Living the Righteous Life – Matthew 6:1-4

Jesus, in Matthew 6:1-4, in His Sermon on the Mount, said…

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

2 “When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing 4 that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

This is a subject that, I think, is most problematic for Christians—how to live a righteous life before the world. It is problematic because our sinful pride seems to always creep in so that we want to be noticed by others in order that they will think well of us.

Here are four supporting principles of the theme of this passage:

1. Knowing the balance between Matthew 5:16 and Matthew 6:1. In Matthew 5:16 Jesus tells us that we are to let our light shine before men. But then in 6:1 He tells us, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them. So, at first glance it seems to be a contradiction. But really it is not if we are careful to look at all the details. It is clear in the first passage that we are to let our light shine before the world. But the motive is clearly that God would be glorified. And this is made clearer in 6:1, but stated differently. Hence, we are not to practice our works before men “to be noticed by them.” That is, that they would think well of us. We must shine before them in such a way that they will see Christ in us. And that attitude of the Christian is most important—because, if we do not have this attitude, we will lose our reward; and the non-Christian is also misled.

2. We are always to do our righteousness to please God not self. And we will always end up doing one or the other. In the flesh we will do to please self, and in the Spirit, we will do to please God. Now the question before us is this: Do we do things for others so that they will please us back? Or do we do things for others so that they will see us as a Christian and move closer to God.

3. Do we live the righteous life for a closer relationship with Him?  In all our righteous acts, we should be seeking to be closer to Him and to please Him. And if we do this, we will be constantly realizing that He is always present with us.

4. It is always good to desire to see Him and be rewarded by Him. Do not seek to be pleased by others or that they will think well of us. But it is always good to seek His rewards; and we should know that He sees everything we do, and He plans to reward us for every good deed.

Also, do not take pride in your unselfishness. Some people keep a journal and they record all the good things they do each day. Don’t do that! Forget about them. God keeps a record of it and He will reward you. Think instead about what God has done for you and how thankful you are.

Source: Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

What Do Ye More than Others? – Matthew 5:47

And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same (Matt. 5:47)?

Jesus, in this verse, in the context of verses 44 through 48, is saying to us that we are to be different. The Christian is to be different than the non-Christian. We are to love our enemies (v. 44), not just our friends. And here in verses 46 and 47, He says that if we love and greet our brethren only, what good is that? Everyone does that. Rather, we are to be perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect (v. 48). And we can do that because we are His children (v. 45).

I have been blogging from the book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Today I will relay briefly what he says on this text. Lloyd-Jones starts out by bringing to us Christ’s command that we are to be perfect, even as our Father is perfect.  And we may discern that this command seems impossible; but yet, at the same time, by the very fact that we are commanded to be such, implies that it is possible. It is impossible to the natural man, but very possible for the Christian man, the spiritual man.

Why is that so? What makes the Christian so different? So unique? So powerful? It has to be because we are the children of our Father in heaven, and because we have in us the characteristics of God Himself. We have in our new nature things that are never found in the non-Christian.

Here, from Lloyd-Jones’ book, are nine unique qualities that the true Christian has in contrast to the non-Christian.

1. In His attitude toward the law. The natural man may observe the law and be moral in his behavior, but he never goes beyond it. The Christian is more concerned with the spirit than with mere obedience. And he always delights in the law of God in his inner self.

2. His attitude toward morality. The natural man’s attitude about morality is generally negative in that he is focused on not doing certain things. In contrast, the Christian’s attitude is more positive; he hungers and thirsts to be righteous like God.

3. His attitude toward sin. The natural man thinks of sin in terms of things that are done or not done. The Christian is more interested in his heart—whether he is right with God or not.

4. His attitude toward himself. The natural man admits his sin, but he will never morn over it. Yet the Christian is always sorry for his sin.

5. His attitude toward other sinners. The natural man may regard others with tolerance and pity. But the Christian goes beyond that and sees them as victims of sin and held captive by Satan.

6. His view of God. The natural man may see God as someone to be obeyed and feared. But the Christian loves God because he has come to know Him.

7. His motive for a living. The natural man may desire to do good, but generally like to keep a record of it. The true Christian gives without counting the cost and does it sacrificially.

8. How he faces trials. The natural man may face trials without complaining, and powers through them with an iron will. But the Christian deep down knows that all things work together for good to them that love God. And he even rejoices in trials.

9. His attitude toward his enemies. The natural man may know how to resist striking or expressing anger toward his enemies, but he cannot love them. The Christian, however, by the Spirit of God, can indeed love his enemies genuinely, and even pray for them.

So, we see that the Christian is unique and different than the natural man. He is different because of what God has done in his heart and life. He has made him a new person with a new nature. He indeed has been changed by the work of the gospel; and he understands the gospel: that he is utterly sinful, but that God sent His only Son to die for our sins, and thus bring His forgiveness to us, and a new life. And we live now with hope for a bright future. And His Spirit lives in us, filling us, teaching us His will, even guiding us along the way. And He, from day to day empowers us to love all the people we meet and have dealings with, even our enemies.

Love Your Enemies

In Matthew 5: 43-44, we have this teaching to love our enemies, in contrast to the teaching of the Pharisees and scribes, to love their neighbors, but to hate their enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.

It is well known that the Jews in biblical times separated themselves from all others and regarded them as dogs. They drew their teaching from the Old Testament, where we find that God commanded His people to exterminate all the pagans in Cannon: the Amorites, the Moabites, the Midianites, and the Amalekites. And they also drew their teaching from the imprecatory Psalms, where the psalmist called curses on certain of God’s enemies.

But our answer is that their extermination was not a matter of personal hate, but of judgment and for the glory of God. God loves all people—all of His creation—but at the same time He must deal with us according to our sin. So, there is love, and there is also judgment. God loves all. He causes His sun to rise on the evil as well as the good; and so, He blesses all, even those who hate Him. But at the same time, unless man repents, they will eventually be judged by a righteous and holy God.

The Command to Love

In Matthew 5:38-42, we are instructed to resist not evil.  For example, if someone slaps us on the cheek, we are not to resist him. But then, our next step is to bless the one who hit us with kindness and love. What can we say or do to bless him? What would Jesus do? Scripture says that we are to be perfect just as our Father in heaven is perfect. This is the way of a Christian, the way of love.

How to Love

I think the most basic principle of love is that it is not dependent on what others say or do to us, but is governed by our view of the needs of others. That is, we must look to see how we can help them.

This attitude requires that we be detached from ourselves. That is, we must look away from our own feelings, away from any pain and hurt and pride; we must learn to put all that aside and focus on others—to love them, to love them with a disregard for ourselves and what it may cost us. Even if they do not except our love, and if they scream at us, and even hit us; we are to understand them and persist with our mission of love to them.

Here is a three-point requirement for anyone who is interested in loving others:

1. We must understand why people will reject our love to them—because they are governed by the god of this world.

2. We must do all we can to rescue them.

3. When you love them, do it not to befriend them, but to help them and to display the love of God to them. Let them see the love of God in you.

Now, be ready to do battle. Even when you love, the world will naturally hate you. But be persistent in your reply.

  • Reply to bitter words with kind words.
  • Reply to spiteful actions with good deeds.
  • Reply to persecution with your prayers for them.

And remember, your goal is not to befriend them or get them to like you, but to allow them to see the love of God, so that they might glorify Him.

SOURCE: Studies in the Sermon of the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

An Eye for An Eye – Matthew 5:38-42

I have been blogging from the book Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The book is actually a copy of his sermons and well worth reading. Today we will cover this familiar text and see what Jesus says about it.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.  40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.  42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. (Matt. 5:38-42)

This Mosaic teaching about an eye for an eye, etc., was from Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 19:21. According to Lloyd-Jones, the main intent of the teaching was to control anger and the desire for revenge, and to make sure the punishment fits the crime.

Now the Pharisees taught that it was the right and the duty for each person that was violated to get his own revenge. However, it is important to understand that God gave the prescribed punishments to the judges to dish out and not to individuals. They were the ones to make sure that the punishment fit the crimes. Also, we are not to understand that the judges were always to take God’s prescribed punishment, “an eye for an eye,” etc. literally, but was meant only to teach fair judgments.

So, the Pharisees taught that we should enact our own revenge toward anyone who is evil toward us. That if they strike us, we should strike them back with the exact same force. But what does Jesus teach in regard to how we should act toward someone who is evil toward you? He says that we are not to resist them. What does that mean? Here are the points that Lloyd-Jones gives us:

1. The teaching is only for Christians. We can’t expect a non-Christian to act like a Christian in this way of not resisting evil. They will not understand it, nor do they have the Spiritual power to do it.

2. The teaching here applies to the relationship one has with another person, not to the government.

3. The teaching is directed toward my own attitude toward myself. Jesus tells us that we should not take personal revenge or have anger toward another for whatever they do to us. We should leave revenge to God and to the authorities. I should not be concerned with losing personal possessions and even damage to self. Our attitude as a Christian must be to deny self, to be dead to self.  

Christ’s Teaching on Divorce

Prayer A to Z

Preachers tend to avoid this topic—as well as teaching on bible prophecy. We must expound the bible systematically, missing nothing. We need not only preach on what interests or pleases us, but on what is written down for us in His holy Word. The main text we will consider is in Matthew 5:31-32.

“And it was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Jesus, in this text is comparing the false interpretation of the law of the Pharisees and Scribes with His own teaching. He was not correcting the law of Moses, but the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees. He was honoring the law of Moses by teaching its whole truth.

What…

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