anxiety, or worry, is so common. Worry about how to stretch the money around. Worry about how to cope with difficult circumstances. Worry about what might happen tomorrow. Worry about how to do well in exams. Worry about how to do well in my job. Worry about what others will think of me. Worries abound. They seem to be part of life's package.


However when we look at Jesus' teaching, we find this exhortation do not worry about your life . Yes, Jesus implies, food, drink, clothing, are all important but actually life is far more important than the details that make it up. Our danger in life is that we so focus on the details that we miss and fail to enjoy the big picture. Post-modernists don't like big pictures; they mistrust them, but that is just another form of unbelief. The big picture is that there IS a God, a single, supreme, almighty Being who is utterly loving, and caring. If you don't see this big picture you will indeed worry and worry and worry, because you are struggling through life on your own, having to rely upon your own limited wisdom and your own limited strength – and things go wrong! That's how it is in this Fallen World. Yes, as Jesus says, how can you change your life by worrying?


This ‘seeing the big picture' is all-important. It's what Jesus is saying. Look, he says, look at the world around you, look at the birds, for instance, and realize that they don't do anything but food is there for them all the time, because that's the way God has designed things to be. Ah, but note that Jesus doesn't say ‘God', he says your heavenly Father .” We're back to that again. Part of the big picture is that, as Christians, God has become our heavenly Father and as such He loves us, cares for us, provides for us and protects us. Why don't we need to worry about these things? Because God is our heavenly Father and He knows our needs and He provides for us. Abraham, after his incident of sacrificing Isaac came to realize that God was a provider, and called Him Jehovah-Jireh, ‘the LORD who will provide' (Gen 22:14).


Perhaps this is one of the greatest lessons we can learn, that God provides. He has provided our salvation. We didn't do anything to bring it about; it was all of Him. We don't provide spiritual gifts, it is all of Him. In fact look at anything in your life with God and you will realise that He is the provider, not you. Why therefore do we worry? Because we forget these things and stand alone, worrying! The apostle Paul taught the Philippians, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6,7). What was he saying? Exercise that relationship you have with the Lord, talk to Him about all those potential worries and the peace of His presence will fill you. It's Him. Be at Peace!








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Meditation No. 37

Meditation Title: God's Will First


Mt 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well


There is a sense whereby this verse seems both a side comment and the key point, all at the same time. After the Beatitudes, chapter five was all about the reality of righteousness (goodness based upon reality rather than just rules), and then chapter six continued with the reality of piety, which gradually focused on the reality of our priorities. Verse 18 of chapter six brought to an end the practical piety part and verse 19 opened up a section that continues to the end of the chapter about treasures, values and priorities. We considered Jesus saying, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth….But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven(v.19,20) and then, No one can serve two masters. …. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (v.24) and finally, “do not worry about your life” (v.25). In the verses that follow, Jesus unpacks this exhortation even more and in passing, it seems, makes this comment about seeking God's kingdom. It's almost it seems, a side comment, just added in.


Yet as we consider the whole of what has gone before, we come to see that the above verse is the culmination or summary or conclusion of all else. The, all these things will be given to you as well” seems to say, “You don't have to worry about all these other issues, just let God sort them out and provide for you; focus instead on putting Him first.” in that sense this verse becomes the key point of it all.


So what is the twofold instruction here? Well note first of all the starting word, ‘ But '. ‘But' means instead of one thing go for another. It sets off the requirement of God against the desire of man. Man desires security through possessions. For God these are things He will provide for His children anyway, but the key issue is will His children come to Him and live His way? Then we have the word, ‘ seek' which tells us to go looking for this. It isn't something, in this Fallen World, that is obvious. We need to go searching for these two things. What are they? They are God's kingdom and His righteousness. Let's look at them both.


First, God's kingdom. This is simply another way of saying, look for God's rule, look for where God is moving, look for what He is doing, and become part of it. The first problem of the human race is that, having rejected God, we now do our own thing and this is quite different from what God is doing. He is moving on the earth bringing goodness, truth, love, reality. Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work.” (Jn 5:17). What is He doing? He is blessing mankind and seeking to draw men to know Him. That is the work of His kingdom on earth. But then it is seek… His righteousness'. As soon as we come to realize that God is working in a different sphere to us, we realize that we have a problem, the problem of sin, and we also realize if we are to be free of that problem, we need to find God's way to righteousness. That is when we encounter Jesus and his work on the Cross and we realize that simply believing in him as Lord and Saviour is the way to righteousness in God's sight. As we take that on board, God makes us part of His family and from then on righteousness is simply responding to His Word and His Spirit.


These, says Jesus, are the issues that should be filling your minds, not the concerns about food, clothing, possessions, and what might happen tomorrow. The question then simply arises: do they?